11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Proposed Commonwealth Bounty - Earnings of Miners - Prosecution for Conspiracy
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in the event of effect being given to the proposed arrangement with the coal-owners and coal-miners of New South Wales, the Commonwealth will extend the same assistance to the coalmining industry of Tasmania?
– Subject to the reduction of the local price of coal by 4s. per ton, the Commonwealth has offered to pay a bounty of1s. per ton on coal exported overseas or interstate. That will apply to the industry in all States.
– The Premier of New South Wales is reported to have stated yesterday that he was shocked to find that a large number of miners were working in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales for less than the basic wage, but that further action to remedy that state of affairs was the responsibility of. the. Commonwealth Government. In view of that authoritative statement, will the Prime Minister take action, similar to that taken against the Timber Workers’ Union, against the owners who have thrown 12,000 miners out of employment?
– One of the things that makes necessary immediate action to improve the state of the coal-mining industry is the intermittency of employment. It is definitely established that very many men get only a few days’ work per fortnight.
– Mr. Bavin referred to the men who are in work.
– I have discussed this matter with Mr. Bavin several times, and I am quite certain that he has not suggested that acoal-miner in regular employment does not receive the basic wage. The trouble is that, although the daily wage is sufficient to ensure the regularly employed worker a weekly return at least equal to the basic wage, the intermittency of employment is such that the earnings of many men are below that standard. The object of the proposals of the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments is, by increasing the output to increase also the number of days per fortnight that each man can work, and thus assure to all at least the basic wage. With regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I stated yesterday that the Government will take all steps necessary to enforce Commonwealth laws.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral institute proceedings under the Crimes Act against Mr. McDonald, of the Northern Collieries’ Association, the Premier of New South Wales, and the Prime Minister for conspiring to lock out 12,000 coal-miners and starve them and their children ?
– If evidence of any such conspiracy were forthcoming I would certainly consider the taking of action against the persons concerned.
– Is it a fact that the agreement proposed between theCommonwealth Government, the State Government, the colliery-owners and the employees for reducing the price of coal was intended to apply only to coal from the northern fields of New SouthWales, and not from any other district or State ?
– Recently the Go vernment Resident of Central Australia sent 130 natives to the Finke River Mission, and, as a result, the water supplies of the mission have been depleted. During my recent illness I received the following telegram from Pastor Reidel, head of the mission : -
Latest information mission rations supplied by Government exhausted. Government resident advises matter now before Minister. He unable take further action without advice from Minister. Camels water cartage knocking up. Position permits no delay. Try get immediate decision both matters. Mission unable shoulder responsibilities Government.
A departmental officer who visited me in my bedroom at the Hotel Kurrajong promised that inquiries would be made into the matter. I ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether such inquiries have been made, and whether steps have been taken to supply further rations to the Mission and prevent exhaustion of the water supply?
– Adequate provision has been made to meet the situation.
Proposed Appeal Board
– Will the Minister for Repatriation say whether the bill to constitute an appeal board for returned soldiers, in accordance with the promise contained in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, will be submitted to the House before the Easter adjournment?
– A bill to create an appeal tribunal will be introduced at an early date.
– I have been advised by Mr. R. W. Webster that Sir Maynard Hcdstrom, of Suva, has written stating that the planters of Fiji are prepared to send five cases of bananas to the Sydney and Melbourne hospitals, freight paid to
Sydney, as a gift to the inmates. If the Matson Navigation Company is prepared to carry the fruit freight free, further shipments will be sent regularly. If the Government is not prepared to allow the children of Australia to have good bananas at a cheap price, will the Minister for Trade and Customs allow the gift bananas for the hospitals to be admitted free of duty?
– The fact that the bananas were to be given to hospitals would not exempt regular supplies of them from Fiji from the payment of duty.
– Will the Prime Minister afford organized bodies of primary producers an opportunity to present their case to the representatives of the overseas shipping companies, who are about to make inquiries in Australia? This is desirable in order that the visitors may have a clear understanding of the position of our industries.
– Recently a board was appointed of representatives of all the big exporting primary industries of Australia, such as wool, wheat, mutton, beef, dairy produce, processed fruits, and so on. I have no doubt that these industries will all be able to put their case clearly before the board, and that it will make sure that the facts are placed before the overseas shipping representatives. If an additional opportunity to meet the visitors is desired by representatives of a particular industry, and time permits, I shall be pleased to do my best to arrange it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Home Affairs been drawn to the reported loss of Constable Johnson and two white settlers in Central Australia, while they were searching for a native who was alleged to have committed a murder? I understand that fears are entertained for the safety of these persons. It is thought that they may be starving. Has the Government taken any action to institute a search for the party?
– On the 17th December last a police party was despatched to search for an aboriginal who was alleged to have murdered a white settler. At that time the Government Resident did not expect to hear anything of the party for at least ten weeks.No anxiety is entertained for its welfare. The only thing that has happened is that a horse belonging to the police knocked up, and a camel was supplied by one of the station-owners to take its place.
Order of Business
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Parliament is supposed to be a deliberative assembly?
– That question is not in order.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that a number of honorable members spent many hours in research work in order to participate in the debate on the Transport Workers Bill, and that in consequence of the Government, with the aid of its supporters, applying the guillotine they were debarred from expressing their views on the measure ? I notice that the Financial Agreement Validation Bill appears on the notice-paper for consideration to-day. Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that the cowardly guillotine system will not be employed during the debate on this measure?
– The honorable member must withdraw the word “ cowardly.” He is not entitled to reflect upon the mode of procedure adopted by the House.
– Well, I will say “the guillotine system.”
– The first part of the honorable member’s question was apparently designed to convey some information to me. The second part of it was an inquiry as to whether I was aware of how much, if any, research work honorable members opposite had done on a certain subject. I have not the slightest idea. The third part of the question appeared to be a reflection upon the
Standing Orders, and I do not propose to make any comment on it. In reply to the fourth part of the question, I have no intention of informing the honorable member how I propose to conduct the business of the House.
– A week or so ago the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) asked the Prime Minister to have inquiries made into the distress which existed in part of his electorate. The Prime Minister informed us subsequently that inquiries had been made through the Premier of South Australia. A few days ago I drew the attention of the House to the distress which existed in a part of my electorate. Will the Prime Minister have inquiries made into the matter through the Town Council and the Local Distress Committee of Port Pirie? If he finds that acute distress exists, will be consider subsidizing by£1 for £1 the collections that are made in the district for relief purposes?
– I did not hear, nor have I had an opportunity of reading, the statement the honorable member made on this subject. I will look into the matter, and if I consider it justifiable, I shall cause an inquiry to be made.
– It was stated in the press a day or so ago that the report of the officer of the AuditorGeneral’s Department upon certain housing contracts in Canberra had been made available to the Government, and that it had been referred to the Chief Commissioner in order that the officers concerned might have an opportunity of presenting their side of the case. Seeing that this report was made on the recommendation of a joint committee of this Parliament, does not the Prime Minister think that it should be made available to honorable members immediately? Will the Prime Minister inform us of the procedure he proposes to adopt in connexion with reports of this nature? This report was described as scathing, and I submit that honorable members should be informed of its contents.
– There is a question on this subject on the notice-paper, but if the honorable member wishes to have a detailed answer to his question in the form in which he has put it, I ask him to place it on the notice-paper and I shall obtain the information for him later.
– Has the board of inquiry to be instituted by the War Service Homes Commissioner into the recent dismissal from the War Service Homes staff yet been appointed, and if not, when is it expected that the appointment will be made ?
– Some delay has Occurred in receiving a nomination from the central executive of the Returned Soldiers’ Association. It is expected that a choice will be made by that body on the 7th March, and as soon as we receive its nomination the board will be complete.
– Is the attitude of the Government towards the co-operative movement in this country favorable or otherwise ?
– The honorable member must judge the Government by its actions, and I refer him to our generous treatment of co-operative concerns in respect of income taxation.
Foundation of Administrative Block
– Some time ago, I asked that the whole of the papers relating to the foundations of the administrative offices be laid upon the table of the House. Some papers were laid on the table, and on examining them I found that a number of important documents had not been included in the file. I refer particularly to the report of the expert who examined the foundations, and also the papers relating to the negotiations between the architect, the contractor and the Federal Capital Commission, and the final adjustments that were made. I now ask the Minister to lay on the table a complete file relating to the contract.
– I made available to the honorable member all the papers that were contained in the file in my department. I shall, however, make inquiries, to ascertain whether there are any papers relating to this subject at the offices of the Federal Capital Commission.
– In view of the embarrassing position in which this Government has been placed of late, its life having been saved only by the casting vote of the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees, will the Prime Minister introduce a bill for the purpose of granting a vote to the honorable member for the Northern Territory? Will he also declare the bill urgent, and gag any supporter of the Government who dares to oppose it?
– The Government has no intention of taking the course suggested.
Paintings and Statues
– To meet the con venience of the public, and also in justice to the artists responsible for the pictures and statues in Parliament House, will you, Mr. Speaker, have their names placed upon their respective works of art?
– The librarian is at present making arrangements for placing printed cards upon the statues in the building to indicate the sculptor, and in the case of a gift, the donor of it. I understand that the Prime Minister’s Department has already supplied certain inscriptions, which have been placed upon the paintings. In any case, I shall bring the honorable member’s suggestion before the proper authority.
Excise and Imports
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained as far as possible.
Ditchers - Housing Contracts - Stores -Chief Architect’s House
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:
– On the 28th February, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will supply a statement as to the total amount paid in bounty upon sulphur to the mining companies at Broken Hill, and the respective amounts paid to such companies since the inception of the bounty?
– Claims as under have been paid to the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited for material produced at the works of the companies mentioned hereunder: -
purchase ofhomes ofofficers Transferred to Canberra - State Rights of Transferred Officers - High-Salaried Officers.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Act, why were these officers not allowed a longer period than twelve months in which to make their choice?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he in a position to state the names of the twelve highest-paid officers in the service of the Commonwealth, together with the official positions of such officers, their annual salaries, and their allowances?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
Will he give favorable consideration to the question of granting semi-official postmasters and postmistresses similar benefits, such as superannuation, leave, &c., as those enjoyed by permanent public servants?
– The extension to persons in charge of semi-official post offices of the benefits of superannuation and sick leave, similar to those enjoyed by the permanent staff, could not be effected unless such persons were admitted to the permanent Service. This is not practicable under the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which lays down certain conditions in regard to entrance examinations, age, &c.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
With reference to the question asked without notice by the honorable member for Boothby on the 7th ultimo, relative to the system of voting and marking of ballot-papers at elections, to which the Minister replied by letter dated 27th ultimo, and in view of the fact that the matter is of public importance, will the Minister furnish his reply to the House so that it may be incorporated in Hansard?
– The reply which I furnished to the honorable member for Boothby on 27th February, relative to the system of voting and marking of ballot-papers at elections, read as follows: -
With reference to the question without notice asked by you on 7th February, relative to the marking of ballot-papers at elections, I forward herewith, for your information, copy of a conspectus which indicates the method of voting at -
a ) Commonwealth elections -
for the Senate;
for the House of Representatives.
State elections -
for the Legislative Council (where that chamber is elected) ;
for the Legislative Assembly ; and
The Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth has pointed out that the manner of marking the ballot-papers in a uniform way is not the only issue raised by you, and that the method of election, which is a matter of policy for the State Governments concerned, is involved.
It is considered desirable that the Chief Electoral Officer should visit the several States at some time during thecurrent year, for the purpose of holding conferences with the Commonwealth electoral officers and the divisional returning officers (as recommended by the Joint Electoral Committee), and if this course is practicable, advantage will be taken of the opportunity for the Chief Electoral Officer to have a conference, with the approval of the State Ministers concerned, with the State Electoral Officer and the officer in charge of local government matters, upon the subject raised by you.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he state how the amount of expenditure of £156,641 for the years 1926-27 and 1927-28, in connexion with the Development and Migration Commission, is arrived at?
– The amount is arrived at as follows: -
The expenditure of the Australian and London organizations was largely incurred in connexion with migration under the agreements between the Commonwealth and the States. The proportion of that expenditure due to developmental and investigational work consequent on the appointment of the Development and Migration Commission, was £11,181 in 1926-27, and £11,587 in 1927-28.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be made available to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2 and 3. Following the practice in the past, the selection of suitable members for the vacancies on the Tariff Board has been discussed with a number of representative bodies in the Commonwealth, including those mentioned by the honorable member. The appointments are still under consideration.
Medical Inquiry into Illnesses.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Consultation with Attorney-General.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are a.3 follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the information desired by the honorable member will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for
Works and Railways, upon notice -
What portions of the Trans-Australian railway are now ballasted?
– The line is ballasted for a distanceof 31 61/2 miles from Port Augusta and for 184 miles from Kalgoorlie. On various sections over the remainder of the railway 851/2 miles have been ballasted.
Tariff Board Report
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
When may the report of the Tariff Board be expected on the application of the Tasmanian Fur Traders Company for increased duties on imported skins and manufactured coats and trimmings which now come from Germany, via England, under British preference ?
– It cannot be said at present when this report will be available.
Registration of Companies
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has he perused the following report in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 0th instant: - “Comment has been caused in federal circles on the fact that the terms of reference to Brigadier-General Griffiths, who has undertaken an investigation into disorders among natives in New Guinea, have been restricted. The terms, as framed by the Administrator of the Mandated Territory (Brigadier-General Wisdom) limit the investigation to ‘matters relating to mass meetings of natives that occurred at the Roman Catholic and Methodist Mission Stations at Malaguna on 2nd and 3rd January, including the origin and causes of the meetings. ‘ Under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance of New Guinea the Administrator of the Territory is empowered to issue commissions for inquiries, and in the present case the investigation was ordered by him. It was understood when the inquiry was announced that it would embrace consideration of the dissatisfaction existing among white residents iu consequence of their relations with the Administration. A further request has been made recently from New Guinea for on examination of that aspect.”? 2. (a) Is it a fact that the white residents of the Territory communicated with the Prime Minister shortly after the rising of the natives at Rabaul asking for the removal of the acting secretary to the Administrator and Mr. Walstab, and that the Prime Minister stated that nothing would be done pending an inquiry?
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Yes. 2. (a) Nothing has so far been disclosed to justify the use of the term “rising” in the ordinary acceptation of that term. A request was received by me from the Citizens Asssociation, of Rabaul for the immediate removal from their present positions of the Acting Government Secretary (Mr. Walstab) and Inspector Ball. I replied that, as the action suggested might have the effect of prejudicing the official inquiry about to be made into the origin and causes of the recent trouble, it could not be agreed to, but that, upon the completion of the official inquiry, consideration would be given to all representations of the Association.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.I am unable to say.
Re-conditioning of Manuka Oval.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Is the Manuka Oval at Canberra being reconditioned; if so, when was the work commenced, what work is being done, and when is it anticipated that the work will be completed?
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Yes. The work was commenced on the 20th November, 1928, and includes the following items : -
Preparation of first class cricket turf wicket, a practice wicket, the grading and grassing of the oval as an outfield for cricket and the improvement of the area generally for sport, the laying on of water, the fencing of pavilion enclosure, the provision of plain seating around the oval, and the erection of a 7-ft. high wire fence to enclose the area.
The preparation of the area will be completed during the present month.
It is not anticipated that the area will be available for sport before next summer.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Australia have already received the consideration of the Government. Action has already been taken in respect to some of them, while others are still being investigated.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
-Inquiries will be made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2 -
Leave to Attend Funeral
– On Friday last, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) stated that a corporal who was in camp at Seymour made application to the Commanding Officer of his unit for leave to attend the funeral of a relative, and that the application was not granted. The honorable member asked if it were in the power of the Commanding Officer to grant permission in such circumstances, and, if so, why permission was not granted in this case. I am now advised that the corporal in question received a telegram on 15th February, informing him of the death of his relative. The trainee duly reported to the camp headquarters, but on his arrival no officer having authority to issue a railway warrant was available. This occurred between 11 a.m. and 12 noon, and, as the train left at 12.20 p.m., a warrant could not be obtained in time for the trainee to reach the station and catch the train. The trainee was unwilling to pay his fare from Seymour to Melbourne - which amount would have been refunded to him - and decided not to attend the funeral.
– On the 5th March, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden) asked the following question, upon notice : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The following paper was presented: -
– I declare that the Financial Validation Bill is an urgent bill.
Question - That the bill be considered an urgent bill - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In division -
Mr. Collins having moved from his seat,
– Order ! An honorable member may not leave the chamber during a division.
– I think the honorable member is merely passing from the ayes to the noes.
– That is so.
– If that is so, the honorable member is quite in order.
– On a point of order. Is it in order for an honorable member to move from his seat and pass from one side of the chamber to the other during a division and after tellers have been appointed ?
– I am not aware of the exact moment at which the honorable member for Wakefield rose to change sides, but as he is unfamiliar with the forms of the House, he may be allowed the benefit of the doubt.
– You might give a definite ruling on the point, Mr. Speaker.
– After tellers have been appointed honorable members must remain in their seats.
Limitation of Time.
– I move -
That times allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: - for the second reading of the bill until 10 p.m. on Thursday, 7th March; for the committee stage until 12.30 p.m. on Friday, 8th March; and for the remaining stages until 3 p.m. on Friday, 8th March.
The Government is proposing this limitation of time in order to ensure that honorable members who desire to speak on the bill shall have an opportunity to do so. In doing this it has been influenced to a considerable extent by a discussion which took place in the House three or four weeks ago on the time allotted to the consideration of the estimates. It has been our frequent experience that in the early stages of a session, so much time is devoted to debating one or two matters, that it is found impossible to find time for the adequate consideration of many major measures that come before the House towards the end of the session, without resorting to the undesirable expedient of allnight sittings. We are submitting this motion with the express object of ensuring that a fair time shall be allotted to the consideration, of the bill. In practically every deliberative assembly throughout the Empire procedure of this description is adopted. It is done automatically in the House of Commons and in the parliaments of some of the Australian States. I ask honorable members to consider seriously whether it is not more desirable in the interests of proper discussion to allot to important measures like this a fair period for discussion, than to rush them through without adequate attention. The motion will allow the bill to be discussed for a reasonable time.
.- I do not propose to spend much time in discussing this motion, for that would have the effect of still further reducing the totally inadequate period that the Prime Minister has allowed for the consideration of the bill. I agree that there is something to be said for ensuring that fair time shall be allowed for the discussion of important bills, but how can we determine how much time a bill like this will require? It would have been very much better had the Prime Minister waited to see how the debate progressed before introducing a motion like this. This is one of the most important bills that this Parliament will consider. If it is passed, the hands of Parliament will be tied for 58 years so far as the subject with which it deals is concerned. It may be that three days will allow honorable members sufficient time to express their opinions on the subject, although I have grave doubts about it; but the three days have not been wisely distributed. The absurdity of applying the guillotine at the times specified in the motion will be realized when I point out that the only effective debate on the measure will occur at the second-reading stage. The bill cannot be altered at the committee or third-reading stage, so debate at those stages could serve no useful purpose. The motion provides that only twelve hours shall be allowed for the second-reading debate. That will mean that only twelve members will be able to speak for one hour each on the important and involved matters referred to in the measure. It could not be justly said that an honorable member who spoke for an hour on this measure was stone-walling. The Prime Minister, I’ suppose, occupied his full time in introducing the bill, but he is not the only one who has responsibility to his constituents. We are all responsible, to those who elected us, and many of us will wish to speak on the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. I do not suggest that the whole 75 members who have not spoken will want to do so, but I am positive that more than twelve will seek an opportunity to state the case from their point of view. Surely it would have been wiser had the Prime Minister said that he’ proposed to allow three days for the consideration of the bill. Honorable members would then doubtless have endeavoured to curtail their remarks as far as possible, having regard to their responsibility to their constituents. The introduction of motions like this will cause a great deal of irritation in the House. It cannot be argued that the passage of this measure has been obstructed, for it has not yet been debated. The Prime Minister is really inviting the adoption of measures of retaliation. An Opposition is not without some power in that respect. I do not think that Parliament is being treated fairly. Honorable members have in some cases, expressed views on this subject at variance with the policy of the party to which they belong, and they should be given the opportunity of making their position clear. But they will only have until 10 o’clock to-morrow evening to do so. It cannot be argued that there is any need for haste. The agreement need not be ratified until the 30th June, and we are only in the third month of the year. One might well utter the warning “ Beware the Ides of March.” This is a new Parliament, and many members of it have had no opportunity whatever to discuss the bill. I ask the Prime Minister to consider whether he is treating Parliament fairly.
.- It is rather remarkable that the Prime Minister, of all men, should have introduced a motion like this. The inference conveyed by it is that the time of Parliament is so limited that it must be rationed to ensure that certain measures shall be reasonably debated. Yet it is only a few weeks ago that we were informed that the Prime Minister was agreeable that Parliament should rise for a whole week in order that another body might deliberate in Canberra. His attitude then was strangely inconsistent with that which he now adopts. But there is a wider aspect of the subject. How can the Prime Minister know what new points may be brought to light during the debate on this bill? Neither he nor any one else can say with any certainty that the time proposed to be allotted for. considering the measure is in my sense adequate. There may be some virtue in taking steps to ensure that the time of Parliament shall be used to the best advantage, but suddenly to introduce a motion like this to specify the period for which this important bill shall be debated is unjustifiable. The Government has said from a thousand platforms that this is one of the most far reaching bills that this Parliament will be called upon to consider. I join with the Leader of the Opposition in protesting against the proposed procedure, and agree with him that the introduction of motions like this tends to create irritation. I opposed the rationing of time for the consideration of the Transport “Workers Bill, and I shall vote against it again on this occasion.
.- If we are to believe the statements which have appeared in the press in relation to this bill, it is not only a highly contentious measure as between the members of the different parties in the House, but also as between the members of the different parties supporting the Government. It is quite conceivable that eight or ten Government supporters will wish to speak during the second-reading debate en the bill. Doubtless, the Treasurer will wish to discuss the subject, and so will the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell).
The last mentioned has strenuously assailed the proposed agreement. In these circumstances, the motion is an insult to Parliament. Honorable members opposite should not tolerate it for a moment. The Labour party has vigorously opposed the ratification of the agreement on every platform in Australia, although it was favorable to the extension of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. I consider the introduction of the motion to be a political outrage, and if honorable members opposite support it they will disgrace Parliament.
Mr. PRICE (Boothby [4.17]. - I must have foreseen the introduction of this motion when I asked the Prime Minister this afternoon whether he considered that this was a deliberative assembly. I strongly object to the motion. I objected to the adoption of similar tactics in relation to the Transport Workers Bill. The thing is absolutely scandalous to my mind.
– The South Australian representatives will be at a double disadvantage, for they have not yet been able to obtain a copy of the report of the Disabilities Commission, which has been considering this very problem in relation to South Australia.
– That is so. One of the first questions I asked the Prime Minister upon my entry into this chamber was when the report of the Disabilities Commission, presided over by Sir Joseph Cook, would be made available. I was told that the report was not yet to hand. It appears to me now that a deliberate attempt has been made to prevent the report from reaching the hands of honorable members who represent South Australian constituencies.
– The honorable member must not discuss that subject.
– The methods adopted by the Government in transacting the business of this Parliament are positively outrageous. I was glad that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Collins) voted with the Labour party a few minutes ago against the application of the guillotine, and I trust that he will do so again. The method of conducting parliamentary debates has changed, and we, on this side of the House are being compelled to knuckle down to the party system, which has been instituted by the composite government. The combined parties opposite come to a decision, and the Government then forces its legislation through this House, paying no heed to any suggestions offered from this side of the chamber. The Government might just as well ask us to pass its legislation without any discussion at all. I object to the use of the guillotine on this bill. It is one of the most contentious measures that have been before this House, and an opportunity should be given to all honorable members to place their views upon it before the House.-
.- I do not profess to know whether the time supposed to be allotted for the discussion of this measure will prove adequate or not: in so far I am in the same position as the Prime Minister himself. We differ in that I do not arrogate to myself the right to decide this question for other members. Let me submit one or two points for the consideration of the House. During the past three years of the regime of the Bruce-Page Government, Parliament has sat on 200 days, or an average of nine and a half weeks a year. If the Government had a record of colossal performance for those brief sittings, it might urge it in justification of keeping Parliament closed; but we know that the contrary is the case. During the first three years of the regime of the Bruce-Page Government - from 1922 to 1925 - Parliament sat only for 171 days, or an average of eight weeks a year. Thus the Parliament has sat for only 371 days in approximately six years, or not quite one year out of six years. The Age, which has a wide circulation in Australia, has said -
During the lifetime of Parliament, this Government has employed its strength mainly to keep itself safe, not to achieve anything great for the national good. It has not even produced an average proportion of legislation.
Under date of 16th April, 1928, this newspaper said : “ Hosts of citizens are tired of the Government’s dalliance and impotence.” I am in agreement with the views so well expressed by a journal which gave discriminating support to the Government at the last election. Under date of 15th November, 1927, it said: “Australia has probably never had a Government which did less. “ On the 16th March, 1928, it said : “ The ardour of many once enthusiastic supporters has been chilled by the Government’s record of achievement. “ It is in these circumstances, and with this barren record, that the Prime Minister tells us now that his main object is by the operation of the guillotine machine to close the doors of Parliament as early as possible. It may be that the time allotted for the discussion of this bill will prove sufficient. We do not know to what extent honorable members opposite are interested in the measure in question. I am not in a position to say how many members on this side of the chamber have given serious consideration to. it and desire to express their opinions in speech. Those who have not hitherto thought of speaking on this subject may be moved by statements uttered during the debate, to make speeches. The measure goes to the very root of our constitution, and is important for both its historical and its practical associations. It is one to which the Government should be prepared to give, if not unlimited time, such time as may be found necessary for full discussion. The time required for this can be decided only by the debate itself. The. quality and standard of’the debate should determine the length of time to be taken. I make this protest because I feel that it should be made on every occasion when this particular circumstance arises, and because I consider that Parliament should be a deliberative assembly; it should not be merely a chamber recording the decisions of the Government or of caucus ; or the opinions of the composite body opposite, that conglomeration of inharmonious parties and sections of parties.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to encroach upon the time allotted to the debate, but I feel that I should place on record a few figures showing the actual time that has been spent on the Financial Agreement in this House, in order to show the feebleness of the contention of the Opposition that the bill should not be declared urgent. This measure was brought down to the’ House as a new measure some eighteen months ago. Its underlying principles were discussed from many angles, but the time occupied in the debate at all stages was only 11% hours, and the debate terminated without any pressure. On this occasion the Government is offering honorable members the opportunity of debating the bill, at all stages, during 15^ hours. When the referendum measure, which dealt with this subject and its submission to the people, was before the House, it passed through all stages in one sitting. It is, therefore, obvious that the time now allotted by the Government is absolutely ample, particularly in view of the fact that the subject has been well canvassed in this House during the last two years. As to the statement of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan.) concerning the sittings of this House during the last six years, the fact is that the last Parliament, in three years, had 205 sittings of 1,657 hours. The preceding Parliament during three years had 166 sittings of 1,133 hours, an average over all of 62 sitting days or of 499 hours each year. But I find that the Queensland Parliament, during the last eight years, averaged only 47 sittings of 373 hours each year. The average for the Commonwealth Parliament during six years, was 62 sitting days or 499 hours a year.
– Having listened to the Treasurer, one can appreciate the aptness of the description of that honorable gentleman a few evenings ago by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes).
– It is nothing compared with what has been said about the honorable member.
– I do not want my speech to he interrupted by the “glaxo baby.”
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that expression.
– I did not think it would be offensive to apply to the honorable member for Warringah the term “glaxo baby.”
– The honorable member must withdraw it.
– If it is an objectionable term to apply to the honorable member, who gives that impression to every other honorable member
– Order ! The honorable member is well aware that he must withdraw unconditionally and without qualification. I ask him to do so.
– I withdraw. I hope that in future the honorable member for Warringah, who is most offensive to honorable members who sit on this side, will conduct himself in a proper manner in this House.
– The honorable member is a political black snake.
-Order! The honorable member for Warringah has made a remark which is distinctly out of order, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– I was proceeding to refer to the Treasurer, whom the right honorable member for North Sydney the other evening likened to the members of the Bourbon dynasty of whom it was said that they learnt nothing and forgot nothing. The right honorable member for North Sydney went further, and said that the Treasurer learnt nothing and forgot everything. That sentiment had not long been expressed when the Treasurer was responsible for an exhibition which convinced every honorable member that the criticism of the right honorable member for North Sydney was fully justified.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to the terms of the motion.
– The Treasurer has even forgotten that this is a new Parliament. He read from the pages of an old Ilansard to show that when this measure was before an earlier Parliament, a certain number of hours were devoted to its consideration. I remind him that since that time there has been a general election, at which there were a number of casualties among government members. If the nine new members who sit on this side had been elected as supporters of the Government, very strong opposition would have been raised to this violent interference with the liberties of honorable members; but as the Government cannot forgive them for sitting in opposition to it, the very earliest opportunity is taken to prevent them from expressing their views upon this very important matter. The Treasurer has said that it is the most important measure which has ever been discussed in this House, and I largely agree with him; yet the Prime Minister claims that, on the grounds of urgency, the discussion of it must be curtailed! That has been completely answered by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who has pointed out that effect will not be given to it until the 30th June next. The urgency of the matter lies in the fact that certain honorable members opposite have to get away to the businesses they transact in other parts of the Commonwealth. I ask the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) to express their opinion of this proposal of the Government. When the measure was before the House last year, the honorable member for Forrest practically confined his remarks to its effect upon Western Australia. It would not be too much to ask that the time which the Government proposes to place at the disposal of all honorable members should be given to that honorable member, so that he might adequately express the views of his State. Of course, honorable members opposite cannot quarrel with the Government for having taken this step, because they are a party to it. They participated in a joint meeting, at which, I am told, the principal reason advanced for terminating the business of the session before Easter was that some honorable members have pressing business engagements in other parts of the Commonwealth.
– Those who adopt that attitude obtain their parliamentary salaries under false pretences. They should do the work for which they are paid. They are not playing the game fairly by the people of Australia, who ought to be told that the reason for urgency given by the Prime Minister is not, and cannot, be a valid one. I should like to know where the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) stands. Not very long ago he applied the description “ dumb dogs “ to those honorable members opposite who silently countenance tactics such as these.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Some honorable members opposite, who seek to bring discredit upon this Parliament, merely succeed in bringing discredit upon themselves, when they declare repeatedly that the sitting hours of this Parliament compare unfavorably with those of other parliaments in Australia. This is not the case. Statements of that nature, however, afford ground for the making of allegations in the press, similar to that quoted by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) this afternoon. I believe that honorable members did not hear the figures read by the Treasurer, therefore, I shall repeat them. In the last eight years the Queensland Parliament has sat-
Honorable members interjecting -
– Order! Honorable members must cease interjecting, or it will become necessary for me to name those who offend.
– Honorable members who sit on this side always listen silently and courteously to honorable members opposite. In the last eight years-
– I rise to a point of order. A great deal has been said lately about intimidation and coercion. I should like to know in what way the Treasurer is at present intimidating and coercing the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Collins).
– There is no point of order.
– For several days the Opposition has endeavoured to prevent these figures from being given, and to-day it is continuing that practice.
– On a point of order, I wish to know whether the AttorneyGeneral is in order in continuing his speech after an honorable member has risen to make a personal explanation.
– The proper time to make a personal explanation is at the conclusion of the Attorney-General’s speech.
– In the last eight years the Queensland Parliament has sat, on an average, 47 days a year, while the average for the Commonwealth during the last six years has been 62 days. The average number of hours per annum occupied by parliamentary sittings in Queensland has been 373, and in the Commonwealth 499.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I wish every honorable member of this House to realize that I, at any rate, shall try to be fair to both sides. An unfair insinuation has been made against the Treasurer, whom I entirely exonerate.
– I join in the protest against the curtailment of the debate on this most important measure. During the progress of the present discussion a number of honorable members opposite interjected “ Why waste time now?” I and other honorable members on this side realize that if we do not now register our protest we may be misunderstood by those whom we represent in this Parliament. It is not sufficient for us to go throughout our electorates and explain to our constituents that, because of the application of the guillotine by the Government, we were unable to speak on certain matters. The Financial Agreement Bill is one of the most important measures that has been before this Parliament since I have been a member of it. I was informed that the Prime Minister stated, during the recent election campaign, that I was asking for a negative vote on the referendum proposals, and that I did not oppose the Financial Agreement Bill or the referendum for the alteration of the Constitution proposals when they were before this Parliament. Those statements if made, were incorrect, and it is merely to give supporters of the Government an opportunity to promulgate similar misleading information about honorable members of the Opposition that the gag is now being applied. The Leader of the Opposition made a very fair suggestion to the Prime Minister. He said that this bill would be discussed mainly at the second-reading stage, as it would necessitate very little committee consideration. The Prime Minister received that suggestion in a most cavalier fashion and, instead of giving it attention, walked to the back benches and began a. conversation with tlie honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who opposed the measure when it was before the House last year. That was an act of discourtesy. South Australia is represented by a very small number in this chamber, but this proposal vitally concerns it, as it does Western Australia and Tasmania also. Many of the representatives of each of those States have already opposed this measure. If the report which has been referred to by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) is not brought before this Parliament before it adjourns, South Australian members will not know what the Government contemplates doing. Even those South Australian representatives who, for political considerations, do not oppose the measure, would at least like to place the case of South Australia before the House. That State has only seven representatives here, but if the Government allows only eleven speeches to be made on the second - reading of the bill, I and other South Australian representatives may be crowded out. It is against such procedure, which savours of indecent hurry, that I protest. This Parliament has sat now for four weeks, and proposes to continue for another three weeks only before going into a recess while the agreement need not be finalized until June next. Honorable members of the Opposition have signified their readiness to resume the session after the Easter adjournment, but the Government will not agree to this. The operations of the provisions of this Financial Agreement will take from South Australia £31,000,000 in 58 years, and the bill to ratify it is being rushed through without giving honorable members representing that State an opportunity to protest against its passage. I hope that the Prime Minister will consider the suggestions made by the Leader of the Opposition. It is quite possible that, by a rigid enforcement of the Standing Orders, and because very little can be done in committee in connexion with this bill, extra time may be obtained, and the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition is a fair one, and as such should receive consideration. The Treasurer referred to entirely irrelevant matters, and the AttorneyGeneral did the same. They directed attention to the number of the sittings of the Queensland Parliament, which has nothing at all to do with us. This attempt of the Government to stifle discussion is an insult to new members, of whom, if they all spoke, there is a sufficient number on this side to exhaust nearly all the time which it is proposed to allot to the debate.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it not possible to prevent the tedious repetition indulged in by various honorable members opposite when addressing themselves to this motion.
– Each honorable member is entitled to present his case as he desires. If any individual speakeris guilty of tedious repetition, his attention will be drawn to the fact.
– I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for taking the honorable member for Richmond to task for his irresponsible interruption. I am not repeating the remarks of other honorable members, but, knowing him as I do, I allow him a certain amount of latitude. Perhaps he was not in the chamber when the debate began. Undoubtedly, the honorable member, with the exception of one vote which he registered with the Opposition, has proved himself to be a party hack, and he is one of those responsible for the proposed curtailment of this debate. The point at issue is whether the debate on this measure is not of such importance that it should be prolonged so long as honorable members wish to address themselves to it. I contend that it is. The honorable member for Balaclava made a very fine speech in opposition to the financial agreement, before this Parliament transferred from Melbourne to Canberra. I know that many honorable members would like a similar contribution from him now. I recall the interesting figures which the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) recorded in Hansard last year, which assisted this party so much during the election campaign. It would not be possible to deliver many such speeches in the twelve hours it is proposed to allot to the debate, and I hope that another day will be devoted to the discussion, in order that honorable members may have an opportunity to express themselves fully at the second-reading stage.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I can scarcely believe that honorable members opposite are serious in their objection to the proposed limitation of time for the discussion of the Financial Agreement Bill.
– Is the honorable member for Wide Bay in order in saying that other honorable members are not serious in their statements?
– The honorable member for Wide Bay is not in order in casting doubts on the sincerity of other honorable members.
– I did not say that honorable members opposite were not serious in their objection; I said that I could scarcely believe them to be serious, as the measure has already been before this Parliament and the State Parliaments, by whom it was accepted. It has also been before the people of the Commonwealth, by whom it was approved.
– That is not so.
– On a point of order. Is the honorable member for Wide Bay in order in making statements which are incorrect ?
– The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) has been long enough in this House to know that that is not a point of order, and I ask him not to raise frivolous points of order.
– Honorable members opposite believe in the initiative and the referendum, and on this measure they surely have amandate, and as the proposal has been so thoroughly examined and ventilated they surely have made up their minds on it. As to the application of the “gag”, I remind them that their own Deputy Leader (Mr. Theodore) put it into operation 67 times during the 1921-22 period of the Queensland Parliament, he being then Premier of that State.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the motion has now expired, and I shall put the question to the House without further debate.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 22nd February (vide page 557), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The House has just decided that this is an urgent measure. In June, 1926, the Treasurer also deemed it to be an urgent measure. So urgent did he deem it then that he withdrew from the States the per capita payments, amounting to £7,500,000 per annum, and the States were asked to re-impose taxation to that amount within one month. The Government has until the 30th June to ratify this agreement, yet it is proposed to treat it as an urgent measure.
The bill is to ratify an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the State Governments. This is a new Parliament, containing a number of new members elected to oppose this agreement, and from amongst those who sat on the opposite benches in the last Parliament we miss a number who supported it. We are, therefore, entitled to ask that this measure be considered anew by the present Parliament. If the agreement is ratified now it will be binding for 58 years, or until there is a unanimous agreement between the seven Governments of the Commonwealth and States of Australia to alter it. Honorable members know how difficult it will be to get unanimity on such a subject. There are some points connected with this bill which need to be made clear. In the first place, the rejection of the bill and the restoration of the per capita payments would not prevent the adoption of a scheme for the consolidation of the public debts. Also, the referendum taken during the last election did not ratify the Financial Agreement. This agreement embraces three main points, which should be treated separately. They are (1), the consolidation of public debts, with a unified borrowing authority; (2), the distribution of revenue by the Commonwealth to the States; (3), the payment of an increased rate of interest on transferred properties. The Treasurer, in a speech in Sydney the other day, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 5th of this month, said that the financial agreement was approved by an overwhelming majority of the electors.
– I distinctly pointed out that there were two issues; one, the referendum, and the other the endorsement or validation of the agreement.
– I am quoting from the report of the Treasurer’s speech. The financial agreement was not before the electors during the referendum.
– The electors knew what it wouldmean.
– Let me enlighten the honorable member as. to just how much they knew. I propose to quote from the speech delivered by the Prime Minister in this House only the other day, and his remarks effectively answer the misleading statement of the Treasurer, a statement which was repeated a little while ago by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). The Prime Minister said -
The question submitted was whether we should alter the Constitution. I was studiously careful to point out that an affirmative vote would not amount to an endorsement of the financial agreement.
– The Prime Minister said that in his policy speech.
–The Prime Minister said that he was studiously careful to point out that an- affirmative vote would not amount to an endorsement of the financial agreement. That pronouncement by the Prime Minister during the election campaign assured an overwhelming affirmative vote for the question submitted at the referendum, and the Treasurer now claims that that vote constituted an endorsement of the financial agreement.
– I added something to the statement which the honorable member has quoted.
– I shall quote that also, and it will not be much to the Prime Minister’s credit. In the course of the policy speech which I delivered on behalf of the Labour party on the 4th October, 1928, I said-
Let it be clearly understood that consent to the amplifying of the Commonwealth power to make agreements does not imply approval of the particular agreement made.
The Prime Minister, in his policy speech delivered on the 8th October, 1928, made this statement -
The approval of the referendum by the people does not involve the acceptance of the financial agreement itself, but will merely give the Commonwealth a general power to make agreements with the States in regard to public debts and borrowing. The referendum should, therefore, be supported by the electors whether they favour the particular plan set out in the financial agreement or not.
If it be claimed that the election of honorable members opposite as a majority in this House was an endorsement of the financial agreement, let me point out that the agreement was opposed by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell).
– I opposed, not the agreement itself, but the method that was adopted to force, as I thought, the agreement on the States.
– I am simply going by the division lists in Hansard. The honorable members for Fawkner, Perth (Mr. Mann), Swan (Mr. Gregory) and Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and every Labour member voted against the agreement.
– And every one of them was returned.
– Yes, every one who voted against it was returned. The Prime Minister asked me to quote the rest of his remarks following the statement towhich I referred at the beginning of my speech. I have already pointed out that he was studiously careful to show that the carrying of the referendum would not imply the ratification of the financial agreement. In spite of this, the Prime Minister said -
The great majority of electors voted at the referendum in the belief that they were voting for the financial agreement.
The Prime Minister pays a poor compliment to the intelligence of the electors, and does not rate his own influence very highly. If the right honorable gentleman is right in believing that that is the electors’ standard of intelligence, one can understand why . the Government was returned to office at the last elections. In order to show the foolishness of the Prime Minister’s statement, let me point out what happened in five Labour strongholds in Victoria, namely, the divisions of Batman, Bourke, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, and Yarra. Those divisions polled 207,281 votes in the affirmative at the referendum, and 27,915 votes against, while for the Labour candidates they polled 161,831 votes, and 78,149 against. In my own electorate, where I made the statement that the carrying of the referendum would not involve the endorsement of the financial agreement, there was a majority of three to one in my favour and against my opponent, but there was a majority of 33,000 to 4,000 in favour of the issue submitted at the referendum. How then can it be claimed that those who voted in the affirmative at the referendum believed that they were voting for the financial agreement? In
Western Australia, Senator Colebatch, who headed the Senate poll in that State, made a statement over his own signature in which he said that the financial agreement was bad for Australia as a whole. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in a signed statement, said : “ This agreement is unfair and unjust to this State. “ In Western Australia the agreement was opposed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and Sir Hal. Colebatch, and yet that State carried the referendum to give the Commonwealth authority to make financial agreements with the States.
– What did Mr. Collier say about the financial agreement?
– I shall quote extracts from a speech made by Mr. Collier to the honorable member’s discomfiture shortly. The Prime Minister declared that the States had all ratified the financial agreement, and put that forward as a strong argument in favour of the bill. I propose, to quote extracts from speeches on this subject made by State premiers and representative men in State politics. It is true, as the Prime Minister has said, that the States have all ratified the agreement. They did so because it was the best they could get after the per capita payments had been abolished. The point I wish to stress is that the proposal to withdraw the capitation grant was objected to by every State government and the opposition in every State parliament, as well as the Opposition in this Parliament and a large number of honorable members who to-day are behind the Government. When the bill to withdraw the capitation payment came before this House the whole of the Opposition objected to it, and we were supported by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), the honorable member for Fawkner,(Mr. Maxwell), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse).
– Did the present Minister for Trade and Customs oppose it ?
– He did. It was also strongly opposed by the most influential newspapers in the Commonwealth, including the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Sunday Times, the Sydney Evening News, the Melbourne Argus, the Melbourne Age, the Melbourne Sun News Pictorial, the Melbourne Herald, the Adelaide Advertiser, the Adelaide Register, the Brisbane Courier, the Brisbane Daily Telegraph, the Launceston Examiner, as well as numerous other newspapers in the larger provincial centres throughout the Commonwealth.
The Prime Minister invited honorable members to read the views of State Labour premiers on the financial agreement, and quoted Mr. Collier as having said that he preferred the agreement to the possibility of the per capita payment being abolished. Of course it is obvious that Mr. Collier would prefer the agreement in suchcircumstances. At the conference there was a possibility of the per capita payment being abolished, but there would never be that danger from the Labour party whilst the plank of the party’s platform remains unaltered. Clearly, Mr. Collier believed that the danger was to be apprehended from this Government. But it should be noted that the Prime Minister did not quote all that Mr. Collier had to say under this head. I propose to do so, and I take the following extract from a speech delivered by Mr. Collier in the Parliament of Western Australia on 12th June, 1928. It may be found on page 12 of the State Hansard -
The State premiers were faced with the position that per capita payments had been abolished, and the premiers had to decide whether they should constructively assist in framing an agreement in the interests of the States so far as they might be able to influence the Commonwealth Government in that direction, or whether they should take whatever the Commonwealth Government or Parliament might decide to give to the States, if anything at all. … Of course when the per capita payments were abolished the States were left at the will of any Commonwealth Government of the day as to what it might contribute to the States in future or whether it would contribute anything at all.
Does that suggest that the Premiers of the various States reached out with open arms for the agreement? I quote now from a speech made by Mr. Forgan Smith, the Acting-Premier of Queensland at the conference which discussed the agreement in question. Mr. Forgan Smith said -
Tlie Queensland Government lias very carefully considered the proposal submitted by the Inderal Government and whilst not retreating in any way from its attitude in regard to the withdrawal of the per capita payments, is prepared to accept, with amendment, the underlying principles of the scheme.
Clearly, in Mr. Forgan Smith’s view, the States had no option - they were compelled to accept the agreement.
– It was accepted under duress.
– The Prime Minister also invited honorable members to read what Mr. Hogan, the Labour ex-Premier of Victoria, had to say. It is significant that the right honorable gentleman did’ not himself quote Mr. Hogan’s views. On 14th December, 1927, Mr. Hogan said - his remarks are reported in the Victorian Hansard, page 3549 -
The per capita payments were to be stopped after this year. . . . This Government, as well as other State Governments, had to make the best of the situation. Whatever new arrangement was made was an act of grace on the part of the Commonwealth Government.
Honorable members will have noticed that the Prime Minister did not quote the views of Sir William McPherson, the present Premier of Victoria. On the 15th December, 1927, Hansard, page 3629, Sir William McPherson said -
If the agreement is ratified we shall make a great mistake and the development of all the States will be seriously retarded.
I am reading these extracts from speeches made by the State Premiers because the Prime Minister has invited me to do so. I turn now to the remarks of Mr. Stevens, the Assistant-Treasurer of New South Wales. When introducing the Financial Agreement Bill in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr. Stevens said -
As far as this Government is concerned if it had not signed the agreement it would have been in an unenviable financial position, because the Commonwealth Government had already repealed tlie Surplus Revenue Act, and the State, therefore, oven if it had a moral claim, had no legal claim to the payment of capitation contributions for the period.
Mr. R. L. Butler, the Premier of South Australia, in a speech in the South Australian Parliament on the 13th December, 1927, as reported in Hansard at page 2103, said-
The abolition of the per capita allowance meant that the State had lost its right to share in the Customs revenue. These were the circumstances in which every State met the Prime Minister.
I turn now to arguments used by the Prime Minister on former occasions and repeated by him when introducing this bill. The right honorable gentleman unequivocally condemned the population basis for the distribution of surplus revenue amongst the States, and when speaking to the second reading of this bill he said -
The per capita system is iniquitous, and unjust . . . inevitably within a few years the people would revolt against it.
In the next sentence, however, /he admitted that the financial agreement was based upon the per capita system, which, if this bill is passed, will be confirmed foi1 the next 58 years.
– The per capita system only.
– That system, I remind the honorable member for Swan, is the basis of the financial agreement and it will be confirmed for the next 58 years, although the Prime Minister has declared that it i3 unjust and inequitable. The right honorable gentleman then went on to say -
No man on earth could have got the States to agree to the allocation of tlie money on any other than a per capita basis. . . . although I must confess that I do not think it is just or equitable.
Nevertheless, the Prime Minister now asks honorable members to pass this bill, thus ratifying an agreement the foundation of which he has declared to be neither just nor equitable. I have never before seen such vacillation on an important subject. After describing the basis of the agreement in such terms, the Prime Minister concluded by saying -
We ask honorable members to accept the agreement. . . . We think it provides an equitable solution of this long neglected problem.
The right honorable gentleman then went on to refer to tlie distressful condition of certain of the States under federation, and mentioned particularly the financial straits of Tasmania. Se said -
Since the agreement was made die arrangement for granting financial assistance to Tasmania, has expired, but the Government has intimated that it will be renewed. . . . The policy of the Government is to grant all the assistance it can to struggling and undeveloped States.
The intention of the right honorable gentleman was, of course, to leave in the minds of representatives of Tasmania the pleasing thought that under this re-arrangement of the finances, the Government would deal generously with the struggling States. But what are the facts? Under the agreement Tasmania received £304,370 in the first year. Under the per capita system that State would have received £267,367. These figures seem to indicate that under the agreement Tasmania, in the first year, benefited to the extent of £37,000 the” difference between the amount that would have been received under the per capita system and the amount actually paid under the agreement. “What the right honorable gentleman did not point out was that last year the grant to Tasmania was cut down from £378,000 to £220,000, a reduction of £128,000. It would appear, therefore, that whilst the Government apparently proposed to give Tasmania £37,000 extra under the agreement, actually that State last year received £158,000 less than it would have obtained if the capitation payments had been continued. The right honorable gentleman then spoke of the “ amazing sympathy “ which, he said, Opposition members were now showing for the States. I have listened to many speeches delivered by the Prime Minister, and on many occasions I have been able to expose his inaccuracies; but I venture’ to say that his latest reference to the attitude of members on this side towards the States in their financial difficulties, transcended all his previous attempts to misrepresent us. When introducing this bill he referred to honorable members on this side in sneering tones, and said-
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in stating that the Prime Minister referred to honorable members of the Opposition in sneering tones.
– Well, I will say that the right honorable gentleman, speaking of members/ on this side, observed that they now showed an amazing sympathy with the States, and I leave honorable members to imagine the manner in which he made that observation. He said -
Opposition members now show an amazing sympathy with the States. . . In 1911 the Labour Government took the best part of £3,000,000 from the States at one stroke. . . The States should remember that episode.
That at all events is a definite statement. Let us examine it. The facts are that prior to the expiration in 1910 of the constitutional provision known as the Braddon clause, which provided that three-fourths of the customs and excise revenue should be returned to the States, there was a conference of State Premiers and the then Prime Minister for the purpose, of arriving at an agreement concerning the future disposition of surplus Commonwealth revenue. The conference came to an agreement on the subject.
– Is the honorable member keeping in mind the Surplus Revenue Act?
– Yes ; but I am speaking now of the agreement with regard to per capita payments of 25s., by which the revenue of the States was reduced by nearly £3,000,000.
– The amount was £2,800,000 in the first year.
– The Prime Minister spoke of £3,000,000 in round figures, and declared that the Labour Government in 1911 deprived the States of that amount of revenue at one stroke. As a matter of fact the agreement in question was made between the then Prime Minister and the State Premiers. I have the document in my hand. It provides that per capita payments of 25s. shall take the place of the return of three-fourths of the customs and excise revenue under the Braddon section. Let me read the names of those who signed that agreement : -
Alfred Deakin, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth.
G. Wade, Premier of New South Wales.
John Murray, Premier of Victoria.
Not one of the seven signatories was aLabour man. When the bills were submitted to the House for a referendum on the question of embodying the agreement in the Constitution the Labour party opposed them. They were carried, however, and in the referendum campaign the Deakin party took the affirmative side and the Labour party, including the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) who was first lieutenant to Mr. Eisner, declared that, if returned to power, it would legislate to pay 25s. per head as agreed upon between the States and the Commonwealth for a period of ten years, but would oppose the embodiment *f that arrangement iu the Constitution.
– In Western Australia Senator Pearce said that the payment would be for 25 years.
– Only one Labour representative advocated that the agreement should be embodied in the Constitution, and he was Mr. Carpenter, the then honorable member for Fremantle, who lost his seat. The only vital difference between the Deakin Government and the Labour party, was, not as to the amount of the payment, but as to whether the agreement should be embodied in the Constitution or be limited to a term of years. The Prime Minister is accustomed to make loose and inaccurate statements on the platform, and it is necessary for us to confute him with documents in this House. I have shown beyond the possibility of contradiction, who was responsible for taking from the States in one year this £3,000,000 mentioned by the Prime Minister and I shall now submit further documentary evidence to correct the Prime Minister’s misrepresentations. I hold a copy of the bill introduced into the Federal Parliament by the Deakin Government on the 6th October, 1909 to provide for the payment of 25s. per capita to the States.
– On what date was it to take effect?
– From exactly the same date as was specified in the bill introduced by the Labour Government in the following year. When the Labour party came into office, it submitted a bill to ratify the agreement which had been made between Mr. Deakin and the State Premiers.
– But the agreement was brought into operation six months too soon.
– The honorable member is wrong. If he will compare the bill introduced by the Deakin Government on the 6th October, 1909, with that subsequently introduced by the Labour Government, he will find that both provided that the agreement should come into operation from the 1st July, 1910, but, whereas the Deakin bill proposed that the agreement should be embodied in the Constitution, the Labour party proposed to limit its operation to a period of ten years. The statement by the Prime Minister that the bill introduced in 1910 to endorse the agreement made by the Deakin Government with the States, took from the latter at one stroke nearly £3,000,000, is not an honest representation of what happened.
– Is it not a fact that the Labour party and Deakin party were practically united then?
– The honorable member should brush up his history. The Deakin Government at that time was the child of a fusion of the Liberal protectionists and the Free Trade section led by Mr. Joseph Cook. It represented a union of the anti-Labour forces of that day, as the present composite Government represents a union of the anti-Labour forces to-day. The second-reading of the bill which the Labour Government introduced in 1910, was carried without a division, on the 19th July, vide Hansard, page 513. Because the bill was merely a proposal to endorse the agreement made by the Deakin Government, no anti-Labour members voted against the second-reading; yet the present Prime Minister says it is extraordinary that such sympathy should be shown the States by a party which took away from them nearly £3,000,000 at one stroke! Even the clause which provided for the payment of 25s. per head and set out the date upon which the arrangement should come into operation, was carried on the voices on the 20th July, 1910, vide Hansard, page 589. This bill of 1910 should be framed alongside the Prime Minister’s speech as a warning to others to avoid monstrous misrepresentation on an important matter affecting the relations of the Commonwealth and the States. Let the States remember that the original agreement was made by the Deakin Government, and not one supporter ofMr. Deakin opposed the ratifying measure introduced by the Labour Government in 1910.
– What amount of surplus revenue was paid into the Old-age Pensions Fund?
– The simple answer to the honorable member is that all relevant facts were discussed at the conference between Mr. Deakin and the State Premiers and the agreement of 1909 was the result.
I repeat that the recent referendum did not endorse the agreement that is now before us; that document was not submitted to the people. The eulogies by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer of the consolidation of debts and the future control of borrowing are beside the question; those features of the agreement are not affected by our advocacy of the restoration of the per capita payments. Last year I spoke in cordial support of the consolidation, of the debts, the control of future borrowing, and the establishment of a common Australian stock. Upon those features of the agreement there is no difference of opinion between honorable members opposite and those on this side of the House. But we propose, as an alternative to the present agreement a new one, providing for the consolidation of the debts, the unification of borrowing, and the establishment of a loan council, but on the basis of the payment by the Commonwealth to the States of 25s. per head per annum. The Prime Minister asked for a statement of the Labour party’s attitude on this matter, and by interjection, I asked him why he had not read the Labour party’s platform, a copy of which I had sent him at the request of his secretary. We are not ashamed of our platform, and I thought that the perusal of it might be edifying to the right honorable gentleman. One plank of it frankly declares that pending an alteration of the Constitution to change the respective functions . and responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States, there shall be no interference with the per capita payments.
In the policy speech I delivered as Leader of the Labour party at the last election, I said that the Labour party strenuously opposed the withdrawal of the per capita payments from the States. We have not changed our attitude upon that question in the slightest degree, and as the payment to the States was 25s. per head, we still stand for that payment. To suggest that we did not know what the amount would be is paltry quibbling. What we put before the people was that we stood for the retention of the payment of 25s. per head to the States, and the making of a new agreement with them in respect of the consolidation of the public debts. The Prime Minister admits that there is ground for this criticism of the bill, that it pledges the revenues of the Commonwealth too far ahead. In my opinion, the Commonwealth Parliament should be unfettered in its expenditure except, perhaps, for a limited period such as was provided for in 1910,or by. pledges made to the electors. The consolidation of the debts and the control of borrowing necessitate a permanent arrangement with the States. There is not the flexibility in those matters that there ought to be in an agreement relating to the distribution of revenue. This Parliament should retain control of the collection and distribution of its own revenue, and if the Prime Minister is so confident that he has the support of the States in regard to this agreement, and that they were not forced into accepting it when they found the per capita payments gone, let him invite them to another conference on the basis of the restoration of the per capita payments and the making of a new agreement relating to the consolidation of the debts and control of future borrowing.
– Has the Leader of the Opposition worked out the sinking fund contributions which will be required in connexion with the scheme for the consolidation of the debts?
– The sinking fund contributions can be arranged for in a new agreement relating to the consolidation of the debts, without interfering with the per capita payments.
– They are separate matters.
– They are, and in the interests of sound finance should always be kept separate.
– Is it the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the sinking fund contributions now provided for should be maintained.
– My suggestion is that the original position in regard to the payment of 25s. per head to the States should be restored, and that we should then take up with the States, in a better atmosphere, the question of the consolidation of the debts and the unified control of borrowing, and, incidentally, the contribution the Commonwealth may be expected to make towards the sinking funds of the States. The Treasurer is confident that his scheme is the best, and the Prime Minister is satisfied that the States are with him, but I challenge the Government to go to the States with the alternative proposal I have made.
– Would the honorable mem ber suggest continuing the per capita payments and making a separate contribution to the sinking funds of the States?
– My suggestion is that an equitable adjustment can be made, but I maintain that this Parliament, as a fixed principle, must retain control of the collection and spending of its own revenue.
– We could not get the States into line unless we made some contribution to their sinking funds.
– I agree that as the present Government has been the first since 1910 to make the States nervous and fearful of this Parliament, it may be necessary to have a fixed but limited term for the payment of the 25s. per head in order to remove their fears. I would agree for that reason only to have a fixed term. It would tide the States over a period when a dangerous Government like the present might be in power in the Commonwealth. Until there is an alteration of the Constitution, carrying with it a redistribution of the functions and responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the States, there should be no interference with the per capita payments, but a new agreement could be made with respect to the unification of debts and control of borrowing. The present Government by its meddling with an arrangement which at the time was giving satisfaction has created feelings of jealousy and unrest between the great governing bodies of the Commonwealth and the States.
– And also a feeling of antagonism.
– Yes, and that is fraught with danger. The idea of consolidating debts is not new, but as I dealt with that in my previous speech, I need not speak of it now except to say that since the beginning of federation, one Treasurer after another has advocated that the State Governments should be asked to agree to the consolidation of debts. The present Government has been fortunate in that, during its term of office and for the first time in the history of these negotiations, five out of six State Governments were Labour, and we all know that for years Labour has advocated the consolidation of the debts and the unified control of borrowing in order to bring about economy in the raising of loans.
-Can we have a sound permanent arrangement in regard to the consolidation of the debts, and a temporary arrangement for the distribution of revenue ?
– That is. the only way in which we can have sound finance. What right has this Parliament to determine for 58 years the Commonwealth’s control of the distribution of its revenues ? It is possible to have a sound system for the consolidation of . the debts without interfering with revenue contributions.
– On one condition only; that is that the Commonwealth makes a fair sustenance allowance to the States and also a sinking fund contribution.
– We could have induced the States to come to an agreement with us regarding the consolidation of the debts, the States to meet the interest charges on their own debts, and to provide their own sinking fund contributions towards their liquidation, without there being any interference with the per capita payments. If there is warrant for the Commonwealth making a contribution to the sinking funds of the States, as an encouragement to the consolidation of the debts or the strengthening of the States’ sinking funds, I do not think there would be any opposition to it from this Parliament. But I do not hold that such sinking fund contributions should apply to future State loans, in addition to the per capita payments. The Commonwealth’s contribution in that respect was to be merely an offset against the saving it effected by not having to make per capita payments which must increase with the increase of population in the States. There is nothing wrong in the Commonwealth and the States entering into an agreement for the consolidation of the debts, and the formation of a loan council with a Commonwealth sinking fund contribution to extinguish the indebtedness of the States, as well as that of the Commonwealth. But it is the business of the States to meet the interest payments on their own debts, just as it is the business of the Commonwealth to give the States an equitable share of the customs revenue it collects. In these circumstances, the retention of the payments of 25s. a head to the States would have been equitable ; but, now that unrest has been caused by the withdrawal of these payments, we should take steps to restore them for a fixed, but limited, period of years, and so render the position of the States more secure than it would otherwise be. To bind this Parliament for 58 years to contribute certain sums out of revenue without deciding, first of all, what shall be the functions performed by the Commonwealth and the States in future, is wrong and unsound. No one has urged more than the present Government has done the need for a revision of the Constitution. In his policy-speech of three years ago, the Prime Minister pledged himself and his party to the holding of a constitutional session for a complete revision of the Constitution. If that revision had been made and the respective responsibilities and functions of the Commonwealth and the States had been defined, I could understand the making of a permanent arrangement in regard to their financial relations. But this change not having been made, and as no one can say what will be the respective responsibilities or functions of the Commonwealth or the States ten years from now, to pledge ourselves to make a fixed contribution to the States for 58 years is to take from this Parliament the control of its own finances.
.- I moveThat all the words after “bill” be omitted with ti view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “be withdrawn with a view to the Government submitting to the States a revised State Debts Agreement, which shall include the restoration of the per capita payments of twenty-five shillings per head for a period of at least ten years.”
The proposals in this bill, which I have consistently opposed, are the most extraordinary that could be submitted to this Parliament. When the legislation which this measure purports to validate was first introduced, it was contrary to the principles advocated by all parties represented in this Parliament. It was a definite plank in the Nationalist party’s platform that the per capita payments to the States should be preserved. That plank was afterwards removed. The Country party’s platform repudiated the abolition of the per capita payments to the States until certain radical alterations of the Constitution were made. And, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, the platform of the Labour party contained a similar provision. As a matter of fact, honorable members two years ago fought tooth and nail for the retention of these payments, and I can hardly understand, now that they have the opportunity to restore them, how some honorable members can go back on what they then advocated, or how they can deny arguments which they then advanced. Ever since the election, we have been stormed by assertions from the platform and the press that honorable members have no right further to oppose the ratification of the financial agreement, because their masters, the people, have decided in favour of ‘.it. That is not correct. The Leader of the Opposition has effectively countered that argument; but I shall advance a few more reasons why it should not be assumed that the issue has been determined in that sense. To understand the meaning of the referendum vote we must consider the conditions under which it was taken. We may do this by studying the statements made prior to the election by the leaders of the various parties. The
Prime Minister in his policy speech, which was published in the press on the 9th October, 1928, said-
The approval of the referendum by the people does not involve the acceptance of the financial agreement itself, but will merely give the Commonwealth a general power to make agreements with the States in regard to public debts and borrowing. The referendum should therefore be supported by the electors, whether they favour the particular plan set out in the financial agreement or not.
In the report of an address of the Prime Minister which appeared in the West Australian on the 12th November last I read the following sentence: - 1 wish to emphasize that by passing the referendum you do not vote for a particular form of financial agreement.
Nothing could be clearer than that. It is quite evident that the Prime Minister did not expect his followers who voted “ Yes “ to the question submitted at the referendum necessarily to commit themselves to the agreement. Yet in moving the second reading of this bill the right honorable gentleman said -
Although I clearly stated during the election that the referendum did not affect the financial agreement, I am convinced that a majority of the people were under the impression that they were voting for the endorsement of that agreement.
No conviction could possibly be based upon a weaker foundation. I ask honorable members to consider for a few moments why the Prime Minister was so careful during the election campaign to draw a distinction between approving of the referendum and approving of the agreement. I am convinced that the reason was that he felt that unless the people looked at the two questions separately they would vote against the referendum for they did not intend to endanger the per capita grant. Many Nationalist supporters expressed to’ me personally their abhorrence of the financial agreement, but said that as the Prime Minister had regarded the two questions as entirely distinct they were willing to vote for the referendum. The people were told quite clearly that the abolition of the per capita -payments was not involved in voting for the referendum. In these circumstances the Prime Minister is not entitled to assume that because the referendum was approved the financial agreement was also approved. Two ques- tions were really submitted to the people in the referendum. One of them involved the granting of additional powers and the other the restoration or otherwise of the per capita payments. The second question was not directly stated, but it was certainly implied. The Leader of the Opposition made it clear to the last Parliament and also to the electors, that although the Labour party was favorable to the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth, it was absolutely committed to the restoration of the per capita payments. We have been told that an overwhelming majority of the people favoured the agreement, but I propose to analyze the figures to demonstrate that this was not so. Fortunately it is possible to do this by a means which admits of hardly any question. I propose to take the total number of first preference votes cast for the candidates of the respective parties, and to argue that the first preferences given to Labour party candidates were without any question given in favour of the restoration of the per capita payments, for this was an important plank of the Labour platform.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The recent referendum clearly demonstrated the approval of the people to the granting of additional financial powers to the Commonwealth; but instead of the vote being taken as a confirmation of the financial agreement, it must be regarded as distinctly disapproving of it and favouring a restoration of the per capita payment. The large “ yes “ vote recorded in the referendum may be divided into two parts. We may assume that the Labour “ yes “ votes were cast in favour of the restoration of the per capita payment, and the antiLabour votes in favour of the financial agreement. The error in assuming those two facts is no greater in the one case than in the other. If we compare the figures - and I shall quote them as supplied by the Commonwealth Electoral Department - we shall ‘ find that certain facts emerge. In New South Wales the “ yes “ votes cast totalled 754,444, and the total first preference votes cast for the Labour party in the Senate election, which is a fair basis of calculation, was 604,272, or a majority of the “ yes “ votes in f favour of the per capita payment of no less than 454,098. In Victoria the “yes”votes totalled 791,425, and the total of Labour’s first preferences for the Senate was 427,079, or a majority of 62,733 “ yes “ votes for the per capita payment in that State. In South Australia the “yes” votes totalled 164,628, and the total of the Labour first preferenceswas 134,731, or a majority of 104,834 “ yes “ votes for the per capita payment. In Western. Australia the “yes” vote totalled 96,913, and the total of the Labour first preferences was 75,735, or a majority of 54,557 “yes” votes for the per capita payment. In Tasmania the “yes” vote totalled 62,722, and the total of the Labour first preferencewas 33,250, or a majority of 3,778 “ yes “ votes for the per capita payment. In one State only, namely, Queensland,were the votes cast the other way. In that State the total of the “ yes “ voteswas 367,257, and the total of the Labour first preferences 147,351, or a majority of 72,455 against the per capita payment. In analysing the “ yes “ votes in this manner, which I think honorable members will agree is perfectly straightforward and justifiable, it will be seen that five of the six States cast a majority of votes in favour of the restoration of the per capita payment.
– The honorable member is assuming that every vote cast for Labourwas a vote in favour of the continuance of the per capita system.
– Yes, as I have taken every anti-Labour vote as a vote in favour of the agreement. In view of the repeated assertions of the Prime Minister that a “ yes “ vote by the Nationalists would not necessarily carry the agreement, there is no ground to suppose that there is a greater error on the one side than on the other.
– I do not think the honorable member’s assumption in relation to the Tasmanian figures is correct.
– I have given the figures as supplied by the Electoral Department, and I shall be glad to show the honorable member how I arrive at my conclusion. If we take the total for the whole of Australia Ave find that the majority of “ yes “ votes in favour of the continuance of the per capita system is no less than 607,445, and that five of the six States voted the same way. In view of these figures I fail entirely to see that there is any foundation for the assertion that the recent referendum has shown an overwhelming approval of the financial agreement. I admit that it has shown an overwhelming approval of an increase in the powers to be vested in the Commonwealth, but as soon as we analyse the subsidiary or second issue we find that the people voted against the Government’s proposal.
– I do not think 2 per cent, of the electors gave it a thought.
– Thenwhy assume that a majority of the electors is in favour of the agreement. That argument cuts both ways. We have to assume that the people had some knowledge and gave some thought to the subject. As a matter of fact, a large numberwho voted definitely for the agreement favoured the restoration of the per capita payment.
– I am afraid the honorable member is wrong.
– That is a matter of opinion. I speak of what I knowwas the case in my own State. The agreement is divided into two parts. One relates to fixed contributions as against the per capita payment, and the other to the arrangement of loans and the consolidation of debts. There are many persons who voted “Yes” because they thought that the disadvantages associatedwith fixed payments, as against the per capita payment, might be out- weighed by the greater advantages accruing from the consolidation of debts and proper loan management. I do not agree with that view; but I point out that the amendment which I have moved makes it quite possible for those members to give effect to their desire, without having the financial agreement foisted upon them. The terms of my amendment arc that the bill be withdrawn with a view to the Government submitting to the States a revised State Debts Agreement, which shall include the restoration of the per capita payment of 25s. per head for a period of at least ten years. That will still leave the consolidation of debts and proper loan management to be dealt with ; but it . provides that, instead of fixed payments, the per capita system shall be restored.
– Does that mean that the present arrangement should be allowed to continue?
– If a majority of honorable members vote for the amendment, it will not commit them to the abolition of the proposed arrangement with regard to the Loan Council or debt control, of which many of them approve. I think, however, that the advantages of the Loan Council and debt control have been tremendously exaggerated, as I shall show later; but if a majority of honorable members favour the proposed system of handling the State debts and conducting the Loan Council, and at the same time are opposed to the continuance of the par capita system, they can achieve their objective by supporting the amendment.
By a strange coincidence, it will be exactly a year to-morrow since I last spoke in this House on the financial agreement. I then submitted a number of figures to show what I thought would be the detrimental effect of this agreement upon State finances. I do not propose to quote those figures again, but honorable members will perhaps allow me to remind them that I then said that the total losses to the States during the currency of this agreement, as compared with the per capita system, would be about £320,000,000.
– The Government has not attempted to deny that.
– I am coming to that.
Mr.Watt. - On the present rate of progress ?
– Yes, the conditions and methods of calculation were carefully set out. The figures which I then adduced have been answered, categorically, only on one occasion, and that was by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) on 15th March of last year. This is the first opportunity I have had of replying to the statements he then made. The Attorney-General traversed my speech very carefully - it was a compliment to me that he thought it necessary to do so - and dealt with every point, putting the best construction he could, as one would expect him to do, on the different aspects of the agreement. I admit that while I concluded that the loss to the States would be £320,000,000, there were certain factors covered by the agreement that could not be accurately . estimated, such as contributions to new loans. The Attorney-General, after a justifiable assumption of what these would be, concluded that my figures were very much over-estimated. He made out a sound and a clever case from the Government’s viewpoint. I do not think his figures are accurate, but I am prepared to accept them and to argue the position from his case instead of from my own. The Attorney-General summed up his analysis of my figures by admitting that under the proposed new arrangement the States would lose £158,000,000.
– Upon the assumption of the permanent continuance of the per capita payment.
– Of course.
– Which I suggest was an impossible assumption.
– That is not the point. We were comparing the relative effects of these two systems upon the States, and to do that it was necessary to take the two over similar periods. We could not do anything else. My comparison covers the period of the agreement, and that is the only sensible way of comparing the two systems. The Attorney-General admitted that the loss to the States under the new arrangement was £158,000,000, and I suggest to honorable members that even that loss is sufficiently serious to make us pause before entering into the financial agreement, which, on my figures, represents a loss of from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000 a year to the States.
Mr.Fenton. - Are the honorable member’s figures substantiated by the statistician’s figures?
– The difference between my figures and the Attorney-General’s figures arises out of the contributions in respect of new loans which can be estimated but not definitely stated. I have said that I am prepared to accept the Attorney-General’s figures, although they are not so favorable to my case as are my own, but they are quite sufficient to warrant honorable members pausing before accepting such an arrangement as this.
Mr.R. Green. - Is the honorable member arguing from the point of view of the States?
Mr.MANN.-Iamarguingfromthe point of view of dispensing even-handed justice between the Commonwealth and the States. The moneys raised by the Commonwealth under the terms and spirit of federation were to be used partly for the benefit of the States.
– Only for a term of years.
– Then the federation should exist only for a term of years. At the time of federation there was no suggestion of an arrangement such as the present financial agreement.Were the States and the people of Australia invited to join the federation under a delusion? Surely it was thought that there would be some permanency in the undertakings and engagements entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. How bitterly the States must now regret their action in joining the federation.
The Attorney-General just now interjected somewhat on the lines of the point that he made when he criticized my analysis of the agreement. He then complained that I was comparing certainty with uncertainty. It has repeatedly been stated that the Government is, under this arrangement, bringing about certainty instead of uncertainty. The question of certainty or uncertainty has nothing to do with the merits of these two arrangements. If it were merely a question- of certainty, this House, this Parliament, this Government could have given as much certainty to the per capita system as has been given to this agreement. That entirely rests in the hands of the Government. To say that one is certain and the other uncertain, is merely to drag a herring across the trail. It was quite possible for this Government to recommend that the per capita system should be made certain. It was only a question of determining which was the more just method, and that is what I am now arguing. Whenever that is decided, let the Government use its power and influence to give to the per capita system, if that is considered to be the more just, the certainty that it proposes to give to the financial agreement.
I am quite satisfied that this arrangement, compared with the per capita payment, will mean an immense loss to the States. We have been told that we have no right to consider that point now, because the agreement has been definitely accepted by the States. That point was fully dealt with by the Leader of the Opposition to-day. I have no desire to take up the time of the House by traversing the ground covered by that honorable member, but I wish to emphasize one point that he -made regarding my own State. I have been told that, because the Premier of Western Australia has accepted the agreement, I have no right to take up this subject again and to persist in my attitude. Under what terms and conditions did he accept the agreement? That has been fully demonstrated to-day. Although the Premier of Western Australia was compelled to accept this agreement, during the recent campaign he threw his weight, influence, and voice on the side of the restoration of the per capita system. The decision of the Government and Parliament of Western Australia, wrenched from them by compulsion, will not deter me for a moment from fighting to the last for what I think is just for my own State. We have been told again and again by the Government that the per capita system was unsatisfactory, because the Commonwealth had to make the larger payments to the more populous and wealthy States. There is an extraordinary idea behind that contention. Are not contributions of revenue made in proportion to the population and wealth of the States, and should not the Commonwealth return revenue to the States in the same proportion? I am not out to make any unfair claim on behalf of Western Australia against the interests of the other States. If my State gets into serious financial difficulty, it is the duty of the Commonwealth, under the Constitution, to come to its assistance, and not to institute a regular system under which the smaller and less wealthy States will gain an advantage over the larger States. The Government’s argument that the new arrangement will enable greater assistance to be given to the needy States has to-day been answered by the honorable member for Yarra, who instanced the case of Tasmania. It is only right that the bigger States should get the bigger share of the revenue.
I shall now refer to that part of the agreement relating to the Loan Council and the raising of loans. The remarks which I made in my previous speech on this subject were answered by the Treasurer on the 21st March last year. He claimed that the arrangement with the Loan Council and its management of our debts had greatly improved the credit of Australia, and to support his argument he quoted the ruling market prices of Australian stock. That is no criterion of credit. The real criterion is the response to the loan at the time of flotation. I wish to give honorable members a few startling facts to show in what way and how much the credit of Australia has been affected by the operations of the Loan Council. In my previous speech I pointed out that one of the difficulties of the Loan Council would be that it would be placing large loans on the London market beyond the absorptive power of that market at the time of flotation, and that this would compel it to depend more and more upon the underwriters. I shall read to honorable members the results of flotation since 1927, all all of which are included in the operations of the Loan Council. It will be understood that when a loan is underwritten by the big financial houses, they undertake that the Government shall get the money at a certain charge. If the public take it up avidly, that is evidence that the credit of the Government stands high, but if, on the other hand, a large portion of the’ loan is left on the underwriters’ hands at the time of the flotation, then the loan is beyond the absorptive power of the market. It may also be unpopular to a certain extent, because of more attractive issues being available at the time. Afterwards the underwriters gradually unload their stocks on the market as opportunity offers, and so profit themselves. On the 8th July, 1927, a loan of £7,000,000 was floated in London at a minimum price of £98, with interest at 5 per cent., and 89 per cent, of it was left on the underwriters’ hand3. On the 25th November, 1927, a loan of £7,500,000 was floated at the reduced price of £97 10s., with interest at 5 per cent., and 75 per cent, of it was left on the underwriters’ hands. On the 7th March, 1928, a loan of £8,000,000 was floated at £98, with interest at 5 per cent., and 84.4 per cent, of that loan was left on the underwriters’ hands. On the 1st May, 1928, the American loan of 52,000,000 dollars was floated at £92 10s., with interest at 4^ per cent. “We know the disastrous result of that loan. In 1928 large lots were being sold on the London market at a price as low as £84 per 100. On the 17th July, 1928, a loan of £7,000,000 was floated at £98, with interest at 5 per cent., and 87 per cent, of it was left on the underwriters’ hands. In December, 1927, the big conversion loan of £36,000,000 was floated in Australia, and although the market was kept open, I think, for months, £10,000,000 out of £36,000,000 was left on the hands of the banks which had underwritten the loan. By way of comparison, let me say that on the 25th April, 192S, amidst all these other transactions, a loan of £3,000,000 was raised for “Western Australia at £98, with interest at 5 per cent., and the loan was immediately oversubscribed by the public. In January of this year a loan of £8,000,000 was floated by the Commonwealth at £98, with interest at 5 per cent., and 84 per cent, of it was left on the underwriters’ hands. “We are told that this arrangement for the management of loans is heartily approved by financial circles and authorities. Upon inquiry as to who the financial authorities are, we are referred to quotations from one or two financial papers published in London. I suggest that these authorities are, in fact, very closely associated with the great financial houses which underwrite the loans. That they will approve of such a method of floating loans there can be little doubt. As the underwriting expenses in London amounted to 25s. per cent., the cost of floating the loan of £8,000,000 issued in January last was £100,000, which, added to the £160,000 lost to the Commonwealth owing to the loan having been floated at £98, represents a loss of £260,000 to the Commonwealth and a profit of the same amount to the underwriters, if they unload at par, in connexion with that loan. Instead of obtaining £8,000,000, the Commonwealth received only £7,740,000.
– The amount would he less than that if other expenses were taken into account.
– I realize that; but I am dealing with the main items in order not to complicate the position. The prospectus stated that the loan was an excellent investment, because at £98 it represented a return to the investor of £5 2s. 3d. per cent. Actually, it cost the Commonwealth £5 3s. 4d. per cent., if we take into account the amount which it did not receive, but upon which it pays interest. The underwriting expenses of the £7,000,000 loan now being floated in Australia will not be so great, for the bank changes in Australia are only 10s. per cent. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth will pay £35,000 in underwriting expenses, an investor at par will get £5 5s. per cent., while the Commonwealth will pay £5 5s. 6d. per cent. In considering these matters, we should not forget that a financier who underwrites a loan floated at £98 may unload it on the public at par, so that on every £1,000,000 he makes a profit of £20,000. Is it any wonder that these transactions are favorably commented on in the London financial market? That is the point I wish to emphasize.
– The London financiers are making large profits out of. Australia.
– Australian bankers also commend the system, for they, too, make large profits out of these transactions. I am not saying that there is anything improper, unjust or dishonorable in what they do. I realize that we must pay for services ; but in business matters it is not customary to accept the advice of those who will benefit by our actions. It is like consulting a wolf as to the best means of fattening lambs.
Objection to the sinking fund has been raised- by the States. This agreement specifies a fixed rate of sinking fund for all loans, although it is now generally recognized that that is not a. sound principle. I think that I am correct in saying that Victoria has adopted an entirely different system in connexion with sinking funds on loans. In that State the sinking fund varies according to the life of the investment to which the money is applied.
– Victoria has a fixed minimum.
– The scale varies according to the nature of the works in connexion with which the money is invested.
– Provision for that is made in the agreement.
– But the contributions are to be made according to a fixed scale.
– The agreement provides for increased contributions where the asset will depreciate quickly.
– There are some loans in connexion with which there is no advantage in having a sinking fund; but this agreement makes a sinking fund compulsory.
I mention these things to show that some of the objections I raised on a previous occasion to the composition of the Loan Council, and to its operations, have been confirmed by subsequent experience. Even if we agree that there should be a loan council - and in that matter I am prepared to accept the advice of men experienced in financial matters - I suggest that its methods require a good deal of alteration. The practice of unloading big loans on the London market beyond the absorptive power of that market has been referred to frequently. It benefits no one but the underwriters; it certainly does not benefit the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member submit that there is no advantage in having one borrowing authority.
– I have not been able to see any advantage in having only one borrower. This is due to the way loans are managed. If loans were gradually floated on the London market, as they would be if floated by the States separately, I feel certain that better terms would be obtained. A great deal depends upon the way in which the money is spent. The real reason why Commonwealth loans have not been floated on so satisfactory a basis as those issued by the States is that the management of Commonwealth loans is not regarded as satisfactory by investors. The question before us is too big to be dealt with on party lines ; but I feel that, in moving my amendment, I am only carrying out the policy of the party to -which I belong. Being convinced of the equity of the per capita payments I pledged myself during the recent election campaign to do all in my power to restore them if reelected.
– What action did the honorable member’s colleagues take in the matter ?
– With one exception, every Western Australian candidate, for either House, who was successful in the recent election, expressed himself as being opposed to the financial agreement and in favour of the restoration of the per capita payments. I am convinced that my pledge to the electors in relation to the per capita payments was one of the reasons why they gave me such support, that the consensus of opinion in Western Australia is in favour of the restoration of those payments, and that the people of that State will be grievously disappointed if other arrangements are substituted for them. I am convinced also that the result of the referendum proposals has been misrepresented, and that if the figures are properly analysed they will show that the people of Australia are of the opinion that the finances of the States should be placed on a firmer foundation by the restoration of the per capita payments. The great majority of the people resent the idea of having £158,000,000 taken from them.
– It is hot being taken from them. It is pure assumption that the States would ever get it.
– It has been taken away. The Attorney-General is only quibbling.
– The States had no option in the matter.
– They agreed to it.
– Money raised by the Commonwealth on behalf of the’ States is being absorbed by the Commonwealth, the excuse being that it is necessary to do so because of the commitments of the Commonwealth. Many of those commitments represent extravagances. Money has been spent by the Commonwealth in directions which amount to an intrusion by it on the rights and functions of the States. The taxpayers of the States, who are in close touch with their local governments and are feeling the pinch of extra taxation imposed to make up the shortage of funds, feel that they are not being fairly treated by the Commonwealth. I am afraid that there is a great deal of truth in the statement made this afternoon that the control of financial matters by the Commonwealth has created a feeling of disturbance and distrust in the States which will take a long time to eradicate, and will do a great deal to prevent stable government in Australia. On all the grounds I have mentioned, I am opposed to the agreement and I, therefore, commend my amendment to the House.
– As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has moved an amendment, I shall, before dealing with the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) devote a few moments to an examination of the case he has presented. The honorable member spoke as the protagonist of the States.
– The House will understand that we have before us the original motion and the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Perth. I propose to adopt the practice which is usual in debates of this character of allowing honorable members to speak to both the motion and the amendment.
– I rise to a point of order. Will the moving of the amendment extend the time for the discussion of the bill? When a vote was taken to determine the time to be devoted to this measure at various stages, the House did not take into consideration the possibility of amendments being moved.
– I rule that, whatever amendments may be moved, the times specified must be adhered to.
– The honorable member for Perth claims to speak on behalf of the States, but a careful consideration of the position will reveal that the adoption of the method he has proposed for delaying the ratification of this agreement, would injure rather than assist the States. When the agreement has been validated by this Parliament, the States will obtain a measure of constitutional security, for a term of 58 years, which they do not at present possess. The constitutional amendment that was agreed to by the people at the last referendum makes it possible for any future proposal that is mutually acceptable to all of the governments in Australia to be substituted for this agreement. The real safeguard of the States lies in the immediate validation of this agreement, because when that has been done they will occupy a constitutional and statutory position which they do not hold at the present time. Consequently those who really desire to safeguard the interests of the States should support the validation of the agreement. At a later stage I shall show that the action of the Opposition is designed to continue a state of uncertainty and dependence of the States on the Commonwealth, which is in accordance with both the history and traditions of the Labour party.
– I rise to a point of order. Yesterday the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was asked to address the Chair. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) invariably turn their backs on the Chair and address their remarks either to their own side or to the clock.
– Strictly speaking, the honorable member is quite right. All honorable members should turn to and address the Chair; but owing to the design of this House, it is not possible for either the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition when speaking at the table to do so. The Treasurer appears to be addressing honorable members in the right hand corner of the chamber, and it is exceedingly difficult to hear him. If he would face towards the centre of the chamber it would be better for all.
– I have already indicated that the only real safeguard of the States, the only method whereby-
– On a point of order, I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the Treasurer is disregarding the ruling just given by you.
– I am afraid that the honorable member did not give the Treasurer time to continue his speech. I am sure that he is as anxious as is any honorable member to observe the ruling of the Chair.
– The first point I wish to make in connexion with the speech of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) is that whoever desires to make it certain that the States will have a statutory and constitutional safeguard will stand behind the action of the Government at the present time.
– I rise to order. Notwithstanding the hint that you, sir, have given the Treasurer, he apparently does not yet understand that he must not turn his back upon you. I suggest that you make your ruling plainer, and if necessary brutal, in order that he may comprehend its significance.
– I have pointed out that if the Treasurer or the Leader of the Opposition were to address the Speaker directly they would have to turn their backs on honorable members, who would then bc prevented from hearing what was said. I ask honorable members, by remaining silent, to afford the Treasurer an opportunity to be heard in every part of the chamber.
– The only way to overcome the difficulty would be to use Mr. Speaker’s rostrum. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has suggested that in the raising of loans the results achieved by the Australian Loan Council are not so good as those which would be obtained by the different State Governments acting individually. The complete answer to that is that during the last five years there has been in existence in Australia a voluntary Loan Council, to which every State Treasurer whose instinct is to get the best terms he can for his State, as well as the Commonwealth Treasurer, has gone when it was necessary to raise a loan. They have done so because of their practical experience of the benefits of a Loan Council. It is suggested that the fact that our loans have not been oversubscribed is an indication of bad financing. A long list has been given of loans, of which 70 per cent, or 80 per cent, has been left on the hands of the underwriters, and it has been contended that because of that fact we have not financed soundly and wisely. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) will appreciate^ the fact tha.t when a loan is very largely over-subscribed, it is an indication that the terms offered are too favorable to the investor and nor sufficiently in the interest of the public. “What is the position at the present time in regard to Australian stocks in both London and New York? A month or so ago we floated in London a loan, of which 84 per cent, was left in the hands of the underwriters. It was issued at £08, and carried interest at the rate of 5 per cent. Just immediately prior to the placing of that loan on the market there were issues for both India and New Zealand, which were heavily oversubscribed. Since that time there has been an increase in the bank rate, with the result that the majority of the loans on the London market have slightly receded. The Australian loan, however, is still standing practically at the price of issue; whereas both the New Zealand and Indian loans have receded a couple of points. Therefore, our credit is relatively in a much more favorable position. Our experience has been of a similar nature in connexion with the loan issued last year in New York at £92 10s., and an interest rate of 4$ per cent. It is true that subsequent to the flotation of that loan there was in the United States of America a very heavy slump, which affected all stocks throughout the length and breadth of that country. But the latest quotations received showed that Canadian and even American stocks had depreciated more than Australian stocks, compared with the position which they occupied some months before the slump took place. Just before the slump they were in a better position than we were, but at the present time their position is relatively not as good. These facts indicate that we have done extraordinarily well in having obtained in London and New York all the money we needed at rates which were in the public interest. The maintenance of our position and the support accorded to us show that the public themselves appreciate that fact.
I wish now to deal with the real opposition to this bill, which comes from the Labour party, although the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has been chosen as the mouthpiece for the moving of the amendment.
– The honorable gentleman has no right to say that.
– I rise to a point of order. I regard as offensive the remark of the. Treasurer, and ask that he be called upon to withdraw it.
– The Treasurer did not make any reference to the honorable member for Darling.
– The honorable gentleman said that the real opposition to this measure came from the Labour party, but that the honorable member for Perth had been chosen as the mouthpiece of our party. I regard that as an insinuation that the Labour party induced the honorable member for Perth to move his amendment.
– I ‘ understood the Treasurer to say that the opposition to the bill came from the Labour party, but that the honorable member for Perth had been chosen as its mouthpiece. If the honorable member for Darling regards that as offensive I must ask the Treasurer to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it if it is deemed offensive.
– On a point of order, I consider that the expression used by the Treasurer is offensive, because it suggests that I have been used as a catspaw by the Labour party. I repudiate any such suggestion.
– The Treasurer has already withdrawn the expression.
– The time which is taken up with these numerous points of order should be. added to that which I am allowed under the Standing Orders, so that I may have a reasonable opportunity to make out a case in reply to that of honorable members opposite, who were given an absolutely fair deal by this side of the House, and were listened to in silence. The Leader of the Opposition can be most effectively answered by contrasting the circumstances of the Government, which seeks to validate the agreement, with those of the Opposition, which seeks to destroy it, by comparing the proposals of the Government with those of the Opposition for dealing with the important problemsinvolved, and by examining their effect upon the Commonwealth and the Statesand the attitude of the States and the people of Australia to these proposals. Such a review would prove beyond doubt that at the present juncture the proper procedure is to validate the agreement.
What is the position which the Government occupies in regard to this matter? I submit that it is a very strong one. It comes to this House fresh from an election with its policy endorsed by a majority of the electorates. An important feature of the policy was the validation of this agreement. When I outlined at Grafton the financial policy for the Government I said -
If the referendum is accepted, tlie Government is pledged to validate the agreement, and thereafter the States will have an absolute guarantee of defined future assistance from the Commonwealth, and the Loan Council will be established on a permanent basis. As it has taken the experience of 27 years of federation and many years of pre-federal discussion to arrive at this agreement, the Commonwealth Government confidently appeals, not merely for an affirmative vote on the referendum, but for an endorsement of its policy in this regard.
It will thus be seen that the matter was placed before the people in the most unequivocal terms. We asked not only for an affirmative vote on the referendum, but also for an endorsement of our policy. We came back, not only with this policy endorsed by a majority of the electors, but also with the agreement signed hy all the State Premiers and ratified by all the State Parliaments. In addition, it has operated with universal satisfaction for nearly two years. The Government came back to Parliament with an amendment of the Constitution that was necessary to enable this agreement to be carried into effect - a constitution amendment approved by a three to one majority in all the States, the actual figures being “ Yes “ 2,237,391, and “No”, 773,852. That demonstrates that the people of Australia strongly desire the permanent settlement of this vexed and doubtful question. The approval of the referendum and the return of this Government to power, together, provide a mandate for the validation of the agreement. In the United States of America, which has a federal system of government on all-fours with that of Australia, assent to any constitutional amendment by three-fourths of the State Parliaments is sufficient to carry that amendment. Here, we have a pro posed constitutional amendment and an agreement which have been accepted by the Parliaments of all the States of Australia in every case by substantial majorities. The Government, therefore, has the authority both of the States and the people of Australia in proposing to validate this agreement. The position of the Opposition, however, is weak indeed. When the Leader of the Opposition and his party went before the people at the last elections, they placed this matter in the forefront of their policy. In his policy speech, the Leader of the Opposition said -
The carrying of the referendum will not ratify the financial agreement entered into recently. The agreement will come before the next Federal Parliament for acceptance or rejection.
We are not opposed to the granting of constitutional power to the Federal Parliament to make agreements for the consolidation of public debts and the control of borrowing. But, in the’ exercise of that power, we will make a new agreement with tlie States with respect to debts and will restore the per capita payments to the States.
The electors rejected the Labour party’s plans, and the honorable member was returned with a party of 31 members to a House numbering 75 members. The people of Australia, having heard both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, returned them to Parliament without changing their positions. The Leader of the Opposition now seeks to revive a dead issue. He comes to this House with a proposal, not to amend the agreement, but to destroy it. In that he has not the backing of one State Parliament or Government. The Government on the other hand, comes forward with an agreement, which has been approved and signed by every Premier in Australia. Although certain Labour Pre- miers supported the Leader of the Opposition in his election campaign, not one of them, when on the hustings, advocated a return to the per capita payments in lieu of the present financial agreement. The Leader of the Opposition possesses no mandate from the State Governments or the people in this matter, and in view of his position in the House he has no opportunity to negotiate with the States for a new agreement. His colleagues in the State Parliaments have stated distinctly that they regard the per capita payments as absolutely dead. Mr. Hogan, the Premier of Victoria, when speaking on the subject, said -
In my opinion the agreement is better for the States than the per capita payments.
And, later, referring to the per capita payments, he stated -
That is a corpse; it is dead and buried.
– That is not all that Mr. Hogan said on that occasion.
– It is what he said in regard to the per capita payments.
– I shall read the whole of his statement later.
- Mr. Collier, the Premier of Western Australia, is reported at page 15 of Western Australian Hansard No. 3, as saying -
Having regard to the fact that the per capita payments have been consistently attacked by all governments and all parties in the Commonwealth Parliaments for many years past, it was inevitable that those payments had to go. No member will argue that the per capita payments were not doomed’ to be abolished.
That is the attitude of a State Labour Premier. Later that gentleman gave the reasons for the attitude of the Federal Labour party. Mr. Collier pointed out exactly why that party desires insecurity and not security in regard to the financial position of the States. He advanced exactly the same reason as was given by the Leader of the Opposition to-night, who said that the Commonwealth Parliament must have full control of the revenue of the Commonwealth to enable unification to be brought in. This agreement, as Mr. Collier indicated, was not an aid, but a distinct bar, to unification, because it gave definite safeguards to the States for at least a 58-year period.
It is worth while briefly to survey the position that was so theatrically described by the Leader of the Opposition to-day, when he charged the Prime Minister with misrepresenting the attitude of the Labour party in 1910, and its action in withdrawing £3,000,000 from the States. The honorable gentleman went to a great deal of trouble to show that it was an anti-Labour, and not a Labour Government which took that action. But he forgot to mention that the agreement to which Mr. Deakin and six mem bers of State ministries subscribed their names did not anticipate the continuance of a per capita payment for a term of ten years, but the incorporation of the per capita payments in the Constitution. That would have safeguarded the interests of the States for ever. But when the Labour party came into power, it limited the per capita payments to a term of ten years.
Actually, the per capita system has always been adopted as a last resort in settling such problems. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who for so many years ably helped to guide the destinies of Victoria, can bear me out when I say that in practically all the discussions that took place between the Commonwealth and State Governments on this matter between 1901 and 1910, the States asked not for a per capita grant, but for the return of a certain proportion of the customs revenue. At one time the request was for threequarters of that revenue. In 1909, just a few months before the system of per capita payments came into force, the States asked not for such a system, but for three-fifths of the customs and excise revenues. They accepted the system of per capita payments only when it was found that the sands of the “ Braddon blot “ provision were running out; that their constitutional safeguard was expiring, and that the proposed per capita payments afforded them the only practical opportunity to safeguard their financial interests. If one examines the various suggestions that have been made by different State Premiers from time to time one will find that, in 1905, a request was made that section 87 of the Constitution should be amended so as to make the Braddon clause perpetual, and secure the return to the States of three-fourths of the revenue from customs and excise, and that, subject to the foregoing, the whole of the State debts be taken over by the Commonwealth. Just as that resolution dealt primarily with the double problem of providing financial assistance to the States, and of the transference of State debts, so - and here the right honorable member for Balaclava, who was present at many of these conferences can bear me out - nearly every discussion that has taken place on these problems made no endeavour to separate the two matters. The endeavour always was to settle them together.
– The honorable member for Balaclava was not then a member of this House.
– He was then the Premier of Victoria, and knows exactly what occurred.
– They were separate problems.
– I shall now quote from a resolution that was moved in 1907, by Mr. Peake, Treasurer of South Australia, at a conference with State Premiers and Ministers. It was that -
In the opinion of tlie conference, the time is ripe for tlie Federal Parliament to consider the question of taking over the State debts mid to apply the surplus revenue now secured under clause 87 of the Constitution towards paying interest on the debts.
It will also be remembered that, in 1910, when the system of per capita payments was submitted to the people by referendum with the object of incorporating it in the Constitution, there was also submitted a separate question dealing with the taking over by the Commonwealth of all State debts. The two matters again appeared together. It is true that there was an agreement between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of the different States in 1909, which contemplated the perpetual financial security of the States by the continuance of the p&r capita payment of 25s.; but when the Labour party came into power in the Commonwealth Parliament in 1910, it gave the States security only for ten years. Incidentally, that Labour Government made the financial position of the States worse to the extent of £2,800,000. As against that, this Government has increased the payments to the States by no less than £900,000, and it is universally admitted that, at least for the next ten years, the financial position of the States will be better than heretofore. In addition to giving the States financial security, this agreement does not interfere with the rights of any State, as it is provided that if a mutual agreement can be arrived at between the Commonwealth and the several States, any new agreement may be substituted.
– It is unfair to say that in 1910 the Labour party dealt unfairly by the States. It accepted the decision of the people to limit the period of the per capita payments, and promised to bring the system into operation for a period of ten years, which it did.
– I am not suggesting any unfair treatment by that Labour Government. I am simply pointing out the essential difference between the agreement that was then arrived at, and that which is now under discussion. At that time the agreement worsened the position of the States, whereas this agreement betters their position. I do not impute any blame to the Labour party, but merely state the facts.
– But the Prime Minister did.
– I am simply dealing with my own case. What will be the position, if the agreement is rejected, as it will be if the amendment of the honorable member for Perth is carried? That will mean that we must start out again on the rough and tempestuous sea on which we have been voyaging for the last 28 years, and again endeavour to find a satisfactory means for the taking over of the debts of the States, and securing that a certain amount of the revenue collected by the Commonwealth shall go to the States in lieu of the old customs and excise revenue, and the per capita payments which followed the original financial provision of the Constitution.
If we contrast the schemes put forward by the Government and by the Opposition, we shall see how much more favorable to the States is that of the Government. The Government proposals are for the consolidation of the public debt and a common control of borrowing. There is at present in operation a control of borrowing by the Loan Council. This is acceptable to all the States, and has now worked successfully for five years. This principle is accepted by the Labour party, but if the agreement is rejected, the Labour party must devise a new and acceptable means of giving effect tq their scheme for unified borrowing. In the provision of sinking funds, the Government is prepared to assist the States to a definite and substantial degree. Adequate sinking funds are to be created for the debts of the States, and we are to have a combined sinking fund, which will enable us to improve our credit in the money markets of the world. The Opposition says that sinking funds are useful and valuable, but they do not say how much they would be prepared to contribute to them. The Leader of the Opposition said that his party might be prepared to establish a sinking fund for past State debts, but he was silent as to what precisely they were prepared to do. He was not prepared to give assistance for sinking funds against future State debts. The proposition of the Labour party is a nebulous thing. The Leader of the Opposition asks Parliament to accept something which is in the clouds, instead of the clear and definite proposal of the Government.
The three points of the agreement are financial assistance to the States, consolidation of existing debts with control of future borrowing, and the establishment of a sinking fund. The Government’s proposal is to provide assistance for 58 years on the basis of the per capita payments for the year 1926-27, which amounted to £7,585,000. The Commonwealth Government, however, is prepared to provide a proportion of the sinking fund, which will be a continually increasing amount. This means that a factor in the payments to the States is the development of the States, and the claims of the less developed States for a greater degree of assistance are recognized. We propose to get away from the basis of the per capita payments, but to do so with a minimum of interference with the financial position of the States. That is the object of the agreement. The Commonwealth contribution to the State sinking funds will be in accordance with the amount of money borrowed. Our contribution to the Western Australian sinking fund on new debt incurred last financial year was £11,500, while to that of Victoria it was only £20,000. Victoria has four times as many people as Western Australia, but received only twice as much towards her sinking fund. This was because much of her developmental work has already been done, whilst Western
Australia has a great deal still to do. It is reasonable and proper that the Commonwealth. Parliament, which is responsible for the whole territory of Australia, should help by this means to bring about a united and progressive Commonwealth, and should aim to ensure, as far as possible, that the less developed States shall receive assistance which will enable them to develop their resources.
– Has the Treasurer figures showing what the Commonwealth will pay in ten years time?
– I have the figures and shall give them presently. The Labour party has no such definite and detailed plan as that submitted by the Government. It proposes, first, to restore the per capita payments ; but that is the only definite proposal it makes. The Leader of the Opposition says that he would deal with the sinking fund and consolidation of debts in some way different from that proposed by the Government; but he does not say in what way. If the Labour party restored the per capita payments and made no contribution to the State sinking funds, the States would be £4,550,000 worse off than they would be under this agreement. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) interjected very pertinently, when this matter was being discussed by the Leader of the Opposition, that no State would accept the Labour party’s proposition on such terms.
– What terms does the Treasurer mean?
– Terms which make no provision for contribution by the Commonwealth Government to State sinking funds.
– Nobody proposed such terms.
– The honorable member said that he did not know what he would do in regard to the sinking fund. He said that possibly something would be done at an early date, but did not indicate just what it was proposed to do.
– That was the one part on which the honorable member was a bit vague.
– If the Leader of the Opposition proposes to contribute to the State sinking fund, as well as restore the per capita payments, it will he necessary for the Commonwealth Government to find £13,900,000 more during the next ten years than under the per capita system. Yet it has been said by the honorable member and his former leader that the present agreement is too liberal to the States, that it would tie up the Commonwealth revenues too much, and is dangerous from that point of view. If that be so, surely the Opposition cannot favour the giving of £13,900,000 more than the per capita payments during the next ten years. From the Commonwealth point of view, it is impracticable to restore the per capita payments, and, at the same time, contribute to the States sinking fund, while it would be impossible to induce the States to not take less than it is now proposed to give them under this agreement.
– Cannot that be adjusted ?
– The Leader of the Opposition asks whether the matter cannot, be adjusted ; but he will not himself propose anything definite. The Government asks for the endorsement of an agreement in which everything is settled ; in which every “ t “ is crossed and every “ i “ dotted. The Opposition, on the other hand, asks Parliament to tear up the agreement, and to start out again on an uncharted sea, with nothing to guide it.
Let us contrast the security afforded the States by the Government’s scheme with the uncertainty of the States’ position under the proposals outlined by the Leader of the Opposition. In the Government’s scheme a definite minimum payment of £7,585,000 a year is assured to the States for 58 years. The States are also assured of a sinking fund contribution towards past and future debts as well as of an increase of interest on the transferred properties. That is a minimum secured to them under the Constitution once this agreement has been ratified by Parliament. The States can have no security until this measure is passed; but, once the agreement has been ratified, they will be in a position of security such as they have not occupied since federation. The Leader of the Opposition asks that, instead of giving them this definite security, we restore the per capita pay ments for ten years. I shall inform honorable members presently what the Labour Premiers have to say about that. The history of Labour in this country shows that its policy is to have the States dependent on the goodwill of the Commonwealth. The Leader of the Opposition put the position quite plainly when he said that his party could not stand for an agreement which tied the Commonwealth up in perpetuity, or for any term longer than ten years.
– Why should we?
– The Opposition objects to the agreement because it is a definite bar to unification.
– That is unfair. They did not say anything like that.
– We said nothing of the kind.
- Mr. Collier, the Labour Premier of Western Australia, is quite definite on the point. Here is what he says -
My opinion is that it does not at all aid towards unification. It is rather significant having regard to the Federal Labour Party platform, that if this agreement is a step towards unification, the Federal Labour Party should have opposed it . . . I submit that the agreement is a bar to unification and not an aid to it.
Mr. Butler, the Premier of South Australia, said much the same thing. He declared that if there was anything that would prevent unification, it was this agreement. The reason that the Labour party at the present time desires to prevent the validation of the agreement and the giving to the States a measure of constitutional and legal security, has been frankly exposed by members of that party. They have said that if the Labour party ever gets into power, it wants to use the Commonwealth revenues for its own purposes - social schemes and such things. It wishes to bring about unification, and its attempts in that direction would be handicapped if this agreement were in existence. The Leader of the Opposition joins with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) in opposing this agreement; but the honorable member for Perth is a State-righter, while the honorable member for Yarra says that he is a unificationist, and the agreement stands in the way of his proposals.
– I never said that.
– The honorable member’s colleagues in Western Australia and New South. Wales have said it. Members of the Opposition say that they are prepared to pay the States 25s. per capita until such time as unification can be brought about.
– That is a very different statement.
– Does the Treasurer think that this agreement will help the new State movement?
– I think it will. This amendment, if carried, would destroy the agreement and would throw the financial relations between the States and Commonwealth into chaos. We should then have a blank sheet of paper, on which it would be necessary to start writing afresh.
– It would be a clean sheet, anyway.
– It would not be clean. It would be defaced by all the mistakes of the past and the gross breach of the present agreement if we failed to validate it. We have now an opportunity of getting rid for all time of the difficulties and antagonisms which past discussions of this problem have engendered. If this agreement is lost, we shall lose the benefit of unified borrowing, definite sinking funds, and the consolidation of the public debts. Labour believes that those things would be benefits if they could be brought about, but yet is prepared to attack them in order to defeat the agreement. It is prepared to wreck the thing which it admits is good, simply because it desires to alter what is a less important part of the agreement.
I confidently urge the House to validate this agreement; first, because it has been accepted by the States, and because the machinery for varying it is contained in it and can be put into operation when the parties mutually desire; but chiefly because of the immense importance to Australia of the mobilization of her public credit. The danger of delay can be seen by what took place in 1910. In that year a referendum was carried favouring the taking over of State debts by the Commonwealth, hut although this proposal was carried by a majority of hundreds of thousands, nothing was done, and nothing has been done up to the present time. The recent referendum has provided further evidence that there is an urgent desire among the public that the public debt problem shall be settled. In spite of this, the Leader of the Opposition tells us to delay still further. Delay in political matters is fatal. The people have twice expressed their desire that a settlement shall be come to. The Opposition counsels delay, but there is nothing to show that if we allowed this opportunity to pass any satisfactory agreement would be come to in our time.
Some honorable members say that they are opposing this agreement on behalf of the States. They have no warrant for adopting that course, as I shall show by an examination of the attitude of the State Premiers and Parliaments.
In the Tasmanian Parliament the agreement was accepted without debate or division. The Premier said that the State would receive £35,500 a year more than at present and pay annually £78,800 less to the sinking fund. In other words, Tasmania will gain by the agreement to the amount of £114,000 annually.
The Premier of South Australia (Mr. Butler) said that his State was benefiting in 1927-28 by £35,000 and would benefit for at least ten years. He also said, “It (the agreement) can do much more than the per capita payments ever did, and it is put on a permanent basis for 58 years.”
The Premier of Queensland (Mr. McCormack) stated that for the first six years there is an annual gain, and for ten years there is a gain of over £124,790. Mr. Barnes (Opposition), referring to the argument, said, “ Every public man should do his best to get it carried.” Mr. McCormack interjected, “ Every political party should do its best to get it passed.”
The Premier of Victoria (Mr. Hogan) said that the revenue of that State would benefit immediately by £553,000 and that there would be an improvement over the per capita payments of £182,916. For ten years there would be a net increase of £685,000. He continued -
I am satisfied that under this agreement the Commonwealth has no desire to involve the States in any financial difficulty or to embarrass them in any way, but is prepared to treat thom with’ absolute equity.
In New South Wales the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Stevens) said there was a distinct financial advantage to his State of £595,185 for the first two years and in ten years a financial advantage of £1,602,633. He went on to say -
This Government signed the agreement believing it to be in the be9t interests of the States and the community generally. . . .
I believe that in signing this agreement, we have acted in the best interests of the Parliament and the States; wo have adopted the national outlook; we have done something that will prepare the way for the binding together in closer relationship of the Commonwealth and States. We have done something that will ultimately improve our credit abroad, that will effect appreciable savings in our interest bill,- and thus improve the capacity for development.
Mr. Collier, who, as Premier, must be accepted as the official spokesman of Western Australia said -
This agreement is incomparably superior to anything that has ever been offered to us by the Federal Government or the Commonwealth Parliament previously. I think the agreement is undoubtedly more favorable to Western Australia than to any other State. I would infinitely prefer the financial agreement to the per capita payments, with the possibility and probability of those” payments being abolished at any time.
He also said that, during the first fifteen years, Western Australia would receive under the agreement £745,000 more than it would have received under the per capita system, after allowing for an annual increase of 3 per cent, in population. Mr. Collier submitted to his Parliament a table showing that the total benefit to Western Australia, including interest on cancelled debt and savings in sinking fund contributions, would amount to £10^613,537 over a period of 30 years, or an average of £353,784 a year.
The sinking fund contribution of 5s. on new debt provides for a continuous increase in assistance to the States, and being based on the developmental needs of the States, is a valuable concession to those whose development is backward. Thus Western Australia and Queensland, the less-developed States, would receive much more through this increased contribution to sinking fund than they would have received under the per capita system.
In conclusion I suggest to honorable members that, in considering the agreement, we should foi-get those episodes of past history that are so frequently recalled in debate, and try to focus our attention on the future. If we put aside party issues and calmly and dispassionately examine the agreement, we will find that its merits are -
A fixed annual payment by the Commonwealth to the States of £7,585,000 for 58 years.
Two shillings and sixpence sinking fund on original debt, equal to £801,000, for 58 years.
Five shillings sinking fund on new debt, equal to £100,000 per annum for every £40,000,000 of new debt. £164,000 increased interest on transferred properties.
Establishment of a permanent loan council for the management of debt and future borrowing of Australia.
The transfer of State debts to the Commonwealth.
In agreement with the States we have settled two contentious problems that have been discussed continuously throughout federation, namely, the transfer of State debts and financial assistance to the States. In view of the futility of earlier conferences, the attainment of an agreement with the States is, in itself, an achievement of no mean magnitude. A feature of it is the establishment of properlysafeguarded sinking funds such as we have never had before. This is an essential adjunct of sound government finance to which lenders now pay special attention. The benefits to be derived from a permanently constituted loan council to deal with all debts and borrowings are immeasurable. The function of this body will be to avoid suicidal competition between governments in the money market, such as, unfortunately, happened too frequently in the past. The financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States will be stabilized, and we have provided for immediate relief to the finances of the States. Above all, the agreement will enhance Australia’s credit so that substantial savings of interest will be ultimately secured to the people through the issue of new and conversion loans on better terms than would be possible in the absence of co-ordinated debt management and sinking fund provision. The agreement has been approved by the Parliaments and people of Australia, and has been the subject of most favorable comment by financial experts in London, New York and Australia. The British Economic Mission, which recently visited
Australia, strongly recommended it. For all these reasons I urge honorable members to vote for the bill so that Australia may reap the immeasurable benefits which considered and representative opinion declares will be the result of the adoption of the agreement.
.- The special pleading of the Treasurer was pathetic, but was in keeping with his attitude on this subject since he first sought to impose upon this Parliament an agreement that is not a satisfactory adjustment of the relations of the Commonwealth and the States. His speech was far from convincing. He sought to make the House believe that the State Governments readily accepted the arrangement that is contained in the bill, but a perusal of the history of the negotiations discloses that at the various conferences the State Premiers and Treasurers showed marked hostility towards it. Seeking to bend the State Governments to its will the Commonwealth Government took advantage of its statutory power to discontinue the per capita payments, and the representatives of the States were forced to negotiate a new arrangement with the knowledge that unless some alternative scheme were accepted their revenues would suffer seriously. Instead of the negotiations being conducted in an atmosphere of confidence and goodwill, there was evidence of strong resentment by the States of the domineering attitude of the Commonwealth. The State representatives realized, however, that in order to avoid financial chaos they must make the best of a bad situation. In seeking to make the House and the public believe that the State Premiers and Treasurers recognize special virtues in this agreement, he took to himself and the Government more credit than they deserve. The States have failed to recognize any merit in the agreement, but under duress they have made the best terms possible with a grasping Federal Government, The honorable gentleman, when quoting from the speech made by Mr. Collier, the Premier of “Western Australia, did not include this statement made in the State Parliament on the 12th June last -
The State Premiers were faced with the position that tlie per capita payments had been abolished.
In the light of that knowledge the State Premiers were required to assist in building up new relations with the Commonwealth. Mr. Collier continued -
And the Premiers had to decide whether they should constructively assist in framing an agreement iu the interests of the States, so far as they might be able to influence the Commonwealth Government in that direction, or whether they should take whatever the Commonwealth Government or Parliament might decide to give to the States, if anything at all. Of course when tlie per capita payments were abolished the States were left at the will of any Commonwealth Government of the day as to what they might contribute to the States in future, or whether they would contribute anything at all.
Those remarks do not indicate that the Premier of Western Australia accepted willingly and heartily the proposal which the Federal Treasurer was pressing upon the States. Mr. Forgan Smith, who was Acting Premier of Queensland and attended some of the conferences between the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States said - :
The Queensland Government has very carefully considered the proposals submitted by the Federal Government, and whilst not retreating in any way from its attitude in regard to the withdrawal of the per capita payment, is prepared to accept, with amendments, the underlying principles of the scheme.
The Queensland Ministry felt that the only course open to it was to accept this agreement and, if possible, try to get it amended. If in ordinary life we were asked to make an agreement in similar circumstances, we should regard the other party as bushrangers. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have both carefully and adroitly evaded making any comment upon the outspoken utterance of Sir William McPherson, Premier and Treasurer of the State of Victoria, who is reported in the Victorian Hansard of the 15th December, 1927, to have said -
If the agreement is ratified, we shall make a great mistake and the development of all the States will be seriously retarded.
No more damning indictment of the financial agreement could be uttered. As a matter of fact,, all who hold responsible positions in the various States have been emphatic in their opposition, to the withdrawal of the per capita payments, and this Parliament would be wanting in its duty if it did not warn the present Government that if it continues to impose unfair conditions on the States, neither those who are responsible for the administration of the affairs of the States nor those entrusted with the control of Commonwealth affairs will be satisfied. It is an iniquitous idea to bind the States and the Commonwealth for the period of 58 years, imposing on citizens yet unborn an obligation in respect of which they have had no voice. I always deprecate any suggestion of repudiation, but in this case I feel that future Governments will have a very strong incentive to rectify the wrong that is being done by the present Government.
The Treasurer utterly failed in his endeavour to place upon past Labour administrations the responsibility for certain steps that have been taken to define the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. As a matter of fact, the unfairness of his comments called forth strong protest from some honorable members on his own side. The Treasurer never deals with the merits of the matter under consideration at the moment. He spends his time in trying to show there is some sinister motive behind the criticism of m the Opposition, and in trying to relieve himself of responsibilities which should rightly be his. It was refreshing to note his failure to prove a worthy defender of his own chief. With the present Ministry it is evidently a case of each man for himself. When he was asked if he would stand by a statement made by the Prime Minister with .reference to the attitude of a past Government that was Labour in complexion, he said “ I am speaking for myself.” That was clearly an admission of the unreliable and misleading nature of the Prime Minister’s words, the incorrectness of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) had already exposed by documentary evidence. All that the Treasurer did to try to exonerate his own leader from the charge of misrepresentation was to show that in 1910 the States had asked for more than was provided for in the agreement made by them with the Deakin Government.
The Treasurer claims that because the Government came back after the elections with a majority in this House, its finan cial proposals had the endorsement of the electors, but no one by any stretch of imagination could make that deduction. At the last election, as at the previous one, the battle cry of the Government on a thousand platforms was the maintenance of law and order and industrial peace, and the financial agreement was lost to sight. It is, therefore, unreasonable for the Treasurer to say that his financial proposals were endorsed by the electors. Does he forget that every honorable member returned to this House to represent Western Australian constituencies is pledged to oppose the Financial Agreement Bill?
– Will each of them stand up to his pledge?
– It will be interesting to note in the immediate future whether the declarations of those honorable gentlemen will .be consistent with the votes they record on this validating bill.
The Treasurer can get very little satisfaction from the total figures cast for the various parties at the last election. The total Labour vote was 1,422,418, not including certain votes which are now the subject of litigation before the Court of Disputed Returns. The Country party’s candidates received 291,567 votes, and those of the Nationalist party 1,157,602. For Independent candidates 34,246 votes were cast, but they were certainly not anti-Labour votes and ought reasonably to be added to the total votes cast for Labour candidates. In these circumstances it is clear that honorable members of the Opposition are more entitled than are honorable members on the Government side of the chamber to declare that they voice the will of the majority of the people of Australia. Further evidence that this proposal did not meet with the approval of the people is provided in the fact that ten members on the ministerial side of the House in the last Parliament lost their seats at the recent election, eight of them to candidates standing in the interests of the Labour party. If the Treasurer advanced that as an argument in support of his case, he would make himself a laughing stock of the community.
– Another such victory by the Government would bring about its downfall.
– Quite so. I have received a telegram from the Register, one of the leading daily newspapers of Adelaide, to the effect that serious concern is felt in South Australia because the Government is -proceeding with the consideration of this bill without waiting for the presentation of the report of the South Australian Disabilities Commission. Unquestionably, that report should be considered before the financial agreement is ratified; otherwise the interests of the State may be seriously prejudiced. That a South Australian newspaper, which lent considerable support to ministerial candidates at the recent elections, should express such hostility to the policy of the Government in this regard, is significant. It is surely not unreasonable to ask the Government to await the receipt of this report before it rides roughshod over the claims that have been advanced for financial assistance for South Australia to offset the disadvantages she has suffered through federation.
– I understand that the report is ready, but the Government appears to be afraid to consider it.
– If that is so, it is scandalous. The deliberate withholding of a report of this description in these circumstances should bring upon the Government the wholehearted condemnation of every right-thinking person. The adoption of such tactics would be most unworthy. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. R. L. Butler, has forwarded me a statement to the effect that if this agreement is ratified, South Australia’s disability due to federation will be at least a further £750,000 per annum. Provision should be made in the bill to recoup South Australia and other States in a similar position, against such losses. In all the circumstances, the Government is entirely unjustified in obliging us to deal with this measure with such indecent haste.
The financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States are most complex. The difficulty of solving some of the problems involved in this question hindered the consummation of federation for many years. If the responsible Ministers of the respective governments of the Australian colonies were unable for so long before federation to agree upon even a temporary settlement of these issues, it is not reasonable to expect us, satisfactorily, to solve the problem for the next 58 years after a debate lasting a few hours. I am quite confident that the people will not approve of such a hurried settlement. I am not a great advocate of State rights. I prefer to see the larger interests of the people of the Commonwealth advanced. But so long as our Constitution remains as it is we must recognize that the States have certain rights which should be preserved. There is another reason why any agreement we may reach in attempting to settle this vexed question should not be for such an extended term as 58 years. It is generally admitted by students of political economy, that the remoulding of the Commonwealth Constitution , is long overdue. Very early in his political life, the Treasurer strongly advocated the remodelling of our present governmental system by the creation of new States. But when his party became associated with the Nationalists and a composite Government was formed, instead of immediately moving in the direction of providing a means for the creation of new States, he said that the Government would hold a constitutional session of Parliament at which this subject, which he had always regarded as of outstanding importance, would be discussed. That promise has never been fulfilled. If the Treasurer is still of the opinion that new States should be formed, it is difficult to understand how he can support an agreement in which provision is made for the control of Commonwealth and State finances over a period of 58 years, and which may interfere most seriously with the new State movement, of which he is supposed to be an ardent supporter.
The amendment of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), which provides for a continuance of the per capita payment for a further period of ten years, when the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States can be further reviewed, must commend itself to all honorable members. In view of all the circumstances, I intend to oppose this measure at every stage, and I trust that when there is a change of Government, which I hope will be at no distant date, the new Government will have sufficient courage and determination to see that the rights of the States are recognized and fully conserved.
– It is surprising to me that honorable members opposite, particularly some of those who have stressed the importance of this measure are not willing to continue the debate. An honorable member opposite who, I believe, expected to receive the call, left the chamber, after a conversation with the Minister. In view of the opinions expressed in this House by Ministers and some of their supporters, I do not know how they intend to justify their support of the bill.
I wish, to refer at the outset to the manner in which the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) introduced this subject, very important measures have been introduced into the Federal Parliament by Prime Ministers and other Ministers, but I do not know of any occasion on which there has been greater misrepresentation of the attitude of the Labour party than there has been in connexion with this bill. I was very glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) unwind the Prime ‘ Minister as effectively as he did this afternoon and prove conclusively that the right honorable gentleman had used arguments that were absolutely misleading. An ineffective apology was offered a little later by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) who, instead of amplifying the Prime Minister’s utterances, or attempting to defend his assertions, slunk away as soon as he was assailed by the Leader of the Opposition. The debate on this measure has proved that the Prime Minister is one of the most unreliable public men in the Commonwealth. If the newspapers deal fairly with the discussion on this measure, the people outside who have stood behind the Prime Minister so assiduously in the past, will in future relinquish their support. A message has been despatched to Ministerial supporters to be present in sufficient numbers to enable the measure to be passed.
– And they have also been instructed how to vote.
– In the Ministerial caucus room the Prime Minister outlines what he proposes, and immediately his supporters bow and agree to his sugges tions. One cannot refrain from describing them as dumb driven cattle. Bather than occupy the position they do, I should prefer to retire from public life. While for months past a certain section of the members on the Ministerial side of the House have opposed the agreement, because of some pressure, political or otherwise, they have now been forced into the position of supporting this measure. The division on the second reading will, no doubt, disclose that they are not now prepared to stand for the principles that they advocated for so many years, preferring to slink behind their fellow members in order to form a majority with which to carry the bill. I cannot conceive of any honorable member, whose desire is for this great country of ours to progress, binding this Parliament to a certain proposal for a period of 58 years. The Treasurer said to-day that he was still in favour of new states, but how will he re-adjust the financial arrangements of the States when other states are created ? It appears to me that honorable members supporting the Government are afflicted with what might be termed the “ State-rights “ microbe. Some of them are voting for this measure because it will to a certain extent preserve the rights and privileges of the States for a period of nearly 60 years. I am no States’ righter. The present boundaries should be regarded by this National Parliament as imaginary, and I hope the day is not far distant when Australia will be divided into a number of provinces under a system similar to that in operation in Canada.
– Is that the Labour party’s platform ?
– The honorable member well knows the Labour party’s platform. We do not call ourselves unificationists. When new states are created, I do not know how the Treasurer will re-adjust the financial arrangements. I leave that to the imagination of his most peculiar brain. I doubt whether his efforts in that direction will be more successful than they have been in evolving other financial schemes. When speaking to-night he posed as a wonderful financial magician; he was the man of all men in Australian who could propound schemes under which Australia would advance by leaps and bounds ! We have only to look back for three years to ascertain how far Australia has descended financially. Instead of the huge surpluses of the past we now find ourselves in a serious financial position. Our public works are being curtailed, and unemployment is rife throughout Australia. It is evident that the Treasurer’s financial forecast will not be realized, and that Australia will be in arrears considerably over £3,000,000 at the end of this financial year.
– Does the honorable member mean in addition to last year’s deficit?
– Yes. At the end of last financial year the estimate of revenue was short by £2,500,000. The Treasurer budgeted for an increase in customs revenue of over £1,000,000, and up to date that estimate is £1,000,000 short. Therefore, at the end of this financial year we shall probably have a deficit of £3,000,000. I do not blame the Treasurer alone for that; but if he is inefficient he should be removed from his present office.
During a speech that I made some time ago in this House I drew attention to the fact that the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett), when a private member, had referred to the Treasurer as the most tragic Treasurer Australia had ever had. I also remarked that it might happen that associated with that tragic Treasurer we might have a tragic Minister for Trade and Customs. That prediction has come true; they are working side by side to-day. I should like to hear the view of the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) on the financial agreement, because I am expecting that his speech will not be altogether in favour of the bill. Whether he has had influences brought to bear upon him in respect of his vote, remains to be seen. I think that he will agree with me that it is difficult to understand why the comparatively small item of transferred property should be mixed up in the agreement.
– That is the only bit of humour in it.
– The agreement includes transferred properties, such as post offices, customs houses, defence buildings, and, I believe, some vacant land which was taken over at federation.
They were then valued at £10,000,000. For about 28 years we have been paying to the States interest at 3£ per cent, on those transferred properties. It requires only a little calculation to show that the amount of interest we have paid is almost equal to. the value of the properties. I take it that the rate of interest will now be 5 per cent, instead of 3^ per cent.
-In fairness to the States the rate should have been increased years ago.
– With an overflowing Treasury, which the Commonwealth has enjoyed for many years, sound financiers would have seen that those properties were paid for and the transaction closed. To continue the account for a further 58 years is stupid. Already on assets valued at £10,000,000 we have paid over £7,000,000 in interest. When the Financial Agreement Bill was before this Parliament last year, the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) moved the following amendment to the motion that the bill be read a second time -
That all the words after the word “That” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill, involving as it does an alteration of the Constitution, be postponed until Parliament has had an opportunity to discuss a comprehensive scheme of constitutional reform, including the evidence taken before tlie royal commission now sitting and its proposals when made.”
The report of the royal commission to which he then referred is not yet before us. No honorable member is prepared to say that the agreement has been voluntarily entered into by any State Premier or Treasurer. The first proposals of the Commonwealth were not entertained by the ‘ State Premiers, and consequently, fresh proposals had to be submitted to them. That those proposals were accepted is . no evidence that the State Premiers and Treasurers agreed with them. They accepted them only under compulsion. Referring to the agreement, Mr. Hogan, when Premier of Victoria, said -
On the 2nd March of this year the Prime Minister proceeded with the Bill providing for the abolition of the per capita payments, and this bill was agreed to by both Houses on 22nd March, 1927 (Act No. 4 of 1927). The States were thus finally deprived of any share of the customs and excise revenue. . . Act No. 4 of 1927 had been passed by the
Commonwealth Parliament and its action was constitutional. The per capita payments were to be stopped after this year, and the Commonwealth was tendering a promissory note for handing over a mythical surplus. This Government, as well as other State Governments, had to make the best of the situation.
Mr. Collier, the Premier of Western Australia, has spoken to the same effect. I propose also to quote certain remarks made by Sir William McPherson -when Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament. Speaking of one conference which he attended as Treasurer of Victoria, Sir William McPherson said -
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) came to the conference in - I do not want to say anything that is not correct - a not very conciliatory mood. He said, “ We are determined that this per capita grant shall cease.” The Premiers felt that they had to do something. Admittedly, the Federal Parliament had it in their power to abolish the per capita grant. . . . The Premier referred last night to a statement made by the Queensland Premier that the States practically agreed in 1923 to the abolition of the per capita grant. We were driven to do it. We were told that the per capita grant would be taken away. We had no choice in the matter. “But,” we said, “if you are going to do that, get out of the field of direct taxation altogether.”
– They did not agree to anything of the kind in 1923.
– I have not quoted the whole of Sir William McPherson’s remarks. In financial matters consideration must be given to the smaller States. New South Wales and Victoria, being large manufacturing States with comparatively large populations, are, naturally, in a better financial position than are some of the smaller and less populated States. Those big States, through their representatives in the Federal Parliament, will always be willing to come to the rescue of the smaller and less fortunately situated States, ir- respective of the terms of any financial agreement that may be entered into. That is only fair and just. Sir William McPherson, in speaking of the decisions arrived at by the Loan Council, went on to say -
The Commonwealth, plus two of the smaller States, namely, Western Australia, which has, I think,’ a population of 320,000, and Tasmania, which has a population of about 250,000, can together outvote Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, which together have a population of 5,500,000. That does not seem to be right tome. I do not like placing ourselves practically in pawn to the Loan Council.
That deals with a different aspect of the problem, to which I shall direct myself on a later occasion. It is unnecessary for me to quote from the speech delivered by the Prime Minister, as that was effectively answered by the Leader of the Opposition. It is difficult to define the position of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) in this matter. I do not think that he has made a definite speech on the subject. But, judging from his occasional remarks, one may reasonably assume that the honorable member is decidedly uneasy about the terms of the agreement. As is well known, he voted against the Government when the Labour party endeavoured to postpone the ratification of this agreement. Now, according to the press, to which I do not always pay serious attention, the honorable member has been convinced that it is the right thing to vote for the agreement. I shall defer my criticism on that prophecy until a vote is taken on the second reading. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) delivered a fairly strong speech against the agreement, which I shall not quote, and declared that he intended to make his position perfectly clear before his electors. I gather, from interjections that have been made, that seven or eight of the twelve members now representing South Australia and Western Australia are averse to the ratification of the agreement. The vote on the second reading will disclose whether any conversations have taken place. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Gullett) last year had something to say about the financial agreement, as may be gathered by a reference to page 4011 of Hansard, No. 28, of the 21st March, 1928. In the course of a shortspeech the honorable gentleman said -
It may be remembered that I strongly favour a substantial reduction of revenue duties, and that I am also very sympathetic towards a reduction of excise. I look forward to seeing the customs and excise duties substantially less than at present. If that hope is realized, the States would be in an even worse position than they are in to-day.
– Did the honorable gentleman then show how a drop in the customs and excise revenue would directly affect the States?
Mr.FENTON. - No. He stated that he was favorable to a substantial reduction of revenue duties, and very sympathetic towards a reduction of excise. He continued -
I look upon the whole agreement as purely of a temporary nature; otherwise, I should not have supported the second reading. I do not, for one moment, anticipate that it will last for 58 years. The original provision for paying the States three-quarters of the customs revenue lasted for only ten years after federation, while the per capita payments operated for eighteen years. It seems logical, therefore, to assume that this agreement will stand only until the people, in their own generation, decide to alter it. I know of nothing more absurd than that this House should attempt solemnly to legislate for 58 years ahead in the supremely important realm of finance. If I thought that the agreement would last for that term I should not view it as favorably as I now do. It is merely a good temporary arrangement.
– Where is the honorable gentleman now?
– I do not know. Some have said that “ Gullett has been golloped.”
– Order !
– I prefer that the honorable gentleman should be present in this chamber, as it is rather depressing to make quotations from the speech of an honorable member who is absent. Perhaps I should have sent for the honorable members for Fawkner and Forrest before referring to their views. I have read the statement of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who is now Minister for Trade and Customs. What attitude will he adopt when the vote is taken on the second reading of the bill? He describes Dr. Earle Page as a tragic Treasurer; but apparently we have a tragic Minister for Customs, too. He went on to say on the occasion to which I have referred -
The Treasurer referred again to the effect this agreement would have in enhancing the credit of the Commonwealth. I strongly deprecate these highly-coloured assurances as to the effect which the agreement will have upon the credit of the Commonwealth, in either reducing the interest rates or improving our credit abroad. It is a pity that that aspect of the agreement has been so greatly exaggerated.
If I were to say such things about the Treasurer, my statements would be dismissed as being inspired by political prejudice; but that was said by a man who is now Minister for Customs in the pre sent Government. He then went on to criticize by inference the financial management of this Government -
More important than the machinery by which we borrow and repay money, is theuse to which we put it, and we shall be judged by the world not for our sinking funds and arrangements for borrowing, but by the purposes to which we devote money when it is lent to us. That our credit in the world stands relatively low in comparison with that of other British dominions is not because of the absence of sinking funds or of inefficient borrowing machinery, but because of the rate of our expenditure in recent years and the extent to which the money has been employed upon unprofitable works.
Some honorable members on the otherside are continually turning mental somersaults. What inducement, I wonder, is held out to them to change their opinions, and sacrifice their principles? If the honorable member for Henty votes for this agreement, which is the same agreement against which he spoke last year, how will he reconcile his action with his previous utterances? I presume that he will vote with the Government without giving honorablemembers, or his constituents, any reason for his change of attitude. I think that it is due to honorable members of thisHouse to know why he has changed hisopinion.
As an Australian, and one who believes in the progress of Australia, I protest against a proposal to tie up therevenues of the Commonwealth for 58 years ahead. Such action would be criminal. It would not be in the interests of the people as a whole. The electors, I believe, have now realized which party stands for the real national interests. I presume that honorable members oppositehave already made up their minds asto ‘how they shall vote. Honorable members of that party who were inclined tobe recalcitrant have been brought to heel. It would be interesting to know the process by which this was done. Their credit in the eyes of their constituentswill not be enhanced -by this performance, for it must be evident to those whom they represent that they cannot be relied upon.
The State will benefit under the agreement for only the first few years; after that the revenue they will derive under it will steadily diminish. The honorablemember for Perth (Mr. Mann) has reduced his estimate of the total loss. which will be sustained by the States. He said at first that it would be over £300,000,000; hut he has now accepted the Attorney-General’s estimate of £158,000,000. In my opinion, it will be greater than that. The estimate of the honorable member for Perth was made, not by himself, but by a qualified statistician. It is clear from the calculations of the statistician that the States are likely to lose nearer £380,000,000 than £150,000,000. Even according to the figures used by the Attorney-General they will lose at least the latter sum. The representatives of the States were between the devil and the deep sea, and they accepted, under duress, what the Commonwealth offered, fearing that if they refused they would get nothing. Mr. Hogan, Mr. McCormack, Mr. Collier, and Mr. Forgan Smith have stated, “ We were forced into the agreement and we had to make the best of a bad situation. “ An arrangement made under those conditions is not likely to prove lasting.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Watt) adjourned.
.- In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I make the formal announcement, for the information of those honorable members who did not hear of it last night or this afternoon,- that the Government proposes to ask the House to meet on Monday next.
.- Honorable members of the Opposition have no objection to the House meeting on Monday; if there is business to do the Government is entitled to ask the House to meet on every day in the week, but honorable members are reasonably entitled to adequate notice of any proposed change in the days of sitting. Many of them made engagements in their constituencies for the coming week-end, and the Prime Minister might, as an act of courtesy, have informed them before they left for their homes on Friday afternoon, of the proposed additional sitting day so that they could make their arrangements accordingly.
– Most honorable members return to their homes at the week-end, and last week many of us, expecting that the House would not meet until Tuesday, made public engagements for Saturday next. I think that some notice of the Government’s intention to propose an additional sitting day might have been given to us. I have no objection to sitting an extra day, but the Government has not acted fairly in springing this change upon us without warning. I understood that this week and next week the House would meet on Tuesday and in the following week on Monday. However, this treatment is only what we may expect from the present Government, and when honorable members opposite ask us to be kind, generous, and tolerant towards them, they are expecting too much of human nature.
.- I hope the Prime Minister’s intimation regarding the Monday sitting is not his last word on the subject. Whatever may be our views in regard to the operation of the guillotine and the closure, I hope we have not reached that stage when the ordinary courtesies of parliamentary life will be set aside. The right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that it is a matter of great importance to members of the Opposition that they shall attend regularly in this House on all sitting days, and they are quite prepared to do so, but they have also obligations in their constituencies.- I, like other honorable members, have made public engagements in accordance with what I understood would be the sitting days of this House next week. In the past, it has been customary to give to honorable members ample notice of any change so that when they returned to their constituencies they could arrange their public engagements accordingly. If the Prime Minister replies to this complaint, that the Opposition members have expressed a desire to sit here and work, such a retort will be quite unworthy and unjust. Our objection is that great confusion and inconvenience will result if the House is to meet on Monday next without adequate notice, thus causing honorable members to break engagements they have made. The inconvenience will be greater by reason of the fact that, because of the extra sitting days, the opportunities for attending to public business in our electorates have been reduced to a minimum. Apparently the Prime Minister has not even consulted the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the Monday sitting, but it is not too late for him to tell the House that he will have regard for the convenience of members on both sides, unless of course his own supporters were taken into his confidence earlier. I ask him to reconsider his decision.
.- I desire to bring to your notice, Mr. Speaker, the fact that to any one using the telephone cabinets adjacent to the chamber, the division bells are inaudible. This afternoon, while questions upon notice were being answered, I left the chamber to speak on the telephone to the secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department. While I was thus engaged the division bells rang, but I did not hear them, and when I sought to re-enter the chamber, the doors were locked and I missed the division. I suggest that inquiries should be made as to the possibility of fixing bells where they can be heard in the telephone boxes. If I had been present in the chamber this afternoon I should have recorded my vote against the question “ that’ the Financial Agreement Validation Bill be considered an urgent bill.”
.- In view of the fact that the Prime Minister’s announcement that the ‘ House 13 to meet on Monday next has come as a complete surprise to honorable members of the Opposition, I suggest that he might allow the matter to pass for the coming week and have the Monday sitting in the following week. I quite appreciate the necessity for honorable members sitting here until their work is done. If it is the intention to rise on the 22nd instant, or even at a later date,
I am sure that honorable members will be willing to sit in the mornings or later at night. I suggest, however, that when drastic alterations of the sitting days are to be made the Opposition should be consulted, or at least notified. The alteration of the first sitting day of the week from Wednesday to Tuesday made very little difference, but the further change from Tuesday to Monday makes a great deal of difference. It prevents quite a large number of honorable members from doing any work in their constituencies or in the State capitals. If honorable members arrive in Sydney on Friday night there is very little time for them to do anything on Saturday, and if they are compelled to leave Sydney again on Sunday night they cannot do what they have set aside to do at the week end. I suggest that next Monday might be left clear to honorable members.
.- I wish to ask whether in connexion with next week’s sitting it is intended to meet on each afternoon or in the morning, and whether the Government can indicate the legislation which it proposes to dispose of before the House adjourns.
.- I have no desire to shirk my parliamentary responsibilities. I cannot get to my home at the week end. It would take three days to reach it and three days to return. But when the Prime Minister intimated that the House was to meet on Tuesday I made arrangements to spend this week end with some relatives who live not too far away from Canberra, but far enough to prevent me from getting back to my duties by Monday. I ask the right honorable gentleman to consider the convenience of honorable members and postpone the Monday sitting until the following week. We can sit in the mornings if necessary.
– I think it was last Friday that the Prime Minister said, that in order that honorable members should not be inconvenienced, he would give them due notice that the House would meet on Tuesdays. Every honorable member left Canberra with the full understanding that the Prime Minister was consulting the convenience of the House and the fact waa appreciated. I took it for granted, as I think every other honorable member did, that the arrangement was to continue until the rising of Parliament.
– I thought that honorable members opposite were anxious to
– I hope that the honorable member is not expressing the view of the Government. Honorable members of the Opposition have rightly taken objection to a reecnt curtailment of their privileges, and I hope that this announcement by the Prime Minister is not in the nature of a step of retaliation. The people will not be impressed by it. An extra sitting day will not help the Government very much in its desire to deal with certain work before Easter. The real question at issue is that honorable members are entitled to ordinary courtesy. It strikes me that ‘ the step taken by the Government is an act of reprisal for the attitude taken up by the Opposition. It is certainly no credit to the Government. I distinctly remember the Prime Minister saying on Friday last, that he desired to give honorable members due notice of the Tuesday sittings, so that they might make their arrangements. At any rate, we left Canberra with the distinct understanding that the House would meet on Tuesdays, but now we are told that that arrangement is all off, and that the House is to meet next Monday. It is a distinct act of discourtesy. I remind the right honorable gentleman that honorable members of the Opposition can retaliate. The proposal of the Opposition is that Parliament should continue its sittings after Easter. We strongly object to a recess of five months. If the Government is right in saying that it has a full programme of work to he done, it will make very little progress by asking the House to sit on an extra day. The proper way for the Government to get through its programme is to ask the House to resume after Easter. Only in that way can it satisfy the people that it is not shirking its duties. I resent this breach of faith on the part of the Prime Minister, who gave us a distinct undertaking at the last week end that in future the House was to meet on Tuesdays. I trust that some other motive is actuating the Prime Minister than that of retaliating on the Opposition for the criticism offered by it.
.- I do not regard the announcement made by the Prime Minister as an act of discourtesy to honorable members. It ia somewhat interesting to hear the suggestion of some honorable members, who live practically adjacent to Canberra and who are privileged to get to their homes each week end, that we should meet after Easter. They forget that other honorable members live in distant States, and have to remain in Canberra for the whole of the session, I think that the Government oan get through its programme by Easter, if we sit each day without working late at night. It is ungenerous .of honorable members who live reasonably close to Canberra to adopt this attitude. Evidently they would not mind bringing members who live in distant States back here to finish up a little business that could be done before the adjournment. This is only Wednesday so I think it may be said that the Prime Minister has given reasonable notice of the proposed Monday sitting.
, - I regret that the suggestion has been made that I have been guilty of discourtesy to. honorable gentlemen opposite. The even more unworthy suggestion has. been put forward that my proposal was inspired by some desire to adopt retaliatory measures for something that honorable gentlemen opposite may have done. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) even charges me with a breach of faith. There is no justification for any of these accusations. Whatever may be my faults, I. have always endeavoured to act courteously towards honorable members opposite. T certainly would not be led into the adoption - of measures of a retaliatory character as has been suggested. This is Wednesday, so I think it may be said that I have given fair notice of the proposed Monday sitting. A number of honorable members must have known last night that the Government was considering whether it would or would not be necessary to sit on Monday. The Secretary of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts telephoned me this morning to ascertain whether the House would sit on Monday next. I informed him that it would, and that he could so advise his committee. Honorable members from both sides of the House are members of that committee, and they must have known yesterday that there was a likelihood of the House being palled together on Monday. I told the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon that we should be meeting on Monday. I have, therefore, done everything that I could reasonably do to meet the convenience of honorable members. One honorable member observed that I informed the Houselast week that it was proposed to meet on Tuesday of this week, Tuesday of next week, and Monday of the following week in order to dispose of the business which the Government de- sired to do before Easter; but I remind honorable members opposite that they upset that arrangement somewhat by taking up the whole of last Friday in discussing a motion which was given precedence over Government business, but which, nevertheless, prevented the Government programme from being carried out.
– The Prime Minister could have given this notice on Friday last.
– I was somewhat precluded from doing that because of certain tactics that were adopted at the close of last Friday’s sitting. I have never been guilty of any intentional discourtesy to honorable . members opposite. I have always endeavoured to meet the convenience of honorable members on both sides of the chamber. I am quite prepared to discuss with the Leader of the Opposition whether it would be convenient or otherwise to meet in the mornings instead of adding to the sitting days. I shall also take the opportunity of discussing with him the measures which the Government, proposes to bring forward before the end of the session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290306_reps_11_120/>.