4th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– -In view of the report of a statement which I am seeking from the Vice-President of the Executive Council having been made elsewhere, will he inform the Senate as to the business which the Government contemplate getting through Parliament this session, and whenhe expects the session to close?
– The reports in the newspapers are substantially correct. After luncheon, or on the motion for adjournment this, evening, I may make a statement in connexion with the business expected to be got through.
– In this morning’s
Age, there appears what purports to be a report of the discussion which took place in the Senate yesterday, on the motion of Senator McDougall, in regard to the officers of the Australian Defence Force. The following statement is attributed to the honorable senator -
English officers came here with a whole-souled contempt for Australian officers, whomthey considered^ to be “no class” socially. Senator Findley (V.) interposed, “ That is a serious statement to make.” Senator McDougall went on to say. that he was not afraid to speak his mind, and that the information had been given to him by officers.
The Minister of Defence (sternly) : 1 wish you would give me the names of the officers.
Senator McDougall replied that it was no good disclosing the -names.
The way in which the incident is reported would make it appear thatI asked Senator McDougall for the names of the officers who gave him the information, whereas I think honorable senators will remember that what I asked for were the names of the British officers who made the statements to which he was referring.
– Will the Minister of Defence tell me what would be the position of these officers under the Defence regulations if their names were divulged?
– The divulging of the names of the officers would enable me to ascertain whether they had made statements reflecting on either the Administra tion or the Defence Forces, of” which they are at present a part.
– Would they be subject to a court martial for giving the information?
– I cannot say whether the regulations provide for a court martial in such a case, but they would certainly provide a means of dealing with officers who made statements reflecting upon either brother officers, or the Forces as a whole.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers are : - 1 ; 645i5°o.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That during the remainder of the present session, Government business, unless otherwise ordered, take precedence of’ all other business on the notice-paper except questions and formal motions.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to-
That during the remainder of the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Tuesday be a sitting day of the Senate, and that, unless otherwise ordered, the hour of meeting on that day be three o’clock in the afternoon; and that, unless otherwise ordered, the hour of meeting on Wednesday be half -past two o’clock in the afternoon.
Motion (by Senator Henderson) pro posed -
That the report from the Printing Committee, presented to the Senate on the 5th December, be adopted.
– I rise to move an amendment in order to secure the printing of the returns showing the cost of advertising by the Federal Departments, the particulars of land acquired for a site for a General Post Office at Perth, and the lands purchased, or resumed in the financial years 1910-1911 and 191 1-19.12. Senator Henderson, who is Chairman of the Printing Committee, has interjected that I ought to have a look at the return of advertising by Federal Departments. I have had a look at the paper. It is, no doubt, a most bulky document, but it contains, I imagine, matter of some interest. Of course,, any honorable senator can get the manuscript and peruse it, but only one honorable senator can have the manuscript at a time, and if he wishes to go through the whole of it, it might consume more of his time .than he would care to spend in that work. I am well aware of the reason which has animated the Printing Committee, and it is a most praiseworthy one, no doubt - that of economy.
– Not altogether.
– It is praiseworthy in its own place. We are in the habit of lavishly authorizing the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of pounds, and sometimes millions, .without ever counting two, while in matters of this kind we are often penurious and penny-saving, so to speak, when I think we ought not to be. Advertising by the Federal Departments is a matter with which I think honorable senators ought to make ‘ themselves acquainted. They can only do so by having an opportunity to peruse the return in a printed form with the greatest ease and convenience to themselves. We are borrowing a large sum for the purpose of buying a site at Perth for a General Post Office, and I think it is desirable that honorable senators should have as much information about the matter as possible. There is another paper which I think ought to be printed, and that is one regarding the adoption of the karri sleepers for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. This is also an important question about which there has been a great deal of discussion and concerning which, no doubt, there will be ample debate during the coming elections. For that reason I think it is desirable that honorable senators on both sides should be fortified with the facts, and even with all the fictions, which have been brought forward in connexion with that matter. That is my reason for desiring the printing of the paper. With regard to the return of lands purchased or resumed during the last two financial years, I think it is necessary that honorable senators should keep themselves well up to everything pertaining to that matter of importance. I move -
That the following words be added : - “ and that the following papers be also printed - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Papers re adoption of Karri sleepers - Lands purchased or resumed in the financial years 1910-11, 1011-12 - Return.”
– I wish to point out to Senator. Stewart that he will have to hand in his amendment in writing, and also to call his attention to standing order 40. He will realize that two of the papers which he desires to be printed have not been laid upon the table of the Senate, but only upon the table of ‘the House of Representatives. We have no power to print papers that are tabled in that House, because they have a standing order practically similar to our standing order 40, which reads -
The custody of the Journals, Records, and all documents whatsover laid before the Senate shall be in the Clerk, who shall neither take, nor permit to be taken, any such Journals, Records, or documents from the chamber or offices’ without the express leave of the Senate.
– What about the Joint Committee?
– The papers are referred to the Joint Committee for a recommendation, but it does not deal with the powers of either the House of Representatives or the Senate.
– Perhaps a way out of the difficulty, sir, would be for Senator Stewart to withdraw his amendment and to move that the report be referred back to the Printing Committee. The Printing Committee is a joint one, because it includes members of both Houses. If the amendment I suggest were carried, it would be an instruction to the Printing Committee to reconsider its report, and, if it then recommended the printing of th’ese four papers, the recommendation would be submitted to another place as well as to the Senate.
– The easiest way out of the difficutly, if Ministers wish to’ accede to the request of Senator Stewart, will be for them to lay copies of these papers upon the table of the .Senate, when they will be in the custody of the Clerk, and it can do what it likes with them.
– I should like to point out, sir, whilst by no means decrying the usefulness of your suggestion, that the Senate is not dependent on the opinions or the wishes of Ministers as to papers which are not made available for its consideration, and that the alternative, if no other course is open, will be for honorable senators to move that duplicate papers be presented here, specifying, for instance, the paper concerning advertising by Federal Departments. That merely means going through the whole procedure again. I am sure there is no desire to put the” country to the additional expense of having two sets of returns prepared. I submit that it is competent for us to adopt the suggestion of the Honorary Minister, and refer the report back to the Printing Committee. The Senate members of the Committee could then represent to their colleagues that it was obviously the desire of the Senate to have certain papers printed. I admit that we are in the hands of the Printing Committee, if they choose to return their report to us without recommending that the papers in question should be printed, But -I take it that the Committee will respond to the obvious desire of the Senate to obtain a little more information than we at present have.
– The Senate can take the course mentioned by Senator Millen if it feels disposed. I simply pointed out that Ministers could, if they chose, lay the papers in question upon’ the table of the Senate.
.- I suggest that Senator Stewart should withdraw his amendment, and allow another amendment to be moved, referring the report back to the Committee for reconsideration. If the Senate desires that the papers in question should be printed, I am certain that the Printing Committee would meet their wish. The document with regard to Commonwealth advertising is a very bulky one, and it did not appear to the Committee that any one would desire that it should be printed. It was not so much the expense of printing that weighed with the Committee as the consideration’ that the document was not worth printing and circulating. As to the paper regarding karri sleepers, the subject has already been discussed, and a quantity of matter has been printed in Hansard. The Committee therefore did not think the paper worth printing.
– I think it is.
– If the Senate thinks that the paper is worth printing, I am sure that the Printing Committee will accede to our wish. But the Committee should have an opportunity of reconsidering its report.
– I quite agree with Senator Stewart’s amendment so far as it goes, but I should like to obtain further information. I feel convinced that if the matter were referred back to the Printing Committee the representatives of the Senate would express our desire to have these papers printed.
– Perhaps the House of Representatives will adopt the Printing Committee’s report, and then the representatives of that House upon the Committee might not feel disposed to reconsider the matter.
– Unless some means is, available of getting over the difficulty, honorable senators who want the information contained in these papers will be forced to table a motion for the presentation of duplicate returns. I direct attention to the return as to lands purchased and acquired by the Commonwealth during the financial year. I asked for that return, and have obtained a copy of it because I wanted the information. The whole information could be printed upon 6 inches of one of our ordinary sheets. As showing that some of these papers contain useful information, I may point out that this particular return shows that the expenditure on land acquisition, which is controlled by the Department of Home Affairs without any public supervision, has jumped from £70,000 in one year to ,£348,000 in the next.
– There is good reason for that.
– There may be, but that is information which is of interest to other honorable senators than the one who moved for the presentation of the return.
– The information is published in the Commonwealth Gazette.
– It is not published in the Gazette in this form, though the details are. But what honorable senator would go through the Commonwealth Gazette and pick out these detailed items of information for himself? If Senator Guthrie will stop interjecting sufficiently long to enable him to think, he will realize that it is impossible for any honorable senator, unless he is supplied with a staff of officials, to go through the Gazette and pick out such details for himself.
– I go through the Gazette every week.
– I am glad that the honorable senator has found a way of keeping himself out of mischief, but I have no idle time to devote to such a purpose. The. document with regard to land acquired for a post office at Perth has not been recommended to be printed either. I have been spending some days since the Loan Bill was brought forward in trying to obtain from the Department of Home Affairs information regarding that particular purchase, in order to enable me to see whether it is a good or a bad business proposition. I have been met with that scientific obstruction which marks most of our public Departments. The way of refusing information is quite an art, in which respect Australian officials can hold their own with any other officials in the world. I did not know that this return had been presented to the other House. 1 may be able to get from it the information which I was unable to get from the Department. The Department may have managed to supply in this form particulars which they carefully suppressed when I desired to obtain them. The Printing Committee ought not to take this action on the part of the Senate as other than a difference of opinion as to what it is desirable to print. Even the best regulated Printing Committee may occasionally misjudge the desire of the Senate for information on a particular point. I feel certain that the chairman of the Committee, Senator Henderson, will understand that in this matter the Senate is not taking action which ought to be regarded as even an unpleasant incident in the career of what has been a very useful Committee on the whole.
– If the Printing Committee’s report is to be referred back, there should be an intimation that the Senate desires the reconsideration of the report with regard to certain specified papers. Otherwise the Committee will have no official reason for altering its decision. The Committee was appointed to save the time of the Senate by considering papers, and deciding whether they were or were not worth printing. As to the paper relating to Commonwealth advertising, I think that if any honorable senator were to examine it he would realize that it is not worth printing, from the point of view of expense, or from the point of view of the information which it gives. The points that the Committee- consider are whether papers are worth the expense of printing, and whether the information which they contain is useful. The paper in question consists of page after page of particulars in regard to advertising. Probably the printing of it would cost about £20 or£30. I do not think it is worth printing. “
– Has the Committee power to prevent summaries of papers being printed ?
– The papers are submitted to the Printing Committee, and they have to decide whether they are or are not worth printing.
– What is the nature of the paper on advertising?
– It is a return showing the cost of advertising in various newspapers throughout the Commonwealth. It shows that one newspaper is paid 10s., another £1, and so forth.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - And£250 was spent on the Labour Call, which has no circulation, and which carries no weight.
– No weight amongst “fat men.”
– The paper conveys no more information than I have mentioned. What benefit would it be to any honorable senator to get a copy of it? But if the report is to go back to’ the Printing Committee there should be an intimation that the Senate desires reconsideration with regard to certain specified papers.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [11.3].- I have listened to what Senator Vardon has said with regard to the return as to Commonwealth advertising. I realize that such a bulky document contains a great deal of matter which is absolutely worthless. But I should like to have a summary of it in order to know how much money has been spent with each newspaper.
– -The Ministerial newspapers have had the bulk of the advertising.
– We ought to know what Commonwealth advertisements are printed, and in what newspapers.
– The document in question does not disclose any such information.
– We do not know what is in the document. It was presented to the other- House. We do not even get a summary of it.
– If the document were printed the honorable senator would not know any more than he knows now.
-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD.- Senator Millen has alluded to the money that has been spent on land acquisitions. I have before me the document dealing with that subject. It shows particulars of lands purchased or compulsorily acquired during the financial years 1911-1912. At the end of it is- a summary which may, perhaps, furnish all the information which honorable senators desire. Senator Millen has alluded to the fact that the amount spent increased from £70,000 in one year to £348,000 in the next. The summary shows that in 19 10- 11 the total outlay on land acquisitions amounted to £70,000.
– So far as that document discloses particulars, how much information does the honorable senator possess after having perused it?
– It discloses that in the Federal Territory, during the year 191 1, the land resumptions amounted to £3,086 ; for defence purposes, £46,000; for postal purposes, £36,000. The liabilities amount to £55,000. If I want details I turn over the page and find the whole of the information. I do not say that the whole of these details should be printed, but we ought to have a general summary ; and if we find from the summary that there are matters which we think ought to be inquired into further we can get the original paper, and if it is considered of sufficient importance can ask that it be printed. That is the position that should be taken up in a matter of this kind. In the early years of Federation it. was determined that when papers were laid upon the table of either House they should be referred to a Joint Printing Committee which should determine whether they were worth printing. The Committee has. done good work. In the present instance members of the Senate have not had an opportunity of considering some of the returns, because they have not been ordered to be printed, and were not tabled in this Chamber. They were presented to the House of Representatives only. The paper with regard to the postoffice at Perth was not laid upon the table of the Senate. Take the document regarding the adopting of karri sleepers for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. We know that a great deal of interest and debate has been aroused on that question. Why should not the Senate be in a position to read this document on the subject ? After perusing it, if it were thought that the information was important, we might desire to discuss it. The paper appears to contain a large amount of information in the shape of reports as to the value of different classes of timber. We ought to have an opportunity of reading them. Another matter which I should like to have considered is the document regarding certain appointments and promotions. The Committee has made no recommendation regarding it, but the honorable senator who desired to have the paper tabled must have thought it to be of some importance.
– No one asked for that information in either House. Many documents are laid upon the table by Ministers’.
– Ministers present papers because they think they contain information which members of Parliament would like to have. I am under the impression that papers laid upon the table by Ministers ought to be printed. In any case, I agree with Senator Stewart that there is a good deal of information in these papers that should be made available. I do not say that the Printing Committee made a mistake in not making a recommendation, but I want them to reconsider the matter in order that we may have an opportunity of possessing the information if on reconsideration the Committee think it desirable to recommend the printing of the document. It might also be well for the Committee to consider whether it would not be advisable to recommend that they should be empowered to provide summaries of documents, the whole of which they did not consider of sufficient importance to print. Honorable senators are aware that summaries are often most valuable.
– -Has the Printing Committee the power to print summaries of papers ?
– There is nothing to prevent the Committee recommending to the Senate the printing of a summary of a paper. Every Minister of the Crown knows the value of a good precis writer in his Department, and the advantage of a concise precis of a large file of papers which, but for such a summary, it would be his duty to laboriously peruse.
– I cannot understand the action of Senator Stewart in moving his amendment, except by attributing it to a sudden desire for information, which will probably pass away as quickly as it arose. The paper dealing with Government advertising deals only with the cost, and gives no information as to the nature of the advertising. We are told by members of the Printing Committee that it is a bulky paper, and if it were .printed the probability is that Senator Stewart, like the majority of us, would not think it worth while to turn over more than the first page before he threw it into the waste paper basket. I have no wish to assist those who have raised a howl all over the country against Federal extravagance by consenting to the expenditure of money upon unnecessary printing. The whole of the information in connexion with the use of karri sleepers for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway can be found in the pages of Hansard, which also contains full statements of the merits of the question from both points of view.
– To look for the information in Hansard would be like looking for a grain of wheat in a bushel of chaff. An honorable senator could not carry Hansard all round the country with him.
– I should prefer to carry Hansard rather than these papers. A reference to Hansard would give honorable senators a better understanding of the whole question of the use of karri sleepers than he could obtain from a perusal of the papers. I do not propose to object that the Printing Committee have decided not to print the petition which I presented to the Senate the other day, but I do say that there is more justification for the printing of such papers than for the printing of many official documents that are included amongst our printed papers. The presentation of a petition is the only way which some people have of letting their opinions be known to the country.
– The petition the honorable senator presented is in Hansard, because it was read in the Senate.
– If If it is in Hansard, I have no desire that it should be printed as a separate paper. We should do nothing which would interfere with the right of people to petition Parliament.
– How often have petitions had any effect upon the honorable senator’s opinion on any matter with which they deal ?
– That does not matter. The right of petition should be continued to the people, because it is the only way in which some persons are able to let their views be known. Their petitions may appear to be drivel to us, but they are matters of serious moment to the petitioners. I know that the Committee have gone through all the papers referred to them, and I do not quarrel with their judgment. We have appointed a Printing Committee to advise the Senate in such matters, and we should act upon their recommendation:
– I intend to support Senator Stewart’s amendment that the report be referred back to the Committee for the printing of the paper to which he has referred.
- Senator Stewart has not moved that the report be referred back to the Committee, but that certain papers which he has named shall be printed.
– I consider that the whole Parliament, and not merely one branch of it, should be supplied with the information contained in all papers tabled in either House. We ought to have information of the money which is being spent upon Government advertising. I have looked through some of the newspapers during the last few months, and have ‘found that there is an absolute preference given to some journals in the matter of Government advertising. Why should we not print in the Journals of the Senate papers which are printed in the journals of another place? Why should members of the Senate have to refer to the journals of another place to get information which they want? The Printing Committee make no recommendation with respect to the printing of a paper dealing with the acquisition of land in Perth for the purposes of a General Post Office. I do not know why the Committee should make no recommendation for the. printing of a paper dealing with the acquisition’ of land in the centre of a city, and probably at tremendous cost. The paper in connexion with the use of karri sleepers on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, was laid on the table of the Seriate, but I see no reason why it should not be included in our parliamentary papers. Is there anything in the matter to hide?
– The honorable senator ought to know that the Printing Committee have only to consider whether it is advisable to print a paper or not.
– That is so; but, as a member of the Senate, I have a perfect right to say that I desire that this paper should be printed. If Senator Stewart had moved that the report be referred back to the Committee, I should have supported the motion, and I intend to support his motion for the printing of the papers to which he has referred. I do not think that anything in these papers should be hidden from the general public. Probably, there is no member of the Senate who is in a position* to say definitely whether the Government are adopting the right course in using powellised sleepers for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. We require all the information we can possibly get on the matter. Personally, I am unable to form a judgment on the subject ; but if we are committed to the adoption of an unwise course in the matter, the sooner we retrace our steps the better; and I am not at all satisfied that a wise course has been adopted. I think the information contained in these papers should be printed and included in the Journals of the Senate.
. -I have not a word of objection to offer to the printing of the papers referred to by Senator Stewart. I wish honorable senators to understand that the Printing Committee has the responsibility of considering the advisability of the printing of papers tabled in the Senate. They may “not always make the best possible recommendation ; but, if they could avail themselves of the judgment of the wiseacres who sit around them in this Chamber, they would never make a mistake at all. From the numbers of trashy and more valuable papers submitted to them, the Committee selects for printing those which, in their judgment will convey valuable information to honorable senators.. I take the paper dealing with Government advertising, to which Senator Stewart has referred.
– Order ! ‘ I understand the honorable senator is now speaking to the amendment.
– I was speaking in reply to the motion.
– The honorable senator cannot speak in reply until after the amendment has been dealt with, but he has the right to speak to the amendment, which has reference to two papers - those relating to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, and to lands purchased or compulsorily acquired during the financial year.
– I am obliged to you, sir, for your guidance. I should like to say, with respect to the papers referring to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, that it is a very bulky file of papers, some of which date as far back as 1902 and 1903, and from that date on to the present time. I venture to say that the whole file of papers, if perused by honorable senators, would not convey a tithe of the information which they might derive on the subject from debates upon the matter in another place. These papers were considered by the Printing Committee, and in view of the facf that, in their opinion, better information on the subject had already been circulated to honorable senators in the pages of Hansard, they decided that it would be better not to go to the expense of printing them. If the Senate desires that they should be printed, it must take the responsibility of saying so. With respect to the papers dealing with land purchases and acquisitions, we know that such papers are tabled from time to time, and, so far as I know, none of them have hitherto been printed or ordered to be printed. They are regarded as part of the ordinary administrative business of the Department. The Government may decide to purchase a block of land in Jerusalemstreet, Ipswich. What do I know about it? There may be a proposal to acquire other land at Leonora for public purposes, and Senator Stewart would know nothing about it, and would not even know where it was. As such papers have not hitherto been printed, the Printing Committee saw no reason why the papers now referred to, dealing with similar matters, should be printed. It is assumed that land purchased or acquired by the Commonwealth is required for public purposes.
– What is the use of the digests published by the Minister of Home Affairs if honorable senators do not read them?
– Those digests give the very best information in connexion’ with such matters. They supply information as to the location, area, and value of every piece of land acquired for Commonwealth purposes, and the digests are supplied to honorable senators periodically throughout the year. In the circumstances, why should we go to the unnecessary expense of printing hundreds of copies of such papers when honorable senators can obtain the whole of the information they contain in publications already issued?
– I ask the permission of the Senate to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I beg to move-
That the word “ adopted “ be left out, with a view to adding the words, “ referred back to the Printing Committee for the reconsideration of its Report as to the following Papers, with a view to their being printed : - Advertising by Federal Departments - Return showing cost, General Post Office, Perth - Particulars of Lands acquired for site,’ &c. ; Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Papers re adoption of Karri Sleepers; Lands purchased or resumed in the Financial Years 1910-11, 1911-12 - Return.”
I have nothing to add to what I have already said in support of my proposal. Judging by the remarks of several honorable senators, who apparently are in sympathy with my idea, there seems to be a notion abroad that the Senate ought to get more information.
– We- cannot get time to read what we are already supplied with.
– That is quite true. Each honorable -senator does not wish to read every paper that is presented to Parliament - it would not be possible to do so - but I am sure that there are some papers which every honorable senator desires to read. They may have reference to particular subjects in which he takes an interest, and that being the case, I think that they ought to be printed. Papers are presented to one House or the other, and if a paper is worthy of being placed ‘ on the table for the information of legislators, it ought to be printed.
– Order ! The honorable member made a speech when he moved his first amendment; then he asked the Senate for leave to amend the amendment, which he obtained, and now he is making, not a speech on the amended amendment, but on the general question which he has already exhausted.
– Very good, sir.
– I hope it will be remembered that the Printing Committee was appointed to examine all papers, and, for the information and benefit of honorable sena tors, to select those which, in their opinion, should be printed.
– But you will not dispute the right of the Senate?
– I am not questioning the right of the Senate,- but it has as much right to back up the Printing Committee as it has to take the opinion of any honorable senator who, for any purpose, may desire to send any matter back to that body. There are times when the Printing Committee may fail to recommend the printing of some document which is of very great interest to honorable senators, and every honorable senator may desire to go fully into the paper. But can any honorable senator state truthfully that he would read these four papers when they were printed ? No. Would it not be a farce, then, to put the Commonwealth to the cost of printing the papers? The Printing Committee is expected to exercise its judgment, which it has done in this matter. It has been clearly pointed out where all the information desired can be obtained in a far better way than by sending this report back to the Printing Committee. If any honorable senators wish to learn all the transactions about the purchase of land or the erection of buildings they have only to open the digest of the’ Minister of Home Affairs, where the facts are stated in a far better form than could be done in a printed ‘paper. Any matters which may not be contained in the digest can be found in Hansard. Senator Stewart says that he would not like to carry Hansard about with him. I can assure him that the Hansard, containing all the information he requires, is less bulky than the papers which he asks should be printed.
– Hansard does not contain it all.
– Hansard is printed in a much handier form than is a parliamentary paper, can be carried about easily, and is far better indexed. I do not believe that those who are going to vote for the report to be sent back to the Printing Committee have the least intention of reading these papers if printed.
– It is no reflection on the Printing Committee.
– Does not every honorable senator know that it is a reflection on that body?
– I am a member of the Printing Committee, and I do not look upon it as a reflection.
– I take it as a reflection, unless honorable senators could show to the Printing Committee that it has made an error. No information has been given here which would show to me, or, I hope, to a . majority of the Senate, that the Printing Committee has erred in its judgment.
– As a member of the Printing Committee, I do not look upon it as “a reflection.
– I desire to say a few words regarding the return of advertising by the Federal Department. I am not capable of estimating the cost pf printing a paper at all correctly, or, probably, even approximately ; but men who do know the cost of printing documents assured me that it would cost from £20 to , £30 to print this return and circulate it amongst honorable senators ; and when all that was done, no paper laid on the table of this or any other House, would convey less information to a rpan than this one could. It is simply a. compilation ‘ of figures. It comprises sheet after sheet of items from 5s. 6d. up to£50 for simply advertising in such and such a newspaper. It does not make plain what it all means. Therefore, honorable senators would be possessed of as much information after they had read the return as they are at the present moment.
– Most of it would go into the waste-paper basket when read.
– Yes. As regards the site for a General Post Office at Perth, I can only reiterate what I said about the acquisition of land. Every honorable senator has access to the digest ‘of the Minister of Home Affairs, which gives more explicitly the information he desires than would this return if printed.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
After the. lengthy discussion we have had, without any very striking result, it is ‘time, I think, that we turned our attention, to the serious consideration of the business of the country. It will be un derstood that this is one of a series of Bills which have been introduced into another place, and which will all ultimately be considered here. I feel sure that it would facilitate the work of Parliament if I were permitted, at the present time, to discuss the series. One Bill is so interdependent upon the others that there can< be no great harm in making incidental references to the others ; and if no honorablesenator has any serious objection, I should like, with your permission, sir, to adopt that practice.
– That permission will be extended to every one else, df course ?
– If there is no objection raised to that course being adopted,, the Chair will allow the matter to be discussed generally, but it must only be or* the understanding that there is no objection-, raised at the present time.
– May I be permitted tr. say, sir, that, with the view of expeditingthe business, the Vice-President of the Executive Council and myself conferred” on this matter, and honorable senators on this side are entirely agreeable to the course which he himself suggests.
– I do not think, that, from the point of view of a layman,, there is any necessity for me to enter into very exhaustive arguments with respect to the necessity for, and the possibilities, arising out of, the carrying of these measures. Two years agowe had a lengthy discussion in both Houses of this Parliament on exactly the same subject, but in a slightly different pform. The only difference was that as the amendments appeared on the previousoccasion they were included in two Bills. At the present time they appear in six. Bills, one being a slight addition to theamendments advocated on a previous occasion. When the people of Australia sometwelve or thirteen years ago were discussing the possibilities and advantages of Federation, they had in their mindsthe great inconvenience in a continent like ours of the. existence of six independent States each legislating in itsown behalf, each considering only its own interests, and sometimes neglecting thegeneral welfare of Australia as a whole. In those days some of the States were providing inadequately for their defence. Others were not only protecting themselves- against the importation of goods from oversea, but also against importation of goods manufactured and produced in neighbouring States. There was a war of railwa) rates. Endless inconvenience existed in respect of the relations of people in one State with the people in the other States from a business point of view. The wiser men in Australia came to the conclusion that it would be far better to form one Commonwealth for the dealing with national questions from a central source. The idea grew, and ulti ma.tely the Federal Constitution was. adopted by the people. It was rejected op. the first occasion when it was submitted, because it met with serious opposition from a certain section of the community. The reason for that opposition was that the framers of the Constitution had built it upon the American model, and many of the people of Australia, being aware of the evils that had followed from the rigidity of the American Constitution, had come to the conclusion that we could not afford to hobble and fetter ourselves as the American people had been fettered and hobbled for more than 100 years. Therefore the Australian Constitution was not carried on the first attempt. At the second attempt it was carried. In the same way I hope that our referenda proposals of 1913 will be carried. Thirteen is a charmed number in the case of those who are advocating this line of policy. Now, what was the principal ground of opposition to the Federal Constitution in the first place?
– It came from the unificationists.
– The honorable senator is always talking about something which he imagines to be objectionable. Unification in itself has no terrors for anybody. The honorable senator, however, imagines calamities and tries to create suspicion in the minds of some people. I can assure the public, however, that I, for one, am a Home Ruler in every sense of the word. So is every member of the Government to which I belong, and, I believe, every member of the party which supports us.
– They are nothing of the kind. You have only to read their speeches.
– The Constitution, when originally submitted, was opposed by many people who were of the same way of thinking as myself - because we considered that it was not liberal enough for such a democratic people as the Australians. It contained no provision liberal enough for its own amendment. It was too near the American pattern to be accepted by the people of Australia. There were also other features in the original Constitution in which I did not believe. There were features which were absent from it, and which, in my opinion, ought to have been included. I hope the day will come when they will be contained in it. I believe that the railways of Australia and our navigable rivers should be under the control of the Commonwealth, because all these instrumentalities bear to such an extent on our trade and commerce with other countries that division of control with regard to them is detrimental to the best interests of the country.
– What about the United States of America and the railways there ?
– The people of the United States of America are very happy under the circumstances, are they not? Would Senator Walker like to see the railways of Australia under similar control to those of the United States of America ?
– What about Canada, then ? »
– Canada is almost in the same position. When Canada is as old as the United States of America, she will probably begin to experience serious difficulties with respect to railway control. Would Senator Walker be prepared to adopt the Canadian Constitution in Australia? I do not believe he would. The objection that I had to the Federal Constitution was not removed, but something was done to improve it after it had been rejected by some of the States. A meeting of the Premiers of the States was held. Those gentlemen had, of course, the greatest consideration for State rights and State instrumentalities. When they met, they were far-seeing ‘enough to realize that something must be done to make the Constitution more acceptable to the people. They amended it by adopting section 128 in its present form, which provides for an alteration -of the Constitution by the vote of one House of the Federal Parliament and the vote of the majority of the people and the majority of the States. That is to say, if we cannot get an absolute majority in both Houses of the Federal Parliament for a proposed alteration of the Constitution, one House, by being persistent with a proposal for amending the Constitution, can, through the Governor-General, refer the proposed amendment to the people; and the people, by a majority, together with a majority of the States, can ratify the amendment.
– What provision of section 128 of the Constitution was altered? I think it was left in .identically the same form.
– The honorable senator will remember that what is now section 128 was originally section 127. When the Constitution came from the Premiers assembled in Conference, it contained 128 sections instead of 127. The present section 128 was the original 127 as amended. The honorable senator knows as well as I do that the alteration was that if a Bill to amend the Constitution was passed in either House, and was rejected by the other House, and if, after certain things transpired, the amendment was adopted by one House again and still rejected by the other, it should be submitted to the people, and the people by a majority and by a majority of the States could accept that alteration. I do not say that I personally approve of that provision in all respects. I say, as a Democrat, that if the majority of the people of Australia, independently of the States, vote for an amendment of the Constitution, that amendment should be brought about.
– Why does not the honorable senator propose to amend the Constitution in that direction, then?
– When I have converted the honorable senator and a number of other people, I may try to make the attempt. But it is useless for honorable senators opposite to ask me to do things which they know to be impossible under present conditions. Why did the people of Australia accept the Constitution after the possibility of amending it at their will had been made clear? They accepted it because they knew the conditions that existed in America, and were thoroughly satisfied that it was in their interest that there should be an easy means of amending the Constitution. Inasmuch as the people accepted the Constitution because there was a ready means of amendment, is not that means to be exercised at some time or other ?
– If necessary.
– I think, and many who are of the same opinion as I am think also, that the Constitution ought to be amended now. There are even gentlemen on the Opposition side, both in the Senate and in another place, who have expressed the opinion that some alteration of the Constitution is really necessary. They all think so.
– I do not.
– All the honorable senators on this side, and a number of those on the Opposition side, think that an alteration is necessary.
l- Sir Albert Gould. - Not the alterations proposed.
– But why do many of the Opposition party object to the amendments now submitted? Because they themselves are in opposition, and because they imagine that they are going to be in opposition for a much longer period. If the Conservative section came into power they would be just as prepared to amend the Constitution in some of the directions that we propose as the members of this Government and its supporters are now.
– T - Their constitutional leader in another place has said so.
– I know. I could name a number of them who have said so. They have been honest enough to state that it is because they are not on the Treasury bench that they now oppose these amendments. I know members of the party opposite who have said that they distrust the present Government and the Commonwealth Parliament because the franchise is too broad.
– It is too narrow: The Government have taken the postal vote away from the women. 0
– The honorable senator knows that that statement is not in accordance with fact.
– It is a correct” statement.
– Every woman in Australia over the age of twenty-one can exercise the franchise on exactly the same conditions as can every man.
– No, that is nor correct.
– Suppose a woman is ill?
– Well, suppose a man is ill? But it is useless to begin to argue questions of that description within the limited time available between now and Christmas, lt would take much longer to make any impression on certain senators opposite. Some of their friends and supporters would rather trust the Legislative Councils of the States than the Federal Parliament, because the franchises on which the Legislative Councils are elected are so narrow that they do not admit of a full expression of democratic feeling.
– The honorable senator is making use of the statement of one man.
– He voiced the opinion of nearly all the Conservatives in Australia, although, perhaps, the individual in question may be more imbecile and childish than are other members of his party. It was because the people of Australia found in the Constitution a power of amendment that they were prepared .to accept it with all its imperfections. The majority of the people accepted the Constitution with a view to its amendment as the Commonwealth grew into power and its requirements became more apparent.
– And they refused to give the power for which the Government are seeking.
– Probably many people have refused requests made by Senator Sayers in the past, and it may be some consolation to him to think that they may since have regretted doing so. The’ longer the people of Australia deprive themselves of the .advantages of a more liberal Constitution, the worse it will be for them, and the more they will regret it as time goes on.
– We have heard something like that before.
– I know that honorable senators have heard something like that before, and they will hear it again.
– The people did not lie down. They stood up in their might when these matters were referred to them before.
– The time is coming when they will give a different answer, and Senator St. Ledger may find th.it out sooner than he expects.
– I shall take it standing up, if I do.
– I hope that honorable senators opposite will not be so bumptious as to ‘imagine that with their transcendent ability, and the policy they now advocate, they will sweep everything before them in the future. They are not going to do so. It is unnecessary that I should go back into the history of the United States of America beyond the last twenty or thirty years to show the necessity that arose for the amendments of the Constitution of that country. 11 is sufficient to refer to what has transpired there within the last twenty or thirty years. While it is possible in almost every other civilized country for the working classes to work out their own salvation, it is scarcely possible for them to do so in the United States of America. It is a well-known fact that trusts, combines, monopolies, and institutions of that kind, control wealth in America to the extent of almost £3,000,000,000.
– Two men control 37 per cent, of the wealth of America.
– I do not doubt that statement for a- moment, but I ask honorable senators whether, with the enormous wealth in the hands of a very few individuals in the United States of America, it is to be wondered at that the municipal and State authorities, and even the Federal Government itself, are suspected in all the rest of the world of being influenced by corruption. In every part of the world the influence of money in America is recognised, and it is known that people have been bought with that money time after time within the last twenty or thirty years.
– How is it that Taft got such a licking as he did ?
– Taft did not get a licking. He was defeated only because the party he represented was divided. The honorable senator must know that the Republican party in America had a majority of over 1,000,000 votes at the recent Presidential election. I am not going to say that Dr. Woodrow Wilson is a Conservative or a Liberal. I do not know to what political party politicians in America may be said to belong, but the principal party in America is the “ boodle party,” and they control the Constitution, the Parliament, and the people. It is because the people of Australia are beginning to. learn from the experience of the United States during the last twenty years that in the very near future they will be prepared to make such alterations in our Constitution as will prevent such things as have occurred in the United States ever occurring in Australia.
– Can. the honorable senator point to any attempt here on the part of companies to corrupt Parliament?
– I do not know what Senator St. Ledger’s policy is. I do not know whether he is a member or a solicitor for the American. Beef Trust or any other trust, but he is such an eminent legal gentleman that I should expect his services to be sought after by such wealthy corporations.
– They would not come to this side.
– They would not come to any one on this side for assistance. People in this, and in every other country, have recognised the evils that have arisen in the United States of America. There have been men of clear judgment and upright minds in America who have taken the side of the people and endeavoured to do something in their interests. Attempts have been made to destroy the influence of trusts, combines, and such institutions, but those attempts have all failed because the wealth of the combines has been too great for the integrity and honesty of individuals.
– Does the honorable senator say that all the prosecutions under the Sherman Act have failed ?
– They have practically failed. Can Senator St. Ledger point to any real good result which has followed from any prosecutions under that Act? If he would only take the trouble to consult the decisions of the Courts of America he would find that some of the most trifling cases were brought before them, and such cases as should never have been brought before any Court. The prosecutions have had no effect so far as the interests of the people are concerned. In connexion with the most important prosecution, the Standard Oil Trust was fined an enormous amount of money, but it never paid it. The wealthy in America never pay for anything, and that is how they become wealthy. They pay those who make their wealth as little’ as they can, work them the longest hours, and under conditions which are detrimental to their health. All the attempts made in that direction in America have been futile to rid the United States of America of the evils which have grown up there within the last twenty or thirty years in connexion with the aggregation of wealth. Australia is a younger country than the United States of America, and these evils have not assumed, and I hope never will assume, the dimensions to which they have grown in the United States of America.
– They are nearly as big in proportion to our population.
– From the beginning of our history we have been more sensible than the people of the United States of America, and have taken care that all our railways and public utilities should, as far as possible, be controlled by municipal and State authorities. The promoters of trusts and combines have not had the same scope for their operations in connexion with railways, water conservation, and the operation of public utilities as they have had in America. But Senator Rae is quite right in saying that trusts and combines have made their appearance in Australia in connexion .with public utilities that are left in the hands of muchlauded private enterprise. In the shipping industry and other industries of the kind their influence has crept in.
– Why not be definite, and name the other industries?
– Is there any necessity to do so? There is no State shipping in Australia, and it is because there is not a comprehensive State monopoly in connexion with shipping that we find creeping into the management of that industry the evils that exist in America at the present time. Is that not enough for the honorable senator?
– The honorable senator spoke of other industries of the kind, and I wished him to be definite and name them. For instance, I wish to know whether the tobacco industry is one.
– And the sugar industry? Senator Millen. - Is the coal industry one?
– Most decidedly they are all tending in that direction. They would have advanced much further but for the fact that in the last few years the Labour party, which it was predicted would never get a footing in Parliament, has become stronger and stronger. The operations of these pernicious institutions were more apparent ten years ago than they are to-da.y, and it is because of the work of the Labour party in Parliament that today they treat their employes better, pay them higher wages, and give them better conditions. But the public have still to pay the same high prices for what they require, and these companies continue to make the enormous profits they made in the past. I am referring now to the Tobacco Trust, the Sugar Trust, the Confectionery Trust, and all the other “ honorable understandings” that have afflicted Australia during the last ten or twelve years. I do not discriminate between them. They are all working in the same direction, and unless the people give this Parliament the power it requires, and send the right men here, the evils now existing in America will become rampant in Australia. Something has been done in the past in this country. We have passed conciliation and arbitration laws for the settlement of industrial disputes, an Australian Industries Preservation Act to protect business people from dumping and other operations of outside monopolies, and legislation with respect to trade marks and designs. Yet, because of something that is lacking, our legislation has not had the effect which even this Parliament desire. What is that something? Under our Constitution we created a Commonwealth Parliament and a High Court. The Parliament was created for the purpose of legislating under the Constitution, and the High Court was created principally for the purpose of interpreting the Constitution. All the difficulties that have . arisen with respect to the legislation we have passed have been due to the narrow interpretation of the Constitution given by the High Court. The position of the Supreme Court of the United States in relation to the people, of that country is different from that of our High Court in relation to the people of Australia. Our High Court, in addition to its work of interpreting the Constitution, is given an appellate jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of America has nothing whatever to do with the States. The result has been that any extension of the United States Constitution has arisen from the action of the Supreme Court. It could arise in no other way. Because the Court has no particular interest in connexion with any State, there are no “State Frighters “ in America, or they very seldom make their appearance. Under our Constitution the High Court is an entirely different body, and views the Constitution from various stand-points. I do not say a word against the High Court as an institution, nor do I desire to reflect in any way upon the personnel of the Court. But every one of the Justices of the High Court has personal views and ideas. We can see the effect of this from our experience in the Senate. Only yesterday we found Senator St. Ledger expressing an opinion in one direction and Senator Gould expressing opinions in the opposite direction. I believe that both expressed their honest convictions, but because they are lawyers they could not help differing from one another. The Justices of the High Court are men of high qualifications and great ability, and have earned for themselves big reputations. Yet when they come to interpret the Constitution as between the States and the Commonwealth, we find- that some of them have been so long associated with the States, and have so little faith in the Commonwealth - whether they consider it is not safe without a Legislative Council or not I do not know - that they keep as much power fromi the Commonwealth as they can, and allow the States to retain as much power as possible. I could quote a number of instances where it was within the power of these gentlemen to interpret the Constitution in one way or another, but the majority of the Court has always decided in the one direction of limiting the power of the Commonwealth and retaining intact the powers of the States.
– They have kept within the Constitution.
– Of what use is it for the honorable senator to say that? I have listened to as many constitutional debates in the Senate as has any other member of it, and I have taken part in them. I found that when there were six or eight lawyers- in the Senate, every one had a different opinion with respect to the interpretation of the Constitution.
– That is not so.
– Although I deprecate the effect which the High Court’s interpretations had upon the Commonwealth, yet I do not blame the Judges, because they probably acted according to their conscience and their judgment ; and, therefore, were not to blame. I predict that, as the Commonwealth grows, as its institutions expand, as men become more Federal than State, even the lawyers will turn in the direction of the Commonwealth, and their interpretations in the future, when they are big Australians, and not little Australians, will be more in favour of the Commonwealth than of the States, as at present.
– Then, according to your argument, the men of Western Australia can attend to the little affairs of Victoria better than Victorians can do?
– I am only arguing that the sooner the little Australian ideal dies out, and the great Australian ideal grows, the better it will be for the whole people of Australia.
– Surely you are asserting that the High Court represents the little Australian ideal?
– Up .to the present time, the majority of the High Court has done so, because every member of the Bench does not interpret the Constitution in the same direction. If honorable senators desired me to occupy the time of the Senate in pointing out the instances, I could do so. It was not a Labour Government here that carried the first trade-marks legislation, although, with the assistance of honorable senators from that side of the chamber and of Labour members from this side, the workers’ trade-mark was placed in the Trade Marks Act, yet, when it came before the High Court, it was ruled out.
– lt was supported by lawyers here.
– Yes, and there were eminent lawyers here at the time.
– I do not think you could point to a single senator on this side who supported that Bill. We all told you that it was unconstitutional.
- Senator Keating assisted us all he possibly could, and pointed out that the same kind of legislation had existed in Tasmania for years.
– I shall ‘make one exception then.
– Other senators supported the Bill.
– What others? Name one.
- Sir Robert Best did.
– He is not here now.
– I could name many others who supported the Bill, but I do not want to waste time in naming the members of the Liberal party who have taken a common sense view of things at some time or other in their lives. Why, even Senator Millen at one period of his life was sensible, and his belief ran in tire right direction. It was only his association with the more selfish and wicked side of the community which led him from the straight path. When the workers’ trademark was taken before the High Court, it was knocked out. What was the justification for that act? The only justifica tion was that at the time the Constitution was inaugurated it was not the law in any of the States in connexion with trade-marks. Yet Senator Keating told us on the floor of the Senate that it was the law in Tasmania at that time.
– Is that one of the things for which yo.u want to pass this Bill?
– It is one of the things which ought to be passed, and1 passed as speedily as possible. I am only showing how the High Court was prepared) to .knock out the workers’’ trade-mark. But the decision was not unanimous by any means. There were on that Bench other gentlemen just as intelligent as those whodecided in that direction, and whose careers were just as brilliant, but who differed from that point of view. It was only because one honorable gentleman had a casting vote which might create a majority at any time, that a piece of legislation which would have been beneficial to a vast majority of the people, was declared unconstitutional.
– Are you arguing that the minority decision ought to prevail?
– No ; but if there is any doubt they always go on the principle of giving the decision against the Commonwealth.
– I am only stating what has been done. I am showing that, if the opinions of many of the framers of the Constitution, as expressed in both Houses of this Parliament since it first met, were embodied in those interpretations of the Constitution, there would be very little necessity for submitting these proposed amendments to-day, because the first Parliament firmly believed that it had complete power in connexion with trade-marks, designs, and all such matters, as they are mentioned specifically in section 51. The members of the first Parliament believed that, with respect to most industrial matters, we had almost absolute power, but we have been disillusioned within the last ten years by the decisions of the High Court.
– If the first Parliament believed that, why did Mr. Higgins bring forward, in the other House, a motion asking for that power?
– Mr. Justice Higgins only realized that after he had dealt with the Constitution. He believed when he first came to this Parliament that it had that power.
– Why did he submit the motion that the power should be sought ?
– There were, obviously, other powers outside of the Constitution which it would be advisable to hand over to the Commonwealth; and it was with that end in view that Mr. Justice Higgins submitted his motion ; and it was very early in the history of this Parliament that the . very men who framed the Constitution began to see that it did not mean all that they thought it meant; when they first gave it to the people. To” argue that, because Mr. Justice Higgins took that course when he was in the House of Representatives, is no argument against what I have been pointing out. It only goes to show that even such a learned man as Mr. Justice Higgins knew that a mistake had been made in connexion with the Constitution. Every one in this Parliament imagined that it had power to act so far as the protection of the industries of Australia was concerned ; it passed a Bill with that aim, and one of the present Justices of the High Court was the very man who drafted it and piloted it through. When it was referred to the High Court,, although he was then a member of the Bench, even he, with all his ability and astuteness, was not able to convince those who had shown themselves from’ the very beginning to be State Righters to the very backbone.
– Are you referring to the other members of the High Court Bench ?
– Yes ; is there any harm in saying that?
– No; it is an open criticism.
– Some members of the High Court Bench have done all they possibly can to narrow the powers of the Commonwealth, and to conserve or widen the powers of the States ; and if that is not evidence of the State Rights mania, I do not know what is. But I hope the day will come when there will be Australians on the High Court Bench. In generations after we have gone, the people of Australia will be different from what they are to-day; those who will interpret the Constitution then will be men of Australia, and the Australian people, as a people, will thrive under their interpretations.
– Was not the Senate intended to maintain the rights of the States under the Constitution?
– Certainly. “And are we not endeavouring to maintain the rights of the State? Every right that the States have, I am prepared to fight for ; but I am not prepared to curtail the rights of the Commonwealth.
– The rights of the Commonwealth are written in the Constitution.
– Yes ; and I only want a fair interpretation of the written Constitution.
– You want to enlarge-our powers ?
– I want an interpretation that will be broad and Australian, not narrow and in the interests of the States. ,
– You mean ari interpretation that will suit your party ?
– Nothing of the sort.
– Yes, certainly.
– Why should I not, when I believe our party to be right? I want the Constitution to be framed, interpreted, administered, and amended when necessary, in the interests of the people of Australia as those interests appear to me, and so does every member of the party to which I belong.
– And to give this Parliament more power.
– And to give this Parliament adequate power to protect, foster, and encourage the interests of the people of all Australia.
– In the meantime you want your own party represented on the High Court Bench.
– 1 want the views of this party represented on the High Court Bench, and I say that they are representee there, because, in -many of the decisions, the view held by this party has been given expression to.
– Then you have made the High Court Bench political - is that what you want
– 1 do not know what the honorable senator would do if he were on’ the Bench of the High Court. Probably he would not know where he was at any time; he does not know now, and he might be off altogether then. I have no desire to take up too rauch time. The Bill which is immediately before the Senate relates to the trade and commerce power. We know that the operations and the intentions of the Commonwealth have been limited b> the interpretation which has been put on that power-
– But by the express words i» the Constitution. You want to take out the words.
– How does the power in the Constitution read - 9
Trade and commerce with foreign countries, and among the States.
Will the honorable senator tell me what “among the States” means?
– Between the States.
– No j it means more than “ between the States.” If six senators on the other side represented the States, and I handed over ^5,000,000, and said to them, “Divide it among you,” that amount would be divided between them, no doubt. Anything which was given to them for division would be divided between them. But if I were to put six of them in hot water, the hot water would be among them, would it not?
– No; you would be among the hot water.
– Or vice versa, I was going to say. That is an entirely different meaning. It would not be a division between them in the sense of the division of anything else. Why did not the Convention say -
Trade and commerce with other countries, and between the States.
– Are you contending that the Constitution, does give to the Federal authorities power over the internal trade and commerce of a State?
– What do you want ?
– I want to know from Senator St. Ledger, Senator Clemons, ‘ and Senator Millen, who embody the intelligence of the other side, where is the Commonwealth power to end, and the State power to begin ?
– Where the Constitution says.
– Where does the Constitution say? An article is ordered from the United States of America. The Commonwealth has control of the article till it comes to the wharf in Melbourne, but after it is taken away from the wharf, who has control of it?
– The State.
– When does foreign commerce mingle with the com merce of a State? Will any honorable senator tell me that? When does manufactured clothing, landed here from America, get into the commerce of Victoria ?
– When it passes theCustoms and pays duty.
– Can we follow it, although it is not taken out of the packet? Is it when it is taken out of a packet, and .distributed on- the counter of a retailer, that it enters into the commerce of the State?
– It belongs to the retailer then.
– I am a layman. I do not know the intricacies of the law,, but I want to know from the honorablesenator when foreign commerce becomespart of the commerce of Victoria or any. other State.
– Go to the HighCourt, and they will tell you.
– Yes, and we would get a varied interpretation there. The very ambiguity of the expression in the Constitution, apart from the interpretation which has been given to it, makes it absolutely necessary that it should beamended. If we want to protect the internal trade and commerce of a State we need to define more clearly when the commerce of a foreign country becomes part of the commerce of a State. We also want to know when the commerce of one State becomes part of the commerce of another State. We wish to know, for instance, when wheat from Victoria becomes part of the trade and commerce of South Australia. We desire to know a number of these things, and it is the ambiguity about them at present which makes it almost necessary that some amendment of the Constitution should be brought about. Solong as we have divided control of that description, so long will that confusioncontinue.
– And so we ought to have Unification?
– It has nothing; to do with Unification ; but, so far as trade and commerce are concerned, we should* have Unification.
– That is what you said.
– We now have Unification as regards posts and tele-, graphs. Have any evils’ arisen out of that ?
– Yes; a terrible state of affairs exists now.
– The honorable senator cannot point out the evils.
– I can. The management of the Department in Sydney is simply shameful.
– That is all right. Will the honorable senator say that because there is Unification in connexion with defence any great calamity has taken place ?
– We federated to do what we could not do individually.
– If no great harm has come about through the Unification of those services, which belong to the Commonwealth, and some ambiguity and confusion exist in the Commonwealth and the States in connexion with trade and commerce, would it not be better to unify trade and commerce as we have unified the Defence and Postal Departments? What calamity would take place if we did?
– You, could not adulterate then.
– Men could not probably adulterate or sell in the Commonwealth adulterated goods as is done in the States. When 95 per cent, of neatsfoot oil in Victoria was found to be mineral oil men could not be prosecuted or convicted here.
– We control the Excise laws. Is there no adulteration going on under them to-day ?
– Not nearly so much as there was when the Excise laws were controlled by the States. It is only when commodities get beyond the control of the Commonwealth that that kind of thing is done. It is only when a manufacturing industry gets under State control that cardboard is put in boots. The Commonwealth cannot at present interfere in the interests of the people. I shall say no more .about trade and commerce, though certainly that subject is the one upon which nearly all the rest hinges. For the purpose of removing ambiguities from the Constitution we should make an amendment in the direction proposed. With respect to the Bill dealing with trading and financial corporations, every honorable senator knows that it would be a good thing from the point of view of honest investors if our laws on that subject were unified. As to the Bill dealing with industrial matters, we all know the disappointment that has arisen in consequence of the various de cisions that have been given. We want to do away with ambiguities in that direction, and to give control to an authority that will be in a position to make and administer laws for the benefit of the whole people. As to the regulation of monopolies, we want to prevent here the evils that we all know to have arisen in the United States of America. The fifth proposed amendment provides that where a monopoly has become destructive and injurious to the best interests of the people, this Parliament shall have power to nationalize it and work it in the interests of the people. That is all that our proposal means or was ever intended to mean. I believe that the people are satisfied that when a monopoly becomes injurious it should be nationalized.
– Has any one monopoly been found to be destructive in Australia ?
– Some have, to my mind, and if a monopoly were not proved to be destructive, Parliament could not honestly declare it to be a monopoly within the meaning of this measure. Industries will not be interfered with as long as they keep within the bounds of fairness. The last Bill to which I have to refer is that dealing with State railways. All the power we want in that connexion is to take action with respect to labour troubles when they occur. When a State is unable to cope adequately with such a labour trouble, the Commonwealth should be able to step in in. the interest of the community, and bring; about peace, happiness, and harmony in. relation to the railways of the different States. I need not refer at length to what occurred in this State when the country was injured by a great railway strike. I could point to other instances in other parts of the world where the same thing has occurred. It is surely time that supreme power was given to the strongest Government - and that in Australia is the Commonwealth Government - to cope with theseevils when they arise.
– Supreme powerover the railways?
– The honorablesenator is always making interjections without^ consideration. I believe that when he considers these questions more carefully, and thinks more seriously about them, hewill be able to express more rational! opinions. I have much pleasure in moving the second reading of the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from 8th November (vide page 5269), on motion by Senator McGregor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The first point to which I wish to direct attention is the fact that “this is a Bill for the purpose of borrowing. I mention that because there is reason for asking whether this Government has any warrant for venturing upon a policy of borrowing for public purposes. There can be no doubt about this being a borrowing measure. To make that clear, I need only quote two remarks made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council in introducing it. He said -
I know that honorable senators, particularly those on the other side, will be pleased in one sense, and displeased in another, that the Commonwealth is going in for a little borrowing.
He also said -
The Government are quite justified in borrowing money for the purpose of going into this investment.
I hope it is quite clear from those two sentences that the Bill is one for the purpose of borrowing. It is also obvious from the first sentence quoted that Senator McGregor himself recognised that he was in rather an invidious position when, as the representative of a party pledged to bring to an end the old system of borrowing, he himself had to come forward and ask for the continuance of that old system.
– The old system?
– Yes, the old system of borrowing, as I will prove before I resume my seat.
– Under the old system Governments borrowed for nearly everything.
– I say that this Bill is for the purpose of borrowing money for exactly the same purpose for which honorable senators opposite have objected to borrowing before. This Bill, whether it is justifiable or not, clearly does make a new departure in the financial operations of the Government. It provides money for the purpose of purchasing an area of land for the purposes of a post-office site in Perth. We have been buying land for such purposes almost from the inception of Federation, but we have hitherto never resorted to borrowing. The lands have always been paid for out of revenue.
– This is a reproductive work.
– Why is this more a reproductive work than were other land purchases made by other Governments and by this Government for precisely similar purposes? 1 am not now asking whether this Bill is good, bad, or indifferent. What I want to bring home to honorable senators and to the country is the fact that this Government is now making a vital departure from the policy hitherto followed and promulgated in Parliament and outside. Let me allude to a return presented on a motion of my own, showing the area of land purchased during the last two years. These lands have all, up to the present, been paid for out of revenue. The Government purchased in 1910-11 land to the value of £70,840 for various public purposes. Of that sum . £59,000 has been paid, whilst £11,000 still remains a liability for which provision is being made upon the Estimates.
– Is not the honorable senator glad that we could pay our way like that?
– My criticism is not directed to that point. I will show not only that the Government is not paying its way, but that it is resorting to the old expedient which the members of the party opposite have condemned so frequently, of taking money from the Trust Fund.
– To whom are we indebted ?
– To the people whose money the Government are using.
– Whose money we are spending for their benefit.
– All these generalizations will not succeed in getting me away from the fact that hitherto this Government declared that it was an unsound policy to buy lands for public purposes, and to pay for them in any other way than out of revenue. They have pursued that policy hitherto to the extent of £348,000 in the last two years.
– We never said that it was unsound policy to borrow for such purposes as this.
– I do not think that the honorable senator will repeat that statement when I make a few quotations, including one from a speech made by himself.
– I know the policy of the party.
– Then the honorable senator is the only man in Australia who does.
– That may sound clever, but it does not dispose of the fact.
– That there is a departure marked by this Bill from the policy hitherto followed is obvious, because we have been buying lands for these purposes for the last ten years. The present Government has purchased in two years more land than all previous Governments put together. These lands have always been paid for out of revenue. But they now come down with the proposal to borrow. It is incontrovertible that to that extent there is a change of policy. I want to show how far it is justified, and to make it abundantly clear how honorable senators opposite have regarded such a policy on previous occasions. In order that I may do no injustice to them1, I propose to remind the Senate of the attitude which they have taken up both in Parliament and outside. In 1909 the last Government introduced a Loan Bill. I quite understand that laugh of honorable senators opposite. I am not going to deal with the purpose of that Bill, or to contrast it with the purpose of this one. I am going to take quotations from the speeches of honorable senators opposite dealing with the express purposes for which this Bill has been brought in. I am going to show my honorable friends what they said in regard to proposals to borrow money for the very purposes for which it is now proposed to borrow. Looking over the Hansard report of the debates in 1909, I find that amongst other things it is reported that Mr. Wilks said, “ The first Loan Bill was to provide for reproductive works.” That was the Loan Bill introduced by Sir George Turner in the early days of Federation - a Bill which Mr. Wilks referred to as being for reproductive works. Mr. Frazer, the present PostmasterGeneral, interjected, “ That was so; it was to provide for necessary reproductive works in Australia.” I asked the Senate to note that as a certificate as to the purposes of the Bill - that it was to provide for reproductive works in Australia.
– We have only the honorable senator’s statement for that.
– It is Mr. Frazer’s statement - the statement of the PostmasterGeneral - the statement of a member of the present Ministry. He said that the pur pose of the Bill was to provide not merely for reproductive, but for “ necessary reproductive works.”
– M - Mr. Frazer was not in Parliament at the time when Sir George Turner’s Bill was introduced.
– It does not matter whether he was or not. Senator de Largie seems to imagine that all the knowledge, all the wisdom, and all the mentality are embraced within the four walls of Parliament.
– He was in his political knickerbockers at the time.
– I shall show presently that Mr. Frazer was not alone in the interpretation which he placed upon the purposes of that Bill. He having affirmed that the Bill was to provide for “ necessary reproductive works,” Mr. Wilks added, “ That is the only possible justification for a loan,” and Mr. Frazer said, “ I agree with the honorable member.” Let us see what Mr. Frazer says with regard to what ought to be a loan policy for this country. I am not now speaking of the dark ages, nor of a time when Mr. Frazer was in his political knickerbockers. I am speaking of the year 1909. Mr. Fisher delivered himself in these terms. This is a gentleman whose name cannot be associated with knickerbockers, however much it may be associated with the kilt. Mr. Fisher pointed out that on a previous occasion Parliament had definitely decided against a Loan Bill. He went on to say -
They are not justified in altering the policy of the country because they find themselves in financial difficulties. If that were permissible, then, I presume, responsible government, as we understand it, would be at an end. The fact that the electors confirmed the action of the Parliament in 1902 in refusing to adopt a borrowing policy was a direction to all Commonwealth Ministries that the settled policy of the Commonwealth should be to abstain from borrowing until a contrary direction had been given by the people.
I ask, what contrary direction has been given by the people? Where has there been any indication that they desire a reversal of that policy which my honorable friends opposite have preached from a thousand platforms?
– There has been absolutely none.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. There has been no indication in favour of a reversal of the policy which was pursued by the Labourparty when its members rejected the first
Loan Bill which was introduced into this Parliament by Sir George Turner.
– That was the wisest thing Parliament ever did.
– It seems that it was entirely wrong for Sir George Turner to borrow for postal works, but that it is entirely right for Mr. . Fisher to borrow for the same thing. Mr. Fisher went on to say -
I hold the strongest views on this question, and am in no doubt regarding my own position as to the wisdom of a” non-borrowing policy. We took a wise slep in refusing to borrow in the early days of Federation, and I hope that we shall continue to ‘do so.
That is the statement of a gentleman who is the author of two Loan Bills, the second of which we are now considering. I come now to the present Minister of External Affairs, Mr. Thomas, who, on the 30th November, 1909, as will be seen by reference to Hansard, page 6554, said -
There is something to be said for the policy of raising money by loans to provide for reproductive works, although, personally, I am opposed to such a po’ icy.
What justification have the Government for bringing forward this Bill? Their sole plea is that it is intended to provide for reproductive public works. Mr. Thomas also said -
So soon as a loan policy is initiated in connexion with the construction of reproductive works, there sets in a certain measure of extravagance.
That gentleman might have added that it is not necessary to wait for the initiation of a loan policy in connexion with the construction of reproductive works for extravagance to be indulged in.
– W - We are only following the example set by the honorable senator’s party.
– I am dealing with the honorable senator’s party. I come now to another gentleman who is not a Minister, but whose name ought to carry conviction, seeing that it is one which counts for much in Labour circles. On the 27 th August, 1907, Mr. Watson, in speaking in the other branch of the Legislature, as will be seen by reference to Hansard, page 2372, said -
As far as I am concerned, any proposal for loan expenditure, unless the occasion be urgent, and unless the purpose be very important indeed, will meet with strenuous opposition. Every effort that I can put forth to prevent Australia engaging upon a borrowing policy will be put forth upon this and every other occasion when I have the opportunity in Parliament. There is always a much greater disposition to bc careless about expenditure when we have not to bother ourselves about taxation in the meantime. We know that the landlord presents his hill in the morning, and that the piper has to be paid sometime, but generally with loan expenditure extravagance is iw inked at until the bill is due. We are much more likely, therefore, to secure the economical management of the nation’s affairs while we keep away from borrowing of any description.
I defy the ingenuity of my honorable friends opposite to drive even the humblest pony-trap ever invented through that phrase “of any description.”
– It refers to the borrowing which characterized the past.
– I would urge my honorable friends to wait till I have finished my quotations. Mr. Watson continued -
While the right honorable gentleman -
Referring to Sir John Forrest - was out of the chamber, I said that, although he seemed to appreciate the immense obligations which confront Australia from a national stand-point, he altogether failed to explain how he proposed the money should be raised to carry out those . great projects consistently with his proposal to extend the Braddon clause.
Sir John Forrest. Which project?
Mr. WATSON.; The opening up of the Northern Territory, provision of an adequate local -defence, and railways to the west and the north.
Sir John Forrest. Carry them out by means of loan money.
Mr. WATSON.; Certainly good old policy of borrow and burst. Let us get back to loans, the never failing resource of the spendthrift politician.
That was the leader of the party’ which’, not long since, passed the first Loan Bill through this Parliament to carry out the first section of the railway to Western Australia.
– That line is not being built out of loan money.
– I will deal with that matter presently. Again, on trie 30th September, 1902, Mr. Watson said -
I maintain that to pay for the various necessary works out of loans is against the best interests of the people. In my view, loans always lead to false notions as to the value of economy. If people can borrow easily ancl cheaply they are frequently led to indulge in extravagance of which otherwise they would not be guilty, and borrowing builds up foi those who will come after us in a few years a burden which it is impossible for us to appreciate at the present time.
– There is nothing wrong with that.
– -If there be nothing wrong with the words -
I maintain, that to pay for the various necessary works out of loans is against the best interests of the people, how can my honorable friends opposite approve of this Bill, which authorizes the borrowing of money for necessary public works?
– If it be borrowing.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council admitted that it was borrowing when he introduced the Bill. He introduced it with an apology by saying that -
Honorable senators, particularly on the other side, will be pleased in one sense and displeased in another that the Commonwealth is going in for a little borrowing. ,
Mr. Tudor, another member of the Ministry, speaking on 30th December, 1909, said -
At the last election I, for one, said that I had opposed, and would always oppose, a borrowing policy, except in a case of grave national emergency.
Do the Government consider the purchase of a block of land in Perth a matter of “ grave national emergency “7 I would like Mr. Tudor to reconcile that declaration with his assent to this proposition to purchase a block of land for a post-office. I make these quotations because I am anxious to put before the country the views which honorable members opposite held before they gained possession of the Treasury bench. Mr. 0’Malley. upon the same occasion, said -
The time has come in the history of the Commonwealth when this Parliament must stop the States from continuing their present policy of borrowing.
Anxious to outdo his fellows, he not merely claimed that the Commonwealth should not borrow, but that it should prevent the States from borrowing. Mr. Mahon, another member of the Labour party, said -
The proposal of the Government to raise such a small sum of money is calculated rather to damage than to enhance our credit, and, on that ground alone, I do not intend to support the authorization of a loan.
– Hear, hear 1 It was not necessary.
– Yet we have been told that previous Governments starved the Post Office. Senator de Largie, too, on the 4th December, 1909, unburdened his soul by stating -
Ever since the loan policy of Sir George Turner was defeated, every candidate at the Federal election, including those who in the past favoured borrowing, has expressed his pleasure that a borrowing- policy had been rejected by the Commonwealth Parliament.
The words -there to which I direct attention are -
Ever since the loan policy of Sir George Turner was defeated, every candidate has expressed his pleasure that a borrowing policy had been rejected.
During the course of the same debate, Senator Givens delivered himself thus -
Reproductive developmental work is a highsounding phrase used to cover that sinful policy of borrowing of which Australia has been too guilty in the past.
– I stand by every word of that to-day.
– I believe that the honorable senator will stand by any policy which he has enunciated in this Chamber. But I defy him, with his logical mind, to reconcile the quotations I have made with the action of the members of his party who will support this Bill. Those quotations clearly indicate the attitude which the Labour party took up. Its members affirmed that, even for necessary public works, borrowing ought not to be resorted to. Mr. Watson was opposed to borrowing of any kind.
– Of the old sort. We have initiated a new finance since then.
– The honorable senator is quite right, and it will not be very long before the people will refer to it with a great deal of thanksgiving as the “ old “ finance. I wish to contrast the declarations which I have quoted with the facts of to-day. In this connexion, I would remind honorable senators that the Labour party - both for Federal and State purposes - claims to be one party. No man can be a member of it for State purposes without being a member of it for Federal purposes.
– But there is a policy for the State Parliament and a policy for the Commonwealth Parliament.
– -There is. And in both platforms there is a declaration against borrowing when honorable members opposite are not in office. The moment they come into power they reverse that policy. In New South Wales, no sooner had the Labour party come into office than they doubled the loan expenditure upon public works. Not only did they do that, but they have the credit, or discredit, attaching to them of having brought down the biggest Loan Bill ever passed by the Parliament of that State - a Loan Bill for £9,000,000.
– We beat that in Queensland by £1,000,000.
– I am -talking of New South Wales, where more modest ideas are held concerning what constitutes a reasonable loan. So far is the borrowing policy being pushed at the present time by the non-borrowing Labour Government of New South Wales that they are absolutely dependent for the carrying out of public works on a private loan obtained from a shipping firm; and in order to get it they had to make a substantial concession in the matter of wharfage space to the firm. The same condition of affairs exists in Western Australia, and we find a Labour Government there, equally opposed to all borrowing when out of office, lamenting now that they are in office, the tightness of the money market, and their inability, in consequence, to keep up the rate of expenditure upon which they have launched.
– They are launching out in many ways that no Government ever did before, establishing fleets of mercantile marine, and all that sort of thing.
– It does not matter what purpose the money is borrowed for. Prior to their assumption of office, the Labour party led the people to believe that they were not in favour of borrowing for any of the purposes for which borrowing was resorted to before.
– Never in a single instance did they say anything of the kind.
– Then what did Mr. Watson mean when he declared that the party was not in favour of borrowing of any kind? However, the quotations I have made speak for themselves, and they represent a clear declaration that the Labour party were not in favour of borrowing of any kind, or even of borrowing for necessary reproductive works.
– The Western Australian Government are carrying out the policy of public works proposed by the party of the honorable senator’s own particular colour.
– What an impotent Ministry they must be.- They took office to clean up all the evil things that had been done in the past, and initiate a new era of administration; but they have no initiative of their own, they can find no new tracks to blaze, and are compelled to continue the policy which their predecessors inaugurated.
– They are keeping faith with the public.
– My difficulty is that I get as many answers as there are honorable senators opposite. Just now Senator de Largie declared that the borrowing of the Labour Government in Western Australia is for quite other purposes than those for which previous Governments resorted to borrowing.
– That is quite true.
– Now Senator Lynch tells me that they are borrowing to carry out the same public works policy as that inaugurated by a Liberal Government.
– Both statements are correct, and reconcilable.
– Has Western- Australia ever borrowed for roads and bridges?
– lam asked whether Western Australia has ever borrowed for roads and bridges, and in answer I say that I have shown that there was never a Loan Bill introduced in any part of Australia for such an unwarrantable purpose as that for which this Bill has been introduced. Honorable senators opposite have objected to borrowing for many purposes, including the erection of new buildings. But the Government propose to borrow money under this Bill to buy old buildings which they intend to pull down later on. If it be wrong to borrow for the erection of new buildings, it is surely nothing short of a business scandal to borrow money for the purpose of buying old buildings, on the destruction of which we must spend more money.
– Is not that rattier a fanciful way of putting it?
– Has truth, then, the appearance of fancy to my honorable friend? I thought that, having been for nearly twelve years in this Chamber with me, Senator Givens would have learned to regard truth, not as fanciful, but as desirable. An argument frequently used by honorable senators on the other side is that there is a great difference in the methods of borrowing adopted by the Labour party as compared with other political parties. Finding that it has been necessary for the party to resort to borrowing, they have raised the cry that their methods of borrowing are different from those adoptedby their predecessors.I shall deal with that contention also. They say that they are not borrowing abroad, but from our own people, and that that makes all the difference. I defy any man to point to anything in the utterances I have quoted, or to any plank of the Labour platform, whether State or Federal, which is a prohibition against borrowing from abroad. The prohibition is against borrowing of any kind, quite irrespective , of where the money is obtained from.
– There was never borrowing of this kind, if the honorable senator calls it borrowing.
– The honorable senator is quite right, because other borrowing has been absolutely honest and above board. I propose to show, directly, where the Government propose to borrow from. Senator Lynch need not worry. It is impossible for me to deal at once with all the iniquities and absurdities of the Government he supports. We are told that the Federal Government are borrowing internally instead of externally, and that other Governments have borrowed from abroad. I ask the representatives of Western Australia, and my fellow representatives of New South Wales who are members of the Labour party, whether they are prepared to stand upon the platform anywhere and contend that it is a laudable act upon the part of the Federal Government to borrow internally, that it would be wrong for them to borrow from abroad, and at the same time tell the electors of New South Wales that Mr. McGowen, the leader of the State Labour party, is guilty of a crime in borrowing abroad to carry out public works in New South Wales.
– He has borrowed internally.
– The honorable senator is quite right. The Labour Government in New South Wales borrowed every pound they could locally; but when they had exhausted the local market, we found them attempting to raise a loan in Paris - a thing which no previous Australian Government has done. A little time ago. a cry was raised that there was a conspiracy on the part of the capitalists of Australia to deny to Labour Governments the money which would have been forthcoming for other Governments. ‘That was a ridiculous statement, which could only have been made by those who were hard-pushed for an argument, or could not spare the time to look into the facts. The facts are that, so far as Labour Governments are concerned, there has been more money lent to them by the people of Australia than to all the other Governments put together.
– That show’s the confidence which the people have in them.
– It shows the confidence that the people have in Australia, and their belief that in the short time of office to be allowed to Labour Governments they will be unable to undermine its resources. It is interesting to note that when the New South Wales Labour Government did attempt to raise a loan a little while ago, though they sought £3,000,000, they had to be content with £1,500,000, on which they have to pay interest at the rate of £4 5s- or £4 6s. per cent. - the highest rate of interest which has had to be paid upon borrowed money by any State in Australia for many years past. What does Senator McGregor say now as to the confidence which people who have money to lend have in Labour Governments? The Labour Government of New South Wales is compelled to pay a higher rate .of interest than has been charged upon borrowed money in Australia for years past.
– Was not as high a rate of interest charged to the Queensland Government, which is not a Labour Government?
– The Queensland Government have not recently floated a loan.
– They did, not long ago.
– Then I say they got it at a cheaper rate.
– The difference is not worth talking about.
– Nothing is worth the while of Senator Givens to talk about unless he can score a point. I have been sitting at the honorable senator’s feet for so long that I am beginning to imbibe a little of his guileless art. He pretends now to set on one side the small saving of a few shillings in the rate per cent, charged upon a loan.
– What was the difference ?
– Speaking from memory, the Queensland Government obtained their loan at a point under 4 per cent. ; the New South Wales loan was floated at £99, a discount of £1, and at a rate of 4 per cent., which makes the actual rate about £4 5s. per cent. When it was announced that the New South Wales Government obtained a loan from abroad, and the statement was made that the money was raised in Paris, some Labour leagues in the States rushed into resolutions - a rather . dangerous thing to do, particularly when one is not certain of his facts. The resolutions of different leagues were in the same words, and evidently framed by the same man. The resolutions congratulated the Government upon having raised the loan in Paris, and in this way defeated the conspiracy of capitalists, who, they alleged, were opposed to lending money to a Labour Government. The money was borrowed abroad, but not in London, and Labour leagues passed resolutions, with their hats in the air, congratulating the Government upon having obtained a loan from a foreign country. I wish to get back again to the Bill.
– Hear, hear !.
– I can understand the sigh of relief when I leave the past utterances of my honorable friends opposite to deal with the Bill ; but candour compels me to state that I have no possible comfort for them in what I have yet to say. This Bill is simply an aid to revenue. The Government have decided to tarry out a certain project, and they have not the money in the Treasury to meet it. I have pointed out before that they are spending this year £2,500,000 from the Consolidated Revenue more than they will receive. That fact ought to be kept prominently in the minds of honorable members, and of the people outside. This year the Government are going to spend more than they expect to receive, and to meet the deficit which would otherwise exist they propose to draw upon the Trust Fund.
– For some expenditure which will not recur.
– The purchase of the particular block of land referred to in the schedule to this Bill will involve an expenditure which will not recur, but the policy of buying blocks of land all over Australia will continue; and such expenditure will recur if Mr. O’Malley is allowed to have his way. The Government frankly admit that they are purchasing today, not land required for public purposes, but absolutely for speculative purposes as an investment. There is a proposal here to purchase a much bigger block of land than will be required for the purpose set out, in any time we need contemplate. The significance of the thing is shown by the fact that not long since the same Minister sought to buy the centre of Sydney, a block bounded by four streets, and em bracing the Sydney General Post Office. This represented an enormous financial transaction, and the only thing that could be- said for it, was that it was anticipated that it would prove to be a profitable investment.
– The AttorneyGeneral condemned it very strongly.
– The AttorneyGeneral used language in connexion with it which the President would prevent me from repeating in this Chamber.
– Mi. O’Malley’s is not a bad lead, financially.
– I have no objection to any one who pleases following Mr. O’Malley’s lead. We have to recognise the fact that this Bill has not been introduced because the Government have from the first been in favour of a policy of borrowing for post-office buildings, because they have not. They have hitherto provided for them out of revenue. They introduced this Bill merely because the revenue is not sufficient for their purpose. But they say, “ We are only borrowing from ourselves.” I want to point out the impracticability of carrying that policy far, and also the danger underlying it. I quote from an authority who, I venture to say, will not be questioned. I refer to Mr. Knibbs, the Commonwealth Statistician. He was not writing with reference to this particular resort to the Trust Fund: but dealing with Trust Funds, he says -
The Trust Funds have at various times enabled several State Treasurers to tide over awkward financial positions, but the propriety of allowing deficits to be frequently liquidated in this manner is worthy of very serious consideration.
I need only to alter one word of that quotation. The Trust Fund is to-day being used by the Commonwealth Treasurer to tide over an awkward financial position.
– Would the honorable senator put the money in a box and keep it there uninvested?
– No, No, I should not do anything of the kind. I may ask Senator McGregor whether the Government are using these funds for the purpose of earning interest. If so, they could get interest from the State Government, or from the banks. They are not bound to buy a block of land in Perth in order to find an investment for these funds.
– Would the honorable senator not prefer to invest his money himself ?
– I shall show the honorable senator directly how absolutely unsound it is to use these trust moneys for what must be more or less temporary investments. It is not as if the funds are going to be there for ever. I shall show directly that many of them must pass away in the course of a year or two.
– We shall put more there.
– And if they do not pass away it will be a serious reflection upon the Government. I want to know what is their policy in this matter. Originally they declared that they were against borrowing for works.
– Except for reproductive works.
– In all the quotations I have given the Government declared against <- borrowing even for reproductive works. I want to ascertain their policy. I desire to know whether, in addition to buying land with borrowed money, the Government are prepared to erect buildings thereon with borrowed money. Perhaps the Minister will give me an answer to that simple question.
– I shall tell you in another year or so.
– I need not wait to see what money is going to be used to erect these buildings. If the Government are allowed to remain in office, of which happily there is not much chance, it is quite evident that, having once resorted to a borrowing policy, they will never get away from it. It is quite obvious from the way in which they are piling up commitments and making demands upon the Consolidated Revenue, which it cannot meet, that they already recognise that fact. It was inevitable. First they come down for money to buy land, and next year, if they are in a position to do it, they will come down with a Loan Bill to borrow money to put buildings on the land.
– They are borrowing for the London buildings.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has declined to tell me the policy of the Government. Therefore I may assume that so far as iris colleagues are concerned they have not a policy, or do not know what it is. But other members of the Ministry have been a little more open and a little less dis creet. Before I quote the Prime Minister on the point, let me give a quotation from the speech with which Senator McGregor introduced this Bill, because it will be extremely useful as showing how my honorable friends opposite lose themselves in a cloud of words, and how impossible it is to nail them down to anything in the matter of borrowing. Senator McGregor said -
While we are quite willing, in certain circumstances, to borrow money for reproductive works, or works likely to- be productive or necessary, we have set our face against borrowing money for services which are of a perishable character.
That, I venture to say, means anything.
– Is not that a sound policy ?
– What does it mean? That is the whole point. The difficulty with my honorable friends is that if we find a plank in their platform on a subject we are told that we must not read it in that way, andi they give another interpretation of it. If we take a public utterance of a member of the party they turn round and say, “ You must not pay any attention to that utterance, but take the plank in the platform.”
– Do you know the plank in the platform?
– I do know the plank, and T am glad that my honorable friend has made the interjection. The plank is “ restriction of public borrowing.” I have puzzled myself to discover what the restrictions are to be, and I am coming to the conclusion that the only restriction which the Labour party are prepared to recognise in regard to a loan policy is that the party are to be free to borrow, and that the restriction is to apply to their opponents.
– What reasoning !
– Where is the restriction on the Labour party?
– Surely its history points it out clearly.
– The honorable senator was not here when I read the declaration of his party, when he was not a party to borrowing of any kind.
– I heard that.
– There is the history on which I am relying. The quotations I gave, which I am going to repeat many times during the next few months if my health and strength remain good, contain a plain declaration on the part of the recognised leaders of the Labour party that they were opposed to any borrowing.
– That is the proof which you are now looking for.
– That is given in the quotations from Hansard. I turned to ask whether the Government propose, in addition to buying land with borrowed money, to borrow money to erect buildings on the land, but the Vice-President of the Executive Council declined to answer my simple question. When the Prime Minister was questioned on this point elsewhere, he said that he believed that the policy of erecting buildings from revenue was a sound policy, and he differentiated between borrowing for land and borrowing for buildings, but a member reminded him, as Senator St. Ledger did just now, that he was erecting buildings in London with borrowed money. There was the answer at once. . What is the policy of the party opposite? Surely we are entitled to know whether they are prepared to resort to exactly the same kind of borrowing as was indulged in by their predecessors, or whether they have a fresh policy, and, if so, what it is?
– You will know what it is in the next Governor-General’s Speech.
– Your argument reminds me of the argument of the habitual drunkard who denounced the other fellow because he occasionally took a glass of wine.
– If my honorable friend were to stand up and lecture me for modestly taking a glass of ginger ale, and immediately went to a bar and took a glass of whisky, I would be entitled to’ say that that is a more apt parallel, and also met the case with which I am dealing.
– In the matter of borrowing, your party is the habitual drunkard.
– The only reason I can see for using the word “ habitual “ is that the country has so habitually shown confidence in us that we have had the responsibility of carrying out the borrowing. The Prime Minister did not continue that line of argument when he was _ reminded of the London offices, but he’ did point out that the policy was to erect buildings out of revenue, apparently buying land only with borrowed money. It does seem to me to be carrying the thing to an absurd length for the Government to say that they are entitled to borrow money to buy old buildings which are going to be pulled down, but that it is an unsound policy to borrow money to put up new buildings. There is exactly the position. I might almost feel disposed to quarrel with the Vice-President of the Executive Council for not having given us full information in regard to the Fremantle proposition. But without knowing more than any other senator on this side knows, I feel absolutely convinced that he did not know when he introduced this Bill all the facts of that transaction; if he did, I believe he would have told the Senate what they were.
– I knew all about it, and I told you all about it.
– I can assure the honorable senator that he is not correct in that statement. He told us that the block of land was to cost £153,000. That is not a fact. ->
– No, I told you that it would cost most likely £166,000.
-I hand to the honorable senator the report of his speech. I do not want to do him an injustice.
– All that is required by way of loan is £153,000.
– Here is the statement in the Hansard report of the speech -
A sum of£153,000 is required for the acquisition of a site in Perth for a post-office and other purposes.
– That is quite correct. I did not say that that was all that it would cost, but all that we are going to borrow for it.
– There is nothing about borrowing in the sentence; there is not a word informing the Chamber that the real price of that block is, roughly speaking, £170,000.
– He was not asked.
– How can any honorable senator on this side ask the Government for information on a matter of which he knows nothing until they care to speak.
– That is all the money that was required.
– You could have asked, “ Is that the total cost?”
– When the Minister comes down with a Loan Bill, and says that the amount to be borrowed is, roughly, £500,000, so much being required for the redemption of loans, and £153,000 for the purchase of land in Perth, what are we to infer?
– Hear, hear, perfectly correct. That is the amount which is required.
– It was not correct to give the Senate half the information ; that was only playing with words.
– That is not fair; take the grammatical construction.
– Before we were asked to approve of a project to borrow 153,000 pence, let alone £153,000, we ought to have been told everything in connexion with the operation, namely, the total estimated cost, the utilization of the property when acquired, and the anticipated receipts. I went to some trouble to try to dig this information out of the Department, but I never before found a Department so reluctant to give up information. If I asked a simple question it gave me an answer to something which I did not ask, and left my question unanswered.
– Within a couple of days I supplied you with all the information necessary.
-All the information which the Department had, and I wanted to get, was carefully kept back. I rang up the Department by telephone, and in reply to an inquiry, the officers told me that they had the information there, but could not give it to me. “Why not?” I asked, and the reply I got was, “ The Minister has given a direction that it is not to be sent on until it has passed through his hands.”
– They are worse than the soldiers.
– If possible. What the Senate was entitled to be supplied with was just such a business statement as would be submitted by the manager of any commercial undertaking who was asking the sanction of his principals to an investment of this character. We ought to have been told the total amount involved, what was proposed to be done with the property, and the return which might be expected. We should have been told, for instance, not merely the full cost. There is a proposition to demolish some of the buildings ; there are vested interests in the shape of leases, for which compensation has to be paid; there is a proposed subdivision through the property to make an arcade; and there is also a proposition to put up certain new buildings. All these particulars ought to have been furnished to the Senate before it was asked to approve of this Bill. We might reasonably have expected that the Government would have shown the credit as well as the debit side of this transaction; but all we were told was that it was believed that from 3 to 4 per cent, would be the net profit after the deal had been carried through. If Ministers go in for many undertakings of this kind, we should know what Department is to control them. Is the Home Affairs Department to become an investing Department? Is it to have carte blanche to buy up properties, not because they are required for public purposes, but because Mr. O’Malley thinks that he can do a good deal? This land is not required for public purposes, nor will it be required for the next fifty years, according to the plans of the Department. At least twice as large an area has been purchased as will be required for the next half century.
– It is often a good deal to buy the whole of a block.
– If we are going to have a Department whose business it is to speculate in land, we shall want some other machinery than that which operates under the direct control of the Minister. We are told that this land is to cost £166,370, and 10 per cent, of the purchase money - or £16,637 - has been paid on deposit. That amount has been taken from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The balance is to be loan money. The Government propose to borrow £153,000 to cover the balance of £149,733, leaving £3,267 unaccounted for. I am entitled to assume, in the absence of information, that the difference has gone in interest, commission, or charges of some kind ; that it represents a payment to somebody that calls for explanation. I have never had to work so hard at anything as I have had to do in dealing with the figures provided by the Department in this case.
– The honorable senator means that he never had to work so hard to make out a case against the Labour party.
– That was an easy job. The party made out a case for itself. As the Government are lending their trust money at 3½ per cent., and the New South Wales Government cannot borrow under 4 per cent., I am entitled to say that it is foolish, in dealing with this transaction, to estimate that the interest will be less than the lower of those sums. The Department, however, proposes to borrow £153,000 at the rate of 3 per cent. To convince this Senate that the deal will be a profitable one, that is the rate estimated for. But the Government cannot borrow at 3 per cent. They might take money from the Trust Fund, and, to lighten the charge on this undertaking, debit themselves with interest at 3 per cent. ; but in doing that they would make a loss of 1 per cent., because they can get 3J or 4 per cent, in the open market. In addition to 3 per cent, interest on the balance of the purchase money, an outlay of £57,000 is to be provided for, which is not covered by the Loan Bill. We are nob told how the money is to be found for the building of a new postoffice, and other alterations. For interest and depreciation 4 per cent, is allowed. I have no great knowledge of city buildings, though I have an acquaintance with station and country properties, but from the inquiries which I have made, the lowest sum generally allowed for depreciation, ranges from 1^ to z£ per cent.
– Two and a half per cent, is the usual rate.
– That is what I have been informed by some of the best authorities in the city. The Government, however, put down only 4 per cent, for both interest and depreciation, ignoring the fact that money nowadays is worth 4 per cent. Even assuming that we could get money at 3J per cent., that would allow only £ per cent, for depreciation. Am I far wrong in saying that at least 5 per cent should be allowed for interest and depreciation, and that the interest on the loan should be 3J per cent? That makes no provision for the sinking fund for which honorable senators tried to delude themselves into thinking that they are providing. Estimating the interest at 3J per cent., and allowing 5 per cent, for interest and depreciation on buildings, the £7,450 put down by the Department becomes £8,850, and a profit of £960 becomes a loss of £1,400. We have not received from the Minister the full information to which we are entitled. For that I blame, not him, but his Department, which, like all other Departments, will give no information regarding its internal policy that is not forced from it. I have dealt with the extent to which they have cut down their debits in putting the rate of interest ridiculously low. Now, let me show how the Government propose to get their income.
In the Estimates of this Department they estimate getting from rents £8 per foot per annum. I have no idea as’ to what the value of land in Perth may be. I do not know Perth sufficiently well to say. BuE £8 per foot frontage means, at 5 per cent., £160 per foot. I have no meansof checking it, except to find out what the Government have purchased the land for. I assume, for the sake of argument, that they have made a good deal. But there is a limit beyond which I do not believe that the business people of Perth are prepared to be sufficiently philanthropical to give things to the Government. I find that they purchased the land originally at £1 5s. per square foot. It is impossible for me to arrive at the value in any other way, because of the alterations that they propose to make. Off that 25s. per square foot we have to take the value of the buildings. They were worth something. Those who sold the property valued them at something. Yet the total cost of the land, with the buildings thereon, was no more than 25s. per square foot. To get the revenue which the Department anticipate, they will have to let out the land so as to get a return of 4 per cent, on £2- ns. 3d. per foot. I make no reference to the buildings, but merely allude to the land values. In other words, it means that the Government have purchased land for £1 5s. per square foot which these officials say will give a return on £2 ns. 3d. per foot. I am entitled, seeing that I have proved that they have written down the debit, seriously to assume in this case that they have taken a most optimistic view of the returns they will get from the land. Personally, I cannot accept these estimatesas being worthy of serious consideration. Now I wish to say a word or two withregard to the Trust Fund. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, In his speech, launched out into a very enthusiastic declaration as to the marvellous things which we are going to do with the money thus obtained. He said, in introducing the Bill-
It is marvellous how the trust funds of the Commonwealth accumulate when we find that nearly every year we shall be getting ,£200,000 in interest, and interest on that amount.
He also said - ‘
Before many years the Commonwealth will have so much money in the Trust Fund at its disposal that I hope it will be able to not only carry on the greater portion of its public obligations with respect to reproductive works with, trust funds, but, at the same time, to. gradually liquidate the debt of the Commonwealth.
Let us see what these trust funds are. They consist of two classes of funds - the Notes Reserves Fund and what is called in the Budget-papers the General Trust Fund. I leave the Notes Fund for the moment, although that represents the greater part of the amount. The General Trust Fund consists of only temporary balances remaining in the Treasury until the Departments can pay out the money in the way that Parliament has approved. For instance, we have £24,000 balance for the purchase of defence material. For purposes of naval defence we have over £1,000,000 appropriated. I could go through a number of items similarly appropriated. I ask honorable senators to remember why these amounts are in the Trust Fund at all. The reason is simply this : The Commonwealth Government has entered into obligations for. the construction of a navy and for other purposes. Money has been appropriated to meet our obligations. The reason why that money is not spent is not that our obligations are discharged, but that the goods for which the money has been appropriated have not been completed.
– Are we to understand that the Clothing Factory is going to pay for the post-office in Perth?
– This is money we have appropriated to pay for certain works. It has not been spent, because the works are proceeding. Obviously, it cannot be spent in a day. But it will be required for these specific purposes. It is waiting until the bill is presented. Whilst that money is lying in the Treasury we can make the best possible use of it.
– Will the honorable senator explain where the money came from?
– It came out of the taxpayers’ pockets. The point, however, is not where it came from, but that, if we are going to spend half-a-million a year on account of this particular public work, which is going to be permanent, when we have spent that half-million we shall have to face the question of what we are going to do when the bill for the Naval Unit comes in. We have appropriated money for naval defence purposes. We cannot spend it on buying a block of land in Western Australia and still have the money with which to build the Navy. It is just the same with regard to defence material.
– We are taking the money out of the trousers pocket and putting it into the vest pocket.
– It is not a matter of taking money out of one pocket and putting it into another. The money is merely in the Trust Fund until the people who are doing the work for us come along and say “ We want our money.”
– We shall have the money when they -want it.
– But this payment is going to continue for twenty-five years. Is it intended to delay the construction of the Naval Unit for twenty-five years? If we spend money in buying land in Perth, it is not in any pocket over which the Commonwealth has any control. These general Trust Fund reserves are due entirely to the fact that in past years we have had surplus revenue over expenditure. There will be no Trust Fund reserves when cur revenue does not exceed our expenditure, because it is impossible for any Parliament to appropriate a greater amount than it knows will be spent in a particular year if the money is not there to appropriate. We have passed £1,000,000 for defence purposes. We know that we cannot spend that million this year. But we have it there in the Trust Fund. We may make use of a quarter of it, and still have threequarters intact. But if we made use of the whole sum, the result would simply be that we should have to put on additional taxation hereafter to pay for the works for which the money was appropriated.
– It is really surplus revenue of past years.
– Yes. You will never have Trust Funds of this kind in a year when the revenue only equals the expenditure or is below it. With regard to the Note Issue Fund, no one, I think, will seriously dispute that, for some years to come, the maximum amount of notes likely to be issued will not exceed £10,000,000 sterling.
– It ought not to do so.
– I am giving the Government the benefit of the estimate. Assuming that the Government reduced the reserve to 25 per cent. - and that is the law to-day - we may assume that 30 per cent, would be held by the Treasury. That would leave 70 per cent, of the note issue available for lending, or for anything else which might seem desirable ; that is to say, £7,000,000 sterling. What can the Government do with that £7,000,000, or the interest upon it, to carry out, not only our own public works, but, as Senator McGregor suggests, to reduce the public debt of Australia? What are our liabilities as against the £7,000,000? In the first place there is the initial Loan Bill for £2,500,000, and there is this Loan Bill for £500,000. We have also to find £1,000,000 for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank, which I may remark is mighty slow in getting under weigh. We have further to raise £2,000,000 for the Western Australian railway - in addition to the amount for which provision was made in the first Loan Bill - and “within a reasonable period we shall have to find £2,000,000 for the Northern Territory. Then there is the money that is required in connexion with the Federal Capital. Seeing that it is estimated that £600,000 will be needed for. the acquisition of land there, it is no exaggeration’ to say that at least £1,000,000 will be required under this heading. A further sum of £750,000 is needed in connexion with loans floated by South Australia, which will mature during the next three years. These commitments, which total nearly £10,000,000, we shall have to face during the next few years, and the most with which we shall have to meet them is the £7,000,000 provided by the note issue.
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that none of those items will come out of revenue?
– I would like Senator Rae to point to any one of those items which will come out of revenue. As a matter of fact, the Government are not raising enough revenue to pay current expenses.
– That is not so.
– What is the use of saying that it is not so, when the- expenditure to-day is £2,225,000 more than is the revenue? I wish now to consider these figures in their application to the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that from the Trust Fund we shall ultimately be able to pay the National debt. Australia’s debt today is £282,000,000, and she is borrowing about £15,000,000 annually. The annual interest from the Trust Fund, which amounts to £7,000,000, will be about £250,000. Therefore, one year’s borrowing would absorb sixty years’ interest on that Fund. In other words, if we entirely ceased borrowing in Aus tralia, it would take 1,500 years before the interest upon this sinking fund would wipe out the National debt.
– That calculation is based on the payment of simple interest?
– If £250,000 be derived this year in interest on the Trust Fund, and that amount of the public debt be redeemed with the money, there can be no such thing as compound interest. There is much absolute nonsense talked about what the Trust Fund can do. So far from there being any possibility of it paying a single penny off the public debt of Australia, there will not be sufficient money in it to meet the public debt which the Government or their successors will have to build up immediately. I have occupied more time than I anticipated, but the subject seems to me to be one not unworthy of the attention of this Chamber and of the electors outside.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Close of the Session. - Caning of Cadet.
– In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I desire to make a statement of the business that we intend to transact before Parliament is prorogued. A statement concerning this matter has already been made by the Prime Minister in another place, but some of the work which he enumerated has already been done by the Senate. Consequently we need only consider the measures which will come to us from the other branch of the Legislature. We have yet to dispose of the fresh scheme for the redistribution of New South Wales into electoral divisions; we have to pass the Inter-State Commission Bill, and another measure dealing with an amendment of the judiciary Act, in addition to six small Bills relating to Excise and bounties. We have further to consider a Bill dealing with postal matters and the shortening of telegraph poles. Many of these measures aire very brief, and are only of a formal character. We propose also to deal with an amendment of the Old-age Pensions Act, in the direction of providing that persons entitled to pensions shall receive them, irrespective of the value of their homes. The Act also requires to be amended to permit of the granting of pensions to the blind. _ Then we have to amend the Public Service Act to a slight degree, and also the Inscribed Stock Act. There are one or two other small measures which will not occupy much time.
– And the Referenda Bills.
– I was under the impression for a moment that they were already before us. There are, of course, aix Bills dealing with- proposed alterations in our Constitution, and if we had received the messages relating to them to-day they might have been read here the first time.
– From the., statement of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, I find that no less than twenty-three Bills are to be placed before us, and I am entitled to ask when the honorable senator anticipates that we shall get through with them ?
– As soon as possible.
– Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council seriously contemplate that we shall have disposed of them by the week after next?
– I hope .so.
– If so, we shall have to reduce legislation in this Chamber - not for the first time - to a farce. We have to deal with six important measures involving proposed alterations in our Constitution, which would not be debated at undue length if they were discussed for a week.
– Then there are the Estimates and the Budget.
– One may be pardoned for reminding the Vice-President of ‘ the Executive Council that from his. little list of the business yet remaining to be done he omitted the consideration of the Appropriation Bill. I say that it will be reducing legislation to an absolute farce if the Government seriously contend that we must pass twenty-tour measures in eight days.
– We can come back after Christmas.
– Then I suggest that the Government should select such Bills as can be dealt with by this Chamber before Christmas, and that we then adjourn to come back and complete our work in a workmanlike way. What I anticipate is that we shall pay the pen- alty for the Government’s incompetency in handling the business, and that, as was the case last year, we shall have these measures forced through at the expense of all-night sittings.
– - Has the Minister of Defence yet received the report in reference to the caning of the Sydney Grammar School cadet?
– Not yet.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1912/19121206_senate_4_69/>.