1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether it is necessary to insist that the applications for enrolment by electors should be made upon the forms prescribed by the Act? I think chat as there are no rolls at present, but lists only, it should not be necessary for claims to be made upon these forms. I would ask the Minister, in view of the difficulty of obtaining such forms, to consider applications, however made, so long as they are clear and afford the necessary particulars 1
– The rule followed is to forward all applications, however made, to the police officers in the districts to which they relate. The names of applicants are not placed upon the rolls before an investigation has taken place. If the police report that the applications are in order the applicants are at once registered as electors. The forms are intended only to meet the convenience of applicants for enrolment, and if forms were not obtainable a letter, forwarded in the ordinary way, would be sufficient.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether the Government, in arranging for the reception of the new Governor-General, will make provision for Lord Northcote to land at Perth, and also at Adelaide, to admit of his proceeding from that city by rail to Melbourne?
– I have no information so far as to the route to be pursued by His Excellency Lord Northcote, but I shall make inquiries. I have some reason to believe that the route has already been arranged.
– When is His Excellency expected to arrive?
– His intention is to leave England on 19th December, and therefore he may be expected here about 19th January.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether his attention has been directed to any complaints regarding delay in the delivery of mails upon the north-west coast of Western Australia? I have a copy of a newspaper dated 5th September, and published at Marble Bar, in which it is stated -
The last mail from the metropolis delivered in Marble Bay was oue which left Perth on 17th July last.
Further on it is stated -
The daily papers published in Perth on the 1 8th July have not yet arrived at Marble Bar, and when they do reach us, on Monday next, they will be no less than fifty-one days old.
I should like to askwhether some inquiry will be made into these complaints, with a view to prevent the districts concerned from being further deprived of the regular mail service to which, although isolated and thinly populated, they are undoubtedly entitled?
– I shall have pleasure in making inquiry into what certainly seems to be an extreme delay.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether his attention and that of the Attorney-General has been directed to the opinion of the Victorian Crown Prosecutor, Mr. Leon, to the effect that under the provisions of the Judiciary Act, there will be some difficulty in conducting prosecutions for indictable offences in the States Courts without the intervention of a grand jury. Further, if there is anything in the point, will the Prime Minister consider the desirability of introducing a short bill before the session closes, in order to remove the difficulty ?
– The difficulty does not exist, except in the mind of the learned gentleman referred to. He has evidently overlooked our Acts Interpretation Act, under which “indictment” covers “information.” He has also omitted to notice that an information may be laid in the name of the Attorney-General, or of his appointee. I understand that it is in contemplation to appoint all the State AttorneysGeneral to represent the Federal AttorneyGeneral, in order that no delay may occur.
– With reference to the return which has been circulated today, showing the number of attendances standing to the credit of each honorable member, I should like to point out that it may convey an entirely wrong impression as to the extent to which honorable members have applied themselves to their par-: liamentary duties. It is well known that honorable members sometimes have their attendance recorded, and then leave the chamber for the remainder of the sitting. I think it is desirable that a return should be published showing the number of divisions upon which honorable members have voted. Such a return is supplied in connexion with other Legislatures.
– The return referred to by the honorable member was prepared at the request of the honorable member for More ton. It has been supplied only to honorable members. The form of the return was not settled in any way, because it was simply intended to supply the information asked for. Now that the member for Macquarie has asked for further information, I have no doubt it will be supplied.
– Could thePrime Minister inform us whether any time willbe allowed for the consideration of the Senate’s message with regard to the amendment of the Public Service regulations?
– That matter occupies a prominent place on the notice paper, and as soon as we have disposed of the urgent business I have no objection to its being considered.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence a question with regard to the report that the General Officer Commanding has issued an order compelling the clerks in the Defence Department to join the militia and wear a military uniform. This order is strongly objected to. I wish to know whether the action of the General Officer Commanding has been approved by the Minister.
– I think that the order referred to relates to military clerks only.
– I am informed that it extends to officers who arc under the control of the Public Service Commissioner.
– I would ask the honorable member to give notice of his question, to enable me to make the necessary inquiries.
Mr. DEAKIN laid upon the table
Correspondence between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia with reference to the proposed transcontinental railway to Western Australia.
– I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “ The survey and construction of the proposed transcontinental railway to Western Australia.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places -
– I have been extremely reluctant to take this step, but it is forced on me by the attitude of the Government, and particularly by the manner in which the question I asked yesterday was answered by the Prime Minister. I do not think that Western Australian members can be blamed for having harassed the Government in connexion with this matter, or with having too frequently brought it before the House. If anything, we have erred in the other direction, and have tolerated the inaction of the Government up to a point when any further hesitation on our part would not be just to our State. There is another reason why the present occasion affords a good opportunity to speak on the matter. We have heard a good deal lately in connexion with another subject; - of the Federal spirit and of honorable obligations. I wish in. the short time at my disposal to show that there is an honorable obligation resting on this Parliament, and particularly on this Government, to do an act of common justice to Western Australia. The answer that the Prime Minister gave to me yesterday in reference to a survey of the proposed transcontinental line was -
The matter is under consideration, and is subject of correspondence now proceeding.
I am afraid that that answer is not one which is entirely creditable to the Prime Minister, who knows perfectly well that the question of a survey has nothing to do with the correspondence now being carried on between himself and the South Australian Government.
– The honorable member is in error there.
– I would point out to the Prime Minister that it is not necessary that he should correspond in connexion with the matter, because a survey can be undertaken without the consent of South Australia. I have the authority of members of the South Australian Government for making that observation. Those members of the State Government have said to me - “ Why need there be any trouble about a survey 1 - so far as we are concerned, the
Federal surveyors are at perfect liberty to traverse our territory and make what observations they may think fit, in order that the Parliament of the Federation may be in a position to judge as to whether or not this line should be constructed.”
– The South Australian Government could not keep the surveyors off the territory.
– Certainly not. Under the circumstances’ the Western Australian representatives at this stage of the session are fully justified in entering a very strong protest against the inaction of the Federal Government. To my mind W7estern Australia has simply been played with, and it is about time the Government were given to understand that their action, or rather their inaction, will be tolerated by the State no longer.
– What will Western Australia do 1
– If the Minister for Trade and Customs waits a little while he will find out. I feel particularly annoyed with the Government, several members of which - particularly the Prime Minister, by his utterances and indirect promises - are largely responsible for Western Australia having entered the Federation without insisting on a compact in regard to the construction of a transcontinental railway. At the Federal Convention of 1897 we find the present Prime Minister actually suggesting to the Western Australian delegates, who were then indifferent about Federation, the construction of a railway from the eastern States to the western State. On the question of giving the Federal Parliament power to construct such a railway the present Prime Minister spoke at the Melbourne Convention on the 25th January, 1898, as follows : -
A trunk line from the eastern colonies to the extreme west, which would mean a treat saving of time in the transit of the mails to and from Europe and increased expendition in our trade communication with the old world, might justifiably be constructed by the Federal authority.
We find not only the present Prime Minister but several supporters of the present Government, who were members of the Convention, holding out the inducement of a transcontinental railway to Western Australia. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo, for instance, in the Melbourne Convention on the 25th of January–
– At whose expense were the promises held out ?
– The matter of expense can be considered later on; but I would point out to the honorable member that when the Government have felt themselves justified in placing ,£25,000 on the Estimates in order to provide a structure of stone and lime in front of Buckingham Palace, they might well feel justified in asking Parliament to vote half that sum for the survey of such a railway as that which lam advocating. We find the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, in the Convention, protesting against any attempt to cut down or fritter away the Federal power to construct national or transcontinental railways. Opposing an amendment submitted by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Solomon, the honorable and learned member for Bendigo pointed out that if the amendment were carried the Federal Parliament would not be able to construct a transcontinental railway connecting the eastern railway system with that of Western Australia. Mr. R. E. O’Connor, speaking at the same sitting of the Melbourne Convention, used the following language with regard to the federation of the railways : -
If you make that condition you simply make a condition which is impossible. The principle on which we give this power at all is that it may be necessary for the Federal Government to take action in regard to the very large and important work of transcontinental railway construction ; and for two reasons : In the first place, it is difficult to obtain the amount of funds necessary in any one State to carry on the work ; in the second place, the work must be carried out as a whole, and can only be done by the Federal authority. It should also be done in some uniform way.
The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who was also a member of the Convention, when speaking of an InterState Commission which should control the railway rates throughout Australia, said that in all probability a line to Western Australia would be effected, implying, therefore, that the railway would soon be undertaken .and constructed. In view of such general approval of this scheme, I fail to see why there should be any hesitation on the part of the Government in connexion with this matter.
– Look at the expense !
– We have heard a great deal here about some kinds of expense which could very well be avoided. Once again, the present Prime Minister, when on his way back from London, where he had attended as Victorian delegate in connexion with the Commonwealth Constitution Bill, was interviewed at Albany by Western Australian federationists on the 13th July, 1900, only a few weeks before the referendum was taken ; and he then said -
I have always advocated the construction of a line from Perth to Adelaide.
He has not advocated it very much since I have had the honour to sit in this Parliament. Perhaps it may interest honorable members to learn that the leader of the Opposition has spoken in no uncertain language concerning the construction of this line. During the sittings of the Federal Convention, he repeatedly referred to it as a possibility, and in speaking at Kalgoorlie, upon the 27th January last, he used the following emphatic words-
– He spoke more strongly still in the Perth Town Hall.
– The utterance which I shall quote will be perfectly satisfactory to all those who favour the construction of this line. The right honorable gentleman said -
There was one little bit of equity that the Federal Government had got to do to the State of Western Australia, and that was to build a railway to connect it with the other States. From the first moment the Federal compact was signed he had always publicly stated that although there was no written agreement about it, it was always regarded as a tacit understanding, upon the strength of which Western Australia had consented to join the Federation.
We have been told that there is some difficulty in carrying out the undertaking on account of the attitude which has been assumed by the Government of South Australia. In this connexion I am very pleased to know that you, Mr. Speaker, took a very prominent part in inducing Western Australia to join the Federation upon the understanding that this railway would be constructed. I can only regret that you are not now upon the floor of the House to lend your powerful support to a measure of which you so emphatically approved on various occasions. I am also proud to recollect that the attitude of the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, upon this question is as definite as is that of the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney. His words and messages to Western Australia upon the eve of Federation, and his promise to assist us in obtaining the construction of this line at the earliest possible moment, contributed very largely towards securing the magnificent majority which was obtained in favour of the Union.
– Can the honorable member quote his utterances ?
– Yes, but it is not necessary to quote them. His word is as good as his bond, and I am quite sure that we shall have his support in all matters connected with this particular project. I wish, next, to quote an extract from a letter which was written to Mr. Walter James, who is now the Premier of Western Australia, by Sir Josiah Symon. It is dated the 27th June, 1900, and was published in the Western Australian newspapers. It reads -
Federation must inevitably give to Western Australia at a very early date the transcontinental railway line, upon which your and OU hearts are set. That will be one outward and visible link to join Western Australia with the rest of the federating colonies. In my belief, the acceptance of the Commonwealth Bill by Western Australia will mean the speedy inauguration of that work.
Lastly, I wish to quote from the manifesto of an honorable member of this House, whom we all highly respect, and whose unflinching regard for honour and political consistency justifies us in accepting him as one of the strong advocates of this railway scheme. I refer to the honorable member for South Australia, Sir Langdon Bonython, who, in his manifesto to the electors at the Federal election, made the following one of the planks of his platform : -
A railway fi-om Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, federally constructed or guaranteed, is necessary, as an act of justice to Western Australia, which, having agreed to throw in its lot with the Commonwealth, should not remain in a position of isolation.
I think I have shown that -the Western Australian representatives had sufficient ground for expecting that the Prime Minister would have set aside a sum of money to defray the cost of a survey of this line. It cannot be denied that our State entered the Federation upon the understanding that this railway would be taken in hand at a very early date. Yet, though the first Commonwealth Parliament is now about to close, not a single step has been taken by the Government in the direction in which we were so frequently promised that action would be taken. We have heard much of the reasons which induced the other States to join the Federation. We have been told that the possession of the Federal Capital was the determining factor in the case of New South Wales. On the other hand,
Queensland has received from this Parliament freedom from that black curse which was threatening her. Victoria has had the markets of the whole of Australia opened to her, and, in that respect alone, Western Australia has proved a regular mine of wealth to Victorian industries. Tasmania has also had the markets of Australia thrown open to her produce. South Australia, is offered a magnificent country to exploit, if she only cares to take advantage of it, as no doubt she will ere long. I refer to the territory which lies between the West Australian gold-fields and the occupied portion of her own territory. There is an immense area of auriferous country there of which advantage can be taken by South Australia, and, if a survey were made of this railway, I believe that such justification would be found for its construction as would enable any Government to take the work in hand. But what has Western Australia gained from Federation? It would be very difficult to discover that she has derived any advantage whatever. Of course we have frequently been reminded that she enjoys the benefit of a special tariff. But I would point out that the sliding scale of duties which was agreed upon was not embodied in the Constitution for the special benefit of Western Australia. Indeed, if a referendum had been taken upon that arrangement it would have been emphatically repudiated by a large majority. Western Australia, I repeat, has proved a perfect godsend to these Eastern States. Even now, some £20,000 per month is being forwarded by workers in Western Australia for distribution amongst families in Victoria and elsewhere.
– And it is well earned.
– It is undoubtedly. We have rescued several Victorian industries from insolvency. We have enriched Victorian ship-owners, and provided profitable occupation to the men employed by those who, a short time ago, were trying to do us another act of injustice. Western Australia has a good claim upon the Federation and the Government, but especially upon the Prime Minister, whose eloquence so largely contributed to that State placing itself unreservedly in the hands of the other States. As an ardent Federationist I am disappointed that the hopes which we entertained regarding the manifestation of a Federal spirit in this respect have not been justified. I believe that it is not the fault of this Parliament. I am confident that if the Government proposed that a sum of money should be voted to enable a survey of this line ‘ to be made, the vote would be carried by a large majority. There is therefore absolutely no excuse for an attitude of indifference upon the matter. I trust that before we disperse we shall have an intimation from the Prime Minister that the Government will perform this just act to Western Australia. If we have not, I venture to say that it will be so much the worse for the general policy of the Government in the future history of the Federation.
– Everyone must realize that Western Australia has just cause for complaint in this matter. The speech delivered by the GovernorGeneral at the opening of the present session indicated that the carrying out of this survey would be one of the matters that would receive consideration by this Parliament ; but, unfortunately, the Government have not done anything in that direction. Numerous questions have been asked from time to time in the House, but the Government have not given that attention to the matter which Western Australia anticipated that it would receive. It has been truly said that had it not been for promises which were made by influential advocates of Federation that the construction of the transcontinental railway would probably be entered upon at an early date by the Commonwealth, Western Australia would not have joined the Union. Reports of speeches which were made in Western Australia and otherStates in support of the Federal movement unmistakably showed that the construction * of this line was one of the main considerations which Western Australia had in view in joining the Federation. The present Prime Minister at that time spoke of “ one flag one destiny,” and suggested that, with the establishment of the Commonwealth, the several States of Australia should be linked together by means of the iron horse. There can be no doubt that the speeches made at that time by the honorable and learned gentleman were considered by the people of Western Australia to be pregnant with promise, but I am sorry to say that the influence which it was thought he would bring to bear on this matter has not yet been exercised. The honorable member for Perth has entered into this matter so fully that it is unnecessary for me to occupy the attention of the House at any length in dealing with it. At the same time, I feel that we have a well-founded complaint. I am confident that the Minister for Home Affairs will support all that has been said with regard to the desirableness of undertaking this work without delay, and that he will do all in his power if not to expedite the construction of the railway, at least to urge on the work of making a preliminary survey. The expenditure involved will not be great, and the fact that the survey may open up new mineral resources in Australia should influence honorable members in supporting our request. I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, in the past, did all in your power to further the object which we have in view, and that if you were not holding your present high and honorable office you would, as a private member, heartily co-operate with the representatives of Western Australia in their demand that a survey should be at once made. Western Australia occupies an isolated position. It is really cut off from the remaining States of the Federation, and, save for shipping facilities, has no means of sending her produce to the other States, and receiving their manufactures and produce in return. I trust that the Prime Minister will take this matter into consideration, and that before the session closes we shall have a message from the Governor-General recommending the appropriation of a sum of money sufficient to enable the survey to be made.
– If certain honorable members who are inquiring why I have not done anything to further this movement had lent me their assistance, it might, perhaps, have been in a better position to-day. I am very glad that this matter has been brought forward, because I feel that the facts relating to it should be clearly placed before the House. I do not think, however, that any considerable degree of blame can be placed at the door of the Government. It must be remembered that this is the first Parliament of the Commonwealth, and that we have been called upon to transact an enormous amount of work. Even the machinery measures absolutely necessary for carrying on the work of the Government have been placed on the statute-book only with considerable difficulty, and it must therefore be recognised that it has been practically very difficult to find time for the lengthy discussion of a great project such as this is. I know that from the first the Government have been sympathetic in regard to this matter ; but they have been placed in a position of much difficulty. Victoria and some of the other States suffered much by the prolonged drought which has only recently been dispelled, and the finances of the several States have been in such a condition that it has not been an easy matter to cause their representatives to become enthusiastic in regard to any suggestions for the expenditure of a large sum of money. I do not consider that we should incur expenditure merely for the sake of making people believe that we are going to do something in this direction unless we really intend to do so. I am not in favour of making surveys for any proposed railway unless the project is entered upon in a bond fide way, and unless those who are prepared to support the necessary expenditure are ready to follow up their action in this respect by supporting the construction of the line. I am sufficiently familiar with the proposed route to know that there are no engineering difficulculties in the way of the construction of the line. It presents, perhaps, fewer obstacles to the construction of a railway than does any other part of Australia, and when the line is made I should not be surprised to find it running in a straight line for several hundreds of miles, over country so level that earth-works will be of the simplest character. That being so, I have advocated the making of the necessary survey on the understanding that the line will be constructed.
– The right honorable member wishes to see a fair go.
– Quite so. It cannot be said that the Government has done nothing towards expediting’ the construction of the railway. Notwithstanding the adverse conditions with which we have had to contend, we have not neglected this question. The Western Australian Government have examined thenside of the proposed route, while the South Australian Government have done likewise. Furthermore, this Government appointed a commission whose members visited South Australia and Western Australia, and examined parts of the route. Their report has been published, so that honorable members and the public generally have now a considerable amount of information in regard to the proposal, and are in a good position to consider it. It must not be forgotten, however, that it is only recently that authority was given for the construction of the Western Australian portion of the line.
– But there is no obstacle in the way of making a survey.
– Probably that is so, but the Commonwealth has really no legal right to enter upon the Crown lands of any State in order to survey a route for a railway: We might be considered trespassers upon the Crown lands of South Australia if we endeavoured, without the permission of the Government of that State, to survey a route for a railway through it. That is not the position in which we should be placed. If the Government of South Australia are in earnest in this matter, they should authorize the Commonwealth in writing to enter upon their Crown lands and make a survey of the route. But they have not done so. The Government of Western Australia, as I have just pointed out, have only recently passed an Act giving authority to the Commonwealth to construct the line, although they have had the matter before them for over two years. However, I shall not say anything against them on that account, because of late, at any rate, they have shown great interest in the matter, and have done all they could to further the project.
– What about the railway to Esperance 1
– I could easily deal with that proposal, and, I hope, give it its quietus, so far as this Government is concerned, before I conclude my speech. The survey of the proposed line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie would cost about £20,000.
– Would that be the cost of a flying survey ?
– That is the estimated cost of a permanent survey. The work would cost about £20 a mile. The South Australian Government, however, have not yet introduced a Bill to authorize the construction of the line, and the correspondence between that Government and the Government of the Commonwealth which has been laid upon the table this afternoon will not be pleasant reading for either the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, or you, Mr. Speaker. I should not like as a private individual to receive a letter such as that which has been addressed to the Premier of South Australia, and I am certain that the people of that State will not be too pleased when they read it. I wish now to give the House a little information in regard to the natural resources and wealth of Western Australia, because unless it can be shown that it is a country to which it is worth while to make a railway it will be better to have nothing to do with the proposal.- Unless the construction of the proposed railway would be advantageous to the whole Commonwealth as well as to the State of Western Australia it should not be undertaken. I do not wish any honorable member to vote for a measure authorizing such a work if he believes that its construction would impose an undue burden upon the people of the Commonwealth for the sole advantage of Western Australia. But in my opinion the undertaking is a national one, and will prove remunerative and of great advantage to every State in the Union. I have not the slightest hesitation in urging that the undertaking be carried out. I believe that in the future, when the railway has been constructed, people will marvel that there was ever any hesitation about making it. If any one of the States had an auriferous district like that surrounding Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie within 1,100 miles of a railway terminus, would its people hesitate for a moment about the advisability of extending the line to it 1 From the district I speak of 250 tons of gold have been taken, and probably quite £6,000,000 worth of gold is won every year from the district within a radius of thirty miles of Kalgoorlie.
– The yield of gold for the whole State is £9,000,000 a year.
– But what about the expense of building the line ?
– The undertaking will be remunerative. Besides the goldfields, the railway will be the high way for mails and passengers to and fro to Perth and Fremantle as well as Europe. Surely the honorable member would not hesitate about spending money on a work which will make the country prosperous ! If this were a matter in which any one of the States was individually interested, there would be no hesitation about the construction of the line. Honorable members who represent the eastern States, however, regard the proposal as unimportant, merely because Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie are so remote, and they are unacquainted with the wealth and resources of the State of Western Australia. They should, however, endeavour to inform themselves on the subject. There is not a member in the House who, if he went to Western Australia, would not come back a convert to the proposed scheme. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Perth, Western Australia deserves well of the eastern States. When I was Premier of Western Australia nearly £1,000,000 was remitted one year to the eastern States by men who were earning good wages in Western Australia, and were sending money back for the support of their wives and families here. Last year the people of the State purchased in the eastern States goods to the value of £2,288,536.
– The greater part of that money was spent in Victoria.
– About £750,000 was spent in South Australia.
– We found the mines for you.
– I am quite sure that the right honorable and learned gentleman is only awaiting his opportunity to make a speech in favour of the railway. He is one of those who most strongly urged me to join the Federation. He said that he hoped that the day was close at hand when the representatives of South Australia and Western Australia would be found standing side by side in the Federation advocating the claims of a railway to the West. I am quite sure that he will not now go back upon his word.
– I do not think that I was ever found to do that.
– No ; as I was pointing out, the people of Western Australia purchased from the Eastern States goods to the value of £2,28S,536, whereas we sold to the Eastern States goods to only the value of £743,411. I do not know what these exports consisted of, but I presume that they were mostly gold. The balance of trade, therefore, was £1,545,125 in favour of the Eastern States. “We have heard a good deal about the value of New Zealand to Australia, and no doubt it is a great country. It is not, however, as valuable to Australia so far as trade and commerce is concerned as is Western Australia. New Zealand purchased from Australia last year goods to the value of £1,390,539, whereas the imports from New Zealand into Australia were valued at £2,475,685.
Therefore the balance of trade as between us and New Zealand was over £1,000,000 on the wrong side, whereas the balance between the Eastern States and Western Australia was over £1,500,000 on the right side. The value of our commercial intercourse with Canada has been referred to upon more than one occasion, and we have shown our readiness to contribute about £50,000 per annum for the purpose of maintaining a mail service with that country.
– The amount we contribute is on lv £14,000.
– I thought that the amount had been increased.
– Only from £10,000 to £14,000.
– The total contribution from New Zealand and Australia is much more than that, and would probably represent £30,000. Last year Canada purchased from us goods to the value of only £33,336, whereas she sold us produce to the value of £318,73S. Therefore Western Australia is by far a better customer of the Eastern States than is either New Zealand or Canada.
– Which of the States does the most trade with Western Australia ?
– I believe that Victoria does. Although Victoria is 500 miles further distant than South Australia she seems to do the greater part of the business. In 1902 no less than 47,622 persons travelled between Western Australia and the Eastern States.
An Honorable Member. - That is why the ship-owners do not want the railway.
– The ship-owners have made fortunes out of the Western Australian trade. I could tell honorable members of one nourishing company which was not in very prosperous circumstances before the Western Australian trade was opened up. The number of persons who travelled between Australia and New Zealand last year was 34,753, and between Canada and Australia only 1,622. It will, therefore, be apparent to honorable members that the passenger trade between the Eastern States and Western Australia is very large and important. I feel sure that if a railway were constructed fully twenty persons would travel for every one who now proceeds by sea. There would still be plenty for the shipowners to do. They would have a trade representing at the present time a value of £3,000,000 per annum to carry on. Surely that should be worth something to them, and, therefore, they should not oppose the construction of the railway. If they do, I shall have something to say about them.
– I am not aware that the ship-owners as a body do oppose the railway. There is a great deal of assumption about the statements which have been made regarding the ship-owners.
– They are not very much in favour of the railway.
– I am opposed to the construction of the railway until I am satisfied that it will pay.
– The ship-owners do not support the railway, because it would not suit them to have it constructed.
– They are not so selfish as are some people in Western Australia.
– I think that we are all more or less selfish ; but I deny that the people of Western Australia have shown themselves unduly so. If there has been any delay, it cannot be laid to any great extent at the door of the Commonwealth Government. We have had a great deal to do, and we have not had time to transact all of even the pressing business. The States immediately concerned have not done all that they might have accomplished. A Bill authorizing the construction of the railway should have been passed in South Australia and in Western Australia, two or three years ago. If I had been in office in Western Australia a Bill would have been passed early in 1901. I am very much obliged to the present Government of Western Australia for recently having pressed this matter on. Mr. James, the Premier, has done all he could in that direction. Whether or not the railway be constructed by the Commonwealth Government, it will have to come. It is necessary in the interests of Federation. We shall never make Federation a reality to the people of Western Australia unless we enable them to see and to feel its effects. There is no use in expecting them to remain loyal to Federation unless they are able to see evidences of its advantages.
– This is treason !
– No, it is not. I am a good federalist; but I am stating facts. We cannot expect the people of Western Australia to remain under their present disabilities for very long. They may be patient and long-suffering ; but they cannot rest content under present conditions. The people belonging to the Federation must be bound together with hoops of steel, and so far as the people of Western Australia are concerned the construction of this railway is essential. I feel sure that if Western Australia had not entered the Federation, the Commonwealth Parliament would not hesitate to offer that State the railway if its construction were made a condition of its joining the Federation. It is scarcely necessary to point out that Western Australia, with its immense trade and its magnificent prospects, must have been included in the Federation in order to render the Union complete. The fact that that State joined the Federation, for good or ill, in its earliest days is no reason why it should be treated less favourably than if it had stood out. I have no fear of the result of constructing the railway. I belong to that class of people who are not afraid to assume responsibilities. I do not believe in a do-nothing policy. I believe that under Federation we can rearrange the finances of Australia in such a way as to enable us to construct this railway, and carry out many other great projects for the benefit of the Commonwealth, and that after we have done so we shall be richer than we were before Federation, and richer than we could ever have hoped to be as six separate States. The rearrangement of our loans alone will, as time goes on, save more money to the people of Australia than this transcontinental railway and many other great works are likely to cost. I hope that we shall not adopt an exclusive, or a parsimonious and fearful policy ; let us have pluck and have faith in our country.
– Let us have inquiry.
– The honorable member has been inquiring all his life, and no one knows better than he of the great wealth of Western Australia ; indeed, I myself pointed out to him fortunes there.
– Not in connexion with the transcontinental railway.
– The honorable member knows very well that the transcontinental railway will pay. In some quarters the country through which the proposed railway will travel is spoken of as a desert ; and a press penny-a-liner has spoken of the project as a “desert railway.”
As a matter of fact, there is not a bit of desert the whole of the way ; on the contrary, there are 500 miles of grassy country which, but for the absence of surface water, would be occupied by sheep or cattle. It is certain that in time to come those lands will be grazed by stock.
– Can water be obtained by sinking 1
– Water is obtained at a depth of about 1,000 feet. If honorable members listen to people who know nothing whatever about the country, they will, no doubt, arrive at the conclusion that there is nothing in the project, and that we had better go on as in the past, leaving the West isolated from the East.
– Does the water rise at all?
– So far as the experiments have gone, they show that the water comes up very near to the surface. I hope no one will consider that I am an adventurer, who desires to spend money in directions from which no return may be hoped. I should be the most foolish man in this House if I advocated any such disastrous policy. Where would my reputation soon be? I have used that argument a good many times before, and I have never had reason to regret the carrying out of the projects with which I have been associated. If a public man advocates measures which do not pay in the course of a few years, Nemesis overtakes him ; and I would not, even to secure the good will of the people of Western Australia, advocate a measure which would result in disaster and make my name a by-word. Unless a project had a good chance of success, it would be foolish and disastrous on my part to recommend it to the people of Australia. Only this morning I read that a project which I initiated, and which it was prophesied would ruin Western Australia, has proved a success at the very start. The Coolgardie water scheme was carried out at a cost of £2,500,000, and we are now told that, even before the reticulation is completed, and in the winter time, it is returning a revenue of £11 2,000 per annum. When the summer comes it Ls said that this return will be doubled, so that the scheme may in its very early days be regarded as a paying concern. I am now advocating no desert railway which would bring discredit on me and the Parliament of this country ; and I speak with a full sense of my responsibility.
I have again to thank the honorable member for Perth for bringing up the subject. But that honorable member must not blame the Government, who have a right to expect to be put into a legal position by the Parliaments of Western Australia and South Australia. It is unreasonable to ask the Government to spend a large sum of money before the statutory authority to do the work has been obtained. There might be some reason for the course which some honorable members are urging, if the country through which the railway will travel were a difficult country. As a matter of fact, it is a country so easy as to scarcely need survey much ahead of construction. The railway would not only connect the mines of Western Australia with the other States, but would bind together two sides of a great continent. It will be impossible to prevent the carrying out of this project - the line must be constructed either now or in the near future. Western Australia has already turned out £45,000,000 worth of gold, and is turning out £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 worth yearly ; and I do not wonder at people deserting Victoria for that State. What I want to see is a transcontinental railway providing for the freest communication between east and west, so that all the States may be benefited, and Federation be made a reality, which it can never be so long as the Eastern and Western sides -of Australia are separated by 1,000 miles of unoccupied country.
– I can sympathize with the representatives of Western Australia. We from New South Wales have reason to complain of the delays of the Government in dealing with the question of the Federal Capital site, which, we have been told, is purely a local matter. ~We have even been told that the question of the Federal Capital played no part in connexion with the Federal movement ; and our position is similar to that of the Western Australian members, except that the Constitution itself provides that the Federal Capital shall be in New South Wales. In the address to this Parliament of His Excellency the Governor-General in May, 1901, occurred the following paragraph : -
Isolation was the chief obstacle to the early adoption of the Constitution by Western Australia, until the hope of closer connexion influenced the people of the west to risk the threatened perils of that political union of the continent which their vote at the referendum did much to complete.
It was thus pointed out that one of the chief reasons which induced Western Australia to enter the Union was the fact that a transcontinental railway had been promised. I am not surprised that representatives of Western Australia should feel anxious about the Government delaying the project for so long. It is true that some estimate of the probable cost was submitted by engineers, and that at the opening of the present session the address of the GovernorGeneral referred at some considerable length to the importance of such a railway. That shows that the Government are in strong sympathy with the movement.
– There is plenty of sympathy.
– As in the case of the Federal Capital, there is plenty of sympathy in words, but no practical sympathy ; and Western Australia has good reason to complain.
– How could the Government take a line through South Australia without the consent of the State Parliament ?
– No doubt the Minister will be ready with all sorts of excuses ; but the report of the engineers was obtained without the consent of the State. The Prime Minister knows that only a few weeks ago a personal canvass was made of members as to whether they approved of a trial survey being made, and I believe there was a strong expression of feeling in favour of such a step.
– I did not know that had been done.
– I remember the Minister for Home Affairs, when dealing with the Address in Reply on one occassion, speak strongly in favour of a transcontinental railway, pointing out its urgency, and the great part it had played in the Federal movement, and contending that it would pay ; indeed, the right honorable gentleman went so far as to say that if the railway were not constructed, he would be a party to “ bursting up “ the Constitution. I remember that only a few weeks ago my honorable friend made a speech at a prominent political gathering in this city, in the course of which he declared that he could obtain very little sympathy with this project from his colleagues, and that Western Australia’s only hope was centred in the leader of the Opposition. I believe that the Minister for Home Affairs is absolutely sincere in regard to the undertaking. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Government have taken practically no step towards arriving at any decision in regard to the project, except that of obtaining a report upon it from . the Engineers-in-Chief of the different States.
– I obtained that report after consultation with the Cabinet. Nothing further could be done.
– I think that a great deal more could have been done.
– We have the information. We merely require a permanent survey to be made to enable us to undertake the work.
– The Minister for Home Affairs has expressed the belief that this railway, if undertaken, will pay. If that be so, it is clearly his duty to bring the matter prominently under the notice of his colleagues. We all recognise his determination and his courage. We also know that he has considerable influence with his colleagues. If he really believes that this line is necessary in the interests of Western Australia and of the other States, that it will prove remunerative, that it will be the means of developing an important traffic, and will provide employment to thousands of citizens, it is obviously incumbent upon him to press the question of the desirableness of its construction upon the attention of the Government, with a view to having it thoroughly ventilated in this House.
– Observers must have noticed that the chief disqualification or defect of the representatives of Western Australia in this Chamber is excessive modesty - a disinclination to intercept the great work of the national Parliament by reiterated advocacy of purely local interests. That is a defect from which - possibly for the benefit of Australia - very few representatives of the other States suffer. The Queensland representatives, for instance, have managed to secure for the sugar-planters of that State a contribution from the rest of Australia, as an inducement to employ white labour. I have no objection to that. At the same time I desire to point out that all the advantages accruing from Federation should not be confined to one State. Although Western Australia did not have the forethought to provide in the bond that the transcontinental railway should be constructed, it would nevertheless be a pure breach of faith with that State if the Commonwealth refused to build the line.
– Her delegates never suggested that the work should be provided for in the bond.
– No. The absence from the Constitution of any provision regarding the construction of that railway is to some extent accounted for by the fact that Western Australia was never truly represented at the Convention. There were probably two or three delegates from that State who would have been returned by the vote of the people ; but the electors had no opportunity to say who should represent them at that Convention. This fact explains the presence in the Constitution of something which need not have been placed there, and the absence from it of something which should have been inserted.
– Does the honorable member know why the delegates from Western Australia were not elected by a direct vote 1
– Certainly ; that is a matter of history. The State Parliament did not give the people of Western Australia the opportunity to elect representatives. But what about the right honorable member and others who sat in the Convention with these improperly elected delegates ? In Western Australia the people were powerless to protest. Why did not the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston - who is claimed to be the idol of the democracy of Australia - rise in his place in the Convention, and protest against those delegates being permitted to settle the destinies of the Commonwealth 1 Since he must have known that these delegates were improperly elected to the Convention, he is certainly more blameworthy than are the people whose hands were tied behind their backs, and who could do nothing to right their grievances. It has been clearly proved by the honorable member for Perth that the people of Western Australia voted for federation on the distinct undertaking given by the present Prime Minister, and nearly all the other Federal leaders, that this railway would be constructed. It was because of those promises that the people of Western Australia were induced to join the Union. Why is reference made in the Governor-General’s speech, at the opening of each session of Parliament, to the necessity for the construction of this railway, unless the
Government are prepared to take the matter in hand 1 I indorse every word that has been said by the Minister for Home Affairs as to the futility of a survey unless the Government intend to proceed with the construction of the line. The Prime Minister will possibly say that South Australia has not given the requisite permission to the Commonwealth to enter upon her territory, and I believe in that respect the honorable and learned gentleman has a good defence. The language used by him in the respectful remonstrance which he addressed to the Premier of South Australia, was possibly as strong as an honorable gentleman in his position could have reasonably employed ; but he will admit that the case is a very bad one, and would justify the use in this House, at all events, of much stronger language. The Premier of South Australia repeated a promise given by his predecessors in office, that a Bill similar to that passed by the Western Australian Parliament would be introduced in, and passed by, the South Australian Legislature ; but that promise has not yet been fulfilled. It seems desirable at this stage to remind South Australia that some occasion may arise when it may need the good will of the other States. Between 1904 and 1920 the Government of South Australia will have to redeem about £20,000,000 of loans.
– The work of redeeming those loans will not commence until the year 1907.
– It will commence next year.
– But there is only a comparatively small amount to be redeemed until the year 1907.
– Between the present year and 1920, they will have to redeem each year loans amounting in the aggregate to about £20,000,000. I have not had time to work out the totals, but the figures are to be found in Coghlan. The leaders of public opinion in the press and Parliament of South Australia may require the co-operation of the other States before the year 1920. Without unduly detaining the House, I may in conclusion point out the significant fact that the opposition in South Australia to the construction of this railway comes from a section of the people who are interested in chipping, and who desire to shut up the ports of Western Australia to the oceangoing mail vessels. Another opportunity will arise to discuss this matter, and as I am probably not in order in referring to it at the present stage, I shall therefore say no more on the point. I hold, however, that the Prime Minister should have made the necessary provision on the Estimates to enable a survey to be made. In view of the repeated references to this project which have been made in speeches delivered by the Governor-General, I can hardly believe that the people of Western Australia will hold Ministers blameless for their inaction in the matter. I hope that if the necessary money cannot be provided during the present session, the Prime Minister will at least give us his assurance that very early next session a substantial sum will be voted to enable this work to be carried out.
– It is somewhat regrettable that we should be called upon to discuss this question on a motion without notice, such as that which is now engaging our attention ; but, at the same time, I feel that the course which has been adopted is justified by the lateness of the session and the unanimity in regard to the necessity for this work. Something has been said with reference to the attitude which a number of gentlemen interested in the Federal movement have, in the past, adopted in relation to the question of constructing a railway to connect the gold-fields of Western Australia with Port Augusta, and special allusion has been made at various times to my own position. I undoubtedly have expressed myself in favour of a work of that character, and I shall be as good as my word. I shall be delighted to assist in carrying the necessary motions if those concerned produce, as I believe they can, the necessary statistics to remove all doubt as to the propriety of the work. Let us have these figures at the earliest moment. I believe they will be readily available, and I promise honorable members that I shall redeem all my pledges in this connexion. Indeed, I shall go a good deal further. I- shall be prepared to support a proposal to connect the gold-fields of Western Australia by rail with Esperance, the nearest port to the Eastern States.
– That has nothing to do with the question.
– It has everything to do with it. When we promise to connect two States by rail, I consider, speaking broadly, that that connexion should be made in a way that will be most useful to the States themselves, and not to any particular port. There should not be any attempt, for the purpose of diverting trade from the direction in which it would naturally flow if the ordinary channels were open, to carry it by a devious course to a far distant port. So far as the interjection made by the honorable member for Coolgardie is concerned, I would say that, as regards the conclusions at which I have arrived in connexion with this matter, I am much indebted to him. I am not in the slightest degree satirical when I make that assertion. I indorse the statements which he deemed it his duty at a very early stage in the history of this Parliament to lay before the House, in a carefully thought-out speech, loaded with statistics, and in which he was supported by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I am pleased that a copy of those speeches has been supplied in pamphlet form to honorable members, and I regret that an opportunity to complete the debate, on the motion then submitted by the honorable member for Coolgardie, has not yet offered. The honorable members in question, who took so much trouble in regard to this matter, owing to unforeseen circumstances which generally afflict private members in connexion with their various notices of motion, have not had an opportunity to have the question thrashed out. Their speeches, however, remain, and serve to show the sort of case to which they addressed themselves with such great success. The motion then submitted was as follows : -
That the construction of a railway between Esperance and Coolgardie, or some other point on the eastern gold-fields of Western Australia, is essential to the “ absolute freedom “ of InterState trade contemplated by the Constitution.
– What has that to do with this railway scheme?
– Everything. If we are going to carry out a scheme for the advantage of the Commonwealth, let us do it in a way which will benefit the people of the State chiefly concerned. Let us not attempt to divert trade into channels in which it does not naturally flow. Let us not adopt a circuitous, and, therefore, more expensive and troublesome route, instead of the natural route to the port with which, in the interests of Perth and Fremantle, it is refused connexion.
– Not at all. It is cheaper to go to Fremantle than to Esperance.
– It is notorious that, as regards this huge, promising, and now, because of its gold and other mineral resources, fairly prosperous State, there has been too much centralization in the past. Too much has been done in the interest of Perth and Fremantle, and against the interests of the great body of workers to be found on the gold-fields.
– Is Perth singular in that respect 1
– It is conspicuous in that respect.
– Has not the right honorable gentleman helped to build up Port Adelaide in the same way 1
– I do not think so. I have, so far as I could, opened up all the South Australian ports that could be opened up. There is not a port in that State to which attention has not been given. It is not so in Western Australia, however. There, “ notwithstanding the delay which is caused, the mail steamers, instead of calling at Albany, have been compelled to call at Fremantle. Western Australia was so managed that it is notorious that it was the threat of secession made by the people on the gold-fields that forced the Government of the State to take steps to bring it within the Union. It is time that these facts were mentioned here. I am cognisant of the circumstances, and no one can deny the truth of what I say. If it had not been for the threat of separation made by the people on the goldfields, because of the provocation they had received, Western Australia would not be part of the Commonwealth to-day. .We have the people of the gold-fields to thank for the present position of affairs. In this connexion our duty is clear. Let US give them all that they properly claim.
– Does the right honorable member know that there was a majority for Federation in the coastal districts of Western Australia 1
– Of course there was, but the Government were not in favour of Federation, or even of referring the question to the people, until the last moment. They came round only at the last moment, when they could not help themselves, after repeated protests and promises to the contrary, and attitudinising of the most ludicrous description.
– That is very good. The right honorable gentleman knows so much about Western Australia !
– I do. I am sorry that the right honorable gentleman can give expression to his feelings only by a series of grunts. I suggest that as a Minister of the Crown he should attempt to hold his tongue, and not indulge in the stupid, inane, and repeated twaddle with which he is now disturbing our proceedings. He is only interrupting. I suggest that he should do something else.
– Any one would think that the right honorable member had lived in Western Australia.
– The cry of the people of Western Australia has gone through the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, and has even reached to the Colonial Office. The attitude of the Colonial Office in regard to the separation of the gold-fields also had something to do with bringing about what we desired to accomplish, but which was so consistently opposed by the Government of Western Australia. This is what the honorable member for Coolgardie said in that connexion -
The time has now arrived when this Parliament should be prepared to listen sympathetically to complaints from a minority in any State who are being cheated out of the chief benefit which they expected would follow from the Federal Union. That is the position to-da3’ of the inhabitants of the gold-fields of Western Australia, and I sa3’ it is a position which should excite the active sympathy of every true Federalist. That Western Australia is one of the original States in the Federation is largely due to the enthusiasm and the self-sacrifice of the gold-fields population. What was it’ that aroused and sustained this enthusiasm ? Certainly the grand ideal of nationality ; but also the strong belief that Federation would give unfettered intercourse with the rest of the continent and free play to the efforts of men pioneering an arid and inhospitable region. !No whining plea for exceptional treatment has ever reached this Parliament from that territory. Its settlers have never been suppliant for the privilege of preying on any other class in the Commonwealth. All they seek is that, in a handtohand conflict with nature, they may be allowed access to, and free use of, such advantages as nature has conferred on them. They demand no more than that man shall not interpose a barrier between them and their natural outlet to the sea.
What are known as the eastern or Coolgardie gold-fields embrace an area of about 450 miles from north to south, and of about 250 miles from east to west. Their southern fringe is little more than 100 miles from the ocean at Esperance, where there .already exists a safe and commodious harbor. This port is about 220 miles from the 12 m main centre of population on the gold-fields, and is some 600 miles nearer than Fremantle to the eastern States.
Remembering the proximity of Esperance and the distance of Fremantle, I ask is it reasonable, when we are called upon to do our. best in the interests of a great State, to compel that large section of the community - the gold-fields population - by whom its prosperity is secured to go to the more distant port, instead of to that which lies at their door? Moreover, is it fair to hamper the trade of the eastern States? It is to a great extent the people of the eastern States who discovered the gold-fields of Western Australia, who peopled its deserts, who supplied it with food. Without that it would never have been heard of. All glory and honour to all who are now in Western Australia ; but let it not be assumed that the colonization of that State, and the exploitation of its resources has been the unassisted work of any one section of the people of the Commonwealth. It has been an Australian work, of which we have all reason to be proud. The honorable member for Coolgardie continued -
Fremantle lies to the extreme west, nearly 390 miles from Kalgoorlie. The whole of the passenger and goods traffic from the eastern States is thus carried some 000 miles by sea beyond the port nearest to its destination, and must then undergo an extra land carriage of 170 miles. For more than seven years the people have continuously agitated for the connexion of the gold- ‘ fields with Esperance by rail. Every appeal has been ignominiously rejected by the Western Australian Parliament, whose latest act is the refusal of a Royal Commission to investigate the merits of the proposed railway. Now, I deny that the decision of that Legislature reflects the matured judgment of a majority of the people of Western Australia with respect to this project.
Then he commented upon the want of representative character in the State Legislature. To that matter, I do not intend to direct my attention. But I ask honorable members to look at the map of Western Australia. Let them look at the area of land which the magnificent harbor of Esperance would serve, and note its proximity to the gold-fields. Let them, too, think of the population of that district. Should we or should we not in a Federal work, which is to be undertaken in a Federal spirit, provide for the people of that district, without regard to the interests of oldestablished districts with which it is not naturally connected ? Should we not give them access to the east for the benefit of
Australia in the largest sense? I am in favour of the proposed railway, but, at the same time, I say that it should be continued to Esperance. The people of the district concerned would be heartily thankful for such a line. What do the speeches of the honorable members for Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie mean? Surely neither of them will desire to depart in the slightest from the position which he then took up, or to withdraw a word or sentiment which he then uttered. We heard of the visit of the leader of the Opposition to the gold-fields. What was made almost the dominant note of his reception ? An appeal for the construction of the Esperance railway.
– That is not correct.
– I have read the reports, and I have had converse with those who were there. There is no room for doubt on the subject. I have no prejudice in favour of one part of the State as against another, but I claim justice for all. I know how the inhabitants of the goldfields district have had cause to complain in the past. Their complaints have been given eloquent expression by the members representing them. Those members had no interest in misrepresenting the state of affairs when they moved the motion which I have already read, and which based the propriety of constructing the line on the highest Federal constitutional principle - freedom of Inter-State trade. I am persuaded of that. I yield to the representations of those whose duty it has been to make a special study of this question.
– Why does not the right honorable and learned gentleman quote some higher authority ‘!
– How can I quote any higher authority than the representatives of the people themselves - the honorable members from the gold-fields ? They are charged with the duty of representing the views of those who return them, and I yield to the persuasion which they have exercised. I am fortified, further, with other knowledge which I possess. This has been a matter of history and notoriety for years. The claims of the goldfields have been ignored by those who desire to protect interests which are more closely associated with the seat of government. I do not wish to make any unnecessary reflections upon any one.
– The right honorable and learned gentleman has been reflecting upon me and others throughout his speech.
– I have been reflecting upon public men, and upon the Minister in particular, and no one more deserves it than he does. He is now getting his share of my criticism, and I hope that it will work for the good of his political soul. I was sorry to hear reflections cast upon the steam-ship companies. It is well known that I am no special advocate of steam-ship or any other companies. I think that, as a rule, business men are capable of looking after their own interests.
– The steam-ship companies would not advocate a railway which would compete with them.
– Not unless they were interested in it. It is idle to talk about the opposition to this railway being the outcome of the efforts of private individuals or companies. What is wanted is declared by the members for the district in the interest of the public, and they said that the railway was essential to the freedom of commerce required by the Constitution. I say that it is essential to fair play to the eastern States, to Western Australia, and to the whole Commonwealth. The matter should be dealt with in the way advocated with such strength and reason by the members for the district.
– The Government ought also to abolish the differential railway rates.
– Yes. If the Government of Western Australia had been anxious about this transcontinental railway some years ago, when I had the honour of being in office in South Australia, the matter would have been a great deal further advanced than it is to-day.
– That is no reason why Western Australia should suffer now.
– Certainly not. Does the honorable member suggest that the railway I arn advocating would cause Western Australia to suffer? The two railways should be constructed at the same time. I believe that the honorable member is fair, and I ask him whether he thinks it would be an injury to Western Australia to construct the Esperance railway.
– Certainly not; but the two works have no relation to each other.
– Certainly they have. There would be a saving in the distance of traffic to the extent of 600 or 700 miles, and where water traffic can be availed of we know that it is infinitely preferable in cost as regards most goods.
– Who has been priming the right honorable and learned gentleman upon this matter?
– No one has been priming me ; but I have listened to the speeches of honorable members representing the gold-fields. The Minister is apparently possessed of the idea that no one except himself takes any interest in Western Australia. He gets up and brags about his great water scheme, which he says has been a success - and I hope it will be - and from that he assumes that any railway that he may propose will also be a success. Let us have all the figures placed before us, and let us see how far they will prove that the construction of the railway from the gold-fields to Esperance Bay would benefit, not only the residents on the fields, but the people trading with them, and particularly those in the Eastern States. I venture to say that such a line would pay well, and that the I sooner it is constructed the better. If it had not been for the Western Australian Government the project for the construction of the transcontinental line would have been further advanced than it is to-day. During my absence in England, the Acting Premier of South Australia wrote to the Government of Western Australia.
– Without the honorable and learned member’s knowledge.
– I guess I knew all about it.
– The right honorable and learned gentleman told me that he did not know anything about it.
– I knew of it sooner I than the Minister says he did. The South Australian Government wrote to the Acting Premier of Western Australia, stating that the surveys had been made to the border of Western Australia, and asking if the Western Australian Government would join in con- I structing a railway if the South Australian line were carried to the border.
– Did the South Australian Government suggest that a line should be constructed to Esperance?
– No. We have, however, been doing our best for Esperance for years past. A private citizen of South Australia endeavoured to obtain authority to . construct a railway from the gold-fields to
Esperance Bay, but he could not secure the necessary sanction. It has been a case of bleeding the gold-fields for the benefit of Perth and Fremantle for years past, and if the policy of the Western Australian Government had been persisted in and Federation had not been accomplished it would have resulted in the disintegration of that State. Western Australia expected better treatment from federated Australia than from its own Government, and my voice will be raised in favour of its securing everything to which it is fairly entitled. With regard to the correspondence between the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia, I shall first quote the letter written in 1897 by Mr. Speaker, then Acting Premier of South Australia, to Mr. Wittenoom, who was then Acting Premier of Western Australia. The letter proceeds : -
This Government has obtained reports and estimates for the construction of a railway on the 3ft.6in. gauge from Port Augusta to a point on the border of South and Western Australia about 470 miles from Kalgoorlie. 1 should be glad to learn whether your Government is prepared to unite with us by carrying out the work from the border to connect with your line should we cany the line to your border.
It took about ten days to obtain an answer, which came in a short, sharp, and decisive form.
– I was not there, remember.
– No ; but surely the right honorable gentleman made proper arrangements for the discharge of public business during his absence. Was it not possible to deal with a small matter of that kind without the august presence of the Minister ?
– I only wish to have the fact stated.
– I am giving the facts, and I am rubbing them in. There is no use in the Minister wagging his head ; there is nothing in it. 1 would suggest to him that want of equanimity is a characteristic which should be suppressed under destructive criticism. Now is the time for him to display his capacity in that direction.
– There is not much that is destructive about the right honorable and learned gentleman’s criticism.
– The remark shows a want of judgment and appreciation similar to that which is so often displayed bythe
Minister. The reply from Mr. Wittenoom read as follows : -
In reply to your letter of the 18th ult., I have the honour to intimate to you that this Government is not prepared at present to construct a railway to the South Australian border.
We were absolutely out of it. It is an extraordinary fact that such a busy, and at the same time such a cautious, gentleman as the Minister for Home Affairs should not become aware of this correspondence until two years and three months after it had taken place.
– Did I not say so in my official letter to the right honorable and learned gentleman ?
– Yes; the right honorable gentleman apparently woke up two years and three months afterwards.
– What did I say 1
– In a letter dated 22nd of August, 1899, the right honorable gentleman wrote as follows : -
With further reference to your letter of 28th May, 1897 (marked CP. W., 1258-95, in margin), I have the honour to inform you that the present Government has always been anxious to have this colony connected by rail with the railway system of South Australia, and is prepared to do all in its power to further the carrying out of the work.
The reply given by Mr. Wittenoom to the abovementioned letter during my absence from the colony, and which has recently come before me for the first time, could only have been intended to mean that at that moment he was not prepared to arrange to provide the funds necessary to construct the portion of the proposed railway in this colony to connect with your border.
Is there any mention in Mr. Wittenoom’s better about funds ? Was it not to be fairly regarded as a final reply, such as would be given by an Acting Premier who did not intend to consider the matter 1
– I said more than the right honorable member has quoted. I stated that the construction of the transcontinental line was a part of the policy of the Government.
– The letter proceeds as follows : -
I will add that you are aware that it has always been a part of my declared public policy to have this railway undertaken and completed, and therefore, if your Government is able to consider the question favorably, I will be glad to enter into negotiations with you as to the best means to be adopted in order to carry out this great and desirable work.
Did Mr. Wittenoom know what the declared policy of the Government was, or did the right honorable gentleman keep it concealed in his breast? I do not wish to throw any doubts upon the relationship -between the Minister and Mr. Wittenoom ; but in his dealings with the other States the Minister’s position was clear. He would not meet us when we were prepared to meet him, and it was not until two years and three months afterwards that he ventured to re-open the subject. In my reply to him, I said that I would do all I could to facilitate the work, and I am here to do it. There is not one word in the correspondence that I wish to withdraw. I would point out, further, that some of these letters were written after the meeting of the Premiers’ Conference in 1899, when the Premier of Western Australia, in common with the others, pledged himself to refer the Constitution Bill to the people. I say, further, that these letters were written - and I admit the full responsibility for them - to assist him in his declared intention to submit the Bill to the people. I say, moreover, that after the Premier of Western Australia had pledged himself to refer the Bill to the people he did not carry out his promise. He allowed his colleagues to vote in breach of this promise against the discharge of his duty .to the Convention. I unhesitatingly assert that when the Premier of a State gives a promise he should insist upon his colleagues supporting him in carrying it out, even to the point of resigning his position as the head of the Government, or of requiring the resignation of any recalcitrant colleague. I always stand to my promises. I never break them, and I never will. When the Minister reminds me of the promises I have made, and which my Government made, I ask him why he did not keep the promise he made to refer the Constitution Bill to the people of Western Australia t That was not done. Certain concessions were secured by Western Australia in regard to the Customs Tariff. I was opposed to that arrangement, because I regarded it as contrary to the universality of the mutual sacrifices which the other States were prepared to make.
– The people of Western Australia never wanted the special Tariff.
– I recognise that the honorable member possesses special local knowledge with regard to the attitude of the residents of the gold-fields. I have no doubt that the Minister could speak with more personal knowledge regarding the sentiments of the residents of Bunbury, Perth, and Fremantle.
– Where two-thirds of the people live.
– I believe that the statement of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is perfectly correct, and that in opposing the resolutions relating to the special Tariff I was acting in accordance with the popular will in Western Australia. But whilst we made that promise - and we on our part redeemed it up till the very last moment - what was done? The very letters which we had written with a view to assist in the accomplishment of federation were used for the monstrous purpose of attempting to extort further terms in favour of Western Australia, and to the disadvantage of the other States - under which something like £1 per head is paid annually for every man, woman, and child of the population of Western Australia in the form of taxation upon colonial products.
– The people of Western Australia pay it themselves.
– We pay it to some extent ; and I say that federation would have been more acceptable to the other States had the Constitution been differently framed. I am glad to know that it would have been equally acceptable to the people of Western Australia. To the very last moment that State held aloof from the Federal movement, and it was only when she was threatened with practical dismemberment by her own people that she gave way and joined the Union. I am sick of hearing it suggested that we are not treating Western Australia as she ought to be treated. We treat her with every liberality.
– Could not the right honor-
Able member manage to make South Australia keep her promise to Western Australia 1
– Whatever influence I’ possess will be exercised in the direction which I promised.
– With new conditions added?
– No; but to the benefit of the people of Western Australia. It may be to our own detriment as regards expense ; but it will certainly be to the advantage of the people of’ the western State, who are deserving of every consideration, and to whose exertions the present prosperity of the Cinderella of the group is undoubtedly due.
It is a pity, indeed, although it is perhaps necessary, in the circumstances, that this question should be discussed upon a mot-ion for adjournment. Let us have, at the earliest possible date, a definite proposal on the subject. I venture to consider that it might assist in a settlement of the question if a resolution were tabled, when we have the statistics - which, I take it, are now available to the Ministry - affirming the desirableness of constructing a railway between the points mentioned, and suggesting to the States concerned the propriety of giving the necessary consent. If the figures will warrant it, the sooner the work is undertaken the better. Of course, the matter cannot be finally dealt with this session.
– The Western Australian Parliament has passed a Bill authorizing the construction of the line through that State.
– I am not venturing to make a suggestion as regards Western Australia. I shall certainly assist the Government, if honorable members are agreeable, in permitting a continuation of the debate. Let us pass a resolution approving of the construction of the railways and requesting the concurrence of the States concerned in granting to us the necessary power to carry out the undertaking. Then the Government will speak with the further strength of sentiments indorsed by parliamentary resolution, and that I venture to think will commend itself to all when the facts of the case come to be considered. [Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 119.]
Mr. MAHON (Western Australia).I desire to move that the debate be allowed to proceed. There are several honorable members who wish to speak upon this question–
– I would point out that I had no option but to call on the Orders of the Day at half-past four o’clock. The Minister who is in charge of the Government business must therefore be invited to deal with the first Order. After he has dealt with it in the way in which he thinks fit, it will be open to any honorable member to move the postponement of debate until after the further consideration of the motion for adjournment. But I am bound first to call upon the Minister.
-We cannot afford at this period of the session to throw the question of the construction of the transcontinental railway open for unlimited discussion. I feel most reluctant to interpose, because I recognise that one of the representatives of Western Australia has not yet spoken upon it. If honorable members will undertake to finish the debate by 5 o’clock I shall have no objection to its proceeding.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I therefore move-
That the consideration of the first order of the day be postponed until five o’clock.
– If it is understood that the discussion will finish by five o’clock I have no objection to its continuance.
Motion agreed to; debate resumed.
– I am very much obliged to the Prime Minister for affording me this opportunity to express my views upon a question which is of great interest to the State of whose representatives I am one. I exceedingly regret the position which is occupied by Western Australia by reason of the absence of railway communication with the other States. I am extremely sorry that it was not made a condition in the Federal Constitution that Western Australia should be united with the other States by railway within a certain period after the accomplishment of Federation. The responsibility for the noninclusion of some such provision rests with the delegates who misrepresented Western Australia at the Federal Convention. Those delegates were not elected by the people, as were the representatives of every other State, but by the Parliament of Western Australia. Had a popular vote been taken for the return of delegates to that Convention, I venture to say that only one of the gentlemen who attended the gathering in question would have been elected. They were undemocratic in their sentiments, and their influence was felt during the deliberations of the Convention. We in Western Australia who were in sympathy with the democratic aspirations which have been so often voiced by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, felt very bitter that we should be represented at that Convention by men with whose ideas we were wholly out of sympathy.
– When the honorable member says “ we,” he means the people on the gold-fields.
– The feeling of which I speak was not confined to the gold-fields. I admit that there were a certain number of residents of Bunbury and the older settlements, where the Minister for Home Affairs has lived during the greater part of his life, who were quite pleased with their representation. On the gold-fields, however, I venture to say that ninety-nine persons out of every one hundred were absolutely opposed to the system of representation which was adopted, and I am very much mistaken if that feeling was not almost equally strong in Perth and Fremantle. I blame the undemocratic system which was followed in the selection of delegates to representWestern Australia at that Convention for the lamentable position in which that Statefinds itself to-day. The fault rests entirely with its delegates, and with the system under which they were elected. I thoroughly indorse what was said by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, to the effect that had it not been for the. separation movement upon the goldfields, Western Australia would not have joined the Federation.
– That is not correct. There was a majority in favour of Union in the coastal districts.
– If the honorable member for Perth will listen for a moment he will agree with me. In the first place, when the Federal Enabling Bill was introduced into the Western Australian Parliament, there was a feeling throughout the State that the members of that Legislature were so hostile to Federation, and so absolutely sure that the Bill, if the people were allowed to vote upon it, would be carried by an overwhelming majority, that they determined to prevent its submission to the electors.. Under these circumstances a petition, which was signed by 23,000 persons, was prepared by the advocates of Federation.
– It was full of untruths. I had the pleasure of telling one gentleman that it was full of falsehoods.
– The right honorable gentleman is wrong in a double sense. Firstly, he is speaking of an altogether different matter. I am referring to the first petition which was presented to the Western Australian Parliament in favour of submitting the Commonwealth Bill to the people.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon.
– That petition was signed by 23,000 persons. It was prepared at considerable trouble and expense. At that time, I believe, the honorable member for Perth was the secretary of the Federal League at Fremantle. The petition was presented to the Western Australian Parliament by the late Premier of that State, Mr. Leake : but, although it was signed by 23,000 persons, it was rejected amidst laughter. Then, just as Parliament was on the eve of prorogation, the residents of the gold-fields determined to take an extreme step in order to force Western Australia into the Federal Union. They decided to petition the Imperial authorities to form the goldfields into a separate State, so that it might enter the Federation. A petition to that effect was prepared and signed by 26,000 residents of the gold-fields. It is that petition which the Minister for Home Affairs declares contained a number of false statements. I say they were not false, but absolutely true. I should like at this stage to express the gratitude which I, in common with thousands of others who were interested in that movement feel to be due to the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, the honorable and learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, and also Senator Sir Josiah Symon for the action which they took in the matter.
– I hope that they are not responsible for the truth of the statements which were made.
– Investigation will show that my statements, so far as veracity is concerned, will always compare favorably with those made by the Minister for Home Affairs. The only reply which the right honorable gentleman can make to charges that are levelled against him consists of impertinent and rude interjections which, although worthy of him, are unworthy of any honorable member who desires to observe the courtesies of debate. The petition forced the right honorable gentleman, who was false to Federation, to call the State Parliament together, and, fearful of separation, that Parliament which had rejected our first petition amid laughter, passed the Enabling Bill. It was that petition, however, which brought the right honorable gentlemen and the members of the State Parliament to their knees so far as the question of Federation was concerned, and 1 have to thank the honorable gentlemen I have named for the assistance which they rendered us on that occasion.
– They will be very grateful for the honorable member’s thanks.
– Those who believe in Federation should be more grateful to them
I than to the Minister for Home Affairs. Every one knows the details of his treachery and falsehood in connexion with Federation.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member, Mr. Speaker, has asserted that I was treacherous and false to Federation, and I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
-I must call upon the honorable member to withdraw the observation.
– I understand that the truth must not be spoken in this House.
– Order !
– In deference to your wish, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the remark. I should like to point out that whilst it is true that the separation movement forced Western Australia to join the Union, there was still another factor which the right honorable member for South Australia has recognised and which we should not forget. Undoubtedly a large number of those who voted for the Constitution Bill, more especially in Perth and Fremantle, were influenced by the understanding that one of the first works to be undertaken by the Commonwealth would be the construction of the transcontinental railway. But for the separation movement, however, the Bill itself would not have been submitted to the people.
– The supporters of the Federal movement in Western Australia sent a representative to the eastern States to ask for assistance.
– Quite so. Theright honorable member and others in the interests of the Federal movement said at the time that they believed that the construction of the transcontinental railway would be one of the first works entered upon by the Commonwealth. It was asserted by them that Federation would be practically impossible without such a line, and that men holding prominent positions in the eastern States had expressed themselves strongly in favour of the work. As the result of these representations many people were induced to vote for Federation. I am sure that not an individual who on that occasion expressed an opinion favorable to the construction of the railway desires now to go back on his word, and I trust that the House will agree to the necessary survey being made. I am exceedingly sorry as a representative of Western Australia to have to admit that all that has been said hy the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, as to the action of those who ruled in Western Australia when Federation was before the people is absolutely correct. Reference has been made by the right honorable member to another line of railway which ought to be constructed by the State Parliament, and the merits of which have been discussed in this House. I refer to the proposed Esperance railway. That would be a national line, because it would promote trade facilities between the various States of the Union. In my advocacy of that proposal, there is nothing that is antagonistic to the construction of the transcontinental line, which is absolutely necessary for the carriage of mails and passengers, as well as for defence and other purposes. Apart altogether from State reasons, the Esperance railway should certainly be made, and we cannot overlook the fact that it would promote trade facilities and enable the gold-fields of Western Australia to be supplied with that produce which they now so sadly need. I should be sorry if the refusal of the State Parliament to construct that line tended to injure the proposal now before this House. In my opinion, nothing that has been done by any State Parliament in Australia is so monstrously outrageous - so contrary to every idea of justice, and of the proper development of a State which represents one-third of the Continent of Australia - as the continued refusal of the Parliament of Western Australia to make the Esperance railway.
– The honorable member ought to be sorry to make such a statement against the Parliament; of the State which he, with others, represents in this House.
– In reply to the interjection made by the Minister for Home Affairs, I desire to say that I am here to consider the welfare of the whole of Western Australia, rather than that of a little gang of persons in Perth and Fremantle with vested interests. It is absurd that any man who poses as a statesman, or as one possessingany idea of government, should agree to the expenditure of large sums of public money in Perth and Fremantle, and yet decline to support an expenditure which would open up the natural resources of the country. What can we think of a man who would centralize the whole of the trade of a -vast State like Western Australia in one particular spot 1 No unbiased man would deny that it is a scandal and an outrage that the Esperance line has not yet been constructed. I must thank the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, for the references which he has made to that project. Those references will be received with enthusiasm throughout the gold-fields of Western Australia. His attitude is worthy of him, and is just what we should expect from such a man. I trust that the Government will give the House an undertaking that the work of surveying the route of the proposed transcontinental line will be entered upon without delay. The merits of the proposal, and the reports that have been published, amply justify the request. I should also be pleased if the House could, in any way that lies in its power, support the construction of the Esperance railway. The line ought to be constructed by the State.
– It is the most important Inter-State connexion.
– Quite so. It ought to be constructed either by this or the State Parliament. As to the transcontinental railway, the statement of the Commissioners is that, according to expert evidence, the working of the line would at first show an annual deficiency of £68,106 per annum; but that after ten years the net profit, over and above working expenses and paymentof interest, would amount to £18,219 per annum. Even if, at the end of that period, it did not show an actual profit, the indirect benefits which would accrue to the Commonwealth from the construction of the line would be so great that the expenditure would be fully justified. The line sooner or later must be constructed, for the Federation cannot be real until all the States of the Union have been connected by railway. The necessity for this means of communication is increasing year by year. The populationof Western Australia is rapidly growing, j and the sooner something is done in this- direction the better. If a survey be made, we shall at all events be in a position presently to consider the question of constructing the line.
– I j deeply regret that the personal animus of certain honorable members has been dragged into the discussion of this important question. The whole matter has been overshadowed by personal references.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether the honorable member is in order in asserting that certain honorable .members are actuated by feelings of personal animus.
– I understood the remark made by the honorable member to be a general one ; but if the honorable member for Kalgoorlie feels that it might be applied to himself and objects to it, I shall ask for its withdrawal.
– As one who warmly supports the construction of this railway, and who is anxious to see the work entered upon without delay, I feel called upon to say - “God save the line from such friends as the last two speakers.” It is a matter for regret that, in the closing hours of the present Parliament, two honorable members should have allowed their personal feeling “to mar the discussion of a question of this importance. The right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, has expressed the opinion that the proposed Esperance railway is the line that is really required in “Western Australia ; but, if he will refer to the daily newspapers, he will find that only last week the gold-fields representatives in the Western Australian Parliament unanimously declared that the overland line was what they required.
– I did not say that it was the only railway that should be made.
– I have not been here for three years without being subjected to attempts to work on my susceptibilities in regard to the Esperance line, and a good many other honorable members have had a like experience. The Esperance proposal, however, has no connexion with the question of the transcontinental railway. It may be a matter of State concern ; but we have nothing to do with it. It is regrettable that old grievances should have been imported into this question. In reply to the right honorable member for South Australia, I should like to inquire whether, when he sent the telegram to the Premier of Western Australia to which reference has been made, he had in his mind the idea that the Esperance Bay railway was one of the lines that should be constructed 1 I am certain that he had not. The proposal in regard to that line is of recent date, and I am in a position to show how the right honorable gentleman has obtained his information in reference to it. He, in common with others, has been loaded with information in regard to that proposal. Not one bub a dozen efforts have been made to get me to go upon that track. For the honorable member for Kalgoorlie to say that he wishes this railway to be made, and that he is a friend of the proposal, is nothing but cant and hypocrisy.
– I ask the honorable member not to refer to the statements of another honorable member in those terms.
– No man in this Parliament is doing more to prevent the consummation of this work than is the honorable member.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I am not. I have told the honorable member this before, and I am now making my opinion public. It is a scandal that a great public scheme, which, on the face of it, has every likelihood of success, should be dragged in the mire in this Chamber and in the other. I believe that the proposed railway will pay. The press have referred to it as a desert railway, and the wonderful Reform League of Victoria has the effrontery to ask candidates if they are opposed to desert railways, bush capitals, and socialistic legislation. It is necessary to oppose those three things in .order to obtain the support of the league. This, however, is not a desert railway. I have seen maps, plans, and sketches of the country which the proposed line would traverse for a considerable distance towards the border. They were made by one of the surveyors in the South Australian Lands Department, and show that it is good grass land, with rolling downs, and well bushed. Furthermore, if any one looks at the map of the Government Geologist they will see that the artesian belt crosses that tract of country. It is, however, so much beating of the air to discuss the matter now, because if the Government had wished to make a survey they would have made it before now. I blame the South Australian Government more than the Federal Government. Their position is a shameful one. I am positive that Western Australia would not have joined the Federation had it not been for the letters received by the Government of that State from our Speaker, when Premier of South Australia ; from the right honorable member for South Australia ; from Senator Sir Josiah Symon ; and from other leading South Australians. What has the State gained from Federation if she is not to get this railway? Is she to be merely a dumping ground for the productions of the other States? Without the railway she is in no better position than is New Zealand and, without the promise of it, would have had as good reason for remaining out of the Federation. Has the suggestion that a line should be taken from the gold-fields to Esperance Bay anything to do with the proposed transcontinental line? No. It is playing very low down to drag in that issue. If honorable members were honest, why did they not refer to it before Western Australia joined the Federation?
– We always advocated the Esperance railway.
– The honorable member wished me to organize meetings in the north, but he made no suggestion about the Esperance railway.
– It was never made a condition in connexion with the construction of the transcontinental railway.
– What the people of the gold-fields desire is to be connected with the eastern States, though I admit that they would like to be connected with Esperance as well. They are not willing, however, that the agitation for the Esperance line should prevent the Federal Parliament from sanctioning the transcontinental line. [Debate interruptedand first order of the day called on in accordance with resolution, vide page 6378.]
– I move -
That the order of the day for the consideration in Committee of the whole of the Senate’s Message No. 34 be read and discharged, and that the Appropriation Bill 1903-4 be laid aside.
I make this motion in order to obtain an opportunity to introduce a new Appropriation Bill which will be identical with that now before the Chamber. I shall, however, invite the attention of honorable members to the items which form the subject of disagreement between the two Chambers, with the hope that the facts which I shall place before them will enable them to agree to the amendments requested by the Senate, so that an Appropriation Bill containing the items amended as desired by the Senate may be transmitted to that body. The amount involved by the proposed amendments is less than £100 a year, and I think I shall be able to show that care was taken to make all necessary inquiry into the circumstances before the proposals for increases were submitted, and that the reductions made in Committee of Supply were made under an imperfect apprehension of the facts.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Order of the day discharged ; Bill laid aside.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable the Treasurer to move that all the resolutions of the House and Committee be rescinded relating to the Appropriation Bill 1903-4 from and after the resolution referring the Estimates as received from the GovernorGeneral to the Committee of Supply, and to enable a new Bill to be introduced and passed through all its stages without delay.
That the resolutions of the House and Committee relating to the Appropriation Bill 1903-4 from and after the resolution referring the Estimates as received from the Governor-General to the Committee of Supply be rescinded, and that the House do now resolve itself into Committee of Supply to co sider the Estimates.
In Committee of Supply :
Division 1 (Senate), £6,782.
– The first of the officers affected by the amendments made when we were in Committee on the previous Estimates was the Clerk of the Papers and Accountant. The case for the increase of this officer’s salary is this : He was transferred from the Public Service of New South Wales, to which he was appointed on 17th March, 1890, and has therefore had between thirteen and fourteen years’ service. He accepted the position offered to him in the Senate as Clerk of the Papers at £360 per annum. On taking up his duties in Melbourne, he found that the Accountant’s work of the Department was attached to his position. Last year his salary was increased by £20. As Clerk of the Papers, his duties include the recording and custody of all papers laid on the table of the Senate. When such papers are ordered to be printed, they are prepared by
Min, checked on receipt from the Printer, and when finally issued the stock of printed papers is under his supervision. It may be pointed, out that the number of papers printed to the order of the Senate is quite as large as, if not larger than that printed to the order of the House of Representatives, and the checking of these papers entails considerable reading. In connexion with Bills before the Senate the Clerk of the Papers assists the ClerkAssistant in reading them, and preparing schedules of amendments and messages ; and, though more Bills are introduced in the House of Representatives, still all Bills that pass that House have also to pass the Senate, and the work of reading them and preparing them with the amendments made in the Senate has to be performed. The whole of the correspondence of the Senate also goes through the Clerk of the Papers, and is in his charge. In this connexion it may be stated that a great deal of the .correspondence connected with applications from outside persons and institutions for printed papers is carried on by Senate officers. Mr. President and Mr. Speaker decide jointly to whom papers shall be issued, and their decisions are then sent on to the Clerk of the Paper.? for attention. The Accountant’s work of the Department includes the payment of senators’ remuneration, of the Senate staff, and of all accounts paid from the contingency vote of the Department, the chief of which are connected with the supply of stores and stationery for the Senate. Owing to the numerical smallness of the Senate staff, this officer has to be in
Attendance each night until the rising of the Senate.
– What salary was he receiving three years ago ?
– He was transferred to the service of the Commonwealth at a salary of £360 a year. Since then his salary has been increased to £3 SO, and it is now proposed to make it £420. It will be seen, by a reference to the Estimates, that the Clerk of Papers and Accountant to the House of Representatives receives £420 per annum. We have also a Clerk of Records at £350 per annum, whereas the Senate has no corresponding officer.
– Have we not also passed a vote of £60 for further increases ?
– That money is for increases made subject to recommendations under the Public Service Act. The
Senate has one officer to do work for which we have two officers. As honorable members are doubtless aware, the papers published by the Senate are as many as, if not more than, those published by this House.
– But the House of Representatives have only three officers more than there are in the Senate, including messengers.
– In the clerical branch we have two officers whose salaries aggregate £770 per annum to do the work which is performed for the Senate by an officer to whom it is now proposed to pay £420 per annum. This is not an excessive salary if account be taken of the great amount of correspondence and the number of Bills and papers which pass through his hands.
– £380 is a fair salary, seeing that the officer concerned has received an increase of £20 within the last three years.
– Our own officers j have also received increases.
– I understand that the members of the Senate request this increase. We cannot judge as to the work of their officers.
– We cannot form as good an opinion on the subject as can be formed by those who are in daily contact with those officers ; but we are called upon to deal with the expenditure of the Senate.
-. - Is the increase recommended by the Senate authorities ?
– That is sufficient for me.
– Furthermore, the Senate, some of whose members have instincts of economy as strong as those of honorable members of this House, have on three occasions, after the most careful inquiry, emphatically expressed themselves of the opinion that the proposed payment is not too large. If they insist that the proposed salary is not an over-payment, I take it that honorable members here will not insist upon an under-payment. In view of the importance of the duties which have to be discharged by the Clerk of Papers, I think that the proposed increase of salary can be justified. After twenty years’ experience in the State Parliament, I am in a position to say that the salary paid to the officer of the Victorian House who discharges similar duties was considerably more than that attached to the position of the Clerk of Papers in the Senate. Having regard to this fact, and also to the circumstance that we are dealing with the officer of another House, I hope that honorable members, while retaining to the full their right of criticism and their liberty to economize, will not press their objection to the proposed increase.
– The officer whose case is now under consideration started at a salary of £360 three years ago. That was considered a reasonable amount at the time of his appointment.
– But he had to take charge of the accounts afterwards.
– If, as the statement of the Prime Minister implies, the Clerk of Papers was only partially employed in the first instance, I think that the salary of £360 was too much. He was afterwards called upon to do a little more work, and he received an increase of £20.
– The officer is working not only during ordinary office hours, but has to be in attendance until the rising of the Senate.
– But his duties are comparatively light during recess. We must also bear in mind the probability of our having longer periods of recess in the future. I do not understand upon what grounds the increase of £40 per annum is proposed, unless an attempt is being made to place the officer upon a footing similar to that occupied by the Clerk of Papers in this House. I think that one increase of £20 is sufficient for the period during which the officer has been in the service of the Commonwealth, and I move -
That the item “ Clerk of Papers and Accountant, £420, “ be reduced by £40.
– I trust that the Committee will support the Prime Minister in this matter. He has assured us that he has given every consideration to it, and we are bound to rely upon the Executive to a large extent in matters of this kind. As honorable members know, I do not approve of the present Ministry ; but whilst they are holding their present positions we must place some reliance upon them. The moment they act in a manner which we conceive to be improper, we should send them about their business.
– According to the honorable and learned member’s argument we should accept the Estimates in globo.
– I attach so much importance to Ministerial responsibility that I should go so far’ as to say that Estimates which do not prove acceptable to the Committee should be sent back to the Government. I do not think it is worth while to provoke complications over so small a matter,, and therefore I shall support the Government.’
– If this matter had been pressed upon a former occasion, I should have felt compelled to express my disapproval of the reasons advanced by the Prime Minister, in support of the increases. He placed honorable members in a very awkward position by practically calling upon them to affirm the principle that, whenever a recommendation came from the Senate with regard to its own officers, we should accept it without demur.
– Unless it were unreasonable.
– Whilst I should be guided to a large extent by the wishes of theSenate in dealing with the officers of that Chamber, I should object to any rule being laid down upon the subject, because I regard the obligation of this House in regard to the finances as far stronger than that which attaches to the Senate. Then, again, members of the Senate might yield too readily to the importunities of their own officers, and it is desirable that some check should be placed upon their actions. The same remark would apply to honorable members in this House, and the Senate should be free to exercise a similar restraint upon us. I should be very loth to do anything that might be regarded a.s a surrender of our right in this regard. The Prime Minister has now abandoned the reasons which were originally urged by him, and I am prepared to accept both his reasons and his conclusions. I do not think that, where such a small amount is involved, we should doanything that might lead to trouble.
– Does the honorable and learned member* think that we should increase these salaries every year ?
– No; I think that we should have considered the whole of the salaries of the officers of both Houses. We fixed the salary of the officer occupying a similar position in this House at £420, and we are now asked to place the officer of the Senate upon a similar footing. Against this it is urged that the Senate .official has not quite so much work to do ; but I would point out that his full services are engaged. I do not care to discriminate too closely be- ; tween the salaries of officers when there is j only some slight difference in the amount of . work they have to do. I hope that the wishes of the Senate will be acceded to.
– 1 quite agree with the honorable member for Bland. I think that we pay all our officers sufficiently high salaries. The staffs of both Houses are considerably overmanned, and if the taxpayers were made aware of all the circumstances,, they would say that we were unbusiness-like and extravagant.
– Our outlay is small as compared with that of some of the States Parliaments.
– The fact that some of the States Parliaments have been extravagant does not justify us in proceeding upon a false basis. The Prime Minister’s statement may be perfectly true so far as New South Wales and Victoria are concerned, but in the State Parliament of Queensland we had very few officers, and yet there were no complaints of want of attention. We had no such luxuries as the mace or the Sergeant at Arms. The Clerk Assistant performed the arduous duties discharged in this House by the Sergeant at Arms, and members did not seem to feel the want of a large staff of officers and attendants. The salary of £380 attached to the office of the Clerk of Papers in the Senate has been spoken of as a paltry sum.
– As the honorable member is so anxious to economize, why does he not propose a reduction in the number of members ?
– The honorable and learned member should know that the Constitution provides that a certain .number of members should be returned to both Houses, and* that we are not in a position to reduce the representation.
– The number of members is fixed only until Parliament otherwise provides.
– No power is given under the Constitution to reduce the number of members ; but they may be increased. In all probability we shall, in future, have much shorter sessions than hitherto, and it cannot be pretended that the officers of Parliament will have any very arduous duties to perform whilst the Houses are not sitting.
– The Clerk of Papers has to index and classify the papers, and to perform a number of other duties during recess.
– All such duties were performed in Queensland by the Clerk, the Clerk Assistant, and another clerk, at a salary of about £120. I venture to say that the work was as well done there as in this Parliament. I shall heartily support the amendment.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Whilst listening to the very interesting remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay I could not help feeling thai; he was rather late in the day with his suggestions and comparisons. A general debate upon the question of the number of officers on the House staffs, and the salaries attached to their positions, would have been more appropriate when the Estimates-in-Chief were under consideration. I am quite unable to see the bearing of the honorable member’s remarks upon the question before us. I agree with the honorable and learned member for South Australia that we should leave the question of the relations between the two Houses out of consideration as long as we possibly can. I do not think that it is our place to look for constitutional issues. We should discuss this matter absolutely on its merits. The President of the Senate receives the same salary as does Mr. Speaker, and the Chairman of Committees in the other Chamber is paid the same amount as is the Chairman of Committees in this House. The Clerk of the Parliaments in the Senate, and the Clerk of the House of Representatives, receive equal salaries. The same remark is applicable to the assistant clerks in each Chamber. If all these highly-paid officers who discharge similar duties in the two Houses receive the same remuneration, I fail to see why officers in the lower grades should not be accorded similar treatment. I take it that the President of the Senate and those associated with him, in fixing the duties of these officers, take care that the latter earn their money. At any rate we might pay ‘ them the compliment of supposing that they have investigated the work which is performed by them,’ and that they see no reason why any distinction should be made in the salaries which are paid. Since the matter has been discussed by the other Chamber, we should, as a matter of courtesy, assume that that is so. Therefore
I cannot vote for the alteration of this salary in the way that is proposed by the honorable member for Bland. If the staffs of the Houses are overmanned - as was stated by the honorable member for Wide Bay - I am sure that honorable members are prepared to listen to any proposal which he may have to make in the direction of reducing them to such reasonable dimensions as are consistent with the maintenance of efficiency. But we ought not to raise that question upon a proposal that officers who are performing similar duties in the two Chambers should receive similar salaries.
– I anl very pleased that the Prime Minister has adopted the course of introducing a fresh Appropriation Bill, and of laying the former measure aside. I am not in a position to say whether there is any justification for the argument that the officers of the two Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament are overpaid. At the same time, I fail to see why parliamentary officers should be placed in a class by themselves in which they are free from the control of the Public Service Commissioner. If they were directly under the control of the Commissioner - as are other officers of the Public Service - we should then be in a position to look to him for guidance. We should know whether any officer was receiving fair treatment or otherwise. At the present time, however, they must necessarily be treated in rather a haphazard way. I regret that the Prime Minister did not defend these particular items when the Estimates were originally submitted to this House. I think that a salary of £420 ought to constitute the highwater mark so far as the Clerk of Papers and Accountant is concerned. There is no doubt that the whole of the officers of Parliament, when the services which they render are taken into account, receive princely salaries as compared with those which are paid in mercantile life. I do not say that I shall not vote for this particular increment, although I am aware that the cost of printing the new Appropriation Bill must represent more than £98, which is the sum involved in the difference which exists between this House and the Senate.
– Whom does the honorable member blame for that ?
– I blame the Prime Minister for having failed to defend the Estimates when they were originally introduced. 1
– I was not Prime Minister at the time.
– No member of the Ministry defended these items.
– Yes ; the Treasurer did.
– At any rate, the vote upon them was arrived at within a quarter of an hour. I would deal with parliamentary officers in the same way that other public servants of the Commonwealth are dealt with. In my opinion those officers would be better protected if they were placed under the control of the Public Ser- vice Commissioner. I should like to point out that the Clerk of the Papers and Accountant upon the staff of the House of Representatives has ten years more service to his credit than has the officer who occupies a corresponding position upon the Senate staff. Naturally he will want to know whether he is to lose his seniority 1
– No ; he will not.
– I am very glad to have that assurance. I repeat that £420 per annum is a good salary for the position which he fills. Of course the bulk of the legislative work falls upon this House, because the Senate is chiefly a Chamber of Revision. Therefore, the officer who is employed upon the staff of this House would have more work to perform than has the officer who is attached to the Senate staff.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Dalley require a slight correction. I would point out to the honorable member that the officers of the Par.liament come under the provisions of the Public Service Act, with the exception that the President and Mr. Speaker take the place of the Public Service Commissioner. The point mentioned by the honorable member, in reference to the seniority of the Clerk of the Papers and Accountant upon the staff of this House, deserves a little attention at the hands of the Government. That officer is senior to the officer who discharges similar duties upon the Senate staff, from the point of view of service. Whilst I have no objection to voting the latter an increase, because he is a very deserving and worthy man, it seems to me that if he is raised to the level of our own officer, he will acquire a senior position.
– No. Our officer has re- Iceived a salary of £420 per annum from an earlier date.
– But I understand that officers of the Senate always take precedence over those of the House of Representatives.
– Not in seniority.
– Upon the question which has been raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay, regarding the overpayment of some of these minor officers, it seems to me that the small reduction which is proposed only serves to throw into greater relief the high salaries which are paid in other quarters. At the same time I do not attach any value to the argument that men could be obtained who would be willing to perform the work for less money. I feel sure that messengers and other officers could be secured’ who would be quite satisfied to accept less salaries than those which we are paying at present. But the same argument is applicable to the President, to Mr. Speaker, and the Chairmen of Committees. I believe there are honorable members in this House who would be quite willing to fill those offices for £100 or £200 a year less than is being paid to the present occupants. But no one proposes to apply the strict commercial rule to these positions. We have fixed the salaries for these offices, and they represent prizes of the service, to which efficient and experienced officers have a right to look forward. That being so, we ought not to now scrutinize them too closely. I am perfectly willing to vote the £40 increase which is now proposed, upon the understanding that the Clerk of the Papers and Accountant upon the staff of this House will not lose his seniority. In a trivial matter of this kind, it seems to me that we might well give way to the Senate. At this period of the session the difference is scarcely worth quarrelling about.
– I entirely disagree with the statement of the honorable member for Dalley that the Prime Minister is to blame for the course which he has adopted in laying aside the original Appropriation Bill. In my judgment, no other action was possible under the circumstances. But whilst he has adopted the right course constitutionally, I feel bound to vote against the increase which is proposed to the Clerk of the -Papers and Accountant who is attached to the Senate staff. Last year that officer was in receipt of £360. We raised the salary to £380, and, at the same time, fixed the remuneration of our own officer at £420, both Houses agreeing that in the one case £380 adequately paid the officer for his work.
– That is not quite correct. The question of salaries was considered, and it was decided that officers upon the Senate staff should receive the same remuneration as officers attached to the staff of this Chamber. The increase which is now proposed really constitutes the second instalment of what it was thought fair to pay two years ago.
– The Prime Minister has, perhaps, a more distinct recollection of the matter than I have. I have no recollection of the basis of the arrangement, but I am not going to say that it was not as now stated. It appears to me that if £380 was considered sufficient for last year’s work-
– It was not ; but it was thought that it would not do to increase the salary to this amount in one year.
– Then why make an increase of £40 this year ?
– That will complete the salary, and the officer will not be able to expect any more.
– Were the Committee told last year that there would be a further increas of £40 in this salary ?
– No; the Joint House Committee in the case of the messengers and the several. House Committees in the case of the other officials, entered into a careful study of the salaries, and came to the conclusion that the work performed by these officers in the two Houses was the same, and that the salaries should be the same.
– If that be so, I fail to see why this officer should have had any portion of his salary kept back. I cannot see, however, that the work performed by the two officials is the same. If the duties discharged by these officers are equivalent to those carried out by the officers of this House, we must have a surplus officer.
– Then the work cannot be the same. This officer’s title is the same as that of one of our own officers, but there can be no comparison between the work of the two. I therefore do not see that anything has happened since last year to cause us to alter the determination at which we then arrived. I regret that I shall have to vote against the increase.
– I must confess that the honorable and learned member for Indi has succeeded, at all events, in puzzling me. He points out, first of all, that the Prime Minister has adopted the proper constitutional course in order to avoid any possible trouble between the two Houses, and then he proposes to raise the very question to put an end to which the first “Bill was laid aside.
– No ; the Senate will have a right to make a suggestion in regard to this Bill without raising any constitutional question.
– When the facts are the same, the same constitutional question is bound to arise.
– Not necessarily.
– If the honorable and learned member for Indi votes with the majority - and I assume that he hopes to do so - he will create anew the exact position that existed before.
– No ; I assume that the Senate will respect the repeated decision of this House on a money question.
– In order to avoid the possibility of the Senate failing to respect the repeated decision of this House on a money question, and to prevent either House from being called upon to assert what it deems to be its constitutional rights in these matters, the Government have laid aside the first Bill. If we proceed to make another reduction in this Bill, we shall create exactly the same position that existed before.
– Not at all.
– Nothing has happened here or elsewhere to justify the belief that on this occasion anything different from what has already occurred would take place. If we are determined to assert what we believe to be our rights, and to fight for them, we should fight from the outset. Do not let us make a false peace and immediately arouse a fresh war. If the question were worth the important step of laying aside the original Bill, and introducing a new one in order to obviate the danger of discord, it is surely our duty to cany into effect the principle and the spirit of that course by sending up the new Bill to another place in the form in which it is now proposed. I think that otherwise we shall merely make ourselves look ridiculous. If we adopted a different course, it would be tantamount to our saying, in one breath - “Let us have peace,” and in the next - “ Let us renew the old war.” For that reason, quite apart from the merits of the question, I feel it my duty, to support the Government in this matter, because I do not think that in all the circumstances of the case it would be right or proper to risk another conflict of opinion on a matter which involves a principle of infinitely more importance than the item of £98 regarded merely as a sum. of money.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi).- I wish to say a word or two by way of explanation. If my honorable and learned friend’s criticism were right I should give way at once ; but I shall show very briefly that it is not. When we passed the Estimates and sent them in the form of a Bill to another place, that House made a suggestion and returned the Bill to us. The suggestion was considered by us, but we adhered to our decision, and sent the Bill back. Then the constitutional question was raised, or might have been raised but for the correct action of the Prime Minister in laying aside the Bill. We have now a new Bill, and we have an opportunity to say whether we adhere to our former determination. If we make these alterations, and send the measure to another place, that Chamber will probably respect the repeatedlyexpressed view of this House. If, instead of doing so, it chooses to make another request, we shall then have an opportunity to consider the matter on its merits without raising any constitutional question whatever, and on that occasion it will be open to us to say whether, for the sake of peace, we will yield to the Senate or stand by our determination. At present we are not necessarily raising any constitutional question.
– I can see no justification whatever for departing from the decision which we arrived at when the original Appropriation Bill was before us. The salary in question relates to an officer who was appointed to a position in another place, the proposal being to place him on an equal footing with an officer in this House who has been for many more years in the State service. I can, therefore, see no justification for varying our decision that these increases of salary should not be given. I shall vote for the proposed reduction.
Question - That the item “ Clerk of Papers and Accountant, £420,” be reduced by the sum of £40 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).Before we pass the item, I desire to say that there is a strong feeling entertained by a number of honorable members that we should not again be called upon to vote upon questions of this kind. In other words, it is felt that these matters ought to be left to the Public Service Commissioner - that it is unfair to members on all sides of the House to be called upon to deal with the salaries of men whom they have to meet every day of their lives. It is all very well to say that the President and Mr. Speaker fulfil the offices of the Public Service Commissioner. They cannot do anything of the kind. They have no means of comparing the work performed by these officers with work that is being done outside. I submit to the Prime Minister that, apart altogether from the constitutional aspect of this question, he might consider whether it would not be advisable to place the officers of Parliament under the Public Service Commissioner. These matters would then rest with the Commissioner, who would be able to compare the work done by the officers with that performed by others occupying similar positions in other branches of the public service.
– I enter my protest against the state of affairs which appears to exist in connexion with the position of the housekeeper and doorkeeper. He is an officer receiving £235 a year who has not even an assistant clerk to attend on him. It seems to me that the Government are sweating him. In the ordinary course of events an officer receiving that salary-
– Would have a man to attend upon him.
– Under this Government it is a wonder that he has not halfadozen. I think that he should have at least two or three clerks in order that his position may be in keeping with that of officers in the service generally.
– What salary did he receive while in the service of the State?
– £180 a year, with allowances for fuel, light, and quarters.
Sir MALCOLM McEACHARN (Melbourne). - I enter my protest against the increase in this salary. The States Parliaments are cutting down the salaries of States officials, and stopping their increments, whereas we are asked, notwithstanding that we have already decided against these increases, to make the salaries of our officials larger.
– This officer is getting only £4 10s. a week after thirtyyears’ service.
– We have no right to increase these high salaries.
– High salaries !
– The salary now proposed is a considerable increase upon the salary paid to this officer by the State.
– Besides, he has already received an increase of £25 since he was transferred from the service of the State to that of the Commonwealth? Where are these increases going to end?
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- I always listen with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the Prime Minister, and I was astonished that he should refer to this officer’s salary as a small one.
– Surely it is not a high salary.
– Everything is comparative. What are the duties of a housekeeper? Has a man to serve a long apprenticeship to enable him to perform them? Mechanics, who perhaps constitute the most useful class in the community, have to serve an apprenticeship of from five to six years at a small wage in order to learn their duties, and at the end of that period receive perhaps £3 per week on the average for the time that they are actually working. They are not paid for idle time.
– Would not the honorable member give them £4 per week if he could ? Why should he try to drag down this man ?
– I would give every man £4 per week if I could : but, of course, it is impossible. My position is that we should not give special privileges to officers merely because they are employed at the seat of government. I believe that this officer is more entitled to an increase than are those to whom we have just given increases ; but it is absurd to call his salary a paltry one. I say that it is more than sufficient The Senate is overmanned and its officers are overpaid. It is because these officers come into contact with Members of Parliament that they are able to obtain increases. If they were labouring in the distant interior they would probably receive much less pay for much harder work.We cannot raise their salaries without doing injustice to public servants elsewhere, and for that reason I shall vote for a reduction of the item.
– There is a good deal in the suggestion of the honorable member for Kennedy that, now that the Government have taken this officer in hand, they should not stop at a mere increase of salary, but should provide him with clerical assistance. It must be remembered that he was transferred from the service of the State, where his duties were practically the same as they are now, at a salary of £180 a year, and I do not think his qualifications have improved since then, although he has received an increase of £25 per annum. Now it is proposed to give him a further increase of £30 per annum.
– Although the application for an increase has already been refused by us.
– Men who have remained in the State service have not only not received increases, but have had to submit to reductions. Action such as we are now asked to take justifies the statement which has been made broadcast throughout the continent, that there is a tendency to extravagance on the part of the Federal Parliament. In addition to a salary of £235 per annum, this officer receives quarters, fuel, and light, which, taking into account all the circumstances, make his salary equivalent to £300 per annum. That is certainly not a paltry amount for the position. I shall, if necessary, divide the Committee on the question.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- It seems to me that this officer has done fairly well. He was transferred at a salary of £180.
– He hopes to do better.
– I dare say that, with the assistance of honorable members who are frightened whenever the Senate cracks the whip to declare their souls their own, he will succeed in doing better later on. He has already had one increase of £25, which I consider is liberal treatment. No reason has been given for the proposed further increase except that the housekeeper to the House of Representatives gets a larger salary. It must be remembered, however, that the House of Representatives sits more frequently than the Senate, and is composed of a larger number of members, so that there is more work for the latter officer to do. I shall vote against the proposed increase.
– Some honorable members appear to look upon those who object to the proposed increase as anxious to reduce salaries; but that has never been my position. It has also been contended that if the salaries of the officers in the House of Representatives are increased those of the Senate should also be increased. But those who were members of the “Victorian Parliament know that a difference was always made between the salary paid to the housekeeper and messenger of the Assembly and that paid to the similar officer of the Council, who was the officer whose salary is now under consideration. He has already received one increase of £25 since his transfer to the Commonwealth, an I see no reason for increasing his salary still further. I move -
That the item, “ Housekeeper and doorkeeper, £235,” be reduced by £30.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
An Honorable Member. - Have we a similar official on this side ?
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- If this item is carried, it will be the means of inflicting a gross injustice upon some of the other messengers on the Senate side. There are at least three messengers there who have to their credit much longer service than has the President’s messenger. If the proposed increase is granted the President’s messenger will be placed in a position of seniority, and stand in a better position for promotion. He was receiving £140 per annum in the State service of South Australia. He was appointed here at a salary of £168, and has received one increase of £20. Now it is proposed to give him a further increase, which will bring his salary up to £204. I contend that £188 is a very reasonable, and even a liberal salary for a messenger, however he may be employed. I do not wish to see the salary cut down, but I think we have no right to increase itThe real ground that the President takes in this connexion is that his personal attendant should receive the same salary as that given to the Speaker’s messenger. The Commonwealth may “ goto pot,” but his dignity must be consulted. The Speaker’s messenger receives a higher salary than does the President’s messenger because he is a very old servant, and was entitled under the State regulations to an increase of salary. He has been in the service of the State for about forty years, whereas the other messenger was first appointed to the State service as a temporary messenger in 1888.
That the item, ‘* President’s messenger, £204,” be reduced by £16.
Mr. WILKS (Dalley).- The honorable member for Bland seems to think that honorable members are afraid of the Senate, and that they are prepared to support the increases solely out of deference to the views held by the members of that Chamber.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- If the statement of the honorable member for Dalley be correct it would appear that we are eliciting facts which should have been set out distinctly upon the Estimates. I trust that the result of this discussion will be to compel the Government to furnish a return showing the duties which are performed by, and the necessity which exists for, every one of these public servants. I believe that if the Treasurer had to deal with them, we should have fewer officers, and that lower salaries would be paid to them. I quite recognise that, in dealing with Estimates in this way, it is just possible that we may do an injustice to some particular public servant. We are not always in possession of the whole of the facts surrounding any case, and consequently in some instances we may fall into error. Nevertheless, this is the only opportunity which we have of protesting against the action which has been taken to generally increase these salaries. I protest against paying higher salaries than are necessary to these officers, simply because they come into closer contact with honorable members than do other public servants.
Vote agreed to.
Division 2 (House of Representatives) - £8,267.
– I wish to direct the attention of honorable mom ben to an item which relates to our own Chamber. Upon a former occasion the Committee decided to strike out the footnote upon page 8 which relates to Mr. Speaker, and which reads - “ If returned again ‘to Parliament, salary to continue, notwithstanding the dissolution, until the meeting of the new Parliament.” That has been re-inserted, in order that Mr. Speaker may be placed in the same position as the President of the Senate and certain Speakers elsewhere. The President’s term of office does not expire until the 31st December, and his election dates from the 1st January. Consequently where the President is re-elected there is no break in his service. He continues in his office from one session to another. In several of the States, including Western Australia, special Acts have been passed to effect this object, because it has been recognised that there are administrative and executive duties which fall to the lot of the head of the House, and which require to be transacted notwithstanding a dissolution. The footnote in question has been inserted in order that Mr. Speaker may be placed upon the same footing as the Speakers in ‘ various States’ Parliaments.
– In what States does the practice obtain 1
– It obtains in Western Australia, and I think also in South Australia.
– I know that it did exist during portion of my father’s Speakership.
– In these two States it exists, and of course it always exists in the case of the President. I trust, therefore, that the Committee will retain the footnote to which I have referred.
– When the President’s term of six years has expired, he will not receive any salary until he is reelected.
– He retains his office till the 31st December, and, if he is re-elected, his salary will date from the 1st January following.
– It would appear then that Mr. Speaker is placed rather at a disadvantage. Upon a previous occasion I moved the excision of this item, because I did not consider it advisable to do something which I thought the Constitution did not allow us to do. I find, however, that it is not absolutely prohibited by the Constitution, inasmuch as we can vote money for anything which expediency may suggest. I learn that in England a special Act is in operation, under which the emoluments and duties appertaining to Mr. Speaker’s office continue,even though a dissolution may have taken place. Under the circumstances I do not intend to oppose the proposal.
– I do not agree that the proposal of the Prime Minister aims at placing Mr. Speaker upon the same footing as the President of the Senate. I am not aware that when the President ceases to be a Member of Parliament he will continue to draw his salary.
– He does not cease to hold office till the 31st December in any year. The Senate elections take place before that date, and his next term of office commences upon the 1st January.
– But if the President should cease to be a member of the Senate his salary would not be paid.
– Exactly. This provision will apply only if Mr. Speaker is again returned.
– Personally, I am not in favour of Mr. Speaker receiving salary after he has really ceased to be a Member of Parliament.
– Mr. Speaker would not receive his salary as a Member of Parliament, but only in his capacity as Speaker.
– But his occupancy of the Speakership depends upon whether he is a Member of Parliament.
– Surely he may discharge his duties until his successor is appointed.
– He may discharge the duties which have to be performed. These are not very great during the recess, and as we are establishing a precedent, I certainly think it would be better that any such emoluments should be discontinued when the Speaker ceases to be a Member of Parliament.
– That would make Mr. Speaker’s emoluments less than those of the President.
– That is the fault of the Constitution. If we consider that Mr. Speaker should receive a higher salary than does the President of the Senate, let us make provision for its payment upon the Estimates. Like any other honorable member, I have some diffidence in opposing what would constitute an advantage to an honoured officer of this House ; but, believing that it is far better that we should endeavour to avoid overreaching the Constitution by side methods-
– The practice exists in two States at least.
– That may be so ; but I do not approve of it for that reason. We should recognise that Mr. Speaker is Speaker only because he is a Member of Parliament, and when he ceases to be a member his remuneration as Speaker should be discontinued.
– I entertain an opinion similar to that expressed by the honorable member for North Sydney. It seems to me that it would be an anomaly to vote a salary for the office of Speaker at a time when there is no such office actually in existence. That is practically what we are asked to do.
– Mr. Speaker will still be an executive head.
– I would rather vote the sum on the Estimates in a special way.
– That is what we are being asked to do.
– No. We are asked to say that if Mr. Speaker is returned he shall be paid an allowance in respect of a period during which he will not be a member of the Chamber or an official of the House. It would be very much better to specially provide for the amount on the Estimates. I should be very willing to vote it in that way ; but I do not think that we ought to deal with this question by way of a footnote.
-I hope that honorable members will agree to the item. “We desire that the Speaker of this democratic House shall not be placed in a position inferior to that of the President of another place. There is no doubt that unless we make this provision he will not draw any pay during the recess, although he will be discharging various duties. In practice he will be living, but in theory he will be dead. In theory he will not be holding the office, but in practice he will still be Mr. Speaker, and will continue to discharge the duties of that office until another honorable member is elected in his stead. The amount is very small, and the feeling of honorable members is that we should not be penurious. We should not be so small as are the Kyabramahpootras and the Shanghaites.
– We have been voting Kyabram for the last three hours.
– I am not aware of that. In any event, the amount is not worth fighting over, and I trust that it will be agreed to.
-Unlike the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, I think the item is worth fighting over, and I shall not allow it to pass withouta division. We have no more right to vote this sum than we have to vote a salary to every honorable member in respect of the period in question.
– We have power to vote salaries to honorable members in respect of the same period.
– Would the honorable and learned gentleman support such a procedure? Certainly not. He would know that there would be an outcry against it.
– We have no executive duties to perform.
– We shall have our parliamentary duties to attend to until we are re-elected or others take our places. It is quite common for Members of Parliament to be called upon during the period between a prorogation and a general election to perform duties similar to those discharged by them in ordinary circumstances. During this period Mr. Speaker will be no more a member of this House than will any other honorable member, and we have no more right to vote this sum than we have to vote it in respect of the allowance of any other honorable member.
– I do not care to vote this amount in the way proposed, although I feel that Mr. Speaker should receive at least as much as, if not more, than the amount received by thePresident of the Senate. The work which he has to perform is far more trying than that which the President is called upon toattend to, because our sittings are more numerous and lengthier than are those of another place. I would rather follow the practice adopted in the various States Legislatures of giving to the official head of the larger Chamber a higher salary than that received by the official head of the other House. I am quite willing to vote for such a proposal.
– Every one was prepared to vote for the reduction from £1,500.
– We did not then think that a contingency of this kind would arise, and that during a certain period Mr. Speaker would really receive about £100 less than the salary received by the President. No one desires to see that take place. Personally I would far rather vote for a specific sum, which might be added to the nominal remuneration of the Speaker.
– If the honorable member will permit me, I would point out that that is exactly what honorable members are asked to do. We are asked to vote £1,100 - which represents a full year’s payment to Mr. Speaker. The money will be paid to Mr. Speaker ; but, if he is not returned, his salary of course will cease on the day that he fails to secure re-election. On the other hand, if he be returned, he will receive the full sum of £1,100 for his twelve months’ service, notwithstanding that there will be a month or more during which he will be out of office. The footnote is simply a beacon light to honorable members so that they may not be taken by surprise. It shows that a complete year’s salary is proposed to be voted for Mr. Speaker, although not to other honorable members. The increase proposed by us amounts to precisely what the honorable member for Bland desires. When we vote this sum of money it will be paid to Mr. Speaker, if he is returned, in the same way that the salary to the President will be paid to him.
– Will not this £1,100 appear on the Estimates every year?
– Yes. It is only once in three years that a dissolution ordinarily takes place, and this question will, as a rule, only arise once in three years.
– Is the President receiving £300 more than the amount paid to Mr. Speaker 1
– According to the time involved, he may receive £150 or £200 more than Mr. Speaker.
– If we do not agree to the vote as proposed by the Government the result may be that Parliament may not meet for several months after the election, and that during that time–
– The interval cannot be so long.
– I was overlooking the fact that we shall have to meet within about two. months after the elections. Even in that event the amount involved would be more than £100 and during the period in question,. Mr. Speaker, if he were re-elected would still be regarded as holding his present office. I must confess that I am not able to follow the distinction drawn by some honorable members who say that we should vote this money by a different method. It seems to me that the Government proposal is the most straightforward and sensible course to pursue. The footnote is much in the nature of a check, and this is the fairest way to do what we are all agreed is a reasonable thing.
– I remember that during some portion of my father’s Speakership in the House of Assembly of South Australia a dissolution took place and his salary ceased although he continued to discharge the departmental duties of his office. That was felt to be a very great hardship and legislation was subsequently adopted to remedy the evil, although it had no retrospective effect. Since then it has been considered only fair that the Speaker of the House should continue to be paid in such circumstances, and we should, at least, see that our own Speaker receives an allowance equal to that of the gentleman who presides over the Upper Chamber. No doubt the Prime i Minister has looked into the matter, and has found that this practice obtains in all the States Legislatures.
– Only in two or three, to my knowledge.
– I thought that it obtained in the majority of the States Houses.
There are duties to be performed in recess, as well as while the House is in session. Mr. Speaker undoubtedly exercises important functions during the recess. There must be some one to attend to those functions, even although the House be dissolved, and I believe that it has always been the practice in the Legislative Assemblies of the States for Mr. Speaker to continue to discharge his duties in recess until some alteration occurs in the occupancy of his office. In all the circumstances, it would be a pity to establish a Commonwealth practice by making an invidious distinction at the expense of Mr. Speaker when we have a reasonable opportunity to take the sense of Parliament as to whether that course should be followed. We have now an opportunity to test the matter. We can either increase or reduce the amount, or strike it out altogether, and I venture to think that the continuance of the position as proposed by the Government will recommend itself generally to honorable members.
– I consider that however this vote may be worded it in substance merely proposes to place Mr. Speaker on an equal footing with the President. I quite agree with what honorable members have said as to the departmental duties which Mr. Speaker is called upon to perform. I also agree that the effect of a dissolution of Parliament owing to effluxion of time, would be to deprive Mr. Speaker of equality of position when compared with the President of the Senate. But there is another and more important ground on which the proposed vote ought to be supported. We have to look forward not merely to dissolutions by effluxion of time. There may come a time when in the conduct of the business of the House the Speaker may be required to exercise great firmness - when he should understand that, even if a dissolution were the result of his decision,his position would not be affected by it. It is highly important that he should be placed above any temptation of self-interest in coming to a decision or assuming any attitude in the Chair. It is to our benefit, as well as to the benefit of the country, that on these grounds, Mr. Speaker should be informed that, as long as he is returned at the ensuing election, whenever it may occur, he will not suffer any diminution of salary by reason of his taking a course which he may deem it his duty to follow.
Question - That Division 2 (House of Representatives) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Vote agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the remaining Estimates be agreed to in the form finally adopted in the Appropriation Bill just withdrawn.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- I object to the Estimates being taken in globo. I insist upon the various divisions being put to the Committee in the ordinary manner, since the Government have decided to bring in a new set of Estimates and a new Appropriation Bill. Furthermore, I intend to raise the point that the Estimates are not properly before us.
Mr. GLYNN (South Australia).- Section 56 of the Constitution provides that-
A vote, resolution, or proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House in which the proposal originated.
Therefore the message can come at any time. The rule of the House of Commons, however, is that the message must come first, and then follow the resolutions and the Bill.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - Is it not competent for you, Mr. Chairman, to put more than one division at a time to the Committee? Is there anything in the Standing; Orders to make it necessary to put each division separately? These Estimates from division 3 onwards are letter for letter and figure for figure the same as those to which we have already agreed.
– No doubt it would suit the convenience of honorable members generally to take the Estimatesin globo, but if the honorable member for Kennedy persists in his objection it will be a daring thing for you, Mr. Chairman, todo other than to put them before the Committee in the usual way.
– We have on previous occasions passed forty or fifty divisions at a time.
– If so, it was with the general concurrence of honorable members. The Appropriation Bill having been withdrawn, these are new Eestimates.
– The Estimates are not new, though the Appropriation Bill will be.
– I contend that they are new, and that we are entitled to discuss every item in them. The Government have been able to obtain a majority in favour of several increases which were refused when the old set of Estimates was before us, and surely it is possible that honorable members may be able to obtain reductions in some other items. At any rate, honorable members have a right to move such reductions. Does the honorable and learned member for Corinella deny that we have that right?
– The honorable member could move the reduction of any item.
– If that be so, we could commence with the first item. I hold, however, that the Chairman must submit the Estimates in the usual way. They can be submitted in globo only with the unanimous consent of the Committee.
– The honorable member for Kennedy raises a point of order.
– I did not raise a point of order, but I objected to the course adopted by the Prime Minister.
– I may point out to the honorable member that there is nothing in the Standing Orders providing that the Estimates shall be dealt with in any particular way. The Estimates are referred by the House to the Committee, which deals with them as it thinks proper. The practice has been to submit the Estimates by divisions ; but it is quite competent for the Prime Minister to move that the whole of the remaining Estimates be agreed to. It will be competent for honorable members to discuss any item included in the Estimates not already passed.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy). - Is it seriously contended that the Prime Minister can move that the whole of the Estimates be agreed to upon one vote ? If that be so, what is the use of submitting them to Parliament ?
– The honorable member can object to any of the items.
– But suppose that the Estimates were submitted in the first instance by an unscrupulous Government, and that a motion were proposed that the Estimates as a whole should be agreed to. If the Government had a majority at their backs, honorable members would be perfectly helpless. I defy any honorable member to quote an instance in which that course has been followed in any British Parliament. If the Committee were prepared to allow such a motion to go without objection, well and good.
– That is the Chairman’s ruling.
– I have objected to the motion being submitted in that form, and I maintain that as a member of this Chamber, and a representative of the people, I have a perfect right to raise a dissenting voice in such a case. No departure can be made from the ordinary course without the unanimous consent of the Committee. I hope that the Prime Minister will not allow his desire to rush through the Estimates to cause him to make a serious departure from the ordinary practice in this Chamber.
– Does the honorable member desire to discuss any particular items in the Estimates?
– Yes. I desire, inconnexion with the Electoral Department, to discuss the way in which the rolls have been collected, and other matters in connexion with the management of electoral affairs.
– There is nothing to prevent the honorable member from discussing that subject now.
– I know that we could enter upon a general discussion in the same way as upon the Budget ; but it is preferable that we should discuss each matter in connexion with the vote proposed for the Department with which it is associated.
– I desire to withdraw my motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
– I now move-
That divisions 2 to18, inclusive, be agreed to. This will enable the honorable member to discuss the matter to which he has referred in connexion with the vote for the Electoral Office in the Home Affairs Department.
– Whilst I am anxious to see the Estimates passed, in order that the Appropriation Bill may be forwarded to the Senate, I must support the contention of the honorable member for Kennedy, that if any honorable member objects, the Estimates cannotbe submitted as a whole.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy).- I understand that the Senate is waiting for the Appropriation Bill, and I do not wish to delay business. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister has been good enough to withdraw his original motion and to concede my point, I shall not pursue my original purpose.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the remaining Estimates be agreed to in the form finally adopted in the Appropriation Bill just withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Watson) proposed -
That the Estimates be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering divisionNo.1, item, “President’s messenger, £204.”
– I desire to ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, upon a matter of considerable importance. I wish to raise the question whetherthese Estimates are in order. I understand that these are entirely new Estimates, and I contend that they should have been preceded by a message from the Crown in the ordinary way. As they have not been so accompanied I should like your ruling as to whether they are in order.
– I have no hesitation in ruling upon the point raised by the honorable member. Probably the honorable member would not have asked the question if he had noticed the terms of the resolution passed this afternoon, to the effect that the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable the Treasurer to move that all the resolutions of the House and Committee relating to the Appropriation Bill 1903-4 from and after the resolution referring the Estimates as received from the Governor-General to the Committee of Supply be rescinded, and to enable a new Bill to be introduced and passed through all its stages without delay. Therefore we have gone back to the point at which we received the Estimates from HisExcellency the Governor-General in the usual way. The whole of the procedure since that point has been rescinded, and therefore the message from His Excellency holds good.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee - (Recommittal) -
Division 1(Senate). - £6,684.
– In view of the fact that the Senate is now waiting for the Appropriation Bill, I wish only to explain that several honorable members were absent when the item covering the salary of the President’s messenger was passed upon the voices, and that my sole desire is to have a vote taken in a fuller Committee.
– Before the honorable member moves in the direction of reducing the item, I desire to ask the Prime Minister if he will see that the increased salary proposed is paid to the senior messenger. I understand that the officer who would receive this salary as President’s messenger is not the senior messenger on the Senate side, but is only third in rank, and that two other officers have been passed over. Perhaps it will be as well to amend the item. I therefore move -
That the item “ President’s messenger, £204,” be amended by the addition, after the word “messenger,” of the words “being the senior messenger.”
– I have made some inquiries . since this salary was brought under notice, and I find that on the Senate side there is only one messenger senior to the President’s messenger. This messenger, Mr. Aplin, has received from the President a letter guaranteeing that his seniority shall not be affected by the proposed increase. Under the Public Service Act the President of the Senate occupies towards the officers of the Senate the position of the Public Service Commissioner, and is therefore able to give such a guarantee.
– That would not bind his successor.
– Yes, it would bind his successor in office acting as Public Service Commissioner.
– But he has no right to give such a guarantee.
– I am informed that the President has given Mr. Aplin a letter guaranteeing that his seniority shall not be affected by this proposal, and therefore he. will not suffer any injustice.
– I hope that the Committee will not proceed to a vote upon this subject before theyunderstand some of the circumstances. If the amendment were agreed to, the increase of salary would go to the senior messenger who has been named. That officer has been very ill-advised to complain in the way he has done, and thus cause dissension and unpleasantness.
– He is not responsible for my action.
– He is responsible for the action of other honorable members. Mr. Aplin has secured a position for his wife in connexion with one of the Government establishments at a salary of £50 per annum.
– Does she not work for her salary ?
– I suppose she does. I do not understand why a “ set “ should be made against the President’s messenger. It has been stated that he was only temporarily employed in the State service, but that is incorrect, because hew as appointed to the permanent staff in the State service in 1888. I do not care to discuss the question whether he is receiving too much or too little in the way of salary. I think it is a great pity that all this trouble should have arisen. Parliament should have nothing whatever to do with these messengers, and a radical change should be brought about.
HonorableMembers. - Hear, hear.
– As we have already agreed to the increases proposed in favour of more highly-paid officers, I hope that honorable members will not discriminate against the President’s messenger.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether in the event of his continuing in office next session he will introduce a short Bill to amend the Public Service Act with the object of placing parliamentary messengers under the control of the Public Service Commissioner ?
– That was the original proposal of the Government ; but, before committing myself to again introducing it, I should like to take advantage of the experience we have gained, with a view to ascertain if the Act requires amendment in this particular. I will undertake to do that. It may be that experience will enable us to place these officers under the control of the Public Service Commissioner, without in any way wounding the susceptibilities of Parliament.
Mr. WATSON (Bland). - I was not previously aware that the wife of one of the senior messengers in the Senate was engaged in the Public Service of the Commonwealth. I am rather surprised to learn that the wife of an officer who occupies a fairly remunerative position should be so employed. There are plenty, of widows or women whose husbands have deserted them who would be extremely glad to earn £1 a week for the purpose of maintaining their children. Of course, it is true that that has nothing whatever to do with the question which we are now considering.
– But there may be other officers whose wives are employed in the service of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Mr. Watson) put: -
That the item “President’s Messenger, £204,’ be reduced by the sum of £16.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means :
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year ending 30th June, 1904, a sura not exceeding Two million six hundred and forty-eight thousand four hundred and thirty-seven pounds be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir George Turner and Mr. Deakin do prepare and bring in a Bill.
Bill presented (by Mr. Deakin) and passed through all its stages.
Bill returned from the Senate with the following message : -
The Senate has considered message No. 34 of the House of Representatives, in reference to the Bill for “An Act relating to Patents or Inventions,” and acquaints the House that the Senate does not insist on its disagreement to amendment No. 19 of the House of Representatives, and has agreed to the amendment of that House in new clause 28a.
Bill returned from Senate with the follow ing message : -
The Senate has agreed to the Bill returned herewith, intituled “A Bill for an Act for the publication of Statutory Rules,” with the amendments indicated in the annexed schedule in which amendments the Senate desires the concurrence of the House of Representatives.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
In Committee :
Senate’s Amendment. - Insert new clause : - “5a. Any printed paper purporting to be a copy of statutory rules made by a rule-making authority, and to be printed by the Government Printer, shall in all courts within the Commonwealth be evidence that such statutory rules have been duly made by the rule-making authority, and are in force.”
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Clause 6 -
All such regulations shall be notified in the Gazette, and, notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained, shall thereupon have the force of law.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “ notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained.”
– The second amendment omits the words which I introduced last night in sub-clause 2, and which, it was afterwards pointed out, were unnecessary. I refer to the words “ notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained.” The provision in clause 4, which allows provisional rules where necessary to come into operation, provides for that emergency. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with the following message : -
The Senate returns to the House of Representatives the Bill for “An Act to determine the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth,” and acquaints the House that the Senate insists upon its amendments disagreed to by the House of Representatives, and disagrees to the amendment of the House of Representatives in the words proposed to be left out by amendment No. 2 of the Senate.
The Senate desires the reconsideration of the Bill in respect of such amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the consideration of the message stand an Order of the Day for Tuesday next.
– Why do not the Government inform the House that they propose to drop the Bill 1 In any event I think that we should hear the views of the representatives of New South Wales.
– The only question open to discussion is the date on which the message shall be taken into consideration.
– I move-
That the words “Tuesday next “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “to-morrow.”
I move the amendment because I think that it is necessary that an effort should be made to finally settle this question as early as possible. The Government should endeavour to secure a compromise between the two Houses. They should think over the matter to-night, and come forward tomorrow with a new Bill definitely proposing that the seat of government shall be at or near Lyndhurst for example. That would be a compromise as between Bombala and Tumut.
– It seems to me that before we agree to the Prime Minister’s proposal some statement should be made by the Minister in charge of the measure as to the intentions of the Government. We are asked to take a certain course, and we desire to know why it should be followed, and what the Government propose to do if their proposition be accepted. We have had sufficient shillyshallying with this measure, and it is time that we knew definitely that the Ministry are not only in earnest but have mapped out a course of action which should induce us to agree to the motion. Ido not think that when there is an important difference of this kind between the two Houses we should merely be asked to shelve the measure - because that is what the motion means - without any reason being given for the course proposed and without any assurance being given to honorable members as to the future action in relation to this question. I consider that the Minister for Trade and Customs, who has had charge of the measure from the outset, owes it not only to the Parliament, but to the Commonwealth, and particularly to the State whence he comes, to make a statement such as I have indicated. Unless he does so, his conduct will be interpreted as indicating a readiness on his part to accept the practical shelving of the measure without any suggestion that the Ministry are prepared to take upon themselves the responsibility which they ought to accept. I, for one, would ask the Minister to make some statement to the House, and through the House to the Commonwealth, as to the attitude to be adopted by the Government.
– The Bill which has just been returned to us arrives in a form so absolute in its rejection of the proposal indorsed by a large majority of honorable members of this House that it has become plain that a conference, which might in other circumstances have been a judicious expedient, could not be expected to yield any fruits at the present time. In those circumstances, I propose to allow the Bill to be placed on the notice-paper for Tuesday next, that being the mildest way of saying farewell to it. So far as the question of sites is concerned, the difference between the two Chambers at the present moment is unqualified. I am informed that the majority in favour of Bombala in another place to- I day was relatively as large as it was on a previous occasion, notwithstanding the fact that the will and the wish of this House had been most emphatically conveyed, both by the speeches made here and by the votes registered. In these circumstances, it appears hopeless to expect that, at this stage in the life of the Parliament, anything in the form of a compromise ‘ can be accomplished by way of conference Therefore, nothing remains but for the Government to take up the threads where they have been laid down, and to adopt such necessary steps as may permit of this question being considered by the next Parliament in circumstances which, it is to be hoped, will materially contribute towards an agreement between the two Chambers.
– Are those steps to be taken as soon as the new Parliament meets ?
– Certain propositions in relation to the procedure to be taken havebeen considered by my honorable colleague who has had charge of this measure, but they have been only partly discussed by the Cabinet, and therefore are not yet ripe for enunciation. The position which has been adopted from the first is not departed from by the Government. Ministers entertain the conviction, and entertain it very strongly, that the question is one which requires to be setttled as speedily as is consistent with a wise determination.
– Will not the Government accept their responsibility in the matter ?
– I do not wish to introduce any contentious matter into the debate ; but I think that questions of that kind are directed not so much with a view to assist in the choice of a site as with a view to their being employed for militant party purposes.
– They appear to be. Putting aside party considerations, the result of the election, whatever it may be, will not alter the opinion which I have always strongly held that this is one of the questions that call for speedy settlement. It demands the earliest decision that can be arrived at by the Parliament of the Commonwealth consistently with the discharge of its obligations to the people as a whole - consistently with its endeavour to make a selection that will have in view the illimitable future of Australia and the possibilities of its development. The site of the Capital must not be selected from any mere submission to the convenience of the moment or of particular localities or interests which now exist. Those considerations, of course, require to be recognised and provided foi-, but the larger interests of the people of Australia, as they will ultimately be, require to occupy the first place in our attention. The site of the Capital should be such that it may be in permanence the proper seat of government of the Commonwealth.
– Is this a new question? Are we to have the whole thing over again ?
– It ought not to be new. The honorable member can draw the inference which may fairly be drawn from what I have said. In my personal opinion these large aspects of the questions have been too much neglected. In the minds of some honorable members the interests of the immediate present have completely overshadowed all other considerations. That can be said without reference to any particular site.
– The House has acted throughout on the suggestion of the Ministry.
– It has acted freely on suggestions from the Ministry, and on such other suggestions as honorable members have been able to gather from different sources. Take my own case. I have not seen one of the sites, but have trusted to the evidence collected first of all by .the expert authorized by the Government of New South Wales and then by those appointed by my honorable colleague. From a consideration of those reports, and particularly from a consideration of the very striking and suggestive views of Mr. Oliver, I have formed the opinion which is an honest one, quite unbiased by other considerations, that, looked at from the Commonwealth standpoint, Bombala is the best site. That opinion may be erroneous. I must confess that in the course of the debate we have had contributions from members like the honorable member for Kennedy, the honorable member for Darling, and one or two others whose personal experiences in regard to that particular site have affected ray mind to some degree. When I was compelled to make a second choice I without hesitation turned to what, from a Commonwealth stand-point, appeared to be the next best site - Tumut.
– That was a great mistake.
– That is the way in which the evidence at present commends itself to me, and I take it that other honorable members are in the same position. I have not asked myself, nor do I propose to do so, the question which site should be preferred, if I regarded the interests of only the State to which I belong ; nor have I sought to forget the fact that, nut only the great State within whose territory the Capital requires to be placed, but every State in the Commonwealth is entitled to be considered in this regard.
– That has all been dealt with.
– I venture to say that those who have come to the House with formed opinions, unless derived from personal inspection of the sites, must feel as I do. Although I was perfectly willing, in order that a choice might be made, to know the district in which the Capital should be selected only from the information put before the House in the reports submitted to us, still I could not but feel, as I still feel, that there was lacking that full and adequate knowledge of the precise spot within it on which the Capital should be established that we may yet hope to obtain.
– Will information be collected in the meantime?
– That will follow as a matter of course. The fact that this Bill is to be laid aside is merely a legislative incident. It does not affect the administrative side of the question. Whatever may be the means adopted, the Government propose to continue inquiries as to those sites which are evidently the most preferred, and have been most highly recommended.
– And the country between them ?
– I do not wish to impose any conditions. To use such an expression might imply too large and general a search to be productive of much good. No long period can elapse before the meeting of the new Parliament, and when it does meet, it will have before it a report of what the Government has undertaken. It will be able to say whether the Government, in the inquiries which it will pursue from this time forward without more interruption than is rendered absolutely necessary by reason of the elections, are following right and reasonable lines to arrive at a settlement of this vexed question, or whether any other or further step should be taken. It is the conviction of every one of us that it is a menace and an injury to legislation to leave the question in its present unsettled state. The sooner it is dealt with the better it will be for every State and for both branches of the Legislalature. Its removal from the arena of politics will be of the greatest advantage to the transaction of business. The persistent inquiry and consideration which we have hitherto given to this question will not be desisted from in the future until a final, and I hope early, conclusion has been arrived at.
– That is not very definite. Is the debate closed, Mr. Speaker 1
– Yes. The Minister spoke in reply.
– Surely the Minister’s reply cannot close the debate when there is an amendment before the House. He must be taken to have spoken to the amendment.
– The Standing Orders provide that when the mover of a motion has replied no further debate shall take place, either upon the motion or upon any amendment of it, and, of course, no further amendment can be moved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, I beg tostate -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– In reply I beg to state -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follow : -
“POSTAGE DUE” STAMPS.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What steps he has taken to remove the obstruction to telephone communication between Bendigo and Eaglehawk, caused by the electric tramway works ?
– The answer to the honorable and learned member’s question is as follows : -
The Postmaster-General has approved of the necessary expenditure to provide common return wires in connexion with the telephone system at Bendigo and Eaglehawk as advised by the Electrical Board of the Department, and recommended by the Telegraph Engineer and Chief Electrican Melbourne.
– I move -
That an Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General, in consequence of his approaching departure from the Commonwealth, in these terms : - “ May it 1’ 1.)CASE Your Excellency,
We, the members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, desire to express to Your Excellency our deep sense of the services rendered by you to the people of the Commonwealth during your term of office as GovernorGeneral, and our sincere regret at your impending departure from Australia.
The high duties whose discharge you are about to relinquish carried with them many obligations especially onerous in these the early days of our national existence.
Your Excellency’s position has been arduous, but large as have been its demands, you have, with the devoted assistance of Her Excellency, maintained its dignity most amply ; fulfilling all public and social responsibilities with a tact, ability, and courtesy, which have won the respect and esteem of the whole- community.
In offering to Lady Tennyson and yourself our heartfelt wishes for your health and happiness, we feel confident that we are giving expression to the universal feeling of the people of Australia.”
I think we all realize how fortunate the Commonwealth has been in obtaining as its second Governor-General a gentleman of ability bearing the renowned name of the present occupant of the position. We have had, during recent years in the history of the mother country, a number of instances in which men whose reputations were won in the fields of literature, have been appointed to high offices in which they have fully proved their capacity. The present Prime Minister, the Viceroy of India, the High Commissioner for South Africa, and other occupants of the highest positions in the Empire, furnish such instances. It is therefore no surprise to the people of Australia that a man of His Excellency’s training and culture proved himself so universally popular in the State of which he was first appointed Governor, and has, in a larger field of usefulness, succeeded in winning the confidence and enjoying the esteem and regard of all with whom he has been brought into relation. He has not confined himself to any class, but has joined freely in all public movements in the interests of the community. He has rendered us a signal service by showing that the view was sound which many held, that it is possible to fulfil the political and social functions devolving upon His Majesty’s representative in Australia without extravagance, and without making a larger demand upon the public purse than the sum provided in the Constitution. He has, on more than one public occasion, taken the opportunity to speak from his own experience of the sufficiency of his allowance, and we are indebted to him for this, as well as for the manner in which he has discharged the high and, in many instances, extremely difficult duties which fall to his lot. Those who have been brought more immediately into association with him, have seen his grasp of mind and keen practical sense of affairs, while those who at public gatherings have heard him discuss such questions as come within his scope, must have been struck by his capacity for taking those broad and national views which appeal to the people, especially when uttered by one occupying so high a station. It is impossible to omit from the address, and from these few remarks, the name of Her Excellency, Lady Tennyson. Her unvarying and generous interest in charitable and other movements particularly for the benefit of her sex has been deeply appreciated in every State in which she has spent any of her time. I am sure that she has been in every sense an admirable helpmate to His Excellency, in the great posts which they have been called upon to fill.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).After the very able and kindly way in which the Prime Minister has referred to His Excellency the Governor-General and Lady Tennyson it is hardly necessary for- me to utter more than a few words. I think we have had every reason to congratulate ourselves upon the selection which was made by the Imperial Government when they appointed Lord Tennyson Governor-General. We can all remember the heated discussion which took place upon the question of the allowances to a former Governor-General, and the exception which was taken to the attitude of honorable members who objected to any undue extravagance in connexion with the Governor-General’s establishment. It was pleasing to find that His Excellency Lord Tennyson was ready to occupy the distinguished position of Governor-General at the salary fixed by this House. We all regret his early departure. During the short period he has occupied his present position, he has discharged his high office with the utmost satisfaction to all interests, and we have felt that in him the people of the Commonwealth have had a true friend. His administration has been generally appreciated, and he has earned universal respect. I feel no hesitation in saying that we are now losing the services of a gentleman who has distinguished himself very highly in his exalted position and whose loss will be greatly felt. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion.
– In view of the full knowledge which the community has of the good qualities of the GovernorGeneral, it is not necessary for me to do more than indorse the eloquent statement of the Prime Minister. Lord and Lady Tennyson have earned the deepest respect of all classes of the community, and we shall have every reason to be gratified if we always have in this high office so good an administrator as His Excellency has proved himself to be.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s Message) :
Regulation 4 - . . . The hours of attendance of officers in the general division …. should be, as far as practicable, from8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with half-an-hour off for luncheon, and on Saturdays from8 a.m. to 12 noon.
Semite’s Amendment. - Omit “half-an-hour,” and insert “three-quarters of an hour.”
Mr.WATSON (Bland).- The amendments recommended by the Senate are comparatively few. The first relates to the time which is allowed to officers in the general division for luncheon. Under the regulations, the officers are allowed halfanhour for luncheon out of the ordinary working hours between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. If a full hour were allowed for luncheon, eight hours would remain as working time. The suggestion of the Senate to increase the luncheon period to three-quarters of an hour would reduce the working time upon ordinary days to eight and a quarter hours. That I think is a reasonable proposal. At any rate, it does not err on the side of liberality, and I trust that the Committee will agree to it. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
– I am not sure that in regard to this amendment the honorable member has the persons affected behind him. When the luncheon hour was fixed, their wishes were consulted. As the honorable member points out, the officers in the general division work eight and a quarter hours per day, the extra quarter of an hour being intended to make up to some extent for the Saturday halfholiday. Therefore, taking the whole six days of the week, they work something less than eight hours per day. The officers of the general division were asked by the Public Service Commissioner whether they were prepared to take more than half-an-hour- for their lunch, and to make up the extra time by working a little longer in the evening. They, however, preferred to have a half-hour for lunch and to stop work sharp at five. The Public Service Commissioner has no objection to granting three-quarters of an hourfor lunch if the officers are willing to work a little later in the evening. The matter is purely one of adjustment. No representations have been made to the Commissioner in favour of a change ; if the officers are not satisfied there will be little objection to meeting their wishes. That being the view of the Commissioner, I think that the honorable member might refrain from pressing his proposal.
– My experience has tended to show that workmen as a rule prefer to have a short luncheon term if an extension of the time would involve working later at night. The amendment, however, would not affect the working hours which are specified in the regulation. The extension of the luncheon time would involve the reduction of the working hours by a quarter-of-an-hour. In view of the fact that the officers of the clerical division are required to work only from 9 until 4.30, I do not think that too great a concession is being asked for the officers in the general division.
– Although 4.30 is the hour at which the officers of the clerical division are supposed to cease work, they are very frequently asked to stay until 5.30 and 6.
Regulation 66 -
Where an officer is necessarily required to attend on a Sunday for the whole day, the permanent head or chief officer may authorize the grant of a day’s pay, or if employed for less than a day a sum proportionate to the time so employed. . . .
Senate’s Amendments. - After “officer,” line 1, insert “having already worked six days during the week in addition thereto” ; omit “ a,” line 4, insert “ one and one-half.”
– These amendments are very important, because the questionof Sunday work is involved. It is intended that the regulation, as amended, shall read -
Where an officer, having already worked six days dining the week, in addition thereto is necessarily required to attend on a Sunday for a whole day, the permanent head or chief officer may authorize the grant of one and a half day’s pay.
The object is to discourage Sunday work as far as possible. The only way in which that can be done is by insisting that extra pay shall be given. The first suggestion of the Senate is to insert qualifying words which will prevent the clause from applying to those officers whose services are required on Sunday in order to complete their week’s work. The new regulation, so far as extra pay is concerned, will apply only to those officers who, after having already worked six days in the week, are called upon to work for a full day on Sunday. The regulation will provide for overtime payment, and at the same time will afford some guarantee against officers being called upon unnecessarily to perform Sunday work.
– Our experience is that the men are eager to obtain Sunday work.
– No doubt a few men would be so ; but as a rule neither Government nor private employes care for Sunday work. In any case it is a practice which ought to be discouraged by the Commonwealth. Therefore I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
– I trust that the Prime Minister will accept the amendment proposed. Cases have been brought under my own notice, in which watchmen who are employed in the Customs Department have been compelled to work every night throughout the year. The ex-Prime Minister promised that that practice should be discontinued as far as possible.
– I think that it has been.
– I know of watchmen who are engaged in the Customs Department, and who have to work upon seven days in the week continuously.
– But they receive an allowance for it in the wages which are paid to them.
– They do not. I trust that the Government will agree to the amendment.
– I have been hammering away at this question for some considerable time, and without having received very much satisfaction. The right honorable member for South Australia persistently declares that the men who are engaged in the Customs Department are paid for performing this additional duty. I hold that they are not, and I know that they are shamefully overworked.
– The Public Service Commissioner does not say so.
– I know that a number of men are employed upon the Customs launches who are required to work seven days a week all the year round.
– But during one-half of their time they are not actually engaged in work.
– The honorable member is not always working during business hours. Surely that is not a right attitude to assume in regard to this matter. These men have to be at the call of duty upon seven days a week, and the fact that they are not actually engaged in work during the whole period does not affect the position. I trust that the Government will agree to the amendment. At the present time we compel private employers to allow their workmen one day’s rest in seven. The members of every trades union are paid time and a half at least, and in some cases time and three-quarters, for Sunday duty.
– I object, as much as does any one, to requiring a man to perform more than six days’ honest work in a week. At the same time, I protest against amendments in regulations such as these being brought forward at the close of the session, when honorable members have no knowledge of what will be their probable effect. I think that every one is entitled to full pay for six days a week. I do not believe in Sunday work if it can be avoided. I regret that we do not know what the financial effect of this proposal will be upon the Estimates which we passed to-night. I should like information upon that point.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).I am strongly in sympathy with this amendment. I do not think that the words which have been inserted by the Senate will effect the desired object, and if the amendment be carried I ask the Prime Minister to regard it in the nature of an instruction from Parliament to the Public Service Commissioner.
– I quite agree with the first portion of this amendment. I believe that officers who are called upon to work seven days a week should be paid at the rate of time and a half for the seventh day. But I rose chiefly to reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who referred to the men who are engaged upon the Customs launches and to the watchmen who are employed by that Department. The first portion of this regulation reads -
Where an officer is necessarily required to attend on a Sunday for the whole clay the permanent head or chief officer may authorize the grant of a day’s pay, or if employed for less than a da3’ a sum proportionate to the time so employed. No allowance shall be paid for Sunday duty where an officer is in residence and where his attendance is intermittent and for brief periods.
This regulation has been amended by the Senate to read -
Where an officer, having already worked six days during the week, in addition thereto is necessarily required to attend on a Sundayfor a whole day, the permanent head or chief officer may authorize the grant of one and a half day’s pay.
I believe that the employment of launchmen is of an intermittent character, and therefore I hope that the amendment proposed will not be made applicable to such a class of labour.
– I am in thorough sympathy with the amendment proposed, and in spite of the disclaimers which we have heard, I am satisfied that there is a good deal of Sunday labour going on in the Commonwealth service, for which no payment is made. I am in receipt of communications from Western Australia which indicate that the practice of working upon Sunday is in vogue to a considerable extent in the Postal Department there. Although I am not in a position to give specific instances, I am convinced that my information is perfectly accurate. I trust that the Government will lay down the principle that where Sunday labour is necessary it shall be paid for at a special rate.
-With the objects of this proposal we are all entirely in sympathy. Those objects are the discouragement of Sunday labour, its limitation to the briefest possible period, and its adequate remuneration. Of course, my remarks do not apply to cases in which a respite from work is always granted upon the seventh day, and in which it is open to officers to occasionally work upon Sunday, with a view to secure another day’s leave in lieu thereof. In such cases the Public Service Commissioner finds that there is a rush on the part of officers, who are anxious to get a certain number of their Sundays exchanged for week days. The amendment does not propose to deal with those cases. It refers only to officers who are required to work seven days a week continuously.. That is a practice which ought not to be encouraged. Even if a man be willing to work seven days a week throughout the year it is not to his interest or to that of his employer that he should be permitted to do so. I am quite prepared to accept the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne to regard the amendment as indicative of the feeling of the Committee.
Of course, there may be cases in which the employmnt is of an intermittent or casual character, and in which the Commissioner may think it well that this proposal should not apply.
Motion agreed to.
Regulation 149 -
– The question involved by this amendment is the amount of travelling allowance to be given to those in the lowest branch of the service - the general division. The allowances are so arranged that if a man be away from his usual place of employment for a few days he receives a certain specified sum per day, whereas if he remain awayfor a period longer than a week the daily allow ance is considerably reduced. That is a reasonable provision, because if a man remains in one place for several weeks he can make arrangements to live more economically than when he is daily changing his place of residence. In the regulations as now framed members of the general division of the Public Service receiving over £111 per annum, and under £200 per annum, are at first granted 7s. per day as a travelling allowance, while those who receive £110 per annum and under are allowed only 6s. per day.
– They have to travel a good deal.
– Some of them are required to do so. I would draw attention to the fact that if they are called upon to travel for several weeks at a time, after the first week they will receive instead of 7s. and 8s. per day only os. and 6s. per day. No one can expect a man, however humble his mode of living may be, to travel on 6s. per day. He may be able, if called upon to remain for more than a week in one place, to live there on that allowance, but I do not see how we can expect even the lowest-paid individual in the initial stages of his travels to live on 6s. per day, even if he puts up at the most common-place hotels.
– This allowance includes the cost of feeding a horse.
– In some cases.
– How many men are affected ?
– I do not know ; but men in the general division are often called upon to travel.
– A number .of line repairers are compelled to travel.
– They are not expected to keep a horse out of this allowance.
– They do so.
– This table does not throw any light on the point. The Senate amended the regulation so that officers receiving over £111 and under £200 per annum will receive 8s. instead of 7s. per day, and those receiving £1 10 per annum and under, an allowance of 7s. instead of 6s. per day. It will be seen that the officers in the administrative, clerical, and professional divisions receive not less than 10s. per day, whilst some of them are entitled to allowances of 17s. 6d. per day.
– They are not called upon to travel very frequently.
– When a man receives only a small allowance it is not to his advantage to be called upon to travel. If a man is receiving an allowance of only 6s. per day the less he travels the better it is for himself.
– If he were always travelling he would make special arrangements.
– If a man were frequently called upon to travel in a district with which he was familiar he would arrange with friends to provide him with board and residence at a low rate.
– Many of the men camp out.
– Are we to base our travelling allowances on the assumption that men will camp out in order to save the cost of lodgings? I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
I think it only reasonable that the travelling allowance should be increased as proposed.
– There will be a reduction of 2s. per day in the allowances which many of these men received in New South Wales before being transferred to the Commonwealth service.
– I am informed that officers in the clerical division are put to greater expense than are officers in the general division, and that they travel only occasionally. On the other hand, officers in the general division are always travelling. No doubt the latter statement refers to linemen and those whose duties require them to be constantly moving from place to place. The Commissioner informs me that -
The effect of the proposal to omit the 6s. and 7s. daily” allowance to general division officers getting less than £200 a year will be to largely increase the cost of travelling of the general division officers, as by far the greater portion of travelling is done by officers of this class. As an exemplification of this the case of Victoria may be cited, where for a period of six months the travelling expenses of the general division officersof the Commonwealth service amounted to £2.445, whereas for the same period the travelling expenses of the administrative and clerical divisions amounted to £261 only. It will thus be seen that the reduction proposed in the higher divisions will not materially decrease the cost of travelling tothe Commonwealth, but the raising of the general division rate will largely increase it.
The Commissioner considers that there is noadequate reason for raising the allowance of any officer, as experience shows that positions to which travelling is attached are now eagerly competed for, and not the slightest difficulty is found in filling them. He urges that the adoption of the proposal must be to largely increase the cost of working the services.
– There are periods when it is possible to obtain the services of men at starvation wages.
– Appointments in the service which involve travelling are much sought after. If a man were to put up at an inn I do not think that the allowance would be too much ; but a lineman, who, in most parts of Australia, would not think of lodging at a hotel, would do very well.
– What about his horse ?
– I have no definite information before me, but I am certain that he is not expected to provide for a horse out of this allowance.
– Regulation 164 provides for those who have to keep horses.
-Quite so. These allowances relate only to personal expenses.
– The allowance of8s. per day will be only for the first week of travelling. It will not apply to subsequent periods.
– The matter has been carefully considered by the Senate, and I will accept the opinion of the Committee in regard to it.
– I think that the reasons advanced by the Minister for retaining the allowances fixed by the Commissioner are very poor ones. We have provided that those who have been three years in the service shall receive a minimum wage : but had we been influenced by considerations of cost we should probably have allowed them to remain in receipt of sweating wages. It is certainly unjust that the salaries of these men should be reduced by their being called upon to incur expenses over and above the allowances granted to them. I shall strongly support the amendment, because I know of cases in which the earnings of men have been reduced by their having to pay personal expenses in excess of their allowances.
– I do not think that there is a great deal involved in this amendment. It appears to me that if the men in question have to absent themselves from their homes even for a few nights at a time the allowance fixed by the regulation is if anything rather low. I do not think that the scale proposed by the Senate is too high, and, inasmuch as it will apply only to the first week of travelling, it seems to me that the proposition is a very fair one.
– As the Minister has practically agreed to accept the amendment made by the Senate, I rise only to bring under notice the fact that under a new regulation framed either by the Commissioner or some of his officers no allowance is given to some of the linemen, who have to travel from place to place in the performance of their duties. I believe that the new regulation provides that if men leave their homes after 6.30 a.m. and return before 11 p.m. they shall receive no allowance, notwithstanding that during the interim they may have had to travel twenty or thirty miles by road and to take a bag of tools with them. If they areunable to return by 11 p.m. they receive an allowance for every mile travelled by them. Those who are called out at night receive an allowance, and any one who is familiar with the duties of linemen knows that they are compelled very often to turn out at night. I am informed, also, that those whose claims have been acknowledged by the Department have been called upon to give particulars of the various items of their expenditure. They are actually asked to show a receipt for the shilling which they may have had to spend on a meal. No such questions are put to officers in the other divisions.
– The details of the claims must be stated in every case.
– I do not think that officers in other divisions are called upon to produce a receipt for every meal in respect of which they make a charge. A lineman, with whom I am acquainted, was recently called upon to travel from Werribee to Newport in order to discover a break in the line, and found it necessary to obtain a meal at some wayside house. The Department asked him whether he could produce a receipt showing the payment made by him for the meal. How many honorable members would be able to comply with a demand of that kind if they were placed in a similar position ? I trust that the Minister will ascertain from the Public Service Commissioner whether any new regulations have been introduced ; that he will see that the regulations now before us are observed, and that those who have to travel twenty or thirty miles a day are fairly treated,
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported ; report adopted.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Deakin) -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to morrow at 2 p. m.
Inter-State Certificates : Electoral Ad ministration : Federal Capital Site : Western Australian Transcontinental Railway.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– It has been reported, and the Minister in answer to a question has partly admitted, that he intends to greatly modify, or, as he puts it, simplify, the form of Inter-State certificates. I respectfully suggest to him and to the Government that this is not a time when any such alteration should be made. The matter is of great importance to the smaller States, whose rights and revenues are concerned. It is of the utmost importance to them that the Inter-State certificates shall continue to be so framed that at the end of the bookkeeping period this Parliament will have the fullest information about the movements of trade within the Commonwealth, in order to arrive at a proper decision as to what alteration, if any, should be made in our financial system. I would point out to the Government that this Parliament is on the eve of a dissolution, and cannot give consideration to the matter, and that, furthermore, nothing should be done until the Subject has been carefully inquired into by the Governments of the States.
– Why should not the form of the certificates be simplified ? That will not affect the States.
– No doubt all would be well if the States could be assured that no change would take place which could affect their interests. I contend that no change whatever should be made now until the new Parliament has been elected, and has an opportunity to consider the matter in the light of full information. If an alteration were made, and a form were adopted which did not provide for the giving of full information with regard to the movements of trade, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to afterwards rectify the mistake. No great injury can be done to any one by continuing for a few weeks longer to use the present form of certificates. This is a matter in regard to which some consideration should be shown to the Governments of the States. In my opinion it is exceedingly undesirable that the Minister should alter a document which has been drawn up by so great an authority as his predecessor in office. I understand that he proposes to take action at the request of chambers of commerce and of individual merchants, who desire that the certificates shall be simplified as much as possible. It is very natural for the trading community to wish to have the simplest certificates possible to fill in ; but in the interests of the people generally, and particularly of the smaller States, it is our duty to see that no alteration is made until its full effect can be discussed and ascertained. I believe that the Governments of Queensland and Tasmania, have already protested.
– The Minister cannot do anything affecting the revenue of the States without their consent.
– An alteration might bemade in the form of the certificates which might make the information contained in them as to the consumption of dutiable goods imported into Melbourne or Sydney, and afterwards consumed in Queensland or Tasmania, inaccurate or incomplete, and that might bring about loss of revenue to the smaller States.
– The smaller States have their rights.
– Yes ; but” if they have no documentary proof that they are entitled to be credited with the consumption of certain goods they will have no remedy. All I ask is that the certificates shall remain as they are until a new Parliament has been elected, because the matter deserves the fullest consideration.
– I understand that, although the House is to adjourn until to-morrow, it is not the intention of the Government to invite us to consider any more business. That being so, I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for Home Affairs a matter which I consider of considerable importance. It has regardto the conduct of the forthcoming general elections. It is undoubtedly a big undertaking to bring into operation a newpiece of machinery such as the Electoral Act, and the changes necessary to obtain uniformity throughout the States may lead to considerable misunderstandings on the part of the electors. I fear that unless special efforts are made to inform the electors of the provisions of the Act many of them will be entirely disfranchised, while many otherswill be practically disfranchised by sendingin informal ballot-papers. In New South Wales, for instance, it is the practice under the State electoral law for a voter to indicate his choice by marking out thename or names of the candidates for whom he does not desire to vote. Under the Commonwealth law, however, which is about to come into operation for the first time, voters will be expected to place a cross in a square opposite the name of the candidate or candidates for whom he wishes to vote. The difference is a trifling one, but to prevent the casting of a large number of informal votes special pains must be taken to instruct the electors in regard to it. There are other matters upon which they require to be educated, and, in my opinion, this can best be done by the issue of a sheet containing short and concise instructions. These sheets should be distributed as widely as possible, and posted at the various polling booths.
– The Minister has already written a treatise on the subject.
– A pamphlet will be of little use, because most electors will not read it. I think my suggestion a better one. The Minister also stated a few nights -ago, in reply to a question asked by me, that it was the intention of his Department to appoint officers in the Departments of the Postmaster-General and the Minister for Trade and Customs to act as divisional returning officers. He said that that rule would be departed from only where the services of a suitable and competent officer are not obtainable. I think, however, that the adoption of that practice will create a considerable amount of trouble during election time. In New South Wales postal officials have been appointed electoral registrars, and have been used for the enrolment of electors and the compilation of rolls ; but they have never been asked to, undertake the important work of carrying out an election. That has been done by officials specially selected, who have qualified themselves for the discharge of their duties by years of experience. The officers appointed should be acquainted with the best means of access to the polling places, and be able to enlist the services of the best men to act as poll-clerks. If Government officials, unacquainted with election work, are placed in charge of extensive country electorates, of which they have no knowledge, the whole of the arrangements will probably be thrown into a state of confusion. At the last Federal election the Returning Officer for the State at the most populous centre within a division was appointed Divisional Returning Officer, and the Returning Officers for the other State electorates included within that division “ were appointed as Assistant Returning Officers. In the Canobolas electorate, for instance, Mr. J. M. Paul, the State Returning Officer for the electorate of Orange, was appointed as Divisional Returning Officer, and he enlisted the assistance of the State Returning Officers at Molong, Ashburnham, Condobolin, and Grenfell. Each of these officers performed all the work within the electorates for which they had acted on behalf of the State. Now, the Government are appointing officers of the Postal Department and others to perform the work which was formerly carried out by experienced men. If the present arrangements are persisted in, I am afraid that we shall have a bungled election. How is it that -in some of the electorates a Government officer is considered good enough to act as Divisional Returning Officer, whereas in other electorates it lias been thought necessary to appoint the State Returning Officer ? In the Hume electorate, for instance, the Government apparently could not find an officer in their own Departments competent to act as Divisional Returning Officer, and, therefore, appointed the State Electoral Officer to act in that capacity. The same thing applies to some eight or ten other electorates, whilst in other cases it has been thought sufficient to appoint postal or other officials. In the case of Canobolas, the postmaster at Condobolin has been appointed as the Divisional Returning Officer. Condobolin is not by any means the most populous centre in the electorate, because the great majority of the electors reside in and around Orange. It would have been much more convenient if the Divisional Returning Officer had been located at Orange instead of at Condobolin, which is more remote and more inconveniently situated as regards mails. The arrangements for voting by post could best be carried out by a Divisional Returning Officer located at the principal centre. I believe that in enlisting the services of the postmaster at Condobolin the Government have secured an excellent man. But the objection I take is to the position that Condobolin occupies in regard to the electorate as a whole. Three thousand nine hundred voters are registered at the two polling booths in Orange, whereas only 740 electors are registered at the Condobolin booth. Still Condobolin has been made the head-centre of the division for electoral purposes. I have consistently endeavoured to serve the interests of Condobolin for many years past, but my duty to other portions of the electorate impels me to speak in the way I have done.
I consider that the great majority of the voters will be placed at a disadvantage, owing to the arrangements which have been made. I think that some explanation should be given.
– Why did not the honorable member come to the Electoral Office and inquire 1
– The Returning Officer for the State at Orange sent in an application for apointment as Divisional Returning Electoral Officer, which 1 supported by personal and written representations. He received a reply that the Minister must appoint a Federal officer. I am sorry that I have not had a better opportunity to deal with this matter. I realize that at this stage it is difficult to engage the close attention of honorable members. I am afraid that, unless the arrangements are much improved, serious bungling will occur in connexion with the forthcoming election.
– I desire to direct attention to the statement made by the Prime Minister with regard to the question of the Capital site.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that the Seat of Government Bill is on the notice-paper for next Tuesday, and I ask whether the honorable member is in order in anticipating debate upon that measure.
– It would be quite out of order for the honorable member to discuss that measure, or to in any way anticipate debate which may take place next week. It will not, however, be improper for him to make remarks incidental to the matter so long as . he does not discuss the Bill itself.
– It is all very well for the representatives of Victoria to sit back and laugh. They have won upon the Capital question, and, therefore, they are entitled to laugh. I think, however, that we have a right to complain of the statement made by the Prime Minister with regard to this very important matter. As usual, he uttered beautiful words which simply meant nothing, and which afforded very poor comfort to those who are intensely interested in the selection of the Capital site. In the multitude of words he used, however, there were one or two expressions to which I think we might fairly call attention. The Prime Minister took it upon himself, as head of the Government, to tell us for the first time that, in his opinion, we had not nearly enough information upon the subject. It is a pity that he did not make that communication before. It is a matter for regret that the necessary information wasnot obtained before the Capital site question was submitted to the House for discussionHas it been the opinion of the Government all along that this question was not ripe for settlement ? Have they been saying to their friends in Victoria and elsewhere who have been with them in this business that the question was not ripe for settlement? If SO would it not have been fairer to us, who have been waiting for a solution, if they had. told us that they were not prepared to submit the question in a definite form, because they had not sufficient data ?
– We do not admit anything of the sort.
– The Prime Minister said that in his judgment we had not sufficient information to determine the question.
– He said that he had not visited the sites, and had not sufficient information himself.
– Although the Prime Minister may not have been speaking, for the members of the Cabinet, he was speaking as their responsible mouth-piece, and I contend that he had no right to allow this question to come before the House at all, if he believed that it was not ripe for settlement, and that there was important information which should have been obtained in order that Parliament might arrive at a just and fair conclusion. Hetells us that next session the Government intend to resume the quest for further information. That is to say, we are going to play over again the sorry farce which has been played in this Parliament. As soon as the new Parliament meets, presumably the Government intend to appoint a Commission, and to send them searching through the country for other sites - to ascertain if a particular kind of gooseberry grows in one part of the State, some big potatoes in another district, or if suitable building stone can be found somewhere else. I have no hesitation in characterizing the whole proceedings of the past six or nine months as the veriest farce. The honorable gentleman justified the delay in taking Members of Parliament around to see the sites. I do not want to go into that matter again. I am prepared to accept his statement that it could not be done before ;. but he should have done what he was urged to do at the time. Honorable members who visited the sites should have been enabled to form an opinion as to the selection of the territory within which the Capital was to be located - to say, for instance, whether it should be in the Bombala district or in the Lyndhurst district, or whether it should be in the north. They should have been in a position to say, broadly, where the locality should ‘be. Further investigation should then have been made as to the site upon which the Capital should be erected. That is what we are now told has to be done, after the territory has been selected. The criticism has been justly made that we are “putting the cart before the horse.” There is no doubt that the territory should be selected before the site is chosen. The Prime Minister now tells us that he is going to start in search of a locality as soon as the new Parliament meets. That undertaking carries with it, I suppose, the appointment of a Royal Commission to make a further investigation and report, and it will also carry with it the usual reasons for further delay, until the decision of the matter is once more postponed right up to the end of the second Federal Parliament. Then it may be that an undesirable site will be selected. What has caused the present crisis, and the dead-lock 1 Simply the selection of a site which is not practicable for many years to come - a site involving, we are told, on the authority of experts, an expenditure of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000. I refer to Bombala. Including the port, the defences, and other works, the location of the Capital there, would involve the expenditure of about £6,500,000. I am not disappointed at the result. Candidly, I have been expecting it for months ; but I have done all that l could to arrive at a very different ending, and I feel very strongly that the persons who are responsible for the fiasco are the members of the Government themselves. The Minister in charge of this matter could have had the territory selected twelve months ago had he chosen. We were in as good a position then to choose the territory as we are now. Had it been chosen, there would have been no difficulty in arriving at the selection of a suitable site on which to place the Capital. But we look for light and leading to the Prime Minister, and in the closing hours of this Parliament, and in probably the last speech which he will make, he tells us that he does not believe that we have sufficient information to enable us to to deal satisfactorily with the selection of the Capital site. The only proposition he makes is to delay it until the next Parliament, and that in the meantime we shall continue our search for more information. It is time that the Government made up their minds as to what they will do. So far the question has been treated as a non-party question. My own opinion is maturing that the question will not be definitely settled until it is made a very acute party question. There will have to be a Federal Capital party in this House before the matter is settled as it ought to be. I hope soon to see a party formed which will take care that the site is settled, and settled soon, or demand to know the reason why. The matter must come up for consideration in all the States at the elections. In my judgment, it will be a very acute question in the State of Victoria. I hope that some means will be arrived at in my own State for making it an acute question there, and that a solid vote for the selection of the Capital by the next Parliament will come from New South Wales. The responsibility of securing a settlement of the question will have to be accepted by some party in this House. We cannot continue in this fashion very much longer. I protest against the statement which the Prime Minister has made this evening. I regret that he did not inform us of his real sentiments earlier in the debate. He has now declared that the question is not ripe for settlement. In other words he has been guilty of playing a trick upon the House by allowing time to be occupied in the consideration of business concerning which he now says that further inquiry is necessary.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has covered a good deal of the ground which I had intended to traverse. He has referred to the eloquence of the Prime Minister, and to the rounded periods in which the honorable gentleman indulged. But the people of New South Wales will not be satisfied with his assurance that in the dim and distant future the question of the Federal Capital site will be settled. That is a nice sort of Christmas box to offer them.
– The honorable member knows that his statement is not correct, and he is merely making it for party purposes.
– My answer to the Minister for Trade and Customs is that he did not fight, as he might have fought, for the settlement of the Capital site question.
– I fought as hard as anybody could, and the honorable member knows it.
– The honorable gentleman fought up to a certain point ; but he ought to have fought as did the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston,’ who recently severed his connexion with the Ministry rather than have his will in a certain matter thwarted.
– A lot of good his action did to himself and his cause.
– When representatives of New South Wales use practical language in dealing with this question, we are told that we are parochialists. But if any honorable member fights in the interests of Victoria, he is immediately regarded as a heavenborn statesman. The Victorians know very well that, for the time being, they have jostled New South Wales out of the possession of the Federal Capital. But the electors of that State will take care that the language of the Prime Minister does not deceive them. They want the Capital site selected. So far, the only result of our efforts to settle this question has been that two towns have been flying flags. At the present time they are flying them at half-mast. I believe that in the near future flags will be flying at Lyndhurst. My answer to the remarks of the Minister for Home Affairs is that there is no necessity to make this question a party one. The Ministry, however, should make it a Government question. The Prime Minister has declared that he was largely influenced by the report of Mr. Oliver. Yet the Commissioners who were appointed by the present Government reported against Bombala, which was the site recommended by that officer. I realize that it is sheer waste of time to discuss this question at any length at the present stage of the session. The representatives of New South Wales who countenance the abandonment of the measure - and that is the effect of the Government proposal to postpone its consideration until Tuesday next - will be subjected to a very rude awakening. The people of that State do not care what site is selected. Their grievance is that the constitutional compact has not been observed, and that this Parliament has neglected to select a site. From the utterances of the Prime Minister, it seems as if he is relying upon a precept of the Baconian philosophy - “ Time, the great innovator.”’ He imagines that time will kill the desire for a settlement of the Capital site. He will find that the very reverse is the case. The people of New South Wales will be more determined than ever to see thateffect is given to the letter as well as to the spirit of the Constitution. In spite of all the promises of the ex-Prime Minister, we now find, at the close of the first Commonwealth Parliament, that we have to return to New South Wales with the sorry Christmas box which the Government now offer us. Simultaneously, Victoria is endeavouring to delay the establishment of the Federal Capital, upon the ground of the expense which would be involved in giving effect to the constitutional compact.
– In ordinary circumstances I should have been entitled, upon the motion for adjournment this afternoon, to an opportunity to reply to the criticisms of honorable members. That opportunity, however, was denied me, and, therefore, I crave the indulgence of the House whilst I refer to one phase of that debate regarding which a great deal was made by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston. I refer to the contention that the transcontinental railway should not be constructed unless the Western Australian Government undertake to build a line from Esperance to Coolgardie. I am in possession of evidence which proves that that is not the attitude which is assumed by the residents of the gold-fields. It is easy to understand why this should be so. The Esperance scheme does not fill the requirements so well as the other. Let us take the Esperance scheme in its relation to traffic with the eastern States. What does it mean? A passenger from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie would first require to undertake the train journey to Port Adelaide. The steamertrip from that port to Esperance would occupy at least two days. Upon landing at Esperance, if the line were constructed, he would be compelled to undertake another railway journey of 250 miles to reach Kalgoorlie. Yet it is seriously urged that that work should be undertaken simultaneously with the construction of the transcontinental railway. It must mean a certain amount of competition ; and those who are in earnest about the transcontinental railway will surely not advocate the construction of another line which would interfere seriously with the success of the more important scheme. I have shown the time and trouble involved in travelling between South Australia and Kalgoorlie, via Esperance. In the case of the transcontinental railway, a passenger would step on board the train at Adelaide, and in thirty-six hours, according to the calculations of Federal engineers, he would arrive, without any trouble whatever, at Kalgoorlie. It has been shown that even live stock and other heavy cargo could be conveyed by the transcontinental line much move cheaply, and certainly much more quickly, than by any other means.
– Not much more cheaply, because food would have to be provided on the journey.
– When we consider the frequent handling of heavy goods on the other route, it isat once seen that the transcontinental railway is the much more preferable means of transit.
– Not in the least.
– I have here the South Australian Register of 7th October, in which appears a report of the debate which took place in the Parliament of Western Australia, on a motion for adjournment, with reference to some statements of Mr. Jenkins, the Premier of South Australia, as to the attitude of the people of the gold-fields towards the transcontinental railway. Mr. Jenkins had quoted the Kalgoorlie Miner - which is the source of all the Esperance agitation - in proof of an assertion that the gold-fields people would make the construction of the transcontinental railway contingent on the construction of the Esperance railway. One member of the Western Australian Parliament after another, as representing the gold-fields of the State, protested emphatically against that being regarded as the attitude of the residents of the gold-fields. I have the report of the speeches here, but I think my word may be taken as to their purport. When South Australia comes to consider the two schemes on their merits, there will be no doubt as to which is the better, because immediate and direct contact with the gold-fields in some thirty-six hours puts the Esperance proposal out of the question. Having explained this situation I feel sure that this House will not knowingly or willingly connect itself with a disgraceful intrigue to damage the great scheme which Western Australia has a right to expect from the Federation.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney).I do not like to detain the House at this late hour, but I wish, without any such heated feeling as has been displayed, to say two or three words on the Capital site question. We ought not to part to-night with any exhibition of bitterness. The whole proceedings in regard to this question of the Capital site have been a fiasco. I did hope that the matter would have been settled this session, and I think the Government are very much to blame for what has occurred. I am looking forward, however, to what may possibly be done towards having the question settled in the succeeding Parliament. The Ministry invited the House to take a free hand, and that invitation has resulted in a fiasco. At the same time, the discussions have explained the opinions of the various sections of the House, and it now devolves on the Government to assume theirproper responsibility, and to come forward next session with a definite proposal. It is a travesty on responsible government that we should have an important question like this brought before us, with at least three Ministers, if not more, entertaining different views ; and that division of opinion should disappear before the next Parliament meets. It is now open to the Ministry to obtain all the information they require. The Prime Minister has said that, after hearing the discussion, he does not feel sufficiently fortified with information to decide the question ; but, as I say, all the necessary information can be gathered before the next Parliament meets. It is acknowledged by the whole Commonwealth that there are practically three sites “ in the running,” namely, the two sites on which the two Houses differed and Lyndhurst. The whole question can be thoroughly discussed in the Cabinet, and differences may be reconciled, thus enabling the Government to assume their proper responsibility and submit any site which they consider to be the best. To introduce this matter in the same way as in this session would be to invite a similar result ; and, unless the Prime Minister insists on a definite proposal being made, the whole Commonwealth will be dissatisfied with the attitude of the Government. This must be made a Government measure, and an endeavour made to get the House to adopt the site which in the opinion of the Government is the most suitable. If the Government fail they must take the consequences. This question is of such importance that, until it is settled, all other matters should remain in the background. The longer a settlement is delayed, the more difficult will be the solution of the problem, and the more angry and exasperated will different sections of people and the different States become. If the Ministry do not definitely make up their minds, and endeavour to force a proposal through Parliament, we shall be in revolution. We have made the experiment of submitting the question as a non-party one, and it has failed. A similar failure will follow similar proceedings on a future occasion.
– I trust the Minister for Trade and Customs will pay some attention to the protest of the honorable member for Wide Bay, in reference to Inter-State certificates. It has been suggested that the Minister is about to issue a series of regulations which, if passed as drafted, may seriously affect the revenues of Queensland. According to the Constitution, Queensland, for instance, is entitled to duties which are collected in Sydney on goods consumed in Queensland, and it has been suggested that the Government propose to adopt a system based upon the law of average, under which they will abolish Inter-State certificates, and have merely an entry, assessing at a certain sum the value of goods coming into Queensland.
– That can be done only with the consent of the State.
– There is some difficulty on that point. According to section 273 of the Customs Act, it is provided that until the expiration of the first five years after the imposition of uniform duties and until Parliament shall otherwise provide, “ the Customs shall, in manner prescribed, collect particulars of the duties.”
– The regulations cannot override the Constitution.
– That is my point, but I further desire that a series of regulations should not be issued which we might afterwards have to call in question. My suggestion to the Minister for Trade and Customs is that he should allow this matter to stand over until the next Parliament.
– Certainly not.
– Or, if in the meantime he insists upon proceeding, that he should consult with the Treasurer of Queensland, and not alter the present practice with respect to Inter-State certificates so far as Queensland is concerned until he obtains the sanction of that Minister. . I can quite understand that it is desirable that we should facilitate trade and commerce between the various States. It is my desire to do so; but seeing that Queensland is drawing something like £100,000 a year from Inter-State duties I desire that the rights of that State should be preserved. I point out further that under the operation of the uniform Tariff there has been a considerable change in the flow of commerce. Imports are coming into the two large distributing centres of Melbourne and Sydney and are flowing from them into the other States. This is a very serious matter to the other States, and especially to Queensland, in view of what is now proposed.
– Does the honorable and learned member mean that they are sent to the other States in bond?
– I have seen statistics which show that large imports are coming into Sydney and Melbourne and are afterwards transferred to the other States.
– Not duty paid ?
– In some instances the duty upon these imports has been paid.
– There must be very few cases of that kind.
– I do not desire to occupy too much of the time of honorable members ; but I may say that a great deal of raw. material comes into Victoria and New South Wales for the purpose of manufacture, and I take tobacco as an illustration. An excise, duty is levied upon this tobacco, which is manufactured in those States, and import duty is paid on the leaf. Large quantities of tobacco used to be manufactured in Queensland, but it is not being manufactured there to the same extent now. It is largely manufactured in New South Wales and Victoria, and excise duty is collected upon it in those States. As a great deal of it is consumed in Queensland, we desire that that State shall receive her share of the excise and import duty in proportion to the quantity consumed by her people.
– Queensland is getting about £100,000 annually by Inter-State adjustments at the present time.
– That is so, and owing to altered circumstances brought about by the operation of the Tariff, I believe that the Inter-State duties to which the State is entitled are increasing. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to consult the Treasurer of Queensland before he takes any steps which may seriously affect the revenue of that State. I understand that there is some friction in New South Wales and in Victoria in connexion with the Inter-State certificates. I certainly desire to see a simple form of InterState certificates adopted, but not at the * expense of the Queensland revenue. I should like to ask a question of the Minister for Defence with respect to the naval forces of the Commonwealth. In the Defence Bill we provided for the appointment of a Naval Commandant to be in charge of the Naval Forces of Australia, and when the Naval Agreement was being discussed we were given to understand that the Australian Naval Forces would be preserved.
– We were told so distinctly.
– I think it is not desirable that those forces should be under the control of a military head. I think we should have a Naval Commandant appointed. I believe there is one naval officer, and there may be several in Australia who would fill the position satisfactorily. I should like the Minister for Defence to give us some assurance that the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth will be preserved, and that a Naval Commandant will be appointed.
– If the Prime Minister has a few moments to spare from the worries of Queensland and New South Wales, I should like to remind him that, owing to the operation of the Standing Orders, he has not been able, as he should have done, to give a statement of the position of -the Government in reference to the motion made to-night by the honorable member for Perth.
– I shall do so later.
– I am very pleased to hear that. Now, a word or two in reference to the speech made by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, this afternoon. He was good enough to nicely describe and liberally quote from some remarks I made in favour of the construction of the Esperance railway about a year ago. The right honorable gentleman has managed to discover rather late in the day some virtue in those remarks, and in the resolution which I then submitted to the House. He was at the time a member of the Ministry, and if there was any good in that resolution, and any force in my speech, that was the time for the right honorable gentleman to recognise the fact, and not now, when he has changed his position. What I have to say now about the matter is this : The Esperance railway is, according to some authorities, purely a State matter. It is for the State Government to grant or withhold its construction. I am not sure, although I have consulted nearly every Federal authority of standing, that the Commonwealth may intervene in a matter of that kind, but I am quite certain that the State of South Australia has no such power. I hope that Western Australia will resent as an impertinence any action on the part of the Government of another State to interfere with her domestic concerns.
– Then why did the honorable member move his resolution 1
– I moved my resolution because there appeared to be reasonable grounds for the belief that the Commonwealth has some latent power over the State of Western Australia to compel it to construct that line, or in default to construct the line itself in the interests of inter-State freedom of trade.
– Is the honorable member of that opinion still ?
– I may have been mistaken ; but of what value is my opinion against the opinions of legal and consti tutional authorities? My opinion is that a railway should be built from some point on the gold-fields to Esperance, if that is what the right honorable gentleman desires to know. I am of opinion also that the State of Western Australia should be allowed to construct that line, or to refuse to construct it, without any interference from the State of South Australia.
– For what in the name of fortune did the honorable member move his resolution ?
– Is it necessary for me to answer the question a second time ? I have just told the right honorable gentleman that I did so in the belief, whether rightly founded or not, that this Commonwealth Parliament had some latent or inherent power over the State of Western Australia ; but I did not imply that the State of South Australia had any such power.
– South Australia is equally a part of the Commonwealth.
– Undoubtedly ; but South Australia is not the whole Commonwealth yet.
– Nor is Western Australia.
– I have never contended that it is. But I say that the State of South Australia, in attempting to dominate Western Australia, in insisting upon the construction of this line, is assuming a position which she has no right to take up.
– Did the honorable member ask South Australian representatives to vote for his resolution, or did he desire that only Western Australian representatives should vote for it ?
– I am speaking of the State Government of South Australia, and not of the representatives of that State in this House. I hope the right honorable gentleman will not by these clever questions endeavour to trip me up. I am quite prepared to stand by every statement I made in submitting that resolution. I never proposed to make the construction of the Esperance railway by Western Australia a condition of the construction of the transcontinental railway line. The two lines stand upon an independent footing. Whether the Esperance railway is built or not, we should have the transcontinental line constructed at the earliest possible moment. That is what I am in favour of.
– That is what I have advocated - the construction of both ; I made no conditions.
– Then I am with the right honorable gentleman, and I am at a loss to understand why he should put his somewhat hostile questions.
– Because of the honorable member’s somewhat foolish attitude.
– That is a matter of opinion. I am of opinion that the right honorable gentleman cut a very foolish figure in this House this afternoon : but I should have been too polite to say so if he had not driven me into the rejoinder. His attitude did not commend itself to me as being either judicious or fair, and I did not consider his attacks upon his late colleague in the best possible taste, to say the least of them. I wish to make it quite clear that I am in favour of the construction of both railways. The State of South Australia has no right to attempt to dictate to the people of Western Australia what they shall do in the matter. That is my position. The right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, although very explicit on other points, was careful to avoid touching upon South Australia’s breach of faith in connexion with this railway. I believe that the right honorable member as well as you, Mr. Speaker, and your successor as Premier of South Australia, gave as distinct and as emphatic a pledge as could have been given, that the South Australian Parliament would pass a measure corresponding with that passed by the Western Australian Parliament to sanction the construction of this railway by the Commonwealth Government. That promise has never been fulfilled, and the present Premier of South Australia has shuffled in a manner which should bring the blush of shame to his cheeks, if it be possible for him to blush at anything. All we want is fair play. I do not desire any misrepresentation of my advocacy of these two lines. The position which the representatives of Western Australia take up - and I think I may fairly claim to voice the sentiments of the honorable member for Perth and the honorable member for Fremantle in this matter - is that we consider that the refusal of Western Australia to build the Esperance line, which neither of my honorable friends oppose, should not be made an excuse for any delay in the construction of the transcontinental railway.
– The honorable member wants the Commonwealth to find the money.
– Surely the honorable member does not think that Western Australia is the only State in the Federation which should not receive any advantage from the Union.
– I think that Western Australia does very well with her five years special impost.
– No one in Western Australia imagines that we receive any advantage in that respect. All that can be said is that we have taxed ourselves in respect of Inter-State imports in order to make up a certain amount of revenue which would have been taken from the people in some other’ way.
– Western Australia has access to our markets ; but will the other States have access to her markets?
– What can we send to the markets of the Eastern States ?
– This is too vast a subject to be dealt with by me at this hour of the evening, and at this stage of the session. I defy any one to successfully refute the general statement that Western Australia is the only State in the Federation which has not only received no benefit from the union, but which, on the contrary, has been subjected to very serious deprivations. Any one who cares to dispute this statement may fight it out with me on any public platform.
– What has New South Wales got out of it ?
– She has got the capital.
– Not yet.
– Western Australia is not to blame for that. So far as the representatives of Western Australia are concerned, New South Wales might have had the Federal Capital at any time within the last eighteen months. No representative of the Western State has done anything to prevent the carrying out of the constitutional bargain. We did not pledge ourselves to support any particular site. We exercised, as I hope every other honorable member did, our right to vote for what we believed to be the most suitable site. I have no desire at this stage to touch on’ the Western Australian Tariff ; but I contend that Western Australia, instead of being advantaged, has been in many respects burdened by entering into the Union. There is one other matter to which I should like torefer in a casual way. I believe that the amendments made by the Senate in the Public Service regulations were discussed at an earlier stage. I had not an opportunity to be present, but on a previous occasion I -drew the attention of the Government to what I consider to be an illegality in regulations 149 and 155. Section80 of the Public Service Act distinctly states that the Governor-General shall have power to make regulations -
For regulating and determing the scale or
Amount to be paid to officers for transfer or travelling allowance or expenses.
I contend that that provision has not been fairly used. Two distinct scales of allowances have been framed, and certain officers in the Postal Department who do not remain for more than a fewdaysat a time in oneplace, are receiving about 50 per cent. less as allowances than is given to officers in other Departments. There are some other points in which these regulations appear to contravene the Public Service Act, and I would suggest that during the recess the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department should avail themselves of an opportunity to re-examine the regulations and see how far they are in accordance with that measure.
– We have agreed to an amendment of regulation 149, altering in certain respects the scale of allowances.
-I am referring more particularly to the power of the Commissioner to frame two scales of allowances, and I have my doubts on the point. I must apologize to the House for having addressed myself to these questions at such length.
– Why apologize?
– Probably because I am an unobtrusive Western Australian member. If I came from some of the other States whose representatives make much more noise, and who, I am glad to say, have had considerable attention paid to their requirements, I possibly should not offer any apology. I was led to speak to-night only because of my desire that my attitude in regard to those two lines of railway should not be misunderstood. I wish to make the position clear, and having done so I shall not further detain the House.
– I had intended earlier in the debate to reply to some of the statements made by honorable members of the Opposition in regard to the attitude of the Government, and more particularly to my own action in relation to the question of the Capital site. I should not like to characterize those reckless statements in the terms which they deserve ; but it seems to me that an attempt has been made to flog the Ministry in these last moments of the present Parliament simply in the political interests of the part)’ opposite. This is the third series of speeches and attacks which have been made in regard to the Capital Site question, for the purpose of having them published in the electorates of the honorable members who have made them.
– Many more such speeches should have been made.
– No such speeches should have been made ; they were and are not justified. If the honorable member had fought as hard as I have fought for the settlement of this question, he would have something to be proud of ; he has done nothing but snarl and delay. I have not ceased since I became a member of this Parliament to further it.
– If the honorable member’s colleagues prevented a settlement of the question, he should have left them.
– That is a flippant remark to make. If I had left the Ministry, I should have been in a worse position, because I should have had less influence in regard to the matter. It was not reasonable to expect any other action than has been taken, since the Ministry were not able to obtain the views and opinions of members of the two Houses of Parliament in regard to the proposed sites until after the 23rd of last month. In the discussions which have taken place since that date, many features of the proposal have been referred to, which have given rise, in my mind, to various ideas in regard to the essential requirements of a site. Those ideas were the result of the strong light produced by the discussions which have taken place. Was it the fault of the Government that the Senate refused the proposal for a joint sitting? Ho. The discussion of the Government proposal, however, took time.
– The Government might have known that the Senate would decline to agree to a joint sitting.
– The Government did not know it. They can deal with facts only as they come before them. But having ascertained the feeling of the Senate we commenced another course of procedure, and introduced the Seat of Government Bill, which we prosecuted until to-night, when even members of the Opposition admitted that it would be ridiculous to proceed further with it. Then, why this tirade of abuse ? Why should we be blamed, since we have done our best ‘ I have never had the matter out of my mind, nor ceased trying to force it to a successful issue, since I joined the Ministry. But I would remind the House that no Federation has ever settled a question of this kind with a wave of the hand. It has always taken time. This site, when chosen, will remain the seat of government, not for a year, or 100 years, but for alt time.
– The Minister is only just finding out how foolish he has been in submitting the matter to Parliament at all.
– No, I am not. I have my own opinion as to which is the best site, but it is not reasonable to expect honorable members to come to a conclusion on the subject without fair and judicious consideration. I regret that the question has not been settled this session, but the debates which have taken place have given us further information in regard to two or three sites which may come under review in the future. If I can prevail upon my colleagues, I shall obtain all the information necessary to enable this matter to be dealt with early next session. I hope the Ministry will submit it as early as possible in the session. The people of New South Wales have a right to expect that there will be no delay in fulfilling the terms of the compact which is embodied in the Constitution. We should not allow the matter to linger. We should obtain all the additional information we can as to the sites likely to be considered, the principal item of which would be derived from contour surveys, and submit it for the consideration of honorable members. I hope that most of those who are here now will be members of the. next Parliament. To blame the Government in connexion with this matter is ridiculous. With regard to the statement that the Bill should have been a Government measure, it was pointed out last night by some honorable members that a Government measure is not necessarily a party measure, while to-night some of the members of the Opposition say that a Government measure must be a party measure.
– Who said so 1
– The honorable member for South Sydney.
– No; I said that the Government should take the responsibility of selecting a site.
– And deal with the matter in a Government and party measure. An important question of this kind, if it is dealt with in a Government measure, must be dealt with in a party measure.
– The Judiciary Bill was a Government Bill, but not a party measure. If Ministers reconciled their own differences, the question would soon be settled.
– It would be ridiculous, until we have arrived at a much more forward stage, to deal with this question as a Government or as a party measure.
– It must be made a Government measure.
– Well, it is not at the present time ; though the day may come when it will have to be dealt with as a Government measure. The debates which have taken place recently have brought us a little closer to a settlement, and further debates will bring us still closer to the time when the subject can be dealt with as a Government and party measure. The Prime Minister to-night said all that he could be expected to say in regard to this matter, and he should not have been attacked as he was.
– The attack was not personal, it was merely political.
– There is sometimes a personal sting as well as a political object in these attacks.
– Honorable members on this side were blaming, not the Prime Minister, but the late Prime Minister, and the Minister for Trade and Customs, who have both repeatedly pledged themselves to have the question settled during this Parliament.
– The honorable member will always do anything he can to try to hit me, whether what I propose is right or wrong. He blames me when I am doing the very best to serve the interests of Australia. If is the desire to injure me that has actuated him throughout. This is not creditable to him, since he knows what I have done. Thank God, however, no one in New South Wales believes that his attacks upon me have any basis of truth or reason. He is only too well known, there. He speaks about this matter being allowed to drift, and no one caring as to what becomes of it. A policy of drift might be possible under the honorable member, but I have taken care that this matter shall not drift. The Government could not compel the Senate to do what they wish not to do. The members of this Chamber have responded readily to our requests, but it was not possible to compel the Senate to agree with us.
– The Government are responsible for what is done in the Senate.
– It is unfair, and if the word were parliamentary, I would say, cowardly, for the honorable member for Parramatta to make the assertions which have come from him. However, these speeches, which have now been made for a third time, will be published in the Sydney newspapers, and that is what honorable members desire. I do not think that they will have any effect, because the people of New South Wales know that those who are intrusted with the carrying out of this matter have done, and will do, the best they can. I wish now to say a word or two in regard to the proposed transcontinental railway and the Esperance railway. I had quite a different idea of the wealth and resources of Western Australia before I visited that State from that which I have now. I was afforded an opportunity by the State Ministry to visit the goldfields and several places on the coast, and though I did not see all, I saw a great deal of its natural resources, and unhesitatingly stated that I was in favour of the construction of the proposed transcontinental line, and would do my best to bring it about ; and largely, I think, at my instance, a sum of £800 or £900 has been expended in getting information and a report from the State Engineers-in-Chief regarding the line. When I was on the gold-fields, I had the privilege of receiving a deputation of 800 or 900 persons in reference to the Esperance line, and the reply I gave was that it was a matter for the State, not the Com.manwealth, to deal with, and that any interference by the Commonwealth in that regard should be, and probably would be, resented by the State. But the significant fact is that the line would bring Esperance in direct communication with Adelaide by water. I call it a shandygaff substitute for a transcontinental railway, because there would be a water break to direct the traffic from Esperance to Adelaide.
– Between Esperance and the Eastern States.
– Principally Adelaide. When one is on a large steamer it does not matter very much whether he goes round by the Leeuwin or not. The principal reason why I think the Esperance line should be made, although by the State, is to enable the gold-fields population to get to the sea.
– They can get to Fremantle.
– I know they can ; but it is a long journey. I am only stating the conviction which I formed at the time of my visit - that an immense population in a hot climate should be provided with an opportunity to get to the sea for a change at the nearest possible point.
– Albany is a lovely spot to visit.
– It is a lovely spot, but it is a long distance from the goldfields. That line could never take the place, of a transcontinental railway,- although I should like to see its construction undertaken by the State. If there is to be quick and direct communication with the Eastern States from Western Australia it must be by means of a transcontinental railway. I undertake to say that if any trade advantage were to be obtained, New South Wales, and probably Queensland, would not think much about constructing a line of that kind. For instance, in New South Wales we have constructed railways at a cost of £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 to develop the country and give communication, and the lines have developed the country and done good work. New South Wales was not afraid to incur that expenditure. Does any one mean to tell me that it is not worth while to go to a little expense to try to bring the Eastern States, for commercial purposes, closer to the great State of Western Australia, which, I freely admit, is wealthier than I had the slightest conception of! There will beas great development - perhaps greater - in Western Australia in the near future than in any other State. It is only on the fringe of its development. My visit to the State quite altered my view of its potentialities. I desire to say a few words with reference to the question of InterState certificates. No alarm need be entertained by honorable members. I am trying to devise an arrangement to make trade among the States freer if possible. So far as the payment of duties is concerned, trade is free ; but it is greatly hampered and harassed by requiring formal Inter-State certificates, just as was done when duties were payable. Is it necessary to continue these certificates in order to give effect to the bookkeeping provisions of the Constitution 1 It is a difficult question to deal with, but honorable members from Queensland need not be alarmed. I have had a communication sent to the Premier, and also I think to the
Treasurer of that State. So far, neither Queensland nor Tasmania is agreeable to the abolition of these certificates, but the former does not feel so strongly on the subject as does the latter. I believe that the other States are agreeable to the abolition of the certificates. If I cannot do any more, I shall, with the concurrence of the States, introduce complete Inter-State free-trade in all the States except Queensland and Tasmania. On the borders of these States certificates of some kind will have to be given - if they will not allow itto be done by proclamation - to ascertain that they are not robbed of the rightful amount with which they should be credited. Where the States are agreeable to the abolition of the certificates, there is no harm in taking that course. I have a report proposing the adoption of another kind of certificate which is not so> troublesome or intricate. It is recommended by the officers of the Treasury as one which will meet the case of the other States, and will not cause half the trouble or annoyance that the present certificate does. For the year 1902-3 the amount credited to> Queensland was £114,935, and to Tasmania £97,79S, and it is estimated that for the year 1903-4 Queensland will be entitled to £125,000, and Tasmania to £110,000, showing in each case a development of the trade from the larger States. It will be seen that for the year there is an. estimated increase of £12,202 in the case of Tasmania, and £10,065 in the case of Queensland. I am not going to do anything which will frighten the Queensland Treasurer. I only desire, in common with every one else I think, to make our borders as reasonably free as we can when we are supposed to have Inter-State free-trade, and, at the same time, not to do anything which would injure Queensland or Tasmania. I have been asked not to deal with this question until after the elections have been held. If I can make an arrangement with the Queensland Government or the Tasmanian Government, and it seems to be a fair one, why should I wait until the elections have been held, when it is only those Governments which have to consider the question ? I shall Hot give a promise not to deal with the matter until the elections have been herd; but I shall give a promise not to act in antagonism to the wishes of the Governments of those States, or in any way which would be likely to interfere with the credit which they have had in the past or are likely to have in the future.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I do not think that the Minister for Trade and Customs was justified in speaking as he did of honorable members on this side of the House who took exception to the attitude of the Government on the Capital site question. “We have complained from time to time of the delay which has occurred in connexion with that question, because we felt that the matter was not receiving the consideration which it deserved, -and that the interests of New South Wales were not being sufficiently studied. The Minister recently submitted a return to which I took exception on the ground that it did not fairly state the number of voters represented by honorable members who supported the three principal sites - Lyndhurst, Tumut, and Bombala. The Minister omitted to give the results of the voting upon the semi-final count, which showed that there was a majority of 400,000 voters in favour of Lyndhurst as against Bombala, and a maj ority of nearly 200,000 voters in favour of Lyndhurst as against Tumut. If the representatives of New South Wales and Victoria were excluded from consideration, it would appear that Lyndhurst was supported by a larger number of voters in other States than any of the sites. I desire also to refer to another matter. The question of offering a bonus for the manufacture of iron within the Commonwealth has been very fully discussed in this House. Eventually a Commission was appointed to inquire into the matter, and the honorable and learned member for South Australia, who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, was appointed as the chairman. I notice that in the Melbourne Age of 2nd October a report was published which purported to give a summary of the conclusions arrived at by the Commission, and some reference was also made to a minority report. Of course it is not unusual for one newspaper to obtain information which is denied to others ; but, in this instance, a particular journal was specially favoured. I do not blame the right honorable and learned member for South Australia for having communicated this information, because I know that the relations between him and the proprietors of the journal referred to are not such as would induce him to show them any special consideration.
– I think that there are other reasons which would lead the honorable member to the same conclusion.
– The right honorableand learned gentleman must admit that it was not right to communicate information to the press regarding the conclusions of the Commission until the report was finally adopted and presented to Parliament, and until those who were ina minority were in a position to submit theirstatement of the case. In view of all the circumstances, I think that honorable members will share my regret that the report of the Commission, together with the evidence taken by them, has not yet been submitted for consideration by the House. I notice that the Prime Minister, in reply to a question asked by the Mayor of Lithgow recently, stated that it would be impossible to deal with the matter at this late period of the session, but that he intended to make it a prominent plank in his platform at the next election. I think that honorable members have a right to ask that the” report of the Commission and the evidence which has been taken at considerable trouble and expense should be submitted to them. According to the statement appearing in the Age, a great deal of discussion took place upon the report of the Commission, and it was agreed to on the casting vote of the chairman. There was also a minority report. I do not know whether this information is reliable ; but I think that we are entitled to some authentic information upon the subject.
– I think it is highly objectionable that the report of the Commission should have been communicated to the press before it was presented to Parliament.
– I was quite sure that my right honorable and learned friend would not approve of what had taken place. I do not wish « to say anything unkind at this stage of the session. The time is approaching when we shall have to draw our swords and engage in a severe political battle. It is possible that we may have to say some very hard things - not of a personal character, I hope - in regard to the manner in which public business has been conducted in Parliament ; but I do not think it would be becoming of any honorable member at this stage to say anything that would give rise to unpleasantness. In connexion with the selection of the Capital site, I notice that a number of telegrams have been sent backwards and forwards. ‘ I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs sent a large number of flags to Tumut for use in connexion with the festivities indulged in at that place, and that subsequently the Minister for Defence requested that the flags, for which no further use was to be found at Tumut after the rejection of that site by the Senate, might be forwarded to Bombala. I would ask my honorable friends not to destroy those flags, but to carefully preserve them in order that they may be used in connexion with the celebrations which will take place when the final choice of this Parliament falls upon Lyndhurst. I desire to make a few remarks with regard to another very important matter which has been referred to by the honorable and learned member for Canobolas. I believe that the arrangements in connexion with the preparation of the rolls, and the conduct of the elections, leave a great deal to be desired, and that they have been left so late that nothing short of a miracle will safeguard the electors against serious inconvenience. I hope that my honorable friend the Prime Minister will authorize the necessary information to be given, so that arrangements may be made to effect an alteration, and so that there may not be any bitterness or dissatisfaction owing to proper provision not being made for electors to record their votes. I have seen reports in the newspapers that, owing to there being no proper supervision, large numbers of electors have been left off the rolls. I hope that the head of the Government will take active and energetic steps to see that whatever mistakes have arisen in the past will be rectified before the general election.
– The reply given by the Prime Minister to my inquiry regarding the Federal Capital, and the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Customs, in stating that the members of the Opposition were raising this question simply for election purposes, and were cowardly in their statements, require an answer. So far as I am concerned, and I believe so far as most of the New South Wales members are concerned, this question has never been raised in a party spirit. Our whole desire has been to assist the Government, and not to block them in carrying out the proposals they have made for the selection of the Capital site. The majority of those who condemn them now are not members of the Opposition, but supporters of the Government, and the members of the Ministry itself are divided in the view they take of this matter. Before we commenced this inquiry, the report of Mr. Oliver was in the possession of this Parliament. But Ministers told us that that report was not sufficient, and that they must have a report from Inter-State experts. To-night the Prime Minister said that he was influenced in his decision by Mr. Oliver’s report.
– Not only his report ; I had the pleasure of seeing him personally.
– I am not reflecting upon Mr. Oliver’s report, nor upon his honesty and ability. In spite of the fact that the experts appointed by the Government placed a certain site at the bottom of the list, four members of the Government voted in favour of it. Is not that an extraordinary condemnation of the action of the Government 1
– Is there not a supplementary report by Mr. Oliver ?
– There is a supplementary report defending his previous report.
– And a very stupid document it was.
– I am now speaking of the action of the Government, and showing that a particular member of it falls back on Mr. Oliver’s report, which was in possession of this Parliament before the inquiry by the experts commenced. At a later stage, Ministers decided that there should be an opportunity given to members of this Parliament to visit the sites. That opportunity was afforded.
-Not many members availed themselves of it.
– I visited the sites, although I did not avail myself of that opportunity. I would not come to any decision until I had seen them all. Yet, tonight, one reason given by the Prime Minister as to why the House was not in a position to decide upon the question, was that he and others had not visited the sites. We shall never be in a position to decide, if the neglect of some members to take advantage of opportunities is to constitute a reason for non-selection. Whether they go or not is their concern, but if they do not go they ought to consider themselves in a position to decide without going. The late Prime Minister and the present Minister for Trade and Customs were very careful to say to the people of New South Wales that they pledged the credit of the Government to push this matter to a conclusion as rapidly as possible,
– And the Government have done it.
– They said that it would be the business of the Government to push it to a conclusion. I do not say that they contended that the selection of a particular site was to be made a Government question, but they did say that the Government would be responsible for pushing the matter to a conclusion.
– And the Government have done that.
– It has not been brought to a conclusion in this Parliament. The Government merely brought in a Bill and consulted Parliament as to filling in a blank in it. They then sent the Bill on to the Senate, where the representatives of the Government took charge of it. That Bill was defeated by the Senate, who, I admit, were quite within their rights in defeating it. The only way for the Government to push it to a conclusion now is for them to take the responsibility in the next Parliament. But the Government absolutely refuse to say whether they will take the responsibility or not.
– The same Government may not be in power then.
– This Government is not responsible for what another Government may do. I contend that the present Government ought to take the responsibility. As to the statement that these criticisms are being made for the sake of being reported in the newspapers, I reply that I do not expect to be reported at this time of night. The Minister has said several times before what he has said in his speech to-night. There was not a word in it that he has not repeated time after time. But I wish to know the future intentions of the Government. I recognise that we can do nothing now to alter what we have already done, irrespective of whether our action was right or wrong. Is it the intention of the Ministry to press this matter to a conclusion at an early period during the first session of the new Parliament, or shall we again be invited to go through the process of searching for a site, only to find at the prorogation that, owing to the inaction of the Government, no settlementhas been arrived at? Then I invite honorable members to look at the money which has been expended in this connexion. Has that expenditure been justified ? I do not make these remarks with a view to belittle Ministers: If I desired to do so, especially in the case of the Minister for Trade and Customs, I could speak very strongly. But I merely desire the Prime Minister to make some more complete announcement than he has already made upon this subject.
– I should not like this session to close without saying a few words concerning two very important Bills which the Government have abandoned. I refer to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill and the Papua Bill. The latter was brought down in haste by the Government, and an endeavour was made to force it through the House upon the assurance of the ex-Prime Minister that it was absolutely necessary to pass it at the earliest possible moment. Yet, immediately an amendment was inserted in it, at the instance of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, the Government dropped it. Another important amendment, the effect of which was to prohibit the sale of liquor in New Guinea was submitted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and carried in opposition to the Ministry. I unhesitatingly affirm that, simply because certain interested parties waited upon the late Prime Minister in respect of that Bill, itwas ruthlessly sacrificed. That was a most discreditable course for the Government to adopt. If this House is merely to be a Chamber in which the desires of the Government shall be registered, the sooner some alteration is made in the Constitution, and our services are dispensed with, the better. I think we have also a right to know whether the Ministry intend to alienate any lands in New Guinea during the recess, or before Parliament has an opportunity to legislate for that territory. In view of the amendment which was carried in this House, and which declared that no land in New Guinea should be alienated, I claim that the Prime Minister should make a statement upon the subject. I confess that I was not in the least surprised that the Government so promptly dropped the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. That measure was merely held out as a bait to secure support. The fact that they were prepared to make the Bill of as little value as possible was conclusive proof to my mind of their insincerity. I trust that when the measure is re-introduced the Government will make it as comprehensive as possible. Undoubtedly it should deal with Inter-State disputes. Yet the Bill which was submitted to this House did not cover that ground. The great bulk of the workers of Australia did not come within its scope. I trust that the Prime Minister will adopt an entirely different attitude from that of the ex-Prime Minister, more especially in dealing with the railway employes of the States. In declaring the Ministerial policy, I hope that he will make an explicit statement as to whether it is intended to bring the public servants of the Commonwealth and the States, as well as railway employes, under the operation of that measure. I maintain that if 50,000 or 60,000 persons who are engaged in an Inter-State industry are excluded f from participating in the benefits which will be conferred by such a Bill it will be so incomplete as to be unworthy of discussion. If the measure does not embrace railway and other civil servants in the .various States, and also seamen, it will hardly be worth discussing ; and if it be introduced I shall personally be inclined to oppose it.
– I desire to refer to a subject which was mentioned by the honorable member for Macquarie, and which I regard as very important. I am a member of the Royal Commission which has dealt with the question of a bonus for the establishment of the iron industry in Australia ; and this morning a copy of the Melbourne Age was shown to me containing the full text of the majority report, which was adopted on the casting vote of the Chairman, the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston. It has been stated by the Prime Minister that the bonus proposals will form part of the Government policy in their appeal to the electors. I was one who on this side of the House voted against the bonus when it was so strongly advocated by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston ; and in justice to the free-trade members and to those who do not believe in the bonus policy, I ask that gentleman, as Chairman, to call the Commission together to-morrow morning in order that not only the majority report but the minority report shall be submitted to the House and be placed before the people of Australia.
– Who gave the report to the Age?
– I do not know ; but the Chairman of the Royal Commission ought to endeavour to find out who handed this confidential document to the press. As I say, the least the right honorable member can do is to call the members of the Commission together, so that the two reports may honestly appear side by side before the public. Somebody has played false to the Commission, and I appeal to the right honorable member to do his best to find out who that person is.
Mr. KINGSTON (South Australia).I am sure that all my brother Commissioners will acquit me of the slightest participation in the disclosure of any part of their proceedings. My fellow Commissioners will recollect that in view of past disclosures, altogether unaccounted for, I deemed it desirable to mention to them the utmost importance of treating all the proceedings as confidential.
– Both sides ought to be published, whereas only one side has appeared in the press.
– I think the Age must have been in possession of both reports.
– Both sides are never given.
– We know what a partisan press is; but that is a fertile subject with which I am not going to deal. Nobody feels more strongly on this matter than I do. It is simply monstrous that the accounts given by different journals of presumedly the same event differ so widely as to be unrecognisable. One section of the press is as bad as the other, and the other is no better than the one. I do not believe for a moment that any member of the Commission, either by wilful act or indiscretion, brought about this disclosure.
– How did the newspaper get hold of the report ?
– All that I can say is that the newspaper did not get hold of it properly.
– Why was not the minority report published ?
– Because of the partisanship of the journal.
– How did this journal get hold of the majority report 1
– As I say, it cannot have been got hold of properly. It must have been obtained under circumstances, which an experienced journalist must have known, precluded publication. The journal either directly stole the document, or got hold of it knowing that it had no right to publish it ; and I regard its action as almost a breach of parliamentary privilege.
– Good old Victorian journalism !
– Could any journalist of standing and experience connected with either of the journals of Melbourne have believed that the mere possession of a document of this description gave the right to publish. Such an action is altogether against the proprieties of journalism.
– Those who got hold of the document know they had no right to publish it.
– They do not care for that.
– The whole affair is a puzzle to me, and I should be only too delighted to ascertain how the disclosure arose, and lay the facts before the House. I shall be very pleased indeed to discuss the matter with my fellow Commissioners tomorrow.
– Will the minority report be published ?
– Both reports will be published.-
– - When?
– I hope within the next few days : and the sooner the better. I know that my fellow Commissioners feel very strongly about the disclosure ; and it is positively indecent and improper that documents of a confidential nature should be published in the press under circumstances which do not entitle publication ; the rules of reputable journalism preclude anything of the sort. I do not know what our powers in regard to a Royal Commission may be, but as to a Select Committee the unauthorized publication of the proceedings is a breach of parliamentary privilege. I hope that if we find out who has been guilty of this breach of confidence, we may also find out that we have the power to punish, and that we shall not hesitate to exercise that power, and make an example for the benefit of all concerned. As to the simplification of procedure in the early initiation of practical Inter-State free-trade, no one has been more anxious than myself in this connexion. At the same time two difficulties presented themselves : and here I take the privilege of discharging the duty of acknowledging the assistance I ha ve received from suggestions by various honorable members, notably, by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, in simplifying the Inter-State certificates. The simpler we can make these certificates consistently with efficiency and with the discharge of obligations imposed by the Constitution, the better. With the aid of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, I reduced the certificate to what I venture to think is the simplest form possible. While, as Minister for Trade and Customs, I desired to remove all obstacles to Inter-State free-trade, there were, as I say, two difficulties. One was the obligation cast on us in regard to the two years’ provision of collecting the difference between the duty paid on importation! and the duty under the Federal Tariff, and the other was the work of collecting statistics for the purpose of adjusting accounts between the various States. The two years have now expired ; and here I would like to say that with the commencement of the financial year we placed ourselves in communication with the various States for the purpose of ascertaining whether in the short period between the 1st June and the- 8th August they would dispense with the necessity of collecting. But the answers received from one or two of the States were altogether against our suggestions and we were unable to take the course we desired.
– Two States objected.
– The smaller States of Queensland and Tasmania objected, and that might be expected, because they receive the larger amounts under the certificate system. I undertand that some States are willing to arrive at a rough mode of assessment, dispensing with the Inter-State certificate, and that the Minister for Trade and Customs is disposed to assent to that course. We should, of course, all like to see Inter-State free-trade initiated as early as possible ; but at the same time the scheme of the Constitution is that for five years accurate accounts shall be kept, showing the movements of dutiable goods between the States, so that we may be able to form a conclusion as to what should be done when we have the power to make other arrangements.
– It is the only guide we shall have.
– Whilst I shall be glad to see any unnecessary cause of friction removed, I trust that we shall not sacrifice accuracy in this connexion to any hasty desire for the accomplishment of a purpose which was not intended by the framers of the Constitution to be brought about until the end of five years. I sympathize entirely with the desire expressed by the Minister for Trade and Customs, to do what he can to simplify the Inter-State certificates. At the same time, I say that he should be careful that he does not sacrifice accuracy in such a way as to prevent us obtaining at the right time the particulars respecting Inter-State adjustments which it will be necessary we should have to enable us to come to a right conclusion at the end of the five years. The figures we have already received are of use, but they are to some extent abnormal. The condition of affairs is rapidly approximating to normal, but in the earlier stages of the Federation it was affected by particular conditions, which are now passing away. I think the framers of the Constitution did well in providing that five years’ actual experience should be obtained ; and whilst, as I say, I am favorably disposed towards any simplification of InterState certificates, I do trust that, so far as is conveniently practicable, accuracy will not be sacrificed, with the result that we shall not know exactly what we ought to do when the ‘ time comes for providing another method for the disposal of our revenue than that which at present obtains.
– This is a timely note of warning from one who knows.
– I have spoken sufficiently in connexion with the Capital site question, but I think I may add to what I have said that I fully agree that the Government have done what they could for the purpose of giving us information upon this subject. I know, and have known for a long time, how strongly the Minister for Trade and Customs has felt in this connexion, and how he has worked. I believe that at the present moment there is no man who is more impressed, with the desirability of securing a declaration in favour of Tumut at the earliest moment. I hope that the diverse opinions which exist between members of the Ministry upon this question, as testified by their votes, will shortly be brought into agreement. How can they expect the House to agree when they cannot agree amongst themselves 1 Fearing, as I have said before, what this struggle about the Federal Capital may degenerate into if longer continued, I shall indeed welcome the day when the Government in a Government measure will advocate one site, and impressed with this, above all other considerations, that it ought to be part of the public policy that the matter should be settled, will, by concentrating their efforts in one direction, and exercising all constitutional powers to that end, endeavour to bring about that object which, I venture to say, Parliament generally has in view, and Australia expects will be achieved, in the interests of the Commonwealth, at the earliest possible date. I do not propose to refer unnecessarily to matters which have been discussed at another stage of this afternoon’s proceedings ; but in connexion with the Esperance railway and the Inter-State railway it has been put most unfairly that I have suggested an alternative. I have done nothing of the sort. I have declared that I am in favour of the construction of both th’e railways referred to - that connecting Port Augusta and the gol d-fields and that connecting the gold-fields and Esperance. As regards the reflections cast upon the Government of South Australia, I am in no way responsible for their action, but I venture to say from my intimate knowledge of the gentlemen who constitute that Government, that they are as little likely to fail to recognise honorable obligations as any men to be found in any of the States. I have had the pleasure of being associated with most of them for many years. I know how keenly they would resent the criticisms to which they have been subjected to-day, which, to my mind, are altogether undeserved, and which, I venture in their behalf, and in the interests of fair play, to repudiate with all my might. Something has been said with respect to Federal questions and the opinions of State members. This is a Federal Parliament in which districts are represented by honorable members returned for Federal electorates. We have a right as regards the wants and interests of particular districts to pay attention to the utterances of honorable members returned to represent them. Put as strongly as honorable members like what some State members have said in other places, we have here for our guidance in imparting useful information upon the subject, the Federal members for the gold-fields districts. They have expressed themselves upon this question. I am not going over the ground again. They have spoken without any instigation on the part of any other honorable members, and in fulfilment of their undoubted mission to represent their constituents before this Assembly. They have told us that the injustice to which the people of these districts are subjected by the denial of the railway to which I refer is intolerable. The matter has been put in this way - that it is equivalent to the denial of absolute freedom of Inter-State trade contemplated by the Constitution. That was contained in the resolution moved by the honorable member for Coolgardie. The honorable member submitted figures and facts, and amongst other things as regards the circuit which has to be made by people from the gold-fields to effect communication with the eastern States, the honorable member has said that the journey by way of Fremantle is very much like going round by way of Brisbane in order to reach Bourke, in New South Wales, or that we might imagine a Brisbane resident, whose destination is Winton, being compelled to sail round Cape York Peninsula and proceed from Normanton. That is practically the position of one journeying to the eastern States from the gold-fields of Western Australia. I need not repeat here what the honorable member has stated. I am glad that his speech has been reprinted, and is at our service. He speaks most eloquently to show the interest we have in people from the other States. He shows that proposals for the private construction of the railway have been refused, and that whilst the intercolonial railway might suffice for passenger and goods as regards the question of water carriage to the eastern States, and as regards the heavier goods, the absence of a connecting railway at the port of Esperance necessitates a further journey of at least 700 miles by sea, with an addition of an extra 160 miles by railway.
– It is not 700 miles, no matter who says so.
– How far does the right honorable gentleman say it is 1
– It is about 550 miles.
– Then the honorable member for Coolgardie has overstated the distance?
– He has.
– But, in addition, we have the distance of 390 miles from the goldfields.
– It is 350 miles from Coolgardie.
– It is about 3S7 miles from Kalgoorlie.
– But the junction is at Coolgardie.
– I shall not quarrel about a mile or two at this hour of the night. I give my authorities, and I guess that they were considered at the time to be sufficient. They have impressed me. The facts have been put forward by those best qualified to instruct us - the representatives of W7estern Australia. They have made out a splendid case for the construction of both the transcontinental line and the Esperance railway, and I should be only too pleased to see them constructed at the earliest moment. The only other matter to which I desire to refer is the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I heard the Minister for Trade and Customs, when he was being baited by an honorable member of the Opposition, in reference to some action of mine in this connexion, assert this evening that I had not done much good for the cause.
– I was told that I ought to resign.
– I am perfectly certain that the remark was not made.by the Minister in any ill spirit.
– Hear, hear.
– I am not inclined to resent it, for under the same provocation to which the Minister was subjected I might have had a great deal more to say. Whether I have done much good for the cause remains to be seen. I could not remain a member of a Ministry which introduced a Bill which seemed to me to be a farce. It appeared to present for the popular acceptance a stone instead of the promised bread. I have since asked various questions in the House in reference to the matter, and have received various answers. The answer which I obtained to-day to a question which I put was of the usual evasive character. It was not the sort of answer which I had a right to expect, and did expect from the Government. This is simply putting off the day when the Government will declare where they really are in regard to this matter. I have no doubt as to my position in this connexion, and as to what it will be hereafter. I shall be consistently Advocating a measure in which I thoroughly believe, and, if my advocacy of it necessitates the keenest criticism of those who would make a mockery of the whole thing, I shall be prepared to take the consequences.
– I shall only say, in reply to my right honorable friend, that he had to-day an answer to his question which no other honorable member would have received, because we should not have recognised that any one else had a right to ask for the policy of the Government in advance. We devoted much of the time of two Cabinet meetings to the work of shaping our policy ahead so that we could inform the honorable member of its general lines. The statement which the right honorable gentleman received tonight is as fair an indication as could be given to any one outside the Cabinet of the trend of those two prolonged discussions, to which, simply out of consideration for him, we devoted much of the time required for other matters. I do not resent the condemnation offered by the Opposition upon the action of the Government with reference to the Capital site. I recognise it as being part of the familiar campaign material which they are quite justified in accumulating, and I pass it by as such. But I have listened with amazement to the various versions of what I thought I had so simply and plainly stated a few moments ago, in regard to several points of this vexed question. For instance, I mentioned that I had not seen any of the sites. I made that remark not because of any desire to cast a reflection on the choice which had been made, but in order that I should not assume before the House an authority for my opinion which I did not possess. I had no other purpose in view than that of indicating in all fairness the basis of my judgment.
– But the Prime Minister was not guided by the expert Commissioners appointed by the Government.
– Was any Government ever expected by reasonable men to be bound by the opinions of a body of men whom they had appointed to inquire into the physical features and geographical situations of particular sites 1 The Commissioners were appointed to collect the facts. They did so, and laid the facts before us in a series of tables, to which they did not endeavour to assign relative values. Some people, they said, would give first consideration to the question of accessibility, and others to the question of climate, while others again would give special consideration to the relation of a site to great centres and populous districts. They left us, as they were bound to do, perfectly free in respect to the value which we might attach to their judgment ; and, although it is perfectly true that, from their point of view, they placed Bombala in one sense at the bottom of the scale, they affected my judgment to a considerable extent when they lifted Tumut to a position which, in my opinion, it had not been justified in occupying before. My mind was affected by a perusal of their report, but not sufficiently to alter the opinion I had formed on reading Mr. Oliver’s report and on hearing from him his justification of it. I certainly did not say or imply that’ the question was not in a fit state for solution, so far as we had proposed to solve it. All that we proposed in the Bill was to select a district in which the site should be chosen. I was careful to say that, having selected the district, we should require to determine the precise spot in that locality at which to establish the Capital. That is a clear distinction. We have arrived at one of the agreements which we held out as being possible under the Bill. We have for a time at all events, reduced the territories, roughly speaking, to two.
– To three.
– If we are to commence to calculate votes we have reduced the number to three ; but by the decisive votes of each House the suggested districts have been reduced to two. No one has yet attempted to specifically say where in either of those localities the precise site of the capital should be. What we have been discussing have been questions which I endeavoured to persuade the House to brush aside - questions as to the area to be taken over, as to the rivers to which it should extend, and other extraneous matters. As I said before, having settled upon one district, what we shall require to do will be to cause an examination of that district to be made, with a view to the selection of the best site for the establishment of the Capital. We must also show a reasonable amount of territory which should surround it, so as to enable the application of the doctrine of the unearned increment to receive fair play. The question of accessibility and other considerations may also be considered. Until we choose the actual site of the Capital we do not know what territory we may desire to take over. “We may wish to acquire a considerable amount of territory, but we have to deal with physical conditions, and to consider the State and the people who will be called upon to hand over the required area. While I think that we have arrived at a stage - a long stage - on the journey that we have to take, I submit that we have not yet reached that stage at which it is possible for us to lay our fingers on the precise spot in either of these districts which would be best for the purposes of the Capital ; nor are we yet able to state in advance the precise shape or boundaries of the territory to be acquired. I have been actuated in this matter - and I have been able to be so actuated - with no sense of attachment to my colleagues. Had there been only one representative of the Cabinet interested in the question I might possibly have been drawn towards him. With two I have been perfectly impartial. I have determinedly resisted all influences of that kind both inside and outside this Chamber, and have formed my opinions as if I were the most independent member upon the back Opposition benches. I have looked at maps and plans, and read reports, had conversations with persons who have a knowledge of the sites, and have formed a judgment according to the best of my ability. I made my remarks on the subject to-night from that personal point of view. I spoke generally as to the intentions of the Government in the future ; but I wanted to be quite fair to the House, and to explain to honorable members the attitude I had taken, and why I thought that up to the present, and forborne time to come, we are pursuing the only course possible in refusing to treat this as a party matter. If I were sitting on the back Opposition bench, I should refuse to follow the leaders of the party on a question of this kind, and I should take the same position if I sat on the back Ministerial bench. Until we have reduced the number of sites to two or three-
– So we have.
– Practically we have, and in doing so we have approached closely to the stage when we can say, “ This is the district in which the Federal Capital is to be built. The territory is to consist of such and such an area, and to have such and such a configuration.” When we arrive at that stage the Government must make a definite proposal, and we shall not shrink from doing so. But, like others who have not visited the proposed sites, I have yet a great deal to learn in regard to them, either by a personal inspection, or by obtaining information from others. I have been -greatly swayed towards the Tumut site by the testimony of the honorable members for Kennedy and Darling, both of whom are practical and unprejudiced men, and able to base their judgment on many years’ experience.
– Does not the Prime Minister think it fair to give further consideration to the Lyndhurst site?
– None can refuse to give consideration to a site that has such marked advantages as Lyndhurst possesses.
– Does the Prime Minister propose to consider a dozen sites ?
– No. Such a proposition would undo all that has been done. Lyndhurst, however, is undoubtedly the next site after Tumut and Bombala. We have done a great deal in reducing the sites to two or three, and have educated ourselves in the process. We have arrived with all reasonable rapidity at the present stage. Because the question is one of immense complexity. If I could have done so, I would have taken a jump in regard to the selection of an area in order to get the question settled. That has failed for the moment If other honorable members, like myself, keep their minds open for the reception of fresh knowledge, they will be able to consider the question in an absolutely unbiased and fair manner:
– Will the Prime Minister now. tell us what he intends to do?
– The Government propose to continue their investigations. That does not mean that we shall appoint another Royal Commission. We have already had enough Royal Commissions. Any further inquiry should be undertaken by the officers of the Government. For the time being, we have -had sufficient investigation by experts and Commissioners. . They can do a great deal, but what they can do has been . excellently done, and we do not need to repeat the work. We have arrived now at a new stage.
– Does the Prime Minister propose to have an investigation made of the territory surrounding the three sites which have been mentioned?
– I shall not make a definite promise of that kind, because the Cabinet has only commenced to consider details. An investigation will be made, but I cannot say now whether of two, three, or more sites. The debate upon the interesting subjectof the proposed transcontinental railway was brought to an end through the operation of a Standing Order before I had an opportunity to say what I wished to say upon the subject. I shall now endeavour to compress my remarks into a few words. I do not complain that the matter was brought forward. Its importance justified what was said in regard to it. I think, however, that the Government was not fairly dealt with by the honorable member for Perth, who opened the discussion. He appeared to forget important facte. The sympathies of the Minister for Home Affairs are with him so strongly that I think the Minister would rather see the Government treated with severity than lose an advantage for the project he so strongly advocates. It is not for want of hearing of the necessity for taking action in regard to the transcontinental railway that we listened to him so patiently to-night. To us it was a tale re-told for perhaps the fiftieth time. The honorable member for Perth also appeared to forget that it is not possible to construct this railway until we have received the authority of the two States through whose territory it would pass. Until within a month or two, even the Western Australian Act giving us the right to construct was not passed, and up to the presentno such Act has been passed by South Australia.
– But a survey is a different matter.
– A survey, unless it is to be followed by the construction of arailway, is meaningless and futile. If authority to construct the line is to be refused, or given with conditions which would make the construction unprofitable, and, perhaps, impossible, it will not be worth while to hurry a survey of the route.
– Honorable members require information on the subject.
– I do not wish, even by imputation, to make reflections upon any one. The correspondence which has been laid upon the table shows that the Government feel strongly upon this matter. In that correspondence a letter is to be found in which I have stated the case plainly, though I think there is not a word init to which exception can be taken by those to whom it is addressed. I leave it to them to justify to their State, and to the Commonwealth, the course which has been taken. But I assure the honorable member that there is more in the present situation than it is desirable to discuss at the present time. There has been no hesitation on the part of the Government in regard to this matter which has not been forced on us by the position in which we find ourselves. It may be that we are misjudging, but possibilities might arise out of a course which is sometimes indicated in the State of South Auscralia that would lead to very grave complications, if, indeed, the matter did not become of sufficient gravity torequire it to bebrought before this House. At the present time we have not yet reached that stage. The correspondence so far speaks for itself. I do not think that any one who reads it will be in doubt as to the wishes of the Government. It is plainly shown that there will be no delay on our part which is not created by the necessities of the situation. There were several other questions discussed during this debate, but they have for the moment escaped my memory, so I shall conclude by thanking honorable members for the manner in which they have assisted us. this evening to bring to a close a long, laborious, and fruitful Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.38 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 October 1903, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19031021_reps_1_17/>.