3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator Colonel NEILD presented a petition from three members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, praying the Senate not to make military training and service compulsory.
Petition received and read.
– I ask leave to move, without notice, that the time for the bringing up of the report of the Select Committee on Press Cable Service be extended to the 1 st December, 1909.
– Is it the will of honorable senators that Senator Pearce have leave to submit a motion without notice?
– No, sir.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council kindly tell the Senate when it is intended to prorogue the Parliament?
– In the course of a few minutes I hope to be able to submit a motion on which, perhaps, this matter may be more appropriately referred to.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Papua : Report by the Hon. Staniforth Smith, Administrator, on the Progress of the Territory, dated 30th October,1909).
Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for the Year ended 30th June, 1908.
Postal Prohibitions. - List of Persons, the delivery of whose correspondence has been prohibited by the Postmaster-General, rst September,1909, to 6th November, 1909.
Defence Acts 1903-1904 -
Financial and Allowance Regulations for the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth. - Amendment (Provisional) of Regulation 49 - Statutory Rules1906, No. 92, and Regulation 50, and new Regulation 503 (Provisional). - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 127.
Regulations for the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth - New Regulations (Provisional) 38A, 47A, 47B, 47C, 47D, and rooA. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 128.
Post and Telegraph Act1901 -
Amendment of Postal and Telegraphic Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 123.
Amended Regulations relating to Telegrams beyond the Commonwealth. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 124.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council kindly see that a copy of the Auditor-General’s report is made available to honorable senators before the consideration of the Estimates is begun? It is very desirable that we should have the advantage of the report at the time.
– I would remind my honorable friend that the Budget papers and Estimates have already been discussed at very considerable length, but I shall endeavour to have the report of the Auditor-General made available, if possible.
– Referring to the regrettable accident to a cadet in Western Australia, I desire to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether there is any manualor leaflet teaching cadets how to handle and use firearms, and, if not, whether he will take such steps as he may think necessary to provide that information ?
– I am under the impression that written directions are issued to those in charge of cadets, but, in order to make certain, I shall communicate with the Department of Defence.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council remind the Defence Department of a question which I asked some time ago, with regard to issuing in pamphlet form instructions to all persons in. the Commonwealth who may desire to enter the naval service, either here or elsewhere? I hope that the matter has not been forgotten.
– The Department forwarded to me several broad sheets, which contain the information, and which are designed to be posted at post-offices and other public buildings. I omitted to inform the honorable senator that they could be inspected. The question of issuing some directions in pamphlet form is under consideration. But I understand that a little difficulty has arisen, probably from the tradition of the service that such a pamphlet should be issued by the Royal Navy itself. case of ex-private Macdonnell.
– I beg to ask_ he Vice-President of the ExecutiveCouncil whether, not later than Friday next, he will be in a position to inform me what steps the Department of Defence has taken during the last month or two in connexion with the claim of ex-Private MacDonnell for compensation? I understand that some action has been taken, but I should like to know what has been accomplished.
– Some action has been taken, and I am under the impression that a decision has been arrived at. If the honorable senator will repeat the question to-morrow or Friday, I may then be in a position to speak more definitely.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
The delay in acceptance - which rendered necessary the payment of the fee - was partly due to an oversight in the Patent Office (one month) during the Commissioner’s absence, but for the principal delay (two months) that office was not responsible.
It should also be stated that the Commissioner of Patents, subsequent to the delay, took special action to prevent the case lapsing and to have the papers completed to enable the Patent to be granted.
An application for extension was made and’ granted. When granting same, the Commissioner had no alternative but to adhere to the Regulations prescribed for the working of his Department.
Patent Office. This has been pointed out to the Commissioner, and he has been instructed to see that such does not occur again.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs), upon notice -
Territory League of South Australia (represented by Mr. Lindsay, who delivered lectures to members of the Senate and House of Representatives) own large tracts of land in the Northern Territory of South Australia?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
The Government having no information respecting this matter referred the honorable senator’s questions to the Premier of South Australia, from whom a telegram and letter have now been received.
As the documents are rather lengthy, I propose to lay them upon the table.
– I would ask the honorable senator to read them, because, otherwise, it would be a long time before they could be printed.
– I can move that they be printed forthwith.
– If the honorable senator will do so, that will be satisfactory.
– I beg to lay the documents upon the table.
– Cannot the Minister give a general reply as to the allegations implied in the questions ?
– No, because the papers have only just been received. I shall be glad to read them to the Senate if any honorable senator desires that I should.
– I shall be quite satisfied if the Minister moves that they be printed.
– That is my intention. I move -
That the papers be printed.
– Is there amongst the papers a telegram from the President of the Northern Territory League, denying that the League holds any land, and challenging the fullest investigation ?
– No; I see no such telegram.
– Such a telegram wassent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That during the remainder of the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Tuesday be a meeting day of the Senate, and that, unless otherwise ordered, the hour of meeting on that day be Three o’clock in the afternoon, and that on such day Government Business take precedence of all other business on the Notice Paper except questions and formal motions.
– May I request leave to make a short statement in the nature of an apology ? A few moments ago, in reply to Senator Henderson, I stated that when the motion that has just been agreed to was dealt with, it wouldbe an opportune time to consider a question which he raised regarding the probable termination of the session. The motion was allowed to go as formal. The matter quite escaped my notice at the time. If, however, Senator Henderson will allow me to. give him such information as I possess on the motion for the adjournment tonight, I shall be happy to do so; and I also ask him to pardon my oversight on this occasion.
– That will do.
Debate resumed from 19th November (vide page 61 16) on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– When the Senate adjourned on Friday last, I was discussing the question as to whether it would be possible to carry out the Protectionist policy of the Commonwealth if the financial arrangement embodied in the agreement recently arrived at between the Premiers of the States and the Commonwealth Government were made a part of the Constitution. I had reached the conclusion, after a fairly ample consideration of the facts, that in the event of the intention of the Government and of the State Premiers .being carried out, Protection, as the national policy of Australia, must inevitably be abandoned. When %ye examine the various Tariffs which were in existence in Australia before the advent of Federation, we find that the most representative Protectionist Tariff was that of Victoria., which yielded £i 19s. 3d. per head. During the last five years the Commonwealth Tariff has yielded on an average £2 10s. per head. So that our Tariff to-day is merely a revenue Tariff. It is only partially carrying out the policy sanctioned by the people of Australia. As a consequence, the desire of every good Protectionist, of every member, in short, who is anxious to carry out the policy authorized by the people as a whole, should be to reduce the revenueproducing part of the- Tariff ; knowing perfectly well that, unless the revenue is reduced, the Tariff must necessarily fail in its protective incidence. I claim, therefore, that, until our revenue per head from. Customs and Excise approximates somewhat to that of Victoria before Federation, our Tariff will not protect our industries in the sense which the people have ordained that they shall be protected. I come to the conclusion, then, that the part of the policy of the Government now under consideration is one under which it will not be possible to carry out the policy of Protection. I ask whether it is possible for this Government, the head of which is Protectionist, whilst the tail is Revenue Tariffist, to carry out the policy of the country if the present agreement is made a permanent portion of the Constitution? I have come to the conclusion that they cannot. Therefore, I say that the Fusion Government is flying right in the face of the will of the people.
– That will be seen at the next election.
– The honorable senator is a Free Trader. I know that he has behind him the Free Trade or Revenue Tariff daily press of Sydney, all the financial institutions, and every land monopolist in the Commonwealth, and I knowalso that his party has at its back thousands of pounds of capitalist cash with which its members are prepared to fight the Labour party at the coming elections. Knowing all that, and knowing further how often the capitalists have bull-dozed the people of the Commonwealth and of other countries heretofore, I should not be surprised if they were able on this occasion to deceive and betray and bulldoze the electors.
– The honorable senator forgets that his party has a monopoly of humanitarianism
– At any rate, my party is not a humbug. It is not a hypocrite. It does not say with its lips what it does not believe in its heart. Every plank in our platform we wish to see carried out. We do not profess humanitarian ideas without desiring to see them put into practice; and but for the opposition of the honorable senator, and others who act with him, we should be able to put many more of our ideas on the statute-book. But capitalism and human.tarianism cannot act together. They are t.;e opposite of each other, just as are day and night. Capitalism can only get the reward which it desires by sweating and robbing and killing labour. Every Act of humanitarian legislation placed upon the statute-book of this, or any other country, if it is worth the ink with which it is printed, subtracts from the profit of the capitalist, minimizes his income, and puts him more nearly on a level with the men he employs. Therefore the honorable senator and those who think with him, always protest against any humanitarian Act being carried out. The Free Trade dog is wagging the Protectionist tail on the present occasion.
– Does the honorable senator know that a number of Free Traders, like Mr. Bruce Smith, believe that the financial agreement means good-bye to all possibility of Free Trade?
– I am not responsible for +.he vagaries of Mr. Bruce Smith, or of the honorable senator, who has hitherto been a Free Trader, but who appears to have sunk his principles deep into the ocean of forgetfulness at the call of the Fusion Government. He is now prepared to accept a revenue Tariff. I could quote numberless utterances of his in .which he declared that he would like to see every Customs House swept away.
– The honorable senator said just now that I was scheming to abolish Protection.
– The honorable senator is scheming not to abolish Protection, but to mutilate, to maim, and to cripple it. He could not destroy it. If he tried to do that, the electors of the Commonwealth would speedily abolish him. But what he cannot destroy he tries to hamstring. He knows what that means. If you ham-string a cow, the result is that the animal cannot walk. It is crippled, and can only crawl along in a very ineffective fashion during the remainder of its life. Indeed, I believe that it is a favorite method of torture’ in some savage communities to ham-String prisoners. Others of them are blinded ; the ears of some are cut off ; some have their tongues torn out. All prisoners are more or less mutilated by such savages. That is exactly the policy which certain members of the Fusion party are pursuing with regard to the policy of Protection. They have not the courage to come out boldly and say, “We are against this Protection of yours.” Instead of that, they go to work in a cowardly fashion. Why not be brave and manly, and say, “ We do not believe in this policy, and will sweep it away if we can”? No; honorable senators come like thieves in the night and try to steal it away. But I can tell them that when the eyes of the people are opened to their schemes they will meet with the fate they deserve. Those who try to do a thing of this kind in an indirect fashion deserve the severest reprobation that can be heaped upon them. I admire honesty, courage, and straightforwardness, but for men who shoot from behind a hedge, who shelter themselves behind a wall, who in warfare would be termed “ snipers,” who will not come out into the open and fight fairly, who deal in evasions, subterfuges, and stratagems, I have the most hearty contempt. I jim sure that if the electors knew them as I do, and could see into their motives as clearly as I believe I can see into them, their shrift would be a very short one, and heir public career in Australia would come to a very sudden end. We really have to consider this afternoon whether the declared Protectionist policy of Australia can be carried out under the proposed agreement. I have said that I have taken the preFederation Tariff of Victoria as a guide. It yielded an annual per capita revenue of £1 19s. 3d. I do not suppose that any one would contend that even that Tariff was all that a true Protectionist could desire. But during the last five or six years the Commonwealth Tariff has yielded an average per capita revenue of ns. more than was yielded by the pre- Federation Victorian Tariff. The hean of the Fusion Government has declared in so many words that it is his intention to get still more revenue from the Commonwealth Tariff. The hon orable gentleman quoted the New Zealand Tariff as returning about £3 10s. per head of the population in Customs and Excise revenue, and he said that he saw no reason why the Tariff of the Commonwealth should not yield a similar sum. There we have the policy of the Fusion disclosed. The high priest of Protection has abandoned his position, and the archbishop of revenue tariffism stands in his place. In Queensland before Federation we had a Tariff which yielded a revenue of £$ 3s. 8d. per head of the population. It is right that I should remind honorable senators here that previous to Federation duties were imposed on Inter-State goods. Not only was each Protectionist State protected against the outside world, but it was protected against every other Australian State. These InterState duties have been completely abolished, and that from the Protectionist point of view places the present Commonwealth Tariff in a much worse light than that in which I have so far presented it. It is dear that if these Inter-State duties are taken into account the difference in the revenue derived under the pre-Federation Victorian Tariff and that derived from the Commonwealth Tariff, instead of being ns. per head, amounts to 13s. or 14s. per head of the population. The Tariff in operation in Queensland prior to Federation was nakedly a revenue Tariff. There was no pretence- about it. It was on the statutebook to produce revenue. Honorable senators will see what was the policy of the State Government at the time when I tell them that there was then no income tax in Queensland. There was no land tax, and there is none now. There was practically “ho other method of raising revenue than that of taxation through Customs and Excise and a few stamp duties. There was really no taxation of property in Queensland previous to Federation. The whole of the money required to carry on the government and to meet the annual deficits on the railways was derived from Customs1 and Excise taxation. Since Federation - and this is one good thing which Federation has done so far as Queensland is concerned - the State Government has been compelled to impose an income tax. But with this agreement placed in the Constitution there will be no need for an effective State land values tax. I do not mean a tax of id. in the £1, which would yield a minimum of revenue without having any effect in the direction of breaking up the big estates which exist in
Queensland as in every other State of the Commonwealth, and thus bringing into the Federation some portion of the vast amount of community-created increment which is annually passing into the hands nf private individuals. If the revenue from the Tariff is maintained at £2 10s. per head of the population, Protection must go by the board. There will be no rectification of Tariff anomalies. There will be no increase of duties in order to protect a number of Australian industries which at present are struggling to maintain a precarious existence, and some of which are actually perishing for lack of effective protection. In 1907, the last year with which Knibbs deals, I find that we imported ^51,000,000 worth of goods, about ^30,000,000 of which were dutiable, and the remainder of which were admitted duty free. I maintain that almost the whole of those ^30,000,000 worth of goods, largely composed of apparel, manufactures of metals, leather, and wood, might, under a proper system of fiscal taxation, be manufactured in Australia. But what chance will there be of anything being done in that direction if this agreement is made a portion of the Constitution in perpetuity? I knowthat the objection will be taken that “perpetuity “ means nothing; that the day after this agreement is placed in the Constitution an agitation for its repeal may be begun. That is quite true ; but I am not dealing with what may happen, but with what is the policy of the Fusion Government and the intention of the State Premiers. I submit that there cannot be the slightest doubt as to what are the intentions of the State Premiers to-day. They intend that this arrangementshall continue in perpetuity. If an attempt were made five or ten years hence to alter it, does any honorable senator think that the State Premiers would acquiesce?
– Yes, if it were necessary
– We have some experience to guide us. We know what the demand of the State Premiers has hitherto been. We know that they almost unanimously demanded the perpetual operation of the Braddon “ blot.” I am quite sure that if I had been a member of the Premiers’ Conference which sat with closed doors, refused admission to the reporters, and destroyed the blotting-pads, and no word of whose discussions has ever, and probably never will, be permitted to reach the ears of the people outside who are most concerned, I should have heard the State Premiers say to Mr. Deakin, “Look here, it is of no use making any more bonesabout this ; you can raise enough money through the Customs for your purposes. That is your source of supply.” I am sure that that is the policy I should have heard advocated in the Conference if I had been there, and if its proceedings could liepublished, that would be seen to be the principal argument used by the State Premiers. “ Pile it on to the Customs “ wasundoubtedly the order given to the Prime Minister by the State Premiers.
– Then why did they give up so much ?
– Because they could not do anything else. They were forced into a corner, and were compelled toaccept the position. They ought to have seen that long before. If they had taken the trouble to acquaint themselves with Commonwealth finance, and the probabilities of Commonwealth expenditure, they might easily have foreseen that any provision in the nature of a continuation of the Braddon “ blot,” under which the States receive three-fourths of the revenue from Customs and Excise, was impossible. But they did not capitulate until the very last moment, and when they did they made a very hard bargain indeed. If I were to compare the Slate Premiers with any historical character, I should say that the Conference was a gathering of Shylocks The State Premiers said to Mr. Deakin. “ Here is the bond. Every word in that bond must be carried out.” We know well to what straits Mr. Deakin was reduced with his own party in another place. We know that they came to him, some of them on bended knees, and asked to be permitted to vote according to their consciences. We know that the honorable gentleman appealed to .the State Premiers, and that they were adamant. They said, “ We will have the bond, and nothing less than the bond.” They played the role of Shylock more effectively than any politicians since the Middle Ages. 1 say that if the proceedings of the Conference could be published, it would be shown that the State Premiers demanded compliance with the bond there and then, and that taxation should be. piled upon the shoulders of the poor; upon the great mass of the people who have no capitalistic newspapers to voice their ideals, who have no powerful financial organizations at their back, who have no financial institutions to supply- them with the sinews of war, in short who have none of the weapons with which to fight organized capital. But our opponents forget that there is one weapon which - when the people learn to use it aright - will be more powerful than will all their organizations. I refer to the power of the ballot. I am sure that within a very few years that power will be brought to bear so effectively that a large number of men who are planning to pull down the social fabric in Australia will meet with their deserts. I have already pointed out that last year, the Commonwealth imported goods to the value of ^50,000,000, of which ^30,000,000 worth were dutiable, the balance being admitted free. Nearly the whole of that ^30,000,000 worth of goods ought to be made on Australian soil by Australian hands. But if the agreement which has been entered into with the States by the Fusion Government be carried out, that cannot be done. Evidently it is the intention of the Ministry to add to our Customs taxation by adopting a much more highly revenue-producing Tariff. If that course be followed, our Protective policy must go by the board. No more native industries will be created, and such industries as we have, will be exposed to the competition of foreign countries to a far greater extent than they have been since the establishment of the Federation. If a revenue Tariff be adopted - and I believe that that is quite on the cards - what will be the result to the working people of Australia? Will it not mean that thousands and tens of thousands will be cast on the streets? Will it not mean the closing of factories, here, there and everywhere? Will it not mean that for thousands and tens of thousands. of young men and young women who are just entering upon the battle of life there will not be open such a career as would be open to them if the Commonwealth adopted a highly Protective policy ? That, I think, is as clear as daylight. Of course I may be asked, “Would any person in his senses enter into an arrangement which is likely to so severely injure Australia?” I say no. But honorable senators opposite are so influenced by bias, are so blinded by considerations of their own interests, that they really cannot see what is for the good of the country. If we examine the history of every reform which has been accomplished in Australia, we shall find that the ruling classes have always been the victims of a blindness of this character. Every reform which has been adopted here was bitterly opposed by honorable senators opposite, by the press of this country, by the big financial institutions, and by the organized employers.
– It is shocking.
– It is a shocking statement for the honorable senator to make.
– It is a statement which ought to shock the honorable senator. Probably he has never discovered until now what strange company he is keeping. I have often heard that politics, like poverty, makes strange bedfellows.
– Senator Vardon was a member of the Legislative Council of South Australia.
– That circumstance is equivalent to a certificate of character from the capitalistic side.
– I thank God that I am not in the company of men who make statements such as the honorable senator is making.
-I repeat that every proposal for the benefit of the people of Australia has been bitterly opposed by those with whom the honorable senator is now associated. Has he never read the history of the movement to discontinue the bringing of convicts to Australia? Was not that movement opposed by the squatters and the banks? The people, however, overwhelmed the opposition to it, and thus secured their way. Everybody now acknowledges that it was a splendid thing for Australia to prevent the introduction of convicts? Then there was a movement to import Chinese, Japanese, and coolie labour to develop the resources of Australia. Who endeavoured to introduce that class of labour? The squatters, the bankers, the commercial classes, the employers of labour, and the financial institutions. Every one of these was ranged on the side of cheap labour. They did not care from what corner of’the earth that labour came so long as it was cheap, so long as it would result in getting the working man to realize his true position as a hewer of wood and a drawer of water and a beast of burden generally. Then do we not all remember the battle that we had to fight for a White Australia? How the press sneered at that movement ! Do we not recollect that everybody with whom Senator Vardon is politically associated placed himself as an obstruction in the path of that reform?
But now that it has been carried in opposition to their wishes these persons are prone to say, “We are very glad that it is so. We have always supported a White Australia.” They forget that we keep a very close watch upon their doings. Then, too, they pride themselves upon the glorious Australian franchise. But- who opposed the granting of that franchise until public opinion grew too strong and literally compelled the reform to be carried out? The very men and institutions to which I have already alluded. Do we not know that the granting of the franchise to women was opposed almost as bitterly in Australia as it is being opposed in Great Britain to-day. Yet the opponents of that reform now go round the country beseeching the ladies to vote against the wicked Labour party, wh’ich threatens to take their substance from them, to break up their homes, and to bring about ruin generally. We are now coming to close grips with the capitalist. We are embarking on a career of financial reform which will lessen the profits of capital, will increase the earnings of labour, will bring about a series of reforms from a humanitarian point of view, which are without parallel, either here, or in any other country. I believe that in the first brush of this great battle we may meet with defeat. But I am certain that victory is near at hand. If we do not achieve it at the next election, I think that we shall do so at the succeeding election. Personally I intend to put into the fight all the vigour of which I am capable, realizing as I do the great benefits that are to be achieved by the men and women of Australia. I have already said that if the policy of the Fusion Government be carried out our Protective Tariff must go by the board. Not only do they desire to kill Protection by means of a revenue Tariff, but they wish- to make land value taxation unnecessary. A revenue Tariff would result in flooding our streets with unemployed. It would create a multiplicity of difficulties in the way of our young people finding opportunities for profitable employment. There is no greater evil in Australia to-day than that land monopoly. A state of things exists here which is absolutely without a parallel. Our population is almost stationary. During the past five or six years the population of Victoria has increased bv only .64 per cent., whilst that of New Zealand has increased bv nearly 3 per cent. During the past twenty years the population of New Zealand has increased about six times as fast as has that of Victoria.
– New Zealand encourages immigrants, whilst we discourage them.
– And because of her legislation New Zealand has been flooded with immigrants.
– Order !
– This is not a conversation between various senators. I wish to put my views, not only before the Senate, but also before such of the public as care to read them. At the coming election I do not wish to go sneaking into the field pretending to be one thing whilst I am another. I want either to stand or to fall on the policy which I profess to hold. The policy of the Fusion Government is, I repeat, intended to make land value taxation unnecessary. If there were no other reason, that to my mind is an all-powerful reason why the agreement should be voted against by every man who desires to see Australia prosper. We all know what land monopoly has done for this country ; how it has strangled her progress, crippled her resources, made her population stagnant - how in many ways she is a reproach to the human family.
– And no place is worse than Tasmania.
– No place is worse than Tasmania or Victoria.
– The honorable senator can pick up a cue.
– Statistics prove what I said. If I were a Tasmanian I should not care to be represented by the honorable senator, who now laughs and thinks that this is a beautiful joke.
– We honour our old people and breed good children.
– Tasmania cannot keep her children.
– We can.
– As soon as they are able, they flutter their wings and fly out of the parent nest.
-Colonel Cameron. - We do give them a chance of living.
– They have to ga to Australia and New Zealand. It appears to me that a number of honorable senators are not inclined to take this question seriously. It has been proved that there exists in Australia a condition of land’ monopoly which, as I have said, is strangling her progress, which is fatal to her prosperity, and which, if continued, will drag her down beneath the level of some of the oldest nations in the world. Yet honorable senators laugh and make light of such a thing as this as if it were of no account, as if land monopoly were a fine thing and the land monopolists the most glorious of gentlemen. Honorable senators who hold such opinions ought not to be in a country like Australia. They ought to go to the Old World, where they could do a little tuft-hunting; ‘bend the knee to earls, and grovel on their bellies before princes. It ill - becomes men like Senator Mulcahy, whose forefathers had to fly from their native country merely because the landlords would not allow them to make a living, and men like Senator Cameron, whose forefathers had io leave their native country because they could not get a living on the barren hill sides of Scotland, because the land monopolists monopolised all the fertile valleys and rich corners, nooks and crannies - it ill becomes those honorable senators, because they have a garden plot, to play the part of the rampant advocates of land monopoly.
– What nonsense !
– The whole thing astonishes me.
– Has not the honorible senator astonished himself?
– I do not think so. I have simply been telling the truth. If I were in the honorable senator’s electorate I would say exactly the same thing. This is the proper place for a man to speak his opinions freely, fully, and fairly.
-Colonel Cameron. - And as foolishly as he likes.
– The honorable senator says that I am talking foolishly. If there is no land monopoly in Australia then I am ; otherwise it is the honorable senator who is acting foolishly and unpatriotically. It cannot be denied that there is land monopoly.
– How much land does the honorable senator own?
– If I owned halfthe continent, that would not affect the principle at all. Honorable senators opposite will not assist to break up the land monopoly in Australia. Therefore they are as much the enemies of the country, and the foes of progress, as are the land monopolists and the financial institutions. Look at the case of New Zealand. During the time that Victoria increased her population by 26,000 souls, New Zealand increased her population by no fewer than 300,000 souls. Why ? Simply because she tackled the problem of land monopoly, broke up the big estates, and settled the people on the lands in tens of thousands. If Australia sweeps the land monopolist out of her path and puts people on the soil, she will go forward by leaps and bounds; otherwise there is very little progress, indeed, in store for her. My indictment of the agreement is that it will kill, maim, or cripple Protection and buttress land monopoly. The other day the Premier of Queensland - I suppose with his tongue in his cheek as usual - said that the agreement would allow Australia toadopt a national policy. I hold that a national policy which locks up our -lands; and drives men and women on to the streets because, they cannot get employment, is one which springs from the fiends of corruption, to put it in a very mild way. It has its root in the regions of perdition, and ought not to commend itself to any reasonable, man.
– I do not thinkso. “
– The honorable senator who interjects so freely is one of its main buttresses. He is one of those men who are run by the capitalistic press of New South Wales - an organization which cares nothing for the bodies or souls of men and women, but looks upon them, as beasts of the field to be used only for profit.
-Neild. - What rot !
– That is the army in. which the honorable senator is, if you please, a soldier of fortune. I would sooner be an ass to an apple monger than be engaged in such nefarious work. This agreement, if it is placed in the Constitution, will maim Protection, buttress land monopoly, increase the burden of taxation on the poor, cast tens of thousands of persons on to the streets, and, in addition, increase the cost of living to every person on the continent. Why do I make the last statement? First, because it will reduce production, and second, because, if the policy of the Fusion Government is carried out, a multitude of articles will be brought within the pale of the Customs. Had we not a kite-flier in the other Chamber recently suggesting that it would be very nice to put a tax on cotton goods? I suppose that was because cotton is mostly worn by the children and women of the poor.
– It is worn by everybody.
– He would permit the bloated land monopolist, that enemy to all progress, that obstruction to the welfare of the people, to go untaxed. But he would interfere with the wardrobe of the poor, take the clothing off their backs, and the boots off their feet. He would tax kerosene, if you please. Not a word did he say about a tax on the light of he rich - electric or gas. Gas companies ire very powerful, and perhaps this kiteflier, if he did not hold any shares in a gas company, had a cousin or an influential supporter who was a shareholder. He had no word to say about taxing the light of the people of the great cities, but he would put -a tax on the light of the poor -the light of the bush, the light which you can find in thousands of households and in many a camp throughout the continent. He would tax the light of the men who work, and not the light of the loafers in towns, the men who live on the country as holders of huge areas of land, the agents of the capitalists, and the creatures of the capitalistic press. The men who are taking gold out of the mines, and wool off the sheep’s backs, the men hewing our forests, cultivating our fields, and making Australia what she is - these are the men whom this kite-flier in the other Chamber wished to tax. He was not satisfied with proposing duties on cotton goods and kerosene, but he wanted to swoop down, like the foul vulture that he is, on tea.
– Order ! I point out to the honorable senator that he is not in order in making these charges and assertions against a member of the other House.
– I withdraw the word “ vulture.”
– This is an electioneering speech, that is all.
– Every word of the speech is true. If the honorable senator can prove that I have made a single misstatement, I am willing to apologize, not only here, but at every meeting at which 1 appear during the elections. This kiteflier of the Government was not satisfied with merely wishing to tax the clothing and the light of the poor, but he wanted to tax the worker’s cup of tea. I have been in many corners of Australia and found the tea “ billy “ everywhere. I do not know what the great mass of the working people would do but for the cheering cup of tea. Old folks, persons in their prime, and the young, in fact everybody throughout the bush districts, drink tea.
– That is not the fashionable drink.
– I know that it is not. If it were, there would not be a proposal to tax it.
– Is that why we taxed coffee ?
– There is a difference between taxing an article for revenue purposes and taxing one for the purpose of stimulating production in Australia. But I know that the honorable senator does not care for any industry in which he is not personally interested.
– That is unfair.
– It is quite true.
– Order ! Our Standing Orders prescribe that offensive words are not to be used concerning the members of this Parliament, either in the Senate or another place. I may as well read the rule to the honorable senator -
No senator shall use offensive words against either House of the Parliament, or any member of such House, or any House of a State Parliament.
– What were the “offensive words” which Senator Stewart used ?
– If the honorable senator has not observed the offensive words which Senator Stewart has continually employed, I shall not repeat them.
– If I have been “continually” offensive I think I should have been called to order some time ago.
– The honorable senator has not been called to order; he has simply been interrupted.
– If my statements are not agreeable to honorable senators opposite, they have the remedy in their own hands. If anything I have said about their conduct reflects discredit on them, they can alter their conduct. Then I shall not have an opportunity of making comments which displease them. I have said that apparently Senator Millen does not desire to encourage the production of coffee in Australia.
– That is “offensive,” though.
– That is not what the honorable senator said.
– The honorable senator said that Senator Millen did not care two straws for any industry in which he was not personally interested.
– I said that in reference to the honorable senator’s attitude in connexion with the last Tariff. He accepted it practically as proposed, because I believe there was some arrangement ; but he also knew that it would be useless to do otherwise. He accepted the position as it presented itself to him. We know that Senator Millen is a Free Trader; or, rather, I ought now to place him in the category of Revenue Tariffists. If he had been a true friend of Australian industry he would never have put the question to me, “Why are you in favour of not taxing tea, whilst von are in favour of taxing coffee?” To tax tea would be useless, because tea cannot be produced in Australia. Coffee can be produced here, and, therefore, I am most undoubtedly in favour of a Protective tax upon it. It is possible to grow coffee almost anywhere in the northern parts of this country. But that is not the question on the present occasion. The State Premiers are saying what a fine thing this agreement will be for Australia. But I say that if it is carried out in its entirety, it will be one of the most serious calamities that has ever occurred in this country. It is proposed to put the arrangement into the Constitution in perpetuity. The Premiers will not agree to any time limitation. The reason Mr. Kidston gave when the matter was discussed by him was this : ‘ ‘If you put a time limit in the Constitution, there would be a moral obligation on both parties to continue the arrangement until the end of that time, however unsatisfactory it may be found to be.” I admit there is some force in the argument. But if that gentleman had been willing to come to some arrangement which would prevent this question being a perpetual one, coming up at every election, as it will do, he would most undoubtedly have agreed to a time limit such as is now in the Constitution. The Constitution now provides that at the end of ten year’s the Commonwealth Parliament may make such provision in regard to the finances as it pleases. I think that it was extremely desirable that a time limit of five or ten years should again have been agreed to. The advantage would be this: At the end of that time the matter would automatically come up for revision, and it would then be dealt with on its merits. It would not then be a burning question at each election, involving, possibly, the State Governments and Parliaments in almost every Federal contest. If the provision is placed in the Constitution in perpetuity, before it can be taken out again the Constitution must be altered. To do that would require, perhaps, years of agitation, of Federal unrest; years during which every important matter with regard to the national policy of the Federation would be made subject to this continual “pull-devil-pull-baker” contest between the States and the Commonwealth. The placing .of this agreement in the Constitution will occasion a division of Customs and Excise revenue, which will be a question of first class perennial importance. I say that, because after an examination of the provision as it stands, I have come to the conclusion that unless the Government raise very much larger sums by means of a revenue Tariff, or by borrowing, or in some other way, we shall not be able to meet our obligations. The Government are not going in for direct taxation. Mr. Deakin, speaking not very long ago, said that while the Commonwealth had power to impose direct taxation, the present Government did not intend to do so until the very last extremity - until every other davies had been exhausted. Very well then; we may take it as the declared policy of the Government that there are to be added revenue duties. Certainly, unless a very large additional sum is raised, or unless the Government go in for retrenchment - and there is not much likelihood of that - or unless they abandon a number of their projects, within five years at the very latest the Commonwealth will be “ in Queerstreet “ in respect of money. That is a statement which I make after such a close examination of the whole of the circumstances as I am capable of conducting. T have drawn out a little balance-sheet which I intend to submit to the Senate. The figures demonstrate to me, at any rateI do not say they will convert others to my way of thinking - that within five or six years the Commonwealth, unless it does one or other of the things which I have just mentioned, will be sadly in need of money. I find that the Post and Telegraph revenue has increased on an average by about ,£130,000 a year, whilst the expenditure has increased on an average by about £150,000 per annum. So that the expenditure is going up faster than the revenue.
– Because we have been constructing works out of revenue.
– We shall do that in future, or else we shall have to borrow the money to construct works. But borrowing for such a purpose is foolish to the last degree. Australia has done too much of that sort of thing. If borrowing is resorted to, it will be in the interests of the people whom I have been talking about so much this afternoon - in the interest of the land monopolists and the people of wealth, who will thereby be enabled to escape some portion of the comparatively little taxation which they pay at present.
– The Government would rather borrow- than impose direct taxation.
– If the Fusion Government, of which Senator Dobson is such an enthusiastic supporter, has to choose .between borrowing and taxing the land monopolists and the rich, they will inevitably borrow. Such are their orders from head-quarters, and those orders must be obeyed.
– Where are those head-quarters?
– The honorable senator knows just as well as I do. The average yield nf ‘Customs and Excise during the last five years has been, according to Knibbs, £2 8s. 6d. per head. For the purpose of my calculation I set down the amount at £2 10s. per head. The population of Australia is estimated by Knibbs to be 4,300,000. If we assume that the population will go on increasing as it is doing at present, we shall, in 1915, have a population of 4,750,000. That population, at £2 ros. per head, would give a revenue of £11,875,000 - that is, assuming that no alteration is made in the Tariff. The Post and Telegraph revenue, on the basis which I have laid down, is estimated to increase by .£130,000. I am assuming that it will increase at the rate of ,£150,000 during the next five or six years. On that basis, in 1915, our revenue from Posts and Telegraphs will be £4,200,000. Consequently our total revenue from Customs and Excise and Posts and Telegraphs will be ,£16,075,000. There will also be a few thousand pounds of miscellaneous revenue, which I have not included in the calculation. We are to return to the States under the agreement 25s. per head. As the population in 1915 will be, approximately, 4,750,000, we shall then be paying to the States £5,937,500 per annum. I have said that the Post and Telegraph expenditure has been increasing on an average at the rate of £150,000 a year. Every one who knows anything of the subject will admit that the expenditure on the Post and Telegraph Department will have to be increased by very much more than £150,000 a year if it is to be placed in an effective condition during the period to which I am referring. In 191 5 the expenditure on that Department will be, according to my calculation, £5,000,000 per annum. Then we shall have to meet the payment of old-age pensions. I am not including in my calculation any expenditure upon invalid pensions, but I believe that in the year 1915 we shall be paying £2,000,000 per annum for old-age pensions. The expenditure at that date upon defence I have put down at £2,500,000 per annum, after consultation with the best authorities available in this and in the other Chamber. Then we must make provision for the payment of interest and redemption on the transferred properties. Even though we were to take over the State debts tomorrow, we. should require to provide for the payment of interest and redemption on the £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 spent in the construction of the transferred properties. I estimate that in 1915 our expenditure on this account will amount to £450,000 a year. Then there will be expenditure upon advertising and immigration.- I “have no doubt that if the Fusion Government remain in power for another five years, there will be a mighty splash in that direction.
– Heaven forbid that they should.
– That is a very pious wish, which I echo heartily, but the settlement of that question is not in the hands of the honorable senator or of myself. I have put down £50,000 a year as representing the expenditure on advertising and immigration. I have also estimated that there will be an additional miscellaneous expenditure of £50,000 a year. These figures give a total estimate of expenditure in 1915 of £15,987,500. That would leave a surplus of £87,500. Honorable senators will mark that in estimating the probable expenditure I have made no mention of expenditure upon the Capital site, the Northern Territory, the Western Australian railway, or on other Government schemes, or on Departments which the Commonwealth has yet to take over from the States. The consideration of these figures should drive honorable senators to the conclusion that by 1915 some revision of this financial agreement must take place.
That is the conclusion to which I have deliberately come. I have given notice of an amendment limiting the operation of the agreement to a period of ten years. But with the results before me of the investigation I have made, I have now come to the conclusion that the period I propose to provide for in my amendment is about five ears too long. A revision of the agreement may become necessary very much sooner if expenditure is incurred in connexion with’ the Federal Capital, even though we should borrow the money to be spent for that purpose. The Government is presumably in earnest about the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth, and trial may involve expenditure to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum ; in addition to which a large sum would have to be borrowed to meet a State debt which must be taken over by the Commonwealth. Then there is the Western Australian railway. The Treasurer of the Commonwealth is one of the representatives of Western Australia, and he will no doubt insist that the claims of his State shall be attended to. We have a number of Western Australian representatives in this and the other Chamber, and if the Commonwealth Government are to indulge in wild goose speculations in every other portion of the continent, I do not see whyWestern Australia should not have her share of public expenditure. I have not very much more to say upon this subject. I have endeavoured as fully and as candidly as I could to give the Senate my views upon it. I wish to say clearly that I have no objection to the payment to the States of 25s. per head of their population for a limited number of years. T think that that is a very fair pa v ment indeed under existing conditions. But I have come to the conclusion that it will not be possible, without loss or trouble to the Commonwealth, to carry out that arrangement for a longer period than five or six years. I am driven to the conclusion that the Fusion Government has pledged itself to a policy of revenue tariffism and to a policy of borrowing. This represents two gross departures from the previously adopted national policy of Australia, which I deplore in the Fusion Government. Tt was inevitable, considering the forces that met to constitute the Fusion. On the one hand, there were certain people who desired power at any price, and on the other, people who were prepared to pay a decent price, with the knowledge that their policy was more likely to be carried into effect than that of the persons whom they joined. When two such forces mingled and co-operated, the result which is now before us was almost inevitable. We see in all this the depths to which this system of party Government and this hungering for office, this desire tor position, place, and power, and pay, drags our public men, and the state of confusion in which it leaves the affairs of the nation. Before I sit down, and as a last word, I should like to place on record my deliberate opinion that in this struggle we have an exact parallel of the battle which is now being fought in the Old Country -the battle of the rich against the poor, the struggle of the poor to throw at least some little share of the burden of taxation on to the big fat shoulders of the rich, and the violent opposition of the rich to anything in the way of fair play. That will be the battle-cry at the next elections. It will be the rich against the poor ; the rich trying to evade their fair share of taxation and to pile it all on to the backs of the long-suffering silent poor. That will be the basis of the struggle. I should like to say, in addition, that, in my opinion, the net result of the operation of the proposed agreement will be that Protection will be mutilated, and as a consequence our town industries will be devastated, and tens of thousands of people cast out of employment. Our land monopoly, instead of being checked, as any honest, patriotic, business-like Government would desire, will be buttressed and strengthened- Our people, instead of being permitted to go upon the land, will be turned into serfs of the soil. That is the deliberate policy of the Fusion ‘Government. The people will not be able to pay the high prices demanded by monopolists. They will be compelled by the mere force of circumstances to rent the land at the monopolist’s price, and in that way will be turned, like their European brethren, into mere wretched miserable serfs of the soil. Then, again, as a result of this double policy of the destruction of Protection and the buttressing of land monopoly, our unemployed will be multiplied by thousands and tens of thousands, and probably we shall in addition have to face the evil of the introduction of huge numbers of people as immigrants, for that is also a part of the policy of the Fusion Government. As a consequence, wages will inevitably be reduced. The cost of living will be largely increased by the imposition of revenue duties upon a large number of articles which are now admitted free, and which are consumed chiefly by the working people of the Commonwealth. I have endeavoured to put before the Senate fairly, fully, and as briefly as I could, my ideas upon this agreement. As I have said, I am quite willing that the States should for a limited period receive a subsidy of 25s. per head of their population per annum. But I am as sure as that I am standing here now that if it is agreed to place this agreement in the Constitution perpetually, then after, say, six years, or two Parliamentary periods, this question will at every election be a permanent running sore to both the Commonwealth and the States.
– lt is almost a truism that in a political struggle of this kind the side attacking has a very considerable advantage, and conversely a corresponding disadvantage is imposed upon those who wish, as I do, to defend the measure proposed. I say at once that I give to this Bill my whole-hearted support without any reservation whatever. The debate so far has been confined mainly to two points, the merits of the Bill itself and the method proposed to be adopted to give it strength. The position reminds me of a rather homely analogy. One side appears to be trying to pour out the water whilst the other is trying to take out the sponge, and between the two the baby is likely tobe left without a bath. Honorable senators taking one side are trying to kill the Bill because they say it would ‘be a bad thing to put the agreement into the Constitution, and others are trying to kill the Bill on its merits because they believe it involves the destruction of Protection, and that the 25s. per head of their population is a great deal too much to return to the States. Before saying a few words upon the merits of the Bill as they appeal to me, I will make a passing reference to what has been said concerning the State Premiers. A certain amount of odium has been thrown upon this measure because it has been said that the State Premiers have fathered it. We have also been told that they had no business to interfere. I think that one consideration has been overlooked - that in endeavouring to come to an agreement as to the future financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States one question was of paramount importance, and that was that the State Premiers should determine between them selves what they would be prepared* to accept from the Commonwealth. If the framing of this agreement has donenothing else, it has, at any rate, afforded this Parliament an opportunity to adopt an agreement on lines approved not merely ‘by one, but by all. of the Governments of the States. In other words, the great merit that attached to the assembling of the State Premiers in Conference was that it had theeffect of reconciling all their differences. That reconciliation had to be brought about. The agreement bears upon its face traces both of give and take, so far as the Premiers are concerned. Under it littleTasmania, which is the poorest of the States, will receive no concession, while another ‘and a wealthier State - I refer toWestern Australia - secures special treatment. In these circumstances the result of the Conference was extremely beneficial in that it paved the way for an agreement which might be adopted.
– There was no necessity for an agreement.
– There was, indeed. Whether we accept the proposed agreement or not, undoubtedly there was a necessity for it.
– The people had authorized this Parliament to settle the questionwithout an agreement.
– I shall deal with that aspect of the matter presently. I invite Senator Givens to recollect., that a Federation implies not merely the consent of the people in the Commonwealth, but the consent of the States as separate entities. That is the key-note of the Federal idea. It is the very basis of our Constitution. The answer to the suggestion of the honorable senator is to be found in the fact that whilst Tasmania returns six representatives to this Chamber, New South Wales only returns a similar number.
– The States have no existence apart from the people.
– Then Senator Givens has no justifiable existence in this Senate, nor have 1. But before I reply to the attacks which have been made upon this Bill, I wish to point out some of the merits of the proposed agreement. We all know that amongst the beneficial results whichwill follow from its adoption will be the abolition of the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution. It is universally conceded that those provisions represent an utterly un-Federal method of dealing with the finances. It has also been pointed out that the adoption of the proposed agreement may result in a uniform postage rate, which may or may not be desirable. But I wish first to mention other results which are vastly more important. Under the agreement the Commonwealth undertakes to return to the State Treasurers 25s. for every human being within its borders. Now of all the recognised needs of the Commonwealth the one that is paramount is population. We have said that time after time and year after year, but so far not a single practical effort has been made by this Parliament to bring about any relief of a situation which is absolutely a danger to our national existence. We have done nothing either directly or indirectly to attack the question of our lack of population. Bv accepting the proposed agreement we shall be adopting one of the most effective methods for increasing the population of the whole Commonwealth. When I say that, honorable senators will understand that I am dealing with this question from a Commonwealth stand-point. I am pointing out the advantages which will flow from the agreement, not to any particular State, but to the Commonwealth generally. We cannot do anything which will benefit the Commonwealth more than an effective effort to secure an increase of population.
– The honorable senator wishes this Parliament to bribe the State Parliaments to do their duty.
– I do not care in what aspect my remarks present themselves to Senator Givens.
– Roosevelt said “ Fill your cradles.”
– President Roosevelt may have talked about filling the cradles, but in Australia we require an adult population. I repeat that this agreement will have a serious effect upon the population of Australia. It obviously offers to the State Premiers a considerable and direct inducement to promote immigration.
– In what way?
– I will put the matter to Senator Findley from the standpoint of pounds, shillings, and pence. For every immigrant brought into a State the Treasurer of ti- at State will receive 25s. per annum. Assuming that it costs £50 to bring an immigrant to Australia-
– It does not cost half that.
– The honorable senator may put the amount down at just what he chooses. But I shall put it down at £50. Thus for every £50 expended by a State Government in introducing immigrants to Australia, the State Treasurer will receive 25s. per annum, or 2 J per cent.
– Are immigrants likely to come to Australia if they cannot be assured of employment on the land?
– My answer to the honorable senator’s question is that the possibility of attracting immigrants to the Commonwealth will, for a long time, remain in the hands of the States themselves. It is a platitude to say that the Commonwealth can do very little to encourage immigration.
– It has not tried.
– It has not. But its opportunities for succeeding in that direction are extremely limited, whereas the opportunities of the State Premiers to attract immigrants are full, free, and ready to their hands. Under the proposed agreement they will have a direct incentive to increase the population of Australia.
– We do not require to pay 25s. per head to encourage immigration.
– It is a good thing for the Commonwealth that this additional incentive is to be given. I welcome the opportunity of arousing the State Premiers to do something which everybody admits they should do.
– Each -State will have a further incentive to keep its population within its borders.
– The adoption of the agreement will induce a healthy competition as between State and State. As one who endeavours to live up to Federal ideals, I shall not quarrel if the adoption of the agreement results in throwing a large population into South ‘Australia or Western Australia and not into Tasmania. So long as we get population into the Commonwealth - no matter what State it may settle in - we shall confer an immense good upon it. When I consider all the other recommendations of the agreement, I say that it is one which deserves the whole-hearted support of every man who believes that we have to think federally. I separate the question entirely from. State considerations. I wish now to deal with some of the ob;jections which have been urged to the agreement, and particularly with those put forward bv Senator Symon. We all recognise that he possesses in an exceedingly great , degree the faculty of concentrating all his argumentative powers on the strong point of the case which he is presenting, and on the weak spot in the armour of an opponent. Upon the matter of the power possessed by this Parliament, the honorable senator is almost an idealist. To my mind there is a danger that his idealism may become an idolatry. In accentuating the power of this Parliament, he exhibited a tendency to overlook stronger and weightier considerations.
– I merely stated that Parliament should not give up any of its powers.
– Upon that ground the honorable senator’s argument was unanswerable. I recognise that under the agreement this Parliament will forego a power. But are we to say that in the region of politics only the man is greater than his work? In actual warfare, is the life of a soldier greater than the work that he can perform? Are men of great scientific attainments of more value to the State than the work which lives after them? Do we not all know that the artist is never the equal of the work that he does. Surely the same argument applies in the case of religion with greater force. A man in his religion is not greater than the religion which he holds. So with regard to Senator Symon’s argument I say that he ran very grave danger of mistaking a means for an end by assuming that the power of this Parliament is greater than the work which it Can do.
– I did not object to the agreement at all, but simply to the surrender of a power.
– That is exactly what I am saying. The honorable senator says, in effect, that rather than surrender any of our powers, he would prefer to see the agreement killed.
– That would be the result.
– No. I believe that the State Premiers would accept a time limit.
– If the agreement be not adopted three years must ela Dse before this financial question can be settled. That is a practical aspect of the question which I invite Senator Symon to consider. He approves of the agreement upon its merits. He gees further than some of us are prepared to go in safeguarding the interests of the States. He said that he would give the States 30s. or 35s. per capita, if necessary.
– If that were fair and reasonable.
– I am glad to get such an assent, but what does all this mean? If in his opinion it is a splendid agreement, but it involves the surrender of Parliamentary power, I think that such a sacrifice is well made. In politics a time must come when a sacrifice is the only means of escape, and by that phrase I do not mean a compromise. This is not an occasion on which the honorable and learned senator is asked to surrender a principle of his own, which we should honour him for adhering to. By supporting the agreement he will make a greater sacrifice than I, who approve of it wholeheartedly - he will make a greater sacrifice than any man who cannot see as fully as he does the power of this Parliament which he desires to cherish and retain. He and any one else who thinks with him that it is desirable to preserve that power can say openly to the public, “ I have made a greater sacrifice than any of you. I attach more importance than you in your blindness seem to attach to the powers of Parliament, yet in the interests of the Commonwealth I made this sacrifice.” But, after all, what is our function ? Is it a great thing that we should preserve the powers of Parliament, which, after all, include individual powers? That is not our function. Our duty as a Parliament is to look after the welfare of the Commonwealth. In spite of any personal sacrifices, we should do our utmost to achieve that object. The same remark applies, though I will admit not with equal force from my point of view, to honorable senators who fear that if they were to adopt the agreement they would injure-the cause of Protection. But is that a paramount consideration?
– Even if it were true.
– I cannot agree that it is on quite the same basis as the question of surrendering a Parliamentary power. I know that many ardent Protectionists, if Protection is going to be attacked, have found reason for making a sacrifice, or if Protection is not going to be attacked, for running the risk of making a sacrifice. The argument which I have tried to apply to Senator Symon applies with considerable force to any member of the Senate who is afraid to indorse the agreement because it may infringe the principle of Protection. But, after all, is there any Protectionist in this or the other Chamber who thinks more of Protection than I do of Free Trade? I recognise that if the agreement will largely interfere with Protection it will absolutely kill Free Trade. I do not believe that under a Free Trade Tariff the money could be raised, but under a Protectionist Tariff it may be. Is there nothing beyond us? I admit that right at our feet lies the Parliamentary power, and that on the broad plain just in front lies Protection, while Free Trade is far away on the hills. But is that our sole political horizon? Have we no wider perspective than that ? Is there nothing in the duty which devolves upon us of insuring the welfare of the Commonwealth? There is, and just because there is, again I ask is not the sacrifice worth while? Is not a man, no matter what his principles may be, abundantly justified, not only to his conscience, but to the people of the Commonwealth, if he says, “ I know that I am giving up something, but the advantages to be gained from the acceptance of the agreement are so great that I am prepared to make the sacrifice gladly. In doing so, I shall surrender no principle?” Every man who lives in politics is called upon to make sacrifices. In this case, the sacrifice will not be attended with the indignity, or, if you like, degradation, of a compromise. It will be a political balance. There is no man who can deny that while a Bill will benefit some persons, it will not, directly or indirectly, injure others. What does he do every time but strike a balance? He says, “ On the whole, in my matured judgment, so far ns I am able to investigate the operation of the measure, the balance will be on the side of benefit to the Commonwealth, and for that reason I approve of it.” This agreement is on exactly the same footing as most of our political actions. We must strike a balance, and if we fail to do that we cease to be idealists, and become idolaters. Senator Symon may laugh, and I do not suppose that he agrees with me.
– I did not laugh. I strongly appreciate what the honorable senator has said, although I do not agree with him.
– Introspection is very difficult. It is a great deal harder for a man himself than for an onlooker to see when his idealism becomes idolatry. I admit that in many cases I have become idolatrous in my views, and that the onlooker has pointed out that my ideal is a kind of idolatry. I remind Senator Symon that nothing is more difficult and uncertain than for a man to rely on his own introspection. I do not want to pursue this subject much further. There is another argument which has been used, and that is the argument with regard to putting a provision in the Constitution and taking it out. What does it mean ? Does any one who dares to advance that argument say that there ought to be one door for entrance and another door for exit ? If he makes that assertion he is not a Federalist. The provision to have one door both for entrance and for exit was a wise one. It is based on an analogy which may appeal to Senator Walker, or, at any rate, imitates in method those excellent institutions over which he presides. It imitates the manner in which a bank provides for the safety of its strong-room. If I know the procedure at all, the keys are held generally by the manager and the accountant, and not by one man alone. In order to procure safety they do not have two’ doors to the room, but one door only. In the case of section 128 of the Constitution we have closely followed that analogy. The manager is represented by the people, and the accountant is very properly represented by the States. In those two hands are placed the keys of the Constitution, and I hope that they will always remain there. Just as you must get the consent of the States as well as the consent of the people to put a provision into the Constitution, so it is essentially a Federal principle that when you want to take a provision out of the Constitution you should also get that dual consent also. Otherwise, we should have had no Federation.
– There is no dispute about that. The point is that a fewer number can keep the door closed than can open it.
– What does the honorable senator refer to?
– To the provision requiring the assent of a majority of the States.
– I know that when honorable senators have been discussing the possibility of taking a provision out of the Constitution they have invariably had in their minds the question of population. They have said that, if a proposal to take a provision out of the Constitution were opposed by 190,000 electors representing a bare majority in three of the smaller States, and supported by nearly 1,000,000 electors, it could not be taken out. What did they mean? They were referring not to the method of getting out the provision by means of individual votes, but to the fact that the smaller States could exercise power in getting out a provision as well as putting it in. That is the trouble. But is it not a trouble which we expected to experience ? It may be a trouble to a few, but from my point of view it is a Federal safeguard. It may be a trouble to men who favour unification. It may be a trouble to men who desire the aggrandizement of the large States, but to me it is a paramount security. That is the reason why I feel firm and fixed in my loyalty to the Constitution. I recognise that on that basis, and on that basis only, Federation was ever brought about.
– Otherwise, Tasmania would not have joined.
– No. I dare say that South Australia would not have joined also. Certainly, Western Australia would not have entered the Federation.
– What I wanted to point out was that three small States, or three large States, could keep a provision in the Constitution.
– 1 do not object, in fact, I think it a salutary thing, if necessary, that three small States should be able to do so. In this case, a State has as great a power as has an individual, and a number of States ought to be as effective in deciding a question as a number of individuals on one side or the other. If you disregard that principle you will destroy Federation.
– I want to support the Constitution. But those who support the Bill want to maim it.
– I am dealing now with the question of getting something into the Constitution and taking it out. If any man quarrels with the machinery he must quarrel with the -Constitution. This is neither the time nor the place to argue this question. The provision is contained in the Constitution. I approve of it because it recognises the States. The day has long passed for raising that issue. We must practically take the Constitution as it is. We have no other possibility of escape. If there are difficulties in taking out a provision they ought to be there. That is my answer to honorable senators. Any man who denies that they ought to be there asserts that what we should foe doing now is not considering this agreement, which has for its object the placing of a provision in the Constitution, but considering a proposal to amend the Constitution with regard to the method of exit and entrance. Is that the proposal before us? Here, again, I come back to Senator Symon’s argument. His contention was that the arrangement should go into the Constitution for twenty-five years. And what then? What is to arise at the end of twenty-five years? One of two things. Either the arrangement is then to be regarded as a good thing or a bad thing on its merits ; one or the other. Which is it to be? Senator Symon wants Parliament, to decide. He says, “I am not going to say that this arrangement will be good for longer than twenty-five years, and I insist that Parliament shall retain power to decide the matter at the end of that time.” But what is going to happen then ? Suppose Senator Symon is here at that time.
– No chance !
– He will allow me to express the hope that he will be here, and if I am I shall certainly be glad if he is here also. He would then have the whole question discussed on its merits, and if he thought that the arrangement was still good he would insist on its retention. But, at the same time, he desires to maintain Parliamentary control. Now, what is the value of that attitude?
– We could give the arrangement another term.
– That is to say, we should risk everything in order to retain Parliamentary control.
– Where is the risk? Cannot we trust Parliament to do what is fair?
– Of course, I can trust Parliament to do what is fair, but that is not the whole question.
– T think so.
– Indeed, it is not. If I agreed to the honorable senator’s proposition I should be risking everything approaching stability and continuity with respect to the basis upon which the States have to frame their own policies.
– Would the honorable senator have an arrangement in perpetuity ?
– The honorable senator admits that any arrangement is liable to revision.
– I do; and so far as the elasticity of the Constitution permits a revision to he made, I am very glad indeed that it gives us the safeguard which it does. And that brings me to another consideration. I have heard it contended in the course of this debate - even by Senator Symon himself - that Parliament is going to surrender some of its rights and powers by consenting to this agreement ; that it is going to give up some of those privileges which it is our duty to conserve. Now, I venture to say that when Senator Symon spoke like that, he was suffering from some amount of confusion of thought. He was not talking in the days of King John, when the people of England were fighting for a Charter.
– I did not use the word “ privileges “ at all ; though I observe that one of the newspapers said that I did.
– The honorable senator said that Parliament would be “ emasculating its Dowers.”
– Surely there is some confusion of thought there ? Not only are we not living in the days of King John, but the case now is not even as if we were living in the pre-Reform days of the Georges, when the people of England were righting for the powers of Parliament against the powers of the Sovereign. What is the present position? Surely it is not in any way analogous to a surrender of rights. It is not proposed to deprive the people through this Parliament of powers which the people have hitherto exercised. What is the surrender? To whom is the surrender being made ? It goes tq no king exercising a power which, in the opinion of the people, he ought not to exercise. It goes to the very people who created this Parliament, and who have given to us every vestige of the power which we have. We owe absolutely everything to them.
– What about the Legislative Councils ?
– I am not concerned with the Legislative Councils just now, but I am concerned with the fact that a great deal too much has been made of this so-called surrender of our powers.
– Does the honorable senator say that it is as easy to take a provision out of the Constitution as it is to put one in ?
– I have dealt with the position of exit and entrance with respect to the Constitution, and shall not go over the ground again ; I wish to lay emphasis on the confusion of thought that has been manifested. We are not entitled to forget that it is the people to whom we are surrendering power if any is being surrendered - to the people to whom we owe our existence and through whom alone we sit here in Parliament to decide any question that may arise. That is the position which we occupy. Am I to say - and the strange part of it is that honorable senators opposite are ready to say this - that we are afraid to trust this matter to the people who sent us here? It occurs to me as the strangest argument to be used in this Chamber that we ought not to trust the very people to whose - I will not say caprice, but to whose judgment, we owe our life here. That is the true position.
– I do not trust the Premiers.
– I am not talking about the Premiers at all. I have nothing to do with them. I do not desire to discuss the matter any further. I know that it is extremely difficult for any one - evenfor Senator Symon - to shift a vote in any direction by any argument; but I do say that, feeling as I do very strongly on this matter, and being so perfectly assured in. my own mind - so far as that is worth anything - that this agreement will be, if adopted, the greatest work that this Parliament has accomplished since its very first inception ; feeling, as I do, abundantly satisfied that the balance under thisproposal is materially in favour of the Commonwealth as a whole, and not of any individual State - I do beseech any member of this Senate to give the subject even greater thought than it has received. If any honorable senator be persuaded as to the merits of the agreement - if he believes, as I do, that it is immensely important from the point of view of the future of the Commonwealth of Australia - then L beseech and entreat him to let the people of the Commonwealth have an opportunity to speak concerning it as individuals, as -States, and of determining for themselves whether this question is to be solved in the way in which it has been recommended to us.
– - I hope that the high tone that has been given to the debate by the last speaker will be maintained by those who- follow him; for I am sure that there is not one of us who will not freely acknowledge that Senator Clemons has lifted the discussion to a very high level. i desire to address myself particularly to some of the arguments that” have been used by the opponents of the Bill. It has been said by honorable senators opposite that the agreement with which we are dealing was prepared at a secret caucus of Premiers and Federal Ministers. That remark, I venture to say, indicates a misunderstanding of the manner in which the agreement was arrived at. As a matter of fact, and of history, I believe that no question of such importance affecting the Commonwealth has ever received so much careful public criticism as has the future financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States. I shall proceed at once to show that that is so. We have had several Conferences of Premiers and of responsible Commonwealth Ministers, the whole subject has been fully debated in Parliament, and it has received full treatment in the press. The whole question has been threshed out from top to bottom in the most public manner. It does, not follow, because the last Conference of Premiers took place in secret, that there has been any lack of public discussion. On the contrary, the debates have been both voluminous and enlightening. Let us trace the history of the Conferences that have dealt with the question. First we had the Hobart Conference, which was attended by the Commonwealth Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the Premiers of he States. The first Commonwealth Treasurer, Sir George Turner, laid the whole question very fully from the Federal point of view before that assembly. The report which was prepared has been in the hands of every member of the Federal Parliament and of every State representative. Immediately following that gathering, there was the Melbourne Conference of October, 1906, which was again attended by Commonwealth Ministers in their responsible. capacity, by the Premiers of the States, and by Leaders of the Opposition. The only exception was that South Australia was not represented.
– But the South Australian Government sent a letter embodying their views.
– Exactly; one of the most important contributions to that Conference was a letter sent by the late Honorable T. Price, Premier of South
Australia. The ^906 Conference was open, and its proceedings were published. Again, in the same year, there was another Conference, which was attended by representatives of the States and of the Commonwealth, and reports of which are available to all of us. Coming nearer to the present time, we had the Brisbane Conference of 1907, which was attended by the Federal Treasurer, Sir John Forrest, and at which the financial question was thoroughly discussed. The report of that gathering has likewise been published. Next we had the Hobart Conference of 1909, which was attended by the Honorable Andrew Fisher, then. Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and who, although he was not prepared to discuss the financial policy at length, laid down clearly the views of himself and his colleagues upon these grave issues. The report of the Hobart Conference was also published. Moreover, we have had piles of memoranda from leading financiers embodying their views. The issue has been discussed over and over again from every point of view. In my notes I have a list of no fewer than thirty public papers on Cis question which have been presented to Parliament. In the face of that statement, those who contend that we are adopting the conclusion of a secret Conference of Premiers as the basis of the financial policy which the Government intend to commend to the electors must be influenced by the cant, ignorance, or prejudice of party politics. As a matter of history and plain fact, it can be shown that probably no public question has ever been more thoroughly debated. In the circumstances, I hope that no member of the Senate will still have the hardihood to charge the Ministry with being guided by the conclusions of a secret Conference in submitting this agreement, and in asking us to enable the people of Australia to express an opinion upon it. I come now to another important aspect of the question. Both sides in both Houses of this Parliament are practically agreed as to the amount which should be returned to the States. In proof of that assertion I need refer only to the official report of the proceedings of the fourth Commonwealth Political Labour Conference, held in July, 1008, at Brisbane. We can regard that report as giving an accurate account of the proceedings of the Conference, and a clear indication of the main trend of the discussions which took place at it. Mr. Holman was evidently the moving spirit in the Committee which framed the draft of the proposals which were afterwards approved by the Conference. After a careful perusal of the official report of the Conference, I make the assertion that no consideration of a time limit to the payment proposed to be made to the States determined the decision arrived at. Two things are evident from the report, and they are that it was intended that the payment proposed should- be permanent, and that so far as. the pounds, shillings, and pence aspect of the question is concerned, the amount proposed was practically identical with that proposed in the Bill now before the Senate. There was one dissenting note heard at the Conference. When the motion submitted by Mr. Holman was before the Conference, an amendment upon it was moved in these words -
That in the opinion of this Conference the Braddon “blot” should be abolished and the financial arrangements be adjusted on a basis equitable to the Commonwealth and the States.
The official record shows that that amendment was defeated, and the motion submitted bv Mr. Holman was then put and carried apparently without dissent. Since then Mr. Holman, who moved the motion at the Conference, and Mr. McGowen, the Leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, have said that the resolutions arrived at were intended to have permanent effect. In answer to that, Senator Pearce has said in effect that both Mr. Holman and Mr. McGowen have either said the thing which is not, or have misunderstood the intention and effect of the motion. I shall quote the words of Mr. Holman and others to show that the permanency of the proposed payment to the State was an essential element of the decision arrived at by the Conference. I have looked through the official report of the Conference very closely, and it is remarkable that the only recorded difference of opinion - and that expressed evidently by a very- small minority - was on the question of the sufficiency or excess of the amount proposed to be returned to the States. I do not think that any honorable senator opposite will seriously dispute that statement. There is overwhelming evidence in the report of the proceedings of the Conference that the proposal approved of was intended to have a permanent effect so far as anything in the Constitution can be said to be permanent. So that there may be no possible mistake, I quote from page 34 of the report of the proceedings of the Conference Mr. Holman’s own words -
The one proposal .now before the Conference was absolutely definite.
What was the one proposal before the Conference? It was a proposal for the return of practically 25s., or very little less, per head of the population of each State. There could not have been in Mr. Holman’s mind at the time any idea of a limitation of the time during which that return should be made, as honorable senators must see that if there had been it would have had a most important effect upon the proposal itself and upon the arguments with which it was supported. Mr. Holman went on to say -
So it could be seen that any percentage scheme on existing lines would load down the Commonwealth Treasurer, and having threshed this matter out, the State representatives on the committee agreed to waive the percentage system. The proposal which Mr. Watson suggested was that payment should be made to the States on a fer capita basis. A certain Sum would be determined on for every unit of the population of Australia-
– Does he say “ in perpetuity “ ?
– He says a “fixed” sum.
– He did not suggest any limit as to time.
– That is the point. That is where the honorable senator’s argument falls to the ground.
– It meant one year only or it meant that it should be unlimited as to time.
– Just so. Mr. Holman was speaking with the full sense of his responsibility to the committee of the Conference. ‘ If he had any idea that a limitation as to time was intended he was certainly not doing his duty to the committee in suppressing that fact. It is quite clear that the intention was that the proposed payment should be perpetual so far as perpetuity can be asserted for any provision of the Constitution. Mr. Holman and Mr. McGowen have since said that it was intended that the arrangement approved by the Conference should be permanent, but Senator Pearce has contended that in saying so those gentlemen did not know what they were talking about.
– Might it not be said that the honorable senator does not know what he is talking about now?
- Senator Needham will have ample opportunity to show whether I am misrepresenting or misunderstanding the official report of the proceedings of the Brisbane Labour Conference.
– The honorable senator is misunderstanding it.
– Then Senator Needham will have an opportunity later- to prove his statement. Mr. Holman went on to say-
Just as development and population increased the per capita return would be more. Where is the hint there that the proposed payment was to be limited to a certain number of years ? As a matter of fact, so far as the pounds, shillings, and pence payment proposed to be returned to the States is concerned, Mr. Holman was saying at the Labour Conference in Brisbane what Senator Clemons has said here to-day, that very probably the great reason why no limitation as to time was proposed was that the permanency of the proposed arrangement would be an incentive to each State Government ro increase the population of their State, in view of the fact that with every increase of population the State would be guaranteed a larger aggregate return from the Commonwealth. Mr. Holman and Mr. McGowen really put it forward as a reason for the acceptance of the proposed scheme that every State would be strengthened financially by an increase of population. I do not think that any honorable senator opposite, even Senator Pearce, will dare to impugn that conclusion. Mr. Holman gave an instance of the way in which the proposed payment would operate. He said that if in ten years a certain State doubled its population, it would in- the aggregate receive a double return. He used the ten years period merely as an illustration, and to show what would be the effect of an increase in the population of a State. He further said -
The merit of the scheme lay in the fact that a State Treasurer could pretty accurately forecast the Commonwealth revenues he would receive on the basis of his State population, and that the States as they progressed and -become more populous got an increased return in accordance with their individual numbers.
In spite of this definite statement, I suppose that during the rest of the debate it will still be insisted that the Conference, in carrying the motion submitted by Mr. Holman, regarded a limitation of the operation of the proposed scheme as an essential element. Mr. Watson was present at the Conference, and I shall welcome an explanation from Senator Needham of what he said. Mr. Watson - as will be seen by reference to page 36 of the report - said -
The Committee had not attempted to provide for more than ^500,000 per annum on all works, including railways. This scheme met the objec tion raised by the Premiers’ Conference against Sir William Lyne’s proposals; the Premiers’ objection to there not being any provision after 35 years.
When he asserted that the superiority of the proposals which emanated from the Brisbane Labour Conference was to be found in the fact that they met the objection which had been urged by the State Premiers to the proposals of Sir William Lyne, he must have had in his mind that the scheme was practically to be a perpetual one. He went on to say- - that Mr. O’Malley’s proposition was open to the same criticism. There the acceptance of a time limit is expressly negatived. In the face of the extracts, which I have quoted from the official report of the proceedings of the Brisbane Labour Conference, I should like to be told where any attempt was made to impose a time limit. The Leader of the Opposition, will be afforded ample opportunity in Committee to explain away, if he can, the speeches of Mr. Holman and of Mr. Watson. I am sorry that Senator Lynch is absent from the Chamber, because I propose to quote from a speech which he made at the gathering in question. Upon page 38 of the official report he is thus reported -
They should give the people an expression of opinion on this subject. The proposal now made recognised the right of the States to a continuous contribution.
I ask Senator Lynch to tell me the difference, if any exists, between the word*” continuous “ without any limitation, and the word “ permanent.”
– Why all this excitement t
– I wish to drive home my argument because the charge has been made by honorable senators opposite that the scheme propounded at the Brisbane Labour Conference was not intended to be a permanent one. If I exhibit a little warmth in my speech, I need not apologize for it in view of the startling statement which has been made by honorable senators opposite that the element of permanency in the agreement was not considered a vital ons. The Braddon section of the Constitution sets out two things, namely, the proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue to be returned to the States, and the time during which the system was to continue. In the first instance it provided for a permanent distribution of the revenue, and in that form received the indorsement of the electors when the draft Constitution Bill was submitted for their acceptance. The provision was approved by a majority of the States and a majority of the people. The limitation which was subsequently inserted in order to suit a State Premier did not receive their indorsement. In proof of my statement, T would refer honorable senators to the memorandum which was submitted to the Conference of Premiers held in Melbourne in October, 1906. The Honorable T. Price prefaced his inclosure to that Conference with the statement that it “ embodies the views of the South Australian Government on the financial arrangements between the States and the Commonwealth.” The Treasurer of that State, Mr. Peake, said -
It is time that the true position between the States and the Commonwealth should be placed before the Commonwealth, but until a definite understanding is arrived at in connexion with the transferred properties these misleading statements will be continued and the Commonwealth, because of its peculiar system of bookkeeping between itself and the States, obtains credit for itself and its Government at the expense of the States and their Treasuries. It is only a question of bookkeeping. What we say in fairness to the States is that it should be proper bookkeeping. … I have heard statements to the effect that it is time that the Commonwealth and State financial matters should be separated. There may be much to be said in regard to that, but the Constitution provided in the first instance that the Braddon clause shall be a perpetual arrangement, because it was sought to secure the solidity of the States as well as revenue for the Commonwealth. . . . The question of ten years was never submitted to the people, but the question of perpetuity was submitted and approved. Until the Commonwealth assumes responsibility for the State debts the people would, if there was a referendum, vote almost unanimously for a continuation of the Braddon clause.
Those are the words used by Mr. Peake, the Treasurer of South Australia, who was voicing the feeling of the Premier of that State and of the Ministry. I believe, too, that he was stating what is absolutely an historical fact. He accurately reflected the feeling of the people of South Australia at that time that if an arrangement in substitution of the Braddon section of the Constitution were submitted to the electors, they would prefer to make it a permanent arrangement. I repeat that the perpetuity of the Braddon section received the most marked approbation of ihe people. What are the figures in this connexion ? In New South Wales, where 71,985 votes were recorded, there was a majority of 5,367 in favour of the Braddon section in its original form. In Victoria, where 100,520 votes were registered, the majority in favour of the Braddon section, without limitation, was 78,421. In South Australia, where 35,800 votes were recorded, the majority was 18,480, and in Tasmania, where n,797 votes were cast, the majority was 9,081. Altogether 219,712 persons voted in favour of the Braddon section without any limitation, as against 111,349 persons who opposed it. There was thus a majority in its favour of 100 per cent. I ask honorable senators opposite whether the people of Australia have changed their opinions upon this matter. An overwhelming majority were apparently in favour of a proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue being returned to the States for all time. What reason is there to infer that they do not wish to give their adhesion to’ the proposed agreement, unless it be subject to a time limit? I hope that the Government will not be led to depart lightly from the expressed desire of the States Premiers, and from what was the manifest intention of the Brisbane Labour Conference. I hope that this agreement will be submitted to the electors’ free from any time limitation. No party in this Parliament can justify the assertion that the people of Australia have indicated their preference for any such limitation. All the evidence is to the contrary. I now propose to deal with some of the objections which have been urged against the Bill. One of these has already been referred to by Senator Clemons, namely, that the agreement would constitute a blow at our Protective policy. Upon the face of it such a declaration is absurd, and the newspaper which originated it must be hard pressed when it has to resort to an argument of that kind. But let us take the history of a newspaper which is said to have exercised a great influence on State politics, and which ii probably trying to exercise a corresponding influence on Federal politics. The performance of the celebrated Artemus Ward’s snake at the door of the show was a small circumstance compared with the circus performance of the Age, the apostle of Protection, on this question. When the argument was used in the Convention, that the fixing of the amount of Customs and Excise revenue to be returned to the States should be left to the decision of the Parliament, the Age came out, over and over again, with strong objections. When the Premiers were assembled here in 1898, to arrange definitely the terms of the clause, it argued that it was the language of noodledum to say, “ Trust that to the
Parliament.” It evidently intended thai the people should be trusted. If in 1898 it was the language of noodledum to suggest that the matter be left to the Parliament, how does it become the language of wisdom in 1909 to do so? If in 1898, according to the Age, it was part of the necessities of the position that the people, that is, the States, should have an assurance of the return of a portion of the Customs and Excise revenue definitely set down in the Constitution, does it become less necessary now, when the Parliament has to reconsider the position, that it should go back to the people and ask- for the same kind of safety in the distribution of that revenue? I give the retort back to the Age. If it was wise then, it is noodledum now, and vice versa. There has been some objection made as to the insufficiency Of the amount which it is proposed to return to the States. I have pointed out. that the amount itself has the substantial indorsement of the Opposition. I do not suppose that they will quarrel about the difference of a few pence or a few farthings between the proposals. Further, the amount has the unanimous approval of th’2 State Premiers who met in August, 1909. It has been accepted by the Ministry, who are responsible for the advice which they give to the Parliament and the people. Furthermore, on the first occasion when it was possible to refer the question to the electors, it was ratified. At the last elections in Queensland, the question formed an important element in the con,sideration. of the Government policy. Whether or not the two opposing sides agreed, the matter was put to the electors as part of the issue, and the Premier, who was an important personage at the Conference, was returned by a fairly substantial majority. Apart from that, if we look at the figures, it will be little less than captious criticism for any one to say that the States are not dealing with the Commonwealth in the most generous fashion when, through the Premiers, they offer to accept, in place of what they previously received, 25s. per capita out of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– But the honorable senator must remember that prior to Federation they had to bear the cost of their own defence.
– I have taken that into consideration. An examination of the figures shows, first, that the States are about to give up a great deal; and, second, that they have most generously recognised the needs and obligations of the Commonwealth. In 1907-8 the States received from the Commonwealth £8,526,165, that is, a return of £2 os. 7½d. per head, whereas, on a per capita basis of 25s., they would have received £5,246,278. In 1908-9 they received £7,930,471, that is, a return of £1 17s. Itd. per head, whereas, on a per capita basis of 25s., they would have received £5,344,133 As regards 1909-10, it is estimated that they will receive £7,888,144, that is, a return of £1 16s. 2fd. per head, whereas, on a per capita basis of 25s., they would receive but .£5,433,750. In other words, the States have given up 33J per cent, per capita to enable the Commonwealth to carry out its obligations, and will give up about 45 per cent, of the amount they would otherwise have received this year. Let us consider the large obligations which the States still have in the matter of providing interest on their debts.
– Tell us the obligations which they have relinquished ; be fair.
– I do not wish to be unfair. The inference, from the interjection, is that I am not taking into consideration the increased services which are before the Commonwealth. But I am pointing out that in order that we may. make those sei vices efficient, the States are giving back 33J per cent. Probably we do not provide sufficient for old-age pensions. Probably we have not provided in the past sufficient for defence. But be that as it may, surely the honorable senator cannot quarrel very much with this statement, that the States are giving up a great deal compared with what they will receive. Let it be remembered that they will be primarily liable for the interest on their debts. In 1906 the interest bill amounted to ;£8>733>233, and in 1908 to £8,839,695. But the utmost which they can receive from the revenues of the Commonwealth will be £5,500,000, that is, only about 63 per cent, of the return which they previously got. With regard to the States debts, it has frequently been asserted from the other side that reckless or extravagant borrowing by the States has been one of the weak spots in financial administration.
– Do they not pay most of their interest bills out of railway revenue ?
– Certainly not.
– I thought that they did.
– The States are now beginning, I admit, to pay out of revenue a good portion of the interest on their debts. But for many years that was a heavy obligation upon them. I do not know that a more powerful brake upon extravagant borrowing could be imposed upon the States than to fix their .share of the Customs and Excise revenue at 25s. per head. I think it is not misrepresenting the feeling on the other side to say that that brake should be more or less perpetual, or, at any rate, that the States should not repeat the extravagance with which they are charged. I do not complain of the manner in which the borrowing power has been exercised. I believe that, on the whole, the States have borrowed wisely and well. But there is no doubt they needed a reminder about certain extravagance which has taken place, and the excessive taxation which it brought about. Here is an important point. It cannot be gainsaid that the States are male ing a generous concession to the Commonwealth. Is it to be supposed that the States which are now acting in this liberal way will ever be less sensible of their obligations to the Commonwealth or its services if at any time it should be found that a return of 25s. per capita is not sufficient? The very readiness with which the State Premiers have suggested the surrender of two or three million pounds of revenue is such a clear recognition by them of the needs of the Commonwealth, that there is every reason to suppose that if at any time the States should be in difficulties as far as the per capita return is concerned, they would be as generous then as they certainly are now. Dealing with another aspect of the matter which has been raised by honorable senators opposite, I think that it is not an unfair inference that one of the objects of their financial policy, directly and indirectly, expressed in Parliament and elsewhere, is to drive the Commonwealth and the States into direct taxation. A land tax is part of their policy. One of the objects which they have in view in desiring to cut down the return to the States from Customs and Excise is to force on direct taxation. Now, I hold that it was thi: intention of the Constitution that indirect taxation, mainly through Customs and Excise, should be exclusively reserved for the Commonwealth, whilst, inferential)’, it was intended that direct taxation should be the domain of the States. It is a remarkable circumstance that the very same question arose when the Constitution of the United States was being framed, as I shall show presently from a quotation from Alexander Hamilton. I believe that it would be an unjust, and possibly a disastrous interference with the financial powers of the States if the Commonwealth were to resort to direct taxation on its own account. There is only one limitation which I would place upon that principle, and that is that, in time of dire national emergency - say, in the event of war - the Commonwealth might have to entrench upon direct taxation for public purposes.
– How would the honorable senator raise additional revenue for extra Commonwealth services?
– I anticipate that with increasing population and increasing prosperity the Customs and Excise returns will be increasing quantities. That is an answer which has been given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and which i indorse.
– Does the honorable senator think that, with increased Protection, we shall secure increased revenue?
– I believe that under any Tariff which is likely to be imposed in Australia, the imports will be considerable, and probably they will maintain a ratio with the increase of the population and of the wealth of the country.
– Does not the honorable senator think that a purely Protective Tariff would reduce revenue from Customs and Excise?
– I suppose that a truly Protective Tariff, in the honorable senator’s sense of the term, would mean absolute prohibition. But that contingency is not likely to arise. Our Tariff is settled tor many years to come, and I think that we may rely upon it that the same results will accrue here as have happened in other Protective countries. The revenue from Customs and Excise will probably increase as population increases, and, perhaps, even at a greater ratio. A difficulty similar to ours arose when the American Convention of 1787 was engaged in drawing up the Constitution, upon which the Constitution of Australia is, to a large extent, founded. On that occasion Hamilton drew a complete and clear line of demarcation between Commonwealth and State taxation. He said -
Although I am of opinion that there would be no real danger of the consequences which seem to be apprehended to the State Governments from a power in the Union to control them in the levies of money, because I am persuaded that the sense of the people, the extreme hazard of provoking the resentment of the State Governments, and a connexion of the utility and necessity of local administration for local purposes, would be a complete barrier against the oppressive use of such a power; yet I am willing here to allow to its full extent the justness of the reasoning which requires that the individual States should possess an independent and uncontrollable authority to raise their own revenues for the supply of their own wants. And making this concession I affirm that with the sole exception of duties on imports and exports they would, under the plan of convention, retain that authority in the most absolute and unqualified sense, and that an attempt on the part of the National Government to abridge them in the exercise of it would be a violent assumption of power unwarranted by any article or clause of its constitution.
Hamilton’s determination then was that indirect taxation should be the sphere of the Federal Government, whilst direct taxation should be the domain of the States. Dealing with the same subject in a contribution to a newspaper called the Advertiser, in Philadelphia, Hamilton wrote -
The laws cannot therefore in a legal sense interfere with each other, and it is far from impossible to avoid an interference even in the policy of their different systems. An effectual expedient for this purpose will be mutually to abstain from those objects of taxation which either side may have first had recourse to. As neither can control the other, each will have an obvious and sensible interest in this reciprocal forbearance. And where there is immediate common interest we may safely count upon its operation.
I direct the attention of those who take an interest in the State debts to the fact that Hamilton dealt with the question of the debts of the States in America, and said -
When the particular debts of the States are done away, and their expenses come to be limited within their natural compass the possibility almost of interference will vanish. A small land tax will answer the purpose of the States, and will be their most simple and their most fit resource.
– The Legislative Councils would very likely refuse to pass what was proposed.
– My honorable friend seems to have Legislative Councils on the brain. They are the creation of the people.
– No; they are the creation of only a section of the people.
– The Legislative Councils are a kind of King Charles’ head to honorable senators opposite. The point that I wish to establish is that a clear line of distinction should be drawn between Commonwealth and States taxa tion. Hamilton himself warned the people of America against either of the two powers entrenching upon the sphere of the other in this respect. I take it that the objection entertained by honorable senators opposite to the proposal of the Government, which has been indorsed by the State Premiers, is that they wish to force direct taxationupon both the Federal and the State Governments. I deduce this conclusion from what has been said by Mr. Holman, of New South Wales, who argued that the payment of 25s. per capita should be made to the States in perpetuity.
– I defy the honorable senator to prove that Mr. Holman ever said so.
– I have quoted from the official document.
– Will the honorable senator point out where Mr. Holman ever said anything about “perpetuity”?
– I can only leave the matter to the public to determine. Mr. Holman argued that the State should within its own area carry out social reforms, and should bear the expense of them from direct taxation. With regard to the argument that the Commonwealth cannot afford to pay 25s. per capita to the States, the answer is plain and simple. If it were proved by experience that the payment of this sum prevented the Commonwealth from performing its duty to the people, I am certain that the people would be perfectly willing to meet every demand that was made upon them. They are showing no reluctance whatever with regard to expenditure on Commonwealth policy. On the contrary, they are manifesting a generous spirit. But it cannot be disputed that even if we found that 25s. per capita was too much to return our revenues would by no means be crippled, because we have the whole domain of taxation open to us.
– The honorable senator does not believe in taking advantage of that.
– I should resist the imposition of fresh taxation at the present time, because I see no need for it. I am reminding honorable senators that the Commonwealth retains full powers of taxation, and that if the payment of 25s. per head of the population to the States does not leave sufficient revenue to the Commonwealth to meet its expenditure, we have the means by direct and indirect taxation to supply all our wants, and might, if that were necessary, take advantage of the whole domain of taxation in time of war.
– The honorable senator would put a duty on tea.
– We are not now considering a Tariff. I refuse to view this question from the Protectionist, Revenue Tariff, or Free Trade point of view. The Tariff question is settled and dead. I hope that it will not be revived for some time. But honorable senators opposite are anxious at all times to drag in side issues, and are prepared now to discuss, not the terms of the agreement, but whether the adoption of a Free Trade policy would or would not ruin the Common wealth.
– So we are to understand that if this agreement is carried the Tariff is dead?
- Senator Needham is only having his little joke. The honorable senator probably thinks that his remark will be inserted in the Age tomorrow morning as a sample of wisdom greater than that of Solomon.
– The Age has nothing whatever to do with me.
– I cannot understand how such an argument could be addressed to a number of presumably sensible men. I was referring to the objection that the agreement proposes too large a return to the States. In answer, I have said that all our powers of taxation remain untouched, and if it were discovered later that we were giving too large a proportion of our revenue to the States, we could easily supplement it. I share Senator Clemons’ appreciation of the position which Senator Symon has taken up. I believe there is a radical difference between the attitude adopted by the honorable senator and that adopted by honorable senators opposite. I could not gather from Senator Symon’s speech, or from the criticism of it, that he has any special love for a time limit as compared with what might be called perpetuity for the proposed substitute for the Braddon section. At any rate, the honorable senator did not indicate it in his speech. He rested the whole of his case upon the objection to this Parliament giving up its powers. I inferred from that, and it is not an unreasonable inference, that if we are to give up any of our powers at all there is little to choose between giving them up “ in perpetuity,” in accordance with the terms of the Constitution, and giving them up for a limited period. I venture to say that Senator Symon permitted himself to be led away by a fallacy and a delusion when he talked about there being any disparagement to the dignity of this or of any other Parliament in its being asked to give up any of its powers. I could quite understand that a Parliament which would allow its powers to be hampered by some outside or international despotic influence would be doing a very dangerous thing. Parliaments in the past have done that, or have been forced to do it. But to whom is this Parliament asked to return one of its powers under this agreement? It is to the very people who created those powers. The financial proposals approved by a committee of Labour delegates were submitted for ratification to a Labour Conference, and if that were right, how could it be wrong to submit them for the ratification of the people? If we assume that those proposals were such as on investigation might be shown to be the best that could be suggested in the interests of the ‘Commonwealth, those who framed them would have everything to gain, and would lose neither power nor dignity by submitting them to the people. In the same way this Parliament would suffer no loss of dignity in submitting this matter to the consideration of the people, who can confer or take away any of the powers of this Parliament. It would not be a free Parliament if it could not refer such a matter to a free people, and the people of this Commonwealth would not be a free people if from time to time they had not the right to ask that Parliament should refer such matters to them. Instead of decreasing our power or lessening our dignity, we should, by submitting the matter to the people, strengthen our power and increase our dignity. It seems to me a very strange argument for a Liberal or a Democrat to use that we should minimize our power, so far as this matter is concerned, by a reference to the people. I dare say that Senator Symon would think it rather hard if it were said that he is not a. Liberal, but it appears to me that in this century the Liberalism of Parliament has only been increased and strengthened by the frequent references which, in connexion with important questions, have been made to the people. No more is proposed in this case. I have dealt with some of the essential elements of the problem now before us. I repeat that our Constitution is Democratic in its scope and intention, and that such a proposal as is involved in this financial agreement is one which the people of the Commonwealth should be given an opportunity to consider. It is both Liberal and Democratic to suggest that they should be given an opportunity to fully express their wishes on the subject. Parliament will derive greater power from the submission of this matter to the people. We could not have had a Federal Constitution if ave had not treated the people of the Commonwealth in this spirit. If it was right that they should be asked to pass a judgment upon the instrument framed for their future national Government, how can it be unwise, unjust, or unfair to this Parliament or to the people to submit to the same tribunal, and under the same conditions, a proposed alteration of one of the sections of the Constitution under which they agreed to be governed? I repeat that no matter how important these proposals may be, or how great the power to deal with this question conferred upon this Parliament, both Parliament and people in their relations one to the other will be strengthened if these issues are. presented to the people for their decision. I hope that the Government will not waver in this matter, and that the Senate will agree to send the proposals to the people. I make a fairly sound prediction when I say that whatever may be the fate of this Bill in the Senate the financial ‘agreement cannot be kept from the people. It must be brought before them very shortly. If they desire that power to deal with this matter, they will secure it. I appeal to the Senate to be guided by the spirit of the Constitution, and to adopt the procedurelaid down in the Constitution to enable the proposed modification of an important section of it to be submitted to the people for their consideration unshackled by any limitation.
– I do not intend to follow Senator St. Ledger through all the hypotheses he has put before the Senate. A great deal that he has said is the outcome of the vivid imagination he possesses. The honorable senator has referred to the official report of the Brisbane Labour Conference, and has read into it something to suit himself. He has laid great stress on the fact that Mr. Holman said certain things. But the Labour party is not bound by the opinion of any one man. The members of that party are not like Senator St. Ledger who has never seemed to have an opinion of his own upon any question since he entered this Chamber. The first thing the honorable senator did here was to express an opinion in favour of a Bill that had been introduced. He actually rose to speak on the Bill before the Leader of the Opposition at the time could do so, but after the Leader of the Opposition had expressed his opinion in opposition to the Bill, we found Senator St. Ledger voting with him against the measure. The Labour party is not run on those lines. There may be differences of opinion between Mr. Holman and other people as to the correct interpretation of what was done at the Brisbane Labour Conference, and I am prepared to take the opinion -of ninetynine per cent, of the delegates attending that Conference from the different States in preference to that of Mr. Holman. I am also prepared to take the opinion of Mr. Watson, who only quite recently sent a letter to the Leader of the Federal Labour party, which was quoted in another place, in which he emphatically states that he is against this becoming a permanent agreement, and that he does not believe that it was the intention of the delegates at the Brisbane Labour Conference that the scheme there proposed should be adopted as a permanent one. Of what use is it for the honorable senator to quote the opinion of one individual who, to my mind - and I make the statement here plainly, knowing Mr. Holman - has during the last few months become merely a weak echo of the Premier of New South Wales? Mr. Holman now apparently agrees with everything that may be said or done by the Leader of the Government in that State. It is nothing new for the Labour movement to be misrepresented by members of the Labour party. As a matter of fact, ever since the Labour party has been in existence any danger which has threatened it has always come from a small minority who are supposed to be in sympathy with it. Not only does Senator St. Ledger not know his own mind, but apparently the leaders of the Fusion Government do not know their minds. The correspondence which took place between the Premier of New South Wales and the Prime Minister in reference to the holding of a Conference to discuss the financial relations of the States with the Commonwealth, cover a period from 22nd June to 26th July of the present year. In a letter dated 22nd June, Mr. Wade endeavoured to elicit from the Prime Minister an expression of opinion upon this subject. He wrote -
I may say that I, personally, am very anxious, and I think my brother Premiers hold the same view, that this difficult question should be disposed of before the general election takes place, and whilst we are naturally all very anxious of conserving the solvency of the States in the future, we recognise that the requirements of the Commonwealth must be liberally and fully considered.
In reply to that communication the Prime Minister wrote -
You are probably aware that in the opinion of this Government any attempt to determine now the future distribution of the revenue from Customs and Excise would, for practical reason:), require to contemplate some fixed period for which the circumstances can be forecast with considerable confidence. This should greatly simplify a task which, under any conditions, will be arduous.
In another letter, dated Melbourne, 9th July, the Prime Minister wrote to Mr. Wade-
With reference to the inquiry made in your letter of the 3rd inst., I have the honour to inform you that the propositions to be submitted to our .electors will consist of a general statement in our platform of the views of this Government in respect to what may be termed a permanent settlement of the future financial relations of the States with the Commonwealth. Should the preliminary financial arrangement for a term of years, alluded to in my last letter, fail for any reason to pass this session, that also would be submitted in a precise shape. As you arn aware, neither one nor the other need be engrafted upon the Constitution in order to come into full effect.
There we have an outline of the policy of the Fusion Government at that time. But apparently that policy did not command the approval of the State Premiers who were communicating their wishes to the Prime Minister through the medium of Mr. Wade. Since then, the Government have entirely gone back upon their announced policy. Yet some honorable senators have the hardihood to persistently twit the Labour party with having changed its policy upon the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth merely because one man, who has been held up as a patriotic Australian, has chosen to express an opinion different from that which has been expressed by nearly every delegate to the Brisbane Conference. At that gathering the Labour party adopted what they regarded as the best possible scheme, and they have not gone back upon it in any way. We are frequently told that the caucus method adopted by the party is an objectionable one. It seems to me that it is impossible for any political section in Australia to accomplish good work unless it holds caucus meetings. But that is a very different matter from the representatives of the States and of the Commonwealth meeting in a secret caucus to deal with an important question of this character. It is true that numerous Conferences of Premiers have been held with a view to arriving at an adjustment of the future financial relation:* of the States to the Commonwealth. But those Conferences have always been open to the press, and an official report of their proceedings has been available to anybody who cared to peruse it. So that whilst a good deal may be urged in favour of caucus meetings of political parties, not a single reason can be advanced in justification of a secret meeting betwen the State Premiers and the Prime Minister. I do not believe that the people of Australia desire their work to be done in that fashion. They wish to know the reasons which impelled the Prime Minister and the representatives of the States to arrive at this agreement. Those reasons have not yet been forthcoming. We have been told that the needs of the Commonwealth are at the bottom of the agreement. I do not believe any statement of that kind. It was a political necessity which was recognised alike by the Prime Minister and the State Premiers which induced them to sacrifice the best interests of Australia for the purpose of securing a political advantage. When we recollect the threats which have been made by the Premiers against those who oppose this agreement, we realize why the members of the Fusion party are not prepared to face the electors without it. We all know that it is being supported in this Parliament by gentlemen who are totally opposed to it. They support it because they deem its adoption essential to the maintenance of the solidarity of their party.
– To the solidity of the States from a financial point of view.
– No. Some gentlemen who are opposed to the agreement are supporting it on the ground of political necessity. I do not wonder at them doing so when I recollect the quotations which were made by Senator Symon with a view to prove that the agreement is being adopted under threats. I hold in my hand a communication from the Premier of Queensland, in which he says that those who oppose a permanent settlement of the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth vill be opposed by him and his Government it the next election. This threat is embodied in the following telegram, which is lated 26th October-
In the course of a speech on Saturday the Premier (Mr. Kidston) referred to the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and States. He said that some members of the Federal Parliament desired to have the agreement altered, by substituting a fixed term of 20 or 0 years. That would not be satisfactory, because it .would take from the States the advantage of future security, and he would. oppose any candidate who repudiated the agreement. :le regarded the issue as beyond party politics, <o it mattered not what party such candidate belonged to he (Mr. Kidston) would do what le could to secure his defeat. He believed the original agreement, if adopted, would give financial security to Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When the Senate rose for dinner I was dealing with the statement made by the Queensland Premier regarding the action which he intended to lake at the Federal election, in connexion with all those members of this Parliament who had dared to vote against the adoption. of this agreement. That threat can >ave no terror to the members of the Labour )arty, because we know that, in any ci rcumstances, he would be opposed to labour, [f they assented to the agreement or any:hing else, if they sold themselves to him >r the crowd to which he belongs, it would make no difference. They realize that they will have to face his opposition every rime they go to the country. Therefore, the threat is meant, not for the members ->f the Labour party, but for other members upon whom perhaps he thinks it may have some effect. I do not know why it should influence any one. It does not seem to me :hat any member of this Parliament should be merely the slave or the recorder of the opinions of the Premier of his State? I. admit that the Premier has, like any one else, a perfect right to tell him what may be the opinion of the Government, or what, :n his judgment, may be the best thing for he State. If men are inclined to be straightforward and honest, so far as the immunity b concerned, such a threat should have no effect upon them. Mr. Kidston is the last person who should Attempt to threaten any one. He has Threatened the Labour party in connexion” with other matters, but they have taken no notice of his attacks, and have fought the election on their own platform, with the result that all the time they have been a growing power in the land. I do not desire to say anything about Mr. Kidston’s actions. He has to answer for them to the people of his State. The argument that the State Premiers have been acting in the interests of their States is a very curious one, especially in the light of the tables which were supplied by the Federal Treasurer to the Conference. A number of proposals have been submitted to the Premiers by Commonwealth Treasurers, for instance, by Sir George Turner, Sir John Forrest, and Sir William Lyne. We had another scheme which the Premiers laid down in Hobart this year. The three schemes which were submitted on behalf of the .Commonwealth would have given a great deal more money to the States than will the scheme which they have accepted. If the Premiers had been looking after the interests of their States, and this agreement had not been a political necessity, one or other of the various proposals which have been previously made would have been accepted. Why? The members of this Parliament looked askance at most of those proposals, because they realized that from the Commonwealth point of view they were too liberal to the States, and that in the course of a few years it would have been impossible, without resorting to extra taxation, to maintain the payments. According to the scheme which Sir George Turner submitted in 1905 the approximate payment to the States for 1910-11 would have been £8,041,851, and, in addition, the Commonwealth would have had to contribute to a sinking fund, but would pay no interest on the transferred properties. The Commonwealth would have made a gain, but the States would have stood to gain a great deal more than they will get under this agreement. In 1915-16 the payment to the States would have been £8,551,906, and in 1920-21 £9,264,713, and, afterwards, the question of the State debts, which was quite another consideration, would have had to come up again. In 1906 Sir John Forrest submitted a proposal which would have secured to the States very nearly the same amount. Later, Sir William Lyne brought forward a proposal, which every one thought was too generous to the States. It was felt that the Commonwealth would not be able to carry out the work intrusted to it by the people, and, at the same time, maintain the payment to the States, and at the end- of thirty years take over the whole of the debts without any further expense or further liability on the part of the
States. Each proposal from the Commonwealth was of a character which, in my opinion; should have been grasped with avidity by the Premiers. From public platforms in Sydney I pointed out that, in my opinion, the proposals which would be made year after year would, owing to the growing needs of the Commonwealth, be less favorable to the States. Finally, we have an” agreement which was drawn up by the Premiers, in conjunction with the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, and which provides for a much smaller payment than did any one of the schemes submitted by the Commonwealth Treasurers. I contend that, from a purely financial point of view the Premiers would not have accepted such a scheme for a moment. It was accepted because it was political, not financial.
– Does it not strike the honorable senator at all as being a fair compromise ?
– I think that “25s. per capita is, perhaps, as much as the Commonwealth will be able to pay for a number of years. I do not believe that there is one member of this Parliament who objects to the amount itself. If the Premiers were prepared to accept it without a constitutional alteration I do not think that any objection would be offered here. But it will certainly secure to the States considerably less than they would have obtained under any one of the previous schemes. If the Premiers had been looking after the interests of their States this agreement would not have been brought before this Parliament, but a previous offer would have been accepted. 0
– The honorable senator knows that there was no previous offer on a per capita basis.
– If the Premiers had been prepared to accept a proposition made by the Treasurer, it would have been for the Parliament to decide whether the revenue should be distributed on a per capita basis or not.
– So it is now, but an offer on a per capita basis was never previously made.
– No one is opposed to the distribution of the revenue on that basis. There are a few honorable senators on the other side who have changed their opinions on that point with their seats. Of course, I am not referring to the honorable senator, because the representatives of Tasmania have always advocated the adoption of the per capita system. Time after time Senator Clemons has contended that the present system of distribution is un-Federal, and that until the per capita basis is adopted we can have no genuine Federation. 1 believe that the representatives of Queensland have always expressed a similar view. If the Premiers had been looking after the interests of their States, they would have accepted the best offer which was made to them., instead of having to take what each declared in his own State, when he was preparing to attend the recent Conference, that he would not accept at any price. The Premier of Queensland said that the least amount which he thought the States should accept, was 30s. per head, or as much more as it was possible to get. The argument that the Premiers were anxious about the interests of their own people is so much “flam.” The agreement was a political necessity from their point of view. The whole object of the Melbourne Conference was to down Labour at any price. Of course, the Labour party will have to take its chance. I think that Senator Stewart was right when he said to-day that the Labour Party will have a long fight before it will succeed in altering this financial arrangement, but most certainly it will be altered. Any work of a progressive character which has been done in Aus tralia has been due to the activity of the Labour party. Ever since it was brought into existence its members have taken up questions and advocated them when they were most unpopular. They have travelled through the country preaching the doctrines which they were prepared to place before the people. Their opponents prophesied disaster and calamity from the adoption of such proposals. Senator Stewart has mentioned half-a.-dozen comparatively recent reforms which honorable senators opposite claim a considerable amount of credit for bringing about, but which were never taken in hand until the Labour party had popularized them throughout Australia.
– Nonsense. Some honorable senators were working for those reforms before there was a Labour party
– I often hear that sort of talk, and no doubt the honorable senator will come along by-and-by and tell us that while he assented to this agreement for the time being, he was not altogether satisfied that it was not necessary to have some modification. That would only be following the usual line of .conduct pursued by honorable senators opposite when they see an opportunity of scoring a political advantage. But such has not been the characteristic of the Labour party, whose members have always honestly laid their policy before the country. Whether they were immediately successful or not, they have generally seen their proposals taken up by men who had opposed them for years. It is in that way that the Labour policy has gradually found its way on to the statute-book. So it may be with regard to this financial agreement. It is continually charged against the Opposition ‘that they are opposed to embodying the agreement in the Constitution “without a time limit, because they wish to compel the Federal and State Governments to impose direct taxation. For my own part, I have always been an advocate of direct taxation. [ do not know that I should have supported Federation had I not believed that it would conduce to a system of direct taxation in Australia. . I gave three reasons for supporting it - first, that I believed that under Federation we should get rid of the coloured alien ; second, that I believed that we should thereby secure a franchise that it was impossible to get in the States, situated as they were; and third, that I believed that under Federation direct taxation would be an absolute necessity. The Labour party have never attempted to cover up their opinions on the subject. They have been content to work and agitate. Recently we have seen the Imperial Government compelled, practically through necessity, to adopt a principle which the Labour party have been advocating in this country. I know that many honorable senators opposite would vote to make this agreement perpetual if they believed that it would have the effect of staving off direct taxation.. I give them credit for their honesty of conviction. It may be admitted frankly that the charge brought against the members of the Labour party of trying to force on direct taxation is nothing new. They have admitted all the time that they believe such a policy to be in the interests of the country.
– Has there ever been a proposal which was more likely to bring about direct taxation as one of its consequences ?
– I see no likelihood of direct taxation emanating from this agreement. In the first place, it will not lead to direct taxation in the States, foi the reason that they are to get 25s. -per capita from Customs and Excise revenue practically for all time. Neither do I believe that the agreement will lead to direct taxation in the Commonwealth ; because, rather than resort to that expedient, the Government will propose to rearrange the Tariff, with the object of producing a revenue large enough for their purposes. At present we have a partially Protective Tariff. It is having some little effect in creating industries.
– A very large effect.
– It is not nearly so effective as it should be, because the protection afforded in many instances is not sufficient.
– The increase in the number of factories is satisfactory.
– There has been an increase in the number of factories in some parts of Australia. In other parts there has- not been a perceptible increase. In Queensland there has not been a great increase in the number of factories or in the number of people employed in industries. There has been an increase in New South Wales, but that is due to the fact that prior to Federation that State had no Protective Tariff, whilst nearly all the other States had. The Fusion Government will have no hesitation in proposing duties of a revenueproducing character rather than resort to direct taxation ; and that policy, coupled with borrowing, is, I believe, their real aim.
– Is not a borrowing policy inevitable, no matter what Government we have in office?
– I do not know that borrowing will be necessary for some time to come. Up to the present the Commonwealth has not needed to borrow.
– I should like to hear the Western Australian and South Australian senators on the subject.
-The honorable senator is no doubt alluding to the construction of railways. I do not know what the opinion of senators from the two States mentioned may be, but I am convinced that the majority of the members of the Labour party are opposed to borrowing large sums of money, the payment of which will be left to future generations. At all events, it is clear to ray mind that the adoption of this agreement will not conduce to direct taxation either by the Commonwealth or State Governments. We know perfectly well what the resources of the Federal
Government are. They can impose duties on a considerable number of goods which are now practically on the free list. They also have power to lower the Tariff on other articles so as to produce more revenue. Doubtless they will propose duties on such commodities as kerosene, tea, and cotton goods. By that means they will possibly raise revenue sufficient to pay the amount due to the States under the agreement, and at the same time provide for Commonwealth needs. There is, however, I am convinced, more behind this agreement than some people suppose. At the time when the people of Australia were running mad about the Boer War, I said in the Queensland Parliament that the labour question was really at the bottom of the whole thing. I made many enemies by that statement. Some of my friends refused to shake hands with me for a long time after, and called me all sorts of names. That, however, made no difference; and now I cannot find one of them who does not indorse the statement I made then, and who does not admit that the demand for cheap labour was really at the bottom of the trouble. The same may be said with regard to this agreement. Here I may allude to a statement made by Senator Clemons. 1 have a very great respect for the honorable senator. I know that whatever he says and does he believes in. That has been my experience of him as long as I have been a senator. I was very sorry to hear Senator St. Ledger indorsing what Senator Clemons had said, and practically admitting that he had put his own view probably better than he could put it himself. The views of the two honorable senators do not always coincide. Senator Clemons said that the adoption of this agreement would have a great effect on the population question. I do not see how it will. Is it suggested that the proposed return to the States of 25s. per head of their population will induce the State Governments to institute immigration systems which will bring about such an influx of immigrants as may cause a repetition of the experience we had in Australia a few years ago, when, in every one of the States, there were thousands of people out of employment, .and the State Governments were trying to find means to assist them? Since the big drought conditions have improved ; but honorable senators, should remember that a very great many people in Australia are employed only during certain busy seasons of the year. It requires thousands of men for six months of each year to carry cn the sugar industry in Queensland and in New South Wales. A very large number are required during the harvesting season in South Australia and in Victoria for a shorter period of each year. Shearing goes on in some parts of Australia all the year round, but the largest number of persons engaged in that occupation are employed from July up to the end of November. In nearly every’ State it is found that at the close of these busy seasons the State Governments are compelled to look around to find work for the unemployed. In view of these facts, am I to believe that, because under this agreement the State Governments would receive from the Commonwealth 25s. per capita, they would be induced to spend large sums of money upon the introduction of immigrants to enable employers to secure cheap labour, knowing that they would have to incur great expense in keeping many of the people introduced during the slack time of the year?
– There is one answer to that, and it is that the State Governments must provide for land settlement.
– We have heard that often. It has been heard many times in Victoria and in the other States, but I ask whether the State Governments are doing anything to provide for land settlement. I read a statement in a Victorian newspaper only the other day about a man who was so anxious that farmers should be able to obtain land in this State that he started to sell some of the land he possessed at ^70 per acre. How many men are there who can afford to pay such a price for land on which to earn a living.
– What is the honorable senator’s answer, if it be not a policy of despair?
– I do not believe in a policy of despair. I believe with the honorable senator in a policy of land settlement, but I see no sign that the State Governments intend to carry out such a policy.
– Surely the honorable senator will admit that something is being done in that direction.
– That is so; there is always .something being done. In Queensland we are told that there are hundreds of thousands of square miles of country available for settlement. The State Government have authority under an
Act of Parliament to spend £500,000 :v year in buying back land for the purpose of closer settlement.
– Is there not a great army of surveyors opening up land in Queensland ?
– lt is true that more is being done now in the direction of land settlement in Queensland than has been done in that State for a long time past. A considerable amount of money .is . being spent in the construction of railways to open up country, and surveyors are employed m cutting up the land which is to be served by those lines. Many people are able to get land now in Queensland who could not get it before. But no provision is being made for persons who might be induced to come here with very little capital or for those who are already here and have but very little capital. These men must work for wages. The last time I travelled in Queensland I met men who had been going round for from six to nine months looking for land. They had not the capital behind them to keep them while they searched for land that they considered suitable, and they were obliged to work for wages in the meantime.
– That is the case with thousands of other good men.
– I am aware that it is. Senator Clemons says that we should not adopt the policy of despair, but that something should be done to enable people to obtain a living from the soil. I say that I see little evidence of any effort on the part of the State Governments to enable people to obtain a living from the soil. In nearly all the States land is being bought back for closer settlement, but under our eyes it is again being aggregated in large areas. People who have been unable to make agriculture a success are selling out to their neighbours, and we find a Victorian Minister making the statement, in introducing a measure, that in some of the best agricultural districts of Victoria there are now fewer people settled than there were eighteen or twenty years ago. Numbers of Victorian settlers are being driven out of the State because the areas they have held have been too small for themselves and their families. They could make a living upon them, while their children were growing up, .but they are unable to secure land for their children. They are realizing upon their properties, and are securing cheaper, if not better., land in Queensland. But who is taking their place? In a great many cases it is not other settlers. The men driven out required cash, and, in many cases, they have sold their properties to the big men whose fenceswere the dividing line between their smallholdings and the larger ones of those whohave succeeded in adding these properties to the areas they held before. In view of the course which land settlement has followed, I do not see very much in the proposed immigration policy. Queensland hasprobably spent more public money on immigration than has been spent by all the other States put together. The people of that State are now paying interest on over £3,000,000 expended on the introductionof immigrants. Some were introduced on the nominated system, and others were collected by agents in England, and sent out at the expense of the State.
– Some were introduced1 on the land grant principle.
– Very few were introduced on that system. That was a vicioussystem. The land was granted to the people before they came out. . They hadno intention of taking it up, and they were fair game for land sharks as soon as they arrived in Brisbane or other ports along, the Queensland coast. I have said that the Queensland Government spent very large sums of money on immigration, and as many as 40,000 people were dumped down in the State in one year. What was our experience in that State? It can berealized when I tell honorable senators that perhaps one-half of the people brought out to Queensland under the systems of immigration adopted found their way shortly after they landed to New South Wales and’ Victoria. It was not because they could not get land in Queensland, but because the people introduced did. not wish to go uponthe land and knew nothing about land cultivation. If we take the statistics of the Old Country for the last fifty years, we shall find that there has been a reductionin the number of people working the land and employed as farm labourers of more than 50 per cent. There are comparatively few people now engaged in the cultivation of the land in the Old Country. The result is that the wages of farm labourershave gone up considerably, until I doubt whether the average farm labourer in the Old Country is not as well off there as he would be as a farm labourer in Australia. In the circumstances, I think we are not likely to have any large influx of immigrants who, from their training or occupa- tion could make a success of land settlerment in Australia. Very large numbers of people who were introduced into Queensland signed papers, stating that they had been employed in connexion with agriculture in the Old Country, and when they arrived it was found that very few of them knew anything about land at all. Only recently I saw a report of an interview by a Melbourne pressman with some immigrants who were being brought out, and he stated that they confessed that they had practically no experience of agriculture. They were nominated by friends, and agriculture was the last thing in the world they thought of turning their hands to. They were miners and tradesmen of various kinds, and intended to follow the occupations in which they had been employed in the Old Country. I do not blame them. But while I admit that it would be a good thing if we could introduce people whose training fitted them for land settlement, I find it difficult to believe that the proposed return of 25s. per head of their population to the States will be found to be an important incentive to the State Governments to increase their population.
– It will be, if the honorable senator can allow for a little optimism with regard to State land legislation.
– I am optimistic about Australia. I have always contended that it is one of the best countries in the world. I believe it to be the best country for the working man. I have found it so since I came here. I am not likely to speak disparagingly of the country of my adoption, the country in which my children have been born, and where I desire them to be able to make a decent living. But this does not prevent me from looking the facts squarely in the face. I know very well that this question of population is attracting considerable attention at the present time, and a great deal of nonsense is being talked about what we shall do with our large population when we have got it. But I believe statistics will reveal that quite as many Australian natives are anxious to go abroad as there axe immigrants who desire to come here. Many of the former have learned trades and are anxious to travel the world for the purpose of gaining experience. I know of some who have quitted Queensland and h ave not returned, thus evidencing that they have found agreeable conditions outside Australia, which have induced them to re main there. I do not suggest that we should not aim at attracting population to our shores. But, as Senator Symon interjected while Senator Clemons was speaking this afternoon, the advice of President Roosevelt was that we should keep our cradles full, and that is exactly what we are not doing. I admit that we urgently require population, and that there is ample room in Australia for them. But the conditions do not exist here which would enable people to take advantage of the natural resources of the country. I think it is admitted that the proposed agreement will exert some influence upon the incidence of taxation in Australia. I know there are some in our midst who argue that it does not matter what our fiscal system may be. I am a great believer in strong organizations’. I have been a member of an industrial organization all my life, and I hope that I shall continue to be one. But. however strong organizations may be, we cannot fail to recognise that political action supplies them with a very effective weapon. I contend that if the proposed agreement prejudicially affects the semi- Protective system which we have established, it must have an important bearing upon the wages paid and the hours worked in Australia. For that reason I contend that the agreement should be subject to review at the end of, say, ten years. It would not be either wise or prudent on our part to allow it to be embodied in the Constitution for all time, unless public feeling were aroused to such an extent that it would sweep the advocates of its retention out of existence. I am satisfied that that is the only way in. which the agreement will ever be altered when once it has been placed in the . Constitution. Believing, as I do, that its adoption will weaken rather than strengthen our fiscal system, that it will exact the payment of a large additional sum from those who are least able to contribute it, that it will prejudicially affect our wages and standard of living, I think that we ought to impose a time limit upon its operation, and that that limit ought not to be a long one.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [8.36]. - It is rather remarkable to hear so intense a jeremiad from the honorable senator in connexion with a proposal that the States, instead of receiving threefourths of the net revenue from Customs and Excise, shall be paid the munificent sum of 25s. per head. When listening to the speeches which have been delivered by honorable senators upon the other side of the Chamber this afternoon, I began to wonder whether the people of Australia are grouped together in opposing camps, and are at one another’s throats over this financial question. Some honorable senators would have us believe that nothing but limiting the proposed agreement to a period of ten years can save the Commonwealth from destruction. That is the term which was suggested by Senator Turley. But if the agreement be a good one to make for a period of ten years, how has the honorable senator prescience to enable him to say that it will be a bad agreement at the end of that time. In Australia we have only one people. They live under the joint government of the States and of the Commonwealth, and it seems to be generally overlooked that their welfare is as much a matter of interest to the States as it is to the Commonwealth. Australia lasted a good many years without a Com: monwealth, but there was no Australia until there were States or Colonies. Here we behold the most extraordinary spectacle of fifteen or sixteen honorable senators who are pledged to oppose the interests of the States.
– That is not correct.
– They are absolutely pledged to oppose the interests of the States from their stand-point. On the other hand, in the State Parliaments we have a large number of men belonging to the Labour party who are working zealously to secure the adoption of this agreement. In the Parliament of New South Wales thirty members of that party are working in opposition to the views which have been expressed by honorable senators opposite.
– Only a few of the members of our party are working with the honorable senator.
– I know how many members of the party have taken the trouble to communicate with me on this matter, so that there is not the least possible chance of my statement being inaccurate.
– They are pulling the honorable senator’s leg.
– That is a very witty remark, is it not ?
– I do not think so.
– Then the honorable senator should not make it.
– A majority of the New South Wales Labour party have agreed to a resolution which has been published in the press, and which confirms all that the honorable senator has said.
– Of course.
– What do they know about the matter? They were not at the Brisbane Labour Conference.
– They know the little game of my honorable friends opposite, which is to financially starve the States into their pet scheme of unification.
– Does the honorable senator seriously believe that?
– If the honorable senator does not seriously believe it, he is an eccentricity of genius. We know perfectly well what has been going on. I do not intend to waste hour after hour in discussing things which are only remotely connected with this Bill. It seems to me that some honorable senators have entirely lost sight of their constitutional position.
– That is exactly what we think of the honorable senator.
– This Chamber exists in order that it may represent the interests of the States, and not those of factions. That is exactly what Senator W. Russell and his friends are not doing. They are here to maintain a faction fight on behalf of certain sections of the people in opposition to the interests of the States. I am not speaking as the representative of a State which will gain something from the passing of this Bill. On the contrary, New South Wales will lose £1,750,000 per annum.
– We all represent States which will sustain a loss under the agreement.
– But they will not sustain such a stupendous loss as I have indicated. We even find honorable senators from Western Australia, which under this agreement will be subsidized to the extent of £3,250,000 during the next twenty-five years, opposing it.
– That is a subsidy which the people of Western Australia themselves will pay.
– It is a subsidy towards which New South Wales will contribute a great deal more than will Western Australia. Of that .£3,250,000 the State which I represent will pay much more than one-sixth.
– She will not pay a brass farthing.
– The honorable senator is making observations which are anything but sensible. The people of Western Australia will surely be charmed with the vigorous opposition that is being accorded a measure which will confer an advantage on that State which will be enjoyed by no other State. We have heard a good deal lately about the glorious conditions which obtain in New Zealand. We were told that in a certain period it increased its population by 12,000 persons, but at present it is sending about 500 persons a week to New South Wales.
– -And they are all going back in disgust.
– The honorable senator should not sit there and make a statement which, if he has any knowledge or sense of proportion, he would know is the very reverse of the fact.
– -As I have talked to some of them, I ought to know.
– The honorable senator talked to them, of course, by wireless telegraphy. But as a matter of fact no steamer comes from New Zealand to New South Wales without bringing, according to her tonnage, hundreds of persons. They find themselves better off in New South Wales than they did under the boasted system in New Zealand. When we hear this wild reiteration of the lack of land to settle people on, I am reminded that there are on the market in New South Wales, hundreds of thousands of acres of farming land, certainly offered by private owners, but at prices which in all reasonable cases run from ^3 to £6 per acre. We have heard to-night about somebody having paid ^70 an acre for farming land.
– In Victoria, yes.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will be surprised when I tell him that eighteen years ago it paid persons in New South Wales to give j£&o, not £70, an acre for land on which to grow lucerne, because they could grow half-a dozen crops a year. The price per acre depends upon what the land is suitable for. If a piece of land is to grow only one crop a year, that alters the# position. Senator Turley can name no grain or root crop which can be profitably farmed if the land costs £70 an acre.
– But this land was not bought for growing lucerne.
– Then it was bought for some special purpose. It was not intended for carrying on agriculture, unless it was bought by a lunatic.
– Yes, ‘it was.
– There is no crop in the world except lucerne, which is produced several times a year, which could ever tolerate culture at such a figure.
– Did the honorable senator ever hear ot a succulent vegetable called the onion ?
– In Victoria men have paid over £70 an acre for land for the purpose of growing root crops.
– The honorable senator means that it was practically bought for market gardening on a large scale.
– Not altogether. In this State potato land has brought ^110 per acre.
– The price depends upon what general purpose the land is to be put to. The land which the honorable senator speaks of must grow several crops a year. Otherwise anybody who bought land at such a price would very soon find himself in the Insolvency Court.
– Only last week some land in this State brought £60 an acre.
– The opposition to the proposed alteration of the Constitution is very remarkable, coming as it does from honorable senators who only a few years back supported a reference to the people of Australia as to the nature of the Constitution. If it was proper then to remit to the people the question of Federation and the terms of the compact, surely it is proper now to refer to the same source of authority a proposed alteration ?
– Had it contained this proposal the draft Constitution would not have been accepted.
-Then why does my honorable friend object to remitting the proposal to the people? We are always told, “ Oh, trust the people.” For the last twenty years the Labour party has been clamouring for references to the people about Heaven knows how many different matters. Here is a question quite within the understanding of the people, and eminently suitable for reference to them, because it is not complicated, and yet we are met with the cry, “ Oh, it is proposed by the Fusion, and therefore must be opposed.” If it had come from a Ministry which my honorable friends on the other side were supporting, they would have supported it just as vigorously as they are now opposing it.
– My honorable friend is the exception that proves the rule. This is the first attempt made to alter the Constitution in any kind of an important matter. Since the Commonwealth was established there has come into existence a voting force more than equal to thenumber of those who adopted the Constitution Bill ; the franchise has been extended to women. Why are the women of Australia to be denied by fifteen or sixteen senators on the other side the right to express an opinion on this topic next year?
– They have much to thank us for in connexion with the granting of the franchise.
– The honorable senator is making a mistake, because the Federal Parliament did not grant the franchise to women. It was the automatic operation of the Constitution which enfranchised them. Members of this Parliament who want to preen their political plumage and set themselves up as having conferred, or even assisted to confer, an advantage on the women of Australia in connexion with the franchise, are simply seeking popularity under false pretences.
– Like the honorable senator.
– At all events, the honorable senator will admit that South Australia made it practically compulsory upon the Commonwealth to enfranchise women.
– As a matter of fact, the Constitution provided first, that all persons in possession of the franchise at the establishment of the Commonwealth should retain that right, and secondly, that the franchise was to be equal throughout the land.Consequently there could be no taking of the franchise from the women of the State of South Australia. It was necessary to extend the franchise, and it was extended practically in an automatic manner to the rest of the women in the Commonwealth. Senator W. Russell comes from the State which first granted the franchise to women.
– My vote carried it.
– Then the honorable senator must be as proud as a peacock with a little tin tail.
– Oh, no. I see the folly of being proud when I look at the honorable senator.
– The clamour that the duration of this constitutional alteration should be limited to, say, ten- years is very curious, because while somehonorable senators urge that the period should be ten. years, others on the sameside suggest periods ranging to twenty-five years. It is quite clear that the majority of the opponents of the Bill are of opinion that it is a good one for some period of time. That goes without saying, becauseI do not think that there is one opponent who has not admitted that the proposal isa good one for a limited period. If fifteen or eighteen honorable senators holding more or less diverse opinions on the subject cannot agree among themselves, honorable senators on this side, who are somewhat more numerous, are at least united in one idea, namely, that the agreement should be embodied in the Constitution ?
– The Labour partycan take credit for the fact that honorable senators on the other side are all of one idea now, because they used not to be
– Of course, honorable senators on the other side are always perfect; indeed I wonder that they have not gone to heaven long ago, because according to their own account they are far too good for this miserable sphere.
– There is some work yet to be done amongst heathens like the honorable senator.
– I do not know, sir, that it is strictly in order that I shouldbe called a heathen. I rather take exception to the observation. I am sure that if I addressed such a remark to the other side it would be objected to.
– I ask Senator Lynch to withdraw the remark that the honorable senator is a “heathen.”
– I only made the remark in a political sense, sir, but if the honorable senator wants it withdrawn, of course, I do so.
– These interludes are apt to take off the track a mart who has just come off a 600 miles journey. I do not know that it would be of very; much use to discuss this question further. But I do ask honorable senators sent here by the votes of the people to bear in mind that whatever vcte they mav give here will notsettle the question and that in one form or another it will be remitted to the constituencies in the course of the next three months. It will goto them either in the form of a Bill to receive their indorsement, or as part of the programme of the Government. This question of sharing with the States the immense sums which are raised by the Customs Department must be the great cry at the next election. It must be heard at every political meeting, and settled eventually by the votes of the people : not by the insignificant number of representatives of the States sitting here. Are thirty-six men sitting here to refuse to allow the people to vote on this all-important question ? Are we to say - “ You may vote for us, but we will not allow you to vote on a matter which affects your pockets, which affects the welfare of your homes, which affects the maintenance of the Governments of the States?” Some honorable senators will apparently vote to deny to the people the right to vote on the management of their own affairs. I shall not be one of them, sir.
– Before addressing myself to the Bill, 1 want to refer to an impudent article which appeared in the ‘Age of this date, and in which the writer says -
Sir Robert Best says that he has no doubt about the Caucus Agreement Bill passing the Senate. That is a boast which means that men are again to be subjected to the humiliation of obeying the crack of the party whip. It is perfectly well known that of the 36 members of the Senate 18 at the very least have declared themselves opposed to the Bill as it stands. In addition to 15 solid votes in the Opposition, three of the Ministerial supporters - Messrs. Keating and Trenwith and Sir Josiah Symon - have expressed themselves as averse to the Agreement as it came from the State Premiers The plain proof that the Bill fetters the Federal Parliament in shaping a protectionist Tariff can never be got rid of, however much party obligations may deflect men’s judgment. Senator Trenwith has behind him a life’s record as a Protectionist. It would be a singular climax to that career should he vote for this Caucus Agreement Bill. And yet the fact is patent that the boast of Sir Robert Best cannot be made good unless the party thumbscrew be applied to the reluctant Senator in question.
I have been in the public life of Victoria for nearly thirty years, and no one knows better than does the Age how little responsive I am to the pinch of the thumbscrew. In connexion with this question, as in connexion with every other, I have had to consider all the proposals of the Bill. I confess that I have experienced considerable perplexity in arriving at a .decision as to which is the better course to pursue in view of the conflicting circum stances. The Bill is unique in this: that its main provisions have obtained practically universal approval. There is one provision in it to which there seems to me to be a very grave objection. That is the proposal to place the new arrangement, without any limit, in the Constitution. It does not necessarily follow, however, that we are bound to reject a measure to which we admit that there is a grave objection. If it were necessary before Parliament could legislate that the majority of its members should be satisfied as to every detail of a measure, Parliament would never legislate at all. I cannot remember an instance within my experience where I have been satisfied with every provision in any Bill for the third reading of which I have voted. I certainly have a most distinct recollection that some of the provisions of the Federal Constitution - of which in the main I most heartily approved - were extremely objectionable to me. In the process of . the framing of the Constitution I did all that I possibly could to remove those objectionable provisions. But I was unsuccessful ; and at last I was confronted with the Constitution with these provisions in it. I then had to do what any rational man would do in endeavouring to arrive at a conclusion. I had to consider, not whether its provisions were all that I could desire, but whether on the whole the Constitution did not possess so many virtues as to counterbalance the objectionable features of it. And that is what I have sought to do in connexion with this Bill. After the most careful and anxious thought - unquickened by the crack of the party whip, and undragooned by any newspaper - I have sought to arrive at a decision that, in my view, under all the circumstances, is in the best interests of the Commonwealth. I have arrived at the conclusion that this Bill as it is, with all its faults, is better than no Bill at this juncture. I do, however, still think that the proposal to put the new arrangement into the Constitution is a grave objection ; and when we get into Committee, if it be at all’ possible to remove that objection, I shall do my best to secure its removal, and by an amendment to limit the time for which the new agreement is to operate. I shall do that, not because I see any objection to it, not because I am able to indicate that at any special period ii will prove to be objectionable, but because I think it desirable that a financial matter of this kind, affecting our national daily life, should not be placed in such a position as to be difficult to revise whenever the necessity might arise. Now, the _ newspaper to which I have referred, in the article which I have quoted, urges that this Bill should not be accepted on the ground that it is sure to be prejudicial to the Protective policy of Australia ; and it points out that Senator Trenwith has a life’s record as a Protectionist. Senator Trenwith has a life’s record in another sense, too. It is notorious that he has never feared, without regard to any party or any influence, to do what seemed to him to be right. I do not believe that this Bill is necessarily subversive of the interests of the Protectionist cause. It is possible to have three kinds of Tariff. You can have a revenue Tariff, devised for raising revenue merely. You can have a Protective Tariff, devised to secure the objects of Protection merely. Or you can have a Protective Tariff of the most perfect kind, which also provides for revenue. The latter is the sort of Tariff that I do not like, and I hope that Australia will never adopt it. But it does not at all follow that a country must give up Protection in order to obtain revenue through its Tariff. Indeed, it is possible - and easily possible - to make a law absolutely prohibiting the importation of goods which we can produce, and still providing all the revenue that the country requires by means of a Tariff. It is not at all necessary that the revenue of the Commonwealth should be obtained from a Tariff. It is necessary and proper, in view of the fact that the Commonwealth has had handed over to it the main source of revenue which the States enjoyed before Federation, that we should make some provision for the liabilities of the States, incurred by them in years past in creating the degree of development that existed when the Commonwealth was established. That is the reason why the Braddon section of the Constitution was provided. As a member of the Convention, I am able to say that from the very first sitting in Adelaide until its last sitting in Melbourne the difficulty of getting over the problem of adequately meeting the liability of the Commonwealth to the States in this connexion was ever with us. It was so complex and intricate a problem that, much as it pressed upon the minds of the great men who were at that Convention - and there were great men there - much as it pressed upon the State Treasurers, each of whom,. if my memory serves me rightly, was a member of the Convention, it was not until nearly the end of the sittings that Ave were able to fix up a hurried and admittedly unsatisfactory solution.
– Only five States were represented.
– My honorable friend is quite right ; Queensland was not represented at the Convention. I mention these facts to show the very great difficulty of the problem, we are now dealing with, and as a reason why the matter should come up again automatically for revision. Consequently, if it be possible in Committee I shall endeavour to fix some time limit. But I deprecate entirely many of the reasons that have been urged against this proposal. For instance, Senator Symon worked himself up into a frenzy of enthusiasm and indignation about the idea that the Commonwealth Parliament is asked to give up some of its powers. He urged that we were actually aiming at our own emasculation as a Parliament. Now, I have never recognised any powers of Parliament as worthy of preservation unless they conduced to the welfare of the people who created the Parliament. I have heard a great deal in my time about “ the privileges of Parliament.” “ The privileges of Parliament “ are sometimes an abuse of the rights of the people. Parliament has no privilege and no power that it ought to maintain if by any means it can be shown that the abrogation of that privilege or that power would be an advantage to the people who created the Parliament.
– Did Senator Symon speak about the privileges of Parliament in this debate?
– I was referring particularly to Senator Symon’s references to the powers of Parliament. It is quite possible to conceive of this Parliament hastening to give up some power that it possesses, if it were a patriotic Parliament - as I believe it is and always will be - and discovered that the Convention which framed the Constitution had conferred upon it a power, the exercise of which was prejudicial to the well-being of the Commonwealth. I do not think that Parliament would declare that it was not fitted to perform its functions, because, under such circumstances it resolved to hand any one of them over to a more suitable body. In the early history of our State Parliaments they had absolute control over all the Departments of government in the States. But it was soon discovered that, for some purposes, it would be better to create bodies to whom some of the powers which the Parliaments possessed might be delegated - not because the Parliaments were not fit to exercise them, but because the functions could be more adequately and conveniently performed by other bodies. Therefore, the municipal form of government was evolved from -the Parliamentary form of government under which were previously exercised the powers to which I have referred. No one considered that such action on the part of the State Governments was an abrogation of their duty. Indeed, their action was looked upon as wise and patriotic. Therefore, there is no reason to treat this Bill, because it is said that under it Parliament is giving up some of its powers, as an outrageous proposal. I was one of those who felt that our Constitution ought to be of a somewhat rigid character. In the Convention I endeavoured to secure that it should be resonably rigid - that is, rigid enough to prevent hasty and ill-considered alteration - whilst, at the same time, reasonably easy to alter in regard to any matter about which the people had clearly made up their minds. Our Constitution is the most easily altered Federal Constitution in the world. It is of this character : that as time goes on it will be more easily altered still. It provides that first of all a majority of the people shall be required to indorse any proposed alteration.
– No, first of all a majority of Parliament.
– I give my honorable friend that in. Parliament, of course, must furnish the machinery by which the people shall express their opinion. There must be a majority of Parliament, then a majority of the people, and then a majority of the people in a majority of the States. Just now that seems difficult, because, while only a majority is asked for, the conditions and circumstances of the Commonwealth are such that it cannot be obtained without a twothird’s majority. It /happens that we have six States, and a majority of six is four, which is also a two-thirds majority. But it cannot be long before the great Northern Territory-
– And New Guinea, and Norfolk Island.
– It cannot be long before the great Northern Territory, at any rate, will become so populous that it will demand and obtain direct representation as a State of the Commonwealth. Then we have the enormous, and, over a very large area: the fertile, State of Western Australia.
– And Queensland.
– I cannot take them all at once. I must take one at a time.
– Queensland should be before Western Australia.
– Western Australia must in the not very distant future be divided into two or more States. It goes without saying that the great State of Queensland - and perhaps that is the reason I did not mention it first - must be divided into two or more States. So honorable senators will see that this difficulty about altering the Constitution is only temporary.
– How long does the honorable senator anticipate it will be before what he predicts will take place?
– Certainly before the close of the period of twenty-five years, which has been referred to by some people, has .expired, I expect that one portion of the Commonwealth will be in a position to claim separate representation in this Parliament, and it is possible that within that period other States also will be admitted. Whilst the objection raised is of a serious character, it is not nearly so great as some people would have us believe. What strikes me in connexion with the whole matter is that some of the people who see with me the evil of placing this agreement in the Constitution have at the same time lost all sense of proportion. They have magnified into an awful danger what in fact at the worst cannot be a very serious inconvenience. The Bill itself, apart from these conditions, does not require discussion from the fact that every honorable senator and member of the House of Representatives, and now, I believe, all sections of the press, are agreed that its financial provisions are admirable. No person can deny that they are very much better provisions than we had any right, until very recently indeed, to assume that the States would be satisfied with.
– Better for the Commonwealth.
– Yes, better for the Commonwealth. Senator Clemons, in his admirable, temperate and carefully reasoned little speech, introduced a point which had not struck me. I do not know whether it had occurred to other honorable senators. It certainly was one which it appears to me has very great force. The introduction into this Bill of the per capita system of payment does present to every State Treasurer in Australia an added incentive to increase the population of his State. I say that that is an extremely strong argument in favour of this Bill.
– I made the point before.
- Senator Walker informs me that he made the point before. Et is all the stronger on that account. I regret that it did not occur to me, and I am delighted to have heard it stated. No one can deny that one of our greatest difficulties and dangers is the smallness of our population, and by whatever means we can increase it we shall be advancing the interests” of the Commonwealth and proceeding to a greater degree of security than we at present possess. That reason it seems to me is another strong argument in favour of the adoption of this Bill. It is not, therefore, necessary on my part, having declared my position in connexion with it, to further discuss it. All I have to say is that as it stands the Bill possesses more virtues than faults, and, in my opinion, its virtues outweigh its faults. If it be possible in Committee, the stage at which we shall deal in detail with the measure, to remove those faults, I shall be delighted to assist any honorable senator who proposes to remove them.
– I agree that this is one of the most important Bills with which this Parliament has’ had to deal, because it is intended to establish the financial relations which must prevail in time to come between the Commonwealth and the States. I have noticed that in all the discussions at the Convention which finally led up to Federation, it was admitted that so far as the collection of Customs and Excise duties was concerned there could be only one authority, and that it must be a Federal authority. I think it was admitted, also, that in handing over to the Federation the collection of the revenue from Customs and Excise duties full consideration should be given by the Commonwealth authority to the solvency of the various States. It was recognised, of course, that in the early years of Federation the Commonwealth Parliament would have no use for the whole nf the revenue which would be collected from this source. It was admitted, further, that the State Governments would continue to be under heavy obligations, especially to meet the payment of the interest on their bonded debts. It was therefore agreed that a large part of the revenue derived from Customs and Excise duties must be handed back to the States for the purpose of enabling them to carry on. I venture to say that if this matter had not been satisfactorily settled there would have been, no Federation. When I hear people say today, as some have done, though not in this Chamber, that the Federal Parliament has the right at the expiry of the operation of Hie Braddon section to take the whAle of the revenue from Customs and Excise, T reply that no Parliament, unless for very special and urgent reasons, would dare to do so. The people would smash such a Parliament, and I believe their temper would be such that they would be prepared to smash the Federation, rather than consent to any such thing.
– The Federal Parliament h;is made no such proposal.
– I am not saying that it has, but certain members of the Federal Parliament have made the statement that after 1910 this Parliament, if it chose, might take the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– But it would not choose.
– ] do not. know. Senator Needham always has the voice of an oracle, although I do not think the honorable senator has brains to correspond with it. The controversy in the Federal Convention arose in connexion with the question of how much was to be returned to the States from the Customs ‘and Excise revenue collected by the Commonwealth authority, so that the interests of the States might be safeguarded. Eventually what is now section 87 of the Constitution was adopted. It is often referred to as the Braddon “ blot,” but I venture to think that it was much more correctly described by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in introducing this Bill,’ as having turned out to be a real Braddon “ blessing.” I believe that events have fully justified the placing of that section in the Con- stitution. It provides that for ten years at least the Commonwealth should return to the States three-fourths of the revenue collected from Customs and Excise.
– And. the States got £6,000,000 more.
– The States did not receive a single penny more than they were entitled to under the Constitution. This Parliament could not have spent any more money than it did, and was bound under the law to return all surplus revenue to the States. The Braddon section has served its purpose. It has been in operation now for nearly ten years, and the experience gained by the Federation in the meantime, working under that section, has prepared the way for a fresh arrangement, of a somewhat permanent character. Since the establishment of Federation, the State Treasurers have naturally been looking -forward anxiously to the year 1910, when a fresh financial arrangement must be made. Conferences of State Ministers have been held year after year with a view to arrive at some arrangement “which would be satisfactory to the Federation and to the States. All those Conferences proved abortive until that held in Melbourne in August last. There was a Conference held at Hobart, I think in March of this year, and at that Conference certain resolutions were passed making a certain demand, which, in the opinion of the State Premiers there assembled, were fair to the States. They declared in their resolutions that -
In order (1) to insure the financial independence and solvency of the States, upon whose Parliaments devolve the duty of making provision for the development of Slate resources by means of land settlement, railway construction, irrigation, and other public works, for the maintenance of adequate education and charity systems, and for the administration of justice and other important services (the financial obligations connected with which will inevitably increase with the growth of population) and (2) to fairly recognise the claims of the Commonwealth to a large share of Customs and Excise revenue - this Conference resolves :
That clause 87 of the Constitution Act be amended and provision made, without limit as to duration, that of the gross revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise, not less than three-fifths shall be annually returned to the States. Provided that not less than ^6,750,000 be returned to the States in any one vear.
Then they proposed to make a provision with regard to Western Australia similar to that which is made in this Bill. They proposed that .£250,000 additional should he given to that State, the amount to be gradually decreased at the rate of _£to000 a year. Their third resolution was -
In order that the ‘Federal - Government may obtain, as early as possible, a substantial in- meet the cost of old-age pensions and provide for further expenditure, the State Government ure agreeable that immediate steps shall be take!, by an amendment of the Constitution to give effect to these proposals.
The Premiers assembled at that Conference sent an invitation to Mr. Fisher, who va Prime Minister of the Commonwealth a the time, to be present, and discuss matter with- them. The honorable gentleman ani some of his colleagues accepted the invita-tion, and members of the Conference ap plied the pump to the Prime Minister an< tried in every way they could to find ou from him what he was prepared to do Hut although they pumped until their shoulders ached, no information could b got from Mr. Fisher regarding his inter tions. Mr. Moore said -
We. must have certain guiding views to enable us to formulate a scheme. I would like to know whether Mr. Fisher would agree to a scheme providing for the States receiving a fixed annua sum, and a proportionate part of all increase* in the -revenue from Customs and Excise.
In reply, Mr. Fisher said -
I will meet the views of the Conference a” far as possible. Wherever I can help you I will do so. Where I can be of any service I desire to assist. There have been schemes innumberable and inexhaustible, the details of which most o.’ you arc fully acquainted with. I presume you will come to some conclusion showing what you. views are, and whatever decision you come U I even say that that decision will receive full consideration by the Federal Government. I an; not prepared to give a scheme to the Conference. I do not think anything that I could piao, before you would help you very much.
That was the position taken up by Mr Fisher. He made no attempt to assistive Premiers to arrive at a reasonably scheme regarding .the distribution of th< Customs and Excise revenue in the future As a result, the Conference proved abortive, just as a good many similar gatherings had done. But in August of the present year another Conference wa: held in Melbourne, “ at which an agreement was arrived at - an agreement which is admitted by all to be fair alike to the Com monwealth and to the States. Tha’ agreement is embodied - in the Bill which is now under consideration. It provide that the Commonwealth shall annually re turn to the States 25s. per capita, and tha: special consideration shall be extended .1 * Western Australia. To my mind the chief value of .that agreement is that it is a_i agreement. Whilst numerous other Conferences have met and discussed the adjust ment of the future financial relations of th,
States and the Commonwealth, they have been unable to arrive at any agreement. But the Prime Minister threshed out the whole of the details of this scheme with the Premiers in Committee, with the result That the Federal and State authorities now see eye to eye with each other upon this important matter. I can quite imagine that it required a good deal of persuasion on the part of the Prime Minister to induce the Premiers to agree with him’, and I think it speaks well for. their “sweet reasonableness” that when the whole of the facts were placed before them they were prepared to accept quite £1,000,000 per annum less than they were willing to ac- cept at Hobart in March last. This agreement is signed by Alfred Deakin, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth ; C. G. Wade, Premier of New South Wales ; J. Murray, Premier of Victoria ; W. Kidston, Premier of Queensland; N. J. Moore, Premier of Western Australia; and N. E. Lewis, Premier of Tasmania. I think it is only right that the gentlemen who have put their names to that document should have them recorded in Hansard, as those of men who, whilst safeguarding the welfare of their States, were yet able to arrive at an arrangement which is fair to ali parties concerned. .The agreement recognises the increased responsibilities of the Federation. We are committed to an increased expenditure upon defence, and we shall also require 11 very large sum with which to pay old-age pensions. The State Premiers have voluntarily given up no less a sum than £600,000 this year to enable the Commonwealth to pay these pensions. That act is an evidence of unselfishness on the part of the larger States. I do not like the idea of pitting State against State, but I certainly do think that the large States exhibited a good deal of unselfishness in agreeing to accept a -per capita return of 25s. per annum. Under this arrangement New South Wales will sacrifice £1,321,043 per annum, Victoria will lose £488,237, Queensland £346,228, South Australia £148,338, Western Australia £65,443, and Tasmania £3,811. When the Premiers realized the necessities of the Federation they voluntarily pledged their States to forego these amounts of revenue so that the Commonwealth might be in a position to discharge its increased liabilities. In the first year in which the proposed arrangement will operate the States will sacrifice £2,373,100. Bv r.915-1’6 they will be giving up £2,408,156 annually, and by 1920-21 they will be sacrificing £2,642,213 annually. Of course the main controversy in regard to the agreement hinges upon the proposal to embody it in the Constitution. It has been admitted upon all sides that 25s. per capita is not too much to return to the States - in fact, that it is barely sufficient. At any rate, nobody objects to the payment of that amount. The only difference of opinion is as to. whether the agreement should be embodied in the Constitution, and whether it should be limited to a term of years exactly as the operation of the Braddon section was limited. It has been urged that the adoption of the agreement will have the effect of lowering the ‘dignity of this Parliament, and of emasculating our powers. I do not wish to reply to those’ statements in view of the answer which was given to them by Senator Clemons this afternoon. In my judgment he supplied a complete answer to those objections - a better answer than I could possibly give - and consequently .1. do not propose to again traverse old ground. It is not proposed that we shall surrender our power to anybody but our masters. The people are the masters of the Constitution and of Parliament, and if we ask them whether they are prepared to accept this agreement it seems to me that no surrender of power on our part will be involved.
– What sort of a proposition does the honorable senator propose to put before them? He intends to ask them to accept 25s. or nothing.
– We must put some question to them to which they can reply “ Yes “ or “ No.” I think, too, that the States require some guarantee of the permanency of the agreement. If no time limit be imposed, the amount returned to them may be varied each year, so that the State Treasurers would never know exactly what revenue they might expect to receive until after the Commonwealth Treasurer had delivered his Budget. It is said that money will burn a hole in the pockets of some persons, and it may be that in timeto come, if the Commonwealth Parliament had command of all this revenue, it might be inclined to spend a ‘ little extravagantly and to starve the States. In my opinion, it would be more conservative to place a time limit on the agreement than it would be to leave the matter open. If we limit its operation to ten, fifteen, or twenty years, it seems to me that we shall be entering into a compact with the States under which they will be able to say, “ This is the bargain into which the Federation has entered, and we must hold it to it.”
– What does the honorable senator mean by leaving the matter open?
– If no amount be stipulated, obviously the question will be left open. The Commonwealth Parliament might then decide to grant the States 25s. per capita this year and 26s. per capita next year, so that the State Treasurers would never know what amounts they would receive.
– That does not explain the expression “ leaving the matter open.”
– I think that it does.
– The honorable senator said that if no amount were stated the matter would be left open.
– It would be open to the people to alter the Constitution at any time.
– This is the man with the brains of an oracle.
– I thank God that I have some brains. I do not think that the proposed agreement will continue for more than the life of three Parliaments.
– That is for a period of nine years.
– But T cannot tell what may happen in six years. If the Commonwealth can satisfy the States six years hence that it is necessary to make an alteration, that can be done. That is why I contend that it is not so conservative to leave the matter open, as it is to adopt a time limit. I do not see why the small States should be distrusted. It is said that in order to alter the Constitution it is necessary to secure - first, a majority in the Parliament, second, a majority of the people; and, third, a majority of the States. I cannot imagine why if a plain statement were submitted by the Commonwealth, showing that there was an absolute necessity to make an alteration of the Constitution - just as there is at present - it should be assumed that the people would not do the best they could for the Commonwealth, whether they resided in a small or a large State. “ Trust the people “ is a term which has been used by a good many men. I am prepared to trust the people in this, as in other matters, and not merely to trust thiem sometimes. I want the agreement to be adopted without a time limit, so that whenever the necessity may arise it can be altered. I admit that the revenue must necessarily decline. If it should decline, that would be a good ground for altering the agreement ; but that has not been the experience of Protectionist countries so far.
– The honorable senator thinks that the higher the Tariff the larger the revenue?
– The experience of Protectionist countries does not show that revenue declines. Between 1887 and 1906 - the latest period for which figures are available - the United States increased its population by 44 per cent, and its Customs revenue by 66 per cent.
– What is its Customs, revenue per head now?
– That does not matter.
– That is the real point.
– No. The point is that with an increase of population there came an increase of Customs revenue. In the same period Canada increased its population by 35 per cent., and its Customs revenue by 109 per cent. Germany increased its population by only 25 per cent, and its Customs revenue by 1x4 per cent. That, I take it, will be our experience. We are bound to be large exporters of raw products. I assume that until our population increases very largely goods will be the medium of exchange.
– Would the honorable senator like to see Australia go through the Canadian experience of increasing the population by 35 per cent, and the Customs revenue by 109 per cent. ?
– It does not matter what I want to see. I am stating the actual experience of certain Protectionist countries.
– The honorable senator evidently thinks that there is a chance of Australia having a like experience.
– Undoubtedly I do.
– The honorable senator is arguing that the lower the Protection the smaller the revenue.
– If there are more persons coming into the country, then, of course, more goods will be consumed. It does not matter what we may do for many years, Australia will not be a self-contained country, and we shall have to largely import goods which cannot be made here, it is all very well for the honorable senator to set up a bogy and then knock it down. That is very great fun to some persons, but I do not see much in it. The bogy has been set up here that this argument is a blow at Protection. I do not think that that is much of a compliment to pay to the Prime Minister, who, if he has been anything during his political career, has been a staunch Protectionist.
– But he is not now.
– He is a staunch F Fusionist now.
– I have not come across anything which indicates that the Prime Minister has given up one iota of his Protectionist principles.
– The adoption of this agreement will kill his Protectionist views.
– Order ! I ask honorable senators not to interject so much.
– The honorable senator was elected to do what he thought well for his constituents. If I do anything which my constituents think I ought not to have done, they ‘know how to call me to account. I am prepared to go to the country just as quickly as is the honorable senator.
– Senator W. Russell was elected to support the Prime Minister.
– At any rate, the honorable senator stood behind Mr. Deakin as long as he thought that he could get something out of him.
– As long as he did our bidding.
– When Mr. Deakin wanted Protection on tanks the honorable senator wanted Free Trade.
– I do not believe that this agreement is the result of a conspiracy on the part of free traders, capitalists, chambers of commerce, and employers’ federations. I regard all that talk as absolute nonsense. I do not suppose that those who .make the assertion really believe that there has been such a conspiracy.
– The present Government was brought about by that combination, at any rate.
– Of course, the honorable senator may be possessed of in side information which no one else knows anything about.
– It is public information.
– Order ! A large number of interjections have been indulged in which have been, utterly irrelevant tothe subject under discussion. I ask honorable senators not to interject so freely, as it tends to delay business and sometimes toirritate honorable senators.
– If this agreement is intended as a blow at Protection, therewill be no chance of carrying it at the referendum. Is not the Commonwealth committed to a policy of Protection, and if it can be shown that the agreement is really a blow at Protection, will not the people rise up from one end of the continent tothe other and vote against it?
– I think that they will.
– If they think that it will destroy Protection, and compel a: revenue Tariff, there will not be the least chance of the people, who are committed to Protection, adopting it. It does not seem necessary to me to labour the matter much further. I am thoroughly satisfied with! the agreement, because, in my opinion, it is fair and equitable to the Commonwealth and the States. I am prepared to vote for the agreement, believing that if it is embodied in the Constitution the people will, whenever the need arises for reducing or increasing the amount, be prepared te* make the necessary change.
– I beg to move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– No, no ; too soon.
– This question can rot be debated.
– I cannot agree to an adjournment of the debate at this hour.
– Is the motion seconded ?
– Does the Minister oppose an adjournment?
– Yes, at this stage.
– As the motion has not been seconded, it cannot be put.
– It is quite evident to me that there is a desire here, as there was elsewhere, to bludgeon this agreement through.
– At 10 o’clock?
– I have known occasions when the Senate was adjourned at about 9.30 p.m. on a Wednesday.
-Not within a fortnight of closing a session.
– The honorable senator moved the adjournment of the Senate for a. fortnight to allow the Prime Minister to meet the six Premiers who have foisted this agreement upon the Federal Parliament, although public business of the greatest importance was under consideration. I think that my request for an adjournment of the debate upon a question which is of paramount importance to Australia might have been acceded to. It is quite evident to me that the tactics which were resorted to in another place are about to be resorted to here. The agreement that is now before us has been under discussion for about two days. It occupied the Premiers’ Conference for five days. It was discussed in the other branch of the Legislature for two or three weeks. But now it has come to the Senate we are asked to swallow it without sufficient debate. Senator St. Ledger during his speech to-day devoted particular attention to the Brisbane Labour Conference. My honorable friend contended that the Conference decided in favour of a scheme to be placed in the Constitution in perpetuity. In support of his statement he quoted from Mr. Holman, a New South Wales Labour member. Now, I intend to quote from the minutes of the Brisbane Conference, and I will defy Senator St. Ledger to prove that any delegate, either by speech or vote, suggested that a per capita system of distribution should be embodied in the Constitution. The scheme arrived at by the Brisbane Conference was couched in the following terms -
That Conference approves the general outlines of Mr. King O’Malley relating to the establishment of a National Bank. That this Conference expresses its approval generally of the following scheme, as the basis for an adjustment of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States-
That the proportion of revenue allocated to the Commonwealth must be sufficient to cover -
That the amount of the fixed payment per capita to be returned to the States be ascertained by -
I have ventured to quote verbatim the terms adopted by the Conference in refutation of Senator St. Ledger’s statement. I shall now go further, and show that neither Mr. Holman nor any other delegate proposed any scheme with the intention that it should be operative in perpetuity and embodied in the Constitution. Mr. Holman, in speaking in support of the motion, said this :
The Committee were faced with the question as to whether they should propound a definite scheme or not. The one now before the Conference was absolutely definite. . . . Personally he believed that a bank jointly owned by the Commonwealth and States as set out by Mr. King O’Malley might form a happy solution of the difficulty. In considering the scheme submitted it was assumed that the average sum total of revenue raised by Customs and Excise would not be greatly increased on the amounts collected before Federation was accomplished.
I read through this speech in vain to find a single word that bears out Senator St. Ledger’s assertion. Mr. Holman further said -
The proposal which we have suggested was that payment should be made to the States on a per capita basis.
He did not say that the proposal should be placed in the Constitution. Let me here say that the objection to the Bill now before the Senate is directed to one principle only, namely, the proposal to embody the new agreement in the Constitution. I have no objection to the sum of 25s. per head being paid to the States, but I have an emphatic objection to a constitutional provision to that effect being enacted. Mr. Holman went further. He said -
For example, if Queensland’s population doubled in ten years, the return would be double in the aggregate to the Queensland Treasurer. Therein this scheme differed from that of Sir
William Lyne’s, who made no allowance for increase of population - no provision for the future.
That ought to be conclusive. Mr. Watson has also been referred to. That gentleman is at present out of Australia, but per medium of the post he has indicated his attitude on this all important question. He was present at the Brisbane Conference, and I take the liberty to quote one or two words from his speech.
It would mean about£2,750,000 less than they had formerly received, although it was offset somewhat by the States not having paid old-age pensions.
Here again I look in vain to the report of Mr. Watson’s speech to find that he said or intended that the scheme proposed at the Brisbane. Conference should be embodied in the Constitution. I was myself a delegate to that Conference, and having discussed the financial resolutions presented to the Conference by a Committee, I feel it incumbent upon rne to say that I never for a moment intended that the scheme we agreed upon should be embodied in the Constitution. I take the liberty of quoting my own remarks, which will be found at page 35 of the official report of the Conference.
Senator NEEDHAM hardly thought that £1,000,000 would be enough annually for the expanding functions of the Commonwealth. With other portions of the report he was in entire accord and Conference should be grateful to the committee for the valuable work they had performed.
I have quoted sufficient to prove that there was no intention on the part of the thirtysix delegates to the Conference that the scheme they arrived at should be embodied in the Constitution as a perpetual agreement. Mr. McGowen, the Leader of the New South Wales State Labour party, was present at the Conference, and if I desired, I might quote his speech and the whole of the report upon which Senator St. Ledger has laid such emphasis to show that they contain not the slightest evidence that the Conference ever intended that the agreement should be made a part of the Constitution. I may say, further, that the opinions of the thirtysix delegates present at the Conference have since been sought on this point. Answers from them have been received, and of the thirty-six who were present only one has said he understood that it was intended that the scheme approved of should be embodied in the Constitution. That should be an overwhelming argument in reply to those who are trying to fasten upon the Labour Opposition in this Parliament the charge that they are ignoring the intention of the Brisbane Conference. They are endeavouring as best they can to prevent the National Parliament of Australia being handed over body and soul, gagged and bound, to the six Premiers of the States. The peg on which the Fusion Government has hung its hat, and the principal contention urged from the other side throughout this debate, has been that we should trust the people. What for ? Take my own position. I am opposed to the agreement as presented to the Federal Parliament. I am opposed to its embodiment in the Constitution, but if I were to meekly submit to the dictation of six men who have no more authority than I have, I should say “ I shall vote for this Bill in order to give the people a chance to deal with the agreement, and when I am on the hustings I shall tell the people to vote against it.”
– The honorable senator will get the opportunity.
– If I do I shall at least be consistent. I could not stand upon a public platform and tell the people to vote against this Bill at the referendum if I had voted for it myself. I realize that a certain trust has been placed in my hands.
– What about the money that is going to Western Australia ?
– I shalldeal with that later. I am not in the least hurry. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is in no hurry, nor am I. I believe in the referendum. I believe in trusting the people. The people of Western Australia have placed me where I am to-night, but when they sent me here they gave me a certain trust and responsibility. From time to time questions arise upon which only those who have an intimate knowledge of their details can pass a valuable judgment. If I were to say that I would support the Bill in order that the people might be given a chance to decide this question I should be betraying the trust which the electors of Western Australia have reposed in me. There are facts and figures before us which could not be effectively placed before the people. They would be lost sight of in the confusion and heat of an election campaign. The question involved in this Bill is of sufficient importance to demand that it should be dealt with coolly, calmly, and intelligently. If the Government are so anxious that the matter should be placed before the people, there is a way in which it might be put before them.
– It will be put before them.
– If Senator Chataway would sit up like a man, or stand up like a man, I would pay some attention to his interjection.
– The honorable senator knows very well that I cannot stand up and interject while he is on his feet.
– Then you should shut your mouth and not interject at all.
– Order !
– A man lounging there with his hand under his head-
– I ask the honorable senator not to make any further allusion to Senator Chataway at the present time. I have called that honorable senator to order, and I hope he will discontinue his interjections.
– I was saying that if the Government are anxious that the matter should be placed before the people there is a method which they might adopt for the purpose. When they took over the reins of office after summarily dismissing the Fisher Government, they brought forward a policy very little, if any, of which has yet been given effect to, and very little of which they have attempted to give effect to. They might bring the agreement before the people at the next elections as a portion of their policy. Any man seeking the suffrages of the electors could easily state his position and say whether he is in favour of or against the agreement arrived at by the Premiers’ Conference. In that way the people whom we are asked to trust and whom I have always trusted and always will trust-
– And who are trusting the honorable senator.
– The people who have trusted me so far, and I hope will trust me again, would have a better chance of discussing the particularly intricate and complicated question with which we are now dealing. That is one reason why I object to the placing of this agreementbefore the people in the way proposed in this Bill. When we are asked why we will not trust the people, my reply is, “ Why not trust us?” Have not the people intrusted the Federal Parliament with a certain duty? Did they not trust the Convention that framed the Commonwealth Constitution under which we are now living?
Did they not by virtue of that Constitution say that until the close of 1910, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provide, we should return to the States a certain portion of the revenue from Customs and Excise? I have not heard that the people whom we are asked to trust have made any great demand for an immediate revision of the Braddon section. I do not know that the Premiers who met in Melbourne a few weeks ago had a mandate from the people of Australia. I am not aware that the people of Western Australia empowered the Premier of that State to come here and give me a mandate to vote for this agreement. With, all due respect to those gentlemen, who hold very high and responsible positions, I say that they have come before the Commonwealth Parliament with a stand-and-deliver policy. They have intercepted the young Commonwealth on the highway to its ideal of Australian nationalism. They have said, “ Unless you subscribe to the agreement we have drafted in darkness and in secrecy, we will kill the Fusion Government at the next election.” That is a stand and deliver attitude to take up. In yielding to this demand the Government, I repeat, are intercepting this young country on the highway to Australian nationalism. I have already said that I favour the provision under which aper capita contribution of 25s. per annum will be returned to the States. I also favour limiting the operation of this arrangement to a term of years. But under no circumstances can I support a proposal to embody the agreement in the Constitution, thus binding the Commonwealth for all time. I recognise that in making this statement I may be repeating what has already been said by others. But I cannot help that. I could not cast a silent vote upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill. The State which I have the honour to represent may possibly benefit by the provision relating to the annual return of 25s. per capita.
– It will lose a great deal.
– In the opinion of some honorable senators it may possibly benefit. But I do not regard this question from a States’ point of view, although the Senate is supposed to be a States’ House. Something more than State supremacy is at stake here. The supremacy of the National Parliament is at stake, and with me that consideration is paramount. I have no mandate from the people to surrender the trust which they have reposed in me. So soon as I feel that I am incapable of dealing with questions of such great importance as this, without first, consulting them, so soon shall I be ineligible to occupy a seat in this chamber. If we pass this Bill I think that we shall endanger the Protective policy of the Commonwealth. On Tariff questions the members of the Labour party are at liberty to vote exactly as they choose, just as they are upon this agreement. But on the Ministerial side of the chamber the party whip has been cracked, so that any honorable senator who dares to vote in opposition to this agreement will be eternally ostracised. I say that the scheme which is embodied in the Bill will, if ratified, exercise a very lasting effect upon our Protective policy. If we agree to return to the States 25s. per capita, the- day may come when this Parliament will have no funds with which to carry out national undertakings which are urgently required, and which have been too long delayed. What are we to get in return for our surrender of national rights? The States have agreed to forego £600,000 this year, so as to enable us to pay old-age pensions. In that connexion I would ask Senator Millen where our aged poor would have been today had it not been for the presence of the Labour party in this Parliament. Is it not a fact that some of those who so strongly advocate the adoption of this agreement endeavoured both by their vote and voice to prevent the aged poor of Australia from receiving that modicum of justice which had so long been denied to them ?
– Hear, hear. They objected to the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– Yes, and that measure was the foundation of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. If we had not passed that measure the aged poor in some of the States would not have received pensions until after 1910. Now we are asked to surrender our national rights because the States have graciously conceded to us the sum of £600,000, as half of the projected deficit with which the Commonwealth Treasurer was faced a few weeks ago. I come now to the Conference of Premiers which was recently held in Melbourne. I look in vain to the report of the proceedings of that Conference for any opinions which may have been expressed bv the six Premiers who pre practically responsible for this discussion to-night. Speaking as I am doing, my words will be reported, and I am prepared to stand by every sentence that I utter. But though I may find myself in conflict with one of the Premiers, he will possess the advantage of being able to read all that I say in discussing this question, whereas I shall be unable to read what he said. That is one reason why, instead of this matter being made the subject of a referendum at the approaching elections, it should be made a plank in the Government policy. We should then be able to take it to the public platform, and to expound our views upon it there. There is just another phase of the situation which may have been forgotten. 1 recollect reading some time ago a statement in a leading Melbourne daily to the effect that if the agreement embodied in this Bill be not carried through the Commonwealth Parliament, the present Government will meet with opposition at the next election. Now, at the outset, I had no desire to consider this question from a party standpoint, nor do I wish to do so now. As I have already intimated, every honorable member on this side of the Senate is free to vote upon it just as he chooses. But we cannot forget that it has been made a party question. It was summarily rushed through the other branch of the Legislature, and the statement is upon record that unless the I Fusion Government agreed to the Premiers’ ultimatum they would experience opposition ‘ at the next elections. Is that not dragging a question of paramount importance to the Commonwealth down to the lowest depths of degradation ? Undoubtedly it is. Our friends opposite would have been wise if they had refrained from publishing the statement in question. I think it was the Vice-President of the Executive Council who declared that the people of the States are one, and that nothing is to be feared from a reference of this matter to them. But I do not think that we are one people in the true Democratic sense of the term. I would subscribe to the statement that we are one people if the State Parliaments were elected on the same broad franchise as is the Federal Parliament. But under existing conditions we are not one people. The members of this Parliament are elected upon universal adult suffrage. Every man and woman in the Commonwealth has a right to vote for them. But can it be said that every man and woman in a State is at liberty to vote for the return of representatives to the Parliament of that State? No. It is only recently that Victoria fell
– No, the caucus did that for them.
– I recognise that, so far as the Government are concerned, the caucus is an all-important factor. Two years ago, according to the scheme propounded by Mr. Knox and Mr. Harper, it was estimated that the States could get along with an annual subsidy of £7,000,000. At that time we had been giving back to the States a little more than £8,000,000 per annum. Sir William Lyne suggested the return of £6,000,000. When the Premiers met in Hobart it was suggested that three-fifths of the Customs and Exciserevenue should be handed back, whicli would have meant the return of about £6,750,000, but Mr. Fisher, the Prime Minister, suggested to the Conference the payment of £5,000,000 a year. In 1908 the Commonwealth revenue was nearly £1 5,060,000. If we deducted £5,000,000 we should have left for our own . purposes £9,550,000. It is quite natural to ask would that be enough to cover the expanding necessities of the Commonwealth. I do not think it would suffice to enable us to construct transcontinental railways, build a navy, and to establish a citizen soldiery.
– “ Uncle “ will lend us a few bob.
– I shall not be a party to asking “Uncle” for a loan to provide for the defence of the Commonwealth. According to the Budget state old-age pensions is estimated at£900,000, defence £800,000, Federal Capital Site £50,000, outlying post-offices £,250,000, and the Northern Territory £100,000. The more figures I quoted the more clearly it would be seen that if this Parliament tied up its control of Customs and Excise the more it would become an abject slave of the States. Senator Symon saidit was supposed by some persons that the Senate, being the States’ House, would obey the mandate of the State Premiers, but he was not here as a slave of any State Premier. I am not here as a slave of the State Premiers, nor am I here to obey the mandate or dictates of any man in such a position. I consider that I have behind me the votes of the people of Western Australia. When I was seeking their suffrages this agreement was not on the tapis. It is but reasonable to expect that during the life of a Parliament questions will arise which honorable members must’ decide. If we were afraid to deal with such questions, and relegated our trust to the people, we should be cowards. Realizing, with all due respect to the responsible gentlemen who have framed the agreement the importance that they attach to it, I still consider that I am not called upon to vote for it, and that it is not in the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth. If it is to be carried, I certainly hope that a clause will be embodied in the Bill imposing a limitation of time. In voting against the whole scheme, however, I consider that I’ am acting in the best interests of those who sent me here, and for the well-being of this young Australian nation.
Debate (on motion by Senator Henderson) adjourned.
– In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I take advantage of the opportunity to remedy an omission of which I was guilty earlier in the present sitting. Senator Henderson had asked for an intimation as to when the session would be likely to close. I cannot mention any definite date, as the honorable senator will recognise at once. But the practice hitherto pursued has been to enable honorable senators from distant States to reach their homes by Christmas, and naturally that practice is one which the Government would like to follow on the present occasion. Our desire in that respect will only be limited by the knowledge that there are certain measures standing on the business- pa per which it will be necessary to dispose of before the session ends. I invite the attention of the Senate to the list. The first matter is a motion standing in my name, asking the Senate to approve of a scheme for the naval defence of Australia. The next item is the Bill with which we have been engaged during to-day, the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill. Thirdly, there is the Defence Bill. Next there is the small Bill relating to the State debts. ‘ There is also a little measure connected with the acceptance of the Northern Territory. Those are all measures which the Senate is invited to consider. It is extremely doubtful whether at this late period of the session it would be possible to make any further progress with the next two measures standing on the business-paper - the Bureau of Agriculture Bill and the Inter-State Commission Bill; and I have to admit that it is hardly likely that we shall be able to make progress with the Navigation Bill. That is the list of business awaiting our consideration. I ask honorable senators to assist me in extending the sittings by a short while each evening, with the view of expediting business. It was with that object that I asked the Senate to sit rather longer to-night. I shall probably repeat that request to-morrow.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [11.5]. -I wish to raise a question with reference to the sittings of the Select Committee on the Press Cable Service. The Journals of the Senate for the 3rd Novem ber, number 52, entry 4, state, as follows -
Question put and passed.
The question that I now desire to raise is this: I am not inimical to the production of a report by the Committee; but I am opposed to the Committee taking further evidence. I therefore raise the question whether, the Senate having ordered that the Cornmittee should bring up a report by the 24th November, the Committee, without having obtained fresh leave, is empowered by the terms of its appointment, and by the orders of the Senate, to proceed with the taking of evidence.
– Senator Neild has raised a question which affects the procedure of Select Committees generally; and although, perhaps, it is not necessary to make a general statement, it may be convenient to inform honorable senators what the opinion of the Chair is. It is perfectly true, as the honorable senator has stated, that the Senate made an order that the Select Committee in question should bring up a report on the 24th November. That order was in conformity with standing order 282, which reads as follows : -
On the appointment of every Committee, a day shall be fixed for the reporting of their proceedings to the Senate, by which day the final report of the Committee shall be brought up by the Chairman, unless further time be moved for and granted.
The whole of that standing order is mandatory. It directs that a day shall be named, and that the final report of a Committee shall be brought up on that day. Referring to May’s Parliamentary Practice, I find it stated on page 418 that -
If a Committee, at the conclusion of their inquiry, make a final report to the House, the sittings of the Committee are assumed to have been closed; and if further proceedings were desired it would be necessary to revive the Committee.
As our standing order provides that the final report of a Select Committee shall be brought up on a day to be fixed, unless an extension of time has been moved for and granted it appears to me to be clear that a Committee that did not bring up its report on the day ordered would practically be dead. But there is a motion on the businesspaper of the Senate, standing in the name of Senator Pearce, the object of which is to enable the Committee, of which he is the chairman, to present its report at a future time. That motion will have to be considered by the Senate. If it be dealt with affirmatively, the Committee will be perfectly entitled to proceed with its business and to bring up its report at a time hereafter to be fixed. I may further state that I find that in the year 1901 a Select Committee of the Senate was appointed to inquire into the steam-ship service between Tasmania and the mainland. That Com mittee was ordered to report on the 24th of August.
– Our present Standing Orders were not in existence then.
– The standing order under which the Senate was then working read as follows: -
On the appointment of every Committee a day shall be fixed for the reportingof their proceedings to the House, and on such day the final report of the Committee shall he brought up by the Chairman, unless further time be moved for and granted.
That standing order is practically the same as the one under which we are now working. I find that the report of the Committee to which I have referred was not brought up until 25th September, 1902. It will be remembered that the session of 1901-2 was an exceptionally long one. The Journals of the Senate for 25th September, 1902, contain the following entry : -
Tasmania and Australia Steam-ship Communication - Select Committee.
Senator Keating, Chairman of the SelectCommittee of Steam-ship Communication between Tasmania and Australia, brought up the report together with minutes of proceedings, evidence, and appendix.
It appears to me that this Committee, in submitting its report at so late a date without having obtained an extended time for such submission, was adopting a course which, to say the least, was irregular and undesirable. Until the time is extended for the reception of the report of the Press Cable Service Select Committee, I am of opinion that the Committee is in what I may term a “ state of suspended animation.” If the Senate sees fit to adopt the motion standing in the name of Senator Pearce it will, however, be quite competent for the Committee to proceed with its business and to bring up its report at the time fixed. Meanwhile, I do not consider that the Committee is in a position to’ continue its proceedings.
– Although I did hot approve of the appointment of the Select Committee on Press Cable Service, still I think it would be unwise that the Committee should close its business owing to a’ technical failure under the Standing Orders. Therefore, I trust that the Government will assist Senator Pearce to-morrow to carry his motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.13p.m
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 November 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19091124_senate_3_54/>.