3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether he will be good enough to acquaint the Senate with- the number of applications for old-age pensions made in Western Australia; the number of persons who have been granted pensions, and the number of persons to whom pensions have not been granted, andi the reason for the delay in dealing with their applications?
– My honorable friend will readily understand that it is impossible for me to furnish the information offhand. I hope to move the second reading of the Old-age Pensions Bill on the next sitting day, and I promise my honorable friend to have then such information as he now seeks, if available.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, when the return ordered by the Senate regarding the detention of mails from Great Britain to Tasmania will be laid upon the table?
– An inquiry was made this morning, and I am informed that the Department is pushing on with the preparation! of the return.
– I beg to ask the Minister of Trade, and Customs, without notice, the following questions -
– As regards the first question, I believe that the position is as stated by my honorable friend. As regards the second question, I shall very gladly take an opportunity of investigating the matter. The Prime Minister and myself will take advantage of
Sir Joseph Ward’s visit to Melbourne when he is returning to New Zealand to reopen negotiations.
– Order ! I point out to the honorable senator that that question does not arise out of the reply.
– Mr. President, through you, sir, I desire to ask Senator Neild if he will inform the Senate whether the publication in question is a Free Trade one?
– I have already stated that I have not opened the pamphlet. But I assume that it is a political pamphlet such as that which, I have been receiving for a good many years, but which certainly has nothing to do with fiscal matters.
Commonwealth Government to the Government of New South Wales for lands required in connexion with the establishment of the Federal Capital ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Wales has reserved from sale generally and lease (other than annual lease) all unalienated lands lying within the boundaries of the proposed Federal territory.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That a return be laid on the table of the Senate showing-
The amount of the grants to each State Rifle Association for the year ending 30th June, 1909, showing each State separately.
The number of members of rifle clubs in each State.
The number of such members in each State classed as efficients.
Senator MILLEN laid upon the table the following paper : -
Stripper Harvesters and Drills : Report from the Royal Commission ; together with Proceedings, Minutes of Evidence and Appendices.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– In accordance with my contingent notice, I beg to move -
That so” much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
The object of this Bill is to make available the moneys authorized to be paid under the Old-age Pensions Bill, should it become law. Under the Constitution all unexpended balances at the end of a month have to be paid over to the several States. It is desirable, as honorable senators will readily understand, to retain for Federal purposes, particularly for oldage pensions, any unexpended portion of the Commonwealth’s one-fourth share which may be in the Treasury at the end of this month. I as”k honorable senators to assent to the motion, in order that by the passage of this Bill before we rise to-day it may be possible to secure for the purpose of old-age pensions amounts which otherwise would have to be paid to the States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I beg to move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The statement I made just now practically embodied, not only the reason for suspending the Standing Orders, but also the reason for introducing the Bill. There is perhaps a special reason why it should be passed this week. “ From the Treasury officials I learn that for some reason or other the obligations upon the Commonwealth in July are light, with the result that it will have a larger surplus, perhaps, this month, than in any other month of the year. In view of the very great demand which the payment of old-age pensions will make on the Treasury, it is desirable to conserve every penny of the money which legitimately belongs to the Commonwealth.
– Last year this was called a robbery of the States.
– My honorable friend is quite mistaken there. He will not find a single word of mine to -that effect.
– Not on the Surplus Revenue Bill ?
– The honorable senator will not find that I uttered a word against the principle of that Bill. My only objection was to making its operation retrospective. Under the Old-age Pensions Act it is necessary to provide money to pay the pensions. Up to the present time they have been paid out of the Commonwealth’s onefourth share, and this Bill only deals with the unexpended portion of that share. I sincerely trust it will receive the support of honorable senators.
– I -amgladto know that honorable senators opposite are now prepared to vote cheerfully for what last year they vigorously denounced.
– This Bill differs in no sense whatever from the Surplus Revenue Bill, which was denounced by them last year as a robbery of the States.
– Name those honorable senators who denounced it, because we deny the accuracy of that statement.
– I will ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council to instruct his secretary to look up Hansard, and there he will find proof that my statement is absolutely correct. Because we supported the Surplus Revenue Bill we were denounced as persons who desired to rob the States by honorable senators who to-day intend cheerfully to vote for a similar measure. It is only right that the electors should know that our example is now being followed by honorable senators opposite, who will support this Bill without a word of protest.
– The honorable senator ought to be glad that it is so.
– I am. I said last year that the Surplus Revenue Bill did not constitute a robbery of the States, but merely provided for a legitimate exercise of Federal functions.
– The Old-age Pensions Act had not then been passed.
– That Act was in existence at the time, and the date upon which the pensions would become payable had been fixed. Everybody knew that if the Surplus Revenue Bill was not passed the money would not be available with which to pay old-age pensions. The same remark is applicable to this Bill. So far as the statement of the VicePresident of the Executive Council in respect of the July obligations 6T the Commonwealth is concerned, 1 say that there is more than sufficient money in the Treasury with which to pay. old-age pensions, not only this month, but for the next two months. This Bill, therefore, is not necessary to make provision for the immediate payment of those pensions, lt really contemplates making future provision for their payment. It is exactly on all fours with the Surplus Revenue Bill of last year.
– The difference is that two of the States provided for the payment of old-age pensions up till the end of June.
– But that was not the ground upon which the Surplus Revenue Bill was attacked, which was that it constituted a robbery of the States. I am glad to find that those who supported that Bill did the right thing. If we sinned then, certainly the Vice-President of the Executive Council is sinning now.
– But we have since relieved the States of their obligation to pay the pensions.
– Only some of them. Under this measure Western Australia will receive exactly the same treatment as she received under the Surplus Revenue Act last year. In the absence of this Bill that State would obtain a greater proportion of the July revenue of the Commonwealth than it will now receive. Further, this Bill was introduced in another place by a gentleman who denounced the Surplus Revenue Bill upon the ground that it would rob Western Australia. At that time he scored off his colleagues by posing as the champion of the State which I represent.
– He would do anything for office.
– Personal abuse all the time.
– I know that Senator Fraser thinks that these acts of inconsistency should not be exposed. Only a little while ago honorable senators opposite applied the lash to us and played up to the popularity, of the State Rights cry. Yet they wish us to remain quiet and to refrain from drawing attention to the fact that they are now doing the very thing which they condemned’. The Senate is now asked to appropriate .£1,000,000 for the purpose of paying old-age pensions, notwithstanding that we know perfectly’ well that there is no million of money available. What is the position? The whole of the surplus revenue paid into the old-age pensions fund last year amounted to ^650,000. No honorable senator opposite - no matter how optimistic he may be - can believe that during the coming year the Customs revenue will increase in the slightest degree. . On the contrary, it has shown a consistent falling off ever since the last Tariff became operative, and that notwithstanding that we have experienced a most prosperous season.
– But were there not abnormal importations in anticipation of the Tariff?
– I believe not. If that were so, the decline in our Customs revenue would have been limited to the first year of the operation of the new Tariff, whereas that decline has been gradual and consistent. All this points to the fact that in the future the Tariff is likely to produce a decreased revenue. I repeat that last year the total amount of surplus revenue which we were able to set aside for the payment of old-age pensions was ^650,000. But during the current year the Government have to face the certainty of a loss of revenue, and also a greater expenditure, apart altogether from the payment of these pensions. I need scarcely point out that the Bounties Act only became operative towards the close of the last financial year, so that the expendsture under that heading had only just commenced. Now it is increasing every month, and we have to face a full twelve months’ expenditure in that connexion. In other words, we must incur a very much larger expenditure this year than we did last year under the heading of bounties. Then the Government propose to take over the control of lighthouses.
– That will mean a profit.
– The authorities in South Australia appear to make a profit out of everything. 1 do not know how they manage it. But [ doubt whether we shall make a profit by taking over the control of lighthouses. It has always been assumed that a loss will be incurred in that connexion. I think Senator Guthrie is alluding to the fact that in South Australia the harbor and port dues are controlled by the body that is charged with the management of lighthouses - I refer to the Marine Board. But when we take over lighthouses we shall not take over harbor dues. It is well known that the Commonwealth will incur a loss in taking over the control of lighthouses. Then we have to face a new expenditure in connexion with the appointment of a High Commissioner in London, the transfer of the Northern Territory, and the taking over of Norfolk Island. So that it is absolutely certain that we shall not be able’ to pay into the surplus revenue fund anything like the amount which was paid into it last year.
– The prospects are better than the honorable senator imagines.
– Senator Fraser mav mean that the prospects of the Joan institution with which he is associated are better. But I am dealing with the national balance-sheet, and the facts which I have stated cannot be controverted. Then is it not a fact that there are two Commonwealth Departments in which the expenditure must be immensely increased - the Postal and Defence Departments? No Government can retain office - I do not care what arrangement they may make with their supporters - unless they increase the expenditure in those Departments.
– The Government do not make any arrangements with their supporters. There is .no reason for them to do so.
– That little tale might have gone down with a gulp a week ago, but after the Ministerial caucus in connexion with the election of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, it will not bear analysis. Whether the Government make an arrangement with their supporters or not, the Postal Department is face to face with an increased expenditure. The Government of which I had the honour to be a member calculated that they would expend in increasing the services of that Department during the current year, and in bringing the existing services into an efficient state, ,£500,000. In order to equip the Defence Department and) arm the existing forces, it will be necessary to spend almost a like amount.
– Not necessarily so.
– If the honorable senator will look into the matter he will find that it is so. Of course, I am assuming that the Government are in earnest vt their proposals in regard to defence. If that assumption is unwarranted, they will not require to find such a large sum. But the Fisher Government were determined to make proper provision for the defence of the Commonwealth. So that not only will all our available revenue be absorbed during the current year, but we shall be faced with the necessity for imposing further taxation. What is the use of appropriating £1.000,000 of surplus revenue which will never be available? I could understand the Government saying: “We will appropriate the surplus revenue that is available during the next three months.” But if they are in earnest in their desire to pass the measures which they have outlined in their programme, they must know very well that at the end of three months, not only will there be no surplus revenue, but immediate taxation, or the adoption of other financial measures, will be absolutely necessary. I am not opposing this Bill. Onthe contrary I wish it to become law. But I say that it is largely waste paper, and represents only a pious hope on the part of the Government which will never be realized. Nobody knows that better than does the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– When the honorable senator says that the Bill is merely so much waste paper, he may be expressing his own hope in the matter, but he certainly does not express mine.
– I say. that three months have passed, and if the Government are in earnest in the scheme they are putting forward, they should tell us how they intend to find the money.
– The honorable senator, of course, knows the Government financial proposals?
– No, I do not; but I say again, that I do not know, whatever their financial proposals may be, how they are going to derive a million pounds of surplus revenue from Customs and Excise during the coming year for the purpose of old-age pensions. Even if we did not increase our expenditure by a single penny, seeing that we have only saved .£750,000 this year, I fail to see how we can save ^£1,000,000 during the coming year. The idea is absolutely preposterous. So far from being able to appropriate a million of money under this Bill, I venture to say that there will not be a quarter of a million of surplus revenue available from Customs and Excise for old-age pensions during the coming year.
– -Does the honorable senator not see that wherever the money comes from, if we are going to pay old-age pensions we must have this sum ?
– I quite see that, and therefore I recognise that we need to appropriate whatever amount is necessary. But the whole of the honorable senator’s remarks were directed to the fact that by this Bill we are going to allocate from surplus revenue j£r, 000,000.
– That had reference to the urgency and to the surplus revenue of this month.
– The honorable senator’s remarks were evidently made for the purpose of making it apparent that the sum of one million pounds was to be taken from surplus revenue, as the ,£750,000 was taken. If he desired to create that impression, I for one refuse to accept it.
– I did not intend that at all.
– I am surprised that Senator Pearce should have made an attack upon those honorable senators who last year thought that it was not fair to the States to appropriate money for purposes for -which some of the States had already made provision. New South Wales, for instance, spent ^650,000 on old-age pensions.
– We were not appropriating any of the money of the States.
– We were appropriating money which was not to be spent by the Commonwealth. New South Wales was at that very time paying her own oldage pensions. The ostensible purpose of the Surplus Revenue Bill was to provide funds for old-age pensions this year. I for one protested against the Commonwealth appropriating money for a purpose for which funds were already being expended by the States. Therefore it was not unreasonable that at the time we should not agree to what was proposed. But now the circumstances are absolutely different. The million pounds which it is proposed to appropriate will be taken out of the total income for the twelve months ending 30th June next year. It was scarcely fair for Senator Pearce to endeavour to make political capital out of false charges.
– If might have been expected that the Government would give us a clear indication of what their financial proposals really are. Instead of that, we have had a very brief general statement from Senator Millen. Every one who has given attention to the financial question must see that there are very great difficulties ahead of us, and the sooner the question is tackled, the better it will be. I quite understand that the Government want to shuffle with the question, and to play with it as long as they possibly can. They know that they are approaching a difficult condition of things. But for that very reason they ought to tell us what their financial proposals are to be. That is really the crux of the whole matter. It is only fair that the country and Parliament should have some knowledge of what the Government intend. The party to which I belong has published its financial proposals, and the country knows what they are. We do not know what the financial policy of the present Government is, but we do know that there are many things for which money is urgently wanted. There is no shuffling out of the difficulty that the various Departments of the Commonwealth are in. want of money. Every thinking man must be anxious to learn what the Government propose to do. Instead of telling us, they come forward with a Bill under which there is very little likelihood of their getting the money asked for.
– May I say with regard to that statement that the Government quite recognise that they will have to raise this money somehow?
– But what is meant by “ somehow “ ?
– I quite agree with the Minister’s statement, but we want to know how the Government are going to raise the money. Already one of the Ministerial supporters has complained because the Government took from the Commonwealth what was rightly its own last year. Except for the passing of the Surplus Revenue Bill our finances would! have been utterly insufficient to meet the call on them at the present moment. The Surplus Revenue Act relieved the situation, but only for the time being. For years we have been paying to the States 17s. 6d. out of every £1 raised from Customs and Excise, instead of the 15s. which the Constitution provided for; and the moment we took our full onefourth all kinds of objections were raised of the State rights kind. ‘ It is generally recognised now that the Commonwealth Parliament has been altogether too lax in its financial business. We have allowed matters to drift. We have handed over moneys to the States that should have been spent on our own Departments. We shall soon be face to face with very grave financial difficulties.
– We know that in regard to the Post Office.
– There are going to be very much graver difficulties in connexion with the Post Office than we know of at the present time. If there is anything at all in the utterances that have come from Colonel Foxton in London, there is also going to be a ‘very considerable expenditure on defence. In every direction increased expenditure is looming ahead. Surely, in view of the enormous responsibilities which we shall have to face, the Government should take the country into its confidence and let us know what they are going to propose.
– Does not the honorable senator know ?
– Indeed, I do not. I should like to know. We hear a great deal from time to time about the caucus and its secrets. But the caucus did not keep any secrets from the country in regard to the financial policy of the Labour party. Our proposals were published. Every one knew what we proposed to do at the next general election. Surely, then, we should have some indication from the present Government as to what they intend. Old-age pensions will, undoubtedly, have to ! be provided for. But if we use for this purpose money that should be used for new works and other purposes, other funds will have to be provided somehow. It is time, therefore, that the Government gave us some indication as to what their policy is.
– It is to be regretted that Senator Pearce’s mental equipment seems to be unequal to the task of differentiating between the taking of revenue for expenditure that is not accruing, and expenditure for the future. Last year a number of honorable senators, including myself, objected to revenue being appropriated for future expenditure. That was our sole ground of objection to the Surplus Revenue ‘ Bill. That objection was supplemented by the fact that New South Wales, as Senator Walker has just said, was paying a very large amount for old-age pensions. To-day we are simply asked to provide money for actual expenditure. But still we have honorable senators rising and quibbling about it.
– When will the money be expended?
– It will be expended week by week.
– The honorable senator knows that the Government have £650,000 in hand.
– We know that. But there is a difference between the objection raised last year to the position that then presented itself, and any objection to the position that is now before us. Last year all the States had money deducted, which they could not spare, because their arrangements for the financial year had been made. Towards the close of the year, the finances of nearly all the States were thrown more or less into confusion by that unfortunate Bill. I have no hesitation in saying that it was an unfortunate Bill, and it was a sort of financial arrangement that is not very desirable.
Senator STEWART ‘ (Queensland> [11. 11.] - Unless the Government give the Senate some indication of where they intend to find the money for this appropria- tion of one million pounds sterling, I shall be placed in the invidious position of being compelled to vote against the measure. Senator Walker laughs, but I have no intention of being caught between the jaws of a steel trap. So far as I can see, that is the present position. The Government are plainly, setting a trap, into which they expect the members of the Opposition to walk. I, for one, have no intention of doing anything of the kind. A similar trap was set in this Chamber some time ago. I refused to take the bait, with a certain result, which everybody knows. I refuse the bait on this occasion also. Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council tell us how the Government propose to find this million pounds sterling out of surplus revenue? Until he gives us that information, I think it is the duty of every member of the Opposition to vote against the measure. Why this hurry ? Is not the Surplus Revenue Act in operation?
– The provision made by that Act is only £750,000.
– But why this hurry? We are told that the financial policy of the Government will be submitted on the 1 2th August. .
– In the meantime, are we to. pay over surplus moneys to the States ?
– If that be the case, could we not simply re-enact the Surplus Revenue Act? Would that not be a better method of procedure than the present ?
– Senator Pearce has already affirmed, although I do not agree with him, that this is a Bill practically for the same purpose, and similar to, the one which the honorable senator supported last vear.
– The honorable senator need not try to draw me off the track. What I want to know is how the Government intend to find the money. I had not the good fortune to be present when Senator Millen moved the second reading of this Bill, but I understand that he stated that the Government intended to find the money from surplus revenue - that is, from revenue which would otherwise go to the States. Is the Vice-President of the Executive Council serious when he tells us that he expects that the surplus revenue during the present financial year will amount to ,£1,000,000?
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– I am sorry I did not hear what the honorable gentleman did say, but I am certain that neither he nor any honorable senator supporting the Government can tell the Senate how this money is to be found without the inauguration of some new system of finance.
– Have not the Government told us that there is to be a new departure ?
– Before voting for this Bill we ought to know what the new departure is to be. Why ask members of the Senate to “go it blind?” Honorable senators opposite may shut their eyes and open their mouths, and swallow whatever Providence, in .the shape of the Government, may send them ; but they ought not to expect honorable senators on this side to follow that example. I have no intention of doing so. I repeat that the Government have tried to lure the Opposition into a trap. They wish to get them into a corner, where they will be compelled’ to vote for some noxious proposals which the Government will later on introduce, or to incur the odium of refusing to find money for the payment of old-age pensions. I say that it is not honest of the Government to attempt to place the Opposition in such a position. They should announce their financial proposals here and now. Are they going to borrow? If they are, why are they ashamed to say so? Why do they not proclaim that it is their intention, instead of building works out of revenue, in future to do so by means of borrowed money ? It is clear that they must borrow or resort to additional taxation if money for the payment of old-age pensions is to be found. The Senate should be told which of these two courses the Government intend to pursue. If they mean to impose additional taxation, what form is the taxation to take? I say distinctly, that they have brought this Bill down under false pretences. They tell us that they will find £1,000,000 for old-age pensions out of the ordinary revenue. We know they cannot do so unless the financial system hitherto in operation is completely changed. Let me refer honorable senators to the figures given last year by Sir William Lyne. I do not know whether the members of the present Fusion party disregard Sir William Lyne and all his works, but on the occasions to which I refer he spoke as the Treasurer of the Government of the day. He outlined such expenditure in the near future as led every one to believe that additional taxation in some form would be absolutely necessary. That being the case, the Senate is entitled to some statement on the subject of the finances of the Commonwealth before it is asked to pass this Bill. I say that the introduction of this measure in the circumstances is a reflection on the Senate, and an outrage on parliamentary institutions.. We know that the Government propose a new departure, and why do they try to hide the facts from the representatives of the people? Why do honorable senators opposite, who are responsible in as great measure as are we on this side, tamely support a Government who conceal their intentions from Parliament? Are they in the happy position of being ‘ ‘ in the know ‘ ‘” ?
– Honorable senators who support the Government. Have they been told what the proposals of the Government are, and, if not, why do they support them?
– We have no alternative; we could not support Stewart.
- Senator Fraser is, I believe, a successful business man, and would he agree to anything of this nature in the conduct of his own private affairs? He would scout such a proposal as ridiculous. Yet the honorable senator asks us to believe that he is supporting the Government blindly ; that he has implicit faith in them, and is prepared to accept any of their proposals without examination. If that be so, the honorable senator is a faithless trustee of the people and is conducting the business of the country in a way in which no private person who wished to keep out of the Bankruptcy Court would conduct his own business. Either the honorable senator knows the proposals of the Government, or he does not know them. If he does, know them, why are not other members of the Senate also informed of them. If the honorable senator does not know them, I say that he stands arraigned before the bar of public opinion as a man who conducts the business of the country in a most slipshod fashion. I mean nothing personal to the honorable senator to whom I refer as an example of the following of the Government. Every honorable senator who is supporting the Government is in exactly the same position. Senator Walker, who is included in this sweeping accusation, is one of the directors of a large financial institution. Would he take things upon trust in connexion with the management of that business, as we are asked to do here? I do not think so. If it is wrong to do so in the conduct of private affairs, surely it is a thousand times worse when we are dealing with the large and important affairs of the country, ). repeat that I shall vote against the second reading of this Bill, much as I dislike doing so, unless we are informed about the financial proposals of the Government. I have been handed a paper on which it is stated that the net Customs and Excise revenue for the year ending 30th June, 1909, amounted to £10,845,249. Roughly, one-fourth of that amount would be £2,700,000. We have in addition £600,000 odd at present to the credit of a Trust Fund for the payment of old-age pensions, making in all about £3,300,000. That is the sum which the Government will have at their disposal during the financial year. Last year the Federal Government had at their disposal a sum of. £2,700,000. The ordinary expenditure of the year, not including expenditure on the Post and Telegraph Department, amounted to about £2,000,000, and the Government were thus enabled to pay into the Trust Fund for oldage pensions something over £600,000. Now, at the first jump we have to add to that expenditure £1,500,000, which, on last year’s figures M’ill leave the Commonwealth with a deficit of about £200,000. That is the position as I see it, and it is so serious that it demands some explanation from the Government. In addition to the expenditure for the payment of old-age pensions, there must be added expenditure on defence. The ex-Minister for Defence has told us that if the Department is to be put into anything like a proper condition an increased expenditure of £500,000 will be absolutely necessary. With an expenditure of £1,500,000 for old-age , pensions and £500,000 for defence, we shall have an addition of £2,000,000 to the ordinary expenditure of the last financial year. As every one knows, the Post and Telegraph Department is in the most wretched condition, and urgently demands increased expenditure, if it is to be conducted efficiently. Those who know best tell us that something like £500,000 will be required to put that Department into proper working order. So we shall have to provide for £2,500,000, in addition to the ordinary expenditure of the last financial year. The Government tell us that the appointment of a High Commissioner is a part of their policy, and to give it effect will involve an added expenditure of somewhere about £30,000 a year. Again, the question 01 the Federal Capital will probably be taken a step forward during the present session. If the Federal Territory is chosen and steps are taken to establish the Capital a very large expenditure will be necessary. In addition to that we have a proposal for establishing an Agricultural Bureau. That cannot ‘be done without money. I have no idea how much it will cost, but an expenditure of less than £20,000 for the purpose would be of very little use.
– I do not think it is necessary.
– That is another question. We are not called upon now to express an opinion as to the necessity or desirability or otherwise of an Agricultural Bureau. This Government have a majority - I will not say it is a servile majority, because every majority is more or less servile - and if they are really serious in connexion with this and other matters, they can no doubt have their own way. Again, we have a proposal to establish an Inter-State Commission, which is to administer the new Protection. That proposal must be carried during the present session, otherwise the Government will be convicted of insincerity. I do not know that they require much conviction on that score.
– The honorable senator hardly expects them to plead guilty?
– I am not sure whether they will plead guilty or not. In any case, unless the Inter-State Commission is appointed and put into working order, the country will charge the Government with insincerity, and, I think, rightly so. How much or how little the Inter state Commission is going to cost I cannot estimate. But, suppose that it costs £20,000 a year, and that, I believe, is a very moderate estimate indeed. That also will have to be met out of current revenue or in some way. Again, we “have a proposal to take over trie Northern Territory. The Government tell us that it is absolutely necessary that that question should be settled in the very near future. It will involve an expenditure amounting from £^150,000 to between £200,000 and £300,000 a yea.r. Again, we want to know the arrangement of the Government with regard to the transferred properties, which is a most serious question. So far as I have been able to gather from statistics, those properties are valued at between £^10,000,000 and £11.000,000. I do not know what the Government intend to do, but I have heard that there is a proposal on the part of the Commonwealth that the States should hand over debts to that amount. If that is done, what will it mean? It will involve an annual interest payment of between £300,000 and ,£400,000. The agony has been piled up until it reaches so high that really we do not know where we are financially. We have no conception, apparently, of the serious position of the finances. I believe that even if the Government do persist in taking this new departure, which, I suppose, means borrowing, there will be a necessity for imposing new taxation. Before I consent io the expenditure of a single farthing. I want to know what the Government’s financial proposals are. I have clearly shown, 1 think, that, as our finances stand, it is absolutely impossible for the Government to meet their proposed expenditure during the current financial year. If that is the case, then it is the duty of Ministers to tell us how they mean to find the money before asking us to vote it.
– The honorable senator is not now asked to vote any new expenditure.
– We are asked to empower the Government to spend £1,000,000. A little while ago the honorable senator referred to the intelligence of another senator. Will he permit me now to refer to his intelligence?
– Go ahead.
– I have shown, I. think, that on the face of it the Government, under existing conditions, and with their present resources, cannot find, in addition to their other ordinary proposed expenditure the sum of £1,000,000 for old-age pensions without either borrowing or imposing fresh taxation, or perhaps doing both. Is it not reasonable that, before consenting to a measure of this kind, the Senate should know what the new proposals are?
– They mav get the consent of the States to retain another ;£r ,000,000.
– At the beginning.. I said that I looked upon this proposal as very much in the nature of a tran. I might say that once more we are reminded of the old legend of the spider and the fly. “Will you walk into my parlour? said the spider to the fly.” In this case, the fly is not going to walk into the parlour if it can avoid doing so. It is going to oe too “fly” to do that. Every member of the Opposition, and every senator on the other side who is not bound to the chariot wheel of the Government, ought to vote against this appropriation until the intentions of the Government are disclosed.
– Is the honorable senator prepared to block the payment of old-age pensions?
– That is what the honorable senator is aiming at.
– 1 am not blocking the payment of the old-age pensions. The Government do noi require £i, 000,000.
– Not all at once.
– The Government have money to pay the pensions for the present month. Where is the honorable senator’s intelligence again, let me ask? The Government have plenty of money to pay the pensions for several months, for they have nearly £1,000,000 in hand. What I want to know is, how is this additional money going to be found.? I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but I have a faint idea as to how the Government will ultimately act. In another place the other day, we had a kite flown by a supporter of the Government. He rose in his place, and, inspired, I suppose, by some one in authority, he detailed how, in his opinion, the additional money could be found. Three methods were detailed. The first proposal was to impose a duty of 6* per cent, on cotton goods ; the second was to reimpose the duty on tea, and the third was to tax kerosene. These are the proposals which, I believe, lie at the back of the mind of the Government, and the speech made by the honorable gentleman in another place was a feeler put forth by the Government to find out how their proposals were likely to be accepted by the people as a whole.
– I think not. I do not think they would risk the row that would ensue.
– They tried it before, and were only defeated by the persistent opposition of two or three senators.
– Does the honorable senator think that we encouraged them to try it again?
– We know that since those days things have changed. ‘ I do not say that the honorable senator is a follower who will stick to the Government through thick and thin. But they have behind them a number of men who are obliged to see them through, and who, in addition to that, look with ‘ favorable eyes upon the kind of taxation which was indicated by a Government supporter in another place. Every one of these honorable gentlemen believes in reimposing the duty on tea, and taxing kerosene.
– Order ! I point out lo the honorable senator that he will not be in order in debating the methods of taxation. This is not a question of granting Supply, but a question of appropriating public money. The honorable senator is in- order in alluding to the various obligations which may be cast upon the Government from time to time, but he cannot debate any method of raising the money.
– I’ shall not go into that matter, sir. The Government are pledged against any form of direct taxation, and therefore there is no alternative except indirect taxation. If it is intended to impose indirect taxation- :
– Order ! The honorable senator is new departing from the ruling which I gave. This is simply a Bill to appropriate public money. It is clearly within the honorable senator’s right to point out the many obligations which the Government will have to meet, but he cannot go into the question of the method of raising the money.
– Surely, sir, I am entitled to give my reasons for voting against an- appropriation of this character?
– Order! The honorable senator is perfectly within his rights in giving his reasons for voting against the appropriation, but he is not in order in debating the method by which the money is to be raised.
– But I want to know the method in which it is to be raised.
– The honorable senator can ask the Government to state the method, but on this Bill he cannot draw the conclusion that the money is going to be raised either in one way or in another way.
– I point out to you, sir, with all deference, that in order to explain my position to the country, it is absolutely necessary that I should state here what my objections to the second reading of this measure are. I have a responsibility to my constituents. I am asked to vote for the appropriation of £1,000,000 for old-age pensions, and I know that unless some new form of taxation is imposed the money will not be available. Surely, sir, in the interests of the country, I am entitled now to get such information as T want from the Government, or, failing that, to give reasons which would justify me before my constituents in voting against the measure.
– I have not attempted to prevent the honorable senator from giving reasons, and1 very extensive reasons too, for voting against the appropriation. The only limitation I have imposed is that he cannot debate the method in which the money is to be raised. It is well that he should bear in mind that there are two ways in which public money is dealt with in another place. First, Supply is granted, and then the method by which the money is to be raised is settled. In the Senate we have not a Committee of Ways and Means, but that fact does not justify the honorable senator in discussing the way in which the money is to be raised, for the purpose of meeting any obligations upon the Commonwealth. He is at liberty to point out the large obligations which the Government have ahead of them and the insufficiency of the revenue which is being derived, but he cannot debate the question of how additional revenue is to be raised.
– Very well. I shall content myself with saying that so far as I can see there will be no money in the Treasury during the current year with which to meet the appropriation which we are now asked to make and the additional obligations which are apparently to be incurred by the Government unless they either borrow or impose new taxation. Now I know that the Government are opposed to one form of taxation, and consequently if money must be raised, the other method of taxation must be resorted to. I submit that the policy of the Government ought to be disclosed to the Senate before it is asked to appropriate a single farthing. I intend to vote against the second reading of the Bill as a protest against the action of the Government in refusing to disclose their financial proposals to Parliament. We ought to be informed how they propose, to raise this money, from what source it is to be obtained, and whether resort is to be had -to direct or indirect taxation, or borrowing. The consideration of this Bill might well have been deferred until such time as the Ministry were prepared to disclose their financial proposals to the country. Until information regarding those proposals is forthcoming I shall feel compelled to vote against the second reading of the measure.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [n.48]. - If the proposal submitted by the Government were one for the appropriation of £1,000,000 to enable them to proceed wtih some public work or to embark upon some public undertaking, I should have a good deal of sympathy with portion of the speech of Senator Stewart. But this Bill does not contemplate an appropriation in connexion with any new expenditure on schemes of an unknown character, but in connexion with a statutory obligation which, if not complied with, can end only in the more than ugly act” of repudiation.
– And that obligation has to be met no matter what Government may be in office.
– Exactly. Whatever Government may be in office, whatever methods may be devised for raising the requisite revenue, the future obligation of the Commonwealth in connexion with old-age pensions has to be met. Now, it is well known that the real object of this Bill is to appropriate so much of the revenue of the Commonwealth that there may be no surplus available to return to the States.
– Where does the Bill say that?
– It does not say that, but that is the net result. If we appropriate the million pounds which we are asked to appropriate we shall have to make a larger draft on the Commonwealth onefourth of the Customs and Excise revenue than we should otherwise ha.ye to make.
– But is not that money paid automatically into a trust account?
– We have abundant justification for voting this money without incurring any ill-will on the part of the States. Whatever may be thought of the good luck of the States in the early days of Federation, it has been recognised for a long time past that the Commonwealth will require every shilling of its one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue to meet its own obligations. Further, the State Premiers, at a Conference which was held not long ago, expressed their willingness that the Commonwealth should retain not only its full one- fourth of that revenue, but that it should also utilize some portion of the remaining three-fourths which, under the ‘ Constitution, is returnable to the States.
– That view has not been expressed by the Premier of the State which I represent.
– By initiating a Federal scheme of old-age pensions, we have certainly relieved an overwhelming majority of the taxpayers of Australia of the obligation to provide funds for the payment of State old-age pensions. That being so, the State taxpayer cannot, complain if we exercise - as we propose to do under this Bill - our right to appropriate our full one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. If, sir, I may be permitted to incidentally refer to. remarks made during the course of this debate without infringing your ruling, I would draw attention to the fact that the proposal to impose a tax upon tea to enable old-age pensions to be paid by the Commonwealth is embodied in the report of the Royal Commission on Old-age Pensions, and also in the report which I wrote ten or twelve years ago, in which I argued the matter at considerable length.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that you, sir, have ruled that an honorable senator is not in order in discussing the method by which money is to be raised which this Bill seems to appropriate.
– I gave such a ruling, but I understood that Senator Neild was making merely an incidental reference to a statement which was made earlier in the sitting. The honorable senator will not be in order in debating the method bv which the money which the Bill seeks to appropriate, is- to be raised. He may make a passing allusion to it, but that is all.
– Your estimate, sir, of what I was seeking to “do is entirely accurate, and I had completed all that I wished to say on the matter before the point of order was raised. The Commonwealth is bound to raise the money with which to discharge its statutory obligations.
– I wish to know where the money is to come from before I support the Bill.
– My. honorable friend might just as well take up the attitude of refusing to touch his parliamentary allowance until he had ascertained where the money was to come from. In doing so, he would be just as logical, and very much more self-sacrificing.
– But this is additional expenditure.
– We must either find the money or the Commonwealth must be guilty of an act of repudiation. If it were proposed to appropriate this money for some obligation - not of a statutory kind - r should sympathize very largely with the attitude taken up by the honorable senator. But as it is required to meet a statutory obligation, I cannot entertain that view. Under the circumstances, I have no option but to vote for the Bill. I admit that it contemplates a very novel - except for the fact that the obligation is a statutory one - departure from the practice of appropriating public moneys. I hope that at a very early date we shall have from the Govern ment such a complete exposition of its financial proposals, that there will be no further need for such a debate as has taken place this morning.
– This Parliament has by legislative enactment provided for the payment of old-age pensions, and for that purpose has now a Trust Fund of over £600,000. Now we know that at least .£1, 500.000 will be annually required to enable these old-age pensions to be paid. With that object in view, the Government are now asking the Senate to appropriate £r, 000,000. I submit that this Chamber will be merely discharging its duty bv granting the Government the additional powers which they now seek. As has teen remarked bv Senator Neild, the appropriation of this money is being made in a somewhat novel and extraordinary form. But the answer is that the necessities of the situation are both novel and extraordinary. I shall support the Bill for the purpose of emphasizing the fact that the Government must find the money for oldage pensions during the year. The sooner they make definite provision for raisingthe necessary amount the better it will be. My honorable friends opposite say that the Government have not made clear how they are going to provide the /Ti ,000.000. But there is such a thing as a Budget. In that Budget the method of finding the money will, I presume, be explained. The Opposition, who style themselves— and properly so in many respects - the guardians of the old-age pensions policy, instead of obstructing this measure, ought to assist in securing the appropriation of the £1,000,000 for the purpose, leaving it to the Treasurer and the Government to determine how the money is to be found. Can any one say that the £,”1,000,000 is not needed? I hope that the Government will exert their utmost efforts to force this measure through at the earliest moment, considering that the £t, 000.000 is required for a purpose of which, I believe, the whole of the people of Australia absolutely approve. If the Government later on come down and admit that they have not discovered a means of raising the money required, I have not the slightest doubt that the Senate and the other House will meet them in a very different frame of mind. But the position now is quite clear. It is our business to give permission to appropriate £1,000,000. I do not think there is a single member of Parliament in either House who would not say to the Government, “As soon as you can find that money do so.” It is our task to appropriate the amount. It is the task of the Government to determine how the money can be obtained.
– The wonderful solicitude displayed by Senator St. Ledger for the old people of Australia, reminds me of the saying, “ A change has come over the spirit of the dream.” Standing in the very spot from which I am now speaking, only a few months ago, the honorable senator was just as strenuous in his opposition to the machinery measure which has enabled oldage pensions to be paid as he now professes to be eager for the passing of this Bill.
– To which measure does the honorable senator refer?
– The measure which the honorable senator so strenuously and strongly opposed was the Surplus Revenue Act, which was similar in its scope and purpose to that which we are now discussing. Had it not been for that Act, the aged poor of Australia in those States where local legislation had not been enacted for the payment of old-age pensions, would not be receiving the small pitta nee which is being paid to them.
– That is just what was said when certain honorable senators on the Opposition side, including myself, opposed the Special Duties Bill.
– I am referring to the foundation of our old-age pensions scheme, and I say that, view the matter as we may, it is an accepted fact that, had the Surplus Revenue Bill not been passed, we should not be discussing this measure now.
– I think that is nonsense.
– We are now asked to appropriate £1,000,000, and Senator St. Ledger says that the procedure is novel. But the most novel feature of the situation is the sudden conversion of Senator St. Ledger. He, however, has endured so many conversions that we need not wonder. Now he is caucus-bound, gagged and tied, and must accept everythink that his party leaders propose.
– Why does not the honorable senator discuss principles, and leave personalities alone?
– That interjection from Senator Vardon is scarcely appropriate, because last week I listened to him while he was “rounding-on” my honorable friend, Senator W. Russell.
– The honorable senator must not allude to a previous debate.
– As to the appropriation of £1,000,000, I could understand the proposition better if we were about to pay invalid pensions. But as that is not the case, I do not think that the amount asked for is necessary. At the same time, I shall support the second reading of the Bill. I am, however, wondering where the £1,000,000 is to come from.
– :The honorable senator should not support the second reading of the Bill if he has any doubt about the matter.
– If the Minister talks like that, he may not get his ma jority.
– It has been admirably shown by my colleagues, Senator Stewart and Senator Pearce, that the revenue from Customs and ‘Excise is falling. At the same time, our responsibilities are increasing. We are face to face with the fact that we cannot in the future rely upon indirect methods of taxation. I am, therefore, puzzled to know how the £1,000,000 is to be raised. ‘Another phase of the question is, that a number of my honorable friends who now support the Government said on a previous occasion that it would be far better for the State than for the Commonwealth to conduct old-age pensions schemes. They objected to centralization. I, on the contrary, am of opinion that old-age pensions should be a part of
Commonwealth policy, or the aged poor who may have gone from one State to another would not be able to receive pensions.
– The honorable senator is now debating, not the appropriation of money, but the policy of old-age pensions.
– Whilst I support the second reading of the Bill, I consider that the Vice-President of the Executive Council, when replying, ought to give some indication as to the way in which the £1,000,000 of surplus revenue is to be obtained.
– We listened a little while ago to a characteristic speech from Senator Stewart. 1 am afraid that the honorable senator presents us with the example of a man with whom the making of speeches of a certain type has become a confirmed habit. To some extent I can sympathize with him, because I am trying myself to fight against the possibility of establishing such a habit. He has been so often in opposition that he probably finds it hard to resist the habit. But in the present case I think he is making a mistake. He joined with several of us some time ago when we were discussing the means of finding money for old-age pensions, in protesting against the imposition of special duties fort hat purpose; and I understood that he was fighting shoulder to shoulder with us for a policy, the cardinal feature of which was that old-age pensions should be chargeable upon the general revenue of the Commonwealth. Now, what ‘have the Government done in this case? They have in the most open way said to the Senate, “ We are going to charge upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund the amount that is necessary to pay old-age pensions.”
– Then, why is it necessary to make a special appropriation ?
– I am not so much concerned with showing whether it is necessary or not to make a special appropriation, but I will say that, from my point of view, it is very desirable. I am glad that the Government have so clearly said “ We are going to pay old-age pensions,” and that they aregoing to do that in the best of all possible ways, by making the money necessary for that purpose a charge upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– We do not adopt this method in regard to defence or any other expenditure.
– Even if we do not, is the Government to be blamed because they have shown a certain amount of courage in dealing with this question ? They have handled the subject, as far as I have been able to judge, in a very proper way - in a way that, at any, rate, meets with mv entire approval. They have said, as we all know, that the money shall be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. But what is Senator Stewart’s attitude?
– Has not all money to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund? Is there any other fund?
– When a proposal for meeting the necessities of the old age pensions- scheme was before the Senate some years ago in the form of duties to be levied on special articles, I in common with others, objected to what I considered was practically a class payment - that is to say, I objected to getting money for old-age pensions from a particular class of individuals in the community. I, with others, strongly and strenuously and successfully opposed that proposition. We then contended that the money ought to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and not by means of a special tax. Consequently, when the Government come down with a proposal to appropriate money out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for this purpose, I do not think we ought to interfere. We ought to be very well satisfied that the payment is to be made in the best possible way. We can leave it to the Government to determine how the money shall be raised.
– The Government say that unless they get this Bill they will have to pay the surplus month by month to the States.
– We might very well leave to the Government the particularmethod they will adopt so long as they indicate, as they do very clearly in this Bill, the principle on which they are going to proceed. Senator Stewart and even’ other member of the Senate must agree that the principle indicated is an eminently . sound one.
– I think it is theopposite. It is making a special appropriation where it is unnecessary.
– In the circumstances I must leave the honorable senator, and say that I entirely approve of thisBill.
– Would the monthly balances have to be paid back to the States if this B.ill were not passed?
– I cannot understand what is at the back of Senator Turley ‘s mind when he asks that question. If he wishes to get from me an expression of opinion on the Surplus Revenue Act I can tell him that I was entirely in favour of it. I have no objection to its continuance, and never had. I recognise, as I suppose Senator Turley does, that the Surplus Revenue Act alone will not provide all the money necessary for the payment of old-age pensions. In the circumstances, why should we quarrel with the Government when they give the Senate an intimation three or four months in advance - for, after all, that is the chief crime they have committed - that they are going to pay old-age pensions out of the Consolidated Revenue?
– If there is any monthly balance left, will it go back to the States? The Minister says that it will, and that it .will not go into any fund.
– Under what Act would it go into a fund1?
- Senator Turley seems to be under some impression that as this Bill proposes the appropriation of money from the Consolidated Revenue for the payment of old-age pensions, the Government have some idea of not continuing the operation of the Surplus Revenue Act.
– No, because the VicePresident of the Executive Council states that the balance of the Surplus Revenue at the end of each month will be paid to the States if this Bill is not passed.
– Yes, under section 94 of the Constitution.
– If this is really a Surplus Revenue Bill, why not give it its proper title?
– I am not concerned with these inquiries. My honorable friends of the Labour party seem anxious to know how the money is to be found. I can assure them that I have no idea as to how the Government propose to find the money. I have not been told directly or indirectly how they expect to find it. I should personally take the opposite course to that taken by the Government. I am prepared to indicate what methods of financing our various obligations I should approve of. For instance, I should approve at once of giving up the practice of providing for capital expenditure in the future out of present revenue; that is, out of the revenue we are now getting. It is a system I have never approved of. I have always considered it a great deal too generous to .posterity. I know I should not be in order in discussing the merits of financial schemes.
– Then the honorable senator is in favour of borrowing.
– It must be obvious to all who have studied the financial position of the Commonwealth, that a present saving might easily be made if we decided no longer to meet the capital expenditure of the future out of the revenue of the present. I am not at all in the confidence of the Government, but if they were to adopt the principle which I have indicated, I should be prepared, to support them. Further, if the Government will adopt, as I think they might, a sound system of borrowing, I shall be prepared to support that. I cannot make a fetish of non -borrowing. The time must come when there will be no member of the Federal Parliament who can adhere to such a principle. It is all very well to say that we must adopt the policy of non-borrowing, but whilst we have been enabled to do so for the past eight or nine years the result has been that we are landed in financial difficulties which, are bound to seriously increase if we make any effort to continue the policy. Let me ask any member of the Labour party who talks so freely of the sacredness of non-borrowing how long they propose to continue the policy?
– They believe in restricted borrowing.
– I am very glad to hear it. If any member of the Labour party tells me that that is their policy 1 accept the statement at once, and say that I have misunderstood the position they took up.
– I presume that every one is in favour of restricted! borrowing for those purposes of which he approves.
– T admit that personal approval of the object for which money is borrowed must have much to do with our view of the policy of borrowing. I go further now, and say that if the Government propose to borrow, issuing Commonwealth debentures in Australia, and applying the money for special reproductive purposes, I shall support them. I see no reason why they should not do that.
– I point out that the honorable senator is going somewhat beyond the question.
– 1 have already said that I knew it would be out of order to go into the merits of financial schemes, but the matter has been referred to halfadozen times in the debate, and it would be very inconvenient to discuss this Bill without a reference to some methods of finance, though it is not necessary to enter into any detail as to their merits. I shall say nothing further with regard to the possibilities of financing. Instead of waiting foi the Government to tell me what they propose to do, I have welcomed the opportunity of indicating to them what I should be prepared to support, although I admit that they may be able to propose better methods than I have suggested. Senator Stewart has told us that he intends to take the extreme step of voting against, the second reading of this Bill. I hope that he will not adhere to his expressed determination. I think he would be ill-advised were he to do so, and would probably . be misunderstood. I’ remind him further that if he learned from the Government how they intend to finance the measure he would very likely not be satisfied with what they proposed to do. If the Government said, “ We intend to take this ;£i, 000,000 out of revenue, because we are going to borrow,” Senator Stewart would promptly say, “I am against borrowing.” If the Government said, “ We can afford to take this £[1,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue, because we intend to impose additional, taxation,” Senator Stewart would certainly say, “ Unless the taxation proposed is of my one, only, and particular brand I am against that, too.”
– Is it possible to retain any surplus revenue during the current financial year without appropriating it for the special purpose?
– Senator Millen has already answered that question by referring Senator Turley to section 94 of the Constitution. As the Government think it desirable to adopt the plain and wholesome’ method of providing for the payment of old-age pensions, I think that we should all wait until we see what the proposals of the Government are. We should agree to the second reading of the Bill, because of the principle contained in it. None of us can refuse approval of the principle of paying old-age pensions out of the Consolidated Revenue. It is the only honest principle to adopt.
– Whilst fully appreciating the position taken up by. Senator Stewart, I regret that that honorable senator felt it to be his duty to announce to the Senate that he had decided in any circumstances to oppose the appropriation of this £1,000,000 for the payment of old-age pensions. I am not in any way concerned at present with the manner in which the Government intend to raise this money. That is a matter for future consideration. It is sufficient now to know that the money is required. ‘ ,
– They do not need £1,000,000 now.
– We may not immediately require £1,000,000 for this purpose, but we are looking to the future. I understand that the Treasurer has made a statement in another place to the effect that he will be unable before the 12th August to announce the financial proposals of the Government to Parliament. I do not know that we shall require, between this and the 12th August, the £[1,000,000 sought to be appropriated by this Bill, but we have an Act which compels the Government of the Commonwealth to. meet an obligation imposed by the will of the people, and they must accept the responsibility of finding the money. If (he Government say that this is the best method they can suggest at present for finding the money I am with them. I have always considered that the payment of old-age pensions should be a first charge on the revenue of the Commonwealth. It does not matter to me how the Government intend to meet this expenditure, but if their financial proposals contain something that I consider inadvisable or wrong I shall be bound to my own conscience_as well as to my constituents to oppose such proposals.
– The honorable senator might be placed in a corner.
– It seems to me that there is scarcely any possibility of that. If, as a minority in Opposition, we believe in a particular policy, and the Government, having a majority, believe in another policy, it is inevitable that, for the time being, we must submit to the Government’s proposal.
– Majority rule.
– Yes, majority rule. Whether the Government will be expressing the will of the people in their attitude is another question. That is one for themselves to consider. If we believe that we are expressing the will of the people, and we are in antagonism to the Government, the only tribunal to which we can appeal is the popular opinion at the next general election. I am satisfied that at the last general election the will of the people was that the principle of old-age pensions should be enacted. That principle has been carried into effect so far as the passing of a measure is concerned. The Government have ‘to meet their obligations under the Old-age Pensions Act, and for that purpose they now propose to appropriate ; £l, 000,000.
– But there is a large amount already appropriated.
– I am aware of that fact. I do not propose to question the desirability of appropriating£1,000,000 at this juncture; in fact, if the Government had asked for an appropriation of £2, 000,000, I should not have objected; because, in my opinion, we have not yet reached the stage when their action in that regard need concern us very much. The time is close at hand when we shall have an opportunity of discussing whether” this appropriation was warranted or advisable. Sufficient is it for me at the present moment to know that the principle of old-age pensions has been enacted, and that in the present Bill the Government are seeking to meet the . obligations imposed on them by the Old-age Pensions Act of last session. For that reason, I am prepared to support the Bill, of course, reserving to myself at all times the right to say whether its passage was warranted or not. At present, I remain silent on that point, knowing that I have helped to establish a principle which I have favoured ever since I was able to think. If in the future the Government propose any methods for raising the necessary money which are antagonistic to my views, I shall be prepared to vote against them.
– I do not think that there are many honorable senators who intend to vote against the second reading of the Bill. I believe that it will go through the Senate without meeting with any considerable difficulty. Apparently, honorable senators opposite object to be complimented from this side.
For instance). Senator Pearce said that some time ago the Labour party tried to carry a proposal of this description, and that honorable senators on the other side were altogether wrong in their opposition to it.
– Does the honorable senator think that twitting is complimenting?
– I think that Sena- “ tor Pearce complimented the honorable senator, when he said, “ Honorable senators on the other side now see that at that time we were right and they were wrong, and they are to be complimented upon having changed their opinion.”
– We had to change it.
– The honorable senator took exception to the compliment, saying that Senator Pearce was trying to make political capital out of the present position.
– So he was.
– I do not think so. Senator Pearce simply stated that the object of the present Bill was practically identical with the object of the Surplus Revenue Bill and the Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill of last year; but he wanted to obtain further information. He enumerated a number of the Government’s proposals which, if adopted, would impose heavy obligations upon the Commonwealth, and he asked how they intended to finance them. While Senator Needham was speaking, Senator Millen said that objection was taken to the opposition which he, I, and1 others offered to another Bill which was brought in with the object of paying oldage pensions. It was because we believed that the appropriation was not sufficient, and that the method was altogether wrong, that we voted as we did.
– The question of sufficiency did not arise.
– The question of sufficiency, as well as the question, of method, was raised. It was proposed, by means of special duties on particular articles, to establish a fund out of which to pay old-age pensions. Our objection was that the method proposed was altogether wrong; because, even if it were adopted, it would not yield a sufficient sum to enable the pensions to be paid, and that apart from that fund, no money would be available.
– At that time, there was no question of ear-marking a fund.
– Yes there was; and duties on tea and kerosene were mentioned.
– Tea and kerosene were specially mentioned as suitable subjects for the imposition of duties for the purpose ; other articles were also mentioned in a general way. I am proud of the action I took in opposing the Bill. I do not think that Senator Walker should have said that Senator Pearce was trying to make political capital, merely because he had pointed out that honorable senators on the other side were wrong on a previous occasion.
– The statements he made were not accurate.
– The statement which Senator Pearce made was that honorable senators on the other side had opposed the Surplus Revenue Bill, which had for its object the appropriation of the unexpended portion of the Commonwealth’s one-fourth share of the revenue, and its payment into a Trust Fund, out of which cld-age pensions could be paid. It appropriated for that purpose £750,000. I understand that unless this Bill is passed to-day, the balance of that appropriation, as well as any other money in the Treasury at the end of the month, will have to be handed over to the States.
– The Act under which £655,000 has been paid into the Trust Fund, related to the last financial year. It ended there.
– This Bill must be passed in order to enable the Commonwealth to absorb, month by month, the unexpended portion of its one-fourth share of the revenue, until this additional sum of £1,000,000 is made up, or the end of the financial year is reached. All that we have been trying to do has been to elicit the exact position. At the present time, the Government have enough money available to meet all claims for old-age pensions for the next four or five months. That is why Senator Pearce said that the object of this Bill is exactly the same as the object’ of the Surplus Revenue Bill, and the Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill of last session, and complimented honorable senators opposite upon their change of attitude. They assumed last year that we were acting in an unconstitutional manner. Indeed, quite a number of them urged that we were depriving the States of money which rightly belonged to them. But the High Court has since decided differently. Honorable senators opposite also argued that the States had incurred certain obligations, and that if they were deprived of the surplus revenue, which had hitherto been returned to them, they would not have sufficient funds with which to discharge those obligations. It was then that we asked whether they gave precedence to those obligations as against a Federal scheme ot old-age pensions. Why was that question put? Because my honorable friends opposite urged that New South Wales and Victoria would be paying old-age pensions until 30th June last. But I would point out that Queensland had not made a start in the payment of those pensions, whilst in South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania even, the Bills authorizing their payment had not been submitted to Parliament.
– The honorable senator must surely recognise that, as Victoria and New South Wales had already paid pensions up till 30th June, it was unfair to ask them to pay, during that year, their proportion of pensions which would not become operative until 1st July.
– It was a question of whether the Commonwealth had a right to give effect to the provisions of the Constitution. My honorable friends were building on the fact that a certain practice had been established. Owing to the generosity of the Commonwealth, some of the States had been able, not only to pay old-age pensions, but also to remit some hundreds of thousands of pounds in taxation. Honorable senators opposite should gracefully admit that they were wrong in their contention at that time. Senator Macfarlane was very strong in his condemnation of the Surplus Revenue Bill. He was under the impression that the Government were acting unconstitutionally in attempting to establish a fund into which surplus revenue could be paid. Seeing that the State Premiers contested the action of the Commonwealth before the High Court, I am warranted in saying that we should have been mercilessly twitted with having enacted legislation which was ultra vires of the Constitution, had the decision of that tribunal been in an opposite direction. I do not say that my honorable friends were strongly opposed to a Federal scheme of old-age pensions, but certainly they did not believe in the method by which it was proposed to raise the money with which to pay them.
– They were in favour of an old-age pensions scheme, but they objected to any system bv which the necessary money could be obtained.
– Oh, no.
– That was exactly the position. The honorable senator himself said that he was quite satisfied that old-age pensions ought to be paid, but, as they were being paid in New South Wales, he did not see why provision should be made to enable them to be paid over the rest of Australia. In speaking upon the Surplus Revenue Bill, Senator Macfarlane, on page 11 889, Vol. 46, of Hansard, is thus reported -
If it is desired to pay old-age pensions, let us provide the money openly and properly. The States have a right to look to the Federal Parliament for assistance, and if we take away from them their revenue for this month it will be most unfair. Three of the States have already provided for the payment of old-age pensions. Therefore, there is no immediate hurry for a Bill of the kind. Every one of the States, through the Premier, object to the measure.
Evidently the honorable senator was not viewing this question from a Commonwealth stand-point, but fr-om the stand-point of the State Premiers. Even in some of the States where no such humanitarian legislation existed, strong objection was taken to the means by which it was proposed to raise the money for old-age pensions.
– For that year.
– No. It was urged that a certain practice had been established bv the previous Commonwealth Treasurers, and that that ‘ practice ought to continue. As a matter of fact, it was alleged that the State Premiers had agreed to allow the Commonwealth to retain a portion of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue returnable to them under the Constitution, to permit of the payment of oldage pensions. I do not know that there has ever been a definite proposal to that effect. I recollect that the matter was talked about at the Premiers’ Conference, but all the talk in the world would not provide the aged people of Australia with pensions. Upon page 11092 of the same number of Hansard, Senator Sayers is thus reported -
– If the honorable senator does not vote for the Bill his sympathy is skin deep.
– The State which the honorable senator represents has not yet established a system of old-age pensions. Of course, this sum of ^222,000 would do something wonderful if he had his way, but, in my opinion, it would not provide old-age pensions for his State.
– This is the foundation stone.
– Is the foundation stone laid on sand or rock? I think that the honorable senator will find that it is laid upon sand, and will melt away. Of that I feel pretty confident, and, therefore, I do not intend to be what some persons might call a political fraud, by voting for a measure in which I do hot believe, simply because the cry is popular at the present time. I shall oppose the second reading of the Bill.
The motion for its. second reading, however, was carried by fifteen votes to eight. The “ Ayes “ consisted of Senators Best, de Largie, Givens, Guthrie, Lynch, Needham, Pearce, E. J. Russell, W. Russell, Stewart, Story, Trenwith, Turley, Vardon, and Findley. The “ Noes “ comprised Senators Chataway, Gould, Macfarlane, Millen, Pulsford, Sayers, St. Ledger, and Mulcahy. Of course, we are only too glad to find that honorable senators opposite are now prepared to tread the path which we invited them to tread last year. Whatever system may be devised for raising the money which we are asked to appropriate in this Bill, I shall be prepared to assist the Government, so long as it is taken out of the Consolidated Revenue, and is net obtained bv means of special taxation, which will fall most heavily on the poorer classes of the community. I shall support the second reading of the Bill, and t believe that it will rapidly pass through Committee.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I do not propose to detain the Senate long ; but it does appear to me that some notice should be taken of the consistency with which the Opposition, whenever the Government introduce a measure, endeavour to point out, to a probably confiding public, that the only representatives of sincerity, honesty, and truth, are on the Opposition side of the Chamber, and that, if those who sit on the right of the Chair are doing the right thing, they are acting without any faith in it. I am becoming a little bit tired of these constant attempts of honorable senators opposite to pose as the immaculate champions of all that isgood. I have not the slightest objection to m honorable friends, when on the public platform, directing attention to their Brummagem halos and their little bits of millinery which they seek to represent as the budding wings of angels. But I do hope that we shall soon see the last of this practice of occupying so much of the time of the Senate while honorable senators opposite parade their threadbare virtues concerning everything which is brought before us.
– We are only congratulating the honorable senator and his friends on their conversion.
– My honorable friend and Senator Turley are as great offenders as any in constantly representing that honorable senators on this side of the Chamber are converts to whatever they support. They said the same with regard to the Seamen’s Compensation Bill, and the charge, so far as I and others are concerned, was utterly without justification. I had expected that the honorable senator would have withdrawn his statement when the position with regard to the measure was made clear. But, instead of that, he has repeated the offence in this case. Honorable senators on this side of the Chamber have been pointed -to, and it has been affirmed that I and others were opposed to the passage of the Surplus Revenue Act. Now, I did not oppose that measure. This is the way in which I expressed myself concerning it -
So far as the principle of the Bill is concerned, if I understand it, I have no objection to it, that principle being, as set out by the Vice-President’ of the Executive Council, that, if we have heavy liabilities accruing some little time ahead, we should, as reasonable business men, make provision for them. Let me put this case. Assuming that we had a Federal public debt, and the interest fell due, say, in June and December, would any one suppose that the whole cost of meeting the interest on the national debt should be chargeable only to those two months? It would be preposterous to sup pose that we could carry on business in that way, and to that extent I quite recognise that the principle of the Bill is commendable.
All through my remarks I absolutely defended the principle of the Bill. Indeed, I went so far as to take very strong exception indeed to expressions which had been used by public men in my own State concerning it, and those responsible for it. That statement, I venture to say, puts an entirely different complexion upon the matter.
– I did not quote the honorable senator at all, except that I read his name from the division list.
– I recognise the cleverness of the honorable senator in the methods which he adopted. I am not finding fault with that. It is the unfairness of the proceeding to which I object. My attitude towards the Surplus Revenue Bill was that the measure itself was a perfectly right and fair one; but I objected that the Government had no right to make it retrospective. I said so then, and I say the. same now. There is no conversion in that. Others questioned the constitutionality of the measure. Since then the High Court has settled that point. There has been no conversion on their part. I should not have referred to this matter, except for the COntinuity with which my honorable friends have indulged in the tactics to which I have drawn attention.
– The honorable senator need not feel annoyed.
– I only wish to add, with reference to the Bill now before us, that honorable senators opposite either fail to understand the purpose, or, if they do understand it, are manufacturing bogeys to frighten themselves.
– The honorable senator did not explain the measure clearly.
– Seeing that the most vigorous and the lengthiest criticism came from an honorable senator who said that he was not here when I made my second-reading speech, I scarcely think that that objection applies. Every member of the Senate admits that old-age pensions have to be paid. By the Surplus Revenue Act we appropriated out of our one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue £750,000. All that this Bill does is to say that out of that £750,000, and out of any revenue which the Commonwealth Government obtains, old-age pensions shall be paid, and that Parliament authorizes the Government to pay them. The principle .of the Bill is that the oldage pensions are to be paid when they become due, no matter from what source the revenue is obtained. The urgency for the Bill, and the reason for it, are, however, two different things. The urgency is to enable us to refrain from paying to the States the unspent portion of our own one-fourth. The Senate, I think, recognised the urgency by the readiness with which it agreed to the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– The honorable senator should not growl ; we are treating him very kindly.
– My honorable friend knows that whenever he sits and smiles at me in that way growling is the last thing that I am capable of. I recognise that the Bill is one in which every honorable senator, and every party, takes a sincere interest. We all recognise the obligations which are imposed upon us. I therefore trust that honorable senators will assist me in getting the Bill through promptly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
There shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, for the purposes oi the trust account established under the Audit Acts 1901. 1906, and known as the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Fund, the sum of one million pounds for invalid and old-age pensions.
– Because I support a measure for the purpose of appropriating .£1,000,000, which the Government say that they require for the purposes of old-age pensions, I have been charged with being a convert, and, inferentially, with being insincere. To refute that charge, I wish to refer to my speech of last year, as reported in Hansard, vol. 46, page 1 1 89 1. I then said distinctly, not only that old-age pensions should be paid, but that I thought the scheme had been delayed too long.
– The honorable senator voted against the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– I do not intend to enter into that matter now ; but, as I have been charged wtih insincerity, I wish to place the refutation side by side with the charge. The position seems to be that, when we disapprove of measures which are supported by the Opposition, we are charged with being tyrants; and when we agree with them, we are charged with being hypocrites.
– The honorable senator is not now speaking to the clause. If he wishes to make a personal explanation, he can do so. I cannot, however, allow a general discussion.
– I think that mv explanation has been made sufficiently clear to refute the charge.
– I am very pleased to see that the Government propose to make adequate provision for the payment of old-age pensions, although they have not told us from what source they propose to get the money.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to proceed with that line of argument, which is not relevant to the clause.
– The question is the appropriation of £1,000,000, and surely it is relevant to the question to ask how the money is to be raised. I agree that the money will have to be provided from some source, though at the same time I do not consider that old-age pensions should be made the subject of a special appropriation, any more than defence, or any other item of Commonwealth expenditure. The Government should come down with an appropriation for general expenditure for the services of the Commonwealth, and not with a special appropriation for old-age pensions. It seems like singling out old-age pensions for a special charge. But, as a matter of fact, there is no more of a special charge in this respect than there is in connexion with any other item of expenditure.
– The honorable senator approved of a trust account.
– I did so when a trust account was necessary ; but now that the expenditure on old-age pensions is to be continuous, there is no necessity for a trust account. Last year, when we were building up a fund to enable us to commence the payment of old-age pensions from the 1st July of this year, it was essential that we should have a trust account.
– So it is now, because our ordinary expenditure in July is very low, and, consequently, except for this Bill, a bigger surplus would be paid away.
– There is no occasion for a trust fund now. We could appropriate the £1,000,000 for the general services of the Commonwealth.
– If we do not pay out the money this month, there are only two purposes to which it can be devoted - either to a trust fund or to payments to the States.
– As long as the Government are incurring the expenditure they need not have a trust fund.
– This Bill ear-marks the money.
– That is precisely what I object to. I do not want to have old-age pensions made the subject of a special fund, for which money will have to be ear-marked, any more than money is ear-marked for other public services. Why do we not ear-mark money for defence, or for posts and telegraphs ? Now that old-age pensions are established by law, there is no need for a special fund. It seems to me that if a special fund is created, whenever a time of strife occurred, the probability is that the special fund would be the first to be cut into. I wish to avoid any opportunity of the go-by being given to old-age pensions in any way. This expenditure is properly a charge upon the general revenues of the Commonwealth, and we no more require a special appropriation for this purpose than for defence, wireless telegraphy, posts and telegraphs, or anything else.
– The honorable senator knows that for departmental services we are continually appropriating money.
– That’ is so, but my point is that that money is not appropriated to supplement any special fund. At the close of the session the Government will ask for sufficient Supply to carry them on to the end of the financial year, in order to cover the expenditure upon ordinary services. That is the procedure I wish to see followed in providing the money required for the payment of old-age pensions. I. congratulate honorable senators opposite, including Senator St. Ledger, upon being able tosee now the necessity of adequately providing for oldage pensions.
– I cannot allow the honorable senator to proceed on those lines.
– I do not intend to do so. I have no wish to indulge in any recriminations. Hansard records the way in which honorable senators opposite have voted, and it is a matter between them and their constituents.
– The honorable senator is not conforming to my ruling.
– I shall not pursue the matter further. I commend to the consideration of the Vice-President of the Executive Council the urgent necessity of removing from the payment of old-age pensions the stigma which I think will attach to it if money required for the purpose is appropriated, as proposed in this measure, to supplement the special fund. There is no reason at all why the money required for this purpose should not be included with that required for ordinary services of the Government in a general appropriation.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Sir Robert Best) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I beg to move -
That the Bill be recommitted for the purpose of considering a proposed new clause to follow clause 9.
I wish to provide that the Bill shall not apply to the shipping industry until the coming into force of Commonwealth legislation on navigation and shipping. Previous Bills dealing with this matter were introduced for special reasons, one of which was the protection of Australian industries against foreign competition. I hold very strongly, and I believe that honorable senators generally will agree with me, that to bring this measure into force in respect of the shipping industry will promote foreign competition and the absolute destruction of the Australian industry. We have heard a great deal, particularly from the Minister of Trade and Customs, of the evils of shipping rings. The honorable senator told us that on the British coast there were no shipping rings carrying on operations. I accept that statement, and I propose again’ to compare freights on the coast of Great Britain with those prevailing on the Australian coast, in order to show that the Australian shipper need fear no injury if we delay the application of this measure to the shipping industry until we have had an opportunity of considering what should be the navigation laws of the Commonwealth. I have already used the figures I now intend to quote, and I remind honorable senators that I challenged any one to dispute their accuracy. I have said that if it can be shown that they are not absolutely correct I shall be prepared to resign- my seat. I repeat that statement to-day. r compare the freights over equal distances on the British coast, where no ring, combination, or trust is engaged in the industry, and on the coast of Australia. I compare the freights between London and Aberdeen, a distance of 430 miles, with those ruling between Melbourne and Sydney. Flour is carried from London to Aberdeen at 12s. 6d. per ton, and from Sydney to Melbourne at 7s. 6d. per ton, with a 20 per cent, rebate. Where, then, is the extraordinary necessity for coming down on the Australian shipping companies, as proposed by this Bill ? We find that in the Australian industry wages are paid which are double those paid in the industry in Great Britain, and yet in the Australian industry flour is carried at 5s. per ton cheaper, and with the additional advantage of a 20 per cent, rebate. There is a fairly large trade conducted on the Commonwealth coast-line in the carriage of wheat, bran, and flour bags. The freight on these goods from London to Aberdeen is 14s. 6d. per ton, and from Melbourne to Sydney only 10s. per ton, or 4s. 6d. per ton cheaper. Drapery, cotton and woollen goods in bales are carried from London to Aberdeen for 27s. 6d. per ton, and from Melbourne to Sydney for 10s. per ton, or for 17s. 6d. per ton less than the freight charged where there is no trust, ring, or combination.
– Is there not railway competition between the places referred to.
– There is the same railway competition between Melbourne and Sydney.
– It is 400 miles bv rail from London to Edinburgh, and the distance between London and Aberdeen must be greater.
– The distance between London and Aberdeen is 430 miles by sea, and I say that the railway competition between London and Aberdeen is exactly the same as that between Sydney and Melbourne.
Senator (Fraser. - There is no railway competition between Sydney and Melbourne.
– Nor is there any between. London and Aberdeen, in the carriage of goods. I admit that there is competition in the carriage of passengers.
– The fares are the same.
– I cannot speak as to that. I am not quoting special lines, but lines of goods ordinarily carried by sea. I find that the freight on wines and spirits in bulk between London and Aberdeen is 20s. per ton, and the freight between Melbourne and Sydnev, on the same goods, is 12s. 6d., or 7s. 6d. per ton less. The same applies to cases. The freight between London and Aberdeen is 27s. 6d. per ton, and they are carried -between Sydney and Melbourne for 20s. per ton, again 7s. 6d. per -ton less, and honorable senators will remember that this means 33 per cent. less.
– Can the honorable senator tell us the freights between Brisbane and Cooktown?
– No; I have not taken out those figures. I have taken the freights between important centres of population. I will admit that of necessity where the trade done between certain places is very small, the freights are naturally high.
Senator- de Largie. - What are the freights to the North- West coast?
– I propose to quote the freights between the East and Fremantle. As far as the North-West coast is concerned, Senator de Largie can have nothing to complain of in the matter of competition, because in that trade there is employed the cheapest labour to be got on God’s earth - labour obtained at Singapore.
– The competition is in the labour only, and not in the freight.
– If the labour is cheap, the shipping companies can afford to carry at low rates.
– But do they?
– I am quoting freights between centres commanding the bulk of the trade. Of what use would it be to quote freights to a place to which a boat goes once a month, and does not carry more than £5 worth of cargo? From London to Edinburgh via Leith, the distance is 404 miles, while from Sydney to Brisbane it is 510 miles. Flour is carried from London to Edinburgh in lots of 20 tons or upwards at 10s. 6d. per ton, and from Sydney to Brisbane at 7s. 6d. per ton, with a rebate of 20 per cent. Jute goods are carried from London to Edinburgh at 12s. 6d. per ton, and from Sydney to Brisbane at 10s. per ton, with, of course, a rebate of 20 per cent., though the distance is 100 miles greater.
– The honorable senator is proving that there is no necessity for passing this legislation at all.
– What I am proving is that it is necessary to delay the bringing of this Bill into operation until the Parliament has had an opportunity of deciding how it shall protect the shipping industry as it has protected every other industry.
– According to the figures just quoted the shipping industry needs no protection. It is getting 25 per cent, higher rates.
– Under the existing system the shipping companies have been able to protect themselves, but it is now proposed to take away that protection and throw open our coasting trade to the Frenchman, the German, the Italian, the Japanese and the Chinese. That is exactly what the Bill is calculated to do, and that is why 1 ask honorable senators to pa.use. By all means pass the Bill, but suspend its operation until such time as Parliament has had an opportunity to determine to what extent it will protect the shipping industry. I take it that the Government cannot object to that suggestion.
– The honorable senator will find that they will.
– The last . Deakin Government were Protectionist, but I cannot say that the present one is. In the Navigation Bill, which has been restored to our files, the last Deakin Government proposed to give, as regards the coasting trade, a little concession to ships owned and registered in Australia. But at a public gathering the Treasurer announced that he was a Protectionist on shore and a Free Trader at sea. I cannot have any faith in the promise of the Government that they will carry through the Navigation Bill when I find that its chief lieutenant has announced that he is a Free Trader so far as the sea-going industry is concerned. Am I not right in entertaining a suspicion as to the real policy of the Government in that regard? With regard to the Navigation Bill there was only one point on which I took up a strong position, and it is one on which I think that even the Minister who is now in charge of it is prepared to change his mind, although he has voted otherwise, and that is the extension of the coasting trade of Australia to New Zealand. There is no occasion for honorable senators to fear that the screw will be put upon the people of Australia. The Minister supported the report of the English Commission, which said that there was no trust or ring, so far as the coasting trade of Great Britain is concerned.
– Nothing was further from my mind than to support the report of that Commission.
– The honorable senator read the report of the majority and supported it.
– Not at all. I am dead against it, as the Bill shows.
– No. On the minority, report the honorable senator laid great emphasis, and it also showed that there is no ring, trust, or combination, so far as the coasting trade of Great Britain is concerned. If anything a better class of ships is to be found in our coasting trade than in the coasting trade of Great Britain.From the master right down to Jimmy Ducks, our shipping companies pay double the rates which are paid in the Old Country. If they are making enormous profits, what profits must the English companies be making, seeing that the volume of trade is far greater there than here?
– Having regard to the amount of shipping employed, it is not.
– The wants of a population of 40,000,000 must tie considerably greater than the wants of 4,500,000. Every one here acknowledges that heavy goods cannot be sent by rail. In any circumstances the cost of water carriage must be at least one-tenth the cost of land carriage, and that I venture to think is a very low estimate. From London to Cork, the distance is 536 miles, while from Adelaide to Melbourne it is 504 miles. Flour is carried from London to Cork at 8s. 6d. a ton, and from Adelaide to Melbourne at 7s. 6d. a ton, less a rebate of 20 per cent.
– Can the honorable senator give us any information regarding the heavy coal traffic?
– No. I tried to obtain the information, but found that not only in Australia, but also’ in England, the shipping companies are mixed up with the coal . companies, and, therefore, it is impossible to find out the freights. On looking through the articles of association of different shipping companies I found that they are allowed to enter into almost any kind of business which it is possible to conceive. I remember that when a meeting of the Adelaide Steam Ship Company was called to revise the articles of association, our late President said that the articles were wide enough to allow the company to start a butcher’s shop. That is the position of the shipping companies in Australia today.
– The honorable senator cannot blame them.
– No, I am only pointing out that the articles of association do not confine the companies to the shipping business, but permit them to carry beef from the north-west of Western Australia, freeze it, and start a butcher’s shop in Melbourne. In these circumstances it would be very hard to tell what freight they receive for carrying beef from the north-west of Western Australia, and it is exactly the same with the coal business.
– Where did the honorable senator obtain the figures which he is quoting?
– This is not the first occasion on which I have quoted these figures to the Senate. In the first instance I explained that the English figures were compiled in England from advertisements calling for tenders for the carriage of these goods to various ports. The Australian figures were obtained from the shipping list, which is available to every honorable senator. Wheat is carried from London to Cork at 18s. 6d. a ton, and from Adelaide to Melbourne at 8s. a ton, less a rebate of 20 per cent. Oilmen’s stores, such as oils, tars, and paints, are carried from London to Cork at 32s. 66. a ton, and from Adelaide to Melbourne at 10s. a ton. Horses are carried from London to Cork at 62s. 6d. each, and from Adelaide to Melbourne at 35s. each. In order to get comparable distances it was necessary to go outside the United Kingdom, and. therefore, I had to obtain quotations from Europe. From London to Christiania the distance is 656 miles, while from Adelaide to Melbourne it is 504 miles. Flour is carried from London to Christiania at 7s. 6d. a ton, and from Adelaide to Melbourne at 7s. 6d. a ton, less a rebate of 20 per cent. Horses, London to Christiania, 63s., each; Adelaide to Melbourne, 35s. each. Fodder - hay, chaff, &c. - London to Christiania, I OS. per ton ; Adelaide to Melbourne, 10s. per ton. Drapery goods - cotton and woollens, in bales - London to Christiania, 13s. 4d. per ton, plus 15 per cent. ; Adelaide to Melbourne, 10s. per ton. Now let us compare the freight charged upon goods between London and Gottenberg, a distance of 609 miles, with that charged upon goods between Melbourne and Sydney, a distance of 576 miles. Flour, London to Gottenberg, large parcels, 8s. per ton, plus 15 per cent. ; .Melbourne to Sydney, 7s. 6d. per ton, less 20 per cent. Horses, London to Gottenberg, 42s. each ; Melbourne to Sydney, 35s. each. Oilmen’s stores, London to Gottenberg. 34s. 4d. per ton, plus 15 per cent; Melbourne to Sydney, 10s. per ton. I might further compare the freight charged upon goods between London and Glasgow, a distance of 777 miles, with that levied upon goods between Adelaide and Fremantle, a distance of 1,390 miles.
– How does the honorable senator account for the fact that the freights charges in Britain are 33 per cent, higher than they are in Australia, notwithstanding that coolie labour is employed in the British coastal trade?
– I cannot account for it. To-day, the Australian shipping companies, as the result either of mutual agreement with their employes or of awards by the Arbitration Court, pay double the wages that are paid in the British coastal trade, and yet they charge lower freights. I think that probably they employ more effective labour.
– Does the honorable senator think that the one circumstance balances the other?
– The facts puzzle me; I cannot explain them. The weather on the Australian coast is about equal to that experienced on the British coast, and I say that as one who has had experience of both trades. I served mv apprenticeship on the British coast, and I have had sixteen years’ experience in the Australian coastal trade. There is only one factor which might contribute to making it more expensive for the British ship-owner to work his vessel.
– I would ask the honorable senator not to pursue that line of argument. Of course, I recognise that his action has been brought about by interjections.
– I think the only factor which might contribute to making the work of vessels in the British coastal trade more expensive than is the working of Australian ships is that of fog.
– If it becomes law, how will this Bill injuriously affect the shipping industry?
– I will tell the honorable senator after I have finished quoting the figures which are in my possession. The freight upon drapery goods between London and Glasgow is 29s. 2d. per ton, whilst that charged upon goods between Adelaide and Fremantle is only 20s. per ton, or 9s. 2d. per ton less.
– At what rate is furniture carried to Fremantle?
– It is charged by measurement. The freight upon horses between London and Glasgow is 40s. each; whilst that between Adelaide and Fremantle is . 75s. each. This is the only instance in which there is an increased charge on the part of Australian shipowners, and I know of no part of the British coast which is so turbulent as is the Great Australian Bight. The freight upon drapery goods between London and Belfast, a distance of 712 miles, is 41s. 10d. per ton; whilst that between Adelaide and Fremantle is only 20s. per ton. The charge upon, wines and spirits between London and Belfast is 34s. 4d. per ton; whilst that between Adelaide and Fremantle is only 22s. 6d. per ton. The freight upon large parcels of flour between London and Stockholm is 8s. per ton ; that between Adelaide and Fremantle is 8s. 6d. per ton, less 10 per cent., irrespective of quantities.
– What is the distance between London and Stockholm?
– It is 1,120 miles, as against 980 miles as between Adelaide and Fremantle. The freight upon fodder, London to Stockholm, is 28s. per ton, plus 15 per cent. ; that between Adelaide and Fremantle is 10s. per ton, less 10 per cent. Upon oilmen’s stores, drapery, and cotton and woollen goods, the charge between London and Stockholm is 30s. per ton; whilst that between Adelaide and Fremantle is 20s. per ton, less 10 per cent. These figures will show the general public that no danger need be apprehended from suspending the operation of this measure until Parliament has dealt with the Navigation Bill. I view die matter from the standpoint of the men who have to earn their daily bread in the Australian coastal trade. If the Bill becomes operative immediately, we shall have no competition in our coastal trade.
– Why is there no competition in the British coastal trade?
– There is. But what is the protection which Great Britain extends to that trade?
– There is none.
– When the Navigation Bill is under consideration, I shall probably be able to show the nature of the protection that is extended to British ships in British ports. So surely as we pass this Bill to prohibit the payment of rebates in connexion with the low freights charged by Australian shipping companies, this coast will swarm with tramp ships of every nation in the world.
– Why ?
– What has been keeping them off that trade? Nothing but the rebates. Senator Turley has already quoted the freights charged, not by Australian ship-owners, but by a Norwegian ship which has been engaged in the Australian coastal trade for the past five years, and which is manned with a Norwegian crew. The only two honorable senatorswho raised the question of extortionate freights were Senator Turley, who quoted from the evidence of a man who had chartered, and was running, a Norwegian ship with a Norwegian crew, and Senator de Largie, who referred to the case of Bateman, who has never paid the Australian rate of wages.
– Is the honorable senator familiar with the report of the Ocean Freights Commission?
– Yes. But I am now dealing with coastal freights. If I went into the question of ocean freights, probably I should be able to show that it was possible to carry goods from New York to Melbourne cheaper than- it is to bring them from Sydney to Melbourne.
– As the result of the operation of rings and conferences.
– In Perth, Western Australia, an influential body of men met together for the purpose of devising some means to knock out a certain ring. But what was the result? The members of the Committee themselves joined the combine. To-day they are sharing the profits made by these rings and combines. But, apart from that altogether, my main point is that to-day we have in Australia a mercantile marine that is a credit to the country. It is the nucleus of a defence force for Australia upon the sea. To allow the foreign element to come in and destroy that nucleus would be a mistake. I am pushing this matter with the object of preserving an Australian industry. Under this Bill there is a danger of one of our most important industries being wiped out. I do not desire to alter a single word of the Bill as it stands. If the Government wish to have the measure, let them also proceed with the Navigation Bill, and I will promise to give them all the assistance in my power to put it through. In saying so I know that I echo the opinion of every honorable senator on this side.
– There are 425 clauses in the Navigation Bill.
– But many of them are machinery clauses, and not a voice will be raised against them. It is true that we have other important Bills to deal with during the present session. No one is more anxious to see the Northern Territory taken over by the Commonwealth than I am. But the preservation of the shipping industry is of still more importance. We have come to the aid of factory-owners by giving them protection. Our manufacturers enjoy a certain natural protection in respect of the freight upon the goods that enter into competition with theirs. A ship is virtually a factory, and yet we allow shipowner’s, who compete with our own mercantile marine, to employ the cheapest labour in the world. Under our Immigration Restriction Act a factory-owner cannot bring in any labour he likes, even if he pays the fares of the men he desires to import. But the shipping industry has been left out of consideration, and ship-owners who compete with Australian owners can trade on our coasts, employing Asiatics and blackfellows just as they like. If the Minister has at heart the preservation of a great Australian industry, he will assist me to get the Bill recommitted and the new clause inserted.
[3.20]. I cannot help thinking that Senator Guthrie must have had his tongue in his cheek when, in his lugubrious forecast, he imposed upon honorable senators his fears and apprehensions concerning the Australian shipping industry. I am afraid that he has proved too much. The whole gravamen of his fear is that as soon as this measure is passed the shipping companies, British and foreign, which trade upon the coasts of the United Kingdom, where the freights are something like 25 per cent, higher than are the freights on the Australian coast, will come here with their vessels for the purpose of competing with our locally-owned ships. That is the only logical deduction from the honorable senator’s argument. He points to the fact that freights on the coast of the Mother Country are considerably higher than our own. If that be so, is it reasonable to suppose that they will bring their ships to Australia and trade for lesser freights than, they can obtain in British waters? So far as I am concerned, and I believe that I echo the views of a large number of honorable senators, nothing is further from my thoughts than a desire to injure the shipping indus try. Suppose we accept, for a moment, the statement that the trade is being conducted on fair lines. Still, the industry is very profitable to the ship-owners. We cannot blame them for that. Suppose that we admit that the public are dealt with fairly and reasonably, and that there is no harmful combination at work. Yet, at the same time, we do not know what is going to be the future of the combination that is in existence. It is in its infancy. Our desire is to take means to control it in the early stages of its life, so that it shall not achieve the evils and exert the influence exercised by monopolies elsewhere. But I am not prepared to accept the statement that the shipping combine is so innocuous and harmless as has been suggested. Let me quote the following evidence given by Mr. McPherson to the Royal Commission -
In 1903, when I had 300 tons of iron to ship to Fremantle, I went to the shipping people to learn the rate of freight. They held a meeting, and then gave me a quotation. They said - “ You will have to pay18s. a ton now, but in twelve months time, if you confine all your shipments to the ports of the north and the west to the companies within the ring, we will grant you a rebate of 20 per cent.” In other words, I had to leave with them a hostage of 3s. 6d. per tonon the 300 tons, and let it stay in their hands for twelve months. Had I not agreed to confine all my shipments to the association, I should have had to charge 18s. a ton for the freight of the iron, and probably I should have lost the business.
This statement was fully corroborated by other witnesses. In the Commission’s report it is stated -
That the transactions of the combine in this connexion are very large may be judged from the statement of Mr. McLennan that - “ There must be in the hands of the Associated Steamship Companies at the present time about ^60,000 of these accrued bonuses which they pay out to shippers ; it cannot be less.” He added that, of this from 20 to 25 per cent, is either forfeited through breaches of rules or unclaimed.
As regards that ; £60,000, there is not a vestige of legal right on the part of any shippers to recover a single shilling. It depends entirely upon the honour of the ship-owners themselves as to what proportion, if any, should be paid. I do not charge them with any dishonour in this connexion. But the evidence shows that at least they get from 20 to 25 per cent, of this amount.
– Mr. McLellan was the father of the scheme.
– That may be; and who knows all about the scheme better than the father of it? Under these circumstances, honorable senators who have no desire to injure the shipping industry have, nevertheless, to consider the public interest, which is paramount. They have to recognise that this combine or ring, innocent as it apparently is at present, is capable of the same tyranny, the same arbitrary conduct, against the best interests of the public, as is the worst of the combines or rings of which we hear. Mv honorable friend also knows that the majority of the Senate will take good care, when the proper time comes, that the best protection and the most reasonable consideration shall, under the Navigation Bill-, be extended to the shipping industry.
– What about the Treasurer’s statement?
– 1 am not acquainted with the context of that statement, but, at all events, the Treasurer was a member of the Government which launched the Navigation Bill, and he is a member of the Government which is still responsible for that measure. We have determined to control monopolies. That is the object of this Bill. But my honorable friend need not be at all apprehensive. I do not think that he can seriously believe that any great injury will be done to the shipping industry during the interval before the passage of the Navigation Bill. The Senate will also recognise that the measure is to come into operation at a date to be fixed by proclamation. The object of that is to give those engaged in the local industry time to look about them. I suggested the insertion of that provision myself, in order to deal fairly with those engaged in the shipping industry, and others who have hitherto been helping on the rebate system. I desired that they should be given a reasonable time within which to make other and legitimate arrangements, and I thought then that it would be reasonable to bring the Act into force about the ist January, 1910. It is a little unreasonable to expect the Senate to pick out the shipping industry for exemption from the Bill. It is a monopoly, and must be treated in exactly the same way as any other monopoly. Why should we yield to any special representation on behalf of this monopoly at the instance of Senator Guthrie? We must treat all alike ; and, in giving them time to look round before the Act is proclaimed, we shall, I think, be doing justice to all.
-32]- - I do not support the request for the recommittal of the Bill for the purpose suggested by Senator Guthrie. In view of the promise made by the Minister of Trade and Customs that the proclamation bringing the Act into force will not be issued until those engaged in the Australian shipping industry have had an opportunity to do something for themselves, I think the honorable senator should withdraw his motion. I should not have risen at all, were it not for the suggestion by the Minister of Trade and Customs that Senator Guthrie contended that shipping companies carrying on business on the coast of Great Britain would be likely to rush out here to compete in our Australian coastal trade.
– That was the honorable senator’s whole contention.
– Nothing of the kind. Senator Guthrie clearly indicated’ that the most serious, as well as the most unfair competitors of those engaged in the shipping industry in Australia do not come, here from Great Britain, or from the Continent of Europe especially. We have tramp ships manned by every kind of labour, coming .into competition with our shipping industry. The Minister of Trade and Customs is aware of that; and he is aware also that we have to meet the competition of lines of steamers trading between Australia and China, Japan, and southern Asiatic ports. If the Minister had not been so ready to seize upon something in which there is no substance, he must have seen that it was against competition of this description that Senator Guthrie was contending. The honorable senator had no desire to jeopardize the interests of the shipping industry of Australia by exposing it to such competition. Although those engaged in it may be guilty of practices with which the majority of the members of the Senate do not approve, they pay higher wages, and give better conditions to those whom they employ, than do the companies to which Senator Guthrie specially referred. Senator Guthrie’s object was to enable the Australian shipping companies to protect themselves against the competition of Asiatic traders and tramp ships manned by all kinds of labour. Although I am not supporting Senator Guthrie in the action he wishes to take, I do not think it right to allow him to be misunderstood by honorable senators opposite.
– The competition of the tramp ship which, for the time being, is the stalking-horse of those who are urging this fear for the interests of the Australian shipping industry, exists in all countries. Tramp ships visit all ports, and we know that so far as the Australian coastal trade is concerned, it is wholly in the hands of the Australian Shipping Federation. The tramp ship may do some little trade in taking coal from Newcastle and an occasional cargo of wheat from Adelaide; but the rebate system has been so perfectly arranged that tramp ships are given no opportunity of cutting into our coastal trade at all. There is only one type of vessel I know of that might cut into our coastal trade. I refer to the mail steamers plying regularly between Australian ports and the Old Country. Over and over again we have had the assurance that these steamers do not enter into the coastal trade. They conduct a very small percentage of the passenger trade.
– At high rates.
– And at higher rates than are charged by the coasters. It will be admitted that there is no unfair competition by the mail ships with the Australian shipping industry.
– The honorable senator sees no necessity for the clause suggested by Senator Guthrie.
– I see no necessity whatever for it. It would make no difference. The rebate system is so closely worked, and has been so perfected, that even if the clause were adopted, it would have no effect. The honorable senator takes this Bill seriously. I do not. I consider that it will not count.
– Senator Guthrie knows a great deal about shipping.
– I grant that the honorable senator knows a great deal about the practical working of the shipping industry, and upon questions of navigation generally; but I also claim to have some little knowledge of the rebate system, and I am certain that Senator Guthrie’s proposal would not affect it in any way. Whilst the freights charged between some Australian, ports at The present time are very reasonable, some very unreasonable freights are also charged on our coast. Senator Guthrie was very careful to avoid mention of them. I suppose that the freights charged between Fremantle and the north-west coast of Western Australia are about the most extortionate in the world They have had the effect of delaying the development of an enormous portion of Australia. I can assure honorable senators that business people, squatters, and others in the part of Western Australia to which I refer, are constantly complaining of the enormous freights charged for the carriage of their goods. Very unfair rates are charged between Fremantle and ports on the North-West coast, with the object, apparently, of trying to deprive Fremantle of trade, and give the preference to Singapore: It is true that there are some opposing companies engaged in the trade to which I refer, but there is no competition between them. The rates of freight are fixed, whether one makes use of trie boats of companies employing coloured labour, or of those owned by companies employing white labour. I grant, with Senator Guthrie, that the companies employing coloured labour have an advantage over those which pay the higher wages required by white men.
– Do they all give rebates ?
– Yes; the rebate system is in force throughout Australia. The wages . aspect of the question is one with which we cannot deal in this Bill. I do not desire that there should be any cut-throat competition which would injure the owners of Australian ships, or tend to lower the wages of the men employed in them ; but I am unable to support a foolish amendment of the Bill such as that suggested by Senator Guthrie. I must oppose the motion for the recommittal of the Bill for the reasons I have given.
– I was very much interested in Senator Guthrie’s address. I only wish that the honorable senator, when the Bill was in Committee, had given, us a little of the information he has given the Senate to-day. If he has made one thing more plain than another, it is that the coastal trade of Australia is not conducted by an injurious monopoly.
– Injurious to whom?
– To the public.
– The evidence before the .Commission shows that it is.
– The honorable senator will excuse me. Mr. McPherson was the only person who complained, and he did so because his toes were trodden on ; although it was only to a very small extent.
– He was President of the Chamber of Commerce of Melbourne at the time.
– Here is the evidence of Mr. Grayson.
– Who was the secretary of the Combine.
– He was one of the most influential witnesses who came before the Commission ; and he possessed a knowledge of the whole of the business. I quote the following from the report, referring to the rebate system -
According to Mr. Grayson …. it was stated that some such system was absolutely necessary in order to -
Check ruinous competition amongst the local companies.
Insure regularity, of charges; and
Prevent the carrying trade of Australia drifting into the hands of foreignowned shipping.
That is the very thing that Senator Guthrie fears, if we do away, as this Bill proposes, with the rebate system. I am aware that the Minister of Trade and Customs has a somewhat hysterical idea of the injurious effects of the rebate system. We have on the Australian coast one of the best shipping services in the world. The rates quoted are lower than those quoted elsewhere, and are as low’ as shippers can reasonably expect. We have the evidence of experts that the rebate system is of benefit to the coastal trade, by providing for a good and regular service, and low rates of freight. It may be said that the shipping industry in Australia is a monopoly. I do not know whether it is or not ; but I say that we should not attempt to interfere with it unless it is shown that its operations areinjurious to the public interests. That is the point I wish to emphasize. Here we have the President of the Seamen’s Union, who speaks with a fuller knowledge than any one else, saying that it will do no harm to postpone the bringing of this Bill into operation with regard to shipping until the Navigation Bill is passed. I think that the request is a very reasonable one. Whether it is a very important one or not I do notknow. I am afraid that it will not make very much difference. At the same time I shall support Senator Guthrie if he calls for a division.
– - I should not have risen but for the fact that Senator Guthrie has slightly misrepresented the position I. took up on the second reading. H’e said that as regards freights to the north of Queensland and on the northern coast of Western Australia, Senator de Largie and I took up a peculiar attitude. He remarked that apparently, we were in favour of a special advantage being given to the foreigner who came on the coast and was able to do the work at a lower rate, because of the difference in the wages and working conditions of his employes. I did nothing of the sort. I did not talk about the question of freights except in connexion with the manager of Walkers . Limited, at Maryborough, in Queensland, who had stated that the freights which had to be paid on the coast had prevented him from getting employment for the foundry, because he believed that the freights, not from any other part of lihe Australian coast, but from England, to the ports where boilers were required, were very much lower.
– That was for a different thing altogether.
– No; that was the only instance in which I quoted a freight at all. I also said that a saw-miller on the Australian coast had wanted to buy timber at a port about 700 or 800 miles distant from his saw-mills ; that he had his own schooners which were used for carrying sawn timber to the different markets on the Australian coast where he was able to dispose of it, and could have taken back log timber, to be cut up at his mills. I mentioned that in one part of Australia he had sought to purchase log timber to be carried in his own schooner, but that the combine had said to the man, with whom he proposed to deal, “ If you sell timber to that man, and he carries it along the coast in his own ship, we will not carry another log of timber for you, and you will forfeit whatever rebates are coming to you.” That is the position I put before the Senate. I did not quote anything regaiding freights, I simply said that not only did the combine interfere with the man who wanted to buy and carry log timber, but it also interfered with the man who had log timber to sell.
– And the honorable senator knows that he chartered Norwegian ships to do it.
– There was nothing about a Norweigan ship. The log timber was to be carried in a schooner owned by himself and manned by Australian seamen. I question whether they belonged to the Seamen’s Union. I also cited another intance in which this man had used his vessel to carry timber to another State, and having no cargo to take back had decided to take on a speculation. Instead of taking in some ballast which it would have cost him some money to put out, and which would have been useless at the end of the trip, he purchased a quantity of goods in the market, shipped them, and took them to his home port. On his arrival he went ashore to ascertain whether any persons were prepared to buy the goods, and if they were not to sell them in the open market. At public auction the goods were bought by two or three merchants in the town, and the combine, who had been watching the transaction, immediately went to the merchants and said to them, “ You have bought, at auction, certain goods which were brought here by so-and-so.”’ They had to admit that they had bought the goods, because the transaction was carried out in their own name. As they had been carrying on business with the combine and a considerable sum was coming to them by way of rebate, the combine immediately said, “ As a penalty for buying these goods, which you were not responsible for bringing here, but which were transported here by a person who is not a member of the combine, you must forfeit your rebates.” The merchants did not receive the rebates which under any reasonable system they would have been entitled to get. That is the only statement that I put before the Senate, and I am prepared to stand by it. A promise has been given by the Minister of Trade and Customs regarding the Bill, but I do not know that it is altogether satisfactory. I suppose that the Government will allow some time to elapse before a proclamation is gazetted to bring the Act into operation. It rests with the Government now whether they will do something to protect the Australian shipping industry. The only way in which that can be done is by passing the Navigation Bill, and from honorable senators on this side they will receive every assistance. I intend to vote against the amendment of Senator Guthrie, but I want the Government to understand that the onus is thrown upon them to go on with the Navigation Bill and see that it becomes law as soon as possible.
Question - That the Bill be recommitted for the purpose of considering a proposed new clause to follow clause 9 - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In passing a Bill of this character, we are simply wasting time. Having regard to their supporters, upon whom they are dependent for their official existence, nobody expects that the Government will put its provisions into operation. In . voting for the third reading, I feel that I am voting for legislation of an extremely Conservative and reactionary character - legislation which attempts to stop the wheels of progress and the due development of industrial enterprise. I think that we are somewhat in the position of the persons who, a hundred years ago, or more, set out to destroy machinery. They regarded labour-saving machinery as the enemy of the workers and of the business man. Nowadays a great number seem to suffer from the same hallucination in regard to trusts. For my part, I think that trusts are a natural development, which cannot be hindered or prevented, and that the evils which spring from them can be remedied in only one way. I do not think that the method which has been adopted by the Government for their repression is the right one. I shall vote for the Bill, not because I think it will be of any use whatever, but simply because it will demonstrate to the public the hollowness of the pretence that it is possible by legislation of this character to do anything towards restraining the rapacity of combines. Up to a certain point, I maintain that trusts render excellent service to the community. They organize industry, eliminate competition, abolish waste, and enable those who carry on our various business organizations to give more effective service to the public. Up to that point, instead of being evil institutions, they are very serviceable institutions. But when they are in a position to exploit the public, they ought to be dealt with or removed. The policy of the Government is to restrain the operations of trusts. My own opinion in regard to trusts is that they are something like tigers, and that, if they cannot be restrained or regulated, they must be exterminated. I would suggest that when they have reached very formidable dimensions, they should be exterminated by nationalizing the industries in which they are engaged. I know that honorable senators opposite do not like that idea ; but I think it will become daily more apparent to the public that that is the only way in which trusts can be effectively dealt with. The Government will not be permitted by their supporters to take any steps whatever to regulate trusts, no matter how harsh may be the conditions which they impose upon the public. Therefore, the whole of this legislation is mere pretence - so much humbug.It is something with which to tickle the public palate.
– It does tickle it. It makes the public laugh.
– I do not see why we should waste time in dealing with a Bill of this kind, except for the reason that it represents a step which must be taken before we reach the time when the community will be prepared to nationalize industrial monopolies.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Japanese on the North-West Coast : Premiers’ Conference.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to call the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to a new phase of the coloured labour question to which atfention is directed by a telegram which appears in one of the Melbourne daily newspapers to-day. The paragraph in question reads -
A JAPANESE DOCTOR.
Protests at Broome.
Mr. Male, Ministerial member for Kimberley, has presented to the Premier petitions from the Pearlers’ Association and Municipal Council at Broome protesting against the proposed” settling there of a Japanese doctor. The employes on the pearling boats are mostly Japanese, and recently they subscribed£300, and requested their Consul-General at Sydney toarrange that a doctor Be sent from Japan. It is alleged that the Federal Government was approached on the subject, and that a Japanese who had taken a German medical degree had been sent to Singapore, to voyage thence in the Charon to Broome. The local protests are based on the ground that the Government Hospital provides all that is necessary - half its patients being Japanese; that the pearling crewsunder indentures receive medical attention free, and that if a Japanese doctor is allowed at Broome the Chinese and Afghans in the northwest will follow suit.
Undoubtedly the Japanese in the northwest of Western Australia are in a majority. Seventy per cent, of those engaged in the pearling industry in that portion of the Commonwealth are Japanese. The principal storekeeper at Broome is also a member of the same nationality. The Japanese have a very big grip upon that township. They have a place of worship there, and they hold processions in connexion with certain feasts of their own. In short, they out-number the representatives of all other, nationalities combined. This is a question to which attention should be drawn with a view to preventing this Asiatic menace fromspreading indefinitely. Owing to the lateness of the hour, I refrain from saying more; but I do hope that the Government, will give this matter their attention, with a view to remedying the existing state of affairs at the earliest opportunity.
– When the Vice-President of the Executive Council replies, I should be’ glad if he would give us an idea of when the Government propose that Parliament shall adjourn over the Premiers’ Conference.
– Senator de Largie was good enough to direct my attention to the paragraph which he has quoted, before bringing it under the notice of the Senate. In reply, I may tell him that I shall endeavour to get whatever information I can concerning what is taking place in the north-west of Western Australia. In answer to the inquiry by Senator Pearce, I may say that when the Senate meets on Wednesday, I hope to be in a position to make a statement upon that matter. Should’ I happen to overlook it, perhaps the honorable senator will be good enough to remind me of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 July 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090730_senate_3_50/>.