4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Just before the adjournment of the House on Friday week last, I asked the Minister of Trade and Customs to inquire whether the contractor for the wireless telegraph station at Pennant Hills has used machinery and installations made locally, according to the terms of the letter covering his contract. Has the honorable gentleman made the inquiry, and, if so, what proportion, if any, of the materials used was made locally?
– I have not made the inquiry, because it is not within the province of my Department to ascertain where the machinery used by any company is made.
– As we have in the Parliamentary Library a bust of the first Governor-General of Australia, I ask the Prime Minister if he will take into consideration the desirability of placing some permanent memorial in the halls of this building to perpetuate the memory of Lord Northcote.
– Yes. The Government hope, at an early date, to open a much wider field, and preserve “for the public, in oil or in stone, likenesses of the prominent statesmen of Australia. Honorable members will agree that as time passes the opportunities for getting faithful portraits are becoming fewer, and thatthe time is ripe for doing something in the direction indicated.
Mr.- MCWILLIAMS.- Will the Post master-General lay on the table copies of the correspondence between the Government and the Government of Tasmania relating to the making of a telephone line to Port Davey ?
– I have no objection to doing so.
– On the 19th. September I made some remarks in this chamber with reference to the position of Mr. Wade, ex-Premier of New South Wales. I stated that he- r’ is alleged to have been paul during his opposition to .the referendum. It is commonly understood, in fact, it was stated in the press, and so far as I know the statement has not been contradicted, that he was paid by the Employers’ Federation a salary per year to . fight the battle of the.’ so-called Liberals, but, in reality, the money-bags and Tories of Australia.
When asked whether. I had seen a denial, I said that I had not, which was true. 1 have since received a letter from Mr. Wade denying the allegation ‘ to which I gave vent here. J accept the denial so far as payment by the Employers’ Federation is concerned, but if Mr. Wade wishes to clear himself of the suspicion that is common throughout the State to which I belong, he should furnish an audit of the receipts of the Liberal Association or Liberal party made by an independent auditor.
– Is it in order for the honorable member, under cover of a personal explanation, to introduce new matter, which is in its nature a further attack on the gentleman whose denial he accepts ?
– The honorable member will not be in order in introducing new matter. I understand that he is making an explanation of something that he said, and I hope that he will not go beyond that.
– He is withdrawing one charge, and making another.
– I intended to indicate that the Employers’ Federation really finds the funds, as we know it does for the Liberal party.
– That is not true.
– Surely we should not be subjected to these attacks, under cover of a personal explanation. The hon orable member makes the distinct allegation that we get our funds from the employers’ unions of Australia.
– The honorable member for Parramatta says that the honorable member for Gwydir has made a distinct charge against the Opposition. Had he done so, I should have called him to order ; but his reference was to the Liberal party of New South Wales. I am not aware that that party embraces the Opposition. 1 ask the ‘honorable member to confine himself purely to the making of a personal explanation, and not to introduce fresh matter.
– You, sir, keep saying that; but the honorable member continues to introduce fresh matter.
– I wish to comply with .your ruling, Mr. Speaker. If Mr. Wade desires to clear his reputation, he will provide a certified audit by an independent auditor.
– The honorable member must not continue these statements.
– If the Liberal party makes a statement of its expenditure and receipts, we shall know whether Mr. Wade has been paid from its funds for the work he is alleged to be doing on its behalf. While I accept his denial of the statement I made, as applying to payment by the Employers’ Federation, if that statement is examined to its logical conclusion, it will be found that he should clear himself of the suspicion that he is paid from the funds of the Liberal party.
– The honorable member is now going beyond what is in order.
– It is useless to call him to order, now that he has made his attack.
– The honorable member for Parramatta must not continue to reflect on the Chair. If he dissents from my rulings, there is. a proper course to take, and he should take it.
– I shall have to do so. You are constantly inviting us to take it.
– I desire, to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether he will lay on the table of the House a copy of the agreement made with the South
Australian Government for the management of the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway ?
– A copy of the agreement was laid on the table of the House on 6th September last, but I cannot say whether or not it has been circulated amongst honorable members.
– Will the Minister take steps to have the agreement printed?
– It is for the Printing Committee to recommend whether or not such papers should be printed; but I have no objection to the printing of the agreement as asked for by the honorable member.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Railways - The Gauges of Australia and their Unification - Report of the Consulting Railway Engineer (H. Deane) - 20th September, 1911.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Report of the Consulting Railway Engineer (H. Deane) - 20th September, 191 1.
Ordered to be printed -
High Commissioner of the Commonwealth - First Annual Report.
Papua - Petitions to the Minister for External Affairs from residents of the Eastern Division asking for more representation of the public in the Legislative Council and an elected advisory representative to be stationed in Melbourne during Sessions; the establishment of a Wireless Telegraph Station at Samarai; and the exclusion of Asiatic labourers.
Postal Service - Return showing the number of employes within each section of the Postal Service, and the wages cost of each section as on 30th June, I90I, 1909, and I9II.
Northern Territory - Fisheries Ordinance - No. 13 of 1911.
Bill presented by Mr. Fisher, and read a first time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions, as supplied by the Minister of Defence, are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will take into consideration a rearrangement of the amount paid to those in charge of allowance post-offices, especially with reference to the telephone work now performed at these offices?
– Attention has recently been given to the matter of payment to those in charge of allowance post-offices for doing telephone exchange work, and, as in the past, these payments have not been uniform, it has been decided to make them so in future, and pay in all cases 10s. per subscriber per annum. I purpose taking into consideration the whole question of the payment made by the Department for conducting allowance post-offices.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it not a fact that, when the banks issued their own bank notes and were responsible for their respective issues, the practice of every bank receiving bank notes over the counter was -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– I move -
To effectively and economically organize distribution of products in Australian markets, and Australian products in foreign markets,
To abolish the waste of the unnecessary middlemen,
To secure fair and reasonable prices to Australian producers,
To secure imported and Australian products to Australian consumers at reasonable prices,
To extend the consumption of Australian products in Australian and in foreign markets,
To abolish adulteration,
To safeguard foods and clothing, &c, against infection or contamination,
To improve the quality of Australian products,
To abolish trusts, combines, and monopolies in Australia, and their influence on Australian commerce,
To decentralize Australia through commercial channels, with a view to its more effective occupation and defence,
To be prepared with organized food and other supplies in time of war,
To lay by sufficient stores to carry the Australian people through times of drought and scarcity,
To establish an honest currency, based on goods and services,
To effectively secure the new protection, it is desirable to nationalize distribution.
I freely admit that this motion may appear to be something in the nature of a political placard, but I claim that such a departure as that for which it provides would be fraught with many consequences in the best interests of Australia. Having considered this question very seriously for many years, I have condensed in this motion the directions in which I think the carrying out of distribution by the Commonwealth Government would be effective.
The construction of the motion is open to amendment. I have not gone into so much detail that I consider it perfect; and I may, at a later stage, ask leave to amend its wording in parts, although the principle, of course, will stand.
Some question may be opened up at the outset as to what is really intended, and so that I may avoid, as far as possible, the necessity for interjection, and that honorable members may know what the motion is really driving at, I had, perhaps, better give my interpretation of what nationalization of distribution means.
– First of all, what does the honorable member mean bv “ distribution”?
– To begin with, I wish to see the Commonwealth take a monopoly of exporting Australian products to foreign countries, and of importing goods from foreign countries. Furthermore, I wish the Commonwealth Government to have the power to control the whole of the internal distribution. I do not mean that at the very outset the Commonwealth shall hire hawkers’ vans to go out into the far-back districts, but the intention is that it shall grasp the whole of our internal commerce by establishing in the best and most accessible commercial centres for railways and shipping - the centres most suitable for distribution - its wholesale depots. I would follow that up by the establishment of depots throughout the Commonwealth wherever produce can be shipped, either for internal consumption, or to be sent to foreign ports.
– Why does not the honorable member get a small- community together, say, in Western Australia, and experiment ?
– I am delighted to have that interjection at such an early stage. The .honorable member is well versed in business tactics, and also in the diplomacy of politics, and when questions of this importance, involving an absolute departure from old business methods, come up foi discussion, he and honorable members like him are always anxious for one to make a little trial of the scheme in a small way, without the great aids which would be given by national control. They are quite delighted to see Paraguayan attempts made time after time, but they are not at all pleased to see attempts made with the full power of the Government behind them, with the help of the whole of the people, and with all the aids which science and environment and civilization can give to a project carried out on a proper scale. An honorable member behind me objects that the “ small way “ suggested by the honorable member for Parkes looks like trying it on the dog first. I have no intention of asking that so important a work as this should be carried out directly by Parliament. I consider that Parliament would be unable to carry it out, and I would urge that it be placed under an independent Board of control.
In the days that we are approaching - and this is the time of Labour majorities, and of the new order - if we are true to our faith, to our principles, and to the lead that we have given to the Australian people, and to the world, we shall gradually displace private enterprise in many of the interests that it controls to-day. I maintain that wherever we do displace private enterprise in that way, we must see to it that we get the best brains, the ablest business men, pay them the best salaries, and ask them to give us the best skill to carry out the works we undertake.
We have on the stocks a Banking Bill, which I hope will be dealt with in that way. We may have measure after measure coming forward to nationalize this, that, or the other. I trust that the nationalization of monopolies will become very rapid indeed once we get that proper constitutional power which will enable us to fulfil our programme in that direction, but I am not satisfied that nationalizing monopolies is sufficient.
I want to see the nationalization of every service that can be done better by the people collectively than by private enterprise. I have never been afraid to take that stand at any time. I have been accused, together with the rest of my comrades,, of desiring to nationalize everything - in short, of whole- hog Socialism. There is a difference between advocacy in a lecture-room or debating society, and advocacy in a Parliament of practical men. In the actual doing of these things, the sole control by the nation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange may be a very long way off indeed, but I maintain that the time is ripe for the determination of this question of nationalizing distribution. That is the reason why I am seeking the only constitutional way of getting at the matter - by asking the people to amend the Constitution to give this Parliament the necessary power.
I do not suppose any member in this House will attempt to say that there is not a decided demand for a great alteration in our methods of distribution. Every man, whether he is on the land, or digging out minerals, or earning a wage in the civil service, or a producer of any kind, or even if he is a consumer who has to buy in the open market, will admit that our system of distribution as it stands to-day is unfair, wasteful, and practically unworthy of a civilized people.
To take a few of its worst features, I should like to draw the attention of lovers of our nation - who wish to see the Australian grow up into a stalwart citizen to be proud of, who wish to see him on the average far above the citizens of older lands, where the environment in big industrial centres and wretched city slums has crushed humanity - to the concentration which is actually going on within our Commonwealth. We have cities which have grown out of all proportion to the rest of Australia. We have Sydney, Melbourne, and other big centres growing on such a scale that they promise in time to be miniature Londons or American cities - cities which will have not only some of the beauties that attach to the gathering places of large aggregations of people, but nearly all the curses which always afflict them. We shall not only involve the poor unfortunates in the slums in this result, but the whole of the people must bear the burden which will be forced on us by those conditions.
I would like it to be understood that in this motion 1 am fighting a deliberate battle against the system of middlemen. In fact the meaning of this motion is that the unnecessary middleman must go. I have no animosity against the middleman as a member of society. He is only part of a system, just as his victim is. If one man is not a middleman, his neighbour may be ; and I can find no room for abuse of individual distributors. I maintain, however, that the system leads to concentration and the building up of big cities, so that I fear we shall have repeated in this new part of the world the horrors of the old part.
– To what horrors does the honorable member refer?
– The horrors of the slums - of disease caused by the herding of people together, by little children having no more space to play in than 10 x 6 back-yards - horrors such as may be seen, for instance, at Macdonaldtown, near Sydney, which make one blush for shame in this young nation. Further, an injustice is done to the pioneers who go into the interior, by concentrating all the trade at one port and commercial centre. There are being neglected hundreds of places where trading centres might be established. If we are to hold this continent we must spread our population more effectively than we are now doing. As time goes on I hope to see distribution, internal as well as external, laid down on scientific lines. I hope to see the railways and waterways used as great arteries of trade on a scientific plan, with the use of the greatest labour-saving appliances and devices. This would give the people in the interior a better chance of getting into closer touch with the ports, and the distribution of population would undoubtedly be encouraged. To-day the population is simply driven by necessity ; and if they are driven into the big cities that is not the fault of the people. If we alter the system and give every man a chance to get his produce to the port most convenient we shall be promoting the real settlement of the country.
Apart from the high cost of living, we are suffering from high rent. When a working man gets a rise of 3s. a week he and his family are delighted; but I heard of a case the other day which shows how little benefit such increases of wages are. In this instance a good, faithful wife expressed to her landlord the pleasure she felt at a rise of 3s. a week which her husband had received, and she talked of the extra boots, lessons, and so forth that she would be able to buy for the children. However, the landlord’s wife said that she was sorry the rise was not greater, and that the rent would be raised 3s. per week. We can imagine the consternation of this poor mother at finding out what every man is finding out to-day, namely, that a rise in wages or a rise in prices to the producer is followed, especially in commercial centres, by a rise in rent. There is another little story that emphasizes the point. In King-street, Sydney, there are some Italian fruit shops ; and I understand that for some of these as high a rent as j£io a week is charged. The gentlemen who keep the shops are distributing fruit ; and in one case, when a fruit-grower was sending in thirty cases of apples it was seen that ten cases were marked red, ten cases marked blue, and ten cases marked white. On being asked why the cases were so marked, the producer said that the apples in Sydney would fetch £6, of which £2 would go to himself, £1 to the distributor or shopkeeper, and £2 to the landlord of the shop, and the marks were a reminder of the fact. We cannot blame the landlord, for any one in such a position, under our present system, would take the same course, nor can we blame the middleman.. But we can blame the producer for “knuckling down” to such a system, whenby combination he can become his own distributor.
– That is co-operation, not nationalization !
– Quite so; but national co-operation is what I mean by nationalization. I desire to combine the whole of the producers into one firm of Australia Limited, to meet the whole of the consumers in Australia and consumers of Australian produce in foreign parts.
– Australia would be limited under those conditions !
– It would decidedly be limited to people who entered into legitimate enterprise. I have no room in my philosophy for a man who wishes to “play ducks and drakes” with the children’s bread. The man who gambles in the bread of the people should have no place in a properly-governed community ; and it is a scandal and a disgrace that it should be permitted. I desire to eliminate gambling in foodstuffs, clothing, and other necessaries of life. I have no objection to the honorable member for Wentworth, for instance, entering into a mining gamble, for in that way he may open up wealth and provide employment; but there should be no gambling with the produce of hard labour, and there should be no artificial interference with the means of transit from the producer to the consumer. Under the present system” the middleman, with the assistance of the landlord, robs the consumer on the one hand and the producer on the other. Honorable members opposite are smiling; but they know how true this is. We hear shrieks whenever the wageearner tries to fix his wage, but the distributer, especially when he combines with others, can always fix his prices and the consumer has to pay or do without. It is pay, pay, pay, all the time. In the good old days, we listened to the sweet singing of the old school of political economists, who used to tell us of the glories of John Stuart Mill, and to instruct us that if we behaved like good little boys the laws of competition and supply and demand would bring everything to a happy issue. Those laws have been set at naught by the operations of the American trusts. The ideals of the old economists were beautiful, and the conclusions at which they arrived, accepting their premises, may have been indisputable; but what they prophesied has not come to pass, and we need a new political economy. I wish to deal with the realities of the day.
– John Stuart Mill was under a disadvantage in not having a Hansard to read.
– He was under the disadvantage of not having the operations of the American trusts to study. He had a fine brain, and did good work in his time. I thank him for assisting me in my thinking many years ago, and he will still give assistance to those who wish to study questions of political economy. But to say, in a generalizing way, ‘ ‘ Read Mill; he will tell you all about it,” is foolish. I would sooner read the facts of life, the realities of modern commercialism and trade competition ; I would sooner observe the processes of adulteration and the other abominable methods of distribution obtaining to-day.
We are told that there are no trusts in Australia, and that they could not exist here because the Governments own the railways. We are delighted that that great weapon of the trusts, the control of the railways, is kept out of their hands here. Thank God for that, and thank God for those who have always fought to maintain the State ownership of the railways. I remember men who are still in active politics putting out feelers through the press from time to time to ascertain if public opinion was in favour of selling the railways. It used to be suggested that it would be a good thing to sell the railways, and to give big land grants to companies which would develop our country by building private lines. Thank God we do not hear of that now. It shows that we are progressing in political thought, and we have had the example of America to warn us. But, in Australia, we have traders’ associations whose operations are similar to those of the trusts. Last week, a poultry farmer whom I know asked the price of maize, and was told that it was dear now, but was going down. He asked, “ How do you know? “ and was told that there was a fight between a Melbourne ring and a Sydney ring, oneof which had been buying more than it could get, or gambling in some way, and would soon have to unload, when prices would fall. Gambling takes place, not only in the distribution of maize, but in regard to all kinds of food-stuffs, necessaries of life, building materials, and the like. A Royal Commission could investigate our modern commercial methods, but the facts are so glaring that there is no need to delay action pending inquiry. How far the operations of combinations extend I shall not venture to say, but it is a common -thing to hear of meetings of shopkeepers’ associations for the keeping up of prices.
My honorable friends opposite are fond of preaching the “ Go-on-the-land “ doctrine. They say, “ Take hold of Australia ; light out; develop.” I have had experience of going on the land. I am a producer, and for many years have moved among the producers of the Commonwealth and New Zealand. They know well which are the best fertilizers to use, how to cultivate, how to conserve water for irrigation, how to breed the best stock ; but in the selling of produce they are as babes, and in the hands of trusts and rings. Except in a few favoured lines they never know what prices they will get. The wool-growers are best off, because the buyers come from all parts of the world to bid for wool in our markets. The nationalization of distribution would, however, give them bigger prices for their wool. The difference between the price of greasy wool and that of spun wool is amazing, and much greater than the real cost of the processes of conversion.
– If the producers got better prices the consumers would have to pay more.
– The producers would get better prices, and the consumers would pay less. This is decidedly a non-party question. On the one side are ranged the distributers,’ and, incidentally, the landlords, and on the other the people. I find that about 90 per cent. of the population would benefit directly by the nationalization of distribution, and only 10 per cent. would be in any way adversely affected. The cost of distribution has been estimated by various authorities at from 40 to 60 per cent., including everything, but, in my opinion, the gross cost is 50 per cent. Having gone carefully into figures, I calculate that the Government could easily distribute at a profit of 5 per cent. on cost price. It would be necessary for it to buy, or build, ships to carry our produce to foreign markets, but in the Commonwealth the railways are now Government concerns. The cost of distribution would come very low if the Government took it in hand. That means a great deal to the man who now, when he spends a pound, pays 10s. for distribution under a wasteful system.
– The Tariff has a good deal to do with increasing prices.
– In all countries duties increase prices for the time, but counter-balancing benefits are so great in the increase of industries that Protectionists are willing to put up with the disadvantages. If the Government were the only seller and importer, a Tariff would not be needed. There would be an arrangement of commerce between nations. Our Government would place in every city in the world, or in every district where Australian commerce required it, a buyer and seller. He would be instructed not to buy the goods that can be made here, and to dodge gaol-made goods, goods made in slums under insanitary conditions, and goods made by sweated, slave, and coloured labour. Our commerce would then become white. We should have a white commerce as well as a White Australia.
The Tariff would no longer be needed, because the importation of goods which could be produced here would be absolutely prohibited. Free Traders often pretend to believe that importers are patriots. I know some who are fine men, but I do not expect them to be patriots when they are fighting a life and death struggle with other importers. I regret that so many brilliant intellects are wasted in the useless commercial strife of to-day. The racking puzzle of every manager of a great distributing business is how to beat his competitors. Is this system of competition needed? No. At present behind the counters are men whose duty it is to sell - to sell honestly if they can, but to sell at all costs. Most of their time is therefore taken up in misrepresenting the articles which they have to get rid of, and in exaggerating their value. So ignorant is the public oh the whole that often a man will refusean article at a certain price, on the ground that it is too cheap, and buy it later at a higher price, when it has been brought back, and represented as another article. If distribution were nationalized it would be the dutv of a counter-hand to explain the value of the article that he offered for sale, and to point out any defect in regard to it. He would gain nothing by inducing a person to purchase something that he really did not want. Where is the morality in the practice, now so frequent, of pushing on to people, merely for the sake of trade, goods that they do not want?
My proposal, no doubt, is regarded as a very daring one, but the history of our great party encourages me to proceed with it. In our time, we have submitted many daring proposals, and have never been afraid to advocate something that we believed to be in the interests of the people merely because it was entirely new. We have done much pioneering work. We have accomplished such reforms as .the payment of old-age pensions, the adoption of the principle of one adult one vote, and the imposition of a Federal land tax; whilst we are now proposing a national banking system. We have accomplished also the organization of unions, and are looking forward to the nationalization of monopolies. The Opposition are jubilant because we received, a set-back in connexion with our recent referenda proposals. Our failure, however, was due to the fact that the people had dust thrown in their eyes by our opponents, and did not fully understand the question submitted to them.
– But what about the vote in Western Australia this week?
– The result of the State elections in Western Australia shows that our position is not as bad as the Opposition imagined. Whilst we as a party cannot immediately bring about this reform, since the Constitution will not permit it, the fact that we have successfully undertaken other great reforms leads me to believe that, as long as we are faithful .to the people and sound in our proposals, we shall succeed all along the line. For this reason, I have very little trepidation in submitting this motion. I believe that, like other great achievements, the reform that I propose will come along in due time.
Coming again to the present system of distribution, we find that in the effort to open up new avenues for our productions no regard is paid to the wants of our own people, provided that it will pay to ship those productions to some other country. That is very largely the position in the
United States. There it is a common occurrence to sell a local production in the home market at practically double the price obtained for it in a foreign market. Owing to the absence of proper regulations, citizens of the United States, who are shouldering the Tariff and fighting for their industries, are called upon to pay for many of their own local productions double the price that is paid for them in foreign markets. Such a state of affairs would be absolutely stopped by the nationalization of distribution. The internal supply should be the first consideration of our people. After our own people - the people of the Commonwealth - have been well served, then, and then only, should we consider the question of exports. We must, of course, encourage the law of production ; but to encourage it merely for the benefit of the foreigner, whilst our own people have to pay exorbitant prices, is . surely undesir-able.
– Does such a state of affairs prevail in Australia at- the present .time?
– I do not know that we are at present severely hit in respect of any particular trade line. As a nation, however, we are as yet only in our swaddling clothes, and so far as trusts are concerned have not yet reached the danger stage of other countries. I hold that we should lay down the basis of a system to protect the people of Australia against the trusts of the future.
– That we should take time by the forelock.
– Certainly. We should develop the business of our great continent in such a way as to defeat the trading “ theft “ that is going on. I do not hesitate to use the word “ theft “ in this connexion, for it is the only word that properly describes the malappropriation that is going on.
In our policy we declare that we want Australia for the whole of the people, but when we turn to the commerce of nations we find that all statistics under that heading relate really to the commerce of the wealthy. The great trade bulletins are booming what the big merchants are doing, but they give us little information as to how the farmer, the miner, the public servant, or people in other branches of life are being treated so far as prices are concerned. The policy of the Labour party is to guard the welfare of the whole of the people, and so to organize commerce that the man who produces the wealth shall get it. That is the king-pin of my argument. We are not afraid as a Labour party to say, “ Hands off “ to the wildcat speculator. At the same time, I am willing to encourage legitimate speculation, no matter how large it may be, so long as it does not enter regions where it will do injury to the general public.
In order to emphasize the point that we are not the only nation looking forward to a reform of this kind, I would draw attentionto the food riots that are at present taking place in various parts of the world. Even in England and Ireland, as well as in Austria and other continental countries, food riots are taking place. The people are rising up in revolt - and their numbers may increase enormously as the years go on - because of the high cost of living. The average worker receiving the average wage finds it very difficult, owing to high prices, to obtain more than a bare” living. The trouble lies mainly in distribution. Whilst production is abundant - while the warehouses are crowded with the good things of production - millions of people, on the verge of starvation, are wanting the locked-up goods. It has always been the position under distribution by private enterprise. With national distribution such a state of affairs could not exist, for prices would be so regulated as to make the goods accessible. Under a scientific system scarcity value is the only thing that I can think of that could not well be regulated. If a certain product were scarce nothing could prevent its rising in value. . Indeed, it would be unfair to attempt to regulate it, since the high price would give that impetus to production so necessary to bring down the rates and would thus put the product in question within the reach of the people. Many reformers think it desirable to nationalize production before nationalizing distribution. I am quite prepared to believe, however, that if distribution were nationalized production would be so well controlled that we should not find it necessary for a very long time, if at all, to nationalize production.
If those who do not care to remain in the position of wage-earners were able to go on the land and produce freely, without being subjected to the domineering tactics of a master, millions would be encouraged as the years rolled on to do so. The fact that land is gradually becoming available to them under the policy, not only of this Government-
– Is the land nationalized by this time?
– The fact that the States are putting Labour Governments in power gives me as a Labour man, believing in the Labour party’s land policy, a confident belief that in the early years to come the land will be made free and available to the people who want to use it. With free access to land, and such a banking system as we are about to inaugurate - a system which will give the people money at reasonable rates of interest, repayable by easy instalments - we can well imagine that our producers on the soil would be enormously increased. Under such a system people would know that having cleared their land and developed it they would have the assistance of a co-operative association in the shape of the collective people in placing their products on the markets of the world.
Such a reform as I propose means a complete overturning of the present system. I am not afraid of the ability of those who go on the land to develop it, but I am afraid of the unfortunate conditions which reduce men to bankruptcy. Having toiled hard on their land for years, many men are reduced to bankruptcy because they cannot obtain a reasonable price for their products. With a system of national distribution the Government would be able to issue bulletins embodying information as to the most profitable branches of production for them to take up. To-day if a man goes on the land, he may have an idea of growing wheat or wool. We know a good deal about the wheat market, and we know all about the wool market, and that wool is all right. When, however, it becomes a question of the varied production which must be undertaken with closer settlement - because you cannot always grow wheat and wool - the doubt as to which will pay becomes grave, and it is very hard indeed for the producer to fix on the article which he will grow. With an organized distribution, that sort of thing can be directed by means of statistics from the central trading body, which can indicate what would be likely to command a high price in the world’s markets in the coming year. No department of life needs so much brains as the department of farming and agriculture, when a man is planning out what he will risk his time and labour and money in for the coming year.
The proposed change will be of enormous benefit - a benefit almost incalculable to the primary producer. But I must not confine my attention wholly to him. What of the manufacturer, the man who wants to be a secondary producer? He, too, would be assisted to get a decent price for the articles that he placed in the hands of the national department for distribution.
– How could you fix the price when you had to export to a foreign market?
– The honorable member, with his knowledge of business, must know that the price in the world’s market almost regulates itself. We cannot affect the foreign market as we can the local market. When we send our produce abroad we come into competition with all the other producers of the world, and, in that case, the only help that we could give our producer would be to place a seller of his products in that market, to see that he obtained fair play, and to insure that they were properly presented and advertised.
– How would the honorable member adjust the price in Australia?
– That is a matter for internal arrangement, and would, no doubt, be guided somewhat by the prices for products in the world’s markets. lt would, of course, be guided all the time by scarcity values. The real, genuine regulator, after all, of high or low prices must be scarcity ; but the idea of allowing a glut to occur in our markets because of the overproduction of any article, or through the machinations of trade associations, trusts, or combines, is absolutely repugnant. That sort of thing could be overcome by a regulated system of distribution within the Commonwealth, and by the exportation of the surplus.
– If there is a bad season, would the honorable member send the price up, in order to give the producer a living wage?
– Bad seasons would undoubtedly affect our markets, because they would create scarcity ; but where an article might rise1d. because of a bad season, it very often rises 3d. or 4d. because of the operations of a trust or combine. Later on, I shall be able to tell the honorable member in detail how the price of beef in America was raised by the Beef Trust just 100 per cent., when there was no scarcity and no bad season. In fact, the only reason for the increase was that the Trust wanted to rob the people, and, while the beef doubled in price to the consumer, the price which the cattle-grower received went down almost proportionately.
With regard to the food riots, I read of a municipality intervening by compelling the distributors to sell at cost price. I also read recently in the papers that the public showed an inclination to mob the unfortunate storekeepers or distributors because the price of food was so high. That sort of thing speaks very highly, does it not, for a system of private enterprise? In fact, the system has become so “ high “ that it would be better to blow it to pieces than allow such conditions to continue. In the great fight that we are waging, we consider the multitude always, and desire to see distribution so organized that there could be no possibility of starvation or food riots in sunny Australia.
In America, so great is the concentration of capital in distribution, as well as in production, that it has been calculated that about seven men control the bulk of the trade and commerce of the country. Let me quote, from Munsey’s Magazine for August or September last, some figures revealing a condition of affairs which is almost a monstrosity. They show the percentage of control exercised by the central group of monopolists, comprising Pierpont Morgan, James J. Hill, George Baker, J. D. and William Rockfeller, James Stillman, and T. H. Schiff. The percentage of control which they hold in railroads is 61 per cent. of the whole. In express and Pullman cars it is93½ per cent. ; in anthracite coal,88½ per cent. ; steel, 82 per cent. ; cement,331/3 per cent. ; petroleum’, 67 per cent, ; lead, 60 per cent. ; copper, 60 per cent. ; and telephones, 74 per cent. It has been variously estimated that they control $1,195,000,000, and so great has their organization become that they have secured control of life assurance societies, and all kinds of commercial bodies by getting a majority on the directorate, and by bribery of various kinds. The position of the Beef Trust is so strong that they have actually over-ridden all laws. It is simply useless to pass laws to regulate them. They have over-ridden Courts and Legislatures. They have gone the whole hog, and are simply an anarchistic body doing what they like within the American Commonwealth. The only hope of cure of those conditions lies in their being overturned by revolution to bring the people into their own, and God forbid that that should ever happen in Australia.
– They have the Knights of Labour behind them.
– The Knights of Labour, and the people who are with the Knights of Labour, are so far behind them that they are starving because of this trustification. So far behind them, too, are all the little business concerns that they have been wiped out by thousands, and these have not been found other employment. That is the great difference in the wiping out of distributors by national control. The nation will say to them, “ You are unnecessary and too costly, and we are going to have a better system of distribution;” but at the same time it will say, “ Go on the land, and we will find land and money cheaply for you, or go into some other avenue of production, and we will assist you.” The trusts, on the contrary, are simply heartless, and care nothing whom they crush. The under-dog must always go. Everything must get out of the path of these triumphant financiers.
In introducing a method of national distribution, we shall make an attempt to throw a bridge across a very difficult chasm. We have reached our present position because of the system which I have condemned from the outset. As regularly as night follows day that system gives us financial and industrial crises. If we read the history of crises, we find that regularly every few years - about ten years seems to be the cycle - there is a great crash in trade and commerce, and a great crash in speculation, caused by the glorious system of private enterprise. While thousands of merchants are sent into bankruptcy, and devastation is spread, especially among the smaller fry of traders, many recover from the blow, and go on merrily, making an enormous amount of money out of the very crises which they have precipitated. But every time there is a crisis it is driven home to us that the poor suffer abominably. The organization by the nation of the whole of distribution will get such a grip on our commerce as practically to abolish within Australia these ever recurring crises in trade. It will bring us more to production for use, instead of our relying primarily on production for trade. So great will be the increase in the demands of the people when their wages are improved, and they have extra purchasing power, that the internal market will become larger and larger, even though the population only increases at a normal rate. Before passing away from the ills of the present system, I wish to quote the words of a very able writer named Ferguson, who, in
The Religion of Democracy, published in 1900, dealing with those who often temporarily wreck the financial world by causing crises, and are callous to the best interests of the country, made use of these potent expressions -
These wretched fellows that scramble so breathlessly for a competency, and cannot hold up their heads if their coats are rough - Les miserable!! ‘Have pity. And these others that are seeking a fabulous chimera - what they call millions - with sharp metallic speech like the click of a telegraph, who think in numbers only and cabalistic signs and counters; who give each other winks and tips - men that know everything and nothing, that can predict eclipses and cause them, make famines with a turn of the wrist, without meaning any harm; these fantastical triflers, fooling with their punk in the powder magazine - certainly they hold their place by a slight and precarious tenure. They scarcely touch the facts of God’s earth with the tips of their toes, and they are as little indigenous here as shining angels with wings. Their ignorance of values is profound. They know not how much blood goes into things. And they are practical men in the same sense as the old card-cronies that sit and play in the back rooms of the saloon behind the green baize screens. They know the rules of the games that they have spun like spiders out of their own bodies, and they can play to win without troubling to think.
The business interests of the country - mysterious, intangible thing! Do the business interests require that people shall be fed and clothed and housed? And does the doing of business mean that things worth doing shall get done somehow? No; only that there shall be bustle and running to and fro, with infinite complication of accounts, and in the end that somebody shall - make money.
That, I think, is a wholesale condemnation of the present system. It depicts the heartlessness of the system ; and, while it is very severe on the middlemen who seem to be the main cause of the trouble, it only points out more clearly where the blame should really lie, namely, with the whole of the people as consumers.
As to the cost of living, I regret that I have not the figures adequate to do thorough justice to so large a subject. I understand that the New South Wales Government have appointed a Royal Commission ito inquire into the matter, with an idea of coping with the trouble; but, personally, 1 should favour the Commonwealth taking up the question at once, because, in this connexion, I am for absolute unification. Unless we have unification of commerce we cannot deal with the market as a whole. In the endeavour to regulate commerce by means of each State independently, we have one section of the community fighting against another, and giving rise to difficulties similar to those caused by commercial competition. At the same time, while advocating unification of commerce, I do not suggest the abolition of local administration. When the nationalization of distribution does come - and I feel sure it will be forced on us within a very few years - I can see no objection to the powers or even municipalities being brought in to assist. Part of the work might be carried out by the municipalities, and part by the State Governments ; it is simply a matter of thinking out the best course in order to bring about the utmost saving, and the most effective handling. As to the cost of living, which I regard as most important in this matter, I should like to quote from a book entitled The Greatest Trust in the World, by Mr. Charles Edward Russell; and the quotation will give honorable members some assistance in noting the trend of affairs in the United States. The quotation is as follows -
In the free Republic of the United States of America is a power greater than the Government, greater than the courts or judges, greater than legislatures, - superior to, and independent of, all authority of State or nation. It is a greater power than in the history of men has been exercised by king, emperor, or irresponsible oliogarchy. In a democracy it has established a practical empire more important than Tamerlane’s and ruled with a sway as certain. In a country of law it exists and proceeds in defiance of law. In a country historically proud of its institutions it establishes unchecked a condition that refutes and nullifies the significance of those institutions. We have grown familiar in this country with many phases of the mania of money-getting and the evil it may work to mankind at large ; we have seen none so strange and alarming as this of which I write. Names change, details change ; but when the facts of these actual conditions are laid bare it will puzzle a thoughtful man to say wherein the rule of the great power now to be described differs in any essential from the rule of a feudal tyrant in the darkness of the Middle Ages. Three times a day this power comes to the table of every householder in America, rich or poor, great or small, known or unknown ; it comes there and extorts its tributes. It crosses the ocean and makes its presence felt in multitudes of homes that would not know how to give it a name. It controls prices and regulates traffic in a thousand markets. It changes conditions and builds up and pulls down industries; it makes men poor or rich as it will; it controls or establishes or obliterates vast enterprises across the civilized surface. Ils lightest word affects men on the plains of Argentine or the by-streets of London.
I need not quote more. The book is well worth perusal by any honorable member or citizen who wishes to look into the question. It certainly is a question that cannot be too much thought over, and this work’ will prove of much assistance to those who are interested in seeing justice rule.
I should now like to deal with a small phase of the question, which, however, to some people looms very large. I refer to the displacement of labour which would take place if, for instance, instead of 100,000 shops, we suddenly decided that there ‘should be no more than 10,000. I am not going to weep over the displacement of the landlord with his high rents. The fact that there are so many little shopkeepers is of the greatest assistance to landlords in both town and country, because the competition is so keen that almost any price within possibility is given for a good stand. Let us consider the position if Australia Limited, or the People’s Co-operative Distribution “Society, required only one cart where twenty are now required, or only one set of books where now 100 sets have to be used. Of course, again, such a change would greatly affect the newspaper world - a consequence which must prove rather saddening from a newspaper stand -point. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of pounds that are spent to-day in advertising would be saved under the nationalization of distribution.
– Would the honorable member have a Government newspaper instead of private newspapers?
– I have no more objection to private newspapers than I have to private books. I look on the contents of private newspapers in the same way as I should look upon a reply by a trust to a book published against trusts. The day we try to suppress knowledge, whether imparted by the opponents of reform or not, we shall lose much of the grand freedom of which we are so proud. I should be very pleased if we could have a daily Hansard, so that the truth might be told - so that, when a great subject such as this was being debated, there would be devoted to it, in the newspapers, instead of one inch, the same space which honorable members opposite get when they deal with kindred matters. At any rate, I feel that, in the alteration of our distributive methods, the advertising bill would disappear. Every Government store would be its own advertiser; the samples would be there, and the articles would be up to sample. There would be competition amongst producers to supply the best article in order to get the best prices at the store; because, although there would be regulation of prices, a bad article would not fetch as much as a good article.
In advocating the nationalization of distribution, I do not advocate the nationalization of production. Another class that would be affected by the change would be the commercial traveller, thousands of whom gain their livelihood’ by travelling throughout the country to advertise the wares of various firms. Many of these travellers are splendid men, who would undoubtedly be given high positions in the great national shops. Although there would be a great re-adjustment, and loss of employment to many, there would be afforded scope for thousands of the best men in the commercial world in the employ of Australia Limited. They would then be doing a national work of which they would, not be ashamed. There are many men in the commercial world who make money by questionable means, and amongst them are good men who would prefer to make a return in a more legitimate way. These good men, however, are so involved in our present system that they feel that the struggle to get out of it is too hard.
– The criminal is a good man if he is only given a chance !
– It is all very well for the honorable member to laugh, but only those who have gone through the struggle of business from boyhood to manhood, and have endeavoured to gain a competence for their families, can have any idea of the position of a man involved in a system of this kind which he knows, to say the least of it, is somewhat questionable. Another class to go would be the debt collectors, for the reason that all sales would be for cash; and, though this might be a little inconvenient at times, it would eventually be of much benefit, as, in a smaller way, has *the co-operative system iri Great Britain. Rent collectors, too, would find their work somewhat curtailed.
I have made an estimate of what would be gained to the consumers by the saving of the money now :spent in distribution. It has been calculated by commercial men who have gone :into the subject that 50 per cent, represents the gross - not the net - cost of distribution; so that, on a turnover of ^1,000,000, the cost would be ^500,000.
– What is the difference between the gross and the net cost ?
– The gross is the whole cost. When we speak of the net cost, we mean the necessary cost in the various sections. I have estimated the necessary cost at 5 per cent., and the difference between 5 and 50 per -cent, on a turnover of 000,000 is ,£450,000, which is about vhat_ the consumer would save under a national system of ‘distribution. At the present -time, a man with £i to spend pays 10s. for distribution; but if the cost were 5 per cent., instead of 50 as now, he would pay only is., and would save 9s. _ Therefore, a man getting £2 a week in wages -would be receiving the equivalent in pur chasing power of £2 18s. at present prices. Taking smaller figures, a man going to a Government store under the new system would pay is. 9d. for is. 8d. worth of goods, whereas, at ‘the present time, he would pay 2s. 6d. That shows how the change which I advocate would affect the cost of living. The moment the consumer grips these, facts, he will desire the nationalization of distribution. It has been suggested that 5 per cent, is too low an estimate of the cost of distribution; but, even if the cost were 10 or 15 per cent., the saving would be enormous. The cost of distribution is increased at the present time by many factors - bad debts, waste in handling, costly facilities, and enormous rents.
– Distribution would still be a costly matter.
– It would be much less costly. Where 100 carts are required now, ten would be sufficient. The Government would have control of the railways, the tramways, the post-offices, the stores, and the warehouses. At the present time, each district is provided with only as many post-offices as it needs. We do not have post-offices placed side by side competing for business. With a national distribution, the Government would see that as many stores were provided for each district as were needed, and would provide depots in suitable places throughout the country.
– The honorable member would abolish all the small shops.
– They would go, naturally. I have referred to the dislocation which the adoption of my system would cause; but I have pointed out hew it might be rectified.
Let me point out a direction in which the public is robbed deliberately - to such an extent that I am surprised that the distributers are not mobbed, and their camp broken up. I refer to the patent medicine business. The Government should take control of the sale and distribution of all medicines, and should not allow any to be used until experts have certified to their ingredients. At present, some mothers are so foolish that, when their children are ill, they stuff them with medicines of whose effects they know nothing. As many of the mothers of the nation are uneducated in this matter, we should Drotect the rising generation. It is not enough to train the lads of fourteen ; we should start with the babes in the cradle and plO.tect them ; in fact, the parents should be looked after as well. Two works - Secret Remedies: What they cost, and what they contain, and Mr. ‘ Octavius Beale’s Racial Decay, furnish startling figures concerning the cost of patent medicines. I have ascertained that the ingredients of Dr. Lane’s Catarrh Cure cost one-thirtieth of a farthing ; and it is sold at is. a bottle. Then, Van Black’s Catarrh Balm costs Jd., and is sold for 4s. 6d. Steam’s Headache Cure costs less than d., and is sold for is. ZOX Rheumatism Cure costs one-tenth of a penny, and is sold for is. Doan’s Backache Pills cost Jd., and are sold for 2s. od. the box of forty. Furthermore, the ingredients of many of these medicines are poisoning those who use them. I think, therefore, that, in the interests of our national stamina, we should make a first step towards the general nationalization of distribution by nationalizing the sale and distribution of medicines. There may be some difficulty, by reason of the fact that the hospitals are under the control of the State Governments. The Australian workman who is struggling for a crust must dislike parting with money for goods made in European gaols. He should not have to compete with foreigners.
– The importation of gaolmade goods is prohibited.
– When importation is prohibited, smuggling commences. Besides, it is difficult to ascertain the origin of manufacture. . Under the system I advocate, the Government would be the first purchaser. At present, we do not know the conditions ‘ under which goods are manufactured, “especially imported goods; and possibly diseases like consumption are spread by the use of food and clothing made under insanitary conditions. We know that American products are often adulterated with various acids which are dangerous to life or health.
– That applies also to leather.
– Yes. The wage-earner - the unionist - who is fighting for a living, likes to know that the man who produces what he consumes is also receiving a fair wage. That is a matter that might be regulated in regard, not only to internal production, but to goods purchased in foreign markets. No man who has had to fight for fair wages and reasonable conditions of labour wants to profit by the sweat and blood of unfortunate slaves in other countries. Then, again, although we should abolish the small trader under such a system as I propose, we should take into the service of the Commonwealth thousands of the better class of business men. We should, however, eliminate one very objectionable trader, and that is the Chinese storekeeper. The Chinaman who gets into a trade merely because some people will have cheap goods - who sends away to China whatever money he makes, and who would not be of much use to us as a fighter if we had to impress into our military service every man under forty years of age - would be eliminated from our trading system. I have no- doubt that many forms of distribution would be handed over under licence to suitable persons; but Chinese, Hindus and others of that type would be excluded from our trade. In our great fight for new Protection, we must never lose sight of the consumer. We must not forget that we have to protect the consumer as well as the wage-earner; and a point worthy of consideration is that, under a system of national distribution, we. should be able to effectively protect the consumer.
As the time allotted to the consideration of general business has almost expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 21st September (vide page 716), on motion by . Mr. Kelly -
That this House is of opinion that action should be taken to discourage trading in Australian waters by such foreign merchant ships as are capable of immediate conversion into commerce destroyers upon the outbreak of war.
That the above resolution be sent to the Senate for its concurrence.
.- I would remind honorable members that the importance of this subject rests upon two counts. The first of these, with which I endeavoured to deal in the short time at my disposal when the question was previously before the House, is that, since this matter is not dealt with under the code of International Law, established by the various contracting parties in the Declaration of London, there is nothing illegal in the conversion of merchant ships into commerce destroyers upon the high seas. Under International Law, a merchant ship belonging to a belligerent Power can be re-fitted, re-provisioned and re-coaled in a neutral port without that neutral port violating in any shape or form its neutrality. The same service, however, could not be rendered by a neutral port to a war-ship belonging to a belligerent Power. It follows, consequently, from the failure to provide for this matter in the Declaration of London, that a convertible merchant ship might, in time of war, travel about the world at will; that upon being converted on ,the high seas from a commerce destroyer into a commerce vessel, she would be permitted to enter a neutral port and to use the opportunities of that port as a commercial vessel j that she could then, re-equipped and re-provisioned, put out to sea once more, and again haul up the flag of the commerce destroyer and act as a ship of war until it suited her commander’s purpose to enter another neutral port, and again secure neutral services. By this means, it is obvious, commerce destroyers, even from Germany, could arrive in Australian waters, with the utmost facility, in time of war, although that Power would have great difficulty in sending to these waters ships of war, in view of the absence of German naval and coaling bases on the routes between Germany and this country. This power to convert upon the high seas a peaceful type of vessel into a ship of war makes it extremely necessary that Australia should look to her own position in this regard at the earliest possible moment.
I quoted, when I introduced this motion’ a fortnight ago, the importance previously attached to this question by the British Foreign Secretary; and I was also able to show, from the report of the Imperial Conference, that the Minister of External Affairs recognised in Conference the seriousness of the situation. I may take the question a stage further by referring to the report of the British delegates to the Naval Conference which eventually arrived at the Declaration of London. The straightout terms of that portion of their report to Sir Edward Grey, which deals with the question of the conversion of merchant vessels into men of war on the high seas, is all the more significant when one views the general atmosphere of the report itself. The report, as a whole, seems to be a sort of selfcongratulatory paean of mutual felicitation. The British delegates were evidently delighted with the work they had done ! From Lord Desart to the smallest functionary connected with the Conference, all were delighted with the amity and good feeling which prevailed throughout the proceedings. Now, in paragraph 4 of the report, we have the following statement : -
It is all the more gratifying that, in the course of debate and argument, and by mutual concession, it became possible by degrees to harmonize differences and to elaborate more detailed rules, even as regards matters on which unanimity seemed at first unattainable. That such general agreement was reached has been due, not alone to the spirit of determined goodwill and the markedly conciliatory disposition evinced by the delegates of all the Powers represented, to which we desire to bear sincere testimony, but also, we believe, in no small measure, to the fact, already recognised by His Majesty’s Government, that, underlying the diversities of practice and theory in relation to the subjects under the consideration of the Conference, there really subsisted a fundamental harmony of conception which but required careful and sympathetic examination in order to reveal a genuine community of guiding ideas, of needs, and of interests between all States, requiring, and capable of being dealt with by, uniform and unambiguous rules.
That is the general tenor of the report of the delegates to Sir Edward Grey; but when they come to deal with this particular principle, we find them speaking in no uncertain way. In spite of the resolutions in the direction of universal harmony that had resulted from their particular efforts, we find that this one subject, the importance of which was emphasized by the British Foreign Minister in his instructions to them, was not dealt with -
The one subject of the programme which has found no mention in the Declaration is the conversion of merchant vessels into men-of-war on the high seas. The question is one of those which had been left unsolved by the second Peace Conference, and so decided was the division of opinion subsequently revealed by the memoranda exchanged by the several Governments before the meeting of the present Naval Conference that it had been found impossible to state, in the shape even of a mere Basis of Discussion, an underlying general principle commonly accepted. In our instructions the hope was, nevertheless, expressed -
I have shown, a fortnight ago, how forcibly expressed - that some means might be found of reconciling the opposing views and to unite on the basis of a compromise, for which we were allowed a fairly wide discretion. ‘ We regret, however, that, in this instance, all our efforts in bringing about an understanding were unsuccessful. We did not fail to put forward the arguments which, in the view of His Majesty’s Government, militate against the recognition of an unrestricted right of conversion on the high seas, and we endeavoured in vain to obtain, in return for a recognition of such right subject to proper limitation, some guarantees against the abuses to which it appears to be obviously liable. We were met with a refusal to make any concessions 01 to abate one jot from the claim to the absolutely unfettered exercise of the right, which its advocates vindicate as a rule forming part of the existing law of nations.
This shows conclusively that, however disposed the Conference might have been to deal with every other subject-matter under the sun, the other Powers concerned - and notably Germany, as we have learned from Sir Edward Grey - realized that this was a matter of vital importance to their own selfish interests, and they were determined not to give way to the British representations. The reason is easy to see. No other naval power is so facilitated in its naval action by a chain of naval bases and coaling stations as is the Empire to which we belong. Every other nation has just a few bases scattered about the world. Not one of them has continuous chains of naval stations enabling the free transit of war vessels to all parts of the world. Being without these coaling stations, they have sought to get over the difficulty by this quibble with reference to the right to convert a merchant vessel upon the high seas. They will keep their war fleet for the main purposes of a war fleet : to decide eventually the command of the seas in organized corporate action; but for the destruction of our commerce, and to starve, by holding up food supplies, the heart of our Empire, ships which are now trading in amicable relations with British peoples throughout the world will be converted on the outbreak of war and used to the detriment of our trade, and to the damage of our national security.
The very fact that Germany showed, what I might almost describe as this brazen front upon this question at the Naval Conference, makes it necessary for Australia to take stock of her position immediately. If we hang back and defer action, it is obvious that the Powers concerned will take advantage of the opportunities provided as the result of the weakness of the Imperial Government in this matter. They will begin to construct vessels capable of immediate conversion into commerce destroyers upon the outbreak of war. Those who understand anything about ship construction will know that heavy guns cannot be placed upon the deck of an ordinary merchant vessel. To fire them might possibly mean tearing the side out of the ship ; and it consequently becomes necessary to design and construct a vessel with its eventual use in this direction in view. If we do not take this matter in hand now, vye shall find that almost every merchant ship will be constructed with a view to her being utilized as a pirate upon the outbreak of war. That is our position, and we have to face it. This is a danger to which we are especially liable, because of the ease with which these ships under international law can reach any part of the world. The sooner we exercise our right to protect ourselves by taking reasonable precautions, the easier will our task be. It is much easier to deal with a question of this kind when it is of small compass, and when there are only a few such ships in existence, than to attempt to grapple with it afterwards when every shipping interest in the world is concerned in the maintenance of such vessels.
It is not difficult to do what I suggest, because, after all, it is not only the interests of Australia, but the interests of humanity, generally speaking, that are at stake. It will be readily conceded that humanity, as a whole, requires that the spread of a war upon the high seas shall be as much restricted as can possibly be managed. If you suddenly gave a letter of marque to the captain of a merchant ship, a man untrained to discipline and responsibility in these connexions, and sent him afloat upon the high seas to prey upon the enemy’s commerce, the less evidence that man brought home of the lawful nature of the business of the ships that he took, the better it would be for himself and for the prize money of his crew. It is consequently obvious that, unless this development is seriously watched and restricted, we shall get, not the sort of organized preying upon a country’s commerce that is anticipated and disregarded in certain optimistic quarters, but the reinstitution of the old principle of piracy throughout the world, under conditions that will make it extraordinarily difficult to attack. It will be carried on under the spur of the opportunity of private wealth, which is the greatest spur to exertion that human nature knows.
– God forbid that we should ever see that in these days of quick transit !
– I quite agree with the honorable member ; and it is partly because I realize that this principle will give rise to a state of piracy, and may spread among the nations, that I regard the matter as of such tremendous urgency. We ought to act immediately.
The form of my motion shows that I do not say that this Parliament should act at once, without referring the matter to the Imperial Parliament. I take up the position that if we can get the Imperial Parliament to take this step, it is better that it should act than that we should, because the Imperial Parliament holds an international position in the broadest sense, and our position is not quite on all-fours. If, on the other hand, the Imperial Parliament will not act - because it is possible that the Government at Home, being more concerned with the exigencies of party politics as they locally affect them than with the representations of people 10,000 miles away, unless those representations are driven home, may try to poohpooh the whole subject - then our responsibility to ourselves demands that we shall take the action which the Imperial Parliament will have shown itself unable, or unwilling, to take on our behalf. I should be very sorry to see that state of affairs arise ; but, if it does, it is our duty to act. Under the Imperial Constitution we are charged with the responsibility of protecting ourselves. It is true that the Imperial Parliament is charged with the responsibility of making foreign treaties on our behalf. If, however, in order to protect ourselves, we have to take an action which may, or may not - but which undoubtedly they will claim, to save themselves trouble, will - interfere with foreign treaty obligations, then we cannot be expected to subordinate our national safety to the mere convenience of the Foreign Office. It is for the Foreign Office to see that these matters, which so vitally affect the welfare of the Australian people, are put right. I feel that I am .in a singularly fortunate position to say, without the risk of being misunderstood, the things I am now saying, because honorable members on both sides know that on Imperial questions, and so far as racial consolidation is concerned, there is no stronger Imperialist in this Chamber than myself. But this matter must be faced clearly, frankly, and fully.I do not think the best racial unionist is the man who is constantly and slavishly deferring to the mere exigencies of political parties in a Parliament 10,000 miles away. We have to face our position fairly and openly before the people of Australia and the people of the Mother Country, and get such things rectified ourselves, if the Parliament of the Mother Country will not take action.
I have been careful iri framing my motion not to say what particular action should be taken to deal with this question.
– Hear, hear ! Very careful !
– The reason I have been very careful is that I want to give the utmost opportunity to the Government to decide, in their wisdom, how best to meet the danger threatening us, because they have a better means of arriving at its extent than I have. There are a number of ways in which the difficulty could be met. I am willing to place alternatives before honorable members, but have purposely refrained from trying to dogmatize about them. I point out the danger, and look to the Government of Australia to see that it is minimized, as far as it can be minimized, by discouraging the trading on this coast of vessels which may at any moment become our enemies. Several courses to achieve that end suggest themselves to me. For instance, we could put a special duty upon goods carried here in ships that at any moment might cease to be commerce carriers, and become commerce destroyers. There is a principle involved, and we have absolute Customs autonomy to deal with such matters as we will. Again, we could carry out the principle of the Canadian anti-dumping law, by placing a special tax upon vessels coming here that are subsidized for this special purpose by their Governments.
– We could impose a direct prohibition if we liked.
– We could, but- 1 do not think such stringent and far-reaching steps would be necessary.
– Would not that complicate affairs for the Old Country?
– I do not seriously think “so. I think .the immediate effect of it would be to make most foreign countries send such ships to other parts of the world, and not bother us with them. Other parts of the world would then wake up to the peculiar difficulty they were in and impose the same restrictions, and so Australia would have given a lead to the civilized world by establishing the new principle that we will not trade with anybody who is going to unfairly stab us in the back when the moment is ripe for him to do so. I do not think the question now involved is whether we should inconvenience the Imperial Go*vernment
– The Imperial Government have the right to arm some of their big merchant vessels.
– I shall deal with that point in a moment. The first point I wish to make is that it is not a question of what inconvenience one can escape when faced with a danger. This is a matter of more than inconvenience to Australia. It is a matter vitally affecting the trade and commerce of the whole of our people. It offers the only opportunity that I can see for organized raiding upon Australian commerce from European waters in time of war. lt is not a question, therefore, of whether we cause inconvenience on the question to any Imperial Ministers. We would cause them less inconvenience if we stated our minds now than we would ten years hence, when the practice had become general throughout the world.
– It is not a question of inconvenience, but of complication.
– The person who is always afraid of complications is the person who is eventually well kicked ! I, of course, do not suggest that we should be reckless, and so I have framed my motion in order that the Government may make representations to the Imperial authorities on the matter ; but the question is . of such im portance to the four millions of the King’s subjects in the Commonwealth that we have a right to insist that the danger shall be minimized as much as possible.
The honorable member for Maranoa suggested that there were already two convertible ships trading across the Atlantic - in which Great Britain was interested. He referred no doubt to the two 26 or 27-knot Cunarders, but the British Government have never claimed the right to convert those peaceful merchant vessels into warships on the high seas.
– Do they carry guns_ and munitions of war?
– I am not aware of it.
– I think they do.
– I should be much inclined to doubt it, but even if they did 1 want, in principle, the same treatment accorded to British ships as is accorded to foreign ships as a world practice. At the same time, it is only fair to say that if foreign powers try to place our Empire in a difficult position by refusing to declare a principle of international law to prevent this sort of wholesale sudden convertible piracy throughout the world, I would not be so careful about watching British ships as I would be about watching foreign ships, because it is inconceivable that we should ever have a British ship against us. The foreign ship subsidized to come here might be against us at any moment, and that is the ship upon which I would keep my eye.
– The honorable member would not object to any British ship coming here?
– No; it would not matter if it was a British convertible ship, but I must say that I deprecate the whole system of convertible merchant ships, whatever country acts on it. The British Government has always strenuously fought for the principle that it shall not be lawful to convert merchant ships into warships upon the high seas. That is the principle which strikes at the very root of the mischief. If such ships can only be converted in port, it means that you cannot get neutral services for belligerent vessels in a neutral port, but if you can convert them on the high seas they can be at one moment a belligerent and at another moment a merchant ship, and it will be impossible to tell which.
– Do not some of these ships bring British goods to Australia?
– That does not affect the question.
– If so, they must go to British ports, and the British authorities must know that they are convertible.
– The British Government know a great deal about the matter. Brassey’ s Annual gives -the names of some of them, and mentions that many others are upon the German navy list. I am endeavouring to treat this matter on a nonparty basis. It is absolutely not a party question, and I am not quarrelling with the attitude of the Government at present. At the same time, I would like to learn what possible ground they can have for refusing to let the Australian people know the extent of the preparations which foreigners are making against them in this regard. Why should we not know ? The foreigner - the possible enemy - knows exactly what vessels are convertible, and he knows exactly what he proposes to do when he subsidizes them to come to these waters. The Australian people have to foot our defence bill ; and why on earth should they not know the extent of their main danger? I hope that, in the course of the debate, the Government will either be able to give a complete answer to the position 1 have placed before them with regard to the desirability of our knowing the extent of the danger, or, better still, will find themselves in a position to make a plain statement to the people over whose destinies they preside. I can make a pretty shrewd guess as to the reasons why Ministers are like oysters on this question. I think I am right in saying that they got their information in London - the whole of their defence information, whether suitable for publication or not - in the secret committee of the Imperial Defence Committee. They’ sat in that committee, and had the foreign situation explained. They asked questions on other matters concerning Australia, and got all sorts of information ; but, being pledged to secrecy before they went, they now feel in an awkward position. If that be so, I can well understand the difficulty in which they find themselves. But it is a difficulty in which I do not believe the Imperial Government meant to place them.
– Ministers are not prevented from asking for information for this House.
– There is nothing to prevent the Government now approaching the Imperial Government and asking permission to let the Australian people know - who are vitally concerned, and will not act unless they do know - the extent” of the danger. In this matter it is of no use Ministers investing themselves with a sort of reserve of statesmanlike prudence, though there is no doubt, of course, that they possess those gifts in abundance. This is the time, essentially, when our people should know the extent of the national danger; and the Government are only keeping ‘something back when the people are entitled to the fullest confidence. I make no apology for taking up so much time, because the subject is an important one. I hope that other honorable members, better qualified to deal with the subject than myself, will endeavour to suggest, perhaps, better means. We must act, and act at once, and it is best to act through the Imperial Government if we can. Next, if the Imperial Government will not act, the defence duty and responsibility we are charged with under the Imperial Constitution demands that we act alone at the earliest possible moment. I sincerely hope that the Government will desist from the bluff they put up on a recent occasion, to the effect that it is not good for The people to know what, perhaps, it is not good for the Government should be known. If the Government have no information, let them confess the fact ; and no one will hold them personally responsible. Ministers, under the existing Imperial Constitution, cannot be expected to follow in the closest detail every occurrence abroad: and I do not urge this motion as a party matter, or as an attack on Ministers, but as indicating their plain and immediate duty to Australia.
.- I am very pleased that the honorable member for Wentworth has brought this matter before the House, because it is one of the utmost importance to us in Australia. The very life’s blood of this country depends on pur oversea commerce, any interference with which must be fraught with the most serious consequences. In 1909 the value of the exports and imports of Australia was £,II6,000,000-an enormous sum, which will convey some idea of the extent of that commerce.
– In 1910 it was larger.
– I have no figures for 1 910, but we may take it that there was a considerable increase, which will continue year by year. The oversea commerce of the United Kingdom attains the rather staggering figure of £1,094,000,000. Our InterState commerce amounts to ^46,000,000. It will be seen, as I have said, that any interference in this connexion must prove very serious to Australia. Sir Edward Grey, some time ago in the House of Commons, made it quite clear that these convertible merchantmen, if I may so term them, can proceed from neutral port to neutral port without molestation until they think fit to put in their guns and proclaim themselves belligerents. We are at a great distance from our main protection, which I take to be Great Britain and her fleet ; and it is a menace that these convertible vessels should be hovering like hawks or birds of prey, ostensibly as trading vessels, but in reality as belligerents should the time be opportune to declare themselves. Then, again, the crews of these vessels are naturally such as to make them undesirable to have in these waters. If the vessels are semi-belligerent, the crews will be men able to conduct naval warfare; and we have .to remember that our Australian Fleet or unit is quite in its infancy, and cannot be everywhere, with our enormous coastline. It is quite possible that the number of convertible vessels in Australian waters may be sufficient to overcome our fleet at the present time, especially in view of our vast coast-line. Not many of us are aware of the number of ports in Australia into which our exports and imports go and come. Personally, I had no idea until I perused Admiral Henderson’s report, and I was surprised at the number. They are as follow : -
Fremantle (including Cockburn Sound).
Port Adelaide (including Larg’s Bay, &c).
Rockhampton (including KeppelBay).
Gladstone (Port Curtis).
Brisbane (including Moreton Bay).
New South Wales.
Newcastle (and Lake Macquarie).
Sydney (Port Jackson).
St. George’s Basin and Sussex Inlet.
Launceston and River Tamar.
Frederick Henry Bay.
Port Philip generally (including Port Melbourne, Williamstown, Geelong, Corio Bay).
Of course all the ports are considered of sufficient importance to be mentioned by Admiral Henderson in connexion with our navy as suitable for depots at one time and another. The list only goes to show that the Australian Fleet would have to be very large indeed to protect so many points. The commanders of these semibelligerent vessels might have private information, unknown to us, or even to the British Government, that hostilities would commence, say, between Germany and Great Britain, and realize that they were sufficiently strong to overwhelm any navy we might possess. If Great Britain were without that knowledge, our small unit would be absolutely at the mercy of the convertible vessels until a portion of the British Fleet could be sent out, and that would be a month or more later. There was every justification for a submission of this motion. As to the means of discouraging trading with these vessels, I, like the honorable member for Wentworth, am not prepared to go into details. I think the honorable member has accomplished his purpose in laying the position before the House. It now rests with the Government to take some steps to bring the subject definitely under the notice of the Foreign Office. That, I take it, is the correct procedure ; and, if the Government follow it, I feel quite sure that the British authorities will pay some heed to their representations, because it is a matter which affects, not only our trade, but our position as a nation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Higgs) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 25th November, 1910, vide volume LIX., page 6889):
Clause 2 -
The words “ Joint Stock Banking Company “ and “ Company “ in this Act mean any company consisting of seven or more members. . .
Upon which Mr. Fenton had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “ and ‘ Company ‘ “ be left out.
.- I should like to know the attitude of the Government towards the Bill. I ask for an explanation from a Minister, because it was stated by the Governor- General that it is intended to bring in two Government banking measures, and if we are going to deal with banking generally there seems no need for a private Bill.
– The Government expected that the honorable member for Richmond would at this stage explain the provisions of the measure.
– I did that when moving the second reading.
– No statement has been made this session, and honorable members may not be acquainted with the provisions of the Bill.
– I shall be happy to explain its provisions when we come to clause 4, which embodies its whole principle.
– An explanation could not be made earlier.
– In that case there is no objection to proceeding as far as clause 4.
.- I do not know what the honorable member proposes to gain by the amendment. If it were carried, useless repetition would be necessary.
– With Government banking legislation in contemplation, it is not my intention to let this Bill go through.
.- The honorable member should make a plain statement of his intentions to the Committee, instead of contenting himself with an interjection. He has not chosen a good battle ground, and would do better to have his fight on clause 4. It is a curious thing that the Government always finds a supporter to put up on the spur of the moment to oppose private measures, without giving notice to those in charge of them. Another instance of discourtesy of this kind occurred only a few moments ago.
– The honorable member for Wentworth is not in order in imputing unworthy motives to me. I have not been put up on this occasion, nor on any other. I act of my own volition.
-The honorable member for Wentworth is not in order.
– I withdraw the imputation, but suggest that the honorable member might agree with the Minister in letting us get as far as clause 4.
– And then have an explanation from the honorable member for Richmond.
– The honorable member should hear that explanation before going into hysterics.
.- I do not wish to cause unnecessary delay, if it is more desirable to have a fight on clause 4. An explanation of the provisions of the Bill by the honorable member in charge of it is needed, since we are taking up the measure again after an interval of nearly a year.
– He would have been ruled out of order had he attempted to make an explanation on this clause.
– Then I withdraw my amendment. The honorable member for Wentworth suggests that. I have not read the Bill, but I question if he has done so.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 - “ Net profits “ means the profit made after full and due provision for current expenditure has been made, and does not include the proceeds from the realization of assets or the conversion of reserves or any portion of reserves.
– I move -
That all the words after the word “ profits,” line 1, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ shall not include -
any sums arising from the realization of assets which are properly applicable to the replacement of capital ;
any sum arising from the conversion of any portion of other reserves; or
any sums which under the circumstances ought to be set aside to meet liabilities direct or contingent.”
It is very difficult to define net profits, and the clause was inserted, not to do that, but to enact that certain sums shall not be included under that heading. It is intended to prevent the proceeds from the realization of assets, or the conversion of reserves or any portion of them being treated as net profits. The amendment carries the clause further than it goes at present.
.- The wording of paragraph c might be made clearer. The words “ under the circumstances “ govern every transaction, and while directors might be clear in their own minds that they were not infringing the law, they might fear litigation and dispute from the application of the words “ under the circumstances.” A less vague expression might be used.
– Ambiguous as the clause was, it would be worse if the amendment were agreed to. I do not think there is any restriction on what a banking company may do, even with the money obtained from the realization of assets. This clause is loosely drafted, and the amendment is no more definite in regard to what a company may do. The honorable member ought to tell the Committee what is the real object of his amendment. He proposes that the net profits of a bank under our present banking laws shall not include ‘ ‘ any sums arising from the realization of assets which are properly applicable to the replacement of capital.” The term “ properly applicable” is very indefinite, and would doubtless have to be reviewed by the lawyers. It would have to be determined, I presume, by banking custom. This is an attempt to deal piecemeal with the big question of banking, which- the Government propose to ask the House to consider next session. A Bill dealing with banking generally will be” introduced this session, but we do not anticipate that it will be passed before Parliament is prorogued. Honorable members, however, will be afforded an opportunity to review it during the recess, so that they will be fully prepared to deal with it in the succeeding session. I have serious doubts as to whether it is wise to give banking companies this power to set aside portion of their profits for the purposes of a reserve fund against their uncalled capital - or, in other words, the liability of their shareholders.
– Who would be injured ?
– The depositors.
– The public and the shareholders themselves might be injured. I know that the right honorable member for Swan will reply that the directors of a bank are under the control of the shareholders. Legally they are, but in actual practice it is sometimes found that they have absolute control. This provision, it seems to me, is not mandatory. If it were I think it would strengthen the Bill, although I do not approve of the general principle of the measure. The directors of a company might in one year place a considerable sum to the credit of this reserve fund, and in another year add nothing to it.
– Why should they not place a sum to the credit of the fund in a prosperous year and put nothing to its credit in a bad year?
– What right have the directors of a banking company to take from the shareholders the legitimate profits of their investments?
– It would be the shareholders, not the directors, who would do this.
– I anticipated that interjection by my statement that, speaking generally, directors - notwithstanding the general power of the shareholders - have absolute control. We all know what took place after the banking crisis of 1892-3. Directors who in some cases had mismanaged banks, and some of whom had been guilty of gross malfeasance, so arranged matters that reconstruction schemes were carried with the greatest enthusiasm. The shareholders, finding themselves in difficulties, were ready to do whatever the directors suggested. In speaking in this way I do not wish to cast any reflection on bank directors, but I think that the small shareholder is as much entitled to secure the profits arising from his investment as is any one else. A man holding a few shares in a bank might wish to part with his full interest in that bank ; but the directors, on the other hand, might desire to build up the bank’s interests with a view to future advantage. In that way the man with little capital might suffer under a proposal of this kind.
– He could pot.
– The honorable member will say that he could not suffer because if the reserve fund were increased in the way for which this Bill provides, his shares would be worth more. But they might or might not be worth more. It suits a man with a small capital to be free to make full use of it while he is young and vigorous ; but if any portion of his capital were tied up, he would be seriously handicapped. This proposal is not all plain sailing, and it is introduced at an inconvenient time.
.- I have not previously taken part in the discussion of this measure; but it seems to me that the proposal put before us is a very reasonable one. Holders of bank shares are drawn from all sections of the community, and in the case of most of these institutions, there is a certain uncalled liability. I have in mind a banking company, the shares in which are paid up to ;£io, with a further reserve liability of £10 per share, which could be called up if the bank got into difficulties. When such a bank meets with financial adversity, a great many of its shareholders are unable to pay up “this reserve liability of .£10 per share. The result is disastrous, more especially to the poorer class of shareholders, since they not only lose what they have paid for their shares, but are called upon to pay up the reserve liability.
– There is nothing to prevent a bank building up a reserve fund without reducing the liability of its shareholders.
– Why should a bank not be permitted to build up a reserve fund to reduce the liability of its shareholders? The reserve funds of such institutions are often very large, but they are employed in connexion with its business. They are not always represented by actual gold in the strong-room ; they are often invested in securities that may not be readily convertible.
– What would be the difference between the two reserve funds?
– The reserve fund built up under this measure would Be available for no other purpose than to meet the reserve liability of the shareholders.
– But it might be lost in the course of investment.
– Clause 6 provides for the investment of this reserve fund in certain Government securities, which are specified. At the end of its financial year, a banking company usually places a certain proportion of its profits to the credit of its reserve fund, and distributes the balance amongst its shareholders. Under this Bill, shareholders would be given an opportunity to deny themselves a large dividend - to agree to accept a smaller dividend in order that a proportion of the profits might be placed to a reserve fund to meet their reserve liability. Such a fund would help the shareholders in a bank to meet their liability in case of disaster, and would give greater security to those doing business with it. The bank’s customers would know that the reserve formed under the Act was actually available in case of financial trouble. One would think that there could be no objection to a proposal of this kind.
– Who has the first call on the assets of a bank in time of financial disaster ?
– The Government. No difficulty would be experienced by a bank in doing what this Bill proposes to allow. I am not interested in the banking business, except that I am a. shareholder in a bank myself, and it appears to me that the shareholders would say, “ Under this Bill we shall get less dividends in order that the public shall be assured that the security we give to pay our liabilities is really there.” It is those who are dealing with the banks by deposits, or in other ways, who will get the advantage of the proposed fund. The shareholders will not get it, or, at any rate, will not be benefited immediately. It is a self- denying process on the part of the shareholders, because their dividends will have to be reduced in order to form the fund.
– What is to prevent the money being put aside now to create such a fund?
– There is no Statute enabling it to be done. Any ordinary reserve fund can be used by the directors, whereas this fund is created as a special security for those who deal with the bank. There was never a more reasonable proposal made from the point of view of those dealing with banks, although it may be a little hard on any shareholder who happens to want his full dividend. If honorable members do not agree with me in my view of the Bill, they must have a twist in their minds, or I must have a twist in mine, because I can understand it in no other way.
– It would be as well if, when dealing with an important measure of this kind, honorable members were supplied with a copy of every amendment put forward. There are very few copies of the amendment available, and honorable members seem to be going about the matter in a rather hole-and-corner way. Until I know what the effect of the amendment will be I cannot vote conscientiously or intelligently on it.
– I do not think the amendment now circulated would work well. I can see quite a number of difficulties that may arise in attempting to bring within the terms of a legal definition things which may be subject to all kinds of variety, according to the constitution of the particular company or the mode in which it has been carrying on its business. It would be a great deal better to strike out all definition of “net profits,” except this limitation, that any power that there is shall be confined to “ net profits which may lawfully be distributed as dividends.” That would get over all the difficulty.
– Has not the honorable member heard of companies selling their assets and distributing them as dividends, and doing so lawfully ?
– In most cases that would be unlawful, but in some it might be lawful. The business of assets realization companies, for instance, is to realize assets, and pay the results of the realization away to their shareholders. Those dividends are properly declared, but ordinary trading and other companies, to which this Bill will apply, would have no right to realize assets and pay them away in dividends. On the other hand, the trade of a trading company consists of realizing its assets, replacing its stock, and then realizing its assets again, but all these distinctions merely illustrate the fact that it is practically impossible to define “ net profits “ by any series of words that can be invented, so as to cover all the cases and be sure that no loop-hole has been left. The only safe way is as I have indicated. If the directors can lawfully distribute the money as dividends, why should they not declare it as dividends, and let the shareholders say, “ We have got these dividends ; now hold them for us ?’ ‘ If the limitation I suggest is adopted, I cannot conceive what objection there can be to the principle of the measure
– Can they not do that now?
– I do not know that they can. They might do it, but the fund that would be thus created would have no statutory protection. The directors might now achieve the same thing by saying to the shareholders. “ We are going to pay you a dividend of 10 per cent., but at the same time we are going to make a call on you of 10 per cent., and we will pay your call with your dividend.” That would diminish the shareholders’ liability by the amount thus written off their calls, but it would not be a proper way of doing so. It would be rather an invasion of the proper method of conducting companies, because calls ought not to be made except for the purpose of paying liabilities.
– That would not reduce the shareholders’ unpaid liabilities.
– Undoubtedly it would. If you make a call you decrease the amount of the uncalled capital to that extent. If you pay the call by money which might be handed over to the shareholder, you achieve exactly the same purpose as is effected by this Bill.
– It would not be such good security for the public.
– It would not be. This seems to be a very useful provision, because it enables a fund to be created which shall be taken out of the business and placed in authorized securities in the hands of the trustees.
– It is purely for the protection of the shareholder.
– No, because if it was desired only to protect the shareholder, it might be done by declaring a dividend and making an equivalent call, as I have suggested. In that way the shareholder would be completely protected. If he had a £1 share paid up to10s., the directors would say, “ We are going to pay a 5s. dividend, but will make a 5s. call at the same time, and set one against the other.” The result, although no money passes, is to write down the amount of the shareholders’ actual liability by 5s.
– It is one of the tricks of the trade.
– The honorable member may call it a trick or not as he pleases; I do not recommend it. But I say it is within the present powers of companies, although it would not be the best way to carry out the intention of the Bill. I have not seen the Bill before to-day, and have not had a full opportunity of discussing it, but I understand, from reading it, that its intention is as follows : A company has, say, a certain amount of net profits which are capable of being actually handed to the shareholders - if the amount is limited to the actual money which may be lawfully paid by the directors as dividends, I see no objection to it. The Bill authorizes the directors to say, with, of course, the concurrence of the shareholders who are the persons interested, that instead of paying that money over to them they will take it out of the funds of the business, and put it into a guarded fund in the hands of trustees, which will inure for the benefit of the creditors. If that money remained in the business, it might be absolutely lost. If it were put into an ordinary reserve fund, it might be lost. If it is paid to the shareholders it goes out of the funds of the company altogether and is dissipated. But the Bill enables the directors to put it into a fund held by trustees, and so takes it away from the risks of the business altogether, the trustees being able to invest it in Government or other approved securities. The result of that would be, if misfortune fell upon the bank, and the creditors came together to try to realize what they could, that they would, first of all, get the ordinary assets of the bank, to which, of course, they would be entitled. There would be the note issue first, and other assets as they came in. Having exhausted all these, the creditors would say, “ We have to come upon the shareholders with regard to their uncalled liability.” The creditors usually find, when they fix their list of contributories - that is, of shareholders whose duty it is to contribute to the winding up - that a large proportion of them are quite unable to pay. It isa natural and common experience, because the circumstances that bring about the downfall of banking institutions usually bring about the inability of shareholders to pay calls, and only a small proportion of the unpaid capital to which the creditors have a right to look can be got in. Let us suppose that this Bill was in operation, and that the fund had been created out of moneys which might have been distributed by the payment of dividends in past years. That fund would be in the hands of trustees. Instead, then, of having to look to a number of scattered individuals, and put them on a list of contributories, and try to screw out of them what money they could, those who had claims on the bank would find a certain amount in hard cash invested in the hands of trustees.
– It is not proposed to make the banks provide these funds. The Bill is only permissive.
– The honorable member now says that the fault of the Bill is that it does not go far enough. If that interjection means anything, it means that a company must never declare any dividend so long as it possesses any reserve liability.
– I did not mean that.
– What the honorable member meant was that it ought to be made compulsory for the shareholders to come under the Bill.
– The only way to do that would be to compel them to allow the dividends which should be payable to them to go to a fund for the benefit of creditors. If that is done, it is saying, in effect, “ You are not to distribute a dividend until you have wiped out all uncalled liabilities by creating a special reserve.” That would be an extremely drastic course, which does not apply to any company, banking or otherwise, created under the limited liability law; and I should like to hear the point argued more fully before I could agree to it. There is a difficulty not always recognised by laymen, or even by business men, with regard to what reserves are. The word “reserve” is used in a very loose sense. The ordinary “ reserve,” seen so often in balance-sheets, is a simple figure, stating that so much money that would have been distributed as dividends has not been so distributed, and indicating an intention that it will be applied to some purpose such as the equalization of dividends - an intention which may be altered by the directors at any moment.
There is nothing in it ; it does not point to any goods, or any sovereigns, or to anything in particular. It merely means that there is an amount - not represented by any appropriated assets of the company - which has not been distributed in dividends. The word “ reserve “ is extremely misleading to many people, generally conveying to a large section of the public an idea that there are some moneys or funds put aside. That is not the case.
– It is the general understanding.
– It is; and it has led to mischief and false confidence in some cases. The kind of reserve that the Bill proposes to create is a real reserve, because it is taken out of the funds - it is appropriated, or earmarked.
– Is there a stipulation that it shall not be touched for ordinary business ?
– I understand that it may be invested in ordinary securities, and cannot be used in the business. The reserve it is sought to create now is a real reserve; it may be touched - it is there.
– It is like the bank note reserve.
– There may be something to learn about the note reserve later, as I hope there will. The reserve it is now sought to create is something set apart in fact. It is not only for the benefit of the shareholders that the Bill gives them permission to say, “ Do not pay the money to us, because we do not want the actual coins now, but create a fund which will relieve us of liability.” The creation of this reserve sets up an absolute security, so far as it goes, to the creditors, so that, if the bank goes into liquidation they will be paid their money.
.- So far as I understand this Bill, it will give shareholders a statutory protection against the liability they incurred when they became shareholders.
– Out of their own pockets !
– I shall be pleased io learn that it is out of their own pockets.
– That is the only way.
– There is no statutory obligation, but a statutory permission.
– And statutory protection for the fund when it is done.
– There is no obligation; but if the shareholders so act, the fund will be protected by this Bill. As a matter of fact, the Bill will give the shareholders statutory protection, as I said before, against the liability they incurred when becoming shareholders. In a sense, we are encouraging people to undertake obligations, which, at the time, they are not in a position to meet. The fact that a person is a shareholder is no proof that he has paid £5, £10, or £50 into a company ; but merely that he has paid a few shillings, or a few pounds, off a liability he has undertaken. In the past we have found many thousands of those shareholders not in a position to meet the obligation when occasion arose; and to the extent to which the shareholders fail to meet their obligations, the depositors and others are at a loss. This is really to encourage persons of a speculative turn of mind to undertake liabilities which they cannot at the moment meet, and which, in all probability, they see no prospect of ever properly meeting, should the emergency arise. T am not quite sure that, under the circumstances, the principle of the Bill is a correct one.
– This Bill will not relieve the obligations of shareholders by one iota.
– By so much of the profits as is put aside, their obligation is relieved. If the obligation amounts to £200,000, and, under this Bill, £100,000 is set aside, then the liability is only half that originally undertaken.
– That is to say, we permit them to relieve themselves.
– Yes, to that extent; but we have yet to learn that the Bill gives any real relief to depositors.
– The depositors are relieved if the shareholders are put in a position to pay up.
– To an extent; but the liabilities of shareholders are in many cases very small in comparison with the total liabilities of a bank. As a matter of fact, if every shareholder were sold up to the extent of his liabilities in the event of disaster, depositors would be protected only to an infinitesimal degree. Is the Bill for the protection of the depositor, who, after all, is the innocent person, and ought to have what statutory protection it is in our power to give ; or for the protection of the shareholder, who, in a sense, is the guilty person, having undertaken a liability he saw no prospect of meeting unless by some such measure as that now proposed? We have also to ascertain whether this Bill may not have some effect even on their socalled nominal reserves. I know that the “reserve” in a balance-sheet is often the most delusive line, and means nothing tangible. At a time of stress, it seems to me that the directors can be reasonably called on, not merely to explain the balance-sheet, but to point out where the reserve actually is, and to what extent it constitutes a protection to the general public. It appears to me that it would be a comparatively simple thing for directors, over a given number of years, to equalize the profits by reducing the nominal reserves.
– To reduce nominal and create actual reserves.
– They can do that without this Bill.
– In the case of some companies, a proportion of reserves is essential, though that proportion may be small; while in other companies, it may be in excess of the statutory requirements. To the extent to which the reserve is in excess, it is possible for companies, under the term of equalizing profits, to reduce the reserves considerably.
– That can be done without this Bill.
– I know that.
– The argument of the honorable member does not affect the question.
– But with this Bill there will be an incentive for directors to so act.
– And there will be an actual reserve, instead of a visionary one.
– So far as the protection of depositors is concerned, this Bill is scarcely worth the time it is taking to debate it. It will be a protection to shareholders, as I have pointed out, and, in an infinitesimal way, to the depositor, who might go short even if the shareholders were sold up.
– If directors desire a real reserve, why prevent them from providing it?
– I am not trying to; hut the reserve will be so small that it will be of no real value to the depositors. All it really amounts to is that there will be another line in the statement of accounts to lead the depositors to believe that there is in existence a reserve of real benefit to them, whereas actually the reserve will be one for the protection of the shareholders, who have undertaken obligations which they cannot fulfil.
– The reserve will make the shareholders solvent so far as their liability is concerned.
– And thus make the depositors solvent.
– I am at a loss to understand how you can make the depositors solvent merely by guaranteeing the liability of the shareholders. The proportion of the shareholders’ liabilities to those of the banking companies would not in all probability be as one shilling is to£1. Therefore no great amount of protection is given to the depositor. But it is proposed to permit an alteration of the present system, which calls for the creation of reserves which at present are available for the payment of the creditors of the bank, by permitting the creation of a special reserve for the protection of the shareholders. I do not think that the shareholders should be given this protection if the directors are to be permitted to provide for the reserve without reducing profits, and the depositors should not be led to believe that they will be greatly benefited when the advantage to them is trifling. Personally I should like more explanation from those in charge of the Bill. I wish to know at whose instigation it is being introduced, and what has called for it.
.- The only flaw that I can find in the Bill is that it seems to make no provision for the protection of paid-up shareholders. If funds are put aside out of the profits to insure contributing shareholders in respect to their contingent liability on shares, the depositors are incidentally benefited, because, should the bank fail, they have this fund to come on, whereas without it the shareholders must be proceeded against individually, and some of them may be found unable to meet their liability. But, paidup shareholders should not contribute to reserves under the Bill.
– I wish to know from those in charge of the measure whether it is not sound banking to compel shareholders to retain their liabilities. Are they not more likely to take interest in the management of a concern when they have a personal liability of so much a share, and bad management may put them on the rocks? An objection I have to the Bill is that it is merely permissive; the bank directors are not called on to take each year out of net profits so much for the building up of the reserve. Consequently, they may use the provisions of the measure unfairly, for purposes of speculation. In order to rig the market, a set of directors may determine to set aside out of profits a certain sum to build up a reserve. That would reduce the dividend, and the reduction of the dividend would mean a fall in the price of the shares.
– It is not the directors who do this.
– It is the directors who decide the amount of the half-yearly dividend. It is never left to the shareholders to say how much the dividend shall be.
– The shareholders decide whether money is to be paid to this reserve fund.
– The rule with banking companies is for a chairman to move the adoption of the half-yearly report, and the motion is generally carried without discussion. I was once present at a shareholders’ meeting, and when I proposed to question the report, it was threatened that I would be put out straight away. Everything is cut and dried at these meetings, and there is no discussion. Why has the Bill been introduced? Have there been meetings of shareholders asking for its introduction, or correspondence in the press?
– A great deal.
– The measure originated with an amiable senator who is a bank director, and I should like to know who support it beside a few politicians who are actuated by friendship for the gentleman to whom I refer, and therefore are trying to protect his ewe lamb.
– Persons should not buy shares for which they cannot pay.
– The right honorable member for Swan suggested that many shareholders have liabilities which they could not meet. I ask whether those who hold bank shares are, as a rule, poor people? We heard a great deal of the poor widow at the time of the bank smashes, when it was proposed to take the money of the depositors for reconstruction; but the poor shareholder is a very small quantity. I do not think that the measure will benefit depositors, or conduce to sound banking, and therefore I hope that it will not be passed. Progress reported.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th October, vide page 1083) :
Clause 3 - (1.) Upon an Act of the Parliament of the State of Western Australia being passed consenting to legislation by the Parliament of the Commonwealth with respect to the construction of the portion of the railway included in the State of Western Australia or consenting to the construction of that portion of the railway by the Commonwealth, the Minister may, subject to this Act, construct a railway from Kalgoorlie in the State of Western Australia to Port Augusta in the State of South Australia. (2.) The construction of the railway shall not be commenced until the States of Western Australia and South Australia respectively have granted or agreed to grant to the satisfaction of the Minister such portions of the Crown lands of the State as are in the opinion of the Minister necessary for the purposes of the construction, maintenance, and working of the railway.
Upon which Mr. Bruce Smith had moved, by way of of amendment -
That the following words be added : - (3.) In order to partially recoup the Commonwealth for the capital expenditure involved in the construction of the railway, it shall be a further condition precedent to the work being entered upon that the States of Western Australia and South Australia respectively shall reserve from sale and vest in trustees to the use of the Commonwealth, with power of sale or lease, all the Crown lands extending for twenty-five miles on both sides of the line as ultimately adopted (inclusive of the reservations required under the previous sub-section) along its whole length throughout the Territories of the respective States.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7.45 p.m.
– When progress was reported last night I was pointing out that the’ present attitude of the honorable member for Perth in regard to the proposed reservation of land on either side of this line was inconsistent with the position that he took up when the Bill to provide for the survey of the route was before the House. I showed by a quotation from Hansard that he then stated that the proposal we are now advocating was really the policy of the Western. Australian Government. In the course of a speech that he made in this House on 14th October, 1904, and reported in Hansard, volume xxii., page 5594, he said-
I am quite in sympathy with the object which the honorable member for New England wishes to attain, but I contend that the present is not an opportune time to give effect to his suggestion. I can assure him that the members of the present Western Australian Government are fully seized of the necessity for preventing any unfair exploitation of the resources of that State. The previous Government were called upon to deal with several cases in which attempts were made by syndicates to obtain undue control of large areas. These were promptly frustrated. If my memory serves me correctly, I think that even in the direction which the railway is intended to take, some very active gentlemen endeavoured some time ago to secure large blocks of land.
It will be seen that the honorable member was not then opposed, as he is now, to the proposal that land should be reserved on either side of the line. He contended, however, that the time was not opportune to give effect to such a proposition, and obviously he meant to convey the idea that we should wait until the Bill for the construction of the railway was before the House. The general consensus of opinion was certainly favorable at that time to the proposal that a land reservation should be made. The vote for the survey having been granted on the express understanding that such a reservation would be made, we are now calmly met with a declaration on the part of the honorable member for Perth that nothing of the kind could be entertained - that the proposal is preposterous, and is made with the object of destroying the Bill. I also referred last night to the attitude of the present Minister of Home Affairs, who is in charge of this measure. I regret that he walked out of the chamber just as I was making a quotation from his speech on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, in the hope that it might recall him to a sense of his obligation to the taxpayers, especially in the responsible position that he now occupies as a Minister of the Crown, administering the taxpayers’ money. Speaking in this House on 14th October, 1904, when the Bill to provide for the survey of the line was before us, the honorable member said -
Why should the Commonwealth not have grants of land in the same way as have private corporations?
– Let the honorable member take care that he does not play into the hands of the Opposition.
– That interjection is all very fine. When we are spending the people’s money we ought not to think of Opposition, Government, or anybody else, but only of those who sent us here.
That is the position which we on this side of the House are taking up to-day, and I may say that I took the same view when the Survey Bill was before the House. Mr. Lonsdale, who then represented New Eng- land in this House, interjected, “ We have only the right to do what is right,” and the present Minister of Home Affairs replied -
That is so. I shall vote for this Bill, but on condition that a clause, such as that suggested by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, is inserted, so that the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia may be called upon to set apart a certain width of land on each side of the line.
The honorable member had the interests of his own State in view when he made these observations, and as a Minister of the Crown he is in a much better position today to conserve those interests. He went on to say -
Such a provision would enable Tasmania to get back the money which is taken from the people of that State for the purposes of this railway.
The same statement still holds good.
– It appeals to my business instinct.
– But the Caucus is too strong.
– The Caucus has nothing to do with it. This is a Ministerial question.
– Then, as the Minister of Home Affairs says that it appeals to his business instinct, why does he not take up the same attitude now? The Minister has the control of public funds in his own hands, and is in a position to save his own State from the imposition of this burden upon it. Is he prepared to do it? He went on to say -
What interests have the people of King Island, or of Tasmania generally, in this railway?
I wonder whether he desires to ask that question at the present juncture?
I do not desire to take up much time in discussing this matter, but merely to put myself right in the eyes of the public. The Bill should provide that private corporations and private “ land sharks,” and other “ boom-boosters,” should not be allowed to tie up land, and then demand immense compensation from the Commonwealth before the line can be constructed.
I commend these remarks to the honorable gentleman’s colleagues, to the Minister himself, and those sitting behind the Government. They were words of profound wisdom, and were fully in accord with the sentiments that I expressed on that occasion. Another honorable member who is still in the Chamber, and who now appears to be a very strong supporter of the proposal without these public safeguards being included, said, on that occasion -
I am opposed to this Bill, lock, stock, and barrel, like the honorable member for Capricornia.
That was said by the honorable member for Maranoa.
– I have had my eyes opened since then, like Sir George Reid.
- Sir George Reid was then Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs. In response to the generally expressed desire of the House, he undertook to’ make representations to the Governments of South Australia and Western Australia with a view to getting these reservations approved of by them. He said, as recorded on page
I believe that every honorable member is in full sympathy with the object which the honorable member for New England has in view. If such precautions as he suggests had been taken from the beginning in connexion with the extension of railways throughout Australia, I believe that the whole of our railway debts would be represented by the value of the lands in the neighbourhood of the lines.
A little later On he said -
I can assure the House that I shall feel no difficulty in my own relations with the Premiers nf those or other Australian States in entering upon the fullest correspondence with them on such a matter as that now before us. and on the same page -
I understand that the whole of the country is within the Crown lands of South Australia and Western Australia. We cannot in any way interfere with the management of those Crown lands, either by the Parliament or the Government of South Australia, or by the Parliament or Government of Western Australia. My honorable friend, I am sure, does not intend that we should. But there is an obvious utility in directing the attention of those within whose government such matters are to the importance of the step suggested.
It will be seen, therefore, that the general consensus of opinion among those of all shades of political opinion in the House was certainly in favour pf the land reservation being made. The honorable member for Boothby, who is now Minister of External Affairs, whilst he did not actively support the proposal, certainly offered no objection to it. The most he had to say was that he did not see where the practical advantage of such an arrangement could come in. That could hardly be called an objection, and I think, beyond that, there was no sort of objection offered in the House. In fact, the House almost, if not quite, unanimously indorsed the proposal. The honorable member for Grey said at that time -
I have no doubt as to South Australia’s attitude upon this matter. That State would be quite prepared to reserve land upon each side of the proposed line for certain purposes.
I make that quotation merely to show the general consensus of opinion among representatives of all the States on the matter. The proposal was first put forward, I think, by Mr. Lonsdale, who then represented New England, and, I believe, although I am not sure, that it was put into the form of a motion later on by the honorable member for Parkes. Subsequently, as the result of the negotiations, an actual undertaking was given by the Western Australian Government that land should be set aside to the extent of 25 miles on either side of the line.
– We are told that that land is still reserved. The right honorable member for Swan said so last night.
– The right honorable member did not say so. He did not seem at all keen on the reservation still being made, and was not sure whether it had been cancelled- br not None of us know, and, so far, we have not been able to get any information on the point. Even if that undertaking has not been cancelled, the attitude of most honorable members on the Ministerial side of this House is not calculated to stiffen the back of the Western Australian Government in keeping to it. It would rather indicate to them that there is no desire on the part of the Ministerial party that the compact should be observed. The undertaking certainly did exist, and was referred to on 29th June, 1906, by the honorable member for Darling Downs, who was then Minister of Home Affairs. He said, as recorded on page’ 896 of Hansard -
When this question was under consideration by this Parliament on a former occasion, the House desired to have the land reserved for twentyfive miles on each side of the line, in order that it might not be alienated. To meet us in that respect, Western Australia, on the 26th October, 1904, passed resolutions reserving the land in question.
The resolutions referred to were embodied in a paper laid on the table of the House at the instance of Mr. Reid, when he was Prime Minister, in the following form -
Copy of telegram from the Premier of Western Australia to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, dated at Perth, 20th October, 1904.
Re Trans-Australian Railway. - Legislative Assembly last night unanimously agreed to following resolution - begins - “ That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should at once reserve from sale all rural Crown lands for twenty-five miles on each side of the proposed route of the Trans-Australian Railway between Kalgoorlie and the eastern boundary of the State, with a view of facilitating the construction of the said railway, and that the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth be so advised.” (Sgd.) H. Daglish.
Mr. Daglish was then Premier of Western
– Ah ! Daglish is no more !
Mfr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON. - Surely undertakings of that kind, made by one Government, should be honoured by their successors.
– And that was a Labour Government.
– It was a Labour Government. Surely honorable members opposite are not going to set up as a code of political morality that such a compact is binding only upon the Government which makes it at the time. If that principle were admitted there would be no stability or security in any Governmental actions, and less reliance could be placed in the promises of Governments than in those of princes, in which we have Been warned against putting our trust. The record from which I am quoting also contains the following -
Copy of telegram from the Premier of Western Australia to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, dated at Perth, 26th October,
Re Trans-Australian Railway. - Legislative Council has also passed resolution re reservation of land along proposed route. (Sgd.) H. Daglish.
Therefore, both Houses of the Western Australian Parliament agreed to the reservation which we now ask should be provided for in this Bill. Surely it is idle to charge those who desire that reservation to be observed, with wishing to kill the Bill. All we ask is that, as the undertaking was voluntarily given by the Western Australian Parliament, the compact shall be fulfilled either in the form embodied in the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes or in some Other way. I am inclined to think that we might modify the terms of the amendment, because it goes further than the reservation of the land by the Government of the State. It really proposes that a large area of territory should be handed over to the Commonwealth.
– I intend to announce a modification.
– So long as the land is reserved from alienation it is immaterial whether it is held by the State or the Commonwealth Government. But revenue therefrom should go towards the expense of building and maintaining the line. Still another undertaking was given by the Western Australian Government, to bear a share of any loss that might accrue from the construction of the line for ten years after its completion, and this was quoted by the then Minister of Home Affairs, the honorable member for Darling Downs, on 29th June, 1906, Hansard, page 896, in the following words -
In addition to that, Western Australia has shown faith in the line by an undertaking she has given, dated 18th May, 1904, to the effect that, for ten years, if the line is not paying, she will bear a share of the loss. The Western Australian Premier announced that decision in the following telegram : -
On condition that Commonwealth is allowed a free hand as to route and gauge of railway, this State will be prepared for ten years after line constructed to bear a share of any loss in excess of our contribution on a population basis. It would be premature to fix exact proportion we are prepared to pay at this stage, but I am confident that it will be liberal, and satisfy the Federal Parliament of our sincerity in this connexion, and our belief that the work will soon be a directly paying one.
Western Australia even went so far as to hold out inducements to South Australia in the way of indemnifying that State against loss.
Seeing that the attitude of the Western Australian Government was not only favorable to the reservation of 25 miles on either side, but that it actually made a proposal to voluntarily bear a fair share of any loss resulting from the construction for a period of ten years, it is only fair to take advantage, as we are bound to do, in the interests of the taxpayer, of those offers. I do not know that the offers have been withdrawn, and I do not think that they have; in fact, the honorable member for Swan, in an interjection, said that it would be hishonest or dishonorable to withdraw them, and a great many honorable members were inclined to agree with him. The South Australian Government should, of course, be included in any conditions which Western Australia was asked to conform to. Without taking up further time, I give notice of my intention, in the event of the amendment of the honorable member for
Parkes being defeated, to move the following as sub-clause 3 to clause 3 - (3.) The -construction of the line through Western Australia shall be conditional upon the reservation from alienation of lands on each side of the railway in terms of the resolution passed by the Western Australian Government on 26th October, 1904, and the ratification of the undertaking given by the Western Australian Government, dated 18th May, 1904, to bear for a period of ten years after the construction of the line a share of any loss resulting therefrom : And shall be further conditional upon similar undertakings being given by the Government of South Australia.
– I do not intend to occupy time now, but I shall later answer some of the arguments which have been advanced against my proposal. At present, I desire to intimate in what direction I intend to alter my amendment. Since I spoke, the honorable member for Flinders has put before the Committee, in a very interesting way, an account of the state of things that has obtained in Canada in connexion with the whole of the railways constructed there. He showed that, throughout the transactions there, land to the extent of about 2,500 acres has been granted to the railway proprietors for each mile of railway. He pointed out also that, instead of reserving land on both sides of the railway, which I admit has the inconvenient effect of shutting off the Government of the country from access to its own line, blocks have been reserved in an alternate form. I, therefore, propose, instead of reserving 25 miles on either side, to substitute alternate blocks of 15 miles square, of Crown lands. The effect of this will be to reduce the amount of land reserved for the Commonwealth to an area equal to a strip of 7 miles on each side of the line. I have reduced the area in order to bring the proposal as near as possible to the conditions in Canada.
– Is the reservation in Canada 15 miles?
– No. The reservation there is in smaller blocks of 640 acres, but the land is of a highly valuable character, capable in most parts of cultivation at once.
– The difference is that, in the case of Australia, the land belongs to the people.
– There . is no place in the world where uniform quality of land can be found over an extent of 1,050 miles; and it is quite impossible to frame an Act of Parliament which can provide for all sorts - the differences are as great as the length of the line. I gather that 640-acre blocks have been found quite sufficient for the settlers; and, therefore, in granting the reserves to the constructors of the railways, the blocks have been alternate, not only longitudinally, but at right angles to the lines themselves. So, as the honorable member for Flinders pointed out, the blocks are alternately vested in the Dominion, and in those who choose to buy them, very much in the form of a draught or chess board. I do not propose anything of the kind here, because it has been clearly shown by one of the opponents of my amendment that the land along a large part of this railway is of so poor a character that only one sheep can be run to 20 acres. This is very different from the agricultural lands in Canada ; and the reservation of this infinitely poorer land will be much less in area than that which has been granted by the Canadian Dominion to the proprietors of the Canadian- Pacific and other lines.’ I think that my proposal is the best practical one that can be submitted. I propose also, instead of complicating matters by vesting this land in trustees for the use of the Commonwealth, to vest it in the Commonwealth directly, leaving the Commonwealth to make its own arrangements as to whether the land shall be disposed of by lease or freehold. Having had the advantage of hearing the views of other honorable members, and being quite open to conviction as to the form the proposal should take, I recognise the justice of the contention that the reservation should not extend right into the two extreme points of Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta. I, therefore, propose that this reservation shall go up only to within 10 miles of either extremity.
– That would take in Kanowna.
– I understand that Mr. Deane and the engineers associated with him have recommended that the line shall run to Kalgoorlie quite independently of the line from Kanowna to Kalgoorlie - that it shall run some miles north, so as to leave at least even 15 miles square in alternate blocks even past that point.
– If it misses Kanowna it takes in Bulong.
– I have nothing but difficulties raised by honorable members from Western Australia and South Australia ; but, as an old advocate, I am quite prepared always to. find my opponents doing everything they can to prevent a proposal being presented in practicable form.
– Would not 25 miles from either extremity meet the case?
– It might; all I fight for is the principle that the Commonwealth shall not be called upon, out of the pockets of the people of all the States, to pay for a transcontinental railway for two States, which, we are told, are anxious now to construct the line themselves. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie told us last night - and he seemed to think that it was a strong argument against my amendment - that the Western Australian people and the South Australian people are quite anxious to construct this line; and if the Commonwealth Government are satisfied as to that, the most logical course for them would be to drop the Bill. We might rely on Western Australia and South Australia doing the work much more consistently with their own interests, and their own desires, than would the Commonwealth. But I do not believe that the two States are anxious to do the work. The South Australian attitude over the Northern Territory, for which we are now paying £70,000 a year in order to run one of the South Australian railways, shows that that State is not anxious on the point.
– It is twice £70,000 !
– Perhaps I am understating the case a little ; but, if the honorable member for Parramatta is right, we are paying ,£140,000 a year for the loss on a South Australian railway.
– Which line is that?
– The honorable member knows every inch of the railways, and it is of no good his affecting not to understand in an effort to weaken my argument.
– The honorable member is absolutely incorrect - the amount is neither £70,000 nor £140,000.
– Will the Minister say how much it is ?
– The line is leased to the South Australian Government, who take the revenue and pay the expenditure.
– Are we not paying the deficiency under the Northern Territory Bill?
– Then all I can say is that we are not carrying out the purpose of that Bill.
– Who pays the interest on the cost of construction? Taking that into account, it is obvious how we are getting rid of the deficiency !
– That is an entirely different matter.
– The Honorary Minister is not prepared to tell the House candidly what the Commonwealth is paying in order to compensate South Australia.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I do not propose to do so; but when a Minister contradicts a statement, and hesitates to give information which would enable us to correct it, there is no alternative but to deal with him in another way. I am quite sure the Minister will not help the Government in opposing this amendment, if, while contradicting statements, he is not prepared to give that substituted information which would enable us to put the matter accurately before the Committee. I do not believe that either South Australia or Western Australia is anxious to construct any portion of the proposed line, and if the Commonwealth constructs it for them, we are bound to see that the other States get a return for their expenditure. I am not wedded to the form of the amendment for which I am responsible; and if the amendment which I understand the honorable member for Parramatta wishes to propose would be more acceptable, I shall be prepared to withdraw mine. I reserve any observations I may have to make in reply to the arguments used last night for a later stage of the discussion ; and, in the meantime, ask leave to amend my proposed new sub-clause so that it shall read as follows: - (3.) In order to partially recoup the Commonwealth for the capital expenditure involved in the construction of the railway it shall be a further condition precedent to the work being entered upon that the States of Western Australia and South Australia respectively shall reserve from sale and vest in the Commonwealth alternate blocks of fifteen miles square of Crown lands on both, sides of the line (inclusive of the reservations required under the previous sub-section) throughout the whole length of the territories of the respective States up to a point ten miles distant from the Kalgoorlie Railway Station at the western extremity of the line, and up to a point ten miles distant from the Port Augusta Railway Station at the eastern extremity of the railway.
Amendment amended accordingly.
.- It must not be forgotten that the position of South Australia is not identical with that of Western Australia in this matter. Western Australia is downright anxious for the construction of the proposed line; but South Australia made it a condition precedent to the giving of her consent, that the Commonwealth should enter into the notorious Northern Territory bargain.
The iine must be constructed; but it is eminently desirable that we should take steps to protect the Commonwealth taxpayers from the piratical forays of the smaller States. We should obtain for the Commonwealth taxpayers a guarantee that they will be recompensed for their assistance in developing Western Australian and South Australian territory. I am at one with the honorable member for Parkes so far as the principle of the amendment is concerned; but I prefer to leave it to the Government to give an undertaking that it will see that the interests of the Commonwealth taxpayers are protected. If we put the provision proposed by the honorable member for Parkes into the Bill, South Australia may refuse to allow us to drive even a survey peg into her territory; and under section 51, subsection xxxiv., of the Constitution, we cannot construct or extend a railway in any State without its consent.
– South Australia has passed an Act consenting to the construction of the proposed line. That is part of the Northern Territory Agreement.
– An agreement which puts a liability of £10,000,000 on the Australian public, with no adequate compensating advantages that I can see. On such matters as this, whenever one rises to protect the interests of the Australian public, he is surrounded with the eager faces of the representatives of the smaller States. Tasmania proposes, I understand, to back up her barrow for £900,000, and her representatives will stand solidly behind the proposal. Under these circumstances, we must see that a precedent is not established which, will assist the smaller States in taking advantage of the Commonwealth without making a return. I should like the Ministry, therefore, to give an undertaking that if the measure is passed, and objection is offered by South Australia or Western Australia to the reservation of sufficient land to pay out of unearned increment for the construction of the line, it will submit to the electors a proposal to alter the Constitution in a way which will enable the Commonwealth interests to be protected. I wish to see the proposed railway constructed, because it is apparently necessary for defence. I do not suggest that the Commonwealth should hold indefinitely the land that may be transferred to it. Probably the fairest proposal would be that that land should be held only until, by sale or lease, it had produced sufficient to repay the cost of construction.
– Does the honorable member think that would ever happen?
– I am afraid, from what I have read of the country to be traversed, in the words of the right honorable member for Swan and others, that it is not likely. But, if we insist on a guarantee in this case, the smaller States will be careful in the future how they ask for this or that dole. If Commonwealth lines are to be loaded as State lines are loaded in Victoria and elsewhere-
– The Victorian Government has wiped that out.
– Does the honorable member agree with that?
– The honorable member represents a country constituency, where even the most impoverished squatter objects to contribute towards the cost of the public works by which he benefits.
– I agree with what has been done, because the squatter was not called upon to pay, while the small man was.
– In this case, those who get the benefit are to be asked to pay.
– The proposal seems feasible.
– Then 1 have the support of the honorable member?
– The honorable member is offering an ingenious bait.
– The Minister who interjects should remember that he is a trustee for the Australian people, and should not put his platform duty to his Western Australian constituents before the obligations of his oath of office.
– It is difficult to reconcile the protestations of support that we hear with the accompanying remarks, which are calculated to defeat the Bill.
– I do not understand the honorable gentleman’s cryptic utterance. I desire that Ministers should give their word that if South Australia refuses to consent to a proposal like that of the honorable member for Parkes, they will ask the electors, at the next general election, to say whether they desire this to be done.
– The honorable member is becoming a perfect demon for referenda.
– I see no objection to a referendum on a proposal of this kind. When one remembers that Western Australia, through its accredited representatives at the Federal Conventions, deliberately said that it did not want any railway construction within its own borders undertaken by the Commonwealth, and that that principle was inserted in the Constitution, one must recognise that it is only fair that we should ask the Australian public, before departing from the spirit of the Constitution, whether they want the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, as a whole, to shoulder this burden, in order to develop country in two States which, for some reason, are unable to agree between themselves to build this line. I have had the matter put to me so forcibly, both in and out of the chamber, by the honorable member for Perth, that I believe in the bona, fides of Western Australia, but I am very doubtful of the bona fides of South Australia. The more I look into its actions in the past, the more I am convinced that it has deliberately burked this matter, in order to get something out of the Federal Treasury, in this or some other direction. The representatives of that State will prove the truth of my contention if they refuse to accept some such proposal as that which I am making. It is for them to prove their bona fides, and I understand that the ex- Attorney-General, who is one of the best of them, is now going to endeavour to do so.
– From what have been described as the “cryptic remarks” of the Honorary Minister, one would imagine that all that remains for this Committee to do is to pass this Bill willy-nilly, without any stipulation, and for the Commonwealth to shoulder the burden and have done with it. I take it, however, that the Committee has a further function. It has laid upon it the responsibility of seeing that the Commonwealth is dealt with fairly, while the States themselves receive justice. The honorable member for Parkes is deserving of the commendation of honorable members for raising this question. He has told us that he is not wedded to the particular form of his amendment, and I believe that the Committee, as a whole, is of opinion that this Parliament should, if it can, reimburse itself for the outlay that it undertakes, out of the fund that will be created by the construction of the railway. In constructing the line, we shall not only link up those two parts of Australia that have hitherto been practically severed, but shall create a fund of many millions sterling, and make an absolute present of it to the two States concerned. I shall be greatly surprised if honorable members see anything unfair in a proposal that the Commonwealth should ask to be relieved of a little of the obligation which it will incur out of the fund that it will create by building the railway. I take it that when we have discharged our national obligation to link up South Australia and Western Australia by means of this line, we shall be free to consider any just business arrangement by which we may be, to some extent, recouped our outlay.
– Is not Western Australia pledged by resolution of its Parliament to give us this land?
– To reserve it.
– To reserve it with a view of recouping any outlay incurred on the construction of the Une to the extent that any increment arising from its construction will allow. We are largely thrown back upon our own resources in attempting to form an estimate of the amount of the increment fund that will be created by this railway. There are, however, good judges of the matter in the House, and I have tried to satisfy myself as best I can in regard to it. The best judges I can find tell me that the country, once it is pierced by this railway, will carry a large number of sheep.
– About one sheep to 10 acres.
– Very well. If we take a strip of country 100 miles wide - and I suppose the increment following upon the construction of the railway will be felt at least over 50 miles on each side of the railway - and 1,000 miles in length - we have a very considerable area. I saw, worked out to-day, a sum which gave 123,000,000 acres as the area likely to increase in value, because of the construction of the line. If that increment amounts to 2s. 6d. per acre-
– The land itself is not worth that.
– It may be worth nothing at the present time; I am talking of what it is likely to be worth after the railway has been built. The honorable member must not forget that this increment will express itself at both ends of the line. Wherever settlement springs up it will concentrate. I admit that it is largely guess work, but an average of 2s. 6d. per acre for the whole length of the line ought not to be an excessive estimate of the increment arising from the construction of the railway. That gives us £16,000,000 sterling. On the lowest computation we may set down the increment at anywhere between ^15,000,000 and £30,000,000. Let us, however, accept the lower figure. I know of no obligation under the Constitution, or in any compact entered into, that should cause us to make to the States concerned an unconditional gift of that increment whilst the Commonwealth itself loses money on the running of the railway. I see many objections to this proposal for taking the land from the States. We should have, for instance, to formulate, not merely a land policy, but a general terri.torial policy, so far as the development of those lands were concerned. Altogether, I can see a crop of troubles arising from the adoption of the principle in the amendment. Nevertheless, I think we are entitled to be recouped to the extent of the loss incurred in building the railway from the fund which the railway itself will create. I shall be greatly surprised if the Government of either South Australia or Western Australia objects to the application of that principle. I believe that both have been urging its adoption throughout their political lives, either as Governments or as individuals. The complexion of the Government is immaterial. This proposal is so impregnated with elemental fairness that it ought to appeal to any Government that may happen to be in power in either of the States. Whether we induce the States to agree to this arrangement or not the railway must be built. We must build the line for defence purposes alone. But we are all the more obligated to see if we cannot make an equitable business arrangement with them for the financing of the railway. I suggest to the honorable member for Parkes that he should withdraw his amendment and substitute another which I shall outline. It is only a rough one, and I am willing that the Government shall shape it in any way they think fit as long as the principle is preserved. What I propose is that we should introduce a third subclause providing that -
Before the construction of the line is entered upon the State Governments of South Australia and Western Australia respectively shall agree to contribute annually out of the land values created by the construction of the railway such sum as may be agreed upon, provided that the amount contributed shall not exceed the loss incurred annually in the maintenance of the said railway.
That would simply be a request for a very small modicum of the increment that will inevitably be created. If they object to that, they would object to anything.
– I think they would sooner let the Commonwealth have the land.
– I should be very much surprised if they did. If I were made a present of an increment of £15,000,000, and it is as likely to be £30,000,000 as £15,00,0000 throughout this huge country, I should not hesitate to foot a loss estimated by all the authorities at not more than from £60,000 to £80,000 for the first year and nothing at the end of ten years.
– Would the honorable member pay over any profits to the States when the line started to pay?
– I should hope that any profit on the line would go towards the reduction of freights and fares, and in the provision of facilities for getting across the continent.
– How can the States assess the unearned increment on land which they do not sell?
– If no revenue was derived from the land I take it that there would be no contribution.
– They could so’ arrange what revenue they would receive from the land that the Commonwealth would get no contribution.
– I would rather assume that the State Governments would act reasonably.
– According to Mr. Deane, a great deal of this land will carry only one sheep to twenty acres.
– In that estimate you have 3,000,000 sheep, and even at that distance from market a sheep is worth at least 5s. per annum. This would give three-quarters of a million net return. Capitalize this, and the figures show how great the’ fund is. Everybody who knows Mr. ‘ Deane knows that his estimates are always’ very conservative, and yet’ those figures show a tremendous increment out of which the loss could easily be made up. All the estimates agree that there must be some increment. If there is to be none, why do we want to open up the country ?
– How many sheep are running there now?
– Not many, because there are no facilities, and no water is stored. Mr. O’Connor’s estimate shows a loss to begin with of £68,000 and a profit of £18,000 at the end of ten years. The railway engineers, of whom Mr. Deane was chairman, estimated an opening loss of £86,000.
– It cannot be called an estimate where there are no data.
– I cannot conceive of all the railway engineers of Australia making an estimate without data. They say they went over the whole of the route, and that they know the country. They also estimate that at the end of ten years there will be a profit of £23,000.
– The loss of £86,000 is the loss on working?
– No, the cost of working shows a very big margin of profit. The deficit is arrived at when interest on the cost of construction is added. In view of all these estimates, we are asking the States concerned for a very small contribution, out of a fund which we first create, towards the cost of the line. I shall be very much surprised if there is any cavil on their part, and I hope the Government will accept the proposal, which they can mould and shape ‘in any way they think fit, so long as they preserve its principle.
.- The one redeeming feature of the debate this evening is the admission by the honorable member for Wentworth that he believes in the bona f.des of Western Australia. I am glad of that concession from the honorable member, because an undercurrent of fear lest Western Australia will not honour the pledges she has entered into in the past in respect of .this matter seemed to run through the rest of the speeches. Nay, more, it seems to be thought absolutely necessary to hind Western Australia down in this Bill to something like certainty regarding the meeting of any loss that may be incurred on the line. I have .yet to learn that Western Australia has in any way repudiated the obligations entered into on the occasions referred to by the honorable member for Lang. There need not be the slightest fear of any Government or party in Western
Australia falling away from the undertakings entered into a few years ago, but if any of the amendments mentioned to-night are carried, they will make it impossible for the railway to be proceeded with. The reason for that is to be found, not in Western Australia, but in South Australia. Each one of these proposals insists upon a certain amount of land being alienated from Western Australia and South Australia. The one stumbling block to this measure previously has been the attitude of South Australia, the final concession regarding the construction of the line being only wrung from her as a condition upon the taking over by the Commonwealth of the Northern Territory. But for that, it is more than doubtful if South Australia would have given her consent to this line running through her territory. Is it, therefore, to be thought that South Australia would consent to tie up such a large area of her territory in connexion with a measure that she has never really wanted to see passed? Would not the carrying of this proposal be an excellent excuse for that State to drop the project altogether ? That is bound to be the effect of the proposals that have been put before the Committee to-night. The honorable member for Lang entirely spoilt the effect of the interesting extracts that he read from Hansard by admitting that the proposals now before the Committee are entirely different from those referred to on that occasion. The debate at that time had reference to certain undertakings into which Western Australia was to be asked to enter regarding the reservation of land from sale. But the whole of this debate, at any rate until these amendments were moved a few minutes ago, had regard to proposals to alienate that land altogether from the State. Those of us who were prepared to make reservations of land that would still be under the control of Western Australia or South Australia are by no means bound, by any pledges we might then have made in that direction, to agree now to alienate those lands in fee simple. The two matters are entirely distinct. The honorable member for Flinders spoke last night on this question, and, of course, anything he says is always worthy of careful consideration, although his arguments must sometimes be carefully watched lest some fallacy may lurk in them. I do not say that it is intentional on the part of the honorable member, but the avidity with which he pounces on a. flaw in the logic of an opponent is only equalled by the air of unsophisticated candour with which he puts forward a fallacious argument of his own. He undoubtedly did that last night when he brought forward what he called the parallel case of the construction of the transcontinental line in Canada on the land grant principle. He argued that it was perfectly fair and proper for this Parliament to ask Western Australia and South Australia to concede land to the Commonwealth on the same principle as a quid pro quo for the construction of the railway. That, on the face . of it, looks a quite innocent and straightforward argument, but there is a great difference . between the two cases. When Canada constructed its first transcontinental line, it possessed large areas of territory through which the. railway ran, whereas there is not a single acre of land on the Australian transcontinental line in the possession of the Commonwealth. Then, again, the provinces of Canada did not give over to the Dominion Government their right of taxing the land, whereas South Australia and Western Australia are now asked to hand over land in” regard to which their powers of taxation will disappear altogether.
– What are the lands worth ?
– There is no doubt that these lands will yet have a very definite value, and that the taxation will be considerable.
– When the railway is constructed, yes !
– The railway will not give the lands all their value. In all probability the scheme of railway development that Western Australia is now pursuing will, in a few years, exploit these lands for the benefit of the settlers.
– Then why this railway ?
– Western Australia can construct railways only up to her own borders, and the people of that State, as members of the Australian community, with some national sentiment, and, with the honorable member for Parkes, some conception of the necessities of the Empire in regard to trunk lines, desire to see the larger scheme undertaken. I appeal to honorable members to consider whether it is a wise and practicable thing to alienate those large tracts of land from the States, and vest them absolutely in the Commonwealth? The honorable member for Parkes has not given us the slightest idea of how the lands are to be developed if they are to be taken over by the Commonwealth. He has not suggested how the settlement for pastoral and mining purposes, the education of the children, the policing, and other functions are to be undertaken. I feel sure that if this phase of the matter is kept carefully before honorable members, they will see at once that it is proposed that the Commonwealth shall take over an obligation it is not able to carry out. The Western Australian Government have entered into certain obligations in the past which, I believe, any subsequent Government will be prepared to fulfil. At a matter of” fact, I think the Western Australian Government, in regard to these undertakings, have already gone beyond what is really required. At any rate, that is their business; and I feel sure that if the matter is left as it stands, we shall have no trouble whatever with regard to an honorable and equitable arrangement.
– I understand that the honorable member foi Perth has practically admitted that a certain promise was made by the Western Australian Government.
– That was never denied.
– The honorable member for Lang quoted from a typewritten registered official paper, which showed that in 1904 the State Parliament of Western Australia discussed this matter. I find that certain suggestions were made to the State Parliament; and it may be pertinent to quote one or two remarks of the then Premier, Mr. Daglish, and Mr. Gregory, who, I presume, was then Minister of Mines. The State Parliament then unanimously passed a motion reserving 25 miles on either side of the railway. The honorable member for Perth, who was then sitting on this side, telegraphed to Mr. Daglish, indicating that it would help the passing of the Survey Bill if some intimation were made by the State Parliament that this land would be reserved.
– Do the State Government repudiate that motion now?
– The honorable member for Perth has cleared away some mists; but the impression to be gathered from the interjection by the Honorary Minister was that the Western Australian Government never at any time made a proposal for the reservation of land.
– I did not say that.
– Then I beg the Minister’s pardon; but that was the impression left until the honorable member for Perth spoke. However, I now wish to read an extended telegram which was sent to the Western Australian Government by the right honorable member for Swan. The debate in the State Parliament occurred on the 19th October, 1904, and I find that the typewritten memorandum is dated the following day. It is, therefore, evident that the Western Australian Government was exceptionally anxious that this Parliament should be informed on the question. The right honorable member for Swan telegraphed as follows -
Re Railway Survey. - Please consider whether you can approve and pass through Parliament the following . resolution : - “ That the Government of the Commonwealth should be informed that the Government agrees to reserve from sale all rural Crown lands for 25 miles on each side of the proposed route for the railway* from Kalgoorlie to the eastern boundary of the State, for such time as the Commonwealth Government may consider necessary, with a view to such lands being available for negotiation between this Government and the Commonwealth Government should the construction of the railway be approved by the Commonwealth Parliament.” If you could do this at once, it would greatly help us in getting the Survey Bill through. In my opinion, there is not the least objection to your doing this; as it will not interfere with leasing for mining or pastoral purposes, or with selling of town lots. If you approve, wire to the Prime Minister and to me at once.
But the State Government thought they would not commit themselves so far as suggested by the right honorable member, and they passed a resolution in the form read by the honorable member for Lang tonight -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Government should at once reserve from sale all rural Crown lands for 25 miles on each side of the proposed route. . . .
The resolution did not continue, as suggested bv the right honorable member for Swan, as to the negotiations in regard to the reservation, the Premier evidently being of opinion that Parliament ought, to have the power to rescind the motion if necessary. Mr. Daglish said -
The reservation will be of a temporary character, and will require to be undone by Parliament instead of being liable to he undone by the Ministry of the day. I think members will agree, therefore, that there is considerable justification for this course. We must recognise that there is strong need for action of this description, seeing that the same request for the reservation of the lands has come from two of our representatives who sit on different sides of the Federal Parliament. It is obvious, therefore, that the request has not been made for the purpose of serving either one party or the other. - -
Mr. Daglish went on to say ;
I am not prepared to recommend or propose the carrying of a motion to that effect - as suggested by the right honorable member for Swan - neither am I prepared to recommend the House to carry a motion inviting the opening up of negotiations in regard to this land by the Commonwealth Government; but I wish to point out to any one favouring that course that the mere reservation of the land will enable the opening up of negotiations by the Commonwealth Government should that Government desire to take steps in that direction, and, at the same time, the motion will not commit us dealing with this land in any particular way.
Mr. Gregory seconded the motion, and said ;
I fully concur that it would be hardly advisable at this early stage to pass such a motion as that suggested to the Premier.
He further said -
I do not think we should be justified in passing a motion through the House that the Government should negotiate at this stage.
It was clearly in the mind of the Western Australian Parliament that, at some future stage’, negotiations would be opened up by the “Federal Government with a view to obtaining a’ strip of land on either side. Therefore, when there is a request from this Parliament, asking for land on either side, the Western Australian Government will have a lively recollection of what occurred in 1904. I believe that if the request were made, as suggested by the honorable member for Parkes, an amicable arrangement could be arrived at by which the Commonwealth would greatly benefit and the people of Western Australia lose nothing. I am prepared at the present stage to support the latest amendment of the honorable member for Parkes, reserving to myself the right, should a more .acceptable amendment be proposed, to vote for that also.
.- Since the amendment was placed before the Committee two important facts have been made patent. One is that, at some time in our history, Western Australia was prepared to construct a line to the border, if South Australia would agree to carry it on to Port Augusta. This is evidence of the great value which the Western Australian people attach to the construction of the line. The other fact is that almost all the land on the South Australian portion is under Crown lease. These two facts have an important bearing on the Bill, and go far to ‘ support the amendment originally proposed by the honorable member for Parkes. I understand that that amendment has been altered, and that it is now proposed to transfer alternate blocks of 15 miles square. The alteration is material, but it is open to the objection stated by the honorable member for Perth. If we are to acquire any proprietary title to the land we must of necessity take on the obligations of ownership. I cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Parkes, but may support that foreshadowed by the honorable member for Lang. It has been contended by the representatives of Western Australia that the proposed line will be of great advantage to the whole of Australia. I admit at once that it will be of advantage to Australia to have all her capitals linked together by railways ; but the lines from Brisbane to Sydney, Sydney to Melbourne, and Melbourne to Adelaide, have been constructed at the expense of the States of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia; whereas, it is proposed that the line linking Adelaide and Perth should be constructed at the expense of the whole Commonwealth. We are entitled to give some consideration to Western Australia, in view of the fact that the country to be traversed is of comparatively poor quality. I know something from practical experience of the possibilities of loose, sandy, salt-bush country. Probably this land could not be profitably worked without a railway, but with a railway it would be a valuable asset. The South Australian land is already leased ; but the construction of the proposed line would increase its rental value, and I am sure that every leaseholder there would gladly enter into a bond to pay something in return for the benefits which would be conferred on him by railway communication. In my opinion, the States concerned should be made responsible for any loss in working expenses, the Commonwealth paying the interest on the cost of construction.
– Does the honorable member propose that the Commonwealth should ultimately compensate the States out of the profits of the line?
– -I anticipate that there will be no profits for many years to come, and that the returns will not pay for axle grease. At any rate, so long as the line is worked at a loss, the States which it chiefly benefits should pay the loss on the working expenses. My proposal is briefly this, that the State of South Australia and the State of Western Australia be required to vest in trustees areas of land contiguous to the railway, sufficient to produce an annual revenue to meet the annual loss on the working of the line, any revenue derived from the land so vested in excess of the annual loss to revert to the States to which the areas belong. A trust would be created in which certain land would be vested. The trustees would be responsible for the management of that land, and from the revenue derived would pay to the Commonwealth an amount equal to the loss on the working of the railway.
– Why not vest the land directly in the Commonwealth?
– There is an objection to the Commonwealth obtaining proprietary rights, because, if. it did, it would take upon itself obligations in regard to general control, education, and so on, which would be inconvenient, and the inconvenience would increase as other lines were constructed in other States, and other proprietary rights obtained. We must, however, safeguard the interests of the whole people, and what I propose will, I think, do that, If the States concerned are not willing to pay the loss on the working of the line, they are not entitled to consideration. It has been urged that the line is necessary for defence. I have never posed as a military expert, but I have a certain amount of common sense, and am satisfied that where there is practically no population, a line of railway of great length, so far. from being of advantage from a defence point of view, is a help to any enemy that may wish to use it for purposes of attack.
– The honorable member’s views are not in agreement with those of military experts.
– The views referred to are those of military experts, while I pose as a common-sense man who uses his reason. During the Russo-Japanese war, so long as Russia held Port Arthur,, the railway line behind was a valuable asset ; but when the Japanese obtained possession of that stronghold, the railway was used against the Russians. That would happen with us until our population had increased by some’ millions. So far from improving our defence, it seems to me likely that the proposed line may help our enemies.
.- Speaking on the second reading, I said that the Government had driven a very poor bargain in regard to this line, having committed the Commonwealth to the whole cost of construction, and a loss on working which must continue for an indefinite number of years. Furthermore, if the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge is adopted, the railways of Australia will have to be converted to that gauge, and the whole cost of altering the lines of South Australia and Western Australia will fall on the Commonwealth. The proposal of the honorable member for Parkes would not, in practice, give the best return to the Commonwealth for her expenditure, difficulties of administration making the scheme almost unworkable. To provide for the vesting of alternate blocks in the Commonwealth would increase these difficulties. But inasmuch as Western Australia and South Australia are being directly benefited at the expense of the Commonwealth, it is fair that, so long as the line is not paying,- the revenue from the land which the line increases in value should go to meet any deficit. I shall be prepared to vote for an amendment providing for that. I do not agree with what the honorable member for Echuca has said on the defence question, because I think that the line will be of distinct advantage in improving our defence.
– The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Parkes largely meets my views. When the Bill to provide for the survey of the route was before the House I opposed it on the ground that a business arrangement should be entered into providing that the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia should reserve on each side of the line an area sufficient to compensate the Commonwealth for the cost of construction. Al: though prices to-day are much higher than they were a few years ago, we find that the latest estimates of the cost of construction are lower than the earlier ones. I believe that it will cost, not £4,000,000, but a sum nearer £8,000,000, to build and equip the line. The honorable member for Parramatta has suggested that the amendment should be withdrawn in favour of another providing that the States should agree to contribute annually out of the land values created by the construction of the railway a sum to be agreed upon, provided that it shall not exceed the annual cost incurred in the maintenance of the railway. That would be a step in the right direction: An agreement of that kind could be made under which we should not only make good the annual loss, but provide a sinking fund to meet the capital cost, se that the railway in the end would involve the Commonwealth in practically no expenditure. All the land from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie back from settlement is not worth more than about 6d. per acre. The honorable member for Fremantle may tell us that it is worth many millions of pounds sterling, but I have known land on the Midland line in Western Australia to be sold within the last few years on twenty years’ terms at 3s. 9d. per acre. When a private company is prepared to sell land within the rainfall belt at that price, one can imagine what the country that will be traversed by this line fs worth at the present time. I have a knowledge of the rainfall of portion of Western Australia 300 or 400 miles from the coast. At Sandstone, for instance, a district which I occasionally visit, the rainfall for the year up to the end of July last was only 1 inch. A large sum would have to be expended in opening up this country and making it fit for occupation. It has been suggested that we might secure an artesian water supply, and, either by putting down bores or by water conservation schemes, make it fit for settlement. The revenue derived from the land along the line ought to be placed to the credit of a fund with a view of redeeming the capital cost of the railway. We should view this matter from a business stand-point. We have a heavy burden of taxation to bear, and whilst that taxation is being increased our population is practically diminishing. We should come to a business arrangement with the two States concerned, either to vest in the Commonwealth an area of land on each side of the railway, or to agree that the proceeds of the land sold along the route shall be placed to the credit of a fund to meet both interest and the capital cost. With bad seasons, how shall we be able otherwise to meet this burden? It is almost impossible for the mere handful of people in Australia to bear a further burden of taxation, and since this land to-day is absolutely valueless, and has cost the States nothing, either one of the proposals made from this side of the House ought to be adopted, since, in that way, justice would be done to the Commonwealth as well as to the States, and the rights of the people would be preserved.
– -There are one or two observations that 1 should like to make before the debate closes, and which I postponed until I had heard what other honorable members had to say. Since the submission of my original amendment the honorable member for Lang has unearthed from Hansard the opinions of a number of honorable members, which I am sure must have occasioned surprise to the Committee. The honorable member has shown that the Minister in charge of and defending this Bill in its unconditional form was, in 1904, an absolute advocate of the very proposal that I am now making. I know, from experience, that a Minister has often to modify some of the details of his own opinions; but never before have I heard of a Minister having to go back upon the whole of his views regarding a particular measure, merely because he happens to be in office. The quotations from Hansard which the honorable member for Lang has made, have completly borne out all that I said in regard to the right honorable member for Swan, and two or three other honorable members ; and I am perfectly satisfied that if those honorable members were now loyal to the principles which they advanced only a few years ago, the voting on the amendment would be very different from what it is likely to be. The honorable member for Perth has done his best to point out the difficulties that would arise from the transfer of this land to the Commonwealth ; and, since he seems to have impressed the honorable member for Echuca, and may also have impressed others, I should like to point out that it is impossible to include in every detail in one section of an Act a number of conditions such as I have attempted to outline in my amendment. No one expects that an amendment of this sort should cover every possible contingency. If it were attempted, a deed of agreement between the parties, embracing every detail, would have to be drawn up. All that I have attempted to do is to embody in the amendment the principle for which I am contending. If it be indorsed, it will be for the Government to put it into practical shape. The fact that it would involve difficulties in regard to the administration of the territory, is no answer to my contention. The difficulties that have been suggested arose in connexion with the Federal Capital and the large district surrounding it that has been taken over by the Commonwealth. And how did we overcome them? Merely by enacting that the laws of New South Wales shall apply to that Territory until the Commonwealth thinks fit to pass special laws relating to it. We could do the same in regard to this territory ; so that the arguments used by the honorable member for Perth, in no less than three speeches, are mere tricks of rhetoric - if he will allow ,me to say so - designed to frighten one or two honorable members. I am not wedded to the particular wording of my amendment; I am not young enough to want to fight for the particular words that I have used. The honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member tor Lang have each suggested an amendment that is equally valuable ; whilst another has been foreshadowed by the honorable member for Echuca. I do not care which is accepted. I simply desire the Committee to indorse the principle involved, and which a number of honorable members have recognised as sound. It seems to me that many honorable members, when their particular State is going to reap some advantage, are prepared to look upon the Commonwealth as a sort of milch cow. The representatives of South Australia and the representatives of Western Australia, to a man, have come here to oppose in every way any attempt to modify the terms of this Bill, which really amount to a great gift to those two States. It has been pointed out again and again that, whereas all the other States have constructed their great lengths of “ through ‘ ‘ railways at their own cost, these two States are prepared to leave it to the Commonwealth, and to allow it to carry out this work for them. If I were a citizen of South Australia or of Western Australia, I should be ashamed to allow the Commonwealth to do for those States what all the other States have done for themselves. If I were here as a representative of either of those two States, I should be ashamed to take up such an attitude as some have done, merely because my State was attempting to take from the Commonwealth this enormous sum of money. I say enormous, because the cost was estimated at £5,000,000 many years ago, and on a very modest estimate the cost of works of this kind has gone up at least 33 per cent. I believe it has gone up much more, and, if so, it means that the Commonwealth is going to take upon itself an obligation of, possibly, £7,000,000. The honorable member for Lang has revealed that the Western Australian Parliament actually acknowledged by Ministerial resolutions the necessity of taking some step of this kind in order to get the work carried out, and to recognise the obligations of the State to the Commonwealth. If a majority of the Committee intend to support the Bill in its unconditional form, they are recreant to the trust which the States as a whole are placing in them to deal fairly between the States and the Commonwealth. One honorable member said that we have blown hot and cold with regard to State rights. That is not so. It is a question of justice. No Court gives a verdict always for the plaintiff, or always for the defendant. When I saw the Government and the Labour party trying to steal, legislative powers from the States I fought for the States. When I see an attempt to make a milch cow of the Commonwealth, and take £7,000,000 out of the pockets of all the people to give it to two States, I fight for the Commonwealth. The man who says, “I am going to fight always for the States,” or “I am going to fight always for the Commonwealth,” no matter what the merits of the issue may be, does not understand his business, and ought not to be in the House. I do not expect the amendment to succeed, but I shall have considerable satisfaction in putting it on record that a number of us have recognised our real duty to the Commonwealth in protecting its funds, and the rights of the people of all the States. Whether we have half-a-dozen or a dozen supporters, I shall be content to have brought the matter forward and endeavoured to establish a sound principle in matters of this kind.
Question - That the proposed sub-clause be added (Mr. Bruce Smith’s amendment) -put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 24
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the following words be added : - (3.) In order to partially recoup the Commonwealth for the capital expenditure involved in the construction of the railway it shall be a further condition precedent to the work being entered upon that the States of Western Australia and South Australia respectively shall reserve from sale and vest in the Commonwealth all the Crown lands in alternate sections of ten miles square on both sides of the line as ultimately adopted (inclusive of the reservations required under the previous sub-section) along its whole length throughout the territories of the respective States. Provided also that no land shall be so granted within ten miles of the terminal points of the line.
As I indicated last night, I have adopted the principle of the previous amendment, the only difference between the proposal of the honorable member for Parkes and mine being practically the size of the area to be reserved or alienated. According to all the evidence before us, it is certain that this country must for all time be purely pastoral. There is no indication that it can ever become agricultural country. I have given the matter some thought, and have come to the conclusion that a block 10 miles square is the least area that should be given to any one who attempts to settle upon this country to make anything from it by grazing. I propose to take a block of that size from each side of the line alternately. There is, I think, no desire that the Commonwealth should ask for reservations approaching any settlement on which there has been expenditure, and an increment created; and this applies to intermediate, as well as terminal, areas, where there are likely to be mining developments. It has been made clear that at a period in the history of the negotiations, Western Australia was prepared to vest in the Commonwealth, practically 25 miles on each side of the line.
– To reserve, that is all.
– I join issue with honorable members on that point. The honorable member, when he spoke, did leave the impression that the Western Australian action applied only to reservation; but, having seen the report of the debate in the Western Australian Parliament, and the resolution unanimously passed, I feel convinced that there was to be, not only reservation, but alienation after negotiation. I am as anxious as any one to see this line constructed as rapidly as possible, not only for the purpose of connecting the east and the west, but as a link in the chain of the defence of the Commonwealth. I have, however, as trustee for my constituents, to remember that it is their money with which we are dealing. In asking for this reservation I am not asking for recoupment to the Commonwealth, but merely desire to show my constituents that they will be called upon to pay only a fair contribution on patriotic or sentimental grounds. Surely the Western Australian Government has no desire to treat the Commonwealth, who are trustees for the whole people, differently from the way in which they have treated private syndicates.
– The Western Australian Government have had to buy back the syndicate reservations.
– At an exceedingly high price; and the fact strengthens my argument. The amendment does not ask the Western Australian Government to give land for the enrichment of private individuals, but to give land to the whole people, including those of Western Australia, who, of course, will benefit more directly than others in other parts of the Commonwealth.
.- We have arrived at a stage when we might reasonably try to find out where we are in the matter of guarantees. There seems to be a consensus of opinion, except among members for the States which are backing up their carts to the Federal Treasury, that’ it is necessary that there should be guarantees in the interests of the Federal taxpayers. But whilst agreeing on the principle, every one seems to have his own way of arriving at a sound result. The question is too important to rush when the mind of the Committee is somewhat inchoate as at present.
– It is a question between 15 miles square and 10 miles square.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie, who is a Minister of the Commonwealth on normal occasions, hut on this occasion is a delegate for Western Australia, is attempting to burke the issue. There is involved something more than a mere reduction from 15 miles square to 10 miles square - there is a new consideration altogether - if I understood the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina - namely, that any locality whatever along the route, where it is anticipated closer settlement will result, shall remain with Western Australia and South Australia. Country carrying a heavy stock of white ants is to be given to the Commonwealth, but country likely to have any settlement
– In consequence of the railway
– Such country has to remain for ever vested in the two States. That is a new principle, and no amount of special pleading on the part of the Honorary Minister can blind us to the fact. I suggest that this is a convenient hour to report progress so that we may start on the problem with fresh minds in the morning. lt is obvious that in its present temper the Committee will not make progress tonight.
Bill presented by Mr. Thomas, and read a first time.
Purchase Telephone Lines - Sugar Commission - Statements of the Honorable Member for Lang - Mr. Wade and the Liberal Party.
Motion (by Mr. Thomas) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I ask the Postmaster-General, in connexion with the Bill of which he has just moved the first reading, if he will lay on the table a copy of the original contract entered into by his Department with the owners of private telephones?
– I desire to announce the names of the gentlemen who are to form the Sugar Commission. Sir John H. Gordon, Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, is to be its chairman, and the other members will be the Hon. Albert Hinchcliffe, M.L.C., Mr. Robert M. McC. Anderson, Mr. R. M. Shannon, and Mr. Thomas William Crawford. The Commission will inquire into and report upon the sugar industry in Australia, and more particularly in relation to the interests of the growers of sugar-cane and beet, manufacturers of raw and refined sugar, the workers employed in the sugar industry, and the producers and consumers of sugar.
– Will the Minister tell us who these gentlemen are? Is not Mr. Hinchcliffe the managing director of the Brisbane Worker?
– He is secretary to the Australian Labour Federation, and, I believe, connected with the Worker newspaper. Mr. Anderson is a commercial man in Sydney, and a partner in the firm of Allan Taylor and Company. Mr. Shannon is a Sydney barrister, and a cane-grower in Mackay, and Mr. Crawford is president of the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the House a newspaper report of an address delivered the other night to his constituents by the honorable member for Lang. It is as follows : -
Mr. W. E. Johnson referred to the extraordinary condition of affairs prevailing in the State and Federal Parliaments as a result of the mal-administration of public affairs under Labour-Socialist rule. Political life, he said, had in the past 12 months been dragged down to the lowest level, and the very name of Parliament had been made to stink in the nostrils of decent people. A system of despotic tyranny had been set up to stifle and silence the voice of the people’s chosen representatives, and the principles of liberty and justice had been ruthlessly dethroned and trampled under foot ; while at the same time the worst features of the American political system, including that of the black list and “ spoils to the victors,” had been introduced. Coercion by starvation was openly proclaimed as the doctrine and policy of the party now in power, and those who objected to be coerced into joining unions and sacrificing their freedom of conscience were told they must “ get off the earth.” And all this, too, while the party was loudly professing the principle of freedom and equal opportunity for all.
Those words are a reflection on this Parliament. To my mind it is treasonable for any one to speak in such terms of an institution of which he is a member. I think that I am justified in drawing attention to the character which the honorable member for Lang has given to this Parliament. He speaks of it as being “ dragged down to the lowest level.”
– His remarks, whether true or not, were epigrammatic.
– I do not know that the honorable member for Parkes relishes having them applied to him. If Parliament has been dragged down to the lowest level, he is partly responsible. I do not know whether it is within your province, Mr. Speaker, to protect the dignity and good name of Parliament, or whether these statements must go unchallenged.
– This comes well from a man who only to-day was making charges against a party in this House. Satan reproving sin.
– I have never in my wildest moments used language like that which I have just read.
– The honorable member could not ; he would take ten pages of Hansard to say as much.
– I do not occupy hours at a stretch in reading from newspapers.
– I acknowledge the authorship of my statements.
– What I put into Hansard is my own composition, not the thoughts of others. I am not a plagiarist, like the honorable member, who has to pirate other persons’ ideas to make a decent speech.
– Did the honorable member for Lang speak of this Parliament?
– Of the “ State and Federal Parliaments.” With regard to the interjection of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I say, without hesitation, that if Mr. Wade wishes to clear himself of the imputations which are generally believed regarding him in the Mother State, that he is paid so much a year out of the Liberal party’s funds, which we know are drawn largely from the employers’ unions, he will institute an audit of the party’s expenditure during the referenda campaign and the late by-elections.
– Such an audit was openly offered if an audit of the Trades Hall accounts would also be allowed.
– If Mr. Wade will procure a statement, authenticated by an independent auditor, of the Liberal party’s receipts and expenditure, and it shows that he did not directly or indirectly receive payment for the services he rendered, he will clear himself of the imputation. The honorable member for Parramatta knows as well as -I do that thousands of pounds were spent in New South Wales, and the money was not provided by the members of the Opposition, but came from the employers’ unions generally. The honorable member for Parkes entered so vigorously into the referenda campaign that his energy was a surprise to those, who knew him. He was at the beck and call of every one. It would be interesting to know whether all his expenses were paid out of his own pocket, or whether a good deal of his enthusiasm was not engendered by contributions from the funds available to his party.
– Where did the money come from which was expended by the La boutparty in the Mudgee electorate? There were fifteen motor cars in one constituency.
– I can tell the honorable member that there were a number of people, admirers of the Labour party, who were quite prepared to put up their money, on the butty-gang system, to hire whatever motor cars were required. They made these voluntary contributions towards our fight. There was no secrecy about the matter at all. I venture to say that the honorable member for Parkes would not like to see published a true audit of the accounts of his party. Neither would the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, nor the Honorable Charles Gregory Wade, like it.
– As far as I am concerned, I do not care a pin.
– I am satisfied that if such a report were published, we should hear the last of the Liberal party. It would be a “ dead finish “ for them. We are as satisfied on that score as is the honorable member for Parkes, who goes into heroics about the matter.
– The honorable member is never happy unless he is making dirty charges against somebody.
– Order I The honorable member must withdraw that statement, and I ask him not to make, such a remark again.
– Well, I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker.
– We had better withdraw this mud-raking altogether.
– lt is necessary to purify the atmosphere. We know, when honorable members opposite cry out, that we are treading on a soft spot. The honorable member for Parkes is actually blushing like a young maiden. Anybody to look at him would know that he is guilty - as guilty as any man ever was.
– If I did not think that the honorable member was. simply a huge joke out of a Punch and Judy show, I should answer him.
– There are timeswhen even the honorable member for Parkes ‘ can be funny.
– The honorable member excites mv humour. I must say.
– I will guarantee that if there had been no funds in the Liberal exchequer the honorable member for Parkes’ would not have put up such a vigorous campaign.
– What is the use of being deliberately insulting?
– He cannot help it. It is the nature of the beast.
– I am satisfied that if Charles Gregory Wade will produce a balance-sheet, and it does not show that he has received-
Mr.McWilliams. - Why did not the honorable member say this on the platform, and give Mr. Wade a chance to reply ?
– I have said it on the platform.
– Say it again.
Mr.McWilliams. - This is a cowards’ castle, where the honorable member can say what he likes.
– The honorable member must not make statements about cowardice. There is no cowardice here. I am not afraid to make statements anywhere. When I wasfighting the election, I made a statement from the platform with regard to another candidate. The next day I received a lawyer’s letter containing the usual threat - the usual bluff to try to silence an enemy who is dealing effective blows. I was told that ‘ if I did not apologize in the two newspapers that day, a writ would be issued for my arrest, and that various other penalties would be imposed. However, I did not apologize, and the writ has never tome to hand. It would be the same in this case.
– Perhaps the other candidate did not think the honorable member worth powder and shot.
– I have faced the honorable member for Parkes in a Court before now, and he knows that I should be able to dealwith him. I could get a verdict every time. However, I think the honorable member for Lang owes an apology to the House for the statements contained in the report of his speech at Corowa.
– As I have been asked a question concerting the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Gwydir, and as I have been invited to take action, I have to point out that it is not within my province to take notice of such a matter at all. It is within the province of the House itself, or, if any honorable member feels aggrieved in connexion with anything that has been done, he can submit a motion of privilege dealing with it.
..- Too much has been made of the remarks of the honorable member for Lang. It will be remembered that when it was proposed to inaugurate the Australian Navy the honorable member made a statement to the effect that it was proposed to drive British warships out of the ocean. It will also be remembered that the honorable member on one occasion went to the Northern Territory, where he sat on a log and thought he had been sitting on an alligator. It must be recognised that a man who can make statements of that kind is addicted to talking in an exaggerated fashion in public. The other ridiculous statements attributed to him, which have appeared in the press within the last few days, are not, therefore, a matter for wonder. The public will be able to appraise the honorable member’s remarks at their true value.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 October 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111005_reps_4_60/>.