3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The Senate met at 2.30 p.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the Governor-General.
The Acting-Clerk of the Parliaments read the proclamation.
His EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNORGENERAL entered the chamber, and took the chair. A message was forwarded to the House of Representatives intimating that His Excellency desired the attendance of honorable members in the Senate chamber, who being come with their Speaker,
His EXCELLENCY was pleased to deliver the following speech: -
Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives :
His Excellency the GovernorGeneral having retired,
The President took the chair at 2.50 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have to inform the Senate that leave of absence for six months on full pay has, upon my recommendation, been granted to Mr. E. G. Blackmore, C.M.G., Clerk of the Parliaments, on account of ill-health, and that Mr. C. B. Boydell, Clerk Assistant of the Senate, has been appointed Acting Clerk of the Parliaments during Mr. Blackmore’s absence.
– I have also to inform the Senate that during the recess the Clerk has received from the District Registrar of the High Court of Australia at Adelaide a copy of the finding of that Court, declaring the election of members of the Senate for the State of South Australia, held on the 12th December, 1906, absolutely void in respect of the return of Joseph Vardon, and that, in accordance with section 21 of the Constitution, I have notified the Governor of the State that a vacancy has happened in its representation. I call upon the Acting Clerk to read the finding of the Court.
Finding read as follows : -
In the High Court of Australia.
South Australia Registry. 1907, No. 1. In the matter of the Election of Members of the Senate for the State of South Australia, and
In the matter of the Petition of Reginald Pole
Before His Honour Mr. Justice Barton.
Friday, the 31 day of May 1907
This Petition coming on for further trial on Monday, the 27th day of May, 1907, Tuesday, the 28th day of May, 1907, Wednesday, the 29th day of May, 1907, Thursday, the 30th day of May, 1907, and this day, upon reading the Petition of the above-named Reginald Pole Blundell, filed the 15th day of February, 1907, and the appearance of the above-named Joseph Vardon, and upon hearing the report of the Deputy Marshal of this Court upon the recount ordered by this Court of the ballot-papers in connexion with the above-mentioned election, and upon inspecting certain of the said ballot-papers, and upon hearing Mr. Vaughan of counsel for the said Reginald Pole Blundell, and Mr. Piper of counsel for the said Joseph Vardon, this Court doth declare that the above-mentioned election of Members of the Senate for the State of South Australia, held on the 12th day of December, 1906, is absolutely void in respect of the return of the Respondent, Joseph Vardon.
Dated this 7th day of June, 1907.
By the Court,
– Mr. President, is this a matter on which it is possible for an honorable senator to make any observations at the present time, or will it be necessary for him to give notice of a motion ?
– It will not be in order at the present time to make any observations. If any honorable senator desires to discuss the question he should give notice of a motion.
– Is it competent, sir, for me to move that the decision of the High Court be laid upon the table and printed ?
– The decision of the High Court will be printed in the Journals, so that it will be upon the table of the Senate.
– Without a motion?
– It will appear in the printed Journals.
– If a motion of that kind be submitted, sir, will it not be pos sible for Senator Neild and others to discuss the matter?
– The finding of the High Court has been read by the Acting Clerk, and will be printed in the Journal, so that really there is no necessity to submit a motion of that character. If, however, a motion were made, it would be necessary to confine the debate to its subjectmatter - namely, the printing of the paper.
– The Prime Minister waited on Mr. Speaker and myself yesterday, and desired us to accept on behalf of the Parliament of the Commonwealth the gold casket, in which he received the Freedom of the City of London on the occasion of his recent attendance at the Imperial Conference. This splendid gift was accepted, and will be held at the pleasure of honorable senators, and, if they are agreeable, my statement regarding it will be recorded in the Journals.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
– I have to lay upon the table the report of the Standing Orders Committee, formulating and tabulating decisions arrived at by the President during the session of 1906. The document is in print.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs if it is the intention of the Government to lay before the Senate the report of the Navigation Conference prior to the introduction of the Bill which is forecasted in the Governor- General’s Speech.
– I see no objection to laying it before the Senate prior to the introduction of the Bill.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if it is the intention of the Government during the present session to introduce a Bill to provide for the protection of witnesses before Royal Commissions.
– It is.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Report on the Resolutions, Proceedings, and Debates of the Inter-State Conference held at Melbourne, October, 1906; together with Appendices.
Return showing -
Contract immigrants admitted into the Commonwealth during the year 1906, and the nationality and occupation of such immigrants.
Employers engaging such immigrants and the employes engaged by each employer.
Places at which the immigrants have agreed to work.
Contracts disapproved during the year 1906.
Immigrants refused admission to the Commonwealth during the year 1906.
Papua. - Native Labour Ordinance of 1906.
Ordered to be printed.
Regulations under the Excise Act 1901. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 22.
Provisional Regulations under the Excise Act 1901 and the Excise Tariff 1906. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 27.
Regulations under the Spirits Act 1906. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 29.
Regulations under the Copyright Act 1905. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 49.
Provisional Regulations under the Trade Marks Act 1905. - Amendment of Second Schedule. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 50.
Regulations under the Designs Act 1906. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 51.
Regulations under the Excise Tariff 1906 and the Excise Act1901. - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 52-
Public Service Act 1902. - Amendment of Regulation 199, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 10. New Regulation 276A, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 9. New Regulation 43A, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 18. Amendment of Regulation 182, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 17. Amendment of Regulation 104, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 23. Amendment of Regulation 231, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 24. Repeal of Regulation 66, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 25. Amendment of Regulation 199, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 42. Repeal of Regulation 40, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 43. Repeal of Regulation 88, and substitution of new Regulations in lieu thereof, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 44. Amendment of Regulation 182, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 55. Amendment of Regulation 193, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 54. Repeal of Regulation 70, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 53. Amendment of Regulation 102, Statu- tory Rules 1907, No. 61.
Notification of the acquisition of land at Darling Island, New South Wales, for Defence purposes.
Defence Acts 1903-1904. - Regulations for the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth. - Amendment of Regulation 4, Statutory Rules 1907, No.
Allowance Regulations for the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth - Amendment of Part I., section IV., paragraph 42, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 35.
Regulations for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth - New Regulation 56A and amendment of Regulation 129, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 8. Cancellation of Regulation 540, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 13. Cancellation of Regulation 180, and substitution of new Regulation in lieu thereof, Statutory Rules 1907, No.
Regulations for the Commonwealth Military Cadet Corps. - Repeal of Regulations 31, 61, and 93, and substitution of new Regulations 1-61 in lieu thereof, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 63.
Financial and Allowance Regulations for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. - Amendment of Regulation 143, Statutory Rules 1907, No.21. Amendment of Part I., section IV., paragraph 50, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 36. New Regulation 154A, Statutory Rules 1907, No. 45.
– In giving notice of a motion, has not an honorable senator to state the terms of the motion?
– The notice may be given in general terms, but the specific terms have to be mentioned in the document that is subsequently handed in. Standing order No. 104 provides -
A senator giving notice in general terms to move certain resolutions must deliver at the table a fair copy of the proposed resolutions at least one day prior to that for which he has given notice.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at half-past two p.m.
– I have to report to the Senate that His Excellency the Governor-General attended here to-day, and was pleased to deliver a speech expressing the reasons for the calling together of Parliament.
Senator Lt.-Col. . CAMERON (Tasmania) [3.10]. - I beg to move -
That the following Address-in-Reply be presented to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral : -
To His Excellency the Governor-General.
May it Please Your Excellency :
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire 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.
In moving the adoption of the AddressinReply, I feel on this occasion the grave position with which we are faced. I think I am at liberty to allude to the Imperial Conference, which has recently occupied the attention of the Home Government and of the Governments of the great selfgoverning dependencies of the Empire. I may allude to this question generally, as my information is derived from a common source - the information in the newspapers.
– Which may or may not be correct.
.- Which may or may not be correct, as the honorable senator remarks ; but still on broad principles I think we may accept it as a fact, seeing that there has been no contradiction of it, that great progress has been made in the development of the relations of the selfgoverning sections of the Empire with the Mother Country. Although for many years past we have had our own local administration practically in our own hands, we must all admit that a new departure has been made, according to the terms of the agreement which has been published, whereby the self-governing Dominions and Colonies and the Mother Country will for the future meet upon more even terms than hitherto. Although a step in this direction has been taken, we must realize that we are at the parting of the ways, and that a grave responsibility is now thrown upon our shoulders, for which we must provide. One of the greatest matters that came before the Conference was that of Imperial Defence, and in that connexion it is well to bear in mind the words reported in the press to have been used by the Imperial Secretary of State for War, that for the future the command and the organization of the Forces of the different parts of the Empire was to be under their own local control. That is a very material point, as compared with past conditions, because, that control now being thrown upon our shoulders, and we being, as I have said, at the parting of the ways, we have to do something now to meet the obligations that we have voluntarily undertaken, fulfilling them manfully according to the traditions of the race. One of the suggestions which will not in any way interfere with our amour propre or with the responsibility, we have undertaken is that there should be instituted a General Staff for the whole of the Empire. It is proposed that that Genera! Staff shall not have any power to command, but shall be an advisory body capable of rendering assistance to the component parts of the Empire in connexion with all questions of defence which come before them for consideration. I think that the conclusion arrived at by the Conference, that we should be at liberty to send our officers to gain the world-wide Empire experience which they require and the knowledge that all parts of the Empire are prepared to work in unison on these lines, must be accepted as a great step made towards the future practical and efficient defence of the Empire. With regard to the matter of the future naval defence of this part of the Empire, which I understand also came before the Conference, it is common knowledge that I have always supported in every way the contention that we should undertake the duties consequent upon our responsibilities in this connexion. As we should undoubtedly work in unison and in harmony with the land forces of the Empire, so we should co-operate in the same way with the naval forces of the Empire. I shall leave that an open question at present. With regard to the work of the Navigation Conference, I retain an open mind until we have the detailed conclusions of the Conference placed before us. It is not necessary that I should say very much upon the Tariff. The fiscal question has occupied the attention of the people of Australia for many weary months, and I feel sure that some reasonable agreement will be arrived at” whereby we shall be enabled to place it at rest for some years to come.
– What would the honorable senator call “ reasonable “ ?
– When the details of the Tariff to be submitted are before me, I shall be able to tell the honorable senator. With regard to the Northern Territory. I feel sure that the question of its transfer to the Commonwealth is one of great interest to a very large number of people, but I must candidly inform honor- able senators that I shall not be a party to incurring any expense which will weigh down the people of the State of Tasmania.
– The honorable senator might leave that an open question also.
-Col. CAMERON.- I ‘think that my statement as nearly as possible leaves it an open question. In the 8th paragraph of the speech we are informed that-
A progressive scheme for the improvement of harbor and coastal defences is under consideration; our fixed defences are receiving special attention - and so forth. That is satisfactory so far as it goes, but I should like to say a few words in relation to the matter. First of all, we have arrived at a stage when we must consider whether our policy as regards our land forces will effect the object for which land forces are established. For what are land forces required? They are required for the preservation of the country. Does the system we have adopted tend to, or is it likely’ to bring about, the desired object? I have no hesitation in saying that it does not even fulfil the most elementary requirements of such a system. So far as our cadet force is concerned, I have nothing but good to say of it. It is an excellent initiatory movement, but it is only initiatory. Then we have a militia and a volunteer system combined, which no doubt gives employment for a limited time every year to a small number of men, but after that, as regards training we make 110 further provision, except for the establishment of rifle clubs in connexion with which only rifle shooting is carried on. If the people of any country undertaking the responsibilities which the resolutions of the Imperial Conference impose, imagine that they can secure anything like an efficient Defence Force by these means, then all I can say, as a practical man, is that they will fail to recognise the elementary requirements of a defence system, and that is that it should be capable of protecting them in the time of trial. I am endeavouring to say what I have to say in the most moderate language, but I wish it to be clearly understood that we now have these responsibilities to face. We have not merely voluntarily accepted the (position which involves those responsibilities, but we have demanded that we should occupy that position, and we therefore must set about providing ourselves with an efficient weapon to secure that protection which, it will be admitted, is an elementary requirement of our social life. On the last .occasion on which I had the honour to address the Senate, I alluded to certain details in connexion with the number of young men available in the Commonwealth, and the necessity for universal instruction in the art of war. I pointed out that at the present time we are spending something like ,£700,000 annually upon our Defence Force, and that bv an additional expenditure of £800,000,’ or something like ,£1,500,000 annually, we could provide for the military training of the whole of the youth of Australia, and thus might have at hand a weapon efficient to maintain our existence.
– How does the honorable senator propose to raise the money to pay for it?
-Col. CAMERON.- How do we raise money for any purpose ? The honorable senator will learn in course of time that in common with every one else, he will have to pay his share. If it be a question of finding money, then undoubtedly the money must be found. I repeat that we must realize our responsibilities. There must be no more delay in doing so. We must not imagine that by encouraging a cadet force and a system of rifle shooting, we shall do all that is neces-sary for the defence of the country. Either we are treating this important matter with a levity which is criminal, or we are ignorant of the first principles of government and the requirements of a great country. I hope I have not hurt any one’s feelings, as I can sincerely say that I have no desire to do so, but with all the earnestness at my command, and in the clearest language I can use, I wish to bring before the Senate the necessity of realizing what is essential in this connexion if we are to legislate for the good of our country. This is not the occasion upon which we should enter into details, but I presume that later on we shall have an opportunity to discuss the details of a defence scheme. I urge upon the . Government the most careful consideration of this matter, and my support of any Government shall depend on whether they treat this question of ‘defence with the earnestness which the necessity of the case demands. I come now to the consideration of a matter on which I think, in common with every other honorable senator, I can congratulate the Government upon their firmness. There has been in connexion with it an amount of shilly-shallying which has been discreditable to all parties concerned. I refer to the question of the mail contract.
– It never was a contract; it was only an option.
.- It was a proposed contract, and in connexion with the last developments, I can only say that we have had an exhibition of firmness on the part of the Government which I hope to see repeated on many occasions. I cordially approve the action of the Government in cancelling the proposed contract.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the Government might have cancelled the contract six months ago?
.- With respect to some of the matters referred to in other paragraphs of the speech, I have not had time to look very closely into them, but I can also congratulate the Government upon the proposed introduction of a Bill to terminate the anomalous condition of things which exists in connexion with the State taxation of Federal salaries. There is an allusion in the speech to the question of State debts.
– Most of our old friends are included in this programme.
-Col. CAMERON. - The paragraph to which I refer reads -
The subject of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States has been further discussed with the State Premiers, and the results arrived at will be communicated lo you. The great issues affected, including the federalization of old-age pensions, will be considered in this relation.
I think that it is time that some reasonable arrangement was come to in regard to the matter. It is not, to my mind, a fair or a reasonable thing to treat any State in the way in which Tasmania has been treated up to the present time. There is no question that the terms of the Constitution are not being fairly carried out, so as to give Tasmania her due; and there is very little doubt that the way in which the Customs administration operates affects her revenue in such a way that the Treasurer of Tasmania does not receive what he is legitimately entitled to get. I think that any reasonable body of men - and we in this Parliament are, I am sure, all reasonably minded men - would be prepared to do justice under these circumstances; and if it is not possible for Parliament to reimburse Tasmania for past hardships, at all events those hardships should not be continued now that the Government and Parliament have a knowledge of them.
– Does not the same consideration apply to Western Australia?
.- I can assure the honorable senator that I shall be prepared to give to Western Australia or any other State the same consideration that I urge should be given to Tasmania. We want to do a fair thing to all the States. Paragraph 20 of the Governor- General’s Speech relates to the Seat of Government. I had thought that that matter would have been settled during the period of my absence from Parliament.
– I am afraid it will not be settled till we are all absent !
.- It is a very old matter. I desire to reiterate my statement that defence is, to my mind, so important that it has not received in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech the consideration which such a great question requires; and I shall reserve my support, so far as the Government is concerned, until I find out what their determination is as a result of the Imperial Conference, at which the question of Imperial defence was, I understand, treated as being of primary importance.
– I beg to second the motion.
Senator Col. NEILD (New South Wales) [3.33]. - I saw in one of the morning newspapers, as I travelled in the train this morning, that a newspaper office in Collins-street had determined the course of action that this Senate was to pursue in relation to the Governor-General’s Speech. Now, I am just going to show, in a speech which I suppose will not occupy much more than an hour, that the newspaper in question, with. all its skill, profound research, and extreme knowledge, did not accurately define what the Senate proposed to do of would do. And, Mr. President, as we come - with the exception of the senators from the State of Victoria-
– There are very few of them here.
– As my honorable friend says, there are very few of them present ; but as the rest of us have come from considerable distances - I suppose the shortest distance is somewhere about 600 miles - I think it is just as well that we should go on with our business, and not pursue a policy of continuous adjournments, such as in the past has not enhanced the status of this Chamber as a branch of the Federal Legislature. We have adjourned too much ; and I, for one, do not propose to assist in futile adjournments during the present session. I have not had the advantage possessed by the gentlemen who I suppose may be regarded as the movers and seconders of the addressinordinary on behalf of the Government - seeing that they have twice discharged those high functions, and are announced in the press as having been engaged for the whole of this Parliament still to continue discharging this kindly aid to a struggling Administration. But f desire, before proceeding any further, to express my congratulations to my old friend and comrade, Senator Cameron, on his re-appearance in this Chamber.
– He was here all last session.
– I do not call a sitting of one day, and half-an-hour on the following day, a session. I am rather too old a parliamentarian- to call that a session.
– The sitting lasted thirty-seven minutes on the second day.
– I thank Senator Trenwith for setting me right as to seven minutes. I like to be strictly accurate. Seeing that Senator Cameron has come here “ loaded for b’ar” as the Yankees say, on the subject of defence, I am sure that all who wish well to Australia will be glad to see him again in this Chamber, to give his assistance in a great cause that it so greatly requires. But, sir, I am somewhat taken aback - and my gallant friend must bear with me in this - to find that Senator Cameron, who, as a candidate for the Senate, was very largely - I might say chiefly - elected ort the score of his denunciation of Commonwealth defence negligence, to use no stronger term, now appears here a? the apologist and advocate of the very Ministry whose shortcomings he so much deplored/ But the honorable senator has turned over a new leaf, and has promised us that, notwithstanding his: appearance as one of the advocates of the Government - as one of the two whom the Government were able to call to their aid and the only one who was willing to say a kindly word for the Administration - he intends to maintain an independent attitude. ‘’ The honorable senator must surely have created nothing less than a panic in the minds of fee supporters of the Government present, when he wound up a speech which did honour both to his intellect and his sympathies by a declaration of independence - a wild shriek of liberty - to the effect that it all depends on how the Government behaves itself whether he will give it any further support ! With all possible good will, and with no sort of danger, I trust, of being discourteous towards a gentleman far whom I entertain the highest respect, and the most friendly feelings, I hope, that I may be forgiven for drawing attention to what presents itself to me, as an old parliamentarian, as a rather novel set of circumstances.
– I suppose that even the honorable senator would not support the Government unless it behaved itself.
– No; the honorable senator may be quite sure of that.
– Does the honorable senator trunk it possible for the Government to behave itself?
– Like Senator Cameron, I shall have to watch, and wait At the same time, I may remark that if my honorable friends opposite will exercise their memories, they will know that during the last Parliament, if I was not a Government supporter, where I believed in the action they were taking I gave them as good support as any one of those who professed to be their supporters. I will do so again where I think that the Government is right; and I shall not pick and choose too closely in ascertaining when I think the Government is right. Where in my opinion the grounds of support are such as broadly, widely, arid Federally call for my assistance, it will be most willingly given without request ; but where I think they are in error, I shall be just as earnest in my opposition. And, Mr. President, if I may recall a circumstance that occurred a few years back, I shall do so only to show that what I have just said has been, my course in public life for many a long year. On one occasion, when on a bed of sickness, and when there was no possibility of my making an appearance in connexion with an election, the then Premier of “New South Wales, Mr. Reid, held a meeting on my behalf, at which he said that he did not come there to support me as a thick and thin supporter, but that he came there to support the election of a man, than whom no more independent member had ever sat in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. Mr. Reid proceeded to indicate what he meant by those words, by saying, “ When Neild thinks I am right he supports me, but when he thinks I am wrong he keeps me and my colleagues out of bed for a week at a time.” I hope that that will not be regarded by my honorable friends opposite as a threat.
– I hope that we shall not have a case of history repeating itself.
– I trust there will be no necessity for it. But, Mr. President, leaving all questions of a personal character on one side, I must congratulate the Ministry on having taken a long delayed step : and’ in all the circumstances - if we knew them all - perhaps we might think that the step was not unnecessarily delayed. I allude, of course, to the cancellation of the mail contract, or,, as I should say, the mail contract option. I am not going to play the very small part that attaches to any one who simply says, “ I told you so.” But if any of those honorable senators who have become members of this Chamber since the mail contract was dealt with, like to look up the report of our debates, they will see that I was exceedingly emphatic in what I said about the unsatisfactory character of the contract, and that it has failed is no surprise to me. Not knowing all the details of recent., negotiations, I do not blame the Government for not having cancelled it earlier ; but I do congratulate them upon having now taken a step which the honour of Australia demanded. It was not possible for the great interests of Australia to be any longer bandied about, to be the subject of street corner ridicule, and to be burlesqued by every comic journal and every humourist in the community. It was quite time that the contract was cancelled. As regards what the Government may do, we have an indication in paragraph 10 of the opening speech. A company which has served Australia, not badly has undertaken to carry on our mail service and - what is of greater consequence than even the delivery of our mails - to continue to provide cold storage for freight. We have a great number of large steamers trading to Australia, and the major part of them possess cold storage accommodation for such perishable articles as butter. The butter industry in Australia is so large to-day that I know of none which is more deserving of care, protection, and promotion. In New South Wales one butter factory alone paid for cream ,£30,000 a month last year, and is paying £40,000 a month this year. An industry which gives such magnificent indications of settling people upon the lands of Australia deserves every encouragement, and it does not receive that encouragement unless it is by the medium of steamers, the arrival of which in London is known to the day, if not to the hour. The large cargo boats which ply across the ocean have ample cold storage; but they do not effect such regularity of delivery in London as is absolutely necessary to meet the weekly market. It is by the mail boats arriving at specified hours alone that the great butter business of Australia can be satisfactorily conducted. I congratulate not only my honorable friends in the Ministry, but Australia, that arrangements have been made with the Orient Steam Navigation Company by which those great producing interests will be conserved and advantaged. I regret not only the phraseology, but the last sentence of paragraph 6. It refers to the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, and concludes with these words : -
The great issues affected, including the federalization of old-age pensions, will be considered in this relation.
I do not quite know what is meant, but I conclude that the term “ financial relations” includes the taking over of the States debts, as was attempted last session. I do not refer to the one hour and thirty-s.even minutes during which we sat last February as a session. There was no business transacted, except, sir, the very happy election of yourself to the Chair. As I have notspoken before on this subject, may I be permitted now to offer you my most respectful congratulations, and through you, the Chamber? May I also be per,mitted to refer to the election of my, friend Senator Pearce to the Chairmanship of Committees, a position in which I feel sure he will give the same satisfaction as you, sir, will undoubtedly afford to the Chamber in your more exalted position. I conclude that “ the financial relations between the Commonwealth and States “ must necessarily include the question of the State debts. I deplore to see the humanitarian proposition of old-age pensions so eternally made a stalking-horse for political agitation. We have had this question of old-age pensions trotted out here in connexion with a tobacco monopoly, Customs duties, and heaven only knows what besides. It is used as a happy stalking-horse for any proposition which can possibly be tacked to it. “ 1 have no need to make an apology in respect of my services to Australia in regard to old-age pensions. Coming to paragraph 6, which refers to the Governor-General’s visit to the Northern Territory, it seems to me that one or two matters which might reasonably have been mentioned have been omitted. For instance, there is no recognition of the very happy and providential escape of Senator Dobson from the horns of a buffalo bull at a range of 200 yards, and with no tree to climb.
– And there is no reference to the honorable senator’s own visit to the north-west.
– That, I think, might have been mentioned too, because I assume that I went through a great many perils, just as my honorable friend had done about a month previously.
– But, unlike Senator Dobson, the honorable senator turned back.
– No. I went as far as the steamer would take me.
– On the railway line, I mem
– I had already visited the Northern Territory and Jost money there, so that I knew something about it. I hope that the members of Parliament who have recently visited the Northern Territory will be more fortunate with their investments there than I was ten or twelve years ago. There is no mention either of the fact that a member of another place took a stroll along the beach, and, suffering from that inevitable tired feeling, and there being 110 Wolfe’s schnapps at hand to act as a pick-me-up, proceeded to sit down upon a log, when suddenly one end of the log opened and showed a very ugly set of teeth. It is asserted by some persons that the honorable gentleman threw a stone down the throat of an alligator. It is alleged by other persons that it was not a stone, but a volume of Hansard which he used. And it is also reported that he did not throw either a stone or a volume of Hansard, but proceeded to deliver to the reptile a most interesting oration on the benefits of the single-tax, whereupon the reptile at once took to the mud. None of these things is mentioned in paragraph 7, and I draw the attention of my honorable friends, who represent the Government here, to that very serious omission. We are told in paragraph 8, that “ Our fixed defences are receiving special attention.” There is no interpretation clause to tell us what is meant by “ fixed defences.” I believe that the 6-inch gun has been erected at Fremantle, notwithstanding the protest of the local Chamber of Commerce, which feared that if it were ever fired the windows in the town would be shattered. There may be two of these guns for all I know, because I had not time to investigate the matter very closely ; but I suppose that something more is intended than the placing of such guns at Fremantle. In all seriousness, too, I draw the attention of the Ministry to the exceedingly unsatisfactory condition of that portion of our Defence Force, which is located in and about Perth. An inspection of an infantry regiment there was held one night by the new Inspector-General, and, as I happened to have travelled in the steamer with him, I naturally went to see it. Four companies were represented, or misrepresented, at the inspection, but notwithstanding the element cf attraction in a new general officer, he stated the attendance was the most meagre he had ever witnessed, his remarks to that effect being reported in the local press. Each company should have been sixty strong; but one company numbered only two-thirds of its strength, there being forty or fortyone of its members present, while another numbered only one-half, and the other two about one-third. The inspection was held at night, under cover, in a comfortable drill shed, of which any regiment might feel proud. But the beggarly attendance convinced me that something requires alteration in the condition of Defence matters at Perth. The inspection I have spoken of was made on a Monday night, and on the following Saturday a parade was held of all the metropolitan troops - horse, guns, and foot, Army Medical Corps, and Army Service Corps. All the men living within some miles of Perth were called together: but what is known as the “ field state “ of the parade, that is, the list of the attendance, showed that, apart from the professional staff - the paid soldiers who had to be present - and the school boys, who made a goodly array, there were at the parade only 420 men of all ranks, or about twothirds of a small battalion. I do not offer any reason for this deplorable turn-out-. The afternoon was beautifully fine, so that there was no excuse on the ground of weather. To my mind, the smallness of the attendance was due either to lack of interest on the part of the men, or to the fact that the actual strength of the Perth metropolitan forces is much less than their nominal strength. All who take any interest in the defence of Australia must deplore so meagre an attendance, evidencing as it did such want of military enthusiasm. In paragraph 3 of His Excellency’s Speech, mention is made of the work of the Navigation Conference. It must have cost the Commonwealth a good deal to be represented at that Conference. I find, however, from the list of resolutions passed by it - I do not intend to weary honorable senators by reading them - that, although the members assembled presumably in the interests of all sections of the communities there is nothing, with the exception of the needless, and what some person would call silly proposal, that all vessels carrying passengers should be provided with wireless telegraphic apparatus, to indicate that they cared twopence for the interests of any but those employed on ships. I have not studied the resolutions with sufficient closeness to be able to say that I wholly approve of them in detail ; but I am glad that so much regard has been paid to providing more decent, suitable, healthful, and comfortable quarters for those who take their lives in their hands, and go down to the sea in ships. But while proper and righteous consideration was shown for the interest of sailors, nothing was proposed for the benefit of passengers - no consideration for their safety or convenience was* shown.
– What about the resolutions dealing with the load line ?
– They affect colliers and tramps rather than passenger vessels.
– They apply to all ships.
– I admit that they apply without distinction. But as my honorable friend knows, passenger vessels are not usually overloaded. I agree with my honorable friend that legislation should be passed to prevent ship-owners from doing what I believe is sometimes done now, that is, moving the Plimsoll mark to enable them to load their vessels in a manner which is often criminal, because it endangers the lives of the unfortunate crews, who sometimes from this cause find their way to Davy Jones’ locker.
– Is that done?
– I believe so.
– It is foreign ships, not British ships, that we need trouble about in that respect.
– I may be able to go into this matter more in detail on another occasion, and therefore content myself with saying now that, while I am heartily in accord with those who approve of the action of the Conference in endeavouring to better the condition of sailors, I think it deplorable that consideration was not given to the safety of passengers, their convenience being . pretty well catered for now-a-days.
– Put in a word for the ship-owner.
– The ship-owner is generally able to look after himself. I am speaking in the broadest possible sense, without having regard to any one class or section of the community before another class or section. I take great exception to paragraph 13 of the Speech. It is there stated that the High Court has been absolutely accurate in its definition of the law in respect to the taxation of the salaries and allowances of Federal servants. As income tax is about to be abolished in New South Wales, my remarks have the widest significance, and no personal application.
– They will make the honorable senator pay in Victoria.
– They have a fashion of inviting us to come to Victoria, and as soon as we become Victoria’s guests, Victoria tries to get at our pockets. But I may tell honorable senators who do not know the fact, that there is an exemption under the Victorian Act, and that our attendances here, unless we live on the premises, are not sufficiently numerous to enable the Victorian Government to collect. I was informed of that officially through the Victorian Crown Solicitor.
– They have collected here from some of us who are more unfortunate than the honorable senator.
– Perhaps those honorable senators who have been more unfortunate than I, I will not say have not lived so long, but have not perhaps learnt quite as much. I am quite sure that the Victorian Crown Solicitor did not formally withdraw his claim against me without good reason. It is laid down in this paragraph, which I need not quote, that the High Court have been absolutely correct in their interpretation of the law, and yet the Government are proposing to bring in a Bill to alter it. With the greatest possible * respect to whoever may have advised the Government in this matter, such a procedure would be, to all intents and purposes, an alteration of the Constitution, if the” Constitution has been correctly interpreted by the High Court.
– It has not.
– I am sure the Chief Justice and his colleagues on the High Court Bench will listen with bated breath to the opinion of any honorable senator who desires to put them straight. I am not proposing to put them straight.
– The question in that paragraph seems to be not whether the High Court is right or wrong, but whether, right or wrong, we shall take the High Court as the final arbiter of the Constitution.
– Then it comes to this, that if the High Court have interpreted the Constitution aright, it is an alteration of the Constitution that is required, and not such a proposal as the Government put forward. That is my argument, and I do not see how it can possibly be got away from. If the High Court are right, the Constitution does not permit of what it is now proposed to do by an Act of Parliament. We have not the ‘.power.
– If the High Court is right, the Constitution is right. We can legislate according to the Constitution.
– We can legislate according to the Constitution, but not against it. It will be seen from paragraph 19 of the Governor-General’s Speech, that it is proposed to bring in a Bill for preferential voting. It would be very easy for any of us to make a speech of considerable duration on the subject of what went wrong at the last elections. As I was not then a candidate, having no occasion to be one, I occupied the happy position of an onlooker, and honorable senators know that the onlooker sees most of the game. A number of things happened that were most reprehensible.
– The Government mean contingent voting, and do noi: like to say it.
– The Government were entirely at fault in appointing a single individual at scores of polling places to conduct the poll. Such a proceeding is absolutely opposed to the decent conduct of any election. The Government were absolutely, and I was going to say wickedly, wrong. I think if I say wickedly wrong, I shall not be out of order, because it is a wicked method of conducting an election to allow one man, without oversight and without interference from anybody, to be in possession of a number of voting papers and a ballot-box that he can use as he pleases. God forbid that I should make any charge against any officer connected with the conduct of the election. I make none. Personally, I know of no ground upon which I could make one.
– The 1 Court has done so in regard to South Australia.
– The Court has found fault, but perhaps not on the particular point I am speaking upon.
– Perhaps it is wise to evade the point upon which the Court has found.
– Is ignorance worse than crime?
– Both ignorance and crime may be most injurious, not only to individuals, but to the whole body of the people. The choice of the people is of more consequence to the community than the individual fortunes of a candidate, however unfortunate those fortunes may be to him.
– And will South Australia rectify the mistake?
– I have given notice of a motion to-day on the subject, and therefore I cannot say anything about the South Australian election; If any one else chooses to do so, it will be a question of order that I certainly am not going to raise. Knowing the frailty of human nature, it is a criminal act on the part of any one to leave loose coin or valuables about open to the ready access of persons who may be tempted by the sight of them, and it is equally wrong to leave open to the frailties of humanity a ballot-box and a bundle of papers without any one to oversee what becomes of them. Surely I am not submitting a proposition that is derogatory to any honest man in the community, when I say that that is not the method by which elections have hitherto been conducted in any part of Australia. I believe it is absolutely wrong, and I hope that whatever is done in connexion with the Bill with which we are threatened, provision will be made - if the Government do not make it, I shall try to see that it is there - that elections shall not be carried on by one man conducting ballots. This question of preferential voting must have been introduced by the Government, not with any idea that it would eventuate, because two Senates have refused assent to such proposals, but rather to afford the Senate something to keep it busy, some excuse for not having as many adjournments as usual. I cannot suppose that the Government anticipated that this Chamber would go back on its frequently-given vote and support any “ wild-cat “ scheme such as we saw in operation in one of the States at the commencement of the Commonwealth, where Senator Keating, who was a candidate, had I forget how many hundred votes taken from him and given to other people because he had enough without them. If the Government mean anything of that kind, certainly, as long as I’ am as fit as I am to-day, they will have a lively time. I congratulate the Ministry on paragraph 20 of the speech, which contains the promise of a Bill relating to the site of the Seat of Government.
– Have we not already decided that question, just as we have the voting question?
– I am not going to discuss the contents of the Bill until I see it. I do not know what it proposes, but I congratulate the Government on grasping the nettle and taking up this vexed question. I hope, whatever their position is, that they will deal with it without playing with it, and, if possible, finally.
– The honorable senator has no idea whether it is a stinging nettle or not.
– I have not the least idea in the world what is in the Bill, but coming from New South Wales, as I do-
– That means a lot.
– Very good men come from the mother State. Although I come from New South Wales I do not hold the Government and Parliament of that State blameless in this matter. I have in New South Wales on many occasions, in communications to which my name has been attached, expressed my disagreement from the course taken there. Having assumed that attitude it will be admitted that I must be speaking from the broader stand-point of Commonwealth interests rather than of those of any State. As I said in this chamber a year or two ago, I think we have now lived with mother-in-law long enough. This Parliament has been indebted to mother-in-law Victoria, quite long enough for the use of this fine building, and the comfortable quarters we have here. As young people” setting up for ourselves, I think we should have a home of our own, and should! not be dependent upon mother-in-law any longer. At the same time, I acknowledge as fully and freely as can any member of the Senate, the obligations which the Federal Parliament is under to the Parliament, Government, and people of Victoria for the privilege of occupying this very handsome building, even though it should be found a little chilly to one who has recently come from the tropics.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of Dalgety ?
– We have a standing order which enables honorable senators to put questions on the businesspaper addressed to other senators who may have certain responsibilities in connexion with the business of the Chamber. If my honorable friends opposite can find out a method under that standing order to submit questions to me I shall be most happy to afford them the best explanation in my power.
– It would be more convenient if the honorable senator would answer the question now.
– Does Senator Guthrie think that it is not very fair parliamentary procedure to give answers of such a character as I have given ? Did not the honorable senator ever get such answers from my honorable friends opposite?
– It is a straight question, and let the honorable senator give us a straight answer.
– There is a matter about which I wish to speak rather seriously. I am aware that I have been speaking with a certain air of good humour, but I am now going to drop the good humour. Some time ago advertisements appeared in the Sydney press calling, on behalf of the Commonwealth, for the services of a solicitor to represent the legal interests of the Commonwealth in New South Wales. A large number of gentlemen who were qualified legal practitioners offered their services. How many I do not know, but certainly several did so. What happened ? One would imagine that when the Govern- ment sought to secure the services of a legal authority to represent them in a certain State they would have considered it desirable that the legal authority selected should be acquainted’ not only with the laws of the State, but with the practice and traditions of the local law courts. Every Supreme Court has its own methods, practice, rulings, and precedents. What was done in this case? I am credibly assured that a certain appointment was made. If my honorable friends opposite can assure me that no such outrage was perpetrated I shall be glad to hear that I have been misinformed1; but as I have seen the name of the gentleman in question used in the public press as being the instructing authority for counsel I am sure that I cannot be wrong. I say that the Government, having advertised for a competent legal adviser in New South Wales, put all the applications they received into the wastepaper basket and appointed the legal clerk of a gentleman whom they had just before elevated to the High Court Bench, a man who has passed no examination, is not a solicitor, and, I suppose, is not qualified to instruct counsel. I suppose also that if his instructions to counsel are tolerated in New South Wales it is only because of undue consideration by the Supreme Court of that State.
– But do they not always import everything into New South Wales. They believe in free-trade there.
– Unfortunately, New South Wales has not yet imported Senator McGregor. That is something to which we look forward with hope, expectation, and some degree of shudder.
– I apprehend that the gentleman referred to would be an adviser to the Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth.
– That might be; but why did the Government advertise for a solicitor when they wanted only a clerk who was not through his articles?
– Will the honorable senator give the name of the gentleman?
– I am very glad to be able to say- that I do not know his name.
– The gentleman referred to is Mr. McHutchison, from the Crown Law Department.
– Was he a solicitor?
– He was an articled clerk to the gentleman who has become Mr. Justice Isaacs of the High Court.
– Then the appointment was derogatory to the dignity of the Court of New South Wales.
– He was not an articled clerk to Mr. Isaacs.
– I know nothing about it myself, but I am informed by members of the legal profession that he was an articled clerk to Mr. Isaacs, M.H.R., who is now a Justice of the High Court.
– Then the honorable senator has been misinformed.
– The point is, was he a solicitor?
– No, nor was it necessary that he should be a solicitor.
– I ask honorable senators to cease these conversations across the chamber.
– I put the statement forward as given to me by members of the legal profession. I said at the outset that I was very serious about the matter, and I am very serious about it. I also said that if I could be assured that the information given me was incorrect, I should be very glad to hear it. Apparently that assurance cannot be given.
– The officer referred to was in the Department of Justice here, and was a very excellent officer. He had considerable experience of the work of the Crown Solicitor for the Commonwealth.
– As such an officer was in the Department, why go to the trouble of advertising outside it?
– Because we were obliged to advertise under the Public Service Act. Having advertised, if this officer was an applicant for the position, he had a right to be treated like any one else.
– I see by paragraph 23 of the speech that we are threatened with Bills to provide for administration in bankruptcy, and in respect of registered companies. I have been supplied with some information bearing upon these questions by persons most competent to give such information, namely, the Chairman of the Sydney Chamber of
Commerce and the Chairman of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. The Attorney-General asked the Chambers of Commerce for information regarding anomalies in connexion with State Acts bearing on these questions. The Sydney Chamber of Commerce had a conference with the Law Institute and with the Council of the Bar. Then all three bodies, the Chamber of Commerce, the Law Institute, which is specially connected with the solicitor branch of the profession, and the Council of the Bar - necessarily the -head-quarters of authority in connexion with the Bar - waited as a deputation upon the AttorneyGeneral of New South Wales in reference to this matter. The Chamber of Commerce made this offer : they were prepared to send to the Conference, which, of course, was to be held in Melbourne, a man of experience in bankruptcy matters, a business man, a man familiar with the working of the Companies Act, and to pay all his expenses. They did not want the wealthy Government of the Commonwealth to incur even the price of an hotel bill. They were prepared to supply that which, unhappily, the present Government have over and over again shown they so sadly lack, namely, a knowledge of business methods and of business transactions. The Ministry possess a splendid wealth of legal talent. They are most highly qualified from the legal stand-point, I believe, but their worst enemy will not accuse them for an instant of possessing any business acumen or commercial intelligence. Here they had an opportunity, without incurring the expenditure of one penny-piece, to secure the voluntary assistance of the very best men available in the old State across the Murray to help them to prepare the class of measure that would be most useful in the public interest. The Ministry dic! not want any assistance. They were prepared to get along without business experience. They had not even Mr. Croker to help them. The Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral, I understand, disapproves of any one learned in the ways of companies and bankruptcy administration offering any suggestions.
– Do I understand the honorable senator to say that the AttorneyGeneral objected to them offering suggestions? Did he not invite them to make suggestions ?
– I will read the very words that I wrote down at an inter view which I had with the chairman of the two chambers only last Tuesday morning. They are as f ollow : -
The Attorney-General asked the Chamber of Commerce for information regarding anomalies in the working of the existing law. The Chamber of Commerce had a conference with the Law Institute and Council of the Bar, and then all three bodies waited as a deputation upon the State Attorney-General and offered to send business men at their own expense to the conference in Melbourne. Mr. Groom, Commonwealth Attorney-General, disapproved.
Of course, I am stating what was told to me. After I had written it down I read it over to the two responsible gentlemen with whom I was having the conference, and I am not using their names without authority. These three bodies, the Chamber of Commerce, the Law Institute, and Council of the Bar, drew up certain recommendations. One of these recommendations was that as regards bankruptcy, legislation should be delayed until the new Bankruptcy Bill had been passed by the British Parliament. As the Commonwealth has got along for seven years without a Bankruptcy Act, I suppose it would be possible to struggle along without one for another few weeks until the Bankruptcy Bill has passed the British Parliament, when the Commonwealth would have the advantage of appraising the excellencies or the mistakes embodied in that measure. As regards the Companies Bill, it was suggested that the British Companies Act with such alterations as might be necessary, should be adopted for , the Commonwealth. I cannot say, not being in the secrets of the Ministry - perhaps; Senator Cameron or Senator Trenwith may know - what is the nature of these Bills, but I take it that there is a strong desire on the part of the Government to introduce as a Commonwealth measure a Companies Bill, practically on the lines of the Victorian Act, which was passed at the time” of the boom excitement, and which has proved anything but a satisfactory measure, so much so that I recently read in the leading Melbourne papers that its provisions are of so drastic a character that gentlemen cannot be foundto act as directors of companies under it,, and that, as a result, the business which is commonly conducted by limited liability companies is seriously hanging fire. That is the statement which I read in one of the morning papers not more than a- week ago-
– I think that it was a conference of officials which was held to inquire into the working of our local Acts, and that a request was made by the AttorneyGeneral for suggestions from the various sources to which the honorable senator has referred.
– Well, the Chamber of Commerce has made suggestions, and, when these Bills come before us, I shall be very glad to find that some attention has been paid to its recommendations. There are members of this Parliament who have some knowledge of the working of the Companies Act in New South Wales, and I know that that measure is one which differs widely from the Victorian Act. Further, as it is a tolerably recent enactment, arid was not passed at a time of any undue excitement, it possibly possesses a few merits, which I hope will not be overlooked by the Government in the preparation of these Bills. But as regards a Commonwealth Companies Act, if has been very strongly impressed upon me that the Chambers of Commerce are opposed to such an Act. They very greatly prefer that each State should have an exactly similar measure, that that it would not be necessary to register in Melbourne every company formed throughout this widely scattered Commonwealth. It would be a matter of the greatest inconvenience to shareholders-
– How would it be possible to make the Act uniform under those conditions ?
– I am not prepared to discuss matters of detail in a speech of this kind. I shall be quite ready to debate them when these Bills are under consideration. At present, however, I am merely offering a few observations on the matter, and am not putting forward my own views. I hope that I am not unduly taxing the patience of honorable senators in putting forward the views of gentlemen who certainly occupy positions in t!he business world of undoubted reputability and importance.
– I hope that the Bill will meet those objections.
– I am very glad to hear it. Of course I am not opposing the Bill. My honorable friends opposite will not regard what I am saying as urged in opposition to it. I have not seen it. I am only pointing out the views of gentlemen holding responsible positions.
– Those gentlemen do not want Commonwealth legislation on the subject at all.
– It must be readily open to the apprehension of all honorable senators that if there must be a Commonwealth Bill, and if every company must be registered in Melbourne, or at the. Seat of Government when it is established - I am not taking any objection to Melbourne because it is Melbourne - but if every company must be registered in one place and one place only, it will materially affect the working of companies’ business in Australia, which represents a very large sum per annum, and will materially affect the very large amount of capital invested in these concerns. I hope that the Bill when it is submitted will be of a character that will as little as possible clash with the well-being of the large vested interests which exist, and will interfere with them as little as possible.’ I do not know that it is necessary that I should speak on any other topic mentioned in the Speech. I hav-i spoken in a manner which, while reprehending some few matters, did not, I. think, disclose any unfriendliness ; nor have I spoken in a manner that will give occasion for an acerbid reply. My whole view is this: that it is the duty of those who wish to promote the interests of the Commonwealth to support good measures from whatever source they come. If thev come from a private member, and I think that they are measures that I can support, I shall give to them as hearty a support as if they came from the Ministry. I hope that the views of all senators will be expressed in the same kindly and considerate manner that I desire to evince in my action during trie coming session. There appears to be no likelihood of any opposition to the Address-in-Reply. Seeing that the mail contract is out of the way. I do not suppose that there will be a long debate. I may say, however, that if the’ alleged mail contract had not been cancelled, I should have spoken at very great length. At least, the cancellation has saved the Senate - and the Hansard reporters - a very much longer speech than I have had the honour and privilege of addressing to your consideration this afternoon.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen? adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 July 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19070703_senate_3_36/>.