4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General say when it is anticipated that the Government will be able to bring into use a system of uniform postage stamps for Australia?
– It is the intention of the Government to introduce, without unnecessary delay, a Bill for establishing a system of uniform postage throughout the Commonwealth, but I am not in a position at present to state the exact date for its introduction.
– The Minister has misunderstood my question. I asked when uniform postage stamps would be introduced ?
– That is what he answered.
– No ; he referred to uniform postage.
– The two things are inter-related, one has a direct bearing on the other.
– I do not think that the Minister understands me now, but I cannot make the matter any plainer.
– I regret that I have not made my answer as clear as perhaps the honorable’ senator would desire. But the intention of the Government is that when uniform postage has been established throughout the Commonwealth there shall be uniformity in regard to postage stamps.
Senatormccoll. - They will come together ?
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs say when it is the intention of the Government to bring down the Navigation Bill?
– The AttorneyGeneral’s Department are working strenuously on the Navigation Bill and endeavouring to make it as perfect as possible before it is introduced. The probability is that it will be here some time next week.
– It De remembered that some time ago the Government obtained leave to introduce a Bill relating to the Petherick Collection. I beg to present a fair copy, and to move -
That this Hill be now read a first time.
There are two agreements connected with the Bill, which I desire to have printed therewith.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I wish to understand, sir, whether that resolution will cover the printing of the two agreements which are attached to the Bill,
– It will only cover the printing of the Bill.
Senator McGREGOR laid upon the table the following papers : -
Petherick Collection. - Agreement dated 4II1 November, 1909, between Mr. and Mrs. Petherick, of the one part, and the Chairman of the Library Committee, of the other part.
Petherick Collection. - Agreement dated 9t November, 1909, between Mr. and Mrs. Petherick, of the first part, the Chairman of the Library Committee, of the other part, and the Honorable the AttorneyGeneral, of the third part.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That the Papers be printed as Addenda to the Petherick Collection Bill.
Bill read a. third time.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to-
That Senator Gardiner be discharged from attending the sittings of the Printing Committee.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill foi an Act to provide for the acceptance of the Northern Territory as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth, and for the carrying out of the agreement for the surrender and acceptance.
– I believe that I was responsible for this motion not being taken as formal business. I wish to explain, sir, that I have not the slightest intention of delaying the introduction of the Bill ; but when you were calling over the business, my eyemerely caught the words “ Northern Territory,” and I thought that the Bill was at a stage further than it is. As this is merely a motion for leave to introduce the Bill, I do not object to it.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [10.43].- I desire to know whether the agreement which was brought before the Senate during last session is the one which is to be submitted under cover of this motion. It willbe remembered that the great difficulty hasalways been the condition in connexion with railway construction. I do hot supposethat there is a single man in Parliament who objects to the acceptance of the Northern Territory as a territory of the Commonwealth. We are all agreed that it is a very important portion of the .Common-‘ wealth, and one which ought to be under the control of the Federal authorities.. But if it is intended to submit the Bill with the original agreement it is very desirable that the Government should be in a positions to give us some assurance as to its interpretation. It was generally regarded as; a dictation of terms for the sole aggrandizement of one portion of the Commonwealth, at, possibly, the expense of other portions and the expense of the Territory itself. Whether right or not, that feeling existed in the minds of many honorable senators.
– A number of honorablesenators who held that view are not here now.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - Many honorable senators who held that view are still here.
– Only a few.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD. - That is beside the question. We want to have a clear understanding as to the meaning of the agreement with regard to railway construction.
– That will be fully explained on the second reading of the Bill.
– I hope so. I have made these remarks at this stage so that it shall not be said that honorable senators have not told the Government that they want a clear exposition of the agreement as to that particular matter. I know that differences of opinion have been expressed by legal gentlemen as to the meaning of the section of the agreement to which I refer, and I desire to have it fully and clearly explained.
– I desire to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he can give the Senate an assurance that the second reading of the Bill will not be proceeded with until the opinion of the Crown Solicitor of South Australia has been circulated amongst honorable senators?
– In reply to the remarks of Senator Gould, I wish to say that the agreement for the acceptance by the Commonwealth of the Northern Territory, which will be presented to Parliament, is identical with the agreement which was submitted to it last year. In answer to Senator Chataway, I would point out that I have already promised that, as soon as possible, the opinion of the Crown Law authorities of South Australia will be made available to the Senate. I shall be leaving for Adelaide to-day, and before the second reading of the Bill is moved, I am sure that honorable senators will be in possession of that opinion.
– Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council also undertake to lay on the table of the Senate a copy of the opinion of the Commonwealth Attorney-General ?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 4th August (vide page 1069), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– In the early days of the session when we were discussing the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, and under cover of that motion the programme submitted by the Government, I intimated that it was not my intention to occupy time in debating those portions of that programme which were fairly put before the electors during the last election campaign.
– We are always glad to hear the honorable senator.
– But I fear that I cannot accede to the honorable senator’s seductive invitation. It seems to me that so long as the Government merely seek in their measures to give effect to those proposals which were fairly and openly put before the electors, it will be idle to discuss them here. Consequently, I shall confine my remarks to points where they appear to have departed from the programme which they submitted to the electors.
– The Government were not in existence when the general elections took place, so that they could not have submitted a programme to the electors.
– Well, the Labour party submitted a programme. My difficulty is in understanding what is their programme.
– The Leader of the Opposition will see it all in our platform.
– Then the electors can only regard as fixed those matters which are set out in the platform of the Labour party? In other words, the promise of a Labour Government cannot be regarded as binding unless it has been indorsed by the Labour Conferences.
– It all depends upon whether their proposals have been submitted to, and approved by, the party.
– I understand that every member of the Labour party is bound to subscribe to those planks which form the platform of the party, and which have been approved by the annual Labour Conferences. Outside of those matters each member of the party is free to exercise his own judgment. Consequently it is not competent for the Prime Minister or any other Minister to bind any member of the Labour party further than that member is willing to be bound.
– The Government must secure the approval of the Labour party before they can bind a member of it.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition mean to say that I am totally bound by the platform which has been adopted by the Labour Conference?
– I thought that every member of the Labour party was so bound.
– Senator W. Russell is bound by the platform which is three years older than the last platform.
– That does not affect my general argument.
– But it affects my position.
– Members of the Labour party have voluntarily bound themselves to a programme which has been approved by the Labour Conference. It follows, therefore, that no Government elected even from its own ranks can give a pledge which in any way commits any member of the Labour party to it. That being so, I wish to express my surprise at the number of non-Labour journals which profess to believe that this measure will have a ten years’ currency. The only persons who are committed to its continuance for ten years are the members of the Government who introduce it. The Labour party as a whole are not committed to that tenure. Nothing which the Ministry can say can bind a single member of that party further than that member is willing to be. bound. That being so, what prospects are there that this Bill will continue operative for ten years?
– It all depends on the weather.
– I quite agree with my honorable friend, although I do not know whether he intends his remark to be taken jocularly. Very much indeed will depend upon the weather, whether the agreement lasts for ten years-
– Can this Parliament bind a future Parliament ?
– I judge from Senator Givens’ interjection that he and others share my astonishment at the ease with which non-Labour journals profess to believe that this Bill will continue operative for ten years.
– As far as the word of honest men can guarantee its continuance.
– I am dealing with honest men who are not bound to see it continue for ten years. Senator Guthrie has intimated in the frankest maimer possible that he is not bound to that tenure.
– I have done nothing of the kind. Somebody else did it for me.
– Ifmy honorable friend will look at Hansard, he will find that an interjection to that effect is credited to him, and if my memory be accurate, it is rightly credited to him.
-i made the interjection for him.
– And I did not disagree with it.
– That is an admission that the Government, whilst pretending that this Bill will have a tenure of ten years, know perfectly well that honorable senators who are supporting it, are not committed to its continuance for that term.
– Who has supported it?
– Senator Guthrie. I do not mind saying that I feel sure that he will vote for it.
– I think that the chief support of the Bill will come from the other side of the chamber.
– I venture to say that Senator Guthrie will not vote against the measure. If he does not support it he may abstain from voting.
– I never abstain from voting.
– I do not make that remark in an offensive spirit, but because we all indulge in a little badinage here at times.
– But do not say that I am going to do something which I will not do.
– In the meantime there is ample evidence in interjections which were made by Senators Stewart, Story, and others during the debate upon the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, that there are a number of honorable senators supporting the Government who’ in no sense regard themselves as being bound by the ten years’ period proposed in this Bill. It must be obvious, therefore, that in no sense is any member of the Labour party bound to that term or to any other term unless he is willing to be so bound. It is not competent for the Prime Minister or the Attorney-General or anybody else to bind any member of the Labour party to support the continuance of the Financial Agreement for ten years.
– Will not any member of the Labour party who votes for the Bill be bound to support its continuance for ten years, just as much as will any member of the Opposition who votes for it?
– But an honorable senator may say, “ I believe in the principle contained in the Bill, but I do not think that the condition of Australia will enable us to give effect to the agreement forten years.”
– Honorable senators may be afforded an opportunity of voting upon that question.
– The Leader of the Opposition is so clear upon the Bill that 1 really think he believes in it.
– I quite understand that my honorable friend can never discuss a matter seriously. It seems to me that we shall find a number of honorable senators supporting this Bill, not because they believe in it in its entirety-
– Why trouble about those gentlemen? Why does not the honorable senator put his own case?
– My honorable friends do not see that the attitude which they are adopting upon this matter is that which I am endeavouring to express. Although we may pass this Bill, which avowedly is to continue operative for ten years, there is accruing evidence that it will not last for that period.
– I do not think that it will last for five years.
– I share in the belief of my honorable friend that the measure will not be on our statute-book in ten years’ time. This brings me back to my starting point, namely, the readiness of certain non-Labour journals to believe that by this Bill we shall determine the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States for ten years.
– The Leader of the Opposition thinks that they are too credulous.
– This Bill seeks to revise section 87 of the Constitution.
– It seems to me that whilst my honorable friends opposite agree with me as to the necessity which will present itself, they are inclined to resent my statement, . because it is made from this side of the chamber. I hold that with the growing necessities of the Commonwealth, an increasing pressure will be brought to bear in favour of revising the agreement which is embodied inthis Bill.
– In favour of an adjustment ?
– There canbe only one way of “ adjusting “ the agreement, and that will be by reducing the 25s. per capita which it is proposed to annually return to the States.
– There may be an adjustment by means of an increase.
– That is very unlikely.
– Yet the honorable senator advocated that these conditions should remain in perpetuity.
-Exactly, and for that very reason.
– And so cripple the Commonwealth.
– It is not possible to cripple the Commonwealth, with its unlimited powers of taxation, by a payment of 25s. per head to the States.
– If the agreement would cripple the Commonwealth if fixed for all time, it will cripple it if fixed for ten years.
– Senator Givens is logical, as I find he usually is. To show that there is a clear intention outside, before five years have run, to revise the arrangement, let me give a short quotation from the Age. When this matter was underdiscussion in, another place, that newspaper commenced a leading article in these words -
When the honorable member for Parkes takes it for granted that the Financial Agreement assures 25s. per head for ten years certain, he is counting his brood of chickens previous to incubation.
I say that that statement is absolutely sound so far as I am able to look into the future. I wish it to be clearly understood that whilst this Bill represents a legislative promise to pay this amount for ten years, the State that relies upon receiving the amount for that period will be living in a fool’s paradise.
-Is the honorable senator not overlooking the fact that the electors of Australia will be able to express at) opinion upon the matter if, in three years, they desire that the terms of the agreement should be altered.
– That does not affect my argument at all. I have not been saying that any one is to blame in this matter.. I am trying to put before honorable senators what appear to me to-be facts.
– Did not the honorable senator, prior to the 13th April, put it to the people that no future Parliament could bind this Parliament ?
– I did. I repeat the statement now, and that is why I say the promise given by Mr. Fisher in his manifesto and the promise contained in this Bill are of very little use.
– The honorable senator realizes that the people at the elections gave a mandate to reverse the terms of the original agreement.
– That is so, and, so far as the people of New South Wales are concerned, they accepted the promise of Mr. Fisher to make the term of the agreement ten years.
– Mr. Fishier must be a very powerful man if he could induce them to accept that promise in the face of the hosts on the honorable senator’s side.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the fact that Mr. Fisher’s alternative was accepted by the people of New South Wales. But we have honorable senators here who say that they are not bound by that promise, and I ask what substance has it?
– We are putting it into effect now.
– But honorable senators who are professing to. do so, continue to say that they are not bound by it. Suppose that at the next Labour Conference, a number of delegates are assembled with instructions from their leagues to revise this agreement, I should like to see Senator de Largie get up and say to the Conference, “ Although you gentlemen come here with a mandate from your leagues, I, De Largie, tell you that you must not touch this document, because the Government, of whom I was a Whip, included it in their programme.”
– If I were a delegate, I should do nothing of the kind unless I had instructions to do so.
– No Labour Con- ference would tolerate for a moment a declaration of that kind.
– The honorable senator must have had a great experience of Labour conferences.
– The honorable senator attended a Labour conference with me at one time.
– That is quite correct.
– Did I not on that occasion take up a more independent stand ?
– That was prior to the time when we had our present Political Labour Leagues, with their pledges.
– Not at all.
– It was prior to the time when Senator Rae declared publicly that he would fight any one rather than take any pledge.
– I never made such a declaration.
– It was at a period in the history of the Labour movement when the honorable senator took up a very strenuous attitude in opposition to the pledge.
– I absolutely deny that; and I take it that the honorable senator must accept the denial.
– Well, in Parliament I have to do so. The whole purpose of my remarks has been, without raising any angry feeling, to put the position plainly before such electors outside as the press gives me an opportunity of addressing. I cannot accept this agreement, even though embodied in an Act of Parliament, as in any way settling the question that 25s. is to be paid to the States for ten years to come.
– If that be a weakness on this side, was not the party represented by honorable senators opposite guilty of a similar weakness ?
– I am not saying that this is a weakness on the part of the Labour party ; they are bound only by the decisions of their Conferences. In all honour, any member of the party opposite can claim to seek to revise the agreement when he pleases, and in all honour the next Labour Conference can decide that it should not be permitted to continue for more than three years.
– The last Conference said nothing contrary to that.
– No; but it did not confirm the Prime Minister’s promise that it should last for ten years.
– The Conference did not fix any time.
– Exactly ; and I say that, honestly and honorably, any member of that Conference is entitled to advocate the shortening of the period provided for in this Bill, if he likes.
– So far as the people of New South Wales are concerned, all the action they took was against placing the agreement iri the Constitution.
– And therefore ths honorable senator and the league behind him are at liberty, if they please, to determine to revise this proposal in three years. If they do so, no one can charge them with any want of good faith.
– Such a “determination would no’t bc binding on the eighteen senators who were elected on the 13th April.
– Nor is it binding upon any honorable senator who is1 a member of the Labour party. They are bound only by what is in the programme approved by the Labour Conference. The Labour Conference have. not approved of the proposal in this Bill, and therefore every member of the party is free” to act and speak as he chooses in regard to it.
– And so we were last session. We were not bound and shackled like the members of the honorable senator’s party.
– I do not know how the honorable senator can say that when I remember that our party were largely hampered by some of its own members, who differed from us on that occasion. We are not in the same position as that occupied by the Labour party in New South Wales. Prior to the Federal elections, the State Labour party issued a manifesto in support of the Financial Agreement, but when the elections came on they were as mute as church mice about it.
– They had gained wisdom. -
– No; but they had the steam roller of the Labour Conference run over them.
– That shows the advantage, of solidarity.
– I have never disputed its advantages. I repeat that there can be no guarantee that this amount is going to be paid to the States for ten years. As Senator 1 Givens, by interjection, has said, it is not possible for one Parliament to bind another, and similarly it is not possible for one Labour Conference to bind another. As there will be three Conferences as well as three Parliaments within the next ten years, there will be at least two opportunities to revise the agreement to which we are now asked to assent.
– So there ought to be, in accordance with the needs of the case.
– I am quite in agreement with the honorable senator; but if that be so, what sense is there in pretending to believe that the matter is now going to be settled for ten years. ‘
– I do not believe in it.
– I am aware that the honorable senator does not, but he is assisting the. pretence to put ten years in the Bill. The proposal may be made with the best intentions on the part of the Government. They may believe that the promise will be observed. I arn showing that, after all, it is only throwing dust in the eyes of the electors to try to persuade them that this Bill will settle the matter definitely for ten years.
– Who could settle it for ten years?
– The Government in this Bill are pretending to do so.
– Did not the honorable senator’s party, in asking that the agreement should be put into the Constitution, claim that it could be altered in ten years?
– Yes, by the electors, but not by a Labour Conference, or by Parliament. That makes all the difference. 1
– The Labour Conference could not alter this.
– I venture to say that, if a Labour Conference is held within the next year or two, and decides that this agreement shall be revised, the Labour party in this Parliament will promptly revise it.
– We are not *o vacillating as are the members of the Fusion party.
– It is not a question of vacillation, but of organization, and the policy of the Labour Conference.
– They would be governed by common sense.
– I am supposing that the common sense of the Conference decided that the agreement should be revised. I freely admit myself that circumstances must arise which, sooner or later, Will force upon us an alteration of the agreement.
– Then why did the honorable senator wish to put it in the Constitution ?
– In order to put it beyond the reach of Parliament.
– The people would not have it.
– That does not affect my argument. Because the people would not put the agreement into the Constitution to remain there until they altered it themselves, is no .justification for us pretending that it is to remain unaltered for ten years.
– There is no pretence. Senator MILLEN.- There clearly is a pretence.
– Will the honorable senator help us to strike out the word “ten”?
– Certainly not, because I believe in fixing a longer term for the proposed payment. I was an advocate of the permanency of the proposed agreement in the only way in which permanency could be given to it.
– By strangling the federation.
– Such interjections may be useful on the platform, but they do not assist an argument here. The only way in which the agreement could be given permanence was by putting it into the Constitution.
– Some of the honorable senator’s colleagues in the late Government said that it would be more elastic if put into the Constitution.
– That does not trouble me in the least. Members of the party to which Senator E. J. Russell belongs say all sorts of things which I would not think of attributing to him. The fact remains that the electors decided that the agreement should not be embodied in the Constitution, and so secure it a degree of permanence which only a constitutional amendment could give it. That being so, it is entirely open to this Parliament to revise the agreement if it pleases.
– Is not that why the electors rejected the agreement?
– Does the honorable senator mean that they rejected it in order that it might be altered from day to day? If that be so, what is the good of pretending now that by this Bill the matter is to be settled for ten years?
– Will the honorable senatorassist to reduce the term proposed in the Bill ?
– It is not I who desire that the term should be reduced. It was my friends opposite who offered, as an alternative to the inclusion of the agreement in the Constitution, a ten years’ guarantee. They have no power to give such a guarantee.
– I do not wish to do anything of the sort.
– All these interjections confirm my statement that it is a pretence to provide in this Bill that the agreement shall last for ten years. Honorable senators are in no way committed to that provision.
– Will the honorable senator assist us to knock out the provision fixing the agreement for ten years ?
– No; because I believe it should be fixed for a longer period. The pretence is not on my side, but on the side of those who are purporting to give the people a ten years’ guarantee, when they know that it is not worth the paper on which it is written.
– The honorable senator has been supporting hollow pretences so long that he would not be comfortable if he were not doing so.
– These observations may be regarded as a sort of wit, but they do not forward discussion on matters of this kind. It appears to me to be an utter absurdity to include in a Bill which provides for ten years’ payments an agreement to pay an additional sum to a particular State for twenty-five years. How can we carry on a twenty-five years’ guarantee in a Bill which has only a ten-years’ duration? Therefore, while the people of Western Australia may be comforting themselves on having had special consideration made for them for twenty-five years, there can be no real guarantee to them, nor do I believe that the pretended guarantee will ever be carried out. There was one way, and one way only, by which permanent security could be given to the States. That way the electors refused to adopt. The alternative is an Act of Parliament which cannot last longer than any Parliament chooses to allow it to remain.
– All Governments are bound by the decision of the electors.
– We know that they are ; but in this Bill the Government pretend to give a guarantee to the States that a certain amount will be paid to them for ten years, whilst that guarantee is a mere pretence, because the Government cannot bind this or any future Parliament.
– Could any Government give a guarantee ?
– Then why blame the present Government?
– Because this is the only Government which is pretending to give a guarantee.
– If it is pretending, why does the honorable senator vote for the Bill?
– As I was an advocate of the proposal to give permanent security to the States, I am not likely to vote for a shorter period than ten years. However, I have no wish to deal with the Bill itself. The matter was thoroughly discussed when we were before the electors, and at no inconsiderable length during the debate on the Address-in-Reply. I rose for the one purpose of pointing out - as I have done to the best of my ability, in face of a running fire of interjections - that no State and no elector can regard this Bill as offering a reasonable guarantee of continuance for a period of ten years.
– I am very glad indeed that Senator Millen has spoken so plainly. He will permit me to say thatI enjoy his speeches immensely. I like his style. If there are any points to be made, either fairly or by a little twisting, he never misses them. There is no time wasted in listening to him. Though I was not a candidate at the last election, it was my pleasant duty to respond on various occasions to requests made to me by electors in different localities to address them on the Financial Agreement. I spoke several times in South Australia, and even visited Western Australia. Though I do not usually trouble much about finance, I then made it plain that the Labour party was unanimously opposed to the Bill introduced by the late Government We were under no compulsion whatever as a party to oppose that Bill. I thought then, and I think still, that the compromise suggested by Mr. Fisher in a speech in Queensland, and in other parts of the Commonwealth, was a fair one. We were, however, strongly opposed to the agreement being included in the Constitution. Let me put the matter in this way : I appeal to Senator Millen, who, I know, is a bit of a sheep-farmer. In the event of bad seasons occurring, as they did a few years ago throughout the Commonwealth, when the sheep died on the runs and the wool clip was seriously diminished, what would be our position? At that lime I visited Canberra and Dalgety, and deplored the wretched state of the country at the latter place. There is reason to fear that such bad seasons will come again. The Commonwealth has to look to the people of this country for its Customs and Excise revenue. In the event of a drought, the sheep-farmers and others would be unable to buy imported goods. Our revenue would seriously decrease. How, then, would it be possible for the Commonwealth tocarry on its operations, to take over the Northern Territory and develop it, to proceed with the Federal Capital, to build the railway to Western Australia, and to do other things that are expected of it ? While we have good seasons it is easy to promise, because there is reason to believe that we shall be able to carry out our undertakings. But to commit the Commonwealth for all time to pay to the States money which it had not in its possession would be an absurdity in the extreme. I am very pleased that in South Australia we had it good majority against the Financial Agreement. I am sorry that Senator Symon is not present to speak on this question. I wish to give credit to him for the stand that he took and the addresses that he delivered during the election. His opinion had great weight with the electors of South Australia. While it is all very well for the Commonwealth to undertake to pay the States 25s. per head for ten years, and while I hope that we shall be able to carry out that undertaking, still, if the worst comes to the worst, we shall have power to alter the arrangement. Undoubtedly we shall do our best to carry it out. But if we find that we have not the money, what “are we to do ? We do not believe in borrowing. We want to pay as we go along. Therefore, although I support this Bill now, I would not support it if the term proposed were longer than ten years. Even now, if Senator Millen will move that the term be reduced to five years, I will vote with him. I do not intend to be bound and shackled, as we of the Labour party are supposed to be. I remember my hustings pledges at all times. I remember the platform which 1 signed, and for which I am responsible. I stand by it. But I am in no way bound by anything that is not affected by my pledges. Letus be faithful and true to our principles, stand to our guns, be consistent, and not take up a provincial attitude, such as we hear of too much in New South Wales. Where are those Premiers that we heard so much about last year? Where are their influence and power? In South Australia, where is the Peake party ? It is knocked out.
– By one.
– By more than one. Where will the Government party in New South Wales be shortly? These men got up an agitation, and imagined that the people would follow them. What has been the result? We all know. I am glad that the elections passed off. as they did, but when I look across the floor, and notice the absence of some of my . old friends, feelings of pity and respect overcome me.’ I regret the absence of Mr. Pulsford, Mr. Gray, and others, whom we shall see here no more.
– And what about the Colonel ?
– O, the grand old Colonel ! If the electors had only thought half as much of him as he thought ot himself he would be here still. The attitude of the Government last session was practically one of coercion. Those who dared to oppose them were threatened with opposition. To a great extent, the threat was carried out. But what happened? Mr. Deakin once talked about wreckage. What about the wreckage of his party? Mr. Deakin himself narrowly escaped defeat. 1 am almost sorry that he did not go down, and that some man with less pretensions was not elected.
– With “less pretentions “ ?
– Yes. Mr. Deakin is supposed to be a great man, indeed, a great statesman, but if he has principle, he- has 110 backbone, and he is anxious at all times to retain office. He has been Liberal, Democrat, anything-
– Order 1
– Surely I can refer to that, sir?
– The honorable senator is not in order in making a statement of that kind.
– It is a true statement, sir.
– I call the attention of the honorable senator to standing order 413 - .
No senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any’ member of such House -
– I do not wish to challenge . your ruling, sir, but I have often heard our Prime Minister spoken of in no very pleasant manner. In the first speech which I delivered in the Senate I referred to Mr. Deakin in somewhat the same fashion as I have just done, and the then President, Senator Gould, did not interfere with me. At all events, I can speak of Mr.” Deakin as I found him in Adelaide some time ago. He who had been a great Democrat came over to our city to address a special section of electors, the Ladies’ National League, but I, as a member of the Senate, would not have been permitted to enter the meeting to listen to the eloquence of that learned gentleman unless I had got a ticket from the League. That condition was lowering to my dignity,, and I do not like to be treated in that way. I am always willing to listen attentively, and, if necessary, without interruption; but when the great champion of Liberal reform, whom I had the pleasure of listening to while he was under the whip of Labour, descended to that act, I do not wonder that at Ballarat he was nearly shipwrecked. I think that tlie electors of the Commonwealth, even the Conservative element, ought to be satisfied with the Bill in its present form. The error of this Parliament has been that it has been too liberal to the States. We have given to them too much, instead of too little, and in doing so we have starved the Public Service. I support the motion.
– I think that we can all recognise from his speech that the Leader of the Opposition has accepted the inevitable, or bowed to the mandate of the people, inasmuch as he made no effort to define, the attitude which either he or his party took up in the past in regard to this question.
– It was settled in your favour.
– I have just said so. and I do not know that the honorable senator’s statement of the fact is an improvement on my statement. Seeing that that is the position which Senator Millen has taken up, I do not think any purpose would he served by reviewing the events which led up to the decision of the people on the 13th April. I only desire to say that on that date the people did give a mandate, which certainly was against putting the Financial Agreement in the Constitution for any period. The Leader, of the Opposition went on to deal with what he called pretences. I want my position in regard to this matter to be made perfectly clear. It is generally known that the leaders and members of the Opposition party knew as well as every’ member of this Parliament that there was no power in the late Parliament to bind a future Parliament for even one day beyond their own term of office. On that ground I have always refrained from pledging myself as to what future Parliaments would do. I understand that tlie members of the Opposition know that all that the Government are doing by introducing this Bill is, not to bind future Parliaments, but to ask” future Parliaments to pay respect to an arrangement we deem advisable for the settlement of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. The Leader of the Opposition dealt at considerable length with the position in which Labour members are placed, and he went on to say that we could not bind the party as regards the future. That is quite true. On the platform on which I was elected to this Parliament I was not bound to any extent on the Financial Agreement, either one way or the other. But if this Parliament and the members of what is the dominant party at present do pledge themselves in their speeches to a ten years’ provision for the States, they can only uphold the agreement for their own term, namely, six years in the case of the Senate, and no action of a Labour Conference will in any way be binding upon them during that term. For the balance of my term I shall endeavour, to the best of my ability, to maintain the agreement to give to the States 25s. a head. Further than that, if re-elected, and it is possible to observe the agreement. I shall do so. At all events, I should want very strong and very good reasons for voting for an alteration. If I were asked whether I am prepared to say anything which might be taken as a promise on behalf of future Parliaments, my reply would be that I. have no power to do so, even if I should so desire. If I were asked whether I am prepared to make a promise that in the event of being returned I should observe the agreement, my reply would be that I am not prepared to do so, because the only thing which can determine the conditions of an agreement with the States must be_ the development of the Commonwealth itself. When I glance at our present position, I find that we are right up against a difficulty. If we carry out in this Parliament the mandate which the people gave to us on the 13th April with regard to the transfer of the Northern Territory, naval and military expenditure, and even the nationalization of monopolies, which I hope will be taken in hand at a very early date, we shall find ourselves confronted with genuine difficulties in regard to providing the necessary money.
– Quite so, and the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue will scarcely meet the demands.
– Never mind about that. I am in favour of a very wholesome reduction of the Customs and
Excise revenue. Our present financial position should not be maintained by a retention of the present Customs Tariff. Owing to the duties not being sufficiently high to give Protection in certain directions, the Tariff is merely producing revenue. We have scores and scores of so-called protective duties which are purely and simply revenueproducing, thereby putting taxation on the backs of those who are least able to bear it. I am particularly anxious - and I believe that this country is pledged to carry out that policy - to sweep away the whole of our purely revenue duties, which, if abolished, would certainly reduce the returns. On the Other hand, seeing that we are pledged to give increased Protection, that would again reduce the income from that source.
– Who is pledgee? to that- -your party F
– I am not able to speak in the name of the party. Surely the honorable senator does not mistake me for a moment for the Prime Minister? I am speaking as an individual. I believe that the intention of the people who voted at the last election was to give a direct mandate to the Parliament to reduce the revenue from that source. When we consider the enormous expenditure which is anticipated on the other side, and the proposal to introduce penny postage, it becomes evident that we shall have an inadequate revenue at our disposal. If we are going to build transcontinental railwaysand develop the Northern Territory, it maybe that within three yean, if we should have two bad seasons in succession, it will be impossible for us to carry out all our proposed undertakings. It is not to be understood that, in any circumstances, I should be prepared to support a borrowing policy, and at the same time to hand over to the States revenue which we require for our own purposes. I do not intend to review the incident* of the last election, bristling though they are withmany pleasing recollections to myself and colleagues on this side. Seeing that the mandate of the people was so disastrous to honorable senators on the Opposition side, I do not think that we should gain anything by dwelling upon any such matters. I amglad that the Leader of the Opposition has accepted the inevitable. I believe that thesubstitution of the ten years’ provision forthe perpetual agreement will prove to be one of the best things which this Parliament has ever done. While not binding; future Parliaments, and maintaining the supremacy of Commonwealth finance, it will enable this Parliament to do that which it believes to be right and desirable in the highest interests of Australia with the revenue which comes within its control.
– In his speech, the Leader of the Opposition practically refrained from discussing the Bill, but indulged in a great deal of unnecessary explanation of his opinion as to the position of the Labour party in this matter. I think that he might realize that, while it is absolutely impossible to bind future Parliaments, there, is a common-sense method of acting in matters of this kind. Many honorable senators are doubtful, as Senator Millen himself was doubtful, as to whether it will be possible for the Commonwealth to make this payment to the States for the full term of ten years. But, while expressing that honest doubt, I take it that no member of the Labour party, simply because he has a right to act independently, is going to wilfully or wantonly seek to disturb this measure if enacted. Whatever individual members may have said on public platforms, the Government have pledged themselves to make this payment for a period of ten years by introducing the Bill. Consequently, members of the party following the Government are not likely to wantonly disturb the arrangement unless very good reasons for so doing can be shown. Senator W. Russell has touched upon the possibility of the commitments of the Commonwealth being so great as to render it impossible to continue to pay to the States 25s. per capita. Is it not reasonable to suppose that if the people favour the reduction of purely revenue duties, the inauguration of an effective defence scheme, and the construction of transcontinental railways, they will also lend their support to any adjustment in the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States which may be necessary to enable effect to be given to their desires? It seems to me that the Leader of the Opposition has raised a number of bogies quite unnecessarily. In reply to a good-humoured interjection on my part, he affirmed that I could not discuss any matter seriously. I was not previously aware that I possessed such a reputation for levity. He also stated that a good deal of my time in the political arena has been occupied in fighting against the pledge which is exacted from members of the Labour party. He admitted that he had attended a Labour Conference at which I was a delegate, but declared that that Conference was differently constituted from the Labour Conferences of to-day. ] maintain that there was no essential difference between the constitution of that Conference and that of the Labour Conferences which have been held annually evesince. Last session. Senator Millen stated that single-taxers, Socialists, and all- sort*, of politicians attended the Conference as; delegates.
– What I said was thaidelegates from avowed single-tax and Socialist bodies were present.
– My honorable friend is in error.
– I can show the honorable senator the papers bearing on the subject.
– At no time have Labour Conferences been constituted of other than the accredited representatives of organizations.
– The honorable senator’s memory is playing him false.
– My memory is quite as good as that of Senator Millen. If men who attended that Conference were singletaxers or Socialists, they were not present as the representatives of Single-Tax or Socialist Leagues.
– That Conference was held before the Labour party in its present form came into being. Its very name is different now.
– I admit that the name has been altered. The party with which the honorable senator is associated has had about half-a-dozen different names, but itis the same old party nevertheless. While I admit that a difference of opinion in respect of the Labour pledge did exist at the time of which Senator Millen has spoken, that difference was merely as to the form of that pledge, and not as to whether members of the party ought to sign it. After the rupture took place, and a reconciliation had been effected, slight alteration was made in the name of the organization. But there has never been any difference in ite aims or objects, and there has been very little in its methods. The Leader of the Opposition was just as much bound by being a delegate to the Conference in 1893 as was any man who has since sat as fi delegate. I have never occupied a seat ii. Parliament as an unpledged Labour man. nor did I ever contest a seat other than as r. pledged candidate. I say this by way of denying the statement of the honorable gentleman that at one time I fought against the Labour pledge. The Leader of the Opposition has endeavoured to make a strong point of the fact that all the members of the Labour party are not pledged 4o the continuance of this Bill, should it ‘ become law, for a period of ten years. Apparently, his object is to convince the [people of New South Wales that the Labour party is merely going to carry the Bill as a hollow pretence, and that at the first opportunity its members will kick over the traces and demand the revision of the Financial Agreement. That is an absolutely unfair position to take up. There are some members of that party, like Senator Givens, Senator Gardiner, and myself, who are not pledged to support a ten. years’ period, and others, like Senator McDougall, who definitely favour that period. Senator Gardiner and myself have emphatically expressed the opinion that this Parliament should settle its own financial affairs from time to time in the way that it deems most advisable- I understood Senator Millen to say that this Parliament must be able to vary the financial relations of the Commonwealth and States from time to time, and that it is almost certain that circumstances will compel an alteration in those relations to be effected. It was for that reason he declared that he would have preferred to see the agreement embodied in the Constitution. That is a clear admission that, while circumstances may point to the necessity for an alteration of the Financial Agreement, he desires to prevent the people from giving effect to it. Why should he wish to prevent electors from doing that which may be highly desirable? But, assuming that normal conditions obtain and that the Commonwealth is not required to incur a greater expenditure than it is now incurring, no party will seriously seek to vary the amount which will be returnable to the States under this Bill. The measure will certainly continue to be operative for three years. Should the question become a burning one, the electors will then have an opportunity of deciding whether the arrangement shall be continued or repealed. Under these circumstances, all that we need do is to form a reasonable opinion of whether the Commonwealth can fulfil the terms of the agreement in the near future. I understand that a large expenditure is contemplated in connexion with both naval and military organization. We all admit that if we are to have an adequate system of defence, that system must be made effective. Then, again, it is held to be essential that we should construct a transcontinental railway to Port Darwin, and that Western Australia should be similarly linked up with rite Eastern States. Thus a constantly growing expenditure is inevitable. With a possible falling off in the revenue derivable from the Tariff and a constantly increasing expenditure, I fail to see how we can make ends meet and continue the payment of 25s. per capita to the States for ten years. These facts indicate that the time is close at hand when our Federal income will be insufficient to meet our expenditure. There is one matter in which great interest is being exhibited throughout the Commonwealth, namely, the increase of our population by means of immigration. The charge that the Labour party views the question of immigration with disfavour has been refuted again and again. Its members recognise that if we are to hold this continent for the white race we must have millions more people in it than we have now. But, whilst we wish to offer every facility to our own people to settle upon die lands of Australia and to develop its resources, we are prepared to extend a cordial welcome to all the members of white races from other parts of the world, who come here to share in the good tilings with which we have been blessed. If we are to do this, and so increase die population of the various States, ‘ we must increase the total amount which will have to be paid to them under this agreement. Every “unit added to the population of each State, as the result of an immigration policy, will involve the payment of an extra 25s. by the Commonwealth.
-And, possibly, - double that sum will be raised from Customs and Excise. There must be an increase of revenue from that source in proportion to the increase of population.
– It is questionable whether that increase of revenue will equal, let alone double, the increase in the payment which must follow upon an increase in the population of the States. I ask Senator Gould whether we can reasonably expect, as a result of the protective incidence of the Tariff, ‘ to maintain our present rate per head of Customs revenue?
– I admit that, in so far as the protective incidence of the Tariff operates, there must be a decrease in the Customs revenue.
– That is obvious. There is a further point, and that is that the rate of Customs revenue per head is not likely to be as high in respect of immigrants, a largeproportion of whom will be children, as in respect of the settled population. Again, as the population of our cities and towns increases, the quantity of dutiable goods consumed per head will decrease in the circumstances, we have to contemplate the serious possibility of a falling revenue from the Tariff - and I hope that will be the case - and the payment of a gradually increasing amount to the States as their population increases naturally and by immigration. It seems to me that, instead of accusing one another of a desire to injure the States, or to fetter the Commonwealth, as reasonable men we should try to see what can be done with the means which will be available. If it is shown to be impossible for us to pay 25s. per head to the States, and at the same time maintain and extend the functions of the Commonwealth, it will be a question, not of what we should like to do, but of what it will be possible for us to do in the circumstances. Holding these views, I should be untrue to myself if I were to pledge myself to make a payment to the States, which I do not believe we shall be able to make for the time mentioned. But, having made that declaration, I still hold that I am at liberty to support this Bill. If our financial position permits, and I remain here, I shall not wantonly interfere with an arrangement entered into in good faith. No party would be justified in seeking to alter this arrangement in the immediate future. A proposal of the kind should be given a fair trial, and no one is justified in lightly disturbing an arrangement intimately affecting the people in their capacity as citizens of the Commonwealth and of the States. We can pass this measure with the full understanding that if the circumstances demand it, there will be no breach of faith in altering the law to meet those altered circumstances when they arise.
– Honorable senators on both sides must agree as to the necessity for the introduction of some such Bill as this. Section 87 of the Constitution, which has so far governed the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, will expire at the close of this year, or, at all events, it will be necessary for this Parliament to make provision in substitution for it. It is recognised by all that the Commonwealth can no longer afford to pay to the States the full amount prescribed under that section. The Government are to be commended for having taken advantage of an early opportunity to consult Parliament, and try to arrive at an equitable solution of the difficulty. We atonce get into trouble when we try to define what is an equitable solution. The task before this Parliament of arriving at an equitable solution for the time within its jurisdiction was sufficiently difficult without an effort being made to saythat might be an equitable solution for future Parliaments.. That is the view I take in connexion with this Bill. There is, of course, a history connected with the question. I do not: propose to do more than make a brief reference to it. Every one is aware that last year an agreement was arrived at between the then Federal Government and the Premiers of the various States, embodying their idea of how this matter should be settled. It was proposed that the Commonwealth should pay to the States 25s. per head per annum, and that that payment should be made a constitutional provision, so that no Parliament should in the future have any right to lay its hands upon it. The party now on this side strongly opposed any such provision going into the Constitution. When an appeal was made to the people they incontinently threw out that tentative agreement, and left this Parliament absolutely free, under the. terms of the Constitution, to deal with the financial relations at the close of this year in any way it pleased. That is a fair statement of the case. The responsibility to deal with the matter having been cast upon this Parliament, it is only right that we should now proceed to make such an arrangement as appears to us to be equitable. But while the people refused to bind this Parliament when they refused to indorse the Financial Agreement, I say that this Parliament should refuse to bind future Parliaments, and to that extent I disagree with the provisions of this Bill which, as Senator Millen says, pretends - because it is no more than a pretence - to bind future Parliaments. Various promises were made by candidates in the several States. I believe that candidates in Western Australia said they were prepared to vote for an agreement to last for twenty-five years.
– What candidate said that?
– It is absolutely wrong.
– I understand that the statement was made in another place, and not contradicted.
– It is absolutely false.
– I am glad to hear it. Other candidates said that they were not prepared to advocate an agreement extending beyond the life of the Parliament making the agreement. Others again, including a large number of honorable members on this side, were prepared to support the proposal of the present Prime Minister to make an agreement for ten years. The stand I have taken up all through has been that it is competent for this Parliament to deal with the matter only during the life of this Parliament, and not during the life of any succeeding Parliament. We have no knowledge of the circumstances which may prevail in years to come: While exercising to the full the right given us by the electors to deal with the matter for the present, we should not attempt to legislate for the Parliaments or people of the future. That contention is, in my opinion, unanswerable, because no Parliament has power to bind Parliament or the people in the future. The question is a very serious one for this Parliament. One of the provisions of the Bill which I cannot support is that making the agreement date from the1st July of this year. I contend that this. Parliament has no power to do that.
– The honorable senator does not agree with the proposal to make our legislation conform to the necessities of the case.
– I say that might have been done in a perfectly legitimate way. I contend that, pretending to antedate the arrangement of our financial relations with the States, as this Bill does, is a wrong way to deal with the matter, as it is beyond our power. The VicePresident of the Executive Council told us the other day that the Commonwealth could not in the past have spent its one- fourth of the revenue from Customs and Excise without being extravagant. But, if that statement is analyzed it will be found to be incorrect.
– The honorable senator admitted that that was a slip.
– We were unable to fulfil many Commonwealth obligations, be cause of the want of funds under the operation of section 87 of the Constitution. I shall not pursue that matter further, but I wish to point out that the difficulty which the Government seeks to overcome in this Bill by making its operation retrospective for six months is a difficulty which was created by the rigidity of section 87 of the Constitution. And yet it is proposed in this Bill that we shall make exactly the same mistake. The framers of the Constitution thought that they could see ten years ahead when they drafted section 87, but as a matter of fact they could not, and so Commonwealth Governments have found themselves hampered, and unable to carry out Federal obligations.
– In what way during the ten years’ period?
– Section 87 of the Constitution has hampered the Federation in various ways. We have been prevented by it from carrying out Federal obligations imposed upon us by the people when t hey accepted the Constitution. It placed the Government of the Commonwealth in such a position that at the close of the last financial year it was faced with a deficit, and had to resort to rather devious ways to overcome the difficulty.
– That was only at the close of the ten years’ period.
– I am sure that no one will be more ready than Senator de Largie to admit that we were considerably hampered by the operation of section 87, and could not do allthat we desired to do in the establishment of invalid andoldage pensions, and in carrying out other Federal obligations. I want to show - and I thinkI shall succeed - that if we consent to this ten years’ period now, the Commonwealth will undoubtedly be hampered very greatly, the power of the Federation will be restricted, and injustice will be done to the people of Australia. Because undoubtedly one of the first essentials for any Government in carrying out its functions is sufficient revenue. The attitude which I took up at the Federal elections was this : While I thought that for the present we could and ought to pay to the States 25s. per capita, I did not see any possibility of being able to do so without resort to increased Customs and Excise taxation in five years’ time. I shall be prepared to show such conclusive reasons for that belief that I do not think any one will be able to refute them.
– ls the honorable senator 1’o.rgetting the large revenue we are likely to collect from land taxation in the future ?
– I will allude to land taxation directly, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the question.
– Yes it has.
– If the honorable senator understood the Federal compact he would agree with me. Let us examine the mattei. Why do we return to the States any money? Simply ‘because when Federation was accomplished we took from them their principal source of revenue, that from Customs and Excise, and it was only fair that we should return to them’ a certain proportion of that revenue. But Customs and Excise is the only source of revenue over which the Commonwealth has exclusive control. Every other field of taxation whatsoever is wide open to the States. That being so if we were not to return to the States money from Customs and Excise, why in the name of Heaven should we return to them anything at all ? Why should we be responsible for raising money for another authority to spend, without that authority having any responsibility ?
– The honorable senator has shifted his position radically.
– I have not. I have simply shown the true position, and Senator De Largie, because I have done so, now finds how absurd his previous contention was. In what position do we find ourselves in consequence of the old “ Braddon blot “ ? We find ourselves hampered in every direction and unable to carry out our Federal obligations. Even in carrying out the obligations we did undertake, we were left at the close of the last financial vear, notwithstanding an exceedingly buoyant revenue, with a deficit of .£450,000. But not only will the Commonwealth in the future be spending money in the same directions as in the. past, but it proposes to spend a great deal more. I hope that it will spend considerably more money, because it is essential in the interests of Australia that it should do so. Taking only the proposals of the present Government, and making no allowance whatever for unforeseen expenditure, let us see how matters will work out. I find on totting up the figures, that the proposals of the present Government involve expenditure on entirely new works and services to the amount of £4,200,000 per annum. I am not taking a single item which is not vouched for by the Government themselves. For instance, if tlie proposals of the Government with regard to naval and military expenditure are carried out - and I hope they will be - the Commonwealth will be spending in the near future on the Navy no less than £t, 000,000 per annum. That expenditure is involved in tlie policy which the Government have very properly adopted, of paying for our Navy, and meeting all expenditure in connexion with it, out of revenue.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Is that ,£1,000,000 part of the £4,200,000?
– Yes. With regard to military expenditure, the best estimate which I can obtain from authoritative sources shows that the new military policy will involve increased expenditure to the amount of £700,000 per annum. And it is expenditure that fs well worth incurring, because in consequence of it, instead of having a toy army, as we have had in previous years, we confidently anticipate having an efficient force, which is the only thing worth paying for. Then the Government propose to institute penny postage, which will involve new expenditure to the amount of £400,000 per annum. Furthermore the Government very properly propose to pay invalid pensions, and to reduce the age at which women may obtain old-age pensions, to sixty years. Those two matters of policy will cost £700,000 per annum, which has to be added to the present cost of old-age pensions. It must be remembered by honorable senators also that in the past we have not paid old-age pensions out of the current year’s revenue. We had a fund of ,£700,000 set apart in previous years. So that the additional £700,000 will be entirely new expenditure, over and above what we spent last year. Then, if the Northern Territory is to be taken over, it will require development and railway construction. The least that we can spend in that direction will be £250,000 a year.
– That will not be sufficient.
– I do not think it will be, because we have to take into account the shortage of interest involved. But in these estimates I am trying to err on the side of moderation, and to put everything on the lowest possible basis, so that no one can say that I have quoted “extravagant figures.
– There is no necessity to build railways out of revenue.
– I am not suggesting that they should be built out of revenue. But the construction of railways in undeveloped territory will involve, for a time at any rate, an annual loss. There is also the transcontinental railway, another project which the Government propose to push forward. In all the estimates that I have seen it is calculated that that work will involve, at all events for some years, an annual loss of about £150,000. Furthermore, we are compelled to take over lights, lighthouses, quarantine, and other services, the expenditure on which I put down at £100,000 per annum. I do not think I have overstated anything. These new expenditures, as I have said, will amount to £4,200,000 per annum, or, in round figures, an additional £1 per head of the population of the Commonwealth. At what position then do we arrive? The present Federal expenditure out of Customs and Excise revenue, apart altogether from the revenue which we derive from the Post and Telegraph services is, in round figures, 13s. per head per annum. If to that we add the20s. per head new expenditure which I have outlined, it makes the total 33s. per head of the population. Inasmuch as our total Customs and Excise revenue at present amounts only to 50s. per head of the population, there will be available to return to the States only 17s. per head. Yet honorable senators saythat we ought to bind ourselves to pay the States 25s. per head. It is ridiculous. It has been said, however, that there are other sources of taxation. Of course there are. But, as I said before, if we are not to return Customs and Excise revenue to the States there is no reason why we should return any revenue whatever; because the States have full power over every source of taxation except Customs and Excise, and it is a most pernicious practice for one governing authority to have all the onus of raising taxation, whilst another body has the spending of it. Such a system can only lead to waste and extravagance on a monstrous scale. The position in which we find ourselves, therefore, is that, instead of having 25s. per capita to return to the States, we shall have only 17s. Reference has been made to the proposed land tax. I have not yet heard of any one who could pretend to give a satisfactory estimate of the amount which will be produced from it in the first year or two. I am, however, hopeful that as the tax is designed chiefly to burst up land monopoly, and make land available for profitable occupation, no matter what revenue the tax yields in the near future, it will not produce so much in a few years’ time. If the tax is effective in its operation, as we hope it will be, the revenue from it must decrease. Another point to be remembered is that if our Tariff is to be effectively protective the amount received per head from Customs and Excise must be reduced very considerably; and if the Tariff is not effective from a protective point of view, undoubtedly it is the business of this Parliament to make it so. To the extent that it becomes effective revenue must be reduced. Take the operation of protective Tariffs in other countries. In the United States the yield of revenue is £19s. per head ; in Canada, £1 19s. ; in France, £1 13s. ; and in Germany only 16s. per head. Yet we have a so-called protective Tariff in operation which is producing 50s. per head. The idea is monstrous. In view of the protective ideals of this country, I look forward with confidence and hope to seeing the revenue’ from Customs fall very considerably per head of the population. If things fall out as I have indicated, then undoubtedly the revenue which the Commonwealth will derive from that source will be considerably reduced. Will any one tell me where we are going to get 25s. a head to return to the States in five, or eight, or ten years’ time? The only direction in which we shall be justified in looking for the money will be the Customs House, because, as I have pointed out, there is no justification for- the Commonwealth raising money for the States in any other way, seeing that in every other way they have full power to raise it for themselves.
– Does the honorable senator think that we shall not be able to raise 25s. a head?
– We should not attempt to raise that amount as additional revenue for the States. We can raise that amount certainly, and probably we individually would not feel it very’ much, but it would impose an undue burden upon the people of Australia.
– A total of 25s. per head ?
– Yes; we are entitled to look to our own revenue for our own purposes. The first duty of the man is to supply his necessary wants before he turns round to be charitable or generous to any one else.
– Was there ever a time in our history when we raised so little as 25s. per head? ,
– In addition to what we want?
– No; a total of 25s. per head.
– In the early days of Australia, before it had gold mining and other primary industries, very large quantities of dutiable goods were consumed, and our revenue from Customs was very high. But will the honorable senator tell me that the ideal which he has for the future of Australia is that Australians shall be mere producers of raw material, mere “ hewers of wood and drawers of water” for the rest of the world, digging out the gold, silver, tin, and lead, so that it may be carried over the sea for other people, and doing nothing in the way of manufacturing or producing what we want? That is not my ideal. My ideal is to see Australia as nearly as possible a self-contained country, producing almost everything which the heart of man or woman can desire. This Parliament will not always exist. This Government will not always remain in office. When it comes to the turn of our opponents to occupy the Treasury benches, the temptation will always come to them, if they are faced with the necessity of raising 25s. a head for the States, to turn to the easiest course, and to pile the taxes on the most helpless class in the community. The proposed agreement is a direct invitation to them to do so.
– When are they ever likely to get here again?
– In that particular, I hold entirely different views from most honorable senators on this side. If the Labour party is to continue to be a Reform party, it will only be in office for a short period, and at very rare intervals, because it will always be in advance of the general crowd outside, and will not get the confidence of the general crowd to ‘keep them in office all the time. It is our duty to do the absolutely fair thing, and to so legislate now that the finger of reproach cannot !« pointed at us in the future. We. should leave no loopholes for wrong-doing in the future by any action which we may do at present. I think that Senator Millen was quite right in saying that no honorable senator on this side is bound by anything which was said by any individual during the late election. * That is quite true. I am in no way bound by anything which was said by any individual to give to the States either more or less, or for a longer or shorter period.
– Or by that which was written by Senator Pearce.
Sena.tor GIVENS.- I am not bound by anything which was written by the Minister of Defence, or by any one else. I do not want to go into that matter, because it has been denied by Western Australian senators that any such thing was promised. No man has bound me, and I am bound by ‘ no man. The position which I assumed before the electors of Queensland, and the position which they indorsed when they returned me to represent them was that we should pay to the States as much as we could afford, and continue the payment for as long as we could manage.
– I think that on that special point the people of Queensland approved the agreement.
– A majority of the electors of the State voted in favour df the agreement, but that was not sufficient. They indorsed my candidature, and they did not do that under any false pretence. I said that I thought we could give the States 25s. per head at present, but I told .he electors that I felt perfectly satisfied that inside five years we should find ourselves in the position of not being able to do so without imposing upon the people additional taxation of a burdensome character, and that we should not be asked to do that. That is exactly what I am prepared to do here. In this Bill, there are two pretences which I am prepared to assist Senator Millen to remove. That which he spoke about was the pretending to settle this financial question for ten years, when, as he rightly said, there was no party and no Parliament which had the power to do so. I shall assist him to reduce the time limit if he wants some definite term to be fixed. I hold that it should not go beyond five years.
– What power have we to fix the payment for five years?
– Any more than for ten years.
– If I cannot get 11 that I want - that is to have no time limit - then I am willing to assist Senator Millen to minimize the evil, which is a perfectly logical position. There is another pretence in the Bill. In section 87 of the Constitution, the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States were fixed beyond the control of this Parliament until the 31st December of this year. Yet the Bill pretends to make this agreement date from the 1st July of this year. I admit that the Government were compelled by the position in which they found themselves by the operation of that section to make ,good a deficit, and to make good the shortage in the revenue which they will experience up to the 31st December of this year. The method which they resorted to was to date back the proposed agreement from the 1st January of next year to the 1st July of this year. That is pretending to do something which we have not the power to do. The honest, above-board, straightforward way to act would be to say to the States, “ We will date the agreement from the 1st January of next year, and as there will inevitably be a shortage between the Commonwealth revenue and expenditure during the first half of the financial year, we will take a certain portion of the amount which is coming to you in the first year in order to make good that shortage and deficit.” I am sorry to see the Government pursuing a devious course, rather than following thestraight one. That is all that I have to say on the Bill at this stage. Possibly, when we get into Committee, I may have a great deal more to say about details. I frankly confess that there are some things about the Bill which I do not like. I do not like binding the Commonwealth for a period so long as ten years. That is more than this Parliament has the right to do* and we should not attempt to do it. We should do exactly what we asked the people to do on the 13th April, and that was to leave this Parliament in future absolutely free and unfettered to do the best that is possible for the people of Australia as a whole, without truckling to any section, or amy individual, or any State in the Union.
– I confess that I do not take the same pessimistic view regarding the revenueearning capacity of Australia lor the next tcn years as does the last speaker.
– Oh, they could earn plenty if you thought fit to impose the taxation.
– In a way, which would be agreeable even to the honorable senator. I claim to be as good a Protectionist as any member of this Parliament. I* claim to be equally as strong in the desire that the people of Australia shall, as soon as possible, be a self-sustaining people. Of course, that means that as we produce more and more of the goods that we consume, we shall import less and less, and so get less Customs revenue. But whilst our Protectionist policy, which all Australia is practically pledged to now, is working itself out to greater perfection, the fact undoubtedly remains that we shall continue to collect a large sum from Customs duties.
– That is only because the Tariff is not effective.
– The honorable senator will always find me ready to assist in making the Tariff as effective as we can, but, no matter how effective it is made, it will be found that we shall raise a large revenue from that source.
– Then why .does not Canada raise as much as we do?
– Canada has been federated practically since 1867, whereas we have been federated for only ten years. Just as it took a very long time for her protective policy to work out in that way, so it will probably be a very long time before we receive a much smaller revenue. Whilst I may deplore the fact that we are receiving so large an amount in Customs duties, and probably raising more revenue than we ought to raise in that way in the interests of the Australian people, still I believe it is inevitable that for some years to come our revenue will not be less than it is at present. I am entirely in accord with the idea embodied in this Bill that for a term of ten years the Com’monwealth will be able to pay 25s. a head to the States without crippling its revenue in regard to its ordinary requirements.
– How does the honorable senator get over the figures regarding new expenditure? Where are we going to get the money from?
– I do not know that the figures which the honorable senator has quoted in regard to new expenditure are absolutely correct.
– Ask the Government if they are not correct?
– I have really more faith in the ability of the Government to raise the money required for the new expenditure than has the honorable senator, with his ideas of finance on this question.
– If the honorable senator will allow me to say so, members of the Government have admitted privately that they are up against the difficulty now.
– I know nothing about private admissions by members of the Government. I feel satisfied that a
Government with Mr. Fisher at its heada member of a cautious race, especially in matters pertainingto money - would never have brought down this Bill with a provision for ten years, if they had not been assured that the Commonwealth would be able to discharge its duties to the people, and at the same time return 25s. a head to the States for that period. The Bill entirely accords with the attitude which I took up during the recent election campaign. I then opposed, as strenuously as any person could oppose it, the proposal that the Commonwealth should return to the States 25s.per capita for a period of twenty-five years, and especially was I averse to embodying that agreement in the Constitution. I argued that whilst we might be able to anticipate with some degree of accuracy what the revenues of the Commonwealth would be during the next ten years, we certainly could not forecast what they would be during the next twenty-five years. When Senator Givens urges that we shall not.be able to meet our obligations and return to the States 25s. per capita during the next decade, he appears to forget that our receipts from Customs and Excise at present approximate 46s. per capita. Of course, everybody recognises that this Parliament cannot bind future Parliaments. My honorable friends opposite may be in power three years hence. As the result of another political upheaval, some party other than the Labour party may then hold the reins of office. To my mind, the Ministry are doing a fair thing to the States under this Bill. But we must not forget that the State Parliaments have great obligations to fulfil. I claim to be a Nationalist, and not a State Righter, but I cannot forget, and no Federalist should forget, that the State Parliaments have still to discharge very serious responsibilities. They have the control of large channels of expenditure-
– And of large channels of income.
– They are becoming more extravagant every day.
– I do not agree with that statement, although I admit that they might dispense with some unnecessary paraphernalia, such as the maintenance of Vice-Regal establishments. But if State expenditure be confined to legitimate channels, the States will still have left to them the administration of their Mines Departments, of their Lands Departments, of their educational systems, and of their police systems. In view of the fact that, prior to Federation, they raised a large proportion of their revenue from Customs duties, we should always remember- so far as we can do so consistently with the efficient discharge of our Federal duties - that we owe something to them. Under this Bill, the Government propose to guarantee to the States the return of 25s. per capita for a period of ten years. Of course, the carrying out of this arrangement presupposes either that the present Ministry will remain in office during that term, or that some Ministry will be in power which will give effect to the same policy.
– The continuance of the agreement is not contingent upon the present party remaining in power.
– If my honorable friends opposite were in power, they would continue the arrangement which is embodied in the Bill for at least ten years. I believe that the Government have done the right thing in assuring the Slates that that is the general feeling of members of this Parliament. Nobody hails with greater delight than I do the fact that the proposal to limit the agreement to twenty-five years, and to embody it in the Constitution, was rejected by the electors. Those who opposed that scheme in Tasmania were really political heroes, because they had to fight against every newspaper in the State, and also to sacrifice thousands’ of votes which otherwise would have been cast in their favour.
– Why is Tasmania asking for special relief now?
– That is another aspect of this matter, with which I shall . deal at a later stage.
– I asked the question because I desire to hear the honorable senator upon that point.
– Thatbeing so, I will briefly outline the position as between Tasmania and the Commonwealth. One portion of this Bill specially accords with my view in that it proposes to distribute all surplus revenue in the future upon a per capita basis. I recollect that, at the close of the first five years of our Federal history, I submitted a proposal in this Chamber which affirmed that all the revenues of the Commonwealth should be distributed upon that basis. The Western Australian representatives naturally objectedtomy scheme, but their objection was considerably lessened by a proposal to extend a special concession to that State for a certain term of years.
– The honorable senator was willing to grant it some concession?
– I think my proposal was that for the second five years of our Federal history - in other words, until the expiry of section 87 of the Constitution - thatState should be paid a certain sum by the Commonwealth, which amount should diminish annually by 20 per cent.
– Under that proposal, the concession to Western Australia would have ceased automatically at theend of the current year.
– I conceded then that Western Australia was entitled to a special concession. It remained for the representatives of that State to ask for a larger concession. Personally, I do not object to the concession which it is proposed to grant to Western Australia under this Bill for a period of ten years. It seems to offer a fair way out of the difficulty, and it possesses the advantage that it will terminate concurrently with the agreement itself.
– And Parliament will then be in a position to deal with it.
– Exactly. I have always maintained that, in Australia, we have never had a true Federation. We have had only a hybrid Federation. We can never have a true Federation until we have Federation in respect of finance. This Bill proposes to give us that six months earlier than it would have been possible for us to obtain it under the Braddon section of the Constitution. But it must not be forgotten that sections 93 and 94 of the Constitution empowered this Parliament to distribute all Customs and Excise revenue upon a per capita basis after the first five years of our Federal history. I have never been able to understand why, upon the expiry of that term, it did not adopt the practice in question. Upon a former occasion, I think that I advanced unanswerable arguments why it should be adopted.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have already mentioned that five years ago, when the bookkeeping provisions might have been abolished without difficulty, I submitted a motion in the Senate for their abolition and the substitution of the per capita sys tem of distribution of revenue and expenditure. Under the bookkeeping provisions, the revenue has been distributed to each State according to the amount collected in each, and only new expenditure has been distributed on the per capita basis. I have to-day given notice of a question which, I presume, will be answered on Wednesday, and the answer to which will supply information showing the amount with which each State has been credited under the bookkeeping system, the amount with which each State would have been credited under the per capita system, and also the total of all expenditure by the Commonwealth in each State. I feel satisfied that when we get that information honorable senators will have proof that our claim to special consideration for Tasmania is worthy of serious attention here and in another place. In moving, five years ago, the motion to which I have referred, I was able to show that Tasmania had, during the first five years of Federation, lost between £40,000 and £50,000 every year because the revenue was not distributed on the per capita basis. I do not mean to say that the Tasmanian people lost this money, but that the Treasurer of Tasmania would have received, under a per capita system of distribution of revenue, between £40,000 and £50,000 a year more than he did receive under the bookkeeping provisions. That is a moderate estimate of the loss which Tasmania sustained.
– The present Minister of Trade and Customs denies the statement.
– No; the honorable gentleman does not deny that statement. He denies that the leakage under the bookkeeping system is as great as the Tasmanian Statistician asserts that it is. There is a conflict of opinion between the Commonwealth and Tasmanian statisticians as to the extent of the leakage, but that it has been considerable all are agreed.
– In Queensland, a similar complaint was made for the first five years.
-Leakage may have occurred in Queensland also under the bookkeeping system. The loss to Tasmania under that system of distributing revenue was from £40,000 to £50,000 for the first five years of Federation. Imade that clear in submitting the motion to which I have referred, but the Senate at the time refused to alter the existing system for the distribution of revenue and expenditure. We have now almost reached the close of the ten years’ period, at the expiration of which, as this Bill evidences,, the per capita system of distribution is to be adopted. To show that the request for special consideration for Tasmania is not a party matter in the State, I may mention that, although a large meeting held recently in Hobart in support of -the request was called by Tasmanian citizens politically opposed to the present Federal Government and the Labour party, it was largely attended by persons holding other political views, lt is the unanimous opinion of the people of Tasmania that, in her special circumstances, that State is entitled to some concession. In further proof that this is not a party matter in the State, I may say that all the newspapers published in the State, which, wilh one exception, are opposed to the Labour party, all the members of the present Tasmanian Government, who are also opposed to that party, and leading citizens who have taken an interest in financial questions, have in various ways tried to strengthen the hands of representatives of Tasmania in this Parliament who are urging special consideration for that State. From every district in the State telegrams have been sent to the gentlemen acting in the matter, in Hobart, from branches of workers’ political leagues, forwarding resolutions df special meetings held by the leagues in support of the claim. The question, therefore, in Tasmania is entirely above party considerations. The Federal Government may answer, though I hope they will not, that Federal officials maintain that the leakage which the Tasmanian Statistician declares to amount to about ,£40,000 a year for the last ten years really does not amount to anything like that sum. In the natural course of things the leakage could not be avoided. Every year thousands of people visit Melbourne from Tasmania. They purchase articles here which on their return do not come within the knowledge of the Customs authorities. The Tasmanian visitors to Melbourne have not worried about getting Inter- State certificates for the articles they have purchased here, and I doubt whether very many of them knew anything about InterState.’ certificates.
– Still, the bookkeeping system has been useful.
– It has been, so far as it has been effective, but it has failed accurately to allocate the Customs duty payable in respect of Inter-State private purchases.
– The same difficulty has .arisen, even to a greater extent, between Adelaide and Melbourne.
– The leakage has not been greater between Adelaide and Melbourne than between Tasmania and the mainland.
– Yes, very much greater, because there is a train daily between Adelaide and Melbourne.
– I have no doubt that there has been leakage between Adelaide and Melbourne, but the fact remains that the leakage in Tasmania has been very great.’ I submit that, because of this leakage, Tasmania has never been credited under the bookkeeping system with the amount of Customs revenue with which she should have been credited. Does it not stand to reason that, other things being equal, Tasmanians consume as much per head of dutiable goods as do the people of the other States?
– Other things are not equal. Take the case of Western Australia.
– I am leaving out Western Australia because of the preponderance of adult males in the population of that State. The proportion of adult males to the total population, must be about the same in Tasmania a£ in the other States, with the exception of Western Australia, and, if that be so, it is difficult to understand why the official figures show that the consuming power per head of population is in Tasmania so much below what it is in the other States. I have been a- resident of Tasmania practically all my life. I have travelled in every corner of the State, and many members of the Senate have visited the State. I should like to. ask them whether they noticed that the people of the State generally were not as well dressed and as well fed as the majority of the people in the other States, T do not know much about the temperance statistics of Tasmania, but I think that the people of that State drink as much per head of the population, and smoke as much per head, as the people of the other States. In the circumstances, it is to me incomprehensible that the consuming power per head of the population in Tasmania should be so much below what it is in the other States as the official figures disclose.
– Is the earning power per head as great in Tasmania?
– It may not be, but the difference certainly does not account for the difference shown in the consuming power if we are to rely upon the official figures.
– Wages in Tasmania are 25 per cent. less than in any of the other States.
– That is a broad general statement. I admit that in some instances wages in Tasmania are lower than in the other States, but I think the difference does not amount to 25 per cent. all round. I am very sorry that we have no factories legislation there. I hope that if the State Parliament does not pass it before very long, the Commonwealth Parliament will under an amendment of the Constitution. The figures on which the Government may rely, and on which the Prime Minister relied in replying to a deputation the other day, are the official figures with respect to the consuming power per head of the population in each of the States. It has been urged that under the proposal to pay 25s. per head to the States Tasmania will be a great gainer. But the very fact that the Customs and Excise revenue of Tasmania is so much per head below the receipts of the other States is evidence that there has been a greater leakage than the Customs officers have been able to trace. As further proof that this is no party question, I may mention that I have received a communication from the Hobart Chamber of Commerce, which is certainly not in sympathy with’ the Labour party, and which makes the suggestion that the Commonwealth Statistician andthe Tasmanian Statistician should come together, and try to arrive at what the leakage actually is. I submit, further, that we are entitled to special consideration because of the disturbance of Customs arrangementssince we entered the Federation. Some people allege that since Inter- State Free Trade was established the Tasmanian people have benefited by having to pay so much less to the Customs than they did before the inauguration of the Union. I have doubts as to whether the Tasmanian people have benefited to any considerableextent. The principal advantage from Inter-State Free Trade has gone to the Victorian and other mainland manufacturers. They have kept their prices as nearly as possible on a level with the prices of goods imported from abroad, with the object of retaining the Tasmanian trade. The result has been the disturbance of our financial arrangements to such an extent that at least £50,000 a year has been lost. But the leakage that has occurred does not furnish the only reason why the Tasmanians claim full national consideration from this Parliament. We are well aware that if we chose to” do so we could ask for special treatment under section 96 of the Constitution. But that would be like asking for charity from the Federal Parliament, and I submit that there is no case for charity. We Tasmanians do not come here as humble suppliants, begging for mercy. We submit that we have a case that is worthy of being considered on its merits. We are entitled to consideration on account of the ‘ peculiar circumstances surrounding our State.
SenatorSt. Ledger. - Western Australia is getting a concession on quite different grounds.
– Western Australia is getting a concession on the unanswerable ground that the consuming power of her people is very much above that of the other States. As a Federalist, I do not object to a fair concession being made to Western Australia. These matters should be looked upon from a national point of view. I am going to vote for national expenditure in connexion with various great works which’ the Commonwealth is to take in hand. Although Tasmania will not derive any benefit, I consider that we are here, not as State Righters, but as Federalists, and should view these projects from a national stand-point. I desire to point out further that the claim that we make is not without precedent. In the Canadian Statutes for the year 1906 there is an Act entitled, “ An Act respecting Subsidies and Allowances to the Provinces.” ‘Section 2 contains a special provision regarding New Brunswick. It reads as follows -
The Province of New Brunswick, in consideration of the Legislature thereof having passed an Act providing for the repeal of all duties of export on lumber exported from the Province, shall, so long as no such duties of export are imposed by the said Legislature, be paid, in addition to the subsidy to which the Province is entitled, a subsidy at the rate of One hundred and fifty thousand dollars annually, as indemnity for the loss of such duties and the right to impose the same.
That section in regard to New Brunswick’ is exactly analogous to the claim we make . on behalf of Tasmania. New Brunswick, in addition to the financial provision made by the Dominion Parliament for all the Provinces, claimed a special subsidy as indemnity for loss of revenue from certain duties. I submit that Tasmania also has a claim for consideration on account of loss of revenue through the establishment of Inter-State Free Trade. Section 3 of the Canadian Act also provides that -
To the Province of Prince Edward Island, there shall continue to be paid in addition to all other subsidies and allowances payable to the Provinces an annual allowance or subsidy of Twenty thousand dollars, payable half-yearly in advance on the first days of July and January in each and every year. . . . Such lastmentioned allowance shall be paid and accepted in full settlement of all claims of the Province against the Dominion of Canada on account of alleged non-fulfilment of the terms of Union between the Dominion and the Province as respects the maintenance of efficient steam communication between the Island and the mainland.
In this case, I submit that the terms of the Union with respect to the bookkeeping conditions have never been properly kept as between Tasmania and the Federation. The fault may not have been ours, and it mayhave been impossible for the Customs officials to adhere to the conditions prescribed in the bookkeeping section.
– That was fully pointed out before Tasmania accepted the Constitution.
– That is no answer to my claim. The bookkeeping provision was prescribed for a period of five years, at the end of which term it was open to the Federal Parliament to make a change. But the Braddon section of the Constitution laid it down that three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue should be returned to the States for ten years. The idea was that during the first five years of Federation the working of the financial provision could be ascertained. Evidently the framers of the Constitution thought that five years was quite sufficient time for the bookkeeping section to remain in operation, and intended the Federal Parliament to review the situation at the end of that time. The very fact that five years, and not ten, was mentioned in that regard indicates that there was a feeling that the finances of some States might be so disarranged that it would be necessary to bring in another system. I have always thought that an injustice to Tasmania was perpetrated by perpetuating the bookkeeping system instead of substituting the per capita system at the end of five years. The reason why I have occupied so much time with this question to-day is that I hope that honorable senators will give it their earliest consideration between now and the time when the subject will be brought under review either by means of a motion submitted in the Senate or a Bill introduced in another place. I hope that honorable senators will be able to see their way to grant some special’ financial consideration to Tasmania. I am sorry that that has not been done in this Bill. I understand that the Prime Minister has his reasons for the course that he has taken. I saw in the newspapers a statement to the effect that the Prime Minister might give consideration to the question in some other way. If that be done, I trust that the Senate will be prepared to extend that fair treatment to Tasmania which her circumstances justify.
Debate (on motion by Senator de Largie) adjourned.
Senator McGREGOR laid upon the table the following paper : -
Tasmanian Customs Return. - Memorandum ad dressed to the Department of the Treasury by Senator Keating, 4th November,1907.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I beg to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether, in view of the importance of the timber industry to Australia, the Government will give preference to Australian timbers in the case of all Commonwealth contracts ?
.- I would remind the Government that there are very large quantities of magnificent hardwood timber of various kinds in Australia, particularly in the State which I represent, which could very well be substituted for imported timbers- I trust that wherever it is possible preference will be given by the Government to Australian timbers in Commonwealth contracts.
– I do not know that it was necessary to put a question of this kind to the Government. I think that a Government which would fail to give preference to Australian timbers, which would go outside Australia for any timbers which it needed, would be neglecting the interests of this country to a degree which would be almost unwarranted. Of course Senator Ready may have a particular reason for putting the question in such a pointed way, but to me it seems incredible that any Government of the Commonwealth would do other than comply with the suggestion contained in his question. We all know that a tremendous quantity of timber is exported from Australia. I suppose that our greatest exporting State is Western Australia. I am sorry to see so much of our. valuable timbers being taken out of the country. I fear that our history will be something like that of most young nations, that a day will come when the country will be practically depleted of valuable timbers, and we shall all regret the wholesale manner in which a valuable asset has been exported.
– What about the importation of Oregon?
– I have had some practical knowledge of mining, and there are special reasons for importing Oregon. But for any other purpose than that of insuring the safety of human life in mining operations I do not think that there is any justification for importing timber. I speak now as a representative of the greatest timber-producing State in ‘.the Commonwealth.
– When the Minister replies will he state the order in which the business will be taken next week?
– The question raised by Senator Ready is one of importance to Australia. The Home Affairs Department carries out most of the work in connexion with the Commonwealth buildings, and its head has already announced in another place that he is determined to give preference on all occasions to local industries. There will, . I feel sure, be no departure from the principle so laid down. If Senator Ready will be good enough to ask the question, without notice, on the next day of sitting, I shall then be able to give him full _ information on the subject. I shall obtain from the Minister a statement of the work which has been performed, the quantities of timbers which have been used, and the intentions of the Department in regard to future buildings in which timber will be required.
– The first measure on the noticepaper for Wednesday next will be the
Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, and after I have moved its second reading, any honorable senator who desires more time for the consideration of its provisions can move the adjournment of the debate. The next measure on the notice-paper will be the Naval Loan Repeal Bill, which, being a very short one, should be got out of the way in a very little while. Then I propose to ask honorable senators to resume the debate on the second reading of the Surplus Revenue Bill. There are two Bills of which the second reading has not yet been moved. I refer to the Petherick Collection Bill and the Immigration Restriction Bill. If there is time between the other items I might ask honorable senators to go on with those measures.
– Shall we get theNavigation Bill next week?
– If possible, it will be introduced. It will be remembered that this morning I gave notice of a motion for suspending the Standing Orders in the event of a Supply Bill being sent up. I have no idea that it will come up on Wednesday, but if it should come up on that .day, of course it will necessarily take precedence of everything else.
– Is it the intention of the Government to suspend the Standing Orders in order to put the Navigation Bill through at one sitting?
– I would prefer that question to be put to Senator Guthrie or Senator de Largie, each of whom was on the Navigation Commission.
Question resolved in the affirmative:
Senate adjourned at 2.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 August 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19100805_senate_4_55/>.