3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill.
– The official Secretary to the Governor-General, by His Excellency’s intention, has informed me - and I assume the information is meant for the House - that he has received no communication, officially or unofficially, that leads him to think that there is the slightest foundation for the statement that he has been, or is about to be, appointed Viceroy of India.
Cases of Feeble Applicants : Wm. Daley, P. Boyham, E. J. Leonard, G. L. Blane
– I wish to know from the Treasurer if he will now give a reply, which he was prevented from giving by the application of the closure to the adjournment motion last night, to the statement which I made regarding the case of a man who earned about , £50 last year, but is earning nothing, and cannot earn anything, this year, and probably will not live long. Wiil the right honorable gentleman give instructions to the Commissioner that a pension must be paid to that man, and to other claimants who have no income or employment, or are not receiving more than 10s. a week ?
– The matter has engaged the attention of the Commissioner this morning, and a communication on the subject will be addressed to the honorable member.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In reference to old-age pensions -
Why is Wm. Daley, Imperial Pensioner, re letter 9/8142, 26th August, 1909, allowed only £1 14s. 3d. for old-age pension per four weeks, instead of £2 2s. ?
Re P. Boyham, who had been receiving 20s. for old-age pension per fortnight. Will the Minister explain how the Department expect this pensioner to live for a fortnight on the One shilling it paid him on 26th August, 1909?
What is the reason that Edward J. Leonard’s (of corner of Cross-street and Cardigan-street, Carlton) application for old-age pension is rejected, “ not considered eligible,” and what section of the Act pertains to such rejection?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer,upon notice -
In reference to old-age pensions -
What was the date of the application for Federal old-age pension of Mr. George Louis Blane, of 319 Latrobe-street, Melbourne, who was an old-age pensioner of the State of Victoria, but allowed the pension to lapse?
When was it found to be informal?
When will it be dealt with?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Torpedo Destroyer Construction - Defence Bill - Australian Woods for Gun-stocks- Imperial Defence Conference Report - Married Men’s Allowance - Warrnambool Field Artillery Instructor - Military Censor - Military Reserve, Liverpool, New South Wales.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether the Government intends to call for tenders for the construction in Australia of the proposed third destroyer of the new Australian naval unit, and, if not, whether regard will be paid to the exceptional facilities which exist in New South Wales for the putting together of the vessel ? Is the honorable gentleman aware that there are in Sydney hundreds of competent artisans connected with the iron trade, many of whom have been engaged on work of a similar character? I ask the question because I am informed that to-day a deputation from Williamstown waited on the Minister of Defence, and I wish to know what is to be the policy of the Government in the matter.
– The Minister of Defence informs me that the parts of the vessel referred to will not arrive in Australia for a number of months, and that in the meantime full information will be obtained regarding the facilities here for putting them together.
– When does the Minister of Defence intend to bring in the Defence Bill which he got leave to introduce some time ago?
– I answered the question yesterday.
– The Bill will be introduced some time next week.
– Some time ago it was announced that the Defence Department intended to inquire into the suitability of Australian woods for the manufacture of rifle stocks ; has the Queensland bean tree been experimented upon, and, if so, is it considered suitable?
– A number of Queensland and other Australian woods were dealt with, and one or two were considered suitable, but I cannot say at the moment whether the Queensland bean tree was one of. them.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in possession of an official report from the Imperial Defence Conference, which he can lay on the table? Will he see that this House obtains information regarding matters of this kind at least as soon as the newspapers ?
– I am not aware that newspapers have in any case obtained information before it has been laid before Parliament. I have received no communication officially from the Conference.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
In further reference to question asked on ist September, 1909, will he grant the same allowance to men of the R.A.A. who are married and permitted to live out of barracks but are not on the married strength, when they’ are temporarily absent from their homes on duty, as those who are on the married strength?
– As this question affects the whole of the Commonwealth, I am making inquiries from each State, and it will be some days before I can reply to the honorable member.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the ‘honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. It has been arranged that an Instructor shall visit Warrnambool and be present at every parade of the battery.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to questions 1, 2, 3, and 4 is “ No.”
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The matter is under consideration of the Government, and it is hoped that a decision will be arrived at very shortly.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General when tenders will be called for the erection of a telegraph line from Peak Hill to Nullagine? Will the honorable gentleman facilitate the construction of the work?
– As soon as the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill passed through both Houses, I caused the Deputy Postmasters-General to be instructed that they should take immediate action to carry out the works authorized by Parliament in the order of their importance and urgency. No doubt that referred to by the honorable member will receive the attention which its importance demands.
– In moving -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to finance, while anxious to deal, as briefly as possible, with the various issues which arise, it being necessary to pass rapidly from one to the other, let me premise by inviting honorable members, in much more than a formal fashion, to consider what is really a grave situation rather than an issue - -a situation embracing a large number of issues of the uttermost importance to the present, and certainly also to the future, of this Commonwealth. It is easily possible to separate one aspect from the rest, and to magnify it out of proportion. It is difficult for any of us, having regard to the number challenging inquiry, to confine himself measurably po that there may. not be .an undue insistence upon a one-sided view of these great problems.
– I desire your ruling. Mr. Speaker, as to whether the honorable member is in order. Our Standing Orders B and C, adopted by the House on the 24th November, 1905, speak of motions not open to debate. The first provides that -
The following motions are not open to debate, shall be moved without argument or opinion offered, and shall be forthwith put from the Chair without amendment and a vote taken : -
A motion for the first reading of a Bill.
The honorable gentleman is proceeding to debate that motion now in moving for leave to introduce the Bill. The motion on the notice-paper is that he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to finance. He is now about to debate the Bill, and in the usual course he will conclude his remarks by moving that the Bill be read a first time. He is therefore anticipating what the Standing Orders say he shall not do by debating the first reading of the Bill.
– The question before the Chair is that leave be granted to bring in the Bill, not that the Bill be read a first time. That will be a subsequent stage. It has been held here that the motion for leave to bring in a Bill can be debated, and the Prime Minister is in order in debating the question.
– I was about to put it that the complex situation, including .so many issues, which is now before us, is one that, giving the words their full and most precise meaning, requires to be considered in a national manner, and dealt with from a Federal stand-point. One of the tap-roots of our Federal Constitution is affected. All the many growths to spring from the scheme of finance will exercise, not only an almost immediate, but ultimately a far-reaching, influence upon the transactions of this Parliament.
– Hear, hear.
– They will be dead branches, so far as this Parliament is concerned.
– Order I
– This is gagging all round. Apparently even interjections are to be gagged.
– I point out. to honorable members that an honorable member, when making a statement to the House, is entitled to make his remarks without interruption. I ask honorable members to extend to the Prime Minister that courtesy, which I shall see is extended to every other honorable member who addresses himself to the question.
– When considering any question relating to the government rf Australia, it is to the Commonwealth Constitution that we necessarily turn for light and guidance. That Constitution is more than its name, in one aspect, might seem to imply. It is not only the Constitution of this Parliament, but includes, in chapter 5, important definitions of the powers and Constitutions of the States. Our Commonwealth Constitution practically embraces within its scope the sum total of the powers of government in Australia. To this Constitution, therefore, we look first and last, and learn from it that line of natural development which was intended by its framers and accepted by the people of this country by overwhelming majorities. No part of it received closer or more prolonged study than did the provisions in respect to finance. No part evoked greater anxiety from the representatives of the people. At times it seemed as if the Constitution itself might be wrecked for want of some agreement. It was discussed almost as much outside the Convention as on the floor where it was formally debated, and, when the Constitution went to the country, was made a subject of the fiercest fights that were waged throughout the Commonwealth. The financial proposals of the Bill, what they meant to the State Governments and Legislatures, what they would mean to the future Commonwealth Government and Legislature, and what they might mean to the people who established and controlled both, were dwelt upon with insistence upon hundreds of platforms and thousands of times. The principal effective amendment made by the Premiers in the Constitution as first drafted between the first referendum and the second materially affected the whole financial position. It was then that what had been a permanent endowment - subject to an amendment of the Constitution - of the State Governments with threefourths of the Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth became conditioned by its limitation to a period of ten years. It is that ten-year period which, now being about to expire, brings us again into almost precisely the same position as the representatives in the Constitution Convention when dealing with this question. They could not disentangle the matter from the rest of the Constitution. There were a great variety of possibilities that seemed to call for attention, but could not then be individually and severally explored thoroughly within the time available. In the same manner we require to approach them now ; we must endeavour in the same national fashion to dissect the Constitution and study it limb by limb. Its principal structural feature is that, being essentially Federal, it is built upon the States, while the States are built with it into the fabric of the Constitution. The most vital connexion established between the National’ Government and the Governments of the States is a financial partnership, first limited to the ten years’ period. That term of ten years was intended to be a period of probation, inquiry, and experience which should fit the representatives whom I have now the honour to address for the task of reshaping the partnership according to the knowledge gained in the interval. Many things settled under the Constitution even in relation to finance were left vague; but the particular knot that we require once more to untie, that of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, remains as hard as it was left originally. Beyond the limitation of the Commonwealth to its one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue for ten years, the question of finance was left open in all phases. It is open to-day, or will be under the Constitution itself eighteen months hence. It is significant that the other great financial problem involving the Commonwealth and the States, which has -always been, and must always be, read in relation to the partnership, that of the State debts, is treated, speaking generally, in exactly the same fashion. This Parliament was empowered to take immediate action in regard to a portion, but a portion only, of those debts. The whole of the debts incurred up to Federation, or a proportion of them, might be taken over. Beyond that general power the Constitution did not go. The relation between the Common wealth and the States, not only as to the disposition of revenue, but the control of the debts . of the States, was left to be determined in a future which has now all but arrived. Those problems were originally postponed because at the moment they seemed to present insuperable difficulties. They have now to be faced by us after we have had an opportunity of witnessing the Commonwealth and the State Governments working together as representatives of the people of Australia under a Constitution precise in many of its terms but vague in others, and particularly in these. The phrase so commonly and appropriately used, that the debts shall be taken over-
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that the Prime Minister is disregarding the standing order that -an honorable member may not anticipate any business on the notice-paper. The honorable gentleman is now anticipating the debate upon notice of motion No. 2 in regard to leave to introduce a Bill relating to the transfer of the debts of the States.
– Necessarily, owing to the vagueness of the question before the Chair, I am not aware of the contents of the Bill to be introduced. I presume that they are known only to the Prime Minister. The resolution, however, is wide enough to include reference to any of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States since it provides for leave to introduce a Bill “ for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to finance.” I rule that the whole of the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth may be considered on this motion. The honorable member is in order.
– The Prime Minister is making what is really a second-reading speech, although honorable members have not seen the Bill.
– If the Standing Orders had permitted, I should have been glad to circulate amongst honorable members copies of the Bill. The honorable member for Riverina would then have seen that, for certain purposes, the State debts are dealt with in the Bill to which my motion relates.
– But the honorable member proposes to deal with the two questions in separate Bills.
– Order ! The point of order has been dealt with, and I ask the Prime Minister not to refer to it
– I was mentioning that it is sometimes forgotten, when reference is made to the taking over of the State debts, that, although the Commonwealth can assume the management of those debts, the responsibility would remain, and is intended to remain, upon the States that have incurred the liability. A considerable section of the electors are under the mistaken impression that in some way or other the provision in the Constitution for the transfer of the State debts is accompanied by a provision for a consequent diminution of responsibility on the part of the States. Honorable members are perfectly well aware that this is a misapprehension. There will be no such transfer of the responsibilities of the States. Even when the debts are taken over, the only difference, so far as the States are concerned, is that they will have to make their account with the Commonwealth, instead of, as in time past, with their creditors. Under the Constitution, debts amounting to £200,000,000 are open to be taken, over at any time by this Parliament. One effect of their transfer would be to make a severance of our financial interests. In other words, the Commonwealth will no longer be under an obligation to pay to the States themselves any portion allotted to them from the Customs and Excise revenue. It will- pay to that extent the interest upon the debts incurred by the States.
– The Commonwealth would be responsible for the payment of the principal, as well as the interest.
– It would; but the States would remain responsible to the Commonwealth1 for both principal and interest.
– The States would be primarily responsible.
– Yes. It may be of some little interest to point out that the surplus revenue returned to the States, save in the year 1904-5, has been until now more than sufficient to pay the full interest on the debts, amounting to £200,000,000, which the Commonwealth might have taken over. Even in the year 1904-5, the amount returned to them was only a few thousand short of what would have been required for that purpose. In two particular years, in 1902-3 nearly, and in 1907-8 almost exactly, the total receipts of the States from the Commonwealth Customs and Excise would have enabled them practically to pay interest on their whole debt - that was in two special and singular years.
– That includes our surplus ?
– It included the surplus. In the forthcoming year, instead of that position, we shall find the States £1,500,000 short of the sum necessary. We have paid to the States, so far, under the Braddon section, more than sufficient to pay the interest on debts amounting to £200,000,000 every year, and a sufficient sum to nearly pay the interest on £250,000,000 in two special years. But in future, under the new proposal which is now before us, or will immediately be before this Parliament for consideration, by which a fixed payment per capita is substituted for the Braddon three- fourths, that will be sufficient to pay interest on £170,000,000 sterling, only if the States themselves find £372,000 a year. That would be dealing with the ,£170,000,000011 the per capita principle which the Constitution permits ; but, if we took no contribution from the States at all, and simply transferred, or were able to transfer, sufficient of the debt to swallow the £5,668,000 which is offered to them under the new agreement, in lieu of the £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 they have been getting in the past, we should be able to take over, speaking in round figures again, only £160,000,000. That would leave £90,000,000 at least ; and I am not reckoning in this municipal ox any other loans. The States would be able to pay out of 25s. per capita, interest on £160,000,000 of their debts. In this regard the Treasurer has been good enough to prepare two tables, which I think likely to be of assistance to honorable members. The first table shows the population, the public debt, the amount which can be taken over at £38 2s. 8d. a head - that is the sum the interest on which comes as nearly as possible to the £5,668,000 - the balance of the public debt, the interest payable, and so on. The second table deals with the £160,000,000 j and with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall place the tables at the disposal of honorable members by putting them in at. this stage.
– The tables should be read, if they are to appear in Hansard.
– Then, I will move, if necessary, that the tables be printed as parliamentary papers. . The first resolution passed at the recent Conference is of utmost importance, because it gives, not only the foundation, but the key to the whole of our subsequent proposals. It reads -
That to fulfil the intention of the Constitution by providing for the consolidation and transfer of State debts, and in order to insure the most profitable management of future loans by the establishment of one Australian Stock, a complete investigation of this most important subject shall be undertaken forthwith by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States. This investigation shall include the question of the actual cost to the States of transferred properties as defrayed out of loan or revenue moneys.
– High falutin’ flapdoodle !
– Those are words, if they be Avoids, wholly inapplicable. My reference is to the undoubted intention of the Constitution, and to the fact that, for the first time in our experience, the Commonwealth and the States are at one in declaring that the consolidation and transfer of the State debts are necessary to fulfil the intention of the Constitution, and that, for the most profitable management of future loans, the establishment of one Australian stock is essential. Now this admits the whole case for which the Commonwealth has been contending for many years within itself, as well as with its critics outside. It marks the natural growth of experience in ten years, which, owing to the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution, Avas given us for our guidance. It is admitted that the resolution adopts the intention of the Constitution that the debts should be transferred - that, in order to secure the advantage aimed at by the inclusion of section 105 in the Constitution, the debts must be consolidated under one management, and that this is only to be attained by the issue of one Australian stock in the place of the six different Australian stocks at present on the English and local markets. We, therefore, have, in the frankest fashion, a recognition of the fundamental principle formally accepted by the Convention framers of the Constitution, and now fully, frankly, and unreservedly accepted by our Governments, both Commonwealth and State. We have reached a stage in this regard which many efforts in the past have altogether failed to attain. Now, what will be the next step? It is obvious that a certain number of what may be termed technical or actuarial questions must arise ; questions familiar to men who are in the habit of dealing with’ large sums of money, and of studying the conduct of great borrowing operations or the administration of finance. Those problems, familiar enough to such men, are relatively unfamiliar to the great bulk of us. There is an inquiry to be made in regard to the manner and the conditions of the taking over, and the future management, of the already existing debts. A series of financial schemes have been proposed by our Treasurers, and by some honorable members of this House. The Treasurers, of course, undertook such tasks as part of their duties ; but Ave are under an obligation to some other honorable members who have given us the result of their wide knowledge and of their labours in this direction - labours which have been, and will be, of the utmost value. That is the first branch of the subject ; and on that the Conference of Premiers Avas practically in accord Avith us in the conviction that a solution ought not to be difficult to find, even for the numerous technical questions. It Avas in regard to a second question that it became clear that further consideration, or further ‘ time for consideration, Avas necessary. I am sanguine enough to believe that if Ave could have foreseen the period that wOuld be occupied by the recent Conference of Premiers, and had been able to induce honorable members to spare us for another week, we might have arrived, and would have arrived, at an arrangement even on this most delicate question of the control of future borrowing and future debts.
– Why Avas not another week spared?
– Because we should have had to proceed by ourselves, seeing that several of the Premiers were under urgent obligations to return to their States Avithout delay. The control of future borrow ings, most important to the people of Australia, is also of great importance to both the State Governments and the Common wealth Government. If honorable members consider for a moment, they will realize that any such agreement entered into must provide some means of dealing, not only Avith the loans of the States, by some authority severed from the States, but must also deal Avith the loans to be floated by the Commonwealth. There must, therefore, be in any Council of Finance constituted for the purpose some general lines laid down 1 to be followed i in dealing Avith the delicate and critical questions that will arise. The States own : and control great business enterprises, such as the railways and water services, and have 1 by no means met all the demands of their constituents or the country for development. They must, therefore, inevitably return to the money market for fresh loans. We can foresee the time when 1 the Commonwealth , will do the same, either to renew the State loans, when tthey fall due, to obtain money for the building of railways, or other developmental projects. It is not easy on short deliberation to frame a simple policy for the guidance of men who are to be intrusted with the management of future borrowing. No problem is more intricate,- or of more importance to Australia, than this. We should exhaust every means of arriving at an understanding, to be embodied in a distinct and binding agreement.
– Would the honorable member restrict the borrowing of the States ?
– In the control of future loans, consideration must be given to all the projects to be put forward by the various Governments in any year, or, if possible, over a longer period, with a view to their adjustment, under expert guidance, to prevent depreciation of stocks, and to get the best terms. When the market is able to supply all demands, no difficulty will arise.
– ls that an affirmative 01 a negative answer?
– What more can I say now without occupying time unduly with the consideration of a question which proved too complex to be set out in any of the resolutions of the Conference? When the demand on the money market is greater than it would be wise for Australia to father at any given time, a compromise must be arrived at. When two men ride on horseback, one of them rides behind j and when two borrowers apply for more money than can be obtained, they must be content to share the loan, or one must give way to the other. These difficult and delicate questions connected with the wise administration of the funds of the Commonwealth and the States, and the conduct of their borrowings, are financial, not political. Before a permanent arrangement can be made, a fair basis must be established. I shall not develop this line of argument further. It has been dealt with in this first resolution more fully than ever before, and as fully as is possible at the present time. The appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate and report on technical matters presents no difficulty. The settlement of the other question concerns the seven Governments of Australia, and must be discussed by their representatives before a scheme can be submitted to this Parliament for its sanction ; but I hope that, before long, an exact proposal Wi be put before it, and afterwards ratified by the people. The control of the debts of Australia is the axis upon which our other financial proposals revolve. If they were ignored, it would throw the whole picture out of focus. Our crux is the control of future borrowing by mutual consent, in accordance with principles agreed to by our Parliaments and sanctioned by the people. The responsibility of the States for the interest and principal of their loans remains, and has been dealt with by other propositions. One such was submitted by the Government before last, and others .will be brought forward in the future. The bold and statesmanlike scheme of the honorable member for Mernda will again challenge the critics in this Parliament. I shall not stop to show that a great profit will result from the substitution of one Australian stock for many State stocks. The contrary opinion has been expressed, but two Australian Treasurers who have studied the question in England corroborate my experience. All the financiers there with whom I have spoken on the subject have not hesitated to say that it would be of very great advantage to the people of Australia to issue only one stock. The estimate of the present Treasurer, that prudent management of the £250,000,000 of Australian indebtedness, with a single eye to the advantage of the taxpayers, would result in a saving of at least £26,000,000, spread over a number of years, has been more than doubled by some authorities.Honorable members can see how these proposals run side by side with our proposed per capita arrangement. I cannot discuss the second Bill which stands on the notice-paper in my name. The alteration of the. Constitution in respect to the control of the public debt is touched upon in both measures, but the second empowers the Commonwealth to assume control of all the debts not now within our purview. When the per capita arrangement is adopted, the States must contribute from their resources upwards of £3,000,000 per annum to meet the interest on their debts. Unfortunately, people abroad are not aware that between £150,000,000 and £160,000,000 0f this money has been borrowed tei construct public works which, on the whole, are earning the interest on their debt. Although the States have to find £3,000,000 a year for interest after the 25s. per capita has been paid to them, a larger -amount is earned by the railways of Australia, taken as a whole. Our debts are not, like those of the European nations, a legacy of past wars, with their conquests or losses, but investments profitable to the people of the country.
– They represent the conquests of peace.
– Yes. The Parliaments and Governments of the Commonwealth and the States are at present, in regard to financial relations, in the position of bargainers. Each approaches the consideration of these problems from its own point of view. The States desire to preserve their powers of development for the benefit of their people, while we are anxious that our natural opportunities shall not be curtailed, and that obstacles shall not be placed in the way of the conversion of State loans. The States will remain responsible for the debts and the interest, but tha.t responsibility may gradually be assumed by the Commonwealth hereafter. Although it will keep an account with the States, to the outside world it will appear larger .and larger, as it becomes solely responsible for the principal and interest, holding the States in their turn responsible to it, each for its principal as well as for its interest. During this intervening time we must expect as between our two Governments different opinions, and sometimes dissensions. I have no doubt the whole question will be discussed from the State point of view as keenly as from the Commonwealth point of view, and it is necessary that it should be. ‘ But it is even more necessary to remember at every stage of this argument that it is only the representatives of the people themselves that are at issue - representatives in the Commonwealth and representatives in the States - for the people have only one interest in this matter ; that is one and indivisible. Wie have to look forward to a time when the recent relations between Commonwealth and States will be exactly reversed. We, not having taken over the debts, have been raising money and paying it in a fixed proportion to the States, and we propose to continue to pay 25s. per head in the future. But when the debts are transferred the positions will be reversed. The Commonwealth 25s. per head will go only a fraction of the way towards paying the interest. Then the States will pay to the Commonwealth the balance due for their interest. This transformation will lie accomplished by the action of the representatives of the Commonwealth alone, for we have control in that regard. With this Bill we shall have control of the whole of the debts.. Our relations may be reversed as soon as the Parliament of the Commonwealth thinks fit. The positions of the States are not of course altered so far as ^200,000,000 of the debts are concerned. The new’ Bill will simply adil the other ,£50,000,000. I wish now to turn from the debts - the first resolution - to the following resolution of the agreement advised by the Conference of Premiers.
– Would the honorable gentleman consolidate the debts at once, or as they fell due?
– That is a question on an often discussed subject, and to give a brief answer without an explanation would perhaps involve some confusion. The seven Governments of Australia, though they are seven, represent only one people, and we in the Commonwealth are bound to recollect that this common electorate is the first principle of our authority. We have to look at the distinction which the Constitution makes in respect of the Commonwealth and the States taxing rights. It left to both an absolutely unlimited power of raising and of spending money, subject, of course, to the consent of their constituents, except in one regard. With respect to Customs and Excise, the Constitution decreed that no State, in any circumstances,, hereafter should be able to raise any revenue from that source by its own action. That is the first fundamental of our finance in the Constitution. The whole power to levy was conferred on the Commonwealth, and then coupled with a condition that, while the Commonwealth might raise for the future whatever Customs and Excise revenue it pleased, only one-fourth of it - only 5s. in the j£i - should go into its own Commonwealth pocket. The other three-fourths - the other 15s. in the £ - it must pay to the States. There is no power on their part to raise Customs and Excise revenue, but a right to receive a share of the Customs and Excise revenue, originally for all time, and, under the Constitution as finally passed, for ten years. That is the only difference which exists between the two Governments. The States are as unlimited in their financial scope as is the Commonwealth, except that they cannot raise Customs and Excise revenue. We are unlimited in our authority over everything, including Customs and Excise, subject to a present limitation to use only one-fourth, and subject to any other limitation which our electors choose to impose upon us. That is the plain position. This question of finance is of so much importance at the present time, because, assuming for the moment that none of our proposals are adopted before this Parliament terminates its existence early next year, a general election will follow, and on the decision given ,by the people at that general election will depend, not only the future of this Commonwealth Parliament, but also a determination of our future financial arrangements with the States. That next poll, that next ballot, will not only return certain parties to this and to another Chamber, but will either decide the financial question in a direct form by means of a referendum taken upon a proposed amendment of the Constitution, or, if there be no referendum, the people must, at the ballot-box, return men pledged to some definite plan of dealing with Commonwealth and State finances. That next election, therefore,- is by far the most critical, and will be by far the most influential, that Australia has yet seen. The whole of the financial future being at stake in that election, it is above all things essential that we should, as far as we can, endeavour to put the subject plainly before the people. The electors are absolute masters in this great issue. It is from them, and them alone, that must come the power to dispose, either temporarily or permanently, of all our revenues. In this fateful choice, we all of us have a divided duty, because every part of Australia to-day enjoys a double representation. It has its State Legislature and Government; it has the Commonwealth’ Legislature and” its Government. It returns them upon the same franchise, upon practically the same electoral rolls, divided by different boundaries. A member here represents a greater number than his colleague in the State Parliament, but both of them owe the whole of their power to the same source. Every elector of Australia, therefore, man or woman, has a double representation and a double power of acting through the State Governments and Legislatures, or through the Commonwealth Government and Legislature. Hence the direction given to us in regard to this financial matter will naturally imply a similar direction given through the ballot-box to State Legislatures and Governments, several of whom will be submitting themselves to their constituents in the early future. By these means, we may, therefore, hope that the two channels will be brought into harmony. There are two stand-points - first, the parliamentary one, in which, as to finance after 1910, the Federal Parliament will be all powerful, and the State Parliaments powerless. They must cut their coat according to their cloth, and that cloth will be measured out to them by Hie next Federal Parliament. Next, is the national stand-point of the taxpayer, for whom both are acting. That is the situation which we have to-day in Australia, and of which the gravity, either to the State institutions or to our own, cannot be exaggerated. There naturally arises between us a struggle for supremacy for the power of the purse. We are anxious for more and wider authority, for greater opportunities, and for the means of taking advantage of them. Our fellow representatives in the State Legislatures have the same aspirations in these spheres. Necessarily, therefore, we politicians are brought into competition with each other. We then recall the old saying, true now as ever, that in the last resort “ Finance is government, and government is finance.” Whoever holds the purse, whichever possesses the money, is the real ruler. One of the Premiers who left the recent Conference objected to the term “agreement’’ placed at the head of our decisions, because, he said, an agreement meant a free consent on the part of those discussing it, whereas in this instance the determinations were dictated, not by individual arrogance, but by the unanswerable facts and conditions of to-day. So in approaching this question, if we would understand the difficulties of our fellow legislators in the States, we must, if we can, endeavour to put aside for the time our own special prepossessions, inclinations, and ambitions, in order to consider, as far as we reasonably ought, those who are also representatives of the same people as ourselves. But for that lasts fact, the situation to-day in Australia would be veritably hopeless. If there were seven Legislatures with seven different sets of constituents on this question, there would be nothing for it but arbitration or wai-. The only salvation of the situation is that, while there are seven Governments, there is only one people. After all, disguise it as we may, the functions of government, whether discharged by the States or by the Commonwealth, are part of what may be fairly termed the government of Australia. They dovetail into each other ; they ought not to overlap and conflict. We try to ‘adjust one to the other as well as we can, but we can dispense with neither.
The State discharges functions which it would be hopeless for a Commonwealth’ Parliament to attempt. The Commonwealth discharges functions which all the State Legislatures put together could not essay. They have only one duty after all, and that is to fulfil the mandates and conduct the government of the people of Australia.
– There are two mandates on that side.
– There will be but one mandate from the people of Australia when they have an opportunity of expressing an opinion on this subject. That is why we are dealing with it now somewhat in advance, and why I am dealing with it at such length to-night. No new limitation can be imposed on either of these Governments except by the sanction of the people ; no power poured into either of them except with the sanction of the people. What we have to satisfy the people of is that the Federal distribution of powers is wise, and the distribution of the finances fair. Beyond that we cannot hope to go; beyond that we cannot ask them to go, unless it is to their interest that they should go beyond it. If they regard the Commonwealth, as they will, as far more efficient for all great national purposes, to the Commonwealth they will intrust them, and supply for those purposes the necessary funds. But when they look at their State organizations, and realize all that they have to do in connexion with the great functions of education, the development of the country by means of railways, water supply, and many other means, they will not part with them, they will not beggar or bankrupt them, but will insist on their being maintained and extended. That is, therefore, the saving condition of the present situation. The people wish to make the best possible use of both their political agencies. In point of fact, it is not too much to repeat that, looking at Australia as a whole, we include in the term “ National Government “ the States as well as the Federal Governments. They perform complementary functions. Both are necessary; both must be financed ; and financed out of a single purse - that of the people of Australia. Nothing comes to them except from that one purse. The people pay certain money into the Commonwealth pocket to be expended for certain purposes; they pay other money into another pocket for State purposes, and insist upon both being expended for those pur poses only. The sum total of the money they will be willing to find at one time must be limited. It, therefore, has to be shared. Just as every prudent householder hasto curtail here in order to spend there, to lay by to-day in order to be more” liberal tomorrow, so the people of Australia look at the proposals before the State and the National Legislatures, consider which is the more pressing, and support either the one or the other. According to their decision, the one or the other must be prepared to go short of its full ambitions.
– What they are troubled about is the incidence of taxation.
– That question does not come before us to-night, although I admit that it is always serious to the people of Australia. The vital question we are dealing with now obliges us to realize that we have no Fortunatus purse at command. The Commonwealth and the States Governments draw upon the same people. The same people return the members of both Federal and State Legislatures. Each of us must be prepared to go to them with so good a case that they will indorse reasonable demands, and supply them, no matter what is urged to the contrary. To-day we possess one great advantage, in that the representative Governments of the States have come to an agreement with us on very substantial points as to what, with our present knowledge, would be a fair division. It is very important to each of us, to the works at which we are aiming, and to our dignity and authority, that we should obtain the most liberal supplies possible. It is not nearly so important to the electors as it is to the elected. It is important that the electors should make up their minds as to what they want, and see that they get it. In doing so, they will look very properly at both Commonwealth and States Legislatures as their agents. They are the principals, we are their agents, and it is for them to say which agent they will employ most. It is for them to say whether their agents have not furnished a very strong argument for their acceptance, seeing that they have jointly arrived at a reasonable agreement.
– They will judge us by the way in which we do our work.
– Which agent does the work best will be the ultimate test in each case. Honorable members are constituents in their States, and we have to remember that our position is that of the people of Australia. It is always two-fold. To attempt to stir up strife or to pour vitriol into controversies upon questions of financial administration is to attempt to excite a man against himself, to persuade him to injure himself for some fancied grievance against himself. He has complete and absolute control of both of those to whom he chooses to depute authority. What he is concerned with is to see that he gets good value for his money, and honest service from those he appoints. He will take care that his different agents work in harmony in studying his interests, or he will take the natural course of dismissing both. Our people cannot be divided into two camps on the main question. We may divide one Parliament from another, or within itself we may realize that we have different interests in bargaining in regard to our financial arrangements as representatives, but there is no such division between us as citizens, for we control both, and both serve us. That is our sheet anchor and safety. Our constituents will not forget their own interests or the interests of Australia, and they may be trusted to judge them, with the assistance of public discussions, as they have in the past. If there is one question more than another to which they will give keen and close attention it is that of finance. Now that they knew that their pockets are going to be touched, now that they know that the process of expending out of both pockets cannot be gone on with indefinitely, they will be obliged, cf necessity, to establish some proportion between’ their two agencies. They will establish it in the light of their judgment and knowledge. In this case there are many convergent lines of argument to be noted in order that, in the end, we may obtain something like an all round view of the situation. Hosts of miscellaneous facts and inferences must be drawn upon before we arrive at the real synthesis. When we do it will not be an artificial creation. At. the same time it cannot be expected to be more scientifically perfect than would be provision for any large commercial or industrial transaction spread over a series of years, and managed by fallible- men. We can give it our best consideration. We can bring to bear upon it the .knowledge we have already acquired, and yet be certain that in some respects, in any event, the future will outwit and outdo us. The affairs of the world have been conducted on this common sense basis, and in a judicious but empirical fashion from the commencement to the present time. We can essay our task with more confidence since the Constitution has given us ten years’ actual experience of the working of Federation. I take a large view both of the needs and the powers of the Commonwealth; have always done so, and always will. I hold that not the mere terms but the plain implications of the Constitution as a whole show that the people of Australia intended, when they adopted it, and still intend, to make this Parliament their centre of national government. We have not yet exercised all the authority it confers upon us. We have not even fulfilled some of its peremptory duties. We have been excused for our omission by circumstances affecting State Legislatures and State taxpayers that we thought ought to be faced in a considerate spirit. We studied our own people in their relation as States citizens in the earliest years of the Federation - in times of drought, of shortness of cash, and relative business depression. We studied them at the expense of the funds of the Commonwealth in a generous and wise spirit, and our electors at subsequent elections distinctly approved. At the same time, it has to be realized that we have relieved the States of a large share of expenditure which they bore prior to Federation and which they would be bearing now but for the existence of the Commonwealth. In casting up accounts we cannot and should not forget that we have relieved them of an expenditure of about £2,800,000 per annum, apart from the new works that we have been constructing out of revenue, the cost of which would have added another million to that total. I include in this estimate our recent acceptance of the .responsibility for old-age pensions, reckoning their cost at £1,500,000 per annum. The States were paying rather less than £1,000,000 since the system did not prevail in all of them. The Commonwealth has assumed a liability of from £2,800,000 to £3,800,000 a year which would have had to be met by the States if the Commonwealth had not existed. We do not expect the State Legislatures to realize the pressure that we feel, charged as we are with many wide duties and authorities imposed upon us by the Constitution; but the time has arrived when a common understanding requires to be obtained both for their sakes and for the sake of the electors who will deal with both of us. I leave the States to make their own pleas, through their leading representatives. That is their concern ; but I would bespeak for them from this
Parliament a patient and thoughtful hearing. They have a case which they will properly submit to our constituents, who are their constituents. It will be entitled to consideration from them, and we save ourselves from possible misadventure if, in making our own plans, we take it into account as far as we can. We must expect our citizens to be educated, to be trained, their properties to be protected, their lands to be managed, sold, or let, their railways to be constructed, their water supplies to be completed, and the march of civilization generally to be assisted locally. All these tasks the States still have to perform. Our electors pay for them, and our electors are well qualified to judge whether or not those Federal and State expenditures are necessary.
– They want guidance.
– I assume that we are all in that position.
– But the Prime Minister has the responsibility.
– All the guidance that we can obtain from the honorable member and from those who, like him, make an independent study of this question, will be welcome and necessary in order that we may go before our constituents armed at every point to meet their very proper and necessary queries. My endeavour to-day is to avoid as far as possible detailed figures, but there are a few to which I should like to call attention. When we consider the State Governments as part of the necessary organization of Australia and then hark back to the Budget placed before us a few weeks ago, we are able to realize the impossible condition ot affairs in which the Commonwealth finds itself even before 1910. The Treasurer showed that on the twelve months’ transactions, allowing for the progressive policy we thought fit to submit, we should have an actual deficit of £1,200,000. Under the then existing circumstances our only means of supply would have been to levy, by indirect taxation, from the electors of Australia £4,800,000, of which we should have had to return £3,600,000 to the States, although none of them might be in need of anything like their proportion of that amount. That was clearly iimpossible. It was obvious then that, after making all allowances, the term for which that leg-rope of the Commonwealth Constitution, the Braddon section, could operate, had been reached. Here was a case which, if we had not been just on the verge of freedom, we should have been obliged to face in another fashion. The manner in which we propose to meet it is already before you. The income we can get is £2,250,000 more ; and will, with a system of prudent finance, . enable us to undertake, in due measure, all those greater operations which were alluded to by my honorable colleague, the Treasurer, and in regard to which substantive measures are being submitted by the Government.
– Does that include de- fence ?
– It includes defence. But at the moment we have to look at something over and above the figures; something immensely important to us. If our agreement be adopted by this Parliament, the Commonwealth for the future becomes free. The 1st July next will see the disappearance of State borders, the disappearance of the bookkeeping system, and will also find the Commonwealth relieved of the necessity which has pressed on us for a number of years of studying State Budgets and State circumstances. We shall be relieved of the necessity of considering anything except our own finances ; our own finances including a definite payment each year, to which I shall presently allude. Our great gain, first of all, is that the arrangement is definite, and with it all uncertainties cease; and next, what appears to be overlooked by so many critics, the one definite claim is on the Commonwealth Treasury as a whole, and not on any part of its revenue. We shall no more need to consider where this 25s. is raised by us than we need to consider whether we pay a cabman in half-crowns or florins - we pay the same amount whatever coin may be used. The payment of 25s. per head can be discharged by any mode or means of taxation, or of raising money, that this Parliament chooses to adopt. The States will no longer be associated with Customs and Excise - nothing will be associated with Customs and Excise. We shall be free from every tie which at present rests on us; and up to the present there have rested on us a number of financial ties. - We have had, year by year, to provide for an indefinite expenditure; and we shall have to provide much less in the future than ever before. The fact that we have to provide in the future only for a definite and smaller amount is a great relief. As to its justice or the appropriateness of the payment, I shall have something to say in a moment. We are not only set free on our borders, but set free to deal with such questions as penny post, or special State payments made in various minor regards. We can deal in future from one national purse with the national interests of Australia without -any other constitutional restraints.
– An empty purse !
– An empty purse with £2,250,000 a year more in it than before ! As a matter of fact, we are justified in saying that, our income from our threefourths last year being in round figures, £2,670,000, our revenue from this source will, in the immediate future, be raised to £5,000,000, or nearly double the amount.
– We are perfectly entitled to take the lot, and yet the Prime Minister calls this freedom !
– The honorable membet for West Sydney points out, and truthfully, that his proposal is an alternative to ‘ours, which is that we should pay 25s. per head. He holds that we need pav nothing, ox, as he puts it directly, we may “take the lot.” Technically that may be within the power of the next Commonwealth Parliament; but I do not think that any friend of the. Parliament would advise its representatives to take that attitude before the electors, until we are prepared to show those electors how the State organizations are to be financed without this £5,660,000, which is only a part of the appropriation they have been depending upon.
– If we raised the money by direct taxation it would be equivalent to taking the lot.
– Of the Customs.
– And the Prime Minister says that we may do that.
– It is in our power, subject to the authority of the electors for the imposition of that amount of taxation in that way- a very important condition. The objects of our agreement are, tersely, and, 1 think, appropriately, set forth in their preamble. ‘ We seek to secure economy and efficiency in the raising and expenditure of the .revenues of the people of Australia - that means Commonwealth and States alike - and also to provide for their Governments exercising for the first time unfettered control of their receipts and expenditure. Up to the present State Treasurers have not known year by year what they could expect to receive, and we have been uncertain as to what we should have left to us after paying away three-fourths of our revenue. This period of uncertainty on both sides will be at an end ; we shall come out from the twilight and mists into the light of day. At all events, we shall be able to see sufficiently far ahead to time our march, and with a knowledge of the resources which the country will provide, can undertake what we conceive to be the most necessary expenditures. But the instant effect of this alteration to which the Governments of the States have severally and unitedly agreed is manifest. I need point to nothing more than the fact that on every hand it is bringing about proposals within the States for retrenchment and fresh taxation. The press of Australia in considering this question depicts the same outlook for every State. After commenting on the agreement, each section of the press, in its own individual fashion, arrives at the same moral - that under this agreement the State Legislatures must tax and must retrench. That is true of the very richest of all, New South Wales, and is true also of the smallest State of the group - everywhere they must tax and retrench. If the reduction of the sum paid to the States from three-fourths of the revenue to 25s. per head has already produced this effect, how much further- do we suppose the electors of the Commonwealth would support us in dipping into the general purse, and requiring them to adopt still further retrenchment, and impose still further taxation? That is a very practical question, which, I think, we should ask ourselves. What would be the effect then, if, as just advised, we try to “take the lot”? The Commonwealth finances are, of course, temporarily embarrassed, but that is solely due, first of all, to the approach of 1910, and next to the fact that this Parliament thought fit to anticipate 1911. Every party, and, I think, every section of every party, in this House united in passing the Old-age Pensions Bill. That has involved us in these troubles; though we admit, with one voice, that the end is worth the sacrifice. The dilemma we are placed in by the circumstances of stress under which we are financing is due, fust, to the period which closes in 1910, and next to our own deliberate action. In order to provide the pensions, we cut our services down to the bone for two years; but we are obliged to come forward this year with a practical deficit, simply because we can no longer “have our cake,” since our old-age pensioners are eating it. We felt that there were cases that called for a remedy, well-earned and well-deserved, at the earliest moment, and we gave the remedy in anticipation of 1910. We have to face the consequences, and admit a temporary shortage, while continuing to pursue a progressive policy. And now, what are the means before us in order to pass through the short period of privation? Under resolution number 2, we obtain authority to deduct from the States during the current financial year the sum of £600,000 as their contribution towards the old-age pensions fund. ‘ This is a perfectly voluntary contribution on their part, seeing that we had already legally assumed the burden. Under resolution number 3 honorable members will perceive that a further sum of £1,000,000 will be made available by anticipation of the termination of the Braddon period on the 1st July next, instead of at the close of that year. By these means, during the current eighteen months, an extra £1, 600,000 is made available. That qualifies us to treat any small balance that may remain merely as a business man would, by a temporary overdraft. It will probably not be necessary to undertake even the short-dated loan that was proposed. By a. mere financial arrangement, owing to this material assistance at the critical time, we shall be able before the close of 19 10- 11 to come into full possession of our financial powers, and to liquidate our temporary shortage. Our powers of raising money will be increased. We have a fixed payment to meet, and no sources of income are closed against us. The ‘Commonwealth Parliament now acquires . an unbounded power of taxation, either direct or indirect. Of course, we have been challenged because we are not following or proposing to follow precedents, many of them sound, which have been set in the States, for carrying out certain reproductive works by means of loans, with sinking funds appropriate to the character of each work and its necessities. The Commonwealth has hitherto refrained from taking any such step, and, so far as I may express an opinion, the Commonwealth has been wise in so refraining. There is no doubt that about the time of Federation, Australia had been over-borrowing, and there was a danger of further entrances into the money market seriously impairing the almost invariably- high credit of every single State, and the high credit always maintained by Australia as a whole. As I say, the Commonwealth refrained, and wisely refrained; it had to feel its feet, and find its path. But though that has been done, there is no reason why in the future a new course should not be followed, providing the taxpayers and people of Australia are consulted and approve. It seemed to us as a Government, faced with a temporary shortage, that the objection, even to dealing with reproductive works by loan, was that such a policy had never had the sanction of our constituents. Sound as the policy might appear to most critics, and approved as it might be by the practice of every Australian State, the fair and just course was to give our constituencies an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion upon the new departure before it was entered on. Our State debts amount to £250,000,000,. and the interest to £8,800,000. About £150,000,000 has been borrowed to construct railways and tramways, which, in five of the last eight years, have failed to earn the full amount of interest payable thereon. In the years in which they have earned interest, and more, seasons have been good, as they are everywhere in Australia at present. There are sinking funds in connexion with some of the loans, but, on the whole, they are almost a negligible quantity. When seasons are bad in any State, its taxpayers have to find any interest which the railways fail to earn. About £100,000,000 has been invested in public works which do not earn interest. Further expenditure for development is continually being asked for. If the Commonwealth borrows on the London market, pledging the security of Australia and of a Government which has yet assumed no responsibilities, as against parts of Australia with Governments considerably in debt, what will be the position of the States? Have honorable members generally considered the relation of the Custom’s and ‘Excise returns to the total revenue of Australia and the States? It has been objected that 25s. per capita is too great a. return to make to the States, but I find that, in proportion to the revenue which they enjoyed prior to Federation, when they were masters of their Customs and Excise revenue, it amounts, in the case of Western Australia, to only 23 per cent, of that sum, in New
South Wales to 94 per cent., in Queensland to 39 per cent., in Tasmania to 44 per cent., in Victoria to 63 per cent., and in South Australia to 69 per cent. It is less than any one of them then obtained from that source, notwithstanding that their tariffs and circumstances differed greatly. This difference of circumstances is one of the most embarrassing features of the financial problem, no two States being affected alike by any scheme that can be proposed. Since Federation, averaging the returns from 1902-3 to the present time, Western Australia has received from Customs and Excise duties 81s. 3d. per head - 61s. per head would have been the three-fourths share to which the State was entitled - New South Wales 36s. per head, Queensland 36s. per head, Victoria 32s. per head, South Australia 31s. per head, and Tasmania 29s. 3d. per head. Now, let us regard the Commonwealth and States as one people, possessing one purse, and having one business. In the period to which I have referred, much less than half the Customs revenue of Australia has been derived from direct taxation. At the present time only one-fourth of the total revenue is so obtained, the remaining three-fourths coming from Customs and Excise duties. In 1905-6, the Customs and Excise duties returned 71 per cent, of the total revenue of Australia; in 1906-7, 70 per cent., and in 1907-8,76 per cent., ah average for the three years of 73.92, or nearly 74 per cent. The remaining 26 per cent, was raised bydirect taxation levied by the States. The figures relating to this agreement now being published in the press necessarily give the result of the existing Tariff rates. Now that Tariff is imperfect, both as an expression of the policy of Protection, and as a revenue producing instrument. That is due to diverse causes. Both Commonwealth Tariffs have been compromises, the endeavour being to secure Protection, together with a sufficient amount of revenue; in the first period, out of regard to the necessities of- the States, which were then passing through troublous times, and, in the second, to provide for the expanding needs of the Commonwealth, under a provision which required us to raise £1 for every 5s. we expended. The calculations of all future Customs receipts are made, of course, subject to their being seriously disturbed by alterations. As the duties which are protective become effective, the return from them will decline, and there may be a falling off in the return from certain revenue imposts. The remedy is in our own hands. I believe that Protection has been accepted as the national policy of Australia, and so long as the constituencies return representatives holding that view, the Tariff will be adapted and re-adapted to the needs of the industries of the country, wherever necessary, as happens in other parts of the world. The recent German crisis was caused by the attempt to obtain suddenly from Customs and Excise duties a very large increase of revenue. The Tariffs of most great countries . are revised at comparatively short intervals, the object in the United States being lately to reduce revenue. No one can predict, with certainty, the future Customs returns of the Commonwealth, since figures based on the existing returns must be, to some extent, misleading. Then the Tariff possibilities of Australia, as measured by those of other countries, need a much closer scrutiny than has yet been given to them by any authority of which I am aware. ‘The Treasurer’s estimates of the operation of the present scale of duties are probably within the mark. Our population is likely to increase, and the per capita return is likely to become larger. Speakers and writers have quoted Tariff figures wholesale in the endeavour to determine what may be called the revenue-producing capacity of different proposals. I have followed the same line myself, and, appreciating my failings in this direction, have obtained the assistance of the Treasury officials and the officers of the Government Statist, also consulting authorities, to discover, if possible, a law which may be applied with confidence to any nation to determine its revenue-producing capacity in regard to Customs and Excise. The reading of the tables in the Statesman’ s Y ear-Book, or in the Commonwealth Year-Book, suffices to show that no such law can be stated. Having compared areas, trade, and production, and having moved backwards and forwards the figures relating to these and other matters, the experts whom I have consulted have confessed themselves unable to establish a fixed scale of any kind. I am unacquainted with any such law established by a European or other financial authority.
– Has the honorable member read to-day’s Age?
– I have heard some honorable members reading out an unclassified and undigested list of imports and exports and of Customs Tariffs of particular European countries. I read the same lists in the authorities mentioned and in other places, and am unable to discover that they have sufficient relevance to this question to permit of any formula, even a wide and general one, being arrived at that can be applied with confidence. But I do find that one doctrine is held which incidentally is of some interest. It is claimed that there is evidence to support the doctrine that where there is an increase of population the increase in the returns from Customs and Excise tends to grow at a faster rate than the increase of population.- Of course, this question is very complicated by Tariff changes.
– I think that general rule has as little foundation as the other.
– I hesitate to adopt it. Those who put it forward take periods such as from 1887 to 1904 in Germany, from 1887 to 1906 in the United States, and from 1887 to 1906 in Canada. As I pointed out at once, there were several Tariff changes in each of those countries during those periods. But the answer, which I give for what it is worth, is that, nevertheless, there is the increase of population, about which there is no doubt. Some of these alterations, as, for instance, one notable change in the United States, meant a reduction in the Tariff, and yet, in the teeth of that reduction, which I think occurred in the nineties, there, as elsewhere, the rule applied. It is pointed out that during that period in Germany, while the population increased by 25 per cent., the Customs return increased by 114 per cent. That, I assume, meant steadily rising duties. In the United States, in which the Tariff rose, fell, and rose again, an increase of population of 44 per cent, was accompanied by an increase in the Customs and Excise return of 63 per cent., while in Canada “an increase in population of 36 per cent, was accompanied by an increase in the Tariff revenue of 109 per cent.
– Between those two dates in the United States the McKinley Tariff came into operation.
– That is so. The theory seems to be so open to grave deductions that I hesitate to attach much importance to it. There is, however, as I shall presently show, a far better foundation for it in the experience of new countries. Another suggestion seems not unnatural - this is that if you wish to test the measure of Customs and Excise capacity you must class together countries which are broadly and generally alike. That means dismissing Europe and Asia, and practically the
United States, from the problem, so far as we are concerned. Taking the countries which are generally alike, it is claimed that those with a very high total trade in imports and exports have usually a high Tariff revenue per head of the population. Of course, that is bound to be the case while you have large imports, but it is suggested that the imports alone are not a fair measure, and that if you add the exports you get a better test. I have had that theory applied to a number of cases with some success. It does appear as though there is a connexion, but there are still many factors to reckon with for one to rely on it with absolute confidence. For instance, we find small countries like Belgium and Switzerland with an astonishingly high external trade per head of the population, and some great and notoriously rich countries with a relatively low rate of import and export trade. That, of course, may be explained by their supplying their own . wants within themselves, when the country is large and, . like the United States, possesses most climates. Almost insuperable difficulties presented themselves when I applied the same doctrine to the Australian States, and it was for this purpose that I called the attention of honorable members not long ago to the extraordinary discrepancies between Western Australia at 81 s. a head and South Australia, its next door neighbour, at 41s. per head under the same Tariff.
– Because of the male population in the west.
– We . know that explanation well ; it has been -worn threadbare, and also the gold export. They explain the discrepancy to a great extent ; but look at other differences. Take Queensland with its 48s., and Tasmania with its 39s., per head, under the same Tariff. There again the male population explains some of, but does not explain all, the discrepancy. In Australia, a country, broadly speaking, with its peoples at the same standards, and certainly, Western Australia excepted, with the same general conditions, as well as strong family likenesses among themselves, we find such discrepancies among them as may well give us pause before adopting any of the confident doctrines that are being put forward on one side or the other. When I said there was a rough approximation in the results from countries broadly alike, I was thinking of these figures - Canada, total trade, £21 per head;
Customs and Excise revenue, £2 2s. per head. Australia, total trade, £28 19s., or all but £29 per head; Customs and Excise revenue, £2 15s. per head. New Zealand, total trade £40 per head ; Customs and Excise revenue £3 10s. per head. There is, therefore, in a roughandready way, a certain proportion between the total trade and Customs and Excise revenue. It certainly is a very reasonable theory that a country with a. great export trade, particularly of natural products, and in proportion to its population, will be in a relatively prosperous position as compared with other countries. It must import very freely. The revenue-producing power of Australia must be exceptional, measured by ‘ the per head standard, having regard to the immense area open for use, and its immense mineral resources, of which only a part have yet been touched. Those who predict a decline in the Customs and Excise revenue of Australia, would have us believe that Australia is occupied, that we are becoming stationary. No State of it is occupied. No State of it is anything like as profitably used as it ought to be. We are progressive. Honorable members who take that despondent view must be looking scores of years ahead. I foresee no reduction save on account of exceptional seasons, but an increase in our import trade; an increase of our Customs and Excise revenue. It may well be that the circumstances of Australia are peculiar. I believe they are absolutely singular. I do not think that any country in the” word possesses the same promising conditions of production as this Commonwealth is fortunate enough to enjoy. I believe that this is the guarantee of our faith and knowledge, and that, given the proper additions to the population, we can not only maintain the standard of our revenue, but raise it higher than it is at the present time. I shall give some reasons for that view. The best and most telling example, and the one that our critics have most religiously abstained from using, is that of New Zealand. New Zealand has the advantage of being a single State and compact within itself ; but it, too, has great variations of climate and conditions, even within its borders. The lessons to be drawn from that Dominion, which have been so carefully excluded from the comparisons, are all of a very illuminating character. Although New Zealand has been raising a great, deal of direct taxation of late years - receiving £1,050,000 in 1905-6, £1,200,000 in 1906-7, and £1,400,000 in 1907-8 from that source - even with that increase of direct taxation, the Customs and Excise revenue constituted 72.77 per cent, of the total revenue in 1905-6, 71.48 per cent, in 1906-7, and 69.26 per cent, in 1907-8. The Customs and Excise revenue return per head rose every year in New Zealand ; although the proportion to thetotal revenue decreased. All the while the Customs return per head has been climbing up, although direct taxation was also increasing. The percentage of the Customs revenue appears, at a superficial glance, to fall; but when you look into the returns per head’, you find that there is actually an advance. The circumstances of New Zealand, of course, differ from ours, to our advantage in some respects. They pay £1 per head per annum more in interest on their loans than we do. They also -pay direct taxation, if you include municipal, at the rate, curiously enough, of almost exactly £1 per head more than we do. Those two accounts balance themselves.
– There was an immense amount of borrowed money coming into New Zealand at that time.
– I am aware of’ that. New Zealand averages 71 per cent, of Customs and Excise, and 29 per cent, of direct taxation. Australia averages 73 per cent, of Customs and Excise, to 27 per cent., of direct taxation, a difference of only 2 per cent. ; but the astonishing thing is theincrease of the New Zealand Customs revenue during the last ten years. I am told that the. increase began earlier, and continued right along. In 1899, before we were federated, New Zealand was raising 56s. per head from Customs and Excise ; in 1903 she raised 63s. per head, and in 1907-8, 70s. per head.
– Then the Tariff is not protective in its incidence.
– Indeed it is; and the manufacturing development of New Zealand shows it. I find that it compares favorably in that regard with that of the Commonwealth, and also in its increases of late years. This climb of the Customs and Excise revenue from 56s. to 70s. per head in under ten years has taken place with an Excise which is only 2s. 6d. as compared with our us. per head of the population.
– They have abolished most of their Excise duties.
– I have just said so; but, although our Excise is practically 10s. to their half-crown, their Customs and Excise revenue has risen to 70s. per head. Surely this throws as much light as any concrete illustration can be expected to do upon our reasonable expectations in regard to the future of the Commonwealth. I am told that New Zealand has been borrowing money. That is true; but I have yet to learn that the period of borrowing in Australia has ceased. It has not ceased during the last few years, and if the Commonwealth climbs even to the point New Zealand reached in 1899, when it was at its lowest, we shall have from Customs and Excise alone 30s. per head of our population for our own purposes. If we climb to the height that New Zealand has now reached, we shall have from Customs and Excise 45s. per head of our population, after paying to the States 25s. per head. I am aware that the circumstances of Australia as a whole differ from those of New Zealand, but there are in Australia more New Zealands than I can count. We have land as rich, rainfalls as certain, and crops as large as has New Zealand. The more I travel over this continent, the more unbounded is my faith in its financial and economic future. Those who preach the gospel of pessimism seem to assume that we have reached the limit of profitable production in Australia, that we have no more very fertile lands in well-watered districts to bring under the plough. During last recess I saw hundreds of thousands of acres of lands so situated in several ‘States. The blame will rest with the people of Australia if their march in the future is not more rapidly upward than it has been in our brilliant past. A study of New Zealand’s position justifies that belief. I shall not remind honorable members of the proportion of that Dominion which consists of magnificent mountain ranges and delightful scenery, wholly unsuitable for productive purposes. I decline, even by implication, to criticise pur neighbour adversely, although, whilst referring to these figures, I have heard from the Opposition adverse comment on its circumstances. Making the comparison from the Australian side. I say, ‘’ Sink, if you can, at the bottom of the sea, all that is really desert in Australia - and it is not much - place upon the rest the thinnest white population the world sees in similar regions, put it there under no conditions exceptionally advantageous, and yet Australia will surpass any similar area.” If we have the experience of New Zealand, instead of retaining for Commonwealth purposes £2,600,000 from Customs and Excise, we could expect £7,000,000 to £10,000,000 a year. Estimating in this general way the financial future of Australia, I decline the endeavour to reduce it to a mathematical or axiomatic statement, simply pointing to reasonable considerations that affect reasonable men when buying large properties or entering into other business transactions. One can do no more. 1 quote New Zealand, and the returns relating to it, with that reservation. The business man, when purchasing an estate, has submitted to him figures in regard to surrounding properties, and draws from them a broad and general conclusion. That is what I ask honorable members to do in this case. I ask them, without any hesitation, to draw the broad and general conclusion that the path of Australia is upward, and not downward or on the level. Looking at our own revenue, large as it may be, it seems small, unless we add to it the actual revenue raised and spent by the States. And what are the people of the States about? They are raising, including receipts from the railways, £8 per head per annum, and are spending £7 per head. That is what they are doing over the whole of Australia, and it indicates the exceptional condition of this country, which should be maintained for some generations. What the States get they spend, and what Ave pay we shall largely get back. The 25s. per head of their population which we propose to hand over will be paid to the States for undertaking functions that, if not assumed by them, would have to be undertaken by us, and would cost us as much. Our citizens get the benefit. They cannot be deprived of it. The money goes from us to them, and is applied to their needs in the daily walks of life, in the education of their children, and in encouraging settlement. We, ourselves, have an oversea trade of £30 per head ; and in 1907-8 raised by Customs and Excise taxation 50s. per head of the population. Trade increases, and the revenue points rather upward than downward. We have a Tariff in our own hands henceforward subject to no conditions or deductions. It is for us to make it. when the need arises, more protective or more revenueproducing. Australia grows, and growing, gains. Our exports increase, and with them our imports, too. In these circumstances, I submit that the scheme now proposed, looked at from many different points of view, is the best yet suggested for the
Commonwealth. If honorable members turn to the tables prepared by my right honorable colleague, the Treasurer, and compare the four official proposals that have been laid before successive Conferences, they will find that this, accepted by the States^ is the most profitable of all to the Federation. The scheme immediately preceding it, drawn up at Hobart, provided for a return to the States equal to 30s. per head of their population. That now before us will be at the present time £1.300.000 per annum better from the Commonwealth point of view, and even in 1920 will be to the extent of £1.000.000, more advantageous to us. I cannot attempt to trace the fluctuations of income, or even those of Customs and Excise ; but an extremely informative study by Senator Pulsford appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald. The honorable senator dealt with a variety of matters 011 which it was impossible to predicate as definitely as he desired. He showed certain contrasts in the power of production for which he could not account. My own inquiries during the last few days have led me into similar difficulties, from which even the advice of expert officers could not extricate us. I invite honorable members to compare the several schemes, and to note the special treatment to be given under this one to Western Australia, really a continuation of the special Tariff treatment originally provided under the ‘Constitution for that State. I think honorable members, having done so, will agree that the present proposal, taken in conjunction with all I have said as to its relation and subordination to the transfer of the debts, presents the best solution of the financial problem that has yet been submitted. For many of us, the present per capita proposal has one great crowning merit, in that it should remove all hesitation on the part of the most timorous States, in grappling with the question of immigration,’ as it ought to have been grappled with long ago. In Australia, the difficulty is not to find land, but to find land put to its full and proper use, and to find the hands that will enable ‘that to be done. Under this scheme it will become the interest of every State, as it certainly is the interest of the Commonwealth, to secure a legitimate increase of the population of Australia. That increase they are now willing to obtain under the supervision of Commonwealth officers, the Commonwealth undertaking the necessary advertising in the Mother Country, and joining with them to bring out. suitable settlers to those parts that are crying for them. In this arrangement, I believe, we have the means of sweeping away the hesitation of the States, and of getting from them the full exercise of their influence in adding to the population of Australia. It would be idle to point out how much our future depends on such an increase, and what it will mean to our revenue. Increased population must necessarily mean increased production, and increased production increased revenue, which means increased opportunities for public usefulness for the Commonwealth. Thus the one argument which above all others commends the per capita system to me, and many other honorable members, is that it will vitalize the immigration policy of Australia, and should . make it a reality in every State. From that our people have everything to gain. So far only one scheme Tor the settlement of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States has been openly declared in this House by one of its authors to be “ for all time.” I refer to the scheme framed at Brisbane by my honorable friends opposite, and the statement made by the honorable member for West Sydney, when Acting Leader of the Opposition a few weeks ago. The honorable member may have thought that he was commending the Labour party’s proposals by declaring that they were to have, eternal duration, but, as a matter of fact, he knew, and, if challenged, no doubt would have explained, that what he meant was that they would remain in operation only until the people of Australia changed their opinion upon them. That is some-, thing very different from an agreement in perpetuity.
– He meant until this Parliament had altered them.
– No. It could not be said that a scheme was to last for all time if its continuance depended from day to day solely on the choice of one Parliament. The honorable member could not have had that in mind. He could only refer to the embodiment of such a scheme in the Constitution, since that would be the highest degree of permanency that could be secured for it. We have not the power to give any such, permanency, and never will have, since that highest degree of permanency the people of Australia, and they alone, have power to confer. Even that is not “for all time.” It is permanent only while popular opinion’ continues permanent. The proposal submitted by the Government is for an amendment of the Constitution, and is, therefore, intended to give this scheme all the security that the people of this generation have it in their power to impart. But they have not got it in their power to give anything at any time, and under any safeguards, which they cannot take away, or which those who succeed them cannot take away, by exactly the same process. It is proposed to put this agreement in the Constitution, because, otherwise, the agreement would be revocable in any year, and at any time, by a decision of this Parliament. In regard to the Parliament’s own finances that is, and must always be, the case, but in regard to the finances of State representative bodies, acting under the authority ‘of the same electors - side by side with us, though in different operations, that is another matter. To say that the people of Australia shall not keep the control of any arrangements between their two sets of agencies in their own hands separately and entirely is a rather startling proposition. Yet we have no choice, practically, between putting this agreement in the Constitution, subject only to the people’s will, or leaving it a mere Act on the statute-book of this Parliament, to be altered by any future Parliament at anytime and without notice or special mandate from the people.
– Could the arrangement not be made for a number of years?
– Yes, but the Act which contained such an arrangement could be repealed by an Act passed next week or next month. As -I have said, no Act fixing a term of years could be given higher surety than any other Act already on the statutebook ; and this means that the same, or any subsequent Parliament, may at any time, amend it vitally, or absolutely repeal it. Does any honorable member suggest that it is fair to the States, or would commend itself as a practical project to the electors of the States, who are also our electors, that they should be obliged, at every Federal election, to make the retention of the current system, if they approve of it, a cardinal issue? Are we to have every State Legislature and Government feeling that it must take an active part in every Commonwealth election in order to have some surety for the maintenance of existing conditions,’ for at least the life of that Par liament? Do we think that the people of Australia desire to see themselves hampered at each succeeding election by the consideration of this perpetual danger? Should the State Parliaments and State interests - so far as there are State interests - operate apart from the Commonwealth upon every Federal election in order to finance themselves? I went into the late Conference without having arrived at a conclusion as to the term to be fixed, and am free to confess the fact. A decision to place the agreement in the Constitution was arrived at only after having been brought face to face with the public records of the various States, showing their current obligations, their taxation, and what they required for their people. In the same way the Premiers were brought face to face with the late Treasurer’s Budget and balance-sheet. It was then that they realized that their suggested payment of 31s., 32s., or even 30s. was impossible. When we came to look at their needs, and realized what they had before them in the next ten or twenty years, we found that a payment of 25s. per head meant a serious loss to them, while anything below that amount would mean the dislocation of some, and, if pushed far enough, of all State financial arrangements. Representatives on both sides, therefore, saw that it was unreasonable for us on the one hand to demand an excessive amount, or on the other hand to insist on an unduly small proportion. Collecting the necessities of the States and the necessities of Australia as a whole, we were, as I am sure honorable members would be under the circumstances, driven to some such bargain as has been made. Both parties to that bargain are justified in expecting a measure of security. On consideration, I was able to find no other means of security than that I now propose ; anything less than that seemed legally vain. We can place ourselves under moral obligations as they are called, although I regard such obligations as only partially moral, and prefer to describe them as “ political.” Those political obligations may or may not have a moral bearing, but, in any case, they are only political arrangements, subject to political vicissitudes and necessities. When I found myself confronted with the alternative of no security whatever for the States, or else the security now proposed, I was obliged1 to say : “ This security rather than none at all.” Even when ‘we submit this proposal for a referendum, what is our power ? We can do nothing except propose to the people a question which they will answer independently. We have no power to place anything in the Constitution without the assent of- the majority of the electors and a majority of the States. Are not a majority of the electors of this country competent to decide their own business ; to say whether this agreement should or should not be embodied in the Constitution? If the people are not competent by a majority to say how this proposal shall be dealt with, how are they competent to select us, since we must deal with it in their interest ? We recommend this to the electors as a fair arrangement which can only receive ils necessary measure of security from their hands ; the people alone decide. There must, first of all, be a majority of the people, and next a majority of the States; so that there, is a double safeguard. Critics who talk about this agreement being placed in the Constitution “ for all time,” forget that it cannot be put into the Constitution for any time except by the will of a majority of the people, and a majority of the States, and that exactly the same majorities can remove the agreement from the Constitution at any time they think fit. Consider the freedom with which this vote is to be cast.. All of us, or most of us, may be before the electors as candidates within a few months ; we and our opponents will both express our views. The people who come to. the polling booth will vote for those they prefer to represent them in the next Parliament, and then step to another ballot-box, in which, quite independently of their representative, they will pronounce on this agreement taken by itself, separated altogether from the fate of persons or parties. They can vote for the man whom they desire to trust, although he is opposed to the agreement, and yet themselves vote for the agreement. The proposal carries a security which is not a personal or party security, but altogether beyond persons and parties. It leaves the fate of the Ministry unaffected, and the fate of the Opposition unaltered, these matters being dealt with by a deliberate verdict registered in another ballot-box. Here we have proposed what my honorable friends opposite, or most of them, are always protesting they most keenly desire - an opportunity of obtaining the verdict of the majority on a great public question.
– Could .there not be an alternative scheme ?
– The simple alternative is to reject each scheme proposed until an acceptable one is. found; other schemes I have no doubt will be advocated on many platforms. The astonishing thing is to find those calling themselves Liberals, as well as those calling themselves Labour representatives, alarmed at the prospect of submitting this question to the vote of the people, who are our highest authorities, and our ultimate tribunal. This independent choice and free act expresses the highest power possessed by the people of Australia. What, then, can be said in justification of an attempt to stand between the people and the expression of their will? If we are wrong, they are under no obligation to agree with us ; the question submitted will be dealt with on its own merits according to individual judgment. While we do well to deprecate tampering with the Constitution, or altering it unnecessarily - while we do well to confine amendments to those absolutely essenti.il, and to the smallest number of them - yet when a crucial question does arise, and, above all, a question between two sets of deputies of the same people, then. I say, the people are the one and only tribunal to which to appeal. In no case can we have a better or clearer decision than in this way on a question of this kind. When the people have their legislative agents in the States contending for one view, and their legislative agents elsewhere pressing for another, then, as between the agents, the proper remedy is an appeal to principals. We propose an appeal to the principals, not confused with party or personal issues - with no request to the electors tq save some man to whom they are attached for long services, or some principle that they hold dearer than any financial considerations. What question could more appropriately be submitted to the people ? _ Who have a better right to give their decision at the ballot-box, when an amendment of the Constitution is proposed? I am told that once this agreement is placed in the Constitution, it will be impossible to remove it. What a confession ! The confession must mean that this scheme will prove so practical in its working - will prove so sound, and suited to our circumstances - that it will never be possible to get a majority of the people and a majority of the States to agree to its removal. Can anything better be asked ? Before we can put a provision into the Constitution, we must put it to a test which we are told is certain to be fatal to it. If experience justifies this amendment or any other, the people of Australia will not be slow to make it. No power on earth can prevent them from doing so. I point to this fact to show the inconsistency of the arguments advanced against our proposal. The matter is one for the people to decide. If it be submitted with other questions by a candidate seeking election, many will vote against their convictions for party or personal reasons. What can be better than to submit the issue by itself? Nothing less than a majority of the electors and of the States can add to or take away from the Constitution. What fear is there that, if a mistake is found, it will not afterwards be remedied? We are fallible, especially when we endeavour to forecast events. The financial future of Australia depends greatly on the rate at which its population grows, the adoption of more scientific methods of cultivation, the application of discoveries revolutionizing industry, and a variety of other circumstances too numerous to mention. In these respects we are not subject to greater risks than other new countries, and start with better opportunities. It is well argued that in a new country Customs returns increase proportionately faster than the population. This I take to mean that in countries possessing large unused areas the application of labour to them adds more to the general income than their numbers seem to promise. That is a reasonable doctrine when applied strictly to agricultural, pastoral, and mining development, and nowhere is the prospect of these, and of manufacturing development as well, better than in Australia. If this doctrine will prove true anywhere, it will do so here. If we increase our population, we may expect that the revenue from Customs and Excise will also increase in a higher proportion.
– Not per head.
– Yes. Besides, we are not tied to the existing Tariff, or to indirect taxation. Later Parliaments, possessing a fuller knowledge, will deal with these questions, and will adjust the Tariff to the needs of the Commonwealth. We may then have, as in New Zealand, a constantly increasing return from it. The field of direct taxation is not barred, though from national and patriotic reasons we do not desire to enter it unless compelled to do so. But apart from that, just as the United States has varied its Tariff rates from time to time, sometimes to decrease revenue, we can adapt ours to increase revenue, to assist existing and toestablish new industries, while providing for development not yet thought of. I have occupied more time than intended.
– The honorable member has not yet said anything about the transferred properties.
– Because they have nothing to do with this matter.
– Why are they dealt with in the paper which has been put before us?
– Because the arrangement proposed there is ancillary to other proposals. If we take over the State debts, assuming the responsibilities now borne by the States, we shall not pay the States for the public works for which the loan was incurred. An assessment is to be made on our behalf. I thank honorable members for their patient hearing of a long, intricate, and necessarily tedious speech, but could not spare them, as I have not spared myself. The delays which have occurred have given me the opportunity to devote more time to the consideration of various phases of this proposal, which is of immense importance. We are practically continuing the work of the makers of the Constitution, in order to complete the financial partnership left unfinished j still, until the people put their imprimatur on our proposals, they will be without effect. The electors must set their seal on them to make them valid, and they alone can erase that seal. I hope that the proposal will be fairly and fully criticised. The electors should pronounce the final judgment. We appeal to Caesar, to a jury- of our own countrymen. That does not detract from our high responsibility in tendering advice. If we are not honestly convinced that this is the best and wisest scheme, it is our duty to say so. We must propose what we think ought to be put into the Constitution, and leave it to the electors to accept. I do not fear their verdict, and- have little doubt as to what it will be; but had I the gravest doubt, I should say that in a Federal and national question, such as this, affecting the policy of the Commonwealth and the States in their several spheres, and so greatly influencing the development of the country through its finances, the re– sponsibility should be’ shared by every elector. The decision come to by a majority of the people and of the States will then stand until the same authority intervenes.
– The Prime Minister during his speech laid certain returns on the table, with the request that they might be incorporated in the Hansard, report. Following the usual practice, I replied that that could not be done, the only exception to the rule that nothing that is not read by a member may appear in his speech being in regard to Budget tables. It has been pointed out to me, however, that the publication of these returns in Hansard. would be of great use to honorable mem bers, and therefore I ask if they are of opinion that they should be incorporated in the speech.
– I” would like also to include three other tables.
– Could not this information be presented in a parliamentary paper ?
– Yes, but it is thought that it would be more convenient to publish it in Hansard.
– The Hansard publication would enable honorable members to get it more quickly than they can get it in any other way.
– I object to these tables going into Hansard.
-I have the right to give permission for their publication in Hansard, but I did not wish to break a rule, which I believe to be a good one,’ and by which honorable members are the gainers. Therefore, I have thought it well to ask the leave of the House.
– I object.
.- In view of the length and importance of the speech just delivered, the Prime Minister surely does not intend us to continue the discussion to-day?
– I should like to have the motion carried, so that the Bill may be introduced and circulated, and the second reading formally moved; but if the honorable member wishes an adjournment of the debate, I shall agree to it.
– I certainly think that the debate should be adjourned. I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to the public debts of the States.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
– The honorable member is not correct.
– If I am not correct. I must “have misunderstood you, Mr. Speaker. I took the point that the Prime Minister was discussing both notices of motion together, although he himself had separated them, and you ruled that, both dealing with matters of finance, one was involved with the other.
– I would point out that what I did rule was that the remarks which the Prime Minister was making were covered by the first motion. 1 did not rule that the second motion was, in effect, part of the first.
– It comes to much the same thing. We have heard so much today about the liberty of the subject and the liberty of Parliament, that honorable members should give special attention to ;in important point of order, which I wish to raise. I claim that this Bill is- a money Bill, and imposes a charge upon the people. According to the Prime Minister’s own statement, it imposes a permanent charge of 25s. per head upon the people for all time, or until the people alter the Constitution. It also imposes charges in other ways. That refers particularly to the first Bill introduced, but both Bills are practically related, and the whole proposal undoubtedly involves a charge upon the people. Standing order 243 provides -
If any motion be made in the House for any public aid or charge upon the people the consideration and debate thereof may not be presently entered upon, but shall be adjourned until such further day as the House shall think fit to appoint, and then it shall be referred to a Committee of the whole House before any resolution or vote of the House do pass thereon.
Nothing could be clearer or more definite. I am not dealing with the question of whether the Bill should be preceded by a message, because I know that a message can be brought down at a later stage; but in all cases of this kind the proper mode of procedure is to deal with the Bill in Committee of the whole. May, tenth edition, page 528, lays it down that -
Procedure on legislation creating a public charge. - In pursuance of the - Standing Orders -which regulate the financial procedure of the House, Committees of the whole House are appointed to sanction by their resolutions grants of public money, or the imposition of a charge upon the people. The Committee is appointed, either before the commencement or after the -close of public business, by a motion that “ this House will,” on a future day, “ resolve itself into a Committee “ to consider the matter specified in the motion. If satisfied that the motion will receive the royal recommendation, the
Speaker proposes the motion as a question from the Chair, and thereupon a Minister of the Crown or a Privy Councillor, acting under instructions from the Treasury, signifies to the Speaker, and to the House, that the motion is recommended by the Crown ; and the recommendation, and the name of the member who signified it, are recorded upon the journal of the House.
Bills creating a charge. - When the main object of a Bill is the creation of a public charge, reso’rt must be had to this procedure before the Bill is introduced, and upon the report of the resolution of the Committee of the whole House thereon the Bill is ordered to be brought in. If the charge created by a Bill is a subsidiary feature therein, resulting from the provisions it contains, the royal recommendation and preliminary Committee are not needed in the first instance, and the Bill is brought in on motion. But before the clauses and provisions for the creation of incidental charges can be considered by a Committee on the Bill, those clauses and provisions must be sanctioned by a resolution of a Committee appointed upon the recommendation of the Crown, and agreed to by the House.
On page 529, the same authority says -
In deference to the usage expressed in standing order number 62, that consideration of a charge upon the people “ shall not be presently entered upon, but shall be adjourned “ to a future day, the resolutions of the Committees of Supply, and Ways and Means, and all resolutions which are sanctioned by the recommendation of the Crown, are not considered oh the day on which they are reported from the Committee, but on a future day appointed by the House.
The same principle is laid down in other parts of May, and by Todd, Bourinot, and other authorities, whom I shall not quote at length. The whole point is whether this is or is not a Bill imposing a public charge. If the desire of the Prime Minister is carried out, it will undoubtedly impose a permanent and lasting charge. That being so, we have no choice but to follow the procedure laid down in our standing order, and copied from that of the British House of Commons. The Prime Minister could easily have arranged to follow the proper course; but, instead, he has created a precedent by delivering a second reading speech on two Bills before he has even obtained leave to introduce them. If ever there was a Bill imposing a public charge, it surely is one under which, according to the Prime Minister, a public debt of £250,000,000 will be taken over from the States by the Commonwealth.
– The question before the House is the first reading of the Bill. The motion for leave to introduce it has already been carried. I have not had an opportunity of examining the Bill, which has not yet been circulated, and, therefore, I do not know whether it does or does not impose a charge upon the people, or whether it is within, or outside of, the Standing Orders. It will be my duty, before the second reading, to examine it, and, if I find that it is not in order, to refuse to allow it to be proceeded with.
– On a point of order, do I understand that the Bill has not ‘yet been presented to the House?
– What I desired to convey was that I had not had time to see or consider the Bill ; but I gave an undertaking that I would read it before the second reading was entered upon.
– That is not my point of order. I wanted to know if the House was asked to pass the first reading of a Bill which had not been presented to it.
– The Bill is in the possession of the House. If it had not been, I should not have allowed the first reading to be proceeded with.
Question resolved in . the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
In Committee; (Consideration resumed from 7th September, vide page 3101).
Clause 1 (Short Title).
– - Being altogether averse to the passing of this Bill, I take the opportunity on this clause to address myself to it. I take it that a High Commissioner is to be appointed for the specific purpose of our having in London an official to “whom the people of the Commonwealth and the States may look for information, and whom they may regard as their accredited representative in the Old Country. The High Commissioner will have numerous functions, social and otherwise, to perform, and many of them can hardly be specified. I am adverse, however, to an appointment being made at the present time, believing that expenditure On the representation of Australia in London is already high enough. If the Agents-General can properly perform their duties there is no occasion for the passing of this Bill. If they cannot, then the Commonwealth should appoint a High Commissioner to represent us. If the High Commissioner would be able to take over all the duties now carried out by the representatives of the States. I should recognise the advisableness of making the proposed appointment, but experience has shown that the States would decline to transfer to his office the work now carried on by their Agents-General, and that he would always be hampered by their presence in London.
– I must ask the honorable gentleman not to deal in detail at this stage with the question of the appointment of a High Commissioner. The clause before the Committee relates only to the short title of the Bill.
– Owing to last night’s atrocity-
– Order !
– I was unable to speak on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, and I knew that it would be difficult on this clause to express my views on the general question whilst at the “ same time keeping within the Standing Orders. Last evening the “gag” was applied when only one member of the Opposition who is opposed to the Bill had spoken to the motion for the second reading ; and I wish to place on record* my opposition to the proposed appointment under existing circumstances.
– I did not have an opportunity to speak to the motion for the second reading of this Bill, and should like to explain that t’ voted against that motion, not because T am opposed to the Bill, but because of the attitude taken up by honorable members opposite.
– Order ! We are now discussing clause 1.
– I wish only to say that I shall take the same course with regard to every measure concerning which I am not afforded an opportunity to express my views.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Governor-General may appoint someperson to be the High ‘ Commissioner of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom.
. -When speaking to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I said that whilst r perfectly agreed with the appointment of a High Commissioner, and thought it rather unfortunate that we were dealing only then with a matter that ought to have been attended to much earlier in the history of the Commonwealth, I considered that in the very nature of things everything would depend upon the man to be appointed. If one were asked, for instance, whether one believed in a monarchy, one would naturally reply, “ Everything depends upon the kind of man who is King 1 ‘ ; and it is clear that the success of this project will depend entirely upon the man selected for the position. If Australia is to be represented at the seat of the Empire, obviously she must be represented by a man who in every essential is Australian in sentiment, who finds himself en rapprochement with the feelings of the nation and the Parliament.. In times gone by appointments have been made by Governments to placate their friends, to silence their opponents, and generally to arrange matters in a way highly satisfactory to themselves, with little if any consideration for the country. I think, therefore, we may very well ask who is to exercise the functions which the Minister in charge of Bill, and the Prime Minister in times that are gone, have said will mean so much to us. I do not wish to belittle the functions of the High Commissioner. I believe that the right man can da a great deal for us, but the wrong man would do infinitely more harm than we should suffer by leaving things as they are. The honorable member for Dalley said last night that whilst in theory he agreed that we should know something as to the man to be appointed, he preferred to leave it to the Government to make an appointment during the session, and to take the whole responsibility for it. The Government must take the responsibility for the appointment whenever they make it. But if they make it during this session they will have to take the responsibility, and suffer whatever penalties the House likes to inflict” upon them if they exercise their power unwisely. From what one saw in the House last night, however, there is nothing this Government can do that would not be indorsed by their followers. When a Government, without excuse, is prepared to do what this Government did last night, I cannot conceive of any act which their supporters would not approve. One would imagine from what the honorable member for Dalley said that there were behind the Government a number of healthy independent spirits who would not only criticise the policy of the Ministry, but would not hesitate if they thought fit to vote against it. There has not been one occasion, however, when every mem ber, of the party has not responded obediently to the crack of the Government whip. 1 am endeavouring to show that, when honorable members talk about the Government taking the responsibility, there is not an appointment they could make which would not be ratified, so far as votes are concerned, by every honorable member opposite. It is, therefore, a serious matter when we learn that it is the intention of the Government to appoint a man who has not one solitary qualification for the position. He is not a diplomat, nor is he versed in finance - he knows nothing of figures except, perhaps, the figure 1 - and, as an after-dinner speaker, he is contemptible.
– To whom is the honorable member referring?
– To a gentleman whom I shall call Mr. X., and whom the Government intend to square - a gentleman who, it is perfectly well known, has an excellent show for the position. We all know that, when a certain body has the power of appointment, it is a very convenient thing to be a member of that body. We have every reason to believe that his appointment is at least contemplated ; and I am confident that, if Parliament had a free hand, it would certainly not indorse it. We had a perfectly analogous case in the appointment of Speaker, an appointment that was ratified, so far as I remember, by some seventeen -honorable members.
– How is the honorable member going to connect those remarks with clause 2?
– I know how you feel in the matter, Mr. McDonald ; but I submit that I am perfectly justified in showing that the appointment contemplated, in a House constituted as this is, is certain to be ratified, if made; and in contending that we ought to have an opportunity to consider the matter without the exercise of any pressure. I suppose I may refer to the attitude of the Age, which, rightly or wrongly, urges that the system of party government is responsible for a very great deal of that to which the people outside have every right to tate exception. That attitude I do not entirely indorse, because, as a matter of fact, the evils of party government are inherent in Democracy. By no conceivable means can we alter the fact that, whether Ministers be elected or not, an appointment of this kind, directly by the Executive or by Parliament, means practically the same result.
However, there is every reason to believe that the appointment of a High Commissioner by Parliament would be much more satisfactory than an appointment by the Government. If the opportunity be given, I am confident that the man selected will not be the man who is likely to be appointed by the Government. In the selection of the Capital site we had quite a different result from that which would have followed had the decision been left to the Executive. In the Government at that time, those in favour of Dalgety were in the majority, but the voting in Parliament resulted in the selection of Yass-Canberra. I admit at once that my amendment may be said to be an attempt to invade the Executive prerogative; but I am not desirous of any such invasion. I urge that Parliament should know beforehand the man whom the Executive have in their mind, and I should be the last to press the amendment if the Government would give us an intimation on the point. The statement of the Minister of External Affairs that the Government have nobody in mind is, officially, perfectly right, but is, actually, quite incorrect. I admit that they may not have finally fixed on any one man ; but, as there is not likely to be a dearth of candidates, they must have in their mind one man of two, three, or four ; and there would be no loss of dignity in affording us the ‘ information. The right of Parliament to be -consulted in such matters is a growing one, and is continually acknowledged. As shown in Dicey’s Law of the Constitution, at page 82, in an extract from Edmund Burke, Parliament had no such right in the early days. The extract, which indicates the exact position of the House of Commons at that time, is as follows: -
The House of Commons was supposed originally to be no part of the standing government of this country. It was considered as a control issuing immediately from the people, and speedily to be resolved into the mass from whence it arose.
Since that time the powers of the House of Commons have grown inordinately, and we are now on the eve of an Homeric struggle in England, which, if it takes place, will result in the powers of the House of Lords being still further curtailed. At any rate, our powers here are undeniable, and, in quite a number of matters, the House is continually consulted. What is more, it is a growing practice to take the sense of the House in Committee in matters of vital importance, without regarding in any sense the direction of the Committee as censuring the Government or invading their rights. While, on a second reading, the Government consider an adverse vote as vital, in Committee such a vote is not considered so, unless by deliberate choice. In asking, therefore, that Parliament shall make this appointment, I am only asking for something which, in many cases, is readily granted, and, in any event, I am only seeking information to which the country has a right. I shall not be satisfied with the statement that the appointment is to be made while the House is sitting, so that we may discuss, and, if we choose, censure the appointment afterwards, because once the appointment is made, it will stand, even if Parliament decide to oust the Government on the issue. Further, we may take it for granted that the House, as constituted at present, would not oust this Government under any circumstances. I have no doubt that, even a protest would be met by the weapon that was wielded last evening with such signal success. The Prime Minister, in his recent speech, was most touching in regard to the interests of the people, and to their thorough understanding of their own welfare ; but I am sure that he would not suggest that the electors have the opportunity to select the High Commissioner at the next general election. .1 venture to say that if the people were allowed to do so, Mr. X.. to whom I have already alluded, would certainly not receive a majority of thevotes, or even a respectable minority. We, the representatives of the people, should be given the opportunity to express; our opinions. The Government should announce the names which it has in its mind,, and allow the press and public to express: their views regarding them. Let the merits of the candidates and “their suitability for the post be discussed in the columns of the newspapers. There is nothing undemocratic in that proposal. When a Government, like that which now holds office, declines to consult Parliament, and to announce its intentions in a matter of this kind, we haveevery reason to think that it proposes tomake a political appointment, to suit itsown convenience rather than the advantageof the nation. If Ministers will give us the assurance that, before the appointment is made, Parliament will be allowed to express an opinion regarding the choice, I shall refrain from pressing my amendment. The Government is supported by parties which have fused without possessing much. if any, political principle in common, and unless what I suggest is done, the members composing these parties will find themselves committed to support a man in whose qualifications they do not believe, and for whom they would not vote had they a chance to express an opinion. I move -
That the words “ The Governor-General may appoint some person to be” be left out.
Should the amendment be carried, I shall move to insert, in lieu of the words omitted, the words “ Blank is hereby appointed.”
.- I agree with the honorable member for West Sydney that we should get the best man available for the position, and that the first official representative of the Commonwealth in London should have a reputation extending throughout Australia. But I would suggest for his consideration certain undesirable consequences which would flow from the adoption of his amendment. The amendment of the provision regarding the removal of the High Commissioner by limiting it to removal on the presentation of a joint address by both Houses of Parliament should follow as a corollary, but that would produce a certain amount of public wrangling whenever a change was made in the personality of the officer, which would be highly undesirable in the interests of Australia. Generally speaking, the Executive should make appointments of this kind ; for it can do so with less fuss, with less quarrelling, and with less canvassing of the merits of the candidates than would occur under, any other system. My honorable friend showed how strongly he deprecated action of that kind, by the careful way_ in which he referred to sundry gentlemen as Mr. X and Mr. Y. I cordially approve of that attitude. I confess that I had some difficulty in deciding whom he meant by Mr. X, although he commenced with a lucid description of the personality of one who is very dear to us. The Government could hardly accept the amendment without laying itself open to the charge of permitting an interference with its executive powers. I hope that in making the appointment, it will not consider services rendered in the past to any of the parties composing the Fusion, nor regard personal ties.
– Is the honorable member in the running?
– I am one of the few incompetents in this House who are not seek-, ing every billet offering. For every billet there is a plethora of incompetent candidates, but I cannot join the honorable member in the chase. I hope that Ministers will make an appointment on the lines suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney. If they appoint a man of brains and ability, the country will gain by the advertisement which will follow. We shall be judged in London largely by the character of this appointment, which should not be decided by the past record or party claims of the person who is sent, of which practically nothing will be known outside Australia.
– The speech of the honorable member for Wentworth has not advanced matters. While he supports the views of the honorable member for West Sydney, he will not vote for the amendment. Ministers are adepts at coming to agreements with the States, and before appointing a High Commissioner, they should get the States to consent to the abolition of Agents-General. The people, so far as I can judge, think that there is no need for both. The matter should have been considered at the Premiers’ Conference, and the public assured that the appointment of a High Commissioner would save the expenditure now incurred in maintaining Agents-General. While it is true, as the honorable member for West Sydney has said, that it is a departure from usual practice to give Parliament an opportunity to consider an appointment of this kind, it must be remembered that the circumstances are extraordinary. The appointment will be one of the utmost importance, and the first High Commissioner should possess the confidence of the people at large. He should be acceptable to all. sections of the community, and should be able to take a truly national, that is, Democratic, view of Australian affairs. We might have a gentleman entirely out of touch with Australian sentiment, and that would be a calamity. I understand that the honorable member for West Sydney is prepared to withdraw the amendment, if the Government will make the announcement he asks for. We should know whether it is proposed to appoint a gentleman connected, or one unconnected, with politics, and whether the appointment is to be a reward for the docile support of a Ministry with whose policy he is not in sympathy. Quite a number of honorable members support the Government in the hope of getting a position.
– It is not like the honorable member to make a statement of that kind.
– It is proposed to create not only a High Commissionershipbut several other positions, and I believe that all the appointments to them will be political.
– The Labour party itself proposed to appoint a High Commissioner.
– Yes ; but we insisted that the name of the probable appointee should be made known.
– The honorable member’s own colleague in the late Government said that he would not do what the honorable member suggests, as the appointment should be an Executive act.
– I was referring to a resolution carried some time ago in another place. The whole party, especially on a non-party question, might disagree with anything that any Minister said or did. The members of the party in another place insisted that we should know who was to fill the position before the appointment was made. That would not be so necessary in future cases, but a great deal depends on the personality and a bil itv of the first High Commissioner. Delay has been caused, apparently, because this Government feared to take the step of making an appointment. Now that they have introduced the Bill, and are, I hope, in earnest about pushing the matter forward, the Committee ought to be taken into their confidence. In the extraordinary circumstances that is a reasonable request, and it need not be made a precedent. If the Minister is not prepared to take the Committee into the confidence of the Government, I shall vote for the amendment.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p. in.
.- I am in general agreement with the object of the Bill, and if I had been given an opportunity yesterday to speak on it I should have voted for the second reading. In the extraordinary circumstances that arose, however, I took another course. A general discussion of the advisability or otherwise of appointing a High Commissioner is now impossible. I am in absolute accord with the general object sougHt to be achieved by the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney.
– I call attention to the fact that there is not a quorum present. [Quorum formed.”]
– It is a great pity that the silent majority of the Government are out of the chamber for most of the time during the sittings. T.t is impossible to hope to convince them, because they troop in to vote as the Ministry want them, withoutknowing what the question is. This clause provides that “ the GovernorGeneral may appoint some person to be High Commissioner of the Commonwealth.” In a Democratic community like Australia, the Governor-General is not likely to make an accurate or a satisfactory selection. He has not had sufficient experience to make an individual choice. If, on the other hand, it means that the Governor-General is to accept the recommendation of his responsible advisers - and I do not know whether I ought not to qualify the term “ responsible “ somewhat - he ought not to be permitted to act on the advice that he is likely to receive from this Cabinet.
– Hear, hear. That is good.
– The honorable member has worn a very self-satisfied air since he has been on the Ministerial bench. No one in Federal politics is more justified in smiling. He spent eight lonely years on this side, and was speaking for about two years out of the eight. Now that he is on the other side he puts in about three months of the year in complaining, by interjection, about the Opposition wasting time.
– How is the honorable member going to stop the Governor-General from acting on the advice of his Ministers ?
– If the amendment is carried it will effectively stop the Government from being able to tender advice on the subject. The first High Commissioner of the Commonwealth should be the deliberate choice of the people of Australia through their representatives in both sections of the Federal Parliament. That method is more likely to give satisfaction than the other, because at least half the Ministry and half the members sitting on the Government side have broken every pledge which they gave to their constituents. As that is so, it is an argument in favour of preventing the Government from causing further trouble to the people of Australia by making this appointment themselves. Apparently, however, honorable members opposite have made up their minds, and their weakness compels them to vote with the Government.
– ls it not far better that the Government should take the responsibility ?
– The honorable member can rise and make any apology he likes for his extraordinary position. When the honorable member was in the Opposition corner, the present Prime Minister could do nothing right, but the honorable member has been one of the most consistent apologists for the Government, by means of interjections, since they appointed him a member of the Library Committee. The distinctions showered around by this Administration are simply alarming, and apparently they choose the proper distinction in each case in order to get support. The honorable member for West Sydney has most effectively demonstrated that the growing tendency of Parliament is to assume more and more responsibility, and to limit the possibilities of Executive appointments. I could understand a person in Russia, who was favourably affected by the form of Government in operation there, being an autocrat, but the tendency in Australia ought not to be to make the Government an autocracy, and to give it powers over and above those rightly conferred bv the Constitution. A Government is chosen to carry out that which Parliament itself cannot effectively do; to deal with questions that can be more effectively settled by a few individuals, acting at the direction of Parliament, than by Parliament itself. Will any one say that this is an appointment that can be more effectively made by a Government resulting from the fusion of three antagonistic parties than by the Parliament itself? Have the Government received from Providence a special dispensation to make a more satisfactory choice?
– There are no greater differences ‘between the honorable members on this side of the House than there are in the case of the Opposition.
– The honorable member is usually a party unto himself. The proposal of the Government is that the High Commissioner, who is to hold office for some years, shall be chosen bv the Executive, although such an appointment could more properly be made by the Parliament. Perhaps honorable members opposite, with the flush of last night’s victory still upon them, think that having discussed this matter for ten minutes, I ought to receive my quietus. If they think so, well and good, but believing that there is an important principle involved, I intend to carry out my duty to my constituents by expressing my opinion in regard to it. There is a precedent for what the Opposition propose. Towards the end of 1904, or early in 1905, a resolution was passed in another place in favour of the method of selecting a High Commissioner that we now advocate. Will the Government and their supporters sa> that those who voted for that motion did not realize the dangers that might arise from such an appointment being made by the Administration of the day? The Prime Minister was then in office, and the Senate determined that neither he nor any other member of his Cabinet should be allowed to make a selection. Have his conduce of public affairs since then, his consistency, his strict adherence to political principles, and his magnificent achievements in regard to. the financial obligations of the Commonwealth made him more deserving of support than he was then? If he had at that time a record for consistency, it is in ribbands to-day. Yet as the chief Executive officer, he is to be entrusted with the making of this appointment. I believe that some members of the Senate were led to vote for the resolution to which I refer, because of the fear that the Executive would probably choose for this office one of their colleagues who was at that time threatening their existence. Has time removed that possibility? I think not. The danger is still with us, and there is. the still greater danger that the Government will not be prepared to accept the responsibility of making an appointment until they have reached the cool shades of recess, where they will be free from the criticism of the Opposition. The Prime Minister has not so distinguished himself during the last few months as to justify us in allowing this appointment to be made by the ‘Executive. This Bill will involve the Commonwealth in a liability amounting to several thou- sands of pounds per annum.
– Including the up-keep of the High Commissioner’s office the annual ‘ cost will be about ^50,000 per annum.
– I sincerely hope that it will not, although, at the same time, I consider that the High Commissioner should receive an adequate salary. Another point worthy of consideration is that this appointment will not terminate with the removal of the Government from office. If it would, it would be immaterial who was sent Home, because he would be recalled as soon as the people had had an opportunity to express an opinion with regard to the present Fusion. The appointment, however, will live long after the. Government have ceased to exist, and although the High Commissioner will be able to exercise a reasonable measure of independence, he will be subject to the advice and control of the Ministry of the day. Can honorable members opposite quote one instance where the wisdom and ability requisite on the part of the occupant of an office has -been found except on the Ministerial side of the House, when the appointment has been an Executive one? All the intelligence necessary to fill an office within the control of the Executive is always found on the side of the majority ; but will any one say that the man most likely to give satisfaction must of necessity come from the Ministerial side of the House?
– Does the honorable member suggest that if the appointment were left to the House, an honorable member of the Opposition would be selected?
– I am not going to say who should be appointed, but if a secret ballot of members of both Houses were taken, at least two of the three gentlemen whose names have been frequently mentioned in connexion with this appointment, would not receive a dozen votes each.
– Would the late Government have inserted in the Bill the name of the gentleman to be appointed?
– The honorable member must put that question to one of the exMinisters.
– They said that they would not.
– At all events the exAttorneyGeneral is prepared practically to move the insertion of a name in the clause. If the Minister of External Affairs will say who is to be appointed, I shall withdraw my opposition to the Bill in its present form. Certain sections of the -Ministerial supporters are pulling in opposite directions, and although this Bill was considered last night to be so urgent that its second reading was forced by the use of the gag, after a discussion extending over about five hours, the Government will not say whom they intend to appoint until they get into recess. I repeat that the question ought to be determined by a vote of the Parliament.
.- The experience of the past does not justify us in supposing that it is possible for the House to make a particularly wise selection of a
High Commissioner. Only very recently, we had occasion to make a choice-
– The honorable member’s remarks are a reflection on that choice !
– I say that that choice was an eminently wise one, but that the tactics resorted to in order to defeat it were such as might have led to disaster. This is a utilitarian question, because we desire to have a High Commissioner who will fill the position, apart from any party considerations, and will represent the community as a whole. If a name were submitted in the Bill, or if the Government were to mention a name now, the result would be that the merits and demerits of the gentleman would, be so canvassed that his reputation would be spoiled and discredited before he left Australian shores.
– The honorable member has not much faith in the Government’s choice !
– I have less faith in regard to the speeches which might emanate from honorable members opposite, who, in order to advance their own party interests, would be prepared to besmirch the character of the gentleman named.
– That is a slanderous statement !
– Slanderous or not. it is my opinion, which the experience of the past justifies me in expressing.
– The candidate who would submit his name does not deserve to be appointed.
– I am prepared to indorse that opinion.
– Does the honorable member not think that the House will canvass the appointment even after it is made?
– I know that the Opposition are quite capable of doing all the honorable member suggests, but I venture to think that, after the appointment is made, the remarks are less likely to be of an acrimonious character. I agree with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that there is a principle involved, but the principle is that, in a constitutionally-governed country, the Ministry of the day have to take responsibility for their actions. I anticipate that the present Government - which I would not support were the fact otherwise - are capable of making the best possible selection.
– The honorable member did not think that before the fusion.
– No; because the Government were then supported by the wrong people. We are told that circumstances alter cases; and the influences behind the. Government are now so different from those which prevailed before, that I am satisfied we can safely trust them to make a wise choice.
– Can the caucus change its spots ?
– I see development even in the ranks of the Labour party, who are not, I think, quite so caucus-bound as previously. I repeat that if a name were submitted, the result would be the discrediting of an office which we hope to see filled with honour, and prove of material good to the community. The High Commissioner will have much to do with our financial relations and the loans which undoubtedly will have to be floated, and he will also have to supervise immigration, our exports in relation to the markets, and other- business of practical interest to the commercial and producing classes.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the clause.
– In view of all the circumstances, the High Commissioner should go to England feeling himself to be the representative of a stable Government, and of the Commonwealth as a whole.
.- If I may be permitted by the honorable member for Corio to say a few words, I should like to intimate that, at first blush, I was against the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney, but, after listening to the speeches made up to the present, my opinion is becoming distinctly crystallized in its favour. The honorable member for Mernda asks whether the late Government would have permitted the insertion of a name in the Bill ; and to that I reply that the late Government undoubtedly would not. The late Government had a political past, and a reputation, with some hope for the future, whereas the present is a fusion Government, without any political past or reputation, and with absolutely no hope for the future. As has already been suggested, the present Government, like a corporation, has no body to be kicked, or soul to be damned. It is a Government composed of the shreds, patches, and wreckage of all parties.
– Order !
– T. am showing that, while; under ordinary circumstances, this appointment would be a proper responsibility for the Government, the present Ministry cannot be entrusted with the duty.
Without any personal reflection on Ministers, I say that the present Government is much more likely, for political reasons, to appoint somebody who is in their road. It would be an absolute calamity to Australia if the wrong man were appointed; and I am afraid that there is a possibility of an anti-Australian, or, at least, a man who cannot be considered to represent Australia in any real sense on the great policy on which the Commonwealth has embarked, being placed in this high position. For that reason we have a right to ask the Government to at least indicate whom they consider to be a suitable person. I have heard some names mentioned, and I think it would be disastrous if one of two or three gentlemen named were promoted to the post. This is particularly the case regarding one of those whose merits have been strongly canvassed.
– I do not know of any canvassing.
– The canvassing has been done by the newspapers. I do not know that any honorable member has taken part in it. The High Commissioner should be in sympathy with, and prepared to defend, the White Australia policy, the formation of an Australian Navy, and other national aspirations. I would have trusted the last Deakin Government with the making ot an appointment of this kind, because it had a national policy. But the circumstances under which this Ministry came into and continues in power are such that I am reluctantly compelled to support the amendment.
.- The Government cannot accept the amendment. The appointment will he an Executive act for which Ministers must take responsibility, and the person selected will be chosen for his qualifications and capacity to perform the duties of the office with advantage to Australia.
– Will the appointment be made while Parliament is sitting?
– It will be made at such time as the Government may consider right and proper, and without delay. Ministers may be trusted to do their duty in this matter.
– I am surprised that the Government will not accept the amendment, because the proposal of the honorable member for West Sydney is a fair one. There are one or two arguments which I wish to advance, in the hope that the Minister may reconsider the position. The honorable member for Echuca objected to the procedure suggested by the honorable member for West Sydney, on the ground that it’ would lead to the discussion in this Chamber of the merits and demerits of candidates. But the members of the Committee have to bear the brunt of very severe, and often unfair, criticism when presenting themselves for election, and many of us have to contend against the misrepresentations of a. malign and untruthful press. No man in the public life of Australia who is qualified for this position need fear criticism in this Chamber. Even the honorable member for Echuca, who has so little faith in human nature, must admit the restraint which his fellow members, including those of the Opposition, put upon themselves under circumstances of this kind. In the view of that honorable member, Ministers who, when supported by the Labour party, could not be trusted with the reins of government, have become saints and angels since he changed his seat to the side of the chamber on which he now sits. I was at first in favour of compelling the Government to shoulder the responsibility for this appointment, but the debate has convinced me that it is one which might well be made by the House. The Government have nothing to fear. I believe that its supporters will rally loyally behind it whatever it mav propose, because the alternative is the coming into power of a Labour Ministry, which they contemplate with horror. Therefore Ministers have only to cause a name to be selected in caucus, or to make a proposal on their own motion, to get it inserted in the Bill. The better procedure would be to take a ballot of the members of the two Chambers, sitting together. The person so appointed would know that he had the confidence of Parliament. Unless some action of this kind is taken, the person selected may be objectionable politically, and surely honorable members should have a chance of mentioning whatever disqualifications they may think the candidate possesses. Criticism in this Chamber is better than criticism at election times, when unpleasant things may be said in the heat of the moment which might get into the newspapers, and afterwards damage the reputation of the High Commissioner with those among whom he will have to serve. This appointment is altogether an exceptional one. It is true that the members of the Committee have to perform duties which are more important than those which will attach to the office of High Commissioner, because we have to make the laws under which the people live, whereas he will be merely an administrator, and a diplomatist, responsible to Parliament. We are certainly fully qualified to consider the qualifications of any candidate for thisposition, and to say that we are not is air unjustifiable reflection upon us.
.- The honorable member for Boothby, whoadmitted that ordinarily, the appointment should be an Executive act by the Ministry of the day, apparently feels no confidence in the Fusion’ Government, because it has no past. Surely that is a reason why we should give the Government a chance to make a good start in its career of public appointments. I intend by my vote to give tl-ipm the opportunity of selecting this important officer when and how they think fit. Judges and other important officials are. appointed by the Government of the day, and we should trust the Government to> select the best man for this position, even if it is the blue riband of Australian official life. If in making the appointment they commit a flagrant breach of the ordinary rules that should be observed in the selection of public officials, the House can dismiss them from office.
– The honorable member would not vote against them for that.
– Such a breach of public duty is one of the very things that would induce me to vote against them. I have no idea who will be chosen, but T hope it will be the best man, whether he sits in this Parliament or is living in Australia, or is temporarily abroad. I have heard no precedent quoted for departing from the usual course. I understand that in Canada the Governor-General in Council appoints the High Commissioner, and the same practice should be followed here.
– It is strange to hear members of the Fusion party claim that the Government are capable of performing miracles. The head of this Government was the head and backbone of the Government that attempted to purchase a site for Commonwealth offices in London. Yet that building was situated miles from’ the financial centre of London, although a debtor nation, like this Commonwealth, requires a site close to the centre of London financial life. The honorable member for
Wilmot appears to think that the Government are infallible, and therefore cannot make a. mistake in the selection of a High Commissioner.
– I said nothing to warrant that conclusion.
– According to the honorable member the Government are perfect, and naturally their infallibility follows their perfection. I think the House should make the selection. We ought to have a financial man in London, and he must have proved himself to be a financial man in Australia before we send him to London. The bungling of Australian finance, which has occurred so far, in the piling up of a Himalayan mountain of debt - the largest in the world, in proportion to population - without a proper sinking fund to liquidate it. does not warrant us in picking any of those who, up to the present, have managed Australian affairs. If this House is qualified to make laws for the peace, order, and good Government of 4,300,000 people, it surely has sufficient ability and intelligence to select a man to be High Commissioner. I had great respect for the members of this House for a long time, but the way they are continually delegating their authority to some one else makes me believe they would sooner be a dead dog than a. living lion.
– Would not the course the honorable member proposes lead to intrigue ?
– -There could be no intrigue in a House like this, whose members are absolutely innocent. The High Commissioner will have to handle millions, and. must be familiar with the financial ramifications, not only of .London, but of the world. Why should not the honorable member for Mernda make a good High Commissioner? Then we have the honorable member for Balaclava, who is a thorough financial man, and the right honorable member for East Sydney, who is an ex-Treasurer of New South Wales.
– I would remind the honorable member that we are dealing now with the question of the appointing authority.
– The question is really so circumscribed that in attempting to discuss it a man with large views finds himself in a sort of strait- jacket, such as the Government propose to put the Commonwealth into. We have in this Parliament many men from whom a selection might be made. There is, for instance, the. right honorable member who, when Treasurer of Western Australia, created one of the biggest sinking funds in existence in Australasia ; and the honorable member for Grampians, who is also a financier, and the honorable member for Denison. We should appoint as High Commissioner an Australian with Australian ideals, thoroughly imbued with Australian sentiment, and exhaling the odour of the gum tree and the wattle blossom. ,
– Has Parliament, as opposed to the Executive, ever made an appointment of this kind?
– Surely the time has come when this great Australian Parliament should set an example to the world. The North Pole was only discovered recently by Dr. Cook, and why should we not, like Dr. Cook, or Commander Peary, step out into the world, so that future generations may gladly follow us? Why should we be always looking for antiquated, fossilized precedents? We are full of life, hope, vigour, and Australian aspirations, and ought not to be afraid to do that which is right. I believe that the Parliament could select for the position, a man of ability. After all, it is not such a marvellously good one as some people imagine. An Australian journalist would make a good High Commissioner, and whoever is selected should take with him to London an Australian journalist, who will be able to advertise the Commonwealth. The electors return the members of this Parliament, and surely the men whom they choose to represent them should be able to appoint a High Commissioner who will have the courage to stand up for Australia and her interests.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney, in submitting the amendment before us, is seeking to do that which he indicated last night he intended to do. On the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I advanced some arguments against the proposal that this Parliament should insert in the Bill the name of the gentleman to be appointed as High Commissioner, and I was pleased to hear the Minister of External Affairs - the “ Little Corporal “ of the Fusion Ministry - declare to-night, in a truly Napoleonic style, that the Government would not accept the amendment. I am glad that the Ministry reserve to themselves the right to make the appointment. Some honorable members have sought to advance reasons why, in the interests of the Commonwealth, a selection should be made by the Parliament, but I hold that a man who would allow his name to be submitted to this Parliament on the off-chance of his being selected, would not be fit for the position. If a selection were to be made by the Parliament, several names would have to be submitted, and the highest appointment at the disposal of the Government would be thrown into the cauldron of politics. It may be an idealistic stand to take up, but I repeat that a man who would seek a chance selection by the Parliament would not be fit for the position. There are in the present Ministry honorable members who have given evidence of their good- judgment in making appointments to high positions. For instance, several of them were members of a former Deakin Government which made all the appointments to the High Court Bench, and those appointments were of the most commendable character. A Government that has not the capacity to gauge the requirements of this position, and the class of man necessary for the work attaching to it. is not fit to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth. If the honorable member for West Sydney, instead of proposing to create a blank, had moved an amendment providing that an appointment shall be made by the Government during the present session, I should have supported him. It has been the custom for Governments to make appointments whilst Parliament is in recess, but the present circumstances are exceptional. If an appointment is not made until -we go into recess, the Parliament responsible for the passing of the Bill, and seized with the requirements of the post, will have disappeared. Innuendos have been made as to certain possible candidates for the office, but I think that such references are wholly unjustifiable. It is well-known that I am not strongly in favour of some of the aspirants for the office of High Commissioner, but unless they consent to their names being mentioned it. is unfair for the Committee even to discuss the possibility of one of them being appointed. I am pleased that the question has been delicately handled, and would point out that the arena from which a choice may be made is very limited. Personally, I am heartily in accord with those who desire to see in the High Commissioner a man thoroughly appreciative of Australian policy and aspirations, and one not likely to lose that appreciation by the associations of club life in London. If any honorable member will submit an amendment to the effect that the- appointment shall be made before the end of the session, I shall support it; and I do not think that the Government would oppose such a proposal.
– No matter what appointment is made it will be approved by honorable members opposite.
– I can only say that if the choice be made from some of those who have been mentioned privately, I should regard it as most unwise, in view of the democratic thought of Australia ; and I should consider that the Government had not gauged accurately the intentions of honorable members or the desires of the country. I can scarcely conceive the Government taking such a course, but, should they do so, I should feel myself compelled, without apology, to vote against them, considering how much there is at stake. I could conceive nothing more deserving of a vote of censure than a failure such as I have indicated.
– Does the honorable member seriously consider that such a vote of censure would be carried ?
– I can tell the honorable member that if his amendment were accepted, calling upon the Ministry to surrender their responsibility by inserting a name in the Bill, I should consider thatsufficient ground for driving them from the Treasury, bench. The Ministry are not children in political affairs, and can read the barometer of public opinion as q u l c k 1 y as can most in the chamber. I trust that the test of fitness for the position will not be held to be political friendship or political service only, and a choice on such grounds would be sufficient to indicate that the present Government ought to leave office.
– I should be perfectly satisfied if the Government would indicate what is in their mind now.
– If the Government would only whisper gently I should hear them. 1 am pleased to see the concern of honorable members, and it is no use disguising the fact that some feeling has been expressed by a large section, both in this House and another place, that if a certain appointment is made there will be much dissatisfaction. The real objection to the Bill is founded upon that apprehension, and, therefore, I think it desirable that the appointment should be made before the end of the session.
– I think that the name ought to be mentioned now, and the appointment made before the end of the session.
– At any rate, the appointment should be made before the end of the session. The only concern of the public is that the best man should be appointed. If the best man is in public life, let us have him by all means ; but we ought not to hesitate to go outside if the best man is to be found there, no matter what his political views may be.
– Does the honorable member think that the right honorable member for East Sydney would take the position ?
– The honorable member will understand that much delicacy should be exercised in mentioning names. If the right honorable member for East Sydney allowed his name to be canvassed in this chamber, I should, strongly as I might favour him, regard him as not fit for the position. A gentleman qualified for such a post should be of so exalted a nature as to be among the most modest of our citizens.
– And the right honorable member for East Sydney has . been that all through.
– I think that is a fair description of the right honorable member, whose name has been canvassed in the press, if not in the House. If this canvassing has been done by the right honorable gentleman’s friends, he ought to pray to be saved from them ; and the same may be said of other gentlemen whose names have been mentioned. This is not a. personal matter; and we, as representative men, ought to take the wider outlook, and obtain the person most qualified, in an all-round way, for the position. There is no doubt that the suitable men will have to be approached most tactfully by the Government when the Bill is passed. The Executive of the day do not desire any rebuff such as would be involved in having the post refused by Y or Z because it has been first offered to X. It should be ascertained first who are agreeable to accept, and a decision arrived at as to the most suitable; and once that decision is made we ought to be told who the gentleman is. Without in any way desiring to be dictatorial, I impress on the Ministry the exercise of the greatest delicacy in approaching the question, and I hope they will not be guided solely by feelings of comradeship or good fellowship, but will endeavour to obtain the services of the man most acceptable to the community at large.
.- I can scarcely understand the argument of the honorable member for Dalley, when he suggests that if the Ministry appoint the wrong man in our opinion, there ought to be a vote of censure, while he, at the same time, holds the view that a debate on the matter here would not be advisable. Surely it would be better to take a vote first as to the appointment than to have a vote of censure afterwards. I like to be consistent, and, personally, “ I would prefer to see, not only the High Commissioner, but Ministers elected by the Parliament. I am too Democratic to believe in cut and dried appointments, holding as I do that the majority should rule in all such matters. An appointment of this kind carries with it a great responsibility, not only for us, but for the people of Australia, because the High Commissioner will have to deal with large financial questions, and should represent the feelings of the community as a whole. If any one of certain gentlemen who have been mentioned is appointed, I do not think the decision would be truly representative of public opinion; and I hold that the appointment ought to be made by us as the representatives of the people. That course would be in accord with the spirit of Democracy. I do not attribute any partyfeeling to the Government, because I believe they will do what they consider best in the interests of Australia, but’ we see inscribed in the outer lobby that in the multitude of councillors there is safety, and, as the people of Australia have thought it well to send seventy-five of us to represent them here, the decision ought to be left to the united wisdom of the country. I shall certainly vote for the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney, hoping that better counsels will prevail. I am very sorry that names should have been introduced at the present stage. The honorable member for Dalley seems to think it would be a pity to take a vote as to the person to be appointed, because this is a delicate matter, to be approached most carefully by the Executive; but there is no delicacy about returning a member of Parliament, who has to announce himself a candidate and accept the decision of the electors. In the case of the High Commissioner, I take it that certain gentlemen would be asked to allow themselves to be nominated, and that their names would then be submitted to a vote. In such a course I do not see any difficulty, because it is only following ordinary business lines, which I should like to see more resorted to, in preference to reliance on constitutional precedents, possibly centuries old. I trust, at any rate, that we shall make a start with the elective principle, and eventually select Ministers in that way
.- The honorable member for Dalley made a statement which may cause honorable members to pause in considering the amendment. He referred to the possibility, which I should be sorry to contemplate, that the Government will not make this appointment until the House rises. I would prefer Parliament to select a man, if I thought the Government I was supporting could appear, with the utmost earnestness, to be pressing through a Bill of this importance, with the intention of allowing the choice to remain in abeyance until Parliament had no longer any power whatever to veto it should it feel it necessary to do so. It is not too much to ask the Minister to say that he intends to proceed in this matter with all despatch, and has not the slightest anticipation of the appointment being delayed until after the prorogation. As a Government supporter, I should be inclined to view with apprehension the impression which such action would make on the minds of the electors ; but I make the request because I have a high regard for the importance of proper Executive action. I do not think that the Government would do what has been suggested, but I hope that before the clause is dealt with the Minister will give us his assurance that there is no foundation for the suspicion which the members of the Opposition are trying to instil into the mind of the Committee. There would be nothing humiliating in making such a statement, and it would show that Ministers are prepared to courageously shoulder their full responsibilities in this matter.
– When the amendment before the Chair has been dealt with, I shall propose another amendment, which, I think, will meet the difficulty.
.- As the honorable member for Corio is absent, I shall take the opportunity to say a few words. Honorable members are discovering rather late that there is a possibility or this appointment hanging fire. I can understand why Ministers should wish to defer making an appointment. When the name of the fortunate candidate becomes known, little interest will be shown in the
Bill, and the urgency for it will seem to disappear. There has been no reply to the moderate request of the honorable member for Wentworth. In my opinion, it is not too much to ask who is to be appointed. Several honorable members will be extremely disappointed when the appointment is made. The talk which we have had about the indelicacy of mentioning names is all fudge. There was no such delicacy when the Speakership was vacant, and a little coterie, composed of a minority of honorable members, decided upon, and carried, the appointment of the. present Speaker. Any man worthy of the High Commissionership would not be ashamed to have his qualifications discussed in this Chamber; but those who thought that they had better Ministerial than general support might be so. I am a supporter of the Bill, though .1 voted against it last night,, as a protest against the application of the “gag” after only one member on this side had spoken against it. While it is only human nature for Ministers to wish to defer this appointment, because it may seriously affect the Government, I think that the Minister of External Affairs should give the assurance asked for by the honorable member for Wentworth. I shall vote for the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney, and if that is defeated 1 shall vote for the proposal of the honorable member for Dalley, to obtain an indication as to when the appointment will be made.
.- The Government have themselves to blame for this amendment. Never before have I known it to be proposed to fill an important position like the High Commissionership without Parliament being allowed an opportunity to criticise the appointment; and to ask the Committee to leave it to Ministers to say when the appointment shall be made is going altogether too far. There may be a reason for not inserting a name in the Bill, but there is no good reason for not stating that the appointment will be made before the end of the session, and early enough to give Parliament an opportunity of pronouncing upon it. A Government is naturally jealous of its Executive powers, but no Ministry should fill a position like this after the prorogation of Parliament, especially on the eve of a general election. It is not creditable to Ministers to try to force the Bill through by the application of the “ gag,” or to remain silent in regard to the time when the appointment will be made. The Bill should not be passed until we have an indication that the Government will make the appointment within a reasonable time, or until a provision requiring it to do so is inserted.
– There is not much hope of the amendment being carried, because the supporters of the Government dare not desert it,’ and the numbers are against us ; but I was glad to hear the honorable member for Wentworth say that the Minister should give the Committee an assurance that there will be no delay in appointing a High Commissioner.
– Why should there be delay?
– If we get an assurance from the Minister that there will be no delay in making the appointment, it will be the next best thing to carrying the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney.
– Will the Opposition withdraw the amendment if they get that assurance?
– That is for the honorable member for West Sydney to say.
– Of course, the appointment will be made without any unnecessary delay.
– “ Unnecessary delay “ is a very wide term, but still it is something. I thoroughly agree with the intention of the honorable member for Dalley to move an amendment to insure that the House shall have an opportunity of reviewing the appointment before the close of the session.
.- It would be very much out of place if the House had the chance of criticising the appointment, which should be made by the Ministry. The British Government do not consult Parliament in appointing Commonwealth or State Governors, nor do the State Administrations refer the appointment of Agents-General to the State Parliaments. The’ appointment of a High Commissioner should not be subject to the criticism of this House. I have no doubt that the Government will select the best man, who will hold the position with dignity and be a credit to Australia. The whole future of the office really depends upon the start that is made, and we must get some one who will lay the foundations for taking over the work now done by the State Agents-Gerferal.
– The States will not give that up.
– In the course of time all the duties of the State Agents-General must ‘be centred in the Australian High Commissioner’s Office. There will be, or should be, only one Australian representative known in London, and thousands per annum should be and will be saved. That position, however, cannot be forced upon the States. We can lead them into it, by showing them a model High Commissioner’s Office, with departments arranged’ for each State, and by proving to them that it is quite possible for us to run the business without increased expense. As the AgentGeneralships fall vacant, we shall get the States to come in with us one after the other, until we get them all. The talk which has taken place upon this clause proves that it would be wrong to submit the name of the proposed Commissioner to the House, and I hope the Committee wilt pass the Bill exactly as it stands.
– I propose, in case the amendment, of the honorable member for West Sydney is carried, to move that the name of the Honorable Agar Wynne be inserted.
– I am not a candidate.
– I am sorry to hear it. It seems strange that honorable members should object to giving the House the right to decide who shall ‘be appointed. What would have been thought of the great Abraham Lincoln if he had wanted to be appointed by a hole-and-corner coterie? We should not tolerate a system whereby a little section of the Parliament gets into a corner and canvasses the names of one or two friends.
– Who appoints the United States ambassadors?
– The senators of the United States meet and talk the matter over, select able men for various courts, and recommend them to the President. I remember when James Russell Lowell, the poet, the greatest ambassador America ever saw, was sent from Boston. Massachusetts. I remember also that when he returned to the United States he wore spats, which no American ever wore, and the people thought his singlet had dropped down. When he went up Broadway he had a circus around him. Who would exercise better judgment in the selection of a High Commissioner than members of Parliament? There may be a lot of favoritism in small affairs’, but the great heart of the people is nearly always right in regard to great matters. I want this great Parliament, which represents the heart of the people, to have the right of selection in this case. Why should we be always following some antiquated precedent ?
– One of the honorable member’s leaders said that the late Government would not allow Parliament to make the appointment.
– I am my own leader. The great feature about our party is that we are all leaders. The United States have always had intellectual giants to represent them at the court of St. James, and those men have always been picked by the members of the United States Senate. It is the same in Canada.. Surely honorable members do not think the Prime Minister of ‘Canada selects the High Commissioner. In the United States a great many journalists are appointed ambassadors. The people of that country are great believers in journalists, because they axe able to understand public questions and to defend . their own country. Any man that we send to London as High Commissioner ought to be .brought back here once in every two years to have a bath in the Murray or the Yarra, so that he may not get tainted bv other associations. I have no objection to an member of this House being appointed. I believe all honorable members are honorable. If I cannot get the honorable member for Balaclava, I should not mind inserting the name of the honorable member for Parkes. He would be a really good man for the position.
– The honorable member for West Sydney has moved an amendment which is somewhat similar to one of which I had given notice. The Committee are asked- to decide whether the Government of the day shall make this and similar appointments, or whether the members of this Parliament shall be representatives of the peoplein the fullest sense. It has been urged by several honorable members that there is no possibility of an abuse of the present system. That is not my experience. I make no charge against the present Ministry, but I and other honorable members know of cases in which Ministers have abused their power by appointing to high and responsible positions persons who were totally unfit to fill them. Where that has been done the supporters of the Government of the day have had to strain their loyalty almost t,o me breaking point rather than condemn them. We have heard a good deal to-day about the desirableness of trusting the people. Why should we not trust them in this case? The people elect this Parliament, and yet it is not to have a voice in this appointment. It is well -known that the names of four or five gentlemen have been discussed by honorable members in connexion with this office. Their fitness or unfitness for it has been freely talked over, and opinions have been expressed, which will not be altered, whatever the Government may do. Only one man can be selected, arid the difference of opinion that exists as to the merits of the several possible candidates will remain after the appointment has been made. The honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Wentworth made a reasonable request when they asked that an assurance should be .given by the Government that the appointment would be made in time to give this Parliament an opportunity to review it. To that request no response has been made.
– I said that the appointment, would be made without unnecessary delay.
– That is a very vague reply, for the Government may have their own opinion as to what is or is not an unnecessary delay. I am in favour of the Parliament not only making this appointment, but electing Ministries. We could not have a better example of the wisdom of such a procedure than is furnished by democratic Switzerland. There the Executive, as well as the Judiciary, are appointed by the Legislature; and we are told that no appointments so made have been successfully challenged. I am not going to impute motives, but my own experience of Executive appointments in certain cases may be repeated. The people have some regard for their representation in the Old World, and hold strong opinions as to the fitness of certain individuals who have been mentioned as candidates for’ this office. AVe shall have to account to the electors for our action in this House, and shall have to explain why Mr. So-and-so was appointed High Commissioner. If the appointment be an Executive one, we shall have to say that we were deprived ms a Parliament of a voice in the selection, and that the appointment having been rr.ade, we could do no more than say that we agreed or disagreed with it. The Parliament should make the appointment.
I think nothing of the bogey that has been raised as to the undesirableness of the merits or demerits of the several candidates being canvassed in this House. We know that the two branches of some of the State Legislatures have met to consider “ certain appointments, and that, although at such meetings differences of opinion have arisen, the conclusion arrived at has not been debated in Parliament. That procedure has been followed in many cases, and might be followed in this instance. I do not think that the amendment will be carried, although I intend to vote for it ; but the trend of public opinion is going more and more in the direction that the people should have greater control of appointments of this kind- The public hold that appointments should be made irrespective of party considerations, and with due regard to the welfare of the country. I believe that in the near future our procedure in this respect will be so altered that appointments to all important positions will be made by the Legislature, and will not be left to the six or seven members who chance to constitute the Executive of the day. When an appointment is made by the Executive, good party men sitting behind the Government will support them, whether they believe the appointment to be right or wrong. In such circumstances we cannot hope to have wise selections made, and the time has arrived when more trust should be reposed in the representatives of the people in this regard.
– - The remarks made by the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Hindmarsh have, I hope, been noted by the Minister of External Affairs, and I should like to know whether he is prepared to give to the Committee an assurance as to the intentions of the Government regarding the person whom they propose to appoint, or the time when they will make the appointment. The statement that it will be made as early as possible is rather unsatisfactory, because a Government can always advance reasons why an appointment should not be made earlier. The adoption of the suggestion made by the honorable member for Dalley, that tha appointment should be made at such a stage in the session as to permit of its review by the House, would fix at least the time when it must be made, if it is to be made by virtue of the Statute. I fail to see why the Government should not give us a plain statement of their intentions. They must have some definite ideas on the subject, and should be able to give us some indication of the kind of man they intend to appoint. Is their choice to be limited to members of this House, and do they propose to proceed to a selection by taking honorable members in alphabetical order, or according to their waist measurements? If the slightest indication were given of the intentions of the Government, I should be glad to withdraw my amendment, which is put forward for no other reason than the fear that a bad selection may be made. One is perfectly justified in entertaining that fear, and it is shared by a very large number of our fellow citizens. A bad appointment would be infinitely worse than no appointment. The point that I wish to bring specially under the notice of the honorable member for Dalley is that once an appointment is made, even censure passed upon the government will not remedy it. As time goes on, events crowd rapidly upon one another. There is approaching, almost too rapidly for some honorable members, an event beside which all others in the created universe pale their ineffectual fires. Compared with it, even Daniel in the lions’ den, or Peary at the North Pole, are uninteresting incidents. I am sure that what the Government did in regard to the appointment of a High Commissioner, say, late in December, would call forth comparatively little criticism, and no action on the part of the- party whose fortunes will be bound up with theirs in the forthcoming struggle.
– Unless, in the opinion of the people, an unsuitable appointment was made.
– I ask the Government to give the House an indication of what they intend to do before the appointment is made. They should tell us, at least, what is in their minds. We should be satisfied even if, as the honorable member for Dalley suggested, they gave us that information privately. I do not desire to embarrass the Government, or adopt anything in the nature of a “ stand and deliver “ attitude, even if I had the power. I wish to avoid any suspicion of an attempt to take away the rights of the Executive to make this appointment; but we know very well that the choice lies between two or three persons, and that in regard to one or two of these a majority of honorable members hold opinions which they have a perfect right to hold.
– In reply, I have to say that it is impossible for the Government to give, even by hint, at the present time, any indication of the person likely to be appointed. The Government will have to consider the nature of the office and the fitness of the person to be appointed ; and it is a matter for which they must take the responsibility.
– The Government do not know the salary as yet.
– Not at the present stage, except what the Bill proposes. In reply to the question put by the honorable member for Wentworth and others, as to when the appointment is likely to be made. I desire to say that the Bill has been introduced for the purpose of -making the appointment, which the Government feel to be urgent, and that there will be no unnecessary delay in making it. Of course, all the surrounding conditions - the qualifications of the man, his willingness to accept, and so forth - have to be considered.
– Will the Government accept the suggested amendment of the honorable member for Dalley?
– No, we cannot. The Government are eager to pass the Bill as soon as possible.
– There is the “ gag “ ; the matter is in the Government’s hands.
– I am sure that the honorable member, as .a reasonable man, will do all that he can to assist in passing the measure.
– As soon as the Cabinet know the man who is to be appointed, will they thereupon make the appointment?
– As soon as the Cabinet are in a position to make the appointment, they will make it. We feel there is urgent necessity for this appointment at the present time, and we are desirous of approaching the matter as soon as possible. As I say, we shall have to take Executive responsibility ; and proper care will be taken in regard to the qualifications of the gentleman appointed.
.- I have heard the two explanations by the Minister of External Affairs ; and I may say that very few deny the right of the Government to take Executive action - that is not the question.
– That is what we have been debating.
– Quite true; but the real question is that put by the honorable member for Wentworth; and the Ministry ought to be able to decide it at once. If this Bill is urgent, as I believe it is, the appointment is urgent, and, therefore, as soon as the Bill is passed, the Government ought to make it.
– Why should the honorable member assume that the Government will not do so in the ordinary way ?
– There is no assumption. The Minister of Defence, as an old parliamentarian, knows that, in matters of the kind, the Government generally take the Committee into their confidence and say whether they propose to make an early appointment. The second explanation of the Minister of External Affairs was even more indefinite’ than his first. No one takes exception to the Government accepting the responsibility.
– I heard the Minister of External Affairs say that the Government propose to make the appointment as soon as possible.
– The Minister said the Government would take the matter into consideration as soon as possible, but he was not able to say, in reply to an interjection, that they would proceed to the appointment at once when the Bill became an Act. Do the Government intend, as soon as the Bill is through, to fill the office? The matter is either urgent or it is not, and if it is not urgent, the Bill ought not to be proceeded with, whereas, if it is, the appointment should be made immediately. In other words, do the Government intend to make the appointment while Parliament is in session? If not, then the matter is left, in the hands of the Government - as to the position of which I say nothing at present - and I think that such an authority is quite uncalled for. The Government should be straightforward enough to say whether they will make the appointment as soon as authority is given by Parliament.
.- It is abundantly evident that we should have something further from the Government than the. statement made just now by the Minister of External Affairs.
– Would the honorable member mind saying just what he does want ?
– I require a straight answer to a straight question, which has been submitted from all sides of the House.
– What is the straight question r
– The Ministry have been charged from various parts of the House with having the idea of obtaining authority to make the appointment, and deliberately allowing the matter to stand over until Parliament is in recess.
– Does the honorable member desire the Government to answer a charge of that kind?
– Parliament ought to know, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, whether or not the matter is regarded as urgent. If it is not urgent, we are wasting time, which the Government claim to be valuable, in discussing a Bill which could just as well be discussed a couple of months hence. I am afraid the Government will adopt the attitude which they adopted in connexion with the High Court appointments, just before the last’ general election. The Bill was put through, and the Government, without allowing time for criticism or suggestion, made the appointments shortly after they got into recess, and were thus safe from any penalty. I do not suggest that any undesirable appointments were made on that occasion, nor do I say that, under the present Bill, it will not be possible for the Government to select a satisfactory High Commissioner. I do say, however, that it is in the highest degree important that the appointment should be made while Parliament has an opportunity to express an opinion. It is interesting to note how time alters the opinion of certain gentlemen in regard to the appointment of the High Commissioner. We have had several, changes during the few years I have been a member of the Parliament.
– The honorable member’s attitude now is not his attitude earlier in the evening.
– Have I indicated that I am not in favour of Parliament making the selection ? Where is the difference in my attitude? When the right honorable member for East Sydney was Prime Minister, there was an honorable understanding, which was put into writing, between certain gentlemen who sat in the Opposition corner and members of the Labour party. The present Minister of External Affairs was at that time one of the dissenters from the Reid-Deakin alliance, and was a party to the understanding I have mentioned. The
High Commissioner Bill was then considered urgent, and one of the articles in the written agreement was the following : -
That was a brilliant suggestion, which I should not be surprised to learn emanated from the present Minister of External Affairs. I understand the Minister to refuse to take the credit of being the originator, but he cannot dispute the fact that he was a party to the agreement. This article was not the suggestion of the Labour party at that time. I may mention that the honorable member for Corio was also one of the Corner members who entered into this agreement ; and I think it was about that time that he was prepared to join with the Labour party.
– I have not had a chance of speaking .to-night, and this is the honorable member’s second or third speech.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong was also a > subscriber to the agreement and the article I have read.
– Why was not this agreement brought up yesterday ? It would have been useful !
– Its introduction is a brilliant idea, if somewhat late in the day.
– Let the honorable member for Kalgoorlie read the article as to the fiscal issue.
– If the honorable mem, ber wishes to talk about the fiscal issue, let him refer to the honorable member for Parramatta, or the honorable member for. Parkes, with whom he now sits on the Ministerial side.
– A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.
– No doubt. The honorable member never looked less comfortable than, when listening to the Prime Minister’s speech this afternoon, he remembered his remarks of some weeks ago’. There were other conditions in this alliance between the Labour party and some of those who have since drifted into the ranks of the Tories.
– I submit that the honorable member is raking up matters which have nothing to do with the amendment under discussion.
– No person in this chamber would be better pleased than the honorable member to have the past wiped out. Like the hero of the Silver King, he might well pray, “Oh God, put back thy universe, and give me yesterday.” No doubt honorable members opposite have made so many changes that these are hardly worth mentioning, but the matter is certainly relevant to the discussion. The. Minister of External Affairs says that the Government cannot, under any circumstances, abrogate its Executive functions in regard to this appointment.
– It ought not to do so.
– The Minister has said that the Government will oppose the amendment, which would allow Parliament to make the appointment. Why is there this extraordinary reversal of form? There were other conditions agreed to by certain honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member must not refer to matters which do not relate to the question before the Chair.
– The conditions to which I refer indicate that honorable members opposite were once of the opinion that this appointment should be made, not by the Government, but by Parliament. They regarded it, too, as a. condition precedent that the States should indicate that they would use the Commonwealth Department to the full, should it be created. This, however, is not provided for by the Bill.
– The honorable member is going beyond the amendment.
– I have shown what were the views of the Minister and several of his supporters four years ago, when, as now, the Bill was referred to as urgent. Last night it was regarded as so urgent that the second reading discussion was gagged, after it had lasted only five hours. The Minister should explain why he is now of opinion that Parliament is not the proper body to choose the High Commissioner, which was the view he held when a party to the alliance of which I have spoken.
Question - That the words proposed to he left out stand part of the clause (Mr. Hughes’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
That the following words be added to the clause, “ Such appointment shall be made before the close of this session of Parliament, so as to provide this House with an opportunity of reviewing the said appointment.”
Yesterday, no honorable member fought harder than I did in favour of the Government retaining full responsibility in the matter of the selection of the High Com missioner. But I certainly think that this House should be afforded an opportunity of reviewing the appointment. Hitherto the practice, which has almost invariably been followed, has been for Executive appointments to be made during the recess. But as the forthcoming recess will be “the last connected with this Parliament, it is obvious that if the High Commissioner is not chosen during the current session we shall be afforded no opportunity of reviewing his appointment. I have already said that the Prime Minister is deserving of commendation for the appointments which were made by his Government to the High Court.
– Why does the honorable member say that Executive appointments have almost invariably been made during the parliamentary recess?
– Because I understand that it is a fact.
– The last two appointments to the High Court Bench’ were made on 5th October, 1907, when Parliament was in session, and the first three appointments were also made when the Commonwealth Parliament were sitting.
– If the facts are as stated by the Minister of External Affairs, they only serve to strengthen my argument that the’ High Commissioner should be appointed during the current session. The Government have been asked to intimate to the House when this appointment is likely to be made, but all that we have obtained from them by way of reply is the childish declaration that it will be made as soon as possible. That may mean that it’ will be made during the recess. But if this Parliament is afforded an opportunity of reviewing the selection of the Ministry, the latter will be very careful as to whom they appoint. The Minister of External Affairs has affirmed that the passing of this Bill is a matter of urgency. I do not anticipate that the present session will close in less than ten weeks, and I desire to know whether the urgency of this measure is such that the Government can refrain from appointing a High Commissioner till the expiration of that term? I wish to say openly that if a certain gentleman whose name has been mentioned is selected for the office of High Commissioner, the Government will make a most unjust appointment, and that their action will warrant the submission of a motion of censure. The honorable member for Wentworth is, I understand, in thorough accord with that view. I ask the Government, therefore, to say that the appointment will be made during the current session, and that Parliament will be given an opportunity to review it. If the Ministry have not officially considered the claims of aspirants to the position, there is no doubt that they have considered them unofficially. The choice in Australia is so limited that there is no excuse for silence. The opposition to the Bill is not based on. the terms of the Bill itself, but on the probability of a certain appointment being made. Although I fought for the Executive taking the responsibility. I reserve to myself the right as a representative of the people to have an opportunity to discuss it. If the appointment is given in the recess to a man out of touch with Australian thought and as pirations, how can I go before the electors as a supporter of the Government? 1 should have to denounce and oppose them for making the appointment. The question is of great concern to the future of Australia, and I am not prepared to take the responsibility of going before the electors as a member of any; party without knowing who is to be appointed. Surely the appointment could be made within ten weeks.
– I ask the honorable member for Dalley not to press the amendment and to allow the clause to pass. I have already assured the House and the Committee that we have always considered this an urgent measure. I said the appointment would be made as soon as possible - that as soon as a person was found with qualifications to fit the office and willing to accept it the Government would make the appointment. If the Bill is passed the Government will still be on these benches and open to question by honorable members. I have already assured honorable members that the Government are in earnest and mean business by this legislation, but there is no necessity to put the words proposed in statutory form in the Bill.
– I shall be satisfied if the Minister says that the appointment will be made during this session.
– I have given the honorable member as strong an assurance as it is possible to give. Of course, the matter has to be fully and carefully considered, and I cannot say more than that, as soon as a person suitable for the office is found by the Government, the appointment will be made.
– This attitude of the Government towards any and every amendment is unsatisfactory. I hope the honorable member for Dalley will not be turned from his very laudable purpose by the pathetic appeal the Minister made. As the honorable member said, it would be awkward to go to the electors supporting a Government that had made an unpopular appointment. I am sure it would not be a sufficient compensation to the honorable member to know that the Minister in charge of the Bill had spoken very nicely to him on the evening of the 8th September. What the electors will want to know will be whether the man who is to represent them in London is suitable or not. A number of gentlemen who are cooing like sucking doves to-night will go round like ravening wolves if an unpopular appointment is made, and will be prepared to devour the Government - when they are a long way off - with great avidity and tremendous ferocity. The honorable member for Robertson, for instance, is one of the most ferocious persons on earth - at a safe distance. How can the Minister of External Affairs reconcile the agreement arrived at previously between the Labour party and the other party, of which he was a shining light, with his present attitude? I remember that the then honorable member for Indi and the honorable member himself were the two who were responsible for inserting this particular clause in the agreement, and I remember the cause of it. It was because it was thought that the right honorable member for East Sydney proposed to appoint a High Commissioner at once, and they did not want him to do it. They thought he might appoint himself or one of his friends, and they were anxious that he should appoint one of their friends. Nothing could be more natural. Human nature is still the same, and the motives that actuated them then are actuating him now. In 1904 the honorable member was against allowing the Government to make the appointment, because the Government proposed to appoint one of their “ pals.” Now he proposes to do the same thing himself. The only difference is that he has a chance now, and did not have it then. The Labour party do not want to appoint one of their friends. They have no axe to grind in the matter, but they desire, as representatives of the people, to see that a suitable appointment is made. Now that we cannot get the name in the Bill,’ I shall gladly support the eminently reasonable proposal of the honorable member for Dalley. Whether it is defeated or not, it ought to commend itself to honorable members. If the appointment cannot be made this session, we ought not to pass the Bill. This measure bids fair to equal the North Shore bridge proposal of the late Sir Henry Parkes, as a standing dish. Every Government has proposed it. and declared it to be essential, but no Government has had the courage to push it through. The Ministry could make the appointment in a fortnight from now if they wanted to. A statement tq the other Chamber that the Government intended to make the appointment within ten days of the passage of the Bill would get it through in that time, but all the Minister of External Affairs can say is, that there will be “ no unnecessary delay.” He “is a lawyer, and I know what “ no unnecessary delay “ means to that profession. “ No unnecessary delay “ in the case of a lawyer reduces the ordinary client to despair. The honorable member for Mernda, “who is now entangled in the meshes of the law, is getting a knowledge of what that means. We ought to have a plain statement regarding the time when it is proposed to make the appointment. It is a reasonable suggestion which the honorable member has made, and I hope that it will be agreed to.
.- I do not approach the consideration of this question from a desire to -embarrass the Government in any way. I am not anxious to go quite so far as is the honorable member for Dalley, who desires that the appointment should be made before the close of the session with a view to providing an opportunity for review by the House. My anxiety as a supporter of the Government has been to see that their good name is not tarnished by delaying the appointment until the House has risen, after having regarded the Bill as one of such urgency that it was pressed through with unprecedented despatch.
– According to the honorable member’s statement he is prepared to defend any appointment which the Government may make.
– No. I am consistent in the attitude I have always taken up, and that is to hold a Government responsible for an Executive appointment. The makingof an appointment carries with it the corollary of having the appointment, if a bad one, challenged in the only proper way, and that is by a withdrawal of confidence. If the Government were to make an outrageously bad appointment, they would lose my confidence. I do not presume that they will make such an appointment, but I believe it is absolutely necessary that they should remove the present misapprehension.
– The misapprehension has been created by honorable members on the Opposition side, not on our side.
– If a man in the street were to indict the character of the honorable member, and he did not immediately stop to put himself right, would he not be contributing to the misapprehension ? What I am asking the Government to do is to say in plain terms that they will make an ap- pointmenr before the close of the session, which has yet two and a half months to run.
– Without any qualification?
– Does the honorable member think that there would be any difficulty in making an appointment before the end of the session?
– It might be very difficult to make a suitable one.
– The honorable member thinks that it will be difficult to . make a suitable appointment.
– Not that it will be, but that it might be.
– At last we have got the honorable gentleman. He does not think that it will be difficult to make an appointment. There is not an honorable member who thinks that there will be any difficulty in making an appointment before the close of the session.
– I said that there might be a difficulty.
– There are other considerations which might arise in the minds of not only this Government, but any Government. There comes the question whether or not it is advisable to make an appointment of this kind so close to a genera 1 election as to perhaps necessitate a couple of elections within a short period.
– Would the honorable member undertake to find a suitable man who would accept th’e position?
– I think that the honorable gentleman would jump at an offer in five minutes.
– The honorable member is shirking the question. Would he undertake to bind, himself on oath, as apparently he wishes the Government to do. to find a suitable ma n to accept the position within a certain time.
– I am quite convinced, and I do not think that any member of the Government can in his inner consciousness doubt my statement, that there are gentlemen possessing all the qualifications necessary for a position of this character who, if approached, would accept an offer in view of the very high dignity attached to it. and the great honour of representing Australia at the other end of the world. It is undoubted that the Government could find such gentlemen. It is more agreeable to urge that they cannot be found. It is possible that political exigencies may require the delaying of the appointment for six or nine months; but, seeing that the Bill is so urgent that it has to be introduced at this stage, and forced through the House, it carries with it the corollary of making the appointment without delay. It is with the greatest reluctance that I can find it in my mind to support the first part of the amendment ; but I confess that if ‘the Minister cannot make a plain statement on the subject, I shall be driven into that position.
– The Minister has made a very plain statement.
– The Minister made the statement that there would be no unnecessary delay.
– He made the statement that the matter would be proceeded with as fast as possible.
-“ That there would be no unnecessary delay.” Does the Minister include in the phrase “ unnecessary delay “ considerations of a political nature beyond the mere appointment itself? He cannot answer the question.
– I hope that he will not. This is not quite a catechism class.
– I hope that the honorable member will not get short with me. I am endeavouring to treat the Government with the utmost fairness. I shall certainly not be swayed in my attitude to the Government, whether I am met with politeness or otherwise from the members of it, because I wish always to treat them, not only with the friendliness I feel to them, but also with absolute justice. We are confronted with a question of great moment and importance, and I do not wish to be counted as demanding an explanation from the Minister. But if . he feels that he cannot make an explanation, I shall be compelled to vote for the first half of the amendment.
– The time has come for the House to assert itself.
– If the honorable member for Dalley can see his way to submit his amendment in two sections, it will save me the trouble of moving a counter amendment, and so avoid two divisions.
– My wish, sir, is to get an expression of opinion from the Government, and if you will put the first half of the amendment that will satisfy me.
– We have answered the question.
– “As soon as possible” is not very explicit.
– If it is the pleasure of the Committee, I shall put the amendment in this form -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ Such appointment shall be made before the end of this session of Parliament.”
Honorable Members. - Hear ! hear !
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Wilks’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Attorney-General to a decision given by a United States Supreme Court–
– Could this not be better mentioned to the Minister privately?
– I shall occupy only a few minutes. The decision was given in the case of the State of Minnesota against Henry E. Barber. I quote the following from the report of the case-
Minnesota Statute as to sale of beef, &c, unconstitutional and void - burden upon InterState commerce.
The Minnesota Statute of April 16th1889 or so far as its provisions require as a condition of Sales in Minnesota all fresh beef veal mutton lamb or pork or human food if the animals from which such meats are taken shall have been inspected in Minnesota before being slaughtered is in violation of the Constitution of the United States and void.
A burden imposed by a State upon InterState commerce is not to be sustained simply because the Statute imposing it applies alike to the people of all the States, including the people of the State enacting such Statute.
What I wish to direct the attention of the Attorney -Genera I to is that this was a case where the State of Minnesota, by the very same system of quarantine that Victoria and New South Wales are now trying to carry out in order to shut out Tasmanian potatoes, attempted to shut out the healthy meat of Illinois. Mr. Henry E. Barber, the appellee in the case, was arrested and sent to gaol. He was convicted before a justice of the peace in Ramsey, Minnesota, of the offence of having wrongfully and unlawfully offered and exposed for sale fresh uncured beef, part of an animal slaughtered in the State of Illinois, but which had not been inspected in Minnesota and “ certified “ before slaughtered by an inspector appointed under the law of the latter State. Mr. Justice Harlan, one of the Justices of the United States Supreme Court, declared that the Act under which the authorities of the State of Minnesota sent this man to gaol was unconstitutional, and an interference with trade and commerce between the States. Under an Act to shut out diseased meat a claim was made to shut out sound meat also. The time has come when the AttorneyGeneral ought to defend the State of Tasmania against the usurpations of Victoria and New South Wales, which have committed an absolute violation of the Constitution. We claim that Tasmania entered into this Union in order that she might enjoy the blessings of Inter-State commerce. But through a violation of the Constitution hundreds of our producers are being ruined. I ask the Attorney-General to enforce the law of the Commonwealth.
– I am glad that the honorable member for Darwin has drawn my attention to the American case which he has cited, because he has given me an opportunity of amplifying an answer which I. gave a few days ago. Evidently, Mr. Barber, the defendant, had a very close shave. As the honorable member has pointed out, in that case the State of Minnesota was not permitted, under the pretext of passing an inspection law - under which cattle before slaughter had to be inspected - to impose a tax on Inter-State commerce. As the Act in question was really one to restrain the importation of. Inter-State goods, it was held to be void. But the position here is that, if any one chooses to challenge the action of any particular State as regards the importation of potatoes, the matter will be decided in the ordinary way. . But the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth cannot interfere in these matters. The Constitution provides for Inter-State Free Trade. But there is a provision that a State can impose fees as a means of . administering its inspection laws. All that the Commonwealth can do is either to annul a State law bv Act of Parliament or to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to collect the fees imposed. Beyond that we have no obligation to appear. I should suggest that the person or persons affected should raise a case, as was done in the instance alluded to in! America.
– I hone that I do not misunderstand the Attorney-General. If there has been any failure on the part of the Legislature of the Commonwealth to restrict State laws in the matter mentioned by. the honorable member for Darwin, it is not due to a fault in the Constitution. The powers contained in the Constitution are plenary. The fault is in our not taking advantage of our powers. I believe that there is a provision in the Federal Quarantine Acf which permits of a State exercising certain of its laws to regulate Inter-State traffic. But there is no necessity to permit the exercise of such laws.’ As to whether it is right or wrong that the State Quarantine Acts should co-exist with ours - that is a matter for argument.
– Our Quarantine Act is not wholly in force. There is a provision in the Act that we can proclaim a certain part of i’-
– Under the Constitution the Commonwealth can assume, the whole power over Inter-State commerce, and exercise it to the exclusion of any State laws or regulations.
– It is doubtful whether the quarantine provisions apply. At all events, they have not been proclaimed.
– I do not say that they have been, but they ought to be.
.- I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade end Customs whether he will ask his colleague if he has. any objection to lay upon the table of the Library the papers in connexion with the appointment of Mr. Mills to the position of Collector of Customs in Sydney. If there are any papers on the subject it is desirable that they should be open to the scrutiny of honorable members.
– I will see the Minister of Trade and Customs on the subject.
.- A few weeks ago I moved for a return’ of papers with regard to the General Post. Office, Sydney, and the proposed purchase of the Market buildings in that city. When will those papers be laid before the House?
– It is news to me that the papers referred’ to by the honorable member for Riverina have not been presented. I gave authority last week for them to be sent to the Clerk of the House. I will make’ inquiries into the matter tomorrow, and ascertain the cause of delay, and will see that the papers are made available immediately.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090908_reps_3_51/>.