3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether his attention has been called to the fact that this week the steamer Coogee, with Tasmanian mails, arrived at Melbourne too late to catch the outgoing English mail steamer, and whether the Government will take steps to prevent a recurrence of the event by getting a more powerful steamer placed on the line?
– I did notice the statement that the Coogee had arrived seven or eight hours late, and that, as a result, the Tasmanian portion of the outgoing British mail has to remain here for a week. I understand that the Postal Department is in communication with the contractors, and I hope that an arrangement will be made to prevent the occurrence of a similar event.
” PARTY SYSTEM “ TELEPHONE.
– I desire again to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral why the “party system “ telephone has not been installed in South Australia, according to the regulations of January, 1907 ?
– I forwarded the letter and the telegram to which the honorable senator referred yesterday to the Postmaster-General, from whom I expect to get a reply during the course of the sitting. Had we met to-day at half-past z o’clock, probably I should by then have had a reply to give to the honorable senator.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether, during the last elections, an attempt was made to test any of the voting machines which had been brought under the notice of his Department, and if not, has he made any further inquiries as to the possibility of replacing the ballot system with voting machines ?
– I understand that no such test was made at the last elections. So far as any of the inquiries referred to are concerned, if my memory serves me correctly, the officers were asked to report as to the practicability of carrying out such a test, and I think that their report was adverse. I shall procure for the honorable senator all the information which is available.
-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 to report on its postal facilities, as well as the report which has been asked for by the Deputy Postmaster-General of South Australia?
– The report referred to by the honorable senator was made by an officer of the Public Works Department - Mr. Murdoch - after a personal visit to Port Pirie, and it contains certain recommendations to which plans are attached. The recommendations and the plans are now in South Australia with the Deputy Postmaster- General, who has been asked to furnish a report on the same. . They will be returned, I think, towards the end of next week, and I see no objection to laying a copy of them on the table then.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Isit the case that the Acting Prime Minister, as reported in the press, assured the Conference of Premiers in Brisbane in May last that he had instructed payment of expenses incurred under the Commerce Act?
If so, will the Government make payment to the shipping companies who were required to pay for as many as four inspectors on thewharf during shipment of fruit?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to- -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Judiciary, Act 1903.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for as Act relating to the taxation by the States of salaries and allowances paid by the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Senator Keating) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Bills of Exchange, Cheques, and Promissory Notes.
– Pursuant to standing order 31, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senators McColl, Dobson, and Col. Neild, a panel to act as temporary Chairmen of Committees, when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
– Pursuant to standing order 38, I lay on the table my warrant appointing the following senators to be the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications : - Senators de Largie, Dobson, Macfarlane, Col. Neild, Sir J. H. Symon, Turley, and Walker. The warrant will lie upon the table for four days, and if it is not objected to it will then take effect.
– I beg to lay upon the table the following paper : -
Documents in connexion with the promotion of Messrs. H. M. Robinson, Department of Trade and Customs, Brisbane, and R. Ewing, Department of Trade and Customs, New South Wales.
Motion (by Senator Guthrie) proposed -
That the paper be printed.
– I really do not know whether the paper ought or ought not to be printed. But a Printing Committee was appointed only yesterday, and if the work of looking after the printing for the Senate is to be taken out of its hands, then I shall refuse to act thereon. In the circumstances, it is entirely out of place for an honorable senator to rise here to-day, and move that the work of the Printing Committee should be a mere sinecure, and that it should not have the right to express an opinion as to whether papers should or should not be printed. I shall certainly vote against the motion.
– I nad strong reasons for submitting the motion. It will be remembered that as regards promotions and otherwise the control of the Public Service has been placed in the hands of a Commissioner, and that he has to report to each House of the Parliament as to the position which he takes up regarding any promotions. In a period of seven years we have had only one report from the Printing Committee, and if we should have to wait for a similar period until we get another report, what will be the position of those public officers whose rights to promotion have probably been overlooked?
-Col. Cameron. - We are going to alter all that now.
– We do not know what may happen in the future, but we know what has occurred in the past.
– This is not a proposal to get a report from the Printing Committee, but merely a question as to whether a document should or should not be printed.
– Exactly ; but the objection which has been raised to the motion is that yesterday the Senate appointed a Printing Committee.
– The objection is to taking the work of the Printing Committee out of its hands.
– It has been urged that the paper should be referred to the Printing Committee to say whether it should or should not be printed. I have been sent here to represent the people of an important State, and I am not prepared to delegate my powers to a. Printing Committee which reports once in seven years.
– Is not the honorable senator a member of it?
– Thank God I am not.
– Hence the objection.
– No. The whole position I take is that the Printing Committee in the past has been an absolute farce. I was on it last year, and the Government again nominated me, but I raised an objection yesterday, so that the whole matter should be discussed. The question of the Civil Service is too important to be relegated to a Committee of the Senate. As a representative of a large number of public servants, I have no right to relegate the matter to such a Committee. The Senate should deal with it. We have an absolute right to know at the earliest possible moment what the Public Service Commissioner is doing regarding the Public Service, instead of having to wait for seven years to get a report as to whether these promotions are just or not.
– That may be a good reason for abolishing the Committee.
– I am not talking about the Committee, but about a paper that the Minister has laid on the table. The Committees are only secondary to the Senate. This is a matter of vital importance affecting the promotion of public servants. Are we to wait for seven years to get a report about it from the Printing Committee when it could be made available to-morrow?
– The honorable senator is moving that the report be printed before he knows what it is. A Committee was appointed for that purpose, and now the honorable senator wants to take the work out of its hands.
– We have not appointed a Committee for that purpose at all.
– Most certainly.
– Most certainly not. Any honorable senator who takes the time to look up the publications printed by the Public Service of the Commonwealth will see that they have considerable grievances against the Public Service Commissioner. Senator. Findley was a member of the Printing Committee last year, and I do not think he was too anxious for very many meetings.
– That is manifestly unfair.
– lt is absolutely true, and the honorable senator cannot deny it.
– Is the honorable senator replying, because he has already moved the motion? He has no right to speak when he did not take advantage of moving the motion to do so. How. can the honorable senator reply to honorable senators who have not spoken?,
– The honorable senator is speaking in reply. No other senator rose when the honorable senator did, or evinced a desire to speak at that juncture.
– Does that mean that the honorable senator has the floor all the time? Is he to start this discussion and end it without anybody else being permitted to have a say in the matter? As a member of the Printing Committee, I feel very keenly the accusation the honorable senator has made against me.
– I distinctly understood you, sir, to ask the honorable senator if he was replying, and he said, “Yes.” Other honorable senators had a chance of objecting at the time.
– I have stated that the honorable senator is speaking in reply. Senator Givens spoke before Senator Guthrie rose to reply, and, although other honorable senators may now feel that they would have liked to speak, it is not possible for them to do so. When the honorable senator concludes his speech I shall put the question.
– Is the honorable senator in order in stating that he knew personally that I was not too anxious for the Printing Committee to be called together ?
– An honorable senator is not in order in imputing motives to other honorable senators. Attention should have been called to the matter at the time, and then the honorable senator would have been called upon to withdraw his remarks. I trust, however, that he will not give any other honorable senator an opportunity of complaining.
– I have to thank you, sir, for your ruling. Honorable senators had every opportunity of speaking. I merely moved the motion pro forma. Other honorable senators spoke, and surely I have a right to reply to them.
– The honorable senator did not know he was replying until he was told.
– The point of order has been already settled. Will the honorable senator please confine his remarks to the question ?
– I emphatically deny that I did not know I was speaking in reply. If the Senate orders the printing of this paper, honorable senators can be in possession of it to-morrow, and will then be prepared to attend next Wednesday and raise any objections to or concur in the decisions of the Public Service Commissioner.
– There is to be a meeting of the Printing Committee to-day.
– The Senate has no knowledge of that meeting. The Printing Committee has in the past been a mere cypher.
– The honorable senator is rather late in the day in objecting to the Printing Committee. Why did he not do it when he was a member of it? His present action is in very bad taste, and comes with a very bad grace from him.
– The honorable senator knows very well that I wanted to do it. I have taken the first opportunity this session. I have moved that the Senate order the first paper of any vital importance presented to it to be printed. The Printing Committee may decide that the paper shall not be printed.
– -Then the united wisdom of the Committee will be better than the honorable senator’s wisdom.
– The honorable senator’s argument is that the united wisdom of seven members of the Senate is of more value than that of thirty-six senators.
– The thirty-six senators are asked to judge now, without knowing what the paper is,, whereas the Printing Committee will see the paper, and be able to exercise their judgment.
– Will the honorable senator alter his motion so as to refer the paper to the Printing Committee ? He will be defeated if he does not.
– I am not going to hand over so important a matter to the Committee.
– The honorable senator is offering an insult to the Printing Committee.
– Order ! I ask honorable senators not to interject.
– It is a considerably bigger insult to the Senate to refer so important a matter as the question of the Public Service, which is. remitted to a Public Service Commissioner, just as the accounts of the Commonwealth are remitted to an Audit Commissioner, to a little’ Committee of the Senate before it can be brought before the Senate itself. The thing is absolutely ridiculous on the face’ of it.
– It is ridiculous to have a Committee if the honorable senator’s motion is to be carried.
– I am going by what the Committee have done in the past.
– The honorable senator was on it.
– I know, and 1 was only too glad to get off it. I took the first opportunity of doing so. The Senate has an absolute right to know at the earliest possible moment what the Public Service Commissioner is doing. This paper relates to officers of Customs. We know what the Commonwealth has lost since its inception through Customs officers.
– We do not perhaps know all.
– We know enough to make us take precautions to see that when promotions are made those promoted are competent to fill the positions. I did not want to say it, but the Customs frauds in Adelaide have taken place through men being appointed to positions which they ought never to have filled. There seems to be some objection to letting the members of the Senate know whether these, persons are competent or not to fill the positions to which they have been appointed. Yet we propose to refer this matter to a Committee of the Senate, and not to have it discussed by the whole Senate. Thirty thousand pounds were lost to the revenue in consequence of the Customs frauds in South Australia.
– I call the attention of the honorable senator to the fact that what he is now discussing is not the question before us. The question is whether the Senate will decide to have a certain document printed or not. If it be decided that the document shall not be printed, it will not be printed unless the Senate chooses to rescind its resolution. On the other hand, if the Senate decide that the document shall be printed, there will be an end of the matter. But if the paper be not printed it will still be available to honorable senators, because it will be laid upon the table, and they will have a perfect right to refer to it in any way they think fit.
– I should like to ask a question, sir. If Senator Guthrie’s motion is negatived, will that affirm that the document shall not be printed?
– There is only the one motion before us in relation to the subject. If it be defeated, and the
Senate decide that the document be not printed, then, unless that resolution be rescinded, the document will have to remain simply on the table of the Senate, and cannot be printed. But it will, of course, be competent for the Senate to rescind the resolution.
– In order to safeguard the rights of the Senate on this question, may I ask whether it would be possible for an honorable senator to move as an amendment that the document be referred to the Printing Committee?
– The matter will not be open for further debate after Senator Guthrie has concluded his remarks, as he is speaking in reply.
– That is the position.
– The honorable senator forces us to vote against his motion, although we may desire to have the document printed.
– Very well; if the Senate takes up the position that a report from the Public Service Commissioner ought to be put away-
– That is not the question.
– It is absolutely the question. My motion that the paper be printed means that the public as well as the members of the Senate should be iri n position to form an idea as to what the Public Service Commissioner is doing regarding promotions in the Customs.
– If the honorable senator’s motion is defeated the document will be referred to the Printing Committee.
– It cannot be. Surely the Senate has greater power than any Committee appointed by it; and if the Senate orders that the document shall not be printed the Committee will have no power to print it.
– May I ask you, Mr. President, whether if Senator Guthrie’s motion is rejected, the document will not be referred automatically to the Printing Committee ?
– The document will go on to the Printing Committee; but if there is a direction from the Senate that the document be not printed, it will not be printed unless the resolution is rescinded in accordance with the Standing Orders. Of course, if the motion be withdrawn the paper will go automatically to the Printing Committee, and be dealt with in the usual way. The Committee will recommend either that the document be printed or not, and then the Senate will have an opportunity of affirming its opinion.
– Suppose the motion be defeated?
– If the motion that the document be printed be defeated the Senate will affirm that the document shall not be printed.
– I am perfectly satisfied to submit my motion on that understanding.
– I wish to ask a question. Suppose the Printing Committee should decide not to print this document, will the Senate have power to deal with it afterwards?
– The Printing Committee will make a recommendation as to what documents they think should be printed. The Senate will then be perfectly at liberty to deal with the recommendation as it thinks fit ; and there will be no reason why the Senate should not decide that certain documents shall be printed, although they are not recommended by the Printing Committee to be printed. The Senate itself must be supreme in dealing with the matter eventually. .The Printing Committee is appointed to relieve the Senate from the responsibility of dealing with papers. The Committee is able to make a recommendation with a full knowledge of what the papers contain.
– I take it that if my motion be negatived the Printing Committee cannot report to the Senate that it recommends that this particular paper be printed. Before that can be done the Senate will have to rescind the resolution.
– Does the honorable senator want this paper to be printed?
– I do, seriously.
– Then he had better withdraw his motion.
– No, I will not. I ask the Senate, independently of all personal bias, to vote for the motion.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Senate is going to flout its own Committee for the sake of only one member?
– If the honorable senator wishes to have the paper printed he has only to withdraw his motion. There is no possible alternative.
– I want the paper to be printed, and I am adopting what I consider to be the proper course to get it printed.
– The proper course to prevent it.
– The honorable senator finds fault with the Printing Committee.
– I have found fault with it in the past.
– The question is simply whether the document be printed or not. We do not need to go further ink past history.
– I have no doubt that every senator believes that the paper should be printed as soon as possible. If it be ordered to be printed now we shall be able to get it to-morrow, but by referring it to the Printing Committee the work will be indefinitely postponed.
– Then we will deal with the Committee.
– But we want to get the paper itself.
– This very Committee meets to-day.
– It may possibly decide not to print the paper.
– The Committee may think that it is not i’mportant enough.
– In my opinion it is important. On the general principle that the Senate has a right to order any paper laid upon the table to be printed, I submit this motion. And there is something more behind what I propose. Under our Standing Orders, when a Minister comes down and moves that a paper be printed, he is enabled to make an announcement. Sometimes a change of Ministry is announced in that way. Are we going to handicap ourselves in that respect?
– It is only by leave of the Senate that we are enabled to discuss other than the absolute motion in such cases.
– The matter contained in the paper in question should be discussed by the Senate.
– How can we discuss it if we do not know what is in the paper?
– The honorable senator can discuss the whole matter upon the Supply Bill that is to be introduced.
– Suppose the Minister lays upon the table proposals regards ing calling for tenders for the new mail contract. On the motion that such a paper be printed, the Senate usually has an opportunity of discussing the whole question. But if such a paper had to be referred first of all to the Printing Committee, I do not know when we should be able to discuss it.
– The question simply is as to whether a particular document shall be printed or not, and the honorable senator must confine himself as closely as possible to that proposition. I have allowed him a good deal of latitude, and I trust that he will bring his remarks to a close as soon as he can.
– I thank you, Mr. President, and can only say that I have risen with the one object of convincing the Senate that the right thing to do is to print this paper. I feel justified in using every argument I’ possibly can to convince honorable senators that this course is the right one. I again draw attention to the fact that when a Cabinet is reconstructed the procedure usually adopted to announce the fact to the Senate is by laying a paper upon the table, and moving that it be printed. There is absolutely no other means of making such an announcement.
– No one can prevent that being done.
– But Senator Givens has taken up the position in his speech that the Senate has no right to discuss the question whether a particular paper be printed or not. He absolutely takes up the position that, we having appointed a Printing Committee, the question of printing all papers should be referred to it. If that be so, then if a Minister lays a paper upon the table for the purpose of making an important communication, he cannot move that that paper be printed, but it will have to be submitted to the Printing Committee. Certain promotions are involved in the matter with which I am dealing. Let us know what those promotions are. Then I shall be perfectly satisfied. A Minister can come down with a paper, and make an announcement on the motion that it be printed, but it appears that in connexion with any other paper we shall have to wait for a report from the Printing Committee, which may be delayed for years.
– The Minister has the common-sense which the honorable senator has not, and withdraws his motion after he has made his announcement.
– I am not going to withdraw; whether it is common-sense or not, is a matter of opinion between the honorable senator and myself. I calculate that I am just as good a judge of common-sense as he is. I want to get full particulars about these promotions.
– They are available even though the paper be not printed.
– They are not available to the general public, though they are available to me.
– The honorable senator can givethe facts to the public. There is nothing to prevent that.
– I am standing by the principle that the Senate has a right to order any paper that it thinks proper to be printed, independently of any Committee which it may have appointed. Those who vote against the motion will be parting with one of the most important of the privileges of the Senate.
Question - That the paper be printed - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Lapsed Votes : Customs Department. North Queensland : Sugar Bounty Payments : Post and Telegraph Department, Queensland : Customs Department, South Australia : Meteorology.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a first time.
The object of the Bill is to appropriate a sum of £457,243. It is intended to cover practically a month’s Supply, and is for an amount usually voted at this particular time. Honorable senators will be aware that in accordance with the terms of the Constitution no money can be withdrawn by the Treasurer except under an Appropriation made by law. The result is that there is practically not a shilling at the present moment at the disposal of the Treasurer until Parliament sees fit to vote it. Honorable senators will realize that necessarily this Supply Bill is of a somewhat urgent character. It is intended’ amongst other things to at once meet the demand for day labour on public works, for the payment of colonial seamen in the Imperial Squadron, gratuities for the masters of vessels, for the carriage of mails, and to make provision for the usual fortnightly pay of public servants. I have gone through the Bill with the officer representing the Treasury, and have received his assurance that it covers only items of a recurring character. That is to say, no special expenditure is provided for under this Bill. Indeed, even so far as salaries are concerned, it is not attempted by this Bill to provide for any increases, which will only be paid after they have been approved by Parliament. There are but two items to which I think it necessary to call attention. One is a Treasurer’s advance for the sum of £80,000 ; an exactly similar sum was voted in similar circumstances last year. It is intended, under this vote, to provide funds for payment in connexion with works and buildings now in progress.
– Works and buildings for which no special vote has been obtained ?
– If they are in progress the probability is that votes have been obtained for them.
– Then why vote money for them again?
– Because on the 30th June moneys voted in this way at once ceased to be payable.
– Then this amount is to take the place of lapsed votes?
– That is so, to a large extent, in regard to works and buildings. There is another item of ,£12,000, refunds of revenue. A similar amount was included in the first Supply Bill of last year. This money is required in connexion with the payments to money orders account of the value of postal stamps affixed to postal notes; the repurchase of stamps from the public; payments to the Eastern Extension Company on account of telegraph receipts, portion of which is due to the company; and refunds of revenue wrongly paid in. The total sum voted in the Supply Bill passed on the 28th June last was ,£459,000. The Government are asking in this Bill for a vote of £4S7»243. In the circumstances,, honorable senators, having special regard to the urgency of the case, will have nodifficulty in consenting to grant the Supply asked.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales> [11.25]. - One point which occurred to me during the brief remarks of the VicePre.sident of the Executive Council is that the vote of £80,000 proposed to be granted as an advance to the Treasurer is largely required to replace lapsed votes in connexion with public works ing course of construction. I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council, before the debate terminates, to inform the Senate to what extent this vote is to take the place of lapsed votes, and what proportion of the amount is to be applied to other purposes ? It seems to me that not only now, but in the future it would render it easier for honorable senators to understand what they are being asked to vote if a statement of that kind accompanied each of these Supply Bills. It is important to remember that we are not being asked to vote a further sum of £80, 000 in this connexion,, because some portion of the amount set down in this Bill is to take the place of votes already approved of, portions of which, by the operation of our own legislation, lapsed on the 30th June last. Without some explanation of the kind, it might appear that we are being asked to vote anadditional sum of £80,000, when, as a matter of fact, we are not doing anything of the kind. A statement accompanying^ the Supply Bill, and showing what proportion of that sum is really a re-vote,, would, I think, be of assistance to honorable senators.
– I understand that it isquite impossible to give that information at this stage.
– I understand that I shall be in order on the first reading of the Bill in directing attention to one or two matters of public interest. I wish specially to call theattention of Ministers to the undermanning of the Customs Department in the sugar districts of North Queensland. During the last six months of the year, a large amount of bounty payments must be paid through the Customs, and, speaking particularly of Mackay, the town in which I have been living, I can say that it is quite the regular thing to see the Customs Office lit up every evening. The officers are called back to work on Saturday afternoons and evenings, and have to take a sheaf of papers home to deal with on the Sunday. This matter is one to which attention has been drawn by various newspapers in Queensland, and a considerable amount of feeling has been shown in connexion with it. I ask the Government to look into the question and see whether, by the appointment of temporary officers, or some such means, they cannot avoid the sweating to which Customs officers are subjected in the sugar districts for the last six months of each year. I direct attention also to the undermanning of the Postal Department in many parts of Queensland. Complaints constantly reach me from various parts of that State of the difficulties which people have in getting^ the Post and Telegraph Department to attend to their requirements. They are informed that an inspector has been asked to report upon the matter to which they have called attention, and when they call to ask whether the inspector has reported, they find that it has been found necessary to send him somewhere else to make a report. In this way, some matters have been under consideration in the Nanango district for some two or three years. Requests for telephones and so forth have not received attention because it would seem that the post offices are undermanned. Not long ago, I applied to the Department in connexion with telephone extensions asked for in the Mackay district. I was informed that everything was in readiness, and the Department was waiting only for a report from the inspector. Subsequently I discovered that the inspector had been sent away to Cairns, at which town the Department was apparently short of an inspector, and since then he has been sent to the Central District of Queensland. People have been, waiting month after month, and in some cases, I am afraid, year after vear, to have their requirements attended to, merely because the Department has been short-handed. The same complaint has to be made about many of the Post Office staffs. Senator Givens can speak with greater authority about Cairns than I can, but, during the last election campaign, I heard the same complaint there. A simi lar complaint was brought under my notice in Mackay, and it would seem that the number of hands in the post offices are too few to cope with the work. I trust that the Government will take the earliest opportunity to attend to the public requirements in these respects. If they have any good-will towards their employes, they will not overwork them as they appear to be overworked at the present time, and they should not hesitate to do what is necessary to comply with the requirements of the public.
– The trouble is that our hands are tied since we surrendered the control to the Public Service Commissioner.
– The remarks of the last speaker have reminded me of a case which occurred in South Australia a week or. two ago. A man in Yorke Peninsula, being unwell, sent to Germany for a supply of patent medicine. It was consigned to Mr. Muecke, the German Consul, who was anxious to get it sent on to the patient when it had arrived. On three occasions the patient came from Yorke Peninsula to Adelaide to get his medicine, but he was told that it could not be obtained, because the Department was so undermanned that it had only one inspector, and that the medicine had. to be analyzed. Mr. Muecke, junior, told me that sometimes, in such cases, the firm had to wait four weeks before a parcel could be obtained. When this person at Yorke Peninsula did get his medicine, he found that some of the bottles had been broken and others had disappeared. That is a case which I hope the Government will look -into.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 postponed.
Clause 4 agreed to.
– I should like the Minister of Home Affairs to furnish a little information in regard to the item of .£350 under the head of Meteorological Branch. We know that a Meteorologist has been appointed, but I should like the Minister to state whether any steps have been taken, and, if so, when they are likely to mature, for the transfer of the State services to the Com monwealth. I gather from press reports that such steps are in progress; and it will be of interest to myself, and, I think, to the general public, to know if reasonable progress is being made, and if the transfer may shortly be expected.
– Since the Meteorologist has been appointed there has been a Conference of State Meteorological Officers, who have dealt in a very comprehensive way with the different problems which are confronting the Department in connexion with Commonwealth administration. The proceedings of the Conference have formed the subject of a report which I hope will be in the hands of honorable senators in a very short time indeed. Regarding thetransfer, some States anticipated that there would be no need for them to make provision for their meteorological services beyond the end of the financial year which has just closed. Communications, however, were opened up, and the different States are making provision, I understand, for their meteorological services ‘for the current financial year. But we hope to have completed the transfer from the States by 1st January next. Progress is being made towards the acqui sition of the different officers and such equipment as may be required in order that the meteorological service shall be carried out comprehensively and on uniform lines for the Commonwealth.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clauses 2 and 3, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without request; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 4th July (vide page 79), on motion by Senator Lt.-Col. Cameron -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to : -
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.
– Following the example of some of the eloquent speakers who have preceded me, it may be advisable for me to refer to the seat I occupy. Judging by the remarks of some speakers, those who sit on this side of the Chamber are supporters of the Government, while those who sit opposite to us are on the other side in politics. If that is true - and I do not think it is - then from the position I occupy behind the Government I ought to be a Government supporter; but I am not. In my career in South Australia I never had a more uncomfortable seat than the one I now occupy. After I went home last night I had to rub my legs from the knees downward in order to get up a natural hear. Had it not been for the fiery speeches from the Conservative element, I believe I should have had to retire from the Chamber last night. Unless there is a change in the weather - and I have been told, sir, to present a prayer to you as an alternative that 1 should get something to keep me warm - I may have to pass over to the other side of the Chamber in order to get near the fire. So far as the position of the Government is concerned, I take a different view from that which has been expressed by several speakers. I recognise that outside the two Ministers here, the Government have one supporter and a half, because it is only under certain conditions that Senator Cameron can be relied upon. I propose to prove that, after all, the Government is not in a bad position. Whenever a member of the Labour Party makes a suggestion, tables a motion, or speaks strongly on a question, the Government only needs to say that its position is in danger to bring the Conservatives to their rescue. I have not yet forgotten the two divisions of last session. This reminds me of an incident that occurred not long since, when I was sitting in the place reserved in the South Australian Parliament for Legislative Councillors. It was after I ceased to be a member of the Legislative Council of that State. The leader of the Opposition in the Council, who was a countryman of my own, came in and asked me “ How is it going?” “Well,” I said, “judging by the remarks of So-and-so it seems to be going in this way.” “ Man,” said he, “ you have been long enough in Parliament to know that it is not much use to take notice of what members say. How do they intend to vote ?” I am going to apply that story. In those two divisions last session honorable senators were classified. The Conservatives were with the Government, and the Socialists, as they are sometimes called in this Chamber, were on the other side. That is why I point out that actions speak louder than words. In these circumstances the Government practically have the balance of power. Before I entered this Senate, I was always under the impression that party politics should be unknown in a Chamber of this kind, and that it was not the province of a Senate, or within its power, to make or unmake Ministries. I really thought it was the duty of the Senate to look after the particular interests of the States, and to see that justice was done all round. I find, however, more particularly in the case of Conservative senators, that party politics have even entered here. I recognise that that position is a necessity in the House of Representatives, but this is a Chamber, to some extent, of second thought. Regarding the references made in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the question of Freetrade and Protection, this is not a time to go into the pros, and cons. I understand that the question will soon be before the other House, and will reach us byandby. I wish it to be understood that I belong to a party to which Free-trade and Protection is an open question. It is one of the planks of our platform that whatever view we may hold personally, when a referendum of the people is taken, and a decision arrived at, we sink our own ideas on the matter. In the meantime I am a Protectionist, and so were all my comrades who were elected by the united Labour Party in South Australia. As to being a follower of the Deakin Government, however, that is quite another matter. In that contest, so far as I know, there was only one Deakin supporter standing in South Australia - the late Minister of Defence, ex-Senator Playford. He is a man who is held in very high estimation individually. He has filled high positions in South Australia, and deservedly so, but as the only Deakin follower, and a member of the Deakin Government, he only received about 13,000 and some odd hundred votes, while Labour received 32,000. So far as I know the opinions of the candidates in our State for either Chamber, I believe it is a fact that only one was an out-and-out Government supporter, and he was a member of the Government. In South Australia the Deakin Government have been weighed in the balance and found wanting. Personally, when addressing the electors, and referring to the leader of the Opposition, the Right Honorable G. H. Reid, on the one hand, and Mr. Deakin on the other, I often said I would prefer Mr. Reid to Mr. Deakin in many respects, because the Tariff question is only one question. We in South Australia want a leader as to whom we can understand where he is.
– The honorable senator will have a lot of difficulty in knowing where Mr. Reid is sometimes.
– We have not always been able to understand where Mr. Deakin is either, except that whenever he gets the chance he is on the Treasury Bench, and will fight for office at all costs, and, I have often been under the impression, at the sacrifice of principle. The best person, to my mind, for Prime Minister, although it is not possible for him at present to occupy the position, is Mr. J. C. Watson. There is a policy connected with the party which he leads, but I have not been able to discover one in connexion with the other parties. I have referred already to the Tariff question. I am on the side of protection, but, at the same time, I told the electors of South Australia that I wanted protection, not only to the manufacturer, but also to the workman. I even go further. I want protection for the farmer. Some honorable senators, perhaps, do not know that I have been a colonist of South Australia for nearly forty-one years. I arrived in that State in 1866, and I have been connected with farming, working on farms for myself or others, for over fifty years of my life. I think I know something about it, and I am with the primary producing interests every time. I told the electors repeatedly that, although I favoured granting protection to Australian industries to benefit the manufacturer, the workman must be paid a fair and living wage. If that is not practicable, if it cannot and is not carried out, then so far as my vote is concerned, if I have the power or the opportunity, so far as concerns protection to the one side, if it does not apply to the other-
– It will not.
– That is a matter of opinion. I think it will, and I hold that the interests of the workman should at all times be considered. I am glad that quite a number of honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives went on the recent trip to the Northern Territory. I did not go. One of my reasons for not going was that I thought I could read between the lines of the letter I received from, or through, the Acting
Prime Minister, Sir John Forrest, a suggestion that he would much prefer that I should not go. I, therefore, replied that he would be pleased to learn that I had decided not to go. I put that straight, for that was how I felt in the matter. I am glad that many of my colleagues from South Australia went, and no doubt, when the time comes, we shall obtain valuable information regarding the Territory from them. I may refer for a moment to the proposal that South Australia should hand the Territory over to the Commonwealth, but I shall not do more than refer to it, because the matter will, undoubtedly, come before us in a more prominent form byandby. The country is too large to be governed by South Australia, and it is time it was dealt with in some other way. I think that here I can appeal to Senator Cameron for support. My honorable friend is a great champion of the cause of defence for this Commonwealth. How is it possible foi South Australia to place herself in a position to defend the Northern Territory so as to prevent the invasion of possible enemies ? Anything, that is worth possessing is worth defending. Although I do not profess to be an expert in military matters, I shall be ready to be guided by the advice o:t those who are possessed of special information with regard to it, and who are able to present a case that appeals to my common sense. I come now to one of tb, planks of the Labour Party’s platform, to which a reference has been made, namely, old-age pensions. I wish that when the Government enunciates a policy of this kind they would put it in plainer language, so that .people could exactly understand what they mean and whether they are in earnest.
– That would not always suit !
– In some cases it would be rather inconvenient, but it is the sort of thing that I like. I am a strong supporter of old-age pensions, and hope that the Government really means what it says.
– The Government tried it in the session before last.
– Not on its own merits.
– Yes, on its own merits.
– I am going to say a word on behalf of my absent colleague, Senator Symon, who, I suppose, is the leader of the Opposition in the Senate. If words mean anything, he advocated oldage pensions at the last election, not only for men, but for women. I thought that was Socialism; but Senator Symon went even further than our platform goes, because he was prepared to give a bonus to those parents who bring a large number of children into the world. I trust that the Government will be true to their guns on “this question, and that a strong effort will be made to bring about this much desired reform. I come now to a question to which a speaker opposite referred strongly last night. To some extent he challenged any one to express a different opinion. I refer to the question of immigration at Commonwealth expense. In my opinion it is inadvisable to adopt such a policy. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Price, was asked some time ago whether South Australia was prepared to go in for such a policy. If my memory serves me rightly his reply was, “ We have not got land for the people,, whom we already have here.” At that time we had a large number of unemployed in South Australia. Until we can find land for the people who are already here we certainly do -not need to import others.
– Hear hear; get rid of the land sharks 1
– I ought to know something about that question. Here is the position. The Government of South Australia have been fighting a losing game. A great deal of the land of that State is held in large blocks of freehold property, and some of the best land there is carrying sheep only. The present Commissioner of Crown Lands stated in Parliament not two years since that during the last twentyyears South Australia had lost about 60,000 people. That is, taking into consideration the excess of births over deaths our population should have been 60,000 more. The Commissioner, the Hon. L. O’Loughlan told me the other day that during the last two years matters have considerably improved. One of the chief reasons - I. know it myself, without being informed by the Commissioner of Crown Lands - for the loss of population is that there is such a difficulty in obtaining land upon which people can settle. Attempts have been made times without number to pass legislation providing for a progressive land tax. Such Bills have passed in the House of Assembly, but only one step towards what is required has really been taken, and that was in 1894. Bv the measure then passed estates under £5,000 in value were assessed at Jd. in the pound, and estates of £5,000 and up- wards in value at id. in the pound. The Government of South Australia has been trying for years to take further steps in the direction of progressive land taxation in order to make it almost compulsory on the part of those people who hold large estates either to utilize them for the benefit of the country or to give others the opportunity of doing so. As a representative of South Australia I have been sent to the Commonwealth Parliament to see if that policy cannot be effected by its means. In the State Parliament we cannot get the franchise for the Upper House lowered, and the Legislative Council always blocks reform. We have had dissolutions, and we might have a double dissolution, but up to the present we have been unable to get on to the Statute-book any measure dealing with this question since the time when the Right Hon. Chas. Cameron Kingston was our Premier. We want a measure to provide for the compulsory purchase of land at a fair valuation.
– What has that to do with the Federation?
– It has a lot to with it.
– It is a State matter.
– The honorable senator may think so, but I do not.
– Senator Walker was very much alarmed about it at the last election.
– What the bulk of our people want, and what the State itself requires in order that it may be developed, is employment for the population we already have there. Until we get that immigration is altogether unnecessary.
– Even in the Northern Territory ?
– I am not speaking about the Northern Territory at the present time; we wish to transfer it to the Commonwealth. What I mean is that we cannot secure a measure providing for the compulsory repurchase of land, because we are blocked by the Upper House.
– Abolish all Upper Houses ; away with them !
– The sooner the better. I am not speaking of the Senate, but so far as the Legislative Council of South Australia is concerned, the sooner it is abolished the better. It represents landlordism in the extreme. I refer to this question because I am sorry that the policy of a progressive land tax is not included in the programme outlined by the Government. The States, up to the present time, have been unable to carry such a policy owing to the opposition of a privileged class.
– How are they privileged ?
– Well, it is like this - only two-sevenths of the electors who have votes for the House of Assembly in South Australia are able to vote for the Legislative Council. Consequently, the Upper House can do pretty well what it likes. A progressive land tax is part of the policy which I advocate, and of the party to which I belong.
– Does the honorable senator’s party advocate that now?
– Let it be distinctly known then.
– I am only too proud to have it known.
– I am delighted to hear it, at this juncture.
– Wherever has the honorable senator been living? I am astonished to hear a learned gentleman so ill-informed as that. The platform on which I stood in South Australia was quite clear on that point. I addressed many meetings, and spoke with no uncertain sound. One of my reasons for , distrusting Mr. Deakin was that he was a bit inconsistent in regard to the question. He stated that in State politics he was a progressive land-taxer from the head to the heels, but was opposed to the policy in Federal politics. One of the causes which led to the defeat at the last Federal elections of ex-Senator Playford was that he was bitterly opposed to a progressive land tax, and even went so far as to declare it to be immoral. The people of South Australia could not stand that. For the information of honorable senators opposite, I may tell them something which occurred in South Australia during the month of May last which has an important bearing upon this matter. The South Australian Government, having succeeded in purchasing six small estates, cut them up into blocks, which were offered under the Closer Settlement Act. There were 138 blocks in all, and some of them were not very large. The number of persons who applied for these blocks was 705.
– And we want immigrants.
– Yes. I attended meetings of the Board, and heard evidence given before them. I heard the evidence of one man who had ten in his family, and who wished to get land for his sons.
– Why did he not come up to Queensland?
– Queensland people are objecting strenuously to Victorians going there, because they say they have been applying for land for years, and have not been able to get it.
– Nonsense !
– I think I have the floor, and though, perhaps, I should not give the information to honorable senators opposite, these interjections for the moment throw me off the thread of my argument. I have stated the position in South Australia, where 138 blocks were applied for by 705 persons. I might further state that some of those persons took the precaution to apply for a number of blocks, feeling that if they did not secure a block in one district they might be more successful in another, and in that way there were no less than 2,758 applications received for the 138 blocks. The man to whom I have referred as having ten in his family, believing that he had failed, and was likely to fail in obtaining land in South Australia, had his name registered in the books of the Lands Departments in Victoria and in New South Wales. That was when I last saw him, and his name may since have been sent on for registration in the Lands Department of Queensland. In these circumstances, who are the farmers’ friends?
– The Labour Party, of course.
– Undoubtedly they are. We are often told! that we are bound hand and foot to the caucus. Most honorable senators opposite have seen our platform, though they seldom quote from it. I could wish that they would do so more often. I believe in the platform of the United Labour Party. I indorsed it, and placed it before the electors of South Australia as embracing what I believed in. Outside of that platform, I have the fullest freedom, and I did not hesitate to give the electors something of the views of William Russell, as well as of those of the United Labour Party. At about a hundred meetings, which were attended, amongst others, by some persons holding the views of honorable senators opposite,
I asked any one present to name a single vote or statement which members of the Labour Party had given or made that could be shown to be against the interests of the farming community. My challenge was never accepted. My comrades and myself offered to pay the expense of a hall in which to address meetings if representatives of the other side would meet us in debate, but they did not agree to do so. We advocate a progressive land tax, and we mean what we say. There is no doubt that we are sincere in the matter, and whoever may occupy the position of Premier in South Australia must make an effort to meet us in some of these matters. I have no wish to waste time, but I am glad of an opportunity to defend the party of which I am a member, and towards which some honorable senators opposite seem to display great bitterness of feeling.
– Bitterness of feeling?
– If the honorable senator was not bitter last night, then I could not have understood him.
– The honorable senator looked very like it.
– He did look . very like it; in fact, he looked very cross. Last session, the honorable senator seemed to be in even a worse mood than he was in last night. Both sides of the question should be put, even in Queensland, and I do not mind taking a trip to that State with Senator St. Ledger and putting the Labour side before the people there.
– We should be delighted.
– I think I heard a member of the Senate say that he did not believe in a White Australia.
– No; they used to say that.
– They used to say it, but they are now becoming more crafty. I would direct Senator St. Ledger to paragraph 15 of the Governor- General’s Speech. At the time of the Transvaal war, a number of Australians went to South Africa to fight. I did not approve of their going to fight in South Africa at all, but they said, “ What grand times we shall have in the Transvaal after the war.” Many went from Jamestown and other parts of South Australia. They thought that after the war they would be able to settle down in the country and do well there. Little did they know that they were fighting in the interests of the mineowners and wealthy Jews, and merely in order to find an opening for Chinese labour. A lot of them believed that with so many Chinamen white men would have a rosy time there. But what happened ? It is a matter of history that the poor deluded persons who went there from Australia, and lost their time and money, had to appeal to the mercy of the States to bring them back again to the Commonwealth. I am very glad that they have been given the opportunity to return. Their experience should be an object-lesson to us, and should induce us to keep the coloured races at a distance. The object of those who advocate coloured labour and immigration at the present time seems to me to be to reduce the wages of the white worker. If time permitted, I could tell honorable senators what happened in South Australia in this connexion. We had a few dry seasons, farmers located on land outside Goyder’s line of rainfall experienced dry seasons, and for ten years in succession their crops did not pay for the value of the seed planted, though much of the seed was given by the Socialist Government of South Australia.
– Did that socialistic seed grow?
– Yes, it grew all right. During the last year or two we have had more rain in those districts, times have been better, and the farmers have been able to live, but if we had another dry season or two they would be obliged to leave those districts and seek employment with other farmers further south. One thing which has greatly helped has been the operations of the Tasmanian Copper Company ; that company has done a great deal for the northern part of South Australia.
– It is Tasmanian in name only.
– It is a grand name, and I am very sorry that we have lost the grand manager the company had there. At one time in South Australia it was said that if the Labour Party got into power the State would have a terrible time, the poor farmers would all be ruined, and private enterprise would cease. But what is the position of South Australia and of the city of Adelaide to-day? The merchants and the importers find that their accommodation is not large enough, and are extending their buildings all through the State. Not only is that the case, but
I understand that a very large and important firm has built large premises in the State in order to carry on its trade, although during the last few years, Tom Price, formerly the leader of the Labour Party, has been Premier of the State. Let it not be forgotten that the State has a surplus of ,£200,000 or £300,000. That is worth possessing. Surely men with prejudice will rub their eyes a little, and listen to reason and common-sense. The facts I have mentioned in regard to South Australia ought to prove an eye-opener to many persons. I may mention also that its Government has repurchased Yongala, an estate comprising about 60,000 acres, at between £2 and £3 per acre. While it was a sheep-run very few persons lived on the estate. But since it has been cut up, and brought under closer settlement, 127 farmers have established themselves there. What does that all mean? Contrast the present time when the estate is carrying 127 families, with an average of five persons per family, with the time when it carried only a boundary-rider and a shepherd’s hut. Moreover, tradesmen of all classes have found employment on the estate, and the farmers are paying rent.
– The anti- Socialists are there, too.
– Even the lawyers.
– Yes. It has been pointed out repeatedly that the additional revenue to the Railway Department since the estate has ceased to be a sheeprun has more than paid the interest on the money borrowed for the repurchase of the land. I do not know much about Victoria, and I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting New South Wales. But as I have travelled by train through Victoria from the South Australian border, it has occurred to me that the large-landed proprietor has a grip here to a far greater extent than is the case in many parts of South Australia. We can get an increase of our population in the way which nature meant. I do not wish to say anything which would be questionable, but during the last few years in South Australia - that is since prosperity has ruled - marriages have been on the increase. That brings to mind a statement which was credited to an Irishman who married a girl when she was only thirteen years of age. When he was asked the reason why he did that, he said,. “ I want to have a wife of my own rearing.” We want for Australia a nativeborn white population. The wise policy is to cut up the land on fair and reasonable terms, and give our ownpeople a chance to settle there. I am not a singletaxer. I do not know what I may be, but I do not think that I shall ever be a single-taxer. But promote settlement, let the people have an opportunity of marrying, and naturally the population of the country will increase. On the question of the Federal Capital Site I have an open mind. I am not prejudiced, as I hear that some senators from Victoria and New South Wales are. The Constitution provides that the Federal Capital shall be in New South Wales. I shall always be found supporting that idea, but I do not think that there is any great hurry to build a Capital for the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable senator think that Dalgety will be cool enough for him after his experience in Melbourne ?
– I wish to know more about Dalgety before I commit myself to any statement.
– The Federal Parliament has dealt with the question of the site.
– I have not been to Dalgety, and therefore I am not capable of giving an opinion. But if the Senate has decided that it is a proper place for the Capital, then I may say that I always like to back up a previous decision. I desire to make a reference to the proposed railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie. At every polling place I and my comrades told the electors that if we had occupied seats in the Senate we should have voted at least for the appropriation of£25,000 for the purpose of surveying a route for the railway. We did not pledge ourselves to the construction of the railway, but we said that it was breaking faith with Western Australia - with a vengeance I might add - not to vote that small sum. We also expressed our regret that some of the representatives of South Australia did not vote for that proposal when they should have done so.
– Hear, hear; especially the one who introduced the Bill on a previous occasion.
– I know all about that; but as Senator Symon is not present, I wish to let him down as quietly as I can. We should not go in for double dealing. When an important proposal of that kind is submitted an honorable senator ought to be present, if possible, to do his duty, and if he is, it is not right for him to remain in another room when a division, on the proposal is being taken. When the opportunity is afforded I shall be found voting’ as I have indicated. In one paragraph of the Governor-General’s Speech the Government announce their intention to bring in a Bill dealing with the Commonwealth Electoral Acts. I believe that the electoral law should be amended. In South Australia, at any rate, if the Government had left things alone, we should have been in a better position to-day. At the last elections there was mismanagement. The candidates understood that there would be seventy-five places at which the votes would be counted, and that they would not be kept waiting in suspense so long as formerly had been the case. But what happened? When Senator Guthrie was returned to the Senate, he, with other candidates, had to wait only about ten or eleven days before the poll was declared. That was quite long enough, too, but at the last election matters were so mismanaged and bungled that the declaration of the poll, when it was made, was not worth the value of a piece of foolscap paper. We had to wait for about four weeks before the declaration took place. Immediately after polling day there was a recount, and afterwards there was another recount. At the first count the late Mr. Crosby was fourteen votes ahead of Mr. Vardon. The first recount gave Mr. Vardon thirty-four votes ahead of the late Mr. Crosby, and the recount by the High Court, on the appeal, placed Mr. Vardon only two votes ahead of the late Mr. Crosby.
– And a seventh of the voting papers had been burned.
– Could management of that kind be surpassed ? If it was not wicked, it was very bad indeed, and I sincerely hope that some reform will be made. The unfortunate position in which Mr. Vardon was placed was due to no fault of his. As it has been proved to the satisfaction of Mr. Justice Barton that Mr. Vardon was not elected at all, why should either Mr. Vardon or Mr. Blundell, the petitioner, be asked to pay their expenses? The cause of the trouble was the bungling and the mismanagement of the officers, for which the Government ought to be held responsible. What would have happened if the petitioner had not taken action? I have not a word to say against Mr. Vardon, but unless the petition had been gone on with, Mr. Vardon would have been able to continue to act as a senator even although, according to Mr. Justice Barton, he was never really elected. Because Mr. Blundell moved in the matter, and was successful in proving that Mr. Vardon was nol elected, why should he be penalized? I am very glad the Minister of Home Affairs is present. I hope he will take a note of the matter. As a plain man, I should like to see an Act of Parliament passed so that it would not need a lawyer to say whether a vote is formal or not. We have had very little trouble in South Australian State elections in the past, because a vote was not considered valid unless the cross was within the square. The matter needs to be simplified in that direction, and I shall give the Government all the assistance in my power when the time comes. The people of the Commonwealth over twenty-one years of age have a grand privilege of voting for members of this Senate and of the House of Representatives, and I am of opinion that it ought to be made compulsory for people to vote or to give a reason why they do not. Looking at the matter from a financial point of view, with an eye to the saving of expense, I would advocate compulsory registration in addition to compulsory voting. That would get over many of the difficulties. Why should not people be expected, when they reach the age of maturity and become entitled to a vote, to see that their names are registered in the same way as births, marriages, and deaths are registered? In looking through some of the parliamentary papers that I have received since I was elected, I have found that quite a number of members of both Chambers are very seldom in their places. I am sure honorable senators on the other side will excuse me if I mention the name of the Right Honorable G. H. Reid. He attended in his place in the session o’f 1906, I think, less than eleven times. We are reimbursed our expenses, and when Ave undertake to represent the people it is our duty to attend. Senator Symon is not present, or I might have referred to him. I apply the principle all through. If a man is remunerated or has his expenses paid, he should attend to his duties. If he fails to put in an appearance and do his duty, he should either resign his position and give place to some one else, or he should be penalized for his neglect. I thank honorable senators for the patient attention they have shown to my remarks.
– I nad not intended to contribute to this debate, because of a fixed belief that discussion on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply leads to very little when all is weighed up ; but we are so infatuated with precedent that it is very hard to get rid of a custom of such long standing. If I had not felt myself compelled to refer to certain items in the Governor- General’s Speech, as well as to the criticisms that have been levelled at the Government from the other side of the Chamber, I should not have contributed to this debate to any extent. It is quite easy to understand the opposition that comes from opponents of the Government in this or the other Chamber. They are sent here to oppose, whether they are justified in doing so or not, but when they carry their opposition to the extent of describing the actions of the Government as wicked, and their conduct as being in the nature of misrepresentation and falsehood, their opposition certainly runs to licence, and should not commend itself to this Senate. We have heard those terms used by members of one party in this Chamber, which has long been supposed to be the Chamber of the representatives of the various States, and not a Chamber of parties.
– I do not think so.
– Yes. During the course of this debate, we have been told that the actions of the Government were wicked in some respects, and that they had been given to falsehood and misrepresentation in other respects. I therefore feel that the criticism has run to an extreme and unlicensed length. I am not entirely enamoured of the policy of the Government. While there are good spots in it, there are also very many bad ones, represented more particularly by the omission of some vital measures which the bulk of the people of Australia are anxious to see made law. I. can understand the criticism of the Opposition in a second sense, because critics are very easily obtained. As Lord Byron said, A man must serve his time to every trade,
And in a political Chamber of this kind it is not surprising that some unreasonable degree of censure should be indulged in. Getting back, however, to the Governor-General’s Speech, the debate or. which must necessarily waste a certain amount of the time of the Senate, let me say at once that certain proposed measures have secured my hearty approval. I desire to refer to the action of our representatives at the Imperial Conference in London. I do not think the bitterest enemy of the Government could say that our representation was wanting in intelligence or coherence, or failed to present a full and faithful statement of Australia’s case. The only drawback is that they did not succeed in inducing the representatives of the Imperial Government to see things from their Stand-point. That is quite natural after all, because when the representatives of the old country were asked by our delegates to give a preference to the products of Australia, they, as a party in politics who had their finger, so to speak, on the pulse of public feeling in the old country just after a general election, quite naturally and quite justifiably said, “ No. We are not prepared to accept any proposals which will mean an increase in the cost of the necessaries of life to our people through an extra impost on your behalf.” I can understand the action of the Imperial representatives in not coming to terms. When honorable senators on the other side sought to ridicule the attitude of the protectionists in this Chamber, I was anxious to hear what figure they would cut if, for example, they as free-traders were asked to give preference here to the old country. If the old country asked them to give preference to its products which go into consumption here, would they agree to impose increased duties? Would they not, as free-traders, claim that to impose higher rates for the benefit of the manufacturers of the old country would be a departure from their cherished principles of free-trade? As a protectionist, I claim that there is an easy way of giving preference to the old country, whilst still maintaining preference for our own manufacturers. The question can be dealt with in detail later on, but I believe it is easily possible to give preference first to our own manufacturers and our own workmen, and secondly to the manufacturers of the old country, and lastly, those who choose to compete from the outside world could have whatever benefit such an arrangement would confer upon them. One honorable senator on the other side appeared to argue that it was impossible to reconcile preferential trade with the old country with protection, but the debates at the Imperial Conference show clearly that Canada, by its reciprocal arrangement with the old country, still retains a substantial amount of protection for its own manufacturers.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– When the debate was interrupted I was speaking about the Imperial Conference, and the curiosity that was manifested by honorable senators on the Opposition benches as to how the protectionists would comport themselves if a preferential agreement were entered into by this country with the motherland. I wish to say that, as far as I am concerned, I do not see the slightest difficulty in arriving at a preferential agreement with Great Britain whilst still retaining a high degree of protection for our own manufacturers and our own people. Honorable senators opposite, especially Senator Millen, were rather concerned at the attitude which we should take up, and to satisfy him I wish to assure the Senate that I am perfectly agreeable to grant preference to the manufacturers of the old country in accordance with any agreement that can be entered into; in such a way,, however, as will, at the same time, insure a degree of protection for our own people - because I consider that they, come first. But if the free-trade party happened to be in power in this country, and it was proposed to have a reciprocal agreement between Australia and the old country, I am anxious to know what attitude they would adopt. Would they, for the purpose of entering into a closer alliance, in a trading sense, with the old country, agree to impose protective duties? I do not know whether they would or not, but am curious on the point. Since Senator Millen has expressed his curiosity at the attitude which we would take up, I am equally anxious to know what his own attitude would be - whether he would be in favour of increasing protective duties, and would thereby abandon his cherished principles for the sake of accomplishing such a reciprocal arrangement. There are three conditions which could be secured by the imposition of a scientific Tariff. First of all, our own people - those who embark in industries in this country - can be protected ; secondly, if we desire to enter into a closer trade alliance with the old country, and to give a preference to its manufacturers, we can do so; and at the same time we can reasonably expect some share of preference for our own products on the part of the mother country. Lastly, the position of outside competitors would be governed by the measure of regard we had for ourselves and the people of the mother country. Whatever measure of protection is afforded by a Tariff framed on those scientific lines will be welcomed by me. Coming to the matters mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, the first and most important practical question is that referred to in the paragraph relating to the adjustment of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. Speaking as a representative of Western Australia, and as one who has lately come from that State, and knows exactly the feeling of the people on the subject, I can say that no question bulks more largely at the present time, and no question is bound up so much with the individual and aggregate prosperity of the people of the State, as a satisfactory adjustment of the financial relations with the Commonwealth. In the past we have had no pronouncement from the Senate or from the other place as to what agreement is likely to be arrived at. The only indication of public feeling that we have been enabled to obtain has emanated from a set of minor politicians who assemble at annual gatherings, and who have never shown a friendly spirit towards the western State - at all event’s, so far as my reading of the debates guides me.
– Mr. Carruthers supported the Western Australian Premier all he knew.
– I am speaking not of individuals, but of gatherings of State politicians, which I repeat have manifested anything but a friendly disposition concerning the financial independence and just treatment of the western State. But I am glad to notice that, after all, those assemblages of politicians do not represent the truly Federal feeling in the eastern States. Those who have taken upon themselves the role of the most inveterate opponents of the Federal system have not clearly expressed the feeling of the other States towards Western Australia. I wish to make it clear that in no other question do the people of Western Australia feel so deeply interested, and on no other issue does our progress, and even solvency, so much depend, as on the satisfactory adjustment of our financial relationship. I am pleased to recognise that the annual gathering of State politicians, to which I have referred, is not the final and absolute authority in which the power resides of dealing with this most important question. Let me show those who have not, perhaps, had the time at their disposal to study the effects of the Tariff on the various States during the last five years - being sufficiently engrossed in studying the domestic affairs of their own States - what the effect upon Western Australia would be. The average amount per head of the population received through the Customs in Western Australia last year was £3 8s., or thereabouts. The average receipts per head for the Federation at large were £1 14s. for the same year. One of the gatherings of State politicians to which I have referred actually, agreed to a resolution to the effect that the bookkeeping sections of the Constitution should be abrogated, and that the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth should be distributed on a per capita basis. If this were done, it would mean the handing over of between four and five hundred thousand pounds annually to our Eastern neighbours. A mere glance at this glaringly unjust proposal should satisfy any person of the amount of friendliness towards the western State which characterized those who agreed to it.
– Then the honorable senator agrees that the bookkeeping sections should be maintained?
– Decidedly, failing the making of an agreement whereby an equivalent amount of revenue, in proportion to Customs receipts, would be returnable to the western State. However, I am perfectly satisfied to leave the question in the hands of those politicians who alone can deal with it, and in whose hands alone is placed the final and absolute power of dealing with it. The time is at hand when this question can be well ven-tilated and satisfactorily adjusted. I feel that it would be premature on my part to refer to it at greater length now. But I considered it to be my duty, as representing the western State, to take this, the first, opportunity of saying that we do not recognise in the least degree the opinions placed on record by the State politicians to whom I have referred. The question will have to be decided by the Federal Parliament, the supreme authority, and I am satisfied that we shall receive at its hands much more satisfactory treatment than those small annual gatherings have been disposed to accord. It is encouraging to note that the Treasurer, in dealing with the States debts question, has at last asserted the authority of the Commonwealth, he having told the State politicians assembled in Brisbane that it would soon be the duty of the Federal Parliament to give effect to that provision of the Constitution which enables the Federal Government to take over the States debts as existing at the foundation of the Commonwealth. I welcome this departure from the inaction of the past - to use no stronger term. The time has come when a firm tone should be adopted. The necessity for it has been provoked by the State authorities themselves. I am in full accord with the pronouncement of Sir John Forrest that the Federal Government should discharge the duty cast upon it by the Constitution in this respect. The advantages which will accrue from taking this action ought, I should think, to be patent to every one. I have heard contrary views expressed, but they are entirely contradicted by the experience of other countries. On quite a recent occasion an example was furnished to us by a Canadian State. It was sought, not so long ago, by a rich and prosperous division of the Canadian Federation, Ontario, to raise a loan in the London market. It was shown that there was ample security for the redemption of the principal as well as the payment of the interest. But this endeavour to raise £1,500,000 proved fruitless. Only something like £150,000 was subscribed. Yet Ontario has- no public debt of her own. She required this money for the purpose of redeeming the bonds of a local railway company. But, notwithstanding that Ontario is rich and prosperous, and notwithstanding the absence of the socialistic trend in legislation - of which my honorable friends opposite profess to be so much afraid - Ontario was not able to secure the money, though, at the same time, the stocks of the Canadian Federation were standing at a higher level than those of the Argentine Republic, and were certainly higher than those of any Australasian State. We can, therefore, be well satisfied that when, in the future, any Australian State seeks to borrow through the Federal Government it will experience the same beneficial result that, I believe, would have been attained by the Government of Ontario if it had endeavoured to borrow through the Dominion Government. It is a refreshing spectacle to notice that at last members of the Federal Government, in dealing with the State Premiers, have asserted the authority of this Government, and have stated that it will stand no more humbugging. Although the establishment of an Austra- lian Navy has recently been very much talked about, and has been the subject of a good deal of comment in various periodicals and in the daily press, I regret that no mention of so important a subject appears in the Governor-General’s Speech. My view on the question is that the time is rapidly approaching, if it has not already arrived, when Australians should make a start with the building of their own ships for the coastal defence of Australia, and I want to see them shoot from behind their home-made guns rather than from behind those which are brought here from a distance. As for the childish comment indulged in by opponents of this policy, I can only say that, in the proposal that we should set up our own system of defence, I can see nothing inconsistent with the maintenance in a practical way of the happy relations which exist between Australia and the mother country. I have not the slightest fear that our embarking on an effective policy of defence of our own shores will in any way weaken the connecting links between this country and the old country. So far as I am personally concerned, I say that should the old country become involved in any just and righ’teous conflict, I should be quite prepared to send the ships provided by Australian money to the help of the mother country in her hour of trial. My views on this subject have been publicly given expression to in the western State before now, and they have been indorsed by the people of that State. If it cam be honorably done, I am in favour of the immediate cancellation of the Naval Agreement, and the establishment of our own system of coastal defence, which will enable us to say that we have at last made an independent start, have got away from the mother’s apron strings, and have exchanged for a position of dependence an independent and selfreliant attitude. The reference to the Tariff in the Governor-General’s Speech gives me special satisfaction, because I gather from it that the Government are alive to the latest expression of the feeling of the people of Australia on the fiscal question. The Tariff we have had in the past has not satisfied the adherents of either shade of fiscal belief. It has not been a decent sample either of fish, flesh, of good red herring. I therefore welcome the announcement of the intention of the Government to introduce a Tariff which will give real protection to the Australian people in their industrial enterprises, which will be the means of providing much employment, and will, at the same time, secure an increased rate of wages to those engaged in carrying on the industries of the Commonwealth.
– The Tariff alone will not do that.
– I am aware of that, but where there is no employment at the present time, an improved Tariff will be a direct means of providing it, and if afterwards it is found that any persons attempt to take undue advantage of the benefits conferred upon them by the Tariff,, it will be the duty of the Federal Government to see that they are not allowed to ignore the interests of those whom they employ. If monopolists appear here, we shall be better able to deal with them on the spot than we can possibly hope to deal with such gentlemen at a distance. 1 therefore welcome the introduction of a Tariff which will set the wheels of industry going in the Commonwealth. When it is remembered that I come from the western State, which, unfortunately, for some time can have but little hope of benefit from the operation of such a fiscal system, the expression of my views in this connexion will perhaps be better appreciated. I am indifferent as to where new industries are started as a result of an improved Tariff. For my part, they may be started at Cunnamulla, Port Darwin, Sydney, or Melbourne, so long as they “are started on Australian soil. I want to see a start made in this direction without further delay, though I recognise that Western Australia cannot gain, and may lose to some extent by their establishment in other States. The electoral law is referred to as about to engage the attention of the Ministry. Let me say that, although we have had but a brief experience of its operation, it is high time that it was radically amended. Its operation in the western State has, in many instances, been most unsatisfactory and unjust. So far as the provision made for the enrolment of electors is concerned, the Federal arrangements have been superior to those of the States. But when we take into consideration the trouble and expense to which we go in order to secure the enrolment of electors, and at the same time recognise the imbecility, for I can call it nothing else, of local officials, or of the central electoral- authorities in Melbourne, in the failure to give opportunities to those who are enrolled to record their votes, it must be clear, even to the casual observer, that the administration of our electoral law is faulty in the extreme. In the State of which I can speak with some little experience, members of the police force have had to travel 50, 60, and 100 miles for the purpose of enrolling electors, and yet when the day of election arrived we found that not the slightest provision had been made for the purpose of insuring the voting of people who had been enrolled at so much trouble and expense. The chief difficulty in this connexion has been that in the sparsely-settled western State, where there are electorates which are greater in area than are some of the eastern States, an application for a vote must be sent in to the authorities fourteen days before an election if the applicant is to be enabled to record his vote. It cannot be wondered at if the benefits of such a system are not appreciated by those residing in remote districts of the Commonwealth, and after all they embrace the best manhood of the country: We know the unfortunate apathy of electors when polling day comes round. In closely-settled districts some of them have to be dragged to the poll to induce them to record their votes, and it is quite clear that in remote districts in carrying on their ordinary avocations in the battle of life, people are very apt to entirely forget what it is necessary they should do if, in order to record a vote, they must take action fourteen days before the date of an election. I have not indulged in this criticism of the operation of the Electoral Act without being prepared to suggest a remedy My remedy is that an applicant for a vote should be entitled to send his application to the nearest presiding officer, and, having secured his initials to the application; that should be considered sufficient for all’ purposes. So far as the expenses of candidates are concerned, we have had some remarkable experience in the western State. If the expenses of all candidates could be carefully inquired into, and an accurate report of them drawn up, the information supplied would be most interesting to read. I venture to say that it would be found’ that some of the candidates if they have not actually infringed the provisions of theElectoral Act have gone dangerously near it.
– Is that in WesternAustralia ?
– It is satisfactory that no such thing happens in the other States.
– Tasmania is somewhat smaller in area than is Western Australia, and travelling expenses in the State from which the honorable senator comes ought not to amount to a very great deal, as no special trains need be chartered.
– One could walk over the State in a week.
– He might walkoverboard. My experience in the West has been that opponents of the political party with which I am associated resolved upon elaborate expenses, including the hire of special trains. Perhaps it was unnecessary for me to say that it was our opponents who did this, because even the lively imagination of honorable senators opposite could hardly picture members of the Socialist Party hiring special trains. We found special trains chartered to enable candidates to get about the country, and insure their success at the polls. Seeing that the Electoral Act includes provisions for the limitations of the expenses of candidates, I should like to know how it is that some have been able to go outside the four corners of the Act, and employ any means of transit they pleased to get about the country, including even the cost of special trains? I direct attention to the futility of enacting a law intended to place two candidates on the same level, and then permitting the richer candidate to go to the enormous expense of hiring a special train when the Socialist candidate must use a bicycle or walk. Our experience proves that the travelling expenses of candidates should be subject to strict revision. It should not be possible for those adopting a particular shade of politics to avail themselves of the possession of unlimited cash to present their views to the country with greater ease than is possible for their opponents. The Electoral Act needs radical alteration in the direction of limiting election expenses for travelling purposes. We have noticed that candidates have adopted other tactics for defeating their opponents, and in this connexion, I believe, the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act have been evaded, and that the revenue has been encroached upon for the special purpose of aiding candidates to present their views to the electors at’ the expense of the taxpayers. In Western Australia we had many interesting exhibitions of the ingenuity of candidates in evading the Post and Telegraph Act, and using the postal system in forwarding their candidature unscrupulously. I have brought with me a few samples of their productions. Possibly the photograph shown in the production in my hand has been seen before.
– Whose face is that ?
– Sir John Forrest’s.
– The gentleman whose portrait is given was a candidate, and those who have seen his face before will remember it.
– Was that distributed before or after the elections?
– It was distributed before the elections, and, marvellous to say, the gentleman was elected.
– What is the name of the newspaper?
– It is ironically called the Patriot. It was sent about Western Australia at the Government’s expense in order to insure the success of its special sponsors and nominees, but it was done at considerable cost to the electors. Here is another production which shows clearly the odds which were arrayed against us. This sheet was called the Elector. The object of these purists in public life has been to exploit the Commonwealth postal system and the State railway system for the purpose of furthering their own views, and thus getting a decided advantage over their opponents. The Postal Act provides that a newspaper cannot be sent through the post unless it is registered as a newspaper in a post-office. A copy of the publication has to be submitted to a responsible officer in order that he may form an opinion as to whether or not it is a newspaper within the meaning of the Act. On the eve of the late elections there arose in Western Australia a party who issued three productions called newspapers, and got the railway system and the postal authorities - maintained at the expense of the taxpayers - to distribute their rubbish, and all for the purpose of advantaging themselves. Let me show the hollow profession of these men, who allege that the members of the Labour Party are not commendable in their conduct, and that their policy is open to attack. See how prominent is their meanness ! While they condemned our socialistic party, as they called it, yet they took every mean advantage in order to “ down “ us. In the late struggle we had no productions like the Patriot and the Elector to voice our views. With a few bare exceptions we had the press of the State against us; but notwithstanding the exploitation of the postal system and the powerful influence ar- rayed against us by the press day after day, the Labour Party triumphed by a substantial majority. We won in spite of all their machinations. Let me proceed to expose the tactics of our opponents at that time. Although the Elector did not survive one issue, yet it was recognised as a newspaper. If it be perused it will be found that it only reviled its opponents. I am anxious to know why the machinery of the postal system was permitted to be used for the special purpose of promoting one shade of political thought. This production weighs 170 grains, and it- takes 50 copies of it to weigh 20 ounces. Twenty ounces of newspaper matter are carried through the post at a cost of one penny. If these gentlemen who are so strongly opposed to the socialistic party were honest in their tactics, would any one be entitled to say that they were acting, with even moderate honesty, in asking the country to carry fifty copies of this rubbish at a cost of one penny, whereas, if it had been sent out as an ordinary publication, and not as a newspaper, it would have cost 4s. 2d. to carry 20 ounces? By this process of evading the law the antisocialistic party made use of the socialistic means of communication within the State and stuck to 4s. id. in every 4s. 2d. due to it. The great advantage which they obtained in that way ought to be transparent to any mind. Leaving the sordid aspect on one side, and getting down to the basis of fair play, was it politically honest for any party to use the postal system, and necessarily the taxpayers’ money, for the purpose of placing their views in a more favorable light before the electors than those of their opponents? Our party did not do so. It had to rely on every platform for the making clear of its views. It did not resort to the dishonest, the flagrant, I might say the unpatriotic practice of using the taxpayers’ money which the anti-Socialists in Western Australia adopted.
– Mr. President, can it be called dishonest to avail oneself of the postal facilities offered by the State?
– That is not a point of order.
– The position is quite clear to any one who chooses to regard the matter from an impartial stand-point. I believe that if the question were put to Senator Walker in his private or public capacity he would unquestionably come to this conclusion that, if the act was not dishonest, it was of a character which closely resembled dishonesty. The time has come for the Commonwealth to appoint in London an authoritative mouthpiece, who would be heard whenever matters of Australian importance required to be made known, and who would be the means of wiping out or minimizing the harmful effect which has been produced by the many Australian agencies there at present. It can easily be seen that the credit of this country and its prospect of advancement cannot be kept before the old world so constantly and so fully by six independent agents as it could be by one High Commissioner. His duties would be largely associated with immigration. I have never been opposed to immigration. Those who have used this constant bogy - and it is a despicable one - have not spoken in accordance with the facts, and are less acquainted with the attitude of our party than they might have been. In Western Australia, a Labour Government placed upon the annual Estimates a sum for aiding immigration, and it was voted. So far as I am aware, no item for that purpose has appeared since with two Governments, except on that occasion. That is a clear proof that the Labour Party took a part, a most tangible step in the direction of bringing out suitable immigrants. It also disproves the statements which are made in the press, and which were made in the Senate only so recently as yesterday, to the effect that we are opposed to immigration. So long as this country is capable of absorbing population in a legitimate way, then I shall be found to be in favour of bringing immigrants from Europe. I expressed that opinion during the critical time of an electoral contest. It is rather a satire that the Government have not linked with their immigration proposal a measure which would be the means of providing homes for people when they did arrive. We hear idle talk about the necessity for bringing out immigrants. It reminds me of a foolish man, who went to a distant place to take up a home before he had made the necessary provision. Those who speak so idly of the necessity for immigration, and who unjustifiably speak of our opposition to immigration, should first make provision for those whom they want to see here. If they do not take that course, then upon their shoulders will be cast the responsibility of bringing to the country people, and at the same time deluding them in a most deceitful way. My proposition is to unlock the lands and give the vacant areas which are at present held so largely in each State to the would-be immigrants whom honorable senators are so desirous of seeing here. I believe that with a wise system of land taxation we should have the prophecy of Mr. B. R. Wise amply fulfilled. Than that gentleman I know of no more reliable or practical exponent of Australian feeling on the subject. In a speech in London he said that through the incidence of a Federal system of land taxation there would be such a rush of people on to tile land as had not occurred since the gold-mining fever. It would be very interesting to hear what the late colleagues of Mr. Wise in New South Wales, and his late comrades in the field of politics, with which he has been so long and honorably associated, think of his views on the subject. A Federal system of land taxation is opposed in quarters which I know we cannot afford to ignore. Those who cry for immigration must first provide the immigrants with adequate means of finding a livelihood when they come here from their distant homes, so that they may become useful units in the community, and not be discouraged, as they would be if they were introduced here without the imposition of this tax.
– Is not that the duty of the States, and not our duty?
– The honorable senator went out of his way to refer to a chance opinion expressed by Mr. Hughes, who is a member of our party, in the old country. With what delight did the honorable senator seize upon that solitary note sounded by Mr. Hughes - a note that, I believe, has not been correctly reported - in order to show our attitude, as a party, towards immigration ! The honorable senator went out of his way to impute to our party opposition to immigration, but was he silent when the Agent-General of his own State, more than any other person in London, used his position to bring discredit upon this country? If he was silent, why was it? If he had been as stern in his’ protest against the remarks of his own AgentGeneral, he might be justified in drawing attention to this stray utterance of a member of our party, but if he was silent on that occasion, that is all the more reason why he should be absolutely silent now, or, at any rate, have the decency to admit that what Mr. Hughes is alleged to have said is, after all, only an individual opinion, if it was uttered at all, which I very much doubt. The honorable senator should first of all start to put his own house in order.
– It was quite true if it was said as reported.
– Senator St. Ledger made use of it in order to cast odium on our party. The main responsibility for trying to bring discredit upon Australia rests upon the shoulders of the party with which the honorable senator is associated. We do not need to go far for absolute and irrefutable proof of the fact that those who have been foremost in throwing discredit upon Australia are men who are drawing handsome incomes in London from Australia, men who obtain their sustenance from this country, and yet throw discredit upon the country that affords them food and clothing, and has given them comfortable positions, securing them, perhaps, for all time against suffering and want. Those men have the indecency to cast reflections and bring odium upon this country in the old land. With the exception of the stray remark that has been referred to, the Labour Party have taken no hand in throwing discredit on Australia, either as a party or individually, or in bringing Australia’s good name and fame into disrepute in the old country. Those who have consistently and systematically indulged in that practice belong to the party to which Senator St. Ledger is attached.
– The honorable senator has never found an expression from my lips in that direction.
– The Bill for the survey of the trans-Australian railway is mentioned in the last paragraph of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I hope, in this instance, it will be a case of the last being first. The fairness of this proposal has been fully recognised by the sensible men in this Parliament in the past. I believe that those who have gone out, and who were opposed to it, have been replaced by men disposed to regard this national project as one that should receive early and practical encouragement. I am content to leave this item, which is last, but by no means least, in the hands of the Government, believing that on the very first opportunity this Chamber, and the other, will give them sufficient encouragement and support to insure the Bill becoming law. I am glad to see Senator Millen present now, because I wish to refer to the mail contract, and the honorable senator took a very prominent and ingenious part in criticising the actions of the Government in that regard. The Government, in accepting the contract, unquestionably acted in the interests of the people of Australia, and as the negotiations proceeded I find no reason to complain of their attitude. I am no friend of the Government any more than I am their enemy. I am prepared to preserve an open mind on every proposal put forward by the Government, now or in the future.
– The honorable senator is not pledged to support them.
– Certainly not.
– Senator St. Ledger says the honorable senator is.
– I do not know that we are entitled to pay much attention to irresponsible utterances, but we, as a party, are. as free as air or water in our relationship to the present Government. Honorable senators on the other side of the Chamber have deplored the existence of so many parties in this Parliament. My opinion is that we have not enough parties. There are in members in this Parliament, and I should like to see 111 parties. By that means we should insure the most independent expression of opinion possible. I commend the Federal Government for having taken a most patriotic action in repatriating the Australians who were stranded in South Africa. Those unfortunate countrymen of ours must .ever remember it as an unselfish act on the part of the Government, but for which they would be still stranded in South Africa. None of the State Governments took action.
– The New South Wales State Government did a great deal.
– I might make a possible exception of New South Wales. It is, perhaps, a small incident, but it is a straw which indicates the true feeling animating the Governments of the several States, because with the possible exception of New South Wales, there was not one Australian State Government possessed of sufficient patriotism, unselfishness, and Federal spirit to aid their countrymen at a distance.
– Queensland was prepared to do so.
– I am taking the statement of the Acting Prime Minister on the subject. He said that after placing the question before the State Governments he was unable to get any satisfaction, and the Federal Government were obliged to go to the rescue of those people. It was a patriotic action which justifies the title the Federal Government should always have as the most patriotic, the most Federal, and the most ready to help its citizens who are stranded in a distant land, and in sore need of help. I am pleased that the Government promise to introduce a Bill to regulate the oversea carrying trade on our coast. It is high time this was done. In my opinion, although we may not go to that length - we will go so far if my vote has any influence - we should prevent any steamer from trading on the Australian coast unless it is registered here. We might also go to the length of prohibiting the registration of any steamer which was not built in Australia, as has been done in the United States, but for the present, until our industries get a fair start under the Tariff, I am not prepared to propose any step in that direction. I certainly am prepared so to alter the present law as to make it impossible for any shipping company from the old land, or anywhere else, to enter into unfair competition with our ship-owners and our seamen in order to carry on a trade to which our own people are justly entitled. There is a shipping company carrying on trade on the eastern fringe of this Continent, which is not paying Australian wages, and I am sure the most rabid free-trader in this Chamber will recognise that that is not fair.
– And one on the western coast.
– I am reminded that there is another company on the western coast of Australia, so that there is ample warrant for the amendment of our present shipping laws, in orde: to place Australian ship-owners on a fair basis of competition, and to place those men who, as Senator Neild phrases it, “ go down to the sea in ships,” upon a basis that will insure them a fair reward for their toil. I speak with a little experience on this point, because I came from Western Australia in a steamer that has a very good name for passenger accommodation. Senator Neild seemed to concern himself more with those who could lounge on the after-deck than with the unfortunate individuals who strive and sweat to get the ship through the water. I found that in that Australian ship, registered here, the place was almost like a pig-sty. There were piles of ashes and soot heaped up in front of the door. I should like Senator Neild to have ashes and soot piled up in front of his cabin door, and see how he would like it;-
I welcome the introduction of a Bill for the amendment of our shipping laws. The Government may expect from myself and from our party, fair, honest, impartial, and independent criticism. We are bound to no Government and to no party. We come here with a specific object, to attain certain specific ends. Our policy is fairly well known, and therefore there can be no misunderstanding. I should like to set right Senator St. Ledger, who, by the way, has a remarkable capacity for making extraordinary statements. Whilst Senator W. Russell was speaking, Senator St. Ledger expressed surprise at hearing for the first time that the honorable senator, who is a member of the Labour Party, was irrevocably wedded to the progressive land tax. Our party more than any other party in the political arena of Australia has been most clear and unmistakable in placing its views on that subject before the people.
– Then I was right, and not wrong.
– I understood the honorable senator to say to Senator W. Russell - “ That is the first time I knew your party was associated with the progressive land tax.”
– When was that statement made?
– The impression left on my mind and on the minds of others present was that Senator St. Ledger did not think the Labour Party had placed before the country clearly and unmistakably their advocacy of, and attachment to, a progressive land tax.
– The whole of my campaign in Queensland was based on the fact that the honorable senator’s party had done so.
– Honorable senators can rely upon it that all proposals submitted to the Senate will receive fair and impartial criticism from me and the party to which I belong; and when, ultimately, our party comes to power-
– The first step in that direction is to get rid of the present Government, and I am prepared to help the honorable senator’s party to do that.
– I am quite convinced that after the next election the Labour Party will return to Parliament with a great accession of strength, and will be, if not the ruling party in this country, certainly the predominant power.
– It is the ruling party now.
– I am glad to hear the honorable senator acknowledge that. But my honorable friends opposite need have no fear as to what will happen under the rule of the Labour Party. There need be no misgivings as to the doom which will overtake our country from placing my party in power. I am inclined to think that politics after all have not all to do with the prosperity of a country as is sometimes supposed. If we have good prices for our wool and other produce, and if Providence grants us good rains, the country will have little to fear for some time to come. But, notwithstanding that, it is certain that politics play a very important part in regulating the relationships between the units which make up the country and the Government by whom its policy is controlled. My own opinion is that the party to which I belong would hardly have been in existence, and would certainly not have been a power in the country had those representing other shades of political belief been honest, active, and energetic on the people’s behalf. The Labour Party came into existence simply because the exigencies of the time demanded it. Had the politicians in the various States been active in doing instead of in speaking and promising - had they been progressive instead of stagnant - there would have been no need for the Labour Party in our politics. Take the case of New Zealand, a country that has progressed at a remarkable rate, and that has lately enjoyed its seventeenth or eighteenth surplus. New Zealand has been carrying out a policy by which it has discharged the trying duty of blazing the track for other countries. She has presented to us the spectacle of a country enjoying more complete prosperity during the last few years than any other Australasian State. Such results have been the beneficent effect of a policy closely resembling that of the party to which I belong.
– The honorable senator said just now that climatic conditions had more to do with a country’s prosperity than politics.
– I admitted that political policy alone could not make the success of a country, but, at the same time, given good seasons, a country’s prosperity is very largely insured by a sound policy. Let me quote the opinion of Lord Ranfurly, who may be looked upon as an impartial authority by virtue of the office that he held in New Zealand, and especially as he was chosen from a set of politicians in the old country who are certainly not prejudiced in favour of what may be called advanced politics. After leaving New Zealand, Lord Ranfurly wrote an article upon the prosperity of that country, at the close of which he said: -
New Zealand’s people and Premier are in the habit of calling their Island State God’s Own Country.
He then went on to refer to the effects of several measures in New Zealand, which have not yet been instituted in Australia, and after having referred at length to the beneficial results of such legislation, he wound up by making use of this remarkable prophecy: -
I believe there is a great and promising future before New Zealand, and that it will soon take its place amongst the rising nations of the world.
After all, a country cannot be a bad place to land in when it can be said to be amongst the rising nations of the world. Yet New Zealand has pursued a policy closely resembling that to which my party is attached.
Debate (on motion by Senator de Largie) adjourned.
– By leave, and on behalf of Senator Henderson, who is the Chairman of the Printing Committee, I wish to give notice that, on Wednesday week, he will move that the motion passed by the Senate this morning with reference to the printing of a paper be rescinded.
Business of the Senate. - Tasmanian Mails.
Motion (by Senator Best) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– May I inquire from the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he can give an intimation as to what business he proposes to take next week on the conclusion of the debate on the AddressinReply ?
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs give the Senate any information regarding the Tasmanian mails as to which I asked him a question this morning?
– Since Senator Macfarlane asked the question this morning about the delay in the arrival of the Coogee, on Wednesday last, and what had happened to the English mails, I have had inquiries made, and have ascertained that on the day on which the Coogee arrived in Melbourne,the Postal Department was advised by telephone that she would be late. Arrangements were then entered into with the railway authorities by which a special train was obtained, and, on the arrival of the Coogee, the Tasmanian mails intended for England were at once entrained. The ordinary train for Adelaide was, I understand, overtaken at Stawell. Since then, inquiries have been made as to the actual cause of the delay, but up to the present no reply is to hand.
– Who bears the expense of the special train ?
– That depends upon the result of the inquiry. It may be that the contractors will have to pay.
– At the conclusion of the debate on the AddressinReply, we propose to go on with the Judiciary Bill, and then with the Income Tax Bill; or rather we shall propose that the second readings of those measures be taken together, as we can hardly discuss the one without the other.
– The Minister does not propose, I presume, to go on with the second reading immediately after the first reading has been moved?
– The first-reading stage will’ probably be taken on Wednesday next. There will be no debate on that, but the second reading will be moved after the Address-in-Reply debate is finished.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3. 15.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 July 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19070705_senate_3_36/>.