1st Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at . 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator MACFARLANE presented a petition from the Peaceand Arbitration Department of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Tasmania praying the Senate to provide against conscription or compulsory drill.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence, without notice, if it is his intention to grant to Major Carroll an inquiry into the reasons for his retrenchment, and, if so, when will it be instituted 1
– I have the matter under consideration, and I can assure the honorable senator that in any case there will be no delay.
– The Minister intends to grant an inquiry ?
– I am endeavouring to arrange it.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 Yes, and he has received the following answer: - “ Believe in ultimate success, and rejoice in your co-operation.”
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
” THE PACIFIC CABLE.
“The Prime Minister is still awaiting a cable message from the Pacific Cable Board respectingthe proposed Conference to discuss the agreement into which the Commonwealth Government wishesto enter with the Eastern Extension Company. Sir Edmund Barton does not think that there isany necessity to hold a Conference of representatives of the countries interested in the PacificCable, and he has submitted an alternative scheme to the Board, which that body is now considering.”
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Do the Ministry intend to place a sum of money on the Estimates as a subsidy for a regular mail service between Queeusland and New Guinea, on lines similar to the subsidy granted to steamers running between the Commonwealth, the New Hebrides, and Fiji ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The matter is under. consideration. No sum, howe ever,. can be placed on the present Estimates, as these have already passed the House of Representatives.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In the event of Sir Samuel Griffith accepting the office of Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, will he come under section 84 of the Constitution, which provides that any State servant transferred to the service of the Commonwealth shall carry with him such pension rights as have accrued to him under the State law ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
It is not advisable to give, by way of answer to a question, what would only be an official opinion as to .matters of law arising out of a hypothetical case.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Do any of the conditions attached to the tenders for the conveyance of mails between the United Kingdom and Australia omit Fremantle as a port of call ; if so, which are they, and what are the reasons for Fremantle being omitted as a port of call in such cases ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
Only the conditions attaching to the tenders for the conveyance of mails via Vancouver omit Fremantle as a port of call. The reason for the omission is that Fremantle is not on the route between Australia and Vancouver.
Ordered (on motion by Senator Drake) -
That the order of the clay for the consideration of report brought up on 3rd September, 1902, be rend and discharged.
– I move -
That in the opinion of this Senate -
It is in the best interests of Australian prosperity that a settled fiscal policy should be adopted by the Commonwealth.
Recognising the difficulty of securing a clear, explicit, and definite expression of opinion upon the fiscal question at a general election, when so many issues are involved, this Senate affirms the necessity of ascertaining the will of the electors by means of the referendum, at the forthcoming senatorial elections.
The ballot-papers to be used in the aforesaid referendum may be in the following form : -
I do not know that I need to offer an apology for putting the motion on the business-paper, because this is not the first occasion on which I have advocated this proposal in the Senate. I had the privilege of doing so on at least two occasions last session - first, in speaking to the Address-in-Reply, and, secondly, in discussing the second reading of the Customs Tariff Bill. I may say that during the Federal elections I also advocated the adoption of this course. If at that time I was a strong believer in the referendum as a means of settling the fiscal question, my brief parliamentary experience has convinced me that it is the only possible way in which a period of fiscal peace can be secured. I believe that the people of Australia are quite prepared to deal with this issue. There is no question of the day on which the man in the street is so well prepared to offer an opinion as that of the Tariff. No matter whom one may converse with, he is always ready to state which side he takes. Of. course, I except the few cranks who can never make up their minds on any question. I hold that the people are ready to express their opinion clearly and concisely, so that the Parliament may know the will of the majority. The question of free-trade or protection has provoked considerable controversy. It was discussed in this Parliament for a period of ten months. It has been discussed more or less in the Parliament of every State, but no finality has ever been reached. Its settlement has been put off for the time being, and at the next elections the same indefinite expression ofopinion will be obtained as at the preceding ones. I see no hope of any better results being obtained in the future than in the past unless a referendum is taken. The fiscal question was a very important factor in the last general elections. Generally the candidates took sides on the question, and when the Parliament was opened the fiscalists on either side claimed a victory at the polls. It was said hat if the people could only be given an opportunity of expressing their opinion on the Tariff they would vote against it. The free-traders declared that it was not framed in accordance with the will of the people, while the protectionists took the opposite view. If this confusion of thought has been witnessed in the past, I see no reason to anticipate any better result from the next general elections unless a suitable method is adopted to ascertain correctly the will of the people. The present method of electing members of Parliament is not a very safe guide to what is public opinion on the fiscal question. I cannot suggest a better method to ascertain public opinion than that which I submit in this motion. I admit that it is a difficult task to draw up a ballot-paper which will provide for the expression of various shades of fiscal thought. For several days I puzzled my brain to draw up a ballotpaper which would be comprehensive, and, at the same time, simple and easily understood ; I have to confess that it is capable of improvement. But
I am satisfied that it is possible to frame a ballot-paper which will afford to the electors an opportunity to indicate their opinion. I believe thai the ballot-paper which I have drawn up will furnish t© the electors an opportunity for which they have been longing. I make bold to prophesy that if a referendum is taken at the next general election there will be no doubt as to what is the. collective opinion of Australia. I expect to be met with the argument that I am proposing a method which will enable a candidate to shirk the ‘ responsibility of declaring himself on the fiscal question. But there is very little in that argument when it is examined. It must be admitted that at an election the candidates declare themselves on one side or the other. If there was anything in the argument at all, I think it would tell rather against a candidate than in his favour. Take, for instance, the various members of the Senate. Almost every candidate who appeals to the electors of Victoria is quite ready to declare himself a protectionist. And it seems to be the usual thing in New South Wales for a. candidate to declare himself a free-trader. For a man to boldly declare himself either a free-trader or a protectionist does not explain hh true position. Just in the same way as there are protectionists of different degrees, so there are free-traders of different degrees. If my proposal is adopted an elector will have the opportunity of voting either for a straight-out free-trade or revenue Tariff, according to free-trade ideas, or for a protectionist or revenue Tariff, according to protectionist ideas, and we shall be able to ascertain more accurately the will of the people than we should do if they simply had to vote for candidates who announced themselves as free-traders or protectionists.
– How many questions does the honorable senator propose to have on the ballot-paper ?
– I have included in my motion four questions, which I think are clear enough for the average man to grasp. We know that there are scientific protectionists, who do not desire any revenue to be collected through the Custom-house. That is generally called scientific protection. There is also the free-trader, pure and simple, who does not believe in deriving any revenue through the ‘ Custom-house - that is the free-trader of the out-and-out Henry George school. Of course, either protection or free-trade of the kind mentioned involves the necessity of direct taxation. There are large numbers of electors in Australia who believe in free-trade or protection from that stand-point ; but I cannot shut my eyes to the fact, after the long debate we had on fiscal ism when the Tariff proposals were before us, that there are also many voters who believe in revenue-tariffism combined with either free-trade or protection. No matter to what political school a man may belong, the ballot-paper which I propose provides for all the various shades of fiscalism.
– I thought the honorable senator .said that he was not quite satisfied that his ballot-paper achieved the object he has in view.
– I quite admit that I had some difficulty, as is shown by the fact that I asked leave to amend my motion. There is another aspect of the question which perhaps forms a greater recommendation of the proposal than any I have yet mentioned. If my motion be carried, it will be a means of making people think for themselves ; in fact, it will compel the people to devote their attention to one of the great questions of the day, and will have an educative effect, by causing them to take a. more direct part in the legislation of the country than they take at the present time. This method of settling important questions has been adopted by the republican and liberty-loving people of Switzerland, who are perhaps the most intelligent people in the world ; and that fact speaks, highly in favour of my proposal. I do not wish to initiate the referendum as a sweeping change in our methods of legislation, because such a proposal would court instant defeat. What I desire ls to initiate the principle of the referendum in connexion with a question on which the people of the country are well prepared to express an opinion. There is nothing of a wild-cat nature in my proposal. Another important feature has tobe taken into consideration. Australia requires .a stable or permanent policy of fiscalism. If the trade of this country is to progress, and we are to have prosperity, we must have a settled fiscal policy ; the industries of the country must have time to become established before any Tariff alterations are made. If we change and chop about after every election, stability cannot be expected, and people will never know when there is to be a disarrangement of the Tariff, with consequent confusion in trade and commerce. Viewed from whatever stand-point we like, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by submitting this question directly to the people of Australia. We recognise that there are certain financial obligations imposed on the Federal Parliament by the Constitution; and this .makes it all the more necessary for us to have a settled fiscal policy. If my proposal is not adopted I am quite sure that after the next elections we shall have the same fiscal turmoil we have had during the life of the present Parliament ; and that state of things will continue until a method similar to the one which I am now advocating is adopted. W.e shall always be in doubt as to what is the will of the people, und politicians will have the right to declare that the opinions they express are also the opinions of the public. We shall never be able to obtain any proof as to what are the real opinions of the people until an opportunity such as the referendum affords is given, and a vote recorded in accordance with the popular will.
– I suppose nobody is more anxious than I am to have the fiscal question settled, but I wish it settled properly, and in accordance with what I believe to be the requirements of civilization and common-sense. I am not prepared to submit my lifelong convictions to any referendum with the intention, from that time forward until I reach the grave, of not expressing any opinion or any desire to alter the Tariff if I conceive it to be wrong in any particular. I take it that whatever may be the existing doubts of Senator Higgs and Senator De Largie, if they thought any special industry would be benefited by a duty of 5 per cent., 15 per cent., 100 per cent., or 1,000 per cent.,, they would straightway propose such an impost. In that may be seen one of the great objections to a referendum, which, though it might be introduced with an honest desire to obtain finality, would not assure that end. I am quite certain that if we had a referendum and the free-traders carried the day, as they ought to do, Senator Higgs or Senator De Largie would not take a “back seat” on a fiscal question for ever.
– I certainly should not.
– I think Senator De Largie said )ie* was quite certain.how the referendum would result, and was therefore prepared to advocate that method of settling the question.
– I said nothing of the sort. »
– Then I understand that if at the next general election the free-traders obtain the sweeping triumph, to which they are justly entitled by virtue of their policy - a policy which nowhere receives more powerful indorsement than in Western Australia - Senator De Largie will atenceforth and for ever be prepared to bide by that result. I do not, however, think that that would be the case. I should like to know what is meant by “ protectionist Tariff.” Senator De Largie has practically told us that by these words he means something that would be more properly described as a prohibition Tariff - a Tariff so high that no duties could be collected. Then I understand that Senator De Largie by “free trade Tariff” means a Tariff which would result in the abolition of the Customhouse.
– Hear, hear !.
– Senator De Largie gives us in the first place a choice between the prohibition of imports and the abolition of the Custom-house. But everybody knows that Australia is not in a position to accept either proposal. Both goods and revenue are required.
– Is that the sort of free-trader the honorable senator is - a revenuetariffist 1
– Australia needs revenue, which must be collected, but which cannot be collected by an application of the Henry George theory.
– Oh !
– No other conclusion can be arrived at by any person who has studied the figures relating to the value of land in Australia. “
– Are there no other sources of revenue t
– Undoubtedly there are ; but at the present time what we have to consider is the difference between a protectionist Tariff and a free-trade Tariff. By the former, I understand a Tariff which is levied so as to more or less protect local producers. There are all sorts of protection ; there can be a duty of 5 per cent, which is protective, or there may be a duty of 500 per cent., or a duty of 5,000 per cent. Does Senator De Largie mean moderate protection, or does he mean immoderate protection, which approaches very near to prohibition ? I object to the term “ free-trade revenue Tariff.” In England the Tariff is confined to a very few articles, and is clearly a Tariff for revenue ; and that is what is desired by free-traders all the world over. They contend that if a Tariff is necessary it should be for revenue pure and simple.
– The honorable senator may find free-traders to dispute that view.
– I do not know any free-trader who would do so.
– Senator Pearce would for one.
– I should most certainl y.
– Senator Pearce does not dispute that, under a free-trade Tariff, duties must be imposed for revenue purposes only. I am sure the honorable senator does not desire a Tariff imposed for protection. Free-traders are united in the opinion that when a duty is imposed it should be wholly and solely for revenue. There are so many degrees of taxation connected with the Tariff that we cannot go to the masses of the people and ask - “Which side are you on ? “ What the rates of duty may be depends very much on who is handling the Tariff. There might come into power moderate protectionists who would impose only moderate duties, while others might go as far in the direction of absolute prohibition as revenue considerations permit. The differences are so great that we cannot finally settle this matter by a referendum. Even if we did settle the question in that way, on the very next day politicians on one side or the other would be announcing that they disputed the result, and would take the earliest opportunity of having it reversed. The only thing we can do is to fight the matter out, and I for one am quite determined to fight it to a finality, in the hope that the day will come when Australia will be thoroughly free-trade.
– Senator De Largie proposes to introduce the principle of the referendum into our Federal system of government, and the motion is one which should receive very careful attention before being adopted. The referendum would practically decide the question just as though our system of government were a unification pure and simple instead of a Federation. It would mean that the mass vote of the people would, irrespective of any.State rights, decide some of the most important questions with which the Australian Government have to deal. Under the Federal system, the States have equal representation in one of the Chambers ; and that system would be nullified if important questions were decided by a mass vote. No doubt the adoption of a referendum would be supported by a large number of people who believe in absolute unification, and who hope that our present Federal system will pass away. But from a Federal point of view any question of importance which involves State rights ought not to be settled by means of a referendum. I do not say that the question of the Tariff specially involves State rights.
– Then the honorable senator’s argument does not apply.
– There are numbers of questions with which State rights are intimately associated, and in such cases the referendum would be anti-Federal. When we come to examine the proposal of Senator De Largie, apart altogether from the question of whether it is advisable to introduce the referendum into our Federal system, we find that, after that method had been resorted to, we should be no nearer the solution of the difficulty. It is proposed that the people should have an opportunity of deciding the question in four ways - of saying whether there should be a protectionist Tariff, a free-trade Tariff, a protectionist revenue Tariff, or a free-trade revenue Tariff. Supposing for the sake of argument, that the people decided in favour of a protectionist Tariff, should we be any nearer finality ?
– We should be a long way on the road.
SenatorSTANIFORTH SMITH. -What is the definition of “protectionist Tariff”? It might be said that the protectionist Tariff should mean duties of 15 per cent. : but the present Government might take the view that the duties ought to be as high as those in the United States - that there should be a prohibitive or true protectionist Tariff. The whole question would then have to be decided by the two Houses, just as though there had been no referendum. Of course “freetrade Tariff” is definite, meaning as it does the imposition of no duties. As to a “protectionist revenue Tariff,” when we cast our minds back to the celebrated Maitland manifesto, we remember that Sir Edmund Barton declared that the Federal Tariff would be principally a revenue Tariff - that it would be neither protectionist nor free-trade, but a revenue Tariff incidentally protective. We had there a pronouncement in favour of a protectionist revenue tariff ; but -what was the Tariff which the right honorable gentleman’s Government introduced ? It was a Tariff in which many of the composite and specific duties amounted to over 100 per cent. If at the referendum the people decided for a revenue Tariff incidentally protectionist, Sir Edmund Barton would introduce just such a Tariff as we dealt with last session. The right honorable - gentleman time and again justified the statements he made at Maitland, and he held that the Tariff brought before the Federal Parliament was a fulfilment of the promises he made on that occasion.
– He allowed for plenty of room to cut down.
– Sir Edmund Barton never said that. He claimed that he was perfectly justified in submitting his Tariff to Parliament, and that in doing so he broke neither the letter nor the spirit of any statement contained in his Maitland manifesto.
– Quite right.
– The Minister for Defence agrees with me that Sir Edmund Barton’s definition of a revenue Tariff incidentally protective was shown by the Tariff which he introduced. Another definition of a revenue Tariff would be a Tariff of 1 0 or 1 2 per cent. In such a case we should have just the same fight as before as to what was a revenue Tariff, and the same time would be occupied in settling the question as if no referendum had been taken. While a definite decision on the fiscal question would be of immense advantage to Australia, I am certain that the proposal submitted by Senator De Largie would be absolutely useless to secure such a decision. We have the fiscal issue continually cropping up in Australia, and dominating parties in Parliament. It draws a line transversely across the two historic parliamentary parties, the conservative and democratic parties, and divides them into camps, though upon everything but fiscalism they may not hold views in common. We have amongst free-traders conservatives and radicals, and, amongst protectionists, tories, the most extreme liberals, and labour members. We know that there has been fiscal peace in Great Britain for the last forty or fifty years,’ and the Right Honorable Joseph Chamberlain has recently thrown a bombinto the political camp, which is having the effect of dividing the two historic liberal and conservative parties once more. In the division that is now taking place in those parties we have labour membersand the extreme tories of England on one Side, and liberals, land-owners, and manufacturers on the other side. Any one who has the interests of Australia at heart must agree that it is regrettable that the Tariff issue should be continually hanging over our heads, like some sword of Damocles, and that parties should be dominated by it.
– Does the honorable senator support Senator Pulsford’s contention that Henry George’s view could not be applied in Australia ?
– No, I do not. I believe in free-trade, and I support a revenue tariff only because I look upon it as a stepping stone to free-trade. If some sane proposal could be submitted by which the people could give a definite decision upon the Tariff which would stand for at least ten years, it would ‘be found to bein the best interests of Australia, but I have not yet heard of a solution of the difficulty. While Senator De Largie submits his motion with the best intentions, he must see that even though the people decided that we should have a revenue Tariff, the issue would be no nearer a settlement, because we should still haveto decide what a revenue Tariff is. When we came to deal with specific duties, weshould have the same differences of opinion as before, because whilst a revenue Tariff” interpreted by free-traders would permit of 10 per cent, duties, according to the definition of the Prime Minister, it would allow of the imposition of duties of over 100 percent, in some cases. I do not believe thatwe can bring about a settlement of the fiscal issue by a referendum. I cannot thereforesupport the motion, believing that it will bring us no nearer to the goal which SenatorDe Largie and I desire to reach. If thequestion of the Tariff is fought out at thenext election, we may hope that there will be fiscal peace for some considerable time. I do not believe that a referendum on the fiscal issue would violate any of the principles of Federation, because I do not believe that the Tariff issue is one which specially affects States’ rights. If it did, it would be impossible to submit it to a referendum. So far as the principle is concerned, there does not seem to me to be any insuperable objection to the taking of a referendum upon the question:; but when expediency, and the results which are likely to accrue from a referendum upon the question, are considered, we shall find that we would be no nearer a settlement than over, and we should have, just the same fiscal differences in this Senate as we have at the present time.
– I thought that this motion would furnish a very good subject for discussion, and I expected to find honorable senators more eager to take part in the debate. I wish to say that I am prepared te support the .motion with a certain amendment. I propose to add to it this additional question : -
Are you of opinion that the present Customs Tariff should remain undisturbed for a period of seven years ?
That would bring us to about the end of the bookkeeping period. I cannot understand why Senators Pulsford and Smith should object to a referendum upon this question. During the prolonged debate on the Tariff, extending over some seventeen months, they continually told us that they were sure that if we appealed to the people they would decide in favour of free-trade. Here is an excellent opportunity offered them to appeal to the people, and they are not disposed to take advantage of it. My impression is that, although Senator Smith may not realise it, Senator Pulsford does realise that free-trade is a dying cause.
– No he does not.
– How -is it that the leaders of the protectionist party have repudiated the proposal for a referendum.
– I am not aware that they have done so, but they may have the same doubts as the honorable senator. As a good protectionist, I have no fear as to the result. I should have no fear in submitting the question to a referendum even in New South Wales, because the very brief experience that the people of that State have had of the Commonwealth Tariff has been of such a nature that a writer in the Argus, dealing with New South Wales politics, has made a statement to the effect that the misfortune is that when people get a taste of protection they want more of it. We know, from a tabulated statement which has appeared, that something like £1,000,000 has been expended in building factories and extending existing factories in New South Wales.
-Col. Neild. - That is an exploded lie.
– The honorable senator is under a misapprehension. We are in a position to supply him with details of the various buildings that have been erected under the aegis of the Federal protectionist Tariff.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the figures in the Argus of this morning
– No, I am referring to a long list which appeared some time ago in the columns of the Daily Telegraph. There may have been a little stuffing in the statement. It is possible that some buildings which would have been erected whether there were a protectionist Tariff or not were included in the list ; but that could have been due only to the excessive zeal shown by certain protectionists. We have amongst our ranks certain misguided men, just as have the freetraders, whose zeal outruns their discretion. Whether we fear the result or not, Senator De Largie proposes to submit a fair proposition to the electors. We know very well that iri New South Wales the cry of freetrade has lasted politicans for some forty years, and they have lived upon it during that time. The only question submitted to the electors from time to time in that State was whether they favoured free-trade orprotection.
– That question was not submitted until 1889.
– The honorable senator must know that the late Sir Henry Parkes lived on the question of free-trade in New South Wales for about forty years, and to the great detriment of the country.
– It was evidently nourishing.
– I would remind the honorable senator that the late Sir Henry Parkes got some help also from the quantity of Crown lands he sold. He got several millions in that way which enabled him to pull through. There was not much nourishment in the free-trade policy ; but there was a great deal in the alienation of Crown lands, which enabled him to meet public expenditure. “When a candidate appears be- fore the electors, the first thing they study in him is his personality. Personal considerations influence electors more than a political programme. They will say - “I know so-and-so, and I will give him a vote.” The next consideration of importance may probably be some useful legislation which he proposes, and the views of a candidate upon the fiscal question form only one of many considerations. A man might be a free-trader or a protectionist. He might be like Mr. Bamford, a fiscal atheist, or like Senator Stewart, who says he is a freetrader, and votes protection. Electors return a man very often without considering what his fiscal policy is. It is possible to have a majority in Parliament that will vote on the fiscal question against the wishes and desires of a majority of the electors.
– Senator Walker was returned on account of his financial knowledge.
– Senator Walker was returned to this Senate because he is the great financial authority of New South Wales. I think that Senator Pulsford is the only representative of New South Wales who was returned because he was a freetrader, and a free-trader who has held the flag aloft, and I am glad to hear him say will hold it aloft to the end. I am glad to find that he is not like a certain other so-called free-trader, who, when addressing a public meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall, said it had been the proud boast of his life to uphold the honour of free-trade, but who has since then said that, if it could be shown by a referendum that the people were against freetrade, he would abandon it for the rest of his days. I am glad that Senator Pulsford is not a free-trader of that kind. I think the electors will be able to give a very intelligent vote upon this question. I do not know that Senator De Largie’s questions are stated in the best possible way. I think the electors would understand what a protectionist Tariff is, but they would not know what a free-trade Tariff is, because they have no experience of a free-trade Tariff in any part of the world. We know that the ‘ Tariff of the old country is a hybrid Tariff. I support the motion, but I do not feel positive that it will turn put as I should like, because there may be some confusion in the minds of the electors. It must not be forgotten that we shall have to deal with an unknown quantity in the women’s vote, which may be cast in a direction different to that in which I should like to see it cast. Free-traders may appeal to the women folk, who have to carry on the household economy in many instances on a very limited sum. They may suggest to them that it wouldbe wise to take the duty off condensed milk, oatmeal, and other household requisites, and’ some of the women folk’ may be shortsighted enough to vote in that way.
– They would knock’ the duty off salt, soap, and scent.
– If a stiff duty were imposed on soft soap the honorable senator might find it a great deal harder to get a seat in Parliament. I cannot get away from the justice of this proposal. I believe in the adoption of the referendum. I hope that it will not be very long before a reasonable number of electors will be able to secure a referendum on any subject. I move -
That the following words be added: - “Are you in favour of $he present Customs- Tariff remaining unaltered for a period of seven 3’ears ? “
The Tariff does not give protectionists all the protection which they desire. For example, the duty on hats was reduced, and the result is that the hat factories are not doing as well as they ought to do, as they have to compete with the cheap products of other countries. The Tariff as a whole may be said to be a fair compromise, and I think that the general public, especially commercial men, desire to have a few years’ rest from the turmoil which no doubt would ensue from a prolonged fight on the fiscal question.
– I desire to call the attention of honorable senators to the fact that under new standing order 393 only the amendment can be discussed, and that when it is disposed of another amendment can be moved and discussed, and so on. If, however, this amendment is put, no other amendment can be proposed, because it is an amendment to add to the motion.
– Shall we be allowed to speak once to the amendment and once to the motion 1
– Every amendment which is put can be spoken to by every honorable senator.
– I am under the impression that our standing order was taken from the Standing Orders of the Legislative
Assembly of New South Wales. In that Chamber it is competent for a member to speak to both the amendment andtheoriginal question upon it. And I take it, sir, that it will be competent for honorable senators to do the same, and that if this amendment Were negatived and another amendment moved, honorable senators who had spoken to the original question would be required to confine their remarks to the amendment. I submit that it will be competent for Senator Playford or Senator Dobson, who have not yet spoken to the original question, to speak to both the amendment and the original question.
– I believe that there is a similar standing order in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland. The practice, I think, was that if a member confined his remarks strictly to the amendment he did not lose his right to speak subsequently to the main question. There was nothing to prevent him if he chose from discussing both the amendment and the main question at the same time ; but if he did, he had no right to speak again to the main question after the amendment had been disposed of.
– I do not exactly know the practice in the State Parliaments in which the standing order has been in force, but 1 cannot see how Senator Playford, for instance, can refrain from speaking to the original question if he addresses himself to the amendment. I shallbe very glad to learn whether the practice in the State Parliaments is that when an amendment is moved a member can speak to that amendment, and after it is negatived or passed he can speak again to the original question.
– The rule is that a member can speak to both the amendment and the original question, and that when that amendment is disposed of he can speak to any other amendment which may be moved, but not to the original question, except so far as may be necessary to explain himself. I think it will facilitate the transaction of the business if that practice is adopted here. Our former standing order, taken from the South Australian practice, to the effect that a member who had spoken to the original question, could not speak afterwards to an amendment, was, I understood, the reason for our present standing order so as to enable a member who had spoken to the main’ question to speak to any amendment which might be moved, or, if he had not already spoken to the main question, to speak to both the amendment and the main question at the same time.
– I should like to get this matter settled. Standing order 393 says -
Every senator may speak once on -
Am I to understand that in the Parliaments in which this standing order is in force a member is entitled to speak to both the original question and the amendment, and that he cannot speak again unless another amendment is proposed ?
– Hear, hear.
– How am I to know that a senator is speaking to the original question and the amendment? Ought he to state when he rises that he intends to speak to both questions ?
– If he chooses to speak to only the amendment he will lose his right to speak to the original question.
– I confess that I am in a fog about this matter. It is quite a new practice to me. I shall call on Senator Playford to speak, subject to the restriction that if he speaks to both the original question and the amendment he cannot speak again.
– Not unless another amendment is moved.
– May I suggest, sir, that the question before the Senate is the substantive question plus the amendment, and therefore that those honorable senators who spoke on the substantive question before the amendment was moved will, according to the practice which has been described, be permitted to speak to the amendment alone, subject to your power to call them to order if they diverge from the question, or repeat what they said previously. If that course is taken it will relieve us from any difficulty which might otherwise be experienced.
– That, is what I understand to be the wish of the Senate.
– That is the practice in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.
– If we were compelled to keep strictly to the amendment before the Senate, and subsequently to be allowed to debate the whole question the discussion might be interminable. It appears to me that we adopted a bad rule. A great many bad things, and among- others this standing order have come from the mother State.
– I submit, sir, that the honorable senator has no right to reflect on a decision of the Senate unless for the purpose of securing its repeal.
– The honorable senator is light.
– I could have very easily got round the standing order by saying that I was prepared to move for its repeal at some date. Senator De Largie has explained that he has advocated the adoption of. the referendum for this purpose on several occasions, and that he is now submitting his views in a concrete form. This can be nothing but an academic discussion. If he will reflect for a moment, he .must see that it could lead to no practical result, but would cause the utmost confusion. Although I have for many years been engaged on difficult subjects which could be put in a concrete form before the electors - a form which would enable them to answer practically yes or no - still I preferred to have a referendum. I supported a referendum in South Australia respecting the question of Bible reading in State schools, when of course the direct.question could be put to the electors In the caseof theTariff, however, a difficulty arises at once. “When Senator Higgs expressed his belief that the electors would be able to give an intelligent answer to the questions on the ballot-paper, J asked him to state what is meant by a protectionist Tariff. To one man it means a protection of ‘50, 60, or more per cent. ; to another man it means a moderate protection, perhaps going down to 25 per cent., and possibly up to 30 per cent, in the case of certain luxuries ; while to another man it may mean a protection of only 10 per cent. If a man said, “ I am in favour of a protectionist Tariff,” we should not get from him an intelligent decision. What would be the use of putting such a question to the electors when, if it were answered, no result could follow % There would be only confusion and wrangling over what it meant. It would be said that it meant a high protectionist Tariff, or a moderate protectionist Tariff, or a low protectionist Tariff, and therefore we could get no decision. On the other hand, what is meant by a free-trade Tariff? In almost every case it is incidentally protective ; very often ‘it cannot be otherwise. The same difficulty arises in this case as in the other.
– What protection is there in a duty on tea t
– What protection is there in a duty on wine 1
– That might be directly protective. Take the duty on tea 1
– The honorable and learned senator will remember that a Speaker of our House of Assembly, Sir R. D. Ross, had an idea that tea could be grown at a profit in South Australia. We offered a bonus - a grant of land, I think - to induce the growth of the tea plant. A man brought tea plants from Assam, which he planted in land granted to him in the Mount Lofty ranges. He took care to grow precious few tea plants, and a considerable quantity of potatoes, which, of course, he marketed at a profit. The idea of starting tea plantations in the State, was exploded. Possibly tea may be grown by-and-by, and when it is grown a duty on tea will not be a free-trade duty. Senator Higgs said he was a little frightened about the women’s vote on this fiscal question. I can assure him that in South Australia we are not frightened of the women’s vote. As a rule a woman votes with her husband, or her brother, or her cousin. I was not in the State when the first elections under adult suffrage were held. I was intimately acquainted with all the leading politicians, and when I saw the results I came to the conclusion that if there had been no women’s votes the same men would have been returned. The women’s vote was a negligible quantity I do not know how far the experience of New Zealand bears out that view. I believe that in that Colony, the women favour prohibition more than men do. It has not been the case however in my State. The granting of the franchise to women has only duplicated the voting power. It had no right to be withheld from the women, because they have to obey the laws ; the logic was on their side.
– Do they defend the country?
– They would, if necessary, stand behind Senator Fraser and load his rifle for him. The Boer women fought in the war against the British, and women have in the past fought, and in the future will fight, if necessary, in defence of their home’s and families. Senator De Largie says in his motion that “ in the best interests of Australian prosperity” a settled fiscal policy should be adopted by the Commonwealth. That is a truism. It would be a good thing if we could adopt a settled fiscal policy ; but in this world of change we cannot have a policy that will last for all times. Revision must always be demanded by altered circumstances. At the same time, I believe, that throughout Australia the majority of protectionists and free-traders alike are strongly of . opinion that it would be unwise to interfere with the Tariff until ‘we have had experience of its working for a good many years - that it would be unwise to make the fiscal question an issue at the forthcoming elections.
– Why not let the people express’ that opinion ?
– That is what I understand Senator Higgs wishes the people to have an opportunity of saying ; and, no doubt, a single question might be put at the referendum, though it “would be impossible to put all the questions proposed by Senator De Largie. Senator Higgs’ amendment is practically that the people should be asked - “Are you prepared to leave the fiscal question alone for seven years ? “ No doubt that is a definite question ; but in my opinion there is no necessity for . a referendum. The matter may be left to the commonsense of the electors when the candidates are before them, and when the prevailing opinion may be easily ascertained. My belief is that free-traders and protectionists alike will agree to leave the question alone for a considerable time to come. Senator Higgs’ amendment imposes a limit of time, but altered circumstances might arise having regard to which both free-traders and protectionists would be of opinion that the Tariff should be altered in certain particulars. The referendum would draw a hard and fast line which would do no good and might do considerable mischief. I ask Senator De Largie not topress his motion to a division.
– This afternoon I have heard honorable senators advocating the very thing they condemned yesterday, namely, the absence of Ministerial responsibility. Some honorable senators yesterday deplored the fact that the Government were leaving, or seeking to leave, Parliament to decide a question which they themselves ought to have the courage to propose and support.
The motion before us strikes at the very root of responsible government, and leaves it to the man in the crowd to settle the fiscal policy of the country.
– Who has the betterright ?
– No one, perhaps; but the question is whether by the plan proposed we can arrive at the result desired. The referendum might perhaps apply, I admit, if there were no constituencies other than entire States. But how are we towork a fiscal referendum in the separateconstituencies which form a State 1 In Victoria, for instance, there are twenty-three constituencies, and in New South Wales twenty-six. If a referendum were taken, should we not find great differences in the figures amongst those different electorates ? I admit that in New South Wales we might find some constituencies which would vote for a continuance of the present fiscal system, but in the large majority of cases the vote, would be in exactly the opposite direction. Is it “ to be supposed that representatives of electorates which had decided against the present fiscal system, would consent to have their mouths closed by the votes of people whom they did not represent? Is it to be supposed that I, as a senator for New South Wales, would consent to have my mouth closed foi’ seven years in consequence of the votes of people in another State ? Unless the people of the whole Commonwealth vote, irrespective of whether they form House of Representative electorates or Senate electorates, it will be quite impossible to get an allround vote on such a question. No matter what question might be submitted, there would be varying results in the States and in the House of Representative constituencies. We could not expect the people of a State or the people of a constituency to refrain from expressing their views because people elsewhere had decided in a different ‘ manner. How can any just decision be obtained by a vote on the questions which Senator De Largie submits ? The honorable senator himself suggests that his proposals might be improved on. There are four phrases used - protectionist Tariff, free-trade Tariff, protectionist revenue Tariff, and free- trade revenue’Tariff. What on earth do these four propositions imply ? Without an interpretation clause, showing the maximum tate to constitute a protectionist Tariff and the minimum rate to constitute some other variety o£ Tariff, “what will the people understand themselves to be voting on ? What constitutes, in the estimation of the members of this Chamber, let alone the people of the Commonwealth, the different degrees of fiscal faith or belief set forth in the four phrases I have mentioned ? I remember reading some time ago of an old sea-captain, who was asked what represents moderation in the consumption of liquor, and who replied - “ Well, it is some where between a glass and a barrel.” Freetrade and protection, as set forth in the four propositions, suggest the old captain’s notions of moderation, as being somewhere between no duties and prohibition. But where are the halting places between no duties and prohibition? In submitting a question of this kind to the people by referendum, there would have to be attached to the ballot-paper an interpretation clause much more elaborate than that inserted in any Bill by Parliament.
– Was that done in the case of the Federal Constitution 1
-Col. NEILD.- That was a clear-cut issue whether we were or were not to have the Federal Constitution, and it required only a plain “ yes “ or “ no.” Here very different propositions are put forward in the four suggestions.
– They are all on one subject.
.- Yes, but the honorablesenator knows that a thousand questions could be framed on the fiscal policy, whereas in the case of the Federal Constitution there was involved only one question. A portion of the notice of motion, which the honorable senator has not moved, is as follows : -
You may in addition give a contingent vote for any other Tariff by placing the number 2 in the square opposite, so as to indicate the order of your preference.
– If the ‘ honorable senator reads the paragraph from the beginning he will understand it differently.
.- The words immediately preceding those I have just read are -
Indicate your vote by placing the number 1 in the square opposite the Tariff that you vote for in the first instance.
I see what the honorable senator intends, but the notification is so framed that the average voter would read it as I did, namely, as inviting him to vote for any other variety of Tariff. This is not a question of whether we do or do not trust the people. We may trust the people implicitly; but in order to get an intelligent vote we must submit an intelligent question. I submit “that in a matter of the Tariff it is impossible to have a ballotpaper in such a form as to be intelligible. It is practically impossible to frame questions in such a manner that they cannot be misunderstood. In the Senate elections in New South Wales there were no . less than 34,000 informal ballotpapers.
– There were fifty candidates.
– Exactly ; and the electors became so confused that in a large majority of cases the informality consisted of voting for five senators instead of six. Is it not almost certain that if so many electors voted informally at the Senate elections, there would be much greater confusion in the case of a referendum such as is proposed 1 How can a man or woman in the little voting compartment, with a waiting crowd behind, deliberately con over four or five propositions and come to a’ wise decision on the spur of the moment ? As to Senator Higgs’ amendment, why should the present electors, thousands of whom will be dead before the end of seven years, debar new living electors and senators from dealing with the Tariff 1
– That applies to every law.
– The honorable senator’s leader proposes if the referendum goes against free-trade, to drop the fiscal question for life.
– I do not profess to-be my brother’s keeper, and I have nothing to do with what may have been said elsewhere. I entertain the opinion that those electors who have gone from the world have no right to bind living electors for six, five, four, three, two, or even one year.
– That happens at every election.
– The honorable senator cannot know what he is talking about to say .such a thing. An election to the House of Representatives is for three years.
-s-But the laws may stand for twenty years.
– An elector who is placed on the roll after a law has been passed, is not debarred from attempting to alter that law, whereas, under Senator Higgs amendment, the Tariff would have to remain unaltered for seven years. I sympathize with Senator Higgs in his opinion as to the probable effect of extending the franchise to women. That reform was not the act of the present Government or the present Parliament, but the act of the f ramers of the Constitution.
– The “ Braddon blot “ is for a term of years.
– I never believed in the “ Braddon blot,” and voted against it, as I should do again to-morrow.
– It is there all the same.
– If that proposition were submitted in New South Wales to-day, there would be no hope, for the sake of any form of Federation, of carrying it into force. I feel absolutely certain that the newly enfranchised half of the community would give a vote, whether for members of Parliament or on a referendum, which would mean the destruction of the present Tariff at the earliest possible moment. It is not only, as Senator Higgs fears, the free-traders who will bring forward the question of the Tariff at the next election. the honorable senator must know very well that, whether the free-traders bring that question forward or not, the Government, from the opposite stand-point, are pledged to bring it forward. They are pledged to rip up the Tariff in the interests of preferential trade. If there is anything in pledges or utterances, it is the Ministry who have pledged themselves quite as strongly as have the Opposition to raise the fiscal issue at the forthcoming elections. It is certain to be raised, and will continue to be raised so long as there are large bodies in the Commonwealth entertaining diametrically opposite views of fiscal policy. While I do not think that there is any hope of the motion being carried, or that it would bring about any useful result if carried, I am quite sure that we all sympathize with Senator De Largie in his desire. The honorable senator has left charmingly indefinite the result which he would hope for from the proposed referendum.
– That is quite another question.
– I freely admit it. We can recognise the very natural and proper desire which the honorable senator has that there should be. some element of finality in the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth. We will all agree with him as to that, but, unfortunately, the probabilities are that we all desire that finality from our own stand-point. We all think there is one form of fiscal policy better than another, and we all believe that the adoption of our views is the only way by which fiscal salvation may be attained. We know that, whatever the result of the next elections may be, we shall be certain to find active propaganda work in the Commonwealth in the future. If the free-traders - or, shall I say, the revenue tariffists - secure a majority at the next election, can we be quite sure that the protectionists will remain quiescent ?
.- I do not think they would. If, on the other hand, the protectionists secure a majority, I do not think that free-traders will remain quiescent. I do not see how the carrying of this proposal into effect can promote fiscal peace, and I do not think it would achieve the degree of finality which the honorable senator who submits it so much desires to see established.
Senator PEARCE. (Western Australia). - I do not think this proposal can be called academic, when we find the leader of one of the great fiscal parties in the Commonweal th prepared to advocate it.
– I wonder if he is.
– He has advocated it on one occasion. I do not know whether Senator Walker desires to hint that he may be prepared to advocate something else on the next occasion. With regard to Senator Pulsford’s fear that he may be asked to sink his opinion, there is no necessity for any free-trader or protectionist to do that. If it were decided by the Parliament to refer the fiscal question to the people, every member of the Senate and every member of the other House could take the stump, and advocate free- trade or protection as much as he chose. But it would remove the question from the elections later on. Do we get the true opinion of the people on the fiscal question at an ordinary election? We know very well that at the next election such questions as the proposed Conciliation and Arbitration law, and the amendment of the Navigation law, will sway many of the electorates altogether apart from the fiscal issue ; whilst members returned from constituencies in which this takes place will come here and have an equal voice with others in framing or altering the Tariff. Senator Pulsford seemed to be alarmed that in some subsequent Parliament he would not have the opportunity to give us the splendid figures and facts with which he favoured the Senate during the last discussion of the Tariff. I am sure that they may be found useful at some subsequent period, and the honorable senator need not be afraid that he will have to forsake the child of a lifetime. Senator Smith said that a referendum on the fiscal question was opposed to the Federal system, but that is not the case, because the fiscal question is not one which affects one State as against the others. It is not a question in which the smaller States are against the larger States. Judging by past events, there would be a large majority forfreetrade in New South Wales, and a large majority for protection in the other large State of Victoria.
– Under the Federal system, a referendum might be taken to decide whether the majority of the people and of the States are in favour of a particular view of the question.
– A referendum taken on the lines laid down in the Constitution would safe-guard the Federal idea, because, as Senator Millen says, we could get the view, not only of a majority of the people, but of a majority of the States. Senator De Largie does not say, in his motion, that he refers to that kind of. referendum, or to a mass referendum. In the absence of any reference in the motion to a mass referendum, we may take it that the honorable senator suggests a. referendum such as that indicated in the Constitution, which would provide for a decision by a majority of the States as well as of the people. Senator Smith evidently recognised the weakness of his position, because he very quickly retreated from it by admitting, that he was not prepared to say that the fiscal question involved States rights. Senator Higgs has rightly said that this is a very broad question, and that honorable senator proceeded to show that it is by dealing with the whole question of Tarifflegislation. The honorable senator referred to some figures, and I thought he was referring to the figures appearing in the Argus of this morning, which show that industries, which Senator Higgs claimed we would destroy by the lowering of duties, have progressed and prospered under the Federal Tariff. It is shown that industries, in connexion with which duties were most cut down have increased to the. greatest extent.
– Are they under the Factories law.
– Yes, they are under the Factories law, and notwithstanding that fact, and the fact that duties connected with them have been cut down, they have progressed and prospered.
SenatorFraser. - Because they got a wider market.
– That was so, but when that was pointed out during the discussions on the Tariff, Senator Higgs, and those who agreed with him, said that we were going to wipe those industries out of existence by lowering the duties.
– I referred to industries which have sprung up in New. South Wales under protection.
– I am glad of the correction, because I have no desire to misrepresent the honorable senator. I hope, however, that he will look into the figures appearing in the Argus this morning, as they may have some effect in inducing him to change his views. I think Senator Higgs was somewhat unjust to the leader of the free-trade party, in dealing with his statement that if, at a referendum, the people said they were against free-trade, he would abandon it for the rest of his life. Perhaps, after all, what the right honorable gentleman desired to show was only that he was so good a democrat that he was prepared to bow to the will of the majority. Senator Higgs should give the right honorable gentleman credit for that. What he has said is that, as a free-trader, he is prepared to take the will of the people oh the question. He is a free-trader who is prepared to recognise that there are other questions to be considered besides the fiscal question ; whilst free-traders like Senator Pulsford believe that there is no other question. With them the fiscal question is everything.
– There is the question of the Federal capital.
– Yes, the Federal capital is certainly another question with the honorable senator. I remind Senator Pulsford that the people of New South Wales will desire to know his attitude on the question of the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill, the amendment of the Navigation law, and the White Australia question. All those questions will have to be dealt with at the election, and they will influence some votes for or against the honorable senator. When he comes to this Parliament again, he will be a very bold man if he can say “ I am returned to the Senate simply because I am a free-trader.” The honorable senator may be returned because he is for or against the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, or for several other reasons apart from free-trade. The people, in returning the honorable senator, or any other honorable senator, do not declare whether they are in favour of a free-trade or a protectionist Tariff. I am opposed to the amendment proposed by Senator Higgs, because it will not put the question fairly before the people. I take it that the present Tariff may be called a protectionist revenue Tariff. The protectionists themselves say that it is not a protectionist Tariff, but a protectionist revenue Tariff. I, as a free-trader, admit that. If Senator Higgs and those who think with him believe that the policy of protection should continue, they will be entitled to take a referendum vote in favour of a protectionist revenue Tariff as a declaration by the people that they desire that the present Tariff should remain in force for seven years. It would be only confusing to give them a fifth option, by asking them to say whether the present Tariff should remain undisturbed for seven years. How many of them know the exact incidence of the Tariff?
SenatorFraser. - We cannot bind future Parliaments.
– If a large majority of the whole people declared by vote that the present Tariff should continue undisturbed for seven years, a future Parliament would be likely to respect their decision . It is quite true that any future Parliament would have the right to review the decision, and no referendum could take that right away from it. Senators Neildand Playford have asked us to say what would happen if the people by a referendumdeclaredfora protectionist Tariff, and there were free-trade majorities in both Houses. I am sorry that Senator Playford is not present, because I should like specially to remind him that it would not be the first occasion upon which a freetrade Minister brought in a protectionist Tariff. In South Australia last week I heard a little tale of South Australian political history. It was the story of a free-trade member of Parliament, who was defeated because he was a free-trader. He was then invited to contest a free-trade electorate, and was returned for it. When he entered Parliament he joined a protectionist combination, and brought in the first protectionist Tariff in South Australia. It is clear, therefore, that we should not be without a precedent for a free-trader bringing in a protectionist Tariff. I believe that the gentleman of whom I was told, now boasts of the protectionist Tariff which he introduced as the proudest achievement of his life. I believe he never went back to the same electorate for re-election. I am of opinion that the majority of free-traders and protectionists alike, desire to have this question removed from the arena of party politics. Senators Eraser and Zeal will agree with me that there is an attempt on the part of the Employers’ Federation of Australia to make the issue at the next elections the policy of the Labour Party and the policy of those opposed to the Labour Party. As a member of the Labour Party I should welcome that division of opinion, but how can we secure that when the fiscal question is introduced ? There may be some members of the Labour Party who agree with Senator Fraser on the fiscal question, but if we had the fiscal questionremoved, the honorable senator would be able to act in direct opposition to the party, and we could get a clear cub expression of opinion from the electors on the issue which the Employers’ Federation desire to put before them.
– I am only opposed to the policy now announced by the Labour Party, and not to the Labour Party as a party.
– That is the same thing, practically.
– No ; they may come to their senses two days hence.
– If the next election is fought on the fiscal question we shall not have a straight out-fight as to whether the policy of the Labour Party should be adopted or not. The members of the Employers’ Federation, and the others who support Senator Fraser, have said that they are prepared to sink the fiscal issue.
– I am not a member of the Employers’ Federation.
– I refer generally to the persons who support the honorable senator. Senator De Largie is here giving an. opportunity to those who represent persons opposed to the labour policy to sink the fiscal issue in a satisfactory. way for seven years. With Senator De Largie I supported the proposal he now makes, during the discussion on the Address in Reply and when the Tariff was introduced. I would remind Senator De Largie that we supported it together upon another occasion, and that was when we were before the electors of ‘ Western Australia. On every platform upon which we spoke in Western Australia, we advocated the reference of the fiscal question to the people, and I believe we secured a large amount of support for that reason. Because, while there is a large free-trade vote in that State, it was recognised that tlie fiscal question divided the issue upon other questions of importance, and that it was better that it should be settled by a direct reference to the people. There are other questions connected with the Tariff which might very well be submitted to a referendum. I am surprised that no honorable senator has contemplated the possibility of settling the question of preferential trade in this manner.
An Honorable Senator. - Who can tell us the details of the preferential scheme 1
– We know what the principles are. The Government say, “ We will raise the existing Tariff duties against the foreigner, whilst leaving the duties, as at present, against the old country “; and the Opposition say, “ We will allow the duties to remain as at present, against the foreigner, and will lower them as against Great Britain.” That is a clear cut issue
– Does the honorable senator, as a free-trader, mean to support the last proposition ?
– I ask the honorable senator not to be led away into a discussion of that question.
– I do not propose to discuss it, as it is irrevelant to the motion. But it is a part of the fiscal issue, and it might properly be dealt with by a referendum. Will any satisfactory solution of the question by afforded 6y the elections 1 I will guarantee that the question of preferential trade will occupy a very small place in the minds of many electors, and yet honorable senators will come here, and by their votes will settle the question of preferential trade and the alteration of the Tariff necessary to give effect to it. That is one reason why this motion should be carried. It is said that the discussion is academical, but, if the motion is carried, and we send the resolution on to another place, and the House of Representatives carries a similar resolution, what is there to prevent it being put into force at the next general election 1 We could then get a direct vote from the people on the question, and we could have the next elections fought out on the other questions which will be before the people, such, for instance, as the amendment of the Navigation law and the passing of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Senator Nield referred somewhat contemptuously, I think, “to the man in the crowd.”
– It is a very old game for the honorable senator to put things in that manner.
– I will withdraw the expression if the honorable senator objects to it. At all events, the honorable senator asked us why we should refer this question to the man in the crowd, and the answer is that it concerns the man in the crowd.
– I said it was a shirking of Ministerial responsibility, and opposed to the principles of constitutional government to do so.
– That is a finesounding phrase, which seems to me to mean nothing.
– Because the honorable senator does not understand it.
– Possibly it is because of a lack of understanding, but the phrase conveys nothing to my mind. T shall vote against Senator Higgs’ amendment, and in favour of Senator De Largie’s proposal ; and I trust that the Senate will show its desire to obtain a straight-out vote by adopting the referendum.
– With the first part of Senator De Largie’s motion - that it is in the best interests of Australian prosperity that a settled fiscal policy should be adopted. - I think we can all heartily agree. But when we come to the second and third parts of his proposal, the honorable senator himself sees great difficulties in the way of obtaining what he desires - a clear and definite opinion on the fiscal question. The honorable senator recognises that the difficulties are insuperable, because after providing in a foot-note to meet every particular shade of fiscal opinion he struck it out. 1 regard that as a kind of despairing note, indicating that the honorable senator has come to the conclusion that it is absolutely impossible, by any means that he can devise, to obtain through the referendum an expression of the views of the people upon a complex question like the Tariff.
– The foot-note was omitted because the contingent vote was provided for.
– Then I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. He expects the people of the Commonwealth to be able to express their various shades of fiscal opinion under one of the other four headings. I think it is quite impossible for them to do that. The shades of fiscal thought are so. various that it would be absolutely impossible for a man, with the choice of those four headings before him to express whathis views were. Senator Higgs has endeavoured, but, I think, withoutsuccess, to simplify the matter, by submitting a question which he himself frames with a view of eliciting a simple “yes” or “ no.’ But I do not see what particular right Senator Higgs has - if he will excuse me for putting the matter in this way - to dictate the particular form’ of question which the electors are to be called upon to answer. Why should not another honorable senator have the right to state the question ? Why should we not specify five or ten years? Why, seven ? In taking a referendum, two things have to be decided. The first is to determine the question that should be submitted to the people ; and then the question should be reduced to such a form that it can be answered by a simple “yes” or “no.” The Swiss referendum has been referred to. But that referendum is intimately associated with the initiative. If there is a wish to take a referendum in connexion with a certain matter in Switzerland, first of all a number of electors can ask that a poll be taken as to whether certain action shall be taken. That is the initiative. If that is carried, the Government of the day is charged with putting the question into such a shape that the electors can next be asked to say “yes” or “no” to it. I thoroughly agree with the referendum for great national issues when it is conducted in that way. We have had- a very striking illustration of the referendum in operation in connexion with our own Commonwealth Constitution, when practically both the initiative and the referendum were applied. A very good occasion for the initiative to be put into force was when the people sent delegates - ten from each colony - for the express purpose of drawing up a Federal Constitution. When that task had been accomplished the Constitution was submitted to the people to obtain an answer, “ yes” or “ no.” That, to my mind, is the proper use and limit of the referendum. The honorable senator has not provided for the initiative in connexion with the Tariff issue. He proposes that certain questions shall be put to the people. But we want first of all to have an initiative from the people as to the particular work to be done. Then, when the work has been carried up to that point, the people of the whole of the States can be called upon to say “yes “ or “no.” That is the time to take a referendum. But no good will be obtained by asking the people to answer “yes “or “no” to a series of questions. Instead of simplifying issues at the time of the general election, it would introduce an element of confusion. That being the case, I must vote against the motion.
Senator DE LARGIE (Western Australia). - I desire to say a few words with regard to the amendment.
– The honorable senator can do so, but at this stage he cannot say anything more with regard to the original motion. Under the new standing order I shall put the amend ment before the honorable senator replies finally, because his final reply will close the debate. After the amendment has been disposed of the honorable senator will have a right to reply upon the whole debate. Senator De Largie can now speak upon the amendment only.
– The reason why I did not include the proposal of Senator Higgs in my motion was that I thought it would have the effect rather of complicating than of simplifying the question. I recognise the difficulty of drafting a ballot-paper that will be comprehensive and at the same time put before the electors the question of the Tariff in a clear .form. If I were to include the question - “Are you satisfied with the present Tariff?” and left it to be answered by a simple “ yes “ or “ no,” great complication would arise. For instance, there are numbers of protectionists’ at the present time who are very much dissatisfied with the present Tariff. There are a number of free-traders who are also dissatisfied with it. Therefore we should have both those shades of fiscal thought voting against the present Tariff from twodifferentstand-points. So that Senator Biggs’ amendment would make the result of the referendum worse than useless.
– Does the honorable senator think there is a large body of people in the Commonwealth who want to reopen the fiscal question next year?
– I believe there is a large number of people, both protectionists and free-traders, who desire to allow the present Tariff to remain for a number of years at any rate. I believe that those people can. be given an opportunity of expressing their opinions clearly without any subsequent confusion arising. That is the reason why I should like to see the amendment defeated. Instead of simplifying matters, it will only make the confusion more apparent and worse than it is now. I recognise the difficulty of presenting the question to the people, and, therefore, I should like to keep it as simple as it can be kept. I hold that the form in which I have moved the motion is preferable to the form suggested by Senator Higgs.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Senate divided -
Ayes … … … 3 .
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
– It may look almost like heresy on my part to. oppose any motion providing for the referendum, which is one of the planks of the labour platform, and one with which I am thoroughly in accord. But there are occasions when it might be easy and proper to utilize the referendum, and there are other occasions when the only result of bringing it into requisition would be to make “ confusion worse confounded.” The occasion suggested by Senator De Largie is one of the latter kind. The honorable senator says in the second part of his motion that “ recognising the difficulty of securing a clear, explicit, and definite expression of opinion,” he desires the whole question to be submitted to a referendum of the people. He proposes four questions. I would ask any honorable senator whether there is anything definite, anything clear, and anything explicit, in those questions? The first question which he asks the electors to answer is this - “ Are you in favour of a protectionist Tariff?” What is a protectionist Tariff? We can get a dozen definitions of that term. One honorable senator has one idea of what a protectionist Tariff is .; another has quite a different idea. One elector has one idea, and another elector has a different one - and so on ad infinitum. It is the same with regard to a free-trade Tariff.
– What is a free- trade Tariff?.
– That is just what I want to know. We are told that Great Britain has a free-trade Tariff. I do not believe there is a single free-trade Tariff in existence on the face Of the globe to-day. Neither do I think there is a protectionist Tariff in existence. Then, again, we hear of a protectionist - revenue Tariff. Suppose the electors decide in favour of that? The members who are elected to Parliament will have to debate the whole question from Dan to Beersheba as to what a protectionist - revenue Tariff is. We should have Senator Smith saying one thing, Senator Macfarlane another, with Senator Gould taking a third view, Senator Millen a fourth, and so on right round the Senate ; each honorable senator having a different opinion as to what a protectionist revenue Tariff was. Then, again, there is the limit of time. Suppose a referendum be taken, and a particular policy affirmed. How long is that policy to last? Until there is another referendum, or not ?
– I do not think that method of dealing with the question would be atall satisfactory. It wouldnotbesatisfactory to me. I hear a great deal about Tariff peace. I do not want Tariff peace except on one condition, and that is, the utter defeat of the free-trade party.
– This must be a war of extermination.
– It may be put by the honorable senator in that way if he likes. I am so satisfied that protection is the only fit policy for Australia that I could not sleep at night if we had a free-trade Tariff..
– The honorable senator means that he would not sleep under freetrade blankets.
– No. I would much rather sleep under protectionist blankets, even if they were a little dearer than free-trade ones. I would know that Victorian blankets were manufactured out of pure wool, whereas the others would probably be shoddy. I am very sorry that I cannot support the motion. I should like to be able to vote for this proposal, but I cannot see how, if adopted, it would promote a settlement of this much-vexed question.
– I cannot understand the positionof Senator Stewart, or his quibbling about the terms used in the proposed ballot-paper, because I believe that the various shades of fiscalism are denoted as nearly as any person could denote them. I recognise the difficulty of getting a scientific definition of almost any kind of fiscalism. But if common-sense- is applied to the definitions it is not very hard to’ gather what is meant by “free- trade “ or “protection.” Every one would recognise that the term “protection” on the ballotpaper meant a very high protectionist Tariff. No one I suppose would suggest that we should prohibit importation. I do not believe that there are many fiscalists in Australia who would vote in that direction. Nor do I think that there are many free-traders who would wish to bring about a complete abolition of Customs duties. It is well known that the most advanced of the free-traders admit the necessity of imposingduties on narcotics and stimulants.
– Unless a State monopoly is created.
– The institution of a State monopoly would not obviate the necessity for imposing customs duties.
– We could prohibit importation.
– I think we can all readily grasp what is meant by a revenue Tariff according to protectionist ideas. I admit that it is somewhat difficult to define a revenue Tariff according to free-trade ideas, unless, as I proposed when the Customs Tariff Bill was before the Senate, excise duties were imposed on articles produced in Australia corresponding to the import duties. I should describe revenue tariffism, according to free-trade ideas, as the imposition of. a very small duty to bring in about one -half the amount which, is now collected at the Customs-house. I do not know if that would meet with the general approval of revenue tariffists. I have stated the common-sense definitions which might be applied to the different questions on the ballot-paper. I feel that if this means of settling the fiscal question is not adopted on this occasion it will have to be adopted on another occasion, after the people have had time to reflect on. the subject. At a general election now it is utterly impossible to elicit a clear expression of opinion from the people. The personal element enters so largely into the contest that electors will vote for a candidate no matter what his fiscal creed may be. Public opinion will never be ascertained on this question until a plebiscite such as I have proposed is taken.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority …. … 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following return to an order of the Senate -
Motion (by Senator Stewart) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– At an early stage in Committee I said I would get the views of the Public Service Commissioner with regard to the amendments desired by Senator Stewart. I have already communicated to honorable senators his views with regard to each separate amendment. I asked him to furnish me with a statement of his views on the amendments generally, in order that it might be laid before the Senate when the adoption of the report was moved. The amendments are all in the direction of increasing the expenditure of the Departments, mostly the transferred Departments. We have always been in the habit of considering the expenditure, on those Departments from the point of view of its effect on the States Treasuries. Each amendment which has been made in Committee involves great expenditure. As it is not very long, I propose to read the report of the Commissioner.
– I rise to order. For the purpose of influencing the decision of the Senate the Minister proposes to read a document which he has obtained from a public officer. I recognise the propriety of a Minister using public documents generally, but I am now drawing attention to the use of a document which has been prepared to his order for a certain purpose. I submit that it is utterly opposed to the proper conduct of parliamentary business for a Minister to quote a document which has been specially prepared to his order, with the view of influencing the decision of the Senate.
– I do not see how I can say that a Minister of the Crown can be prohibited from giving information to the Senate on a question under discussion, when it comes from an officer in the Public Service who is in a peculiar position to give information. Whether the document was prepared to the order of the Minister or not I do not know. I have never known a Minister or any one else to be prohibited . from reading a document which did not come within the terms of a standing order. So far as I know, there is no standing order which would prohibit Senator Drake from reading this document. It may be that afterwards he ought to lay it upon the table, but that is another question.
– In ordinary circumstances I should prefer not to rely upon statements specially prepared by officers of a Department, but it should be remembered that I was asked to get this information from the Public Service Commissioner, and that on one occasion Senator Pearce twitted me with not having carried out my promise. The honorable member was probably unaware at the time that I had carried out my promise, and had actually obtained the information. There are two papers, one of which I have already read, and I think it my duty under the circumstances to read the other, seeing that it deals with the whole subject. The document is as follows : -
Amendment No. 1. - Regulation4 - Increase of luncheon time for general division officers from half-an-hotir to three-quarters of an hour.
No definite representations as to increased luncheon time have been made to the Commissioner by any persons qualified to speak on behalf of the General Division officers throughout the Commonwealth. Prior to the framing of the regulation it was understood that the majority of General Division officers in Victoria preferred to have only half-an-hour for luncheon, in order to complete their day’s work earlier. Under existing conditions, the actual working hours (exclusive of luncheon time) of the General Division officers are forty-six and a half hours per week. If the luncheon time be increased as proposed, these hours cannot fairly be reduced-, and, consequently, the men will be required to commence work earlier, or remain later in order to perform the day’s duty. The greater number of the General Division officers are not manual labourers, but are messengers, letter-carriers, sorters, &c, who bring their luncheon with them, and do not desire more than half-an-hour. An extension of the luncheon time has been authorized by the Commissioner in special cases where the public interest is conserved and the eight-hours principle is not interfered with. If it be found that any body of employes is desirous of an extension of the luncheon time on the understanding that the working day shall be proportionately lengthened, the Commissioner will be prepared to favorably consider the request. In the majority of cases, however, it is found that the existing regulation works satisfactorily, and that an increase in the time allowed for luncheon will not be welcomed by those concerned, seeing that it will not lessen the number of hours worked per week. The Commissioner, while at all times prepared to fully consider any representations made on behalf of officers of the service, is not satisfied that in the present instance the proposed amendment of regulation 4 is required.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. - Regulation 66 - (a) Sunday pay to be contingent upon officers “ having already worked six da3*s a week in addition “ to Sunday ; (6) One and a half days’ PaY to be allowed for Sunday work in lieu of a day’s pay.
Large classes of officers, such as telephone attendants and telegraph operators, are connected with branches where, from the nature of the business, Sunday duty is unavoidable, and is more or less continuous throughout the year. It must be remembered, however, that there is no compulsion upon officers to work on Sundays, and that the difficulty is not so much to obtain volunteers for this work as to fairly apportion it amongst those who are anxious to earn an additional day’s pay. Sunday work is not exacting, but, on the contrary, is much easier than that performed through the week, the business on Sundays being intermittent and comparatively very light. Telegraph operators only work six hours on Sunday, and, where necessary, are” then relieved by fresh operators. The present cost, annually, of an extra day’s pay for Sunday duty is £7.500. The adoption of the amendment would increase the expenditure by onehalf the sum named, and the Commissioner is of opinion that such an increase is not justified by the circumstances of the case as set forth above.
Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 - Regulation 149 - Travelling allowances : - (a) Officers of General Division, receiving between fill and £200, to be paid a daily travelling allowance of Ss. iri lieu of 78., as heretofore;, (d) Officers of General Division, receiving £110 and under, to be paid a daily travelling allowance of 7s. in lieu of 6s., as heretofore.
The proposed increase of the daily allowance to officers of the General Division for travelling expenses will largely add to the cost of administering the service, as by far the greater proportion of travelling is done by officers of that division. For example, in Victoria during the past six months the payments for travelling expenses of General Division officers have amounted to £2,445, while for officers of the Administrative and Clerical Divisions the cost has only been £261. The Commissioner sees no adequate reason for -an increase of the present allowances, more especially as positions where travelling is involved are eagerly sought for by officers, and that there is no difficulty in filling the positions under existing conditions. The greater part of the travelling done by officers is necessary for the discharge of their ordinary duties, and is continuous throughout the year. It is considered that the present rates are ample to meet the expenses incurred by General Division officers, and the fact that there is no paucity of applicants for work which necessitates travelling is a sufficient answer to the demand for higher daily rates. In exceptional cases where it can be shown that the rates fixed by Regulation 149 do not cover actual expenses, provision is already made under .Regulation 154 for increasing the allowance. Under ordinary circumstances, however, the present scale rates are held to be sufficient to cover the expenses of officers. 10 z
It will be remembered that yesterday, in reply to Senator Glassey, I said that the Postmaster-General was making a precis of complaints which have been made in his Department, with the view of bringing the whole subject before the Cabinet, and, if it were found that genuine grievances existed, of taking steps to remove them. Senator Stewart has brought this master very prominently before the country by means of the amendment he has carried to the regulations, and I see no reason why these should not be taken into consideration by the Cabinet at the same time. But with regard to some of the suggested amendments, such as that referring to the lunch time, I ask the honorable senator whether in the interests of the men themselves he desires to proceed with it, after having heard the explanation of the Commissioner.
– The Commissioner, I expect, is in a better position than any one else to know the views of the men in the service on a matter of the kind.
– I do not think so.
– I should imagine that the Commissioner is in a better position than even a member of Parliament to hear the views of all the employes affected.
– Does the Commissioner not say that he could extend the time allowed for luncheon if good reason were shown 1
– Yes; the Commissioner says he is prepared to. consider the matter if the men are willing to start work earlier, or remain later, so that forty-six and a half hours per week be worked. The Commissioner also says that the greater part of the men bring their luncheons with, them, and prefer to take only half-an-hour, in order that they may finish their day’s work earlier. If, in consequence of the alteration which has been made in the regulations, it is insisted that the men have three-quarters of an hour for luncheon, the Commissioner will, against their wishes, have to make them start earlier or work later. Surely we ought, to be .able to trust the Commissioner in a small matter of this kind.
– How is it that men in the clerical division have three-quarters of an hour for lunch and have not to work any additional time 1
– I do not know that that is the case. I suppose the men in the clerical division work the same hours as those in the general division.
– No, they do not.
– The Commissioner points out that the men in the clerical division are a different class of employes. Supposing the Senate adopts the amendments,, what is the Commissioner to do? The Senate is one House of the Parliament, and how can it dictate an alteration in a regulation 1 1t is quite conceivable that the other House might come to a resolution of an exactly opposite character. What then have the Government to do ? Are the Government to instruct the Public Service Commissioner to make an alteration in accordance with the resolution passed by one House ?
– That is the provision in the Defence Bill.
– Supposing the two Houses pass contrary resolutions, what is the Public Service Commissioner to do ?
– I submit that it is not a proper course to ask the Senate to insist on small alterations of this character being made in the regulations. A certain form is prescribed for making the regulations, which are very important as having the force of law ; and it does not seem right that they should be altered simply at the. wish of the majority in one House. Senator Stewart has had the matter thoroughly ventilated and discussed, and has explained what are the grievances of some of the civil servants, who I presume have been in communication with him ; and under the circumstances he ought to be satisfied to withdraw his motion.
– Having devoted so much time to this matter, it would, I think, be well to adopt the report, and send the suggested amendments down for the approval of the other House. Unless we take some action of that kind, we shall have occupied a great length of time to no purpose. The remarks of the Public Service Commissioner are very well so far as they go ; but surely it cannot be that all the resolutions at which we have arrived are not wise. I suggest that Senator Stewart should move in the direction I have indicated.
– A considerable amount of time has been devoted to this matter, and we have now to consider how far we are justified, in view of the .report of the
Public Service Commissioner, in endeavouring to carry out the conclusions which have been arrived at by the Senate. Under the Public Service Act, provision is made for the preparation of regulation?, and also for the laying of these regulations on the table of both Houses within seven days of their publication in the Gazette if Parliament is in session, or, otherwise, within seven days after the commencement of the session. But there is no further provision as to what may then be done. The Senate having expressed disapproval, what is the effect ? The Act does not say that under such* circumstances the regulation shall be inoperative. The only meaning is that the regulations disapproved of will have to be reconsidered in the light of the debate, and-of the circumstances which have arisen. It is usual to - make provision in an Act that either House of Parliament shall have power to disallow regulations ; but somehow or another that power does not appear to have been inserted in the Public Service Act.
– I believe that that is so ; the only provision’ is that the regulations shall be laid on the table.
.- -Of course Parliament may consider and deal with the regulations, but the present instance shows how desirable it is that either House shall have the power to disapproveordisallow them within a limited period. Even if the Sena be express disapproval, the regulation must, according bo the Acb, remain in existence until the Executive -.see fit to have ib repealed.
– The Commissioner is the servant of Parliament.
– Of course; but the regulations are made not by the Commissioner, but by the Executive.
– And the Commissioner is not the servant of one House of Parliament.
– According to section 287 of the Public Service Act, the regulations are made by the GovernorGeneral, which means the Government of the day, who are responsible to, and who take their instructions from Parliament Ib is possible- to adopt the suggestion of Senator Walker, and send our proposals bo the other Chamber for consideration ; bub I ask whether this is a case in which that course should be pursued . . No representations have been made by . the public servants themselves to this Parliament.
– According to , the Act, it is wrong for the public servants to approach Parliament.
.- So far as Parliament knows, the public servants are perfectly satisfied with the regulations. Public servants have a way of signifying their dissent by approaching the Commissioner, and pointing out where the regulations affect them harshly or improperly.
– That might mean their having a black mark placed against them.
.- Surely not. If the public servants, as a body, went to the Commissioner and expressed dissatisfaction with the regulations, what kind of a man would the Commissioner be if, on that ground, he placed a “ black mark” against any man ?
– When I was PostmasterGeneral, the public servants used to come to me with suggestions andrecommendations, and all of these I sent on to the Public Service Commissioner.
.- I point out that so far we have no knowledge that these men are dissatisfied. The Public Service Commissioner says that no representations have been made to him, and he gives good reasons why no alteration of the regulations should be made at present. He says also that if it be shown that any hardship exists he will be prepared to make a recommendation which will remove it. Speaking as one who has known the Public Service Commissioner for a number of years, I say that his character is such that he would not willingly do a single unjust act to any member of the Public Service, and that any representations made to him would receive the fullest and most careful consideration. He has pointed out that to alter one regulation with regard to the lunch time” would mean that the men affected by the alteration would be required to give another half-hour’s service each day in order to make up the fortysix and a half hours which should be worked in each week. Honorable members may ask why it should be made up in that way, and why these public servants should be asked to work any longer than before ; but every quarter-hour or half-hour taken from a public servant’s time only means that additional assistance must be secured in order to cope with the work. In regard to travelling allowances, the Public Service Commissioner has pointed out that he has received no complaints. They have been fixed with a due regard to the circumstances in each State, and the persons who are called upon to travel. So far as we know, the public servants are satisfied with the rates fixed, but if in any case the allowance does not prove to be sufficient, the public servant may approach the Commissioner, who under another regulation may increase the travelling expenses if those allowed by the scale are proved insufficient. The Commissioner has given that power under the regulations. If we adopt the course proposed, and say that the allowances shall be increased, and that the hours of labour shall be shortened, we shall be increasing the public expenditure without adequate reason having been shown for so doing. I desire honorable senators to understand that I wish every public servant to be fairly paid for his work. I desire that no man should be asked to work for less than a living wage, or less than adequate remuneration for the services he renders.
– Does the honorable and learned senator believe that a man should be paid less for Sunday work that for work on other days?
– That is what is being done under the regulations at the present time.
– That is being corrected. I disapproved of that.
– I quite agree that a man should not receive less for work done on Sunday than for work done on Monday. The whole question has beenthoroughly discussed and ventilated in the Senate, and in view of the fact that there is no probability that the other House will be able to deal with the question during the present session, it would be better if Senator Stewart did not insist upon the adoption of the report. He might allow the settlement of the question to be postponed, and in the meantime permit of some trial of the regulations. If it is found that they work unjustly or unfairly, and the public servants feel that they are being treated improperly, I can promise the honorable senator that, so far as I am personally concerned, I shall do all I can to assist himto remedy what would be a manifest injustice.
– ‘I desire briefly tore mind Senator Gould that each of these regulations was debated on its merits in Committee, and nothing fresh has been brought forward to-day. I remind him also that this is not merely a question of the public servants and the Commissioner. There is more than that in it. I think that the public conscience of the Commonwealth is against Sunday labour, and would discourage it in every way possible.
– We desire to discourage it.
– How can we discourage it t
– Not by paying people more for Sunday labour.
– That is the proper way in which to discourage it. I know, as one who has had to work for his living, that so long as we did not insist upon overtime rates of pay, we were frequently called upon to work overtime.
– That was in private employment.
– The same thing would hold good in Government employment. When we were sufficiently powerful to insist on overtime pay, and double pay for Sunday work, Sunday work and overtime work generally disappeared.
– It would not disappear in the Public Service if we paid double rates.
– The matter largely rests with heads of Departments. They can do away with Sunday labour if they desire to do so, and they will be induced to do so if extra payment is demanded for that labour. I see no reason why the Senate should go back on what has been done by the Committee. Senator Gould’s proposal is that because the other House may not agree with what we have done we should throw the whole thing over. Why should we not ask the other House to pass these resolutions t
– Let us have an opportunity of seeing how the regulations work;
– We have had that opportunity. Senator Gould says at one time that the Government make the regulations, and when we propose to hold the Government responsible to Parliament the honorable and learned senator tells us that the Public Service Commissioner is responsible.
– Not at all ; the Government are. responsible for the regulations.
– The honorable and learned senator says that we should wait to see whether the public servants are satisfied, but I say that it is not sufficient to know that the public servants are satisfied with ordinary pay for Sunday work. Even though it were proved that they are satisfied, I, as a representative of Western Australia, am prepared to take the responsibility of saying that the Commonwealth should not give ordinary pay for Sunday labour ; and, on the question of the lunch interval, I am prepared to say that we should not limit the time allowed for lunch to half-an-hour, no matter whether the public servants are willing to accept it or not. It is detrimental to their health, and I am prepared to record a vote against it. I’ hope that Senator Stewart will move that the resolutions be sent on for the concurrence of honorable members of the House of Representatives, and I trust the Senate will not stultify itself by accepting the advice of Senator Gould and rejecting the report of the Committee.
– There are more ways in which we may stultify ourselves than that to which Senator Pearce has referred. We have appointed a Public Service Commissioner in order to remove the Public Service as far as possible from political control. That gentleman holds a most important office, and his duties are almost sacred, because in every instance justice is the underlying motive which should move him. If Senator Stewart will apply his cool logical mind to the question, he will admit that one link in his chain is wanting. The honorable senator has not taken us into his confidence. He has not told us upon what evidence he was induced to submit his criticisms of the regulations. We do not know whether he has been seen by one or by fifty of the public servants. We know absolutely nothing from the honorable senator’s point of view except that he is moving in the matter. But we do know from the Minister, under the hand-writing of the Public Service Commissioner, that he has received no ‘ definite complaint. It is probable that he may have heard a murmur from somebody who does not think the lunch interval is long enough, but he is certain to have made inquiries, and it is easy to believe that the public servants prefer that they should have half-an-hour for lunch if that enables them to get away earlier to their homes and gardens. The missing link in Senator Stewart’s chain to which I refer is the absence of evidence of dissatisfaction on the part of a substantial number of civil servants, and of any sufficient reason fpr the action the honorable senator has taken. Assuming that there are 100 men in a particular grade of the service, does riot the honorable senator think that before he is entitled to ask the Senate to take action in the matter he should be able to show that at least one-fifth, one-fourth, or one-third of the number are dissatisfied, and that they have appealed to the Commissioner in a proper way to reconsider certain regulations which they think unjust,’ or which they believe press hardly upon them 1 The Senate has not a tittle of evidence to show that any one civil servant has ever approached the Commissioner, or that the regulations have given the slightest dissatisfaction to any individual. There is no evidence whatever -that the public servants desire that these questions should be raised. The Public Service Commissioner has more experience of civil servants than have a score of honor-, able senators, and the only time when we should be called upon to act as a Court of appeal from that officer, is when it can be shown that the civil servants have approached him, that he has not given them satisfaction, and that there is a bond fide question of justice, either as to pay or hours, between them. I hope Senator Stewart will accept the suggestion of the Minister of Defence, and will be quite content with what he has done. “We may be certain that the Commissioner has most carefully considered the amendments made by the Senate in the regulations. These amendments were made by small majorities, because cases appeared to have been made out, and we had not the Public Service Commissioner present to give us the other side of the matter. The other side has been prominently brought before us again in a memorandum from the Commissioner, and in connexion with every . subject referred to, he has given good reasons why we should leave the regulations as they stand. We find that men who have to work on Sunday, work for six hours on lhat day, and for half the time they are standing idle. The work is nothing like that which has to be done on week days. We find that these men, getting the ordinary day’s pay for this work, absolutely rush forward to secure it. It appears to me that we cannot stop the desire of men to get on in the world by earning another day’s pay. The work required to be done on the Sunday is not to be compared with the work required to be done on the Monday or on the Saturday, and for the second time we have the statement from the Commissioner that, so far from the men being dissatisfied at being asked to. do this work, the great trouble is to divide it amongst the numerous applicants for it. Have we any right, on behalf of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, to give them any more than the remuneration with which they are satisfied 1 Have we any right to give them for a light day’s work a bigger wage than they are now rushing forward to obtain. On the question of the payment of travelling expenses the Commissioner points out. that there is a great deal of travelling, to be done, but the regulation has proved ample in the past to compensate men for all their travelling expenses. He points out also that there is a regulation under which, if the expenses allowed are not sufficient, the Commissioner is empowered to make a further allowance. I hope honorable senators will recognise the importance of the duties the Commissioner has to discharge, and the desire that the Public Service should not be mixed up with our political life. I am sure that every honorable senator is willing at any moment to do ample justice to every public servant; to see that the wages paid are fair, that the hours worked are not too long, and that the conditions of labour are such as the men may fairly accept. It is the desire of the members of the Federal Parliament that we shall have a contented, satisfied, and prosperous Public Service, and we can well leave these matters in the hands of the Public Service Commissioner, until it is shown that’ he has been appealed to and appealed to in vain.
– So far as the Senate is aware no member of the Public Service is dissatisfied with the existing regulations. No communication upon the subject has been addressed t© us by petition,’ nor have we heard of any communication to the Commissioner. I may say that while these matters have been before honorable senators, members of the Public Service have been in communication with me about various matters relating to overtime payment, Sunday work, and other matters, and as the records of the Senate show I have asked a good many questions, and have also spoken upon these subjects.
Yet while these communications, both verbal and in writing, have passed to me continuously, strangely enough the matters involved in the proposed changes of regulations have not been whispered to me in any form. It does not follow that there are not hardships that it is desirable to obviate. It is also true that there are many members of the Civil Service who are not anxious to appear as applicants for .any attention whatever at the hands of members of Parliament. They are not supposed to communicate with members of Parliament, and it is very likely indeed that they may shrink from making representations that they would desire to make. I am inclined to think that Senator Walker’s-recommendation is a good one, namely, that we should carry the report and send it to the other House.- We have spent a good many hours in discussing these alterations in the regulations. I have spoken for them and voted for them, and I am not going to stultify myself by voting against the adoption of a report which partly owes its existence to myself. On the other hand I think it has been clearly shown that it will be necessary to pass a Bill to amend the Public Service Act, so as to provide an opportunity for Parliament to discuss these regulations exactly as we provided for the discussion of regulations made under the Defence Bill. . That measure provides that either House may, by motion, veto any military or naval regulation; and if that is proper with reference to defence, it is equally proper with reference to the Public Service. Under present circumstances, there is no method by which we can veto regulations. Senator Walker’s suggestion is about the’ only one we can adopt, unless we follow the course suggested by Senator Stewart, of moving an Address to His Excellency the Governor-General, in opposition to the existing regulations, and requesting the insertion of the amendments which this Chamber has agreed’ to. I shall support the motion for the adoption of the report, trusting to Senator Stewart to take whatever subsequent action he deems desirable. After having spent so many hours in debating the question, we should not be justified in wafting away the decisions we have arrived at merely because we are told that our amendments will cost so much money. No harm can possibly be done by adopting the motion, whereas if we refuse to confirm the report we may be doing a very serious wrong.
– I’ may say at once that I have no intention of withdrawing from the position I havealready taken up with regard to thismatter. We have thrashed out the wholething in Committee, and have arrived at certain decisions, after hearing the statements of the Commissioner and of the Minister. I hope that we shall not stultify ourselves in this last stage by refusing to adopt the report. As to the objection, taken by Senator Dobson that we have noevidence of discontent with the regulations.. on the part of the Civil Service, I may inform the Senate that in this matter I am representing the civil servants of four States. They are the States of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and. Queensland. I have brought up these matters directly at their . request. Probably if’ I had not been appealed to I should nothave taken any action in the matter. I can assure honorable senators that I did not move until I was completely sure of my ground, and until I had satisfied myself that there was a reasonable ground for dissatisfaction with the regulations. I should like to read a letter which I received only to-day with regard to Sunday work. The writer says : -
I was rather amused at the attitude taken ripby some members regarding Sunday overtime. Speaking of the office in which I work, and which. ‘ I suppose, is typical of many others in the Commonwealth, there is no standing by on Sundays. At least two-thirds of the staff have to work every’ Sunday, and that jolly hard, as it is our busiest, day, a big southern mail arriving, and western and northern mails being despatched, considerably over 200 bags of mails and parcels beinghandled on that day. Personally, and I know many others are of the same opinion, I should liketo see Sunday work abolished altogether, as there is no fun in working seven days a week all the year round ; and that is what the officers herehave to do.
That represents one particular office, and,, as the writer says, very probably that holds. : good all over the Commonwealth, more or less. I am really not in a position to form an opinion whether the amendments moved bv,me would lead to additional expenditure or not. The Commissioner evidently thinksthey would. But even if that be so, is it., right that men should be asked to work on Sundays for actually less than they receive for their work during the other six days, of the week I
– They will not work for less. That was indefensible, and I think it has been corrected already. ,
– Probably that system would have been continued if attention had not been called to it in the Senate. Then, again, why should this time-and-a-half rate for Sunday work be departed from? The honorable and learned senator says that if the Commonwealth pays extra for Sunday work, instead of having less Sunday work, there will be more of it. But as Senator Pearce has pointed ‘out, and as, I believe, is the experience of every man who has had to work for his living in the open market, if higher rates are paid for Sunday work and overtime, they are reduced to a minimum. Why should not the same rule apply in the service of the Commonwealth? If it does not apply it is ample proof that there must be something radically wrong with the management of such Departments as are under the control of the Government. That is the only inference I can draw from the Minister’s statement that increased pay for Sunday work and overtime would simply mean more Sunday work and overtime. The very opposite is the result under private -management, and I cannot for the life of me see how, with good management, the same result cannot be achieved in the public service. I trust that the report will be adopted, and, if that is done, I shall have very much pleasure in moving, in accordance with the suggestion made by Senator Walker, that a message be sent to the other Chamber requesting their concurrence.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senator STEWART (Queensland). - I wish to ask the leave of the Senate to move that the resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives.
– It is not necessary for the honorable senator to ask leave, because standing order 322 says -
It shall be in order at any time to move, without notice, that any resolution of the Senate be communicated by message to the House of Representatives.
– But I desire in the message to ask the concurrence of the other House in the resolutions of the Senate.
– If no objection is offered, the honorable senator may move that motion without notice.
Resolved (on motion by Senator Stewart) -
That the amendments proposed in the Public Service Regulations be communicated to the House of Representatives in a message, requesting the concurrence of that House thereto.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I regret that I have to begin my speech at this late hour in the afternoon. When I asked the Minister to allow me an hour or two this evening, he said that he could not accede to the request, and therefore I am bound to proceed now. I make no apology for introducing the Bill, because I regard section 16 of the Act as the greatest blot on our legislation. It appears to me that it is an insult to our unfortunate coloured fellow subjects; that, considering all the circumstances of the case, it is an act of the gravest cruelty towards them ; that it is absolutely embarrassing to the Colonial Office ; that it will endanger the proper carriage of our mails to the old country; and that it will dissever us for years from the federation with Great Britain in regard to mails. Hitherto Australia and the mother country have been one, so to speak, in postal matters. But, owing to our legislation, we have had to say that we can no longer join with her in any arrangement which may be made for the carriage of mails between Australia and Great Britain. I fancy I hear an honorable senator reply that if the motherland will only comply with our conditions, we can go on as heretofore, and have a joint contract. But he ought to know that certain Acts bind Great Britain to give to the King’s subjects in India the same rights and privileges as are given to his other subjects. It ought to have been known to honorable senators, as well as the Prime Minister, that it would be simply impossible for the British Government to comply with section 18 of the Post and Telegraph Act. We all know what took place owing to the use of a few greased cartridges, and how all India was deluged with blood, and our dearest ones were slaughtered. To pass an Act prohibiting the Government from entering into a contract for the carriage of mails on steamers which carry lascars is a far worse insult than that which caused the Indian Mutiny. The cruelty and hardship of the case are apparent when we come . to look into its history. When the East India Company was broken up, the trade between China and India was carried on by certain “ country “ vessels, as they were called, mostly manned by lascars, and commanded by European and Manilla officers. When the P. and O. Company came upon the scene, sixty odd years ago, they practically wrested that trade from them. But what did they do ? They transferred the black sailors to their own fleet, and for the last sixty years the black sailors, and the generations which have succeeded them, to the number of about 37,000, have been employed on British vessels. After having taken their trade, given them employment, and trained them, family after family - sometimes three generations being employed in the one steamer - it is very cruel to suddenly say that they are not fit to be employed in the vessels which carry our mails, that we shall not enter into a mail contract if one black man is employed on a mail steamer. Do we expect or desire the P. and O. and Orient Companies to dismiss all these men 1 If white men were treated in that way anywhere what an outcry would be raised !
– White men have been discharged from the Orient boats to make room for black men.
– I am talking of the 37,000 men who are employed now, and I believe that 7,000 lascars are employed by the P. and O. Company alone. I contend that the only way in which the company can carry our mails and earn a dividend - for I do not believe that a dividend could be earned without our subsidy - is by getting rid of those 7,000 men. I ask honorable senators if that is what they expect t Would not that be an outrage on humanity 1 Is it not insulting to our fellow subjects, and dragging down the Empire, for Australia to have a law of this sort? My honorable friend retorts that the Orient Company have dis*missed white men in order to employ black men. He is turning the fact upside down - of course, unknowingly. I happen to know the fact. It furnishes a powerful ‘argument, I think, in favour of my Bill.- Within one week of the Senate’s agreement to the insertion of clause 16 in the Post and Telegraph Bill by the other House, it. was announced in the press that the Orient Company were compelled to give up the advantage which for years they hadhad over theP. and O.Company. and to employ lascars, because white men would not, and could not, work in the stoke-holds.
– Oh, rot !
– I thought I should raise the ire of my honorable friend. I call attention to the fact that I am now discussing the employment of stokers and firemen in the tropics, and I propose to read certain quotations as to the incapacity of the white sailor to do the work, and the frightful strain driving him into intemperate habits. Any quotations I have to read are not directed against the ability and skill of the white sailor, but against the impossibility of getting the generality of white sailors to stand the strain of the stoke-hold in tropical and semi-tropical climates. I hope that my honorable friends will remember that remark, and not accuse me, as they did before, of saying that a black sailor is better than a white sailor, or that white, sailors are incompetent. .
– The honorable and learned senator is going to try to do so now, but it is all rot.
– I think it is a rule of the Senate for one honorable senator to take the word of another.
– I am declining not to take the word of the honorable and learned senator, but to accept the authority which he proposes to quote.
– The incident I cited about the Orient Company is an absolute condemnation of section 16 of the Act, and the best argument in favour of my Bill. I shall not allow any honorable senator to turn that fact upside down. The moment I heard of that incident I went down to the office of the company to ascertain the reason for the change, because for many years I had heard that passengers preferred to travel in the Orient boats; on the ground that, in their opinion, they carried safer crews. I was told that year after year the company had tried to run their boats to time, but had absolutely failed, not because of the incompetency of white men, but because of their inability to stand the frightful strain of working in the stokeholds through the tropics. We have the experience of not only the Orient Company but also the P. and O. Company. I have before me a letter in which Sir Thomas Sutherland points out that when the Suez Canal was opened the P. and O. Company understood that they would be able to man their boats with white sailors only. Why ? In order to please the members of the travelling public, who were prejudiced against the employment of coloured crews. An experiment was tried, and the company had to revert ‘to coloured labour. Yet, in the face of that fact, we find this wretched provision in our Post and Telegraph Act. Sir Thomas Sutherland, in his letter, writes as follows : -
With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1870, a new state of affairs arose. The services eastward and westward were no longer separated, and the same crew could serve in the ships alike in the Mediterranean, and in the Eastern seas. When the company’s lines began to be worked regularly nin the Canal, it was the - intention of the directors of the P. and 0. Company that the ships should be manned exclusively by Europeans, the employment of lascars being confined to the vessels running between India and China and on the coast lines. Accordingly the steamers leaving this country were provided with English crews, both seamen and firemen, but with results so unsatisfactory that the efficient working of the mail service was seriously compromised. It was no uncommon experience to have half a crew in prison for drunkenness and disobedience to orders, »nd the directors found themselves compelled, after a year’s’ experience of English sailors and stokers in the tropics, to make the experiment of employing Iascar crews on this side of Suez, in order to get the work of their ships properly done. I say against their inclination, because it was feared the Iascar would never stand the rigour of an English winter.
Here is history repeating itself. The experience of the P. and 0. Company in 1874 was also the experience of the Orient Company in 1901 or 1902. I know as a matter of fact that the Orient Company succeeded in attracting patrons of the P. and O. Company by reason of their employment of white crews. Yet they have been obliged to abandon that policy in the stokeholds. Senator McGregor and others may ask what ‘ :I know of the matter ; but surely the (‘chairman of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, and the officers of the Orient Company ought to know something, and I tate their evidence as disclosing actual facts. Sir Thomas Sutherland goes on to say : -
The employment of mixed crews on the company’s ships was brought about, therefore, by the impossibility of getting the work carried on satisfactorily in the tropics by Europeans
He then proceeds to show that so many more blacks than whites have to be employed for the work, and that, though the black men are not allowed exactly the same space as the white sailors, the former get double the space required by the Indian Navigation Act. Sir Thomas Sutherland adds : -
Of course the object which the trades unionists have in view is to throw difficulties in the way of employing lascars. The result maj’ be to diminish the numbers now carried in certain ships, but it will not be the ship-owner who will suffer, nor the English seamen who will be the gainers.
This question has very little, if anything, to do with the policy of a white Australia. If these 7,000 lascars were got rid of tomorrow, I ask my friends of the Labour Party to say how many Australian seamen would be taken on in their ‘ places ? To begin with, articles are signed at home, and no men would be taken on in Australia unless those who had shipped at home deserted at Australian ports or died. I do not suppose that if the 7,000 lascars were got rid of, employment would be provided for a score of Australian sailors. I ask my friends of the Labour Party, what is the use of insisting on legislation which embarrasses the Empire, is opposed to the Imperial spirit, and is positively an insult to British Indian subjects ?
– What is the use of the honorable and learned senator persisting in a proposal which he has no. hope of carrying?
– I may tell the honorable senator that if every member of this Chamber were present, I should have a majority. Sir Edmund Barton was wrong in telling Mr. Chamberlain that this Parliament thought so and so, when the earnest conviction and opinion of Parliament was against this section of the Act.
– The honorable and learned senator will not get all the senators present.
– That may be. The Labour Party, who are always here attending to their work, may gain a triumph in the absence of some of my supporters, but I tell Senator McGregor - and I tell the electors and also the Home Government, if our debate happens to come under their eye - that a majority of the Senate is in favour of repealing this section of the Act. As to benefiting the Australian or the English sailor, we ought to bear in mind that Great Britain possesses about 51 per cent, of the total shipping tonnage of the world, and that enormous shipping has to be supplied with men out of the 40,000,000 who constitute the population of the British Isles. Germany, with not one-tenth of the total tonnage, has a population pf 45,000,000 or 50,000,000 to draw upon ; and while other nations may have a much larger proportion of their own sailors on board their ships, that is absolutely impossible to Great Britain. We have to go all over the world for our sailors, simply because Great Britain, according to population, has more than her share of the world’s shipping. Is not that a fact to be proud of 1 Has not the commerce of Great Britain made the Empire ? And that commerce never could have been developed without the aid of the foreign sailor, and, to some extent,, without the aid of the black sailor.
– British sailors are being driven out of the service.
– That is a very useless and incorrect interjection. Nothing of the sort is occurring. German, Trench, and Japanese vessels receive enormous subsidies from their several Governments. We all know what a howl there was when it was reported that the Morgan Trust had bought up some of the most magnificent vessels of the British mercantile marine. We also know now how the venture was over-capitalized and is not succeeding. We can quite understand what an important influence these enormous subsidies have in the commercial race for supremacy. When Sir Thomas Sutherland was before the Select Committee of the House of Commons which was inquiring into the effect on British trade of the subsidies granted to shipping by foreign countries, he was asked by the Chairman -
What amount of subsidy would put you on a level with the North German Lloyd, which receives £280,000 a year ?
The answer of Sir Thomas Sutherland isreported as follows : -
At least £50,000 a year more on account of the larger number of trips which the British vessels, make through the Suez Canal, as compared with the German vessels. In connexion with the subject of foreign mail contracts, he (Sir Thos. Sutherland) was of opinion that the comparatively short periods for which they . were made - seven years, as compared with fifteen in the caseof the North German Lloyd - represented a shortsighted policy in the best interests of the mail service. The present contract had only fouryears to run, and as they did not know what wasgoing to happen at the end of that time, they had to be very circumspect in regard to the outlay of capital for the purpose of constructing mail steamers pure and simple. If their contractwere for fifteen years his company would be* expending £1,000,000 or £1,500,000 more than they were doing at present in order to improve- and accelerate the future mail service.
That shows how large companies, like thePacific and Oriental and the Orient, depend on the mail contracts. Sir Thomas Sutherland advocates a longer period, becausethe .companies would then know that thesubsidy would continue, and they could therefore give to the Australian tradebetter ships, with greater speed. If we are to have a hand-to-mouth policy, with shortterms and restrictive enactments as to theemployment of black men, we are likely to get very few tenders indeed, and tohave a very poor service in comparison with that which we might hope to havein - the absence - of . drastic legislation. I have here an important document, which, may help to . answer some of SenatorMcGregor’s statements. It is the report of” a Committee appointed by the Board of” Trade to inquire into certain questions affecting the mercantile marine. One of” the points investigated was -
The causes that have led to the employment of a large and increasing proportion of lascars and. foreigners in the British merchant service, and the effect of such employment upon the reserve of seamen of British nationality available for naval purposes in time of peace or war.
The committee issued a report from which I propose to read several important extracts. The date of the appointment of the committee is the 13th January, 1902, sothat the opinions expressed are quite recent. The first extract I shall read is as follows : -
There is no doubt of the fact of the increase of foreigners employed and corresponding decrease– ;of British seamen employed in the mercantile marine. The statistics of the Registrar-General of Shipping and Seamen, obtained in the manner explained in question 12065, show that in 1S88 there were employed on British merchant vessels lf>8,959 British and 24,990 foreign seamen ; in 1901 the numbers were 151,376 and 37,174 respectively - a decrease of 7,583 British’ and an increase of 12,184 foreign seamen in 13 years thus in the quinquennial period from 1890 to 1901 the decrease in the number of British seamen amounted to 4,597, and the increase in the number of foreign seamen amounted to 5,168.
This increase of foreigners and decrease of Britishers arises from the fact that we have our mercantile marine all over the world. We have been increasing our navy, and no doubt the best sailors find their way into that service ; and the result is that there are not the men to keep pace with the enormous demands of the Empire.
– Nonsense !
– The people are drifting wholesale from the old country to the United States.
– People may be drifting to the United States to start fruit growing or farming where they can get good land, but is it contended that two per cent, of those people would serve on board British ships. I do not mean to say that there are not men enough in the Empire, but in our land of freedom - although I fear it maybe found to be -a land of slavery - every man is allowed to -choose his own vocation. The British sailor is the best sailor afloat, but he does not come forward in such numbers as to enable us to dispense with the foreigner and the black man.
– That is because the foreigner and the black man are cheap.
– That is absolutely -contradicted by men who ought to know. I hope my friends of the Labour Party have something better than those wretched, miserable parrot cries to use in reference to an important matter which affects the Empire at large.
– I shall quote authorities - not of the Labour Party - who tell a different story.
– The report of the Committee proceeds -
Although lascars and other Asiatics are employed almost exclusively on steam vessels, they now exceed the total number of foreign seamen employed in all classes of British ships, and their increase during recent years has been much more rapid than the decrease of British or the increase of foreign seamen employed. . . . It is to be observed that the growth of the mercantile marine has been very great, and that the proportion of British seamen to the total mass of the population is still high.
That shows that the proportion of seamen to population is high, and that, therefore, the English service is a good one. The Englishman evidently appreciates the wages, comfort, and treatment received on British ships. The report further states -
It will be found that one in every thirty-six of the males over fifteen years of age in the United Kingdom is a seaman or fisherman. … As regards the increasing employment of foreign seamen, we do not think, speaking generally, that they are preferred on account of cheapness.
This Committee sat for forty-three days and examined sixty or seventy witnesses, and I believe this reports the last authentic utterance on the subject. It will be seen that it is not a matter of cheapness, but a matter of getting men to do work which must be done.
– Britishers will not do the work at the price.
– Nothing seems to convince the honorable senator.
– Because I know; I should not do the work myself at the price.
– Does the honorable senator know better than the members of the Board of Trade ?
– Certainly -I do.
– Then I give my friend up as a bad job, and can only express the hope that he will not further interrupt me.
– Is there not a great difference between the pay given by the North German Lloyd and the pay given by the Orient Company ?
– Yes ; but what does the honorable senator make out of that fact?
– It shows that the foreigner works for less than the Britisher.
– Why should he not, if he is prepared to do so ?
– The report shows that there is a full proportion of sailors amongst the 41,000,000 people in Great Britain, and also that the employment of the foreigner is not on account of his cheapness. I know that my friends of the Labour Party think that everything resolves itself into a question of wages. They will find before they are much older, however, that the question is .one of character and ability, and of wise and fair laws under which we may all progress in accordance with our capacity. The report proceeds -
The superior contentment and docility of foreign seamen, certainly in the earlier stages of their employment in British ships, render masters and owners willing to take them. It is, however, satisfactory to find that no competent authority alleges that the foreigner is a better seaman than the British subject, especially at times of danger.
Lascars and other Asiatics who are British subjects stand on a different footing from foreigners. . . . We think that, in addition to their claim as British subjects, they have also some claim to employment because British vessels have displaced the native trading vessels.
That is what I alluded to a short” time ago. We have displaced their trading vessels and we have given them employment for sixty years, and it is now proposed that we should rob them. of their means of living. I quote further from the report : -
Lascars are in most cases hereditary sailors, and have special qualifications for work as firemen in hot climates. They are temperate, and those who came before us made a most favorable impression upon us. The evidence shows that th’éy make most amenable and contented crews. In consequence their employment as firemen has grown almost universal in the tropics, and they are also largely employed in vessels trading between ports within the tropics and the United Kingdom.
These Board of Trade experts have found that these lascars, being hereditary sailors, are able to stand the pressure of the stoke -hold. They are universally employed in the tropics, and yet Some honorable senators say we should have nothing more to do with the Peninsular and Oriental Company and the Orient Company, who have served us so well and so faithfully, and who are a credit to the flag under which their fleets sail, unless they turn our. fellow subjects out of their vessels.
They are so contented and so anxious to retain their situations in British ships, that it is not easy to be sure whether that service entails any hardship upon them. We believe, however, that there is no reason to think that many of them do, in any appreciable degree, suffer when employed in tho colder climates to the north of the Suez Canal, or even in the Atlantic trade. We do not, however, feel competent to express any decided opinion on their employment on men-of-war ; but we have no doubt of their desire to be so employed, or of their competency, at least in the capacity of stokers and firemen. We may add that those whom we saw belong for the most part to the northern and warlike races of India, and they certainly impressed us with their manly character.
I have said before, and I now repeat, that in the event of a great. European war, which resolves itself to a great extent into a naval contest, on the first check we should get, involving the loss of a few ships and the loss of a great ‘many men, these lascars might help to save the Empire by going into the stoke-holds of many of our mercantile marine vessels on which they are not employed now, and thus freeing the white stokers to go into the men-of-war. If my honorable friends opposite cannot see that, it appears to me that they are unable tosee that two and two make four.
– Heaven help the Empire if it has to depend upon lascars.
– Does my honorable friend think that interjection worthy of his great intellect ? Whoever said that the Empire had to depend on lascars ?
– The honorable andi learned member is suggesting it.
– I have suggested that they might help to save the Empire in. the way I have stated, and in the same way that Indian troops might help to save the Empire. Surely some thousands of . them who are well-trained men, of the type of the men who were first into the forts at Pekin, might hereafter help to save the Empire, although they are not of the same colour as Senator Higgs.
– They will be the> first to massacre the British troops in India some day.
– It is quite likely that they will if we continue to insult them.’ in every possible way, as this section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act certainly does. I am glad that Senator Higgs sees it so< clearly, and on that ground I claim thehonorable senator’s vote, in order, that hemay do what he can to prevent British subjects in India being massacred as they werein the Indian mutiny. I quote furtherfrom the report : -
On the whole we feel that the objections whichmay be felt as to the employment of foreign seamen do not apply to the employment of lascarsand other Asiatics who are British subjects.
Here the Board nf Trade unanimously find that whatever objections there may beto foreign seamen, Scandinavians, Poles,. Italians or Greeks, they do not apply to thecoloured man who is a British subject, and. who owns the sway of the British flag.
– There is no exception taken to these men under thePost and Telegraph Act.
– There is no exception taken to. these foreign seamen, as the,- honorable and learned senator points out. The Board of Trade further report -
One of the objects of a strong navy is to enable our merchant ships to keep the sea in time of war, and this object would be defeated if too many seamen and firemen were suddenly withdrawn from the mercantile marine and a considerable portion of it laid up in consequence of want of crews.
Will my honorable friends opposite consider that 1 There are from 30,000 to 40,000 foreigners now in the British mercantile marine service, and in the event of a European war more than half of those foreign seamen might be absolutely withdrawn from the vessels in which they are employed. We shall not have enough sailors to man our men-of-war and our mercantile, fleet, if we get rid of our 30,000 foreigners and 37,000 lascars and Asiatics. As Senator Gould has pointed out, under our legislation, we are absolutely preferring, to our own British subjects, men who are called the scum of the nations of the earth, men of all nationalities who go down to the London docks and seek employment on board British vessels. The Board of Trade also say -
The mercantile marine is, and should continue to be, a valuable source from which to draw a portion of the naval reserve. The Committee feel that the numbers which at present come from this source may, and should, be increased.
Orders of the Day called on : Debate interrupted.
Eastern Extension Telegraph Company .- Papua Customs Preference : Pacific Cable : High Court Judges : Defence Force : Customs Bonding Rents and Charges : Tasmanian Cable : Preferential Trade : Moneys Due to Tasmania : Senate Elections : Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Western Australia.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a first time.
The Bill is for the purpose of voting two months’ supply, £658,500. I do not think there is anything in it requiring special remark. The amounts are all based upon the Estimates.
– On what Estimates ?
– Upon the new Estimates. The Appropriation Bill for the year lias been read a first time in the House of
Representatives to-day. Probably we shall have it before us in a week, or perhaps within a fortnight.
– Say a month.
– No ; probably within a fortnight, or even less.
– Do these Estimates provide for the construction of a line for the Eastern Extension Company ?
– No; provision is made upon the Estimates for the construction of a telegraph line, under the agreement with the Eastern Extension Company, but nothing is asked for under this Bill.
– If we pass this Bill, shall we be voting money for that purpose ?
– No; I do not think there is anything in the Bill for that purpose.
Senator -Higgs. - There are a lot of contingencies.
– That line is not provided for under the heading of “contingencies:” It is a special vote. This Supply Bill is required to pay the salaries for the month ; and, in accordance with the usual practice, the amount is made up as equivalent to two months’ supply.
– I avail myself of this opportunity to refer to the conduct of the Government in regard to the Conference asked for by the Pacific Cable Board.
– Is not that question covered by a notice upon the businesspaper ?
– I think not.
– I think it is covered by the order of the day, No. 4 - “ Eastern Extension Company’s Agreement.”
– That is the agreement, but what I am discussing is the question of the Conference asked for by the Pacific Cable Board.
– Is that a different question ?
– Not entirely a different question, but still it is not the same. It will be remembered that the Senate carried an amendment which in the ordinary course should have led to the withdrawal of the agreement ; our object being to emphasize our disagreement with the attitude of the Government regarding the Conference asked for. We understood that the Government were going to negotiate for a Conference, on the lines of Mr. Chamberlain’s cablegram of 27th August.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. I do not know exactly what he is going to say, but he will see that he has a notice of motion upon the paper in reference to that Conference, contingent upon a notice of motion in reference to the Pacific Cable agreement. Although it is admissible under one of our new standing orders to discuss matters which are not revelant to this particular Bill, still we have another standing order which provides that an honorable senator must not anticipate debate concerning a matter which is on the notice-paper. I am not sure, but it seems to me that Senator Higgs has a notice on the paper in reference to the question to which he is now alluding. He ought not to have anticipated debate on his own motion.
– I very much regret that it is in the power of the Government to put upon the business-paper a notice of motion which precludes me from discussing a certain matter.
– But the honorable senator has put this contingent notice on the paper himself.
– Mine is a notice of motion, contingent on a certain proposal coming before the Senate. But the Government do not intend to allow us to reach that item.
– The honorable senator should ask leave to withdraw his contingent notice.
– That cannot be done now.
– There are one or two other grievances which I will deal with. The first is in regard to the resolution carried by the Senate, that the Government should prepare a tabulated statement showing the rates of duty which will be charged on exports from New Guinea under the Papua Customs Preference Bill.
– Did not the honorable senator have that ?
– No ; we have had a substitute. The terms of the resolution were that the statement should be prepared in accordance with the terms of the Papua Customs Preference Bill, which provided that the duty on imports .from New Guinea should be thirty-three and one-third less than the duties on imports from other countries. At the time when Senator O’Connor opposed my proposal, he said that what I asked for was a simple matter which would only take each senator a few minutes to calculate for himself. I pointed out that it would take a little time. The Government officer who had to prepare the tabulated statement also evidently thought that it would take a little time, because, either on his own initiative, or acting under instructions from the Government, he has prepared only a partial statement of what that preference would be.
– The statement includes all the present imports. We are not going to import machinery or wine from New Guinea.
– The object of the Papua Customs Preference Bill is to encourage settlement in New Guinea, and to establish manufactures there. But the Government refuse to tell us what duty they intend to charge on New Guinea goods, although we have carried a resolution asking for the information. Instead of giving us a comprehensive statement setting forth each item in the proposed preference schedule, they only take a few imports from New Guinea I say, therefore, that the Government have not carried out the wishes of the Senate.
– The order of the Senate.
– The command of the Senate that a comparative statement should be prepared. The Government have only given us an emasculated statement with regard to a few items which come from New Guinea at the present time. I have another grievance. Here let me say to those honorable senators who may be surprised that I am adopting the r61e of candid friend, that I am a Government supporter only so long as the Government do what I consider to be right. I am not a Government supporter of the kind desired by the late Sir John Robinson, of New South Wales. When a member of Parliament said to him, “ I support the Government when they are right,” Sir John Robinson replied, “We do not want supporters when the Government are right ; we want them when we are wrong.” I am not a Government supporter of that class. I do not support them when I think they make mistakes. My second grievance against them is that the Senate carried a resolution proposed by myself that there should be laid upon the table a copy of the cablegram sent by the Governor-General to Mr. Chamberlain. Honorable senators will recollect that Sir Edmund Barton wrote to the Governor-General, asking him to cable to Mr. Chamberlain, asking whether he was still anxious to proceed with the Conference in reference to the Pacific Cable. Mr. Chamberlain replied, and I imagine, from the terms of his reply, that the cablegram of the Governor-General to him contained something more than a mere request to know whether Mr. Chamberlain was still desirous of a Conference.
– That is unworthy of the honorable senator.
– If it is unworthy of us, how is it that the Governor-General’s cablegram to Mr. Chamberlain has not been laid before the Senate 1 We carried a resolution ordering them to lay it on the table a fortnight ago.
– I will tell the honorable senator why.
– Then that is all right ; but the honorable and learned senator will excuse me for thinking that there was something in the cablegram that was not contained in Sir Edmund Barton’s letter, seeing that Mr. Chamberlain cabled out that it was quite possible that the matter had gone boo far for the Commonwealth to withdraw from the agreement. The matter has not gone too far for the Commonwealth to withdraw from the agreement with the Eastern Extension Company, and I think that the cablegram from the Governor-General should have been produced, in accordance with our request. Another matter which I beg to bring underthe attention of the Senate is in connexion with the Pacific Cable. I want to know how it is that the Government ‘of the Commonwealth, being partners in the Pacific Cable, permitted the general manager to withdraw the canvassers who were working here in the interests of the cable. Why have the Government permitted Mr. Reynolds, the general manager of the Pacific Cable Board, bo dismiss the canvasser who was employed bo get business in Melbourne 1
– Does he not know his own business best ?
– The honorable senator will recollect that the Commonwealth is a partner in the Pacific Cable scheme. It is in the interests of the general taxpayer that that scheme shall be a financial success. To make it a financial success the Pacific Cable Board, on which we have a representative, must try to attract business. It must adopt business methods. If the Eastern Extension Company employ a canvasser, the Pacific Cable Board should do the same. They were employing a canvasser until quite recently, but it appears that Mr. Reynolds decided that it would not be in the interests of the Pacific Cable to create any friction with the Eastern Extension Company, and dismissed the canvasser. I think that the Government is entirely wrong in allowing the company which is in opposition to the Pacific Cable to carry on business in Melbourne. Senator Drake has admitted, in reply to a question, that section 80 of the Post and Telegraph Act confers upon the Postmaster-General the exclusive privilege of transmitting and receiving telegrams and performing all services incidental to that business. Therefore, I think the Government are very wrong in permitting the opposition to the Pacific Cable to carry on business in Melbourne, when they must know that it will in all probability render the Pacific Cable a burden bo the general taxpayer. I find that a certain company, carrying on business in Melbourne, will register addresses for any firm, and that if the Pacific Cable Board wishes to register an address the Government charge a fee of half-a-guinea per annum. I allude bo Reuter’s Telegram Company - a “packer” of telegrams - which will register, free of charge, as many indicators as a firm desires.
– It is a very great convenience to a business man.
– No doubt it is.
– Which the honorable senator wishes bo reduce.
– I hold that if any private company can afford bo supply firms with such facilities free of cost, the Commonwealth ought to be able to do so. As a taxpayer and a representative of taxpayers, I hold that the Government ought to be censured for refusing to provide those facilities. I went bo the office of a firm in Bourke-street, Melbourne, and asked - “ Will you be kind enough to explain to me your method of transacting cable business 1 “ and I was shown a list of from twenty to thirty indicators - Latin words commencing with the letterS. An indicator, I may explain, is a substitute for the name and address of a firm in Melbourne or elsewhere. If a firm in Melbourne wishes to send an order to a firm in the old country, they go round to the office ofReuter’s Telegram Company and say - “ We do not wish to pay the registration fee of half-a-guinea to the Post and Telegraph Department, and we shall be glad if you will fix up an indicator for us in London.” Reuter’s Telegram Company will not only fix up an indicator for the firm, but will register their message. If a man is carrying on business with several firms and he wishes to order ten dozen hats in London, Reuter’s Telegram Company will register for him the name of the firm as “Secundus” and the firm in London will know when the message is received that “ Secundus” means a certain firm in Melbourne. It will mean a firm in London as well as a firm in Melbourne.
– This has been going on for a quarter of a century.
– It has been going on for a long time, but the point is that the action of . the Government is causing an annual loss of from £20,000 to £30,000 to the Commonwealth. Some indicators have as many as fifty different addresses. When a firm in Melbourne which is doing business with fifty firms is called upon by the Post and Telegraph Department to pay registration fees to the amount of £26 5s. per annum, naturally they will go round toReuter’s Telegram Company where they will not only get these facilities for nothing, but get a rebate on their messages at the end of the half-year or year.
– The Eastern Extension Telegraph Company deny all that
– It is just as well to lay the facts of the case before the Senate and the public, because the Government will not give us an opportunity to supply the information in any other way.
– The Government are not preventing the honorable senator in any way.
– What has been their attitude all along ? They did not want the Senate to go into Committee to consider a certain matter, and in every possible way they have tried to prevent a discussion on this subject. They refused to agree to a conference with the Pacific Cable Board for the purpose of preventing this discussion from taking place. I hold in my hand a card which reads as follows : -
The following particulars are givenon the other side of the card : -
Telegrams forwarded to the United Kingdom, the Continent of Europe, the United States of America, India, and South Africa.
Rebate allowed to regular senders.
Addresses registered free of charge.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 September 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1903/19030923_senate_1_17/>.