3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the VicePresident of the Executive Council in a position to reply to the second portion of the question I asked yesterday in connexion with the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act ? I desired to know whether the Government indorsed the interpretation given to the Act by Mr. J. Denistoun Wood and, if not, whether he and other magistrates would be instructed as to the proper interpretation of the Act. The Minister did not reply to the inquiry.
– Speaking . from memory, I am under the impression that that question was answered by the statement that in the administration of the Commonwealth Act no decrease or reduction was made from the pension of a married couple living together.
– Can the VicePresident of the Executive Council inform the Senate as to the probable date on which the Government will be able to communicate the full results of the recent Naval and Military Conference, and to make a statement on the subject ?
– I cannot speak definitely, but if the honorable senator will question me next week I shall endeavour to ascertain the position in the meantime.
– Some time ago I asked a question about the landing of mails at Fremantle and the administration of the quarantine regulations. I desire to know whether the Minister of Trade and Customs noticed the great delay which took place lately at Fremantle in landing mails from a steamer of the Orient Company, and their declaration that they would not be responsible for the mails if required to discharge them at sea or at some distance from the port. I do not know whether he saw the report in the press, but what I want to know is whether he will endeavour by an amendment of the quarantine regulations to insure less detention of the steamers at that port?
– My honorable friend will recognise that there must be a more careful inspection by the quarantine officers at what is practically the gate of Australia so far as these ships are concerned than elsewhere. If there is a little more delay in making that more thorough investigation, it should not be made a cause of complaint, seeing that the time so occupied will be more than saved at other ports. I had my attention drawn to the matter, and instructed the Director of Quarantine that so soon as his duties would permit, he should go to Fremantle and make a personal inquiry, so that the examination may be reduced to the smallest limits, having regard to complete efficiency. There is no advantage to the Commonwealth in delaying a steamer. Our whole anxiety is to secure expedition, accompanied with a thorough and effective examination by the quarantine officers.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, in view of the fact that out of forty-six candidates who attended for examination in Victoria for admission into the police force, twenty-nine were rejected for failure in physical requirements, and that four others were condemned by the doctor, and in view of the enormous benefits derived by men from a training in physical culture he will consult the Minister of Defence and make a statement to the Senate next week whether the Cabinet intend to make physical culture a part of the training of our troops, and, if so, to what extent ?
– I noticed a paragraph in the press, and naturally regretted the facts therein disclosed. I invite the attention of Senator Dobson to the statement made by the Minister of Defence in presenting the Defence Bill, in which he mentioned that physical training is to be provided for. If, however, my honorable friend desires it, I shall bring the paragraph and his remarks before my colleagues.
Bill presented (by Senator Sir Robert Best) and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Pulsford) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to Parliamentary elections.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I desire to move the recommittal of the Bill with a view to the insertion of a new clause for the amendment of section 198 of the principal Act, which reads as follows -
The Court shall inquire whether or not the petition is duly signed, and so far as rolls and voting are concerned may inquire into the identity of persons, and whether their votes were improperly admitted or rejected, assuming the roll to be correct; but the Court shall not inquire into the correctness of any roll.
– The Bill before the Senate contains no provision in that respect, and therefore it will not be competent for the honorable senator to propose its recommittal for the purpose of considering the clause which he has suggested.
– We can recommit the whole Bill.
– Yes, but every amendment must be relevant to the amending Bill.
– If I may take advantage of this opportunity, I should like to explain my reason for introducing a small amending Bill to-day. I wish to abolish election deposits, or to alter-
– That matter is not strictly relevant to the question before the Senate, but I shall not object if the honorable senator does not speak at too great length.
– I had an amendment prepared to submit in connexion with the Bill before the Senate, and I want to explain the reason why I did not move it.
– I point out to the honorable senator that the time for making that explanation will be when his Bill is brought forward.
– I want to take advantage of this opportunity to put a question to the VicePresident of the Executive Council. Yesterday a clause was agreed to for the purpose of insuring that applications made on existing forms shall not be rejected as informal until such time as the card system is adopted. It has been brought under my notice that during the last few months there has been an alteration in the forms, and that applications on such forms have already been made. I desire to know whether the clause I refer to will cover all alterations in forms ‘ made during the last three months as well as the card system in future, whether the existing applications will be rejected as informal, or whether the names of the applicants will be placed on the roll ?
– That was explained here the other night.
– I did not hear the explanation, and therefore I draw the Minister’s attention to the matter.
– I wish to ask whether I should be in order in moving to recommit the Bill for the purpose of amending section 206 (b) of the Act of 1905? The section makes it an offence for candidates to subscribe to clubs or associations within three months of an election. That section is not dealt with in the Bill before us, but I would point out that the Bill does deal with electoral offences, and under the principal Act it is an electoral offence to subscribe in the manner I have indicated.
– It is not in order to move any amendment which is not strictly relevant to the subject-matter of a Bill. Some time ago a question arose as to the power of amending a principal Act when an amending Bill touching a portion of such an Act was under consideration. It was then clearly laid down by my predecessor in this chair, that an amendment would not be in order unless strictly relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill actually before the Senate. That decision was accepted, but a provision was inserted in the Standing Orders that when an amending Bill was under consideration an instruction might be given to the Committee to amend the principal Act in a direction that was not within the scope of the amending Bill. But an instruction of that character must necessarily be given before a Bill first goes into Committee, and immediately after its second reading. Notice must also be given of the proposition. As that procedure has not been followed in this case, it will not be in order for Senator Pearce to move to recommit the Bill for the purpose of con sidering such an amendment as he has indicated.
– Inmy second-reading speech I drew attention to clause 20 of this Bill, where it is provided that the electoral rolls in force at the time of an election shall be conclusive evidence of the right of each person enrolled thereon to vote. I take it that what is meant is that the fact that a person is enrolled shall be taken as evidence of his right to record his vote as an elector, and that it is not intended to give such a person an unquestionable right to have his vote counted?
– The elector has a right to vote subject to his ability to answer the necessary questions.
– If the Minister has directed the attention of the Crown Law officers to the clause, and if the intention be such as he has indicated, it will not be necessary for me to ask for the recommittal of the Bill.
– I should like to have this Bill recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clause 17, with the object of striking out the provision authorizing justices of the peace to witness signatures to postal votes. I think that honorable senators will agree with me that there are no greater political partisans than are justices of the peace. They are appointed for political reasons. No man is made a justice of the peace in this country unless upon the recommendation of somebody in politics. The services of justices of the peace are undoubtedly taken advantage of at election time.
– As many justices of the peace have been appointed from one side in politics as from the other.
– That is not so. How many members of the Labour party have been appointed justices of the peace?
– Is the honorable senator a justice of the peace?
– I am, in two States - New South Wales and South Australia. I have been exceptionally fortunate. But for one supporter of the Labour party who has been made a justice of the peace, a hundred have been appointed from the party opposite.
– How many working men have been appointed justices of the peace in South Australia? Not more than five.
– Does the honorable senator think that I would attribute unfair conduct to him because he belongs to the Opposition ?
– I hope not. Tasmania has never thought it worth while to appoint justices of the peace from the working class.
– Any number of men who are members of the Labour party, though not actually working men, are justices of the peace.
– How many working men in New South Wales have been appointed justices of the peace? Not a dozen altogether.
– How many thousands of working men are unfit to ‘be appointed ?
– Justices of the peace, who are usually appointed for political purposes, have no right to exercise functions under this Bill. They, are not the persons who should be intrusted to be authored witnesses at election time. I move -
That the Bill be recommitted, for the purpose of reconsidering clause 17 (Authorized witnesses).
– Surely Senator Guthrie cannot be in earnest in hurling accusations against so many thousands of men. throughout Australia. It is simply absurd that a man is not to be trusted to act as a witness under a Bill like this simply because he is a justice of the peace. It is unthinkable that the honorable senator should seriously mean what- he has said. I hope that he will not proceed with his proposal.
– The proposal made by Senator Guthrie is, in my view, a right and proper one. I speak from personal knowledge of the party manipulation that has occurred in the appointment of justices of the peace in Western Australia. I shall give names, and I challenge honorable senators opposite to disprove my assertions. I shall in the first place mention the name of no less prominent a person than the Commonwealth Treasurer. When Sir John Forrest was Premier of Western Australia, in preFederal days, he appointed many justices of the peace, and I shall show the undoubted bias that he exercised. I was President of the Miners’ Association in Kalgoorlie. Considerable inconvenience was caused on the gold-fields in those days because there was a lack of justices of the peace who could sign documents. The association of which I was president took the matter up, at the request of a number of its members. There was a discussion at a meeting, and a motion was carried suggesting the names of four persons as fit and proper men to be appointed. These names were sent down to Sir John Forrest, as head of the State Government.
– Who were the men suggested ?
– I will give the names and will show that they were by no means selected from one side. The organization recommended the appointment of Mr. Richard Hamilton, who was general manager of the Great Boulder mine at that time. Mr. Hamilton is still in Western Australia, and is President of the Chamber of Mines at Kalgoorlie.
– Was that recommendation set aside?
– If . the honorable senator will not be in too great a hurry he will learn the whole history of the matter, and will be able to judge whether political bias enters into these appointments or not. The other gentlemen recommended were Mr. Green, a merchant in Boulder City and Alderman of the Council, who is still in business in Western Australia ; Mr. Gilbert Haddon, the manager of Hannan ‘s Proprietary mine, and Mr. O’Connor, the President of the Boulder branch of our organization. I was myself asked to stand for nomination, and declined. We gave no thought to the political aspect of the question. We knew that more justices of the peace were required, and submitted these recommendations to Sir John Forrest.
– It was the duty of the organization to suggest an increase in the number of justices of the peace, but not to recommend the appointment of its own nominees. I never heard of such a thing.
– We were members of a community that had been drawn together from all parts of the Commonwealth, and some one had to take the responsibility of recommending the appointment of suitable persons. That responsibility was assumed by an important and representative organization. Only one of the four gentlemen nominated was a member of the organization. The reply we received from Sir John Forrest, or through his_ officials, was that the Government of which he was a member was not going to be dominated, and would not have any class appointments. He refused to make these appointments because they were of a purely class nature.
– Apparently he took the same- view as I do - that the organization exceeded its duty.
– A few months later Mr. Hamilton was made a justice of the peace, and, if I remember rightly, Mr. Green was also appointed ; but on the recommendation of some one else.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– When these gentlemen were not appointed on the recommendation of a representative organization, it is clear that they must, later on, have been recommended by some one else to secure appointment at the hands of a politician of the type of Sir John Forrest. I have nothing to say against either Mr. Hamilton or Mr. Green. Both are gentlemen of high standing, and are respected by all classes on the gold-fields of Western Australia. Perhaps there is no man who is more highly esteemed in Western Australia than is Mr. Hamilton.
– Were any other persons subsequently appointed from the same locality ?
– I cannot say, but certainly no one from our side was appointed.
– Then the organization got two out of four of their recommendations through.
– Two of the four whom we recommended were appointed, but their appointment was refused in the first instance because we had recommended them, and for no other reason. I take it upon myself to say that that was perhaps the biggest blunder that Sir John Forrest ever made, because it made the Labour people more than ever determined that their rights should be respected. We commenced then, and we have not yet finished, with Sir John Forrest.
– Suppose it is granted that these appointments are made for political reasons, how does that prove that these gentlemen have become morally unfit to witness a declaration?
– We do not say that they are morally unfit. I have not questioned the morals of these men ; I leave that to Senator Pulsford. If the honorable senator wishes to prefer a charge of immorality against them he can do so. I am not aware that anything can be said against the morals of the persons of whom
I have been speaking. I think I have shown that these appointments are made for political purposes.
– Suppose that is granted, I want to know how it unfits the persons appointed to be witnesses?
– Our experience has been that the whole of the appointments in Western Australia to the Bench of the “ great unpaid “ have been made for political party purposes.
– The justices of the peace of the Commonwealth are not unpaid.
– That is so; we are making history in the Commonwealth ; but I have been speaking of magistrates who are unpaid. I think I have made it clear that we could not intrust the work of witnessing applications for postal vote certificates to worse hands than those of politically appointed justices of the peace. If the Government desire that this part of the electoral law shall be administered by persons without political bias, they will remove justices of the peace from the lists of authorized witnesses. It is quite true that some persons have been appointed justices of the peace who are known to be friends of the Labour party ; but we desire in this matter that they shall be treated in the same way as the justices of the peace who are known to be our political opponents, because we recognise that political partisans on either side should have no hand in the administration of our electoral law.
– I cannot support Senator Guthrie’s motion for the recommittal of the Bill for the purpose he has suggested. If the honorable senator had proposed that the Bill should be recommitted for the purpose of repealing the postal voting provisions altogether, I should have been prepared to support the proposal heartily. Now that the Senate, in its wisdom, and after a long discussion, has determined to retain the postal voting provisions, I am not prepared to support a proposal for the excision from the list of authorized witnesses of justices of the peace. I entirely agree with Senators Guthrie and de Largie that justices of the peace are appointed as the result of political influence. I scarcely know of a single instance in Western Australia where a justice of the peace does not owe his appointment to the intervention of a member of Parliament. The usual practice followed is for the member for a particular- district to recommend that a certain citizen should receive the commission. Whilst I agree that justices of the peace owe: their appointments to political influence, I am not prepared to go so far as to say that they would be influenced by political partisanship in witnessing applications for postal vote certificates. Senator Dobson, made the statement that as many justices of the peace have been appointed from our side as from the party to whom we are opposed.
– No, of course there have not; I was misunderstood.
– With the consent of Senator Lynch I propose to refer to something that has taken place in connexion with Western Australia which will show the difference in the attitude taken up by two Premiers of two different political parties in that State. I shall mention names also, as Senator de Largie, has done. When Mr. Daglish was’ Labour Premier of Western Australia, his Government, through the representations ot a member of the Federal Parliament, conferred the commission of justice of the peace on every member of this Parliament representing Western Australia, irrespective of his political opinion. They were all made justices for the whole State, and not for any one magisterial divison. I compare the action of Mr. Daglish, as Labour Premier, with that of the gentleman who is Premier of Western Australia to-day. Representations have been made to the present Government of Western Australia that there are two members of the Federal Parliament whose names are not on the commission of the peace. These members are Senator Lynch and myself.
– I am not on the commission; in New South Wales.
– I wish it to be clearly understood that neither Senator Lynch nor myself make any complaint in the matter. I refer to it merely to mention the attitude taken up by a Premier holding different political opinions, and to contrast his attitude with that of the gentleman who preceded him in office. As a result of the representations which were made, Senator Lynch has been offered the commission of the peace, but he refused to take it unless every member of the Federal Parliament coming from Western Australia, irrespective of his political views, is similarly appointed. I cannot see my way to vote for the recommittal of the Bill with a view to amending it in the direction desired by Senator Guthrie, although I should be glad to support its recommittal for the purpose of entirely eliminating the postal-voting provisions. Whilst 1 recognise that justices of the peace are invariably appointed as the result of political representations, I am quite prepared to trust them to act impartially as authorized witnesses of postal ballot-papers.
– I hope that Senator Guthrie will not press his proposal to a division. Although it is true that political influence is usually operative in connexion with the appointment of justices of the peace, I do not think any one will suggest that a justice of the peace, in witnessing a postal vote, will act other than impartially. To appoint telegraph linesmen as authorized witnesses of postal ballot-papers and to expressly declare that justices of the peace are not fitted to discharge a similar duty, would be a direct insult to our honorary justices. I cannot conceive that Senator Guthrie is in earnest in this matter, but if he is,- 1 ask him to reconsider his position. Those who complain that there are not sufficient labour men upon the roll of justices of the peace should recollect that we have only to await the advent of another Labour Ministry to get that defect remedied.
– Will it be right to follow the bad example set by other Governments ?
– I do not know that it is a bad example. If it be necessary to have political parties fairly balanced on the roll of justices of the peace - a doctrine which I do not for one moment indorse - in all probability we shall not have to wait very long before we shall be in a position to give effect to it.
– Upon this matter I take up a similar attitude to that of Senator Needham. I cannot vote for the recommittal of the Bill for the purpose of amending it in the direction that Senator Guthrie desires. In my judgment, if we eliminate justices of the peace from the list of persons who are authorized . witnesses of postal ballotpapers, we shall rob the measure of one of its most useful provisions. I should, however, be perfectly prepared to vote for the recommittal of the Bill with a view to the abolition of the postal voting system. But I recognise that on this occasion it is impossible for me to attain my object. If we declare that justices of the peace shall be ineligible to witness postal ballot-papers we shall inconvenience a great many electors. At the last general election I witnessed at least 500 such papers, and I did so without the slightest bias. Upon many occasions I was 50 or 60 miles from any centre of population, and I witnessed those papers for the purpose of assisting electors to exercise their franchise. Nobody will deny that political influence is exerted in making appointments to the roll of honorary justices. But whilst that is so, the mere fact that under certain circumstances we vest them with power to deprive a citizen of his liberty, is a sufficient reason to justify the belief that they will faithfully discharge their duty as authorized witnesses of postal ballot-papers.
– Not in a political matter.
– Under certain circumstances a justice of the peace has power to sentence a man to a term of imprisonment. Surely if he can be trusted to exercise jurisdiction of that character he may be trusted to act impartially in witnessing signatures to applications for, postal vote certificates.
– I am afraid that the contention of Senator Henderson is not a valid one. A justice of the peace is appointed by a political class, generally for political purposes, and in his official capacity is empowered to dispense justice from the Bench. In discharging his duties it is very rarely that political considerations can sway his decisions. But even when it comes to a question of dispensing justice, when, for example, a strike occurs, and men are haled before honorary justices to answer a’ charge of unruly conduct, we know that vicious sentences are. usually recorded. Unfortunately, this defect in our system of administering justice is unavoidable. We cannot have all paid justices, and consequently we must have honorary justices to deal with minor cases of misdemeanour. But under the postal -voting system which isembodied in this Bill we empower justices of the peace to grant facilities to electors to exercise their franchise. In other words, we place those facilities in the hands of men who are usually bitter political partisans. We lay uponthem the responsibility of seeing that the postal votes which they witness do not miscarry. Hitherto the authorized witnesses in connexion with postal ballot-papers have been public servants, who. if they are negligent in the discharge of their duties can be punished.
– What about the returning officer who muddled things at the election which was held in South Australia to fill a casual vacancy which occurred in the Senate?
– That officer was dismissed from his position. The discharge of a public servant is a punishment to him, but the removal of a man’s name from the list of justices of the peacewould be no punishment. The proposition which has been put forward by Senator Guthrie has received some consideration at the hands of men who know what has occurred in connexion with the witnessing of postal ballot-papers - I refer to the chief officers of the Electoral Department. Some time ago an inquiry was held by these officers into the administration of the Electoral Act, and in volume 2 of our Parliamentary Papers for the session of 1904 will be found the result of their investigation, together with their recommendations. At that time a justice of the peace was authorized to witness the signatures of electors to postal ballot-papers. Upon page 475 of the Parliamentary Papers to which I have alluded, will be found the following: -
The Conference suggests that the schedule to the Electoral Act, form K, application for a postal vote certificate, be amended as follows : -
This body recommended that justices of the peace should not be authorized to witness postal votes-
– Who recommended that?
– I can give the honorable senator the names of the officers who recommended it if he desires to know them.
– Some of them know very little about their duties.
– Then the honorable senator can move to remove them from their positions. The Conference consisted of Mr. George Lewis, who at the time was Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, but who has since been retired from the service; Mr. F. W. Biden, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of New South Wales; Mr. J. J. Broomhall, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of Western Australia; Mr. W. A. Newman, Commonwealth Officer for the State of Victoria ; Mr. O. H. Schomburgk, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the
State of South Australia, who has been the Chief Electoral Officer of that State for many years ; and Mr. W. Woodyatt, Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of Queensland. Mr. R. C. Oldham, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for Tasmania, was unable to attend the Conference.
– Was its report unanimous ?
– Yes, there was no dissent from it. In that report we have the recommendations of the Chief Electoral Officers of the Commonwealth - recommendations based upon the result of their experience of two general elections for this Parliament. Then in 1904 a Select Committee of the House of Representatives held an inquiry, and submitted a report, which is to be found in Volume 1 of the Parliamentary Papers for that year. In their recommendations they say -
Your Committee recommend that the same persons should be allowed to witness the applications for a postal vote certificate, and the recording of the vote under section112. The persons so empowered should be those suggested by the Conference of Electoral Officers, with the addition of letter-carriers in the Public Service.
– Has the honorable senator read the whole of the recommendations as to witnesses?
– No, because they occupy two pages of print, but nowhere in their recommendations did the Select Committee recommend the putting back of justices of the peace.
– The honorable senator is wrong.
– If the Minister desires me to read the whole of the recommendations I will.
– Put them on record.
– They cover two pages of print.
– I point out to the honorable senator that the only question before the Chair now is in regard to justices of the peace as witnesses.
– So far as I can see, nowhere in their report did the Select Committee recommend the putting back of justices of the peace. In every case where they recommended a magistrate as a witness it was a police or stipendiary, or special magistrate. Nowhere, as far as I can see, did they recommend an ordinary justice of the peace. I. do not know what the Minister was referring to when he interjected just now. Unless honorable senators are prepared to shut their eyes to facts, they must recognise that there is a difference between the ordinary administration of justice and the administration of the postal voting system. Every honorable senator surely knows that postal votes are misused, and that the great danger in their use lies in allowing political partisans to intervene. Suppose that I applied for a postal voting certificate, the postmaster, or other public servant, does not come to me and ask me to vote, but the justice of the peace goes round on a canvassing tour and asks electors, especially women, not to trouble to go up on polling day, but to record their votes then? Why? In order that he may make sure that their votes will go in the right direction. What does a canvasser of this type say? He says, “I am a justice of the peace, and can save you the trouble of going to the booth on polling day. You can vote in your own home before me, and the vote will be recorded.” If the vote is not given in the right direction it need not find its way to the ballot-box.
-Are magistrates the only partisans?
– Not by any means.
– Then strike off the lot as witnesses.
– Oh no, because we have some control over the other witnesses, and, besides, we know that, as a matter of fact, they do not go round canvassing.
– We have no control over State school teachers.
– Or over trade unionists.
– Honorable senators on the other side need not affect an innocence which they do not possess. They know well that the most bitter partisans on election day are justices of the peace; that weeks before polling day justices of the peace are active canvassers for votes in their interest.
– The honorable senator is reflecting upon a class to which I belong.
– I also am a justice of the peace, and know that for weeks before the last polling day several justices of the peace were active canvassers for votes.
– They happened to be canvassing on the wrong side.
– Such canvassing is against the spirit of the Electoral Act, which is, that if a man thinks that he will not be able to attend the polling booth he shall seek out the officer, who is authorized to witness his ballot-paper. It was never intended to create a class of men who would go round canvassing for postal votes and trying to induce electors not to attend the polling booth. I, though a magistrate, intend to vote for a recommittal of the Bill, even if it does throw a slur upon justices of the peace. There is a great body of magistrates who, although they hold political appointments, are not biased, but two or three men can vitiate a whole body. It is always two or three justices of the peace who do the active canvassing in every State. Any senators who deny my statement simply shut their eyes to what they know to be the fact.
– I take the opposite stand from that taken by the last speaker. I cannot understand a justice of the peace acting in the manner described. When I was elected a member of the Legislative Council of South Australia, in 1894, Charles Cameron Kingston was Premier and AttorneyGeneral, and the rule he adopted was that any man elected to the State Parliament, if he wished, should be made a justice of the peace for the State.
– Only a few apply.
– I did not approach Mr. Kingston ; I did not need to do so. I knew nothing of my appointment as a justice of the peace until my name was gazetted. I do not sit on the bench as often as I could. I hope that Senator Guthrie will withdraw his motion, because, if he does not, he will be in a hopeless minority, and will be needlessly casting a reflection upon -the actions of representatives of the people. When other justices of the peace were not available, I have been requested to witness signatures, but in no case did I know how the electors voted nor did I wish to know. I think it is absurd for any one to ask us to strike representatives of the people off the list of authorized witnesses. There is prejudice on each side, but to say that justices of the peace, as a class, can be bought, or made use of, for political purposes for weeks is absurd.
– We have proof that they have been.
– I cannot see that there is any foundation for the statement, and I enter a protest against it.
– It seems to me that in their anxiety to secure this amendment, my honorable friends opposite have drawn largely upon their imaginations. I think that a great many of the charges which they have made are very exaggerated.
– Let the honorable senator disprove anything I have said. I have set him a task.
– Will the honorable senator make a speech when I have finished, not when I am on my feet ?
Senator de Largie. - The honorable senator is very good at interjecting.
– As a rule, my interjections’ may consist of two or three words, but not of a whole sentence.
– No, the honorable senator simply chatters away.
– Amongst other things, Senator Guthrie practically said that no working man was ever made a justice of the peace.
– Rarely, not never.
– I know a number of them in South Australia.
– Twenty out of five hundred.
– What does Senator Guthrie mean by that statement? At one time or other in their lives most of the men on the Bench might have fairly been called working men. But while a man is engaged in labour all day he does not care to be made a justice of the peace or, if appointed, to discharge the duties of the position. The statements of honorable senators on the other side appear to me to be exaggerated. What may be true in connexion with special cases such as those attributed to Western Australia, are not true of Queensland. For quite a number of years the method of enrolling justices of the peace in that State has been that any member of Parliament, or any person, can recommend to the Department the name of a person who he thinks is a suitable person for appointment, and who lives in a locality where more justices of the peace are required. Then the Department, refers the names to the nearest police or stipendiarymagistrate, who, of course, is regularly in the employment of the Government, and unless he reports favorably upon the recommendation, the person therein recommended does not get enrolled. In Queensland, quite a large number of justices of the peace, whom I know are, though they may not be called working men, very strong supporters of the Labour party. I dp not think that there is any reasonable ground to suppose that justices of the peace act unfairly or . improperly in connexion with postal or other voting. There was a case, not long ago, at Charters Towers where a very large number of postal votes were cast. An election petition was presented, and the whole of the objections upheld were based on the ground that the voter posted the ballot-papers twenty-four hours too late. I think that the law is that the votes must be posted to the returning officer forty-eight hours before the poll closes, but nearly all the objections upheld were so dealt with because the voters had posted their votes thirty-six or twenty-four hours before that event. It was pointed out that 800 votes were cast for one party and 450 for the Labour party. It came out in evidence that both’ sides were actively canvassing. It is desirable that electors should take a keen interest in politics. Senator Henderson stated that in Western Australia he witnessed 500 postal votes at the last election, and Senator Pearce mentioned just now that dozens of justices of the peace were out canvassing for them. These statements are somewhat exaggerated.
– Either the statements were exaggerated, or Senator Henderson was particularly active.
– The number of postal votes cast in Western Australia last election was 1585, and as Senator Henderson witnessed 500, the other authorized witnesses must have witnessed only 1085. Therefore these dozens of justices of the peace must have reaped a very small crop, notwithstanding all their labours. These figures lead one to believe that, in their righteous indignation against the postal voting system, honorable senators opposite are prepared to cast a stigma upon a most worthy and honorable class of men. It is true that many justices of the peace may originally have been appointed for political services. But that does not mean that they will always remain on one side in politics. Were the dozens of justices of the peace mentioned by Senator Pearce all canvassing on one side? The other classes of people whom honorable senators opposite would allow to act. as witnesses are also liable to be politically biased. State school teachers have political opinions, and even teachers in provisional schools in Queensland can act as witnesses. Many of these people take a very active interest in politics on one side or the other. Amongst the police, also, there are active partisans. It is, therefore, unfair to cast a stigma upon an honorable body of men, who do their duty according to their ability, whilst ignoring the fact that they are by no means the only persons authorized to act as witnesses under our electoral law who take an active part in politics.
– - No matter to what class of men we intrust the duty of acting as witnesses under this measure, some errors will creep in ; but it is very unfair to brand a particular class of men as biased, and to suppose that they would willingly act unjustly. In Queensland, in one town with which I am acquainted, there are over twenty working men, principally members of the Labour party, who are justices of the peace. A man who is appointed a justice of the peace does not necessarily retain the political views that he held at the date of appointment. I know one man who was appointed a justice of the peace by a Labour Government, and is now standing as a candidate against the Labour party. I know another man who was opposed to the Labour party when he was made a justice of the peace, but who is now one of their active supporters. By carrying Senator Guthrie’s proposal we should brand the whole of the justices of the peace in this country as unfit to discharge a very simple duty.
– We should do nothing of the kind ; the honorable senator might as well say that we brand all drapers because we do not mention them as competent witnesses.
– By taking special action to eliminate justices of the peace, we should be branding them as scoundrels and unfit for their positions. I am well aware that Senator Guthrie’s proposal will be defeated if it is pressed to a division, but I trust he will have the good taste not to go so far.
.- On a former occasion a similar effort was made by a member of the party to which I belong to eliminate justices of the peace from an Electoral Bill then under consideration. I objected to that course then, and I object on the present occasion. If we required that the persons permitted to witness signatures under our electoral system should be strictly impartial in politics, 1 could understand Senator Guthrie’s efforts, because I am well aware that justices of the peace, like other persons enumerated in the Bill, are human, and probably many of them hold strong opinions in politics. But it is wrong to look at this matter from a party view point.
– Do not the Government look at the matter from a party standpoint ?
– We do not know wherewe shall land ourselves if we insist on considering such a question solely from a party point of view.
– The present Government have dismissed an electoral registrar in Western Australia, Mr. Green, because he stood as a Labour candidate in the ballot held a few weeks ago.
– Perhaps he did something contrary to the regulations.
– No; he was dismissed because he was a political partisan.
– That seems an extraordinary thing for the Government to have done.
– We challenge the Government to refute the statement.
– I am glad that we cannot refute it, and do not want to.
– Of course I do not know the facts of the case mentioned by Senator de Largie. It seems that the Government have done an extraordinary thing. But 1 am inclined tobelieve that the person in question was dismissed for some other reason than that he stood as a Labour candidate. What we are concerned about now is whether justices of the peace should be given the necessary authority to witness signatures in connexion with our postal ballot system. If any justice of the peace in any State has acted in contravention of our electoral law there is a proper way of dealing with him. He should be struck off the list. But because some justices of the peace are alleged to have done wrong in Western Australia, that is no reason why the whole number of justices of the peace throughout the Commonwealth should be eliminated from this Bill. To do so would be to cast a grossly unfair stigma upon a body of men who are thoroughly capable of carrying out the duties intrusted to them. We intrust certain duties to Commonwealth returning officers. Are all returning officers men who are free from political sympathies?
– No; but they are men who can be discharged from their positions if they act improperly.
– There is also power to remove a justice of the peace. There are some justices of the peace who are so honorable in every-day life, and in their commercial dealings, that they would consider that they had been disgraced as citizens if they were removed from the list.
– We should not need to remove such men, because their sense of honour is such that they would not act improperly.
– What reason is there to fear that even though justices of the peace may canvas, they would all work in the interests of one party. We have had Senator Henderson’s admission that he witnessed 500 signatures. Every one knows Senator Henderson’s views ; he belongs to the Labour party.
– I think that Senator Henderson would do his duty, no matter what party interests were affected.
– I am convinced that he would do his duty as a justice of the peace, regardless of all considerations. I should be the last to impute that Senator Henderson, who is known to be a Labour justice of the peace, would not do justice to any citizen of the State. One of the strongest arguments urged in support of the proposal that justices of the peace should be removed from the list of authorized witnesses is that they are not in the employment of either the Commonwealth or State.
– And that they owe their positions to political influence.
– Let us take that objection at its face value. They are appointed by the Government of the day on the recommendation of members of Parliament. I dare say that Senator Guthrie looks forward, as I do, to a time, which I hope is not far distant, when a Labour Government will be in power in the Commonwealth and in every State. I have no doubt that at that time numbers of men will be found extremely anxious to be placed on the commission of the peace.
– How many working men ?
– What does the honorable senator mean by a working man ? There are dozens of working men who are justices of the peace to-day in Victoria.
– Out of what number?
– I could not give the number of working men in Victoria, but I know that many justices of the peace have been recommended for appointment by workers’ organizations as men fitted for the position, and they have been appointed by Governments that were not Labour Governments.
– As a sop.
– I have a higher opinion of Governments than that, and a higher opinion ofthe men who nominated these gentlemen for the position they held.
– Some of these gentlemen took a certain action in the State Parliament of Victoria on one occasion.
– And they were, no doubt, thoroughly conscientious.
– The suggestion that certain Labour representatives in Parliament have nominated working men outside for appointment to the commission of the peace as a sop is altogether unwarranted.
– I say that their appointments were made as a sop.
– It is too silly to waste time in discussing such a thing. We are invited to believe that Governments have appointed these men to the commission of the peace as a sop to the Labour party. What sort of a party would it be that would be contented to be fed on such sops? I desire to see justices of the peace given authority to witness applications for postal vote certificates. I am aware that the majority of them do not belong to the Labour camp, but I have every confidence that they will do justice to the positions they hold, and will do only what is right by those who seek their assistance to enable them to vote’ by post.
– There were one or two statements made during the discussion to which I should like to reply. It was stated, by way of interjection, that an officer of the Government was dismissed because he stood in Western Australia as a candidate for election to the Senate. I shall put the facts of the case before honorable senators, and leave it to their good sense to say whether the Government did right. The name of the gentleman concerned has been mentioned, and I make no apology for mentioning it again. The case was that of Mr. Green, who is a telegraphist in the post-office at Kalgoorlie.
– A post-office official.
– I understood that he was a telegraphist. The important point is that he was also electoral registrar at that place. When he submitted his name, as he had a perfect right to do, for selection by a Labour body as a candidate for election to the Senate, the question naturally arose whether one who was an avowed partisan could, with decorum, retain the position of electoral registrar. If the officer stood for nomination on the party ticket on this side, and retained his position as electoral registrar, I venture to say that a very strong and a justifiable protest would be heard from the opposite benches. What followed in this case was not, as has been stated, that this officer was dismissed the service ; he was merely removed from the position of electoral registrar.
– That is whatI said.
-Will any one affirm that it was wrong that an active partisan, a gentleman who was prepared to become a candidate in the interest of a particular party, should be asked to retire from a position in which he might exercise such tremendous political power? What was done in Mr. Green’s case was the only thing that could be done by any Government anxious to keep the electoral machinery free from the taint of partisanship.
– All we are asking now is that the Government should be consistent in that regard.
– Does the honorable senator contend that to be consistent we should at once take steps to secure the retirement from the magistracy of Senator Henderson, who, on his own showing, attested the applications of one-third of the total number of persons who voted by post in Western Australia?
– No, but if Mr. Green was disqualified because he was a partisan, Senator Henderson is also disqualified.
– The honorable senator must recognise the difference between the positions which these gentlemen occupy. There could be only one electoral registrar, but if Senator Henderson declined to do his duty, there were dozens of others prepared to do it for him. I have been surprised to find that there has been so much support for the motion submitted by Senator Guthrie. In the discussion of the Bill in Committee an attempt was made to repeal the postal voting provisons, but, once it was decided to retain them, efforts were made to increase the facilities to enable every one entitled to do so to take advantage of this portion of the Act. We enlarged the list of authorized witnesses, and now we have a proposal before the Senate to curtail the list. I wish, to look into some of the reasons advanced for the particular curtailment proposed. Senator Pearce referred to a report of the electoral officers. I reminded the honorable senator by interjection that he had not given the reason for their recommendation which he quoted. The honorable senator said that the report was a long one, and he could not discover that any reason was stated. But I find that in the very last words of the paragraph from which the honorable senator was reading the electoral officers gave the reason why they wished to amend the list, as follows: -
To bring this section into line with sections 109 and 112 as amended.
Under the Act then in force we had two lists of witnesses, one of persons authorized to witness applications for postal votes, and the other of persons authorized to -witness the voting on the postal voting form. So much confusion arose from the doubt as to whether a man was authorized to witness an application for a postal vote or to witness the vote itself that it was thought better to have one list of authorized witnesses for both purposes.
– From what page of the report did the honorable senator quote?
– From page 467.
– I read the paragraph appearing on page 475, and the words the honorable senator has quoted do not appear in that paragraph.
– The honorable senator quoted from certain detailed recommendations, and not from the main report which, like the report of a Royal Commission, always conies first. He will find at page 467 exactly the paragraph he quoted with the addition of the words -
To bring this section into line with sections 109 and 112 as amended.
– Why did they leave out justices of the peace?
– Because, as I have already pointed out, the existing law provided for two sets of witnesses.
– Why did they not propose the inclusion of “Justices” in the second list, and bring them into line in that way ?
– Parliament did that afterwards.
– The electoral officers did not recommend it.
– My honorable friend means to infer that they specially wished to leave justices of the peace out of the list of authorized witnesses.
– I draw that inference from their recommendation.
– I have the assurance of one who signed the report, that in their recommendation which found embodiment later on. was a further proposal to include as authorized witnesses classes of persons, the intention being to include not only magistrates, but also medical practitioners.
– There is nothing of that in their report.
– I have stated that the reason for their recommendation was to bring the two rets of witnesses then provided for into line. The honorable senator also quoted a paragraph from the report of the Select Committee, and if honorable senators look through the report of the Committee they will find they were animated by exactly the same idea and for the same reasons.
– I said that they indorsed the report of the electoral officers.
– After hearing the evidence given by those who signed that report, and that evidence suggested the desirability of having the same set of witnesses for both purposes.
– After hearing the evidence concerning the Melbourne election also.
– I say that it becomes a rank absurdity to assume that the Select Committee, after advising the deletion of magistrates from the list of witnesses, should at the same time have recommended the inclusion of letter-carriers.
SenatorPearce. - That was consistent, because letter-carriers are in the employ of the Commonwealth and could be discharged.
– The honorable senator asks me to believe that the ranks of the magistracy are so permeated with unfairness and political partisanship that magistrates are not fit to witness a simple electoral form, and at the same time that the letter-carriers of the Public Service are so free from any taint of partisanship that they are eligible for the purpose.
– No, I say that lettercarriers are in the employ of the Government, and that the magistrates are not.
– Will the honorable senator tell me that letter-carriers have not their political feelings? We know that they have, and in answer to the suggestion that they might be dismissed, I say that it would be impossible to prove that a letter-carrier in witnessing an application for a postal vote was led away by his poli tical feelings to favour the chances of the candidate he supported. As Senator Lynch is present, I should like to compliment him upon the extreme astuteness which was evidently underlying, if it did not animate, his refusal to accept the honour of the magistracy when it was offered to him. I understand that the honorable senator declined it unless it was also extended to the whole of the representatives of Western Australia in the Federal Parliament. I do not question the honorable senator’s motives, but I think there was a certain amount of method in his self-denial, seeing that what he suggested should be done would have largely added to the number of magistrates of his own party, and would have brought about no addition to the number of magistrates in the ranks of his opponents.
– I did not inquire about that. I was concerned about the precedent set by a Labour Government in Western Australia.
– I only mention what the effect would have been. I do not know whether the honorable senator stopped to consider that. I am prepared to believe that Senator Lynch is so abundantly innocent that he did not consider the consequences of his own act. From the discussion which has taken place, and the wholesome remarks of Senator Findley,I have not much fear that the motion will be carried. I can scarcely conceive of this Parliament putting such a stigma upon a large body of deserving individuals who, unquestionably, render great public services.
– In replying-
– I would point out to the honorable senator that upon this motion he has no right of reply. It is a class of motion very similar to that which is dealt with upon an instruction being given to a Committee. Upon page 483 of the nth edition of May, I find the following : -
Debate on a motion for an instruction must be strictly relevant thereto, and must not be directed towards the general objects of the Bill to which the instruction relates; and the mover has not the right of reply.
In this case, a motion was submitted for the adoption of the report, and the honorable senator has interposed a proposal to recommit the measure. We have a standing order under which honorable senators are given the right of reply upon substantive motions. Standing order 397 reads -
A reply shall be allowed to a senator who has made a substantive motion to the Senate or moved any reading of a Bill, but not to a senator who has moved an amendment or the previous question.
It appears to me that Senator Guthrie’s proposal to recommit this Bill is not a substantive motion under the terms of that standing order, and must, therefore, be dealt with in the same way as is a motion to give an instruction to a Committee. The honorable senator, consequently, has not the right of reply.
Question- That the Bill be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering clause 17 - put. The Senate divided. .
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to a class of persons who ought most certainly to be included in the list of authorized witnesses of postal ballot-papers. It is a singular circumstance that in this Bill the claims of those to whom it was first proposed to extend postal voting facilities have been entirely ignored.
– All our Inter- State seamen have been provided for.
– They have not. The individuals who can be of most assistance to the seamen are not justices of the peace-
– Why not make the captains of ships justices of the peace?
– The captain of a vessel is sovereign upon it. He can even command a man to be hung up to the yardarm if he should deem it necessary to adopt that course to insure the safety of his ship. The individuals who can be of most service to our seamen in extending voting facilities to them . are the superintendents of our mercantile marine.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether the honorable senator is in order in repeating what he has already said upon the motion for the recommittal of the Bill?
– The honorable senator is in order. He has not previously spoken to the main question, namely, the motion, for the adoption of the report.
– I hope that in any proclamations which may be issued under this Bill the superintendents of our mercantile marine will be included as authorized witnesses of postal votes. In regard to justices of the peace witnessing the signatures of electors to applications for postal vote certificates, I think it will be generally admitted that appointments to the roll of honorary justices are usually made for political reasons, and they use these men politically for all they are worth. I have used my justiceship for my own political purposes.
– Unfairly ?
– No. I believe that every justice of the peace in the Chamber has used his justiceship in a similar way.
– I have not.
– It is of no use to the honorable senator, because he is out of Queensland.
– I have never witnessed a postal vote in my life.
– I have witnessed hundreds of them.
– I have not.
-Senator Vardon says he has not; but Jack Cresswell did it for him.
– He did not.
– I know that he did.
– He did it on his own responsibility if he did; I have no knowledge of it.
– Why should he not?
– I do not object.
– I venture to say that no one here has a record like Senator Henderson’s.
– Surely every honorable senator must recognise that a man owes the position of justice of the peace to the exercise of political influence, and that he has been used for political purposes. As regards the administration of justice, I offer no objection, because no bias can be shown. But in electoral matters the position is different, because the justice of the peace must have certain political bias. I have some knowledge of these political appointments. I received the appointment of justice of the peace long before I was in politics. I know that it was given to me as a sop.
– I would not take it as asop.
– The honorable senator took his appointment as a sop just as I did.
– My point is that men are appointed to the commission of the peace simply because of some services which they have rendered to a political party.
– A man who will take a sop in one direction will take it in another.
– Probably the honorable senator accepted an appointment in order to render services to his party. He certainly has admitted that he has used his justiceship in. the interests of his party.
– On a point of order, sir, I desire to ask your ruling as to whether, having discussed on a specific amendment the advisability or otherwise of retaining justices of the peace as authorized witnesses, it is now open to us to again discuss that question?
– Although it may be undesirable to re-discuss the question, still the discussion to which the Minister refers took place on a specific motion to recommit the clause. Since then it has been decided not to recommit the Bill, and the original motion for the adoption of the report is now before the Senate. I think that on that motion the honorable senator is within his rights in commenting on any portion of the Bill.
– Seeing that the Government do not care about this question being discussed, I do not intend to discuss it further - in their interests. I shall confine myself to the point which I brought before the Minister, regarding the superintendents of mercantile marine. No one can suggest that any class question is involved, because at present these men are State officials, who, I hope, will soon come under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. I want the Minister to give the Senate an assurance that when a proclamation is issued the superintendents of mercantile marine will be included among those who may witness a signature under the Electoral Act.
– I quite recognise the desirability of providing the facility which Senator Guthrie has suggested. Perhaps there is a little difficulty in regard to the terms which he has used - shipping masters and superintendents.
– They mean the same thing.
– I was not aware of that. It may be that it will be necessary to have a definition of the term. However, I quite recognise the reasonableness of my honorable friend’s proposal, and will suggest to the Minister of Home Affairs that these persons might be included in the list of authorized witnesses when the Bill is before the other House. With regard to the inquiry of Senator E. J. Russell, I can assure him that the whole purpose of the addition made yesterday to section 34 of the Act was to prevent such a contingency arising as that which he had in his mind. The object is to safeguard any forms which are outstanding, and which may have been used bond fide for the purpose of complying with the requirements of the Act. That was the sole purpose of the amendment, and it will be administered in that way. The honorable senator will notice that the period within which old forms may be held to be good has to be prescribed. The matter is left open, so that the officials, by experience, can determine when the outstanding forms have been exhausted.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 30th September (vide page 3958), on motion by Senator
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I am sure that the Government must be gratified with the reception of this Bill so far. There certainly has been a little objection taken to it, and I am rather surprised that Senator Dobson should have been so captious as he was. He seems to be losing that cheery optimism which made him look at the bright side of matters, and he had a doleful picture to present. The Bill is, as Senator Pearce said, somewhat belated ; but it is possible that the action of the Senate may have partly accounted for the delay in its introduction. It will be remembered that about four years ago the Senate resolved that the High Commissioner should be selected at a joint sitting of the Houses. The other House was asked to concur in the resolution, which, I have no doubt, has deterred various Governments from giving the Senate an opportunity of voting again with regard to the question. It is very gratifying that that contention has not been raised in this debate, and I trust that itwill not be raised again. Senator Dobson quoted from a report by Mr. Justice Hodges in 1901, and from a report by the Agents -General in 1905. Probably no man is more qualified to report on any question than is Mr. Justice Hodges, but his report was made over eight years ago, and since then we have moved very swiftly. Possibly if he were reporting again he might vary his opinions considerably. I have not read the report from the Agents- General, asI only saw it this morning. I should be somewhat chary about accepting all their suggestions. There is no doubt that they are interested parties, who, probably, are not inclined to see their positions slip away from them. We have to decide for ourselves what ought to be done. I was very glad to see Senator Pearce take the high ground which he did in discussing the measure entirely free from party, and which, I think, does him a great deal of credit. We have always recognised that this position has to be made and filled. In fact, it was a postulate of Federation. It was impossible to have Federation and to have our business conducted in the extended sphere which ‘we would occupy, unless we had in London some one to represent Australia as a whole. From the Imperial and Australian stand-points the appointment of a High Commissioner is now more urgent than ever it was. We are on the verge of a great world-wide movement - probably before long we shall be in the vortex of it - for widening the base of Empire. Formerly that base was only a little island in the northern seas. The base is widening, and before very long it will take in Canada, South Africa, and Australia. As Kipling says: “We are hearing the call of the blood,” and the British people are coming together as they have never done before. For that reason alone it is necessary that we should have in London a man who could speak for United Australia in tones of authority. We are not content now to simply share the benefits of Empire, but we are making up our mind to also share the burdens of Empire; and so we desire a voice in regard to Imperial matters. Whether it be a question of trade, which is growing immensely, or of defence, which is now looming so large on our horizon, or of racial unity which is coming so rapidly to the front, all these things require that we should be represented in London. In 1907-8 our exports to the United Kingdom were valued at £34,975,579, and our imports at £31,906,447. In the course of tenyears our exports increased in value by , £9,638,123, and our imports by £9,111,749, being a total increase of £18,749,870 in the trade between the Old Country and Australia. That is a very large trade, and, therefore, we want representation in London. The total value of our Australian trade is £43,875,223, and, as Senator Pearce properly stated last night, it must increase. In my opinion our export trade will increase very largely. I believe that with the various movements afoot, and the possibilities of Australia being brought more prominently before other countries, our export trade will be immensely larger in the very near future.
– Yes, if the States cut up the large estates.
– In the Old Land Tariff Reform will be one of the main points at issue in the coming struggle’ between the Government party and the Unionist party. The latter has taken up the question of Tariff Reform, and if it is carried, as I believe it will be, it will help enormously to increase our trade.
– I doubt it.
– I have travelled over a large portion of the Old Land, and talked to all classes of people. I know that there is only one thing which stopped Tariff Reform coming to the front several years ago, and being carried, and that was the fear of dear food. But if we come to an arrangement with Great Britain with regard to preference for our productions, that will sweep away one of the obstacles to the success of the movement. Our representatives in London can, in a large way, bring the products of this country before the Army and Navy authorities, and see that we get our proper share of the trade in the supply of requisites to them. We require a man in London who will keep in touch with the markets, and familiarise himself with the prices of staple products. We want an Intelligence Department, from which reliable information about Australia can be obtained by British people. When I was in England I was appalled at the colossal ignorance, with regard to this country, of the people whom I met there. Very few knew anything about Australia. They knew that there was such a place, but were not so well informed about it as were our American visitors who came here last year, and who were so profoundly impressed with our great resources. We want to have a place in London where Australian products can be shown. If one goes to the office of any of the State Agents-General, one sees an exhibition of the products of that particular State. But we want the products of Australia as a whole to be exhibited, instead of having them shown in segments. One of the things that struck me when I was travelling through the United States, was the practice of using a portion of their Parliament Houses as show places for the exhibition of the fauna and flora, the minerals and the general products of the State. One State will produce oranges, another potatoes, another barley, and another wheat. Good specimens of the products of each are on view at the various State Parliament Houses. What they are doing in a small way we want to do in a bigger way for this great continent of ours. Then, of course, there is the financial question, about which I do not desire to speak at length, because abler men have dealt with it; but it must be admitted that the establishment of one Commonwealth stock will be of enormous advantage to us. We shall then have a stock in which trustees can have confidence, and there will be a tendency for the rate of interest to become lower. Then there is the great question of immigration. I hope that all parties will agree upon some comprehensive scheme. The rate of immigration into Australia is not greater now than it was fifty years ago. The same number proportionately as came in between 1840 and 1850, come in now. Between 1850 and 1860 there was, of course an enormous influx, owing to the discovery of gold and the desire of every man to get rich quickly. Enormous crowds reached our shores then. But when the gold deposits began to give out, the stream of immigration fell away, and it has never recovered itself since.
Why is that? Because it has never been part of the duty of any particular person to look after immigration. We have made intermittent attempts to attract people; but we have never given effect to a comprehensive scheme and made a determined effort to secure the immigration that this country requires. In the United States, although the Government does not take an active part in attracting immigration, it nevertheless exercises a careful supervision. The great transportation companies by land and sea are, of course, “ interested in . taking emigrants to America ; but once they land there the Government take charge of them, and they are most carefully looked after. The consequence is that the population of the United States has risen to close on 90,000,000 of people. In the same way, the Canadian Government has not been a direct factor in attracting emigrants, but has, nevertheless, rendered great assistance. The Canadian-Pacific Railway and the Grand Trunk Railway have busied” themselves in inducing emigrants to go ft> Canada. Why ? Because the CanadianPacific has 25,000,000 acres of land which was ceded as a means of strengthening the great scheme. It is a wonderful scheme, no doubt. The railway at first traverses 1,000 miles of dry, barren rocks, where scarcely anything will grow ; but then it reaches a country that is worth having. Of course, the land was of no use to the company unless they could get people to occupy it. We should also realize that our railways and our land are of no use unless we bring a large population here. In the United States and Canada, immigration is looked after properly. Men are sent to Great Britain and to the Continental countries. The agents, speak the language of the people amongst whom they go, and when they come across desirable persons they use all their efforts to induce them to leave. There were 400 immigrants in the ship in which I travelled a little while ago. Another ship came into port six hours before I got there, with 600 immigrants. We got in about midnight. By 8 o’clock in the morning these 1,000 immigrants had all been carefully entered up, labelled, examined, and passed. They were met at the boat, provided with refreshments, they and their luggage were checked off, and by noon of the same day a train containing these 1,000 people went rolling off to the west. They were cared for from the moment when they went on board until they arrived at their destination, where they were provided either with land or with employment. We have to adopt some such system if we are to induce people to come to Australia. Last year alone Canada assisted immigration to the extent of an expenditure of ;£249j939- Arid Canada is getting her reward.
– Would that sum include passage money ?
– I cannot say. A few years ago, however, immigrants were assisted to the extent of 7s.’ per head. I divided the number of immigrants into the total cost, and that is what I found the amount of the subsidy came to. I saw the land upon which the Canadian immigrants are placed. For 1,000 miles- from Toronto to Winnipeg it is poor, barren country, though very picturesque. But from Winnipeg, as far as British Columbia, you meet with great rolling prairies. Some of the land is very good indeed; other parts of it are not so good. I question whether any of it is as good as land which we have to offer in this country. But the immigrants do very well, though they have to work very hard indeed, and can only cultivate, the soil for six months in the year. The conditions are very hard, and it requires a strong man with a hearty constitution to stand the work. An immigrant can get 160 acres for nothing, and can buy other land at from three to five and seven dollars per acre. He gets his title in three years. A great many stay for a time and then sell out; so that while a man only gets 160 acres at first, still, if he. is industrious, he can buy more and can make a very good “ do “ indeed. The High Commissioner, while he may not be able to enter into the details of an immigration scheme, will have to supervise the work and encourage it. If it is carried on properly by means of a proper staff, I am convinced that, as the possibilities of Australia become better known, and our resources are opened up, we shall be able to divert the stream of emigrants from Canada and the United States to Australia.
– It has to be remembered that we are further away from Europe than Canada is.
– We are, but Ave have better conditions to offer. In the United States land is being taken up and cultivated now that 20 or 30 years ago was considered to be absolutely worthless. It was written down on the map as desert. There is, for instance, the great Llanoestacado Plain, where formerly hundreds perished, but which is now being settled with a prosperous people.
– There is land in Australia, formerly- described as desert, that is now being settled.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. The demand for land in the United States is as keen as it is in Australia, if not keener. I venture to say that in a few years’ time scarcely an acre of Government land in America will not have been taken up. We only want to make our resources known, and I believe that, with energetic work, we shall be able to turn the stream of emigration to this country.
Sitting suspended from i to 2.1$ p.m.
– The fact that the stream of emigration has not been directed to Australia as it might have been in the past has been due to some extent to the alertness of our rivals. They have been very busily at work, and have been enabled to induce millions of people to emigrate to America and Canada. We must also blame our own. supineness and inertness. It has been, as I have said, no one’s business to induce people to come to Australia, and there .has been 110 energetic and welldirected effort to bring the attractions of Australia under the notice of people desiring to emigrate from the Old Country. There is a very strong impression abroad that we do not want immigrants. We may differ in this Parliament as to how that impression has been created. I do not propose to deal with the reasons for it now. There is no doubt that it exists, and that it has had a very deterrent effect upon those who might otherwise have desired to come to this country. The impression has been fostered by some sections of the press, and perhaps by persons interested, but I speak with personal knowledge when I say that it is very strong and very general in America as well as in Great Britain.
– One of our Canadian visitors questioned me on the point.
– Another impression that is abroad- is that we are dreadfully Socialistic in Australia. During my recent visit to the United States and Canada I met men who said : “ Are you not dreadfully Socialistic in Australia? Are there not a great many people there who want a common divide, and all that sort of thing?” I replied that we had a Socialist party in Australia, but that we also had a majority of people of common-sense who would not allow Socialistic ideas to be carried too far. These impressions exist, and they must be removed. They can only be removed by some one going from Australia who can speak with authority, and who will be in charge of an institution at which correct information about Australia will be available for. all who seek it. This work cannot be done merely by appointing an official at a high salary and others under him to sit in an office and wait for business. It can only be successfully carried out by an active propaganda and missionary work amongst people in the Old Country who are tired of their present surroundings and wish to go to a new country. If .the transportation companies in the United States and Canada could, for the last twenty or twenty-five years, succeed in bringing over to America from 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 people every year, why should not a ‘strong Government such as we have here be able to do the same when they are iff a position to offer intending emigrants better inducements than can be offered either by the United States or by Canada?
– It is largely a matter of the difference in the distance of America and Australia from the Old Country.
– It seems to me that when a man gets into a Government position he loses his incentive to work. He feels that his position is assured to him for life, and he becomes inert and listless. The people who work well are those whose positions depend on the success of their efforts. The people we send to London to carry out a vigorous immigration policy should go there on the understanding that if their efforts are not successful they must make room for some one else.
– The. honorable senator’s argument is in favour of private enterprise as against Government enterprise.
– It certainly is; but I am now only stating facts. Then it is most important that the people invited to come here shall have some definite information about what they are going to do. Tt is of no use to bring’ people here with the vague idea that they are going to settle on the land in order “to get a living. They must be brought here with a distinct object in view. They should know where they are going, how they are to get there, and what they are to do when they arrive. These things must be made perfectly plain to them, and the measures adopted for their introduction must be in the nature of a contract, the terms of which should be faithfully fulfilled. We are often told that the Commonwealth Government do not own an acre of land. That is quite true. But we are, I hope, a reasonable people, and the State Governments who do own the land desire settlement quite as much as we do, and probably more, because developmental work rests upon their shoulders more than upon the shoulders of the Government of the Commonwealth. Surely our State and .Commonwealth Governments have sufficient common-sense and patriotism to work together and make the best use of our resources. We have in Australia to-day 1,356,000 acres of land that is unalienated. Some of it is let under lease, but the leases are all terminable within certain periods.
– How much of it is fit for cultivation ?
– A very great deal of it. In the Northern Territory there is a plateau 500 or 600 feet above the level of the sea, and a friend of mine who went over there last year to carry out an engagement for some people interested in mining, told me that he crossed 500 miles of the finest country one could see anywhere.
– It has yet to be opened up by railway communication.
– It must, of course, be opened up. I do not wish to weary honorable senators with the figures giving the area of unalienated land in each State, but in them all we have a total of 1,356,000 acres unalienated. Mr. Mead has said, speaking of the Goulburn Valley scheme alone, that if he could get the Government of Victoria to carry out his proposals he would be able to settle 30,000 people between the Goulburn and the Loddon.
– We have to deal with these land questions first.
– That is so, tout I am now merely showing that there is plenty of room for people in Australia. It should be only a matter of common-sense and business-like arrangement amongst ourselves to bring about a solution of the land settlement question. In the Murray Valley, as I am reminded by Senator Vardon, there is room for millions of people, and abundant water to meet all their needs. The High Commissioner could not do all that is necessary, but he could keep a guiding and a directing hand on the carrying out of an immigration policy. The question of defence is a complement to the immigration question. We must get people to come here if for no other purpose than to enable us to keep the country we have. We have now before this Parliament definite proposals with respect to defence which should be matured and brought into actual operation in the course of a very few years. If the British Army and Navy are to become one all over the world as is proposed, we shall require a confidential medium of communication such as a High Commissioner would be between the Defence authorities here and the Admiralty and the War Office in the Old Land. Senator Dobson asked last night why we should appoint a High Commissioner, and suggested that the States Agents- General could do the work of a High Commissioner. No State Agent-General could do this work. The honorable senator also said that before we appoint a High Commissioner we should make an arrangement with the States as to what is to be done in future with the existing Agents-General’s Departments. I say that we should first appoint a High Commissioner, and we could then approach the State Governments with a practical proposal, at another Premiers’ Conference if that should be convenient, and come toa fair understanding with them. The State Agents-General are not co-operating; in London. They are there not to do the best they can for Australia. Each is there to do the best he. can for his own State, and the success of his efforts is gauged not by the benefit which accrues to Australia as a whole, but by the benefits secured for his own particular State. ‘ We require to have in London as High Commissioner a man with good platform abilities. The power of the human voice is very great indeed, and we require a man who can command an audience, whether at an after-dinner speech or in one of the large halls in London which hold 30,000 or 40,000 people. We must have a man who can put the case, for this country clearly and convincingly. The High Commissioner must be a man who can keep himself in touch with all classes. He should be no mere social butterfly. He should be able to go amongst the working classes, and encourage them to come out here. He should be easily approachable, and there should be no standoffishness about him. It is wonderful how soon a practical, broad-minded man can make himself popular with all classes. It does not follow that a man who is popular with the upper classes will be unpopular with the lower classes. It is possible for a broad-minded man to be popular with both. Again, the High Commissioner should be an Australian. There has been some talk about the selection of some gentleman at Home, but I do not think the Government would be so foolish as to make any such appointment. We want a patriotic Australian, and one who is at the same time sufficiently an Imperialist to keep in touch with the people at Home. In another place it was contended that the name of the High Commissioner should be inserted in the Bill. A similar contention may be put forward here, but I consider that it would be unfair to ask the Government to do any such thing. Senator Pearce was generous and fair enough to say that if he were a member of the Government he would not consent to insert the name in the Bill. I believe that the Government will appoint the best man they can find. I should say that of any Government. I believe that the last Federal . Government would in similar circumstances have selected the very best man they could, get for the position independent of party considerations. We should not select a man for this position because of the services he may have rendered in the past, but because of the services, we expect the occupant of this position to render in the future. The duties of the position will be very onerous, and a High Commissioner, in London, determined to do his duty, will have no light task in pushing Australian interests and contending against the conflicting interests and the vis inertia he will find in that great city. It should be borne in mind that the first appointment to this post will be the most important to be made. If we make a mistake in the first appointment the consequences .will continue for a very long time. If the first High Commissioner appointed is an unsuitable man and makes a failure of his work, the consequences of his failure will attach to the man by whom he is succeeded, and that man will have a very uphill task to perform.
– He should have the confidence of Parliament behind ,him.
– I believe that the High Commissioner will have the confidence of Parliament. If in the first appointment we secure success on proper lines the future will be easy. Something has been said about the cost of the representation of the various States in London. The figures are: - New South Wales, £10,215 ; Victoria, £5,000 ; Queensland, £8,832 ;
South Australia, £3,532 ; Western Australia, £6,004; Tasmania, £1,410; or a total of £34,993. It is somewhat perplexing to say what the future of the State agencies in London is going to be. I fear that both the Agents-General themselves and the State Governments will be reluctant to alter the existing system. Nobody cares to give up profit, power, and prestige. It seems to me that we shall require a very clear expression of the voice of the people upon this question before we shall accomplish the changes that we desire to effect. Then the whole subject of expenditure is one to which the country should give serious consideration. When Federation was established, we were promised that the States would considerably reduce the cost of government. At that time, it was pointed out that the Commonwealth was taking over the Customs, Defence, and the Post and Telegraph Departments, and to the extent to which the States were being relieved of expenditure they ought to effect economies. For the year 1899-1900, the revenue of the States from ordinary services amounted to £2,590,507. The revenue from special services such as railways and tramways, post office, telegraphs, and telephones’, water supply, and sewerage, during that year amounted to £13,393,398. In 1904-5, the revenue from ordinary services had increased to £3,428,732, and in 1907-8 - which is the last year for which the figures are available - it had still further increased to £3,601,450. In. 1904-5, the revenue from special services amounted to £i3.476,330» and in 1907-8 to £16,242,404. . The receipts from the sales of land and rentals remained at about the same level, amounting in’ 1899-1900 to £3>5I4,6’54; in i9°4-5> to £3>256>6o9; and in 1907-8 to £3,375>987- The interest upon loans rose from £391,549 in 1899-1900 to £486,691 in 1904-5, and to £540,924 in 1907-8. During 1899-1900, it must be remembered that the States received no revenue from the Commonwealth, but the next year they received £7,135,823, and in 1907-8 the returns to them from Customs and Excise revenue totalled £8,859,596, whilst their revenue from other sources rose from £1,133,146 in 1899-1900 to £1,930,744 in 1904-5, and to £2,247,285 in 1907-8. Altogether the revenue of the States - despite the fact that they had been relieved of the Customs and Postal Departments - increased from £28,695,493 in 1899-1900 to £29,714,929 in 1904-5, and to ,£34,867,646 in 1907-8. Apart from railways and tramways, which return something like working expenses and interest upon their capital cost, the expenditure of the .States increased from £21,540,749 in 1899-1900 to £21,653,764 in 1904-5, and to £22,970,160 in 1907-8. So that the States, instead of reducing expenditure, have actually increased it.
– Some of the States.
– I am dealing with the whole of them. At the same time, I fear that the Commonwealth cannot take credit to itself for having exercised due economy. In 1904-5) the revenue of the Commonwealth was £11,465,598, and in 1907-8 it amounted to £15,019,034. But our expenditure has increased by leaps and bounds, as will be seen by a reference to the following table : -
Our ordinary expenditure has increased from £462,309 in 1904-5 to £1,240,112 in 1907-8.
– And no allowance has been made for the payment of interest upon transferred properties.
– No. So that we cannot chide the States with having been extravagant.
– Was any of the increased expenditure of the Commonwealth avoidable?
– I am not discussing that aspect of the matter at the present time. Upon new works, the Department of Trade and Customs expended £1,980 in 1904-5, and £8,972 in 1907-8; the Defence Department expended £200,259 in 1904-5, and £440,918 in 1907-8, whilst the expenditure of the Postal Department increased from £131,829 in 1904-5 to £427,006 in 1907-8. The total expenditure of the Commonwealth increased from £4,322,829 in 1904-5 to £6.162,129 in 1907-8. I mention these facts to emphasize the need which exists for the exercise of extreme care before we commit the Commonwealth to any further expenditure. I need scarcely point out that we are contracting very heavy obligations. We have in operation an Old-age Pensions scheme, which, in a very short time, will cost 10s. per head, and we are about to initiate a defence policy which will cost an equal amount. Do not these circumstances point to .the necessity for adopting a vigorous immigration policy? It is obvious that if we double the number of our people we shall reduce our taxation per capita by 50 per cent. Last year, the office of High Commissioner for New Zealand cost the Dominion £6,756. The High Commissioner for Canada receives a salary of £1,500, or $7,500.
– He is a very wealthy man. “
– That is so. His staff receives salaries aggregating $6,412, or, approximately, £1,285, an£l contingencies are set down at $9,224, or £1,885. The total cost of the Canadian agency in London is £4,670.
– The Canadian Act provides for the payment of a salary pf £2,000 annually to the High1 Commissioner for that country.
– I can assure the honorable senator that I looked up the Canadian Estimates for information on this matter only last night. The people of the United States, it is worth noting, never trouble to send a rich ambassador to London. They send the ablest man. The appointment is generally given to a man of talent as a reward for services rendered, but he has infinite possibilities of making himself useful. I do not think that we ought to alter the salary which is provided for in this Bill - at any rate, for the present. During this debate, we have heard a good deal about the necessity for the High Commissioner discharging social functions. I hope that he will attend as few of those functions as possible. I very much doubt whether Australia would benefit from his attendance at such gatherings.
– He could not escape them.
– At any rate, he could be as sparing in his attendance at them as possible. Very shortly we shall have four great Dependencies represented in London, namely, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, and their united representations upon over-sea matters must carry great weight in the Empire. In the High Commissioner’s office we ought to install only practical men. The people who will visit that office will desire to secure information concerning our mining, agricultural, and manufacturing industries. How can we expect a man who has never earned a penny with his coat off to supply such information? To disseminate knowledge in regard to . the mining industry we require a man who is acquainted with the geology of this country, whilst to supply information upon agricultural matters we need a man who has been upon the soil, and who can tell intending settlers the precise nature of the difficulties which they will be called upon to face. It would be idle to send men to our London office, dressed in black coats and white shirts, who have never done a hard day’s work in their lives. If we select a good man as our High Commissioner, he will do much good for Australia. On the other hand, if we select a poor man he may work incalculable harm. The first occupant of the office will undoubtedly set the pace. If he makes it a rule to attend social functions, and to live at a high rate, his successor will have no option but to do likewise. Our first High Commissioner ought to act as the Scotch say, Ca’canny. There is just one other matter upon which I desire to say a few words. It has reference to the necessity which exists for correcting misrepresentation of the Commonwealth in London. We have these misrepresentations in the press, and in conversations. They are rife all over the place. They came at times from rival newspapers, and at times from what is called the “stinking fish” party. We want in London a man who will give people the exact truth and nothing more, and who will be able to correct slanders and aspersions. When I was at Home, I used to see statements of the most ridiculous kind in the press ; but they went uncontradicted, and people believed them.
– Mr. Coghlan has done good work.
– The honorable senator is quite right. I had overlooked the good work which Mr. Coghlan has done in that regard. The time is opportune for appointing a High Commissioner. We are on excellent terms with Canada, with the United States, and especially with the Old Land. We are gradually attracting attention; and I think that a capable man who would win his way would bring credit to himself and’ confer infinite, benefit on this great continent, of which we have the honour to be representatives.
– With regard to this measure, which is of very great importance to the Commonwealth, it may be. said that its success will depend very largely upon the character and the ability of the gentleman who is appointed High Comissioner. I think that the Government should exercise exactly the same care and judgment in selecting a man for this position as they would in choosing a man for appointment to the Bench of the High Court, because in the political and commercial world the High Commissioner will have to exercise functions as important in that relation to Australia as the occupants of the High Court Bench have to discharge with regard “to its people. I understand that Senator McColl wishes the salary not to be mentioned in the Bill.
– No; that it should not be increased.
– I am glad to hear that remark. The Bill provides for a salary of £3,000, and an allowance of £2,000 to cover expenses. Both the Senate and the Government have to consider whether a man who is fit to discharge properly the duties of this high office is likely to be obtained in Australia at the salary stated in the Bill. It will be seen at once that outside a class of Government officials who have made their mark in that capacity, there is possibly not available, at the salary, a man who could fittingly represent Australia as High Commissioner. On the other hand, I agree with the sentiment uttered by Senator McColl that in the creation of this new office, we have to take into consideration the fact that our expenditure in various Departments is increasing very rapidly, and that we have to exercise economy with prudence. It will be out of place to make any suggestions with regard to picking out a class of appointees. I was glad to hear from Senator Pearce that the past or present political position of a man is not to be considered a bar to appointment. At the same time, politics ought not to be excluded from consideration.
– Present politicians ought to be excluded.
– I think not. In the circumstances, there will be a natural, and very proper tendency on the part of the Government to select the appointee from, probably, Commonwealth politicians. But no political considerations which have a party aspect ought to be allowed to influence their choice.
– Does not the honorable senator believe in “ the spoils to the victors “ ?
– Certainly not.
– That is the Government policy.
– I do not think so; and if the honorable senator will pardon me for making the remark, that suggestion emanates from a more or less diseased imagination on his part. I do not think that there is a single party in the Senatewho, in dealing with an appointment of this kind, would descend to the very low plane which the honorable senator has just suggested. I believe that the Government will regard the filling of this office from the same high ground and sense of duty and responsibility as they would regard the selection of a Judge for the High Court Bench.
– From amongst their own supporters.
– When I find a man frequently imputing to his opponents bad and false motives, I am sometimes inclined to think that it is only a strong reflection upon his own character.
– Oh, thank you !
– Well, the honorable senator has called for that retort by his interjections. One of the main reasons adduced on one side for passing this Bill is that the Commonwealth needs a High Commissioner.
– Not yet.
– On the other hand, it is suggested that as there are six Agents- General representing the various States, there is no immediate necessity for Australia to appoint a High Commissioner, as the Agents-General can transact all the commercial and political business which is required of them by their respective Governments. I do not agree with the latter objection. To my mind, the continued existence of six Agents-General will be rather a source of conflicting action than of concerted action. We shall not have proper concerted action on behalf of Australia, until we have a High Commissioner, who will, by virtue of his appointment under this measure, have the right to speak in the name of Australia on all matters of common interest thereto.
– Would the honorable senator agree to the abolition of the Agents-General ?
– It does not necessarily follow that I would ; and if the honorable senator will wait a while, he will hear some reasons why the two positions - the appointment of the High Commissioner and the continuance of the Agents-General, or, if he likes, General Agents - are not at all conflicting.
– Sometimes they are general nuisances.
– I do not think so.I believe that on the whole they have done very good work for their respective States. It is only within the last nine years that we have had a political entity called Australia, and the importance of appointing a High Commissioner has made itself evident and felt, not only to the Australian community, but in Imperial circles in the Old Country. It was anticipated that, as the logical and necessary outcome of the foundation of the Commonwealth, we should have in diplomatic, political, and commercial circles in London, a representative who would, with the advice of, and under instructions from, the Government, be empowered by Statute to speak for and on behalf of Australia. To me, the appointment of a High Commissioner seems to follow as the necessary and logical consequence, first, of the foundation of the Commonwealth, and, secondly, of the relations which the Commonwealth must necessarily have with the Mother Country - relations whose importance year by year will be of greater interest to us as they are of greater interest to the Empire. The High Commissioner will be in close touch with the highest political circles of the Empire. He will be in equally close touch with the political representatives of the various self-governing portions of the Empire. He will be at the very fountain-head of the great military and naval projects of the various States outside the Empire. In the rapid, and, to some extent menacing, developments which are going on in Europe, and possibly in the East, it is vastly important that Australia and itscomponent parts should have a competent man at the fountain-head to advise us publicly or, if for diplomatic or political reasons that should be necessary, privately, in order to keep us in touch with ali political, social, and other movements both inside and outside the Empire. I do not think that there is a single member of this, or a State Parliament, who would for a moment attempt to maintain the position that these important duties and the responsibilities which devolve therefrom, can be carried out by a single Agent-General, or by a combination of Agents-General, the reason being that they would have no statutory or constitutional right to speak for and on behalf of Australia. The Commonwealth, I repeat, was founded for that amongst other purposes. It will then be asked, and probably some of the States will either ask the question or raise the objection, “ What is to become of our Agents-General ? What positions will they occupy?” My answer to that question is that the Agents-General, whatever offices they may occupy, or whatever duties they may have to perform, will be entirely dependent upon the State Legislatures, who will either curtail the powers of their representatives, or transfer some of them to the High Commissioner. If they chose to do so, well and good. If they chose not to do so, probably that will be foolish on their part. But I take it that, on the whole, the State Governments reflect State opinion, at least as accurately and as wisely as we reflect the combined opinion of Australia; and that they will gradually recognise that, while it is necessary for political and diplomatic reasons to have a High Commissioner to speak, for and on behalf of all Australia, the principal duty of their Agents- General must be to look after, as they do now, the development of the commercial and trading interests of the States. In other words, I take it that whatever name may be used, the AgentsGeneral will become merely commercial agents for their States; and I can speak, perhaps, quite accurately on behalf of my State. Ever since the institution of Federation, it has been anticipated in the highest political circles in Queensland, and, I believe. by_all parties, that sooner or later, a High Commissioner would be appointed, and that as a necessary consequence of such appointment, the AgentsGeneral would be converted more and more into commercial immigration agents. In that respect, it will probably be found that the tendency in Australia will be exactly like that in Canada - that the High Commissioner will gradually assume many of the important political and diplomatic duties which previously had devolved upon the Agents-General. When the States see, as 1 am sure they will see, that these duties can be best carried out through the High Commissioner and his officers, they will, very probably, not withdraw their Agents-General from London, but. constitute them commercial agents. The duties of each Commercial. Agent will be confined to promoting the interests of his own State. As the primary production of our States increases, there will be an increasing need for agents in Great Britain. I am perfectly certain that it is not the intention of the Commonwealth Government, by the appointment of a High Commissioner, to seek to diminish the exercise of the powers of the State Commercial Agents. Consequently there is not the slightest fear of friction arising between the representative of the Commonwealth and the representatives of the States.
– I thought that Edmund Burke said that trade should be left to find its own channels.
– But there is a greater authority than Edmund Burke in this Chamber.
– From my acquaintance with the writings of that learned philosopher, I believe that he held the opinion that it is suicidal for the State to interfere unduly with the industries of a country. But there is a vast difference between a judicious encouragement of the energies of a State and a wild and woolly attempt to force the affairs of private individuals. I have shown conclusively, I think, that there need be no conflict of jurisdiction between the High Commissioner and the agents of the States. Both authorities can work harmoniously together. Such is the case in regard to Canada. When the Dominion Government appointed the Canadian High Commissioner, the provincial Governments were inclined to close their offices in London. But, as commerce increased, so the provincial Administrations gave increasing attention to the needs of their commercial classes, and took greater care in the establishment of agents in Europe. As Senator McColl has pointed out, and as is, indeed, a matter of fact, the population and prosperity of Canada are increasing by leaps and bounds. The experience of Canada should be an incentive to us to go forward, and an incentive to the States, to continue their individual efforts to promote their own interests. It is merely setting up a bogy to pretend that the States will object to what we propose to do. It has been well pointed out that one service which the High Commissioner will be able to perform will be to correct false impressions, sometimes ignorantly, and often, I am afraid, maliciously, circulated against Australia in England.
– For instance, Senator St. Ledger’s book !
– When a man writes a book, he hands himself over to his enemies. The book referred to can speak for itself. But let me say this much in answer to the honorable senator : that the book has been under the fire of criticism both in England and in Australia, and I am happy to know that most of the critics praise it very highly for the way in which it deals with some facts ; whilst even hostile critics have given me credit for presenting my case impartially. If a man. submits the case which he has to lay before the public in an honest manner, and his fairness is generally admitted, that is as much as can be expected. I have said that some of the criticism directed against Australia has been ignorant and malicious. It has been urged that the Agents-General could have replied to those attacks. Some of them did correct false impressions; some did not.
– Some Agents-General - one in particular - helped to spread false reports.
– So much the worse. I offer no defence for such a man. Perhaps the honorable senator will point out that some one from Queensland was the principal sinner, because I observe that if some honorable senators opposite require an example of a particularly bad kind of sinner, they go to Queensland to look for him. The Agents-General, either separately or in combination, were not equal to the task of answering the criticisms to which I have referred.
– Except Mr. Coghlan, the best man the States have sent to London.
– Not even Mr. Coghlan was able to correct these false impressions, and for a very good reason. It was not the business of any AgentGeneral to deal with misrepresentations concerning Australia generally. It was their b.usiness to look after the affairs of their own States; But many of the worst of the attacks were not directed against a parti- cular State, but against Australia as a whole ; and there was not a single AgentGeneral who, by reason of his position, was authorized to make a reply.
– Mr. Coghlan did set an example, recognising that a slander upon one State was a slander upon Australia.
– I admit that when more recently attacks were made upon our policy, and particularly upon our finance, the Agents-General of the States arranged that Mr. Coghlan should be their spokesman.
– If such an arrangement could be made, why do we want a High Commissioner to do the work?
– We want a High Commissioner because the charges were so tardily and ineffectively dealt with, and because the unauthoritative nature of even Mr. Coghlan’s reply was not sufficient to cope with the malicious ignorance of the attacks.
– Is it not also a fact that each of the States AgentsGeneral have circulated literature slandering other States?
– I would not say that any Agent-General has circulated literature slandering other States; but I admit that very often an Agent-General, for the sake of gaining some advantage for his State, has issued statements which were the reverse of truth. It is to put an end to that kind of rivalry that we are seeking to create the office of High Commissioner. We shall have in this office one who will stand up for Australia, and whose duty will be to correct at once misrepresentations which are circulated concerning our country. Any person who will read the ignorant misrepresentations contained in . the long-continued attacks on Australian finance by A. J. Wilson, in the Investors’ Review and other publications, after the commercial crisis of 1893, will recognise the need for some authoritative representative of Australia in London. It i.v the duty of the Government to appoint a man powerful enough to make those who start such attacks conscious of the fact that there is close at hand an authority competent to furnish an effective answer. Every one of the writers of the character of A. j. Wilson, although they directed their venom against particular States, nevertheless dragged in the name of Australia. While it may be admitted that legitimate criticism is to be welcomed, and while we should pay heed to warnings given to us by competent authorities concerning weaknesses in our finance or system of government, it is unfair and unjust that the mistakes of individual States should be attributed to the whole of Australia.
– The honorable senator is the biggest sinner I know.
– I do not know that it makes Senator W. Russell any more of a saint to hurl a pharisaical charge like that at me. Who is the honorable senator that he should stand up and rebuke the sinner? But it is generally that class of man who does that kind of thing. I wish the honorable senator would not leave himself open to these palpable retorts, and so interrupt the thread of my remarks. It is a matter of history that probably the greatest injury done to Australia by a public criticism of the character to which I have referred was done in 1893, when the whole financial system of Australia was under overhaul by ourselves. Our financial position at the time was made the subject of such severe attacks on the other side of the globe that our public credit was dragged in the mire when a more generous or a more correct analysis of our financial position would have rewealed the fact, long before the revelation was made indisputable, that, notwithstanding various mistakes and errors of extravagance that might fairly be urged against nur State Governments, a scientific investigation of our finances showed that, although we were suffering severe reverses, we possessed sufficient resources to pull through even those great difficulties.
– We could pay 20s. in the £1 all the time.
– All the time there was in the banks of Australia and to the credit of the various Governments sufficient to enable us> to pay 20s. in the £,1 if we were given sufficient breathing time. But public and private creditors were alarmed in the Old Country, and we had no one on the spot who could examine the facts exhaustively and show what was our real financial position at the time. We had no one who could make it clear that there was no reason for the alarm that had been aroused. I anticipate that with the appointment of a High Commissioner, should a similar financial panic arise in future, we shall have a man who will be able immediately and effectively to answer all the objections urged against us, r,nd to put our true financial position before the public. I might be allowed to say, in referring to this matter, that the ad vertisement of our adversity in 1893 has, perhaps, after all, served as the best proof to the whole of the world that Australia is one of the richest countries on earth, because no other country embarrassed as we were then could have emerged so quickly and so triumphantly from the difficulties of the position in which we were placed.
– Some people are suffering from that crisis yet.
– I have no doubt that there are some who are still suffering directly from the consequences of that financial paralysis. But so long as the world continues, even though we should possess men of the intelligence of Senator Needham, there will be misfortune and undeserved suffering on the part of some. To say that because there will be suffering we should make no effort to prevent it, seems to me to be particularly illogical. We require as High Commissioner a man who is acquainted with our finances and our past political administration, and one who, in such a time of peril, would be in a position to offer such assurances to the public as would prevent a good deal of the suffering to which Senator Needham has referred. Let me give another instance of the injury done to Australia through the lack of a common representation of the States in London. We passed an Immigration Restriction Act in 1902. I believe honorable senators opposite will not dispute the statement that the party to which they belong were largely, if not entirely, responsible for the passing of that ‘Act. It contained a section which in its operation inflicted unintentional injustice on some persons who were brought to the shores of Australia.
– Would the honorable senator repeal the Act?
– I do not propose to deal with that suggestion. But since the interjection has been made I may inform the honorable senator that as a result of the incident to which I was about to refer certain provisions of that Act have been repealed so as to prevent the possibility of such a stupidity occurring again in the administration of our immigration restriction law. Much as I differ, from the policy of honorable senators opposite in the matter of immigration, and much as I deplore the results of that policy, I believe that it was intentionally misrepresented when it w7as stated that it was their policy at that time and their unalterable determination to warn off immigrants from the shores of Australia.
– Nonsense ! The honorable senator knows better than that.
– I am saying that that was the impression which certain persons attempted to create abroad. If honorable senators opposite were not so ready to anticipate an attack when no attack is intended they would have seen that I was not assailing them upon this point.
– The honorable member has made the attack so often that we anticipated he would make one again.
– I repeat that I differ entirely from the policy of the other side with regard to immigration. But I believe that the critics .who hurled that charge against their policy, whether intentionally or not, did a grave injustice, not merely to the party opposite, but to the people and Parliament of Australia. It should be remembered that it was an unfortunate administration of the Act which gave rise to the malicious misrepresentations of our immigration policy to which I have referred. The Opposition are responsible for a policy in this connexion which may be said to be the exclusion of undesirables. That is their immigration policy so far as they have any at all. But it seems to me that it would be a greater evidence of common sense not to devote their attention so much to the exclusion of undesirables a& to the admission of desirables. The malicious misrepresentation of the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act did a great deal of injury to Australia. A campaign of calumny was entered upon, and the administration of the Act was pointed to as an official warning that we did not desire suitable immigration. Unfortunately we had at the time no one on the spot to deal with the misrepresentations. If we had had a High Commissioner in London he could have explained the whole matter in such a way as to stamp out the slanders. For the reasons I have urged we should as soon as possible establish such an office as is contemplated by this Bill and appoint a competent person to fill it.
– After we have an understanding with the States?
– What is there to prevent that? The Commonwealth Government will be ignoring one of the main objects of the proposed appointment if they do not seek by arrangement with the State Governments the gradual transference to the High Commissioner of many functions at present exclusively in the hands of the State Agents-General. We can assume that the State Governments possess some vestiges of common sense, and will not fail to note the advantages offered to them. If the Commonwealth authority proposes to thrust the High Commissioner upon the State Governments, and to insist that he shall assume the functions of the State Agents-General whether the State authorities desire it or not, the friction which some honorable senators fear will be sure to arise, and there will probably be chaos again. It would not be the first time in the history of the Commonwealth that the Parliament has tried to do a very wise thing in a remarkably stupid manner. But I hope that we have all benefited by the experience of the past; and will be able to avoid causes of friction. There is work to be done in London which only a High Commissioner can do on behalf of Australia, and which cannot be properly done until such an appointment is made as that which is provided for in this Bill. I hope that the Government will have no difficulty in finding a suitable man for the position, and will make a judicious selection in their appointment.
– As I take up an attitude on this question somewhat different from that assumed by the two honorable senators from Tasmania who have already addressed themselves to the second reading of this Bill, I should like to explain first of all that I sympathize with what they have said. In the present state of the finances of Tasmania every representative of that State must keep his eye on the agreement which has been entered into between the State Premiers and the Federal Government in connexion with the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. On the carrying out of .that agreement must very largely depend the attitude which representatives of Tasmania must assume on any proposal involving increased expenditure. I agree with the majority of honorable senators who have spoken that it is time such an appointment as is provided for in this Bill was made. Senator Dobson’s suggestion that the Commonwealth should in any way dictate to the States as to the representation they may deem it necessary to have in the Old Country was somewhat contrary to his usual attitude towards the State Governments. The honorable senator has usually been prepared to protect the independence of the States. If there is one feature of our Constitution more distinct than another it is that under it it is intended that the independence of the States shall continue. While the Commonwealth should perform the work which has been delegated to it, it ought to be careful not to interfere with State responsibilities. Of the usefulness of a High Commissioner in London any man who has been behind the curtain as a member of an Executive Council must be well satisfied.
– How long was the honorable senator behind the curtain?
– Long enough to know something about the question which I am discussing. I was very glad to know that Senator Pearce, whilst filling the office of Minister of Defence in the late Government, learned to appreciate the officer who is at present representing the Commonwealth in London. In Tasmania for a great many years there was a constant struggle over the question of whether the office of Agent-General should be continued. At one time I ‘know that the representation of that State in London was costing less than£2,000 annually. I venture to say that there was never a representative of that State in the world’s metropolis who did not justify his official existence by the savings which he effected. Recently, Tasmania was exceptionally well represented by a brother of Senator Dobson, who very generously undertook to discharge duties of almost a national character for the very small salary of , £400, with expenses. There was no year in which the value of the work which he performed - viewing the matter from the most sordid stand-point - did not represent twenty times that amount. Of course, our High Commissioner will be vested with much larger powers than are intrusted to any Agent-General. Whatever salary we may determine to grant him, I certainly do not think that any sum which has been mentioned is too large, in view of the responsibilities which he will have to assume. Whatever views we may entertain in regard to his attendance at social functions, we- cannot allow him to occupy a position which would be unworthy of the Commonwealth. If he is obliged to accept hospitality, the least we can do is to return that hospitality. I rose chiefly to express the hope that any increased expenditure to which we may commit the Commonwealth will be subject to the ratification of the agreement which has been arrived at between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pulsford) adjourned.
Senator MILLEN laid on the table the following papers : -
Papua - Ordinances of1909 (1) No. 23, Appropriation 1909-10; (2) No. 24, Supplementary Appropriation 1909-10, No. 1.
Agricultural Implement Makers’ Em ployes - Papua Ordinance : Native Labour.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I should feel obliged if the VicePresident of the Executive Council would Jay upon the table of the Senate the papers for which I asked some time ago, in regard to the cost of the action which was brought by the agricultural implement makers’ employes against the manufacturers of agricultural implements, with a view to enforcing the provisions of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act.
– A few days ago I raised a question in regard to an ordinance recently passed by the Legislative Council of Papua relating to the protection of native labourers. I understand that the VicePresident of the Executive Council has inquired into the matter, and, if so, I should like to obtain a reply to my statements.
– In reply to Senator Walker’s question, I understand that the papers to which he refers have already been laid upon the table of the Library ; but if he desires that they should also be laid upon the table of the Senate,I will see that that is done next week. I have received a memorandum on the subject to which Senator Pearce has alluded, the effect of which is that the power taken under the Papuan ordinance in question is not a power which in any way varies the contract between the employer and the Government, which provides for security being given by the employer for the payment of wages, and for the sum represented by the cost of returning a labourer to his home. I have the full memorandum in my possession, and the document is at the disposal of the honorable senator if he cares to peruse it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 October 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19091001_senate_3_52/>.