4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriaion: for the purposes of the following Bills-
Surplus Revenue Bill. Sugar Bounty Bill.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if it is a fact that the Railway Commissioners of Australia are under agreement with the Government to supply every member of this Parliament with a gold pass to enable him to travel over the railways of the Commonwealth. Is the honorable gentleman aware that I have not yet received such a pass, and will he be good enough to ask the Commissioners to supply mc with one without further loss of time?
– -The Depart.-, ment of Home Affairs requested the Victorian Railways Commissioners some time ago to take any steps necessary to secure the surrender of the two passes that had not yet been returned by ex-members, or to supply fresh passes to the honorable member for Corio and to the honorable member for Indi.
– Is it- the intention of the Government to introduce this session a Bill dealing with fire or life insurance?
– Such legislation may’ be introduced, subject to the state of public business.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether a decision has jet been arrived at as to how the money to be obtained from the Commonwealth note issue will be spent?
– The information will be given in due time.
Postal Commission’s Report - Broken Time, Sydney General Post Office -Telephone Rates - Departure of Mail-boats from Fremantle.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to say when the report of the Royal Commission on ‘the Post, Telegraph, and Telephone services of the Commonwealth will be laid on the table?
– I understand that the report will probably be ready in September.
– Not before then ?
– I do not know, when it will be ready, nor can I interfere with the doings of a Royal Commission except by stopping supplies.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that, in connexion with the letter sorting at the General Post Office, Sydney, a great many broken shifts are worked ? Will he take steps to remedy the hardship which this causes to the employes there?
– The sorters in the General Post Office. Sydney, have to put in a great deal of broken time. This is almost inevitable in a Department like the Post Office, but we are doing what we can to minimize the evil, and, with that end iri view, the Deputy Postmaster-General for New South Wales, accompanied probably -by an officer of the Mail Branch, will visit Melbourne during the week, so that the matter and some others may be considered.
– As the change proposed in the telephone rates is not referred to in the Labour programme, and as this House is looked upon as the most accurate reflex of Australian public opinion obtained since Federation began, will the Postmaster-General submit his proposals for discussion by honorable members?
– I do not see how I could prevent their discussion by honorable members, even if I wished to do so.
– Will they be discussed before the proclamation of the new rates?
– So far as I am concerned, the flew rates will come into force on the 1 st September next.
– Will the House have an opportunity to discuss the proposed change before that date?
– There is nothing to prevent such a discussion. I cannot take from the House the right to discuss the matter.
– Will the Post- . master-General defer the bringing into operation of the proposed new rates until the House has expressed its opinion on the subject of the change?
– If I am PostmasterGeneral on the 1st September next, the new regulations will come into force on that date.
– Will the honorable gentleman postpone the bringing of the new rates into operation until the report of the Postal Commission has been laid on the table?
– The question was asked by the honorable member for Echuca last Friday. I can only repeat the reply which I have given, that if I am
Postmaster- General on 1st September next the proposed new rates will then come into force.
– Is it the intention of the Postmaster-General to place every subscriber in the Commonwealth under Regulation 7 a on the 1st September next?
– Yes; except those subscribers who will come under Regulation 34-
– I should like to ask the honorable gentleman, further, if it is his intention on the 1st September next to abolish the flat rate absolutely, and to apply the toll rate to purchased telephones, and to privately constructed telephones throughout the Commonwealth?
– The telephones referred to by the honorable member come under Regulation 34. It is my intention to apply the toll rate to all except those coming under Regulation 34.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral a further question, without notice, on the subject of the proposed toll rates. I ask whether the honorable gentleman will see that the House is given aw opportunity to express an opinion upon Regulation 7A, to which he has- referred. I believe that under the Post and Telegraph Act regulations under that Act must be laid on the table.
– The Regulations referred to have been laid on the table.
– I was going to refer also to the Acts Interpretation Act, which provides for a power of disallowance of regulations by a motion submitted by any honorable member within thirty days’ after they have been laid on the table.
– Fifteen days.
– The honorable member is right. The thirty days’ period has reference to the time within which regulations must be tabled after they have been framed. Will the Postmaster- General give the House an opportunity to fully debate a motion for the disallowance of the regulation affecting telephone rates?
– Why wait for an opportunity? Let us make one.
– It rests with Ministers to afford the time necessary for ample discussion of such a motion.
– It seems to me that the question is not one which I should have been asked. I am not in charge of the conduct of the business of the House. Clearly the question is one for the Prime Minister to answer.
– As the honorable gentleman has referred us to the Prime Minister in this matter, I should like to ask that honorable gentleman if Regulation7a was submitted to the Cabinet and approved of by them ?
– That is a matter to be discovered by action which the honorable gentleman may take in this House. The members of the Government will know their duty if they are unable to carry on public business.
– A few days ago the right honorable member for Swan asked for the production of the correspondence between himself and the Post and Telegraph Department re the departure of mail boats from Fremantle, and requested that the documents should be laid upon the table. I shall be pleased to lay the whole of them upon the table of the Library.
– I had intended, when the papers were laid upon the table, to move that they be printed. They are of much interest to the people of Western Australia.
– The papers are rather voluminous, and I had rather that the right honorable member did not press me to consent to their being printed. I have stated that I shall be pleased to lay them on the table of the Library, and the right honorable member can then copy anything he likes from them.
– I ask the Prime Minister, without notice, if he will be good enough to table a copy of the communication sent to the various municipalities throughout the Commonwealth in connexion with the proposed use of town halls for the purposes of drill.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, without notice, whether he considers the imposition of specific duties by this House on certain goods that may be required for use in his Department a justification for excluding tenders sent in by tenderers who propose to supply English goods upon which they are prepared to pay duty?
-Oh, no! I am going to see that each thing fits in as we require it.
– I wish to raise a question of privilege, connected with the tabling of regulations under Acts of this Parliament. I brought this matter up twice previously ; and it was arranged that these regulations should be placed in honorable members’ letter-boxes within a reasonable time after they had been laid on the table of the House. Honorable members will be aware that the Clerk read out a list of a number of regulations which were tabled on the 1st inst. To-day is the 1 2 th of the month., and honorable members have not yet received copies of those regulations.
– Order ! I understand the honorable member is going to conclude with a specific motion ?
– I was going to ask a question.
– The honorable member cannot debate a question. I understood him to say that he desired to raise a question of privilege.
– Then the honorable member must conclude his remarks with a specific motion.
– I shall submit a specific motion. We were promised that regulations tabled in this House would be placed in our letter-boxes within a reasonable time after they had been tabled, in order that honorable members might have an opportunity of going through them, and discussing them here, if that were considered necessary. There is a particular reason for my taking this action just now, because of something which transpired a few days ago. The honorable member for Cook, in speaking on the Address-in-Reply, wished to refer to something that had been done by regulation, and which is not provided for by anything in the Public Service Act. It appears that persons applying for employment are asked to pay what might be called an entrance fee of 7s. 6d. This fee was imposed by regulation; and. if the House has no opportunity of seeing these regulations, how are honorable members to object to them? If they are not objected to within fifteen days, as laid down in the Acts Interpretation Act, they have all the force of Statutory law. I therefore move -
That all Regulations referring to matters concerning departmental action be made available to honorable members within three days of their being laid upon the table of the House.
– It may relieve the honorable member’s mind if I point out to him that the officers of the House are in no way responsible for the distribution of these papers. The responsibility rests with the Administration, or the Department particularly concerned. Does the honorable member intend to proceed with his motion ?
– I will take subsequent action.
– I point out tha.t the action taken is rather irregular. The honorable member raises a question of privilege which should only be raised upon a matter of importance, concerning the business of the House.
– I think this matter, important.
– If so, the honorable member should proceed with his motion. If I were to allow this to pass without remark, any honorable member might get up when he thought proper raise a question of privilege and discuss it, and nothing would follow, the time of the House being taken up to no purpose.
Mr-. BAMFORD.- Then I submit my motion.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to ask you, sir, whether the question involved in the motion submitted by the honorable member is one of privilege at all.
– It will be a motion of censure if it be carried.
– I wish to know whether any question of privilege is involved in’ the -motion. I have no desire to prevent any honorable member taking a specific course of action. The honorable member for Herbert will have ample opportunity of doing that.
– My own opinion is that the motion deals with a question of administration, and not with the conduct of the business of this House.
– I am sufficiently impressed with the importance of the motion to desire to second it.
– It is out of order.
– I do not think that Mr. Speaker has ruled it out of order.
– So far I have not given a direct ruling as to whether or not the motion is in order.
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to refer you, sir, to standing order 21.
– There is already one point of order before the Chair, which has not been decided.
– Did I understand the Prime Minister to ask whether the motion was directly in order?
– I asked you, sir, to be good enough to rule whether the question which is involved in the motion submitted by the honorable member for Herbert is one of privilege. I submit that no question of privilege is disclosed in it.
– I must regard the motion as one involving a question of privilege. The honorable member for Herbert has complained that certain regulations have been laid upon the table of the House which he and other honorable members have not been afforded an opportunity of discussing. He regards this circumstance as an infringement of the law, which deprives him of certain privileges, and therefore he has thought it advisable to submit the motion. I rule that it is in order.
– I wish to call your attention, sir, to standing order 21.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that it is not in order for an honorable member to raise a point of order whilst one is already under consideration.
– I, would point out to the honorable member that I have already decided the point of order which was raised by the Prime Minister.
– Standing order 21 reads -
No business except of a formal character shall be entered upon before the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s opening speech has been adopted.
– Questions of privilege may be introduced at any time.
– I wish you to rule, sir, whether the motion submitted by the honorable member for Herbert is one of a formal character, and, if not, whether it involves a question of privilege of sufficient importance to warrant its interposition before the adoption of the AddressinReply.
– I would point out to the honorable member that if the House so desires, it can pass any Bill that it may think proper before discussing the AddressinReply. Under such circumstances, I must accept the motion of the honorable member for Herbert as one of privilege.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes) (“3.26]. - 1 beg to second the motion. I did not know anything about the circumstances of the case to which the honorable member for Herbert referred until he detailed them just now. Although the matter involved in the motion may be one which touches the administration of a Department ; according to the view presented by the honorable member for Herbert, it is clearly one in which the rights of Parliament have been infringed. 1 understand that regulation 7A has been issued by the PostmasterGeneral, and that before honorable members have had an opportunity of seeing it, certain action has been taken by him which may be detrimental to interests which Parliament is supposed to be safeguarding. I therefore think that the motion marks a step in the right direction, and I trust that the Ministry will see the force of adopting it.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Herbert did not notify me that he intended to raise this question. Since the motion was submitted I have discovered that .the regulation in question dates back to 1902 or 1903, and is to be found amongst the regulations which were printed and circulated during those years.
– I must ask the Prime Minister not in discuss the details of different regulations.
– A question of privilege. I presume must rest upon something, and in this instance t take it that ii rests upon the printing of regulations. I can only say that as Prime Minister and Treasurer I have already urged the Government Printer to print every document tabled in this House with the greatest possible expedition, and I have promised to furnish to honorable members copies of every paper which is not of a private character for their inspection, and with a view to the better government of the Commonwealth. That practice.will be continued. All regulations laid upon the table of the House ought to be supplied to honorable members without delay. On behalf of the Government, I say at once that I shall take the necessary steps to get the Government Printer to have all regulations, so soon as they are tabled in this House, printed and circulated amongst honorable members so that they may have an opportunity of dealing with them in the same way as they have an opportunity of dealing with Bills.
.- So far as I understand the issue in question there is at least one practical point involved. Under our Acts, after a certain period has elapsed, regulations become unchallengeable. If, therefore, it be left to the Government Printer, or to anyother person, to delay the issue of regulations to honorable members for any: part of or all that period, the House :sto that extent deprived of its rightswhich are asserted under Statute. That is to say, if regulations are to have the: force of law after a certain period, thai period must not be abridged by any neglect: on the part of -the Government Printer or of any other Department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, without notice, whether it is a fact that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has drawn his attention to a statement made by Mr. Wood, Chief Secretary, New South Wales, who is the first lieutenant of Mr. Wade, the Premier of that State, to the effect that, in his opinion, the Capital Site question should be re-opened, and that he would-‘ support the choice of Twofold Bay as theport for the Capital Site?
– Tt is quite true.
– I understood the Minister of Home Affairs to say, in answer to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that it was correct that the Chief Secretary, New South Wales, had stated that he was in favour of re-opening the Capital Site question. I should like to ask the Minister when that statement was madeby the Chief Secretary, and where the fact is reported?
– It was made publicly, within the past fortnight.
– The honorable member for Illawarra misunderstood’ my statement. I did not say that it wastrue that the Chief Secretary, New . South Wales, had said what was imputed to him. What I said was that it was quite true that the honorable member for EdenMonarohad, called my attention to the subject.
– I wish to ask theMinister of Home Affairs another question’ cn the same subject. Is it a fact that thehonorable member for Eden-Monaro has submitted representations from the GingeraLeague, : in the Queanbeyan district, to the effect that the whole question of the Capital Site should be re-opened, and that aplebiscite of the electors should be taken with regard to it?
– That also istrue.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will lay upon the table a small paper in the possession of the Government with reference to the discovery of artesian water on the route of the proposed railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta ?
Mr.FISHER.- If the right honorable member will see me on the subject I will do what is possible in the matter. I should like to try to meet him.
– It is a matter of considerable public interest.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Radio- Telegraphic .Conference-(Melbourne, December,1909) - Report.
Federal Capital Site (Yass-Canberra)- Correspondence (dated 3rd February to 4th July, 1910) between the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premier of New South Wales re Issue of Proclamation under the Seat of GovernmentAcceptance Act 1 909.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway- Water Supply- Letter from Jas.Thompson, EngineerinChief, Perth, together with telegrams and plan re.
Public Service Act - Recommendations, &c., in case of appointment of C. E. Lewis as draughtsman, Postmaster-General’s Department, Brisbane.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Military Forces -
No. 4 - Statutory Rules1910, No. 60.
No. 485 - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 61.
No. 414 - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 62.
No. 161- Statutory Rules1910, No. 63.
Papua - Ordinance of1910 - Survey Fees.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended, &c. (Provisional) - Telephone-
Nos. 4-6,7a, 7b, 25,25a- Statutory Rule? 1909, No. 30.
Nos. 13, 19,21, &c. - Statutory Rules 1909, No.56.
Nos.7d,7e - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 66. Time of operation of various amendments - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 92.
Nos. 7b, 7c, 7d - Statutory Rules 1909, No. 67.
General Postal ; Telephone - Statutory Rules 1910, No. 41.
Use of Mail-Bags for Newspaper Carriage - Wireless Telegraph Station, Fremantle
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
On what date is it expected that a wirelesstelegraph station will be established at Fremantle?
– A definite date cannot be stated. The period provided for in the contract for theerection of the station expires on 3rd April, 1911.
Launch Bronsewing - Revenue Leakage, Tasmania
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will lay on the Table ofthe Library all correspondence between the Governments of Tasmania and the Commonwealth relating to the complaints of Customs- leakage ?
Rates of Wages- Preference to Unionists
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he issue instructions that trade union rates of wages and preference to unionists are to be laid down as conditions to be complied with in the carrying out of all works of the Commonwealth ?
– In all contracts under the Department of Home Affairs not less than trades union rates of wages will be paid.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to ihe honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– That is what I call rude and uncalled for.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether any investigation has been made as to the sites for new lighthouses, for which provision was made on the Estimates?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The opinions of navigators and the lighthouse authorities in the several States have been obtained. An investigation has been made into the question as to which new lights ‘are most urgently needed as regarded from a common stand-point for the whole of Australia. A report andprecis of the information adduced is at the disposal of my honorable colleague,the Minister for Trade and Customs, awaiting the passing of the Bill now before Parliament, and the taking over of lighthouse responsiblities by the Commonwealth. Pending this being done, the Commonwealth is not in a position to come to a decision as to which lighthouses are to be constructed, or which sites to be investigated.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– I said nothing about the standard of living in my question. I spoke about wages. Why cannot the Prime Minister answer a simple question?
Debate resumed from 8th July (vide page 234), 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.
.- I was referring on Friday afternoon to the producers of this country. I wish to point out that there are other producers besides the primary producers, particularly those engaged in manufacturing industries. Were they absent from the Commonwealth the country producers would not get on very well. In days gone by the operations of the men upon the land were retarded and hindered on account of the antiquated character of the implements they had touse. Since then, however, we have had’ producers in the manufacturing areas, who,. by their inventive and constructive genius, have supplied to what are called the primary producers implements by which they are able to save considerable sums in the tilling of the land. I endeavoured to point out on Friday that those producers, who are found in large centres of population, are the principal help of the producers on the land, because they consume the products of the land. As one who represents a constituency in which, J suppose, more implements are made for the farmer than in any other in the Commonwealth, I know that the manufacturers and workmen are contributing very materially to the advancement of agriculture, not only in Victoria, but throughout the Commonwealth, and ire various other parts of the world. Instead of those who call themselves the friends of the primary producers accusing the Labour party of being absolutely the worst friends that the farmers have, I would recommend them to look at another class of individuals - the middle-men - who are not members of the Labour party, and who, in many cases, “ toil not, neither do they spin.” They are the worstenemies that the producers, especially the primary producers, have. I may say that any proposition made by those who profess to be the friends of the primary producers for the establishment or encouragement of co-operative undertakings to deal with the produce of the land will meet with the heartiest support of Labour members in this Chamber and of the Labour party generally. One would think that the Federal Capital Site question was one of the most important to be discussed in this Chamber, I notice that that remark is applauded, but, unfortunately, the evidence at my disposal is not sufficient to enamour me of the site already selected. I do not wish unnecessarily to rouse the ire of those honorable members who come from Sydney and its neighbourhood, and personally I am prepared to abide by the compact as it stands in the Federal Constitution, but I wish to see in the Federal Capital one of the finest cities the world has ever seen, and to bring about that most desirable result it will be absolutely necessary to have one of the most model sites that can be found in New South Wales. I believe that we have not been fortunate in the selection of that site, and shall do my level best, in conjunction with other honorable members, to have the question fairly elucidated, so that absolutely the best site available in New South Wales for the Federal Capital may be selected. For the benefit of some of our friends, who profess to be great nationalists, let me quote the following passage, from a speech delivered in Victoria, in 1890, by the late ‘Sir Henry Parkes, who was, and 1 believe still is, regarded, although dead and gone, as the grand old man of New South Wales, and the father of Federation -
I -speak for my own colony, which is as great as the rest of you. We are prepared, and I vill answer for the Parliament and people of the country I represent, to go into this national union without making any bargain whatever, without stipulation for any advantage for -ourselves, and to trust to the good feeling and justice of the Federal Parliament. Underlying those words is a magnificent spirit of nationalism, which all those who belong to a Federal Parliament should endeavour to emulate.
– He did not know t the kind of people he would have to deal with la tei.
– That is a most unjustifiable remark. I have told the House -that I intend to abide by the compact as we find it in the Constitution. At the same time, I have endeavoured to show -that I wish for the finest site that New South Wales can present to us, with all those natural advantages absolutely necessary for the building and’ maintenance of -one of the finest cities the world has ever seen. Therefore, at present I feel that I cannot say “ yes “ to “ Yass.”
– We have the best site outside the loo-mile limit.
– We shall see about that. The rectification of Tariff anomalies is referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech. The question is asked, “ What is an anomaly?” I believe there are in the “Tariff many anomalies or irregularities, which, as a strong Protectionist, I desire to see rectified at the earliest moment. I hope and believe, and I think I am justified in doing so, that the Minister of Trade and Customs, being a very’ ardent Protectionist, will place a very liberal interpretation on the word. *’ anomalies.” I also hope that the position of those industries which we term “ languishing “ will be considered when the -Tariff is before us ; because we are suffering not only on account of anomalies, but also because laUSles a are not receiving sufficient protection against competition from outside our border. Therefore, I shall lend every possible assistance to the speedy consideration of anomalies found in the present Tariff, and to dealing with those industries, which, to use a colonialism, are “ hard cases.” T am favorable to the vast Northern Territory being taken over, because the sooner it is under the control of the Commonwealth the better it will be for that portion of Australia. From reports to hand, the conditions there, from a moral point of view, are a disgrace to civilization and to our common Christianity ; and we ought, as speedily as possible, to have a white population firmly established there. I am not looking at any great difficulties there may be in the way ; there were great difficulties even in accomplishing Federation, as there ate difficulties in the path of all progress and reform. We are Britishers, and we should meet difficulties in a British fashion - only to overcome them. I am very favorably disposed to the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. Both in the Northern Territory and the inland portions of Australia,’ particularly those portions through which the proposed railway will run, there is, in what we now call desert country, a splendid supply of underground water. There are, I believe, subterranean water-courses throughout the greater portion of Central Australia; and if these were tapped, we should change a desert into waving and fruitful fields. I was glad to hear the right honorable member for Swan express the hope that the report, which indicates that artesian water has been struck on the railwayroute, will be circulated far and wide. I remember, not many years ago, when I was at school, that there were in the northwestern district of Victoria, portions described as desert country. But to-day the Mallee is among the best wheat-producing areas within the State. As an example, I may cite the Pinnaroo country, on the borders of South Australia, where underground, water has been discovered, with the result that on a very small portion of the area there are now nearly 300 people, who never could have gone there had it not been for the discovery of underground water. My belief is that there are immense subterranean rivers, the tapping of which will prove of immense benefit to
Australia, especially the central portion ; and a large part of the Northern Territory and of Western Australia, might be put to profitable use in this way. As to the proposed land tax, I know that honorable members have said that it is sought to impose it simply in order to break up large estates. It is quite likely that the breaking up of large estates, will be incidental to the tax; but we require money for defence purposes, and I believe in meeting this expenditure from revenue and especially from direct taxation. The private wealth of Australia, as shown from figures already presented to the House, amounts to the vast sum of ^1,100,000,000; and it is only right that, those who own the wealth should be called upon to contribute to the defence of the country. I hope that the Bill to be introduced will provide that absentees shall have no exemption, but shall be called upon to pay so much in- the £1, from the first £1 to the last. We suffer in Australia from absentees ; from figures I have scanned, I find that from ^12,000,000 to ^14,000,000 per annum is drawn from Australia by wealthy people who live abroad. Victoria, in common with other States, has absentee owners; and the sooner we make these men pay something towards the cost of the defence of the country, the more they will value the property they have within our borders, and the more interest they will take in Australia. There are men - and women, too, I suppose - living in other parts of the world on the best in their castles ; while, in a federal sense, they contribute not a copper to the defence of the country ; and we intend to make them contribute. As to the amount of private wealth which I have mentioned - although I know it is more at the present time - I may say that less than 10,000 people own ^810,000,000 of it; and this indicates in how few hands the wealth really is. We are desirous, not of confiscating, but of endeavouring, by constitutional means, to extract gold from the pockets of these wealthy possessors, and thus make them contribute to the up-keep of the country. Honorable members may, therefore, reasonably anticipate, from what I have said, that I shall be an ardent supporter of the land tax proposals of the Government. As to immigration, I may be using a very hackneyed phrase on this side, when I say that we are not antagonistic to the entry into this country of people who desire to come here, when a proper set of circumstances has been created for receiving them. I was much struck by a remark of Sir William McGregor, Governor of Queensland, a little time back. It is not usual for a Governor to discuss such matters; but Sir William McGregor is a man of deep thought, and he mentioned a fact of which we should do well to take note. We know that Queensland is a vast State, and that the Government desire to obtain as many immigrants as possible.Unfortunately for the State I represent, Queensland has secured a large number of farmers from Victoria; and, while I am sorry, without, I hope, being unnational, that we have lost this splendid yeomanry, T am sure they will make good citizens, and do well in the northern State. Sir William McGregor stated that it would be wise if the Queensland Government, instead of spending so much money in bringing immigrants from other parts of the world, would make greater attempts to save the infant life within their own State. I believe in the native born, as making the best possible citizen. When we realize that every twelve months we lose about 12,000 little ones, we must admit that it is time some effort was made- to save these young lives. I am sure that, if I were to ask the honorable member for Melbourne, he would place the value of an infant to the State at £300 ; and while some place it at .£250, or as low as ,£112, if we take even the latter estimate it means that by these deaths we lose in money value about ^1,500,000 per annum. As a matter of fact, the loss is a great deal more if we place a proper estimate on the value of the life of a child. The honorable member for Herbert, this afternoon, touched on a question that we ought to take into our earnest consideration. I do not say that it is a characteristic of the Federal Departments; but 1 have some slight experience of the State Departments, and I believe there is a danger of a little too much officialism. Ministers will have to take a bigger hand in connexion with the administration of the Departments. I am making no complaint; but merely suggesting that this is a matter to be looked into, because there is a danger 01 regulations, which, unsympathetically administered, may not only not carry out the spirit of our legislation, but thwart its very intention. T have further notes ; but I am anxious to get to close grips with the practical legislation to ‘ be submitted by the Government. I believe that every -section of the House will combine to pass into law the measures foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s
Speech, and am confident that if those measures are placed upon the statute-book, and sympathetically administered, there will be a good time ahead for Australia. I hope that honorable members generally will unite to make our legislation as perfect as possible, so that it may be conducive to the best interests of the Commonwealth, which we all have so much at heart.
.- A good deal has been said of late with regard to the waste of time involved in discussing the Address-in-Reply. I have been in politics many years, and have heard the same complaint at the beginning pf every session. It emanates generally from press writers, who, having ‘deluged the country with their leading articles for many months, are a little tired, and rather anxious that other people should fall into the same condition, and practically stop discussion. I regard this motion, however, as a safety-valve, affording an opportunity which not only new, but old, members are perfectly justified in utilizing to explain, not Sc much to the House as to their constituents and to the public, if they, too, are interested, their attitude towards any change of Government that may have taken place. It will be readily admitted that, in Australia, we have undergone a complete transformation. The Government of the day belongs to a party that has never before had both power and responsibility. lt has had, very often, control, or a very large control, over the Government of the day, and has been able to dictate largely the policy of that Government. That has been a “very unsatisfactory position, because, whilst the Labour party has had the power, it has not had’ the responsibility. I am a great believer in responsibility as a means of steadying men. I have experienced it myself, and, having seen its effect on others,” I venture to say that we shall witness in this House a very steadying influence resulting from the fact that the Ministry have now not only the power, but the responsibility of carrying on the politics of Australia. The House is to be congratulated upon the very amicable spirit that has been exhibited during this discussion. I hail with very great satisfaction the announcement made by the Prime Minister with regard to the manner in which he intends to conduct the business of the House -
The Ministry will ‘ welcome the keenest criticism and the closest examination of its proposals. Ministers will listen to the arguments offered and decide questions on their merits.
– In regard to the Postmaster-General’s Department, for instance.
– I do not think that I am quite as pessimistic as is the honorable member for Parramatta. I am not ashamed to say that I have very great confidence in the present Prime Minister, and believe that he is a thoroughly honest politician. Upon principles, he and I differ, perhaps, as widely as the poles ; but when he lays down a certain principle, I have every confidence in looking forward to its being observed by him. His statement that he will welcome the keenest criticism and listen to the arguments offered, in order to decide questions on their merits, affords me much greater interest in the future proceedings of this Parliament than I should have felt had I believed that the unmistakable majority which this Government possess was to be used with an iron hand, so as to give the Opposition no encouragement to discuss proposals coming before it with a view to their modification. I recognise, and I suppose most honorable members know that I am in a position to recognise, that the Government of the day has been established upon principles that have never before been carried into effect in Australia. I am not going to say anything against the change, because honorable members know that I do not think it is an improvement upon the old-fashioned method of responsible government; but, when we realize that the Prime Minister is merely the Chairman of the Government, that the Government is merely a committee of the caucus, and that the caucus, in its personnel, is practically the choice of the labour leagues of Australia, we must all admit that the system has undergone a complete change. I hope that I am not so hidebound as to be impervious to innovations, or to feel that it is impossible that any good may come out of a change. How the new system will develop, what will be the effect of making each Minister responsible only for his own Department, without having what one might call a corporate policy and corporate responsibility, and what result will follow from the controlling influence of the caucus upon the Government, are, to me, all matters for very interesting speculation ; but I am very glad that the Prime Minister has opened the Parliament with the expression that I have just quoted. I was glad, too, to hear the honorable member for Brisbane, in seconding the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, use these words -
It is our duty to approach all the legislation that may be put before us with an open mind, free from political prejudice or party bias, so that in whatever we may do we shall try to secure that the laws passed by us will be of such a character as to conduce to the best development of the nation, and to conserve its true interests. I pin my political faith to the statement made by that great man, W. E. Gladstone, when he said, “ It is the aim of all good Governments so to legislate as to make it easy to do right and hard to do wrong.”
Similarly - wholesome sentiments were expressed by the honorable member’ who moved the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and I can only say that, if the Labour party generally encourage and indorse the determination of the Government to carry on the legislation of the Commonwealth in the spirit expressed by the Prime Minister in the sentence I have read, it will redound tremendously to their credit. It will certainly surprise very many people who have predicted from time to time that when the Labour party got charge of the affairs of the Commonwealth they would rule with an iron hand, and realize all the extravagant and exaggerated proposals which had been made from time to time in the Labour press and by irresponsible Labour politicians out of doors. The amicable spirit which has been displayed at the opening of this Parliament is, however, attributable more to the Opposition than to the Ministerial party. Those who were in the last Parliament, and took part in the proceedings of last session, will remember with some pain, I think, now that it is all over, the extraordinary attitude that was taken up by the Opposition. The present Opposition were then in power, and they had a majority over the then Labour Opposition as substantial as that now enjoyed by the Labour Government over the Opposition of to-day. If, as I often said during the election campaign, the Labour party had been willing to be true to Democratic principles, and to recognise that, however rough and ready may be the rule of majorities, it is the only final test of public opinion, they would have reconciled themselves to the fact that that Ministry had a majority of from twelve to fourteen, and have allowed that party to go on with their business. But the conduct of the then Opposition, made up of the Labour party, can be very well symbolized in the threat which they used - that we should not be allowed to cross a “t” or to dot an “ i.” It very well represents the spirit which was displayed, because all those who were in the House saw that, for some eight or nine weeks, some of the leading men on that side fought in a manner which I considered discreditable.
– Well, the public indorsed what we did.
– The public is metaphorically, very often an ass, if the honorable member will allow me to say so. I do not admit that the public always does the right thing, and I would remind the honorable member of a well-known story of a Greek philosopher who was addressing a crowd. They applauded something which he had said, and, turning to his friend, he remarked, “ What did I say ? It must have been something very foolish.” The honorable member has no more confidence in an indiscriminate crowd than I have. He may say so when he is on the tar barrel, but when he is in the House, and has responsibility round his neck, he is just as calm and quiet and as deliberate a thinker, whatever he may elsewhere say, as I am. I do not think any one wants to bring recrimination into the chamber. We are beginning well, and, with the assurance which the Prime Minister has given to us, and which I believe to be thoroughly sincere, I look forward to a very interesting session. I believe that if that spirit is displayed we shall have some excellent debates. I anticipate that out of it all, notwithstanding the policy of the Labour party, we shall have measures which will not be nearly so inimical to the interests of this country as many persons out-of-doors fear they are going to be. I am at liberty now to deal with some generalities. No man in this country watches the movements of the Labour party, its development or its evolution, more carefully, with more interest and with less prejudice, than I do; and, if they will allow me to say so, I think I discern a tendency in that party to become what I would call a Labour aristocracy. I do not make that remark in an offensive sense. More and more, as we have gone on during the last ten years, I have observed a tendency in the Labour party to represent Labour less directly than it ever did before. About thirty-five or forty years ago, there sat in this chamber a Labour representative, Charles Jardine Don, who was a very well-known and very much respected man. After he had done his clay’s work as a stonemason, he used to drop his basket of chisels in the hall, enter the chamber, and do his legislative work. It was then recognised that where a man was hard at work all day on what v.’e call the concrete, it was no great hardship for him .to devote his evening to abstract questions, certainly no harder work or more important work than for a man to be engaged all day in a court or as a merchant, and then to come up here and deal again with abstract questions in the form of legislation. But that is passing away. I am watching carefully the change in the calibre and the occupations of the men who are gradually coming to represent the labouring classes. We know very well that amongst the labouring classes outside there is not a miraculous fund of economic knowledge, or of knowledge of the science of politics.
– I do not think that the honorable member knows the working classes very much.
– If the honorable member will allow mc -to say so, I think I know as much of the working classes as he does.
– The honorable member might, but man for man they compare favorably with others.
– I have had, perhaps, more experience in contact with the labouring class than the honorable member has had, but I do not want to lengthen my speech by informing him what it is. There is not, outside the House, among what I would call the average vorking men, that same knowledge of economic science and political economy itself which are both essential to wise politics, as is possessed by those who are coming in here to represent labour. When I say that the Labour party are becoming a sort of Labour aristocracy, I mean that they are men who are reading and thinking, and gradually lifting themselves to a higher plane of knowledge than that occupied by The people outside whom they represent. That is very easily detected, because in leading and other articles in newspapers like the Brisbane Worker or the Worker of New South Wales, or the Herald of South Australia, we find opinions expressed, not for the consideration of the Labour representative, because he reads them very often with his tongue in his cheek, but for the working man outside who has to be roused to a condition of supporting the Labour party. There is now in Australia a double policy - a policy for the election, which we see in the Labour press, and a policy for the House. I am delighted to see that we are not to take the opinions which are expressed from time to time in the Labour press as the real policy of the Labour party, who are sitting here to-day with responsibility on their shoulders in endeavouring to administer the affairs of this country.
– Does their policy here differ from that which they enunciated on the platform ?
– Yes, and I could give the honorable member some very remarkable instances if time would admit. For instance, there has been no hesitation outside - the honorable member himself has not hesitated to do so - in talking of bursting up the big estates with a land tax. But when we come here, the Prime Minister does not preserve that attitude, nor do the Government do so. They say that the imposition of the tax may have the effect of breaking up the big estates. The word “ bursting “ is dropped as something suggestive of class warfare. The honorable member admits that it may have that effect, but the Prime Minister says, “ We are also going to tax the urban lands.”
– Hear, hear ; we say the same.
– The honorable member does so now.
– I said it all the time.
– Oh, no.
– Yes, we did.
– I hope that the honorable member will not consider this an opportunity to vindicate his innocence, because I am not directing my attention to him. I am talking of the views of the Labour newspapers upon which the voters are fed. The Prime Minister now says - and I am very glad to hear the statement - that the primary purpose of this land tax is not to burst up estates, but to raise money. I remember very well that the late member for South Sydney, when he was Leader of the Labour party, talked of a tax of is. in the £1 on land.
– It is only fair to that gentleman to say that he corrected that.
– I admit that; but I only want to point out that he may have made the statement in an electioneering spirit, and corrected it in a spirit of responsibility. So long as the public outside know that electioneering is one thing, and that responsible government is another, we get rid, to a large extent, of this terrible fear of the Labour party.
– I would not intervene only that Mr. Watson is not here to reply. It was a mistake in the report.
– I accept the honorable member’s explanation. Let us take the rate of the land tax. A general rate of 8d. in the £1 was widely quoted outside by Labour members, and no doubt it sounded very alarming. Then in the caucus some of the leading men in the Labour party wanted a tax of 4d. in the £1. And we know now that it has come down to from id. to 6d. That is not nearly so alarming as the other figure. I know from a speech by the honorable member for Cook, that many members fought for 8d. He said that the majority of the party favoured 8d., but that one or two influential members wished for 4d. The influential members are those weighted with responsibilities. No doubt the extravagant members of the party would like to announce very big things, but those upon whom responsibility is thrown recognise the importance of being reasonable.
– The honorable member admits that 6d. is a reasonable rate?
– No. I have no great objection to a reasonable land tax, though I think it undesirable to have both a Commonwealth and a State land tax. In New South Wales, the municipalities levy a land tax, in some cases as high as 4d. in the £1, the Government of the State having surrendered to them the right to do so.
– That tax is a payment for services rendered.
– SMITH.- Every payment is for services rendered. Even the remuneration df members of Parliament comes under that heading. What I emphasize is that a duplication of land taxation seems to be intended. As to the Labour party’s proposals regarding banking and note issue, we found the Brisbane
Worker advocating that there should be no gold reserve whatever. That is what I call the “tar-barrel” or “ swashbucklering “ policy. The Government, however, recognises the difficulties of the situation, and Ministers have wisely consulted the leading bankers of Australia on this subject. Whilst the Brisbane Worker and Labour members generally used to denounce the banks for robbing the public by making immense profits out of their note issues, responsibility has brought political sobriety. The State banking proposal goes by the board for the time being, and the Government, according to the Prime Minister, will provide a reserve of 25 per cent, in gold as security for the note issue. The Treasurer is also going to take the precaution of fortifying himself with Treasury notes, which he can get cashed at the banks at any moment by way pf a loan. It is well that we should recognise that Labour candidates speak much more wildly than do Labour members. I shall not be afraid of the legislation which may be proposed in this Chamber by the present Government, so long as Ministers act in accordance with the assurance of the Prime Minister that questions shall be dealt with on their merits, and that they will welcome the discussion of the business brought before the House. At one time the word Socialism was used very freely, but of late certain Labour newspapers and Labour members have shown a disposition to regard it as a word to be used cautiously. We know some of the “wild doctrines of the Brisbane
Worker, but this is one of its recent and more wary utterances which I commend to Labour members -
Nevertheless it is a mighty proposition the Federal Labour Government are up against. Meddling with the foundations of a nation is a ticklish business, and the man capable of setting about it with a light heart could only be depended upon to make an appalling mess of it.
If the people were ready for it, we could have Socialism to-morrow ! It happens unfortunately that they are not. It happens, too, that no amount of theoretical teaching will bring them to the revolutionary state of mind essential for such a transformation. Abstract reasoning will not suffice for a sudden change in the basis of life and all the modes of production, distribution, and exchange.
A statement such as that might come from a hide-bound Tory or -individualist like myself. Ministers, having under their control the labyrinthine interests of a great community, feel that they cannot play ducks and drakes with them, but must consider how they can be prevented from clashing as the result of unwise legislation. Responsibility is having its educational effect on the members of the Labour party, and rendering them, as I said a few moments ago, a Labour aristocracy, a thinking section, which I welcome. They are learning day by day that politics, like every other’ science, must be closely studied and understood if you are to safely meddle in the affairs of the country. I recognise the result of the last election, before which the Fusion pa’rty had a majority of thirteen or fourteen, whereas now it is the Labour party, that is in that position. As a Democrat, I acknowledge that the majority must rule ; but it should not act tyrannically, and refuse to listen to arguments. While the majority opposite is prepared, subject to the upholding of certain general principles incumbent upon it to uphold, to listen to reason regarding details, I shall be prepared ‘ to help to make its legislation the best that can be passed in the interests of Australia. It must not be forgotten, however, that, according to figures published in the Sydney Morning Herald a little time after the election, the supporters of the Liberal candidates for this House, and the supporters of the three independent candidates, were within 1,000 of the numbers of the supporters of the Labour party. The votes recorded for the Liberal candidates numbered 577,104, and for the Independents 56,448, or a total of 633,552.
– The honorable member adds rotes cast for the honorable member for Hume to those recorded by members- on that side in order to get that result.
– I do. I have said so. The number of votes recorded for Labour members was 633,382. The number recorded for Liberal candidates was 577,104, and for Independents 56,448, or a total of 633,552. So that if we add the Liberal and Independent votes together, they give practically the same number as the votes recorded for the Labour party.
– That is a very clever way to figure.
– I do not know that there is anything clever about it. It appears to me that I am acting merely the part of a gramophone in stating the details. However, this is ‘the logic of the figures. If the three Independent members chose to step over to this side of “the House, then honorable members on each side would represent the same number of electors. I shall not dwell upon the fact, but it is just as well to note that when we hear people talking of the Labour party having “ swept the country.” Sweeping the country is hardly the correct expression to use. They secured a majority, and I think it was Disraeli who said that a majority is the most effective satire. I do not object to it,’ and as I have said, I shall be very glad to help in passing the legislation of the majority, because I am willing to admit that, at the present time, honorable members opposite have the three Independent members with them.
– What was the majority of the party in the Senate?
– The honorable member for Gwydir^ expects me to be an encyclopedia. I do not burden my mind with things I do not require.
– There was a majority of 20,000 in New South Wales.
– If I were to give elaborate figures, I should probably later on be charged with having unduly prolonged my speech. I confine myself to the general result. I wish to say a word or two about the Governor- General’s Speech, and I shall not speak complainingly. We have in history the origin of the Speech from the Throne. It was that the Crown really told Ministers what they were to do. We know that subsequently Ministers had to be consulted as to what they should do, and that later it became the province of the Ministry of the day, and chiefly of the Prime Minister, to prepare the speech for the Crown, for the Governor-General, or the Governor, as the case might be. On this occasion, we have had an extraordinary transformation, because the GovernorGeneral’s Speech delivered at the opening of this Parliament was not the result of the Prime Minister’s mind, or of the mind of the Government. It was actually prepared by the caucus, dominated no doubt by the principles laid down by the Labour leagues outside. And so the fiction, as it is called in law, of the Speech from the Crown to the people, through the Government, amounts in the present instance to this : ‘ that a section of the people have dictated to the caucus, the caucus has dictated to the Government, the Government have dictated to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister has put the speech into the hands of the Governor-General to deliver to the people in accordance with the fiction that it is the Crown that governs. I shall not dwell on that. I wish to say something about the omission from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech of the subject of unemployment insurance. There never was a time when, with the help of the Government, we might more consistently and fortunately encourage thrift in the people by the establishment of some system of unemployment insurance.
– More Socialism.
– I do not knowthat it is Socialism. The honorable member is aware that I -recognise the difference between academic and practical politics. But, apparently, a person holding my view tan never express an opinion that is not absolutely theoretical, without being charged with having become a Socialist. I read and think on certain lines ; but, coming into this House as a practical man, I recognise that I cannot have my theories put into practice, and that I must secure as much advantage as I can from my position here in modifying the opinions of other men. I know that in the very complicated industrial conditions of this age, with Wages Boards, Industrial Courts, and, nowadays, new Protection, as disturbing industrial factors, unemployment may become a very serious thing for this country. I do not see why the Government could not, consistently with their humanitarian professions, have taken up this question, and have endeavoured to induce the working people to assist them by their indorsement of some system of unemployment insurance. I should like to read to the House what the Brisbane Worker says on this subject, and it is interesting as another illustration of what I have said as to the distinction between election and parliamentary politics. The Worker says -
A thrift conference is sitting in Edinburgh.
A very appropriate place for a conference dealing with the subject of thrift.
What its immediate purpose is we do not know, but we take it that its ultimate object is the promotion of habits of thrift amongst the working class. In which case we cannot pretend to wish it success in its labours. Thrift is one of the most mischievous fallacies of our time.
Is there any member of this House who would indorse that statement?
– The abuse of thrift is mischievous .
– I did not read anything about the abuse of thrift. The Brisbane Workers statement is -
Thrift is one of the most mischievous fallacies of our time. This is the gospel it delivers to the working class : - “ Learn to save a little from the miserable wages you receive, and put it by for a rainy day.” It seems a decent enough sort of gospel until you begin to question it and put it through its facings. It is then discovered to be utterly deceptive and fallacious. So long as only a few save it is all right. Thrift may then be a benefit to the savers if they don’t die before they can make use of their savings, or the banks don’t go smash. But what if everybody became thrifty. Would everybody be benefited ? The answer is a very emphatic negative. They would do nothing but lower the standard of living.
– Hear, hear !
– I am very much surprised to hear such a short-sighted indorsement. It simply means that until we reach a condition of society in which everybody is provident, no one should attempt to save anything.
– No; that is not what the
– It says that so long as the practice is not universal, itis mischievous.
– Does the honorable member say that it is possible for everybody to become rich?
– No; and I do no like the word “ rich.” After all, when we talk of capitalists, the man with a barrow or a spade is a capitalist, to the extent of his barrow or spade, and the hundreds or thousands of working people in this country who have£5 or£10 ina Savings Bank are capitalists. The honorable member is a capitalist to the extent of his credit in his bank.
– Does the honorable member refer to me?
– No, thehonor- able member for Adelaide is too thin and hungry-looking to be suspected of being a capitalist. But the honorable member for Denison is a capitalist to the extent of his banking account. When the last of the month comes, and he is informed by the Clerk that £50 is being placed to his credit, I do not know whether he is astonished to find that he is a capitalist. I do not wish to go into the question of riches, but we are all capitalists to a certain extent, and I uphold, as every sensible man and woman must, the old-fashioned virtue of thrift and providence for a rainy day. It would be ridiculous to suppose that because a man cannot be as rich as some other people, he should not save anything at all. Should not the responsibilities of children and cessation of employment through sickness be provided against? If this sort of teaching is to be broadcast throughout the country, and is to be indorsed by honorable members, I say. “ God help the country.” I know very well that if I were to ask our Scotch Prime Minister what he thinks of it, he would tell me that thrift is a very excellent quality.
– He never saves a shilling.
– That may he. But he may try very hard to do so ; and I credit the man who endeavours to save with being imbued with providential ideas and ambitions. I am perfectly certain that, with his national characteristics, he tries very hard to practise the old-fashioned virtue of thrift. Now an insurance against unemployment will require the exercise of thrift, just as do all other forms of insurance upon which hundreds of thousands of the working classes now embark.
– But the Government propose to find employment for all.
– That is one of those millennial promises which are never intended and are impossible to be fulfilled. I wish now to say one or two words in reference to the financial position. Honorable members know that I was one of a little band of six or seven in this House, who, last session, entertained a somewhat similar view in regard to the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth as do the Labour party. I contended that it would be a great mistake to make our Constitution a battle-ground for elections by attempting to introduce into it certain amendments which were not permanently needed. I further urgedthat, as we had learned so much of the finances of the country during the past ten years, we were equally likely to learn a great deal during the next decade, and that, therefore, it was exceedingly undesirable that we should bind ourselves down by a constitutional amendment under which, ten years hence, we should not be able to re-adjust our financial relations according to the altered conditions of Australia. Consequently, I supported an amendment to the scheme put forward by the Deakin Government, under which the States would receive a per capita contribution for approximately fifteen years. The present Government propose to reduce that period to ten years. I do not mind the alteration a bit, because I think that in ten years this Parliament will be in a very good position to review the relationship of the States towards the Commonwealth and the financial position of both, in the light, perhaps, of altered systems of taxation. I think, too, that it will then be able to determine anew, for a further period of ten years or more, the conditions which should obtain. I recognise also - as was pointed out by the right honorable member for Swan the other day- that it is very difficult to amend the Constitution. But the right honorable gentleman did not harp upon that circumstance last session. I pointed out during the. recent election campaign - as I do now - that, whilst it may be an easy matter to embody a new provision in the Constitution, it may be exceedingly difficult to take it out.
– I know exactly how difficult it is to secure an amendment of the Constitution, and so does the honorable member ; but he should not exaggerate that difficulty.
– I was very glad to hear the honorable member admit that to amend the Constitution was a difficult thing. That is the doctrine which I preached last year, and that is one of the reasons why I was not prepared to indorse the Deakin Government’s proposal to embody in the Constitution a provision under which a per capita return of 25s. would be made to the States in perpetuity. The present Government, however, propose to reduce the period during which the financial scheme shall be operative to ten years, and I quite recognise the justice of their action. They say, in effect, “ This question has been open for years.” Repeated Conferences in regard to it have taken place between the State Premiers and the Commonwealth Government. The final Conference was held last year. At that Conference the Premiers of the States and the representatives of the Commonwealth Government agreed to accept as a basis a per capita return to the States of 25s, which, roughly speaking, represents about one-half of the net Customs and Excise revenue, in lieu of three-fourths to which they have hitherto been entitled under the Constitution. In consideration of that allowance, the State Premiers consentedto the scheme becoming operative in the half-year immediately preceding the termination of the Braddon section of the Constitution. They also agreed that, as the Commonwealth had relieved the States ofthe payment of old-age pensions at an earlier period than was anticipated, the sum of£600,000 in this connexion should be contributed by them to the Commonwealth this year.
– Conditionally upon what ?
– The State Premiers agreed that this contribution should be made to the Commonwealth conditionally upon the States receiving an annual per capita return of 25s. in perpetuity. But I am very glad to know that that last unwise condition has been eliminated. Considering the enormous difficulty which was experienced in inducing the States to agree to a settlement which was advantageous or acceptable to all of them, I think that the
Government have acted very fairly in saying, “ We accept that agreement in all respect!> but two. The first is that we will not burden the Constitution with it, and the second that we will not make the agreement for all time, but for a limited number of years.” Under that arrangement I see nothing to which the States can fairly object. It is an equitable settlement upon lines which they themselves have laid down. Of course, it would have been a very great advantage if the members of this Parliament and the public had been informed of the proceedings of the final Conference between the State Premiers and the representatives of the Commonwealth. I complained of the secret methods at the time, and 1 re-echo my complaint now. I complain that we have never yet learned, either in the form of a full report or a precis, what took place at that Conference. Consequently we are at a loss to know what reasons were advanced by the Premiers in favour of their contentions, and what reasons were urged by the representatives of the Commonwealth in favour of theirs.
– It is not difficult to guess.
– But what one would guess depends entirely upon his mental attitude. I am not afraid, from what I can see, that we are going to have any cataclysm in this country in connexion with the projected Commonwealth note issue, because the Prime Minister, as the head of the Government, has been old-fashioned enough to consult the leading banking specialists of Australia in regard to his scheme. And although it has been stated that those experts were not exactly in agreement with him upon all points, I am quite satisfied, from the proposals which have been foreshadowed by the Government, that the latter has derived some benefit from their advice.
– All the banking experts were opposed to the scheme, but they had to make the best of it.
– I can understand that the banks would naturally be opposed to it. But I do not see what the Commonwealth will gain under that scheme. Why? Because, in the first place, the Prime Minister has told us that the Government propose to keep a . gold reserve amounting to, at least, 25 per cent, of the note issue, and, secondly, because the adoption of a note issue by the Commonwealth will mean the abolition of a note issue by the banks in the States, which are to-day deriving a revenue of something like £80.000 a year by a tax on those notes. Therefore, in embarking upon a Commonwealth note issue, we shall be taking out of one pocket of the people as citizens of the States £80,000, which we shall be putting into another of their pockets as citizens of the Commonwealth. To my mind, that £80,000 does not represent a gain at all. It merely represents a transfer from one pocket to another. Upon a note issue of £4,000,000 at 3^ per cent., there would be a net profit of £25,000.
– What is -£25,000?
– The Government propose to maintain a gold reserve of 25 per cent, upon a note issue of £4,000,000.
– But the £4.000,000 is a very low estimate.
– I am quite aware of that. If we take into consideration the fact that, under the Government scheme, the citizens of the States will be deprived of £80.000 a year in order that that money may be given to them as citizens of the Commonwealth, and if we recollect that it is proposed to keep 25 per cent, of a note issue of £4,000,000 as a gold reserve - that is to say, £1,000,000 - we shall, upon a basis of 3J per cent., derive a profit of only £25,000 annually. I am aware that by-and-by the Government intend to raise that amount to £7,000,000; but if the Treasurer, when the note issue reaches that amount, is going to kee]) pound for pound for every note issued over £7,000,000, I say that this disturbance in the note issue of Australia to the extent of £4,000,000 is not. worth undertaking. If you are going further than £4,000,000 you are only going to get the interest upon 75 per cent, of the additional £3,000,000 ; and it is doubtful whether you will get that, because, at the very least the Treasurer will, have to keep available more than 35 per cent of gold to meet the additional £3,000,000. My own opinion is that more will have to be kept, and the Prime Minister, with that Scotch caution which we should expect of him, has been very careful to say that 25 per cent, is the “ minimum gold backing that he will give to these notes. I made a calculation which showed that if the Government were going to hold 40 per cent, of gold it would only leave the Commonwealth with a profit of £4,000 on £4,000,000. In the past we have had bank shareholders represented as very “ fat men “ with heavy gold chains, diamond studs, and so forth. If honorable members opposite had - as I have done- seen shareholders of banks attending reconstruction meetings they would have a different opinion of them.
– They are more like me than they are like the honorable member !
– Except that they are not so well dressed as the honorable member is ! They are more like my type in that respect ! At meetings for reconstruction purposes, such as took place in Melbourne and Sydney a few years ago, the class of shareholders represented had little about them to remind one of fat men.
– The banks were helped by the States to reconstruct.
– That is not the question just now. The principle of talking of bank shareholders, as a number of fat men making millions and wearing ship’s cables across their waistcoats in the form of gold chains, is really at the bottom of this proposal for the establishment of a State Bank. Because there was in the mind of what I may call the average man - in the mind of the bulk of the people - the idea that banks were represented by a few millionaires who were making “pots of money.”- Those were the words that were used. Whereas, when one attends bank meetings one sees there a number of people - not wealthy, not so well dressed as honorable members opposite are - holding their little lots of shares worth, perhaps, ten or fifteen or twenty pounds each. These are the “ fat men “ participators in the banking business, which it seems to be the policy of the Labour party to attack; and the idea has filtered down now until we Iia ve a Commonwealth note issue proposed by the Government. I have shown that, allowing for a gold backing of 25 per cent., and allowing for the £80,000 which the States lose and the Commonwealth gains, there will be a profit of only ,£25,000 on the issue contemplated. I “say that it is not worth while to cause the inconvenience of disturbing the whole hanking system of Australia for that.
– It was not worth the risk.
– Nor was it worth the risk, because it will involve a great deal of anxiety from time to time. It is one of the most delicate processes qf banking to safeguard the issue of notes, and to insure that the issuing power is always ready from time to time to meet its credit when emergency demands are made. I dp not anticipate that at present we are likely to arrive at the condition of things reached in relation to the greenbacks issued in America; nor is it likely that we shall have here such unfortunate results as occurred in Japan, in France, and in a number of other countries. I do not want to dress up a bogy. I merely say, cui bono? What is the use of ‘ it ? What is it that this Commonwealth is going to gain from this sudden embarking upon an entirely new business? Because banking is a business. Money is like merchandise. There is no mystery about money, except that it is a more difficult commodity to deal with than any other.
– Hard to get and to keep.
– I admit that; and that is one of the difficulties which the Commonwealth is taking upon its shoulders.
– Does the honorable member forget the convenience of a uniform note issue?
– I do not think that there is any difficulty on that score at present. I do not often have bank notes in my possession. They are generally very dirty and smelly, and I do not like them ; but, when I have had them, I have never even taken the trouble to inquire what bank had issued them.
– What about paying exchange ?
– No exchange is charged by the banks now. The honorable member knows that, under the present banking practice, a bank in Brisbane will cash a note from Tasmania.
– Since when?
– I happen to know that that is the practice; but I do not think I have had a note in my possession for years. The little ready money I have to carry about with me is in cash. I do not know whether the suggestion of the honorable member is that the practice of not charging exchange has only been adopted since this proposal was brought forward by the Government?
– Since the Gympie speech.
– Then, it ought to have been done before. But I like to look at both sides of a question. I suppose that the honorable member knows that if he goes to a Commonwealth post-office in Melbourne and asks for an order to pay a sovereign in Hobart, he will have to pay for it. The Commonwealth does not spread these blessings throughout Australia for nothing. It is itself making a lot of money in this way.
– But when there is a Commonwealth note issue, if I obtain a£1 note in Melbourne, I shall be able to get a sovereign for it in Brisbane.
– I presume that the honorable member will have to pay for the convenience.Although the Commonwealth does the work, I expect that it will charge 6d. or9d. for doing it.
– No; I shall be able to take a note from one State to another, and the cashing of it will cost me nothing.
– The Government and their party are congratulating themselves on avoiding the raising of loans. I recognise the difficulty as well as if I were a Labour member. The policy of their party is, “ You must not have loans, but you may get as near to borrowing as you like.” The issue of notes means the raising of loans. Therefore, the policy of the Government in this respect is a mere playing with words. It is lip service towards the Labour programme. May I quote from the Bulletin. The sanest page in that newspaper is the “ Wild Cat Column.” It sounds like a paradox; but such is the fact. This is what the Bulletin says in the “ Wild Cat Column “ -
The issue of Federal paper money will place at the disposal of the Commonwealth sundry millions of money, and so far there has been no very great supply of information as to the use which is to be made of it. News has not exactly flowed in like a rushing river, so to speak. The money is, to all intents and purposes, borrowed money - borrowed on notes instead of on debentures.
– News has not come in “ like a rushing river “ there.
– My point is that the Bulletin, quite properly, points out that the issue of notes is the raising of a loan. Therefore, if the Labour party are trying to escape from what I call sound financing, by steering so closely to the wind as not to issue a loan, but, at the same time, are getting money by issuing something else, they are only deceiving themselves if they believe in their policy ; whilst, if they do not believe in it, they are doing this thing with their tongue in their cheek, and it is a pity that the public cannot see the bulging effect, so as to know what they are doing.
Other people can see for themselves that the Labour party recognise the impossibility of doing without loans. How are we going to justly carry out all our great undertakings in this country without borrowing ? Take the Naval Loan Act, which the Government have announced their intention to repeal. It provides for borrowing money to buy ships of war, and for a sinking fund of,’ I think, 5 per cent. each year,so that, at the end of the period, when the ships become obsolete, the loan will be paid off. If we buy a ship of war, we do not buy it only for the people of to-day.
– They pay spot cash in England for war-ships.
– Lord Cromer has justified a loan in England for warships. The honorable member’s interjection reveals a fallacy, for they pay spot cash, and they borrow at the same time in England.
– They borrow only in case of war.
– I am talking of war. Within the last six months, Lord Cromer has advocated a large loan for naval purposes in England in order to provide for the unusual expenditure required to meet the expansion of the German naval power.
– Lord Cromer is not a responsible Minister.
– The honorable member should not talk in that way of Lord Cromer, who is. one of the biggest men in the English speaking world to-day - a man who has lifted Egypt out of a condition of serfdom, established educational institutions all through it, and made it a self-supporting country. Does the Prime Minister suggest that what Lord Cromer says to-day in the House of Lords he would not advocate if he were a responsible Minister?
– I meant that no responsible Minister has said so.
– I simply point out that we should be perfectly justified in distributing the expenditure upon our warships over the period during which we can use them, because the people of this year are not the only people who are to derive benefit from them. The people of next year, and the year after, and the year after that, will be “ benefited by them also. Therefore, since ten or fifteen years’ use will be had out of those ships, their value should be spread annually over their effective lifetime. Take, for example, the construction of a railway. Von build a railway, and immediately begin to run it at a profit. Would it not be ridiculous to say that the people of to-day shall pay for that railway, and that the people of the future shall have all its profits ?
– There are profits in a railway, but not in a war-ship.
– The principle is the same.
– It is not.
– If the honorable member cannot see what is common to the two things, he takes a very narrow view. The principle is that the expenditure upon any public work shall be distributed over the whole period during which the people enjoy that work. You put up a permanent work, and charge it to loan. Why ?
– In most cases to save taxation.
Mi. BRUCE SMITH.- The honorable member is. dealing with the sophistries of politics. I am dealing with the common sense of it. You put up a post-office on land which will enjoy at once an increment in value by reason of its being the site of the post-office. It becomes the centre of the township, or town, or city. It is built for the convenience of the public, not only of to-day, but of years hence. So the principle of a loan is that you should borrow it as a capital sum, and pay the interest from year to year through all the generations that enjoy the work.
– That is always the excuse of men who do not want to pay their debts.
– The honorable member is talking a little wildly, because I am pointing out a principle that is universally recognised amongst business men in banking, insurance, ship-building, and other forms of commercial activity. When a ship-owner buys a new ship, be does not pay the cost of it out of profits, but charges it to capital account, and distributes the amount over a period of years, subject to a depreciation provision.
– Does the honorable member believe in the principle of a sinking fund to cover loans?
– Certainly, in regard to any perishable work. The very Act, which the Government have made so much of their intention to repeal, provides for a sinking fund over the whole period during which the vessels will be of any use.
– Before that loan is finally paid off, how much will it have cost the people?
– Probably 3£ per cent, per annum.
– But how many million pounds will be the total cost?
– The Act provided for raising £3,500,000. The loan would have been floated on the London market, which is a test of the value of money throughout the world. That sum would have been spent upon ships, and a proportion of it would have been paid every year into a sinking fund, so that by the time the ships were worn out the whole amount would have been paid off. That plan would have had this advantage over the plan of the present Government : that the cost of the ships would be distributed over all the years during which the people enjoyed the benefit of their protective use. That is so absolutely sound that no capable business man in any part of the world would question it. When I spoke last session of the hesitation of the Government in floating a loan for postal purposes, the present Prime Minister said to me, from this side df the House, “ Oh, we do not say that we will never have a loan for any purpose. ‘ ‘
– Hear, hear !
– I am very glad to hear that, because the labour programme is against loans of all kinds.
– Then that is one of the little things that have been modified, because I can remember the time when there was to be no borrowing whatever.
– The honorable member cannot.
– I can, most distinctly. We have made some progress if the party now recognise that there are some circumstances under which there should be borrowing. That being so, we are very likely to come to an agreement as to the conditions under which it should take place. A permanent work like a railway or a. post office should be borrowed for. Do honorable members who have just come into the House know that one of the chief reasons why the postal service is in such a scandalous condition is that it has been starved for years? I have pointed out in this House, year after year, that all the new post offices in Australia, and the land upon which they have been built, should have been paid for out of loans, instead of the earnings of the Department being taken in order to build new post offices and add to the capital value of the Department, whilst starving the service. Last year alone, something like £700,000 was taken out of the earnings of the Department, although it was sadly needed. In my own constituency, on one occasion, it took me about eight months to get constructed a little public telephone, which would cost £13, and show about 30 per cent, profit per annum. I could not get it, because the Department had no money ; and all the time the Treasurers of the daywere afraid to ask Parliament to authorize a loan on legitimate grounds, because of the condition of our political life, and because they believed the Labour party would oppose anything of the sort. The great water scheme undertaken by the right honorable member for Swan, in Western Australia, was all built out of loans, because the right honorable member knew very well that it was a permanent work.
– But he had a good sinking fund.
– Possibly so, because the right honorable member recognised that, to some extent, the work was perishable. The honorable member will not say, however, that a post office is perishable. The building may perish in 50 or 100 years, but a sinking fund for that would not be h per cent., and every day the land on which it is erected is increasing in value. It has been fairly estimated that the increment in the value of the land upon which a new post office is placed quite neutralizes the infinitesimal depreciation in the bricks and mortar of which the building is constructed, because the placing of the post office there gives it a special value as a picked site. I say, therefore, that the feeling of honorable members towards loans ought to be modified.
– How would the honorable member deal with renewals in the case of warships ?
– By a fresh loan. Suppose we borrowed £1,000,000 for a vessel which would be obsolete in ten 3’ears, there, would be a sinking fund to produce £100,000 a year; so that at the end of the period, the whole of the debt would have been paid. We should then be in possession of a useless warship; but without any debt; and if we required a new vessel, we should borrow again and create another sinking fund.
– Yes; the honorable member uses the words “ borrow,” and “ loan,” as if they had an element of terror in them. But this is a legitimate commercial business principle, and every company and Government in the world adopts it.
– But there is no return from a warship.-
– That is a good argument for not having a warship at all ; but, as a matter of fact, we have safety.
– Would the honorable member put a warship and a railway on the same plane?
– No; in the case of a warship, there is a sinking fund, but not in the case of a railway; because the latter produces profits each year with which to pay the interest. Does the honorable member know that in New South Wales, within the last year, it is stated, no less than £46,000,000 of money invested in public works is producing £4 7s. 6d. per cent. ?
– How are. renewals provided for in that case?
– Renewals, small repairs, and so forth - I take it the honorable member means maintenance - are paid for out of the profits of the railways.
– There are sinking funds in some States in the case of railways.
– There is a sinking fund in the case of the railways in Western Australia, and in New South Wales the railways are producing a greater percentage of profit than the interest on the debt incurred in order to build them.
– The same in Victoria.
– Quite so. I ask the Labour party not to run away with the idea that a loan is to be looked at askance. It is a sound principle to borrow with a sinking fund in the case of a perishable work ; and I am not exaggerating when I say that this policy is uniformly observed by every civilized Government in the world, except it may be some of the South American Republics, where there is loose finance. In all the countries of Europe, and in England, and all the Colonies, the same policy is followed. I speak with three years experience as Minister of Works in New South Wales, the head of the biggest spending Department of that State ; as having been managing director of one of the largest shipping companies ; arid as a director of banking and insurance companies. It is the a, b, c, of commerce that capital expenditure shall not be taken out of profits, but separately provided for.
– How it is that this policy is not followed in England in the case of warships ?
– Because Great Britain has already a debt’ of £600,000,000 ; but where a special expenditure is necessary, Lord Cromer has advised there would be perfect justification in embarking on a loan.. Lord Cromer said -
Heavy naval expenditure was to be justified, not merely on the merits of the case, but because it would be both politic, and in the long run economical, to show conclusively that no nation or combination of nations could hope to compete with us.
We are in the same boat as Great Britain. We all recognise that Australia must stand or fall with the fate of the British Empire, and that what is imperative for the Mother Country is imperative for us, if we are to do our fair share in helping in the defence of the Empire. Lord Cromer went on to express his belief that -
Borrowing has always been held to be justifiable in time of war. They were happily not at war, but they lived in a state of armed peace, which, for all financial purposes, might be said to be very nearly akin to a state of war.
I do not know whether honorable members opposite have read the celebrated pamphlet written by Mr. Blatchford, the great English Socialist, who points out that England is in imminent danger of attack from Germany. I think Mr. Blatchford exaggerates a little - that Germany has no desire to attack England, but is determined to go on with the extension of her empire, and to defy anybody who interferes. But if it is necessary for England to be prepared to defend herself against Germany, surely we are in the same boat. If, as Lord Cromer said, although we are not at war we are at a time that can be called an “ armed peace,” we are justified in doing whatever England is doing.
– England is not borrowing.
– Lord Cromer proposes that England should borrow something like £50,000,000.
– He suggested £100,000,000.
– Either sum will serve my purpose; Lord Cromer suggests that this amount of money shall be bor-: rowed for the purpose of keeping up with the increase in the German Navy ; and whatever applies to England in this connexion applies to us. Indeed, we go further, because we should have a sinking fund, which would be distributed over a number of years. I find fault with the honorable member at the head of the Government for having, in this very drastic way, determined on the repeal of the Naval Loan Act. I venture to say that no Government could possibly conceive a juster method of dealing with the present condition of our naval defences than that contained in that Act. Although the Prime Minister is committed to his proposal, I shall be very curious to see how he can fairly shoulder the cost on all the generations which will enjoy the safety resulting from the presence of the ships of war here. If the ships are to last fifteen years,, and each year is to bear its share of the expenditure, that would be a perfectly equitable way of distributing the cost.
– I am of opinion that noselfrespecting people, like those of theCommonwealth, would start a navy with a borrowing policy.
– The most effective self-respect is self-preservation. Tothose members of the Labour party who ‘ were not in the House in 1903, when it was proposed to grant a miserable £200,000 to England towards the up-keep of the Navy, I say that there was not a member of that party here then who voted for the proposal. That was the attitude of the party then; and no one rejoices more than I to see gradually coming over the people of Australia, and over the Labour party, a recognition of an obligation on the part of Australia, not to help England, but to contribute her share towards the defence of the Empire. As I have said’, we must stand or fall with Great Britain ; and whether England’s war is fought in the North Sea or the Mediterranean, we may depend that, although for 130 years we have been resting under the broad wing of the British Empire, we shall very soon have some foreign peoples with’ earth hunger and the desire to place their surplus population in Australia, about our borders, if England lost her supremacy on the sea.
– It is only fair to the members of the Labour party to say that, in 1903, they were in favour of an Australian navy in preference to a subsidy.
– I hope that the honorable gentleman will not ask me to deal with that point now.
– But it is a fact.
– The Labour party until some time ago wished to build a navy which would be most effectual perhaps in defending Australia, but consisting of vessels quite incapable of crossing the ocean to help the British Government in the defence of the Empire. Captain Mahan has said, in his book upon the disposition of navies, that prior to the RussoJapanese war, the true base of operations for the naval defence of Australia was not in Australian ports, but in the Indian Ocean. And why ? Because quite unlike the Army, which reserves itself for defence, the Navy, according to precedents laid down by men like Nelson, goes out to find the enemy, treats him, so to speak, as a bushranger and destroys him. We know how Nelson went to the end of the Mediterranean, and away to the West Indies to find the French. The Labour party, however, desired to build a navy to protect Australian ports, which would be rather after the fair, because the power of England would be determined far beyond our hearing.
– I do not think that the honorable member is putting the position fairly. We proposed, first of all, to construct a few small vessels, and subsequently to construct cruisers.
– I am glad that the honorable member’s opinions are also undergoing a modification. He knows that the proposition to present England with ii Dreadnought was decried by the Labour party from one end of Australia to the other. Is he aware that the Vanguard, which is the type we are going to construct, is only an improvement of the Dreadnought class? Why was that type of vessel chosen? Because, if necessary, it could cross the ocean and join with the British Fleet on the China station, or with the vessels of New Zealand, which are of a large type, in the defence of the Empire generally. The sooner we get rid of ihe idea that Australia ought to look after herself alone, and not to take part in the formation of what may be described as a military square, in the defence of the Anglo-Saxon race, against the whole world, the better.
– That is the view of honorable members opposite. It has always been their view.
– No; I think their views have undergone a change, and that even the honorable member for Adelaide, who interjected a moment or two ago, is relenting a little with regard to the undesirableness of constructing vessels of a large type.
– I say still, that the honorable member is not putting the case fairly.
– The honorable member says that it was the ultimate intention of the Labour party, after constructing vessels of the River type - that is to say, vessels incapable of going beyond a certain distance from the coast - to construct vessels of a larger type.
– - Why, the vessels of the River type were to be constructed in England !
– I do not care whether they were to be constructed in Heaven ! That is not my point. My point is as to’ the type of ships.
– But how can the honorable member say that they were incapable of putting out to sea since they were to be constructed in England and brought out here?
– How would such vessels be brought out here? They would have to be shepherded, and come out under sail. Do honorable members know that the Cerberus, which was built in England, would be useless in a sea, and that she was, nevertheless, brought out here? She was sailed through calm seas. But we are talking of steamers capable, not solely of defending the coast of Australia, but of going across the seas. The late Government voted for the construction of vessels which could, if necessary, cross the ocean and join with the British Fleet o1 the China station in the defence, not only of Australia, but of the whole Empire.
– Ships that could fight.
– Ships that could fight.
– The late Government did not fight for anything, except something they were told to do.
– The honorable member now wishes to discuss something that may be more favorable to his side. The principle, which Nelson established, that the province of a navy is not to wait like an army to defend the coast, but to go out, to be aggressive, and to attack the enemy on the high road, or, in other words, the ocean, is just as well observed to-day as in his own time. Therefore, the last Government adopted a scheme of which I thoroughly approved, and the naval loan, from the discussion of which I have been diverted, was an equitable provision for distributing the cost over the generations which would have the services of those vessels. I am reminded by the honorable member for Parramatta that Germany lately has raised a naval loan of £13,000,000; France a naval loan of £2,500,000; and ‘ Japan a loan of £4,000,000 for her navy.
– All bad examples, that we -do not wish to follow. We follow England.
– That is a very good ad captandum - may I say clap-trap - argument, but it is no reply to my contention that we should have a sinking fund in connexion with such a loan, so as to distribute the cost over the years during which the people enjoy ‘the safety that results from the construction of the fleet. That is a perfectly equitable system, and if it were followed no one could complain. Would not the people of to-day complain bitterly if we said we were going to build a man-of-war, to defend Australia fifteen years hence, and to -spread the cost of construction over this year only? Would not such an arrangement be obviously unfair? The alternative is to spread the cost over a fifteen-years’ period, and the Naval Loan Act provides for that. I pass from that subject because we shall have an opportunity of dealing with it when the repeal Bill is before us. I wish now to deal with the subject of telephones. I have tried to put one or two questions on the point, and can readily grasp the situation. The somewhat Bismarckian attitude of the Postmaster-General is one of the peculiar outcomes of the new method of Government. The honorable gentleman takes up the position that he alone, and not the Government, is responsible for the change in the telephone system that has been announced, and he says, in a way quite worthy of Bismarck, “ The PostmasterGeneral has spoken: 1st September.” There was a sort of “ Let there be light “ about his fiat. He said, in effect, “ On 1st September you will have a change in the Postmaster-General’s Department, no matter what this or that man may say.” The honorable member for Gwydir may find fault with the change, but - “ 1st September.” Parliament may discuss it if it please, but - “ 1st September.”
As the result of this hesitation to borrow for legitimate purposes, Hie PostmasterGeneral’s Department is in a most disgraceful condition, and it is admitted that it would require £2,000,000 to put the whole service into going order as a business concern. The payment of some of the officers of the. Department is, to my mind, shameful. I had an interview recently - and this is only in parenthesis - with a man who told me that he was asassistant postmaster in a suburb of Sydney ; that he was often, and, in fact, nearly always, left from 2 p.m. until the closing hour in charge of the office; that there was connected with it a Savings Bank, which involved his having in his possession from £300 to £400, and sometimes £600 ; that he had the management of the telegraphic work; that he had been in the service for twenty years; and that he received the enormous salary of £126 a year.
– Government in the past has been badly managed.
-If the State is going to discharge its commercial functions in such a way as to give to a man carrying out highly responsible work a miserable pittance, then the sooner we do away with State management the better. I am prepared to support the Government in paying larger salaries to men of the type I have mentioned. A man after keeping a coffee-stall in the public streets for twentyyears would have built up a better income, and it is disgraceful that a public servant, charged with the care of hundreds of pounds, and practically with the management of an official post office, should receive only £126 a year aftertwenty years’ service. It certainly has no parallel in any private enterprise. Where the Postmaster-General’s Department has erred is in charging to its earnings the cost of all permanent works, instead of using the earnings for elaborating and perfecting its work by means of more people, better paid, and by a ready response to a desire for further telephone services. If a company were carrying on the work, and a request came in from a neighbourhood which was prepared to have a telephone service, and its provision wouk return 25 or 30 per cent., the company would jump at the opportunity to put in fresh telephones and install them very quickly, because it would produce a large profit.” But our Post Office is so much starved by a stupid system of financing, that it is now unable to move, and that is the answer which we get over and over again in reply to our inquiries. When those honorable members who are new to the House come to deal with .constituencymatters, they will be told over and over again that there is no money available.
An Honorable Member. - We have already been told that.
– The information has come to them much more quickly than I thought it would.
– Have we not paid too much money to the States?
– The honorable member must not ask me to go into that matter just now. I hope that I do not bore honorable members, because I think I have good authority for most of the statements which I have made. I desire to throw a little light on our telephone system. As an individualist - a rigid individualist in theory, and a liberal one in practice, that is to say, when I go among practical men, I am prepared to modify my actions, I will not say my views, in order to get the best I can - I have always contended that the States should undertake as few functions as possible which can be undertaken by private enterprise, because my experience is that the State can never carry them out as well and as satisfactorily to the public as can be. done by private enterprise. The telephones of the United States are all carried on by private enterprise.
An Honorable Member. - And the public are bled.
– Let me assure the honorable member, that the telephones of Europe are all carried out by the Government. I hold in my hand an extract from the London Times engineering note;,, headed “ The Telephone and the State,” and although honorable members opposite may not agree with it, I ask them to listen to a splendid summary of the results of telephonic services under the State and under private enterprise. The extract reads as follows: -
The great patient public of European countries have little idea of the extent to which they have been deprived of the most rapid means of communication in existence by Government monopoly and political interference. The real telephone question of the day is the virtual suppression of the telephone throughout Europe by the exercise of Government monopoly. In what degree the telephone has been suppressed in Europe and its usefulness denied to the public of European countries cannot be told by figures alone, but figures can illustrate strikingly the wide difference between the development of the telephone in America and in Europe.
In all Europe, with some 400 millions of population, there were, at the beginning of 1909, approximately 2,300,000 telephones. In the United States, with 80 millions of population, there were at the same date nearly 7,000,000 telephones. America, with one-fifth the population of Europe, thus has three times as many telephones as Europe, and in proportion to population there are 15 telephones in America to one in Europe. A few concrete illustrations make the comparison even more striking. In all France there were at January 1, 1909, only *94>l59 telephones; New York had 334,186, and Chicago 184,922. Austria can muster only 80,975 telephones, and is handsomely beaten, not only by New York and Chicago, but also by Boston and Philadelphia, each with over 100,000 telephones. European countries, such as Italy, Hungary, and Belgium, have fewer telephones in service than American cities of the second rank, such as St. Louis, Pittsburg, Cincinnati, and San Francisco. Even this country, where the telephone is more highly developed than in most Continental countries, has a total number of telephones inferior to the aggregate in service in New York, Chicago, and Boston, three cities with an aggregate population about equal to that of Greater London.
The position into which the policy of Government monopoly has brought the telephone business of this country is already, extremely unfavourable, but it will rapidly become much more so unless the subject is given more practical and intelligent consideration. Working under very limited powers, and subject to constant political interference and obstruction, the National Telephone Company has developed a large and growing telephone service in this country - a service far better equipped and organized than that of most Continental countries, certainly infinitely superior in every way to that of our nearest Continental neighbour, France, which has rejoiced in Government monopoly for 20 years. The National system is to be taken over less than three years hence on terms which are conceived without regard to one of the prime necessities of the telephone business - the constant expenditure of capital for future requirements. If capital is not expended on ‘development during the- next few years, the telephone service will drift into a state of confusion, the public will be deprived of facilities, and the Post Office will later have difficulties to face whir-b. will take years and millions of money to overcome.
The last paragraph describes exactly the condition of our Post Office. I do not say that the State cannot run it; but I hold that the State cannot do so as satisfactorily as private enterprise could do. There is very little chance of the service ever getting into the hands of private enterprise here. But we ought to take a leaf out of the book of private enterprise, and try to manage this great Department on business line.s. We ought not to stint it in its capital; we ought to borrow money for the permanent works, and establish a sinking fund, and distribute the repayment over the years in which the people enjoy the use of the works or services. I am satisfied that in order to do that it will take, as we have often been told by Treasurers and PostmastersGeneral, a couple of millions of money, and then we shall not be using up the large sums which we have taken out of the earnings for erecting permanent buildings. When the right honorable member for Swan was in office as Treasurer last session, I pointed out to him that, if instead of announcing a deficiency of £1,200,000, he would gather up the expenditure of past years on new post offices and float a loan for the purpose, he would find his Consolidated Revenue fund in possession of enough money to put the whole Post Office on a thorough business footing, and to get rid of his obligation in the shape of a deficit. But, of course, I had no weight with him.
– It was too near the expiration of the Braddon section to do anything.
– Yes. That is all that I think I can profitably say at present. I have derived, I repeat, much satisfaction from the assurance which the Prime Minister gave us as to his intention with regard to legislation here. I can only say, as a member of this side of the House, that if he and the honorable members who respectively moved and seconded the Address-in-Reply are really in earnest when they say that they will welcome criticism, and desire to settle questions on their merits, subject, of course, to the great principles which the party are bound by, and which I cannot expect them, in all fairness, to depart from - if they will adopt that course in regard to details I, for one, on this side will be very happy to assist them to make the measures which they bring forward as perfect as possible, so as to add materially to the welfare of this great continent which we are supposed to represent.
.- As a new member, I have to confess that I rise with some degree of trepidation to address the House, recognising as I must, the very lengthy experience possessed by a majority of honorable members present. However, I have a duty to perform. I have been sent here by my constituents, and although I am almost afraid of my temerity, still I must do the best I can in deference to them. A few nights ago a remark fell from the honorable member for Gwydir when he was speaking in very pronounced terms on the subject of our postal and telephonic troubles. He stated that, apart from party questions, he somewhat regretted the absence of one of his colleagues on the Postal Commission. I could not help but feel that his remark related to myself and to the Chairman of that Commission, Mr. W. H. Wilks. I heartily indorse the remark. I feel that it is a matter of regret to the House that a gentleman who has given large consideration to such an important question should, in the whirligig of party politics, to-day be in such a position that his services cannot be so effective to the House as they might be were he present. I trust that in the course of the debate which doubtless will ensue, the House will see its way clear to avail itself in some way of that gentleman’s large knowledge of the Commission’s proceedings. I hope that it will do so in the interests of the community at large. I have now to address myself to the sessional programme. I confess that I listened with some degree of interest and much anticipation to the criticism which emanated from the Leader of the OppositionI was very much afraid that the sessional programme, which I looked upon as a reasonably fair and effective expression of the Labour platform, might suffer at the hands of so capable a gentleman, and that I might find myself in the delicate position of having to establish an intellectual readjustment to prevent my views from coming into conflict with the aims of my party. In that I was agreeably disappointed. Brilliant as the honorable member is, voluble and unquestionably polished as his utterances were, his criticism was mild and ineffective, and I claim the assistance of himself and his followers for the carrying into effect of our programme in a very short session, so that the legislative work of Parliament may bear fruit at an early date. In dealing with the Financial Agreement, he took exception to our proposals on the ground that they are in the nature of a violation of the Constitution. When met by our Leader with the reply that they are practically the same as those upon which he had agreed with the State Premiers, he said that his were dependent upon an alteration of the Constitution. Any financial difficulty that might arise, however, would not be affected by the assent or non-assent of the community to the Financial Agreement. Had the honorable member and his party been returned with a majority, with their Financial Agreement rejected, they would be in the position in which we are, and compelled to make provision, in view of a deficit, by just the same methods as the Ministry has been compelled to adopt. Therefore, his criticism in this matter was very weak indeed. He told us, too, that he would have made the rectification of anomalies one of the first things on his programme; but, speaking subject to correction, I am under the impression that there was in the minds of the Fusion party no thought of rectifying anomalies until they had established a bureau, Commission, or investigating body to look carefully into industrial matters with a view to ascertaining basic facts. If that be so, it is not likely that a measure for the rectification of anomalies would have been introduced by the honorable member early in the session.
– From the first, I expressly separated -the rectification of anomalies from the proposal to establish a tribunal to study fiscal questions.
– While my impression may be wrong, I think that the Labour party is wise in postponing the rectification of anomalies, whatever the word “ anomalies” may mean. I trust that there will be no radical alteration of the Tariff until we have new Protection, and can deal fairly with the working classes, who are so intimately affected by Tariff changes. I read with a great deal of pleasure the reply given to the deputation by the Minister of Trade and Customs yesterday. It expressed my ideas in this matter. Whatever may be the attitude of other honorable members, I shall not assent to any alteration of the Tariff until new Protection has been brought to the front, and the community’ as a whole can be made to share in the benefits of the Customs duties.
– There are not enough to go round.
– They must be made to :go round. There has been a good deal of criticism from the other side of the chamber as to what is meant by our proposed tax on land values, and as to the attitude of honorable members on this side regarding it, both here, and when before the country. We have been told that we meant it to be wholly a tax for the bursting up of large estates, and it has been pointed out that such a tax would be ineffective for that purpose. That was the view of the honorable member for Parramatta three years ago. He said that a similar tax in New Zealand had proved ineffective. His then Leader, the present High Commissioner, thought that it would be effective because it would reduce values. I do not know how it was that members sitting together could hold such contrary views. In reply to the statement that the members of this party have never looked on the taxation of land values as a desirable means of raising taxation, let me quote from a short manifesto which I issued three years ago when contesting the seat which I at present hold -
Progressive land tax. - Viewing the above tax as a purely bursting up tax, I should give it my support. I do not view it in any sense as a tax harmonising with the idea of land value taxation as expounded by single taxers or land nationalists, but an expedient which will aid to closer settlement, either by compelling cultivation or sale Incidentally it will operate on city estates of large value in the direction of land ‘ value taxation, and to that extent should have the support of those who are not too doctrinaire to deviate a little from the precise formula of single tax teaching. The cry that such a tax is an interference with the State right in relation to land legislation does not concern me much ; the public estates have been alienated by means which must call for the condemnation of all thoughtful men, and if the State legislatures will not move in this direction, then action by the Federal Parliament in the direction of public restitution will meet with my support.
Now let me read from the manifesto which I issued just prior to the last election -
A progressive land tax I hail with acclamation. Devised for the purpose of splitting up large estates and aiding closer settlement, it becomes essential and imperative when linked with the great questions of defence and increased population by immigration or natura] processes. The schemes of settlement by purchase have proved abortive. There remains nothing but the Labour party’s proposal. It is only viewed with alarm by the vested interests of the day - the pastoralists and the banking and financial institutions - who have their grip heavy upon a nation’s heritage. Even if ineffective in producing closer settlement, it adds to the revenue as direct taxation from sources that should justly pay for the monopoly value they possess, and the added security derived from any system of defence hereafter established.
That answers the objection that honorable members of the Labour party wish to impose the land tax wholly for the bursting up of large estates, and not for the sake of obtaining revenue. The contention that that is our position is absolutely wrong. I think it was the honorable member for Wimmera who, in referring to the land tax, deprecated its application to city properties, on the ground that it would most certainly be passed on first of all to the occupants of the property, and ultimately to the consumer. If the honorable member’s contention be correct, the sooner we decide to abstain from any form of taxation, except that directly imposed upon the consuming classes, the better. If that doctrine be true, any attempt to impose any other form of taxation would be futile, and we had better at once impose all our taxation upon the working or consuming class, and we shall then know where we stand. If we are to come to that, some very drastic steps will have to be taken, and we shall be forced into land nationalization. However, I do not think the honorable member’s contention is correct. If it be, why should land-owners to-day be crying out against the imposition of the proposed tax? I have always understood that land values are really monopoly values, and that taxation upon those values must fall upon the landlord, and cannot be passed on. If that is not so, then authorities upon taxation, from the early days up to the present time, must be vastly mistaken. I feel assured that the imposition of the proposed progressive land tax will have the dual effect of bursting up large estates in the country, and of giving us a material revenue from large city properties the owners of which are to-day reaping great benefits from public effort.
– Upon what basis does the honorable member advocate exemptions ?
– I can tell the honorable member at once that if I could see my way to impose the proposed taxation universally, I should not have any exemption, but in practical politics we must be satisfied with what we can get, I ask the honorable member upon what basis he opposes the Government proposal?
– It would be an additional tax, superimposed upon existing taxation.
– Possibly so; but I note that the honorable member is not prepared to support the proposed taxation, although it travels a long way in the direction of a proposal to appropriate by taxation the whole of the rental value which, as a follower of Henry George, the honorable member no doubt would approve.
– No ; it travels in the opposite direction.
– There is another matter to which I should like to address myself for a moment, and that is the question of industrial legislation. I remarked that the Leader of the Opposition took exception to the words “ legislate effectively.” What would the honorable gentleman have us put there - legislate ineffectively? What less should we attempt to do than legislate effectively, if we mean to go to work earnestly and sincerely ? Although the paragraph dealing with the subject may appear to the honorable gentleman somewhat indefinite or so closely drawn that he was unable to get his dagger into it-
– Would the honorable member tell us what he regards as effective legislation on that subject?
– I shall leave that to the Administration. I know in a general -way what they purpose doing, and I think that when they put forward their measures the honorable member will understand what they mean, and 1 shall find myself in close touch with them.
– That is a wise answer.
– I thank the honorable gentleman. I am glad to be given credit foi wisdom. We, on this side, are charged with being unificationist in connexion with industrial matters. I admit at once that I, for one, am a pronounced unificationist sofat as industrial legislation is concerned.. I have had too much experience of arbitration proceedings not to recognise how unsatisfactory it is to have to depend upon. State legislation in industrial matters for fair dealing as between individual and individual. We are asked to view local conditions, and how can we expect such conditions as we desire in a particular State, when the conditions of a similar industry in another State are so very different. The only way out of the difficulty is to provide for the passing of such legislation as will make industrial conditions, as far as possible, uniform throughout the Commonwealth, and beneficial to the community: as a whole. In the circumstances, I am compelled to support the attitude adopted by my party in connexion with industrial legislation. The honorable member for Parkes, in referring to the proposal to repeal the Naval Loan Act, was very pronounced in the expression of his opinion) that we should borrow for such a purposeab the construction of vessels of war. I confess that I could not follow the honorable member’s argument. I agree that the cost of a vessel of war might be regarded’ as an insurance premium upon the preservation of our National Estate, but 1 think that, generally, people pay insurance premiums out of pocket, and do not borrow to meet them. I believe that ready cashshould be paid for what is not a reproductive work, and a vessel of war cannot be regarded as reproductive in any sense. We may admit that it is very necessary, while we deplore the need for it. but as it is not a reproductive work, it would be very illadvised, by borrowing to pay for its construction, to pass the burden of it on to future generations, who, perhaps, would derive little or no benefit from it. Vessels of war and war-like armament may very quickly become comparatively useless, and if would be unreasonable to impose the burden of their cost upon future generations. .Hut for works of a reproductive character we might very reasonably borrow. The Labour platform does not prohibit borrowing. We certainly desire to impose limitations upon borrowing. We have no wish to rush wildly into the markets of the world to borrow haphazard for all sorts of purposes, as has been done in the past. If it can be shown that works proposed will be of a reproductive character, and for the benefit of the whole community, we should not hesitate to borrow in a fair and reasonable way for carrying out such works 3 but I think we stand on very safe ground in refusing to carry out the policy of the past Administration, and in determining to repeal the Naval Loan Act. The honorable member for South Sydney referred a day or two ago to the question of export duties. I have had voluminous figures placed in my hands by people who have an interest in this matter, and who requested me to bring it before the House. I cannot say that I am strongly in favour of an export duty. I think it might be injurious, and, on the other hand, it might be shown to be good. The question is one which must be very carefully considered. I could understand that an export duty imposed upon wool, hides, and skins, might materially injure the pastoralists, if the demand in the world’s markets were such that the amount of the duty could not be added to the natural cost of the articles. In such a case, the burden would fall upon the pastoralist to some extent. The question is: How could, the tax be utilized? If it fell upon the pastoralist, would it not confer a corresponding benefit on those engaged in associated trades and callings, such as wool-scouring and washing, fellmongering, tanning, and the manufacture- of glue, glucose, and similar products. When the Tariff is under review, the matter is one which should be carefully considered. I do not pledge myself at the moment to support an export duty. The question is one which, from the point of view of the extension of our local industries, might lie threshed out in this House with advantage.
– Does the honorable member know when the Tariff will come up for reconsideration?
– I do not, and if I did, I doubt if I would tell the honorble member. To discuss the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply at this stage seems to me to be practically to waste time. I merely rose to take advantage of the opportunity thus presented to get into touch with honorable members. I trust that, at some later date, I shall be more effective in dealing with practical issues.
.- I do not propose to occupy time in debating the general policy enunciated in the Governor-General’s Speech. I think that the Vice-Regal deliverance has been fairly discussed by representative speakers of both sections of the House, and I entirely agree with the honorable member for Dalley that to further debate the outlines of a policy which will have to be submitted in detail at a later stage, would be so much waste time. But I desire to avail myself of this opportunity to direct the attention of the House to a question which threatens to become a burning one - I refer to the imposition by the Postmaster-General of the proposed new telephone charges. In doing so, 1 wish to emphasize what appears to me to be an anomaly, viz., that, whilst under the existing law the PostmasterGeneral has no power to impose postal or telegraphic rates, he is, by a general authority under the Post and Telegraph Act of 1901, apparently empowered to formulate and bring into operation telephonic rates. Why Parliament, in passing that Act, reserved to itself the authority to levy postal and telegraphic rates, whilst giving the Postmaster-General full power to impose telephonic rates, .1 cannot say. It must have been an oversight. It could scarcely have been intended that Parliament should delegate to the Executive Government the full power to deal with so important a branch of taxation as telephonic rales. When 1 entered upon my duties as PostmasterGeneral in the Deakin Government, one oi the first things into which I inquired wa; as to the constitutionality of this power, which has been reserved to, and exercised by, the Postmaster-General, because it occurred to me that, as the power of taxation is vested in Parliament itself, it might be open to question whether Parliament could delegate that power to a subordinate officer.
– But the honorable member would not call the power to levy telephonic rates a power to tax?
– Up to a certain stage telephonic charges, I think, may be regarded in the light of a fee for services rendered, but beyond that stage, they may become a tax. However, I was advised by the Crown Law authorities that the power to impose telephonic rates was perfectly constitutional, and that the PostmasterGeneral could be vested with the necessary authority. I hope that Parliament will soon assert its right to assume full control over this question. When the Postmaster-General was challenged this afternoon to afford the House an opportunity of debating it, he replied that he could not prevent that being done. But, unfortunately, the matter cannot come before us in such a way that honorable members will have a free hand to deal with it upon its merits. I venture to say that if it were dealt with upon its merits, and if honorable members had a free hand, the regulation known as 7A, which relates to what are popularly known as the “ Thomas rates “ would not become the law of the land on ist September. I wish to assure my honorable friend, the PostmasterGeneral, that I do not approach this question from a party stand-point, and that I am not prejudiced against the regulation to which I have referred. In this connexion, I would remind him that when 1 assumed the office of Postmaster-General, although there was a big clamour raised against that regulation, I did not advise my colleagues summarily to abolish it, as I might have done. I did not resort to that extreme step, because I was impressed with the necessity which existed for giving the whole subject thorough and comprehensive consideration, and for dealing with it in a judicial manner and free from Ministerial or party bias.
– The honorable member desired to get more light upon it?
– I did. Consequently I did not see my way to recommend that it should be summarily wiped out. I merely suggested that if the rates in question were not regarded as satisfactory by my colleagues, the question should be dealt with by suspending the notices which had been issued to subscribers, that those rates would come into operation upon a certain date. I was not in any way biased against the measuredrate system - that is the toll system. Entering the Department as I did with a free hand and an open mind, I was bound to consult the officers of the Department upon the more important methods of administration, and as to the best means of giving effect to those methods. One of the very first statements submitted to me was of an alarming character, viz., that it was estimated by witnesses who appeared before the Postal Commission that under the partial-toll system the loss sustained by the country in connexion with our Telephone Department amounted to from £50*000 to £60,000 per annum.
– Upon whose evidence was that statement based?
– I was informed that that statement had been made in evidence before the Postal Commission. I am not in a position to say by whom it was made. I was also informed that Mr. Hesketh, in his evidence, declared that a service worth £5 had cost the Department £6 to carry out, exclusive of operating charges. I was further assured that no precise figures were available in respect of the loss sustained under the flat rate, but it was considered that such loss must be very heavy. One witness affirmed that a service which yielded a revenue of from £5 t0 £9 Per annum was sometimes worth £100 a year to the customer. These were some of the considerations which were placed before me in support of the necessity which existed for revising the toll rates with a view to increasing them and to abolishing the flat rate. As I proceeded with my investigations, I thought that it would be just as well to ascertain whether any information had been submitted to the Postal Commission, or whether any was in the possession of the Department itself, tending to show that the telephonic rates previously authorized by law were not sufficient, and, if so, to what extent loss had occurred, as had been suggested by witnesses who appeared before the Commission. One of the first questions that I asked was whether there were any books in the Department showing the capital charges and working expenses in connexion with the telephone system of the country. I found that no accurate accounts had been kept concerning the capital invested in this branch of the service. There might be rough estimates or generalizations as to the cost, but there were no figures to show how much money had been spent on telephones and how much on telegraphs. The figures were all mixed up together. I desire to refer to the officers of the Department with the greatest respect, and I am not saying anything hostile or adverse to any of them. But I wish to explain my attitude, and the reasons why I advised my colleagues to suspend the operation of the regulations made at the instance of my predecessor. When I made these inquiries, I was informed that the Victorian Electrical Engineer had stated that the capital expenditure on telephones in Melbourne amounted to £63 per subscriber’s line. I asked for particulars. I was then informed that it was by no means certain that that figure was accurate, but that, for the purpose of advising the Postmaster-General as to these new rates, it was to be assumed that the amount of capital expenditure on the . telephone system in Melbourne was £39 per subscriber’s line. I said, “ What is the meaning of assumed ‘ ? “ I was then informed that it had been “ assumed “ that the cost was so much under the heading of lines, poles, equipment, and so forth, and that in this way it had been calculated that it had cost £39 per line to construct the various telephone lines in Melbourne. Honorable members can see the dangerous ground upon which the officers were proceeding when the Minister was asked to “ assume” a certain expenditure, and was told that he could not rely upon its being actual.
– Was that the average?
– Yes; that is to say, if you take a certain amount of capital and divide it among a certain number of subscribers, an average is reached. Then I had presented to me a little balancesheet, the figures of which I shall quote. iii ne net working cost per line was set down at £4 15s. ; depreciation and interest at £3 6s. 3d. ; total working cost, depreciation, and interest on each subscriber’s line in Melbourne, £8 is. 3d. The revenue amounted to £7 9s. 7d. per subscriber’s line, leaving a shortage per line on what is termed the mixed or Chapman system of us. 8d. These figures were for the year 1908. At that time there were about 11,000 subscribers in the Melbourne metropolitan area. Multiplying ns. 8d. by that figure, the total annual loss estimated as having been realized in connexion with the metropolitan telephone system in Melbourne for the year 1.908 was £6,416. It occurred to me that that was not a very big loss - certainly not such as to justify the increase in the new rates proposed by my predecessor - who is now my successor - under regulation 7A.
– Did that loss cover maintenance, and so forth?
– Did it include the expenditure upon the tunnels?
– Yes, it covered the whole cost up to date. I apprehend that Mr. Hesketh was not the man to leave out such a large item as, for instance, the capital cost of the tunnels. I then asked for similar information in regard to the Sydney metropolitan area, for the purpose of making a comparison. I was told that the Department was in a position to give more ample information as to that capital expenditure than could be supplied with reference to the Melbourne metropolitan area. I was informed that the actual capital expenditure in connexion with telephones in the Sydney metropolitan area was £35 per subscriber’s line. The details, setting clown interest, depreciation, and working expenses at 8A- per cent., were as follow : - Working costs, £4 9s. 7d. per subscriber’s line ; interest and depreciation, £3 ; total, £7 9s. 7d. per subscriber’s line. The annual revenue for the year 1908 was £7 5s. per subscriber’s line. The total shortage was, therefore, 4s. 7d. per subscriber’s line. Those figures are to be found in papers which I left behind on the file when I quitted the Department. The discrepancy between ns. 8d. per line shortage in Melbourne and 4s. 7d. per line shortage in Sydney was sufficient to arouse grave doubts in my mind as to whether there was such a great deficiency and loss on the telephonic system of the country, as was represented in the figures given before the Postal Commission, and apparently concurred in by the advising officers of the Department. I caused an analysis to be made of the increases that would be caused in the proposed new rates to the various subscribers, classing them according to the number of their calls per day. I did not take a copy of that paper, but I had a similar table prepared yesterday to read to the House. It shows what would be the increases or decreases under the Thomas rates, as compared with the Chapman rates. Under the Thomas rates there are three grades of fixed charges coupled with charges for calls from the very beginning,that is, without any free calls. It appears then that a subscriber using his telephone for an average of one call per day will have an advantage of 5 per cent., as compared with the Chapman rates. But that subscriber is the only one who can possibly have any advantage or reduction. A subscriber using his telephone twice a clay throughout the year will have to pay increased rates amounting, to 10 per cent. Any one who uses the telephone three times a day will have to pay increased rates amounting to 25 per cent. ; with four calls per day the increase is 40 per cent. ; five calls per day 56 per cent. ; and six calls per day 58 per cent. That marks the high water mark of increase. At seven calls per day the subscriber will have to pay an increased rate of 57 per cent.; at eight calls per day an increase of 46 per cent. ; nine calls 41 per cent. ; ten calls 38 per cent.; 15 calls 28 per cent.; “twenty calls 27 per cent. ; twenty-five calls 28 per cent. ; thirty calls 28 per cent. ; forty calls 30 per cent. ; and 50 calls also 30 per cent, increase. Honorable members will, therefore, see the enormous increases involved by the proposed new regulations - increases which, in my opinion, were not justified by the comparatively small loss per line which I was told by the officers of the Department took place in Sydney, or by the loss per line which took place in Melbourne.
– Will the honorable member tell us how much more a person who had 18,000 rings in twelve months would have to pay under my charges?
– I have not the figures for that, and wish to make my own speech in my own way. The question is complicated, and I may not be as smart at figures as my honorable friend, but I am endeavouring to put them before the House as well as I can. I wish to draw the particular attention of honorable members to the outstanding feature of this comparison of rates - that the heaviest increases under the new regulations will fall upon the moderately small users. The only small user who will have an advantage is the man who uses his telephone but once a day.
– What about the subscriber who uses it 100 times a day?
– The regulations could have been so framed, if necessary, as to hit him without penalizing the moderate users. My successor, if he looks over the file, will see that I did attempt to modify and reduce his scale of charges to a substantial degree, without wiping it out altogether. I submitted a reduced scale to the Cabinet, with a complete report on and analysis of the whole question./ 1 had no bias one way or the other. I submitted as alternatives either a modification of the Thomas regulation or an analysis of and inquiry into the accounts of the Postal Department to ascertain how much had been spent in telephones, how much ought to be charged to capital account, and how much to working expenses, enabling us to frame a fair and equitable scheme of telephonic rates and charges. My colleagues unanimously decided that they would not tamper with or endeavour to improve or wipe out the honorable member’s scheme, but would have the whole question investigated by competent actuaries, in order that correct information might be rendered available for the preparation by the Postmaster-General for the time being, with the assistance of a . Committee of accountants, of a just and equitable scale- of charges. This Committee was accordingly appointed for that express purpose, and charged with the duty of collecting information and being prepared to advise the Postmaster-General as to the correct means and method of framing the telephonic rates.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– As there is likely ‘ to be further controversy on this telephone rate question, and as there is some misapprehension as to the existing rates and the proposed new rates, I desire, for the information of honorable members, to have placed on record some of the particulars of those rates. The telephone charges in existence at the commencement of Federation were known as “ flat “ or fixed rates. These were divided into “ business “ and “ residence,” and in the several capitals were as follow : - Sydney, business £9, residence £5; Melbourne, business £9, residence £5 ; Brisbane, business £6, residence £6 : Adelaide, business £10, residence £5 ; Perth, business £7, residence £5 ; Hobart, business £6 residence £4 10s. In other towns the rates were as follow : - New South Wales, business £8, residence £5 ; Victoria, business £7, residence £5 ; Queensland, business £6, residence £6; South Australia, business £5 to £10, residence £5 ; Western Australia, business £7, residence £5 ; Tasmania, business j£$ to £6 ; residence £3 to £4 10s. Then came what are known as the Chapman rates, introduced by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and he made a compromise, providing for an alternative scheme of toll rates. In order to have it on record, I beg to lay before honorable members the following comparative statement of the toll-rate scheme under the Chapman regulations and the tions, together with suggestions which 1 toll-rate scheme under the Thomas regula-myself made to the Cabinet -
In order to make that statement complete I have included the tentative suggestions I made to the Cabinet for the modification of the Thomas scheme.
– These suggestions have never before been published.
– They are on a file in the Department.
– But the honorable member is now making them public for the first time.
– Yes, but they are on a file in the Department. They were submitted to the Cabinet in order that Ministers might have an opportunity of saying whether they would accept a modification of the Thomas rates.
– When were they submitted to the Cabinet?
– On the 15th June, 1909.
– This is the first I know of them.
– My suggestion involved a reduction of 10s. per annum, with an incidental reduction for a twoparty service, and an additional grade of calls, namely, d. per call, $d. per call, and d. per call, according to grades. That was the new scheme I submitted, not in order to supplant the scheme of the present Postmaster-General, because I have no prejudice against the toll system, but in an endeavour to form a working scheme according to the information available. I thought that the ground _ rent charge and the fixed rate were too high.
– But that scheme was “ turned down “ by the honorable member’s Cabinet?
– Certainly it was ; on the information I submitted the Cabinet thought it quite clear that there was not sufficient material for arriving at a satisfactory conclusion, and with that view I agreed. On the 19th June, 1909, I drew up a Ministerial memorandum, placing on record my objection to the rates then in existence. The memorandum was as follows : -
That in my judgment Mr. Chapman’s scale of charges ought not to have been disturbed until an account and valuation of the annual working costs and interest on capital expenditure with depreciation allowance in connexion with telephones had been made, as recommended by Mr. Hume Cook, Chairman of the Postal Commission.
Those were the considerations that I submitted to my honorable colleagues, and thev concluded that on this statement there was not sufficient material before the Government to justify them in arriving at a decision as to what would be a fair rate : either so much per call or so much for ground rent. Although I laid before them an alternative scheme, which they could have adopted, they said that, on the whole, there was not sufficient material to allow the Government to arrive at a conclusion, and they accepted a suggestion by me that the whole question should be referred to a committee of independent accountants. Admittedly, the accounts of the Department at the time were in an un- . satisfactory position. There was no capital account; there were no books distinguishing capital from working expenditure, or telephone expenditure from telegraph expenditure; and the Cabinet therefore considered that the Government, as well as the people of the country, were entitled to an independent investigation. They refused to appoint officers of the Department to make that investigation, and to sit, as it were, as judges in their own cause.
– Was the honorable member’s minute written before or after he submitted his scale of charges to the Cabinet ?
– The whole of the papers were submitted together.
– His minute and his scale of charges were submitted side by side?
– Yet. notwithstanding that minute, the honorable member had proposed those other charges? He had come to certain conclusions despite the advice he gave the Cabinet in his minute? He submitted to the Cabinet a certain scale of charges.
– A tentative scheme, certainly. It was obvious that it was not wise to accept a modified scheme, or in any way to deal finally with the question. This shows conclusively that the Government and I, as Postmaster- General, had no prejudice one way or the other against my honorable friend’s scheme, that we had no prejudice against the toll rate or any of his propositions, but that on the materials before us we thought it was not safe or satisfactory to adopt any new scheme at that time.
– And yet the honorable member submitted one.
– In framing a scheme I did my best, but I felt that I was groping in the dark. It was mere guess work so far as capital expenditure and cost of calls were concerned. Like the honorable member’s own scheme, it was a mere rough generalization, not based on any financial or reliable data. My colleagues very properly decided that it would he best to refer the whole question to a Committee, so that it might be investigated, and details of the conflicting views presented in a form with which the Government could finally deal. Accordingly a Committee, consisting of Mr. Percy Whitton and Mr. Holmes, was appointed. Mr. Whitton was then an officer of high grade and credit in the Audit Department. He has since been appointed to the responsible position of Collector of Customs in Victoria, and his capacity as an accountant, as well as his independent judgment and freedom from bias, was admitted. Mr. Holmes, a distinguished actuary outside the Public Service, was associated with Mr. Whitton in this work. In the course of collecting information and receiving deputations as Postmaster-General I had presented to me by a deputation an objection to the toll-rare system as proposed to be introduced, based not merely on the ground of the inequality of the proposed charges or on account of the increased charges, but on the ground that there was no proper means of recording and counting calls at the command of the Department. That was an objection to the scheme for the universal introduction of the toll-rate system which was brought under my attention. At the time I did not realize its importance;I did not understand, until later on, the strength of that objection and its formidable character. As the Committee of Accountants went on with their investigations, however, they proceeded to inquire, not merely into the state of the accounts, but as to the practicability of introducing a general system of toll rates or measured rates, according to calls, and they found that there were grave doubts as to the practicability of introducing generally such a system. I shall now refer to some of the conclusions arrived at by that Committee in reports as presented to the PostmasterGeneral on 7 th December and 23rd December, 1909. Honorable members, looking at these documents, will realize how thoroughly and scientifically the Committee conducted the investigation, and will see how they dealt with the various objections to what is called the flat rate or fixed rate system, and the objections also to the Thomas rate scheme. One of the stock objections taken to the flat rate, or the fixed rate system, the details of which I have already given, was that under it an enormous loss was suffered by the Department, that subscribers generally were getting the best of the Department, and that it was not receiving a sufficient revenue from the services it rendered to them. In the first report submitted by the Committee, dated 7th December, 1909, the following paragraph occurs : -
The result of our examination is that the telephone system in the metropolitan area - that is Melbourne - alone has, under the Commonwealth, returned a net profit of over £100,000. This profit has been made chiefly in the years1901-07. The results for 1907-8 and 1908-9 respectively were a small profit of about £4,000, and a loss of about £7,000. The decrease in 1907-8, and the loss in 1908-9 are entirely due to the introduction of the measured rate system.
That is a most significant criticism of, and answer to, the objection that the inflated losses alleged to have occurred in the Department were owing to the flat-rate system. This report refuted that contention, and set forth that the losses were owing entirely to the measured-rate system. In other words, had the flat-rate system been allowed to continue, instead’ of there being a loss in 1908-9. there would have been a gain. The Committee went on to observe -
In the meantime we may remark that the work at the exchanges of recording the calls registered by the attendants costs in the aggregate more than the revenue derived from the measured rates.
Honorable members, perhaps, will be interested to learn of the primitive and expensive methods of recording calls by subscribers which are in vogue at present. Except where they have established the common battery switchboard, where by touching a button a call is mechanically recorded, a call has to be recorded by the hand of the attendant. In other words, when the attendant establishes a communication between the subscriber who rings up and the person with whom he wishes to communicate, he takes a pencil, and jots down on a card the numbers of the two subscribers. Honorable members can imagine that the process of recording calls in that manner would be not only troublesome, but likely to lead to mistake and error, and very often the error might be in favour of the subscriber, or against him. The system was objected to on the grounds that it was an imperfect one; that it could not be relied upon, and that it was expensive, crude, and unsatisfactory.
– Is not the common battery system being universally adopted ?
– I shall come to that point presently. With that system there is a mechanical arrangement which, when the attendant presses a button, records the call ; but in that case, as in the case of the card system, the subscriber has no protection.
– Why cannot a subscriber keep his own record ?
– Supposing that a subscriber did keep a record, it would be practically valueless, and would probably have no force or effect, because the Department would assert its own right and present its own account, and he would not be heard. The subscriber might not be prepared to accept the departmental account. If he objected to or challenged it, he would be told, “ That is our account, and if it is not paid, we will cut you off.” The bill of a butcher or a baker may be challenged but in the case of a telephone bill from the Government, backed up by the authority of the Postmaster-General, nobody would have the means of successfully challenging it. That is the fundamental objection to the system.
– The honorable member himself brought down a toll rate, and submitted it to the Cabinet.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there would be any attempt to mislead?
– I do not suggest that the attendants would attempt to mislead, but there might be accidental mistakes. It is well known that in the big exchanges in Melbourne and Sydney, the attendants are pressed very heavily with work. In the case of many exchanges, it is admitted that the attendants are overworked. They carry an excessive load. Complaints have been made of attendants not having time to answer all the calls of subscribers. It is quite enough to have to attend to the calls of subscribers without having to keep accounts of calls. The representation made to me was that the system was unsatisfactory, and that the subscribers ought to have some protection. At the time when it was first presented to me, I did not give to that objection the same amount of weight as the investigating Committee has attached to it. If honorable members will read their report, they will see that they lay great stress on the inadequacy and the imperfection of the system of recording calls. They say that whatever objections there may be to the flatrate system, and I think that they imply - at any rate, their statement is open to the inference - that the toll-rate system, based on a measured service, is the ideal one-
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– I am not challenging that view, but the difficulty is to bring the system into operation under existing circumstances.
– Had we not better make a start early?
– We cannot make a start until we have the mechanism for recording the calls, and the strongest part of the objection to the scheme submitted to the present Minister by the investigating Committee was not that the measured rate itself was seriously assailable, although there might be advantages in one way or the other, but the absolute inadequacy and unreadiness of the Department to give effect to the system with satisfaction to the Department or to the subscribers. What they recommended was that arrangements should be made as soon as possible to introduce a perfect meter system. If such a system can be invented and adapted to existing exchanges, they suggest that it should be done, that as the result of a six months’ test the Department would be able to know the average number of calls of various classes and groups of subscribers, and that then it would be quite time enough to go in for the general adoption of the measured-rate system. In the meantime, however, they report that, in their opinion,, it is a physical impossibility for the officers, under the existing system, to record the calls with any degree of accuracy or reliability, or with any degree of justice to the Department or the subscribers.
– The Department says no to that.
– I am not so sure about that. I know, from the reports which reached me when 1 was PostmasterGeneral, that there were complaints from the attendants in the Melbourne and Sydney exchanges that they were overloaded1 with work, and when I asked whether additional hands could not be employed, I was told that the position would not permit of that being done. In other words, on account of the design and construction of the switchboards, and the situation of the various wires, that suggestion could not be adopted.
– That is not the recording of calls, but the attendants making, calls, which is a different thing altogether.
– I am now dealing with the suggestion that additional handscould be put on to reduce the load. The reply was that it could not be done, because the switchboards were already overcrowded.
– The load was reduce.! from 100 to 70 in Sydney
– That was done in the case of certain switchboards, but not generally. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Sydney said that unless certain improvements were carried out the load could not be reduced. The question is. what is to happen on the 1st September, when the innovation introduced by the present PostmasterGeneral comes into force ? Assuming that the new regulations take effect then, we shall have upwards of 20,000 flat-rate subscribers transferred to the measured-rate system. There are now 40,775 toll-rate subscribers and 21,189 flat-rate subscribers. What will be the position on 1st September next,, when the attendants are required to record the calls of the present flat-rate subscribers, in addition to those of the present toll-rate subscribers? How is it to be done? According to the accountants it will be a physical impossibility. Tn any case, it will be possible only in a degree by means of a makeshift arrangement. What is needed is an automatic recording instrument. Such an instrument would be satisfactory from both the Departmental and the subscribers’ point of view, but, until it has been devised, the present method of recording calls must continue. Therefore, bad as the existing service is, and numerous as are the complaints, the efficient administration of the Department will be much more difficult after 1st September than it is now, and, under the circumstances, I do not envy the PostmasterGeneral the task which confronts him. He said the other day that he laid the report of the accountants on the table with “ grim satisfaction.” What is satisfactory in it from his point of view? According to the accountants, the net profit made by the Victorian telephone system between March, 1901, and 30th June, 1909, was £142,000, allowing for a loss of £7,700 in the year 1908-9. The flat-rate system, under which subscribers can use their telephones from morn to eve, for purposes of business or social intercourse, without restriction, has been much abused and ridiculed. I admit that it is open to objection on the score of inequality, as the scheme of the honorable member is also imperfect. But the flatrate system was on the whole satisfactory to both the Department and the subscribers, and, according to the accountants; in 1908-9 there would have been a profit of £20,000, instead of a loss of £7,700 had the flat-rate system continued general in that year. The present PostmasterGeneral framed regulation 7A on the information then submitted to him by his officers. I do not say that he framed it entirely on the advice of the Department.
– I take all responsibility for it.
– I have read the balance-sheet presented to me as PostmasterGeneral, showing the loss on the Melbourne metropolitan exchanges during 1907-8. That balance-sheet was prepared on the assumption that the capital cost of each subscriber’s line was £39. According to the accountants, however, the capital value of each subscriber’s line in the year 1907-8 was £30.27,, and, instead of there being a loss that year of £5,000 or £5,500, there was a net profit of £5,541 17s. 8d. Obviously, therefore, the information on which the Minister originally framed regulation 7A was incorrect. Had he known the capital value of each subscriber’s line to be only £30.27, and that there was a profit of £5,500 odd, instead of a loss of about £6,000 on the year’s working, he would have been justified in reducing rates. I ask him, now that he proposes to revive regulation 7a, if he has considered the report of the accountants appointed by the Government, with the concurrence of Parliament, to investigate the whole matter. If he has not, he should do so before making any alterations. The figures presented by the accountants do not justify the higher ground rents and fixed charges which the Minister proposes in addition to making the toll rate universal. The Minister has stated that, as a good Socialist, he does not wish to make profit out of the telephones. Seeing that the data on which his regulations were originally framed have been shown to be imperfect, because belter was not then available, ought he not, as a good Socialist, to recognise the fact, and reduce his rates in accordance with the later and more reliable information presented in the accountants’ report? The accountants, not finding all the information they required in the books of the Department, called for vouchers for the whole of the capital expenditure. Having a voucher before them they had toseparate the various items, in order to see how much should be charged to the telephone, and how much to the telegraph branch. Their task was a most laborious one. It was a work of drudgery, anr! it is impossible to regard it without admiration for their industry and skill. Their work, a work authorized by Parliament, 1* to be disregarded by the present PostmasterGeneral. He has not condescended to revise the regulations in the light of the information presented in the report of these experts with respect to the position of af-fairs in Victoria. We have available inthese reports only information with reference to the State of Victoria. We have no information respecting the great and important telephone system of New SouthWales, which is more extensive, complicated, and expensive than even that of theState of Victoria. If mistakes have beenmade with reference to the capital expenditure in Victoria in the rough-and-ready estimates of officials in the Department 3ni this State, is it not likely that similar mistakes have been made in the roughandready official estimates for New South: Wales, although their estimated capital expenditure and estimated loss is not so serious as in the case of Victoria?
– Did not the honorablegentleman himself ask the accountants tofix charges for the whole of Australia after their inquiry into the condition of affairs in Victoria alone?
– I asked the Telephone Committee, on the information and data they collected in Victoria, whether they could advise me, as Minister] as to how I should frame a scale of Commonwealth telephone rates. I was not in a position to decide. Honorable members will see, from their report, that they submitted very cautious advice. It is practically non-committal.
– But did they do it?
– They did, at my suggestion. They submitted a certain rough and tentative scheme about which there is no finality.
– Why should the Postmaster-General make all these pinpricks? There is nothing in them.
– That is so; there is no thing in them.
– Evidently the honorable gentleman is viewing the situation with “grim satisfaction.”
– I am.
– The honorable gentleman is having a hit at the Stock Exchange, as he said he would when he was over here.
– The Accountants Committee submitted a scheme of fixed rates for merely tentative operation, pending final investigation, and the adoption of a proper system of measurement. That is all they did. They have not suggested their scheme as a final recommendation. They merely submitted it, in order, as they o say, to arrest the tendency on the part of fixed subscribers to take advantage of the Chapman toll rates.
Mi Thomas. - Is that all their scheme is intended for?
– That is all. If the tendency displayed by fixed rate subscribers to transfer from the fixed rates of £so> j£,9> a”d £6, to the toll rates, under which they receive 2,000 free calls, could have been arrested, there would have been no loss, and the Accountants Committee suggested the adoption ot a temporary scheme, pending further investigation to ascertain whether some reliable system of measurement of calls could hot be adopted. They report that they have heard that there is, in some part of England, I think, an automatic meter, by which an effective call can be properly registered.
– Where did they say it was?
– Its existence is reported, but I do not remember where it is said to be in operation.
– They do not mention the place.
– I suggested that inquiry should be made in all parts of the world to discover whether such a means of registering calls is available.
– We have heard of that automatic meter for years, but I do not think that it has yet been invented.
– It has not been discovered yet.
– I have stated some of the objections and the criticism which might be offered to the scheme for which the Postmaster-General accepts the responsibility. The objections may be summarized in this way : That assuming that the measured rate is the ideal and the most equitable system of charging toll telephone, the new scheme is not a measuredrate scheme pure and simple, nor is it a flat or fixed-rate scheme pure and simple. It is partly measured and partly fixed rate. That the minimum charge of £3, £3 10s., and £4 is collected whether a subscriber has a call or not; in addition to the minimum charge there is a special scale rate for calls, and subscribers complain that they get nothing for the minimum charge. A pure, that is an exact, system of measurement would not consist partly of a fixed charge or ground rate and partly of a charge of so much per call. A proper measurement system would be one which would provide for a charge for calls only, and would have no reference to a ground rent or fixed rate.
– Is that possible?
– That would be a true measurement scheme if we are to have the ideal system for which the honorable gentleman contends. We should charge only at per call.
– Then every person in the community should have a telephone put into his house for nothing. Would the Treasurer agree to that?
– At any rate, if we are to impose a fixed charge, it should not be so heavy as to be a burden upon the subscriber. The subscribers should be convinced that they will be getting something for what they pay. If a minimum charge be imposed, the subscriber might fairly claim that he should get a certain number of calls for it. I believe that Mr. Hesketh, in one of his preliminary reports, recommends that. In his first report, in 1905, Mr. Hesketh recommended a yearly rental of£7 with 600 free calls, which a departmental Committee subsequently modified by suggesting a yearly rental of £6 with 760 free calls.
– Which is better?
– The honorable gentleman must not cross-examine me too much when I am endeavouring to make a plain statement. I quote that as justifying my contention that if we have a certain fixed charge, and cannot secure an accurate measured rate, we should give the subscriber something for the fixed charge, however small it may be, and might give him two or three calls a day, as Mr. Hesketh suggested.
– By raising the ground rent, that might be done most easily.
– At any rate, under Mr. Hesketh’s proposal the subscriber was to get something, whilst under the scheme proposed by the present PostmasterGeneral the fixed-rate subscriber will not get anything, though the man who makes only one call a day is given a slight reduction upon previous rates. The strongest objection to the general introduction of the toll-rate system at the present time is that there are no satisfactory means for recording calls. Under the present method of recording calls on a card or by pressing a button, we can have no assurance of accuracy for the protection of the revenue or the safeguarding of the subscribers’ interests. Then there is the other ground of objection, that the cost of recording and counting the calls would be very great, and would probably absorb most of the increase in revenue. It is submitted, also, that it would be better to postpone the general introduction of toll rates until the Department is assured of a proper, efficient, and economical method of recording calls, and that, in the meantime, the loss of revenue under the Chapman mixed-rate scheme could be arrested by the temporary adoption of the fixed-rate scheme recommended by the accountants. This is purely a business matter. It is not a matter , of sentiment, and in placing these business considerations before the House I might remind honorable members that there are nearly 70,000 subscribers to our telephone system in Australia. It is a growing system : the subscribers are entitled to an assurance that their interests are being looked after, and will be watched and protected by this House, and that it is not left absolutely to the dic tation of any Postmaster-General, no matterhow powerful he may be, to determine these telephone rates. The Government have a right to view this question calmly and dispassionately. They should not be content to say, “ We want to get at those fellows who make 18,000 calls a year.” Inequalities may be associated with any system, but I maintain that we should view this question as a business proposition from every stand-point - from that of the small user as well as of the large user. According to the figures which I have quoted, the percentage of increased charges will press with greater severity on the average small user than it will on the large user who makes thousands of calls annually. Upon those subscribers who make between four and six calls daily it amounts to from 40 to 50 per cent. That is a very large increase, and some justification for it is needed. Subscribers have a right to know why it has been determined upon. The deputation which waited onme some time since said, in effect : “ We want an assurance that these charges are justified by the necessities of the service.”
– Hear, hear. I am doing my best to give them that assurance.
– In the information which is before the House, there is nothing to show that the increased charges are justified. The inquiry into them has only just commenced. It is true that during 1908-9 there was a loss of£7,000 in Victoria. But there is a great difference between that loss and the exaggerated loss referred to by certain witnesses before the Postal Commission, which they declared amounted to from£50,000 to£60,000 annually. If there be a loss, let it be calmly investigated. But how can the PostmasterGeneral say what is the loss in New South Wales, or whether a loss is being sustained there? I challenge him to say whether a loss or a profit is accruing from the telephonic charges in that State. No officer in the Commonwealth service can say that. Rough guesses may be made, but no officer can tell with the accuracy with which the Telephone Committee have tabulated their report for the world to criticise, whether a profit or a loss is accruing there. When the question was raised as to whether that Committee should continue their investigations in States other than Victoria, I was harassed in this House as to the expenditure which would be incurred by the adoption of that course. In view of the criticism to which I was subjected, I felt a certain amount of hesitation in sanctioning further expenditure, and finally the question of whether the Committee should visit New South Wales was postponed until after the general elections.
– I thought that their report was to be presented within two months from the date of their appointment?
– So it was. But the work which they undertook was a gigantic one. They had to make a balancesheet for every telephone subscriber’s account in Victoria. It was a big job. Had books been available showing the capital cost and working expenses of the lines, the report of the Committee would have been forthcoming within the period indicated. But as no books were available, they had to get down to bedrock - they had to examine vouchers from tradesmen and contractors who supplied material to the Department before they could arrive at any definite result: I say that if similar work were carried out in the various States as satisfactorily and exhaustively, as calmly and judicially, as it was in Victoria-
– How long would it occupy ?
– The Committee undertook to complete the work in New South Wales within another five or six months. Had they done so, they would have solved the whole problem, because I think that, in most of the other States, the loss is scarcely perceptible. 1 have been assured by the Deputy Postmaster-General of Tasmania that no loss is being sustained there, and the people of that State naturally wish to know why they should have to pay increased charges. I am also informed that there is no loss suspected in Queensland.
– Upon what data ?
– That is the information which I have elicited as the result of personal inquiry. It is merely in the nature of an estimate.
– That is what the honorable member would not accept in the case of Victoria.
– It is quite plain that it would not have been safe to do so. But the issues involved in the other States are not so serious as they are in Victoria., In Victoria the loss, if there be one, will be very great. I do not hold a brief either for the flat-rate system or any other system. I am merely advancing reasons why the Postmaster-General should not have revived regulation /a, without first having examined the Telephone Committee’s report. Had he done so, he would have seen that the data upon which he framed the regulation in question was unsatisfactory and unreliable, and as an administrator he would have been bound to give effect to the findings of the,. Committee.
– Why did not the honorable member give effect to them?
– I had not time to do so. The Committee’s report was presented on the eve of a general election. I could not deal with a complicated telephonic controversy upon the eve of a general election, when my colleagues were scattered all over the Commonwealth. But the Postmaster-General has ample opportunity to deal with it. He has three years of office ahead of him. There is no urgency in this matter, and, in justice to the 70,000 subscribers throughout the Commonwealth, he should examine the Telephone Committee’s report with a view to seeing whether any reduction of the ground rent charges is justifiable. He has informed the press that he is open to receive deputations and representations on this subject. I hope he will not feel prejudiced against that view by anything which I have said to-day. I ask him to listen to any representations which may be forthcoming, to consider any arguments which may be advanced in this Chamber, and, if he feels convinced that those representations are sound, to reconsider the details of his scheme. It would not be fair to ask him to reverse his decision upon matters of principle, but I think that he ought to reconsider matters of detail. If he does so, I am sure he will reduce some of the ground rent charges. 1 would also suggest that he should add a new grade of charges, establishing onn grade at a Halfpenny per call, another at a third of a penny per call, and a third at a farthing per call.
– We already have a grade of a halfpenny per call.
– But th& PostmasterGeneral does not propose to levy charges of a third of a penny per call, or a farthing per call.
– We have one grade of a third of a penny per call.
– If the PostmasterGeneral does that, and makes reasonable arrangements for bringing into operation the new rates, he will not then have the trouble, uproar, and dissatisfaction which is now threatening from one end of the Commonwealth to the other.
– I had not intended to take part in this debate, but I could not refrain from speaking after listening to some of the specious arguments which have been advanced from the Opposition side of the House with reference to the policy of the Labour party. The honorable member for Parkes rather amused me with a description of our party as being different outside Parliament .from what it is within these walls. He designated us as tar-barrel politicians. I was surprised to hear such a phrase from his lips, because during the last election I heard of his addressing his faithful constituents from a kerosene box.
– That would not be strong enough for me.
– Perhaps it was a butter box. At the last election the members of the party with which I am connected fought on a straight-out issue and had a clearlydefined platform. In the electorate of Nepean I advocated a land tax all the time, and made no distinction between urban and other lands. My reason was that, as I urged, our land tax proposals are tied up with our defence proposals. It is impossible to separate the two. I believe that persons who possess valuable properties in urban areas ought to be as willing to contribute to the defence of the country as those who hold large estates in the backblocks. The honorable member for Parkes also alluded to the policy of the Labour party in regard to loans. I- know of no reference in our programme to a policy of no borrowing. What is there is an item in favour of .the restriction of borrowing, which is quite a different thing. Further than that, our platform lays down the principle that all naval and military works must be paid for from direct taxation. I certainly adhere to that line of policy. Great Britain has always paid for naval and military defence out of current revenue, and we contended for the same principle throughout the election. It appears to me that any common-sense man ought to take the same ground. Consider what happens in reference to battle-ships, for instance. It is acknowledged by experts that the life of a battle-ship under modern conditions is not much more than ten years. While the honorable member for Parkes was speaking, I asked him, “ What about renewals?” I understood him to say, in reply, that we should borrow again for that purpose. That is precisely yhat the Labour party have objected to. We contend that a borrowing policy for nonreproductive works means pledging the credit of future generations of this great country in an unjustifiable manner. I hold that we are on sound ground in maintaining that all naval and military defence works should be paid for out of revenue. Another item about which we fought very strongly had relation to industrial legislation. I think that the honorable member for Parramatta, a few days after the elec-: tion, attributed the result very largely - in New South Wales, at all events - to Mr. Wade’s coercion policy.
– My statement was not quite so sweeping as that.
– I think that the honorable member’s explanation bore the construction which I have put upon it. It certainly is the fact that the workers of Australia are not satisfied with the industrial legislation at present in operation. Any one who examines the history of New South Wales during the last twelve months must, I think, arrive at the conclusion that something must be done either by the Commonwealth Parliament, or by some higher authority than the existing State Government, to remedy the present state of affairs. Much has been said about secret conclaves in the Labour party. I have been sorry to hear some of those who were formerly regarded as” friends of the workers, and who now sit in Opposition, make use of such expressions as “ dangerous conclave” in connexion with the coal miners’ strike. It appears to me that secret conclaves are only condemned when they are connected with workers’ combinations. No one in this Chamber will deny that there are rings controlling tobacco, sugar, coal, and various other necessities of the people. These rings are in a position to dictate prices, to control wages, and to black list employes. The people who sent us here as members of the Labour; party are resolved that in future they will have the scales of industrial legislation held evenly as between employer and employe. The peculiar thing about industrial conditions in New South Wales at present is that if the workers take any drastic steps, the threat that is levelled at them is “ Gaol ! gaol ! gaol !” That has become almost a password. But if an employer commits a breach of the industrial legislation, only a fine is inflicted, and very frequently that is either partially or wholly restored to those who have broken the law.
– Can the honorable member give an instance of that ?
– Yes; in the case of McKye, the North Shore baker, a fine of £1.50 was inflicted, and within six months - I cannot give the exact time - half of that amount was refunded. Moreover, the fine was imposed for a second offence, and the reason why the master baker in question was so punished was that he had refused to pay certain wages- in accordance with the award affecting his trade. It was reckoned that in the end the amount of money which he had to pay, as compared with the amount which he ought to have paid in wages, left him in pocket £4 by the transaction. It paid that man to break the law. The workers of New South Wales, and, indeed, of the whole df Australia, have grave reason to suspect that the administration of industrial legislation is not so just as we should like it to be.
– The miners to whom the honorable member refers were brought up under a different law.
– I am alluding to the Industrial Disputes Act.
– But the miners were not imprisoned under that Act.
– The honorable member’s interjection brings me to another point. When the coal miners’ strike occurred, there was an Act of Parliament in operation under which the Premier of New South Wales could have secured the imprisonment of the whole of the members of the Strike Congress. But what did he <lo? He sorted out certain persons in the Congress, while the others, for some inexplicable reason, were allowed to go scot free. Our present Attorney-General, for instance, was allowed to go scot free, though he is not a very formidable man, and the police could easily have handled him. In another case they appointed a member of the Strike Congress to sit on the Board. These incidents have absolutely destroyed tha confidence of all the workers of New South Wales in that kind of legislation. The Fusion party did not offer us any solution of these questions, although something was said about an Interstate Commission. I understood the honorable member for Parkes to say this afternoon that the workers, as a rule, did not think for themselves, but picked certain representatives to think for them. I was pleased to hear him say that those representatives looked a very aristocratic lot of men, and took that as a great compliment to us as workers. Personally, it was only in January last that I laid down my pick and shovel to take up the legislative work for which the electors of Nepean thought that I was qualified. I am convinced that the workers have definitely studied out poli tical questions for themselves. To all those men who are working with pick and shovel, or at various other callings, politics are a matter of bread-and-butter, and are thought of and studied more amongst them than by any other class in the community. If I were asked where I would prefer to deliver a political address, 1 should say at once: “Send me into a locality where they are all workers.” I have found them the keenest political students, not only here, but in the Old Country, and the events of the 13th April have shown definitely that they intend to take a hand in the government of the country.That is one of the main reasons why the party to which I have the honour to belong is represented in such large numbers «:i this side of the House to-day. We have come in on a definite platform. The contest in the electorate of Nepean was one of the cleanest- fought battles in New South Wales, and so far as the platform of the party was concerned, we never went behind it. So far as regards speaking from tar barrels and that kind of thing, there are numbers of men on the other side of the House who got into political life on absolutely the same platform as we have come in on, but have never made a serious attempt to carry it out. I refer particularly to the honorable member for Parramatta. He entered public life in New South Wales on his advocacy of an unimproved land tax.
– It was put on the statute-book long ago.
– If so, how is it that the great estate, regarding which the honorable member fought one of his first and biggest campaigns - that of J. L. Brown, at the western end of Lithgow - was not broken up until last year? Lithgow was land-locked for years, on account .of the existence at its western end of that large estate, which the owner absolutely refused to break up or throw onto the market. The town was hampered thereby, until the price of land in it rose to as high as in many of the suburbs of Sydney. Nearly three years ago the Local Government Act was passed in New South Wales, and an unimproved land value tax was established in Lithgow by the local council. Even before that Act was put into force, 1,000 acres of the estate in question was thrown onto the market.
– The honorable member means that the tax we passed was transferred to the local government bodies..
– I mean that the very fact of the Municipal Council of Lithgow imposing an unimproved land tax of 3 1/2d. in the £1 had the effect which we of the Labour party intend to try to bring about throughout the Commonwealth. I believe that what happened locally will happen nationally, so far as the breaking up of large estates is concerned. A large number of us on this side of the House, and I in particular, have never said that the whole and sole object of the unimproved land tax that we propose is to break up estates. During the election campaign I said all the time that the party looked upon it as a kind of insurance for people who hold valuable property in the urban districts. We lay it down, and very properly, that, if this country must be defended, that is the proper way to find the necessary money. With regard to the proposed note issue, I am not altogether satisfied to let Federal action stop at currency. If this party is to carry out its pledges to the electors, it must tackle the banking problem also. If the party falls one iota behind the pledges which it made to the electors, the electors will be justified in asking the reason why. If the party does not carry out the platform which it submitted to the people, it will not be worthy of the confidence of the country, and the electors will be quite justified in rejecting it when it appeals to them again. But I believe that the party is actuated by pure motives, and I refuse to subscribe to the doctrine of the frailty of human nature as enunciated by the honorable member for Wentworth, when he suggested that the salaries paid to members of Parliament were a great temptation to them. I take it that the men who have been returned have been sent here for the country’s good. If they are not sent here for that, the sooner they get out of Parliament the better. I shall always do my best to fight fairly and to give effect to my honest convictions, and I feel sure, from the reception the House has given me, that I shall always be able to count on a patient hearing and on encouragement in any good work that I undertake.
.- I desire at the outset to congratulate the Government on the policy that they have submitted for the session. But before I deal with the Speech, I wish to refer briefly to some remarks which I made about the High Court,- and which have been quoted here. What I said I was personally responsible for, and it was in no way binding upon the members of the party to which I belong. After calm consideration, I recognise that parts of my statement were decidedly injudicious. The only apology I have to make for them is that they were made on the spur of the moment, when I learnt that certain legislation of vital importance to the workers had miscarried. I do not think that it was right of me to compare the decisions of two of the Judges with those of other Judges of the Court, and I wish to publicly recant that part of my remarks as injudicious. If honorable members think that I believe that the Government of the day, having the power, should pack the Courts of Justice for the purpose of getting unfair decisions, they are utterly mistaken, because I am absolutely opposed to anything of the kind. I feel certain that the present Government would be no party to such action. I had that in my mind at the time: and now I state that I do not believe it would be a proper course to pursue. I hope this brief explanation will prove satisfactory to their Honours the Judges, to this Chamber, and to the public. I am very pleased at the various items set down in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. As to the proposed land tax, we do not, of course, know exactly what the rates are to be, though we have some foreshadowing of them. I believe they will have the effect of breaking up large estates, and I think the Government were wise in not proposing higher imposts. Under a proper system of procedure, taxes can always be raised if it be found that in their incidence they are not accomplishing what is desired; but, personally, I believe the proposed rates will have the effect I have indicated. Such a tax ought to have a two-fold object - not only the breaking up of large estates, but the providing of revenue for carrying on the affairs of the country. I particularly, desire that the money so raised should be devoted to defence. The wealth of the country should largely pay to this end ; and the Duke of Wellington was right when he said that all classes of the community ought to contribute, the landholders with their money, and the labourers with their fists. That is a proper position to take up; and I hope and believe that a much larger amount than the Government expect will be raised by the tax, and that we shall, in a large measure, have ample money without recourse to borrowing in the near future. I am also gratified to observe the broadening of the pensions scheme, and to learn that before long invalid pensions will be paid. As a member of the community, one thing has often struck me as being very unfair; and the disability to which I refer should be dealt with under the pensions scheme. I cannot understand why, in a Christian country like our own, when a widow is left with a number of children to support, she should practically have to hand her children over to the State as neglected before she can obtain a small dole in order to support them. Such a position is a disgrace to Christianity; and it ought to be provided in the Old-age Pensions Act that when circumstances warrant it, a widow, instead of having to so degrade herself, should be able to obtain so much per child for their proper support. It is gratifying to observe the steps taken by the Government to deal with the currency ; but this is a question which cannot be satisfactorily settled unless the whole of the financial proposals are taken in conjunction with it. A Commonwealth note issue requires a State or national bank in order that the issue may be properly operative. The elasticity of the currency can better be conserved if there be such a bank to co-operate ; and I hope that next session the banking proposals will be before us, so that those honorable members who were sent here pledged to a national banking system may keep faith with the electors. A national bank, the proposed financial arrangement, and the consolidation of the State debts are inseparably bound up together ; they really form one financial proposition, and ought to be dealt with as one. I hope and trust that the financial arrangement is only a tentative scheme for the purpose of filling the gap, because, as I say, the proper solution to the question, from a statesmanlike point of view, is to deal with all these as one. In order to illustrate what I mean, I shall trouble the House with a few figures, showing how the payment of 25s. per capita will affect the States under present circumstances, compared with the way in which the States would be affected provided these financial questions were dealt with as one, and the loans consolidated in the interests of the whole of Australia. New South Wales has. approximately, a debt of £86,000,000.. with a population of 1, 600, 000. Under the scheme of 25s. per capita that State will receive about £2,000,000. and, as she is liable on the London market for £3,000,000 per annum, she will have to make up the difference of £1,000,000. If the debts were consoli dated we should be able, on the estimate that has been made by various financial gentlemen in this House, to save about three-fourths of 1 per cent. per annum; that is to say, we would be able to save about £685,000. In that case, New South Wales, instead of having to make up £1, 000, 000 per annum, would have to find only , £315,000 per annum. And the argument holds good in the case of Victoria, where there is a population of 1,300,000, with a debt of £54,000,000. Under the scheme of 25s. per capita, Victoria will receive £1,625,000 per annum, and, as she is liable on the London market for £1,900,000 per annum, it will be necessary for her to find the balance of £275,000. Under a consolidation scheme, however, it would be possible to save £400,000 per annum on the Victorian debt, and, consequently, that State, so far from having to find £275,000, would be receiving a bonus of £135,000 from the Federal Treasurer after the whole of her debt liabilities had been met.
– That saving would be made only as the debts matured.
– The honorable member points out that this cannot be done at once. I hold that the whole question should be tackled as one proposition. The proposed financial arrangement for a period of ten years is merely a piecemeal scheme. I remember the present Leader of the Opposition, when advocating the cause of Federation from the public platform years ago, stating that one reason why we should agree to Federation was that immense benefit would be derived from the nationalization of our State debts. He pointed out that if that were done, the people of Australia would effect an annual saving of millions of pounds. The consolidation of our State debts has not yet been effected, and I hope that, in the near future, the Government will deal with the question in conjunction with a banking system. We ought to have a national bank. The credit of the people of Australia ought to belong to, and be operated through, their own national bank. I am not in favour of giving to private individuals the benefit of the credit of the people of Australia, and, therefore, I think the whole of these financial questions ought to be dealt with as one entire proposition. Members of the Labour party expect a great deal to be done now that we have in office a Labour Administration. We have been dissatisfied for many years with the condition of society as we have known it under Liberal and Conservative
Governments. Is it satisfactory to know that, in one of the finest countries on God’s earth - in the State of Victoria - at least one-half of our land values is owned by 2 per cent, of our population, and that statistics show that 90 per cent, of the people of Victoria are too poor to pay any income tax? These inequalities of wealth ought to be swept away, and a more general distribution of the good things of this world should be made amongst the people. I trust that, when our party get properly into working order, they will be able, in the interests of the whole of the people, to remove many of these national wealth anomalies. The organization of our party has been taken to task by various honorable members. Our pledge has been assailed, and the ex-Prime Minister also dealt in a very forcible manner with the principle of the caucus. I shall endeavour briefly to defend those two principles as adopted by the Labour organization. Let me say, in the first place, that I believe in the pledge. I believe that it is safe for the member and safe for the people. I ask honorable members who are opposed to our written pledge to throw back their minds to an incident associated with the opening of this Parliament, when we assembled here to be sworn in. lavery honorable member then took the Holy Bible in his hands, and swore allegiance to His Majesty the King. Even that, however, did not satisfy His Majesty, for every member was required to subscribe his name in black and white to the oath of allegiance. I noticed that the exPrime Minister and members of the Opposition generally, . who criticise our pledge, made no demur, but willingly put in black and white a pledge of allegiance to their monarch. If it is right, and I believe that it is, for a man to subscribe his name to the promise of allegiance that he gives to his monarch, it is equally right that a man should subscribe his name to the platform on which the people send him here. We find that, throughout our commercial and social life, this principle of a subscribed pledge is carried out in almost every instance. I hold in my hand a note which represents a sovereign. It would be useless, however, for me to try to palm it off upon any one a.i representing a sovereign unless the promise to pay, which is inscribed upon it, were subscribed to by a representative of the financial institution issuing it. In the absence of the signature of an accredited representative, it would be a bogus note.
And I say that in the same way, a member should pledge himself to carry out the platform on which he is elected. We are the representatives of a sovereign people. All of them cannot be returned to Parliament. As a mere matter of convenience, members, having made certain promises, are returned to represent them; and unless those promises are subscribed to by honorable members, the sovereign people are not in the secure position which they ought to occupy. I suppose that most honorable members are married. I am, and when I was married, I made before the altar declarations that I would fulfil certain pledges to my wife. After making those declarations and promises before the altar of Almighty God, I thought that the Church would be satisfied with that which 1 had done; but as I was leaving, after the ceremony, the parson tapped me on the shoulder, and asked me to accompany him into the vestry. There he produced a book, and I found that he desired me to subscribe my name to a pledge as a guarantee to the Church that I would not break away from the contract that I had made. I hold that the Church is wise in doing this; and, knowing what I do of honorable members opposite, I think that the electors would be wise if, at the next general election, they refused to re-elect them unless they subscribed their signatures in like manner to a pledge to carry out their platform. I have other arguments in support of our pledge, but I do not wish to belabour the question. I come now to the caucus. Honorable members, know that we have a platform to which we all have subscribed, and iti order that effect may be given to that platform, the principle of the caucus must operate, for a reason that I shall give. Let us take, by way of example, the question of old-age pensions. I might pledge myself to support the payment of old-age pensions, and, on being returned to the House, might find that it was the intention of the Government of the day to bring down a Bill, but proposing 5s. per week as a proper payment. We should then go into caucus to consider the details. Having pledged ourselves to the main principle, it would be necessary, in order that effect might be given to it, that we should go into caucus on the details. I might think that 5s. per week was a sufficient payment, whilst other honorable members of our party might think that it was not. Consequently, if we did not go into caucus to consider the details, half our party, on coming into the House, might vote with an opposition Government for a pension of 5s. per week as an adequate sum, and practically defeat themain principle and object that we had in view. We must settle these details before we come into the chamber ; we must come to a broad democratic decision, knowing that the majority should rule. The majority of the electors in a constituency decide to return a member to Parliament, and when he is returned, he should discuss with the members of his party the whole of the details of their -platform, and come to a majority decision upon them. That decision having been arrived at, it ought to be binding, in order that effect may be given to the will of the majority on the statute-book of Australia. Again, in regard to monopolies, one honorable member might say that the tobacco industry is a monopoly, and another honorable member might not agree with his statement. We have practically signed a platform that we believe in the nationalization of monopolies. If any honorable member or the Government desires to deal with a particular monopoly, the question is considered by the caucus, and if a majority decide that the industry is a monopoly, we come to a decision, and afterwards enter the Chamber and give a solid vote in order to carry out the principle of the platform on that question. In conclusion, sir, I desire to say that I am pleased with the attitude of the Opposition up to the present time. They have stated that they are desirous of affording to the Labour Government every opportunity of bringing forward their policy and placing it on the statute-book. Perhaps they think that by taking that course they will sooner get the Government off the Treasury bench. They may consider that the platform is such as to militate against the best interests of the electors, and that consequently its enactment would speedily bring about a reversion of form, if I may use that expression, at the next general election. As the ex-Prime Minister remarked, we are here under a system of constitutional government, and cannot legislate faster than the people are willing to allow us to do. We are dependent upon the votes of the electors. Consequently, although in one manner the position in the House is a revolution, still it is a constitutional revolution, because it is based upon the confidence of the people, who will only support a majority in the House so long as it carries out their dictates. Having received our mandate from that source, we are determined to place upon the statute- book every plank in our platform which it is possible to enact. We are in a very sound position, and there is nothing to fear. We are not a majority supported by force of arms which can practically override the members of the Opposition and also the people, but a majority elected on the broad franchise of one adult one vote. And I feel satisfied that, whatever the present Government may do, it will command the entire support of the public when we appeal for re-election three years hence. With the co-operation of honorable members opposite, we ought to put up a good record. I believe that at bottom we all have the same object in view. We desire to make sound laws and establish good conditions for the people. We want to see a fair field and no favour. Honorable members know that past legislation has not been of a character to demonstrate a fair field and no favour. There has been a great deal of favour shown to some persons, and most of the disabilities have been applied to the great majority of the people. We are here to obviate that, and to bring in a better system. I indorse the words of an eminent Dublin economist, who said -
I believe we are moving to a better, to a far off divine event, which cannot be fully perceived, but I believe that the road to it isthrough something better than the present which can be perceived. To get to this better we will require the co-operative efforts and volitions of men, especially of the working classes and their leaders. There will be no miracle wrought, neither sudden social transformation which would be a miracle in order to last, but with good sense, self reliance, and persistence on the part of the many better conditions for the whole people might be made during this present generation. And with these same conditions in permanent facts, the movement for social reform must proceed as fast as the nature and complexityof things social and things human will allow.
I shall take that as my text whenever I vote here. Having in view that object - step by step to improve the conditions of the whole people - and having in my mind’s eye the ideal laid down by the peasant poet Burns when he wrote -
Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a that ;
That sense and worth, o’er a’ the earth,
May bear the gree, and a’ that.
For a’ that, and a’ that,
It’s coming yet, for a’ that;
That man to man, the warld o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that. 1 am determined to help the Government. I believe that the members of the Labourparty are also determined to do their little here to hasten the time when our land will be filled with real homes, and when, by countless firesides, shall sit the happy and the loving families of a united Federal Australia.
.- It affords me very great pleasure to rise here and place my views before honorable members. I was very much amused this afternoon when the honorable member for Parkes said that the Labour party had a policy outside the House and another policy here. I am very proud to state here that the principles enunciated in the programme which has been placed before the Parliament by the Government were those which I advocated from the platform throughout my electorate. As regards certain Governments, the honorable member’s remarks appear very true, because those Governments were in the habit of placing one set of politics before the people, and doing something absolutely opposite here. I can thank the Fusion party for the magnificent victory which has come the way of Labour. It was because that party advocated certain principles, and. then turned traitor, that Labour has come to its own so soon - sooner than many of us expected. Had the Financial Agreement been carried at the referendum, the permanency ot Federation would have been affected thereby. In the words of a leading member of the Opposition, the Commonwealth would have been leg-roped ; but 1 am very pleased to say that, although we had opposed to us nearly every influential newspaper throughout the Commonwealth, the intelligence of the people defeated the agreement very substantially.
– You had the Age working for you in Victoria.
– Yes; and it was the only one of the great metropolitan dailies which did fight for the defeat of that pernicious agreement. The Labour party are attacked because they meet in caucus. The Financial Agreement was conceived in secret at a caucus meeting, and. I am pleased to say, died in ignominy, a just and fitting death.
– There was only a small majority opposed to its acceptance.
– Had it been compulsory to vote, the agreement would have “been defeated by an enormous majority. lt is the Labour party that chiefly loses support through the non-attendance of electors at the poll. In the division of Corio, in whole districts the Labour electors failed to record their votes, in many instances because they could not get to the polls, and in others because they were too apathetic. I was pleased to hear the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. It was the first time that I had had the honour of listening to him. I did not agree with what he said regarding the Constitution, nor with his statement as to the representation of the people by the two parties in this chamber. My view of the Constitution is that what the people have made they can unmake. When any provision in the Constitution has ceased to be serviceable, it is right to refer to the people a proposal for amending it. The Labour party is here to make history. We shall not follow the beaten tracks of the Conservative and Liberal parties, but shall blaze a way for ourselves.
– They will have to follow us now.
– Yes; for many years to come. If the Constitution will not allow us to carry out the wishes of the people, we shall ask them to agree to its amendment. The honorable member for Ballarat brought about the fusion of the two parties in the last House antagonistic to the Labour party, with the object of sweeping the latter out of existence. It was expected that the combination would secure a majority at the polls ; but die intelligence of the people rose to die occasion, and, notwithstanding the enormous difficulties that confronted us, and the influences which opposed us, the only Democratic party was returned in sufficient strength to take control of the affairs of the Commonwealth. Every member on this side of the chamber was returned by a substantial majority, whereas six Oppositionists who secured seats represent minorities and two small majorities. Virtually eight of the twenty-nine members on the Opposition benches only slipped into their places. Therefore, this talk about the need for an amendment of the Electoral Act is untimely. Had the present Oppositionists secured a majority of the constituencies no alteration of the law would be proposed.
– The Leader of the Opposition has for years advocated the alteration of the electoral law.
– Before the Fusion, the honorable member for Ballarat stated that the payment to the States of three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth and the transfer to the Commonwealth of the debts of the States were things that could not be separated, but at the secret meeting of Premiers it was found that they could be separated, and little mention was made there of the transfer of the State debts to the Commonwealth. The proposal of the Fusion Government, if adopted, would have hampered the Commonwealth for all time. Those who supported their financial proposal said that at Brisbane the Labour party had agreed to an arrangement in almost identical terms. The arrangement come to at Brisbane was quite different from the proposal of the Fusion party. The Labour Conference at Brisbane proposed to deduct from the total revenue from Customs and Excise the interest on the existing debts of the ‘States, plus £1,000,000 to meet future contingencies, and to divide the balance between the States on a fer capita basis. That was a safe proposal. The Fusion party wished to provide for the payment to the States for all time of 25s. per head of population. Had that been agreed to, the population might have increased at such a rate that the Commonwealth would be in the position of having to return to the States on a per capita basis a much larger sum than it could afford to part with. Under the proposal now put forward by the Labour party, the States will receive 25s. per head of the population for a term of ten years. At the end of that time we can review the situation, and, if necessary, make a more convenient arrangement. Labour members have been twitted with not knowing anything of finance, but members of the Opposition know less than we do. The Prime Minister has repeatedly shown what an enormous saving could be effected by the transfer of the debts of the States to the Commonwealth. We could not deal with all the debts at once, but would have to wait until they matured. We could, however, start a system which, in eighty years, by a saving of only per cent, per annum, would wipe out our present national indebtedness of £250,000,000. The average saving would be £3,125.000 a year. Now we require about .£3, 500,000 a year for purposes of defence, and the saving I speak of would be available for that purpose. Under such circumstances, why should we borrow from the Mother Country, and increase the burden of the taxpayer? The Fusion party was in accord with what was resolved upon by the Conference of Premiers, but why was not the transfer to the Commonwealth of the debts of the States arranged for? Why was not that Conference open to the public? It was held in secret because there was a conspiracy to sweep the Labour party out of political life. I am pleased that the Government propose to repeal the Naval Loan Act. The object of defence is to prevent the confiscation of property, and if that be so, I contend that those who are fortunate enough to possess property should pay for its defence. If the average working man, who receives only a daily or weekly wage, in time of necessity shoulders a rifle and risks his life in the defence of the country, he is surely doing much for his land, and we should not at the same time ask him to support the burden of the whole amount of taxation imposed for the purpose. When the Fusion party said they would borrow £3j500>000> they were asking these men tobear the burden of taxation for defence purposes through the Customs. The total wealth of Australia is to-day £1,000,000,000. We know that a little over 8,000 people control nine-tenths of that wealth; that 1,000,000 people control the other one-tenth, and that 2,000,000 of the people of Australia own absolutely nothing. We know also that these 2,000,000 of people will consume more dutiable goods than will the 1,000,000 and the 8,000, and I am right, therefore, in saying that they are asked to bear the whole of the taxation imposed to defend the property of other people. The next, thing that honorable members opposite will be doing will be to ask the Labour man to pay the premiums on their fire insurances. In the circumstances, I am very pleased to know that the Labour Government intend to repeal the. Naval Loan Act. Another matter in which I am in accord with the Government is the proposed land tax. I am a primary producer. I have been particularly interested in the land question for a number of years. In the district from which I come I have noted the evil effects of land monopoly, and the blessings of closer settlement. 1 can, therefore, speak on this question with practical authority. That is the best authority upon which any one can speak. We may get a vast amount of learning from books, but we also need experience. Experience teaches best of all. The district of Werribee, as a sheep run, was producing 5s. per acre. The particular squatter who held it had a little wisdom ; he induced a number of farmers to come into the district, charging them 8s. and 10s. per acre as rental, and asking them, at the same time, to pay rates and taxes. That squatter was getting 100 per cent. more from the leasing of the land than he was making out of his sheep, and he did not pay rates and taxes. He was on a very good wicket; but so were the agriculturists whom he introduced into the Werribee district. Those men, who went there with very little, have in twelve years made sufficient from the soil to buy the freeholds of their farms, paying up to £27 an acre for their land. If the place had remained a sheep run, it would not be worth more than £5 an acre; but utilized as agricultural land, those who won wealth from the soil were able to pay up to £27 an acre for it.
– What does it produce now per acre?
– lt produces wheat, hay, oats, barley, and so on, and I say the land is now worth £27 per acre. What applies to this district applies equally to every part of Victoria, and to Australia generally. Look at the magnificent stretches of land to be seen around Rainbow, and around Cressy - places that as sheep-runs were returning even less than 5s. an. acre, and are now supporting a great population. If we wish to build up a nation in Australia, we must start from the land. We cannot begin the building up of a nation by bringing artisans and servant girls from England and dumping them into our large cities. A nation is not started by the building of a city, but by the opening up of the country by settling the primary producers - the farmer and the farmer’s son - and then when the wealth is produced from the soil it can be brought to the cities, there to. be dealt with by the operatives. Our party propose to adopt that course. We believe that by the imposition of a graduated land tax we shall secure a certain amount of revenue, and we trust that it will also be the means of splitting up very many of the big estates we have in Australia. We want population in this land badly. We have in Australia an island continent as big as the continent of Europe, yet we have a population of a little over 4,000,000. There is one city in England - London - which at the present time contains something like 7,000,000 people. There are too many people there, and as sufficient work cannot be found for them all, we hear of the most heartbreaking cases of misery and distress. If we can open up our lands by settling agriculturists upon them, and their wealth is brought to our cities, we shall be in a position to relieve the British
Isles of some of their teeming millions of population for the benefit, not only of Great Britain, but of Australia, and what to me is more, for the benefit of humanity. These people who are born into the world, and have to suffer every kind of distress, would, here in our sunny Australia, be able to look forward to brighter prospects and a better life. The Government have been severely criticised in connexion with the proposed Treasury note issue; but, to my mind, that is one of the best measures they intend to. introduce. It has always appeared to me that the greater the security we can offer for our currency the better for every one in the community. The private bank cannot possibly offer the security to the people of Australia - and that is what we are most concerned about - that the Commonwealth can. The whole of the resources of the Commonwealth will stand behind every note issued by the authority of this Parliament. Then why all this drivel about bankruptcy and all the other evils which we have been invited to believe will arise in the near future? I can state that I shall be very pleased to receive my salary as a member of this Parliament in these Treasury notes. They will not represent a novel form of currency.
– No, the Chinese had it years ago.
– That was when the honorable member lived in China. There is a State note issue in Canada, and under the system adopted there the Canadian Government simply go to the banks, take onehalf of their gold reserves, and in return provide them with Canadian notes. I have not heard of any dreadful calamity happening in Canada in consequence, or of the bankruptcy of the country, nor have I heard that capitalists are taking all their gold out of it. On the contrary, if we turn to the daily papers, we. shall find that Canada was never more prosperous than she is at the present time.
– Was Australia ever more prosperous than she. is to-day ?
– Australia is very prosperous at the present moment, and will be more prosperous after we have been in power for two years. In Australia herself, in Queensland, we have a State note issue which at present amounts . to £1,500,000. The whole of the note issue by private banks in Australia amounts to £3,500,000. The Prime Minister has told us that he proposes to issue notes to the amount of £4,000,000. If the honorable gentleman bases his calculation on. the Queensland issue, it will, on a population basis, be necessary for him to issue almost immediately ;£i 1,500,000 worth of these State notes. I shall be very pleased to know that the Commonwealth note issue has reached £ 11,000,000 or ^12,000,000. This afternoon, the honorable member for Bendigo referred to the chaotic condition of the Postal Department. I quite agree that matters in that Department are not as they should be. But why have successive Governments during the past nine years returned to the States ,£6,000,000 in excess of the three-fourths of the net revenue from Customs and. Excise to which they were entitled under the Constitution? Surely that money would have been better expended in placing the Postal Department : umm a; sound footing. At the present time the- Department is starved- to such an extent that in many districts we- find POStoffices only half completed, and without -clocks in the towers. I contend that when the Department undertakes to erect a postoffice with s tower, it is its duty to instal a clock there. If the- ^6,000,000 to which I have referred had been expended upon the Postal Department, what a wonderful institution it would have been today. Yet we hear the Opposition dilating upon the want of financial knowledge that is. displayed by the present Government. I know that the Prime Minister is anxious that this debate should close, in order that he may push on with the measures foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech. I am very proud to be here, because I recognise that I am behind a Ministry which is going to make history. If we study the history of the world from the time of Christ, we shall read of the magnificent fights that have been put up by Democracy against the tyranny of those in power - the tyranny of those who wished to sacrifice the wealth producers of the nation.. Now, for the first time in the history of the world, Labour has come into its own. Whilst a Labour Government occupies the Treasury bench, it is the intention of our party to be honest to every section of the community. We do not seek to only benefit one class. We desire to benefit every human being in Australia, so that, under the guidance of our party, the time will come when every Australian will feel proud to belong to this great continent.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
House adjourned at IO. I p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 July 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100712_reps_4_55/>.