3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and readprayers.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed the statement of the New York American,, quoted in the
Melbourne press, that a United States fleet is tovisit Sydney and Melbourne during January or February, to stay a month, and will he telegraph to President Taft that they will be welcomed in Australia?
– I have not seen the statement, but am sure that we shall be delighted to receive our American relations at any time.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral ascertain whether arrangements can be made which will permit communications through “Central” from the exchange in this building in less time than is now required, when one has often to wait three or four minutes before getting a response ?
– This is the first lime that I have heard of any serious complaint. That there is a little pressure on the line is rather a good sign. I shall cause inquiries to be made as to the nature of the delay.
– I ask the Treasurer when it is his intention to introduce the Officers’ Compensation Bill ?
– The matter is now being considered.
– When does the Prime Minister intend to proceed with the Northern Territory Agreement Bill?
– No opportunity to proceed with the Northern Territory Agreement Bill will be lost, but I cannot name a specific date at the present time. The debate on the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill necessarilyrequires the close attention of the House, and the debate on the second reading of the Defence Bill will follow.
– In an article in today’s Argus, written by a special correspondent in London, and telegraphed from Fremantle, it is stated regarding the offers of Dreadnoughts by New Zealand and the Commonwealth that -
It is no secret that those offers created embarrassment to the Home Government.
Is the Prime Minister aware of that fact?
– The statement referred to is not new, having been made by cablegram at the time of the offers, and in subsequent letters. The reasons given were various, among others, that the offers might be interpreted as implying that the Imperial Government’s proposals were insufficient, or raised questions as to the future armaments and expenditures of Great Britain. Personally I do not feel competent to express an opinion on a subject which belongs to the polities of the Mother Country.
– Has not the Imperial Government since agreed to build four more Dreadnoughts?
– Yesterday, in my ab-. sence, the Minister of Defence was pleased to make a personal attack on me, in particularly foolish language, and I therefore desire to make an explanation. Some weeks ago, I asked for information regarding the duties of the Chief of the General Military Staff, which was supplied, and subsequently I commented on the reply in a manner which seemed to disturb the peace of mind of the. Minister. Yesterday, he stated that the detail of duties which he had supplied to the House-
– The honorable member must not. go into that. An honorable member may not, under cover of a personal explanation, debate what has been said by another honorable member. He may explain only something he has said, in regard to which he may have been misunderstood.
– I have no desire to debate what has been said by any one. I wish to point out that I have been misrepresented, and, that being so, I understand that I have the right to make a personal explanation, even though the misrepresentation was made by a Minister. If that is not the case-
– The honorable member will be quite in order, if something which he has said in the House has been misrepresented, in putting it right, but he will not be in order in dealing at this juncture with misrepresentation by another honorable member.
– So a member may get up and slander another, and he may not reply !
– My comments on the reply respecting the duties of the Chief of General Staff were misrepresented by the Minister of Defence. Yesterday, with a desire to fortify his views, he stated that the detail of duties which had been given had been recommended by a distinguished military officer in England. Had it been so recommended, that would have been sufficient. The Minister quoted this document, which has been laid on the table, to counteract what I said, and, in my opinion, misrepresented me. In that paper appears the detail of duties submitted by the local Chief of General Staff to General Nicholson, the officer whose name was unnecessarily dragged into the discussion. The submission is in these words -
I should be glad if you would express an opinion as to whether my proposals are in accordance with your views.
To that, General Nicholson replied -
I have nothing to suggest as regards your proposals.
– The honorable member is now going beyond a personal explanation.
– Of course, if you, sir, will not permit me to make one-
– I trust that the honorable member will not put the Chair into a false position. My duty is to see that the rules of debate are observed. If the honorable member reflects, he will acknowledge that what he desires can be done in quite another way, but not under cover of a personal explanation.
– I thank you very much. I do not wish to infringe the rules of debate, or to come into contact with you in any way. Neither do I desire to move the adjournment of the House.
– Ask a question.
– I thank the honorable member; but the attack and mistepresentation yesterday, which was of a distinctly personal character, was made under cover of a pre-arranged question and reply.
– I have a personal explanation to make.
– The Minister made a personal explanation yesterday.
– I have another one to make. It is quite true that yesterday I did make a slight mistake.
– Oh !
– Yes; and I freely acknowledge the fact; but it was a mistake which does not touch the matter in any material way. What I said was that the allocation of duties which I had read to the House, as pertaining to the General Staff of Australia, had been recommended by General Nicholson. Therein I made a mistake; I should have stated that the duties were in accord with suggestions made by that distinguished General.
– That may only be the Minister’s opinion !
– That isthe distinction I wish to make; but it does not help the honorable member for Adelaide one bit. The point is that the honorable member accused me of saying something which was insulting to the House.
– Order !
– I hope I may make myself clear in the matter. My only desire is to explain the whole position ; and I think that I am entitled to do that.
– I point out to the Minister that this is not the time to explain any position. Under cover of a personal explanation, an honorable member is only entitled to explain something which he himself has said, and which he believes has been misrepresented, and to put before the House the true statement he made.
– That is all I propose to do. I desire to say that the allocation of duties which I read to’ the House, and which the. honorable member for Adelaide declared to be an insult to the House-
– Surely the honorable member for Adelaide will have the right to reply to this?
– I do not wish the honorable member for Adelaideto be debarred in any way. I am only relating facts in explanation of what I said yesterday.
– I ask the Minister not to be drawn aside to reply to interjections, but to confine himself strictly to the question before the Chair - that is, a persoria.l explanation of somethingwhich he said, and which has been misrepresented.
– That is all I propose to do. When I read to the House the allocation of duties by the Chief of the General Staff of Australia, the honorable member for Adelaide described it as insulting to the House-
– Surely the honorable member for Adelaide must reply to this?
– I am merely quoting from Hansard. Mr. McDonald. - The honorable member for Adelaide can also quote from Hansard.
– I am quoting the honorable member’s own language, so I hope I do him no injustice.
– Will the Minister address the Chair?
– I shall be obliged if I am permitted to do so - if the Chairman of Committees will allow me.
– I appeal to honorable members to allow the Minister to make his statement, and to leave it to the Chair to decide whether or not he is transgressing the rules of debate. I also ask the Minister not to refer to any honorable member except by the name of his constituency.
– I should have intimated to the House that the allocation of the duties was fixed by Colonel Bridges during the year 1908, when he was here as Chief of the Intelligence Department. Afterwards, when Colonel Bridges was appointed Chief of the General Staff by my predecessor, this allocation of duties was not altered in any way, but was approved of and adopted. I say, further, that this allocation of duties is in accord withthe King’s Regulations.
– The Minister is now, in my opinion, going beyond a personal explanation. I ask the honorable gentleman to simply explain words which he says have been misrepresented - to confine himself solely to that matter.
– That is precisely whatI am doing ; and I have really said all I desire to say. The point is, that this allocation of duties has been laid down distinctly in the King’s Regulations, and as such, was read by me to the House.
– I desire to raise a point of order on a matter which affects the rights of all of us. Do I’ understand that, if an honorable member complains that he has been misrepresented, he is not allowed to read a document which will show the accuracy of the statement he made? I understand your ruling, sir, to be that the honorable member for Adelaide might not read such a document.
– The right of personal explanation is one clearly laid down in the Standing Orders, and the practice in this House has always been to limit an honorable member to the explanation of something which he himself has said, and which’ has been misrepresented. The Chair would not, I feel sure, prevent any honorable member from doing that; but to allow an honorable member to debate the question - however pertinent the matter might be to the question which was before the House when the misrepresentation took place - would be entirely out of order. An honorable member must be confined to an explanation, or, otherwise, we should be led into a general debate on every similar occasion.
– I desire to make a. personal explanation. The honorable member for Adelaide said just now that I had made a personal attack on him.
-I appeal to the honorable member for Wentworth not to continue a course which transgresses the rules laid down by the Chair. Such a course would lead to a general debate, when the question should be confined to the honorable member’s own case.
– I claim that I have the right to point out that the honorable member’s interpretation of the remark I made yesterday, in the course of my question, is a misrepresentation, and that I am entitled to make a personal explanation.
– I never so far forget myself as to mention the honorable member’s name.
– Order ! What is the misrepresentation of which the honorable member for Wentworth complains?
– The phrase which I made use of in the course of my question yesterday - and to which, I presume, the honorable member for Adelaide refers - was to the effect that the honorable member was a “distinguished military authority.” I do not think it can be claimed that I was necessarily attacking the honorable member in using those words.
– The honorable member for Wentworth is now making a statement that he is not entitled to make. If the honorable member desires to explain the expression he used yesterday he may do so, but he must not proceed to discuss the matter.
– I think that I am at liberty to say that, after listening to the reply of the Minister of Defence, I withdraw the expression I used yesterday in reference to the honorable member for Adelaide.
– Will you permit me, Mr. Speaker, to say that I did not so far forget myself as to, in any way whatever, mention, or include the name of the honorable member for Wentworth. I referred only to what was said by the Minister of Defence. I do not intend to pursue this matter - it is merely of a personal character - further than to express deep regret that the Minister should have misrepresented me, and should have dragged into that misrepresentation the name of a military officer in England.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Papua - Ordinances of 1909 -
No. 10. - Criminal Procedure Amendment.
No. 11. - Deputy Chief Judicial Officer.
No. 21. - Supplementary Appropriation 1908-9, No. 10.
No. 22. - Supply (No. 1) 1909-10.
Steam-ship Waratah - Pricis of correspondence relating to the chartering of a suitable vessel to search for the missing steam-ship Waratah.
Debate resumed from 23rd September (vide page 3766) on motion by Mr. Deakin -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to alter the provisions of the Constitution relating to Finance.
– I recognise, as honorable members who preceded me have recognised, the great importance of this question, not merely to the people of today, but to the people of the future - not merely to the Commonwealth or the States, but, above all, to the taxpayers of Australia. I am glad, indeed, that some of the previous speakers have left aside personal questions. They have tried to regard this subject, which is large enough to tax the abilities and energies of every member of this House, as one to be treated on grounds of argument alone. Other honorable members, I am sorry to say, have not separated the question from personal issues, and we have been treated to the life histories of certain men who have supported one side or the other, and to eulogies or denunciations of various persons, which are altogether apart from the subject, and do not yield credit to the debate.
– Hear, hear; the honorable member for Parkes could not help doing that.
– I do not think the honorable member for Parkes was guilty of what I have described; though I could name other honorable members who were. In my opinion the speeches of the honorable member for Kennedy, the honorable member for Mernda, the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Parkes, were remarkably free from personal criticisms and attacks, and were particularly able deliverances on the subject. Ido not intend to enter upon some of the subjects that have been dealt with in other speeches. For instance, the transfer of the State debts, and the system which should be adopted in connexion with the transfer, though exceedingly interesting and important matters, are not, strictly speaking, part of the present question. I shall not enter into a comparison of Tariffs. I shall not try to elicit principles which in my opinion it is. quite impossible to elicit from the Tariffs of the world, their incidence, and their effect on revenue. The honorable member for Flinders dealt in a very interesting manner with that subject, but I cannot follow him in any of those comparisons which he drew from the analysis that he made. The fact is that you have to consider the object aimed at by a Tariff before you can compare it with other Tariffs. You have to consider the circumstances of the people upon whom it is imposed ; and a variety of other considerations, almost too numerous to grapple with, must be taken into account when you endeavour to extract any principle from the operation of different Tariffs. If, for instance, we desired our Commonwealth Tariff to yield a much higher revenue without altering its Protective effect, without changing even the Protective duties as they now exist, we could accomplish that object. If, on the other hand, we wanted Protection pure and simple, regardless of revenue, as is the case in some other countries, we could, while preserving the Protection, greatly reduce the yielding power of our Tariff. Some have said that this is a question of Free Trade or Protection. It is not. You can raise additional revenue, as I say - I am not. advocating that, but you can do it - by our present Tariff without altering in a single degree its Protective incidence.
– Not without penalizing the poorer classes.
– May I point out to the honorable member for Hindmarsh that our present Tariff yields nearly ,£2 10s. per head. That Tariff was supported and carried by his own party.
– By part of it.
– I am a member of the party, and I did not support the Tariff.
– Without the support of a sufficient number of the honorable member’s party the Tariff could not have been carried.
– I voted against every revenue duty.
– I merely say that if, by the assistance of members of the present Opposition, a Tariff were carried yielding nearly £2 10s. per head of the population, then, if the Protective duties reduced the revenue returns, and other duties were imposed producing revenue and still retaining the yielding power of the Tariff at £2 10s. per head, there would not be any more imposition upon the people than there is at the present moment. I will show how difficult it is in dealing with Tariffs and trying to compare their effects to arrive at a sound conclusion without very careful analysis. The honorable member for Flinders said, and one or more honorable members who have followed him have indorsed the statement, that the New Zealand Tariff is not a Protective Tariff, as ours is. Well, I will quote the same authority as he quoted when giving us his interesting figures. I will quote the Commonwealth Statistician. It will be found, on reference to Mr. Knibb’s statistics, that the following figures are given. He takes the percentage of free merchandise : - In 1906, in the Commonwealth, the percentage was 35.18. In Canada, the percentage was 38.91 - almost the same. In New Zealand, the percentage was 38.62 ; and in the United States, 45.22. Then he takes the percentage of duty on the total dutiable merchandise imported, and gives these results - Commonwealth, 27.14 per cent.; Canada, 26.84 per cent. - nearly the same; New Zealand, 33.21 per cent., considerably higher than ours; United States, 44.22 per cent., which is also considerably- higher. Then he gives the percentage on the total merchandise imported, dutiable and free. What is the result? It is as follows: - Commonwealth, 17-59 Per cent. ; Canada, 16.39 per cent. ; New Zealand, 20.39 PeT cent. ; United States, 24.22 per cent.
– Do those figures include Excise as well as Customs returns?
– No, they represent the Customs duties, not the Excise. In 1907, the percentage of free merchandise imported - exclusive of bullion and specie in every case - was, for the Commonwealth, 40.66 per cent. The percentage of duty on total dutiable goods was 33.09 ; and on total merchandise, dutiable and free, 19.63. This shows a slight variation for that year. I think these figures dispose entirely of the statement that the New Zealand Tariff is not a Protectionist Tariff, and that it is not as highly protective as ours. I might mention, in passing, that, although the duties on textiles in New- Zealand are lower, than ours, their protective effect is quite as great, because, proportionately, there are a great many more hands engaged in the textile industries in New Zealand than in Australia. That is all I wish to say on the question of the different Tariffs. It shows how very careful even the most capable analyst of these figures must be in order to arrive at accurate results. Coming now to the question of the distribution of the revenue between the States and the Commonwealth, I would first point out the reason why the Commonwealth authority was put into possession of the Customs and Excise revenue. It was manifest to the members of ‘the Federal Conventions, and to the Governments of the States forming this Union, that in handing over to the Commonwealth the revenue from Customs and Excise they were handing over a fund far too large for Federal requirements. But, as the Commonwealth Parliament had to be intrusted with the power of creating a uniform Tariff, so that one of the great objects of Federation - the establishment of one Tariff for Australia and Free Trade within the States - might be accomplished, it was necessary that the Commonwealth Government should become collectors of the duties that were imposed by the legislation of the Federal Parliament. But it was never intended or anticipated that the Commonwealth would claim at any time: the right to dispose for its own purposes of the whole of that revenue. If honorable memberswill look through the proceedings of the Federal Conventions, from the first, held in 1891, they will find, from the time of the remarks of Sir Samuel Griffith, at the first Convention, already quoted by the honorable member for Mernda, and throughout the proceedings of the other Conventions, a recognition of the fact that a share of the Customs and Excise revenue, and a share proportionate to the responsibilities left upon the State Governments, should be returned to them, and returned to them for all time. If honorable members desire a final and convincing proof of that, the)’ will find it in the fact that, as agreed to by the last Convention, the Braddon section was to operate for all time. That showed disdistinctly what was the intentionof the representatives of the sovereign States when they agreed to form the Federation.
– Are we necessarily bound by that ?
– We are not, but we are bound to take the fact into consideration and to give it great weight. When subsequently the period of the operation of the Braddon section was limited, it was expressly declared to the people of Australia from platform after platform, and especially acknowledged by the right honorable member for East Sydney, who had most to do with the alteration, that it was recognised that the States Governments should continue to receive a fair share of the Commonwealth revenue from Customs and Excise. It was explained that in making the alteration all that had been done, and that because lack of experience made it difficult to decide what was a fair share, was to trust the Federal Parliament with the settlement, because it was claimed that that Parliament would never fail to do justice to the taxpayers of Australia, in view of the fact that they werealso the taxpayers of the States. We have now arrived at the period when it becomes necessary that the Braddon section should be dealt with by this Parliament, and I commend the Government for their decision to come to an arrangement with the representatives of the States rather than to take the power in their own hands to ride rough-shod over State interests without consideration for State Governments. I am sure that honorable members
Tecognise that since we have not so far accepted responsibility for the payment of one penny of interest on the public debt, and the State Governments are called upon to pay large sums yearly in that way, a considerable share ofthe revenue from Customs and Excise is due to them. The only difference of opinion, I think, will be as to the amount of that share, and the period during which it is to be paid. In considering what is fair, I should like to refer honorable members first of all to the proceedings of the Brisbane Labour Conference. What was the decision of that Conference? Those who were present at it tried, as we are trying, to arrive at a fair settlement between the two interests, and these are the conclusions to which they came -
That the proportion of revenue allocated to the Commonweatlh must be sufficient to cover -
That the amount of the fixed payments fer capita to be returned to the States be ascertained by -
I have figures prepared by the Treasury Department giving the result in pounds, shillings, and pence of those resolutions, as follows : -
[c) Dividing the amount so arrived at by the average number of the population of Australia for the same representative years, viz. : - £5,040,970 divided by 4,199,860, equals 24s. per head.
This amount (£1 4s- per head) is the amount of the fixed payment fer capita to be returned tn the States.
In addition to that, a further capitation grant has to be given to Western Australia. A comparison of the Government proposal with the Brisbane Labour’ Conference scheme works out in. this way -
Or a difference of only .£96,750 in the sum retained by the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member has not deducted existing expenditure, or the amounts for old-age and invalid pensions.
– I shall give the honorable member the figures that he wants. Another table prepared by the Treasury Department shows the effect of paragraph 3 of the scheme, which I have already read, as follows : -
All existing expenditure apart from reproductive services … £2,327,617
– That doss not include defence proposals.
– We cannot expect a Treasury calculation to deal with proposals that had not been made when it was prepared. I shall deal with those later on. The return, then, is as follows -
Which shows how the amount of £5,327,617, in table I., paragraph 4 (b), is made up. I do not see how the Labour party, having agreed to such a proposal, can now take up an attitude against it. They claim in one breath, “We are the patentees of this scheme; you have taken our rights,” and then they oppose what they say is an imitation of their own proposal. Their claim to any patent rights in it is absolutely without foundation. A per capita return to the States has been discussed and advocated in this House time after time during the years that we have been federated. I myself have pressed on the right honorable member for Swan when he was Treasurer, and the honorable member for Hume when he was Treasurer, the necessity of adopting a per capita distribution, and other members have constantly urged the same. The only claim, therefore, that the Labour party can justify - and it is quite a proper claim - is that they took sufficient interest in the question to try to arrive at a scheme which would be a fair settlement between the States and the Commonwealth. They ha,vc arrived at a scheme, which is practically a duplication of the Government proposal, and yet they now refuse to adopt it.
– The Government proposal is a duplicate of theirs.
– Take it as you like, but if you first propose something, and then run away from your own proposal, because the Government follow it, you cannot have much sincerity, or else you have little faith in the scheme.
– It is the permanency that we object to.
– It is claimed now that the Brisbane Labour Conference scheme was not to be for all time. Several variations of it have been pro- posed. I think it was the honorable member for West Sydney who abandoned the scheme, and said the payment should be only £1 per head, but as to its permanency I ask honorable members if they would not conclude from the reading of the document I have quoted that it was meant to be permanent. I would also point out that some of the members of theConference have supported it as a permanent scheme. The honorable member for West Sydney on 12th August, 1909, page 2430 of Hansard, line 19, said that it was “for all time.” I am not saying that the Leader of the Labour party supported it for all time.
– Indeed I did not, and thev all know it.
– I am not saying that the Leader of the Labour party supported it at all.
– Yes, I did.
– But I do say that the Conference supported it.
– Only a majority of members of the Conference.
– Of course. I fear that if we wait until we get a scheme for the adjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States upon which we are all agreed, we shall wait till Doomsday. The Labour members of the State Legislatures have been advocating the scheme adopted by the Brisbane Labour Conference.
– They run the Conference.
– They may have done so.
– I do not agree with the statement that they ran the Conference.
– They had their rights at that Conference, in common with other delegates.
– What Labour members of the State Legislatures have advocated the permanency of that scheme?
– Mr. Holman, amongst others.
– He has not clone so.
– The Labour members of the New South Wales Parliament, so far as I know their opinions -I admit that I do not know the opinions of all nf them - favour continuous contribution by the Commonwealth of some portion nf our Customs andExcise revenue to the States.
– That cannot be shown.
– Let the honorable member show the opposite. I now wish to refer to some suggestions which I made in the Sydney press in September, 1908. I do so almost with bated breath, because it appears to me that, in the opinion of some honorable members opposite, honorable members are not permitted to hold an opinion upon the question of the financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth, or to make a single suggestion in regard to it. The honorable member for East Sydney has been attacked for having made a suggestion - which he was perfectly entitled to make as a citizen of the Commonwealth, and as a member of this House - to the President of the recent Premiers’ Conference. In view of that circumstance, I suppose that I ought to apologize for having so far forgotten myself as to make suggestions in reference to this matter in the Sydney press. Upon the occasion in question I was fighting for the Commonwealth, because I believe that any arrangement proposed ought to be fair. Of course, I may be wrong in my judgment as to what constitutes a fair arrangement, but when I see what I regard as such an arrangement, I shall fight for it, irrespective of whether I am fighting against the States or the Commonwealth. I dealt with this question in the Sydney press on 7 th September, 1908. I then stated that I would not put forward a definite scheme - there were sufficient schemes already before the public - but that I would deal with what I regarded as the main factors in any settlement of the financial question. I took up the matter in order to combat certain claims which were being made by various newspapers throughout the Commonwealth - and even by some of the Sydney journals - and which were based on certain figures that had been published by Mr. Johnston, the statistician of Tasmania. I do not know whether Mr. Johnston actually put forward the claims which were being urged by the press, but he certainly compiled the figures.. Those figures showed that, of the total public expenditure in the Commonwealth,£1 2s. 2d. per head was expended by the Federal Government, and £7 6s. 9d. per head by the State Governments - or 14 and 86 per cent, respectively. Upon that basis, certain press organs claimed that the Commonwealth and the States should participate in the revenue derived from Customs and Excise in those proportions.
I contested that claim, because the revenue derived from services had not been deducted in either case. I put forward figures which showed that after that deduction had been made, the net expenditure of the Commonwealth amounted, to 16s. per capita, and the > net expenditure of the States to £2 2 S. 5d. per capita, or 27 and 73 per cent, of the total public expenditure respectively - a very different position of affairs. I was dealing at the time with the expenditure for the year 1906-7, because, owing to Tariff alterations, revenue had been seriouslydisturbed in 1907-8. I pointed out what the result would be if the whole of the revenue of Australia for the former year were so divided between the States and the Commonwealth as to leave both bodies with practically the same surplus per capita. I showed that the payment by the Commonwealth of 27 s. per head of population towards the interest due upon the State debts would leave the Commonwealth with a surplus of 3s. rod. per head, and the States with a surplus of 3s.-j.1d. per head..
– Did the honorable member include in his calculation State taxation, apart from Commonwealth taxation?
– Oh, yes. I included in my calculation also provision for the payment of old-age pensions. As it was proposed about that time to establish a Federal scheme of old-age pensions, I added to the Commonwealth expenditure 7s. 3d. per head, or a total of ^1,500,000. It will thus be seen that after the Commonwealth had contributed to the States £1 7s. per head towards the interest due upon their debts, there would have been an equal surplus available to each, and upon those figures I consider that the division would have been a fair one.
– An equal proportion of surplus per head?
– Yes ; it amounts to 3s. rod. in one case, and to 3s. 1 id. in the other. I pointed out that such an arrangement might perhaps inflict hardship upon some of the States, in view oi their financial position, and, without indicating any definite scheme, I came to the conclusion that - .
Any re-arrangement seems to resolve itself into the Commonwealth distributing at first, not merely its fair proportion by calculation, but all it can ; then resting at that till the fair proportion is reached by the growth of population and revenue ; and after that increasing its contribution to interest on debt by an amount per head of the further additions to the population, which amount should not exceed, and might well be less than, the exact proportion set out herein, derived from a normal year (1906-7) of the first seven of Commonwealth experience. This would remove the legitimate objection of the States to being deprived of any participation in additional revenue, no matter what the latter’s growth or what the advance in the population.
I may point out that the arrangement which I suggested is somewhat upon the lines of the scheme propounded by the honorable member for Mernda, with this difference : That whereas, under his scheme, at the end of thirty years, the Commonwealth would cease to return any portion of the Customs and Excise revenue to the States, I would grant them a permanent interest in that revenue. Indeed, I am prepared at first to sanction the return to them of a larger revenue than they would receive under the agreement which was arrived at by the recent Premiers’ Conference, but would have preferred to see an arrangement made for the payment to the States in future years of a lower amount than that agreed to. I should have given the States, at the outset, more than 25s. per head of the population, or even more than 27s. if our finances would have permitted, and should have proposed that they should have less per head of increase of population in future years than that arranged for at the Conference. No one can expect, however, to have his own individual opinions 1 carried into effect in a matter of this kind. If there is to be in this House a party for every opinion on the financial question held by honorable members we shall be divided into many sections. It must be recognised that there are parties to this arrangement other than the Commonwealth, and that in this Parliament itself there is a great diversity of opinion. That being so, we must ask ourselves whether, although we are unable to obtain exactly what we want, we cannot support something sufficiently near it which has met with the approval of the representatives of the States and the Commonwealth. Unless we can do so, settlement of the financial question is hopeless ; we shall never be able to come to a conclusion, and shall be regarded as an incompetent Parliament. I am willing to accept the Government proposals, and shall giVe, as briefly as possible, the reasons why I am prepared to do so, and to support the embodiment of the agreement in the Constitution. In the first place, I recognise the great danger which must re- suit to the States from any Parliament - I do not say this Parliament in particular - having a large surplus revenue which it has power to use. In such circumstances it is likely to be guided not so much by its needs as by its desires. There is a splendid opportunity to play the part of My Lady Bountiful when such a condition arises.-
– -Experience does not justify the assertion just made by the honorable member.
– I am not so sure of that. There has been a free and easy expenditure on the part of the Commonwealth “in some things which would not have occurred if our revenue had not been much more than ample.
– And there has also been a free and easy expenditure in some of the States.
– In that connexion, I think it well to make a further quotation from the article which I contributed to the Sydney press. As showing the desirableness of a permanent settlement, I wrote -
But the Customs and Excise revenue will be, after 1910, a financial stream in regard to which there are no riparian rights, and the Commonwealth has possession of the source. Without a very definite agreement, it is extremely doubtful how much, and foi how long, any of the tempting waters will be allowed to flow to those beyond.
In making that statement I was in no sense reflecting on the Commonwealth Parliament. The experience of honorable members must teach them that a Parliament which has easy access to a large revenue will eventually absorb it.
– It will not be long before there will be no Parliaments in the States.
– If we absorbed the State Parliaments we should get back the 25s. per head of the population that we propose to return to the States. If we absorb the Parliaments we must absorb their revenue.
– If this agreement is carried there will be no Federal Parliament.
– I fail to see how the Federal Parliament will be prejudicially affected by the acceptance of an agreement of this kind. Those proposals which would not allow for the increased revenue that will follow the increase of population seem to have regard only tto the existing debts of the States. lt must be recognised that the debts of the States will not cease when we undertake to pay the interest on them. The States must continue to borrow, and the statistical returns show that for some years there has not been much variation in the interest per* head of the population on the public debt. Despite the increase in population the interest on the debts of the States has remained equal to about £2 per head. That means that for every human being added to the population of the States an additional liability of £2 is incurred in respect to the interest on the debt. Although the total interest payment is increasing there has not been much variation in the payment per head of the population.
– And the revenue from the works constructed out of borrowed money has also increased.
– I am aware of that. In the figures I have quoted I have credited all revenue from such services. The honorable member for Mernda said that if his proposal were adopted the assets representing the debts, amounting to some ^260,000,000 would be retained by the States, whilst the ‘Commonwealth would assume the liability for the debts. There is in that statement an endeavour to distinguish between the States and the Commonwealth with which I do not quite agree. The fact is that the assets are owned to-day by the people, and that the people are liable for the debts incurred in respect of them. If the liability for the payment of the interest, amounting to £9,000,000 per annum, were taken over bv the Commonwealth, the people would still own them, and they would still be liable for the debts. What would take place would be merely a transfer from one agency of the taxpayer to another of the responsibility for making the payment of interest.
– That is all. A change of accounts.
– The honorable member for Mernda very properly quoted some Canadian statistics to support his view, and I too have looked into them. He did not refer to the statistics of the United States bearing on this question, but they have been mentioned by others, and it has a Constitution more like ours, so that a closer comparison may be drawn. In my opinion the fact that the United States has had no responsibility of contributing to the States a portion of its
Customs and Excise revenue has been one of the greatest ‘financial misfortunes in that country. It has spent Customs and Excise revenue in many cases most lavishly. It has, it is stated, allowed corruption to arise in connexion with war pensions, which are being paid in excess of all legitimate claims. It has even had a difficulty in knowing what to do with revenue.
– The best pensions that were ever paid.
– I am not objecting to the pensions, but to the system of corruption which has arisen thereunder.
– They look after the widow and the orphan.
– And, it is said, the widows and orphans of troops that never existed. It would have been very much better if there had been some contribution of the revenue to the States, because in some cases the latter have been so hard put to obtain revenue that they have the most extraordinary taxes to be found in the world. The honorable member for Darwin, I am sure, is an authority on that point, and could give in his picturesque languagesome astonishing descriptions of what the people in the different States have to put up with in the way of taxation. As regards Canada, its Constitution differs from ours in a very important respect. The Provinces are vested with specified functions, all else being under the control of the Dominion. In our case Federal functions are limited, and that very fact surely points to this, that if in Canada it is necessary to limit the Provincial Governments’ share of revenue, because their functions are limited, so, in Australia, it is necessary to limit the Commonwealth’s share of revenues, because its functions axe limited.
– But its functions are growing.
– They are not’ limited in that way.
– My honorable friends are anticipating me. I have glanced at the functions of the Federal Government in Canada. In addition to the matters which we have under our control, the Dominion has under its control inland fisheries, ferries between Provinces or with another country, savings banks, Indians and Indian reserves, establishment and maintenance of penitentiaries, railways, canals, and other works, and undertakings connecting Province and Province, or connecting with another country, works within a Province declared to be for the advantage of Canada, and everything else not assigned exclusively to the Provinces. These are very important functions- and some of them are expensive ones - beyond those which are committed to the Commonwealth by our Constitution.
– That is where the error in our Constitution lies.
– That may be, but I am only pointing out the fact. Then, in the case of Canada, the Provinces have not to bear all the expenditure which our States have to defray. For instance, they have not adopted completely State ownership of railways. Many of the railroads, telegraphs, and telephones are provided by private enterprise.
– Nearly all.
– Nearly all, but there are some which belong to the Provinces. The Dominion Government is now building railways. I am not comparing the systems, but pointing out that the Provinces have not to providenearly such a large revenue as have our States, because in them a good deal is accepted from private enterprise. Therefore the contribution by the Dominion to the Provinces is small compared with what the Commonwealth proposes to give to the States. We have to remember the fact that the Dominion Government has larger functions, and all the new functions which were not in existence at the time of Federation. The Provinces have less expenditure, because they have adopted the system of using private capital and private enterprise.
– We shall have to provide for that.
– I am coming to that, too. if I amnot tiring the House.
Honorable Members. - No, no.
– We know that the Conventions, although they recognised the permanent interest of the States and the Commonwealth in the Customs and Excise revenue, found themselves quite unable, for lack of experience of the new conditions, to allocate the revenue. We have now had an experience extending over a number of years, and I should like to show by the most recent figures the effect of the proposed contribution to the States of 25s. per head. Taking the Estimates for 1909-10, adding what they are short of the full cost of old-age pensions, and bringing the Defence expenditure up to 10s. per head, which it will not be for a number of years, the following results are obtained : -
I have omitted from this calculation the Post Office expenditure and revenue, because the revenue should cover the ordinary expenditure, and, as regards new buildings, we ought to adopt short-dated loans to cover them. Usually the revenue does cover the expenditure, even including the cost of buildings. I have deducted that expenditure, and have not included the Post Office revenue, in the calculation. The bringing up of the cost of Defence to 10s. per head means an expenditure of £2,177,500. The Minister’s estimate, when the whole scheme is complete - naval and military - is £2,500,000, being a difference of £322,500.
– Does the honorable member think that £2,506,000 is enough?
– I accept the Minister’s estimate. I do not profess to have gone into figures as to the cost of the proposed vessels.
– I should like more.
– I presume that the Minister is satisfied that his estimate is sufficient. For some years we shall not spend 10s. per head of population, which makes my account seem worse than it would had I taken the actual expenditure for 1909-10. A growth of population of 645,000 will provide the £322,500 at 10s. per head, and it is to be assumed that our population will be growing during the period that our expenditure is increasing to 10s. per head, so that the whole revenue of Australia - Commonwealth and States - will just about meet the expenditure, allowing for old-age pensions, a defence expenditure of 10s. a head, and the expenditure on other items estimated for 1909-10. There will be a trifling deficiency of 6d. in one case and 7d. in the other, but that will be made good by reason of the fact that there are sums which will not be expended.
– Is the cost of the Dreadnought included ?
– The honorable member assumes that the Customs revenue will not decrease.
– It may decrease somewhat per head, but without interfering with the protective incidence of the Tariff, the amount now obtained may, if so desired, continue to be raised. Besides, there are other sources of revenue ; the 25s. per head is not to come, necessarily, out of Customs and Excise.
– The honorable member refers to thepossibility of imposing revenue duties ?
– The proposed division of the Customs and Excise revenue between the Commonwealth and the States deals with the present needs of both, and with some of the future needs of the Commonwealth, but not of the States.
– It deals with them in globo.
– The contribution of £1 5s. deals with them in globo. If the States are satisfied to accept that, each must provide separately for the proper carrying out of its functions, some probably by the imposition of additional taxation. It must be remembered that while the Commonwealth has unlimited powers of taxation whereby to supply its needs, the States cannot obtain any part of what has always been the largest source of revenue in
Australia, the returns from Customs and Excise duties, except as it is given to them by the Commonwealth.
– The hope is that the States will tax the land.
– The taxpayers may very well say to the Parliaments of the States, ‘ ‘We have financed you for all your present needs,” and to the Parliament of the Commonwealth, “We have financed you for more than your present needs.” They may say to both, “We are aware that you will develop future needs, but it will be your business to find the money to meet them.” In doing this the Commonwealth will be in a far better position than the States.
– How far can the honorable member see ahead?
– I am sorry that the custom is growing up of subjecting honorable members to a running fire of comments. Every honorable member is entitled to make his speech in his own way. Those who have not already spoken will have an opportunity to reply to the statements of the honorable member for North Sydney.
– I am aware that you, Mr. Speaker, have to maintain the rules of debate, but personally I am glad that so much interest is taken in this subject as is evinced by the interjections. What are the principal future needs of the Commonwealth? There may be the construction of the Federal Capital, the development of the Northern Territory, the construction of the Western Australian railway, the encouragement of immigration, the institution of a Department of Agriculture, the erection of lighthouses, the granting of invalid pensions, and the provision of. ships of war. What are the chief needs of the States ? They will require money to acquire land for closer settlement, for railway and tramway extensions, for works of water supply, conservation and irrigation - large operations such as those at Barren Jack, in New South Wales, and others in Victoria, are now being carried out, or in contemplation - the locking of rivers, and the making of roads, bridges, &c, to meet. the needs of increasing population. The States have also to provide for harbor formation and improvement, the construction and maintenance of wharfs, tunnels., &c, and the assistance of immigration.
– In States like Queensland large expenditure must be undertaken for the purposes of education.
– There are other functions, beyond those which I have enumerated, which the Commonwealth and the States will have to perform, the cost of which will increase with population, though perhaps there may not be a per capita increase. The increase in the expenditure of the States on such functions is likely to be greater per capita than that in the expenditure of the Commonwealth.
– It will be carried out with borrowed money.
– It will not be carried out wholly with borrowed money. If the States are compelled to borrow money, why should we, for that reason, deprive them of revenue? I think I have given a fair outline of what may be the future needs of the Commonwealth and the States ; and I have no hesitation in saying that our needs as named, are less likely to be recurrent than are those of the States. We are not likely, for instance, to have two railways to Western Australia, although, of course, there may be a northern transcontinental line; at any rate, needs which will be constant in the States, are not so recurrent with us. If we have regard purely and simply to the development of Australia, the functions of the States are more important than those of the Commonwealth.
– That is a good old State Rights argument!
– It is a fact. I do not desire in any way to depreciate Commonwealth functions. Defence is important for the safety of the people, the Post! Office is important for the convenience of the people, and old-age pensions are important for the poor of the community ; but these Departments and functions do not so directly affect the development of the country as do those of the States.
– A nice national sentiment !
– It is the truth. Does the honorable member say that truth is not a nice national sentiment? I am prepared to leave the matter to any unbiased individual in the community. I do not say that the Commonwealth might not have exercised other functions, with advantage ; I merely point out that the functions allotted to us are not so directly concerned with the development of the country, as are those allotted to the States.
– The Post Office is as important as railways to the development of the country.
– I have no doubt that at present, asChairman of the Postal Commission, the honorable member thinks the Post Office is the most important Department in the world. It has been said that the proposed arrangement is for all time; and we were told by the honorable member for West Sydney that the scheme of the Brisbane Conference was for all time. Nothing is for all time. It has been argued that if the arrangement is once entered into, it would be impossible to bring about a change in the Constitution, so as to reallocate the revenue.
-Not without a revolution !
– A revolution ! The taxpayers of the States, who are also the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, could surely decide upon a reallocation of the revenue without a revolution ? Can we suppose a revolution of the State taxpayer against the Commonwealth taxpayer - each being the same man - a struggle between the right hand and the left?
– It is not unusual in history.
– The idea is too absurd for consideration. It is to the interests of the taxpayers to have the finances properly adjusted; and, if one of their agencies were given 5s. or 10s. per head more than was necessary, it would simply mean increased taxation to that extent to supply the other. When the minds of the taxpayers are directed to the need they will try to decide fairly in regard to a redistribution of the revenue.
– Cannot all that be done without a provision in the Constitution ?
– Yes, if the country is prepared to elect a Parliament of saints, because no other Parliament could have within reach, either at certain times or at all times, an available fund, without permitting their desires to outrun their needs, and so encroaching on it. When the Prime Minister was speaking, the honorable member for West Sydney made use of an interjection, which rather contradicted his previous statement that the Brisbane conference arrangement was for all time; at any rate, the interjection was rather foreign to such an idea. The honorable member exclaimed, in reference to the revenue, “ We are entitled to take the lot, and yet the Prime Minister calls this freedom “ ; thus objecting to any restraining hand. Why should we take the lot? Only some 25 per cent, or 30 per cent, of the expenditure of Australia has been handed over to the Commonwealth, while, at the same time, we have been given control of 70 to 75 per cent, of the entire revenue. Was it ever intended that the Commonwealth should take the whole? Ought we not to permanently return to the States a good share? Even with the new expenditure contemplated in the year 1909-10 - including additional pension expenditure and increased defence - the Commonwealth is responsible for only 37 to 38 per cent, of the total expenditure of Australia, after deducting all earnings from services in Stale and Commonwealth. And I point out that these figures cover the raising of the defence expenditure to £2,500,000. I desire to say one word in regard to the State debts. I am sorry that we are not able to deal with all these questions in the one scheme; but the Prime Minister proposes to introduce a concurrent measure to enable us to take over the debts. I am aware also that the 25s. per head - which need not be taken out of Customs and Excise, but may be obtained from any revenue - will provide for the interest on a very considerable proportion of the debts, and that there is power to pay the 25s. per head as interest, instead of handing it over to the States. It will be seen, therefore, that, in any circumstances, if the proposed measures are approved by the people, a large proportion of the debts, as they gradually become due, will come under the name of the Commonwealth. That will be seen to be the best test of the advantage or otherwise of a Commonwealth stock. Success in dealing with loans at comparatively good rates of interest, will at once form an inducement that cannot for one moment be resisted by the Parliaments of Australia - the people would not allow any resistance to continue if it arose - to the creation of one stock for Australia. In addition, as I have said, the Prime Minister is to bring forward a measure which will enable us to deal with the whole of the debts. I will conclude by saying that I do not consider it to be my duty as a member of this Parliament, and when considering any question as between the States and the Commonwealth, to have regard only to the interests of the Commonwealth. I believe that it is every honorable member’s duty, as far as he can, to arrive at a decision which he thinks fair and just to each. No honorable member can expect to carry his own scheme. He must accept what he believes to be a reasonable settlement, as close to his own ideas as he is likely to get. I have not glanced at the subject from a party aspect. That is evident, because last year I published proposals on similar lines to those which have now been submitted. I did that when there could be no party question at all. I was then sitting on the Opposition side of the House, and the party to which I belonged had not adopted any scheme.
– Honorable members opposite are all one party now.
– We ought to be. I was amused when the Leader of the Opposition said that he hoped that this would be treated as a nonparty question ; and then, when somebody on this side, by way of interjection, said, “ We expect some votes from that side,” he added, “ I do not expect that any honorable members on my side will be so foolish as to vote for this scheme.” That is a party-non-party attitude !
– We are dealing with a party proposal.
– The honorable member regards it as such?
– Then we see the honorable member’s attitude at once ; and I venture to say that we shall see the same attitude assumed pretty generally by honorable members opposite. It cannot, however, be said that I have adopted the scheme for party reasons.
– The honorable member may question my statement, but I. give proof which is superior to and stronger than his questioning. The proof is that I published suggestions on similar lines to the proposal submitted by the Government before I was a member of the party to which I now belong. I published my ideas in the press in Sydney, except as to the exact amount of future interest in increasing revenue. I have no fear for the future of the Commonwealth or the States under this proposed arrangement. I venture to say that, if there is any risk, the greater risk is that of the States. This Commonwealth, now in its infancy, but one day, I hope, to be one of the important nations of the world, has no need to fear for its future if these proposals are adopted. In any case, we have no occasion to fear the common-sense of our people, if circumstances that we cannot now foresee should arise and necessitate a redistribution of revenue.
– Last evening the honorable member for Flinders quoted from a table certain figures which have since been submitted to me. I find that the figures were prepared by a Commonwealth Department, and that if only those quoted were published in Hansard the tables would not be complete. Following the practice which I laid down some time ago, I desire to intimate that I propose to allow the whole of the tables to be included in Hansard-
– I desire to allude, at the outset, to the concluding statement of the honorable member for North Sydney, who has asserted that in this matter he assumes no party attitude. I feel disposed to challenge any honorable member who wishes to make the proposed arrangement a permanent one. I challenge him that he is taking up a distinctly State Rights attitude, to the detriment of the interests of the Commonwealth.
– Is it a fair attitude?
– It is unfair to the Commonwealth, and too fair to the States. In the votes which we shall give upon this question, and as the result of the future debates which we shall have, especially in Committee, I hope that no party attitude will be assumed by the members of the Labour party. But I trust, nevertheless, that the strong Federal members of this House will rally themselves under the banner of national interests, and that in that cause they will fight solidly from beginning to end. Much has been made of the fact that the people, when this subject is submitted to them, will settle it. But behind that position I see something which is rather dangerous. A host of details may be submitted to the people which, owing to their want of time to consider them, and the divided interests that enter into an electoral campaign, may induce them to vote for or against, without seeing the true inwardness of what is proposed. One question which I, as a member of this House, shall ask the people to decide will be whether this Commonwealth in the future is to proceed to build up its national in- terests, taking over functions which can be better discharged by the national Parliament than by the Parliaments of the States ; or whether the interests of the Commonwealth are to be sacrificed to the aggrandisement of the States, and especially of State politicians. After all, this is not a fight between the residents of the States and of the Commonwealth. This idea of State Rights and of fettering the Commonwealth has been worked up by State politicians. I do not blame them. I do not feel that I can be severe upon them. But it is important that this Legislature should recognise the fact, and should rebut the danger. The epithet “Unificationists” has been hurled, at the party to which I belong. The moment we maintain Commonwealth rights as . against State politicians, we are called Unificationists. As unification has not entered into our platform, or into the platform of any party, I should like to state my individual opinion concerning it. I do not desire to see a concentration of the affairs of this country such as might be termed “ Unification.” But what I would vote for at any time would be a further division of States. We want more States ; smaller States. The main cause of our trouble in getting to a proper status’ in regard to financial matters as between the Commonwealth and the States is brought about by the size of the States and the enormous areas which they control. Each of the States has been developed along lines which did not contemplate a Federation. According to the lines adopted in the development of the States, it is evident that it was believed that New South Wales and Victoria would stand alone for ever. There has been a concentration of interests in the large centres of the States, and throughout a tremendous conflict of interests between the various States. This has been due mainly to their enormous area. If by that means we might forward national interests, I should gladly vote for the cutting up of the existing States into smaller divisions, and so permit greater freedom for local progress.
– Does the honorable member think that the present proposal would hamper that?
– It certainly would. Under it, we are to be tied down to a payment of 25s. per head of population to the States for all time, and, in my opinion, that would preserve the exist ing status of the States. It would assist the State Governments to stand on their dignity, and would give them an excuse to refuse to hand over to the Commonwealth authority functions which that authority should exercise.
– The honorable member suggests unification.
– No. I believe that this agreement would prevent national development along national lines. It would assist parochialism, and would keep Australia divided. It is for these reasons, I say, that those who support the agreement are enemies to the best interests of the Commonwealth. I should like to say that any Government that undertook the settlement of this question would be sure to meet with the same trouble in dealing with the State Governments. Were it not for the fact that the present Government rushed upon their own fate in their anxiety to hurl the Labour party from power, I might feel some sympathy for them in having to shoulder this burden. It seems to me that rather a serious danger looms ahead. When Federation was brought about, there was an opinion abroad amongst the Conservative elements in Australia that this Parliament would be the preserve of Conservatism. This was to be the place where the great men who would fight for private enterprise were to assemble. It was to be a Parliament into which that abomination in politics, the Labour party, would not be allowed to enter. But, as the years have rolled on, we have had, not only a great strengthening of the Labour party in this Parliament, but it has been made as clear as day that the time is not far distant when the Labour party will dominate this Parliament. It is in view of this fact that I regard the present proposal as » harking back on the part of people who desire again to get under the shelter of the wings of the Legislative Councils. This, in my opinion, is a scheme to prevent this Parliament, when the Labour party assumes control of it, from advancing Australia on democratic lines. It is a retrograde step to enable certain people to get back under the wings of the dear old Upper Houses of the States. The honorable member for North Sydney has said that the Labour party voted for a Tariff returning £2 [OS. per head, and that they voted also for a Tariff which is. to a certain extent, a revenue Tariff.
– They supported the Government submitting the Tariff, and enabled it to be carried.
– The honorable member must admit that the members of the Labour party dealt with each item of the Tariff on its merits. He must also admit that we fought tooth and nail against every effort to impose revenue duties. The stand I took, as a Protectionist, was to support every duty proposed for the protection and development of Australian industries, and to see that those duties were sufficiently high to be effective. All along the line, in common’ with many of my comrades, I opposed revenue duties, as genuine Protectionists were bound to do. This is where, in my opinion, the Prime Minister has betrayed the great principle of Australian Protection. ‘He submits a proposal which gives the Government no alternative but to increase revenue duties in order to find the means necessary to finance Federal proposals. If the Government are to carry this agreement, and to give effect to their policy, they will be forced to adopt either direct taxation or a revenue Tariff. I hope that all good Protectionists, no matter on which side of the House they sit, will oppose this proposal. I trust that when our. Tariff comes to be remodelled, as it must be within a few years, every effort will be made to reduce revenue duties, and to make the Tariff more protective. A strong reason for refusing to make the proposed agreement a provision of the Constitution is to be found in the fact that it is very difficult to alter the Constitution. The honorable member for Parkes last night dwelt on its sanctity. Apparently the honorable member believes that living men should be ruled by dead men’s laws. I do not share his reverence for . the Acts of dead men. While I’ respect the Constitution, so long as it fits the needs of the people, I consider that it should be sufficiently elastic to be readily amended, whenever the requirements of the time make its amendment necessary. ‘ One of the greatest curses we have to face as a nation is that we are fettered and handicapped by dead men’s laws. The difficulty of altering the Constitution and the adoration for its sanctity suggested by the honorable member for Parkes are reasons why we should hesitate about giving any permanence to the proposed agreement. In considering future Commonwealth ex penditure, we must admit that defence is going to cost an enormous sum. In order to adequately defend Australia, to make the Commonwealth ko strong that we shall fear no foe, and to so train our soldiers that they may be worthy sons of a great nation, ready to rise at the call to arms, and competent to defend their inheritance, we shall require a vast expenditure. It is all very well for us in foreshadowing the future of this great Commonwealth to talk in high falutin’ terms about what we are going to do ; but, after all, the concrete question which has to be answered is, “Where are you going to get the cash?” That is. where I feel that the present Government fall so far short of present requirements. If they propose to get the cash out of .a revenue Tariff, I fail to see that we shall secure anything like a. decent defence scheme. For that reason, if for no other, I feel very much disappointed at the attitude of the Prime Minister on finance generally. I had looked upon him as so strong an Austalian that he would be prepared to make sacrifices in this direction. Perhaps it is the company that he now keeps in his Government that compels, him to assume his present position. Again, for the development of a great railway policy large sums will be required. Whether we bring the railways of Australia under Federal control or not, it is certain that we must have transcontinental lines. We propose, one to Western Australia, and another to the Northern Territory. The commitments in regard to our railways will, therefore, run into millions. I should like to ask the Prime Minister, is he really sincere in- his proposals for the taking over of the Northern Territory, the construction of transcontinental railways, and the initiation of a large defence policy? If so, why does he give us suchan empty proposal in regard to the finances ?
– He means well, but does not understand the question.
– I shall not say that. I am afraid that he understands only too well that his Government are a stopgap one - that they are only there to talk, and not to do. It will be a good thing when the Government go to the country, so that they may either justify their existence, or be rejected, and a Government put in their place that will do things, instead of talking about them. Another great reason why we should not fetter the Commonwealth,. by making an arrangement for all time with the States on a per capita basis, is that, as the years go on, it will be essential for the Commonwealth to take over from the States more and more functions. As we do that, our expenditure will increase, and the needs of the States will diminish. For that reason we should not be doing our duty to the Commonwealth if we allowed this arrangement to be made permanent. Of course, a great deal has been made of the question of taking over the State debts. I think I am right in saying that the members of my party cordially agree with the idea of creating one Commonwealth stock, and of saving to the people of Australia, whether regarded as State electors or as members of the ‘Commonwealth, the several million pounds which undoubtedly will be saved if we create that stock, and do our borrowing through the Commonwealth alone. I feel with the honorable member for Darwin that any Government that are sincere in their desire to carry out these great financial schemes should certainly propose the establishment of a Commonwealth national bank. That should lie at the bedrock of all these financial arrangements. While I am quite prepared to fight for direct taxation in the way that my party has laid down, I can also see that, by means of a national bank, we should gain several millions of revenue per annum, as well as be able to conduct all our financial arrangements. I do not want to see a national bank under the control of this or any other Parliament. I do not want to see Governments have any undue influence over it, but a national bank run to assist the Treasury would be an enormous advantage. I do not want the Treasury or the Government to constitute the bank, but I say that the national finances should be worked through a national bank. The best brains, the best financial talent, within the Commonwealth, should be got for that bank, and we could then save whatever we pay now to private banks in respect of the administration of our finances. All arrangements in regard to loans, all the financial transactions between the States and the Commonwealth, could be arranged through that bank. I know that I am not permitted to go into details in discussing its benefits to the people directly as a loan bank, but the matter is of such vital importance to the proper financing of the affairs of the Commonwealth that it is high time that the
Government in power brought the proposal forward and had it passed into law. A great deal has been made of the Labour party’s financial proposals and especially the Brisbane Conference scheme. I happened to be a member of that Conference, and was very much interested in the debates, but the suggestions then brought forward were practically nothing but suggestions. The mem- . bers of the Labour party in Conference would never dare to fetter their Treasurer, or to tie him in a knot, by any recommendations that they might make. I quite recognise that it is the prerogative of a Treasurer, and of a Cabinet, to bring forward proposals which they deem best fitted to meet the financial necessities of the time. We knew, in discussing the financial proposals before us that we could not bind our Treasurer, if we had the good fortune to have one on the Treasury bench. The proposals were merely laid down as a guide to the Labour party. They were brought forward for the purpose of refuting the oft-repeated lie that members of the Labour party are the enemies of the States, and were unwilling to assist them in their financial needs. One point upon which the Brisbane Conference agreed was that a proportion of the Federal revenue should be returned to the States in perpetuity. We were emphatic upon that point. But whenever the Commonwealth is likely to be financially injured by the adoption of proposals which would have the effect of aggrandizing the States, we stand behind the Commonwealth. I regard finance as too intricate a. subject to be dealt with bv any Conference which may be called upon to discuss a hundred other questions. The Prime Minister committed a grave error in agreeing to meet six State Premiers in Conference. It was really a case of the States having six representatives as against one from the Commonwealth, and these gentlemen formulated the scheme which we are now asked to approve. I consider that the action of the Prime Minister in thus committing himself to the decisions of the Conference is greatly to be deprecated. I should have liked to see the- Prime Minister strike out upon lines similar to those which have been followed by LloydGeorge. At the present time Great Britain occupies a very serious position from the stand-point of defence. The Treasurer of that country has therefore brought forward financial proposals which will press most hardly upon those who are best able to bear the burden of taxation. He was not afraid to propose the imposition of a land tax, an income tax, and of increased death duties. In short, he has not hesitated to explore fore-and-aft all the possibilities of finance for the purpose of adequately meeting the requirements of the nation. His proposals do the British Government enormous credit ficm a Democratic stand-point. Of course, I object to some of them. For instance, I regard any proposal to tax the poor man’s tea and kerosene as being unjust. But that the individual who is making the most money in the country should be called upon to bear the largest share of taxation is a sound proposition, and especially so in regard to Defence. Our own Prime Minister has my hearty sympathy in that he has entered this Chamber absolutely fettered. He is virtually in. chains. He has round him like the coils of the Laocoon-
– What is that?
– The Prime Minister is bound hand and foot by those persons who will fight to the death any proposals for direct taxation. The Labour party on the other hand favour direct taxation and the establishment of a national bank. If the agreement be adopted, and the Prime Minister does not propose the imposition of direct taxation, he will be forced either to adopt a revenue Tariff or to resort to a borrowing policy. I remember the time when he fought for Australian as against parochial ideals. Now the advocates of the latter have him in fetters. I have especially refrained from quoting figures on this occasion, because during the course of this debate statistics have been quoted ad nauseam. I have listened with pleasure to the able speeches which have been delivered by honorable members. The matter of them has been well thought out, but it seems to me that honorable members have based their calculations almost entirely upon our present position. I recognise that no man can forecast the future with any degree of certainty. In the coming years development in Australia will be so rapid that no man can say with, accuracy what revenue we- shall have to spend. That is why I object to the return to the States of a fixed sum for all time. We must have immigration in the future, we must fill our vacant spaces, we must induce settlement in the Northern Territory and in other portions of Australia. We must have a vigorous, system of closer settlement. Whatever Government may be in power must aid that movement. The people are clamouring for a land tax with that end in view. It would be iniquitous if, when we had a population of 20,000,000, the amount represented by our per capita contribution of 25s. increased proportionately.
– lt is very much like the complaint of the man who is called upon to pay a large amount in respect of income tax. Most people would say that he was lucky in that he had to pay it.
– Undoubtedly the man who has to pay income tax is lucky ; the advantage of such a tax is that if a man has no income he is exempt from it. A land tax, on the contrary, has to be paid by a land-owner, even when he is making nothing out of his land.
– That is the most wholesome sentiment I have heard expressed by a member of the Opposition for a long time.
– I have often expressed it.
– Is the honorable member opposed to a land tax?
– I do not say that we should raise all the revenue we require by means of land taxation. I would not so burden a land-owner as to render it impossible for him to develop his property. Whilst I am an -enthusiastic believer in land taxation, I should not make it so heavy as to injure the man on the land.
– It would not suit New England.
– I hope the honorable member will do me the justice of believing that I fight for what is best for the Commonwealth, regardless of whether or not it may suit New England. My constituents are prepared to bear their fair share of the burden of taxation, and in taking up a Federal stand I am quite willing that my constituents should judge me when I seek re-election. What I have said with regard to the financial question is that which any strong Federalist who is prepared to stand by the rights of the Commonwealth would say. Since the financial proposals of the Labour party have been so freely attacked, I should like to remind honorable members that it remained for a Labour Prime Minister to be the first to propose a Federal absentee tax. An absentee tax of 3d. in the £ would yield us a revenue of about £2,000,000, and as the value of property in Australia increased there would be a proportionate increase in the returns. Surely such a proposal needs no justification. Surely those who draw their wealth from Australia and spend it elsewhere should be called upon to make a special contribution to the defence of the Commonwealth. The needs of our future development, as well as the cost of providing an adequate defence, will make it necessary for the Commonwealth to seek sources of revenue in addition to those proposed by the Government. In conclusion, I appeal to honorable members to forget party considerations and to stand shoulder to shoulder in opposition to the proposal to make this agreement a permanent provision in the Constitution. Let us go as far as possible towards meeting the requirements of the States for the next few years; but we can do that without tying the Commonwealth Parliament hand and foot. It is only just that we should return to the States a proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue, but I appeal to honorable members to let party warfare and party feeling, as we know it in this House, disappear from our consideration of this great question.
– It has been peculiarly absent from the proceedings of the House during the last few days.
– Unfortunately it is precipitated sometimes by the tactics of honorable members opposite. I shall have something further to say on the subject when the debate on the second reading of the Defence Bill is resumed, for I hold that defence, like finance, is a non-party matter. Unfortunately, however, if, during the consideration of financial proposals, a suggestion is made for the imposition of direct taxation, party considerations are at once raised. We ought to treat the States fairly, but in dealing with this question we should resolve ourselves into sL united party prepared to stand by the Commonwealth, while at the same time doing nothing to injure the States. I hope that this agreement will be. so amended as to provide for our doing the fair thing by the States during the next few years, whilst leaving us unfettered and with means to proceed with the great developmental works which are essentially within our province.
.- It is doubtless a common experience during the consideration of a question of this kind for an honorable member to find that figures which he has prepared for use in the debate have been quoted by speakers who have preceded him, and have been used to point to varying conclusions. No data are capable of being used in so many ways as are columns of figures, and more especially statistics relating to taxation. One has only to glance at the statistical returns of different countries regarding the Customs and Excise revenue for a series of years to find that it is almost impossible, unless one resorts to an exhaustive analysis, to draw from them any definite conclusions. No more striking example of that could be found than is furnished by the varying deductions made from the Customs and Excise revenue returns of New Zealand by the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for North Sydney.
– As well as by the Prime Minister, who spoke before they did.
– Quite so. fdo not propose to deal with the historical aspect of this question, since it has been stated in an exceedingly able manner by previous speakers, nor do I propose to quote long lists of figures. We have had placed before us during this debate all the figures that we may be reasonably expected to digest, but I should like to point to certain general conclusions that may be drawn from those which have been submitted. Those who take part in a debate of this kind, after it has been well advanced are in a more favorable position to draw conclusions than are those who contributed to it in its early stages, and who, having endeavoured, probably, to find statistics to support a view which they have already formed, are apt quite unintentionally to ignore other considerations which those statistics suggest.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the House rose for lunch I was saying that it was not my intention to bring forward a mass of figures which must of necessity have already been embodied in Hansard. I was also pointing to the fact that the figures which have been quoted from all over the world relative (to Customs and Excise taxation, and the effect of a Tariff upon the revenue, have been principally used, so far as I could gather, by honorable members who started out with an idea in their minds regarding this matter, and used the figures, as figures can be used, to point to the conclusions at which they had arrived. Shortly afterwards other honorable members who spoke, by means of the same figures, showed how easy it is to turn figures to any particular use which is desired, entirely refuting the arguments which had been based thereon by previous speakers. A great many of the figures which have been quoted to show that, as years roll on, we must expect a severe decline in revenue under a Protectionist Tariff, have been taken from countries which have absolutely nothing in common with ours, and with which no comparison can possibly be drawn, such as Russia,- Germany, and Belgium. The only countries which can be compared with Australia, as regards the conditions under which the Tariff is operating, are Canada and New Zealand. Even the United States is not a good country to quote in that regard. Having lived here for fifteen or twenty years, and watched the fluctuations of the seasons, one knows how difficult it is to draw a definite conclusion from any set of figures. A very careful analysis would be required, and each period would have to be taken on its merits, regard being paid to the conditions of the country, the seasons, and the intention of the Legislature in framing its Tariff. I propose to try to focus my attention upon one particular conclusion which almost every speaker has deduced from the figures, and that is, that in a young country which possesses an immense area of undeveloped land, with vast possibilities, in which a loan policy is necessary, for a number of years, to develop the territory, which has a very large production of primary produce, and a large and expanding export and general trade, the revenue from Customs and Excise per head of the population must be high. And so long as that work of expansion and development proceeds, so long will the imports be high and the revenue increase at a faster rate than the population. In other words, so long as the_ country develops and the population increases, so long will there be a tendency for the revenue per head to grow. That appears to me to be the only sound general conclusion which has been come to by those who have treated this matter at various times here. I would point out that a majority of the States are in possession of vast areas which are waiting to be settled, and that therefore we must have many years of development and expansion ahead of us. In considering .the settlement of the financial question, it should be kept constantly in mind that the Commonwealth’s powers of taxation are unlimited. Those who believe in a Protectionist policy, more especially those who are unreasonable Protectionists, point out that that policy must limit the revenue derivable from Customs and Excise, taxation, and may .make direct taxation necessary. I am rather at issue with them there. Take the Tariff, which we passed with great difficulty. No one can possibly call it a scientific Tariff. In many cases we imposed heavy duties on articles which were practically the raw products of certain industries. Only the other day one of our most earnest Protectionists - the honorable member for Melbourne - took me into an adjacent room where he showed me a number of mantles, and explained that one of the great _ troubles which the manufacturers experience is that a certain raw material of theirs is very heavily taxed, “although it cannot be produced here profitably, and that therefore their industry is very much handicapped. The moral I wish to point by that instance is that there is a great deal to be done to the Tariff before it can be called scientific in the proper sense of the word. We can make the Tariff truly scientific, and yet have both protective and revenue duties, at the same time relieving the people of a great deal of taxation from which the Com-, mon wealth is not getting much advantage. Many of our import duties are merely handicapping trade. The Commonwealth is not limited in its taxation by reason of its Protective policy. A scientifically constructed Tariff will adequately protect and encourage our industries, and at the same time produce, revenue, without being burdensome to the people. I shall not go further into that matter now, though I felt it necessary to combat the idea that we cannot obtain the necessary revenue from indirect taxation without interfering with our Protectionist policy. But while the whole field of taxation is open to the Commonwealth, the powers of the States in this regard are strictly limited. They are confined to the imposition of direct taxation, and there is a point beyond which it is impossible to go in levying direct taxation, without checking development and enterprise and reducing employment. If the taxation imposed is so heavy as to sensibly diminish the surplus income or wealth of the community, there must be a cessation of investment and enterprise, resulting in the stoppage of development, unemployment, and other troubles. Of course, we can go a long way before that point is reached.
– The limitation applies to Commonwealth as well as to State taxation.
– Certainly. The States are confined to direct taxation, and there is that check on their power to levy such taxes. In the future, as in the past, both the Commonwealth and the States must rely greatly on indirect taxation, that is, Customs and Excise duties, for the revenue necessary to meet their liabilities. I do not think it will be argued that borrowing is not necessary, in the case of the States, at least. Had the States not carried on developmental work out of loan money, this would now be a very poor country, and indeed practically a desert. No doubt much of the money that was borrowed was extravagantly spent, but our lands would be much less developed had we not borrowed. It will be the same in the future. In the distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue therefore, the special necessities of those States which have large territories to develop must receive consideration. Their populations are growing, and the responsibility of their Governments to the nation and to the Empire is very great. As the representative of a Queensland constituency, I know that State better than the others, and instance it as one possessing a vast territory upon which its Government will have to spend immense sums for developmental works. The opening up of the north-eastern portion of the continent is in the hands of the Government of Queensland, which is responsible, not only to the people of ‘the State, but to the Commonwealth, and to the Empire, for its development for the purposes of defence, and the increasing of our prosperity. These remarks apply also to Western Australia and, to a great extent, to South Australia, but more particularly to the former, because, like Queensland, that State has large areas of coastal land, and therefore great defence responsibilities. To give some idea of the enormous developmental work which the Government of Queensland is undertaking, let me say a few words about the railway systems of the States. At present there is a coastal line from Brisbane to Rockhampton. The country between Rockhampton and Cooktown, a very rich area, with the whole of which I am acquainted, is to be traversed by an extension of this line for a distance of over 800 miles. There is a united voice throughout Queensland, from the west and from the coast, and every port on the coast, calling the attention of the authorities to the urgent need for that line, not merely for defence purposes, but to make available land which is very suitable for closer settlement, and particularly for dairying occupation, and in the north for sugar-growing. That railway must be, and will be, built within the next ten years. At the present time, from Brisbane, Rockhampton, and Townsville lines run back from the coast to the western parts of the State, and it is proposed, largely in the interest of the stock industry, that these lines shall be connected by a railway from Charleville to Longreach, or some point on that line, going thence to Winton and Clon curry, and on to Burketown. That line will have a length of about 1,000 miles. The first section will be constructed between the Longreach and the Winton lines, and will be continued within a few years to Normanton or Burketown. The section from Charleville to Longreach will also be completed within a few years. Although the construction of these railways is in the hands of the State Government, they are not merely of State importance, because the development of Queensland is only part of the development of the Commonwealth, which is an important member of the oversea Dominions of the Empire. The railways which I have spoken of aggregate something like 2,000 miles in length, but, in addition, a number of shorter lines are to be made. Some time ago, proposals for the construction of fifteen lines were laid before the State Parliament. Of these, some 400 or 500 miles have been, or are now, nearly finished, and another 400 miles will be begun very shortly. No doubt, Western Australia is carrying out similar developmental work. I do not mean to say that this work must be done to-morrow, but it should be steadily proceeded with if the country is to be opened up, and more especially if the coastal line of country is to be closely settled. There is a great future before large States like Western Australia and Queensland, from the point of view of water conservation. For some time past the Queensland Government have been surveying various water-sheds and channels in order to obtain data for a scheme; and this, together with the many other necessary works, must mean a continuous loan policy. Before any of the States can be expected to enter upon developmental work of this kind, they must have some certainty as to the revenue they are to receive. We have heard over and over again the argument that the Commonwealth is not going to starve the States, seeing that the States constitute the Commonwealth, and in both instances the people are the same; but we must regard this as a business proposition, and, as in ordinary transactions, any arrangement arrived at should be in black and white in business-like form. These large and sparsely-populated States have to face a steady increase of population. Those who have travelled throughout the country must have been struck by the number of applications that are made for schools, postal facilities, and so forth, all evidencing a tremendous expansion. According to the report of the Queensland Education Department, a very large number of new schools have been built in Queensland during the last two or three years. I have already said that I place very little reliance on quotations of columns of figures dealing with the revenue that may be expected from certain Tariffs ; but I see one way in which they may be made useful. I have taken the trouble to refer to the figures’ showing the revenue from Customs and Excise in Queensland for some years past. I deal with Queensland, not because that State has any special claims, but simply because there must be some point to start from, and because, as I have already explained, the larger States, which have great problems ahead, are those which should receive special consideration in the division of the revenue. The following table shows the revenue per head in Queensland from Customs and Excise, and the debt and interest per head, from the years 1896-7 to 1901, and from 1903-4 to 1907-8: -
– Was the same Tariff in operation in Queensland from 1896 to
– I think so, though I cannot say for certain ; the Queensland Tariff has been pretty much the same for many years past.
– It was a revenue Tariff.
– Yes; but I fancy there was a good deal of protective incidence.
– Was there not a duty of 6d. per lb. on tea, and also a duty of 6d. per gallon on kerosene?
– I cannot speak as to the details ; I merely point out that States which have great developmental works, and necessarily a large loan expenditure, must have a high. Tariff yield. If I remember rightly, there was, as in other States, a great deal of extravagance, and, in spite of the high Tariff, a considerable deficit.
– There has been an income tax imposed in Queensland.
– Quite so. Of course, the figures for 1907-8 cannot be compared with the other figures, because there was then an entirely different Tariff. It will be seen that the State taxation has gone up tremendously since Federation. In the year before Federation, the other than indirect taxation averaged 13s. 4d., whereas since Federation, from 1903-4, it has been 18s. 5d., 17s.5d.,18s. 8d.,£1 os. 3d., and, in 1907-8, 19s. 4d. There have been many charges of extravagance made against the States since Federation. The only State the name of which has been mentioned in this regard is New South Wales. I do not wish to stir up my honorable friends from that State, but they will admit that it is a factthat New South Wales has been mentioned as the State which has been most extravagant. Now, without claiming any special virtue for Queensland, I am entitled to point out that that State has certainly not been extravagant. Mr. Philp made a very drastic cut in the expenditure after the drought of 1902, and his efforts in that direction were followed by those of Mr. Kidston.
– Every Department was starved.
– Yes; expenditure was cut down to the bare bone.
– Does the honorable member charge New South Wales with extravagance in the administration of her Post and Telegraph Department, for instance?
– The honorable member can work out that point for himself. It is a good maxim never to argue with a friend. Although the expenditure of
Queensland has gone up during the last few years, there has been no extravagance. If the figures are analysed it will be found that the expenditure has increased in such directions as meeting the additional demands for education. Hundreds of new schools have been dotted over the country. Again, the railways were starved during the period of retrenchment, and expenditure that perhaps should have been infurred then has had to be made up since. There has also been increased expenditure on account of old-age pensions. In fact, if one takes the trouble to go through the items of expenditure, it will be found that the increase has been due to a natural process of development. I quote the case of Queensland on account of convenience and familiarity with the figures. Since Federation Queensland has had her direct taxation increased. In the first place, the Excise receipts have more than doubled. The receipts from other sources of taxation, direct and indirect, have also increased considerably. Indeed, the total direct taxation receipts of Queensland have almost doubled as compared with the three years that . I have mentioned, 1897-8-9. When the bad years came the State revenue from direct taxation was from 13s. to 15s. per head, and since Federation it has increased by perhaps from 25 to 30 per cent. I quote these facts merely’ to show how necessary it is for a State like Queensland, with a great area to develop and large responsibilities, to have every consideration shown to her in respect of receipts from Customs and Excise. It is, I think, a fair argument to use that the States have a right to rely on indirect taxation to meet liabilities in those directions.
– -^2,000,000 less has been taken out of the “pockets of the Queensland people since Federation.
– I shall deal with that point a little later. I wish to meet every argument, because I consider that very little good is done by making out a special case and neglecting the points which can be urged against it. But before I proceed to deal with that matter I wish to touch upon another point. The yield of’ Customs and Excise revenue per head of population will certainly be maintained at its present level in a State like Queensland as long as development is going ahead. Indeed, it will probably increase. On the other hand, it is probable that in the more densely populated and more fully developed States - such as Victoria, which may be called the manufacturing State of the Commonwealth - the revenue from Customs per head of population will diminish. It must be remembered - and in saying this I am not speaking against the per capita division, which I advocate as the most convenient and sensible method - that as years go on the States with a large undeveloped territory will require a larger proportion of the Customs and Excise revenue to meet their necessities than will the States which are more completely developed. Yet the States which, ‘ by reason of their stage of development, will be yielding a higher amount per head of Customs and Excise revenue will receive only their bare 25s. per head, whereas .States like Victoria, whose per capita contribution to the Customs and Excise revenue, will be decreasing, will get the same amount. In other words, we in the sparsely populated States will be contributing to the revenue through Customs and Excise a very large, amount per head of our population, and will only get back 25s.’ per head, whilst the more populous States, like Victoria, will be contributing a decreasing amount to the revenue, but will, at the same time, be also drawing their 25s. per head, which will be a far higher percentage of Customs and Excise revenue, in proportion to their contribution to that revenue, than will be returned in the case of the large undeveloped States.
– Does the honorable member think that the Customs and Excise revenue in Victoria will decrease because this is a more closely populated State t
– What I say is that the yield per capita from Customs and Excise is determined to a very large extent by the amount of money that is spent - both publicly and privately - -in development, and by the amount of primary production per head of the population, which means a large export and general trade. To emphasize this point, I should like to quote some figures as to the volume of trade. The Prime Minister, when making his very able speech, quoted the total trade per head of population of various countries. I think he quoted the total for Australia as £29 per head of the population. In the case of New Zealand he quoted ,£44 per head. To show that it is reasonable to look for the largest return of Customs revenue per capita from the States where the largest amount of developmental work is going on, let me quote the imports and exports of Queensland per head of the population. I need not quote the whole of the figures before me, ‘but the imports vary from £ii 17s. id. per head in 1897, which was the lowest point, to ,£17 10s. in 1907, which was the highest point.
– Will the honorable member give us the figures for 1901 and 1906, which are important years?
– In 1901 the imports were ,£12 14s. 5d. per head, and in 1906 £15 12s. The value of the exports per head of population varied from ,£17 19s. nd. per head in 1902, which was the year of the great drought, to .£27 4s. nd. in 1907. The figures for the two years mentioned by the honorable member for Corio were - for 1901 ,£18 9s., and for 1906 £23 9s. 8d. The figures showing the value per head of the total trade of Queensland are as follows: - 1896, ,£32 us. lod. ; l897, ^31 MS- id.; 1898, £35 19s.; l899, ;£38 i8s- 6d. ; 1900, ^34 4s. 2d. ; 1901, £31 3S- 5d-J 1902. 8s. sd. ; 1903, .£31 13s. nd. ; 1904, ,£33 2s. rod.; 1905, £35 9s. ; 1906, £39 10s. 9d. ; 1907, .£44 14s. nd. It will be seen that there was no year in which the total trade of Queensland was not considerably above the total trade of Australia as a whole. The Prime Minister told us that the total trade of Australia in 1907 or 1908 was ,£29 per head, whereas the total trade of Queensland was £44 14s. nd. per head. That adds force to my contention that, in a country which has a large production and export per head of population, and in which there is considerable development and expanding settlement, there will be found to be a very high per capita revenue from Customs and Excise. It must not be forgotten that it is on the Governments of such ‘States that the greatest measure of responsibility for the development of the country rests. If in answer to the argument I put forward a short time ago I am reminded that the Commonwealth is taking over a number of services, and thus relieving the State Governments of expenditure, I point out that hitherto the States have been receiving about 30s. per head from Customs and Excise revenue, and it is now proposed that they shall receive only 25s. per head. I say that the difference of 5s. per head may well be set off against the expenditure of which the State Governments have been relieved by the transfer to the Commonwealth .of the payment of oldage pensions, and of other services.
– Has that been worked out?
– How much did the honorable member say the States are getting now?
– I said that they have been getting 30s. per head, but I was wrong. A proposal was made that they should get 30s. per head, but they have been getting a great deal more.
– They have been getting as high as 36s. per head.
– That only strengthens my argument. It is now proposed that they should be given 25s. per head, and though I have not worked out the figures, I am confident that the difference of 10s. per head would more than counterbalance the cost of the services taken over by the Commonwealth, including the payment of old-age pensions. The obligations of the State Governments are increasing, not merely because of the increase of population, but because of the growth of new centres. . In the district from which I come, and which I know best, a number of new mining and farming centres are springing up, and they require to be provided with schools and postal and telegraphic facilities. Fortunately our population is becoming more diffused, and as the country becomes more settled, so will the necessity for providing increased facilities increase. A great deal requires to be done which has not been attended to hitherto, and an attempt to do which is now being made in some of the States. We are all agreed as to the necessity for extending educational facilities, and in Queensland efforts are being made to extend the facilities for technical education and to provide that necessary and desirable feature in the development of the democratic ideal, a university, the advantages of which will not be confined to those enjoying the possession of wealth. All these extensions of the functions of government are in the hands of the State Governments, and they are especially de’sirable in such States as I have specially mentioned. The cost involved in carrying them out will far more than counterbalance the. expenditure by the Commonwealth on the services that have been taken over.
– The desire to extend technical education . is common to every State.
– That is so, but honorable members will understand that I refer particularly to Queensland in illustration of ray argument, because I know the processes of its development best. The figures I have quoted, and the illustrations I have given from Queensland, the State with which I am most familiar, point, in my opinion to the fact that for many years, and possibly for some generations to come, the State Governments must continue to carry out the duties devolving upon them, and left to them under the Constitution, and, as a consequence, they are entitled to participate, at least, to the extent of 25s. per head of their population in the Customs and Excise revenue. It is not a question of State Rights, but a question of finding out what are really the obligations cast upon the Governments of the States. They have very important duties to perform, not merely for their own people ; but in the development of their vast areas, and in the encouragment of settlement along their enormous stretches of coastline, they have duties to perform for the people of Australia as a whole and for the Empire. If they are to effectively perform these duties, they must be given adequate assistance, or we must adopt a unified system, under which all this developmental work will fall into the hands of. the Commonwealth. Personally, I should look forward with dread to the day when this work would require to be carried out from one centre.
– We have done fairly well for the sugar industry.
– The Commonwealth Parliament has been very generous to the sugar industry. I have nothing to say against what has been done in that connexion, but that is a very different matter from endeavouring to govern and develop the vast territory of the Commonwealth from one centre. Honorable members representing the northern river districts of New South Wales, and honorable members representing Western Australia, will agree with those who represent Queensland that, in the States embracing vast areas, there is a constant agitation in remote districts for a better recognition of local requirements by the central Government. It was the difficulty of securing a proper recognition of the requirements of remote districts that gave rise to the agitation for separation in Queensland.
– Yet more has been done by the Commonwealth Government than was done by the State Governments.
– The honorable member does not say in what direction.
– For instance, in the extension of telegraph and telephone facilities.
– That work has been carried out fairly satisfactorily; but I do not think that the honorable member will contend that the post and telegraph service of Australia is a credit to the Commonwealth ?
– We must always trust the Commonwealth.
– I am prepared to do so, because behind the Commonwealth stand the people. The crux of the agreement with the State Premiers seems to be the question of embodying the arrangement in the Constitution. It has struck me in listening to the arguments put forward by various honorable members that they have shown considerable inconsistency. The honorable member for Mernda admitted that it was only reasonable that the States should expect the settlement, whatever it was, to be fixed in the Constitution, but the honorable member was apparently prepared to allow the arrangement to continue only until the amount returnable to the States out of the Commonwealth revenue at the rate of 25s. per head reached, with the growth of the population, a certain total. He fixed that time at about thirty years. Both inside and outside the House I have heard many honorable members say that they were perfectly willing to give the States a fixed arrangement in the Constitution if they wished it, but that the time for which it should last should be limited. I have heard them say that they were willing to let the arrangement stand for thirty years, but not for all time. It would! be absolutely objectionable to. put a time limit in the Constitution, because we should then be bound not to ask for any revision of the arrangement until that limit expired. If we made it terminable in thirty years we should practically be saying to the States, “ We undertake under the Constitution not to ask for a revision of the arrangement for thirty years.” That would be most objectionable, becausewe could not possibly tell what the future might have in store for us.
– That is a good argument for limiting the arrangement to ten years.
– It bears that interpre tation.
– In any case, there is already a precedent for it in section 87 of the Constitution.
– It must be a very bad precedent. If, however, we embody the arrangement in the Constitution in the way proposed by the Government, the Federal Parliament, which has the care of the national destinies in connexion with those great questions which have been left to it to settle, will have the power - if it appears at any time that the Commonwealth cannot carry on its functions without a readjustment - to frame a proposal to put to the people, and then a re-adjustment can be made. On the other hand, to embody the arrangement in the Constitution for thirty years, would be to commit ourselves absolutely to it for the full length of that term.
– Why put it in the Constitution at all ?
-Some honorable members do not wish it to be put in the Constitution at all, but I have heard many others on the Opposition side say that they are prepared to adopt the proposal of the honorable member for Mernda. I do not know whether they ha.ve jumped at it simply because it is different from the Government’s scheme.
– Some of them are willing to give the States 30s. per capita for ten years.
– I have heard several honorable members opposite say that they are not only willing to fix the arrangement in the Constitution for ten, twenty, or thirty years, but that for that limited time they would be prepared to give the States 30s. per capita. In considering these questions, we have to balance the good and the evil. I am satisfied that a good deal of the opposition to the Government scheme is based on a sort of antipathy to any appearance of negotiating with or consulting the States in any way. We have heard it said over and over again in this House that the people, by the Constitution, have put in our hands the power to say in 1910 what we shall do with the Commonwealth revenue, and that we need not give the States anything unless we like. The Constitution does leave it to us to decide whether we shall give the States anything or nothing. I think I have shown that to put the arrangement in the Constitution for some definite period, such as. thirty years, would involve a far greater surrender of our control of our own revenues than would the insertion in the Constitution of an open section embodying simply an undertaking by the Commonwealth to give the States 25s. per head, until such time as the people, by another amendment of the Constitution, authorized us to alter that basis. Some honorable members contend that we shall be weakening our position by giving up any power which we possess, but the historical side of the question which has been put before us by so many speakers, points conclusively to the fact that when the Constitution was drafted, and when the ten years’ limit was inserted, it was expected by every person that the States would always receive back some portion of the Commonwealth revenue, although the amount might possibly be altered from time to time. It was generally recognised that that was a necessity. We must remember that the States have extensive duties and vast commitments ahead of them in the way of developmental work. They cannot perform those functions or undertake those commitments as prudent business men without some security of tenure with regard to the revenue necessary to meet the cost, and it is eminently reasonable that they should ask to be given some such fixity of tenure, subject, of course, to the will of the people, expressed at any given time. So far as I can judge, it will be several generations before at any rate the larger States of the Commonwealth can do with less than 25s. per head from the Commonwealth revenue. For that reason, I am perfectly willing that the settlement of the financial problem now proposed should be embodied in the Constitution. I think it is a good feature of the agreement, tending to establish a friendly feeling, and to smooth over difficulties between the States and the Commonwealth, that it is to be embodied in the Constitution, so that it may not be tinkered with, and so that there may be no temptation to promote agitations from time to time for its alteration. As each election comes along, the fact that the agreement has been embodied in the Constitution will eliminate any risk of the States entering into a fight to try to retain whatever hold the’y have upon the revenue. In fact, it will determine the matter until the Commonwealth finds that it is desirable to establish a different basis of settlement in the interests of the nation as a whole. When that time comes, the course to be pursued will be plain. It has been argued that the people are not capable of forming a judgment on such a mat- ter as this when it is put to them, but to my mind it is not a very complex question, and I am sure that many honorable members feel themselves perfectly capable of educating the people up to their views from the platform. I can see from the face of the honorable member for Darwin that he, at least, has every confidence in his ability to make the whole financial situation clear to his constituents, and to guide them in the way they should go.
– But what position will the people be in when the honorable member advocates one thing and somebody else advocates quite the opposite?
– The issue will be plain, because the people must either accept or reject the proposal. I think that, with candidates expressing their opinions, and with the assistance of the press arguing the matter from all points of view, the people will be in an excellent position to thresh the subject out and to come to a. wise conclusion by the time the referendum is taken. The public have a marvellous faculty for hitting on the right thing, especially in British communities. I have absolute confidence in the sanity of our people, and I am satisfied to embody the proposed agreement in our Constitution, leaving it to them to amend that Constitution whenever the circumstances of the case may demand the adoption of that course. I believe that our attitude towards the great question of defence will immensely strengthen the national sentiment. To doubt that we shall obtain the support of the electors to any proposal which may be submitted to them in regard to a satisfactory adjustment of the future financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth is to doubt the basis of our Democratic system of government. I wish now to touch very briefly upon the question of the transfer of the State debts and of future borrowings. At the present time, a Bill is before this House which proposes to authorize the Commonwealth to take over both the present and future debts of the States at any time that it may think fit to do so. The arrangement recently made with the State Premiers was that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into this matter. But I take it that the States, as represented by their Premiers, are prepared to agree to the transfer of their debts to the Commonwealth. In one or two instances a little fear mav be entertained that the taking over of the State debts may have the effect of limiting the future borrowing powers of the States. But I cannot see how it can have that effect. I know the idea is that the Commonwealth would lay down such stringent rules in regard to the payment of interest and the establishment of a sinking fund as would render it impossible for the States to borrow. But we have no power to enforce any such conditions. If a State has contracted a debt upon certain terms, the Commonwealth will take over that debt upon those terms. In other words, the States will incur no further liability to the Commonwealth than they have contracted in respect of the original creditor. Further, it is not proposed that the Commonwealth should prevent the States from borrowing in the future. Of course both the Treasurers of the States and the Commonwealth Treasurer realize that it is most desirable in the interests of all that the flotation of loans should be regulated. At first, I do not think that the Commonwealth will obtain any better terms than do the States. As a matter of fact, the London investor does not think much about the nature of the security which is offered to him. He recognises that his best security is the laxable power of the people - not our railways and our waterworks. When we establish a Commonwealth stock, smaller stocks will naturally be less sought after. Moreover, if the Commonwealth handles its stock properly - if it maintains that stock at a regular value - it will be much more sought after than will State stocks. There are many persons who like to invest their capital in securities which are readily convertible. Such people will naturally choose a stock the value of which does not fluctuate. Thus the Commonwealth stock would be certain to entirely displace State stocks in the course of time. It is my intention to support the Government in respect of this agreement. I have already assigned my reasons for so doing. The representatives of the Commonwealth Government recently met the representatives of the States imbued with an earnest desire to arrive at a satisfactory settlement of this vexed question. It is true that the former might have said. “ We possess the power to do what we choose in this matter, and we propose to wait until 1910 and then to exercise that power.” But, happily, both the Commonwealth and the State representatives endeavoured to arrive at an amicable arrangement, and they succeeded in doing so. I know that the State representatives desired to secure the annual return to the States of a larger sum than will be returned under this agreement. Honorable members will admit that it is entirely in the interests of the Commonwealth to have to hand over to the States only 25s., and not 30s., per head of the population. I presume, from what I know of the negotiations, that the representatives of the States said to the representatives of the Commonwealth, “ We will agree to this. It is not what we wanted, but we will accept it because we are anxious to have a permanent settlement, so that we may push ahead with our great developmental works without fear of sudden changes in regard to our financial arrangements. If you embody this agreement in the Constitution so that it can be varied onlyby the will of the people, we shall be satisfied.” That offer was accepted. The objection raised to the embodiment of this agreement in the Constitution is, I think, based largely on sentimental grounds. The Government deserve credit for having brought to an issue in a peaceful and uncontroversial manner this great and vexed question. But for their action we might have had a bitter fight in the constituencies. We might have had two parties putting their respective cases extravagantly, the one knowing nothing of the merits of the other’s case. Instead of that, the two parties have met. They have recognised the merits of each other’s case, and have come to an agreement. The Parliament will have done well for the country and the people whom it represents if it accepts this agreement, and asks the people - recognising their growing sense of national responsibility, and of the importance of the work done by the National Parliament - to consent to its embodiment in the Constitution, leaving it to their judgment to determine whether or not it should be altered when the necessity arises.
Debate (on motion by Sir John Forrest) adjourned.
Order of the Day read and discharged; Bill withdrawn.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The subject of this measure having been dealt with at some length in connexion with another Bill, it is unnecessary to give an elaborate exposition of its contents. Indeed, it might tax the ingenuity of even honorable members opposite to sustain a long debate upon a Bill of two clauses, one devoted to the short title, and the other simply providing that- -
Section one hundred and five of the Constitution is altered by omitting the words “ as existing at the establishment of the Commonwealth.”
Section 105 of the Constitution, thus amended, will read -
The Parliament may take over from the States their public debts, or a proportion thereof, according to the respective numbers of their people as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, and may convert, renew, or consolidate such debts, or any part thereof ; and the States shall indemnify the Commonwealth in respect of the debts taken over, and thereafter the interest payable in respect of the debts shall be deducted and retained from the portions of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth payable to the several States, or if such surplus is insufficient or if there is no surplus, then the deficiency or the whole amount shall be paid by the several States.
The tables placed in the hands of honorable members show that our present power to take over the debts of the States, existing at the. establishment of the Commonwealth, covers a total of £200,000,000. These we should require to deal with proportionately, if we were seeldng to make the proposed per capita payment of 25s. per annum apply as far as possible towards the interest due upon them. In other words, we could take over debts amounting to only £170,000,000, the payment of interest on those debts absorbing the whole of the proposed payment of 25s. per head, and a further sum of £372,000 per annum. On the other hand, if we took over the whole of the debts, amounting to £200,000,000, which we have power to do under the Constitution as it stands, the States would require to find over and above the 25s. per capita in round numbers, £1,500,000 per annum for the payment of interest. If we were to take over all the debts, including those which have been incurred since the establishment of the Commonwealth, the States in addition to the 25s. would require to find in all £3,170,000 a year. This measure will have the simple effect of enabling us to relieve the States of debts amounting to £250,000,000. We should relieve them of all the obligations they have in- curred up to the present; but they would continue liable for the payment of interest amounting to £3,170,000 per annum.
– Does not this Bill depend upon the measure relating to the financial agreement made at the Premiers’ Conference ?
– The two are taken together. As I endeavoured to explain last week, they form part of one scheme. Apart altogether from the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill, however, it appears to me that this measure should be carried, and that this is a suitable time to pass it. Even if I could imagine such a contingency as the rejection of the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill, I should still be anxious to carry this Bill, and would claim the support of honorable members in passing it.
– But does not the method of dealing with the debts depend largely upon the method of dealing with the otheT matters to which the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill relates?
– No; because section 105 of the Constitution already confers upon the Commonwealth power to take over the debts amounting to £200,000,000, and this proposed amendment merely places us in precisely the same position with regard to the remaining £50,000,000. It does not oblige us to do anything, but it would be idle to pretend that we are seeking to pass it and then do nothing. On the contrary, the intention is, first, to acquire the power and then to use it, for the benefit of the people of the Commonwealth who are the taxpayers required in any case to keep on finding all the interest on the debts.
– Will this Bill apply to debts that may be incurred hereafter?
– It will apply to future debts that may be incurred. Although this is a tempting subject, I do not propose to revert to the remarks made recently with reference to the conversion of the debts, save to repeat, in view of what has since been said in this House, that the statements upon which I relied were made by governors of the Bank of England and other very eminent financial authorities in London. They insisted that in practically all circumstances the taking over of the debts and the handling of a single Australian stock must necessarily mean a very large gain to the taxpayers of Australia. It might not result in a gain during the first year.
– But over a period of years it would.
– There might not be a marked advantage for a short period, but over a period of years, and more especially when anything like the total amount of the debts was taken over, there would be a distinct gain. AVith a single Australian stock, as the honorable member for North Sydney has pointed out, the attractive power of such a mass of investment, the many more opportunities it would afford for dealings, must mean a high and even level of prices. That in itself is a great practical consideration. It enables a stock to. be established which, quite independently of the several claims that most, if not all, of our States have, to possess a very fine credit, would add something, which none of them singly enjoy. There is not only the total of Australia’s resources, but the dimensions of the particular stock to be handled, which they impressed upon us, is a very important factor indeed. Consequently, this measure, of itself, is necessary to the growth of the Commonwealth, for the full exercise of its financial powers, and for the most economical administration of the loans of Australia. It is perfectly true that any agreement as to future borrowing requires to be made withthe States, and by their consent, and there is nothing in, either of these proposals which binds any State to give that consent.
– This is only a permissive Bill?
– -Yes; it does not alter the nature of section 105 ; that was permissive, and will remain permissive, though for a larger amount. I am sure that honorable members have still in their memories, the weighty words of the honorable member for North1 Sydney on another measure this morning, when he pointed out that, with or without an agreement on. the part ofthe States, there is no doubt that when one Australian stock totalling £250,000,000 is being administered by one authority - especially if it be by expert financiers - as it ought to be - that in itself would carry with it so much better prospects for any issue of stock, that we should soon have requests from the States to come in and share that benefit by having their future loans issued by the Commonwealth.
– I admit that, but in what way is it permissive?
– The honorable member means that we are not bound to exercise this power of transfer unless we like?
– It is a power which rests with the Parliament to exercise at its pleasure.
– It would he absolute, if carried.
– Exactly. Therefore, inlooking forward to the possible contingencies of our financial future, we have to remember that the necessary consequences of taking over State loans, and dealing with them is that, without exercising any coercion in the least degree, or attempting to do so, we should soon have benefits to offer. We have better terms to present. These must attract towards any financial authority controlling Commonwealth loans, even the richest States who desire to enter the market as borrowers. Consequently, this measure will put Australian loans in a better position in every way. Carried with the prior measure, it will enable that to be given fuller effect; without the other, it will enlarge the authority of the Commonwealth.
– In the meantime, it will commit the Commonwealth to absolutely nothing.
– Yes; it leaves this House the master of the situation. We shall acquire a new power under the Constitution which this House, or its successor can use at its pleasure. In. the meantime, I can hardly bring myself to believe that a measure, having these claims upon us, will meet with opposition from any quarter.
– What is the necessity for bringing in two Bills? Is the second Bill introduced because there is a fear of the first Bill not succeeding?
– There are. several reasons why it is desirable to have two measures and some reasons why it may be desirable to have one.
– It will confuse the issue to the people.
– The best reason, I think, for a severance is that, after all, it is possible that people may be of two opinions on these questions. There may be a number of electors who would approve the first measure, and who yet would set a limit to the power of the Commonwealth in regard to the debts, though I should think that they would be a very small number. There may be a number of persons who would support the second, but not the first measure, saying that, quite independently of any arrangement being made with the States, it is time that the Commonwealth possessed this expansion of power.
– It will introduce an immense amount of confusion.
– I doubt it.
– It did at the last referendum.
– In any case there is the important consideration, that this is an extension of Commonwealth powers which, we may fairly say, was inevitable, and the sooner it is adopted the better. It will carry no compulsion upon any future Parliament to exercise it until it considers that the time is ripe.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fisher) adjourned.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I intimate to honorable members that on Tuesday next we shall proceed with the discussion of the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill. I shall ask the assistance of honorable members so far as to curtail their remarks as much as they reasonably can without detriment to theirargument in order that we may pass to a further stage of the measure.
– I should not have risen but for the last remark of the Prime Minister. Whilst I agree with him that in this financial discussion no honorable membershould enlarge his remarks beyond what he considers absolutely necessary to elucidate some point, or to express some idea, at the same time I must strongly point out that it is a matter about which this Parliament is not well informed. It is a matter about which the State Parliaments are less informed, and about which the public know very little. No loss will accrue to the Commonwealth, or loss of dignity to this House, if there is a very full debate on the whole question. I hope that the Prime Minister’s remark is not intended as a hint from the Government that there will be a curtailment of discussion, because the unfortunate part of the Commonwealth’s posi- tion is that the public have never been educated regarding the relative financial position of the Commonwealth and the States. The electors do not understand the position either as regards the State debts, or the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. I trust that the Government will welcome expressions of opinion from any quarter, if they can do anything to enlighten the members of this Parliament and the country on this momentous question, because obviously the whole trend of the discussion is that from one point of view or other the question of the State debts should go to the people. On the other question too rauch enlightenment cannot be given to honorable members. I trust that there will be no limitation to the debate. So far as I can control honorable members on this side, I shall do my utmost to prevent the introduction of any extraneous matter.
– The Prime Minister supplied the House vesterday with some information in connexionwith the entertainment to the Chambers of Commerce delegates. I asked him the simple question whether the expense of the entertainment is to be defrayed out of the public funds.
– I said that it was a national welcome.
– The honorable gentleman did. I should like a little more explicitness than that. Then I understand that the money is to come out of the public Treasury ?
– That is all that I wanted to know. I only hope that when other party politicians come to Australia, and these gentlemen are purely party politicians
– But they represent both sides, if they are.
– That may be. But will the Government receive other visitors in this “national “ manner? I cannot help recalling that when Mr. Keir Hardie was here the Government did not offer him entertainment.
– He is a member of the House of Commons, and one of the biggest men in Great Britain.
– His name will be remembered after those of many honorable members opposite have been’ forgotten.
– The fact is worthy of remembrance, because it shows how the Government differentiates in its treatment of certain visitors. I regret that the Government Whip is not here, as I propose to refer to him. In last night’s Melbourne Herald, a reliable channel of information, a most interesting item of news appeared, which I should like to read to the House. A new post-office is to be erected at Brunswick, and with the permission of the Postmaster-General, a tablet is to be inserted in the foundation bearing the following inscription : -
City of Brunswick - population, 30,000; revenue, , £25,000. This stone was laid by the Hon. J. H. Cook, M.P., 14th October, 1909.
That is a remarkable innovation. In view of a contingency which eventuates a few months hence, it seems to me to have a political significance. More post-offices have been erected in my electorate than in any other, but I have never asked to have my name engraved on memorial tablets in their’ foundation stones.
– Notwithstanding that the honorable member has been Postmaster-General.
– While I have no objection to the name of the honorable member for Bourke being cut on this tablet, I think that something more is needed.
– His photograph.
– That would be altogether too ephemeral. The classic features and massive form of this wonderful statesman should be perpetuated in bronze, or, say, brass, so that his fame may be as imperishable as the pillars of Hercules.
– The. whole proposal is ridiculous.
– It would be ridiculous to represent the honorable member in the guise of an ordinary citizen of the twentieth century. When the American Fleet was here, I was absent in Western Australia, so I have no personal knowledge of the figure cut by the honorable member at that time. But I am told that he burst on the astonished citizens of Melbourne in a garb which was a cross between a Windsor uniform and the trappings of a medieval clown. Posterity ought not to Le deprived of such a tableau. I protest, moreover, . against the omission of any initials. This inscription shears the honorable member of some prefixes, his full name being James Hume Newton Haxton Cook. As the PostmasterGeneral is a lawyer, I hope that he will see that absolute accuracy is obtained in this matter, so that posterity shall not be cheated out of even one’ initial.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Bourke is not here to take part in this interesting discussion. I am surprised that the honorable member for Coolgardie, who is an exMinister, has made so much fuss about a concession to a Federal member. There are not many privileges of this kind available.
– The proposal is a paltry one.
– Some time after I took office, it was represented to me that the people of Brunswick wished to have a ceremony in connexion with the laying of the foundation stone of a post-office costing some £4,000, and I was asked to lay the stone. As I was not ambitious of the honour, and might not have time to attend, I suggested that the invitation should be given to the Federal member of the district, and, if necessary, that his name should be associated with the function. I would make a similar suggestion in regard to a post-office in any other Federal district. If, in the opinion of some honorable members, a Federal member cannot have a small honour of this kind conferred on bim, the position is one of comparative insignificance. I am surprised at anything being said with a view to take from the rights and privileges of honorable members.
– It is a municipal council idea.
– I hope that honorable members will not do anything to belittle the Parliament to which they belong.
.- This is an innovation. When Parliament is sitting, only the representatives of constituencies near Melbourne will be able to lay foundation stones.
– My name has been carved on half-a-dozen.
– Then we have more than one Cook for this job. One postoffice has been built in my electorate since Federation, but I . should have laughed at the idea of laying the foundation stone for it. You, Mr. Speaker, as a former member of the Victorian Assembly, will bear me out in the statement that this is the first time that a member’s name has been carved on a post-office foundation stone. I have’ seen memorial stones in other buildings, and think them absurd. I hope that this will be the first and the last case of the kind for which a Federal member is responsible.
– The honorable member for Yarra is in error, as the Geelong post-office has on it the name of the person who laid the foundation stone.
– Was it the Mayor?
– It was the Premier of the State at the time. This reminds me that the Geelong post-office requires a clock; and I mention the fact on this occasion, in case it should be thought that the Federal member for the district is not taking those energetic measures he should to secure one, because the name place on the stone is already occupied. J rise to object strongly to the honorable member for Coolgardie suggesting that an effort is being made by the honorable member for Bourke to get some electioneering support.
– It stands out plainly.
– Not so; the affection of the electors for Bourke for their present member is such that it is quite unnecessary for the latter to require aid of the kind in his candidature. ‘ I venture to say, that,when Mr. Anstey, the Socialist representative, whose candidature for Bourke is evidently being advocated by the honorable member for Coolgardie, is defeated, he will turn to the honorable member for Bourke, and, referring to the electors, say : “I asked them for bread, and they have given you the stone. ‘ ‘
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090924_reps_3_52/>.