2nd Parliament · 1st Session
The -President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., arid read prayers.
Senator TRENWITH presented a petition from. 200 citizens of New South Wales and Victoria praying the Senate tei pass a Bill to provide a bonus or protection to induce the establishment by private enterprise of the manufacture of wire netting”.
Senator STEWART made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as senator for the State of Queensland.
– I wish to give notice that to-morrow I will ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council- . -
– The “standing order provides that an honorable ‘senator desiring to give notice of a question shall hand it in in writing. He is not to read it.
– May I rise to a point of order with regard to that ruling ? It was formerly the custom for honorable senators to read the questions of which they wished to give notice. The new standing order does not expressly lay it down that questions shall not be read, and at the same time it is a matter of convenience- to other senators that they should be read. A senator may wish to ask another question arising out of a question of which notice is given. Notice may be given cf a question which has the effect of colouring some debate, and some other senator may desire to ask another question arising out of it
– I may point out that if honorable senators wish, to have their questions .read to the Senate they can achieve their purpose by asking them without notice. Then the Minister will quietly ask them to be good enough to give notice.
– T would point out that when notice of a question is given, no senator can take any action with reference to it unless by giving another notice. It is not possible to ask a question arising out of a notice of another question until the first question is asked. Therefore, it seems to me that the ground put forward by Senator Pearce is not valid. The standing order, which I -have .to administer strictly in accordance with the wording as I understand it, provides that in order to prevent the time df the Senate being taken up by reading very long questions, they are simply to be handed in. That standing order was deliberately adopted by the Senate, and I. feel bound to adhere to the practice we have adopted until I am otherwise instructed.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council. . without notice, what steps have been taken by the Government to facilitate the settlement of moneys due to Tasmania on account of Customs duties collected in that State during 1901, upon, goods consumed in Victoria ?
– I ask the honorable senator to be good enough to give notice of the question, as I am not now in a position to answer it.
– Before the busi ness of the day is called on I wish to read a paper to the Senate in reference to the Standing Orders generally. I will lay the paper on the table of the Senate afterwards. It is as follows : -
I have the honour to bring under the notice of the Senate the Standing Orders adopted near the end of last session, and to ask for guidance in their administration. Under the Standing Orders provisionally adopted there was, and under the Standing Orders of all the States Legislatures there is, a standing order in these words, or to this effect : - “ In all cases not provided for hereafter, or by sessional or other orders, resort shall be had to the rules, forms and practice of the Commons House of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland, which shall be followed so far as they can be applied to the proceedings.”
In our present Standing Orders this order has been omitted. Following and consequent on this omitted standing order many “ rules, forms and practices” have been followed in the Senate during the last two sessions, which in some cases were not provided for at all by the temporary Standing Orders, and which in other cases were not warranted by the strict letter of such Standing Orders.
The avowed intention of the Senate in omitting the standing order referred to was that, in cases not positively and specifically provided for, we should gradually build up “ rules, forms and practices “ of our own, suited to our own conditions.
There can be no doubt that cases will continually arise in which it will be necessary to do this. Let me give an illustration -
By standing order No. 157 of the House of Commons, when two or more members rise to. speak, the Speaker calls upon “ that member, whom he first observes.” This practically gives the Speaker’ the power of calling upon such of the members rising to speak as he thinks best. By looking in the direction of the leader of the House or pf the Opposition, or of any prominent member, he can first observe him. But as ancillary to this rule, in order to preserve to the House itself the ultimate power of deciding who should be heard, a motion may be made that Mr. Sp and So be now heard, which, if carried, over-rules the decision of the Speaker.
A practice has also arisen, and been carried into effect in the Senate and in the State Legislatures, of calling upon some member by agreement. Some member who wishes to speak asks the President or Speaker to call upon him, and he is acordingly”first observed.”.
Under the Standing Orders which were temporarily in force, the practice has been similar to the practice in the House of Commons. But we have now adopted new Standing Orders, by which all reference to the practice df the House of Commons has been abolished. By these new rules the President is piven no discretion. The rule No. 391 provides that - “The President shall call upon the senator who, in his opinion, first rose in his place.”
I presume this means, in the iona fide opinion of the President - that he is not to pretend to believe that which he knows to be untrue, and consequently that if two or more members rise the President is bound to call upon the member who, in his iona fide opinion, first rose. Neither can the President make any arrangement to call upon any member, although there may be strong reasons why this should be done. Moreover, there is nothing in the Standing Ords.s warranting a motion that the member whom the Senate desired to hear should be heard.
It is true that in the House of Commons such motions (owing to the number of members rising at once) have not been put for some years, but they have frequently been put in many of the State Legislatures.
I admit that the wordingof standing order 391 is the same as the previous standing order on the subject, but it was formerly qualified as before mentioned, and the practices, or, at all events, some of them, have been established and sanctioned by the incorporation into our rules Of the House of Commons practice.
I give this one case as an illustration only.
The alteration in’ our Standing Orders caused by the omission of what was previously standing order No.I appears to me to render it obligatory on the President to strictly conform to our written rules, and will abolish many practices founded on the Houseof Commons rule.
I submit, for the consideration of the Senate, the following suggestions : -
That in any case which may arise which has not. been provided for by the rules, or in which the rules appear insufficient or manifestly inconvenient, the President should state to the Senate (after mature consideration, if possible) what, in his opinion, is the best procedure to adopt, and that the Senate should decide.
That at the commencement of each session the President should lav a paper on the table formulating and tabulating all the decisions arrived at during the last session, giving reasons (if it should be necessary to do so) why, in his opinion, any of his own decisions were incorrect, or any of the decisions of the Senate would lead to inconvenient results. The Senate could then take the decisions objected to into consideration, and decide the matter.
By this means a set of “rules, forms, and practice,” supplementary to and explanatory of the Standing Orders, would be gradually compiled. The questions raised are, I submit, such as should be settled by the Senate, and I rerespectfully ask for instruction and guidance.
March 9, 1904
– The very important paper which you, sir, have read to the Senate ought in the first place to be printed, and in the second place it ought, I think, to be referred to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration and report. I therefore move -
That the paper read by the President to the Senate be printed, and that it be referred to the Standing Orders , Committee for consideration and report.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 4th March (vide page 79) on motion by Senator Trenwith -
That the following address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General : - To His Excellency the Governor-General -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I moved the adjournment of the debate on Friday because I desired, after having the opportunity of ascertaining some details, to reply to one or two criticisms which were offered in the Senate last week. I wish first, however, to take the opportunity of thanking the honorable senators who moved and seconded the Address in Reply for the admirable way in which they performed their duties. I should like also to welcome to the Chamber and to congratulate those new senators who have made valuable contributions to the discussion. At the same time, I think it is not unfitting that I should express my feeling of regret at the loss of some good men who were with us throughout the first Parliament, but who are now no longer members of the Senate. The matters to which I wish particularly to refer were almost without exception brought up by Senator Neild. The first is what has been 1 known as the Petriana incident. The honorable senator impelled me to an interjection when he said that he was astounded - and I thank him for saying that he was astounded - that I -should have stood on platform after platform, during the elections, and upheld the refusal to allow shipwrecked men to come on land. I can give the Senate, very shortly, the whole basis for that statement.
– We do not want it.
– The honorable senator may not want it, but these stories, invented during the elections, about the Petriana incident, are still in circulation in the old world, and are doing a great deal of mischief to Australia.
– The lot of them were pure scandals.
– There was too much truth in them for some people.
– They were pure scandal, and lying scandal at that.
– Order !
– The first evening I was in Sydney I addressed a public meeting on the subject, and, referring to the talk that was going on, I used this expression -
Undesirables will not be allowed in defiance of our laws to mingle wilh our population.
Next morning the Sydney Morning Herald printed that sentence with a variation. It omitted the words “ mingle with our. population,” and put in in place .of them the words, “land in Australia.” < Senator O’Keefe. - Rather an important alteration.
– In the same issue of the paper there were several paragraphs based solely upon its own misstatement, and attacking me personally in connexion with the matter. I took the earliest opportunity on the following evening of addressing three public meetings in Sydney, at which I repeated what I had said on the previous evening, pointing out the error in the newspaper report, and the correction appeared next morning in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
– The honorable and learned senator was very fortunate in getting it in.
– In spite of that, the original statement made by the Sydney Morning Herald was copied from newspaper to newspaper. It had, without my contradiction, or correction, been wired to all parts of the State where I could not possibly make my .voice heard. The consequence was that statements, based upon the misreport, became a portion of the stock-in-trade of candidates, not only in New South Wales, but in other States to which it had been telegraphed. I, of course, accept the assurance of Senator Neild that at the time he spoke last week, he had not heard of the correction.
– We heard two or three versions, that was our trouble.
-Col. Gould. - We got mixed up amongst them.
– There was no other statement made upon which the slanders against myself personally were based, except that one misreport in the Sydney Morning Herald.
– I am speaking of the Prime Minister’s statement.
– I am speaking of the statement made by Senator Neild in which my name was coupled with the Petriana incident. I say emphatically that all the stories circulated in regard to the statement I was said to have made with regard to that incident were based upon the misreport which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.. It was wired everywhere, and my correction, so f aT as I can gather, was not sent anywhere. Senator Neild talked about the execration of the people of Australia ; but in connexion with that incident there was only one thing that was absolutely discreditable, and that was the way in which the facts connected with the case were distorted purely for electioneering purposes, and sent careering round the world with absolute carelessness as to the evil effect they must have upon Australia.
– The other side. have no case without misrepresentation.
– Senator Neild referred to another matter in which I was to a certain extent implicated, and that was the case of Hannah v. Dalgarno. I must again complain of the way in which the honorable senator put that case to the Senate. He put an absolutely one-sided statement before honorable senators by omitting all the particulars which would go to show that the action of the Government had been fair and reasonable. I was therefore pot at all surprised when the honorable senator somewhat reluctantly admitted that the paper in his hand, from which he quoted when stating the case, was an extract from the Sydney Daily Telegraph. The very words which the honorable senator used to introduce the case were sufficient to condemn his whole statement. As honorable senators will, perhaps, remember, he commenced in this way -
An unfortunate cabman had his horse killed, his cab smashed, and himself injured, by an electric current supplied by the Post and Telegraph Department.
I suppose that honorable senators are aware that the electric current used by. the Post and Telegraph Department is probably not sufficiently powerful to kill a flea, and they may judge from this how unfair Senator Neild was in the statement he made The nature of the accident was this : A perfectly harmless telephone wire belonging to the Post and Telegraph Department broke and fell across an unguarded electric tramway cable belonging to the Railway Commissioners of New South Wales. The consequence was that the tremendous current carried over the electric tram cables was communicated to the broken telephone wire, and this caused the injury sustained by the cabman. But. Senator Neild kept entirely out of sight the fact that the Government in this matter were fighting a most important point in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– What about the delay in paying up when the verdict went against the Government?
– I propose to tell the whole story from the beginning, and not a portion of it. The question we were fighting was the question of the liability of the Commonwealth, or of the State Railway Commissioners, for an accident of this kind. Any one who knows the Sydney streets knows the way in which the telephone wires cross and recross these unguarded cables, carrying an enormous current of electricity, and must recognise how important it is that the question of the responsibility in connexion with this matter should be5 settled before some dreadful accident occurred.
– But is not the Commonwealth responsible for everything that happens in New South Wales?
– The High Court held that the plaintiff’s claim was good.
– This accident happened, and we disclaimed, as we do now, all liability in connexion with it. We said that if the accident did happen the fault lay with the Railway Commissioners for leaving the tram cable wires unguarded. Unfortunately at that time there was no proper Federal Court established. The Government could not have been accused of having been lax in their attempts to carry the Judiciary Bill, but they had not, up to that time, been successful, and consequently there was no court with Federal jurisdiction in New South Wales.
-Col. Gould. - That was not the point taken by the Government when the case was before the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
– I will tell the whole story, not a portion of it. Mr. Hannah then brought his action, not against Mr. Dalgarno, but against the Postmaster-General by name, and I was the Postmaster-General at the time. His solicitors wrote to us asking if we would make certain admissions, and in order to assist the plaintiff in every way we agreed to make all the admissions, word for word, that we were asked to make. We also instructed counsel not to take any objection to the jurisdiction. When the case came on our counsel stated absolutely that they were not instructed to take objection to the jurisdiction, but at the same time the jurisdiction was mentioned, and it was hardly possible that that could have been avoided. But the plaintiff, with all the admissions 1 we had so freely made to assist him in his action, contended that I had become personally liable. He had asked us to admit, for instance, that the wires were the property of the defendant, that the linesmen were the servants of the def endant, and then he argued that as I, as the defendant, had admitted that the wires belonged to me, the linesmen were my servants, and I had become personally liable. Mr. Justice Pring decided, however, that, by the admissions, I had not made myself personally liable, and also that the Court had not any jurisdiction in Federal matters, and that the consent of ‘ the defendant would not give it jurisdiction. ;The plaintiff was nonsuited, and he then moved for a new trial in the same court. We had then reached nearly the end of the session, and seeing that we could not pass the Judiciary Bill, the Government brought, down and passed the Claims Against the Commonwealth Bill, for the express purpose of giving this gentleman, as well as others, an opportunity to proceed with their claims.
– That was mentioned at the time.
– It was mentioned at the time, and the Bill was passed for the very purpose of providing a court to which this cabman and others could go. He first of all refused to act upon it; then he was asked to discontinue his action against myself personally, and to enter an action against the nominal defendant, Mr. Dalgarno. In order to induce him to do that, we consented to agree that the costs in the first case, in which he had been nonsuited, and the costs in the new trial should abide the event of the action, so that he would have been in just as good a position as if he had gone on with the case against myself, and had succeeded. At, first he would not agree to our proposal, but after some demur he accepted it, and proceeded with his action under the Claims Against the Commonwealth Act. The case came before Mr. Justice Stephen, and a jury of four. At the trial no evidence whatever was given of negligence on the part of defendant. Our counsel asked the Judge to nonsuit the plaintiff, on the ground that no evidence had been given. Our counsel also asked the Judge to direct the jury that, as a matter of law, we were not liable. The Judge declined to do that, but said he would let the case go to the jury, with the understanding that if the jury decided against the defendant he would stay execution in order that the matter might be taken to the Full Court. We then went to the Full Court, and it held that, although there was no express evidence of negligence on the part of the defendant, still the accident had happened, and he had been the cause of it. They refused to grant a new trial, and we got special leave to appeal to the High Court. Afterwards the motion for the appeal was rescinded by the High Court, on the ground that the courtwas doubtful whether the verdict, having been given before the Judiciary Bill was passed, and the High Court established, an appeal could be made to that court, and also on this other ground : that the question as to liability could be argued again and settled whenever any similar case arose. Under the circumstances, we ‘did not go any further with the matter. We could perhaps have taken it to the Privy Council, but we decided not to do so, but to abide by the verdict, and to bring, the matter of our liability up again on some future occasion, with a view to getting it settled. I should like -to refer now to- the delay in paying the. plaintiff. After we had agreed to abide by the verdict there was a little delay, because, as Senator Gould knows, it is not always easy to find a fund from which to pay an amount recovered in this way.
.- What did the verdict amount to?
– It amounted to £200 and the costs, whatever they were. But it should also be stated that the plaintiff was under no great disadvantage because of the delay, as, in accordance with the judgment, he was given five per cent, interest on the money for the time it remained unpaid. What I desire the Senate to understand, particularly, in order to counteract the effect of the statement made by Senator Neild, is that in the first place the Government were not endeavouring to avoid payment for damage caused by the negligence of the Post and Telegraph Department. They were anxious that the question as to liability in such cases should be settled. The case was protracted, and considerable expense was incurred; but what is most to be regretted is that that particular question is still unsettled. It isa most important matter, and in the public interest it will have to be settled.
– What Senator Neild complained of was the . delay in the payment of the amount awarded, and not that the Government were fighting the question of responsibility. .
– Only incidentally. I have admitted that there was some delay in the payment, but Senator Neild did not state, as he should have done, that the plaintiff was getting five per cent, interest on his money, and so did not have any very great grievance.
– Very often a man would sooner have his money than wait for it with the prospect of getting interest on it.
– Delays of this kind will occur sometimes, as Senator Gould knows very well. There is a difficulty in finding a fund which can be made available for the payment of such claims. The only other matter which Senator Neild referred to I promised to inquire into in order to give such information as I could to the Senate. I refer to the case of a Captain Pearce, who had been employed in connexion with a record of the recent war in South Africa. In this matter also, I have to complain that Senator Neild omitted one important fact which he should have brought most prominently forward in submitting the case to the Senate. Captain . Pearce, as has been stated, was an officer in the Education’ Department of New South Wales. Some time before the conclusion of the war he was employed by the Commandant, at the instance of the Premier of New South Wales, to get certain information for the War Office, with a view to compiling an account of the South African war. He was engaged upon that task for some time before Federation, and. was, I believe, paid for his work; and paid, I have no doubt, out of Imperial funds. He then went away to South Africa, and came back some time after Federation had been established. He was told then by the Commandant that he was to continue the work that he had left unfinished. He did so, and for about three months, I believe, he was thus occupied. Every one will admit that under the circumstances Captain Pearce is entitled to be paid. Senator Neild was no doubt perfectly right there, but the question again is whether he should be paid, as he was paid before, by the Government of New South Wales, out of Imperial funds, or by the Commonwealth. He had before, apparently, been employed by the Premier of New South Wales, at the instance of the War Office. He had done certain work for them, and had been paid for it presumably out of Imperial funds. When he came back from South Africa he was told to continue his work. The Commonwealth may be liable for his payment ; I do not say it is ; but at the first blush it certainly does not seem reasonable that the Commonwealth should be asked to pay this officer for the continuation of work for the earlier portion of which he was paid out of Imperial funds, and the benefit of which - if any benefit is to be derived from it - will be enjoyed by the War Office. Surely, if they required this officer to perform the first portion of the work, and. were willing to pay him for it, they should also pay him for the second portion?
– His engagement was with the New South Wales Government.
– It was through the Commandant. In the first place the War Office authorities communicated with the Premier of New South Wales, and that gentleman asked the Commandant to detail an officer for this service. The Commandant detailed Captain Pearce, and that gentleman was paid for the work he did in the first instance, before he went to South Africa, presumably from Imperial funds. When Captain Pearce came back he was told by the Commandant, who, of course, was then a servant of the Commonwealth Government - and there is the difference - that he might continue the work. The contention on the part of Captain Pearce is, I believe, that he should be paid by the Commonwealth Government ; and the matter now stands in this way : - A communication was sent by the Commandant to the principal Under-Secretary of New South Wales, asking him, to arrange for the payment of this money, but to that communication no reply has been received, and further correspondence is going on with the State Government in order to ascertain whether they propose to pay. I do not blame Senator Neild for bringing this matter forward if he thought it of sufficient importance, but he ought to have pointed out that the question at issue is not whether Captain Pearce shall or shall not be paid for the work, but whether the liability rests on the Government of the Commonwealth or on the Government of New South Wales.
– In the second instance the Commonwealth ordered the work.
– Captain Pearce was told to continue the work which had been broken by his absence in South Africa. Technically, perhaps, the Commonwealth has made itself liable, though on the merits of the case it seems to me that if the first part of the work was done, at the order of the the Imperial Government, and was paid for by the Imperial Government, the latter should also pay for the remainder of the work. I do not know whether I need attempt to reply to the general charges made against the Defence Department bySenator Neild.
– What about the millinery in the Defence Department?
– If Senator Neild had laid before the House any particular case which he thought worthy of attention, I might have given a specific reply. I know a little of the regulations to which Senator Neild referred, and the thirty or forty pages which he mentioned are simply a reprint I do not think that Senator Neild could say that the alterations made in the uniforms have been in the direc- tion of increasing the amount of “ embroidery “ in any branch of the force. Indeed, the alterations have been exactly in the opposite direction - in the direction of reducing the cost of the uniforms. The principal reform is that an officer may now use his ordinary working day uniform - if I may use the expression - with very little extra trimming, as full dress, so as to obviate the necessity of an expensive uniform as well as a service uniform. It was little short of misrepresentation for Senator Neild to read extracts and to give the Senate the impression that the Commandant has been introducing some entirely new embellishments for the uniform. Senator Neild continually harped on the statement which he said had been made by the Minister for Defence, that our Defence Forces are prepared for any emergency. Senator Neild, I understand, was quoting, not from a speech or statement made by my honorable colleague, but from an account of an interview with him which appeared in one of the Sydney daily papers. I have yet to learn that a politician is to be held responsible for the exact language used by a newspaper interviewer. My experience is that interviewers ask all sorts of questions, and then, in their own language, express in writing the impression made on their minds. A statement that we are ready for any possible emergency in a military or naval sense would be absolutely absurd, whether made by a Minister or anybody else. What was the object of Senator Neild in reading a list of the deficiencies in the equipment of our Defence Forces, as shown in the extracts from the report of our military expert? The Commandant has told us that there are deficiencies to make good, which he estimates would cost ,£480,000. Last session Parliament voted ^50,000 for the military forces, and I see little use in an honorable senator telling us that that amount has not proved sufficient to meet deficiencies estimated to involve an expenditure of nearly half a million. We know that the deficiencies pointed out by the Commandant exist at the present time to nearly the same extent as when his report was submitted. It would have been con:siderably more to the purpose if Senator Neild had endeavoured to show that the Minister for Defence had in any way failed in his duty in carrying out the wishes of Parliament in this direction. What the Minister for Defence did say, and can probably maintain, is that the. defences of Australia, as authorized by Parliament, have been maintained in the highest state ,of efficiency possible under the circumstances. If the Minister for Defence did make that statement no blame could be attributed to him ; and I think we may assume that in this connexion no charge can be made against him. I might refer to some ‘of the statements made in regard to the working of the electoral law during the recent elections, but I hardly think it necessary to do so. I will sum up my opinion by saying that, seeing that the machinery was new and nearly all the officers were Federal officers, who had never had any experience of the working of an election previously, the results were much better than, under the circumstances, could have been expected.
– They could not have been much worse-
– Senator Guthrie has, perhaps, had experience of State elections conducted by experienced officers, working under Acts which possessed the advantage of having been tested.
– The same State officers were employed in the Federal elections.
– There is never an election without a great number of complaints, especially on the part of those who do not happen to be successful. Taking all the circumstances into consideration, I was agreeably surprised that the elections were carried out with so little friction and trouble. I have no doubt that, in the light of our experience, and with, perhaps, some little alterations-
– The Minister is easily satisfied.
– I do not know that I am easily satisfied ; but it would not have been very wonderful, considering the new Act and the enormous extent of territory, together with the fact that in a great many cases the officers had had no previous acquaintance with the working of elections, if in some cases there had been a breakdown. No senator can, however, point to any case in which there was a breakdown in the machinery.
– There was practically a breakdown.
– Perhaps ‘ Senator Pearce will tell us where the breakdown was, because the more information we have the better position we shall be in to insure that in the future the conduct of the elections shall be as near perfection as possible.
– The worst feature was that some of the officers were great partisans.
– I would not commit : myself to a statement- of . that’ kind.- At nearly every State election I have heard similar statements made sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other, and I think we may balance the two, and say that, on the whole, the officers performed their duties fairly well. There is nothing else, I think, to which I need refer, the Government being in the rather happy position of coming back from a general election with very little to account for or answer.
– Before I deal with the speech of the Governor-General I should like to offer you, Sir, my congratulations ‘ on your reelection to the position of President of the Senate, a re-election which, to a greater degree, marks the honour originally bestowed upon you. When the Commonwealth Parliament met for the first time senators were more or less strangers to each other - the three gentlemen nominated for the position which you now occupy, were personally strangers to me - and, under the circumstances, it was quite possible for us to make a mistake. The fact of your re-election is, however, the best proof that no mistake was made. At the end of your first term of office we were so pleased with your services that we desired to retain them. The speech of the GovernorGeneral has already been likened to a bill of fare. , In thinking over some of the bills of fare.’ that have come before me in .certain cheap restaurants which’ at times I have had to patronize, I remember that they were very elaborate productions. I have no doubt that the bills of fare in some of the cheapest restaurants in Melbourne compare very favorably in appearance with the bills of fare presented at such hotels as the Grand or Menzies’, indeed, it is safe to say that they are the more elaborate productions. At the cheap restaurants, however, the bills of fare are frequently a source of great disappointment. Just as you have decided on a dish, you are, in nine cases out of ten, told that it is “off.” If you then decide on some other dish that also is probably “ off,” and so on, until you find that really the bill of fare contains only one “or two items. I hope, however, that when the dishes mentioned in the bill of fare presented to us by His Excellency are called for they will be produced - that such dishes as the Federal Capital . site, old-age pensions, the transcontinental railway, and others, will be very much ““on.” I hope it will be found that the cook has made no mistake, but tha,t the dishes are quite ready, and that we shall be in a fit and proper frame of mind to do justice to them.
– They will be cooked to a turn.
– I hope so, because they are important dishes which we ought to enjoy - dishes which the Parliament has been specially called on to provide. I agree with some of the remarks made about this political bill of fare, and I hope the present condition of parties will not prevent the items being brought forward. I recognise that the position is one in which the Government cannot be very sure of their ground ; but they clear the way considerably by fixing on the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill as one of the first measures to be considered. In the present political situation this measure may be looked upon as the most delicate with which we shall be called upon to deal. It is rather late in the day to argue the merits or demerits of Compulsory arbitration or conciliation. We have got beyond that stage in Australia, and, therefore, in what I have to say T. shall steer as far as possible from the broad principle. The one objection so far as I know that has been urged against this measure is the inclusion, or, rather, the probable inclusion, of State employes within its operation. I had something to do with the initiation of similar legislation in Western Australia, and have had considerable experience of the working of the Act there; and I can assure honorable senators that if the Government employes had been left out, the measure in Western Australia would have been of no practical good to the workers. No workers in Western Australia were so much subject to disputes’ and strikes as those whom it is now proposed to exclude. I think I am safe in saying that before the Act came into operation in New South Wales there were more strikes and industrial disputes among Government employes than among the em ployes of private employers. The most dangerous disputes or strikes which took place there were those involving the State railway employe’s. And yet it is now seriously proposed that these men shall be left out of the scope of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I hope that for the success of the measure that proposal will not be carried out. I am confident that if the measure be passed, and the State servants excluded, we shall sooner or latter have to amend it. The past history of disputes in every part of Australia shows that there are no circumstances which do not apply equally to State employes and to private employes. We have no need to go beyond Victoria in order to see the effects of a great railway strike. Will any one tell me that the settlement of the recent strike was at all satisfactory to the Government, the people, or the workmen. I am. quite sure there never was a settlement which left behind it so deep a sting; and we now have the choice of having such disputes determined by the force of coercion, or by the much more reasonable methods of an Arbitration Act such as has been in operation in New South Wales and Western Australia, and for a much longer period in New Zealand. The experience there gained ought to be a guide to us in framing the proposed measure, and I feel quite sure that unless we include State employes, who are subject to the same conditions and circumstances as are private employes-
– Not quite.
– I know of no conditions and circumstances in State employment which do not prevail amongst outside workers.
– The State employe can apply to Parliament which is his Arbitration Court.
– I do not know that these are matters which Ought to come before Parliament. In my opinion, they ought to be left to an independent tribunal. It has been argued that we should not take the control of the employe’s of the States from the State Parliaments. We must remember, however, that that has already been done in some of the States, notably in Western Australia, where Parliament handed the control of disputes over to an independent tribunal. That is all we are asking at the present time.
– How long has Western Australia had that tribunal ?
– For three or four years. It has worked very satisfactorily. Before we had it, strikes were innumerable. In fact, the most serious strikes that we had in that State were railway strikes. ‘ It has been proposed that we should have an amendment of the electoral law. But I do not know that the time has yet come for any very serious alteration of that character.. The present Act has not been sufficiently long in force. We have not had enough experience of it to justify us in making any serious alteration. As the Attorney -General has just stated, the Act. was put into operation for the first’ time at the last election. Consequently most of those who had the management of the elections were new to its principles. I quite agree that it was not administered as well as it might have been. I am somewhat sorry that the Minister for Home Affairs, whose duty it was to see to the administration of the Act, has taken the opportunity of finding so much fault with it and with the results of the elections. He has actually made use of his position as head of the Department to try to belittle the results of the elections. That is very ill-advised conduct on his part. If the Minister had interested himself as much before the elections in seeing that the machinery was perfect as- he has interested himself s’ince in detracting from the results, there might have been less cause to find fault. I cannot help thinking that the Minister for Home Affairs has been adopting Japanese tactics. It will be remembered that the Japanese, at Port Arthur, got in a few good shots before their opponents were ready for them, or had time to reply. The Minister has acted similarly. Before Parliament met he made some statements, that were quite unjustified, in his endeavour to decry the results, more particularly in his own State ; and he cast a stigma upon those who had been returned, because, as he averred, the majority of the electors did not vote.
– How many people were allowed to vote in Western Australia when Sir John Forrest was in power there?
– It would be a very interesting comparison to set side by side the electoral power which the people exercised under Sir John Forrest’s regime, and the electoral power they were able to exercise at the last election.. I should have thought that Sir John Forrest would have been the last person in Australia to mention a matter of .that kind.
– His own experience gave him a right to mention minority representation, because he is an authority on it.
– In Western Australia we found that the very places where the Act worked worst were those places where labour was undoubtedly strongest. I know of complete townships where the people were disfranchised because polling booths were not provided for them. Those townships were notoriously places where the votes for labour candidates would have predominated. I ‘drew attention to that state- of things before the elections, when there was plenty of time to provide polling places. But, notwithstanding all the overtures that were made, and although we pointed out the defects to the Department, no proper efforts were made to remedy them. That is one reason why there was such a small poll in Western Australia.
– It was- larger than at the previous election.
– There was not a great deal of difference between the two. The strange thing is that on the previous occasion, when less than half the electors voted, there was no talk about the Labour Party being predominant. Apparently everything was satisfactory then, because out of eleven seats labour secured only four. But at the last election, out of eight seats labour secured seven ; and that was represented as a very bad condition of affairs. Up till now the Labour Party has been very considerate to the Minister for Home Affairs. It allowed him to have a walk-over. I venture to say that if the Labour Party had brought forward a candidate in opposition to Sir John Forrest the present Minister for Home Affairs would have been out in the cold at the present time. We will try to remedy that defect next time. We will” have a candidate for his seat in common with other seats. There will not be on our side any reason to complain of lack of interest in the elections through seats not being contested when the next opportunity comes. I notice that with the exception of a very brief reference to preferential trade, there is little or no mention in the Governor-General’s Speech of the fiscal question. Whether that omission has been made out of a sort of merciful consideration for the political opponents of the Government, I am not in a position to say. The Prime Minister is said to be a man of very courteous manner, and as the Governor-General’s Speech is pretty well all his work, we can put down the omission to the Prime Minister’s natural courtesy, and his desire not to trample on the feelings of his political opponents - the free-traders. We were told time and again in the last Parliament, that Western Australia was a stronghold of the freetraders ; but I think that the results of the elections in that State prove the reverse. The fact that every free-trader who went to the poll was defeated demonstrates that Western Australia is anything but a freetrade State.
– Every protectionist candidate did not get in either.
– There were two protectionists who did not get in, but all the protectionists who went to the poll and who had been in Parliament formerly were returned. On the other “hand, all the freetraders who went to the poll and who had been in Parliament formerly were defeated. A protectionist was at the head . of the poll iri Kalgoorlie, and at Fremantle a free-trade candidate was at the bottom of the poll at Perth.
– They never stated what their views were on the fiscal issue.
– If the free-traders had been returned the honorable senator would not have said that.
– No. Perhaps it was the circulation of Senator Smith’s Free Trade Facts to which we may attribute the defeat of the free-trade candidates ! Therefore I hope that he will take a lesson in time, and make peace with the Labour Party ; because the next election will come round in due course, after which I am afraid there will be even fewer free-traders in the State. When, we recollect that the leader of the free-trade party suggested in the last Parliament that the fiscal question should be submitted to a referendum we can now see that, although his rebellious followers would not tolerate a referendum, he was a more astute leader than he was given credit for being; and I am quite satisfied that had those of his followers who went to the poll and were defeated agreed to the referendum it would have been far better for them. They are now wiped out politically, but they might have saved their political skins had the referendum been agreed to.
– The honorable senator also tried to get a referendum taken.
– Why? Because I am a believer in the principle of the referendum. But I let the people in Western Australia know what my views were. I made it quite clear that I was standing on the protectionist ticket, as far as fiscalism was concerned, and to that I attribute the fact that I was at the head of the poll. A freetrade candidate could not hope to get in on the policy of the so-called free-trade party, which was one of extracting as much taxation - something like £9,000,000 in round figures - out of the pockets of the people, whilst giving no protection to the producers. “ No man can hope to make a policy of that kind tolerable. The people of Australia are not going to accept a policy that would tax them, whilst giving them no advantage whatever. As to preferential trade, I am, generally speaking, in favour of it, but the position is such that we cannot make any definite proposals until we know what the people, of the old country are going to do. It will be just as well for us to wait until such time as the preferential trade proposals come to us from the old country. They will then be, as they are not now, within the arena of practical politics. When the question comes to be settled it will be a matter of pure bargaining. I hold that it is a business proposal, and one that should be looked at purely from a business point of view. If it is tobe all a matter of give without any return to us, we should be. very careful before we accept any proposals of the kind. Preferential trade must be of such a nature that it will be for the benefit both of Australia and of the old country. ‘We ought not to open our ports and to give a preference to goods from Great Britain unless Great Britain gives us a similar preference for our goods. Otherwise the bargain would be a one-sided one which we should not be justified in making. Bad undoubtedly as the fiscal policy of the Opposition is, I think that the proposals which the “leader of that party made during the late election for driving the thin end of the wedge into our White Australia policy was even more unfortunate from his stand-point. When we remember the attitude that was taken up some years ago by him with regard to that policy, and that the members of his Government favoured the abolition of Iascar and coolie crews on board mail steamers subsidized by Australia, it is hard to understand his change, of front. At the conference held in Hobart, in 1895, Mr. Reid’s Postmaster-General, Mr. Joseph Cook - a gentleman who is still sitting at his elbow in another place - supported a proposition for withdrawing the subsidies from the mail steamers that were worked by coloured crews. When we find that the same Mr. Reid repudiated the same policy at the last election, we are inclined to ask ourselves whether he was sailing under false colours in previous years.
– His colours are - “ Yes-no.”
- Mr. Reid’s colours are both “ yes” and “no,” but the people of Australia will not tolerate that attitude in reference to the White Australia policy. In Western Australia not one of the free-trade candidates was game enough ti mention Mr. Reid’s attitude on the White Australia policy on the platform’. No reference was made to it by them until it was dragged out of them by questions. Then they were forced to repudiate what their own leader was advocating in the eastern States. The policy of the Opposition was so beautifully elastic that its supporters could advocate one policy in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, and quite another policy in Western Australia.
– They had a policy for each State.
– In contrast to that policy, look at the position of the Labour Party. The policy of the Labour Party was framed at a gathering at which there were representatives from all the States of the Federation. That policy, once framed, was advocated by all the labour candidates. The labour candidates in New South Wales advocated the same policy as their colleagues in Western Australia. Over the whole of the Federation we had the one policy. But, apparently, the freetraders have such an elastic platform that they can cut a slice off it in one State, and another slice off it in another, and at any time repudiate anything that their leader has been advocating.
– Some of the members of the Labour Party are freetraders.
– I am not talking of fiscalism, but of the attempt of the free-trade party to drive the thin end of the wedge into our White Australia policy. I am pointing out what Mr. Reid advocated, and what his rebellious followers repudiated in Western Australia.
– The members of the Labour Party do not agree upon details any more than we do.
– If the White Australia policy is a detail, I do not know what a great principle is. I have already said that preferential trade is essentially a business matter. I am quite in favour of it, and, indeed, should like to see it carried out as early as possible. In order to achieve that end, I am quite willing to give a preference to British sailors over the lascar and coolie sailors, whom we have hitherto subsidized, and to have the mail ships managed by men of our own colour.
– Why not give a preference to Australians?
– I take it that if we insist upon white crews being employed upon the boats- we subsidize, Australianswill get the preference in common with other Britishers. *If those who believe iri! the principle of preferential trade are really in earnest in the matter, they will see their way’ to put that principle into practice by insisting that any mail boat subsidized in future by the Commonwealth must be manned by white labour.
– The boats will use “blackies” under the poundage system.
– But we shall not have to spend an extra ,£50,000 a year upon them.
– I have no doubt that Senator Dobson will be glad if the boats still retain the services of their “blackies.” We know what a noble champion of coloured labour the honorable and learned senator has been in the past. It would be a terrible strain upon his conscience if the services of those people were not retained.
– It should be a strain upon the honourable senator’s conscience also.
– So far as my conscience goes, I have always been prepared to give the preference to men of my own colour and nationality, as against the Asiatics, for whose exclusion we have been legislating in the Federal Parliament. I propose now to refer to a paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech, suggesting legislation to attract immigration to Australia. I am afraid that until the Lands Departments of the States and land legislation generally is handed over to the Federal Parliament, there will be very little hope of our being able to legislate in such a way as to entice desirable immigrants to Australia. Honorable senators are aware that ever since the conclusion of the South African war, the sons of farmers in all the States of the Commonwealth have been drifting towards South Africa, and the reason undoubtedly is that there has not been a sufficient opportunity afforded them to get a living upon the land in. Australia.
– What evidence has the honorable senator of that?
– Tasmania supplies the evidence.
– A reference t*> the big land companies in the little island of Tasmania is about the best evidence could give. Such companies as the Van pieman’s Land Company, the A. A. Company in New South Wales, and the big land companies of Victoria and Western Australia afford the best proof of the necessity for an alteration in the land legislation of the States if we are to entice immigration or even to keep in Australia the people we have already here. I should like the Government who are making this proposal, and those who intend to support them in it, to point out where there is room in Australia for immigrants “at the present time, and what opportunities are afforded to immigrants to get work when they come here. We know that there are unemployed workmen in every State in Australia. We know that there is not a mining district in the Commonwealth in which there are not a number of unemployed miners to be found.
– There are no unemployed at Lismore.
– There will be a rush of unemployed to Lismore if that is so. In every big city and town in Australia, there is an army of unemployed, and it is proposed to bring men from the old country to join this army, which is already too large. That is what this proposal means, and to bring people here when there is no opportunity afforded them to make a living is one of the most cruel propositions which could be submitted’ to any Parliament. It would be an injustice to the workmen already in the country, and it would also be an injustice to the immigrants who would be enticed to come to Australia when there is no employment for those who are here, and when many of our people are drifting to South Africa in search of employment.
– This means, after all, that the stronger the Labour Party becomes the more unemployed we shall have with us. ; Senator DE LARGIE.- No. We know that in every country in the world, whether there be a Labour Party in it or not, there is a large army of unemployed. In the United Kingdom, from which we are proposing to bring immigrants, there is a larger proportion of unemployed than in Australia. We know, from statements made by Mr. Campbell-Bannerman, the leader of the Liberal Party there, that no less than 12,000,000 of the people of the United Kingdom are on the verge of starvation.
– Arid the honorable senator will not let any of them come here.
– I am not at all anxious to make Australia the dumping ground for the rest of the world. I am anxious that our population shall live under the best possible conditions we can give them, and when the whole of our people are employed, and we have room for more, I shall be willing to consider a proposal to introduce immigrants from the United Kingdom. So long as we have unemployed amongst us, it would be unfair to them, and also to the people we should be bringing out, to endeavour to entice immigrants to Australia.
– Does not history show that there have always been unemployed?
– That is quite true. History proves that undoubtedly, and the reason of it is that the basis of1 industry has always been wrong. Instead of industry being nationalized it has been left in the hands of so-called private enterprise, in which I have no doubt Senator Gray is a great believer. Until such time as we extend the principle of nationalization to industry we shall always have unemployed with us. What I am concerned about at the present time is that we shall not increase the number qf unemployed in Australia. I believe that if we brought people from the old country, and dumped them down in Australia at the present time we should, so far from doing any good to the country, do the Commonwealth, and also the people who live here, an injury. We must, do something to remove the unemployed curse - it can be called nothing else. Any man out of employment, that is any poor man - many of the rich are out of employment all the time, and it does not affect them - who has to seek work, is living in a hell, if there be such a place in this or. any other world. The poor man out of work has discovered it. I desire to refer briefly to the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act. The Act has not been satisfactorily administered in Western Australia. We have heard many complaints about the six hatters, but I propose to refer to the operation of the Act in Western Australia from another standpoint:
– Do. away with it alto- gether.
– We shall do away with it in its present form by legislating tq keep the Asiatic out of - the Commonwealth more effectively than we have done in the past.
– Take care he does not come down and turn the honorable senator out.
– If we were all like Senator Zeal the Asiatic would be herein such numbers now that there would not be much room either for the honorable senator or myself. I find from the Statistical Journal, issued by the Government of Western Australia, that whilst the population of that State increase’d materially during the last twelve months, the number of Europeans - and I refer to those introduced from the Continent of Europe and not to those coming from the United Kingdom, or from the Eastern States - has been less than the number of Asiatics who have landed in that State. So that our yellow, brown, and brindled population in Western Australia is actually increasing at a greater ratio than is the European population.
– What are the figures ?
– I take the figures from the Statistical Journal of Western Australia. I find that the number of British and Australians was 28,604. I leave those out of consideration, because 27,000 of them came from the eastern States.
– They are white, are they not?
– I believe they are ‘whiter than the honorable senator, any way.
– Then they are white.
– I find that the number of Europeans who arrived in Western Australia from the Continent of Europe was 1,013, as against 1,297 Asiatics.
– What are they employed in - the pearling industry?
– I admit that a number of them are employed in the pearling industry, but they are engaged in almost every conceivable kind of work except goldmining.
– Perhaps some of them came from the eastern States?
– I have no doubt that Senator Pearce will be able to inform the honorable and learned senator how they came from the eastern States, and the information will be found interesting. The figures I have quoted go to show that though the Immigration Restriction Act may not require amendment its administration has been in fault. We should try to stem -the tide of Asiatic immigration going into Western Australia, which is becoming a very serious matter for that State. When we consider the excess of arrivals over departures, we find, according to the figures given, that in Western Australia we have gained only 405 Europeans as against 834 Asiatics. A difference of two to one in favour of the Asiatics discloses a state of affairs which we must remedy as soon as possible.
– To what year do the figures refer?
– The last year- 1903. I have quoted the figures from the latest return on the subject compiled by the Government Statistician in Western Australia.
– No doubt the Vice-President of the Executive Council will be able to explain it.
– The only explanation which I can give is that the Act has not been administered as carefully as we should like. Last November I had word sent to me from the gold-fields that certain men were coming into the country. I rang up the Collector of Customs and drew his attention to the matter, telling him the name of the steamboat in which they were coming. I have never even received a reply from the Collector of Customs, and if the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act is being carried out in the same way all along the coast of Western Australia it is time we had a different set of officers in the Department. I regard as the most pleasing item in the bill of fare presented to us the brief reference to an oldage pension scheme. No State in the Commonwealth will welcome the advent of a measure of this kind more than the State of Western Australia, because we have a large proportion of old people in that State who could not possibly comply with the qualification as to residence under any of the Old-age Pensions Acts of the States. Our Act would be useless to them if we insisted on the same qualification as to residence as obtains in Victoria and in New South Wales. We know’ that such a qualification has been a necessity in order to guard the interests of the States, but in Western Australia we have a large percentage of old fellows, who, for the last fifty years, perhaps, have been following up the gold-fields and wandering from one State to another. They have during the whole of the time resided in Australia, and have done valuable service, but they have never lived long enough in any one State to enable them to qualify by residence for an old-age pension under the States Acts. Hence the necessity for a Commonwealth Act which will enable these worn-out old people to secure the benefit of such legislation. 1 believe that the Australian Governments have done more in this direction than have the Governments of any other country in the world, but I make bold to say that the Federal Government that has the honour of placing an Old-age Pensions Act upon the Commonwealth statute-book will earn the undying gratitude, not only of the old and worn-out workmen of Australia, but of all who wish to see legislation of this kind passed for the benefit of those who have arrived at a time of life when they can no longer battle for a living for themselves. I hope we shall be able during the life of this Parliament to deal with some of the obligations imposed upon us by the Constitution which remain unfulfilled. The first to which I will refer is the settlement of the Federal Capital question. That is a question which should receive attention as early as possible, and I hope it will be dealt . with in such a way as will remove any ground of complaint which our freetrade friends from New South Wales may consider they have. As I said in the last Parliament, I am desirous of carrying out any obligation we are under in respect of the Federal Capital. I did all I could in that direction during the last Parliament. I see no reason to alter the views I then expressed, and .1 hope that in the near future we shall be able to do something towards the settlement of this great national question. There is another equally strong obligation imposed upon us by Federation, and that is the construction of the trans-continental railway.
– The honorable senator means the coastal railway.
– No, it is an entirely inland railway. I am sure that if Senator Styles were to go as far inland as the route of this railway he would come back here in much better health than he enjoys at the present time, and that is what we should all be very pleased to see. The honorable senator, after an examination of the track of that railway, would also come back in a more rational frame of mind to consider the question. He would see there much that would fascinate him, and he would be impressed with the necessity for the railway. We should then cease to hear from him remarks of the kind he has been making in the past in opposition to it.
– And will again.
– We must recollect that if we are going to make full use of this continent of ours, and are going to do something more than occupy the fringe of it along the coast, we must have railways. Other continents of the world have their great interior waterways, but the great deficiency of Australia is that its interior is practically without rivers of any kind. It is, therefore, only by means of railways that we can hope to develop the great no-man’s land in the interior of Australia. . There is no shirking this question. If we are to be worthy to hold Australia we must make use of it. If, as in the past, we are to continue to .hang on only to the fringe along the coast, and to make no use of the interior, we can claim no more right to Australia than could the blackfellows whom we have displaced.
-Col. Gould. - We shall require population to make use of the interior.
– And we shall get the necessary population.
– Where are the people to come from?
– We have people in the interior now. We have people living 600 and 700 miles from the coast at the present time on the track of this railway, and if more railway facilities are given a larger population will be induced to go into the interior.
– How far is the railway from the coast now?
– In Western Australia we have railway extension now to about 700 miles from the coast. Honorable senators will find that the railway system of the Murchison gold-fields extends to 600 or 700 miles from the coast.
– I am referring to the trans-Australian railway.
– If the honorable senator refers to the eastern goldfields railway system, I can tell him that extends to a distance of 400 miles from the nearest point on the coast.
– It is only 200 miles from Esperance.
– The honorable senator was speaking of the extension of the railway system, and I can tell him that the terminus of the eastern railway is nearly 500 miles from the coast. I have already said that a great part of .the interior of Australia cannot be developed without railways.
– This is not an inland, but a coastal, railway.
– I shall not quibble on that point ; at any rate, the proposed railway crosses Australia from west to east. The scheme is a feasible one which, I think, the Commonwealth is’ under obligation to carry out, seeing that such a railway is quite as much part and parcel of the Constitution as if it had been made a stipulation in black and white.
– Nonsense !
– There is not the slightest doubt that if, when the Constitution was being decided, the representatives of Western Australia had stipulated for this railway it could have been secured. The one blunder on the part of Western Australia was in agreeing so readily to the Constitution before the rights, of that State had been made safe.
– But a transcontinental railway was not included in the Constitution.
– At all events some of our Federal leaders recognise that the construction of this railway is an obligation. Victorians may repudiate that idea, but there are those who regard the construction of this railway as being as much an obligation incumbent on the Commonwealth as the provision of a Federal Capital. Whether the construction of the railway be a Federal obligation or not, the interior of Australia can never be made use of without such communication.
– And population.
– If the railway be built, population will follow. The Western Australian Government have carried a river of fresh water into regions which the railway would’ serve, and 400 miles from the coast there is, perhaps, the finest inland city on the continent. The people of that State have done their best to develop the interior, and it is now for the Federal Government to do the rest by building this railway, without which Western Australia will gain nothing, but lose much by Federation. Western Australia affords a splendid market for the eastern States; and if that Slate has to remain cut off from the rest of Australia by a thousand miles of desert, it might as well be an’ island in the Indian Ocean.
– Surely the honorable senator would not make a railway through desert country,?
– It is not desert, but deserted country. Senator DE LARGIE. - It is desert’ country so far as population is concerned’, but it has been proved to be richly auriferous, and we know, from the reports of engineers, that there a:re good pastoral areas.
– There was a time when Victoria was considered a desert.
– It is true that at one time Victoria was considered a desert by the people of New South Wales ; and the very spot where Kalgoorlie stands was not so many years ago similarly described.
– Is that where all the unemployed are?
– Unfortunately, Western Australia cannot absorb all the unemployed of Victoria, though a fair share of the population of the latter State have been given a living in the West. There are in Victoria many persons who are dependent on workers in Western Australia, who every month send over money for their maintenance. I believe that’ the Senate will agree to a survey being made, but something more material must come out of the proposal, because, as I have said, unless such a line be built, Australia can never be fully developed.
– The honorable senator who moved the Address in Reply characterized the speech of the Governor-General as a very comprehensive document ; another honorable’ senator called it vague and indefinite; and most of us will, I think, subscribe to both definitions. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech seems .to have been stuffed with every subject on which we have power to legislate under the thirty-nine articles of the Constitution.
– No; there is not a word said, for instance, about banking, or marriage and divorce.
– I am glad that one or two subjects have been left for “ the legislation of posterity. . Many of the items mentioned are merely indicated by a pious wish that legislation at some time will eventuate, and there are other subjects oh which the Government have not the slightest intention of legislating. Some twenty-two measures are outlined. But, in the first session of the first Parliament, which lasted seventeen months, a similar number of measures were dealt with, exclusive of Bills relating to the Consolidated Revenue and Appropriation; and it will be’ impossible, -during the present session, which will probably last only six months, for us to legislate on anything like the number of subjects mentioned.
– Mention some proposal on which the Government do not mean to legislate.
– I shall mention some, and one is that of old-age pensions. Why did the Government pack all these subjects into His Excellency’s Speech? It seems to me that the object was to cram in all the subjects they could think of, and, when Parliament assembled, to feel the pulse of the Houses, and count heads, and then introduce only those measures which they knew they could pass. In this matter, however, I think we ought to take a somewhat charitable view of the action of the Government. We must remember that the Government are in the extraordinary and anomalous position of representing about one-third of the members of this Parliament. Senator Playford. - And the Opposition is in the same position.
– The Oppositon do not pretend to lead Parliament.
-Col. Gould. - The Government are not so well off in this Chamber as in the other.
– In the ‘Senate, I think, the Government have five supporters beyond the Ministers, and it is quite impossible, under the circumstances, to uphold the principles of responsible government. If the Government continue in office they must be opportunists, and first count heads in order to ascertain what legislation they are able to pass.
-Col. Gould. - Some people are wicked enough to say that the Government have been in that position all along.
– The Government have been in a minority from the first, but they are now -in such an abject minority that it is necessary for them to get substantial aid from the Opposition or the Labour Party before they can pass a single measure. The speeches and criticisms on the address of His Excellency have been chiefly introspective. Honorable senators have been devoting their attention to internal measures which undoubtedly are of chief importance. But I think our Federal life and our Constitution place on us powers and responsibilities which extend even outside the borders of Australia. I am surprised that in the speeches made there has been no reference, or hardly any, to the important matter of defence. At the present time a war rages between an Asiatic power and a great European nation, and we must recognise the fact that we are to a greater extent than perhaps any other country, interested, if not in the war, at all events, in preventing the war from spreading. Great Britain, as we know, has entered into an arrangement with Japan by which, if any other nation or nations come to the assistance of Russia, Great Britain must declare war not only against Russia, but against those other nations. It is quite within the bounds of possibility - though we sincerely hope that such will not be the case - that France or Germany, or both, may declare in favour of Russia. In such event, what would be our position ? We may be comforted by the alleged statement of the Minister of Defence that we are ready for any emergency ; but if we look at our position we find that we are in a most dangerous state of unpreparedness. We have not enough men to even man our forts. The number of men at our strategetic points have been reduced by no less than 200 below the minimum, which, the Commandant says, is necessary to work the guns. The men employed at those points require from three to six years’ training, and are really military mechanics j and yet the services of many of them have been dispensed with, and they have gone we know not where. At the present time, when there is a ‘possibility of Australia being engaged in war - a war which would spread throughout the whole of Europe - we find that many of our guns are obsolete, and that our forts, in the words of the Commandant, are dangerously undermanned. It is time for us to say that at our forts, at any rate, there shall be sufficient men to work the guns. What is the position at our three strategical positions of Thursday Island, Sydney, and King George’s Sound? The Commandant has told us that the absolute minimum of men for safety is as follows : - At Thursday Island, 101 men, where there are at present 53; at Sydney, 278 men, where there are 217 ; and at King George’s Sound, 40 men, where there are 30. It will be seen that we are 119 men short in these three positions of the actual number of men required to man the guns and look after the defences generally. We have ‘ a peace footing of soldiery, including a citizen army and riflemen, of 56,000 men, and yet I venture to say we have not sufficient modern rifles to go round half the number. An arrangement has been made which ought to be altered as soon as possible, with a private firm to supply the Commonwealth with ammunition.
– The honorable senator would not give the Government “ a show “ in the Tariff.
– I have always been in favour of the Government doing this work. According to the Commandant, the minimum supply of ammunition is 10,000,000 rounds, but I doubt very much whether we have anything like that supply. If our communication by sea were cut off, as it might be if two nations like Germany and France - which have the largest fleets in the world, with the exception of Great Britain - were opposed to us, we should not be able to import the necessary raw material. What raw material have we here? I admit that in the case of lyddite we have the authority of the Minister of Defence for the statement that it can be manufactured out of gum trees; and if that be so we have, of course, a very large quantity of raw material. As to ammunition and the military position generally, I think that if the Government were to propose on the next Estimates to purchase 50,000 rifles, procure modern armament for our forts, employ a sufficient number of men to man the latter, and commence a Commonwealth manufactory for the production of ammunition, their proposals would be accepted by large majorities in both Houses.
– What has our experience been? When the Government have submitted Estimates they have been cut down.
– Our experience is that the Government have allowed the Commandant to manage the forces in such a manner that, in addition to a staff to each State, there is a HeadQuarters Staff, made up of a large number of men covered with gold lace. Instead of encouraging citizen soldiery, and seeing that the men have arms and ammunition’, and that the fortifications are in a proper condition, the money has been spent in unnecessarily turning volunteer regiments into militia.
-r- The honorable senator quotes Major- General Hutton on one side of the argument, and then quotes him on the other.
– I am quoting the Commandant on the question of the forts, because he is the only authority we have. I am glad to see that the present Minister of Defence is in favour of a Council of Defence, bv means of which, I believe, we shall obtain continuity and have a policy more in accord with the spirit and genius of the Australian people than any policy brought from Europe, based on professional militarism and altered by each succeeding Commandant. With a Council of Defence our men would, at any rate, be supplied with arms and ammunition, and the forts put. in a proper state of preparation. Another matter which has not been touched upon previously is that of Australia’s policy in the Pacific. The position with regard to the New Hebrides is most unsatisfactory, and should give us the gravest concern. We endeavoured to promote and increase our interests in these islands by assuming the responsibility for a subsidy of £3,600 paid by New South Wales, and increasing it to £6,000, in order to provide a monthly mail service between Australia and those possessions in the eastern portion of the South Pacific. The result has not been as satisfactory as we anticipated. In 1901 the white settlers in the New Hebrides numbered 159 British, 295 French, and 23 of other nationalities, whereas in 1903 there were 180 British, 300 French, and 30 of other nationalities. It was stipulated in the agreement made with Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Co. that that firm should practically place at the disposal of the Commonwealth 100,000 acres of land which had been obtained from the defunct Australian New Hebrides Company ; and that land is held in trust, and settlers from Australia can obtain areas at the peppercorn rental of is. for 50 acres. We find that on the representations made sixty-seven colonists went to the New Hebrides to settle. A few months ago there were only fifty-one colonists, consisting of thirty-one men, five women, and fifteen children ; and, according to the latest reports I have been able to get, the number had dwindled down to about twenty. Such is the result of our endeavours to increase our influence in the group. We are forced to the conclusion that our colonization policy so far has been a lamentable failure. Our tra’de with the New Hebrides - in fact with the Pacific Islands - seems to be in a languishing condition. The imports from the New Hebrides last year to Australia amounted to less than £20,000. A recent visitor to the New
Hebrides, contributed to a Melbourne daily an article, in which he wrote of the colonization scheme in these terms: -
The feeble attempt made to encourage Australians to try their fortune in the picturesque islands has proved, as it was destined to prove, a failure, which would be ludicrous if it were not so pathetic. About a score of adventurers, under arrangement with Burns, Philp, and Co., vere planted in Santo.
It is often said that trade follows the flag. It would be correct in this instance to change that aphorism and to say that in the case of the New Hebrides the flag will follow the trade. Whichever nation obtains a preponderating influence in the group as regards trade and population will obtain what the diplomatist calls “ effective occupation,” and that will result probably in it getting the sovereignty of the islands. Let us ask ourselves what is the cause of the failure which has so far attended our efforts to increase our influence in this group. The French are not better colonists than the Australians ; they are not more strenuous or more able than we are to overcome difficulties. The fact is that the French colonists have received greater care and attention, and the French authorities have provided them with greater facilities than have been provided for the Australian colonists. Take, for instance, the question of subsidies. The French New Hebrides Company receives a subsidy of £16,000 a year; Ballande and Co., who run a mail service between the New Hebrides and New Caledonia, receive a subsidy of £2,000 a year ; while the steam-ship Pacifique, which runs between the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and Australia, receives a subsidy of £2,000 a year. There is also the Messageries Maritime line which trades there, and which, of course, is under a general subsidy from the French Government. The French colonists, therefore, have the benefit of subsidies ranging from £20,000 to £25,000 a year, against our subsidy of £6,000 a year spread over, not only the New Hebrides, but Norfolk Island, Howe Island, the Ellice group, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and other islands. Besides the three subsidies for mail services the French Government, through the New Hebrides Company, give a subsidy of £16,000 a year to their colonists - something in the shape of a bonus. In the case of the last batch of French colonists each colonist was given a sum of £^200, in order to enable him to make a start. We must admit that under such circumstances Australian colonists are very seriously handicapped. That is not, however, the only handicap; in fact I believe it is not the greatest handicap. We subsidize this line of steamers, not only to carry mails, but in order to increase our trade with the New Hebrides, and, at the same time, we practically preclude the possibility of the settlers trading with us by levying heavy duties on all the natural products of the islands.
– What duties ?
– The duties on maize, coffee, and bananas. Such policies are mutually destructive. We subsidize at considerable expense a mail service in order to increase our trade, and we make it impossible for the colonists to trade with us. The principal industry of this group is the production of copra. On their arrival the colonists have to clear land covered with scrub, and to plant their cocoanuts, and they have to wait from six to eight years before they can get any remuneration from their crop. What are they to do in the meantime? They can grow maize, or bananas, or coffee - it takes some years before a settler can get any remuneration from the growth of coffee - but their market in Australia is practically shut against them by, to them, a prohibitive Tariff.
– So it was before the Tariff was imposed, except in the case of one State.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.They had a population of over 1,000.000 persons to supply, under free-trade conditions, except in regard to tobacco.
– New South’ Wales had a duty on coffee.
– Not under Mr. Reid’s Tariff, I think. On that point I shall read an extract from an article by a gentleman who was recently at the islands. He says -
Surely a more prescient investment of public money might easily have been discovered. The arrangement . with Burns, Philp and Co. was plainly rendered nugatory and ridiculous by the operation of the Federal Tariff. Volunteers were wanted to grow coffee, tobacco, bananas, and copra, for the purpose of effectively occupying the New Hebrides for Australia, but their produce was shut out from the Australian market. The incipient industries were throttled by the hand that should have cherished them.
-. - Who is the writer?
- Mr. Carlyle Smythe in the Argus. That newspaper also published an interview with Commander Rason of the New Hebrides, who is,
I think, the best authority we have in regard to that group. He says: -
The prohibitive duties levied on maize by the Commonwealth also embarrassed them very much. For the first six years after reaching the islands, they must grow maize to make a living. The cocoanut trees take that time to grow, and so they have to wait till then to obtain copra. With a duty of 3s. 4d. a bag on maize they cannot grow it at a profit.
That, I think, is the true reason why Australians have been so handicapped. How do the French, who are our rivals, and are anxious to obtain a preponderating influence, treat their colonists, apart from the subsidies which I have mentioned? The French recognise that the extension of their trade means the extension of their influence in the group ; and they give special concessions in New Caledonia for the importation of produce from that group. They place the New Hebrides on the most favoured basis of a French colony. The products’ of the most favoured French colony are subject to no lower tariff than are the products of the New Hebrides, which, in New Caledonia, find a large market. The important point is that that special concession is only given to French colonists ; so that our unfortunate settlers are shut out of the Australian and New Caledonian markets. Our kith and kin in the group are in the unfortunate position of being able practically to grow nothing, while they are supposed to wait for six years for their cocoanut palms to reach a bearing stage.
– Why do they. not stay in Australia? Is it not big enough for them ?
– I think it is exceedingly necessary for us to extend our influence in the New Hebrides, and to keep that group free from the French flag. Some of the Australian settlers almost seem to favour the annexation of the islands bv the French; and really, from a utilitarian point of view, it is undoubtedly to their interests to do so, because they would then have a market for their products. New Caledonia is a large island, comparatively sterile - it is a large mineral belt - while the New Hebrides can produce all the agricultural products which it may require. New Caledonia, therefore, offers a good market to the New Hebrides; and if the latter group should. come under the French flag, the Australian settlers ‘would not only have the advantage of getting a good market and special concessions, but they’ would get the benefit of the bonuses which are now given to French settlers. Senator Higgs does not seem to think that the New Hebrides group is of much value so far as Australia is concerned.
– We do not want the place; we have too much land of our own.
– The islands of the New Hebrides group are of great strategic importance, and we do not wish that festering sore in the Pacific - the convicts and moral” filth of Europe - to spread close to our shores. Australia’s destiny in the future, I believe, will be largely in the Pacific Ocean. We have across the Pacific Ocean 80,000,000 or 90,000,000 British-speaking persons, who will no doubt trade very largely with Australia. We live in different ‘(hemispheres, and our crops mature when winter prevails in North America. I believe that the trade of America will be much increased when the Panama Canal is constructed. It behoves us to look forward and to inquire what is likely to happen if these islands should become the possessions of foreign nations. We know that America views with the greatest regret the fact that in the Caribbean Sea various nations hold islands which will be right in the highway to the Panama Canal. It has gone to war in order to take one island, and is endeavouring to purchase other islands. We ought to say that we do not wish foreign nations to come close in to our shores.
– That does not prove that we would be right in making such a proposal.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.We must regard the question from the standpoint of what is best in the interests of Australia. We are not humanitarians to such an extent that we are going to do just what is right in the interests of the world, regardless of our own interests. I believe that the time will come when the Pacific Ocean will be largely covered - I hope it will - with Australian mercantile fleets. It would be exceedingly dangerous if islands close to Australia were converted into harbors, coaling stations, and strategic bases for foreign nations, from which their war-ships could run out and destroy our commerce. We should endeavour in every possible way to obtain a preponderating influence in, or the control of, the New Hebrides. I have advocated before, and I advocate now, that the Government should endeavour to get Great Britain to exchange some territory for the French interests in the ‘ New Hebrides - a territory equally valuable to France, but from the Australian and British point of view, of no strategic importance to us. Lately Great Britain was negotiating with France with regard to the delimitation of the boundaries of Morocco, and a considerable concession of territory was granted to France. I was hoping that at that time the Ministry would endeavour to get France to relinquish her interests in the New Hebrides, when she was able to make such a favorable arrangement in the case of Morocco.
– Give her a free hand in Morocco.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.Practically they did. There are many other places in the world- where. questions of disputed territory arise. I would urge the Federal Government to move the Imperial authorities to try to induce France to exchange the New Hebrides for territory in places where it is of no strategic importance to the Empire. I believe that it was some dispute in regard to the New Hebrides and New Caledonia which brought Australian Federation to a definite issue. In the opening speech we have a statement - certainly vague, as most of their statements are - that the Government will have other proposals to place before the Parliament. I hope that when those proposals are’ submitted something will be done which will avert the petering out of our little settlement there, as probably will otherwise be the case. In the opening speech we are also told that the Government intend to bring in a short Bill to enable the Executive to assume control of British New Guinea; and they state that, .it a later date, when they have received further information, they will propose a comprehensive measure. Since the last Bill was withdrawn a period of seven months has elapsed. Immediately upon its withdrawal the Government began to make inquiries. They have had the advantage of seeing the Resident Magistrate, the Commandant of the Forces, the exLieutenantGovernor, and other officials. They have had plenty of opportunities of gaining the fullest information, and yet they say that at a later date, when they have completed their inquiries, they will bring forward a comprehensive measure. This is a carefullydevised scheme to enable the Government to pass a Bill without any clauses in it in regard to land nationalization and the drink traffic. If they should succeed in befooling the Parliament so far as to get it to pass their Bill they will not bring up the other
Bill, at any rate for some years. I hope that the Houses will insist upon these Bills being introduced at the same time and passed together. Otherwise I shall certainly, propose some amendments in the first Bill. With regard to the Federal Capita], I have nothing to say, except this - that we have made a solemn compact with New South Wales to build the Federal Capital as soon as possible, and I hope that before this session closes we shall have selected the site, and complied with the spirit and intention of the Constitution.’
– There is nothing in the Constitution that requires us to do so.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.My honorable and learned friend is indulging in legal hair-splitting. If we are going to construe the Constitution in that way, we may say that we need not build the Federal Capital for generations to come. But in that event, the Federation instead of being a blessing to Australia, would be a curse. The honorable and learned senator knows that the intention of the framers of the Constitution was that the Federal Capital should be selected as soon as possible.
– There is nothing in the Constitution to authorize delay.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.Another important question is the importation of Chinese to the Rand mines. That subject is coming up for discussion shortly, on the motion of Senator McGregor, and at this stage I will say. no more than this - that I am cordially in accord with the action of the Prime Minister in the message which he sent to South Africa. Some vague references are made in the Governor-General’s speech to the question of old-age pensions. The conduct of the Government from the first in regard to this matter has been most regrettable and reprehensible. They have made every possible excuse they could think of for not doing what I regard as an act of simple justice. The Government are well aware that the great majority of- the people of Australia are in favour of old-age pensions. They are well aware that the majority of the members of this Parliament are pledged to old-age pensions. In the first session of the first Parliament three years ago the Government stated that they hoped that the financial obligations of the Commonwealth would allow them to propose a scheme. In the second session of the first Parliament they omitted the subject altogether from the Governor-General’s Speech. Over and over again they said that it was on account of the Braddon section that they could not propose old-age pensions, and that when that section ceased to operate they would submit a scheme.
– - They said that from the first.
– In other words they said that they would put off the settlement of the question for seven years. Now what is their excuse? It is that the settlement of it is conditional upon the taking over of the States debts.
– - The two questions have no relation.
– I quite agree with my honorable friend. I cannot conceive what relation the one has to the other. If we take over the States debts we have to pay in interest practically the same amount of money as we now hand back to the States. How, then, are we to provide revenue for old-age pensions from that source? The Government certainly have made a proposal to dip their hands into the railway revenue of the States. But would not exactly the same result accrue if they imposed extra taxation, as if they took the railway revenue from the States, and necessitated the States Governments imposing taxation ? Senator Pearce has an excellent suggestion which offers the means of obtaining the necessary money. Therefore, I hope that the Government will see their way to accord their support to his proposal. When we consider the marvellous progress that Australia has made during the last sixty years, . whilst many of these old people have lived and worked in the country; when we consider that this vast continent has been explored from end to end, that magnificent cities have been built, that lands have been opened up, agriculture started, and our plains covered with flocks and herds; when we consider the enormous wealth that has been tapped by our pioneers - are we going to say that when these people become old and poor, no provision shall be made for them ? ‘ Are they to be trampled down in our rush for the wealth which they helped to provide? How are we now treating those people who have done, so much for Australia? Some of them are congregated in benevolent asylums and depots, receiving food from the cold hand of charity. Others, who have never committed a crime in their lives, die in gaols. Others meet with premature death, because they have not got sufficient nourishing and sustaining food to keep them. I agree with the remark of Senator Henderson, that it is a stain upon the escutcheon of Australia that those who have done so much ‘ for us and have borne the heat and burden of the day, should be left in their old age to starve or to live in charitable institutions, where, in many instances, they are separated from their life-long partners. I sincerely hope’ that the Government will not wait for seven years before settling the question. The majority of the members of this Parliament are pledged to old-age pensions, and the majority of the people of the country are in favour of them. If the present Government does not introduce a scheme, I trust that they will be turned out of office to make room for a Government that will do so. There is a subject, besides” the Divorce Bill, that the Government have not mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. I think the omission must have been an oversight. They would have put it in if they had thought of it. I refer to a measure for the introduction of the metric system of weights and measures, and the decimal system of coinage. It is a subject of great importance, and, I think, of considerable urgency. Last month the House of Lords passed a Bill making the metric system of weights and measures compulsory within two years in Great Britain. I hope that that action will be indorsed by the House of Commons. If such should be the case, I believe that the metric system will become the law throughout the whole British Empire. At the Colonial Conference, in 1902, the delegates were practically unanimous in favour of the metric system. Subsequently, at a Congress of the Chambers of Commerce of the British Empire held at Montreal, resolutions in favour of it were carried. By the Legislatures of Australia and South Africa approval of the metric system has been expressed. Some time ago the House of Representatives appointed a committee of very able members to consider the question of decimal coinage and the metric system of weights and measures. That committee brought in a voluminous report, and the Government promised during the recess to consider the question of introducing legislation. There is absolutely no mention of it in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. While I am strongly in favour of this great reform, I disagree with the proposal to substitute an entirely new system of decimal coinage for Australia.
It would be better for us to adopt the same decimal coinage system as prevails in Canada and the United States. It is a system which is used by 85,000,000 of English-speaking people. It is used by two-thirds of the English-speaking people of the world. Surely it is better for us to adopt that system than to start a brand new system of our own, different from all the others. ‘It would be just as foolish for the different branches of the British Empire to adopt different systems of decimal coinage, as it was for the States of Australia to adopt different railway gauges. The effect would be to dislocate trade and commerce, and to create difficulties instead of giving us greater facilities. If the Government would introduce a short Bill, providing that within two years the system of coinage which prevails in the United States and Canada should be adopted in Australia, it would lead to Great Britain doing the same. . Great Britain could not afford to stand out when two continents of British-speaking people adopted one system.
– That is rubbish.
– That is a matter of opinion. Committees appointed by the Imperial Parliament have reported in favour of a decimal system of coinage ; and the system that is in vogue amongst two-thirds of the English-speaking people of the world is the system which the other one-third should adopt. The Government have made no proposal in regard to the question of the coinage of silver. On looking into the matter we find that taking the amount of silver coinage used in Australia, and deducting the cost of coining, and the expense involved in the British Government taking back light-weight gold coins, our coinage of silver in Australia would mean a clear profit of £50,000 a year. It seems to me to be extraordinary that whilst we have for a long time been paying the loss on the coinage of gold in the Imperial mints in Australia, the coinage of silver, which entails such a large profit, has not been undertaken by us, and we have never made any strong representation that it should be handed over to us.
– Who would take our” silver when it was coined?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITHWe require a certain amount each year. A certain quantity comes out from England and is circulated in Australia. The amount of silver coin which is used entails a profit of £50,000 a year.
– Oh, no.
Senator STANIFORTH’ SMITHI have gone very carefully into the subject, and have before me the estimates of the Imperial mint, and of our own mints.
– The honorable member is talking of the silver coinage used in the British Empire.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITHI am talking merely of Australia.
– Then it is nonsense.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITHWith regard to the transcontinental railway, the Government are entitled to congratulation that at this late hour they have done a tardy act of justice in promising a survey of the line. We, in Western Australia, desire that the public shall know the exact facts of the case. If a survey is made, we shall know approximately what the cost of the line will be. The survey will cost about £20,000, and probably will take a year to complete.
– A couple of years.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITHNot at all. The work can be started both from the Kalgoorlie and the Pott Augusta ends.
– We are not going to rush the thing through.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITHThe Government would like to spread it Over a few years, and have it finished at about election time.
– The surveyors can start at both ends, and meet in the middle.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITHIt can be done in twelve months, and by that time South Australia’s agreement to the construction of the line will be waiting for us. We know a great deal about part of the route already. The survey will show that the line will traverse good pastoral land, and .that valuable mineral resources will be opened up.
– What about the break of gauge?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITHThe gauge that we want and that is recommended by the Commission appointed by the Western Australian Government is 4 feet 8J- inches. The Commission was composed of the chief railway engineers of each State, and it must be admitted that that was the highest tribunal we could get. The Commission estimated that in the first year there would be a loss of £68,000 on the line. That in ten years’ time there would be a profit of ,£18,000 a year after paying working expense and interest.
– It is the Pacific Cable over again.
– I hope to hear a pacific speech in regard to the matter from my honorable friend. The whole of the railways of Australia pay only working expenses, and 2 ‘88 per cent, interest.
– The Western Australian railways pay nearly 6 per cent.
– The North Queensland railway pay nearly 12 J per cent.
– I am speaking of the aggregate, and in the aggregate the Australian railways pays only 2’88 per cent, whilst the money borrowed for them carries interest at the rate of 3 “60 per cent. In the opinion of this tribunal, this railway would more than pay in ten years.
– I should like to ask the honorable senator if he thinks the railway will pay in that time? .
– I am not so egotistical as to set my opinion against that of the highest experts who could be obtained.
– I wanted the honorable member’s opinion. Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.As I have not been over the line, I have not formed an opinion. In connexion with this matter, I should like to mention the subject of the mail subsidy. I understand that the Government have practically decided to discontinue -the steam-ship subsidies, and to adopt the poundage system for the carriage of mails. By doing so they “propose to save £50,000 a year.
– They do not know what they will save.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.It is admitted that the letter carriage will not be quite so speedy as it would be under a mail contract, but the Government suggest, as a compensation for that, that there should be a reduction in the rate of postage. I think that is going the wrong way about it.
– That question has never been considered by the Cabinet.
– I am referring to a statement made by the Postmaster-General. This is proposed as a compensation for the great irregularity in the delivery of mails. I think that the Government were quite right in insisting upon white crews for ships subsidized for the carriage of mails. But if they are to withdraw their subsidy for an ocean line I would ask whether a better . result could not be obtained if the subsidy were applied to a land line. Let the allocation of the money be diverted from ocean to land carriage, and the results will be more favorable than they have been in the past. If the Government apply the subsidy hitherto paid for the carriage of mails by ocean steamships to subsidizing a railway from the eastern States to Western Australia, we shall have our mails two days earlier from Fremantle. We shall have an absolutely quicker mail service, and we shall pay £50,000 a year in Australia to Australian people, instead of paying the wages of Asiatic aliens.
– Where does the honorable senator propose that the mails should start from?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.From Fremantle.
– Why not from Brisbane ?
– Or from Port Darwin?
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.There is no railway to Port Darwin.
– There is no railway to Western Australia. .
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH.I am making this proposal. If Senator Givens desires to make another proposal he can do so. I say that if the Government would divert the subsidy to land carriage, we could have a more efficient and speedy mail service, and we should be spending our money amongst Australians instead of giving it to the Asiatics who man the mail steamers.
– That means that the mails would stop at Adelaide.
– There are many other items referred to in the Governor- General’s Speech upon which I should like to have spoken, but I am afraid I have already taken up too much of honorable senators’ time. I hive referred chiefly to the question of Australia in the Pacific because it has not been mentioned by previous speakers, and it is one of very great importance. I hope that in connexion with the question of subsidizing the carriage of mails the Government will consider the advisability of subsidizing the land carriage of mails in the way I have suggested. By so doing, we shall expend money for the benefit of Australian people instead of Asiatics, and we shall have a better mail service than we shall have if the existing conditions are continued.
– It is mot my intention to make a long speech, but there are a few matters touched upon in the Governor-General’s speech which I feel it incumbent upon me to briefly refer to. In the first place, I offer my congratulations to the Government, and through them to the Federal Treasurer, for having recently made an attempt to induce the States Treasurers to accept the idea which is prevalent throughout Australia, that it would be a good thing to consolidate as much of the States debts as we are allowed to take over under the Constitution. Although the attempt made did not end as satisfactorily as we could wish, we are entitled to believe that some good results will follow from it, and that a future attempt in the same direction will be more successful. I take a particular interest in this question, because the reference to it in the Governor-General’s speech is closely followed by a paragraph dealing with old-age pensions in the following words : -
The re-adjustment of Federal and State finances contemplated in such an arrangement will, it is hoped, present an opportunity for the adoption of an uniform system of Oldage Pensions throughout the Commonwealth.
I do not propose to labour the question. My views, and the views of every other member of the Senate, are fairly well known. The majority of honorable senators, and a very large majority of the people throughout Australia, have arrived at the conclusion that, inasmuch as we have not yet reached that stage of civilization when we would consider it the proper thing to poison or shoot our aged poor, or to do away with them in any other manner, when they are no longer able to earn enough to keep themselves in decency and comfort, we should provide for them. The conclusion arrived at by the vast majority of the people of Australia is that we should at least deal out to them treatment as humane as that which we accord to the worn-out horses and cattle that have served us well. If a man has an old draught horse that has worked well for him he does not, when the animal is no longer able to work, turn him out on to the highway to starve, but, if possible, puts him in a paddock, where he can feed for the remainder of his days. The time has come when we should grapple with this question as it ought to be grappled with. I do not believe that the financial consideration should deter us any longer from dealing with the question as the people of Australia wish it to be dealt with. I am entirely in accord with the Government in hoping that something may be done to give speedier and cheaper transportation to the large centres of population, of meat, butter, fruit, and other perishable products. Speaking as a Tasmanian, I am in a position to say that that State is keenly interested in this question. A great part of southern Tasmania is suitable for fruit-growing, and anything which can be done to accelerate the transport of such perishable products to the large centres of the world’s population will greatly benefit Tasmanian producers. Any reasonable scheme for the purpose, even though it should involve some expenditure, will have my support I propose to deal with the questions referred to in the Governor-General’s speech in the order in which they appear, and I have only a few words to say on the question of immigration. I echo the sentiments expressed in this and in another place, and also by some public speakers outside, when I say that it is idle to talk of enticing people to come from any other part of the world to Australia, until we are in a position to offer them reasonable conditions of life when they come here. Every member of the Federal Parliament must be aware that this is a question which can be more effectively dealt with by the States Parliaments than by the Federal Parliament. I go so far as to say that it cannot be dealt with by the Federal Parliament, although it is one of our thirty-nine articles, one of those questions, the settlement of which has been handed over to us by the Constitution. It can never be dealt with by the Federal Parliament until such time as the States Parliaments have brought into force in the various States some proper system of land taxation. Senator Dobson knows as well as I do that one has only to travel over the trunk line from the north to the south of the island of Tasmania to find that good land, the value of which has been very considerably enhanced by the expenditure of the taxpayers’ money in the construction of that line, is “locked up from settlement. It is used ti feed a few sheep and cattle, and it is not even as fully stocked as it might be. The honorable senator is also aware that we have a number of farmers in Tasmania, amongst the best settlers in the Commonwealth, who, if they have a few hundred pounds, and wish to make homes for themselves, must go miles and miles into the forest, and after half a life-time in clearing and cultivating their farms, must pay nearly half the value of their produce to have it brought to market. While the States permit that kind of thing to continue, and make no effort to remedy if by some better system of land taxation, or at least by some better assessment of values under the existing land-tax systems, it is of no use for Federal Ministers to place in the Governor-General’s speech these references to immigration. Unless we can get the States Parliaments to co-operate with us in this matter, we shall be able to do nothing to further immigration, which many of us think desirable, if it could be .brought about under reasonable conditions. I am aware that the Prime Minister has said that this is a question largely affecting the States, and one which must be dealt with by the States Parliaments; and in the circumstances I think it is almost a pity that it should have been referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s speech when other matters of perhaps greater importance might have found a place there. This question is not going to be one of those toothsome morsels, which Senator de Largie referred to, that we are to have the pleasure of discussing during this session; and it is probable, therefore, that the reference to it in the GovernorGeneral’s speech ‘ will do no harm. I come now to deal with the proposed appointment of an Inter-State Commission. I have yet to learn what are the duties which this tribunal would have to perform if appointed ; and I am very doubtful whether we should be justified in incurring the expenditure involved’ in the creation of the Department.
– What would be the powers of the Commission ?
– The powers of the Commission would, I believe, be very great.
– But supposing that each State appointed its own man.
– I do not think there is any danger of that. I am open to conviction on this question; and I should have liked the question discussed by more of the speakers on the Address in Reply. So far as I have studied the matter up to the present the questions which will be relegated to an Inter-State Commission might be dealt with as effectively by the States Parliaments acting in unison with the Federal Parliament, seeing that they relate to preferential railway freights, wharfage rates, and so on. I am afraid that this Inter-State Commission means another Government Department, or, at all events, of more expense for the taxpayer ; and until we see that there is sufficient work to keep such a body profitably employed, some very good arguments will have to be advanced . before I can vote for its creation. I am favorable to the appointment of a High Commissioner, who could very well take over the duties which have hitherto been performed by the various Agents-General, thus leaving the latter to become, to reverse the words, general agents in the commercial interests of their respective States. In my opinion, it is necessary to have a High Commissioner to deal with larger questions, some of which are of a diplomatic character.
– Is this another “ tall poppy “ ?
– That may be, but we already have a certain number of tall poppies, such as the Governor-General and the States Governors. My own opinion is that the High Commissioner will probably prove of more benefit to the community than any State Governor; and in such a case I do not mind a good salary being paid in return for proper services. The thanks of the people of Australia are clue to the Government for having taken action in protesting against the introduction of Chinese to South Africa. I do not propose to deal at any length with this question which we shall have an opportunity of discussing later ; but I must express my .great surprise that leaders of public thought and great politicians, who were so keen in assisting Great Britain during the struggle in South Africa for the benefit of the white settlers there, and the extension of the franchise to. them, are taking no action towards assisting the Prime Minister in objecting to this threatened influx of Chinese. Surely this is not a question which affects.1 the Labour Party only, but one which affects every would-be leader in national politics in Australia. These leaders are, however, strangely silent ; and more than that, when the Prime Minister took it upon himself, on behalf of the Government, to send a protest to the Imperial Government a few weeks ago, some of the leading journals told the Prime Minister, in so many words, that he ought to mind his own business. In my opinion the Prime Minister was minding his own business when he, as the mouthpiece of Australia, protested against this iniquitous influx of cheap aliens in South Africa. I have in my possession a document written in South Africa two or three weeks ago, the truth of which I do not doubt for a moment ; and it discloses a state of things which is almost incredible. It seems impossible to believe that any body of men would descend to such depths of meanness, as have the mine-owners in South Africa recently, in order to stifle and gag public opinion on this question.
– Apparently the church does not object to the Chinese.
– I am surprised that Senator Dobson should be an advocate of Chinese labour. I may inform the honorable and learned senator- that some of the leading . churchmen in England do object to the traffic, though there was a message last week stating that one religious body in South Africa had expressed approval of the proposal.
– I am asking the honorable senator what he has to say aboutthe church in South Africa not objecting?
– But what about Archbishop Gould, and other ecclesiastics who object to the importation of Chinese?
– They are not on the spot, and do not understand the question so well.
– They thoroughly understand the question; and, however ardent an advocate Senator Dobson may be of Indian labour, on the ground that Indians are British subjects, I cannot believe that he is an advocate of the employment of Chinese labour in South Africa. In this instance he cannot fall back on the argument he has so often advanced in regard to the employment of Indians, that the Chinese are our fellow-subjects. Surely Senator Dobson would not take the bread out of the mouths of the white men, and their wives and children, and put it into the mouths of ‘Chinamen. There is one question, however, on which, I think, Senator Dobson and myself might agree.
– The question of the duty on hops, I suppose.
– No, it is not. It may be remembered that during last session of Parliament, ex- Senator Cameron and other Tasmanian representatives drew attention to the subject of the different rates of. payment to the military in Tasmania, as compared with those on the mainland. There has been a- rather important development of this matter. When, a few weeks ago, the Commandant, in .the ordinary i course of his duty, visited Hobart, expecting the members of the southern forces- to meet him, only 119 men out of 800 mustered. The men openly and avowedly absented themselves as a protest against the action of the Government in having, as it was thought, ‘ cast a slur upon them in this matter of the differential pay. ‘ The subject was discussed on several occasions last session, and we were told that these rates of pay were not to be continued beyond this present year.
– The Government did everything they were asked to do.
– I must beg the Minister’s pardon; the Government did not do everything they were asked to do. All the Government did was to agree to give a little extra money for the encampment. It was thought, even last year, that the rates of pay should have been made uniform al once. There was an interjection by Senator Mulcahy a little while ago, which I did not catch.
– I said that the Tasmanian Government, both present and past, were more to blame than the Commonwealth, if there was any blame at all.
– -Last year, when Senator Drake was Minister for Defence, I asked him a question on the point, and he was chivalrous enough to lay the blame on the Federal Government.
– I said there was an expressed request on the part of the Tasmanian Government; there was a general request.
– There was a general request to keep down the expenditure. Perhaps Senator Mulcahy, who was a member of the Government, which, I understand, first made the request, will say whether this was a matter for the Tasmanian Government, and not one for the Federal authorities, although the Defence Department had been expressly handed over by the Constitution.
– It was an item we had to deal with.
– Perhaps it is as. well to “ let sleeping dogs lie.” Whether the blame lay with the present Tasmanian Government or with the past, or with both equally, I am ‘ satisfied with the assurance that the Federal Government are not going to allow this injustice to be any longer continued. There is one other phase of the question of which it is just as well to remind the Minister for Defence. The Commandant has hauled over the coals those members of the Tasmanian Defence Force for what, I think, he calls their unpatriotic action. According to the Commandant’s way of thinking, it may have been unpatriotic for these men to refuse to muster; and, without quoting his-exac’t words, I think he said that it was an insult to him that he should be made to suffer for the action of either the State Government or the Federal Government. I understand from what I have seen recently in the press that representations are being made, or are to be made, urging that some kind of punishment should be meted out to all these men for the slight they inflicted on the head of the forces. But considering the provocation, justice should, I think, be tempered with mercy. The men suffered quite sufficient injustice to perhaps provoke them to do what they did, and that much has been acknowledged by the Federal Government in undertaking that ‘ the differential rates of pay shall not continue. I believe that the majority of the members of the Tasmanian Government and Parliament also admit that the men were right in the view they took of the’ differential rates; and under all the circumstances I think that any intention to inflict punishment ought not. to be carried out, in view, as I have already said of the provocation they have received, and considering that up to the present there has been only a promise to remove their grievance. In the Governor-General’s Speech there is the following brief reference to electoral matters: -
It is intended to examine the experience gained in the recent elections with a view to an amendment of (he Electoral Act.
These words are very vague and elastic, and might mean a great deal or nothing. But if any attempt is to be made to amend the Electoral Act so soon after it has been brought into existence, it should not be done hurriedly, but all the serious defects which were so palpable during the elections should, as far as human ingenuity will allow, be remedied. I do not believe in tinkering with the Act on one or two unimportant points, but desire to see the measure amended in all directions where it sadly needs amendment. Take, for instance, that portion of the Act which deals with bribery and corruption. Speaking from memory, not having the Act before me, I believe that the intention in this Chamber, and also in the other place, was to prevent, as far as possible, any corruption, bribery, or undue influence in securing votes.
– We made that punishable.
– Yes ; but it provides no punishment for a candidate who provides refreshments, or, to use the vernacular, stands “treat” for any person before the day of nomination. I was under the impression that from the moment when a person announced himself as a candidate he was prohibited by the Act from providing refreshments for any elector; but on reference to the provisions I found that we had not. We made a great mistake in making the prohibition start from the date of nomination. It should have been provided in clear and distinct terms that the expenditure of any money by a person after he had announced his candidature, on indiscriminate “shouting,” or in providing refreshments, or in any way which might assist in gaining votes, should render him liable to a penalty. In Tasmania some candidates were handicapped by reason of the fact that they had not very much money to spend. They were not able from the time when they announced their candidature to spend a sixpence on any person in the hope of getting his’ vote, whereas other candidates, I am told on very fair authority, spent rather freely up to the time of their nomination. Of course, they were within the law in taking that course, but I think that the law is bad, and ought to be amended. I hold that once a person has become a candidate it is just as corrupt to spend a pound in entertaining a number of persons ‘ at luncheon, or in providing them with liquor, as it is to spend any money for that purpose between the date of nomination and the - date of election. There is another provision which might be amended, and that is the one which regulates the hours of vot-ing. I know that in some parts of Tasmania the s’mallness of the female votes was due to the fact that the polling booths were closed too early in the evening. The town in which I happened to be on election day may be taken as a fair criterion of other towns, not only in Tasmania, but on the mainland. The hours of polling were very inconvenient to a large number of women who wished to record their votes. If the hours of polling had been extended to 9 o’clock, many hundreds of women would have been able to exercise the franchise. I refer to the numerous body of women who, by reason of having no help in their households, were not able to go to the polling booth before 7 o’clock, but would have been able to go at some time between that hour and 9 o’clock. I trust that this matter will receive the earnest consideration of the Ministers when they are framing their’ Amending Bill. In the last Parliament we all recognised that the Electoral Act might require to be amended in the near future in the direction of perfecting its provisions. The Ministers might endeavour to ascertain who was responsible for the omission of the names of so many thousand persons from the rolls. Take, for instance, Tasmania, which may be regarded as a fair criterion of the other States. It was a scandal to find that the names of some hundreds of men had been left off the roll in a place where there were only some 3,000 electors enrolled.
– The honorable senator ought to ask the Chief Electoral Officer.
– I do not know whether it was the fault of that officer or not.
– Why did not. these persons make application to be enrolled?
– I can assure the Minister that it was not owing to their default. My attention has been drawn to many cases where, although the policemen had taken down the names of a husband and wife, and placed them on the roll, the name of only the husband was found to be on the roll when it was published, or vice versa.
– That was not the fault of the law, but the fault of the administrator.
– I do not say that it was the direct fault of ministers, but it certainly was the fault of their officers. I think that they should endeavour to find out which officers were responsible for all these omissions. I believe that in some places it will be necessary for the Government to institute another house to house canvass by policemen. I know that in hundreds of cases the name of only the husband was left on the roll, although the names of both husband and wife were given at the same moment to the policeman who compiled the roll.
– Did that occur in only one district, or in a number of districts ?
– In every district in Australia, so far as I can learn. It is 1 2 quite a puzzle to understand how such blunders could possibly have been perpetrated.
– It did not happen in my neighbourhood.
– There were very few elections held in South Australia.
– I ‘ am glad to learn from the opening speech that it is intended by the Government to bring in a Bill for the purpose of taking over the department of quarantine from the States. I think that the question of quarantine could be handled very much better by a central administration than by six different States, and I trust that the necessary transfer will be made before the end of the session. It is not a measure which ought to occupy the time of the Parliament very long, although it deals with a very important subject. During the outbreak of small-pox in Tasmania, and during the recent outbreak of small-pox in New Zealand, which we are all pleased to know has ended, a number of instances were brought under our notice, which clearly showed that it would be far better for Australia to have a Federal quarantine law. I cannot help feeling ashamed that during the recent campaign so many leaders of public opinion went on to the platforms and uttered palpable untruths about Australia in connexion with the Petriana myth.
– How about the United Kingdom ?
– It took its cue from here. We cannot be surprised at any opinion which may be expressed in the United Kingdom when we know that it is founded on slanderous statements, which are not only promulgated on every platform in the Commonwealth, and in a number of its newspapers, but are wired to London by newspaper correspondents, very many of whom write so much of the rubbish and nonsense that is printed in the Australian press.
– They get their information from polluted channels.
– Yes. This thing which was described so aptly as a myth by the Prime Minister, has assumed almost national proportions, and so important is it considered to be in London that the Australian people are paying for long cables merely to learn the opinion of Lord Sweat-‘em-all, or some other titled nobody in Great Britain, as expressed in the columns of the Times. We cannot feel surprised, therefore, to learn that a number of the people of Great Britain believe this slander that we refuse to allow shipwrecked sailors to land on our shores. During the election campaign this slanderous nonsense was uttered on many platforms by many gentlemen’ who knew that they were not’ sticking to the truth, and whose only desire was to make political capital for party purposes.
– The captain of the ship gave his version, and the people have as much right to believe him as anybody else, I suppose.
– Does the honorable senator mean to tell me that he would take the word of a ship’s captain, who comes here for only a few days, against the word of the Prime Minister and of his officials ?
– We have seen the captain’s account of the matter, and we assume that he was speaking the truth.
– He only spoke from hearsay.
– I would excuse Senator Walker and other persons who have thought with him if they would now, from the public platform, or in the press, retract what they said during the electoral campaign, and tell the people that they had found out that they made a mistake in saying what they did. But they will not do that. The organs which profess to represent their line of political thought are even to-day repeating the same slanderous statements.
– Sixteen Japanese had to wait twenty-four hours the other day.
– We are now talking about the Petriana wreck. These organs tried to make the people of Australia and of Great Britain believe that a number of shipwrecked sailors were knocked back when they tried ‘to land. Nearly every public man, whether he was a candidate for election, or was assisting a candidate, had to meet the same story uttered for election purposes by men and newspapers, who were playing the part of traitors to their country. The free-traders, although they had the denial of the Prime Minister before them, long before the elections took place, never withdrew the slanders which they had uttered.
– Senator’ Neild said only last week that the sailors were dripping wet.
– Yes, Senator Neild repeated the slanders last week, no doubt to the accompaniment of cheers from the Opposition bench. I thank the Senate for having listened so attentively to my remarks, and I hope that the session will, be productive of good for the whole of the people of Australia, and not for any particular section or class of the people.
– As a representative of the Labour Party, I should like to hear those who opposed our party at the last election justify their action on the floor of the Senate. They certainly failed to justify it when before the electors, as is shown by the added strength of the Labour Party. It seems that our opponents have discovered rather late in the Bay tHat discretion is the better part of valour, and have decided to remain silent. There may not be many more opportunities for them to speak in debates of this character, and I invite them to avail themselves of the chance while it is open to them. I do not wish to be a prophet of evil, but it is just as well to look at the possibilities. The Senate may very well congratulate the mover and seconder of the Address in Reply on the cha’racter of their speeches and the manner in which they were delivered. As to the programme which they > were asked by the Government to father, certainly it is a very large infant, and I take it, from the number of the attacks which have been made upon it, and the praise that it has .received, that ‘it is a healthy one also. The recent elections have formed a fruitful subject of criticism, both in regard to the manner in which they were conducted and their results. I have been somewhat interested in the efforts of politicians to solve the somewhat difficult problem created by the presence of three parties in the Commonwealth Parliament. As has been frequently said, there are three nearly equal parties. The time has passed when the party of which I am a member was a minority party. To-day, in the Senate, we are in the proud position of. being a majority -party) and we can reasonably hope to see the time when that will be the case in the other House. We are told that, having regard to our position, we should now take some drastic action. The friends of the Government say that the Labour Party should trail in behind the Government and acknowledge themselves as a wing of the Ministerial supporters. The enemies of the Government are urging the Opposition to rally to their support. We are able to say to both the friends and the enemies of the Government that in either position we should be perfectly happy. We do not care whether the Government party so manage affairs as to force us to vote with the Government, or whether the Opposition so manage affairs as to force us to vote with them. In either case we shall take good care that our principles go with us. As to the conduct of the elections, there have been criticisms by Ministers and criticisms by members. I wish to refer particularly to the criticism of the Minister who was responsible for carrying out the elections - Sir John Forrest. To those of us who come from Western Australia his criticisms were particularly refreshing. We find Sir John deploring the fact that some of the senators and some of the members of the House of Representatives represent minorities of the electors. That statement is refreshing to us, because that is the first time Sir John Forrest has ever championed the principle of minority representation. Considering that for ten. years he was content to be the head of a Government, and to lead a Parliament which represented minorities, that he was kept in office by a minority, and that he denied to the majority the right to vote ; considering that not until he was practically forced at the point of a bayonet would he concede the franchise to them - it is curious to find him, in something like a deathbed of repentance, at this late hour, deploring the representation of minorities. His sympathy is not needed so far as the Western Australian senators are concerned. They represent not a mere majority of the electors, but a tremendous majority of them. The minority was represented at the polls by the candidates who were unearthed by Sir John Forrest himself, whilst our candidates who were elected for the Senate represent in every case a substantial majority.
– Are they all protectionists ?
– They are labour men. Senator de Largie received a vote which was larger than the combined freetrade and protectionist votes. Senator, Henderson and Senator Croft also polled a vote which was equal to the combined freetrade and protectionist votes. There were only three tickets, and, therefore, so far as Western Australia is concerned, her representatives in this Senate maintain that they represent a majority and not a minority.
– Not on Sir John Forrest’s basis of calculation.
– His basis is a very interesting one. I should like to be able to bring before the Senate the rolls upon which he bases his calculation. It would then be found that nearly every division, in nearly every town, and in nearly every polling-place in the State there were names down halfadozen times for the same individual; there were names representing some individual who never existed, and for whom there was no corresponding person occupying the premises. Our canvassers wentto residences occupied by persons who had lived there for a number of years. The name of the occupier did not appear upon the rolls ; but some other name did appear for that same place, and in some cases the wrong name appeared many times over. Yet the names for the rolls were collected within the last twelve months. By whom these mistakes were made we cannot learn. But that is the manner in which the rolls were prepared in Western Australia; and that is the reason why our total vote is small compared with the number on. the rolls. As a matter of fact, the rolls were stuffed.
– By whom ?
– By the electoral officers - by some one who compiled the rolls ; not maliciously stuffed, but clumsily or by accident. Names were down half-a-dozen times for the same individual, and for persons who never existed, and for places where the people on the rolls never lived.
– There are only 117,000 names on the rolls for Western Australia.
-That represents only about 70,000 actual voters.
– Were there not also names omitted?
– Yes, hundreds and even thousands of reputable citizens, who had lived in their homes for years, had their names omitted from the rolls. Let me give an instance of the way in which things were bungled in Western Australia. There was a provision in the Electoral Act to enable voters who were away from their proper : polling places on the day of the election to record their votes at other polling places. It was provided that an assistant returning officer or a returning officer should take these votes. It was provided that in every public centre there should be an assistant returning officer. Yet there were scores of places in Western Australia where no assistant returning officer was appointed.
– There were only seven in South Australia.
– We were not much better off in Western Australia. I can; give an instance out of many. I asked for it to be placed in writing, and here it is. The letter comes from Southern Cross, which is the centre of an electorate returning a member to the State Parliament. In the whole of that district there was no assistant returning officer. There was a deputy returning officer, but we could not find out until it was too late whether a deputy or an assistant returning officer was to be appointed. If we had known in time the electors could have voted under the postal vote system. But, believing that the Government would give them facilities, the electors did not take advantage of the postal system of voting, and were too late to take advantage of the system of voting at polling places out of their district. This letter is from persons living in the town of Southern Cross, and who went to the polling booth to record their votes, but were unable to do so because of the fault of the Government in not providing an assistant returning officer.
Sir, - We, the undersigned persons, were on the electoral roll in various districts of Western Australia, and entitled to vote for the Senate. Unforeseen circumstances caused us, on the day of the election, to be in Southern Cross, and our names were on the roll for other divisions. We each appeared at the Southern Cross polling booth, and there were told we were not entitled to vote at that booth ; therefore our votes were not recorded. We feel that a great injustice was done to us, and we would humbly ask you to bring this matter before the Senate, and see if this defect cannot be remedied.
Henry Joseph Pearce, Kookynie, Coolgardie North.
Joseph ELDERMAN Nicholson, Kookynie, Coolgardie North.
Daniel Slee, Kanowna.
John McGeachin, Northam.
Mary E. McGeachin, Northam.
Dave E. Harding, Kalgoorlie.
Don E. Mckenzie, Northam.
That letter although signed by only seven persons who experienced this disadvantage, really represents about 200 persons. The letter was written within a week or so after the elections took place, but if the names of those so disfranchised could have been taken on the day of the election, the signatures of at least 200 could have been secured. Southern Cross is 120 miles away from the nearest assistant returning officer, and it was therefore absolutely impossible for any of these 200 men who could not vote at Southern Cross to vote elsewhere. That is only one case, and I bring it forward as an instance founded upon fact. The men who signed this letter are residents of Southern Cross, and, if necessary, their complaint can be investigated.
– Their application was too late to be of any service.
– It was. What happened at Southern Cross happened in every division of the State of Western Australia, and I could multiply, instances of the same kind. I am certain that this difficulty was responsible for several thousand electors whose names appeared on the Western Australian rolls being unable to vote.
– There were no polling booths in some places.
– That is so, but that is a question apart from this. It would have been far better, under the circumstances, if the absent voters’ provisions had not been contained in the Act, because then these persons, or, at all events, a great number of them would have availed themselves of the postal vote provisions. Knowing that this provision for absent voters was in the Act, and relying upon the Government to give them facilities to exercise their votes, they postponed their voting until it was too late for them to avail themselves of the postal vote. I must saythat I believe the Electoral Act is a very good one if it were properly and liberally; administered.
– The regulations under it are not too good.
– Many of the regulations are very bad, but what is required is that the Act should be administered in a liberal manner, that provision should be made for back-country places, and that the Government should remember that there are many people who do not live in towns, but in the country, where one cannot run across a street to get from one division into another. Amongst the questions dealt with’ in the Address in Reply is one which, so far, has been touched upon only, I think, by Senator Trenwith, and yet it is a question which should be dealt with now, because, unless some honorable senator brings forward a motion for the purpose, we shall have no opportunity of dealing with it again until the Conference of Treasurers meets in April next. I refer to the question of the transfer of the States debts. It seems to me that the Government have a right to. know the opinions of honorable senators; upon this question. At the present time they are in negotiation with the States Gocvernments.
– They will never do anything until they find out the opinions of members of the Federal Parliament.
– They have a right to know the opinions of honorable members of the Federal Parliament upon a question of this kind.
– We expressed our opinion on the subject at the Conference of Treasurers.
– The Government have given us their opinion, because, I presume, they indorse the opinion of Sir George Turner. They are entitled to learn the opinions of members of the Federal Parliament, and more especially of members of the Senate, because the Senate specially represents the States, and this is largely a States question. I can see great advantages to the States and to the Commonwealth, and great disadvantages to both,- in the transference of the States debts. I can see also that the question does not stand alone. It is bound up intimately with the question of the development of the States, and also with the question of taxation by the Commonwealth and by the States. We shall have to be very careful that we do nothing which will commit this Parliament or Australia to any system which will tie our hands on the question of taxation. It seems to me there is a great danger of that in tha scheme outlined by the Federal Treasurer. Let me say at the’ outset that I have no sympathy with some of the opinions which have been advanced by the State Treasurer of Western Australia, and which have appeared in the press of Victoria recently. I think the statements attributed to that gentleman were uncalled for, and seeing that the Federal Treasurer did meet the States Treasurers, and in the fullest manner discussed this project, it was rather in bad taste, to say the least of it, that one of the States Treasurers should go back to his own State and practically villify the whole proceedings. It is impossible to deal with this subject without using some figures, but I shall use as few as possible, because I recognise that the amounts in question are not of so much importance as are the principles involved. The total debts of the Australian States up to June, 1903, amounted to £223,519,767, and the interest payable thereon amounted to £7,290,190.
– We cannot take over the whole of the States debts under- the Constitution.
– We can only take over the debts- accruing up to the time of the inauguration of the Commonwealth. The Treasurers themselves seem to recognise that if an)’ of the debts were taken over it would be better that the whole should be taken over, as otherwise there would be divided liability.
– The Treasurer of South Australia proposed that we should take over only a part of the States debts.
– He did, but the consensus of opinion at the Treasurer’s Conference was that it would be better for the Commonwealth to take over the whole of the debts, and Sir George Turner’s proposal is worked out upon the assumption that the Commonwealth will take over the greater proportion of the debts of. the States. The Commonwealth Treasurer, in returning three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, and also in returning the surplus revenue; is able to hand back to the States the sum of £7,059,464. If we could lump together the liabilities of the States, and the receipts from the States, there would still be a deficit. That would be a simple proposition, but the difficulty, as pointed out by the Treasurer, is that under the book-keeping sections of the Constitution, we have to keep the accounts of the States separately, and we cannot use a surplus from one State to meet a deficit in another. For the State of Western Australia that happens to be a most fortunate provision. That is shown by the fact that it would take the surplus we have of about £500,000 to wipe out the deficit in Queensland of ,£629,000.
– It was proposed that after the debts had been taken over the book-keeping sections should be continued.
– The difficulty is practically created owing to the bookkeeping sections. Making each State liable for its own interest, if the money were used to meet interest in the proportions in which’ it was received by the States, there would be in New South Wales a surplus of £264,405, in Victoria a surplus of £82,011, and in Western Australia a surplus of £’502,221, whilst there would be a deficit in Queensland amounting to ,£610,158, in South Australia to ^439)414) and in Tasmania to ,£28,991. The Federal Treasurer proposed, in order to meet this position, that the States Treasurers should place their net railway revenues in trust funds) and, on a certificate being given of the amount of any deficit, he should be able to take from those funds the money necessary to meet the deficit. He pointed out that, after taking the whole of the net railway revenues in this way, there would still be a deficit of £233,655 in Queensland, and of £34,176 in South Australia. The Federal Treasurer then said that, in order to meet that position, it would be necessary, in the case of those two States, to take not merely the net railway revenue, but the gross railway revenue, and to deduct from it sufficient to meet. the liability of the States for interest. That practically is the proposal put before the States Treasurers by the Commonwealth Treasurer. We have to look at its effects, and I think they would be these : First of all, it would tie the Commonwealth up to maintaining, the present Tariff during the whole period of the existence of the book-keeping sec: tions. The Federal Treasurer proposed that they should be extended for fifteen years. Mr. Butler, the Treasurer of South Australia, proposed that the extension should be for forty-five years, but whatever the period of extension might be, this proposal of the Federal Treasurer would tie the hands of the Commonwealth to raising from Customs and Excise the amount now raised by that means.
– It would be a good thing for Western Australia to have the book-keeping sections continued.
– It would, but not to tie our hands in this particular connexion, as I think I shall be able to show later on. The viciousness of the principle seems to me to lie here: that while the people are to be taxed to pay the Commonwealth, if they desire to change their method of taxation, having agreed to this scheme, they will have tied themselves up to the existing system of taxation for the whole of the time during which it will be in operation. So far as the fiscal question is concerned, protectionists and free-traders are equally affected. If the protectionist is consistent, his concern will be to destroy revenue by preventing imports. If he wishes to carry out his’ fiscal opinions, Ee will endeavour to prevent imports, and he must not’ tie himself up in such a way as to always receive the revenue at present received from Customs. The same thing applies to the freetraders, although I have begun, to have my doubts as to what people who sit on the
Opposition benches mean by a free-trader. It seems to me that some of them are prepared to tie themselves up to raise revenue at the rate existing under the present Tariff, . that is to say, to raise for all time in Australia a’ sum of about £9,000,000 through the Customs. They would appear to be even more antiquated than the English free-trader who does- raise some 42 percent, of revenue by direct taxation. The Australia free-trader of to-day seems to be prepared to raise the whole of the revenue through the Customs.
– In England there is no direct taxation. Our States have direct taxation, and the conditions, therefore, are not similar.
– The direct taxation by the States does not amount to more than about 25 per cent, of the total revenue raised. That is the comparison with the English example. There is another disadvantage in the proposed scheme, and that is, that it would prevent the Commonwealth undertaking any new expenditure. The scheme contemplates the using of the whole of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth, as well as the three-fourths at present returned to the States. Perhaps some honorable senators will re-echo the cry. of the State Treasurer of Western Australia, and say that that would be a good thing, as it would prevent Federal extravagance. This cry of Federal extravagance is, in many cases, very hypocritical. .The present Treasurer of Western Australia has repeated the cry, according to the interview with him which was reported in the newspapers. I can give an instance, very much to the point, to show that this gentleman is one of those who have been guilty of State extravagance, which he has attempted to brand as Federal extravagance. Here is a particular instance. The Savings Bank in Western Australia was previously conducted in connexion with the Postal Department, but the State Treasurer, Mx. Gardiner, determined- that in. Perth, Fremantle, Kalgoorlie, Coolgardie, and the Boulder, that connexion should be severed.
– These are the big centres of population.
– In all these places officers of the Postal Department had been giving the whole of their time to the Savings Bank. branch of the business, and when Mr. Gardiner came to the decision I have indicated, one would have thought that .in the interests of economy he would approach the Federal authorities and suggest that these men should be taken over, seeing that otherwise other officers would have to be engaged and further expense incurred. But Mr. Gardiner, who holds up his hands in righteous indignation at Federal extravagance, did not take any action of the kind, but, as I am informed, without approaching the Federal authorities in any way, he appointed a new set of officers, thus leaving the Commonwealth with the officers who had been robbed of their employment. The Federal authorities could not turn the men out on the street simply because they had been the victims of the State Treasurer. He, while joining in the denunciation of Federal expenditure, was in this particular instance guilty of unjustifiable extravagance, which could not be defended on the ground of sound administration. I do not attach much importance to the cry against the leaving of the surplus in the hands of the Federal Government, because I believe that the Federal Parliament has been very economical. There has been, so far as I have seen, no extravagance; at any rate there are many States Parliaments infinitely more extravagant and the cry for economy might very well be directed towards them. There, are directions in which it may be absolutely necessary for this Parliament to use some of the surplus revenue. Are we content that the Federation shall be continued on existing lines? If we bind ourselves to the Treasurer’s scheme, we shall be prevented from using, in the interests of the Commonwealth, any more of the revenue which we have a right to use. We shall shortly be taking over the administration of the quarantine laws, and this will foe a spending department with practically no revenue. Then, again, the administration of the business connected with lights and buoys will result is very little income, and will also prove a spending department.
– There are lights dues.
– But not sufficient by any means to meet the expenditure. Then the administration of the conciliation and arbitration laws will mean expense, but not much .return. In all these matters we shall be absolutely tied by the fact that we have given away the whole .of the surplus revenue, and practically mortgaged it in order to meet the interest charges on the States debts.
– The increase of the population by one person means a revenue of about two guineas through the Customs.
– I do not wish merely to offer destructive criticism, but to place some proposals before honorable senators. In my opinion, the time has arrived when, with the question of the transfer of the States debts, we ought, side b> side, to deal with the whole matter of the taxation of the people of Australia. At present there is a double system; there is taxation by the Federal Parliament, through the Customs House only so far, and there is direct and indirect taxation in a variety of forms by the States. While the whole Federal taxation is-uniform, there is the greatest diversity in the States, and it is advisable that where there is inter-State free-trade under which the conditions of the competition amongst manufacturers, producers and merchants are as far as possible made equal, there should be uniformity of taxation, If, as in some of the States, there is a democratic Parliament in touch with the people - and that depends greatly on the Constitution - there is an equitable system of taxation. But if, owing to the State Constitution, for which probably the present generation are not responsible, there is a conservative Government and Parliament, the system of taxation is retrogressive, and a clog on industry an’d land settlement.’ In New South Wales, for instance, the Constitution is in touch with the people, and there is adequate payment of members, onemanonevote, and similar provisions to bring the Parliament within the influence of public opinon, and that public opinion being well educated, it has adopted an up-to-date system of taxation, including imposts on land values and incomes. But in a State like Tasmania, where there is an antiquated Constitution, inadequate payment of members, and a franchise under which by means of plural voting property is given double representation, there is an out-of-date system of taxation - taxation which is inequitable, because it falls on the poor man more heavily than on the wealthy man. The system of land taxation in Tasmania is not the up-to-date system which prevails in New South Wales. All this is owing to the character of the Constitution. I am giving these instances in order to show the great diversity in the methods of taxation adopted in the various States. Not long ago Victoria was faced with a tremendous deficit ; and I venture to say that if the Parliament of that State had been elected on onemanonevote, there would have been a tax on land values. There is no doubt that the bulk of public opinion was in favour of such taxation, but because there was in power a conservative Government out of touch with the people, the wages of the civil servants were reduced, even in the case of men receiving 7s. a day, and the Income-tax exemption was lowered in order to include men earning £3 a week and less.
– And care was taken to disfranchise the civil servants in order to make them powerless.
– The Federal Parliament, on the other hand, is elected by the whole of the people’ of Australia on an absolutely equal basis. My purpose is to show that while the object of a Federation is to give uniformity in the conditions of trade, commerce, and settlement, so. long as we have various bodies imposing taxation, so long shall we fail to have uniformity of conditions in those three occupations which’ taxation must affect. I think that the time has arrived when the people and the Parliament of the Commonwealth should consider whether the condition of taking over the debts which have been piled up by the States should not be the establishment of a uniform system of taxation throughout the Commonwealth by this Parliament. I take it that every person, whether he be a protectionist or a freetrader, believes that the concomitant of his fiscal faith is a righteous system of taxation. And yet, not owing to our Constitution, because it does not forbid direct taxation by this Parliament, but owing to the attitude of the leaders of the fiscal parties, we practically say that we will impose only indirect taxation, and leave direct taxation alone, or leave it to the sweet will of the States Parliament.
– We leave it to the States, so that they may get a revenue.
– That reason is given by the leaders of both fiscal parties. It is three years since the Commonwealth was established. During that period the finances of several States have been seriously affected, and what has been their experience in endeavouring to balance their ledger? I have already outlined the experience of Victoria. Taking ‘the case of Tasmania, we have an honorable senator, who was unfortunate enough to belong to a Ministry, who I was going to say had the virtue of honesty. They determined to balance the ledger, and because they attempted1 to impose direct taxation for that purpose they were promptly thrown out of office by the people.
– No, because their minimum was too low.
– That is only a variation of the principle. Practically they were put out of office because they endeavoured to impose direct taxation to meet the deficit. Their successors, following out the same plan, have also met with insuperable difficultiesin imposing taxation. In other States we find a diffidence and a lack of ability to meet the financial difficulty in a straightforward manner. From what cause does it arise? It arises, I take it, from this fact, that in every State Parliament the Legislative Council represents merely the possessors of land and property, and will see the State finances go to pieces, the civil service on strike, and any calamity happen, rather than agree to the imposition of direct taxation. So that, practically, this Parliament says that it will leave direct taxation to the States, and the States Parliaments find themselves in an impasse, because to every proposal for that purpose the Legislative Council has doggedly said “ no.”
– Which either does not represent the people, or which only represents a small portion of them.
– The Legislative Council represents only the large landowners of the community. It stands to reason that the effect of direct taxation would be to make these large land-owners pay a bigger contribution than the ordinary citizen, and, therefore, putting their* own self interests before the necessity of the State, they reject any proposal for direct taxation. By our acquiescence in the idea that the Commonwealth should not impose direct taxation, we acquiesce in the idea that there should be no direct taxation.
– Only for the Commonwealth.
– The practical effect of our inaction is that we agree to impose no direct taxation for the purpose of either the States or the Commonwealth. Direct taxation by the States is impracticable, because the Legislative Councils refuse their assent to! it, and the Federal Parliament will not undertake the task.
– In New South Wales we have both a land tax and an income tax.
– Yes, because New South Wales is in the fortunate position of having a nominated Legislative Council, which, if it refuses to pass any legislation of this kind, can be “ swamped.”
– In South Australia we have an elective Upper House, and we have an income tax and a progressive income tax, a land tax and a progressive land tax, and also an absentee tax.
– What fate did the proposals of the Government of that State to increase the land tax and to put on a fair valuation meet with last year? Both proposals were defeated.
– They did increase the land tax, because I had to pay onefourth more.
– Both proposals were defeated.
– The legislation which was proposed by the Government was defeated. If there is one class which has benefited by the expenditure by the States of the ,£217,000,000 on public works, it has been the land-owners. It has served to increase their land values ; it has gone into their pockets. To exempt from taxation the class which has reaped the greatest benefit from that expenditure, would be to commit ourselves to an immoral principle. The Parliament of the Commonwealth ought to distinctly give the people of the States to understand that it is prepared to take over the States debts, but that, in order to meet the interest thereon, it will place the taxation on the shoulders of those who have derived the greatest benefit and acquired the greatest land values from the expenditure of public money.
– If we take over the debts we must take over the assets.
– That is another question.
-Col. Gould. - Let us take care that we do not destroy the opportunity of the States to raise revenue for their own purposes.
– Although we have destroyed the opportunity of the States to raise revenue by Customs duties, yet we are giving back to the States - counting in the surplus - seven-eighths’ of our Customs revenue. If we raised more revenue it would in no way hamper the States. We should retain only that portion which, would be necessary to meet the interest on the public debt, and the balance would be handed over to the States in exactly the same way as is done now. I wish now to point out what a tax on the unimproved land values of the
Commonwealth would produce according to my calculations which I have based on the figures of Mr. Coghlan. I am sure that his estimate is a long way below the mark, because he makes the land values of Western Australia less than those of Tasmania by the sum of two or three millions. I am perfectly satisfied in my own mind that the position is reversed.
– He has to take his . figures from the States records.
– How did Mr. Coghlan get at the unimproved value of the land in any States except South Australia?
– In South Australia they have a land-tax valuation.
– But there is no such valuation in Victoria or New South Wales.
– Yes there is. In Victoria there is a municipal tax, which is based on the unimproved land value. In New South Wales there is a tax on the unimproved land value. In Western Australia there is a tax on the unimproved land value for municipal and road-board purposes, and in Tasmania it is the same. In every State it is possible, I think, to get an approximate estimate of the unimproved land values. A tax of ijd. in the £ on the unimproved values of the land in the Commonwealth would yield an annual revenue of £2,219,876.
– How much would it cost to collect that sum?
– The cost of collection would be about 1 1/2 per cent., or twice the cost of collecting the Customs duties.
– Would you have it levied on all alike?
– Yes. I can see no justification for exemptions. I would treat this revenue in the same way as the Treasurer treats the Customs revenue. I would make a bookkeeping entry of the amount received from each State, and then, by taking over the States debts up to June, 1903, and receiving from those States which had a deficit in their net railway revenue, we should gain this advantage : that instead of our Treasurer having to enter into an agreement with all the States it would only be necessary for him to enter into an agreement with Queensland and South Australia as to using their railway revenue. To New South Wales, ,£891,981 - which is the amount the land tax would raise there - would be returned less the cost of collection. As the Customs revenue already gives New
South Wales a surplus over the interest on her public debt. She would be able to repeal her land and income taxes, and would also be able to institute a sinking fund for her State debts, or would be able to reduce her railway fares and freights. Victoria also, from her share of the land tax, having a surplus over the interest on her public debt, would be able to repeal her land and income taxes, leaving a balance of £300,000 to square her State finances and to establish a sinking fund. Western Australia having a surplus, the whole £55,080 which would be her share of the land taxation, would be paid to her, and she would be enabled to do without her special Tariff. That Tariff in any case will disappear in two years. “ The amount that will be raised by it this year is estimated at about £70,000. That disposes of the three States which have a surplus, which we will call the difference between their Customs revenue receipts and the interest chargeable to them on their public debt. As to the States having a deficit, Queensland could come to an agreement with. the Federal Government on the lines indicated by the Treasurer, to pool the net railway revenue in the name of trustees. The land tax receipts would, with the net railway revenue, practically square the balance. Queensland would receive from this land tax £254,291 ; and that, added to her net railway receipts and the Customs revenue, would meet t he interest on her State debts. South Australia would only need to hand over £226,000 of her net railway revenue, leaving £173,000 net railway revenue in her own hands, which would enable her to repeal her State land and income taxes. Tasmania would receive a balance of £74,000 without having to touch her net railway revenue. She would also be able to .abolish her land and income taxes. Practically the result of that would be that we should have State direct taxation abolished in. each of the States, and direct taxation ‘by the Commonwealth substituted. In the case of each of the States, perhaps, there would be on the whole an increase of direct taxation.
– Only on land.
– There would be an increase in the total of direct taxation. But there would be this difference - that the in- , crease in New South Wales and Victoria would so affect’ the finances of those States as to give them a sum in addition to what they would require. for their ordinary pur- 1 poses of -State government; and the Go- i 1vernments of those States would be able to 1 give to the- people- to the farmers and pro-‘ )ducers of all kinds who use the railways - : the advantage of reduced railway fares and freights ; or they would be able to take ad- vantage of their better financial position to establish with the money handed back a sinking- fund to wipe out the liability upon their States’ debts.
– I thought the honorable senator contemplated the taking over of the States’ debts by the Commonwealth ?
– But the States would still be liable for them. The bookkeeping operation would still go on, and the States would be liable for the debts until they were redeemed. It would be to their advantage’ to establish sinking funds so as to wipe out their liability at the earliest possible moment. The difficulty ‘ of the problem’ lies here - that any taxation imposed by the Commonwealth must be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. While the needs of Victoria and New South Wales and Western Australia are not as great as are the needs of the other States, still we are unable to impose differential taxation. If we could impose differential taxation, one penny in the pound would meet the case in Victoria and New South Wales, and the other halfpenny in the pound would be saved to their taxpayers. But owing ‘to the principle laid down in the Constitution, we must impose the same rate of taxation throughout the Commonwealth: But this confers the advantage that by means of the extra money the States aTe able to liquidate their liability. : Senator McGregor. - And save the necessity of further borrowing. ‘
– Certainly. To my_ mind the. ad vantage of this scheme over the Treasurer’s scheme, is this - that Che arrangement which he proposes, regarding railway revenue would, under this scheme, only need to be made with Queensland and South Australia. Why should we be required to make an arrangement concerning the railway revenues of all the States just to meet the extraordinary position of two States? .
– But look to the future in the matter of borrowing.
– Future borrowing will be undertaken bv the Commonwealth. The obligation will be met by the Commonwealth, and not by the various States. ‘
– The Commonwealth must have increased revenue to meet the interest on further loans.
– The Commonwealth would always have the power to impose additional taxation.
-Col. Gould. - But the honorable senator surely would not desire a second edition of the land tax?
– The Commonwealth could raise the amount of the land tax if necessity required ; but the figures which I have given show that there would be no necessity ‘fo raise the land tax, because we should not need to return to the States the amount of surplus Customs revenue which we are now returning. We are now returning £600,000 per annum. The interest on further loans could be met by retaining that surplus, or as much of it as necessary, handing it back to the States.
– But that surplus is a varying quantity every year.
– Still the margin is a very large One.
– In a year or two probably there will be no margin. When more Australian goods are consumed within the Commonwealth the Customs revenue will be less.
– We want more protection and less Customs revenue.
– We cannot have that under the Treasurer’s proposal. That proposal will tie us down. The advantage of this, as compared with the Treasurer’s proposal, is that we should only have to interfere with the railway revenues of two of the States, whereas, under the Treasurer’s proposal, we should have to interfere with them in six States. Then, we should have uniformity of taxation throughout t the Commonwealth, That I maintain, would be a great advantage. It is not fair to a business man in one State that he should have to pay a higher income tax than a business man in a neighbouring State with whom he is competing. It is not fair to the commercial man or to the manufacturer that he should have to pay higher stamp duties or dividend duties than a commercial man or a manufacturer in a neighbouring State with whom he is competing. Nor is it fair that a land-owner in one State should have to pay heavier land taxation than a land-owner in a neighbouring State. By the system which I have outlined we should have uniformity of taxation, which would put our landowners, our merchants, our manufacturers, and our business men on an absolute equality.
– The honorable senatorwould have no exemptions under his land, tax ?
– I cannot defend exemptions, because I consider that they are a’ form of class taxation. I wish to point out, further, that by a peculiar system of reasoning the Commonwealth Government say that the adjustment foreshadowed by the Treasurer will make old-age pensions possible. I should like some member of the Government’ to tell me how that result is to be brought about, and when ? The very scheme foreshadowed by the Treasurer will make oldage pensions impossible for ever, or until theStates debts are paid off. What does it contemplate? Does not the Treasurer’s scheme contemplate that there would not be enough money available to meet the interest on the States debts, and that he would have to dip into the railway revenues to provide for the deficiency ? Where, then, is he going to get the money for old-age pensions ? Is he going to come to an arrangement with the States Treasurers to take it from the gross railway receipts ? It is misleading to say that the scheme foreshadowed’ by Sir George Turner is going to make old-age pensions possible.Again, as regards the question of immigration, and assistance! to agriculture - what better aid to immigration could we have, and what better assistance to agriculture, than land values taxation ?
– The taxation of land ?
– No ; not the taxation of land, but of the value of the land.
– I do not see any difference.
– In speaking of the taxation of land, the inference is that we would tax an acre belonging to a farmer just as we would tax an acre belonging to the owner of a Collins-street corner block: whereas, as a matter of fact, the unimproved value of the land of a mallee farmer is practically nothing, and consequently he would pay practically nothing, whilst the” owner of a corner block in Collins-street, which’ brings in an income of hundreds of pounds weekly, would be taxed heavily.In several of the States of the Commonwealth much of the good agricultural land is a monopoly. I am not going to make an example of other States; I will take my own State. In all the best farming districts in Western Australia the principal portions of the best land are out of use They are held by men who will not use the land, and who will not sell it at present prices. In many cases the land was a free grant, but they hold it in order to pass it down to their sons and daughters as a valuable’ heirloom. The consequence is that the farmers who are moving from the eastern States to Western Australia have to go long distances from their markets, and have to take land which, compared with the land I have indicated, is second-class land. We are also causing the Government to go in for an expensive railway system, whereas if we had a land values tax it would cause land to come into use which is within the reach of the- present railway system, and the existing railways would be sufficient for many years to come. In every State of the Commonwealth, as well as in Western Australia, one can get on the railways and travel for miles and miles, and for hour after hour, through good agricultural country, which is at present unused, until one reaches an agricultural settlement in some remote place where the farmers have been able to get land. Unlock the lands of this country, and we shall soon solve the immigration question.
– The Commonwealth has nothing to do with the land.
– I am showing that we have, a great deal to do with the land, because we can compel the present owners, by taxing them, either to use the land themselves, or to sell it or to lease it. What is causing immigration to Canada? Is it because they have no Immigration Restriction Act? Nothing of the sort. What has caused the great flow of immigration to the United States? Simply the fact that they have thrown open vast areas of good agricultural land to the farmer. In Australia we have only a fringe of good agricultural land round the coast, but the eyes of it were picked out in the early days, and much of this land is being locked up to the detriment of the whole country. That is the reason why immigration flags. What was the reason of the immigration of Victorian farmers to South Africa after the war ? The reason was that it was expected that lands which had not been used were to be thrown open, and that these farmers would have a chance of buying some of them. Yet the present Government proposes in some indefinite way to assist immigration, whilst the farmers of Victoria, which is the best farming State in the Commonwealth, are -leaving its shores to look for land on the other side of the world. Is it not a fact that the best land in Vic toria is being held out of use by the land monopolists of this State ? We see that the State Parliament will not, or cannot, deal with this question.
– They could if they chose.
– They cannot, because they are met every time by a Legislative Council that blocks all their efforts.
– They can never deal with it until they alter their Constitution.
– They can never deal with it until they get a Legislative Council that will be amenable to public opinion.
– They need to “ Seddonize “ their Legislative Council.
– That is a very good term to describe what is needed. I consider that one of the greatest assets which Australia possesses is her agricultural land, and the agricultural industry is one of her greatest industries. The greatest stimulus which could be given to the agricultural industry in Australia would be the unlocking of unused lands by means of direct land taxation. Now is an opportune time for the Government to endeavour to grapple with the question, and it should be considered side by side with the question of the transfer of the States debts. If we once commit ourselves to the principle that we should leave direct taxation to the States Parliaments,, the best) chance which, the. Commonwealth Parliament can have of dealing with this question will have gone for ever. I .am satisfied from the experience of the past three years, and from what I know of what has been happening, that the States Parliaments of Australia will never grapple with this question. It will be left to the Federal .Parliament, and after all is it not a national question ?
– We have dealt with it in South. Australia.
– Yes, in a halfhearted sort of manner, by a land tax, which does not unlock the lands. I venture to say that South Australia suffers as much from land monopoly as any other State in the Commonwealth.
– No, it does not.
– I am satisfied that, if the lands of the Adelaide Plains were put to their full use to-day, the whole of the present population of South Australia could be settled there. Any one going through from Adelaide to Port Adelaide must get an object lesson of what can- be done by close settlement. He will find men holding fifteen acres, growing crops of lucerne throughout the year by means of irrigation, and engaged in dairying by the same means. I am told that these men are making a good living. If honorable senators go a few miles out of Adelaide, they will find similar land, under the ordinary native grasses, with a few cattle existing upon it, whilst a mile from that land men are crowding cattle on to similar land, and making a good living by dairy farming. This is done by means of irrigation, and the reservoir is found in the ranges which rise to the north of the city.
– A very pretty picture, by a man who knows nothing about it.
– Senator Playford says I know nothing about it, but I may mention for the benefit of the honorable senator that I was born in the State of South Australia, and lived there for the greater part of my life; and if, today, I have ari interest in any industry, it is in the agricultural industry.
– The honorable senator cannot give me a single instance of a man getting a comfortable living on fifteen acres near Adelaide.
– There are any number of them.
– Senator Playford, when he goes about between Adelaide and Port Adelaide, must be too much engrossed in his papers to know what the people are doing on the land. If the Government desire to settle the immigration question, this is the way in which they may settle it. Do we require artisans here ? Is it not a fact that every avenue open to the artisan is more than fully supplied already ? For every vacancy in the number of artisans employed there are half-a-dozen applicants. Do the Government desire to add to the army of unemployed artisans already in the Commonwealth? Do we require more skilled labourers or more miners? We know very well, and members of the Government know very well, that all these avenues of employment are fully supplied. What we require is the farmer, the man who will take up the land, and I contend that it is useless and cruel to bring men to this Commonwealth under false pretences, and tell them to settle on the lands of the Commonwealth, when we know that those lands are locked up.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that there is no land in
Western Australia which could be thrown open to selection.
– I have already told Senator Playford that we have plenty of land in Western Australia which could be thrown open for selection, but in order to get to it the selectors would have to go great distances from their market, and would have to make long journeys to the railways with their produce. I say, also, that we have any quantity of land, on railway lines, and close to markets, which is held out of use by private landholders.
– Has not the Western Australian Parliament provided for compulsory resumption of land?
– We have in Western Australia an Act which enables the Government to resume land, but the resumption is not compulsory, and so far the Act has had very little effect. The owner of the land makes an offer, the Government consider the offer, and if they desire to resume the land they may do so, with the owner’s consent. Honorable senators will know what that means. I contend that we can best assist the agricultural industry by bringing about such a system of closer settlement as they have in New Zealand. We all know that what makes farming unattractive to young people in Australia is the fact that the farms are miles away from each other. Farm life has no attractions for the young men and young women who are ‘growing up, and’ they crowd into the cities. What is the solution of the problem ? Is it not to be solved by a system of closer settlement which will give some kind of social life to those settled on the land as has been done in New Zealand by land taxation, and by their system of compulsory resumption for purposes of closer settlement?
– The Age says there are no unemployed there.
– They have no unemployed there. We have the statement made in yesterday’s newspapers that Mr. Seddon has made arrangements for the introduction of over 100 farmers during the coming month, or year, I forget which. He says there will be no difficulty whatever in allocating farms to them and settling them. It stands to reason that all this is due to the policy adopted in New Zealand, because when Sir Julius Vogel left office the unemployed difficulty in New Zealand was as bad as in any of the States of the Commonwealth. They had soup kitchens established in all the principal towns.
– That was before they got compulsory ‘arbitration.
– That was before they “got compulsory arbitration, and notwithstanding all the capital which that legislative measure has driven out of New Zealand they are now in that colony able to get along without an unemployed difficulty, and without strikes. I say that it is time those in authority in the Commonwealth rubbed the scales from their eyes and took a few lessons from New Zealand. Be sure, if they do, the immigration question will soon solve itself, and the question of assistance to agriculture will also solve itself. There is one paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s speech to which I take strong exception, and that is the paragraph addressed to the honorable members of the House of Representatives. The attention of honorable members in another place is drawn to the fact that the Tariff is having its due effect not only in bringing in revenue, but in establishing industries, and, dealing with the finances of the Commonwealth the opinion is expressed that they will be exercised with due economy, and will be safeguarded “ under your control.” Under the control of the House of Representatives. I say that that is a direct contradiction, in the Governor-General’s speech, of the Federal Constitution of Australia, which gives to this Senate dual powers with the other House upon all financial questions, with the saving clause that we have not the right of initiation of financial Bills.
– That is the saving clause which makes the difference.
– That is a saving clause, but will the Vice-President of the Executive Council contend that it gives the Governor-General, speaking for the Ministry, the power to say that it is the other House that has control of the finances of the Commonwealth? Will the Government, when the next Appropriation Bill is introduced, be content to have that Bill passed by the other House only? Do they not propose to bring it before the Senate ? Do they not intend to ask the Senate to deal with it ? If they do, I ask what is the meaning of that paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s speech?
– This is only copying from the old British Constitution.
– It is time that the Government ceased to copy from the old British Constitution, and woke up to the fact that we are living under a different Constitution. However, I do not think that this is merely a copy. I think that there is a certain amount of intention in it, for the reason that the last address made to the Senate by a Governor-General of the Commonwealth contained no such reference. The last address from the GovernorGeneral to the Senate, following upon a protest made in this Chamber, showed that the Government recognized the dual control of the finances, and thanked both Houses for- the liberal supplies granted.
– How could the GovernorGeneral thank both Houses for liberal supplies in an address at the opening of Parliament ? That is done in closing Parliament.
– The principle is the some. In one speech both Houses are thanked for the supplies granted, and in this speech the Governor-General should have expressed his appreciation of the control which would be exercised over the finances of the Commonwealth <by both Houses of the Federal Parliament.
– In closing Parliament the Governor-General mav thank both Houses for the supplies granted, but in opening Parliament he cannot thank Parliament for supplies that have not been granted.
– I say that the GovernorGeneral might in this speech have expressed his appreciation of the way in which the finances of the Commonwealth would be controlled by both Houses of the Federal Parliament. Do not both Houses qf the Federal Parliament control the finances ?
– If so, why this reference to the House of Representatives only ?
– Have not members of the Government always supported the rights of the Senate?
– Certainly they have, and that is .a further reason why any departure from that course should be marked with our displeasure now.
Sentor Playford. - I can assure the honorable senator that, if there has been any departure, it has occurred through inadvertence.
– I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to consult his colleagues, and learn whether this has been done inadvertently. If it has not, we should know the reason prompting the Government in making the departure which is certainly made in the Governor-
General’s- speech. I desire to emphasize what Senator de Largie has said with respect to the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act in Western Australia. The honorable senator has ably dealt with the introduction of coloured aliens under the Act, but there has also been a considerable immigration of labour under contract. We are satisfied that in Western Australia the Act is practically a dead letter. Large numbers of Italians are coming into that State, and going direct from Fremantle to the gold-fields, principally to the Murchison mines, and to all intents and purposes, they have been introduced under contract
– Many of them cannot speak a word of English, and yet they go straight to employment.
– They cannot speak a word of English, and yet they walk off the steamers on to the trains, go direct to the mines, and go down below to displace British miners. This has been taking place for some ‘time in Western Australia. There was a time when the Commonwealth Government, as a result of representations made, took some action in the matter, but recently the evil has been increasing in force. These people are arriving daily in Western Australia, and scores of British miners are being displaced to make room for Italians who cannot speak a word of English, and who come from Italy under contract to work in these mines.
– At lower wages?
– We cannot find Out what wages they get. We have no means of finding that out, but I am satisfied that the mine owners would not employ Italians in preference to British miners at the same wages. We shall not have a proper administration of the Act until some change is made in the present method of administering it. Mr. Atlee Hunt, secretary to the Department for External Affairs, has charge of the administration of the Act, but it has to be carried out by Customs officials, and they are responsible, not to Mr. Atlee Hunt, but to Sir William Lyne and his Department. If one brings any matters connected with the operation of- the Act before the Department for External Affairs, he is referred to the Customs Department, and then when, the Customs Department is appealed to, he is told that they have nothing to do with the matter, which is in charge of the Department for External Affairs. If we go to the Department for External Affairs, we are told - “The officers are in the employ of the Customs Department; what can we do?” The position, to me, is most anomalous. Either Mr. Atlee Hunt and the Department should be placed under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs, or else special officers should be appointed, because, so long as we have divided control we cannot have satisfactory administration. I am glad to see the reference in the speech to the proposed railway to Western Australia, and I feel sure that the Senate will recognise the justice of the claim for a survey. To condemn the railway without inquiry would be to show bias and prejudice. As a Western Australian representative, I fully admit that we have no right to expect honorable senators to pledge themselves until they are in possession of facts to justify the construction of the line.
– But should we not wait until the South Australian Parliament has passed an Enabling Bill ?
– I am informed that it is not necessary for South Australia to give consent to a survey being made.
– The only reason for the South Australian Parliament not giving its consent to the railway is that the survey has not been made.
– That is not so.
– But the Premier of South Australia has said that one of the reasons why he does not ask the Parliament to give its assent is that he is in possession of no data.
– He says he wants more information.
– The reply of the Premier of South Australia must refer, if to anything, to the survey. I wish to give honorable senators some idea of what this railway means, not merely to Western Australia, but to the rest of the Commonwealth. We have a great object lesson in the present war between Japan and Russia. What is the secret of Russia’s strength ?
– Russia is beaten.
– Russia is beaten on the sea ; but what is the secret of her strength on the land but the possession of the transSiberian railway. But for that railway Japan would be able to beat Russia not only on the sea, but also on the land ; and it is the possession of that means of communication which makes us all certain that sooner or later Russia will assert her ‘tremendous strength. Without that railway she would be as weak on land as she is at present on the sea.
– That is a railway seven times longer than the one we propose.
– And it affords a wonderful object lesson of the efficacy of such a railway for defence purposes. Western Australia has as much right to adequate defence from the Commonwealth as has any other State; but how would it be possible for the Commonwealth in any way to assist in the defence of our western shores without such a railway? The trans-Siberian railway was built by Rusia at a cost of £90,000,000 purely for aggressive and defence purposes. We ask for a railway to cost not £90,000,000, but at the outside, £[4, 500,000.
– Or £[6,000,000 ?
– If the honorable senator puts his opinion before that of the Chief Engineers of all the Australian railway systems, including the Chief Engineer of his own State, I shall be prepared to bow to his superior knowledge. But Mr. Moncrieff, the Chief Engineer for South Australia, who draws a salary of, I believe, £1,500 per annum, and presumably should know something of railway construction, has estimated the cost at £4,500,000. At the present moment the Commonwealth Government are asking for £20,000 for the purposes of a survey, and that survey, I am satisfied, would strengthen the engineering reports which have already been presented, and show that this is not a railway to be built through a desert. Those who have been through the country say that a considerable portion of it is equal to the best pastoral areas in Australia; and I arn prepared to take the word of those competent surveyors rather than that of those who speak with political prejudice and have never been within hundreds of miles of the proposed route.
– The Canadian Government are building a second trans-continental Une, though the population of the Dominion is not much larger than that of Australia.
– The Canadian Government are building a line parallel with the existing line, and have practically spent over £30,000,000 in money and land in providing these means of communication. When I read the Governor General’s speech,- I wondered what could be the object of the Government in making the reference to preferential trade. It commits the Government and Parliament to nothing, and the only con- elusion I could come to was that the reference was made with a purpose. We know that Mr. Chamberlain is talking to the British people in this strain : - “Your colonial brethren want to enter into preferential trade with you, and by that means cement the Empire; will you listen to their appeal and reciprocate with the Australian and Canadian people ?” The only explanation that I can give of this paragraph in the speech is that the Government want to give Mr. Chamberlain some justification for statements of the kind, and to make it appear that the people of Australia are prepared to enter into preferential trade and reciprocal arrangements with Great Britain.
– The Australian delegates said so at the Ottawa Conference in 1894.
– Were the delegates sent to the Conference with that purpose ?
– They were sent to deal with the cable business, and assumed a responsibility which they ought not to have assumed. Is this House going to indorse the proposal, and quietly allow the Government to send word to the old coun-.try that this Parliament has indorsed the sentiment of preferential trade?
– The Government do not say so.
– The Government certainly do say so. If the Address in Reply be carried, I contend that this’ House is committed to an opinion on preferential trade, and I guarantee we shall hear by cable that Mr. Chamberlain has used the expression in His Excellency’s speech as proving that the people of Australia has recently elected a Parliament in favour of the particular brand of preferential trade he is advocating. When we find the allusion coupled with a reference to the invitation to Mr. Chamberlain to visit Australia, we have conclusive proof as to the intentions of the Government. Senator Trenwith spoke of Mr. Chamberlain’s campaign as an intellectual campaign. I am not going to ‘deal with the merits of preferential trade, but when I heard Senator Trenwith’s statement, accompanied as it was by remarkable figures - and antiquated figures they were which he trotted out in order to bolster up his proposition that this is an intellectual campaign - I thought it would be to the point to quote the opinion on preferential trade entertained by Mr. John Burns, one of the leading members of the House of Commons, and the leading Labour member.
– Not the leading Labour member.
– Mr. Burns enjoys the trust and respect- of the workers in Great Britain, and may be relied on by this Parliament to speak as the representative of those workers, at any rate to a greater extent than can Senator Trenwith. In the hide-pendent Review of November, 1903, Mr. Burns has an article, in which he says -
On the 4th September, 1903, the Trades Union Congress of England unanimously repudiated his (Mr. Chamberlain’s) views. All the Labour members had similarly expressed themselves. Co-operators and trade unionists, represented by 3,215 delegates, and a membership of 1,622,666, with not more than a dozen dissentients, condemned his views. The Hailway and Miners’ Trades Unions, representing 1,000,000 workmen, have similarly condemned his protectionist fallacies.
– The miners of Lanarkshire, in Scotland, have approved of the proposal.
– I am quoting this article to show why I, for one, object to be used as a lever to alter public opinion in the United Kingdom. I object to allow my position here to be used as a lever to induce the workers of Great Britain, whom Mr. Burns represents, to believe that I and the workers whom I represent approve of preferential trade from Mr. Chamberlain’s stand-point.
– The workers are believers in preferential trade because it is to their own self-interests.
– Listen to what Mr. Burns says -
Situated as I am, a workman _ elected by workmen, keenly alive to their special interests, sharing their hopes, conscious of their thoughts, I am entitled to take my part in a controversy the alleged object of which is for their immediate gain and permanent benefit. As such I have traversed the arguments, dissected the misleading statistics advanced by protectionists, fair-traders, and retaliators for the cure of all the ills that industrial flesh is heir to.
Here is his judgment -
As a Labour member I unhesitatingly say that the suggested remedies are worse than the imaginary disease, even where this is not exaggerated. What is more, I believe that view will be the electoral judgment of the masses when, shorn of all subterfuge, the reversion of protection is submitted to them as an alternative to our present policy of free-trade.
Mr. Burns goes on to say
Ideally free-trade is the most human, natural, and convenient method of trade that the mind of man has conceived and international necessity warranted. it is best for Britain, easiest for the colonies, and better suited for their foreign trade in its international and intercolonial aspects. It enables the mother country to be politically as well as commercially independent of her colonies - that is a very good point which should be borne in mind by colonial statesmen - - and is the only trading system by which the colonies can retain that autonomous control and working out of their own destiny so necessary for new experimental and ever-changing colonial conditions.
I commend that statement to my friend, Senator Stewart. What I have read is a weighty utterance from one who has earned his spurs, both in the industrial world, as champion of the workers, and in the political world ; and I am sure that even those who have made somewhat hostile interjections recognise that as fully as any other person. My reason for reading the extract is to show that this man, who has practically devoted his life to the cause of the workers, does not look on Mr. Chamberlain’s proposal as ari advantage, but rather as a disadvantage to them. We ought to strongly object to the Government endeavouring in this insidious way to get from this Parliament an expression of opinion which can be used in the present campaign in Great Britain. Let the Government come forward in this and the other House, with a definite proposal in favour of the principles of preferential trade, indicating the lines on which the preference should go, and if they can get assent to their proposal they will have the right to make the fullest use of it, as will Mr. Chamberlain and those who think with him in the United Kingdom. I would point out to honorable senators that in the other House there are many who would like to see this paragraph struck out of His .Excellency’s speech, but they do not move in that direction because other contingencies would arise. It would involve the fate of the Government, and it might transfer to the Treasury benches men who would not suit them as well as the present Ministers. Therefore, we cannot get a decision on the question on its merits while it is treated as it is in this opening speech. It is for the Government to climb down from their tree and fight the question straight on its merits, and let the House decide, after argument, whether it is in favour of Mr. Chamberlain’s idea of preferential trade, even from the Australian point of view. I am pleased with the action of the Government in connexion with the introduction of Chinese into South Africa. I am glad that they joined with the Premier of New Zealand in entering an emphatic protest from Australasia against this prostitution of the fruits of the late war. It is a base misuse of the territories which were gained as the result of the expenditure of so much money and so much blood.
– It is free-trade.
– It has nothing to do with free-trade. I would remind the Government that when they sent their message they stood in very great danger of getting a rap over the knuckles. They were condemning, in South Africa, a system which they have allowed to be carried on in Australia. In both Queensland and Western Australia, imported coloured labour, brought in under regulation, is employed in the pearling industry with the assent of the Government.
– That is a legacy which we took over.
– That is a legacy from the States Governments indorsed by the Federal Government. The Government had parliamentary authority to stop any more coloured labour being introduced, but they have continued to allow coloured labour to come in under contract for the pearling fleets, notwithstanding that this Parliament has never yet been asked to assent to that course, and it is in contradiction of the terms of an Act of Parliament. Had the Government of the Transvaal known the state of our pearling fleets they would have had good ground for saying to the Government of Australia, “ Take the mote out of your own eye before you trouble yourselves about the beam in ours.” I would suggest to the Government that they should apply this principle to the pearling industry.
– Does the honorable senator want to destroy the pearling industries ?
– That argument was used in relation to the mining industry. We were told that unless the mine-owners could have Chinese the mining industry would be destroyed ? We were told that unless the sugar planters could have kanakas the sugar industry would be destroyed. These statements were not true. The pearling industry could be conducted by white labour, but it will not while the present system is allowed to prevail. I can only reciprocate the opinion which has been expressed by honorable senators that in this session we may pass some useful legislation. I trust that by the end of the session the Navigation Bill and the Arbitration Bill will be placed on the Statute Book, and that some step will be taken towards making provision for oldage pensions. I thank honorable senators for the courtesy with which they have listened to me.
– I have listened with very great pleasure to the very thoughtful .and able speech of Senator Pearce, who always gives us something new to think about. From his opening remarks he seemed to think that honorable senators like myself, who occasionally find themselves’ in opposition to the Labour Party, had entered into a conspiracy of silence, and he rather hinted that we ought to give some evidence for the faith which is in us. I do not propose to state the reasons why I opposed the Labour Party at the elections. I opposed them in order to get my own seat, and as I conscientiously and honestly detest some planks in their platform, I pitched into them as hard as I could, and I shall continue to pitch into them as hard as I can unless they change their methods. During last session, I was twitted again and. again with always pitching into my friends in the Labour corner. I am not aware that I ever did pitch into them, but I think I. am right in criticising such planks of their platform as are contrary to the teachings of- history, and opposed to the common sense which most men possess. I am on very good terms, I hope, with the Labour Party. Lord Tennyson said that, although he loved Mr. Gladstone, he hated his Irish policy. I love my friends in the Labour corner, but I hate some planks in their platform. I should be wanting in my duty to the State, which sent me here, unless I met their arguments with counter arguments, and unless I stated clearly the reasons why I think that they are wrong, and are bringing disaster on the Commonwealth. In the first place, I desire to express my disappointment that, although the Ministers have introduced so many questions into the opening speech, we are not yet in possession of any Bills to which we can devote our time.
– We have one Bill.
– We have a little Bill, but I should prefer to have, as I think we should, the Navigation Bill which has practically been before the Cabinet for twelve months, and as to which I understood that they had settled their policy. I certainly hoped to see the Bill in print when I came here. I hoped that it would be introduced here on the same day that the Arbitration Bill was introduced iri another place.
I do not for one moment blame the officers whose duty it is to draft these measures, because I believe that they are most industrious and intelligent men. All I can conceive is that their instructions have been received too late, or that they have been taken away from their proper work, or that the Ministers have not yet made up their minds as to what their policy is to be in this very contentious measure.
– It was settled some weeks back.
– If it was settled some weeks back, where is the print of the Bill?
– Ask the AttorneyGeneral.
– I hope that it will be placed in our hands during the next few days. On the day I came here, I heard some talk of an adjournment for two or three weeks, because there was no business for us to go on with, no Bill for us to peruse and think about. It is a very extraordinary thing that we are sohard up for party politics .that the attention of the Federation is to be centred, not round the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, but round a provision which is not in the Bill now, but which is going to be moved by the Labour Party. It is an extraordinary thing that a little clause by which our labour friends desire to bring the railway servants, or all State servants, under the provisions of the Bill, should raise the issue which is to make or unmake the Government. I find it necessary to say a few words about this measure. I obtained some knowledge of Senator Trenwith’s argumentative powers as I travelled with him to the Adelaide Convention. Evidently feeling that he had a bad case, he tried to bolster it up as he went along by argument after argument to which he appeared to think there would be no reply ; and he went so far as to say that no honorable senator, if he desired to be patriotic, could do otherwise than support this very remarkable Bill. I am sure that my honorable friend, if he were here, would give me credit for the same kind of patriotism as he possesses. Of course, it was a little slip on his part ; but it only goes to show how my friends in the Labour Party, and those who are on the fringe of that party but are not quite bound down by its caucus methods, will use the argument of exaggeration in order to try and bolster up a bad cause. Of all the thirty-nine subjects of legislation which are committed to this Parliament by the Constitution, I should have thought that the last one we ought to touch was ‘ this question of compulsory arbitration. I do not think that any honorable senator can tell us what was in the mind of the Convention when it placed this legislative power, in the Constitution. We all know that the words of the sub-section were inserted after very heated debates. We all know that in the first instance the Convention declined to insert the words, and that afterwards they found their way into the Constitution. But did any member of that body ever intend that those words should be interpreted as implying that we should have a compulsory Arbitration Bill for the whole Commonwealth, and that all the servants of the States should be brought under its provisions? I undertake to say that not a member of the Convention, not excepting any of the Labour members who were there, ever dreamt of such a thing. But, because the Labour Party have been growing stronger and stronger, and because they, have, as they say, been sweeping the polls, they find themselves strong enough to bring about this unfortunate legislation, and, therefore, they intend to try to place their views on the statute-book.
– Because the people want it.
– My honorable friend talks about the people. Once or twice in this debate I have heard the statement from them that “we” are the representatives of the people. But, con’sidering that only about one-half of the people voted, and that a considerable proportion of that half did not vote for the Labour Party, and abhor their methods just as cordially as I do, I hope that we shall hear no more about their coming here and representing the people. The Labour Party do not represent the people.; That is one of the gross exaggerations in which they so frequently indulge. I under-, stand that the clause which created the only crisis of last session is going to be proposed again in the Arbitration Bill. If the Government win, so much the better - we shall get rid of the obnoxious clause. But if they lose, I certainly hope that they will drop the Bill into the waste-paper basket, and let it stop there.
– They will be dropped, too.
– I expected to hear an interjection of that sort, and I am very glad that it has been made, because if my friends in the Labour Party are now warning or threatening the Government-
– The honorable and learned senator is.
– I do not desire to <do either the one thing or the other, but I desire to prophesy that the Government will lose caste throughout the Commonwealth with right-minded men who know what constitutional government is, and have not turned themselves from a party into a faction, if they do not resist the insertion of this provision. I cannot conceive of any level-headed men who have not lost their mental balance contending that a Federation whose very basis was that certain specified subjects were to be committed to the Federal Parliament, and that the sovereign power over all other subjects was to remain with the States, that had a right to set up a tribunal of this kind, and to say that it is to dictate to the States the wages which they are to pay and the hours which their servants are. to work, and to go into all the minutice of the conducting of their enormous railway services, when we have no risk and no responsibility in the matter.
– We do not propose to do that.
– I believe that if this clause is inserted in the Arbitration Bill it will be absolutely ultra vires, and will be so declared by the High Court. But, supposing that it is a constitutional thing, I cannot conceive of anything which would more certainly bring the Constitution into chaos. If it is constitutional, I have no hesitation in saying that it is a breach of the understanding with the States which we have no right to commit. The States ought to be able to look up to this Parliament as the guardian of their rights, and as a body desirous in every way of increasing their prosperity in all matters in which Australia generally is concerned. But, if we say to each of the individual States, where the conditions are not the same, and where the cost of running the railways is different, “You shall pay your engine-drivers, not 13s. a day, but 14s., and your porters and shed hands shall not work eight or nine hours a day, but seven and a half hours “ - do honorable senators mean to contend that we can carry on the Federation on lines of that sort? We have no business to dictate to the States in anything concerning their money payments when we have no responsibility and no control. Therefore, it is absolutely wrong to think of getting the con trol Of such affairs by setting up an Arbitration Court. I shall be very pleased, indeed, to hear the Attorney-General and the VicePresident of the Executive Council, with his very practical mind and long experience, show how they can justify a position of that kind. But I believe that the Government will not attempt to justify it. If such a clause is put in, the Bill will be dropped into the waste-paper basket. I am not in favour of compulsory arbitration generally, and for very good and sound reasons. It is supposed to have the effect of putting a stop to strikes, and of bringing about industrial peace, but, in the long run, I believe it will do exactly the contrary. We have symptoms of this in some of the States, and direct evidence of it in others. For instance, in New Zealand strikes have not been checked, but disputes have absolutely been caused that would not have occurred except for the Arbitration Court. We have evidence that there have been 400 odd cases within the last seven years. In South Australia there have been only about seven strikes in seven years. Therefore, there is proof positive that giving these facilities to fight, and to bring employers to Court, produces a state of unrest and dissatisfaction which cannot conduce to ‘ the prosperity of industry.
– What is the authority for saying that there were only seven disputes in South Australia in seven years ?
– I have read it in newspapers ; I have quoted it previously ; and I have heard it quoted by others.
– Probably the honorable senator read it in Tit-Bits !
– No, but we have evidence from the Labour Party of the fact that they will- deny anything that does not suit them. If one said that the sun was shining, and it suited them to deny it they would do so. We have evidence in three States - Western Australia, New South Wales, and New Zealand - of the awards of the Courts being repudiated, and not carried out.
– How many cases?
– The men are all on their good behaviour now, but in each of those three States there has been direct repudiation of the awards of the very Judges who were deputed to try the cases. I have said over and over again that wherever the workers do not like an award, and it pays them to disobey it, they will think no more of violating it than of lighting their pipes. It is only human nature. I should probably do exactly the same if I were a worker; and if there were an award affecting lawyers, probably if I did not like it, -I should wriggle out of it in some way.
– What warrant has the honorable and learned senator for saying that about, the workers ? Can he quote a case?
– There have been cases in each of the three States mentioned, where the workers have disobeyed the awards of the Courts.
– They have gone back to Work ; and if the honorable and learned senator was fair, he would admit that.
– If honorable senators think that the industrial life of the Commonwealth can be carried on in that way, I do not. I think it is quite likely that, in a few years time, the whole of this arbitration business will tumble about our ears like a pack of cards. We shall find that the Court cannot settle these disputes, but that industrial peace can only be promoted by really improving the relationship between labour and capital, employer and employed. My honorable friends will find that the methods adopted in England and America, and that have been so successful, are the best. The principle of them is that it is in the interests of capital and labour to work together - that their interests are one and identical, and that the more they are driven asunder, and the more they regard each other; as enemies, the more disasters follow. I have not heard a single word from the labour corner about the methods which are being adopted day after day in other countries. I take up books and articles, and read of the success that has attended them in the industrial life of countries where it is recognised that labour and capital must go hand in hand down the avenues of progress, and that there can be no real prosperity unless the relationship between the two is improved, and they are brought into closer unity. The man who tries to make capitalists and workers rival litigants is not pursuing the best means of improving their relationship, and if he thinks he is I beg respectfully, but most emphatically, to differ. Senator Trenwith seemed to think that the fact that the working men of the United Kingdom have decided by a majority of three to one to oppose compulsory arbitration, was against him. I should think it was. But in order to wriggle out of that position,
Senator Trenwith went on to say that that majority was decreasing week by week. He contended that one explanation of the opposition to it was that the working men of Great Britain had no confidence in the Courts of that country, w’hereas we know that the working men of this country have confidence in their courts. I am glad to know that that is so. We may all have confidence in our courts. But I certainly have no confidence in any one man, a lawyer, being given the whole control over the industrial life of the Commonwealth. Fancy asking a Judge to determine which of two men could shave a man the better 1 Things of that sort, I understand, have been going on. It is not a question of confidence in our Judge ; it is a question of principle. I have no confidence in submitting a question of this kind of an arbitration court. Take the Penrhyn colliery dispute in Great Britain. Lord Penrhyn said that, as he was employing unionists and non-unionists, he would have in the committee which he allowed to be appointed to confer with his managers on the conduct “of the quarries where the interest of the men were concerned, representatives of both unionists and non-unionists. But the miners said “ No ; you shall do nothing of the sort ; we regard the non-unionists as scabs and blacklegs; and we will not associate on the committee with non-unionists.” Lord Penrhyn said - “ I will see you further before I will agree to what you propose,” and there was a strike. Are we going to refer to the Arbitration Court a question such as how a man is to conduct his business? Are we going to compel an owner, through the instrumentality of a High Court Judge, to say that any committee of workmen which may be appointed to confer with his managers shall be chosen from unionists only? To show how little is thought of the Labour organizations, I note that in New Zealand not a third of the men belong to trades unions. I have also read that most of the 6,000 miners at Broken Hill do not belong to the unions. Our friends in the Labour Party want to have an Arbitration Court, in which the Judge will be coaxed into saying that all the workers shall belong to trades unions ; and that is a kind of slavery in which ‘ I, for one, have no belief. I do not wish to labour this subject, but I should like to say a word with regard to the speech delivered by the Prime Minister some time ago, in which hespoke of the necessity of going back to party Government, and urged that we could not carry on the affairs of the Commonwealth if there were three parties in the Commonwealth. My honorable friend’s speech made a sensation at the time, but I am inclined to think that there is nothing in his contention, because we have really only two parties in the Commonwealth. It seems to me that the Prime Minister and Mr. Watson thoroughly understand each other, and considering that the Labour Party have got from the present Government about as democratic and as radical legislation as they can ever hope to get from any Australian Government, I think that the Labour Party will be very ill-advised if they quarrel with the Ministry. Therefore, it appears to me that if the Arbitration Bill goes into the waste-paper basket it will stop there. I sincerely hope that the Labour Party will carry the clause which they intend to propose, putting the States civil servants under the Bill. Then the measure will certainly get into the waste-paper basket. I should like to give one or two reasons why I think that the third party is merged in the Government Party. My honorable friend, Senator de Largie, was exceedingly frank. He told us in his .speech that the Labour Party of Western Australia had captured seven seats, and that they might have captured the eighth if they had liked; but, as a matter of courtesy or favour, they allowed our good old friend Sir John Forrest, the Minister for Home Affairs, to have a walk over. But Senator de Largie, in his frankness, for which I am grateful to him, went on to say that next time the whole eight seats would be swept by the Labour Party, and that Sir John would have to go about his business if he did not behave himself. It is as plain to me as that two and two make four, that because the Labour Party and the Government Party are one, Sir John Forrest was allowed to have a walkover. It would never have done to knock him out, and then to have to shake hands with the Prime Minister. Therefore he was allowed to have the seat. But now we find that good natured little threats are being made, that if Sir John does not keep on his good Behaviour he will not only not have a walk-over, but will receive his dismissal at the next election. Senator de Largie seemed to gloat over the idea that the Labour Party had captured all the other seats, and that at “the next election they would capture Sir John Forrest’s. . This brings another thought to my mind. Our friends have been very determined about the principle of one man one vote. They contended that every man ought to have a vote, and no man more than one vote. Now they have their own way, and they are asking for the whole of the representation. No other class in the community in Western Australia is to have any representation whatever. That is the Labour Party’s opinion of what is fair and just. That is their notion as to how this Commonwealth is going to progress ! I should like to know what is to become of the other classes of the community ? Can there be a grosser wrong than that the Labour Party of one State should have absolutely the whole representation. We have made our bed, and must lie upon it, but we hope that there will be some common-sense people in Western Australia, and that the Labour Party will not capture the whole of the representation. I should like to say something about the position and aims of the Labour Party, because here we come to a distinction, which I think, we ought to bear in mind. There is such a thing as a political party, and there is such a thing as a party which degenerates into a faction. I do not suggest, for one moment, that the Labour Party are a faction. I have all along recognised Senator McGregor as the leader of the Labour Party ; but, if they are only a faction, and I am putting the matter in this way, simply for the sake of argument, I must in future dub the honorable senator the leader of the Labour faction. What is a faction? A party seeks to help the State. A faction seeks to make the State help it. We have to ask ourselves whether the Labour Party have, in their methods, been seeking to make the State help them. I am coming now to a rather serious subject. We have two high officials to appoint in the Senate. One of them has already been appointed, but, as I understand, certain people, who believe that there is such a thing as “ the spoils to the victors,” think that they may as well reap some of the spoils, as they have had a victory. There are certain rumours about as to certain bargains that have been made. It remains to be seen whether those rumours are correct, but all I have to say, is that if there has been bargaining or bartering about personal matters of this description, where the consideration has not been that the best man, or the best man fitted for a position, should be appointed to it, but that our chum, or our friend, or our party, should have it; and if my honorable friends, the members of the Ministry, have been parties to this bargaining or bartering, I do not think it redounds to their credit.
– What does the honorable and learned senator mean? What is he driving at?
– Honorable senators of the Labour Party have all listened very attentively, and I think they know pretty well what I am talking about. I should like. to refer to one argument in connexion with the proposed Arbitration Bill, which I find I have omitted.
– The honorable and learned senator is going back to that.
– I am going back to it, and I hope that some of our friends are going back on it. As I travelled through the State of Tasmania, 1 found that a large majority of the working men whom I came across and numbers of trades people, who sympathize to some extent with working men, are absolutely waiting for this Federal Bill in order to twist it to their advantage in a way which I am satisfied the framers of the Constitution never intended. The provision in the Constitution can only mean that when a dispute bond fide spreads, as I admit the maritime dispute did, to more than one State, then and then only should the Commonwealth Act come into operation.
– If by the Act we exceed our powers under the Constitution, can we put it into force?
– Certainly not, but this is a different matter to the inclusion in the Bill of State public servants, which I believe is absolutely unconstitutional. What I understand is that, having got their Arbitration Court, if they do get it, and I hope they will not, the miners on the West Coast of Tasmania are waiting to turn the Court to their own use, and to a use never contemplated by the Constitution. Perhaps some of my honorable friends have heard of the dispute which took place between “the Mount Lyell miners and the company. Two levelheaded men, in this case, I am glad to say, went over from Ballarat to discuss the question with the miners at Queenstown, or Lyell. These level-headed men ordered that there should be no strike, and in that they acted very wisely. But when I went there the other day I heard in a dozen different places from a dozen different kinds of men that as soon as the Federal Arbitration Bill was passed this dispute would be brought before the Arbitration Court, and it can only be brought before that Court by collusion, that is, by making the miners strike at “Queenstown and Mount Lyell appear to spread to one or two of the other States for this sole purpose. I heard this again and again, and we know that the Labour Party can twist little things to the advantage of their clients and supporters. I did not swallow all I heard, but I believed a certain portion of it, and I am perfectly satisfied that, unless we draw the Commonwealth Arbitration Bill with more skill than is possessed by most of us, we shall have disputes, which in ordinary circumstances would be continued not only to one State, but to’ one little locality, spread beyond the State in which it takes place, in order to have the Commonwealth Arbitration Act brought into operation where there is no State Arbitration Court. In the State from which I come the people’s House, the Tasmanian Legislative Assembly, has rejected an Arbitration Bill.
– They admitted that they knew nothing about it.
– They put it into the waste paper basket by a majority of almost two to one, and I ask why the people of my State should have a Commonwealth Arbitration Act forced upon them, because it may happen to be drawn so loosely that people who are dissatisfied in Tasmania can get some union in another State to say that they are also dissatisfied, and thus comply with the condition that the dispute shall extend beyond the “boundaries of any one State ?
– Cannot the honorable and learned senator move to amend the Bill in Committee?
– Is the honorable and learned senator afraid that the Arbitration Court established will not mete out justice?
– Certainly not, but I should like the Court to have its duty confined to legal and not industrial matters.
– Is not a dispute a legal matter ?
– I regret to see that the Government again think of bringing forward the Inter-State Commission Bill. I shall probably give notice to-morrow of a motion similar to that which I gave notice of last -session, but which I withdrew as there was no time to discuss it, that, so far as this matter is concerned, it would be as well” to amend the Constitution in order to vest in the High Court, temporarily or for as long as may be deemed necessary, the duties which it is proposed the Inter-State Commission shall perform.
– A very good idea.
– The High Court is overworked.
– Could Senator Guthrie have made a more unwise interjection? ls there one member of the Federal Parliament who believes that the High Court is overworked, or that it will be sweated if we ask it to assume the duties of the proposed Inter-State Commission, which we have been able to get along without for three years one month and so many days? It appears to me that Australian trading and railway concerns are not big enough to justify the establishment of a tribunal of this sort.
– Then why did the honorable and learned senator provide for it in the Constitution?
– As the High Court admittedly has little or nothing to do, it will be a godsend to give its members a little work. I do hope that Ministers will drop the Inter-State Commission Bill, and will not think for a moment of bringing into being another department which is absolutely unnecessary.
– The members of the High Court have no knowledge of commerce.
– There is a paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech dealing with the proposed appointment of a High Commissioner, which I do not approve of. It appears to me that Ministers have no settled policy about it, and as it involves the creation of a new and expensive department, it is a question upon which we have a right to expect Ministers to have some well-defined policy. The paragraph reads -
The interests of the Commonwealth in London have hitherto been temporarily in the charge of the Agents-General of the States. You will be invited to make provision for the appointment of a High Commissioner, whose supervision of all matters of Australian concern will include the duly of directing public attention to the resources of the States and their advantages as fields for settlement.
Some of my friends will ask what there is wrong about that. This is what is wrong with it: I have always understood .that when we appointed a High Commissioner the States would withdraw their AgentsGeneral and leave the management of the whole of their financial affairs in London to the High Commissioner, who, I assume, would be a gentleman competent to attend to them. The States would then appoint General Agents, whose duty it would be to point out the resources of their States, to induce immigrants to go to them, to promote trade, and to find markets for the produce qf the States. In pursuance of this policy, the State of Victoria has just despatched Mr. Taverner, giving him a salary of £1,000 a year, which is a reduction upon the salary previously paid to the Agent-General, to carry out the duties of a General Agent.
– South Australia has had a General Agent for years.
– I am aware .that that is so. When the State Treasurer of Tasmania left to attend the Conference of Treasurers, I wrote to him asking him to bring before the Conference the relations which should exist between the High Commissioner of the Commonwealth and the Agents of the States in London in future. I desired that he should endeavour to have some uniform system decided upon. I understood that we were going to have a General Agent, and that we should hand over to the care of the High Commissioner all matters of diplomacy and the control of finances. I thought that was the settled policy of the Federal Parliament, and I know that many members of the Parliament have spoken in that way in debate. I now find that a High Commissioner is to be sent home, and, in order to make the appointment popular, in order, I suppose, to justify the great outlay involved in the payment of the salary and the expense of the office, it is proposed that he shall act as a General Agent, and he will be expected to set forth the resources of the States. I told my Premier that I could not vote for the appointment of a High Commissioner unless I knew what the policy of the States was to be. If it could be shown that we could save a little money by sending home a General Agent and reducing the expenditure of the Department in London, I might feel myself at liberty to vote for the appointment of a High Commissioner, but I shall certainly not vote blindfold, and I shall not vote for the appointment of a High Commissioner when no settled policy is announced, and Ministers have not made up their minds as to what a High Commissioner is wanted for.
– How could we have a settled policy for six different States?
– If we are .going to take over the States debts, as I hope we shall, the High Commissioner will have an enormous amount of important financial work to do, but if he is to be given the work of a General Agent, to set forth the fruit-growing prospects of Tasmania, and the mining prospects of Western Australia, I say that that can be better done by an agent sent direct from those States. If that idea is to be knocked on the head, let us know it. I may be disposed to vote for the appointment of of a High Commissioner if I understand there is a well settled policy that he is to attend to everything. I do not know that it would be a bad plan to appoint a High Commisioner to attend to everything, each of the States sending home a secretary to ply him with information upon its resources. However, I remind honorable senators that Victoria has already taken action in sending Mr. Taverner to London in accordance with the other policy, and I should like to know where we are. The paragraph of the GovernorGeneral’s speech dealing with preferential trademerits some criticism. It says -
The preferential trade proposals now engaging the attention of the people of Great Britain will, if approved, assure to us an immense and reliable market My advisors are pleased to note the cordiality with which these are generally regarded in this country, and are confident that the feeling will be strengthened when the statesman who is their author is able to visit us.
There is certainly no policy about that. But as Senator Pearce has said, there is a kind of implication that preferential trade meets with the a’pproval of the majority of the people of Australia. As I understand the matter, at the last Conference of Premiers, held in London two years ago, the then Prime Minister of Australia pledged himself to go back to Australia and to suggest and carry through, some policy of preferential trade. Canada did it, and Natal did it.
– Canada had done it years before.
– I think that Natal had done it before also. New Zealand has since done it, in pursuance of the promise made by Mr. Seddon. Australia is not going to do it, and is, therefore, as I understand it, breaking the promise given by Sir Edmund Barton.
– The Prime Minister had no right to promise.
– But I understand that he did promise.
– I never heard of it.
– At all. events, in the report of the conference it is stated that the question of preference with Australia had not as yet been decided, but the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth had promised to introduce some scheme, but could not say what form it would take. I am pretty certain that that was the case, and, therefore, I thought it very extraordinary that ‘this speech should altogether depart from that view. I think that before the session ends we should be given an opportunity of debating this very important matter. I am not going to take up time by discussing the relative virtues of ‘free-trade and protection. The Empire may suffer through an important question of the sort being made a party matter, but if in England that is found inevitable, I suppose we in Australia will follow suit. It appears to me, however, a matter which vitally affects the Empire, and for a few moments I shall consider it in that relation, hoping that Ministers will not be content with the namby-pamby paragraph in the speech, but will give us an opportunity to hear the policy of the Government. As representatives- of the people we shall then be able to clearly express our views, and Mr. Chamberlain will have something to guide him whether our views be for or against his proposals. It is unfair to Mr. Chamberlain, to the Empire, and to this Parliament to leave the question in its present miserable state. We ought to know more definitely what the feeling of the Commonwealth is.
– Mr. Chamberlain has Eis own definite policy,’ and has stated it plainly.
– What I want to know is what the policy of the Commonwealth Government is? The result of the Conference in England justifies me in saying that we ought to have before us the policy of the Government, and ought not to be put off by the vague words in His Excellency’s address. I quite admit that in some of his arguments Mr. Chamberlain has been “.bowled over”; that his figures may be read in- different ways’, some as arguments in favour of preference and protection, and others in favour of free-trade. We might argue for weeks, and never agree as to their true value. But are there no other questions underlying these preference proposals? It has always appeared to me most extraordinary that Great Britain, in handing over as she did enormous tracts of country to her people in distant lands, and in granting us about the freest Constitution which could possibly be devised, never put in one little clause stipulating that she should be given preference in regard to Customs duties. Great Britain has never raised her voice in any way when we have charged her the same 20 or 30 per cent, duties that we charged to her rivals. Apart altogether from what we know as the fiscal issue, is there no common sense ? Is there no generosity ? Is there no Imperial idea of ‘trying to bind the Empire together by expressing a desire to give to Great Britain some kind of preference in our Customs Tariffs, and not charge the goods of our brother citizens and friends in England, exactly the same rate we charge to all foreign nations of the earth? Is it possible to have a federated Empire in ‘the truest sense of the word, unless we also have federated trade ? Lord Rosebery, Mr. Asquith, and .two or three others have said that preferential trade so far from uniting the Empire will tend to break it up, by causing jealousy, and quarrelling. I do not for one moment take that view. It appears to me that if to the ties of loyalty and affection, which we have proved on the battlefields of South Africa, we add the ties of self-interest and of business relationship, we must strengthen the Imperial connexion. I think that the liberal statesmenwho desire to preach the Cobden doctrine of free-trade are often rather hard-up for arguments with which to answer our incisive friend, Mr. Chamberlain, and therefore they hurl about these statements, which, so far as I can see, are absolutely groundless. It was only a short, time ago that Sir Robert Giffen, who is a noted authority on free-trade and other financial matters, pointed out that Great Britain would have to widen her area of taxation. He showed that the expenditure of Great Britain is increasing enormously ; and I find that the expenditure for this year is estimated at about £146,000,000, as against an estimated revenue of £143,000,000, showing a deficit of £3,000,000. I think Sir Robert Giffen was absolutely right when he said that Great Britain, as part of her daily policy, would have to resort to indirect taxation; that she could not, out of direct taxation, obtain the revenue necessary to carry on an enormous navy and army, and the general up-keep of the Imperial Government. For about twelve months, or ever since Mr. Chamberlain began to conduct his campaign, Sir Robert Giffen has left that point of view severely alone, but has been writing arguments against Mr. Chamberlain’s preference proposals, and in favour of adhering to free-trade. But what he said twelve or eighteen months ago cannot be contradicted, namely, that in order to raise revenue to maintain the enormous navy which, it appears, must be maintained, Customs duties will have to be imposed. If that has to be done Great Britain might as well give a little preference to colonial goods, and we might follow the example of Canada, and knock off one-third of the duties as against Great Britain.
– Would it “burst up” the Empire to impose land values taxation?
– I do not think that any taxation of that sort is likely to ‘ ‘ burst up “ the Empire. At the present moment, however, I am speaking about preferential trade, and npt about land taxation.
– But the honorable and learned senator is talking about taxation. “Senator DOBSON. - I am talking about taxation through the Customs. That brings me to the point that I am opposed to the policy of the Government in raising duties against foreign nations. If we read Mr. Chamberlain’s speeches carefully, or the synopsis of his policy, as set forth by himself, we see that he desires to work in the direction of Imperial free-trade. I take it that some honorable senators sitting opposite have a soft corner for Imperial free-trade, and if we reduce the duties in favour of Great Britain, we shall be going in that direction. Why should we not work with that object? Of course, if honorable senators opposite, with the exception of Senator Pearce, are going to work in the other direction, and raise the duties against the outside world, thus simply mocking Mr. Chamberlain by giving him no preference, I shall ‘ be absolutely opposed to such a course, which, in my opinion, would not do any good. There is another Imperial reason which has nothing to do with the fiscal issue. We all know that between 1854 and 1866 there was a treaty of reciprocity between Canada and the United States. What Mr. Chamberlain points out to us is that if the statesmen of Great Britain with the help of the statesmen of Australia and the other British possessions have not the wit to devise some reciprocal method of trading which will bind the Empire closer together, there is nothing to prevent our’ sharp American cousins taking advantage of the opportunity, and trying to do with Canada what we are unable or unwilling to do.
– Such an arrangement was nearly consummated recently.
– And that is what I want to avoid. There ought to be some method of binding the Empire together by means of trade, without everlastingly fighting the fiscal issue of free-trade and protection. We have the most wonderful Empire the world has ever known, containingwithin its limits all kinds of climates and soil. We are able to supply all the meat and corn which England requires, and, with a little skill, ought to produce all the raw material needed in the old country. Are we to fold our hands, and, because of the everlasting fiscal issue, make no effort to bind the Empire closer by trade relationship? Outside the fiscal issue, as we know it, there are several Imperial reasons which ought to lead every honorable senator to favour helping the Balfour Government, and, to some extent, Mr. Chamberlain, towards some scheme of preferential trade. I should J ike to refer for a moment to the question of the mail contracts. I suppose my friends in the Labour corner will raise a great laugh if I venture to point out - that, to some extent, the black-labour section of the Post and Telegraph Act has turned out a fiasco. Some of us prophesied that that would be the result, but although the prophecy has been realized, I presume that it will not alter by one jot or tittle the opinion of my Labour friends.
– It is very unprofitable trying to be a prophet. Senator DOBSON. - But my prophecy has to some extent come true. The PostmasterGeneral is. now saying that a good way to save money would be to send home the mails on the poundage system ; and if that be done the mails will be carried in vessels on which the unfortunate Iascar - our black Ayran brother - is iri the stoke-hold. To that extent the section has been a fiasco - a failure. It is not going to carry out what the Labour Party desires, because that party is not content with a reasonable interpretation of the doctrine of a White Australia, but as usual press it to extremes in the interests of their own class only. I can hardly understand that the Labour Party will put up with a mockery of - the kind- that they will absolutely allow their letters to go home in vessels stoked by their Indian fellowcitizens. Such, however, will be the case, and I should like to say again that this is the sort of legislation which has brought the- Commonwealth into disrepute, and which broadminded men in other parts of the world cannot understand. I do not think that anything in the world would induce me to be lieve other than this section in the Post and Telegraph Act is most extraordinarily cruel. I cannot understand how men who belong to an Empire controlling practically onefifth of the civilized and uncivilized portions of the globe, and containing 300,000,000 coloured people, can insist on a law being retained on the statute-book which may possibly bring the British Government into the very gravest position., is an insult to the Indian people, and can do no earthly good to the workers of Australia. I have pointed out again and again that the reason there are so many coloured men in our mercantile marine is that white British sailors are not procurable. During the last decade the lascars in the mercantile marine have increased by 12,288, the foreigners by 8,730, and the British sailors by 7,155. It will be seen that the increase is-less in the case of the British sailor than in that of either the foreigner or the Iascar. Whenever a speaker makes a point of this kind, the answer of the Labour Party invariably is - “You do not pay the white sailor enough wages.” All these matters resolve themselves, in the last resort, into a question of wages, but labour representatives must know that there is a limit even to wages.
– Does the honorable and learned senator think that a white man can live on a Iascar’ s wage of 16s. a month?
– That does not touch the point with which I am dealing. Stoking is to some extent niggers’ work, if I may use that phrase. My honorable friend may call stoking white men’s work; but I do not.
– Has, the honorable and learned senator tried it?
– There is no work that is niggers’ work only.
– My honorable friend and I crossed swords on the question the other night,- when I told him that canecutting was niggers’ work.
– It is not.
– We must agree to differ. If my honorable friend would like to go into the> stoke-hold or to send some of his relatives there, I should pity them. I believe that they could find on shore more congenial work in which they could make much better wages and would not be offered any temptation to become drunkards. It will be very bad policy on the part of the Government to attempt to put off the great commercial community by telling them that their mails are to be carried on the poundage system. We have a right to have our mails punctually carried under contract”, and to know exactly what we are doing. We have a right to lay down certain conditions as to refrigerating chambers, and to know that there is no danger of our commerce being destroyed or injured simply on account of this wretched provision in the Post and Telegraph Act. Therefore, I cannot congratulate the Government, or do anything but criticise them most severely if they attempt to give us this poundage system; mocking us all the time by paying the poundage to ships which are stoked, as they ought to be, by black labour. I shall be very glad to read the Navigation Bill, as soon as I am permitted to do so. It contains one or two contentious clauses which I believe will evoke a great amount of criticism and argument.
– We have not seen the Bill yet.
– Surely my honorable friends must have read in the newspapers the suggestion that English ships which touch at Fremantle fire not to be allowed to take in a ton of goods or a single passenger unless they pay the Australian rate of wages. I shall be very much surprised if our friends from Western Australia allow themselves to be cut off from the Commonwealth in that way. I regret that the State rights of Tasmania are sought to be interfered with. We are trying to develop our tourist traffic, which is one of our best assets. We desire to make Tasmania the playground of the Commonwealth, as it ought to be. If the Navigation Bill is to tell tourists that they cannot come in large steamers, to dictate to the English ship-owner how he shall carry on his business, I shall oppose its passage in every way I can, and insist that my State is being injured, and that its assets are being depreciated without any gain to the people of Australia.
– Why this new-born anxiety ?
– I have an anxiety to protect the great asset of’ my State. I have been trying for eleven years to develop Nature’s asset, and. therefore, it is only natural that it should command my attention. Under a policy of that sort, Australia cannot possibly progress.
– Does the fact that tourists go there come under the legal definition of an asset?
– I have ventured to call it Nature’s asset. It is a very big asset with us. If the honorable senator knows anything about the tourist traffic he will know that in Italy the turnover is about £13,000,000, and in Switzerland about £4,000,000. In Tasmania the turnover is of infinite advantage to us. We did not enter into the Federation in order to have every question determined by a standard of wages, or to be deprived of any privileges. On behalf of my State I shall protest against such legislation being brought forward by sensible and competent Ministers. We are told in the opening speech that it is very necessary that a site for the Federal Capital should be chosen. I should think that it is about the last thing which is very necessary. It will not advance our prosperity by one iota ; it will do no good to anybody. Although we have more work to do than we can possibly get through, yet we are to be asked to waste hours and hours in discussing this question. The Federal Capital must be in the mother State. All I desire to guard against is that its establishment shall not be rushed. I dispute the dictum of Senator Smith that there is anything in the Constitution which requires that at the earliest possible moment we should construct the capital.
-Col. Gould. - We have not hurried about it” very much yet.
– My honorable and learned friend and his colleagues have done nothing but hurry us about it ever since we met. They have never allowed a month to go by without talking about the establishment of the capital, as if that could really increase our prosperity. I desire to see the 100-mile limit struck out of section 125, so that we can have the capital in Sydney if we wish. I do not wish it to be there for all time, because in the generations to come it may be found that it ought to be at Bombala or Tumut. In the present state of the finances, and with so much more important business for us to transact, it would be simply idle to talk about constructing a permanent capital. A few years ago Mr. Reid got the Parliament of New South Wales to vote a sum of £572.000 for the erection of a new Parliament House. Since that time the old building has been repaired ; but a time will come when a new building will be required. All I desire to see is that within a reasonable time a new building shall be erected, by that State, for the use of the Commonwealth; and if it should be found hereafter that we ought to have a permanent capital we could move out of the building. _ We could create a temporary capital by simply constructing a Parliament House in Sydney, and in future years we could decide whether we should have a permanent capital in the back-blocks. .
– The honorable and learned senator knows that that means an alteration in the Constitution.
—Of course it does. I want an alteration of the Constitution in regard to the Inter-State Commission, and the Treasurer desires an alteration so that we may be able to take over the States debts which have been incurred since the establishment of the Commonwealth. I never could understand that to locate this Parliament on a piece of land in the back-blocks was the only way to produce national ideas, and that so long as we remain in Melbourne or Sydney - in a centre of population, with modern, up-to-date journals, and with the man in the street to keep us up to the’ mark - we must have provincial ideas. That is turning the whole question into one of localities, anc! not of men. I do not hesitate .to say that we might have wise and statesmanlike ideas in the middle of Sydney, and very provincial ideas at Bombala or Tumut. The Defence Act appears to me to be very defective. It does not enable the Government .to compel any one to defend his country or his home unless he is paid 8s. a day. The only alternative to conscription is the compulsory drill of our boys between the ages of thirteen and nineteen, liaised this question last year, whian the AttorneyGeneral was in charge of the Defence Bill. I .received a fair amount of support, but I was told that, although my proposal was of great importance, it was so late in the session that it could not be included in the Bill. It was also urged that it would be an interference with the States ; that there would be friction about how it should be carried out ; and that it would cost a great deal of money. I do not think that any one of these ‘ arguments is quite correct. The question of defence is committed to the jurisdiction of this Parliament. Just as a State can and does insist on its children learning to read and write, lest their ignorance should become a danger to its welfare, so the Parliament of the Commonwealth has an undoubted right to see that all boys of proper age are taught physical and military drill and the ‘use of the rifle. It would pave the way for the creation of the citizens’ army of which we are always talking. How are we to ob tain the citizens’ army unless we adopt this plan ? It has been said at home again and again that it is the’ only alternative to conscription. Not one of us desires to see conscription introduced into the Commonwealth, but 1 desire that every lad between the age of twelve and eighteen or nineteen should be compelled to learn his drill and the use of the rifle.
– How does the honorable and learned senator propose to carry on the coastal defence if all the trade is to be done with lascars?
– I have done with lascars for the moment. I wonder if my honorable friend has any boys to be drilled.
– The first line of defence is the naval force, and I want to know how it is to. be worked.
– I should be very grateful to my honorable friend for any interjection which was relevant to the question of laying the foundation of a citizens’ army. We cannot afford to pay thousands to militia; we cannot afford to ask for volunteers, and then find that they have to be paid like militia; but we can afford an expenditure of £100,000 to drill our boys, and teach them the use of the rifle. If that course is taken we shall reap an advantage in years to come. Otherwise it will be found hereafter that ‘we made a most fatal mistake in laying’ the foundation of our defence system.
– If we have a coastal defence we do not need a land .force.
– I should have liked to see a reference in the opening speech to an Imperial Court of Appeal, because that is a means whereby the Empire might be bound together. It would form another link between the States and the Empire.
– Does not the honorable and learned senator think that our own High’ Court is competent to hear all appeals ?
– For how long does the honorable and learned senator think that the Judges should be allowed to hold office ?
– Surely that is a question of detail.
– It is a very important one, because the Judges would get out of touch with Australia and New Zealand if - they were allowed to hold office too long.
– With regard to the construction of a railway to Western Australia, I think that Senator de Largie was not justified in talking about the obligations of the Commonwealth, or in using the word “ repudiation “ in that regard. I know of no obligation on the part of the Commonwealth to construct that line. If I vote against the proposal, I shall repudiate nothing. On that question, as on others, I am bound to do what is right and just to the State I represent, and’ to the. Commonwealth generally. What’ the advocates of this line have to do is not merely to exaggerate, and to talk about obligations which do not exist, but to prove that it is necessary, and, from the financial stand-point, practicable. If Western Australia is to derive a very large amount of benefit from its construction, I should expect that it would offer to take more ‘ than its population’s share of the very grave responsibility which it desires the’ Commonwealth to assume. I do not believe that the railway will ever be built for £4,500,000. If my honorable friends ask me whether I set roy opinions against the opinions of the experts, I reply - “Nothing of the kind.; but. in almost every instance the cost of works of this sort exceeds enormously the estimates pf any experts that I have ever heard of.” I have now spoken quite long enough, and as I have nothing further to say I will resume my seat.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dawson) adjourned.
– The Standing Order expressly provides that the debate ofl the Address in Reply, shall ‘ have priority.
Standing order- 14 says - ‘
No business beyond what is of a formal character shall be entered upon until after the Address - in Reply to the Governor-General’s opening speech shall be adopted; and it goes on. to define what is formal’ business.
Senator PLAYFORD laid upon the table the following papers: -
Notifications of the acquisition of land at Fort Largs, South Australia for defence purposes; and at Scone, New South Wales, .for a post and telegraph office.
Rules of the High Court as to scale of fees, dates of sittings, appeals, and elections.
Minute of the Permanent Head of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department; and minute and certificate of the Public Service Commissioner upon ‘the appointment of Mr. A. .G. Brown as Secretary to the Representative of the Government in the Senate.
Rules dated 18th December, 1903, under the Rules. Publication Act.
Reports of the Permanent Head of the Department,, and the recommendation of the Public Service Commissioner, in regard to the . promotion, of Mr. W. H. Barkley, Senior Clerk, Central. Staff.
Senate adjourned at 10.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 March 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1904/19040309_senate_2_18/>.