4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs inform us when the secondproclamation in connexion with the Federal Capital territory will be issued?
– The matter is being deeply considered, and I hope soon, to be able to give the desired information.
– Will the Prime Minister lay on the table of the House the correspondence between him and the Premier” of New South Wales, regarding the issue of the proclamation affecting the Federal Capital area?
– With pleasure.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs aware that the New South Wales Government Architect has stated that it would be practicable to erect on the Capital site in two years, at a cost of £250,000, buildings for Commonwealth; purposes which could ultimately be made the internal portions of more elaborate permanent structures?
– That sum of money shall not be voted if I can prevent it.
– Am I to understand that £250,000 would be the cost of the internal portion of the Commonwealth Parliament House?
– I understand that the sum I have named would provide for our immediate requirements in regard to a Parliament House, a Government House, and public offices.
– If the honorable member will put a question on the notice-paper. I shall have the matter looked into.
– According to a telegram from Sydney appearing in to-day’s newspaper, the Premier of New South Wales stated last night, in the Legislative Assembly of the State, that the present position regarding the Federal Capital matter is very unsatisfactory. The report continues -
He had made a protest to the Federal Government against the proclamation being any further delayed. He received a communication from Mr. Fisher on 25th June, stating that his letter would receive immediate attention, and until Monday last, 4th July, he had heard no more from him. Under these conditions he wrote on Monday, and told Mr. Fisher that, in all the circumstances, the only thing left to him to do was to table the correspondence in Parliament. He was largely impelled by the fact that, whilst he and the Government knew this proclamation was being delayed, members of the Commonwealth Ministry were making public statements leading’ everybody to believe that all was in order and working in the usual way. All these statements were mere empty phrases, and all this talk so much waste of time.
In the light of this latest criticism, I ask the Minister of Home Affairs if the Government is prepared to allow the Premier of New South Wales to humiliate the national Parliament by continuing to dominate its policy in regard to the Federal Capital as he and the Governments of New South Wales have done ever since Federation ?
– I ask if the honorable member is in order in couching his question in those terms.
– The question is not strictly in order, but, as it contains a request, I shall allow it to be asked.
– An election is to take place in New South Wales next September, and the Premier of the State is actuated in what he is doing now by that consideration.
– It is the intention of the present Government to go right on, irrespective of the views of the Premier of New South Wales, or of any one else.
– Are we to gather from the Minister’s reply to tho question of the honorable member foi Parkes, that it. is the intention of the Government to ask Parliament to vote £250,000 for the construction of the internal portion of a Parliament House at the Federal Capital site?
– I have already informed the world that we shall not put up temporary buildings. Every stone and brick that is used will form part of a permanent structure. As soon as the permanent buildings are ready, those who are members of this Parliament will be invited to meet in the Federal Capital, but not until then.
– Am I to . understand, from the answer given to the honorable member for Laanecoorie, that the Minister of Home Affairs goes back on the answer given previously to me that he would consider the question of whether the Government Architect of New South Wales had so devised the internal part of the building that every brick and stone could be used in the ultimate edifice?
– Certainly not; it is simply a misapplication of another term.
– The Minister of Home Affairs, in answer to the honorable member for Werriwa, said that the question of issuing the second proclamation has received, and is receiving, deep consideration, and I ask the honorable gentleman whether as a result of that deep consideration any reason has been discovered why the second proclamation should not immediately issue?
– There are certain legal questions of phraseology and complexity of application that have to be considered.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs give the House any idea of when the second proclamation in regard to the Federal Capital will issue? If he is not in a position to do so now, when will he be able to?
– I think this matter has been carried far enough.
– We want to know.
– Parliament and the country . know that the proclamation will be issued as soon as the Government is ready. Previous Governments have dealt with the question for years, and made no progress.
– In the present inefficient condition of our Defence Force, and in view of the necessity for making it effective, does not the Minister of Home Affairs consider it sheer madness to spend any money . whatever in the promotion of a bush capital ?
– In the first place I do not. think our Defence Force is inefficient, and in the second I believe that we must carry out to the very letter the provision of the Constitution, which says that we shall build a capital.
– With reference to the statement of the Prime Minister that previous Governments have done nothing- in regard to the capital, I wish to ask him whether he is aware that the late Government had a Bill passed on the subject, that a surveyor was employed, and started the survey not only of the city site, but also of the territory itself, that arrangements were made with the EngineerinChief of New South Wales in .connexion with a survey of the line from Yass to Queanbeyan, in order to link up the Federal Capital with the. existing railway system, and also that a variety of other matters were dealt with by the late Government ?
– I am aware of it, and am aware also that the only steps taken to forward the question were taken by the two previous Governments of which I was a member. The other Governments have done nothing permanent.
– It is stated in the Speech of the Governor-General that, in connexion with the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, a measure will be submitted in which special arrangements will be made foi: the State of Western Australia. I wish to know whether the Prime Minister will consider - if he has not already done so - whether special consideration should not be given to Tasmania, because that State has suffered great loss under Federation.
– The special arrangements for Western Australia to which the honorable member refers are, of course, clearly necessary, because of the high ratio which the Customs and Excise revenue paid by the people of that State bears to its total revenue. As to the loss sustained by Tasmania, when the honorable member sees the figures he will notice that the contribution of Western Australia per capita is far in excess of the contribution of the next lowest State. -The Government has already taken the matter into consideration, and, although willing to review the question, 1 venture to say that Tasmania’s claim will not stand examination.
– The Government will consider the matter again?
– Is it correctly reported in to-day’s newspapers that, in connexion with the new telephone rates, there will be no free calls?
– That is so.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral considered that, averaging the calls by private subscribers, as he does, at four per diem, the minimum charge to a private country subscriber under the new rates will be £6 os.. rod. per annum and to a private city subscriber £7 os. 10d? In view of these facts, does he think that the change of system will effect the aim stated by Mr. Hesketh as the reason for it, that is, will this measured service place the telephones within the reach of small as well as large users ? Is this the way in which he proposes to place the telephone within the reach of the small users?
– I think that the honorable member for Parramatta is mixing up the minimum with the ‘average.
– I am assuming an average of four calls a day.
– The minimum will not be £i os. 10d., though the average may be that amount.
– How many calls will the subscriber get for the minimum charge? Suppose the subscriber has one call a day, how much will he have to pay ?
– In the country the subscriber with one call a day will pay about 10s., and in the city about ^4 10s., or 10s. less than he is now paying under the Chapman rate.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral, in bringing into operation the new telephone rates under Regulation 7a on the 1 st September, acting on the advice of the accountants who made the investigation, or is he acting on the advice of the Chief Electrician? On what advice or authority is he acting?
– I am not acting on the advice of the accountants appointed by my predecessor, but on the advice of the Chief Electrical Officer, modified to some extent by my own opinion.
– The PostmasterGeneral says that he is acting on the advice of the Chief Electrician, tempered by his own opinion, and I ask him whether he is entirely ignoring the advice of the accountants appointed to look into this matter?
– I say that I have not adopted their advice.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral given due weight to the concluding sentence in the report of Mr. Hesketh, where he says that the “ 7a” rates will not give to the public a satisfactory service? If he has considered that portion of the report, does he set himself up as a higher authority on the matter than those who have made the inquiry?
– I take the full responsibility for what I have done.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General another question regarding the telephone rates. I am concerning’ myself now only with private subscribers, and am not by any means an opponent of the toll system. Is the Minister aware that the private subscriber in the city who now pays £5 per annum will be entitled only to one call per day for that sum under the new rates? He will pay £4 ground rent, and if he. makes one call per day it willcost him a total of £4 15s. per annum. Is the Minister aware of that fact?
– I am quite aware of it.
– As the Post master-General has fixed ist September for the introduction of the new telephone rates, are we to understand that he is in possession, or that Parliament will be placed in possession, of the report of the Postal Commission which has been taking evidence for months, if not for years ? If he has that report, will he postpone the introduction of the new rates until it is laid before Parliament, so that honorable members may be able to study the. evidence which has been taken at such cost to the country, before the regulation is adopted?
– On the ist September the regulation will come into force.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs aware that his proposal that the Western Australian Government should reserve a twenty-five miles strip of land on either side of the proposed railway as a contribution towards the cost of the suggested work was made by myself some years ago when the Survey Bill was not before Parliament, and that the Government of Western Australia then agreed to that condition and undertook, through the right honorable member for Swan, to put such land in trust for the purpose? The Minister may find some record of the promise of the Western Australian Government among the official papers in his Department.
– At the time I made the suggestion I confess I was unconscious of the fact that the honorable member for Parkes had also made it. When the honorable member told me that he intended to ask this question, I looked into the matter, and here is what he said on the 14th October, 1909 -
The moment this line of survey is, I shall not say determined, but indicated, a number of enterprising capitalists will endeavour to get hold of land in the vicinity. They will know very well that should it become necessary to resume land the test of the compensation will be what was given for it, and what it was worth before the railway was actually undertaken. On the other hand, if the land is not resumed the occupiers will acquire the increment which results from the construction ofthe railway through what at present is unexplored country.
– I may point out that if answers are going to occupy such a length of time by the reading of extracts of this description, there is a danger of much of the day being so occupied. I suggest that if honorable members desire information of this kind they should move for a return to be laid on the table of the House. As the question has been asked, I suggest that the answer now being read be laid on the table for honorable members to see.
– I was just about to finish, and I should like to do so, because there has bgen such a storm about my suggestion, although it appears I am only following in the footsteps of a greater man.
– The Minister is not justified in taking his present course merely to justify himself in view of criticism which may have been passed. As the matter has gone so far it would, perhaps, be better to permit the remainder of the extract to be read, but I hope a similar instance will not arise again.
– The honorable member for Parkes proceeded - . 1 consider it necessary that before embarking on this expenditure of£20,000 we should require the two Governments through whose territory the line is likely to run to satisfy the Commonwealth Government that they have reserved from sale or lease a large extent of territory on each side. The object is that when we, as a Parliament, hereafter undertake the actual construction, we may lay it down as a condition that the Commonwealth shall in some form or other have a quid fro quo in the shape of a large extent of territory which would represent compensation for the outlay.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the evident desire of the State of South Australia to proceed with the development of the Northern Territory, which has been suspended by the negotiations, he will bring down a Bill, with the agreement as passed by the South Australian Parliament, so that an early decision may be given by this House?
– Yes, my colleague will shortly introduce a Bill.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, . upon notice -
Whether he will order a full list of the names and addresses of all those persons registered for temporary employment in their order of registration, under the various headings of occupations applied for, to be posted outside theoffice of the Public Service Commissioner in. each State from week to week in a prominent public position. Also the names and addresses, from week to week, of all those persons to whom such employment is given ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as. follows : -
It is estimated that at least 5,000 applicants are registered for temporary employment in thetwo larger States alone, and it is not considered that the heavy expense and clerical labour involved in the preparation and posting of the suggested lists from week to week would bejustified.
Applicants registered for temporary employment can at any time ascertain their positionon the list at the Public Service Inspector’soffices in the several States.
Wireless Telegraph Stations. - Mail Steamers : Departure from Fremantle.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
If he will be good enough to place on the Table the correspondence between the Post Office and himself respecting the hour of departure from Fremantle of the weekly mail steamers?
– Yes. Copies are being prepared.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Under it the men bind themselves for seven months. Should they leave during that period they can be imprisoned, and the costs of prosecution given against them. On the oTher hand, the mill authorities, should they so desire, can find a way to discharge men at a moment’s notice. Work may be suspended or resumed as suits’ the mill-owners’ option, yet the men cannot quit work at any time, or for any purpose, without permission. Work done must be carried out under conditions solely to be determined by the mill proprietors, and the cane cut must be weighed on the proprietors’ machines without any provision for the appointment of 1 check weighman for the workers. The men are also compelled to work on all farms contracted to the mill.
Tonnage rates are set forth, but in the event of any crop being burnt before file same shall be cut, a reduction of is. 6d. per ton shall be made. What is called a “bonus” of is. per ton is kept back until the completion of the contract, which must be carried out to the sole satisfaction of the employer. To sum up, the ironclad agreement contains full freedom of contract for the employers, but none for the employes who sign it?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - r, 2 and 3. I was not aware of the circumstances mentioned by the honorable member. I will, however, have prompt inquiry made as to the facts.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to place an export duty on hides and skins?
– It is not usual or expedient to disclose the intentions of the Government in regard to Tariff proposals.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Is the contour survey of the Federal Capital area at Y’ass-Canberra yet completed? And will he state what are the intentions of the Government in regard to fixing the site for the city, and obtaining designs for laying out the same, and for its principal public buildings?
– The answer to the honorable member’s’ question is as follows : -
The contour survey of the site for the Federal Capital City has been ‘completed, and the lithographs of the plan of the survey are being prepared. The Government has no intention to interfere with the selection of the site for the city. I propose to invite throughout the world competitive designs for laying out the city and subsequently for Parliament House, and probably some” of the other more important buildings. “ “
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he will favorably consider the extension of the regulation which enables small amounts to be paid to literary persons who are in need of assistance, so that artists and musicians who are equally with literary persons in need of help may have the same consideration ?
– It is not proposed at present to increase the sum on the Estimates which is now fully allotted.
Debate resumed from 6th July (vide page 129), on motion by Mr. Scullin -
That the Address in -Reply to His Excellency’s Speech, as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
.- Having regard to the attentive hearing which the mover and seconder of the motion for the Address-in- Reply received, I. feel that it is unnecessary for me to ask the indulgence of , honorable members whilst I deliver this my maiden speech in this House. In the first place, I desire, with most of the other honorable members .who have spoken, to compliment the .mover and seconder of the motion on the most brilliant speeches which they (‘delivered, -and which certainly did credit tb the .party to which I have the honour to belong. I was rather surprised to hear the attack made on this party yesterday in reference to the caucus. I have been indirectly connected with the Labour party for about twenty years, and have had recently a little experience of caucus rule, but I can say most emphatically that I have seen nothing of the mode of procedure which the Opposition would have people believe is indulged in -by us. It is true that we receive instructions or advice from the party that sends us here, and I have before me the pledge that I have. signed. Why did I sign it? I did so because I happened to be one of those who took part in the framing of the platform which it lays down. In the circumstances, what harm have I done by pledging myself, if returned, to endeavour to carry out in this House the propositions of which I told the electors of Denison 1 was in favour ? I fail to see that any harm can be done. The members of the Labour party are bound only so far as their platform goes. Outside of that platform, I claim the right, and shall exercise it, to do as I please on the floor of this House. Beyond that pledge no member of our party is bound. J am delighted to learn that the Government are about to make provision foi taking over the State debts, for in that way they will do much to consolidate our growing Commonwealth into the great nation which we expect it shortly to become. The consolidation of the State debts will also do much to put an end to the nefarious practice of borrowing that is being indulged in by the States. The Commonwealth has carried out magnificent reproductive works without borrowing a shilling, whereas we find the States themselves continually adding to Australia’s enormous debt. Since the inauguration of the Federation, the States have borrowed no less than £40,000,000. Of that huge sum, £7,500,000 was raised. by way of Treasury Bills - the most expensive and worst form of obtaining money for the State. Then, again, ‘ New South Wales, a very rich State, nothwithstanding that it has received from the Commonwealth the enormous sum of ,£24,000,000 has added to its public debt by ,£20,000,000 since Federation. Western Australia is an even worse offender, having regard to its population, since it has borrowed ,£7,500,000; whilst the little State of which I have the honour to be a representative has indulged in borrowing during the same period to the extent qf £[1, 600,000. I hope that the consolidation of the debts of the States will be rapidly brought about, and that when it is we shall, in some way or other, curtail the borrowing system. I recognise that honorable members- of the Opposition will be strongly opposed to any attempt made by us in that direction, because once we put a stop to Government borrowing,- we shall strike at the very bedrock of the capitalistic system. That is the reason why the Opposition have been so antagonistic to the project.
– Oh I
– No doubt, my honorable friend who interjects has profited very often in connexion with the negotiation of little loans throughout the length and breadth of Tasmania. In no country has the money-lender greater power than he has in the State from which I come, and I am not surprised therefore that the honorable member should interject so readily and try to side-track me. Another important matter which has received marked attention from the Opposition is the proposed -per capita return to the States of 25s. per annum. I regret exceedingly that the honorable member for Franklin is not present, because I wished him to hear the statement that I am about to make. The Labour party’s candidates in Tasmania at the recent general election did not pledge themselves to support this per capita return being made for any specified period. I told my constituents that I cared not whether it was made for ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years; that my sole desire was that the agreement should not be placed in the Constitution for all time, as I wished to save the Commonwealth. That was the all-important consideration. I realized that the story of the future lies mirrored in the history of the past.. My knowledge of the history of the United States has taught me a lesson. What was the stand taken up by that great statesman Alexander Hamilton, who found himself confronted by this self-same problem? Governor Clinton, of New York, in his day desired to obtain control of the finances of America - I may say in passing that I am not a pupil of the Minister of Home Affairs in this connexion ; the statement is original - and Alexander Hamilton saw that if he did he would also obtain control of the Union. It was the self-same consideration that led us to oppose the financial agreement being embodied in the Constitution. We had behind us one of the biggest daily newspapers in Australia. I refer to the Melbourne Age, which helped us considerably during the campaign in dealing with this most important matter. We saw that the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth’ would no longer have the power which should attach to his office if the financial agreement requiring this payment to be made were placed in the Constitution for all time.We saw that the State Premiers would be. able to dictate to him, and that he would thus be deprived of the power that we trust the occupant of his office will always possess. There is one matter associated with’ the proposal to, which I should like to refer. Tasmania at the present time is in very straitened circumstances, due, I admit, to maladministration in the past.
There we have simply pursued a borrowing policy, with the result that our legislators in the past have not been as careful as they should have been. They resorted to the practice of constructing roads and bridges out of borrowed money, and when a bridge was required to be renewed they simply built a new one beside it, and charged the cost to loan account. A very prominent member of the Tasmanian Parliament, wishing to keep faith with his constituents, caused an expensive swing bridge to be constructed over a river to allow ships to come up the stream; but, as a matter of fact, they have never done so. I refer to the Leith railway bridge, which I am credibly informed is never opened save when the authorities desire to ascertain whether or not it is in working order. A breakwater was also constructed to deepen the river channel, and with what result? The breakwater no longer exists, or is not effective. No doubt the money was spent under the old Government regime, but I ask honorable members to temper justice with mercy, and to give to Tasmania some assistance to tide her over the present depression.
– The Government should give her what the Labour candidates promised at the elections.
– I promised to do what I could, and am doing my best to get something in addition to the 25s. per’ head which the other States are to receive. I admit that the Prime Minister is right in saying that Tasmania does not pay to the Commonwealth as much as the amount expended by the Commonwealth on her public services. But I ask that justice be tempered with mercy. The State is fast becoming a province of Victoria. Our West Coast trade was in the old days done with Hobart; it is now done with Melbourne.
– And with Sydney.
– Yes. It is the same with the North- West Coast trade. The Oonah makes two- voyages a week between Melbourne and the North- West Coast of Tasmania. Consequently our Customs revenue has fallen off. Instead of importing from the Old Country direct, our merchants now import from Victoria and New South Wales. I hope that the Commonwealth will come to our rescue. I am quite in accord with the Government regarding the proposed note issue, which I feel sure will play an important part in bringing prosperity to the Commonwealth. I am glad that it is to be the forerunner of a State Bank. I obtained a majority of 2,000 upon my election because, from the Start to the finish of my campaign, I advocated the establishment of a national bank. I did that because I had made myself fully acquainted with the working of the Swiss State bank, and knew the advantages which Switzerland has gained by possessing such an institution. I knew, too, what Japan had done in the matter. She has a State commercial, a State agricultural, and a State specie bank. Denmark and other countries have also State banks. If a country is to be progressive it must control the money volume. The Labour platform provides for the fixing of a minimum rate of wages, and the introduction of new Protection, and my knowledge of banking teaches me that it is often impossible for an employer of labour - a manufacturer, merchant”, farmer, agriculturalist, or orchardist - to pay fair and reasonable wages because of the high rates of interest which he is . charged by the banks, and the uncertainty regarding the advance. I have been informed that this has occurred : A man has told his employes that he could not pay higher wages to them, but on being compelled to do so, and going to his banker afterwards, has been informed that as money was becoming tighter he would have to be charged an additional½ per cent. for the discounting of his bills, and an additional 1 per cent, on his overdraft. Thus in part, the banks, and not wholly the law of supply and demand, as some would have us believe, control the rates of wages. Therefore I am glad that the institution of a State bank is proposed. Yesterday a great deal was said on the subject of security. It was asked, “ What security has the Commonwealth for its note issue ?’ ‘ I ask honorable members opposite what security would they have offered for the£3,500,000 which they obtained parliamentary sanction to borrow for the construction of warships, which would have become obsolete in ten years. They would have offered as security the people of the Commonwealth, and it is that which will be behind our note issue. If there were not an ounce of gold in the Treasury coffers, it would not matter, because no English community, to my knowledge,’ has repudiated its debts, and I am sure that Australia will not do so. While we have the working people of this country as an asset we shall have sufficient security for our note issue. According to the latest official returns, the highest percentage of coin and bullion held by the. banks, in proportion to their total liabilities on call, is only 53.27 per cent. They work on the good faith of the people. In 1797, when Pitt came to the rescue of the banks in England, as when, less than 100 years later, Sir George Dibbs came to the rescue of the banks in New South Wales, and received £3,000 as a bonus for doing so, and Mr. Seddon’came to the rescue of the Bank of New Zealand, the people were, . as they are now, the real security behind the banks.
– What does the honorable member mean by saying that Sir George Dibbs received £3,000 from the banks ?
– I did not say that he received £3,000 from the banks. I understand that the State Government made him a present of that amount.
– That is not correct.
– I am glad to hear that it is not. I have read the statement in a work concerning New South Wales. I look upon the financial editor of the Sydney Bulletin as one of the greatest financial authorities in Australia. According to him, the Union Bank started in Australia with a capital of less than £144,000, and in the first fifty years of its career paid over £8,000,000 in dividends’ to its shareholders. The Bank of Australasia started with a capital of £200,000, and in its first fifty- three years paid over £6,000,000 in dividends to its shareholders. The Union Bank is paying dividends at the rate of 14 per cent; the Bank of Australasia at the rate of 12 per cent., with an 8s. bonus ; and the Bank of Western Australia at the rate of 20 per cent. Could any business be more profitable? How are those profits made. They are taken out ot the pockets of the workers. I hope that the day may not be far distant when that state of things will be changed, and that the change will be effected by the establishment of a State Bank. One of the most important measures mentioned in the Speech is the proposed land tax. I have been surprised at the want of knowledge on this subject displayed by members of the Opposition. I understood the right honorable member for Swan to say that it is proposed to tax the small man who is struggling; we do not wish to do anything of the kind. We propose a land value tax because it is the fairest tax that can be devised, and the only impost which must be paid directly by the land-owner. That is the objection to it felt by our opponents.
– What is the object of the proposed tax ?
– To break up the big estates. At all events, that is what I hope from it. If the rate at first agreed to does not prove effective, I hope that next year it will be increased to an amount which will be effective. The object of the tax should be to break up the big estates, and to get revenue. We need revenue, and should get it in the only fair and legitimate way, by taxing the land. Other modes of taxation are not fair and just. The time for getting revenue by Customs duties is gone. What is the objection to Customs taxation ? It is that the importer often makes profits by adding more than the amount of the Customs taxation to the price of the goods that he imports. He pays the duty, and charges interest on the money he paid for the goods he took out of bond : and that is the reason we are not in favour of taxation through the Customs. I hope we shall shortly have a land value tax which will throw open the large estates and populate this country as it ought to be populated. In Tasmania we feel the effects of land monopoly more than they are felt in any other State. Young men and women are leaving Tasmania ; and it is not hard to believe that there are now about 45,000 Tasmanian residents in other parts of the Commonwealth. Land cannot be purchased within reasonable distance of railways, or with proper access to markets, except under prohibitive prices which are impossible to orchardists and other cultivators. To my sorrow, the other day I met a young man from Tasmania on his way to Queensland, in the hope of there obtaining land. I read in Hansard a statement to the effect that the people were perched up in the hilly country of Tasmania, endeavouring to earn a living from the difficult soil to be there obtained; proof of this latter statement can be found at Bismarck. In the midlands of Tasmania thirty-six farms have been broken up into one sheeprun, and the land assessment there has dropped until, I think, speaking troin memory, the value is now represented by £2 5s. per acre.
– What is the land really worth ?
– It is worth £9 or £10 per acre; at any rate, Colonel Cameron paid £9 per acre for land at Monaville. At West Devon, where there is closer settlement, the people are penalized for every improvement they make on fheir farms, and the assessment has gone up by leaps and bounds, until for taxation purposes it is £14 per acre. It is in Franklin, however, that we find even a worse state of things, because the land there is assessed as high as £25 per acre, while people are actually paying £12 per acre for the purchase of bush land. This latter land must cost £20 per acre to clear, and then the trees have to be planted, with a wait of seven years for any return. This is the way in which. the people are struggling in Tasmania, and yet we find representatives from that State decrying any attempt to introduce land value taxation.
– The honorable member does not know much of Tasmania outside of Hobart:
– I know that’ our desire is to tax the unearned increment. I know a young man in Hobart, who, getting behind the scenes, was enabled to purchase at a small price land to which a railway service had to be extended ; and immediately the work had been carried out, and the population followed, his land rose to a value of £300. We know that young man did not produce that increased value, but that it was produced by the railway extension and the consequent increase in population. 1 have a return here which shows that in New South Wales the circumstances are similar.- According, to Wise’s Common wealth of Australia -
In the State of New South Wales, 987 persons own properties of over ^50,000 in value. These fortunate ones, among them, own ^130,521,000 worth of property, or 35.4 per cent, of the whole property of the State, themselves being only 0.13 of the population. Mr. Coghlan remarks that probably half the State is owned by 3,000 persons, and what pertains to New South Wales obtains in varying degrees, of seriousness in all the States.
I hope, indeed I am sure, honorable members will pass the measure imposing taxation on land values, and thus break up the large estates now causing so much harm throughout the length and breadth of the country. The Governor-General’s Speech intimates that the High Commissioner has arrived in London, and taken up his duties. Tt would be desirable if the Government found something for that gentleman to do than attend big dinners; otherwise, instead of his feasting in London, we shall find him feasting in Paradise.
– That is the principal business in London !
– Then the sooner there is an alteration the better. I hope that some of the Queensland representatives will enlighten us with reference to the Sugar Bounty and sugar matters generally. 1 do not know much of the question myself, but I should like to learn why a rise.’ of 5s. per ton in, Germany causes a similar rise in Australia, and whether the growers or the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are reaping the benefit. I think I have said sufficient to convince at any rate some honorable members opposite. It did me good to hear one honorable member interject that the time had gone past for the taxation of the workers through the Customs. After all, there are only two powers the Labour party desire for the Government, namely, the control of the money volume, and the control of the land of the country, because then provision would be made for work for everybody.
– And the credit volume too.
– That naturally follows. If this Government be given a “ fair deal,” I am sure that at the end of their three years’ service the people will say, “ Well done, thou good and faithful servants ; return to carry on your excellent work.”
– 1 am one who thinks that long debates on the Address-in-Reply are not required nowadays ; and I am glad to observe that short speeches have been made by honorable members who preceded me, whose commendable example I hope to follow. 1 had pleasure in noticing that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech opened with a reference to our late and peace-preserving King, and a prayer for the future welfare ~si the Empire under his successor King George. There are many topics touched on in the Speech which I shall not deal with just now. Many ‘ of the . paragraphs relate to measures which, I think, there will be no trouble in passing ; but there are also some highly contentious matters. The Government do not indicate very clearly how far they intend to go as to these latter questions; but, knowing what was said to the people during the regent elections, we may look for a pretty drastic programme. I should first like to say a word or two about finance. I had rather an agreeable surprise a few moments ago when the honorable member for Hume asked the_ Prime Minister if he proposed to give special consideration to Tasmania in his financial proposals. I know that some years ago, when the honorable member for
Hume was Treasurer, he did not do very much to assist the island State, although it was pointed out that it was losing heavily through Customs leakage, Inter- State cer- %tificates, and so forth ; but I am glad to see that he is a convert, and look for his hearty support for the motion which I shall submit when the financial proposals are before us. In one respect, the Prime Minister appears to be treating the States rather harshly. His intention is to pay them under the Braddon section up to the end of this year, and during the following six months ending 30th June, 191 1, instead of paying 25s. per head, he proposes an amount which will not work out at anything like that proportion for that par- ticular six months.
– Were the States not prepared to take ,£600,000 less under the agreement first proposed?
– They were; but I think that is a very poor argument to use now. That promise in regard to the £600,000 was coupled with other conditions and arrangements, as represented in the recent proposed agreement ; but the Government are taking only the one part of that agreement that suits them, and are ignoring all the other considerations. The people, however, decided against the agreement ; and, -therefore, I take it, we are .beginning de novo. If we are to carry out anything like the promises indicated by Labour candidates during the late elections, the States have a right to expect 25s. per head, not’ for ten years, - but for at least twentyfive years. No less an exponent of the Labour policy than the Minister of Defence himself guaranteed to the people of Western Australia that they should be paid for a term of twenty-five years.
– The honorable member knows very well that the Labour party fought the late Government on that very question in this House !
– I know that the agreement was fought in the House, and lost before the country; and, therefore, as I say, we are beginning again.
– The State Governments are trying to dominate the National Parliament.
– I am not saying anything in favour of either State or Commonwealth, but merely trying to be fair to both parties, and looking only to the interests of the people of Australia. This Parliament is one agent of the people and the State Parliaments are a second agent.
If there is friction and haggling between the agents, only the people will suffer; and there is too much of the cry of the National Parliament versus the State Parliaments.
– Why did the honorable member not think of that when the Financial Agreement was before the House?
– I voted for the agreement because I deemed it a fair, right, and honorable settlement of a difficult problem. It must be remembered that the majority against the Bill was very small, having regard to the whole of the Commonwealth ; and several States, which had their financial position acutely brought before them, favoured the agreement as it stood. If the Prime Minister desires to treat the States fairly, he will not date the period of ten years from this year, but start from the 1st January next to pay the 25s. per head. If ,he chooses to deduct from the payments due to the States the deficiency of ,£440,0.00, of course he has the power to do so. But to deduct that ,£440,000 from the States and then pay them for the following six months at a rate equal to less than 25s. per head for the whole period of the financial year ending on 30th June, 191 1, is to treat them very unfairly and meanly. Mr. Agar Wynne. - Have they not had £6,000,000 over their share already ?
– They got it because the Constitution allowed it to them. What is the good of haggling over what is past?
– The honorable member is haggling now over ,£400,000.
– I am not. That £6,000,000 was paid to the States because they were entitled to it under the Constitution, and the Commonwealth Treasurer could not keep it. If he could have, he would probably not have let it go. Even if the States have received in the past more than some people think they ought to have got, is that any reason for penalizing them now ?.
– Why penalize us?
– I do not think it is a great penalty to the Commonwealth to start the ten years’ term at the end of 1910, when the Constitution allows the Braddon clause to be altered. The Prime Minister’s present proposal gives the States really only a nine and a-half years’ period. The financial position of Tasmania is acute, and has been so for some time. I have pointed that out to the people of Tasmania from the platform for years, and now that there is a chance, when we are about to make fresh financial arrangements, of getting support for special treatment for that State, I intend to launch a “motion to test whether the House is prepared to do justice and treat the smaller States in a truly Federal spirit. The Prime Minister has given a reason why he cannot grant special consideration to Tasmania; but I think, when the times comes, I can give an effective answer to the conclusion which he drew this afternoon. I do not think he is looking at all the facts of the case- or drawing the right conclusion from the case a-j a whole. At any rate, I shall submit to him a case which, I think, will somewhat weaken the contention which he put forward here to-day. I hope, with the assistance of the honorable member for Hume, to do something effective in that direction before the financial question is finally settled. Another important matter is the proposed note issue. I do not wish to be an alarmist, for I have no fear whatever about the notes being paid, but I think we are changing a very good and efficient system for one that is not going to be of any great benefit to the public interest. Under the present arrangement the States receive from the note tax £75,006 per annum, which goes into the State Treasuries for “the benefit of the people of Australia. By the new note issue we shall take away that £75,000 from the States, and are to make, presumably, something like £90,000 or ^100,000 by means of a saving in interest on the three or four million pounds of which we are to have the handling. The people of Australia will, therefore, if they get every penny of that ,£90,000 or £100,000, only be making a profit of the difference, but there will be a good deal of expense attached to the business, and other incidental expenditure that will bring the profit down practically to nil. Another point is that the Prime Minister will really have a loan in disguise. He will have three or four million pounds to play with, which he can use as a loan, and yet he says he is not going to borrow. It is of no use to quibble about it. It will be a loan, but I suppose it will be in a form which will enable him to keep within the plank of the Labour platform which prohibits borrowing.
– That is what is troubling the honorable member.
– I am not troubled about it, but Australia will be no better off under the Prime Minister’s proposal than if we borrowed three or four, million pounds and paid interest on it outside. The note issue mav become risky if a financial crisis arises. There may be an overissue, and then the people who have to handle the notes may find that they have depreciated in value. I do not predict that that will happen, but I cannot see that the people will get any great benefit from the innovation. I can see.no stamp of genius on the proposal. It is more legerdemain than anything else. It is a disguised loan after all, and the real benefit to the community will be about nil. In fact, it will be a more rigid system than the present, because, if money is wanted now, bank notes can go out freely and come back to the banks, and there is no tightness in the currency.
– Does the honorable member remember when the notes of the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land were selling for 8s. or 9s. in the £1 in the streets of Hobart in the nineties?
– I do, but the honorable member cannot say1 that there is any likelihood of the same thing happening with the notes of any existing Australian bank within the lifetime of honorable members. The financial system of Australia is in an exceptionally sound state so far as bank notes are concerned. They are a first charge on the assets of the banks, each of which has in its coffers about seven sovereigns for every note that it has floating about. There cannot be anything risky about such a system. Another contentious matter is raised by the following paragraph in the speech -
A measure will be submitted to you to provide for a progressive tax upon the unimproved Value of land, with an exemption of ^5,000.
I do not want to go into that matter at this stage, because it is very important and farreaching, but, broadly, I hold that the time has gone by when the Federation should touch the land of the Commonwealth, unless there is some special or pressing emergency. The States, especially the small, ones, will soon require all the revenue that they can get from land. All the States are now moving towards a tax on unimproved land values, and when that is imposed it is to be presumed that everybody who comes within its scope will be paying to the States what he ought to be paying. Every land-owner will be doing his duty in regard to his land by paying fair taxation to the States, but the Commonwealth is then to ask those who happen to own more than £5,000 worth of land to pay still mole. It will not be fair to make those who are paying all that they should be asked to do, in the shape of land taxation to’ the States, to pay still more taxation to the Commonwealth on the same property. That policy will not make for prosperity or inducepeople to go on to the land. It will do no good to the community, and will be the reverse of an encouragement to settlers. A man may be lending out hundreds of thousands of pounds, living in the city in luxury on the ‘ interest of it, and not doing’ as much as he ought for the general good of the community, but he will get off with a paltry income tax, whereas the man who goes out to develop the country will be so penalized and crippled that it will take him all his time to keep his estates and live. A man who owns £50,000 worth of unimproved land will shortly be paying 2d. or 3d. in the £1 to the State, and on the top of that the Federation will come along and ask him for another 4d. in the £1, which will comecto about £900.
– The States will have to abrogate their land taxation.
– But the smaller States will have to get as much revenue as they can from all sources. They will need it badly, because they will be receiving less from the Commonwealth than hitherto, and their expenditure is going up. They have to develop their territories, to maintain and build railways, roads, and bridges, and to make effective their public health, education, and a thousand and one other activities. They will want even more revenue than they want to-day, and will have less opportunity of getting it. There will, theretom, be a very tight pinch for the States.
– This will be another blow at the States - that is one of the objects of it.
– That may be so, but I am not going to charge the present Administration with that. I would rather believe that they have gone into the matter, because they are pledged to it, and could not possibly meet the House after the late campaign, and in view of the programme which they have been offering to the people for so long, without putting a land tax in the forefront of their programme. A great many of the members of the Ministerial party think that it will have the effect , of causing Australia to be settled by a large number of farmers, but the land which is going to be burst up by the tax - if any- bursting up takes place - will be the poor stuff. The owner of the rich land will hold out to the last. If honorable members opposite, who know so much about the land, intend to ask poor people to go on to poor- land they will be doing an excessively cruel action. If they want closer settlement they must give good land to men who are prepared to go on to small areas, but that is the very class of land which they will not get by this tax.
– That is what we shall get.
– Judging by his speech, the honorable member’ for Corangamite, if he could not get it in any other way, would go on taxing and taxing until the land, had no value at all.
– I would break up the big estates, like. some of those in my electorate, and put the people on the good lands which are now sheep walks.
– I have no doubt the honorable member proposes to let the end justify any means in his case.
– Human beings before animals, even in the carrying of bags.
– Certainly, but the States are already taxing all these landholders, or will be doing so very shortly. The Victorian Legislative Assembly last year passed a drastic unimproved land tax, and that measure will be sent up again to the Legislative Council this session. Tasmania has had heavy land taxation for many years. She is going to change that system now for an unimproved land tax, under which the big land-holders, who have been supposed by some, perhaps correctly, not to have been paying as much in land taxation as . they should, will have to pay their full share.
– Has Mr. Wade taken it up in New South Wales?
– I do not know about New South Wales, but I hope that this Government is legislating for Australia as a whole. Simply because Queensland has had nothing in the shape of a land tax yet, and is in the position to stand the tax, and because New South Wales has not yet had a land tax which presses at all heavily on the people, and can stand a good deal more, is no consideration to be shown to the small and needy States which have done their duty as land taxers ?
– Name a State which has done its duty in the way of land taxation.
– Tasmania has gone veiy near it. and when it puts on an unimproved land tax-
– Probably next session. The honorable member for Corangamite may think that a shake of the head is a sufficient reply to my statement, but I know a little more than he does of the Tasmanian Parliament and the Ministerial programme in that State.
– What about the Tas manian Upper House?
– It will pass an unimproved land tax. My honorable friend is not a stronger advocate than I am of the principle of closer settlement. If he desires to acquire any of these large estates he will see that a compulsory purchase clause is the proper provision to make, so that a fair price will be paid for those estates which he thinks should be broken up. I do not say that the owners’ price should be paid, but certainly a fair price ought to be given. If he is not prepared to do that, then he practically confesses that he is ready to support the imposition of a tax of 6d. in the £1 to carry out his object, and, if necessary, to increase that tax to a shilling in the £1, in order to make these large estates worthless to men who bought them, perhaps, not many years ago, and paid a fair price for them. To do that would be to rob the land-holders. If he advocates such a system, then he is urging that this Parliament, this law-making machine for all Australia, which ought to be the purest source of justice, shall be used to do an immoral act. The Government which would legislate in such an unscrupulous manner as to tax a man out of his holding by making it worthless ‘ to him would be unscrupulous enough to do pretty well anything to those who stood in their way. It is all very well for a man like the honorable member for Corangamite,. who is a Socialist, and who would seize the land under any pretext, to say that this should be done, but there are others who hold different views. There are people on the land who have . some rights and privileges. If their holdings are to be taken from them, let them be acquired at a fair price. Do nottake them without payment, simply because the Government can use the proposed tax, not as a means of taxation, but as an instrument of extor- tion and absolute robbery.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark. It is not in order for an honorable member to designate as “ robbery “ legislation brought in by any Ministry.
– Certainly, I withdraw the remark, sir. What I contend is that those who would use the proposed tax as a means to acquire for £2 or£3 per acre, land that is worth £10, would cause that tax to become an instrument of confiscation. I need not refer further to the subject as we shall have a full opportunity to air our views upon it when the Land Tax Bill is before us. We are. told that the Government propose to repeal the Naval Loan Act of 1909. If they have other means of financing the £3,500,000 that we proposed to raise under that Bill - if they are going to obtain the necessary money by means of a Commonwealth note issue, or some other scheme - the repeal of the Act perhaps will not be a serious blow to the Commonwealth. I trust, however, that they are not going to interfere with the principles of naval and military defence which the Fusion Government stamped on the statute-book last session. I hope that the Ministry’ have recognised that the naval policy which the Fusion Government introduced is far superior to that outlined by the previous Labour Administration. The Minister of Defence in the first Fisher Administration appeared to be too ready to rely for Australia’s naval strength upon the construction of a number of small vessels of the destroyer class. The Fusion Government, however, introduced a policy that permitted of our first line of defence being on the deep sea, and of the Australian system becoming part and parcel of an Imperial defence scheme. It is certainly something of which we may well be proud, and I hope that the Government, recognising the superiority of that policy over that with which their party threatened the country,, will not interfere with it. I am inclined to believe that they will not make any change, since they appear to be seized with the fact that the question of Imperial unity is a growing and important one. In other parts of the Speech, they speak of improving trade relations, and I presume that reference has something to do with preferential trade.
– Or reciprocity.
– Quite so. The Government also speak of stretching a cable across to Canada, so that we may have communication over British territory between Australia and the Old
Land. These are Imperial propositions, and I commend the Government for taking them up. Reading them, it seems to me that tlie Government intend to keep to the front, both in connexion with naval defence, and, I hope, our military system, our Imperial obligations to the Empire. There is in the Speech a paragraph which may relate to an exceedingly drastic proposition. It is hard to frame any criticism’ of it as the paragraph stands, but I have no doubt from what we have heard that the bills which will be introduced to provide for an amendment of the Constitution, in respect to our power to pass industrial legislation, will be far reaching. They may not go» so far as some anticipate, but I am sure that they will go a long way. The principle of the. new Protection is involved in this question, and if the Government are not careful it seems to me that by extending the powers of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court they will create more trouble and do the employes more harm than good. We have Wages’ Boards and Arbitration Courts in the various Sta’tes, and if the Federal ‘Government propose that the Commonwealth Court shall have co-ordinate powers, the change will certainly do more harm than good. No section of the House, since I have been a member, has desired that low wages should prevail in Australia. No section of the House has encouraged sweating. I do not think that such a charge can ever be laid against the Federal legislator. We are all anxious that, the worker shall receive payment worthy of his hire.But if we extend the powers of the FederalCourt so that it may give decisions covering the ground traversed by the State tribunals, we shall have much -friction. Men will not know where the Federal awards begin and the State awards end. Although the Labour party are anxious that lawyers shall be kept out of the Arbitration Courts, I am inclined to think that the only people to derive any solid reward from such a condition of affairs will be the professional philanthropists known as lawyers. Men will need to have a lawyer at their elbow whenever they make a move. Recently the Prime Minister said it was not the intention of his Government to do away with Wages Boards, and it seems to me that he is going to create a Federal Board, having co-ordinate powers, so that the present system will be duplicated. In such circumstances we shall probably have a State Wages Board making one award in regard to a particular industry, and the Federal Board making an entirely, different award. This must lead to much confusion j but as the reference to the matter in the Governor-General’s Speech is some*what indefinite, I shall not make further allusion to it at the present stage. A question that must receive the serious attention of the House has relation to the sugar industry, in connexion with which some improvement must be effected. The burdensome Excise and Bounty system, which we introduced in order to uphold the policy of a White Australia, was intended to come to an end at some time or other, and I think that the day is not far distant when a decisive stand must be taken up. I have come to the conclusion that it is time we had a better system.
– Would the honorable member do away with the Excise and Bounty, and simply allow the import duty to continue? n
– I have not come to a definite conclusion, but it seems to me that the Excise and Bounty need to be swept away, and that we should rely solely on the Customs duty.
– That is what the big manufacturers - the combine - want.
– Such a change would not relieve the taxpayer.
– I have not made up my mind as to what should be done, and I admit -that I have yet much to read on the subject. It is fairly clear, however, that the people of Australia are being asked to do a little too much in the interests of the sugar growing State. No doubt the question will be threshed out, and if my further investigation of the subject proves that I am on the right lines I shall have much pleasure in supporting an amendment of the present system. We ar« promised an amendment of the Electoral Act, and I hope that we shall have such an alteration as will do justice to the democracy of Australia. I trust that we shall have a system that will- enable this House to be a true reflex of the will of the people. So far as this Chamber is concerned, there could be no better system than that of preferential voting. If it were applied the electors would have under it the widest choice of candidates. There would be no danger of a split vote, even if there were forty candidates on one side and only one on the other. If more votes in the aggregate were cast for the party represented by the forty candidates one of those candidates would be returned.
– Would the honorable member get rid of the present system of single electorates?
– Our electoral distribution would remain as it is. Where only one member is returned for each constituency, there can be no better method of recording votes than that applied in Tasmania to the election of members of the State Upper House. ‘It allows the public the widest range of choice, and insures that the candidate elected shall ha%’e the support of the majority of those who have taken the trouble to go to the poll.
– The honorable member is referring to what is known as the contingent voting system?
– I call it the preferential voting system. My view is that it should be applied to the election of members of this House.
– No member on this side of the Chamber was returned on a minority vote.
– I am not uttering these views because of what occurred at the last election. We should make it impossible for any one on either side to be elected on a minority vote. At the present time the political organizations do what they can to prevent candidates from offering themselves, so that there shall be no splitting of votes ; but with the preferential system that would be unnecessary, and the public would have the widest range of choice. In every case the member elected under the preferential system represents a majority of those who voted. If there is a spark of Democracy in the present Administration, many months will not elapse before a measure legalizing preferential voting is placed on the statute-book. It is a great cry with Labour members that if they are anything they are Democrats. If they understand what Democracy means, they must require that preferential voting shall become the law of Australia before very long. An important subject, which is dealt with very unsatisfactorily in the Governor-General’s Speech is immigration. If Australia is to become a nation, it must attract to its shores people of the right stamp. Our population is increasing too slowly. Should, the Commonwealth and the States agree as to the means to be adopted to induce immigration, the High Commissioner, no doubt, could be of service in selecting suitable immigrants. We do not want immigrants of any sort. I should not like an inrush of people to Australia such as now takes place to Canada. We are not in a position to absorb such a large number as is going to Canada, and, no doubt, many of the Canadian immigrants are persons whom we might well be without. But there are many persons wishing to leave the older countries of the world whom we should welcome to Australia. They would come here with the spirit of determination and persistence which animated the early pioneers, who turned the forests of Gippsland, and the perhaps even denser forests of the northwest coast of Tasmania, into smiling farms. With more persons like that in Australia, there would be much less land lying idle. The States should adopt a more progressive policy of development, pushing out railways wherever there is a prospect of good land being settled upon. At present they are too timid, leaving settlers without means for getting their produce to market. If more were done ‘ to open up the country, settlement would follow means of communication. There are plenty of persons seeking good land. Persons of the right stamp will never regret making Australia their home.
– Has the honorable member ever been on the land ?
– No, but I have lived in the midst of those who make their living from the land, and know their conditions. I earn my livelihood chiefly by serving those who till the soil. My sympathies are with those who have the courage to go out into the backblocks. They are the men whom I am always ready to help. The reference to immigration in the Speech Ls very vaguely worded. It practically makes the Government immigration policy depend upon the land tax proposals. If there is to be no immigration until the large estates of Australia have been opened up, and fertile land made available by means of a land tax, we shall have to wait a long time for it. The effect of the proposed land tax will be largely to throw poor sheep-carrying land out of use - land which no poor man in his senses would try to get a living from. The fertile land of the country will be the last to be thrown on the market as the result of this thumbscrew tax. Our Labour friends say.. “ We are not against immigration,” but whenever an attempt is made to induce immigration they do what they can, by writing to the Home press, or in other ways, to throw cold water on the scheme. They say that they would ‘ welcome immigrants but that they do not want them to come until land is available for them. I ask the Ministers of the Crown and the members of the Labour party who came to Australia from other countries whether they waited until there was land available for them? They have done very well by coming here, and it is creditable to them that they have improved their positions. But there must be many other persons who, given the same opportunities, would do as well. Why does the Labour party say, “ We shall not assist immigration until there is land available for the immigrants ‘ ‘ ? Every immigrant will not desire to go on to the land. There are many walks of life in which immigrants could find employment here. Once here, they would become consumers, and, before long, producers, and perhaps employers. I expected, too, that the Government programme would contain a proposal for insurance against unemployment. Our friends opposite are very fond of speaking of their love of humanity, and I expected that an attempt would be made by them to assist the unemployed. The. last Government, which I supported, caused inquiries to be made regarding the means of alleviating the distress which follows unemployment, and I have no doubt that, had it remained in office, there would have been submitted to Parliament ‘this session a proposal for insurance against unemployment. The omission of such a measure from the Labour party’s programme is a serious reflection on those who profess to be ‘the friends of the poor, the distressed, and the struggling. It would have been a grave reflection on any other party, but it is a most grave reflection on those who profess to think of nothing but the interests of the poor.
– The rich can look after themselves.
– That is why honorable gentlemen opposite should.be forward in helping the poor.
– Where are they?-
– Not on the other side, where all the capitalists in the House are to be found. There is also another omission which I think is worth noting. In the Speech I ‘see no reference to any measure to codify the law on any subject. During the regime of the last Government we passed a Bills of Exchange Bill, which codified the law on the subject for all Australia. We also passed a Marine Insurance Bill, which practically codified the law on the subject, and saves endless trouble to persons in searching authorities.
It is a most useful measure indeed to the trading community. I see no reference in the Speech to a measure to consolidate the law relating to insolvency or companies, or to other great and useful codifying measures which might be taken in hand. I see no reference to a measure which is to cater for ordinary business men and the community generally.
– It appears to me that the honorable member wants to grease the fat man all the time.
– That is a most unjust remark. The honorable member is, of. course, aware that every State has an Insolvency Act and a Companies Act, but we want a measure codifying the State laws on those subjects for the whole of Australia. It is only a question of codifying existing laws on certain subjects, and bringing them up to date. That is a very useful work which this Parliament will have to undertake sooner or later. It is a work which was most successfully begun in one or two cases by the Fusion Government last session. When the programme of the present Government is put into operation it will be a case of saying goodbye to the Federation. In the Constitution this Parliament is endowed with certain legislative powers, and all. unspecified powers are left with the States. As the States have to defray 85 per cent, of the cost of government, and find money for developing their territories, they will be left without the necessary means when the programme of this Government is brought into operation. There is going to be a crushing and belittling of the States, and in an indirect way unification will be brought about. I have never said that I am opposed to unification as a system. I have never pretended to know enough about the subject to either support or condemn the system. But if we are to have unification let it be introduced in an open and direct manner. Let us know what we are to get, and what we are to do.
– The honorable member will support my proposal ?
– I am not prepared to go that far. It is not a fair thing to introduce that system after only ten years’ experience of the Federation. With the proposed increase in the number of oldage pensioners more money will be needed. I am not against that proposal, but [ want to point out to the House what will be the effect of all these measures on the other governing agents of the peoples of
Australia. Again, the proposed land tax must tend to cripple the people of the States. At present the latter are paying 1 fair land tax to their State Treasurer, but in future they will have to pay a Federal as well as’ a State land tax. The State Treasurer will probably have to reduce the State tax, and he may not have enough money to carry on the functions of Government. We have also to keep in view all the industrial legislation covering the State legislation. It seems to me that we are moving indirectly, but strongly, towards unification.
– How. does the honorable member like the idea?
– I do not know that it is going to be such a bad thing as is represented ; but I would rather see it brought about in a fair, straight, and aboveboard manner. The Prime Minister has said that he is against unification, and the AttorneyGeneral has stated that it is not within the sphere of practical politics. I understand that there are as many members of the Labour party against unification as there are in favour of it.
– I defined my position in making that statement.
– Is the honorable gentleman still against unification?
– The honorable member will find my views stated explicitly and fully in Hansard for last session.
– That statement was made before the election. Take his statement made during the campaign.
– I accept the Prime Minister’s assurance. I know that on one occasion he was reported in the press to have said that he was against unification.
– Does not the honorable member think that my proposal to give to the States 25s. per head is a proof of that ?
– That is one of the things which must lead to unification. The States can hardly, make ends meet. For instance, Tasmania has tapped fairly well nearly every source of revenue. In the future, it will have to carry out numerous functions with perhaps less money than it has been receiving.
– Its Government agreed to that.
– I know that it did. I was quite- satisfied to support the, agreement when the State Government was prepared to accept it; but, at the same time, I think that, sooner or later, it must have a tendency in the direction I have indicated. However, the popular will has decided that the present occupants of the Treasury bench shall govern. If they introduce any measure which I think is a right and proper one to pass, and which agrees with my principles, no feeling of party bias will prevent me from supporting it. I shall vote independently. No doubt, during the session, I shall be able to extend a hearty support to some measures which the Government bring forward.
– How could that possibly happen ?
– I do not think that the honorable member could charge me with inconsistency.
– Oh, much of it i
– Certainly no more than the honorable member would have to admit on his own part. The Government are in power as the result of the popular will, and I only hope, in the interests of the people of Australia, that their reign will be marked by the peaceful progress of the whole country, and that the fears, expressed as to the result of certain of their important and far-reaching measures will not be so baneful as anticipated. I hope that the measures before us will be rapidly dealt with, and that there will be no factious opposition to them; that whatever is proposed by the Government will receive the consideration it merits, and that honorable members on both sides -will vote as their conscience directs.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang)
I4.32]- - It was not my intention to speak, having the idea there would be such an abundance of speakers, and so much to be said on both sides; that I might easily feel relieved of any responsibility to take the floor on the present occasion. Unfortunately, honorable members opposite, for some reason or other, have been struck dumb. It would appear that the business of the country, in this great Democratic: community, is done by a Labour Parliamentary party, not by open discussion in the full light of day, so that the people may know the why and wherefore of certain results arrived at, but in some secret cave behind closed doors. The press is excluded, and the public are not allowed to know what transpires, although they are vitally interested in all that is done, and are entitled to every information as to the reasons for the conclusions come to by their representatives. This is Star Chamber government. The public are entitled to know how many members of the party, who adopt these tactics, believe, and how many do not believe, in the measures which the Government intend to place before the House. Under the present system, the- electors are not taken into the confidence of their representatives. After making certain declarations on the public platform, these alleged representatives arrogate to themselves the right to meet and decide great public questions in camera.
– 1 rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Lang has used the words “ alleged representatives,” and applied them to honorable members on this side. Are those words in order?
– The honorable member for Lang is quite in order.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to inform the honorable member for Lang, through you, Mr. Speaker, that I urn not an “ alleged representative,” but a representative in this House.
– I would point out to the honorable member for Maranoa that he is taking a very disorderly course in rising to a point of order, and then proceeding to refute a statement made by another honorable member. I hope the honorable member will not take such a course again.
– I rise to a point of order. If an honorable member makes a misstatement about an individual member, is the latter, who is interested, out of order in getting up to refute that misstatement?
– The honorable member will have ample opportunity to refute any statement when the honorable member for Lang has finished speaking. If the honorable member for Maranoa feels that he is misrepresented in any way, he may, when the honorable member for Lang has concluded, make a personal explanation, but not otherwise.
– I am very much obliged to honorable members opposite for the information they have given as to the position they occupy in the House, and it is necessary that that position should be made plain, seeing that it is not apparent from the manner in which they conduct the. business of the country. That is the reason why I used the words “ alleged representatives” Instead of dealing with public affairs as other representatives do, and expressing their views in the open light of day, which is what Parliament is intended for, they thresh out and decide the nation’s affairs in camera.
– The State Premiers and the late Prime Minister did exactly the same thing.
– That was a question between the Federal and the State Governments, which was to be submitted to both Parliament and people for their determination. That was a different position altogether. The members of the Labour party go about the country advocating certain measures, which they do not discuss on the floor of the House, but consider and decide in secret. We have an illustration this afternoon of how little interest is taken in the proceedings by hon- orable members opposite, and to what a farce they have reduced parliamentary government, simply because they know that, so far as they are concerned, the questions are settled; they are here to vote like a number of wooden automata, so that we might as well simply .touch a button on the table when a vote will be taken. This lays upon the Opposition the duty of taking, perhaps, a little more than their fair share in the debate. I may say that 1 feel much more comfortable on this side of the House, and honorable members opposite have my sincerest sympathy. Here I feel in a very much freer atmosphere; and I think it is always good to be in opposition. I am inspired with some pity and sympathy for the supporters of the Government, knowing that very often honorable members in that position have, perhaps, to wink at a number of things of which their conscience does not entirely approve.
– The honorable mem-‘ ber seems to have had a bad time.
– Personally, when on the other side of the House, I was in the happy .position of not being an actual member of the Government party. I was not a hard and fast supporter of the Government recently in office. I was not a party to the Fusion arrangement, and whatever support they got from me was purely voluntary. There was no obligation on me to support them, because, as a matter of fact, I did not take part in the conference, and did not subscribe to the Fusion. I was, therefore, in a different position, when on that side of the House, from some other honorable members.
– Why did not the honorable member tell us that at the time?
– I did; but the honorable member was rather sceptical and difficult to convince.
– The honorable member did not say it during the election.
– My constituents were aware of it. I made the announcement on the floor of the House, and it appeared in Hansard, and in the newspapers, so that there is little excuse for my constituents, and none for honorable members who were in the last Parliament, for being ignorant of the fact. I made my position perfectly clear, and it is of no use at this late stage to say that I occupied any other position, or left ‘any one in ignorance of where I stood. I wish first to congratulate the late Government upon their dignified retirement from office as soon as they discovered that the voice of the electors was apparently against them. They proved themselves true believers in the right of the people to govern, and are thus better Democrats than the present occupants of the Treasury bench. Believing that the people had returned a majority who were not in favour. of their party or policy, they took that dignified course which has always characterized Liberals, of immediately relinquishing the reins of office. I wish to contrast their action with the attitude of their predecessors, the present occupants of the Treasury bench, who clung to office till the last moment, until absolutely driven out of it. They had not a shred of excuse for hanging on, being in a hopeless minority, and had they been in the same position as the late Government, I venture to say that during the whole period of the interregnum between the date of the election and the meeting of the House they would still have continued to administer the affairs of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that they knew themselves to be in a minority, so far as the recorded votes of the electors were concerned.
– Does not the honorable member think that this is very weak criticism ?
– I think it is very truthful, although it may not be palatable to the honorable member.
– The honorable member seems to be very worried about it.
– On the contrary, I am pleased, and hope that when their turn comes, as it will inevitably come, to vacate the Treasury bench, and retire once more into the cool shades of Opposition, the present Government will profit by the example which was set them by the late Government, and also by the good example now set by the present Opposition. I think we on this side of the House can fairly claim to have set an example of forbearance, moderation, and right conduct towards the Government, recognising that we are in a minority, and that they have a majority of supporters behind them. In the circumstances, our duty is plain and clear. Instead of following the bad example set by them when they were in a like position, instead of employing all the vituperative epithets which any language, living or dead, could furnish to denounce those who displaced us from office, we have adopted an attitude of philosophic resignation to an unkind and unreasoning fate. We are prepared to accept the position of affairs as we find it, and to recognise that the Government, having a majority behind them, have a right to the undisputed control of the affairs of the country. It remains to be seen whether, having behind them the absolute majority for which they have so long asked, they will carry out their pledges to those who have trusted them, and sent them here to pass certain legislation which they have alleged to be absolutely essential for the uplifting of humanity and the benefit of the community generally. But their programme’ does not show, and has not shown, of late years, at any rate-
– Since the honorable member left the party !
– Thehonorable gentleman has struck the psychological moment when that change took place. The principles now advocated by the party do not make for the general good of the community as a whole, but are directed to advance the interests of one class at the expense of others. Their programme does not pretend to do anything else. In the cold type in which we see it, there is revealed the naked truth that they are simply trying to set up one system of class legislation for another which does not exist at the present time, but which did exist some years ago. The Liberal party represents, and always has represented, the Democracy of the country - the right of the majority to rule, theduty of legislators to recognise the equal citizenship of every member of the community. It has always been a basic principle of Liberalism that no one should enjoy, in the eyes of the Government or of the Legislature, rights or privileges that are notequally enjoyed by every other unit in the community. And that party has always stood as an invulnerable bulwark between the people and the oppression of those in power. But now, under the misnomer of Democracy, all this is to be changed, and class rule is to be set up again, and class rule, too, of a worse and more dangerous type. Only persons who belong to certain organizations and subscribe to certain political beliefs are to be recognised ; all the others are social and political pariahs, and are to be regarded as tabu. There is to be set up now, in the name of Democracy, a system of class legislation of the worst possible kind. I make that statement, not in the heat of the moment, but after full, clear, and calm deliberation and consideration of all the circumstances. In regard to the composition of the present Ministry, we have another evidence of the absolute ingratitude often exhibited by members of the Political Labour party of the present day. It has been their practice of late years to politically assassinate those-
– I believe the honorable member was a member of them once.
– Yes, when it was a reasonable party, with clearcut principles based upon freedom and not coercion. I still hold those principles. But the party threw them- overboard. They adopted restrictive measures to redress grievances which were caused by restriction. They hauled down the noble flag of freedom, and set up in its place the skull and crossbones of coercive, tyrannical, soul -destroying Socialism. When they did that I thought it was time for me to part company with them. As a matter of fact, I claim to be the only true representative of Labour in this House. I consider that I am a much better Labour man than is any honorable member who occupies a seat on the Ministerial benches. I challenge any Labour man to point to any word or vote of mine, either on the public platform or in this House, which has been opposed to the true interests of Labour. But not satisfied with assassinating those, who are truer Democrats than themselves, but who are not prepared to adopt their tyrannical methods, the Labour party give* the cold shoulder to persons who were associated with the Labour movement long before its present leaders were heard of. Take, for instance, the case of the honorable member for Darling. There is no man, either inside or outside the Labour party, who has done as much as he has to bring Labour into its present complete condition of, organization. I suppose there is not an individual in Australia who has done more than he has to secure the large vote which was recently cast for Labour in the several States. He is the man who is chiefly responsible for securing victory for the flag of the Labour party. Yet I do not see him on the front Treasury benches.
– How does the honorable member know that he wishes to be there ?
– I have not heard that an attempt was made to place him there. Without disrespect to any honorable member opposite, I say that he is the brainiest man of the party. At. all times he has proved himself to be the brains of the Labour movement. He is the man who ought to occupy the position of Labour Prime Minister. Another honorable member who is not in the present Ministry, but who was in a previous Labour Administration, and who proved himself a most capable administrator, is the honorable member for Coolgardie. He has rendered signal service to the Labour party, and he certainly displayed qualities of administration which entitled him to recognition at the hands of his fellows. Yet we see him displaced by a younger man, who is comparatively new to politics, and whom I congratulate upon having thus early achieved distinction. At the same time, I must say that the member for Kalgoorlie has been elevated to a position in the Ministry to the exclusion of older and more experienced men.
– Would the honorable members lodge allow him to vote for the honorable member for Coolgardie?
– I do not happen to belong to any lodge, so that the honorable member’s jibe falls flat. The honorable member himself supplies another illustration of the truth of my remarks. He is a venerable gentleman who enjoys the respect and esteem, not only of members upon his own side of the House, but of those who sit upon this side. He is a man for whom I entertain a very kindly feeling, and one who has always set a good example in this Chamber. He has shown himself thoroughly conversant with all the legislative measures which have been submitted for our consideration, he has been identified with’ the Labour movement for many years, and yet he has been excluded from the Ministry.
– A jolly shame; is it not?
– I think it is. I may also add that a number of the gentlemen who occupy the .Ministerial benches to-day have previously had an innings, and it is about time that they gave others a chance. Those who had already enjoyed the sweets of office should have voluntarily stood aside, or, in the ordinary processes of Socialism, should have been ruthlessly cast aside, to make room for others.
An Honorable Member. - Is the honorable member chief adviser to the’ Government ?
– I do not know that I shall receive anything for my advice, but I cannot avoid making these few comments, because the monopoly of office is so palpable, and, from the Opposition benches seems so unjust in the light of the socialistic professions of the party. There is another honorable member opposite who, at one time, achieved great distinction by occupying the time of the House for quite ten hours in an endeavour to impede the progress of legislation.
– Order ! The honorable member must not impute improper motives to another honorable member.
– I do not suggest that he was actuated by improper motives. On the contrary, his motives may have been very laudable ones. He may have thought that the legislation proposed was not good, that it was not in the best interests of the people. I credit him with having been actuated by the most patriotic motives, and. I say that the service which he rendered to his party on that occasion should have received recognition. Yet ‘we still find him occupying a subordinate position. With regard to the proposals of the Government, I noticed some little time before this Parliament met, an inspired paragraph in all the newspapers stating that the Ministry were going to signalize their entry to office with a substantial majority behind them, by coming to the relief of the aged and distressed poor in a way that had never been previously attempted. They were going to liberalize the provisions of the Old-age Pensions Act by reducing the age limit in the case of women by five years. This was going to be a great boon, and we were- all pleased-
– What ! Pleased because there was a Labour majority?
– We were pleased to learn what was going to be done by the Labour Government for the aged poor. The honorable member is fair enough to admit that there was never a discordant note struck in this House with regard to the question of old-age .pensions.
– What was the attitude of the present Opposition with respect to the Surplus Revenue Bill, by which the necessary funds were to be provided?
– The Surplus Revenue Bill when introduced, as the honorable member ought to know, contained not a single reference to such a purpose, and was not designed to provide for old-age pensions. Nor when moving the second reading did the honorable member for °Hume, the then Treasurer, say one word or even think of the idea of old-age pensions. It was not until some time later that the idea was suggested from another outside source to the honorable member for Hume that funds could be obtained in that way for the payment of old-age pensions. Had I known that the honorable member intended to raise the question I should have brought with me a quotation from Hansard bearing on the point. I have the passage marked, and referred to it frequently during the elections. The question was raised1 then as the result of a leaflet of a grossly misleading character, circulated by the Labour party, and designed to discredit the candidature of men on our side. If the honorable member will look up the speech delivered by the honorable member for Hume, in introducing the Surplus Revenue Bill, he will see that it contains no reference to the question of old-age pensions. The BiH related to entirely different matters. Its purpose was declared to be to enable public works to be proceeded with, as will be seen by reference to Hansard, pages 9010 and 9847, of March, 1908. At the time there was not even any talk of the introduction of an Old-age Pensions Bill.
– The honorable member will have a chance of voting for a child pension, if he is -humane enough to do so.
– Do the Government propose the introduction of such a measure?
– I am afraid not.
– If the honorable member thinks that such a pension should be provided, the ball is at his feet. His party are in the majority, and they can do what they please in the matter.
– Would the honorable member vote for such a proposition?
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.Whether I did or did not, the honorable member would have in the House a majority to carry it. If he and those who think with him are sincere in this matter such a proposition can be carried.
– God help me if I had to depend on the honorable member.
– I think that is a grossly unfair imputation, unwarranted by anything in the honorable member’s knowledge or experience of me. But the honorable member would not have to depend upon me or upon the vote of any other member of the Opposition. Even if every member of the Opposition were against such a proposition - and they would not be - he and his party would have a majority of fourteen to carry it. So if he is really sincere himself there is nothing but his own party in the way of carrying such a proposal into immediate effect. To return to the question with which I was dealing - that of reducing the age limit at which old-age pensions should be payable - I may say that there was a great flourish of trumpets ‘ when the announcement in question was suddenly made. Just as suddenly, however, it was announced that the Labour Government had abandoned the idea and left the old people, whose hopes they had raised, to their unfortunate fate because it would cost too much. Why should money stand in the way of the humanitarian ideals of the Labour party when they have a majority to give effect to them? In the last Parliament members of the present Ministry .declared that ways and means ought to be, and must be, found to carry into effect their proposal to reduce the pension age. The present Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, declared that the Government of the day should reduce the age, and he went so far as to move an amendment when the Bill to amend the principal Act was before the Committee. It is well that this should be known, because I think there is due to the House an explanation as to why this project has been abandoned so hurriedly by a party which previously professed itself so warmly in favour of it, and demanded that effect should be given to it by another Ministry which had the responsibility of finding ways and means. At page 1430 of Hansard, vol. L, the present Prime Minister is reported to have said -
I agree with him as to the financial difficulties of the situation -
The reference was to the Treasurer, who had pointed out what the cost would be - hut I ‘am not of opinion that we should let slip this opportunity to liberalize our invalid and old-age pensions law as much as possible. It might be more advanced, and I think that we should take this occasion to enlarge its scope -
Having quoted section 15 of the principal Act, the honorable gentleman went on to say -
We should face our difficulties whether they be financial, economical, or political. The pub- lie officers of the Commonwealth and of the States have to retire at the age of sixty’ years, being then considered unfit for longer service, and, generally speaking, private firms adopt a similar rule. It must be remembered that applicants for old-age pensions are, for the most part, persons who have been engaged in much more arduous and less healthy occupations than those of public servants. I think ‘that the age at which an invalid pension could be obtained, should be earlier. That has always been my view. … I hope that the Treasurer will accept the amendment which I intend to submit so that the Bill may be passed with as little delay as possible.. I move - “That after the word ‘ amended,’ line 2, the following words be inserted : - ‘ By omitting sub-sections 1 and 2 arid inserting in lieu thereof - 1 Subject to this _ Act every man who has attained the age of -sixty years, or who, being permanently incapacitated for work, has attained the age of fifty-five years, shall, whilst in Australia, be qualified to receive au old-age pension.’ “…
– There is nothing wrong about that.
– Then why do not the Government propose such an amendment of the law at the present time?
– Surely the present Government are not going back on that proposition ?
– According to the newspapers they are. The present Prime Minister went on to say of his amendment -
I admit that that casts an additional obligation on the Treasury.
He urged, however, that it was the duty of the Government of the day to take that step, and many members of his party inferred, if they did not make the charge outright, that the Ministry lacked humanitarian instincts in not devising ways and means to make provision for it.
– Was not that before the election ?
– It was, but it was when another Government was in office. The honorable gentleman then said that it was the duty of the Government to find the money and to overcome every obstacle that might stand in the way of this being done.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable member for Maranoa says “Hear, hear “ now, and he will say “ Hear, hear “ just as readily to a proposal by the same honorable gentleman, now that he is Prime Minister, not to do the very thing which he said ought to be done by the Government of the day.
– Circumstances alter cases.
– Circumstances may alter cases, but they should not alter principles, and the only altered circumstance in this case is an alteration in the occupants of the Treasury bench, not in the conditions. Honorable members opposite are red-hot Socialists when on this side, prepared to go to any extremes to carry out certain measures, irrespective of the cost to the country. It was as such that they went to the country and asked the support of the electors. The electors did support them, and sent them back to this House to carry out what they promised on the political platform, but as soon as they come back, they assume a different attitude altogether. Instead of proceeding to do the things which they deluded the country into believing they would do, they immediately set about seeking excuses to avoid the fulfilment of their promises. In office, instead of the extreme Socialists they were when they occupied the Opposition benches, we find them transformed into a very poor imitation of the mild kind of Liberal, adopting Liberal ideas where they can, shuffling away from their platform, and showing an enforced moderation which they dared not show when appealing to their constituents. Passing to another matter, I find this statement in the Governor-General’s Speech-
In view of the urgent necessity for encouraging an influx ofsuitable immigrants to the Commonwealth in order to more effectivelydevelop its great resources and defend it against possible invasion, My Advisers intend to adopt a policy, which, it is confidently believed will, by making fertile land available, speedily induce very large numbers of people of the right kind to settle on the lands of the Commonwealth.
– Is not that all right?
– It may be all right or all wrong. Unfortunately, the policy to be adopted is not indicated in the paragraph I have quoted. I should like to know what is intended by the expression “people of the right kind.” From all that can be gathered from this paragraph of the speech they might be Asiatics, coolies, or undesirable types of Southern Europeans, and I really think that some Southern Europeans would be almost as objectionable as Asiatics or coolies.
– Southern Europeans are objectionable?
– I think some of the races of Southern Europe are objectionable. For example, I would not like to see a colony of Greeks established in Australia.
– Some Greeks are good people.
– Of course. There are good people even in the Labour political party.
– The honorable member is talking of Greeks, but judging by his general remarks, I thought it was the Romans he had the biggest down on.
– I have no ‘ ‘ down “ on any section. The honorable gentleman, at least, has no reason to find fault with the Romans. We are informed that these people are to be settled on the lands of the Commonwealth. I do not know whether the reference is to the territory acquired for the Federal Capital, but, apart from that territory, and land taken over for military purposes, I know of no other lands belonging to the Commonwealth. Speaking generally, the lands of Australia belong to the States, and unless the Government intend to submit some proposal to take over lands from the States for the purpose, I do not know how they intend to settle people on the lands of the Commonwealth.
– Does . the honorable member not know that we propose to take over Norfolk Island shortly?
– We have not done so yet. We could not accommodate a very large number of immigrants on Norfolk Island unless they were prepared to live on the mountain peaks and to cultivate precipitous slopes and rocky gorges. There is a reference to banking legislation in the Speech, but there is no indication of the character of the legislation to be proposed. If the mass of the people get the idea that deposits in the banks may be interfered with by the legislation to be proposed, we may have something in the nature of a bank crisis. People may take alarm, and we may have a rush to some of the Savings Banks. The Government should have indicated the character of the legislation they intend to bring forward under this head. One of the most important paragraphs in the Speech is the following -
You will be invited to consider proposals for the amendment of the Constitution for the purpose of enabling the Federal Parliament to legislate effectively with regard to corporations, commercial trusts, combinations and monopolies in relation to trade, manufactures, production, industrial matters, and navigation. It is the intention of My Advisers to ask Parliament to pass these measures this session, and to provide for their submission to the electors at a referendum early next year.
Here is a vague general statement which may mean a great deal or very little.’ If I may be pardoned the reference to the present Leader of the Opposition, it- is one of those Deakinesque paragraphs which have so often puzzled honorable members in this House, because they are unable to discover the real meaning hidden within them. They seem at first glance to be quite full of rich promise, but when they are analyzed, it is found that they are full of little traps, back doors, and means of escape.
– The honorable member should not flog his joss.
– I think it is a great tribute to the present Leader of the Opposition that the Labour Ministry should have seen fit to follow his example in the manufacture of vague and nebulous paragraphs in the Governor-General’s Speech. We are told that it is proposed to legislate effectively with regard to trade, manufactures or productions, industrial matters, and navigation. I have always been in favour of effective legislation, hot alone to check, but to absolutely destroy, the power of injurious monopolies, trusts, combines, and organizations in restraint of commerce.
– What does the honorable member mean by that?
– 1 am about to explain. In the Speech no definite proposal is put forward, and there is no indication of the means by which the Government intend to give effect to their stated intention.
– How does the honorable member distinguish a corporation from a commercial trust?
– I am not now going into abstract questions.
– Then, had any reference been made, would the honorable gentleman have been any the wiser?
– If the Government said distinctly, “ We propose Nationalization,” - which is one of the planks in the Labour platform - we should know exactly the trend and character of the legislation which is to be introduced; but Ministers do not indicate, in any ‘way, how they propose to “ legislate effectively “ in’ these matters. As it is, honorable members may or may not be in favour of the legislation which is to be submitted. I believe in legislating effectively against trusts and combines ; but I fear that, when we come to discuss the Government measures, there will be a wide divergence of views, so far as Ministerialists and members of the Opposition are concerned, and probably members of the Opposition will differ among themselves as to what should be done. According to the manifesto of the Labour party, coal vends are among the corporations, trusts, and combinations to be dealt with; but when what is popularly known as the Anti-Trust Bill - the Australian Industries Preservation Bill - was under discussion, it was sought by Labour members to exempt the Newcastle Coal Vend from its operation, and if my recollection serves me aright, by the honorable member for West Sydney, among others.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– My impression is that the honorable member was in favour of not applying the provisions of the measure to that Vend.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement. Certainly, the honorable member for .Newcastle made a strong appeal for the exemption of the Vend from the operation of the Bill; and it was supported by the late member for South Sydney, the ex-Leader of the Labour party, Mr. Watson.
– I think that what was sai’d amounted to the expression of a desire to exempt trusts and combines not detrimental to the people.
– The plea put forward was that the Vend was not detrimental to the people. Since the coal strike, a different attitude has been assumed towards the Vend. Before the strike, it was claimed that the Vend was a benevolent combination.
– The honorable member is in error. There has not been a different attitude assumed.
– In the manifesto of the Labour party, published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the 7th Mardi, a little before the last election, this statement occurs -
The nationalization of monopolies demands the urgent attention of the people. It may be admitted that trusts and combines have not yet attained the same giant proportions in Australia as elsewhere, but, notwithstanding out youth, the capitalistic system is developing here upon the same general lines. Already we have in Australia the sugar monopoly, the tobacco combine, the coastal shipping ring, the coal vend, and various minor business combinations of a character detrimental to the public.
– To what does the honorable member take exception in that paragraph ?
– I do not take exception to the paragraph ; I quoted it in evidence of my assertion that, since the strike, the Newcastle Coal Vend has been regarded by the Labour party as detrimental to the public interests. This change of attitude is inexplicable.
– There has been no change of attitude.
– I cannot stop now to turn up the Hansard record in support of what I have said as to the speeches of the honorable member for Newcastle, and the late Leader of the Labour party,’ in favour of the Newcastle Coal Vend; but I undertake to make the quotations myself on some subsequent occasion, or to get some other honorable member to make them. It will then be manifest that, when the Australian Industries Preservation Bill was under discussion in this Chamber, /two members of the Labour party at least sought to exempt the Newcastle Coal Vend from its operations. In my opinion, monopolies can be properly dealt with, only by allowing free competition. There is no other way. By nationalizing them, and making them State concerns, you only entrench them more strongly. Of course, I am now expressing my individual views. Some of the honorable members opposite, who hold that monopolies, trusts, and combines, should be destroyed, combined - Free Traders and Protectionists alike - to pass legislation which, in its nature, tends to bring these evils .into existence. They united with others to give Tariff protection to local industries, and by securing local manufactures from competition, gave opportunities for combination.
– The honorable member’s leader led the van.
– He is not now leader of a wholly Protectionist party. The prevention of outside competition gave over the local market to the local manufacturers. When local manufacturers, secure from outside competition, were competing in the various States one against the other, the most natural thing for them to do was to confer amongst themselves, and to say, “ What is the use of our competing in this fashion and cutting each other’s throats? Why not form a combine, so as to keep up prices and maintain profits, whilst we have a monopoly of the trade secured to us by law?” That was done, and is still, being done. It was done in consequence of legislation passed only with the assistance of the Labour party. But for- that assistance the legislation could never have been passed. This Parliament is responsible for the” establishment of monopolies in Australia, and the greater part of that responsibility rests with the Labour party. Having created monopolies, they now propose to cure them, not by restoring freedom, but by creating a still larger ‘monopoly. So far as I am concerned, they will not get very much assistance in that direction.
– Every one is .in the monopoly when the State controls it.
– A monopoly is not less a monopoly because the State runs it. Wherever competition is shut out, there must be monopoly, and a monopoly in the hands of a few is no different in its nature from a monopoly in the hands of a larger number. The true remedy for monopolies is to repeal that legislation which has enabled them to come into existence, and to restore natural and healthy competition in trade, so as to allow us to get the best that is offering at the lowest possible cost of our own labour in exchange. That is the fair and the proper thing to do, and, in my. opinion, the only way to put an end to monopolies.
– And to encourage sweating.
– It is the very thing to prevent sweating. When we had the freest competition in the State which I have the honour to represent, at the time when Sir George Reid was at the head of the Government, there never was a time in the history of the country when the consumers obtained better value for their money, when trade was more flourishing, or when wages were higher.
– And that was the time when sandshifting was most rife.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. That was after the Protectionist Government reversed the policy of the Reid regime. If I have done nothing more than to arouse some of our lethargic friends opposite to a sense of their responsibilities to the electors - if I have succeeded in bringing them out of their shell - I have justified my action in rising to offer a few remarks. There is also a reference in the GovernorGeneral’s “Speech to a Bill to provide for uniform postage rates throughout the Commonwealth, and to the adoption of a uniform Commonwealth stamp. ‘ We are not informed what kind of a stamp it is to be. Is it intended to establish a system of Inter- State penny postage? If so, that is a measure that will insure support from all sides of the House. But I am afraid that when the financial aspect of the matter is dealt with, the Minister will find some excuse for not letting the country have this boon, which has been asked for so long, and by so large a section of the “people. Then we are to have a Bill for tlie rectification of Tariff anomalies, I should like to know whether there is any truth in the statement that we have seen in the newspapers, to the effect that the Labour party is now a solidly Protectionist body. A statement to that effect has been attributed to the Minister of Home Affairs, and a similar assertion is reported to have been made by the honorable member for Grey. It is just as well that we should know where the Ministry and their supporters stand in regard to the fiscal question. Have all our old Free Trade friends in the Labour party thrown overboard their fiscal principles and gone, solidly into the Protectionist camp ? If . sp, it is only right that the public should be taken into their confidence.
– Is the honorable member now referring to the honorable member for Parramatta ?
– I am referring to the honorable member himself for one, and to a statement attributed to leading men in the Labour party, and want to know whether it is true. At any rate, I find that the Minister of Home Affairs, in the administration of his own Department, is carrying his Protectionist ideas to the extent of prohibition in calling for tenders for various goods required by the Commonwealth.
– Who promoted the honorable member to be father-confessor to this House ?
– These statements have been published in the newspapers, which afford the only means of obtaining information at present as to the attitude of the Labour party. Parliament is not taken into their confidence. We are also informed in the Governor- General’s Speech that communications have’ been addressed to the British and the New Zealand Governments with a view to establish a system of wireless telegraphy connecting Australia with New Zealand and Fiji. I think that is a very good thing to do, but it is not an original thing so far as the Labour party is concerned.
– No one said it was.
– It is one of those measures which they have filched from the programme of their predecessors.
– That is incorrect.
– I say it is true, nevertheless.
– And it is incorrect, nevertheless.
– The assertion does not make it so. This proposal was part and parcel of the programme put before the electors by the late Government at the recent elections.
– That may, or may not. be.
– I am glad to see that the whole of the Liberal programme has not been condemned by the Labour party, but that they have realized the advisableness of taking up some items in it. I do not grudge them this plank. It is a very good one. I am glad that they recognise its utility. They can rest assured that they will receive all possible assistance from myself and others on this side in carrying it into effect.
– If it was the late .Government’s proposal, why did they not go on with it ? After the Conference had sat, and made a certain recommendation, why did not tlie late Government accept it?
– They would have done so if they had been again returned to power. I should be very glad indeed to hear from the’ Minister a full and clear exposition, but I do not desire to carry on a conversation with him across the table.
– The honorable member also wants his opinion on the Chinese cook shop.
– Yes ; I also want to know what the Minister was doing there, and why he lured other honorable members into such strange quarters. Is not . our parliamentary refreshment room iip-to-date? Why should our honorable friends have to go down Little Bourkestreet, and regale themselves in a Chinese cook shop? But perhaps I had better not pursue the subject any further. In the Speech, we are told, that -
The improvement of our trade relations with Great Britain and other self-governing parts of the Empire is receiving’ consideration.
I am very glad to hear that, because I have a lively recollection that when we were trying in a previous Parliament to improve our trade relations with Great Britain,- and the self-governing parts of the Empire, our greatest opponents were the gentlemen who now occupy the Treasury bench, and the greatest obstacles we had to fight against in trying to bring about that very desirable result were the members of the Labour party, who on every occasion voted for Tariff restrictions. Every time we proposed a reduction of duty, they voted for the higher rate. Every time we tried to get a littlepreference for the Mother Country, they voted against it, or voted in such a way as to give a preference only in name. I am always glad to see our honorable friends opposite repenting of the error of their ways, and taking up a more reasonable attitude. I am still more pleased when they adopt the Liberal view of these matters. The Liberal view on this particular question was only blocked from being carried into effect by the votes of those who now propose to do the very same thing that we then desired, and still desire to do. I venture to believe that when we come to deal with the matter in the . House, it will be found that this is only a placard ; that, so far as its professed aims are concerned, they will not be translated into ‘concrete legislation which will have the desired effect. I now come to . a question which I think is perhaps the most important one at present; it is the one thing in their election speeches which the party nowpropose to give legislative effect to, and that is the question of a progressive land tax. We heard from them a great deal about the nationalization of monopolies. We heard a great deal about the nationalization of the sugar industry, the tobacco industry, the shipping industry, and various other monopolies, which they declared it was imperative should be nationalized at the earliest possible moment. But we do not see any proposals of the kind in the programme for the session, unless they are covered up in that nebulous paragraph which I have described as being Deakinesque in its composition. When the honorable member for Denison, in the very good speech which he delivered this afternoon, was talking about a progressive land tax, I asked a question.
– The honorable member used to be a land-taxer.
– If the honorable member said that I was and am a land value taxer, he ‘would be more correct.
– The honorable member has been a number of things.
– At any rate, I have never changed my opinions like the honorable member. The principles which I espoused when I became identified with political life I still advocate. I have not departed from them one iota. It is because honorable members opposite have shifted from pillar to post, and turned “themselves inside out, that I have not been able to follow them in their sinuous windings, and because 1 have not been able . to do so they think that it is I who have changed, and not themselves. I agree with very much of what the honorable member for Denison said this afternoon, but I am afraid that very many of his colleagues are not in agreement with him on certain questions. His speech certainly was not a Protectionist one. ‘ From his remarks I would have taken him to be a very deep student of Henry George ; at any rate, he gave expression to views which were identical with those of that great philosophei and economist. But before dealing with his references to a progressive land tax, I desire to allude very brieflyto his remarks on finance. He said that the Commonwealth has never borrowed for’ the purpose of carrying out reproductive works, and that he does not believe in a borrowing policy. Yet there is a proposal to be submitted to the House this session which, in essence, is neither more nor less than a borrowing scheme. I refer to the proposal to substitute paper for currency - paper which is destined to be known as “ Fisher’s flimsies.”
– That is the only original tning which the honorable member has yet said.
– I am still one ahead of the honorable gentleman, because I have never known him to make an original remark. The issue of these Fisher flimsies will be neither more nor less than a system of borrowing from the savings” of the people, without giving them any interest, so that, notwithstanding their alleged disbelief in borrowing for the purpose of carrying on the government and undertaking necessary works, we find that honorable members opposite are actually proposing a borrowing scheme. Although it is given a different name, it is borrowing, none the less. I have referred to the matter very briefly, without going into the general financial question, which has been dealt with pretty fully from this side. There has been so much uncertainty in the atmosphere since the meeting of Parliament, and since the election, as to the purpose of the proposed progressive land tax, that I thought it well to obtain from the honorable member for Denison what, in his opinion, was its object, and I take it that, like every other honorable member on that side, except, perhaps the Prime Minister, he has declared to the electors that the primary, if not the sole object of the tax, is to burst up the big estates.
– The Prime Minister himself said that.
– I am not sure, but I think that he qualified his statement on two or three occasions.
– In the manifesto he told us in the most absolute way that they are going to kill monopolies.
– True, the manifesto says that the object of the progressive land tax is to burst, up the big estates. They refer to it as the only means of curing land monopoly and paving the way for settlement ; but the Prime Minister himself gives us to understand that that is all a mistake - that that is not the intention at all. He tells us that the primary purpose is not the bursting up of big estates - although that may be an incidental effect - but the raising of revenue. . I suppose that every member of the Labour party, when before the electors, declared that the object of the tax was not to raise revenue, but to burst up the big estates. I do not say that the tax will not have the effect of bursting up the big estates ; but, if it has; and they are all brought within the exemption, how do the Government expect to at the same time raise revenue? When hose big estates are divided into farming areas, in order to attract settlers who are to assist in promoting the prosperity of the country, and assist in its defence, the tax will fail to be revenue producing. The Prime Minister must know perfectly well that, while the tax may do one or the other, it cannot do both ; and if it does not result in bursting up the bigestates, and only provides revenue, we are no better off than we were before, so far as settling people on the land is concerned. The Prime Minister is in the paradoxical position of endeavouring to. burst up estates so that there should be none above , £5,000 in value, and, at the same time, expecting to obtain revenue from big estates which nolonge? exist. Here is a problem, the solution of which I leave to himself and his. friends. When the honorable gentleman, tells us that the object, is not to burst up big estates, he is giving the lie to the party manifesto and to the platform declarationsof every one of his supporters ; he is throwing dust in the eyes of the public, and showing that he and they have obtained their position in this House’ by misrepresentations as to the intentions of the party. To show what the intentions of the party really are, I have only to quote the AttorneyGeneral who, in the course of the weekly article, “ The Case for Labour,’’ he contributes to the Sydney Daily Telegraph,said, three weeks before the election -
What is the Labour party’s proposal ? It is to impose a graduated tax upon the unimproved value of land exempting - save in the case of absentee landholders - estates, the unimproved value of which is£5,000 and under. The object of this tax is to burst up big estates.
The Attorney-General said nothing about the object of the tax being to provide revenue; he must have known, as did every other member of the party, that if the tax succeeded in bursting up the big estates it could not, by any possibility, produce a single farthing of revenue, since big estates are not comprised in urban, but in country, areas. Then, in the course of his policy speech, in the town hall of his constituency, on 15th February last, he said -
The chief plank in the Labour platform is to wipe out land monopoly by making it unprofitable for holders of great estates to hold land out of . use. . . . Their purpose was to burst up those big estates which sucked up the life blood of Australia. That was the issue - that was what the election would turn upon. On it depended the immigration policy and the defence policy of Australia.
What has the Prime Minister to say to that? If the tax operates as a revenue producer, it will not burst up the big estates; and, consequently, the immigration policy and the defence policy of the Government cannot be carried into effect. The Labour party stand condemned on their own utterances, as either intentionally misleading the people, or not knowing themselves the nature of the proposals they intend to submit. Mr. Holman, deputy Leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, speaking on behalf of the honorable member for Nepean, said -
The first principle of the Labour party was to put a graduated land tax on the great estates of Australia. . . . There was as much land in the hands of 728 large holders as all the rest of the settlers of the State. If they could get rid of these 728 holders, they could divide the estates into smaller ones - and thereby allow every inch of the land to be cultivated, and thereby treble the State’s population and resources.
Here we have a pronunciamento by a leader of the Labour party in New South Wales, speaking on behalf of one of the pledged candidates of the Labour party. The honorable member ‘for Werriwa went a little further. In . returning thanks after his election, he said -
If the party came before the public in three years and the big estates were not burst up, the people should consider them unworthy of their place.
Honorable members opposite say, “ Hear, Hear !” Again, I ask them this pertinent question, which demands an answer - “ If this tax is going to burst up the big estates, how do the Government propose to obtain, revenue from such estates, in view of the exemption of £5,000?” That is the problem the Government have to face ; and, in reality, they are proposing. a practical impossibility. When these 728 large estates are divided amongst small farmers in New South Wales, there will not be a farthing of revenue for any purpose, unless the Government procure an equivalent to an Aladdin’s lamp, or are able to create wealth simply by .touching a spring. But land nationalization- by the Commonwealth is a new development, so far as the Labour party are concerned. It was not always part of their proposals. At one time progressive land taxation by the Commonwealth was not contemplated by them, if we are to believe statements made by Mr. Watson, their ex-Leader. Speaking at the Balmain Town Hall on 22nd November, 1906, and accusing our party and its late Leader, Sir George Reid, of misrepresentation, Mr. Watson is reported thus - .
He wanted to say that, while Mr. Reid was trying to frighten the farmers of Australia by the statement that the Labour party was in favour of bringing about the nationalization of the land, he omitted to put the saving clause’ in, namely, that the question of land nationalization was one for the State Parliaments to deal’ with, and, certainly, was not to be attemptedby the Federal Parliament, or even ‘ suggested’ by the Labour party.
It is, therefore, not so very long ago that He declared we were misleading the electors in accusing the Federal Labour party of having designs upon the lands of the country, in regard to nationalization or land values taxation.
– Oh, no ! Do not add to it.
– It is the same thing from the Labour party’s stand-point. The Labour party say that as the land is monopolized, it must be the first thing nationalized. THey say that the only way in which they can cure monopolies is to nationalize them. They begin with the land which is to be nationalized by means of a progressive land tax. That is their process of nationalization.
– Does the honorable member object to that?
– I favour land value taxation for revenue purposes:
– Does the honorable member object to a good land tax?
– I differentiate between land taxation and land value taxation, and I do not believe in superimposing land value taxation on other taxes. I believe in a substituted tax, and not an additional tax. I believe in land value taxation to take the place of all other taxation. Henry George advocates the abolition of all taxation, save that upon land values, and not the imposition of innumerable taxes upon every kind of industry, upon labour in every one of its manifold forms, or the superimposition of a progressive tax, unjust in its incidence, upon land values.
– Is the honorable member in favour of removing every other tax?
– If the honorable member would support me, I should be very glad to go along those lines with him. He will have an opportunity, when I propose some reductions in the Tariff, of supporting me, if I agree to substitute, for the revenue lost through those reductions, a tax on land values. Those are the lines I have always advocated.
– And always voted against.
– I have always voted for them so far as I was able to do so. In that respect I stand out in contradistinction to the honorable member, who, while believing, or professing to believe, in the reduction of taxation and freedom of commerce, has always or nearly always voted for the highest duties he could get. That has never been, and could never be, laid to my charge. But the honorable member often voted with other members of his party, not in accordance with his declared principles, but in direct antagonism to them. I, on the other hand, have always voted for getting as near to the point of the abolition of Customs taxation as I could. That is the attitude I have always taken up before my constituents, and on the floor of the House ; and that I shall continue to take up when the opportunity offers. I have occupied the time of the House a little longer than I originally intended.
– What about the Federal Capital?
– I understand that it is the intention of the Government to proceed with that question. If they do intend honestly to carry out the provisions of the Constitution and fulfil the compact made with New South Wales by the other States, through their Premiers in Conference, I see no reason to criticise them; but shall do all I can to help them forward in that laudable work. But I greatly fear that many influences of an opposite character will be brought to bear upon them to delay the realization of their expressed intention in regard to the Capital. Powerful influences are at work in Victoria and elsewhere, and a considerable section of the Labour party are trying to prevent the agreement with New South Wales from being carried into effect, or to delay it as long as possible, and keep the Federal Parliamentmeeting in Melbourne. I hope, however, that the Ministry will rise superior to any pressure that is brought to bear upon them with that object in view, stick to their declared intention of carrying out the will of Parliament as expressed in the acceptance of the Federal territory, and proceed with the construction of the Capital as rapidly as possible, so far as funds will allow. At least£250,000 annually ought to be put aside into a Trust Fund for that special purpose.
– From what source?
– From the Consolidated Revenue. In conclusion, I wish to make, a few remarks upon the alleged humanitarianism of the Labour party - They profess to enjoy a monopoly of that sentiment, and charge all who happen to differ with them upon any political question, with being devoid of humane principles. Yet, in practice, there is no more tyrannical body in existence. They may not recognise it themselves; but in their unions and other organizations, tyranny and coercion are rampant. There is no freedom, %but rather a system of terrorism, in some cases reported in the press, has been inaugurated which, if practised by other people outside the unions, would receive the severest condemnation of the Labour party. I believe, and always have believed, in unionism, but in unionism of a voluntary character, and directed into proper channels. “Unionism, however, can be converted into a very dangerous engine of tyranny against the interests of the general community if the wrong sort of people get control ; and there are very strong indications that it is being gradually so converted in some instances. Here is an illustration of what I mean. Speaking at Renmark, on 15th January last, Mr. James Dale, who is the organizer for the United Labourers’ Union, is reported to have said -
If a non-unionist is wheeling a truck, put sand on his wheels. If he asks you for. a light, strike a match, blow it out, and put the box back in your pocket. Never speak to him. If you are shouting in a pub, leave him out; if he is shouting, leave yourself out. Don’t insult him or hurt him, for that will only arouse sympathy for him, but if any one else is punching his head, don’t try to stop them. I know a lot of you would like to throw all nonunionists into the Murray, but don’t do that.. Still, if you see one drowning, don’t go to help him.
That passage illustrates the humanitarianism and the ethics of the Labour party, as understood by some of its adherents. They are lovely ethics to be held by any party. . They are in keeping with the ethics of the Labour journal in Victoria, whose editor published the intelligence that “ Dignity and ethics would be lacking,” and its policy would be ‘ ‘ All politics and no scruples.” These are lovely ethics for a party which professes a monopoly of all virtue and righteousness, and to legislate in the interests of the whole community. Yet the sentiments which I have’ read are those of an accredited organizer of the Labour party, which claims to be far excellence. the humanitarian party in the whole of the Legislatures of Australia, and, I suppose, of the world.
– Nonsense ! Who’ told the honorable member that Mr. Dale is a recognised organizer of labour? Is that statement contained in the slip from which the honorable member has quoted ?
– The extract states that Mr. Dale is the organizer for the United Labourers’ Union. I have simply read a press quotation’; and I do not accept any responsibility for its accuracy. None of us can do that. But I am quite sure that if similar sentiments had been uttered by any capitalist or noncapitalist who did not happen to be a unionist, they would have been condemned in the roundest terms, and -the adjournment of the House would have been” moved for the purpose of directing public attention to them.
– The report which the honorable member has read may resemble the allegation which was made against the Leader of the Opposition yesterday.
– If so, it is strange that the report has never been contradicted. The paper from which I have read the report is dated as . far back as January -last; so that there has been ample time for contradiction. When statements are credited to individuals in the public press, and are not repudiated by them, it is reasonable to regard those statements as accurate. I have corrected inaccurate statements concerning myself in the very next issue of certain journals-, and yet those statements have been brought up against me by Labour Socialists three years afterwards, and no mention whatever has been made of the correction, which has been conveniently ignored. I trust that I have said sufficient to induce my honorable friends opposite to rise in their places and tell us what transpired at the caucus meeting of the Labour party before the draft of the Governor-General’s Speech was agreed to. It would be very interesting to learn from them the reason why we suddenly hear no whisper regarding the nationalization of the sugar industry, or of the tobacco industry, or of other monopolies which were to be among the first evils to be dealt with by the Government. I hope that honorable members opposite will tell the House what they told their constituents during the recent election campaign, and will explain why they are now so silent on matters upon which they were so eloquent prior to 13th April* last. I shall be very glad to acquire such knowledge, and I am sure that the House will be greatly interested in it.
.- Honorable members will doubtless expect me to be a little nervous in essaying to address the House for the first time, and therefore I must crave their indulgence. Personally, I regard the debate upon the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply as a superfluity, which should be abolished at the earliest possible moment. To me it is made up of nothing but electioneering addresses. When I was returned as the representative for East . Sydney, I was under the impression that I should not have to appeal to that constituency again for three years. But since the opening of this Parliament it appears to me that honorable members have made nothing but electioneering addresses which can be of no benefit to the public, and which have involved a sheer waste of the money which we receive for the discharge of bur legislative duties. The Government are prepared to at once proceed with the measures which are foreshadowed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, but are prevented from doing so by this utterly futile ‘discussion. I trust that, before long, some new method will be devised to overcome this useless procedure. Of course, I recognise that it must be very trying for the members of the Opposition to realize that they have no hope of displacing the Labour party from office during the next twenty years. When the honorable member for Swan was addressing the House I fancy that he felt awfully annoyed because he could not cross the floor of the Chamber and take his seat upon the Ministerial benches. Yesterday I listened attentively to the very eloquent address which was delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. I have heard him speak many times previously. I have heard him in different parts of New South Wales, and years ago I listened to him iri Victoria. I have always been interested in his addresses, but years ago I came to the conclusion that, whilst, he has a wonderful flow of language, as an administrator and a leader of men he is an absolute failure. The Leader of the Opposition described as a catalogue the printed copy ‘of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. 1 agree with him that it is, and I tell the House and the country that the book that is going to be compiled from that catalogue will be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. The honorable gentleman professed to be dreadfully nervous with regard to the Constitution. He declared that we were departing, or proposing to depart, from constitutional procedure ; that we were doing something that hitherto had not been done, and he was awfully afraid that something serious would happen. As one who since his boyhood has taken an active part in politics, let me remind him that every reform that has been brought about within the last forty or forty-five years has been described in the very words that he used in this connexion. Every measure brought forward for the betterment of the people is met with the cry on the part of some people that something dangerous is proposed. I would tell the Leader of the Opposition that the Labour party are not going to be slaves to precedent. They are going to create pre- . cedents of their own ; they are going to do something new, because the people hitherto have not been satisfied. Had they been, our party would not have been returned to power. Never in the history of Governments, so far as my knowledge goes, whether it be that of Liberal or Conservative Administrations in Great Britain, Canada, or the Australian States, has a party returned from a general election without losing a seat; never has there been an instance where, as with the Labour party, every retiring member was re-elected, and additions were made to their numbers, so that they came back with a triumphant majority. The most remarkable feature of the last general election, however, was the re-election of all the retiring senators who belonged to our party. The reason for their return may be simply stated, and, indeed, must be apparent to every member of the Opposition. Our success was due to the fact that we went to the people with our policy in black and white. We said to them: “This is our policy. This is the policy that we shall carry out if returned, and we ask you to indorse it.” The people did indorse it. We have been returned to carry out that policy. We are justified in occupying these benches, because we have a direct mandate from the people to carry out the measures for which our platform provides. I am at a loss to understand why, in the circumstances, the Opposition should profess to be nervous as to the Constitution: I do not think that an honorable member of this House, or of any of the State Parliaments, could give a summary of the provisions of the’ Constitutions of the several States. Do the State Parliaments consider their Constitutions when they are seeking to meet the needs of the people? In such circumstances the terms of the Constitution are never taken into consideration. If the Commonwealth Constitution interfered with the liberty of the people, or prevented the progress of the Federation, I am confident that the electors of Australia would declare that it must be amended or set aside. The Constitution cannot thwart the will and pleasure of the people, or deny their wants. I hope, therefore, that we shall hear no more of the complaint as to the Constitution preventing effect being given to the will of the people. The Government propose that there shall be a referendum with respect to an amendment of the Constitution, and that proposal seems to have occasioned some1 honorable members a good deal of alarm. I was one of the first to endeavour to bring about the Commonwealth of Australia. I fought with William Bede Dalley, Sir John Quick, and others, to bring about a Federation. I did my best - although some of my honorable friends on this side of the House did not agree with me - to induce the people’ to accept the Constitution Bill, and so to bring our Constitution into existence.
– And now the honorable member wishes to break it up.
– I admit that I dared to fight for it, knowing that if it were shown by experience to contain anything detrimental to the progress of the people, the people themselves would be able to amend it, because I recognised that the Australian people would not allow any Constitution to stand in the way of their liberty and progress. Then, again, I find that some honorable members of the Opposition are greatly worried with respect to our taxation proposals. The wealthy section of the people of the Commonwealth have been most lightly taxed. In fact, it might be said that hitherto they have not borne any direct taxation. Virtually, no taxes have been paid except through the Customs. Taxation by shire councils or other municipal bodies, as well as by water and sewerage boards, rightly described, is not taxation, but payment for services rendered. The people ‘in a district where there is no water supply, no gas or sewerage service, no roadways or ‘other public conveniences, make no progress, but as soon as such services are provided, the district begins to advance. An auctioneer, in offering for sale a property where such services exist, would say, “Gentlemen, the land that I’ offer you abuts on pathways, and has -a water and sewerage service, as well as other conveniences associated with it, which constitute a valuable asset.” And undoubtedly they would. I repeat, therefore, that the wealthy section of the community have hitherto paid no direct taxation. Taxation has been borne chiefly by the industrial community, who have been taxed to the extent of £2 10s. per head ; but I hope the day is coming when property owners, against whom I may say I have no enmity, will be called upon, as they justly should be, to pay something towards the protection of Australia, and to help to make the country more progressive and prosperous.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When I say that the Constitution should be amended in such a way as to suit the desires of the people, I wish honorable members to understand that I am aware that it can only be so amended by the machinery provided for in the Constitution. It does seem to me absurd that an intelligent Democracy such as the Australian Democracy should be told when they want anything that they must bow down to the High Court. To do so would not be very creditable to an intelligent people. I hold that when the people have expressed their will as they have done in approving the platform of the Labour party, the High Court should not be allowed to stand in their way. Honorable members should bear in mind that the British Parliament does not worry about the Constitution. What is written in the British Constitution could be set out on a very small slip of paper. When Mr. Lloyd-George introduced his proposals to tax those who have lived on the people of Great Britain, he did not worry about the Constitution, or about the ultimate result. He - had no fear that capital would run away from England, when he was proposing measures to improve the condition of the people. The eyes of the whole world are turned upon this Parliament, and I agree with the Leader of the Opposition in his statement that constitutional authorities throughout the world will follow with interest the action of the Labour party in Australia. I remind the honorable gentleman, however, that the party has been in existence for years. It has ;grown from a very small beginning to be a real live party aiming at the progress of the people. I have no doubt that the people will confidently intrust to an intel ligent party such as the party on this side any alteration of the Constitution which may be found essential to secure their happiness. The land question is one which has troubled the whole world. We have to thank our Irish brothers in the Imperial Parliament for the courage they displayed in tackling the great land question, and for awakening the people to the fact that a monopoly has existed in the possession of land, and that for years the people have been deprived of the use of God’s acres by which to create the wealth essential to their happiness. Our English friends would hardly believe that in Australia, where every man and woman has the franchise, such a state of affairs could exist as that which is described in the Argus of this morning, in which the statement appears that in New South Wales there were no less than 700. applicants for one block of land. Is not that a state of things which those intrusted with the duty of leading the people should speedily alter? Who but the Labour party has brought forward any proposal to deal with that state of affairs ? Our friends on the other side were in office for several years, but they never brought forward any proposal to solve this great question. They sat and drew their screws, delivered long addresses to the people upon nothing, and their administration was an absolute failure. We can look forward to useful administration by the present Government, every member of which has risen from the ranks, has used the ham- . mer or the plough, or some other instrument of trade. I remind honorable members that the late Chief Justice Lilley, of Queensland, who no doubt was known to the honorable member for Ballarat, said on one occasion that from the workers will come the brainy community. I have no . doubt that the truth of that observation will be made manifest if the Labour party are permitted to remain in power for a few years. I have every confidence that great results will follow from their conduct of administrative affairs. The State Parliaments failed utterly in their attempt to deal with the land question; Sir John Robertson tried to deal with it in New South Wales, and was met with the opposition of the Upper House. He resigned his seat in the Legislative Assembly, and went to the Upper House, and “was ‘there beaten again. These fellows in the State Upper . Houses have got a good thing, and, like members of the Jewish persuasion, when they have a good thing, they dashed well stick to it. Though I am new to parliamentary life, I know something of the wriggling and twisting of it, and I have noticed some funny things even during the few days I have been a member of this Parliament. The Opposition have found all manner of fault with our existing elective system. They contend that it requires radical alteration, but apparently they were unable to find that out until they were asked to change their seats. As soon as they . were condemned by the . people to the cold shades of Opposition, they discovered that the elective system by which members are returned to the Commonwealth Parliament is a rotten system, full of faults. I should like to remind honorable members . opposite that at the last election I polled the highest vote secured by any person occupying the honorable position of representative of the premier constituency of Australia.
– What about Melbourne?
– I represent East Sydney and I play second fiddle to none. The percentage of electors who voted at the last election was higher than at any previous election that has taken place in the Commonwealth. That is a sign of improvement, and while a system is improving we should not alter it. If the elections showed a reduction in the percentage of votes polled, I could understand the complaint against the system. I think we should adhere to it until it is proved to be a failure. I ‘have no doubt that honorable members opposite find their reason for complaint of the present elective system in the results of the appeal to the electors on the 13th April. They made some marvellous discoveries on that occasion. It took the thunder out of them, and they found it difficult to realize that a certain event took place. They discovered then that their misdeeds had come home to them, and that they would have to roost on the Opposition benches for a long time.
– The 13th wis a most unlucky day.
– If the honorable member interrupts me I shall have to tell him something about Parramatta, the only constituency in which he could find a seat. Some inquiries have been made about the policy of the Government in connexion with immigration. The question has hitherto been merely a subject of conversation between parties. Under the existing system, persons come from other parts of the world to our large cities to compete with people already there, and seeking employment. Such a system can no longer be tolerated. I admit that more labour may be required, in the interior, but I think people should not be encouraged tocome to Australia unless it can be shown that they will be able to obtain a living wage when they get here. I have beenconnected with trade unions, friendly societies, and social organizations all my . life, and I have been in communication with similar organizations in the Old Country. When I was consulted on the subject of immigration by some representatives of those organizations, what could 1 say to them? I had to tell them that they would haveto take their chance. I could not give the hope of permanent employment, or of earning£2 a week. I could not offer the rateswhich that great man, Mr. Justice Higgins, of the High Court, has pronounced to be the living wage. As soon as we canoffer men in Great Britain a living wage, there will be plenty of immigration. Our head officials here will then be only too pleased to communicate with responsible persons in Great Britain. It will not be necessary to advertise by means of lantern* slides showing record wheat crops, oranges- 8 or 10 inches in diameter, and cauliflowers- 4 feet across. Without such expenditure we shall get the creme de la crême of the industrial masses of Great Britain. Some of the members of the Opposition seem tobe amused because the Labour party proposes to deal with banking. From information which I have received from a veryreliable authority in Sydney, the directorsof the banking institutions do not object to a Commonwealth note issue. I agree with the honorable, member for North Sydney that notes of small denominationswould be very useful, and I think that, thepeople will take to the. note system generally as a duck takes to water. Commonwealth notes will be found a very convenient medium of exchange. When I brought my family from Sydney to Melbourne recently, 1 had to fill my pockets with sovereigns, so that they might not go. hungry when ‘they got here. It would have been much more convenient to carry Commonwealth bank notes, had any been available. In the country, too, Commonwealth notes would be handy for payingwages. The general use of notes will save the loss which now takes place by reason’ of the wear and tear on the gold coinage, which I believe to be considerable. Furthermore, it would prevent the sweating of sovereigns. I understand that in some places persons use part of the gold of a sovereign for gilding, and then let the coin go into circulation again, with the result that when it is presented at a bank the last possessor finds that it has been depreciated to the extent of three or four shillings. Undoubtedly the Australian banking system is the loosest in the world. Banking and currency should be. controlled by the Government. I do not say that the business of private banking companies should 1 . cease. But people should know that in putting their money into a bank they will have absolute security, and no better security can be given than the credit of the Government pf a country whose Ministers are elected by the people. When the subject of banking is under discussion, I shall be in a position to furnish some very valuable information, as I have read a great deal about the Canadian system and .other banking systems. I know of a great many abuses in connexion with banking. The crisis of a few years back proved the need for a national bank. The honorable member for Denison referred last night to the late Sir George R. Dibbs, who was a great personal friend of mine. I feel bound to draw the attention of the House to the fact that, during the banking crisis, Sir George Dibbs proved himself to be one of the best friends that New South Wales has had.
– A whiter man never lived.
– It is well known that he lent ^336,000 to the Bank of New South Wales. I was told by three members of his Cabinet that, but for his action, the bank must have closed its doors. I believe that he would have prevented the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney from closing- the doors of its branches had he known it was likely to close them.
– If he had not intervened, every bank in Sydney would have had to close its doors.
- Sir George R. Dibbs went out on the balcony of the Barrack-street Savings Bank, and told the people that the Government would be security for every : sovereign deposited there. The largest borrowers from the Government at the time of the crisis were the Bank of New South Wales and the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. It was the money of the workers and toilers, the money of the industrial masses of .New South Wales, that they borrowed. Of course, money must produce money, otherwise people would get no profit by saving it. The crisis, how ever, showed the need for placing banking; operations on a sound footing. The Government proposal relative to the issue of bank notes is not -a matter which the House need be divided upon. No doubt, whenthe Banking Bills come before us, all honorable members will assist the Government in improving the currency. One of the greatest safeguards that a nation can haveis a sound financial system. I did not expect to have the pleasure of addressing the House so early in the debate ; but, as I have this . opportunity, I wish to say that I shall render this country what service” 1 can, and work in harmony with my fellow members. The members of the Oppositionneed not expect that there will be any change in the position of parties; there isno possibility of that. They should, therefore, bow to the inevitable, and accept the good things which we .give to them. The Government has brought forward some good proposals. I am sure that the Bills which we get from the Attorney-General, who is sitting so quietly at the table, will be masterpieces of ‘ingenuity. His ability is of such a character that it should command the respect of every honorable member. Many of the speeches which I have heard here reminded me of election speeches. I noticed that, while many honorable members said the other day that you,. Mr. Speaker, should be rewarded for your splendid services as Chairman of Committees, they voted against your election to> your present position. The time has now arrived when we should put into execution: the programme which the Opposition isfortunate in receiving from this side of the House. Members of the Opposition should work in harmony with us, and do all that can be done for the good of the country.
– The honorable member need not say any more ; we will all come over !
– I am quite satisfied that honorable members opposite only need a little intellectual re-adjustment, and they will at once accede to the propositionswhich I have advanced. I do not desireto say any more, except to express thehope that we shall proceed rapidly withthe business of the country, and placeupon the statute-book some of those measures for which the people are thirsting.. It would be a great shame if the membersof this new Parliament did not show a little more activity about their legislativework than did those who were here in the past. We should make our remarks as brief as we possibly can. Being a new member, I felt that I had to make an opening statement, and, of course, I shall procure some copies of Hansard, which I shall take care to post all over East Sydney, to show my constituents that they have a real live member to represent them. I shall on all occasions be in my place, and shall not follow the example of my predecessor, whose attendances were- rare. We have a great opportunity, and I hope that we shall rise to it by doing some effective and useful work in the interest of the Commonwealth.
– We may fairly congratulate the honorable -member who has just spoken in this House for the first time. We may also congratulate the true and enlightened electors of East Sydney upon their choice in sending not one, but two wits to this House. How great tlie contrast is between those two wits I mus.t leave to the imagination of honorable members. We have listened with a certain amount of pleasure to our new-found friend, and hope to hear him upon many future occasions. I desire to devote myself to a few of - the points contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. There is, in the first place, a reference to His Excellency’s Advisers. I .call attention to that term, because I am not sure as to the personality of the. Advisers. We know who constitute the Government, but we do not know who really devised the speech which was placed in His Excellency’s hand. So far as we can understand) it appears to have been the work of the whole body which sits behind the Government. In that case the term “ Advisers ‘ ‘ refers to the whole of the Ministerial party. It is not a matter of great concern to me what particular men lead the Government in this Parliament, but it is a matter of very great interest to rae that the country should be well governed. I am quite prepared to support the present Government in measures which commend themselves to my judgment and my sense of what is right, but the Speech contains some proposals which are questionable. The first matter of policy upon which I will comment is in its terms excellent. It is stated that in view of the urgent necessity for encouraging an influx of suitable immigrants to the Commonwealth, in order more effectually to develop its great resources, and to defend if against possible invasion, His Excellency’s Advisers have adopted a policy which it is believed confidently will, by making fertile lands available, speedily induce a large number of people of the right kind to settle in this country. That, as I have said, is excellent. It is a statement which we might reasonably have expected to find in a similar document emanating from this side of the House, if the present Opposition had been in occupancy of the Treasury bench. But we have had a clear indication in the speech of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat of the feeling of intense opposition existing in the Labour party to anything in the ‘form of immigration. I’ also hold in my hand a copy of a resolution carried at a conference held al the Trades Hall, Adelaide, lt is one of many similar pronouncements even, stronger in their terms. I notice this one, however, because, as far as I know, it is the latest public declaration dealing with the attitude of the Labour party towards this question. It reads -
That the Federal and State Governments be approached in reference to the misleading advertisements appearing in the English press regarding Australian- immigration.
– Does the honorable member support misleading advertisements ?
– I do not support misleading advertisements, but I have so much faith in Australia that I do not believe that any advertisements could be too glowing to paint the possibilities of success for the right type of people if they choose to’ come to this country. The point is, however that this Government put into the mouth of His Excellency words which, in themselves, are most commendable, and which I believe everybody in the Commonwealth outside the Labour party would be prepared to indorse. But the Labour party itself is absolutely opposed to the policy of encouraging immigration, which the Government announce themselves as determined to pursue. We have a right to know from the Government whether they think themselves sufficiently strong to carry through this excellent item in their programme, and whether the party sitting behind the Ministrywill support them in their laudable intention. I take it that there - is no more important question before us than this. We may talk as loudly as we like about defending Australia, making it a white man’s country, and peopling it with the right class ; but if the supporters of the Government are determined to frustrate every practical attempt that is made to accomplish the object in view, there is small hope of attracting people with the object of making our position secure from the point of view of defence.
– The honorable member must be drawing upon his imagination in this case.
– 1 am not drawing upon my imagination, but am taking the facts as 1 find them. It is a fact that speeches have been made in this Chamber by members of the Labour party antagonistic to bringing immigrants to this country. It is a fact that the latest Labour Conference held in Adelaide has expressed a similar view. Honorable members opposite claim to be a united party, but it is evident that, on this most important matter, either the Government spoke with the intention of deceiving the people of Australia, or they spoke in such a way as to prove that there are in the ranks of their own party stronger differences than exist on this side of the House.
– Has not the honorable member been complaining about persons being sent into the country under misrepresentations ?
– Not in legitimate circumstances.
– The honorable member complained in the very place which he now occupies about some men having been sent into the Goulburn Valley.
– To the Waranga Basin.
– This is only an attempt ±0 draw a red herring across the trail, and I do not intend to be led. away by it.
– It is a pretty live herring.
– It is a very dead and unsavoury one.
– The men would have died if they had not been supplied with food.
– Although the Labour party is supposed to speak as a whole, to. be an absolutely solid organization, and without any rift in the lute, I venture to say that a good many things have been said by individual members of it who occupy seats here, which cannot be indorsed by the Government. Their statements cannot b’-i so indorsed, because they are contrary to common sense. After quoting an extract from a speech by the’ honorable member for Batman, I intend to ask the Government whether they assent to his statement. On Saturday, 21st May, he is reported to have said at Heidelberg-
The Federal Parliament would bring forward industrial measures, and should the members of the High Court refuse to pass them they would appeal to the people to give them power over the Court. Justices Isaacs and Higgins were with the workers, and should the other members refuse to pass the measures men would be elected to the bench of the High Court who would.
Could there be anything more damaging than that? Does the party which speaks with one united voice indorse that state- ‘ ment ?
– The honorable member knows that they do not, therefore why does he ask the question?
– Are they going to subvert justice?
– Does the honorable member think that I would?
– I never thought that. The Labour party claims to be one which speaks with a united voice for the common interests- of Australia. Yet a prominent member of it took up this position, that if the Parliament made certain- laws, and they were not accepted by the High Court, the party would pack the Bench in order to accomplish their purposes.
– Who said that?
– I have just quoted the statement made by the honorable member foi Batman.
– The honorable member might read the whole of the report.
– I have read practically the whole of that part of - the report which bears on the matter, and if the honorable member was not correctly reported he will have an opportunity of making any necessary correction. “ It appears to me that, having set their hands to accomplish certain purposes, the Labour party will, so far as the honorable member is concerned, do so, ‘ whether the purposes be right or wrong. I now come to another matter which finds an important place in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. On page 3 we find this statement -
All arrangements necessary for the laying out and construction of the Federal Capital are being expeditiously proceeded with.
I realize that the Government are in a position to carry any proposal here, because they have the numbers behind them. 1 was quite prepared to support my friends from New South Wales in the selection of a capital site, but now that a site has been selected I believe that while there are so many urgent and important developmental works to be carried out in the Commonwealth we should postpone the spending of the necessary millions incidental to the building of a capital until a very much later period in our history.
– What is this?
– Where is the rift in the lute now?
– Is that said on this side or on the other ?
– I am quite prepared to urge my constituents to consent to an amendment of the Constitution which would allow the Federal Capital to be located in Sydney for a period of years- in preference to taking the lamentable and extravagant step of building a capital when we are not in a position to bear the expense. I am quite aware that the aim of a great many persons, who call themselves “Socialists,” is to. spend all the money they can in order to create the necessity for levying taxation. Their ambition is to tax property to such an extent that they will have gone a very long way indeed in the direction of accomplishing their socialistic ideals. But the vast majority of the people of this country are not socialistic at heart. They believe that certain things can best be carried out by the Government. So far as the great producing and manufacturing interests are concerned the great bulk of the people are in favour of our present system.
– What about the millions which it would cost ‘ to secure in Sydney a Federal Territory?
– I do not propose that we should acquire buildings in Sydney to any greater extent than we have done so here. I favour an amendment of the Constitution whereby the Federal Capital could be located for a number of years in Sydney, and afterwards, perhaps, for a number of years again in Melbourne.
– Why not Brisbane?
– My honorable friend can pursue the idea to ‘its logical conclusion if he chooses. My point is that at the present stage of our history, when large expenditures are looming in the distance, we cannot afford the cost of creating a capital. According to the Governor-General’s Speech it is intended to repeal the Naval Defence Loan Act. That, of course, ls quite in accordance with the policy of the Labour party. But what does it mean?. It means that it will be necessary to take £3,500,000 out of revenue to accomplish that object. Then the Labour party have in contemplation the construction of a railway from South Australia to Western Australia, as well as the taking over of the
Northern Territory. All these . proposals may be right and proper, possibly judicious ; but, in view of the fact that they involve enormous expenditure, it appears- to me to be nothing more or less than sinful that there should be a proposal to spend some millions of pounds on the construction of a capital which nobody really needs, and which would not serve any useful purpose. ,
– That is provided for in the Constitution. Why talk about it now?
– ‘But the Constitution does not fix any time ; it simply provides that the Federal Capital shall be in NewSouth Wales, though not within 100 miles of Sydney ; and that, pending its establishment, the Seat of Government shall be in Melbourne. I believe that every Victorian would be prepared to assent to an amendment of the Constitution to allow the Seat of Government to be for a time in Sydney,’ rather than that we should at once be putto the expenditure necessary to establish a Federal Capital which would simply be a white elephant.
– There are no free build- ings in Sydney, and we should have to rent, so that the expense would’ be just as great.’
– That is’ a very pleasing forecast. I venture to say that the expenditure involved in building a Federal Capital on die lines indicated by the Minister of Home Affairs to-day, would run into many millions.
– We are not there yet - keep cool !
– We can afford to keep cool ; but we shall probably find ourselves committed before we know what the” expenditure is to be.
– The honorable member voted for the present site, and has no oneto blame but himself !
– And I did right in voting for the present site; but that does not necessarily mean the immediate erection of a Federal Capital. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech further indicates that the im- .provement of our trade relations with Great Britain, and other self-governing parts ofthe Empire, is receiving consideration by the Government. I do not know what the Government have in contemplation ; but there are various proposals, which I view with a certain amount of alarm, in the direction of placing export duties on our staple products. Resolutions have been carried at Trades Halls and Labour Councils in favour of an export duty on grain.
This was twelve or eighteen months ago, and the resolutions were submitted to the honorable gentleman who now holds the office of Minister of Trade and Customs, and who received the deputation, as he receives every deputation, kindly and graciously. The proposal has hardly yet taken definite shape; but it is being discussed, and is causing a considerable amount of anxiety. Another proposal, which has yet hardly taken definite shape, but is being discussed, and is causing a considerable amount of anxiety, involving, as it does, a large sum of money to the producers, is to put an export duty on hides and skins. My point is that, if we impose excessive duties against Great Britain and other portions of the Empire, and then adopt a policy of . export duties, so far from strengthening the trade relations, we shall tend to make Australia self-contained, and , independent of the other parts of the Empire. I Hold most tenaciously to the idea that the best interests of the country are conserved by making the conditions of the producers as easy and profitable as possible. I am glad to know that Victoria, and, to a certain extent, New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia, are exerting themselves with a view to settling an increased number of people on the land ; but the conditions necessary to satisfactory settlement, with the result of making the peoples prosperous and happy, and promoting the general welfare of the country, cannot be brought about by, on the one hand, imposing a land tax, and, on the other hand, reducing the selling value of the commodities produced. ‘ We have to be . very guarded in regard to matters of this sort. The wealth and prosperity. of the country depend on what we are able to take out of the soil. Our mining interests are great; but the greatest of all the interests of the Commonwealth is that of land production. What I dread is that the present Government may adopt a policy which will be inimical to the best interests’ of those connected with the land. There is another proposal, which, as yet, has not taken definite shape, to impose Trades Hall conditions in regard to hours of labour on rural industries.
– That would be a great sin, would it not?
– It would not be a sin ; but it would be a calamity. It would bring about conditions’, which, so far from increasing the welfare of the labourers, would eventually mean that scarcely any of those interested in the land would go outside their own families for workers. If the conditions are such as to render it unprofitable to employ labour, then labour will not be employed, and the labourers must suffer. .
– What a tale ! Does the honorable member think that the nien are employed for philanthropic reasons?
– It is a tale which would fill more than a page. I may be allowed to congratulate the Government on the very strong position which they occupy. I have only one regret, and that is that every other Government since Federation has not occupied a similarly strong position. But the stronger ‘ the position, the greater the obligation and responsibility devolving on the Government. We have every reason to hope -that the Government will carry out their policy; because, so long as they do so,, we can regard them as honest men. They are constitutionally in their position, and I think they value it oh that account. Many reasons have been urged for the great result which was accomplished at the last general election. We admit defeat; we on this side have come back weakened in numbers, and many of us, who previously had large majorities in our electorates, have now only small majorities.
M’r. Webster. - Does that worry the honorable member?
– It does not worry me. I am perfectly happy and satisfied. I believe, however, that if the Government attempt to carry into effect their policy, we on this side will be back into power before the end of the next three years, and the present Ministerial party will be in Opposition. Honorable members, perhaps, remember the ancient Greek myth concerning Hercules in his youth. In a dream, Hercules was at the parting of the ways. He saw before him one way which was smooth and easy, and at the end of which there was a. fine-looking city. The other way was steep and difficult, and he was. puzzled as to which he should take. He dreamt that he saw a maiden coming from the city along the smooth way, and that she said to him, 1 The city yonder is full of pleasant people, who will treat you kindly ; you will not be required to work in the heat and dust if you- go there, but will be able to sit under the shadow of the trees and listen to the music of the birds and of the harp and lyre.” Hercules was just about to choose the easy path when he happened to look up the difficult road and saw there a maiden with a brave face, who said, “ My sister is deceiving you. The pleasant things that they offer you in that city are not worth having, and when you get them are not worth the price that you- will have had to pay for them.” The modern Hercules is the voting strength of the people. The reason that the Labour party find themselves with a large majority to-day is that they have been .promising the people easy times, easy conditions of labour, and large pay. The Government have succeeded to an honorable position, and I will say, to the credit of every member sitting opposite, that they have attained to it by energy, perseverance, skill, and labour. But they told the mass of the people that they can have easy and happy conditions by taking life easy, and any party which gains power by promises of that sort is bound to wake up, sooner or later, to the fact that the people have found them out, because they have made promises which the people can only have fulfilled- at too great a price. I have, said my say. I have entered my protest against the building of the Federal Capital, and indicated my intention to support the Government while they submit proposals which are reasonable and commend themselves to my judgment. We on this side of the House are prepared to give the Government every legitimate consideration, in spite of the fact that when the positions were reversed they treated us with the utmost unkindness.
– 1 did not intend to take any part in this debate, but I wish to make some observations in ‘connexion with replies given to-day by the Postmaster-General to certain questions. I should very much prefer the Minister to be here to listen to my remarks regarding him. In the meantime, I may be pardoned for complimenting my honorable friends opposite on having attained the position that they occupy. I have’ been puzzling my mind as to how they came there. Many have said it was because they fixed the election for the 13th April. I was not much- taken with that idea, and began to realize that the name of their party had something to do with the result. It will be noticed that the word Fusion contains three vowels - I, 0, U - and three consonants - N, S, F - not sufficient funds. Any party that could carry a name of that kind to victory would really deserve their success. It is most remarkable that they never noticed the peculiarity of the name which they adopted, and the way in which it could be dissected. Had they done so, I think they would have changed, not only the date, but also the name, before they went to the electors. I have little to say in antagonism to the remarks of honorable members opposite, because in general they have been very mild and moderate. They have taken up a most commendable attitude, from the Leader of the Opposition down to the rank and file who have spoken to-day, and their arguments have not made any serious inroads on, the Government policy. t In many respects they have commended it, and their only difficulty appears to be to realize that it is capable of being put into practical effect. I believe that every item in the programme is not only capable of solution, but calculated to give the people large and important reforms, which will tend to develop the country and improve their conditions. I am delighted that the Government have adopted a land tax policy, which is so much in accord with the wishes of the electors. When the Bill gets into Committee it will be necessary to thoroughly consider its bearing on the many systems of land tenure existing in tlie. different States. It will be then that the skill and ingenuity of those who have served in the State Legislatures before being returned to this Parliament, and who have had occasion to study the land legislation of the various States, will he of service in assisting the Government to place this . burden on the shoulders of those who, constitutionally and otherwise, are entitled to bear it. As the honorable member for Echuca has remarked, all parties are in agreement with the first section of the Governor-General’s Speech. Had the Fusion Government remained in power - in other words, had they secured a majority at the polls - my strong belief is that they would have been very early in the field with a proposal of this character. It was because prior to the’ recent election they lacked the necessary courage that they did not submit such a- proposal themselves. When the Leader nf the Opposition declares that land taxation is a State matter he does not do justice to his own knowledge of the Constitutions of the several States and of the obstacles which lie in the path of reform by reason nf those Constitutions. I have always wondered why he urges that this is a State and not a Federal- matter. Has not his own experience in the Victorian Parliament been sufficient to demonstrate that it is impossible, to get this desirable reform ap- proved by the State Parliaments? He has said that time and again he has known of State Governments which were in favour of land taxation. But although he was a member of the Victorian Parliament for many years, and notwithstanding that he has occupied a prominent position in this Parliament ever since the inauguration of the Federation, he has never possessed the requisite courage to push this matter to a successful issue. I contend that it is not a State question but a national one. No representative body other than the Commonwealth Parliament can deal with it satisfactorily. To talk about piecemeal legislation upon the subject is mere idle twaddle. We know that even if the reform could be secured in one or two States its benefit would be limited to those States. Consequently, there would be an exodus of a certain class from one State to another, and thus we should merely be robbing Peter to pay Paul. I desire to open the lands of Australia for settlement by our own people, and when their claims have been satisfied, we shall be able - because we have plenty of land to spare - to throw open our gates to desirable immigrants. I have frequently listened with admiration to the addresses delivered by the Leader of the Opposition, but whenever he has discussed this question, he has always appeared to me to be very much at sea. The most important plank in the platform of the Labour party is that of a progressive land tax. I am glad to note that the Postmaster-General is now present, because I rose chiefly to address myself to a particular subject, and I shall do so, in as mild a frame of mind as possible. Honorable members will recollect that close upon two years ago, from information which I had received, I felt it to be my duty to endeavour to secure a thorough inquiry into the conditions obtaining in the great postal service of Australia. There were not many honorable members who possessed the knowledge which had come to me in my capacity as a representative of the people. The facts placed before me were of such a character that I was compelled to conclude that there was only one way of remedying those conditions, namely, by instituting a thorough inquiry into the administration of the Department from top to bottom. How the matter was brought forward, and how the fate of the Deakin Government hung trembling in the balance when the division on my motion was taken, is now a matter of history. It is also upon record that the motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission to conduct an inquiry into our postal administration was carried only by a very narrow majority. There were not many honorable members who really recognised the importance of my proposal. I am sure that -the present Leader of the Opposition did not. I am satisfied that when he learns the result of that inquiry he will admit that he was in error in taking up the extreme attitude which he assumed on’ that memorable occasion. However, the Commission was appointed. Whether it was appointed with the idea that it should perform the work which I desired it to perform, 1 cannot say. But certainly its history has no parallel in Australian politics. From its very inception it has been harassed, misrepresented, and maligned by the press with a view to bringing about its humiliation if not its annihilation. But despite all the abuse which has been heaped upon it, the Commission has steadily pursued its inquiries.” I regret the stand which the PostmasterGeneral took up to-‘day. Honorable members may set what value they please upon the Postal Commission the value we ask to be set upon it is simply that which will attach to the report that we intend to submit. We ask only to be judged by our report, and not by any conclusions that may be prematurely arrived at by our friends or opponents. It is not only unwise, but indiscreet, for a Minister to take up the attitude adopted to-day by the PostmasterGeneral. There is no party feeling in this matter. The Commission is beyond party. It was appointed to deal with a great Department of State in which the whole of the people are interested, and having regard to the magnitude of the inquiry, I hold that there is no reason for any party feeling in connexion with it. My desire is that the country shall obtain the best results from the labours of the Commission. The Postmaster-General has already been informed that the Commission anticipates having its report ready for presentation not later than the beginning of October next, and Ave hope by energy and application to -bring our labours to a close at an even earlier date. . The Commission has already arrived at a conclusion in regard to two important branches of the Department whose operations they were required by His Excellency’s Commission to investigate. The management of the Department which was the first work allotted to us, and the question of finance, which was the second, but which ought really to have been the first, since it is the more impoitant, have been inquired into as thoroughly as practicable, and a report with respect to them has been prepared. A fortnight ago the Commission completed its investigations and conclusions with respect to those questions, and also came to a decision as to the telephone rates. Our report, however, cannot be submitted to the House at present, for there will have to be made to it amendments incidental to the further conclusions that will be arrived at in dealing with other important issues that have yet to be determined.
– The Commission could present a progress or interim report.
– I know that it has been the custom for Commissions to present progress, or interim, reports, but when I moved for the appointment of theCommis- sion, I stipulated, as the present Leader of the Opposition will remember, that it should be unrestricted, and. that it should have full power to investigate every phase of the work and administration of the Department. The Commission was granted that freedom. We were given power to investigate the workings of the Department, so to speak, from stem to stern. The several branches of the Department are so interlocked, one with another, , that an absolutely definite decision with respect to its financial aspect cannot be arrived at until the question of management has been determined. Then, again, a definite decision in regard to either of those matters cannot be given without reference to the matter of organization which has also to be reported upon and the conclusion upon which, in turn, depends upon the question of discipline and the services of the Department generally. I do not believe in’ a Commission submitting a progress report when the subjects which it is appointed to inquire into are so inseparably linked together that justice would neither be done to the Commission itself, nor to the Parliament if anything but a complete report were presented. The Postmaster-General was informed that we were going to submit a report not later than1st. October next, and he knows, or ought to know, that our report will contain a recommendation with respect to the vexed question of telephone rates, which has troubled not only past Governments and honorable members generally, but even subscribers. The infirmities of the service have arisen from action taken by Ministers such as that which the Postmaster-General proposes to take on ist September next. The troubles of the Department, it cannot be gainsaid, have arisen from the anxiety of the several members who have held office as Postmaster- General to popularize themselves at all cost. In their efforts to do so, they have brought about immature, ill-digested, and illconceived reforms, without having any reasonable guidance. Honorable members cannot get away from that fact, which will be clearly shown by the report of the Commission. We shall stand by our report, because it will be built upon the evidence that has been submitted.
– The honorable member is making a very serious charge.
– I have a serious duty to perform as a member of this House.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand, Mr. Speaker, that a Royal Commission has been appointed by the GovernorGeneral to inquire into the working and administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and I take it that until that Commission has presented its report to His Excellency,’ and it has been transmitted by His Excellency to the Government, no member is at liberty to comment upon its’ actions, or the work which it has undertaken. I contend, sir, that the matters to which the honorable member has been referring are still practically sub judice.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the honorable member for Gwydir his not been dealing with the report itself.
– I have endeavoured to keep clear of anything that will be embodied in the report.
– The honorable member has practically been telling us a good deal of what will appear in the report.
– The honorable member is not in a position to judge.
– At all events, the honorable member has told us a good deal about the action of the Commission in regard to the telephone service.
– The honorable member’s statement shows that he knows nothing about the matter. My honorable friends, who have just interjected, are seeking to play the part of thought-readers, but are really at sea. But for the statement of the Postmaster-General as to the action that he proposes, to take with respect to the telephone service, I should have remained silent in regard to the Commission, as I have hitherto done, notwithstanding the many reflections that have been made upon it. As a member of the Commission, I have endured in silence many actions and statements that I should have liked to resent. In the interests of the inquiry itself, I have remained silent, and would continue to do so, but that I feel I should not be justified in doing so, when a step is to be taken which, in my judgment, is likely to injure the reputation of my party, and might suggest want of confidence on the part of the Government whom I support, in the investigation that has taken place in connexion with a great Department. In the circumstances, I think I was quite justified in saying that we have arrived at a conclusion concerning the telephone system and charges. If it did not seriously conflict with the conclusion arrived at by the PostmasterGeneral, I should have made no comment.
– Does the honorable member say that the Postmaster-General was aware that the Commission had arrived at that conclusion?
– No, I do not; but the honorable gentleman was aware that we had promised that our report would be ready early in October. I can understand a Minister being anxious to do something which might place his name on the scroll of fame. That is a weakness of Ministers in all countries. ‘Knowing that weakness, I might have excused die honorable gentleman’s action if his proposal were put forward merely as an experiment. But when I know that a similar action in the past has been fraught with serious inconvenience and injustice to the general public, I am bound, as a representative of the people, at least to indicate what I think of it before it is too late to do so effectively. The Postmaster-General is bringing forward the 7A Regulation again, ‘possibly in a somewhat amended form. He told me to-day that he was not adopting the report of the accountants appointed to investigate the subject of telephone charges. Two accountants were appointed by one Federal Government to give them light on a very complex question. They sat for about seven months, and were supposed to be experts in the matter. They furnished a report which I have glanced through, and studied to some extent. Their investigation deals only with this branch of the Department in one State of the Commonwealth - Victoria - and is incomplete even as regards that
State. In many respects it is misleading and erroneous. I contend that even if the conclusions in that report were based upon the facts inquired into in the State of Victoria, the Postmaster-General should still hesitate to adopt them because of the partial character of the inquiry. Any one who knows anything of the subject is aware that ic is useless to try to lay down a system based upon an inquiry into the conditions in one State alone. The systems differ materially, in the different States. In taking over the postal service at the inauguration of the Commonwealth, we assumed the control of six distinctly different systems. These have not yet been assimilated, and any inquiry into the subject likely to suggest conclusions on which the public might rely and the Government act, should be one upon the working of the whole of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. In the circumstances, I do not quarrel with the PostmasterGeneral for refusing to accept the accountants’ report, seeing that it is an incomplete report. Mr. Hesketh, who, by reason of his position, has a right to be regarded as the guide of the administrative head of the Department, is a man who has displayed some originality in his investigations into telephony and similar subjects. I am speaking now of what Mr. Hesketh had done before the Commission was appointed. He went into the question before toll rates were introduced into the Commonwealth. I remember it well, because 1 went into the matter with him at the time. He investigated the systems in operation in other parts of the world, and after a searching inquiry came to the conclusion that the -measured, or toll, system was the only equitable system that could be adopted in conducting a service of this kind. That is the conclusion at which he arrived from an experience of what is done in other countries. He was asked by the PostmasterGeneral of the day to report upon the question, and did so as official head of this branch of the Department. He informed the Postmaster-General that it would be safe to adopt a measured service, provided it was laid down on well-defined lines. His recommendations on the subject have for years past been available to honorable members, and it would have been a good thing for the Commonwealth if the Postmaster-General of the day had acted upon Mr. Hesketh’s recommendations, instead of declining tn accept the advice tendered to him, and practically forcing upon the country a system which has been largely responsible for the troubles that have arisen in this Department. Mr. Hesketh stands by the position he assumed at first, and, according to the report recently tabled by the Postmaster-General, maintains that the policy he recommended in the early stages of the consideration of the question should still be followed. He gives advice to the Minister, and then comments, as, in order to protect himself, he had a perfect right to do, upon the rates proposed by the Postmaster-General. He says that the 7a Regulation, or the proposals of the present Postmaster-General, will not do what we are so anxious to do - give the Commonwealth a satisfactory telephone service. That is exactly what the Minister was told when those rates were originally proposed. But the Minister took no heed of the advice then given him, and in what the Minister is now endeavouring to do, we have merely a repetition of what took place before. I am exceedingly sorry that this should be so, in view of the fact that in a month or two, by the1st October at the latest, the whole of the evidence collected by the Royal Commission in connexion with this question, and the value of which every one will be able to judge for himself, will be in the hands of every member of this House. I have no doubt that every honorable member who has the welfare of his constituents at heart will be able to discover from that evidence the real history of this question. Honorable members will pardon me for taking up the time of the House in dealing with the matter at this stage. I should not have done so had not the Minister definitely decided to introduce, on1st September, a system of telephone rates based upon data that is absolutely unreliable, and which has nothing to recommend it. The Minister has told us that he is not going to follow the advice of the accountants, and that he is not going to accept Mr. Hesketh’s advice, except in part. Of course, one must admire the man who has the courage to do what he believes to be right, but, as the information necessary for the guidance of the Minister is not yet within his reach, and the counsel which he can get is not the most reliable, he should consider whether he will act wisely in making any change of rates until the report of the Commission has been presented. The public would not suffer any inconvenience from the postponement.
– When does the Commission propose to report?
– Not later than the 1st October, and as much earlier as may be possible. We are not lingering over our work. Indeed, the Commissioners have applied themselves to their task as assiduously as any similar body of men has ever done. The rates now proposed by the Minister are not those which he originally proposed. He now makes no provision for four calls for1d.
– Regulation 7A is, comma’ for comma, and word for word, the same as Regulation 7 a in the rates proposed by me when last in office.
– Did Mr. Hesketh recommend the charging of id. for four calls over 3,000 a year?
– We are talking abouti Regulation 7A. The rate mentioned was never in that regulation.
– In view of the Minister’s statement, I take it that the rate’ to which I refer was part and parcel of Mr. Hesketh’s recommendations. I do not’ agree either with Mr. Hesketh’s recommendations or the Minister’s action. Iri my opinion, both are wrong. The rates proposed will not fit the conditions which exist, and whose “ existence will be made known by the facts which are to be placed before Parliament. Of course, if the Minister or honorable members do not require’ information, if they are willing to risk’ their constituents’ welfare without taking advice, that is their affair. It is a most singular thing that I, the mouth-piece of the Commission, am the only member of it now in this House. I fought for its appointment alone, and I alone am here to defend it now.
– The honorable member is the best of the lot.
– I am not too sure of that. I am very pleased that the electors have given me the opportunity to be present again here, and, putting party considerations on one side, I am really sorry that one of my colleagues is not here to help me to pilot the Commission’s report. The question at issue is, not only how can the telephone service be made to pay, but also - and this is more important than the matter of finance - how can it be made efficient. The mere analyzing of figures brought together by accountants, without an investigation of questions of administration, will not solve our difficulties. The investigation of which I speak is so complex that the Minister, I am sure, has not had time to make it, however energetic he may be. He cannot have grasped all the details of administration which it is necessary to know, and which cannot be known except after long and close investigation by men setting themselves wholly to the task of learning them. I have done my duty in entering my protest against the proclamation of the proposed rates on 1st September next. I hope that the Minister will stay his hand until the Commission’s report recommending certain rates has been submitted. If he does not, the blame for the mistake which will have been made will lie on his shoulders, not on mine.
.- However honorable members on this side of the Chamber may regard the result of the recent elections, on one point they are perfectly satisfied. The contest was fought on a clear and definite issue, allowing the people to give an emphatic and unmistakable mandate. As the Labour party has been returned with a large majority in each House, there is nothing to prevent it from carrying out to the letter the programme which it placed before thepeople. Under these circumstances, most of us expected to see in the Speech placed in His Excellency’s hands mention of all the measures which the party have promised to bring before Parliament. No doubt, some honorable members opposite, and most on this side, expected to see in the Speech a great deal more than is there. I did, for one, and I must confess that I share the surprise of the right honorable member for Swan in that there was not some definite reference to that great service of which the honorable member for Gwydir has been speaking. There is no service under the control of the Commonwealth which comes so closely into contact with the life of our people - which enters into their daily life to the same extent - as does the service of posts, telegraphs, and telephones. We might reasonably have expected that some definite reference would be made in the Speech’ placed in His Excellency’s hands to the intentions of the Government when the report of the Postal Commission is placed before Parliament. I wish to mention one or two matters in connexion with this great service that I would commend most sincerely to the consideration of the Government. One is the system under which all the new works which Parliament authorizes from time to time, come to a sudden stoppage at the end of a financial year. At the present time, we have in the construction branch of the Post and Telegraph Department the greatest possible congestion. Every time one goes to the responsible officers in regard to any matters of importance, they say that they have more work in hand than they can possibly do in the next two years. That is to a very great extent caused by works coming practically to an absolute stoppage at the end of the financial year. There is no possibility of new works being put in hand before they are authorized by Parliament later on. I believe that in the management of a great business concern - and our Post and Telegraph Office is such, neither more nor less - that is a state of affairs that should be brought to an end as speedily as possible. We should be in a position to proceed with construction that is authorized by Parliament as rapidly as it can be accomplished. I wish to refer to another matter relating to the same Department. I allude to the practice of asking settlers who are pioneering - opening up the lands of this country - to contribute to the first cost of construction of telephone lines,, and to guarantee their working expenses until such time as they become paying concerns. If there is one thing more than another that this Parliament should try to do, it is to settle people on the land, and, once that is done, to give them every facility for making the conditions of life under which they have to live as generous and as beneficial as we can. There is no service with which we can supply the people in our back blocks that is of greater value to them, or which they appreciate more, than the telephone service. I can quite understand that when a telephone line is asked for, to a place where settlement has reached its fullest limit, there may be reasons for the Department asking for a contribution from the few settlers who are to be served. But that is not the kind of case to which I am referring. I am speaking of cases where settlers have gone back into new country, are opening it up, and where there is room for great development. The Department, when requested to furnish telephone accommodation, asks these people, at a time when they are absolutely unable to subscribe even sixpence, to find the money, in the first place, towards the cost of construction, and then to guarantee that the line shall not be worked at a loss until they are able, to hand it over to the Department to carry on at a profit for ever after. That, surely, is a wrong system. Seeing that the telephone service is a State-owned concern, it is still more reprehensible. I do not desire to say more upon the subject at present. I shall now offer a few criticisms upon the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I have no intention of dealing with its paragraphs seriatim, but I wish to allude to the remarks made last night by my honorable friend, the member for North Sydney, in regard to the sugar industry. He seems to be under the impression - perhaps I should say the misapprehension - that the Parliament of this Commonwealth, in having given to the sugar growers a bounty, conferred a very great benefit upon them, and laid a very heavy burden upon the people. In the first place, I do not think this Parliament has given the sugar growers a great advantage; and, in the second place, I do not think that, in granting the bounty, Parliament laid a-very heavy burden upon the people. Few really understand how the Excise and the bounty on sugar operate. As a matter of fact, the grower loses all the time, and the Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth gains very considerably. On every ton of sugar produced, there is an Excise duty of £4 per ton, but the Commonwealth hands back to the grower £3 per ton by way of bounty. As a consequence, the grower is out to the extent of £1 per ton on every ton of sugar on which he receives the bounty.
– But he is protected to the extent of £6 per ton.
– That may be, but as far as the Excise and the bounty go, I contend that the grower of the sugar is not benefited; whilst at the same time no burden is laid upon the Commonwealth, because the Consolidated Revenue benefits. It has benefited since the establishment of the bounty to the extent of over .£2,000,000.
– The States get that money, not the Commonwealth.
– I do not wish to pursue this subject very much further, but I should like to add a few words to what the honorable member for Brisbane said in seconding the Address-in-Reply. I hope that the Government will appoint a Commission to go fully into this vexed subject, and thresh it out from top to bottom. If the people of Australia are paying too much for their sugar, by al! means let us know where the leakage is, and let us put it right. I now pass on to the Speech itself. The first paragraph on which I desire to say a few words is that which says -
In view nf the expiration on the 3rst December next of the period during which the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States were governed by the provisional financial clauses of the Constitution, a measure will be submitted providing for payments by the Commonwealth to the several States, during a term of ten years, commencing on the 1st July, ro,io, on the basis of 25s. per head of their respective populations, special arrangements being made for the State of Western Australia.
It has been maintained by honorable members opposite that in that paragraph the Government only propose to carry out what honorable members on this side proposed to do when they were in power last session, but I think that there is the widest possible difference between the two propositions. It must be remembered that the tentative agreement, which was come to between the State Premiers and the late Prime Minister, was subject to an appeal to the people of Australia, and, what is more, the proposed payment by the States of portion of the anticipated deficit in the Commonwealth revenue was part and parcel of the agreement, which the people at the referendum refused in toto. It is absolutely wrong for the present Government to take one portion of the agreement and say that they intend to carry it out after the people of the Commonwealth have repudiated the whole of it. They cannot take one part of it, and carry it out, unless they intend to carry out the whole agreement. There is only one right and honorable course for the Government of the day to take, and that is to fulfil section 87 of the Constitution, not merely in the letter, but in the spirit, and afterwards to start to pay 25s. per head in accordance with the ‘ledge which they, through their responsible leaders, gave to the country. I notice that in the Speech die Government state that they have already taken preliminary steps in regard to building a railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. I am very glad to know that they are in earnest in regard to carrying out the work, because I believe it is essential that we should link up the whole of the Commonwealth by means of railways, but, in my opinion, one of the first preliminary steps which the Government should take before they attempt to construct any of these great trunk lines is to try in some way to come to a general understanding as to what shall be the standard gauge for all the railways in the Commonwealth, and that, I suppose, could only be clone by a conference between the States and the Commonwealth. Once they had arrived at a basis whereby we should be able in course of time to gradually unify the standard gauges of our trunk lines, then we should build, from time to time, the necessary trunk lines according to the standard gauge. I am also glad to know that the Government propose to ;take over the Northern Territory. I believe it is essential that for the purpose ot adequate defence of the Territory over which at present waves the Union Jack it should be occupied as early and as effectively as possible. Unlike the honorable member for Brisbane, I think it is necessary to occupy the Territory for the purpose of defence first and foremost. I do not believe that there is the slightest chance of any nation near to Australia attempting to land on its shores, unless England is embroiled in a great European war. It “is quite possible that that may happen. It is quite reasonable to suppose that it will happen some day. We, of course, hope that it will not happen, but we should prepare for that emergency. Supposing that England was involved in a great European war, and that the issue went against her to any extent, we could then reasonably anticipate that a great nation, such as Japan, or such as China must become in the comparatively speaking near future, would seize upon that great unoccupied territory which lies to the north of Australia, and only seize it for the purpose of occupation. I do not think that they would attempt to carry their conquest all over the Commonwealth. I believe that they would simply plant themselves down and say, “ We have taken this country, and now you have to turn us out of it.” For that reason it is essential that we should do our utmost to populate the Northern Territory, and the Commonwealth is in a better position to do that than is South Australia. There has been ample evidence of that, inasmuch as that State has had the Territory for a very long time, and has practically done nothing with it, the white population having dwindled during the last few years. I shall not follow the subject any further, because there are one or two other matters which I wish to discuss. With regard to a Commonwealth note issue, in my opinion, the subject is a highly technical one. It looks so simple that, perhaps, some honor.orable members may feel no difficulty about launching the ship of State on a sea which may look perfectly calm to-day but which, I believe, is capable of becoming very stormy in time to come. If they care to trace the history of nations which have tampered with their currency in this particular way - I admit that they have made mistakes, and very often done things in a most unwise way - they will only find that those nations have gone on tinkering and tampering with the subject until they really do not know where they are. I feel convinced that Australia will be wise indeed in leaving well alone. If the necessity should arise for taking a step of this description, then we may possibly be able to do something in that regard, but the subject is of a highly technical nature, and is surrounded with many difficulties which are only known to men who have had a good deal to do with finance. In the course of his speech last night the Prime Minister gave us some indication of what he really intends to do. The present note issue of the banks of Australia is something like £3,500,000. The Prime Minister gave it as his opinion, on the experience of Queensland, that if the Commonwealth carry out this project we should have an effective note issue of considerably more than that of to-day. From the returns relating to the Queensland Treasury notes, we find that, on the average, something like 48 per cent, of the note issue is effective, the rest being held by the banks, for the simple reason that a banker has to have considerable quantities of notes in all his branches to meet the constant demand of the public. Supposing the Commonwealth were to have an effective note issue of £4,000,000, it would be necessary, as a matter of fact, to issue £8,000,000 j or if, on the Queensland figures, there were an effective issue of £3,500,000, the Commonwealth would have to issue £7,000,000. I believe that such a policy must lead to the gold, which the banks hold at present, leaving Australia. If we look at the history of Canada for the last few years, we shall find that that has been the case there ; the gold has constantly been leaving the country to be invested elsewhere. For my own information, the other day I took out a few figures on the subject. In the year 1903, the Dominion banks held specie, to the value of $14,219,299, while in 1907 they held $24,097,487, but the money at short loan out of Canada had advanced from $30,585,526 to $63,158,601. All that money went out of Canada as a consequence of the banks having to hold a large quantity of Dominion notes.
– There were other forces at work.
– I admit that, but what I have described has been the invariable experience ; and it must, and will, be the experience of Australia if we have a note issue; it must lead to the gold, which the banks at present hold in their vaults in order to meet a run if it should come, leaving Australia.
– But the banks did not meet the run in 1893; they kept the people running !
– I do not desire to go into all the intricacies of the subject tonight, because there will be an opportunity later on for a full discussion of the subject. There is “only one other point I desire to mention, and that is the convertibility of the notes. The proposal of the Prime Minister is that the notes shall be convertible into gold only at the Treasury in Melbourne. But if the Prime Minister desires to make the currency truly popular and effective, the best method is to make the convertibility of the notes as simple as possible ; it would be better to make the notes convertible at two or three places in. each State.
– The notes will be convertible at the Seat of Government.
– The practice in Canada is to make the notes convertible at several of the large centres. I presume the Government intend to use their power and strength to pass this measure; and I hope the Prime Minister will see the desirability of establishing gold reserves at more than one centre, so as to deal more fairly with the banks than is possible under the present proposal. The honorable gentleman did say something about no selfrespecting institution refusing to convert the Commonwealth notes into gold at any time; but I desire to impress on him that we can expect the banks to convert the notes into gold readily only if we give them reasonable facilities for getting the gold back into their branches. I do not think it right that we should impose on the banks the expense of drawing gold from Melbourne right away to the north of Queensland or Western Australia, when they have paid gold out in redemption of Commonwealth notes. The Government should, at least, take on themselves the responsibility of making these notes convertible at one centre in each State, so that the banks may have reasonable facilities of recouping themselves at reasonable expense, if they are expected to redeem Commonwealth notes whenever they are presented across the counter. I now desire to say a few words about the land tax. Owing to constitutional disabilities under which the Commonwealth labours in regard to land taxation, it is impossible for the Federal Government to impose a land tax without doing the maximum amount of injustice, and creating the maximum inequality.
– What are the constitutional disabilities?
– The one to which I refer is that, under the Constitution, we cannot differentiate between States, or between parts of States. I presume that the Government in bringing this measure forward hold that this tax, which commences at a Jd. and rises to 6d., is fair, just, and equitable. In some of the States there is no land taxation, and there such a tax might be just and righteous. But what of the States where there is land taxation, and considerable land taxation, already? In my own State we have shire taxation on unimproved capital values, which takes the place of a land taxation - the land tax in New South Wales. The shire taxation goes up to 2d. in the £1, and a great deal of the land close to my home is taxed at that rate. Although a Commonwealth land tax might be equitable where there is no land tax already. I contend that it would be most unjust to impose one where there is land taxation of this description at the present time. It seems to me absurd, in a new country like Australia, with a vast extent of our country unsettled, to say that the proposed land tax is the only means whereby it is possible to place on the land new settlers and immigrants, whom we all desire to see come. Surely with the vast areas of territory which yet remain to be developed there are other means which could be used to place the people on the lands of Australia. I believe the State Governments have been going, to a great extent, the wrong way to. work in regard to the opening up and development of Australia. Invariably, if the people in any part of the Commonwealth ask for a railway, the first thing that the State does is to try to find out whether it will pay. The very opposite has been done in Canada. One of the great reasons why Western Australia has advanced with such rapid strides of late is that the railways have preceded settlement. I do not: suppose that the right honorable member for Swan had the slightest idea, when he was instrumental in building the line to Southern Cross, that it would go through’ a hundred miles of wheat country; but the. result has proved that the land was productive. The same policy is needed throughout this great continent. We have quite sufficient experience to know where our land will be profitable, and, I believe, in direct opposition to the policy of the Government, that the State Governments should borrow by all legitimate means, and push railways out into every part of the Commonwealth that is capable of sustaining a close population. If that is done, I believe it will at once solve the whole of the difficulties surrounding the immigration question. The State Governments should realize that their great duty to the people is to make the lands available. Honorable members opposite must remember that many of the people who hold the lands which they are so anxious to take out of their possession are the very men who laid the foundations of the Commonwealth in days gone by, fought the battle against great odds, and pioneered the way for others to come after them. It was they who assisted in the development of the continent by launching out with their capital, and endeavouring in every way to make the land productive; and it is to those very men, who seem to be a target for attack at every turn by honorable gentlemen opposite, that the Commonwealth owes a debt of deepest gratitude. One of the greatest objections which I have to this class of taxation is that the land most suitable for closer settlement, neat the railways, and in regions blessed with an abundant rainfall, is the very last which the Government will be able to break up and throw open. That is the land preeminently suited for closer settlement, whereas the land which the tax will break up and make available is that which lies far away from the railways and centres of population, and in those more arid regions where it is almost impossible for a small man to make a living. One of the very first effects of the land tax will be to render absolutely unproductive a great deal of country which is capable of sustaining only a small population in large areas.
Motion (by Mr. Riley) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– Owing to the urgency of some of our measures, I should like honorable members to conclude this debate tomorrow, if possible.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 10. 1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 July 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100707_reps_4_55/>.