8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs a question having reference to the supply of carbide. We have virtually given Tasmania a monopoly of the manufacture of this commodity, but carbide is practically unpurchasable in Central Queensland. Will the honorable gentleman obtain some relief for consumers there?
– The Tasmanian undertaking has duplicated its plant in order that it may be able to provide the full requirements of the Commonwealth. At the present time, however, there is a shortage, and permission is being given to import the quantity necessary to make good the deficiency.
– In view of the fact that the price of carbide in Western Australia is now £50 or more per ton, I desire to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs, to whom the consent of the Department is being given’ to import the quantity necessary to make up the shortage in the supply for local requirements, and under what conditions the importations ore to be made?
– The requirements in each State are being ascertained. The permission to import will be on such lines as will make provision for the immediate requirements of each State through the ordinary trading channels.
– In answer to the
Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated yesterday that the Commonwealth Government had decided to grant to the States a sum of £250,000 for the making ofroads and highways in order to give relief to the unemployed. I desire to ask the Treasurer whether that or any amount has been appropriated by Parliament for the purpose, and if not, out of what account the money will be paid ?
– No sum has yet been appropriated for the purpose. If it is to come out of any fund it will be paid out of loan funds, as and when the matter comes up for consideration.
– Seeing that the annual balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Woollen Mills, Geelong, was duly audited on 16th March last, I desire to ask the Minister for Defence why it has been withheld from honorable members for over four months?
– Such balance-sheets have been tabled as soon as the AuditorGeneral’s certificate has been given.
Offer to Purchase Queensland Timber Areas
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Has the Queensland Government made an offer to purchase the timber areas or milling plants held by the War Service Homos Commission in Queensland?
– No. The Queensland Government has, however, intimated that it is willing to purchase a small portion of the freehold areas.
– On the 19th July the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fen ton) asked the following question: -
Will the Treasurer make inquiries as to the rent paid to the Sydney Morning Herald Proprietary for the income tax office in Sydney, and ascertain whether or not it is in excess?
I then promised to have inquiries made. The Home and Territories Department have now furnished the following information : -
The accommodation in Warwick Chambers, Sydney, occupied by the Taxation Branch, consists of the first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth floors, containing office space of approximately 38,252 square feet, at a rental of £6,000 per annum, which works out at about 3s.1d. per square foot per annum. The rental is not excessive, but below the average paid for office accommodation in Sydney. These premises areleasedfrom the 1st October, 1920, to the 30th September, 1923.
– On the 12th in stant the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) addressed to me a question as to the quantity and value of rabbit skins exported during the last two years, as well as the quantity used in Australia during the same period. I then promised to obtain for him the desired information. The answer is that the exports were as follows : -
I regret that no reliable information can be obtained regarding the quantity of rabbit skins used each year in Australia.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. R. C. Oldham, A. B. Long, and R. H. Lawson, the Distribution Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 29th day of June, 1922, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report and indicated on the map referred to therein be adopted, and that the name of the new division be “ Deakin.”
I am sure that honorable members will appreciate the proposal to give the name of “ Deakin “ to the new Victorian electorate. If any man ever deserved the thanks of not merely this State, but the whole Commonwealth, it is the honoured statesman whose name is incorporated in this motion.
The motion invites the House to approve of the report which has been presented by the Electoral Commissioners for the redistribution of Victoria. The Commissioners “have made their inquiries’ in accordance with the directions given to them as required by the law. They report that they were informed that their duty was to divide the State into twenty electoral divisions in lieu of the twentyone divisions now existing, and that, pursuant to the requirements of section18 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, the quota of the State has been ascertained to be 42,789. The redistribution of the State is necessary, owing to the change in population, which, according to the certificate of the Chief Electoral Officer, involves a reduction in the representation of Victoria in this House from twentyone to twenty members. That certificate has been given as provided for by the Representation Act, and under that Act and the Electoral Act the change which it declares to be necessary becomes mandatory at the next general election following its issue. I do not want to weary the House by repeating the statistical information which I furnished previously on the motion for the redistribution of the State of New South Wales. I need only say that the last census showed an increase of 27.51 per cent. in the population of New South Wales during the last decade, a percentage increase of 16.41 in the population of Victoria, 25.75 in the population of Queensland, 21.24
Representation of Natives
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s question are as follow : -
No. The matter is under consideration. 2. (a) There is no very accurate means of estimating the native population, but the number is usually stated to be between 250,000 and 275,000.
The Legislative Council consists of the Lieutenant-Governor, of the members of the Executive Council (who are officers of the Territory and are appointed to that Council by the Governor-General), and of non-official members appointed by the Governor-General or by the Lieutenant-Governor, acting under instructions from the Governor-General. The names are Judge Murray, and Messrs. Smith, Champion, Bramell, Kendrick, Dr. Strong, Messrs. Williamson, Nelsson, and Whitten.
Publication of Details
Mr.FENTON (for Dr. Maloney) asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What were (1) the freights received, and (2) the costs incurred in carrying the fruit cargo of the Commonwealth steamerHobson’s Bay to England?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The matter is now under consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
In framing our proposals we decided that in dividing the State into twenty divisions we could not properly include more than nine divisions in the extra-metropolitan area, and that, having regard to the distribution of electoral population and the geographical and other conditions governing redistribution in that area, the divisions of Wimmera, Echuca, Wannon, Corio, Ballaarat, Bendigo, Gippsland, Indi, and Flinders should be retained with additions and modifications. This necessarily involved the disappearance of the divisions of Corangamite and the Grampians.
We are of opinion that the Electoral Act does not permit of effect being given to the suggestion of the Australian National Women’s League, “ That country electorates should have the full benefit of the margin of allowance below the quota prescribed by the Act,” and desire to point out that even if such a course of action were not precluded by the terms of section 19 of the Act, its adoption could not be justified in view of the provisions of paragraph b of sub-section (2) of section 25 of the Act.
Those provisions are as follow : -
Such proclamation may be made -
If the suggestion made to the Commissioners had been adopted it is quite evident that very soon there would be need for further distribution, owing to fluctuations of population. The duty of the Commissioners was to carry out what has been regarded as the permanent law of the Commonwealth since 1902.
– But it is not necessarily the permanent law.
– The Act was amended in several respects in 1909 and again in 1918, but this ‘ provision has remained unaltered. The Chief Electoral Officer, referring to the decrease of population in the extra-metropolitan area, says -
A cause which has contributed largely to the loss of extra-metropolitan representatives is the decadence of the mining industry. To this cause may be attributed the decrease of the number of electors in Ballarat 3,137, Bendigo 4,907, Grampians 5,939, and Indi 2,913, during the last ten years.
The effect of the distribution is to merge Grampians and Corangamite into adjacent divisions, to make necessary adjustments in the metropolitan divisions, and to create a new metropolitan division, to which the name of Deakin is to be given. The distribution has been carried out by an independent body constituted by Parliament, which has endeavoured to carry out its duties in an impartial way in accordance with the law.
– Why do the Government make the Commissioners’ recommendations a party matter?
– The Government have not done so.
– They did so last night.
– The Government have certainly not made the Commissioners’ recommendations a party matter, but I ask the honorable member to say that his party’s amendment last night was not intended for party purposes.
– There were merits in our amendment.
– Can the honorable member, in his own conscience, say that he had no party motive in originating and supporting that amendment? I am imputing nothing; I am merely asking the honorable member a question.
– I move-
That all the words after “ That “ be omitted witha view to insert the following in lieu thereof : - “ this House disapproves of the distribution of the State of Victoria into electoral divisions as proposed by the Distribution Commissioners and requests the Minister to direct the Distribution Commissioners to propose a fresh distribution of the said State into divisions having better regard for community or diversity of interest up to the margin of allowance provided for in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.”
I am very much astonished at the attitude taken up by the Government in regard to the Commissioners’ proposals for the distribution of electorates in Victoria. I introduced to two Ministers a large deputation representing seventyone municipalities, which asked that this matter should not be treated as a party question, but last night, when the House was about to come to a. vote on the amendment submitted by my Leader (Dr. Earle Page), it was made an absolutely party question, and members on the Ministerial side of the House were not permitted to vote according to their own convictions.
– I like that. Did not the whole of the honorable member’s party vote for their own amendment?
– That does not affect the question.
– Of course not, but apparently you can make it a party question.
– I ask honorable members to refrain from interjections.
– The Government’s attitude is a breach of faith, and is contrary to the promise made to the deputation to which I have referred. Possibly the Government see in this distribution an opportunity for keeping themselves in power. The Country party’s attitude is to have justice done to country districts. All the municipalities whose representatives waited on the Minister were absolutely opposed to the distribution as propounded by the Commissioners. As the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) pointed out last night, the Commissioners’ proposals will practically disfranchise 60,000 people in Victoria, enough electors to constitute oneandahalf electoral divisions. Country districts of Victoria are to lose two seats in this House, while Sydney and Melbourne each gain one seat. The census of 1921 was taken just after Easter, when a great number of Victorians were visiting Sydney. We require only 10,682 more people in Victoria to bring about the position which we ask for; that is to say, a total of seventy-six members in this House. Had those numbers been in Victoria at the time of the census, this State would have had its twenty-one members, and there would have been seventy-six representatives. If, as has just been suggested in an interjection by the Honorary Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie), the census had been taken during Melbourne Cup or Show week, it is absolutely certain that Victoria would have had twenty-one representatives.
– Probably twenty-two.
– The country is absolutely dissatisfied with the redistribution proposals. Their effect will be that we shall have only six Victorian country seats. The great body of primary producers will be delivered practically into the hands of representatives of the Victorian cities ; and, with the latest addition, when the great towns of Colac and Camperdown shall have been absorbed in the city of Geelong, the position will be still worse. I understand, by the way, that the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) proposes to move an amendment for the renaming of his constituency, so that the old country name will be wiped out and the name of the city of Geelong will be thrown over the whole of the absorbed towns and districts. My own opinion is that the redistribution in Victoria has been made on a wrong basis. The western side of the State has been cut into two electorates, namely, Wannon and Wimmera ; and, instead of the city electorates possessing the greatest totals of electors, the altered constituency of Wannon will be the largest numerically. Had the redistribution been made east and west instead of north and south, the position would have been very different. Instead of the city of Geelong absorbing two of the finest dairying districts in Victoria, the alteration, if it had been made east and west, would have kept together the community of interests to be found in such places as Colac, Terang, Camperdown, and Warrnambool, and the second electorate would have comprised the wheat and wool areas. The Commissioners might have taken some notice of section 19, to which I have already referred, and which reads - . . and subject thereto thi quota of electors shall be the basis for the distribution, and the Distribution Commissioners may adopt a margin of allowance to be used whenever necessary, but in no case shall the quota be departed from to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less.
Had that been exercised to the extent of only 10 per cent., one country constituency would have been saved to Victoria. But the Commissioners did not exercise that provision. They have actually proposed to place one of the country constituencies in the unenviable position of embracing the largest total of electors. One member of the House of Representatives has to travel 4,000 or 5,000 miles to go round his electorate. Another can “ cover “ the whole of his constituency by the expenditure of two-pence on a tram fare.
I trust that this matter, will not be regarded as a party question, and that the Government will release their own supporters in that direction. The promise that such would be the case was definitely given by two members of the Ministry; but, last night, the whip was cracked and members who support the Government had to come into line. Some of them actually voted against their own convictions.
.- In seconding the .amendment I desire to touch on one or two phases which have not been given sufficient emphasis. The Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) last night presented a- mass of figures and uttered many specious legal and constitutional arguments in an endeavour to prove - which he did, apparently to his own satisfaction - that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) was unconstitutional. But the combined effect of the redistribution proposals covering Victoria and New South Wales will be to wipe out three country constituencies, namely, Grampians, Corangamite and Barrier. It is significant that those three constituencies are to be converted into three purely city electorates. One of Victoria’s country constituencies will be replaced by the new Melbourne suburban constituency of Deakin. The other lost Victorian country electorate will, in effect, constitute the gift of a new Sydney suburban electorate; while the country seat proposed to be eliminated in New South Wales will be replaced by another Sydney seat. The effect will be that three rural representatives will disappear from the National Parliament and three- more city members will enter this Chamber; and, more strikingly than ever, the representatives of Australian capital city electors will be in control of the Legislature. One hears a great deal nowadays about the evils of centralization. It is regrettable and astonishing that in a purely primary producing country such as Australia there should be the greatest proportionate city centralization known in any country in the world - by far tho greatest. If the avocations of our people were such that rural industries were unprofitable and were decaying while city industries were prospering, one could understand the drift of population to the cities and could appreciate the necessity for readjustments of electoral boundaries. But, so far from the rural industries being in a condition of decay, they are the mainstay of Australia. If the exports of our primary products were stopped the Commonwealth would be bankrupt in a month. Rural industries are our mainstay; yet the rural population is decreasing, while city populations are increasing. The cause of the drift from country to city is simple, and may be simply explained. It lies in the fact that national legislation has rendered conditions of life more profitable and pleasant for city residents. That is the natural outcome of the preponderance of city representatives in the National Parliament. Now, however, there are to be still more city electorates and city representatives. Members of every party in this Chamber have repeatedly declared that, in the best interests of Australia, there should be greater rural development. There is much talk of bringing out many thousands of immigrants and placing them on the land, where our native population has declined to remain.
The action of the Government in making the redistribution motions a party matter - as was witnessed last evening, and as will continue throughout the discussion - will cause the greatest resentment in country districts. The Government have acted as they have done because the proposed redistribution, not only in Victoria, but in every State, suits them nicely. I do not doubt that if the Commissioners’ proposals would have the effect of wiping out two seats in this State which are held by supporters of the Government the adoption of the redistribution schemes would not be regarded by the Government as a party measure at all. Indeed, the individual members of the Ministry would assist to reject the proposals and return them to the Commissioners.
The people in the electorates proposed to be eliminated strongly resent the redistribution ; and it is due to those electors that the Government should give fair and earnest consideration to the amendment of the honorable member for Corangamite: The Government proposal decreases rural representation which, in view of the need for national development, should receive the greatest consideration. If the present scheme were rejected the Commissioners could bring forward a revised scheme, which would at least retain one of these two seats. I think I am expressing the opinion of a great many, if not the majority of the residents of Melbourne, when I say that this whittling down of country representation is not in the best interests of the Commonwealth. I believe the great majority of the people of Melbourne are as strongly against the proposal as the country members are.
– Even the Women’s National League.
– Even the Women’s National League, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong reminds me. As one who has had occasion to criticise the Australian Women’s National League nth regard to other matters I feel that, on this particular subject, they should receive full credit for having taken a broad national view of a most important question. The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Corangamite will, I believe, commend itself to honorable members as a constitutional proposal within the limits of the Electoral Act, and I make an appeal to members of all parties, whether representing city or country divisions, to meet the wishes of the rural electors of Victoria and support it.
– It is a very cheap suggestion of the honorable member who submitted the amendment (Mr. Gibson) that the Government have made this a party question. One has only to consider the reasons for the amendments originally suggested to understand the object in view. Honorable members of the (Country party studied the electoral maps, and saw how they would be affected by the allocation of members under the Representation Act and the redistribution scheme, which, I remind the House, has been submitted by perfectly independent officers, uncontrolled by the Government or any other authority. They find that they will lose two seats in one State, and immediately they submit proposals which, if carried, would obviate that disaster. At the same time they charge the Government with being animated by party interests, merely for standing by the law as it has been enforced for the last twenty years. Can the honorable member for Corangamite pretend he was justified in asserting that the Government has made this a party question ?
– I am perfectly justified in saying that it was understood that this was not to bc a party question.
– But the honorable member charges the Government with making it a party question, notwithstanding that their amendments originated out of a party meeting, and have been launched for party purposes. Every member of the Country party is voting for them.
– That is not correct.
– Can the honorable member for Swan point to one member who has voted against them?
– Find out.
– Very well, I have the list here, and I find that those who supported the amendment last night included
Mr. Robert Cook, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Gibson, Mr. Hill, Dr. Earle Page, and Mr. Stewart. I cannot find the name of one member of the Country party on the other side in the division list.
– I still say that the Minister’s statement is not correct. All the members of the Country party are not there.
– Does the honorable member mean that they were paired ?
– Every member of the Country party voted or paired for the amendment yesterday.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member for Ballarat has properly reminded me that Mr. Hunter’s name is not in the list, and accordingly, to that extent, I withdraw my statement’. But all honorable members know that members of the Country party - are supporting these amendments most determinedly.
– On broad, national grounds.
– Why all this hypocrisy about “broad national grounds”?
– Order ! I remind the House that it is grossly disorderly, when the Speaker hasonce called for order, for an honorable member to interject immediately afterwards. The business of the House cannot be carried on properly under such conditions, and I appeal to honorable members to support the Speaker in maintaining order and insuring reasonable discussion.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I ask if the Minister is in order in accusing the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) of hypocrisy ?
– If the honorable member for Cowper considers the remark offensive, then I shall withdraw it. But all honorable members know that what I have said as to the reasons underlying the amendments to the redistribution schemes is absolutely correct.
– We support the amendments because they are more equitable proposals than the Government scheme.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I do not propose to wear out my throat calling for order in this manner, and I intimate that unless these disorderly interjections cease I shall be obliged to enforce the Standing
Orders against any honorable member who so offends after I have called for order.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I should like to know if the Minister is in order in turning hisback upon the Chair, and addressing honorable members in the Corner?
– Properly speaking, it is not in order to do that; but I realize that it is not done with the intention of showing disrespect to the. Chair. All honorable members know that remarks should be addressed to the Speaker, and if that rule were observed more closely there would be considerably less disorder.
– My facts as to the manner in which these amendments originated are absolutely correct, and in the circumstances it is extraordinary that honorable members should impute motives to the Government. The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Corangamite proposes that the redistribution scheme shallbe sent back to the Commissioners for revision.
– And he gives his reasons.
– He goes further. He desires the Government to give a direction to the Commissioners.
– To carry out the law.
– No; to give effect to what he considers should be done. He requests the House to give a direction to the Commissioners to revise the scheme with the object of showing more regard for community of interest up to the. margin provided for in section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The intention of that Act is to secure the appointment of an absolutely independent body for the purpose of making a complete examination of the position and reporting to Parliament as to readjustment of electoral boundaries, having full regard to community of interest, means of communication, physical features, existing boundaries of divisions and subdivisions and State electoral boundaries. For the purpose of achieving this object the Commissioners are allowed to depart from the rule of equality to the extent of one-fifth below or one-fifth above the quota.
– They have not done that.
– I say they have considered it. They have made a very careful examination of the position, and they have heard the objections.
– Did you give them any instructions?
– It looks very suspicious.
– The honorable member is making a suggestion that is highly improper. The Commissioners were, by the Act, constituted an independent tribunal, and they have, as I have remarked, considered all the objections and have made their report, independent of party or political influences. Now the honorable member is asking us to do something contrary to the spirit of the law, namely, that we should direct the Commissioners as to how they should carry out their work.
– Does the Minister assert that the Commissioners are not allowed under the Act to do the work again ?
– I do not say that; but it would bo highly improper for this House to direct them as to how they should do their work. The Commissioners were appointed so that the work of redistribution should be entirely apart and free from all party political influences. That was the sole purpose of intrusting this work to independent Commissioners. But we are asked to direct the Commissioners to make a fresh redistribution in which better regard shall be paid to the marginal allowance provided for in section 19 of the Act. That is to say, those men whose duty it is to divide the whole State into electorates so that the people of Victoria may be represented on a proper basis are to be told to reconstitute the divisions, and pay better regard to the marginal allowance.
– if they exercised their best judgment in the first place, they would be compelled to give the same redistribution a second time.
– That may be so. It is their duty to act independently, and without regard to party considerations.
– Have we not a rightto say that they have not had proper regard to the marginal allowance?
– Honorable members have a perfect right to criticise the redistribution; but they cannot tell the Commissioners how they shall carry out a fresh redistribution. Suppose that some other party is of opinion that too much consideration has been given to country interests in some other States, would not the honorable members who support this amendment oppose any attempt to direct the Commissioners to redistribute the seats in such a way as to reduce the representation given to the country? If we can direct them in one way we can direct them in others, and once that precedent were established, it would mean that any party with a numerical advantage in the House could send back any scheme of redistribution with which it was dissatisfied and instruct the Commissioners to do something more to the party’s liking. If there were in this scheme of redistribution something so unfair as to shock the consciences and sense of fairness of honorable members, they would be justified in sending it back to the Commissioners, but only with a direction to carry out an independent investigation. It would be highly improper for us to give them such a direction as the amendment suggests. I am not in possession of information as to what was in the minds of the Commissioners when they arranged this distribution. The Government have kept entirely apart from the work of that body. We know nothing more than that the Chief Electoral Officer certified the number of members to which each. State is entitled and the quota of electors for each State, and all we received from the Commissioners was their reports, which it was our statutory obligation to bring before the House.
– But we are not morally bound to swallow it.
– Honorable members may, if they choose, reject the whole scheme; but that is not what is proposed in the amendment.
– Has not that been done on occasions?
– On previous occasions, schemes of redistribution have been rejected by the House, but I cannot recollect that Parliament ever directed the Electoral Commissioners as to how they should carry out their duties. To do that . would be to introduce into the House all the evils of party manoeuvring and gerrymandering. If any political party that is dissatisfied with a scheme of redistribution has a right to send it back to the Commissioners with a direction that they shall do the work afresh according to instructions, we might as well repeal theRepresentation Act, and restore the old political method.
– The Minister’s statement is a mere stretch of the imagination. All that the amendment does is to direct the attention of the Commissioners to sections in the Act.
– And is it intended that they should merely read this direction and throw it aside? No; honorable members who have ‘spoken have said that they desire the direction to be given to the Commissioners, because in their opinion country interests are not properly provided for.
Country Members. - Hear, hear!
– It is evident from the indorsement which that proposal received from honorable members of the Country party that it is desired that Parliament shall give a direction to the Commissioners to redistribute the representation in such a way as to give a larger margin to country electorates. What is that but direct political interference with the Commissioners in the performance of their duty? In these circumstances it is impossible for me to accept the amendment as proposed by the honorable member.
– If they had exercised their discretion to the full extent of the margin allowed in the Act there would have been another country electorate in Victoria.
– The Commissioners may have had good reason for doing as they have done. I do not know what was in their minds.
– Why not ask them for their reasons ?
– No; these Commissioners are independent men, and it would be a bad thing if the Executive attempted to interfere in any way with the manner in which they carry out their duties.
. -I intend to support the amendment, but for reasons different from those advanced by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). In the first place, I am not at all satisfied that increased representation of country interests will promote decentralization.
– It might help to do so.
– I am not sure of that. . In the Victorian State Parliament there has been the widest possible margin between the country and city representation. In some country electorates which have declined, members represent only about 4,000 electors, whereas some city members represent 44,000 electors, but that disparity has not cured the evil of centralization. In my opinion it will be cured, not by the representation given to country or city, but by the party that is put in power. In the States in which the Labour party has been strongest there is less decentralization. I believe in the principle of one vote one value. I remember reading the debates in this Parliament when Sir George Reid resigned his position in the House for that principle. He fought for one vote one value, but he realized that there must be a discretionary margin, and that the Commissioners should apply it in favour of the country rather than of the city. In country electorates there are vast areas, and it is almost impossible for honorable members to keep in touch with their constituents. The Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) says no pressure has been brought to bear upon the Commissioners, but I say with all respect to him, that if three Nationalists had been appointed to devise a scheme they could not have done it better to suit the interests of the Nationalist party. There may have been no jerrymandering, but the Commissioners have done good work for the Government. In the electorate of Fawkner, which one could traverse on a threepenny tram ride, there are 42,774 electors, but in my own electorate of Ballarat, that approaches the metropolis as far as Sunshine, and extends west to Geelong and Colac, then to Clunes in one direction, and toSmeaton in another direction, there are 43,633 electors. Henty, another pocket borough, (has 41,607 electors, and Wannon, with an area of 8,000 square miles, fully fifty times as large as’ all the metropolitan electorates lumped together, has 44,230 electors. Maribyrnong, a metropolitan electorate, has 41,966 electors, and Corio, a country electorate, 43,449 electors. In the three city electorates I have mentioned there are 126,377 electors, and in the three country electorates 131,142 electors. If the Commissioners had been honestly desirous of doing their duty to Parliament, and to the people of Victoria, they would certainly have exercised the discretionary power given them under the Act, and allowed the margin to operate in favour of the country interests, but they have done the opposite; they have allotted a smaller number of electors to city constituencies, and a larger number to country electorates. That is most unfair, and for that reason I shall vote for the amendment. I cannot understand country members, particularly Victorian members, either absenting themselves from the division that took place last night, or voting against the proposal made by the Leader of the Country party. Any honorable member who thinks that this scheme is equitable can have no sense of justice.
– The Victorian country constituencies are small compared . with those is other States.
– We are not comparing Victorian country constituencies with country constituencies in Western Australia, or Queensland, or New South Wales. The fact that -the electorates are very big in those States is no reason why there should be in Victoria 44,000 electors in a constituency comprising 8,000 square miles, and only 41,000 electors in a constituency comprising only a few miles. I guarantee that my own electorate of Ballarat is as difficult to travel through as is any other, because it includes dozens of small towns. In the last general election campaign, extending over three months, I had to speak three or four times daily in order to get round to the various centres, and when additional territory is added to the electorate, it will be impossible for a candidate to visit all the places. The Government have agreed to the proposal made by the Commissioners. They think so much of the interests of the country that they are prepared to disfranchise 60,000 electors in Victoria.
– In what way?Every one of those electors will be on some roll.
– Because the electoral quota in Victoria is 3,000 greater per division than is that of New South Wales. No doubt, as the Minister interjects, these people are on the rolls, but they are not securing the representation that is given the people of New South Wales.
– That has nothing to do with the amendment.
-It has everything to do with it. If the scheme be sent back to the Commissioners, with a direction that the benefit of the margin must be given to the country districts, justice will be done.
– That would not alter the total representation of Victoria in this House.
– No; but it would take away one representative from the metropolitan areas and give an additional member to . the country districts. Some of the representatives of Victoria, by their voteon a certain question last night, sacrificed the interests of this State, as well as those of New South Wales. We appeal to them now not to sacrifice the country interests of Victoria. We cannot save these 60,000 people, hut we can up- set this scheme which is so unfair in its application tocountry residents.
– They could have been saved last night.
– Yes. It seems -to me most unfair that Victoria, . although its population had increased by 250,000 during the last ten years, is to lose one representative, while two big country electorates have been removed from- the electoral map. I hope that, notwithstanding the plausible arguments of the AttorneyGeneral, honorable members opposite will deal justly with those Victorian constituencies. This question should not he approached in a party spirit. The Minister has spoken of the introduction of party feeling into the debate, but I -would remind the House that he introduced it last night.
– What sort of divisions would we have if honorable members were allowed to determine the boundaries of their own constituencies.
– We do not ask for anything of the kind. Our sole contention is that the requirements of the law should be observed. I have no hesitation in saying that the provision of the Electoral Act, in regard to the recognition of community of interest, has been absolutely departed from in the drawing up of this scheme. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Poynton), who has just interjected, has lived in Ballarat, and I would draw his attention to what has been done in regard to that electorate. I think he will agree that there is no community of interest between Bacchus Marsh and Ballarat, yet Bacchus Marsh has been added to the division. The people of Bacchus Marsh rarely go to Ballarat; they trade almost wholly with Melbourne, which is much nearer. The same statement applies to subdivisions on the Geelong line. The people of Bannockburn and Lethbridge, who, under this scheme, will be in the electorate of Ballarat have no community of interest with that city. They trade, not with Ballarat, hut with Geelong. Then’ again, Beeac instead of being in the electorate of Ballarat should have been included in the same division as Colac.
– The subdivision of Bannockburn is within 7 miles of Geelong, yet it is included in the same division as the city of Ballarat, which is 60 miles away.
– That is so. There is no justification for the inclusion of these districts in the Ballarat electorate. The same remark will apply to the inclusion of Deer Park and Melton - districts that are only 8 or 10 miles from Melbourne. How can it be said that in the preparation of this scheme attention has been given to the requirement as to community of interest? I have no hesitation in saying that these extraordinary alterations have been designedly made. It was determined that, by fair means or foul, rural districts in Victoria should lose two representatives. Two of the old divisions have been wiped out, and the remaining country electorates have been cut and hacked about without any regard whatever to community of interest.
Then, again, no attention has been given to the proper distribution of population. We have in the electorate of Ballarat 1,000 or 1,500 more electors than there are in any. of the packed metropolitan constituencies.. I hope that when we proceed to a division on this amendment the Attorney-General will not crack the party whip, as he did last night, and declare this to be a purely party matter. If no special instructions were given to the Commissioners, the Government should allow honorable members to deal with this matter quite independently of party considerations. We want to do the best for Victoria. The statement that the Commissioners have made their calculations with due regard to what may be the position ten years hence does not say much for the legislation in force here, seeing that they anticipate apparently that at the end of that period the population of the country districts will still be declining.
– The population of the country districts may not decline, but there may be a change from one part to another.
– At all events, no country electorate is more prosperous today than is Ballarat. It is true that Ballarat, after the cessation of mining operations there, underwent a period of serious depression, but new industries are springing up, and from a business point of view that part of the State was never more prosperous that it is to-day. There is no likelihood of the population of Ballarat decreasing. On the contrary, it is certain to increase, yet the- Commissioners assume that a few years hence we shall have only 25,000 or 30,000 electors there. That being so, why should we be asked to accept this iniquitous proposition? I sincerely hope the amendment will be carried.
.- I support the amendment on the broadest of national lines. I was a member of one of the deputations to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), and I distinctly heard a responsible Minister give the assurance that this would not be regarded as a party matter. I object to the statement made by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) that party politics have been introduced into the debate by the Country party. Why should such a charge be levelled against us merely because, in the interests of fair representation, we happen to vote unitedly? The honorable gentleman made that suggestion as an excuse for the action of the Government in cracking the party whip last night, and inducing some of their supporters, who otherwise would have voted with us, to vote on strict party lines by threatening that there would be a dissolution if the Government were defeated. I am very sorry that certain representatives of Victoria were not strong enough to disregard that threat.
– Is this permissible?
– I was just about to point out to the honorable member for Swan that it is not in order to reflect on a vote of the House.
– 1 maintain that it was quite improper for the AttorneyGeneral to suggest that honorable members of the Country party were introducing party politics merely because they stood solidly for certain principles of justice. It is only natural that we should vote unitedly to secure justice for all. The honorable gentleman has also said that the amendment invites the Commissioners charged with the distribution of seats to do something in accordance with the bidding of the House and contrary to the Constitution. He is wrong. The amendment merely proposes that the attention of the Commissioners shall be specially drawn to section 19 of the Act, which provides that in any scheme of distribution regard shall be had to community of interest. Country interests cannot be so easily represented as some honorable members appear to think. There must be a lot of insincerity either on the part of the press or amongst honorable members - if I may say so without reflecting on them-
– The honorable member is not in order in reflecting on honorable members. “
– Then I withdraw the statement. The press of Australia is much perturbed by the centralizing influences which are at work, and regards with serious apprehension the drift of country population to our cities.
– So does the Government.
– That is so. They say that the only immigrants they desire are those who will go on the land; yet they are not prepared to give an adequate system of representation to country districts. When we find the number of voters in the country constituency to which reference has been made is, with one exception, larger than that of any metropolitan electorate we must realize that the requirements of the Constitution have been disregarded. The House would be lax in its duty if it did not point out to the Commissioners that in this scheme they have not given effect to the will of the framers of the Constitution. The same thing seems to have occurred in other States. In Perth Division one could stand in the centre and a rifle shot would reach the farthest boundary; whereas, whilst Kalgoorlie Division, which contains about eleven-twelfths of Western Australia, which is about one-third of Australia, is made to contain practically the same number of electors as Perth. That is not fair. No wonder people in country districts, finding that they ure not given fair representation, flock to the cities. National interests are involved in this question, and party considerations should be wholly set aside. This is too great a question to be dealt with as a party matter, and there is absolutely no foundation for the suggestion of the Attorney-General that by sending back this scheme we would be using party politics to try to coerce the Commissioners. The proposal of the amendment is simply that we direct their attention, in a business-like way, to the fact that in drawing up this scheme they have disregarded a constitutional requirement. If the amendment be carried, with the result that the Commissioners review their work, and have due regard to section 19 of the Act, then country interests, which should be paramount, will have at least one more representative in this House. An additional 5 per cent, would give Victoria another representative. If the provision as to a margin up to one-fifth were recognised, the country would have two more representatives. But it has not been in any sense regarded. It seems to me that this distribution has been framed on a purely per capita basis. That is not the intention of the Constitution, and in the circumstances it would not be unbecoming for the House to ask the Commissioners to review their work in the light of the provisions of section 19 of the Electoral Act.
Mr. LISTER (Corio) [12.301.- It is regrettable that so many suggestions should be thrown out that honorable members, in supporting the amendment, are actuated by ulterior motives. In the words used by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), I am endeavouring to look at this matter on broad national lines. If I were to consult my own interests, I would be found supporting the Government in this connexion, because careful scrutiny of the votes cast at the last election indicates that, through a resubmission of the boundaries of the Corio electorate to the Distributing Commissioners, there would be a possibility of my losing 2,000 or 3,000 good National votes. Of course, I do not say that if this should happen it would materially affect the position in the electorate. But I look at the matter from an Australian point of view rather than from the point of view of the interests of the party of which I am a member. It is regrettable that party aspects should enter into almost every discussion in this Chamber. I cannot understand what actuated the Commissioners in fixing the boundaries of the Victorian electoral divisions. They were supposed to pay regard to community of interest, and so forth. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has pointed out that many people whose electoral interests are centred in certain districts, have had them diverted to different channels, and I cannot appreciate why, in my own electorate, the district of Werribee has been. retained, while the districts of Bannockburn and Meredith - which are situated a few miles from Geelong, the, centre of the electorate - have been attached to another electorate, whose centre is 60 miles away. Similar instances of a departure from the policy of community of interest, can be found throughout the recent distribution. Howover, I am most concerned about the loss of country representation, lt is not good for Australia that the development of country areas should be retarded. It is only those who live in country districts who realize the difficulty of getting in touch with their parliamentary representatives and making them acquainted with their needs. Therefore, country electorates should have the benefit of the margin of allowance provided for in the Act to a much greater extent than has been given in the Commissioners’ proposals. I support the amendment because country interests have not been conserved in the scheme of redistribution, and because I think that the margin of allowance provided for in the Electoral Act should have been utilized to a greater extent than it has been.
.- I support the amendment. Country interests have not been safeguarded by the Distribution Commissioners. Particularly is this the case in Victoria. Yesterday we had to decide quite a different matter. The arguments for or against the proposal submitted by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) were difficult to follow, and at times confusing to myself ; but I gathered that the honorable member’s method of finding the quota upon which the representation of the various States is based was to increase the number of members of this House; and I felt that a very much better case would have to be put up by the honorable member to justify me in supporting such a proposal. However, the amendment brought forward to-day is one that I feel I must support, particularly when .1 find that country electorates, such as Wannon and Corio, are to contain more electors than are included in city divisions. I hold that country interests have not been safeguarded, and that the Distribution Commissioners should take into consideration community of interest more than they have done in their present proposals.
– I support the amendment .moved by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson). If something is not done to insure more adequate representation of country interests, we are likely to see a greater rate of rural decline than we have seen during the last twenty or thirty years, a decline which has been specially marked in Victoria. In this State particularly, the Distribution Commissioners have not observed those conditions of community of interest and physical configurations which it is obligatory on them to consider in carrying out their task. The practice adopted in previous distributions, that of taking into consideration the fact that certain electorates were likely to increase very rapidly in population, has also been departed from. In the last distribution there was a definite margin of 4,000 or 5,000 between various New South Wales country constituencies and Sydney electorates, because it was understood from the character of the population, and the character of the industries being carried on in certain divisions, that the number of electors in those divisions would markedly increase. Such proved to be the case. On the other hand; in the distribution of Victorian electorates, we find that no heed has been paid to this possibility. For instance, in the Wimmera district* ti) ere has been a considerable amount of repatriation settlement during the last two or three years; there has also been great irrigation development, and there - are possibilities of a very rapid extension of settlement through the carrying out of tobe Murray River waters scheme, yet the Wimmera electorate has been enormously enlarged, and its quota has been brought up as high as that of any other division. Take also the case of the Wannon electorate. In this district we have had evidence that the Government of Victoria intend to leave no stone unturned to develop the port of Portland, one of the natural outlets for the produce of Australia. The State Government have also made arrangements for the shipment of wheat from that centre, and have announced their intention of increasing the railway facilities. We also know that there is every possibility of continuous and progressive settlement in the wheat country back from Portland. Despite these facts, the Wannon electorate has not only been enlarged, but has also been given an electoral quota greater than that of any other Victorian division. Whereas Balaclava will have 43,000 electors, Maribyrnong 41,966 electors, and Henty 41,607 electors* Wannon will have 44,230 electors. That is practically 3,000 more than Maribyrnong. The electors in the nine proposed divisions regarded as extra metropolitan include 43,363 in Ballarat, 42,615 in Bendigo, and 43,449 in Corio. The last-named electorate, by the way, will be nearly three times as large as at present. Then there is Echuca, with a total of 41,438 electors, which will be practically twice as big as formerly, and Flinders, with 42,081, which will also be bigger. Practically the whole of eastern Victoria is to be gathered into the Division of Gippsland, with a total, of 42,717 electors. Indi, having 42,316, will be almost half as big again ; and then there are the two western electorates, which have already been dealt with, namely, Wannon, with its largest of all aggregates, and Wimmera. For almost all the country divisions the quotas allotted are practically equal to the largest of the metropolitan divisions.
Though there may have been some selfish adherence to the principle of one man one vote, there has been no adherence to that of one vote one value. The conditions in the divisions of Wimmera and Wannon are different from those of Balaclava and Maribyrnong. In Wimmera, there will be from 150 to 200 polling places; while, in some of the metropolitan electorates, there will be not more than sixteen or twenty. The country polling places are separated by great distances, and the means of approach to them are very bad ; indeed, there are often no roads at all. Not only is it a task for electors to record their votes, but it is infinitely more difficult for candidates or the selected representative to get about among the outlying areas. In my own electorate, which is practically on all fours with Echuca, there are about 230 polling places. If I were to speak at four places a day my campaign would be prolonged for about three months. But many of the metropolitan constituencies may be covered, so to speak, by a pocket handkerchief; and their representatives may place themselves in touch with the whole of the electors by speaking at halfadozen halls.. These constituents also may be reached without effort, by medium, of the daily metropolitan press, which, affords considerable space to political matters. In many country districts there may be only a small weekly newspaper, the greater proportion of whose pages is necessarily devoted to advertisements, so that there is little room for political propaganda. It is essential that candidates should get into personal touch with electors, and it is grossly unfair that the numbers of voters in extra metropolitan divisions should be proposed to be made, as nearly as possible, identical with those in metropolitan.. In the north-western corner of Victoria, there is an almost entire absence of railways. Very few newspapers circulate in the Wimmera. The Mildura press, for example, has no public means ot distribution over the greater part of tie area which it covers^ and deliveries have to be undertaken by motor and the like. Unless provision is inserted in our legislation, and carried into effect by the Redistribution Commissioners, insuring that there shall be no further extension . of country electorates, the various States will consist almost entirely of metropolitan electorates, while the whole of the areas outside of the cities will be one huge division, the task of contesting which will be almost as formidable as in campaigning for a Senate seat-:
The main reason why rural areas are becoming depopulated is that their interests cannot be adequately safeguarded. There is, in the first place, the difficulty of maintaining touch between a representative and his electors; and then there are not enough country representatives to put up a proper fight for rural claims and requirements. There is an axiom that the avocations which men follow, and the situations in which they dwell, are determined by the incidence of taxation and the conduct of the Government towards them. The conduct of any Government towards any body of people is largely determined by the political support which its representatives are able to give to that particular Government at a particular time. By reason of the fact that country representation has been consistently diminishing, less and less political weight has attached to the problems and requirements of country dwellers. In Victoria, for instance, a condition has existed which country representatives have vainly deplored. Owing to the metropolitan policy being properly organized and almost overwhelmingly advocated, even such considerable country centres as Ballarat, Bendigo, and Castlemaine have been hampered and handicapped. There have been such anomalies and examples of unfairness as the imposition of differential railway freight rates and the like. Thecountry continues to languish; yet, under the proposed redistribution, country electorates are to be made bigger and bigger. Such an outcome will inflict serious injustice upon rural residents, and will still more grossly flout the principle of one vote one value. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) maintained some days ago that, because there had been an increase in the value of primary production, there had obviously been an enormous expansion ‘of production itself. But figures have been quoted which disprove that argument. In Sydney only two days ago the vice-president of the Bank of Commerce, Mr. Yarwood, quoted statistics which bore out all the statements which I and other members of the Country party have made indicative of the fact that producers in Australia are in a parlous state. One reason for this lies in the paucity of their representation in the National Legislature. And now the total number of country seats is to be reduced.
Population in the Victorian metropolitan area during the past twenty years has advanced very much more rapidly than in the remainder of the State. That is an alarming position, which shouldbe ended. The estimated area of the Melbourne metropolitan districts is 225 square miles. Under the redistribution proposals that area will have eleven representatives. Each member will represent somewhat less than 30 square miles of country. The total population of the metropolitan area is 782,979 ; the proportion per cent. of the total population of the State is 51.12. The number of people to the square mile is 3,070. The total population of the remainder of the State, which comprises 87,629 square miles, is 748,550, or about 34,000 less people than in the capital itself. The proportion per cent. is 48.88, and the number of persons to the square mile is 8.5. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later hour of the day.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to2.15 p.m.
– I desire to lay on the table of the House a copy of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the Dominion of New Zealand providing for a Reciprocal Tariff. It is as follows : -
Agreement made this eleventh day of April, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two; between the Commonwealth of Australia (hereinafter called “the Commonwealth”) of the one part and the Dominion of New Zealand (hereinafter called “the Dominion”) of the other part:
Whereas with a view to the arrangement of more equitable trade relations between the Commonwealth and the Dominion, the Ministers of Customs for the said countries have agreed to recommend to their respective Parliaments Customs duties in accordance with the schedule attached hereto: -
Now therefore itis hereby agreed as follows : -
The said schedule shall come into force on a date to be proclaimed by the GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealthand the GovernorGeneral of the Dominion, after the Parliaments of both countries have signified their acceptance thereof, and shall (subject to the provisions of this agreement) remain in force until six months’ notice of the termination thereof has been given by either party.
The Commonwealth shall not impose any Customs duty or increase the rate of any Customs duty on any article entering the Commonwealth from the Dominion, and the Dominion shall not impose any Customs duty or increase the rate of any Customs duty on any article entering the Dominion from the Commonwealth (whether such article is or is not specifically enumerated in the schedule hereto, and whether such article is or is not dutiable at the date of this agreement), except by mutual agreement, until after six months’ notice to the other party to this agreement.
Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to affect the right of the Commonwealth or of the Dominion to impose new duties upon any articles for the protection of any new industry established or proposed to be established in the Commonwealth or the Dominion as the case may be; provided that such new duties do not exceed the duties imposed on the importation of similar articles from the United Kingdom into the Commonwealth or the Dominion as the case may be.
Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to affect the right of the Commonwealth or the Dominion to bring into force suspended or deferred duties, or to collect or impose dumping duties, or analogousspecial duties to meet abnormal trading conditions.
Nothing in this agreement shall be construed to affect the right of the Commonwealth to impose primage or other general duties, provided that such duties on goods imported from New Zealand do not exceed the duties imposed on similar goods imported from the United Kingdom.
All goods enumerated in the schedule hereto shall be liable to such primage duty, if any, upon entry into the Dominion, as shall for the time being be in force, provided that such duty does not exceed the primage duty on similar goods imported from the United Kingdom.
Goods imported into the Commonwealth, and thereafter transhipped to the Dominion, which if they had been imported direct from the country of origin to the Dominion would have been entitled to be entered under the British Preferential Tariff in the Dominion, shall, upon production of a certificate from the Customs Department of the Commonwealth stating the country of origin of the goods and such other information as is required, be entitled to be entered under the British Preferential Tariff in the Dominion.
Goods imported into the Dominion, and thereafter transhipped to the Commonwealth, which if they had been imported direct from the country of origin to the Commonwealth would have been entitled to be entered under the British Preferential Tariff in the Commonwealth, shall, upon production of a certificate from the Customs Department of the Dominion stating the country of origin of the goods and such other information as is required, be entitled to be entered under the British Preferential Tariff in the Commonwealth.
The provisions of thelast two preceding clauses of this agreement shall operate from the first day of May, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two, notwithstanding that this agreement may not at that date have been ratified by the Parliament of cither country.
No special rebate or bounty shall be granted by the Commonwealth or the Dominion in respect of the sugar contained in any goods exported from the Commonwealth or the Dominion, as the case may be, to the Dominion or the Commonwealth.
ARTHUR S. RODGERS. (l.s.)
Signed, sealed and delivered by the Hon. orable Arthur Stanislaus Rodgers, Minister for Trade and Customs of the Commonwealth of Australia, for and on behalf of the Commonwealth, in the presence of-
WM. DOWNIE STEWART. (l.s.)
Signed, sealed and delivered by the Honorable William Downie Stewart, Minister of Customs for the Dominion of New Zealand, for and on behalf of the Dominion, in the presence of -
I move -
That in lieu of the duties of Customs imposed by the Customs Tariff 1921 on goods the produce or manufacture of the Dominion of New Zealand imported direct from that Dominion, there be imposed on and after a time and date to be proclaimed, duties of Customs, as hereinafter set out, on the undermentioned goods the produce or manufacture of the Dominion of New Zealand imported direct from the said Dominion, namely: -
Provided that nothing in this resolution shall affect the right of the Commonwealth to impose or collect any duties chargeable under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921.
Goods (not the produce or manufacture of the Dominion of New Zealand) -
There is a general opinion, that the trading relations between the Commonwealth and New Zealand should not remain where they are to-day, the products of both countries being in the general list of the respective Tariff’ schedules ; that is to say, neither country enjoys the benefit of preferential treatment. This is a most anomalous position, and one which the Governments of both .countries felt should be rectified at the earliest possible opportunity. It will be remembered that this question of reciprocal tariff treatment between the two countries engaged the attention of both Parliaments as far back as 1906, but the attempt then made to arrive at an agreement proved abortive. Prior to an amendment of the New Zealand Tariff towards the end of last year, the Commonwealth did enjoy British preferential treatment, but following on the determination of the New Zealand Government to encourage ‘the development of secondary industries, a substantial increase in Customs duties was made towards the end of last year. In order that the Commonwealth might be in a position- to negotiate with New Zealand in regard to tariff treatment, my predecessor at the Customs Department (Mr. Greene) passed through this House an enabling Bill, and had those negotiations been successful, we should automatically have been able to make operative the British preferential tariff for New Zealand goods. The Commonwealth Government offered the Dominion preference on this scale, and in turn asked for similar treatment. In other words, we made an offer to the New Zealand Minister that there should be mutual exchange on the basis of British preference, but New Zealand was unable to accept the offer. We were therefore faced with the necessity to negotiate item by item up to a certain stage. Two lists have been prepared, one in respect of which it was necessary we should negotiate or bargain, and the second the items in respect of which New Zealand was prepared to offer the Commonwealth British preferential tariff rates. These negotiations extended over a period of three weeks, during which a close investigation was made of the position as between the two countries by the New Zealand Minister, who was accompanied by the Comptroller of Customs of the Dominion ; and by the Commonwealth Minister, with the able assistance of members of the newly-created Tariff Board. These negotiations involved a considerable amount of investigation and detail work in the way of analysis and comparisons, which honorable members would do well to bear in mind if, in the examination of the schedule, they find certain items in respect of which they feel that the Commonwealth (has not secured that measure of protection they would like. New Zealand, of course, has a perfect right to aim at the development of her secondary industries, and the agreement arrived at is the best that could be obtained- in the circumstances. The conditions of the two- countries are similar in many respects. New Zealand, like the Commonwealth of Australia, is a primary producing country that has recently turned its attention to the development of her secondary industries, whereas the Commonwealth, having been longer in the field of secondary production, has advanced much farther along that path of development. In view of the fact that the policy of the New Zealand Government is to secure the development of secondary industries in the Dominion, it could not be expected that a one-sided bargain should emerge from the negotiations. The principle of give and take had to be the foundation of any such agreement, which, to be equitable, must be mutually advantageous. I claim that the agreement has greatly improved the position of Australia with the sister Dominion. Copies of the agreement and Tariff schedule are being placed before the New Zealand Parliament to-day. I do not propose to go through the schedule item by item, or to deal with the subject in an itemized way, because the schedule is self explanatory, and honorable members will have a full opportunity, at a later stage, to deal with it. We set out to obtain the best agreement possible for the Commonwealth, and recognised, of course, that the representatives of the sister Dominion were perfectly right in attempting to achieve the same object. This agreement and the Tariff schedule are the result, and I ask honorable members not to jeopardize the position by insisting upon dealing with the schedule item by item at this stage.
– Yes. ‘ The schedule may he classified in the following way: - Item la represents the bargained items, and item 15 the list of items upon which
British preference is granted to Australia by New Zealand. The concluding item of the schedule is comprehensive and covers all unspecified items.
– Was it not possible to get complete columnar reciprocity of British preference ?
– No. I mentioned that, following on the provisions made in this Chamber by the passage of the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Act last year, the Customs Department first proposed to New Zealand a mutual exchange of British preference on all items. That was not acceptable to the New Zealand Minister, and there was no alternative but to make a bargaining arrangement, which involved the preparation of schedules of items in respect of which both countries desired a beneficial arrangement. Agreement having been reached in regard to them, for the items remaining unspecified we obtained British preference. Honorable members must bear in mind that Australia has a higher Protective policy than has New Zealand. Therefore, the British preference in the schedules of the two countries differs. Accordingly I made an offer to the New Zealand Minister that, for the purpose of a mutual exchange of British preference, we would be prepared to accept the New Zealand standard. I pressed strongly that this arrangement should be adopted by the Dominion as a reasonable basis on which to establish our trade relationship, and that it should cover the whole range of trade between the two countries. That offer, however, was refused. Therefore, we had to conclude an agreement on the best terms that New Zealand would give us. In asking honorable members to accept this arrangement in globo, I ask them also to believe that I, assisted by the Tariff Board, endeavoured to get the best bargain possible for the Commonwealth. And what could be got from New Zealand better than ‘the best it “ was prepared to give us? We have concluded an agreement with the Dominion, and I hope the House will recognise the value to the nation of accepting the agreement in globo, as representing the best terms that can be obtained from the Dominion. If the House insists upon dealing with the schedule item by item, a re-opening of the negotiations will be necessitated, and there will be a possibility of the loss of some of the concessions already made to us.
– Does the Minister suggest that we should shut our eyes and open our mouths, and swallow the lot ?
– How can wc make a reciprocal arrangement unless it is taken as a whole?
– Our Protection can be whittled away by that means.
– As the honorable member for Maribyrnong has not had time to examine the schedule, he is talking at random. What can be better than the best ? The best that can bo got from New Zealand is represented in the schedule presented to the House, and it is the result of weeks and weeks of bargaining and careful analysis. I ask honorable members to recollect that there are in New Zealand people as keen on the development of Dominion industries as honorable members in this House are keen on developing Commonwealth industries, and only in a spirit of reciprocity can any arrangement be arrived at. If we are to establish a policy of preference, which I hope will extend throughout the Empire-
– To India, too ?
– Throughout the Empire, I hope that preference to products of the British Empire will be the policy that will prevail in the future. During the testing period of war we were able to rightly gauge the value of that policy, and I venture to say that the effort, particularly on the part of the United Kingdom, to resuscitate Europe for the sake of improved trade relationships, cannot be as advantageous to the British Empire as will be a policy of peopling the Dominions and building up Empire industries. I know of no subject of more outstanding interest than that of thus developing the Dominions, for they are the best customers of the Empire and the greatest guarantee of its preservation. Only by adopting a spirit .of reasonable compromise between the Dominions is it possible to make reciprocal agreements. What means has the Commonwealth of compelling New Zealand to give us more than it is willing to give?, I ask honorable members to believe that, whilst we carried on these negotiations in a spirit of reciprocity in the hope of making a bargain fair to the two countries concerned, we also did our best to get the best deal possible for Australia, and I believe that on analysis it will be found to be a good deal.
– In any case it is binding, is it not?
– It is a tentative agreement between two Ministers in behalf of their respective Governments, and is subject to ratification by the Parliaments of the two countries. If it is passed in globo by both Parliaments, the agreement will come into operation on a date to be proclaimed.
– Has the New Zealand Parliament accepted the agreement?
– It is being tabled in the New Zealand Parliament concurrently with its tabling here. The New Zealand Government will have difficulty in convincing the members of the Dominion Parliament that the agreement is the best obtainable in the interests of New Zealand, just as we may have difficulties in convincing honorable members that the agreement is the best procurable in the interests of the Commonwealth, and accordingly the Dominion Government desire that the agreement may be ratified within a week. That is to say, honorable members will have a week for analysis and discussion of the schedule, which, if then adopted in globo, will come into operation in both countries on a date to be fixed.
In course of negotiations it was found that a grave anomaly existing between the two countries could be rectified by mutual agreement, and accordingly a tentative arrangement was made, in accordance with clause 8 of the agreement. The effect of that clause is that British goods which arrive in Australia and are subsequently transhipped to New Zealand shall not be deemed to have entered the commerce of this country, and for the purpose of transference shall not be subject to a further impost. Similar treatment will extend to goods transhipped from New Zealand to the Commonwealth. The object of that arrangement is to rectify what traders in both countries found to be a great difficulty, involving a restriction upon the ordinary exchange of trade. In future, goods which are shipped direct from the United Kingdom to Australia, and enter under the British preferential rates, may subsequently be transhipped to New Zealand and entered as if shipped direct from the United Kingdom.
– Is not that arrangement already in operation?
– It is in operation, but subject to ratification by this Parliament. The New Zealand Government, however, had the necessary machinery to put the arrangement in operation immediately, without reference to Parliament. I ask the House to ratify an arrangement which is greatly to the advantage of the commercial community.
– How does it apply to goods that are partly manufactured in Great Britain and partly manufactured elsewhere ?
– It does not apply to anything but goods specifically scheduled for British preference.
An agreement was in existence between the New Zealand and South African Governments in respect to certain items, and one of those items is particularly affected by this reciprocal arrangement. New Zealand had made an arrangement that was very favorable to South Africa, but was greatly to the detriment of the wine industry of the Commonwealth, and that arrangement was to some extent a barrier in our negotiations. However, as evidence of good faith, New Zealand has already given notice to South Africa of the termination of that arrangement as from the 1st August next, thus enabling us to vastly improve the protection of our wine industry. Previously we were in a very bad position indeed, but through the concession made by New Zealand that has been rectified.
Whilst I do not desire to discuss the items of the schedule in detail, I must refer to dried fruits. We tried very hard to get the benefit of British preference for Australian dried fruit entering the Dominion, but I regret to say that, so far, we have not succeeded. The preferential rate has not been refused, but, so far, it has not been conceded, and further negotiations are taking place.
– Does the Minister refer to citrus fruits?
– No; they are provided for in a way that will be very g ratifying to those engaged in the inustry. There is a deferred British preference in respect to dried fruits, the full benefit of which we still hope to obtain ; although I was hopeful that it might have been put into operation at the same time as other duties. This is the only item to which I desire specifically to refer. I allude to it because there is no industry in the Commonwealth which is so desirous of obtaining outside markets as is the dried fruit industry. The areas under cultivation have been extended, and the industry has gone forward by leaps and bounds.
This agreement is a very substantial advance from the position that we previously occupied.. I ask honorable members, when analyzing it, in fairness to remember where Australia will stand if it be not ratified. To-day, so far as New Zealand is concerned, we are on the general list, and there we shall remain unless we make with New Zealand a bargain that is suitable to that country. That is the position that we have to face. I invite the attention of honorable members, and particularly that of the honorable member for Maribyrnong(Mr. Fenton), to the fact that, in this case, we are not moulding a Tariff of which we are the masters. By this agreement, we are entering into an arrangement that we can secure only by means of the good-will and approval of the people of New Zealand.
– Does it represent, as nearly as possible, a policy of give and take?
– That is the whole basis of the agreement. I repeat that we are not moulding a Tariff, of which we are the sole masters. We are obtaining the best agreement that can be secured, on a reciprocal basis, with a sister Dominion, many of whose industries are like our own.
– Are we giving or taking more ?
– Every one knows that the balance of trade between the Commonwealth and New Zealand is overwhelmingly in our favour. This is an older manufacturing country ; it is more populous, and has had a better start than New Zealand. I claim that, on the whole, the agreement is sound; that it will advance very substantially the commercial and trading interests of the Com monwealth, and give to both our primary and secondary industries the best measure of help that could be obtained.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Variation of Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 13 of 1922- Public Service Clerical Association.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) - Agreement between the Commonwealth and the Dominion of New Zealand.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Nobby, Queensland -For Postal purposes. Yeronga, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Debate resumed (vide page 93.1).
– Before the adjournment of the debate, I gave the House statistical information as to the area and enumerated population of the metropolis of Melbourne, as compared with the remainder of theState, and I want now to point out that because of a difference of 2.24 per cent. between the population of the two, the Commissioners have allotted eleven seats to the metropolitan, and only nine to the extra metropolitan districts. We find that this difference of 2.24 per cent. between the population of the metropolitan and country districts has been made a reason for giving two additional members to the metropolitan area.
– That shows the iniquity of the formula by which the quota is secured.
– Evidently it is wrong. I propose to quote from the report of the Commissioners in order to show the attitude they have adopted. There were in all some eight or nine series of objections put before them by different sets of local governing bodies and organizations. The Commissioners report-
We have given consideration to these objections and suggestions, and report thereon as follows : -
and (b) In framing our proposals, we decided that in dividing the State into twenty divisions, we could not properly include more than nine divisions in the extra-metropolitan, area, and that having regard to the distribution of electoral population, and the geographical and other conditions governing redistribution in that area, the divisions of Wimmera, Echuca, Wannon, Corio, Ballaarat, Bendigo, Gippsland, Indi, and Flinders should be retained with additions and modifications. This necessarily involved the disappearance of the divisions of Corangamite and Grampians…..
That is the only explanation they offer. I should like to know the reason for such a bald statement, and why two more members should be given the metropolis because its population is 2.24 per cent, greater than t’hat. of the extrametropolitan area.. If there was no other reason at all for referring back this scheme to the Commissioners, this in itself should be sufficient, especially when we find that the condition of affairs in New South Wales is widely different. There the aim of the distribution Commissioners has been not to deprive the country districts of two additional representatives, but rather to secure for them tho maximum representation that it is possible to give. The number of electors enrolled for the metropolitan divisions of New South Wales in 1921 was 543,276, and for the extra-metropolitan divisions 562,104, or a difference of less than 19,000. Yet we find that the Commissioners for that State, working on exactly the same basis that the Victorian Commissioners are presumed to have adopted, have given to the extra-metropolitan divisions, in respect of this difference of less than 19,000, representing, I suppose, not i per cent, of the total population, two additional members. There we have fifteen extrametropolitan divisions and only thirteen city divisions. The plan adopted in New South Wales, I venture to say, is far more equitable and more in accordance with the spirit of the Representation Act than is the scheme before us. In support of this contention, one has only to refer to the figures relating to the various constituencies in the two States. In Victoria, for instance, Wannon, one of the largest country electorates, has the largest number of electors, and compact electorates in the heart of the city ‘have the smallest number. In New South Wales the position is different. The figures are worthy of note. The number of voters in the thirteen metropolitan divisions of New South Wales is as follows: -
I have read the whole list so that the position may be perfectly clear to honorable members. The lowest figures are those- relating .to the new electorate of Granville, which has 39,737 electors. In the extra-metropolitan divisions the number of electors is as follows : -
The Commissioners for New South Wales, acting under the same Act and -the same instructions as- those under which the Victorian Commissioners are required to work, have thus brought about all for which we are asking in this amendment, and yet the Attorney-General tells us that it cannot be done.
– And yet last night ohe honorable member wanted to vote out the New South Wales scheme.
– I did not oppose this part of the scheme. It is easy to discover the profession which the honorable gentleman follows, since he tries to put words into my mouth and to attribute to rae actions that were not mine. I was endeavouring last night to secure, not merely for Victoria, but for all Australia, an equitable distribution of representation in order that the spirit of the Constitution might be observed. The honorable gentleman, however, with one eye all the time on some party political advantage, seeks to attribute to others the motives by which he apparently is animated. In order to achieve his object last night he cracked the party whip, and the suggestion was made that if the motion then under consideration were dealt with in a non-party spirit, with the result that it was lost, the House would be dissolved. There was an open threat that within eight weeks honorable members would be in their constituencies.
– An open threat? I did not hear of it.
– The Leader of the Country party should not make such a statement unless he is sure of its accuracy.
– I should like to have from the honorable gentleman a denial of the statement, which was openly made. Whether the threat had any official weight it is impossible for me to say. The position created by the distribution in Victoria is grossly inequitable, because some New South Wales country electorates have 8,000 fewer voters than Victorian country electorates, and yet we are asked to believe that Australia is a continent in which the principle of one vote one value holds good. I want to point out the injury likely to be done to those people who live outside the metropolitan areas. They are people who, as 1 have found, fully value their rights of citizenship. Country voters in Victoria always poll a higher percentage to their enrolments than do city people, despite the disadvantages the former have in reaching polling places and the many difficulties in the way of registering their votes. A new division has been created in the metropolitan area in Victoria, and the effect has been apparently to diminish the size of metropolitan constituencies because the number of polling places in the metropolitan area is actually eleven less than it was ten years ago.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ polling places “ ?
– The following figures were supplied to me by the Electoral Department this morning: -
The net result is that there are 137 polling places under the new proposal as against 148 in the metropolitan area, whereas there are 1,748 polling places in country districts, an increase of 170.
The Commissioners’ proposal for Victoria does not bear any comparison with the New South Wales redistribution carried out under exactly the same Act and practically by officers of the same Department. Whereas there is a negligible difference between the metropolitan population of the two States, country districts in New South Wales have been given fifteen representatives in this House as compared with thirteen given to metro.politan areas, while Victorian country districts have only nine representatives in this House as against eleven for metropolitan constituencies. We have no reason advanced by the Commissioners for adopting their redistribution, simply the bald statement that they can only give nine members for the country districts, and for that reason they find it necessary to eliminate Corangamite and Grampians. The House would be justified in sending the redistribution back to the Commissioners for revision on the sound ground that their proposals do not carry out the spirit or intention or even the letter of the Act. If this policy is continued we shall have an acceleration of the rate of the huge increase of metropolitan population that has been going on at the expense of country districts. How rapid this has been in the case of Victoria is shown by the figures T have taken from the Victorian Year-Booh giving the percentage of metropolitan population to the total population of the State in the years mentioned -
The only way .in which a continued acceleration of that rate can bo avo ded is by insuring that the legislative weight of country districts is greater in the future than it has been in the past, and by securing the return to Parliament of country district representatives who are thoroughly informed upon local problems, and who, knowing where the “ shoe pinches,” may be able to bring forward those ameliorative measures which are so necessary for the purpose of encouraging not only people on country lands, but also those who are engaged in industries in country towns. We should have as many of these men as possible in Parliament. Since I have been in this Na tional Parliament the great difficulty that country constituents have of getting in touch with their representatives has been impressed upon me. In many cases, before they can reach Melbourne they are obliged to travel hundreds of miles to their State capitals to get a through train or boat to the Federal Seat of Government. The very fact that they have to depend more upon the written word than upon the spoken word should induce us to minimize as far as possible the difficulties from which they suffer, and help them to get the problems facing them dealt with sympathetically and intelligently, so that they may be solved in a way which will give them some chance of making prosperous homes where they are situated instead of being forced off the land as they have been, in increasing numbers during the last couple of decades. It was hoped that Federation would largely solve their problems in this respect, inasmuch as it would abolish all border friction, and possibly create a new spirit in remote parts of States so badly treated in the past in the matter of representation in Parliament; but here we are now seeking to accentuate their lack of representation. The Minister has objected to the use of the word “ direct “ in the amendment, saying that it is an invasion for party political purposes of an act of administration which should be kept entirely independent of the Executive. If either House of Parliament passes a resolution disapproving of any proposed distribution or negatives a motion for the approval of a proposed distribution, the Act provides that the Minister may direct the Distribution Commissioners to propose a fresh distribution. All that the amendment does is to follow the very wording of the provision. In 1912 all the distributions proposed by the Commissioners were sent back with the exception of the Victorian. On that occasion the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) moved as a further amendment, “ That the “Queensland report be referred back to the Commissioners for further consideration.” I would like to know the exact terms of the reference back to the Commissioners. I would like to know whether there was any direction given to the Commissioners. T would like to ask the Attorney-General whether an. amendment merely to the effect that the report be referred back to the Commissioners for further consideration would be accepted. Merely to refer it back, and say, “ This is no good; you must do something better,” would be futile. There should be some indication of that “something better.” I understand that what the Commissioners did previously was to carefully scan the records of parliamentary debates to ascertain why their reports were unacceptable. All that the amendment seeks is that the Commissioners’ shall pay more regard to community or diversity of interests. The scheme for New South Wales has been accepted. It was framed along the lines which we desire for Victoria. Why should not the report concerning this State be referred back with a request that the Commissioners make their redistribution on the general basis of the New; South Wales scheme? Recognition has been given there, by the Commissioners, to the necessity for disparity between the populations of the various divisions. In the course of the debate upon the scheme for New South Wales the question, of relative numbers as between city and country electorates did not arise. But the extent of divisions in that State is striking. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), for example, is to be transferred to an electorate which 19 equal to about half the area of the State, and almost twice the size of Victoria. Is it fair- that he should be called upon to be sole representative of such an enormous area of country ? Is it reasonable to expect that hia constituents will be able to keep closely in touch with him,, or that he will be able to give adequate attention to their requirements?
With respect to- means of communication, alone there is every cause for dissatisfaction, when considering the proposal1* as applied, to Gippsland, Wannon, Wimmera, Echuca, and Indi. The railways cannot be used as an adequate means of transit. In some instances, a representative would have to return from one point of his. .electorate practically into Melbourne before starting out again to reach’ another point. The only way in which decent representation of country interests’ can be secured is- to so alter the Constitution as to permit of redistribution on the basis of a fixed quota. If the country continues’ to lose population, and the cities grow numerically stronger day by day, no man will be able to represent the vast outside areas. The member representing Kalgoorlie is to be called upon to represent about nine teen-twentieths of the largest State in. the Commonwealth - an area greater than the whole of the huge State of Queensland; while Maranoa, one of the Queensland electorates, is almost three times the size of Victoria. I trust that their report will be sent back to the Commissioners, and that the House will plainly indicate its desire to have the Victorian redistribution carried out upon lines similar to those which have been followed in New South Wales.
The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) recently introduced a deputation to the Government, which was representative of seventy-one’ shires and municipalities. The speakers made a definite point of the serious difficulties of communication, which would be met with in the proposed redistributed divisions; and they complained that there was no real community of interest between various parts of those divisions, whereby they could be formed into compact homogeneous electoral units. A far better method of redistribution was indicated when the honorable member for Corangamite referred, this morning, to the cutting up of the western portion of Victoria along a line from east to west rather than from north to south, thus maintaining unimpaired the community of interest afforded by the dairying districts and agricultural areas. There is such a strong demand throughout Victoria for the return of the Commissioners’ proposals for further consideration, that this House should not dare to ignore it.
– The Government appear to have made up their mind that the ‘redistribution proposals shall be regarded as party questions. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has forgotten, perhaps, that he announced only a little while ago that, upon these matters, the actions of members would be free from party considerations. Unfortunately, there was exercised last evening the closest party methods. I was a member of this Parliament in 1912 when the Commonwealth; was re-divided. At that time the reports of the Commissioners covering five of the States were referred back to them. The proposals for Victoria were the only ones which were accepted without reconsideration.
– And did not party feelings run high then?
– There were just as keen representatives of Western Australia in this Parliament in 1912 as there are today. I am not going to say they are not as keen to-day, but they are not more keen. On that occasion the wishes of the Western Australian members were assented to by a majority of the House, and the scheme was referred back to the Commissioners. I mention that incident as a contrast to what has been done on the present occasion. The party issue did not enter into the question, but a majority of the House decided what should be done. The Prime Minister of the day, and those who had charge of the resolutions, intimated that it was a non-party matter, and that members on all sides of the House were free to state their views and vote accordingly. Members were told that if their views were favoured by a majority of the House, the question would be referred back to the Commissioners. If a majority of the Victorian members had been favorable to referring the matter back for reconsideration, there was such a feeling of comradeship, even between members of different parties, and sufficient common sense and fairness in the House, that their wishes would have been complied with. As such action is provided for in the Act, and has been taken before, why should it be regarded as a crime to-day? It was regarded as a virtue in days gone by. I know that members who come from large States laugh when one refers to the comparatively small State of Victoria. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) may say that his electorate can swallow up four electorates of the size of Victoria. I would draw the honorable member’s attention to the map of Victoria. A very small area represents’ the metropolitan electorates. It can be covered on the map by two fingers, but it would take many large hands to cover the rest of Victoria. I represent a city constituency, but it is a type of city constituency which has electors in it who are dependent for their livelihood, in the long run, upon the success of rural industries. I think I can say with truth that in the Maribyrnong electorate we manufacture more agricultural implements , than are made in the rest of. Australia. . Apart altogether from the words used by the honorable member for Swan(Mr. Prowse), and apart from the national view, which I also try to exercise, 1 have a personal interest, through my constituency, in agricultural progress. Although I am a city member, I believe that Victoria has been very badly treated indeed at the hands of the Commissioners. May I appeal to the fairness of honorable members? In round figures there is a slight difference in population in favour of the metropolis as against the country. Half the population, roughly, is in the country and half in the metropolitan area. One of the natural conclusions of a common-sense man would bethat if the city possesses half the population and the country possesses the other half, the distribution of members should be equal, as far as possible, as between the city and the country. It is beyond our ability to secure that every constituency should have the same number of electors or the same number of inhabitants. I amnot making any special plea.So far as my own interests are affected, I am unconcerned,because my constituency, as at present constituted, suits me equally as well as the other.
– If there were twenty-one members, would the honorable member give the city 10½ and the country 10½?
– I presume that we would do something similar to that which we did last time, when we gave eleven members to the country and ten to the city. The country were then given a majority of the members, although they had no more than half the population. In common with the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), I think the New South Wales Commissioners have taken a correct view of things. Although Sydney has not quite half the population of New South Wales, but nearly half, there are two more members in the country than in the city areas.
– You voted against the recommendation of the Commissioners.
– I did not. I voted for a fair and square deal all round. That is all that either New South Wales or Victoria asks for. We voted for a more equitable method than is in existence at the present time. All the talk about placing people on the land, about immigration, and about decentralization, is just idle prattle. Concrete evidence of that is furnished by the Federal electoral map of Victoria, which, if the proposal passes this House, will be a lasting illustration of the insincerity of talk of that sort. This Government, and those who follow it, care not a snap of the fingers for the rural interests of this country. The map will be one of the finest election placards obtainable in provincial areas. Honorable members do not seem to realize the strong feeling that is passing through the community to-day. Whilst representing city constituencies, we on this side of the House are prepared to give a fair deal to our country brothers. There has been an agitation in the Prime Minister’s electorate. At Maryborough, which is one of the big provincial centres, a scheme originated for calling together one of the largest municipal conferences held in recent times. That conference came to the unanimous conclusion that the redistribution scheme in Victoria was an iniquitous proposal. I can tell the Prime Minister, and he may take it as a friendly or an unfriendly warning, that if the proposal goes through he will have an exceptionally ticklish time in the Bendigo electorate on that one question alone. The same- feeling runs right through the electorates of Victoria. I believe in decentralization. The capital cities of the Commonwealth are completely overloaded. Australia will never be prosperous, and its metropolitan residents will never be in the fullest enjoyment of their privileges, unless they are backed in the provincial areas by a thriving population settled upon the soil. Anybody who takes a reasonable view of the situation must come to this conclusion. The Prime Minister will be faced with most strenuous opposition in his division if he stands by the present proposal. Victoria’s principal centres are crowded with people, while large areas of country lands are being neglected. There is sure to be trouble if this state of affairs is allowed to continue. If it. happens to be my good fortune to face the electors again, I shall make it my business to place before them, from the public platforms, the facts about the disgraceful way in which the redistribution schemes have, been allowed to go through. - It is not often I agree with members of the Women’s National League, but upon this issue, at all events, I thoroughly indorse the protest which they have made against the redistribution of seats in Victoria. I have no desire to cast a reflection upon the Commissioners, but I am sure that, if they are satisfied a mistake has been made, they will be quite prepared to set the matter right. That is all we want. Wc arc asking that the scheme shall be referred back to the Commissioners. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) this afternoon submitted a volume of evidence in support of this course. If the position is considered in all its bearings, I am sure that the common sense of honorable members will come to the rescue of the Victorian members. I strongly deprecate the introduction of any party feeling into this discussion; but I cannot help reminding the Government of the fate that befell the Wilson Government in Western Australia in 1910, as a result of the jerrymandering of the electorates in that State. They and their supporters thought they had made everything secure, and were, in fact, throwing up their hats at the thought that they had made their return certain. But, to their surprise, they were ignominiously defeated. Something of . the same party spirit appears to be animating the Government and their supporters over these redistribution proposals. To put it plainly, the Nationalists think they have a good thing on; but when the people realize what unfair tactics have been adopted, they will rise in their might, and even in some of the so-called “ safe “ constituencies National candidates will be strenuously opposed. I have no complaint to make about my own division; but I cannot help thinking some peculiar things have been done in the revision of boundaries. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) last night indicated a few. He pointed out that . certain municipalities had been cut to pieces in the new subdivisions. A number of municipalities in Maribyrnong have been treated in the same way. Take Coburg as an illustration. Three-fourths of that city is now in the constituency of Bourke, and onefourth in the division of Maribyrnong.
On the other side of my division threefourths of the city of Footscray is now in Maribyrnong, and the other fourth in the division of Melbourne Ports.
– How have they treated the Federal subdivisions?
– In some cases they have been cut to pieces.
– Last night I mentioned several that had been shattered.
– But, as I have said, I am not making any complaint as far as my division is concerned. The Fawkner division, however, has been appreciably altered. Means of communication, apparently, have been overlooked, because the River Yarra has not been taken as a boundary throughout, for the reason, I believe, that portion of the division is part of the Albert ward in the Melbourne City Council, and the representative for Fawkner, if he wishes to visit that portion of his division, will find his way blocked by the river. Quite a number of most peculiar things have been done. If this were really a non-party matter, as it should be, I could conceive of the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) voting to return this scheme to the Commissioners for further consideration. Why should not the honorable member for Flinders, as a Victorian representative, do that? When we previously considered these matters in 1912 the whole Ministry voted on occasions for the return of the proposals to the Commissioners for reconsideration. The Government having announced that this is a non-party matter, every honorable member in the House, even every Minister, is at liberty to vote to return the scheme to the Commissioners. Cabinet has decided to support these proposals in globo. It was not right to do that, and then say that they could be considered on non-party lines. With the party spirit prevailing, there is no likelihood of a just and equitable scheme of redistribution emanating from this Chamber. I say, unhesitatingly, that if the electoral map of Victoria had not been ar ranged according to the liking of the National party, the members of the Government would be amongst those voting to refer back the proposals for further consideration; butbecause the scheme submitted by the Commissioners suits Nationalist politics, the Government act as a barrier to justice. Does the Treasurer consider it fair that the country districts, with half the population of Victoria, should have two members less than are given to the metropolitan area? Can he justify that arrangement in any country district ? Can the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) do so? He cannot. If any advantage in respect to population quotas is to be given to either city or country districts, it should be given to the latter, which, because of their wide areas and lack of means of communication, are in a less desirable position than dwellers in the metropolitan area occupy. Some of the main objections to this scheme of redistribution come from the Prime Ministers’ own electorate. It is all very well to talk about immigration, settling people upon the land, and decentralization, but this proposal is one of the greatest steps towards centralization that have been taken in recent years. Nothing could hit the country districts harder than a reduction of their parliamentary representation. By lack of judgment or error, the Commissioners have done an injustice to the country districts of Victoria, and the majority of Victorian members are desirous of the scheme being reconsidered, so that the injustice may be removed. The figures clearly show that the country will have a legitimate grievance against the Government and against the majority of this Parliament if this iniquitous proposal is carried. We cannot expect country people to accept meekly and mildly a scheme that is fraught with injustice to them. My words may be falling on deaf ears. Some honorable members may have made up their minds to stick to the Government through thick and thin; they have heard the crack of the party whip, and they are ready to do an injustice to Victoria. I do not wish to see a repetition of the injustice that was done last night.
– Order! The honorable member must not reflect upon a vote of the House.
– I question whether the supporters of the proposal that was carried last night will be able to stand up to it when they go to the country. I could not go before my constituents and say that this scheme of redistribution is fair; and I am certain that I could not say that before any country audience. It is proposed that every Victorian division shall have at least 3,500 more electors than have the divisions in New South Wales. What stronger argument could there be for referring the scheme back to the Commissioners, with an instruction that they shall take a leaf out of the book of the New South Wales Commissioners? The latter have allowed in the widestretched and thinly-populatedDarling electorate, extending through Western New South Wales from the Queensland border to almost the Victorian border, only 36,000 electors, or, approximately, 6,000 less than the number allotted to the biggest metropolitan constituency. I do notthink the Commissioners have done wrong in allowing that margin in favour of the country electorates.
– The honorable member might explain how he justifies political interference with the Commissioners ?
– The honorable member may laugh, but this is not the first occasion on which I have spoken in defence of country interests. Although. I am a city representative, deep down in my heart I realize that unless we can get into this great country a big provincial population things will go hard with the metropolitan areas. When we have the opportunity of giving, to the country people that consideration which they richly deserve, let us take it by the hand. The debate has not yet concluded, and if the amendment now before the House is not accepted, others will be forthcoming in the effort to achieve the same end. I hope that in connexion with this amendment the Government whip will not be cracked quite so hard as it was on the amendment submitted on the proposed distribution of divisions in New South Wales by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). I hope, also, that if it is cracked. Victorian representatives in this House will not be found amenable to the whip. The distribution proposed is not a just one. If I could honestly do so, I would have great pleasure in commending the Distribution Commissioners for their work, but I cannot do so. I should like to know what the Prime Minister has to say with regard to the proposition submitted at. the Municipal Conference called by the Maryborough Municipal Council. I hope that the Minister will consent to the adjournment of the debate. He may as well do so, because there are others to follow me if I resume my seat. I am supporting the amendment, because every time I look at the map I am struck by the injustice of the proposal that the small city area should return eleven members to this House, whilst the great area of the country districts, with more than half the population of the State, is to return only nine members, including the right honorable member for Bendigo, if he has the luck to struggle back to this House. To refer this distribution back to the Commissioners would not involve any great delay, because it is generally understood that Electoral Distribution Commissioners always adopt the precaution of preparing an alternative scheme. If the proposed distribution of Victoria were referred back to the Commissioners to-day, I believe that by the time we met on Wednesday next we should have an alternative scheme placed before us. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment, and give us the opportunity of considering such an alternative scheme.
. -I rise to make a suggestion. The Government in bringing forward this proposal are carrying out their constitutional obligation. If the honorable member who has moved the amendment is willing to withdraw that portion of it which gives a direction to the Distribution Commissioners, the Government will agree to this distribution ‘being referred back to them.
– I ask leave to amend my amendment by omitting all the words after the word “ divisions “, line 9.
Amendment amended accordingly.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Queensland into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. A. A. Spowers, R. H. Altera, and. P. E. Walcott, the Distribution Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 29th day of June, 1922, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report and indicated on the map referred to therein be adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of South Australia into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. T. E. Day, 0. H. Stephens, and J. Gardiner, the Distribution Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 20th day of June, 1922, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report andindicated in red on the map referred to therein be adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. H. S. King, H. R. Way, and J. F. Whitely, the Distribution Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions,in their report laid before Parliament on the 20th day of June, 1922, and that the divisions referred to in the report and indicated on the map as A, B, C, D, and E, be named as follows: -
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the House of Representatives approves of the distribution of the State of Tasmania into electoral divisions as proposed by Messrs. E. A. Counsel, J. E. Cathie, and P. C. Douglas, the Distribution Commissioners for the purpose of distributing the said State into divisions, in their report laid before Parliament on the 20th day of June, 1922, and that the names of the divisions suggested in the report and indicated in red on the map referred to therein be adopted.
Order op Business - Case of Drowning - Circulation of Weather Reports.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to intimate that we shall ask honorable members next week to discuss and pass the motion for the approval of the Treaties which I have laid on the table of the House, and on which I spoke last Wednesday. For the reasons that I gave lost night, the matter is urgent.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) inquired whether the drowning of two men who were swept away by flood waters in his electorate recently was due to lack of official notifications concerning weather conditions and theimminence of disastrous floods. I have received from the Government Meteorologist a report in which he states that -
The deaths were not due to the lack of official notifications concerning weather conditions and the imminence of disastrous floods. As willbe seen by the copies of my advices, attached, the resumption of the flood-warning service was effected, and warning actually issued, before the flood rains bad occurred where the deaths as reported in the press took place.
Mr. Hunt attaches a copy of a telegram sent on 25th inst. to the inspector-General of Police, Sydney -
More flood rains probable, especially south from Sydney. Big rises expected in tributaries Macquarie and Lachlan.
A telegram was also addressed by him, on the 24th inst., to the State Meteorologist, Sydney-
To-day’s chart indicates probable flood rains parts north coastal districts. Please arrange immediately temporary resumption telegrams from all highland and coastal stations to Sydney Bureau, inorder flood warnings may, if necessary, be issued.
On the same day, a telegram was despatched to the State Meteorologist, Brisbane, stating that, “To-day’s chart indicates probable flood rains parts south border coast districts, Queensland,” and directing the resumption of telegrams from all highland and coastal stations concerned. The Government Meteorologist assures me that it was not due to lack of information as to the imminence of floods that this unfortunate occurrence took place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 July 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220728_reps_8_99/>.