4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I haveto acquaint the Senate that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a Commission empowering me to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to honorable senators.
– Pursuant to standing order 38, I lay on the table my warrant appointing the following senators to be the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications : - Senators Chataway, de Largie, Henderson, Long, Sir Josiah Symon, Stewart, and Walker.
– Pursuant to standing order 31, I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senators McColl, Givens, and Henderson a panel to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees or when the Chairman of Committees is absent.
Senator W. RUSSELL (for Senator Sir
Josiah Symon) asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Whether the Government have taken the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown as to whether the Northern Territory agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia permits the suggested railway between Fine Creek and Oodnadatta orPort Augusta to deviate or be carried into or through the State of Queensland ?
If so, will the Government lay the opinion referred to on the Table of the Senate?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
No formal opinion has been obtained from the Law Officers of the Crown, but the AttorneyGeneral has informally expressed an opinion to the effect stated.
asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill to ratify in its entirety the agreement made with the Government of South Australia for the taking over of the Northern Territory ?
asked the Minister representing, the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the intention of the Government in regard to a resolution passed on two occasions by the Senate in favour of the payment of a substantial bonus for the discovery and working of phosphatic deposits within theCommonwealth?
– My honorable colleague desires me to say that the proposal has his entire sympathy, and will receive consideration when an amendment of the Bounties Act is under review.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the days of meeting of the Senate during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, be Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of each week; and that the hour of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, be 3 o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday, and half-past 2 o’clock in the afternoon of Thursday, and half-past 10 o’clock in the forenoon of Friday.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Senate or of a Committee of the whole Senate on sitting days other than Fridays be suspended from 6.30 p.m. to 7.45 p.m., and on Fridaysfrom 1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m.
The following Sessional Committees were appointed (on motion by Senator Findley): -
Standing Orders Committee.
The President, the Chairman of Committees,
Senators Clemons, Guthrie, McGregor, Millen, E. J. Russell, St. Ledger, and Sir J. H. Symon, with power to act during recess, and to confer with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
The President, Senators Lieut. -Col. Sir A. J. Gould, Keating, Lynch, Needham, Stewart, and Walker, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
The President, Senators Lieut. -Col. Sir A. J. Gould, Long, McColl, McDougall, Sayers, and Story, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Senators Barker, Lieut. -Col. Cameron, Chataway, Gardiner, Henderson, Rae, and Vardon, with power to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir Albert Gould, for SenatorWalker) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act authorizing any Joint Stock Banking Company formed or incorporated in any State to form reserve funds for the express purpose, of providing or accumulating funds to protect the shareholders in . such banking companies against their liability in respect of the uncalled capital or reserved liabilities on their shares, and to provide for the creation of corporate bodies in which such reserve funds may be vested.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McGregor, for Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Navigation and Shipping.
APPOINTMENT OF LIEUTENANT McFARLANE.
Motion (by Senator Needham) agreed to-
That all papers in connexion with’ the appointment of Lieutenant McFarlane be laid on the table of the Library.
Motion (by Senator McGregor, for Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Lighthouses, Lightships, Beacons, and Buoys.
Bill presented and read a first time.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Beer Excise Act 1901 -
New Regulation 15A (Provisional). - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 4.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905 -
Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 17.
Customs Act 1901 -
Amendment (Provisional)of Regulations 26 (1) and 94 (1). - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 55.
Amendment of Regulation 109, and cancellation of Statutory Rules 1909, No. 136. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 57.
Defence Acts 1903-1904 -
Regulation (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth -
Amendment of Regulation106a. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 134.
Amendment of Regulation106a. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 142.
Amendment of Regulation110a. - Statutory Rules1909, No.143.
Amendment of Regulation 298 (2). - Statutory Rules1909, No. 144.
Amendment of Regulation 540. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 145.
Amendment of Regulation 135A. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 9.
Amendment of Regulation 421. - Statutory Rules 1910, No.21.
Amendment of Regulations 414 and 416; and cancellation of Regulation 415 and substitution of New Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 28.
Amendment of Regulation 35. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 38.
Amendment of Regulation 141. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 39.
Cancellation of Regulation 160, and substitution of New Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 30.
Cancellation of Regulation106a, and substitution of New Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 31.
Cancellation of Regulation106a, and substitution of New Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 45.
New Regulation 200a. - Statutory Rules 1910, No.10.
Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional) for the Military Forces of the Commonwealth -
Amendment of Regulation95. - Statutory Rules1909, No. 139.
Amendment of Regulations90 and 108, cancellation of Regulation 117, and substitution of New Regulations 117, 117A and 117B in lieu thereof, and New Regulation118a. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 140.
Amendment of Regulation 90. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 141.
Amendment of Regulation 98. - Statutory Rules, 1910, No. 8.
Amendment of Regulation 168, and cancellation of Regulation 172, and substitution of New Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 11.
Amendment of Regulation 95. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 22.
Amendment of Regulation 206. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 27.
Amendment of Regulations 160 and 161. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 50.
Cancellation of Regulation 74, and substitution of New Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 1.
Cancellation of Regulation 77, and substitution of New Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules1909, No. 138.
New Regulation 88 (a) and amendment of Regulation 93. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 12.
Regulations (Provisional) for the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth -
Amendment of Regulations 4 and 5. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 49.
Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional) for the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth -
Amendment of Regulations 49, 50, and 51. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 20.
Regulations (Provisional) relating to the landing of Sailors and Soldiers from Foreign Men-of-War and Transports. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 29.
Defence of Australia. - Memorandum by Field Marshal Viscount Kitchener, dated 12th February,1910.
Excise Act 1901 -
Cancellation of Regulation 1, and substitution of New Regulation in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 24.
Glucose Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 44.
Manufactures Encouragement Act1908. - Iron Bounty Regulations. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 16.
New Regulation 134A. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 26.
Patents Act1903-1909 -
Amendment (Provisional) of Regulations 38 and 48, and Forms A-A10 in the Second Schedule to the Patents Regulations 1909. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 58.
New Regulations 133A, 133B, and 133C (Provisional). “Extension ofPatent Under Section 84 of the Act, and new heading.” - Statutory Rules, 1910, No. 43.
Post and Telegraph Act 1901 -
Amendment of Telegraphic Regulations. - Statutory Rules1909, No. 115.
Amendment of Postal and Telegraphic Regulations. - Statutory Rules1909, No. 123.
Amendment of Regulations relating to Telegrams beyond the Commonwealth. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 124.
Amendment of Postal Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 137.
Amendment of Postal and General Postal Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 13.
Amendment of Postal Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 32.
Amendment of Parcels Post and Telegraphic Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 36.
Amendment of Postal, General Postal, Parcels Post, and Telephone Regulations. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 47.
Amendment of Postal Regulations. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 48.
Public Service Act1902 -
Audit Acts 1901-1906. - Repeal of Treasury Regulation 96 (d) and substitution of New Regulation (Provisional) in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules1910, No. 40.
Documents in connexion with the following Promotions in the Department of Defence -
Mr. James Byres Laing to the position of Accountant,1st Class, Clerical Division, Central Staff.
Mr. Thomas Trumble to the position of Chief Clerk,1st Class; Mr. Matthew Michael Maguire to the position of Senior Clerk, 2nd Class; Mr. William Cromwell Williams to the position of Clerk, 3rd Class; and Mr. Richard John Murphy to the position of Clerk, 4th Class, Clerical Division, Central Staff.
Mr. Edward James de Witt to the position of Accountant, 2nd Class, Clerical Division, New South Wales.
Statistics relating to the Senate Election, 1910, the General Election for the House of Representatives, 1910, and the submission to the Electors of Proposed Laws for the alteration of the Constitution entitled(a) Constitution Alteration (Finance) 1909, and (b) Constitution Alteration (State Debts) 1909.
Telephone Charges : Report by Chief Electrical Engineer, dated 30th June, 1910.
Telephone Charges : Report by Committee of Accountants, dated 15th February, 1910.
Quarantine Act 1908 -
Amendment (Provisional) of Regulation 105. -Statutory Rules 1910, No. 42.
New Regulation100a (Provisional). - Statutory Rules 1 910, No. 56.
New Regulation 126A (Provisional). - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 146.
Repeal of Regulation 105, and substitution of New Regulation (Provisional) in lieu thereof. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 25.
Spirits Act1906. - New Regulation 57A. - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 37.
– I move -
That, on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Government Business take precedence of all other business on the Notice-paper, except questions and formal motions, and except that private business take precedence of Government Business on Thursdays after 7.45 p.m. ; and that, unlessotherwise ordered, Private Orders of the Day take precedence of Private Notices of Motion on alternate Thursdays.
Honorable senators will understand that this motion is for the purpose of fixing the position of private business. In previous years, and in many other Parliaments, the custom has been to give precedence to private business on the afternoon of a day in the middle of the week. In the Senate, formerly, private business was dealt with on Thursday afternoons. But some time ago it was found advisable to alter that procedure, and to deal with private business on the evening of Thursday. I believe that the alteration was found to be very convenient. By this method those honorable senators who are interested in private business have the whole evening to them selves; whereas under the previous system the time at their disposal was cut off by the dinner adjournment. Those who are not interested in the business to be considered can go to their homes or where they please, whilst those who desire to carry through any particular piece of business can remain to do what they may imagine to be important work of the country. Consequently, I hope the motion will be carried in the form in which I have submitted it.
– My reason for calling “not formal “ to this motion when it was read from the chair, was not because I desired in any way to oppose its passage, nor even that I wished to propose an amendment. But I desired to submit a view in which I shall probably be unsupported in the Senate, namely, that it would be advantageous to Parliament if further restrictions were placed upon private business.
– No, no.
– I anticipated my honorable friend’s interjection in saying that I should probably stand alone. But I need no stronger support for the view which I am now expressing, than the remarks uttered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. He stated, purely hypothetically, what in fact actually took place, that those who are concerned in private business stay on Thursday evenings to put it through, whilst those who are not interested go home. That is exactly what takes place. The result is that no one attaches the slightest importance to private business, because everyone knows that no practical effect can follow from it. What is done may conduce to further debate, but there can be no practical result.
– That was not the case last session.
– It is perfectly true that occasionally a motion passes. But at what expense? At the expense of more important public business. I. am merely ventilating my own views upon this matter. I anticipated that they would receive no support. But I still think that we should devote the time at our disposal to the consideration of those more important matters which must find a place upon any Government’s programme.
– Does the honorable senator consider that Bills introduced by private members are of no importance?
– I merely say that all matters must be considered from the stand-point of proportion, and I cannot be- lieve that any measure of first rate importance will be left to private members to deal with.
– The Federal Capital question might be.
– I think it is very regretable - especially during the early days of the session - that the moment I express an opinion, ulterior motives should be imputed to me. My remark was not prompted by the remotest recollection of the Federal Capital question. But I do say that if we are going to limit our sessions - as I hope we are - to reasonably brief periods, we must be content to forego some of those opportunities which have hitherto been afforded us of discussing matters which may. be dear to private members, and to devote our whole time and attention to the consideration of those bigger questions which must necessarily emanate from the Government benches.
Senator MCGREGOR (South AustraliaVicePresident of the Executive Council) (3.31]. - If no other honorable senator has anything to say upon this motion I wish to offer a few remarks .by way of reply to the Leader of the Opposition. I desire to thank him for the very great consideration which he wishes to extend to the Government by doing all that he possibly can to expedite the transaction of business which they may bring forward. But I would point out that private members also possess some rights and privileges, and that they ought to possess them. I would also remind the Leader of the Opposition that whenever there has been a pressure of Government business which honorable “senators have deemed of such importance that private members’ business should not be allowed to intervene, they have always unanimously agreed to forego the consideration of private members’ business. Recognising what the Senate has done in the past, and knowing what has been the practice, not only _ of this, but of every other Parliament, 1 think that we may with absolute confidence agree to the motion which I have submitted.
Question resolved in the . affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1st July (vide page 19), on motion by Senator Mcdougall- . .
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s opening Speech be agreed to : - May it please Your Excellency :
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I take this opportunity of expressing my regret, which I am sure is shared by every honorable senator, at the absence of the Minister of Defence. I hope that the cause of his absence will rapidly disappear, and that we shall have him with us again. Before turning my attention to the Vice-Regal speech Which was read in this Chamber last week, I desire to mention one or two matters concerning the business of the Senate itself. In the first place, I wish to express my gratification that the present Government have been able to some extent to readjust the Ministerial balance between the two Chambers. It is a matter upon which all members of the Senate have, I am sure, for a very long time, felt some little irritation. We all believed that this Chamber was entitled to a larger Ministerial representation than it had ‘enjoyed, and I congratulate the Government upon having been able to do something to remedy the grievance under which we have hitherto laboured.
– This is the sugar coating. We shall get the pill by-and-by.
– I am merely stating what has. been present in the mind of every person who occupied a seat in this Chamber prior to the last general election. I am not making these remarks merely with a view to drawing to the Senate any greater amount of public consideration than it can win by its merits. But my short experience upon the Ministerial benches demonstrated to me that it was .absolutely unfair to ask two Ministers to handle the Government business in this Chamber. Any honorable senator with a knowledge of the Defence Department must recognise that its Ministerial head, even if he were never required to put his foot in this Chamber, has ample scope for all his energy, capacity, and time, in transacting the business of that Department. If then, we superimpose upon him the work of other Departments, we are unfairly loading any individual who may be called to that position. In the House of Representatives there is practically a Minister for each Department. But in the Senate, two Ministers have hitherto been required to shoulder the burden of the seven or eight Departments into which our Public Service is divided. This practice has thrown upon those Ministers a burden of which I had no conception until I was privileged to occupy the position of Vice-President of the Executive Council. Three Ministers in this Chamber will be able to deal with public questions as they arise much more expeditiously and advantageously. There is another matter to which I desire briefly to refer. Honorable senators will recollect that until last session we had just cause for complaint that a reasonable opportunity was never afforded us of considering the Estimates. They were usually forwarded to us at the close of the session, so that we had practically to agree to them in the aggregate, or to accept the responsibility of rejecting the Appropriation Bill. That grievance has. frequently been voiced by all sections of the Senate, and no Government has ever disputed that it was a legitimate grievance. On the contrary, Government after Government have pleaded with honorable senators by urging, “ Such and such are the circumstances, but we will try and adopt an improved method next year.” Last session the Deakin Ministry, for the first time in our history, did furnish this Chamber with a reasonable opportunity of considering the Estimates. I trust that the present Government will follow their good example or improve on it, so that we may be afforded a fair opportunity of considering the Estimates, and of discussing the big questions which may arise in connexion with them. In expressing this hope, I am encouraged by the recollection that when we adopted the course which I have already outlined, Senator Pearce was the first to rise and congratulate us upon our action. Another matter in which theSenate has been unfairly dealt with for years past, has been in the apportionment of public business between the two Chambers. Perhaps there has been reason for the inequality in that every Minister naturally desires to handle the Bills which emanate from his own Department. It necessarily followed that, as a majority of Ministers were to be found in the other Chamber, a majority of the Government Bills have been originated there. As a result, while the business-paper of the House of Representatives has frequently been overloaded, the Senate has either been compelled to mark time or to agree to periodical adjournments.I do hope that the Government will devise a better apportionment of the business between the two Chambers. Such a plan would tend to more expedition. Associated with this matter is a suggestion I wish to make to the Government.
It does not appear to me. possible that we can ever have a session, at any rate, a normal session, without the Senate being called upon at some time or other to adjourn. As the other House contains twice as many members, it follows that, even if we took the same time in the discussion of business, it would take twice as long as we do. In addition to that, it is the fighting branch of the Legislature, and, as a result of that fact, much more time is occupied there than in the Senate in dealing with measures every one of which has to pass both Houses. As a result - and I am only relating the experience of nine years - the Senate is called upon frequently to adjourn. Hitherto, the adjournment hasbeen sometimes for a . week, and sometimes for a fortnight, but has generally been sprung upon honorable senators at a day’s notice. I wish to make a suggestion to the. Government, which, having a big majority, is in a position to carry it out. It is that Ministers; should allot to the Senate a reasonable and fair proportion of the Government business, and when they do see coming a time when the Senate will be called upon to adjourn, they should give reasonable notice of their intention, and make the adjournment sufficiently long to enable those honorable senators who come from far distant States, if they so wish, to return to their homes. That course would, I am sure, meet with the approval of a large number of honorable senators. Instead of having, probably, two or three adjournments of a week’s duration, it could be so ordered that we could have one adjournment of perhaps three weeks’ duration. Turning to the Address-in-Reply itself, I express the hope that the session will be a short one, that is, short in comparison with the large number of important measures which the Government indicate their intention to introduce. I see no reason why the session should not, in that respect, be a great improvement upon past ones. This is the first Government in the history of Federation which stands with a clear, strong, and unchallengeable majority in each House. It, therefore, has absolute and unquestioned control of public business. To that extent, it can expedite measures. It is not under the necessity under which previous Governments have laboured, of temporizing, if I may use a euphemistic term.
– Is the honorable senator confessing now?
– I have nothing to confess, but am merely stating broad facts. and doing so with the sole intention of trying to assist the Government. I , can hardly conceive of a Government being in less need of assistance from this side, but I do want the business of the country to be carried on in a business-like way. There is no reason why we should not have a fairly short session. There i& another reason why I think wc may ask that the business of the country should be expedited. I do not want honorable senators to think- that I am cavilling at them, or attacking the methods which they have adopted. By means of their highly developed party organization, speaking through the caucus, they largely determined before meeting Parliament,’ what the business of the. session shall be. They are familiar with that business, and have approved of it. Therefore, I can very well understand that there is no necessity ontheir part by prolonged debates to extend the session beyond a fair time.
– That would be true if we only wanted to pass the legislation proposed ; but we want to convert the honorable senator, too.
– There are so few of us left on this side, that surely my honorable friend can allow us to continue to go on in .our own way.
– My honorable friend has still the fatal thirteen around him.
– -No; unfortunately we do not number thirteen. I desire to express my very deep gratitude to Senator Ready for his admirable appeal to us to do more work and talk less. He was confident, if he was anything, when he -was addressing the Senate last week. When I looked round the Chamber and discovered in it men who had grown grey in parliamentary life, I could not help thinking that it was never too late to mend, and how refreshing it was to have one coming here with all the buoyancy of youth and telling Parliament how. it ought to conduct its affairs. I have been privileged to see many new members enter Parliament, but T cannot recall a case where some young man did not offer the same advice, and I generally found that if any one needed the advice before many months Were over, it was the gentleman who offered it. I merely suggest to Senator Ready - if he will take advice from one who has had a little experience - that if he will read his speech at the end of this Parliament, it Will have a fine disciplinary effect upon him. One of the changes brought about by the recent election is the fine position in which it placed the Government to handle public business. But another change of more than passing moment has taken place, and I hail it with great gratification: it is that Parliament has at last been resolved into its proper constituents, that is, two parties. The other day some . reference was made to the fact that the Opposition had in that regard its desire realized. Let me assure honorable senators that if the election had returned us with even a smaller number, provided that we had secured the restoration of the “ two-party system, I should still have regarded the result with satisfaction. In no other way is it possible under our electoral system to put a clear issue to the electors than by having two distinct parties with separate programmes. That change has been brought about. While I think that the people erred in arriving at the decision which they gave. on the 13th April, still, to my mind, the chief advantage to the country from the election is the fact that the third party has been eliminated.
– Which party has gone ?
– It does not matter which party has gone. It only matters that to-day there are only two parties in Parliament.
– There are two parties on the. other side now.
– There will always be individuals who, for some reason or other - it may be abnormal mental capacity, or other reason - who will decline to associate themselves with, or even submit themselves to, the discipline of any party; but I am quite correct in stating that for all practical purposes the third party has been eliminated from Federal politics.
– If it exists, it does not count, anyhow.
– That is perfectly correct ; it is a negligible quantity. Another and less desirable change has also been brought about, and one which I view with much less satisfaction. I refer to” the inroad which is being made and will be made on parliamentary methods. One of your distinguished predecessors, sirSir Richard Baker - once said that Federation would kill responsible government or responsible government would kill Federation. By that remark he did not mean that responsible government would kill the Union, but that it would kill that form of Union _ which he accepted under the- title of Federation, and which was based on a dual consent - the consent of two Chambers. In a similar way T venture to say the caucus is going to kill responsible government, and parliamentary methods, or, responsible government and parliamentary methods will sooner or later curb the caucus. It is inconceivable to me that what I understand as responsible government and parliamentary methods - the consideration and discussion of measures in public - can continue side by side with a system under which the dominant party for the time being is to have prior knowledge of what is to be placed before Parliament, and a prior opportunity of saying what the business of the session shall be.
– The whole country knew it two years ago.
– The whole country did not have the opportunity furnished to the members, of the Labour party of considering the Governor-General’s Speech in caucus a few weeks ago. I am not qumrell ing with my honorable friends for adopting that method ; but it will make a serious inroad upon, and trammel to a great ex- tent, responsible government. It will render debate here absolutely useless. After having discussed a programme and decided to adopt it, there can be very little sense - and certainly no profit - in honorable senators discussing it here.
– The honorable sena- tor has not given up the ghost already?
– My honorable friend was never more mistaken in his life than he is if he thinks that I view the outlook with anything but a sanguine temperament. My honorable friends on. the other side do not recognise that the Labour party was never in any peril until the day when it stepped on to the Treasury benches, and from that time its troubles will commence. A party which is in opposition, and has no responsibility, can have no troubles. It is when a party, is charged with the responsibility of carrying out measures and, sooner or later, must disappoint some followers and anger others, that it is really put to the test and trial of achievement. There never yet was a Government - and certainly this one will not do so - which was able to satisfy all its supporters. I do not propose to debate those parts of the opening speech which, in my judgment, conform to the electioneering promises of the Government.Whether the measures which they propose to introduce are for the advantage of the country or otherwise, is a matter upon which I maintain my judgment. But one cannot overlook the fact that the matters that I am referring to were specifically placed before the electors by the Government, and that the country approved of them. The Government can claim, with regard to such measures, that it has a distinct mandate to carry them out. ‘ That being so, where the speech does conform to electioneering, promises I do not propose to say a single word. When the measures are before the Chamber, I take it that the Opposition will not, in any sense, be relieved of its responsibilities. But the country having approved of the measures proposed, and the Government being here with h majority strong enough to carry them, there will4 be no advantage, and, in my opinion, no justification, in the Opposition attempting in any way to prevent their passage. The responsibility of the Opposition will rest, however, in making the measures as equitable and as perfect as possible and in placing on record, and through the press making it clear to the country, the reasons why, in- their opinion, the- measures are undesirable. But the Opposition is not justified, and will not . attempt, I think, to do anything in the nature of attempting to frustrate the Government programme, so long as it conforms to their electioneering promises. But there are matters in the. programme which, to my mind, already indicate the ease with which a Government - backed up by a large majority - can break promises on which it won the right to occupy the Treasury benches. In the first place, I want to deal with the proposal for a financial adjustment. So far as I could understand - and I shall give some evidence in support of my statement - the Government undertook, if the electors rejected the Financial Agreement, to pay the States 25s. per head for ten years.. That was the promise that the Government clearly made, not from one, but from a hundred platforms throughout Australia, and it is a promise which the- GovernorGeneral’s Speech indicates a clear intention of violating. There is no longer any intention of paying the States 25s. a head for ten years; the proposal now is to pay the money for nine years. Of course, Senator Stewart may laugh at that.
– You will be lucky if you get it for four years.
– I am extremely pleased with that interjection. It comes from a member of a party which, having made Ministers, can unmake them. It is a plain intimation that, while Ministers are pretending to offer 25s. a head for nine years, the States may consider themselves extremely lucky if the payment is maintained for four years. I absolutely agree with Senator Stewart in saying that it the party continues in power, the States will be extremely lucky if they do receive the paymentfor four years. For once I find myself in entire agreement with my honorable friend. But let us get back. The promise made by the Government was to pay the States 25s. per head for ten years.
– And it is going to be kept.
– If that is so, I want to know what is the meaning of the part of the Governor-General’s Speech which says that the promise is not to be kept. The speech says now that there is not to be a payment for ten years of 25s. per head, which every reasonable man assumed would be the case after the expiration of the operation of the Braddon section. It says this practically to the States, “ You shall have for nine years a payment of 25s. per head, for six months, the constitutional period the payment provided for which we cannot alter, and during the following six months, completing the ten years’ period, a payment of one or two shillings per head.” That is the way in which the Government propose to redeem their promise to make a payment of 25s. per head for ten years.
– Did not the Premiers’ scheme provide for a payment of 25s. from the 1 st July this year?
– Does my honorable friend now fall back upon an agreement which he asked the electors to reject?
– I do not fall back upon it. I am pointing out what the honorable senator’s party desires.
-Senator Givens is too shrewd to believe that where an agreement is made, and a portion of it is rejected, either party can be held to the remainder of that agreement.
– I do not wish to hold any party to it. Parliament has the power now to make any arrangement it likes.
– If Senator Givens made an agreement with me to give me £20 on condition that I gave him a certain horse, and I said, “ I will reject the latter part of the agreement, but give me the £20,” would not the honorable senator have something to say ? Would he not say, “ No, you must accept or reject the agreement as a whole.” That is exactly the position here. The State Governments offered certain things in consideration of certain things. The present Federal Government are withholding the consideration, which was permanency, and, at the same time, wish now to tie the State Governments to the balance of the agreement.
– I do not wish to tie them to anything.
– Did not the electors decide that?
– I have nothing to do with the Financial Agreement, for two reasons, first of all, because the electors disposed of it ; and next, because the Government should stand by the promise they made during the electoral contest.
– What Government?
– The present Federal Government.
– They were not in existence at the time.
– The honorable senator need not quibble with words in that way . The present Government party definitely promised to pay to the States 25s. per head of the population for ten years.
– Some of them, but not the majority.
– I never promised it.
– I should like to know by what we can bind this marvellous party opposite. When their own promises will not bind them, I should like to know what will ? There was put forward, on be half of the party opposite, a financial manifesto, signed by Mr. Fisher, as leader of the party, and by Mr. Watkins, as whip. In that document it was clearly set out that the party pledged themselves to the payment to the States of 25s. per head of their population for ten years. Senator Givens may say that he is not bound by it. I do not know whether he is or not.
– Some of the honorable senator’s party were not bound by the Financial Agreement?
– My party to-day is not on its trial, but the honorable senator’s party is. The party to which I belong may have broken fifty promises, but that would in no way exonerate honorable senators opposite for the breaking of one. 1 have this advantage - that the charge I am making “cannot be answered in any other than a direct way. To show that my. statement as to what the present Government intended is accurate, I propose to quote from an article appearing in the Age of this morning. Even now the Age is under the impression that the party opposite will stand by their pledge, but the Age has evidently overlooked what appears in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. This is what the Age thinks was the promise made by the Labour party -
Till the 31st December next the States are entitled by law to the full three-fourths of the Customs net receipts. They will get that money in full, and afterwards the Fisher Government proposes to pay them for ten years the exact sum. they asked for - 25s. per head per annum.
As a matter of fact, they do not propose to do anything of the kind. They do not intend to be bound by what they promised prior to the 13th April.
– Has the honorable senator a promise in those terms anywhere about him?
– It was in the party manifesto.
– I say that there is only one way in which to interpret the promise made on behalf of the party, and that my interpretation is correct is proved by the fact that it is indorsed and corroborated by the Age, the official organ of my honorable friends opposite. I do not know whether they have yet gone to the extent of subsidizing it, but certainly no newspaper would work more earnestly for them if they did.
– The honorable senator’s assertion may satisfy his own party, but we would like to know the exact words of the promise.
– From a hundred platforms the statement was made that the Labour party were prepared to make the payment for ten years. I am not asking honorable senators to accept my interpretation. I bring forward the Age, a journal which is surely favorable to the present Government, and it interprets the promise in the way in which I do, and in which every unbiased man must do.
– The honorable senator is old enough not to take any notice of that newspaper..
– I should never suspect the honorable senator of taking notice of anything that told against his own party. It, is a fair interpretation of the pledges given at the last election that the Labour party bound themselves to make the payment of 25s. per head to the States for ten years after the expiration of. the operation of the Braddon section. “The Age goes on to say - and surely it has not imagined all this ?
– It imagines a lot.
– It does, if it imagines the honorable senator’s return to be for the good of the country. The Age further says -
In the Fusion Financial Agreement of last year, they were to begin the smaller payments on the ist of this month. That agreement fell through, and they will receive the large sum, as at present, up to the full completion of the term mentioned in the Constitution Act - 31st December, 1910. That is an enormous gain to th”em»
That is the Age’s interpretation of the pledges of this Government, but the attempt to redeem those pledges is something entirely different. The Government now propose not to pay 25s. per head of population for ten years, but by circumventing the Constitution to pay 25s. per head for nine years, three-fourths of the net Customs receipts which they are bound to pay for six months, and for the further six months completing the ten years’ period, a sum which may represent one or two shillings per head of the population. This is the first evidence we have of the tendency of a Government unrestrained by any strong moral principles, and having behind it a big majority, under a pledge to support the Government so long as a majority of the party decide to do so.
– The sentence referring to moral principles is scarcely worthy of the honorable senator.
– My statement is a fact. We have been told it a dozen times by honorable senators in this Chamber.
– The honorable senator should not look at me in that way. I never told him so.
– Senator Givens did not tell me, because he was aware that I knew it.
– Of course, the honorable senator would, as an old member of the Labour party himself. (
– That has been “busted “ long ago.
– I am not at all sorry that Senator Rae should refer to the past, because it will give me an opportunity to enlighten my honorable friends here by some quotations from that interesting journal, The Hummer, with which the honorable senator was once intimately associated. I may invite them to consider the consistency of a gentleman who to-day advocates a progressive land tax, and who at a former period advised his party not to touch it on the ground that the moment they did they would lay themselves open to the unanswerable accusation of being a class party.
– Is that all the honorable senator has to repeat?
– It is not, but I have matters of more importance to deal with at this moment. Still, I do not wish honorable senators to think that I am here to be shot at without having a few cartridges in my own locker.
– They are all blank, though.
– I have referred to the departure of the party opposite from their promise.
– Is it not possible for the Labour party to extend the term of payment to twenty years if they think it desirable ?
– That is not to the point. This Government promised to pay 25s. per head to the States for ten years, and now they propose to pay that amount only for nine years. That is the net result of the proposal outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s speech.
– The Government as a Government never made such a promise.
– What is the use of quibbling in that way? The party now constituting the Government party went to the electors asking their authority to carry into effect that promise.
– Some of them did.
– How are we to tie down men who are prepared to take such a stand? The promise was set out in an official manifesto, and no one was more emphatic that the fulfilment of such a promise was the policy of the party than were two of the most prominent members of it, Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes.
– I thought it was a non-party question.
- Senator E. J. Russell has never before appeared in this
Chamber as a humorist. He says that the financial question was a non-party question.
– So it was. I should like the honorable senator to enlighten us as to in what way are we bound.
– These interjections are extremely gratifying. Do honorable senators mean to say that they were not bound by the promise? I should like to know what can bind a party.
– Our party cannot be bound by any individual. We are bound only by our own decisions.
– I am pleased to get these declarations, because the sooner it becomes manifest to the country that no one can speak in any way officially on the eve of an election for any member of the Labour party, and that no member of it is entitled to credence except when speaking for himself, the better it will be from my point of view.
– That is the honorable senator’s construction.
– It is. I am not here to give Senator Lynch’s construction of it. I know of only two methods in which a party appealing to the country can be bound - a manifesto by the Leader of the party, and the public utterance’s of the members of the party. I should like to get from any member ofthe Ministry, and especially from Mr. Fisher or Mr. Hughes, a declaration that they never made that promise. They would not make such a declaration for a moment, because the pledge is in black and white above the signature of one of them, and was expressed in a dozen speeches by the other. I wish to refer now to the question of the State debts, and it is again marvellous to me, when I recall the strong attitude taken up on the platform by many of the prominent members of the Labour party, to find that a Government who were going to do so much before the electors, should, after their return with a great majority, find themselves in a position only to express a hope that in this important matter something might be done. If a Government with the great majority which the present Government has secured in both Houses is not competent to deal with the question, and can only express a hope that it may be dealt with, the position must be hopeless indeed. We have never before, in the history of the Federation, had a Government in power so strongly entrenched as is the present Government. I think it is highly improbable that, for many years to come, we shall have another Government occupying an equally strong position.
– We have always had a strong Federal Government.
– We have never had a Government which, by reason of their numerical support in Parliament, were strong enough to cany out their platform entirely. Unless a Government have behind them a sufficient backing, they are not in a position to carry out their programme. That is merely stating a truism, and now that we have a Government with a big majority in both Houses, it is disappointing to me that, with respect to one of the big national questions of Australia, they should feel themselves to be in a position to express only a hope that, at an early date, something may be done.
– The honorable senator does not expect everything to be done at once.
– I expect the Government to have a policy regarding such a matter.
– I thought that the honorable senator was complaining of the length of the programme outlined in the Governor-General’s speech.
– I have not said a word about the length of the speech. I make no complaint on that score, but I might remind the honorable senator that it would not have made the. speech any longer if, instead of merely expressing a hope that the matter would be dealt with, the Government had said definitely that they intended to deal with it. That is what I should have expected from a Government so placed. I pass on to the proposal for the. issue of Treasury notes, and I may say at once that, speaking for myself personally, within certain limitations, I see no objection at all to the State issuing the paper currency of the country.
– Or controlling it.
– Under certain safeguards, as I have said, I can see no objection to the State issuing paper currency. But there are certain dangers connected with this matter ; and it is because of the frequency with which those dangers reveal themselves in practice that I hesitate to approve of the present proposal.
– “ He who hesitates is lost.”
– I was thinking not so much of the adage which my honorable friend has quoted, but of the other proverb which speaks of a class of beings who rush in where others fear to tread. The danger with regard to a paper money issue by a Government - a danger of which we have already had illustrations - is this : A Government pushed for money, temporarily or permanently, may over-issue, with the result that the paper money currency is depreciated.
– If the Bill be properly framed that danger cannot arise.
– I said a few moments ago that I have no objection to a State paper money issue in principle, provided there are certain limitations and certain safeguards. The chief danger, as I have said, is the over-issue of paper money by a Government, and the depreciation which’ is likely to occur in consequence. In view of what has transpired within the last few months, we have need to be especially careful in. this direction. There is hardly a State in Australia which has not, at some time or other, fallen back upon a sinking fund or Trust Funds, in order to make up a temporary shortage of revenue. It is easy enough for Parliament to say, “We decree so and so, and you can surely trust a future Parliament.” But the momenttrouble comes, we have found Governments availing themselves of sinking funds and Trust Funds to meet the needs of the moment.
– What Government has availed itself of Trust Funds?
– The honorable senator’s Government has done so.
– Did it?
– I am surprised to hear that.
– My honorable friend may express his surprise, but I venture to say that he is not half so surprised as the country was when it saw what was done. It may or may not be that the Audit Act has not been complied with in the strictest detail, but that is not just now the question. I want to put this point: Is there any man in Parliament, or out of it, who, if the question were put to him in the way I am about to state it, would affirm that Parliament, in allocating moneys to Trust Funds, ever intended that any Government should take any portion of that money without parliamentary sanction? That is the position. I do not care what the terms of the Audit Act are; when this money was paid into a
Trust Fund it was intended to remain there until Parliament authorized it to be taken out. As a matter of fact, that was specifically stated at the time. When Parliament authorized the allocation of certain moneys for defence purposes, we were distinctly told that, although it was appropriated for defence, it would not be expended in any way until Parliament had an opportunity of declaring its will in the matter. Now, that money has been used for quite other purposes. It may be that it was desirable that that should be done. My point is that there is a danger to be apprehended from a Government which has a great majority behind it, and also that it is not sufficient to say, when moneys are paid into a sinking fund or a Trust Fund, that they cannot be touched without the authorityof Parliament. The danger that has manifested itself in the case of Trust Funds is, I venture to say, likely to occur in relation to a paper currency, unless we delegate control or safeguard the issue of notes in such a way as to remove all fear of an over issue. While I am on this subject, I want, in a free and friendly way, to offer a suggestion to the Government in regard to extending the places at which the notes issued may be redeemed. I think there ought to be one place at least in each State at which it would be possible to redeem them. Travellers leaving Australia, for instance, and going by Adelaide and Fremantle, or up the coast of Queensland, would, unless what I suggest be done, be liable to pay rather heavy discounts on the paper money which they desired to exchange for gold. Unless this suggestion be carried out, the Government will simply be playing into the hands of banks or money changers, who will derive a handsome revenue from changing the notes into gold. I do not think that the Government want that. If they adhere to their present proposals they will make their paper money extremely unpopular without conferring any advantage whatever upon the Treasury, whereas they can easily make their notes very much more acceptable to the public by simply arranging that in each State there shall be one place at which they can be readily converted into gold.
– There should be more than one place in each State.
– I trust that the Government will consider the reasonableness of what I have been saying. Dealing with another subject to which reference is made in the Governor-General’s speech - viz., that of immigration - I have been extremely interested in instituting a comparison between the proposals contained in the speech of 1909 and those of the present year. My honorable friends opposite have always indignantly denied the charge that they were opposed to immigration. They have stated that such assertions were quite contrary to fact. . But when I turn to their Governor-General’s speech of 1909 I find between their declaration as to immigration in that document and the declaration on the same subject in the GovernorGeneral’s speech of this year, a very wide difference, which indicates within what narrow limits they propose to assist or encourage, or perhaps I should say to welcome, immigration. In the speech of 1909 they spoke of “a comprehensive policy of immigration “ being “ urgently called for.” I emphasize that word “comprehensive.” But what is the present policy? It is not a “comprehensive” proposal to-day. It is simply one to induce “ large numbers of people to settle on the lands of the Commonwealth.” The “ comprehensive “ policy has gone, and the Government proposals to-day merely indicate a desire to welcome to our shores farmers who are prepared to settle. That seems to me to justify every statement which has been made, every accusation which has been launched by the members of the Liberal party, with respect to the attitude of the Labour party towards this immigration question.
– Are not farmers the best kind of immigrants ?
– Yes, but they ought not to be the only kind. My honorable friends opposite now narrow themselves down to this - that the only kind of immigrants they are prepared to welcome to Australia are those who come with sufficient capital to be able to commence work on the land as full-blown farmers. If they come here with plenty of money the Government is prepared to receive them.
– The Government are opposed to undesirable immigrants.
– Nobody with any parliamentary experience now talks about undesirable immigrants. I have not heard any man talk of bringing in undesirable immigrants.
– That is what some people propose to do.
– It is proposed to bring a million Jews into Western Australia. Are they desirable?
– The members of all political parties in this country are agreed as to keeping out undesirable immigrants. There has been no proposal to that effect by any political party.
– Yes,in Western Australia. That proposal has been laid before a political party.
– What does that mean? My honorable friend might make a dozen proposals.
– The honorable senator will find a statement in the Age - it was published last year, I think - to the effect that one of his own followers wanted to introduce black labour into Queensland.
– May I compliment my honorable friend on the change of view which has taken place in the outlook of his Ministerial friends since they attended the opening of a Chinese cafe?
– It was the bird’s nest soup that did that !
– If the honorable senator blames me because some members of my party advocate something of which I disapprove, will he apply the same principle to his Ministerial superiors who have seen fit to grace the opening of a Chinese cafe, or will he go without his dinner unless it is prepared by a Chinese cook? Returning to the point, can the Government be said to encourage immigration when they simply desire to receive men who come here with money enough to thoroughly equip and cultivate a farm ? For my own part, I should, of course, welcome that class of immigrants very gladly, but I do not think that it is the only class whom we desire to see in Australia. What the policy of the Government means is that they will allow people to. enter Australia, provided they come with capital which the Labour party will proceed to tax.
– Our policy is to break up the big estates and make room for immigrants.
– I am not arguing about that just now. What I am complaining of is that the Government are only prepared to welcome immigrants provided they are able to buy some part of the estates which it is proposed to break up.
– The honorable senator should not talk such nonsense.
– My honorable friend should not say that it is nonsense when it is contained in the GovernorGeneral’s speech. Let me quote the whole paragraph -
In view of the urgent necessity for encouraging an influx of suitable immigrants to the Commonwealth in order to more effectively develop its great resources and defend it against possible invasion, My Advisers intend to adopt a policy which it is confidently believed will, by making fertile land available, speedily induce very large numbers of people of the right kind to settle on the lands of the Commonwealth.
Does it not follow, as night the day, that the policy of the Government is simply to encourage those who are prepared to come here bringing plenty of money with them? Not a single word is said about inducing others to come. As I have said before, no one wants to see this class of immigrants flow into Australia more heartily than I do. I go further, and say that we can have no better asset for Australia than is obtained by the introduction of a large number of people who are prepared to go upon our lands, and cultivate them. But at the same time, I urge that we ought not to limit our welcome to persons provided with sufficient capital to commence at once to work and occupy our lands. I wish to make reference also to the land tax. Here, again, it seems to me that the Government are breaking away from the promises with which they went to the country. The land tax which they then foreshadowed was to be. a tax forthe purpose of bursting up the big estates with a view of promoting settlement. Now, however, it is to be a land tax on land which not even my honorable friends wish to burst up. It is to be imposed on city lands. You cannot carry on an industry to-day - such an industry as requires for its purposes factories and warehouses - in any of our big cities, upon land the capital value of which may not run into £40,000 or £50,000, or more.
– The Government never proposed to exempt city lands.
– My honorable friend’s jesuitical reply is unworthy of him. They never proposed to tax city lands. The policy with which they went to the country was that of bursting up estates for the purpose of promoting settlement.
– Was that the complete statement?
– There was nota single word-
– Yes there was. There was to be direct taxation for the purposes of defence.
– Do the Labour party require a progressive land tax for defence purposes? I welcome these interjections, because I desire it to be made perfectly clear to the country that a tax which was avowedly brought forward for the purpose of promoting settlement, and which did command a large measure of support by the electors, is now to be used to impose upon industries a burden which they willbe unable to bear. Let me take the case of a big industry which is carried on in Melbourne upon land the capital value of which is £80,000. There are many industries in Melbourne to-day which cannot be possibly conducted upon blocks of less value. Not even Senator E. J. Russell would wish to burst up these factories, because they could not be carried on upon allotments of a capital value of £5,000.
– They are assessed at their full value.
– Of course they are. But where is the sense of imposing a tax avowedly for the purpose of bursting up large estates, and of applying the progressive principle to city lands which can only be held in blocks of big value if business is to be carried on, as it must be carried on in a civilized community?
– What is the use of the honorable senator making a half statement ?
– I cannot make a whole statement at once, as my honorable friend can. The effect of a progressive tax upon lands which the Labour party do not desire to break up, will, in my judgment, be a suicidal and detrimental one to that party. The imposition of a tax upon city lands may be justifiable for revenue purposes, but to apply the progressive principle to lands which the Labour party do not desire tobreak up will accomplish something which they do not wish to accomplish. There is not an honorable senator present who desires to burst up these industrial blocks. Not a single honorable senator will say that he has the slightest wish to disrupt large blocks which are essential to the carrying on of modern businesses.
– Where are these industrial blocks?
– If my honorable friend has perused the newspapers as closely as I believe he does, he must have read an account of some of them being re cently sold in Melbourne by public auction. In Sydney - with which city I am more familiar -I could bring him face to face with dozens of blocks the capital value of which ranges from £50,000 to £80,000, all of which are held by individual businesses, and all of which are necessary to those businesses.
– What wages are they paying?
– Does my honorable friend really think that they will pay higher wages when they have to contribute £2,000 or £3, 000, or £4,000 annually by way of land tax?
– We shall see that they pay no less. They will not miss it.
– All these interjections merely strengthen my argument. Senator McDougall does not attempt to defend the proposal of the Government, but merely affirms that the landholders will not miss the amount of the tax. He argues that because they will not miss it, the Federal Treasury ought to take it. He does not attempt to urge that the proposal is a justifiable one, or that it is economically sound. I venture to say that the Labour party, if they will reason this matter out amongst themselves - I do not ask them to reason it with me, because that would necessitate a degree of candour which I have not yet detected in them - must admit the force of the view which I have expressed. They cannot wish to penalize these big industries. The progressive element in the tax was introduced for the sole purpose of bursting up large estates, and as my honorable friends do not wish to burst up city lands, there can be no. justification for applying that element to those lands. Apart from that, the proposal is open to the objection that it goes beyond the pledge upon which the Labour party went before the electors in April last.
– What about the absentee landlords?
– My honorable friend thinks that I hesitate to express my views upon absentee landlords. I do not. I was merely anxious to indorse in a practical way Senator Ready’s appeal for brevity. But as my friends upon this side of the chamber have selected me as their leader, I do not think that any honorable senator can urge that I am not justified in speaking a little, longer than I otherwise should have done.
– Hear, hear !
– We do ‘not consider that the honorable senator has started yet.
– My friend is perfectly right. 1 wish now to point out what will be the effect of Federal finance generally upon State finance. It occurs to me that it will occasion rude surprise to many electors who supported the present Government, .and, consequently its land tax proposal. Federal finance will render absolutely certain the imposition of State land taxes. With a Federal land tax, it might naturally be thought that there would be no State land taxes. But the action of the Government in regard to its financial proposals will render the imposition of a land tax in the several States inescapable.
– Hear, hear.
– I am very glad to hear Senator Stewart applauding, because he is merely affirming what he has already stated in this Chamber, and what Mr. Watson stated outside of it, namely, that whilst the Labour party were posing as the friend of the small man by providing for an exemption of £5,000, the small land-owners would escape for only a very short time.
– That is, if Senator Stewart had his way.’’
– That will be the effect which must flow from what the party are now doing. We have proof of my contention in South Australia to-day. There, the Government have brought down another progressive land tax. Irrespective of what Government may be in office in the several States, I feel quite satisfied that their financial requirements will render the imposition of land taxation imperative before long. I am not saying whether the course being followed is right or wrong - I am merely dealing with the effect of Federal finance upon State finance. It does seem to me that if the Federal authorities are going to collect taxation on estates of over £5,000 value, the only course open to the States which are urgently in need of revenue, will be to impose a land tax upon estates under that value.
– All the States, except Victoria, have already done that.
– Because I have stated a fact the honorable senator seems to think that I am arguing it.
– With the exception of Victoria, all the States have imposed a land tax.
– I will admit that New South Wales did levy a land tax. Does that satisfy my honorable friend?
– But where is the New South Wales land tax to-day ? There is no land tax in that State other than that which is collected by the local governing bodies.
– It is a land tax all the same.
– But when I speak of a land tax, the honorable senator knows that I am dealing with the further contribution which will be collected by the State Governments. The mere fact that a State Government collects a land tax will not relieve land-owners of their obligation to pay to the local governing bodies.
– Hear, hear.
– Senator Stewart is nothing if he is not thorough, and I respect him for it. He has never hesitated to say that if he had his way, nobody should enjoy an exemption, and that he would make the tax very much higher than that which the Labour party propose.
– I have always said the opposite.
– I have practically concluded my remarks. I only wish to ask the Government to credit me with absolute sincerity when I appeal to them to take steps to enable us to transact our business in a business-like way, with a view to terminating the session - in the past our sessions have been. unduly prolonged - at a reasonable period. I do not say that without realizing that I am under an obligation to assist the Ministry to bring about that happy result. I can assure them that the Opposition have no intention of doing anything to protract the session. Of course, we have our responsibilities, whatever our numbers may be. We stand here as the result of pledges which we gave to the electors. Nobody would expect, or ask, us to forget those pledges, and we have no intention of doing so. Our object will be to assist the Government in transacting the business of the country. Where we differ upon measures, we intend to record our protest and to state our objections. With the exception of one memorable occasion, in which you, sir, and I and Senator Givens were associated, I do not think there has been any attempt to prolong debate in the Senate, and there will be no effort in that direction this session so far as the. Opposition are concerned. That being so, I ask the Government to enable us to terminate our labours a little earlier than we have previously done, seeing that the sessions have invariably closed only a day or so before Christmas.
– I am pleased to note the moderation displayed by the Leader of the Opposition.
– Surely it is nothing new.
SenatorFraser. - The honorable gentleman did not expect anything else?
– I did not expect anything else, and I will tell Senator Fraser why I did not. The Leader of the Opposition has such a small number of followers that it is impossible for him to be in any way belligerent. When he recognises that few of the thirteen members of the Opposition are prepared to support him, his tone necessarily becomes weaker than it would otherwise be.
– We support him unanimously.
– The Leader of the Opposition would need far more encouragement than he is afforded by the unanimous support of Senator Fraser to give him any degree of assurance in dealing with the Government policy. When I look round the Senate, I am delighted to note that the people of Australia have at last come to their senses. ‘ They have at length realized that in the years which have gone they have been sufficiently fooled, and they have resolved either to have one policy or another. Consequently, they have said in a decisive voice, “ Away with your Fusions, your combinations, and your coalitions. Let us have one party with a policy administering the affairs of the country.” I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition is with me in my congratulations to the people of Australia upon bringing about that position. Although a strong element of new blood and vigorous assertiveness occupies the benches on this side, yet every old member of the Senate is, I think, magnanimous enough to view with some degree of sympathy the Leader of the Opposition on account of the depleted ranks of that party. We miss familiar forms and cheerful voices which probably we have heard for years. I believe that every old senator has a certain amount of appreciation of that friendliness which has hitherto existed, but we hope that under the new conditions in the Senate, that spirit of good fellowship will continue, and that when this Parliament expires, it will still prevail here. Now, the Leader of the Opposition has expressed his pleasure at the Government being able to increase the number of Ministers here. I also feel a great amount of satisfaction at that, because six years ago, in the position which I now occupy, I found it very difficult, with the support I then had, to carry on the business of the Government. I am sure that it was fortunate for me, personally, that the period was brief. To-day, however, I have no hesitation in taking up the work, because I know that I am assisted by men who have both the ability and the inclination, and who can be depended upon to take their share of whatever work the Government may present here. With respect to the conduct of business, I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that the Government will do everything it can in a reasonable way to provide the Senate with business, so that its sittings may be as continuous as possible. I am very pleased that Senator Millen has admitted that it is impossible for a body of only thirty-six senators to be so continuously employed as a legislative chamber which contains a little more than double that number of members. I entirely agree with my honorable friend that it would be far better for every member of the Senate if it were possible that, instead of having, a short adjournment for an hour or a day, or three days or a week, the business could be so arranged that those who come from distant States might have an opportunity of visiting them; and, as that could not be carried out with an adjournment for less than three weeks, I hope that business may be so arranged that the opportunity will be brought about.
– The honorable senator is meeting the Opposition on every point.
– Yes, and that shows how agreeable the Government is. Every Government which occupies an equally strong position can afford to be agreeable to such an Opposition as we have here. I was rather amused at Senator Millen’s peculiar references to our position. He remarked that one of our ex-Presidents had stated that, in certain circumstances, either the Federation would kill the States, or the States would kill the Federation, or. something to that effect.
– No, responsible government.
– I know that he put it that responsible government would kill Federation, or that Federation would kill responsible government.
– I did not say that.
– But I put it the other way intentionally, because it seems to me, as I hope to be able to show presently, that there has been a persistent attempt by a majority of the States to kill the Commonwealth and everything connected therewith.
– That statement by me was merely a quotation from Sir Richard Baker.
– I thoroughly understand that, but I want to show that there is really nothing in the point of view from which the honorable senator looked at the question. It was not responsible government which he wanted to attack; nor was it Federation. I am sure that every honorable senator must realize that position. It was something else which has been talked at, ridiculed, and contemptuously referred to by some of the Federal antiquarians - the caucus. It was the caucus which my honorable friend was endeavouring to make it appear to the minds of not only honorable senators present, but the whole people of the Commonwealth, was going to kill the Federation, or responsible government.
– I did not say so.
– What did the honorable senator say?
– It is not correct that I said that it would in any way affect Federation.
– Did the honorable senator mean the Hobart caucus?
– No, the caucus with the banks, and the Vancouver one.
– I want to assure the Leader of the Opposition and his followers, as well as the people of Australia, that the caucus is an institution, which, I hope, will ultimately work out in the best interests of not only the people of Australia, but the people of the whole world. It will shorten, I hope, the period of discussion, clear the minds of those who. have the responsibility of legislating, and strengthen those who are called upon to administer the affairs of government in not only Australia, but every other country where the principle is adopted.
My amusement this afternoon arose out of the continual insinuation or inference, or whatever it may be, that Senator Millen ought to know something about a Labour caucus as he was connected with the Labour party on one occasion. But I would say to my honorable friends on this side that there is no necessity to refer to that matter, because it is quite evident to me and to every other citizen of the Commonwealth that the honorable senator’s association with the Labour party was of such a temporary character that he was never influenced for good in any direction by it. I think, therefore, that the subject might be dropped. I hope that under present conditions the work of the Senate will proceed smoothly, and that we shall have very little friction, or very little cause for bickering, because we are assured by the Leader of the Opposition that he will do everything he possibly can to shorten the session and enable the Government to carry out that portion of their programme which the country has agreed with. But it was very strange that after making such a statement he should at once attack the Government in respect to its proposal with regard to the financial relationship of the Commonwealth and the States. I think that he, as well as every other honorable senator who was here last session, must recognise that the great determination on the part of one side of the Senate was not to place in the Constitution the Financial Agreement which had been come to between the State Governments and the Commonwealth Government. There was not much variance caused bythe length of the period in which the Commonwealth was to pay 25s. per head or the States were to receive that amount. The whole discussion centred round the proposition to put any kind of agreement in the Constitution. The members of the Labour party toa man resisted any such attempt. They went to the country and told the people that there was nothing of a vital character in either the amount of the proposed payment or the period in which it was to be made, but the whole difficulty was in regard to placing the agreement in the Constitution. During the recess I visited various States. In common with other senators, I went through an electioneering campaign, and I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that from almost every platform there was a diversity of statement, although the conclusion might be unanimous, as it is at present. There was Senator Guthrie declaring wherever he went that he could only bind himself to the extent of the term for which the electors of South Australia elected him, namely, six years. On the other hand, Senator Story was prepared, so far as the term was concerned, to be indefinite, and I, as a rule, stuck to the period of ten years. I feel sure that if Senator Millen will take the reports from every other? State, he will find that there was the same diversity of opinion amongst the successful candidates as there was in South Australia, except as regards the question of putting an agreement in the Constitution.
-The other matter was a detail.
– No man has a right to give a pledge for a future Parliament.
– I think, with Senator Guthrie, that a man should only pledge himself for the term of the Parliament to which he is elected, but conditions might arise in which it would be necessary to do something. If a man knew that he was going to die within a year, he would be a fool to pledge himself for a longer period. But these things, I think honorable senators must agree, are not vital to the present position. The Labour party has triumphed. I was very sorry the other day for the Leader of the Opposition and some of his friends, when there was not a single senator sworn in to support them . The new senators took seats on this side. So unanimously were the people of Australia in favour of the policy of the Labour party that they did not give my honorable friends a show. As regards the financial position and the proposition of the Government in the opening speech, I think that we have been very generous to the States. From the 1st July, 1909, the Commonwealth Government took over the responsibility of providing old-age pensions, which had cost the different States enormous sums. It may be said that some States had no provision for oldage pensions, but I am not going to justify them because they had not. But I am going to say that they had them in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, where the vast majority of the people of Australia reside, and where practically the, whole of the old-age expenditure is incurred. That has been taken over by the Commonwealth Government. The exTreasurer, Sir John Forrest, made it appear to the people that, by the taking over of such an enormous expenditure to give the poor old men and women of Australia something which might introduce a ray of happiness into their lives, we should be faced with a deficit of £1,200,000. When the Conference was held between the Premiers and Treasurers of the States and representatives of the Commonwealth, this was, no doubt, pointed out and weighed considerably with the representatives of the States in considering the concessions to be made to the Commonwealth in order to keep the Fusion Government in power. One of the concessions agreed to was that the State Governments’ should relieve the Commonwealth to the extent of £600,000 of the anticipated deficit of £1,200,000 through the taking over of the old-age pensions expenditure.
– On account of the permanency of the proposed settlement.
– No, that was not suggested. The £1,200,000 was not affected by the permanency or otherwise of the Financial Agreement. It had nothing to do with it. I am sorry that the blotting pads were destroyed, and that every evidence of what was done at that secret caucus was removed, but what 1 have stated is known, and it is known that, for the very same reason, the State Governments were prepared to determine the operation of the Braddon section of the Constitution as from 1st July of this year. Senator Millen, and every member of his party, is aware of that.
– To secure permanency.
- Senator Millen, in common with myself, has heard it argued in the Senate that, by fixing a limit of ten years, or any definite period to the operation of the agreement, we shouldhave had a greater assurance of permanence than by putting it in the Constitution. Surely Senator Millen is not going to back down from that argument now.
– I did not say that.
– We all heard it said, but it is only those who lookedforward all the time who were successful at the elections. So far as the Financial Agreement is concerned, are the present Government not now justified in considering the best interests of the people, rather than the interests of any particular State? In the propositions in the Governor’s Speech, and in everything they will attempt in the House of Representatives, or in the Senate, will they not be carrying out their duty to the electors who sent them here with such a large majority? I have read the leading article which appeared in the Age of this morning, and I say that the State Governments really have something to congratulate themselves upon.
– Is the article correct?
– Is Senator Millen prepared at any time to admit the correctness of anything which appears in the Age ? I remember the time when the honorable senator used to ridicule and scorn the Age in connexion with some of its fiscal propositions. I am surprised that he should have any lingering doubts in his mind as to the accuracy of what appears iri that newspaper, in view of the attitude he used to adopt towards it.
– Is the article which the honorable senator refers to correct?
– If the honorable senator, will restrain his impetuosity, I will tell him. Seeing that we have taken over the responsibility of paying old-age pensions, and have indorsed a defence policy which I believe is recognised as a great policy by all the people of Australia, and in view also of the fact that we have taken over the quarantine and many other non-paying services, is it unreasonable to ask that some consideration should be extended to the Commonwealth Government? Have the State Governments not as much right to be under an obligation to a Labour Government as they had to be under obligations to the Fusion Government? They were prepared to ‘be responsible for £600,000 of the anticipated deficit of £1,200,000, and to accept 25s. per head of population from the first of this month at the instance of the Fusion Government.
– For electioneering purposes.
– Yes, for electioneering purposes. In the circumstances, is it not only fair that we should say to them now, “ We expect you to stick to your bargain”? I say that it is fair. We are carrying the obligation, and the State Premiers and Treasurers’ know it. They are aware that under existing conditions it is impossible for us to meet these financial obligations unless we go to the London, Australian, or some other money market and borrow money to pay for the ordinary services of the Commonwealth.
– Then the Age’s statement is not correct?
– I have not yet finished with the Age’s statement. The members of this Government are not responsible for any statement which may have appeared in the Age. They think they are justified in asking the State Governments to agree to the arrangement I have indicated, an arrangement which they were prepared to make themselves. I am sure that some of them will agree to the arrangement, and will be prepared to do all they possibly can to maintain the stability of the Commonwealth. Now, what does Senator Millen and the Opposition wish us to do? If he were replying, the honorable senator would say that it is not the business, of the Opposition to do anything. We are not asking them for their advice on this occasion, and the Government are going to do exactly what has been stated in the Governor-General’s Speech, without reference to anything which has appeared in the Age, the Argus, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, or anywhere else. I can say with a clear conscience, and without fear of contradiction, that it would be a good thing for Senator Millen and many of his supporters on the other side of the chamber to read what has appeared in the Age during the last month, and to take notice, of their warnings to the opponents of the policy before Australia to-day.
– When 1 do read the Age, the honorable senator says that it is incorrect. ,
– I do not know that it is necessary that I should discuss the financial proposals further. It is the intention of the Government to carry out the policy set forth in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. Senator Millen puts it in another way, but I have indicated what the honorable senator would do if he were in the position of the Government. Under the Constitution, the Government have no power to pay 25s. per head of population to the States before the 1st January next, even if an Act were passed dealing with the question.
– The Government do not propose to pay it even then.
– Do we not? We shall see about that when the time comes. I wish to tell the honorable senator, in order to ease his mind, that if the State Governments are not prepared to meet the Commonwealth Government in a fair and liberal spirit, the Commonwealth Government will be compelled to take such action as will place them in a safe financial position. That is what Senator Millen himself would do if he were a member of the Federal Government. I believe it to be in the best interests of the State Governments themselves that they should fall in agreeably with the Commonwealth Government. If we are compelled to pay them three- fourths of the Customs revenue up to 31st December, we shall be placed in such a position that when we are dealing with this financial legislation, we shall have to make arrangements to retain, during the next half of the year, an amount equivalent to what we should have had if the agreement started from the ist July of this year. That is the proposal in the Governor- General’s Speech, and it is a course which Senator Millen would adopt if he were leading the Government.
– I have not said whether it is good or bad, but that it is in violation of the election pledges of honorable senators opposite.
– There is no violation of our election pledges contained in anything proposed by the Government at the present time. Senator Millen was rather indignant about the land tax proposals of the Government, and endeavoured to suggest that the Labour party are prepared to violate their pledges to the people even in that matter. Nothing of the kind. No member of the party has’ ever proposed any description of taxation that would not be to some extent revenue producing. When we were passing the protective Tariff, Senator Millen recognised that it must be revenue producing, and did what he could to make it so. Every one knew that a protective Tariff would be revenue producing.. Nearly every member of the Labour party, in speaking throughout the country in connexion with land taxation;”’ deplored the land monopoly that exists in Australia, and looked forward to the time when the party would be-in power and in a position to impose taxation which would have the effect of breaking up that monopoly. But in their wildest dreams they never imagined that it was not going to produce revenue. It is the duty of the Federal Treasurer when considering taxation proposals to make estimate’s ot the revenue to be derived from various sources. In connexion with the revenue anticipated to be derived from the imposition of a land tax, the Treasurer at the present time - and the Government with him: - are making calculations as to how that revenue is to be raised, for the purpose of carrying on the government of the country in more liberal and progressive directions than were ever attempted by any Government in the Commonwealth in the past. But because the imposition of a land tax of this description will press hardly on some of the friends of the Opposition, Senator Fraser, and other gentlemen, the Labour party is accused of inconsistency. “Why,” it is asked, “ impose a progressive land tax on the large properties in the various cities in Australia ? “ Well, sufficient evidence has been elicited in New South” Wales, in Victoria, and in the other States to show that the holders of properties attaining to enormous value in our great cities are in a position to pay higher taxation than any individual or company owning country lands. Take Sydney or Melbourne. Every penny that is spent on improving those cities adds to the stream of business’ that makes profit for the owners of city lands. In the face of the fact that we have had men dying and leaving fortunes of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to their heirs and successors, is there not clear evidence that the avenues of trade created by .roads and railways and improved by public works, have made wealth for these property-owners which enables them to pay any reasonable tax that may be imposed by a Labour or any other Government? I would ask the Leader of the Opposition whether there is any section of the community that is in greater need of the protection of the community afforded by naval and military means than the class which owns vast wealth in the centres of population? Is it not, then, their duty to contribute more largely than other classes do? But what I blame the Leader of the Opposition for especially is this - that he has endeavoured to create an erroneous impression in the minds of the people in putting his points on this subject to them. Where are the manufacturing blocks in the city of Melbourne that cost anything like as much as ,£50,000 or £100,000? There are no doubt business sites of great value in which some measure of manufacturing may be carried on, but the great manufacturing industries of every city are, as a rule, carried on in the suburbs. When the dearness of land in the centres of population becomes a factor which adds to the cost of production, manufacturers gradually shift their factories farther and farther out into the suburban areas. Senator Millen knows these things perfectly well, and it is unfair for him to try to put a false idea before the people of Australia in his. attempt to condemn the policy of the Labour party. I think thatI have now said enough in relation to our taxation proposals. I will come to another question. I should be very sorry to suppose that Senator Millen does not understand this question, because, in common with many other honorable senators who have had a long acquaintance of him, I give him full credit for ability, and also for sincerity. But when he talks as he has done to-day about the land tax, his observations are calculated to make those who do not know him believe that he understands very little about the subject, or else that he has been trying to mislead the public. In reference to the proposed note issue, he said that any Government - no matter whether a Labour Government or any other; he was. very charitable in saying that - when pushedinto a tight corner would not scruple to interfere with a sinking fund or with trust money. I am not going to say anything about Trust Funds or sinking funds at present. The Treasurer knows more on that subject than Senator Millen does or than 1 do. But I will say that there is no intention, no idea, no possibility of anything of that kind occurring in connexion with any note issue with which the Labour Government will have anything to do. Senator Millen intimated that if the Commonwealth Government got into a tight corner it would probably issue more notes than the requirements of the public demanded, and that consequently the notes would depreciate in value.
– What I said was that the danger of a paper currency was depreciation through over-issue.
– Does the honorable senator know anything about the paper currency system of Queensland? Will he answer that question? He has nothing to say. Apparently he does not know.
– As to what the Government are going to do, no one does know. They do not know themselves.
– The country has been told. Senator Millen must have been behind the door, or else he was listening through the keyhole, and a draught caused him to misunderstand.
– The country has been told by whom?
– By the Prime Minister, the members of the Government, and the members of the Labour party.
– That does not bind anybody, I am told.
– It sometimes does.
– When it suits.
– On this occasion there is certainly no necessity to go beyond the declaration of the Government. The members of our party are perfectly satisfied with it. It has been repeatedly stated that the Commonwealth note issue is to be on the lines of the Queensland note issue. Does Senator Millen know anything about the Queensland note issue?
– I have a most complete exposition of it in my pocket at the present moment.
– Does the honorable senator realize that the Commonwealth note issue is to be on the same basis ?
– I have yet to learn that.
– It has been stated at least a dozen times. I state it now for the thirteenth time - that is, once for every member of the honorable senator’s party !
– Does the honorable senator know also that the Queensland note issue was manipulated in the way I said that any State note issue could be manipulated ?
– Never !
– It was.
– Never ! And if the honorable senator has a complete exposition of the Queensland note issue in his pocket, it would have been a good thing if he had read it to the Senate.’ He might have asked frankly whether that was the system to be adopted by the Commonwealth Government. It would have been a fair thing for him to do. Instead of that, he made a statement which is calculated to create a wrong impression wherever it is read. I wish to tell the honorable senator that under the Queensland system no note can be issued at all unless it is required by some one of the banks ; and when the banks want notes, they have to go to the Queensland Treasurer and put down a sovereign for every note that they get. If that be the Queensland note issue system, and if we intend to follow the Queensland method, what danger can there be? Further, under the Queensland note issue system, the Queensland Government, or the Trustees appointed by that Government, are compelled to keep 25 per cent. in gold in readiness to redeem any notes that have been issued and may be brought to the Treasury.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is it intended by the present Government to appoint Trustees to hold the reserve?
– I am telling the Senate about the Queensland system.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - -I want to know what the Commonwealth Government propose to do.
– I should like the honorable senator to listen to my statement, and then he will not be misled. I have said that the Commonwealth note issue will be as nearly as possible on the same lines as the Queensland note issue. Is not that fair enough? Under the Queensland system the Trustees, as I have explained, are required to hold 25 per cent, of the value of the notes issued in gold. Consequently, the Queensland system requires a sufficient margin of gold to meet at any time 25 per cent, of the notes issued. Furthermore, no note is issued unless a sovereign is deposited for it.
– That is the forced loan of the Government.
– The honorable senator did not say anything about a forced’ loan in his speech. He never asked me to tell him anything about that.’ Why did he not refer to it ? I am replying to what he said.
– Senator Millen said that he approved- of the principle of a State note issue as long as the reserves were all right.
– The honorable s.ena.tor mistook me if he thought that all I wanted was security in gold reserve.
– I shall go further. Under the Queensland method, which, I believe, will be adopted by the Commonwealth, as soon as the power to issue is conferred by the Government on the Treasurer, or the Trustees, or whoever the authorities may be, a bond is also placed in the hands of those Trustees. If £4.000,000 in notes were issued, there would be placed in the hands of the Trustees £4,000,000 worth of bonds, that could be disposed of so as to maintain the credit of Australia, just as, under the same system, they could be disposed of in Queensland if the credit of that State were at stake. That is the douBle security, which the people of Australia will have, so far’ as any Commonwealth note issue is concerned. I would also point out that, although similar legislation has been, in existence .in Queensland for seventeen years, not a single occasion has arisen upon which even 25 per cent, of the gold reserve has been required, or upon which it has been necessary to issue one single pound’s worth of the bonds at the disposal of the State Government. That circumstance ought to dispel any doubt which we might otherwise have in respect to the safety of any note issue by the Commonwealth. Honorable senators opposite ought to. suspend judgment upon that question until the Bill dealing with it is submitted for their consideration. A great deal has been said in connexion with the subject of immigration. It has been urged that the Labour party are opposed to immigration. That was the statement which was broadcasted throughout the Commonwealth during the last election campaign. But the Leader of the Opposition has now modified that statement. He does not say that the Labour party are entirely opposed to immigration, but that we are opposed to the admission of all immigrants save those who are about to settle upon the land, and who are possessed of a little bit of capital.
– The class to which I belong.
– The honorable senator cannot help belonging to a far- wider class as every immigrant who settles on the land must if effect be given to our policy. If the lands of Australia are thrown open, ‘ and if ‘ our conditions are so improved as to’ offer sufficient inducement to people abroad to come to the Commonwealth, they will be welcomed here in thousands. There will then be .no occasion to spend thousands of pounds in bringing them ‘ here, although, in certain cases, I do not think that the Government would be opposed to that course. But I wish to tell the Leader ot the Opposition the class of immigrants to whom the Labour party are opposed. He was a member of this Senate when the Immigration Restriction Act was passed’. That Act enumerates the kind of immigrants to the admission of whom the Labour party are opposed. In other words, we are opposed to flooding Australia with disease, with criminality, and with immorality of every description.
– So is everybody.
– The immigrants to whose admission we are opposed are clearly specified in the Act to which I have referred. When effect is given to the policy of the Labour party, and when people in other parts of the world realize the superior conditions which obtain here, they will be attracted in this direction, and I feel sure that we shall then have an influx of desirable immigrants as great as that experienced in any other country. Senator W. Russel] knows that ‘ when our lands are thrown open, and when the agriculturist, the pastoralist, and the horticulturist settle upon them, the services of builders, masons, bricklayers, carpenters, blacksmiths, engineers, and of labourers of every description, will be required. Every member of the Labour party is looking to the adoption of its policy to stimulate ari influx of desirable immigrants to Australia - an influx which will be an object lesson to the rest of the world. I am sure that if effect be given to the policy which is set out in the Governor-General’s Speech - and, with the Leader of the Opposition, I hope that we shall not require a long session in order to give effect to it - the conditions which ob-, tain in our midst will be vastly improved, and the opposition to the Government will grow less at every election.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [5.30].- This is the first opportunity which I have had for a considerable time to offer a few observations on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. Although political parties are divided as .they are in this Chamber, it behoves every honorable senator upon this side, at the earliest possible moment, to make known- his views upon those matters of special importance which are outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. The present occasion also affords me an opportunity of saying a few words in regard to certain incidents which occurred antecedent to the meeting of this Parliament. In that connexion I wish to emphasize the very grave departure which has been made by the Ministry from the principles which have hitherto characterized the formation of Governments and the placing of their policies before Parliament. We recently witnessed the remarkable spectacle of an honorable member of the other Chamber- who was previously leading the Opposition - upon being called upon to take the reins of government, being denied the right to select his own colleagues. Hitherto we have never known of an instance in which Ministers were not selected by the Prime Minister.
– W e are here to make precedents, not to follow them.
– I heard that statement made a good many years ago, when the Labour party first appeared upon the political platform.
– And before that.
– The statement may have been made previously, but I heard it authoritatively then for the first time. I feel that the Labour party have adopted an innovation, which is a very dangerous one. The Prime Minister is responsible for the actions of his Government, but how can he be saddled with that responsibility if he is not permitted to choose his colleagues?
– He was allowed to do that.
– It is a matter of notoriety that ballot after ballot was taken in order to determine what gentlemen should be his colleagues.
– Mr. Fisher was present, and exercised his vote.
– But he was only one man out of sixty or seventy who were present. It may be that every individual who was selected as. a colleague would have been selected by him had he been granted absolute freedom of choice. That is possible. But he could not say to the caucus, “ I am going to have Mr. A., B., and C. as my colleagues.” Had he done so, the caucus would have said, “ We are going to determine who shall be- your colleagues. We intend to hold you in the hollow of our hands.”
– Does the honorable senator admit that any party is qualified to appoint its own leader?
.- Of course I do. But having done that, the Labour party might at least have allowed the Prime Minister to select his colleagues. Their action brings us back to the old idea that Parliament should select its own Ministers. Let us suppose that this Parliament had done that. Under that system one man might be selected who held certain views upon a particular question, and he might have associated with him as a colleague an individual who held diametrically opposite views.
– That was the position of the last Government.
– The late Government - and I do not profess to have been in their secrets, because I never attended any of their caucus meetings-
– Then they held caucus meetings?
– All party meetings are now called caucuses. But the decisions arrived at by political parties other than the Labour party do not bind a man body and soul or compel him to say that what in his opinion is black is white. That is one of my chief objections to the Labour caucus. What was the object of its members meeting together but to relieve the Ministry of a certain amount of responsibility, to enable it to submit a policy to Parliament and to avoid discussion here. Debate is the very breath of parliamentary life, and discussion is absolutely necessary in order to enable the public outside to form their own opinions upon the merits of any question. Of course, the Labour party have a perfect right to adopt their own methods. But I hold that the precedent which they have established will prove a lamentable one if it is to be permanently introduced into our system of parliamentary government.
– “ The old order changeth.”
– Yes, and sometimes that which takes its place is not an improvement.
– And a great many of the old brigade have passed away.
– That is so. However, that is the fortune of war, and I think that we shall all submit to it with very good humour.
– Some of them may come back again.
– As my honorable friend reminds me, some of them may yet come back. I come now to the novel idea that a caucus should determine the policy of the Government. At the recent caucus of the Labour party, a draft of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech was submitted for consideration. The public do not know why any particular course has been determined upon by that caucus. They may have obtained an idea from speeches previously delivered upon the hustings, but they donot know what took place when the members of the party met together in secret conclave to consider how best they might govern the country and stick to the Treasury benches.
– Did the honorable senator denounce the Premiers’ Conference for the same reason?
– It must never be forgotten that we have not, and never will be, afforded an opportunity of hearing the reasons which led the members of that caucus to conclude that the policy set forth in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is the best that can be put before the country. Why do we meet in Parliament? _ To debate measures which may be submitted for our consideration - measures which the Government regard as the best in the interests of the community. We want the benefit of every honorable senator’s opinion upon the legislation that is proposed. We want every honorable senator to be afforded an opportunity of expressing his views, so that the public may judge whether he is in accord with them.
– Where is the Opposition ?
– When the Ministerial caucus was held, I understand that there was an Opposition present, but the proceedings were not conducted in the light of day. This fact marks a novel condition of affairs. A majority of the members of both branches of the Legislature embraced the opportunity of meeting in secret conclave to determine the policy of the Government for reasons which have” not been made public.
– But the public are the Labour party. They know all about it.
– Not yet. Upon a vote of 62 per cent. of the electors enrolled, the Labour party obtained a small majority of the total votes recorded. Had it not been for the intrusion of candidates who secured only a small number of votes, the whole appearance of this Chamber might have been altered. Personally, I wish that 100 per cent. of the electors had voted.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to say that, because he was not contesting a seat.
.- I have made the statement frequently, and I am prepared to make it again on the hustings three years hence. The course adopted by the Labour party was novel, and not, I think, for the good of the community, because, whatever views we and our friends may hold, the public have a right to know what is influencing or actuating us. It is perfectly true that, after the secret Parliament had finished itswork, its members who had heard one another’s views, come here and speak practically with loud acclaim in support of the policy of the Government. One of the objections to the caucus is that sixty-one men may enter the. room, and although thirty of them may be of one opinion, yet as soon as they come out they have to vote with the others, and not one of them may put forward any strong opinions against the policy of the Government.
– Was the honorable senator ever in the caucus?
– Then how does the honorable senator know what is done?
– Simply from conversation with my honorable friends who have been in the caucus, and from many little hints which they have given.
– Why is the honorable senator worrying about that section of the public which supports the Labour party? It knows our policy and our methods.
– A very large number of the electors have not yet recorded their votes. I object altogether to the practice for the reasons which I have given. The Leader of the Government here has given two or three very good reasons in his opinion for having a caucus. He says that it shortens the discussions, and relieves Ministers of responsibility. Ministers enter the room humbly with their policy and say, “ Here is what we propose to do; will you be so kind as to accept it and help us? If you will not take this policy, tell us what you do want : we are here to give you what you want. We are following the principles of our old friend who said -
A marciful Providunce fashionedus holler,
O’ purpose thet we might our principles swaller.
If this policy does not suit you to-day, tell us what will suit, and we will give it to you.”
– The object of the caucus is to prevent persons from swallowing their principles.
– That may be so, but a great many men have to swallow a good portion of their principles.
– Many men would have been in the party to-day, only that in it they could not swallow their principles.
-I am glad to get that statement, from the Minister. There are many men outside the Labour party now because they cannot swallow their principles. Men, when they are independent, cannot afford to do so. The Government propose to bring forward many measures, but we on this side want to know why it is necessary that certain legislation should be submitted to the Parliament ? We must assume that there is a reason of a public nature for doing so. One of the last things to which the Minister alluded in his speech was the question of a Commonwealth note issue. I want to know why it is. necessary for the Commonwealth to enter upon that particular business. Hitherto we have had the note issues of the various banks. So far as I am aware, there is no complaining on the part of the public with regard to the present position of affairs.
– Oh, dear.
– The banks are in a far better position to give to the public absolute safety and security with regard to note issues than could any Government subject to changes from time to time.
– What about the Van Diemen’s Land Bank?
– The Government has all the resources of the nation behind it.
– The note issue of a bank is a first charge upon its assets. Taking them all through, it will be found that the banks in Australia are in a very strong position, and that they could redeem their notes half-a-dozen times over if the necessity arose.
– What reason was there for the Dibbs Act of 1893 making the notes of the Bank of New South Wales legal tender?
– That was done for a limited period, to prevent a rush upon the banks at a time when the whole country was in a state of panic.
– The notes have all been redeemed or are redeemable.
– Yes, and no one has lost any money through that legislation. But putting that matter on one side, has there been any demand by the public for a Commonwealth note issue? I am not thinking of the men who have practically no interest at stake, but of the public who have moneys deposited in the banks. Has there been any outcry on their part to have a change made in regard to the issue of bank notes?
– Does the honorable senator say we should never pass any legislation unless there is a demand for it?
– The Government should not initiate legislation of this character unless there is a demand shown for it. Roughly speaking, there is about £4,000.000 worth of bank notes in circulation throughout Australia. There is ample security for the note issue. And while the banks can redeem, and if necessity arises will redeem, the whole of their notes, there is no need for issuing Commonwealth notes. There is not a man in this Parliament who, if he has a £1 or £5 note in his pocket, has any doubt that he could get face value for it to-morrow morning.
– On the morning the banks closed I saw a £1 note sold in the street for 13s. 6d.
– Very many men who held shares in banks were in a great hurry to get rid of their shares when they heard of the bank crisis ; they were only too glad to sell at a discount, but afterwards they were very sorry that they did. That was simply due to the fright which persons will take. The Labour party propose to take £4,000,000 out of the use of the people of the Commonwealth. Bank notes are at best only I.O.U.’s,but they represent money, to be used in the development of the country. The Labour party propose to take that money out of use. They are going to say to the banks, “ You must withdraw all that money, and anything which you use in the future must be Treasury bills, Commonwealth notes or gold.” The Vice-President of the Executive Council told us just now that no note would be issued until a sovereign was put in the hands of the trustees.
– Twenty-five per cent.
.- No, the Minister said that no notes would be issued by the Commonwealth until £1 was put in the hands of the trustees, although he said that the latter would hold only 5s. against every £1 note issued. The banks hold many pounds against each note which is in circulation. If the members of the Labour party say to a bank, “ You have to redeem your notes, and if you want 4,000,000 more notes you will have to pay cash;” at any rate, one sum of £4,000,000 will be withdrawn from use, and to that extent the country will become poorer, because the interests of the banks and the interests of the country are interwoven. While the banks make a profit, the man in the country who borrows from them makes a profit also - otherwise he would be a great fool to borrow. The Labour party want toput £4,000,000 worth of notes out of circulation. Although the banks will no doubt be permitted, if they see fit, to issue bank notes, still there will be such a tax levied upon them that they will not be able to avail themselves of the privilege. At present they pay to the State Governments a tax of 2 per cent. on every note which they issue. What I desire to impress upon my honorable friends opposite is that the £4,000,000 will be taken out of circulation. Now, why do the banks have notes? Wherever branches are established in the country it is a convenience to have bank notes there together with a small amount in gold. That enables a circulation of money to take place which otherwise would not be as efficiently effected. With newly-established brandies in sparsely populated places very often there is really no profit made. In very many cases this convenience which is given to the public in country places will be liable to be withdrawn, owing to the expense entailed upon the banks under the proposal of the Labour party. There has been, I repeat, no demand from the public for the issue of Commonwealth notes. The next question is - Why should the Government entertain the idea at all; why do they bring it forward now ? We are told that they have determined to abstain from borrowing; in other words, to obtain the necessary revenue as well as they can without resorting to the money market. By the issue of £4,000,000 worth of bank notes, they expect to have placed in their hands 3,000,000 sovereigns with which they can do as they see fit, and on which they will not be called upon to pay interest.
– Will not that go into circulation ?
– The Government will have a reserve of 25 per cent., but with the balance of £3,000,000 they can play ducks and drakes as they see fit and without being liable to pay a fraction of interest. If the Government want £3,000,000 more revenue, would it not be more honest to go to the money lenders, and say, “ We want £3,000,000, and will pay you a fair rate of interest?”
– That would not be business.
– It would be honesty and business, too. If I want to borrow money I go to a “bank, get what I require, and pay interest on it. No Government has a right to say to the people of this country, “ We will take £3,000,000 of your money, and pay you no interest in respect of it, but give you paper in exchange.” If the Government believed that there would be no. bank notes issued to-morrow they would have nothing to do with the proposed Bill.
– Paper . is much handier to carry than sovereigns.
– Sometimes. The Government want a forced loan from the people without the necessity to pay interest thereon.
– To convenience the people of the Commonwealth.
– No; what more convenience will it be to ‘the public to have a Commonwealth note rather than a bank note?
– There will be a bigger credit behind the public note.
– It will do away with the exchange on bank notes.
– There is no exchange now on bank notes.
– I paid exchange on a bank note in Brisbane tlie other day.
– Does Senator Gould get interest on his current account?
.- - No, but I can withdraw my money whenever I see fit. A current account is kept only for convenience, but when the balance is largely in excess of requirements, it is then dealt with otherwise. The Government propose to take a forced loan, and what security are they offering for it? Whilst we are told that people will be able to redeem these Commonwealth notes at the Treasury in Melbourne, or at the Federal Capital, wherever it may be, I trust the Government will realize that it will be desirable to provide that holders of these notes shall be able to obtain gold for them in any of the capital cities of the States.
– The security of the notes will be the credit of the entire Commonwealth.
– But the honorable senator forgets that the Commonwealth authority has certain limitations in dealing with money. That brings me to another question. It is proposed to take £3,000,000, and to keep £1,000,000 in reserve. But what safeguards are to be adopted.
– Trustees are to be appointed.
– That may be so, but Parliament might pass an Act the next day to take the money out of .the hands of those trustees. We have passed an Audit Act which declares that no money shall be taken from the Trust Fund except by authority of an Act of Parliament. How has that provision of -the law been honoured ? Has it been honoured in the breach or in the observance? We know that £50,000 was taken out of the Trust Account by the Government within the last two or three weeks.
– Who says so?
– The Prime Minister has said so.
– Not only did he say that £50,000 was taken, but that he proposed to take a further considerable sum from the Trust Fund, and he did not seem to realize the fundamental principle underlying the Audit Act, that no money shall be taken from the Trust Fund except by a vote of Parliament.
– The Prime Minister said that it might be necessary to get the consent of Parliament.
– He admitted a technical breach of the Audit Act.
– The honorable gentleman went so far as to say that if the law advisors of the Crown said it was a breach of the law, he would, of course, obey the law. But I wish honorable senators to realize that he had these words of the 61st section of the Audit Act staring him in the face when he took the action he did -
It shall not be lawful for the Treasurer to expend any moneys standing to the credit of the Trust Fund except for the purposes of such fund or under the authority of an Act.
That section has been distinctly violated, and under conditions which show that the Government did not realize the serious character of their action.
– The Government realized everything.
– Perhaps this is another case in which they seek to obtain a loan without paying interest. It is all very well for honorable senators to try to gloss over the action of the Government in this matter, but we know very well what would be thought of any person in private employment who borrowed money in such a way from his employer even with the intention of putting it back the following day, or the following week. We know that he would be in a very awkward position.
– But suppose the employer borrowed from himself?
– If we take the case of the lawyer who utilizes for his own purposes money belonging to his clients, we know what happens when his action is brought under the notice of the Court. He loses his position, and in some cases is sent to gaol.
– What should the Treasurer do if he were short?
– He could go to a bank and borrow what was necessary.
– If he did, he would be violating the Audit Act just the same.
– Will the honorable senator tell me what section of the Audit Act would prevent the Treasurer from borrowing money from a bank?
– The section the honorable , senator has quoted prevents the Treasurer from spending any money without the authority of Parliament.
– No; the section I quoted refers to Trust Funds established for a specific purpose. We know that in practice sometimes one vote is occasionally drawn upon to supplement another ; but it must be done by the authority of the law. When we find such a violation of the law taking place as that to which I have referred, and that an attempt is made to justify it, I have a right to ask what security is provided by vesting in trustees a million sovereigns, and ‘issuing notes to the value of £4,000,000. If the reserve were placed in a Trust Fund, which might be dealt with exactly as the other fund to which I have referred has been dealt with, where would be the security for these notes? I admit that if the reserve is vested in independent trustees, some degree of security is provided, because, before they could be interfered with, the authority of an Act of Parliament, which must be dealt with in the open light of day, would have to be obtained. I do not suppose that any member of the Senate contemplates the possibility of £1 Treasury notes being sold for 10s. or 15s. Honorable senators do not realize that it is possible such a state of affairs could arise, but it has arisen in other parts of the world. It has arisen in America, where, at one time, it was possible to purchase for $1 in coin an article for which the purchaser would have to pay $5 in paper money, through depreciation of the currency. We must have strong coin reserves if our paper currency is not to be depreciated, and in my opinion we need a higher reserve than 25 per cent. The note issue of Queens-“ land has been referred to, but when it was initiated, the Queensland Government, and practically the whole State, were in a state of bankruptcy, and it was necessary to adopt heroic measures to save the credit of the country.
– The note issue has been maintained in Queensland ever since.
– Arrangements had. to be made for the payment of 30 per cent, in cash, leaving the balance of 70 per cent, covered by deposit receipts from the banks, payable at some future time, and carrying 2 per cent, interest. The circumstances in Queensland at the time were_ entirely different from those existing in the Commonwealth at present, and the Treasury note issue was adopted as one of the means to grapple with the financial difficulty. There is no such need for the adoption of such a financial proposal in the Commonwealth today. It is true that the Queensland Treasury note system has been maintained, but it was proposed at a time when the State was in difficulty, and the financial institutions were not in a position to give assistance in the ordinary way. There is another reason why I object to the proposed note issue. Honorable senators should bear in mind that the States, other than Queensland, derive a revenue of £80,000 or £85,000 per annum from a tax of 2 per cent, imposed upon the issue of note’s by the banks. I should like to know whether the Government propose to interfere with the Queensland note issue.
– Or with the Queensland gold reserve?
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - I understand that they intend to make provision for a 25 per cent, gold reserve, but I do not clearly understand what the Vice-President of the Executive Council means when he says that they intend to have bonds also. I do not know whether it is intended that the bonds shall be placed in the hands of trustees to represent gold, or in addition to the gold reserve.
– I told the honorable senator what was done in Queensland.
– I wish to know what is going to be done by the Commonwealth Government, and whether ‘ the bonds referred to will represent the gold reserves, or will be in addition to it. If the bonds are merely to represent gold, the position will be very much like that of a man who gives an I.O.U. to secure an I.O.U. he has already given.
– It is a waste of time to discuss the matter now.
– Of course, I have not the advantage of the caucus training on the subject which the honorable senator has had.
– It would have done him no harm if the honorable senator had had that training.
– Perhaps not. No doubt, if I had had it, I would know a great deal more than I -do now on the subject, and I would know some opinions of honorable members of the Labour party which there is no other means of ascertaining. The Leader of the Opposition was rather taken to task about the opinions he expressed. on the proposal of the Government to pay 25s. per head to the various States. But I think it was made abundantly clear by the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the payment of 25s. per head is to be reckoned as from ist July of the present year. Although the State Governments are entitled to’ a very much greater sum under the Braddon section of the Constitution, and will receive it this year, they will be obliged to suffer a reduction in the payment during next year to the extent to which the constitutional payment during the next six months exceeds a payment of 25s. a head. I do not see how that proposal can commend itself to honorable senators who wish to maintain the Commonwealth and the States in a sound financial position. We are interested in the finances of the States as well as of the
Commonwealth, and if, for instance, we give the States £2 10s. per head of population during the current six months, and during the next six months give them nothing at all, we. shall be indirectly committing a serious breach of their rights under the Constitution. I recognise that the Commonwealth Parliament has the power to deal with the matter as it sees fit after the expiration of the ten-years’ period covered by the Braddon section. But honorable senators are aware that in the Senate, which is supposed to represent the States more directly than does the House of Representatives, it is our duty to see that the interests of the States in such a matter are fully protected. It was clear to most people that, under tlie agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and State Governments, the payment of 25s. per head of population should begin to operate on the 1st July of this year, and that certain sums should be paid to the Commonwealth Treasurer, in view of the heavy deficit expected through the taking over by the Commonwealth of the payment of old-age pensions. The VicePresident of the. Executive Council tried to induce us to believe that there would be a better guarantee for the proposed payment to the States if the matter were dealt with by an Act of Parliament proposing a limited time for the payment, than if the agreement were embodied in the Constitution.
– The electors pronounced the latter to be an immoral proposal.
– I do not think they pronounced it to be immoral, but they certainly did not support it.
– It was defeated by only a very small majority..
– That is so, and that only bears out what I said a little time ago with respect to the way in which the majorities in this Parliament were obtained. Many of those who were opposed to the embodiment of the Financial Agreement in the Constitution gave as one reason for their opposition the difficulty of again removing it from the Constitution. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, speaking to-day, rather suggested that the State Governments would be placed in a stronger position by the passing of a Bill providing for the payment for a period of ten years than by the embodiment of the agreement in the Constitution.
– The honorable senator is doing Senator McGregor an injustice. What he said was that that was one of the views put forward during the discussion of the agreement.
– Then I misunderstood the VicePresident of the Executive Council. It certainly was argued that if the agreement were embodied in the Constitution, it would be almost impossible to get it out again because of the voting power of the smaller States. But when we are told that it would be safer for the State Governments that the payment should be provided for a definite period by an Act of Parliament, I remind honorable senators that if such an Act were placed on the statute-book it could be repealed almost immediately. We might this 5:ear pass a Bill to pay 25s. per head of population to the States for a period of ten years, and next year we might repeal that Act and propose to pay £1, 15s., or 10s. per head, or do away with any payment.
– We shall have to.
– I heard one honorable member, in speaking of the policy of the caucus, say that the caucus meets every three years to determine its policy, that the policy can only be relied upon to continue for that term, and that at each meeting of the caucus the policy previously determined upon may be absolutely changed.
– I shall stick to my policy to the end of my term.
– Then I presume the honorable senator will be relieved of all responsibility for the opinions he has expressed during the six years, and can start out with a new set.
– The caucus does not alter my views.
– If the honorable senator takes care to keep pretty close to the views of the caucus, I do not suppose we shall see him fighting against them.
– The honorable senator will not be here to see me after the next election. _
– I shall be here for the next three years, at any rate, barring unforeseen accidents. There is this further danger - that three years is the period for which the caucus can be bound to any opinion on any question. Owing to this uncertainty, the States are placed in a dangerous position in regard to their finances. I think it is a great pity we have got into this position, but we have to make the best of it. There is another point in connexion with the policy of the Government which will arouse a great deal of opposition throughout the country. It is stated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech -
You will be invited to consider proposals for the amendment of the Constitution for the purpose of enabling the Federal Parliament to legislate effectively with regard to corporations, commercial trusts, combinations and monopolies, in relation to trade manufactures or production, industrial matters and navigation.
One of the charges made against the Labour party is that they are in favour of unification.
– A false charge.
– I have heard the charge repudiated over and over again. I admit that the Labour party has not, so far as I am aware, adopted unification at present as an item in its platform in so many words. But its proposed legislation is all in the direction of unification. It is useless to argue otherwise. The supporters of a progressive land tax have said that the Commonwealth Labour party has taken up the question because the States will not take it up. They say, “ The States will not do what wre wish them to do, and, therefore, we will do it ourselves.” Is not that a direct step towards unification? They talk of Commonwealth industrial legislation. In doing so, are they not tending to place all power in the hands of the Commonwealth? They talk of the nationalization of what they are pleased to term monopolies. These are matters that really should be dealt with by the States. In legislating in regard to them we shall be taking from the States powers that have been left to them under the Constitution.
– The honorable senator is finding fault with the people’s verdict. The people authorized our policy.
– I am finding fault with the policy laid before the people by the Government of the day.
– Have not the honorable senator’s friends in the Legislative Councils done more towards unification than anything proposed by the Labour party?
– I do not believe that. I am satisfied that when the people find unification coming upon them in the course of a few years they will realize the great mistake they have made. The Constitution itself is an agreement of a high and binding character entered into by the people of this country. Whilst there are provisions in it enabling it to be. altered by a majority of the States and a majority of the people; it was never contemplated that any serious or drastic changes would be made that would be to the detriment of any of the States. We have a general idea of what the Government propose to do regarding the nationalization of monopolies, and the bringing about of a system that amounts to unification. In years gone by the Victorians were dissatisfied because they were so far from the seat of government, which was situated in New South Wales. They desired to deal with their own local affairs, and secured that the portion of New South Wales which is now Victoria should be lopped off. The same occurred in the case of Queensland. Furthermore, a few years ago there was a strong movement in Queensland for cutting the State into two. The people who were in favour of separation believed that they could deal with their own local affairs much more to their own benefit than was the case under the existing system. Suppose the Commonwealth took it upon itself to legislate with regard to the lands of Australia. What a frightful mess we should make of it.
– That was done in the United States.
– But theStates originally forming the union in America were little more than small communities, whose affairs would be regarded as subjects for control by local bodies in Australia to-day. With regard to immigration, the Government have expressed the opinion that an influx of immigrants of the” right kind” ought to be encouraged. We have never yet discovered what the “ right kind “ in the opinion of the Government is.
– We want first to provide land and work for those who are here.
– There will always be landless and workless men, no matter what system we see fit to adopt. If we wait until every man in this country is provided with’ work or land, we shall never increase the population by immigration. It is true that the Government proclaimed as part of their policy the imposition of a tax for the purpose of bursting up the big estates, but no one ever dreamt that they intended to impose taxation on big city properties.
– Why not?
– Of course, we know that the honorable senator is in favour of such a policy. But if it be carried out it will do a serious injury to a large class. The States are now taking steps to acquire landed properties for agricultural purposes.
– At boom prices.
– Of course, they are paying for the land. They are not robbing the owners.
– They are paying more than fair values.
– That is a matter of administration, and not of principle. We cannot go back and deal with the men who bought their land at£1 an acre. We have to deal with men who paid probably £50 an acre.
– They could see land taxation coming. It has been advocated for years.
– They may have assumed that land taxation would be imposed upon honest and reasonable lines, and it is not fair to impose such extreme taxation as would make land worthless that has been acquired by honest means. It would be fairer to say to the land-owners, “ We are going to take your land for the benefit of the public at a, fair market value.” I quite agree that no man has a right to stand in the way of the interests of the country. If land is wanted for public purposes it must be acquired, but it should be acquired at a fair value; and if land is to be taxed the taxation should be only such as is absolutely necessary for revenue purposes, and for carrying on the business of the country.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 6.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 July 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19100706_SENATE_4_55/>.