3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Pursuant to standing order 25, I lay upon the table my warrant nominating Mr. Fowler, Mr. Johnson, Mr, Poynton, and Dr. Carty Salmon to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees, when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Telephone Charges - Actuarial Investigation - Appointment of Committee - Wireless Telegraphy : King and Flinders Islands - Undergrounding Telephone Lines - Guarantees for New Works - Loan Expenditure
– Is it a fact that the telephone rates and regulations, gazetted by the Fisher Government, have been suspended pending an inquiry by two accountants into the position of the Telephone Department ?
– Was not the PostmasterGeneral able to find in the Public Service two impartial accountants capable of conducting the actuarial inquiry which he has delegated to outsiders ?
– The appointment of outsiders was not due to want of capacity on the part of the accountants in the Service. We have appointed an accountant to represent the Service, and another to represent the public.
– It is stated in to-day’s Age that in Switzerland there are 10,000 miles of publicly-owned telegraph and telephone lines, and that the yearly charge for a telephone service in an office or residence is approximately £2 10s. But does not the Postmaster-General know it to be a fact that, whereas Australian telephone attendants receive £110 per annum, the wages of similar employe’s in Switzerland amount to only £36 per annum? Does the honorable gentleman intend to reduce the salaries of the attendants here so that the commercial classes in our large cities may have a cheaper telephone service?
– There is not the slightest intention to reduce salaries. The object of the inquiry is to determine what sum has been invested in capital, and how much should be charged to subscribers for working expenses, depreciation, and interest.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General whether it is a fact, as reported in the Melbourne Herald of11th inst., that he, in replying to a deputation from the Chamber of Commerce, made the following statement : - “I have arrived at the conclusion that the telephone toll charges have come to stay.” I also wish to ask whether, in the course of the interview, Mr. Berry, a member of the deputation, said that they insisted that no extra rate should be charged until a balance-sheet had been prepared. Further, did the permanent officers of the Department recommend the appointment of an expert Committee to prepare a balance sheet, or did the honorable gentleman take action at the direction of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce, and, if so, does he not think it is flagrantly unconstitutional for a Minister to act at the dictation of an outside body.
– The suggestion for the appointment of a committee of accountants was submitted on the 18th inst. by Mr. Hesketh. It is true that that officer suggested the appointment of a departmental Committee, but the Government decided that the Committee should be, not a purely departmental one, but one of a; general character.
– I have to ask the Postmaster-General a practical question. Having regard to the unemployment at present existing in Melbourne, will he take means to continue the work of undergrounding the telephone lines - a work which was unfortunately stopped owing to want of funds - and so provide employment for a large number of men.
– The importance of undergrounding the telephone lines is recognised by the Department, and I believe that when the Estimates and the financial scheme of the Government are submitted, it will be found that ample provision is made ; the work will be proceeded with as soon as. the House provides the necessary funds.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether he will place
On the Estimates for the ensuing financial year an item to provide for communication between King Island, Flinders Island, and the mainland by means of wireless telegraphy for the convenience of the people and for the safety of shipping.
– The matter has riot yet been brought under my notice, but if the honorable member will give notice of his question I will answer it to-morrow.
– Will the Postmaster-General make provision for communication with King Island as well as with Flinders Island by means of wireless telegtaphy ?
– I shall be happy to consider that question when the matter is being settled.
– I desire toask the Postmaster-General how he reconciles his conclusion on the 18th, that it is necessary to appoint an expert Committee of inquiry, with his statement to the deputation which waited upon him on the nth, seven days previously, and demanded that there should be such a Committee.
– The suggestion for an inquiry by a Committee Of Accountants originated with the honorable member for Bourke, in his progress report of the Postal Commission, which he submitted to the Executive. I said that the departmental suggestion originated with Mr. Hesketh On or about the 18th, but the question had been long before publicly discussed.
– What progress report does the Minister refer to?
– A progress report by the honorable member for Bourke.
– It was no such thing !
– Well, then, an instalment of a report signed by the honorable member for Bourke as Chairman of the Postal Commission, and submitted to the Executive, I believe, in December.
– Nothing of the kind !
– I have had a copy of the report, and it was in that document I first met the suggestion. Afterwards, Mr. Hesketh affirmed the suggestion, and I have in my hand that gentleman’s memorandum of the 15th, containing the affirmation.
– Then there is a difference of onlyfour days !
– It is true that Mr. Alcock did make a suggestion, but it had been previously made by the honorable member for Bourke.
– After he had resigned the Chairmanship of the Commission.
– I am not dealing with that point now.I presume the honorable member for Bourke sent in the report before he resigned, or otherwise it would not have been received.
– What I desire to know is, how the Postmaster-General reconciles his present position with his statement on the nth that the telephone charges had “come to stay.” Was it the Joshua power, or whatwas it, that Caused him to alter his decision on the 15th?
– The question is so complicated that I think I am entitled to ask the honorable member to give notice of it.
– Do I understand the Postmaster-General to say that in his recent decision he is governed by a report made by the honorable member for Bourke, and, if so, does he regard that report as official, and intend to act on it as such ?
– Most decidedly not.I say that the suggestion for a Committee of Accountants originated with the honorable member for Bourke, so far as I can see ; but the suggestion became public property, and was publicly discussed. The principle of the suggestion has, no doubt, received recognition, but the constitution of the Committee, as indicated by the honorable member for Bourke, has not been adopted.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral state whether it is a fact that sub- scribers to the telephone system under the flat rate in Adelaide have to pay £10 a year, while in two of the other chief States of the Commonwealth the charge is only £9 a year? If that is correct, what steps does the Postmaster-General propose to take to rectify the anomaly ?
– I believe the £10 flat rate in Adelaide was fixed by State law. The law differed in the different States, and so there is no absolute uniformity. It will be impossible to secure a uniform rate until, we have uniform legislation or regulations.
– Seeing that it costs only £6 per year for a telephone service in Brisbane, as against £10 in Adelaide, and the late Postmaster-General was able to establish uniformity without legislation, why cannot the present PostmasterGeneral do the same?
– I said in my answer to the honorable member for Adelaide, “ Until we have uniform legislation or regulations.” There are so many conflicting interests, and such diversity of data, impossible to. reconcile, that it is thought desirable that the questions of capital value and working expenses should be investigated before a uniform regulation is adopted.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that in many recent applications for the erection of post-offices his Department has required the payment of small sums as guarantees? In one recent case the sum of£2 was required for a guarantee for a postal service. Does the Postmaster-General think it is fair to continue a system which deprives country districts of proper postal arrangements?
– In dealing with matters of the kind to which the honorable member refers, I have, up to the present, merely followed the practice of my predecessors. I amnot prepared to say that the old practice ought to be followed in all cases, and shallbe prepared to reconsider the matter, and, if necessary, to bring it before mycol leaguesin the Cabinet in order to ascertain whether the practice of demanding guarantees and subsidies from local residents ought rigidly to be followed.
– I desire to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether, in the event of the proposed loan for public works being carried into effect, he will favorably consider the advisability of erecting a line of communication from the north-west of Western Australia - which is almost entirely bereft of such communication for long periods of the year - with the gold-fields, or of connecting Wyndham and Port Darwin ? One of these suggestions must be carried out if that part of the Commonwealth is to remain settled.
– If Parliament adopts the proposal that there be a loan, I have no doubt that a suggestion of the importance of that now made by the honorable member will be favorably considered, together with other similar suggestions.
– Following on the question of the honorable member for Coolgardie, I should like to know whether, in the event of a loan being raised, the Postmaster- General will include in the Estimates a sufficient amount to build a postoffice at Wynyard, Tasmania?
– So far as I am personally concerned, I have no doubt that the suggestion of the honorable member will receive early and favorable consideration.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Imperial Institute - Letter to Prime Minister from the Director, respecting the Work of the Institute, &c.
Insurance - Progress Report of Royal Commission.
Insurances, Social (formerly “Workmen’s Insurance”) - Report by the Hon. Sir John Cockburn, K.C.M.G., on the International Congress, held in Rome, October, 1908.
Refrigerating Industries- Report of Mr. John Cooke, as Commissioner on behalf of the Commonwealth to the International Congress, held in Paris, October, 1908.
Federal Capital - Proposed Site at YassCanberra - Papers respecting selection of Territory and proposed Site for the City; together with Reports respecting Topography, Water Supply, Sewerage, Railway Communication, Power, &c.
Ordered to be printed.
South African Union - Message to people of South Africa upon entering into Union.
Defence - Further correspondence (25th May to 15th June, 1909). regarding a Conference between representatives of His Majesty’s Government and the Governments of the self-governing Dominions on the subject of Naval and Military Defence.
Defence- War and Peace Establishments of the Military Forces.
Defence Acts - Provisional Regulations -
Military Forces -
Regulations Amended -
Nos. 2, 4 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 53.
No. 558- Statutory Rules 1909, No. 54.
Nos. 121A, 121B - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 55.
Nos.106a,106b Added - Statutory Rules1909, No. 59.
No. 304 - Statutory Rules 1909, No.62.
No. 79 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 64.
Financial and Allowance Regulations Amended -
No. 143 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 51.
No. 78 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 52.
No. 105 - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 63.
Audit Act - Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1908-9 (dated 5th June, 1909).
Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Rule of Court, No. 26, Form 4 Amended - Statutory; Rules 1909, No. 61.
Customs Act - Regulation Cancelled - Re Concentrated Varnish - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 65.
Excise Act - Sugar Regulation No. 21 - Amended - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 58.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Report by H. Deane. M.I.C.E., on Survey of Route.
Census and Statistics Act -
Provisional Regulation - Utilization of Information for State purposes. - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 60.
OfficialYear-Book of the Commonwealth - No.2. - 1901 to 1908.
Railways, Government - Desirability of Improved Statistics - Report by the Commonwealth Statistician. ,
Trade and Customs and Excise Revenue, 1907.
Official Bulletins -
Finance - No. 2. - Summary, 1901 to 1908.
Population and Vital Statistics -
No. 9. - Quarter ended 31st March, 1908.
No. 10. - Quarter ended 30th June, 1908.
No.11. - Quarter ended 30th September, 1908.
No. 12. - Quarter ended 31st December, 1908.
Production - No. 2. - Summary, 1901 to 1907.
Trade, Shipping. Oversea Migration, and Finance -
No. 20. - August, 1908.
No. 21. - September, 1908.
No. 22. - October, 1908.
No. 23. - November, 1908.
No. 24. - December, 1908.
No. 25. - January, 1909.
No. 26. - February, 1909.
No. 27. - March, 1909.
Transport and Communication - No. 2. -
Summary, 1901 to 1908.
Electoral Acts - Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 18.
Electoral Acts and Tasmanian Electoral Act - Regulations relating to Joint Electoral Rolls - StatutoryRules 1909, No. 29.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land Acquired under, at-
Adelong, New South Wales - As a Site for a Post Office.
Maryborough, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Commonwealth Representation - Colonel Foxton’s Instructions - Captain Creswell - Colonel McCay - Offer of Dreadnought.
– Will the Minister of Defence make public the instructions which have been given to the Honorary Minister as to the statement of the policy of the Government at the forthcoming Imperial Defence Conference?
-I would remind the honorable member that it is not usual to divulge what takes place in Cabinet, but if he will give notice of his question, I shall be glad to furnish him with a reply.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact, as reported in the newspapers, that Captain Creswell, Commonwealth Director of Naval Forces, has been sent to London to act as “expert adviser” on naval matters to the honorable member for Brisbane at the Imperial Defence Conference ? Also whether the Government expects from the Admiralty at the coming Conference on Naval and Military Defence a frank exposition of the Admiralty’s views of Australia’s naval necessities? If so, is it expected that such candour will be encouraged by sending to the Conference as “expert “ an officer whose proposals it has already characterized as being “ based upon an imperfect conception of the requirements of naval strategy at the present day and of the proper application of naval force?”
– It is proposed to send Captain Creswell to London, and, in fact, he is now on his way. He is the principal naval officer of the Commonwealth. He has, I believe, differed from even the Lords of the Admiralty on certain questions. The honorable member will recollect that the Conference is called, among other things, for technical discussion. That technical discussion could not take place without the presence of a naval officer. Captain Creswell as the principal naval officer of the Commonwealth was necessarily the proper officer for that post. I have no doubt he will render good service in the Mother Country.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence a question, without notice. Since our delegation to the Defence Conference is charged with the duty of en- abling that Conference to deal with the defence question in the full light of Australian conditions, would the Government consider the advisableness of asking to join it the Chief of our Intelligence Department, Colonel McCay, whose knowledge of our citizen forces’ intelligence work would enable him to render most valuable assistance?
-I am afraid that the honorable member’s suggestion comes too late; but my own impression is that a gentleman of the calibre and character suggested would have been of the greatest assistance, at the Conference.
– The suggestion is not made for the first time.
– The Government were asked by the Imperial authorities to send a Minister to the Conference, and they have done so.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Defence whether there is any truth in the rumour that the reason why he did not go to England as the representative of the Commonwealth at the Imperial Conference was because it was necessary for him to remain behind to watch the Prime Minister.
-I believe that the real reason was that I wanted to keep my eye upon the honorable member.
– In offering to the Imperial authorities a Dreadnought, or an alternative, did the Prime Minister suggest any limit to the expenditure that the Government are prepared to incur in the shape of the alternative? I understand that a Dreadnought would cost about £2,000,000. Is the Prime Minister prepared, if the Imperial Government do not accept a Dreadnought, to offer a similar sum for the alternative scheme?
– I am not prepared to name a sum which the Government would make its highest limit in a matter of that kind. When better informed, after the Conference, we shall submit to the House a proposition by which we shall stand.
– I desire to ask, on behalf of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, if the Prime Minister is correctly reported in the press as having placed the Honorary Minister in full possession of the views of the Cabinet upon the matters and some of the detailed proposals which will be submitted at the Naval and Military Conference”? If so, will the honorable gentleman inform the House in general terms what those views are? Has the Honorary Minister been authorized to put any definite views on military and naval defence before the Conference as representing Australian public opinion or as representing the policy of the Government, or has he been limited to an exposition of Australian naval and military conditions “ to enable the Admiralty and War Office to advise and assist the Government in formulating a policy”?
– The question seems, in large measure, a replica of that which has just preceded it, and, so far as Ifollow the quotations, my two statements do not conflict with each other.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether Colonel Foxton is commissioned to attend the Imperial Conference on Defence as a representative of the Government, or as a member of the Military Forces, and. also, who is Colonel Foxton ?
– As to the first part of the question, the honorable member referred to is a member of His Majesty’s Executive Council for Australia. He is a member of the Ministry. For further particulars in regard to the honorable member, the records of the House can be searched.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether the main object of our delegation to the Imperial Conference is to enable that Conference to consider the question of Imperial Defence in the light of Australian conditions, or to place before it a policy which the Government have already arrived at?
– The honorable member’s question may be divided into two parts. To the first the answer is “ Yes.” A principal object of the representation is that Australian conditions may be laid before the Admiralty. A second object was that the representative of the Government should go prepared for various contingencies that might or might not be advised at the Conference. This will decrease as far as possible the necessary communications that would otherwise have been - and, if necessary, will now be - cabled by him to the Government here in respect to particular proposals laid before the Conference involving action on the part of the Commonwealth.
Mr.ROBERTS.- I wish to call the attention of the Minister of Defence to a statement in to-day’s Age that the Defence Bill is practically to be put in the background until certain information is received from the Imperial Defence Conference in London, and also to a statement in the same issue by one of the Minister’s leading supporters - the honorable member for Batman - to the effect that a defence scheme would be an accomplished fact in about six weeks. Will the Minister tell the House which statement is the more reliable?
– Will the honorable member kindly tell me, and then I will tell him?
– Is the Prime Minister still of opinion that the subsidy to the Imperial Navy should be discontinued? Did he put that before the Imperial Conference as the view of the people of Australia? Has he altered his opinion, and, if so, have the people of Australia also altered theirs?
– That is a question of which notice should be given, if, indeed, opinions should be made the subject of a question. Moreover, the honorable member, in putting one, should not - as he has,I hope unintentionally, managed to do - convey a serious misapprehension. I have been for years in favour of substituting for our subsidy in coin a contribution in kind. I did place that view before the late Conference, and expressed the opinion that, in my judgment, a contribution in kind would be preferred by the great majority of the people of Australia. Personally, I still hold that view.
– As regards the continuance of the naval subsidy, and the Prime Minister’s statement just now, I desire to know if it is the Cabinet view which the Honorary Minister is to urge upon the Imperial authorities, or simply his own view ?
– These are questions which have no real business bearing, but are evidently put with the object of prematurely raising a discussion, which must be fruitless at this stage. ‘ The whole question will be dealt with by the Minister of Defence at an early date.
– Is it the intention of the Minister of Home Affairs to introduce at an early date a Bill fixing the exact site of the Federal Capital ?
– I have consulted the Attorney-General, and propose to take whatever is the next necessary step to bring the matter to completion.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether it. is the intention of the Government to proclaim, at an early date, regulations for the payment of invalid pensions, or whether, if that is not to be done at an early date, the Government think they will be able to issue a proclamation prior to the expiration of the Braddon section?
– That is one of the questions to be dealt with by the Treasurer when he lays his Budget proposals before the House.
– When the Tariff was under discussion, the Prime Minister conveyed the impression to honorable members that in the event of the new protection not being applied, he would give honorable members an opportunity to reconsider their votes ; and I desire to know whether the honorable gentleman proposes now to carry out that promise?
– I must ask the honorable member to give notice of the question, and again request him to give a reference to the exact words I used.
– I desire, with the per mission of the House, to make a statement, Mr. Speaker.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Prime Minister be allowed to make a statement?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Leave is granted.
– Before making a statement,. I wish to lay upon the table the following paper : -
Statement of the business which Ministers propose to submit to Parliament.
– I rise to order. The Prime Minister has, I understand, laid upon the table a paper. Do I understand, sir, that he is going to make a statement on that?
– The point of order I desire to raise is, whether the statement which the Prime Minister obtained leave to make will be open to discussion?
– According to our practice, if a speech is made by the Prime Minister, by leave of the House, when he sits down no one else will have the right to speak, unless the House is pleased to give that privilege. The Prime Minister asked leave to make a statement, and leave was granted. It would have been competent for any honorable member to object to that if he had pleased, but there was no objection.
– I understand, sir, that in these cases the leader of the Opposition has always been allowed to speak.
– I took it. sir, that the procedure would be the same on this occasion as previously?
– I am quite satisfied that the House will grant the same permission to the leader of the Opposition or of any other party as has been granted to the Prime Minister. I have always desired that a Ministerial statement should be made on a motion for the printing of a paper so as to afford the widest possible opportunity for discussion, but the Prime Minister asked ‘leave to make a statement, and when I put the question to the House there was no objection. The matter is, therefore, entirely in his hands.
– In this case, fortunately, no difficulty can arise. The next business on the notice-paper is the resumption of the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s speech, and that will allow the fullest possible opportunity for debate to any honorable member who has not already spoken on that subject. The statement I propose to make relates to a set of circumstances similar to that which is contained in the Governor-General’s speech. It is, in fact, the policy of the Government expressed in the same brief fashion. When the debate on the GovernorGeneral’s speech is resumed there will be the utmost liberty of discussion.
– I understood that the Prime Minister intended to take the usual course, and that was to make a Ministerial statement which could be debated. Any other procedure will be unwarranted, undesirable, and of no effect. I trust that the usual course will be taken.
– I desire to know, sir, whether the course which the Prime Minister is about to take will interfere with the rights of individual members in discussing the Ministerial statement, or whether they will be confined to the GovernorGeneral’s speech, when the first Order of the Day is called ?
-On the statement which the Prime Minister has obtained leave to make, no one else may speak, unless leave is similarly granted by the House. On the Address-in-Reply, honorable members generally may speak. Of course, three of the members who have spoken - the honorable member for Wide Bay, the Prime Minister, and one other - will be precluded from speaking again.
– That is most undesirable.
– It is a very improper thing.
– I think that there can be no question that leave was granted to the Prime Minister to make a statement.
– Quite under a misapprehension, sir.
– I would suggest to honorable members that if they were to follow more closely the proceedings of the House, instead of holding private conversations and making interjections and remarks to each other, they would much more fully keep themselves in touch with the business. Perhaps the Prime Minister, ar. it appears that leave was granted under a misapprehension, would desire that the question should be put again.
– No, sir.
– I desire to know, sir, whether it will be competent for any honorable member to move that the paper be printed, and, if so, whether on that motion the Ministerial statement can be debated?
– That would have been so had not the Prime Minister asked for and obtained leave to make a statement. He has the right to proceed, and no one is able to interpose.
– I understood you, sir, to say that honorable members were not giving sufficient attention to business a few moments ago, when they, by courtesy, granted leave to the Prime Minister to make a statement. I was listening to what was going on, and would not for a moment desire to prevent the Prime Minister from making a statement such as any member could discuss if he so desired. But I had absolutely no idea that so important a statement was to be made as we are now given to understand is to be made. I certainly had no idea that it was to be made in such a manner as to completely prevent discussion on these important subjects; and at the same time, notwithstanding that an entirely different position is before us, to completely prevent certain honorable members who spoke on the Address-in-Reply from again speaking. I wish to ask you, sir, in connexion with the ruling you practically gave a moment ago, when you intimated that possibly the House would not refuse a like privilege to other members, whether you can say that definitely, or whether any guarantee to that effect can be given; if so, we might, perhaps, be able to proceed.
– I gave a ruling to the effect that the Prime Minister had asked for leave, that leave had been granted, and that, leave having been granted to him, he alone could speak. That ruling, I think, can be supported by a reference to almost any page of the Standing Orders.
– But you, sir, went further than that. The leave was granted under a misapprehension.
– I put the question to the House. The honorable member for Adelaide and other honorable members have said that they distinctly heard it. Leave was given to the Prime Minister without question; therefore I have already ruled, and must again rule, that the Prime Minister has the right to proceed. I need only say, further, that, if he desired to initiate a debate, it was not necessary for the Prime Minister to ask for leave from the House at all. He might simply have proposed such a motion as the printing of a paper, and might then have gone on with the debate. The very fact that the honorable gentleman asked for leave should have been a sufficient indication to the House-
– That he intended to strangle the rest of us.
– Order ! It is not in accordance with the Standing Orders that the Speaker should be interrupted. The mere fact that the Prime Minister asked for leave was a sufficient indication to the House that something unusual, and not in accordance with the ordinary procedure, would be proposed if the leave were conceded. The House should clearly have perceived that.
– I made the same request.
– On the point of order I wish to ask if it is not a fact that if the Prime Minister speaks now, by leave of the House, it would be only by courtesy and the consent of the House that he would be replied to by the leader of the Opposition, and that no other honorable member would be at liberty to continue the debate unless the House gave special permission.
– I have already ruled that that is so, and I ruled that it is so relying on my general belief in the fair play of the House. I cannot conceive that the House would so far depart from the principles of fair play as to refuse the leader of the Opposition an opportunity to reply to the Prime Minister.
– Perhaps I shall be allowed to say that I did not wish to make my statement in any fashion which might foreshadow, even by implication, events which may not happen. But we are faced to-day with this difficult position - that the statement about to be made, though different in form, will be in substance and character a duplicate of the GovernorGeneral’s speech already before us. If we are to havea full debate on the statement now to be made, there will still remain on the paper an Order of the Day for a discussion of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s speech. On that will arise a full discussion over again by every member of the House, with the exception of three, of whom I am one. I have no objection, and have not had any objection from the first, to formally submitting a motion in order that a full debate may take place on my statement. I am perfectly willing to agree to that, provided that it is now agreed amongst us that a further continuance of the debate on the Governor-General’s speech, which would be merely a duplicate discussion of the same subject, will not be asked for. The adoption of this course will give every member of the House the fullest opportunity to express his opinion on the statement now to be made, and, if he so desires, on all that is contained in the Governor-General’s speech. The course I suggested was that the leader of the Opposition, who has already spoken on the Address-in-Reply, might follow me upon my statement, and that we should then pass to the next matter on the business-paper, when every member of the House would have the fullest opportunity to debate the whole of the questions involved in it and in the GovernorGeneral’s speech.
– But any one might prevent the leader of the Opposition from speaking, if he could only speak by consent.
– That is not the point. When I rose to take this course, I did so in the belief that our practice would justify the leader of the Opposition in claiming to follow my statement as a right. It appears that was an error, but when I rose I was certainly under that apprehension. However, it is easy for us to arrive at an agreement which will place us on the same footing. If the leader of the Opposition, on behalf of his following, will agree that the debate on both policies shall be taken on my statement now, instead of on the AddressinReply, that would involve no limitation and no loss of opportunity.
– What nonsense; who would agree to that ?
– Who blocked the debate on the Address-in-Reply ?
– Hear, hear ; and why come here crawling and crying about it now?
– Order. I ask honorable members on all sides to refrain from making objectionable interjections, and also to refrain from making any that are unnecessary during a speech of such importance as that to which we have now to listen.
– It ought to be made fairly.
– I again call attention to the fact that it is irregular and contrary to the Standing Orders for honorable members to carry on conversations, or to make remarks, while the Speaker is addressing the House. I ask honorable members to abstain as far as possible from interjecting during the remainder of the important statement to be made by the Prime Minister.
– Every one will admit that I have made a perfectly fair and straightforward offer, putting every one in the House on the same footing. It deprives no one of an opportunity of speech, and imposes no limitation upon the discussion.
– It rests entirely with the honorable gentleman to decline to take advantage of the leave given him.
– I ask the leader of the Opposition if, on behalf of his party, he will accept my proposition.
– No bargains.
– Perhaps the honorable member will allow his leader to speak.
– Let us have it in writing.
– The honorable member for Barrier is distinctly out of order.
– I desire to know from the leader of the Opposition if he will agree to this equitable plan. I do not mind the interjections around him - I shall be perfectly satisfied if the honorable member will agree with those, whom he leads, that they will not debate the AddressinReply a second time.
– The honorable gentleman has no right to ask such a thing.
– I should prefer to take the debate on the statement now to be made, but to bind honorable members as to what they shall do is what I cannot do.
– That is to say the. honorable gentleman desires to discuss the same question twice over?
– I do not say that. I do not use equivocal words.
– I hope that the Prime Minister will proceed with his speech. It is quite impossible that he can secure the assent of any one honorable member to bind all the other members of the House.
– I did not hold any such opinion, of course ; but I quite believe that if the leader of the Opposition had intimated that what I have suggested was his desire, it would have been accepted, if not by the whole, by far the greater number of those who sit on his side. I am perfectly sure that the great body of honorable members on this side would have responded, to an appeal so obviously based on justice and fair play.
– That is how they acted with the gag the other day.
– Well, under the perplexing circumstances, I propose now to trust, without any guarantee, to the honour of this House. I propose to put myself in the hands of the House, and to rest content with making a request that honorable members shall confine themselves to one discussion. To give them that opportunity, I shall conclude by moving that the paper which I hold in my hand be printed. I shall trust honorable members to give effect to the reasonable and fair suggestion I have made without prejudice to any of their rights under practice. A brief statement of the business which Ministers are about to submit to Parliament is due to both Houses, though, since the time at our disposal is limited, the references to its particulars must be condensed to the utmost. To simplify the synopsis proposals are grouped according to subjects, and not to their relative importance. The statement is as follows: -
The most complex series of measures to be submitted includes those affecting the industrial interests of the Commonwealth. The pivot of several of these will be found in a Bill for the establishment of an InterState Commission, which, in addition to exercising the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution, will also be authorized to undertake many of the valuable functions discharged in the United Kingdom by the Board of Trade, such as a general oversight of production and exchange, supplying information in respect to markets and openings for trade abroad, and for the improvement and extension of Australian industries within our borders.
Among its duties will be those of a Federal Labour Bureau, comprising a study of unemployment and of a scheme for insurance against unemployment.
The Commission will also assist in supervising the working of the existing Customs Tariff in its operation upon the investment of Australian capital and labour in Australian industries, advising the removal of any inconsistencies in its schedules, and also with the further view of developing preferential and other trade relations within the Empire.
In the meantime any anomalies that may be discovered in the Customs Tariff Act lately passed by this Parliament will be examined, classified, and dealt with in due course.
Any divergencies between industrial conditions in the several States which occasion an unjust competition between Australian industries in different States will be adjusted by the Inter-State Commission, with, of course, due regard to all the interests affected, whether or not the unjustly competitive rates exist under the authority of local industrial tribunals. Correspondence is now proceeding with the State Governments in respect to the procedure to be followed in order to endow the Commission with this power.
An Agricultural Bureau, associated with the Commission, will be established in order to employ the latest scientific means of co-ordinating and extending the good work of the State Departments.
An active policy of immigration will be undertaken, and will be expanded in the light of the knowledge made available by the Commission and the bureau, and with, it is hoped, the co-operation of all the States.
The appointment of a High Commissioner in London with a well-equipped office will be necessary for, among other purposes, our financial interests, the supervision of immigration, and co-operation with the Inter-State Commission in fostering trade and commerce.
In this connexion an endeavour will be made to cheapen the cable charges between Australia and the Mother Country, to extend the mail services, and to fully utilize in a federal spirit the new facilities provided under the contract about to come into force.
To permit a better discharge of the national responsibilities of the Commonwealth, your authorization will be sought for the acceptance of the Northern Territory.
Among the first proposals of the Commonwealth Treasurer is that embodied in the Bill, of which notice has been given, for amendments of the Old-Age Pensions Act.
This measure, by temporarily suspending the requirements as to naturalization, will permit all old residents of Australia, otherwise qualified, to secure a pension by obtaining letters of naturalization prior to the end of the year.
The second important feature of the measure is a reduction of the minimum qualifying period of residence in Australia from 25 to, 20 years - a concession which will no doubt be highly appreciated by the old residents whom it affects.
Bills providing for the compensation of seamen, the prohibition of inequitable rebates by trusts and combines, for the amendment of the Post ‘and Telegraph Act 1 90 1, and the Patents Act, together with measures consolidating on a federal basis the laws relating to bills of exchange, bankruptcy, and marine insurance, all of great value to the’ business community, will be brought forward.
The negotiations in London, in 1907, concluded early last ,year, allowing the coinage for the Commonwealth of an Australian silver currency, have been completed. In order to avoid further delay in securing the considerable profits thence accruing, a requisition for the new coinage has been despatched.
Another group of proposals will be submitted in connexion with the varied issues associated with national defence.
The cable messages exchanged with the British Government, containing Australia’s offer to share in the responsibility of defending the Empire, have been placed before you.
Colonel Foxton, who has been appointed to represent the. Government at the forthcoming Conference in London, will take advantage of this opportunity to consult the Admiralty upon the whole question of Imperial naval defence, and particularly as to the marine defence of the ports and coasts of Australia by the most effective vessels, manned and officered, as far as possible, by Australians trained to the standards, and sharing the opportunities of the Royal Navy.
The construction at suitable sites in protected ports of the necessary docks, shipyards, and coaling facilities will also be proposed in the light of the latest data available.
The policy of the Government in regard to land defence will be founded upon the principle of universal training, commencing in youth and continued towards manhood. A Bill for this purpose will be introduced founding the system in the schools, where immediate preparations will be made to qualify senior cadets, and increase the efficiency of the forces of the Commonwealth.
The success of a national scheme of discipline must depend upon the efficient training of a sufficient number of officers chosen for their natural aptitudes and capacity to command. A Military College, as well as a School of Musketry, and probably a primary Naval College, will be established to meet this end.
For the general development and disposition of our adult citizen soldiery, the counsel of one of the ablest and most experienced commanders of the British Army will be sought.
Provision for local supplies of small arms and ammunition is being pressed forward, in order to diminish dependence of the Commonwealth upon consignments from oversea. Tenders for an ammunition factory, and also for a small arms factory, will be accepted as soon as possible.
Finance is in every year a vital question ; but it is no exaggeration to say that the obligations of the next eighteen months render it at present more important than at any period since Federation.
This being the last session of the present Parliament, it is necessary, not only to make provision for the current financial year, but to forecast the near future, and its problems, in order that the outlook may be made clear to all before the coming general election.
In addition to the ample provision required for defence purposes, and for the industrial projects already noticed, the outlay upon the Federal Capital Site, the taking over of ocean lighthouses by the Commonwealth, and the construction, when authorized, of the railway line to Western Australia, have to-be borne in mind.
A principal departmental outlay will arise in connexion with the works, appliances, and equipment for the services carried on under the Postmaster-General’s control, especially those relating to the telephone branch. A new departure is called for in order to provide for the early construction of necessary reproductive works in connexion therewith.
In the meantime the vexed question of the rates properly chargeable for telephonic communication is being made the subject of expert actuarial investigation.
Above all, the approaching termination of the ten-year period for which the Constitution provides a distribution of the Customs revenue, marks the close of a critical era, and suggests the pressing importance of this great financial problem.
A temporary arrangement for a term of years to replace the existing distribution, in which the obligations of the Commonwealth are recognised, is being prepared for submission.
The future financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth, taken together with their present and future loan obligations, are being carefully considered in principle and in detail, in order that a satisfactory and permanent settlement may be achieved.
Communications with the Board of Trade have provided a working agreement upon several important points, which should facilitate the passage of the important measure relating to navigation now before the Senate.
Bills, accepting the control of Norfolk Island and of cables and wireless telegraphy in time of war, for amending the Audit Act and the electoral law, will be proceeded with.
It is hoped that, allowing for a searching criticism of all Government measures in the public interest, the business programme now presented will be proceeded with in a business-like manner during a fruitful session.
I move -
That the paper be printed.
.- I suppose that the Prime Minister has no objection to grant an adjournment until tomorrow of the debate upon the statement which he has made.
– Not if the leader of the Opposition desires it.
– I do. I therefore move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to, debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27th May (vide page 126), on motion by Mr. Roberts -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s speech, as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
.- Of course, I recognise that the present situation has arisen from abnormal circumstances.
– What AddressinReply is this, Mr. Speaker?
– I may say candidly that I did not come prepared to speak today, and should not have addressed the House had the Government taken a fair and honest course. But it appears to me that the leader of the Government has become so steeped in dodgery and cunning that he is now prepared to go to any lengths. I hope that the Minister of Defence will not attempt to dictate to you, Mr. Speaker, as to what course shall be taken.
– AMinister of the Crown ought to know better. We had today one of the most disgraceful exhibitions I have ever seen from a man in a responsible position. What it means is this - If what the Prime Minister desired to do had been done, no Minister of the Crown in this House would ever have an opportunity to make a Ministerial statement. A Prime Minister ought to know that neither he nor the leader of the Opposition has any privilege in this House which is not enjoyed by any other honorable member. Under these circumstances, what right had he to attempt to make a bargain with the Opposition that if the leader of the Opposition allowed something to be done, he, the Prime Minister, would endeavour to persuade his supporters to do something else?
– The debate to which the honorable member is referring has been adjourned, and no reference can be made to it at this stage. It will be necessary for the honorable member to confine himself to the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply.
– I have no intention to refer to the debate that has been adjourned. I was referring to the action of the Prime Minister and the privilege which he tried to secure for himself. But strong exception was taken to it from all sides.
– Is this the Chairman of Committees who is speaking? A fine Chairman of Committees !
– Does the Treasurer wish to gag the honorable member for Kennedy also?
– I told the House long ago that I did not intend to allow the constituency which I represent to be gagged in consequence of my becoming Chairman of Committees. If the House does not approve of that position it can say so. On several occasions various honorable members have taunted me because I have expressed my opinions. I have as much right to do so as has any other honorable member. The occupancy of the position of Chairman of Committees will not stifle me. We are entitled to know why the Government do not desire to have the debate on the speech delivered by the Governor- General at the commencement of the session proceeded with.
– The explanation is contained in the last paragraph of the statement made by the Prime Minister.
– But the House is in rather a peculiar position. We have had a speech delivered by the Governor- General which has not been considered by the House. We are, therefore, dealing now with the Address-in-Reply to a speech delivered on behalf of a Government that does not exist. I am entitled to ask why the debate on the speech then put into His Excellency’s mouth is not to be proceeded with. But when we ask that question, we are confronted with peculiar tactics, of which, however, I suppose, we have no right to complain, because we all know that once a man gets on the down-grade there is no telling where he will stop. He is like a criminal who, when he starts on his career of wrong-doing, does not commit very serious offences, but who, before he has completed his course, probably reaches the lowest depths to which it is possible for a man to fall. Politically, the leader of the Government seems to be tending to such a condition. The late Government foreshadowed proposals for dealing effectively with the question of the New Protection. Those proposals, in my opinion, embodied the only method by which it is possible effectively to carry out that policy. When the New Protection policy was first introduced, it was thought that the method adopted by this Parliament would be successful in securing to the workers of this country a fair share of the protection afforded to industries under the Tariff. The honorable gentleman who is now at the head of the Government obtained support for his protective tariff on the ground not only that the workers themselves should receive a fair share of the protection assured, but also that the general public who purchased the commodities produced in the protected industries should receive a share of the protection. But a. certain firm in this State sought to evade the New Protection policy. And by the way, I may say, that this was not the first occasion on which that particular firm attempted to evade legislation which was aimed at improving the industrial life of the workers. The proprietors of that very firm on a previous occasion moved their works out of an area in which the Wages Board system of Victoria was effective.
– What did Joshua’s do?
– The firm of Joshua, I venture to say, will play a great part in connexion with the affairs of this Government before long. The “spiritual’ ‘ effect will be very great. The firm to which I was alluding, however, has consistently tried to evade industrial legislation in order to deprive those working in the industry in question of the beneficent effects of laws that have been passed. What action did they take? They told Parliament that certain machines were being dumped in Australia, and sold at prices which made it impossible for local manufacturers to compete with their oversea rivals. Inquiry proved that the low cost of production elsewhere made it necessary to protect our workers by insuring to them fair and reasonable wages, and to protect the farmers by preventing them from having to pay too much for their machinery. Our legislation, however, was defeated by means of a constitutional technicality, and this House, therefore appointed a Select Committee to ascertain the local cost of making these machines, and the rates at which they were being sold. Every obstacle was placed in the way of that Committee, so that it was a difficult matter to obtain evidence in pursuance of its inquiry. Indeed, the action taken by witnesses amounted to a deliberate insult to the House, and the question was raised whether there was a power outside stronger than the House itself. Accordingly, the
Committee was converted into a Royal Commission, empowered to inflict a fine of no less than £50 upon persons refusing to give evidence. But, although the Commission used all the powers conferred upon it, it has not yet teen able to get from a particular firm the information which it was directed to obtain. Had Parliament known that this and other firms would not pay reasonable wages to those whom they employ, and that their prices would be unreasonable, it would not have given them the protection which they enjoy. The honorable member for Hume will bear out my statement that the Government of which he was a member, declared that reasonable wages, must be paid by those to whom protection was given, and that if there was any doubt as to the constitutionality of the measures passed to that end, the amendment of the Constitution would be proposed to give such legislation the fullest scope.
– The Prime Minister played that off his own bat.
– He did not.
– The Prime Minister, who holds the honorable member in the palm of his hand, assured us that the amendment of the Constitution would be proposed to give effect to this legislation.
– He composed a memorandum on the subject, and laid it upon the table.
– I wrote a memorandum, and the Prime Minister wrote another.
– Yes. Both documents dealt with the same question, the need for the amendment’ of the Constitution to provide for the effective protection of workers and consumers. But, judging by the newspaper accounts, of the past few days, the honorable gentleman who is nominally Prime Minister has abandoned that proposal, and now suggests a course which he and every other honorable member must know will not carry us any further. He suggests the appointment of an Inter- State Commission to deal with these matters. He knows that such an appointment would be unconstitutional. The honorable gentleman, who for months held office on the distinct understanding that something practical would be done, is now trying to shelve the whole question. He does this because he dare not proceed on the course on which he first set out.
– His Ministers will not allow him to do so.
– He could not remain in office were he to give effect to his first proposal. He is the mere puppet of the Employers’ Federation, the Chamber of Manufactures, and the financial institutions of the country, which would not. allow him to remain in office for twentyfour hours if he proposed anything likely to be effective. Therefore he dare not, and cannot, move in this matter. On the 28th October last the Deakin Government presented to the House a memorandum relating to the New Protection, in which they pointed out that -
When Parliament was considering the Tariff it was clearly understood that the benefits to the industries affected were to be fairly shared between the manufacturer and worker.
It appears now that the Prime Minister intends to depart from that understanding
A memorandum relating to the New Protection, circulated in December last, defined the policy intended to be pursued, and stated its grounds. These do not call for recapitulation.
Obviously, freedom of trade within the Commonwealth opened the markets of Australia to the competition of all Australian manufacturers; but, nevertheless, the rates of wages in the several States forsimilar work vary, partly because of the different rates fixed by different State industrial tribunals, and partly in the absence of rates fixed by any such authorities.
It was in order, under these conditions, to put employers and employes upon a fair footing,one with another, throughout the whole of Australia, that the national power to protect employment was exercised on behalf of certain of our industries, which were safeguarded against an importation of goods produced under less humane conditions than obtain here. The same national power was also employed in an attempt to insure better conditions for wage earners in protected industries, and as a corollary, to equalize, as far as was necessary, the general conditions of manufacture throughout the Commonwealth.
– Joshua had not spoken then.
– No, and I do not hesitate to say that the spirit of Joshua will haunt the Government until they do exactly what he bids them.
– It is something like a “ boomerang.”
– It is almost as bad. The memorandum continues -
As it was under the Commonwealth power of taxation that the manufacturer obtained the benefits of a protective Tariff, the same power of taxation was sought to be exercised to give protection to his employes by means of an Excise Tariff. Excise duties were placed on certain classes of goods protected by Customs duties, and an exemption from the Excise was granted in favour of goods for the making of which fair and reasonable wages were paid. It has now been decided by the High Court that: the Constitution does not warrant the duties of Excise thus imposed by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
As the power to protect the manufacturer is national, it follows that, unless the Parliament of the Commonwealth also acquires power to secure fair and reasonable conditions of employment to wage earners, the policy of protection must remain incomplete.
The object of the proposed amendment of the Constitution will be to endow the Parliament of the Commonwealth with a grant of power to do economic justice in protected industries, with due regard to the unity of the Commonwealth, and the diversity of local circumstance’s.
We come now to the most important statement -
The electors will be invited to empower the Commonwealth to determine the employment and remuneration of labour in protected industries in view of the protection granted to the manufacturer under the Commonwealth Tariff. In some industries the existing protection may enable the payment of fair and reasonable rates of wages. In other industries not sufficiently protected to enable the full standard of remuneration to be paid, the payment of at least a minimum wage can be required, pending the enactment of effective protection. Unprotected industries will not be affected.
The question whether an industry is a protected industry will be left to the decision of the Inter-State Commission.
The amendment will enable Parliament to empower the Inter-State Commission to determine the various conditions affecting employes in protected industries.
Parliament will also be enabled to provide the necessary machinery for adjudication and administration, and in classes of cases in which Parliament thinks that the decision of the Commission ought to be subject to review, may establish an appellate tribunal, such as the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
It is unnecessary for me to read further. According to statements emanating from the Prime Minister, and published in the press, it now appears that the course which the Prime Minister stated in this memorandum would be taken - and it was upon that assurance that he was kept in office - is not to be followed. The honorable gentleman proposes to take some other action.
– Wiser counsels have prevailed.
– Have they come from the honorable member or from Mr. Joshua? Perhaps, as the honorable member for Adelaide would say, they have come in the shape of sweet strains of music, from Mr. Beale, or else from the President of the Manufacturers’ Association. Have these wiser counsels been tendered by Mr. Walpole. who said that marriage was a luxury for the workers, and who is now forming new organizations to support the
Government Party? All the gentlemen I have named have a very great influence over honorable members opposite. Need we be surprised that they have? Any one who has had experience of the present Prime Minister during the last seven or eight years must know that one may squeeze and mould him as one thinks fit. Those who have watched his parliamentary career know that he has been moulded from time to time at the will of others.
– The Labour Party must have been squeezing him very hard.
– We had no occasion to squeeze him. He was so fond of office, so much in love with the social position, that it gave him, that all the famous caucus had to do was to pass a resolution that such-and-such a thing should be done, and it was done. As the right honorable member far East Sydney would say, it wasa case of “Yes, Mr. Watson.” It is now a case of “ Yes; Mr. Cook.” The present Minister of Defence has merely to say, “We want so-and-so,” and the want is satisfied. Even if the request relates to a proposal to establish the Federal Capital in a district devoid of an adequate water supply, the Prime Minister will say, “Yes, Mr. Cook,” and will keep on saying so. If the Employers’ Federation desired any special legislation, I believe that, with the influence of the honorable member for Echuca behind it, it would obtain, from the Prime Minister the answer, “ Yes, Mr. Palmer.” I say, unhesitatingly, that the proposal of the late Government for carrying out the policy of the New Protection - a policy of which this Parliament has approved over and over again - is the only effective one that has been submitted. We are now informed by the press that the Government do not intend to propose an amendment of the Constitution. The very fact that the Federated Employers’ Union and the Chamber of Manufactures approve of the course to be taken by the Government is sufficient to show that they practically have the Government in hand. If I wanted a case to justify the remarks which I have made, I need only mention what has happened within the last few days. We have a Minister of the Crown who declares emphatically to the press and the country that the toll telephone rates have come to stay. Then what happens? The Chamber of Manufactures and the Federated Employers’ Union come along and demand from that Minister the removal of those rates and the restoration of the old rates. Whereupon the honorable gentleman says,” Yes, Mr. Manufacturer; Yes, Mr. Chamber of Commerce,” and withdraws the provisional proposals made by the late PostmasterGeneral.
– They are not withdrawn. They are only suspended.
– Suspended ! I have heard of a man being suspended by the neck. He was. “ only suspended,” but he was pretty dead all the same.
– The Chapman toll rates are still in force.
– The honorable gentleman knows that the Government could just as legitimately have allowed the proposals of the late Government to stand until an inquiry was made, if any further inquiry was necessary. If the action which the Minister has taken is correct, then all the heads in that Department ought to be sacked for not being competent to carry out their duties. The Minister has all the information which the late PostmasterGeneral had, and if he has made any inquiry into the matter at all he must know that for years past it has been recognised by the Department that some such course as that taken by the late Postmaster-General would have to be followed. The Minister, however, could not withstand the strain of the pressure from the Employers’ Federation. Like the Prime Minister, he was nothing but a piece of putty in the hands of those people.
– When I was a private member, I advised the honorable member for Barrier to suspend the regulations.
– The honorable member, when a private member, had not the same information at his disposal as he has now.
– I did not have the power.
– Perhaps the honrable gentleman did not, but it was the Employers’ Association of Bendigo, as well as the Employers’ Federation in Melbourne, that brought pressure to bear on him, and we all know that ever since he has been in the House he has been merely the agent of those particular people, prepared at all times to do exactly what they bade him do. Another question is the necessity of an amendment of the Old-age Pensions Act. Without going into details regarding that matter, I hope that the Government will come down with some proposals to deal with it as expeditiously as possible. Another important matter that must be dealt with is touched upon in the sixth paragraph of the Governor-General’s speech, in these words : -
The large financial obligations which must necessarily be incurred in the near future demand most careful attention.
I quite agree that something should be done. I recognise that, the States and the Commonwealth have certain functions which each can best perform in its own sphere of action for the good of the people. At the same time the Commonwealth has immense financial obligations facing it. The Northern Territory must be taken over, there is talk ofbuilding a transcontinental railway, and the cost of old-age pensions has to be met. All these will mean the expenditure of a considerable sum. The transfer of the Northern Territory does not involve merely the £3,000,000 odd of the State debts which the Commonwealth will have to take over from South Australia in relation to it. There is also an annual deficit of upwards of £60,000, but a greater outlay will still be required, because the development of that enormous Territory will cost a vast sum of money. First of all, a railway must be run through it, and that work alone will cost a large amount. It must be constructed in such a way as will give the greatest facilities for communication between Port Darwin in the north, and the great centres of population in the south. If the line is to be used for defence purposes it must be laid down on the universal gauge, as a narrow-gauge line would be absolutely useless, and if the Territory is to be properly developed there must be established a fast line of steamers running from there to the older countries of the world. Those are some of the details that must be taken into consideration in dealing with the transfer of the Territory. The railway line alone will probably cost £4,000,000, and then there are the problems of getting the people there, settling them on the soil, and inducing them to remain in that part of Australia. Enormous sums of money must be expended in connexion with that one phase alone of the financial problem.
– I desire to call attention, to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– I am sorry that the bells should have to be rung, but it is a common occurrence to have the Prime
Minister absent from the chamber. Even when he was leading a previous Government we could never “ lay salt on his tail,” and we are now having a similar experience. I was pointing out that a considerable sum of money will be required to carry out the various proposals before us ; and this means that at an early date the Commonwealth will have to get additional moneys. There is the proposal so dear to the heart of the right honorable member for Swan - the” desert” railway, or the railway to Western Australia. The estimated cost of that line is admitted to be about £5,000,000 ; and if the Commonwealth make a seventh borrower in Australia, we shall be saddled with an enormous interest bill. In whichever way the Government may try to shelve the question, considerable sums of money must be obtained to enable the business of the country to be carried on in a financially sound way. Then £250,000 or £260,000 is required for the bonus to the iron industry, and some £50,000 for bounties to certain agricultural industries, in addition to the expenditure necessary to perfect the lighthouse system around Australia. To all who have travelled, it is well known that the coasts of Australia are, perhaps, the worst lighted there are ; and, if we desire to improve our commerce, one of our first duties is to remedy this defect, so that shipping which comes to our shores may be insured the safest means of entering port. We have been repeatedly told that to put our Post and Telegraph Department into thoroughly up-to-date working order will require an expenditure of something like £2,000,000 ; and I regret very much that the Department should have been allowed to get into such a state. In this connexion Parliament is to a large extent to blame for the manner in which it has dealt with the finances. Although under the Constitution the Commonwealth is entitled to retain one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue, that one-fourth has never yet been wholly retained ; on the contrary, we have foolishly returned to the States upwards of £6,000,000 beyond the three-fourths of the revenue to which they are entitled. That I regard as a great blunder. Had we put the Post and Telegraph Department into thorough working order, we should not have heard the present growling, or be faced with the financial burden to which I have referred. We have received nothing but blame from the States, but we must not forget that this excess of revenue was returned in a time of drought, when a number of the States were not so prosperous as they are at present. I admit that pressure was brought to bear upon various Commonwealth Governments to return as much as possible to the States, in view of their necessitous circumstances, and I am not blaming any particular Government, but rather the whole Parliament, for acting, as I think, so stupidly in allowing a great Public Department to sink into such a state of disorganization and disrepair. All this means that we are going headlong to financial disaster if something is not done. I find, however, that when I begin to discuss these matters I have not a quorum.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. I think it is a disgrace that Ministers do not stay in their places.[Quorum formed.]
– I regret these frequent interruptions, but it is necessary that we should have the Prime Minister and Treasurer in the House, even if only occasionally. I know that the Prime Minister finds it difficult to attend to his duties in the House for even five minutes, while the Treasurer is so overburdened that it takes him all his time to reach his place when the bells ring. In my humble way I am dealing with matters of great importance, and I think that the Treasurer ought to be here, although I know that he does not care whether the Transcontinental railway be built or not.
– Yes, I do.
– Then the right honorable gentleman ought to be here to listen to those who are prepared to support the proposal.
– I am very glad to do so.
– I am not taking that course at present, but I suggest that the right honorable member might be able to afford us a little information, and clear away some of the hazy notions in my mind concerning the finances of the country.
– The honorable member will get that when the Budget comes on.
– I have no hope of getting in what I want to say when the Budget papers are under consideration. I have regretted that we are compelled to expend a considerably larger sum than we did previously. I have pointed out the various matters which call for the expenditure of large sums. It is necessary that the money should be forthcoming from some source at the earliest possible moment. It is idle for us to say that this Parliament has been brought into existence at considerable cost to the taxpayers, if it is to merely echo the dictates and the will of the State Parliaments. In my opinion, the proposal of the late Government would have met the demands fairly well. They recognised that the demands of the Commonwealth were such as to require additional expenditure to the extent of several millions of pounds, and in order to provide the funds, they proposed to take a certain proportion of the States’ three-fourths share of the Customs and Excise revenue, and to institute a land tax. A land tax must come. May I suggest that the defeat of the late Government was due to one clause in their programme?
– Do not forget the telephones.
– That was, I think, only a matter of secondary consideration.
– It was a matter of national importance.
-The most important feature of the programme was the clause dealing with the imposition of a land tax, on which I shall have something to say later on. We made a fundamental mistake in not separating the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth at the earliest possible moment.
– Hear, hear. That is the greatest mistake which was made.
– We fell into the stupid mistake of raising revenue for somebody else to spend, and’ it should be rectified at the earliest possible moment. No matter what the financial proposals of the Government may be, they should provide methods by which the finances of the States and the Commonwealth may be separated for ever. I learn, from the press, that we are not to be allowed to deal with the matter in that way, and that the Government intend to adopt quite a different method. I do not know whether that is so or not. The Treasurer is very profuse in his interviews. Probably he makes statements which he does not intend to carry out, or, perhaps, they are the usual fireworks which he throws off when he wants to cover up something of a more important nature. We are told by the press that the Government do not intend to sever the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth, but propose to shelve the whole matter for a few years. A proposal of that kind is unworthy of any Govern ment of the Commonwealth. We want additional revenue, and the question is, “ Where is it to come from? “ In the famous Gympie speech, the late Prime Minister told us where the money was to come from, namely, from the States’ threefourths share of the Customs and Excise revenue, and from land taxation. The land tax proposal of the late Government was, to my mind, one of the fairest methods by which the revenue could be obtained. It certainly did not go so far as I would like, but I was merely one of a number, and was prepared to accept that which was offered. Probably if the principle had been affirmed we might have been in a position hereafter to deal with the matter more effectively. The adoption of that policy would have the effect of assisting to break up large estates in this community. Is it not an extraordinary thing that in Australia where, as we know, millions of acres of land are unalienated, the Crown is purchasing private estates? In Queensland, where less than 5 per cent. of the land is alienated, the Crown has spent over £1,500,000 in purchasing private estates. Is it not a remarkable thing that out of the 124,000,000 acres, which have been alienated in this community only 11,000,000 acres are under cultivation, including lands under artificial grasses? To my mind, that is clear proof that the time has arrived when some action should be taken to compel owners either to use their land to the fullest possible capacity, or to allow somebody else to do so. Is it not reasonable to suppose that the alienated portions contain some of the best, if not the very best, lands in Australia, and that the unalienated portions must be second or third class lands? I submit that the time has arrived when a land tax should be imposed in order to assist in compelling land-owners to cut up their estates. Any person who travels from Melbourne to Geelong, or to Kilmore, or to Woodend, is bound to ask himself this question, ‘ ‘ Why is not this enormous area of good land under cultivation? Why is this valuable land held by one man for merely depasturing a few sheep, when thousands of families could be settled thereon? “ Every State is compelled to repurchase land for closer settlement, not because there is not ample land for people to settle on. for in Australia we have ample land for millions of settlers, but because, unfortunately, the great bulk of the land is held for speculative purposes, and not in the best interests of the community. In these circumstances, we contend that the imposition of a land tax as proposed by the late Government is the correct policy to adopt. I regret very muchindeed that it was not permitted an opportunity to institute a land tax. Any one who has studied political events in Victoria and other portions’ of Australia must realize the position. At a meeting of the Employers’ Federation, presided over by the honorable member for Fawkner, the organizer of the party on the other side told those present that the whole matter was merely a class struggle. I do not regret that he made that statement, because I have always looked upon it as a class struggle, and I hope that the struggle will go on. It is because Mr. Walpole described it as a class struggle that those opposed to us realized that what was proposedby the late Government in the introduction of a land tax was an attempt to invade the privileges and vested interests which they hold so dear. If we required proof that they were prepared to make it a class fight from that moment, we have only to look at the composition of the present Government, in which we find men who have sacrificed every political principle they previously professed. The beginning and end of the political career of the Prime Minister has depended on his advocacy of the principle of protection, but the honorable gentleman has had to abandon every principle of protection. Why? Because the pressure of those engaged in the class struggle on the other side has compelled him to swallow his principles or to sacrifice and desert them just as it has compelled the honorable member for Parramatta to sacrifice his free-trade principles, so that the vested interests of certain persons shall not be interfered with. In the circumstances we regret very much that the late Government were not permitted to introduce their land taxation proposals. They were of more importance to the defence of this country than all the Dreadnoughts that could possibly be built. The possession of Dreadnoughts will not enable us to hold this country unless it is populated, and if we permit millions of acres to remain in the hands of a few men, we can never have it populated in such a way as to secure its defence. I hear men talking about this country who really know so little about it that I marvel at their impudence in expressing an opinion as to the means of its defence. It is only by travelling over the greater portion of the country that one can have any conception of what the defence of Australia really involves. Unless we compel people to break uptheir large estates, and settle tens of thousands on the lands now held by a few, all the Dreadnoughts that can be built will be of little use in the defence of this country. I hope that the time is not far distant when we shall deal with this matter. I regret very much that the late Government were not permitted to do so, because I am sure they would have dealt with it effectively. I have tried to show the various obligations which have fallen upon the Commonwealth, and which will require large sums of money to finance them. I have said that the late Government proposed direct taxation for this purpose. There are two methods by which Government expenditure can be carried on - by taxation, whether direct or indirect, and by borrowing. It appears to me that the Labour Government adopted the wisest course possible indeciding to impose a land tax to provide the necessary, funds with which to carry out the various obligations of the Commonwealth. They took the right course for this reason : that if they required£1,000,000 for public expenditure and taxed the people to the extent of £500,000, in two years they would have secured the funds they required, and the obligation of the taxpayer in that particular would be at an end. . From press reports we learn that . the present Government propose to take another course. It seems now that we are to have nothing new in the Federal Parliament, but are to be asked to adopt the old methods of boom and burst, which have so long been pursued by the various States Governments. One of the great drawbacks in Australia to-day arises from the fact that sufficient provision was not made to meet the obligations of the States Governments when their various loans became due. While money was being borrowed and expended, everything boomed, but then came a time when the borrowed moneyhad to be repaid, and then the boom was found not to be so satisfactory as it was thought to be.
– The bubble was pricked.
– Yes ; the bubble was pricked. Apparently, the present Government intend to obtain funds for public expenditure by borrowing. Under that system, if £1,000,000 is required for public expenditure, presuming that the Commonwealth can borrow at a cheaper rate than the States, at 3 per cent., instead of 3 J per cent., for the usual term of fifty years, the result would be that at the end of fifty years we should have paid £1,500,000 in interest, and still owe the £1,000,000 originally borrowed. It is estimated that an expenditure of £2,000,000 is required to meet the demands of the Post and Telegraph Department, and if the course proposed by the present Government were followed, the people would have to pay no less than £3,000,000 in interest during the period of the loan, and would still owe the £2,000,000 originally borrowed, so that they would lose by that system of finance no less than £3,000,000. If we may judge the proposals of the present Government by what has appeared in the press, I say that they are not in the interests of the community,, or of the future generation, who must bear the burden of paying off the debts it is proposed now to contract. Speaking particularly of the State from which I come, I can well remember the days when political parties going before the electors used to say that what the people required was a vigorous works policy, an extension of railways, and that they were prepared to borrow money to carry on public works. One or other of the parties was returned to power, and in order to placate their particular followers the Government immediately went on the loan market, and got up what might be termed a glorious public works “drunk,” spending money lavishly in every part of the State. One may travel through almost any part of Australia to-day, and see railways which do not only fail to pay interest on the money invested in their construction, but which, owing to the very small amount of traffic over them, do not earn axle grease. That has been the policy which has obtained in the past, and it “seems to be that which the Government favour at the present time. I extremely regret that it is so. But can we wonder at it, seeing that the Federated Employers’ Union and others have merely to tell the Prime Minister what they want in order to induce him to answer “ Yes.” He dare not move one way or the other without their consent. He is practically in their hands to do just what they dictate. Coming to the question of the adjustment of the future financial relations’ of the States and the Commonwealth, I learn from the press that the States Premiers and the Prime Minister have agreed to meet shortly in yet another conference. As a member of this House I object to the Prime Minister - irrespective of whether he be a Labour or a fusionist Prime Minister - delegating the powers of this Chamber to any Premiers’ Conference. I maintain that any such action is a violation of the Constitution and of the parliamentary principles about which the honorable gentleman boasts so much from time to time. The operation of the Braddon section of the Constitution was limited to a period of ten years for a specific purpose. The object was that within that term the Commonwealth Government might acquire the fullest information in regard to the financial needs of the Commonwealth, so that it would be in a position to satisfactorily deal with (this intricate problem. But the State Premiers appear to think that they are the persons who should settle it. I claim that this Parliament alone is empowered to deal with it, and that it can solve the problem just as effectually and equitably as can any body of State Premiers. I think, sir,” it is just as well that we should have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.] I repeat that the proper tribunal to deal with this important problem is the Commonwealth Parliament, and I do hope that better counsels will prevail with the Ministry, and that they will decline to allow the States Premiers to dictate to them in this matter. I congratulate the late Prime Minister upon the stand which he took at the last Conference of Premiers. Upon that occasion the Premiers evidently thought that they could browbeat the Prime Minister in a manner that would have been degrading to him and humiliating to the community at large. I am. pleased, indeed, that he took up the correct attitude towards that body by stating that whilst he was prepared to listen to any proposals which it had to make, he did not intend to be dictated to. Honorable members will doubtless recollect that a good deal was at the time said in the press about that Conference. The newspapers in the different States made a great deal of the fact that the Premiers intended to uphold a scheme of their own for the settlement of the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth, and that they intended to stump the country in opposition to the re-election of members of this Parliament who were antagonistic to it. They threatened that they would adopt that course on every possible occasion. I do not object to them stumping the country, but I do object to them using the powers of the State in that undertaking. It seems to me that the time has arrived when members of this Parliament should have some regard for their own dignity and honour. It is the bounden duty of every honorable member to fight for the Commonwealth Constitution upon all occasions. But it seems to me that there are a number of honorable members - particularly amongst those who sit upon the opposite side of the chamber - who are prepared to pander at all times to the parochial wishes of the petty Josses of the various States, in order that they may gain a little favour at their hands and score a little party triumph. I maintain that they ought to be above that sort of conduct. Honorable members opposite, who talk so much about dictation, know perfectly well that there is no party which has pandered more to the dictation of the States Premiers than they have. Even the Prime Minister himself has to do exactly what he is told in that connexion. I think, sir, that we ought to have a quorum present.
– There is a quorum present.
– Paragraph No. 8 of the speech deals with a proposal for establishing a Commonwealth silver and paper, currency. Financial institutions and the representatives of various vested interests in this country immediately put up their backs when the late Government made that proposal. Exactly the same arguments were used against the paper currency in Queensland. When the financial crisis of 1893 occurred, and the country from one end to another was thrown into a state of chaos, what was the cause ? It was not that the country was not prosperous, because any one who studies the statistics will find that productivity was greater at that period than it had been at any previous time. But the trouble arose from the fact that the captains of industry throughout the Commonwealth were unable to control the very machine that they themselves had created, with the result that a crisis occurred which landed the whole industrial organization of the country in chaos. At that time to what authority did the financial institutions look to relieve them from their difficulty ? Did they look to their brother speculators? No. They looked for relief to the Government. The Governments of the States, after heroic efforts, did an enormous amount to stay the chaos that our industrial rulers had produced. Queensland went a step further than did the other States in making the paper currency a currency backed by the Government, and controlled by it. Notes were issued to the various banks on their depositing gold with the Treasury to the amount of 25 per cent., which is a greater percentage than is kept by any bank for backing its own note issue. The banks make a large profit out of their note issues at the present time, not only through the handling of the notes themselves, but through the profits accruing in consequence of notes being destroyed by flood or fire, or through being worn out, the whole of this profit going into the coffers of the financial institutions.
– How much does the profit amount to ? It is a mere fleabite.
– It amounts to many thousands of pounds.
– The honorable member may be an authority on this subject, but if so, it is the only subject on which he is an authority. Let me tell him again that the profit amounts to tens of. thousands of pounds in a year.
– Oh, no.
– It does. Under these circumstances, why should not the Government have the profit? Does it belong to the individuals who control the financial institutions? Certainly not. It should belong to the State. In Queensland alone, where the note issue is necessarily small, a large profit is made from this source every year. And there is another feature which, in my opinion, constitutes a stronger argument than the mere saving of a sum of money. It is a well-known fact that in all well regulated and financially sound communities the proportion of note issue to the volume of trade is one-fourth. There is a tendency in times of stress and trouble for the financial institutions to be led away by the desire of people to borrow, to issue more notes than are absolutely necessary. In issuing more notes than the community can consume - that is to say, than are demanded by the community - for every additional note issued, the financial institutions should, for safety’s sake, keep a sovereign. Otherwise a crash must take place. There is proof that the cause of every one of the world’s financial crises during the last one hundred years was not a falling off in production. The people were producing more good things then than at other times. The cause can be traced to a very large extent to the fact that a great deal more paper money was issued than ought to have been issued, with the result that a run on various banks took place, and crises were created. That is one of the reasons, apart from merely monetary considerations, why the currency should be controlled by the State. But interested parties, in the shape of financial institutions, say : “ No ; you must not allow the paper money to be issued by the State; that is Socialism.” But they are not frightened because it is Socialism. Their real grievance is that the proposal would take from them some of the privileges that they now enjoy, and some of the profit which ought to be held in trust by the Government for the good of the people. Butuntil the Government controls the note issue, we shall never have a sound financial position, because there is clear proof that in 1893,in every State in Australia, the Government had to guarantee the notes issued by the various banks. Another question is that of the Commonwealth coining silver. It is a question that ought to be settled at the earliest possible moment. I regret very much that successive Governments, since Federation, have not taken the matter in hand seriously, and dealt with it in a way that would be beneficial to Australia. The Commonwealth is being deprived of a large amount of revenue by reason of the fact that its silver coinage is minted elsewhere. Were the work done in Australia, employment would be found for more people, and the profit gained in the transaction could be spent for the benefit of the community. I regret that past Governments have not successfully concluded negotiations with the British Government in this matter. We should mint all the coins circulating in Australia, and enjoy the profits therefrom, of course, making provision for the loss on worn and defaced coins. I come now to an all-important matter, the question of defence. We must realize that Australia is a territory twice as large as India, whose population exceeds 300,000,000; half the size of China, whose population is more than 400,000,000, and about thirty times the size of Japan, whose population is over 40,000,000. Even Java, a mere speck in comparison with this continent, has a population of 30,000,000. Within fourteen days’ sail of our northern shores are 800,000,000 Asiatics, or about half the human family. The honorable member for Parramatta has told us that, according to a great scientist, the Asiatic population of the world doubles every fifty years, so that half a century hence it will be 1,600,000,000, while, should our population increase at the same rate, which is much greater than its present rate of increase, it would number only 9,000,000. Is it unreasonable to suppose that these 1,600,000,000 of coloured persons will cast envious eyes upon any sparsely populated territory which may be adjacent to theirs? The eastern nations are now developing in a manner very different from the anticipations of some years ago. There was a time when they seemed content to allow the peoples of western Europe to control the world’s commerce; but to-day, in Egypt, Persia, China, Japan, and India, the national spirit claims the right to govern. Japan, having sucked . the brains of the eminent men of Europe, has now assumed control of its own industries, telling the white races that it can manage its affairs for itself. To-day, the Japanese are the serious rivals of Europeans in pursuits which were formerly followed only by the latter, and are openly competing for the world’s trade. In many industries, the Japanese have driven out white men altogether. We shall not be able to hold our enormous territory unless we populate it; and there is no hope of doing that until we have devised methods for settling the land. In adopting the White Australia policy, we took it upon ourselves to grapple with a problem whose solution will require the whole energy, enthusiasm, and patriotism of every member of the community. If we succeed, we shall show to the world that the white man is as efficient a worker in tropical climates as are coloured persons of any nationality.
– I think that there should be a quorum to listen to the honorable member. [Quorum formed.]
– Great doubt Has been expressed as to the chance of success of the White Australia policy, but I believe that the white man can do as well, and, in fact, better, in tropical Australia than any black man. When we sought to get rid of black labour we were told that white men would be ineffective on the sugar-fields ; that it was a purely black man’s industry. Time has proved, however, that the white man can do better work than the black man can in the cane-fields, and we have solved the labour problem so far as that industry is concerned. There are many other industries, however, that must yet be brought into existence in the utilization of the rich tropical lands of Queensland and the Northern Territory, and in connexion with them the labour problem is one that may well tax the energy arid ability of every member of the community. I have shown what the nations of the East are doing in developmental efforts on lines beneficial to themselves, irrespective of anything that the white man may do. There white men have been forced out of many industries, and since we are told that the population of these Eastern countries is doubling itself -every fifty years, it is only reasonable to suppose that they will cast longing eyes On Australia, which is yet but sparsely settled. In these circumstances, therefore, the question of defence is one of the most important that we have to discuss. As stated in the Governor- General’s speech, the important question of the defence of the Commonwealth as an integral part of the British Empire received the close attention of the late Government. Various proposals have been made to provide an effective defence, and it was the honorable member for West Sydney who first submitted to this House a motion providing for universal training. That motion was carried by a substantial majority, with the result that the present Prime Minister, at a later stage, made a statement in the House as to the intentions of the Government in regard to it. In the last stage of a dying session, the Prime Minister devoted four hours to the discussion of the defence problem, and the few then present listened with the greatest attention and patience as he unfolded the policy of his Government. What was that policy? It provided for universal training. Youths and men were to be drilled and trained in the use of arms, and were tq belong to a National Guard until they were about thirty years of age. We are now informed by the press that the honorable gentleman has considerably modified that proposal, and that the present Government would confine the defence of the country to a very small section of the community. The system of training is to be confined to school cadets and youths. We need a more vigorous policy - a policy that will enable and fit every man in the community to take up arms in the defence of the country. It has been said that universal training is a form of conscription. 1 differ from that view. The proposal of the late Government, under which it was intended that every man in the Commonwealth should be trained to bear arms for the defence of his country, was calculated to carry out, not only the wishes of this Parliament, but of the whole community. This brings me to the point that the honorable gentleman who has been deputed by the Government to represent the Commonwealth at the Imperial Defence Conference has made a distinct statement to the effect that universal training should be for aggressive purposes. I do not wish to question the honorable member’s technical knowledge of military matters, but I certainly think that his statement is an extraordinary one. I hope the time will never come when the flower of the youth of Australia will be made an armed force for aggressive purposes. In the speech to which I have referred, the present leader of the Government made a strong point of the intention of the then Administration, that the force to be created should not be for aggressive purposes. The Labour Party are opposed to war in all’ its forms, regarding it as brutal, cruel, and unjust, and as calculated to cultivate only the baser qualities of mankind. Holding that view, we asked ourselves what was the best way to provide for the defence of Australia. We knew that democracies, wherever they existed, had been crushed by military caste, and we desired to prevent the growth of anything like a military caste in Australia. It was for that reason that the proposal for universal training, put forward by the honorable member for West Sydney, was supported by us. We knew that if every man in the community were given a rudimentary knowledge of drill, and of the use of arms, he would be prepared to protect his home when occasion arose, and that by means of universal training we should avoid the creation of a military caste in Australia. Realizing that, we declared unhesitatingly for universal training. It is the duty of every man to undergo training, not because he loves aggression, and not that he may be used for aggressive purposes, but because it is necessary for him to defend his home. The fact stares us in the face to-day that the world is anning, and we in our small way must make some attempt to protect ourselves. If we do not, then in the event of misfortune happening to the Mother Country, we maysuffer to a much greater extent than we could possibly do if we were an armed nation. In these circumstances, we consider that it is necessary for every man to bear arms. But why have the Government backed down from their previous proposals? Is it at the instance of the honorable member for Parramatta that they have decided to reduce the age? That was one point which the Age newspaper insisted upon - and that is the paper which runs the Prime Minister. He dare not move without the Age behind his back, and if that paper had stood out against the coalition there would have been none.
– Did it not stand out against it?
– Only up to a certain point, and then it thought that it had the free-trade opposition “by the wool.” Unfortunately, the then leader of the Opposition had not much wool to get hold of, but he had obtained a good hold of the protectionist wool which, being much longer, he was able to handle more easily. At that time the Age thought that it was gaining a point on the free-trade opposition, and I was inclined to think so too, even up to the time when the honorable member for Adelaide delivered his speech ; but when the whole thing came out - when we heard the right honorable member for East Sydney state that certain sections of the agreement, which were to safeguard the protective policy, had to be dropped out, and the honorable member for Lang, the honorable member for Wentworth, and the honorable member for Robertson, together with the right honorable member for East Sydney. announced that they were to have a free hand on the fiscal issue - I came to the conclusion that the protectionists had, to a certain extent, been trapped.
– The protectionists are all right.
– They are all right, not because of the support which they will get from honorable members opposite, but because a large proportion, if not the whole, of the party on this side, will back them up. Why, then, have the Government backed down on their defence proposals? It is true that they have told the Mother Country that they are prepared to give a Dreadnought, . or some equivalent. When that proposal emanated from the Age newspaper, the present Prime Minister said, “ Yes. Mr. Age, we shall give a Dreadnought.” The honor able member for Parramatta and a number of others were at that time of opinion that the course that should be followed was not to give a Dreadnought to the Mother Country, but to increase the naval subsidy ; but they thought that the Dreadnought proposal would be a popular cry, and so they adopted it. The then Prime Minister, the honorable member for Wide Bay, knew that he could not give a Dreadnought, and that he had not the money to purchase one. He was, therefore, honest enough to tell the Imperial Government that while the Government of the Commonwealth were quite prepared to take the responsibility for the defence of this portion of the Empire, they were not prepared to give a Dreadnought. The Premier of Queensland took up a similar position, but the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria, in a half-hearted manner, and to show their contempt for the Commonwealth, said, “ If the Commonwealth won’t do it, we will.” But they have done nothing. Then the great patriotic citizens of New South Wales offered to raise a subscription towards the cost of a Dreadnought. The same thing was done in one or two places in Queensland, and in my electorate they have a whole£156 towards the sum necessary. In New South Wales, where such a fuss was made, the magnificent sum of £78,000 is promised, and there is only£10,000 in hand, after about three months’ work.
– Just enough to paint the vessel.
– I do not know whether that would give it even a reasonable coat of paint. I suppose, if we took out the£20,000’s and£10,000’s promised, we should find that there are not more than 1,000 subscribers at the outside to the New South Wales Dreadnought fund. I regret very much to hear that the heads of Departments in that State have practically used their influence to intimidate public servants to subscribe to the fund. I understand that that has not been allowed in the Commonwealth service. Such a thing is not calculated to promote the best interests of any service. We were not in a position to give a Dreadnought, and when the Government made their offer to the Imperial Government they knew all the time that it would not be accepted. With that knowledge they were prepared to show the people of the Mother Country and of Australia what a loyal Go- vernment they were. They were not in a position to give a Dreadnought, because they had not one to give. They were not in a position to buy one, because they had not the money to buy it with. Even if the Imperial Government had accepted their offer they would have had to borrow the money from England to buy the vessel with.
– That is too thin.
– It is just as if I asked the honorable member for Indi to lend me a couple of shillings in order that I might buy him a drink. In the circumstances, the late Government acted most honestly, and I very much regret that the present Government were not equally honest. They should have told the Imperial Government that they had not the money to purchase a Dreadnought to give them, and that they did not think the time had arrived to place additional burdens upon the people of Australia by borrowing £2,000,000 for the purpose. I regard the action of the Government as hypocritical, and the offer as one which ought never to have been made on behalf of the Commonwealth. Paragraph 10 of His Excellency’s speech is as follows: -
Recent events have shown the necessity for the Empire to develop new centres of strength, and with this end in view My Advisers some time ago cabled to the British Government suggesting the advisability of a Conference of the self-governing Dominions of the Empire with the Government of the United Kingdom on the question of Naval Defence. A similar suggestion having been made by the Dominion of Canada, the British Government has now convened an Imperial Naval and Military Defence Conference, and has invited the Commonwealth to send representatives. The invitation has been accepted, and the Minister of Defence has been appointed as the representative of the Commonwealth. He will be accompanied by naval and military experts.
This brings me to the appointment of the honorable member for Brisbane to represent the Government at the Conference. The military knowledge of the honorable member may be all that is desired; he has been connected with the military for a long time, and, so far as I know, is of high distinction in his rank. But I object to a representative who holds views totally opposite to those of the Government. If the Government have adopted the honorable member’s views, why have they not the honesty to tell us so?
– Members of the Government hold views opposite to those of the Government as a whole.
– That is, if the Government have any views at all beyond sitting on the Treasury bench ; I know that beyond that objective the Prime Minister has none. It is to be very much regretted that the Government should have made this appointment a party question, because, if there is a matter which should be dealt with, putting aside all party considerations, it is that of the defence of the country. I hope the time will never come when honorable members on this side of the House will make such a question a party one.
– Did not the late Government do exactly the same thing?
-For the sake of argument, I will admit that the late Government did the same thing; but does that justify a Government doing another wrong? I disapprove altogether of this being made a party question, but, on every possible occasion, the Government have sought to make it so, to such an extent that, at the last moment, after the members of the Government had been sworn in, they thought it necessary to placate the honorable member for Brisbane. That gentleman, as Honorary Minister, was sworn in at a later time in order that he might be appointed the representative of the Government at the Conference, and that was the only opportunity there was of assisting him in that particular direction.
– That is not so, and I ought to know, because I was there.
– Why was it that the honorable member for Brisbane sat on the cross benches? Why was it that the honorable member for Parramatta took him from the cross benches, and held a conversation with him in the corner?
– Because the honorable member for Brisbane could not previously be found.
– The honorable member for Brisbane was at his dentist’s all the morning.
– The honorable member for Brisbane contradicts that little statement, and says he was about the House.
– The honorable member told me the opposite.
– On second thoughts, the Government thought it necessary to placate the honorable member for Brisbane. Owing to the influence he has over certain honorable members, it was deemed necessary that he should be in the Government, because Ministers knew that their position would not be secure unless he had office. In order to get the honorable member for Brisbane into the Government, he was made an Honorary Minister, and then, on further consideration, he was sent to the Conference to get him out of the way.
– Does the honorable member really believe that?
– I do; and have we no right to protest in the strongest way against the action of the Government, the members of which have sacrificed every principle - if they ever had any principles to sacrifice? One or two members of the Government may have principles, but the great bulk have none. Does the right honorable member for Swan mean to tell me that, if he were the leader of a strong Government, he would send to an Imperial Conference a man who, in a press interview, had expressed views diametrically opposed to those of the Government?
– The right honorable member would not have done so in Western Australia.
– No ; the right honorable member would have promptly told such a man that there was no room for him in the Government. There was ample opportunity to have obtained other representatives; and even the Melbourne Age, which practically supports the Government, deprecated the appointment of the honorable member for Brisbane, saying that it was most deplorable that a man should be sent who was opposed to their views, and that the only hope of proper representation would be in sending Senator Pearce, the Minister of Defence in the late Administration. Paragraph11 of His Excellency’s speech is as follows: -
The scheme for the establishment of an Imperial General Staff for the Empire has been approved, subject to effective local control being retained, and military representatives to that staff have been appointed.
I do not know much of military matters, or what the constitution of such a body would be, but I should say that, if we are to prepare for the defence of the country, it must,to a certain extent, be with the co-operation of the Imperial Government, and that we should have the best possible advice. In my opinion the late Government took the proper course in dealing with this important question.
There were these further appointments to be made, and I desire to know what course the Government intend to take. We are engaged in discussing the AddressinReply, and yet we do not know exactly how they propose to deal with this very important question. I regret that they have not taken the House into their confidence, and furnished the necessary information. Paragraph 12 of the speech reads -
As a contribution towards Imperial Naval Defence, and for the more effective Coastal Defence of’ Australia, engagements have been entered into for the building of three modern torpedo boat destroyers, and you will be asked’ to approve of a policy of naval construction for the building in Australia of similar vessels, as well as for the training of crews to man them.
Every one will remember how those engagements were brought about. The Government previously led by the honorable member for Ballarat were very desirous that a Trust Fund should be established for promoting naval construction, and the House readily voted for the purpose the sum of , £250,000. The honorable gentleman has always talked about what he was going to do as regards coastal defence, and had a stiff backbone when he had a decent majority behind him. But on this question, how did he act? Did he act like a man who was sincere in his professions about securing the defence of this country? Did he act in a way which was likely to establish the naval policy which he described, in that famous speech extending over four hours and a half? Nothing of the kind. Although he had a quarter of a million pounds at his disposal to initiate a system of coastal defence, yet he had neither the courage nor the backbone to use it for that purpose. I offer my hearty congratulations to the members of the late Government for the action which they took. Knowing that the money had been voted for promoting coastal defence, they, like wise men, turned round and put forward a naval policy: In the first place, they decided that two boats should be built in England, and brought out; and that a third boat should be sent out in parts, to be put together here. They went farther than that. In order to encourage local industry, and to fill our industrial youth with enthusiasm, they selected in the different Statesa number of competent men to take part in the construction of the boats in England, and to return ‘to Australia to assist, not only in assembling the imported parts, but in building other boats. The policy of the late Government embraced the construction of nineteen boats in all - namely, two in England and seventeen in Australia. That would have meant a great deal to Australia and its workers, especially to iron workers, because docks and ship-building yards would have had to be established.I thoroughly approve of the statement of the late Prime Minister at Gympie that the time had arrived when we should have our own docks and ship-building yards. By that means we should be in a position to help the Mother Country to a far greater extent than we could by presenting her with a Dreadnought for the simple reason that she is not in a position to build vessels of that type at a faster rate than Germany. If that statement is true, and we had a dockyard in Victoria and in New South Wales capable of building Dreadnoughts, we should be in a position to render valuable assistance to the Mother Country. If the time should ever arrive when the Old Country was in need of Dreadnoughts, we could build two, probably more. If any country should outrun the standard set by the Imperial Government, we could immediately go to their rescue and undertake to build some Dreadnoughts. That is the greatest assistance which we could render to the Old Country. I again offer my hearty congratulations to the late Government for the action they took. In my opinion, their policy in that regard was a good one. Inspite of all the taunts and slurs which have been hurled by honorable members opposite at the proposed mosquito fleet, who have declared that it will not be worth anything so far as the defence of Australia is concerned,have not naval authorities in this community, as well as in other parts of the Empire, declared that it is one of the best forms of defence which could be adopted by Australia? The best way in which we can assist the Imperial Government to defend the Empire is by taking the necessary precautions for our own defence. In these circumstances I regret that the present Government have not taken a more definite stand. What is the proposal of its leader? It is merely to build three or four boats at the outside. The late Government were prepared to build nineteen boats, but the present Government seem to me to be all talk, and not to be prepared to do anything. Even when they had £250,000 in a Trust fund, with parliamentary authority to expend it in the construction of boats for naval defence, they had not the courage to act. It was left to the Labour Government to spend the money which Parliament had voted for a specific purpose. I think that they took a right course in carrying out their defence policy as far as they did.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45p.m.
– In paragraph 15 of His Excellency’s speech, I find the statement -
My Advisers recognise that the effective defence of Australia requires a vast increase of the population, and that a comprehensive policy of immigration is urgently called for; but that this is impossible without” increasing the facilities for the settlement of a large population on the land. Deeming this matter to be one of extreme urgency, it is proposed to bring forward at the earliest possible date a measure providing for the progressive taxation of unimproved land values, which, while providing revenue, will, it is anticipated, lead to the subdivision of large estates and cause extensive areas to be thrown open to settlement, and so offer to immigrants those inducements which are necessary to attract them in large numbers.
I shall not enlarge upon what I have already said on this question in dealing with land taxation, but I urgently appeal to the Government to take the earliest possible steps by the adoption of a system of land taxation- which I believe to be the only effective means to attain the end in view - for the settlement of a large population upon the lands of this country. By that means the lands now held by a few monopolists, who do not fully utilize them, might be settled by thousands of people. I heartily congratulate the late Government upon the action they proposed; to take in this connexion. From the expressions of opinion we have heard throughout the Commonwealth, I believe the time is not far distant when a land tax will be imposed for Commonwealth purposes. Some honorable members say that they thoroughly believe in land taxation, and that a land tax ought to be imposed at the earliest possible moment, but they go on to say that for the Commonwealth to impose it would be to interfere with the powers reserved to the States. They thus shelve the settlement of the question, and on the other hand the States Governments contend that for ordinary purposes sufficient revenue can be derived from Customs and Excise, and that if additional revenue is required, it is the Federal Government that should impose land taxation. Whilst the question is being bandied about between the Commonwealth and States Governments nothing is done. My own opinion is that if the Commonwealth
Government do not take the question seriously in hand, the closer settlement of our sparsely populated areas will never take place. Apart from all party considerations, I think it is the duty of the Federal Government to take action in the matter, and I again congratulate the late Government on having proposed to do so. We know that it was the one proposal that they submitted which brought about their defeat, owing to the fact that financial institutions that have been so largely involved in land transactions in this country, and others whose vested interests were assailed, brought pressure to bear upon honorable members now forming the Government party to sink their opinions in order to stave off the proposed land taxation. But just so surely as we are here this evening the time will come when land taxation will be imposed, despite any fusion of political parties, or any attempt to coerce Parliament by the financial institutions. Paragraph 16 of the speech refers to the Northern Territory, and I have already made some references to the proposed transfer of that Territory to the Commonwealth. I am reminded by the honorable member for Grey that the Northern Territory embraces an area of 335,000,000 acres, and though we are aware that it possesses magnificent resources, it is idle to talk of its development unlesswe are prepared to undertake the expenditure of very large sums of money. There is a portion of country fronting the Gulf of Carpentaria which is practically unknown to many Australians, and I make bold to say that in that tract of country, there is a new province yet to be added to the Commonwealth. I take the country from the Batavia River, which runs from about 150 miles inland into the Gulf of Carpentaria, down to the Barkly tableland, extending from Camooweal for about 300 miles, into the Northern Territory. Thattableland is the principal watershed of a number of rivers running into the Gulf, such as the Roper and Macarthur in the Northern Territory, and on the Queensland side the Albert, Leichhardt, and several others. These are perennial streams, carrying large bodies of water, and the magnificent flats to be found along those rivers are capable of carrying a large population. I regret very much that honorable members generally have not had an opportunity of seeing that magnificent country, and of judging its capabilities for themselves. I feel sure that if they saw it they would realize, as I do, that it represents practically a new and valuable province for the Commonwealth. But I repeat that we cannot expect to develop that territory without the expenditure of a very considerable sum of money. The sooner that is realized the better. Judging from what we have seen in the press, the Prime Minister intends to ask the House to confirm an agreement for the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth; but it is useless for us to consent to that transfer unless we are prepared to develop the Territory. I personally regret that Papua is not being developed as I should like to see it developed, and if we are to take the same course with the Northern Territory, all talk about locking the back door of Australia against the invasion of Asiatic hordes is only so much sham and hypocrisy. Unless we are prepared to face the very considerable expenditure which will be involved in the proper development of the Northern Territory, we should not take it over from South Australia. Where is the money which will be required for its development to come from?
– Can we not get it from a land tax?
– We were quite prepared to impose land taxation to provide the funds necessary to carry out Commonwealthobligations, but the honorable member for Indi and his friends are not prepared to adopt that means of raising revenue. I know that their idea is to tax the unfortunate tea-drinkers of this country. They want a tax levied upon tea. They favour any form of taxation which will remove the burden from the shoulders of those who are best able to bear it, and place it upon the masses of the people.
– The honorable member is ready enough to tax the workers when it suits him to do so.
– When the honorable member catches me voting in the direction he suggests, it will be time enough for him to talk. Paragraph 17 of the GovernorGeneral’s speech reads -
Proposals will be submitted to you for the amendment of the Constitution to enable Parliament to protect the interests of the consumer and insure a fair and reasonable wage to every worker in the Commonwealth.
That has reference to the question of the new protection, with which I have already dealt at some length. I do not propose to again traverse the same ground. Paragraph 18 reads -
Following upon the Seat of Government Act passed last session, and the selection of the Yass-Canberra district as the site of the Federal Capital, surveys and negotiations are proceeding, and it is” confidently expected that final arrangements for the acquisition of the Federal Territory will shortly be completed.
As one who last session voted for the YassCanberra site, I was hopeful that our decision upon that occasion would have finally determined this matter. But it now transpires that the territory which Parliament selected is not so suitable for the purposes of a Federal Capital as we thought it was. The surveyor who was deputed to make the necessary surveys, has reported that the only water supply obtainable in that territory would be by means of a costly pumping scheme, and that it would then only be sufficient to generate electricity to the extent of some 3,000 or 4,000 horsepower. If that be so, the time has arrived when we ought to reconsider our decision in this matter. I regret very much that the surveyor has reported adversely to our preconceived ideas in this connexion. The next paragraph in the Vice-Regal speech states -
A measure providing for the appointment of a High Commissioner, urgent on many grounds, will be submitted for your consideration.
We all know that a Bill of this kind has been talked over ever since the establishment of the Commonwealth. It has been promised by successive Governments, whether for the purpose of placating supporters or not, I do not know. I should, however, like to know what is going to be done in this matter, and who is to receive the appointment. Quite recently, I read a report in one of the newspapers to the effect that the Fisher Government had considered the advisability of granting the High Commissioner emoluments to the tune of £10,000 annually. I have consulted various members of the late Government upon this point, and every one of them has assured me that he had never previously heard the matter mentioned. Yet, the press endeavoured to buttress the suggested payment of £10,000 annually to the High Commissioner, by alleging that that was the sum which the Labour Government approved of giving to the occupant of that distinguished office. Various journals advocate the granting of a salary of £5,000 to the High Commissioner with very liberal allowances - allowances which would practically total another £5,000. Where is all this money to come from? Before we are asked to vote such a large sum, we should know who is to receive the appointment. The names of several honorable members have been mentioned in this connexion. I recognise the qualifications of some of them ; but I hope that none of the remainder will ever have an opportunity of representing Australia in the Old Country. The right honorable member for East Sydney has been spoken of as the first High Commissioner ; and, while I do not agree with him politically, I must admit that his qualifications are a long way ahead of those of any other person whose name has been mentioned. Whether or not he will be selected for the office, I do not know. This reference leads me naturally to a practice affecting the composition of Governments in this Parliament which I cannot regard as other than a serious violation of the Constitution. When the first Commonwealth Government was established, it contained seven Cabinet Ministers. A little later, an additional Minister was added. Then, only a session ago, we witnessed the remarkable spectacle of the present Prime Minister appointing the GovernmentWhip as Secretary to the Cabinet. I do not know exactly what was meant by that office, but certainly the idea prompting its creation was to confer upon the Government Whip, official rank. In order to obtain a majority, the present Government have found it necessary to add two more Honorary Ministers to its ranks. If this sort of thing is to continue, why should there not be ten Honorary Ministers, if the adoption of that course be necessary to placate its supporters?
– Probably there will be, later on.
– Probably. If the Government are to be permitted to increase the number of Honorary Ministers at their discretion, it is abouttime thatthe country dealt with the question, and definitely stated in the Constitution how many Cabinet Ministers there should be.
– There has never been more than seven Ministers of State.
– Then, what is the Prime Minister now ? Is he not a Minister of State? He is holding office without portfolio, and other Ministers are holding portfolios only because it was necessary to placate certain members, in order that the
Government might obtain a majority, If it was necessary to take in more members, why should there not be twelve, fourteen, eighteen, or twenty members of the Cabinet? It might in some cases be necessary to. make so many appointments in order to enable a Government to retain power. If we do not impose a limitation we shall have bribery and corruption in the political life of this Parliament.
Dr.Wilson. - There is not much bribery attached to an honorary ministership.
– Does not the honorable member know that these Honorary Ministers do not hold their positions for nothing? Every one of them is paid.
– Why; should they not be?
– I am not objecting to that; but my point is that this system conduces to corruption, which, is one of the worst things that can happen to any Parliament. We talk about “ Tammany “ in America. Why, it is not a bit worse than the action taken by the Prime Minister on this occasion.
– The Government were forced to take in the honorable member for Brisbane.
– They were absolutely forced. The appointment was only made at the last moment. It was done in this House, not outside.
– It is a. scandal that the honorable member for Brisbane was ever taken in.
– Of course, it is. I say again that that appointment was made in this House, and not outside. This is a very serious matter. I mention it because the High Commissionership seems to be another appointment which the Government contemplate making at the earliest possible moment, in order to try to secure their position on the Treasury bench.
– How can they do that? If they make the appointment they lose a member.
– Was not Mr. Staniforth Smith sent to Papua at the instance of the Labour Party, in return for his services in another place ? It was nothing but a bribe.
– I would not reply to that interjection, except that the press will in all probability carefully record it, and it would be believed, unless it were replied to. Let me tell the honorable member that the gentleman who now holds the position referred to in Papua was not a member of Parliament when appointed; he was never a member of the Labour Party, and it was not the Labour Government that appointed him. He was a member of the Deakin party, of which the honorable member for Hunter is a supporter at the present time.
– It was through the Labour Party that his appointment was forced.
– The honorable member does not know anything about the matter.
– Yes, I do.
– The appointment of Mr. Staniforth Smith to Papua was made by the Prime Minister, of whom the honorable member is at present such an obedient follower.
– It was a very proper appointment, too.
– Another measure that has been before Parliament for a considerable time is the Navigation Bill. The country was put to considerable expense in the appointment of a Royal Commission to collect evidence on the subject, and furnished Parliament with a very valuable document. But now we find that the measure has been hung up. I trust, however, that at the earliest opportunity it will be passed. It is another measure that the Labour Ministry attempted to push forward, and which the present Government have refused to have anything at all to do with. While the late Government were in office they did very good work in the interests of the Commonwealth. It is a very pleasant thing for me as a member of the Labour Party to be able to stand here and say that we had a Government in office which, during its six or seven months of administrative life, carried out a policy which has not been the subject of a single indictment from the other side. Honorable members opposite have not ventured to say that they dissent from the administrative acts of the late Government. I congratulate the members of the Labour Government upon occupying such an unique position that neither their policy has been assailed, nor their administration attacked.
– There are a few little blots on their administration.
-It is easy for the honorable member to say that there are a few blots on the administration of the
Labour Government, and small blots at that. But the honorable member does not tell us what they are. I make bold to say that if he knew of any faults which could be found with the administration of the Labour Government, he would be one of the very first to point out to the people of this country exactly what they were.
– The administration was rotten.
– There was the expenditure of the£250,000 for instance.
– The expenditure of the£250,000 was one of the very best things that the Labour Government did. I like to reply to intelligent interjections, and let me tell the honorable member for Hunter that when he makes the bold statement that the administration of the late Government was “rotten,” I can only reply that he does not know what he is talking about. If he knows that the administration was rotten, he is failing in his duty as a member of this House in not showing the rottenness. . Either he has not sufficient intelligence to show that the administration was rotten, or else the statement is a mere bald one not worth taking notice of. The expenditure’ of the £250,000 was, as I have said, one of the best things that the Labour Government did, and the reason why honorable members opposite are crying out about it is that the Government which they support did not have the opportunity of spending the money. Why did not the Deakin Government spend it? Because the present Prime Minister had not the courage. Honorable members like the honorable member for Hunter and the honorable member for Echuca never lost an opportunity of taunting the present Prime Minister with his want of backbone. The honorable member for Indi used to taunt the honorable member for Ballarat with want of courage and backbone; but now both he and the honorable member for Echuca sit behind that honorable gentleman, and do exactly what they are told by him to do.
– I shall give the honorable member the two drinks he spoke of if he will prove that statement by a reference to Hansard.
– The honorable member knows that I am a teetotaller. The honorable member for Robertson, in a straightforward and honest criticism published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, on the 18th of this month, denounced the pre sent Government in very strong terms. As the document, though remarkable and very important, is a long one, I shall quote only a portion of it. In the concluding paragraph, the honorable member said -
The last Federal election in this State was a campaign against Socialism. “Anti-Socialism” was the election cry. The sneaking in of higher duties was not in contemplation. It is but reasonable the electors should be taken into confidence by Mr. Cook, and informed if they are committed to the “ new” Protection proposals of Mr. Deakin. If they are not, they should be given a definite statement with regard to the heavy duties that are foisted upon them.
The Deakin-Cook majority is small and uncertain ; the members forming it are bent upon faith being kept with the people. Humiliation and defeat may overtake the Government at any sitting. An appeal to the country is the solution of the difficulty.
The honorable member has taken an honorable course in seating himself on the cross benches., Before a fusion was arrived at by the sacrifice of the principles of a lifetime, those trying to bring it about should have had the honesty and decency to appeal to the electors for their sanction. The honorable member for Parramatta has told representatives of the press, at several interviews, that Labour members least of all are ready to go before the people ; but I speak for every member of the party when I say that I should be prepared to go before the electors to-morrow. Those who are afraid to go to the country are the Ministerial supporters. What has brought, about this coalition? Is not the reason given by the Prime Minister the statement that the Labour Party is opposing the reelection of himself and his followers? He has gone round the country saying that the Labour Party is organizing to win his seat and the seats of those behind him.
– The honorable member speaks with his tongue in his cheek when he says that he is dying to go before the electors.
– The Minister of Defence pretends to be happy, although really most uncomfortable. I do not say that he is uncomfortable because he has changed his views. He has done that whenever he thought he could gain a personal advantage by doing so. I do not find fault with him. The matter is one for his constituents to deal with.
– I do not wish to go to the country, and I am sure that the honorable member does not.
– The Minister cannot divine my thoughts. I should be prepared to go to the country to-morrow. I have as good a chance of getting back again as has the honorable member.
– I do not deny that.
– Nothing would suit me and Labour members generally better than to go to the country at once. The honorable member for Indi does not wish for a general election, because he knows that this is the first and only Federal Parliament in which he will hold a seat. The relations between the parties to this fusion, which is said to be such a happy one, are rather peculiar. It is difficult to imagine the honorable member for Batman hanging round the neck of the honorable member for Parkes. Indeed, the members of the late Deakin Party are ashamed to enter the room where the other “fusion” members meet, and are trying to annex the old room held by the now defunct Liberal Party. Is this because they are preparing themselves for another somersault, or another desertion ? I should not be surprised at hearing of the leader of the Government preparing to desert any one at any time. He deserted the Reid-McLean Ministry, and tried to make out that the right honorable member for East Sydney told an untruth in connexion with his action, although he came into the Chamber with a certain motion in his pocket. The country ought to know these things. As I have already said, I am not angry at the present state of affairs. Our party has great reason to be proud of the fact that its growing strength has compelled members of other parties to sink the principles of a lifetime in order to obtain a coalition which may hinder our progress. Honorable members opposite, however, have no hope of stopping our progress. It is the knowledge of this that has caused so much alarm, not only on their part, but amongst the capitalistic section of the community.
– There has not been much complaint from this side.
– I sympathize with the honorable member, who I know is very sorry that he was not selected as a member of the Ministry.
– There is hope yet. The honorable member may still be made an Honorary Minister.
– Quite so. I bid him be of good cheer. If he assumes the role of the candid friend he will probably obtain a position in the Ministry in a very short time.
– Was not the honorable member’s own name voted upon on one occasion for a position in the Labour Ministry ?
– that is true. I was among the number, but got left. I did not, however, cry about it. May I ask why the honorable member for Laanecoorie refuses to make use of the Coalition Party’s room - why he desires to use the little room in the corner? Is the honorable member ashamed of the Coalition Party ? I should like to say, in conclusion, that when I entered the House this afternoon I had not the slightest intention of speaking. I should not have risen, but for the contemptible action of the Prime Minister-
– Order. The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, sir, and regret having used it. I repeat that I should not have spoken this afternoon, but for the attempt of the Prime Minister to stifle discussion. True, that attempt did not succeed, but I cannot exonerate him from the effort to stifle discussion. The business of the House will not be facilitated by such tactics.
– But the honorable member’s party is not going to let us do anything, we are told.
– If we desired, I daresay that we could prevent the Government from pushing on with business.
– Go right ahead.
– As a matter of fact, I have never heard such an intention mentioned by our party. It was purely because of the action of the Prime Minister in trying to shuffle out of doing something that ought to have been done that I rose to speak this afternoon. He knows that it has been the custom under similar circumstances to allow a full discussion of a Ministerial statement. When he came into office, on the second occasion, he laid on the table of the House a certain paper, and having made a statement, invited the fullest discussion. That course was also pursued by thelate Prime Minister, and by the honorable member for South Sydney when his Administration came into office. The honorable member for East Sydney also afforded ample opportunity for full discussion on the programme submitted by his Ministry. The leader of the present Government, however, tried to prevent discussion. I am pleased to say that he did not succeed.
– The whole of the honorable member’s speech has been made under the ample opportunity that offered under any circumstances.
– The honorable member knows well that he tried to stifle discussion.
– That is incorrect.
– Even since the adjournment for dinner, overtures have been made to the honorable member to take a reasonable course, but he has refused to do so.
– A reasonable course ! I offered, if we were asked, to agree to allow the debate to be closed in order that notice of a more serious motion might be given, only requesting that I should have an opportunity again to suggest that this useless and purposeless debate on the Address-in - Reply should be set aside.
– Very unsatisfactory.
– In the fust place, this afternoon, before a word had been said on this motion, the honorable gentleman wished to close the debate. After it had been carried on for two hours or more, he made the proposal that we should allow the debate to go by the board, and discuss something else.
– Which would open up everything.
– What right has the Prime Minister to determine what should be our course of action on a question like this? The motion now under discussion enables us to debate many questions that we could not otherwise deal with.
– The honorable member knows that the motion mentioned was not specific, and would permit of a general debate.
– I have never seen it. Unlike the honorable member, I am not a thought reader or a spiritualist, and so not having seen the motion, cannot speak as to its purport. I have been speaking since the debate on the motion for the Address-in-Reply was resumed this afternoon, so that it was impossible for me to know what was being done. I know that nothing was done in caucus this morning.
– If there had been we should not know what it was.
– If the honorable member did know what was being done he would probably be unable to understand it. However, I have only to say that if the Government choose to adopt such tactics they are welcome to them, for I feel that they will do the Ministerial party no good, and will certainly do us no harm.
– Before I proceed to discuss the motion, I should like to ask whether the Prime Minister will agree to the adjournment of the debate?
– If I may reply by interjection, I should be most happy to let this debate go ; but as honorable members will then have before them a motion on which anything and everything can be debated, they ought to allow the debate on the Address-in-Reply to close. They will then have had three debates, each of them unlimited.
– The Prime Minister has refused my request.
– I have offered-
– The debate on our policy was stifled. This is the only motion on which we can debate it.
– The honorable member may make-
– Order! The honorable member for Hume will proceed.
– The Prime Minister has refused a very reasonable request.
– If the leader of the Opposition wishes it I will not refuse the request.
– I do.
Debate (on motion by Sir William Lyne) adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of a message from the Senate requesting the House of Representatives to resume consideration of this Bill, which had been transmitted for concurrence during the session 1907-8, and proceeded with last session.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of a message from the Senate, requesting the House of Representatives to resume consideration of this Bill, which had been transmitted for concurrence during the session 1907-8, and proceeded with last session.
.-I desire, by leave, to give notice that tomorrow I shall move -
That the Government does not possess the confidence of . this House.
Leave granted ; notice given.
House adjourned at 8.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 June 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090623_reps_3_49/>.