5th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 11 a.m, and read prayers.
-I desire to ask the Leader of the Senate the following questions: -
– Will you go slowly? I shall be able to give you answers if you give mo a chance to take the questions down.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Who wrote the questions out for you that you cannot read the writing ?
– It was written with my own awkward fist.
– The questions ought to he given notice of.
– I am reading slowly, at the request of the Leader of the Senate, who desired an opportunity to take the questions down.
– So far as I have taken down the questions of the honorable senator, my answers are these: I have seen the statement; I have necessarily no knowledge of what Sir John Forrest may have forgotten, or of what he may recollect. With regard to the question of cancellation, this Government did cancel a contract because of the inability, or the disinclination, of the Western Australian Government to carry it out.
– There was no disinclination, and no inability.
– The question was asked of me, and not of Senator Needham.
– You are replying to it wrongly.
– This Government cancelled the contract because of the inability or the disinclination of the State Government to carry it out.
– You are making a false charge against the State Government.
– Order !
– I will not answer any further question if, whenI am making a statement of this kind, I am met with such an interjection.
– That is a very good way to get out of the business.
– I ask you, sir, if it is in accordance with practice that, simply because of an interjection by another honorable senator, I should be refused information to which I am entitled by the procedure and the rules of the Senate?.
– While it is within the right of an honorable senator to ask a question, there is no obligation upon a Minister to answer it. It is entirely discretionary with Ministers as to whether they answer a question or not.
– The Minister ought not to be discourteous.
– It was discourteous to me to be met with an interjection of that kind.
– Immediately Senator Needham. made the interjection, I called for order.
– He took no notice of the call, and repeated the statement.
– There are no rules or standing orders which compel a Minister to reply to a question.
– If my interjection prevents the Minister from replying, I will withdraw the statement I made.
– It is too late now.
– That will give him a chance to reply.
– If the questions are embarrassing, Senator de Largie should not press them.
– I accept the advice of my honorable colleague, because it is quite evident that this series of questions is exceedingly embarrassing.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not entitled to argue the matter.
– I will give notice of the questions for a later date.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral been drawn to the following press telegram from Hobart to Melbourne -
In sentencing- to come up for sentence when called upon after pleading guilty to the larceny of postal articles, Mr. Justice Dobbie said it seemed, too easy for thefts to be carried out in post offices, and he warned people against using postal notes, as they were unsafe.
As this alarming statement, if uncontradicted, is calculated to mislead the public and do serious injury to the Post and Telegraph Department, will the Minister cause immediate inquiries to be made with the view to affirming or denying the statement ?
– I have no knowledge of the incident to which the honorable senator has referred; but if he will kindly convey the extract to me, I shall have inquiries made.
SenatorPEARCE.- Will the Minister of Defence state under what regulations the confidential reports of Commanding Officers are read over to those upon whom the reports have been made ?
– I cannot say, offhand, what the regulation is ; but, having in the meantime consulted the responsible officers of the Department, I can re-affirm the statement I made yesterday that confidential reports, by either Officers Commanding, or by State Commandants, which concern any officers in their jurisdiction, are read over to the officers before being forwarded to the head office.
– As the Minister cannot answer the question to-day, I propose to give notice of it for the next day of sitting.
– Are you defending the practice of secret reports?
– I want to know your authority for the statement you made.
– I forwarded the honorable senator’s inquiry to the Treasurer, but the correspondence was at that time in the possession of the Prime Minister’s Department, and, owing to the fact that the other House has been otherwise occupied, it has not yet been possible for the Treasurer to reply, but I hope to be in possession of a reply on Wednesday next.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that, in connexion with the contract for the mail service between Tasmania and the mainland, when a steamer leaves the wharf at Launceston provision is always made on the gangway for the receipt of late letters? Is he also aware that when a steamer does not leave the wharf at the advertised time, but a tender is provided, no such provision as I have referred to is made, and that, as a consequence, a large number of late letters have to be placed in the hands of some individual who is apparently not responsible to the Department, and the persons who post the letters in that way have no great certainty that they will reach their destination ? Will he require the contrac tors, whenever they provide a tender, to supply the same facilities for the reception of late letters as are provided when a steamer does leave the wharf ?
– I shall be very glad indeed to make an inquiry, and supply the honorable senator with an answer.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to both questions is “ No.”
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The papers have been called for, and I will answer the honorable senator’s question as soon as they are to hand from Tasmania.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What steps, if any, are being taken to expedite the survey of the North.West and South Coasts of Western Australia?
– The answer is: -
Under an arrangement between the Admiralty and the Governments of the Commonwealth and Western Australia, by which the latter Governments jointly contribute half the cost, £7,500 per annum, a vessel is, and has been for some time, engaged on the survey of the North-west Coast. The work is being pushed on as expeditiously as possible. No action is being taken with regard to the South Coast.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
When the Navigation Act will be brought into operation?
– I have to refer the honorable senator to a reply given to a similar question asked by Senator Guthrie on 16th April last. If he desires, I shall bo pleased to read the reply I gave. It is as follows : -
Before the Navigation Act can be proclaimed to come into operation, a great deal of preliminary work must be carried out.
As the honorable senator is aware, the Act deals mainly with general principles, leaving the details to be dealt with by regulation. There are nearly 100 different matters requiring to be so dealt with, and the regulations are now being drafted. These and their accompanying instructions to officers will occupy many pages of printed matter. So far this work has been efficiently carried out by the
Departmental Officer who assisted at the passage of the Bill, with the necessary clerical assistance. Now, however, a staff of expert officers is being formed. As a first step a Director of Navigation is being appointed. The applications for the position close on the 18th instant, and an early appointment will be made. Expert nautical and engineering officers will then be appointed to deal with the technical work of their several departments.
Apart from the above, a great mass of detail work has to be attended to in connexion with the questions of exemptions of foreign and other ships provided for in the Act, the formation of rates in the ports throughout the Commonwealth, the taking over of the pilotage services and properties, and other matters too numerous to mention.
There is no desire on the part of the Government to delay the operation of the Act. The preparatory work is being pushed on with, and so soon as such can safely be done, the proclamation bringing the Act into operation will be issued.
I was also asked by Senator Keating on the same day whether time would be given before the regulations were finally passed for honorable senators to consider them. The reply is that ample time will be allowed.
– In addition to the causes given by the Minister for delaying the proclamation of the Act, has there been any misunderstanding between the Federal Government and the Imperial authorities on the subject?
– I have not heard of any question arising between the two Governments to delay the proclamation of the Act, but shall make inquiries and let the honorable senator know the result.
Motion (by Senator Henderson) agreed to -
That the report of the Printing Committee, presented to the Senate on 21st May, 1914, be adopted.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That he have leave to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to insurance.
Motion (by Senator Stewart) agreed to-
That he have leave to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to bankruptcy.
Debate resumed from 21st May (vide page 1224), on motion by Senator Oakes, as amended -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to: -
To His Excellency the Governor-General.
May it Pleaseyour Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and our thanks for the Speech which Your Excellency’s predecessor (Lord Denman) was pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Rae had moved -
That the following words be added: - “ 2. Your Advisers deserve special condemnation for their gross favoritism and betrayal of the public interests in letting a costly contract for railway construction without providing the safeguard of public competition. “3. Furthermore, your Advisers’ constant efforts to coerce the Senate (which being elected on the widest possible basis is the constitutional guardian of the people’s liberties) into abject submission to their will is an attempt to subvert the Constitution and thereby imperil the harmony existing between the various States of the Commonwealth, and is deserving of the severest censure.”
.- There is a Government in office, but not in power, which is possibly the most devious, dubious, doubly dissolute set of deceivers and deluders that have ever occupied the Ministerial bench. It could well be termed the “ Big Bluff “ Government, and the “ False Pretences “ Government. In view of the fact that since they took office they have openly resorted to bribery of their own political supporters, I want to place on record one or two cases which will prove that the statement made in the Governor-General’s Speech is the most hollow piece of transparent hypocrisy ever placed in the mouth of any representative of the King in these dominions. Senator Pearce rightly took exception to the words “ or favoritism “ in the following sentence, “ Those subjects comprised Bills dealing with the prohibition of preference or favoritism in Government employment.” I like that statement coming from this Government, in view of the revelations regarding the Teesdale Smith contract. Of course, there was nothing that could be called favoritism there !
Another matter was the appointment of Mr. G. Swinburne, a prominent party politician, to a high office, but that, of course, was the recognition of due rights, and not favoritism. It is different when we turn to the discharge of Mr. Ryland, an officer whose capabilities no one questioned.
– Everybody questioned them.
– No official file can be produced to show where they were questioned.
– I should like to see the official file showing his application.
– The honorable senator would condemn him simply because he was a Labour man. The first thing the Government did when they took office was to discharge Mr. Ryland and Mr. Chinn, although nothing could be found against Mr. Chinn by an open Court of inquiry, presided over by a Judge.
– The Scotch verdict of “not proven.
– In two cases only. In the other cases the verdict was “ not guilty.” The honorable senator should be ashamed of the interjection. Both men were discharged because they happened to be Labour men, and dozens of other cases could Be found to illustrate the fact that the Government had been absolutely devoid of a sense of elementary fair play and justice. I propose to give an instance to show that they have been guilty of gross and deliberate favoritism to their own supporters, although during the election campaign they went through the country talking about tyranny and corruption on our part. I refer to their action with regard to advertising. They have deliberately given preference and shown favoritism to one of their political supporters and political pimps. During our Government’s term of office we heard a good deal about advertisements being given to Labour newspapers. As a matter of fact, it was given equally to both sides, in that spirit of fairness which was characteristic of that Administration, but the newspapers on the other side thought it was a crime to give advertisements to a Labour newspaper, and a great song was made about it.
The present Government, however, have actually given a direct subsidy to a paper which has not a large circulation, and cannot claim to have much influence, although it is a direct and indirect supporter of the Government. This is the Fruit World, issued in Melbourne, and claiming to be representative of the fruit industry of Australia. Many of the fruit-growers of Tasmania have turned it down because it is known to be the petty pimp and supporter of the big fruit exporting agents who dominate the fruit trade of the Commonwealth, and to be subsidized by them by means of advertisements.
When the Labour Government appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the fruit industry, this paper at once opposed the proposal, and, assuming the usual Liberal attitude, condemned the Commission before it had taken much evidence. On one occasion it published an article headed “Who is Whittles?” which was a deliberate and wicked perversion of the truth. This referred to a Tasmanian witness. It deliberately suppressed half the evidence, giving only that which supported its particular point of view, in order to damage the reputation of the Commission in the eyes of the fruitgrowers. The Labour Government, when in office, through representations made by its Liberal owner, Mr. Davey, a very pushing gentleman, gave the paper two contracts for the supply of a number of copies to be distributed abroad. On those occasions the paper was supplied to the Government at exactly the same price as it was issued to anybody else. No discrimination was made against the Government as a purchaser, but directly the present Government came into office, Mr. Davey put before them a proposition which every newspaper man will at once condemn as unfair and unjust.
– Is Davey a Labour man ?
– No; he is a prominent Liberal, and a great supporter of the Liberal party. He induced the Department of External Affairs to give him a contract. He offered to supply no less than 5,000 copies of the Fruit World at 9d. per copy, which is 50 per cent, in excess of the price for which the periodical can be purchased ordinarily in the shops. This, of course, was not favoritism.
– Was it not a corrupt use of public funds?
– Of course it was not. It was an example of the businesslike methods of the Government, of which we have heard so much from the other side.
– Is the- honorable senator sure that his statement is correct ?
– I am absolutely sure of it. If Senator McColl will look at Hansard, he will find that I asked the question, “ how much per copy was paid for the publication” and the answer given to that question was -
The price amounted to 9d. per copy, which includes cost of wrappers, wrapping, and postage.
If we allow Id. for all the extras, that will make the price 8d. per copy for the 5,000 copies.
– A clear present of 2d. per copy for political services rendered.
– Yes, a clear present. I have here the ordinary issue of this publication, and I shall be glad to have honorable senators compare the two. The ordinary issue can be purchased anywhere from any agent for 6d. per copy, and the Government paid 9d. per copy for the special publication.
– Is there anything special about the special copy?
– Yes, there is a little note on the cover referring to the price, because the words “ Price 6d. “ appear on the Government ninepenny copy. The note reads -
The price stated here is a printer’s error. This is the price of the ordinary issue. No copies of the special issue published by the Government were made available for sale in Australia.
– A case of absolute corruption.
– It is absolutely untrue, as I shall prove. The note continues -
The special issue contains more matter than the ordinary issue, and also special illustrations.
That’ statement is also untrue. The special issue does not contain more matter, but there are a few more illustrations than ordinarily appear in the publication.
– Are the two copies the honorable senator produces issues for the same date?
– Yes; the issue for March. There are in the special copy five pages of illustrations from ordinary blocks, which I suppose could be purchased for 6s. a dozen. They appear to me to be Government blocks. Dealing with the matter published, there is in the ordinary issue seventy-four pages, but in the special issue only sixty pages, so that for the special issue fourteen pages less paper and printing were required. I come to another point which makes the transaction even blacker. For the special issue most of the ordinary advertisements were cut out.
– All the private advertisements.
– Most of them. These clever gentlemen went to the Governments of the different States, and secured from them nice advertisements for the special issue, for which I suppose they received fine figures. There is one from Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, and New South Wales respectively. They cut out fourteen pages of the ordinary issue, and put in five pages of cheap illustrations, whilst they secured lucrative contracts for advertising from the State Governments. Then they said to the Department of External Affairs, ‘ ‘ Take this attenuated edition ; here it is, 9d. per copy.” That is the price that was paid by the Government for the Commonwealth. Will honorable senators say that that is not an example of corruption?
– Does the honorable senator not think that the officers of the Department concerned should be asked why they made a lying reply to his question asked in this chamber ?
– I say that the reply contains an untrue statement inasmuch as the special issue was smaller rather than larger than the ordinary issue. Any news agent can buy the ordinary issue of this publication for 4d. per copy, which is, I think, the trade rate, but the Government were mulcted to the extent of 8d. per copy, making allowance for postage and extras. I hold that this is a most glaring instance of incapacity, unfair preference, and favoritism. I wish now to make the Government an offer. I am a shareholder in a newspaper, and if the Government are prepared to give 50 per cent, more than the ordinary price charged for publications of this kind, I do not see why I should not get some of the pickings. There is a newspaper in Tasmania, the proprietors of which are quite prepared to take a contract to supply any number of copies-
– What is its political colour ?
– It supports the Labour party.
– It is disqualified.
– If the honorable senator wishes to do business like that he should not make a public offer; he should go to the Government quietly.
– The Launceston Courier is one of the best-illustrated papers in Australia, and if the Government are prepared to enable the proprietors to save printing and paper by the substitution of a special edition for the ordinary edition, and we give them 50 per cent, in excess of the price for which the paper is ordinarily sold, they will be prepared to supply the Government with any number of copies. I hope that honorable senators will inspect these issues of the Fruit World, because this advertising contract is, I think, about as fishy a contract as any that was ever let by a Government. It shows that if Government supporters want favours, they can get them without very much trouble.
I come now to another instance of favoritism shown by this pure Government, the members of which are out to prevent “ Tammany” and corrupt practices. This case was brought before Senator Pearce when he was Minister of Defence, and it is a clear case of favoritism and preference connected with the Defence Department. There is in Launceston a Doctor L. Clarke Webster. He is not a Labour man. He has always been a big Australian, and is known to have very high ideals of Australian nationalism. He has taken a deep interest in our Defence Forces. In view of the interest he had displayed, he was asked, in 1910, to accept the position of medical examiner of Senior Cadets, but he refused to do so. In January, 1911, he was asked to apply for a commission in the Army Medical Corps as Area Medical Officer, at a salary of £25 a year. He refused, and told the Department that his professional duties did not allow him to take the position. On 1st May, 1911, he received a wire from Lt. -Colonel Giblin, Chief Medical Officer in Tasmania, in these terms -
Lieutenant Jenkins states you willing to examine his area as civilian. Are you willing? - Giblin.
In these circumstances, Dr. Clarke Webster wired “Yes” in reply to this telegram. He accepted the position at the low remuneration of £25 a year, and there were not many doctors after it at that price. A little later the matter was taken up by the medical men of Australia, who got up an agitation against what they considered the low rate of remuneration paid to Area Medical Officers.
– Did they go to the Arbitration Court?
– No; they went to Senator Pearce, who was Minister of Defence at the time, and the honorable senator readily recognised their claim, and increased the payment to £60 per annum. Directly that payment was agreed upon, there was a rush of all the doctors in Launceston for this job. Dr. Clarke Webster received a letter on the 18th January, 1912, notifying him of the termination of all existing appointments of Area Medical Officers, and asking him to apply again. He did so, but did not receive any reply to his application. He made inquiries, which were sent on to Hobart; and in July, 1911, he found that Dr. Irvine, a doctor resident in Launceston, had been appointed to his area.
– Have we not heard the name “ Irvine “ mentioned in the Senate before?
– Yes. Dr. Irvine is a partner of Dr. Clemons, who is a brother of the Honorary Minister in the Senate. I am going to link them all up. It was found that Dr. Irvine was appointed to two areas, and received £60 per annum for each position.
– Was Dr. Clarke Webster the gentleman who refused to grant the exemption to SenatorClemons’ boy?
– Yes ; I hope to link that up also. I have said that Dr. Irvine received two appointments. I took a hand in the business here. I saw Senator Pearce, and protested against what had been done, on behalf of Dr. Clarke Webster.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Were these appointments made by Senator Pearce?
– They were made by Lt. -Colonel Giblin, who is in charge of the Army Medical Corps in Tasmania.
– And confirmed by me.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - Then why blame the present Government?
– The honorable senator will see by-and-by; he should not be impetuous. I went to Senator Pearce and explained to him that Dr. Clarke Webster, at personal inconvenience, took the position at £25 a year when the Department had to beg doctors to accept such appointments. I mentioned that he had carried out the duties satisfactorily, and that there was nothing against him. Senator Pearce agreed with me that he had a decent claim, and he saw to it that he was reinstated. In the course of the inquiry which was being made, Dr. Irvine was forced to resign one of his areas. Senator Pearce did the right thing in the matter, and held the scales of justice evenly.
A little later, Dr. Clarke Webster was asked to resign, according to the regulations, and re-apply for appointment to area 92a.
-Colonel Sir Albert Gould. - When was this?
– On the 7th May, 1913.
– That action was taken while I was in Western Australia.
– Exactly. The doctors have to work in Tasmania, and this particular officer was passed out. He received his discharge on 10th May, 1913, and applied for an appointment in a new area on the same day. He continued to act, however, pending the receipt of news as to whether he was to be reappointed. He even travelled as far as Beaconsfield, where he conducted examinations, and generally carried out the duties of his office. No word came from Hobart for some time, and the next intimation received was that Doctors Thompson and Newell had been appointed to the positions on the 25th July, 1913.
– That was after we went out of office.
– It was a month later. Dr. Webster has not since occupied the position of area medical officer. Yet we are told that there is no favoritism exhibited by the present Government. The truth is that a brother of Senator Clemons is a partner of Dr. Irvine.
– Dr. Webster was dismissed for the same reason as Mr. Ryland and Mr. Chinn were dismissed.
– I suppose that the word was passed along that Dr. Clarke Webster was to go.
– Is it not a fact that Drs. Thompson and Newell were new men as compared with Dr. Webster?
– It is. Dr. Irvine, through Senator Clemons, has worked this Government beautifully, and as a result Dr. Clarke Webster has received the order of the boot. Why has Senator Clemons got him “ set “ ? To explain this, I propose to relate something which I have already related on the floor of this Senate. Some time ago I accused Senator Clemons of attempting to evade his responsibility in respect of seeing that his sons were subjected to military training. I made that accusation, and he did not deny it. I have here a copy of a file of papers in connexion with that matter. The first has reference to a complaint made to Senator Milieu at the instance of Senator Clemons. It reads thus -
Department of Defence.
The Minister is informed of a case in connexion with cadets at Launceston, as follows -
Boy reported conditionally fit (under size) was not required to attend any drills for two years. Then gets notice to attend for issue of kit. Gets belt and pouch. Then put to drill with others, who had benefit of previous training. Owing to lack of knowledge of drill boy referred to is made a butt.
Both parent and boy were anxious that latter should be trained, and deplored the physical disability.
Minister wishes to know if such cases as above are numerous, and whether the action taken is in accordance with regulations. (Sgd.) S.A.P.
– It is dated 13th August, 1913, and it refers to a son of Senator Clemons. No sooner did the Cook Government come into office than a start was made at pulling the strings. The following is the report of Colonel Clarke, Commandant of the Sixth Military District : -
6th Military District.
Private Clemons, C.J.S., was allotted to this regiment with the 1895 quota of trainees in July last, and was notified to parade with the others, which he did not do. He was then seen by a corporal, and notified to parade, and still did not do so. On a subsequent notice being sent, his father, Senator Clemons, came to see me, and explained the situation, when 1 at once made arrangements with Major Newell, O.C., A.A.M.C., to have Private Clemons re-examined in order to satisfy Senator Clemons. On Major Newell’s instructions, Captain Thompson then examined Private Clemons in his father’s presence, and passed him as “ conditionally fit,” and liable to training under U.T. regulations, part 5, 96. Certificate of examination herewith. Since then Private Clemons has attended parades.
That was after two years had elapsed, during which Senator Clemons’ son had dodged his military training. The document continues -
With regard to the last sentence of paragraph 1, minute 1, this is absolutely untrue. At the time this accusation was made Private Clemons had not attended a parade. Further, all the 1895 quota trainees were drafted into one company and parade together, doing recruit drill from the beginning, vide instructions and regulations part 5, 104 (Instruction 27), and part 2, 177.
With regard to paragraph 2, minute 1, the doctor states there is no physical disability.
That is a crushing reply to the statement that the boy was unfit for training. The position is that Dr. Clarke Webster examined the lad in the first place, and passed him as conditionally fit. Thereupon Senator Clemons went to Dr. Irvine, who was not then an area medical officer, and obtained a certificate- that the lad was not fit for training. Here, therefore, was a successful attempt to throw an officer out of our Military Forces merely because he had done his obvious duty. I say that Senator Clemons has perpetrated a gross injustice upon Dr. Webster, which I hope he will yet remedy.
– His father has not been prosecuted. Senator Clemons lives in a very convenient house, which abuts upon two streets in different military areas. When the officer of one area sent him a letter addressed, say, to area A, he replied that he lived in area B. When a communication was addressed to him in area B he consulted Dr. Irvine. The records clearly show how he attempted to evade his responsibility in this connexion.
– It is only fair, I think, that we should have one member of the Government present.
– There is one member of the Government present.
– I can take no cognisance of anything except that there is or is not a quorum present.
– Cannot you insist, sir, upon Government supporters being present?
– I have no official cognisance of the side of the Chamber upon which any honorable senator sits, and the question is a frivolous one to raise.
– The interruption, however, will serve to show that Labour senators are present attending to their duties, whereas the supporters of the Government are neglecting their duties. I come now to the Liberal Leader’s appeal to the electors, which was published in the Launceston Examiner on the 24th May last - just before the last general elections. In that document he said -
The Labour Government have neglected the big and important things of Australia. We shall attend to them.
Where are those big and important things to which the Labour Government did not attend? I suppose that they consist of the Audit Bill and the Loan Bill, which were introduced last year. While the Government intend to introduce no useful legislation into this Chamber, all my Labour colleagues in the Senate have evidenced their determination that this branch of the Legislature shall perform useful work by placing the Referenda Bills on the business-paper, and, in addition, Senator Stewart has introduced the Bankruptcy Bill, and Senator Pearce the Insurance Bill. If the Government tell the country of the big and important tilings which they intend to do, and refuse to do anything, I take it that the path of this party is clear, and that our duty is at once to introduce the legislation which the country wants, and show at any rate that our responsibility is fulfilled by passing measures through this Chamber.
I want to refer to some of the “ big “ things which the Government have done, especially those which concern the State I represent. They have neglected the Tariff. Senator O’Keefe roused the Ministry into a display of animosity by taunting them with that neglect, and they replied to his taunt with the parrot cry, “ What did you do? “
– When they made that reply they knew that our party, as well as our Government, had kept their promise.
– That is so, and they also knew that we had amended the Tariff twice. But suppose that we had done nothing, would that absolve them of their responsibility or their duty? Their excuse for continuing their neglect is that we did not act. There can be no argument there, and the hollowness of their action stands transparent to the electors. Let me bring forward the things which I consider the Government have neglected, and which are vital to Tasmania. The ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Fisher, promised a Commonwealth line of steamers oversea. That was one of the most important features in his proposed policy when he went to the country. It would have been a very big step in the emancipation of the producers of Australia. Some very striking instances were given quite recently of the depredations of the Shipping Ring as regards some comparisons of rates and freights sent out by Sir John M’Call, Agent-General for Tasmania. I do not want to deal with these comparisons, but if we had had an oversea line of steamers now ordered we would have been able presently to carry our mails, and to save the subsidy of £170,000 a year that we give to the Orient Company. We could have entered into competition with the Shipping Ring, provided cheap freights and cheaper fares, and set a standard as regards uptodateness and modern fittings and appliances which would have had a very beneficial effect upon the traders and the producers of Australia. But the friends of the farmers on the other side have opposed our project.
Against the advice of the majority of the Tasmanian members of this Parliament the Government gays a contract to the Union and Huddart Parker Steamship Companies, members of the Shipping Combine, for a service between the mainland and Tasmania, which, although slightly improved, will not effect the great reforms in transport to which we were looking forward. The people of Tasmania are thoroughly roused on this matter, and there is a feeling of resentment that, when we came to a decision here, Senators Keating, Bakhap, and Clemons voted against the proposal, and voted against it, too, with practically no excuse. These . honorable senators turned down a proposition which was not put forward by the representatives of the State in the light of asking for a favour from the Commonwealth. It was a business proposition. It would not have meant any loss, because the service would have been selfsupporting even in the worst circumstances, considering the subsidy that we now pay. Mr. Cook did not go to Tasmania and condemn our proposal. He was too clever to go there, but since the elections he went to a border town in New South Wales - Albury - and made a speech which I do not believe he ever thought would reach Tasmania, and in which he made this statement -
The Labour Government had proposed to establish a steam-ship service - little better than a ferry service - between Australia and Tasmania. For £2,000 extra his Government had provided for an up-to-date steam-ship service which would give better accommodation, and at the same time give a quicker mail service throughout the whole of Tasmania. (Applause.) This alone would mean a saving of hundreds of thousands of pounds, as compared with the proposal of the Fisher Government.
When I brought this matter before the Senate, I found that South Australians, Western Australians, Victorians, Queenslanders, and New South Welshmen were quite prepared to support it. The Senate, although the States House, was quite prepared, after the case of weak Tasmania was put up by Senator Long, Senator O’Keefe, and myself, to accept the principle of the Commonwealth running these two boats. Although the States House was in favour of the proposal, and although our colleagues were in favour of it, Mr. Cook has congratulated the people of New South Wales because his Government have saved hundreds of thousands of pounds in not carrying out the proposal. They have not saved hundreds of thousands, but have added hundreds of thousands of pounds to the burden of the people of Tasmania during the next seven years. They have betrayed its best interests, and where we should have had two boats under our flag crossing the strait, and providing speedy communication at reasonable fares, and with uptodate methods, we are to get another steamer of the Loongana type; and, as Senator Long told the Senate the other day, we probably will have to put up with more restricted conditions, and there may be increased fares charged in a roundabout way, because the combine is bound under the contract not to increase the fares.
– Except with the consent of the Minister, which can be given at any time.
– That is so; and we will have to put up with it.
– How many parliamentarians are shareholders in the Union Steamship Company?
– Some members of the Tasmanian Parliament are shareholders in the company, and that is why they put up a big fight, and influenced the Chambers of Commerce to oppose our scheme. Let me tell the gentleman who betrayed the interests of Tasmania that the words of Mr. Cook will not be forgotten there, and that the people of the State will express in no uncertain voice their opinion of the betrayers.
– On what score are you complaining of the freights and fares to Tasmania?
– On the score that the rate per mile as to fares and freights is higher than the rate charged between any other States.
SenatorGuthrie. - You have the cheapest rate in the world from Hobart to Sydney.
– How do the freights to Tasmania compare with railway freights ?
– I have already given honorable senators an instance of how our fares compare with the fares in other parts of the world, but it is of no use to make a comparison between steamer and railway freights. Compared with the charges levied in other portions of the world, the charges of the Shipping Combine are from 20 to even 100 per cent, higher, and I have proved that here on more than one occasion.
– The Tasmanian rate is the cheapest in the world -3/4d. per mile.
– The freight from Melbourne to Launceston has steadily increased until it has become as high as the freight charged in any part of the world.
– We have the cheapest passenger fares in the world.
– The honorable senator has mentioned one instance only, from Hobart to Sydney, whereas the bulk of the traffic to Tasmania is from
Launceston to Melbourne. The travelling public do not go the other way.
– They go for Id. a mile by the steamer, whereas the charge on the train is 2d. a mile.
– When we find the Government prepared to betray us, to pay £2,000 a year more subsidy and to hand us over to the tender mercies of the Shipping Combine for seven years, it is time that we complained here and continued the complaint.
– Are the freights more or less per mile than the railway freights ?
– I have not taken the trouble to compare the steamer freights with railway freights. I have taken the only fair comparison.
– You cannot compare railway and shipping fares and freights.
– Exactly. I come now to a question which was dealt with by Senator O’Keefe. I am sorry that Senator Keating is not here, because he looked very uncomfortable when Senator O’Keefe was speaking. I refer to the statements which have been made so often by the Leader of the Government as to the equal representation of the States in the Senate. Senator Keating did not seem to like Senator O’Keefe’s cross-examination in this regard. The latter quoted that famous statement made by Mr. W. H. Irvine at Ballarat, as reported in the Age of the 20th March as follows -
The only way out was a double dissolution. (Cheers.) The Government was determined, if it could, to give the people the opportunity of saying whether the Senate should not fall into line with the House that represented the people; but, even if a double dissolution were scoured, it did not necessarily follow that the desired end would be achieved. …
Referring to the constitution of the Senate, he added -
The prospect of changing that would be understood when he stated that the consent of every State had first to be obtained. It was n question whether the powers of the Senate to hold up legislation passed by the popular Chamber should not bo curtailed.
– I also quoted his more recent utterance at Sandringham, where he said that he would like to destroy the Senate.
– I think that my honorable friend did. - Senator Keating seemed to be very worried about this matter. He said that he had made his attitude sufficiently plain. I find that when he was seconding the AddressinReply on the 15th April, he said, in response fo Senator Rae’s interjection - “ What is the honorable senator’s opinion of a double dissolution?” - “ I feel fairly indifferent about it.” Yet when Senator O’Keefe accused Senator Keating of not baking sufficient interest in the rights of Tasmania, he said he had made his attitude sufficiently clear. I think that he has. If he does not take much interest in the matter it really means that any Government can hold up the Senate at any time by the threat of . a double dissolution.
– And rob small States like Tasmania of their rights.
– That is so. Tasmania is the baby of the States and has most to lose, and in consequence its representatives view the position with a certain amount of alarm. Even Liberals representing Tasmania, although Senator Keating says that he is fairly indifferent, do not take that view. Mr. Atkinson, for instance, said on the 24th April -
It seems to me that the Attorney-General, judging from the newspaper reports, was of opinion that it would be better if the basis of representation were altered; but I do not charge the honorable gentleman with having so spoken, because I prefer to hear a man himself rather than rely on his reported utterances.
In other words, the reported utterances of Mr. Irvine did not suit Mr. Atkinson -
What I am afraid of is that a great many people will conclude, because of the reported words of the Attorney-General, that there is a strong body of opinion in this Chamber, and in political circles generally, in favour of the course suggested.
He went on to say -
I am not trying to pin the Attorney-General down to any opinion; all I say is that if the Attorney-General is correctly reported, he is not speaking for me, but only for himself.
– There is no need to pin him down, because he does not hide his view. He wants to alter the basis of representation.
– That is so, and every representative of Tasmania should be up in arms against such a proposal as is here laid down by Mr. Irvine.
– It applies to other States too.
– Yes. Unless Labour men are prepared to sit down tamely and submit to the scheming of Mr. W. H. Irvine, the great dynamic force of the Government, it is time an amendment such as Senator Rae has proposed was moved to express in a proper manner our disapprobation of the course which the Government have taken. Mr. Cook did not always take the same view as to the constitution of this Chamber as he takes now. I remind honorable senators that there was a time when he spoke quite differently.
– That was in connexion with the Tariff.
– Yes, and on that occasion Mr. Cook took an entirely different attitude. He is now going out of his way to strain the Constitution to create an artificial dispute between the two Houses for purely party purposes. In the first Parliament, the Senate took up a strong attitude regarding amendments to the Tariff. This was resented by the Barton Government, particularly by Mr. Kingston, the then Minister of Trade and Customs, and by Mr. Higgins, then one of their supporters. At that time, Mr. Cook was a Free Trader, and, on this subject, according to Hansard, 3rd September, 1902, page 15723, made the following statement -
If a crisis wore to occur, and I went to the people of New South Wales and said that I objected to what the Senate had done in regard to the Tariff, they would turn round and say, “ We want the Senate to do precisely what it is doing.” Then I might retort, “ But look at the danger that is involved to the Constitution.” They would then say, “ We had all those dangers pointed out to us before the referendum was taken. Wo knew all about them then, and now that the Senate is in favour of our view with regard to the Tariff, we ask you and others to work the Constitution as you find it until it is altered in a constitutional way.”
Mr. Cook has quite forgotten that utterance now, as he has forgotten or swallowed many hundred other utterances, and his whole anxiety is to force both Houses before the country by means of a legislative fraud. The Government are doing this because they realize that there is a big financial difficulty looming in the background. Their only chance is to force both Houses to the country. They realize that it is the gambler’s last throw of the dice, or they would hang on to office like a limpet to a rock.
When we charge them with intending to alter Labour legislation, they deny it. Yesterday, Senator McColl told
Senator Newland that it was a figment of his imagination to think that the Government were opposed to old-age pensions and the maternity grant, but I can show that, on those matters, they speak with two voices. A New South Wales Liberal paper, called The Fighting Line, prints the following in its leading columns -
Another fiction about the Liberal policy is that it is intended to undermine old-age pensions and the maternity bonus. Mr. Fisher should be honest when he deals with such matters at a public meeting. The old-age pensions are absorbing a huge quantity of money, and it is necessary that the country should be protected from imposition. The Cook Ministry has no more intention of attacking the principle than it has of taking poison. Either would be suicide.
That is the view that Senator McColl also attempts to put forward, but let us see what his real leader, the AttorneyGeneral, says. At the Sandringham Town Hall, on the 15th May, 1912, with Mrs. Gray Smith, president of the Australian Women’s National League, in the chair, the Attorney-General observed -
Upon old-age pensions £1,497,000 had been spent in 1910-11. In 1911-12, the expenditure was £1,988,000, or an increase of 33 per cent. He would regard it as a national calamity if the principle of providing for the aged destitute by gratuitous doles from the public Treasury of Australia were to be made a permanent part of our policy.
– Does Senator McColl agree with that?
– I do not.
– It is the utterance of the man who has dominated the policy of the Government, and who, as everybody knows, would have resigned from the Cabinet if he had not got his own way about forcing on a dispute between the two Houses. At any rate, he has the courage of his opinions, and his followers have not. At Sandringham, on the 11th May, of this year, he said -
Australians had not sufficient opportunities for the acquisition of secondary, scientific, and technical instruction. Therein lay immense room for Government assistance and development. He would like to devote to that cause the immense sum no.w wasted as the baby bonus. (Laughter.) It would be enough to equip and maintain such colleges and schools in all considerable country towns throughout Australia.
A Voice. - Are you proposing to alter the bonus ?
Mr. IRVINE said it would be abolished to-day if it depended on him.
Does Senator McColl repudiate that? If he does, he will have to repudiate the whole of his leader’s policy.
– That is his own opinion.
– The honorable senator will repudiate anything, apparently. After the experience we have had of them, I am prepared to hear the Government make a statement in this chamber this week, and swallow it the next.
– If Senator McColl had the chance, would he not abolish the maternity grant, seeing that he characterized it as “a dirty political bribe “ ?
– Of course he would ; but the Government are not plucky enough to come out in the open, and attempt to repeal our legislation. The Liberal party will repudiate any statement that they have made.
– One thing that we have to be thankful for is that we have not to repudiate you.
– During the four years that I have been in the Senate I have never gone back on a single political principle. The honorable senator cannot say the same. I hope the time will never arrive when I shall have to look back on a political record like that of Senator McColl. Here are some other matters which the honorable senator and his party will probably repudiate. According to The Fighting Line, there is in Sydney a big Liberal debating club, with headquarters in Pitt-street. The subjects discussed there may fairly be taken as an indication of the trend of political thought in Liberal circles in New South Wales. I notice that at the last meeting one of the subjects debated was “ That the policy of a White Australia should be abandoned.” This was moved by Mr. Ashton, and opposed by Mr. Watkin. Is not that a fitting subject to occupy the attention of a Liberal debating society ? I believe that a good many of the so-called Liberals of Australia would actually jettison the White Australia policy if they got a chance. Another subject debated was, “ That the next Federal election should embrace a referendum to remedy the undemocratic representation of the States in the Senate.” This was moved by Mr. Watkin, and opposed by Mr. Pitt. That is interesting news to the representatives of Tasmania, because we are assured by Mr. Atkinson, M.P., that the great Liberal party have no designs on the principle of equal representation. I should have liked to see the divisions on those two subjects. I am quite prepared to believe that both motions were carried, but in neither case, strange to say, is the result of the voting given. I have another little extract here, which will show how the members of the Ministerial party wobble. This is taken from the report of a speech by Mr. Atkinson, the honorable member for Wilmot, on May 8th, 1913, delivered in’ his own electorate. The honorable member was asked, “ Do you believe in the Federal Arbitration Act?” and he replied - ~T cannot say that I do. I think it has lent to the artificial creation of disputes in order to get to the Arbitration Court.
I suppose that Senator McColl will not agree with that. The honorable senator agrees only with what suits him.” When any one says anything that he thinks is calculated to injure his party, the honorable senator is quite prepared to repudiate it.
I wish to deal now with the financial spectres that are looming behind the Government. I wish to know why the Government are anxious to get to the country. The reason is that they are already more than half discredited, and every month’s delay in going to the electors adds to their danger. They know that if they retain office very much longer they will be obliged to make some attempt to adjust the finances of the Commonwealth, and that will be sufficient to hurl them from the Treasury bench. This accounts for their present display of false courage-. It is the courage of the toper, with a few beers in him, who is prepared to do anything. The Government are now at the inebriate stage. They are prepared to make a deadly plunge, and do not bother very much about whether they fall or not. They are forced into their present desperate position by their knowledge of the financial outlook, and of their inability to deal with it.
– The death rattle is in their throats.
– Yes; I heard it from Senator McColl this morning. Turning to the latest statistics issued by the Department, I notice that the Treasurer’s estimate of revenue for this year was £21,000,000, whilst his estimate of expenditure is £24,000,000. I am informed that the estimate of expenditure is likely to be largely exceeded, especially in connexion with the Defence Force. But on the figures given, a deficit of over £3,000,000 is foreshadowed.
– The Government are starving a number of the Departments.
– That is so. Their statesmanship has been exemplified by the Teesdale Smith contract, and by looking after their own supporters in the way I have shown. They have not so far given Parliament any information as to what are to be their financial proposals. How do the Government propose to meet the deficit? Do they propose to commence a red-hot borrowing policy ? . If the Tariff is revised by this Parliament, it is inevitable that it will be made more highly protective, and this must at once result in a fall in the revenue. Revenue duties will have to .go, protective duties must be increased, and the result must be that the revenue through the Customs will drop, it may be, to the extent of from £1,000,000 to £3,000,000.
– It ought to drop.
– I agree with the honorable senator. But- how do the Government propose to adjust the finances? Do they intend to increase the land tax ?
– Mr. Irvine is a
Bingie taxer, or was one at one time.
– The honorable gentleman used to assert that all revenue should come from the land.
– Mr. Joseph Cook was a land nationalizer
– As I am reminded, Mr. Cook used to advocate land nationalization, and a few other things besides. Will the Government start a borrowing policy ? If that is their intention, I am satisfied that they have not the courage to tell the electors so. They will keep that intention in the background. No matter what Government may be in power in the Commonwealth, it is certain that in a very, short time we shall have to face an extensive borrowing policy, or must obtain more revenue by taxation. There is no way out. Honorable senators, whether Labour or Liberal, will have to make their choice and say whether they will support a proposal that the Commonwealth should make a seventh and extensive Australian borrower, or a proposal to extort from the wealthy, people of Australia a little more of the wealth they have confiscated.
– Which course does the honorable senator prefer f
– Speaking entirely for myself, and not for any other member of the Labour party, I should be prepared ‘ to support a policy of increased taxation by two methods: First of all, I think there should be an increase of the land tax. I should double the land tax as soon as’ possible.
– The honorable senator would stand by himself if he attempted it.
– Possibly. I should also be prepared to go to the length of supporting a wealth tax. The land tax averages now only 3d. in the £1, and if the tax were increased to ls., we might easily get an additional revenue of £1,000,000 from that source.
– It would drive a few off.
– That would indirectly mean greater production, and increased consumption. So far as a wealth tax is concerned, I believe that we should adopt further direct taxation, and adequately tax wealth. Our taxation to-day falls very largely on the wage-earner. In my opinion, we nave never yet adequately taxed the big wealthy interests in Australia. I have gone into some Tasmanian figures on the subject, and to me they are very interesting. I find ‘ that public taxation in that State is’ very heavy. We pay in Tasmania £462,000 a year in interest on the national debt of about £11,500,000. In addition, we have private taxation, estimated by reliable authorities as follows: - £600,000 per annum mortgages on land; £500,000 rents from land; £300,000 interest on banking and -other securities. There is, therefore, private, taxation on producers and workers of Tasmania, apart from the taxation imposed by the public debt, to the amount of £1,400,000 a year. There is a dividend tax and an income tax, and I am glad to say that, in connexion with the income tax, a distinction is made between incomes from personal exertion and incomes from property, the latter paying a higher rate. The Government taxation on the private taxation of £1,400,000 is about £60,000. I find that there are 60,000 workers in Tasmania, and their average wage, when I went into the figures with a friend, was £?0 per annum. I admit that there has been some increase since. From the 60,000 people who produce the wealth of Tasmania, £1,800,000 is taken in the way of unearned income. If this sumwere divided amongst the wage-earners it would represent a 50 per cent, increase onwhat they at present receive, and would raise the average from £70 per annum to a little over £100.
– Does the honorable senator suggest taking all profits and dividing them amongst the wage-earners ?
– I do not suggest anything so silly. It is very hard to obtain definite estimates of what is really paid in rent and interest in Australia, but, from anestimate made by a Victorian actuary, I find that the wealth of Australia is £1,000,000,000. It is estimated that 8,500 persons own over £810,000,000 of the total wealth, leaving £190,000,000 for the rest of the community. We receive from Customs and Excise duties about £15,000,000 a year; and, to show the hollowness of the present system of taxation, it is estimated that those persons who possess only onefifth of the -wealth of Australia contribute no lessthan £12,000,000 of the £15,000,000 derived from Customs and Excise. To put this in another way, a writer in Tasmania recently showed that on incomes of from £100 to £120 a year, the income of the wage-earner, the indirect taxation amounted to over 4s. in the £1, whereas the indirect taxation on incomes over £1,000 a year amounts to 2s. and 2s. 6d. in the £1. If we are getting 4s. in the £1 from the worker, and only 2s.6d. in the £1 from the capitalist, it is obvious that the latter is escaping’ his just share of taxation. In the circumstances, we might, without imposing a burden which the taxpayers could not bear, impose a tax on all Federal incomes from investments, with an exemption of £1,000.
-How much would be derived from such a tax)
– I have some figures which may interest the honorable senator. I find that Knibbs says there are 17,894 persons in Australia who draw incomes aggregating £80,000,000 a year. If we taxed these people at the rate of only1s. in the £1, the impost would return £4,000,000 per annum.
– How many of that number receive incomes of over £1,000 a year?
– The 17,894 persons to whom I have referred annually draw £80,000,000, and all of them have in comes of more than £1,000 a year. In view of the special circumstances -which obtain to-day,I ask leave to continue my remarks on a future date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented -
Public Service Act 1902-1913. - Promotions-
Department of the Treasury -
Senate adjourned at 12.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 May 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140522_senate_5_74/>.