4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Mr. THOMAS laid upon the table the following paper: -
Statement showing the business transacted, with details of receipts and expenditure, in respect to the post-offices of the Commonwealth for the year 1908.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs lay upon the table all the correspondence in connexion with the case of Mrs. Kingsmill, Meteorological Department ?
– I shall have great pleasure in doing so.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General whether, in view of the threatened withdrawal of private telephone subscribers after the 1st September next, he will issue instructions to his Deputies in the various States to give prompt and favorable consideration to all applications for public telephones in Suitable localities?
– I have heard something of the threatened withdrawal of private subscribers, but nothing officially. Of course, whether private individuals are connected with the telephone system or not, the Department will be ready to provide the public telephones necessary to meet the convenience of the community. But the honorable member makes a big order when he asks that we should give favorable consideration to all applications for public telephones. I do not know that we can go so far as that, although we shall be glad to erect as many public telephones as may be necessary to meet the general convenience.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs whether money is now being expended on the Federal Capital site. If so, from what fund is it being obtained?
– No very large amount is at present being spent, but we hope soon to have more to spend.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs seen in this morning’s newspapers an account of the senatorial visit to the Federal Capital area, and the statement that Senator McDougall fell from a punt into a river which was 12 feet deep, and running swiftly? Remembering the ample bulk of Senator McDougall, does not the Minister regard the incident, apart from the question of the senator’s personal discomfort, as a convincing proof of the adequacy of the water supply for the domestic needs of the Federal Capital ?
– I had no doubt about the ampleness of the water supply ; but it has given me great pain to learn that one of our brethren has suffered such a misfortune.
– In view of the many interviews with Labour senators, and the many articles which have appeared in the press, suggesting that the question of the location of the Federal Capital should be re-opened, will the Prime Minister give the House his assurance that the Government will go on with the work of preparing the Capital irrespective of all criticism?
– If the honorable member will look at the Governor-General’s Speech, he will find the statement that the Government intend to deal with the Capital site question as a Government matter.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs lay on the table of the Library the papers connected with the dismissal of Mr. Sparling from the employ- ment of the Customs Department?
– The papers are with the Public Service Commissioner. I shall endeavour to obtain them, and shall lay them on the table of the Library.
– Will the acting Minister of Defence lay on the table of the Library next Tuesday the papers relating to the tenders for military badges ?
– I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know what can be done.
– A cablegram from London was published in this morning’s newspapers to the effect that a Copyright Bill, embodying the views of a Conference which recently met in Great Britain,has been introduced into the Imperial Parliament. Can the Minister of External Affairs say to what extent the provisions for obtaining uniformity and respecting local autonomy in the matter of copyright, suggested on behalf of Australia by the last Government, have been carried out?
– The full text of the Bill is not yet to hand ; but I shall see to what extent the information to hand will enable me to answer the honorable member’s question.
– In reference to the allegation of Mrs. Barrington, of Sydney, the paid organizer of a political party, that she knows a swagman who, on the 13th April last, voted at twenty separate polling places in Riverina, has the Minister of Home Affairs asked her to give the name of the swagman, and the places where he voted, in order that action may be taken to vindicate the law?
– We are in communication with these persons now, and hope soon to bring the swagman and Mrs. Barrington together.
– Has the Prime Minister seen in this morning’s newspapers the cablegram announcing that Lord
Charles Beresford is busily engaged in preparing a memorandum urging the Imperial Government to expend £60,000,000 of loan moneys on naval defence?
– I have read the cablegram, but am not aware that Lord Charles Beresford is in a position of responsibility.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether, in the reply he has just given with respect to the action taken by Lord Charles Beresford, he desires to suggest that that great naval authority must be regarded as acting in an entirely irresponsible way in the propositions he is making ?
– Under responsible government members of the Privy Council, who are also Cabinet Ministers, are the only persons entitled to speak for the Government and the people. That Admiral Beresford is undoubtedly a distinguished naval officer the honorable gentleman probably discovered when he approved of the policy which we then outlined as against the offer of a Dreadnought by Australia. .
– As I am not aware that the denunciation to which the honorable gentleman has referred as purporting to have come from Admiral Beresford was ever made by that authority, will the Prime Minister furnish the House with a copy of the statement to which he alludes. It is, I suppose, one of the idle statements which the honorable gentleman is always making.
– The honorable gentleman will find abundant evidence of the fact that the statement was made in the newspapers and literature generally of the time. Mr. Joseph Cook. - I will not.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he has any further communication to make to the House with regard to the progress beingmade in connexion with the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway .
– The matter is under consideration. The Government have a policy, but they are unable to launch everything at the same time, though honorable members opposite complained last night that they did so.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that it is universally acknowledged that the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway will not produce immediate revenue, the Government propose to build it out of loan or out of revenue?
– The Government will first have to decide whether its construction is a good or a bad policy. If they decide that it is a good policy, they will have to find the means to carry it out in the best way possible under the circumstances.
– The honorable gentleman has said the Government had a policy.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the following statement, which, as Leader of the Opposition, he made in this House on the 29th June of last year -
I do not know of any difficulties in the way of the Treasurer making his Budget before the end of July.
I desire to ask the honorable gentleman whether now, after he has been three months in office, he sees any difficulty in the way of doing that which he thought his predecessor should have had no difficulty in doing after he had been in office only one month ?
– At the time to which the honorable gentleman referred J had left the accounts for him in such a condition that he might almost have delivered his Budget statement straight away.
– That is only about as accurate a statement as many other things the honorable gentleman has said.
Radio-Telegraphy : Examination for Sorters : Wheatstone Instrument on Sydney-Melbourne Line : Parcels Post Office, Sydney : “ Ship “ Room, Sydney Post Office.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Yes, without modification.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The following replies have been furnished by the Public Service Commissioner, in whose province the matter lies : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
If he will inform the House whether a Wheatstone instrument has been installed on the main telegraph line between Sydney and Melbourne. If not, will he consider the advisability of installing such instrument with a view to coping with the business?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Wheatstone instruments for use on the main telegraph line between Sydney and Melbourne, and on all other Inter-State lines between State Capitals where the Wheatstone system is not already in use, have been on order for some time. Delivery is expected daily. The staff at all State Capitals has been under training for some time, so that immediately on arrival of the instruments the Wheatstone system will be installed.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
-. ELLIOT JOHNSON asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
As during the present year about six millions of the States Debts mature, and during 191 1 and 1912 a further fourteen millions mature, and during 1913, 1914,” and it) 15 a still further twenty-six and a-half millions mature, and so on, does he propose to introduce and pass legislation, this session, enabling the Commonwealth to at once enter upon the great and important task of taking over these debts?
– The matter will receive consideration, and the House will be adadvised.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that a judgment obtained on 19th May, in the High Court at Sydney, by W. G. Mason, for arrears of Post Office pension is still unsatisfied, after repeated applications by the plaintiff to both the Federal and State authorities; and, if so, what is the reason of the delay?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
It appears that owing to an error in computation the amount for which judgment was given is less than the amount to which Mr. Mason is entitled. The matter is still the subject of adjustment, but, in the meantime, instructions have been issued to pay to Mr. Mason the amount claimed under the judgment.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
When ‘he intends to place before the House for its consideration the question of Tariff anomalies ?
– It is not usual to anticipate the precise or approximate date on which it is proposed to introduce Tariff alterations, whether they may refer to complete revision, or merely the correction of anomalies, but the honorable member may rest assured that the subject in question will receive full and proper consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to introduce legislation which would inaugurate a Commonwealth Service Superannuation Fund, such fund to be largely made, up by contributions from members of the Federal Public Service?
– My colleague the Minister of Home Affairs informs me that the Commonwealth Statistician has nearly finished his investigation and report upon a scheme. When the report is to hand the matter will be further considered.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow :-
The Grattan-street Orderly-room does not comply with the requirements of the Health Act as a place for public entertainment.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, in view of the fact that Yass-Canberra has been selected as the site for the Capital City of the Commonwealth, and that steps are now being taken to erect the Federal Capital there, a monument of suitable design, representative of the six States, should be erected on a prominent position in the surveyed city area, and, on the unveiling of such monument, a ceremony worthy of the occasion should be arranged to commemorate the transfer of the selected area by the State of New South Wales to the Commonwealth.
As honorable members are aware, the last Parliament selected an area at YassCanberra as the site for the Capital city of Australia; in view of the satisfactory answer just given by the Prime Minister to the honorable member for Parkes, honorable members will, I know, join me in the hope that the action suggested will be carried out, and will be taken as expeditiously as possible. As the motion points out, steps are now being taken to further the work of erecting the Federal Capital, and we are told by the Minister of Home Affairs that the work is progressing satisfactorily. The contour survey, we are given to understand, is now practically completed, or, at any rate, is sufficiently advanced to enable the fullest information to be given to those who may desire to supply competitive plans. The survey of the whole of the territory is now being proceeded with, so that the limits as between the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth may be clearly denned. We further understand that the location of the railway line to connect with the existing State railways has been decided upon, and that steps are being taken in connexion with the necessary engineering works, including the construction of a lake to dam the Molonglo and the Queanbeyan Rivers, the establishment of a water supply for civic and domestic purposes, and so forth. This all tends to show that the work generally in connexion with the Federal Capital is being pushed on. We have also had an intimation from the Government that it is their intention- to call for plans from all over the world, and, very properly in my opinion, not to confine the competition to Australia. The idea of the Minister of Home Affairs is to take advantage of the best and most modern ideas in connexion with the building of this city, which he tells us is to be the most beautiful i’n the world, as, indeed, we all hope it may be. We may take it from what the Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs have said that the Government are sincere in the matter. Their policy was foreshadowed in the Governor- General’s Speech, and the Prime Minister’s statement to-day makes it perfectly clear that there is to be no delay. We are erecting a city for all time, and one in which, I hope, will be realized, in all essentials, the magnificent ideas of the Minister of Home Affairs. My motion has for its object the erection of a suitable monument on a picked site in the Federal city. There are many suitable sites within the area, not only for a monument of this character, but for a Parliament House, the Governor-General’s residence, suitable public offices, and so forth, and the idea is to have a monument in a prominent place representative of the six original States and commemorative of the establishment of the city. It may be that, in years to come, some of the larger States may be divided into two or more States, and such a monument as I suggest would be a striking reminder of the States which first came together to form this union. It may be thought by some honorable members that a hospital or similar work would be more suitable, but, in my opinion, we ought to have something of quite a distinctive character. As the Minister of Home Affairs is aware, there are at present in the Department the plans for a monument of the sort 1 have indicated. The idea sv as submitted to me whilst I had the honour of occupying the office of Minister, by Colonel Owen, the Director of Public Works. I do not suggest for a moment that those plans should be adopted, because the exact design is essentially a matter for those of artistic knowledge and tastes-; but, in order to give honorable members an idea of what I have in view, I may say that the plans in question show a base composed of six granite blocks, one from each of the States. Something of that character would form a lasting memorial of the establishment of the Federal city. The motion suggests that if the monument be erected there should be a fitting ceremony at its unveiling. It will be an historic occasion which could happen only once in the history of the Australian Commonwealth; but any details, of course, are a matter for future consideration. I do think, however, that part of the ceremony should be the formal handing over by the Premier of New South Wales to the GovernorGeneral, of the deeds of the transferred territory. The first proclamation, in accordance with the Act passed last session, has been issued, but the second proclamation was delayed by the late Government, owing to the fact that, had it been issued, all the people living within the Federal territory would have been disfranchised, not only in the case of the Federal elections, but also for the State elections then pending. The second proclamation has not been issued because the Prime Minister and the Government think it necessary that some legislation regarding the government of the Territory should first be passed by this Parliament. They consider that the provision in the Seat of Government Act, to the effect that until legislation on the subject is passed by the Federal Parliament the laws of the State of New South Wales shall apply to the government of the Territory, is not sufficient. I hope, however, that that delay will be as short as possible, and that as sr.on as the matter can be dealt with satisfactorily to the Government the second proclamation will be issued and the Territory taken over by the Federal authorities. When that is done the time will .have arrived when the work which this motion contemplates can be immediately entered into. I submit that the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth should be commemorated in some such way as I propose. I trust the House will receive the motion favorably, believing that the establishment of the Federal city will be an historical event and worthy of being commemorated by the erection of the suggested monument. I hope also that when that monument is unveiled a ceremony befitting so historic an occasion will take place.
– I second ‘the motion with great pleasure, because I recognise the importance of having a permanent record of an event of such historic importance as the foundation of the Capital of the Common- wealth. Some step should be taken to preserve a memorial of the occasion in a permanent form, and a suggestion has been made by the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral cf Public Works, which, if adopted, would carry that idea into effect. We should, of course, have newspaper and official records, but these are all liable to perish or to be destroyed by fire, or lost through other agencies, and future generations might be just as much mystified’ about the early history of the establishment of the Capital as we are now regarding the actual discovery of Australia and the true history of the first settlement of ‘the Colonies by the British race. I think it will save time if I quote from papers in the possession of the Home Affairs Department, explanatory of the sketches which I hold in my hand. I shall be glad if honorable members will pass the sketches from one to the other while I am reading the description. The report states -
The accompanying sketch for a permanent memorial to commemorate the act of surrender to the Commonwealth by the State of New South Wales, and the acceptance by the Commonwealth, of the Territory for the purposes of the Seat of Government, was prepared at my request, under the instructions of the DirectorGeneral of Works, by Mr. Murdoch, Senior Assistant, Public Works Branch of this Department. The idea in preparing the design was that the historical act would probably take place on the ground, and the platform on which the surrender and acceptance would be effected will be on the site to be occupied by the monument. If the suggestion is concurred with, it will be necessary to at once communicate with each of the States, with a view to securing the block of granite which will be used in the construction of the memorial.
This is signed by Colonel Miller, Secretary to the Department.
– How much is the monument likely to cost?
– JOHNSON.- We have not yet obtained an estimate; but the cost will not be very great in any case, and will of course depend largely upon the ultimate design. The one now submitted can, in my opinion, be greatly improved upon. Even if the cost were somewhat high the circumstances would fully justify it, seeing that the object is the establishment of a monument of so permanent and historic a character.
– I suppose it would cost ^30,000.
– Perhaps about one-fifth of that amount would hi nearer the mark. If the honorable member, who is so extremely antagonistic to the idea of removing the Federal Capital from Melbourne, will look at the sketch, he will see that the present suggested design is not of a very expensive type.
– Then it will not be worthy of the occasion.
– I will not say that. It will be a solid monument. Its solidity and general design will be typical of the solidity of the Commonwealth, of the various States comprising it, and of the people who inhabit it. But the design is a matter for careful consideration. My own view is that the idea is excellent, but that it can be symbolized in a much more effective design. The following is the recommendation of Colonel Owen, a gentleman well known for his capacity, ability, integrity, and general knowledge and fitness to express an opinion on such a subject: -
Herewith is submitted, as requested, a sketch design for a monument to be erected at the Federal Capital as a memorial of the surrender of the Territory to the Commonwealth for the purposes of the Seat of Government. An object so eminently historical should, it is suggested, portray national and Imperial symbolism, and that idea has furnished in part the motive of design. Further, I think that characteristics emblematic of simplicity, strength, and endurance, should be evidenced by the monument, and the material of which it is built. Specially selected granite will be the best material for the structure, being practically imperishable, and does not require much embellishment to obtain its finest architectural expression. It does not seem practicable to erect at this stage a structure which in the future will form an integral part of the Capital. All the circumstances point to a monument, and the following proposal is made : - Six rough granite blocks, oneblock from each of the original States of the Commonwealth, should be built as a base presenting six sides. Rising from that base a shaft, and laid thereon a single entablature, signifying the Commonwealth of Australia. This stone, to, in turn, become a support on which to erect with granite obtained from Great Britain and Ireland an obelisk with four sides faced north, south, east, and west, emblematical of Empire.. The buttressing stones surrounding that representing the Commonwealth might be brought from six corners of the Empire. For instance, India, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, and another, perhaps Hong Kong or Jamaica. These buttress stones should indicate their place of origin, and those from the Australian States show, in addition, the years in which they were constituted autonomous colonies. An alternative would be to erect upon the central stone over the granite base a bronze statue of His Majesty King Edward VII., or her late Majesty Queen Victoria, who granted the Commonwealth its Constitution, in lieu of erecting an Empire obelisk. The underbuilding modified would suit equally well as a statue pedestal. I would suggest that a site be chosen for the monument crowning one of the eminences of the city preferably within the ground which it is probable will surround the Capital, and where for all time it will be presented to the people. The Commonwealth stone might be laid at the ceremony of surrendering the Territory, and under it a vessel containing records. The remaining stones, even including such base stones from the States as may not be ready, could if necessary be placed in position at a later date.
That is the recommendation of the Director of Public Works, and I think that it is, subject to the alteration of details of the design, well worthy of serious consideration. Such a monument as he suggests would be self-explanatory and educative, not only to the people of the Capital itself, but to -visitors from all parts of the world. It would typify one of the most historical events associated with the development of Australia, and would leave no doubt whatever in the minds of future generations as to the time of, and circumstances connected with, the selection of the site and the building of the Federal Capital. In the absence of any permanent record of a suitable character, such knowledge might be lost to posterity. I have therefore much pleasure in seconding the motion, and I hope that it will commend itself to the good judgment of the House.
– Some honorable members no doubt expect me to oppose this motion, and I may say at once that I intend to do so. 1 wish, at the outset, to commend the honorable member for Illawarra for the dispassionate manner in which he submitted his motion to the House, and for the credit he gave to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs in saying that he knew that whatever they promised they would carry out. It is a pity that some of the other representatives of New South Wales do not use the same temperate language. It is still more to be regretted that the Premier of New South Wales does not follow the example of the honorable member for Illawarra; if he did, better progress might be made in connexion with the Federal Capital. It is evident that the establishment of the Capital will involve a very heavy expenditure. The Minister of Home Affairs has said that he will not sanction the erection of temporary structures; that what is done towards the building of the Federal city during his term of office will be of a stable character ; and we must all recognise that it would cost a lot of money to erect a really suitable monument to commemorate the selection of the site and the building of the city. Whilst the honorable member was speaking I interjected that the proposed monument would cost ^30,000, and was told in reply that it would cost only about one-fifth of that amount. Heaven save us from erecting a monument casting only ^6,000 to commemorate the establishment of the Federal city. When we take in hand such a work we desire to have a piece of statuary that will do credit to Australia. The honorable member for Illawarra, in putting his proposal before the House, sought -to capture the approval of representatives of the various States by assuring them that every State would be represented. Granite blocks, he said, would be brought .from each of the States, and it seems to me that the cost of conveying them. to an out-of-the-way place like Yass-Canberra would in itself amount to some thousands of pounds.
– We should be able to obtain some granite from Dalgety.
– There is plenty of granite at Dalgety, but there is none to be found at Yass-Canberra. Even had Dalgety been selected, however, I should not have been in favour of expending money in this way, and I am sure that the House will not sanction any wasteful expenditure. During the early years of the Capital, anything that is done must be designed to serve purposes of utility. Works of adornment and ornamentation must come later on. I am rather surprised that the honorable member for Illawarra should suggest the erection of a monument costing only £6, 000, for I do not think that, if the expenditure were so limited, we should be able to erect anything truly worthy of the object in view.
– The honorable member leaves it open to the Parliament to do what it pleases.
– That is so, but I take it that the honorable member, in bringing forward this proposal, desires that there shall be erected a monument on which the people will be able to look with pride and pleasure. Most of the great cities of the world have fine monuments, and a memorial worthy of what we are told will be one of the most beautiful cities in the world must involve an expenditure of many thousands of pounds. I do not think that at the inception of the work of establishing the Capital we should expend money in this way. I shall be told that I am opposed to this motion simply because I desire that Melbourne shall continue to be the seat of Government for the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, however, I should be willing to see Sydney made the seat of Government for the next ten years, rather than that we should go in for unnecessary expenditure at the outset. I could have understood a proposal to lay the base of a monument to be completed later on, but it would be an absolute waste of money to complete the work before the city itself is established.
– The honorable member for Illawarra does not say that the work should be completed now.
– The honorable member for Illawarra described what he thought should be done, and the honorable member for Lang has circulated amongst us a sketch showing what is actually proposed. It certainly looks well, but, at the same time, would not be worthy of the most beautiful city in the world. My chief objection to this proposal is that it would mean a waste of money.
– I do hot think so.
– I am sure that even those who voted for the selection of YassCanberra are not prepared to sanction any wasteful expenditure in carrying out the behest of the Parliament, and I can well imagine how the honorable member for Echuca, and others sharing my views, would talk when Parliament was asked to vote the money necessary for this purpose. We shall be acting wisely if we put aside for the present all proposals for the adornment of the permanent seat of Government.
– Does the honorable member say that the suggested monument, as outlined in the plans, would constitute an adornment?
– -Yes. In the Federal Capital I should like to .see many monuments of a similar character. But I object to money being expended for purposes of adornment when it could more advantageously be expended upon works of utility. I hope that the House will oppose the motion.
-22]. - I trust that honorable members will not agree to this motion, although I have no f ault to find with the manner in which it was introduced for our consideration by the honorable member for Illawarra. I have reason to believe that the late Government, of which he was a member, took some interest in the question of the establishment of the permanent Seat of Government, and consequently, I am hot surprised that he is somewhat enthusiastic over it. But, in my judgment, it would be a mistake to agree to his proposal because, by doing so, we should, to a certain extent, bind this Parliament as to its future course of action. Even if a monument, such as has been suggested by Colonel Owen, must ultimately be erected iri the permanent Seat of Government, we ought hot now to decide upon the particular form which it should take. What I fear is that we are in danger of drifting in connexion with this ‘ question, and, therefore,- the sooner the Government afford us an opportunity of discussing it the better. Unless we are granted that opportunity in the very near future, we shall find ourselves committed to ah expenditure which may ultimately be a loss to the country. I know that a great many honorable members think it is very desirable that we should promptly decide whether we are satisfied with the Capital Site which has already been chosen by this Parliament.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss that question.
– So far as the design which has been handed round the House is concerned, I am not in a position either to condemn or to praise it. I am not sufficient of an expert to decide upon its merits. But I do hope that before we sanction any expenditure in the direction that is proposed, honorable members will be afforded an opportunity of discussing this Federal Capital Site question under a motion which will permit of their remarks ranging over a wider field.
.- 1 entertain a somewhat similar view to that which’ has been expressed by the previous speaker. In my opinion, it would be premature for this House., at the present juncture, to arrive at any -determination in respect of the erection of a monument in the Federal Capital. I admit that Parliament has already decreed that the permanent Seat of Government shall be at YassCanberra, but I would remind honorable members that the territory surrounding that site has not yet been surrendered to the Commonwealth. Until a proclamation has been issued declaring it to be Federal territory, it cannot be claimed with any certainty that
Yass-Canberra will be the permanent Seat of Government. I am prepared to respect the choice made by the last Parliament, but I hold that we should be acting prematurely if we now commenced to adorn what is expected to be the site of the Federal Capital. Until the territory surrounding it has been surrendered to the Commonwealth, and until we have received competitive designs for the city, we are not justified in committing this Parliament to the erection of any particular monument. If we adopt the motion which is now under consideration, we may find later on that a form of monument recommends itself to our judgment better than that which has been suggested by Colonel Owen, the DirectorGeneral of Works. To urge that its cost would be only *,0,000 is ridiculous. Whilst I do not believe in unnecessary expenditure, I hold that in commemorating the establishment of the Federal Capital, we should do something which is worthy of the occasion. The expenditure of ^6,000 upon a monument would not do that. There are numerous pieces of statuary in Melbourne and Ballarat which cost ,£20,000 or £30,000, and surely a monument of that sort would not be adequate to commemorate the foundation of the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth. When we decide to erect a monument in that city we shall have to reconcile ourselves to incurring a considerable expenditure. Before we take any step in ‘that direction, we ought to await the receipt of designs from competent men all over the world. This afternoon we have merely heard of the design of a monument which has been suggested by the DirectorGeneral of Works, Colonel Owen. But, later on, somebody else may submit a design for a monument which may prove more acceptable both to this Parliament and to the people of Australia. I repeat, therefore, that we are not justified in adopting this motion until we have competitive designs before us. We should be acting prematurely if we decided at the present juncture what steps we intended to take in order to commemorate the establishment of the permanent Seat of Government.-
Debate (on motion by Mr. King O’malley) adjourned.
.- In regard to the motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Franklin, who wishes to have a Select Committee ap pointed to inquire into and report on the sugar industry, I understand that the honorable member, who is not present, desires to have the question postponed.
– Is it in order for an honorable member who has not consulted the author of a motion to make any arrangement with regard to it?
– What is suggested to be done is not strictly in order, but of course any honorable member can give notice of motion for another honorable member. If the motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Franklin were to drop off the’ paper, he himself could give fresh notice, and would thereby reinstate the motion.
– I hear that the honorable member for Franklin made some arrangement with the Government that he should not proceed with his motion to-day.
Debate resumed from 14th July (vide page 414), on motion by Mr. Atkinson -
That in the opinion of this House the Commonwealth should forthwith take over the inspection and effective control of produce passing from State to State.
– It will probably have been noticed by honorable members, from the figures supplied by the honorable member for Wilmot in submitting his motion, that there is a considerable Inter-State trade in apples, bananas, fruits of various kinds, and potatoes. I thoroughly agree with the honorable member that there should be some better way of dealing with perishable produce passing from one State to another. At the present time goods of this description are inspected at the port of shipment, and are then inspected again at the port of arrival. I think that that system is not fair to producers. It is a well-known fact that great quantities of produce are exchanged by the various States. If anything be done to debar the sending of produce into the interior of this country, the result must be to deprive the people who work there of valuable vegetables at times when they are badly wanted. Therefore, in the interests of the people themselves, we should have Commonwealth inspection. I do not allege that State inspectors do not do their very best, but they have not time to do the work as it should be done. Furthermore, if vegetables are inspected at the port from which they are despatched, and are there found to be in sound condition, that ought to be sufficient; because, if you handle produce of this description many times it necessarily deteriorates in value. The honorable member for Wilmot alluded to a shipment of potatoes which, after having been inspected at the port of shipment in Tasmania, were again inspected in Sydney, sent back to the State in which they were grown, re-bagged, and again forwarded to Sydney. That is a very ridiculous state of affairs, which should not occur in a country like ours. Some better means of inspection should be provided for perishable produce. Only about a month ago a shipment of potatoes was sent from Warrnambool to Port Macdonnell, where it was desired to receive them, because a change of seed was considered to be advantageous for the district. The goods were inspected before they left the State of Victoria. On arrival at Port Macdonnell they were again inspected, and were sent back to the port from which they came. That is an absurd thing to happen in Federated Australia. I trust that the Government will take this matter into their consideration, and see to it that the producers of Australia receive proper protection. It is highly desirable that there should be an interchange of produce between north and south. We are all aware that the northern people want our southern products, and we in the south want theirs. They want our produce at a season of the year when the goods in question will not grow there. I consider that the motion deserves support, and I hope that before the next season for the busy trade in perishable goods comes round, a better method of dealing with produce will be instituted. I hope that the Government will give the honorable member for Wilmot that assistance which he deserves. He certainly brought this subject forward in an admirable manner.
.- I do not intend to occupy the time of the House for more than a few minutes, but it appears to me that the motion, in the form in which it has been brought forward, is too sweeping and too far reaching. Whilst it may be desirable to meet certain express conditions, there is every reason why the control in regard to produce passing from State to State should be left in the hands of the State authorities. I quite realize the importance of the points that have been put by the supporters of the motion, but there are other considerations which, apparently, have- not occurred to them. There is a good deal of traffic between New South Wales and Queensland, especially in cattle. Perhaps cattle hardly come within the category of goods contemplated by the honorable member for Wilmot, but I wish to point out the state of things existing. In Queensland, the cattle tick is very bad. New South Wales has expended enormous sums of money to cope with that pest, and to try to keep it out of her territory. Where the tick has encroached upon New South Wales, large amounts of money have been spent in endeavouring to keep it within a limited area. That is one instance of what has been, and is being done, in regard to Inter-State trade. It would not be advisable to sweep away all the barriers, and to take control of these matters entirely out of the hands of the States. I cannot vote for the motion in its present form.
.- The principal argument advanced by the honorable member for Wilmot in favour of his motion was that the present system of inspection is anti- Federal in its application, and that, instead of our having that grand system of Inter-State Free Trade which he suggested should be one of the results of Federation, we are permitting States by legislative enactments of a local character, and by the imposition of rates, to act adversely against the passing of produce and of commerce generally from State to State. Such proceedings, to my mind, are distinctly anti- Federal in their application, and are very much in the direction of deepening any dissatisfaction that at present exists. So far from Federal control creating a better condition of things, if effect were given to this proposal at the present time it would increase the existing dissatisfaction. Each State must have reasonable liberty in the development of its resources. Remembering the immense tracts of country which the authorities of the States have to make fruitful and productive, it must be admitted that they must have considerable latitude in the development of their resources.
– How would my proposal interfere with the development of the resources of the States?
– I shall tell the honorable member. We have not yet developed in Australia statesmanship of a sufficiently exalted character to enable national questions to be viewed in their proper light.
– Not yet ! I thought that that had come at last.
– This National Parliament has, during the last ten years, lifted these questions into a position which they had not previously occupied, but it is still serving its apprenticeship in statesmanship. I understand the difficulty of forgetting the State, or what I may call the parochial view ; but in the discussions which have taken place in this Chamber during the present session honorable members have continually referred to the effect of proposals upon the States which they individually represent. When the sugar bounty was mentioned yesterday, it was referred to as if it affected Queensland and New South Wales only. In time we shall be able to look at these questions from a national point of view; but we must be content to go slowly enough for our development to be on the right lines, and must avoid the risk of defeating the object which we have in view.
– What does the honorable member mean by the national view? Does he mean the Federal view? He should define his terms.
– During the electoral campaign, Labour candidates were continually taunted with being “ State frighters,” our opponents posing as “State righters;” but the Labour party, I contend, is the national party of Australia. It places questions affecting the whole people at a greater altitude than any other party has done. I am as desirous as is any other honorable member that there should be as little restriction as possible on the passing of produce from State, to State; but some restrictions are necessary in the interests of development. The honorable member for Wilmot
Says that he does not desire to prevent the States from rejecting unsound produce, but that the passing of sound produce from State to State should not be hindered in any way. I claim to have had some experience in this matter, and say that the inspectors of the various ports of Australia are, if anything, too lenient, though, generally speaking, they do what they can to assist development by protecting the interests of the States for which they act. I do not think that the honorable member can mention an instance in which sound produce has been refused admittance at any port. He has spoken of the treatment given to Tasmanian potatoes. But it must not be for-, gotten that, while the other States have pre vented the importation of unsound potatoes from Tasmania, they have also taken steps to prevent the spread of potato blight within their own borders. In Queensland the districts in which potato blight or other disease occurs are at once quarantined. The Government of the State treats its own producers in the same way as it treats those of other States. The potato blight is a preventable disease, and Tasmanians have in their own hands the remedy for the present state of affairs. A paragraph in yesterday’s Melbourne Age showed that the number of cases of potato blight now being reported in Queensland is very small. That is so because the Government has rigidly quarantined infected areas, and has supplied to the potato growers of the States an effective and cheap remedy for the disease, a spraying plant having been used which has been very efficacious. While I consider the motion of the honorable member for Wilmot inopportune, I should like to point out what I think might be done. A restriction upon the free exchange of produce among the States is caused by the existence of differential rates at the various ports. At some of the ports these rates practically amount to a tariff, and, in my opinion, are anti-federal. What is necessary is the establishment of standard rates of inspection fees, harbor dues, wharfage dues, and standards of quality and condition. The honorable member for Wilmot spoke of a case in which potatoes rejected in Melbourne as diseased were admitted in Sydney. That case showed, either that the Melbourne inspectors had failed in their duty, or that the Sydney inspectors were lax.
– The honorable member has not put the facts exactly as I stated them.
– I understood the honorable member to say that a shipment of produce rejected at one port was sent on to another and admitted.
– No. A shipment of potatoes rejected at Sydney was sent back to Devonport. The potatoes were rebagged, returned to Sydney, and admitted. That might easily be due to an oversight. The inspectors cannot possibly see every bag, but the incident shows what may happen under the existing system.
– I believe that the inspection of potatoes is carried out in much the same way as the inspection of fruit. I have seen inspectors examining potatoes on the wharfs at Brisbane, and they carried out their work very carefully. Some of the bags were ripped open, and if the inspectors had the slightest suspicion that the potatoes were in any way diseased, some or all of the bags were emptied on to the wharf, and the potatoes thoroughly exposed. I can quite understand that at one port the inspectors might consider that an article of produce is so diseased as to warrant its exclusion, and that the inspectors at another port might consider that it would not be dangerous to admit the same produce. But that only proves the strength of my contention that we should have a. standard of inspection. I confess myself somewhat sympathetic with the motion on the paper in the name of the honorable member for Darling Downs in favour of the establishment of a Federal Agricultural Bureau. I believe that if we do not already, we shall very soon in Australia require a scientific study of the diseases affecting produce and their treatment. It is a comparatively easy matter to effectively quarantine Tasmanian products infected with disease, since that State is separated from the mainland by a stretch of water. But we know that vegetable and fruit pests and parasites have no respect for the artificial boundaries between the States on the mainland, and any disease injuriously affecting the producers of Queensland should be regarded as a positive danger, not only to the producers of New South Wales, Queensland’s next neighbour, but to all the producers in the Commonwealth. These diseases are spread by all kinds of means, and the only way in which at present we are able to combat them is by quarantining areas in which they are found, and preventing the transfer of diseased produce from those areas. I hope that it will not be very long before Federal control will be exercised in this matter in the direction of providing the producers of the different States with information for the scientific treatment of these diseases. One difficulty in regard to the motion is that if we were to attempt, at the present time, to enforce the admittance of the produce of one State into another, without reference to its condition-
– That is not proposed.
– The honorable member for Wilmot proposes that the Commonwealth should forthwith take over the inspection and effective control of thetransfer of produce.
– He asks for a severe inspection by Commonwealth inspectors.
– The honorable member, in reply to an interjection from me, said that we should carry out an inspection at the port of entry. I point out that if the inspection were made at the port of shipment, it would sometimes be possible to save producers a very heavy loss indeed.
– A loss in freight, for one thing.
– Not only a loss in freight. If produce is diseased when it is being shipped, it may become absolutely useless by the time it reaches its destination, and the producer may not only lose in freight and charges, but also the value of the produce itself. This could be avoided by an inspection at the port of shipment.
– Would we not be more likely to get that under the Federal authority than under a State authority?
– We should get it if we had a Federal standard of inspection.
– Why not?
– An inspection at the port of shipment would not of itself be sufficient. There must also be an inspection at the port of entry, because very often goods passing between the ‘States are all right when they leave the port of shipment, and are not fit to be admitted when they reach the port of entry.
– My motion does not provide for only one inspection.
– I can say from practical experience that since the adoption of the inspection of produce not only in Brisbane, but in Queensland generally, we have in that State received fruit and produce from the southern States much superior in quality to that previously received. It has been found that it does not pay the producers of the southern States to ship inferior produce to Queensland. I have no doubt that the same thing applies with respect to the transfer of Queensland produce to the other States. Generally the effect of the present system of inspection is to make it unwise, because unprofitable, for a producer to export produce which may not reasonably be expected to pass the test of inspection. As a matter of fact, in transactions covering the transfer of produce from State to State the goods are now often shipped subject to passing the inspection at the port of entry. I am very anxious that there should be as few restrictions as possible, and that the free flow of produce between State and State should be encouraged. But we must conserve rights of individual States, and as, at present, each applies to the producers of the other States only the restrictions it places upon its own producers, no one has any particular cause to complain. The honorable member for Wilmot might consider the advisability of altering his motion so that instead of asking for Federal inspection and control, we should ask the Minister of Trade and Customs to communicate with the Ministers of Agriculture in the various States, with a view to arriving at a uniform inspection fee and a uniform standard of inspection. The inspection fee is a severe handicap to the producer. Extra charges placed upon the interchange of products in this way must be paid by him, and represent a heavy tax. The fewer the restrictions we impose, and the greater the freedom we establish in the interchange of products between the States, the more we shall develop good feeling between their people, and the natural and national desire for the development of the whole of Australia, which we are all so anxious to obtain.
– I must confess that I have been unable to follow the logic of the honorable member for Brisbane. The honorable member for Wilmot, as I understand his motion, does not object to inspection in the various States by Federal inspectors. I understand that the Commonwealth Government has control of some inspectors at the present time.
– We employ State inspectors.
– I should like to see a thorough inspection of all produce transferred from State to State. I should like to say that when Tasmanian potatoes were excluded from New South Wales, rightly or wrongly, the price of potatoes in New South Wales went up, and there was a strong suspicion that the exclusion of the Tasmanian potatoes was carried out with a view to manipulating the local market. That was my own impression, too; and if we take the inspection out of the hands of the local authorities, and place it under the control of the Federal authorities, it will be much more to the interests of the whole of the people.
– They would be better satisfied.
– I believe so. The local inspectors are more liable to be influenced by local considerations, and, consequently, by pressure from the local authorities. I, for one, welcome the motion, and will accord it my support. I cannot understand my honorable friend from Brisbane, when he talks about taking a “ national view,” because it is not a national view to insist on local inspection under the control of the local authorities.
– The honorable member who has submitted the motion, has raised a question which has been debated many times in this House.
– The question has been raised on motions for adjournment; but never by way of- a specific motion.
– On the contrary, there have been a number of debates on the question in the House. For instance, we dealt with it very exhaustively when the Quarantine Bill was before us. We then discussed the question whether we should take the power to control all matters under the quarantine laws relating to Inter- State trade, and the honorable member for Bendigo, on that occasion, gave us a very learned and useful constitutional argument. We decided, amongst other matters, that it was not wise to apply exclusive national control, and honorable, members from Tasmania, who seem to have been converted in the meantime by the hard logic of experience, were amongst those who stood out most resolutely against such a step.
– I do not think I said anything against that suggestion.
– I do not remember the honorable member doing so; but it was urged very strongly by Tasmanian representatives, and, indeed, by representatives from every State, that these matters should be under the control of the States, subject always to such Federal powers as we have under the Constitution. If I remember rightly, the argument put forward by lawyers at that time was that we could not absolutely control all these arrangements without respect to the States - that, while we have certain powers under the commerce sections of the Constitution, which enable us to see that no unnecessary restrictions of trade are interposed, those powers do not apply to the policing of the various productive enterprises of the States for such a purpose as now suggested. Since then, however, we have travelled far. One State after another made complaint that these laws were being used against them by the authorities of other States in such a way as to amount to a prohibition of Inter- State trade. Not very long ago, 1 remember bringing under the notice of the Attorney-General the conditions obtaining in Western Australia, where the system of inspection was such, both as to its nature and its cost, as to make it practically impossible for the fruit-growers of other States to send produce there. In that case, I think, Federal control was exercised in the remedying of the trouble; and the Minister of Trade and Customs will find a great deal of correspondence on the subject in the Department, which, I have no doubt, will help him in the consideration of the difficulty now. At any rate, I think that the Western Australian charges, and also the system of inspection, were modified, still leaving, as I say, with the States, all the powers which are necessary to deal with diseases. I forget the technical name of the laws.
– “Police powers” covers the whole.
– What I mean is that the police powers which the various States have, cannot be interfered with under our Constitution - our powers are limited as well as are the State powers - and this seems to me to point unmistakably to conciliation as between the various States, rather than to the course suggested by the mover of the motion. I am not so sure that if the motion were carried, the Federal Government could do what is suggested should be done; at any rate, it could not be done completely, but only partially. As their powers are strictly limited, and since we cannot take the absolute control of the police powers of the various States, and they, on their part, have power to - shall I say? - inflict injury, quite unintentionally in the course of the exercise of their powers, it seems to me clearly a case in which some attempt at conciliation be made. I strongly suggest that the motion be withdrawn, and a proposal made for the appointment of a Select Committee to examine the inspectors and those in authority in the various States, and thoroughly investigate the whole question, with a view to a uniform system of inspection and uniform charges. It is not right that one State, in the administration of its law, should charge only a modicum of the fees charged in other States. There is nothing Federal, but everything that is un- Federal, in such a policy; and there is no reason to so ordain and shape these powers and their administration as to bring about prohibition of trade on reasonable terms between the States. There must always be power vested in the States to check the introduction of diseases ; it cannot be in the interests of Australia to have any recklessness in this connexion. Indeed, disease cannot be too strongly and tightly gripped wherever it breaks out; and I think that if there were Federal control, the work of quarantining areas could be even more intelligently carried out than it is at present. I do not know precisely what is being done now in regard to potatoes; but I have always held that, wherever disease breaks out, the true theory of quarantine is to go to the place where the disease actually is, and confine it to that spot. Shutting the port and doing nothing will not stop the spread of disease, neither will closing the borders of the State. As a case in point, I remember that, when I was in charge of the Agricultural Department some years ago in New South Wales, at the same time that Mr. Chataway was Minister of Agriculture in Queensland, I found there was a dispute as to the tick regulations which were being carried out in the latter State. Our border had actually been closed. It was the most foolish thing imaginable to close the border, and allow the tick to come down that far, but there seemed nothing else for it at the time. As a matter of fact, the tick had not progressed any further south than Brisbane, and so such arrangements were made as enabled all the clean stock to come over the border from Queensland, at the same time that we tightened up the quarantine laws in all the tick-infested areas. That is to say, we removed the boundary line for the purposes of the tick from the border close up to Brisbane, and scotched that pest for many years. It seems to me that if there were some sort of Federal control - or it could be done by arrangement with the States - to go to the infested areas, and, when diseases break out, to grip them immediately and fight them on the spot, at the same time liberating all clean country, and so facilitating trade exchanges and production, it would be a very sensible thing. When you do that, you also have every man who has a clean area, a clean orchard, or a clean run, helping you to police and quarantine the infected parts, and so you serve the double purpose of facilitating trade and insuring thebest of all guarantees that quarantine is being prudently and intelligently applied. This matter must come to a head some day,, if it does not now. Friction is constantly- going on. It isin Western Australia one day, New South Wales another; day, Tasmania the next, and Victoria the next ; and so the thing goes on, with, no State satisfied with the other’s exercise of its powers. A great deal could be done if we could get the States together and adopt some uniform plan of inspection, or, at any rate, uniform charges for the cost of inspection. I suggest that the honorable member for Wilmot should bring the matter up in, another; way, which will enable him to, accomplish something practical. He should movefor a Select Committee, get on. it men in the House who will go, thoroughly into the question, get the inspectors from the various States, and, if necessary, invite the Ministers, in, charge of the State Departments to confer with the Commonwealth Minister and with the Committee, so that something may be done to obviate this constant friction, which, while it exists, is a standing negation, of that “ national, “ Federal spirit of which we, have heardsomuch to-day. I think that is the way out of the difficulty, and I strongly suggest to the honorable member that he should adopt it.
– The able speech, of the honorable member for Parramatta is really, the best argument. I have heard in the debate for making this a Federal matter. In dealing with the question of diseases of products, I cannot see that we, as Australians, should look ait State boundaries. We should look rather attown boundariesor district boundaries. How dare we allow any person to transport disease even a mile away from where it occurs ? I do not know, if honorable members, are aware of what we put up with in New South Wales in, connexion with fruit-growing and the- fruit fly. If theinspector discovers fruit fly, he can order the destruction of the fruit on the spot without further bother. If we want to, jealously guard our internaltrade - I willnot call it our Inter- State trade - why should not the Federal inspector- have the right to go to any point where disease is reported to occur, and act just as stringently ? That course could be followed when such a disease as the potato blight threatened so splendid an industry. The -idea of the States conferring about matters which are eminently Federal, and arrang ing conferences between State Premiers or State experts, is altogether distasteful to. the Federal spirit, and I protest against it.
– Is the honorable member aware that honorable members on the Opposition side of the House refused to-, allow, the Federal Government that power in the Quarantine Act?
-I remember that that was the attitude of the Opposition when the matter cropped upin connexion with quarantine. There is another phase of the subject worth considering. We undertake, by means of the Tariff, to regulate trade and commerce entering the States from foreign sources. That is made an absolutely Federal concern. Why not then take the same stand in regard to internal trade? Surely we are not afraid of the cry of unification or State rights ? The commerce of Australia is of such great importance that we should not. stay any proceeding that will make it as pure as it can be made. The Federal Parliament must be the guardian of Australian interests in foreign markets, and it is to the advantage of Australia to see that our produce is clean. If we want to make a name for ourselves inthe markets ofthe world we must be very particular at the port of shipment, whether the goods are intended for Inter- State or foreign markets. If articles are shipped diseased and received diseased, that is, of course, a double crime. No leniency ought to be extended’ to a person who will’ knowingly ship diseased produce, but, of course, in order to safeguard, the public against diseased products shipped from a supposedly clean spot, and developing; disease on the journey, it is always necessary to have the double inspection. I trust that good will result from this debate, and that the honorable member for Wilmot will achieveat least justice for the products of his State. It seems very hard that- the growers in any State should feel that they are being persecuted by people in- another State, or that some ring; is rigging the market to their detriment. There has been a very fair effort on both sides in this debate to elucidate the matter, which is sufficiently important, as. the honorable member for Parramatta suggests, to warrant a thorough investigation even before the Federal authorities take action-. We should not be too precipitate, but I hope that when that investigation is made, and a common basis for a system of protecting our internal trade is arrived at, the necessary action will be taken by the
National Parliament, and not be left to the States.
Debate (on motion by Mr. W. Elliot Johnson) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 27th July (vide page 744), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That this Bill be .now read a second time.
.- The Naval Loan Act as adopted by the last Parliament was a matter of such high policy that it would be unfair for its supporters to tamely submit to its repeal without uttering a word of protest, or at all events a word of warning, to the Government and their followers. No doubt they are masters of the position and have a perfect right, to shape their financial policy as they think fit. It may be in pursuance of political promises or pledges that they propose to repeal the Act, but at the same time the financial position is so serious and involves so many grave considerations that it is only fit and proper that those who were responsible for the Naval Loan Act should remind the Ministry of the circumstances under which it was passed. It was not passed without grave consideration and prolonged debate, and there should be very strong reasons given for its repeal. Unfortunately the Prime Minister has seen fit to introduce a Bill to repeal that Act before he has submitted to the House his financial proposals. We are to some extent in the dark as to the financial obligations to which the Commonwealth will be committed when the Budget is presented, and we hardly know how the Government propose to meet those obligations. It is a matter for mere conjecture, and we are scarcely justified in indulging in expectations without any degree of certainty. The Naval Loan Act was deliberately passed by the last Parliament in pursuance, and in consequence of the ratification of a scheme of naval defence which had been formulate3 and recommended by the Imperial Conference. Honorable members will remember that at that Conference a certain scheme was recommended by the British Admiralty involving the supply by the Commonwealth of a number of war vessels, comprising a considerable and important list at the head of which stood an armoured cruiser of the Indomitable type estimated to cost £1,800,000. That scheme was submitted to the House on 24th November last in the form of the following motion -
That this House approves the new scheme of naval defence adopted at the recent Imperial Conference, and is of opinion that immediate steps should be taken to provide the proposed Australian unit of the Eastern fleet of the Empire.
That resolution was carried by thirty-nine votes to nine, and amongst those who supported it were the present Prime Minister, the present Minister of External Affairs, the Government Whip, and other members of the Labour party. A number of members of the Labour party who were then in Opposition, left the House and did not take part in the division, showing, at all events, that they had no strong objections to the principle of the scheme.
– I do not think it is fair to complicate the position. There was no objection to a navy.
– The Naval Loan Bill, which it is now proposed to repeal, was brought in a few days later in order to make available the money necessary to carry out the resolution of the House. That resolution declared that it was a matter of urgency that the scheme should be immediately carried into effect. The Admiralty memorandum also suggested that it was a matter requiring immediate attention, and the Government of the day, having to give effect to the resolution, had to consider the financial resources at the disposal of the Parliament. The determination of the House was that immediate steps should be taken to carry out the scheme, and we had to decide to recommend either the policy of raising a loan or of raising the money by taxation. The close of the Parliament was then approaching, and the raising of ,£3,500,000, or any large sum approaching that amount, by taxation was beyond the bounds of possibility. No honorable member could reasonably suggest that we could then have entered upon a big scheme to raise £3,500,000 by taxation in order to carry out a work that was declared to be urgent and required to be carried out immediately. Therefore, the only alternative open to the Ministry to suggest to Parliament, and to which Parliament itself could resort, was a scheme to raise the necessary money, either by the issue of Treasury-bills extending over a limited period, or by a loan of longer duration secured by inscribed stock. The Act now proposed to be repealed provides for two schemes for raising the money, one apparently covering a short date, not exceeding five years, by the issue of Treasurybills, and the other by inscribed stock of a longer duration not exceeding eighteen years. These two schemes would be available for utilization, according to the requirements of the financial situation and the emergencies and necessities of the Government. I consider that the Government are acting with great want of foresight, in proposing to absolutely repeal the Act without even reserving to themselves the limited and more temporary scheme of issuing Treasury-bills which might tide them over a financial difficulty or assist them in the financial necessities that might arise owing to their inability to bring into immediate realization any of their own financial proposals. It may be said that they intend to pay for the Fleet by means of taxation, but it will take time to realize any of their taxation proposals. It is hardly possible to conceive of any scheme of taxation - either a land tax, an income tax, or any banking scheme - which could possibly realize all the money that they will require to pay for these vessels as the necessity arises. But for the passing of the Naval Loan Act towards the close of last session the late Government would not have been in a position to take immediate action with a view to giving effect to the recommendation of the Admiralty and the decision of this Parliament.
– The late Government did not provide a single penny for the purposes of naval- construction.
– We acquired .the necessary authority to let the contracts. Immediately the Naval Loan Act became law we communicated with the Admiralty authorizing it to make the necessary contracts for the construction of a battleship cruiser of the Indomitable class. In the absence of statutory authority We could not have taken that action.
– The late Government incurred a liability, but did nothing else.
– The contracts for the building of a battleship cruiser were let by the late Government.
– But that Government made no provision to raise a penny with which to pay for those contracts.
– We secured the necessary statutory authority to raise money to meet the payments as they fell due.
– Did the late Government place a naval loan on the London market ?
– No. It necessarily took some time for the contractors to begin operations. We obtained statutory authority to raise money with which to meet the first payment in connexion with those contracts when it became due, should there be no money in the Treasury. There was no absolute obligation imposed upon us to do more than provide for the issue of Treasury bills in such a contingency. If the condition of the finances had rendered it possible for the Government to avoid the flotation of a naval loan, the cost of our’ Australian naval unit would have been met by the issue of Treasury bills. Honorable members will doubtless recollect that when we advised resort to a naval loan, the Treasurer of the late Government estimated that at the close of the last financial year we should be faced with a deficit of £1,200,000. That was a condition of things which could not be contemplated with equanimity. Consequently we had to look ahead. The late Government were not disposed to favour the suggestion that increased taxation should be levied in the special circumstances which existed. What were those circumstances ? Under the agreement made by the Deakin Government with the State Premiers, the States were to be deprived of revenue which they formerly enjoyed to the extent of £2,500,000. Under the -per capita scheme which has been adopted by this House, they will still lose that revenue.
– All of which the Commonwealth requires for the payment of oldage and invalid pensions.
– There is no doubt that a large portion of it will be absorbed in that- way. I am merely pointing out that the States are being deprived of a vast amount of revenue, and that therefore they will be compelled to resort to new taxation in order to make up the deficiency. Was it a fair thing that the Commonwealth should impose new taxation on the top of increased taxation by the States? In the circumstances such a course of action would have been unjustifiable. As the late Prime Minister pointed out, it would have been a very startling position if the Commonwealth had formulated a scheme under which £3,500,000 would be raised by means of new taxation, after withdrawing £2,500,000 annually from the States. If that course had been adopted, it would have meant an increased payment by the Commonwealth amounting to £1.500.000 annually, and extending over a period of two and a-half years. Such payments would have imposed a tremendous strain on the financial resources of any country. When the creation of an Australian naval unit was recommended by the Imperial Defence Conference, that body contemplated that the amount required to give effect to the scheme could not be taken from the annual revenue of the Commonwealth, and that resort would have to be had to a loan of more or less short duration. Upon reference to the records of its proceedings, I find that the estimated annual cost for maintenance and other charges, includes interest upon the loan and sinking fund, amounting to approximately £600,000. So that the Admiralty authorities themselves - and it was their memorandum which was the origin of the scheme - scarcely thought that Australia could be expected to raise £5,000,000 within two and a-half years - the period over which it was .evidently contemplated the work of construction would extend. Of course we have now a very different political situation from that which then existed, though I fail to see that the financial position has in any way altered. No reduced expenditure on the part of the Commonwealth has been foreshadowed. There is no possibility, of any savings being effected from which the payments for the building of our naval unit can be made. On the other hand, certain proposals are to be submitted in favour of new taxation. I venture to predict that it will tax the wit and wisdom of the best man on the Ministerial side to devise any scheme under which the Commonwealth can raise £1,500,000 annually, for- two and a-half years in order to defray the cost of our naval scheme.
– The Government intend to borrow.
– I can scarcely imagine that a Government which deliberately proposes to repeal the Naval Loan Act of last year, will afterwards resort, either directly or indirectly, to any form of borrowing. Such a plan would stultify Ministers themselves, and would hardly be defensible under any circumstances. If the Government mean by some form of borrowing to make provision for the payment of this money, they ought to tell us so straight out. The Prime Minister, in the very short speech which he delivered in introducing the Bill, did not in any way indicate the precise mode in which the money was to be paid. It will have to be paid.
I believe that the instalments now coming due on account of our naval enterprises amount to nearly £100,000 a month.
– The amount is totting up.
– What provision is to be resorted to for the payment of this money and to meet all the outgoing expenses ? I think that the Treasurer ought to have delayed the repeal of the Naval Loan Act until he was in a position to take the House into his confidence as to how the money is to be raised, instead of leaving us, as at present, practically to grope in the dark, and to indulge in guesses and conjectures as I and other honorable members have been forced to do during the debate. - Mr. Fisher. - The honorable member’s Government had an opportunity of floating a loan.
– Up to the time of the general election, it was unnecessary to do so. We intended to float the loan in the shape of inscribed stock in any case. We could have made provision in the way of Treasury bonds ; and the present Treasurer might find in that method a very good means of financing the situation.
– We could get a quarter of a million net to-day at 3 per cent.
– No doubt we shall learn the intention of the Government when the claims for payment are made. I can hardly suppose that the Treasurer intends to pay the Admiralty, or our contractors in England, by means of the paper notes of which we have heard a good deal. They may circulate in Australia; but I do not think they will be accepted in payment of the debts of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom. In any case, resort to any such expedient as that would be only another form of borrowing, and another financial device to meet the claims against the Commonwealth; and would be far less advantageous than taking advantage of the well-considered method of borrowing proposed by the Naval Loan Act. Whatever may be the proposal in contemplation - whatever may be the intentions of the Government - in regard to the payment of this money, whether it be by a mountain of taxation, or by some form of loan, I think it would certainly be more satisfactory to provide a scheme, extending over a number of years, for gradually paying off this £3,500,000, by the instalment or timepayment system. That is a method of paying for great works and enterprises which has hitherto commended itself to financiers and
Legislatures. It would be much more consistent with our financial position and requirements than would be any attempt to raise the whole of the money and pay it away in one or two years. We have been twitted with unwisdom and want of patriotism in recommending the payment for our defence by means of loans. But, whatever may be the experience in some older countries of the world, I think that we, as a new Commonwealth, are entitled to start on our career by establishing our own precedents. We should, as we think fit, either pay for our defences, if we can, by cash, or by deferred payments extending over a number of years. If we adopt the latter method, we may be able to establish a splendid Australian Navy; but it would certainly tend to limit our aspirations, and the realization of them, if we had to pay absolutely cash down” for all our great naval works. As the system of deferred payments is legitimately resorted to in the case of other great national works, I fail to see why, in time of peace, we should not be allowed to pay for our naval defence on the same basis.
– How would the honorable member provide for recurring expenditure?
– We could deal with that as it arises. I certainly think that we” should so regulate our time payments as to wipe out the capital expenditure during the life of the proposed works, be they battleships or vessels of any other description. The scheme of the Naval Loan Act is based upon that principle. I should like to point out to my honorable friends, opposite, who claim particularly to represent the labouring classes, that, as a matter of sound national finance, it may be injurious, and even disastrous, to the interests of the workers - who are concerned especially with the extent of the wage fund and with the expenditure which capital has available for investment and distribution - to resort to the means proposed by the Government. Any strain or drain upon the wage fund, or any unnecessarily enlarged expenditure, must be injurious to the working class. I therefore think that it would be the better policy to provide for paying the £3,500,000, not in one or two years, but by spreading it over a defined period. It should be spread over a reasonably large period, as by the sinking fund established under the Act which it is now proposed to repeal. If some other method be resorted to for raising the £3,500,000. and making it payable right off the reel, with out any practical application of the instalment system, I believe that it will involve a strain upon the financial resources of the country that will affect trade and commerce, will injure industry, will be prejudicial to enterprise, and will to that extent be inimical to the interests of the workers of this country. It would be far better than resorting to any such scheme for raising the £3,500,000 in Australia, for the money to be raised in the London market, where “its subtraction would not be seriously felt, and in the country where it was being spent, instead of its being withdrawn from the Australian banks, and transmitted to London. This plan must seriously affect the financial energies and financial elasticity of the Commonwealth. To withdraw this money from the banks in any shape or form, as has been outlined, and to transmit it to London within the brief space of two and a half years, as must be done, will, I repeat, be most injurious. As a matter of financial policy, it will be found probably more harmful to the interests of the working classes of this country than would the system of financing which is the fundamental principle of the Act in question, which has been so loudly denounced by the Ministeralists. They, being pledged to this repeal, must take the sole responsibility for it. But it is only fair that those who brought about the passing of the Naval Loan Act should put forward the strong reasons of public interest which actuated them in doing so, and should point out that, in their view, its repeal will be a financial blunder. The Government. .and its supporters will sooner or later realize this, and will probably admit then that a great mistake was made.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo stated that last session certain members of the Labour party, whose names he gave, voted for the naval proposals of the then Government. It cannot be claimed, however, that they favoured borrowing for naval construction. A naval policy :is one thing, and the financing of it another, and were I to vote for a certain policy, I should not feel bound to support a proposal to borrow money to give .effect to it. As some of those whose names have been mentioned may be absent, I have thought it right to make this explanation, so that it may not go abroad that they were in favour of a naval loan. Of course, if the honorable member can produce a division list whereon their names appear as voting for the measure which we are now proposing to repeal, my statement will fall to the ground, but, in the absence of such evidence, there is no justification for bringing them into the debate. I am heartily in accord with what the Government now proposes, and, to my mind, the honorable member for Parramatta has made the only point worthy of consideration in connexion with the position of the Opposition. He urges that the Act should be kept on the statute-book as a reserve power. While there may be something in that contention, I think the Act unnecessary, because, in time of war, whatever Government may be in power will be able to raise all the money it needs in the shortest possible time.
– I did not refer to time of war. It would be useless to raise money then for the building of ships.
– If war were probable, and money were needed, the Government could, within twenty-four hours, obtain parliamentary sanction for borrowing.
– If Parliament were sitting.
– Parliament could be convened in a very short time. This consideration seems to dispose of the honorable member’s point.
– What tremendous clanger would be incurred by leaving the Act on the statute-book?
– I am opposed to the Act on the ground that we should not borrow to provide for defence. Defence preparations should be paid for directly out of revenue. I do not agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that the ships of the naval unit can be considered a reproductive asset. Their protection may assist the development of our commerce, but they cannot be considered reproductive.
– The expenditure may be considered reproductive.
– How can vessels, which must become obsolete within sixteen years, and will pay nothing on the investment, be considered a reproductive asset?
– The soldier and the sailor as well as the mirier and the storekeeper are producers.
– My contention is that war vessels which become obsolete within sixteen years are not a reproductive asset.
– Surely the shooting of men is not a reproductive work !
– Money spent on the construction of a railway earns interest and provides for renewals, but money spent on war-ships earns nothing, and, when the vessels have become obsolete, as they must do in a few years, an additional sum has to be found for their replacement. Honorable members opposite appear greatly concerned about the financial position which will be created by the repeal of the Naval Loan Act. In the past it was their duty to look after the finances of the Commonwealth, but now it is the duty of those on this side. If we cannot finance a naval policy, we shall be branded as financial bunglers. Therefore, it is to the interest of the Opposition, if it thinks that the financial position will be unsatisfactory after the repeal of the Naval Loan Act, that we should be allowed to repeal it. It will be for the public to judge hereafter of our capacity for finance.
– The interests of Australia may suffer in the meanwhile.
– They will not. Australia is now in good hands, as my honorable friend will know in the near future. The right honorable member for Swan and others have referred to the proposal of the last Government to borrow for naval construction, and to establish a sinking fund to wipe out the debt, as a thoroughly business-like proposal. From their point of view, and following the financial methods of the past, it may be; but a better way is to raise what is needed by taxation, and thus save interest charges.
– We should make the community pay for its insurance.
– The right honorable member for Swan thinks that we should borrow£3,500,000, to be paid off within sixteen years, by means of an annual appropriation to a sinking fund of an amount equal to 5 per cent. of the principal, or about £175,000,and for interest, at 3½ per cent., of £122,500, making in all, an annual burden of £297, 500. The interest payable for sixteen years would amount to £1, 960,000. The payments to the sinking fund over the sixteen years would amount to£2,800,000, of a total payment in the sixteen years of £4,760,000. Listening to the debate as conducted from the other side, one would imagine that by providing for a sinking fund we should work off the loan without the country being called upon to pay anything. It is the impression which might be created in the public mind. But as a matter of fact we find that under the system proposed by honorable members opposite we should have to pay £4,760,000 for the £3,500,000 borrowed. In other words, under this business-like system of finance we should be asking the people to pay £1,260,000 more than they would have to pay if the money required for the construction of the fleet were raised by taxation. If I were called upon to deal with this matter, and could raise the money from revenue for the construction of these boats, I should save to the people in sixteen years £1,260,000. That is my idea of sound finance.
– Surely the money the honorable member would raise by taxation would be worth something to the country if invested.
– Decidedly, and I say that if it were invested in the construction of the proposed fleet it would result in a saving to the people of £1,260,000 in sixteen years. That is what it would be worth.
– The money raised by taxation is of just the same value as that raised by loan.
– Just so, but under my scheme we should, at the end of the sixteen years, have £1,260,000 in hand for the purpose of replacing the boats which would have become obsolete, and that would not be provided under the scheme proposed by honorable members opposite. I know that it is very difficult to convince the honorable member for Parramatta. It is said that the life of these boats is sixteen years, and that in that time they become obsolete. Under the scheme of honorable members opposite there would be a sinking fund to meet the cost of the fleet, and at the close of the sixteen years that money would be gone, and it would be necessary to renew the fleet.
– The honorable member does not understand the question.
– I do understand it. The honorable member must not assume that because I am a new member I have no thinking powers ; if he does he will make a great mistake. I probably know as much about these figures as the honorable gentleman who was Treasurer in many Ministries. Judging by his statement the other night he does not appear to know very much about his own finances. It will be necessary to renew the boats of the fleet in six teen years. Do honorable members opposite contend that the navy now proposed to be constructed will be sufficient for all time? It is probable that before the sixteen years expires it will be necessary for us to treble the strength of the proposed navy at treble the expense. I say that we are not justified in borrowing money for the establishment of a fleet. If the present Government can establish a fleet equal to that proposed to be established by honorable members opposite, and can, as compared with the proposal of the last Government, save money to the country, that will be good finance. The country will . be pleased to have a Government in power that can establish a fleet without- resorting to the old system of finance requiring the payment of interest upon borrowed money. I say that we should, as far as possible, prevent the unnecessary expenditure of borrowed money. We have here an instance in which this can be done. The present Government propose to build a navy equal in strength to that proposed by the last Government without borrowing money, and will thus save the country £1,260,000 in sixteen years, as compared with the expenditure which would have been involved under the proposal of the last Government. I hope that as the necessity arises for in-‘ creasing the strength of our navy, we shall be able in the same way to raise the money necessary for the purpose, and that the present Government will never be guilty of borrowing money for works that will not be reproductive.
.- As a strong supporter of economy, both in time and money, I do not propose to detain the House for more than a moment or two. 1 must again call attention to the extraordinary and anomalous position in which we find ourselves in regard to this measure and several others, which have involved excursions into what I might fairly term speculative or prophetic finance. These, although perhaps urgent from some points of view, have no sufficient justification when we recollect that we have ye? to learn the financial proposals of the Government. Speaking on last Friday on the Trust Fund Advances Bill, I said-
– The honorable member must not quote from a previous debate of the same session.
– Hoping to save time, ] would have said if I recollected the remarks made on a previous occasion-
– The honorable member will be out of order in referring to that.
– Then quite independently of anything previously said, let me say that we find ourselves hampered by the recollection that we are asked, as I think no Federal Parliament has ever been asked before to deal with a succession of important financial proposals prior to the introduction of the Budget statement of the financial policy of the Government. We are therefore, without any knowledge how these different proposals are to be carried out financially, or how they are to be adjusted, dovetailed, or balanced one against the other. That compels every critic of the Government’s proposals to wander into unproductive fields, because all their criticisms must be based upon assumptions which may or may not prove to be correct. Something can be said in justification of making the measure which included the determination of the sum to be returned to the States for nine and a-half years the first measure of the session.
– Order !
– That is a question of national policy, although it was an integral part of the Budget we have yet to hear. So with several other proposals, particularly including this before us. They are each of them spokes in the Budget wheel. They can only be viewed in their right relation or appreciated in their bearing, either upon our national finances or the questions immediately affected when they are seen in their proper position and relation to the wheel of finance. In these circumstances, I propose to spare the House any allusion to the financial situation, since this, with its various proposals interrelated, and awaiting a statement of the means by which the accounts of the country are to be balanced, has yet to be explained from a Ministerial point of view. But I conclude with one reply to certain criticisms offered by interjections from the Prime Minister inquiring the reason why the loan authorized by the last Parliament was not floated.- First of all, it was because it was not- necessary to float it; the payments on account of the construction of the great armoured cruiser are only now coming due. We had months before us in which to select a period for placing that loan upon the market, and we had yet a further period during which it would have been a comparatively simple matter to finance by means of Treasury-bills pending the best opportunity. Of course, the object - we cannot call it of delay, because the money was not yet needed - but the reason why no action was taken was simply because, like every other borrower, we desired to go upon the market at the moment when we could obtain the very best terms. If that moment had occurred shortly after the passing of the Bill, that is to say, if an exceptionally good opportunity had offered, the loan would have been floated then. If it had not arisen, as I think it has not yet, it would not have been floated ; but we had taken all necessary steps to avail ourselves of the right moment to secure the greatest advantage to the country. Every Government does the same; every borrower who “can afford to wait, or to finance so as to enable himself to wait, does the same. It is no new departure of ours, but only what every great borrower on the London market always does. It was a well-trodden path that we followed, and the customary course was pursued; the money was not borrowed, simply because no sufficiently tempting opportunity had offered, and no accounts had been presented for payment.
– I regard the Bill as one having an important bearing on the whole question of naval defence! There is no doubt that the country demanded that there should be a naval defence scheme; and I believe there was a feeling of very general satisfaction, when it was decided to establish this naval unit, with a loan of £3,500,000 as the means of paying for it. The honorable member for Hunter just now expressed a point of view that I was about to present, namely, that this naval unit does not represent the sum total of our ideals in naval defence. In order to keep ourselves in line with what is being done in every part of the world, we shall be forced to increase the strength of our naval unit from time to time. The honorable member for Hunter told us that the responsibility is cast on the Government of financing this matter, and that it would be wise to allow the Government to carry out their scheme, and thereby, of course, contribute- to their own financial discomfiture. However, we, as an Opposition, are under an obligation to save the people, as far as possible, from unnecessary and vexatious taxation. The honorable member for Denison, and other honorable members opposite, have been most emphatic on the point that there is in reserve a great field’ for taxation, in the shape of a land tax. I venture to say that a land tax, with an exemption as proposed at present, will not afford an unlimited field, but that on the contrary, that field is comparatively limited so long as that exemption remains: If the Government are determined to make progress in naval development and other means of defence in the same ratio as other nations are doing, they will very soon find that they wilt have to tax again and again to such an extent that, not only will the tax prove a burden on the landholders, but will’ press very heavily on the great masses of the people. One of the causes of the world-wide experience of increasing prices lies in the demands made by labour ; and the effects are now being felt by labour.
– Order !
– I may be out of order; but I desire to show cause and effect, and that, as the cost of production is increased by taxation, so is the price of the productions raised to the consumer and the great masses of the people.
– Order !
– In deference to you. Mr. Speaker, I shall not pursue that argument ; but it does appear to me, beyond all question, that, if we are to carry out all the developments required in Australia by means of revenue, without resorting to taxation, we shall do violence to the teachings of experience the world over. Of course, we may disregard the teachings of experience, but I have lived long enough to know that these are more to be relied on than the most advanced theories.
– Is not the experience of England, in regard to naval expenditure, good teaching?
– The conditions of Great Britain are entirely different from what our conditions are ever likely to be. Whatever we may say about Great Britain and her naval affairs, we must all feel proud at the greatsupremacy which British policy has enabled the Empire to maintain on the seas.
– And all out of revenue !
– Honorable members who are new to the House seem determined to iterate and reiterate ideas which have been exploded and disproved ; but a statement in the cable news to-day must have the effect of disabusing their minds of any idea that the Imperial Government contemplate carrying on their naval defence entirely out of revenue.
– That is not a proposal by the British Government.
– I know that; but we are told in the cable -
Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, who led the agitation in favour of increased armameats a few months ago, is preparing a memorandum urging the laying down of twelve Dreadnoughts in 191 1, and the raising of a naval loan of £60,000,000.
– Lord Charles Beresford is not the Government..
– Neither are honorable members opposite the Federal Parliament. By the repeal of the Naval Loan Act we shall create conditions necessitating heavy taxation, which, so far from falling entirely on the landholders, as suggested, though affecting the latter directly, will indirectly fall on the masses of the people. The increased cost of living is going to have an effect on this country which I venture to think honorable members, who now constitute the Government majority, do not contemplate. I am quite satisfied as to what the result is going to be - that the Government will soon be compelled to abandon the exemption of £5,000, and resort to taxation applying to almost every acre of land in the country.
.- The position, as it presents itself to me, is that the Government had one of two alternatives. One was to allow the Naval Loan Act to remain on the statute-book. Had they done so, what would the consequences have been? The Opposition would have accused the members of the Government of being false to principles that they had often enunciated in the House. They could not, with any consistency, have availed themselves of the Act to raise a loan, even though it was passed by the preceding Government. I admit that, if it were generally agreed that a. loan policy for the purposes of naval defence was justified, the scheme put forward in that direction by the late Government was on sound lines, because it provided for a sinking fund-
– The heaviest ever proposed in Australia.
– As I said, if we admitted that we should borrow for naval defence purposes, then, of course, the proposal of the late Government was on sound lines; but that is the very point on which this side of the House differs, I hope respectfully, from honorable members opposite. We believe that it is a mistake to inaugurate a. great scheme of naval defence by a loan proposition. We hold that the. first duty of every man in Australia is to defend his country. There is also a second obligation on all citizens who do not take an active part in the fighting to provide what some honorable members have aptly called an insurance fund for the protection of their property. My great objection to the application of a loan policy to our defence system was that the incidence of taxation that must necessarily have followed was not fair. No honorable member can conscientiously argue that, when the whole of our taxation is imposed through the Customs House, and, therefore, the revenue to. pay interest on a loan for defence purposes must come from that source, the incidence of taxation for defence would be fair to the great masses of the people. If ever it becomes necessary to defend this country, it will be from the masses that the men will be drawn. If they provide the requisite blood and sinew, I do not think that the property-owners of Australia will be so wanting in patriotism as to refuse to contribute their fair proportion to the cost of defence. But that could not happen if the interest resulting from a loan policy for defence purposes had to be met from Customs and Excise revenue. That ismy greatest objection to the Act, passed last session. It was hardly fair of the honorable member for Bendigo to refer to certain honorable members as having voted for anaval defence scheme last session, and then try to make it appear that by so doing they voted for a loan policy. No one knows better than the honorable member that the House was clearly divided on the Loan Bill, and he cannot find; any. of the names which he mentioned in the division list in favour of a loan policy.
– It is hard to say what happened. The honorable member’s party were like a lot of raving madmen most of the time.
– The honorable member knows that the division list was very clear, and no one, least of all the honorable member for Bendigo, can construe it in such a way as to make it appear that, because the bulk of us voted for a defence scheme we voted at the same time for a loan policy. The Government should be commended for introducing a repeal Bill, because, if they had so wished, they could have utilized the machinery created last session by the late Government to raise a very large sum of money, and have blamed the other side. They, however, took the consistent line, although it is unpalatable to honorable members opposite. We would feel exactly the same if we were in their place, and therefore, I find no fault with them for defending their own pet project in this respect.
.- I had not the opportunity of hearing the opening remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo, to which the honorable member for Grey has just referred, but I take it that he was referring to the division which took place in the last Parliament, when,by 39 votes to 9, it was decided that the agreement arrived at at the Naval Conference be indorsed, and immediate steps be taken to give effect to it.
– Would the honorable member give the exact wording of the motion, upon which the division took place?
– It was as follows :-
That this House approves (he. new scheme of naval defence adopted at the recent Imperial Conference, and is of opinion that immediate steps should be taken to provide the proposed Australian unit of the Eastern fleet of the Empire.
– There is nothing about a loan there.
– I have not said there was. All I wish to say is that the agreement arrived at at the Imperial Conference was indorsed, and that those honorable members whosenames appeared with the “ ayes “ in that division declared in favour of taking immediate steps to carry it into effect. It was agreed by all honorable members who voted for the. motion, including those whose names were given by the honorable member for Bendigo, that it was a case of emergency. They decided that immediate steps should be taken to meet that emergency, thus showing that they were alive to the necessities of the case. The present Prime Minister, by interjection, when the. honorable member for Ballarat was speaking on 1st December, 1909, said, in regard to the borrowing of money for naval defence purposes, as reported in Hansard, page 6666. “ I guarded myself by saying that, in case of emergency, borrowing was justified.” A large number of the Labour party agreed last session,by their votes, that it was a caseof emergency, and the Prime Minister said that in at case of emergency borrowing is justified. Consequently; the honorable member for Bendigo was quite right in drawing the conclusion to which the honorable member for Grey objected. I am glad to find that, although the Loan Act is to be repealed, the policy of the late Government is to be gone on with. Instead of having what has been truly called a “ mosquito fleet,” absolutely useless for offensive purposes, or for guarding the great oversea commerce on which our prosperity to such a large extent depends, I am pleased to think that we are to have a fleet which will be able to do something to protect our trade, and also to take a fair share in a naval battle affecting perhaps not only Australia, but the Empire, with whose welfare ours is bound up. I am glad that that policy is to be continued. I regret, however, that the Naval Loan Act is to be repealed, because, as the honorable member for Parramatta urged so strongly yesterday, if it were allowed to remain on the statute-book it would be a reserve power which the present or any succeeding Government could use, if necessary, to raise money for this most important purpose. Although the Government propose to repeal that Act they have given us no indication of how they intend to raise the money required for naval defence purposes. The Prime Minister is absolutely silent on the point, although £3,500,000 will have to be found within the next two years to pay for the vessels of the fleet.
– Does not the honorable member think that Australia herself is rich enough to find the money without our borrowing from England ?
– Of course I do; but at the same time the floating of a loan for this purpose is the easiest and best way to provide the money.
– Certainly it is the easiest.
– Will the honorable member indicate the means by which the Government propose to raise the necessary money? One member of the caucus, the honorable member for Denison, made the distinct statement on Tuesday evening that the landlords of Australia were going to be called upon to provide it.
– I said that if I had my way they would be called upon to do so.
– Does the caucus generally share the honorable member’s view?
– That is what the honorable member would like to know.
– I should indeed, for I know that other members of the caucus have expressed a different opinion. While the honorable member thinks that by means of direct taxation the landlords of Australia could be made to pay for the naval defence of the Commonwealth, so great an authority as the present Minister of Home Affairs has stated time after time that there has not yet been devised a system of direct taxation, the burden of which the landlords could not pass on to their tenants. Any one who is at all familiar with the subject knows that that statement is correct; but the Government, perhaps, think that they will be able to devise a scheme that will not be open -to that objection. The honorable member for Cook, another member of the caucus, holds a totally different opinion as to how the money required for naval defence should be raised. Speaking on the Naval Loan Bill last session, he declared that it ought to be obtained by a system of taxing the oversea trade and commerce of Australia. The honorable member made a long speech on the subject, and went into figures with a view of showing that the money could be raised by such a tax, which I would remind the House would eventually fall on the producers of Australia, upon the men who gain a living by exporting their wool, hides, butter, wheat, or other produce. The honorable member for Cook did not put this forward as his own idea. He went so far as to say -
The Government propose to raise the money by loan and so to burden posterity. On the other hand, the Labour party propose that as this navy will be in the nature of an insurance to trade upon the waters, that trade should bear such an equitable tax as would provide, not only for the capital cost, but for the upkeep of the Navy.
It will thus be seen that the honorable member proposed that not merely the capital cost, but the upkeep of the navy should be financed by means of a tax on the oversea trade and commerce of Australia. This was not a haphazard statement, for the honorable member repeated it, declaring that whereas the Labour party would find the necessary money by direct taxation on trade and commerce on the waters, the Fusion Government would do something else. I should like to know whether the Government have considered that proposition. Still another scheme was put forward by the present Minister of External Affairs, who differed altogether from the views expressed by the honorable member for Cook and the honorable member for Denison. The honorable gentleman stated during the debate on the Naval Loan Bill last session that he looked upon defence as a matter of national concern, and considered that every member of the community should bear his or her fair proportion of the cost. He said -
Certainly all those who think, and many who do not think much, believe that defence is a national duty, and are prepared to make sacrifices for it. I should like to see a method adopted for testing the genuineness of this feeling. My opinion is that the people are prepared to pay taxes directly for the defence of the country. One of the chief reasons why I object to the Bill is that the Government does not provide for direct contributions for defence.
Then, in reply to an interjection by the honorable member for Grey, who declared that the owners of property should pay their fair share of the cost of defence, the present Minister of External Affairs said -
Undoubtedly. I have said that the people are ready to pay for defence.
Colonel Foxton. - To whom does the honorable member refer when he speaks of the “ people?”
– The whole people. Every adult who has anything should contribute towards the cost of defending the nation.
Colonel Foxton.- That is best arranged for by taxation through the Custom-house.
– No. Every person in the community is interested in protecting his life, the lives of his friends and relatives, and his home; but the wealthy have an additional obligation. They should pay for the defence of their possessions.
Colonel Foxton. - I do not know that their lives are of more value than those of others. What is the good of property to a man who has lost his life?
– Every one must pay for the defence of his life, and those who have property should pay more for its defence. When Customs taxation is imposed, the breadwinner who has a large family contributes a great deal of - the cost of defence, while the wealthy bachelor contributes comparatively nothing, although he has a much bigger stake in the country.
Colonel Foxton. - Then, inferentially, we should tax bachelors.
– Reference has been made to the imposition of a poll tax. The Government’s proposals are equivalent to a poll tax for defence on every man, woman, and child in the community. But those who are best able to pay ought to contribute most.
– The honorable member proposes to test the patriotism of the rich, not of the whole people.
– Every one should contribute. It would be impossible to tax only the rich.
As the Budget has not yet been delivered, I should like to know whether the Government propose . to adopt any of these schemes, one of which, it will be noted, was put forward by the present Minister of External Affairs. I confess that I find myself in a difficulty in regard to this Bill, on account of the uncertainty which exists as to how the money with which to pay for our Australian naval unit is to be raised.
– All in good time.
– The millennium may come in good time, but I do not see any sign of it yet.
– The honorable member did not think that the millennium was at hand on 13th April last.
– After all the promises which have been made by honorable members opposite, I really did expect that before now some serious attempt would have been made to give effect to them. It is due to the House and the country that we should be informed how the money necessary to defray the cost of our naval unit is to be raised.
.- One difficulty under which the honorable member for Illawarra laboured was that he mixed up the word “ emergency “ with the words “ immediate steps should be taken,” which appear in the motion to which he referred. May I point out that, in the proposal relating to the establishment of an Australian naval unit, there is no word like “emergency” used. There is nothing in it to indicate that the question was one of emergency, or that those honorable members who voted for it believed that the necessary money should be raised by means of a loan.
– Then why was the use of the words “ immediate steps “ indorsed?
– Immediate steps are being taken at the present time. The cost of our naval unit will be defrayed as the payments fall due, yet no loan has been floated, nor will one be floated. In these circumstances, I would again point out to the honorable member for Illawarra that hp merely demonstrated that there was nothing in the minds of those who supported that proposal to indicate that the matter was one of emergency, or that the cost of our naval unit should be paid out of loan moneys. He has fallen into the same error as the honorable member for Bendigo, by attempting to prove that certain members of the Labour party, who approved of the establishment of an Australian Navy, were in favour of defraying its cost by means of a loan. If my contention be correct, the whole of his argument, which was advanced with a view to casting a stigma upon honorable members upon this side of the Chamber, falls to the ground. While it’ is true that a certain resolution was agreed to, and that some members of the Labour party voted for it, it is equally true that they did so because they objected to it going upon record that they were opposed to the establishment of an Australian Navy. Others, again, rather than risk being misrepresented, as they have been misrepresented this afternoon, declined to vote upon the motion, and, therefore, left the Chamber. They were not opposed to the creation of an Australian Navy, but they may have been opposed to the particular scheme which was adopted by the late Government, and which was the outcome of the Imperial Defence Conference, which the honorable member for Parramatta now claims was his own special creation.
– Who said that?
– They were opposed to the cost of our naval unit being paid for out of loan moneys. I “repeat that there is not one word in the motion to which the honorable member for Illawarra directed our attention which indicates that this matter was one of emergency, and not a syllable in it which commits any honorable member who voted for it to paying for the scheme out of loan funds. It seems to me that honorable members opposite ought to be very grateful for the support which they were accorded by the Labour party on that particular occasion. I always voted against conduct such as they meted out to us-
– What about the conduct that the Labour party meted out to us?
– We were in a minority at the time, and had to submit on every occasion. Did we emulate the example of my honorable friends opposite, they would now be squirming under the use of the “gag.” However, I hope that it will not be necessary to resort to that expedient in order to facilitate the transaction of business.
– Order !
– I wish to direct the attention of the House to the fact that one out of five who voted for that resolution, or even a higher percentage, if we take into consideration only the supporters of the late Fusion Government, were defeated at the polls. It was somewhat dangerous to vote for the motion, since many who voted for it were -removed from the public positions which they held.
– -Does the honorable member think that a member of Parliament should never vote for anything of which he thinks the people do not approve?
– I have not said anything of the kind. The statement is one which the honorable member, with his wellknown acuteness, desires to read into my remarks, but of which I repudiate the authorship. When I turn to the record, I find that not one member of the Labour party voted for the second reading of the Naval Loan Bill. In fact, the vote was a small one, only twenty-one members voting for the measure and eighteen against - not counting pairs. The majority was only three. Consequently it is not a fact, as was inferentially alleged a few moments ago, that there was a majority of thirty in favour of the policy of the late Govern-, ment.
– Were there Labour members only in the minority of eighteen?
– No, there were also Mr. Coon and Mr. Storrer, who are no longer members of this House.
– They have been punished for what they did.
– Two out of eighteen is not a large percentage to have received’ punishment on that score, whilst on the. other side about one in four was rejected at the’ poll. In other words, six of those who voted with the late Government have disappeared from this Parliament.
– We are here, and the country is safe, anyway !
– Yes,’ and while the honorable member and his party remain inOpposition the country will be safe ! May I now for a moment draw attention to what appears to me to be an absolutely unique’ circumstance in the history of Australian politics. I allude to the overwhelming desire of the Opposition to give the Government of the day more money than they require. I do not recollect, in the few. years of public life which have been permitted to me, a similar situation. I never remember even reading of a parliamentary Opposition being so overwhelmingly generous as to desire to place in the hands of the Government millions more money than they declared to be necessary for carrying out their policy. When I remember the denunciation indulged inby the honorable member for Parramatta and other members of the Opposition concerning the Labour party, and contrast it with their present attitude, I am reminded of a passage that was quoted last year in a debate upon finance -
Fair sirs, you spat on us on Wednesday last,
Another day you called us thieves,
Another day you calledus robbers
And for these courtesies we will give you so much monies.
How aptly those words apply to what the members of the Opposition used to say about the Labour party ! We were not qualified to deal with finance. We were not fit to govern the country. The Labour party would make a “mull” of things if it got into power. We were not fit to be trusted. Yet to-day the honorable member for Parramatta and his colleagues wish to heap money into the lap of the Government to the extent of millions which the Treasurer himself says are not required. Surely this is an extraordinary position. I am forced to the belief that the real desire of the Opposition is to inaugurate a borrowing policy in Australia.
– Is the honorable member stone-walling?
– If I were to reply to the right honorable member for Swan as he replied to me when I made a very innocent interjection a few days ago, I am sure that he would not like it. But I could not possibly speak in such terms as he employs. The only excuse, I say, that I can find for the Opposition, is that they are imbued with a desire to commence a borrowing policy. But the people of this country have indicated that they do not desire to put a mortgage upon the Commonwealth and to start upon a road which would place us in the hands of the financiers - those hands that would show no mercy once they commenced to throttle our financial necks ! I really deplore the attitude of the Opposition. I cannot believe that they are so sincere as really to be . anxious that the Cabinet should be flooded with money. Their anxiety seems to me to be simply that we shall launch upon a borrowing policy that would conduce to expenditure which, in my opinion, would be most deplorable from the point of view of the interests of Australia. We have heard much talk about a system of borrowing for the purposes of a navy. But I should like to point out to those who hear me, and to those who will read my few remarks, that even had we borrowed , £3,500,000 the moment the loan was negotiated we should have had to start taxing the people of Australia to the extent of £250,000 a year. The money could not have been borrowed for less than 3½ per cent.
– The Bill provided for borrowing at 3 per cent.
– The Naval Loan Act provides for the borrowing of money by means of the issue of inscribed stock at 3 per cent., or Treasury-bills at 3½ per cent. According to the Leader of the Opposition, the flotation of the loan was not hurried on with by the issue of inscribed stock because of the power to issue Treasury bonds, from which utterance it appears probable that most of the money would have been borrowed at 3½ per cent. Possibly the condition that only 3 per cent. should be given for inscribed stock was a reason for the non-flotation of the loan.
– We did not need the money at once. It would have been foolish to commence paying interest before we could use the money.
– The interest on the proposed loan and the contribution to the sinking fund which was to extinguish it would have meant an annual tax of £250,000 on the people of the Commonwealth.
– There would have been no extra taxation.
– Perhaps not at first, but £250,000 a year would have had to be taken from the revenue obtained by taxing the people. It might be thought from the statements which have been made from the other side that we have only to borrow to be relieved of all obligation regarding the finding of money to pay for the naval unit. But right up to the 13th April last, when the shock came - and before that date the late Ministers had no idea that they would be beaten - nothing was done in the direction of floating a loan. Payments arising out of the agreement which had been entered into were to fall due on the 30th June, so that the late Ministers had only ten weeks in which to find the money necessary to meet them. It is well known that Australian loans have been floated eight, nine, and sometimes twelve months before payments have become due; yet the last Government allowed only two and a-half months for the floating of its proposed loan. That fact indicates clearly that had we not insisted that the interest on inscribed stock should not be more than 3 per cent., our predecessors would have gone into the London market under circumstances which would have made the borrowing of this money a disaster to Australia. The lenders of money have not bowels of compassion. They know the financial condition of the Governments borrowing from them, and have never been lenient to a Government which was in straitened circumstances. The people did better than they knew by voting as they did at the last election, thus preventing the floating of the proposed loan and the initiation of a borrowing policy.
– How is this Government finding the money to make the payments necessitated by the agreement relating to the naval unit?
– That will be disclosed when the Budget is submitted. No doubt the honorable member will listen carefully to every word of the Treasurer’s speech, even though it may be read, as his last was. I view with pleasure this proposal to repeal the Naval Loan Act. In the words of the honorable member for Grey, the Government could not do otherwise. Every member of the Labour Party voted last session against the proposed naval loan, and spoke against borrowing for defence. To-day they are giving effect to the views expressed then, and to their promises to the electors. By so doing they indicate that they will be able to finance the naval preparations to which we are committed; without having to borrow on any market.
– The situation in which the members of the Opposition find themselves is anything but satisfactory, not because we cannot prevent the proposed repeal of the Naval Loan Act, but because it illustrates the position in which we are likely to be placed regarding many other Bills. The Prime Minister, when speaking on the Address-in-Reply, said that he would listen to the arguments from this side of the Chamber, and would settle questions on their merits, agreeing to modifications of his schemes if he were satisfied that they should be made. I do not object in the abstract to the proposal to repeal an Act of the last Government. I have said before, and I repeat now, that I recognise that the public has given the Labour party a substantial majority. The Government will be able to carry any measure it submits, to the minutest details, notwithstanding our opposition. But the Prime Minister assured us that he would listen to our criticism of the Government policy, and the proposer and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech, in language a little more eloquent, because, no doubt, carefully prepared, said that they, too, would be influenced by the arguments coming from this side of the House. Yet to-day the Prime Minister, the only member of the Ministry who could entertain objections to any feature of this Bill, is absent. Even if he were here, he has his numbers, and one feels that it is almost useless to bring arguments to bear upon this question. The Labour party, if honorable members will permit me to say so, have become hysterical on this question of loans. 1 have watched Labour literature and journalism, and the utterances of Labour members since I witnessed the advent of the party to the State Parliament of New South Wales in 1890. 1 was then a Minister of the Crown, and I saw the first Labour members enter that Parliament. I remember well that one of their number said that they came to make, not to follow precedents. I have watched them ever since, and have never failed to notice that on the subject of loans they have what Emerson calls an “inflammation.” They apparently fail to recognise the business principle which underlies loans.
– We have always advocated loans for reproductive works.
– I take exception to what the honorable member says. I have heard Labour members of this House who afterwards occupied Ministerial positions, reiterate the policy of the party as opposed to loans. There appears to have existed amongst them an idea that all the people who lent money to the States are Jews, and that they resorted to the exaction of ridiculous rates of interest as money lenders did in the days of usury.
– “ Bloodsuckers “ is what they were called last night.
– I think it is very likely that that name was applied to them, but it only confirms my view as to the hysterical way in which loans are regarded by members of the Labour party. On both sides of the House there are men of the world and men of observation. I suppose that every honorable member has had some interest in a public company, or has watched the conduct of such companies. We all know the difference between the capital and the revenue of a business, and we know that they are absolutely distinct. ‘If people ^propose ‘to enter upon any business, whether it i« that of a coffee stall in Paddy’s Market,
Or that of a big sugar company in Queensland, one of the first considerations of the board of directors or of accountants watching over the finances of the business is to keep its capital absolutely separate from its revenue. We know that the ordinary revenue of every company is kept distinct from its capital, and that if a new mill is to be erected, or an addition made to a grocer’s shop, the expenditure necessary is kept distinct from the revenue of the business. Otherwise, a man conducting a small business might find himself devoid of the means of living. He might find that to add a new room to his shop would require all the money he earned in the following year, and he would have nothing to live upon in the meantime.
– Does not a business man charge insurance against the revenue of his business?
– That has nothing to do with the question of a loan. All large business ‘firms have an insurance fund. A firm doing business in a very large way, instead of paying insurance premiums, will frequently establish an insurance fund of its own.
– Would it borrow to insure ?
– Honorable members are leading me into a labyrinth of conundrums which have nothing to do with the question before us. If I attempted to answer them I should find myself delivering a scattered lecture on different aspects of political economy, and the Speaker would very properly pull me up. I wish honorable members opposite to recognise that, although the Bill they are about to assist the Government to repeal, was one passed by honorable members now on this side of the House, we are quite capable of viewing the proposal in a calm and businesslike way, and I shall demonstrate that the proposal of the late Government was an absolutely business-like proposal. If honorable members opposite will rid their minds of the “inflammation” on the subject of loans to which I have referred, they will in their hearts be prepared to agree with me. If we are to defend ourselves, as we all admit, we should require a certain class of ships which we must pay for. We first of all ascertain how long those ships will last. Some persons say ten years, and I notice that the ten years’ period is more often suggested by honorable members on the other side. Some say fifteen years, and the honorable member for Parramatta quoted very good authority for the conclusion that these vessels would have a life of twenty years. It is impossible to say, accurately, what the effective life of these vessels will be. It depends entirely upon the progress of invention during the next few years. The airships may be developed to such an extent that we may shortly find that ships upon the sea are absolutely at the mercy of ships in the air. On the other hand, some unfortunate circumstance may delay the progress in the development of airships, and warships being built to-day may meet with the approval of experts for the next twenty years.
– The ships which the late Government proposed should be constructed might become obsolete in five years.
– Of course they might. There is nothing to laugh at in what the honorable member says. It is neither subtle nor humorous. I mean to say that it is perfectly obvious to us all. The Dreadnought, even, is obsolete now in the sense that it is not the type of ship that is now most favoured, because ships of later construction embody the results of a change of ideas in naval construction. One nation is watching another most carefully to note what alterations in this direction are being made, and no nation could afford suddenly to throw the whole of her fleet on one side. Even Great Britain, with something like 450 ships of war - and Heaven knows what they cost - could not afford to throw all that fleet on the scrap-heap, and say that she would begin the construction of a navy de novo. As no nation can do that, and all can afford to keep their ships for a certain number of years, improving them as time goes on, let us admit, for argument’s sake, that the ships we propose to construct will last, not for twenty years, but for ten years, which is a fair compromise between the two extremes that have been stated. We are to pay for them a sum of £3,500,000. These ships will, as the honorable member for Parramatta pointed out, be reproductive in this sense, that if we do not possess them, or if England does not possess them, we cannot produce anything for export. The sea is the highway of nations, and that highway must be policed and watched by the Powers, whether military, naval, or civil. Without committing myself, or asking other honorable members to commit ourselves to the view that the fleet would be reproductive, I will admit, for the .sake of argument, that it would not be reproductive; but I contend, with the honorable member for Parramatta, that warships are required for guarding die highways of commerce. We must, in this connexion, recognise the difference in the conduct of military and naval affairs. Military forces remain ashore to defend the country, whilst we know that, according to the practice laid down by Nelson, we must, with a navy, go out to meet the enemy, and not wait until he comes to us. We do not keep our ships in port and wait until the enemy comes to attack us; but go out to find the enemy. Any one who has read Mahan’s Life of Nelson, or his Influence of Sea Power upon History, knows very well that Nelson went to the end of the Mediterranean, to Egypt, to find the French, and that he went to the West Indies to find them. He treated them as our police to-day would treat bushrangers. They would not wait in a town until the bushrangers attacked some bank ; but would go out into the wilds of the country to find and destroy them. We must recognise this difference between the policy of the military and naval operations. We are proposing to establish a fleet of a certain number of .warships which will cost £3,500,000. They are intended to police the ocean highways of commerce. Honorable members must recollect that almost everything that goes from or comes to Australia is really Austraiian property. We may say that 99 per cent, of the goods that are bought by Australian people to come to Australia, are f.o.b. - that is to say, once they are shipped on board they belong to the Australian importer - and all goods that go from here, except that very small portion of our wool which is here bought by American, French, “and German buyers, leave this country as Australian property. We may take it that the great cobweb of shipping between Australia and England, Germany, India, and every part of the world, bring goods that are ordered by the Australian people, and are Australian property. We are, therefore, purchasing this navy for the protection of our Australian interests. I have heard people say that goods coming here do not belong to us, and that they are no concern of ours.
– Is this navy not an insurance ?
– It is a form of “ insurance,” just as is a policeman. The honorable member will agree that, after all, words are the counters of the wise and the money of fools, and that words are ‘capable of being turned to all sorts of purposes. It is “insurance” in that it insures safety, but, as I say, we have only to describe a policeman as an “ insurance” in order to see the absurdity of the application. We are buying these ships to protect Australian produce - it may be the produce of the dairyman, who is sending his goods through an agent, the produce of the man who is sending lucerne, or of the small fanner who is sending his sheep or lambs. I admit that we are buying the ships also for another purpose, namely, to assist a little in the defence of the British Empire.
– Order !
– I am not going into that subject, which I dealt with in a previous address; but we recognise our obligation, and that is why we are securing ships of the particular description ordered. We are going .to use these ships, I assume, for ten years in order to protect the interests of- the people over a period of ten years. Why should the people in the first two or three years of the period pay for the defence of the citizens of subsequent years ? Is it not fair and equitable to say that, if the defence by these ships extends over a period of ten years, they should be paid for by the people who enjoy the protection during the ten years?
– Does the honorable member propose to stop at one lot of vessels ?
– We are not dealing with that matter now.
– That is the assumption.
– When we get into step, as it were, with the other nations in the matter of naval strength, I hope we shall never depart from the practice of making each generation pay for its own defence. I am not speaking of what we shall do in the future - sufficient for the day are the fleets thereof.
– But the honorable member talked about defence for ten years.
– Quite so, and I say that if the Act is repealed, as no doubt it will be, and if, as the Prime Minister says, he is going to extend his payments over three or five years, he is permitting the people in the subsequent five or seven years to escape.
– No, we shall build new boats.
– The policy of the late Government seemed a perfectly business-like one. They were informed, and they believed, that the ships were going to last over a period of fifteen years, and, therefore, they provided per annum a sum which would in fifteen or :sixteen years, by compound interest, pay off the whole cost. The idea was then that if we had had to have a second fleet of vessels-
– The honorable member’s argument is good for as many :ships as we require.
– Quite so; but :if the vessels of the first fleet are only to last ten years, why should we throw the whole of the capital cost on the taxpayers the first three years?
– This is only the begin.ning of a fleet.
– We are talking about the beginning of the fleet. The bon orable member ought to be in a community of prophets, so anxious is he to deal with the future. The question is whether the payment of the £3,500,000 should be distributed over a period during which the people are to enjoy the benefits of the projection, or whether it should ‘be concentrated on the first two or three, or even five, years, leaving the people of the subsequent years free from any contribution.
– That is excellent reasoning - it has .been given on every loan ever raised in Australia.
– If it is excellent reasoning, it ought to be followed, and in such a way that it is safeguarded.
– We have heard that reasoning from the borrowing party every time a loan has been floated in Australia.
– The honorable member is in a logical cul de sac, because he abandons what he admits is excellent reasoning; and why? Because it is not safeguarded. Let there be what safeguards . we like ; but if we make up our minds that the ships will only last ten years, the people in each year should pay their share of the cost - the people up to 191 2 should not be called upon to pay for the naval defence of the people up to 191 7 or 1920. Every time I look at the honorable member for Denison, I cannot help thinking of him as a political economist.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I have been a reader of political economy for most of my later life, and I con fess that I cannot see what application political economy has to this question. The honorable member quoted from some authority of whom I never heard. I have since learnt that the gentleman whom the honorable member elevated into an authority is a radical writer, but enjoys no recognition in the economic world. I need not point out the absurdity of setting up as an authority in this House, upon such an abstruse subject as political economy, a man who is not known. I have written a little on political economy in my time; but I am sure if I were quoted as a guide to the Labour party they would say, “ He may have written on political economy, but we won’t hear of him as an authority “ ; and they would be quite justified. The English-speaking world furnishes a few names that have a worldwide reputation on the subject. If the honorable member had quoted to me Mill, or Fawcett, or Nassau-Senior, or Mcculloch, or Herbert Spencer-
– Or Thorold Rogers.
– Or Thorold Rogers, and had shown me that any of those political economists, who are recognised as authorities, had dealt with this question, I should have been very ready to listen to him. But I venture to say that, throughout the thousands of pages those gentlemen have written, they have never attempted to suggest any teaching upon the subject of when you should or should not borrow for naval purposes. They have shown the operation of loans; but that is a question which I cannot go into, because you, sir, have properly ruled that a general discussion on the subject of loans is out of place. The honorable member for Denison is therefore talking with his foot when he speaks of an out-of:the-way member of my profession having thrown some socalled economic light upon this problem. He exclaimed, “ Why he is a member of your own profession,” and I replied, “ So is the Attorney-General, but who would think of accepting the Attorney-General as an authority on political economy?”
– :Why not?
– Because he knows no more of the subject than I do. That disposes altogether of the argument of the honorable member for Denison. Political economy has nothing whatever to do with this question. It is a question of common-sense and business principle.
– I think the honorable member is wrong there.
– I cannot prevent the honorable member thinking I am wrong. It is a free country for thinking ; but his thinking that I am wrong will not make me wrong, and it will not make him right.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– Now, the honorable member is becoming more confident, which political economists never are. They recognise that there is a great deal to be said on both sides. But what I want to say is this, and I make my stand upon if in vindication of the course adopted by the late Government : They said, “We are advised by the best authorities as to how long these ships will last.” I now find that the Imperial Naval Conference “laid down twenty years ; and no less an authority than Admiral Sir John Fisher - a man who stands, or stood, towards our Navy as the highest authority known in the British Empire - actually said at the Conference that we might rely upon the ships being useful for twenty years. My point then is this : We are told by the Labour party, and by the Prime Minister, that they are going to tax the people to pay for the ships. If Sir John Fisher’s opinion is of any value, it is admitted that they will be useful for defence purposes for a period of twenty years. Then we are going to tax the people during three or five years to pay for vessels which will protect “the people for twenty. I would ask honorable members opposite to consider that proposition ; but I recognise that they are intellectually manacled over this matter, because the Government have promulgated the policy, and that policy will be passed. Although some of them may, in lucid intervals of liberty, think with me, they are not free to use that power, or to express an opinion. None of them can even get up and indorse the opinion I am expressing as a businesslike one. As to voting, they are more helpless still; so that we are in th’e position of kicking against a brick wall and only knocking the toes out of our boots. We cannot affect the wall. Honorable members laugh ; but it is no laughing matter for the country. I am told by the party opposite, “We have discussed all this in our caucus,” but they have not discussed the point I am putting. If it had sprung from their own minds, and they had discussed it themselves, it would probably have influenced them in modifying the proposal they now make. If the Prime Minister had come forward and said, “ We recognise that these ships are to serve the people for twenty years ; but we do not think they will be of full value during the whole of that time, but only during ten years,” he would have added, “ We want to modify the existing Act. It pays for the ships in fifteen or sixteen years; but we think they ought to be paid for in a period of ten years. We shall amend the Act in order to spread the taxation which is going to be put on the people to pay for the ships over a period of ten years, instead of sixteen years.” But the honorable member, as head of the Government, is suffering from that inflammation from which Labour people-
– Do it gently; do not be too rough.
– I thought I was gentle. I know there are some honorable members who say these things much more abruptly than I do. I thought I had a very gentle way of putting them ; because I can see the humour of it all. I do not believe, with some of my friends on this side, in getting angry over the matter. It is no good getting angry with the inevitable. Our primary purpose is to show the public that we have done our best to put sound reason before the House ; and I have to my credit the admission of the honorable member for Adelaide that, “ It is splendid reasoning ; but we cannot adopt it.” because, forsooth, in the past, this splendid reasoning has not been safeguarded. Honorable members opposite, therefore, admit that it is splendid reasoning to show that an expenditure which is going to benefit people for ten or fifteen years should be spread as an expenditure over that period; “but,” says the honorable member for Adelaide, “ that has al- ways been said in the past by the advocates of loans, but it has not been done.” Why do not the Labour party come forward as a sort of exemplar of how it can be done, and, while they are going to do absolute justice to the people by charging each generation with the cost of its own defence, introduce, by the ingenuity of the AttorneyGeneral, some system under which the expense will be charged to each generation, without chance of abuse? They say to us, however, “ Because you were in favour of charging this expenditure to a number of generations, we are going to repeal this Act.” The honorable member for Denison, who is so active in coming into and going out of the chamber, has spoken as if we were proposing to borrow this money for all time. I do not think he could have read the Act. It was not passed during his occupancy of a seat in this House, and perhaps he does not think that past Statutes need to be read by present members. If he did read it, however, be would discover that it does not provide for a loan, in the ordinary sense of the term, extending over a practically unlimited period. It provides for a loan which is to be redeemed within the time during which these vessels will be of service. I do not wish to discuss the general question of loans, or even to attempt to do so, after what you, Mr. Speaker, have said, but borrowed money has been the heart’s blood of this country. Australia to-day would be in a pristine state if it were not for the £500,000,000 which has been borrowed. Honorable members must have noticed that only within the last few months New South Wales was able to show £66,000,000 worth of investments, returning to the State £4 7s. 6d. per cent. Some honorable members opposite have talked of our “cadging” defence from England; and I should like to ask them whether that statement is not a sort of boomerang which comes back on themselves. We all remember that in 1903, when the Naval Agreement was before this House, the whole of the Labour party, without exception, voted against the paltry contribution of £200,000 a year towards the cost of the Imperial Navy.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must not discuss that matter.
– I shall not do so. I wish merely to show who were cadging then.. Were not the Labour party cadging defence from England? Were they not taking our defence from England without offering to contribute a copper towards it?
– But we suggested an Australian Navy.
– It costs nothing to suggest ; I could suggest fifty navies. The honorable member is excellent in suggesting, but I am speaking of an intellectual activity that involves some expenditure. The honorable gentleman is going to suggest a new telephone rate-
– And he is going to put it into operation.
– We do not know yet whether he is or not.
– We do.
– The PostmasterGeneral on two or three occasions has imitated the Creator by saying “September 1 st,” but I am not sure yet that his scheme will see daylight. If any one is “ cadging,” we in Australia are cadging. We are “cadging” from England the defence of Australia, and the Government are going to “cadge” off the people of Australia for three years by taxing them in order to provide a means of defending Australia for ten years. They are going to do an absolute injustice to the people who are taxed during the next three years in order to provide naval defence for the next ten, fifteen, or, according to the greatest naval authority in the Empire to-day, even twenty years. If, I repeat, the Labour party had said, “ We do not believe these ships will be of use for defence purposes for sixteen years ; we do not believe that they will be effectual for more than ten years, and, therefore, we intend to amend the Naval Loan Act so as to make the whole payment for them extend over ten years,” I should have said, “ Well, it is a very safe precaution to take, and the Government will err on the right side.” But, if I may say so, this proposal on the part of the Government is merely an attempt to play into the hands of the people whom they have lately been addressing, by making them believe that nothing which our party did when in office could be right. They are not content to take a modification of the Act, although they have modified their ideas of the character of the ships by which this defence is to be provided. I am going to take the liberty of suggesting to the Prime Minister that he should yet consider whether instead of repealing the Naval Loan Act, he should not amend it, and recognise the justice of making each generation pay for its own defence. That is the maxim I should lay down. The people of each year should pay for their own national safety, and if that principle is adopted by the Labour party, it will require not a repeal of the Act, but only an amendment of it to extend the payments over a longer period.
.- I have listened to the honorable member for Parkes, and should like to combat the arguments that he has advanced by giving one or two homely illustrations. If the honorable member desired to invest in a watch or some other useful article, and were wise in his domestic economy, he would not propose, because he. believed that the watch would have a ten years’ life, to buy it on time payment, and spread the payments over the ten years’ period, representing the life of the watch.
– I should if it were a very large sum.
– I shall come to that point presently. If the honorable member desired to purchase a suit of clothes calculated to last say twelve months, he would not think of pledging his income on a time-payment policy extending over that period. He would probably pay for the suit out of his first month’s income, although he would be able to use the suit for the succeeding eleven months. The honorable member says that he believes in the policy of paying for these ships within the time during which, they will be of service to the people. That is what the Labour Government propose to do, but the important point of difference is that they propose to pay for them, out of income year by year.
– For how many years ?
– If the honorable member were to observe the principle which he has enunciated in connexion with everything that he purchased for himself and his family, a time would come when he would have hanging over him an accumulation of interest that would mortgage a large proportion of his monthly income; but as a man who believes in doing the best for himself and his family, I do not think that he would take that course. As to the Labour party being opposed to the policy of borrowing, I may say that we are and we are not. It all depends upon circumstances. The plank relating to that subject in the Labour party’s platform is very simple. It is couched in these words, “ The restriction of public borrowing.” I could understand the application of the honorable member for Parkes’ argument to the case of a municipality which was about to undertake a sewerage system. In that case, I could understand resort to a borrowing policy.
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the general question of borrowing.
– Very well. This afternoon the honorable member for Wentworth interjected that possibly the vessels of the Australian naval unit might be sent to the bottom of the sea during the very first year of their purchase. That being so, I take it that the policy of paying for them when we get them, is infinitely better than the policy of distributing the payment’ for them over the period which is presumed to represent their life. Thus the policy of the Labour party is preferable to that of my honorable friends opposite. I regret that owing to the ruling of Mr. Speaker I shall be prevented from dealing with many points of which I had made a note. If I were as astute a debater as is the honorable member for Parkes, I should doubtless be in a position to dodge the intervention of -the Chair. With more parliamentary experience I presume that I shall be able to get in observations of a general character, irrespective of whether they be relevant or otherwise to the question which is immediately under consideration. If I would be in order in quoting from John Stuart Mill, I could cite from memory a passage in which he strongly advocates the principle which is being adopted by the Labour party in regard to our naval policy. But Mr. Speaker would not permit me to show that the policy under which we propose to make land-holders, and the owners of accumulated capital, pay in a large measure for the defence of the country, is absolutely sound.
– That has nothing to do with political economy.
– I take it that this is a question of national economy. I admit that John Stuart Mill, Thorold Rogers, Goldwin Smith, and others ought to know more about questions of this character than does the average member of Parliament. They are experts, and consequently ought to be in a position to give us valuable information.
– But Mill was not a success as a member of Parliament.
– That is a sufficient justification for him posing as a political economist, because the average member of Parliament is a complete failure when dealing with questions of political economy, as was the honorable member for Parkes when he attempted to treat this matter from an economic stand-point.
.- The Government deserve to be congratulated upon having the courage of their opinions in proposing to repeal the Naval Loan Act of last year, lt will be remembered -that when they sat in Opposition in this Chamber they strongly opposed that measure, and it is something new to find an Opposition which is prepared after it has gained the Ministerial benches to give effect to its declared policy. It is too frequently the practice of an Opposition to condemn the actions of a Government, but when they have attained office to be prepared to follow in their footsteps. I was one of those who strongly opposed the Naval Loan Act of last year, because I believe that the people of the present day should pay for their own defence. If we were certain that the vessels of the Australian naval unit would have a life of twenty years, and if we did not require any more vessels - the fact seems to have been overlooked that this is merely the beginning of our preparations for our naval defence - there might be reason for spreading the payments for those vessels over twenty years. But, although the honorable member for Parkes has declared that they will have a life of eighteen or twenty years, Colonel Foxton, when speaking on this subject last session, said -
It is customary with the Admiralty to allow for depreciation 4 per cent., covering a period of eighteen years or thereabouts. That is the principle adopted by the Admiralty, and if we do not go beyond that we shall be on safe lines. . . . The life of a battleship is presumed to be eighteen years. Let me say, in this connexion, that some authorities put it as low as five years, and others think it should be stated at fifteen years; but it is quite impossible to do more than merely estimate what the life of a battleship is likely to be.
It seems to me that it would be altogether improper to distribute the payment for these vessels over eighteen or twenty years, seeing that there is a probability that they will be on the scrap-heap long before that time.
– The honorable member will admit that ten years would represent a fair compromise?
– Yes. But there appears to have been only one real justification for the late Government desiring to raise this money by means of a loan, and to distribute its payment over the period which they proposed. That reason has never been strongly put before the House. It is that we are not paying for these vessels at all. The right honorable member for Swan boasted that, by giving effect to the scheme advocated by the late Government, we should be recognising to the full our share of the responsibilities of Imperial defence. But the truth is that these vessels are being paid for by the British Government. The only person who put that fact plainly before the House was the representative of the late Government at the Imperial Defence Conference
-^-Colonel Foxton. He did not attempt any concealment whatever about the matter. He said -
I have explained that we are to receive, by the handsome and voluntary offer of the Mother Country, ^250,000 a year as long as we choose to accept it.
– That is practically reversing the position of to-day.
Colonel FOXTON. - Yes. If we choose to receive that amount for fifteen years, the money so obtained will approximately cover the interest and sinking fund, and will practically pay for all our vessels. In other words, interest and sinking fund will practically be provided for by the contribution of ^250,000 per annum which the Mother Country is going to make to us.
At that stage, Mr. Frazer interjected -
That is delightful patriotism.
Colonel Foxton replied -
I think that there is patriotism in it, because the Mother Country can well afford to pay us that ^250,000 a year.
We seem to entirely forget that these vessels are being provided by the Mother Country, and that what Was proposed by the late Government was that we should really borrow the money on behalf of Great Britain, that she should take time to pay off the loan, besides paying the interest as well. That appeared to me to be the only justification for proposing a loan at all. But that view was never put strongly before the people by the late Government. Indeed, when I referred to it, I was taken severely to task by the right honorable member for Swan, who stated that no such thing was the case. Of course, he was out of the House when Colonel Foxton was speaking on that occasion; but, notwithstanding the fact that the Mother Country is offering us that amount of money, I still think that the proper, way to provide for the defence of Australia is to raise the money at the time we are spending it.
– Does the honorable member know whether the present Government are going to accept the £250,000 per annum from the Imperial Government?
– I do not. But I think we should be doing our duty as Australians if we refused to accept that money.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– I say emphatically that this country is wealthy enough, and the people are patriotic enough, to provide for their own defence, and I shall always hold that opinion until the contrary is proved. I should like to see the very generous offer of the Mother country declined with the warmer.t thanks from Australia. I entirely indorse the remarks of the Minister of External Affairs, referred to by the honorable member for Parkes, as to payment for defence. I consider that every person should contribute to the defence of the country according to his means; and in that direction I would only stop when a person’s means were such that it would not pay to collect the contribution from him. Apart from such persons, I should like to see every inhabitant of this country contribute according to the extent of his possessions.
– No exemptions?
– None, except in cases where it would cease to be profitable to collect the money. That has been my Opinion all along, and that is why I am opposed to a loan. I do not wish to go further into the subject, because it was fully discussed last year ; but I congratulate the Government on showing by their action to-day the sincerity of their pronouncements outside.
– Without delaying the House, I should like to say that it is quite true that during the regime of the late Government an Act was passed to enable them to raise a loan of £3,500,000 for the purposes of naval construction. But it is just as true that they entered into obligations without providing in any way the money to pay for the vessels that were ordered. The policy of this Government is not to raise that money by loan, and certainly not, in any circumstances, by a loan of £3,500,000.
– Will the bank note issue pay for the vessels?
– The bank note issue has nothing to do with this question - nothing whatever.
– May I ask whether the Government intend to accept the £250,000 a year from the Imperial Government ?
– The Government intend that we shall provide wholly for Australian naval and military expenditure ourselves, and that policy will be inaugurated as early as possible. The policy announced by the Government to the people will be carried out in its entirety.
– Then the offer of the Imperial Government will be declined?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 -
This Act may be cited as the Naval Loan Repeal Act 1910.
.- I did not quite follow the Prime Minister as to the intentions of the Government. Do I understand that he proposes to decline the £250,000 per annum that was offered to be contributed by the Imperial Government? The honorable gentleman said, in reply to a remark made from this side of the Chamber, that the Government intended to provide wholly and solely the money for the naval and military defence of Australia. That seemed to imply that the Government are going to provide the £750,000 per annum for the upkeep of the Navy, and, therefore, to decline the offer of the Imperial Government to contribute £250,000 per annum.
– It is not a question of declining the offer of the Imperial Government. It is a question of the Australian people providing for their own defence, and, by that means, carrying out the policy of this party, at any rate, to protect this part of the Empire to the best of our ability, and to relieve the Mother Country from any embarrassing expenditure on account of this end of the world.
. -I should like to ask the Prime Minister what means he proposes to adopt, now that the Naval Loan Act is being repealed, to provide the money that will be required to pay for the construction of the vessels of the Australian naval unit during the present year?
– That question does not arise.
– It most certainly does arise. We are now repealing an Act which provided for the construction of the Australian unit of the Imperial Navy. That unit is now ordered, and should be constructed in about fourteen months from the present time. The Government have, therefore, to find some £3,500,000 sterling? within the next fourteen months.
– Longer than that; surely.
– That is about the quickest time in which the vessels can be constructed. I am taking it that the Government have adopted in extenso the policy of the late Government which they recently so bitterly denounced.
– The late Government’s policy !
– It was not the policy of having a mosquito fleet, and the honorable gentleman and his Government have adopted it. Therefore, it is of no use to quibble about words. The adoption of that policy imposes upon the Government the obligation of finding during next year a sum °f £3:5°°>°o° sterling. The Prime Minister cannot hope to provide so large a sum by taxation within the next year, in addition to the amount that will have to be raised to provide for our normal needs. I therefore wish to know how he proposes to find the money. I trust that he will make a free and frank admission of what he intends to do. Does he intend to provide the money by issuing Australian notes, getting golden sovereigns for them, and imposing them upon the people of Australia? While deploring such an action, I admit that he can find the money in that way, though at considerable risk to our currency. If he does not admit that, it means that the Prime Minister and his Government, by the repeal of the Naval Loan Act, are going to put off the construction of these ships. It was considered to be a matter of urgent necessity that they should be ready when the German Dreadnought programme was completed in 1912. If the construction of the ships is now to be put off because of the Prime Minister’s platform utterances - which probably were made in the heat of the moment - it is a matter of the greatest regret from the point of view of the people of Australia. We ought te know now, if the Prime Minister will take us into his confidence, how he is going to raise £3,500,000 sterling within the next year or year and a-half.
– That question does not arise now.
– We are engaged in repealing an Act which, apparently, affords the only means of enabling us to construct these ships, and when we ask the Prime Minister what he intends to put in its place, he tells us that the question does not arise. I really cannot follow the honorable gentleman.
– I do not expect the honorable member to do so. He “ follows” some one else.
– Some liability has already been incurred. How does the Prime Minister propose to meet that ? Is he going to issue post-dated Treasury-bills inscribed on the back: “By the Grace of God, Andrew Fisher “ ? What does the Prime Minister propose to put in place of the Act that is now being repealed? It is a most extraordinary sort of business, if we are to repeal an Act which, apparently, affords our only means of meeting our obligations, without this House, which is the trustee of the public purse, being informed what steps are to be taken in lieu thereof. If the Prime Minister knows of no steps which he can take, well and good. If what he has in his mind has not been told to my friends in caucus, well and good.
– The question before the Chair is the title of the Bill.
– If it was only a matter of this measure being called the Naval Loan Repeal Act, I should not worry about it. I thought it would be convenient for the Prime Minister to inform us now how he proposes to pay for the Fleet. He says that he can finance the enterprise, but he has not told us how he intends to do so. The matter is one of urgency. I should not have voted for what is now the Naval Loan Act had I not thought it of the supremest importance that the ships provided for should be constructed within the shortest time possible. If the Prime Minister intends to throw into the waste-paper basket the scheme for Australian defence merely to, give effect to a political fad, the reprobation of our children and of our children’s children will fall on him for having jeopardized the liberties which we enjoy to-day.
– I recognise that there is no obligation on the Prime Minister to tell us in detail now what his financial policy is ; but I would remind him that when speaking on the second reading he explained that the Government might require from three to five years to meet the proposed expenditure. I ask whether he intends to provide the money that is needed by means of a sinking fund, or by an entirely different method of which we shall be informed when the Government’s financial policy is stated.
– The honorable member does not expect me to state the Government policy in regard to naval preparations. We shall meet our obligations, and shall provide the money necessary to pay for the fleet unit.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether tenders have yet been accepted for the construction of all the vessels of the proposed naval unit. I am aware that on the 15th Mardi last a tender was accepted for the armoured cruiser, at a cost of £1,800,000, because that happened while I was Treasurer; but, in addition, there are to be three Bristol cruisers, torpedo boats, and submersibles. I should like to know whether tenders have been accepted for any of the vessels, and, if so, for how many ? If tenders have not been accepted for all the vessels, when does the Prime Minister expect that they will be accepted?
– I am sorry to appear pertinacious, but I have not yet gathered from the Prime Minister whether he proposes to pay the £750,000 which will be the annual cost of maintaining the fleet unit, or will accept the offer of the British Admiralty to contribute £250,000. I shall be obliged to him if he will tell us plainly what he is going to do.
– The financial proposals of the Government will be made known at the right time. I have stated in general terms that the naval programme will be in no way curtailed, though it may be improved.
.- I do not ask the Prime Minister to make known to us at this juncture the details of his financial proposals, but I should like him to assure the country that the proposed vessels will be constructed without delay. The matter is one of urgency. Is the construction of the ships to be kept back until the Government is in a position to pay for them out of its ordinary revenue?
– This is not question time.
– My honorable friend no doubt suggests that the proper place in which to put questions to the Prime Minister is a caucus meeting. I wish to know whether under the Government scheme the ships will be constructed without delay, or whether the shipbuilders will be ordered to go ahead at once.
– I do not wish my courtesy to be mistaken for weakness. The Government of which I have the honour to be head will carry out the naval policy of the party, and the manner in which the funds will be provided will be made known to Parliament at the proper time.
– I have yet to learn that it is unfair to question the head of the Government regarding its naval policy when a Bill like this is before a Committee.
– The honorable member for Wentworth had the impertinence to talk about the time for questioning me being a caucus meeting. This is no way to deal with national matters.
– I understand that the four large vessels have been ordered. My recollection is that Messrs. John Brown and Son have the contract for the construction of the Dreadnought cruiser, and that the order for the building of the three Bristol cruisers has been placed with the Denny Shipbuilding Company. I wish to know if that is so.
– The honorable member will get the information later.
– I do not know whether the Prime Minister is unable, or declines, to give this information.
– Is the honorable member in order in discussing the naval policy of the Government when the only question before the Chair is whether the measure shall be named the Naval Loan Repeal Act?
– I am not raising any question of policy, but am trying, in strict accord with the rules of debate, to elicit information pertinent to the question before the Chair. Although the honorable member has been Chairman of Committees, he seems to have forgotten the rules of procedure. A question such as that which I have asked would be answered instantly in the House of Commons.
– The whole debate has been out of order, but I thought it wise to allow great latitude to honorable members, of which I hope they will not take unfair advantage.
– I shall not do so. I hold that this is the time for dealing with details connected with the measure. The reason for the Committee stage of a Bill is that an opportunity may be given to discuss details. I am putting such a question now as is invariably put, and as invariably answered, in Committee of Supply in the House of Commons.
– We are not now in Committee of Supply.
– Not exactly; we are discussing the repeal of the Naval Loan Act, and incidentally honorable members on this side are asking questions concerning the policy affected by that measure.
– No ; we are discussing the name of the Bill.
– The honorable member, having raised his point of order, might let the Chairman alone. It is scarcely courteous of an ex-Chairman of Committees to be canvassing a Chairman’s ruling in this way.
– Or of the honorable member to abuse the Chairman’s good nature.
– Do I understand the Prime Minister to say that we may not have the information for which we are asking at present?
– Not at present.
– Then all I have to say is that I think the Prime Minister of this country is treating the Committee with rudeness and discourtesy.
– I am aware that the tender for the armoured cruiser, which is to cost £1,800,000. was accepted on 15th March last, but I have not vet been informed, and I should like to have the information, if the Prime Minister is willing to give it, whether any tenders have been accepted for the construction of the other ships-
– The right honorable gentleman will get that information when the policy of the Government is declared. He need not be at all alarmed.
– If tenders have been accepted for any of the other ships, surely the Prime Minister can say so. I do not think I am asking anything unreasonable.
– The right honorable member for Swan is well aware that he will get the information for which he asks. He refers to an important question of policy in connexion with which the intentions of the Government will be submitted to honorable members at the proper time.
.- The Prime- Minister was absent to-day when 1 repeated once more that this confusion is due entirely to the procedure adopted by the Government. I pointed out that it might be justified in one or two instances by the extraordinary circumstances of the session. The Government have brought down a series of financial measures constituting vital portions of their financial policy, which can only be properly understood when the whole of them are disclosed in the Budget. By bringing them down before the Budget has been laid before honorable members, they are ‘taking a course without precedent in this country, and without any justification, except in respect of certain special measures to which I have referred. They may be excused for their departure from the ordinary rules in connexion, for instance, with the measure dealing with the relations between the Commonwealth and the States, because of the necessity of giving assurances which were eagerly sought for all over Australia. The questions now being asked are strictly relevant and in order, and would not, and could not, have been put but for the procedure which the Government have chosen to follow. Therefore, although as I have said, the special circumstances of this Parliament serve partly to excuse the course which has been followed, in some instances, it is one which has necessarily involved this House in this confusion. We were obliged either to refuse to consider these questions at all until the Budget was delivered, although they might mean a serious loss to the Treasury-
– We should have had to take steps to give effect to the will of the people if that course had been adopted.
– Exactly ; but I venture to say it was not the will of the people that the Budget should be dealt with practically piecemeal, neither announced or explained, or before it was shown that one part dovetailed with another, or that the whole agreed with the principles which had been approved by their majority in the country.
– This is part of the policy.
– At present we do not know that.
– All in good time.
– f ask the honorable member for Ballarat not to pursue his present line of argument.
– I rose chiefly for the purpose of showing that it is not all in good time. It may be too late.
– How are the honorable gentleman’s remarks relevant to this particular question?
– In this way: This is a financial measure materially affecting the financial policy of Australia. This Parliament ought not to have been asked to deal with such a measure until the Budget had been laid before us as a whole. We should know the alternative proposals to be made to supply the deficiency which will be caused by the repeal of the Naval Loan Act, and then judged the action of the Government in declining, as they are at perfect liberty to do, to follow out the course laid down in that Act. Until these matters are explained they have strictly no constitutional right to ask that the measure now before the Committee should be assented to. Personally, I have taken no persistent objection to what has been done, but have fried to protect the Opposition and myself from any misunderstanding. I have recorded the fact that we are perfectly conscious of the partly defensible and partly indefensible course now being followed by the Government. Having registered our protest, and pointed out its risks, we have done as much as it is necessary for us to do. Anxious as I am to get on with public business, although their questions are perfectly legitimate, I would ask my honorable friends on this side to set them aside, recognising the fact that this is a dangerous proceeding, but that the Government have thought fit to take it. We can now afford to wait until the Budget is laid before us, when we shall discover if there has been any legitimate warrant for this Bill, or for the procedure in pressing a number of proposals that have been submitted. In the meantime we consent to the passage of this Bill, subject to our protest.
.- Much as I desire that this business should be proceeded with, I decline to remain silent under the stigma the Leader of the Opposition has attempted to place on honorable members on this side, because to the extent to which we support the Government we must accept responsibility for approval of any action they take. The Leader of the Opposition has drawn attention to what he is pleased to call “ unusual procedure,” in his opinion, “partly indefensible.” I might remind honorable members that; in the repeal of a Loan Act, what is occurring is absolutely unprecedented, and therefore for the Leader of the Opposition to assert that the course now being followed has never previously been followed by any Government in Australia is to make use of terms that are not justifiable in the circumstances.
– Let the honorable member disprove them. Let him give me an illustration of a financial policy dealt with piecemeal before the Budget has been announced.
– Information has been absolutely refused.
– I would respectfully suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and other ex-Ministers on the other side, that their leader, the honorable member for Ballarat, is well qualified to look after himself, and they might refrain for a moment from attempting to assist him with remarks- which may perhaps complicate matters. I was about te say that the Leader of the Opposition must admit that never previously in the history of this Parliament, or, I think, in the history of any Australian Parliament, has a Government proposed the repeal of a Loan Act passed by a previous Government that was defeated at the general election.
– That does not take it out of the category of financial measures.
– I have given, at any rate, some answer.
– No, none whatever.
– Why does not the Prime Minister give an answer to a simple question ?
– May I suggest to the right honorable member for Swan that his youthful impetuosity is out of place at this moment? The assertion that we are taking an unusual course implies that similar instances are on record, and that in those similar instances Ministers have adopted a well established practice. But this instance is unprecedented, and, therefore, it cannot justly be asserted that an unusual course is being taken. To-day a precedent is being established.
– A very bad precedent !
– That is a matter of opinion. I object to the inference to be drawn from the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition that some course is being pursued that may be catastrophic in its results. My own opinion is that it is not a bad precedent to repeal a Loan Act.
– That is not the question.
– As I understand, the question is the repeal of the Naval Loan Act. Last year the then Government passed an Act which enabled them, if they so desired or had the opportunity, to borrow £3; 500,000 for the purpose of buying certain vessels. The present Government, to their credit be it said, are able to finance without that loan money, and, by the repeal of the Act, are showing that they do not require the power or privilege to borrow.
– Will the honorable member tell us whether the Government will be able to construct the Fleet as quickly as they could with loan money ?
– I point out that the origination of effective defence of this country, both military and naval, rests with members on this side.
– I must ask the honorable member not to deal with the general question of defence.
– I certainly agree with you, Mr. Poynton, that the request of the honorable member was out of order.
– I asked another question altogether, and if the honorable member cannot answer it, why does he not say so?
– Order !
– We are informed by the Leader of the Opposition that the position to-night has arisen because the Ministry have not complicated, with a proposal to repeal a Loan Act, expressions of opinion regarding their proposals on Naval Defence. So far as my limited experience goes, no Treasurer has ever yet on such a subject given expressions to such opinions, but has always reserved them for his Budget speech. It would be a matter of a few moments only to refer to requests invariably addressed from year to year to every Treasurer in every Parliament to make statements respecting the financial intentions of the Government ; and I may point out that the right honorable member for Swan, when he held office, declined, and I think very properly, to anticipate his Budget.
– But those Treasurers brought forward no financial measures before their Budget.
– The utmost closeness has prevailed in every instance; and the Leader of the Opposition, according to my recollection, was always at the right hand of the then Treasurer, saying, “ Do not tell them.”
– Quite so; there was no justification in those circumstances, but there is now.
– The whole of the questions asked are in the direction of obtaining information respecting the Government’s financial proposals. The Leader of the Opposition admits that in every similar instance, when he graced this side of the House, he agreed with the Minister that no information should be given. Why, simply because he happens now to be on the other side, he condones the persistency of his party, if he does not persist himself, in submitting questions, I cannot understand.
– I point out that this all arises from the extraordinary procedure now being adopted.
– The procedure is something unprecedented - absolutely new?
– No similar instance of the repeal of a Loan Act has ever risen in any Parliament in Australia, so that, while the honorable member may class it as extraordinary in itself,he cannot do so by comparison.
– Everything is without precedent if we go into details.
– I do not know that I am going into details of the financial policy, because these are not required by us, but by honorable members opposite. This is not the time for details ; and the proposal before us can by no stretch of the imagination be classed as a financial proposal of the Ministry or of the Parliament. It is a proposal merely to give effect to election promises consistently with the votes given by every honorable member on this side last year, and an unmistakable indication that the Government do not wish to exercise the power they now have to borrow £3,500,000. That power was given by honorable members opposite when they were in a majority, and I do not see why the Ministry should be interrogated, almost to the extent of cross-examination, as to what their policy is, when we all know full well that that policy will be expressed in due time in accordance with the established practice of every Parliament in Australia. I again assert that in no circumstances can this Bill be complicated with the financial proposal of the Government; and, therefore, certainly the questions asked are not justified seeing that when the honorable members, who are now asking them, were in office, they specifically declined to give such information.
– Every time the right honorable member has graced the Treasury bench he has declined to give any information on the financial policy until the moment arrived for the delivery of his Budget speech ; and, in the circumstances, he, more than any other honorable member, is not justified in his attempt to harrass the Government. I merely rose to object to the stigma that the Leader of the Opposition attempted to attach to this side.
– And to misrepresent him utterly !
– I am very sorry if that is the opinion of the honorable member.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that what is before the Chair is the title of the Bill, and I do not see how any honorable member can be permitted to discuss any other question.
– The honorable member is quite right, but I have given considerable latitude because of the narrowness of the title.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Repeal).
– I do not rise for the purpose of asking any questions, because the Prime Minister has already very clearly and definitely told the House that he is not prepared to give the information we should desire. Nor do I propose to complain of any want of courtesy, because I think the Prime Minister must be the judge of his own conduct in that regard. There are, however, certain considerations relating to the reasonable conduct of business in the House which are worthy of the attention even of a Prime Minister who leads a large majority; and I should like to lay those considerations before him. The facts show a somewhat extraordinary position at the present time. With the Leader of the Opposition, I venture to think that it is extremely unusual, to say the least, to present a certain portion of the financial proposals, of which the House as yet knows nothing, and to seek its acceptance before the full financial proposals have been submitted. But I wish to point out what an extremely awkward position the Opposition - not the Government side, but the Opposition, and an Opposition has its rights - is placed in with regard to this measure. There is a side, of this case which I do not think the Prime Minister has yet fully considered. My own position - and this will, perhaps, serve to illustrate the point I am making - is, frankly speaking, that I am entirely in favour of abandoning any policy of borrowing with regard to naval defence, so long as provision can be made for carrying out the scheme of naval defence which the House has already adopted, without borrowing, and without too great an imposition on the taxpayer. But how am I to judge? The House has already adopted a very definite policy with regard to the building of certain ships for the defence of Australia. One of those ships is being constructed, and the whole policy is in course of being carried out. That has been done by the authority of this House. Now we are asked to knock the very financial foundation out of the whole of that policy, and we are not given a single pointer to show in what direction any substitute for it is to be provided. I am not going to ask questions, but it is pretty well known - for it has been announced by the Government themselves in the press and elsewhere - that the leading features of their policy are considered by them and their party in - I will not use the objectionable word “caucus,” because that seems to irritate the Treasurer-
– Not at all.
– The Opposition have it on their side just as much.
– I have never made use of the word as a word of condemnation. “Mr. West. - Call it “ the collective wisdom of the party.”
– What I venture to say is - and it can be easily contradicted if it is not true - that the policy on which this proposed repeal of the Naval Loan Act is based is already in the possession of every member on that side of the House. Consequently, every member of the Government majority is able to make up his mind and use his judgment on the full statement of the effects of the Government proposals; whereas to the members on this side it is said, “ Repeal this Act. We will not tell you one word as to the general policy.” I ask the Treasurer to consider whether that is a ground upon which any parliamentary discussion can be fairly conducted. The Government are at perfect liberty, if they like, to adopt this new method of conducting parliamentary business on their own side of the House. They are absolutely free to take every one of their own supporters into their confidence, and to be guided, or even governed, by their “collective wisdom,” as it has: been put by the honorable member for East Sydney. But when the Government, representing the party in the majority, and holding the control of power, come to deal with this House, which is representative of all parties, including minorities, is it right for them to ask the House to do its business when the facts are known only to the majority, and the minority are absolutely deprived of the means of arriving at a judgment?
– The honorable member for Flinders has made a very earnest effort to look serious in this matter. I am sure that many of my honorable friends on this side will not object to my saying that they are in just as great a difficulty as to knowing what the policy of the Government is in detail, in this regard, as the honorable member is.
– Do the Government know ?
– The honorable member for Illawarra, who is generally the most delightful of persons, should not get excited on an occasion like this. The “ caucus “ has been brought into the question, properly or improperly, and so I should like to read a little extract in answer to the honorable member for Flinders. I think it is a complete answer, and it will be shorter than I could put it, were I to attempt to deal with the matter -
The caucus has become a recognised institution here, but its effects are not all good. The caucus is a high class institution for welding a party together.
That is taken from the Argus of 18th September, 7877.
– I have not condemned the “ caucus “ at all.
– If honorable members op this side are to be blamed at all. they are to be blamed for following the bad example of a very Conservative newspaper. That, however, is a mere side issue. This part of the policy of the Government was approved by the people. They said they agreed with our naval and military defence policy, which was announced in this House in 1902 arid 1904 by the honorable member for West Sydney, and by the then honorable member for Bland, Mr. J. C. Watson. That is the Australian national policy of naval and military defence. Less than a year ago the Government which I had the honour to lead, was denounced from one end of the country to the other by members of the Opposition, because we initiated a naval policy, and now those honorable members ask the people to believe that this party cannot be trusted to carry out the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth. Little wonder the right honorable member for Swan and others opposite are anxious to kick up a dust to cover their own retreat. It is hardly more than yesterday that the honorable member for Parramatta and others said that the naval battles of the world would be fought 11,000 miles away from here. To-day they tell the people of Australia: “ The Australian unit is the thing.” Where is it to be? They say, “In the Pacific.” Where did we say that it ought to be? In the Pacific.
– They were to be inside the bar harbors, according to the honorable member’s party.
– They were to be in the Pacific. I hope the honorable member for Wentworth will not need to be reminded of a statement made by the late Minister of Defence, the honorable member for Parramatta, when he thought that, because cer tain ships were called the “ River class,” they were only fit for river defence.
– The honorable member is repeating a lie.
– The honorable member for Parramatta must withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw it. I have denied that statement half-a-dozen limes, and the honorable member keeps repeating it. He ought to be ashamed of himself.
– I never did the honorable member an injustice.
– The honorable member has done me half-a-dozen over that very thing.
– If the honorable mem.ber will turn to the Adelaide Register-
– Does that prove it?
– The honorable member now denies that he ever made that statement, or was reported to have made it. He was reported in the Adelaide Register as addressing a meeting in the town hall, where he used the very words I have quoted.
– Ridiculous !
– He has denied it.
– I accept the honorable member’s denial.
– The Prime Minister should accept the honorable member’s denial.
– I have done so. The honorable member now states that he never. u?ed those words.
– He has often denied it before.
– In this House?
– I have never heard his denial before.
– -The honorable member has heard it.
– The honorable member is angry. I have not heard him deny it. I made the statement on the authority of the Adelaide Register, and quoted that paper on every occasion. Surely that is a fair record to go on, seeing that that newspaper was against us and in favour of the honorable member when he made his speech.
– I have heard the honorable member twice deny it this session.
– Well, we will leave it at that, but the honorable member for Flinders will not deny that I was justified in using the very full report of a speech which the honorable member for Parramatta made when Minister of Defence, and which appeared in a newspaper politically in favour of die honorable member.
-The honorable member has now denied it ; and the Prime Minister must accept his denial.
– I do accept it, sir; but the point having been raised, I am entitled to show the’ source of the information upon which I founded the charge.
– It was denied at the time.
– The challenge was thrown out that I could find no record of the statement. I found the record ; but, of course, I must, and do, accept the honorable member’s denial.
– Then, the honorable member did hear the denial. He said before that he did not.
– It was denied that I could find any record of the statement, and I found it. This is a very astute ruse on the part of the Opposition to try to cover up their retreat. There is no doubt at all as to that. When in office, they provided a means of raising money for the naval unit; but they took no steps to raise that money. They left the embarrassing conditions entirely to the new Government.
– They were very embarrassing, were they not?
– They were.
– There was no money due in respect of these vessels.
– There was money due on the 30th June.
– But the honorable member came into office before then.
– And I found, on coming into office, that die right honorable member, as Treasurer, had left a calculated deficit of over £800,000, and a big contingent expenditure for a naval unit. We appealed to the country, and said that we declined to enter upon the effective defence of Australia by raising a loan for that purpose. We told the people so ; and they replied in effect, “ We agree with your policy. We cannot allow a new naval policy to be introduced by means of a loan, and, therefore, we desire you Lo sweep away the naval loan proposals.” Our first duty, on meeting the Parliament, was to give effect to the verdict of the country and to provide adequate means for naval and military defence. That we intend to do when the ordinary financial policy of the Government is submitted to the Parliament and the people.
. -I do not think that the Prime Minister was quite fair in some of his references to the Opposition ; although I admit that he is imbued with a strong desire to do that which is just. He spoke of a “ ruse “ on the part of the Opposition, and I should like to say, as a member of it, that there is no such corporate action being taken by us in this regard. The Prime Minister has not answered the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition, or that put forward, very fairly, by the honorable member for Flinders. I have heard the honorable member for Flinders use the same argument in opposition to the late Deakin Government : the argument that a Government is not justified in coming down with a programme of expenditure without first of all informing the House how it proposes to provide for it. No doubt, as the honorable member for Adelaide has said, this Bill provides merely for the repeal of an Act ; but it must be remembered that, in repealing that Act, we shall be doing something more. Warships have been ordered, and, by repealing the Act which provided die means of raising money for their payment, we are practically entering upon a new obligation of £3,500,000 without any means of meeting it.
– That is the Government’s business.
– I admit that, as I said some time ago ; but I think that Parliament is justified in asking the Government for their financial policy. The Leader of the Opposition, who has had great Ministerial experience, and the honorable member for Flinders, have pointed out that we are entitled, as a Committee representing the people, to have some idea of how the Government propose to meet this expenditure, before they submit it to us. We should be very unwise, as a Parliament, in embarking upon a huge expenditure without some general knowledge of the way in which it is to be provided for. Although the honorable member for Flinders may be wrong in saying that the Ministerial -party know already how it is to be provided for-
– That was the strength nf his argument.
– No; the principle that he enunciated was the strength of his argument, and it is stronger now; because, whereas the honorable member for Flinders was under the impression that the Labour majority of the Committee knew how the money was going to be raised, and that the minority did not, it now appears that neither the majority nor the Opposition minority know.
– The Prime Minister has merely said that the majority do not know in detail how it is to be provided.
– I am not complaining that the Prime Minister is not anticipating his policy; but if the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Flinders be right, the Government, in justice to the Parliament, ought to give us some idea of the source of their revenue - whether it be loans, or Commonwealth notes, or ordinary revenue - and its ability to meet this expenditure.
– An unheard-of thing.
– It would be just as much in point for a small duckling, just emerging from a shell, to tell older ducks how to swim, as it is for the honorable member to instruct us on this point of parliamentary practice.
– It is an unheard of thing for the Government to give such information before they disclose their financial statement in the Budget.
– I confess that, in point of voice, I cannot cope with the honorable member, but in point of logic I think I can. I want the Prime Minister to see what he appears to me to have not yet fully grasped, and to show that he has not quite done justice to the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Flinders. So far as I can see, they are not parties to a ruse in putting this proposition before the Prime Minister. If the honorable gentleman says that he does not believe it is a parliamentary practice, that is another matter ; but, after twenty-eight years of parliamentary experience, I must say that it is the practice of all Governments always to tell the House generally what are the sources of their revenue, before asking it to commit itself to a big expenditure. I shall remind the Prime Minister of a case in point, which I think will come upon him with convincing power. Does he recollect the honorable member for Flinders standing where he now sits, and objecting to the policy of the then Deakin Administration, because they were bringing down a Bill providing for the payment of bounties amounting to £250,000, without giving the House some definite information as to the way in which the money was to be provided ?
– The Leader of the Opposition said that he did not do that.
– At that time, the honorable member for Corangamite was not fledged as a politician. It was long before he came before the electors, or the electors thought of accepting him.
– Why did the honorable member for Flinders do that?
– He was certainly not an opponent of the Deakin Government.
– He took that stand because the Labour party were supporting the then Government. That was his reason.
– It was not. The honorable member for Flinders does not resort to such tactics. He said, in effect, “ Here we are asked to commit ourselves to an expenditure of £250,000 by way of bounties,” and he proceeded to show in a very lucid speech that our finances were then in a very questionable condition. He pointed out that the House was entitled to know from the Government what were their sources of revenue before it was asked to commit itself to that expenditure.
– Did the Government comply with his request for information?
– That has nothing whatever to do with the question.
– The expenditure of that £250,000 was spread over ten years.
– The soundness of a principle does not depend upon its invariable observance. This is a matter of common-sense. We certainly ought not to incur any large liability before we know where we are going to get the money to meet that liability. I do not think that this Committee expects the Prime Minister to go into minute details regarding our finances. But the passing of this Bill will really mean that we have decided to incur a new liability of £3,500,000. Honorable members will see that when we have ordered something and arranged the mode of payment for it, if we abolish that mode of payment we at once create a new liability. If we repeal the Naval Loan Act of last year we shall have incurred an expenditure of £3,500,000 upon naval vessels for which we have made no provision. Therefore I am justified in saying that we shall have created a new liability. That is what I wish the Prime Minister to understand. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Flinders requested an observance of the principle for which I am contending; and the Prime
Minister at once stated that they were trying an Opposition ruse. Let me tell him that if it were an ‘Opposition ruse I should not support it. I will never support a party ruse merely for the purpose of embarrassing a Government. The Prime Minister should certainly give the Committee an idea of whether he is satisfied that the Government will be able to meet this new liability by another method than that of loan.
– I think I can put the honorable member and those who think with him at ease in regard to this matter. Even if the Naval Loan Act of last year were permitted to remain on the statute-book, that fact would make no difference whatever to the policy of the Government. We could still give effect to that policy even if the Act were not repealed. We would not borrow money under that Act even if it remained upon our statute-book. But the honorable member for Parkes must know that the mere passing of a Loan Act by Parliament is not sufficient to raise the money. Something else must be done before the expenditure contemplated can be provided for. I fail to understand the action of the Leader of the Opposition in opposing the repeal of the Naval Loan Act when he knows perfectly well that the policy of the Government would be the same even if that measure were permitted to remain on the statute-book.
– I think that the Prime Minister might well inform the Committee whether the Government are satisfied that they can finance the construction of the proposed Australian naval unit. Last year Parliament authorized the’ raising of a loan for that purpose. Before those who voted for that measure are asked to permit it to be repealed we ought to have an assurance that the Government know how, when, and where, they are going to raise this £3,500,000
.- The contention of the honorable member for Flinders, which was reiterated by the honorable member for Parkes, is undoubtedly a very interesting and important one. The former dilated on the disadvantage under which the members of the Opposition labour as compared with the supporters of the Government. He declared that the Ministerial followers were aware of the reasons underlying this portion of the financial policy of the Government, whereas members of the Opposition were ignorant of them. I believe that the honorable member has since had his mind disabused of the idea that all the followers of the Government are familiar with those reasons.
– We have been told that they do not know the details.
– Personally, I do not know any of the details of this portion of the Government policy. But I was rather struck with the weakness of the argument of the honorable member for Flinders in reference to this matter. Need I remind him that he was once Premier of Victoria, the head of a Ministry which submitted a financial policy to the Parliament of this State.
– I hope, that the honorable member will connect his remarks with the question that is before the Chair.
– I am doing so. The Ministerial colleagues of the honorable member were aware of the details of that policy, but the other members of the Victorian Parliament were in blank ignorance of them. That is exactly the position which this Committee occupies in regard to the naval policy of the Government. Consequently I think that he has rather strained the case against the Ministry on this occasion.
– We are not asking for details.
– I have listened to a series of questions which have extended over the past three-quarters of an hour, and which have been directed to ascertaining where the Government are going to get the money with which to pay for our naval unit.
– I merely asked whether the Government are satisfied that they can find it.
– The honorable member may accept my assurance that we are perfectly satisfied on that matter. So that the honorable member for Flinders has raised a point which, while important and interesting, is not by any means new in the management of affairs by Governments. I followed closely the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes, who ingeniously argued that by repealing the Naval Loan Act we shall .immediately plunge ourselves into a new liability of £3,500,000. I was always under the impression that we did not incur any liability for an article until we had ordered it.
– These ships have been ordered, and are in course of construction.
– Some of these vessels have been ordered, and we are in a position to pay for them. If not, we shall be at the time when the articles are delivered.
– There is no money in hand to pay for them.
– Surely the right honorable member for Swan does not pay for an article until it is delivered at his house. Neither are we required to pay for these ships until they are delivered to us. Therefore, I say that there is no necessity at this stage for the Committee to be informed from what source’ the money is to come. It is sufficient from my point of view for the Government to tell us simply that they are in a position to make, and .intend to make, due provision to meet the liability when the proper time arrives. I am unable to agree with honorable members who say that all the details of the financial scheme of the Government should be brought down together. I have a distinct recollection that when the honorable member for Ballarat was in office in 1905, a Bill was suddenly sprung upon us at the end of the session to provide an enormous amount for the payment of sugar bounty in Queensland. I do not remember that there was anything in the Budget that year which gave even an inkling that such a measure was to come before Parliament.
– The Commonwealth was returning a large amount to the States then.
– The right honorable member for Swan was a member of that Government. I venture to say that if any honorable member had sufficient leisure and industry to search the records of the House, he would find that the honorable member for Ballarat and his colleague, the right honorable member for Swan, have not always adhered to’ the doctrine which they have propounded to-night.
– I cannot find a departure from it, and I am looking for one.
– May I be allowed to say that, in my judgment, this matter has gone sufficiently far, and that the Committee ought to be content with the assurance of the Prime Minister that the repeal of the Naval Loan Act is in accordance with the policy which he propounded to the people, and which was indorsed by them ; that he is going to carry out that policy in all its essential details, and will disclose to Parliament at the proper time the manner in which he proposes to raise the funds necessary to pay for the ships which are being constructed ?
. -By way of personal explanation, I should like to say that the honorable member for Coolgardie has chosen to refer to my action when I was Premier of Victoria, with the object of proving that it was in some way inconsistent with the attitude which I have taken up as to this matter to-night. It is perfectly true, as the honorable member said, that I did bring in, as part of my financial and general policy, a proposal which had never been before the country, and which at the time it was disclosed was known only to my colleagues and myself. But I did not confide that policy to those who were supporters of the Government to the exclusion of those who sat on the Opposition side of the House. Moreover, if my memory serves me aright, I think the honorable member will find that I brought in that portion of my policy as part of the general and full statement of the whole scheme of policy, which is precisely the thing that we desire the Government to do in this case. With regard to the statement which I made to-day, I venture to say - not from my own knowledge, but from statements made in the press and elsewhere by members of the present majority in this House - that in all its main essentials the policy of the Government was submitted to and indorsed by the party as a whole.
– This is not a personal explanation. It is new matter.
– Does the honorable member say that this is a personal explanation ?
– I am afraid that it is not.
– Then the honorable member cannot proceed.
– I admit that, and I will take advantage of another opportunity.
– I think I am fairly entitled to complain of my treatment by the Prime Minister. I do not know that the guffaws which are coming from the other side will help us in the matter. However, if it please honorable members opposite they may disport themselves as much like a certain tribe of the forest as they care to. I shall have to put up with their conduct, I suppose. I wish to say that I think I have a right to complain of the way in which the Prime Minister has treated me on many occasions with regard to die River class of vessels. He told us to-night that he had never heard my denial of the charge he- made before. The denial is here in Hansard. It was made in the press of the country repeatedly during the last election; and as repeatedly ignored by the Prime Minister. Now he comes back to this House and repeats the same statement, notwithstanding that it has been denied half-a-dozen times. I venture to say that the Prime Minister himself has never been treated in that fashion by any honorable member on this side. The subject was referred to in connexion with the discussion on this very topic in the last session of Parliament. I will quote what took place regarding it. The Prime Minister was standing here, delivering one of his speeches against the naval loan proposal of the late Government. He then referred to this matter of the River class of vessels and tried to make a joke about it. He assumed a very elevated and patronising attitude, said that I had formerly said that vessels of this class were unsuitable for service in Australia, and added that I should be “forgiven” for a serious error which I had made concerning them. I then said -
My statements stand to-day ; I do not withdraw one.
Then the Prime Minister said -
That is the joke of it; but the Minister of Defence repeated that these river class vessels were unsuitable for service in Australia.
Thereupon I said -
I say that they are most unsuitable as a fleet - except as auxiliaries to a larger fleet; that is, to a large fighting fleet. The honorable gentleman was not satisfied with that. I then said I should be glad if he would find a quotation to which he had referred, and if he would also quote what the Admiralty said about these local defensive flotillas.
– I shall be glad to find the quotation if the honorable member wants lt.
– The Prime Minister can find as many quotations as he likes, but I say that I did not make any such ridiculous statement as he has attributed to me.
– I accept the honorable member’s word for it.
– The statement which I made and repeat is that the honorable gentleman is beginning at the wrong end. He had begun to build his auxiliary fleet before building his main fleet. That has always been the point of my criticism, and my only point of criticism with regard to these small vessels.
– I must ask the honorable member not to pursue that point any further.
– I am entitled, I think, to complain of these constant misstatements of the Prime Minister on this subject. Now I have done with the matter.
– What is the date of the Hansard from which the honorable member has been quoting?
– December i, 1909, p. 6660.
– The Prime Minister has told us to-night that whether the Naval Loan Act is repealed or not makes no difference either to the Fleet or to the intentions of the Government. So that it comes to this, on the Government’s own statement, that they are taking up time of Parliament, which could well be applied to far more important measures, with a Bill, the passing of which does not matter any way. If the Act remained on the statute-book it would not do any damage. It would not make the slightest difference to any action of the Government. Has this Government no other important business than to legislate concerning questions which do not matter one iota? That is the statement of the Prime Minister. Really, he gives his whole case away when he practically tells the Committee that he is wasting all this time on a matter which does not concern the Government at all. He says that we ask for information, and make the criticisms which have fallen from us, merely to cover our retreat. He tells us that our policy is the policy of the Labour party, and has been their policy for years. As I understood their policy, it contemplated the building of about twenty-three small vessels, to cost about half what the proposed fleet unit will cost. Our proposed fleet will be fifteen times stronger than the honorable member’s fleet would have been, will cost twice as much, will have a different objective, and will differ entirely as to its intentions and purposes. I am glad that the Government is going to carry out the present naval policy, but it is the policy initiated by the party now sitting in Opposition, and arranged for with the Imperial Government. The honorable member persistently declined to adopt it. It is the
Government, not the Opposition, which is retreating. I do not pretend to know all that is to be known about defence, and have never put forward any such pretensions, but I have yet to learn that the Prime Minister knows much about it. I do not remember any public speech of his which evidences his possession of even an elementary knowledge of the subject. Yet he talks of others as if he were an authority, and speaks in the most patronising way.
– The question is not what the Prime Minister knows of defence.
– I am trying to show that the policy of the Opposition haj been consistent, and that the Ministry has> been forced to adopt it. I am glad that Ministers are going to carry out our policy. But surely I may ask how many tenders have been accepted? I have yet to learn that a question like that cannot be PUt during the discussion of a naval loan policy. Such questions are answered instantly by Ministers in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister either does not know anything about the matter, or is apeing a high and mighty behaviour which he thinks ought to characterize one in his position. I find nothing in his speeches to give us even an inkling of what the Government financial policy is to be, though he has not hesitated to say that Ministers will be embarrassed.
– “ The wish is father to the thought “ with the honorable member.
– I am quoting the Prime Minister’s own words. Following his usual method of declining to discuss any proposition he may submit to the House, he simply told us that he will be embarrassed by the course which he intends to take. He said that he will pay for the Fleet out of revenue, and will be embarrassed thereby, but he does not tell us how he will extricate himself from his embarrassment. He said-
I do not think it will be possible to raise the money-
– The honorable member is not in order in quoting from Hansard.
– I think that I am in order in quoting from a report of the present debate. The Prime Minister said -
I do not think it would be possible to raise the money required in three years, but we may be able without borrowing to so adjust the payments as to meet our obligations in live years.
Those remarks only deepen the mystery. The honorable gentleman said either too much or too little. It is an elementary principle of parliamentary procedure that when one financial proposal is set aside Parliament shall be favoured with an alternative. The Government is carrying out the naval policy of its predecessors, but the Committee is in the dark as to how that policy is to be financed. Failing to get an answer from the Prime Minister, I suppose we must refer to the speeches of less responsible members of the party. One of them told us that the landlords are going to pay for defence/
– The honorable member must not refer to the Hansard report of the debate on the second reading of the Bill.
– Surely I am at liberty to quote from the Hansard report of the discussion on this Bill?
– The honorable member should ask his chief.
– The honorable member, whose remarks I was abo.ut to quote, said -
We will -take a little bit out of the rich man’s pocket and put. it into the pocket of the poor mau.
– The honorable member having been twice told by the Chairman that he must not quote the Hansard report, is surely out of order in doing so.
– The honorable member has not read from the Hansard report since I told him that he could not do so.
– The honorable member for Melbourne should not take frivolous points of order. Judging from statements made in the House, it would seem that the naval policy and questions of defence are subsidiary to the consideration how to make the big man pay. That subject comes up in every debate.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the clause.
– I am discussing alternative proposals.
– The honorable member must not do so.
– It is about time that the Prime Minister put an end to this mystery. He has begun in the wrong way, and before he has been conducting the business of the country very long, he will find it better to think out his plans thoroughly than to rush into the breach, as he has done in this instance, to give effect to a foolish promise to the people, and to do what he has told us to-night does not make a pin’s worth of difference to the Government policy. The honorable gentleman has been wasting the time of the House for days past in connexion with this matter. He has said that this legislation makes no difference whatever. It is about time we discussed some of the important matters that will make a difference to the country, and to the pledges given by honorable members from the platten m.
.- The Prime Minister appears to be under the impression that the questions I put to him have not a serious basis. I can put my position with regard to this Bill clearly before the honorable gentleman. When the Act which is now sought to be repealed was under consideration nine months ago, I said that I did not believe that borrowing for defence was a sound policy. I expressed then my reasons for holding that view, and said that my only reason for consenting to the proposed loan for naval defence purposes was the. extreme urgency of the defence question. On the second reading of this Bill I took up identically the- same position. I said that if the Government could provide a means of financing their proposal so that the Fleet unit could ‘ e constructed as quickly as it would have been under the policy of the late Government, no one would be better pleased than I. Now I find that the Prime Minister has, apparently, some difficulty in informing the Committee whether or not he intends to proceed with the policy of the late Government so far as the construction of the Fleet unit is concerned. If he can only assure me that there will be no delay whatsoever in the construction of the unit in its entirety, I shall have no further opposition to offer to the passage of this Bill. I have not opposed it up to date, but as a member of the Committee I am unable to decide whether the Naval Loan Act ought to be repealed or not, unless I am given such an assurance as I have asked for from the Prime Minister. In the absence of such an assurance, it seems to me to be my duty to oppose the repeal of the Act, as a protest against the action of Ministers.
– I have said again and again that we shall make our defence effective.
– It is a question of the time it will take.
– The honorable member cannot get the policy of the Government now.
– I am not asking for the policy of the Government. What I ask is whether there will be any delay in the construction of the unit. Will the construction of these vessels be delayed by the repeal of the Naval Loan Act? Will that involve that provision for Australian defence will be put back for a day, or a month, or a year? If we are assured that it will not. I believe that the Committee will be ready to consent to the repeal of the Act.
– I think the honorable member’s question has already been answered.
– The Leader of the Opposition is no doubt referring to a state-‘ ment by the Prime Minister that, so far as this Bill is concerned, it makes no difference to his Government.
– -There is something in the last number -of Hansard on the subject.
– If there is, I shall be delighted to hear what it is. If we can be given such an assurance as I ask for, I believe the majority of the Committee will be delighted to see the Naval Loan Act repealed.
.- On the 15th March last, a tender was accepted for the construction of the armoured cruiser. Up till the time the present Government assumed office tenders had not been accepted for the other vessels of the unit. This was not because there was any desire for delay, but because a great deal of time would be taken up in the construction of the armoured cruiser, and the smaller vessels could easily be constructed before the date at which the whole unit was to be completed - in July of 1912. The late Government resigned office about the end of April. Since that time three months has elapsed, and I have put to the Prime Minister the simple question whether tenders have been accepted for any of the remaining ships in the interval. . My question deals with a matter of fact, about which there need be no secret. I am not asking for information as to how the vessels are to be paid for. The Prime Minister has not, however, enlightened the Committee even on that point. He may probably be able to pay one or two instalments out of the Treasurer’s Advance, just as he is meeting the first instalment of £70,000 which was due on the 30th June. I cannot understand the reticence of the honorable gentleman in refusing to say whether tenders have been accepted for any of the other ships. He must know whether any tenders have been accepted for the remaining ships, and if they have not, he is surely able to say when they will be accepted. As a rule, the acceptance of tenders is announced in the newspapers, and as no announcement has appeared of the acceptance of any tenders for the construction of the remainder of the ships, we may be justified in assuming that none have been accepted.
– The honorable member has not been in order since he rose to speak.
– Then I shall not pursue the matter further. I think I have some right to protest against the reticence of the Prime Minister in regard to a matter which is merely one of fact.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
– I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a very short measure, the consideration of which was postponed for the convenience of the honorable member for Bendigo. As I pointed out when considering His Excellency the Governor-General’s Message in Committee, we are simply asking for the appropriation of a large amount - £3,500,000 - to the credit of a Trust Fund into which all moneys available will be put, with a view to paying oldage pensions. The extent of the amount does not make any difference, but it insures that at least for the next two years there need be no trouble about this matter.
– It is to mop up all the surpluses.
– Yes, the Leader of the Opposition is aware that this is not a matter of policy, but that the measure is intended to provide that Commonwealth revenue shall be secured to the Commonwealth, and, judging by the discussion that has taken place recently, we shallneed all our revenue for Commonwealth purposes.
.- Whatever disagreement there may be in this House on other subjects, there will be none on this.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and, by leave, passed through its remaining stages.
Tariff Reciprocity with New Zealand : Wines.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– During the week, I asked the Minister of Trade and’ Customs his intentions in regard to reciprocity between New Zealand and the Commonwealth in connexion with the wine industry. If something is not done, this industry, which is very important to a great many people in the Commonwealth, will be entirely crushed out. Ihave here section 9 of the New Zealand Customs and Duties Act 1908, as follows : -
Where any country, being part of the British Dominion, reduces or abolishes, or proposes to do so, the duty on any product or manufacture of New Zealand, the Governor is authorized to enter into an agreement to reduce or abolish duty on any articles, the produce or manufacture of such country, to an extent that the estimated revenue so remitted shall equal as nearly as possible the remission by that country. Such agreements, however, require ratification byParliament.
That shows that New Zealand is prepared to enter into negotiations for reciprocity, on a basis which is fair in every sense of the word. It might be relevant, as showing the present state of affairs, to quote figures relating to our trade with the Dominion. In 1909, Australia paid New Zealand a sum of £12,836 on 51,347 gallons of wine imported by the Dominion, at the rate of 5s. per gallon duty. On the same quantity of wine, South Africa would pay £5,134, at 2s. per gallon, the present rate of duty. The balance- against Australia amounts to the very substantial sum of £7,702. As a way out of the difficulty, I would suggest that New Zealand should reduce the duty on Australian wine to that now paid by South Africa, namely, 2s. per gallon ; and that, as a quidpro quo, Australia should remit the duty of1d. per lb. on New Zealand blue cod, and of 2s. per cwt. on New Zealand oysters.
– Why not make the reciprocity general ?
– I merely suggest these two items, as a way out of the difficulty, seeing that they will very nearly balance each other. In 1909, the duty on blue cod imported by Australia realized £5,627; and that of oysters, £810; or a total of £6,437,as against the £7,702 already mentioned. The acceptance of this proposal would place South African and Australian wines very nearly on an equal footing. I have a few figures here which tend to show that, under present conditions, the wine industry in Australia, so far as New Zealand is concerned, is being crushed and destroyed. The quantity of wine imported by New Zealand from Australia in 1908 was 62,971 gallons, valued at £22,112 ; while in 1909 the quantity was 51,347 gallons, and the value £18,620; showing a considerable falling off. In the case of South Africa the quantity of wine imported into New Zealand in 1908 was 4,283 gallons, valued at £1,146; while in 1909 the quantity was 17,536 gallons, and the value £5,404.
– Is that owing to the difference in duty ?
– It looks very much like it. I am raising this question, not only for the parochial reason that it affects a great many of my constituents, although that does give me very serious concern ; but also because I regard it from the national point of view, recognising the injury that it does to the industry in several of the States; and I say that the matter calls for the serious attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs. I know that he has it under review ; andI sincerely trust that every effort willbe made to deal with it at an early date.
– The matter of a reciprocal treaty with New Zealand has been under consideration for many years. When the late Mr. Richard Seddon was on his last trip to Australia, I believe he, and the honorable member for Ballarat, tried to arrange some such reciprocal treaty as that which the honorable member for Indi has mentioned to-night; but, although this House, in 1906, adopted the treaty as placed before us, the New Zealand Parliament threw out our proposals.
– Because we wanted to strike too hard a bargain.
– I am not sure of that. Since that time, there have been two or three other proposals ; and I think that, evenas late as last year, the then Prime Minister was in communication with the Prime Minister of the Dominion with a view to arrive at some particular items; because a treaty could not be made on one or two items alone. The difficulty is that we are producing practically everything that New Zealand produces, with one or two exceptions; and we are producing; also, a number of commodities that New Zealand is not. New Zealand is very anxious that we should place oats on the free list; but I do not think the farmers of Australia would like us to allow New Zealand oats to come in free to obtain a benefit for the Australian wine industry.
– New Zealand is reducing duties on our produce now of her own free will.
– I am not aware of that; but this matter was mentioned by the Minister of External Affairs about twelve months ago, when he brought up the question of South Australian wines. Since then, the South African wines have been going into New Zealand in increasing quantities ; and our own wines have been pushed out, simply on account of the differential Tariff, which is 5s. against Australia, and 2s. against South Africa. I assure the honorable member that if anything can be done, not only to bring about a better understanding between the Commonwealth and the Dominion, but to arrange anything in regard to trade that will not press too severely on any one section of the community, the Government will be pleased to look into the matter and see if it can be arranged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 July 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100728_reps_4_55/>.