1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the choir at 2.30 p.m.; and read prayers.
Senator McGREGOR presented a petition from 568 electors of South Australia, praying for the early enactment of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
Petition received and read.
Senator HIGGS presentedtwo petitions from fifty electors of Queensland, praying the Senate to prohibit the introduction, sale, and manufacture of intoxicating liquors in British New Guinea.
– I have received no further information, but I shall endeavour to ascertain what the position is, and let the honorable senator know before the Senate adjourns.
Senator BRAKE laid upon the table the following papers : -
Papers relating to the agreement between the Governmentof the Commonwealth and the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
Ordered to be printed.
Regulations under Customs Act.
asked theVice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Senator O’Connor) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South
Australia). - I take advantage of this opportunity to say that, as honorable senators are aware, I viewed the principle of this Bill with very great disfavour. ‘I did so because, for one reason, my Imperialism consists of a desire to make Australia reliant, selfsufficing, and powerful, to put her in a position to be ready and able to defend herself without being a burden on the mother country, and also to enable her within her own resources to go to the help of, and to stand by, the mother country on any occasion of national stress or peril. Thathas always been, as I think honorable senators will do me the justice of believing, my aspiration and my longing in connexion with the Commonwealth. I felt that an arrangement for our defence by a naval force provided by the mother country might tend to weaken that feeling of self-reliance. I saw that it might be possible in time to induceus to trust to resources other than our own. I hope that these fears on my part may be altogether without foundation and altogether mistaken. I felt that even, if it were necessary that temporarily our shores should be defended by a naval force provided by the mother country, there need be no bond or agreement of -any sort. I should have preferred, on the one hand a contribution, large as our resources would enable us to make it, to the financial responsibility of the Empire, and on the other hand, that the -assistance rendered to us should be equally spontaneous and equally _ unfettered by written bonds on the part of the mother country. My professional career has been sufficiently long to convince me that very often there are no more fertile sources of difference -and dissension than contracts and written instruments. But the Senate by a substantial - I think I may say a large - majority has declared these apprehensions of mine to be unfounded, and I am content. It has been said that a certain memorandum or minute of the late Minister for Defence had been iri some way secretly used to influence the course of action resulting in this agreement, upon which, we are told, the Prime Minister would probably not have entered if he had been untrammelled. Unfortunately, I was not present when the debate took’ place,
And when Senator Matheson’s exhaustive and valuable questions were referred to and answered. But I have read with the greatest diligence and attention all that was said on that occasion - the questions, the answers, and the explanation - and I ambound to say that I can find no evidence of any such use, secret or otherwise, of that minute or memorandum.
First of all, we had “hireling” Judges, now we have a “hireling” navy.
That was the first occasion on which the term, “ hireling navy,” or hireling fleet,” was used in the course of the debate.
My honorable and learned friend knows that the Senate would have none of the “hireling” Judges -
That is his own expression - and I hope it will have none of the “hireling” fleet.
His own expression also, in the interjection
Unite the Empire - make it stand compact, Shoulder to shoulder let its members feel The touch of British brotherhood ; And act us one great nation - strong and true as steel.
That is what I want-the touch of British brotherhood, the enduring ties of kinship, of blood and of affection.
– I rise to offer another protest against the passage of this measure. It will not be a long protest because there is a limit to my endurance, and I desire to save a little energy for another agreement which is to come before the Senate very shortly. There are, in the history of this young Federation of ours, certain red-letter days to which I shall always be able to look back with a great deal of pleasure. But to-day will be what I may describe as a black-letter day It will always give me feelings of the greatest bitterness. I will briefly refer to a few of my objections to this Bill. In the first place the Government had no authority from the electors to enter into such an arrangement. My opinion is that if the electors had an opportunity of expressing an opinion, there would be a very large majority against the agreement ; and I consider that it is a poor recompense to the people of New South Wales, who gave Sir Edmund Barton something like 90,000 votes at the time of the elections to the Convention, for him to enter into such an agreement as this without a mandate. Members of the Federal Parliament have been largely influenced by the factthat the Prime Minister entered into such an arrangement. They felt that it would be a reflection upon his honour, and, to some extent, upon the Commonwealth if the agreement were not ratified. I have no doubt that that was the real motive that prompted many honorable members in another place to vote for it. A further objection I have to the Bill is that we cannot afford the £200,000 per annum which we are to spend upon the navy. The taxpayers of the Commonwealth are already sufficiently burdened. The Australians are a working community. They have to work for every thing they get. Our producers have to endurefireandfamine,floodand drought. They have at the same time to meet a huge bill of some £16,000,000 per annum for interest. I have not the same belief that Senator Symon appears to have that the arrangement will turn out all right. I believe that this cash nexus between Australia and. the mother country will lead to irritation. It has given us a grievance. Certainly it has given me a grievance ; and I believe’ that my opinion will be shared by a large number of people throughout Australia, who will not rest satisfied until the agreement is. terminated. Quite recently in Queensland a Navy League has been formed. Its object is to establish an Australian Navy. The league will have branches in various parts of Australia. Its members will be sorry when they see that £200,000 per annum is to be paid to the British Admiralty. Last night honorable senators cheered the sentiment that there was nothing in this agreement to prevent the establishment of an Australian Navy. But if* honorable senators think for a moment they must see that while we pay away £200,000 in the manner proposed by this agreement, a further expenditure in the establishment of naval forces will be condemned on all hands. I venture to think that no attempt will be made by the present Government to encourage in any way the formation of an Australian Navy. Sir John Forrest himself said, in the pamphlet containing his speech, which he issued, “I hope that the establishment of an Australian Navy will never come in my time.”
– That is a national sentiment !
– I know that this sentiment is not shared by other members of” the Cabinet ; but we are aware that Sir
John Forrest has a strong personality, and while he is a member of the- Government I venture to think that no proposal will be made in the direction we should like. I shall not take up any more time. Many honorable senators have been indulgent to me. Others have not. Some endeavoured to devise ways and means for putting a stop to full discussion.
– They failed miserably !
– I do not know that they failed miserably. If there had been a few more senators - say half-a-dozen - who felt as Strongly upon this question as Senator Matheson and I do, I venture to think that we should not now be objecting to the third reading of the Bill. But two or three, men cannot fight fifteen, and we have to back down as gracefully as we can.
– I do not think that during my parliamentary experience ‘I have ever made a third-reading speech before. I had no intention of doing so to-day, but Senator Symon has alluded to a matter which I thought was dead, and which I was prepared to leave at rest. It might very well have’ been left alone. I refer to the questions concerning Sir John Forrest’s memorandum which I put to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, -and the replies he made to me. Senator Symon tells us that he has been , through those questions and answers very carefully, -and can see no evidence that Sir Edmund Barton was unduly influenced by Sir John Forrest’s memorandum. I quite agree with him. One can go through the questions and answers and find no evidence whatever in that direction. It was never suggested that any such evidence would be elicited by those questions and answers. But iB any evidence is needed on the point it can be found in Lord Selborne’s address to the Conference of Premiers. Lord Selborne stated explicitly that the memorandum of agreement between the colonies and the British Government was based upon the scheme which had been arranged between Sir John Forrest and Bear- Admiral Beaumont. I do not intend to touch upon that question any further; but it was necessary that I should touch upon it in order to point out that the questions and answers alluded to had no reference whatever to the matter of the agreement. By my questions I did not attempt to prove that the agreement was due to the memorandum, but the proof is in print in the papers relating to the Conference. We have had Senator O’Connor’s admission that Sir John Forrest’s memorandum was put before the Conference with the consent of the Prime Minister. That statement I frankly accepted. But we also find Sir John Forrest informing the representative of a newspaper that his memorandum was never formally presented to the Conference. Those are diametrically opposite statements - one proceeding from Sir John Forrest, and the other from the Prime Minister through Senator O’Connor. I leave the matter there. I do not propose to allude to it again. But as I am speaking, I must express my regret that the Government did not see their way, last night, to accept the two amendments to the preamble which I suggested. I particularly want to call attention to that, because, in days to come, it will be of vital importance to the country and to Parliament to remember that though the Vice-President of the Executive Council and the leader of the Government, in the House of Representatives, told Parliament that Australian rates of pay were to be paid, and though it has been pointed out to them that no provision exists in the agreement for Australian rates to be paid, they absolutely refused to allow a provision to be inserted in the preamble to the Bill, to the effect that we passed the measure upon that understanding. Further, we have been told that a second-class cruiser and three thirdclass cruisers are to be manned with Australian seamen. I have pointed out that there is no provision in the agreement to that effect, and I asked the Government to agree to an amendment to be inserted where it could have done no harm whatever, to the effect that we consented to the agreement on the understanding that those terms should be carried- out. Again the Government refused to allow that trifling alteration to be made. The only inference which Parliament and the public can draw is that the Government are not satisfied that those terms will be carried out. If they were satisfied, there could be no earthly objection to the insertion of those provisions.
– It is a pity that on the third reading of the Bill the name of Sir John Forrest has again been introduced. I said nothing about him when his name was dragged in on the previous occasion. What
I gather is that, in Senator Matheson’s opinion, Sir John Forrest is responsible for the agreement which has commended itself to both Houses of this Parliament. If that be the case, the agreement remains as a tribute to his memory.
– Both Houses merely agreed to the Bill because the Prime Minister had agreed to it.
– My opinion is that the agreement was made by the Prime Minister, and not by Sir John Forrest ; but I say again that if it were made by Sir John Forrest, all the better for him. It is a credit to him. But it is a pity that that personal issue should be dragged into the discussion of a great question of policy like this. I like the attitude of Senator Higgs. He is against the Bill, and he speaks against it from its beginning to its end. We know where he is. But there are others who have opposed the Bill more vehemently and at greater length than Senator Higgs has done, who are now making remarks in its favour. It is the greatest tribute to Sir John Forrest and to the Prime Minister, and to everyone else connected with the agreement, that some of those who came to curse have remained to pray. I give them all the credit that is due for their late conversion, and I hope that the agreement will prove as excellent in operation asI am sure their later inclinations will lead them to wish it to be.
– I wish to enter a final protest against this Bill on the motion for its third reading. I protest against it in the first place because I think thatit might have been left over until the people could have been consulted with regard to the subject. The old agreement could have stood, and no harm would have been done by a little delay. I also wish to say - and this is a point that the Senate may well bear in mind, as a result of the lesson which they have been taught in regard to this matter - that when next a proposal comes before Parliament for any Australian statesman to go to England with authority to confer with Imperial and other British statesmen, I hope that we shall take good care that there will be no implication that we are in honour bound to support any arrangementthatis arrived at. I say distinctly that at least one honorable senator voted for this agreement, not on its merits, but because of a mistaken sense of honour, and because it had been assented toby the Prime Minister.
– That honorable senator paired.
– His was an effective pair. The lesson we have to learn is that if, in regard to preferential trade or any other matter, it is proposed that a representative of the Commonwealth shall meet in. Conference any member of the Imperial Government, we ought to have an expression of opinion from the Senate before he leaves Australia. It is evidently useless to elicit post-mortem expressions of” opinion. The whole matter is settled before it is submitted to Parliament, and it then becomes a party question.
– Parliament could have thrown out the Naval Agreement Bill if it liked.
– But the honorable senator knows that if that had been done there would havebeen a change of Government. The protectionist members in another place were aware that, if they rejected this agreement, the probabilities were that a free-trade Government would be brought into power. That is not a right way of deciding a question of this sort. It should not be a party question in any sense. The Prime Minister distinctly stated that the Government would regard the rejection of the Bill as a vote of no-confidence in themselves. There was the crack of the party whip over the heads of Government supporters, compelling them to vote for the agreement or turn out the Ministry. A question of this kind should not be decided in that way. If I am a member of the Senate, when any future proposal is made to invest a Minister with authority to confer with British statesmen, I shall take care that my voice is raised in protest, unless Parliament first expresses an opinion on the subjects which are to be dealt with by the Conference.
– I am astonished at honorable senators, who represent the minority, continually harping on this question. They have fought the matter, and have been beaten ; and surely they do not desire to coerce the majority to their way of thinking, or to bring parliamentary institutions into disrespect?
– We have a right to express our opinion.
– But the minority have no right to insist on coercing; the majority. “We have now had five days of protracted debate, a few honorable senators ‘ having ‘ obstructed business, and prevented our coming to a decision. I do not regard that as fair fighting, because, when I am beaten I give in, and do not resort to continual wrangling. Do the Labour representatives desire to force on this country an enormous expense, of which we at present can have no conception 1 They are proposing to take men, who are the bone and sinew of the country, and place them in sinecure positions so as to form an amateur Australian Navy.
– Who proposes that?
– That is shown by the proposals of the minority. The motto of the old country is “ Defence, not Defiance,” but the minority in this Chamber want to reverse that motto, and with the little cockleshells of an Australian Navy go out and defy the world. A pretty mess we should make of such an undertaking ! If it were not for the great Power, to which I am proud to belong, how should we fare 1
– Why did the honorable senator not stop in the old country, if he is so proud of it ?
– I came out to better my position, and no one has worked harder in Australia than myself. I am ashamed that men should belittle their native land. , 1 am sure that Senator Higgs in his calmer moments will admit that the majority on this measure have been very good-tempered, and have allowed the question to be debated until it is threadbare, although the standing orders give absolute power to the majority to stop what they may consider to be irrelevant discussion.
– Why was that not done?
– Because the majority desired not to use brute force, but to give every honorable senator an opportunity of discussing the measure at length. I have hitherto refrained from making any remarks on the Bill, simply because so much time has been wasted. I feel convinced, however, that honorable senators who approach the consideration of this agreement with an unprejudiced mind must be satisfied that the Government have made an admirable bargain. 9 l
– Honorable senators must have looked into the measure, if they have discussed it threadbare.
– Some people do not approach any subject with a desire to acquire information, but merely with a determination to see only its black side. An unworthy insinuation has been cast on representatives of New South Wales, to the effect .that they were determined to have this measure passed in its entirety, because of certain advantages which would accrue to that State. It is most undesirable to raise up jealousies between States, and I am glad to say that in Victoria we take broader and larger views. I challenge any honorable senator to saythat a Victorian representative has ever unduly advocated the claims of that State in the Senate.
– Will the honorable senator vote for the transcontinental ] ail way ?
– No, I shall not ; and I know something about railways, seeing that they have been the study of my life.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to be led away by interjections to discuss the question of the transcontinental railway.
– I am thankful to the Government for fighting this question manfully and fairly. The Opposition have been allowed every latitude, and, after exhausting all their ammunition, they have signally failed in their attack. I feel convinced that honorble senators who now oppose this agreement, will, in the light of future experience, have reason to thank the Government for not undertaking the expensive venture of establishing an Australian Navy. Again, I must compliment the Government on the masterly way in which this Bill has been conducted through the Senate, a Bill which will give effect to one of the best bargains ever made for Australia.
– ‘A remark made by Senator Walker must be my excuse, as a young member, for taking the unusual course of rising to speak at this stage of the measure. Senator Walker is a year or two older than myself, and more experienced, and, therefore, I suppose I must accept his statement when he says that a pair does not count. But if that be so, I feel I have made a great mistake. I am as strongly opposed to this BUI as is any honorable senator, and if Senator Walker be right, I have thrown away my vote, seeing that I paired for the division. I paired with an honorable senator who, to use an expression we have heard before, gave his vote for the agreement through a mistaken sense of honour of loyalty to the Government, while using the most denunciatory expressions regarding it. In future when I ‘feel very strongly about a measure 1 shall be very careful as to the way in which I pair. On the second reading I entered my protest against the measure, but, to be in the fashion, I ought, perhaps, to emphasize that protest. I recognise, however, that “ the numbers are up,” and, as one who believes in the democratic principle that the majority must rule, I shall allow the Bill to go through. It was because I believed in that principle that I was not found supporting the honorable senator who spoke at such length in submitting various amendments. Had J thought for a moment there was the slightest chance of changing a vote, I should have been as ready as that honorable senator to fight against the measure day after day. But when there is no chance of success we can only enter our protest. While I do not believe that the agreement is a good bargain for Australia, I trust that opinions which have been expressed in the opposite direction will prove to be correct.
– I think it will be found that the agreement, as to which there has been so much debate, will prove to be a most admirable bargain for Australia, and at the same time will give an opportunity of developing Australian sea power to the fullest possible extent, or according to the money which Parliament may be inclined to vote for that purpose. But I have risen to speak more particularly about the constitutional aspect of the question. I was in doubt myself as to what power we had with regard to the agreement which forms the schedule to the Bill. It appears to me, from what Senator Pearce says, that we may get a wrong view as to the meaning of responsible government when regarded iti connexion with negotiating agreements and contracts with other Powers - and in time to come we may have to deal with treaties, so far as we have the right to make them - and a word or two on this point will not be thrown away. When the Prime Minister was leaving for England, I noticed that he was rather hectored about what he was going to do. Parliament required from him, and he seemed to tacitly assent, that he would do nothing of a binding nature without the authority of Parliament. It appears to me that the Prime Minister went away with his hands tied in an improper way ; but, of course, he knew what he was about. He knew he was perfectly within his rights ; and he practically carried out the promise he had made, when he signed the contract subject to its ratification by Parliament. I take it that under the circumstances Parliament can only ratify or reject the agreement as it was made by the Prime Minister. The way in which the matter came before the Senate rather confused us. We had a Bill with the agreement in the schedule, and we passed the second reading. Then we went into Committee, and some honorable senators seemed to think that every clause of the agreement could be amended. But I hold - as 1 think the Chairman of Committees held - that no part of the agreement could be amended. There are very few precedents to guide us ; but I am indebted to Senator Symon for reminding me that when Mr. Disraeli purchased a number of shares in the Suez Canal there was a long complicated agreement entered into, which, however, was never embodied in a Bill. All that was done was to bring in a Bill, appropriating the £4,000,000 which Mr. Disraeli, on his responsibility as Prime Minister of England, had agreed to give to the Suez Canal Company for certain shares.
– But Mr. Disraeli had to face a no-confidence motion.
- Mr. Disraeli had, of course, to take the responsibility for his action. A Prime Minister of England would not be sent to Berlin or to St. Petersburg to negotiate a treaty between Germany, France and England, or between Russia, France and England, and then be called upon to place that treaty in the form of a Bill before Parliament, and allow members of the House of Commons to hack and alter it. The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, like the Prime Minister of England, must have power to enter into any contract he likes ; agreements with nations situated in different parts of the world cannot be negotiated across the table of the Senate in Melbourne.
– All that -was necessary in the present case was to bring down an Appropriation Bill.
– I take it that only that was necessary.
– But the Prime Minister carried out his promise more fully by introducing the Bill now before us.
– I am not in any way finding fault with the manner in which the Government introduced the Bill, because I am inclined to think that the course taken was the proper one, and that it is better for us to make a practice of our own. Honorable senators are grateful to the Government, but it must be evident to the Senate that we could not have undone what the Prime Minister had done, unless we altogether repudiate his action. We found ourselves discussing rather complicated questions, and I pitied the Chairman of Committees when he had to give rulings on points as to which there are few or no precedents. Honorable senators will see, however, that if business is to be carried on, we must trust the Government, and the more we insist on responsible government the better for the, country. The Prime Minister has power to make agreements of a nature which cannot” be negotiated except at the other end of the world, or, at any rate, outside the Commonwealth. When the Prime Minister pledged himself not to bind the Commonwealth without parliamentary approval, it simply meant that Parliament must ratify or reject what he had done.
– I should not have spoken this afternoon but for an allusion made by Senator Pearce to the effect that this Bill is a party measure. If ever there was a measure passed on no-party lines it is that now before us.
– I was speaking of another place.
– My reply applies equally to another place so far as I know. Honorable senators who sit on the same side of the Senate as myself voted for this Bill on its merits. Some ridiculous remarks have been made about an interjection of mine in reference to the money spent on the British Fleet in Australia. It will be remembered that when Senator Higgs, in the course of his speech, asked what scintilla of advantage this agreement would give to us, I replied that, at all events, the British Squadron caused the expenditure of some
£300,000 per annum in Australia. It must not be forgotten, however, that although the head-quarters of the squadron are in Sydney, and financial matters are arranged there, money is spent pretty well all over the continent. As to the other point about pairs not counting in a division, I remind honorable senators that the division on the second reading of this Bill showed 1 5 votes to 9. When the result was made known the minority contended that the majority did not represent a majority of the members .of the Chamber. I then pointed out that there were five pairs on each side, which brought the voting up to 20 votes to 14 ; but the minority retorted that pairs did not count. To-day when a member of the minority was speaking of pairs I, in a jocular way, reminded them that in their opinion pairs did not count. It is not my idea that pairs do not count, and I consider it a great advantage that honorable senators are at times able to pair. I may say that I have been refused a pair over and over again by mernot the Labour Party, though I am always willing to oblige an honorable senator. This agreement will be of great advantage, in that we shall be able to educate men for our own navy if we begin to form one ten years hence or earlier. I do not suppose that under this agreement there will be any objection to our having coastal defences of our own ; but how could we expect an Australian Navy to protect Australian commerce all over the world, unless we had the British Navy at our back 1 I desire to have placed on record my appreciation of the splendid manner in which Senator O’Connor has conducted this and many other measures through the Senate, and I greatly deplore that we may not see him much longer in his present position.
– I rise to say a word or two after the fiery eloquence of Senator Zeal. My object is not to throw oil on the fire, but rather on the waters which have been troubled and disturbed by the whirlwind oratory of that honorable senator. It has been said before, but apparently emphasis is required, that honorable senators who oppose this agreement do not do so out of any hostility to the old country. It does not follow that because we love Australia, we hate, or have any animosity towards, Great Britain.
– I am very glad to hear it.
– I should have thought it quite unnecessary to say so. When we say that we, as Australian politicians, are agreeable to have an Australian Fleet, and that our first duty is to Australia, our remarks do not necessarily mean any opposition to the connexion with the old country. After the remarks of Senator Zeal, I think that all our arguments have fallen on barren soil. We can always- recognise in the honorable senator a great deal of earnestness, but I think that ‘ his whirlwind oratory leads him astray. I can
Only attribute his recent remarks to the fact that he spoke in one of those moments when he allows his temper to get the better «f his judgment. My belief is that we could have made a much better arrangement than this one, and have been equally loyal and self-reliant. By rejecting the agreement, and approving of the formation of an Australian Navy, the Senate would have done much more credit to itself than it has done. - Senator Lc.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I am very glad to have had the opportunity of hearing a speech by Senator Symon at this stage. From my standpoint, some of his remarks at a previous stage appeared, in all the circumstances, to be very ill-advised, notwithstanding his direct opposition to the Bill. I am very glad that he has been able to clear away any erroneous impression which he had caused. I think that honorable senators will realize in the course of years that the adoption of this agreement has been conducive to the- best interests of Australia. For honorable senators to say that its adoption has been made a party question is a mistake.
– I never said it was made a party question in the Senate.
-Col. GOULD’.– No ; in the Senate it has not been regarded as a party question, because nearly all those who- have habitually sat in opposition have supported the Government. If the division lists of the other House are examined, it will be found that the Government received the support of a large number of honorable members who have usually opposed them, and the opposition of a- large number of honorable members who have been in the habit of supporting them. I allude more particularly to the Labour Party. I do not object to their taking such a course of action, because I am quite willing to think that it was dictated by what they believed to be a regard for the best interests of Australia. I only make that reference to show clearly that this has -not been treated as a party question. No man, for instance, supported the Bill more strongly than did the leader of the Opposition in the other House.
– He condemned it.
– He supported the Bill very strongly by his vote, and so did his party. Senator Dobson has spoken about the power which the Prime Minister should have. There is no question that when the Prime Minister left Australia his hands were largely fettered in regard to binding the Commonwealth by any special agreement.
– We thought that they were.
– -His hands were bound to a very considerable extent. While I recognise that under our system of responsible government large powers have to be vested in the Prime Minister, still when he goes to another country to enter into any negotiations, it is best in the interests of the community that he should not be placed in an absolutely free position, as Mr. Disraeli was, for instance, when he agreed to the purchase of the Suez Canal shares. It is very much better that both Houses of the Parliament should have an opportunity of considering these matters - that whatever the Prime Minister may do, his acts should have to be ratified. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that he had gone with free hands and entered into an agreement, and that it had been condemned b)’ the Parliament, such action would have made confusion worse confounded. We should have been placed in this position that, while we had to put the Government out of office because a mistake had been made, we should have been bound, at any rate in honour, to pay the subsidy to which the Prime Minister had committed the Commonwealth. In this, case the agreement has been submitted for the approval of Parliament. It was perfectly open to either House, if it held the opinion, to say that it was ‘ not a desirable agreement for him to make in the interests of Australia. I feel sure that if a majority of honorable senators had held that opinion, it would have been expressed. No harm would have been done, and no direct repudiation would have been made.
– But the Prime Minister would have been repudiated I
.- Yes, but it would not have been an act of repudiation, which would cast a slur on the Commonwealth, in the old country or in New Zealand.
– Cannot the honorable and learned senator realize that, in repudiating the action of the Prime Minister, we should have done the Government an injury ?
.- Of course,I recognise that it would have been said in other countries - “The Prime Minister had not the confidence of the people : he made an ill-considered agreement.” We are in a much better position when an agreement is made subject to the approval of Parliament. I believe that the agreement of 1887 was made subject to parliamentary approval. Like the States Governments of 1887, the Government was bound to stand by the agreement, and to make its acceptance a party question. I cannot conceive that any Government which had allowed its Prime Minister to enter into a provisional agreement would remain in office after the Parliament had withheld its approval.
– Therefore it is a party question.
.- In thatrespect it might have become a question on which the Government would have been turned out of office, but it has not been treated in that spirit in either House.
– To say that it is not a party question is pure fudge.
.- It has not been treated as a party question by the Opposition to the Government. It has been regarded as a measure in the best interests of the Commonwealth, and the Opposition has acted as every patriotic Opposition ought to do. I do not think that honorable senators need be under any apprehension in regard to our power to provide for the defence of our coast. Beyond that, we are not in a position to go. I feel that I am as free and unfettered to vote on the question of providing for our coastal defence as I was before this Bill was introduced. If the Government should see fit to submit a well-considered scheme providing for a fleet of good vessels to protect the commerce in our immediate waters and along our coast, and to be under their control, it shall have my support.
– How are we going to pay for them?
.- With its enormous trade and its enormous wealth the Commonwealth is in a position, if necessary, to maintain a few ships of that character. It would be a deplorable thing, I think, if the Government were to say “ We shall not make any provision for the defence of our coast. We are going to rely on the Auxiliary Squadron, and beyond our land forces we shall have no defence.”
– Though the honorable and learned senator admits that it is not sufficient.
-Col. GOULD.- It is the best provision that we could make. It is a good agreement, but it will not debar us from making any further provision if it should be considered necessary. My opinion’ has always been that the defence of Australia should be provided for, not merely by land, but also by sea.
SenatorMcGregor. - New South Wales also kept the squadron, and let the other States defend themselves.
.- New South Wales has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in making provision for a naval base. Sydney was found to be the most suitable place for that purpose. The expenditure of the subsidy has been distributed throughout the Commonwealth. No one objects to the ships going from place to place. The more frequently the ports within the station are visited the better it will be for the Australian people and for the fleet. I hope that no one State will be permitted to have a monopoly of the presence of the ships or of the benefits of the expenditure which their maintenance involves.
– I do not understand the purpose of this debate.
– To waste time.
– The debate must be in order, otherwise it would not be allowed to proceed. But it is most irregular, I think.
– Is the honorable senator in order, sir, in saying that a debate which is proceeding with your leave is irregular?
– It is quite in order to debate the third reading of a Bill. Sometimes a Bill is rejected at this stage.
– I apologize most humbly if I have hurt the tender susceptibilities of Senator Pearce in using the term “irregular.” Probably it would have been more correct to use the term “ unusual.” Decidedly it is most unusual for a debate of this character to take place on the third reading of a Bill. I have always understood that debate was permitted at this stage in order that an honorable member might more correctly or fully explain something which had occurred at previous stages, or with a view to reverse a decision which had been arrived at. It appears to me that on this occasion there is no intention to do one thing or the other. In that respect I submit that the discussion is most unusual. It is a proceeding which should not be encouraged. I am as strongly opposed to this Bill as any one in the Senate. I have not taken up any time in asserting my position, because I have been perfectly satisfied with the sound and substantial reasons that were urged by my honorable friends. I deprecate very strongly the veiled attack that has been made on our party by Senator Zeal, who seems to be blessed or cursed with the instincts of a despot. I am quite willing to admit that while he is seated he is a most charitable and amiable gentleman, but once he gets on his feet he is a most intolerable despot. The charges which he has made against this corner are ridiculous. They would not be referred to by me at all only that they come from a senator of some standing. If they had emanated from other senators they would not be resented at all. With Senator Pearce, I feel that when the Senate gave its approval to this Naval Agreement, the vote did not express the deliberate or natural opinion of honorable senators. Prompted by the spirit of loyalty and the feeling that they were bound in honour to support the Prime Minister, they did violence to their consciences. Had they been perfectly free and untrammelled, as SenatorsDobson and Gould would have us believe they were, the deliberate verdict of the Senate would have been the rejection of the agreement. We ought to make it our deliberate business to see that before a Prime Minister shall proceed to confer with any Imperial Minister, and any of the colonial Premiers in England we shall know precisely how far he is to be permitted to go. It is no use to blink the fact that the Prime Minister did not commit Parliament, but pledged himself. In pledging himself he pledged his Cabinet, and when the acceptance of the agreement was submitted to the other House the only question before its members was whether they would swallow the Bill and retain the Prime Minister or place his opponents in office. In the alternative they determined to do violence to their consciences and take this noxious pill. It was not a fair or square issue, and the vote which has been given in either House does not represent the honest, conscientious opinion of those who represent the people of Australia in this Parliament.
-I should not intervene at this stage were it not for some remarks which I understand Senator Zeal has made - I had not the good fortune to hear him - with reference to the alleged disloyalty of particular senators. I do not think that he could fairly charge any member of the party which sits in this corner with disloyalty, except probably myself. Every other member of the party has distinctly stated his position. I stated distinctly that, in my opinion, Australia ought to be separate from the mother country. I believe that it would be better both for Australia and Great Britain if they were to separate. Does the honorable senator accuse me of disloyalty because I expressed that opinion ?
– The honorable senator must remember that he has taken the oath of loyalty.
– But this does not interfere with the oath of loyalty. That is exactly where honorable senators seem not to understand the position.
SenatorFraser. - As the Frenchman says, it is tres difficile.
– It is not at all difficult to understand the position when a. man applies his intellect, if he has any. Honorable senators who sit in the opposite corner represent a people who lived a hundred years ago, and who were prepared to hang any man who questioned the divine right of Kings. These gentlemen are the lineal descendants of those people - their heirs-at-law. They come here and accuse us of disloyalty.. To whom are we disloyal ? I challenge any man to say that I am disloyal to Great Britain. If I think that the possession of Australia is a disadvantage to Great Britain, and that she would be much better off without the connexion, am I not perfectly loyal to the mother country in advocating that that connexion should be severed ? And I really do believe that. If, on the other hand, I believe that Australia would be in a better position severed, but still in alliance with Great Britain - I do not wish to see the alliance departed from - how am I disloyal in saying so ? I believe that Australia would, under those circumstances, be in a much better position than she is now. What is her position to-day? That of a mere hanger-on of Great Britain. What is Great Britain to the great majority of the class to whom some honorable senators belong ? She is merely a pawnshop - a place to which they can go when they want to borrow money, and to pledge a portion of Australia’s patrimony so as to increase their own wealth - a place from which they can obtain doles such as we are getting in the present instance We are paying half the cost of the squadron. Great Britain pays the other half. Honorable senators say that is a most excellent arrangement for Australia. I suppose that if Britain paid all the cost they would say that it was a much better arrangement. I have a different opinion. One of the most valuable qualities in a young community, as in a young man, is selfreliance. The sooner a young man cuts himself adrift from his mother’s apron strings the better for himself. If a man wants to become a good swimmer he discards the bladders at the earliest moment. We are treating Great Britain as a bladder to swim with. I should like to say a few words with regard to the Prime Minister. I have always held that the Prime Minister of a country like Australia ought never to be permitted to go to Great Britain while he holds that office. Our experience has taught us that no man of whom we have any knowledge has been sufficiently Australian in sentiment to be trusted in the city of London. When he goes there and basks in the smiles of the Duchesses, is invited to dinners by the Prince of Wales, by His Majesty the King, or by the Duke of Something, and when Mr. Chamberlain shakes his hand and taps him on the shoulder, and says - “How are you, old chap,” and all the rest of it, his Australian sentiment evaporates. When he attends the King’s levee, and goes down on one knee, and the King invites him to “Rise, Sir Edmund,” our experience has been that Australian interests disappear. I hold that no Prime Minister of this Commonwealth ought to be permitted to leave Australia for Great Britain, or, indeed, for any other country with which we are in negotiation on any subject, while he holds his office.
SenatorFraser. - “Suspicion haunts the guilty mind.”
– I do not know what I am guilty of. I admit that I am only human, and very probably, if I were in the same position as Sir Edmund Barton was, I should do exactly as he did. If some beautiful Duchess smiled on me probably I should lose my head immediately. I do not profess to be made of such stoical material as Senator Zeal. Senator Dawson expressed my feeling better, perhaps, than it is possible for me to do as to how Parliament felt bound to carry out the agreement entered into by the Prime Minister. We have no record of any instance where a Parliament has gone back upon an undertaking given by its Prime Minister. That makes it all the more necessary to keep a Prime Minister out of temptation. We can easily see that if Parliament had refused to ratify this agreement it would practically have ruined the Government. As Senator Dawson says, when Sir Edmund Barton was bound, his Government was bound ; and when the Government was bound, the party was bound. The supporters of the Government were compelled by force of circumstances to see the Prime Minister through. It is exceedingly unfortunate that we were placed in that position. Parliament should have had a free hand. I knew what would happen. I put a question to the VicePresident of the Executive Council some time before Sir Edmund Barton went to England. The answer was that he would do nothing which would bind the hands of Parliament. When I put the question I knew what the answer would be, and I knew what would happen when the Prime Minister got to London. I knew that when he entered into an agreement with the Imperial Government nothing would persuade the Parliament of the Commonwealth to reject it. That being so, it is all the more desirable that the Prime Minister for the time being should keep himself out of temptation.
– We should keep him in Australia ; he is safe here.
– He is safe here from all those an ti- Australian influences which are so powerful at the other end of the globe.
– We ought to pass a Prime Minister’s Emigration Restriction Bill.
– It would be a wise piece of legislation. I intend to vote against the third reading of this Bill.
SenatorFRASER (Victoria). - I cannot refrain from saying in reply to Senator. Stewart that Great Britain has always treated Australia very handsomely. When there was only a handful of people upon this continent she gave us millions of acres of land without asking for a shilling for it. Other countries would have exacted payments that would have meant a heavy indebtedness. But not so Great Britain. The people of this country have been enabled to become industrious and wealthy through the liberality of the mother country. Do we find Germany and other nations treating their colonies and provinces as Great Britain has treated us? No. In a short time Victoria will be borrowing £5,000,000 of money in England. New South Wales will have to borrow many millions. But for the fact that the people of Great Britain were at our back we should be insolvent in no time. Where would the working classes be then ? Where would the Labour party be?
– Where would the honorable senator’s land be ?
SenatorFRASER. - It would be nowhere without capital.
– What made the land valuable but labour ?
SenatorFRASER. - Labour is nothing without capital, and capital is nothing without labour.
– How much capital had Adam when he started ?
– That is silly nonsense. I am delighted that we have reached the third-reading stage of the Bill. But we owe no thanks to the Labour part)’. Senator Stewart professes his loyalty, but did the Labour party support the sending of contingents from Australia ? They have always opposed that policy, and they exacted a most improper promise from the Prime Minister not to despatch a contingent until he had consulted Parliament. That proves their disloyalty. It is of no use professing loyalty when their acts speak louder than their words.
– Why does not Canada support an agreement of this kind ?
– I could tell the Senate if I had time. The honorable senatorhas advertised the fact that he is a republican.
– Why not ?
– My answer is that the honorable senator had no right to go to the table and take the oath of allegiance if he was a republican. As an honorable and high-minded man he should not do so.
– The honorable senator ought to resign his seat if he is a highminded man.
– I am delighted that the Bill is now to be read the third time, though, as I previously remarked, we owe no thanks to the Labour party.
SenatorO’CONNOR(New South WalesVicePresident of the Executive Council). - I have very few words to say in reply. I am sorry that my honorable friend, Senator Higgs, feels any bitterness about this struggle. I am sure we on this side feel no bitterness. Considering what a fight the honorable senator made, he ought to be perfectly well satisfied with the result he has achieved. I wish to say a word with regard to the position of the Prime Minister. Honorable senators who have accused the Prime Minister of conduct which they suggest was, in some way, improper, seem entirely to have lost sight of the first principles of responsible government. I. do not say that personally I am in love with responsible government. I see many faults in it. I should like to see some improvement made if I saw my way to any better plan. But if we have responsible government we must act upon the principles which underly it. When the Prime Minister left Australia he promised that he would do nothing to bind Australia without the consent of this Parliament. He has kept that promise. When he came back with this agreement, upon which hehad exercised his best knowledge, his best ingenuity, and in regard to which he had done his very best for Australia, he placed it before Parliament. But how could it possibly be assumed that that agreement was a matter of so little importance that if it were not accepted the Prime Minister would treat the vote like the rejection of an ordinary Bill 1 He and his Government were bound to take up the position that as that agreement involved his very best work on behalf of Australia, if the Parliament of Australia did not think that the negotiations were properly carried out, there was only one course to take. But so far from the Government having made it a party measure, I venture to say that the debate, both in another place and in the Senate, has risen entirely above party. In the Senate, whilst many of those who have given this Government an unvarying and generous support, have felt it to be their duty to leave us on this occasion ; on the other hand, honorable senatorswho have continually opposed us, have, in regard to this Bill, given us throughout the most unswerving, loyal and generous support. How then can it be said that this is a party measure?
– The honorable senator knows that it is.
– I know that it is not. In neither House has it been treated as a party measure. I am proud to say that both Houses of this Parliament have treated the question as one which is high above all considerations of party. In neither House has it been the subject of a party contest. Certainly there is one honorable senator - Senator Cameron - who, from a high sense of honour, took a certain view ; but there is no other member of either House who has stated that his attitude with regard to the measure was influenced by the same considerations. I have nothing more to say except to express the belief that we who are voting for this agreement do so because we believe that it is in the best interests of Australia. We believe that during the ten years which will elapse before this agreement comes to an end, the Commonwealth will be passing through most difficult and trying times in regard to its finances - probably more difficult times than we shall have to face for many years afterwards. At the end of that time we shall know more with regard to our position, and as to what we shall be able to spend. I hope that then the Eastern question will have settled itself in some way, which will enable us to have a more accurate realization of the dangers for which we have to be prepared. When that time comes, and when we know what money we have to spend in this direction, if it is considered that Australia should create a Navy for her own purposes, she will be able to do so.
– Will that time ever come ?
– I hope it will come ; we all hope it will come.
– When does the honorable and learned senator anticipate it?
– I have said that when this agreement comes to an end the probabilities are that Australia will be in a better position to see her way to take a step in that direction. I am in entire agreement with those who think that Australia should be self-contained, self-sufficing, self-supporting and’ in every possible way independent. I believe that that time will come ; but certainly I think that it would be a mad thing for the sake of what is called Australian sentiment to plunge this country into the creation of an Australian Navy with insufficient funds, and to enter upon a course of policy which would cripple our finances, and result in the premature creation of a service at a cost which would be much too heavy for Australia to bear. I feel that important as this question is, it has been discussed from every point of view. No one can complain that in the deliberations, in either Chamber of the Commonwealth Parliament, this agreement, beneficial as it is and as it will be, has been arrived at without the fullest possible consideration.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ message, vide page 4195):
– This Bill had a long schedule attached, and there have crept in two or three inaccuracies which require amendment. This is just one of these cases in which a Governor’s message is a very convenient way of correcting merely verbal mistakes. This message was received from His Excellency in the other House, and the amendments, having there been passed, are now forwarded to us for our acceptance. There are three amendments, the first of which is in clause 2, the definition clause. The definition of “ appeal “ was added to it in the Judiciary Bill, which was prepared along with the Bill now before us, and it has been discovered that the amendment made in the former was overlooked in the latter. The next amendment is intended to carry out clause 12, and it verbally amends rule 2, under order 30, in the schedule. The third amendment is to omit rule 3, which is provided for in the Bill itself, and is therefore unnecessary. I move -
That the amendments recommended by His Excellency the Governor-General agreed to by the House of Representatives, be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 14th August, vide page 3642), on motion by Senator Drake -
That the Senate ratifies an agreement entered into between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Eastern Extension Company, referred to in Message No. 13 of the House of Representatives.
That the above resolution be communicated by message to the House of Representatives.
Upon which Senator Staniforth Smith had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ Senate” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ is of opinion that the Conference proposed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies between representatives of the various parties in the Pacific Cable should be held before any agreement is ratified between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Eastern Extension Company.”
– I was able at the commencement of this sitting to lay on the table some further papers in reference to the proposed agreement, and as these papers are very short, I propose to read them to honorable senators. The telegrams are in connexion with the message that was received from Mr. Copeland, the AgentGeneral for New South Wales, stating that Mr. Chamberlain had withdrawn his request for a Conference. I mentioned the matter in the course of the discussion previously; and the Prime Minister has since wired, through the Governor-General, to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, asking for further information. The following telegram has been received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, through His Excellency the Governor-General, today Referring to your telegram of 21st August, I agreed not to press Conference until Copeland had conferred with Prime Minister and Governments interested, in hope that some suggestion might be made to facilitate agreement at Conference. I recognisethatagreementwith Telegraph Company may possibly have gone too farforCommonwealth to recede, but in any case incident appears to emphasize desirability of Conference to consider whole question of basis of partnership in Pacific Cable. Conference would not be body to decide by majority of votes and bind Governments ; but to meet for friendly discussion on difficulties which have arisen, and to endeavour to reach general conclusions which would be recommended to Governments interested. Canada has agreed, and, doubtless, New Zealand will also agree. I trust that on reconsideration your Ministers will be prepared to appoint representative. AsI understand, Australian share of loss on cable is borne by contributing States, if your Government would wish States to have separate representation in Conference I am prepared to recommend this to Canada and New Zealand.
I read this telegram without comment, in order that the statements may be within the knowledge of all honorable senators. The other paper is a telegram from the Prime Minister to the Acting Agent-General of New South Wales, Lord Jersey, who, I may mention, is one of the representatives of the Commonwealth on the Pacific Cable Board. The telegram is as follows : -
We shall be prepared to confer with Reynolds, who is now on the way to Australia. Suggest that Board empower and instruct him to confer with this Government.
To that wehave the replyof the Acting AgentGeneral of New South Wales as follows : -
Your telegram of 8th August. Reynolds has already full authority confer with you, but is not entitled commit Board without cabling. 3tr. Reynolds, the. manager for the Pacific Cable Board, who is clothed with full authority to confer with the Prime Minister, is at present in New Zealand, and I have just now sent a telegram asking him on what date he will be in Melbourne. Mr. Copeland, if he has not already arrived at Sydney, is quite near to Australia ; and I expect that Mr. Reynolds will be here probably in the course of next week.
– Is Mr. Reynolds the Secretary of the Pacific Cable Board 1
– Mr. Reynolds is the manager for the Board, which consists of representatives of the Governments interested in the Pacific Cable - Governments of Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. On the’ resumption of this debate, I think it my duty to lay these papers before the Senate, in order that honorable senators may be in full possession of what has occurred since we last met.
– Does the Minister suggest the advisability of an adjournment of the debate ?
– As to that I am in -the hands of the Committee.
– I desire to say a few words in the interests of the State which I represent. I have no doubt that after the . correspondence just read the debate will be adjourned, and that 41 Conference will take place. We shall then be able to consider whether, in the interests of Australia, the agreement should be proceeded with, or what acceptable modifications Can be suggested. South Australia, in consequence of the construction of the Pacific Cable, has suffered much loss, and it is only fair that that State, which has done so much to connect Australia by cable with the whole of the outside world, should receive favorable consideration. I do not know that I should have spoken, but for the fact that Senator Smith made some allusion to me, and to what was said by a certain gentleman called Johnson, who has written a work entitled Annals and Aims of the ‘Pacific Cable. Senator Smith had evidently taken immense pains ‘to acquaint himself with the facts, and he gave us a very interesting speech. It is possible that I may have hurt Senator Smith’s feelings by suggesting that he was treating us to a considerable amount of ancient history, though he very properly retorted that the history, if ancient to me, was not ancient to other honorable senators.
– It was instructive history.
– It was, and I may say that Senator Smith’s address was carefully prepared, and in excellent taste. Senator Smith’s great authority was Sir Sandford Fleming, to whom the Pacific Cable owes its existence. Sir Sandford Fleming was the first to bring the project prominently before the public in England and Canada, and was among the first, along with Mr. Bowles, a Canadian Minister of the Crown, to bring it before the people of the States of Australia. I am quite sure that many of the statements made by Senator Smith would not have been made if he’ had taken the trouble to ascertain what had been advanced on the other side of the question.
– I consulted the Blue Book.
– The Blue Book does not give all the necessary information. When I was Agent-General for South Australia in ‘London in 1896 or 1897 there was a long correspondence in the London Times between Sir Sandford Fleming on the one hand and Sir John Pender on the other, and in that correspondence we had both bane and antidote. We had charges made by Sir Sandford Fleming in connexion with the enormous profits, and the watering of the stock of the Eastern Extension Company, and we had the answers by Sir John Pender ; and on many points it appeared to me that the latter gentleman had the best of the argument. A man with extreme views on a particular subject is apt to use extreme language, and in doing so, ‘leads not only himself, but other people astray.
– Does not Senator Playford take a strong view 1
– I am going to take a strong view.
– Will it be an extreme view ?
– I can give honorable senators an example of the kind of statement made by Sir Sandford Fleming on the subject of this Pacific Cable. He gave an estimate of the probable receipts and expenditure in connexion with the cable, which appears in Mr. Johnson’s book as the view of the Imperial Committee, of which Sir Sandford Fleming was a member. It is stated that the Pacific -Cable would cost altogether some ?155,464. That would include the interest, sinking fund, working expenses, and maintenance. Then there is given an actual estimate of ?1 60,000 income, leaving a balance of nearly ?5,000 to credit. That is one of Sir Sandford Fleming’s statements which we have had an opportunity of verifying, and honorable senators know that it is altogether discounted by the fact that for the first year the balance is over ?90,000 to the bad instead of ?5,000 to credit. The writer of the book says -
The Honorable Mr. Playford, who was later on referred to as “ advocatus diaboli “ - the devil’s advocate - was a strong champion of the Eastern Extension Company.
I never heard that I was referred to in that way. I never saw any reference to such a title in print, or on record anywhere, and I know that no one had the courage to apply that term to me to my face. Mr. Johnson says that I was a strong champion for the case of the Eastern Extension Company, and he does me the credit of saying that I made a very able speech ; but, as a matter of fact, I never championed the case of the Eastern Extension Company, but I did champion the case of my own colony. It is true that South Australia was to some extent associated with the Eastern Extension Company, because we had 2,000 miles of land line linked to their cable at Port Darwin, and our interest in the matter of cable messages was, of course, the same as their’s. I propose to read the first part of the speech I made at.the Conference, in order to show honorable senators exactly the position I took up then. It will be found that I never said anything at all about the Eastern Extension Company, except in so far as it was obligatory upon me to refer to the company in the course of my remarks. I have never championed the company, but I did look after the interests of South Australia, as I was instructed to do by the Premier of that colony. I said -
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen, As I am from the Colony of South Australia, I wish now to inform this Conference of the position that my colony takes with regard to the proposed Pacific Cable: You are aware that we occupy a somewhat unique position, one different from that of the other colonies. We have constructed a line of telegraph across the continent some 2,000 miles long. We have done it at our own expense, without any assistance, without any subsidy ; and if a new cable is constructed across the Pacific Ocean, the trade that that new cable will do will, to a very considerable extent, take away the trade from our present land line, and cause us to suffer very great loss. At the same time my Government wishes me to inform this Conference that if this cable is required for Imperial and for public purposes for the good of the Empire, South Australia is not going to stand in the way, and will support the cable.
– That was a very fair statement.
– I think that was a very fair statement to make. I then dealt with the question whether the line would pay, the difficulties of its construction, and so on. Mr. Johnson, the writer of the book to which I have referred, professes to give a fair account of what I said, and yet he leaves out all mention of the most important point I urged at the Conference, and that was that the Pacific Cable would not pay.
– The honorable senator is opposed to the Conference which Canada and New Zealand ask for now.
– I have not said anything about that. I may deal with it later on. I desire that honorable senators should understand the position I took up at the Ottawa Conference. Later on at the Conference I made this statement -
I have told the Conference that if this line is required for public and Imperial purposes our Government will never in any way stand in the way. I am giving not only my own opinion but the opinion of my own Government, and, I believe, of the majority of the people of South Australia. If the work is done at all it should be done as a Government work.
I took up the position then that if we were to have a cable across the Pacific it should be a Government cable. I think that throughout the world cables should be Government property in the same way that land telegraph lines are Government property. Honorable senators will easily understand that at this Conference there were many gentlemen who held the view that private enterprise should take up these projects. I have always held the view that inasmuch as the work of cables, telegraphs, and the post-office becomes a monopoly, it had better be a Government monopoly, and that is the position I took up at the Conference. I desire now to refer to the expression of opinion that the Pacific Cable would not pay - the point which Mr. Johnson has so carefully left out of his book. I do not now propose to quote my own words, but those of a gentleman who is well known in Australia, Sir Charles Todd, than whom there is no greater authority upon telegraphic matters in the Commonwealth.
– He would be unconsciously biased in favour of the South Australian telegraph line.
– He was not’ biased. I propose to contrast what he said with Sir Sandford Fleming’s prophecy as to what the Pacific Cable would PaY
– No cable would pay if it were handicapped by all the Governments.
– I may mention that Senator Fraser was present at the Conference to which I have referred, and I remember that the honorable senator expressed the opinion that I had made out a very good case.
– The honorable senator made the best of the case he had.
– I propose to quote what Sir Charles Todd said. I have here a report which he made ©n the cable question. It is dated 3rd August, 1899, and is addressed, of course, to the Minister. He says -
Sir, - The Eastern Extension Company have submitted the following offer to the Australian Government : -
To at once reduce the rates to 4s. a word on ordinary messages, 3s. a word on Government messages, and ls. (id. a word on press messages, which rates they desire should be uniform to all parts of Australia and Tasmania.
To lay a cable from South Africa to Fremantle and Glenelg. This cable will be an extension of the direct cable from England to the Cape of Good Hope now in course of construction. The latter will connect Gibraltar, SierraLeone, Ascension Island, St. Helena, and thence to the Cape. The proposed extension to Australia will start from Durban (the land lines being used from the Cape), and will connect en route Mauritius, Roderiques Island, Cocos, and Fremantle, terminating ut Glenelg. The work can be completed in about two years.
If the cable ends at Fremantle it would probably be necessary to construct a direct line from Adelaide to Perth. The cable would be British throughout, touching no foreign territory, and would provide alternative means of communication with India and other British possessions in the East.
On that he makes a report. I shall not read the whole of it, but he strongly advocates that South Australia should enter into the agreement proposed on the ground that it would be satisfactory to that State. He then proceeds to compare the proposed Cape route with the Pacific Cable. In dealing with the operations of the Pacific Cable, and allowing for an annual increase in traffic of 5 per cent., he estimates the loss for the first year at £85,500. Honorable senators are aware that it has been over £90,000. He estimates the loss for the second year at £81,000 ; for the” third year at £76,275, and so on, until for the tenth year he estimates the loss at £35,880. Allowing for” an annual increase of traffic, to the extent of 7 per cent., which is admittedly a high per centage of increase, he estimates the loss for the first year at £85,500, for the second year at £79,200, and for the tenth year at £10,039. Honorable senators will recognise how nearly his figures have worked out. “When I was attending the Conference at Ottawa, I was, of course, supplied with figures by the South Australian Postmaster-General, and in the course of my speech, I said that the Pacific Cable would result in a loss for the first year of over £100,000. That was in 1894, and with the better information, which our PostmasterGeneral possessed in 1899, he estimated the loss for the first year at £85,500. The actual loss has been something between these two estimates, but honorable members must admit that it has also been something very different from the estimate made by Sir Sandford Fleming. I propose to refer honorable senators to a further estimate of the result of the operations of the Pacific Cable, which was submitted to the Ottawa Conference in 1894 by Mr. Siemens, of the well-known London firm of manufacturers of cables and contractors for the laying of cables. Honorable senators can understand that, as he was a maker of cables and a contractor for the laying of cables, he would not be likely to make his estimate of profit too low ; but they will probably be surprised to learn that he estimated the profit on the Pacific Cable for the first year at £101,000. The result has shown how these estimates turn out in the light of actual working. There has been a loss of nearly £100,000 instead of a profit of £100,000.
– When all the Governments have given the whole situation away.
– Nothing of the sort. People are at liberty to send as many cablegrams as they please by the Pacific Cable, and if we are to consider the question of unfair competition I have another point to make. I suppose it was never intended that there should be unfair competition in ‘ any circumstances.
– When the estimates to which the honorable senator refers were made, was it anticipated that New South Wales would be a party to the Pacific Cable?
– It was not known that New South Wales would make a secret agreement with the Eastern Extension Company.
– When these estimates were made it was not known that the Pacific Cable would ever be constructed.
– It was a proposal at that time.
– -It was a proposal, but no one knew what Western Australia was going to do in the matter. That State at that time was a negligible quantity.
– What about Now South Wales ?
– New South Wales was only one of a number of colonies. A great deal has been said about the unfair way in which the Eastern Extension Company has worked. I suppose I know as much about the company, and its principal officials, as any man in the Commonwealth. When acting as AgentGeneral for South Australia, I came into contact with the officers of the company immediately on my arrival in London in 1884, as their interests and the interests of South Australia were, to some extent, identical. I am in a position to say that I found that all who were connected with the company were highly educated, intelligent gentlemen. So far as I knew they were honorable men, but of course they were men who looked after the interests of the company they represented.
– Did they offer to frank cables for the honorable senator 1
– They were accused of it.
– The honorable senator was an official.
Senator.PLAYFORD. - Why should they not offer to frank cables for me if they wished to do so ? As a matter of fact, I had no communication of that sort with them, and there was no attempt to bribe me. I am confident that the gentleman connected with the Eastern Extension Company are honorable men in every respect. I saw nothing to warrant me in coming to any other conclusion. Nothing has been said in England about any unfair dealings on their part. Whatever they did in connexion with the Pacific Cable was done openly and fairly, and, so far as I know, they used no back-stairs influence. It is said that they have immense parliamentary influence in the old country. I do not know the shareholders of the company, but I know it is said that many members of the Imperial Parliament are shareholders, and that they are able to bring great pressure to bear even upon the Imperial Government. So far as I know they have used no backstairs influence whatever, and when it is said that they have worked behind the scenes, and used their influence in an unfair manner, I simply say that I do not believe they have. In this connexion I shall quote a word or two from Sir Michael Hicks-Beach. In the report of a deputation from the Eastern Extension Company Limited, and the Eastern Extension Australasian and China Company Limited, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, I find that Sir Michael HicksBeach said -
Yet it is not until we have announced our decision on the matter, so far as the principle is concerned, that you have approached us at all.
Here is the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the British Government admitting that the Eastern Extension Company did not approach the Imperial authorities at all until they had absolutely decided the course they proposed to take. The Eastern Extension Company might have assumed that they would be subjected to unfair competition in connexion with the Pacific Cable when the Governments of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand were concerned in the cable. It was a very natural position for them to take up, because, as the Governments of these countries hold all the land lines, and have great power over all the telegraph communications, they can work business into the Pacific Cable, and they might unfairly deprive the Eastern Extension Company of some business.
– So far it is the other way about.
– I do not think it is, nor do I think it ought to be. When we come to consider that every telegram that is not specially _ marked to go by the Eastern Extension Company’s line has to go by the Pacific Cable in some of the ‘States, it appears to me that the boot is on the other leg.
– The Eastern Extension Company lias been allowed to open offices everywhere.
– That is quite another thing. When we come to consider that every telegraph station throughout the Common wealth is controlled by the Commonwealth Government, and that in some of the States if a telegram is not specially marked to go by the Eastern Extension Company’s line it must go by the Pacific Cable, that may be considered by the Eastern Extension Company to be a little unfair.
– I know that that is not a fact.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that a cable message, handed in at Perth, is sent light across the continent and transmitted from Sydney unless it is specially marked ?
– I said in some States.
– The sender must’ put on the words, “ via Pacific,” if he wishes it to go that way.
– I had the statement from the Postmaster General as regards South Australia only a week ago. Even in South Australia, which is losing so enormously by the cable, there is that unfair competition. When honorable senators talk about unfair competition, the boot is really on the other foot. Let- us see what the Colonial Secretary had to say on that point -
You expressed a fear, which I think is entirely groundless, that the Government is entering into this competition without regard to its own profit and loss. If any Government were mad enough or the House of Commons were inclined to allow any Government to spend the money of the taxpayers in order to enter into a violent competition for the purpose of destroying a private industry, then no doubt your position would be a dangerous one ; but the idea appears to me to be only chimerical. The Government is not at all likely to do that. If any Chancellor of the Exchequer were found weak enough to allow it the House of Commons would step in and prevent it. I therefore think that your fears are, I will not say altogether unnatural, but are very much exaggerated.
What does he say 1 That there shall be something like fair and honest competition between the two cables. What has South Australia done 1 We stretched a telegraph line across the continent over a distance of some 2,000 miles at a cost of over £600,000; and it has resulted in a total loss of over £300,000. That money has gone into the pockets of all those who have used the service. Some persons in our State have gained a little, but the larger proportion of the benefit has undoubtedly gone to the people of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania. We have done more to provide telegraph communication than has any other State. We erected a telegraph line to Western Australia when it contained a population of only 50,000 persons, although we knew that we should lose a considerable sum for many years. Unless we had erected the line, Western Australia would have been without direct telegraphic communication with Europe and the rest of the world. We built the line, knowing that it would involve a large loss, for the purpose of helping our neighbours under exceptional circumstances. / .
– Did you not think that it would be a feeder to your line 1
– Yes ; but we also knew that it would not pay us. Owing to the wonderful gold discoveries in Western Australia, however, it has paid us very well in later years. I am only pointing out what action South Australia has taken to provide telegraph communication for Australasia, including New Zealand, and what loss she has suffered from the line across the continent which is linked with the cable of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. Since the Pacific Cable has been in operation we have had an opportunity of ascertaining what that loss is. The Treasurer said the other day in the House that in the first year South Australia lost £12,000. Take our position before the Commonwealth was established. In 1900 the Treasury received £55,000 over and above all working expenses and payment of interest. Before that year the receipts had amounted to £57,000. What have we received since the Pacific Cable line has been opened 1 Only £20,000.
– But the Cape line is taking South Australia’s revenue away
– Not ‘much. There are terminal charges which we get from the Cape line. No doubt, it takes away a little revenue. I am not prepared to say that the Pacific Cable is the occasion of all that loss. It is due partly to increasing the salaries of our officers, and partly to decreasing the charges for telegrams. The Pacific Cable is answerable for the loss of £12,000. But the Treasurer received only £6,000. The profit amounted to £20,000, but out of that sum the Government took £14,000 for carrying out absolutely new works, such as have in the past been paid for >ut of loan account. The position is that the Treasurer has received £6,000, and the State is not £14,000 in debt, as it would have been if the works had been paid for out of loan account.
– But most of the other States have suffered in the same way.
– No doubt they have suffered more or less, but South Australia has suffered considerably more than other States, especially in connexion with the Pacific Cable. New South Wales has been roundly abused by several honorable senators for having made that agreement with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company. It is only fair to the Government of New South Wales to say that before they took any step in the. matter they sent a telegram to their Agent-General in these terms -
Wish you consult Mr. Chamberlain re proposals of Eastern Extension Company, as bearing on prospects Pacific Cable. Our contract with company expires 31st instant. We desire accept their proposals if Imperial Government see no objection, having in view prospects of Pacific Cable. Company entirely waive renewal subsidy £32,400, and guarantee against competition, and in addition to providing cable all way to Glenelg via Perth, agree at once reduce tariff to 4s. (present rate 4s. 9d.), Government rate, 3s., press rate, ls. 6d. per word, and make further reductions on sliding scale as traffic increases.
When the position was fairly and strongly put before Mr, Chamberlain, what was his reply t -
In continuation of telegram, Mr. Chamberlain sees no objection to acceptance of Extension Company’s proposals contained in .your telegram 25th ultimo.
– Then Mr. Chamberlain is to blame.
– But my honorable friends have been blaming New South Wales all through.
– The honorable senator has not drawn attention to the fact that at that time Mr. Chamberlain’s hands were filled with the Boer war.
– I cannot help what his hands were filled with. All I say is that when honorable senators urge that New South Wales did a thing inimical to the best interests of the Commonwealth, and abuse her right and left, it is only fair for me to put the other side of the question. I have the text of the telegram to Mr. Chamberlain, and of his reply ; and it is only fair to New South Wales to say that she obtained the consent of what may be called the’ predominating partner in the Pacific Cable before she entered into this agreement.
– If England and Canada each have a five-eighteenths share in the Pacific Cable how is England the predominating partner 1 Why did not New South Wales ask Canada and New Zealand for their consent 1
– I do not know why New South Wales did not. If she got the principal partner to concur, and the terms were favorable, she was perfectly justified in making the agreement which at once lowered the telegraphic rate and gave her a great advantage.
– Does the honorable senator think that two or three parties to a compact have a right to ignore the others ?
– The compact had relation- only to the Pacific Cable. What is the principal part of this agreement ? It is to allow the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company to open offices.
– What difference will it make to South Australia if we stick to the agreement in existence or enter into a new one 1 Not a bit of difference.
– It will make no difference to South Australia, because she has tied her hands hard and fast for ever, unless the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company will agree to release her. 1 am arguing as to the application of the agreement to Queensland and “Victoria, and not to States whose hands are tied.
– Why does the honorable senator say that those States have tied their hands 1
– The States have allowed the company to open certain offices, and the agreement cannot be abrogated unless the parties concerned concur. Does not that tie their hands 1
– Yes ; but if you have an advantage you do not speak of your hands being tied, and the honorable senator says it is an advantage to have this agreement.
– Undoubtedly it was an advantage to have the old agreement when it was made by South Australia, but whether it will be to her advantage in the long run remains to be seen. At all events the hands of certain States have been tied. Does the honorable senator suppose that if the facta were fairly placed ‘before the Colonial Secretary, and it was found that we were only allowing the company to do exactly what is allowed to be done in Great Britain, any objection’ would be offered? Undoubtedly the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company have been frightened, and think that a great wrong is being done ; but nothing more is being allowed to be done by the agreement than is allowed to be done in Great Britain. Considering that the hands of four States are tied by an agreement from which they cannot escape except with the consent of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company, is it not much better to have a uniform system throughout the Commonwealth? Victoria is in this position now that she participates in the agreement and gets all its advantages.
– ‘But the Pacific Cable is open, and business can be done by that route.
– I am well aware that the Pacific Cable is open, and I am sorry that it has resulted in a loss of £12,000 to South Australia. If it is said that I stopped the Pacific Cable for six years, I am exceedingly glad of it. I did it for the sake of my State. Otherwise we should have lost £72,000. Four of the States have entered into this arrangement and two of them have not. Why should we not have an agreement extending all over the Commonwealth’! I cannot see any harm in it. Even Senator Smith admits that he does not want to have unfair competition. What reason is there why the trade should not be divided between the two cables,’ one-half going to tho Eastern Extension Company, and the other half to the Pacific Cable t Surely Senator Smith does not want to drive out . the Eastern Extension Company J When I. analyze his speech and inquire as to what his reasons are for objecting to this agreement, I find that they are not very substantial.
– They occupy about twelve pages of Hansard.
– But some people occupy a great deal of space in saying very little. I read. the honorable senator’s speech with a great deal of interest, and it left upon my mind a confused impression as to what all the bother was about. Is it’ not a great deal better that we should enter into an arrangement which will be satisfactory to all parties
– -But what is to become of the Pacific Cable in the meantime ? It will be strangled.
– Is it not desirable that we should have a better agreement if we can get one 1
– Does the honorable and learned senator think we can get a better one 1
– I think we can.
– Of course the honorable and learned senator would like a sort of bribe to be offered to Tasmania.
– I rise to a point of order. Does the honorable senator say that I am going to do something because I have been bribed, or because my State is to be bribed 1 I object to the use of that word.
– I did not mean to use the word “ bribe.” I will say that an inducement may be offered to Tasmania - that certain concessions may be given to that State, in the event of which Tasmania will not oppose the agreement being extended to the whole of Australia. That is the actual truth. But it will be to the advantage of Australia te have this agreement that has been entered into by the Prime Minister after very careful consideration and long negotiation. At the same time I fully admit, after hearing the telegrams that have been read, that in fairness the matter should stand over until we hear what the other parties have to say. Let me tell honorable’ senators this also : So fur ob I am concerned as a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and as the representative of a State which, in two years’ time, will be interested in the Pacific Cable, I shall be a very strong advocate of the interests of the Commonwealth in this concern. I shall not look at it merely from the point of view of South Australia, though I believe that that State will be entitled to generous treatment from Parliament ; and no doubt that consideration will be regarded when opportunities present themselves. I have ne/er been an advocate for the Eastern Extension Company. I am aware that they have been hard business men. In many particulars they have made charges that ought to have been reduced years and years ago. If they hod taken my advice, they would have made - a reduction long ago, and then probably they would have stopped the Pacific Cable altogether. They have always been trying to get as much as possible. It is business, I suppose, and as business men they have done their best in what they consider to be their own interests. I do not complain of that. I hear it said that they have been grasping, and so on. To a certain extent they have been. I knew the gentlemen at the head of the Eastern Extension Company when I was in London - Sir John Pender, the Marquis of Tweeddale and Sir John Pender’s son. It would be difficult to find a more honorable set of men in any country. They are keen business men, looking after what they believe to be their interests, and not yielding a penny unless they can help it. But such people often overreach themselves, and the company certainly made a mistake in not reducing their rates to Australia sooner than they did.
Motion (by Senator Drake) proposed -
That the Committee have leave to sit again on Wednesday next.
– I desire to state for the information of Senator Drake, who is in charge of the agreement, that I propose, when the matter comes before us again, to raise a point of order. The point is that we cannot consider the agreement until section 80 of the Post and Telegraph Act is either amended or repealed. That section gives the PostmasterGeneral the exclusive right and privilege of transmitting and receiving telegrams, and performing all the incidental services connected with the receipt and distribution of telegrams.
– I do not think that the honorable senator should discuss the merits now.
– I am only giving notice that I propose to raise that point.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Wednesday next.
I take that course because there is no business on the paper for to-morrow. The Defence Bill is set down for Tuesday next.
– Are there not the electoral divisions to be considered?
– There is no motion in regard to them upon the paper, and there is no other business for tomorrow. It was anticipated that the question which we have been discussing would occupy all this evening and perhaps tomorrow. Under the circumstances, it is not worth while to ask honorable senators to meet to-morrow. I may explain that when we made Tuesday a sitting day, I informed the Senate that it would only be taken when it was absolutely necessary, and as we do not see any necessity for bringing honorable Senators here next Tuesday, we ask that the business shall stand over till Wednesday, when the consideration of the Defence Bill will be proceeded with.
– Private members’ business comes first on Wednesday.
– The Defence Bill will be taken afterwards. It may be necessary to interpolate business connected with the electoral divisions while the Defence Bill is under consideration ; otherwise, that measure will be proceeded with until disposed of.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5. 17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 August 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19030827_senate_1_16/>.