3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like a direction from you, sir, as to the order of business to-day. Yesterday was the date fixed for the Select Committee on the Press Cable Service to present its report, and, when I asked for leave to move for an extension of time, an objection was made, and I then gave notice of a motion for today. I desire to know, sir, whether the motion is to be treated as private business, or how it can be dealt with at present.
– Mr. President, before you reply to the inquiry, I desire to point out that the honorable senator has opened up a rather large question, which, for obvious reasons, it is not desirable to discuss now. I am quite prepared to move the postponement of Government business until his motion has been dealt with. That course, if adopted, will’ get over the present difficulty, leaving to a later period the determination of the larger question as ‘.o what procedure ought to be adopted in such cases.
– I have given some consideration to the question of how a motion of this character ought to be dealt with. It appears to me that a motion to appoint a Select Committee for the purpose of inquiring into a matter is purely private business. But, once the motion has been agreed to. the inquiry is being conducted on behalf of the Senate, not on behalf of a private senator, of the Government, or of the Opposition, and should be treated as a matter relating to the business of the Senate. From that stand-point, I think that a motion of the- character now under consideration should take precedence of other matters which may be placed on the notice paper.
– That is, in future?
– Of course, if there should be any feeling on the part of honorable senators that it is undesirable to adopt that course immediately, I am quite prepared, if it is possible to postpone the business on the notice-paper, to allow the motion of Senator Pearce to be taken now, without giving a definite ruling. But my opinion is that such a matter is the business of the Senate, and should, at any rate on future occasions, be so treated. I desire to intimate that, in future, when a date is fixed for a Select Committee to bring up its report, an order of the day will appear on the notice-paper for that day. If a Select Committee were making an inquiry which, in the opinion of a section of honorable senators it was undesirable to continue, it would be quite open for the Senate to’ withdraw the power which was intrusted to the Committee. In that way, the Senate itself would be protected, and it would not be possible, by means of Standing Orders or otherwise, to prevent its will from being carried out. In the present case, I think it would be just as well to adopt the course which has been suggested by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and honorable senators will have an opportunity, if they see fit, to take exception to the action .which I contemplate pursuing in the future.
– I beg to ask a question, sir, about the decision which you have just given. I am sure that you will permit me the liberty of saying that I very largely sympathize with your view that such matters arc the business of the Senate, not the business of either the Government or private senators. I should like to know, sir, whether I am to understand that, as the business nf the Senate, a matter would be free from the obligations of the Standing Orders, because your statement has left that rather indefinite in my mind.
– The Standing Orders provide for a certain procedure to be observed. The business of the Senate should at all times take precedence of other business, whether Government or private, because the Senate is the supreme authority.
– Unless the Standing Orders provide to the contrary.
– What I desired to know, sir, was whether matters concerning the business of the Senate are to be governed generally by the Standing Orders, or are taken outside their category ? I did not inquire about the question of precedence.
– Of course, matters concerning the Senate must, so far as provision is made, be governed by the Standing Orders, which are the expressed will of the Senate. Where the Standing Orders do not make specific provision for matters coming under the category of business of the Senate, such business should, I think, take precedence, but should be governed by the Standing Orders in all other respects.
– I beg to again ask the Vice-President of the Executive. Council whether there is any manual or leaflet instructing 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 ?
– In reply to the question asked by the honorable senator yesterday, the Defence Department has’ furnished the following information : -
The construction, component parts, and general use of the rifle forms part of the Musketry Instruction, in which each cadet is given a thorough, practical, and exhaustive training as part of his musketry course.
The use of rifles on the range is fully explained by the extracts from Cadet Standing Orders attached.
Special attention is drawn to “ Preliminary Training “.in Standing Order 62.
As the standing orders occupy two foolscap pages of closely printed matter, I shall hand them to my honorable friend for his perusal.
Senator Sir ROBERT BEST laid upon the table the following paper : -
Northern Territory League. - Copy of Telegram from the Secretary, to the Minister for External Affairs, dated Adelaide, 19th November, 1909.
Ordered to be printed.
– I have received an intimation that the report of the Board is to hand. I think the honorable senator is aware that the matter was referred to a Board of Inquiry.
– But they did not summon MacDonnell.
– As to what the Board did, I am not aware, but the intimation which I have received now is that the report of the Board is to hand, but has not been considered by the Minister. A reply will be ready in a few days.
– I desire to withdraw from the business-paper the notice of motion standing in. my name with reference to a return concerning land holdings in the various States. I find after inquiry that it is impossible to obtain the information for which my motion asks.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move -
That the time for bringing up the report of the Select Committee on “ Press Cable Service “ be extended to 1st December, 1909.
I do not anticipate that there will be any opposition to this motion. I may, however, explain that the Committee has almost concluded its inquiries. So far as I can see, it will only be necessary to hold one other meeting for the purpose of taking evidence. Then the Committee will proceed to draw up its report. I hope that the Senate will afford an opportunity for bringing the inquiry to a proper conclusion.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [2.50]. - I move -
That the following words be added : - *’ for the purpose of preparing and presenting its report.”
I submit this amendment because I am thoroughly satisfied that there is no reasonable excuse for continuing to spend public . money on this inquiry. Of course, I know certain things as a former member of the Committee, but I also know, as a matter of general conversation amongst members of the Senate, and amongst all sorts of people about the precincts of Parliament, that it is proposed to do certain things. I do not . wish to mention them here, but I .may say that I believe it is proposed to do something that is absolutely outside the order of reference from the Senate to the
Committee, for the purpose of worrying into the private earnings of citizens of the Commonwealth. That was my chief reason for seeking to be discharged from service on the Committee. I did not approve of a Committee of the Senate attempting to extend the scope of its authority beyond that which was committed to .it, nor did I approve of an attempt by any body of persons - whether a. Committee of the Senate, or for the matter of that, the Senate itself - to seek to inquire into the private affairs of citizens.
– The Senate has already decided that point.
– The Senate has done nothing of the kind. My honorable friend has made sufficient unwise observations in connexion with this matter already, and really should not interfere with things that he does not understand. It is principally for the reason that I have given that I am now moving that the extension of time be limited, for the purpose of framing and bringing up the report of the Committee. I do not wish to interfere with the preparation and submission of the report in any shape or way. I mentioned that view of the question, when I took a certain point of order last night, as to which you, sir, sustained my view. But, although I think it advisable that the report should be prepared and presented, I venture to say that the adoption of it will never be moved in the chamber. The whole inquiry has been very largely a waste of time, and waste of energy, and a waste of public money.
– The honorable senator ought not to anticipate the report of the Committee.
– There will be no opportunity for moving the adoption of the report this session, and the time of the Senate is too precious to admit of a lengthy discussion of the question. I might submit a number of propositions on this matter, but I am rather inclined to think that I have said sufficient to warrant my amendment. By all means let the report be presented, and then it will be seen how truly futile the proceedings of the Committee have been. I also draw attention to a notice of motion given by the Chairman of the Committee this afternoon - the most condemnatory proposition that could have been submitted by him. I am not attempting to discuss the notice itself. I simply draw attention to its terms. The honorable senator comes here, and tables a motion asking the Senate to grant the Committee leave to do that which, in direct contravention of the Standing Orders, it has been doing ever since it was appointed.
– It is not in order to discuss the notice of motion now.
– I have merely made incidental reference to the matter. In no shape or way do I propose to discuss the procedure of the Committee in this respect.
– It is laid down by a high Parliamentary authority that until the report and evidence of a Select Committee have been tabled, it is irregular to allude to them in debate, or to make any reference to the proceedings of the Committee. I think that the wholesome rule is not to debate anything relating to a Committee until a specific motion is before the Senate.
– Quite so. I am not attempting to discuss the notice of motion. I made the citation without any comment. The notice asks for leave to admit the press to the sittings of the Committee. We know what follows. I think that motion ought to have been discussed before the motion now under review was submitted by Senator Pearce. It seems to me that the whole object of the motion of which notice has been given this afternoon will be set aside, if authority be given to the Committee to take further evidence. I do not think that statement is out of order. It may be sailing pretty close to the wind, but I cannot help that, because an unusual set of circumstances has arisen. Such a position probably never arose before in any Legislative Chamber in the world, as that of the Chairman of a Select Committee actually giving notice of a motion for leave to admit the press, although the press has been attending the sittings all along. He is also asking by the present motion that the Committee have leave to examine witnesses. See how the two motions conflict. One has reference to taking evidence - the other to leave to admit the press. I think I am simply doing my duty as a member of the Senate, and as one charged, to some extent, as every honorable senator is, to see to the proper expenditure of public money, in moving the amendment.
– I submit, as a point of order, that the amendment moved by Senator Neild cannot be received. The motion under consideration is that the Select Committee have extended time for the presentation of its report. The Senate, after due deliberation, gave the Committee power to examine witnesses and call for persons and papers. The Committee has almost concluded its work. But it has not completed the examination of one witness, who did not feel himself justified in giving answers to certain questions. That witness is to be examined again. The Committee is, therefore, simply carrying out the mandate of the Senate.
– Absolutely no.
– Is the object a mere examination ?
– I contend that if Senator Neild desired to destroy this Committee he should have given notice of a motion in proper form. I believe it is quite out of order for the honorable senator to take advantage, in the way he proposes,’ of a” motion for the extension of the time given to the Committee to conduct its inquiry. In my opinion, the amendment is quite irrelevant to the instructions originally given to. the Committee by the Senate, and ought not to be received.
– In reply to the honorable senator, I point out that the Committee was appointed originally for the purpose of inquiring into the conditions which control the cable service and matters connected therewith. The Senate, in appointing the Select Committee, fixed a date on which it was to present its report. The report was due on the 24th of Novembei. There is power under the Standing Orders to extend the time given to a Select Committee for the presentation of its report, but it is necessary that a motion should be submitted for the purpose. That motion Senator Pearce has just moved, but it is open to amendment by the Senate if it thinks fit. The Select Committee is a creation of the Senate, which can control if in any way it sees fit. The Senate might, if it pleased, withdraw the power of inquiry given to the Select Committee in the first instance.
– By way of amendment ?
– No, by a specific motion. A motion is submitted to extend the time given to the Committee to bring -up its report, and it appears to me competent for any member of the Senate to submit an amendment limiting the proposed extension to the purpose of preparing and presenting the report. I consider that the amendment is in order.
– Honorable senators might reasonably ask to be allowed to dissociate their views as to the desirability or otherwise of appointing this Select Committee from the matter now before the Senate. Honorable senators are aware that I was opposed to the appointment of this. Select Committee. I considered it pernicious, and I think that it is possibly worse now than I thought it would be at the time it was decided to appoint it. At the same time, there are other matters which should be considered. Senator Dobson just now referred to an attempt to kill the Committee. The view I take is that it is not necessary for the Senate to consider an expedient of that kind. I believe that, provided that a sufficiently liberal supply of rope is given to the Committee, an act of suicide on its part will relieve the Senate of any necessity to commit murder. The real question before us now is whether we should or shouldnot take advantage of a slip on the part of the Committee, in order to retrace a step which we previously took, however false that step may have been. If those in charge of the Select Committee had paid a little more attention to the Standing Orders, the motion now before the Senate would have been submitted yesterday, and in that case the Senate would, I think, have done what it has done before, and have granted the extension of time asked for. I have never known a House of Parliament to refuse a request by a Select Committee for an extension of time. Through a perfectly natural oversight which we. can all understand, those in charge of this Select Committee allowed a day to slip by, and it is now sought to repair the omission of yesterday. In the circumstances, I do not think that we should decline to do to-day what we should probably have done as a matter of form yesterday. We can pass judgment on the report of the Select Committee when it is brought up, but at present we are asked merely-
– Let the members of the Committee hang themselves.
– I have already said that if we give them a sufficient allowance of rope they will do so.
– How pleasant a thing it is to have a friend in the Govern- . ment.
– I view this matter quite apart from my feelings with regard to the appointment of the Select Committee.
I have never known a request by a Select Committee for an extension of time to be refused. This Committee was not appointed with my sanction or approval ; I did what I could to block it, but as it was appointed the Senate should put the Committee in a position’ to carry out its inquiries.
– Can the report of the Committee come before this Parliament?
– If it does not, there will be no need either for suicide or killing ; the Committee will die, and there will be an end of it. I have said that if those in charge of the Committee had moved, in accordance with the Standing Orders, for an extension of time it would probably have been granted as a matter of form.
– I should have moved the same amendment upon the motion.
– I have no doubt the honorable senator would have done so. Still, all Houses of Parliament grant a reasonable extension of time where it is asked for by a Select Committee, and I think we should do that in this case, leaving ourselves perfectly free, when the Committee has sufficiently amused itself, to’ pass judgment on it after the presentation of its report.
– Whatever may be our personal views with respect to the appointment of this Committee, we should remember that it was appointed by the Senate to conduct certain investigations and bring up a report. I have had a good deal of experience of Select Committees, and I have never known a case in which a request by a Select Committee for an extension of time within which to complete its investigations and submit its report was refused. It seems to me almost improper that the Senate should deny what I think this Select Committee has a right to ask. But I should like to be informed by some members of the Committee whether the object of the motion submitted by Senator Pearce is to secure, not merely the further examination of witnesses, but the compulsory disclosure by certain witnesses of information which they object to disclose.
– That is the whole thing.
– Did the honorable senator not hear the frank utterance of Senator Dobson ?
– I am aware of Senator Dobson’s ideas on this matter; but they may not be approved by the Senate. If a witness brought before the Select Committee has refund to reply to certain questions put to him, the Senate should decide whether he should be compelled to reply. If the object of this motion is to enable this Select Committee to compel evidence from an unwilling witness, I shall vote against it. But if it is merely what it appears to be, a proper request by the Committee for further time to complete their investigations and submit their report, it should not be objected to.
– Honorable senators are aware that when the motion for the appointment of this Select Committee was originally discussed, I opposed it as strongly as I could. I considered that the appointment of the Committee was a great mistake, and my view of the matter has been strengthened rather than weakened by what has since taken place. However, I think it would be rather a weak and cowardly thing to take advantage of a slip on the part of the Committee ; and, holding that view, I can be no party to an attempt to suppress the Committee in a summary manner.
.-.! do. not think that we can dissociate the object for which this Committee was appointed from the motion now before the Senate. The appointment of the Committee was asked for as a matter of public importance. We were told that the supply of cables was very costly, and that the conditions under which they were supplied to the press in several of the States were unfair; that the news supplied was inadequate, garbled, and inaccurate. We have learned, from press reports of the evidence given before the Select Committee, that these allegations have absolutely failed. We do not find that the press of the country are dissatisfied with the conditions under which they are getting cable news. We do not find that the news is garbled or inaccurate.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator is a member of the Select Committee; if he is, and he is referring to anything which was done by the Committee, he is not in order.
– I am not a member of the Committee; and I am referring to published reports of the proceedings of the Committee. The motion for its appointment was brought forward as a matter in the interests of the Commonwealth ; but we find that the real object was to endeavour to get cheap news for a new Labour newspaper.
– That is incorrect.
– It is not incorrect.
– We are discussing at the present time a motion for an extension of time to enable the Committee to pursue its inquiries, and bring up its report. An amendment has been moved to confine the purpose for which the extension shall be given to the preparation and presentation of the report. It is not wise to anticipate the report, which may be presented by the Committee; and the remarks which Senator McColl is now making would be more appropriate when the Committee’s report is submitted. The only question we have now to consider is, first, whether the time should be extended, and next, whether the extension should be limited to a particular purpose.
– I do not desire to anticipate the report of this Select Committee; but I wish to give reasons why I intend to support Senator Neild’s amendment. I opposed the inquiry because, in my opinion, it is an inquiry into the private business of certain people. We do not know how much further it is intended to take it, or whether this motion is to be used as a means to compel people who do not feel inclined to do so, to publicly disclose matters affecting their private business. I have no wish to object to an extension of time in a fair way ; but we should understand that members of the public are not to be compelled by this Select Committee to disclose their private affairs, and that the Committee will take advantage of the extension of time merely for the purpose of preparing and presenting their report.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [3.14]. - I am one of those who did not lock with favour on the appointment of the Select Committee. I have a strong objection to the appointment of Select Committees for many of the purposes for which they are appointed. I think that they are frequently made use of indirectly for-
– I was going to use a stronger expression ; and I shall accept Senator Clemons’ word. I think that they are sometimes appointed for unworthy objects. The Senate appointed this Select Committee to make a certain investigation. That investigation, whatever its value may be, is proceeding. The Committee, through its Chairman, asks the Senate for an extension of time it should have asked for a day or two earlier; but, as Senator Millen has pointed out, that is no reason why it should not be granted now. The position could not have been put more plainly or more wisely than it was by Senator Pulsford. The honorable senator is a member of the Committee, who was not, I think, in sympathy with its appointment or the objects supposed to be in view. I wish to know for what reason we are asked to refuse, not a courtesy, but an ordinary formal request. Upon what ground are we asked to refuse it? Because we are told that if we extend the time within which the Committee may report to the Senate, the Committee will be able to discharge its duties, to complete its examination of witnesses and to bring up its report. My honorable friend, Senator Neild, with that candour and courage which always distinguish him, wishes us to defeat the motion in an indirect way by restricting the duties of the Committee. I never heard of such a thing in my life. It would be far better for us to negative the motion.
– No, let us have the report of the Committee.
– The adoption of the course which I have suggested would be more straightforward in the sense that it would put an end to the Committee and its operations.
– It would result in its abolition.
– Exactly. But I wish to know the reasons why we are asked to take any such step. Senator McColl has said that the Committee was appointed for the purpose of providing cheap news for a new labour daily journal. It is a most extraordinary reason to advance against the proposal to extend the time within which the Committee may report. I do not know whether the Committee was appointed for that purpose or not. Senator McColl may be much more in the “know” than I am. But if his contention be right the functions of the Committee were dealt with when it was appointed. The next reason urged against the motion of Senator Pearce is that the Committee has been a failure. Senator McColl has declared that he has read that statement in the newspapers. I read a good many things in the newspapers, but upon a matter of this sort I prefer to rely on the report which will be attached to the evidence which the Committee will present to the Senate. Why should the Senate sit in judgment on the utility of the Committee in this premature way? All (hat we are asked to sanction is an extension of the time within which the Committee may report until next Wednesday. If its report is not then forthcoming we shall be afforded another opportunity of dealing with the matter. I protest against the Senate being asked to sit in judgment on the Committee upon the strength of certain newspaper statements that the purpose for which it was appointed is absolutely at an end. Senator Neild was himself a member of that body for some time. He now affirms that it is a futile Committee, whose proceedings- involve a waste of public money. That may be a satisfactory reason why its labours should be terminated, so far as he is concerned. But I wish to see his evidence in that connexion. We ought not to sit in judgment on this Committee now. The time to do that will be when its report is presented, accompanied by the evidence which it has taken. Of course, it may be, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated, that the more rope we give the Committee the worse’ it will be for it.
– Will this motion,, if adopted, give the Committee any extended powers ?
– Certainly not. We shall simply extend the time within which it was empowered to present its report under the original order of the Senate. I do not propose to indulge in prophecy as Senator Neild has done, because I recognise that one ought not to prophesy unless he knows. But Senator Neild’s prophecy, like many others, is extremely vague. He says that the Committee is going to attempt something in the nature of the coercion of witnesses.
– Coercion cannot be exercised, except with the approval of the Senate.
– I am glad that my honorable friend has said that. All that the Committee has power to do is to present a report to the Senate in respect of any recalcitrant witnesses, and to ask it to deal with them.
– Is that so? The Committee cannot gaol a man?
– Certainly not.
– It cannot even intimidate him.
– If, when he is asked whether his mother knows that he is out, a man declines to answer, all that the Committee can do is to ask the Senate to deal with him. Therefore, it would be ludicrous to refuse to extend the period within which the Committee must present its report, unless we decline to sanction its existence an hour longer. It would be a very unjust and improper course to adopt at the present stage. Further it would be a wasteful method, because all the expenditure necessitated by the appointment of the Committee has already been incurred, and I make these remarks as one who did not approve of its appointment. It would be a reflection on the Senate if we adopted the method which we have been asked to adopt for terminating its labours.
– It may not be the practice of the mover of a motion, such as has been submitted by Senator Pearce, to assign reasons why an extension of time should be granted to a Select Committee appointed by the Senate to present its report. But if Senator Pearce had briefly stated why this extension is required - and I think that his failure to do so was more than a mere lapse-
– Suspicion haunts the guilty mind.
– The honorable member cannot do an injustice to Senator Dobson.
– Exactly. After listening to Senator Dobson’s speech I could not help being suspicious. That speech at once indicated the guilty mind. I. think that, in the absence of a suspicion of that sort, Senator Pearce’s motion would have been regarded as a formal one. But Senator Dobson raised ghosts in this Chamber of which we are entitled to take cognisance. If it be an easy matter for the Committee to commit suicide, by all means let it do so. But if it can live under the auspices of Senator Pearce, let it live. If Senator Pearce will explain to Senator Dobson why he requires an extension of the time within which the Committee may present its report, I shall be perfectly satisfied.
.- I merely wish to say that the Committee has yet to examine three witnesses. I need hardly reassure the Senate that it does not propose to put anybody in gaol. All that it is empowered to do is to obtain evidence: If witnesses refuse to give that evidence, the Committee must report to the Senate, upon which will be thrown the onus of taking action. Everybody who is familiar with the Standing Orders must recognise that the Committee has no power to compel witnesses to answer questions unless the Senate chooses to exercise the necessary power for it. In this matter I am entirely in the handsof honorable senators. I frankly confess that if the amendment be carried, I shall quickly send in my resignation, because I shall regard the course adopted as an at tempt to burk inquiry. But I would ask honorable senators to suspend their judgment on the Committee and its work until they have obtained its report. As a member of that body I will undertake to say - if the extension of time proposed be granted to it - that not only the evidence but probably the report of the Committee, will be placed in the hands of honorable senators before the session closes. I will do my best in that direction.
– Can the honorable senator give us a reasonable assurance - not a binding one of course that we shall get the report before the session closes?
– I can. So far as I am aware, only another meeting of the Committee will require to be held to enable it to complete the taking of evidence. Only certain questions remain to be dealt with. The members of the Committee have been very regular in their attendance, with one exception, who shall be nameless, and, therefore, they are all au fait with the evidence which has been taken. Consequently, I fail to see any reason why, within a few days, a report cannot be framed for presentation to the Senate - two reports, including a dissentient one, if necessary. I am not too confident that by Wednesday next the report will be ready, because the Committee has’ lost a day through being unable to meet this morning. It will have to arrange for another meeting, at which the three witnesses to whom I have referred will be examined. It is my intention to push the inquiry to a termination as speedily as possible.
– Will the honorable senator say that the Senate is attempting to burk inquiry if it refuses to compel recalcitrant witnesses to reply to questions put to them?
– The Senate is the only body which can compel a witness to reply to questions” put to him.
-It cannot compel him to do so.
– It can penalize him for refusing to do so.
– I have grave doubts upon that matter.
– At any rate, a. colleague of the Vice-President of the Executive Council entertains no such doubts. However, that is not the matter which we are now discussing.
– But the honorable senator spoke of the possibility of the Senate burking inquiry.
– It is the opinion of the Committee that, in order to complete its inquiry, three witnesses should be called. If the Senate says that it will not allow us to call those witnesses, it will be burking inquiry.
– But I have in mind the possibility of a witness declining to answer certain questions, and the Senate refusing to stand behind the Committee.
– The Senate has placed the conduct of the inquiry in the hands of the Committee, and if it has no confidence in that body, it should dissolve it.
– But the Senate acts on the supposition that the Committee will pursue its investigations with moderation and justice.
– We contend that we have done so; and I think that the honorable senator will hold that opinion when he reads our report. The Senate, having appointed the Committee, will, I believe, afford it an opportunity of completing its inquiry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 24th November (vide page 6248), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Senator HENDERSON (Western Aus that the question before the Senate is second in importance to no matter which has ever been submitted to this Parliament, and offers every justification to each honorable senator to state the reasons for the opinions which he holds concerning the financial agreement. The arrangement precedent to the submission of that agreement to the Parliament has been so largely discussed by previous speakers that I do not intend to offer more than a few passing observations. I think that Senator Turley took up indisputable ground when he asserted that the arrangement owed its origin more to a political necessity than to a national need. From the commencement of the Premiers’ Conference to the submission of the agreement by the Prime Minister to this Parliament, there has been a series of political machinations. It has been an attempt to save, at all cost, the skin of a party which was created out of the debris of a number of parties. It has been an attempt to solidify that debris into a form which would be presentable to the people at the elections. That is, I think, a fair definition of the situation. It is offered without prejudice. It is based upon the evidence of political procedure and political organization, since the inception of this Parliament nearly nine years ago. The component parts of the present united party who are seeking to establish this financial agreement without the alteration of a comma or the crossing of a t were in the greatest political antagonism for a number of years. Who would have dreamt twelve months ago of ever seeing Senators Millen and Best seated side by side at the Ministerial table? Those who have for years witnessed the very bitter political conflict between those two honorable senators and others whose names I may feel it necessary to mention, must be astounded to-day to find that practically out of nothing something was created which made it possible for Senators Millen and Best, and I might include Senator Pulsford, to sit together in brotherly harmony under the flag which has been painted presumably by the combination of the State Premiers and the representatives of the Commonwealth. I do not want to enter very largely into the question of the origin of this agreement. It is enough for us to know that it was hatched under very dark, degrading circumstances. It was hatched under circumstances of which I venture to say even its strongest advocates are not prepared to de- clare that they feel proud. It was hatched under circumstances which were dark and dreary.
– I see no reason why I should. I think that I have made a clear statement of what has taken place. In politics there are lines on which men may honorably travel, but there are also lines which when departed from undoubtedly leave behind them the stain of degradation.
– I heartily agree with the honorable senator.
– “Undoubtedly the honorable senator keenly feels the sting of my assertion. It has penetrated to his very soul. I believe that this is the first occasion on which he has been able to realize the position in which he is placed. In this debate there has- been no opposition offered to a good many features of the agreement. I think that on the “whole we may fairly congratulate ourselves upon being unanimous regarding one or two principles of the Bill. In the case of some Bills it is absolutely impossible to obtain unanimity regarding almost any principle involved therein ; but in the case of the present Bill. that cannot be said. For a few days I have listened very carefully to the discussion. I have not heard a single honorable senator oppose the per capita method of distributing the Customs and Excise revenue, and therefore I think it is fair to say that on one principle involved in the Bill the Senate is unanimous. Nor have 1 heard a single senator oppose the payment of 25s. a head to the States. In fact, I think that I heard one of the strongest deClaimers of some provisions of the Bill assert that if it were really necessary for the time being that the States should receive more than that amount per head he would be quite prepared to vote accordingly. I believe that some honorable senators on the other side are conscientious in their support of the measure. I suspect that they believe that it is a right and becoming, one for the Senate to pass. There are others who accuse honorable senators on this side of the chamber of being opposed to the measure simply because they belong to a certain political party. I am suspicious of the sincerity of those who make that accusation.
– The honorable senator suspects every one who differs from him.
– I do not. I sometimes suspect the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but at other times I think he is absolutely sincere. I am, however, doubtful as to whether, in regard to this measure, he has given expression to the best elements of his judgment. I am not opposing the Bill because of the proposed 25s. per capita payment to the States. I have no desire to shut off the contributions which the Commonwealth makes to the States. But Senator Vardon, last night, though supporting the Bill, supplied one of the most cogent reasons for opposing its principal provisions. When Senator Symon was speaking, he said that he was prepared to limit the new arrangement to a term of years, and he also said that he would not necessarily limit the contribution to 25s. per capita. His great point was that he was not prepared to cast a vote that would give away the control that this Parliament possesses over the finances, the management of which has been intrusted to us by the people.
– Give away the control to whom?’
– The honorable senator may have had some« practice in trickstering. I have not. If a man says to me, “ I intrust you with certain powers on my behalf,” and I accept that trust, I am bound to discharge my duty until the man demands the return of it from me. Can any honorable senator say that the people of Australia have made such a demand with reference to the trust given to us? No one except the six Premiers, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, the Minister of Defence, and the Treasurer - nine persons in all - has demanded the surrender of our trust.
Senator -Sayers. - Who is going to ask for it if the representatives of the people do not ?
– These gentlemen may represent the people in certain capacities, but I venture to say that they do not represent the people with reference to this question. Senator Vardon, in replying to Senator Symon, made this significant declaration. He said, in effect : “ Whilst I support the Bill, I am also fully seized of the belief that inside of three Parliaments from now the arrangement inserted in the Constitution will have to come out of it again.” What are we to understand concerning the mental condition of a man who says, “ I am prepared to agree to a proposition in perpetuity,” whilst in the same breath he says, “ I know that in doing so I am committing a great blunder, and doing a thing that cannot last for more than nine years “ ? Surely it is fair to say that no real political acumen is displayed by one who takes up a position of that kind. I oppose the making of an agreement in perpetuity, because I am convinced that this Parliament has been intrusted with constitutional power to handle the finances of Australia as it may think best.
– There is no such thing as “perpetuity” in the Constitution.
– To insert the provision in the Constitution will be to go back upon the mandate given by the people to this Parliament nine years ago.
– Will the honorable senator dispute that a majority of the people in a majority of the States passed the 87 th section cf the Constitution in its original form without any time limit?
– I simply say that the Constitution as it stands represents the will of the people who voted for it, and the 87th section as it stands enables the Parliament to provide for the distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue after ten years.
– Why not let Parliament “ otherwise provide “ by submitting the question to the people again ?
– I think Parliament should provide by making a payment of 25s. per head to the States, but I have no sympathy with those who would go to the people and say : “ You gave us a power which is too weighty for our shoulders, too mighty for us to handle, and too great a responsibility for us to sustain. Therefore, we hand it back to you.” Were I to give a vote in favour of such a proposal, I should feel, when I faced the electors again, that I was one of the meanest men in the Commonwealth, and deserved to be politically wiped out, because I had not had the courage to uphold the powers intrusted to me.’ A man who is afraid to bear responsibility is not worthy of ‘being a representative of the people, and ought to be discredited by them.
– =This is not the first time that a despot has stood behind Parliament and used Parliament for despotic purposes.
– I do not know what the honorable senator wishes to suggest. I have read some history, and have rubbed shoulders with a few people who*
I believe, would like to be despots. Indeed, I believe that at this moment I am standing face to face with some who would be political despots if they could. But there is a pleasure in knowing that the intelligence of men and women has so quickened, that despotism is now a dead failure in this country.
– There is no despotism like Labour despotism.
– Perhaps there is only one other form of despotism which can be compared to it - that of Free Trade, of which Senator Pulsford is the advocate, and which would leave Australia a barren waste, or would make it a great big hunting ground for the importing classes in the Commonwealth and the exporters who live elsewhere. There is only one other point in connexion with this matter to which I wish to refer, because I recognise that the numbers are up. Indeed, my only reason for occupying the time of the Senate at all on this question is that I believe it to be of so much importance that every member of the Senate who has an opinion upon this financial agreement should express it fearlessly and publicly. The embodiment of the agreement in the Constitution for all time must have the effect of changing the fiscal policy adopted bv Australia. Last night we listened to one of the champions of Protection.
– One of the exchampions.
– It would perhaps be a more accurate description of the honorable senator He sst aside the suggestion that the observance of this agreement for all time would be an obstacle to the establishment and continuance of a Protective policy in the Commonwealth. But the honorable senator did so only in words, and in a very few words at that. The honorable senator did net attempt to suggest any means other than the imposition of a revenue Tariff to make good the inevitable per capita reduction of revenue from Customs and Excise when the population of the Commonwealth had been considerably increased. I am satisfied that the fiscal policy which Australia has affirmed is endangered by the combination of the elements of which I have spoken. I see two representatives of those elements before me - two distinct types of politicians. We have in this Senate, sitting side by side, Senator Best and Senator Millen, the one a life-long advocate of sound Protection, the other, a rabid single taxer, when I knew him first, and now a Free Trader. These honorable senators represent two distinct types of politicians who have met together in support of the proposal. They have taken with them Senator Pulsford. I do not know what they have done with Senator Sayers, because no one has ever known what policy that honorable senator believes in. We know the politics which the other three senators I have mentioned have professed.
– The honorable senator does not if I am to judge by his recent remarks; he never heard me express single to x beliefs
– We can discuss that matter some other time.
– The honorable senator should not make the statement if it is not correct.
– My recollection of events is not so dim that I do not know precisely what I am saying. In my opinion the policy of Protection, and, indeed, the policy of honour, have been sacrificed in this attempt to “meet the political exigencies of the party opposite. Now that Senator Vardon has entered the chamber, I shall repeat what I said during his absence. If the honorable senator intends to take the logical stand which a man ought to take on a question of such vast importance he should not forget what he said last night. No member of the Senate has more strongly condemned the proposed provision for the embodiment of this agreement in the Constitution for all time. The honorable senator said that he was satisfied that whilst this Bill provided for a return to the States of 25s-. per capita for all time inside the duration of three Parliaments, that provision would require to be altered.
– And we can alter it.
– The honorable senator should not forget that whilst he may assist to carry this provision of the Bill, the argument put forward by Senator Symon is unanswerable, and while a majority is all that is required to put this agreement into the Constitution, a minority of the people will be able to hold it there for all time.
– It does not follow that they will do so.
– It is not a question of what they will do. The assertion is that they can do so; that assertion is true, and it stands.
– That is so. But they have never asked Senator Vardon to put it there. They have asked him as one of their representatives to take control of this matter. They have never asked him to request them to relieve him of the responsibility “which they laid upon members of this Parliament in the Constitution. All that they desire him to do is to perform the service they invited him to undertake as their representative, and the honorable senator will have to answer to them for the faithful performance of that service.
– I feel that, on a matter of so much importance, it is the duty of every member of the Senate to give his reasons for the vote he intends to cast. I recognise that by this time there is very little new to be said on this subject, although there may be a good deal to be said that is true. After a number of honorable senators have spoken upon a question which, like that now before the Senate, is by no means a new question, it is difficult to say anything of interest. But I have a duty to perform in this matter. I am often reminded that I am a member of the States House, and that the interests of the State I represent are in my hands as one of its representatives. The Federal Parliament has within the last few months very radically altered its tone. It will be admitted that for over eight years the tone of this Parliament was decidedly a national one, but those who in time to come will have the duty cast upon them of writing its history will have to admit that quite a different tone has been expressed in recent legislation. They will have to admit that this Federal Parliament has now fallen upon evil days, and takes by no means the stand which it has taken in years past. Any one who watches events in the Commonwealth must recognise that a process of reaction has set in, though it is true that it may indirectly advance Democratic principles at a later stage. We see a so-called Liberal party for the time being swallowed up by the most Conservative elements in our community. Although this is a young country, there are to be found in our community tendencies as conservative and reactionary as any which are. evidenced in older countries of the world. They have been displayed in this Parliament by various persons who, similar to those which are adopted in other Democratic countries? Are we to continue the policy of taxing the poorer sections of the community, and allowing the rich to escape? That is the kernel of the whole question as it presents itself to me. Consequently, in subscribing to this agreement the reactionaries are laying a foundation upon which they must build so far as class interests are concerned. They know that if they are able to embody in our Constitution the principle of indirect taxation many articles which have hitherto escaped taxation will be taxed in the future. Thus, they will be able to tax the poorer sections of the community, whilst permitting the rich to escape. It is the duty of the Labour party to point the people of this country to the character of the pro- . posed operations of these reactionaries. A year or more ago the Labour party held a Conference in Brisbane for the purpose of framing a policy for the Federal Labour party. At that gathering a financial scheme was propounded, with which I confess that I am more pleased the more I examine it. I feel confident that its framers had only the best objects in view. I was present at the Conference in question, and I am able to say that party considerations were entirely excluded from the discussion of this important matter. We had only one object in view, namely, to remove the misrepresentation which had been consistently hurled against us. It had repeatedly been asserted that the Labour party knew nothing whatever of finance, and that if they did, they had not the courage to place a financial policy before the country. Now we all recognise that until political parties assume the responsibilities of government they are accustomed to fight shy of propounding .a financial policy. But if there is any party which has ignored that practice it is the Labour party. At the Brisbane Conference it undertook to lay its proposals before the country. It was argued that it was our duty to be perfectly candid with the people and to embody our views in a platform. Accordingly the Brisbane financial scheme was formulated. It is rather strange that many of our political opponents, who have . undertaken to criticise the scheme adopted at that gathering, now pretend to understand the meaning which the delegates had In view much better than did the delegates themselves”. They go to the length of flatly contradicting those who actually “took part in its deliberations. Instead of crediting us with a knowledge of what we did and intended to do, they say that we did quite the opposite thing. Whether they believe their own statements I cannot say. But certainly the delegates at that Conference understood perfectly well what they were doing. They all recognised that it was utterly impossible to devise a schemefor the adjustment of the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth, which would last for all time. All that they could reasonably hope to do was toaffirm general principles, and to allow time and circumstances to operate in respect of those principles. In the first place they laid it down that a -per capita amount should’ be annually returned by the Commonwealth to the States. That was a principle which was radically different from any which hari been embodied in the schemes which had been submitted at thePremiers’ Conferences. Honorable senators will doubtless recollect that at those gatherings new schemes were invariably submitted. I do not say that the Premiers were inconsistent in adopting that attitude. They were doubtless obliged by the fluctuations in our Customs and Excise revenue to cut their coats according to their cloth. But the delegates to the BrisbaneLabour Conference recognised those fluctuations just as much as did the State Premiers. They realized that it was impossible to stipulate that any arbitrary amount should be returned to the States. For that reason they refrained from declaring that the scheme elaborated at thegathering in question should be operative for all time. As a matter of fact, it would he presumption on the part of any Parliament or any generation to say that they would legislate on this matter for all time. But that is practically the attitude which istaken up by those who say that the proposals on which we came to an understanding at the Brisbane Conference were to last to all eternity. The delegates who were’ appointed to draft a Constitution Bill ten or twelve years ago, had a much longer experience of politics than had the majority of the delegates to the Brisbane Labour Conference ; but even those politicians, with all their experience, were unable to lay down a financial policy for the Commonwealth for a longer period than ten years. In view of the changing effects of our Tariff, and the possibility of changesbeing introduced into our fiscal system, we should be foolish if we departed from, the sound -policy laid down at the Brisbane Labour Conference. I am quite confident that no definite period was mentioned during its proceedings. It was quite another idea which we had in our minds. The Federation was started with a great deal of doubt as to whether the delegates to the Federal Convention had acted wisely in framing the financial provisions as they did. No provision was criticised so much as was the so-called Braddon clause. It started its career with the appellation of the Braddon “ blot,” but Senator Millen, and other members of the Government, together with several other honorable members, have lived long enough to change their opinions, and to now refer to that provision as the Braddon “ blessing.” Of course,they may have had very good reasons for altering their opinion; and I do not say that they had not. But surely all the circumstances point to one fact, and that is that we cannot afford to be dogmatic on a matter which is so liable to change as is that of the Customs and Excise revenue. As the scheme of the Brisbane Labour Conference has not yet been placed before the Senate, except in a general way, I propose to quote from a leading Labour newspaper, one of the clearest expositions of that scheme which I have yet seen. I feel sure that the Sydney Worker’s exposition of our scheme will be more intelligible to the readers of Hansard than would any account which I could possibly give. The article reads as follows : -
In order, then, that the schemes may be compared, we must apply the formula of the Labour scheme to the figures now available.
Take the average total of the Customs and Excise revenue of five representative years before 1910.
This gives a total for eight years of £77,622,040 - an average of £9,702, 755 per year. Our formula,however, requires that five representative years be taken. We, therefore, exclude the lowest (1904-5) and the highest (1907-8) years, and taking the last five of the six that remain we obtain the following figures : -
Dividing£48,282,839 by five, we find the average Customs and Excise revenue to be £9,656,563. This, it will be noted, differs but slightly from the average for the full term.
This gives an average of£ 1,800,302 per year. To this we have to add expenditure on old-age and invalid pensions, and one million pounds to meet the expanding necessities of the Australian Government. The estimated expenditure this year (1909-10) on old-age pensions is £1,500,000. Invalid pensions are not yet provided by the Commonwealth, but New South Wales expends , £76,800 per year under this head, so that about £250,000 would be required for the Commonwealth, making a total for oldage and invalid pensions of £1,750,000 per year. We now have this result : -
The average population is thus found to be 4,051,453. Dividing the surplus of £5,106,266 by this number we obtain the amount per head returnable to the States under the Labour scheme - namely, £1 5s. 2½d., which is just 2½d. per head better than the arrangement arrived at by the Fusion Caucus, whose denunciations of the Labour scheme still cleave the air.
The truth is that the Fusion Caucus, at the instigation of Mr. Kidston, boldly appropriated the Labour scheme, and sooled their press dogs on to lie about it in order that they might impose it upon the public as their own.
That is undoubtedly the clearest account which I have yet read ofthe financial scheme of the Brisbane Labour Conference. Twenty-five shillings per head may be a very fair amount to return to the States for this year, and for as many years as we can see into the future; but in these matters,’ we really cannot see very far ahead. All that we have ever attempted to do has been merely to make estimates for the coming year. That has been done at a great expenditure of labour by the officials at the Treasury. With the best statistics and data which could possibly be secured, all that they have ever yet been able to do has .been to present a forecast for one year, and very often the actual returns showed that the estimates were very much out, one way or the other. We cannot, therefore, afford to be too dogmatic or presumptuous in estimating the amount to be returned to the States. So far as we can judge at present, we think that 25s. -per capita is a very fair amount to fix ; -but we have to consider the possibility of the amount having to be altered, and the effect of such an alteration upon the States. I have been so often reminded that the Senate is the States’ House, that I am never likely to forget that I have to look after State interests. I am told that I was sent here as a State- representative, and, viewing the matter from that stand-point, let me point out what may happen to Western Australia. At present, the 25s. per head, with the ad,ditional sum which is provided, is, I think, a very fair amount to return to the State. But with another gold rush such as occurred some years ago, the people would be contributing to the Customs and Excise revenue, not £2 or ^3, but perhaps £6 or £8 per head. In the past, the people of Western Australia have _ paid rhat amount per head ; and I know sufficient of the mining possibilities of that State to realize that it is quite possible that the conditions which prevailed then may be repeated in the future. In no other part of Australia are there such great possibilities of mining development as there are in Western Australia, so far as surface indications point. I speak as an old miner who has travelled the State and who knows its mining history fairly well. There is nothing very wonderful in imagining that we may have in Western Australia at any time as great a rush as we had twelve or fifteen years ago. The possibilities are so great that he would be a presumptuous person indeed who would say that as great mining discoveries will not be made in the future as have been made in the past. Any morning we may wake up to see it announced in the press that another field equal to the Coolgardie has been discovered. Another great development of mining in Western Australia would cause the Customs and Excise revenue of that State to rise to enormous proportions. If that should happen, dissatisfaction amongst the people of Western Australia would be no name for the position that would be created. How, in face of these possibilities”, can we presume to legislate for all time? Does any one suppose that if the people of Western Australia were paying through Customs and Excise £6 or ^7 per head of the population, they would be satisfied to receive only 25s. per head from the Commonwealth? Certainly not, and I for one scout the idea that any State in the Commonwealth would be satisfied to allow the “other States to benefit from such an enormous sum of money paid by them whilst receiving so little back. The whole principle is wrong. Such an amount of dissatisfaction would be created that revolution would break out. A few years ago we had resolutions tabled, and even carried, in the Western Australian Parliament, expressing dissatisfaction with Commonmonwealth policy. Not only should we have resolutions of dissatisfaction passed under the conditions which I have described, but we should have the people shouldering their guns, and all the rest of it. Some time ago our political opponents were no more in favour of making the proposed alteration of the Constitution than we are to-day. If we look through the pages of the reports of past Premiers’ Conferences, we shall find sufficient proof of that statement. It will be found that the policy laid down by our present opponents never included the suggestion that the Constitution should be altered, and that the power now vested in the Commonwealth Parliament should be taken away from it. At that time there was no stronger champion of the rights of this Parliament than the gentleman who now occupies the position of Treasurer, Sir John Forrest. It would be taking up too much time to quote more than a few passages, but I will certainly quote sufficient to prove what I have said. Senator Best, who was with Sir John Forrest at the Brisbane Conference in 1907, will no doubt recognise some of the statements, and will remember the circumstances in which they were made. Sir John, as reported on page 52 of the report, said -
The present action of the Commonwealth Government in trying to make an amicable arrangement suitable to all parties with the States does not warrant any distrust of it as if it is trying to get the last farthing, or trying to get everything for itself and to give nothing to the Slates. There is another reason even stronger than the reasons I have given, and that is that it would be impossible, I think - absolutely impossible - to get the Federal Parliament to agree to it. They would never agree to give away the principle embodied in the Constitution - namely, the supremacy of Parliament in regard to finance after ten years. Could there be anything more decisive than those words? Could there be anything more sweeping and more resolute than the attitude of Sir John Forrest a few years ago? Let us hear Sir John Forrest again - lt is necessary that the Federal Parliament should have this power - not necessary that it should use it. I do not think it is likely to be used ; but it is necessary to have the power, seeing that we propose, in order to give financial security and in the presence of the States - to cut ourselves adrift for ten years ahead from the financial position which we occupy under the Constitution.
His point there was that the Constitution had given the Federal Parliament certain powers, and that Parliament was not going to part with its powers - that it was ridiculous to expect Parliament to do so. Further on Sir John said -
*AI1 I desire to say, in conclusion, is that these proposals will not come to an end in 1920, unless it is found necessary for them to come to an end. It may be that they will work so well and give so much satisfaction that they will go on for an indefinite period. If, on the other hand, they are found irksome, if they are found not to meet the requirements of the States - well, at the end of ten years they can be brought to an end. I can only say that, the more I have looked at these proposals, the more moderate, the more reasonable, and - I will not use the word “generous” - the more liberal they seem to me. I hope that when you consider the matter you will not forget the position under the Constitution and the difficulties which surround the Federal Government in dealing with matters of this sort - how difficult it is for any Government to go to a Parliament and ask that Parliament to give up a power that is given it under the Constitution.
Notwithstanding all these declarations about the difficulties in the way, and all the rest of it, we now see Sir John Forrest turning a complete political somersault. It seems to be one of the ironies of fate, one nf the results of office, to see Sir John Forrest after having spoken so emphatically, a member of a Government that brings forward diametrically opposite propositions.
– He must be “ eating dirt “ now.
– He is, with a vengeance ; and he is the man who once declared that he would never again “eat dirt.”
Indeed, he is the man who coined the phrase. But evidently political necessity knows no law . This is a very pointed case in proof. We find that the necessities of Sir John Forrest’s party are such as to demand the passing of this financial agreement. Senator Symon has denounced it on the ground that it is more in the nature of a scheme to curtail and discredit the Federal Parliament than a financial agreement. That it has been brought forward for electioneering purposes will be seen within the next few months. We have the organs of the Fusion party quite openly admitting the fact. For instance, the Argus, an organ which is Stoutly behind the Government at present, said on the 14th August -
If an amendment of the Constitution is required it must be put before the electors or referred at the Federal election in March. The advantage of such a proposition to the Federal Ministry is manifest.
The advantage “ to the Federal Ministry,”’ it will be observed.
Mr. Deakin will be assured of the support of the State Premiers in. his stern fight with the Labour party.
There i* an admission that gives away the whole position -
The whole influence of the Premiers in the States will be used in favour of Mr. Deakin, as on his continuance in power will depend the permanency of the arrangement.
Again, on the 19th August, the Argus said -
The Prime Minister thinks that the political factor is even more important than the financial one.
There is an unblushing admission, which 1 feel- is humiliating to Australian politics. It is plainly put forward as a plea in favour of the financial agreement that it will enable the Fusion party to hold their seats at the coming election. I think I have shown that the Labour party put forward their Brisbane scheme not with the hope of making political capital out of it, but at a time when a general election was far off. Notwithstanding the declaration of our political opponents that we knew nothing about finance we were not only emminently successful in framing a scheme in the best interests of the people of Australia, but were capable of showing the way to some df the so-called financial experts of this country. Had some of the members of pur party possessed the experience and opportunities which these experts have had we might bulge as large in the public eye as financiers as they do. At all events, we were bold enough to strike out for ourselves and devise a scheme which the whole of the States have since accepted. Our political opponents have adopted it holus-bolus. Indeed, they have gone one better, and have said, “ This scheme is not only good for to-day, but for all time.” When such high compliments have been paid to our scheme, it is unnecessary to elaborate the point further. Before I sit down, however, I should like to say a word with reference to the party aspect of this question. So far as I am acquainted with what has been said in the course of this debate, that has not been touched upon. I refer to the attitude taken up by the Labour party ‘in the various States. The secret Conference of Premiers was quite unlike previous Conferences, inasmuch as it was attended by representatives of only one political party in Australia. The Leader of the Labour party in Western Australia, Mr. Bath, attended the Conference held in Brisbane, and, I am pleased to say, took up there a non-party attitude. We naturally expected that a gathering of the kind would be free from any party complexion ; but, strange to say, instead of the Leaders of the Oppositions in the various States being invited to attend the secret Conference held in Melbourne in August last, they were ignored, and invitations to attend that. Conference were given only to those who were considered safe - that is to say, to those who were of the same political complexion as the present Fusion Government. It is true that men like Mr. Kidston and the present Minister of Defence were of a doubtful political character a few short years ago, but for the time being they were looked upon as safe from the Fusion stand-point. Mr. Bath referred to this matter in the State Parliament of Western Australia not long ago. In order to explain the position I may say that the Premier of Western Australia, to whom I give all credit for the attitude which he took up, recognised that this was not a party question, and invited Mr. Bath to accompany him to the Melbourne Conference, the idea in his mind being that Western Australia should be represented at that Conference by representatives of the two political parties in the State. However, in course of time an objection to this came from the Premier of New South Wales. This, in my opinion, was a piece of political impertinence on the part of Mr. Wade. The people of Western Australia, and not the Premier of another State, had the right to dictate who should represent them at the Conference. However, Mr. Wade ob- jected, and Mr. Bath was informed later that his presence at the Conference to be held in Melbourne would be embarrassing. I have not the slightest doubt that a representative of Labour would be very much out of place at a Star Chamber gathering of the kind, and that his presence would be very embarrassing to the other gentlemen present. In the circumstances, I was not surprised that Mr. Bath should be given to understand that he was not wanted. I regard the holding of that secret Conference of Premiers as a humiliation to Australia. This is one of the freest countries on the face of God’s earth. Every man and every “Woman in our community are as much upon an electoral equality as it is possible for the law to place them. I believe that every Australian has been humiliated by the holding of a secret Conference from which the press and Hansard reporters were excluded. It is a degradation that such a thing should take place in a free country such as ours, with a free Parliament and free institutions which compare favorably with those of any other country in the world. This, I believe, was the first gathering of its kind in Australia, and I hope for the credit of the Commonwealth that it will be the last. lt marks a degrading page in our history that a Conference upon public affairs should be held in the dark. It was more like a gathering of criminals than a Conference of representatives of a free country. It was at this secret conclave and in this Star Chamber fashion that this Fusion bargain was struck, and” it was struck in order that some people might save their political skins in the coming electoral fight. What a miserable position to occupy ! What a miserable thing it is that for the sake of winning an election men should be capable of casting a stigma uponthe conduct of public affairs in Australia!’ It is the kind of thing one might look for in Turkey or in Russia, but not in a freecountry. In order to gain a few votes and the political influence of the State Premiersin the coming fight, members of the present Federal Government were prepared to eat their words and to go back on the principles they had been advocating for the settlement of this question. Honorable senators opposite laugh, but there is not much heartiness behind their laugh. There is no sincerity in it.
– Then it is like the honorable senator’s speech.
– My speech is on right lines, as Senator Millen will find out iater on. I do not speak in one way here and in another way elsewhere. I utter the same sentiments this year that I gave expression to last year. I did not commence political life as a Labour man, and finish up as the champion of Toryism. I did not commence political life as a President of a Labour League and finish up as the champion of all that is reactionary.
– Has any one here done that?
– Yes, the honorable senator has done it.
– That is absolutely false.
– Will the honorable senator deny that he was President of the Bourke Labour League ?
– I do absolutely.
– J can prove it up to the hilt. I know why the honorable senator was made president, and I know that he sat side by side with a member of the Senate at a Labour Conference.
– I make this offer to the honorable senator. If the statement he makes is proved to be correct, I shall resign my seat if he will resign his seat if it is proved that it is not correct.
– As I am shortly about to resign my seat there is not very much in the honorable senator’s challenge, but I undertake to prove what I have said before many days are over.
– I make this statement without anv qualification at all-
– I remember the attitude the honorable senator took up. He may have been successful in covering up bis tracks, but I can prove that he was a Labourite so far as words and outward position are concerned.
– I make this statement without anv qualification at all-
– When the honorable senator tried to cut out another Labour man for the Bourke seat, Mr. Langwell
– If the honorable member can prove that I was a member of a Labour League I will resign my seat.
– I do not want any other proof than the statement of another member of the Senate. Senator Henderson has risen in this chamber before, nnd declared-
– Senator Henderson said exactly what the honorable senator is saving now.
- Senator Henderson said that Senator Millen sat beside him at a Labour Conference in Sydney. The honorable senator knows perfectly well that he did do so.
– Without any qualification at all I offer to resign my seat if the honorable senator can prove his words.
– We will prove them.
– I ask Senators Millen and de Largie not to continue this difference of opinion. Senator de Largie has made his assertion, and the VicePresident of the Executive Council has denied the statements made. The Parliamentary rule is that an honorable senator’s denial must be accepted.
– I ask Senator de Largie to prove his words.
– I ask the honorable senator to accept the denial of the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
– I accept it.
-I ask the honorable senator to prove his words.
– Order ! I ask honorable senators not to continue the matter further.
– All that the public have been permitted to know of the proceedings at the secret Premiers’ Conference is that the Conference received a certain letter from the great leader of Free Trade, the man who won a prize for an essay on Free Trade or something of the sort some years , ago. We found that gentleman “ sooling “ on the Revenue Tariffists to seize their opportunity to fix the great burden of taxation on the shoulders of the poor people of Australia. He urged them to seize that opportunity because if they did not they might never have such an opportunity again. That is about all the information we have concerning what took place inside the closed doors of the chamber in which this secret Conference was held. So far as I am concerned I have finished with this matter. It is humiliating that this Parliament should be influenced by such a Conference, and that an agreement from such a source should be submitted here. I believe that the electors of Australia will punish those who have humiliated them by violating their free institutions in this way. Every right thinking man in the community will regard it as a stigma on the fair name of Australia that the Bill we are now considering should practically have been initiated at such a secret gathering.
.- I have listened with considerable amusement to the speeches of the last two honorable senators who have spoken. The impassioned tone they adopted shows how dreadfully they are exercised in their minds about the agreement embodied in this Bill, and thefuture that awaits them. Senator de Largie complained that a radical alteration has recently taken place in the tone of this Parliament. He has said that a process of reaction is going on, and that the Liberals have been swallowed up ‘ by the Conservatives. I should like to ask the honorable senator who is responsible for the present condition of affairs? Only a year or so ago we had a Liberal Government in power in the Commonwealth, supported for a considerable time by the Labour party. The members of the Labour party in another place voted against a. want of .confidence motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition in that Government, and ten days later they jumped the position of the Government themselves. If honorable senators opposite are dissatisfied with the present condition of affairs, and with the Fusion Government, they need not look very far to discover who brought the Fusion Government into being.
– Is that any justification for the swallowing up of the Liberals by the Conservatives?
– I am reminding honorable senators opposite that the fathers of the Fusion are the members of the Labour party in the Federal Parliament. Senator de Largie also said that the bargain now before the Senate was at the back of the Fusion; but the honorable senator cannot show that when the Fusion party was formed this bargain had been discussed, or had even been thought of. The honorable senator told us that in spite of every other party the Labour party have secured a White Australia, absorbing, as honorable senators opposite always do, the credit for everything good, even to the Ten Commandants. I wish to take exception to one or two statements in which the honorable senator dogmatised very strongly. One is that the per capita arrangement was never mentioned before the holding of the Labour Conference in Brisbane a year or two ago. He said that that Conference presented a brand new scheme which had never been thought of before, and that their scheme had practically been filched by the Fusion Government. The statement that a per capita arrangement was never mentioned before the holding of the Brisbane Labour Conference is absolutely wrong. It was mentioned in 1901 at the Conference held in either Sydney or Melbourne. It has been advocated since 1901 by Mr, Johnstone, the Statistician of Tasmania, As a matter of fact, it was seriously considered by a sub-Committee of the Federal1 Convention, prior to the adoption of the draft ‘Constitution Bill. So that the honorable senator’s statement, that it is absolutely new, utterly fails. Senator de Largie also declared that the proposal to insert in our Constitution any arrangement which might be arrived at in substitution for the Braddon section had never previously been mentioned. Again, his. statement is absolutely wrong. It was mentioned at the- Hobart Conference of Premiers in 1905. One of the resolutions adopted, by that gathering reads -
Pending a better provision being embodied in. the Constitution to secure the States from the above-mentioned contingencies, as well as against deficiencies1 arising out of the shrinkage of the Commonwealth returns, &c.
This quotation shows that the Premiers then anticipated that whatever was substituted for. the Braddon section should be embodied in the Constitution. In: discussing the proposed extension of the Braddon section, an agreement was arrived at under which all necessary alterations were to be made in the Constitution. So- that the proposal to embody an agreement in the Constitution is not a. new one, but has been discussed for years. The remarks of Senator Henderson regarding the Fusion party I pass without notice. They are simply the explosions of disappointed office-hunters - of men who have been hurled out of office for the good of the country - and we may accept hem for what they are worth. . The whole of the opposition to the proposed agreement is not based upon the agreement itself, but upon an intense dislike of the Fusion Government. As a. matter of fact., every honorable senator who has addressed himself to this Bill has accepted the agreement. But honorable senators opposite have opposed the proposal that it should be embodied in the Constitution. We were also reminded by Senator Hender.derson of the disgraceful exhibition which had taken place in connexion with this matter. He said that certain lines - of conduct had left a stain of -degradation upon the Fusion party. When future readers of Hansard search the records of this session to ascertai’n where the stain of degradation rests, they will _not have far to look, but it will not be on the Fusion party that the strain of degradation will rest. We have only to recollect the attempts which were made in another place to prevent the transaction of business, in order to locate where the degradation lies.
– When attempts were made to gag discussion.
– When attempts were made to save the country from experiencing a barren Parliamentary session.
– I would point out that honorable senators are not in order in referring to the proceedings in another place.
– Senator McColl mentioned the other Chamber first.
– I would ask Senator McColl to continue his remarks.
– I will do so, provided that I am allowed to continue them without impertinent interruptions. When we listen to the criticism to which this agreement has been subjected by members of the Labour party, we must recollect the circumstances of the past six or eight months, and discount that criticism accordingly. I say that that criticism is discounted in the country. The country knows exactly the position of affairs, and the general public know exactly what appraisement to put upon all this loud talk about degradation. They regard it only as so much nonsense. Had the Labour Government remained in office, and been afforded an opportunity of meeting the State Premiers, and of subscribing to the agreement which is now under consideration, they would have jumped at it.
– What did Mr. Fisher do at Hobart?
– I’ have the report of the proceedings of the Hobart Conference before me, and I say that at that gathering Mr. Fisher took up a most undignified position. I cannot conceive of a more slavish grovelling to the St’ate Premiers than he indulged in. He was prepared to do anything that they asked him to do. That report shows how a gentleman occupying the high position of Prime Minister can belittle it.
– This is the first accusation of that description which has been made against Mr. Fisher either inside or outside of Parliament.
- Mr. Fisher took up an attitude of slavish servility to the State Premiers - an attitude which H-as an absolute burlesque of statesmanship. One has only to read the report of the proceedings of the Conference to realize that. It has been said that the Senate is the guardian of State rights. It is true that it is not merely a second Chamber or a House of review. But honorable, senators have also to guard the rights of the States as separate entities under the Constitution. To insure that, the States are equally represented in this Chamber. They have a parity of representation .here so that we may be in a position to resist unjust attacks on the States, and to conserve the rights which belong to- them. But my honorable friends opposite absolutely fail in their duty in that connexion. No man who signs the Labour pledge can ever be a true representative of a State in this Chamber, because he has to put his party above his State. The interests of his State must always be subservient tq those of his party.
– What nonsense.
– It is not nonsense. The honorable senator’s first allegiance is to his party. Honorable senators opposite are all for the interests of their party when the interests .of the States conflict with them.
– The members of the Labour party are at liberty to vote as they choose upon the agreement, whereas the honorable senator is not.
– To keep the Commonwealth and the States apart, and to keep other parties in this Parliament” apart, is the object of the Labour party. They can then score upon every occasion, as they did for a considerable period. They remind me of the animals in the fable which, whilst other animals were fighting, ran away with the bones. This is the most important measure which could be submitted for our consideration. It affects the future interests of the States and of the Commonwealth in a way that no other measure could do. The agreement provides first for an investigation into the question of the transfer of the State debts. We have been asked why the Commonwealth does not take over those debts coincidently with entering into this agreement. But I would point out that it is impossible to adopt that course, because simultaneously with taking over the State debts we must deal with the question of the transferred properties. The agreement recites that after the 1 st July next the Commonwealth shall annually return to the States 35s. per capita in lieu of the present arrangement, and that a special concession, beginning with £250,000, shall be made to Western Australia on account of her peculiar Tariff circumstances. It amazes me to find the representatives of Western Australia opposing an agreement which contains such a provision. If the Bill be defeated they will never obtain from me a vote in favour of similar treatment being accorded to their State again. ‘ Tasmania is just as hardly pinched financially as is Western Australia, and has not the resources and territory of the latter upon which to fall bark
– The honorable senator would allow his personal pique to dominate his judgment.
– I have no, personal pique at all. The honorable senator has been worried over gramaphones lately.
– I am listening to one now.
– That is quite a gratuitous impertinence. This concession to Western Australia means that in twentyfive years that State will receive £3,250,000 more than the per capita allowance. Yet its representatives are prepared to forego that consideration. The final clause of the Bill provides that the proposed agreement shall be submitted by referendum to the people. No objection has been urged against an inquiry being conducted into the question of the transfer of the State debts, or to the annual return of 25s. per capita to the States, or to the granting of a gratuity to Western Australia. But Senator Symon has raised an objection to the granting of special treatment to that State upon the ground of privilege. But that idea has been expressly repudiated by Senator Pearce, and consequently Senator Symon stands almost alone in his contention. The latter’s statement that the agreement involves the humiliation of this Parliament I regard as so much idle nonsense. We are dealing with one people who are our masters. We have to deal with their funds, and the allocation of those funds is in question at the present time. Is it not fair to say to them, “ We have arranged how that allocation shall be made, and we ask you to say whether or not you approve of our scheme “ ? In doing that we do not contravene the provisions of section 87 of the Constitution. This Parliament merely says, “ We will not only decide what ought to be done in this matter, but we will ask the electors to approve’ of it.” In this connexion the fact must be recalled that the Commonwealth Government were not responsible for the holding of the Premiers’ Conference. They attended that gathering as other Federal Ministers have attended similar gatherings during the past nine years. But the Conference was called bv the States, and the Commonwealth Government would have been lacking in courtesy if its representatives had not attended >t in response to the request of the Premiers. Of course, it has been said that the Premiers should not have interfered in this matter - that the Senate is the guardian of State rights. But what would the people have thought if they had not done so? Seeing that next year the Braddon section will expire, that a general election, the result of which nobody can foresee, is looming ahead, it is evident that if an adjustment of the financial relations of the States and Commonwealth be not arrived at this session, it is improbable that a settlement of the question will be effected next year. Thus the State Premiers would have found themselves at the end of 1910 utterly helpless, and at the mercy of whatever chance majority there might be in this Parliament. So that the State Premiers, instead of being blamed for the action which they took, are worthy of all praise. Had they not acted as they did, they would have been guilty of a gross dereliction of duty and neglect of the interests of their constituents
– They struck the putty while it was pliable.
– The State Premiers struck the psychological moment ; they came expecting to get more ; but made a very good bargain. The way in which some honorable senators speak of the States is very amusing. They speak as if the States were the creation of the Commonwealth, instead of vice versa. It should be remembered that, apart from the thirty-nine questions which the people empowered this Parliament to deal with, there is an enormous area of interests and industries left for the States to deal with. The ambit of the States is far wider than is that of the Commonwealth. The immediate development of Australia depends more Upon the States than it does upon the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth was organized, not so much to attend to internal matters, as to deal with external matters with which the States, when divided, could not deal.
– The honorable senator will recognise that there must be, and, as a matter of fact is, a dominant Parliament.
– The Federation is a partnership, each partner being dominant in its OWn sphere; but not trespassing on the sphere of the others. There is a large area of the functions of government with which the States have to do, and the development of the country lies as much with the States as it does with the Commonwealth. The time was, as I said, just now, critical ; and had not the Premiers taken the action which they did, they would have been brought to book by their own Parliaments and their own people whenever they went to the country, if any mishap had occurred to the finances. The settlement of this question before next year was a matter of life and death to the States. It was a question of their solvency or their insolvency. If there is any justification required for what they did, it is only necessary to cite those who said here, “ Why should. we give the States any of this money ? It is quite within the province of the Commonwealth to take the money, and it should take it and use it.”
– Who said that?
– Senator Givens.
– Did he say that the Commonwealth should take all the money?
– Yes ; he. asked, by interjection, “ Why should we give the States any?”
– Senator Stewart said so, too.
– When such remarks were made by men who were supposed to have been sent here to conserve State rights, it is no wonder the State Premiers took alarm and wanted an agreement at once.
– What would the honorable senator propose if ihe revenue from Customs and Excise should drop to 25s. per head ?
– I shall tell the honorable senator about that by-and-by. The State Premiers were alarmed at the language which was used in the Senate. They were afraid, as has been said, of financial strangulation. Since 1901, they have been trying to obtain a settlement of the financial question. They have not delayed at all, but have made an appeal year after year. They have held Conferences, they have met the statesmen of the Commonwealth time after time, and tried to secure a settlement. Was it any ‘wonder that they did their best towards getting a settlement this year? A good deal has been said about the Brisbane Labour Conference, and credit has been taken for all that has been done there. But as I have already shown, the question of an agreement for a per capita payment has been talked of for the last eight years, and was not first mentioned, as Senator de Largie said, at the Labour Conference.
– It was discussed in the Federal Convention.
– Yes. The Convention appointed a Committee, and that was one of the phases of the financial question which were discussed. The question of putting an agreement into the Constitution, which we are now told is absolutely new, and has been sprung upon the people, was discussed and approved at the Conference held at Hobart in 1905. The two principles under consideration, therefore, are not new in any way. In spite of what may be said by those who attended the Labour Conference at Brisbane, I say that the report of the proceedings, where it refers to a fixed payment of 25s. per head, means a payment which would be permanent. It can only be read in that way, because a payment which would be made from year to year, as was stated inferentially to-day, would have been simply laughed at by the States if offered. They wanted to get a guarantee of permanency.
– Will the honorable senator quote the statement of any delegate who talked about a payment for “ any period ?
– The report refers to a fixed payment.
– The honorable senator cannot.
– It is very astonishing how the Federal Labour party and the Labour party in New South Wales and other States differ on this financial agreement. We find that it is indorsed by the Labour party in New South Wales; I believe almost unanimously. They say that the scheme is framed as nearly as possible on the lines of the scheme of the Brisbane Labour Conference, and give their adhesion to it. Senator Turley sneeringly said that Mr. Holman was a mere gramaphone for Mr. Wade. Mr. Holman is the one man in the Labour party who was able to master the Brisbane scheme. He was the one man to put it into shape and explain it to the Labour Conference.
– That is incorrect, because Mr. Watson was the Chairman of the Finance Committee.
- Mr. Watson was with Mr. Holman, but the latter was the man who took the lead on the financial scheme.
– And Mr. Hughes said it was to be for all time.
- Mr. Hughes was not at the Conference.
-Do we find any large movement of the people against the adoption of the financial agreement? Have any public meetings been called to protest against it?
– Yes, in Victoria.
– Oh ! those were only Labour gatherings of about a dozen persons.
– There was no admission by ticket to them.
– No great meeting has been called to protest against the ratification of the agreement. People are quick to notice anything that is likely to hurt them, and if this agreement had been fraught with all the dangers which honorable senators on the other side have suggested we should have had an uprising against its acceptance, not only in Victoria, but in the other States. There is another organ which is quick to see the trend of public opinion, and that is the press. Apart from one or two journals, have not the newspapers throughout Australia ratified the agreement? If they were not sure that it was a good agreement, if they thought that their States would be injured, would we not have had strong protests backing up the contentions of honorable senators on the other side?
– Is the press, representative of the people?
– The press represents the people very fully. It represents the views and wishes of the people as no other body does to a very great extent.
– - Then we can take the Age as representative of the people, and it is against the honorable senator.
– We must take the mass of the press. The Age is in a very peculiar position.
– It has deserted all its original objections to the agreement.
– I shall come to that matter a little later. When the Federation was established at the beginning of the century it was complete, except in one particular. For days, weeks, and months, the framers of the Constitution wrestled with the problem of finance, but being unable to come to a settlement they adopted section 87, known as the Braddon “ blot,” as. a refuge of despair. They said “ We cannot settle this question; we cannot anticipate the requirements ofthe Commonwealth, in the future; we shall take this provision for ten years, and then see what experience may suggest.” The adoption of this financial agreement will complete the Federation. It will put the crown on the Federal body, and on the compact between the Federating parties. It will fill the gap which was left open by the Convention.
– It will put handcuffs on the Federation for all time.
– It will place no fetters upon the Federation, but will leave the people free to decide whenever they please whether they will alter the amount.
– That is all fudge. This new-born faith in the people, on the part of Tories, tickles one.
– I have represented the people for a far longer time than has the honorable senator. They have never yet turned their backs upon me, and I have a greater right to speak for them than he has. We shall see at the next election what they think.
– Let the honorable senator come out without a newspaper ticket and see how he will stand.
– The Bill before the Senate involves two questions; first the division of the Customs and Excise revenue, and second the taking over of the State debts. Australia has to develop on two lines; that is, on Federal and State lines, and we must give fair play to both the Commonwealth and the States. We have no right to take from the States anything to which they are entitled, nor have they a right to ask for more than we are able to give. We say, “ This agreement represents the best we can do for you at present ; we can spare 25s. a head to you ; we are prepared to accept the agreement and leave it to the people to say whether it shall be disturbed or altered at any time.” No doubt the enormous responsibilities which are coming upon the Commonwealth, such as the transfer of the Northern Territory, the construction of transcontinental railways, and other matters, will necessitatea loan policy. We cannot expect to saddlethe present generation with the cost of works whichare intended for futuregenerations ; but any borrowing must be entered upon very cautiously, and then only to such an amount as is necessary for reproductive works. What does the treating of the States in this liberal way mean ? It means that when we take over the State debts, as must bc done, there will only need to be one borrower, and the States will probably be able to get along with the payment from the Commonwealth together with some reasonable direct taxation, without having to go into the loan market. At any rate, if they did have to borrow they could borrow what they required in Australia.
– They can get money at a cheaper rate here than at Home.
– The States can get local loans if necessary. When the State debts are taken over and the question of the transferred properties is settled and we know exactly how we stand, there should be absolutely sound finance in both the Commonwealth and the States, and with ordinary prudence and common sense it should never be departed from. The manner in which the revenue is distributed will make Governments careful. They will not be anxious to embark upon hair-brained schemes or incur unreasonable expenditure. It will also have the effect of stopping unreasonable demands from people; it will mean an honest distribution of the charges, and cause not only the States but also the Commonwealth to practise economy with the taxpayers’ money. The reference of this financial agreement to people will be a good thing in other ways. For instance, it will me:n their financial education. I remember that when in the old days it was proposed to refer some matter to the people of “Victoria the then Premier asked, “ What does a ploughman know about finance ?” I suppose that some persons would make that remark to-day. But the people are getting very shrewd ; they are getting politically educated, and the reference of this financial agreement will educate them on the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth. It will enable them to keep both bodies straighter in the future than they have ever been able to do in the past. The whole position will be sounder if the people ratify the agreement. I believe that both in the States and in the Commonwealth the electors will be more careful in choosing representatives. I believe they will be more careful to see that candidates know something about the financial position in order that mistakes may not be made. I believe that the agreement, if ratified, will ere long justify itself even to those who at present are opposing it not on its merits, but simply for party purposes.
It will release the State Treasurers from the uncertainty which has hung over them for years. K’o State Treasurer can make up a Budget until he knows what the Commonwealth is going to give to him. lt will create a clearer division between State and Federal finance. lt will remove any conflict between the two governing powers, and bring about harmony by placing each State in a fairly sound position, and enabling State Ministers to know the amount which they will receive from Customs and Excise. lt will make for the more rapid development of Australia, both in regard to the influx of population, and the settlement of the country. It will remove a great source of uneasiness arising from financial difficulties. I believe that the agreement will be ratified by the people by an overwhelming majority. Since the Conference between the Premiers and Federal Ministers, we have had a general election in one of the States. The result was that the Premier and his Government were returned to power with a stronger majority than before. That was an indication of the approval with which the agreement is viewed by the elector. Of ;course, it does not suit the Labour party, lt means a triumph in Parliament, and a triumph in the constituencies for the Fusion Government. Probably, if I were a member of the Labour party, I should take exception to the agreement for party reasons, just as they are doing. They object- to it because they fear the future. It may mean political oblivion for some of them. We cannot help that. I think that the agreement will make for the good of Australia, and bring about a settlement of difficulties which were almost the despair of the framers ot the Constitution, and which have never yet been satisfactorily adjusted. It is said bysome critics, that Protection is endangered bv this agreement. I look upon that as a mere bogy. One of the reasons why I favour the agreement is that it does not necessitate the 25s. per head being paid to the States out of Customs and Excise; we need not obtain the money from thai source unless we like. We can obtain ic from direct) taxation, or by any other method. The whole objection to the agreement on fiscal grounds is brought forward to cloud the issue, and to endeavour to score a point against the Government. I am convinced that Protection will not be endangered in any way. The Commonwealth has sovereign power in the matter of taxation ; and if, in time to come, it was found that the Commonwealth could not afford to pay the 25s. per head—
– That will not happen for igo years.
– It might conceivably happen in twenty-five years ; but if it should happen, it will be perfectly -easy for the Commonwealth Government to go to the people and say, “Weshall either have to reduce this amount, or else we shall have to raise the money in some other way.” The people will then decide, just as they will decide whether they will adopt this agreement or not when the matter is submitted to them. The Commonwealth will be free to adopt any Tarin that it chooses. It can impose duties as high as it likes on articles produced in Australia without having any regard to the agreement. The money will have to come out of the same pockets. The matter affects the same people in Commonwealth and States. Senator Stewart said that by passing this agreement, we shall be entering upon the beginning of strife. I do not believe that. I believe ihat we shall be entering upon an era of peace between the Commonwealth and the States. Just as the Braddon section as it was framed by the Convention, was submitted to the people after it had been revised by a Conference of Premiers, so the people have a right to be consulted now with regard to the modification of that section, at the end of the ten-year period. The people have a right to determine whether or not the amended condition shall be put into the Constitution and remain there, or whether the new arrangement shall be open to be varied from time to time as Parliament mav decide.
. - This matter has been discussed at considerable length, and it is remarkable to observe that no opponent of the proposed agreement dissents from the principle which it contains. Differences of opinion are concerned entirely with matters of detail. I welcome the Bill, and intend to vote for it as it stands. I believe that in regard to all legislative matters we should try to meet the wishes of the people, and I am convinced that this agreement is in accordance with the wishes of the people of the whole Commonwealth, who will ratify the Act of this Parliament, and agree to the insertion of the new arrangement in the Constitution. No law passed by Parliament is not liable to be altered. It we find that the new scheme does not work it will have to be modified ; and I see no harm in obtaining consent to its modifi cation from the same people who, in a few months, will be asked to determine the question. Many honorable senators seem to think that it is degrading to Parliament to submit this matter to the people. I cannot see any degradation in it. The people sent us here to represent them; and if we cannot unanimously agree on any particular proposal, I see no harm in referring the matter to the people, who are our masters. What possible degradation can there be to Parliament in allowing the people to decide ? I believe that the people will gladly accept this scheme, and that it will prove a blessing to the Commonwealth. Hitherto the States have not known how much money they would receive from the Commonwealth, and could not lay their plans for carrying out public works until such time as the Commonwealth Treasurer delivered his Budget statement. Under the present scheme the State Treasurers will know exactly the position they will be in. They will know what their income will be, and can shape their expenditure accordingly. I have seen the supporters of this Bill described as “ State Righters.” Well, I am proud of the title. I am by no means ashamed to stand up for the rights of the State which sent me here.
– Has the honorable senator no thought for the Commonwealth ?
– Yes ; I am at ali times prepared to do what is fair and right for the Commonwealth ; but I am not prepared to take away the just rights of the States for the benefit of the Commonwealth. Strong States will make a strong Commonwealth. If we arrive at a satisfactory agreement as to the finances, we shall remove altogether that hankering which I have heard expressed on the part of some people for getting back to the system of government that prevailed before the Commonwealth was established. The agreement will result in the country having more confidence in the Federal Parliament and the Commonwealth Government. As Senator McColl has remarked, the Government of my own State has appealed to the people since this agreement was arrived at. That Government has been returned by a large majority, indicating that the people of Queensland are solidly in favour of the agreement. I am confident that T shall be doing justice to my own State in supporting this Bill. Of course, I do not suppose that the most eloquent speaker on such a question could affect any votes. Honorable senators have made up their minds. I know that I have done so. A man who had not made up his mind on such a question would not be fit to sit here at all. There is no necessity, therefore, for long speeches. I welcome this Bill heartily, and hope that it will be passed through the Senate very soon, in order that it may be referred to the people early next year.
– As the second-reading debate is about to close I wish to say a word or two with respect to the measure. Before I proceed to the Bill itself, however, I should like to observe that there is no honorable senator who more unfairly misrepresents his opponents and imparts greater bitterness into our debates than does Senator McColl. Consciously or unconciously he made a statement that was absolutely incorrect in regard to the party of ( which I am a member. He said that we are bound bv our organizations, and that we are mainly responsible to them; that we have to obey their dictates, and that, in a measure, we do not represent the views of the constituencies which returned us. No honorable senator knows better than Senator McColl, however, that no man can occupy a seat in the Senate unless he has behind him a sufficient number of .electors to return him. It is to the voters who returned him that a member of this Senate is responsible. It is true that any one who comes forward as a Labour candidate gives his written pledge to the organization that he will if returned do all that he can inside and outside of the Parliament to advance the planks of the Labour platform. But it is on that platform that he seeks the suffrages of the electors. And if the electors by returning him approve of that platform, how can it be said that the interests of the Labour party are inimical to the interests of the electors? Senator McColl has on more than one occasion reminded me that in March next a certain section of the community in Victoria will be after my political scalp, and that he will himself be one of the scalp hunters.
– The honorable senator brought that on himself.
– Let me issue this challenge to the honorable senator. If he is prepared to resign his seat at the next general election, and will not kow-tow and bend the knee to the great metropolitan newspapers for support, and beg of them lo place his name on their ticket, I shall be prepared to take him on, or any other mem ber of his party, and if I am defeated I shall bow to the inevitable, and will no doubt be able, as I have done before, to get a crust without the advantage of a position in the public life of the State. There is no man in this State who has more eagerly sought the support of different sections of the community than has Senator McColl.
– Why should he not do so?
– I am not complaining of that ; but I say that the honorable senator owes his seat in this Chamber mainly to the support given him at the last Federal election by the Age and the Argus. When the honorable senator tells us that the great metropolitan newspapers of Australia represent public opinion, I remind him that the Age, which is one of the great metropolitan newspapers of the Commonwealth, and which has the largest circulation of any newspaper published in this State, and so, according to the honorable senator, must represent the opinion of the people of Victoria, is opposed to the proposal to make this financial agreement binding upon the people of the Commonwealth for all time. That being so, according to the honorable senator’s argument, the people of Victoria must also be opposed to it. I have listened with interest and with some pleasure to the speeches which have been delivered from both sides on this question ; but there was one with which I was particularly pleased, because it differed so much in tone from the majority of those which have been addressed to the Senate. I do not intend to disparage the members of the party with which I am associated when I say that I refer to the speech delivered by one of giant mind in this chamber, Senator Symon. It was the speech of a statesman. It was lofty in tone and lifted this question completely out of the ruck of party politics.
– Senator Clemons’ speech was equally valuable, and was a good reply to the speech delivered by Senator Symon.
– That may be Senator Fraser’s opinion, but it is not mine. Senator Symon pointed out that this Parliament is the dominant Parliament, and the National Parliament of Australia. It has been given power by the people to deal with certain questions, and undoubtedly that which we are now considering should be dealt with by this Par- liament, and not in the roundabout way proposed by the Government. If it is not it should be dealt with in the ordinary way by the people at the general election. When honorable senators opposite told us to trust the people, I admit that I interjected. It tickled me to hear the expression of this new-born faith and trust in the people coming from men who for years have distrusted the people, and have withheld power from them. They have held the opinion that only a certain , section of the community should be entitled to vote for the Legislative ‘Council in this State.
– If the honorable senator is directing his remarks to me, let me tell him that I have always headed the poll in defiance of him.
– The honorable senator’s interjection has no bearing on the remarks I am making. I am referring to persons who have always been anxious to withhold power from the people. They have never advocated in State politics the franchise enjoyed by the electors in connexion with Federal politics.
– That is not the point now.
– That is one point which must be considered. Honorable senators opposite tell us that we should trust the people, but who are the people we are to trust? We say that the majority of the people should be trusted to express by their votes their opinions on this question at the next Federal elections. But honorable senators opposite do not propose that. They propose that it should be embodied in the Constitution if a majority of the people in a majority of the States approve of it. I point out that they will have practically no option but to do so. They will have to decide for 25s. per head of the population or for nothing. Naturally they will vote for that which will give them as nearly as possible what they desire.
– Why does the honorable senator say “ 25s. per head or nothing” ?
– Because that is what the Government propose to offer to the people.
– Suppose the agreement is rejected at the referendum? .
– I am pretty sanguine that it will be rejected in Victoria and in some of the other States.
– Would the rejection of the agreement at the referendum mean that nothing would be returned to the States?
– Time alone would determine what the Government might propose to do in the event of the agreement being rejected.
– Then why does the honorable senator say that it means “ 25s. per head or nothing ?”
– I say that that is the issue which will be put before the people. Thev will be asked to vote for 25s. or nothing.
– No, 25s. per head - or find another settlement.
– Of course the Fusion Government can always find a way out of the difficulty. Senator Symon said -
There must be a dominant Parliament somewhere, and the essence of this Bill is to invite the National Parliament of Australia to strip itself of a power given to it by the people under the Constitution and essential to it as the supreme governing body of the Commonwealth.
That is the utterance of a statesman and a true Nationalist and Federalist. Now I shall refer to the opinions expressed by Senator Best at a ladies’ meeting held ir» one of the suburbs of Melbourne the other day. The honorable senator said -
His general advice to the ladies present waste vote for the financial agreement at all hazards. The other side are getting enrolled, and will vote to a man and a woman. Go and do likewise.
What other side? We were told by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that this is a non-party question, and yet we have his colleague telling a meeting of ladies attired in the latest Parisian frocks to vote for the agreement at all hazards, and to get enrolled because the other side would do so. The Vice-President of the Executive Council advised us to treat this question on non-party lines.
– Honorable senators opposite do not take that advice.
– I am dealing with this question on non-party lines. I an> following the example of Senator Symon, whose contention that this matter should be dealt with by the Federal Parliament was in my opinion unanswerable.
– Will the honorable senator be good enough to enumerate for the information of the Senate the names of the parties that are voting solid in thi* matter ?
– I know that every honorable senator on this side has a freehand in regard to this Bill.
– Then it is only a coincidence that they propose to vote together ?
– It happens that we are of one mind on the subject. There has been no cracking of the whip, and there will be no forced vote given upon it from this side. When honorable senators opposite talk of the question being treated as a non-party one, I am not unmindful of the fact that already announcements have appeared in the press that because certain honorable members in another place adopted an independent and manly attitude on this Bill, their political existence is threatened by the Fusion party. It is said that large funds are at present in existence, and will be made available to fight these gentlemen who at one time were supposed to belong to the Fusion party, but who broke away from it, exercised their own judgment, and voted in accordance with the dictates of their consciences on this measure. On that account we learn that the Fusion party arenow after their political scalps.
– What sort of treatment would honorable senators’ opposite give them, anyhow?
– We treat our political opponents openly and fairly. That is not the kind of treatment to which some members of the Fusion party are being subjected at the present time. Honorable senators opposite speak of the Labour party as a bound and fettered party, but would this agreement have been carried in another place if some men had not sunk their individuality and suppressed their opinions, and if some, as the newspapers said, had not remained like dumb dogs, afraid to express any opinion ?
– If it had not been for the bonds of the honorable senator’s party the measure would have been carried in another place by a two to one majority.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council is- about as optimistic as is Senator Best, who toldhis lady friends that this Bill is sure to go through the Senate. I do not know where he got his information from. I am not so sure that the Bill will go through the Senate, at any rate in the form in which it was presented. There are fifteen honorable senators on this side alive and well and prepared to exercise a vote. With Senator Symon they will number sixteen. Then Senator Trenwith last night pointed out that the Bill had good features and bad features, and that when it got into Com mittee he would endeavour to eliminate its bad features. When we reach the Committee stage the bad features of the measure may, despite Senator Best’s prophecy, be eliminated, and it may be made a much belter Bill because of the opposition of the Labour party, supported by two or three other honorable senators, than it was when it was presented.
– The Bill will go to the people all the same. Nothing honorable senators opposite can do can prevent that.
– Here is another prophet. Senator St. Ledger was probably at the afternoon meeting of ladies addressed by Senator Best. We know that addressing such meetings is the honorable senator’s forte. He is the political Adonis of the Fusion crowd. His services are always requisitioned for these afternoon meetings of ladies. He flits hither and thither, but what influence he exercises or good he accomplishes time alone will determine. Senator Clemons expressed himself as a warm supporter of this Bill on many grounds, but I think the chief reason he gave for supporting it was that it would insure for all time to the State Treasurers a fixed sum per head of the population of their States, and would be the means of attracting population to the States. If that statement be true, is it not remarkable that sincethe Braddon section was embodied in the Constitution, the State Treasurers have never been impelled by a similar incentive to take action? If a return upon a per capita basis will prompt the State Treasurers to bring immigrants to Australia, why did not the operation of the Braddon section induce them to bring immigrants here? They would have consumed all sorts of commodities.
– What would they have consumed?
– It depends upon how they were employed. If they were unemployed, as some honorable senators would wish-
– The honorable senator does not believe that statement.
-I do think that there are some honorable senators who wish to see men competing against each other for the work that is available. I entirely agree with the contention of Senator Turley that behind this agreement there is antiLabour legislation. The agreement has the support of every State Government in Australia, and every State Government is a
Fusion Government - an anti-Labour Government. The present Commonwealth Ministry are an anti-Labour Government.
– Wihat else could they be?
– They could be manly and true to their principles.
– If they are not a Labour Government, they must be an antiLabour Government.
– Now I understand Senator Mulcahy ‘s real position. He has shown his hand. He must be either one thing or the other. He is opposed to the desires of the masses who are behind the great Labour movement. The idea that under this agreement, immigrants will be attracted to Australia-
– Why not?
SenatorFINDLEY.- What are we going to do with them when they arrive? Senator McColl smiles.
– I smile at the absurdity of such an argument.
– Is not the honorable senator aware that there are thousands of young men in Victoria to-day who are unable to get an inch of land in the State in which they were born ? If he is aware of ‘it, how can he justify his anxiety to support this Bill, mainly on the ground that, under it immigrants will be attracted to our shores? Are there any avenues of employment here which are open to artisans, skilled, and unskilled?
– There is land enough for all.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. There is sufficient land in Australia to support a population of 50,000,000 or 60,000,000. But that land is extensively monopolized. Instead of an increasing population being permanently settled in the rural districts of Victoria, this State is year by year losing its rural population.
– To whom is it losing it?
– I am speaking of the State with which I am most familiar. Senator McColl has stated that Victoria is not losing its population.
– Australia is not losing it.
– Mr. Elwood Mead is a gentleman who possesses high qualifications, and who was brought to Victoria to supervise irrigation works.
– Is that the gentleman who said it is impossible to find settlers for the land which is available here ?
– It is the same.
– In a lecture which he recently delivered at the Commercial Travellers’ Club, Melbourne, Mr. Elwood Mead said -
Excluding two closer settlements, the school population of the Goulburn Valley within ten years had diminished 20 per cent., and that in an area where the Government had expended £2,000,000.
In confirmation of my statement that land is not available for settlers in Victoria, I propose to quote the utterance of Mr. McKenzie, Minister of Lands,who at Goulburn Valley recently, in supporting the Land Tax Bill, which is now before the Victorian Parliament, said -
What was the use of all this talk about immigration when they had not enough land for their own people, and the only way they could provide land was bv intense culture under irrigation and by closer settlement?
That is the position in Victoria to-day. Yet Victorian senators are supporting this Bill on the ground that the adoption of the proposed agreement will result in immigrants being attracted to this State.
– To Australia.
– Need I remind Senator McColl that the same land hunger which exists in Victoria also exists in New South Wales.
– Every man who comes to Australia is a consumer of the manufactured products of Victoria.
– We are always being told that. Senator McColl has affirmed that this Bill will not in any way affect the policy of Protection. But whom do we find supporting it? It is being vigorously supported by every Revenue Tariffist in this Chamber and in another place.
– Including Mr. Bruce Smith.
– Mr. Bruce Smith takes up the same lofty and national attitude as does Senator Symon.
– As a revenue Tariffist ?
– If the adoption of the proposed agreement results in the attraction of a large population to the various States the Commonwealth will year by year have to return to the State Treasurers a larger sum, and consequently it will have less and less to meet its growing expenditure. How then will it obtain the necessary funds with which to finance national enterprises? I venture to say that those who are supporting this Bill hope to see a revenue Tariff enacted and a borrowing policy adopted to both of which proposals I am opposed.
– Where is the honorable senator’s land tax? Has he abandoned all hope of getting it?
– I have abandoned all hope of securing direct taxation from the Fusion Government or its supporters. Every honorable senator opposite is strongly opposed to direct taxation, and especially to a tax on land values covering the whole of the Commonwealth.
– Did the Labour party ever propose atax upon land values covering the whole of the Commonwealth?
– It proposed a progressive land tax, with an exemption up to£5,000 worth of unimproved value.
– It never had the courage to propose a land tax without exemptions.
– It proposed a land tax which hung out a big bait to catch votes.
– The Fisher Government proposed to levy a graduated land tax which would have been effective in bursting up large estates, and in making them. available for settlement.
– Will the Labour party graduate the tax from top to bottom ?
– I do not know that 1 need occupy the attention of the Senate any longer. I recognise that honorable senators have made up their minds how they will vote upon this Bill, and that a few hours will determine whether or not the agreement is to be carried in its present form.I sincerely hope that its bad features, which were outlined by members of the Opposition and also by Senator Trenwith, will be deleted. I have no objection to the State Treasurers receiving a per capita grant annually from the Commonwealth, but I decidedly object to embodying the proposed agreement in our Constitution, because I am satisfied that, owing to the newspaper influence which would be brought to bear in favour of its retention, it would never be taken out of it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45p.m.
– I do not propose to occupy the attention of the Senate very long. First, because I recognise that this agreement has been discussed at . very great length, not only here, but in another House, and through the press. I also recognise that it has been brought forward at a time when, if we were to discuss it as fully as each of us would like to do, we nrght unduly prolong the session. For those reasons I intend to be as brief as I can. I agree with everybody who has stated here or elsewhere that nobody disputes the fact that, as between the Commonwealth and the States, not merely for the period of ten years which was laid down in the Braddon section, but for an indefinite period thereafter, there should be, as between States and Commonwealth, an allocation of the Customs and Excise revenue which would be equitable to both parties, considering their respective responsibilities with regard to the development of this country. I have noticed that from time to time reference has been made to the fact, based upon a statement which was some time ago prepared by the Statistician of Tasmania, that the Commonwealth responsibilities. were equivalent to, if memory serves me, 13 per cent, of the total responsibilities. I had occasion when a Minister of the Crown to point out the fallacy of such an observation, for this simple reason that at that time the estimate was made on the services of a particular year - a year when the Commonwealth had not assumed anything like the responsibilities which it has since assumed or is now assuming or about to assume. But so far as the general question of the distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue is concerned, I do not think that there is a dissentient voice here or elsewhere as to the necessity of allocating it as between the Commonwealth and the States in a way which shall be considered equitable and just - proportioned to their respective responsibilities. It has to be remembered first of all that the Constitution in section 87 declares that for a period of ten years and thereafter until this Parliament otherwise provides three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue shall be given to the States, and the remainder used by the Commonwealth for its own purposes. I am well aware that it may be said that before section 87 was accepted the Constitution contained a provision which made such an allocation permanent. We are all agreed upon that. If the fact that the Constitution originally contained a perpetual provision of that character has any significance, and I do not consider it has any great significance on this questionI would remind those who hold that belief that subsequently to the first referendum the people again accepted a Constitution with a time limitation on section 87 by a far greater majority than they had accepted the original draft.
– They would not favour it on any other term.
– There was no more in the Constitution. I do not wish, as I said before,. tq labour my “argument or to occupy the time or attention of honorable senators at too great a length. But I do wish to point out that the first Constitution was only submitted to four States, and that the Braddon clause was a perpetual provision. In New South Wales 71,595 persons voted for the Bill, and 66,228 against it. In Victoria 100,520 persons voted for the Constitution and 22,099 against it. In South Australia 35,800 persons voted for the Constitution, and 17,320 against it. In Tasmania 11,797 persons voted for the Constitution, and 2,716 against it. The Constitution was, therefore, approved by 219,717 persons, and disapproved by 108,363, leaving a majority of 111,349 in favour of a Constitution with a perpetual provision of this character binding the Commonwealth for all time. After the Premiers’ Conference had met, and after, amongst other proposals for alteration of the Constitution, one had been included providing -that the Braddon clause should have a temporary instead of a perpetual operation, in New South Wales 107,420 persons voted for the Constitution on the second occasion and 82,741 against it, leaving a majority of 24,679 as compared with the previous majority of 5,367.
– Poor deluded people.
– I am not responsible for any of their delusions, but I do know that the honorable senator took an active part in the campaign.
– I took a part in opposition to, not in support, of the Bill.
– The honorable senator opposed the permanent Braddon clause.
– I opposed the Bill.
– The honorable senator opposed any permanent provision of this, character in the Bill.
– I did net bother myself about the Braddon clause. I opposed the Bill.
– The honorable senator opposed any permanent provision in the Constitution which would tie the hands of this Parliament. What is the use of him saying that he did not?
– The honorable senator is - well, I cannot answer him.
– No, I know that the honorable senator cannot.
– I am not permitted to do so by the rules of the Senate, else I should very quickly
–I ask the honorable senator if he can show us where he did support anything like a permanent provision of this character in the Constitution. If he says that he can, then for every individual instance which he brings I shall bring half-a-dozen instances to show that he opposed it.
– Absolute nonsense !
– At the second referendum in Victoria 152,653 persons voted for the Constitution, as compared with 100,520 persons who voted for a Bill with a perpetual clause, so that 50,000 more persons voted in favour of a Constitution with a limited Braddon clause operation. And 9,805 persons voted against the second Bill as compared with 22,099 on the Pre”vious occasion.
– Hear, hear !
– I am not accepting the interjection of my honorable friend applauding my argument in this respect, in the sense that I think that they voted solely and simply on account of the alteration. . I have qualified any statement. I have already stated that I do not believe for a moment that any alteration in the attitude of the people was wholly influenced by the alteration of a single clause, but I do wish to point out to honorable senators, particularly to those who have said that there was a permanent provision in the .Constitution originally, that the Constitution was approved with that provision in it by four States. It has since been approved of by five States by overwhelming numbers, as compared with those who approved of it with a perpetual provision. I need hardly go any further on this point. I do not wish to weary the Senate. I can say that with regard to South Australia, Tasmania, and with regard to the general total, all that I have been quoting as to New South Wales and Victoria similarly applies. I need only, in summarizing, mention as an il lustra- tion that at the first “referendum 219,712 persons voted for the Constitution, and 108,363 against it, leaving a majority of 111,349 in favour of it. On the second occasion when Queensland voted, 377,988 persons voted for the Constitution and 141,386 against it, leaving a majority of 236,602 in favour - of it. In fact, a greater majority in point of numbers, than had voted for the Bill originally. In Queensland, it is but fair to say, 38,488 persons voted for the amended Bill, and 30,996 against it.
-Was it not the Capital Site question which influenced New South Wales?
Seator KEATING.- I do not know, but if it did, why not put to Australia that question as well as the question which the honorable senator desires by this Bill to be put?
– I am inquiring what influenced New South Wales.
– If it was the Capital Site provision which influenced New South Wales at the second referendum, what influence operated on the other States to compel them to vote in an increasing proportion for the Constitution.
– To get the Constitution.
– Undoubtedly; my honorable friend has supplied the answer - to get the Constitution. The Constitution had in the meantime been amended. We had been told throughout the Colonies of Australia - we were not then the Commonwealth - that the Braddon “ blot “ was a curse upon the Constitution. I never believed it. I do not believe it to this day. I am perfectly prepared to continue the Braddon section under a similar set of circumstances to those which existed when the Constitution was adopted. I am perfectly prepared to see the 87th section of the Constitution continued until the Commonwealth Parliament is prepared to do what it considers the right thing in accordance with the responsibilities and duties imposed upon it.
– A fair thing has to be done now.
– I am glad to hear that. Mv honorable friend will hear me upon that point hereafter. What has been the position? Under’ the 87th section of the Constitution it was provided that the distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue, after a period of ten years, should be as arranged by this Parliament.
– No, as “ Parliament otherwise provides.”
– What does that mean ?
– We can provide as we like. We can provide by submitting the matter to the people.
– I had better read the section.
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth, and thereafter, until the Parliament otherwise provides, of. the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually bv the Commonwealth towards its expenditure. The balance shall, in accordance with this Constitution, be paid to the several States, or applied towards the payment of interest on debts of the several States taken over by the Commonwealth.
Ten years had to pass by before this Parliament could be called upon to exercise its powers and discharge its responsibilities in regard to the allocation of the revenue.
– Is that quite correct ?
– Not exactly, because if, five or six years ago, we had made an arrangement such as is now proposed to be made, we might not have been doing now what we are proposing to do.
– That is so.
– But what is the position now ? For ten years practically this Parliament’s powers in this regard lay dormant. The subject was left entirely to the States. What has been the history of those years? I ask you, Mr. President, and through you every honorable senator, what has been the history of the Commonwealth in regard to the settlement of this all-important question? I sav that it is all-important, because I have always entertained the belief, without any disrespect to the founders of our Constitution, that when they were endeavouring to secure Federation for Australia, after repeated efforts they found that they were baffled in endeavouring to settle financial affairs upon a basis that would be fair to all ; and in the hope that the Federal Parliament would be animated by Federal ideas, and moved by Australian principles, they came to the conclusion that, when ten years had passed, this Parliament would be able to come to some equitable arrangement - equitable not only to the Union itself but to every one of the States. Consequently they handed on the responsibility’ to posterity - they handed it on to this Parliament. Ten years have nearly gone by. What has happened ? There have been Premiers’ Conferences from time to time. Need one speak about the character of those Conferences? I do not wish to use any language that may be regarded as a personal reflection upon any one; but I do think that those who have given consideration to the reports of those Conferences - to all except the last one, of which, of course, and unfortunately, there is no report - must be aware that the Premiers, year by year, from being - I do not wish to say truculent, but from assuming a position to command and to dominate this Commonwealth, came to realize, as time went on, that their power was passing ; and as they approached the period when they knew that the Braddon section would cease to operate as a provision of the Constitution, and that all power would be left in the hands of the Federal Parliament, which would be untrammelled, we suddenly found that with remarkable alacrity they assented to an agreement.
– There was no great alacrity on the part of the Premier of the honorable senator’s own State.
– I do not know about that. I have not had an opportunity of reading a report of the last Conference. I know that the gentleman to whom my honorable friend refers, was a member of it, but as to his alacrity or otherwise, I can say nothing. The honorable senator may know more than I do. I have seen no report of the proceedings.
– And never will.
– Well, I do not know about that. After this . period has almost gone by we find that the Premiers have come to an agreement. In , the earlier Premiers’ Conferences I always understood - I may have been mistaken - that Commonwealth Ministers attended, so to speak, without prejudice. That is to say, they did not recognise the PremiersConferences as being assemblies held under the Constitution of the Commonwealth. They did not recognise them, as having any constitutional authority - as being bodies possessed of legislative, executive, or administrative power or responsibility.
– Commonwealth Ministers were bound to recognise the States.
– They recognised the Premiers’ Conferences just in the same way as they recognised the Medical Congress of Australia.
– Entirely different ; the word “States “ is written all over the Constitution.
– Well, here is a copy of the Constitution. Will my honorable friend show me that the word “States” is’ written all over it? The Premiers have every right - and no one disputes their right- to consult together, and to consider what is in the interests of their States. But is there any single Premier of any State, that has behind him the authorization of the electors, as has every individual member of this Senate?
– Yes, every one of them.
– Why ?
– Because the Premier of a State can only hold his position hy virtue of the sanction of a House of Legislature elected under the same franchise as the Senate.
– My honorable friend talks of a Premier holding his position by reason of the vote of a majority of a House elected on the same franchise as the Senate. But has any individual Premier ever gone before the electors of his State as a whole, and been elected by them ?
– Undoubtedly ; every one of them.
– These gentlemen hold their positions by virtue of the fact that they belong to certain parties. The Premier of any State that can be mentioned holds his position by virtue of the fact that he is the chief of his party. Let them go down to the people as a whole if they want to secure an affirmation or a repudiation of what they have done or propose to do in this matter. A Premier may > represent the smallest constituency in his State. He may represent a mere common pocket-borough. Indeed, it may often happen that it is because he securely represents such a constituency ti at he is chosen to be the leader of his party The Premier of a State, as I understand, has to look after the finances of his own State. He has not to look after the finances of any other State of the Commonwealth, has he? Will my honorable friend, Senator Mulcahy, tell me whether the Premier of Tasmania has any responsibility to look after the finances of Western Australia?
– No; certainly not.
– But has my honorable’ friend no responsibility for the finances of Western Australia? Of course, he has. And there is the whole distinction between the two positions. The Premier of Tasmania has no responsibility for the finances of Western Australia, or of Queensland. But has Senator Mulcahy no responsibility for the finances of those States?
– There, then, I say again, is the difference. How could there be a stronger difference? These gentlemen met together year after year and could come to no agreement. Eventually, however, they recognised that the termination of the Braddon section was approaching. A gentleman in another branch of the Legislature, who has had some association with the imposition of this limitation upon the Federal powers, wrote a letter to them and in effect said. “ Time is in favour of your enemies, the Federal Parliament. ‘ ‘ Are we the enemies of the Premiers? Are we the enemies of the States of Australia? Yet, on the strength of this letter, these gentlemen consented to an agreement. Before that Conference took place it was understood that the Federal Government would be represented in it. It was understood that the Prime Minister would be present. He was present. I may have been mistaken - I do not think that I was - but I want to say here and now publicly - because I understand that statements which T have made elsewhere have given offence - that before that Conference took place> so far as I was concerned, and so far as every member of the party in this Parliament with which I had been connected was concerned, we understood distinctly that no arrangement would ever be entered into on behalf of the Commonwealth that was not of a temporary character. I challenge any member of the party as well as the Prime Minister, to deny it.
– The Prime Minister has admitted it over and over again, and he is asking the honorable senator to ratify it.
– Let me go a little further. I wish to know why after going into the Conference with that understanding the Prime Minister emerged from it gagged and bound to an agreement which handed this Commonwealth Parliament over in perpetuity to an arrangement which was all in favour of the States and hampering and crippling to this Parliament.
– It is in favour of the honorable senator’s State very largely.
– Have I not just said that I owe a duty, not only to my own State, but to the whole of Australia? My responsibilities are not to my own State alone. I have read most carefully the utterances upon this measure, particularly those delivered in another place. I have searched eagerly, hopefully, anxiously, but I regret to say, vainly, for any explanation of that change of attitude on the part of the Prime Minister. The only hint of an explanation that has been given so far as I know was contained in his very lucid speech which summed up all the arguments which have been used on the subject, and which is a veritable storehouse of resource for every one who wishes to argue or has argued in favour of the Bill. The explanation was. “ I went into that Conference not thoroughly realizing what were the responsibilities of the State Treasurers. They met me, and they had never previously realized what were the Commonwealth’s responsibilities.” Of what use then have all these Conferences been ? Are we to believe that they were all “flim-flam?” Are we to believe that although Conferences were held in 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908 and 1909, it was only at the Conference of August, 1909, that for the first time since Federation the representatives of the Commonwealth and the States realized each other’s responsibilities? I ask the people of Australia, Is that good enough? If that really be so, I can quite understand why a little more than twelve months ago we in this House, and our colleagues in another place, my honorable friend Sir Robert Best, amongst others, though I cannot be sure as to Senator Millen, were designated as brigands, pirates, and robbers, because we passed a Surplus Revenue Bill to meet Commonwealth requirements. I happened as a Minister of the Crown to be in one of the States where abuse of this character was levelled against us, not daily, but twice every day, because it appeared in the afternoon as well as in the morning newspapers. In common with other members of this Parliament who voted for the Surplus Revenue Bill, I was called a brigand and a pirate. Now I am invited to accept the assurance that the proceedings of all conferences prior to that of August, 1909, were only “ flimflam,” and that there was nothing genuine about them, at all. When one approaches one of the State Premiers or Treasurers for information on the subject, he is told, “ We have got an agreement. Hush ; keep quiet. Pass it through ; it is all right.” And if one asks, “ How did you arrive at the agreement?” The answer is, “Oh, that does not matter.” The responsibility of settling this matter has been left with this Parliament, and we are being invited by this Bill- to turn round and say to the gentlemen who have been calling us brigands, robbers, pirates, thieves, and everything else -
Fair sirs, you spat on us on Wednesday last,
Another day you called us thieves,
Another day you called us robbers,
And for these courtesies we’ll give you so much moneys.
Does any member ofthe Senate really believe that because of what took place at a Conference, the report of whose proceedings has never been presented to this Parliament or the country, and so far as I know will never be made public, he would be doing his duty in abdicating the trust committed to him by the people of Australia, and saying to them, “ This is what you have to accept or reject - this or nothing?” I am aware that honorable senators have said that if we do not accept this Bill we shall be taking away from the people the right to vote upon the question.I deny that emphatically and absolutely. I say that the provision that is made in this Bill for submitting the question to the people is based upon the most specious argument, and is nothing but a delusion, a sham, and a snare. The people are not under this Bill asked to decide what they should be asked to decide. They are asked to decide something else altogether.
– They are asked to say yes or no.
– It is true that they are asked to say “ Yes “ or “ No.” But if I said to Senator Dobson, “ Have you left off beating your mother-in-law - Yes,’ or ‘ No?’ “ What would the honorable senator say?
– I would say that I had never commenced.
– But the people in this instance would be unable to make such a response. It is “Yes “ or “ No.”
– If I asked the honorable senator whether he would have a sovereign or not, would he not be able to say “Yes” or “No.”
– Undoubtedly. And if this matter is put to the people in that form I shall be satisfied.
– It is proposed to put it in that form - “ Will you have this agreement or not?”
– It is not, as I think I shall be able to show the honorable senator. It is proposed to submit the question in such a way that the “Yes “ or “ No” which must be given as an answer will not convey an expression of the views of the people of Australia on the matter. If Senator Millen thinks that the question he put as an illustration is one that is applicable to this Bill, here and now, I am prepared to promise the honorable senator and Senator Best that if they will agree to put this agreement fairly to the people, I shall be prepared to go with them all the time.
– Let us hear how the honorable senator would have it put.
– I intend to give the Vice-President of the Executive Council an opportunity to say whether he will agree to put this question fairly to the people. As proposed in this Bill the question submitted would admit of only one answer, “Yes” or “No.” It would be, “Are you in favour of this scheme - yes or no?” And if the people say “Yes” they will commit themselves to it without having been given the opportunity to say “Yes” or “ No “ to any alternative scheme, though there might be twenty or fifty alternative schemes proposed. But that is not the vital defect of the Bill. The vital defect is, first of all, that, as I have already pointed out, under section 87 of the Constitution, wein this Parliament are called upon at this period or a little later to make provision for the allocation of these revenues ; and without any mandate from the people, without any requests from them, so far as I know - and I do not believe that a petition on the subject has been filed in this Chamber or in another place - we are asked to turn to the people and say, “ We resign our trust. We give it up to you. We do not feel confidence in ourselves. Will you have this or nothing?”
– Why not say that to the people?
– Then why not say it on every measure? The responsibility for dealing with this matter rests upon this Parliament. If Senator St. Ledger is afraid to face his responsibilities, I am not. I say that this is the first occasion upon which we have been faced with this responsibility, though I admitted, in reply to an interjection earlier in my speech, that if there had been an agreement between the States and the Commonwealth we might have been called upon to face it before.
– The answer given at every referendum is “Yes” or “ No,” and the honorable senator is in favour of the referendum.
– Yes, andI shall give my honorable friend an opportunity to vote tor a referendum and to put to the people a straight question. Will the honorable senator go with me and ask the people this straight question : “ Having given the Commonwealth Parliament the power of allocating the Customs and Excise revenue at the termination of the operation of the Braddon section, are you now in favour of leaving it with them or of taking it back?” Will the honorable senator agree to put that question to the electors?
– I am quite satisfied with the referendum “ Yes” or “ No” contained in this Bill.
– I am in favour of a pure referendum.
– The Bill provides for a pure referendum.
– It does not. It proposes the submission to the peopleof a question like that which I have already quoted : “ Have you left off beating your mother-in-law - yes or no ?” It certainly does not propose a question so wide as those with which we were confronted in our old French exercises : “ Have you seen my brother’s hat?.” to which the answer might be, “ No, but I have seen the shoesof your mother-in-law’s sister.” Under the Bill the people would have to answer “Yes” or “ No” to one solitary proposition submitted to them.
– The answer on the referendum proposed by the honorable senator would be the same.
– Exactly ; but will Senator Millen assist me in asking the people to say whether they will amend section 87 of the Constitution and resume from this Parliament its powers and responsibilities’? That is fair.
– I am proposing to do so by the Bill. If they object to what we propose they will answer in the negative, and then the settlement of the matter will come back to us.
– Nothing of the kind.
– What else would a negative answer imply?
– We have a certain responsibility. I am not talking of powers or rights or the other things of which some persons have talked ; I simply say that we have a responsibility, and I ask : Are we going to face it or not ?
– We are facing it.
– We are not facing it. We are attempting to shirk our responsibility, and to put it upon the people. Not only that, but it is proposed that the people should be given the option between one simple agreement or nothing.
– The honorable senator desires to limit our responsibility. As the Constitution stands Parliament can deal with this matter in any way it likes.
– This Bill is a proposal to deal with it in one way, and the honorable senator says that the Parliament has no right to deal with it in that way.
– I say nothing of the kind. I have never said that we have not the right. Let me quote the section again. It reads -
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides - that leaves it entirely to us - of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure - and so on. I will support any member of the Senate who will propose that we shall go to the people with this question : “ The ten years have nearly expired, when the power of allocating the revenue from Customs and Excise is left with the Commonwealth Parliament. Will you take back that power, or will you leave it with the Parliament?” But I shall not go to the people with this sham delusion and make-believe. I shall not ask them, “ Will you take this agreement or nothing,” and that is all they will be asked under this Bill. I believe in the referendum, but in an honest referendum, and not in a sham one, and a delusion.
– But the honorable senator is suggesting a delusion.
– I am not. We have until the end of next year to put the matter before the people. Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council before that time ask the people whether they propose to take back the power given to the Federal Parliament ?
– I do so under this Bill.
– The honorable senator does not. He asks them merely “ Have you left off beating your motherinlaw,” and he leaves them only the right to say “Yes “ or “ No.”
– If the people will not accept this proposal, will not our powers under the Constitution remain?
– It is proposed to ask them to accept this or nothing. As a referendum the whole thing is a sham and a delusion. In order that I may make my position perfectly clear I wish to say that I am prepared to give the people of the Commonwealth the fullest opportunity of taking from this Parliament the powers which they have reposed in it under section 87 of our Constitution. But have they asked ‘ us to resign those powers and to abdicate our responsibilities? This is not a question of rights as between the Commonwealth Parliament and the people - it is a question of responsibilities. We are the trustees of the people. Yet we are asked to put to them a proposition which was framed in secrecy and mystery, and to become-what 7 Responsible legislators? No, but a simple conduit pipe between an irresponsible body and the people.’ We are asked to sit back and accept their decision. If it be necessary to consult the electors upon a measure of this kind, scores of Bills which have occupied our attention should have been similarly dealt with. I candidly confess that my attitude to the provisions which are embodied in the proposed agreement is a secondary consideration. At the present time, and possibly for a long time to come, those provisions may be most advantageous both to the Commonwealth and the States,. But we have te remember that when this Parliament was created, when this Commonwealth was established, it was established for united Australian purposes. We have to recollect that under our Constitution the dominant responsibilities of government were imposed upon this Parliament.
– We are recognising those responsibilities now.
– Exactly. We have to look after such an important matter as the defence of the Commonwealth. It is also in our province to deal wi.h immigration and emigration. Further, we have to consider the unpopulated territory of the Commonwealth, such as the Northern Territory. The islands of the Pacific, with which no single State could deal, are also within our future measure of responsibi lity. How are we to deal with these matters? Out of nothing? If the Commonwealth returns to the States 25s. per capita for all time, I am not sure that it will be able to meet its responsibilities without trespassing far too heavily upon the already over-burdened taxpayer of certain classes.
– Would the honorable senator give the States less, then ?
– No. If the honorable senator had paid me the courtesy of listening to me he would have heard me say that I do not quarrel very much with the details of the proposed agreement. For the present and the future, they may be most satisfactory to the Commonwealth and the States. If 1 had my own way, as a representative of Tasmania, I should require a larger sum to be returned to the States. But if we tie the Commonwealth down to return to the States 25s. per capita for all time, we have no guarantee that in the future we shall be able to meet our legitimate responsibilities.
– The only difference between the position which the honorable senator is putting and that which exists, is that there is no such proposition before us.
– All our powers of taxation are free and unfettered.
– Does the Minister of Trade and Customs mean to tell me that it is not proposed to make the per capita obligation upon the Commonwealth a perpetual one?
– Certainly not.
– Is it not proposed to insert it in the Constitution?
– Yes; but it can be taken out of the Constitution by the same means that it is put into it.
– I am not concerned with any in-and-out business. Does the Minister of Trade and Customs desire to put the arrangement in our Constitution in order to take it out ? His is absolutely a novel argument. I have heard ,it stated that if we limit the agreement to ten, twelve, or fifteen years, it .will be a more hard-and-fast agreement than it would be if we inserted it in the Constitution. That is a most absurd method of reasoning. Why cannot we make an arrangement for the perpetuation of the Braddon section, or why cannot we do nothing at all till we have arrived at a definite agreement? If we do nothing until such an agreement has been made, section 87 will in the meantime automatically continue to operate.1s it not better to allow that Braddon section to operate until we have put this question to the electors : “Do you wish to adjust the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth, or do you desire to leave the settlement of that question to the Commonwealth Parliament?”
– We do not need to ask that question, because the necessary provision has already been made in the Constitution.
– In what part?
– The Braddon section is in operation now.
– That is exactly what I am saying.
– Then why does the honorable senator wish to ask the people for the power to continue it ?
– I do not. What I said was that if we do nothing to amend the Constitution, section 87, the Braddon clause, will continue to operate, so that we shall have ample time to put to the electors the question: “Do you wish to alter section 87, or do you desire that the Commonwealth Parliament should alter it?”
– Meanwhile the finances of all Australia will be upset?
– How long have they been upset? It is curious that the discovery that they are upset has been made since the Premiers’ Conference was held.
– The honorable senator’s own State has been in difficulties ever since Federation was established.
– Undoubtedly. I wish to get it out of its difficulties. ‘ But. I do not propose to follow the honorable senator’s method, otherwise I should only get it into far greater difficulties. He, as a Minister of that State, was afforded an opportunity to extricate it from its difficulties, but his efforts were crowned with signal failure. Why cannot we allow section 87 of the Constitution to continue to operate until we ask the electors the simple and straight question “ Do you wish to alter section 87 yourselves, or doyou desire the Commonwealth Parliament to alter it?”
– What does the honorable senator mean by “you “?
– I mean the people. Any man who suggests that I am opposed to a referendum upon this question will have to overcome the difficulty that I am prepared to put the blunt question which I have already stated to the people. If my “honorable friends will amend their Bill in that direction I shall support them upon every occasion.
– The honorable senator’s amendment would mean tearing up the Bill.
– That is because my amendment is better than is the Bill. Before concluding, I wish to say that the way in which this measure has been submitted to Parliament suggests that it is designed to achieve party political rather than national purposes. My honorable friends opposite may cheer me as much as they choose, but I tell them distinctly that I have seen them engaged in the samegame.
– What are they doing now with the honorable senator’s help?
– I am not concerned with that. If they hooted me. I should say what I am saying.
– Butthey are not hooting the honorable senator.
– That does not matter to me. I believe that this Bill is being presented in its present form for party and political, and not for national, purposes. The only way in which the Senate can deal with the problems which are involved in it is by taking into considerationthe fact that we have our responsibilities to discharge. Those responsibilities are imposed upon us. As self-respecting men we cannot evade them. We cannot shirk them nor can we, under the cover of a delusive and sham referendum transfer them to the people who under that referendum will not be entitled to give full expression of their opinions, but will only be able to say “yes” or “no” to the single proposition put before them. With us, on the other hand-
– What, does the honorable senator mean by “ us “ ?
– This Parliament. On the other hand, it is left to us to discuss not only one, but half-a-dozen, twenty, thirty, or even forty propositions if we choose, and to adopt one or other of them without reference to the people. Yet we are asked to submit to the electors a single question, and we are told that if we do not agree to do so we shall be voting against the referendum. Nonsense. We must have regard to our responsibilities, and we must consider that in the light of the experience of the past ten years it is desirable that an adequate proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue should be returned to the States. We ought all to be in accord with any period for which this Parliament may think it necessary to make arbitrary provision. That we should make some provision for a definite period I am convinced. But to incorporate it in the_ Constitution at this stage of Australian history would be - I will not say suicidal - but fatal. It may be suggested that twenty-five years hence the agreement can be eliminated from the Constitution. But by what processes? We all know that relying upon the permanency, of such provisions of the Constitution certain interests will then have grown up. How are those interests to be dealt with ? We are only making provision for the creation of a diversity of vested interests, and regard would have to be paid to those interests before the people could be asked to eliminate the provision. A few moments ago [ said it was stated that if a provision were put in the Constitution it would be easier to get it eliminated if it were put in without any specific expression as to time than if it were put in for a limited period. I wish to say, in answer to that statement, that the people of Australia put section 87 in the .Constitution for’ a period of ten years, and yet practically eighteen months before the expiry of that period this Parliament is invited to take steps to alter the Constitution in regard to that section. It has been stated that if we put a provision in the Constitution for fifteen or twenty or t went- -fi ve years there would be a moral obligation to respect that particular period.
– So there would, unless it was varied by mutual consent.
– The Braddon provision was placed in the Constitution for ten years, and practically eighteen months before the expiry of that period we are invited to take proceedings to put it out of the Constitution, and insert something in place of it.
– By mutual consent.
– In any adjustment which may be made between the Commonwealth and the States, I am quite prepared to meet the States out- of our revenue on the most generous basis that we possibly can, but I absolutely decline to commit the Commonwealth for all time to the expenditure of a definite sum of money on the States. I recognise that the responsibilities pf the Commonwealth are paramount. They involve all matters which are of highest importance, not to a single State, but to the whole of the States. They involve defence, emigration and immigration, and a whole series, of expanding obligations.
– Old-age pensions.
– I need not mention that, because I think, so far as the agreement is concerned, the States are meeting us very generously in that “regard. The Commonwealth responsibilities are of such a character that they must continue to increase, and to attempt to measure the several proportions of Commonwealth and State responsibilities by expenditure in any particular year of Federation up to now is fallacious and absurd.
– What did Mr. Johnston say?
– His statement has been quoted very frequently.
– I have not heard it.
– If the honorable senator will look through the debates in the other House, and speeches which have been delivered by responsible men, he will find that Mr. Johnston’s calculation for 1904-5 or 1905-6, or some particular year, has been adopted as if it were unalterable, just like the laws of the Medes and Persians, whereas in the meantime our expenditure has been increasing, because we have been assuming a portion of the State expenditure.
– Mr. Johnston pointed out that the responsibilities handed over to the Commonwealth by the States bore no proportion to the revenue handed over to it.
– I am not concerned about that. What I am concerned about is that, for the purposes of this Bill, it has been frequently argued that the measure of responsibility between the States and the Commonwealth is a fixture. That has been put in the daily prints, and used in another place, but it is a fallacious statement, because it is a constantly varying measure. As our expenditure increases theirs diminishes, or should diminish. Whether it did diminish or not is not for me to say. I am quite prepared to support any principle iri this Bill which means meeting the responsibilities of the States. But I am not prepared to support a proposal to place in the Constitution a perpetual provision which would not only block us practically from its revision, but would also block all future Parliaments of Australia. Nor am I prepared to agree to any scheme which is regarded as being of a perpetual character.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Senator Keating iterated, reiterated, and insisted, notwithstanding my rejoinders, that years ago in New South Wales I opposed the Convention Bill on account of the Braddon “ blot.” I wish to place it on record at the present moment that I did nothing of the kind. The grounds on which I opposed that Bill were three. My first ground was that.it proposed a policy which would destroy the policy with which twenty-five years of my life had been identified. My second ground was the excessive taxation with which my State was threatened. My third ground - and, rightly or wrongly, it was the strongest ground - was the equal representation of the States in the Senate.
– I desire to answer a few of the statements made by Senator Keating, who is acting in this matter, not only sincerely, but very courageously, because, in my opinion, the majority of the people of our State believe that this agreement should pass just as it has been submitted to this Parliament.
– They do not understand it.
– At the general election honorable senators, whether they are standing as candidates or not, will have imposed upon them the duty of explaining to the people of their States what the measure means from their point of view. I am quite sure that we shall all be found fulfilling that duty at the proper time. At the beginning of his speech, Senator Keating laid great stress upon the fact’ that, whereas at the first referendum the Braddon clause was a permanent feature of the Constitution at the second referendum, it was only a temporary feature. He also attached particular importance to the fact that a larger number of people, and a larger majority voted on the second occasion than on the first. I remember the submission of the Constitution Bill to the people, and, to the best of my recollection, I do not think they attached very much importance at that time to the Braddon clause. It. was spoken and written of very largely as the Braddon “blot.” A great many people did not understand it.
– Before I quoted the figures, I said that I did not attach any importance to the permanent character of the provision.
– Why did my honorable friend lay stress upon it ?
– I did not.
– Will the acceptance of this Bill by the people be a justification of it to my honorable friend’s mind? I do not hold that an honorable senator should agree to a referendum being taken simply because a proposal is submitted. I think it is the duty of an honorable senator, if he disagrees with a proposal of that kind, to oppose it. In this case, we have not what Senator Keating has tried to make out, but a clear straightout issue. He wants to put a different set of questions to the people. If the Bill is to go before the people, in what form will it be submitted? They will be asked, “ Do you wish an amendment of section 87 ? Do you wish the elimination of certain sections, and the alteration of subsequent sections?” If they say “Yes,” by a majority, the latter provision will become a permanent feature of the Constitution. But suppose that a majority of the people hold with my honorable friend and say “No,” what would be the effect of that negative? It would be exactly that which he would bring about by any special questions which he might desire to have put to them. That is to say, if the people said “No” to his proposal, they would have affirmed that they wished the Parliament to retain its responsibility and to find a permanent settlement of this financial question. I resent the more or less offensive references which have been made to the State Premiers. Both in the Senate and in my State, I have found fault with the Governments of the States for approaching the Commonwealth Government in disregard of the fact that the State had representatives in this Parliament. I was a member of a State Government which was approached in order to become a mediator, as it were, on behalf of the States to the Commonwealth Government. The Premier of the day pointed out that if the people wanted to bring any particular grievance before the Commonwealth Government, they should act through their own representatives. And this is now done, and the Federal members, whatever side their politics may be, are consulted. But when the State Premiers are spoken of by one set of honorable senators as nobodies - only mere electors - and characterized by Senator Symon as audacious, because they threaten to use their electors’ rights to oppose those who will not do them financial justice, it should be remembered that they are trying to bring about an agreement which will give financial stability to their
States. Have no responsibilities been left to the States? Has the Commonwealth assumed all powers and functions from the States? Do we not know that such an idea is preposterous? Only certain powers and functions were handed over to the Commonwealth. No representative of a Slate can truthfully say that the Commonwealth has not been intrusted with full taxing powers. Are we not to consider the enormous financial responsibilities which have been left to the States? Are we not to remember that they have the interest on their debts to pay, and the natural resources of their territories to develop?
– Have we not given the States £6,000,000 more than they were entitled to?
– How good the honorable senator is ! We have not given to the States one farthing more than they were entitled to. The Constitution empowers the Commonwealth to spend up to one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue, and to return to the States what we do not spend. That we have done. To say that we have given the States what they were not entitled to is, therefore, absolutely unfair. What is the position now placed before this Parliament? We are asked to impose upon the Commonwealth that fair degree of permanent financial responsibility which should accompany the full power of taxation which the people of Australia have vested in the Federation. Where is the emasculation of this Parliament, of which we hear so much, in a recognition that the States are part of the Commonwealth, and that they have their functions and duties to carry out just as we have? Where is the emasculation of Parliament in frankly saying to the States,
We recognise that you . have difficult work to do, and we are going to give you, not the full amount you are asking, but the certainty of a stipulated amount per head each year “? The relationship of our finances to the Customs and Excise revenue has led to some rather curious estimates. I have listened - rather amusedly at times - to premises from which absolutely contradictory deductions have been made, deductions which were also contrary to those which I should draw. Some of my honorable friends opposite are afraid of this agreement because they say it is going to destroy the possibility of resort to direct taxation. That seems to me anything but a sincere argument, coming from those who say that they are in favour of a land tax and a tax on wealth.
– We do not want to tax the people’s tea.
– I am not talking about taxing the people’s tea, which certainly would not be direct taxation. I am talking of the direct taxation which my honorable friends say they believe in, but which they have never had the courage to try to impose. What sort of a land tax is that which has been mentioned as part of their programme?
– I always told the electors that I was in favour of a land tax, and that is why they returned me.
– My honorable friend told his electors one thing, but he supports a proposal, as a member of the Labour party, to tax only a portion of the land. Does he think that to propose to tax only those land-holders who possess land more than ,£5,000 in value is a fair proposition? Yet that is his party’s programme.
– There is a Bill in favour of land taxation on the notice-paper now.
– To talk of a land tax beginning with ,£5,000 in value is a most awful piece of political humbug. Personally I am a land-taxer. I believe in taxing land. But I am not going to SUPport a proposition to commence with taxing the nian who owns £5,000 worth of land, and to allow all other land-owners to go scot free. Surely there is a great deal of political humbug, about a proposition of that description, and I. cannot believe that the members of the Labour party are sincere when they favour it. They want to tax the big land-holders with the few votes, whilst they leave to their colleagues, the members of the Labour parties in the various State Parliaments, the dirty work of taxing the small men with the many votes.
– How the honorable senator loves his brothers !
– I love them when they are honest and straightforward, but I do not like humbug and insincerity. There is a financial aspect of the proposition before us that has not been much referred to in the course of the debate. There is a Tasmanian aspect of it which I, as a representative of that State, am justified in putting forward. It has been the unfortunate lot of Tasmania, from the initiation of Federation, to have financial difficulties of a severe kind pressed upon her. We have never complained of that as a factor arising out of Federation. We have taken it as a natural and inevitable consequence of the change of conditions that has been brought about. But, nevertheless, it is a fact that in the first year after Federation Tasmania lost the enormous sum of .£130,000 in Customs and Excise, about 16 per cent- of the total revenue of the State. Ever since that time the direct taxation of Tasmania has gone on increasing, until it has’ reached the enormous amount of 100 per cent, more than the direct taxation imposed in some States, and over 80 per cent, more than the average direct taxation throughout the Commonwealth. Our direct taxation has reached a very high figure indeed. We are collecting now something like 29s. or 30s. per head, and the Tasmanian Treasurer, in consequence of this agreement, is obliged to increase that amount by 4s. per head. While we contemplate these facts, we have to consider what is the outlook for the Commonwealth itself. My honorable friend, Senator W. Russell, will presently be supporting a proposal under “which the Commonwealth will be pledged to an outlay of practically £10,000,000, on account of the Northern Territory.
– That is a national question.
– I am not dealing with the pros and cons of the question just now. I am referring only to the financial responsibility that will be entailed upon, the Commonwealth. Tasmania will have to bear her due proportion, and although we are the smallest State, we shall look at the matter solely from a national stand-point. The acceptance of the Northern Territory involves first of all taking over the public debt, amounting to £2,31I4;000. Then there is a floating debt of ,£602,000 ; we are expected to pay for the Port Augusta’ railway £2,250,000; and we are also asked to construct another line which will probably cost four solid million pounds. There is a sum of ,£10,000,000 of an obligation which apparently this Commonwealth is going to face. The Bill has passed the other House, and it is likely to pass the Senate.
– Surely, then, we ought to be careful with the money we have to handle.
– We should be just to the people who form the component parts of this Commonwealth, and should recognise that the States have a right to preserve their entity and their individuality, and to do so must be granted a fair share of the money the people subscribe. They must not be crushed and humiliated, and compelled to come here cap-in-hand to ask for what is their own. Then again, the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway is estimated to cost ,£4,000,000. It “will be easy to spend, ,£2,000,000 on the Federal Capital site. Defence will cost ,£2,000,000 or more. Any one who knows anything about the evidence taken by the Postal Commission is aware that at least £”2,000,000 will have to be spent to put that Department upon a proper working footing. In these items alone - apart from the ordinary tendency in a growing nation for expenditureto rise - we have- an outlook of expenditureamounting to £20,000,000. Is it not time for the Treasurers of the States to ask the Commonwealth : ‘ 1 What are you goings to do for us?” Senator Symon says. “ Trust the Commonwealth Parliament.” What evidence has the Commonwealth Parliament given during the nine years of its existence of sympathy and consideration for the States? There has been only one favoured State - Western Australia.
– Does the honorable senator call it favouring a State to pay back to it the money which it has contributed over and above the amount contributed by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth on an average?
– At any rate Western Australia is the only State for which a special arrangement has been made. I know that the extra money returned to Western Australia rightly belongs to the people of that State ; but still, the special arrangement was a perpetuation of the book-keeping system, and was unFederal. But what evidence has the Commonwealth Parliament given of sympathetic consideration to the States that were in financial difficulties, as was the case with Tasmania? The Premier of Tasmania came over to Melbourne a few years ago, and had a consultation with the Federal Treasurer with regard to a leakage of Customs revenue, involving a loss to Tasmania asknowledged to be about ,£30,000 a year. Was anything done to remedy that ? Nothing - absolutely nothing !
– What has the honorable senator been doing, then?
– I did my best to get the wrong rectified by securing the abolition, of the wretched bookkeeping system. The Federal plan is for all the
States to share in the prosperity, of each other, recognising that in. time there will be reciprocity. Tasmania may have the advantage at one time, but at another time she will share her greater prosperity with the other States. We have joined in a Federation, not in a mere amalgamation of States. The Labour party is one that surely ought to consider the interests of the States.
– Does it not?
– I do not think so. It considers its party interests. Party considerations are paramount. Their States come second to their party in the view of its members. I may be wrong, but that is the view I take of them. There is no subject which has been so fully dealt with as this, and I suppose there is no subject upon which there is such a large amount of public feeling. I should like before Concluding to refer to a point which I have omitted. The argument raised by a good many of my honorable friends opposite has been that this financial agreement is going to destroy Protection ; whilst other honorable senators - Senator Symon and Senator Clemons, for instance - hold the belief that it is going to give the death-blow to Free Trade. In all the calculations and estimates that have been made, based upon Customs and Excise, there has been one great factor that has been constant! v; lost sight of, and that is that nearly half our revenue is derived from, taxes on luxuries, such as stimulants and tobacco. Yet honorable senators have continually ignored that fact. They have argued that the agreement will interfere with our Protective policy. How will it interfere with the duties on those commodities ?
– Is it not possible to manufacture luxuries in Australia ?
– We are manufacturing some very bad whisky in Australia just now ; and we are charging a duty of 12s. per gallon upon it. We are manufacturing a great deal of wine also, and for Some unaccountable reason, we collect no taxation upon it at all. But these are items which would be revenue-producing under any Tariff’. They would net be affected by the adoption of a policy of either Free Trade or Protection.
– Could we not grow all our own tobacco under a Protective Tariff ?
– Even if we did, the honorable senator would not be prepared to allow tobacco to be smoked upon Which no duty was paid. .
– Dos the hon- or able senator desire to increase the duty on moleskin trousers and cotton shirts?
– I might tell the honorable senator that, from my experience as a tradesman, I am able to say that an ad valorem tax upon cotton goods operates very fairly upon every class in the community. But I am not advocating such taxation at the present time. The conclusion I have come to with regard to this Bill is that it proposes to ask the people, to affirm that the financial stability of the States shall be preserved, and that the Commonwealth Parliament must shoulder its own financial responsibilities. If we find it difficult to pay to the States 25s. per capita from the revenue from Customs and Excise, there will be no occasion for us to go cap-in-hand to the States. We shall then be placed in the position in which our honorable friends opposite would like to. see us placed. We shall be obliged to resort to direct taxation, and will be able to tax land, wealth, or incomes throughout Australia. If the Commonwealth Parliament is not prepared to leave unpopular taxation to the State Parliament, and has the courage to impose it itself, it will have no difficulty whatever in financing its affairs, should this agreement be adopted.
– I cannot hope, at this stage, to say anything original on this question ; but when a matter of so much importance is to be submitted to the people, I think no member of the Senate should remain silent upon it. I wish to say a few words under three headings. First, as to the surrender of the power possessed by the Commonwealth Parliament under the Constitution ; second, as to whether the agreement is likely to injure Protection; and third, not as to the impossibility, but as to the improbability of our ever being able to take this agieement out of the Constitution if it is once placed in it. Whatever may have been the beginning of this question, it has developed into a bitter party strife. I regret that some honorable senators opposite should have availed themselves of every opportunity, not to deal with facts, but to make their usual insinuations against the party with which I am associated. It has been said that no surrender of our constitutional powers is proposed in this Sill, and that the authorities of the States have, if not equal, at least very important rights in connexion with this question. Let us consider the position in this State. I be- lieve I am right when I say that it will be impossible for any candidate to be returned to the Senate in March or April of next year unless he receives the approval of at lead 200,000 of his fellow citizens. At the last election, I v.as called upon to deal with this question. As a candidate I had to give an expression of opinion upon it. But under this Bill, the matter is being taken out of our hands, although this Parliament is the only power that can finally determine the question. We have been invited to believe that the State Premiers were invested with power to dictate the terms and conditions under which the Commonwealth Parliament shall allocate the Customs and Excise revenue. Let me put this to Senator Best. I believe the honorable senator, as a member of the Ministry, was consulted to some extent, and that he was present and took part in the proceedings of the Premiers’ Conference. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman tore up his blotting paper or not.
– Can the honorable senator say, of his own knowledge, that there was any blotting-paper used at the Conference ?
– I have to plead absolute ignorance on the point. J know nothing about it. But if I were to adopt the methods of honorable senators opposite, I might be as effective in insinuation. It is suggested that the Premier of Victoria, and I refer to him only in his public capacity, had a right to dictate the conditions on which this matter should be settled. I remind honorable senators that the honorable gentleman was elected, not as Premier of Victoria, but as the repre-‘ sentative of a particular constituency. He was returned by the magnificent number of about 1,200 votes recorded at one secluded isolated spot in the State. Yet he usurps the power to dictate the terms which are to be accepted by members of this Chamber, who received at least 133,000 votes. The Premier of this State was not elected to deal with this question. The State Premiers, no doubt, had a right to consider the matter amongst themselves. They held four Conferences before they were able to arrive at any definite conclusion as to what the J States should be prepared to accept. But now this national question has been made a mere party question. It is remarkable that all the State Premiers assembled at the secret Conference belonged to the one political party. This is a national and not a party question, and will honorable senators opposite contend that only those belonging to one political party in the Commonwealth should be allowed a voice in the determination of an important national question? Narrow as has been the party spirit which they have sometimes displayed, I do not think honorable senators opposite will make that contention. I agree with” the statement that a Premiers’ Conference is an excrescence upon the Constitution. The State Premiers have no power under our Constitution, and they are unable to operate any Federal law. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, their rights are’ only those of ordinary citizens. I wish now to deal with the question of the effect of this agreement upon the policy of Protection. Senator Millen quoted figures from the United States, Germany, and Canada, to show that the Customs receipts of those countries increased at a greater ratio than did their population. To be strictly accurate, I shall give the honorable senator’s actual words. He said -
If our population should increase as that of Canada increased, namely, by 36 per cent., whilst we, shall be required to return 36 per cent, more to the States, we shall, according to the experience of that country, have gained an increase in our Customs and Excise revenue of 109 per cent.
Protectionists on the opposite side have denied that this agreement is likely to injure the Protectionists’ cause. Senator Millen believes that it is not only possible, but probable, that our Customs and Excise revenue will increase in the same ratio with the increase of our population as in Canada. Let us see how it will work out. If our population increased by 36 per cent, we shall have a population of 5,814,000, and if our Customs and Excise receipts increased by 109 per cent., as in Canada, our revenue from that source would amount 1.0 ,£21,945,000, or a -per capita return of no less than £3 15s. 3d. Is there any common-sense Protectionist in Australia who will say that it is possible to raise such a revenue from Customs and Excise under a genuine Protectionist Tariff? If we are to do this, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council hopes we will, it can only be under a revenue Tariff.
– What justification has the honorable senator for saying that I hope we will. I merely stated a fact, and expressed no opinion one wa)’ or the other.
– What was Ihe honorable senator’s object in stating the fact f
– To dispose of an argument to which I was then addressing myself.
– The honorable senator is not in the habit of quoting figures purposelessly, and merely to waste the time of the Senate. If he did not, by quoting those figures, intend to suggest what was not only possible, but probable, in Australia, I should like to know what his object in quoting them was. I have repeated the words the honorable senator used, and if he will not put his own interpretation upon them then I am compelled to use mine as to their meaning. Under our present Tariff we raise a revenue from Customs and Excise of £2 10s. 8d. per head, and the figures to which I have last referred would involve an increase of ;£i 4s. 7d. upon that. We find Victorian Protectionists of the stamp of Senator McColl contending that the destruction of the Protectionist Tariff under this Bill is a mere ghost ; but I ask the honorable senator to reconcile that statement with the figures quoted by Senator Millen. Similar figures were quoted from America and Germany, and if the Vice-President of the Executive Council did not believe that they indicated what was likely to occur in Australia, why did he travel the world for his facts?
– It is of no use to say anything to the honorable senator, who twists a man’s words around. I stated a fact, and the honorable senator has converted it into the expression of a hope.
– I am willing to accept the honorable senator’s explanation and to withdraw what I have said, if he will say what he did mean by quoting those figures. If they were not meaningless, they meant something, and whatever the honorable senator’s interpretation of them may be, they remain. If we develop the Commonwealth on those lines and increase our Customs and Excise receipts, it will be impossible for a genuine Protective policy to exist in Australia. It is remarkable that those who have addressed themselves to this question have never seriously attacked the position which is set up by Protectionists. They have merely disposed of it as Senator Clemons, did when he said, “ Let us assume that it will have that result.” But upon a measure of this kind we ought, not to assume anything.
– The honorable senator knows that Senator Clemons assumed that the agreement would damage the prospects of a Free Trade policy.
– I object to assumptions of that character. If this Bill be carried, its effect will be to destroy a Protective policy in the Commonwealth.
– That is an assumption too.
– The honorable senator may think so. At the present time the Commonwealth raises from Customs and Excise duties the second largest amount in the world - an amount which is only exceeded in the case of New Zealand. I voted for a Protective Tariff because I believed that it would result in the establishment of industries throughout Australia. It is because I believe that a scientific Protective Tariff will prohibit importations that I voted for it. To-day we are asked to bind the Commonwealth to annually return to the States 25s. per capita for all time. Do honorable senators think that it will always be possible for the Commonwealth to return that sum? I do not. I hope that within the next decade our Customs and Excise returns will drop by at least £ 1 per head. If they do not, it will be apparent to me that Protection is a bogy. If we are compelled to return to the States 25s. per capita for all time after our manufactories have been established, we must cease all development in Australia. We must practically say good-bye to an effective defence policy, to a naval policy, to the transfer of the Northern Territory, and to the construction of the transcontinental railways. These things must either go by the board in the face of a falling revenue,, or we must enter the money market and borrow. Perhaps the Vice-President of the Executive Council will not accuse me of twisting his meaning if I quote a few other remarks which he made in moving the second reading of this Bill. He said -
On the other hand, I shall be very much surprised if our debt does not display the tendency of all national debts - a tendency to increase.
If he did not mean that the Commonwealth will adopt a borrowing policy, what did he mean? I do not suggest that it is always possible for a country to refrain from borrowing. But seeing that the States already owe ^250,000,000, and that no serious attempt is being made to extinguish that indebtedness. I say that they are guilty not only of bad finance, but of a cowardly act towards future generations.
– Do not forget the assets which those debts represent.
– I do not forget that one State has actually borrowed money to pay for the blank cartridges which have been blown away at military encampments.
– Which State did that ?
– Victoria did it. I am not sure that South Australia has assets for all its borrowed money.
– It owes only about £3,000,000 which does not return interest.
– To me it is quite evident that in Australia there has been a borrowing mania. We have avoided our real responsibilities. We have made 110 provision for the establishment of a sinking fund in connexion witE our indebtedness, and it has been a common thing for the States to borrow even for the purpose of paying interest upon their debts. I do hope that the Commonwealth will never adopt a borrowing policy which does not make provision for the establishment of a sinking fund. I hope, too, that it will not borrow except in case of emergency. I do not think that the proposal to return to the States 25s. per capita for all time will receive the support of the Democrats of this country. We have had a rather long discussion upon whether an Act of Parliament in which the proposed agreement was embodied, and the operation of which was limited to a term of years, would not be more rigid than would the embodiment of that agreement in the Constitution. I say that no comparison can be instituted between the rigidity of the two proposals. While I do not deny that it would be possible to get the agreement taken out of the Constitution at some time or other, I say that it is very improbable that it would be taken out. In this connexion I wish to draw attention to the fact that we have had one constitutional referendum in Australia. It was taken at the last general election. Let us see what the figures relating to that referendum evidence? 1 find that in the three large States 788,1)2 electors recorded their votes, whilst in South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, only 148,000 votes were polled. What do these figures reveal? That if the proposed agreement had been embodied in the Constitution and five persons had voted for its excision as against one who had voted for its retention, it could not have been eliminated.
– That is an argument against the Constitution of the Senate.
– Absolutely. It is because of that that the first vote which 1 cast in my life was recorded against the draft Constitution Bill. I recognised that it would give men of the Fusion stamp opportunities to talk about trusting the people, well knowing that if a mistake were made it could not be remedied. Is it not possible to give the States the same security that they would enjoy if the proposed agreement were inserted in the Constitution, by embodying it in an ordinary Act of Parliament ? Let us assume that in accordance with the unanimous wish of the Commonwealth Parliament we undertook to return annually to tho States 25s. per capita. Upon the strength of receiving that amount the States will accept certain responsibilities. Does any honorable senator think that the members of any party in this Parliament will lightly disregard their responsibility to deal fairly with the States ? But surely that is a very different matter from granting to one man the right to thwart the will of five men? The figures which I have quoted relate to the last constitutional referendum taken in Australia. Yet honorable senators opposite persist in saying that if the proposed agreement be embodied in the Constitution, the people can exercise it when they choose. Before leaving this subject I wish to deal with a few baseless assertions which were made by Senator McColl. I regret that he is not present, but the responsibility for his absence is not mine. ‘ He has made almost vicious assertions in this Chamber - assertions which have been repeatedly contradicted, challenged, and disproved. Yet it seems to be impossible for him to do justice to any subject without dragging in a reference rollie Labour party, accompanied by such assertions. To-day lie repeated a statement which he made on a previous occasion when he was replied to by an honorable senator upon the opposite side of the chamber. He stated that the reason underlying the opposition of the Labour party to the proposed agreement was that we were disappointed office-seekers. Upon a former occasion when he made that statement it was replied to by Senator Symon in the following words -
I have pointed out that for three years Mr. Deakin had the support of the Labour party without promise of reward of any description. Not only so, but, and I quote now from, I think, the Leader - “ Mr. Deakin was quite willing to acquiesce in the admittance of Labour members to office.”
This faithful and loyal Prime Minister was, it appears, ready to cast out four or five of his friends in the Ministry, and take in four or five Socialists. How is it that that was not carried out? He was willing to go halves, but the Socialists, whose bidding he was doing, as my friends have reminded me, spurned the offer.
When Senator McColl insinuated, that we were seeking office, Senator Symon was fair-minded enough to make that reply, which I consider very effective. Senator McColl, without bringing forward any new facts, has maliciously slung the statements round the Chamber, in the hope that some one, who would not take the trouble to investigate them, might believe them. I have never heard any one except Senator McColl accuse Mr. Fisher of having degraded the high office of Prime Minister. No doubt some honorable senators have disagreed “with his policy. But what attitude did he ever take up which caused him to degrade the high office which he had the honour to hold, with the support of a majority in Parliament at the time? Was it his attitude in Tasmania which displeased Senator McColl ? Was he to go to a secret Conference, as the present Prime Minister did, pledged to his own supporters in this Parliament to a temporary arrangement, and not only bind himself hand and foot, but ask his followers to slavishly follow him j not only to give away his own conscience, but to surrender the conscience and judgment of his supporters- who have followed him so loyally for years ? Yet an honorable senator on the other side, who knows the facts, has the audacity to say that Labour men are partisans, and have no convictions or consciences.
– Is there a solid party supporting this agreement?
– Is there a solid party opposing it?
– Yes j and I am glad that there is.
– This is not a party question ; and yet there is a solid party against it.
– In my opening words, I said that, whatever might have been the position at the beginning, party strife has been developed.
– It is only on one side that a solid party is found.
– Did the honorable senator hear Senator McColl tei 1 us to wait until March, and say that he would have the scalp of Senator Findley?
– Where is the solid party,- except on the other side?
– The Min.ister has used every known method to make a solid party ; but he has failed. Ours is the only party which is independent, and which is permitted to take its own view, without having newspapers and the Fusion Government backed up by State Governments, threatening to defeat its members at the coming election. Have not the Fusion organs, not only in Victoria, but in the other States, printed in leading articles and Parliamentary notes threats to members of this Parliament as to what would happen to them at the general elections if they did not support the Fusion programme?
– What about the Age and the Worker?
– The Worker made no threats.
– I do not know that the Age has threatened anything against any member of this Parliament ; but if it has done so, it has my condemnation. I have not read such a statement in that newspaper. But the Argus, which is the official organ of the Fusion, has repeatedly made such threats. The Premier of New South Wales has made a similar threat. Not one, not two, but many, on the other side, would not accept this proposal for a moment if they thought that by taking up an independent position they would be again returned to the Chamber. The Minister says that the Labour party is solid against the Bill. ‘
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that the country is solid against the Bill?
– Honorable senators on the other side have asserted that the Bill, when it is referred to the people, will be carried by a sweeping majority, and that the Labour party will be swept into oblivion, to quote the words of Senator McColl. If they hold that belief, then they must think that we on this side are a suicidal lot of men.
– We do.
– How can we gain popularity when, in the honorable senator’s judgment, we are committing suicide? If, however, it is true that we will commit suicide by our attitude on this question, what becomes of the accusation that we are engaged in electioneering tactics? Do not honorable senators on the other side think we are as good judges of electioneering tactics as they are?
– Honorable senators on the other side have allowed their party feeling to run away with their judgment.
– It may be quite true that we do not play the game quite so low down as do the Fusion party ; but we are as keen judges of what the people require as they are. We have taken the responsibility of advocating questions in which we believed, and are waiting patiently to reap the harvest. I feel quite satisfied that a harvest will be reaped at the next election when some honorable senators will have to answer for their treachery to the Constitution. Today Senator McColl said that we are here to preserve the constitutional rights of the States.
– Hear ! hear !
– What vote did the Labour party ever give to the injury of any State? I ask Senator Dobson to name one.
– The Labour party are now declining to allow the people of the States to judge on this issue.
– The figures for the only constitutional referendum which we have ever had show that five persons could not amend the Constitution if one desired to block them. This Bill reminds me of a referendum which might be suggested when the Labour party come into power. To follow the example of the Fusion party, we might ask the people, “ Are you in favour of an exemption of £5,000 or one of £100?” and in whichever way they answered the question, they would be committed to a land tax. Would the honorable senators consider that that would be trusting the people? That would be about on a par with the referendum on this financial agreement. Is the honorable senator willing to support a referendum for an alternative? No. Senator McColl also remarked that our attitude on this question showed that we were willing to make the interests of the States subservient to the interests of our party. When did we do so? When was any accusation made by the States of our intention to do so? There is a suspicion on the part of not only Senator McColl and his party, but also the State Premiers, that the Labour party may get a majority at the next elections, and that they may not be able to dominate that party as they dominate the Fusion party to-day. I believe that if the members of the Labour party come back with a majority, they will not accept the domination of the State Premiers. The latter are making their last dive, their last desperate grip on those whom they are able to dominate. Senator McColl also said that our object was to “keep parties apart. We are not particularly interested in keeping parties apart. But we are greatly interested in getting as many men into our party as we possibly can, not under a delusion or a snare, but on a definite political platform which they believe to be in the best interests of Australia. Can honorable senators on the other side say that ? Which of them can say that he sits to-day on that side with the same right to give venttohis political opinions as he did at the previous election ? There is not one honorable senator opposite who can justify his position. I was going to quote the words of Alfred Deakin, but seeing the unenviable position which honorable senator’s occupy to-day, I shall refrain from doing so.
– Has the honorable senator persuaded himself of all this?
– Thank goodness I have never attempted, and hope that I shall never attempt, to persuade the honorable senator on any question which he has not thought out for himself Senator McColl made the statement that the Federal and State Parliaments should be dominant in their respective spheres. I also hold that belief, but if each Parliament is to be dominant in its sphere, it should be dominant within the ambit of its Constitution. It is quite clear that we shall be dominant with regard to the Braddon section at its expiration next year; but it is not clear that that provision comes within the sphere of the State Parliaments or State Constitutions. If it does, it is remarkable that no honorable senator has attempted to prove that it does not exist in the Commonwealth Constitution to-day. Senator Keating dealt very ably with that question when he said that Senator Dobson and Senator Mulcahy, as representatives of Tasmania, represented not a few in a little isolated village, where, perhaps, 600 or 700 persons returned a man to Parliament, but a majority of the electors of the State, and that as members of the Commonwealth Parliament they had a responsibility to other States as well as to their own. That is a responsibility which, as he pointed out, is not shared by any State Premier. At the recent elections in Victoria neither party dealt in any way with Federal finance or the Braddon “ blot,” nor was it referred to in their manifestoes. They had no indorsement from the people.
– The honorable senator would not allow this question to go to the people if he had his way.
– If this were no; a serious question the Minister would Lc amusing, if not interesting. “ Trust the people” is a remarkable utterance coming from the. other side, because to my knowledge, for years the members of the Fusion party were among those who denied the franchise to the people of Victoria and other States. Again, it was denied by Senator McColl that public meetings had been held against this financial agreement.
– The honorable senator was at one the other night, I think.
– It was one of. the most successful meetings which 1 have fever attended, and although there might have been a dozen persons anxious to kick up a noise and disagree with us, I believe that 500 out of the 600 present were in favour of the views which I expressed concerning this financial agreement. My only hope is that when the Minister goes out to advocate this Bill to the people, his meetings will be as successful as the one I had the pleasure of addressing the other night. Senator McColl candidly admitted to-day that a loan policy would be necessary. He boasted that he had sat in the State Parliament for twenty years, and that the people had always trusted him. But during the whole of that time the financial policy which he supported was one of borrow, borrow, borrow ; making no provision for the payment of the money borrowed. He has been a party to handing on debts to be discharged by future generations. That is the best that the eminent financiers with whom he has associated have been able to do. He expressed the hope that at the coming elections the people would consider well and would not return to represent them men who did not understand finance. Why does Senator McColl pick out the Labour members’’ for his contemptuous scorn”? Does he think we are so ignorant that we cannot count correctly ? Does he think that our English is not as good as it ought to be? Does he think that our arithmetic is faulty? I would remind him that if we have not had the opportunities which some others have had, we have, at any rate, made better use of them than others more favoured by circumstance have done; and, at any rate, we do not sneer and assume airs of superiority towards those who, perhaps, have been ever* less fortunate than we have been. In conclusion, I have to say that my opposition to this Bill is confined to one portion of it. I am in absolute agreement with the proposal to pay 25s. per head to the States. I think that at present it is not too much. We can more easily spare such an amount to-day than we shall be able to do ten years hence. But I object to this Bill ‘because, as an Australian, I recognise that one of the difficulties in the way of accomplishing the objects of Federation has been the continual tugging of the States. This is an attempt to compel the Federal Parliament to surrender one of its most important powers. I object to it on that ground. Last, but not least, I object to it because it is inconsistent to consent to a permanent agreement and at the same time expect to develop our Protective policy. I believe that if the necessary money is to be raised through Customs and Excise to meet this obligation to the States, we shall be driven into the position of either borrowing, as the States have done in the past, or of taxing the poor on those commodities which cannot be produced in Australia.
– It is wonderful that the Brisbane Conference did not discover that the payment of 25s. per head to the States would kill Protection.
– The Brisbane Conference proposed a temporary arrangement. I was not there, nor was Senator Dobson, but I have had, perhaps, better opportunuities than he of ascertaining what took place at Brisbane.
– I have read the report, and know that Protection was never mentioned.
– I shall offer my strenuous opposition to placing this proposed arrangement in the Constitution. I shall fight the proposal in the Senate, and when the elections take place I hope to do my share in defeating this anti-national move in the politics ‘of Australia.
– I congratulate my namesake on the speech which he has just delivered. I feel proud of the name of Russell after having listened to such an eloquent deliverance, full of matter and of fact. The case presented by my honorable friend was altogether unanswerable. I must also congratulate Senator Keating. His speech on this question was the best that has yet been delivered in the Senate. The matter has been very fully discussed on this Bill, and I was not disposed to participate in the debate; but it is so far-reaching a question that, as a representative of South Australia, I thought it right to express my views upon it. I am proud to say that five out of the six representatives of my State are against this obnoxious agreement. T have never denounced the Braddon section of the Constitution. I favoured it before I became a senator. I thought that the Federal Parliament might be addicted to extravagance. But since I became a member of the Senate and have had an opportunity of looking into the finances very closely, 1 have failed to discover a single instance in which extravagance has been practised by the Commonwealth Government. I did think that the Commonwealth might be rather severe on the States unless they were protected by the Constitution. But I have learnt from my study of the history of Federation that the Commonwealth has treated the States in no niggardly fashion, but most generously. I have interjected repeatedly during this debate - and it is a fact - that the Commonwealth has not only returned to the States the three-fourths Customs and Excise revenue to which they were entitled, but £6,000,000 more than that, which the Federal Government could have spent had it wished. The Post and Telegraph Department has been starved in order to return money to the States. After an experience of eight or nine years of Federal Government, what have the people to fear? How has Parliament acted? How is it likely to act in the future? It has been just and generous. It has returned to the States more than they were entitled to. If some honorable senators opposite had had their way we should not even have accomplished the passing of the Old-age Pensions Act. I regret that this has become a party question. Though I am a member of the Labour party, it is not a party question with me. If I believed that Senator Millen and Senator Clemons were on the right track, I should not hesitate to vote with them. But because I believe that they are pursuing a wrong policy, I shall vote in the opposite direction. What has led up to this proposal? Senator Keating let the cat out of the bag when he intimated that it has been submitted for political purposes. The Premiers of the States, being anxious to do the best they could for their Treasuries, took advantage of the circumstances in which they found the Prime Minister. He had just succeeded in forming his Fusion Government, and was in danger of being upset. The Premiers, realizing that fact, approached him with a view of getting as much money out of him as they could. One of the principal arguments which they used was this: “ If you will yield to us in this respect, we will work in your interests and will oppose your enemies. When the election comes we will say, ‘ Down with the man who has the cheek to speak against this agreement.’ “ I- do not wish to speak of the Premier’s disrespectfully, but at the same time they are not going to dictate to me as a member of this Parliament. I do not know the Premiers of five of the States personally, but I know the Premier of South Australia, and I hold1 him in high estimation. I am not going to say a word against him ; but what is his position as Premier of the State? He has twentyone followers, there are twenty opposed to him, and he has only eight reliable men behind him. That is the position of a Premier who makes threats to “down “ the Labour party. He is in somewhat the same position as the Prime Minister was some time ago. He is preparing to make a fusion. When forming his Government, he was willing, as Mr. Deakin was, that half of its members should be Labour members, so long as he was allowed to be Premier. He did not succeed in getting Labour members to join him, and he then made overtures to the other side, and in the near future his former enemies will be his colleagues. He is one of the Premiers who have said that they intend to pack the Senate. Three of my colleagues will be going up for re-election for South Australia very shortly, and I hope they will be returned. Mr. Peake at that election will be found fighting the Labour party, although not long ago he stood side by side with the late lamented Tom Price, and fought the National Defence League and the Tory element. Now he says, “ Mr. Prime Minister, if you will meet us and assist us financially we shall be prepared to pack the Senate at the coming Federal elections.” I predict that Mr. Peake will have more trouble in securing re-election for his present constituency than Labour candidates are- likely to have in securing their return to the Senate from that State. He will have before him the most difficult task possible, and if he is returned he will be placed in the humiliating position of having to thank his former enemies for it. Mr. Peake is no doubt proud of his position as Premier of the State. He seized it. It was not his by right. But he has got it, and he is now trying to “down” the party which, in the first instance, lifted him into the position of a member of the State Government. The threats of the State Premiers to pack the Senate will only induce the Labour party to make extra efforts in the coming political battle. The Labour party are in earnest. Their platform is in print, and their objects are pure and good. I quite recognise that the State Premiers have been very wise in their generation. They took advantage of their opportunity to induce the Prime Minister to give in to them. We cannot avoid the fact that the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States must have money to carry on, and I believe, with my colleagues, that if an effective Protective Tariff is administered on proper lines we must expect a reduction in the revenue from Customs duties. The time is perhaps not far distant when the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments will require money, and the revenue from Customs and Excise will not be sufficient to meet their requirements. I have always been one of those who have advocated the imposition of taxation on the land monopolist and wealthy man, and its removal from the goods consumed by the poor. I held those views long before I became a member of the Labour party. I was elected to the Legislative Council of South Australia in 1894, and even before that I advocated the plank of the Labour platform referred to by Senator Mulcahy. I advocated a land tax on estates over £5,000 in value. I did so as the result of my reading when I was farming at Belalie. I hold the same views still. I am in earnest, and have never minced the matter. I have told the electors on every occasion that those were my views. I believe that a progressive land tax or a tax on large estates over £5.000 in value is becoming more popular. We have been told even by members of the legal profession, that this Parliament has control not only over Customs and Excise, but over every form of direct taxation as well. If we yield to the Premiers in this matter, if we permit them to trample upon us, and say that we are unfit to perform our duties, they may come forward with a fresh demand, and insist that the taxation powers of the Federal Parliament shall be confined to Customs and Excise, and that the State
Parliaments shall have control of direct taxation. I believe that if the Premiers approached the present Government on the eve of the coming Federal elections with such a demand, they would yield. Our rights to impose a land tax or an income tax may be disputed by the State Parliaments. I recognise the cunning and craft displayed by the State Premiers, who know that they will have difficulty in collecting the revenue they require. We have been told that we have now a Liberal Government and a Liberal Legislative Council in South Australia ; but what has happened in that State? The people have expressed themselves in favour of a “progressive land tax, and on two or more occasions have returned a large majority of members pledged to the imposition of such a tax. It has been passed by the House of Assembly, by far more than an absolute majority, for three or more years in succession, and the Legislative Council have refused to budge.
– The House of Assembly passed the tax in the pious hope that the Legislative Council would throw it out.
– The honorable senator can talk piety as much as he likes, but we want facts, and I have stated the true position. The Legislative Council of South Australia has refused for years to extend the franchise. Since I was a member of that House in 1894 they have been asked to extend the franchise, and have always declined to do so. Only the other day the present Government of that State carried a Bill for the purpose through the House of Assembly, and after its second reading had been moved by the Chief Secretary in the Legislative Council, the landlords and representatives of the wealthy classes there who do not represent humanity, but property, and property alone, without another speech being delivered on the question threw the Bill aside. The present Premier of the State has, of course, constitutional remedies, but he dare not avail himself of them. I do not blame the States for endeavouring to get the Commonwealth Parliament to collect money to hand over to them, and to receive abuse for so doing. If some arrangement could be arrived at with the States for a period of ten, years or thereabouts I should not object to it. But I cannot agree to embody the proposed agreement h* the Constitution for all time. Some honorable senators may think that I am not a true representative of South Australia.
– Hear, hear.
– But I have been a resident of that State for considerably more than forty years. I am well known there, and my word is respected. It is because I believe that I am right, that I take up my present stand. It is all verywell to say that the Commonwealth will act liberally towards the States and that it will give them for all time more than it can afford. But why should we bind those who come after us? We have no right to do that. Need I remind the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the Federal Capital has yet to be established, that the Northern Territory has to be taken over, and that our expenditure upon defence will aggregate several million pounds? Senator Mulcahy has referred to the undertakings which lie before us. I hope that when he goes to his bed to-night, after he has said his prayers, he will meditate not only upon the interests of the States but upon those of the Commonwealth of which he is so prominent a member. We have no right to give away our liberties. In this connexion I do not need to again quote the words used by Senator Symon. They were words of wisdom, and let me add that he is not a member of the Labour party. That circumstance ought to carry some weight with my honorable friends. Senator Symon is one of the best statesmen that we har-e. 1 say that, although I do not always «gree with his views and although he was returned in opposition to me. But we must all admit his great ability. He says exactly what he means, and he neither fears his foes nor endeavours to please his friends. I hope that Senator Cameron also will ponder over this matter.
– After he has said his prayers?
– I have not done with Senator Mulcahy yet. It is difficult to know exactly where he stands. But he evidently wishes to be with ths Fusion party when the general elections come round. Though he was sent here like Senator Dobson to oppose the Deakin party he will face the electors with the assurance that the State Premiers are behind him, and he will carry the flag of the Fusion. Even if Senator Mulcahy be convinced that his attitude upon this Bill is a wrong one, has he the courage to say to the Government whip or the Vice-President of the Executive Council “Although I belong to the Fusion party, and although 1 have attended your caucuses I cannot support this measure?”
– The Fusion Government would not have obtained my support in the absence of this agreement.
– When the honorable senator’s support was given to them the agreement had not been arrived at. His present leader. Mr. Deakin, the Treasurer, Sir John Forrest, and others, have on ,allms( occasions expressed their disapproval of the policy which is embodied in the agreement. I hope that when the division bells ring Senator Cameron, the soldier, who will never turn his back upon the toe m the day of battle, will be found doing his duty to the Commonwealth. I am prepared in South Australia to defend the vote which I am about to cast.
– It is a good job that the honorable senator has three years’ tenure of his seat before him.
– If the honorable senator had a tenure of three years in front of him he would not be cudgelled and coerced. In my opinion, he is told what he has to do, and simply has to do it. But my colleagues, Senators McGregor, Story, and Guthrie, have to face the musk at the next election, and notwithstanding all the threats which have been made they are prepared to oppose this Bill. I now propose to quote a few lines from the Adelaide Advertiser in reference to this matter. As we all know, that journal is an anti -Labour one. It is a Fusionist paper, and is owned by Sir Langdon Bonython. Here is what it says -
The strange feature of the battle is that there- arc no slain to be counted. Of all the alternatives to the Conference scheme not one showed its heaH. Mr. Harper protests that he did not put his own scheme forward. He only sought to limit the duration of the Conference scheme. Nothing was heard of the Brisbane Labour Conference scheme. That was jettisoned in the Parliament, though it may come up as an alternative at the elections. The chances are, however, that the Opposition will be entirely destructive. So much has come to the Conference scheme that it stands where none other may stand. There is still the Senate to be faced, and report says that the balance is so nearly equal there that once again there will be days when one vote will determine the issue. Party lines are strictly drawn in the Senate, and the personal hostility of some senators to (he Prime Minister will be less effective on this issue than on some others which could arise. There were doubts once about Senator Trenwith, but the Senate fight in Victoria will for the first time be strictly party. Three Ministerialists will be opposed by three Labour men, and any one coming between will make no difference. This fixes Senator Trenwith’s vote. The Senate Whip says that he can carry the agreement both in Committee and by the statutory majority, but itcan only be done by constant vigilance. This done, the way will be clear for a prorogation. Another fortnight will probably complete the work of the third FederalParliament.
– Hear, hear.
SenatorW. RUSSELL.- But the statutory majority requires considerable whipping.
– They require a new whip, because the old whip is worn out.
- Senator Sayers will be prepared to undertake the whipping if the Vice-President of the Executive Council only gives him the wink. 1 hope that if the Bill be not amended in the direction that has been suggested, it will be thrown into the waste-paper basket. It may have served its purpose already, even if it be relegated to the waste-paper basket, because it was conceived, hatched, and brought before Parliament purely for political purposes. And those who oppose it will have the opposition to which I have referred. I suppose that Senators Chataway and Sayers will go over to Queensland to try to “ down “ those who have had the courage to oppose the Bill here. I believe it to be my duty to oppose the Bill as it stands. If I believed that the States were not receiving justice or fair play, and a good case could be made out, I would stand by them every time. Their interests, however, would not be sacrificed by the rejection of the Bill. We, as members of the Commonwealth Parliament, have more to think of than even the interests or thoughts or ideas of a Premier. We are the representatives of the people in the National Parliament. Those who want to vote differently from ourselves desire to make this Parliament subservient to the State Parliaments so as to save their political skins. Even Senator Best is in this business; in fact, he is in everything. So far as politics is concerned, I put him down as a true representative of the Vicar of Bray.
– I understand that the Leader of the Senate is anxious that the second reading of this Bill shall be carried to-night ; and I judge from his pleasing appearance, and the smiles of his supporters, that he has the numbers. I do not propose to try to induce any honorable senator on the other side to change his opinion on this question, recognising, as I do, that an effort of that kind would be merely a waste of time. Every phase of this question has been dealt with by different senators. It has been pointed out that if we pass the Bill, we shall be asking the people of Aus tralia to take back a power which was granted to this Parliament in the Constitution. As that has been clearly proved, it need not be enlarged upon. It has also been clearly proved that the passing of this Bill will undoubtedly endanger the cause of Protection in Australia. But if I were to stand here and repeat these arguments until to-morrow night, it would not make any difference to a single senator who had, I believe for party reasons, to agree to support the measure, and only to look for reasons to justify his action. I do not believe that it would be of any use to prolong the debate. I understand that the Leader of the Senate is prepared to allow us to go home after the second reading has been carried. I simply desire to protest against the passing of the Bill, and to assure the honorable senator that it will meet with my opposition at every stage. If it is passed by this Parliament, I propose, as I have to consult the electors early next year, to oppose it on every possible occasion during the campaign. If it cannot be defeated here, I still have some hope that the intelligence of the Democratic people of Australia will prevent them from ratifying a measure which I believe will, if carried into effect, be to their detriment. I oppose the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Constitution is altered by inserting, after section eighty-seven thereof, the following section : - “ 87A. - (1.) Notwithstanding anything in section eighty-seven of this Constitution, the Commonwealth may in the year beginning on the first day of July One thousand nine hundred and nine, out of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise, apply towards its expenditure for the service of that year any sum not exceeding Six hundred thousand pounds over and above one-fourth of the said net revenue. “(2.) From and after the thirtieth day of
June, One thousand nine hundred and ten, section eighty-seven of this Constitution shall cease to have effect.”
– As there may be a debate of some considerable length on the succeeding clauses, and as the Opposition have shown no inclination to block the Bill unduly, and as we have had a very fair innings to-day, I ask the Minister to agree to report progress.
Senator MILLEN (New South WalesVicePresident of the Executive Council) all that Senator McGregor has stated; but I wasgoing to ask the Committee to assist me, and to some extent itself, by passing this clause. I am looking at the work fortomorrow ; and it is necessarily desirable that some determination should be come to on the more debatable provisions of the Bill ; so that, assuming that it is carried, the call of the Senate for next week can be determined before we disperse this week. In view of the tenor of the debate on the second reading, I can hardly conceive that there will be any debate on this clause, which provides for the rebate of £600,000 by the States to the Commonwealth. I ask the Committee to allow the clause to pass, in order to bring us face to face with what I take it will be the debatable portions of the Bill, when I shall be willing to report progress.
. -I do not know that any serious objection can be offered to clause 2 ; but it is really the mess of pottage which was presented to the Prime Minister to induce him to swallow the more disagreeable provisions of the measure. Some honorable senators may wish to express their opinions on the clause. So far as I am concerned, I admit that the debatable portion of the Bill will be reached after this clause has been disposed of.
– Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council think that£600,000 will be sufficient to enable the Government to carry on during the financial year without having to borrow or incur adeficit?
– Can the Vice-President of the Executive Council inform the Committee on what basis the sum of £600,000 has been arrived at ? The amount of deficit foreshadowed in the Budget by the Treasurer was £1,200,000, and I take it that this proposition has been put forward to avoid that, in whole or in part. Do the Government anticipate that £600,000 will be sufficient, with the possible increases of revenue indicated by the Customs receipts for the last few months, or do they propose to raise Treasury Bills for the other £600,000 ?
– The question as to what is to be done to adjust the income and expenditure of the Commonwealth is not involved in this clause, but I am willing to give such information as I have on the point. This is a clause of an agreement under which the States offer to rebate to the Commonwealth £600,000 more than the Commonwealth can legally claim.
– They are getting something in return for it. We may want to move that we get a higher sum from them.
– We have not reached that point yet. The Estimates of revenue and expenditure for the current year disclose an anticipated deficit of £1,200,000. That was incurred as the result of old-age pensions, and as some of the States were relieved of the payment of pensions, I assume that they recognised a not unreasonable claim on the part of the Commonwealth to look to them for some assistance in the matter. The result is that they agreed, as part of the arrangement, to rebate to the Commonwealth £600,000, or half the anticipated deficit.
– Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council intend to report progress immediately after the first part of the clause is passed ?
– After the whole of clause 2 has been passed.
– But subclause 2 of proposed new section 87A opens up the question of repealing a section of the Constitution, which we may not be particularly satisfied that we ought to repeal without a fairly good struggle.
– The interests of the Committee will in no sense be jeopardized if it passes this clause now, because I understand that the intention is to take the test on clause 3. If any amendment is effected in clause 3, it will be immaterial whether clause 2 has or has not been passed, because the agreement will be at an end.
– But the alteration of the Constitution is not at an end.
– As the Bill represents an agreement, any alteration, no matter in what clause, will be fatal to it.
Clause agreed to.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with amendments.
Senate adjourned at 11. 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 November 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19091125_senate_3_54/>.