3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2,30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs read the statement in today’s Argus that the Premier of New South Wales intends to ‘visit Melbourne soon, with reference to the Federal Capital question? If so, has the honorable gentleman any definite information as’ to the date of the visit ?
– I have read the paragraph referred to. The Premier of New South Wales will arrive in Melbourne on Friday next.
– As the Imperial Defence Conference has now made its recommendations, I ask the Minister of Defence when the Defence Bill is to be laid on the table ?
– The Government is not yet in possession of the detailed scheme of the Imperial Defence Conference. I hope that the Defence Bill will be introduced very soon.
-Has the Prime Minister seen the report in to-day’s Argus regarding the complaints of British settlers in the New Hebrides, and is he able to give the House any information as to the actual state of affairs there?
– I cannot either corroborate or add to the newspaper statement ; but I expect to be better informed in a week or two.
– As it is stated in the newspapers that the Cabinet has considered, among other things, a proposal to send vessels from Australia to search for the Waratah, I ask the Prime Minister if he is willing to say whether it has been decided to do anything in the matter.
– I may be able to answer the question if the honorable member repeats it later in the day.
Financial Proposals - -Budget
–It is reported in the newspapers that the- proposals of the Imperial Defence Conference will involve the borrowing of a sum in connexion with which the annual interest and sinking fund contribution will amount to ,^500,000. Does the Prime Minister intend to give us an opportunity to discuss these proposals in connexion with the Budget, and, if so, when ?
– I should be sorry to think that this matter would he imported into the Budget- debate. Any proposal affecting this year’s revenue will necessarily be submitted at the earliest moment. I trust that the Budget debate, which has now continued for some time, will close very shortly, so that we may proceed without interruption with the discussion of the financial and other questions associated with the proposed amendment of the Constitution. There will be a proper opportunity to discuss the financial, as well as the practical, side of the naval proposals.
– When does the Government intend to introduce a Bill to amend the electoral law?
– Such a measure is now under the consideration of the Cabinet.
– Has the Department of Home Affairs taken any action towards selecting voting machines for use at the coming election ?
– There are models of several machines in the Electoral Office. A Board has not yet reported on them, but I understand that none is thought suitable.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the Premiers, at their recent Conference, came to any determination regarding the universal adoption of the Chapman sack in connexion with railway carriage?
– I am not in a position to say.
asked the Minister of Defence, ufon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What qualifications are necessary for successful applicants for positions under the Commonwealth Defence Department who are to be sent abroad in connexion with the manufacture of small arms?
– My reply to the honorable member’s question is -
Six smart young mechanics, to include one expert fitter for tool room work and gaugemaking, two expert machine tool men, one blacksmith, one man to study hardening and tempering of steel, and one wood turner.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 25th August (vide page 2587), on motion by Sir John Forrest -
That the item “The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- I wish to know from the Treasurer, before continuing my remarks, whether, if we allow the Budget debate to end, the Government will be able to borrow £1,200,000 without first getting parliamentary authority?
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Parkes declared that borrowing is a good thing. When I was in America, a debt was regarded as a liability, but if, on the contrary, it is an asset, we ‘ ought all to get into debt to become rich. Does the Treasurer regard a debt as an asset? I have always said that the Treasurer when in office in Western Australia was a careful man. I watched him closely over there. He looked to his sinking funds and saw that they were behind all his borrowing. Does not the Treasurer think that when the Premiers entered into that bargain with the Commonwealth this Budget should have been at once withdrawn, and a new Budget brought down containing the Conference contract ? After all, this is not a complete Budget, as it does not contain that contract, which will form the basis on which the whole of the Commonwealth finances must rest. Can the Treasurer state whether we shall have as broad a scope on the Premiers’ contract as we have on this Budget, to discuss the whole question ? Can we go into anything and everything connected with the finances? I see tremendous economic waste here in Australia. I notice, when I want to send a telegram away, that a lot of men are employed, they have to keep a list of the despatches, and yet I have to buy stamps, and then a man must lick the stamps and put them on the telegram. I never saw that until I came to Australia. A list of the telegrams is kept, and yet the State has to print those stamps at enormous expense. That seems a great economic waste, and I do not wonder when I hear men complaining about Socialism, for there is no doubt that so far as the States are concerned there is great waste in Australia. Another thing I notice about the Post Office is that, instead of having a circular box, with the names of the suburbs on it, turning round so that each person could drop his letters in according to the suburb to which they are addressed, the Government have to employ sorters to sort the letters. Can we de.U with all those things when discussing the Premiers’ contract? If the Treasurer says we can, I do not want to talk today. If the Treasurer cannot say, can the Chairman give me an answer?
– I am afraid I could not make any promise on a general question of that sort.
– I want to deal with every issue, because I confess that this is now the turning of the tide of finance in Australia. This is one of the important Budgets. We have no organized credit system here. Organized credit is the greatest economic force in the world, and unorganized credit the greatest economic waste.
– The whole of the revenues of the Commonwealth and the whole of the revenues of the States and their relations to one another will be under debate. What opportunity can the honorable member want wider than that?
– On those conditions I should be prepared to postpone my remarks until then, but I do not want it to be said that this Parliament passed the proposal to initiate a borrowing policy without a fight. It is proposed in the Budget that the Treasurer shall meet his deficit of £1,200,000 by Treasury bills.
– We shall have to bring in a Bill before we do that. The honorable member had better go on with his speech .
– There is no doubt that the big fight will be over this contract with the Premiers, which locks to me very dangerous.
– And over the expenditure on the naval business.
– Of course that amount is also something awful. When we begin to look at the prospects of expenditure on militarism and navalism when we contemplate the plunge which we are asked to take, we should be appalled. I confess that there is a scare on, but I assure the Committee that if ever Great Britain falls it will, be from causes not outside, but inside. There is no danger from outside. The real danger arises from the industrial conditions which stunt and stifle the life of the people of Great Britain and make them unfit to fight for their nationhood. I have looked into this question carefully, because I recognise that Great Britain with her outside States, and the United Slates of America, are the onlytwo free countries in the world - countries where you can say and do what you like so long as you do not break the law. It is a pity for us to begin to spend such an enormous sum on ships that will be on the scrap heap in nine years.
– It will be a mistake to borrow the money.
– If we decide to undertake that tremendous expenditure we shall have to borrow. There will be no other way to meet it, unless we organize our credit. If, however, we utilize the credit of. the Commonwealth for the benefit of the people there will be no necessity for us to be in the markets borrowing in competition like tradespeople. The first thing we want to do is to organize the credit of the Commonwealth, and get the benefit of that credit for ourselves, by establishing a national postal banking system for the Commonwealth. The Treasurer, when he desires to raise £1,200,000, would not then have to go cap in hand to a banking institution, in which, perhaps, many of us are shareholders, and mortgage the credit of the Commonwealth. I shall deal with the whole question when the agreement arrived at with the Premiers of the States is submitted for our consideration. A sum of £500,000 per annum will be necessary for the upkeep and interest of the proposed Australian Navy. Do honorable members imagine that a fleet of warships could be successfully repulsed by a few torpedo boats and torpedo-boat destroyers ? If one torpedo boat was in Fremantle, and another in Port Darwin, would the Prime Minister, in the event of an attack being made on Melbourne, telegraph to their commanders to come round and fight the enemy? It has been suggested that a cruiser which had been detached from an enemy’s, fleet and given a roving commission might destroy practically all our shipping ; but there is not a warship capable of carrying sufficient coal to enable her to steam from Europe to Australia. Naval bases in the Pacific would be necessary to enable such a vessel to obtain the requisite supplies. In France, the other day, a most successful display of aero planes was made. One aeronaut made a flight of over 100 miles in the course of a few hours; and it is not long since another crossed the English Channel. An expenditure of £500,000 would enable us to purchase a fleet of air-ships capable of adequately defending Australia.
– They have not yet been proved.
– The inventor of the electric telegraph occupied ten years in inducing the Congress of the United States of America to vote £8,000 to enable him to construct a telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington, and not one of the representatives of farming constituencies who voted for that grant was reelected, because the people considered they had thrown away money on what they described as a “mad machine.” Would any one say to-day that the electric telegraph is a “mad system”? Every invention must pass through an experimental stage, and every new idea is always condemned. And so with air-ships ; but I contend that they have passed the experimental stage. Would it not be well for the Treasurer to inquire into the advisableness of our acquiring a fleet of these vessels? He ought certainly to look into the matter. Until lately, the great Thomas Edison did not think it possible to invent a navigable aerial machine, but he has had to say, ‘ ‘ I surrender ; the air-ship is no longer an experiment.” The honorable member for Parkes spoke strongly yesterday in favour of a borrowing policy.
– For permanent revenueproducing works.
– I have a return showing that £60,000,000 of the debts of the States are not earning interest, and that, of that sum, £17,000,000 ha.s been swallowed up in brokerage and other expenses. The public debts of Australiaamount to £270,000,000.
– That does not include municipal loans?
– It includes all loans ; but I desire to keep the figures for a future debate.
– Mr. Johnston, the Tasmanian Statistician, put the figure at £280,000,000.
– I know Mr. Johnstone to be a first-class man, but I amtaking Mr. Knibbs’ figures. Of this money, we have invested £185,982,000 at about 4 per cent., and there is about . £60,000,000 that is not earning any interest.
– What has the £60,000,000 been used for?
– It has been used for the provision of harbors, rivers, lighthouses, roads, bridges, defences, and so forth.
– Wharfs and harbors earn money ; and I think that the honorable member’s figures as to non-earning expenditure are not correct.
– The moneyis partially earning, but we have to pay £2,200,000 more in interest than we earn from reproductive works.
– On the total debt?
– Per annum?
– Yes. The point I wish to emphasize is that the honorable member for Parkes said that getting - into debt creates an asset.
– Not the mere getting into debt; I said that money borrowed to be invested in permanent revenueproducing works should not be charged to the particular year, but should be distributed over futureyears.
– That is quite right, providing that the works are wellorganized and well-managed.
– I mean permanent revenue-producing works.
– But there must be repair and renewal funds, and so forth. However, according to the honorable member, the more we get into debt the more that which is really a liability becomes an asset ; in short, if we desire to get wealthy, we must get into debt.
– What I say is that the State is bound to invest money in permanent revenue-producing works, and that money borrowed for the purpose ought not to fall on the generation which invests it, but should be distributed over future generations.
– But does the honorable member not think that we ought first to organize the credit of the Commonwealth ?
– Not first.
– Out of the £270,000,000 that has been borrowed by Australia, £17,000,000 has gone in waste.
– Are lighthouses and wharfs waste?
– I am not dealing with that aspect, but pointing out that £17,000,000 has gone in selling under par, in brokesage;. and in underwriting, and that all that money could be saved if we had our own financial organizations.
– How would the honorable member save the money?
– It would take me a long time to deal with that question to-day, and I am reserving it for a future occasion. What our country lacks is some sort of credit institution; and in this regard we have not . advanced with the times. If the contract with the Premiers becomes permanent, I ask the Treasurer whether we can then take over the debts, and withhold the 25s. per head ?
– Under the Constitution that will go towards the payment of the interest on the- debts.
– But I am supposing that the agreement is made permanent in the Constitution.
– If we take over the debts, we shall take all we require for interest.
– But shall we have the power to withdraw the payment from the States if once they get it?
– But if the arrangement is made permanent in the Constitution ?
– It is in the Constitution now.; see section 105.
– In to-day’s Age there is a very strong sub-leader, from which the following is an- extract : - . . the unhappy mistake into which Federal Ministers fell at the Premiers’ Conference. The document is not frank in what it omits. It does not say a word concerning the immense and’ increasingly powerful’ financial lever which the agreement puts into the hands of the States, to be a lien for all time. And yet, but for that, the mere money question would be a bagatelle.
At the Labour Conference in Brisbane I opposed a per capita arrangement because 1 could see that it meant giving a perpetual mortgage on the Commonwealth revenue. I notified the Conference that I had my own financial proposal’s, which, however. I did not desire to be placed in the Constitution, but simply to be the basis of a settlement between the States and the Commonwealth. Does the Treasurer know any Federation on earth that ever surrendered such a power as we possess to the subordinate States?
– It is not a question of our surrendering; the States have sur- rendered to us. They have given up certain powers to the Federation under a national contract.
– There are human rights, and there are State rights; and human rights rise above State rights as the mountains rise above the valleys.
– We are only trusting the people, after all.
– Just so. The honorable member is a financial man, and I ask him whether, if a corporation, with all its property mortgaged at fifty per cent, on a first mortgage, came to him and asked for a second mortgage, he, as a trustee for large estates or for widows and orphans, would have the same confidence in the” security as he would if he had the whole business?
– I never lend on a second mortgage.
– The honorable member is absolutely honest, and every one in the House trusts his word. But, under the circumstances I have indicated, how can’ the second transaction be anything else but a second mortgage? Many years ago, when Canada used te float loans just because the whole of the debts had been taken over, - the debts were mostly floated in London, but often in New York - financial men talked about responsibility, powers of taxation, and ability to meet obligations. One may appeal to the man who holds the first mortgage, to have it increased, but -he could not go to another lender, and negotiate a second mortgage. There is a vast difference between the Commonwealth contracting an expanding mortgage, which will increase as population grows, and taking over the debts of the States, and creating a sinking fund to liquidate them in a certain number of years. If the Government scheme is adopted, the Commonwealth will have only a second mortgage to offer as security when it wishes to borrow, and while the State bonds may be at, or above, par. its bonds, though tearing as high a rate of interest, will be below par. Nothing is so sensitive as the money market, especially concerning securities in which the trust moneys of widows and orphansare invested. I have had enough experience in big cities to know that you cannot borrow a dollar unless those representing big insurance concerns or other financial institutions are prepared to support the flotation. I feel strongly that the Commonwealth should not be hobbled. What is proposed amounts to a constitutional collar of torture. In a few years the Commonwealth will have to borrow millions. We have not provided for a national postal banking system, nor organized our credit, and yet it is proposed to enter into a perpetual mortgage, under which our liability will continually expand. Our fiscal policyis Protection, and. I hope that the great barriers which now prevent the poverty of other countries from sending its products here, to be consumed at the expense of our work-people, will never be removed. Protection means diversity of industry, from which follows the health, wealth, and prosperity of a country. The United States raises only ,£1 9s. 6d. per head of population from Customs and Excise revenue, and as things are going, we shall have to substitute for our existing duties a revenue Tariff. No doubt the Treasurer would not object to that. But with revenue duties our industries cannot have the protection which they now enjoy. No State can be strong or powerful without the organization of its credit. The destruction of a country’s credit means the stifling, of its progress, and the crippling of its potentialities. I trust that the Treasurer may, even at this last moment, repent of his scheme. When a great national newspaper like the Age- .
– Which has a sorry reputation.
– It has been a great fighter for the rights of the people of Australia, and has done great work for Victoria. This State would still be a sheep walk. but for its efforts. That newspaper has supported the Government, but, in view of the articles which have recently appeared in it regarding the agreement with the Premiers, Ministers should feel that something is wrong. I know of no country, whether it be Canada, Mexico, the United States, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chili, Honduras, or Brazil, in which the central power, has surrendered its rights to subordinate powers. In giving up our financial advantages we weaken the central Government, and aid decentralization, creating a confederacy instead of a federation. I would rather accept the schemes of the honorable members for Mernda, Kooyong, or North Sydney than vote for that proposed by the Government. The esti-mated receipts of .the Commonwealth for 1909-10 are £i4>555>7<S5; the estimated expenditure £7,867,621, and, under the Braddon provision, £7,891,481 must be paid to the States. The Treasurer produced statements showing the gain to the Commonwealth, but, in my opinion, the Commonwealth will not gain anything; she will really lose. In a year’s time the Commonwealth Parliament will be able to deal with Customs and Excise revenue as it pleases, and surely it may be trusted to. do absolute justice to the States. The honorable members for Fawkner, Mernda, Balaclava, and other Victorian Federal constituencies represent and are concerned with Victorian interests as much as are members of the State Parliament. There was no need for a secret meeting of Premiers. In my opinion the secrecy which was observed was like a dagger used for the assassination of the Commonwealth. Though I object to the scheme of the honorable member for Mernda, so far as one point is concerned, I would accept it in preference to the Government scheme. Let the Commonwealth handle the debts of trie States, and go into the money market, if necessary, with its credit untramelled. The estimated deficit is £1,200,000, and the works proposed by the present Government to be executed by this Parliament, but not provided for on the Estimates, except as to the sum of £5,000 for the Federal Capital, amount to £3,932,000, so that we must meet at the end of the present year a total liability of £5,132,000 more than the Estimates provide for. Does any one believe that only .£5,000 will be spent on the Federal Capita! ? If the Government mean business they must spend £50,000 this year on it. The sum of £2,000,000 will be required for a Dreadnought or its equivalent, £1, 000,000 for the Post Office - and that will not be enough - ,£250,000 for invalid pensions ; £250,000 beyond the estimate for old-age pensions, £300,000 for the annual deficit on theNorthern Territory, £50,000 for the Federal Capital, £60,000 for lighthouses, beacons and buoys. £10,000 for a High Commissioner - and that is practically nothing for such a purpose - £5,000 for an Agricultural Bureau, ,£5,000 for the Inter-State Commission, and £2,000 for the State Debts Inquiry ‘Commission, making a total, as I said, for works proposed, but not provided for on the Estimates, of £3,933,000. With regard to the Inter-State Commission, I would point out that we are appointing too many Commissions, and that that body will be only another institution, and an expensive one, for destroying the power of the Commonwealth. Further, what will be the use of having a State Debts Inquiry Commission if we are going to put in the Constitution for ever and ever a provision that the States shall receive 25s. -per capita?
– That may be changed. Why is the honorable member afraid of the referendum?
– I am not afraid of the referendum, but as I said at the Brisbane Conference, I believe in proper finance, and I like a solid foundation. If it . is right to do it, let us do it right, for no question is ever settled on other than right lines. The probable future obligations involved in the Government policy include £5,000,000 for the development of the Northern Territory, £5,000,000 for the Northern Territory railway, £5,000,000 for the Western Australian railway, £1,000,000 for Postal Department extensions, £50,000 for an immigration policy, ^£20,000 for the High ‘Commissioner, and £1,000,000 for old-age pensions, or a total of £17,072,000. Yet not a word is .said by the Treasurer about providing that money. The sum of £1,000,000 will be necessary for old-age pensions after this year, as only a sum of £850,000 will be provided this year, £650,000 being available from the trust fund. However we look at those figures, we must recognise that we are drifting. The Government are preparing for a terrific plunge, .and yet they are mortgaging their only asset, because they are settled in their opposition to the imposition of direct taxation. The State of Victoria has now brought in its own unimproved land tax, Tasmania has a land tax, and other States must follow, so that I cannot see how the present Federal Government can propose land taxation. If that is so, and there is no doubt it is, there is nothing left for the Federal Government but to float enormous loans, and to float them, on a second mortgage. This is, therefore, a most serious question. What now, were my proposals? When I put forward the inauguration of a national postal banking system, I went carefully into the matter, and found that the States receive £85,088 per year from the duty on the note circulation. We are one now, are we not, since the Treasurer brought in the 25s. arrangement?
– Not yet.
– The Government have the numbers, so what is the difference ?
– And they are going to use the whip.
– We want 30s. per capita.
– In my scheme I give the States more. I give them £6,100,000 yearly, and in addition £870,000 per annum for a sinking fund. They would really get, therefore, £6,970,000 per annum; and I would also make provision that the Commonwealth should take over £500,000 of the debts of Tasmania extra on account of the leakage. That means £17,550 a year for interest, but I do not think there is an honorable member who will object to that. Under my scheme, we take over £174,000,000 of the State debts, which is the amount that each State’s three-fourths of the revenue will purchase, and create a sinking fund of £870,000 a year to pay that debt off in sixty years at 3 per cent. Taking an annual payment of £870,000 in halfyearly instalmentsinto a sinking fund bearing interest at 3½ per cent. per annum, convertible half-yearly, the first halfyearly instalment being paid on 31st December, 1908, the amount to which the fund would accumulate at various dates is as follows : -
On that basis, therefore, the whole of the debt taken over would be absolutely liquidated in sixty years from the time we took it over, and there would be £6,970,000 of revenue to help the States again. On the assumption that the organization of credit would have enabled the States of Australia to obtain prices for their securities exceeding those actually received by £7 per £100 of stock, the public debt of Australia would be about £17,000,000 lower than at present, assuming the same amount of loan expenditure to have been incurred. I would point out to the honorable member for Parkes that the amount which we have paid in brokerage under par and in various other losses for want of an organized credit is £17,000,000. The annual interest on £17,000,000 at 3½ per cent. is £595,000. That is the sum which the States are paying yearly for money which they have never handled, in the shape of brokerage, underwriting, and bank and other commissions, which they could save if they had a financial institution cf their own. Now let us take the accumulated sinking fund at 3 per cent., instead of 3½ per cent, interest. If £870,000 per annum were paid in half-yearly instalments into a sinking fund bearing interest at 3 per cent. per annum, convertible halfyearly, the first half-yearly instalment being paid on 31st December, 1908, the amount to which the fund would accumulate at various dates is as follows : -
Thus the whole debt would be paid within that time. In 1908-9 the revenue of the Commonwealth was £14,389,835, and the expenditure amounted to £6,419,364, leaving a surplus of . £7,970,471. Deducting from that surplus the sum of £6,970,000, which, under my scheme, would be returned to the States, we should have a credit balance of £1,000,471. The Treasurer estimates that during the current financial year our revenue will amount to £14,555,765, and our expenditure to £7,867,621, leaving a balance of £6,688,144. Under my schemewe should return to the States £6,970,000, and would then have a deficit of only £281,856, as compared with the deficit of £1,200,000, which the Treasurer anticipates. Finance of the kind proposed by the Government completely breaks me up. I come now to the question of a Commonwealth National Postal Banking” system. The note circulation of the States amounts at present to , £4,254,436, on which duty amountingto £85,088 is collected. Under my scheme, they would be deprived of that revenue, but they would be shareholders in, and would participate in the profits of, the National Bank. There would be 12,000 shares, half of which would be held by the Commonwealth, and the remaining half by the States. I estimate the profits of the National Bank for the first year at only £60,000, which is well within the mark, and, ofthat amount, one-half would be retained by the Commonwealth, and the remainder would be distributed amongst the States on a population basis. At the present time the note circulation of the several States and the. duty collected thereon is as follows : - New South Wales - note issue, £1,713,314; duty, £34,266. Victorianote issue, £858,761; duty, £17,175- Queensland - Treasury note circulation, £718,209 ; duty, £”21,000. In Queensland it must be remembered there is a Treasury note circulation, and, according to a telegram which. I received from the Treasurer of that State, the profits derived from it amount to about £21,000. The bank note circulation there amounts to £.812, 773. The note circulation of South Australia amounts to £488,570, and the duty collected thereon to £9,771. In Western Australia the note circulation is £310,226, and the duty collected is £61,205. Tasmania’s note circulation amounts to £165,356, and the duty collected is £3,307. In the first year of -its operations the National ‘ Bank would make a profit of £60,000. I do not include in that estimate any profit, in respect of borrowing. Of that amount the Commonwealth would take £30,000; New ‘South Wales, £11,169.; Victoria, £8,919; Queensland, £3,876 ; South Australia, £2,856 ; Western Australia, £1,875 ; and Tasmania, £1,305’. In the second year I estimate that the profit would be £.160,000, of which the Commonwealth would take £80,000 ; New South ‘ Wales, £29,784; Victoria, .£23.784; Queensland, £10,336 ; South Australia, £7,616 ; Western Australia, £5,000; and Tasmania, -£3;48o. In the third year the profit would be £250,000-, of which the Commonwealth would take £125,000; New South Wales, ^46,537; Victoria, .£37,163; Queensland, £16,150; South Australia, £11,900; Western Australia, £7,813 ; and Tasmania, ;£5,437- In the fourth year the profit would have increased to £300,000. Of that amount the Commonwealth would take £150,000;: New South Wales, £55,845; Victoria, £44,595; Queensland, £19,380; South Australia, £14.280; Western Australia, £9,375 ; and Tasmania, £6,525. In the fifth year the profit would be £400,000, of which the Commonwealth would take £200,000 ; New South Wales, £74,460 ; Victoria, £59,460 ; Queensland, £25,840; South Australia, £19.040; Western Australia, £12.500; and Tasmania, £8,700. In the sixth year the profit would De £.5°°,°°o, of which the Commonwealth would take £250,000; New South Wales, £93>°75 ; Victoria, £74,325 i Queensland, £32.300; South Australia, £23,800: Western Australia, £15,625 ; and Tasmania, £10,875. I anticipate that in the seventh year there would be a profit of £600,000, of which, the Commonwealth would take £300,000; New South Wales, £111,690; Victoria, £89,190 ; Queensland, £38,760 ; South Australia, £28,560 ; Western Australia, -£18.750; and Tasmania, £13,050, as against £3,307 which she is collecting at present by way of duty on her note circulation. In the eighth year the profit would be £700,000, of which the Commonwealth would ‘take £350,000; New South Wales, £130,305 ; Victoria, £104,055; Queensland, .£45,220; South Australia, £33.320; Western Australia, £21,875; and Tasmania, £15,225. In the ninth year the profit would be £800,000. That, after all, is a low estimate of what would be the profits of such a great national banking corporation.
– It would be a very good profit.
– A comparatively small one. Of that amount the Commonwealth would take £400,000 : New South Wales, £148,920;’ Victoria, £118,920;. Queensland. £51,680; South Australia, £38,080; Western Australia, £25,000; and Tasmania, £17,400. In the tenth year the profit would be £900,000, of which the Commonwealth would take £45,0,000 ; New South Wales, ;£r(57,535 ; Victoria, £133,785; Queensland, £58,140 ; South Australia, £42.840; Western Australia, £28,125; and Tasmania, £19,57-5. These ‘estimates are based on the profits of Hamilton’s great American bank, which carried on operations from 1 791 to 1 81 1, and paid 8 per cent. The population of the United States at that time was about equal to that of Australia today. I have stated only the estimated profits ; but think of the purchasing power ! In 1857 the Bank of England and all its branches had a gold reserve of only £358,208; and that meant the total aggregate reserve of all the English banks, because these are kept at the Bank of England. An Act passed by Sir Robert Peel in 1844 required the Bank of England to hold a certain reserve against its note issue, and compelled not only that bank, but all banks, to stop discounting and loaning the moment that reserve had been reached. In obedience to the law, the Bank of England, when the reserve limit was reached, discontinued discounting and loaning, and stopped all overdrafts and renewals ; and there was caused one of the greatest financial cataclysms in the history of England. On the 1 2th November, 1857, in consequence of the crisis, the Government ordered the banks to violate the law ; and the Bank of England immediately commenced discounting, loaning, and purchasing commercial paper. In the sixteen days from 12th November to 1st December, 1857, the Bank of England, with a gold reserve of only ‘ £358,208, lent £8,000,000 ; that is, the Bank of England extended its credit to that amount, besides its renewals. In doing this the bank increased its reserves day by day, while, on the other hand, the reserves had day by day been reduced when they refused to do such business. Does that not prove that the restrictive policy of banking is a curse to the community, and that an expansive policy is the only one that can save the country ? It is the banks that bring on crises. There never has been a crisis in America, that has not been produced by the banks; and it was so with the Australian crisis in 1893. If the Bank of England was able to stop a great crisis - to relieve the people of England, and start the whole industrial world - by lending £8,000,000 on a gold reserve of £358,208, does it not show that gold plays no part in the great trade and commerce of the world ? Yet honorable members are always talking about gold, gold, gold ! If the whole of the gold of the Commonwealth were to be dropped into the sea to-night, would that stop the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth ? No. The trade and commerce of the Commonwealth depends on credit, and credit is founded on confidence, which is the great economic Rock of Gibraltar, upon which rests the mighty commercial and financial interests of the world. The Commercial Bank, with which the honorable member for Mernda is connected, has in its employ a number of men of great ability, who could manage such an institution as I am advocating. Do not let any one imagine that I propose that the National Bank should be conducted by untrained men, because mv idea is that we should have the best men in the business. The institution would not be run by politicians ; indeed, I have a horror of political financiers. I desire this bank to be a Department of the Commonwealth, and to have at its head an absolute despot - a real Scotchman, because we know that Scotchmen are the kings of finance in America. In any case, the Commonwealth cannot go on with the present unorganized financial system. Indeed, there is no banking system in Australia. What is a system ? It is a whole plan or scheme, consisting of many parts, so constructed, that each part is of mutual assistance to the whole, and the whole is of mutual assistance to each part. In the Australian crisis of 1893 did any” of the sound banks come to the rescue of the banks which had to close their doors? If those other banks had been partners, or had come to the rescue, there would have been no necessity to close the doors. But for the action of Sir George Dibbs, Premier of NewSouth Wales, in making notes legal tender, and thus enabling gold to be withdrawn from New South Wales; not one of the institutions would have crossed the Jordan and seen the promised land. The banks are sound, healthy and vigorous; and I do not desire to interfere with them ; but I do desire to see established some system which will regulate the movement of the money volume for the banks. There should be a credit-producing institution, which will maintain the volume of credit and a certain gold reserve to meet it, though gold, in my estimation, is not of much account. In real banks gold plays no part except in foreign exchange. Banks are only clearing-houses for producers and traders, and they clear the business by off-setting indebtedness, using very little money. We used to do business to the value of millions sterling in New York, and, virtually speaking, never paid any gold out. A bank is not a financial institution in the sense of being a money repository, but is simply a trader in debts ; and it exchanges its fortified credits for the fructified indebtedness of producers and traders, in the form of mortgages, bonds, and promissory notes. When we see in the newspapers that the bank deposits have increased by so many millions, it is folly to falk about those millions being wealth. I heard one honorable member talk about the deposits in the banks representing so many sovereigns; but I tell him that there are only 24,000,000 sovereigns in Australia. Such news as I have just mentioned; simply means that the producers and traders have enlarged their indebtedness, which indebtedness has been exchanged for fortified bank credits, thus increasing the indebtedness of the banks. Every bank is in debt, and nearly everybody is in debt to the banks. All I desire is an institution where the small producer or tradesman, for instance, with his little farm or establishment, can raise credit without having to pay 8 per cent, or 10 per cent, in interest. No tradesman or producer, unless he has an immense business, can pay such rates, which cripple the producers and traders of Australia. Yet money at 3 per cent, doubles itself in twenty-four years, at 4 per cent, in eighteen years, at 5 per cent, in fourteen years, at 6 per cent, in twelve years, at 7 per cent, in ten years, at 8 per cent, in nine years, and at 9 per cent, in eight years. A man with a little business ought to be able to raise £100 or £200 by overdraft, so long as he has the margin of security to make the transaction safe, without being called upon to pay exorbitant interest.
– What has this to do with a national question?
– The honorable member does not understand these questions - they are beyond him.
– The honorable member for Indi has no sympathy with -the small man !
– I am sorry to hear that, because I thought the honorable member for Indi was sympathetic.
– I n mv list of accounts there are more small men than will be found on the list of accounts of the honorable member for Darwin.
– If there is anything that is important to the progress of Australia, it is a financial institution to help the small man.
– Let us get on with the business ; I cannot afford to talk.
– Perhaps the honorable member does not know anything to talk about. Is the Budget not before the ‘Committee, and have we not a right to discuss it? Who gave the honorable member for Indi authority to tell any honorable member that he is wasting the time of the Committee? It is like the honorable member’s unmitigated impertinence. If the honorable member is not capable of discussing the Budget, he should not interfere with those who are ; though, of course, one cannot learn much about finance in the district from which he hails. At the present time, the poor who wish to borrow must go to the pawnshops and usurers, and pay high rates of interest. Australia owes a debt of gratitude to Sir Thomas Bent, because he had the courage to do something to prevent usury. Yet, every day unfortunates come before the Courts, asking to be relieved from the exactions, of usurers. A man may have security on which he wishes to borrow, and yet be unable to get an advance on it. There should be in Australia impartial financial institutions, prepared to advance on security, no matter who the- holder of it may be. In Tasmania, at the present time, the farmers on the north-west coast have their potatoes slightly touched with Irish blight, and this will cause the ruin of hundreds of them; because the banks will not carry them through until next year. When I last visited the district men came to me almost with tears in their eyes. The land is as productive as ever, and next year will yield good crops ; but the farmers cannot get advances to tide them over until then.
– Does the honorable member think that the State could advance more on land than private banking companies can advance?
– No; but a State bank would not worry those who were unfortunate; it would wait until the next harvest. I do not know if the Minister, when in trouble, has ever been before a banker. I have, and I do not wish to repeat the experience. A few years ago, had it not been for the honorable member for Balaclava. I should not have saved my estate, though I had plenty of assets. It is because I have gone through the fire of financial damnation that I wish to arrange a scheme for the salvation of others. No man who has security should be deprived of advances when he needs money, merely because those who have money to lend do not like him. He ought to be able to say, “ There is my security,” and to get an advance on it. I have known men who have had to sell properties for a few thousand pounds because they could not raise money on them, and others wanted them.
– What alternative does the honorable member suggest to the present system of credit?
– The establishment of a national postal banking system, which would be run by bankers through the post-offices; an institution for the small men, not for big men like the honorable member.
– I have always been termed a small man
– My honorable friend, though physically small, is intellectually and financially big. At the present time, the currency in- circulation in Australia amounts to about £10,500,000, of which about £3,500,000 represents the note circulation, while there is about £6,000,000 in gold, and about £1,000,000 in silver coins. Fifty men, by withdrawing £2,000,000, and putting the money into their vaults for a month, could ruin half those in business here; because, by reducing the circulating medium by £2,000,000 they would cause £2,000,000 worth of debts to remain unpaid.
– The honorable member does not take into account the gold reserves, which are the basis of the. credit of the banks.
– The credit of the banks is founded on the good will of the people of Australia, who could carry on their business if there’ were no gold in circulation. I do not say that it is likely that £2,000,000 will, on any occasion, be withdrawn from circulation, but it could be done, with the result that thousands of producers and traders would be made bankrupt. Their property would be reduced in value to perhaps 6s. or 7s. in the £1, and those who had withdrawn the money from the banks could then come in and buy it, going to the big churches afterwards to say their “amens,” and not caring what became of those whom they had ruined. I intend to move for the establishment of a national postal banking system for the financing of the debts of the Commonwealth and the States, the liquidation of their obligations, and the concentration of their borrowing powers.
– The honorable member would establish a bank to make something out of nothing.
– It is the people who furnish the banks with their credit. The banks here have £18,000,000 of paid-up capital, and about £24,000,000 in gold, while their deposits amount to £161,000,000, leaving £137,000.000, for which there is only paper to show.
– It is a matter of confidence.
– Surely the people of Australia would have as much confidence in a national bank as in the private institutions. They had not much faith in our banks in 1893. A national bank would never put up the sign, “ Payment suspended during reconstruction.” Surely the
Prime Minister does not think that we could not find a man who could make a national bank pay. Although Great Britain is the creditor nation of the world, in 1905 the paid-up capital of the Bank of England, and of the joint stock banks of England, Scotland., and Wales, was only £70,000,000. The Bank of England is managed and controlled under as strict a sense of responsibility and patriotism as if it were a national bank. Its employes take as much pride in it as if it were a Government institution, with the King at the head of it. But, although the paid-up capital of the English banks is only £^70,000,000, they, through the leadership of the Bank of England, issue a medium of exchange equivalent to £800,000,000. The American national banks, with a paid-up capital of £130,000,000, issued in the same year a medium of exchange equivalent to only £530,000,000. That shows the value of organization. Give me the organization, and I shall do as much.
– The honorable member’s organization would not be that of the Bank of England.
– Because I cannot get any one to do it.
– The honorable member’s plan is different from the plan of the Bank of England.
– My. plan is > simply to make the Commonwealth Bank the bank of banks in Australia. I want it to hold the gold reserves of the various States and the present banks.
– To be logical, the honorable member wants a Bank of Australia to be in Australia what the Bank of England is in England.
– Give me that, and I shall be satisfied; but I have talked to people, and I cannot get here a bank like the Bank of England, with its traditions, its honour, its responsibilities, and its love and pride of country. The American banks all look to the Bank of England as a leader. England is the creditor nation of the world, and London is the chief exchange city of the world, through the leadership of the Bank of England. Why is England the banker of the world, and why does every nation on earth pay tribute to England in the way of interest? What constitutes England the creditor nation? It is not superior wealth, superior surroundings, superior geographical position, or superior currency. In my opinion, the English currency is the worst in the world, for one has always to carry a book to reckon the interest on pounds, shillings, and pence. What, then, is it? It must be something. It “is banking organization. There is a vast difference between exercising the banking function and the individual function. If I had £20,000 capital, and began lending money to-day, I could only lend £20,000. That is individual capital. But if I organized a banking corporation, and exercised the banking function, I might draw interest on millions, as the banks do now. There is one bank in Australia with a paid-up capital of only £2,500,000, but it has deposits of £28,000,000.
– It pays for them.
– I do not saythat it does not ; but, last year,’ it made £186,000 net profit in a half-year. I have nothing to say about that, except to point out that, when you exercise the banking function, you only lend credit. I want the Commonwealth to lend its credit.
– There must be money behind the credit.
– How much money has that one institution that I spoke of behind its credit? It owes the people of Australia £28,000,000, but it has only £2,500,000 of paid-up capital. The * balance does not belong to it. It is a liability against it. Every pound beyond the paid-up capital is a liability, and not an asset. It is like honorable members talking about going into debt in order to get rich. You may get rich if you borrow at 3 per cent., and become pawnbrokers by lending at 15 or 20 per cent. ; but, if you exercise the banking function, you may draw interest on ten or twenty times your capital, as the private banking corporations do now. Honorable members are always talking-
– They do not get. a show.
– I am sorry I have taken so much time, but this Budget would have gone through last night if I had not risen. I want to enlighten the honorable member for Mernda, because he is a financial man. My mission is to convert. If I fail, I must still preach the financial gospel.
– The honorable member will never do it by long speeches. People get tired.
– One will never do “ it by short speeches, because people are seared in the antiquated ways. When people got tired, Paul, the apostle, did not stop preaching. He still preached, and it was his preaching that made the Christian Church possible. I am the Paul in this House at present, trying to convert the unfinancial. If, then, the banks of Great Britain, with £70,000,000 of paid-up capital, could issue in one year a purchasing power of £800,000,000 ster-i ling, why could not the Commonwealth exercise the same function?
– I could tell the honorable member in a few minutes, but he will not let me.
– I have not the slightest fear of the honorable member. The little business men of Australia are crippled for want of a proper banking system. They are crippled in the honorable member’s district. There are numbers of. districts, in Australia where thi banks attempted to crush the people, and it was the warehouses of Flinders-lane, and not the banks, that carried them through. I could name districts where, if it had not been for those warehouses, hundreds of small men would have had to close their businesses. Why should they have been in such a position? I know where the trouble is. One man in a big way comes into the bank and says: “I want £20,000 credit on the ledger.” It is nonsense to talk about lending money. If any business man in the House went this afternoon and borrowed £20,000, the bank would have no less money, and he would have no more money, after it was done. It is only a credit on a ledger.
– Does not the honorable member think the merchants of Flinderslane went to the banks?
– No doubt; but that, again, is an evil to the small men in the country, because, if the big men. of the city can go to the banks arid get credit for large sums, all the credit of the banks is hypothecated in Melbourne, and the little man up country gets none of it. But under the financial system that I propose, if there is a congestion of wealth in Melbourne, it will be transferred by telegraph to Warracknabeal, to Queensland, in fact, all over Australia. The credit of the Commonwealth, instead of being in the hands of a few speculators - I do not say they are not honest men - would be distributed over the Commonwealth. We had a bitter ex- perience here in 1893. I know men who thought they were independent for life, who expected to live in the sunshine of prosperity for the remainder of their existence, but who were ruined when the private banking institutions fell from 1889 to 1893. Those banks closed up on the sum of £61,500,000 here, and they took over £17,000,000 of English money. That is what lost us our’ credit in England for years. I want to introduce another system, in which the people will have absolute confidence. When a great financial crisis occurs in Australia, people distrust the great private banking corporations, because they know that certain big men in the cities must be carried.
– Where are the honorable member’s supporters?
– If they had listened to me at Brisbane, they would not have put forward a per capita scheme at their Conference, and the Treasurer would not have had any fun on them now.
– Did the honorable member advise them against a per capita scheme ?
– Of course I did. Under my scheme I want our financial power to be held in the Commonwealth, but the States rights men got into that Conference, and ran everything. I am afraid of eloquent men, for they can do anything. I wish to say, in conclusion, that honest finance is the life blood of a Commonwealth. An honest ballot is the breath of life of a Commonwealth, and human rights rise above State rights. States, after all, are only political conveniences. I want to give the States a good innings.
– Is the honorable member an anti-State man?
– I am not a States rights man. I am a Commonwealth man. My first love is to the Commonwealth, the paramount power, and my subordinate allegiance is to the State of Tasmania. The Commonwealth is the great central power. We must take no power away from it. We must not abridge its financial strength. Rather let us give it every power possible, because the members of this Parliament are broadminded men who want to do justice to the States and to the Commonwealth. If we do that, we shall do what is right to all, and no wrong to anybody.
.- We were told that this was to be a session of [‘°3l finance, and the time is certainly rapidly approaching when big changes in connexion with the finances of the Commonwealth will be inevitable. ‘The fusion of parties was brought about, we were assured, to carry out high ideals, and I think we are justified in looking to the Government for a lead in regard to the financial question. The country expects from them a statement of their financial proposals. We were promised that some light would be thrown upon them when the Budget was presented, but I think honorable members are unanimously of opinion that the Budget was a mere interim statement which, save for the announcement that the Government propose to initiate a policy of * borrowing, contained nothing of importance. Judging by this debate the only financiers in the House are to. be found on the Opposition benches. The supporters of the Government have evidenced a disinclination to take part in the discussion, and are apparently waiting for the Government themselves to take the lead. The honorable member for Darwin has just made a most interesting contribution to the debate, and his speech will be well worthy of the attention of students of the financial question. We have good reason to complain of the Government’s inaction. The Prime Minister with two of his colleagues met the Premiers of the States in a secret caucus, but we have been left in the dark as to whether or not the representatives of the Commonwealth, presented at that Conference a. full statement as to our financial outlook. The Budget is noteworthy for its omissions rather than for any statement of importance embodied in it. The situatin is so serious that I am astonished at the off-hand way in which it. is being dealt with by the Ministerial supporters. There is nothing to show that the Government have realized, much less risen to, the situation. ‘ We are entitled to expect them to take us into their confidence because the financial situation is such as to involve increased burdens on the people. A hint has been given that the States are going to help the Government to finance the present year without the issue of Treasury bills by contributing £600,000 towards the cost of old-age pensions, but as yet we have had no definite assurance on the point. It is estimated that the revenue for the year will amount to £14,557,765, and the expenditure to £7,867,621, so that as we shall return to the States £7,691,481, there will be a deficit of £1,200,000. But I would remind the Committee that the Government’s programme includes many proposals which must involve an expenditure in the immediate future, for which the Budget does not provide. The Treasurer says that the Budget provides for the requirements of the present year ; but that is not sufficient. The great question that will be put before the people at the next general election will be that of finance, and the electors will look to the Government as well as to the Opposition for statements as to how the demands on -the Commonwealth can best be met.
– I think we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– I. have before me a list, rather under-stated than over-stated, of undertakings which must be carried out in the near future, and for which the Government have made no provision. There is first of all an expenditure of £2,000,000 on the equivalent of the offer of a Dreadnought, and that amount will not be sufficient for what must be provided under the new naval scheme. Then there is a general agreement that an expenditure of £1,000,000, in addition to the amount that has already been provided, will be necessary to put the Postmaster-General’s Department in a state of efficiency, and that we must provide £250,000 for the payment of invalid pensions. If the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill be agreed to, we shall have to provide for an annual deficit of £300,000 in connexion with the Territory, and it is not too much to say that if the work of establishing the Federal Capital is to be pushed ahead, we shall need, in the near future, to spend £50,000 in that direction. Then again, the taking over of lighthouses will involve an expenditure of £60,000; the appointment of a High Commissioner, £10,000; the Agricultural Bureau, £5,000; the Inter-State Commission, £5,000 ; and the Royal Commission to inquire into the transfer of the State debts, £2,000. These amounts total £3,932,000, which, added to the deficit of £1,200,000, gives- us a grand total of £5,132,000. That represents an immediate expenditure for which the Government have not said how they are going to provide. There are a number of other large items of expenditure in the more distant future, which will also have to be faced, more especially if we take over the Northern Territory. There will be the cost of constructing the Northern
Territory railway, and the Western Australian railway, as well as the cost of postal extensions, the immigration policy, and the High Commissioner’s office, and an increased provision for old-age pensions over and above what is provided in the ‘reserve fund. In this way we arrive at a total expenditure of about £17,000,000, which, although not immediate, will have to be faced by the Commonwealth. The Government display extraordinary reticence in regard to their financial proposals, and when an honorable member on this side of the House dares to speak, supporters of the Ministry suggest that he is delaying business. Since the Government themselves will not give us any information, I think it well for the Opposition to call attention to their deficiencies. I shall not deal at length with the agreement arrived at with the Premiers at the recent Conference; but there are several features of the financial problem which we shall not be able ta discuss when that agreement is before us, and I therefore propose now to touch upon them. The question of the transfer of the State debts has been discussed in this Parliament over and over again. Financial schemes have been propounded by the Treasurer, the honorable member for Hume, the honorable member for Mernda, the honorable member for Kooyong, and the honorable member for Darwin; but no definite action has been taken. One of the arguments advanced to induce the people of the States to adopt the Constitution Bill was that (he Federation would take over the debts of the States, and, by pooling them, would effect great savings. Nothing, however, has yet been done to bring about the transfer. We do not know what took place at the Premiers’ Conference. That Conference sat in secret, with the doors barred, and guards on duty outside. Even the blotting pads used by the members of the Conference, we are told, were burnt.
– I saw nothing of that.
– I am glad to have the right honorable member’s assurance, for I fail to understand why it should have been thought necessary to resort to such a secret method of dealing with public business. At .that Conference ‘the Commonwealth Government made no arrangement for the transfer of the State debts, but on the other hand agreed to tie up the Commonwealth for -all time. r shall do my best to put up a fight against any alteration of the Constitution to enable the agreement to be carried out. I am not complaining just now of the arrangement made as to the amount to be returned to the States. That is not a matter to quarrel over, but we certainly ought not to allow the States to control the finances of the Commonwealth. There ought to be a complete separation of the finances of the Commonwealth from those of the States. If there was an undertaking to the people, it was that the Commonwealth would take over the State debts, and so separate the finances, leaving each authority to raise revenue in its own particular way. When we federated, we imposed on ourselves another Government; but it was agreed that sufficient economy could be exercised to prevent -the cost of government, as a whole, being increased. From that promise, the present Government are departing more clearly than any previous Government, because they happened to be in office at the time when the Braddon section is disappearing. The people in the larger States are absolutely unanimous in opposition to that section; but the principle now proposed by the Government is only a variation of it. The Commonwealth has taken over important matters of administration from- the States ; and the additional cost of Federation, so far as I can see, is that of the Governor- General’s Department at £22,657 ; the Parliament, including the forthcoming elections, at £211,511, and, adding the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, together with the High Court and the Arbitration Court at £33>2IO> we have a total of £267,378. That, I take it, represents a fair estimate of the extra cost imposed by “Federation. We have provided for an expenditure of £7,867,621; and if we deduct from that the £267,378 I have mentioned as the extra cost, we have a balance of £7,600,243. The estimated receipts are £15,755,765, a”d the Government propose to give to the States in 191 1, £5,668,750. As I have shown, we have relieved the States of an expenditure of £7,600,243, which, added to the money to be paid to the States, gives a total of £13,268,993. Amongst the services taken over are those of. defence. lighthouses and quarantine, which, of course, give no return ; and it seems to me that we have overlooked the fac”: that the States have been attempting to “ get the best “ of the Commonweal thanat the States, notably the large States, have not decreased the expenditure in the way they undertook to do through their mouthpieces at the inauguration of Federation. As a matter of fact, the States have gone on increasing their expenditure, although they have been relieved to the extent’ I have mentioned; and a sum of £13.000,000 odd more than ought to be required under a different .and better arrangement has to be provided. The Budget papers show a constantly decreasing revenue, and an increasing expenditure in the Commonwealth ; and the Government have made no provision for facing the outlook. We have not been told how the Government propose to finance the £5,000,000 odd which has to be paid to the States.
– The revenue is more this vear than last year.
– According to the Treasurer’s own statement, the receipts in 1907- 8 were £3 ns. 6d. per head; in 1908- 9 they were £3 7s. 1½d. - a decrease of nearly 4s. - and in 1909-10 they me estimated to be £3 6s. 10d./ without the 5s. 6jd. per head on account of the Treasury bonds. The expenditure for 1907- 8 was £1 9s. 4jd. per head; for 1908- 9 it was £1 ’10s. ojd., and for 1909- 10 it is estimated at £1 16s. 1½d. The excesses in the same years are, respectively, £2 2s. pad- £1 17s. i£d., and £1 16s. 2fd. per head. In the three years the decrease in the revenue shown is at the rate of 4s. 8fd. per head, while the increase in the expenditure is 6s. 9¼d. per head. During those three years, the Commonwealth has had the administration of pretty well the same Departments, with the exception of quarantine, which has just been added ; but now we are faced with old-age pensions, estimated to cost £1,750,000. The decrease in the receipts and the increase in the expenditure, together represent us. 6d. per head of the population. What are the Government going to do to provide for this serious outlook? If we have a protective Tariff, in view of the accepted policy of the country, there must be a decrease in revenue; and I ask whether we are to have a new departure, as would seem to be indicated by the straws which show which way the wind’ blows. Only the other day the honorablemember for Maribyrnong - I do not know whether he is in the confidence of the Government, or, in any way, represents them - talked to us about tea and other purely revenue duties. If revenue duties are to be the future policy, we ought to know whither we are drifting; because .1 consider” a revenue Tariff the worst possible, seeing that it presses unmistakably on the masses of the people. For the purposes ot revenue, 1 prefer direct taxation:
– 1 think there ought to be a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I have no objection to duties on narcotics and stimulants, but we ought not to depend for revenue on duties levied on goods which we are forced to import. In a number of lines the Tariff is now practically prohibitive. I know a case in which a manufacturer from abroad found that an increase of rate from 25 to 30 per cent, had absolutely shut him out of this market, and this has occurred in other businesses, and will extend, if there is an adjustment of duties on what some honorable members opposite have termed scientific lines. Great things are expected from this Fusion Government, although we, on this side, think that its efforts will end in failure and disaster. Ministers should tell the people how they propose to obtain revenue. Do they intend to tax tea, kerosene, cotton goods, and other necessaries of the poor, or will they impose direct taxation on the big land-holders, and thus break up monopolies? A policy of drift will not inspire confidence. Perhaps they think that they can keep quiet until the new Parliament, when they expect to have a large majority, though in that they may be disappointed. But such action on their part will be inexcusable. They have conferred with the Premiers of the States, and have agreed with them to give away the powers of this Parliament, -leg-roping the Constitution. Therefore, they are bound to tell us, before the debate closes, how they intend to face the various problems which demand settlement. Our revenue is decreasing, and our expenditure increasing. Transferred Departments, like that of the PostmasterGeneral, and the Customs Department, are revenue-producing, but many of the other Departments which we have taken over are wholly a cause of expense, producing no revenue. By taking them over ~e have increased the Commonwealth liability, and proportionately reduced that of the States. Yet the cost of government by the States has enormously increased since 1900. This condition of affairs cannot be permitted to continue, as ‘it will if we agree to give to the States annually. for all time, a certain amount per head of population. Already the State Treasurers are boasting that they have got the better of the Commonwealth. I do not object to a division of the revenue on a per capita basis until the separation of the finances in the way to which I have referred; but, if the Government proposal is adopted, and the State Governments are successful in inducing large numbers of immigrants to come here, the Commonwealth will have to tax the people unnecessarily, to meet its obligations under this, agreement. The cost of government does not increase in ratio with the increase of population. Twenty years hence, the population of Australia will probably be much greater than it is’ now. Before then a Labour Government will be in power, and in three years will do so much to make the country prosperous that plenty of people will come here.
– How would the Labour party provide for public works?
– We understand finance, while honorable members opposite do not. The Treasurer’s only idea is to borrow ; but no one becomes better off by going into debt. I am tired of the cry, “ Borrow to spend on reproductive works.” That policy only makes the various public services dearer.
– The members of the Labour parties in the State Parliaments have always supported borrowing.
– Individual members may have done so, but the declared policy of the party now is averse to borrowing, except for the reduction of interest by means of conversions. When a man has money in hand, and wants, say, to build a house, he does not borrow.
– How could Australia have built its railways without borrowing ?
– I have ideas as to how it could be done, and when we, on this side, are on the Treasury bench, we shall give effect to our views ; it is not our duty now to tell the Government how to do things.
– How would the honorable member get the money to build the proposed transcontinental railway ?
– Money is obtainable for doing what we have to do. During the last nine years, the Commonwealth has carried on the public services of which it has charge, and has spent between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 on public works, without borrowing, at the same time, foolishly, and wrongly, returning £7,000,000 to the States, which, had there been in power any financier with a proper outlook, would have established an oldage pensions fund, and provided for public works. When money is borrowed for the construction of so-called reproductive works, such as railways, the people have to pay high freights and fares to provide the necessary interest, whereas it would probably be more beneficial to them to be taxed to provide capital for construction, thus being saved borrowing charges. If there were no interest to pay, our public services could be carried on at less cost to those who use them. The Treasurer will at least admit that that would be a good thing. If it were possible to do it, the Treasurer would say it was desirable. What I am combating is the attitude of the Treasurer and the honorable member for Echuca, who tell us that the way to get on is to keep on borrowing money. Their idea, of success in life is to get into debt. That is a new theory to me, and we used at one time to hear a great deal of talk from honorable members like the honorable member for Echuca about exercising thrift in order to succeed. Now, apparently, they argue that the further you get into debt the better off you will be. That policy, carried to its logical conclusion, would mean that Australia would get so far into debt that it would take the whole of the energies of the people, and all the revenue of the Commonwealth, to pay interest to those over the water from whom we borrowed money. I am altogether opposed to that doctrine. I do not overlook the fact that there is an exception to every rule, and that at times it may pay one to borrow and provide a sinking fund to get over a temporary difficulty. If we had our own Commonwealth, bank, and controlled our own finances, the situation would be vastly different. What any individual or community is forced to do under existing conditions would not have the same effect if circumstances were altered, in a way that they could be altered, and probably will have to be altered in the future. I object to advocating the doctrine of borrowing because it is an easy thing. There is a strong feeling in the Commonwealth in favour of putting out defences- on the very best footing ; but expenditure on defence is necessarily wasteful, in the sense that there is no return from it, although we may be forced to undertake it in order to protect our lives and liberties. We are spending an increasing amount on defence, and I believe the Australian people are willing that that should be so ; but surely no one would propose to provide for defence, which cannot be called a reproductive work, out of loan money. Such a policy would be madness. What sort of a position shall we be in- if we borrow the ,£17,000,000 that I have indicated as_ being required for works which the Government have foreshadowed, in addition to the other £5,000,000? What will happen if we keep on in the way the States are going, and if the Commonwealth also becomes a borrower as indicated, I will admit not by the Government, but certainly by the Treasurer as his own personal view,, although he did speak for the. Cabinet when he proposed to issue Treasury bills for £1,200,000? Australia is drifting into a most dangerous financial system by this doctrine of being able to get millions easily by floating loans. It has already led to extravagance and waste, and if we are so unfortunate as to be involved in war, where shall we find ourselves? We should drift into such a state of insolvency as to be absolutely financially ruined. War now is a matter of finance, and the nation with the money is the nation that wins. Where shall we get the money to pay for war if we go on pledging our credit for everyday works? The Treasurer asks how we are to build railways without borrowing, but we are not bound to build railways at the rate that the States have been doing. I admit that in Western Australia, in exceptional circumstances, such as Ihe necessities of the people on the big gold-fields, it was essen- ‘tial to build railways; but will any one say that this small garden State, of Victoria had to build railways at such a rate and pull the rails up afterwards’? One has only to walk around the suburbs of Melbourne to see lines of railway rusting and rotting. Would all those railways have been built if the State Government had had to .tax the people to find the money for them? No less than £3,500,000 was spent to build a railway that does not pay, in the Western District through the land of forty private owners, at the expense of the rest of the community. The rest of the people have to provide interest on the’ money sunk in that undertaking. Is that good business ? Yet that is . the sort of thing that has been done in Australia with’ borrowed money. The system of borrowing easily .means inefficient and bad government. It means incompetence in government, and has imposed an enormous burden on the people of Australia. Whilst the railways of Australia as a whole are yielding a return of over 4 per cent., that does not necessarily prove that it is wise to borrow money to build railways. It is far wiser to build them without borrowing if you can do so. Honorable members who think it better to borrow money for those purposes have not looked very deeply into the question. I am sure they do not adopt that policy in their own private businesses if they can help it. Every man tries to carry on without borrowing, so that he may get the full benefit of his outlay. The extravagant waste which has taken place in the past in the spending of loan money by the States ought to-be a lesson to all politicians, to say nothing of statesmen, to guard against a similar policy in the future. I wish to emphasize the fact that year after year we have been taking over Departments from the States, and our present situation exemplifies the wisdom of those who secured the limitation of the Braddon section. We have taken over Departments with sufficient rapidity to reach a position in which the Braddon section is absolutely unbearable, and I exceedingly regret that the Commonwealth has in power now a Government which is prepared to re-impose that section on the Constitution in an altered form. If the people accept it now, they will be bound to have it varied within less than ten years. I am not complaining at present of the sum which the Government have agreed to allow to the States, but the Commonwealth should never permit its control of the finances to be crippled. Those who control the purse control the whole policy. Every one knows that in commercial partnerships the man who finds the money controls the whole business. So, too, the House of Commons which controls the purse, controls the public policy of Great Britain. The Commonwealth is now undertaking to guarantee to return to the States a fixed sum per head, no matter how much the population grows. It is, therefore, undertaking to do the unpleasant work of taxing the people whether that taxation is necessary or not. If there is in Australia that reasonable development and increase of population which we are all working for - and surely in twenty years all the efforts of the Commonwealth and the States in that direction will have met with a greater measure of success than has been the case so , far - then the payment of 125s. per head of the population to the States will simply mean taxing the people unnecessarily, and must lead to extravagance.
– Will not the people have something to say. to it?
– If the Constitution is amended for all time in that direction, the people will have no say in the matter. The Government of the Commonwealth will have to carry out the Constitution as they have had to carry out the Braddon section. My objection is to guaranteeing to pay the States a fixed amount per head for all time.
– Why not trust the people?
– We should never fool or deceive the people. We should be honest and frank with them. There is no evidence that the States will require 25s. per head from the Commonwealth twenty years hence.
– -The people agreed that the Commonwealth should pay back to the States a proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue.
Mr.SPENCE.- Surely the honorable member would not recommend to the people something that he does not believe in on the pretext that the people are going to be responsible? I am sure he will vote conscientiously against submitting to the people anything that he cannot recommend to them.
– Is the honorable member afraid the people will not do right ?
– The people will not have a say. They will have the choice of taking or leaving what the Government recommend, and because the Government recommend it, they will be misled.
– The honorable member will take care of that.
– I shall try to take care that it does not reach the people.
– Then the honorable member will not trust the people?
– It is not a question of trusting them. We have no right to submit to them a thing which is not approved of by this Parliament.
– I thought the honorable member approved of the referendum.
– This will not be a referendum such as the Labour party believe in. A referendum means a vote of the whole people as citizens, but, under our Constitution, we must- have a majority of the people and a majority of the States. That does not meana majority of the whole people. Certain States may see a possible benefit ahead for themselves, and so be induced to vote from a narrow provincial stand-point for something that may be against the future welfare of the Commonwealth, and that probably will necessitate a big constitutional fight in the future to have it altered. I did not want to deal with the question of the Premiers’ Conference agreement at any length at this stage, but it is so involved with the finances that we are entitled to a plain statement from the Government of their own views with regard to the matters that we have brought forward. I see no necessity for an amendment of the Constitution. This Parliament has power to do what is necessary by a simple measure. So far as I can judge the feeling of honorable members, I believe there would be no difficulty in securing parliamentary sanction to a vote to the States, say, on the basis arrived at at the Premiers’ Conference, which is very similar to what was discussed at the Brisbane Labour Conference. But in passing a Bill of that sort, we would not, and could not, pledge the next Parliament.
– The honorable member’s leader said the amount which we propose to pay to the States is too much.
– It is too much, because the Customs, and Excise revenue is decreasing, and the Treasurer, in those circumstances, should pay a decreasing, and not an increasing amount to the States. Whenever the Labour party have raised the question of direct taxation they have always been told that it must be left to . the States. That was the advice tendered to us by Sir Edmund Barton when he was Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and it was indorsed by the present Prime Minister. We were told that we should leave direct taxation to the States, and that the Commonwealth should retain its control of the Customs and Excise Departments. If there is anything in the contention, there can be no justification for fixing an amount to be returned to the States for all time. At the most, a State Treasurer needs only to be able to forecast his revenue for three years, or, in other words, for the life of the Parliament. Each of the Parliaments of the Commonwealth could fix the amount to be returned to the States during its life. That would be a more flexible arrangement, and would be more in the interests of the States than any hard and fast agreement.
– It would keep the whole financial question open.
– I think not. The Commonwealth has treated the States very liberally, and I regret that the right honorable member for East Sydney, in a letter which he addressed to the President of the Conference, chose to speak of the Commonwealth as if it were an opponent of the States. Every member of this Parliament is pledged to study the interests of the Commonwealth, and we must have regard to the well being of the people of all the States. I disapprove of a scheme that would involve unnecessary taxation, so far as the Commonwealth itself is concerned - taxation which must either be direct or imposed on necessaries of life which we do not, and are not, * likely to produce for some time. I shall not deal at this stage, with the question of industrial legislation; I have touched only upon those questions which, in my opinion, demand attention in connexion with the financial situation. The situation is not an easy one for any Treasurer to face, but 1 should like more evidence than we have that the Government, and particularly the Treasurer, have realized the tremendous responsibilities which they Have undertaken. I am heartily in favour of the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth, but that . transfer will involve very considerable expenditure. If the Government propose to finance their undertakings by resorting to borrowing we shall have a seventh Australian borrower entering the money market, and the long promised transfer of the debts to the States .will be practically set aside. These are important phases of the question which must be faced, and the people ought not to be left in the dark in regard to them until the next general election. It. is not creditable to the Government that they have failed to take steps to secure the transfer of the debts of the States, and I should like to know why they have not done so, more especially as it would pave the way to the policy of borrowing, of which, apparently, they are in favour. The adoption of such a policy will influence the votes of some honorable members in regard to the transfer of certain services from the States to the Commonwealth. I, for one, strongly object to a system under which the Commonwealth Parliament is placed in the unpleasant position of having to impose taxation, while the States have the satisfaction of spending a large proportion of the revenue so obtained. In many cases they have been guilty of extravagance, and have not attempted to do away with services that are admittedly unnecessary.
– Some of them have done so.
– That may be; but, generally speaking, all the States have neglected to curtail their expenditure. The present Government have in their hands the key to the situation. As long as we retained control of the finances, the States Governments would be forced to curtail expenditure, and that would be a good thing for the people. The workers and producers have to bear the chief burden of taxation whether it be imposed by the Commonwealth or the States, and we have no right to part with a lever that we can use to force on the States better management of Public Departments. Our Public Departments are as well managed as we can insure, and no money is wasted in connexion with them. We should force the States to give up the extravagances of which some, at least, of them are guilty. I am strongly opposed to an extension of the present binding contract ; but 1 have nothing to say as to the amount proposed to be returned to the States, pending a general settlement of the financial problem, including, I hope, that of the transfer of the debts. I trust that the Government will note our request and make a frank and full statement of their view of the financial outlook.
.- The knowledge that we shall have an opportunity later to discuss the general questions of finance, which the Budget involves, has, no doubt, led to the curtailment of the present debate, for honorable members recognise the inadvisableness of having two debates on the same subject. I agree with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, that the Budget is a fair one, having regard to the peculiar circumstances in which the Government are placed. The Treasurer acted wisely in proposing that, failing an arrangement with the States, the Government should be enabled, by the issue of short-dated Treasury bills, to meet their obligations in respect to old-age pensions, and other expenditure, without raising the general question of borrowing. The right honorable gentleman is practically in the position of a man who, having a large sum of money, falling due two years hence, and desiring to use portion of it at the present time, borrows from his bankers what he needs until his own money comes in. Unless some arrangement be made with the States, the Treasurer will be in a position in 191 1 to pay back the money he has borrowed to provide for the services of the current year.
– Bv extra taxation.
– I am dealing with the Budget as it stands, and in it the Treasurer has not raised any question of taxation. He has simply said, in effect, that, pending an arrangement with the States, he proposes to issue short-dated Treasury bills. The inference is that he will meet those bills out of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue at present returnable to the States, unless a definite agreement be arrived at with them. My main object in rising, however, was to deaf with one Department, which opens up questions of general finance that can best be discussed during the consideration of the Budget. I refer to the Telephone Branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department. We are all agreed that it is not in a satisfactory condition. We have been told that it does not pay ; but we have always experienced difficulty in ascertaining whether or not that is so. Large increases in rates have been proposed by different Ministers, but they have been framed on the basis, not of cost, but of the charges in New York, Vienna, Paris, or some other city, without reference to our particuiar circumstances. The Department was one to which I gave considerable attention when I wasa member of the Parliament of Victoria. For years I agitated that a statement of the income and expenditure of each branch should be prepared in order that we might know at once whether any. service was or was not paying. I urged that the expenditure of the Department should not be so wrapped up as to make it impossible for any one to say whether any of the branches of the Department are in a non-payable condition. As the result, partly of my efforts in the last years of the control of the Department by the States, certain returns were furnished in Victoria. I have looked up a statement for the three years 1898, 1899, and 1900, in which the expenditure on telephones, telegraph and postoffices, as well as the income derived from those sources in this State, was carefully set out. I brought it under the attention of the Postmaster-General, and inquired whether the Department had continued to keep this account. The honorable gentleman made inquiries, and found that such an account was still kept, and covered the period from 1887 to the present time. For the first three years the report was printed; but, since then, it has not been available in the public papers ; but through the courtesy of the Postmaster-General, I have received a copy, which shows results truly remarkable. Since the year 1887, when the Victorian Government took over the telephones from a private company, the receipts have been £1,276,634, and the total expenditure, including cost of operation, maintenance, establishment, new works and appliances, has been £1,458,875, showing that, for the twenty-two years, the gross expenditure has exceeded the gross receipts by only £182,241. The total expenditure on telephone exchanges, works, and trunk linesthat is, the creation of the plant - has been £871,191, of which £361,540 has been expended during the last three or four years on extensive tunnels that are, of course, of a permanent character. Even in the face of that expenditure, the total the Treasury is out of pocket over the twenty-two years, is only £^182,241.
– Does, the expenditure include the purchase money ?
-Yes; it includes £40,000 paid to the private company, the only asset of which really was a station in Wills-street, worth about £7,000. The money paid over to the company was practically for good-will, seeing that the plant and telephones were mostly worn out or obsolete, and that the first work of the Victorian Government was to reinstate the whole. When the Committee on the transferred properties inquired into the value of this plant in 1901, they placed it at £”83,751, which I regard as very low. There was not included, in that valuation buildings, stores, tools, and so forth, worth about £36,249; so,that, in 1901, the undertaking, with the buildings, was worth £120,000. At the present time, the plant is worth £500,000; so that, the working of the Department over this period shows practically that the system paid from the start; that it has been created out of its own funds, and, taking the value of the plant into consideration, is £330,000 to the good, after deducting £391,000 for depreciation. I suppose that, under our parliamentary system, it is necessary that each Department should pay all its income into the
Treasury, and then draw all its expenditure out of the Treasury.
– Ir is a bad system.
– I do not say that it is a bad system; but it requires 10 be supplemented by another, under, which the money each year ought to be allocated, so much for current expenditure, so much for plant, and so forth. There ought to be a plant account in each Department, and additions made and depreciations written off year- by year, as part of the expenditure. . In that way, people and Parliament would know whether a Department was being administered at a loss or a profit. It is no reflection on the present PostmasterGeneral, who has Just come into office, that I should call attention to these matters, although they show clearly that the Department is not in the position it ought to be in. A trading Department of this kind, which has made a clear profit of £14,000 a year over the period I have mentioned, ought not to be hampered ; and, notwithstanding what has been said to-night in regard to a loan policy, I point out that, if this undertaking were in the hands of a company, or of a private individual, and extensions were required, there would not be the slightest hesitation in borrowing £300,000 or £500,000 to complete the plant, so that the business might te conducted in the proper way, arrangements being made, by means of a sinking fund, to repay the whole out of the current expenditure in twentyyears. That would be a sound principle, and sound business ; because, if we undertake to do certain service for the public, and to charge them for it, the equipment must be complete and up-to-date. If such accounts as I have dealt with are kept in Victoria, are they kept in the other States ? If not, why should not instant orders be given to have them kept ? One of the great causes of failure in our present system is the absence of clear-headed accountancy, which would lay down principles on which a proper analysis of the transactions of every post-office throughout Australia could be systematized, so as to make it possible to show so closely as to amount to actuality, which is paying and which is not. This great public service has to be extended almost indefinitely in order to follow population ; and if we found that we were halfamillion short, Parliament, and the whole of the taxpayers, would know that it had been spent for the benefit of the community. It is not fair, in the case of the telephones, for instance, to raise the rates charged to the public by 150 per cent., on the ground that the Department is not paying, though the fault does not lie with the telephones, but with other arrangements which are necessary in connexion with the administration. This is a matter of first class importance, and I understand that the Government have appointed accountants to make inquiries.
– Departmental accountants ?
– Mr. Holmes, who has been appointed, is a public accountant. There must be men in the Department, if they are encouraged, and the business is systematized, to enable all that is necessary to be done so as to secure future satisfactory management. I think it desirable to make these remarks, because they apply to nearly every Department, whether State or Commonwealth. If a system of accountancy were introduced, and made to work in with the parliamentary system,, as could easily be done, the Department ought to be able to place on the table a balance sheet showing the money received and expended, the assets, and so forth. I thank the Postmaster-General, for his courtesy in forwarding me the information I have used, and I trust that what I have said will not. be misunderstood by him. If these matters receive immediate attention, they will dispose of the outcry made at the instance of some of the technical men of the Department, who, instead of looking into the matter and seeing really what the telephone system costs, propose to add enormously to the burden of those who use the service.
.- I desire to make a protest, rather than a speech. I do not think that the Government are treating us quite fairly in endeavouring to force a discussion of the Budget while other highly important, perhaps more important, matters, vitally affecting (he consideration of the Budget, are kept in abeyance. I fail to see why we. cannot have the results of the Premiers’ Conference placed before us, so that we may, to some extent, modify, or strengthen our attitude towards the Budget. The borrowing proposals are, to my mind, the chief obstacle now in the discussion of the Budget. As I understand, if we accept the Budget as it stands, we virtually, indorse the Treasurer’s intention to borrow, whereas, if the arrangement with the States is carried out, there will be no need to borrow ; and I desire to know exactly the position. I realize that there must be borrowing sooner or later; I am- not one who thinks that we can go on for ever without borrowing for reproductive works. But there is no need to borrow until we have assumed our national responsibilities. Until we know the result of the Premiers’ Conference, we shall not know what responsibilities we are being asked .to assume.
.- I suggest to the Treasurer that it would be advisable to postpone the further consideration of the item now before the Committee, and to proceed with the following items.
– We must pass the first item before going further.
– I object to that course. We have not been able to discuss the Budget as we should discuss it, because it was delivered prior to the Premiers’ Conference, which has altered the whole position.
– I do not remember that the Estimates have ever been proceeded with before the first item was passed. The Bill which the Government intends to introduce next week will cover all questions affecting Commonwealth, and State finance, and therefore the door to further discussion cannot be closed.
– Its discussion must take place in the House?
– And in Committee, too.
– What is to be gained by doing what the honorable member proposes?
– I confess that I do not know what matters there are affecting the Budget which could not be discussed in connexion with the proposed Bill, but there may be some. At present, we have an opportunity to discuss every question in any way. affecting finance, and we ought not to part with it. Apparently the Government proposes to commence de novo, bv putting forward an amended financial statement. If the agreement with the Premiers has not altered the financial situation, why is it proposed to discuss it. and why have we not had some explanation of the Budget proposal to’ float short-dated Treasury bills? I have suggested an easy and convenient way for getting on with business. If we pass the first item, we shall have no opportunity to discuss financial matters until the proposed Bill is introduced, and if anything occurred to pre- vent the introduction of that measure, the Budget discussion would. have been brought to a close, although there is yet much criticism to be directed against the Government proposals.
– I have never known the first item of the Estimates to be postponed and subsequent items proceeded with. The Bill to be introduced does not affect these Estimates, and nothing will be lost by proceeding with them now in the ordinary way. Honorable members have been discussing the Budget for days, but if they pass the first item, they will have a further opportunity for criticising the financial proposals of the Government when the Bill covering the agreement with the Premiers, and other matters, is introduced next week. It deals with the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, and no criticism relating thereto can be excluded.
– The Budget discussion must finish on the passing of this item.
– As an opportunity for financial debate will be given by the Bill, this is no longer needed.
– I shall not object to the item being passed directly the Bill is before us.
– Surely it can be passed on my assurance that the Bill will be introduced next week. Honorable members seem to have exhausted the present opportunity for discussion. In any case, whatever they may have to say can be said in connexion with the Bill referred to.
– I accept the assurance of the Prime Minister that the Bill dealing with the “finance agreement will be introduced next week, but would point out to him that it will be for the Speaker to decide what matters may, and what may not, be discussed in connexion with it. In dealing with a Bill, it is not permissible to go beyond the order of leave, and I cannot conceive of a measure in connexion with which we could discuss all the matters which are now open for discussion. The introduction of the Estimates provides the great annual opportunity for the discussion of Government policy and administration in all its phases. We should be only too ready to discontinue this discussion now with a view to its resumption when the Bill came before us, if we knew that the Speaker would cive us the opportunity then to discuss all those matters that can be discussed in the Budget debate. There will be no attempt to double-bank the debate, if, on the Bill, we can say what we have to say.
– If the honorable member will give that distinct understanding in his official capacity, I shall be willing to allow this debate to stand over.
Mf. BATCHELOR (Boothby) [6.24]. - The Prime Minister forgets that there has never been a set of circumstances similar to the present. In the Budget debate we can discuss everything, except the details of items which appear in the Estimates, but the peculiar difficulty that we are now in is that the Government have tabled certain financial proposals which will be affected by their new proposals.
– The new proposals will not affect the expenditure.
– I understand that they will affect the loan proposals.
– We are agreed, so why not sit down?
– The right honorable member always takes up the attitude which is most productive of further discussion. I do not want to double-bank the debate. The Government proposals affecting their loan policy are now before the Committee, and, assuming that the Bill which the Prime Minister proposes to introduce is not carried; I suppose we shall fall back again on the Budget debate, or that the Government will bring forward a third set of financial proposals. It may. therefore be necessary to return to the discussion of the original Budget if the Premiers’ Conference agreement is not adopted.
– I have agreed to the postponement of this division.
– I am satisfied if the Prime Minister agrees to let this item stand over, so that we may hereafter discuss the Budget generally, if necessary.
– So far as this conversational proposal is concerned, I have never heard of such a thing in my life. The Prime Minister asks us in his nice voice, and soft way, to pass votes, and then we shall have to find the money. There never was such a proposal made by any Treasurer in the history of the world. We must know first where the money is to come from to pay for what we are voting. We are asked to adopt an upside-down proceeding. We are to vote £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, and then we - not the Ministry - will have to find the necessary money to meet that expenditure.
– Not if we do not pass the first line of the Estimates.
– If the honorable member takes my advice, he will not give up a single position, and will not be cajoled into doing what we are now asked to do. Let the Ministry stand to their guns, and bring down their, proposals before we pass the Estimates. The only hold we have on them is to keep the Estimates before us.
– That is what we propose to do.
– I did not hear any such arrangement made. I shall not agree to doing things in a hole and corner way. Let us know first what the Government are going to do to find the money. We have heard nothing to show that they will not proceed with their proposal to float £1,200,000 worth of Treasury bills.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I do not wish to take a prominent part in this matter, and if the Leader of the Labour party is prepared to allow the Estimates to go through before we have seen the Government proposals for finding the money, I shall content myself with entering my pro-‘ test. It is highly improper for the Committee to pass the Estimates without knowing where the money is to come from, or what arrangement is to be made, and without any statement from the Government as to whether Treasury bills are to be issued, or whether that proposal is to be withdrawn. We should also have a statement as to what has taken place between the Ministry and the State Premiers; but once we pass the Estimates our hands will be tied. Moreover, when we come to deal with any specific subject, such as the financial arrangement between the Government and the State Premiers, we may not be allowed that freedom of debate which we should have. Neither the Prime Minister nor any one else can say what ruling the Chairman will give, and the debate may, for all we know, be absolutely curtailed. The responsibility will be ours if we agree to what the Government propose, and we should not vote a single sixpence until we know where the money is to come from. I am anxious that we should proceed in a proper and legitimate way. If that is arranged for, there will be no carping on my part. I make that explanation now, because before the adjournment for dinner I came into the chamber at the last moment, and did not know what arrangement was being made or discussed. I took exception at once to what I understood was the desire of the Government, because I feel strongly on the matter, and I think the Committee should feel strongly on it also.
– Some time ago I put it to the Government as plainly as I could that the Budget ought not to be discussed at all until we had before us the agreement entered into with the State Premiers, which affects the Budget as much as it affects the finances generally. That being so, of course, alt we can do is to protest against any other course being taken. The Government, with their majority, may go on with the business as they please, but there are plenty of other matters that could be taken up in the meantime, if they are to conduct the business, as any Government in their position ought to conduct it.
– The course I propose to adopt is to put the question that the division “ The Senate” be postponed. That includes the first item, and, consequently, the Budget debate. I propose then to proceed with the Estimates from the division “The House of Representatives” onwards, as, I understand, has been arranged. Of course, this is a matter in regard to which every member of the Committee has equal rights, and if any honorable member wishes to go on with the Budget debate, I cannot postpone it. Unless objection is taken, I propose to proceed as I have stated, postponing the Senate division to permit later of a resumption of the Budget debate upon the first item.
.- Can you, as Chairman, do that? Is it in the power of any one who occupies the chair to postpone an item and call on another? The first item has been called on time after time, and will it not be necessary for a Minister to move that it be postponed? If the Chairman can do as you suggest, then he could turn over several pages of the Estimates and say : “ I intend to postpone all this.”
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.What I propose to do will be done mil with the consent of the Committee, and at the request of the Prime Minister and of the honorable member who was leading the
Opposition before the adjournment for dinner. I find that there is a practice in the House of Commons which permits it; but, or course, if leave is not given by every member of the Committee, I shall not take that course.
– - May I suggest to the Committee”” that in the circumstances
– We should not do anything so far as these Estimates are concerned.
– My honorable friend will see, if he looks at the matter calmly, that the present circumstances may never happen again in a Parliament. They are certainly a set of circumstances that have never happened before, so far as I am aware. We might very well go on with the Estimates now, after all the discussion that has taken place on the Budget.
– Cannot we go on with other business?
– I. could understand these objections being taken at an earlier stage. Can any hurt be occasioned by proceeding with the parliamentary Estimates? No honorable member - no matter on which side he sits - will take the slightest objection to them. Whatever the Government may do about raising Treasury bills will not affect the consideration of this part of the Estimates by so much as a farthing. What, then, is to be gained by postponing it? I ask the Committee to carry out the agreement entered into before the dinner adjournment by the Prime Minister and the-acting Leader of the Opposition, and to proceed with the Estimates for the House of Representatives on the understanding that after they are passed we shall proceed with other business.
– As there was a disinclination on the part of honorable members to continue the discussion of the Budget, under the changed conditions which have arisen since the Premiers’ Conference agreement, it was suggested by me before the dinner adjournment that that discussion should be postponed. The Prime Minister and Treasurer at first would not agree to that; but the Prime Minister afterwards did agree. No useful purpose can be served bv objecting to it now. I take it that the Committee is Ml powerful, and may do what it pleases in the matter providing that no honorable member objects to .’the proposal.
All that is proposed is to postpone the general discussion until the Premiers’ agreement is submitted to us, when, if it be necessary, owing to its being unsatisfactory, or for any other reason, we shall be able to resume and amplify the Budget debate. In the meanwhile other business can be proceeded with. I should prefer the resumption of the debate on the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, but it is for the Government to determine what business shall be proceeded with, and they suggest that we now proceed to deal seriatim with the Estimates.
– I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, whether, in the event of our passing now a large number of items in the Estimates, we shall be precluded from referring to them when the general discussion on the Budget is resumed.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.That will depend upon the ruling of the Chairman when the question is raised. I am advised that the practice of the House of Commons is that, upon the first item, a general discussion may take place, but that honorable members may not discuss, wilh too much detail, any particular item. I would remind the Committee that the first item still remains untouched.
– The Government will take care that no rights are curtailed.
– I shall object to the postponement of the general debate.
– ‘ Then I must’ ask the honorable member te proceed with the discussion of the Budget, and not now to discuss the proposed adjournment of the general debate on the first item.
– My only desire is to bring- the business of the Committee into proper line. I have spent as much » time as possible; during the afternoon, in examining the Estimates, and find that they present many anomalies. I desire still further time to consider them, for the present Budget, as compared with the last two of its predecessors, contains many inaccuracies. I object to the Treasurer’s proposal to obtain £1,200,000 by the issue of short-dated Treasury bills, and am strongly opposed to voting for any item until we know how it is to be provided for. If the Committee desires to give away its rights, I can do no more than protest at this stage, but I shall avail myself of every opportunity hereafter to prevent effect being given to what is now proposed.
– What rights would be forfeited if the general debate were postjxmed, and the- Committee proceeded to deal with items in the Estimates?
– I would not trust the Ministry, or place reliance in any promise made by them.
– Say something new.
– The honorable member has no- right to suggest that I am transgressing the Standing Orders in protesting against the passing of any item in the Estimates, until we know what provision is to be made for it.
– We have already agreed to a good many items.
– It is true that we have passed the Works and Buildings Estimates. It has been the practice during the last four or five sessions to give precedence to ihose Estimates, but, if we proceed now to deal with items in the general Estimates, we shall be shackled. Honorable members cannot be expected to reverse their votes.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Hume is protesting violently, and, perhaps, incoherently, against a course ofaction which, owing to the consent of the Committee not being obtained, it is not proposed to pursue. You ruled, Mr. Chairman, . that the honorable member must devote his attention to the Budget, but he has not done so.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Hume is in order in protesting in the course of a general discussion on the Budget against the passing of any items.
– I would point out to the Treasurer that we did not attempt to deal with the Estimates last year until the Tariff had been disposed of. We passed the Works and Buildings Estimates, but the general Estimates remained untouched for many months. On that occasion, we did what was required under the Constitution, and did not, as. the Government now propose, violate all rules of procedure by inviting the Committee to vote blindly before the question of Ways and Means had been discussed. We ought not to pass any item of the Estimates until we know how the Government intend to provide for it. According to a statement in one of the daily newspapers, the Prime Minister refusedyesterday to say definitely whether or not the proposed issue of Treasury bills would be proceeded with. In the circumstances, therefore, it would seem almost certain that the Government will persist in that proposal, despite the arrangement that has been made with the Premiers of the States. I do not raise this objection in a captions spirit, but I really have not had time to examine the whole of the Estimates. It seems to me that the Treasurer should either remodel his Budget, or submit a new statement clearly intimating the intentions of the Government. Various statements have been made as to the agreement arrived at with the Premiers of the States, but we have no definite information on the subject.
– The honorable member has had three weeks in which to consider the Budget.
– And during that time nothing has been said as to the proposed issue of Treasury bills. The Treasurer has declared that he is in favour of borrowing.
– Iam, personally, and the honorable member has borrowed a good many millions in his time
– Not as a Commonwealth Minister. If I had not been in charge of the Treasury, a proposal would have been made at one time to float a loan, but I set my face resolutely against the initiation of a borrowing policy. The Treasurer would shovel money into the. Commonwealth from England and elsewhere, if he could hit upon an easy system of borrowing, without having to repay in a proper way.
– That is worthy of the honorable member.
– The Treasurer proposes to raise £1,200,000 by the issue of Treasurv bills to meet part of the current expenditure.
– Incurred by the honorable member when Treasurer.
– It was not incurred by me. This proposal to borrow £1,200,000 on Treasury bills was not to make up any deficiency caused by me, but to make up the deficiency for 1909-10.
– Deficiency in what ?
– In the revenue estimated by the Treasurer.
– How would the honorable member curtail expenditure?
– If I bad my way I would have more expenditure on the Post Office.
– Where would the. money come from?
– From taxation.
– What sort of taxation?
– If I had my way I would have a progressive land tax.
– That would not produce enough1.
– Yes, it would; and I was elected on this very question.
– Against the opinion of the honorable member’s leader.
– My then leader, who is now behind me in policy, said he would not agree to progressive land taxation until after an election; but he never in my hearing expressed himself against such taxation.
– He said it was not part of the poliCY of the Government.
– In regard to the coming election, I more than once argued the matter with the Prime Minister, telling him that I was in favour of land taxation, and against borrowing, and he said he did not approve of such’ a policy until it had been decided upon by the country ut an election, though he never said he was opposed to it. As to where the money is to come from, if I could control the Cabinet, I would make absentees pay a heavy tax, which would produce much’ more than honorable members imagine. -There are many men who have made their wealth in Australia, and who spend it in other parts of the world, and yet some of them have not a good word for this country.
– A tax of 3d. would produce £1.000,000.
– I have not made a calculation, but I know that such a tax would bring in a great deal of revenue. This young Commonwealth should not think of borrowing for many years, unless we take over the debts of the States, but should face its liabilities in a legitimate and proper way.
– Did the honorable member not propose to borrow when, a member of the first Government?
– I never did, but always protested against borrowing.
– The honorable member was a member of the Cabinet.
– If I protested, what more could I do?
– The honorable member could have left the Government.
– A team of bullocks would not make the Treasurer leave the Government if he could help it ! We have one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and yet we are asked to confess that we cannot pay our way.
– The honorable member proposed to have an overdraft.
– That was in reference to another matter, namely, oldage pensions. It was the Government of which I was Treasurer that first commenced to put money by for that purpose. I made a calculation that I could carry on until the middle of next year, though there might be six months which would have to be financed. I should not have borrowed money in the sense of issuing Treasury bills, but, if I had required a few hundred thousand’ pounds, I could, at the expiration of the operation of the Braddon section, have madean arrangement to obtain the money without placing the Commonwealth under the heel of the States. If the necessity had arisen, I would have borrowed enough money to carry me on and pay oldage pensions, and recoup the money borrowed on. the 1st January, 191 1. That would have been proper and legitimate, and it represents all the borrowing - if. it can be called borrowing, though I call it financing - that I intended to do.
– It would have meant £850,000.
– Whatever the amount, it could have been obtained at 3 per cent.
– For what we could get the money.
– Then why do not the Government do so, instead of giving everything away to the States?
– How could an overdraft be obtained without legal authority ? °
– I think the Treasurer sent some money away without any authority ; and for that he must take the responsibility. As I say, on the 1st January, 191 1, when I obtained full control of the Customs and Excise revenue, I should have paid off every shilling borrowed, even if I had had to finance a little.
– The honorable member would have been in no better position than we shall be in.
– Should I not? Why, the present Government propose to place the Commonwealth under the heel of the States for all time ! I should have liked to deal in detail with some of the items in the Budget, but, under the arrangement which appears probable, an opportunity will not be presented. I may say, however, that there are some totals in the Budget that fairly astonish me ; but, without the help of the Treasury officials, it is difficult for a layman to pick up the various points as presented in the Budget papers. I shall now leave the matter in the hands of the Leader of the Opposition or his deputy, contenting myself with the protest I have uttered. If it be desired lo pass these items, all I can do in the future is to refer to what I have said tc.-night, feeling confident that the time will come when I shall be proved to te right. _ Mr. KELLY (Wentworth) [8.22]. - I rise, not to discuss the Budget at length, but to express my profound regret that my Chesterfieldian friend, the ex-Minister for manners and customs, should have at last, after all the weeks of discussion, sought to prevent the Government doing the very thing they have been implored to do - proceed beyond the Budget, and undertake what has been called “something serious” in the conduct of the country’s business.
– Why not bring down the financial proposals?
– The financial proposals are the proposals to finance the great public Departments so as to carry on the services of the country. All that the Committee are asked to do to-night, and all that the Leader of the Opposition - who is the leader of the honorable member for Hume - has agreed to do is to proceed at once with ‘the. Estimates, and so try to deal with that side, at any rate, of the public finances. But the honorable member for Hume has raised a protest; and, as in all his actions, he has conferred an obligation on the Committee. For even the honorable gentleman has shown that he realizes that some form of borrowing may on occasions of urgency te desirable; though personally I sincerely hope it will be a “long time before it is necessary for the Commonwealth to resort to such a policy. Nobody could have surprised this Committee more. I think, than the honorable member for Hume, when he told us that, while he is against borrowing - which is a frank way of taking money one has to repay - he was in favour of an overdraft, which, I presume, as contrasted with the ordinary .borrowing process, means a loan that he never intended to repay. I am surprised that the honorable member for Hume should desire to borrow, because he appa rently wishes to pose before the people as a new tribune, standing between the extremists of the direct Opposition, and those who, he says, are to be found on the Government side, the defender of the liberties, and the executor of the common sense, of the community ! Having entered what he calls his protest, I hope he will permit the consideration of the Estimates to be proceeded with. The Government has undertaken to allow the Budget discussion to be continued on a future day, when it can be resumed with a knowledge of the arrangements entered into with the Premiers. It would be useless to have two Budget discussions.
.- The Government is happy in not being faced with an Opposition like that which for years sat on these benches, which would never have accepted so unprecedented a proposal as that now before us. What is behind this movement? Is some game afoot? What reason is there for this desire to run the Estimates through? Is there no other business which could be proceeded with? What about the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill? Does the Government intend to dispose of the Estimates, apply the cloture to the measure ratifying the agreement with the Premiers, and then prorogue Parliament? From all parts of the Chamber have come protests against proceeding further with the Budget discussion until the arrangements with the Premiers have been made known. The Budget discussion should, in the first instance, have been postponed until the Government was ready to give honorable members an opportunity to discuss those arrangements.
– I am prepared to carry out the agreement made with the Government by the honorable member for West Sydney, but I would point out to the honorable member for Wentworth, who spoke of the honorable member for Hume as following his leader, that it was this honorable member who objected to the first item being taken. It is remarkable that no one from the Government side of the Chamber has yet spoken on the Budget. The Ministerial supporters seem to be afraid to say anything lest they may display their opposition to the Treasurer’s proposals. It is a most upsidedown way of doing things to pass the Estimates before we know what revenue we shall have.
– It seems to annoy the honorable member.
– Were the honorable member for Indi to conduct his business in this way, he would soon find himself in an awkward position.
– We have already passed the Works Estimates.
– We have not yet had from the Treasurer a proper statement of the finances. Some of those who are supporting the Government have protested against the agreement with the Premiers, recognising it as a tremendous blunder. Ministerial supporters should give us their views on the Budget before we proceed further.
– And thus provide powder for the Opposition to shoot with !
– It is a long time since the- honorable member said anything except by way of interjection. He ought to make a speech, if only to give his constituents an opportunity to discover whether there is anything in him. Were the honorable member for Parramatta still in opposition, there would be a protest against tho Government proposal and a discussion which would last for hours. It is the duty of every honorable member on this side to object to go on with the Estimates now.
– The honorable member for Hume suggested that the course proposed by the Government is unconstitutional.
– There should be a quorum to hear the Minister’s statement. [Quorum formed.]
– The following passage from May shows clearly that, in the House of Commons, it is the practice to pass part of the Estimates before the delivery of the Budget -
The consideration of the financial statement for the year, made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is an important feature in the financial legislation of each -session. This statement, familiarly known as “ the Budget,” is made when the Minister has completed his estimate of the probable income and expenditure for the ensuing financial year, and usually after some progress has been obtained in voting the grants for the Army and Navy and other public services.
What the Government proposes is neither unusual nor unconstitutional.
.- The arrangement under discussion was effected bv one of those semi-private conversations across the Chamber which honorable members at a distance cannot hear, and, there fore, I do not understand what is proposed. “I thought that the Budget debate was to be postponed and the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, or some other measure, proceeded with; but the honorable member for Wentworth suggests . that we should go on with the Estimates. If it is intended to proceed with only one or two divisions, I do not know what is to be gained, unless some point is to be won by this procedure. Does the Government intend to continue the consideration of the Estimates until they are concluded? I wish to know how we stand.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr.
Johnson). - There is no motion for postponement before the Chair, and, therefore, I must ask honorable members not to discuss that question, but to deal with the Estimates, which are now before the Committee.
– My high ideals of parliamentary procedure have been absolutely shattered by what has occurred in the presentation of this Budget. It is most extraordinary that a Treasurer of the Commonwealth should practically try to bludgeon the Committee into agreeing with his methods. The Government first bring down a piecemeal Budget, submitting half and half proposals, and then, before we have got over our surprise, they adjourn Parliament, “and attend a Premiers’ Conference. A deliberate change of policy is agreed upon there, but when we come back to the House, and demand that that change of policy shall be submitted to us before we shoulder the responsibility of passing the Estimates, we are met bv an absolute refusal on the part of the Treasurer to give us any information regarding the Government’s change of front. Is that fair? In shouldering the finances of this Government, we shall be doing something which will affect us for the whole of our future careers as members of this Parliament. It is not like a temporary arrangement, because this Budget affects the financial future of Australia, and I, for one, refuse to give my acquiescence-
– The honorable member refuses to follow his leader.
– Mv leader has agreed to the postponement of the first item, but not to go on with the other items of the Estimates. He has thrown on the Government the responsibility of saying what business they will proceed with.
– Does the honorable member suggest that his leader has been playing tricks?
– It has been stated * since the dinner adjournment that the first item is to be postponed until the Government decide what other business they will go on with. There has been no agreement from this side of the House.
– Why should we wish to postpone the first item, unless it is to go on with some other items?
– Can no other business be gone on with? Cannot the Treasurer make a full statement of the Government’s financial proposals before we take the responsibility of passing the Estimates? We were promised last week that that statement would be made at an early date, and honorable members have refrained from continuing the Budget discussion because they wanted the Governmen to lay their new proposals before them. What is the use of debating proposals which are to be altered? I do not wish to obstruct legitimate business, but I cannot see the fairness of the present attitude of the Government. The Committee are undoubtedly divided in opinion on the question, and I enter my protest against any proposal to saddle us ‘ with the responsibility of passing the Estimates without a detailed statement from the Government of the methods by which they propose to finance the Commonwealth in the future.
.- I take it that the Government desire, in accordance with some understanding that has been entered into, to postpone this item, but no motion to that effect has been submitted to the Committee.
– We are prepared to do so, and to go on with the Estimates of the House of Representatives.
– That was arranged before tea.
– The Government are exhibiting an extraordinary desire, during the temporary absence of a certain honorable member, to pursue a line of procedure that has already been objected to. Why do not the Government submit a motion to postpone the first item, and get over the difficulty that was raised?
– There has never been any difficulty about that.
– No such motion has been submitted.
– Because it was objected to.
– The temporary Chairman - the honorable member for Corio - was about to proceed, by consent, to the second division of the Estimates, but that was quite a different proceeding from the deliberate submission by the Government of a motion to postpone the first item. The latter course would give honorable members an effective guarantee that they would be able to debate the Budget at a later date, if they so desired.
– We thought the other course would have the same effect.
– Fortunately, the proceedings of Parliament are conducted according to definite Standing Orders, and not by what honorable members think..
– I am prepared to move a motion to postpone the item now.
– That will clear the way for the arrangement which, has been entered into. There might . be another Chairman in the ‘Chair, who would give an entirely different ruling from that given by the honorable member for Corio. He himself stated that he would rule in the direction he indicated, but that he could not say what another Chairman would do. I Am prepared to agree to the arrangement submitted by the honorable member for West Sydney.
– It was suggested bv him.
– I am delighted to know that the Opposition are getting credit from the Government for having suggested a method by which the Government may do something. My difficulty for the last few weeks has been to understand what proposals the Government intend to submit to finance the obligations which they propose to cast upon the Commonwealth. While I am prepared to fall in with the arrangement entered into by my deputyleader, I strongly hold the view that, before the Committee accepts the responsibility of passing votes, it ought to be told how the money is to be raised. We must, therefore, get a statement from the Government as to their agreement with the State Premiers, or as to their other methods of handling the finances. We have no information on either of those points. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that, when an agreement was entered into between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers, not another line of these Budget proposals should have been proceeded with until a statement was made to the House and a decision arrived at. The honorable member for Flinders used to be a keen critic of the financial proposals of the Government. We heard him, when he sat in the Opposition corner, continually criticising the recklessness of the Government’s finances.
– Would not the honorable member have liked to hear him on the Premiers’ Conference agreement, if he had been on this side?
– His criticism would have been most interesting and instructive if he had been free from the crack of the caucus or Fusion whip, and within close proximity to an election, especially in view of the ominous note sounded by the contest which has just taken place in South Australia far the constituency of Wakefield, where the Labour candidate doubled his vote of 1906.
– And our man polled 2,000 more than the previous member.
– He polled under 1,200 more, whilst the Labour candidate polled 3,019 more. The honorable member for Flinders used to be keen-
– I have not said a word yet.
– The honorable member is in the unhappy position now of being afraid to open his mouth, in order to give the Committee the benefit of his undoubted financial ability. It is a great pity that we cannot get thrown on to the public finances the light which the honorable member could throw on them if he chose. It is a most extraordinary method of conducting business, to ask us to accept the responsibility of passing the individual items of expenditure, without knowing how the money is going to be raised to meet our obligations. The Treasurer’s proposal to finance this year by issuing short-dated Treasury bills has gone by the board. Is he still going to proceed with that project? Is that to be a part of the policy of the Fusion Government? The Treasurer will not give a definite answer on that point. All he says is, “I am not sure; I do not know.” Several honorable members in” the Ministerial corner, who are supporters of the Government, have said that no shortdated Treasury bills will be issued.
– I should not wonder if they were right.
– I know they are right. It is only necessary to show the Govern ment a majority against a proposal, and that settles it.
– The conditions are changed. That is the only thing.
– That is a lovely admission. The right honorable gentleman means that the numbers have changed. The honorable member for Balaclava, the honorable member for Moreton, and two or three others, have indicated their disapproval of that policy.
– There will be no more arrangements if this sort of thing is to go on. We had better go on with the Budget, if the honorable member will not take notice of his leader. Let us do one thing or the other.
– When I sit down, will the right honorable gentleman submit a motion to postpone the first item?
– Does the Treasurer think it fair to make a proposition of this kind during the temporary absence of an honorable member who objected to it?
– He has left the Chamber of his own free will. The proposal was made, not by the Government, but by the Opposition.
– To encourage the Government to do something. It seems to be my unhappy lot to cause the Treasurer some discomfort by stating a few home truths.
– The honorable member has been indulging in some little impertinences.
– I challenge the right honorable member to show that I have been impertinent. Is it impertinent to ask the Government how they are going to meet their obligations?
– I explained in the Budget how we propose to meet them.
– In delivering the Budget the right honorable gentleman said that it was proposed to issue Treasury-bills for £1,200,000, but that proposition is not likely to be carried out, since the numbers are against it.
– That is not so.
– Will the Treasurer state whether he proposes to issue Treasurybills 7
– I wish the honorable member would proceed with his speech.
– The right honorable gentleman is as close as an oyster. When he delivered his Budget the Prime Minister sat at his right hand to prevent him from saying too much when he departed from his typewritten speech.
– That is an inaccurate and misleading statement.
– If the Government do not intend to issue Treasury-bills, how are they going to finance their obligations ? That question ought to be answered before the Estimates are passed, but as we shall have an opportunity later to deal with it I shall not say more at this stage.
Division i (Senate), .£6,782.
– In accordance with the understanding arrived, at with the Opposition, I move -
That Division 1 be postponed.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir; [8.50].- If we agree to the postponement of this division, do the Government intend that we shall deal with the remaining items in the Estimates?
– Until we adjourn.
– Do the Government intend to push the Estimates through?
– We are at liberty to go on with” their consideration in the ordinary way.
– Does the right honorable gentleman expect the Committee to pass item after item in the Estimates before the Bill relating to the agreement made with the Premiers of the States is submitted?
– The acting Leader of the Opposition knows what the arrangement is.
– I want an answer to my question.
– Well, I will say, “ Yes.”
– If the Treasurer expects us to pass the whole of the Estimates with the exception of the first division of “ The Parliament “ before the general debate on the Budget is resumed, he is reckoning without regard to the obligations that honorable members owe to their constituents.
– I thought that that was the understanding arrived at with the acting Leader of the Opposition.
– If the Government were acting fairly bv the Committee they would withdraw the Budget and the Esti mates from the further consideration of the Committee until the Bill relating to the agreement with the Premiers had been submitted to us. The situation is unique.
– We will know, after this, the value of an agreement made with the honorable member’s side.
– No one ought to be a better judge of agreements and their value than the Prime Minister.
– I shall not object’ to the honorable member for West Sydney’s proposition ; but we have no right to adopt a Budget embodying certain expenditure which, if the agreement with the Premiers be net accepted, will practically commit us to a policy of borrowing. If it is proposed to adjourn the general debate pending the passing of the Estimates with the exception of the first division under the heading “ The Parliament,” then we are being led into a trap. It is the duty of the Opposition to retain its control over the public purse, and I am not prepared to vote item after item in the Estimates and so to help the Government to get their Estimates through in a way that may subsequently shackle us.
.- A misunderstanding seems to .have arisen. I was under the impression that the arrangement was that the’ general debate on the first item should be postponed, and that we should then proceed to-night to deal with other items in the Estimates. That does not necessarily imply that we should continue the consideration of the Estimates and practically deal with them before the general debate on the Budget is resumed. I understood that the agreement with the Premiers was to be submitted to the House in the form of a Bill at an early date, and that we should then have the explanation that we desire as to the financial proposals of the Government. If that Bill be submitted this week the debate upon it will practically take the place of that on the Budget.
– The conduct of business will go on, in the ordinary way, as the Government arrange.
– The right honorable member knows that once we pass the Estimates we shall lose all control over the Government. I see no objection to our passing the Estimates of one or two Departments as long as it is not understood that we arc to deal with the whole of them before the general debate is resumed.
– That is not likely to occur; but we hope to push on with the Estimates as far as possible.
– We must have regard to our duty as an Opposition and keep some control over the Government. Possibly the debate on the Bill to provide For the ratification of the agreement made with the Premiers will do away with the necessity for further discussion of the Budget.
Motion agreed to ; division postponed.
Division 2 (House of Representatives), £9,042
.- I notice that these Estimates perpetuate the practice to which attention was called by me some years ago - namely, the payment to Mr. Speaker of his salary as Speaker after the dissolution of Parliament. In again directing attention to the matter, it may be necessary to add that I do so without any personal feeling towards the occupant of the Chair. This item raises a constitutional issue which should be considered and dealt with apart from individuals. The Committee scarcely realizes, apparently, what is being done in this instance. Authority is given for the payment to the Speaker of his salary when he is no longer Speaker of this House, nor even a member of it. I refer honorable members to the Estimates, where they will see this famous footnote-
If returned again to Parliament the salary to continue notwithstanding the dissolution until the meeting of the new Parliament.
In my opinion, which is supported by the opinion of others better qualified to speak authoritatively on the point, this is an illegal payment. As to part of it - that part covering the period from the election to the date of the meeting of the new Parliament - I am satisfied that the Speaker’s acceptance of it renders his seat vacant. If the matter could be referred to the High Court, it is considered certain that this would be the result. I need scarcely refer the Prime Minister to the section in the Constitution which prohibits a member of the House from taking any emolument other than that allotted by Parliament. Yet in this instance the Speaker receives from the Treasury salary before he is elected Speaker. He receives this money from the dissolution of Parliament right up to the day when he is re-appointed, or his successor is chosen by the new Parliament. Leaving out of consideration the impropriety of this payment as regards the period between the dissolution and the day of the general election, my. contention is that the Speaker’s acceptance of an allowance after the election, and before he is re-appointed Speaker, is a forfeiture of his seat as member, under the Constitution. Now, the Committee should refuse to vote away money by these ingenious innovations of footnotes. The object of all this is to place the Speaker, as regards salary, in the same position as the President of the Senate. But aswe are unable to give ordinary members of this House the advantage which senators possess in continuity of salary over a dissolution, we have no right to put the Speaker in a better position than any other member.
– Does the same apply to the Chairman of Committees ? It seems to me it does.
– No; and it would be a wrong practice as regards the Chairman also, but there is no footnote to the item respecting his salary. He may draw his Chairman’s salary up to the dissolution, but he certainly cannot draw any salary from the dissolution until he is reappointed to the Chair.
– That is correct.
– Why should the same rule not apply to the Speaker? It is a grave and most objectionable anomaly that any man should draw money from the Treasury as emolument for a certain office before lie has been elected to that office. I do not desire to take up unnecessary time. The Prime Minister is perfectly well aware of the position, and knows all the arguments that were placed before honorable members on a previous occasion. I contend, however, that the case was not then fairly met. Then honorable members had just come from the country, and desired to get away about their business, so that the full strength of the case was not appreciated. The obvious indifference of the Committee leads me to think that it will not fare much better now; but, at any rate, I cannot let the item pass without once more offering my protest.
– The honorable ‘ member for Coolgardie is entirely consistent in the attitude he has taken up since 1904, when he gave a most exhaustive examination of the question from every point of view, when it also happened to be my duty to make reply that the payment is customarv elsewhere, under law in some countries having similar constitutions to our own, and in others without any specific provision.
– I should like to know where ?
– I think the places were mentioned in the course of the debate. In England, for instance, the payment is under law, and, in some of the Dominions it was said to be paid without any express provision.
– England is not governed by a written constitution.
– Quite so, but whether the honorable member be technically correct or not, the practice has the sanction of other Parliaments. . It is not the footnote that makes the payment legal; the footnote is there for the purpose of calling special attention to the fact that the sum is intended to be voted and applied in the manner shown. The contention which appeared to find favour with the House on a previous occasion, although the honorable member’s argument was ingenious in many parts, was that this office was one of such distinction, carrying with it certain disabilities in regard to representation, as well as certain honours, that special provision should be made for payment after a .dissolution, provided the Speaker was returned at the election. Under the circumstances, seeing that the question was exhaustively considered previously - although the honorable member has a perfect right in every way to renew his protest - it seems hardly necessary to push the matter further.
– My contention is that the case was not met on a previous occasion.
– But the House thought the practice justifiable.
– As a matter of fact the House thought nothing about it - did not care a twopenny stamp about the matter. That is what happened on that occasion.
.- Is the salary which appears opposite the Serjeant-at-Arms, namely, £600, all the salary and allowances paid to that officer?
– For all the services connected with Parliament- yes.
– Does the Serjeant-at- Arms get from the Commonwealth any further payment from any other source?
– Not unless he is appointed to some other office, such as Secretary to a Royal Commission, when he receives an honorarium if the Commission recommend it, and Parliament approve.
– Of course, he gets the position of Secretary of a Commission by -virtue of his being an officer of the House?
– Not necessarily as an officer of the House.
– I am not taking exception to the Serjeant-at-Arms getting any further, allowance, but I think it ought to be set down in ihe Estimates. If by virtue of his attending on a Royal Commission or performing any duties of the sort, he receives an allowance, it ought to appear here, so that we may know exactly what he does get.
– The reason why it is impossible to show the particular sum is that it is not known when the money is voted whether there will be a Royal Commission of which the Serjeant-at-Arms may be Secretary. If there is a Royal Commission, he may be asked to act, and may be recommended an honorarium, which he may get if it be approved. Very often there are no Royal Commissions.
.- Are officers who are down for increments this year - the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Assistant Clerk to Committees and Reading Clerk, and the Clerk of Papers and Accountant - the same who received them last year? How far are these salaries to go? When the Public Service Bill was before us, I expressed myself in favour of placing the whole of the officers of the House under the Public Service Commissioner, because members are placed in a very delicate position in having to fix salaries for, and, perhaps, object to increments being given to, men with whom they come in contact from time to time in the performance of their duties. It would be better if the matter of increments were left to the Public Service Commissioner, when I have no doubt the officers would find very little difficulty in showing that they are entitled to what they are now receiving. Members would then be relieved from responsibility, and have some assurance that a careful scrutiny was made.
– Under the Public Service Act the officers of Parliament are placed in a separate category, the place of the Public Service Commissioner being taken by the President or Speaker, and, in some cases, by both. The President and Speaker have drawn up regulations, which practically embody many of the regulations under the Public Service Act, and under these the staff is governed just as are other officers under the Act.
– Are the officers graded?
– Yes. I am informed that the only difference is that the increments of the officers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which go on in regular fashion year by year up to a certain point, are, in some cases, smaller than those granted in the general service However, the increments have been fixed by the President and Speaker, and have not been challenged. The SerjeantatArms reaches his maximum salary this year, and can receive no further increments; and the other officers’ increments will go on until they reach the maximum of their class, just as if they were members of the general service.
– Would it not be advisable to show in the Estimates the class and the maximum salary of each officer, as in the case of other public servants?
– That information is given only in some cases.
– Who makes the recommendation for the increments?
– The President, in the case of the Senate, and the Speaker here, and both in the case of joint officers.
– If the Prime Minister looks at the Estimates, he will see that the grade is shown of every officer in the general sen,ice
– That is so in most cases. The officers here are not classified in the same manner, because, I presume, the. classes would be too small, consisting of only two or three persons.
.- In this connexion I should like to ask a question regarding the most important of the staffs of the House, namely, the Hansard staff, who make our speeches for us. An extra allowance is given to the Serjeant-at-Arms in the case of Committees or Commissions, and I understand that the members of the Hansard staff, in addition to their onerous and responsible duties in the chamber, are also employed in the reporting of Commissions and Select Committees, and. if bonuses and increments are given to those in the clerical branch of our establishment, the reporters should be similarly treated. The eight parliamentary reporters have not received an increment since the staff was formed, though, undoubtedly, they have more to do than the Serjeant-at-Arms, notwithstanding that he performs his work well, and has other duties besides attending in this Chamber while the House is sitting. If the control of these Departments is wholly in the hands of the President and Mr. Speaker, we should know on what principles they act. Parliament, in passing the Public Service Act, was strongly of the opinion that it should retain control of its officers and servants. I should like to know how Mr. Speaker has acted in regard to the granting of bonuses and increments to the officers of the clerical staff ; whether he has been guided by reports and recommendations, or has made grants in the exercise of his own sweet will.
.- Some time ago a report was obtained from an expert connected with the Fire Brigades Department, as to the best means of preventing an outbreak of fire in this building, but it has not been acted on. The late Speaker frequently slept on the premises, and had a fire broken out in any of the rooms connected with the Library, his escape would have been impossible. The fire brigade received a call to this building a few days ago, and it was with the greatest difficulty that the caretaker was found. The extinguishing appliances on the premises are never inspected, and the arrangements for preventing fire are not what they should be. I strongly recommend that more attention be paid to the matter.
.- The sum of £115 is provided this year to pay the expenses of witnesses and the travelling expenses of clerks and shorthand writers connected with Select Committees. I thought that these expenses were paid out of the vote for Royal Commissions.
– The expenses of Royal Commissions are paid out of the vote to which the honorable member refers. This item relates to expenses connected with the inquiries of the various Sessional and Select Committees appointed by the House.
– Seeing that only £6 was spent last year, it would have been enough to provide £25 this year.
– It is impossible to say beforehand what will be required in any one year.
– There were as many Select Committees last year as there are likely to be this year.
– Sometimes Committees travel, and then the vote is drawn upon very largely.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 3 (Parliamentary Reporting
.- I wish to know whether the late Speaker recommended increases to the eight parliamentary reporters, who, I understand, have not received any increments since the staff was formed in 1901 ? Whatever may be the arrangements as to increments applying to the parliamentary Departments, they do not seem to work” equally as they affect the clerical and reporting staffs, and we should be told definitely what they are.
– I wish to know whether any of the eight parliamentary reporters have reached the maximum salary of their class ? If not, why is there no recommendation as to increments? The giving of increments should be automatic in this, as it appears to be in other parliamentary Departments, and should not depend on the action of any officer, unless in conformity with some rule or regulation.
– The officers referred to were appointed at fixed salaries. Last year, the Principal Parliamentary Reporter was given an increase of £50, and the Second Reporter an increase of . £25. The late Speaker thought that the timenad arrived when the salaries of the eight reporters should also be reviewed, and he left certain recommendations, which are being considered. The Parliamentary Reporting Staff serves the Senate and House of Representatives, and is, therefore, under the joint control of the President and Mr. Speaker.
– I understand that both officers have recommended increases.
– They may have done so, but the recommendation has not yet reached me.
– If such a recommendation has been made, can effect be given to it this vear?
– That can easily be arranged.
.- A number of sessional typists are employed at £4. 10s. a week ; but I understand that the President and the late Speaker were in consultation as to the advisability of making the appointments permanent. The oresent arrangement is unsatisfactory. It is imperative that men of first-class abilities shall be engaged for the work, and those who are employed improve bv their acquaintance with the needs of the re porters, and the forms of the House. To turn them off at the end of each session is to treat them unfairly, because, while employed here, they lose the run of outside work. If all of them found engagements with private firms, and a wholly new staff had to be engaged at the beginning of any session, the reporting staff would be seriously inconvenienced. Whether the remuneration for permanent employment should be smaller than that now given is a matter for consideration, but undoubtedly the typists are as much entitled to permanent employment as is the reporting staff. I understand that the late Speaker recommended their permanent employment, and that all that remained to be undertaken was the settlement of some details. The Committee should be told what has been arranged.
– No definite recommendation has been made. . Whenever possible, the sessional typists, during recess, should be given priority of employment in the Departments of the Public Service and in connexion with the work of Royal Commissions. No permanent arrangement has been come to, because of the difficulty of finding occupation for them during the sometimes long periods when Parliament is not meeting. The remuneration paid to the sessional typists has been fixed at a rather high rate, in recognition of the fact that the employment, is only sessional ; but it is admitted that they are at a disadvantage, and that the proficiency which they have gained in working in the Department makes them more valuable than new appointees would be. There is every desire to make these appointments permament, but the difficulty is to find occupation for the men during recess.
– Apparently the Prime Minister is in sympathy with the proposal to make these appointments permanent. Does he not think that an arrangement could be made’ which would bring that about?
– I shall see that the Public Service Commissioner is asked whether means can be found for employing these tvpists during recess.
– I think that something might be done.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 4 (Library). . £4,177
.- No exception can be taken to the appointment of an Archivist, nor tothe person appointed or to the amount of the remune- ration to be given to him. But we ought to know the conditions of the appointment. So far as I am aware, Mr. Petherick has placed the whole of his collection absolutely at the disposal of the Commonwealth. If that is so, this would seem to be a suitable opportunity for having the facts set out in an authoritative way, so that both parties shall understand the terms of the bargain. I am glad that the Government or the Library Committee have taken action to secure this collection. We should ha,ve suffered an incalculable loss had that collection been allowed to be dissipated or to get into the hands of a private individual, and on that account there is reason for a good deal of congratulation to the Committee and the Parliament on having secured it. I am sure that Mr. Petherick will render very valuable service while he occupies the position referred to, but at the same time it is not to be expected that he will continue to fill it for many years. It might, therefore, be advisable to have some person connected with the Library gradually trained and made acquainted with the collection, so that when the inevitable time comes it will not be necessary to go outside the Public Service and appoint a man at a high salary to take Mr. Petherick’s place. I shall be glad if the Prime Minister will tell us exactly, what the terms of the arrangement are.
– This is one of the melancholy reminders of the devoted manner in which the late Speaker interested himself in everything that concerned the Library. The negotiations for the acquisition of the collection, which had gone on for four or five years, and in which a number of us took part, were finally brought to a successful issue by the persistence^ with which the late Sir Frederick Holder devoted himself to the matter. This Government during its recess took the responsibility of making the necessary advances to enable this very valuable heritage to be secured. The terms have been settled, are now being engrossed, and the document will be seen during the next two or three days. It will transfer from Mr. Petherick as a gift to this Parliament the whole of his collection. The salary which appears opposite to his name is not a return for that gift, but a recompense for his services. I concur with the honorable member’s expression of appreciation of the value of the acquisition, and share his desire that it may be the nucleus of what I hope will be the best collection of the memorials of early Australia to be found anywhere. If the Library Committee could see their way to choose some suitable man to be properly trained in this particular branch, it would be a judicious step to take, and I shall have pleasure in bringing- that recommendation before them. In a few days the House will be able to see the deed of gift and all its terms.
– This collection is of such value that it has been placed somewhere in the dungeons.
– It has been given a place where Mr. Petherick can have it under his own hands and care.
– It should be in a position where visitors to the House could see it. It contains items of the greatest historical interest, and I believe a great many of the public would be glad of an opportunity of inspecting it. I notice that the junior assistants in the Library are not included in these Estimates.
– Some of them are State officers.
– That is an anomalous position. We ought to have all our officers under our own jurisdiction. I do not think they are receiving very high salaries or have many chances of advancement.
– This is a State building, and the State retains the right to keep certain of its own officers here to look after its books and other property
– The arrangement seems peculiar, and as a member of this Parliament I think we should have some power to see that they are paid on the same scale as the rest of the assistants of the House.
– I think they are.
.- I understand the. position of Mr. Wadsworth and the clerk, but three or four other persons are employed in the Library.
– They are State servants, and are paid by the State.
– The arrangement appears to be unsatisfactory. We ought to pay the people who work for us.
– They are put here by the State in the interests of the State.
– I take no exception to that, but we ought to pay all the officers who are doing service for us. There is some room for improvement in the Library in connexion with light literature and also works of reference regarding economic and social science and standard works generally. I have lately asked for four or five books, about the fitness of which to be stocked in the Library there can be no doubt. They happened to be books dealing with economic and social science, but none of them was there.
– Are they very recent works ?
– I cannot say definitely, but I should think not. The Librarian said he would get them, but there should be some system whereby works of that kind would ‘be obtained without the necessity of any suggestion by honorable members, especially books which deal with matters of vital interest to every legislator. I hope it is not because there is not enough money available. Whatever else we should be economical in, it should not be regarding books of that sort. I see that £1,800 was voted last year and £1,787 spent, but that, of course, includes bookbinding, insurance, and, I presume, the purchase of various other books which are not of very lasting value. I do not know who selects the fiction for the Library, or whether we get it by a process of exhaustion, tout I much regret to see there a number of works of fiction produced by females who have in some way exploited the names of more or less reputable male writers. Those books are perfectly moral, but absolutely uninteresting. I do not see why we should pay for them. There ought to be some way of getting decent literature of a light kind. In Angus and Robertson’s library in Sydney, it is always possible to get a readable book, but if one gets one work of fiction a month that is worth reading in our Library he does well. I will guarantee to get at any publisher’s a dozen books a week that are, at any rate, worth reading in the train ; but these books are not worth even a casual glance. It is a mere waste of money to buy them. Certainly more should be spent on books of reference such as I have already spoken of. There are some standard works that I happened lately to find the want of. I found one of Kant’s works catalogued under Max Mueller, but I suppose that happened under an old State catalogue, for I know that Mr. Wadsworth has completed a system of cataloguing which will compare favorably’ with that of any Library in the world. I hope that every effort will be made to systematize the collec tion of up-to-date economic and social works and books of general interest.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney has raised a question which has given a great deal of trouble to the Library Committee. Some time ago, they felt so dissatisfied with the class of novels on the fiction table, that they decided to abolish it ; but a petition against that decision was signed so extensively by honorable members that it was not carried into effect. The Library Committee consider that its duty is chiefly to obtain as wide a collection as possible pf works dealing with the early history of Australia, as well as works of general reference. We feel that there is some doubt as to our authority to spend money on works of fiction. Those on the table in the Library are sent to us on approbation, and we have to pay more for the loan of them than they are worth, even if we purchased them right out. A subcommittee was appointed to communicate with book-sellers, and obtain offers for the supply of standard works of fiction, and it was found that the cost nf obtaining the higher-class works of fiction would be more than we should be justified in incurring. At the end of last session, we made so liberal an arrangement with Messrs. Angus and Robertson for honorable members in New South Wales to make use of their circulating library, that we felt we should not be justified in doing away with it. An endeavour to. make a similar arrangement in South Australia was unsuccessful. The view of the Library Committee is that, until Parliament expresses the opinion that works of fiction should find a place on the shelves, we should not be justified in spending a large sum of public money in that direction, and that the arrangement at present in force is sufficient for the purpose. It must be remembered that we are using the State Library, which ought to be furnished by the State with a good supply of standard works of fiction. The opinion of the Committee is that the funds at our disposal are intended to enable the Library to be supplied with standard works and works of reference. If honorable members desire that more works of fiction shall be obtained, they must vote more money for the purpose. I am opposed, however, to spending public money on works of fiction, believing that if an honorable member wishes to read a novel, he ought to buy it for himself. When we are established in the Capital, a considerable sum will have to be voted 10 enable us to sei up a Library far in advance of that which we have at present. We have had to expend a considerable sum in providing suitable accommodation for several large collections of books that we have recently obtained. Thousands of books - many of them of great value - have been stowed away in the store-rooms. The Committee is alive to the desire of honorable members that the Petherick collection should be placed where it can be seen, and the basement is being fitted up for its reception. Owing to many of the books in that collection being very rare and exceedingly valuable, they must not be put where any one can handle them. I have only to add that the price which book-sellers ask for the supply of 6s. novels on loan to the Library would astonish honorable members ; and that we think we should not be justified in paying it.
.- J am pleased to hear from the honorable member for Darling, who is the only member of the Library Committee on this side of the House, and he is the only member of that Committee present, that it is intended to place the Petherick collection where it may be seen. It would be well if it could be arranged to display at least a portion of the collection in the Queen’s Hall. They would be safer there than in the basement, where proper supervision cannot be exercised over them. One may wander practically all over the basement without meeting with an officer of the House. There are many rare and valuable works in the Library, such as Gould’s Birds of Australia, which I do not think 5 per cent, of the visitors to the Library ever see. They are locked up in a case, and all that the average visitor sees is an excellent specimen of bookbinding. Unless an honorable member takes the trouble to secure the key of the bookcase from the officer in charge, those whom he is showing over the Library have no opportunity to examine them.
– It is undesirable that there should be free access to them.
– I agree with the honorable member, but at the same time think that such works should be reasonably accessible. I met an honorable member showing some relatives over the House who did not know that Gould’s works were in the Library, until I brought them under his notice, and it is quite possible that many other honorable members have never seen them. These and other1 rare works have been acquired for the use of the people, and arrangements should be made for themto be on view in the Queen’s Hall.
– I agree with the honorable member for Yarra-
– This question ought to be thoroughly, discussed.
– The honorable member cannot help snarling as soon as one rises to speak.
– The honorable member is insulting as usual.
– I wish, Mr. Chairman, that you would remind <the Minister of Defence that it is disorderly to interject. It is certainly time that he realized the position that he holds. I ha%’e heard for the first time to-night an explanation of the reason why the novels obtainable in the Library are for the most part worthless. I have -taken book after book from the fiction table, and, although I .enjoy a good novel, have been unable in most cases to read more than half-a-dozen pages. There are people who will read novels, and if they cannot get good ones will read bad ones. The present system of obtaining books for the fiction table ought to be abolished. I do not agree with the honor-, able member for Y’arra that rare and valuable works, which cannot be replaced, should not be kept under lock and key.
– I merely suggested that they should be more accessible than they are at present. Many of them are stowed away in the vaults.
– It is one of my greatest pleasures to take visitors to see these magnificent works, because they are not available elsewhere. I am satisfied with the explanation that the novels are bad because they are cheap, and, therefore, they had better’ be done away with.
.- I raise my voice against making some of the treasures we have in the Library, and of which we are proud, too easily accessible to the general public. I do not desire that they should be confined to a few people, or locked up; but if we make them too public, some of them may be destroyed, and there are amongst them documents and literary treasures which it would be absolutely impossible to replace. I am glad, for instance, that Gould’s Birds of Australia, is kept under lock and key, because such works should be only made available on the authority of honorable members to persons who are interested. I congratulate the Government on having secured the Petherick collection, for which not only we. but those who come after us, will feel a great debt of gratitude. The Library Committee are doing good work in collecting this Australiana, and, if it is to be open to the public, we ought, in all cases possible, to secure duplicates. Indeed, one of the reasons I am glad we have secured this collection is that it gives us duplicates of many works already in the Library, so that one set may be kept on record, while the other is open to inspection. I suggest that we might secure more duplicates from the New South Wales Government, who, owing to the presentation of the Mitchell library, might be willing to dispose of copies already in their possession. The Mitchell library, under the terms of the gift, must be kept intact; but I think that, if my suggestion were acted upon, we might add very considerably to the value of bur present collection from those of the New South Wales Government.
– I am not in favour of abolishing fiction from the Library, because I have, and always have had, a very lively faith in light literature. I have good ground for that faith, because I find ‘that in the case of ninety-nine out of a hundred readers, light fiction is their only literature. At any rate, I know that I read nine novels _ for any other book I even look . at. I emphatically protest, however, against the abominable rubbish that is placed on the table, though I decline to admit that all novels should be banned because some are unreadable. There are some people incapable of reading anything beyond literature of the Tit Bits variety ; but, for persons who are capable of being interested in a novel, and whose brains get normal exercise in more serious pursuits, the lighter form of recreation may be taken with ad: vantage ; and I offer a humble plea for decent fiction. But we get fiction in the Library that is simply unendurable. It is the absolute refuse of light literature, or, perhaps, I might more correctly say, light not-literature. This perhaps is because the Librarian is a man who regards light literature with a certain amount of lofty contempt, and to whom all novels are sealed books. Anything more trifling than a treatise on metaphysics or the higher mathematics or some profound effort in philosophy, he despises; but for us poor grovelling creatures, ‘ .who are unable to feed or fatten on such diet, there must be something lighter. I cheerfully support the honorable member for Hindmarsh in his proposal to abolish all fiction if we cannot get any better than at present. I am sure, however, that we can get better books; and I hope the Library Committee will take some action. The arrangement with Mullen’s is quite unsatisfactory; I feel sure that the firm unload those books on the Librarian in exactly the same way as it would be perfectly safe to unload scientific works on some honorable members.
.- The difficulty has arisen largely because the conductors of the circulating library, from which we get our books of fiction really do not know what we require.
– How is it that they always discover rubbish to send?
– There is an immense amount of rubbish written; and I am sure honorable members would find it very hard to get through one volume out of ten of current fiction. I suggest that the Library Committee might appoint sub-committees to select books. For light reading for ourselves in the train, when we are trying to get away from the cares of public life and the worries of economics, nothing is, some may think, better than a sporting novel ; and if the honorable member for Maribyrnong were appointed to select the books, we might be sure of getting something readable and authoritative. In the same way, if we desire books on current philosophy - books of fiction, certainly - whom better could we choose to select our books than the honorable member for Hume.
– Both the honorable member for West Sydney and the honorable member for Wentworth seem to be under a misapprehension as to my attitude in regard to novels-. As I said before, I am very fond of a good novel ; and it is to the class of books which are obtained that I objectThose honorable members, too, are not exactly fair to the contractors. As the honorable member for Darling pointed out, we do not get the best books, because we do not pay the best price, and it is only possible to send us the rubbish. If we cannot get good books, do not let us waste the money oh bad ones.
– The sum of £480 is set down for temporary assistance. I should like to know whether the salaries of those employed on behalf of the State are paid out of that amount. Three ‘ sessional waiters last year received only £126 between them, or £42 each, and it seems to me that their remuneration might be increased.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay [10.28]. - I wish again to direct attention to the advisability of preserving in stone or in oils the features of the distinguished men who brought about the Federation of the States, a matter on which I “first spoke some years ago. Each year it is becoming harder to get good representations of those whom we should desire to honour. The Prime Minister on a former occasion intimated that it was his intention to take some action, and I wish to know now what has been done. There will, of course, be difficulty in selecting subjects, and whatever choice is made, some will say that we have gone too far, and others that we have stopped too short. The matter is, however, important and urgent, and I ask the Prime Minister to give us an inkling as to what is in his mind.
– I have ascertained that in the different States portraits or busts of most of those concerned in the foundation of the Commonwealth are available. Applications have been received from ambitious artists who are willing to undertake the task of portraying the remainderHonorable members might well devote attention in some informal way to preparing a list of those who should be memorialized in the Commonwealth Parliament House. Some have passed from us, but among those who remain is our first Prime Minister. The list need not be a long one, but it could be carefully chosen, and then submitted to Parliament. If the Leader of the Opposition will spare me a little time, 1 shall be happy to consult with him.
– I would point out . that, .while we are trying hard to get together a good Commonwealth Library, nothing has been done to secure specimens of aboriginal weapons and implements, and other curious or rare objects, to form the nucleus of a museum. The Library Committee feels that it cannot spend money on these things, though, at the last meeting, I got it to authorize the Librarian to- accept voluntary contributions. The late Speaker, whose death was a loss in this connexion as in others, took great interest in this matter, but he held the view that the Committee could not spend money on anything but books and similar publications. We should, begin a collection of this kind at once, because, although it may be objected that the States already have fine museums, they also possess good libraries, and that does not prevent us from building up a Commonwealth Library. Having got together the beginnings of a museum, additions could be obtained by exchange and purchase.
– The sum of ,£175 is put down for subscriptions to newspapers, periodicals, annuals, &c. This is the first time that such an item has appeared.
– It was pointed out, on a previous occasion, that the vote for books and book-binding did not properly cover these subscriptions, and this item has been proposed to meet that objection, and to add to the vote for books, which has been found inadequate.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 5 and 6 (Joint House Committee), ,£1,381; division 7 (Electric Lighting, &c), £1,411 ; and division 8 (Queen’s Hall), £462, agreed to.
Division 9 (Parliament Gardens), £482.
– The Parliament Gardens are a thing of beauty, and reflect great credit on those in charge of them. But because these officers make no complaints, or have no organization, they appear to be treated much as the plants themselves, and are allowed to go on from year to year without receiving increments, or a proper return for their labour and care. I mentioned the matter on two or three occasions without any result following. I understood that it is a question for the House Committee, and as the honorable members for Boothby, Wide Bay, and Maribyrnong, who are members of that Committee, are present, I shall address myself to them. The members of the House Committee no doubt enjoy the gardens, but I notice that they do not make any provision for adequate remuneration for the- men who work there. One hundred and sixty-eight pounds a year is not sufficient for the foreman gardener. Has the matter come before the House
Committee, and, if so, what was the result? One can readily understand that the foreman gardener and his staff are not of the type that pester Committees, or even venture to approach them, but I hope that they are not to be overlooked on that account, and I would suggest to the Committee that something be done for them.
– I mentioned the question of the salary of the head gardener before. I think he is badly treated, for I understand that since he has been under the Commonwealth he has actually had his annual holidays curtailed as compared with what he used to get under the State Government. He should not be in any worse position under the Commonwealth. I understand that he is one of the State officers temporarily lent to the Commonwealth. He seems to be a great enthusiast in his work, and after the years that he has served here he ought to have got more consideration. We ought to treat these men more fairly, especially if we can afford to give increments to higher officers. I notice that when officers receiving large salaries are called upon to do extra work in connexion with Royal Commissions, thev also get honorariums, but there are no honorariums for other officers doing similar work, or for the poor gardeners. I have no objection to those officers getting honorariums for extra work, but we should have a little more consideration for those lower clown in the salary list.
– I have raised the question of the position of the gardeners time after time. I do not think there are sufficient men there to keep the gardens in proper order.
– I think it is the number fixed by the agreement with the State,
– I believe that there are bulbs in the beds that do not flower, because they have not been lifted for the last six or seven years. There is no time for the men to do the work. Apparently it is never the turn of these gardeners to get increments. Other officers are jumped up from£450 to£550 and to £600. but these men remain at£132. Thev are as much entitled to consideration at the hands of the President and Speaker or of the House Committee as are the other officers. I understand that they have no fixity of tenure. They are not under the Public Service Act ; and while I do not think that they are likely to be dismissed, still, they are not protected as are other public ser vants. I certainly think that consideration should be given to them in the matter of increments. I make no special claim on behalf of the head gardener, but am decidedly of opinion that the three gardeners are entitled to more consideration than they receive. The condition of the gardens reflects the greatest credit on the officers engaged there; although the sum provided for contingencies, £50, is wholly insufficient. Not many novelties in the gardening line could be purchased fox that sum. I doubt whether any new varieties of roses or bulbs have been purchased for the gardens during the past ten years.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– -Regarding the vote, £110, for the lift attendant, I wish to observe that the young man who performs the duties in question does his work very well. He is an intelligent young fellow, and if there is any vacancy in connexion with the Petherick collection, or in any other direction, I hope that his claims will be considered.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Glynn) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Groom), read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister what business he contemplates proceeding with tomorrow? I regret that he determined tonight to proceed with the Estimates before we have had an opportunity of considering the general financial proposals of the Government. We can do no more than protest; but I shall consider that a serious wrong is done if the Government persist in that course.
– No threats.
– There is a limit to kindliness, even towards the present Government.
– I remind the House that a very important gathering takes place in Melbourne tomorrow. I am aware that it has not been the custom for this House to adjourn on account of the Royal Agricultural Society’s Show ; but, although it is true that many honorable members can make arrangements to be present, it has to be remembered that the officers of the House and the members of the press are unable to attend if the House sits as usual. Hundreds of thousands of people from all parts of this State will attend the show . tomorrow. I think that it is not too much to ask that the House shall not meet until after the usual evening refreshment hour. I am sure that if we were sitting in Sydney, and an equally important function was being held there, no objection would be made to such a course being pursued. If we did not meet until 7.45 p.m. tomorrow honorable members would return to their parliamentary duties better informed, and in an improved spirit, and I am satisfied that we should do much more work than if we sat during the afternoon.
– Honorable members opposite have frequently complained about wasting time, but we are now asked by a supporter of the Government to waste a portion of tomorrow’s sitting. One of the most important functions that takes place in South Australia is occurring to-day, yet every single South Australian representative is present here attending to his duties.
– Surely the honorable member does not place the Eight Hours Demonstration in Adelaide in the same category with our show ?
– The Eight Hours Demonstration is the occasion of a public holiday fixed by Act of Parliament. If honorable members opposite wish to go to the Agricultural Show they can do so. I have always been able to attend without neglecting my parliamentary duties.
.- It is only fair to say that this is not the first time that the suggestion made by the horiorable member for Indi has been advanced in this Chamber. I have heard a similar request made on previous occasions. It is undoubtedly an important event.
– So is my birthday.
– While I feel that the birthday of the honorable member is of immense importance, I do not know that it has so marked an educational influence upon the community as has the Agricultural Show, however awful a warning it may afford to some. I hope, however, that the suggestion of the honorable member for Indi will not be followed. Important as the occasion is, it is not’ one upon which the national Parliament should adjourn. This Parliament is brought together to transact the business of the country. We should proceed with the transaction of that business. The Leader of the Opposition objected to our proceeding with the Estimates pending the presentation of the Bill embodying the financial proposals of the Government. But I remind the honorable member that the Estimates will have to be passed in any case. They deal with the salaries of the public servants of the Commonwealth.
– And much more.
– And much more.
– It may be necessary to cut down the Estimates, if we do not get the Government’s financial scheme.
– The Opposition will probably have the financial scheme of the Government sooner than they want it ; because it will be found to differ but little from that of which they approved a short time ago. There is a difference of only £400,000 between the amount proposed to be returned to the States under the agreement with the Premiers and that which would be returned under the scheme adopted at the Brisbane Labour Conference.
– The difference is not so much.
– I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will not try to delay the passing of the Estimates to-morrow. I fail to see why the House should not meet as usual, and proceed with the consideration of the Estimates.
– Why should we not go on with the High Commissioner Bill?
– My honorable friends wish the Government to proceed with any business except that which is placed before them. If they are as anxious to do the work of the country as they profess to be, they will proceed cheerfully with the business placed before’ them, and not cry for that which does not happen to be submitted.
– In addition to the weighty reasons that have been given to the honorable member for Indi, it must be remembered that to-morrow afternoon is set apart for private members’ business. The Government could sacrifice, with perfect equanimity, the time set apart for private members’ business; but, unless the honorable member for Indi has secured for his proposal the consent of every honorable member who has business on the noticepaper for to-morrow, I fail to see that he could expect us to do what he asks. Probably he intended merely, in a - patriotic spirit, to call attention to the attractions of the Agricultural Show, and their educational value. In answer to the Leader of the Opposition,. I have to say that the business for to-morrow will be the Estimates. We wish to devote the remainder of the week to their consideration, since it will probably be the last opportunity we shall have for a considerable time for this very necessary part of public business. I am sure honorable members opposite will assist us as they have done since 9.30 p.m., by a reasonable criticism of the Estimates of the Departments that may he submitted. The honorable member appeared to assume that the Government intended to pass the whole of the Estimates.
– They form one part of the Government’s financial scheme; and before we deal with them, we wish to see the other part.
– I think that the honorable member has seen all that has any immediate relation to the Estimates. Whatever our scheme is, the Estimates must be passed in their present form, or in someform approximating closely to it. To a large, extent, they embody the policy of honorable members generally. They cover salaries and other items that are voted every year, after more or less discussion, and with rare additions. The only reason why I shall ask the House to proceed to-morrow with the consideration of the Estimates is that I think that after this week some time must elapse before we shall be able to deal with them again.
– Would the Prime Minister ask me to deal with the loan policy of the Government before- I had seen the other part of theii financial scheme?
– Not until the honorable member has before him a specific proposition of that nature - if any such proposition should prove to be necessary this session. It will be clear in every particular.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.59p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090901_reps_3_51/>.