4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In Saturday’s Herald appears the following statement : - .
The Yorkshire Observer to-day publishes an outspoken article, two columns in length, dealing with the experiences of four emigrants who went from Bradford to West . Australia.
It is alleged by these men that all the good land near the railway lines is locked up.
The men, it is stated, “cleared out broken in pocket and spirit.”
An official reply has been made on . behalf of Western Australia -
Mr. Wilson states that he has no knowledge of immigrants clearing out with broken hearts or pockets, but he ‘knows hundreds who have been out a few years and now have a competence, with a moderate fortune in view.
Evidently some one has been making misstatements with a view to injuring Australia, and I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs whether his Department will ascertain whether those who are advertising in the Old World are not publishing thoughtless and incorrect statements which are doing harm to this country.
– I shall have the matter looked into.
– I wish to read the whole of the answer given by the Premier of Western Australia, of which a portion has been read by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. It is this -
Mr. Wilson states that he has no knowledge of -immigrants clearing out with broken hearts or pockets, but he knows hundreds who have been out a few years and now have a competence, with a moderate fortune in view. It is quite true, he says, that applicants cannot always obtain the special block of land they pick, as there. is such a rush of applicants for these. _ He was satisfied the lands boards were unprejudiced, and did not favour speculators. The Government did not claim to have vacant land alongside existing railways, but hundreds of thousands of acres open for selection along routes of projected agricultural railways, and the construction of these lines would be pushed on as soon as authorized.
In view of that statement, does not the Minister consider that he will be justified in cooperating’ as heartily as he can with the Western Australian Government, in order to bring immigrants into that State?
– I do not think that the statements which have been read by the honorable member, or the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, make it necessary for the Department of External Affairs to vary its action in regard to immigration.
– Has the Acting Treasurer seen a statement to the effect that a gang of forgers is making preparations to issue spurious Commonwealth notes? Has the Treasury made ample provision to protect the Treasury and the people from a fraud of that kind?
– The allegation has been brought under my notice that certain persons in New South Wales contemplated issuing forged notes at the time of the issue of the Commonwealth notes, but the Treasury has arranged for the issue of a note which will be most difficult to imitate. According to the advice of experts, it will be almost, if not quite, impossible to photograph our notes, and in addition there will be on them a Commonwealth imprint. We think the combination will baffle all who try to forge them. If there are forgers possessing sufficient ingenuity and skill to make counterfeit notes, we shall, with’ the assistance of the banks, do what we can to defeat their efforts, and they will be pursued to the ends of the earth.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper: -
Post-offices,. Illawarra - Officers employed, hours worked, &c. - Return to an Order of the House, dated nth October, 1910.
– I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether it is true, as reported in the Herald of recent date, that it is proposed to proceed, without interruption, with the consideration of the Constitution Alteration Bills until they have passed through all their stages?
– It was the intention of the Government to proceed right on with the consideration of those Bills, but the Leader of the Opposition stated that he thought the debate should be adjourned in each case at the close of my speech in moving the second reading.
– As usual.
– I have therefore ar- ranged that at the close of my speech on each of the two Bills the debate shall be adjourned until to-morrow, and that we shall, in the meantime, take other business.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs state whether it is proposed to establish an Australian University at the Federal Capital, as reported in the daily newspapers?
– It is not proposed ; but I hope to see an Australian University established there before I die.
– I would ask the Minister of Home Affairs if, in laying out the Federal city, a site suitable for a. University has been reserved?
– The honorable member may rest assured that I shall see that that is done.
– Some time ago I asked the Treasurer for a return showing the net cost of Federation, apart from thecost of transferred Departments. The return was prepared, and appeared in the Herald of 27th September last, but it has; not yet’ been printed and circulated. 1 would ask the Acting Treasurer whether he will cause the return to be printed and made available to honorable members.
– There is no objection to the return in question being made a parliamentary paper.
– I wish to ask the Acting Treasurer whether the Bill authorizing the Commonwealth to take over the State debts has yet received the Royal Assent. If it has, will the Minister say whether the Government intend to introduce legislation dealing with the subject during the present session - in short, whether the Government have any policy in regard to the matter, and, if so, what it is?
– I am unable to say at the moment whether the Bill has yet received the Royal Assent, but I think that it has. As to the second part of the question, the righr. honorable member will recognise that it involves an expression of Government policy, and I think, therefore, that he should give notice of it.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow - 1 and 2. Under the Federal Act, the duties of the Quarantine Officer at Albany are more exacting than those under the State Act, and require special qualifications. It was therefore considered that the position warranted a salary above that allowed by the State. Dr. Everard was accordingly informed by the Director of Quarantine, when the latter visited Albany, that the position would be advertised, and that not merely as a matter of form, but with a view to the appointment of the best qualified man.
Naval Accommodation at Commonwealth Ports - 6th A.I.R. - Manoeuvre Area, Liverpool.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I lay on the table of the House a return giving the information for which the honorable member asks.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Referring to Major-General Hoad’s report of the 6th October, iqio, in which he states that arrangements are practically complete for the acquisition of 120,000 acres, at Liverpool, New South Wales, for a manoeuvre area - Will . the Minister state whether or not the district known as Wedderburn, lying west of O’Hara’s Creek, and bounded by Georee’s River, is included in the proposed acquisition?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
No arrangements have been made for the acquisition of 120,000 acres at Liverpool, but the Government of New South Wales hus concurred with the request made by the Commonwealth to reserve a large area near Liverpool for defence purposes. Although the land lying west of O’Hara’s Creek, and known as Wedderburn, lies within the area, it is not proposed to acquire any privately-owned lands there.
Moss Vale-Sydney Telephone Line - Telephone Attendants
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, has furnished the following information : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
As the Public Service Commissioner is making arrangements for another examination for female telephone attendants, will those who are at present acting temporarily be appointed permanently prior to those who pass the next examination ?
– The Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information : -
Examination candidates are eligible for appointment for eighteen months. This period will expire in the case of Victorian telephonists in March next. The January examination is being held to fill vacancies during the eighteen months commencing March, 1911. The estimated appointments from the last examination was thirty, but already fifty-three candidates have been permanently appointed. The permanent appointment of those now temporarily employed will depend upon the occurrence of a sufficient number of vacancies to enable their names to be reached on the examination list, prior to their eligibility expiring.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. King O’malley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for ant Act to provide for the provisional government of the Territory for the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Before dealing with the measure, I should like to know our position with regard to the scope of the discussion. There are on the business-paper two measures so correlated that it is impossible to discussone without touching upon subject-matters of the other. It would save time, great 1: facilitate discussion, and enable us better to deal with each, if we were allowed te deal with both practically as one.
– This matter has already been brought under my attention. It appears to me that both Bills are so much involved one with the other that it is not possible for me to confine the debate strictly to either. In the circumstances, I shall allow as much latitude as is possible.
– The measures that now challenge the attention of the House are of the greatest possible importance. It is suggested to amend the Constitution in several1 particulars. The subject-matter and scope of the proposed amendments alike demand the attention of honorable members and of the citizens generally. Since the criticism that will be directed against this proposal has and will come largely from one direction, I may be permitted, very briefly, to review the nature of our Constitution, and the effect of these amendments upon it.
It has first to be observed that our Federal Constitution, like all, or nearly all, other Federal Constitutions, contemplates amendment ; that, as a matter of fact, it has already been twice amended, and submitted to. the people for amendment three times. It will be contended - it has, indeed, already been put forward as a sort of advance criticism of these proposals - that these amendments directly aim at bringing about Unification. There is not a shadow of justification for such an assertion. I want to show briefly the true position, and I trust honorable members will bear with me the while, because it is very proper and very necessary that we should clearly understand where we are, and that the citizens should realize both the nature and scope and importance of the task in which we are now engaged, and in which I hope we shall shortly ask them to perform their part. Briefly, the nature of the Federal compact may be described as follows : The essential feature is the existence of two powers, one national, and the other provincial or State, each sovereign or quasi-sovereign in its own sphere. Anything that impairs the independence of either within the ambit of its sphere is fatal to the spirit of the Federal system. There are, of course, other features common to most Federations, but these are net essential to the Federal form of government. There are at present five examples of Federal Government - those of the United States, Canada, the German Empire, Switzerland, and Australia. I propose, very rapidly, to glance over such features of these as call for remark, in order that honorable members may see, amongst many differences, that feature common to them all, and essential to every Federal system. We shall see, as a result of our review of these examples of Federal government, that which cannot be abandoned’ and Federal government still maintained, arid that which, removed, leaves the spirit and virility of the Federal system unimpaired.
It has first to be observed that the provisions securing the stability of the Constitution are a common but not invariable feature in all Federations. That body which in the United States of America and in Australia is peculiarly charged with the duty of acting as guardian of the Constitution does not exist in all. The High Court in this country and the Supreme Court of the United States of America are at once arbiters between States and Commonwealth, pressing back with judicial arm National or State Government when either oversteps those shadowy but, nevertheless, very real boundaries which separate the ambit of the one from that of the other, and is the guardian of the Constitution. Yet such a tribunal, regarded by some as essential to the Federal system, exists neither in the German Empire, nor in Switzerland. In both these countries one may see a Federal Constitution unguarded by any judiciary specially charged with the duty of watching with Argus eye the every act of National and States Governments. Yet these are both examples of a form of government truly Federal in its nature, and which can be amended.
There is no such thing as unconstitutionality of a German or Swiss national law. Once the Reichstag has passed an Act, it takes effect in exactly the same way as does any other law. No tribunal can question its validity. It is very important to note this fact, for it has a distinct bearing upon the question with which we are now dealing. Stability in a Constitution is one thing ; rigidity quite another. We do not want to be swept hither and thither bv every passing wave of public feeling. There must be something fixed and definite in a Federal form of government to which the two parties to the compact can cling. The very essence of true progress is that it should be tempered by wise Conservatism. But any form of government which, in order to prevent too rapid changes, prevents all changes is clearly quite incompatible with democratic government. If the people have made up their minds, not swayed by passing passion, but in an orderly, deliberate, and constitutional way, that they require a certain law, any system, no matter by what name it be called, that stands in the way is neither democratic nor compatible with a progressive state of society. The condition of things in a State where there is a tendency towards democratic legislation and democratic ideals, as in America, but where the rigidity of the Constitution sets itself up between the people and their way, has been provocative of most notable and undesirable consequence”!.
The bloodiest war of the nineteenth century, threatening not merely to dismember the Federation, but to absolutely annihilate the very spirit of American nationalism, arose from this very cause. And to-day the American Congress and the State Legislatures are, owing to the extreme rigidity of the Federal Constitution, alike powerless to deal with a danger no less real than that which led to the great Civil War - I mean the operations of the great corporations and trusts, whose colossal wealth and influence, growing with each day, threaten the liberties, welfare, and very existence of the nation.
The rigidity of the American Constitution has been, and is, a continual danger ; its amendment is an extremely complicated and difficult business. Under ordinary circumstances, the American Constitution is not supposed to be susceptible of amendment ; but it has been amended, yet under special circumstances, three or four times. Altogether, there have been some fifteen amendments, the first batch almost immediately after Federation, a batch of three or four at the time of the Civil War, and a few others of minor importance since. The framers of the Australian Constitution, realizing that it was unwise to bind a democratic people so rigidly, did not follow too slavishly the American example in this respect, but provided an easier method of amendment. This method is so relatively easy, as compared with the American Constitution - although really difficult - that we have already amended the Constitution twice. In two successive Parliaments the people have been asked to amend the Constitution, and on each occasion they have done so. Certainly, then, this Federal Constitution and the framers of it contemplated amendment ; and the extreme rigidity which marks the American Constitution was deliberately avoided.
We come now to another feature - not affected or even threatened by these proposed amendments - that is regarded by our critics as an essential of Federation - equal State representation in the Senate. We find that this is not a feature of the Canadian 01 the German Constitution, both of which are well-defined examples of Federal government. Whatever, then, may be necessary to the Federal system, equal representation of the States is not; nor is a judiciary, nor - and I emphasize this point - is a fundamental distinction between the manner of altering ordinary laws and altering constitutional laws so called. For I have already pointed out that in Germany any law that has the support of a majority of the Reichstag becomes law in exactly the same way. whether it be a constitutional law or an ordinary law. An Act for the supervision of dairies in Germany passes exactly in the same way as in England; that is to say, an Act for the amendment of the Constitution, or any one which does not, in fact, alter the representation of the provinces or kingdoms and the National Government, is passed in the same way as any ordinary Act. All laws pass in the same manner; nor is there any body in existence, judicial or otherwise, to declare that a law once passed is unconstitutional. And the same condition of things obtains in Switzerland.
We see, then, that excessive rigidity was deliberately rejected by the framers of our Constitution ; that it is susceptible of amendment, and has been already twice amended. We see, further, that the idea, which has of late become very prevalent in certain quarters, that the Constitution is sacrosanct, and must not be touched, is one not essential to the Federal system, and that it exists neither in Switzerland, Germany, nor Canada. In the Dominion, which has a system equally Federal with that of Australia, the National Government is practically supreme, although not supreme in the sense that a unified form of government is supreme. I shall contrast, in a moment or two, all Federal systems with that of South Africa, and show clearly what the difference between Unification and Federation really is.
In Canada, then, there is no equal representation of the States. There is, it is true, a Court charged with the duty of looking after the rights of the States and the rights of the National Government. On the other hand, it must be observed that the Governor-General of Canada appoints all the LieutenantGovernors of the States, who, in their turn, decide whether a law of a State is constitutional or not, subject to the decision of the Governor-General. There, then, we have .a complete dependence of the provinces of Canada on the National Government, in that the authority which decides whether a law shall pass or not is an authority created and appointed by the Central Government. Clearly, then, the States in Canada have not the status that the States have in Australia. Yet the system in Canada is a true Federal form of government. The National Government in Canada may not overstep its powers any more than may the National Government here. But Canada has gone many steps along that road the first step on which, honorable members on the other side declare, means the irretrievable destruction of the Federal system and the practical creation of Unification; yet the system in Canada is a true system of Federal government.
Again, in Switzerland, not only is there no judiciary to declare a law unconstitutional, but there may be an amendment of the Constitution in spite of Parliament. If 50,000 electors decide to amend the Constitution, they can, by exercising the initiative, demand an amendment. The Assembly must pass a law to that effect, and present it to the people for approval by referendum ; and if a majority of the people in a majority of the States, just as in Australia, decide in the affirmative, the amendment becomes law. But as there is no provision in the Swiss Constitution for declaring a law unconstitutional, therefore, anything that the Assembly says is constitutional is constitutional, subject, of course, to the approval of the people. And I know of no rule of government or politics more in conformity with Democracy than this - that if the elect of the people declare a law to be good, subject to reference to the people, and the people themselves, after a prescribed interval, express a matured approval, it is sufficient to establish constitutionality. We have thought fit in this country to create a tribunal charged with the special duty of declaring what legislation is constitutional, and what is not. But neither the existence of- a judiciary, equal State representation, nor special provisions for amending constitutional as distinguished from ordinary laws, are necessary to Federation. We see, therefore, that the proposed amendments leave the Federal system in effective operation and its virtues unimpaired.
I come now to another matter, the scope and delineation of the powers allotted to the National and State Governments respectively. The invariable principle, as I have already pointed out, is to apportion these, and to give both Federal and State Governments independent control over those allotted to them. In some cases certain powers are granted to the National Government, and the remainder reserved to the States; in others powers are granted to the States, and the residue reserved to the National Government. In our case, certain powers have been granted to the National Government, and all others reserved to the States; while in Canada, certain powers have been granted to the Provinces, and all others reserved to the Central Go vernment. Whether out of a hundred possible powers, the Central Government has fifty and the States fifty, or whether the Central Government has twenty and the States eighty, is not material. What is essential is that within the scope of its powers each body shall be independent of the other, so that nothing done by the Central Government shall impair the authority, independence, or quasi-sovereignty of the States ; and nothing done or to be done by the States shall impair the sovereignty of the National Government. This is the one essential feature of Federation ;. all others of which mention has been madeare not essential ; Federations may and doexist without them.
As to the scope of our powers, we have followed with slavish imitation, and almost fatal consequences,’ the model of the American Constitution, particularly in regard to the trade, commerce, and industry powers, which are daily becoming more important.. In Canada, the commerce power is enjoyed by the National Government to the fullest extent. There is no commercial matter cn which it may not legislate. The fact that some of the operations of commerce are wholly within a State, others between States, and others between Canada and other countries, does not affect the power of the National Parliament. It may follow commerce wherever it goes throughout the Commonwealth, and deal with it from wherever it comes. And the German National Government’s powers are still wider. It has full authority to make laws dealing with all matters relating to trade, commerce, and industry. This fact needs special emphasis. After a long experience of a loose form of confederation, in which each State was a law unto itself, resulting in endless clashing and confusion, the progressive German nation deliberately adopted a system under which the National Government has plenary power over all matters connected with commerce, trade, and industry - the most important subjects of legislation in modern days. Although the enumerated powers are not increased in number, yet owing to the development of the sphere in which these powers fall, the scope of the National Government is an ever extending one. And there is nothing which the National Government may not do within the extensive and ever-increasing sphere of its powers. Yet this is a Federal system, and Germany is a progressive nation.
Contrast our position with that of Germany. How do we stand in the matter?
When our friends opposite speak of Unification as resulting from amendments such as are suggested, they speak without regard to facts which have existed for a considerable time, and still exist, in respect to other Federations. It is emphatically not true that- such amendments as are contemplated, or even much wider amendments of the same kind, would in the least affect the virility, or impair the virtues, of the Federal coinpact. Only one kind of amendments can do that, those aimed at the independence of the States within their own sphere. We might take from the States some of the powers which they now exercise, or they might take some of our powers, without “affecting the Federal system. The wisdom of a re-allotment and readjustment of powers is a matter for careful discussion. But that . is not now in question. What is in question is the advisability of clothing the National Government with national functions. Our present impotence forces itself upon the attention of every honorable member and every citizen of the Commonwealth. The question is whether the National Government should be supreme in its own sphere, and clothed with full power to legislate upon every part of all the matters already enumerated in section 51 of the Constitution. That is the question. The question of Unification versus Federation is not under consideration. It was the Unification bogy which my honorable friends brought forward when the Labour party declined to amend the Constitution to provide for the perpetual payment of 25s. -per capita to the States. They were then in favour of amending the Constitution, and we were opposed to it. Yet they declared they were Federalists and we were Unificationists. We who wished not to amend the Constitution declared that its amendment would impair the national powers, while they said that by refusing to amend it we were aiming at Unification !
The amendments now contemplated in no way affect the Federal system. In no sense of the word are they even a step in the direction of Unification. In the light of what I have been saying, I invite the attention of the House to the South African Act of Union. The preamble to 9, Edward VII., cap. 9, contains these words -
Whereas it is desirable for the welfare and future progress of South Africa that the several British Colonies therein should be united under one Government in a legislative union under the Crown of Great Britain and Ireland. . . .
And whereas it is expedient to make provision for the establishment of provinces with powers of legislation and administration in local matters.
Section 59 says -
Parliament shall have full power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government pf the Union.
The South African National Parliament has full powers to mate laws in any direction. No one may say it nay, or declare its legislation to be unconstitutional. Section 85 defines the powers of the provincial council in these words -
Subject to the provisions of this Act and the assent of the Governor-General in Council as hereinafter provided, the provincial council may make ordinances in relation to matters coming within the following classes of subjects.
Whatever ordinances the provincial Legislatures make are subject to the GovernorGeneral’s assent; they do not enact laws; they only pass ordinances upon a very limited range of subjects, all of which may be disallowed by the National Executive. In short, their position is similar to that of the municipalities of this country, whose by-laws may be declared ultra vires, and whose powers may be altered by a State Act. There is nothing which the provincial councils can do except in fields not already occupied by the National Legislature, and where their action is not prohibited by it. The provincial councils may not make laws at all, save on a very few subjects, and the making of laws on these subjects is subject to the approval of the National Legislature. Section 86 provides that -
Any ordinance made by a provincial council shall have effect in and for the province as long as and as far only as it is nol repugnant to any Act of Parliament.
This is the one instance of a unified Government in the British Empire, and so far as I know, in the world. The South African Constitution shows in the clearest way the dominance of the central Government and the impotence of the provincial Governments. There is nothing which the central Government may not do, and nothing which the provincial Governments may do, except with its permission. This is Unification, and it differs from the Federal system as black differs from white. The distinction is vital. In one the National Government is supreme, unlimited in the number and scope of its powers. In the other the National Government is confined to a certain sphere which it may not transcend, and the States enjoy independence in their own spheres. In Australia, as in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany, the powers of the National Government are defined by the Constitution, and it may not impair in the slightest the independence of the State, nor, on the other hand, may a state intrude upon the National domain.
This is the Federal principle, and we do not propose any amendment affecting the principle of Federation. I have dwelt at this length on the subject because, in spite of the many and real reasons for the legislation proposed, we have to fight one cry, and one only, and that is “This means Unification.” The words were thought, during the last Federal campaign, to be more potent than that “ blessed word Mesopotamia.” They were the one answer to our every question, the one charge against all our reforms. The beast of Revelations was not more ghastly or terrible, and if I have dehorned this monster as I hope I have, I have done useful work.
I come now to the consideration of our present position. This Parliament has been in existence for ten years, and has done good national work; but we cannot rest on our laurels. If we say, “ Look at what we have done,” instead of saying “ Look at what we are doing and intend to do,” the people will have good reason to reply, “ We have no use for a Parliament in which there is dignity but not power. We want not mere shadowy forms, but real entities endowed with power.”
What “ is our position ? What can the National Parliament do? . We see in section 51 of the Constitution that imposing array of powers with which we are clothed, and I am not going to say one word to belittle the very many and real opportunities for useful legislation there set forth. But when we exempt from them the powers which we have already practically exhausted by existing Commonwealth legislation - when we take away our powers with respect to Cus- toms taxation and defence - we may well ask, “What is left?” So far as mere phraseology, language, and reiteration are concerned, there is much ; so far as actualities are concerned, in the light of the decisions of the High Court and of our experience, we find there is little or nothing that is of national or vital moment. A National Parliament ought to deal with national matters. If our ambition aims merely at a glorified shire council uttering and re-uttering pious ejaculations concerning national sentiments about one flag and one destiny, no doubt the Constitution clothes us with more than ample power. But I take it that our desires lie in quite another direction. We desire to give legislative and administrative effect to the national aspirations of the people of the Commonwealth. But what is the position? We have power to make laws with respect to many matters, useful, necessary, if you like, but in the wide- sense of the term, not truly national. We have power to make laws, for example, with respect to divorce and weights and measures, and no one will deny that both in their way are very useful. But a National Parliament cannot live by legislation upon those matters alone. Was this Federation created merely as a Customs union or as a means for defence ? I do not deny the utility of a Zollverein or of a union for defence. Both are very necessary, and I should not hesitate to approve of any sensible proposals for united action for these purposes alone. But it was not for those purposes only that this Federation and present Parliament was created. Surely very different reasons were eloquently urged by those who persuaded us to enter the Federation. We were told that it was a new nation that we were ushering into the family of the nations. We accept, and have always accepted, that doctrine. We are here, then, as a National Parliament to give expression to national sentiments and to place on the statutebook national desires. We must perform some useful work to justify our existence.
Wie do not claim all the powers that are now exercised by the States, but what we have a right to claim is that everything that is in the true sense national should be exercised by this Legislature. In particular, we have a right to claim that we should be permitted to exercise in reality the powers which we thought . we possessed to the full when we entered Federation, but which experience and the decisions of the High Court have shown that we do not possess.
The people of this country are entitled to something more than endless litigation. It was not merely - and I say this with very great deference - to encourage the legal profession that this Parliament was established, nor was it created merely for the elucidation of fine constitutional points. We are here to give expression to national desires. We are here to express ourselves no longer provincially but nationally, and to do that we must be clothed in a clear, unambiguous way with national powers. The delimitation of the powers of the States and of those of the Commonwealth must’ be clearly defined. And here I come to the crux of the whole contention. As the powers of the Parliament are at present set forth, the very essence and essential feature of Federation is violated. The Federal system demands that the powers of each Government should be . exercised independently of the other, and in order that this may be done it is necessary there should be such a clear line of demarcation separating them, that there shall be neither clashing nor danger of clashing. Now the sub-sections of section 5,1 dealing with the trade and commerce powers and corporations and industrial matters violate both of these principles.
What is our position in regard to trade and commerce, corporations, companies, industrial matters, combines, and monopolies ? Paragraph 1, section 51, which deals with trade and commerce, violates every one of the canons of effective Federation. There is no clear line of demarcation, but rather endless clashing and ambiguity. There is no certainty, either legally or politically, as to what our position really is. “ Commerce” properly belongs not to a State, but to a nation. It is not a function confined within any one particular place. “ Commerce “ is intercourse, and therefore must necessarily cease only where intercourse ceases. There is nothing that can logically distinguish commerce between Albury and Wodonga from commerce between Albury and Wagga. Why should there be? The conditions which govern commerce between Albury and Wodonga govern commerce between Albury and Wagga. Yet, while we may exercise control over commerce between Albury a.nd Wodonga, we may do absolutely nothing in regard to commerce between Albury and Wagga. While we may deal with commerce between Melbourne and Sydney, we may say nothing at all in regard to commerce between Melbourne and Ballarat. Whilst we have on the face of it a trade and commerce power, and that power is plenary, yet there is a sphere, and a very wide one, inside which we may not operate at all. And this prevents us not only from dealing with commerce within the prohibited sphere, but hampers us from dealing with commerce inside the sphere that the Constitution allows. We may not deal with commerce inside a State, but only with trade and commerce between the States. The result is we cannot deal effectively with commerce at all. That is the result of a slavish imitation of the Constitution of the United States of America. The American Constitution cases show in the clearest possible way to what a hopeless condition those who have attempted to reconcile irreconcilable things have been reduced.- The cases, of which I shall quote very few, set forth that any attempt to distinguish between Intra-State and Inter-State commerce - that is- to say, commerce within a State and commerce between States - must lead to endless confusion, in some instances stopping little short of the absurd. “ Commerce,” as defined by the American Courts, “ includes purchase, sale, and exchange of commodities, but not manufacture.” That principle was laid down in the case of the Addyston Pipe Company v. United States, 175, U.S.., 241. It has also been held that it includes transportation by land and water, and the navigation of public waters for that purpose. In the case of the Daniel Ball, 10 Wall 557, and Norfolk R. Co. v. Pennsylvania, 136 U.S., 114, it was held that a carrier wholly within the State is engaged in Inter-State trade so far as he is a link in a through line; while in the case of Hartley v. Kansas City R. Company, it was held that transportation between two points in a State, which passes outside a State en route is Inter-State. As to the duration and end of Federal control over merchandise transported from one State to another, the position, shortly stated, is that it begins when transportation begins, continues during transit, is not interrupted by temporary stoppage, and ends when the goods are “ intermingled in the goods of the State in which they arrive.” The attempt to distinguish between Inter-State and Intra-State trade in respect of goods that enter a country has led to endless confusion. In one of the great cases in which the law is laid down - that of Brown v. Maryland - it was held that sale after arrival in original packages is Inter-State commerce, but if the packages are broken then it is not. Bottles are original packages if separately addressed. Some very ingenious people iti the United States of America, under cover of this decision, proceeded to sell bottles over a bar, and other ingenious gentlemen opened them there and then and drank the contents, which, we may assume, were not entirely red ink. That was held to be Intra-State, and not Inter-State, commerce. The attempt to reconcile these conflicting judgments - to say where Inter- State commerce ends and where Intra-State commerce begins - has led to endless litigation. There must necessarily be endless litigation in the endeavour to allot to two different authorities a subject which, in its very essence, is susceptible of being dealt with only as a whole.
Australian commerce is at least coterminous with the boundaries of this continent. Indeed, it goes beyond them, and any attempt to slit it up into six or more portions, and to say that there shall be seven laws in respect of commerce - that we shall make laws with respect to commerce between the States, but not within a State - must lead, not only to confusion, but to a condition bordering perilously upon chaos. It has led to confusion, to litigation, to uncertainty, and to a paralysis of our national legislative capacity, and is likely to lead to more. It is consonant neither with the dignity of the National Parliament, nor an effective control of the commerce power that this should continue. We need to have in regard to trade and commerce the power that the Canadian Parliament has. That Legislature has full power to make laws with respect to trade and commerce. The Constitution, as it stands at present, says that we are to have power to make laws in regard to trade and commerce with other <x>untries and amongst the States ; but it has been held by the High Court that that excludes commerce within a State. I shall deal with that point further when we come to consider the law as it affects corporations. It will be sufficient now to remember that precisely those limitations which hamper American legislation hamper us.
It is proposed to strike out the words of limitation in the Constitution, and to give the Commonwealth Parliament power over trade and commerce. We shall then have power over all trade and all commerce, and there can be no mistake, no clashing of rival jurisdictions, no uncertainty, and no confusion. We shall not have to go to the Court every time an endeavour is made to enforce an existing law. There will be no necessity to go to the Court to find out whether or not we have the power. If we have the whole power without ambiguity - and words of limitation are dangerous - we shall know where we are, and the States will know how they stand. There will be no impairment of State Rights. The States will still have within their own spheres the independent and quasisovereign powers that they have to-day. I have said commerce is naturally a matter of national concern. It cannot now - if it ever could - be adequately dealt with by the several States. It is absolutely essential that the National Government should have control of commerce. Commerce, which was at one time but a series of tiny rivulets, tended by individual adventurers or merchants, is to-day a torrent sweeping along well-defined channels and increasing in volume with every passing day. Formerly each individual carried on business without regard either to the requirements of the community or to his competitors, but to-day there is systematization, there is control, there is order.
The commerce power is essentially a national one, for it concerns vitally the -welfare of every human being in the community. Those who control trade and commerce control those who have to live by it. That is to say, they control the whole community, and to assert that the National Government must not have control of the well-spring from which all must perforce drink or die - to say that we are to dip our pannikins in the stream, but are not to divert or control it - is to reduce the National Government to a condition of impotence, and to grievously’ imperil the welfare of every individual in the community. These restrictions upon the National Government in this matter might have been justified when Federation was created in America in the century before last, but in the twentieth century it is no longer possible to give the control of commerce to any but the whole people. In the interests of the nation, of Democracy, and of Federation itself, it is necessary that we should be clothed, in unambiguous words, with the whole control of the trade an’1, commerce power.
I come now to corporations. Here again we find our powers shorn by the High Court interpretations of the Constitution. We thought that we had power with regard to making laws regulating corporations, because paragraph xx. of section 51 of the Constitution says that we can make laws with respect to -
Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
Upon that assumption the Anti-Trust Act was passed, sections 5 and 8 of which were drafted with a view to dealing, in what was hoped would prove effective fashion, with monopolies, and to prevent the people of this country from being entirely at the mercy of persons who control the means wherebv we live. It was found, however, in the Huddart-Parker case, that we had no such . power, that paragraph xx. did not mean what it said, and that practically the only power we have is the power to deal with corporations before they commence operations. Once they have commenced operations we can do nothing whatever with them. The absurdity of this position becomes clearer when we look more closely into the judgment. We have power to prohibit corporations from engaging in any business at all, but we have no power to direct their operations when once they are launched in any business. We can apparently say to any corporation about to start, “ You shall’ not do anything,” but directly it starts it may do anything it pleases for all that we can do to it. Practically, then, we have the shadow of a power; the reality is taken from us. We thought that paragraph xx. gave us complete power, and we had reason for that opinion, for the power which that paragraph purports to give was novel, and did not exist in any other Federal Constitution. It was put into the Constitution to give us, as it was thought, an added power. But it gives u’s nothing, or. nothing of value. It is as though we had the power to deal with education, and found that under it all that we could do in the way of directing or providing for the education of the people was to forbid them being educated at all ! According to the dissenting judgment of Mr. Justice Isaacs, the trade and commerce section of the Constitution gave us all the power that the majority of the Court decided paragraph xx. gave us. We had a right to believe we had the power of dealing with corporations. We have not got it, and we must have it. I say that deliberately.
The National Parliament must have this power of dealing with corporations. Consider the position. Corporations are clearly a national matter. Is not the distinguishing feature of modern production the great and ever- increasing power, extent, and influence of combines? All the world over-, this question is compelling the attention of every Legislature and of every thinking man. If we allow corporations, whose ramifications extend over the whole of the continent and beyond it, to be in the hands of State Assemblies, it is perfectly clear that we yield up, not only our power, but all power to deal with them effectively at all. It is impossible for State Governments to deal effectively with corporations whose operations extend all over Australia. The effort has been made repeatedly. The statute-books of the State Legislatures of America are full of Acts and amending Acts dealing with these giants of production and commerce. And nowhere in the world do they flourish so abundantly. The Congress of the United States has endeavoured, with their restricted powers, to control them and failed. In our own States, where the effort has been made, it has obviously failed.
We may not deal with corporations ; the States cannot deal with them. Are we then to sit down impotently and do nothing in face of the greatest menace of modern days? Are we raising the wages and improving the conditions of workmen, and at the same time bowing in abject or impotent submission to those who regulate prices?. I hope not. It would be infinitely better to say at once, “ What is the use of bothering about raising wages? Why pretend to the workmen that we can do anything, when, as fast as we take out from the heap that the workers have made the wages that belong to them, there is taken from their pockets each week an equivalent amount in increased prices?”
Is not the problem of the cause of the increased cost of living a world-wide one? America has appointed a Commission to inquire into it. Every country is on the alert in respect to it. No nation has escaped the influences that make for increased cost of living. Every day we see or hear of some great disturbance or of widespread distress from this same cause ? Was not the great strike in France, which is but to-day, as it were, slowly sinking in its ashes, provoked by this very cause? In England, in America, here at our doors, have not prices increased? What is the cause ? There may be many ; but I do not hesitate to declare that one of the chief causes, if not the chief cause, is the existence of combines, trusts - call them what you will - which fix prices to suit themselves and nobody else. The tendency of the age is towards widening the sphere of commercial operations and manufactures, and reducing the number of individuals controlling trade. This is so well known that my honorable and learned friend the Attorney-General in the late Government prepared a memorandum on the subject, from which I shall read some extracts.
– It was confidential; but I want it published. I hope the honorable member will lay the whole of it on the table.
– Certainly ; but I do not want to read it all. I am quoting from it with the consent and approval of my honorable friend, who referred me to it.
– I shall be only too pleased, if it contributes anything to the subject.
– This question has forced itself on the attention of every country. No thinking man can escape the conviction, or, at any rate the fear, that these corporations, unless they are mastered by the people, will master them. My honorable friend heads his memorandum as follows -
Huddart, Parker, and Co. Prop. Ltd. v. Comptroller of Customs.
Appleton v. Comptroller of Customs.
And later says -
A question that sooner or later may have to be reconsidered, in the light of judicial decisions and the new conditions, is the apportionment of the commerce and (possibly after greater experience of its working) of the industrial power. The decision in the case at the head of this memorandum defines, on lines never seriously challenged in the United States of America, where the involved problems are more pressing, the scope of the commerce power in relation to combinations and monopolies. “ It is now no longer possible,”, says Professor Woodrow Wilson in a recent article on “ The States and the Federal Government,” “ to frame any simple or comprehensive definition of ‘ commerce.’ Above all, it is difficult to distinguish the ‘ commerce ‘ which is confined within the boundaries of a single State, and subject to its domestic regulation, from that which passes from State to State and lies within the jurisdiction nf Congress.” He is against arbitrary extension of the Federal power, being of opinion that the success of the American Federation is largely due to the spontaneity and variety, the independent and irrepressible life, of its component communities, which have preserved the people from the paralysis which sooner or later falls on those who look to the central government to patronize and nurture them. “ It would be fatal,” he says, “ to our political vitality really to strip the States of their powers and transfer them to the Federal Government.”
On that, the late Attorney-General comments -
But the facts have to be faced. The division of a particular power may lead to indefiniteness as to sphere, harassing litigation that establishes no guiding principle, duplication and clashing of machinery, continual strain on the relations between commercial organizations and the State, and between capital and labour.
I indorse every word of that. I could put it in no stronger terms, for it is the most emphatic condemnation of things as they are that one could well wish to hear.
He goes on -
This very question, “ The Constitutional Difficulties of Trust Legislation,” is being discussed in the United States. Writing in November, 1905, in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Warren Bigelow, of the New York Bar, says : -“ The difficulty to be overcome in trying to solve the trust problem by means of federal incorporation does not lie in the vastness of the undertaking (that is a detail of the executive function), but rather in the conflict between State and nation - in the infringement on State rights which it seems to involve. Several vital and intimately connected questions arise - (a) Was the right to create a corporation reserved to the States by reason of the fact that it was not granted to the United States? (b) May not both the United States and the several States enjoy the right? (c) Would it be possible for the United States to control or destroy the corporations created by the States or to prevent their engaging in Inter-State business?”
He is doubtful whether it can be done ; but he thinks it may be. He also says -
He appears to be of opinion …. that it may be desirable to amend the Constitution to make the powers of Congress clear. Another writer in the same issue of The Annals says the futility of State control has become so apparent that, much against their wishes, the people are compelled to turn for protection to the Federal Government.
That is the case in a nutshell j and nothing I could say could be clearer or more emphatic in approval of the course the Government have taken. I am omitting a great deal, quoting only sufficient to make the point quite clear -
It will be seen from these references that in the United States of America, where combinations and monopolies are more numerous and extensive in their operations, the ineffectiveness of divided power is felt, and greater Federal control is advocated by men who have no desire to unnecessarily narrow the sphere of the States.
The point is not the plenary character of the Federal power within its acknowledged sphere ; but whether, in the interests of the public, that power should extend to legislation in respect of contracts or operations in restraint of trade, whether Inter-State and external or Intra-State,
Df corporations, or corporations and persons.
No State Acts in the matter exist, or, if passed, could effectively meet the necessities of the case. It is clear that all Acts, Commonwealth and State, while covering operations of persons or companies in different fields of jurisdiction, should be similar in purport or terms. Otherwise the lawfulness of operations would depend on locality, and similar facts might be made the basis of different charges, under the State and the Commonwealth Acts respectively. This would mean the application, to the same Acts, of conflicting views or standards of policy or morals, different rules as to proof, on the same evidence conviction under one jurisdiction and acquittal under another, and, in States without any legislation in the matter, freedom from the operations of the offending persons or companies except so far as controlled by common law.
Again, in clear and unambiguous terms, the whole position is set forth; and no argument I can think of could more comprehensively and unreservedly support the measures now before the Chamber -
As regards administration, the difficulties in securing uniformity so desirable in the case of States presenting similar conditions, would be great. It is clear that, to the extent to which concert in the enforcement of the Acts of the States and the Commonwealth was not attained, the attempts to prevent or suppress the evils would be ineffective.
On the other hand, if the Parliament of the Commonwealth possessed power to legislate in respect of combinations or monopolies in restraint of trade, State as well as Inter-State And external, the law and administration would be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. One proceeding, instead of several, would suffice ; and the judgment of the Court would apply to ah, not, as at present, only to the Inter-State, operations of the defendants.
The ex-Attorney-General then went on to speak of monopolies -
The majority - in fact, twenty-nine or thirty out of thirty-three - out of the cases that have been considered by this Department are, according to the judgment referred to in the title to this memorandum, within the jurisdiction of the States only ; but the most important are InterState; and none (affecting more than one State) can be completely dealt with without the cooperation of the States or an amendment of the Constitution in the direction suggested. Besides, operations within the jurisdiction of one State (such as those of a purely manufacturing corporation, or in respect of domestic trade) may affect the industrial activity of all ; the equality of opportunity, material development, and consequent improvement in social conditions throughout Australia, which are, or should be, the final ends of uniform legislation, may not be realized to the desired extent owing to the play of activities within the State to which the Commonwealth power does not extend. In some cases, the same combination monopolizes practically the whole of the State trade, and restrains, if it does not monopolize, the Inter-State trade in respect of particular commodities or services.
It will be seen that my honorable and learned friend precisely understood the difficulty, even if his colleagues did not. We have a list of some twenty-nine cases of monopoly which came before the Department, and with the majority of which, as he pointed out, we were perfectly powerless to deal.
In this country it was long a cherished “belief, until shattered by the irresistible force of circumstances, that competition is the most beneficent of factors in power and progress, and reigned supreme in the domains of commerce and industry. My friends on the other side, who are in favour of individualism, have tirelessly lauded the virtues of competition: It is not for members of this Parliament to denounce competition too ruthlessly. For it is by virtue of the law of the survival of the fittest we are here; and, therefore, it is clearly a law for which a great deal may be said. But the beauties of competition appeal only to those who are successful. I have never known an unsuccessful’ man speak unreservedly in favour of competition. I notice that those who are very keen in lauding the benefits of competition, and in dwelling on the very many grievous drawbacks of co-operation, especially national co-operation, are prone to cry out piteously when they are exposed to the full fiery blast of a combine.
Competition is a thing to be thoroughly enjoyed only by those who are “ on top “ ; otherwise, it is a very dubious blessing. In this country we hear continually about the “ hardy pioneer,” the “ successful business man,” and so forth, who have done many admirable things. The idea sought to be inculcated in the minds of the people is that the “hardy pioneer” and the “persevering business man “ are the men who made this country. This may be very true, but it is certainly not the hardy pioneer or the individual business man who runs it or owns it to-day. Competition is dead or dying over more than half of the industrial and commercial field to-day. It will be interesting to the citizens of this free country to learn how many businesses are conducted in Australia upon a co-operative basis, controlled by combines or arrangements of some sort, and not by competition. When these are enumerated, honorable members and the people generally will wonder what is left to be nurtured by the glorious and fructifying waters of competition. Amongst the commodities which are subject to business . arrangements are oil - kerosene and all subsidiary oils - bricks, tobacco, confectionery, shoe machinery, manures, trucks, photographic materials, certain proprietary articles, flour, meats, jams, wheat, certain lines of dairy produce, dried fruits, galvanized iron, and timber. These are not all, but all these have been before the Department, and have been declared to represent monopolies.
– If sugar is not in the list, it is because the monopoly was too big to admit of getting it in. It is per- fectly well known that in regard to agricultural machinery, sugar, timber, and many other commodities, there is no such thing as competition in the ordinary sense of the word. I shall deal with that phase of the question later on. My object just now is to show the extent to which our power over corporations is impaired, and how little power we have to deal with corporations. In the Huddart-Parker case, reported in the Commonwealth Law. Reports, Vol. VIII., page 330, the decision, so far as corporations are concerned, was that the power does not extend to enable the Commonwealth to control the conduct of corporations in respect of internal trade. The dicta of the Court indicate that the power does not extend to the creation of corporations, but only to corporations already formed ; that it extends to the status, and capacity of such corporations, but not to their behaviour, the ambiguity on this point being resolved in favour of the narrower construction in view of the implied reservation to the States of internal trade. The case leaves the extent of the power in great doubt, but it appears clear that it does not enable the Commonwealth to pass a comprehensive Companies Act providing for the creation, control, and dissolution of companies. It appears rather to be limited to the status throughout the Commonwealth of corporations formed under State law, and to the regulation of the contractual capacity and the field of activity of such corporations. Again, the words, “ trading or financial “ are words of limitation, and of very doubtful construction. For instance, do they include mining companies, whose main object is to win minerals, and which only trade incidentally by selling their produce?
It appears, then, from the judgment of the High Court that our power with regard to corporations is limited to a preliminary supervision, not over their entrance into life, because they are created under State law, but over them when they are in being. But all we can say to them is, “ You shall not do anything “ ; if it is impossible to say that - as it obviously is to all corporations, for that would be to hopelessly dam and destroy trade - then we can do nothing at all. It is extremely doubtful to what extent we can lay down conditions. This, then, is our truly hopeless position in regard to corporations. And we had thought it was far otherwise. There is no doubt that we had a right to believe this, and that the words in the Act relating to “ trading or financial corporalions formed within the limits of the Commonwealth “ gave us power to deal with such corporations. I desire honorable members, in order to clearly realize that we are not unnecessarily asking for amendment of the Constitution, to bear with me while I quote from the judgments of the High Court in the Huddart-Parker case. In the Commonwealth Law Reports, Vol. VIII., page 348, the Chief Justice is reported -
And the question is whether the power to make laws with respect to foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth extends to the governance and control of such corporations when lawfully engaged in domestic trade within the State. If it does, no limit can be assigned to the exercise of the power. … In the Union Label case (Attorney-General for New South Wales v. Brewery Em-ploy is Union of New South Wales (2), referring to the power to legislate with respect to trade and commerce, T said (and my brothers Barton and O’Connor agreed with me) : - “ The power to legislate with respect to ‘ trade and commerce ‘ conferred bv section 51 (1) is not unlimited. In the case of United States v. Dewitt (3), Chase, C.J., delivering the judgment of the Supreme Court, said -
Chief Justice Chase, in delivering judgment, went on to make certain reservations upon the commerce power of the United States, upon which I need not dwell. They are fully reported in the judgment on page 359. It is sufficient to point out that the High Court adopted them, and read paragraphs 1. and xx. as though this dictum had been incorporated in our Constitution. But Mr. Justice Isaacs, in his dissenting judgment, declined to do this. The judgment of the majority of the High Court went on -
It follows that the power does not extend to trade and commerce within a State, and consequently that the power to legislate as to internal trade and commerce is reserved to the State by the operation of section 107, to the exclusion of the Commonwealth, and this as fully and effectively as if section 51 (/.) had contained negative words prohibiting the exercise of such powers.
In other words, I think that pl.xx. empowers the Commonwealth to prohibit a trading or financial corporation formed within the Commonwealth from entering into any field of operation, but does not empower the Commonwealth to control the operations of a corporation which lawfully enters upon a field of operation, the control of which is exclusively reserved to the States.
The majority of the Court agreed with that judgment, and decided that sections 5 and 8 were ultra vires. Mr. Justice O’Connor held that the appellant corporation, having been recognised as a legal entity, and, as such, having entered into the internal trade of a State, could not be controlled in the carrying on of its business.
This judgment definitely settles our position : We have no effective power of dealing with corporations. It is an impossible position : It is one, too, for -which we were not prepared. I emphasize the fact that we had a right to believe that the National Government had power to deal with corporations ; and that, therefore, the ‘ amendments proposed are not aiming at any new power, but only at giving us what it was thought we had when we entered the Federation.
In support of this view, I desire to quote Mr. Justice Isaacs, who, in his dissenting judgment, said -
The enactments are said to be invalid, because they relate to the Intra-State business of the companies designated. The distinct unambiguous words of the power, couched in language quite unequivocal, do not- - so it is urged - mean what they say, but are to be abridged when the rest of the Constitution is considered.
Mr. Justice Isaacs admits that the whole Constitution must be looked at, but, having looked at it, denies that it is susceptible of the interpretation put upon it “by the majority of the High Court Bench. He reviews the position, and points out the extent of our powers. We have not the creative power. The Legislature finds companies, as it finds human beings, already in existence, and deals with them accordingly. He says -
But, laying aside creative power, what is left? It cannot be merely the power to legislate for the corporations with relation to Inter-State and foreign commerce. That, as already indicated, is conferred to the fullest extent by the first sub-section, and to confine paragraph (xx.) to that would give no meaning to its very definite words.
That is to say. all the power which is alleged to be given by paragraph xx. has been given already by paragraph i. After quoting Lindley on Companies, he says -
Although a corporation duly created in one State is recognised as a corporation by other States, the transactions of that corporation are governed, not by the law of the State creating it, but by the law of the place where those transactions occur, and by the constitution of the company. It was the law as to the corporate transactions that needed specially to be provided for if national uniformity were desired, not recognition of the corporation which was already uniform. And, therefore, in the Federal Constitution significant departures were made in the language from that used in the Federal Council of Australasia Act 1885.
He says that as paragraph xx. gives us power to deal with the status of a company, and to regulate its operations where required, the only meaning to be put on it is that contended for by the Commonwealth.
It was practically conceded that the Federal Parliament could entirely forbid a foreign company doing any business whatever in Australia, or it might be that permission to enter the field of trade might be given on conditions. But it was contended that the conditions must be preliminary only, and once the corporation was lawfully stationed on the field of internal trade, it was beyond the reach of the Federal Parliament, except, perhaps, that a failure to continue the observance of a condition might terminate the right to trade at all ; in short, that, though public protection or uniformity of law at the hands of some national authority was necessary, it must, whatever its urgency, stop at the preliminaries to trading.
Apparently, we have not a power which we thought we possessed, and which was the only power which paragraph 1 did not already give us. We might fairly have presumed from the wording of the Constitution that we had that power. It is absolutely necessary, in the interests of the whole nation, that we should have it, and we are justified in asking for it. And I venture to believe that Parliament and the people will agree that it is not merely desirable, but essential, that the power be given, and given quickly.
I come now to the consideration of another vitally important matter. In no sphere of operations have we been more disappointed than in that relating to industrial matters. It would not be right to blame the High Court for this. The duty of the Judiciary is to interpret the law, not to make it. Except in relation to the common rule, and doubtfully there, there is hardly room for difference of opinion as to what the Court has done. I speak, I think, to a sympathetic audience when I say that the people of this country realize that the dangers of industrial disturbances are very real and growing daily. Hardly a week passes but in some quarter of the world we hear of a great industrial upheaval. A little while ago we had one here ; to-day there is one in France, and to-morrow there may be one somewhere else. These disturbances are the inevitable result of modern methods of production and distribution, which are responsible for many of the peculiar and more pressing problems that challenge the attention of modern civilization.
There must be a determined and successful effort to grapple with the cause of these troubles, or civilization cannot endure - at any rate, on its present basis. There cannot be democratic government, or even a pretence at it, with a general diffusion of the glorious gifts of civilization, if industry is not to be controlled and systematized in a sane, beneficent, and effective fashion for the benefit of the whole community. Commerce and trade are the children of industry, and we possess nothing in our corporate or individual capacity which is not its product.
Clearly industrial matters are not provincial or State concerns, but of national importance. Industry concerns us all ; its ramifications are co-terminous with the boundaries of our continent. Industrial peace concerns us all. The nation, the State, the municipality, and the individual are alike interested in its maintenance. The industrial question is in its essence national, although it has phases peculiar to localities, districts, and States. There must be one supreme authority in order to secure industrial peace. We cannot deal with the industrial question like mites burrowing and hiding themselves in the recesses of a cheese. Only by a comprehensive review of the whole situation, by an authority clothed with powers co-extensive with our territorial limits, will order emerge from chaos ; from confusion, harmony ; and from war, peace.
We have always favoured such a course, and advocated it before the electors at many elections. At the last election, the people were warned repeatedly by my honorable friends opposite that our proposals meant handing over the control of industry to the Commonwealth. We said in the plainest way that we believed that the Commonwealth should control industrial matters; and when Federation came about we thought that it had power to do so. Apparently, we were mistaken, and the Court is right in saying that the Commonwealth has no other power than to make laws of conciliation and arbitration for the prevention of disputes extending be- . yond the bounds of any one State ; in short, that we have not a general, but a special, power, and that special power is cramped, “ cabin’d and confined “ in a way in which no other power given under section 51 is. The other powers may be limited in their scope, but within their ambit are plenary ; our industrial power is not.
We are asking for greater powers in connexion with trade, commerce, industry, and monopolies. These things are so correlated that without .power over all we have not full power over any. What are trade, commerce, monopolies, and industry but four phases of the same question? Industry is a workman’s question, monopolies a citizen’s question, trade and commerce a merchant’s question ; but all go to the root of our national well-being. They are like the four sides of a rectangular block. Now, what is our power with regard to industrial matters? The High Court has put. a narrow and technical meaning on the term “ industrial disputes,” and has decided that our power does not extend to the making of laws respecting collective bargaining or industrial agreements. We cannot place the sanction of the law over that most excellent and effective means of promoting and maintaining industrial peace - the industrial agreement. Again, in the Woodworkers’ case it was held that arbitration was of a judicial character, and the Commonwealth law must not be inconsistent with the State law ; that is to say, that the decision of a Wages Board in New South Wales or Victoria could not be interfered with by us. That is the apotheosis of absurdity. In the Jumbunna case there was, as I have said, an indication by the Court that industrial agreements are, to a certain extent, ultra vires. In the Broken Hill case, industrial disputes were defined in a way indicating limitations on the Commonwealth power, and in the Boot Trade case it was held that the commonrule provisions of our Act were ultra vires.
The net result is, as Mr. Justice Higgins has pointed out, that the Arbitration Court is hampered at every turn, and can do little or nothing. Industrial peace, which is of the utmost importance to this community, is daily threatened, because there is no body possessing powers capable of dealing with a widespread national industrial dispute. Conceive the absurdity of our position. Suppose a building, in one wing of which a fire should break out, and suppose that by some incredibly stupid by-law you were permitted to do nothing to extinguish it until it had spread to another wing. And suppose when it had spread to that other wing your apparatus, which might easily have coped with the fire in its early stages, is powerless in this. What would be said of a situation of that kind? Yet that is precisely how we stand in regard to industrial disputes. There never was as clear a need for an amendment of the Constitution as there is for this amendment, which would remove, amongst other things, that limitation of our powers which confines us to legislating for disputes Inter-State. Every dispute starts somewhere. I do not deny that we may have isolated cases of spontaneous outbreaks in several places, but the few disputes I have known have all originated in one particular place. If we had power to direct pacific and conciliatory machinery on an outbreak at the moment of its occurrence, or before, irrespective of locality or other restrictions, we might easily place to the credit of the National Exchequer a saving of millions in the course of every decade, save endless suffering and dislocation of industry, and loss of national prestige. It is said that the cost to the French nation of the railway strike has been ^11,000,000. I do not know how much the coal strike cost the Commonwealth, but no doubt the amount was very large. I believe that one of the influences that made for that trouble was the fact that the coal-miners had absolutely no reliance upon the State machinery for adjusting industrial disputes. Had there been in existence an effective tribunal to deal with their dispute, there would at least have been a reasonable chance of disposing of that very serious and lamentable outbreak. In order to understand the truly pitiable position of the Arbitration Court as a result of the decision of the High Court, I refer honorable members to pages 8 and 9 of the printed report of the decision given by Mr. Justice Higgins in the case of The Australian Boot Trade Employes Federation and Whybrow and Co. and Others. There we find the following remarks by the learned Justice -
I have referred to the extraordinarily difficult position in which this Court is being placed by the decisions of the High Court. I refer to the effect on this Court as a practical administrative concern, without impugning the correctness of the decisions, and, of course, without any reflection on my learned colleagues. I have the responsibility, and the sole responsibility, of carrying out this Act; and it is my duty to let the public know the blind alley into which the Court is being driven. I do not wish to anticipate the question as to the validity of the power to make a common rule for an industry - a question which the Full Court has not decided in this case, although it was argued. But in addition to the decision against the Board of Reference, and against the power to award wages on the age basis when some other basis has been proposed, there has been, in this very dispute, a declaration of law made by the statutory majority of the High Court on a special case stated by mc. It has been held that this Court has power to increase the wages fixed by a State Wages Board, or to- decrease the hours ; but that it has no power to decrease the wages or to increase the hours. Such is the net result of the labours of the Federal Convention so far as regards section 51 (xxxv.)…..
I have given merely one instance out of many that could be adduced to show the increasing difficulties of this Court. At present, the approach to the Court is through a veritable Serbonian bog of technicalities; and the bog is extending. After full consideration, I must state it as my opinion that these decisions as to the limits of the Court’s power, with all the corollaries which they involve, will make it impracticable to frame awards that will work - will entail, indeed, a gradual paralysis of the functions of the Court. Yet this’ Court, if it be trusted - and unless it can be trusted, it ought not to exist - shows magnificent promise of usefulness to the public.
That judgment was given before the High’ Court had delivered its decision in the commonrule case, and if it was a true description of the position of the supreme tribunal in this country for dealing with industrial matters before the decision of the High Court, what then must be the position at the present time ? The common rule, which has now been declared ultra vires, is the inevitable and natural corollary of an award in settlement of an industrial dispute. I do not hesitate to say that no Court will find itself, except in the rarest possible cases, in a position to make an award which it thinks fair to the men and to the employers if it cannot, at the same time, enforce that award upon all employers. It would be a violation of a fundamental principle of justice for some employers to be bound whilst others in the same trade remained free, and no Judge would be justified in making an award in such circumstances. Therefore, the position is that only in those rare cases where practically all employers are in the one combine or federation, and are all cited before the Court - and, further, only in those cases where they are all involved in the same dispute, and that is a technical matter difficult of proof - will it be possible for the Federal Court, without an amendment of the Constitution, to do anything.
I propose now to deal very briefly with the question of monopolies. A monopoly in the strict sense of the term is confined in these days to patents ; no one save the holder of a patent has, in the strict sense of the term, a monopoly. But when we speak of a “monopoly,” we do not mean a legal monopoly - the case of a man protected from competition by law - but such control of a commodity, manufacture, service, or business as enables those who hold the control to fix prices and output. It is very difficult to define what is a monopoly, but we know one when we see it. Just as a child may not be able to spell the name of a dangerous animal, but when it sees one has no hesitation in running from it, so is our position in regard to monopolies.
Possibly, the sugar refining industry in this- country is the nearest approach to a monopoly of which we know. I should not like to do it an injustice, and if there is a nearer approach to one, then I withdraw my reference to the sugar company in favour of it. There are, as I have already pointed out, a great number of combines in this country who fix prices and regulate output in order to serve their own interests.
I desire emphatically to state here that as against combines as such I have nothing more to say than I have to say against individuals as such. I do not care whether it is a combine or an individual that oppresses me. I am only advocating a special method of dealing with combines or monopolies, just as a man advocates a special way of dealing with a particularly powerful person. Methods extremely effective in dealing with a child four years of age would be quite ineffective in the case of a man 6 feet high, weighing 16 stone, and in good fighting fettle. In the latter case, one would have to resort to special methods if one hoped for success. But combines, as such, are pursuing, each in its own way - and although these differ from those pursued sometimes by individuals, their motives are precisely the same - those methods which they conceive to be necessary for their own industrial salvation. I say nothing at all about that. It is only when they come into collision with the public that I complain. I care nothing about their mere existence or even the morals of their business code. These will, I suppose, compare with those of other men. I am dealing with the effect of their operations upon the community. We cannot tolerate the existence of any private corporation, combine, or trust which fixes, by arrangement amongst its members, the prices of commodities which are in general consumption.
We have in Australia the prices of coal, freights, sugar, tobacco, wheat, flour, bricks, timber, oil, meats, jam, and other things regulated by arrangement. I am not complaining of the fact. It is an inevitable stage in the evolution of production as a social function. All that I contend is that it is impossible and incompatible with our existence as a National Parliament to say that we have no power over these combines. Are they to rule us or are the people to rule them ? We must have power to make laws to whatever extent we please for the regulation and control of monopolies. We must have power, if necessary, to take over and nationalize those monopolies. In short, we must have power to do whatever is necessary for the welfare of the whole of the people in relation to those industries in which competition no longer exists.
I wish to draw a distinct line between Socialism in general, about which I say nothing now, and the nationalization of monopolies. We shall hear very likely from my honorable friends opposite a great deal about Socialism; just as we heard from them both when they were doubtful of its existence and when they were quite sure that it did exist. Their cry of “ Socialism “ has “ cut no ice “ in this country. It is not likely to cut any ice, because in Australia, while we speak and breathe, there is always some movement going on in the direction of the control by the people of those things which were formerly in the hands of individuals. In this State the Government propose to nationalize the distribution of milk, whilst the Lord Mayor of Sydney already controls the fish trade. Citizens of Sydney may buy fish from the Lord Mayor.
– Does he go round with ;» basket ?
– No, but this commodity can be purchased from him, to the very great and lasting advantage of the people who catch and the people who eat fish. In this city of Melbourne we have a tramway system conducted by a private company. ls it to be said for one. moment that that state of affairs is anything more than an anachronism in our day, when public utilities the world over - in countries like England, Germany, and France - have all long since either been nationalized or municipalized? The question of nationalizing water and gas services, baths, and libraries, has long since passed beyond the realms of speculation. No one is to be frightened by the bogy of Socialism any more than a grown man is to be frightened by a candle inside a turnip, and groans ! The citizens of Melbourne are not to be deterred from taking over the trams by talk about Socialism.
I have not the slightest doubt that a case may be made out in favour of competition. Subject to one being allowed to place the winner, competition is an admirable thing. It has been a case of the survival of the fittest for thousands of generations, and we are not here to cavil at the system. But competition, although it may have all the virtues claimed for it, has ceased to exist in monopolies by virtue of the very definition. Whatever else a monopoly is not, it is that in which there is ex hypothesi little or no competition. At any rate, a monopoly is that in which competition is reduced to impotence by reason of the fact that those whom it comprises are enabled to affect prices or output. Take the case of the combine regulating the price of sugar, wheat, or timber. A number of men meet together, and say, “ After such-and-such a date the price of wheat, flour, sugar, or timber shall be so much.” ; It is idle to talk about competition in such circumstances, for there is no competition. Therefore, whatever virtue there may be in competition it is absurd to speak about it in connexion with monopolies.
We desire to have power to deal with monopolies - to nationalize them if necessary, to control and regulate them, and to make what laws are essential from time to time, both for the benefit of the producer of the article and the community generally. There are many monopolies in this city.
There are monopolies of manufacture and monopolies of distribution. There are monopolies which say to a retailer, “ Unless you buy my articles and sell no other*, you shall not have mine, and I shall prevent you from getting any other.” It would be out of place for me to mention the name of any particular combine which does this, nor do I wish to do so; but a great many of them do it, and a reign of what I shall not call intolerable tyranny - because, in a sense, it is not tyranny, as it is so general that it has become almost second nature, and it is not intolerable, because the people put up with it - but a condition of affairs has been established which ought not to be permitted to exist, and the people ought to be rescued from their helpless position.
But the question is one infinitely more serious even than that, because it goes to the very root of our national and social being. Are we to live and work and carry on industrial operations for the benefit of a few persons, or for the benefit of the whole people? Are we to work, and get a wage for our work, and then to pay out for those things without which we cannot live, just what these gentlemen may determine?
What happens after the determination of a Wages Board, or the award of a Court that raises wages ? If the wages are pushed up, say, from 7s. 6d. to 8s., immediately prices are raised. It is said by these philanthropic gentlemen, “ The price is raised in sympathy with, or as a consequence of, the increase of wages.” Nothing is further from the truth. Prices are raised because the persons who have the means of controlling the rates are able to do it, and they do do it. I will give honorable members an illustration from facts falling under my own notice. For instance, wages in a certain industry were raised from is. to is. id. per hour, and from is. 4d. to is. 8d. for overtime. Immediately there was a rise in freights in sympathy with them ; but the sympathy was so overpowering that they not only rose to the extent of covering the three-halfpence and the fourpence, but to an extent that would cover double the increase that the men had. It will be found that this is generally true. When wages are raised, say, in the baking industry, the price of bread gees up, not merely enough to cover what would pay the extra wages, but enough to pay them and much more.
The only thing that never goes down is the profits; but we must teach these gentlemen that there is nothing sacrosanct about profits - that profits, like wages, are subject to fluctuation; that it is not wages only that may be attacked, and profits that may not be, but that profits as well as wages are susceptible to legislation. When, therefore, we hold out our hand to the people and ask that we shall have power to make laws in respect to these matters, we ask it in respect of a sphere, the most important of all, embracing, as it does, trade and commerce, corporations and combines, industrial legislation, and monopolies. Over those four things which are so interrelated that it is impossible to make laws with respect to one without affecting the others, we ask, as a National Parliament, that we shall have the right to take control, and we believe that that right will be accorded to us.
I wish now to show that the people of this country expected us to make laws with respect to all these matters. In the manifesto of the party, as published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of Monday, 7 th March, the question of the nationalization of monopolies was referred to in these terms -
The nationalization of monopolies demands the urgent attention of the people. It may be admitted that trusts and combines have not yet attained the same giant proportions in Australia as elsewhere, but, notwithstanding our youth, the capitalistic system is developing here upon the same general lines. Already we have in Australia the sugar monopoly, the tobacco combine, the coastal shipping ring, the coal vend, and various minor business combinations of a character detrimental to the public. In 1907 the Federal Parliament passed an Act to restrain trusts and combines. Although supporting that measure, we expressed our conviction that it would fail to effect its.object. In America similar legislation has failed. The experience of America shows that nothing short of nationalization of these monopolies will prevent their exploitation of the public.
The party platform set forth “ new Protection, nationalization of monopolies, and a fair and reasonable wage.” We are as much pledged to these things as to a graduated tax on the unimproved value of land. We are sent here to get the new Protection in very fact and deed, and not a shadowy pretence of it. We are sent here to get a fair and reasonable wage for every man and woman who works. We are sent here to nationalize monopolies, to regulate and control them. We are sent here to legislate in that wide field of commerce and industry of which I have spoken, by the people who have heard over and over again, not yesterday or the day before, but over a long series of years, what we had to say, and have in everincreasing numbers decided to support us. This question of trusts and combines, which shelters and will shelter itself in this House under the wing of State Rights, is engaging the attention of the people all over the world. Ex-President Roosevelt and President Taft are to-day on two opposite sides on this very question. The Age of Saturday, 15th October, says -
Mr. Roosevelt declares himself in favour of a wide increase in the authority of the Federal Government, and maintains that coal lands and water-power rights should be permanently excluded from private ownership and operated on lease and royalty for public benefit. Mr. Taft agrees that coal lands should be leased by the Federal Government, and that some better arrangement than that existing should be arrived at with regard to water rights ; but beyond this he is not willing to go, and he announces himself a strong defender of the State rights which Mr. Roosevelt would in several ways diminish.
From this we see that the powerful trusts and combinations in America are sheltering themselves behind that convenient hedge of State Rights, about which we heard so much last session, and at the last election. Every member on this side is a zealous defender of true State Rights, and there is not one of us that would impair them, but we are bound together to destroy those things which are by a mere .hollow pretence designated State Rights. When the greatest and most powerful interests hostile to the welfare of this country shelter themselves behind this barrier, are we to stay our hands, and admit that the mere rendition of the shibboleth of State Rights is sufficient to protect them and permit the continuance of their operations unimpaired and unchecked ? State Rights are excellent things.
– The New South Wales election settled the State Righters.
– Though dead, they yet speak. To State Rights in the true sense 1 take no exception. As a defender of them, I yield to no man, but a mere cry of State Rights is no valid reason why Federal legislation should not enter that most prolific and extensive field inside of which the Stales at the present time are doing nothing, and in the very nature of things can do nothing, as I have shown by extracts from the memorandum prepared by my honorable and learned friend, the member for Angas. Into that field it is necessary that the Commonwealth should enter. I quote from Ripley on Trusts, Pools, and Corporations, on this very point -
It becomes increasingly apparent that all effective remedies must be applied by the Federal government. As commerce becomes ever wider in its range, so must legislation proceed from a source of authority equally great and comprehensive. A delegation of greater powers to the States from the central government would only increase the present complexity of the situation.
In the measure dealing with the nationalization of monopolies, it is proposed to give this Parliament power to define what a monopoly is. It may be said that that power is susceptible of abuse. So is every power given to a Parliament, and the best check upon the abuse of powers is the existence of a people behind the Parliament. They have already shown, and are showing more unmistakably at every election how keenly they watch and how jealously they regard every act and every move of the Legislature. There is nothing to prevent the British Legislature to-morrow, by an Act, dethroning the existing King and setting up a republic. There is nothing to prevent the British Parliament disembowelling the Union. There is nothing to prevent it committing the most violent acts of injustice, except the fact that behind the Parliament stand the people, and that the people, although they sometimes, forget these things, have a way occasionally of remembering them. ‘ In view of recent events, I feel that it is quite unnecessary to emphasize that fact to honorable members on the other side. The honorable and- learned member for Angas further says, in his memorandum -
Assuming that the provisions of the Common Rule . . . are not ultra vires, it may, in the event, be found that the adjustment of industrial matters …. over a considerable part of the fields of jurisdiction may be effected through the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
He suggests -
In view of the considerations mentioned in paragraphs i to n suPra, it is suggested that section 51 of the Constitution might be amended by adding the following article :- “ Trusts, combinations, and monopolies in restraint of trade in any State or part of the Commonwealth.”
It will be seen that the honorable and learned member suggests that the Constitution should be amended by inserting a new clause giving us power to deal with trusts, combinations, and monopolies in restraint of trade in any State, or in any part of the Commonwealth. With regard to industrial matters, he suggested an alteration in the Constitution to enable the Inter-State Commission to regulate such matters for the purpose of removing obstacles arising from unfair competition, or the prospect of unfair competition, to fair conditions.
It is very clear that what is contemplated by the present Government is not incom- patible with the spirit of the Constitution, nor unwarranted by the occasion, and so far from its being without precedent, it is indorsed by the memorandum of the honorable member for Angas, who only refrained from doing exactly what we are doing because of a fondness for definition and explanations of the object of the desired power which experience of the Courts has shown to be prolific of litigation, uncertainty, and confusion. In the amendments now submitted, it will be noticed that there is no attempt to define things - all the words that may be held to be words of limitation have been omitted. We ask for plenary power over trade and commerce. It means power over, trade and commerce wherever found, limited only by our territorial jurisdiction. We ask for power to deal with industrial matters - ali industrial matters. This does not mean the exclusion of State legislation. It only means that we think it proper and necessary that the National Parliament shall have the power to insure to every one a fair and reasonable wage, give to all the benefits of the New Protection, and maintain industrial peace. Where the States do these things, and while they are able and willing to do them, there is no need for us to interfere. But where they fail, either through indifference, open disinclination, or inability to provide for these things, or any of them, we want the power to step in.
And the same thing applies to monopolies. We do not want to be strangled with the endless litigation which attempts to define monopoly would involve. We have to deal with monopolies; and, after Parliament has decided by resolution and an absolute majority on two Occasions that a certain business is a monopoly, that business may be the subject of legisIation to the length, if necessary, but only if necessary, of nationalization. We take the power to control, to regulate, and to nationalize. There may be monopolies which it would not suit the Commonwealth to nationalize, and some which could not be dealt with in any other way. We are asking power to deal with monopolies in any way we please, as representatives of the people, and we are asking the people, as the guardians of their own liberties and interests, to give us that power.
How can it be said that we are impairing either the Federal spirit or Democratic Government ? We have seen that no amendment of the Constitution can impair the Federal principle unless it makes one power dependent upon the other ; that the number of powers granted to the National Government or reserved to the States is immaterial to the Federal principle. Nor is it material to the Federal principle whether the National Government or the States have enumerated powers; that a clear line of demarcation between the powers of the National Government and those of the State Governments is essential; that power exercised over less than the entire area of a subject leads to litigation, contusion, and delay, and seriously impairs the elticiency of the Commonwealth Government; that the amendments desired are not to give us any fresh powers, except that of nationalizing monopolies, but only to give us what it was thought we had, namely, the full scope of the powers enumerated; and, lastly, that Unification involves three fundamental principles, namely, the destruction of State independence within the States’ sphere, the destruction of the Judiciary, and the destruction of the State with equal representation. Nothing in these amendments impairs any one of these safeguards of the Federal system.
I have pointed out that even a Judiciary and equal representation are not necessary to the Federal principle; but, allowing Federation as set forth in the Constitution, nothing in these proposed amendments touches its virility in the slightest degree. All the talk about Unification simply amounts to an effort on the part of great vested interests to find some cover behind which they may shelter. I hope that they will not succeed, but that both Parliament and the country will realize that we are at the parting of the ways.
It is useless to talk about dealing with industrial disputes or with corporations without power to do so; that power can only be effectively vested in the National Parliament. - I have shown, I hope, that the Federal Constitution is not impaired by these proposed amendments, that the powers over commerce, corporations, and industry asked for are essentially national in character and necessary, and that we had a right to believe we had such powers to a much greater extent than now appears.
In conclusion, I have to say that the proposed amendments are put forward as embodying the opinions of a party returned at the last election with a substantial majority to carry certain legislation and effect certain reforms.
That party is carrying out their pledges rapidly, and I hope ‘well. We feel, however, that we should be only playing with’ the people if we pretended for a moment that we can pass effective measures dealing with trusts, monopolies, and industrial matters as the Constitution now stands. We, therefore, come to Parliament and the country, and ask to be clothed with the powers which are necessary to give that effect to the legislation emphatically indorsed by the people at the last election.
Federation has inaugurated a new era in the political destinies of Australia. It has taught us to “lisp” in national “numbers.” Provincialism is dying, and dying hard. We forget that we are New South Welshmen or Victorians, Queenslanders or South Australians. Western Australians or Tasmanians. We remember only that we are Australians. We are no longer provincialists ; we are nationalists.Not that we love our own State less, but rather more by reason of its partnership, in the great heritage of our common nationhood. The national feeling grows apace, and is being more fully expressed every passing day. Daily the sphere of its operations widens. In vigour and promise this, the youngest but one among the nations, yields to none. The riches of the fabled Indies sink to insipnifi-. cance when compared to its manifold resources. Our Commonwealth, like a young Colossus, stands with outstretched limbs dipped in the waters of two oceans, and encircles in its capacious grasp an entire continent. It moves as one destined to greatness ; nothing can prevent its achievement of its glorious heritage but the weakness of this Parliament, or the failure of the people to endow it with sufficient power.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Deakin) adjourned.
Motion (bv Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Deakin) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 14th October, vide page 4652):
Clause 5 -
The agreement is by this Act ratified and approved.
Upon which Mr. Higgs had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added : - “ with this proviso, that notwithstanding anything to the contrary expressed or implied the Commonwealth may construct the transcontinental railway along such route within the Territory as may be deemed expedient.”
-^ - I am not sure whether I ought not to ask pei mission to withdraw the amendment, which does not quite suit my views. Before 1 come to a determination, however, I should like to refer to the contention of the Minister of External Affairs that it is possible, under the agreement, to deviate the proposed railway into Queensland. I fail to see how there could be such a deviation without the permission of the Queensland Government.
– Why should the railway, be taken into Queensland?
– The Queensland Government will look for an answer to that question. It has been said that this talk about the power to deviate the railway into another State is only one of the baits held out to secure the adoption of the agreement. I am sorry to have to describe the argument as a bait, but that is what it is. The more I look into the agreement, the more I consider it an open, barefaced, daylight robbery. It is unlikely that the Queensland Government will give its consent to the taking of the line into the southwestern corner of the State, though in all probability -the line from Charleville will be extended to Birdsville. If the Federal spirit prevailed, the Government of New South Wales would allow the Government of’ Queensland to connect the line to the Tweed Heads with Murwillumbah, and the Queensland Government would allow the Commonwealth Government to take the Pine Creek railway into its territory. But that spirit does not prevail. The New South Wales Government will not allow the Murwillumbah connexion to be made, because it does not wish traffic to go to Queensland. Why do the Attorney-General and those who support the measure try to blind honorable members to the truth that we cannot take the railway outside the Northern Territory? The honorable member for Darling Downs has given some attention to this question, and I ask him whether he construes the agreement differently from the way in which I have construed it? In the Bill, the Northern Territory is defined to mean so much of the
State of South Australia as lies to th« north of the 26th parallel of south latitude and between the 129th and 138th degrees of east longitude, together with the bays and gulfs to the north, and is coloured pink on the map hanging on the wall of the chamber. The northern boundary of South Australia, however, runs from the 129th to the 141st degree of east longitude. How, then, could the line be taken into the State of Queensland? Apparently, if the agreement is ratified, the Commonwealth will be saddled with a huge expenditure on railway construction, which will cripple its activities. Those who take what is called the national view say that we should not have agreed to return to the States 25s. per capita for a period of ten years, but it is a fortunate thing that the arrangement was made, if we are going to plunge into a railway policy of this description, which will mop up all our available revenue.
–The honorable member must not refer to the Financial Agreement.
– Let me deal now with the “ twaddle “ which has been printed to persuade honorable members to vote for the agreement. A pamphlet named Territoria seems to have influenced quite a number,, who have accepted its statements concerning what is called the national view without going into the matter. Apparently, all one needs to do nowadays to obtain expenditure in his electorate is to speak of the national view and the need for defence. Territoria has a great deal to say about the need for defence. As for the financing of the railway proposal, it says -
It will occupy about two years to make the surveys from Alice Springs to Pine Creek and prepare for constructing the line. During that period the necessary wheat-growing experiments can be carried on in the country between Powell’s Creek and the Katherine. If these experiments result in proving the suitability of the climate for wheat-growing, we have an easy solution of the question, “ How to Finance the Building of the Railway?”
– It was said at one time that wheat could not be grown on the eastern seaboard of South Australia:
– I believe that it was once said that Victoria could not grow cabbages, though the State has since earned the name of the cabbage garden of Australia. Similarly, it was said that the Darling Downs were not suitable for agriculture. But we must know that the Northern Territory con- tains good country before we make a railway through it. The statement continues -
If South Australia builds this great Transcontinental Railway it will be on the 3ft. 6in. gauge, and at a cost of, say, £5,000 per mile. About 150 miles a year would be built, necessitating the raising of £750,000 per annum for seven years. Directly it was decided to commence the railway there would be great activity in stocking the central areas with sheep.
The wheat lands would be thrown open for selection at, say, £1 per acre, payable in twenty yearly instalments of1s. per acre, 1,000,000 acres would be sold each year. This would realize £50,000 for the first year, treble this for the second, and increasing in arithmetical proportion for the seven years.
The interest on £750,000 at 4 per cent, is £30,000, thus we should have a surplus of £20,000 each year, making a total of £140,000 in the seven-year period, with the balance of the purchase money (£5,650,000) to come in, and 73,000,000 acres remaining to be dealt with.
If 80,000,000 acres were cut up into 20,000- acre blocks and leased at1d. per acre per annum it would produce a revenue of £333,333, equal to 4 per cent, on £8,333,325.
Could it be credited in these times that any one, whether a poet or a man interested in land in the Northern Territory, would have the impudence to put such a proposition before an intelligent Parliament? Everything hinges on an “if.” South Australia has had control of the Northern Territory for nearly fifty years, and has not obtained a greater land revenue from it than , £9,000 per annum. Yet these romancers, these novelists, these tellers of fairy tales, say that the Commonwealth should be able to cut up 80,000,000 acres into 20,000-acre blocks, and lease them at a penny an acre, thus obtaining a revenue of ; £333,333per annum.
– That is after the railway ihas been constructed.
– I shall show presently what we shall get from the railway. To continue my quotation -
The production of wheat will necessitate the building of a railway line into the Roper River, McArthur River, and Victoria River. An examination of the Roper River may show that water carriage to the shipping point can be made available, doing away with the necessity of a railway line. But if it is found necessary to build the railway we find a distance of 130 miles will connect the trunk line with the head of navigation through easy country, with no engineering difficulties and abundance of timber for sleepers. This line would cost, say, £520,000.
The line connecting Powell’s Creek with Boroloola on the McArthur River, again through easy country, would be 225 miles long, and would cost, say, £900,000. A line to the Victoria River, 200 miles in length, would cost, say, £800,000, making a total for these additional lines of £2,220,000.
Before dealing with this writer’s remarks about the production of wheat in the Territory, I should like to ask whether the honorable member for Angas had anything to do with the preparation of this agreement? I have been told that he is very apt in the use of words opening the door to very wide powers on the part of the person for whom he is acting.
– I had nothing to do with these words.
– Then the agreement must have been prepared by some one trained by the honorable member.
– They are an exact copy of the resolution.
-I would draw special attention to the wording of paragraph h of clause1 of the agreement, in which it is provided that the Commonwealth shall -
Allow the State reasonable running powers and rights on such conditions as may be agreed upon or in default of agreement as may be determined by arbitration on all railways acquired or constructed by the Commonwealth in South Australia proper and (without limitation of the scope of such powers and rights) the use on such conditions as aforesaid of the stations yards buildings and other accessories at Quorn and Port Augusta and at the wharf at Port Augusta used in connexion with the working of the said railway but not so as to interfere with the proper control working and maintenance of the railways of the Commonwealth.
How is it that the legal members of the House have overlooked the fact that under this agreement South Australia is to be allowed all reasonable running powers and rights in connexion with the railways taken over or constructed by the Commonwealth in South Australia proper? The paragraph I have read can only mean that South Australia shall have the right to run its own rolling-stock over lines constructed by the Commonwealth. It is proposed that we shall take over the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, and under the agreement that line must be continued to Pine Creek. That being so, the South Australian Government will be able, to send its rolling-stock over this line up to the borders of the Northern Territory. I am not aware that this point has been raised before, but it is certainly a remarkable proposal.
– I mentioned it.
– It is very important.
– Surely it is not a fact ?
– It is provided for in the agreement. I am afraid that some honorable members have been so obsessed by the national view of this question that they have not given sufficient attention to the terms of the agreement.
– The honorable member is the only pebble on the beach.
– I do. not say so. I am pleased to believe that a number of honorable members will enter a protest against the passing of the Bill in its present form. We do not wish to be amongst the party that will say ten years hence, “ We told you so.” Our desire is that honorable members shall be aroused to a true sense of what they are doing in this matter. It is variously estimated that the Commonwealth will incur a liability of from £4,500,000 to £10,000,000 in connexion with the acquisition and construction of railways for which the agreement provides, and surely it should be given a chance to make those railways pay. How will the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways be able to make them pay if, under the agreement, South Australia is to have the right to run rolling-stock over them? How will the Commonwealth Government be able to enter South Australia and compete successfully for the freights that are to be obtained there?
– I do not think the Government have read the agreement.
– The Attorney-General has read it, and has given an opinion in regard to it. The Commonwealth will incur a liability of £10,000,000 in connexion with the transfer of the Territory, apart from any expenditure in its development, and surely the Minister of External Affairs will tell us what is the exact meaning of the paragraph relating to the granting of reasonable running powers to South Australia on all railways in that State acquired or constructed by the Commonwealth? If the South Australian Government is not prepared to accept the rollingstock of the Commonwealth, is it to be allowed to send its own rolling-stock over these lines to compete with that of the Commonwealth ?
– That would be unreasonable.
– Under the agreement, it would not. The honorable gentleman has been long enough in public life not to desire to do anything which would be in the nature of a mistake in his public career, and I hope that he will not saddle us with such a provision as this. When I said the other night that the people of South Australia had not bothered about the agree ment, the honorable member for Hindmarsh became very angry, and accused me of saying that the people of South Australia knew nothing about it. What I do say is that the people of that State have not shown very much concern about the transfer of the Territory and the conditions imposed any more than the people of New South Wales have bothered about the Federal Capital. Is it fair for South Australian members of Parliament and the business people of Adelaide to saddle the Commonwealth with such conditions as are in this agreement? We have agreed, almost unanimously, to the taking over of this huge territory, which is nearly as large as Queensland, and we are all anxious that the Commonwealth shall make the best possible use of it. The transfer itself will entail a loss upon Australia amounting to £200,000 per annum, which will have to be made good by the people. Do the public men of South Australia and the business people of Adelaide wish to saddle us with a further burden in respect of non-paying lines, the interest on which will have to be met by the people? We hope to have a great Protectionist policy in Australia, but if we are going to build up a huge debt, on which interest will have to be paid, some honorable members will be disposed to support a revenue, in preference to a Protectionist- Tariff, in order that the necessary revenue may be obtained. Viewed from that : stand-point alone, I think it is wrong that the Commonwealth should be expected to build this railway, which will cost millions, and to give SouthAustralia power to run its rolling-stock over it. There is nothing in this agreement to show that the South Australian Commissioner of Railways, in running rolling-stock over our lines, must adhere to the schedule of freights fixed by the Commonwealth. In all probability, as a keen business man, he would fix upon rates slightly below those appearing in the Commonwealth schedule, and our huge deficit would thus be increased. The loss upon the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, at the present time, amounts to £77,694 per annum. In the memorandum issued by the honorable member for Darling Downs, when Minister of External Affairs, there isa statement by the Secretary to the Treasurer dealing with the financial position, and in this it is pointed out that, in connexion with the Port Augusta toOodnadatta railway, the loans outstand- ing on 30th June, 1908, amounted to £2,242,342-
That means an annual payment of £77,694 by the Commonwealth in respect of this existing line. The Minister of External Affairs drew attention to only a portion of the line, and suggested that the loss was not as much as I have stated. What is the Commonwealth to do with the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway? South Australia has built it, has tried to make it pay for a number of years, and is losing £72,000 per annum on it. Why do the South Australians want to. put that burden on the shoulders of the Commonwealth? Where does the national view come in? The line is not in the Northern Territory, and why are they not satisfied to carry it on up to the border? Later on, no doubt, the Commonwealth would connect the Northern Territory railway with it. I regard these railway provisions as a positive outrage. It is stated in the Treasury memorandum that -
The length of this railway would be about 1,063miles, if taken from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, and about 1,350 miles if taken east of Lake Eyre. The cost of the whole line may be approximately estimated at £4,500,000. If, however, the railway is constructed in sections, the annual interest and sinking fund (if any) will be limited by the cost of the portion of the line completed.
During the time of the construction of the railway interest might be charged to capital account.
Assuming that immediately after the completion of the railway, the annual deficit on the line would equal the interest, the annual ex- penditure would be approximately : -
If a Sinking Fund is provided of 1 per cent., to begin five years after the dale of the loan for the new railway, it would amount to an additional charge of £45,000. No expense of settling the Northern Territory has been allowed for.
The capital invested by the Commonwealth in connexion with the Northern Territory would be approximately -
The foregoing figures do not include the compensation due to South Australia in respect of the overland telegraph, which will be chargeable as “ transferred property “ under Section 85 of the Constitution.
– That has nothing to do with the agreement.
– How does the Minister come to that conclusion? There is in the agreement the following proviso: -
Provided that, notwithstanding anything contained in the Agreement, the Commonwealth shall, if the Governor of the State of South Australia so requires, in lieu of being responsible for the indebtedness of the State in respect of that portion of the Overland Telegraph Line which is in the Northern Territory, compensate the State of South Australia for that portion of the line in accordance with section eighty-five of the Constitution.
Yet the Minister says the question has nothing to do with the agreement ! I shall begin to think that honorable members opposite speak truly when they say that the Government have not read the agreement. How much has South Australia lost over the telegraph line, which is now, I believe, a white elephant? Do honorable members realize what they are doing in pledging themselves to construct these railways? I hope they do not think I am talking like this for amusement.
– Oh, no; Queensland has too much at stake.
– I do not think the Queensland people trouble at all about the railway. The Sydney Bulletin, a paper that has done a great deal of work for Australia, twitted me during my election campaign with opposing the direct railway route, because I wanted to get some votes in Rockhampton. As a matter of fact, there was no occasion for me to discuss the question at all, as the electors did not consider it. It never came up at the election. It is true that there is a proposal by Mr. Alexander Wilson to run a line down by Camooweal, and thence into Rockhampton ; but that is a matter which largely concerns the big squatters. I clare say that, in course of time, the Queensland Government will extend the railway from Longreach further into the interior ; but if they do that before they construct the lines from the coast into the agricultural areas, they will be doing utterly wrong, because they will be meeting the wants of the big pastoralists before they meet those of the small farmers, who are going to be, I hope, the backbone of Australia. The true national policy for Australia in railway construction consists in the building of those small lines mentioned on Friday by the honorable member for Cook. Australia has achieved its greatest development by building small lines for agricultural’ purposes.
– We must have trunk lines.
– But there is too much of a disposition to continue the trunk lines and omit the spur lines which would help the farmers. I am not bothered particularly about what Queensland will do in that matter. The State Government propose to carry a line out from Charleville to Windorah. That is, of course, recommended by, and in the interests of, certain squatters, and its construction will be a great detriment to many people in the coastal districts of the State. Have honorable members ever considered what the carrying out by the Commonwealth of this agreement, in its entirety, means? If we are to construct these railways, we must have a railway policy and a railway Commissioner. Where is he to be stationed?
– All the railways in Australia will be under the Commonwealth Government in time.
– We are meeting now at half-past to in the morning, and sitting for twelve hours daily for several months in the year, trying to cope with the powers that we already possess; and yet honorable members are not satisfied. Our exercise of powers is increasing every day, and the work of members is increasing. When we take over the Territory, we must have a policy to govern it; and that will mean taking a month or two every year in this Parliament to deal with complaints and questions of administration. 1 f we adopt the agreement, we shall be committed to a railway policy that will lead to very heavy expense for construction, and for additional staff. Who is to be the Minister for Railways in the Commonwealth Parliament? I hear the name of the honorable member for Hind marsh suggested. I could not wish the honorable member a worse fate than to be the Minister responsible for the proposed transcontinental railway to connect Port Augusta and Pine Creek, and to run through South Australian territory, with South Australian Government rolling-stock competing with the Commonwealth rolling-stock. Do honorable members realize that there must be a Rail way Commissioner with a railway policy ? The railways cannot be run by the Minister of External Affairs. The Minister of Home Affairs might be able to manage them, because he has plenty of ability; but what satisfaction should we, get if we asked him how he was going to make up the deficit on the line, and received from him the answer that he . always gives us regarding Federal Capital matters, that he is “going to look into it”? The line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta at present involves an annual loss of £77,000; and it is impossible for us to say what the deficiency will be when it is completed to Pine Creek. When the railway is constructed, what traffic is expected?
– Wool, sheep, and cattle.
– Then there is very little prospect of the line paying; and the only way to make the enterprise remunerative would be to settle a great number of farmers along the route. I hope to receive assistance in modifying the agreement so as to provide that South Australia shall not compete with the Commonwealth over the lines to be constructed. How such a claim can be made by the South Australians, who claim to take a national view, I cannot say.
– There is no such point in the agreement.
– Then, what is the meaning of the provision that South Australia shall have reasonable running powers and conditions along any lines to be built by the Commonwealth? The honorable member shakes his head ; and I take it that he cannot see that that stipulation is necessary. The first cost to the Commonwealth is £10,241,015, not to mention the cost of developing the country, and of compensating South Australia for the loss on the overland telegraph line to Port Darwin. If we desire to judge the character of the South Australian Legislature, we have only to remember the history of that telegraph line. That Legislature is composed of very keen men. We should remember the connexion of that telegraph line with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company.
– That has nothing to do with the clause under discussion.
– I am only endeavouring to show what keen business people the South Australians are. and the necessity for being careful.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– As I explained before the dinner adjournment, my opposition to the Bill is purely from a national point of view. I am quite willing that the Commonwealth should take over the Territory, together with the loss of £200,000, which is now borne by the people of South Australia ; but I object to the Commonwealth building railways under duress. The Commonwealth, of course, should have power to build railways, but ‘only after experts have inspected the country and determined the best route. If the route from Palmerston to Pine Creek is not deemed to be the proper one, let the line take some other course towards the east or the west ; hut there shouldbe no compulsion to construct the line right through the centre of Australia. The Commonwealth has undertaken many great responsibilities; and the construction of this railway, together with another to Kalgoorlie, may prove the obstacle to great national aims. South Australian members were amongst the most strenuous opponents of the so-called transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta ; but we never hear a word from them now in that strain. Why is this?
– The construction of a railway to Western Australia is not before the Committee.
– But some explanation is necessary why South Australian members are withdrawing their opposition to that line and advocating a railway from Port Augusta to Pine Creek.
– Which South Australian members?
-I shall not mention names. The Minister of External Affairs appeared to be quite shocked the other evening when, I suggested that certain members of Parliament and business men in Adelaide were in favour of this measure purely because of the railway conditions ; but I ask honorable members to look at the map and inquire the reason for this anxiety to connect Port Augusta with Pine Creek. Is it not because railway communication is desired with Adelaide? The business people of Adelaide are, no doubt, like the business people of Sydney, and anxious to attract to the metropolis all the trade and commerce they can, with very little regard to the interests of the outlying portions of Australia. One of the great curses of this country is the concentration of all interests at the chief ports, to the starvation of the people in the country. If we are to build up a nation, we shall have to offer inducements to people to leave the coasts for the interior. It may be asked why there should not be a railway from Adelaide to Palmerston; but the connexion would cost from £5,000,000 to £10,000,000, and would in no way help in the ‘development of the country or in the creation of a great nation. There is no doubt that we shall require money very shortly. The great national Labour party of Australia is now seeking an alteration in the Constitution giving this Parliament power to nationalize monopolies ; and, I suppose, there will later be a proposal to nationalize the sugar industry.
– I must ask the honorable member not to deal with that question.
– I am only endeavouring to show the difficulties that are in the way of a proposal to spend from £5,000,000 to £10,000,000 on railways in the Northern Territory.If we spend that money in the way proposed, we shall, without a doubt, damage our credit. In order to carry out this agreement we shall have to initiate a borrowing policy for reproductive works; and I ask what rate of interest would be demanded in the case of borrowing for such a wild-cat scheme as a railway from Port Augusta to Pine Creek ?
– The railway would cost over £8,000,000.
– There are various estimates, but the lowest is £4,500,000. In the brief history of the Commonwealth we have seen that, when the great Labour party is in office, the interest demanded by borrowers is lower than when the opposing party is at the head of affairs. For example, when it was proposed to raise a naval loan, the financiers said that the interest would be 3½ per cent., whereas, a year or two ago, £2,000,000 was offered to a Labour Government at 3 per cent. How much money will be available at that rate of interest when this Bill, with an accompanying measure for the expenditure of £5,000,000 on another railway, has been passed ? Lenders on the London money market will probably ask 4 per cent., the average rate which the States are paying at the- present time. The Secretary to the Treasurer calculated the loss on the assumption that money could be borrowed at 3^ per cent. , but if we have to pay 4 per cent., the amount will be much greater. You, Mr. Chairman, seemed to regard my reference to the nationalization of monopolies as irrelevant, but I wish to show that if we destroy our credit by engaging in wild-cat schemes, we shall lose our reputation as a party desirous of working on economic and business grounds, and forgetful of our traditions and duties. If the Bill passes, and we have to raise loans for these railways, we shall not easily get money for the nationalization of the tobacco industry, which, 1 believe, the public favour, or for the control of the liquor traffic. The Minister of External Affairs has told us that if we alter one word of (he agreement it will be thrown out by the South Australian Parliament. Does any one believe that? There seems to be an impression that the South Australian politicians and business men - I distinguish between them and the South Australian people, who have not bothered much about the matter - have acted very generously in offering the Territory to the Commonwealth. They have tried to persuade the people of Australia that they are doing something in the nature of an act of charity ; but the fact is that, although they are perhaps the most businesslike people in the Commonwealth, they have tried unsuccessfully for forty years to make the place support itself, and have sent two Royal Commissions to the Territory to ascertain why it is such a burden. South Australia would get rid of the Territory at any cost; there is no charity or philanthropy about this offer. On the other hand, if there was anything to be gained by keeping it, South Australia would not give it’ up. We have been told that the State could have got £10,000,000 for the Territory had it agreed to hand it over to a company, but we have not been told on what terms the offer was made. This is how the late Sir Frederick Holder wrote about it -
I might mention that had South Australia been willing to give carte blanche to capitalists to introduce coloured labour into the Territory, a sum of money estimated at about ^10,000,000 would’ have been forthcoming to establish a chartered company to take over the Territory with its assets and liabilities to South Australia, and te carry out the remaining portions of the overland railway. This offer was declined by the South Australian Government in its own interests and in the interests of Australia.
South Australia was to get £10,000,000 only if it would allow coloured aliens - Japanese, Hindus, or other coloured people - to be introduced to compete with its own breadwinners. Its people can take no special credit for that, because the people of all the States are taxing themselves to give- effect to a White Australia policy. In September, 1902, we carried a resolution affirming -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is advisable that the complete control and jurisdiction over the Northern Territory of South Australia be acquired by the Commonwealth upon just terms.
No action was taken on that resolution pending the consideration by the State Parliament of a measure providing for the construction of a railway on the land-grant system. When it was found that capitalists would not take the Territory on those terms, it was offered to the Commonwealth. Has the Minister of External Affairs any explanation to offer of that, or does he adhere to his statement that the State has acted generously, and would withdraw its offer of the Territory were we to amend the agreement in the slightest degree ? The South Australians think that we should take over a Territory which they have been unable to govern economically, and we are willing to do so, minus the stipulation that we must construct a railway through it, and allow the State to run its rolling-stock on it in competition with us. South Australia not only demands that we shall construct and take over the railways mentioned in the agreement, but also that we shall give her liberty to compete with us on our lines. Some explanation of the position may be found in the fact that the honorable member for Ballarat is the Minister who was responsible for the agreement. He is an orator, and all orators are poets and more or less romantic. The honorable member will not object to my statement that it was almost impossible for an orator to come to a business agreement with such people as were negotiating this transfer on behalf of South Australia - people trained to get the most out of the poorest soil in Australia.
– That is not much of a compliment to me.
– I wish merely to show that the people on the other side were amongst the keenest business men in Australia, and that it would be almost impossible for any poet to cope with them. The honorable member for Ballarat made this agreement with the representatives of South
Australia, and, orator and poet as he is, could see in it only what he believed to be its national side. In matters of national concern, according to the honorable member, money is nothing. He practically made that statement last week. He said in effect that he could not defend this agreement as a business proposition, but as a national matter it was necessary to take over the Territory, and notwithstanding the provision of the agreement in regard to the acquisition and construction of railways he would accept it. I must do him the credit of saying that he does not believe that the Commonwealth should be compelled to construct these railways, and that he proposes to make an addition to the agreement. If he intends to take such a step he must do so before we have actually passed the agreement, otherwise it will be too late for him to take action. The Minister of External Affairs said that if we altered the agreement only to the extent of transposing a comma we should destroy it. What is the use of bringing down a Bill if we cannot amend it? Clause 4 of the agreement provides that -
This Agreement shall not in any way be binding until and unless approved by the respective Parliaments of the Commonwealth and the State and legislation is passed enabling the Commonwealth and the State to legally carry out the aforesaid surrender and acceptance of the Northern Territory and the Parliament of the State has consented to the acquisition by the Commonwealth of the Port Augusta Railway and to the construction by the Commonwealth of the other railways in South Australia proper mentioned in this Agreement on the terms hereinbefore mentioned.
If that provision is not to be operative, why was it inserted? Surely it enables us to so alter the agreement that we shall not be bound to construct the railways to which it refers. Referring once more to the infamous provision in the agreement that the South Australian Government shall have power to compete with us on our own lines, I would remind the Committee that some time ago a Conference of State Premiers took place on the question of differential railway rates, and that an agreement was arrived at containing the following provision : -
That no State shall have any right to complain of any railway rate charged by any State unless the rate complained of is lower than that charged by the complaining State for the same distance, provided also that no State shall have any right to complain of any rate charged, which, although lower than that of the complaining State, is uniform with the general mileage scale in operation in the State in which such rate is charged.
Under such an arrangement the Commonwealth would have no right to complain of any rates charged by the South Australian Government to the users of the transcontinental railway, so long as those rates .applied to all people in that State. It would be within the power of the Government of South Australia to lower the rates to be charged to the people of the State, and in that way to compete with the Commonwealth on the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta and thence to Pine Creek. This is one of the most important features of the agreement. The Commonwealth can only hope to make the railway meet working expenses, exclusive of interest on loan moneys, by imposing certain freights, but under this agreement the South Australian Government will be able to step in and take away from us the little revenue that is likely to be derived from it. It is all very well to say, as this romancing pamphlet, Territoria, does, that we shall have a million wheat farmers in the Territory, but, after 120 years of occupation, the number of farmers in Australia who are working their own lands does not in all probability exceed 50,000. That being so, the statement that we shall have a million farmers settled in the Territory is most extravagant, and excels anything that De Rougemont ever wrote or uttered. Most of the income that we shall obtain from the transcontinental line for some time will be in respect of the carriage of wool, cattle, and sheep, and the wool traffic will extend over only a few months every year. Those great inland railways running from Rockhampton fo Longreach, from Brisbane to Charleville and Cunnamulla, and from Sydney to Bourke, for the greater portion of the year are absolutely idle, and the greater part of the mileage of this transcontinental line will also be idle for the major portion of the year. It will not earn sufficient to cover working expenses. I wish to advance another argument in favour of our contention that the railway cannot be constructed, as some honorable members contend, from Pine Creek into Queensland territory. It is difficult to imagine how intelligent men have gone to the trouble of preparing a large map like that exhibited in the chamber, with a red line painted across it, showing a route for the railway from Pine Creek to Camooweal, in Queensland territory, and thence down to the South Austraiian border in the 138th parallel. In the agreement itself we have a definition- of the words “ Northern Territory,” showing that it means the country between certain parallels outside of which we cannot go. ‘ I propose to quote the opinion given by Mr. E. F. Mitchell, K.C., of the Victorian Bar, to the Australian Railway and Territorial League - a league which appears to have been responsible for that mixture of fact and fiction, Territoria - which states that we shall have 1,000,000 farmers in the centre of Australia, provided, of course, that we can produce wheat there.
– Is Mr. Mitchell a poet?
– He is a barrister, and it is curious that whilst the Minister of External Affairs thinks that Mr. Mitchell’s opinion as a barrister is unworthy of consideration, he is prepared to adopt the opinion of another barrister. Everything depends, I suppose, upon the side on which the barrister happens to be. I hesitate to quote Mr. Mitchell’s opinion against that of the Attorney-General, but I think that the latter must have overlooked the definition of the words “ Northern Territory “ in the agreement, which shows that it is impossible for usto carry this line into Queensland territory. Mr. Mitchell says -
In my opinion, upon the true construction of the Agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of South Australia, the Transcontinental Railway cannot be diverted out of the Northern Territory so as to be built partly in a State other than South Australia.
There can be no reason why this Agreement should not be construed according to the ordinary canons of interpretation, and, taking the natural meaning of the words used, and reading the Agreement as a whole, and having regard to the subject-matter with which it is dealing, I feel no doubt that the intention of the contracting parties was that the northern part of the railway should be made wholly within the Northern Territory to some point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper, and the southern part should be made from some point on the Port Augusta, railway to the same point on such northern boundary.
I am influenced in the opinion I have arrived at partly by the language of clause 2 (c), which, to my mind, as clearly shows that the northern part of the railway was intended to be in the Northern Territory, as it does that the southern part was intended to be in South Australia proper. There is no reason that I can see why if clause 1 (i) is general enough in its language to enable the northern half to be made partly in another State so long as it eventually Teaches a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper, why the southern half should not also under the general language of 1 (d) be made partly out of South Australia, so long as it eventually reaches the same point.But, I think, clause 2 (c) in each case demonstrates there was not this intention.
I am also influenced by the fact that no provision is made for the Commonwealth acquiring or endeavouring to acquire power to make a railway in any other State.
I would emphasize the point that we cannot construct a railway in Queensland without the consent of the Government of that State. Mr. Mitchell is of opinion that if it had been intended to allow the railway to be carried into Queensland, there would have been included in the agreement a declaration that the Government of that State had consented to such a course being adopted.
– The honorable member for Flinders agrees with that view.-
– I am aware of that. Mr. Mitchell continues -
Finally, I think the geographical position of the Northern Territory and South Australia, and the position of the two lines already made which, by the agreement, are to be taken over by the Commonwealth and the insistence by South Australia of having a covenant by the Commonwealth to construct the Transcontinental Railway, all point to the conclusion that what the parties had in view was the making of a railway which would give South Australia the benefit of direct communication with the Northern Territory.
That is the point. The object of the railway is to give South Australia communication with Port Darwin. Why have not South Australian members, including the Minister of External Affairs, told us that what is desired is to send the trade from Adelaide right through the Northern Territory, and probably to the Eastern countries generally?
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing, so long as South Australia is willing to pay for it.
– South Australians are taxed to keep the sugar bounty going in Queensland.
– South Australia is only one State in that matter. The people of Australia are paying that burden, and are willing to do so.
– If the railway were taker* through Queensland, it would be the same thing.
– No; the one is a question of profit, the other of absolute loss. Mr. Mitchell continues -
I may state that the use of the words in clause 1 (4) “ from Port Darwin southwards to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper” - to which my attention . has been especially directed - do not, in my opinion, offer any difficulty in the way of the construction whichI have arrived at. I think that the use of the words “ to a point on the northern boundary of South Australia proper,” in clause 1 (4), and of the words in clause 1 (d) “ to connect with the other part of the Transcontinental Railway at a point on the northern boundary, &c,” are words naturally and appropriately used to describe that the’ two parts of the line are to be brought to the same point on the boundary, and there connected, and, to my mind, in no way suggest that they were used to indicate that so long as the two parts of the lines came finally to that point the Commonwealth was free to make either of them partly in another State. The line, therefore, in my opinion, must be made from Port Darwin southwards wholly in the Northern Territory to some point on the border of South Australia proper; but so long as it is made substantially southwards, I do not think it must take substantially a more direct route to connect with the more northerly end of the existing Port Augusta railway : the fact that the southerly half may be made from any point in the Port Augusta railway negatives that idea. I think the line may be made in the Northern Territory with any reasonable deviation which the Commonwealth Parliament may, in its discretion, determine on, so long as its route is always substantially southwards; a route substantially east, and then substantially scuth would not, I think, be in accordance with the agreement.
I think the terms of the agreement are not in any way varied by the Act of South Australia No. 946. That Act by clause 6 expressly approves and ratifies the agreement - that is, adopts it with whatever may be the proper construction of it, and I can fmd nothing in the Act which is inconsistent with the construction I put on it.
I would say the same of the Bill now before the Senate of the Federal Parliament if passed in its present form Clause 5 would expressly ratify and confirm the agreement - that is, according to its proper interpretation, and I” see nothing in the other proposed clauses to modify this view. 1 think the agreement, if and when adopted by the Commonwealth Parliament, wouldprima facie impose an obligation on the Commonwealth to construct the railway within a reasonable time. What would be a reasonable time in the case of the Federal Government would depend upon so many considerations which are absent from an ordinary agreement between private persons or even between public corporations, and questions as to enforcing such an obligation legally would present so many difficulties that, I think, practically the matter could hardly be finally dealt with in a Court of Law. Any question of enforcing such right also must depend upon the exact terms in which the Federal Act was ultimately passed. (Signed) E. F. Mitchell. 463 Chancery-lane, 16th August, 1910.
That gentleman points out that if the railway is included in the agreement, it must be constructed within a reasonable time. Do we understand that, or is the Leader of the Opposition correct in suggesting that all this may take place fifty years hence? ls that what the South Australians think when they are getting this agreement through the Federal Parliament? If we pass the agreement, and do not almost immediately commence to spend the £10,000,000, South Australia will certainly have a legitimate action in the High Court.
– We shall push on with it.
– The honorable member is one of those who are carried away by the “national view.”
– We are offered a sixth part of Australia, and are quibbling about it. Any syndicate would take it without asking a question.
– No syndicate would take it unless allowed to introduce Indians, Javanese, and Japanese. South Australia has already tried to get the capitalists of the world to take it. It offered them a railway on land-grant terms, and only when that failed did they come to the Federal Parliament. The honorable member for South Sydney is carried away by a mistaken idea of what is due to Australia from a national stand-point. Our great Labour programme does not provide that we shall spend from £5,000,000 to £10,000,000 in constructing railways in order to settle the Labour problem, and ameliorate the conditions of the working classes.
– It tells us that we must keep Australia white.
– The honorable member might just as easily demand a railway right through the centre of Western Australia to the northern coast. There is just as large a territory in the northern part of Western Australia as there is in the northern part of South Australia. Honorable members are quite mistaking the national view in this matter, and are going in for a spendthrift, plunging policy, which will make it impossible for them to carry out the national aims of the Australian Labour party. I think I had better withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- I believe the honorable member for Brisbane has an amendment to move. It appears that my previous amendment was altogether too restricted, and I should like to move the addition of a proviso that the Commonwealth Parliament may construct railways within the Northern Territory where and when it likes.
– Why not put in the word “ reasonable,” which any one can interpret as he likes?
– If the honorable member allows the Bill to be passed giving South Australia “ reasonable running powers and conditions,” he will find that it will lead to a great deal of trouble. Clause 5 is not very serious, after all. If it said, “ This agreement is hereby ratified and approved,”- it would be of no use our bothering once we allowed the clause to pass. But it says, v The agreement is by this Act ratified and approved,” and consequently the agreement will not be ratified and approved until the whole Bill receives the Royal assent. Therefore I do not think it necessary for me at this stage to protest further.
.- I desire immediately to repudiate any idea in the mind of the Minister or of honorable members that I approach this subject in any spirit of captious criticism ; on the contrary, I claim to approach it from a truly Australian stand-point, as I hope to show before I have finished. I acknowledge the patient and courteous attitude of the Minister of External Affairs, because I appreciate his difficulty. He is in charge of a measure, but he has no authority to accept a suggestion or to make the slightest alteration; he is incapable, through the circumstances, of accepting any amendment, and has to place before us the two simple alternatives - yes or no. lt is most unfortunate that a Bill should come before Parliament without the slightest possibility of our altering a comma, or making die smallest amendment.
– We can amend the Bill if we like.
– No doubt we have that power ; and I hope to move an amendment which will, at any rate, afford the Committee an opportunity to have a say in the making of an agreement. The Minister’s attitude, however, is simply that of presenting a Bill for acceptation or rejection as we please, but nothing more. It ib most unfortunate that in an important matter, which means so much to the future of Australia, we should be placed in this position. While I appreciate the attitude of the Minister, I hope he also will appreciate the difficulties of some honorable members on this side. It is not at all an enviable position for a Government supporter to find himself in antagonism to a measure fathered by the Government. We have already had a painful experience here of honorable members who felt keenly on a certain matter under the control and supervision of the Government. Although there may have been some severe criticism of their attitude, still they were justified, possibly, from their stand-point; and. at any rate, I hope the Minister will appreciate our difficulty in opposing the measure now before us. I protest my willingness to come to an agreement with South Australia; but I must take this the only opportunity to express my dissent from a measure like this being called an agreement. I repeat the statement made on the second reading, that I am heartily, sincerely, and enthusiastically, if honorable members so please, in favour of the Commonwealth taking over the control and development of the Northern Territory; but the agreement which we are asked to ratify by this clause is so hampered by conditions in regard to railway construction, that I must express my opposition to it. There are three proposals in the agreement to which I am completely opposed ; the first is the building of the transcontinental line; the second, that we should acquire the Oodnadatta to Port Augusta line; and the third, that we should connect the Oodnadatta terminus with the transcontinental line we may build to the border. These three conditions are absolute bars to this being called an agreement. I have frequently stated that I have no fault to’ find with the Territory ; in regard to the character of the country I have not a word to say. Although the honorable member for Denison severely castigated me for statements which he said I made in regard to the Territory, I can assure honorable members that I was entirely misquoted. The whole of my remarks in regard to the character of the country and its possibilities of development were derived from the reports and statements presented by South Australian officials. In regard to the soil and the description of the country, I quoted the South Australian Geologist, and the reasons for failure I gave were those found by the Royal Commission. My statements in regard to the population statistics and the deficits on the existing railways were obtained from Government returns; and I made no statements beyond those supplied by officials. I did not say, and I do not say now, that the country is arid or waterless; on the contrary, I believe there is country in the Northern Territory equal to that in any other part of Australia, particularly the Barklay Tableland., which I regard as one of the finest bits of country in Australia, and one of the choice parts of the Territory. I hope, therefore, my attitude will not be misunderstood as in any way reflecting on the character of the Northern Territory. I am not at all in sympathy with those who say that it is a poor country, “incapable of development, that its richness has been overstated, and that the photographs shown are all favorable but misleading pictures, t am prepared to regard the Northern Territory as under a rather severe handicap compared with the rest of Australia ; but I am not prepared to assent to an agreement which binds us hand and foot, not only for the next decade, but for generations unknown. I have no desire to overstate the case or in any way reflect on the South Australian Government. No doubt they are anxious to make the best bargain they can from their own point of view, and they are not to be blamed until their point of view comes into conflict with the interests of the rest of Australia. South Australia has no right to seek for special benefits to itself, not only for a period, but for all time, at the expense of the other States. She ought to be content with her share of the general prosperity caused by the development of the Territory. There is no doubt that the Northern Territory requires opening up, and I agree that it is not to our credit that this northern part of Australia should be lying idle. We have a duty to populate, settle, and open up this Territory j and it is proposed to do it by accepting an agreement which commits us to building a railway right through the centre of Australia. We are asked to construct this railway on the plea that it is necessary for defence. Nothing, to my mind, is more utterly foolish or more wide of any real possibility of advantage in this connexion, than the proposal placed before us.
– I point out that, while there is no doubt great scope for discussion under this clause, the honorable member is scarcely in order in discussing the question of defence.
– I have very little to say on the point; but we are asked to commit ourselves to an agreement, one ot the main arguments being that this railway is necessary for the defence of Australia.
– That was discussed on the second reading.
– And it will be discussed on the third reading. I challenge the Government to submit this agreement to a committee of defence experts, because I am certain that the lines they would suggest would not follow a north and south railway. Their idea would certainly be more in keeping with other transcontinental lines, and would be that of a railway running inland at some distance, but connected with the coast by a series of branch, or feeding, lines to enable us to place a defence army at any part of Australia, and, at the same time, draw forces from any other part. From a defence point of view what we require is not what the agreement proposes, but a line that will run to the east of Port Augusta, by way of Broken Hill, Bourke, and the eastern coast, where the centres of population are, thus finding its way to Port Darwin. In any case, this agreement commits us to a railway which would be absolutely a waste of public money. While the agreement does not limit us in regard to the gauge, I find that all the estimates of expenditure are based on 3 ft. 6 in. I have been rather interested to-night to find some information on this point. While the estimate is for a 3 ft. 6 in. line, to cost £5,000 a mile, the average cost per mile of the Pine Creek railway was £8,116. Yet we are told that to build a railway further inland, with all the disadvantages of greater distance over which to convey material and the extra expense and difficulties that must continually arise in pushing a line into the interior, the cost is to be only £5,000 per mile. In .Queensland, where very long stretches of line have been built on the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, the average cost has been £6,721 per mile. I have not the slightest hope, therefore, of seeing this proposed railway built for anything like the estimated cost, which, on the second reading, I described as very conservative. Although the cost of railway construction in Australia has decreased of late years, no one can think it possible to construct this line for £5,000 a mile. Furthermore, Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria have each a different gauge, which hinders the transport of goods from State to State, and there is now a clamour for the adoption of a uniform gauge. According to Mr. Knibbs, Mr. Gladstone, when Colonial Secretary, in 1846, suggested, in a despatch to the Government of New South Wales, the adoption of the 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge. Victoria, however, determined to have a gauge of 5 ft. 3 in. Referring to the adoption of a uniform gauge, Mr. Knibbs says that, although the cost of alteration would be great-
– I ask the honorable member not to go into that matter.
– The agreement commits us to the construction of a line to connect two existing railways built on a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, and I contend that we should not make such a long and important connexion until we have a Federal railway policy. The proposed connexion, as I showed last week, will not be profitable by developing either mining, pastoral occupation, or agriculture, is not needed for defence purposes, and will not accomplish the ends which we have in view. We, who must pay the piper, should have some say as to where he is to stand, and what tunes he is to play ; but the agreement gives us no such right. I am prepared to recoup South Australia for all its expenditure in regard to the Northern Territory, to make good the losses which the State has sustained, and pay every reasonable allowance to which it may be entitled for having held the Territory so courageously for so many years; but I am not willing that the State should fix its own price, and make its own bargain, without reference to the interests of the Commonwealth. The agreement commits us to the purchase of the present line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. We are asked to pay to South Australia what it cost to construct that line, and a sum which represents the accumulated losses on it, and for all time to divide our control of the running on it with the State Government. To that I am utterly opposed. I am not ready to agree to the transcontinental rail way merely to get the Northern Territory ; nor am I ready to vote for the purchase of existing railways unless the Commonwealth is to have full control over them. But paragraph h of the agreement binds us to -
Allow the State reasonable running powers and rights on such conditions as may be agreed upon or in default of agreement as may be determined by arbitration on all railways acquired or constructed by the Commonwealth in South Australia proper. while under paragraph / we must -
Give and continue to give to the Slate and its citizens equal facilities at least in transport of goods and passengers on the Port Augusta railway to those provided by the State Government at the date of the Agreement and at rates not exceeding those in force at that date.
There is, however, in the Constitution a section which says -
Nothing in this Constitution shall render unlawful any rate for the carriage of goods upon a railway, the property of a State, if the rate is deemed by the Inter-State Commission to be necessary for the development of the territory of the State, and if the rale applies equally to goods within the State and to goods passing into the State from other Slates.
Therefore, if we adopt the agreement without amendment, we shall not only be com- pel led to maintain for all time the rates and charges now in force on the existing line, so far as South Australians are concerned, but to apply them to all traffic. I have no desire to “ stone- wall “ the measure, because there is much important business still on the notice-paper, and we wish to bring the session to a close ; but should South Australia or the Commonwealth Government adopt a stand-and-deliver attitude, the opponents of the measure must make the best fight they can. This is called “ The Northern Territory Acceptance Bill,” and is spoken of as “ A Bill for an Act to provide for the acceptance of the Northern Territory.” Surely that is an abuse of words. I would call the measure “ The Northern Territory Time-payment Perpetual Mortgage Bill,” because the agreement commits us to the immediate payment of anything over £5,000,000, to an annual dencit of £500,000, and to an ultimate expenditure, within a few years - because we must give effect to the agreement within a reasonable time - of between £15,000,000 and £20,000,000. One might think from the title of the Bill that South Australia was handing us the Territory on a shovel, and that we were accepting it on bended knees. 1 am inclined to think that it is a red-hot shovel, and that, if w.e ratify the agreement as it stands, we shall burn our fingers. The Bill says, “ The agreement is by this Act ratified and approved,” but the wording would be nearer the mark if it were “ The demands of South Australia are hereby, under the compulsion of circumstances, accepted.” The Leader of the Opposition has told us that he dissents from the interpretation given to the agreement, and that it was not intended to express the ideas that are now attached to it, but that we must have the Territory, and must, therefore, ratify the agreement as it stands.
– I draw attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.’]
– We are asked to ratify an agreement which presupposes an arrangement by two parties. So far from that being the position, the fact is that one party to the agreement is making a proposal, and the other is commanded to accept it and to pay up. It recalls the refrain of Rudyard Kipling’s famous song in connexion with the Boer war, “ Pay, pay, pay.” To my mind, this agreement means nothing for the Commonwealth but i continuous system of “ Pay. pay, pay.”
There is to be, not only an immediate, but a continuous, payment. It is not only a ease of “ Your money or your life,” it is a case of taking the money out of the Commonwealth now, and dragging out its life by slow degrees. If one might choose between execution and slow starvation, I should say “Let South Australia name a price for the Northern Territory and retain its railways within its own State. Let South Australia develop them as it may ; it knows best what it wants within its own borders. We will give South Australia a good price for the Territory, but let us have a voice in determining the agreement by which we are to abide.” To fetter future generations with the conditions of such an agreement as this is, to my mind, unworthy of a Parliament that is supposed to consider the interests of all, and not the particular concern of any. Honorable members will recollect that during the late election campaign our chief argument against the Financial Agreement–
– The honorable member must not discuss the Financial Agreement.
– We have, from the first, objected to financial arrangements that would bind future generations, and it is because this agreement will bind us for all time to a severe annual expenditure of public money that I refuse to acknowledge it as such. South Australia has taken up a stand-and-deliver attitude, which is a complete negation of all truly Federal principles. It is an attitude that is utterly selfish and completely bounded by her own narrow horizon. She demands that we shall build a railway which will not be necessary for half a century at least, and wants the Commonwealth to commit itself to an enormous expenditure within her own borders. For. such blackmail - for it is legalized blackmail - I have a very profound feeling of antagonism. It is pitiable to’ see one State holding a revolver, so to speak, at the head of the remaining States of the Union and saying, “ Your money or your life.” At this stage of our Federal history - at a time when we are bravely facing the national problems that confront us, and are really anxious to do what we can for the nation, rather than for the individual State - it is pitiable that one State should sever itself in this anti-Federal way from the others and claim for itself those special advantages which must follow the expenditure of an unlimited amount of public money. It is an action so entirely parochial- and so violently selfish that
I cannot understand why prominent public men should be willing to accept such conditions. The question before us is not simply that of taking over the Territory. It involves the building of a transcontinental railway and the loading of the people of the Commonwealth with a heavy debt, amounting to some millions of pounds, and representing a heavy annual interest bill. It means, not only an increasing debt to the Commonwealth, but the undertaking of unprofitable expenditure. Those who declare themselves to be opposed to borrowing except for reproductive works must find themselves in a difficult corner if they agree, as they will have to do, to the borrowing of £10,000,000 or £20,000,000 to be sunk in building a transcontinental line like this, which by no stretch of imagination could be deemed a reproductive work. I am opposed to this agreement, also, for the reason that we are not yet ready for a Federal railway policy. We are blindly groping in the dark. This Parliament does not know who is going to take charge of railway, administrative, or developmental matters in the Northern Territory if we pass this Bill. By this agreement we shall bind ourselves, as it were, to take over a business before we know what we are going to do with that business. It is said, °’ Catch your bird before you buy your cage,” but we are going to take over an immense stretch of country, and to commit ourselves to an enormous expenditure, when not even the Minister in charge of the Bill is able to give us a word of information as to what is going to be done when the agreement is ratified, or a solitary hint as to the lines on which the work of developing the Territory is to proceed.
– We shall develop it out of the returns from the sugar industry.
– The honorable member will be claiming fair treatment for the Sugar Bills presently.
– I should like to reply to these interjections.
– The honorable member would not be in order in doing so.
– Honorable members are insinuating that my attitude on this question is affected by the fact that I am a Queenslander. That, as well as the further suggestion that the sugar policy has something to do with the position I take up, is altogether wide of the mark.
Queensland does not desire that this transcontinental railway shall cross her boundaries. We have never asked for it, and I challenge any one to produce a statement by a Queensland legislator that this transcontinental line is wanted in our territory. I shall point out, when we reach the clause in the agreement relating to railway construction, that the construction of this line will not make a difference of threepence to Queensland, so far as taking the trade of the Northern Territory from or bringing it to that State is concerned, but that ‘it will mean to all the States of the Union, not only an annual loss of £500,000, but an unlimited expenditure.
– This question has already been fully discussed, and I have had an opportunity to address myself to it on previous occasions ; but I cannot allow the Bill to pass without entering another protest against some of the conditions that disfigure the agreement. It will involve an immediate expenditure on the part of the Commonwealth of no less than £10,000,000, two-thirds of which will be incurred in taking over portion of a railway already constructed by South Australia’ from Port Augusta _ to Oodnadatta, and its extension to Pine Creek. This transcontinental railway, in my opinion, will not potentially assist the development of the Territory, but it will be a colossal burden for the Commonwealth to shoulder.
– The honorable member’s estimate is a mild one.
– It is the lowest given in the memorandum presented to the House when the Bill was before us on a previous occasion. To indicate the difficulty that this Parliament will have to overcome when we assume control of the Northern Territory, it has only to be stated that South Australia has administered it for about forty years, and has made practically no headway with its development. The Northern1 Territory has had the same opportunities of settlement as have other portions of Australia. In some respects there has been more enterprise displayed in attempting to settle the Northern Territory than there has been in settling some of the southern States. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of British capital have been poured into tEe Territory, and Herculean efforts have been made by British companies to exploit its mineral resources. So far, however, it has been impossible to bring forward anything like a payable nroposition. The methods adopted by English mining companies have been challenged by some of the advocates of this Bill. It has been said, for instance, that they did not sink deep enough, in . certain parts of the Territory, but as the result of this large expenditure there has been no development indicating that there are large mineral possibilities waiting to be exploited there. In company with yourself, Mr. Chairman, I travelled for some time through the Territory on horseback, and my practical knowledge of agriculture leads me to believe that there are possibilities in the country. Before, however, there will be any prospect of permanent settlement there, this Parliament will have to face the great problem of tropical culture and of working the whole of the’ Territory by European labour. I believe that problem will be solved, but it is a very large one, and is still before us.
– Does the honoiabie member argue that the railway will cure that difficulty?
– No; the problem is formidable enough without this Parliament being hampered in the first instance by railway conditions involving the early expenditure of from £7,000,000 to £10,000,000 without a reasonable prospect of corresponding advantages to arise from it. The construction of a railway through the centre of Australia is not necessary for the development of the Territory. That is proved by the experience of all the States, which have been developed by enterprising men going into the interior and settling, and then demanding from the Government railway facilities for communication with the rest of the world. The same opportunity is open to private enterprise and Government enterprise in the Northern Territory, and has been there tor the last forty years. The Territory will not be opened up by raising produce to supply the markets in the southern parts of Australia so much as by raising produce for export to other countries, and particularly to Great Britain. With that end in view, it will be necessary to open up the Territory by running railways from the coastline into the interior. To ask the Commonwealth to take over the Territory with these railway conditions attached is to impose on it an absolutely unjustifiable burden.
– And yet three Governments - a Liberal, a Fusion, and a Labour
Government - have asked this Parliament to pass it.
– I am dealing with the interests of Australia, apart altogether from party considerations. Three Governments have submitted the agreement to Parliament, apparently because it is an agreement. It seems to me that agreements brought into this House, and placed on the table with no opportunity given to alter a line or a comma in them, are tying up the liberties of Parliament, and it is high time the practice was abandoned.
– Did the honorable member support the Financial agreement?
– I am talking about the Northern Territory agreement. There is a danger that if this practice continues we shall be constantly having agreements put before us, the work being done outside of Parliament altogether. The fact that three Governments have submitted the agreement does not make it a good one, nor does it necessarily follow that it will give the Commonwealth a fair chance of developing the Territory, as we think it should be developed, within a reasonable period.
– Which way is the honorable member going to vote?
– After forty years of failure on the part of South Australia it is necessary, in the interests of Australia as a whole, that the financial strength of the Commonwealth should tackle the problem, and on those grounds I favour taking over the Territory, but I am against the railway conditions, and intend to vote against them. I believe South Australia is taking advantage of the necessities of this Parliament in defence matters to impose on us utterly unjustifiable conditions. Many opinions have been put forward with regard to the running of the railway, but after the speech of the Leader of the Opposition last week regarding the agreement, I can hardly see how it is possible for the House to accept it with its impossible railway conditions.
– Last year, when in the Government, the Leader of the Opposition urged the acceptance of the agreement.
– Last week he said distinctly that the late Mr. Price,- Mr. L. O’Loughlin, and himself, after various communications and interviews, came to certain definite conclusions in respect to taking over the Territory, but that this agreement did not properly represent them. He said there was no agreement made that the railway should be run through the Northern Territory, but that the Commonwealth was to be absolutely free to run it into any part of Australia, so long as they linked it up with Pine Creek at the one end, and with the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line at the other.
– He said that sooner than lose the Bill he would swallow the railway conditions.
– I am aware of that; but his speech distinctly showed that the agreement did not truly represent the result of the negotiation between the three contracting parties. Of course, the honorable member also said that, rather than lose the Territory, he would vote for the agreement with all its imperfections. If the railway is to be run through the Northern Territory without any deviation into the eastern States, it might just as well be run straight from Oodnadatta through the centre of Australia to Pine Creek. The defence necessities of the Commonwealth are given as one justification for the line, but how would it be of use in transporting troops? The Minister of Home Affairs, in reply to a question put by the honorable member for Cowper, recently, said it would take sixty-three days to transport 30,000 troops from Melbourne toBrisbane. I leave it to honorable members to calculate how long it would take to transport 30,000 troops from Sydney or Melbourne to Adelaide, and thence along the transcontinental railway through the centre of Australia to Port Darwin. The line proposed would be absolutely valueless for defence purposes. The only way in which a transcontinental railway could be of use in that direction would be by deviating it sufficiently far eastward to allow it to be linked up with the various capital’sin the east. Troops could then be transported to the north in reasonable time, if necessary. It is absolutely unjustifiable to tie the Commonwealth up by these hampering railway conditions, and no such burden should be ratified, or even countenanced, by the National Parliament.
Mr. Mcwilliams (Franklin) [9.55]. - I remind honorable members that every legal authority we have is of opinion that this agreement, if it be carried into effect, will directly take the Federal Government and the South Australian Government into the High Court. There is not one member of this House who would invest a shilling of his own money in a deal surrounded with such conditions.
– How will the agreement take us into the High Court?
– Both the contracting parties have publicly stated that they hold entirely different views on the terms of the contract. The Crown Law officers of South Australia have given an opinion, and the Crown Law officers of the Commonwealth have given one exactly to the contrary ; and, therefore, the moment operations are commenced nothing can save us from litigation. We have been told that we owe South Australia an enormous debt of gratitude for having kept this part of Australia white; but I think I showed the other evening that, in this regard, we owe South Australia nothing. The South Australian Government have, time after time, attempted to import - and on two occasions succeeded - coloured labour for the Northern Territory. The whole of the Pine Creek railway was constructed by Chinese labour.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself to the agreement, in which there is nothing about Chinese labour.
– But nearly every supporter of the agreement has declarer! that we owe South Australia a debt of gratitude in this connexion.
– That argument was used on the second reading, but has not been used in Committee.
– I hope, at any rate, that we may be allowed to discuss the financial aspect of the question, on which I think the Minister ought to give us some information. I have been surprised to find that South Australia has practically never paid a shilling in connexion with the Northern Territory, but that she has funded her indebtedness in connexion therewith, and has met even the interest on the works out of borrowed money. That came to my knowledge only on Saturday, and I received it with somewhat of a shock, in view of the fact that we have been giving South Australia credit for shouldering the burden of £180,000 a year.
– The financial facts have been before this Parliament for three years.
– I do not believe that, outside South Australian representatives, a single member was aware of the fact I have stated. It will be seen that, if we take over the whole of the indebted ness, South Australia will never have paid a penny on account of the Northern Territory.
– What does that prove?
-It proves that any claim for gratitude has been removed, and that we must now regard the proposed agreement as purely a business matter. As a matter of fact, however, we are rushing into this question with all the carelessness and irresponsibility of children going to a picnic. There has not been one scrap of information given to us as to how the Government intend to raise the money to meet the expenditure ; and we are committing ourselves to the construction of a railway before we know anything of the country, or whether the railway will serve the purpose for which it is intended. So far as I have been able to gather, there is no doubt that the natural outlet for a considerable portion of the Northern Territory is down through the Queensland border; and when the Queensland railway to Camooweal is constructed, it will go right to the edge of what is admitted to be the finest portion of the Territory, agriculturally and pastorally. What right have we to saddle future settlers in the Northern Territory with an indebtedness of £8,000,000 or £10,000,000 on a -railway to Adelaide, when it may afterwards be proved that the natural outlet for trade is quite in another direction ?
– The agreement permits the Commonwealth to construct railways in any direction and all over the Commonwealth.
– But the only railway to which we” are committed is that stipulated in the agreement, and there is a very general concensus of opinion amongst legal authorities, including one of the ablest lawyers in Victoria, that, no matter what other railways we may build subsequently, that from Pine Creek to Port Augusta must be provided, regardless of the conditions or the cost. The control, maintenance, and development of the Northern Territory is the first great national work that the Federal Parliament has undertaken.
– Does -the honorable member think he is convincing anybody ?
-I hope so; but I am afraid there is growing up in this Parliament an idea of swallowing any proposal, no matter what arguments or reasons there may be against it. We are rushing into an expenditure which will mean at least £15,000,000. Honorable members seem to doubt that statement; but I am taking the figures of the Minister of External Affairs.
– Each opponent of the Bill seems to add £5,000,000 to the expenditure !
– I am sure every honorable member will accept the figures of the Minister in charge of the Bill. The figures given by the Minister of External Affairs show that the Pine Creek railway, which was constructed by Chinese labour, with 40-lb. rails, on a gauge of 3 ft. 6 in., cost over £8,200 a mile.
– Had white labour been employed, the cost would have been only half as great.
– The South Australian Government offered a certain price for the line if constructed by white labour, and a smaller price if constructed by Chinese labour, and the contractors, after trying to construct it with white labour, were forced to import Chinese. The connexion from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta would be about 1,100 miles in length, and at £8,000 a mile would cost £8,000,000.
– Does the honorable member think it would cost £8,200 a mile to build that railway to-day?
– The country through which it would pass has not been surveyed, nor even explored, so that we can merely guess at its probable cost.
– The honorable member should not quote me as an authority for the figures which he is using.
– To ascertain the cost of the Port Darwin to Pine Creek line per mile I merely divided the amount which the honorable gentleman stated was its capital cost by the number of miles which constitutes its length, which gives a little more than £8,200 a mile.
– The line was built twenty-five years ago.
– Yes, but with Chinese labour.
– What would a line with a gauge of 4 ft. 8½ in. cost?
– I shall be glad to work that out with the honorable member to-morrow. No one knows the character of the country through which the proposed line would pass. On 600 miles of the Oodnadatta railway there is only one train a fortnight.
– It is from Hergott Springs iu Oodnadatta that the train runs once a fortnight.
– If honorable members have no consideration for the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, they should think of the future position of the people of the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member voted for the taking over of the Northern Territory.
– When sitting behind the Government of the day I opposed the Bill as strongly as i do now ; I do not share the view of the honorable member that it is one’s bounden duty to support a Government whether it be right or wrong. The agreement commits us to an expenditure of over £15,000,000. Are we, like South Australia, to hold the Territory for forty years without settling it with white people? When it becomes sufficiently populous it will have to be admitted into the Union as a State, and will it be fair to saddle it with a debt ‘of from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000? I hope that if we ratify the agreement it will be kept in spirit and in letter. If we ratify it, the Commonwealth will be in honour bound to construct the proposed railway at once. How often have some honorable members protested against the delay of Governments in giving effect to the Federal Capital agreement?’
– The honorable member must not deal with the question of the Federal Capital.
– No,. sir. i was only trying to show that, if this Bill be passed, we shall be bound in honour to carry out the contract. The development and the settlement of rhe Northern Territory are the biggest problems which this Parliament will have to face for very many years, and if we can do that at an expenditure of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 we shall not have done very badly. Not one line of information has been furnished as to how the Government propose to find the money for developmental purposes, or even as to how they intend to take over the indebtedness of South Australia. Although the Commonwealth will have to take over a funded debt of nearly £3,500,000, yet not one word of information has been vouchsafed as to how the Government propose’ to meet that liability. Ministers are relying upon their majority. Unfortunately, they have taken over the faulty Bill of their predecessors, and with their assistance are trying to pass it through the House without the slightest alteration, and without furnishing any information.
– A “ faulty “ Bill ! I object to that.
– So “far as I can see, this is precisely the same as the Bill which some of us fought on a previous occasion. When a Government determines to take up a Bill of its predecessor it makes sure of getting the entire support of the leaders of the Opposition.
– I must ask the honorable member to address his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I hope that even at this late hour the Parliament will make such an amendment as will prevent the Commonwealth from being shackled for all time. I venture to think that the opponents of the Bill are actuated by a desire to promote the best interests of this Parliament and of the Northern Territory. A very unfair objection was taken to the opposition offered by some of Queensland’s representatives when the remark was made, “ You did not say that in connexion with the Sugar Bounty Bill. On the contrary, you waited until it was out of the way.”
– Order !
– The representatives of Tasmania cannot- be accused of acting from personal considerations in supporting or opposing this measure, because the only interest which that State can have is that she will have to pay a share of the expense. We have a right, however, to see that the public money is expended in a proper direction. I feel as certain as I stand here that if the Bill be passed as it is, and the construction of a railway through the centre of the Northern Territory be undertaken, it will prove such a disastrous failure before it is nearly completed that we shall be embarrassed in regard to other national works for very many years to come.
.- It seems to me that some honorable members are prepared without reflection to land the Commonwealth in endless trouble.
– Let us appoint a Royal Commission.
– I am satisfied that this proposal, if investigated by a Royal Commission, would not be sanctioned by the House. We have heard a glowing account of the wonderful gift which South Australia is breaking her neck to make to the Commonwealth, but I am at a loss to understand why it meets with the approbation of certain honorable members. Of course, I am not at all surprised at certain representatives from South Australia giving a couleur de rose to this speculation which they are trying to impose upon the Commonwealth. I ask honorable members to look at the map, and notice where it is proposed to run the railway. I have already said that I am in favour of the Commonwealth taking over the Northern Territory as a national obligation, but I am not in favour of its transfer with the condition that the railway shall be constructed according to the route which is marked out on the map. We are advised to build a railway through a territory which we are told will pay. We are assured that some day or other we shall get a return on our outlay. A little while ago an honorable member interjected, “ We will sell the land, and get the money.” How many million pounds can be realized by the sale of land which is let to-day at is. per square mile? We are told by some honorable members of the great mineral wealth in the Northern Territory. Now, it is only a few months since some enthusiastic speculators in Melbourne were led to believe that it contained another Broken Hill, but (hey have learned to their sorrow what has taken place, not once, but scores of times, in regard to the mineral wealth of the Territory. A number of Victorian citizens, including a few members of Parliament, were induced to invest money in Tanami propositions, and they were told that the Tanami gold-field was to be a combined Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. Glowing reports were furnished only a few months ago of the prospects of this field, but they have not been -realized, and some men have suffered very serious loss. Honorable members should travel through the Northern Territory if they wish to gain some knowledge of its possibilities. There are more monuments to the folly of British investors in the Northern Territory than there are in any other part of the world. Machinery which cost thousands of pounds is lying idle, and in some cases has not earned sufficient to pay one year’s interest on the outlay upon it. One of the first sights that met our gaze at Port Darwin was a huge heap of machinery that had never been removed from the railway station. It is piled up on the station, and is painted year after year to keep it from rusting, so that there may be something to show for the investment made. Thousands of pounds, we were informed, had been spent on this mining machinery, yet it had never been placed in position. A great deal of machinery that has been erected is lying idle, whilst in a few cases valuable cyanide plants are being worked by a few Chinese.
– Is not that the position in every State?
– The honorable member, who kept us here all night fighting over a tinpot question like that of the Capital Site, has not been to the Northern Territory. He could not swallow a proposed expenditure of £50,000 on the Federal Capital, but he is prepared in this connexion to swallow something a hundred times larger, so far as financial responsibilities are concerned. We were told when in the Northern Territory that there are valuable gold deposits - huge boulders of gold containing practically no dross. But what has become of the Great Golden Boulder which was to prove another El Dorado? What has become of the tin mines, and where are the batteries? Echo answers “Where?” Go to the so-called copper fields, and see if there is anything warranting the assumption that there are great possibilities in that direction. The largest lode I saw was only 4 feet wide. Then, again, take the wolfram shows, and you will find only patchy deposits that will pay only when wolfram is at a fabulous price. And so with the copper fields. The copper deposits discovered would not pay except when copper was at a very high price. As soon as the quotations foi tin and copper fell it was found that none of the deposits were worth working. Yet we are told that we should construct this transcontinental railway because of the vast mineral wealth which it will assist in developing. Those who make such assertions will live to be absolutely undeceived.
– Then we shall be very old.
– The honorable member is prepared to agree to an expenditure of from £10,000,000 to £15,000,000 of the people’s money without the colour coming to his cheeks. Why should we no< pass all these measures without discussion ? Why should we not open our mouths and shut our eyes and take what is given us? The position is becoming largely farcical. We see measures of great importance treated in this House as if they were matters of common, everyday occurrence.
– The honorable member is not going to condemn the Northern Terri tory as a whole because he saw two or three bad shows there?
Mi. WEBSTER.- I do not profess to have traversed the whole country.
– The honorable member saw no more of the Territory than is contained in a decent-sized fowl-yard.
– The supporters of this measure must have an infernally bad case since they interject so freely. I know as much of the Territory as the honorable member does. I saw all that was to be seen, within the time at our disposal, of the mineral developments of the country ; and I gleaned my knowledge as to those parts of the Territory which I could not visit from men who had been there. A Victorian squatter took up 900 square miles in the Territory and sent cattle up there in the hope that he would eventually have one of the greatest station properties in the continent. What was the result of his enterprise? We travelled over part of his holding, which nearly landed him in the Insolvency Court. In order to rid himself of the spectre that haunted him in his dreams, he passed over his lease to his manager, and left the country. The manager could not tell us whether he had 1:00 or 500 cattle on that enormous area. He said he could only count them when they went to the waterholes, and he did not know how many head of stock he hadAlthough he held 900 square miles of country, he was making a living by running a mail service.
– The honorable member is only talking of parts of the Territory.
– I know of men who are paying a rental of is. per square mile for large areas in the Territory. We WeN told that if we went down the Adelaide River we should see country that would convince us of the great possibilities of the Territory. We went there, and on either side of the stream saw vast flats that are flooded with every incoming tide. They said, ‘ ‘ This is beautiful rice country ; you can grow here all the rice that Australia requires.” That is how these enthusiastic South Australians talk. But every one knows that you cannot grow rice on country that has been flooded with salt water. We went on I00 miles further, to Beatrice Hills. To see the country there you have to push through spear grass 14 feet high. That is the sort of wonderful fodder that grows there. The cattle, however, cannot get at the grass in the wet season because they get bogged, and in the dry season they cannot eat it because it is simply like dried sticks. It has to be burnt off by the niggers, and then a little tuft of green stuff appears at the roots, which can be eaten by the cattle. The few buffaloes that remain on the Northern Territory feed on these tufts of green stuff. This is the country that we are asked to take over, and the expenditure on which the people of the Commonwealth will have, to redeem. On the flats there is spear grass everywhere. When we were there, we heard of a Victorian squatter who, allured by the prospects laid before him, took up at Beatrice Hills an area of something like 1,100 square miles. He built a homestead and two out-stations. All that was left of the buildings when we were there consisted of a chimney, and that would have gone too except that it was built of basalt. We are also told that coffee could be grown in the Territory. An experiment in coffee growing was tried some years ago. We saw lying there about half-a-dozen of the large heavy bullock-ploughs that were used ‘ in the cultivation. They weighed, I suppose, 6 or 7 Cwt. each. But the plantation had to be abandoned, and the ploughs were left behind to rust.
– What became of the bullocks ?
– They got bogged and died. There we have an example of what has been done in the Northern Territory. Of course, it is of no use to give information to men who are not prepared to study this question, but have made up their minds, in “ any event, to land the Commonwealth in an enormous expenditure. But what right have we to accede to the wishes of the South Australian Government, and to undertake to build a railway where they want it with the money of the people of the Commonwealth ? We have the South Australian members “ s001 ing “ us on, and telling us that if we do not take over the Territory quickly we shall not get it at all. We were told the same sort of thing on two previous occasions when the matter was under discussion, but South Australia has done nothing with the Territory since, nor is there any fear of her doing anything with it. It is said that if the Common wealth does not take over the Territory it will be handed over to a land-grant company. There is no such likelihood. Any one who has read about the “ dead heart of
Australia “ will have no difficulty in making up his mind that no company would expend its capital in such an area.
– The “ dead heart “ is not in the Northern Territory and. what is more, there is a railway through the country so described by Gregory.
– Professor Gregory did not discover the only “ dead heart “ in Australia. There is more than one. On a previous occasion, when the matter was under discussion, we had hanging in the chamber two maps which showed the nature of the soil in the Territory.
– I rise to order. It seems to me the honorable member is delivering n second -reading speech. What is the question before the Chair?
– The question before the Chair is the agreement.
– The best part of the Northern Territory is that towards the Western Australian border, where Mr. Kidman operates.
– What has he made out of it ?
– Mr. Kidman has obtained his land on a peppercorn rent of is.’ per square mile, and has taken care to pick out the best.
– He gets 15,000 calves annually, and yet the honorable member says the country is no good.
– But Mr. Kidman has a roving commission over thousands of square miles. Naturally, the best country has been occupied by men who knew its value. They took care to avoid the worst. The men who have taken up land at Wave Hill, where there is a 10-in. rainfall, knew too much to pick the worst of the country- when the best of it was available at is. a square mile. There is land on the Queensland side which some day or other may become good sheep country. You, Mr. Chairman, have stated that there is beautiful sheep country on the proposed route near the MacDonnell Ranges, but, admitting that there is on the Camooweal side and also in the MacDonnell Ranges land that will become good sheep country, what is that compared with the whole of the Territory? If we are not mere parochialists trying to drive all trade out of its natural channel into one centre, we shall consider the interests of Australia as a whole. Any man looking at the map and knowing the fringe of the population belt must say that the line running right down to Port Augusta is absolutely the worst that could be built for the purposes to which I have referred. If the South Australian Government are not prepared to give the Commonwealth the Territory with out the railway they should keep the Territory. I am prepared to take it over for defence purposes, but not to build a railway like this, which will be of very little use for defence. If it were run in such a way that we could mobilize our forces on each railway that projects into the country it would be of some value, but it would be useless when troops had to be brought thousands of miles along the coast to Port Augusta, and then taken right through the centre of Australia. So far as defence is concerned, the whole thing is a farce, and from the stand-point of developing Australia it is a still greater farce. I verymuch regret that the Government I support have taken up the measure without exacting more liberal conditions to. meet the true interests of the Commonwealth. I do not know why they should take up just what their predecessors have left them. They appear to have an idea that if they varied the agreement in any way they would lose the Territory. We’ are told by the gentlemen interested in the matter that if we do not ratify the agreement we shall never get another chance. I do not believe it. The statement is simply bluff. He would be, indeed, a rash speculator who would take the Territory off the hands of the South Australian Government and build the proposed railway through it.
– Eleven thousand head of cattle were sent from one station last vear.
– The number of cattle that come from the Territory is insignificant compared with those that come from one little patch of New South Wales.
– What station in New South Wales exports 11,000 head of cattle a vear?
– The honorable member asks me to compare a station comprising 30,000 or 40,000 acres with a station covering thousands of square miles.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the agreement?
– Surely the productivity of the land through which the railway is to pass affects the agreement? Are we to be confined to the two lines of the railway ? Can we not discuss the character of the country through which they will pass, in order to ascertain whether we shall get value for our money ?
– The question before the Chair is the ratification of the agreement, and a considerable amount of latitude has already been allowed.
– I submit that we cannot discuss the railways without discussing the land through which they run.
– On a point of order, I submit that you ruled me out of order on Friday last for saying about one-thousandth part ot what the honorable member for Gwydir said to-night. If I was out of order, then surely the honorable member is much more out of order now in discussing the whole Bill.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the agreement.
– I fully realize it, but the agreement is a very broad question and will surely allow me to discuss the value of land. I cannot help it if the honorable member for Maranoa wandered away from the subject on Friday. In a map which the honorable member for Brisbane has handed to me the only good land is that coloured blue. The part coloured pink represents inferior land,- and that coloured yellow shows land of less value still. The individual who argues that a private syndicate would be willing to construct what is known as the direct line ought not to be allowed to remain at large. The transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth subject to that condition will not redound to the credit of this Parliament. The attitude of South Australia in practically saying to us, “ VW must have this line or none,” is a purely parochial one. Under this agreement she is endeavouring to secure an undue benefit by forcing commace out of its natural channel, and by compelling Queensland in construct several railways, each 300 or 400 miles long, in order to connect with the proposed transcontinental line from north to south. I hold that any railway through the Northern Territory should follow the route which this Parliament, in its wisdom, determines to be best. What becomes of our boasted independence if we permit South Australia to dictate to us in the manner that is proposed in this Bill ? Tt must be obvious to everybody that the Commonwealth will require to expend millions of pounds before the Territory can be successfully settled. Mv own opinion is that it will be settled only by the natural overflow of population from other States. If the Government imagine that Europeans can be settled there at a moment’s notice, they are labouring under a delusion.
– How will it be settled, then ?
– The settlers must be gradually acclimatized. If I had an enemy upon whom I wished to revenge myself, I know of no way in which I could more successfully accomplish my purpose than by sending him to the Northern Territory.
– I do not suppose that the honorable member intends going there himself?
– No, I am wanted here. The honorable gentleman could not do without me. I protest against the Commonwealth being committed to the construction of the line of railway outlined in this clause. During the course of this debate a great deal has been heard about the necessity of such a railway from a defence stand-point. But, viewed from that aspect, it would be an utter farce. Did Lord Kitchener recommend the construction of such a line for purposes of defence? No; he advocated the building of a line through the Northern Territory which would connect with branch lines in the different States. Yet, in defiance of his advice, we are asked to subscribe to this agreement, although, according to the honorable member for Ballarat, it does not accurately represent the compact which was entered into between himself and the late Premier of South Australia, Mr. Price. Under such circumstances, the position taken up by the Leader of the Opposition is absolutely incomprehensible. Had the Japanese, or all v Eastern nation, desired to invade Australia from the north, they had the opportunity to do so years ago. But they realize perfectly well that they could not live there. Our security from invasion in this direction by Eastern nations lies in the fact that neither the Japanese nor the Chinese could march an army that would be dangerous to the freedom of Australia across this waterless and foodless territory. The very blackfellows cannot live there. The missionaries report that where before there were thousands of blacks there are only hundreds to-day. Though at one time there were millions of rabbits in the Territory, one is very rarely seen there now, because there is no food for them.
– What kept them when there were millions there?
– If the honorable member will look into the facts concerning this part of the world he will find that places where at one time there was some food for rabbits are to-day covered with sand. Honorable members may be aware that in western New South Wales, after a long period of drought, fences have been found buried by the drifting of sand, and the same kind of thing occurs in the Northern Territory. There was talk at one time about the cutting of canals to convey water to the dry portions of the country, but the engineers reported that before the second half of the canal could be completed the first half would be filled up with sand, and it would be necessary to begin the work over again.
– Is the honorable member against taking over the Territory ?
– No. I think we should take it over in order to secure the safety of Australia.
– Yet the honorable member says that there is no fear of invasion, because even the Japanese could not live there.
– I’ say that there is no fear that an army sufficiently strong to menace the freedom of Australia would be able to travel across that country, because there is no natural food there, and they would be unable to carry sufficient supplies of food and water.
– Then the honorable member should not be in favour of taking over the Territory if it is such poor country as he describes.
– That is for me to decide. I remind the honorable member that the Commonwealth is charged with the work of coastal defence, and it is necessary that we should protect such ports as Port Darwin and other harbors of the Northern Territory.
– But the honorable member said there is no fear of an invasion.
– I say that an invading army would not be able to cross the Territory without a railway. But we require some one stationed at the ports of the Northern Territory to warn us of” the approach of an invader, and to enable us to effectively enforce the provisions of the Alien Immigration Restriction Act.
– Where is the necessity if aliens would die when they got into the Territory ?
– I know that some honorable members are prepared to swallow this proposal.
– We cannot swallow what the honorable member is saving about it.
– I do not know how the honorable member for Denison can express an opinion upon the subject.
– From years of study of the opinions of men who have lived in the Territory.
– I may inform the honorable member that some of the most robust men that we saw on our visit to the Northern Territory have since gone to glory. If a country is so poor that it will not support the native population, God help strangers who are asked to live there.
– I know the opinion of men who have been engaged on the overland telegraph line.
– I have before asked honorable members to discontinue their interjections. It is only natural that the honorable member for Gwydir should reply to them, and I cannot fairly call him to order if he does so. I ask honorable members to permit the honorable member to make his speech in his own way.
– I know that it must be irritating to honorable members who are anxious to go to a vote without further consideration that I should continue to discuss the question. The Northern Territory is not like Northern Queensland, where there are yams and other natural foods on which the aboriginal natives can exist, and the fact that the natives of the Northern Territory are dying out should be a warning to honorable members who are claiming that the acquisition of it will be a great investment for the Commonwealth. The day will come when we shall know what kind of an investment it is. We shall know then that, apart from the cost of constructing the proposed railway, it will be a huge millstone around the neck of the Commonwealth. If we build the railway by such a route as to enable Queensland railways to be connected with it, the Territory may be developed in a natural way from Queensland, but if the direct route is followed, it will remain isolated,. We know that on the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta a train is run over a part of it once a fortnight, and God knows how seldom over the other part of it. If this line is constructed by the direct route, a train may be run over it once in twelve months. I am opposed to the proposal, and will vote against the clause.
.- I should like to know if the Minister in charge of the Bill will consent to report progress at this stage?
– We have been two days considering this clause.
– I wish to tender my sincere congratulations to the honorable member for Gwydir upon the very exhaustive inquiry he has been conducting for some time past into the merits of this proposal. The honorable member has asked us to consider the possibilities of the development of this great Territory, which honorable members are unanimous in desiring that the Commonwealth shall take over without arduous restrictions. There is one serious omission from the data of the honorable member. He told us of a dead bullock that was” a living monument to the .Territory’s incapacity to maintain life, he spoke of the natives dying in thousands since the missionaries have come to live among them, and he mentioned a number of other things ; but he did not inform us how many head of white ants the portion tinted yellow on the map is capable of carrying in a year of ordinary production.
– I left that to the honorable member.
– I confess that if he and I endeavoured, year in and year out, to estimate the capacity of this portion of the Northern Territory in respect to the maintenance of white ants, it would be many years before we could arrive at a proper appreciation of its immense resources in this respect.
Perhaps the best part of my honorable friend’s address dealt with the responsibility which the Government accepts in pressing forward this proposal. Looking at the matter from a broad national stand-point, I express regret, in the first place that the agreement was ever entered into, and, in the second, that its ratification is being forced through Parliament by a Government which is in no way compelled to this course of action.
The agreement is a log-rolling concern, ana would have no chance had not the votes of the representatives of Western Australia been secured by clause 15 of the Bill, which declares that if the Commonwealth allows itself to be dictated to in regard to the construction of . a line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, the South Australian Parliament will permit the construction of that portion of the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie which passes through its territory. The representatives of South Australia in this Parliament, and the Parliament of the State, let it be known that it was opposed to the construction of that line until the Pine Creek line had been constructed for the special benefit of Adelaide, at the expense of the people of Australia. But the representatives of Western Australia, when faced with this narrow, parochial hedge, should have asked this Parliament to agree to an alteration of the Constitution to enable the South Australian portion of the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie to be made through the State with or without the consent of its Parliament. Instead of doing that: they say, “ We desire an expenditure pf £4,000,000 on a railway to connect Western Australia with the eastern States, and as our only chance of securing it is to bind the Commonwealth to spend £10.000,000 on a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, we support this most unprofitable bargain.” If this is not log-, rolling, I do not- know what is. It is the clearest instance of which I know in the parliamentary records of Australia, and I enter my protest against it.
I do not know why this Government feels compelled to force the Bill through. The Minister of External Affairs has told us that the Parliament of South Australia is not in the least keen about parting with the Territory. If that be so, why should they drive such a bargain at the expense of Australia? Why should we not enter upon negotiations de novo? As a member of the National Parliament, I object to being dictated to by a State as to the route which a national railway shall follow.
– The honorable member was not so particular about State dictation when the Capital site question was under discussion.
– I should object to dictation from New South Wales as to the route we should follow in constructing a railway to the Federal Capital. Am I to vote blindly in regard to this railway project? Am I not entitled, first, to hear the opinion of experts as to the chances of development by constructing a railway by one route or another? Ought we not to have the best brains which the Commonwealth can employ in trying to discover how the interests of Australia can be most served by transcontinental railway construction? Should we bind ourselves to a route through the desert when it is possible to connect the Northern Territory with the lines of western Queensland, and thus give it speedy communication with the centres of population? If this is a national question, let us treat the Northern Territory as a national asset, and seek to open it up by a line which will serve its best interests as well as those of Australia as a whole.
I have lately been putting in a little time in the natural habitat of “ mandates.” I find that in New South Wales my honorable friends opposite have recently accepted a mandate to construct no railway which from the date of its opening will not pay the interest on the cost of construction and establish a sinking fund. I ask my honorable friends in the Labour party who come from New South Wales to stand up for the platform of the State Labour party in connexion with this railway. It is admitted by every member of the House that it will mean a dead loss to the taxpayers of Australia from the moment that it is constructed. How far has it been carried out? The line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta is now worked at a dead loss to the people of South Australia, and not only are we to construct a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, but we are to take over a line in South Australia proper which is working at a dead loss, and to work it for the benefit of that State at the expense of Australia as a whole. Is that a fair proposition? Are honorable members so recreant to their duty to their constituents that they will allow a proposal of this kind to be smuggled through the House in order to snare the votes of South Australia and Western Australia to the support of the Government? Are they so forgetful of their duty to those who’ sent them here that they are bound to force down the throats of the Australian people a bargain which obviously is diametrically opposed to the interests of Australia as a whole?
– Suppose that I had acted as the honorable member suggests the other night when the Federal Capital question was under consideration ?
– I had not the honorable member in my mind.
– I came here free, and am voting freely.
– The honorable member’s constituents trust him to have regard solely for the interests of Australia as a whole.
– So I am.
– Does not the honorable member know as well as every other honorable member that he cannot claim to be doing his duty if he accepts dictation as to the route of any railway which has afterwards to be constructed by the Commonwealth? When a railway proposal is brought before a State Parliament, does not a member ask the local authorities the best route to take? Does he not obtain the best advice he can as to the country which is best adapted to development by such means? Yet the honorable member comes here and pretends to indignation because I said that every honorable member who votes for this agreement, which will bind him, .whatever experts may say afterwards, to construct the railway over a particular route, is deserting the best interests of his constituents and the people of Australia as a whole. I wish to put this matter on a proper basis. Every honorable member who votes for such a proposal as this must vote with his eyes open to the fact that he is allowing himself to be used as a tool to gain the support of Western Australia and South Australia to the Government.
– The honorable member is not in order in using that expression.
– It is most insulting language.
– I did not apply the term expressly to the honorable member ; I said that in my judgment every honorable member who votes for this proposal-
– The honorable member must not repeat the term.
– Our first duty is to those who sent us here, having regard to our wider obligations towards the Commonwealth. From no point of view will the construction of a railway over this particular route be in the interests of the Australian people as a whole.
We have heard a great deal about its value in -the matter of Australian defence. Surely my honorable friends who talk about this agreement in connexion with defence misconstrue the difficulties of transport ! They ought to recognise that military distance and geographical distance are two separate things. Military distance is represented by the difficulty of traversing it. Take, for instance, a railway built over this particular route in the Northern Territory. For every ton of provisions which we sent to our army at the front we should have to pay a freight of about £5, according to the New South Wales schedule of freights, for the longest distance; whereas an enemy in the Northern Territory could get his provisions by sea from his country at a cost of 10s. per ton. If an enemy is going to have the command of the sea, and is able to plant himself in the Territory, it is obvious that a country with a population of 40,000,000 or 60,000,000 waging war over lines of communication which represent a transport difficulty of only 10s. a ton will, be in an overwhelmingly favorable position as contrasted with a population of 4,000,000 waging war over lines of communication which represent a transport difficulty of £5 per ton. Such an enemy would have some ten or fifteen times our population, and only one-tenth of our freight difficulty of transport. Contest, in such circumstances, would be impossible. The Northern Territory will leave Australian control the moment an enemy who has command of the sea cares to plant his troops there. It would not materially matter whether there was a railway there or not; the cost of freight and of supplies to our troops in the Northern Territory would be so infinitely greater to us than would be the cost to our enemy that he would be able to maintain himself in that Territory with the utmost ease, despite what we might do to oust him.
The defence of the Northern Territory is, first and last, the problem of the command of the seas. It is not a problem as to the building of a line of railway through the Northern Territory. The position, so far as Western Australia is concerned, is not on all fours with this. A raid - a contingency not to be feared against unoccupied territory - might be made on a gold centre, or a port possessing docking or other facilities. A raid on Western Australia, for instance, would have to be made by a force of greater strength than would otherwise be the case, if it were known that we had a transcontinental railway to that State, over which we might hurry, for the time being, reserves of troops and of supplies. The Northern Territory, however, is unsettled, and if it is to remain so, as it must, in my judgment, until the more fruitful sections of Australia have been settled, the proposed railway communication will be of no material value in the defence against invasion of that section of the Commonwealth.
It is ridiculous to suggest that an enemy who wished to attack the southeastern sections of Australia - that is, the section of Australia which contains the vast bulk of our wealth and enterprise - would think of attacking them overland through the Northern Territory. That is the last thing that he would think of doing. There would be immense difficulties in the way of progress and transport such as he would not have to face upon the high seas the moment command off the sea was at his mercy. The problem of Australian defence is a question of sea command, and the question of strategic railways is relatively of infinitesimal importance.
I should be very happy to see the Commonwealth take over the Northern Territory and pay all that South Australia has expended upon it. I realize that it is desirable to take” it over, not from a defence point of view - because that, as I have explained, is a very small matter in the Australian defence problem - but purely because I think that the resources of Australia, as a whole, are better fitted to cope with the development of the Territory than are the resources of South Australia. That is the consideration upon which I am desirous that the Commonwealth should take over the Territory, provided that we can take it over free from the hampering railway restrictions to which I have referred.
– We are prepared now to report progress.
– Very well.
Motion (by Mr. Batchelor) put -
That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.)
Markers’ Strike at Williamstown.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- There is something that I want to say, before the House adjourns, about this precious Government of ours. The matter is one of principle with me. A thing that has occurred to-day in Melbourne is one of the strongest blows at the principle of unionism that we have yet seen. The Defence Force of the Commonwealth is now controlled by a Labour Minister in a Labour Government; and yet this Government have been the first to introduce the military to break down a strike. I feel very strongly about the matter. It shall never be said of me that I ever sat behind a Government in any House of Parliament, and allowed the military to be introduced as scabs and scab protectors. Because what has occurred to-day is nothing more nor less than that. In to-night’s
Herald, appears an article headed, “Markers’ strike at Williamstown. Shooting stopped.” This is what it says -
The strike of markers which yesterday took place at North Williamstown when the Victorian Rifle Association matches were begun underwent a remarkable development to-day. The markers, with the exception of eight, who were got together by the rangekeeper (Mr. Pater) refused to go into the trenches, and up till noon not a single shot had been fired, except in the Continuation Match….. It was after 11 o’clock noon before the Council made the announcement that they had determined to obtain the services of permanent men from the Australian Royal Artillery and Royal Australian Engineers, and that to-day’s shooting would start at 1 o’clock p.m.
This, as you know, Mr. Speaker, is the very same sort of thing as occurred in connexion with the 1 89 1 strike, and it is the sort of thing that some of us were returned to Parliament to put down.. Yet the Minister of Defence in this Labour Govern- ment has permitted such a thing to occur for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth.
– I am glad that I did not do that.
– I do not think that the honorable member would do such a thing. The report in the Herald goes on -
At this stage the Executive Council held a hurried meeting and when they came out of the room they announced that they would pay the markers the ros. a day, and asked them to take their places at once. The men agreed to do so, and the permanent men having been recalled from the trenches, the regular markers stepped into their old positions.
What I have read explains exactly what happened. I have risen to say that as a Labour representative I resent what has occurred from the very bottom of my heart. I have never seen a stronger “ wallop “ at unionism since I have been a unionist in Australia than has occurred to-day at the rifle ranges at Williamstown.
.- I think that the honorable member for Maranoa has taken the right course in bringing this matter before the House, with a view of obtaining some information from the Government. It appears from the report in to-night’s Herald that the men who have been doing marking at the Williamstown ranges have been overworked. They have been worked sometimes from 7 in the morning until 6 at night, and they wanted more money. Whether they were right or wrong in going on strike is a matter that may be argued. But what occasioned surprise in my mind was that the Permanent Artillery should have been called out to take the places of men who have gone on strike. It is strange that any officer should have had power to instruct the men of the Permanent Forces to do this work. The attitude taken up by some of the riflemen is deserving of credit, because one or two of them protested against the permanent men being put in the trenches to do the marking. I should have thought that a matter of this kind would have been referred to the Minister of Defence, but apparently that was not considered necessary. Of course, there must be discipline in the Military Forces, but nevertheless what has occurred to-day is entirely novel. I feel very strongly about it, and never expected to see such a thing occur in Australia under any circumstances.
-We are rearing up a military caste to kill ourselves.
– According to the Herald report the Council of the Rifle Association backed down “ on grounds of expediency,” and not because they thought the men were right. We certainly should have some explanation from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence. The affair occurred some hours ago at Williamstown, and some report should have been made to the Minister in the meantime. The whole matter is very unfortunate, and with a view of preventing such an occurrence in the future, and of having it understood that the permanent men are to stick to the work which they are expected to do, and not to take the place of strikers, we should have a clear pronouncement from the Government.
.- The matter referred to by the honorable member for Maranoa is one that the Government must look into thoroughly. The trouble has been simmering for more than eighteen months. It was brought under the notice of the previous Administration, when it was clearly shown that the officer in charge prevented the markers from earning a few shillings at the practice on Saturdays.
– That was stopped while I was Minister of Defence, was it not?
– Something was done by the Minister of the day, though I am not sure whether the honorable member for Parramatta was Minister at the time.
– I think I was.
– The commanding officer did something to put an end to the trouble, but the discontent has been simmering in the meantime. There is no need to pay these men an unfair wage, or bring in others to take their places. I hate the military system as I hate hell, and I object if it is to be put in the power of the Military Department to interfere with men in the civil ranks. Some of the men stood up and objected to what was done; and to them I will pay my meed of praise. If the Government will turn up the files of about twelve months ago, they will see that there is a grievance; and now that it has come to a head, let us settle it once and for all. Let a little fair play be given down at the range; but I do not believe that a Labour Government, or a Labour Minister, were consulted and gave their consent to military being sent down for th( purpose indicated.
– The honorable member for Maranoa is to be congratulated on bringing this matter before the House at the earliest moment. The Minister representing the Minister of Defence may have an explanation to make ; but, in any case, it is the duty of honorable members to emphasize what has occurred in such a manner that there will be no possibility of a recurrence. It is a matter of the greatest importance, and manifestly, if it is to recur, it will be necessary for Parliament to take very decided action. I understand that in the present shooting contest, markers were engaged who have been in the habit of doing that work for a considerable time, at a particular rate of pay, for certain hours. They were asked on this occasion to work longer hours, but for the ordinary rate of pay. They naturally objected, as tha average tradesman would object if told that he must sell 50 per cent, more of his goods for the price that he was in the habit of obtaining. In every walk of life, whether in the sale of brains or muscle, men very properly demur if asked to give something over and above what they have been in the habit of giving for a particular fee. The next course was to bring in certain other men to take the men’s places, apparently, without any attempt at consultation or conciliation. If we are to be guided by the newspaper reports, the officers in charge of the rifle shooting treated the matter in a rather highhanded way, being apparently of opinion that the men had no cause of complaint. It might be suggested, with all humility, that if suddenly called upon to take a reduced rate of pay, or to increase his hours, any officer would see a difficulty. Somehow or other, there are officers quite unable to see a difficulty in the case of the ordinary private, but very quick to see it when you touch the buttons, or the lace, or the stars. Other men were to be brought in ; but, naturally, the markers objected to work side by side with persons whom they considered incompetent. That, however, was not sufficient for the gentlemen in charge, who held some form of consultation, and decided to obtain the services of permanent men from the Artillery and Royal Engineering branches of the Permanent Forces. lt appears that the officers in charge of those sections of the Forces are so lenient, and have such peculiar views of their duties that, without question, they allowed their men, at the call of the council of the Rifle Association, to go down and take the places of the markers. The fact that the men are competent engineers or artillery men may not make them competent markers ; but, with an utter disregard for the safety of life, or for proper marking, and only to meet the views of the council of riflemen, those responsible allowed members of the Permanent Forces literally to take the bread out of the mouths of men who were accustomed to do the marking work. I say, emphatically, that I do not care two straws who is responsible; but those who are ought to be brought to book at once in such a manner that there will be no possibility of a similar occurrence. It appears that the Minister could not be obtained at the time, being busy; although some attempt seems to have been made to ask him whether it was right or not to send the permanent men. My fond hope is that, had the matter gone to the Minister, he would undoubtedly have prevented the perpetration of any such crime. If, on the other hand, he was not prepared so to act, I am ready to vote deliberately against him, and to vote him out of office if such a crime is again permitted in the annals of the Forces of Australia. As I read the report, however, it seems that the Minister was not acquainted with what was going on ; but that the members of the Permanent Forces were marched down under orders from their officers. I suggest that there should be an inquiry to find out Who is responsible, and whether there is any rule or regulation allowing men to be marched down in such circumstances. If there is, it should be at once repealed; so that in like circumstances, whether with regard to markers or others, the Permanent Forces shall not be marched out to take their places until the Minister controlling the Department has had an opportunity of saying what shall be done. The Minister is the man responsible to Parliament ; and we can deal with him directly. I desire to publicly offer my sincere thanks and congratulations to the riflemen who were at the range, because it is clear that their action alone prevented the permanent men being used in the direction which was intended. The riflemen, to their everlasting honour be it said, refused point-blank to continue the contests. They made a demonstration to the best of their ability, and the council gave way only when its members found that there would be no shooting if the requests nf the markers were not acceded to. I hope that this matter will be satisfactorily explained. The responsible officers should be made to understand their position in regard to it. If they acted under arule, it ought to be altered ; but if they did not, they should be dealt with in a proper manner.
– While I feel that the honorable member for Maranoa deserves credit for having brought this matter forward, I am of opinion that there was no occasion for the extreme warmth which he exhibited towards the Government. I think that he was smarting under a sense of wrong.
– Smarting under a sense of defeat at the hands of the coalition of Cook and Higgs.
– If he was under the impression that he had been wrongly punished, he should never have consented, as he apparently did, to an attempt to bludgeon through the Northern Territory Acceptance Sill this evening.
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to a matter with which the House has already dealt.
– This is the first night this session that the honorable member for Capricornia has remained late.
– The honorable member is nursing a feud which belongs to another place. I do not wish to quarrel with him, because I entertain the highest respect foi him.
– To what other place does the honorable member refer? The honorable member attacked the honorable member for Maranoa.
– I did not. I am merely endeavouring to pour oil upon the troubled waters.
– The honorable member is making a sneaking speech.
– I object to those words, and ask that they be withdrawn.
– I did not hear what the honorable member for Hindmarsh said, but I am sure that he will withdraw any expression he may have used which the honorable member for Capricornia considers offensive.
– I withdraw what I said.
– The honorable member for Maranoa was too severe upon the Government and the Minister of Defence. Probably the latter knows nothing whatever about this question. The lesson that we have to learn from what has occurred is that the officers of the Defence Forces of the Commonwealth have evidently been trained in the belief that it is their duty to send permanent men to take the places of strikers. -
– They dare not refuse to do so.
– I hope that in building up a Commonwealth Army and Navy we shall instil into the minds of the officers a sense of justice and fair play. Notwithstanding what has happened this evening, 1 have no fear that the Minister of Defence, and the Acting Prime Minister, who represents him in this Chamber, both of whom have honorable records in connexion with the Labour movement, will not do the correct thing.
– A few words by way of personal explanation. The honorable member for Capricornia has led the House to believe that, had it not been for the humiliating incident of this evening - an incident in which a number of members of my own party were concerned - I should not have brought this, matter forward. As a matter of fact, I decided to take action in regard to it the moment I saw the occurrence reported in the newspapers.
– In regard to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa, I wish to say that the article to which reference has been made was only brought under my notice this evening. At the time I was unable to get into communication with the Minister, and, consequently, I doubt whether the incident has yet been brought under his notice. I can speak on behalf of the Government when I state emphatically that they have no sympathy at all with strike breakers. We shall be prepared to accept the responsibility of giving effect to that view. In connexion with the situation which has arisen with the markers at the Williamstown Range, I have to say that this is the first I have beard of the matter. I was not previously acquainted, and I doubt whether the Minister of Defence was acquainted, with the fact that there was any difficulty with regard to the wages of markers at the Williamstown Range before the commencement of the present series of rifle matches. The Government believe in giving fair wages and conditions to all those in their employ.
Mr.J. H. Catts. - What about the Post Office?
– My statement applies equally to all Departments of the Government.
– The Government are starving some of those in charge of contract post-offices.
– We are endeavouring to see that the most humane conditions are established throughout the Commonwealth service in view of the circumstances in each case. We are endeavouring to remedy harsh conditions, not only in the Post and Telegraph Department, but in every Department of the Commonwealth service. If the markers at the Williamstown Range present a reasonable case . to the Minister of Defence, they will receive reasonable treatment from the Government. We have no desire to sweat any person in the employ of the Government. I may inform the honorable member for Melbourne, who mentioned the grievances of these men, that they were not previously referred to in this House. Now that they have been mentioned, the statements of honorable members will be communicated to the Minister of Defence, and I have no doubt a satisfactory reply will be received from him. I can well understand that honorable members who have raised the question to-night should be somewhat anxious about a possible extension of the condition of affairs that has arisen in connexion with the difficulty at the Williamstown Range, if the report to which reference has been made may be accepted as accurate. I can give my assurance that the matter will be brought before the Minister of Defence tomorrow morning, and I hope to be in a position to make a statement on the question,, on behalf of the Minister, before we adjourn to-morrow evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.22 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 October 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101018_reps_4_58/>.