3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council ascertain what progress is being made with the preparation of a return of the number of riflemen in each State and the number of efficients, whichwas ordered by the Senate some time ago?
– I understand that it is anticipated that the return will be availablein a couple of days.
– I ask my honorable friend to direct his attention and careful scrutiny to paragraph 5 of the document to which he referred. He will find outlined there the Government’s proposition with regard to the matter to which his question related.
– It is not there.
– I understand that the Government are considering the advisability of sending out a steamer to search for the Waratah. In view of the report which has been published more than once that the missing vessel may drift towards Australia, more likely towards the western coast than towards any other, will they consider the advisability of the chartered steamer making her head-quarters at F remantle ?
– Our best advice is that the probable area within which the missing steamer will be found is very much nearer to South Africa than to Australia. In these circumstances we have deemed it our duty to give first consideration to that advice.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs in a position to furnish any information as to the progress made with the compilation of the official map of Australia? And in view of the fact that the proposed acquisition of the Northern Territory is to come before the Senate at an early date, is it possible for the Government to arrangefor members of Parliament to be supplied with complete maps printed on linen, as was done by New South Wales in 1902 when the first inspection of Capital sites took place ?
-As regards the progress made with the preparation of the map I have not been able to obtain any information, and if the question is repeated on Wednesday next I shall endeavour to answer it. I shall bring my honorable friend’s suggestion under the notice of the Minister who is in charge of the Northern Territory Bill.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, instead of sending to the Commonwealth offices in the State Capitals two copies of each Bill which he says are regularly sent and which are really for office use, he will send some copies for the use of the public? I believe that it would be profitable to sendadditional copies, as purchases would often bemade. I know that Bills are inquired for and that they are often wanted.
– I shall have very much pleasure in Bringing my honorable friend’s suggestion under the notice of the proper Minister. It does seem to me that the supply of two copies of a Bill for office use only is insufficient. .
Whether, in view of the fact that the Government has now before Parliament a Bill to take over and constitute Norfolk Island a Territory of the Commonwealth, and providing for the admission into Australia, duty free, of the products of the Island, the Government will, without delay, introduce a measure admitting into Australia the products of the Territory of Papua on equal terms?
The conditions of labour in cultivation and production are so distinct in Papua from those of Norfolk Island, it is questionable whether equally favorable tariff concessions should be extended to both places. The proposal of the honorable member will, however, receive careful consideration.
Senator MILLEN laid upon the table the following paper : -
Post and Telegraph Act 1901 - Amendment of General Postal and Postal Regulations - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 99.
Report (No. 3) presented by Senator Givens and read by the Clerk-Assistant.
Debate resumed from 1st September (vide page 2860) on motion by Senator Sir Robert Best -
That the papers laid upon the table on the 13th August, relating to the Budget and the Estimates, be printed.
– I do not intend to engage the attention of the Senate for many minutes, for the reason that we shall have another opportunity of discussing the financial policy of the Government.
– In what way shall we have another opportunity ?
– We shall soon have the secret agreement made by the Government with the State Premiers placed before us.
– It will never pass the other House, and therefore we shall not get it.
– The honorable senator should not prophesy.
– The Ministers’ organ, the Age, says that the agreement will not pass the other House.
– I hope that it will not pass either House.
– The agreement is before us now, and the honorable senator can discuss it at any length he likes.
– I should like to have something more authoritative than Senator Pulsford’s statement. As far as I know, the agreement is not definitely before us. We have heard certain rumours, and certain opinions have been expressed ; but no information has been placed before us in an authoritative way. But, at any rate, the Budget is before us. I am sorry to think that, after having succeeded in securing an opportunity of discussing the Budget in the Senate concurrently with the debate on the same subject in another place, we have not a more interesting financial statement to consider. We do not know how much the Government intend to stand by, and cannot be sure whether any part of the Treasurer’s statement is of any use whatever. Certainly it is interesting to have a pile of statistics placed before us. We like to be informed what the population of Australia is, for instance. It will be gratifying to some people to know how many bank notes are in circulation. Particulars as to the mineral production will be valuable to some Tables concerning imports and exports, the acreage under cultivation, and similar information will be useful to many. But we have had such figures reprinted time after time, and at such expense, that it was scarcely, worth while to print them again in the Budget papers. In fact, the compilation of those papers has involved a great waste of money and of effort. A Budget is supposed to be, and generally is, an outline of the financial policy of the Government of the day But that is precisely That this Budget is not. The financial statement was long delayed, notwithstanding many urgent protestations, both in the Senate and in another place. We were always told, when we asked that the financial policy of the Ministry should be enunciated, that we must wait for the Budget.
– Surely there is enough in the financial agreement to satisfy any one.
– But we know nothing definitely about the financial agreement.
– I do.
– The honorable senator is a thought-reader as well as many other things. No one knows what takes place within his powerful brain. I ‘ am talking of ordinary people. Members of the Senate of average intelligence do not know anything about the financial policy of the Government, except what is contained in the Budget papers. We know nothing definite and authoritative about the financial agreement. We were from time to time assured that everything in connexion with the public works policy of the Government would be declared when the Budget speech was delivered. But within a few days of the Budget being laid before Parliament, a right-about-face was executed, and Ministers ran away from their own Budget. There has since been a Star Chamber procedure, and we understand that the outcome of it is that a certain agreement has been concocted.
– The honorable senator is beginning to talk about the agreement now. Evidently he knows all about it.
– I do not know, what it is. I am depending upon very unreliable sources of information. I hope we shall know more about the agreement in the near future. The point to which I direct the attention of the Senate is that for months past we have been promised a certain declaration of policy. But we have been disappointed. Apparently, Ministers were at the time the Budget papers were being prepared, and are even now, as unsettled and undecided as to what their financial policy ought to be .as certain of them have been for many years. There are some members of the present Government who have occupied responsible positions as Ministers of the Crown since the inception of Federation. For instance, the present Leader of the Government might almost, be regarded as a Vicar of
Bray Prime Minister. He appears to be always “on top,” no matter what party in Parliament may have the most numerous following at any particular time. The present Treasurer mayalso be said to have occupied a responsible position as a Minister since the inception of Federation. But these honorable gentlemen have been backing and filling all over the financial ocean, and, to-day, they are as much adrift as is the Waratah, and it is about as hard to discover where they are on financial questions as it is to discover the whereabouts of that unfortunate steamer. They are still drifting, and they do not know where they are going to. They have committed themselves from time to time to a number of contradictory policies, and it is nearly time that the Government should formulate a financial policy of their own.
– Is the honorable senator a judge of the matter, when he asserts that he does not know anything about the agreement?
– I again remind Senator Pulsford that I am now discussing the Budget. I have often heard an Englishman say that it is very difficult to get a joke into the head of a Scotchman, but it. would appear to be even more difficult to get anything into the head of the honorable senator. The members of the Government are still hesitating and in doubt as to what course they should pursue in dealing with the public finances, and after all the humbugging with financial questions that , we have had, we are told that they have committed themselves to a secret agreement with the State Premiers. The electors of the Commonwealth have, from time to time, been told that the members of the Labour party know nothing whatever of finance, that they do not understand the subject and cannot be expected to formulate a financial policy. I suppose that this view, which has been so industriously circulated, had its origin in the knowledge that the majority of Labour members are working men, to some extent new to political life, and with little or no experience of public finance. We have now in office as Treasurer of the Commonwealth a gentleman who has occupied the position of Treasurer more than once, and who has had a great deal of experience in public finance, not only in this Parliament, but in a State Parliament as well. However, with all his experience, the right honorable gentleman is apparently quite unable to appreciate the position, either of the States or of the
Commonwealth. He has learned nothing from his great experience, and the opportunities he has had to acquire information on financial subjects. As a result, he has had to fall back upon a financial scheme formulated for him by a number of irresponsible persons. Is it not a reflection on the Commonwealth Parliament that the most important financial questions should be dealt with in this way ? It would be impossible for the merest’ tyro who might undertake to formulate a financial policy to make a bigger mess of the financial position than has been made of it by the present Treasurer of the Commonwealth. This plain statement is justified by the right honorable gentleman’s repeated failure to propose any satisfactory solution of the financial position with which he has been called upon to deal. The members of the Labour party, who have been reported to be quite incapable of dealing with financial questions because of their want of knowledge of the subject, have lived long enough to see the present Government go to the State Premiers for a financial policy, and, as every one knows, the State Premiers got their scheme from the Conference of Labour delegates held in Brisbane last year.
– Then the honorable senator does know something about the agreement, after all ?
– I know that certain references to it have appeared in the Press, but I repeat that there is no authoritative information with respect’ to the agreement before us.
– The honorable senator must know that the agreement has been officially circulated, and if he has not a copy of it, it is his own fault.
– I know, as does the Minister of Trade and Customs, that the Labour Conference, held in Brisbane last year, formulated a certain financial scheme which has been before the public for some time. I shall be pleased to hear that the present Government have adopted that scheme, and have undertaken the printing of. it for the information of honorable senators. I think, however, that I shall be able to show that there is some difference between the scheme approved by the Brisbane Labour Conference and that approved by the Government. I think I shall be able to show that the main features of the financial scheme approved by the much-decried Labour party, who are supposed to know nothing whatever of finance, have been adopted by the representatives of the State and Commonwealth Governments. There has been so much discussion of the merits of the Labour party’s scheme that I think it is right that it should appear on record in Hansard in order that the public may know exactly what was proposed at our conference, and what the Labour party’s scheme really is. These are the resolutions adopted by the conference -
That conference approves the general outlines of Mr. King O’Malley’s scheme relating to the establishment of a National Bank.
– I have not seen any reference to that in the agreement.
– That is one of the best features of the scheme which was adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference. That scheme is embodied in the following resolutions -
That this Conference expresses its approval generally of the following scheme as the basis for the financial relations between the Commonwealth and States : -
That the States should continue to receive a share of the Federal revenue.
That such annual share be paid to the States in the form of a fixed sum per head of the population, such sum to be ascertained during or before the year 1910 on the basis shown in the fourth paragraph.
That the proportion of revenue allocated to the Commonwealth must be sufficient to cover -
All existing expenditure apart from reproductive services ;
Old-age and Invalid Pensions throughout the Commonwealth;
An additional sum, not to exceed one million pounds, for the expanding necessities of the Commonwealth Government, such as the creation of the Federal Capital, railway undertakings, and the development of the Northern Territory.
That the amount of the fixed paymentper capita to be returned to the States be ascertained by -
Taking the average total of the Customs and Excise revenue of five representative years before 1910;
Deducting therefrom the average total of Commonwealth expenditure, for the same representative years, under the three heads enumerated in the third paragraph ;
Dividing the amount so arrived at by the average number of the population of Australia for the same representative years.
That in view of the exceptional position of Western Australia a further capitation grant should be made to that State, to gradually diminish upon a sliding scale until its share of the Federal revenue coincidesper capita with that of the other States.
The Minister of Trade and Customs has pointed out, by way of interjection, that the proposal of the Brisbane Labour Conference in regard to the establishment of a national bank was not adopted by the Premiers’ Conference. That is just what we might have expected from the Conservative gathering which met in this city a week or two ago. But the State Premiers took very good care to adopt a system under which the Commonwealth would annually return to them a per capita contribution from the Customs and Excise revenue.
– Was that a Conservative proposal, too?
– No. I do not call that proposal a Conservative one.
– That proposal was adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference.
– Exactly; but the proposal for a national bank was not adopted by the Conservative gathering to which I have alluded, whereas the other proposal was.
– Was that a Conservative proposition also?
– No, except that its adoption would conserve the interests of all parties concerned in an eminently sane way. As one who had a little to do with the framing of the scheme which was adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference, I am free to confess that the more I study it the more I appreciate it, and the more I regard it as the only possible system by which we can secure an equitable adjustment of the. future financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth.
– The scheme was not an original one.
– For original ideas we should probably have to go back to the time of the Flood. All I claim is that the scheme was first placed before the public of Australia by an authoritative body when adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference.
– The honorable senator specifically claimed that the per capita idea, so far as the distribution ofCustoms and Excise revenue is concerned, was an original one.
– The Conference to which I have referred was the first authoritative body to place that idea before the electors of Australia, and to bring it into the arena of practical politics. An attempt has been made to make a great deal of political capital out of the state- merit that Mr. Fisher was not prepared at the Premiers’ Conference which was held in Hobart, to go the “ whole hog” in the matter of agreeing to a per capita distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue, and in that connexion we have been accused of endeavouring to desert our principles. During the course of this discussion it has also been urged that we are desirous of undoing what was done at the Brisbane Labour Conference. To that accusation I give a flat contradiction. Labour members in this Parliament are in no way bound by the resolutions arrived at by that conference, which met for the specific purpose of formulating a policy for the future. It must be recollected that members of the Commonwealth Parliament and of the State Parliaments are elected upon totally different policies and platforms, and that it is their duty to stand by the respective platforms upon which they are elected until the next election comes round. The policy which was laid down by the Brisbane Labour Conference is intended to apply to Labour members in the next Commonwealth Parliament.
– It is not part of the Labour platform.
– If it be not part of their platform, it is part of their policy. At the next election forthis Parliament Labour candidates will be bound by the policy which was formulated by the Brisbane Conference. The Government have no right to attempt to embody in our Constitution the resolutions which were arrived at by the Premiers’ Conference. In this connexion we must recollect that at the present time things are not in a normal condition. Our experience of the amount of Customs and Excise revenuewhich the Commonwealth may expect to derive annually is altogether too short to enable us to frame a scheme, and to say, “ Here is a financial policy which will be good for all time, irrespective of how the Customs and Excise revenue may fluctuate in the future.” It is utterly impossible for any party at the present juncture to lay down hard-and-fast conditions. Not only would it be unfair to the Commonwealth to do so, but it would be equally unfair to the States. How do we know what development may take placein a country embracing such a large area as does Australia, and containing such a sparse population? Within the next ten years the tide of population may flow with such force to any State as to entirely sweep away existing proportions. Take, for instance, Western Australia, which comprises almost a third of this continent. There we have a State occupied by a little over 250,000 persons. Scattered over enormous areas there are strong indications of wealth. Its mining possibilities may be developed during the next few years, and it may then contain as large a population as Victoria now contains. It is quite possible that 1,000,000 or 1 , 500, 000 people may be in Western Australia within ten years. There are such great possibilities of mining development during that period that the per capita amount contributed by its people may be quite as great or as disproportionate then as it was ten years ago, when it was more than twice as much as was the next highest contribution of any State. If the agreement is considered from the State stand-point, it will be seen at a glance how unfair it would be to tie Western Australia down to a per capita payment of 25s. The cost of railways, public buildings, and government generally would have to be undertaken by the people, because the per capita payment would be too small to enable the State to otherwise meet public requirements. It is quite possible that within ten years a great change may come over the people of Australia, and it may have a Free Trade policy. If, as the result of that policy, 25s. per head was not raised by Customs and Excise duties, where should we find the money to pay that amount ?
– Out of direct taxation.
– Would we go then for direct taxation?
– Of course.
– Would the honorable senator support a proposition of that kind?
– Very probably.
– Would Senator de Largie?
– What is the honorable senator complaining about?
– I am not complaining, but simply putting before honorable senators for consideration certain positions, and asking them whether we should be acting wisely in tying ourselves down to a set of conditions which would compel us to resort to direct taxation in order to raise the money required.
– Is not that one of the aims of the Labour party ?
– That is quite so, but I want to ask the Protectionists if they would agree to such a state of affairs.
– I thought it was the honorable senator’s own concern which he was considering.
– I am looking at the matter not only from the Protectionist stand-point, but also from the Free Trade stand-point.
– He is a revenue tariffist.
– I remind the Senate that Senator Best and others on his side have more or less endeavoured to make out a case against this Parliament imposing direct taxation in any shape. Some honorable senators who now sit on the other side have even gone to the length of disputing whether the Constitution empowers this Parliament to tax directly.
– Who disputed that?
– I do not care about bringing the President into the discussion, but his name I am reminded of at once. I am quite sure that Senator Gray could mention many other names, and no doubt Senators Macfarlane and Neild have spoken in support of that contention. I have not the proof at my finger ends, but I do not think that any one of those honorable gentlemen will deny what I have said. I am, endeavouring to show that it is quite impracticable to come to a financial arrangement at the present stage. In dealing with Customs and Excise revenue we are dealing with only one part of the financial question. The . consolidation of the State debts is’ not touched, I understand, by the agreement with the State Premiers. There, again, to a certain extent they adopted the attitude taken up by the Labour Conference at Brisbane. It has been suggested more than once by the present Treasurer that the question of consolidating the State debts should be dealt with. Every one is aware of the enormous interest bill which has to be paid every year. Suppose that we should ratify the agreement with the State Premiers and that* hereafter we should endeavour to consolidate the State debts with a view to reducing the amount of the interest bill, we should find ourselves hobbled by a hard-and-fast pro vision in the Constitution. It would be a very foolish provision to adopt at the present time. It is only necessary to review the various schemes which have been placed before Parliament from time to time to realize that the minds of public men who have made a special study of finance have been constantly changing. Have we reached a stage when we can say dogmatically that we possess a full knowledge of our financial requirements, and that there is no need to consider the possibilities of the future?
– Does the honorable senator expect that at any time during the piesent century no more amendments or improvements of the Constitution will be made ?
– That is the very question I have been asking the Senate to consider. We have no right to assume’ that we possess full knowledge of our financial requirements, and that therefore we are entitled to tie the hands of posterity. I am satisfied that if we lay down a hard and fast rule it will be condemned by future Parliaments as a huge blunder. To me the Premiers’ agreement can only be explained away by one fact which has more than once engaged my attention, and that is that the Premiers are more or less men of a Conservative type. They wish to safeguard their political party. In coming to this agreement they were looking after party interests.
– The Labour party offered them more.
– I am not talking about what our party offered to them ; in fact, I do not know that our party made any definite offer, but 1 know that thisscheme for a per capita distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue is an attempt to foist upon working -people a greater portion of the burden of taxation. It is quite evident that the design of the State Premiers is to force upon the people the necessity for adopting a revenue Tariff. That idea underlies the whole scheme, and if it were ratified every Free Trader or Protectionist would be compelled to take the view that a certain amount of revenue’ must be collected, and therefore to revenue tariffism we should be driven. We have no right to embody an impossible condition in the Constitution. I hope that the blunder of hobbling this Parliament for all time will not be committed. I do not desire to occupy any more time than is necessary, but the policy and the platform of the Labour party have been so often misquoted that I feel it my duty, for the edification of Senator Gray, if of no other person, to quote our policy and the various planks of our platform.
– How longwill it last ?
– This policy was framed by the Conference at Brisbane last year. Every second or third year we meet. Our Conferences are public gatherings, and we publish a report of what is transacted. Our policy is not hidden or concealed from the world. We do not meet in the dark and burn our blotting paper every night. We leave such things to our Star Chamber friends on the other side.
– But the Labour party do not admit the press.
– We do. We have never held a Conference to which the press has not been admitted.
– The whole of the press?
– The Labour party publish what they like in their weekly newspaper, and that has to be swallowed.
– We have penalized the section of the press which we have found to be unreliable. In connexion with the State Parliaments we are subject to misrepresentation by the press, and when we get full control of this or any other Parliament we shall see that the reporters shall report only the proceedings and not what they imagine. In order to insure a correct report of our proceedings we have admitted only our own press, but no other restriction was imposed. There was no secrecy, no burning of blotting pads, nor anything of that kind. We simply took a precaution against being misrepresented. We had yet another purpose, and that was to draw attention to the fact that the capitalistic press of Australia has not in the past given the Labour party a fair deal. We took this course bywayof protest, as much as for any other reason. I promised Senator Gray that I would tell him what the platform of the Labour party is in reference to finance, and particularly in regard to borrowing. Last night hetold the Senate that the Labour party’s policy was a hard-and-fast one of non-borrowing. Now, that is not so. We have had to explain this matter before, and I am sorry that the honorable senator has again given currency to a misrepresentation.
– What authority has the honorable senator to speak for other members of his party ?
– I have here the authority of the printed platform, and I speak as a member of the Labour party and an elected member of this Senate. The wording of the special plank in the Labour party’s platform dealing with this matter is, “ Restriction of public borrowing.” The adoption of this plank was forced upon us, and Senator Gray ought to be pleased at the fact that its adoptionhas had the result of bringing the finances of Australia into a more healthy condition than they previously were. Early in the career of the first Parliament of the Commonwealth, the Federal Treasurer, Sir George Turner, brought forward a proposition for borrowing a sum of money. That proposition was defeated, largely through the efforts of the Labour party. Until Sir John Forrest, a few weeks ago, proposed to restore the borrowing policy, we have had a breathing time, and have gained by the improved condition of our finances. We have been able to rub through without borrowing during these years. Australian politicians have been afforded an opportunity of becoming acquainted with a better method of financing public works than rushing to the money-lender. That is an aspect of Australian politics upon which we have a right to congratulate ourselves. It has restored our financial affairs to a more healthy tone. I am surprised that Senator Gray should have misrepresented us by saying that the Labour party is opposed to all borrowing. Such is not the case.
– What would the honorable senator borrow for?
– I would treat each proposed work on its own merits.; When a proposition is made to us, and we are considering the need for a given work and its estimated cost, it will be time for us to say whether money should be borrowed for that purpose. While I do not say that we should refrain from borrowing, no matter what the necessities of the case may be, I also say that rushing off heedlessly to borrow money has been a ruinous policy in the past. The enormous interest bill which the States have to sustain is the best proof of that statement. Every State in Australia has borrowed lavishly, and spent more lavishly. The State in which we are now meeting offers perhaps the best example of what I am saying.
– Does the honorable senator mean that Victoria offers the best proof of the foolishness of borrowing ?
– Victoria offers proof of the foolishness of borrowing recklessly, and paying interest for ever and a day. I have not the actual figures before me just now.
– Victoria has borrowed less in proportion to its population than any State in the Commonwealth.
– I grant that, and, therefore, I am not acting unfairly when I take Victoria as an example. Victoria compares favorably with the other States in this respect. When we realize, however, the interest burden which Victoria has to bear, we must realize the enormous weight of the interest bills of the other States. Victoria, speaking in round figures, has had a life of something like fifty years. During that time she has borrowed something like£50,000,000. On that sum she has paid already£50,000,000 in interest, and must go on paying.
– What about the other side of the ledger?
– I repeat that Victoria is not by any means the worst State in the Federation in this regard.
– The honorable senator has taken a case which illustrates the soundness of the policy of judicious borrowing.
– Does the Minister say that there has been no foolish borrowing in Victoria, and no foolish expenditure of borrowed money ?
– Very little, and the interest is paid by reproductive works.
– We have the fact staring us in the face that the first proposal to borrow made in this Parliament was defeated. What occurred then has been a wholesome lesson, which, I hope, we shall take to heart. We should not rush into the money market until we are about to undertake some work which would justify borrowing. I am aware that there are many works which we shall have to undertake for which we shall be obligedto borrow.
– What work does the honorable senator suggest, for instance ?
– I cannot go into details at present, but the various large undertakings that await us are fairly well known. We have the Northern Territory to develop. I suppose there will be many works in connexion with that Territory for which we shall require to borrow. It may be necessary to borrow for the purposes of the Federal Capital, and the construction of the transcontinental railway may require borrowed money. There may be other works for which loans will be required. But so far as I am concerned - and I think I can speak for Labour members- generally - every proposal will have to stand on its own merits. Every case that is presented to us will be threshed out and thoroughly considered. But I am still of opinion that it would be foolish and suicidal to go back upon the policy of refraining from general borrowing, which policy, I believe, has been advantageous to the Commonwealth.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [3.33]. - I do not intend to take up the time of the Senate for many moments, but I wish to take advantage of the present motion to discuss a question that certainly affects the question of finance involved in the policy submitted by the Government. I should like to have the presence of Senator Millen during my remarks.
– He is engaged elsewhere at the present moment.
– Then I shall have to “engage” the honorable senator in his absence.
– I will take Senator Millen’splace elsewhere if the honorable senator desires him to be present.
– I wish to deal with a matter that has been the subject of inaccurate assertions in this chamber yesterday and to-day. A consideration of the public finances necessarily involves giving attentionto taxation both through Customs and Excise. Hence I shall be in order’ in referring to the matter of the new Protection. I do not wish to discuss that question as a general matter of policy, because I desire to be brief ; but I do wish to draw attention to the persistent inaccuracy of the Vice-President of the Executive Council in his replies to me. As the result of an answer given by him to-day, I am able to pin the honorable senator down to the statement that in the Ministerial declaration of policy, paragraph 5, would be found a reference to new Protection. Now the paragraphs in the Ministerial statement are not numbered, and, therefore, I must number them carefully, in order that there may be no mistake. I count the paragraphs from the beginning, and come to number 5, to which the honorable senator referred me. I will read it out, in order that honorable senators may see whether his answer to me was correct, and whether the Government have in any shape or way indicated here their intention with respect to new Protection. The fifth paragraph is as follows : -
Any divergences between industrial conditions in the several States which occasion an unjust competition between Australian industries in different States will be adjusted by the InterState Commission, with, of course, due regard to all the interests affected, whether or not the unjustly competitive rates exist under the authority of industrial tribunals. Correspondence is now proceeding with the State Governments in respect to the procedure to be followed in order to endow the Commission with this power.
That is the Ministerial statement to which I was referred by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, as containing a declaration of policy with respect to new Protection. I say that that paragraph has no reference to anything else than the operations of an Inter-State Commission, if appointed ; and no Inter-State Commission can impose conditions of new Protection, because conditions of new Protection involve Excise duties and probably Customs duties.
– An Inter-State Commission could not get over the decision of the High Court.
– Certainly not. We know that the Excise Tariff Act, which embodied the new Protection proposals of the former Deakin Government, has been pronounced to be a nullity. No appointment of an Inter-State Commission can give vitality to a dead Act. The Act is just as dead as if we had repealed it, because it has been destroyed by thevery authority which the Constitution has set up to deal with such matters. I do not wish, as a supporter of the Government, to catechise either the Ministry or their representatives in this Chamber ; but I do want to know whether the Government have any policy with reference to new Protection. I speak with the most perfect friend liness towards my honorable friend the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but no man cares to be made publicly the subject of a piece of absolute bluff. I hope that my honorable friend is not offended with me for using that term.
– The honorable senator will not offend me.
– I give the honorable senator credit for his capacity in the use of bluff ; it is large, and sometimes useful. But in the present instance he did not maintain his bluff in a proper manner. He ought not to have told me which paragraph of the Ministerial statement he meant. Then I should have had to read through the whole blessed thing from beginning to end. I hold in my hand an exact copy of the document. It is called ‘ ‘ Ministerial Statement ; Business to be submitted to Parliament. Presented by Mr. Deakin, Ordered to be. printed, 20th July, 1909.” There is nothing to show in which House of Parliament the document was produced. There is no reference to either Chamber. There- fore, it is simply a public document, and I am quite in order in referring to and quoting from it. I wish that my honorable friend, when he replies at the end of this debate, will give an indication as to what the policy of the Government with reference to new Protection really is. As a representative of one of the States in this Senate I want the information. My constituents want the information. The Commonwealth wants the information. If I may make any differentiation between one set of people in the Commonwealth and another, I should say that those most anxious to obtain the information are the consumers and the workers. We know perfectly wellthat the manufacturers can afford to be indifferent about it. They are not in a hurry to have the new Protection policy imposed.
– They have been protected.
– They have had it all their own way up to date, unfortunately for the revenue, or, in other words, the pockets of the whole community, and, unfortunately, also, for many hundreds of workers. I do not wish to enlarge on any of these matters ; but I do desire to point out to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, if the honorable senator will forgive me for daring to make a suggestion, that, whilst bluff very often answers admirably, it seldom answers at all if appliedto a man who has moral courage and a little persistency. If this debate had been on a motion for the second reading of a Bill, for instance, I could have moved an amendment to the effect that the Bill should be read a second time six months hence, to enable me to say what I am able on this occasion to say without any motion of the kind. An honorable member’s mouth may be shut for an hour, or for twenty-four hours ; but if he knows his way about in Parliament, and I have had a sufficiently long experience of par- liamentary life to have gained some knowledge of what an honorable member can do, he cannot be entirely prevented from saying what he thinks it necessary to say. With all the friendliness of old acquaintance, I ask my honorable friend not to try a little game of that kind on with me, because it will not pay. I hope that when he replies to the debate, as I suppose he will have an opportunity of doing next week,or the week following, he will withdraw his little bit, of bluff, if it was bluff, or will correct, his. inaccuracies.
– Before the honorable senator resumes his seat, perhaps he will define what he means by the new Protection ? .
– I think the generally accepted meaning of the term new Protection is that the workers in an industry shall share in the advantages that are supposed to accure to manufacturers from the imposition of heavy Customs duties.
– And the consumer as well.
– Of course, the consumer also; but more particularly the employe, because he is more directly concerned.
– Is not the consumer concerned ?
– The consumer is concerned in the fixing of the duties, but not in the apportioning of the profits between the manufacturer and those who work for him.
– I thought the consumer was the person chiefly interested.
– I am being invited to make a sort of second edition speech. I do not think I can explain the matter better than by the exhibition and description of a cartoon which has appeared in the press. I am sorry that I cannot have it reproduced in Hansard, but some day Parliament may have sufficiently progressed to have established an illustrated Hansard. I have here a picture published by one of the leading daily newspapers of Australia, showing the operation of the principle of new Protection. There is a gentleman portrayed with a nice silk hat and frock coat; his arms are laden with bags with the £ mark on them. There is a dilapidated, attenuated looking worker who is appealing to the gold laden employer that he may have a share of the new Protection. A constable branded “ New Protection “ has the manufacturer or employer by the coattails endeavouring to prevent him reaching the bank before the worker obtains a share of the profits that have come to him as a result of the duties imposed under the Tariff. Senator Gray and other honorable senators are quite right in saying that the consumers are interested. I say that they are interested in the imposition of the duties. But the new Protection applies to the division between the manufacturer and his workmen of the spoils that come from the operation of a heavy Customs Tariff. We can have heavy Customs duties without any new Protectionatall; but we cannot have the new Protection without heavy duties. The two things are distinct, and as a rule would be given effect to by different legislative measures. For instance, if the Tariff now imposes heavy duties on a large number of articles made in Australia, it is perfectly competent without directly interfering with those duties to introduce a measure or measures which would divide the pecuniary advantages derived from their imposition between the manufacturers and their workmen.
– The honorable senator proposes that the consumer shall be sweated between the two other parties.
– I am not saying whether it is right or wrong, and honorable senators are not going to drag me into a discussion about Customs duties.
– Does the honorable senator not know that the principle of new Protection is supposed to carry the old Protection two stages further ; one stage giving the worker a share, and the other stage giving the consumer a share, in the profits derived by the manufacturer?
– There may be some vague idea at the back of some honorable senator’s head on the subject, but so far as the Commonwealth has made any direct move in the matter of legislation, it has not considered the consumer. It has considered the employer and the employe.
– The honorable senator should remember that we fixed the prices for harvesters.
– Yes, and they have been dodged.
– As they will be every time.
– I am not so sure of that. At any rate, I propose to make an effort to correct the anomaly referred to. I do not wish at this stage to discuss all the merits of the new Protection. I have merely referred to the matter as one upon which the community and honorable senators desire authoritative information from the Government. I trust they will receive it before this debate is concluded.
– -Ihave been charged this afternoon with the possession of a quality known as “ bluff.” When such congratulations come to me from the honorable senator who has just spoken, I am constrained to say, that “ Praise from Sir Rupert is praise indeed.” I wish, in dealing with the matter, merely to re-affirm that the Government policy regarding the adjustment of wages is fully set out in the paragraph of the Ministerial statement, to which I directed Senator Neild’s attention. It is, of course, referred to in the preceding four paragraphs ; but the essence of it is contained in the fifth. If Senator Neild will exercise a little patience, he will find that very shortly measures will be placed before Parliament to carry out the Ministerial policy. The proper time for Ministers to disclose details is when those measures are. introduced. In following that course the Government will be doing, not only what is usual, but will be adopting the only course open to a Government who desire to present their business in a business-like way. I probably should not have ventured to speak in this debate but for the remarks so pointedly directed to me by Senator Neild. I can assure the honorable senator, in reply, that I spoke with all candour, and without the slightest intention to exercise that quality of “ bluff,” with the possession of which the honorable senator has quite gratuitously credited me. I simply desired to direct his attention to a paragraph in the Ministerial statement which, from his remarks, I assumed had escaped his attention.
[3.52]. - It has been my duty to listen with interest and patience to the varied criticisms passed upon the Budget by honorable senators opposite. Their criticisms have impressed me with their utter lack of happiness, and the chagrin by which they seem to have been inspired. Some of them went so far as to vie with each other in coining phrases of the most offensive character to hurl at the Government. I have no objection to this, as it shows only the desperation of those who have a bad case.
– Then what is the honorable senator growling about?
– I am. mentioning a circumstance of the debate. So far as Senator Givens is concerned, I may say that his denunciations positively reach a pitch of violence at times. We naturally ask what has given rise to this kind of criticism, and we can well understand that the underlying meaning of it is that the Government have recently scored some two or three marked successes, which have made my honorable friends opposite particularly unhappy. The first of the successes to which I refer has been achieved by the naval proposals of the Government.
– What? The honorable senator is welcome to that success.
– The Government did not propose them; they were proposed by the British Government.
– The present naval proposals are largely founded on the proposals of the Government, and for obvious reasons they are not at all congenial to my honorable friends opposite. The first reason is that they involve the placing in the waste-paper basket of the naval proposals of the last Government. In this connexion it is somewhat difficult to understand the attitude of Senator Pearce. First of all. I understood from the honorable senator that he and the members of the Government of which he was a member claimed to have originally suggested the calling together of the Imperial Defence Conference. That claim having been rapidly exploded, honorable senators opposite persisted in it no longer. But it is perfectly clear that they were in distinct accord with the idea of calling such a Conference together. It was a wise and proper proposal on the part of Canada, as it enabled the people of the Commonwealth to obtain the highest and best advice that could be secured in the Empire. Seeing that my honorable friends found it wise to assist in the arrangements for holding this particular Conference, it may fairly ,be taken for granted that they were prepared to be bound by the high-class expert evidence which was available at that gathering. I am reminded by Senator Chataway that Senator Pearce even prophesied that the proposals of the Fisher Government would be adopted by the- Con,ference. How far that prophecy has been realized, it is for him to judge.
– At any rate, it did hot adopt the Dreadnought proposal of the Government.
– I intend to show that that is exactly what it did adopt. Seeing that the Conference was one to which the late Government lent its adherence, my honorable friends opposite have a right to be bound by its decisions. So completely, was Senator Pearce animated by that idea that only on Thursday or Friday last he claimed that the naval proposals adopted by the Conference were identical with those put forward by the Fisher Government. If that be so, what is the meaning of the condemnation by the Leader of the Labour party of the decisions which were arrived at by the Conference? What is the meaning of the wholesale condemnation of them by honorable senators opposite?
– Then the Minister admits that the Government stole our policy ?
– Do my honorable friends now say that the proposals adopted by the Imperial Defence Conference represent their policy ? “ Senator Turley.’ - Does the Minister admit that the Government have stolen our policy?
– It is absurd to suggest for one moment that the naval policy which has been framed by the Imperial Defence Conference bears the remotest resemblance to that of the Fisher Government. I sympathize with mv honorable friends in the position in which they find themselves ; but it is the result of putting the cart before the horse in formulating a naval policy which provided merely for coastal’ defence by means of a mosquito fleet. It would have been only of the most limited use, and would have Had no
Empire complexion whatever. As I have pointed out, the very first step of the Conference, with which they were so anxious to identify themselves, placed the naval proposals of the Fisher Government in the waste-paper basket.
– Then what . is the meaning of its proposals?
– The fundamental principles of the policyframed by the Conference are only too apparent to my honorable friend. Whilst every, detail has not yet been settled, that policy means the establishment of an Australian unit of the British Navy - a unit which will be under -the control of the Commonwealth. That unit will have for its object, not merely the coastal defence of Australia, but, with the consent of the Commonwealth, co-operation with the British Fleet in the defence of the Empire. It will thus be seen that there is a vast difference between the policy which hai been formulated by the Conference, and that of my honorable friends.
– I have already pointed out that the scheme adopted by the Conference is the scheme of the Fisher Government, except that it has been extended to embrace cruisers.
– If my honorable friend means that new proposals have been substituted, lock, stock, and barrel, I agree with him. I say, further, that the policy which has been framed by the Imperial Defence Conference represents a triumphant confirmation of the wisdom of the Government in representing the overwhelming voice of the people in the matter of offering a Dreadnought, or its equivalent, to the Imperial authorities.
– Why did not the Government agree to go to the country upon that question?
– The proposals of the Conference could not have assumed their present Empire character but for the offer which, I am proud to say, the Government made to Great Britain within twenty-four hours of its assumption of office. Its offer was a Dreadnought-
– For use in the North Sea?
– In that offer, there was no reference made to the North Sea.
– The Minister should read the speech which he himself made in the Melbourne Town Hall.
– If my honorable friend will read that speech, it will assist him to a better recognition of the true position. Not only was the offer of a Dreadnought, or its equivalent, made as a contribution to an Empire Navy, but that offer also had its moral effect. The object underlying our action was a desire to show to the world the loyalty and affection of the people of Australia towards the Mother Country. We wished to make it clear that in her hour of peril we were prepared to stand side by side with her, and to assume a reasonable share of the burden of Empire, so far as providing for its defence is concerned’. Our offer was placed before the Imperial Government, and gratefully accepted by them, as was also a similar offer by New Zealand.
– What was the policy which the Government put before the Conference?
– I am not going to be diverted by my honorable friend from the thread of my. argument. I am discussing the Empire character of the resolutions arrived at by the Imperial Defence Conference. The offer of a Dreadnought, or its equivalent, by the Government, might have assumedall sorts of shapes. It might have taken the form of dockyards or of other various works in connexion with the defence of the Empire, even within Australia itself. Our desire was that it should be left to the highest British naval authorities to determine the particular form that our assistance should take, our object being to assist the Empire inanyway that those experts might advise. But for that offer, these comprehensive Empire naval proposals would not have been formulated.
– It was a shuffling offer madeby a shuffline Government.
– My honorable friend throws his offensive epithets right and left. But I have reason to feel too good-tempered to take them very seriously.
– Did the Minister mention a Dreadnought “ or its equivalent” in thespeech which he made in the Melbourne Town Hall?
– There is no virtue in the name Dreadnought. The name of that battleship was merely intended to symbolize or represent in a concrete form an appropriate gift on the part of the Commonwealth to the Mother
Country in response to the feelings of loyalty and affection manifested by our people.
– Why did not the British Government accept the offer of the Government ?
– They have done so.
-They have not.
– I can only judge of what they have done by the statement of the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Not only have the Imperial authorities gratefully accepted our offer, but they have embodied it in their scheme for the defence of the Commonwealth, and - with our consent - the vessels which we provide may, in the hour of need, also be utilized in the defence of the Empire. In addition, they have accepted the Dreadnought proffered by the New Zealand Government, which will take its place in another portion of British waters. I quite sympathize with the difficult position in which my honorable friends opposite find themselves.
– Where is the £2,000,000 which will be required to pay for a Dreadnought to be obtained ?
– My honorable friend need not be at all apprehensive in that connexion. He will have placed before him proposals which will deal with the financial aspect of this question as well as with every other aspect.
– We have been told that before.
- Senator de Largie’s impatience is extraordinary. The Imperial Defence Conference terminated only the other day, and my colleague has not yet returned from that gathering to assist the Government in the preparation of the necessary Bill to give effect to its determinations. The honorable senator may safely rely upon having the proposals of the Government submitted at anearly date. The other matter which has caused my honorable friends much concern and well-simulated indignation is the fact that the Government, after lengthyconference and negotiation, have managed to arrive at a settlement with the State Premiers in regard to the adjustment of the future financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth. In that connexion our policy, in contrast to that of the other side, has been to act with the States andnot against them. We recognise that we are all representatives of the same people, and that if Federation is to prosper it must offer every encouragement to the States to put forth their greatest energies and activities. Only prosperous States can create a prosperous Commonwealth. Consequently the Government entered into consultation with the State Premiers with a view to discovering what would be a fair and reason- able apportionment of the Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth and one which would not press with undue harshness upon either party to the agreement. We have reached such a settlement.
– Then where does this Parliament come in?
– My honorable friend is very distressed that we have arrived at a settlement of the question.
– I am sure that the Government have not.
– At any rate, we have arrived at a tentative agreement which is subject to the approval of Parliament. That agreement will be duly submitted to honorable senators, and I venture to say that it will be carried in both branches of the Legislature by an overwhelming majority.
– Before the Minister assumes the role of a prophet he should be sure of his facts.
– That is the reason why I am a prophet. The criticism of my honorable friends opposite assumes several forms. One of their accusations is that the Government have stolen the clothes of the Labour party. That circumstance is a source of great worry to Senator de Largie.
– Far from it. I compliment the Government upon their action.
– In this connexion the honorable senator has extolled the virtue of the resolutions which were arrived at by the Brisbane Labour Conference. He has affirmed that the proposals of the Government are those of that Conference.
– And something more. That is the noint.
– The honorable senator declared, however, that that portion of the scheme formulated by the Brisbane Labour Conference which relates to the establishment of a National Bank could not possibly be entertained by Conservative Premiers. When he made that statement I invited him to say whether the other proposals of that Conference were of a Conservative character, seeing that they, too, were dealt with by the persons whom he has described as “ Conservative Premiers.”
– The honorable senator’s logic is a little lopsided.
– I am adopting for the moment my honorable friend’s logic. It is not my logic, because the fallacy of it is most obvious.
– We are accustomed to having our clothes stolen from time to time; but the honorable senator should not take the whole suit.
– My honorable friend should not get nasty. Suppose that by an extraordinary accident we happened to light on the same proposal. That shows great foresight on the part of the Labour’ Conference, but some degree of foresight must not be denied to the framers of the Conference proposals. There are two distinctions which my honorable friend seeks to make.
– All the State Premiers denounced the Brisbane proposals.
– My honorable friend cannot complain if they have been converted to them.
– Like the Minister.
– My honorable friend need not reproach us about that. Either they are the Brisbane proposals or they are not, and if the former they certainly should be acceptable to the Labour party. The only difference appears to be that the Conference arrangement provides for a submission to the people of the Commonwealth, and if the people withhold their approval, of course that will end the matter, but the complaint of honorable members opposite is that the scheme is going to be submitted to the people. They cannot see their way to trust the people as the State Premiers and Commonwealth Ministers intend to do. There lies the distinction between us.
– We will not have a leg-rope.
– Labour members are always prating about trusting the people, and because we take them at their word and propose to ask the people to accept particular proposals we are met with bitter reproaches and stinging complaints from the other side.
– That is the very thing which the Government are not going to do - trust the people.
– My honorable friend will realize that we are trusting the people in the terms of the Constitution, and it little lies in his mouth or the mouths of honorable senators opposite to complain in that direction. Then, says Senator de Largie, there may arise an over- w helming majority in favour of Free Trade in the early future. He need not be unduly apprehensive on that score, because, if his expectation is realized, that will achieve for him at once one of the grest aims and objects of the Labour party, namely, direct taxation. Let me answer my honorable friend in another way. So soon as an overwhelming volume of Free Trade principle obtains, as he fears it may, so soon will it bring about an alteration of the Constitution. The honorable gentleman cannot get away from that. The only difference between the Brisbane scheme and our proposals is that we are prepared to trust the people whereas my honorable friends are not.
– We have never said that we would not trust the people at a referendum.
– That is our defence.
– I challenge the Minister to mention one senator who ever said that he was not agreeable to the matter going to a referendum.
– My honorable friend is aware that we have to send it to a referendum.
– We object to a legrope.
– We intend to send the matter to a referendum in the terms of the Constitution and there lies the sole difference between us.
– The leg-rope will be a throat-rope to some honorable senators before the thing is all over.
– The legrope to which my honorable friend refers might equally be attached to the proposals of his own party.
– Oh no.
– Because, if he means to say that they did not intend to embody the provision in the Constitution, then he wanted to mislead the Premiers into thinking that it was a permanent arrangement which was proposed, whereas it was one which there was some intention of altering perhaps next day.
– No, not next day.
-Every three years, perhaps?
– No, to change it as soon as it was advisable to do so, that is as soon as necessity compelled.
– According to the present plan the agreement could be changed as soon as it is advisable to do so.
– We do not want a hobble though.
– My honorable friends have lodged various complaints in regard to the Budget proposals, and have feebly attempted to ridicule them. I ask honorable senators, in fairness, to review the situation. The Budget proposals were made under abnormal conditions which cannot occur again. Theywere made in an exceptional year, that is, the year before the expiration of the Braddon section. Moreover, they were made in the face of heavy financial obligations which immediately attach to the Commonwealth. They purport to be a balance sheet for the past financial year, to indicate the prospects for the current year, and to supply information, not only to this Parliament, but to the Conference of State Premiers at which the whole of the financial proposals were to be discussed. They purport to be practically a bedrock foundation of our requirements for the current year. They contain information which should largely assist towards the solution of the financial problem.
– Why do not the Budget papers explain that position? Why are they so much blank paper? What is the reason for the alteration proposed?
– I do not claim to understand what the honorable senator means. I have merely stated absolute facts, which cannot be got away from. Two or three things have been suggested. The Budget discloses a deficit on the year. I admit, with Senator Pearce, that it discloses an actual deficit of £1,850,000; but, by reason of the savings made by the late Deakin Government in the previous year, that amount will be reduced to £1,200,000.
– The savings of the Deakin and Fisher Governments.
– The Fisher Government did contribute a few thousands, I admit.
– A few hundred thousand pounds.
– Pardon me, no. For 1907-8, £193,000 was put aside by the second Deakin Government, and on their Estimates they provided an additional sum of ,£410,000.
– How much of that sum had been saved when they went out of office?
– The whole sum.
– How could that be?
– Does the honorable senator say that from November to June there was no money paid to the Trust Fund ?
– My honorable friend must recognise that whatever it was the payment was made in pursuance of the Estimates of the second Deakin Government.
– But the money had to be saved out of the proposed expenditure.
– Undoubtedly we intended doing that ; it was our policy.
– The Estimates did not show it.
– Our Estimates did show a sum of £410,000 set apart, in addition, of course, to the sum of £193,000 which had been saved in the previous year. The point is that the Budget proposals show a net deficit of £1,200,000. We are reproached from the other side, first because we do not levy taxation to cover the deficit, or propose a borrowing policy. Having regard to the special circumstances of the vear, would it not have been an art of supreme folly for us to attempt to levy taxation, particularly in view of the holding of the Conference, at. which the finances of the Commonwealth and the States were to be settled ? And when there was a reasonable prospect, of the estimated deficit of £1,200.000 being substantially reduced by an arrangement with the State Premiers, would it not have been an act of supreme folly on our part, at this particular stage, to resort to a borrowing policy as has been suggested? In all the special circumstances of the year, would any body of prudent men at the stage when the Budget was delivered, have done otherwise than we did? We did forecast that, should the Premiers’ Conference, which was called to specially deal with the financial difficulty, prove a failure, then, having regard to the special exigencies of the year, we should provide, a temporary expedient in the shape of Treasurybills, extending over three or four years, to pay the deficit, whatever it might be. The result of the Conference has fully justified our anticipations. If the proposals are carried, the deficit of £1,200,000 will have been reduced to £600,000 ; and that can be met by means of an overdraft, or some other temporary expedient. I therefore submit that, in connexion with their Budget proposals, the Government have acted with wisdom and prudence. I do not pretend to be able to follow honorable gentlemen opposite in their statistical peregrinations. Some of the figures have been turned so topsy-turvy for their own purposes that it is very difficult to recognise them. I made several notes of objections which were taken from time to time, and one or two points have thus been called to my mind. We have been reproached for excessive expenditure in some directions, and for improperly cutting down expenditure in others. I remember that Senator Pearce complained of an excessive expenditure in regard to special appropriations of £416,660.
– I never made any such statement.
– I have a note of such a criticism. If the honorable senator did not make it. some one else did. But I invite honorable senators to look at the papers themselves. What do they show? The special appropriations are shown on page 6 of the Estimates.
– I think the honorable senator is setting up a man of straw. I listened to the whole debate, and do not remember any complaint about the special appropriations.
– I made some remarks about what I took to be excessive expenditure.
– The honorable senator’s remarks had reference to the Departments.
– I have a note as to some remarks regarding the special appropriations, and may as well refer to the matter. I find that out of the increase of £416,660, no less than. £387,821 represents payments under the Old-age Pensions Act. Another sum of ;£38.-352 represents payments under the Manufactures Encouragement Act.
– This is the man ot straw all right !
– My honorable friend has furnished me with many men of straw by reason of the figures which, unconsciously no doubt, he and other member of his party have distorted in relation to the Budget. Let us try to get back to some of the facts. In regard to defence, Senator Pearce again complained of a cutting down of votes, and also of the making of inadequate provision for defence purposes. I ask honorable senators to remember the special circumstances of the current year, when I direct attention to the facts of the case. I also ask whether, under these circumstances, we could have done more than we have done. The increase in the defence vote for 1909-10, as compared with 1908-9, amounts to £476,124. That is made up as follows : On the main Estimates there is an increase of the votes for naval and military services, cadets and rifle clubs of £281,519; there are increases of £41,378 for additions, new works, and buildings; £2.337forthe clubs and ranges; £38.494 for special defence material ; and £112,396 for new special defence provisions. Those items make up the total of £476,124, which I. have mentioned. Of the increase of £281,519 on the main Estimates, £150,000 is to provide for the proposed system of universal cadet training. The balance is required to maintain the existing establishments of the militia, volunteers, and cadets, and to provide for increased ammunition, additional training for the field artillery, and increased facilities for camps. In 1907-8 the expenditure on defence works and material amounted to £190,918, not £288,207, as stated by my honorable friend. Senator Pearce.
– I quoted the vote, not the expenditure. There is a difference between the vote and the expenditure.
– As I have said, in 1907-8 the expenditure on defence works and material was £190,918,
– Why does not the honorable senator compare like with like
– I am doing so. I am quoting the expenditure in 1907-8.
– How does the Minister know what the expenditure will be in 1909-10 ?
– Let us look at the fairness of the honorable sena tor’s suggestion. First of all, he complains that we cut down the expenditure for defence purposes. I have shown, however, that the expenditure in 1907-8 was not. £288,207, as stated by ray honorable friend.
– I never said that that was the expenditure. I said that it was the vote.
– My honorable friend says that I am not justified in quoting these figures; although he has complained that we have been cutting down votes.
– Why does not the honorable senator quote what I said ?
– The provision made for 1909-10 is . £328,485. showing an increase on expenditure in 1.907-8 of £137,567, as against the £40,000 mentioned by Senator Pearce.
SenatorPearce. - I must rise to order. The honorable senator is not doing justice to himself in misrepresenting me in this way. He represents me as having said that the expenditure in 1907-8 was £40,000 less than the provision made for this year. I assure him that I said nothing of the kind. What I said was that the vote for 1909-10 was only £40,000 more than the vote in 1907-8; not, as the honorable senator puts it, the expenditure.
– That seems to me to be an extraordinary explanation. Of course, I do not want to dispute my honorable’ friend’s statement. I can only go by what appeared in his speech. The figures are as follow : - The estimate for 1909-10 for additions, ‘ new works and buildings, is £111,063; the expenditure in 1907-8 was £46,691. The estimate for 1909-10 for rifle clubs and ranges, is £18,272; the expenditure in 1907-8 was £277. The estimate for 1909-10 for special defence material is £78,150; the expenditure in 1907-8 was £73,889. The estimate for 1909-10 for new special defence provision, is £121,000; the expenditure for 1907-8 was £70,061. In other words, the Estimates for 1909-10 for the services I have mentioned, amount to £328,485, whereas the actual expenditure in 1907-8 was £190,918. Those are facts and figures which cannot be gainsaid. I challenge the honorable senator to deny them. I may take also a few figures from the Budget papers, page 76, to show the expenditure for the years 1901-2 to 1908-9 on works and material, and the provision made for 1909-10. It will be seen from these figures that the provision made foi 1909-10 is the highest since the establishment of Federation.
– I will hand to the honorable senator a copy of Hansard containing a report of my remarks.
– I see that the honorable senator was asked by Senator Dobson -
Is not the amount provided for that scheme £226,000?
The reference was to the cadet scheme. Then Senator Pearce went on to say -
The vote for works and material in 190S-9 represented a decrease of ,£161,327 upon the vote for 1907-8.
– If the honorable senator were to read on, he would find that I was talking of the vote, not of the expenditure.
– I accept what my honorable friend says. But that does not alter the facts. I have stated what the expenditure was, in order to show whether it is true that the Government have cut down the Defence vote for the current year. 1 have shown that the estimate for 1909-10 on account of new works and buildings, rifle clubs, ranges, special Defence material, and special Defence provision amounts to £328,485, whilst the expenditure in 1907-8 was £190,918. I desire now to give some details with regard to the expenditure over a number of years. In 1904-5 the expenditure on additions, new works, buildings, rifle ranges, &c, amounted to £26,213, and the expenditure on Defence material, arms, equipment, &c, amounted to £174,046, making a total of £200,259. The estimated expenditure on Defence works, additions, new works, buildings, rifle ranges, &c, for 1909-10 is £l29>335 j the estimated expenditure on Defence material, arms, equipment, &c-, is £199,150, making a total of £328,485. Of course, the provision made on the estimates fluctuated very considerably, and no one year can be regarded as normal. The point which I desire to make in this connexion is that we have been unjustly charged with cutting down the Defence estimates. I have shown that on the contrary we have increased the expenditure largely. Further, we have increased the expenditure notwithstanding the very special circumstances of the current year. Remarks have also been made with regard to expenditure on the Post and Telegraph
Department; I desire, therefore, to give a few figures on that subject. The total cost of the Department for 1909-10 is estimated at £3,994)665, as against £3,612,778 for last year. The estimate is made up as follows : - Departmental £J3,2°6,796 ; additions, new works, telegraphs and telephones, including £10,000 for wireless telegraphy, £700,614; miscellaneous, £87,255; making a total of ^3,994,665. The increased expenditure for this year is £381,887, made up as follows : - Departmental, £221,585; additions, new works, and buildings, £159,430; miscellaneous, £872. I have now dealt with the two Departments to which special reference has been made, and I venture to say that having regard to the circumstances of the year we have done a reasonable degree of justice in regard to expenditure upon them. Senator St. Ledger asked for certain information with regard to the increases in the expenditure on the several Departments, and I promised to supply as much information on the subject as I could procure. He referred to the increase in the expenditure on Parliament from £165,000 to £211,000, and asked for an explanation of the increase. It is due chiefly to a vote of £40,000 required to cover the cost of a general election. The honorable senator referred also to the rise in “ other “ expenditure. T understood the honorable senator to say that the total “ other “ expenditure, in 1902-3, was £502,703, but so far as I can gather from the Budget papers it was really £228,181.
– Yes, that was an error.
– The expenditure for the present year the honorable senator stated at £859,000, whereas, as a matter of fact, it is estimated at £557,893. The honorable senator referred to the increase in the expenditure of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. I have no doubt that he realizes that a large increase in the expenditure must necessarily take place from time to time in accordance with the progress of the Department.
– The work of the High Court has, no doubt, had something to do with it.
– I shall come to that. In 1903-4 the vote for the Secretary’s Office was £2,365, but in that year the Crown Solicitor’s Office was established and involved an additional expenditure of £2,300, and the establishment of the High Court involved a further addition of £4,500 to the expenditure in connexion with the Department for that year. In the following year, 1904-5, the vote for the High Court was increased to £5,385. The increase in the work intrusted to the Department has naturally resulted in a considerable increase in the expenditure, and for the year 1908-9 the vote for the Secretary’s Office was £3,556- That for the Crown Solicitor’s Office, due to the increased volume of work cast upon that branch of the Department, had risen to £3,408, and the vote for the High Court for that year was £7,339, the increase being due to an increase in the number of Justices and in the incidental expenses. In that year also the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration accounted for a vote of £1,215. Parliament has from time to time sanctioned the various measures which have involved these increases in expenditure, and the behests of Parliament have had to be carried out. The honorable senator asked for some explanation of the increase in the expenditure on my own Department, the Department of Trade and Customs. The vote proposed for this Department for 1909-10 shows an increase upon the expenditure for the preceding year of £39,692. I would remind Senator St. Ledger that the increase is due mainly to the fact that the control of quarantine has been cast upon the Department. . We have provided for this purpose an increase of £26,314. As the honorable senator- pointed out, the Estimates show an increase for fisheries of £3,834. This increase is accounted for by the fact that six months’ expenditure only was provided for in the previous year’s Estimates, and . this year’s Estimates include the total vote for the financial year. Then we had the misfortune to be engaged in a law case in connexion with the workers’ trade mark. The Registrar was made a party to the action. Exception was taken to the law by the Government of New South Wales, who’ joined with a certain Brewer’s Association for the purpose of testing the constitutionality of the Act passed by this Parliament, and we were let in for law costs to the amount of £755- This leaves only £8,789 of the increase in the expenditure of the Department unaccounted for, and to show the care which has been exercised in this Department for years past, I may say that this balance of the increased expenditure is due to pro vision for the usual statutory increments for all officers of the fifth class and general division; provision for increments to officers of the higher classes where such officers are specially entitled to and are recommended for promotion; provision for long-service increments to fifth class officers entitled to same; the savings anticipated under the salaries votes are not so large this year owing to the staffs having been adjusted in some instances during the past year; and increases in cost of supervision under the Commerce Act. It will be seen that most of the balance of £8,789 otherwise unaccounted for is due to automatic payments which, under several Acts, we are obliged to provide for. Senator St. Ledger referred also to the External Affairs Department. I remind him ‘of the great obligations recently undertaken by that Department. When I cite a few of the figures fie will see that they represent decisions deliberately arrived at by Parliament which had to be provided for. For instance, the increased expenditure includes the following items: - Offices of the Commonwealth in London, £3*095 : towards expenses of administration of Papua, £26,000. Before Federation, this expense was borne by New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. The honorable senator will notice that, in connexion with the administration of Papua alone, the Commonwealth has relieved the States of a liability of £26,000. Then there are mail services to the ^Pacific Islands, £13,417- The cost of these services was, before Federation, borne by New South Wales, and we have relieved that State of that expenditure. Then there is a vote of £200 for the investigation of tropical diseases ; payment to Customs Department for services of officers under Immigration Restriction Act, £900 ; Commonwealth Literary Fund, £700 ; repatriation of Pacific Islanders, £200. For advertising the Commonwealth we have submitted a vote of £20,000 ; assistance to British settlers in the New Hebrides, £750; annual payment to Agricultural Institute at Rome, £200 ; advancement of the study of diseases in tropical Australia, £550 ; contribution to funds of Imperial Institute, £500 ; collection of Australian historical records, £650, and so on. Honorable senators will see from these votes the obligations cast upon the External Affairs Department by Parliament itself. The only other Department to which Senator St. Ledger referred was the Department of Home Affairs.
There has been a Public Works Branch established in connexion with that Department that has undertaken vast works. For instance, the construction of underground tunnels for telegraph and telephone wires in Melbourne ; the erection of post-offices and telephone exchanges, and construction of defence works at the Heads. The cost of supervision alone in the case of ‘ these works for 1908-9 amounted to £18,558, and for the current year we have provided for the same purpose a vote of £25,828. This Department has had to take over the work of the Census and Statistics in connexion with which we undertook a liability in 1908-9 of £12,394, whilst the estimate for 1909-10 is £15,251. This Department has also charge of the Meteorological Bureau, which involved in 1908-9 an expenditure of £16,611, and for which a vote of £19,935 is proposed this year. In addition to all these votes considerable expenditure is incurred in connexion with the valuation of transferred properties. My honorable friend will see that he must trust the Government-
– The honorable senator will do so now.
– I should have said . that the honorable senator must trust the Government of the day to secure, as far as possible, the most rigid economy in the management of the several Departments. It must be obvious that in a progressive community like the Commonwealth, and with obligations constantly cast upon the Departments by the deliberate determination of Parliament, the public expenditure must necessarily be largely increased.
– I wish that our population increased progressively with our expenditure.
– I agree that if our population increased proportionately, we should have little to complain of in this connexion.
– That is why the Government have put down nothing for immigration.
– If the proposals contained in the financial agreement are carried out, the State Governments will be given every encouragement to set to work in a zealous and energetic way to increase our population. I hope that we shall see some substantial results in that direction. I have endeavoured to deal with the main features of the criticisms launched against the Budget, and to supply the information I have promised from time to time. I hope that the debate which has taken place has been instructive.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 12th August, vide page 2405) :
Clause 8 -
If the Comptroller-General, after taking steps to ascertain the views of the employer and seamen, certifies -
that any scheme of compensation, benefit, or insurance for the seamen of an employer, whether or not the scheme includes other employers and their seamen, provides scales of compensation not less favorable to the seamen and their dependants than the corresponding scales contained in this Act, and
where the scheme provides for contributions by the seamen - that the scheme confers benefits at least equivalent to those contributions, in addition to the benefits to which the seamen would have been entitled under this Act, and
that a majority (to be ascertained by ballot) of the seamen to whom the scheme is applicable are in favour of the scheme, the employer may, whilst the certificate is in force, contract with any of his seamen that the provisions of the scheme shall be substituted for the provisions of this Act, and thereupon the employer shall be liable only in accordance with the scheme, but, save as aforesaid, this Act shall apply notwithstanding any contract to the contrary made after the commencement of this Act.
Upon which Senator Millen had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “ scheme,” line 23.. the following new paragraph be inserted. “ and (d) that the scheme is financially sound.”
– I do not think that the adoption of the proposed new paragraph will improve the clause from the point of view of those who desire that this contracting-out provision should be struck out altogether..
In regard to the contracting-out clauses in this Bill, my contention is that men who refuse to subscribe to any compensation scheme which may be initiated by their employers will lose their employment. I claim, too, that the operation of those clauses would seriously interfere with the working of friendly societies. I am aware that in the Old Country benefit societies were established by employers - particularly by the big railway companies - before Imperial legislation was enacted upon this subject, and it was merely for the purpose of meeting their cases that contracting-out clauses were embodied in the Imperial Act. Similar conditions do not obtain in the Commonwealth, and consequently these clauses ought to be eliminated. It is true that, shortly after 1890, an attempt was made by the Union Steam-ship Company to initiate a similar scheme in Australia, but the ‘effort ended in failure. Whilst that scheme was in operation, however, men were coerced into joining it, and those who refused to do so, were got rid of as speedily. as possible. In the interests alike of employers and employes, I hope that these clauses will be excised. They are quite unnecessary, inasmuch as employers as a rule, will not initiate schemes which will impose greater obligations upon them than those imposed under this Bill. In the absence of contracting-out clauses, the measure will be just as effective, and no additional impost will be levied upon employers.
– - I nave hitherto refrained from speaking upon this clause, because when it was under consideration upon the last occasion a very long and instructive debate took place upon it. I thought, therefore, that honorable senators would be prepared to take a division upon it without further discussion. Senator Guthrie is quite right in asserting that the clause does not overcome the fears which he entertains. But I would point out to him that if it is to be retained, it is better to retain it in the form in which I propose to amend it than it is to pass it in its present form. I, therefore, ask him to assent to my amendment, and to allow the fate of the clause, as amended, to be determined subsequently. If we are to retain this contracting-out clause, we ought to provide that the Governor-General shall approve of any scheme only if it be financially sound.
– When this clause was previously under consideration, I suggested that it would be wise to amend paragraph c, with a view to enabling the Comptroller-General to consult the wishes of seamen who may not be members of any ‘benefit society.
– Paragraph c contains no reference to benefit societies.
– But this clause presupposes that some scheme of compensation has been mutually arranged between employers and employes. If the provision be agreed to in its present form, it will enable employers to coerce their employe’s into joining societies which they may not desire to join. As Senator Guthrie has already pointed out, the Union Steam-ship Company for a long time thought it wise to continue a compensation scheme amongst their employes. Many of the latter, however, refused to join that scheme, and, as a result, were discharged. This clause will enable the Comptroller-General to ascertain whether a majority of the employes to whom any scheme- is applicable are in favour of that scheme.
– Then, how can such a proposal apply to seamen who are constantly changing their ships?
– My own idea is that we should empower the ComptrollerGeneral to consult the wishes of those employes who may not wish to join a benefit society. I, therefore, suggest that the word “ applicable,” in paragraph c, be left out and that the words “ sought to be applied “ be substituted.
– The honorable senator’s proposal has the same meaning as has the clause. The words “ is applicable” refer to the future.
– To illustrate my point, let me instance the case of a shipping company. One of its employes may refuse to join in any scheme of compensation initiated by the company. Under this clause it could not be urged that the scheme was applicable to him.
– It would be applicable to him. He would be invited to say whether or not he would accept it.
– The ComptrollerGeneral could say that the scheme did not apply to that seaman, because the latter refused to subscribe to it.
– Nobody would be a member of a scheme until it came into operation.
– Under this clause the Comptroller-General is only bound to consult the wishes of those seamen who are already members of a compensation scheme.
– The Criminal Code is applicable to every man, but any man may refuse to obey it.
– I desire to empower the Comptroller-General to consult the wishes of those employes who may remain outside any compensation scheme, as well as of those who may join it. He would thus be enabled to obtain an accurate idea of whether any particular form of compensation was an equitable one.
– The honorable senator must see that the only time at which the provision requires the Comptroller-General to consult the seamen is before the scheme is launched. Later provisions deal with what is to happen atter the scheme has been” approved.
– But paragraph c deals with one of the reports which the Comptroller-General is supposed to tender to the Minister later.
– When is he required to submit that report?
– After the scheme has been brought into operation.
– No, previously.
– The scheme cannot come into operation before the ComptrollerGeneral has certified to the facts.
– Sometimes a scheme has come into operation slowly, and at other times very quickly. What has occurred in the past may recur. I refuse to allow this provision to pass in a form which would entitle a ship-owner to tell a seaman either to join the scheme or to walk ashore. I want it to be made obligatory upon the Comptroller-General to consult every man of a ship’s company, irrespective of those who, simply through being weak-kneed, have approved of the scheme. We have had instances cited where coercion has been resorted to. I want the provision to be so framed that the judgment of the independent seamen shall be consulted. In order to enable me to move a prior amendment, I ask the Minister to withdraw his proposal.
Amendment, bv leave, withdrawn.
.- Imove -
That the word “ applicable)” line 22, be left out with a view to insertin lieu thereof the words “ sought to be applied.”
– The honorable senator is proposing to accomplish the same thing in another way.
– That is a matter of opinion. Some honorable senators appear to think that there will be no danger; but I want to provide, if I can, for the ComptrollerGeneral to consult the wishes of those who refuse to belong to a compensation scheme.
– I can assure Senator Lynch that I recognize the danger to which he has referred, but that is really an objection to the whole clause. His amendment, if made, will not make the slightest difference as regards the danger. Let me state the design ofthis provision. If an employer determines to form a scheme he will go to the Comptroller- General. Paragraphc of this clause will be brought into operation by that officer, and the seamen will be consulted by means of a ballot. Assuming that the scheme is favoured by a majority, it may be objected to by a strong minority. The conditions of the law having been complied with, the Comptroller-General will give his certificate. The employer might then declare that he would have no men in his employ except those who had decided to come under the scheme. No matter how the clause may be amended, it will not make the slightest difference to the employer. Paragraph c can only operate before a scheme is brought into operation, and once that stage has been passed it will be dead. Senator Lynch’s amendment will not have the effect which he desires. “Applicable” is just as good as the words which he seeks to substitute. Really the clause ought to be struck out for the reason given by the hon- . orable senator, namely, that after a scheme has been adopted it will give an employer an advantage over the men. I suggest that he should withdraw his amendment, and let us negative the clause, so as not to place an unfair weapon in the hands of an employer.
– I do not see much difference between the clause as it stands and as it is proposed to be amended. If a company wish to bring a scheme into existence, they will have to take a vote of the men in their employ. Having regard to the character of their work, how is the provision to apply to seamen at all ? All. or most of the men, who are employed by the various companies belong to the one union. Suppose -that one company should think it rather a good thing to have a scheme whereby they could compel a number of their men to make a contribution, even though the scheme should have to be submitted to the Comptroller-General for a certificate that it was a good scheme, equal to the compensation which would be received under the Bill, outside the contribution from the employes.
– Or suppose that the six companies should act jointly.
– No doubt six companies could act more easily than could one company. From his experience of the Ship Owners’ Association, the honorable senator is aware that, when there was trouble brewing, the notification came, not from the organization, but from one com- pany, which had been picked out. Suppose that one company obtained a certificate from the Comptroller-General, and started a scheme. As Senator Pearce pointed out, we can anticipate what would happen. It would not be stated in black and white that an applicant for work would have to be a member of the scheme. But that fact would be known to all the men along the coast. It would be useless for a man to apply for employment by the company unless he were prepared to join the scheme.
– Can the honorable senator cite anv instances where that has been done?
– We have never had an Act of this kind in Australia-
– The law has been in operation in other countries.
– In Australia, there have been innumerable instances where, “in a time of trouble, men had to conform to certain rules before they were allowed to join a vessel. That has occurred in, I suppose, every country where men. have formed organizations. We must also have regard to the manner in which seamen change from boat to boat. To-day a man may be with the Howard Smith Company, and in a month he may be found in a boat belonging to another company. Seamen do not remain in the same employment year after year. If a man has been in a boat for twelve months, he is regarded as a fairly old hand.
– Six months’ articles.
– If a man does two turns in a vessel, he is considered to be a pretty old hand. These men are continually changing from one ship to another. I take it that the adoption of this clause as applied to them would simply give rise to law cases when men tried to get the money which they had been compelled to contribute to schemes of the kind. The changing nature of their occupation makes it almost impossible to apply such schemes to seamen. I am satisfied that the clause would lead to a considerable amount of friction. We know what has occurred in the past when men who have been honestly wanting employment have been compelled to do and say a number of things in which they did not believe before they could secure engagement. The best course would be to leave out the clause.
– I understandthat the object of the clause under discussion is to give the workmen the advantage of mutually beneficent action. The men will only agree to a scheme of the kind if it is in their favour.
– How could they agree to such a scheme, considering the changing character of their employment?
– The larger firms, like the Union Company, retain men in their employment for many years.
– The Union Company’s scheme has been abandoned.
– The scheme was started at the desire of the men.
– No; it was started after the strike, with the object of breaking down the Union.
– This is only a permissive clause.
– It is a clause which permits the ship-owners to contract themselves out of this Bill.
– The matter will not rest with the employers, but with the employes. They are in a majority, and the Comptroller has to be satisfied that any particular scheme is beneficial to them.
– Men will be compelled to join against their, will.
– I think not. There is competition for good men in the coastal service. However, the matter is not of very much moment. Even if the clause were struck out, no harm would be done to the Bill. But I think that honorable senators who object to the clause are taking away a benefit from the men.
– - There seems to be some doubt as to how this clause would apply to seamen.
We have to remember that there is a considerable number of” vessels on our coast. Many are what are called one-man ships, that is, one owner to one ship. But one man may own a sixty-fourth part of sixtyfour ships ; and in such cases it is quite possible that there may be a combination of employers to form a fund under this Bill. Under the English Act, the employer and five workmen have to apply to the Registrar-General of Friendly Societies to be brought under a scheme.’ The RegistrarGeneral makes inquiries and a ballot of the whole of the men is taken. Those who object to join have the right to give their reasons in writing. That system may work very well in avocations where the men enjoy permanent work, but it will not work amongst seamen. The difficulty that I see is this: A man goes on board ship, and is not told anything about a scheme of this kind. He knows nothing about it until he. meets with an accident, or until he finds at the end of the month that a deduction is made from his wages on account of the scheme.
– The shipping master would see that he is informed, surely.
– The shipping master would have nothing to do with the matter. A seaman might not have shipped at the shipping office at all. I had brought under my notice this morning the case of a ship that makes a voyage from Queensland to Sydney, from Sydney to New Zealand, and then back to Sydney. Every time she gets back to Sydney the crew is discharged, and a fresh crew is engaged. Does any one mean to say that in a case of that kind the men adopting a scheme to-day should bind men joining the ship six weeks’ hence? A scheme of this kind may be applicable to permanent work ashore, but it is not suitable in the case of Australian coastal shipping. It is our business to see that justice is done. We do not provide an alternative in other Acts of Parliament. We do not say, “ If you do not care to do one thing, you may do another.” We lay down a certain law, and compel it to be obeyed. We should follow the same rule in this case.
– I do not know of any Workmen’s Compensation Act in which there is not such a clause as that which we are now discussing. I have never looked upon it as a clause which an employer would re gard as a weapon to use against his workmen. Why should an employer take advantage of such a provision, unless he and his workmen agreed that it was in their interest to do so? In the case of seamen changing from one ship to another, why should the employer bother about such a provision? If I thought the clause would injure the seamen I would vote for striking it out. But similar provisions are to be found in other Workmen’s Compensation Acts, and I know of schemes which have been approved under which workmen have derived considerable benefit. I do not for a moment believe that employers would use this provision for the purpose of tyrannizing over their men, and preventing them from getting employment except under certain conditions.
– We know that that has been done.
– I have asked for instances, but have not heard of any that have occurred under the Seamen’s ‘Compensation section in Great Britain.
– We can only say what has already happened on the Australian coast.
– I have heard a great deal about that. I. find that in the opinion of some people there is not an honest employer going. In their opinion the employer lives merely that he may grind the faces of his workmen. That feeling seems to run through the discussion by certain people of all legislation of this kind.
– The employers employ men in order that they may . make profits.
– And the employe accepts employment in order to make a profit.
– The honorable senator will admit that if all employers were good, just, or generous, there would be no necessity for industrial legislation. It is intended to restrict not the good, but the bad employer.
– We can all admit that restrictive industrial legislation is passed because some people are unprincipled. I believe that it is absolutely necessary to pass such legislation. I have no wish to stand in the way of legislation which will benefit the workers. If it can be shown that the retention of this clause will be injurious to seamen I shall be prepared to vote to strike it out. So far I have no evidence that it will. I am prepared to make the clause as perfect as possible, and to safeguard the provision in every way so that in operation it will not be a weapon in the hands of the employer, but will be the means of giving seamen even larger compensation than they could secure if confined to that provided for under the other clauses of the Bill.
.- I share the views expressed by Senator Vardon, but I can assure the honorable senator that there is good reason for the suspicion which he says lurks in the minds of some honorable senators, and I take it that his reference was to honorable senators on this side. I can recall practical experience which convinces me that there is good reason for the objection, of Labour representatives to the insertion of contracting-out provisions in legislation intended for the betterment of labour. The mining legislation introduced by Gladstone in the early seventies proved to be a complete failure just because under it contracting out of the law was permissible. I was only a boy at the time, but I have a vivid recollection of the effects of that legislation. It was proposed in the interests of those who had to work in gassy mines in which explosions occurred from time to time, involving the destruction of human life. The principle was laid down that it was right to allow the owners of the mines, on the ground of their knowledge of local requirements, to ventilate them according to their knowledge. It was hoped that they would do so satisfactorily. We know well that there are good as well as bad employers. I do not say that any employer is inherently bad, but the pressure of competition may induce him to take advantage of his workmen, sometimes, no doubt, in the hope that he will be able to put matters right later on. At the time to which I have referred the ventilation of coal mines in England was very bad, and the danger to human life from bad ventilation in small mines continued so long as contracting out of the law was permissible. Compulsory provisions had to be adopted to remedy the evil. My experience of the effects of that mining legislation convinced me that the contracting-out principle is bad.
– The two cases are not analogous.
– I think that they are. I refer, of course, to a different industry, but I do not think that human nature has altered very much in the meantime.
– But competition has become much keener.
– As Senator Pearce reminds me, competition is much keener than it was when the mining legislation to which I have referred was passed.
– Could the honorable senator give any illustration to show how a seaman could under this Bill contract himself out of the right to obtain any compensation ?
- Senator Guthrie has mentioned some cases, and is prepared to mention others.
– This provision could be used as an engine of oppression.
– It could be used to prevent benefit accruing to the men in whose interests we are legislating. It is a waste of time and trouble to pass a law, the object of which can be defeated by a provision for contracting out.
– By omitting the provision honorable senators may prevent seamen from obtaining something better than is provided for under the other clauses of the Bill.
– From past experience I should say that the hope that a contracting-out provision will secure to workers something . better than what is legislated for is one that is never realized. If a better scheme than that proposed in the Bill were propounded by an employer, he might go further in the direction of benefiting seamen than the legislation we are advocating, but such a scheme could be put into operation independently of this Bill. To leave it optional with the seamen to take advantage of an employer’s scheme rather than of the provisions of the Bill would be to risk the defeat of this legislation, and would be throwing away the substance for the shadow.
– How could it be defeated ?
– A seaman seeking employment from a shipping company that has established a benefit fund will not be in a position to contrast the benefits of that fund with the compensation provided for under this Bill. If Senator Gray had to look for employment under such conditions he would better realize the contention of honorable senators on this side.
– That consideration did not prevent honorable senators opposite from supporting the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– The difficulties of the employes would be aggravated under this Bill. When a seaman is seeking employment the condition of the vessel on which he is offered employment will be a secondary* consideration with him. Previous to the compulsory legislation introduced in Great Britain by the great Samuel Plimsol! seamen were as ready to sign on for service on a floating coffin as on a good and true ship. Compulsory legislation had to be introduced to save such men from themselves, and we should not leave it open to seamen to defeat the object of this measure.
– - I ‘have been asked to give some examples of the way in which this provision would work. There are no cases regarding seamen recorded under the English Act yet. At present if a seaman is injured through negligence or defective machinery for which the owners are responsible, he has a right to compensation at common law. I am afraid that if he took advantage of this contracting-out provision he would contract himself, not only out of his right to compensation under this Bill, -but out of his rights at common law.
– No, not out of either.
– That was the opinion held in regard to the Employers’ Liability Act-
– The honorable senator is referring to a totally different contractingout clause. All that this clause states is that if an injured employe’ chooses to take action under another Statute, he cannot obtain compensation under this Bill. The honorable senator is making a mistake as the result of the unfortunate use of the term “contracting out.” The clause merely provides for the substitution of one scheme for another.
– A workman who contracts himself out under this Bill will be prevented from suing for damages under the Employers’ Liability Act for any injuries which he may have sustained.
– But he has the option of proceeding either under that Act or under this Bill.
– If he is a member of any scheme he will have no option. In Ruegg’s Employers’ Liability and
Workmen’s Compensation, the result of entering into a contract is pointed out very clearly. On page 435, that- authority says -
By agreeing to such a scheme in substitution for the benefits of the Act, the workman binds its dependents as well as himself, for, when the scheme is certified, the employer is to be liable “ only in accordance with the scheme.” It was stated in former editions of this book that a scheme substituted for the Workman’s Compensation Act, 1897, would not prevent the workmen parties to it from suing the employer, either at common law or under the Employers’ Liability Act, 1880. The view thus expressed is shown to be incorrect, for, in the case of Taylor v. Hamstead Colliery Coy. (c), ante, p. 377, the Court of Appeal decided that by the operation of s. 1 (2) (b) of the Act a workman who has contracted with his employer to take the benefit of an approved scheme, cannot afterwards sue the employer in respect of personal injury, either under the Employers’ Liability Act, or at common law, neither can his personal representative pursue any remedies which were not open to him.
That extract makes it perfectly clear that if an employe contracts himself out of this Bill by subscribing to any scheme of compensation, all the remedies which would otherwise be open to him disappear. What is the position which obtains to-day? If a workman meets with an accident his employer immediately consults his solicitor. The solicitor advises the employer how he may evade his liability, and the employe has then to resort to litigation to establish his claim.
– 1 thought that the secretary of the union undertook that work ?
– We are not legislating for unions, but for all classes of the community. As bearing upon this point, I may be permitted to quote the following case -
It was decided in the year 1894 that an infant can contract away a right of action which he would otherwise have had under the Employers’ Liability Act -
In the case in question the infant had renounced all his rights under the Act in consideration of being permitted to participate in the accident fund which the London and Northwestern Railway Company and their employes had mutually established. In the case in question the infant could probably have recovered greater damages under the Act than he was entitled to under the accident fund scheme, but it was held that this made no difference, for the contract was not to be regarded after the event, but considered as to whether or not it was for the general benefit of the infant at the time of being entered into.
As showing that such an agreement must be clearly for the benefit of the infant, if it is to beupheld,anothercasemaybeconsidered- (f) This was a case where an infant contracted with the same railway company that in consideration of being allowed to travel free of charge on the railway to and from the colliery where he worked, and his home, upon special conditions arranged between the railway company and the colliery owner, he would not make any claim against the company for injury sustained through their negligence. The Court held that this contract, regarded as a whole, was not beneficial to the benefit, and refused to hold him bound by it.
The fact that an employe who contracts himself out of the provisions of this Bill will lose all remedies which would otherwise be open to him is a sufficient reason why this clause should be eliminated.
– At this stage of the debate I am rather surprised to hear any honorable senator suggesting that the Employers’ Liability Act and the common law offer advantagesto injured workmen equal to those which are offered by this Bill.
-In some cases they offer more advantages.
– No honorable senator more warmly approved my declaration that both the common law and the Employers’ Liability Act were frauds in that connexion than did Senator Turley. The honorable senator may select a case here and there which points to a contrary conclusion, but so far as other Acts offer any satisfaction to the great body of workmen they are a snare and a delusion.
– While that statement is true, generally, there are particular cases in which the Acts offer advantages to injured workmen.
– The honorable senator knows that owing to the pitfalls which surround the path of those who may seek redress under them, actions under those Statutes have merely resulted in poor men being robbed of the few pounds of which they were possessed. Yet we find a sudden desire on the part of my honorable friends opposite to maintain those Acts. It is urged that they offer substantial advantages to injured workmen, and that we must be very careful not to deprive seamen of those advantages.
– Under those Acts it was difficult to prove negligence.
– And that difficulty makes them worth less than the paper upon, which they are printed. The difficulty of proving negligence under them is as great to-day as it ever was. Yet honorable senators opposite exclaim, “ Do not take away this sublime advantage from employes. ‘ My honorable friends who joined with me in declaring that the Employers’ Liability Act and the common law were worthless for all practical purposes now declare that the Act confers substantial advantages on workmen - advantages of which we ought not to deprive them.
– We merely say that this Bill covers certain cases which are not covered by the Employers’ Liability Act and the common law.
– Under this measure the mere proof of an accident is the basis of all claims for compensation. A great deal of trouble seems to have arisen owing to the unfortunate use in the marginal note of the term “contracting out.” Ordinarily applied, that term conveys the idea that a man may make a contract under which he removes himself entirely from the operation of this Bill. But under this clause an employe cannot contract himself out of the benefits which it will confer. He cannot say, ‘ ‘ I resign my benefits under this Bill.” This, provision will enable him to make a claim for any injury which he may sustain upon an association or corporation instead of upon an individual. Can it be urged that such a provisionenablesa seaman to contract himself out of the Bill in the ordinary sense of the word ? What is the position to-day ? If an employer becomes insolvent, what becomes of the claim against him by any injured workman? My honorable friends profess a great deal of sympathy with the employe who is injured in the course of his employment. I share that sympathy. But I ask them whether many employers throughout Australia would not be obliged to go insolvent to-morrow if they were cast in damages under this Bill?
– But they can insure their workmen under it.
– They may not do so ; and how many workmen in. England have refrained from putting in their claims for injuries received during the course of their employment because they recognised that their employers were as poor as themselves ?
– It will not be the small employers who will take advantage of the contracting-out clauses.
– I venture to say that to-morrow a very large number of employers who employ one or two workmen would be unable to meet claims which might arise under this Bill. But if we have a scheme under which those employers may band themselves together, we shall give to their employes all the benefits which will be conferred by the Bill, and at the same time dispense with the liability of those employers to become insolvent. If the Bill throws any disability upon workmen, it at least offers them a solvent scheme as against an employer whose solvency is doubtful.
– Has the VicePresident of the Executive Council any guarantee that the small employers who will not insure their workmen against accident will band themselves together to initiate a solvent scheme?
– I have not. But may I point out to the honorable senator that such a scheme may be formed for them. That fact seems to have escaped his notice. It is quite possible - provided that we leave the door open - that when legislation of this kind becomes operative, some entirely new ventures may Vie made into the region of cooperative action in the matter of the insurance of workmen against accident.
– The employers who will not insure their employes against accident will not join together for the purpose of initiating a compensation scheme.
– In discussing matters of this kind, I decline to argue what is going to happen in the future from what has happened in the past. The ideas of employers in this regard have greatly altered. In my opinion individual employers entertain quite different ideas from those which prevailed ten or fifteen years ago. I have been fortunate enough to meet employers who have a full share of kindly regard and sympathy for their workmen, and if my honorable friend has not been so fortunate, I extend to him my sympathy.
– I can cite a few cases which occurred not long ago where the men had to fight every inch of the way.
– And there are workmen who would not hesitate to “ point “ at every possible opportunity. But I decline to judge the whole body by such persons.
– But when we are framing a law we have to recognise that exceptional employers exist.
– Exactly, and the clause is surrounded with every possible safeguard. There can be no scheme unless it is approved by a majority of the men to whom it is to be applicable. It is purely optional, so far as the workmen are concerned. Further, it does not bind tho minority. If the latter are dissatisfied with the scheme, they can stand out of it.
– We know very well how they will fare afterwards.
– I am coming to the statement that, whilst the Bill will leave it open to the minority to stand out or come in, pressure will be exerted bv the employers.
– His own” poverty will compel a man to join the scheme.
– If that argument had any weight, we should never have passed the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It was then argued that, unless we inserted a prohibition the employers would refuse to engage. any unionists. Did that cause the formation of unions to stop? What did we do in framing the law ?
– The Melbourne Tramway Company refused to allow their men to form a union.
– The means of their preservation is contained within the law. It is an offence for an employer to dismiss an employe by reason of his joining or refusing to join a particular scheme.
– But he need not employ the man.
– The honorable senator might just as reasonably say that it was of no use to pass the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, because an employer would not employ a man unless he declared that he would not join a trade union. The first safeguard in this clause is that it only binds the men who accept the scheme. Its second great safeguard is that there is no advantage offered to an ordinary employer. The kind of employer whom Senator Turley has so much in his mind will not take advantage of the provision, because the scheme has to offer not less than the Bill does. No workman will accept a scheme unless it offers something more. The ordinary employer will not bother to form a scheme which will require financial assistance to give the workmen something more than the law compels him to give.
– The honorable senator said just now that schemes would be formed for little employers.
– Not for the harsh, brutal employer who wants to take from the men that which honestly belongs to them. I am dealing with the employer who would seek to penalize men because they wanted to join a scheme.
– No ; because they did not.
– The clause offers no inducement to the ordinary employer, but it does leave the way open to those who are anxious to make their men comfortable and contented, and to do a little more for them than the law requires. In the report of the Registrar of Friendly Societies and Trade Unions in Great Britain I find two paragraphs which eloquently point to the advantage of retaining this clause and leaving it optional to the more generous,minded employers to provide additional benefits for their workmen. The Registrar said -
From the returns where the information is given it appears that the estimated maximum amount that would have been payable for incapacity from injury under the Act amounted to£79,942, whereas the actual payments amounted to£133,433, an increase in favour of the schemes as compared with that Act of nearly 67 per cent.
– Were these schemes in existence before the law was passed?
– No. I tried to get a more comprehensive list, but I could only get the cases which came under notice in this annual report. When I mentioned this matter before, Senator Guthrie asked how much the men had to pay for the added benefit. In the case of four schemes, no contribution was asked for from the workmen. In the case of two schemes, the contribution ranged from1d. a quarter to 1d. a week; while in the case of one scheme it was1d. per week. In addition to 67 per cent. more money being paid in compensation, these schemes secured extra benefits, such as compensation, medical andother aids.
– Do the schemes apply to seafaring men?
– No; I am dealing with the broad question of these schemes.
– Will the honorable senator cite the case of a scheme applying to ship-owners ?
– The honorable senator is now shifting his ground.
– The main argument has been directed to the merits or demerits of such schemes. There can be no compulsion, especially in Australia with its stronghold of unionism, upon any man to accept a scheme of which he does not approve.
– No one has said that. We contend that a man will not be wanted by the employer.
– The same thing applies to a trade union. What would the honorable senator say if I stated it was possible for a ship-owner to coerce a member of the trade union with which he is connected ?
– No, they would say “ We will not employ your men.” We have an obligation from the ship-owners to employ union men.
– There is the complete answer to the argument. I venture to say that if the members of a trade union declined to accept a scheme to-morrow the men would still be employed.
– It is only fifteen years since the ship-owners refused to take a man if he was a member of a trade union. Freedom of contract was then advocated.
– The complete answer to that argument is furnished by such legislation as the Conciliation and Arbitration Act; When that measure was under consideration it was recognised that employers might endeavour to penalize those who sought to take advantage of its provisions, and therefore we inserted a clause to make it an offence for them to do so.
– And we have just had to amend the Act.
– The Bill to which the honorable senator refers is not an amendment of the Act, but an extension of the idea. Its purpose is to stop a little loop-hole which has been found to exist. No man can come under the clause before the Committee except with his consent. There is no inducement offered to any employer who merely wishes to discharge his ordinary legal liability. There is, however, machinery provided to meet the case of those employers who might be anxious to do a little more for their workmen than the law compels them to do.
– They could do that without a measure of this kind.
– Yes, but by a. much more cumbersome system than is herein proposed. The honorable senator admits at once that there is no inducement to an employer to start a scheme. Why should a man want to start a scheme unless it is with the desire to help his men?
– Why put the provision in the Bill?
– If an employer is anxious to help his men let him do so.
– That he can always do independently of this measure.
– Certainly ; but a large number of employers, especially those with big concerns, must necessarily proceed on a business basis.
– In the absence of this clause an employer could have a scheme of his own if he was anxious to do something for the men.
– Ifthis provision were compulsory, I should be against it just as strongly as my honorable friend is, but it is purely optional.
– Once a scheme is started it will be compulsory upon the men who want work.
– No man in Australia need bother his head about the bogy to which my honorable friend refers, because the trade unions are well able to protectall the legitimate interests of their members.
– I know a case where men have been discharged within fifty miles of Melbourne, and their union is powerless.
– For what reason were they discharged ?
– Because they belonged to a trade union.
– Did not the Melbourne Tramway Company dismiss some of the men because they wanted to be brought under a Wages Board?
– That was owing to a defect in the Victorian law ; but can my honorable, friend cite an instance where under a Federal law men have been dismissed on a similar ground ?
– Yes; the union to whichI refer is registered under the Federal Act, but it is powerless to help its members.
– If that is so my honorable friend has to admit either that our Act is inoperative, and, therefore, so much waste paper, or, if it is an isolated case , that thegreat body of employers are not seeking to do anything for the workmen.
– There is no protection given to the men in the Act, and that is why the amending Bill was brought in by Senator Needham.
– Do I understand the honorable senator to refer to a case where some men were dismissed, not for anything which they did under the Act, but for seeking to form a union?
– It is a case of the dismissal of some men who belong to a trade union registered under the Federal law.
– The Act contains a provision which can be made operative if the case is brought underthe notice of the proper authorities. The object of the Bill introduced by Senator Needham was to attach a similar liability to those employers who sought to penalize men who were about to form or register a union.
– The case I refer to is that of the timber workers at Warburton.
– The honorable senator makes a definite statement, which is altogether against my notion as to what is the existing law.
– I am glad to get the honorable senator’s legal advice.
– My honorable friend need not be satirical. He ought to have convinced himself that there is a loophole in. the law. I think that if he looks into the matter further he will find, not that our law is inoperative, but that there is a set of circumstances against which the law does not provide. Senator Turley advanced an argument which, I admit, did at first impress me. He pointed out the difficulty which many seamen would experience - they being a roving class - in securing to themselves the benefits of such a scheme as is contemplated. It is quite true that seamen differ from ordinary workmen. But is a seaman likely to become a sharer in such a scheme under the circumstances described ?
– If his poverty compels him to accept employment under conditions involving subscription to a scheme, yes.
– I am sick of hearing that argument: It is one of those old bogies that my honorable friends are continually raising.
– I have been compelled by poverty to do things that I would not otherwise have done.
– There are others who have felt the pinch of poverty just as much as have my honorable friends opposite, but who do not talk so much about it. I believe that it is possible under this Bill to make ample provision to protect a man against an unjust employer. Further than that, if a seaman is engaged only one day upon a ship, and is injured, he can claim the benefits of the scheme.
– But he would be compelled to join, and if he left the ship in a week or two he would receive no benefit.
– What harm is done to a man if he is compelled to join a scheme which, at least, would confer upon him the benefits secured by this Bill, and probably many more?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Payment of Legal Expenses
Senator Colonel NEILD, (New South
Wales) [7.45]. - In pursuance ofnotice given, I have the honor to submit for the consideration of the Senate the following motion : -
That in the opinion of the Senate -
The Commonwealth should bear the legal expenses paid and incurred by the Agricultural Implement Makers Employees’ Unions in enforcing the provisions of the Excise Tariff Act 1906.
The Government should, without delay, give effect to this resolution.
The facts with which my motion deals are so well known to the Senate that it does not seem needful that I should make a lengthy address relative to the history of the matter. But I think it is desirable that, as mover of the motion, I should give a sufficiency of facts to warrant my moving it. If I submitted the proposition blankly, I might be told that there was no justification for it. I shall, therefore, make such a statement of the facts and arguments in support as will furnish sufficient warrant for carrying the motion by, I hope, a large majority. In 1906 the Commonwealth Parliament passed two measures, one imposing Customs duties and another duties of Excise upon certain harvesting machinery and apparatus. There was a provision in the one case that if the imported articles were not sold for cash at certain stipulated prices, the import duties might be reduced by one-half. I only mention that in passing, because nothing has come of the enactment. The articles in question have not been sold for cash, and the duty has not been reduced. Of course, the unfortunate agriculturist has paid top prices, and has been disadvantaged to that extent. The other measure provided that the local manufacturer, on consideration of the payment of fair and reasonable wages, should be relieved from duties of Excise. I shall not labour the matter by quoting the Acts in question.
– I have pleasure in seconding the motion. It is imperative that the Government should perform this simple act of justice on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth. We all know that the Commonwealth Parliament sought to achieve certain ends by means which it considered were within its powers. The sole object of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act was to insure that fair treatment should be meted out to persons employed in any industries which we had benefited by the imposition of Customs duties. Kindred laws have been enacted by the States themselves. A similar law, so far as its intention is concerned, is that relating to Wages Boards, which obtains in Victoria. The Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act provided that Excise should not be claimed upon implements manufactured by any employer so long as the wages paid to the employes were declared by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to be fair and reasonable. The method adopted by this State in administering its beneficent law is one under which the Crown itself becomes the prosecutor in cases where the law is transgressed. I venture to express the opinion that, under similar circumstances, the Commonwealth ought to have been the prosecutor. I do not blame anybody that it was not. Perhaps we made a mistake in failing to provide proper machinery for operating the law. But clearly it was the duty of the Commonwealth to ascertain whether the manufacturers of agricultural implements were paying fair and reasonable wages in order that it might determine whether Excise ought to be charged. However, the Commonwealth did not take steps in that direction; and. as a result, the employes, who considered that they were not being paid fair and reasonable wages under the Act, themselves took action. They thus enabled the Commonwealth to accomplish its object. They insured the payment of fair and reasonable wages from the time their action was decided, and they also secured the return of a large revenue to the Commonwealth in the shape of fines.
– The manufacturers of agricultural implements could not be obliged to pay fair and reasonable wages to their employes and be fined for not doing so at the same time.
– If they had not been paying fair and reasonable wages, the law rendered them liable to pay Excise duty. But from the time that they paid the Excise duty and were penalized, they would continue to pay fair wages, or be again penalized under the law.
– We cannot do both at the same time.
– Decidedly not; but we can secure the two objects at the same time. We might have secured fair and reasonable wages to the work people at the time we speak of, and an Excise duty on the goods improperly manufactured previous to that time. However, my point is not that anybody is wrong. I do not think it is a wise thing to take advantage of every opportunity to show what rascals some persons have been, and how their conduct was anticipated. The question we are considering is, are these persons proper objects of commiseration at the hands of this Parliament, and should we indemnify them for the losses to which they were subjected. It appears that we made a mistake in the first place in passing such a measure, and afterwards in neglecting, I think, the duty of the Commonwealth in not endeavouring to enforce it. But, by both acts - the overt act in the one instance, and the act of negligence in the other - we were instrumental in putting these persons to considerable expense. I do not know the amount, and it has, perhaps, been exaggerated. But it is obvious that no one could gi g-‘o the High Court, remain there as a sul.0.: for weeks, and bring forward a large number of witnesses without incurring very considerable expense. I anticipate that it will be urged that, great as the hardship is, to do what is asked by the motion would be to establish a precedent which would be dangerous. I am willing to admit that we have to be very careful in creating a precedent of this sort ; but I do not see any very great danger in the proposal, because if it were assumed that we were laying down a principle that in ‘:very instance where a person entered into litigation in. connexion with the Federal law, which subsequently proved, or which, in consequence of that litigation, proved to be ultra vires, it could not be a very serious thing. It could happen only once in connexion with a law; and we have a right to assume that, as its experience grows this Parliament will probably pass fewer Acts which are outside its proper functions, than it has done hitherto. So far, it has not passed many laws which have proved to be ultra vires. Even assuming that the principle were laid down - and the motion does not in any way lay it down - every case would have to be dealt with by Parliament on its merits. Suppose that another case should happen, it would have to be dealt with as this case is being dealt with, entirely on its own merits. The treatment of this case could not in the slightest degree control Parliament in its treatment of a subsequent case, even if the circumstances were on all-fours, and it could only be used as an argument were the circumstances analogous. It is highly improbable that many such cases will occur. Therefore, I urge upon honorable senators - I do not say the Government or anybody else-
– Do not forget that the motion of a supporter of the Government is all right.
– I think the proposal is all right, even if we should not get the support of the Government.
– They might possibly refuse to take action.
– Yes ; but I do not anticipate for a moment that they would.
– Sometimes that is dene.
– Yes. If, without any indication of party consideration, but on the justice of the issue, the Senate should arrive deliberately and emphatically at a resolution, I have every confidence that the Government of the day would be impressed by such a declaration, and would be moved as a matter of right, as a matter of propriety, to do what they could to give effect to it. ‘ I urge that we should deal with the issue itself. It is not a question 6f persons who did or did not . do wrong. A wrong has been done to certain citizens, and it is the duty of Parliament, at the earliest possible opportunity, to relieve them by recouping such losses as they have sustained in testing the law ; and proving, to the advantage of the Commonwealth, that that particular method of procedure was beyond our powers. They have also shown us that if we want to achieve such ends, we must adopt other methods. There are other methods, and it is within our power to adopt them. If we continue to feel that legislation of this kind should be enacted, we will, I hope, in the near future, adopt other methods.
[8.33]. - I rise to ask for an adjournment of the debate.
Several Honorable Senators. - No
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I understood that theMinister was appealing to the honorable senator in charge of the motion to consent to an adjournment of the debate, and not addressing himself to the question itself. Therefore I think that his motion is in order.
– Mr. President, as my honorable and learned friend appealed to me, may I be permitted to say a few words?
– Can there be a debate on this motion, sir?
– I want to make an explanation, which, I am sure, is always permitted to the senator in charge of a matter. I was asked if I would consent to an adjournment of this debate.I am quite agreeable, but I would make a suggestion.
– The honorable senator cannot debate the matter.
– No, sir; but may I suggest that the debate should be allowed to proceed a little longer before it is adjourned. I have no objection to that.
– Why do not the Government tell us that they have not made up their mind?
– Does the Minister desire to withdraw his motion?
– Not unless honorable senators desire to proceed with the discussion.
– We want to hear a statement from the Government. In the other House to-day they stated that they would not pay the money.
Question - That the debate be now adjourned - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22nd July (vide page151 2), on motion by Senator Colonel Neild -
That a Select Committee be appointed. to inquire into and report upon the appliance known as Brennan’s “ Improvements in switches and crossings for compound gauge railways,” designed to overcome the break of gauge difficulties in the railways of Australia. That such Committee consist of Senators Gray, E. J. Russell, Story, de Largie, Sayers, Keating, and the mover. That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers, and records.
Upon which Senator Pearce had moved, by way of amendment -
That the words “ the appliance known as Brennan’s “ be left out.
– The debate on this motion was adjourned at my request, in order to enable me to make further inquiry, and having done so, I find that I am in a position to raise no objection to its adoption. I would point out that primarily it is a matter for State, rather than Federal, consideration. At the same time I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that it has a Federal significance, inasmuch as , it bears upon InterState trade, and undoubtedly has a military bearing. For these two reasons I am not disposed to cast a vote which would block the desired inquiry by a Select Committee. I should like to say, however, that if there is to be an inquiry at all it ought not to be limited to the invention of one man. If there are other inventions having the same object in view, those responsible for them should have equal opportunities with Mr. Brennan to submit their proposals for investigation. I, ‘ therefore, propose to support the amendment, and also to vote in favour of the motion.
– I regret that I do not feel able to support Senator Neild’s motion. I have no objection, however, to its being carried. I will explain why I cannot vote for it. The invention which is referred to as Brennan’s is not, I believe, wholly Mr. Brennan’s work. A gentleman named Thomas Grace, of Sydney, was, I understand, the original inventor. I, myself, about six years ago, brought the subject under the notice of the Victorian Government. I was introduced to officers of the Railway Department, and went fully into the subject with them. There seems to be a disagreement between Brennan and Grace on various points connected with the invention. At all events, Mr. Grace is undoubtedly interested in the motion, and though, as I have said, I have no objection to its being carried, yet for personal reasons I do not feel justified in voting for it. I shall not vote.
– The inquiry which Senator Neild wishes to have made by a Select Committee would, it appears to me, be one of a purely technical nature. It would require the attendance of expert witnesses. I trust I shall not be considered to disparage the honor able senators whose names appear in the motion if I say that they cannot know much about a purely technical device. If they are to report upon the invention they must obtain evidence from railway engineers and others capable of furnishing them with reliable opinions. Are we in a position to send for expert witnesses and examine them? In other words, can we expect to obtain from a Select Committee a report which will be of any value to the Commonwealth ? If we want information on the subject, surely it might be obtained from the Railway Department of New South Wales, which has probably made inquiries and obtained evidence. A proposal to appoint a committee of laymen to examine into a technical subject of this nature seems to me to be almost absurd.
– The Commonwealth has not the slightest jurisdiction over a single inch of the railways of Australia. In appointing a Committee to inquire into a means of overcoming a ‘break of gauge it seems to me that we should be, if not actually infringing the Constitution, at all events taking a step in that direction. Suppose that, the result of the inquiry went to show that it was possible, from an economic point of view, to adopt the invention in question. What good would be done ? The Commonwealth could take no action whatever. I cast no reflection on my honorable and gallant friend, Senator Neild, in his desire to do something beneficial for the whole of Australia, but I do question the utility of his enthusiasm in this matter. We have nothing whatever to do with the railways of Australia, except in times of war, or for military purposes in times of peace. Moreover, I feel perfectly certain that every Railway Department in Australia has considered this subject, and taken counsel from experts with reference to it. Even if the proposed Committee formally made a recommendation, the time spent on the inquiry would have been practically wasted, because nothing further could be done. I object to trenching upon the constitutional powers of the States in the first place; and in the second place I object to the appointment of a Committee of the Senate to spend its time in investigating a subject as to which, even if a clear conclusion were arrived at, we have no power to give effect to it. I think that private members’ time can be devoted to far more useful objects. I cast no reflection upon my honorable and gallant friend/ nor do I seek in the slightest degree to disparage his desire to do something useful. But I consider that this Parliament has a great deal to do in minding its own business. It should do that business as expeditiously as possible, but it should take care not to exceed its jurisdiction. Further than that, the Committee can do nothing more than arrive at the pious conclusion, and I object to a Committee of this Senate being appointed to spend time and, possibly incur, expense on proceedings which will be absolutely abortive.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [8.51]. - The only speech to which I have to reply is that of my honorable and learned friend, Senator St. Ledger. He has argued that, because the Commonwealth does not own any railways, we have no interest in the matter with which my motion deals. I am quite sure that if the honorable senator had the same personal experience of the disadvantages attaching to break of gauge as have some of us who travel more frequently, he would be anxious to facilitate inquiries into the subject. But my honorable friend’s objection, on the ground that we own no railways, is effectively answered by the fact that some years ago the Senate, with great advantage, appointed a Committee, of which I had the honour to be a member, to inquire into steam-ship communication. The Senate did not own a single steam-boat, but we took into consideration a question of great interest as affecting inter-State communication between Tasmania and the mainland. The operations of the Committee, dealing as they did with so technical a matter as turbines and steam-ships, were useful in bringing about the improved communication that has existed between Launceston and Melbourne during the last two or three years, through the construction of the turbine steamer Loongana. That is distinctly a case in point, and affords sufficient warrant for an inquiry which need not be an expensive one, and cannot be protracted, because the time available would not permit it to be so. The only object is to bring together information that will be useful in assisting the Commonwealth Government, if it should see fit to make representations to the States in connexion with this important subject, thus enhancing and improving the means of communication between States which are now to a certain extent kept at arm’s length through a break in their railway gauges. In view of the fact that the Government have consented to the motion, I may hope that a majority of honorable senators will see fit to approve of it. If necessary, the Committee can be balloted for.
Amendment agreed to:
Question, as amended, put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the negative. :
Motion (by Senator Needham) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
Bill read a third time.
Old-age Pensions - Direct Taxation.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Government a case which has arisen under the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, the particulars of which were forwarded to me to-day. The letter which has been sent to me appeared, as follows, in the West Australian under the heading, “A Sad Deserving Case”: -
To the Editor, Sir. - I wish to make known the case of a respectable old man, aged 69 years, who applied for the old-age pension. I and another citizen filled out the necessary forms, when to my surprise the Federal authorities rejected his application on the grounds I had only known him for twenty years. Eventually a man was found who had known Him from boyhood. That also failed, the applicant not being allowed to make a second application within six months. He has now had to seek refuge in the Old Men’s Home. No doubt a noble institution, but no’ place for a man like Mr. Chater, who, with the old-age pension, and a little work, which he was able and most willing to do, could have maintained himself. It seems hard it was not granted to him. I may state his present position is caused through no fault of his own. He reared a family and worked hard for them, but they have drifted apart. He has no relations in Western Australia. Until recently he was, able to earn his living at boot repairing, but through illness he spent five weeks in the Perth Public Hospital, and lost his connexion. He was a resident of Fitzgerald-street for about 13^ years. The truth of this statement can be vouched for by Messrs. W. Young, corner John and Fitzgerald street’s; Thomas Coy, of the West Australian office; and Mr. H. Holland, J. P., Perth. Trusting some abler pen than mine will take the case up and see that justice is done. Yours,
J. Robinson. 203 Carr-street, West Perth, 20th August.
I venture to say that that appears to be a case of substantial injustice. The writer of the letter signs his name, and gives his address, and he refers to a number of wellknown, reputable citizens, one a justice of the peace, who are personally known to me as residents of Perth. Senator Mulcahy. - There is nothing to prevent the case from being taken into consideration. Special provision is made for that in the Act.
– That, it appears to me, is where the hardship comes in in this case. It is stated that the applicant was informed, when he applied on the second occasion, that he could not make a second application within less than six months from the date of his first application.
– The honorable senator will let me have particulars of the case?
– Yes j I have brought it forward in order to do so, and in order that inquiries may be made. If the facts are as stated, I hope that the Minister will take drastic action, because this appears to be an instance of the kind of administration that brings our legislation into disrepute.
– Following up the case mentioned by Senator Pearce just now, I wish to say that it has come to my knowledge that some persons in the Commonwealth who for some years past were in receipt of pensions from the New South Wales Government now find themselves deprived of them. I can mention the case of a man who is seventytwo years of age, blind of an eye, and with but dim sight in the other. He has drawn a pension from the New South Wales Government for the last seven years, and now finds that he is pensionless because, as I am given to understand, he is a half-caste. I presume that under our law he cannot be given a pension, but I’ suggest that some communications might pass between the Federal and State Governments to discover whether in such hard cases the State Government might not be willing to make some provision.
– During the discussion of the Budget, I was asked whether I could name any members of the Senate who haddisputed the power of the Commonwealth under the Constitution to impose direct taxation. I mentioned, amongst others, the name of the President. I said that I was sorry to drag the name of the President into the debate, as such a course was somewhat unusual. I find that the honorable senator does not agree with my statement. He informs me that he took up an attitude on the question which differs from that which I said he had assumed. I do not wish to misrepresent the President or any one else. Perhaps if I read the note which I have received from him it will explain the President’s position, and show honorable senators that I was, to some extent, justified in my interpretation of his views. The note runs -
My contention is that it was not within the intention of the Constitution that the Commonwealth should impose direct taxation, though as a matter of law I have never disputed the power of the Commonwealth to impose such taxation. It is true my expressed opinions on this subject have by certain newspapers been deliberately misrepresented.
I may say that it was from newspapers that I gained my impression of the views held by the honorable senator. During the elections I noted that the Bulletin challenged the President on this particular matter. I make this statement in order to remove any misapprehension which might arise from the remarks I made this afternoon.
– With regard to the matter brought under notice by Senator Pearce, I suppose it is hardly necessary that I should tell him that I shall place it before my honorable colleague in such a way that immediate inquiry will follow. The honorable senator will recognise at once that I can express no opinion as to the accuracy of the facts as set out in the letter which he has read, but I admit that they certainly do constitute a case for immediate and sympathetic inquiry. With regard to the case mentioned by Senator Walker, and which clearly does not come under the Commonwealth law, may I suggest to the honorable senator, or any one interesting himself on behalf of the .unfortunate man to whom he has referred, that there is- provision under the New South Wales law for dealing with cases of that kind. If the honorable senator will take the trouble to drop a note to the New South Wales ‘Chief Secretary, it will very possibly bring about the relief he has in mind- Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090902_senate_3_51/>.