3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and read prayers.
– I shall have pleasure in making the document available to the honorable senator.
– And to everybody, else?
– To any honorable senator.
– Will the Minister lay the document upon the table of the Library ?
– I do not think it worth while to lay the document on the table of the Senate, but there is no objection to laying it upon the table in the Library.
– And that will be before next Wednesday?
– On Tuesday or Wednesday next.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral if he will lay on the table of the Senate the report of the officer who visited Port Pirie and reported on its postal facilities ?
– Personally, I see no objection, and if the honorable senator will mention the matter at the beginning of to-morrow’s sitting, I shall try to meet his wishes then.
” PARTY SYSTEM “ TELEPHONE.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Why residents of South Australia have not been permitted to participate in the “ party system “ telephone under the regulations of January, 1907?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Postmaster-General is not aware that residents of South Australia have not been permitted to participate in the “party system” under the Telephone Regulations. It is reported, however, that intending subscribers preferred to have an exclusive service pending the arrival of special instruments for enabling selective party-line services to be installed. Such instruments are not yet available in any State, and in the meantime code ringing services are being provided.
– Arising out of the answer, I desire to ask the Minister if he can explain how the following letter from the Deputy Postmaster-General of South Australia came to be sent to an applicant for the “ party system “ : -
I beg to inform you that this Department is not in a position to provide a satisfactory partyline system at Port Adelaide.
Regulations were issued in January last intimating that the “party system” could be adopted throughout the Commonwealth. Can the Minister explain why, after that letter was sent, my question should have been answered as it has been ?
– I have not seen the letter, but from the statement of the honorable senator I should say that it is not in conflict with the answer to his question - that, pending the arrival of special instruments, a satisfactory “party “-line service cannot yet be introduced in any State.
– Arising out of the answer, I desire to ask the Minister if he can explain this telegram from the Postmaster-General to myself -
The Deputy Postmaster-General at Adelaide states that no intending subscriber has been informed that he cannot have a “party’-line service.
– No; but if the honorable senator had shown me the letter and the telegram a little earlier, I have no doubt that I should have been able to give him and all other senators a very satisfactory explanation.
– Arising out of the same question, I wish to point out that the reply furnished to the Minister is absolutely
– The matter cannot be debated, but the honorable senator can ask another question.
– I wish to ask the Minister whether the telegram from the Postmaster-General agrees with the reply which he has just given to my question upon notice?
– I do not know. I have not seen the telegram to the honorable senator ; but if he had furnished me with the text of the telegram and the letter, I have not the slightest doubt that I should have been able to get for him and other senators a very satisfactory explanation. If he will take that course now, I shall endeavour to get him that explanation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
A letter was also sent by the same office to Mr. Thomas Hughes, agent for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, stating as follows : - “ My committee do not consider that emigrants from this country are at all suited for work on sugar plantations, and they would certainly feel it their duty to warn them against undertaking such work in the tropics.”
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Senate or of a Committee of the whole Senate on sitting days be suspended from 6.30 p.m. to 7.45 p.m., and on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That a Library Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, Senators Chataway, Keating, Lynch, Stewart, Sir J. H. Symon, and Walker, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That a House Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, Senators’ de Largie, McColl, McGregor, Mulcahy, Col. Neild, and Turley, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Col. Neild) agreed to -
That the Standing Orders Committee be requested to report upon the desirability of se amending the Standing Orders as to permit of a Bill being referred to a Select Committee before it has been read a second time.
Motion (by Senator Col. Neild) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for Appeals in Criminal Cases, to Constitute a Court of Criminal Appeal, and for other purposes connected therewith.
Senator BEST (Victoria- Vice-President of the Executive Council [2.45]. - I move -
That the days of meeting of the Senate during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, be Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of each week ; and that the hours of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, be half -past two o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday and Thursday, and half-past tcn o’clock in the forenoon of Friday.
I may say in connexion with this, as also in regard to a number of the motions standing in my name, that similar motions were passed by the Senate in February last, after, in some cases, little discussion, and I have simply transferred them verbatim to the notice-paper before the Senate today. So far as I am aware, the hours of meeting set out in this motion have proved fairly convenient.
– I interposed to prevent the motion being taken as formal for the reason that I desired to ask the consent of the Government and the concurrence of honorable senators to a slight amendment in it so far as it relates to the hour of meeting on Wednesday. Honorable senators are aware that some of us endeavour to reach our homes at each week. And to return here on Wednesday by a train which; ordinarily arrives in Melbourne at 1.30 p.m., attend to one’s necessary personal comforts, and meet here at 2.30 ..involves a somewhat inconvenient rush. I ask the Government to approve of an amendment I propose to submit, which will meet the convenience of those who, like myself, live in a neighbouring State, by agreeing to meet on Wednesdays at 3 o’clock, at 2.30 p.m. on Thursdays, and the usual hour, 10.30 a.m. on Fridays. If honorable senators will extend that convenience to us, I shall be only too ready if at any time during the session the Government think it necessary to ask for the additional half-hour on Wednesday afternoon, to ‘assist them in obtaining it. Of course, if subsequently it should be found desirable that the Senate should sit on Tuesdays, the later hour could be fixed for the meeting on the Tuesday, and the Senate could then meet on Wednesdays at 2.30 p.m. I move -
That the words “ half-past two,” line 5, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “three.”
Amendment agreed to, with consequential amendments.
That the days of meeting of the Senate during the present session, unless’ otherwise ordered, be Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of each week; and that the hours of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, be three o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday, half-past two o’clock on Thursday, and half-past ten o’clock in the forenoon of Friday.
” ORDER OF BUSINESS.
Senator BEST (Victoria- Vice-President of the Executive Council [2.50]. - I move -
That on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business take precedence of all other business on the Notice-paper, except Questions and Formal motions, and except that Private Business take precedence of Government Business on Thursday up to 6.30 p.m. ; and that, unless otherwise ordered, Private Orders of the Day take precedence of Private Notices of Motion on alternate Thursdays.
A sessional order in these terms has been in operation for a very long time, and so far as my experience goes, it has worked very satisfactorily.
– I propose to move the omission of the word “Thursday,” line 1, the word “except,” line 5, and of the words “up to 6.30 p.m.,” line 7. My object is to give members of the Senate who do not belong to the Government some opportunity to effectively deal with private business’. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated that the present rule has been in operation for a great many years, and has worked very well. I admit the antiquity of the rule. It is about as ancient, I suppose, as parliamentary government itself, but for all that, it is very cobwebby. Instead of working well, especially in a Chamber constituted as the Senate is, it has worked very badly. We are all aware that periodically the Senate adjourns for want’ of work. While we are grafting we go ahead at such a marvellous pace that our friends in another place are not able to keep up with us. As a consequence we find ourselves in the position of having nothing to do for a large portion of every session.
– That is an argument for payment by results.
– I think the results, so far as we are concerned, have in the past been excellent ; I am not so very sure about the future, which must speak for itself. I wish to raise the status of individual members of the Senate. That is an argument which should appeal to every member of the Senate. I do not know whether any honorable senators have very calmly surveyed the position, but it has always appeared to me to be an extraordinary one. Here we are, thirty-six honorable gentlemen, the elect and elected, and I suppose some honorable senators would say the elite of the Commonwealth. We are sent here to manage the affairs of the Commonwealth so far as they come before us, but this is the remarkable position in which we find ourselves. We cannot do any business except on the motion of a committee, -called the Government, created by ourselves.
– Is that the honorable senator’s idea of the Government?
– That is not an idea, it is a fact. No business brought before the Senate by any member of it who does not belong to the Government has the remotest chance of being passed into law. That is a position which no representative body should permit for a single moment. The idea that only such public business should be dealt with as is originated by the Government is one which should be abandoned at once. We are here as representatives responsible to the country, not for what the Government does, but for what we do ourselves. Each member of the Senate is personally responsible to the people who elect him in connexion with the laws, rules, and regulations which govern the Commonwealth. By the amendments I have suggested I propose to give honorable senators an opportunity of translating their ideas into legislation. That is an opportunity which I venture to say they have never hitherto had We all know how the rule with regard to private business works. At 6.30 p.m. on Thursdays the guillotine comes down with a thud and puts a stop to the efforts of the poor unimportant private senator. It does not matter how important the business he has submitted may be, or how ridiculous the business brought forward by the Government may be, the private senator’s business automatically must give place. If any honorable senator believes a proposal to be sufficiently important to warrant it being brought before this Chamber, then he should have a reasonable opportunity of having it properly discussed and of getting a vote upon it. We all know the opportunity the rule so far adopted gives to the gentleman who is known in parliamentary phraseology as the “ stone-waller.” I have been there myself.
– I would not have believed it if any one else had said it.
– The honorable senator may believe it now. I have sometimes heard Senator Millen attempt to shine in that capacity, and the honorable senator did shine as a most effective obstructionist in the way of legislation of which he did not approve. If the motion is amended as I propose, honorable senators will be given an opportunity to do what they have never hitherto been able to do, and that is to place their ideas, if they have any, on the statute-book. At any rate, they will have a chance of having their proposals discussed and voted upon by the Senate. Every private senator should have that opportunity. I am aware that some honorable senators will oppose the amendments I suggest.
– They are conservative.
– I do not know that they are altogether conservative, but some honorable senators seem to think that having a Government, the whole responsibility of legislation ought to be placed upon the shoulders of that Government. They think they ought not to be personally responsible for legislation. I differ from that view. I say that the time has now arrived when every member of the Senate should recognise his responsibility to the electors as a whole. We ought not to allow the initiative on every occasion to be taken by the Government; and when any private senator thinks that a measure is of sufficient importance to be brought forward here, he should have an opportunity of having it put to the vote, so that it may be either carried or defeated. The sessional order, if carried in the way that I desire, will read as follows: -
That on Wednesday and Friday during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper, except questions and formal motions, and that private business take precedence of Government business on Thursday.
That is to say, the whole of Thursday, if this amendment is carried, will be devoted to private senators’ business, if there is any such business to be dealt with. If there is not, Government business will go on in the usual way.
– Suppose the Government wanted an extra sitting day, the honorable senator would, I suppose, be willing to concede it?
– Most undoubtedly. I should be willing to concede to the Government every day in the week, if they wanted it.
– The honorable senator would like us to sit here on Sundays.
– I should’ not’ mind sitting on Sundays if the business of the country required it. We might just as well be here doing the business of the country as listening to the drivel that is preached from some of the pulpits. I move -
That the word “ Thursday “ be left out.
– I sincerely hope that Senator Stewart will not persist in the amendment which he has submitted. It is far more serious from the Government stand-point than he seems to think. Upon the Government rests the responsibility of carrying on the business of the country. I do not desire to discount for one moment the value of private motions or private Bills submitted by honorable senators; but my honorable friend will forgive me for saying that if we recognise the principle of responsible government, we must acknowledge that the leading, important, and vital measures are, speaking generally, those which are introduced by the Government. My honorable friend proposes to disregard the value of our experience. But if honorable senators appeal to our experience, they will say without hesitation that private business has not suffered by the sessional order that has obtained for a number of years past.
– Oh yes, it has.
– Honorable senators must know that if, towards the end of a session, there has been some congestion of private business, the Government of the day has, as a rule, granted an extra day or two, so as to enable private business to be reasonably debated and disposed of.
– And we have had to go cap-in-hand to the Government to ask for it.
– There has been no need to go cap-in-hand ; it has been granted. That is the rule that has obtained. If any hardship had been suffered in consequence of that rule, it would have afforded a justification for the honorable senator’s amendment. But I say, with confidence, that no hardship has been suffered, and that successive Governments have shown every consideration to honorable senators in the circumstances which have from time to time arisen. I think that the question also bears this aspect : The Senate, being a House consisting of only half the number of the members of the other Chamber, we have been able for the greater portion of the session to do cur business by meeting on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, giving precedence on Thursday up to half-past 6 o’clock to private business. But the honorable senator will see that if he is going to rob the Government of a day, it means that the Senate will have to meet on Tuesday.
– Well, there is no objection to that.
– I trust that the honorable senator will see that apart from extending to certain honorable senators that degree of convenience to which they consider themselves entitled, the time allotted to private business has hitherto been reasonably sufficient for its transaction. “Under those circumstances, to rob the Government of a day would, it seems to me, be most unjustifiable. I ask honorable senators to bear in mind the experience of the past, to remember that the facilities hitherto afforded for private business have been reasonably sufficient ; and I trust that under the circumstances Senator Stewart will not persist in the amendment which he has proposed.
– - I think that I have sinned as much as any member of the Senate in bringing forward private business. Yet I do not feel that I am justified in asking for the whole of a sitting day for the purposes of private business, in view of the fact that the Senate has just decided to sit only on three days a week. I would suggest, however, that the motion submitted by the Government is not quite satisfactory, because the present practice allows any honorable senator on a day on which private business takes precedence, to move the adjournment of the Senate, and so to take up two hours of the afternoon. By that means, a private senator is blocked from proceeding with his business. I therefore suggest to the Government that they might meet the objection which many of us feelto the present motion by making private business take precedence of Government business after the dinner adjournment on Thursday. That would prevent any senator trenching on the time allowed to private senators by moving the adjournment on Thursday, because a motion for the adjournment cannot be received after the dinner hour ; it can only be submitted at the commencement of a sitting.
– What the honorable senator suggests means all-night sittings.
– I do not think it does. When the afternoon only is allowed for private business, it means that those who are opposed to the private business being brought forward, know exactly how much time they have to fill in to prevent the proposal coming to a vote. But if you had the private business coming on after the dinner adjournment, a senator who might be disposed to talk against time would not know how long he had to talk; because, if there were a majority in the Senate who were prepared to force the matter, to a division, or if there were a quorum who were prepared to continue the discussion, they could wear down any senator who chose to be fractious in that way. I suggest to Senator Stewart that he would to a large extent gain what he desire’s by withdrawing his present amendment, and moving to strike out the words “ up to 6.30 p.m.,” inserting instead “after 7.45 p.m.” If the honorable senator will not accept that suggestion, I shall move an amendment to that effect, in t’he event of his amendment not being carried.
– I must acknowledge that I have considerable sympathy with any proposal to afford facilities for the reasonable discussion of private business. But at the same time, I must point out that there is -i vast difference between a Bill which may have some legislative effect, and a mere abstract motion which is only a pious expression of opinion. I conceive of a great difficulty at this stage in making provision for one class of private business whilst not affording similar facilities for the other. Under these circumstances, the compromise suggested by Senator Pearce has very much to commend it. . If the Senate were to adopt it, I am sure that while a reasonable opportunity was given for the discussion of private business, if Government business really required extra time, the Senate would be quite willing to grant it. Senator Pearce was, I think, one of the few senators who, when the Government on a former occasion tried to have the day for private business done away with, strenuously opposed the proposal. I trust that if Senator Best agrees to Senator Pearce’s proposal, the Senate will be reasonable, and, when the time comes, will allow the Government to appropriate the time now sought to be obtained for private business.
– I hope that the suggestion of Senator Pearce will be accepted by Senator Stewart, because, in my opinion, it will really carry out what the honorable senator desires. So far as concerns Senator Millen’s remarks, I believe that every member of the Senate desires that Government measures should have precedence. I also believe that precedence will be granted when such a demand is made. I hope that the Government will accept Senator Pearce’s suggestion ; if not, Senator Stewart’s amendment will have to go to a vote.
– If the Government is willing to accept it, I shall be prepared to fall in with Senator Pearce’s suggestion.
– I hope that the Government will stand to its original motion. The Senate has already agreed to sit only on three days a week. If it had been proposed to sit four days a week, I am sure that the majority of honorable senators would have been opposed to it; and they would be still more opposed to sitting an extra day for the discussion of abstract motions. It is the duty of the Government to bring forward business for the consideration of the Senate, though we have often had to complain of not having sufficient business to deal with.
– Can the honorable senator mention any time when the Government has given us sufficient business to keep us continuously employed three days in the week ?
– They ought to have enough business for us to do. I take it that the Government has to do its duty, and we should not debar it from having a fair proportion of the time of the Senate. On the other hand, the Govern ment should not refuse to private senators a fair opportunity for the discussion of their business. If it is found towards the end of the session that private senators want more time, they can safely trust to the generosity of the Government to give it to them, and we can, if necessary, sit on Tuesdays. I shall be quite ready as an individual senator to agreeat any time to such further discussion of any important matter as may be necessary, even although I may be strongly and sincerely opposed to it.
– I hope the Government will accept Senator Pearce’s suggestion. I have had some experience of that method of dealing with private business extending over fifteen years in the State Parliament of Victoria. It was found to work admirably. It gave ample time generally for private senators’ business, and it did not seem to interfere seriously with Government business. The rule we have adopted here in the past seems to me extremely inconvenient, as it is breaking the day in the middle, so to speak, for private business. If we decide that on Thursdays, which will be private senators’ days, no Government business shall be taken after 6.30 o’clock, then honorable senators, if they have matters of importance to bring forward, will be easily able to keep a quorum, and ample time will be given for the discussion of those matters. All of us have at some time or other some fad that to us is extremely important, but that nobody else cares twopence for. We ought not to have the power to keep honorable senators here to discuss a thing about which they feel no interest, and which is only important to perhaps one or two of them. I therefore hope that the arrangement that has worked so admirably in my experience will be tried here, for I think it will give ample time for private senators’ business.
– I wish to be perfectly honest with the Senate. If I thought I could carry the motion, I would stick to it as it stands, but I find that the numbers are against me. I do not want to lose the whole of Thursday. I do not want to do it ungraciously, but I am placed in the position of accepting the suggestion of Senator Pearce as to private business taking precedence after halfpast 6.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the words “up to 6.30,” line 7, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ after 7.45-“
-‘23]- - I am afraid this proposal will rather clash with standing order No. 120, which provides for Orders of the Day being called ora at 4 o’clock. I have just been reminded of the existence of that standing order. If Orders of the Day have to be called on two hours after the hour of meeting, how can they be called on during the evening sitting? That will be long after the two hours have expired.
– That standing order is only intended to apply in case of any motion of privilege, or something of that kind taking up the time.
Amendment agreed to.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That a Standing Orders Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, the Chairman of Committees’, Senators Best, Dobson, Keating, Clemons, St. Ledger, Sir J. H. Symon, and Trenwith, with power to act during recess, and to confer with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
With the exception of one of the new senators, Senator St. Ledger, it is proposed that this Committee shall be constituted in the way it has been for some years. Its members have gained special experience in this position’, and that experience has been placed at the service of the Senate. It would be unwise in the present circumstances to alter the constitution, of the Committee, and I therefore move the motion as it stands.
– The composition of this Committee is not at all what might reasonably be expected in a Chamber of this kind. It is undoubtedly the most important Committee of the Senate, but notwithstanding the fact that there are three parties in the Senate, one of those parties has not a single representative except the Chairman of Committees on the Committee. I refer to the Labour Party. I suppose, the Chairman of Committees is on the Committee by virtue of his office.
– He was on it before.
– I was on it before; but not as Chairman of Committees. ExSenator Higgs occupied that position.
– That ought to be an additional reason why the party to which I am referring should have a representative on the Committee. That party has five out of the seven representatives on the Printing Committee, which is altogether out of proportion to its numbers.
– A Committee which is absolutely useless.
– I grant that the Printing Committee has not had a great deal to do up to the present. I drew the attention of the Minister of Home Affairs to the constitution of the Standing Orders Committee during the brief sittings of the Senate last session, pointing out the unfairness of its composition, so that this is not a matter that has been sprung on the Government. It is very unfair that one party of fifteen members in this Chamber should not have a single representative on the Committee, and I object to the composition of a Committee of that kind just as I object to our party having practically all the representation on the Printing Committee.
– Everything that is done is subject to the revision or confirmation of the Senate.
– I understand that Senator Stewart has an amendment to move, and I will await the result of his action.
– I agree with what Senator de Largie .has said about the composition of the Standing Orders Committee, which is probably the most important Committee of the Senate, and which deals with subjects about which there may be very great differences of opinion. For that reason I think all parties in the Senate ought to be adequately represented on it. As Senator de Largie has pointed out, not a single representative of the party to which I belong is on this Committee. I do not think that that is right or proper. It is not fair representation. I therefore move -
That the name “ Dobson,” line 3, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the name “ Givens.”
I do not do this because I have any particular objection or any objection at all to Senator Dobson, but if the number of members on the Committee is to be kept as at present, some name must be dropped, and seeing that Tasmania has three representatives on Senators Dobson, Keating, and C lemons on the Committee, I have come to the conclusion that the tight little island will probably survive if one of those names is left out.
– I desire to make another proposition on the suggestion of Senator Guthrie. I believe that every Committee appointed by the Senate is of equal importance, and should receive the same consideration from every senator. As has already been pointed out, there is a preponderance of parties and States both on the Standing Orders Committee and the Printing Committee. Senator Guthrie has declared that the Printing Committe is of no use. I do not agree with that contention, for” the Printing Committee, if it has not been so in the past, ought to be in the future a very important Committee. I have a suggestion to make so as to equalize matters without disturbing the arrangements the Government have already made, or displacing from the Standing Orders Committee a gentleman like Senator Dobson, whose knowledge and experience are of very great service on so important a body. I have always deprecated the idea that the States shouldbe considered in the appointment of Committees. The best men should be put on every Committee. In making my suggestion, I do not wish for one minute to discredit in any way the ability or integrity of Senator St. Ledger, but my suggestion is that he be transferred from the Standing Orders Committee to the Printing Committee, and that Senator Guthrie, who does not see any merit in the Printing Committee, should be transferred to the Standing Orders Committee. It is quite evident that ex-Senator Higgs was on the Standing Orders Committee by virtue of his position as Chairman of Committees. Seeing that he has not previously been a member of a sessional Committee. I do not think that Senator St. Ledger will take any exception to his transfer from one Committee to another. If Senator Stewart would view the matter in that light, we could proceed in the same harmonious way as has always characterized our proceedings inthe formation of sessional Committees.
– I commend the tone of the speech of Senator McGregor, and I would appeal to honorable senators not to deprive the Senate of the services of’ one of the most exper ienced and most conscientious men on the Standing Orders Committee. Senator Dobson has given close attention to the work of that body. From the establishment of the Senate he has acted as a temporary chairman. In each capacity he has rendered good service. It is undesirable to have the States represented as States on the sessional Committees, and it would be a great mistake to initiate that practice. Let us regard ourselves as a homogeneous whole in dealing with the administration of our affairs, particularly in regard to the forms and usages of the Senate. Let it be borne in mind that the Standing Orders Committee is only appointed for the purpose of doing detailed work, and submitting a report. The Senate has the responsibility of dealing with every report. We should appoint the best qualified senators in order to secure the best recommendations for the Senate to consider. Having regard to his political experience, I think that to cast Senator Dobson aside with a view to the appointment of another senator - I do not care who he is - must carry a degree of reflection which is not merited.
. -I earnestly hope that the amendment will bewithdrawn. It will be a great misfortune if in the formation of our Committees we begin to consider either States or parties. What we should aim at is to obtain the most useful men for the work to be done. The Standing Orders Committee, above all others, requires to be composed, and should be composed, if possible, of men with large parliamentary experience.
– Is no memberof the Labour Party qualified to sit on that Committee ?
– In the formation of the Committee, there will always be more consideration given to age and experience than to a particular section of the Commonwealth or the Senate.
– Does the motion indicate that the Government gave that consideration when it was being drafted?
– I am afraid that the Government did consider men, and I think that they should. If they had anticipated this difficulty, I am confident that they could easily have found in the section of the Seriate which is complaining, a senator with sufficient experience and judgment, but the Minister has merely taken the names of the previous Committee, with one exception. It will be a pity if the amendment is put. I do not belong to any party that I know of, and rather than that the amendment should be put, I should like to stand out in, order that an arrangement suitable to honorable senators in the corner might be made. I certainly hope that no one’s name will be struck out of the motion. I shall vote against the amendment.
– - I am sorry that Senator Dobson is not in his place to-day. He is one of the most consistent senators in attendance, and it is owing to very serious indisposition amongst the members of his firm that he is detained in Hobart during this week. I feel sure that if he were present to-day he would readily submit himself to the will of the Senate. I believe that he can be least spared from the Standing Orders Committee. He is not only a consistent senator in attendance, but he is also an earnest and conscientious worker. I believe that he possesses as great a general knowledge of the Standing Orders and the rules of parliamentary procedure as does any honorable senator. I am satisfied that nothing invidious was thought of by Senator Stewart when he singled out the name of Senator Dobson for omission. It would, however, have been better if he had not attempted to retire a senator who has rendered conspicuous service, and had moved the omission of the name of a senator who had not previously sat on this Committee. The amendment does imply a certain amount of doubt as to the capacity of Senator Dobson to occupy the position.
– It was unfortunate that there happened to be three Tasmanians on the last Committee.
– I quite agree with Senator McGregor that in these matters we should not take the States into consideration. Not only on the Committees of the Senate, but also on the Committee which Senator Stewart said governs the country, we should have the best men. I give the Government credit for trying to select the best qualified men to act or the Standing Orders Committee. I hope that the fact that Senator Dobson is not here will be remembered if the amendment is pressed to a vote.
– I hope that honorable senators will not vote for the amendment. Quite apart from his action as a senator, we all know Senator Dobson to be a conscientious man. It would be a pity if a vote were recorded which honorable senators would, in the future, hardly like to recall. If the amendment were carried, it would be a reflection upon Senator Dobson, no matter how it might be explained.
– What about the reflection on the Labour Party? Is there not a member of that party who is qualified to sit on the Standing Orders Committee ?
– Probably the omission referred to is due to an oversight.
– If that be so, I am not going to dispute the contention that the Labour Party have a grievance, but it ought not to be remedied by this process. Let it be remedied in a handsome way which would not bring discredit upon others.
– I should be very sorry indeed to vote against an absent senator, but, in my experience, political parties of any consequence have always received some consideration. Senator Trenwith seemed to argue that there were no other senators competent to sit on this Committee. Notwithstanding the remark of my leader, I think that the motion is a slap in the face to the Labour Party. At the same time, I do not like to vote against Senator Dobson in his absence. I would rather that the name of a more pronounced conservative should be singled out for omission. . I am always prepared to give fair play, but I expect to get equal consideration.
Senator St. LEDGER (Queensland) [3.43] - Iwas very much struck with the suggestion from the other side that in the formation of sessional Committees each senator should leave himself entirely to the will of the Senate. Probably there is a great deal in the contention of the Socialist members of the Chamber-
– The honorable senator has still got that word “ Socialist” on the tip of his tongue.
– I am sorry to notice that when the word is used my honorable friends simply turn in that corner and squirm. If it will relieve the position if I submit myself to the will of the Senate with a view to the omission of my name rather than that of Senator Dobson, I shall be very glad to take that course.
– Like Senator Russell, I am always sorry when I have to vote against an absent man ; but, seeing that our friend, the anti-Socialist, has relieved us from the most unfortunate position in which we have been placed by a decided overlook on the part of the Government-
– It is neglect.
– It may be neglect; but I put the most charitable construction on their action when I said that it was a decided overlook. Whilst we recognise that Senator Dobson has done very good work on the Standing Orders Committee - work of which we may all feel proud - still, is it always to consist of the same persons? If that is to be the case, then, when any of the poor fellows die, we shall be left without a Standing Orders Committee. That will be a most unfortunate position to find ourselves in. I hope that Senator Best will see his way clear to consent to omit the name of the antiSocialist in order that a Socialist may take his place on this Committee.
– I do not mind.
– Do the Government accept Senator St. Ledger’s offer?
– I must know whether the honorable senator desires to persist with his amendment or to withdraw it.
– What are the Government going to do?
– They certainly cannot consent to the honorable senator’s amendment.
– I have a suggestion to make, which I think will provide a way out of the difficulty. If there is any one to blame in connexion with this motion it is the Government, since they had the nomination of the members of the Committee. We have been told that the proposed nomination includes three honorable senators for Tasmania. While that is probably an undue number from that State, I should be very sorry to see Senator Dobson’s name omitted, because the honorable senator has done very useful work in the Chair, and has been a member of the Standing Orders Committee from the commencement of the Federal Parliament. I suggest that Senator Keating should voluntarily withdraw from the Committee, and allow the name of one of the other honorable senators suggested to take the place of his. Seeing that the name of the other representative of the Government in the Senate appears in the motion, there should be no necessity for a second representative of the Government on the Committee. In view of the fact that I took an opportunity to draw Senator Keating’s attention to the matter before to-day, if this proposal is not accepted, I must conclude that the Government submitted these nominations with the intention of keeping members of the Labour Party off the Committee. I do not wish to be forced to come to that conclusion. I submit that my suggestion affords the best way out of the difficulty, and I hope it will be acted upon.
– I may say that Senator Keating did ask that his name should be withdrawn. I cannot look with equanimity on the omission of the name of Senator Dobson, and I am therefore prepared, at the request of my honorable colleague, to say that if the amendment is withdrawn he desires that his name shall also be withdrawn from the proposed Committee.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I ask leave to amend the motion by substituting for the name of Senator Keating the name of Senator Guthrie.
Leave granted; motion amended accordingly.
That a Standing Orders Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, the Chairman of Committees, Senators Best, Dobson, Guthrie, Clemons, St. Ledger, Sir J. H. Symoo, and Trenwith, with power to act during recess, and to confer with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Best) proposed -
That a Printing Committee be appointed, to consist of Senators Croft, Findley, Cameron, Henderson, Macfarlane, Pulsford, and Givens, with power to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
– The duties of the Printing Committee are very light indeed, because the Senate has been accustomed to order the printing of almost every paper laid on the table. If it were recognised that we have a Printing Committee, and it were left to that Committee to order what papers should be printed,, the Committee would be given some standing, and would have something to do.
– How often did the Committee meet last year?
– There were two meetings of the Committee last year, none the year before, and none the year before that.
– The honorable senator has just disclosed the secret of the failure of the Printing Committee. If the Printing Committee arranged to have weekly meetings, honorable senators would know that it would not be necessary for them to move for the printing of papers. Knowledge of the fact that the Printing Committee does not meet regularly compels members of the Senate to move for the printing of papers in which thev are interested.
– There has been a Printing Committee of the Senate since the establishment of the present Parliament, but until August, 1906.. no meeting of the Committee had ever taken place.
– If there waa a meeting it must have been of an informal character.
– No, I attended many meetings of the Printing Committee in the first session.
– Then, strange to say, no records exist of any meeting of the Printing Committee of the Senate until August, 1906. The Printing Committee was then fairly organized, but Senator Macfarlane is correct in saying that when its meetings were held it was found that, while motions had been moved by several honorable senators under which papers had been printed, there was no record of them to guide the Committee in their deliberations, and as a result several voluminous papers were, by order of the Senate, printed twice, and in some instances I think, three times.
– And some were printed by order of the House of- Representatives.
– That is so. The Printing Committee of the two Houses, having taken no joint action, it was quite possible for what the honorable senator has mentioned to be done. It will be possible for it to be done in the future, unless the Printing Committees of both Houses meet together in each week on a fixed day to deal with the papers presented for printing. If that course is adopted, hundreds of pounds can be saved by avoiding useless printing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– Pursuant to notice contingent upon the receipt of a Supply Bill, I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill passing through all its stages without delay.
I do not propose to ask the Senate to take the first reading of the Bill this afternoon, but I wish to make it the first Order of the Day for to-morrow. I may explain that the Bill is one of considerable urgency. Certain works are under construction, and daily-paid men must be provided for. Fortnightly payments also will shortly become due.
– Does the honorable senator propose to make the first reading of the Bill an Order of the Day for tomorrow irrespective of whether the debate on the Address-in-Reply is concluded?
– Certainly. The Standing Orders must be suspended for the purpose, and that is the reason for my present motion. I wish to impress upon honorable senators that it is necessary that this motion should be carried in order that I may make the first reading of the Bill an Order of the Day for to-morrow.
– - I must express a considerable measure of surprise that the Government should endeavour to suspend the Standing Orders to interrupt a debate on the AddressinReply in order to take up the consideration of a measure which practically asks Parliament for Supply. If we agreed to do that on this occasion it might happen upon some future occasion that the debate would be marked by a vote of censure. There might in this instance yet, here or elsewhere, be an amendment moved in connexion with the Address-in-Reply, which would be tantamount to a vote of censure upon the Government. Would the Government then come forward and ask that Supply should be granted?
– Certainly, following the practice of the House of Commons.
– In the middle of the discussion on the Address-in-Reply?
Senator Best says that he is following the practice of the House of Commons.
– I venture to say that the honorable senator cannot find in the practice of the House of Commons or of any other House any instance in which Supply has been granted to a Government which is practically upon its trial. It may be that in this particular instance no great harm would be done by following the course proposed. Personally, I do not think there would be any harm done, but I would remind honorable senators that we should be establishing a precedent, and if we depart from a practice which has sound reason underlying it we may be opening the door’ to serious difficulties later on. So far as I can gather, the debate on the Address-in-Reply is not likely to be of long duration. When does the Government want Supply? It cannot be wanted with such desperate urgency as really to necessitate breaking with all parliamentary traditions, and what is more, with all sound parliamentary procedure, merely -for the sake of an hour or two.
– Wages are due today in Sydney, and in Adelaide to-morrow.
– Surely under the Audit Act the Government is entitled to pay them.
– No; there is no money in the Treasury at all.
– I understood that the Treasury was overflowing with a surplus. I am very much mistaken if under the Audit Act the Government is not entitled to pay the ordinary wages for one month, if not for two months, beyond the period for which Supply is granted. Unless the Minister gives me a definite assurance to the contrary I repeat that I believe that the Government is entitled to pay salaries for the month at the current rate.
– That is not so.
– If the Minister says that I am wrong, of course I accept his assurance. I have had no opportunity of looking the matter up, but I know that what I have stated is the ordinary practice, and I thought that it was determined, when the Audit Act was before Parliament. I express my regret that the Government is taking the course which it is doing now, because it seems to me that if this precedent is broadened out, it may open up the road to a very dangerous practice.
– The present Government has done many things before which it ought not to have done.
– It was done before in the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That the Bill be read a first time to-morrow.
Debate (adjourned from 3rd July, vide page 21) resumed on motion by Senator Lt. -Col. Cameron -
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.
– I am sure that the Senate listened with a great deal of genuine pleasure to the very breezy remarks made by Senator Cameron in submitting his motion, and we all regret very much that the temporary indisposition - which I trust is even now passing - of Senator Trenwith prevented him from addressing us. There are’ one or two aspects connected with the reappearance of these gentlemen in a role that is becoming familiar to us, to which I desire to draw attention. No one can doubt the versatility of the Prime Minister, and it was never exhibited to greater advantage than’ in the reasons which he gave to the press as to why these two gentlemen were again chosen to come to the rescue of the Government. An unsuspecting public was informed with all gravity that the reason why the Government had appealed to these two gentlemen was the simple one that as the last session was so brief and formal, the Government had again invited them to move and second the AddressinReply. ‘ When I look at the overflowing, the massed, ranks- of the Government supporters, I say that it can require no great effort of the imagination to discover yet another reason. I am puzzled a little bit as to what excuse the ingenuity of the Government is going to devise when next session they have once more to appeal to the same two gentlemen.
– Exceptional skill.
– I do not doubt that the ingenuity of the Government will be equal to the occasion. It is therefore with some diffidence that I venture to suggest to the Government a reason which certainly has the merit of truth. I would suggest that when the occasion arises they should by the same means inform the public that the reason why they again invite these two gentlemen to perform the duty is that they have become so familiar with it from long experience, and have discharged it so well and admirably, that the Government sees no reason to transfer it to other hands - more particularly as there are no other hands to transfer it to.
– Would the honorable senator be inclined to give them the permanent billet?
– Certainly I would, from the point of view of the excellence with which they have performed it. But, in common with other honorable senators on this side of the chamber, I cannot help sympathizing with the Government in the unfortunate position to which they have been reduced. The duty of moving and seconding the Address-in-Reply is invariably reserved for the raw recruits, who atone to some extent for their want of experience” by their absolute loyalty to the party to which they belong and their adherence to its programme. It must have been a novel experience for Senator Trenwith - the hero of a hundred campaigns - to find himself called upon to go through the political goose-step ; and equally strange must it have been for Senator Cameron, who was elected on a ticket in opposition to the Government, to find himself suddenly called to the rescue of that Government.
– I thought he was a Government candidate.
– It was equally strange to the Senate to listen to Senator Cameron’s independent utterances, and to learn from Senator Trenwith that he belongs to no party. Many harsh things have been said of Australian politics, but, after what we have witnessed, it cannot be alleged that they are lacking in the element of humour. In reading the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I find myself confronted with one remarkable omission - the omission of any reference to the Estimates. I do not say that there is any great significance to be attached to it, but I am tempted to ask whether .it has anything to do with, or is the result of, what happened in the Senate on a previous occasion, when exception was taken to the manner in which financial Bills were presented. If it was omitted for that reason, it would be significant, and would call for comment. But if it was omitted simply because it was regarded as surplusage, there is nothing more to be said.
– It was omitted because it was surplusage, and for no other reason.
– I am glad to hear it. We find in the Governor-General’s Speech several old friends. Some of them are dressed up in new garments, and placed in different company, but still they are there. Their appearance so frequently satisfies me that if time and circumstances ever cause them to be omitted, we shall feel that we have lost old and tried friends. But, for the present, I can pass fi om that with the full knowledge that they will certainly go from this session into recess, and, no doubt, reappear much invigorated by rest and a well earned holiday. I come now to the matters to which I desire to address myself. First of all, I want to say a word or two about the mail contract. In the Speech, the Governor-General has been made to say that he regrets to inform Parliament that the new mail contract has been cancelled. I do not think that there is a man in Australia, apart from Mr. Croker and his immediate friends, who will share the regret expressed by the GovernorGeneral. There will be some occasion for regret that the syndicate did not prove sufficiently substantial to proceed with the undertaking, and that the contract was not carried out ; but there can be no regret that the contract has been cancelled. On the other hand there is a widespread regret that the Government did not cancel it long ago.
– Or that the Government ever agreed to it.
– That is another matter. I myself regret that Australia has not been able to obtain these services for the sum asked for, but I cannot see any reason for regretting that the Government took at the eleventh hour the course which they ought to have taken very much earlier. The history of the contract is one which can reflect no credit on the Government, and certainly very little on the country. I ask honorable senators to consider the history of it. If we merely had to charge the Government with business incapacity it would perhaps not be so serious. But by their action or inaction they have laid themselves open to a much more serious charge.
The negotiations from beginning to end have been absolutely clothed in falsehoods and misrepresentations, and to many of those misrepresentations the Government have by their inaction and silence allowed something more than mere colour to be given. I will make a brief reference to the various stages of the negotiations, and in doing so will point out how the Government have, either by making communications to the press, or by holding their tongues, lent colour to the misrepresentations put forward on behalf of the syndicate. The first misrepresentation occurred when it was announced that Messrs. Beardmore and Company had withdrawn from the contract. It was then stated that they had withdrawn because they had been induced to enter with the full assurance that the Federal Government was going to guarantee part or the whole of the capital. I do not say that the Government gave such an assurance, but I do believe that Messrs. Beardmore and Company were induced to enter by virtue of the assurance given, not by the Government, but by somebody else, that the Federal Government was prepared to accept certain financial responsibility.
– Is not that one of the tricks of company promoting?
– It may or may not be. I am showing how much of the responsibility the Government can be charged with. The first deliberate falsehood occurred immediately after Messrs. Beardmore and Company announced their withdrawal. We then had the definite statement of the syndicate that their place would be taken by another equally substantial firm. Now I say that the Government should have been in a position to know whether that was true or not. It should have been recognised that the duty of the Government was to ascertain whether Messrs. Beardmore and Company’s place had been taken by an equally substantial firm, and whether the syndicate itself as reorganized, was as strong as the syndicate that had signed the contract. Did the Government make those inquiries? They ought to have made them, and ought to have informed’ the public of the result. But they allowed the statement to be communicated to the public through the press with every semblance of a verifying fact.
– Was it the duty of the Government at that time to make such inquiries ?
– The Government have in London an officer in whom they have more confidence than I have - Captain- Collins. They were in a position to communicate by cable with him and to ascertain the simple facts.
– The Government would not know Beardmore and Co. at all.
– That is perfectly true, but my honorable friend, as a business man, will admit that if he entered into a contract with any particular firm, and had big interests involved, and if he found that there was a re-adjustment of the shares of that firm or of the partnership, he would want to know whether the particular substantial firm with whom he was dealing was passing its responsibilities over to men of straw. That is exactly what the Government ought to have done, and that is what my honorable friend would have done himself in dealing with his own private affairs. When this statement was made first of all, I am not certain whether it was Mr. Croker or another representative of the company who said, referring to Beardmore and Co.’s statement, that the race of Ananias had not passed away from the face of the earth. Subsequent facts, which I propose to bring forward, show that whoever made that statement did his level best to justify it. Immediately afterwards, when the public began to get a little bit uneasy as to what was developing, glowing accounts were sent out here that the syndicate had purchased enormous supplies of material, and were already preparing to lay down the keels of the vessels, and that the only reason of the delay was that the plans they had submitted to Captain Collins had been sent back by that officer with certain amendments as to details, which they had sent onto their own architects to incorporate in the original plans. If any honorable senator was dealing with his own private affairs, and had an agent acting for him, would he not expect that agent to ascertain, seeing that time was a big factor in the contract, whether those statements were true or not? The public were told that this material had been purchased, and that the matter was going on step by step. What did the Government do? Did they find out whether it was true or not? Had they, made ordinary business inquiries they must have known that the statement was an absolute falsehood. They either made inquiries or they did not. If they, did not, they are open to a charge of negligence.
– What was their representative in London doing?
– I said that it was part of the Government’s duty to see that Captain Collins advised them as to every step taken or not taken. We all recognised, when this contract was before us, that time was a great factor, in it, and those who made the contract recognised that also, because we had another proposal, which the Senate somewhat reluctantly sanctioned, to give an extension of time, if, in view of the stupendous ship-building work involved, the contractors were not quite prepared to put the proper boats on the service when the contract had to take effect. We recognised that, and allowed a period of grace. It was the Government’s duty to watch the thing closely to see that the syndicate were going on with this work, and when the syndicate sought to gull the public by saying they were going on with the work, that they had purchased the material, that their plans were matured, and that they were laying down the keels of the vessels, the Government ought not to have held their tongue when statements of that kind were being published, unless they had first ascertained that those statements were absolutely true. They were not true, and the Government could have found it out. If they did not find it out they are open to a charge of negligence. If they did find out that this information was false, they ought then and there not only to have informed tlie public of the true facts of the case, but also to have insisted on the lodgment of the further bonds to which we were entitled.
– We had no High Commissioner in London.
– There was an officer in London paid to look after our interests.
– As I have said, the Government have more confidence in Captain Collins than I have. He was on the spot, and I assume that he has not merely the ordinary means of ascertaining facts, but some additional means which necessarily would be associated with his office. It seems to my mind absolute incompetence that an officer placed in Captain Collins’ position, and knowing how urgent this matter was to the Commonwealth, did not even, on his own initiative, take the action I have indicated, but it is still more culpable that the Government, who have to share the full responsibility, apparently refrained from forcing Captain Collins to do his duty.
Just about the time I have mentioned honorable senators will recollect that Messrs. Esplen and Clarke arrived mysteriously in Australia. That was the second act in this little business, which I do not know whether to call a burlesque or a drama. Curiously enough, just at the time they arrived there appeared a cablegram stating that the object of their mission was to try to secure a modification of the contract.
– Cannot you add weight to that statement by saying “ Mr. Trevisa Clarke “ ?
– I had forgotten the gentleman’s Christian name, but I have not forgotten his statements. When these gentlemen arrived here we were told, on the strength of cablegrams, that their mission was to obtain a modification of the contract, and it was indicated that this modification was in the direction of securing that Commonwealth guarantee which Beardmore and Company said they had been led to expect.” No sooner was that statement made than Messrs. Esplen and Clarke and the Government joined hands in denying that that was the object of the mission which brought them here. It was instantly denied by those gentlemen themselves, and their denial was confirmed by Mr. Ewing, the Minister of Defence, in an interview with the press. We were asked to believe that these competent shrewd business men had travelled from the other side of the world gratuitously, being experts in their particular line, for what purpose? To offer the benefit of their advice gratuitously to the Government, who, they understood, were about to commence torpedo-boat construction. To give some colour to this statement, those gentlemen made a more or less perfunctory inspection of certain places. They comforted the natural and very laudable ambition of Melbourne by saying that Williamstown was admirably adapted for the construction of war vessels, and later on they showered a similar benediction over that piece of water known as the Sydney Harbour. In this matter, whilst one might understand it so far as the representatives of the syndicate were concerned, I maintain that the Government were not justified in allowing these representations to go unchallenged. When Mr. Ewing informed the press, as he did, that these gentlemen had made no whisper to him of an alteration of the mail contract, and that they had only mentioned to him the question of torpedo-boat construction, he may have been telling the absolute truth, as I believe he was. But I challenge the Government to deny that at the very time that Mr. Ewing made that statement, official or unofficial communications were passing between Messrs. Esplen and Clarke and Sir John Forrest in connexion with this matter.
– What was passing be”tween those two?
– Communications were passing between those two parties, probably through Mr. Croker, but the proof that Sir John Forrest knew the object of their mission, and was favorable to it, is shown by the fact that he himself approached the State Governments and asked them to guarantee the bonds.
– When Messrs. Esplen and Clarke were here the Prime Minister himself was here.
– The Prime Minister himself may have been, like Mr. Ewing, carefully left on one side. All I am saying is that some members of the Government were interviewed, officially or otherwise - probably unofficially - probably at their clubs. All I know is that whilst Mr. Ewing and other members of the Ministry were assuring the country that those gentlemen did not come here in connexion with that matter, and that they knew nothing of any proposal to obtain a Government guarantee, Sir John Forrest immediately afterwards approached the State Governments with a proposal that the States should’ do what the Commonwealth evidently would not do, and that was to guarantee the bonds. That Sir John Forrest did first approach the State Governments will, I think, not be questioned. If it is, I can give as my authority the statement of Mr. Davies, the Acting Premier of Victoria, that the matter was first brought under the notice of the State Government by Sir John Forrest.
– It was said publicly in the Argus all the time that these statements were lies.
– From beginning to end there has never been a- statement made public to suggest that there was anything wrong with the matter on which the Government did not immediately by itself, or by its silence when’ some one else had made a statement, endeavour to lull the public into the belief that all was well. The Government in this case have acted more as if they were the paid broker of the syndicate than the sworn depository of the interests of the Commonwealth. To show what has characterized this matter, this avalanche of lies has continued even down to the very last. Only last week a statement was cabled out, when the Government called for the second bond, that the bond had been put up.
– Does the honorable senator know the value of the first bond?
– I do not; but I am very, keen to know it. I should not be prepared to negotiate it at its face value. Even as late as last week, when the Government called for the second bondi which I think I am correct in saying has never been put up, the syndicate immediately wired from London that the bond was being presented.
– Not to the Government.
– No. They have utilized the newspapers all through, but the Government have never once attempted to contradict these statements, and have even often confirmed them. Still later, even in this morning’s paper, as part of the trickery which has been resorted to, we get an astonishing statement put forward to lead people to believe that quite outside of the State guarantee, and after the contract has been cancelled, the debenture capital has been subscribed. A few weeks ago the syndicate managed to get its cables, its versions, its statements, its falsehoods, put forward without any reference to the source from which they came, and they were taken as being newspaper information, but now the newspapers have come to be careful as to what the syndicate have to say, and therefore we find that the Shipping Gazette “ understands from information furnished that the Australian Mail syndicate has made the necessary arrangements for the required issue of debentures.” The paper will not take it upon itself any longer to make the announcement, but says “ From information furnished.” Honorable senators do not require to be clairvoyants to know from whom that information was received. It is all part and parcel of the same humbugging practice which has been resorted to from beginning to end, and that last cable has been put in merely to save the face of Laing and Sons and those associated with them. Apart from the fact that the Government have been guilty in not exposing this tissue of falsehoods, which they could easily have done by ordinary inquiry, it may be asked what other the Government could have done than they did do. They could have done months ago what they did when they were on the eve of meeting Parliament. They could have called up the first bond long before they did, and the second bond immediately after the first. They were entitled to do so if they were not satisfied that reasonable progress was being made. As they did not call that bond up, we have to assume that in the opinion of the Government the progress made was reasonable. I ask anybody, even the most strenuous supporter of this Government, can it be said that the progress made in something like ten months in the carrying out of this contract was such as to satisfy any reasonable man?
– They were told that the material had been bought and that the keels were being laid down.
– They were told all sorts of things, but the Government were in a position to ascertain the truth of those statements.
– When you are dealing with commercial men you surely take their word?
– It all depends who they are. There are certain commercial men whose word we would all take, but it was the business of the Government, charged with carrying out this contract, to see that the terms of the contract were observed. If they thought there was the slightest doubt that the other contracting party was failing to do so, their course was indicated by the contract itself, and that course was to call up those two bonds. Nothing ‘was done, and they let eight months go by before they called for the second bond. Then, so marvellous is their business capacity, when they did call for the first bond the syndicate laughed at their demand, because it was technically informal. What becomes of all our highly-paid legal experts ?We have a Ministry which is supposed to be overflowing with legal talent. Legal talent is tumbling over itself in this Cabinet. There is here a highlypaid Crown Law Department, and yet they cannot give a simple notice calling for the bonds in the terms of the agreement.
– Who says that?
– I am saying it now, and I ask the Minister to deny that when the Government called for the first bond their demand was proved to be technically in error.
– Proved by whom?
– Proved by the fact that the syndicate did not respond to it.
– And by the fact that a further one was issued.
– Will the Minister, as his interjection seems to suggest, affirm that the first demand was in order and was responded to ?
– I say that none of the, notices were responded to.
– There is my whole case. It rests upon the admission from’ the Minister that neither of the notices was responded to. Yet they allowed ten months to go by, hesitating, fearful that they were going to injure their friends in the syndicate by absolutely abstaining from taking any action until they were confronted with Parliament itself. Having called for bonds, and got no response, they refrained, as the Minister has just admitted, from taking the action which was clearly open to them. His statement also brings me to a repetition of what I said some time ago, although I can make the statement now with additional emphasis. I have said that the Government must be charged to an extent with whatever offence might be said to be committed by a man who, knowing that a misstatement has been made public holds his tongue. The press told us that the first bond had been put up long ago. The Government knew that it had not been put up, but never ventured to contradict the statement of the press. Ministers held their tongues when false statements were being thrown broadcast about Australia, and they must take their’ share of the responsibility for that misrepresentation.
– It is a strong charge.
– The Minister himself has made the admission. One reason why I am particularly glad that the contract has fallen through is that it terminates the first and what I hope will be the last attempt, in any Federal matter, by any State to act unfederally. I am not going to find particular fault with Victoria for what it sought to do, although I cannot speak in the same way of the methods by which it sought to achieve its purpose. I hope that as this is the first, it will be the last time in which in any matter which is essentially one of Federal concern and Federal responsibility, there will be any permission by which any State can come in and utilize Federal opportunities for State advantages.
– Did they not act at the request of the Federal Government?
– That is doubtful.
– I do not think that there is the slightest doubt on the point. The strange feature is that whilst Sir John Forrest was making a proposal to the States Governments, Sir William Lyne, in London, was saying that no contract could be sanctioned which secured to any State advantages not shared by all States.
– And he was in direct communication with Mr. Bent.
– Yes; many things happen in London in a few days. One statement made by Sir John Forrest at this time reads as follows : -
I see nothing against the contractors making arrangements with the States. ‘ But, at the same time, we say, “ If you are going to make an arrangement it must have a Federal flavour about it, and not give one State all the advantages, and block out the others in a scheme relating to a mail contract for which the Commonwealth is primarily responsible.”
That is laying down a good sound principle. That statement was made after Sir John Forrest had suggested to the States that they should give a guarantee, and, the other States having declined, after Victoria had undertaken to do so.
– Any arrangement with the State should have been made before tenders were called.
– Exactly. I do not think that in this matter the States should be allowed to have a finger in the pie. If that be allowed, all sorts of complications are likely to arise. If there is one responsibility on the members of the Senate or public men anywhere, it is to endeavour to lessen - to eliminate - the opportunities of friction between the States, and not to create them. I do not intend to detain honorable senators by reading statements made by Mr. Swinburne and Mr. Davies. Both those gentlemen denounced the proposed State guarantee as something which was absolutely unfederal, and ought not to be given effect to. Yet some marvellous thing happened - what I do not know, though probably the Minister will be able to tell us later on - as a result of which Mr. Bent, in London, sent out a cablegram, and suddenly Mr. Swinburne and Mr. Davies were found carrying on with the syndicate negotiations for the very arrangement against which they had led the opposition at the Premiers’ Conference in
Brisbane. The whole thing would have been a sorry incident in the chapter of Australian history if it had matured. I am particularly glad that we have now an opportunity to get a contract which I hope will be free from a complication of that kind. I only trust that, profiting by experience, the Government will exercise a little more business care. Now, whilst I regard this contract as primarily a. contract for the conveyance of mails, it does appear to me that it will be wise, if we can possibly do so at anything like a reasonable cost, to see that this service - primarily intended for the conveyance of mails, but certainly for something more - should extend to the great northern port of Brisbane. Hitherto - I do not mean immediately, but previously - I have shared the general view that the Government charged with the provision of postal facilities was only concerned about the mere conveyance of mails, but I hold that it would be prudery to pretend that the amount which we pay a mail company is paid for the carriage of mails only. We pay much beyond that which is required for the mere transport of mails. It does not need any argument to show that very much smaller vessels would carry the mails if that only were desired. But we know that we are trying to kill two birds with one stone, that whilst we must secure the carriage of the mails we seek to secure a competent service which will be of material advantage to our great primary industries. Those industries, especially as regards perishable products, are growing day by day, and we want to insure the rapid transport of those products which Australia can place on the market, more often than not at a time of the year when they command the highest price. That is a great and strong inducement to us to secure a service- call it a mail service or what you like - which will give the greatest possible benefit to our producers. Every State in the Union, so far as it can be afforded at a reasonable cost, has a fair and just claim to share in the benefits which we hope to secure.
– And first-class accommodation for those who have means to travel.
– There is no firstclass accommodation for the butter of Sydney any more than for the butter of Brisbane.
– What was the last contract ?
– If the honorable senator says at once that he does not believe in the Government giving any assistance to the quick transport of perishable products, he stands in a position that, while I cannot indorse it, I can understand. We have all practically reached that point where we recognise that it is one of the essential functions of Government to open up trade routes and so assist primary producers.
– We all believe in that sort of Socialism.
– I ask the Government to consider whether tenders should not be called for the continuance of the service to Brisbane. The second omission which I have discovered in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is the absence of any allusion to the Naval Agreement. Seeing that it occupied a very important position on the agenda-paper of the Imperial Conference, and that even since his return the Prime Minister has unbosomed himself to the constituencies about it, surely we might have expected to find in this speech at least an indication of the policy »of the Government. But there is absolutely not a word to show that they have ever heard of a naval agreement. All we get is a delightful sentence in paragraph 8 -
A progressive scheme for the improvement of harbor and coastal defences is under consideration.
In view of two direct statements having been attributed to Mr. Deakin, could any one have conceived that the only reference to this matter of great national importance Would have been covered up in that way ? One does not know whether he ought to fall down in profound admiration of the mind which could conceive that sentence, or to feel that the Government are open to a charge of want of frankness with the great constituencies which they ought to represent.
– Since Mr. Deakin and Sir William Lyne returned from London, the Government have had very little time in which to consider the matter.
– I want to show that the Government have considered the matter. The trouble in my mind is whether their consideration has led Ministers all to one conclusion. We had this assurance given in a newspaper called the Age, on the 10th May last: -
Before the Conference rose a most important announcement was made with regard to the Australian Navy by the First Lord oi the Admiralty.
Lord Tweedmouth stated that as the result of several interviews with the Australasian delegates to the Conference, he was now able to summarize the British Admiralty’s decision. As far as Australia and New Zealand were concerned the Admiralty would be willing to leave the continuance of the present subsidy entirely in their hands, leaving them to do whatever they thought best. He realised that Australia did not favour the present mode of subsidy.
Mr. Deakin followed Lord Tweedmouth.
He stated that, assuming Sir Joseph Ward’s consent, he would ask the Commonwealth Parliament to terminate the agreement with Great Britain, and apply the subsidy to securing the harbors and coastal ports.
– He will not ask Parliament to do anything of the kind, I wager.
– I am not -saying at this stage which is the better policy. All I am pointing out is that the Senate and the country are entitled to know, if the Government have a policy, what it is. Mr. Deakin clearly stated there that he was prepared to ask this Parliament to tear up the Naval Agreement and to apply the subsidy in the direction of securing our harbor and coastal defences.
– The sooner it is torn up the better.
– That is a matter of opinion. and I am not now arguing whether or not it ought to be torn up . If the honorable senator thinks it is desirable to break altogether the bond with the Empire, let ham express his view. I do not share his opinion. My point is that whatever the policy of the Government may be they ought to declare it. Whilst Mr. Deakin assured people at Home that he intended to ask Parliament to tear up the agreement, one of the first things we hear from him in Australia when he is confronted with that statement is this : “ Heaven help the Empire, or any part of it that breaks away from the Imperial Navy.”
– That is the honorable and learned gentleman’s explanation.
– That is his explanation. All I can say, and I say this with no sense of levity, is that, so far as I have read history, Heaven, like Providence, fights on the side of the big battalions. We shall have in this particular matter to look for many years to come, as Mr. Deakin himself indicates, to the Navy of Great Britain for the measure of protection which we enjoy. I do not wish to discuss the .policy. Presumably, we shall have another opportunity later on to do that. But I do ask honorable senators to say whether in a matter of this magnitude Mr. Deakin ought not to have taken at least another opportunity to give us his views upon this very important question. To my mind, it was the more imperative that the Government should have given a plain declaration of policy on this question in view of the fact that we have officially before us certain utterances previously made upon the matter, which are entirely at variance with the penultimate utterance of Mr. Deakin.
– Is that strange or surprising ?
– Senator McGregor is a proof that it is not, because the honorable senator does not appear to me to be struggling in very deep water at the present moment. I propose to read one or two paragraphs from an important document by ah authority, which I am sure honorable senators will not question. i am not prepared to recommend, under exist ing conditions, the establishment of an Australian Navy. Even if it were established, I am afraid it would not be very efficient, for, besides the enormous cost of replacing the fleet from time to time with more modern ships, there would be no change for the officers and crews, who would go on year after year in the same ships, subject to the same influences and, I fear, with deteriorating effects.
In regard to defence, we must altogether get rid of the idea that we have different interests to those of the rest of the Empire, and we must look at the matter from a broad common standpoint. If the British nation is at war, so are we; if it gains victories or suffers disasters, so do we ; and, therefore, it is of the same vital interest to us as to the rest of the Empire that our supremacy on the ocean shall be maintained. There is only one sea to be supreme over, and we want one fleet to be mistress over that sea.
Our aim and object should be to make the
Royal Navy the Empire’s Navy - supported by the’ whole of the self-governing portion of. the Empire, and not solely supported by the people of the British Isles, as is practically the case at the present time. It is, I think, our plain duty to take a part in the additional obligations cast upon the Mother Country by the extension of the Empire, and the extra burdens cast upon her in maintaining our naval supremacy.
If a proposal were adopted that the Empire should have one fleet, maintained by the whole nation, every part contributing to its support, on some plan to be mutually arranged, probably on that of the comparative trade of each, and not necessarily on a uniform basis of contribution, what a splendid idea would be consummated, and what a bulwark for peace throughout the world would be established, besides which we would be doing our duty to the Mother Country, which has been so generous to us during all our early years.
Great Britain spends annually on her Army and Navy about£50,000,000, or about £1 5s. per head of her population. If the Australian Commonwealth contributed in the same proportion, it would amount to something like £5,000,000 a year, whereas our entire military and naval defence vote does not exceed£800,000 a year, or only about 4s. per head of our population.
These weighty words are by the compatriot of my friend Senator Pearce, Sir John Forrest, who, I believe, unless the VicePresident of the Executive Council will set me right in the matter, is still a member of the Ministry. However much honorable senators may object to the opinions which the right honorable gentleman has expressed, it will be admitted that he has put them forward in a weighty and impressive fashion, and has argued strongly for the continuance of the subsidy to the Imperial Navy.
– Did not the right honorable gentleman say that it would be time enough to take the jump when he came to it?
– The right honorable gentleman has taken so many jumps that I regard him as an expert in the kangaroo act.
– The right honorable gentleman will have no difficulty in jumping the Naval Subsidy when he comes to it.
– Whatever may be my political differences with Sir John Forrest, I hope no honorable senator will think for a moment that I doubt his capacity to swallow that, or anything else. All I wish to say is that, seeing that Mr. Deakin made a plain declaration in England in certain terms, and then came out here and said - “ Heaven help those who break away from the Navy,” which can only be interpreted as an explanation, a modification, or a withdrawal of the words he used in London, and seeing that Sir John Forrest, as Minister of Defence in the same Government, enunciated an entirely different policy, we were surely entitled to have from the Government some straightforward declaration of what, as a collective Cabinet, they intend to do.
– Sir John Forrest is an ardent Imperialist.
– If the right honorable gentleman is an ardent Imperialist, and believes to-day what he set out in 1902 in the document from which I have quoted, he should have no place in a Ministry which is to-day pledged to tear up the Naval Agreement.
– That is not correct.
– I am glad to hear it. If the Prime Minister has not pledged himself to withdraw the Naval Subsidy, I am particularly glad to hear it ; But I say that that also should have been indicated to Parliament through the medium of the Governor-General’s Speech. Whilst I am by no means opposed to taking initial steps towards the creation of some Australian floating defences, I say that we cannot expect to step from one system to-day into an entirely different system to-morrow. It would be absolutely suicidal, in my opinion, if, before we have spent a few years in building up a small navy of our own. we were to cease our connexion with the Imperial Navy.
– It is significant that the Government Whip should be writing articles against the view which the VicePresident of the Executive Council takes on this question.
– I think the explanation is that, there being no business for the Government Whip to do in either House of Parliament, he must put in his -time somehow.
– When -would the honorable senator commence the building of an Australian Navy ?
– I am prepared tomorrow to give the Government assistance in that direction, in the building of vessels recommended by experts. I do not profess to be a naval expert, and we have so many in the Senate that it is not necessary that I should rush into the arena; but I say that Australia should do something in this direction for herself, and until we have done something, and have made some progress in this direction, it would be nothing short of suicidal for us to tamper with the Naval Agreement. It will be time enough to do that when we have made such progress in the establishment of a navy of our own that we shall be in a position honestly and fearlessly to tell Great Britain that we are able to look after ourselves. We are not in that position yet, and are not likely to be for some years to come. I am occupying more time than I intended, but I claim the indulgence of honorable senators whilst I refer to but one or two other matters. In referring to the Tariff, I think I express the opinion of every honorable senator, whatever his fiscal views may be, when I say that we all desire to reach finality on that question. Speaking personally, 1 shall be prepared to expedite the settlement of the Tariff by every means in my power. I desire only to remind the Government that, if they also seek to expedite the settlement of the question, they will endeavour to introduce a reasonable range of duties rather than prohibition ; and will seek to remedy anomalies rather than to confer unmerited favours upon sectional interests. If the Government do that and do not attempt to repeat the course adopted in the session before last in widely departing from the recommendations of the Tariff Commission, and always with a leaning towards prohibition, they will have no reason to complain of the action of honorable senators holding the views I do on the question. I remind the Senate that in connexion with the matter a very serious obligation rests upon every member of the Senate, and every section in this Chamber, and that, whether we believe in ultra high protection or moderate duties, we must always bear in mind the financial requirements and expectations of the States. I say, necessarily with some measure of regret, that I quite recognise that the country has not indorsed the fiscal views in which I believe. I recognise that, as a result of the recent elections, the Tariff question has entered upon an entirely new phase.
– The honorable senator’s party should have recognised that years ago.
– Senator Mulcahy will not think any less of men who fight a losing battle.
– Because we all Jive and learn.
– It is not a question of living and learning.- I have rather a suspicion of the man who learns too soon to forsake his colours. There is, it seems to me, a broad pathway along which the Government may proceed to an expeditious settlement of the question. They may look for generous support and for very little opposition if they follow that pathway, by abstaining from going to extremes to please particular interests, by endeavouring as far as possible to remedy anomalies, and above all, bv recognising the fact that the obligation resting upon us in connexion with States finance is opposed to a Tariff in the region of prohibition.
– The honorable senator believes that revenue should be raised from direct taxation?
– As Senator Givens knows very well, I am not in favour of Customs taxation, but I strive to be practical in politics.
– When the honorable senator cannot have free-trade he should go for protection.
– That is very strange logic. It is as though the honorable senator had said “ If you think a little arsenic is bad, you should take a lot of it.” We have all, I am sure, been pleased to see that the Governor-General’s Speech refers to the unbounded prosperity which marks the whole of Australia at the present time. Western Australia is not as prosperous as we should like, or rather she is not now relatively as prosperous as she was. The other States are enjoying a period of extraordinary prosperity. We are all glad to know that, and hope that it will continue, but apart from the material gratification we obtain from that knowledge, I trust it will be the means during the coming Tariff debate, of shutting out all references to “struggling industries.” I wish to say a word with respect to the transfer of the Northern Territory. I am strongly desirous that that Territory should pass over to the Commonwealth. I think the transfer ought to be made, and indeed must be made with a view to the safety of Australia, but I strongly object to the question being complicated by the introduction of outside issues. I strongly object to a matter of national concern being made the sport and toy of any State interests or requirements. Above all, I object to the question whether we shall take over the Northern Territory being tacked on to such a question as that of the construction of a transcontinental railway to Western ‘Australia. Cannot these matters stand on their own merits?
– Is that a fair statement of the case? Should we not know that South Australia will not block the wishes of the Commonwealth in the matter if we should wish to construct the railway ?
– Senator Pearce admits that the one question is tacked on to the other. The question whether we should construct a railway to Western Australia is one which should be discussed and decided on its merits. The question whether we should take over the Northern Territory, which is of very much greater importance to our national interests than is the con struction of the railway in which Senator Pearce is interested, should be dealt with apart from other questions.
– When we are bargaining with South Australia in the matter will not that be the time to raise the question whether »she will give her consent if the Federal Parliament desires to construct a particular railway within her territory ?
– I quite admit that all these are matters of concern. I only say that I decline to consider the two questions together. I, as a member of this Senate - which will have to be one party to the agreement - decline to consider the matter in this complicated fashion. I am prepared to consider the questions separately, but I am not prepared to consider the question whether we shall take over the Northern Territory and the question whether we should make a railway to Western Australia as part of one matter of policy. A pill is just as much a pill whether it is gilded or not ; and this undue haste on the part of the Federation is not good business. South Australia, in my opinion, will sooner or later, be only too glad for us to take off her hands a territory which she has shown that she is not competent to manage. I do not mean that she is not competent in ‘the matter of policy, but that the financial strain is too great for her. Sooner or later she will be only too glad for us to take it over; and if she is not prepared to give it to us on reasonable terms - and I have yet to learn that any effort has been made up to the present to secure reasonable terms from her-
– If we take over the Territory what more does she want?
– She wants us to take not only the Territory, but to stand the loss of the railways constructed in her State, which I say is bringing in factors which I decline to consider in connexion with this matter. With regard to the Western Australian railway to which reference has been made, I may say that I am rather glad that the matter ,is coming up again. I think I am correct in saying that there are a number of members of the Senate who had not an opportunity of expressing their views upon that subject when it was before the Senate on a former occasion. The re-appearance of the Bill will enable them to put forward their views.
– I thought the objection of the supporters of the railway was that the views of its opponents were rather too fully expressed.
– Well, I had no opportunity of expressing my views with regard to the railway on the last occasion; and I do not remember that Senator Givens expressed his. I think he had to give a silent vote on the subject ; and what more painful spectacle could there be than that of Senator Givens being called upon to give a silent vote on any subject? There is another matter to which I wish to refer, and that is the practice which this Government seems to have adopted of tacking one thing on to another. The question of finance for instance is associated with that of oldage pensions. Now, I regard the question of old-age pensions as one which should be discussed on its own merits, and if we have arrived at the opinion that a Federal scheme is just and right, and ought to be given effect to, we ought not to be dependent upon the eccentricities of any particular State Premier. So far as the finance question is concerned, I have one objective, and that is the separation as early as possible, and as completely as possible, of Federal and State finance. Whereever you have points of contact between Governments you are liable to have points of friction. I want to secure absolute independence in this respect, and if any ‘scheme can be put forward which is capable of doing what I desire I shall be only too glad to support it.
– But the States should get their rights.
– We should have a system which will define what the States are to get - make it a fixed amount, if you like - and leave them absolutely independent within their own sphere. There is a paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech dealing with immigration. A similar paragraph appeared twelve months ago, but nothing has been done. We were then informed that a plan had been prepared as the result of a Conference between the States and the Commonwealth, but it is now suddenly discovered that a Hic;h Commissioner is required in order to give effect to the Government’s policy with regard to immigration. Therefore, the matter is made a reason for the appointment of a High Commissioner.
– Does not the honorable senator think that we ought to have a High Commissioner?
– I do ; but why should not the Government have stated straightforwardly “ We intend to appoint a High Commissioner ‘ ‘ ? Instead of that, while they stated twelve months ago that an arrangement had been made between the States and the Commonwealth with regard to a scheme of immigration, we are now informed that a High Commissioner is required to give effect to it. It is only now, when Sir John wishes to emulate the deeds of his colleagues in London, that we hear anything of the High Commissionership in connexion with the immigration question.
– Does the honorable senator think that it is Sir John’s desire to emulate his colleagues in London that has prompted the reference to the High Commissionership ?
– Time will best answer that question. But I have no doubt that it would be a very happy release for the Government if Sir John Forrest could see his way, under pressure of the public desire, to accept so important a position. I think there is one matter referred to in the ‘Governor-General’s Speech upon which I have to congratulate the Government, and that is in reference to their decision that the High Court of Australia ought to be the final arbiter in regard to constitutional questions. It seems to me that, owing to strong views which are held on the question of the payment of income tax by Federal officers, some people - many of them eminent - have lost sight of that important point. Therefore, I congratulate the Government on having, notwithstanding, the public clamour raised outside, made it clear that the High Court is, as it was intended to be, our final interpretator on constitutional matters. I say so much without in any way affirming that the Federal public servants ought not to contribute their fair share towards the cost of the States Governments. May I conclude with a brief reference’ to the question of preferential trade?
– What about the Federal Capital?
– I will, if my honorable friend wishes it, deal with a few of the interjections. I can perhaps more properly refer to some burning questions at the beginning of a session, before the strenuousness of conflict has aroused any angry passions, than I could do at a later stage. The question alluded to by Senator McGregor is, I can assure honorable senators, an extremely burning one in my State.
– Tb°. honorable senator means in Sydney.
– Pardon me ; my honorable friend will accept my statement literally. It has become a burning question in New South Wales. The delay in settling the Capital Site matter is, so far as New South Wales is concerned, a source of grave discontent.
– Who is responsible for the delay?
– I do not want to blame any one.- I am merely pointing out to the Senate that the feeling to which I have referred does exist in New South Wales. If I knew of a similar feeling existing in any State on any question I should feel it to be my duty to take steps to allay it; because the union of the States, while it is said, on paper, to be of an indissoluble character, can only become powerful and great so long as there is hearty cooperation between State and State. That condition of things cannot be brought about unless the feeling which does exist, rightly or wrongly, in New South Wales, is brought to an end. I ask honorable senators, at any rate, to make an effort to reach finality in connexion with the question.
– The majority of the Senate has been in ‘favour of an early settlement.
Sena,tor MILLEN. - There have been statements made that even if a site were selected to-morrow it would not mean that a serious attempt would be made to give effect to it. These have been reproduced in my State, and have caused the feeling that undoubtedly exists, which I have pointed out, and which I very much regret. Now I desire- to say just a word or two with regard to preferential trade. We have not yet the full report of the Imperial Conference before us, but judging from the summaries, the members of the Government have been exploiting Imperial sentiment for sectional -or party interests. We have had a declaration of protectionist policy from the Government, and we have also had. one of the leaders of the Government, Sir William Lyne, touring England with the assurance that Australia desired to accord preference to British goods. Now I ask how are we to reconcile those two statements? One of the motions carried at the Imperial Conference was that moved by Sir Joseph Ward, which read - “ That it is advisable, in the interests of the United Kingdom and all the self-governing Colonies, that an effort should be made in favour of British manufactured goods, and that British shipping should be supported as far as practicable.”
I ask what do the Government propose to do in the coming Tariff to give effect to that motion? What do thev propose to do in favour of British goods? If, Mr. President, they intend bringing in such a Tariff as t would be in favour of British goods - as would give to British goods a larger entry into Australian markets than they now enjoy - I can only say that the Government are going to disappoint their protectionist friends, and going back upon their electioneering pledges. But I do not think that they will be prepared to do that. . There is, for instance, a certain British industry as to which Australia could render a substantial advantage - an. industry which does not at present exist to a large extent in this country. I refer to the iron industry, one of the principal industries in England. Perhaps it is more important to Great Britain than any one other industry. But whilst we have Sir William Lyne in England declaring that it is right to make an effort in favour of British industries, we also have the same Minister assuring Mr. Sandford in Sydney the’ other day that the Government would cer.tainly do something to render substantial benefit to the iron industry in Australia through the Tariff.
– I hope that the Government will do so.
– When an honorable senator like Senator Givens says “I intend to vote for putting on a duty the effect of which will be to establish industries in this country by keeping out imported goods,” we understand what he means. But we have Sir William Lyne pledging himself to do everything he can in favour of British goods.
– Has the honorable senator ever heard me say that I was willing to do anything to enable British goodsto come in to compete with our manufac’tures ?
– Senator Givens is absolutely ‘frank, but I am complainingthat the Government has not treated’ the public with the same frankness. They tell the English people that they are going to do everything they can to increase English trade in Australia, whereas here they pursue an opposite policy. The Government should say frankly that the preferencewhich they mean is only a preference to’ a certain class of goods which are hot manufactured here, and should tell the people of Great Britain “ We do not mean to allow anything to come into Australia which we can manufacture for ourselves.” I can only conclude by saying that if I have expressed myself strongly, as I have done this afternoon, upon one or two matters, it is because I regard them as of urgent public importance, and because, holding , the place I do, I would hardly have been discharging my duty to my constituents by keeping silent. There are many other matters in the Governor-General’s Speech, some of which we may hope to reach, and some of which we may hope we shall not reach. Whilst I intend to submit any Government proposals to that scrutiny to which they are entitled, I give the Government my assurance, even on the important matter of the Tariff, that I have no intention of doing more than exercise a reasonable right of debate during the coming session.
– I have no idea of attempting to deprive Senator Millen of the pleasure it seemed to give him to make a few cheap reproaches against the Government as to their direct support. My honorable friend must know that the Government are in office in response to the verdict of the country, to whom their policy was submitted.
– By the grace of another party.
– We are here by the grace of no party. We are here by reason of the verdict of the country, supporting the policy submitted to it by the Government, and we are here in pursuance of all principles of responsible and constitutional government. Whatever the constituent elements are of the support that we get, the matter is of no moment from a constitutional stand-point. There is a recognised and legitimate means of Showing a want of confidence in the Government, which we invite at any time that we do not command the respect and confidence of Parliament and of the community. In these circumstances, Senator Millen is. somewhat ungenerous, and his references to what he- calls the direct support that the Government command are really beside the question. We are here. There is a means of removing us. That means has not been resorted to. The fact remains that threefourths of the present Parliament were returned for the purpose of rendering the Government support in the policy they placed before the electors. That is a position we cannot get away from. It is a position that my honorable friend has to recognise. His remarks were largely taken up with a denunciation of the Government in regard to the mail contract. It is very difficult to please my honorable friend. He is not satisfied now that the contract is cancelled, but he thought it necessary to reproach the Government also for their action, which resulted in the ultimate determination of the contract.
– No, for not cancelling it before.
– The history of this question must be well within the honorable senator’s recollection and that of other honorable senators. Some year or a yearandahalf ago, tenders were invited from the public to supply a mail service between Brindisi and Adelaide. I believe some four tenders were received. The tender of Messrs. Laing and Sons was considered the best, and, on the face of it, it was undoubtedly a remarkably good tender. The proposals which were made by those tenderers were duly embodied in an agreement, arid that agreement was submitted to Parliament. Everything known to the Government in connexion with those proposals was then mentioned. The agreement itself met with a most careful analytical and critical examination, not only by the other place, but also by this Chamber, and Parliament itself accepted the responsibility of entering into it. It is suggested that we were not sufficiently careful in that agreement in safeguarding ourselves as regards deposits and other things, but the agreement itself was accepted by Parliament, and the responsibility therefore rested upon Parliament on the recommendation of the Government. We, as a Government, felt that we owed a great duty to Parliament itself in the matter. It was stated that here were certain proposals which had for their object the establishment of a magnificent new line of steamers to this country. It was proposed that some eight steamers should be constructed at a cost of something like ,£380,000 each. Those steamers were to provide magnificent cargo and refrigerating space, and to provide the best of passenger accommodation. They were liners which were to be up-to-date, and of a very large type. Parliament having decided to accept this contract, the responsibility was cast upon the Government of .endeavouring by every possible means in their power to carry it .out. While they exhibited great patience, while they sought to give every reasonable encouragement, they did so in pursuance of that duty which they owed to Parliament. If, by any precipitate action on their part, it had been terminated when there was a likelihood of its being carried out, the Government would certainly, in those circumstances, have been deserving of serious censure at the hands of Parliament. Nothing that has been done by this Government justifies any charge of neglect, as I hope to show. Nothing that has been done can be charged against them as even unreasonable. Patience, it is true, was shown, and in all the circumstances I think that patience was justified. I think Senator Millen was somewhat ungenerous in suggesting that it was the duty of the Government from time to time to contradict some of the statements that were made by the contractors, or their agents. I cannot, for the life of me, conceive how the honorable senator can attach any responsibility to the Government. If we were to occupy our time in contradicting statements made from time to time by the particular gentlemen representing the contractors, our hands would be very full. Any statements made by the Government themselves we are prepared to be responsible for, and nothing more can be expected from us. The honorable senator says that when it was cabled out here that Messrs. Beardmore and Company were withdrawing from the contract, we were guilty of culpable negligence in not setting to work, and ascertaining who were going to take their place. If we had made such an impertinent attempt, we should simply have been told to mind our own business. We had nothing to do with who were the constituents of the company it was contemplated to form, or who were associated with it. The contract spoke for itself.
– If the Government had nothing to do with the constituents of the syndicate, why did Mr. Deakin, in the other Chamber, and the Minister himself in this Chamber, mention the names of Vickers and Armstrong, and others, as an inducement to us to accept the contract ?
– Because they were repeatedly asked for.
– We are dealing with the contract itself, and what may have taken place in regard to Vickers and Armstrong, or anybody else, is completely be side the question. The contract was entered into between the Postmaster-General on the one part, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and Sir James Laing and Sons, Limited, of Sunderland, England, shipbuilders, the contractors, of the other part. There is the contract. Those people alone were bound by that contract. We had nothing whatever to do with the question of what syndicate was associated with those people, and, therefore, it is hardly reasonable for Senator Millen to say that a duty was cast upon the Government of demanding to know who was going to take Beardmore and Company’s place.
– Parliament was induced to accept the contract on certain representations by the Prime Minister.
– The honorable senator is hardly correct in that connexion. Parliament had placed before it this agreement, which spoke for itself. It did not pretend to bind anybody outside it. No doubt statements were made from time to time-
– By the Government.
– I shall not say by whom - as to others being associated with the contractors, but that is not a matter for which the Government were responsible. Whatever information we, as a Government, had, we were undoubtedly obliged to communicate to Parliament. But the point I am making is that the agreement itself was placed before Parliament, and according to the terms of that agreement Laing and Sons were the only people to whom we had to look in connexion with it. I would just shortly point out one or two of the lead-, ing factors in relation to this contract. .1 do not propose to attempt to deal with it in detail, because it is really like flogging a dead horse. I am simply desirous of showing that every reasonable care and caution was exercised by the Government consistent with the interests of the Commonwealth. Whilst we may have shown patience, and, indeed, an anxiety to encourage the syndicate, I claim that we are certainly not to be reproached. The agreement was entered into, after the tenders to which I have already referred were called for, on 7th July. It was subsequently discussed and ratified by Parliament some time in August, and ultimately, on 22nd January last, a supplementary agreement was entered into with the con- tractors embodying the alterations made by Parliament, and which were the subject of considerable negotiations. A deposit of £2,500 was lodged with the tender, and also a bank guarantee of £25,000 in connexion with the contract was given by Messrs. Barclay and Company Limited.
– How much are the Government going to hold as forfeit?
– Everything we have got.
– Will the Minister put it in figures?
– We have in cash £2,500. We have a banker’s guarantee, which we have a right to recover on, of £25,000.
– Is it the intention of the Government to recover £27,500?
– Are the Government satisfied that they can do it?
– I think so. It was all placed before Parliament when the agreement was entered into.
– That banker’s guarantee was very nebulous. No one in Parliament knew anything about it.
– The banker’s guarantee for £25,000 was found to be very satisfactory, so far as my information goes. I should, perhaps, put it in this way, that I have no reason whatever to doubt the perfect validity and soundness of that guarantee.
– The Government will never get it.
– I hope we shall. I do not know whether my honorable friend has information which justifies him in making that reflection. If so, he has more information on the subject than I have.
– Was that bank guarantee made in London or Australia?
– In London. The Commonwealth representative was authorized, on 17th October, 1906, to act on behalf of the Government in receiving and approving of the plans, and those plans and specifications of the ships were finally approved of by Captain Collins on nth February, 1907. I want honorable senators to note the fact that various negotiations were going on, and that plans and specifications were prepared and sent for our approval, but that they were only agreed to and finally settled on nth February, 1907. Some time elapsed ; the Government urged the contractors to proceed with their work, and various negotiations took place. Only a period of three months was occupied in this, for on the 14th May, 1907, Captain Collins was authorized and instructed by the Postmaster-General to give notice to the contractors in the following terms : -
I hereby give you notice, under clause 39 of general conditions of the agreement, dated 7th July, 1906, for the conveyance of mails to and from Adelaide and Brindisi that, in my opinion, you, the contractors, have failed to make sufficient progress with the construction of the mail ships to enable you to commence and continue the contract in accordance with your tender, and I hereby call upon you, as such contractor, and your sureties, to enter into a new bond to increase the amount of the security for the due commencement and faithful performance of the said contract in accordance with the tender and conditions by you as such contractor from Twenty-five thousand pounds (^25,000) to Fifty thousand pounds (^50,000). Further take notice that failing compliance with such request within one week from the service hereof the contract may be cancelled, and the penalty provided in the said conditions for failing to commence the services agreed upon may be enforced.
– Was that a demand for a fresh guarantee?
– Have the Ministry ever perused the original guaranteed bond for £25,000 or a copy of it?
– I have not perused the bond, and I cannot say whether any Minister has done so. The matter has been in the hands of the Department, and I have no doubt that the legal position is perfectly, satisfactory.
– The honorable senator cannot say that the Ministry have ever seen a line of that bond or a copy of it?
– I am not in a position to make a statement as to that.
– Why not get the £25,000 at once; why not estreat -the bond?
– The contract was only cancelled a few days ago, and if we are allowed time we shall do our duty in that regard. I have brought my honorable friend up to the 14th May.
– When the Government served a demand for an increased bond.
– Yes. It appears that after the 14th May, and after the service of that demand, certain negotiations took place on the part of the contractors, with the Prime Minister and Sir William Lyne in London, with a result that the Prime Minister communicated with Sir John Forrest._ It was stated that at least one of the States was prepared to enter into a guarantee. I desire to impress upon honorable senators that, from beginning to end, the position of the Prime Minister, as well as the Government, was that, unless any guarantee was of a completely Federal character, it would have no sympathy from them. When there was a reasonable possibility of a Federal arrangement which had for its object the starting of the contract being made, it was our clear duty, while not sacrificing by one iota our own rights and position under the bond, to act as an intermediary.
– Did the Government consider the appearance of one State as a guarantor a Federal matter?
– The Government knew a month ago that no other State was going to join in the guarantee.
– That statement is hardly correct. I am stating the recorded facts. After the service of the demand, and from the period when the Prime Minister was first communicated with, the position of the Government was that the contract, if it was to be supported at all, was to have support of a Federal character from the States, and the rights of any particular State would not be considered by them. In this connexion, the Acting Prime Minister was invited to place certain proposals before the Premiers, who were about to meet in Brisbane, but the position he carefully took up - I accompanied him - was that he was simply an intermediary for the purpose of placing before them the proposals, and that he was not to be regarded, directly or indirectly, as an agent for the contractor. We cared nothing about the contractor. But in the interests of the Commonwealth we were most anxious to secure the carrying out of the contract. Certain proposals, vague as they evidently were, were submitted to the Conference, and rejected. New proposals were then submitted and considered, and afterwards the Premiers passed the following resolutions on the 3rd June : -
– From the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, amongst other bodies.
– Yet the “fact remains that the State was prepared to take, the responsibility I have indicated. Further negotiations took place, and ultimately Victoria desired either the consent of the Commonwealth Government to the proposed guarantee, or an intimation that they approved of it. The position we took up was that which we held at the beginning - that we would not do anything of an un-Federal character, either directly or indirectly. We insisted that what had to be done must be done by the States amongst themselves, and that our contract must remain intact. Under these circumstances, Senator Millen will see the care and caution with which we proceeded. He will also see that our patience and encouragement have been misconstrued by him into neglect. In the interests of Australia we endeavoured, as far as possible, to secure the completion of the contract. We were moved by another consideration. We knew, as a matter of fact, that in the Commonwealth there, were capitalists who were prepared to bring into the contract £1,250,000.
– With a guarantee.
– In those circumstances we concluded that a greater obligation was imposed upon us to make every reasonable effort, consistent with our own rights, to have the contract carried out. From time to time various proposals were submitted to the Government and made public. Ultimately we determined that no longer could we delay our proceedings. On the 13th June, 1907, we served upon the contractors a conditional notice, which placed us in a position to terminate the contract after the 26th June, 1907.
– What response did the Government get to the first notice of the 14th May?
– When it was served, the contractors started negotiations with the representative of Victoria.
– That was no justification for ignoring the Commonwealth’s demand.
– Did they, or did they not respond to the first demand?
– They did not respond, as I have explained to the honorable senator, but they set to work to secure the guarantee of the States, and having practically secured the guarantee of one State, they encouraged us to think” that the guarantee of six States would be secured. At the Conference in Brisbane the States entertained the proposals which were made, but the Premiers asked for additional information, and parted subject to its being supplied.
– It cannot be said that the States entertained the proposals.
– The proposals were placed before the Premiers and considered, and a request was made that additional, information should be supplied. I apprehend that if the information which they sought had been supplied, they would have been prepared to enter into a guarantee as suggested.
– No. Individually they did not, I think, know the particulars.
– No; the information they were supplied with was not satisfactory, but if it had been satisfactory there would have been every prospect of an arrangement of a Federal character being arrived at by the States.
– The speeches of the Premiers do not justify that view at all.
– The honorable senator will see that I am putting the bare facts before the Senate. They are capable of the construction I put upon them, and I contend that it is the correct construction to put upon them. I venture to say that the position taken up by the Government from time to time in this connexion has been more than justified. My honorable friend made reference to one or two other matters, the most important of which was that of the Naval Subsidy. He complained bitterly that the Government had made no statement of policy on the subject in the Governor-General’s Speech. That is quite true, for the obvious reason that the time since the return of the Prime Minister has been so limited that the Government have not been in a position to formulate their policy. But I wish to give Senator Millen this assurance, that what transpired at the Imperial Conference places the Commonwealth in a position of absolute freedom to do that which is conceived by the Australian public to be best in their own interests.
– Are the Government prepared to discontinue the subsidy?
– I stated that the Prime Minister was not under any absolute pledge to cancel the Naval Agreement, but with the complete concurrence of the Imperial authorities we are in this position, that if we consider it advisable in our own interests, and with due regard to Australian defence, that the agreement should be cancelled, we are at liberty to cancel it. I may give honorable senators this further assurance, that whether the Naval Agreement is cancelled or not our anxiety will be to work in complete co-operation with the Imperial Government in regard to military and naval defence; that whatever we do shall be done with the object of co-operation, and of dovetailing with the greater scheme of Imperial defence. I can almost go so far as to give the assurance that whatever is done will in all probability meet with the full and hearty concurrence of the Imperial authorities.
– If the honorable senator can make that statement the Government must have a policy, and yet he says that they have not had time to develop a policy.
– I am sure Senator Millen is not so unreasonable as to suggest that we have had time to devolop the details of a policy on such an important subject. I have stated the broad principles which will be paramount in the minds of Ministers in connexion with the matter. The earliest opportunity will be taken by Ministers to formulate their policy in detail, and of course Parliament will be entitled to know what it is as early as possible after it has been formulated.
– And of course it will reconcile the statements of Sir John Forrest with those of Mr. Deakin ?
– That possibly may not be found to be a very difficult matter.
– Not difficult at all, I should think.
– In connexion with the mail contract, I have a note that the honorable senator urged upon the Government that future tenders called for should make provision for an extended mail service to Brisbane. In that connexion I wish to say that the advertisement calling for fresh tenders which will be published almost immediately will invite tenderers to state their terms for services to the capital or to some other port in each of the States.
– Including Tasmania?
– I have said each of the States, and I consider Tasmania one of the most important of them. Senator Millen referred also to the whole question of the financial relations of the Commonwealth with the States. He will know that the efforts of the Government have been concentrated upon the formulation of a scheme on some satisfactory basis. He will know that the Premiers saw their way to accept portions of the scheme submitted by the Government, but a portion dealing with the taking over of the whole of the States’ debts by the Commonwealth, which they had previously accepted, they have not, at this time, seen their way to agree to and believe that it is advisable that its consideration should be postponed. I can give honorable senators the assurance that the Government will endeavour in any way they can to bring about a satisfactory arrangement with the States’ Governments in this matter. On the subject of preferential trade, I have only two or three words to say. The subject was presented with great power and ability by the Prime Minister at the Imperial Conference in pursuance of the verdict of the Commonwealth that it is desirable that preferential trade should exist within the Empire. It is premature to attempt to formulate the details of such a scheme. It is sufficient for us to announce the desirability of the adoption of the fundamental principle of the establishment of a system of preferential trading within the Empire. It is the announcement of this principle for which we seek. It is true that the Prime Minister went to the Imperial Conference with a thorough knowledge that the Imperial Government was pledged against anything of the kind, but he also knew that he would have the advantage of plac ing the matter before the British community in such a way as to inform a large section of the- British people of its desirability. There is no desire whatever on the part of the Government that the masses in Great Britain should be made to suffer for our benefit. All that is desired is that negotiations on the subject should be commenced. The details can ultimately be formulated, and business arrangements come to which will be mutually advantage*ous. Negotiations of the kind if entered into would result in something satisfactory. The beneficial result at first would perhaps be small, but it would lead to the further binding together of the commercial elements of the Empire. I think I have referred now to most of the matters mentioned by Senator Millen.
– What about the Federal Capital?
– The honorable senator will have noticed in the Governor-General’s Speech that it is proposed to introduce a Bill to deal with that question. Before resuming my seat, I wish to indulge myself in a reference in a very few words to the Imperial Conference, which has been commented on by most of the speakers who have addressed themselves to the motion before the Senate. I think that it was a Conference which will mark an era in the history of the Empire. No other Conference has ever impressed itself so completely upon thf> public thought and imagination of the people of Great Britain. It was, so to speak, a family gathering, a meeting of States, which were at times referred to as nations, comprising the Empire, upon an equal footing, as regards the weight of their representatives, irrespective of the territory they represented. It was suggested at one time in Victoria, and certainly in other parts of the oversea Dominions of the Empire, that it was possible that the ultimate result of such Conferences would be the severance of States from the Empire. No such idea obtains at the present time. The result of the last Conference has been that the various parts of the British Empire, and particularly those oversea, are bound more closely together in a more complete partnership. The autonomous States were given, so to speak, equal representation, and it was never sought to interfere with their freedom in any shape or form. A new Empire institution has been permanently, established, a Conference which, by arrangement, is to meet periodic^ ally for the purpose of discussing the relationships existing between the Mother Country and her oversea Dominions. The financial, commercial, naval, and military relationships existing between the various parts of the Empire have been discussed, and mutual arrangements made for advancing the best interests of the Empire have been considered. Information has been gathered, better understandings have been arrived at, and I submit that when so much has been established by this Cdnference, of which I am proud to say our Prime Minister constituted, perhaps, the leading figure, we can understand that an important step has been taken which must ultimately result in the realization of closer relationships between the component parts of the Empire. We’ are proud to think that our Prime Minister has been enabled to rehabilitate Australia. She had been under a cloud.
– What cloud?
– A cloud of misrepresentation under which she was discredited. She has how been placed on a more exalted plane, and has been rehabilitated in her true position, and I venture to think that the services of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth in this connexion reflect c;edit not only upon the Government and Parliament of the Commonwealth, but also upon its people.
– - I have listened with great pleasure to the last two speeches delivered. I shall not be long in what I have to say. I agree with Senator Best that our worthy friend the Prime Minister, Mr. Deakin, has ‘distinguished himself at Home by his patriotism, his eloquence, and his chivalrous conduct. In private life there is no man in Australia who is better liked than is Alfred Deakin. But to admire the honorable and learned gentleman as a private gentleman is one thing, and to admire his political actions in certain respects is quite another. I am one of those benighted individuals who have not yet forsaken their life-long, free-trade principles, although we are understood at present to have sunk the fiscal issue. I have been somewhat interested to observe that the views of our so-called Liberal friends out here were much more popular in the old country with the Conservative than with the Liberal Party. When we go away from Australia we find that Liberalism means free-trade, whilst in Australia we find that members of the Protectionist Party consider themselves the Liberal Party. With all deference I must agree to differ from them on that point. Mr. Deakin acted splendidly from a social point of view as a representative of Australia. We all recognise thatfact. There is no doubt that certain misrepresentations concerning this country have also been removed in consequence of his presence at Home. But at the same time it must be acknowledged that some political parties in England, including the Labour Party there, do not seem to appreciate the policy of preferentialism.
– The honorable senator does not believe in the Labour Party.
– I believe in all the good points advocated by the Labour Party, though not in what I consider its bad points. I propose to make a few remarks upon the paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech with regard to the Navigation Conference. I am disposed to think that good work has been done, and when the Bill which is to be brought forward is discussed, I believe that honorable senators on this side of the Chamber will give to it an honest consideration. Anything that seems to us to be for the good of Australia will have our support. I do not of course believe in what is called the White Ocean policy. I think that a person should be at liberty to be employed on ships whatever his colour, if he is able to discharge the duties intrusted to him. With regard to the Tariff, . I am under the impression that when the ReidMcLean Ministry appointed a Royal Commission to deal with the matter the intention was only to remove anomalies ; but now it seems to be thought that we ought to have a new Tariff altogether. Surely to do so would be rather anomalous. A Commission was appointed to remove anomalies, and now apparently it is sought to add to them !
– The present Tariff is in itself an anomaly.
– With regard to bounties, even a free-trader may approve of them under certain circumstances. I approve of what are called vanishing bounties. If it is necessary to grant bounties, let us know when they are going to cease. But if protective duties are imposed, vested interests are at once created, and it is very difficult to put an end to them. John Stuart Mill, who is regarded as one of the greatest of free-trade authorities, said that he considered it justifiable under certain circumstances in young countries to grant bounties to enable industries to be established. It is evident that for this purpose the granting of bounties is occasionally effective, whilst they have the advantage over duties of being terminable within a definite period. In Queensland, many years ago, it was suggested that bounties should be given for the export of cotton. Parliament agreed, and bounties were granted on the vanishing principle. I believe that the Queensland Government gave a bounty of £5 on the export of every 400-lbs. bale of cotton, the amount being gradually reduced year by year from £5 to £4, £3, £2, and £1.’ Then the bounty stopped. It was discovered, however, that they did not succeed in establishing the industry, and it was urged that that end could not be secured without a continuous bounty. Therefore, the Queensland Parliament determined the matter. Had they, however, put on a protective duty against imported cotton goods. I suppose it would have remained to this day.
– Why should we not have a cotton industry of our own and export cotton to Great Britain?
– With regard to financial relations, my honorable friend Senator Millen has expressed the view of not a few of us that it is very desirable that we should have a permanent settlement as between the Commonwealth and the States. I think that if that could be arranged we might even induce the cordial support of the States to the measure for the consolidation of the debts.
– After the way the Government has dealt with the mail contract, would the honorable senator be prepared to trust it with the debts?
– Well, if the present Government were to remain in power for all time, I should not be prepared to trust it, but whenwe have a Ministry in office which honorable senators on this side can trust, I believe the public will have confidence that it will do what is right. With respect to the Northern Territory, I am under the impression that South Australia is merely in the position of a trustee, and that as the Imperial authority made South Australia responsible for the Territory as a trustee merely the same Imperial authority can remove that State from its trusteeship. My impression is that thus a way can be found out of the present difficulty. I think, how ever, that if the Commonwealth is to be appointed trustee for the Territory, it should take over the whole debt attaching to it. But if it is proposed that the Territory shall be taken over by the Federal Parliament on such terms as have been published in a kind of draft agreement between South Australia and the Federal authority, I do not believe that the Senate will consent to it for a moment. We have far more information with regard to that part of Australia, however, than we had some time ago, and. I believe that if a railway is to be built across the Continent, the probability is that it will have to come from Hergott Springs to some point northward through Queensland, and then to Port Darwin from Camooweal in Queensland. Such a railwaywould run through beautiful pastoral country in place of traversing the great desert between Oodnadatta and Pine Creek. Senator Millen has made some remarks with which I thoroughly agree with regard to the proposed abrogation of the Naval Subsidy. I trust that we shall hesitate before we think of departing from the position of having the British Navy as our first line of defence. It becomes us, I think, to be grateful to the mother country for what she has done in the past, and will, I have no doubt, be willing to do in the future.
– But we want a second line as well.
– I am in favour of having a second line of defence, but our duty is specially to look to the defence of our harbors, and not to build great battleships which will, in all probability, become obsolete in seven or eight years.
– Why should we not spend the £200,000 on the development of an Australian Navy?
– I am not one of those who say that our present defences are sufficient. I do not think that they are. I do not think that what we pay for naval defence at present is sufficient. I believe that we can well afford to pay to the British Government £200,000 for what they do for us, and spend a further like sum on torpedo boats and harbor defences. The time has come, in my opinion, when a Commonwealth High Commissioner should be appointed. I believe that the recent Conference in London has gone to show that in all probability if we were represented by a High Commissioner we should ultimately save expenditure. There are one or two men who would worthily represent Australia in London. On a former occasion I mentioned the names of halfadozen, most of whom I think are still available. There are two members of the present Government who, in my opinion, would be acceptable to Parliament.
– Name them.
– I am not going to name them. As for the mail contract, Senator Millen has said so much with which I agree that I shall not detain the Senate on that subject; but upon one point which he mentioned I will say something. If the Government calls for fresh tenders, it should take care not to allow the persons who have failed to carry out the contract on this occasion to come in again. Otherwise we may have the same trouble over again. It will be no penalty for the present syndicate to have forfeited £2 7 , 500 if they can tender again, and be successful, say at £50,000 in excess of their previous tender. In such an event it will have paid them to forfeit the first contract. I hope that the Government will not allow themselves to be humbugged, but will observe towards the defaulting contractors the principle “ Once bit, twice shy.” With regard to the payment of income tax to States on the salaries of Federal servants, I think that if the High Court is the final authority for the interpretation of the Constitution, it is not possible for this Parliament to go behind the Constitution and to pass an Act providing that those whom the High Court has declared not to be liable to pay State income tax shall be made liable by an Act of this Parliament.
– Is it not competent for this Parliament to provide that Federal officers shall pay income tax?
– Not to a State.
– To a foreign power if this Parliament likes.
– I do not think so. It seems to me that some people want to get round the High Court’s decision in this matter, and I doubt whether that can be legally done. There are two or three paragraphs in the Governor-General’s Speech upon which I think I can compliment the Government.
– I could find only one-
– Although their action with regard to returning the Pacific Islanders to their homes has been criticised, they deserve credit for the way the work is being done. It is, in my opinion, being done in a merciful, kindly, and charitable manner. I feared that there would be a great many irregularities, and some serious exposures, but such apparently has not been the case. I am glad to say that the Government does not take credit for the prosperity of Australia. Some State Ministries, when there has been a prosperous year, have seemed to assume that it was entirely due to them. The present Government appears sensibly to recognise that it is not due to their policy that prosperity is general in the country. I shall be very glad when the Government informs us what they propose to do with regard to the administration of New Guinea. The present Administrator, Captain Barton, is on leave of absence. I should like to know whom it is proposed to appoint in his place. I think we are all agreed that there is room for improvement in the working of the Electoral Act. and when the Bill on that subject comes before us, we shall, I am sure, give it our careful consideration.
– Probably some honorable senators from Western Australia can answer the question as to Papua.
– I see that a Bill is to be introduced providing for a system of preferential voting for the Senate and the House of Representatives. But I am under the impression that the Senate on a former occasion expressed its view on that matter pretty clearly. There is something to be said, theoretically, in favour of preferential voting, but it would be a very difficult thing indeed to apply it to the whole of Australia. In Queensland some years ago they instituted what was called the contingent vote. I rather like the idea of a contingent vote for single constituencies, but it would certainly be a very difficult matter to carry out the same idea in elections for the Senate.
– It was very seldom used in Queensland.
– I believe that such is the case. I am also glad to know that the Government intend to bring in a Bill dealing with the Seat of Government. I do not know whether they propose to suggest an alteration from the choice made by a former Parliament. But I am under the impression that the leader of the Labour Party in another place, Mr. Watson, is in favour of a compromise, if he can persuade a sufficient number of members of Parliament to agree with him, and that he intends to propose a site at Canberra, near Queanbeyan. The climate is said to be much better than that at Dalgety, the site is elevated 2,000 feet above sea level, and access to a port is as good as that of Twofold Bay is to Dalgety.
– We are very comfortable where we are.
– Then let us tell New South Wales straight out that we do not intend to shift from where we are.
– I have had some correspondence on the subject during the recess with Sir John Forrest, who seems to think it impossible to get the High Court to give an opinion unless an action is brought before them. I suggested that Parliament might ask the High Court to express an opinion as to whether it rested with the State or the Commonwealth to fix the site of the Territory.
– Let us go and peg it out.
– Let the honorable senator do so, and then there will be an action. Why does he not do it ? Honorable senators have said that they are going to have a certain site, but they have not had the courage to follow it up by putting a single peg in. In paragraph 24 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, allusion is made to a survey of the trans-Australian railway. I presume that is our old friend the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. On that matter I shall do as I did before - I shall support the survey for the sake of the information. During the late election in New South Wales, I never hesitated to let the people know whenever I was asked that I was in favour of this course, and nobody ever seemed to object. They did not seem to grudge the expense, but they did feel that the Western Australian people might have :an equal sense of what is due to New South Wales in another matter.
– Some of the people in South Australia have.
– It does not look like it with regard to the Federal Capital.
– I advocated that matter, and that is one reason why I am here.
– Do I understand that the honorable senator is in favour of the question of the -Capital Site being settled ?
– I was referring to the railway. The people in South Australia did not believe in Senator Symon absenting himself when the vote was taken.
– We talk a great deal about immigration, but do not honorable senators think we ought to amend the Immigration Restriction Act?
– In what direction?
– As perhaps we do not agree as to the direction, I am quite satisfied that the honorable senator agrees that the Act ought to be amended. I heard a very curious thing lately with regard to the Northern Territory. It has been suggested more than once that there is a large part of the Northern Territory to which foreign coloured persons, such as Chinese or Japanese could go, and that it would never be known that they were there. The reply to that was rather significant - “ Let them try it, and the aborigines will demolish them.” In other words, our White Australia is going to be protected by our black friends the wild aborigines. Does it not seem an anomaly to talk about a White Australia when a good part of it is going to be defended for us by the blacks? Surely that shows that the blacks are sometimes useful. I hope the time is not far distant when we shall have free-trade between New Guinea and Australia. New Guinea is practically a Territory of the Commonwealth, and yet it is treated as a foreign country. The time is coming when we should have one Tariff all round, so that New Guinea might share in its benefits like any other State. I was in hopes that we should have a Quarantine Bill for .all Australia this session.
– There will be one this session.-
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs let us know when he speaks what the Government propose to do to give British subjects in the New Hebrides the same facilities as French subjects have, to send their goods to New Caledonia on favorable terms? Our people there are treated as aliens and foreigners, and the consequence is that some British subjects are now becoming French subjects for the sake of the advantages they gain.
– That shows their loyalty.
– I am afraid that some other British subjects even in Australia are not very loyal. I take up on this question the ground I formerly took up. I reaffirm the necessity of altering our Tariff arrangements to place British subjects in the New Hebrides who have produce to ship to New Caledonia on an equally good footing with French subjects in the New Hebrides. A point which is not alluded to in the Governor-General’s Speech is the vacancy in the representation of South Australia in the Senate. There is going to be a good deal of trouble over the matter if the election takes place by the State Parliament. I have seen legal opinions in Sydney on the subject, to the effect that the whole body of people have a right to send three men to this Chamberfor six years. They only sent two men in as it now turns out, and the same people ought, therefore, to send in a third man. There ought to be an election in South Australia for a third senator, who ought to hold his seat for six years. As if confirmatory of this opinion, a telegram has been published in the press stating that the South Australian Government are being asked whether they will guarantee the expenses of whoever the State Parliament elect in the event of an appeal. There is, apparently, going to be an appeal. I am very sorry that more care has not been taken with regard to this important matter.
– What does the honorable senator mean by “more care”? We are bound bv the Constitution Act.
– I understand that the Attorney-General gave it as his opinion that this was a casual vacancy. Is it a casual vacancy? There are only two members elected out of three.
– I suppose the AttorneyGeneral is entitled to give his opinion honestly ?
– He might have got it corroborated by men of equal eminence, in justice to the great body of electors of South Australia who are being disfranchised. The position is that a Deputy Returning Officer makes a mistake and disfranchises the whole State. If this fourth senator is elected by the State Parliament, there will be four retiring senators three years hence. The three who would have retired in the ordinary course may perhaps be under a certain disadvantage through the fourth senator retiring, as perhaps one of them may even be displaced in consequence.
– That has been the case in Victoria.
– That was a genuine casual vacancy.
– I mean the retirement of four senators at one time.
– I intend to give an independent support to all good measures from whatever side they come. Now that we have the reports of the Tariff Commission we ought to treat them with respect and endeavour to get them off our books as quickly as possible. We should not take until Christmas, as some people expect, to consider them. It is, I fear, an endless matter. I am an out-and-out free-trader, but I recognise that the time has come when we must have revenue from the Customs. I do not want to see prohibition, and we must endeavour now to make a fair compromise between extreme free-traders and extreme protectionists.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I do not intend to occupy the attention of the Senate for any undue time, but I do not think it will be said by any person either here or outside that the discussion on the Address-in-Reply has not been informative, both to the Senate and to the public generally. We have had from this side an excellent critical speech which succeeded in eliciting from the Minister most important information, and so far the debate has been extremely profitable and necessary. There are some matters which arise out of the administrative acts of the Government during a long and unnecessary recess, to which it is absolutely necessary to refer. One of the most important of their administrative acts is that of the relation of the Prime Minister to the Imperial Conference, and the two great questions which he raised there, namely, preferential trade, and a closer union of the Empire. As the Tariff question is bound to occupy the attention of both Houses for a long time this session, it is absolutely necessary that the ground of those important questions - the Tariff in relation to Australia, and the Tariff in relation to preferential trade - should be thoroughly considered in the light of Mr. Deakin’s recent utterances at the Conference on the question of preferential trade. In order that it may be thoroughly understood, it is necessary for me to recapitulate some history. I wish to carry the minds of honorable senators back to the formation of the ReidMcLean Ministry on the 18th August, 1904. To that Ministry, if my memory serves me correctly, Mr. Deakin was the responsible sponsor. It was owing to the fact that he became its sponsor that the Ministry came into existence. In about ten months it went out of power because Mr. Deakin had cast his curse on the political infant, so to speak, which he had called into existence, and he gave as his reason for abandoning the Ministry the fact that the struggling industries of Australia were being strangled. There was a sort of secret understanding that unless he took that peculiar course of action, something disastrous to the industries of Australia would happen. He called upon his protectionist followers in both Chambers and the outside public to come to his assistance, and the result of that clamour, or fear, or if you like, argument, was that the Ministry fell, notwithstanding the fact that it included two of the most trustworthy protectionists in Victoria, and one of the ablest of Federal statesmen. Its downfall was a misfortune to the whole of Australia, because it resulted in the retirement of one of the ablest statesmen and the best Treasurer whom Australia has had, or is likely to have. It was necessary for Mr. Deakin not merely to prove his distrust to the satisfaction of the other House, but to do something like Faust did when he called to his aid Mephistopheles, in a moment of disgust or fear at his past or future. Mephistopheles was willing to give him that aid, and since then the combination Ministry has existed.
– It became a question of “ divil take the hindmost.”
– The last Ministry was a combination, but there is no combination in this Ministry.
– If it is not a combination and a coalition, then I have not seen anything which so closely resembles a combination and a coalition. When the conduct is such as to give ordinary observers every proof that there are two parties acting together, my honorable friends must naturally expect the proper term to be applied. The Ministry is a combination and a coalition which exists on a distinct understanding, under a distinct term, and with a distinct object.
– Does the honorable senator know the meaning of the word “ combination?”
– If I am labouring under a false impression, it is to be hoped that it will be corrected, and that that section which is practically the majority on the Government side will make it clear and distinct to both the Government and the public that there is absolutely no combination and no coalition, and that there is no relation between the two parties. In my last campaign in Queensland I took from the Prime Minister’s own lips my text. I said that I would do my utmost to bring to an end by every possible constitutional means the system of triangular and irresponsible Government which he had denounced. But while emphasizing the position strongly, I desire to say or do nothing which would prevent the building up - and the sooner the better - of what I may call a golden bridge. Because I feel that it is alone by a golden bridge that the Prime Minister and his colleagues can escape from the coils in which. I think they are bound hand and foot, and politically body and soul.
– Then the honorable senator is a parliamentary finger-post.
– If my finger gives an indication of the direction which the Ministry should travel, then I shall be proud of having pointed out their duty. Now, what is the position of the Commonwealth from the Tariff point of view ?
– Very bad.
– I am glad to hear that interjection, and I have a few figures which I think will be instructive. What was the position when the coalition took place of which the present Ministry are the offspring ? It was predicted by the free-trade section in the Senate that the Tariff as it stood would be sufficient to meet all State requirements. A clamour was raised in Melbourne that the Tariff would result in Victorian industries being strangled, because at that time I think that they were inclined to call Australia Victoria. They urged very strongly in both Chambers that the manufacturing industries of Australia were being imperilled, and that it was necessary to give more protection. What is the result to-day? Every State, except perhaps Western Australia - andI quite agree that there is no fear of that State prospering in the long run - has a huge surplus, and every requirement of thelocal Treasurer has been met. The Tariff has not failed the State Treasurers, and so far from the industries of Victoria, or, for that matter, of any State, having been strangled or restricted, never at any time have the manufactures of Victoria presented such a magnificent output, and had-‘ such a magnificent outlook. What are the circumstances ? To-day Victoria has a surplus of £800,000, New South Wales hasa surplus of £1,500,000, Queensland has a surplus of about £400,000, South Australia about £300,000,. and, on this figure I may be open to correction, but in Tasmania, I believe, there has been a surplus of £80,000.
– A total of over £2,500,000.
– A total surplus of about £3,000,000.
– The honorable senator should, to be fair, deduct the Western Australian deficit.
– If we take off £100,000 for that purpose, we shall still have left but a little less than £3,000,000. Mathematical accuracy in the matter is not necessary to enable us to form a sound conclusion. The general and substantial conclusion which may be arrived at from these figures is obvious. The Tariff was at that time being considered in the light of the work of the Commission appointed by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Reid - a mixed Commission appointed to decide very many important questions and to allay the fears of those who were continually preaching that the industries of Australia were about to be destroyed by the destroying hand of the Coalition Ministry, which was supposed to be under the thumb of a political Mephistopheles, in the person of Mr. George Reid. It was maligned and condemned, and brought about the right honorable gentleman’s downfall, but to-day the position which the Coalition Government took up has been amply justified, as the Tariff has been proved to be absolutely satisfactory to fulfil the requirements, not only of the manufacturers, but of the several States.
– It was not the Tariff j it was the seasons.
– Senator Guthrie will have an opportunity to reply, and I have no doubt that, in common with other honorable senators opposite, he will devote a great deal of attention to qualifying the effect of what I have said with regard to the Tariff. I think the position is a remarkably strong one, and is well worthy of the attention of the Senate. From what I have said, especially in the light of the enormous surpluses shown by the States Treasurers, it is but right and just that the people of Australia, who are naturally watching very closely what will be the result of our deliberations with regard to the Tariff, should thoroughly understand and appreciate these facts. Looking at the matter from another point of view, I remind honorable senators that a surplus of about £3,000,000 is extracted from a population of barely 4,000,000. In similar circumstances, proportionally, the Chancellor of the Exchequer in England would be bringing down a Budget making provision for a surplus of £30,000,000. If a British Chancellor of the Exchequer submitted to the House of Commons Budget proposals to raise unnecessary revenue to the tune of £30,000,000, he and the Ministry to which he belonged would be drummed out of office within twenty-four hours.
– Does the honorable senator know what the nature of the surplus would be if the States paid 1 ner cent, to a fund for the payment of States’ debts ?
– I shall leave that calculation to the honorable senator. The point to which I am leading up is that it is impossible to deny the fact that the people of Australia are being taxed very heavily indeed.
– Certainly unnecessarily ; the figures I have quoted go to show that.
– They are the most lightly taxed people on earth.
– A revenue surplus of £3,000,000 extracted from a population of 4,000,000 is evidence of the unexampled prosperity or industry of the people or it is a specimen of taxation quite unexampled in the history of any country. I put this plea very strongly before members of both Houses of this Parliament, and with all the power I can before the people of Australia, because if there is to be any attempt made in another place or in this Chamber to increase the existing burden of taxation- a burden which, from some points of view, seems almost as merciless and unnecessary as the burden imposed by the Roman Pro-Consul when extracting tribute from a hostile province - the duty of showing whether the people of Australia should bear increased taxation in any form, whether through the Tariff or through States services, lies clearly upon the Government which seeks to impose it. Ora the score that industries are being strangled the facts are entirely against the Government. Never at any stage in the history of the Commonwealth, and certainly in the history of Victoria, have the manufacturing and natural industries of Australia been on a sounder ant, apparently, on a more permanent footing than they are at the present time. I should, I think, be doing less than my duty if I did not take advantage of this particularly opportune occasion to say that, while the Government are bound to consider the Tariff, we must approach its consideration from the point of view I have put before the Senate. During the last short session of two days I drew attention to the face that Parliament was being chloroformed and denied an opportunity to express its mind upon some very important questions, at a time when both Houses were aware that the Prime Minister proposed to attend the Imperial Conference, at which he was to speak on behalf of Australia. The honorable and learned gentleman had in his mind then, and it was in the mind of every one of us, that in attending the Imperial Conference he was bound to bring up the question of preferential trade, which was exercising the mind of a very powerful political party in the House of Commons. I took the opportunity to point out last session that when the Prime Minister did not give the Commonwealth Parliament an opportunity to express its mind upon this important question, he had weakened his own hand, and had rendered ineffective his mission to the mother country. Time has justified the prediction I then made. It seems somewhat like political, if not poetic, justice that when this Parliament was closed against discussion the Prime Minister had the misfortune, and, perhaps from another point of view, the good fortune, to discover that upon the very question on which he professed to place so much importance the door of the British Parliament was closed against him by the Ministry which then held power in Great Britain. He experienced on the other side the treatment he had given to the two Houses of Parliament here. It is noted by constitutional writers, and by writers who still, examine very closely the birth, development, and modern tendencies of our Constitution, that our so-called democratic constitutions are gradually merging into a system which, through Ministers of the Crown, gives the Crown greater powers than were possessed by the Tudors or the Stuarts. Upon such matters as our relations with the Empire, and preferential trade as a factor in the development of the Empire, it is not the wishes or the views of the Prime Minister, or of any political party that should prevail, but the views and considered judgment of Parliament. Honorable senators are, I think, but doing their duty to their constituents .and to the Parliament to which they belong * in objecting when the opportunity is given them to any tendency on the part of Ministers, as Ministers, to deprive Parliament of its privileges or in any way to minimize or disregard them. ‘ It would have been infinitely better for himself, and for the Ministry, if, before he went to the Imperial Conference, the Prime Minister had given both Houses of this Parliament an opportunity to express their minds upon these important questions, in order that when he went to the Conference he might be able, in expressing Ms views, to say that he had consulted one of the most important Parliaments in the Empire, and that the demand, whatever it might be, which he made upon the mother country was such as the deliberate judgment of that Parliament, or the majority in it, entitled him to make.
– Parliament had the opportunity.
– No, what opportunity had we?
– The honorable senator agreed to close the session.
– Certainly. I was forced to do so. Perhaps that is not the proper term to use. I was but a young senator, speaking for the first time in a House of Parliament, and it might not have been courteous on my part to have protested too strongly. Had I been an older parliamentary hand, I might more reasonably have said then what I am saying now, but I am glad to find that the course of events has justified me in the position I should have taken up on that occasion if I had not then thought it presumptuous to do so. However, I indicated pretty plainly what I thought. My consent to the course adopted was a consent given in the circumstances I have mentioned, and if I did not press the point I raised, my reasons for not doing so were such as I think excuse my action.
– Neither a young nor an old member could keep Parliament going in the face of a Governor-General’s proclamation closing it.
– That is so. But the Governor-General in Council, in making the proclamation, acts upon the advice of his Ministers, and they cannot shirk their responsibility for what is done.
– I merely say that no responsibility can attach to the honorable senator or to any other member of the Senate in the matter.
– Possibly not. I do not believe that I shirked my responsibility or my duty to mv constituents in any way. I indicated the position as plainly and as decorously as I could in the circumstances. Might I say, in reply to interjections from the other side, that should such an occasion again arise, and should I be likely to receive a reasonable amount of support from honorable members of the Senate, I shall be prepared to do my utmost co prevent the repetition of such a course as was adopted last session. If there be one political principle which more than another is the guiding inspiration and very foundation of the Constitution, it is that members of Parliament should seek the confidence of the people, and endeavour to ascertain their wishes. When the public have clearly and unmistakably made known their views upon any question, it is the duty of members of Parliament to give effect to them. The same principle applies with regard to the relations between a Ministry and a Parliament. Just as the position and strength of a Parliament depends ultimately upon the confidence of the people, so the strength and influence of a Ministry depend upon the confidence of Parliament. The more a Government seeks to secure and deserve the confidence of Parliament, the greater will be its strength and usefulness. I deal with this matter at some length, because I hope that, in future, when any Prime Minister has to attend an important Conference in any part of the Empire, his mind will be disclosed to Parliament, and that what he intends to do, and, to some extent, how he intends to do it, shall be clearly and fairly put before Parliament. I take the liberty of quoting a sentence or two which 1 uttered in the speech to which I have referred. I said : -
I feel that on this important question of preference the Prime Minister is not going Home as the representative of the Commonwealth, but as a delegation f rom the State of Victoria. In any case, it ought to be the duty of the Ministry and of honorable senators on the other side to tell us what it is they have to offer to the mother country in a preferential policy, and to make clear how that policy is going to apply to the mother country and to Australia.
I indicated there, if I did not distinctly point out, that you cannot talk prohibition - you cannot talk about mounting up the
Tariff - in Ballarat and Melbourne, and at the same time talk preferential trade in London. The two ideas are absolutely inconsistent.
– Mr. Deakin has proved that it is possible, so far as talk is concerned.
– If Mr. Deakin can do it I am utterly unable to understand his position; though probably if he and Ministers persist in the task they may even succeed in making what appears to me to be a hopelessly contradictory position apparent to my humble intelligence. What happened when the Prime Minister attended the Conference? Mr. Deakin possesses many virtues - virtues which are sufficient to attach to him politicians of every shade of opinion. I yield to no man in this Senate nor to any person outside Parliament in my admiration of many of the personal and other characteristics of the Prime Minister. I am merely discussing him now, as I am entitled to discuss him, from a political point of view. What happened in England? Immediately after he went to London he found the door of Parliament closed against him. He found that he had to appeal - and probably some honorable senators opposite will admire him for the way he did it - to the people outside the House of Commons, in support of the policy which he advocated. Many newspapers and some important reviews and magazines have admired his brilliant addresses upon that question. Various forms of criticisms have been applied to his opponents, both here and in the old country. They have been termed “ little Englanders “ and “ anti-Imperialists “ ; and he was even forced to levy a claque against the great party to whom the people of Great Britain have for the present intrusted their destinies. Surely it is not proper for one party to a proposed bargain to decline to consider the point of view of the other party. The people of Great Britain have pledged their representatives as distinctly as ever a Parliament in the history of the United Kingdom’ was pledged to absolute fidelity to the principles of free-trade. If the people of Great Britain ever enunciated a clear and distinct verdict upon any Question they did so upon the principle of freetrade at the last election. When that position is considered I do not think it is proper that any one should resort to such terms as “ little Englander “ and “ antiImperialist,” nor should those who do nol agree with the policy of preference be represented as having no sense of the greatness of the Empire. It seems to me to be repeating the tactics of the Old Bailey attorney who, having no case, invariably abused the plaintiff. I take the opportunity now of saying that in my opinion, taking all things into consideration, preferential trade, should we bring it about, would on the whole be advantageous to Australia. But at the same time I strongly respect the public opinion of Great Britain, which still stands firm upon the principle of free-trade.
– The honorable senator is a free-trader then?
– The honorable senator will find out my opinions upon this matter probably very much sooner than will be pleasant to him. As I was saying just now, it is rather a foolish way of considering a question to evade an argument by using an epithet which is considered to be either abusive or as suiting the purposes of those who use it in some other fashion. The question is not whether I am a free-trader or a protectionist, or a prohibitionist, but whether there is force in the arguments which I am advancing. No term of abuse can either weaken or qualify an argument. There is also this to be considered. The United Kingdom has rested upon the principle of free-trade for about fifty years, and during that period the British Empire has raised itself to a pinnacle of prosperity and magnificence unequalled not only in its own history but in the history of the whole world.
– And during that period thousands of people have been starving in London and other great cities of the Empire.
– That does not affect my argument. I am pointing out the fact, which is, I think, unchallengable, that never in the whole history of the British Empire has it reached such a pinnacle of power and respect as that to which it has attained at the present time. Never since the period of Waterloo have the prestige, the glory, and the magnificence of Great Britain been such as they are today.
– And yet one-tenth of the people of Great Britain are under the poverty line.
– Notwithstanding the honorable senator’s statement, the people of Great Britain are as contented and as prosperous as any people on earth to-day.
– Does the same remark apply to Ireland, which is surely part of Great Britain?
– Yes, Ireland is part of Great Britain. With the .exception of Ireland, which is the one part of Great Britain that is losing its population, the story of prosperity need not be qualified ; and from what I can gather from my reading, and from what I have been told by those who have been recently there, the people of Ireland are in as prosperous a condition now as they ever have been - though that, perhaps, is not saying a great deal. However, I am not going to be led off the track by these interjections. The point which I wish to emphasize is that we are bound to take into consideration the point of view of the people of the Mother Country, and their verdict at the last general election. Every one of us is bound - the Prime Minister ‘himself is bound - to consider the matter from that point of view when talking about preferential trade. I contend that as long as there is clamour on behalf of industries in this country for more and more protection - as long as those interested are protesting- that their industries are being strangled - as long as it is asseverated that there is a party in the Senate and in the other House which is determined to strangle industries because they are not inclined to vote for high duties - it is hopeless to expect success for the policy of preferential trade. Contrast the position of our Prime Minister in this matter with that of the Canadian Prime Minister. Sir Wilfrid Laurier scarcely said a word about preferential trade. Our Prime Minister had to say thousands of words. I have no doubt that he was listened to with as much rapture as many of us have listened to his speeches. The Canadian Prime Minister remained almost silent during these discussions, but he put it both before and after the Conference that the Tariff of Canada had been fixed on certain definite protectionist principles, and that from that Tariff Canada was prepared to make a reduction of 33^ per cent, in favour of Great Britain. But notwithstanding that magnificent preference on the part of Canada, Great Britain showed no sign of yielding on this question. Therefore, the Prime Minister and the members of his Ministry must recognise the fact, however they may dislike it, that as a preference of 33 J per cent, was not sufficient to make Great
Britain give in to the preferential policy in the case of Canada, there can be no hope of anything practical resulting from what is likely to be proposed by our Government.
– The Canadian preference has not been rejected by Great Britain - it is in operation now.
– But Great Britain practically ignores it. She will not proceed by retaliation or by any similar method. I put these views forward strongly because I think they ought to be considered. I dare say they will have some effect upon the attitude of the Government when formulating the amended Tariff. If it is intended to proceed on the principle of preferential trade - if preferential trade is one of the financial panaceas of the Empire - it is the duty of the Prime Minister to come down from the clouds of rhetoric in which he seems to envelop himself, and to put forward his proposals in plain Anglo-Saxon. Let him ask us what we are prepared to give, and let him tell Parliament what advantage he proposes to give Great Britain. I notice that the party organs which support Ministers, and honorable senators on the opposite side, whenever they talk about protection-
– We have no organs supporting us.
– The honorable senator and his party pride themselves on being their own deity. They consider that they are sufficient for themselves. But at any rate there are newspapers which criticise and misrepresent honorable senators on this side of the Chamber by calling them “ little Englanders,” and by saying that we have no sense of the needs of Imperial unity, and which are trying to inflame the passions of the people by alleging over and over again that we are the enemies of Australian industries. The journals that argue in that way are in my opinion making for prohibition. They wish to relieve Australian manufacturers from anything like the stress of competition if they can do so. Now I wish to point out that what they call protection is what most people would call prohibition. I am perfectly certain of this, that both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives when the Tariff comes on for discussion - and possibly also during the debate on the Address-in-Reply - we shall find that they want us to grant not that reasonable protection which I believe the industries of Australia are entitled to, and which I think can be given to them with advantage, but that they are asking practically for prohibition. Prohibition, however,, is the fertile mother of the brood of monopoly. Honorable senators on the other side are eternally complaining about the danger of monopolies to Australia. They proclaim themselves as foes to monopolies, but where is it that monopoly has flourished most strongly, with all its attendant financial and political corruption, but in the United States of America, which have something like the cast-iron Tariff that I dare say the Ministry will attempt to impose on Australia? Honorable senators must find some other plea than that the industries of Australia are being strangled. That is a mere evasion of facts which are as plain as the light of day. Honorable senators can no more rub out the fact that the industries of Australia, and especially of Victoria, are not suffering under the Tariff than they can rub out the fact that twice two makes four. Honorable senators must abandon that ground. If they ask for an increased Tariff they must show what industry needs that increased Tariff, and how it will be likely to benefit that industry. I have now said so much in criticism of it that I think the duty is cast upon Ministers and their supporters to give the Senate the other side of the case, and to tell us either now or later what is the basis upon which they intend to frame the new Tariff, how they will seek to bring about Preferential Trade, and in what way and for what reasons the industries of Australia need it. I wish to emphasize this matter now. I do not think I am wasting the time of the Senate, and I hope I am doing something to educate public opinion as to our side and our view of the issue when I ask that these facts should be considered. The very basis of the prosperity of the industries of Australia lies in the development of its natural production, the sources of our wealth - our land, and our mines. A .sound policy is a policy which helps those great sources of prosperity to develop. That is the wisest and soundest policy, and those chief sources of our prosperity must be considered in the framing of a policy. Any undue burden upon the great producers of this country is a blow at its prosperity.
– Are they not doing very well ?
– They are doing well, and they should not be prevented from doing well. Neither this Chamber nor another place can afford to ignore the fact that any undue burden upon the great army of primary producers whose prosperity means the prosperity of the State is a blow at the financial soundness of the whole of Australia.
– Does the honorable senator believe that a protective Tariff would impose a burden on them?
– That is for the honorable senator to show when his prohibitive Tariff is put forward, if it is put forward. It is not for me to prove that it would be a burden. It is for the honorable senator to prove that it will not be a burden. Not only for to-day, but for years to come, the financial basis of the prosperity of the Commonwealth lies in the prosperity and the increase of the earning power of its primary producers. I might admit the (plea of the manufacturers in every State of Australia for the* assistance of the Government against unfair competition, and for some reasonable means of developing their industries. I am quite willing to hear the other side. I believe that their plea should be presented, but there are two sides to a question, and there may be often many sides. My main object in speaking in this way and at this length on this question is to show that the interests of the primary producers must be considered and not neglected by the Houses when they are considering the Tariff. I hope the Ministry will show their sympathy in that direction when the Tariff is being framed, and will give it the very closest attention. I come now to a very important question that occupied the attention of the Imperial Conference. One of the great issues upon which the Prime Minister insisted when in Great Britain, and which he dwelt on at great length and very ably on his return, was the bringing together of the mother country and the self-governing Dominions through the Imperial Council. He has gone to great length in explaining in general terms, and on some occasions in de.tail, what he was at, and how he intended to effect it. I must again confess that through the wilderness of rhetoric upon that important question, I can find very few guiding paths to a clear and decided objective, and not very many lights. In order to assist myself and the Senate to understand the Prime Minister’s position, I shall quote a part of what he said when the Lord Mayor of Melbourne received him here on his return from the old country. Responding to the toast of his health, and speaking of his mission to the old country, he said: -
That mission, as I interpreted it, was to speak in London as an Australian, and I think the duty devolves upon me to speak here, as far as I can, from the stand-point of London.
He went on to refer to the need for sucK a Conference, its possible scope and its possible powers. Then, referring to the point of view of the people of Great Britain, he said :-
They are living in the centre of Europeanpolitics, and, pressed with the urgency of their own questions, are little likely to understand the problem of Empire as seen from 10,000 miles away, unless it is brought home to them by the people who can speak to them with actual experience as to what the Empire looks like from these distant dominions.
He then went on to give his idea of “ Em-, pire,” and said : -
For the present, if we first get into our minds the all-important consideration that we had in this Conference the great power now being entrusted to us, and appreciate that, we shall then realize how we can use this Conference to accomplish whatever things the majority may decide upon. This is the great opportunity. . . . The dominions are thus drawn into the inner ring of government, so that in the future this far-seeing and generous policy brings the thoughtful public opinions of the whole of the self-governing dominions and focusses them, and collects them, and in the future will act upon them.
What does this mean? What do all these explanations amount to of what the Prime Minister hopes the Conference will resolve itself into? Does it mean that, on every political question which directly concerns Australia - for example, our relations with the New Hebrides and the other Islands of the Pacific - if there should be a difference of opinion between our own and the Imperial Government, we are to take that question to the table of the Imperial Conference, and have it decided by the voice of Canada or Newfoundland? If that is what is meant, and if that is the tendency, of the Imperial Conference, it will probably take out of the hands of this Parliament the responsibility and duty of deciding such questions directly as between ourselves and the mother country. I hope the Prime Minister will give a clear and straight explanation of what he hopes the tendency of that Conference will be. If it means that in regard to questions upon which we, as a self-governing country, are directly concerned, and upon which we cannot get the mother country to see our point of view, we are to drag the mother country to the Conference, and have the matter decided by the Prime Ministers of the other self-governing Dominions - if that is to be the tendency, it is a tendency fraught with danger. I hope the Senate will express its views clearly upon that aspect of the Conference, and that the Prime Minister will throw further light upon the subject. I would here draw attention to the remarkable declaration made by the Prime Minister of Great Britain in opening the Conference. He said “ Freedom and independence - that is the essence of the British Imperial connexion.” I beg to thank the Prime Minister of Great Britain for putting that principle so clearly before us. It is, so to speak,, an extension of that principle when I say that it will be dangerous to allow anything like a Secretariat, anything like even an Imperial Conference, to interfere in any way with our freedom and independence in our relations with the Mother Country on questions distinctly Australian. It seems that the only practical fruit of the Conference up to the present is to be the establishment of a Secretariat. I suppose that will be a body of officials responsible to some. Cabinet Minister in the Colonial Office, and that through that channel they are to gather information for the guidance of the Prime Ministers who may attend the Conference.
– As I understand it, that Secretariat is to be entirely independent of the Colonial Office.
– Independent of the Colonial Office, but still under a British Minister.
– It is probably to be used as a channel of communication between the two. It might do some good, but I look upon it with a certain amount of suspicion. When this Parliament appoints a High Commissioner, the difficulty which the Prime Minister mentioned will vanish of itself, and we shall find that the High Commissioner will be the best and the proper party to speak as between us and the Imperial Parliament. There will be no necessity for any self-governing Dominion outside us to come between our High Commissioner and his negotiations and arrangements with the Imperial Parliament, Surely we are not going to whittle away the powers of the High Commissioner by means of any such Board. Is this Parliament going to refuse to abide b) the advice of that high officer when he is appointed, and when he takes the responsibility of his advice to this Parliament? Are we to allow any Secretariat or the Prime Minister of any self-governing dependency outside to come between us and our High Commissioner in our relations with the Imperial Government? If we do so, it will be a step backwards in the growth of the Empire. We can trust freely and largely the justice and the generosity of the Mother Country, and we can rely confidently upon our own intelligence and our own methods of putting our views before the Mother Country. A great deal of the sting of the criticism of some other administrative acts of the Government has been taken away by the occasional clear explanations of the Vice-President of the. Executive Council, and particularly by the gratifying intelligence that the Ministry has at last recognised the justice of Queensland’s demand to be treated in the matter of the mail contract in a truly Federal spirit, and on an equality with the other States. To that question. I have given considerable attention, and I desire to congratulate the Government that when it had freed itself from the coils of the syndicate it at once rose to a sense of its duty and displayed what I think is the true Federal spirit. I may be pardoned for pointing, out the immense resources and possibilities of the great State I represent. During the last two or three years it has made splendid progress. The variety of its resources, from every point of view, is unequalled in Australia, perhaps in the world. One of the inducements which led the State to enter the Federation was that in every Federal service it would be treated on an exact equality with other States, and that where it was weak it would be assisted by the Commonwealth. Queensland, unfortunately, has had occasion to regret its entrance into the Federation. I have always held that it was good for Queensland to join the “Union, and that it was also good for the Commonwealth that it took that step. I believe that in time to come, when we shall have a strong responsible Government - a Government which will possess power with responsibility, and not as now, responsibility almost without DOWel - the best destinies of Queensland will be realized. When we have been taunted bv electors in Queensland that the Federation has realized not one of their highest aspirations my answer has been,. “ How can you expect to realize anything from a Federation which from the very hour of its birth has never been constitutionally governed ?” The Constitution is based on the principle of party government. It is anticipated that the governing party should always have power with responsibility. So far, no Government in the Commonwealth has possessed power with responsibility. Now that the Government has exhibited not only to Queensland, but to every State a Federal spirit, I hope that it will emancipate itself from any dependence upon a section of the Senate, and that it will have the courage to bring down those measures which it thinks best for the government of the people, irrespective of any coalition in Parliament. I trust that Ministers will come down to each House and say, “ Here are the measures which we think best for the country. If the House or any parties therein like our measures, pass them, but if they do riot, let them find another Government.” I hope that from this time forward that principle will be acted upon.
– Is not that what they have been doing all the time?
– It is not of the slightest use for the honorable senator to try to obscure a fact which is known to every intelligent student of political, history, and that is that in the Commonwealth no Government could exist for a quarter of an hour if the leader of the socialistic section at any time pointed his finger at his followers and said, “ Turn out that Government.” Look at the position of the Ministry in the Senate at the present moment. I desire to assist Ministers, and not to criticise their measures with unnecessary strictness, or to be animated by party bitterness, but I cannot blind my intelligence to the obvious position of parties here. I feel certain that the Ministry feel their humiliation.
– The honorable senator has a curious way of expressing his friendship.
– I am simply in the position of a critic. Apart from the great principles which I have been sent here to support, I shall give to the Ministry, and seek to induce others to give to the Ministry, every assistance which can possibly be expected from any one sitting on this side of the Chamber, but I cannot blind myself to the fact that every moment of their power depends on the caprice of a minority - the socialistic section - in each Chamber. The honorable senator can no more rub out that fact than he could turn out the lights here. It had much better be acknowledged by the Ministry, as well as by the Senate. It would be far more generous and straightforward for the gentlemen who know that they hold the Ministry in the hollow of their hand to acknowledge the facts. The sooner the position is recognised by all parties, the better it will be for the Senate and for good government. Apparently there is no attack to be made upon the Ministry. I hope that no attack will be made. I think that Australia and the Ministry need an object lesson, need to be shown to what the present system of government is tending. I hope that if ever a move is made in that direction a party will never take power unless they are perfectly assured of support, and lay down clearly the principles on which they intend to govern the country, and proceed straightforwardly and independently with legislation. Senator Millen has anticipated a good deal of what I had intended to sa’y in regard to the mail contract. The explanations which were given by Senator Best with regard to certain portions of the mail contract were rather more creditable to his ingenuity than to the actual position. He made a most courteous and very able explanation of one of the most difficult and awkward positions into which a Government have ever got themselves, and he did it with consummate tact and marked ability. I think it is well, under the circumstances, that we should all now letsleeping dogs lie. The syndicate is utterly discredited. It has nobody to blame but itself for its humiliating position. But there is one particular aspect of the negotiations that I wish to emphasize. I hope that never again - and I join cordially with Senator Millen in the sentiment - will any State interfere in any way with what is distinctly a Federal service. I hope that no Government will ever permit it to be done.
– And no Government should ever recommend it to be done.
– Exactly. Because, if it is ever done, it will probably mean that we shall never know exactly where, we are. I am glad to see the VicePresident of the Executive Council return to the Chamber, because, if my memory serves me correctly, when the question of the mail contract was placed before the Conference at Brisbane, the Premiers passed a resolution to the effect that they would have nothing to do with the guarantee desired.
– That was the very first proposal which was made. The proposals were very vague at that time. Further information was supplied, and was forwarded to the Premiers. Afterwards they entertained the proposal, and asked for still further information.
– And afterwards, with one exception, they declined the proposal individually.
– To my mind, the State Premiers guarded themselves very ably and warily at the Conference. They resolved that they were unwilling, if they did not absolutely refuse, then or under any circumstances, to have anything to do with the contract.
– That was under the first vague proposal.
– It is certainly clear that at the time the State Premiers had not the information which they ought to have had, and their suspicion and wariness were perfectly justified. But scarcely had the Conference closed at Brisbane, and the Victorian Ministers returned to Melbourne, than they were interviewed by a representative of the Age, and Mr. Swinburne is reported in that newspaper of the 13th June to have made the following remarks with regard to the syndicate: -
The way in which the project has been put before the public has been most unfortunate. It has been submitted both to the Commonwealth and the States in a shocking way. When the Premiers were called on to consider it at Brisbane, they had no information at all of a commercial character. It was not a business proposition, and it was treating the Premiers like a lot of school boys to expect them to consider it.
Scarcely was that statement printed than Victoria wished to control the whole business. It is true that the Acting Prime Minister realized the position into which he was getting, and like Pilate, commenced to wash his hands of the whole affair. When the Victorian Ministry saw an opportunity to benefit their State by an act of interference with the mail contract, and when they were calling upon the other States to assist them in the matter and guaranteeing to the States that they would take no further advantage to themselves than they were willing to extend to them, they asked that the Queensland Government, if they desired that Brisbane should be made a port of call, should pay down £30,000 per annum hard cash. That was not a verynice exhibition of Federal spirit. Ministers know what was the position as far as Brisbane was concerned when the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company was renewed. I believe that it made representations to the Government that under no circumstances could its boats go to Brisbane, or at any rate that the circumstances would be so difficult that it would find it practically impossible to send them on to Brisbane. I believe that it was on that representation that Brisbane was left out as a port of call. As soon as they had the Commonwealth bound on the one hand, they entered into negotiations with Queensland, and for an extra ,£30,000, they found that they were able to go to that State, and, I hope, have found their Queensland trade profitable. But good has come out of these mistakes, whether on the part of the Commonwealth or of the company, as it has been shown to the Commonwealth Government, through the company, that Brisbane can very easily be made a port of call. When we reflect that the export trade of Queensland is mounting up by leaps and bounds, is valued at considerably over £10,000,000, that the State is enjoying at the present time one of the most prosperous seasons that it has ever experienced, and that nine-tenths of its enormous production must pass through these steamers, Ministers must realize that at last they have done only their duty to Queensland in this matter. I beg to thank them for doing that duty, even at this comparatively late hour. There are two or three very important questions referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech with which I wish to deal as briefly as possible. One is the question of immigration. I hope that the Federal Government will not frame their Estimates in connexion with immigration under a sense of any fear of the Socialist Party or section in either Chamber, which eternally opposes immigration. So far as I am personally concerned, I shall not hesitate to support the Government with all my power, inside and outside of Parliament, in the expenditure of any decent sum for promoting immigration to Australia.
– What would the honorable senator call a “ decent sum.”
– I should not like to mention it. All I can say is that I think we could scarcely expend too much in order to promote immigration.
– £500,000 !
– Even £500,000 might be well spent in promoting immigration of the right sort. Such a sum would be far better spent in that way than upon a transcontinental railway, in connexion with the taking over of the Northern Territory, or on several other works which are contemplated. I beg to repeat that the supreme need of Australia is a white population, and I point out that unless we get this white population we cannot expect to keep Australia white. Honorable members in both Houses are now seized with the vast importance of this question .as they must be when they consider the menace to a White Australia which lies in the rich but uninhabited Northern Territory, and the very best way in which we can make preparations for the transfer of the Northern Territory is by giving effect to the great principle of immigration. I wish to refer to a statement cabled to the Argus, the Age, and, I think, the Daily Telegraph of Sydney, as having been made in London by a gentleman who was one of our delegates to the Navigation Conference. I refer to Mr. Hughes, the honorable member for West Sydney. It may be that the honorable gentleman has been misreported. If so, what I am about to say will have no effect, and I shall withdraw it. But in connexion with the subject of immigration, the honorable gentleman is reported to have said in London words to this effect - “ There is not room for a single .additional artisan in Australia.”
– The honorable gentleman was just about correct.
– I mark that interjection. “The honorable gentleman was just about correct “ says an honorable senator in the socialistic corner, and it is therefore probable that I have quoted him correctly.
– There is any number of artisans walking the streets of the cities of Australia now.
– The honorable senator will not be able to side-track me in that way. Members of the party to which he belongs are eternally raising that spectre when they are brought face to face with disagreeable facts. It may be that what Senator Needham says is true, and, if so, it is greatly to be regretted, but the statement to which I desire to direct attention is that which is reported as having been made by Mr. Hughes to the effect that there is not room for an additional artisan in Australia. What is the inference to be drawn from that statement?
– A number of those who are here have to go trapping rabbits.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the question.
Here we are in a period of prosperity unexampled, from every point .of view, in. Australia, and, notwithstanding this, we are asked to believe that there is not room here for an additional decent intelligent artisan. If the man in the street be at all hot tempered, he probably has on hislips the proper adjective and substantive to apply to a statement of that kind. The rules of parliamentary debate do not permit me to apply appropriate terms to it.
– Does the honorable senator know anything about the matter ?
– I know a great deal about it.
– How many artisans does the honorable senator know ?
– I thought that that way of putting it would rouse the other side. It is evident that my remarks arehaving some effect upon honorable senatorsopposite. I say that the statement to which I have referred is a libel on Australia. When Canada can take 130,000 immigrantsevery year and the United States can absorbover 1,000,000 immigrants into her population every year, what is to be said of sucha statement when we consider the resourcesand prosperity of Australia. We know that it is a fact that the prosperity ofCanada synchronizes almost exactly with the introduction of this rich fertile blood” of immigration. When we consider all” these facts, is it not but fitting to say that the man who makes such a statement with! regard to Australia and its attractions and” advantages for the decent artisans of Great. Britain, as that which is attributed to Mr.. Hughes, has proclaimed himself the archapostle of what has been called the “ stinking fish party,” and has, in the centre of British population, degraded the country to which he belongs and grossly misrepresented’ it? Is it not a part of the text eternally preached bv the socialistic section in thisChamber, from every platform from whichthey address the people? Do they not eternally contend that there is no room inAustralia for assisted immigration? Weknow that it has been the eternal gospel preached by that section since the establishment of Federation, that there shall beno such thing as immigration, because there are certain bodies of unemployed inAustralia.
– They want Australiafor the whites who are here.
– That may be. While on this point, may I remind the-
Senate, and especially the socialistic section, of a remarkably cutting remark made by Edmund Burke, the great English or Irish statesman. When dealing with the objections of a similar class of men and speaking of their destructive principles of government, he said -
All the time they profess to be lovers of their kin, but they are haters of their kindred.
I do not know the other countries of the earth by personal intercourse. My knowledge of them has been gained only by more or less careful reading, but I do know of my own country, Australia, that there is not on God’s earth to-day a country whose natural resources, and the freedom and justice of whose institutions, afford such attractions to the decent working population of Great Britain as it does.
– The honorable senator should read the evidence given before the’ Arbitration Court in New South Wales. He would find that men with families are getting only £1 a week as wages.
– I have read as much upon that subject as has any member of the Senate. It is necessary that the fair name of Australia should be rescued from this campaign of defamation which, like evangelists, these persons are carrying over the globe. I resent these expressions. I say that there is not on God’s earth to-day, within the Empire or outside of it, any country which offers greater attractions or in which men may be more blessed with the material and other results of our civilization than Australia. I hope we shall see that the immigration policy is carried out. If the members of the socialistic section resist that policy, or in any way tie the hands of the Government in giving effect to it, they will retard the progress of Australia. I put the matter also from this point of view : If Australia be such a miserable country, or be in such a miserable condition at the present time, that it cannot bear the addition of a single artisan to the ranks of its people, then what an awful place it must be when it is not enjoying a period of great prosperity. If it be in such a condition that the labour market would be turned topsy-turvey by the addition of another artisan, it must be the loveliest place on earth for artisans to get out of. The countries of the earth which give the best return to the labour of the artisan, and to all their peoples the material comforts of civilization in the greatest abundance, are those which encourage the introduction of an honest European population. The prosperity of the United States is remarkable.
– What about the Argentine ?
– Twelve years ago we in Australia used to look upon the Argentine as a sort of revolutionary republic, and it is to-day one of the most prosperous countries in the world: What has brought about that prosperity ?
– They have no “ stinking fish party “ there.
– Exactly so. They have no men there like Mr. Hughes to defame and libel the country. If they had it is probable that revolutionary spirits there would adopt summary methods to deal with such men. They would take good care to prevent any one raising the ‘ stinking fish cry against their country. Within the last twelve years the city of Buenos Ayres has gone ahead faster perhaps than has any other city in the world. Her population to-day is equal to that of Sydney and Melbourne combined. Argentine Government stocks stand very high and the country is fast surpassing Australia in the number of its sheep and cattle. If honorable senators will but see, it must be as evident as the sun in the clear noonday sky that there is a close relationship between the material prosperity of a young country and the immigration of suitable people into that country. I am afraid I have trespassed unduly on the time of the Senate, but there are one or two other questions to which I should like to refer. They are mentioned in paragraphs 12 and 13 of the Speech, and relate to the matter of Privy Council appeals. Senator Millen has pointed out the position very plainly, and I quite indorse what the honorable senator has said. It mav not be very palatable to certain sections in this Parliament or outside of it, but I cannot altogether hold the Government blameless for the unfortunate tangle into which the two Courts have got. When the decision in the case Webb v. Outtrim was given, and, according to that the interpretation of the Constitution it was held that Federal public servants were not subject to the imposition of State taxation, it was the duty of the Government to at once make the position clear, and not to give an opportunity to others to raise the question of whether or not there was a right of appeal to the Privy Council in such matters. Even though a Government should do its best, there may be points of conflict between the jurisdiction of the two Courts, but the Government should then have grasped the situation and should have prevented the unfortunate entanglement that has occurred. I think, however, that it would have been preferable if the Commonwealth Government had taken the matter in hand without having regard to the relative jurisdictions of the two Courts. We could have used our power to make our servants pay the tax imposed upon them in any State, and if we had done so earlier all trouble would have been avoided. But we should make it clear that we intend to maintain the authority of the High Court. Honorable senators know the history of the section of the Constitution in question. They know how it came to be put into the Constitution. It was fearlessly debated in every State. The principle in dispute was this - that we should so frame the Constitution as to provide that a Court appointed by the people of Australia should be the final interpreter of it. There can be no question that that was the intention if a reference be made to the words of the section. It could not be put in stronger terms. It was debated in the Imperial Parliament, and there was almost a deadlock in regard to it. The negotiations were protracted between the delegates representing Australia and the Crown law officers in England, who feared that the right of appeal to the Privy Council would be taken away. They wished to impose a limitation. It was through the intervention of the Chief Justice of Queensland, now Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Samuel Griffith, that ultimately the position was made clear. Then the Crown law officers in England accepted the compromise which Chief Justice Griffith had pointed out. And surely if there is an authority upon which we can rely, it is that authority which has given a judicial interpretation of the section. We shall only be doing our duty to the Constitution and to the people whom we represent if we insist that the spirit and intention of the section shall be preserved. I will read section 74. It says -
No appeal shall be permitted to the Queen in Council from a decision of the High Court upon any question, howsoever arising, as to the limits inter se of the Constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and those of any State or States, or as to the limits inter se of the Constitutional powers of any two or more States, unless the
High Court shall certify that the question is one which ought to be determined by Her Majesty in Council.
The High Court may so certify if satisfied that for any special reason the certificate should be granted, and thereupon an appeal shall lie to Her Majesty in Council on the question with out further leave.
Except as provided in this section, this Constitution shall not impair any right which the Queen may be pleasedto exercise, by virtue of Her Royal Prerogative, to grant special leave of appeal from the High Court to Her Majesty in Council.
I think there could be no clearer language as expressing the intention of the people of Australia - an intention which was ratified by an Imperial Act of Parliament. If the Privy Council has, as it seems to me, unnecessarily gone out of its way to assert its jurisdiction in conflict with that of the High Court of Australia, it appears to be going dangerously near to an interference, not only with our own Constitution, but with an Act of the Imperial Parliament. That is the straightforward way of looking at the matter. I was one of those who at first viewed that section with a certain amount of suspicion. But after the matter had been thoroughly discussed with the Crown law officers in England I altered my opinion, and I hold now that it is our duty to preserve as far as we can the spirit and letter of the section. If the people of Australia wish to give greater safeguards, by extending the right of appeal to the Privy Council, let them express their intention in a proper manner. But as long as the section stands as it does we are bound to preserve the absolute independence and integrity of our High Court from any interference by any Court outside. That was the intention of the Constitution. I believe it was the intention of the Imperial Parliament, and it is in my judgment clearly and unmistakably expressed in section 74. I thank honorable senators for the courtesy with which they have listened to me for so long. In conclusion, I express the hope that we shall be able to be of some assistance to the Government itself in the course of the session. It is in no spirit of hostility to them that we on this side make these criticisms of their policy. While they maintain a straightforward position we shall assist them in every legitimate way; and I hope that what I have said will assist in that direction, and that the result will be for the benefit of the country.
– Now that the Imperial Conference is over, and the Australian delegates to it have returned - having escaped from that “ maelstrom of hospitality “ referred to by the Prime Minister, in which they were threatened to be engulfed - Parliament has been summoned to transact business. After the waste of a period covering something like five months, we are called together to transact an amount of business which I contend might have been easily transacted in the period which I have specified. I do not wish in any way to belittle the efforts of the Australian delegates at the Imperial Conference. As a matter of fact, I believe that so far as the Prime Minister is concerned, he has carried out the duties intrusted to him ably and well. He has, I think, instilled into the public mind of Great Britain, the fact that, so far as we in Australia are concerned, we are determined to adopt a self-reliant attitude on many matters. Viewing his statements in that connexion, I did expect that when he returned to Australia, Mr. Deakin would pursue the same course of action as he outlined in Great Britain, and that he would give us some evidence of that aggressiveness and resolute spirit that he showed there. The place where I thought I should see evidence of that spirit was within the four corners of the Governor-General’s Speech. But I regret to say that, after a careful perusal of that document, I am forced to the conclusion that the Prime Minister and his Administration have departed from the stand which he took up in England. Let me remark in the first place on the paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech which refers to Australian defence. During the time when the Imperial Conference was sitting in London, we here were informed that an agreement had been arrived at - to be ratified by this Parliament, I presume - that the naval subsidy would be abolished, and that our system of defence would be placed on a different footing. But there is an entire omission of that matter from the Governor-General’s Speech. I believe that it was omitted as a matter of policy. Unlike the honorable senator who moved the adoption of the AddressinReply, I am not an authority on matters of defence. When asked whether he favoured the abolition of the naval subsidy, he said he was content to leave that an open question. I will be a little more emphatic in expressing my opinion, and say that I am not prepared to leave it an open ques tion. I do believe that the people of Australia are not prepared to leave it an open question either. The time has arrived for the cessation of the payment of £200,000 a year to Great Britain for the phantom fleet we have in our waters. In the course of the debate we have heard a great deal about the mother country and the Imperial spirit, but very little about Australia. The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has made references to what are known in Britain as “ little Englanders.” I believe that there are living to-day in Australia, and holding prominent positions in our public life, men who may well be termed little Australians. They tell us that we have not the money for a navy of our own and that we have not the men. I reply that we have the men,, that we have the natural resources, and that we have the money. Moreover, we have the pluck to build a navy of our own. It is of no use to wait fifteen or twenty years before we start to build. There’ is no immediate danger of an invasion, but that is no reason why we should not in the meantime prepare for invasion that may occur within the next fifteen or twenty years. If we were to devote the £200,000 a year which we pay to Great Britain at the present time towards the construction of an Australian navy, I believe that within fifteen or twenty years *we should be in a fairly good position to defend our shores. I do not for a moment mean to say that £200,000 a year would be anything like sufficient to build a navy. But it would be a fair start. I have not the slightest anxiety as to our ability to form a fleet. It has been stated that if we start to build a navy of our own the money so expended will go out of Australia. There is not the slightest necessity for that. _ We can have our shipyards in any portion of Australia - in Sydney, Melbourne, or Fremantle. We have the minerals, and work of this kind would give an impetus to what honorable senators very often refer to as “ our great natural resources.” I am somewhat surprised that the Government of the day has not thought it necessary to include in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech a reference to the fact that they are prepared immediately to submit a proposition 10 Parliament abolishing the present naval subsidy. Reference has been made to the Northern Territory. I took advantage of the facilities afforded to visit the Territory during the recess. I have formed certain opinions about that particular part of the Australian Common- wealth. I also have my opinions about the agreement that has been drawn up between the Governments of South Australia and of the Commonwealth, and that awaits the ratification of the two Parliaments. At this juncture I shall not express any decided opinion upon the agreement, but I will say that, no matter whether the Commonwealth takes it over or South Australia still continues to struggle with its administration, the Northern Territory in its present state is a menace to Australia’s safety. That being so, it will be incumbent upon every member of this Chamber to approach the consideration of the question free from any parochial or provincial feeling. I hope I shall approach it in that spirit. I gained a great amount of information during my visit to the Territory. With other honorable senators I travelled many miles there, and I shall endeavour to make the information that I gleaned of some assistance to this Chamber in discussing that agreement. I am very glad also that reference is made to the desire of the Government to amend the electoral law. I wish it to be clearly understood now that I shall not give my support to any system of preferential voting if it is on the same basis as that introduced into this Chamber during the last Parliament, although I shall certainly welcome the introduction of a Bill having in view the general amendment of the electoral law of the Commonwealth. We have glaring examples of its inefficiency. We have had reason to know that in many instances its administration was not satisfactory, and if we had a continuance of that measure scarcely any honorable member would be certain whether he was legally entitled to a seat in this Parliament or not. The sooner the amending Bill is introduced the better for all parties concerned. I notice that reference is also made to what is to me. as a representative of Western Australia, a very important measure. Paragraph 24 of the Governor-General’s Speech foreshadows the introduction of a Bill for the survey of the trans-Australian railway. I wonder whether that Bill will be introduced at the beginning or end of the session. If it comes in the order indicated in the Speech. I have verv little hope for its passage this session. I appeal to the Government, if they intend to re-introduce the Bill for the survey of the transAustralian railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, to bring it in at a period of the session which will give ample time for its sensible and intelligent discussion. I believe the Bill was introduced on one or two other occasions at a stage when that clear and necessary opportunity was not given to honorable senators to discuss it.
– That was another Government.
– I do not want the present Government to follow the bad example set in this matter, and I hope the Bill will be introduced at a very early, period this session. Reference is also made to the fact that the Government intend to introduce a measure dealing with old-age pensions. I wonder if they are sincere in this direction. I believe that during the recent Federal election campaign Ministers and supporters of Ministers pledged themselves on the public platform as in favour of the early introduction of a Federal oldage pension scheme.
– Senator Symon did so.
– I believe honorable senators on both sides did so, but I am not so much concerned with the expressions of opinion of any honorable senator who may be opposed to the party to which I have the honour to belong, as I am with the expressions of opinion of Ministers.
– Who are supported by the honorable senator’s party.
– I do not think that so far as this Parliament has gone any honorable senator can say we are supporting any particular .party. Is the question of old-age pensions simply to end with its mention in the Governor-General’s Speech, or will something practical be done this session to prove that we are true to our pledges given on the hustings?
– Where shall we get the money ?
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well that there are many sources which can be tapped to supply the money for old-age pensions.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of taxing tea and kerosene to pay old-age pensions?
– We can secure sufficient money without taxing either tea or kerosene. Senator St. Ledger laid particular emphasis on the fact that we had an unexampled era of prosperity in Australia to-day. He also claimed that because a; member of our party made a certain “statement regarding immigration when in Great Britain, that gentle- man was trying to lower the reputation of Australia. I believe that so far as surpluses go in the various Australian States and even in the Commonwealth, there is an indication of prosperity, but so long as we see day after day tangible evidence that the workers of Australia are being sweated, then if prosperity is rampant throughout Australia, the individual who is responsible for it is not receiving his share of it. Only the other day I saw in one of the leading Melbourne newspapers a statement that those employed in the tobacco industry were receiving the munificent wage of £1 11s. per week. We have also the splendid example of a worker in the sugar industry of Queensland receiving the munificent wage of from 22s. 6d. to 25s. a week. We have had in Western Australia a life und death struggle between the timber combine and their employes over the. living wage. The men were offered a wage of 7s. 3d. per day, and still we are glibly told by honorable senators that because certain Governments declare surpluses, prosperity reigns throughout the land, and every one is comfortable. Then, because a gentleman who was sent from Australia as a delegate to the Navigation Conference expressed an opinion on the position, he is denounced as a detractor of Australia.
– It is only an alleged statement.
– Senator St. Ledger quoted the statement, and I presume he had some information to go on. I might also remind the honorable senator and the party he supports, that when Mr. Hughes was sent Home as a member of the Navigation Conference, it was said that he would scarcely know a ship when he saw it. It was suggested that the other members of the Conference would overshadow him>, but events have proved that he more than held his own with any delegate, even although he was a member of the Socialist Party so contemptuously referred to by the honorable senator. I want to know where there is any room to-day in the present condition of things in Australia for the introduction of artisans. Regarding the question of immigration, if we would take a sensible view of the position, and make an attempt to burst up the large estates that are at present locked up and cannot be made available, I believe there would be room for hundreds of our fellow-beings in Britain to come here and be prosperous. Canada has been quoted as having room for artisans, but. there is no comparison between Canada and Australia to-day. There are not the thousands of acres pf fertile land locked up in Canada that we have even in the State of Victoria, and until the Government of the Commonwealth, whoever they may be, determine to impose a tax on unimproved land values and compel the utilization of these fertile tracts of country, there is no use in saying that there is room for further people in the Commonwealth, particularly artisans. I trust that when we do really get to business, the result of our deliberations will be good for the destinies of the Australian Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator W. Russell) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 9.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 July 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19070704_senate_3_36/>.