5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the Argus of Wednesday last, in a statement regarding the Government Preference Prohibition Bill, there is a reference to me in the following terms -
Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes had welcomed the question for the purpose of a test before the electors and profess to be assured that it will ring the political death knell of their opponents.
That is quite inaccurate. I have looked through the Hansard report of my speech, and I find there nothing to warrant the statement. The article continues -
He and other members of his party have asserted that it is an insidious and deadly blow at the whole principle of unionism.
That, too, is inaccurate, there being nothing in my speech to warrant it. In today’s Argus, in a leading article dealing with the motion of no confidence moved by the Leader of the Opposition, the following statement occurs -
In the first place, the Ministry adjourned the House of Representatives and gave Mr. Fisher an opportunity to state his no-confidence case. He was followed by the Rupert of debate, Mr. Hughes; but it was then found that nothing new was alleged, but that stale charges already repeated ad nauseam had been put up like dummies, so that the Ministry might again slay the slain and assist the Opposition to further obstruct business. Therefore the Ministry, in the exercise of its rights under the Standing Orders, placed the bogus motion at the bottom of the notice-paper.
That, again, is inaccurate. It was not after I had spoken, but while I was speaking, and before I had formulated any charges, that the debate was interrupted.
Head-lines in Speeches.
– I desire to address a question, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Treasurer, and to those who have control of the publication of Hansard. In a reprint of a speech delivered by the Treasurer on the second reading of the Loan Bill, a speech which we were good enough to allow him to read-
– The right honorable member always read his speeches.
– I did not. I have never introduced’ a Loan Bill.
– The right honorable member always read his Budget speeches.
– Certainly. In the reprint to which I refer, the various parts of the speech are preceded by headings, among which I find the following -
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Railway in the Northern Territory - Railway in Papua - Land for Postmaster-General’s Department - Land for Defence Department - Conduits and Undergrounding of Wire - Machinery, &c., Cockatoo Island - London Offices - How the Money is to be Raised - Reply to the Criticism of the Budget by the ex-Treasurer - Programme for the Future - Conclusion.
I understand that when other honorable members have asked permission to do what the Treasurer has done in this respect, permission has been refused by him, and I wish, therefore, to know whetherMinisters, in this matter, have privileges other than those enjoyed by private members of the House ? I understand that members are prepared to pay the ordinary rates for the reprinting of their speeches, and to agree to their publication under the same conditions as those under which the Treasurer’s speech has been re-issued in pamphlet form.
– Looking through my notes, I find the following memorandum regarding the reprinting of the speches of honorable members -
The House of Representatives on the 25th August, 1909, considered the question of the introduction of head-lines in the reprints of the Hansard reports of honorable members’ speeches on the motion of Mr. Deakin (volume L., page 2093):-
That the Printing Committee, in conjunction with the Printing Committee of the Senate, have power to draw up rules in regard to the headings in reprints of speeches fromHansard supplied to honorable members at their own expense.
Various amendments were proposed and negatived, and the following substituted motion was finally agreed to : -
That the only reprints permitted be an exact reproduction of Hansard, but speeches already ordered by members, with crossheadings, shall be printed and delivered.
Although the determination of the House related exclusively to the reprints of members’ speeches, it was suggested in the course of the debate that, subject to certain regulations, honorable members should be permitted to introduce head-lines into their speeches when revising their proofs. No action, however, was taken in the matter of introducing head-lines into the Hansard report, although permission was given to members to break up their speeches into paragraphs.
– I ask. you, sir, whether you will give the House your views on the question I put to you last, that is, as to whether in this regard Ministers have any privileges other than those enjoyed by ordinary members of the House? I ask for the same privileges for ordinary members as have been exercised by the Treasurer.
– So. far as I am aware, there are no privileges belonging to Ministers in this regard which are denied to other members.
– I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, that Ministers have privileges which other honorable members have not.
– In regard to Hansard?
– No, but in regard to many other things. The question was an open one. I would remind my right honorable friend that he had, for instance, a motor car which was not available to every other member of the House.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you consider that the conduct of the Prime Minister’ in referring to the motor car which is available to, and used by, him is in keeping with his position and the dignity of the House?
– Unfortunately, I cannot know beforehand what a member who rises is going to say. I see no relation between privileges in regard to the reprinting of speeches and the Ministerial use of motor cars. Such remarks are not in keeping with the dignity of the House or with the reputation of honorable members.
– May I make an explanation ? I am aware of the decision of the House which you, sir, have read, though I have not seen it for a year or two. I believe that it has been complied with; it was certainly complied with so far as my own speeches were concerned when I was a private member. I submit, too, that the action that I have taken as Treasurer is not iri any way contrary to it. The decision relates to reprints of speeches from Hansard by the Government Printer at the expense of the members concerned. In regard to the two speeches that have been printed for the Treasury
– And sent all over Australia.
– Only a few hundred have been printed.
– Are they reprinted at the expense of the Treasury?
– They have been printed at the request of the Treasury, and paid’ for by the Treasury. Every honorable member has received one or more copies, and I think that they have proved a convenience to them.
– Were these reprints paid for by the Treasury?
– Yes. The printing of the speeches on the Budget and Loan Appropriations does not come within the resolution passed by the House, nor were they paid for from the parliamentary vote. It is a proposition to me that it should be held that the Government Printer, who is under the direction of the Treasurer in regard to all printing not ordered by the House, cannot execute printing for the purposes of the Treasury. If that were so, then the only alternative would be to have such speeches printed by some private firm. I do not think that I am accustomed to offend by incurring unnecessary expense, but I do think that an important statement like the Budget and Loan Bill speeches should be printed in a form most convenient for Treasury purposes and for those who wish to read it. I am sure that the printing of these financial statements in separate pamphlets has proved of some convenience to honorable members, and has enabled them to readily turn up every subject dealt with. I, personally, never objected to the introduction of headlines in reprints from Hansard. I think they are very convenient, and the old system would not have been altered if it had not been abused. I consider that I have not infringed the resolution of the House dealing with this matter, nor have I in any way interfered with it.
.- I ask the leave of the House to make a statement.
– I have no feeling in this matter, but I think that the Treasurer is in error in suggesting that no speech, save the Budget statement, has been reprinted and distributed by the Treasury, or any other Department, at the expense of that Department. The speech made by the Treasurer in introducing the Loan Bill has been reprinted in this way. If that can be done, then a speech made by a Minister in introducing any other Bill may be reprinted in the same way. If Ministers can do this while private members cannot, then an anomaly arises. Private members will be compelled to have the Hansard reports of their speches reprinted by private firms, while Ministers may have reprints sent out, according to the Treasurer, bythe Government Printer, at the public expense, and in any form they desire.
– That could not be done with all speeches.
– All that I ask on behalf of the Opposition is that they may have the same rights and privileges in this regard as are enjoyed by the Treasurer himself. The right honorable gentleman to-day issued an instruction that the privilege enjoyed by him in this respect should not be extended to a member of the Opposition.
– I gave no instruction in the matter. I said that I would have nothing to do with it - that it was a question for the House.
– The honorable member to whom I refer is prepared to pay for the reprint and for the additional cost involved by the introduction of headings, which he is quite willing should be approved, if desired, by the Government Printer and the Treasurer.
– Alter the rule.
– The Government can do this sort of thing for themselves. Why cannot others do it? They are a lovely lot, carrying on in that way.
– I ask for honorable members on this side of the House neither more nor less than is enjoyed by honorable members opposite in regard to this matter, and in order to support what I have said in regard to reprints of the Treasurer’s speeches,. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to accept this copy of the reprint from Hansard of a speech made by the right honorable gentleman.
– I should like, with the permission of the House, to say a word or two on this matter.
– I confess that I have a good deal of sympathy with my right honorable friend in this matter. While I do not agree that Ministers should not do in these matters what a private member of the House may not do, I think that on the whole it is a good and salutary rule that there ought to be no preference in respect of reprints of speeches from Hansard, so long as they relate to the ordinary business of the House. The Leader of the Opposition, however, will be aware that there are special privileges appertaining to Ministers in this regard. For instance, it is the ‘custom, I understand, for the substance of a Budget speech to be cabled Home at the expense of the Commonwealth. That is a privilege which obviously could not be extended to every member.
– I did not ask for that.
– Quite so, but I am merely establishing, first of all, the point that there are some things as to which there is not an equal privilege in the House except in this way-
– As a Ministerial act?
– Yes. Matters relating to the general finances of the country are supposed to be representative of the opinions of every honorable member, so long as they are not of a party colour.
This is only another instance of the way that we destroy our own privileges. Time was when any honorable member could introduce head-lines into reprints from Hansard of speeches delivered by him, but abuses crept in, and we found honorable members - I shall not particularize them ; every one who was here at the time knows that what I say is correct- actually beginning to make their head-lines abusive personalities. It was that which led to the curtailment of this privilege.
– That could be covered by regulation.
– The House wisely - or unwisely - decided to regulate it by abolishing the privilege. The speech delivered by the Treasurer on the Loan Bill, the reprint of which has been referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, is only a part of the financial proposals of the Government, and in its broad aspect is more or less non-party. Anything relating to the general finances of the country is considered to stand in a category of its own. I submit, therefore, that, in this case, the Treasurer had a right, if he thought fit so to dor, to head-line that reprint, as long as the head-lines had no party significance:
– Is there any objection to honorable members generally doing likewise ?
– I candidly confess that I can see none; but everything depends on ‘the use, as distinguished from the abuse, of the privilege.
– I agree with that.
– And should they be printed at the expense of the country, instead of at the expense of the honorable member concerned?
– No. I think that, in ordinary circumstances, there should be two conditions. First of all, the head-lines should . have no party significance
– And should not be personalities.
– And should not consist of personalities. I refer to headlines merely intended to indicate the whereabouts of certain statements, and for the purpose of handy reference.
– Who is going to supervise in order to insure this ?
– I am now merely stating the facts. I do not think that those speeches should be printed at the expense of the Government, but at the expense of honorable members who desire them
Mr. Fisher. Hear, bear ! That is what I am after.
– The rest seems a matter of regulation; and I am afraid we cannot frame one just at present, though we can think over the matter.
– But this speech with the head-lines has been printed in Hansard.
– I have pointed out that this speech stands in a category all its own.
– The Budget speech? I agree with that.
– And I say that the loan proposals are part of the Budget speech.
– No, no.
– I think so. I do not see how they can be separated; they are part and parcel of the general financial proposals of the Government; and there is hardly a fact stated in the Loan Bill speech that was not stated beforehand in the Budget speech.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether he thinks it wise to allow the Treasurer to do this kind of thing, and not allow an ordinary member to do it?
-There is a distinction in regard to matters which stand in a category of their own, but as to ordinary matters I think there should be no distinction. Ministers are_not entitled, .1 take it, to any privileges that are not common to the House.
– What about a critical speech on the Loan Bill?
– In regard to that I see no objection, so long as the head -lines are proper and not personal; but that will have, to be a matter to be regulated.
– Does the Prime Minister think that the matter should be decided by the Treasurer or by the Speaker?
– It is not decided by the Treasurer; I have given no directions.
– I am told by the Government Printer that the Treasurer has done so.
– The Leader of the Opposition will believe what I say, I suppose ?
– I am told that all the Treasurer did was to direct attention to the rule laid down by the House. In any case, I see no head-lines in the speech referred to.
– Yes; for instance, “ Public Debts,” on page 1789.
– I should like to point out that those head-lines were on the papers and” were put in as part of the speech.
– Why were they taken out of the permanent Hansard?
– I do not know.
– It was a mistake, I suppose
– It is an admission that the Treasurer has done wrong.
– Let us deal with the future; what are we going to do?
– I cannot do anything for the future. The House has put an embargo on head-lines, and only the House can remove the embargo.
– But the Treasurer is using head-lines in spite of the House.
– Not in Hansard.
– It was in error, I think. They are not in the permanent
Hansard, though they may have been in the proof issue.
– Can any honorable member have the same privilege as the Treasurer t
– Order ! Will honorable members remain silent?
– As usual, honorable members are trying to apply the “ gag “ ° the Prime Minister, and the present is, perhaps, as effectual a way as any. As I say, I do not think there ought to be any distinction in regard to ordinary speeches; but, as to matters affecting the finances of the country, immemorial custom and usage have always differentiated between Ministers and others, not only in this House, but, I should say, in every British Parliament throughout the Dominions. For my part, I should not object in the slightest if the system of head-lines were reverted to, care being taken by some regulative process to provide that they are not used as an opportunity for personal abuse and vilification. I have just had put into my hands a suggestion made by Mr. Deakin when this matter was under discussion. That gentleman proposed that the Printing Committee of the House, in conjunction with the Printing Committee of the Senate, should have power to draw up rules in regard to headings in reprints of speeches from *Hansard supplied to honorable members at their own expense. I do not know whether any such regulations are operative now.
– As a matter of fact, when this matter was under discussion the House was in an excited’ and incensed mood, and, as often happens under such circumstances, cold reason was lost sight of.
– I think that the honorable gentleman was in power at the time.
– I do not know that that affects the fact. The regulation suggested by the then Government was rejected; and I think we might very well now restore some such regulation, and thus get over the difficulty.
– I may say that my attention was drawn by the Hansard staff to head-lines in a proof issue, and I gave instructions that these were not to appear in the revise, and that, in accordance with the decision of the House,
– I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you have given instructions with regard to reprints for. which applications are now made. It appears, however, that head-lines have appeared in two reprinted speeches of the Treasurer, and I wish to know whether every member of the House will be able to exercise the same right as that exercised by the right honorable gentleman in the case of his Budget speech and his speech on the Loan Bill ?
– So far as concerns the reprints of speeches published at the expense of honorable members, I do not see that I can have any control; all I am concerned about is what appears in Hansard. The previous decision of the House regarding reprints will be adhered to until otherwise ordered.
– Will the Prime Minister now, with the leave of the House; submit a motion referring the whole matter to the Printing Committee?
– I shall take the matter into consideration - perhaps by tomorrow.
Colonel RYRIE. - Is the Prime Minister aware that the Deputy Commissioner for the Maternity Allowance in New South Wales is refusing applications which are late, regardless of satisfactory explanation or reasonable excuse offered by the applicants. A case which came under my notice this morning is that of a woman ‘ who was given to understand by a nurse that she could not make the application until the expiration of three months. At the end of that period she made the application, and she then found that a certificate of the birth had to- be obtained from the registrar of births, deaths, and marriages, and attached to the application. The husband went to the registrar, who failed to make the certificate out within the time. T.t was his fault, but the Deputy Commissioner for Maternity Allowances said he regretted very much that as the claim was
– The Act provides definitely that unless the allowance is applied for within three months it cannot be paid, but a few cases have been brought under my notice in which the time has elapsed, and the applicants have asked for consideration, making some good excuse for not applying in time. I think that in the cases that have come before me I have been able to approve of the payment, but the money has to be paid out of the Treasurer’s Advance. It cannot be charged ,to the Maternity Allowance Act, because the Act is quite definite on the point. I would advise the honorable member to make an application, and state the facts. He may depend upon it that I will carefully consider any genuine case.
– In connexion with a very deserving case which I submitted to the Treasurer for consideration recently under the Maternity Allowance Act, the child having died about three hours after birth, and the allowance having been refused, I desire to ask the Treasurer if he will give the matter favourable consideration on the same terms as he offered to the honorable member for North Sydney. Will he consider the advisability of making a grant from the Treasurer’s Advance ?
– I am not prepared to say that; but I would remind the honorable member that, although I am the head of the Department, I have not the decision in regard to the payment of the allowances, as the Commissioner’s decision is final.
– That is all you do; you send me back to the man who gave the decision.
– I do not see all the cases that go to the Commissioner, but if the honorable member will bring the matter specially under my notice, I shall be glad to look into it. It was, I believe, a question as to whether the child was viable or not.
– The child lived for three hours.
– I think it was decided that it was not a case under the law. As I informed the honorable member, the decision does not rest with me.
– Has the Minister of External Affairs yet received a report of the meeting of the British Cotton Growers Association held recently, and can he tell the House what decision has been arrived at, particularly with regard to the offer of £500 by the Commonwealth Government to secure the visit or an expert to Australia ?
– I think £500 was set aside some time ago towards the expenses of an expert from the British Cottongrowers Association to visit Queensland and the Northern Territory, and report upon the possibility of growing highgrade long staple cotton there. On 22nd October, a conference was held at the Colonial Office, and it was then decided that no good could come by sending out an expert for the purpose mentioned, but that it would be of great advantage if a specialist were sent out and attached to the Queensland Department of Agriculture at a salary of, say, £500 a year, which the British cotton-growers said they would supplement to the extent of £100 a year, and that that expert might be used for the purpose of advising and making experiments so as to help the growers. The matter was referred to the Department of Trade and Customs, who, I think, agreed with the suggestion, which was subsequently communicated by me to the High Commissioner.
– Have the Government taken any action upon the report received from the Conference of Inter-State health officers, which has just been sitting in connexion with the small-pox outbreak in New South Wales? Have the Government removed the embargo, and what action have they taken to protect the other States of the Commonwealth ?
– We received the reports yesterday, and they have now been despatched to the different States. The matter is receiving the attention of the Administration, but nothing definite has been done.
– After the recent elections many statements were made regarding impersonation and other abuses of the Electoral Act, and several weeks ago the House agreed to the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into these alleged irregularities. Has any action been taken to appoint that body? It seems to me that unless action is taken quickly, those interested might forget important incidents.
– I hope the Commission will be appointed shortly. I do not know why there should be so much keenness on this point on the part of honorable members on the other side, since their party have already taken steps to appoint a tribunal of their own for the same purpose.
– A statement has appeared in the press cables that the Government are inviting tenders for the construction of a steamer in England. Will the Minister of External Affairs say if that statement is correct ?
– I have not seen the matter inthe press. It may be a steamer for service in Papua that is intended. Plans were drawn up some time ago for such a steamer, and I think tenders have been called for by this time.
– I ask the Minister of External Affairs if he does not think it would be better that a boat of that capacity, especially for the tropics, should be built of wood, and could be more cheaply built in Australia ?
– Not having seen the newspaper paragraph, I cannot say whether it is correct, but about five months ago plans and specifications for a steamer were drawn up in Sydney by, I think, a naval architect. When the matter came before me, I thought it best to have tenders called for in England as well as in Australia, in order to check the estimates of cost, but it has not been determined to order a steamer in England. The advantages of building a vessel in Australia will, other things being equal, be taken into consideration. As to the suggestion that the vessel should be constructed of wood, that is a matter for experts. I have also considered the possibility of buying locally. Only this morning I had the offer of a steamer, and that offer is now under consideration.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if it is a fact that the Defence Department is importing sixteen ammunition waggons, notwithstanding that these vehicles have been made here in the past?
– I am not aware, but I shall endeavour to give the honorable member an answer to-morrow.
– I ask the permission of the House to make a brief statement upon a matter which I am not able to approach in any other way.
– Last week I put a question to the Prime Minister about a matter which he promised to consider, giving me a reply to the question this week. As I have not had a reply, I ask him again what is the position of a member who challenges a regulation that has been laid on the table. The honorable gentleman was ungenerous enough to say, when replying to my former question, that the challenging of regulations was another method devised for the holding up of the business of the House. I am sure that I cannot be charged with attempting to do that, and I do not think that he intended his words to apply to me. May I put the converse position ? If the Government of the day, when a regulation is challenged, refuses to give opportunity for the discussion of the motion which challenges it, or takes action to prevent the discussion of that motion, does it not make it possible for the business of the country to be conducted by regulation? I wish to know whether the fact that 1 have challenged a certain regulation prevents it from becoming law. It would be a very serious position if a Government, should it so desire, could prevent the discussion of motions for the disallowance of regulations, and thus rule the country by regulation, without hindrance. I ask the Prime Minister what decision he has come to in this matter.
– I have no decision to communicate to the House, and must confess that I overlooked the matter. The consideration that weighs in my mind is this: If regulations are to be challenged, and the motions of challenge are to be discussed in every case, it may mean the paralyzing of the business of Parliament.
– No; because the motions could be brought on and dealt with.
– Yes, but as new regulations are pouring out from the printing office every day, there could be motions of challenge every day, and their discussion would paralyze the business of Parliament. My recollection is that the regulation which the honorable member for Herbert has challenged is one framed by the Public Service Commissioner, providing that when a postal official is on holidays, away on sick leave, or absent for any other cause, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of a State may transfer an officer to the vacancy caused by his absence without reference to head-quarters. That regulation really cuts off so much redtape. I ask whether a small matter of internal administration of that kind should occupy time and attention, and elbow out the important public business of the country.
– But the regulation challenged might be an important one.
– If a motion challenging any regulation, important or unimportant, had priority, there would be no more easy way of hanging up the business of Parliament than by challenging regulations.
– The honorable member merely asks that the regulation shall not be enforced until an opportunity for its consideration by the House has been given.
– As I pointed out the other day, if a regulation may not be enforced until it has received the ratification of the House by motion or otherwise, the Public Service would be held up by these challenges. The question has only been newly raised, and I hope that the honorable member for Herbert will give us time to look into the whole matter. If we find that it is the law that these regulations cannot be enforced, if challenged, until the challenge has been disposed of, the law must be altered at the earliest moment in the interests of the business of the country.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House when he is likely to receive a progress report from the Inter-State Commission respecting Tariff anomalies?
– I am not in a position to say. The Inter-State Commission has published a list of items submitted to it in regard to which it has invited public attention, but it has not yet taken evidence about them. I understand from an interview that I have had with the Commissioners that they will proceed to deal with these matters as soon as they can.
– Some time ago, I brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral the state of certain post-offices in Sydney - the General Post Office, and the office in Oxford-street, and he promised that he would visit Sydney as soon as the quarantine embargo was removed. I wish to know whether he will take the earliest opportunity to make that visit, as I am in a position to assure him that he will not now have to be vaccinated if he goes to Sydney?
– I shall visit Sydney as soon as the quarantine embargo is removed.
– Has any further step been taken towards the collection of the sugar Excise, or has any money been collected from those who owe Excise?
– The matter is being dealt with by the Comptroller-General with the utmost expedition.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether the Minister will be good enough, when amending Regulations (Provisional) for Universal Training, or cancelling same, to print the regulation which is being amended or cancelled, and also give reason For said amendment or cancellation?
– Arrangements will be made to, as far as practicable, comply with the request to print the regulation which is being amended or cancelled. With regard to giving the reason for amendments or cancellations, it is pointed out that a statement which explains the reasons for the amendments is attached to each Statutory Rule laid before Parliament.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: - 1 and 2. The circular in question has been withdrawn, and the officers informed in this connexion that in selecting election officials the test of ineligibility must be confined to partisanship or inefficiency. 3 and 4. The instructions of the Central Administration are that election officials who have performed their duties in a satisfactory manner, and are free from partisanship, are not to be displaced, unless on the ground of age or infirmity, and that where vacancies occur they are to be filled, as far as practicable, by the appointment of responsible officials of the Commonwealth, State, or municipal services, in the order named, or, in the absence of such officials, by efficient and non-partisan private citizens.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Prime Minister -
– These are purely hypothetical questions, and I really do not know how to answer the first one. The Ministry has at present come to no decision upon the matter.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The questions asked by the honorable member necessitate inquiry, which will be made, and an answer given at a subsequent date.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, uponnotice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The matter is receiving the attention of the Government.
Sir JOHN FORREST laid on the table the following paper : -
Department of the Treasury -
Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account Act - Transfers of Moneys(dated 12th November, 1913).
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 24th October, vide page 2549) :
Clause 10 (Grants of Land).
On which Mr. Thomas had moved -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “No Crown lands in Norfolk Island shall be sold or disposed of for any estate of freehold except in pursuance of some contract entered into before the commencement of this Act.”
.- I thought it necessary to “ get off the mark “ quickly, because one never knows nowadays when one may have a chance to speak. I had several speeches to make on other subjects, but was not afforded an opportunity to deliver them I was unable, in the time allotted me, when this amendment was under consideration on a previous occasion to deal fully with the reasons for the proposed nationalization of the Crown lands of Norfolk Island I hope, however, that the instructions which were then given to honorable members opposite by students of the land question on this side of the Chamber will have borne some fruit. The Minister of External Affairs, who is in charge of this Bill, had views of his own on this question years ago.
– I did not have a monopoly of them.
– Quite so. I wonder whether we become conservative as we grow older. I suppose that we do, and that, perhaps, accounts for the failure of the Minister to accept this amendment. I am afraid that, generally speaking, life on this planet becomes irksome to men of middle age. Their early ideals prove disappointing, especially if, like the Attorney-General, they have experience in the law courts, and see there a great many failures. In such circumstances they come to the conclusion that their early notions regarding land reform, and the establishment of the millennium, must have been wrong, and they are disposed in their old age to revert to Conservatism. The amendment now before [the Committee proposes the making of an experiment. The substitution of the leasehold for the freehold system in the Northern Territory is an experiment, just as we are experimenting in the same direction in Papua, but we should not. fail to adopt every means at our disposal to prevent the evils of land monopoly obtaining in Australia as they exist to-day in the Old Country. Look at the dreadful misery that prevails in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales owing to land monopoly - to the ownership of land by individuals. In urging that we retain this land for the Crown, or for the Commonwealth, as I would prefer to term our proposal, I do not suggest for one moment that land-owners should be robbed of their holdings, although I know that there are some honorable members on the Ministerial side who take up that view If I asked a man to give up his land to the Commonwealth, I would justly compensate him. That, I think, is a fair proposal. I do not want honorable members opposite to say at election time that, because we proposed to retain this land in the possession of the Commonwealth for the benefit of the whole of the people, we wished to repudiate our obligations to individuals in the community, or that we desired to rob them of their land. I do not desire such a thing, but there are some Ministerialists who hold such views.
– Who are they ?
– The honorable member for Lang is one of them. I happened to be present at a meeting at which the honorable member made a certain proposal, which is reported in these terms -
Mr. W. E. Johnson (Newtown) moved - “ That this Conference urges upon the Labour party in the House to oppose the proposed sale of land in Martin-place by the Government, and all other unalienated lands, until the principle of land value taxation is recognised and embodied in the statute-books of the colony.” He (Mr. johnson) wished to point out that if once the principle of land value taxation were recognised, with the understanding that it should be increased to absorb the full rental value, nobody would be found foolish enough to purchase land, and, consequently, there would be no attempt to sell it, seeing that buyers, in addition to having to purchase it, would also have to pay to the State the rental value of the land. An excellent opportunity now presented itself to initiate the system by the Government deciding to hold the resumed land in Martin-place.
Martin-place, as honorable members know, is in the heart of Sydney, and the General Post Office abuts on it. Very valuable land there was allowed to pass out of the possession of the Crown. Honorable members will notice the Machiavellian suggestion of the honorable member for Lang -
If once the principle of land value taxation were recognised, with the understanding that it should be increased to absorb the full rental value, nobody would be found foolish enough to purchase land, and, consequently, there would be no attempt to sell it.
These words are taken from the Sydney Morning Herald of 1st February, 1892. I have not heard whether the honorable member still holds the same views. If he does, we may have some hope of carrying this amendment.
– What are the Prime Minister’s views on this question !
– I have not time this afternoon to quote the many observations of the Prime Minister on the question of the ownership of land, but I know that he has referred to private land-owners as land-grabbers, who ought to be taxed to the uttermost. The Minister of External Affairs ought to accept the amendment. I understand that this is a noncontentious measure, and that is one reason why I am having something to say upon it.
– And a contentious amendment ha3 been introduced.
– Evidently there is plenty of time. The Government are not seriously anxious to do much just now. They have passed through this House two of their electioneering measures, and I suppose it will be very much of a go-as-you-please with them until the middle of next month. I hope that the Minister of External Affairs will accept the amendment. It may be a long time before we convert the people of the Commonwealth to the view that, in their own interests, it would be well if the State or the municipalities owned and controlled the lands of the cities, and an object lesson in Norfolk Island might do a great deal of good. There is no doubt that private ownership in land is chiefly responsible for the dreadful slums in Richmond, Brunswick, Collingwood, Carlton, aud elsewhere, not to mention other places equally bad in Sydney and other cities. A land-owner, before settlement becomes thick, may be quite prepared toplace only one cottage on a 40-ft. frontage, but, as soon as a demand springs up, he proceeds to erecttwo or more. If the lands of Norfolk Island are sold, it is possible we may see repeated what was done in Willoughby, New South Wales, where, as soon as Sydney began to be over-populated by the. immigrants brought out to reduce wages and raise rents, the municipality repealed a by-law which provided that every dwelling should have not less than 40-ft. frontage, thus allowing the owners of. land to erect as many cottages as they chose on the space. The Minister of External Affairs knows that what I am saying is perfectly true, but he, apparently, is a man who is prepared to accept what he regards as the inevitable.
– If the honorable member wants to see huddling together, let him look at land let on building lease
– But private individuals own the building leases, and there is a great deal of difference between private land thus let for ninety-nine years, as was the land of the late Sir Daniel Cooper, and land let by the Crown. If the lands of Norfolk Island are parted with, some land monopolist may be placed in the position to interfere with proper settlement. In Australia millions of acres are held by private individuals who are waiting, for a rise in values, and on those lands are neither cattle, sheep, nor dwellings.
– Only 5 per cent. of the total land of Australia is freehold to-day.
– The honorable member for Grampians is very conservative in his notions, and, if he had his way, would not give the people even a vote. He knows, however, that the lands to which he refers are all alongside the railway lines, which were built with borrowed money that will have to be repaid. I sympathize with the pioneers who go out into the back country, and, by dint of a life of hard work, acquire property which may in the long run yield a fortune to be spent by their successors; but what we are suffering from to-day is the aggregation of capital and the aggregation of land in the hands of capitalists, which lands are in idleness alongside our railway lines, waiting for the public demand necessary to raise the price. This is the sort of thing that I do not wish to happen in Norfolk Island, where, I think, there are about 3,000 acres of Crown lands.
– There are only 1,311 acres.
– But this amendment affirms a great principle.
– I regret to say it, but it is time we woke up to the tactics of the Minister of External Affairs. Some three or four weeks ago - or it may have been years - when speaking on, the question, he said there were some 3,000 acres in the hands of the Crown. Has he been selling land since ?
– The difference is made up by reserves, which, of course, belong to the public, and will not be sold.
– Then why not add the 1,311 acres, and make all Crown land? I may say that I am not a Single-taxer, because I believe it would be a great mistake to raise all our revenue from such a source; but, if I have the chance, I am going to tax the surplus incomes of such gentlemen as the honorable member for Grampians, with a very fair exemption. I could defend this amendment on any public platform. The area of land in question is not a large one, and I suggest that the amendment be accepted, so that we may have uniformity of practice in regard to lands under our jurisdiction. Since Federation the principle of Crown leasehold has been established in Papua, the Northern Territory, and the Federal Territory. This shows the necessity there is, in such matters, for expressing our ideas, even at the risk of the closure. By continually hammering away at this principle of Crown ownership, wherever possible, we, the other day, heard the Prime Minister of the Liberal party - who are said to be individualists and antiSocialists - telling the House that it was expected that the Crown ownership would make the Federal Capital self-supporting.
– The honorable member cannot discuss that question.
– It is possible that, in Norfolk Island, at some future period, there may be a capital, or pleasure resort, visited by the millionaires of Australia; and I mention the Prime Minister’s remarks because, with Crown ownership, it would be possible to make Norfolk Island self-supporting.
.- When the amendment was submitted, I was inclined to support it. The area of land in question is so small that it seemed to be scarcely worth while to have a great fight over the question of leasehold versus freehold. Honorable members opposite, however, have raised the whole question, and desire, as stated by the honorable member for Capricornia, to secure continuity or uniformity of policy. I am against land monopoly, but I am a firm believer in private ownership and freehold. The most backward races on earth are those who do not believe in the private ownership of land. Neither the aborigines of Australia nor the Maoris believed in private ownership ; and we see the progress New Zealand has made since the Europeans took possession of the Dominion. I am strengthened in my belief by the experience in my own State. There the perpetual lease system was legalized, primarily on the motion of the gentleman who is now Director of Land Settlement in the Northern Territory. The result has been to show that the supporters of honorable members opposite do not believe in the perpetual leasehold principle at all. The figures show that in three years there have been only fortyfive applications for perpetual leases in Queensland, and in the same period there have been 5,496 applicants for agricultural farms. Is not that convincing evidence that the supporters of honorable members opposite do not believe in the leasehold principle? I can mention another chance which they once had of proving their faith in the principle. In 1893 they obtained a free grant of the site on which their Trades Hall now stands. There was the chance for them to say to the State, “ We do not believe ii- freehold ; we will accept a lease. We will show you that a perpetual lease is from our point of view as good as, or better than, freehold.” They did nothing of the sort, but grabbed the freehold grant at once, and the next tiling they did was to ask Parliament for authority to raise money on mortgage to erect a building on the land. Thus, in two cases they showed that they did not believe in leasehold, and did not believe in their non-borrowing policy. Take, again, the case of Ireland. Millions upon millions have been rightly spent there in sweeping away monopoly in land, but it is not proposed to set up a tenant system. The land has been cut up and subdivided, and provision is made to enable the tenant farmers to become the freeholders of their land. That is the proposal in England now also. Everything shows that the tendency is to foster private ownership, which tends to make a man feel that he and his family get the benefit of his industry, and foresight, and expenditure in improving his property. I am astonished that honorable members in discussing this matter have made the claim that if they establish a perpetual leasehold system under the Crown there would be no monopoly and no slums. That is quite opposed to our experience. The leasehold system will not prevent monopoly. 1 grant that it will enable the Crown at stated intervals to revise the rent, but, on the other hand, if you establish the freehold principle, you can, and do, make the land-owner contribute to the needs of the State by land taxation. The best way to promote progress is to give people the deeds of their land. As a man put it to me during my campaign, “ I like to have my own bit of parchment in my home for my land.” I do not believe in land monopoly. I came from a district where we felt the evils of it, but, on the other hand, I have never yet heard an argument that has satisfied me that the correct thing to do would be to establish the leasehold principle in place of freeholds.
.- It is most remarkable that all the advocates of private ownership in land have always to find excuses or furnish an apology before they finish their speech.
– The honorable member did not hear any apology from the last speaker.
– The honorable member for Lilley concluded his speech with an apology, stating that he did not believe in land monopoly. Where there is private ownership in land, there is inevitably monopoly in land. I quite agree with the honorable member that it is a most laudable desire on the part of individuals, as civilization is at present constituted, to aspire to own their own piece of land with the rest, but what is wrong with the principle is that it just as inevitably creates a desire in the minds of individuals to have more and more land. It is because of the tendency of private ownership of land, necessarily and continuously, to become a monopoly in land that we object to it. I am a private owner of land myself. I happen to have a little piece of property, and I am not free from the general desire to get the piece alongside. There is that tendency in human nature, but it is a wrong tendency. I am sorry the honorable member for Robertson is not here, because he has been posing as an authority on ancient history. The oldest land laws in the world began with this first principle- the land, shall not be sold for ever, and it was only when the Jewish nation departed from that first principle that they got into trouble as a nation. If you look through the later parts of the history of the Jews you will find that the teaching of their prophets and legislators was, “Woe unto them that add house to house and land to land until there is no room left.” Throughout the minor prophets one can read the reasons for the decline and fall of the Jewish nation.
– The honorable member has not referred to the jubilee.
– That is the best argument that I can get. So far from a man being able to be robbed of his land by any purchaser or perpetual lessee, it went back to him in the jubilee year absolutely free, without any encumbrance whatever.
– Was not that a freehold ?
– It was not. The land belonged to the people. If the honorable member takes a trip to Papua, he will find the principle of national ownership of property in actual visible operation. On the outskirts of any Papuan village you will find gardens. Each villager has his particular part of the garden to look after, but it is all one big garden, belonging to the village. The consequence is that, while the land is still attended to in each individual part by the man responsible for it, the whole village has a direct interest in that particular part of the country, and reaps the reward of the industry put into it. If we could extend that principle to Australia, we should avoid all this speculation and land monopoly that is the direct result of private ownership. People buy land to-day purely for speculative purposes. When a man has secured enough laud to satisfy his absolute needs - and it is wonderful how little is sufficient to satisfy the real needs of the ordinary man - he begins to get more land for purely speculative purposes. If honorable members opposite will tell us some way whereby they are going to have private ownership of land in such a way as to prevent the aggregation of estates and the development of land monopoly, they will have answered our arguments in favour of leasehold, which are based entirely on the economic principle that the land belongs to the people; that individuals must have the use of it, because land is no good unless it is used, but that the benefits resulting from the use and development of it should belong ‘ to all, and not to a few individuals. What does the history of the world teach us in that matter? There is no need for honorable members opposite to plead’ ignorance, nor is there need for us to try to exaggerate the position, because, in every country in the world where you have the private ownership principle in operation, you have a monopoly, the land being in the hands of the few to the detriment of the many. One peculiar result that always follows is that the man who holds his land in fee simple is the very man who sub-lets his land.
– And the leaseholders are the ones that object to the leasehold principle most of all.
– In that case, you will find that the people accept the leasehold simply because they are unable, in the first place, to find the capital to buy the freehold. They must have the use of the land, and are compelled to submit to the conditions imposed on them by the owner of the freehold.
– Would they not have the freehold if they could ?’
– Undoubtedly; but the main point is that, as soon as you have private ownership in land, you immediately add a fictitious and speculative value to it, which is considerably in excess of the actual value; and, therefore, yon restrict the operations of the bond fide occupiers of the land, because, if a man has to put down most of his capital in buying land in the first place, instead of having the money available to buy implements and develop his property, he is prevented from becoming a private owner, and the leasehold is, therefore, forced upon him. The honorable member for Lilley referred to the operation of the leasehold principle in Queensland, saying that there had been only a few applications for leases, and that this proved the failure of the leasehold principle. That is a very strained argument indeed. As a matter of fact, very much the larger proportion of Queensland and other States in the Commonwealth to-day is held under the leasehold principle. The States have most wisely conserved their rights in that regard; but, unfortunately, some of them are very much concerned about transferring the leaseholds into freeholds as fast as they can, and as soon as a leasehold falls in it is converted into a freehold. Our contention is that leaseholds under the Crown promote closer settlement. They give the genuine bond fide occupier a better chance to get on to the land and to develop it. We contend that a leasehold under the Crown is the proper method of dealing with land, because, under that system, the Crown does not lose its first interest in and control of the land. Further, we contend that if land is held under lease from the Crown the community is guaranteed the whole of the unearned increment which inevitably arises from the application of labour to land. Our honorable friends opposite have said that the leasehold system does not prevent the creation of slums, but I may say that the biggest slums in the cities of the world to-day are in places where freeholds have been leased at excessive rents under building and other leases. There we have the concentration of population because the people must make the very best and most complete use of the whole of the area available. If there were not freeholds in the first case in such places the leaseholds would not bring about slum conditions. We must not forget that slums are not created, but developed purely and simply because of the pressure of the private, monopolist in land.
– There is an article in to-day’s Argus about the exorbitant rents of hovels in Port Melbourne.
– That is so; and honorable members have only to read the evidence given before a Commission recently sitting in Sydney to discover the exorbitant rents which people have to pay for the hovels in which they are compelled to live. They are obliged to live in rat-boles in common with the vermin they have to put up with, simply because of the effects of private monopoly in land. The Minister of External Affairs, in his second-reading speech on this Bill, which was, as usual with the honorable gentleman, a treat to listen to and a treat to read, said he wished that the loss of the freehold of land in Norfolk Island had not occurred. The only argument which the Government have put forward in opposition to the acceptance of the leasehold principle -incorporated in the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier is that there is so little of Crown lands left in Norfolk Island that it is not of much use bothering about it. I do not think that the Minister of External Affairs can be serious in an argument of that kind. The fact that we have only 3,128 acres remaining under Government control out of 8,528 acres can scarcely be held as a good argument for not doing now what should have been done earlier. If the leasehold principle, as applied to the lands of Norfolk Island, be good, and the Minister of External Affairs admits that it is when he says that the freeholds should not have been parted with, let us save what we can, and give the people of the island some guarantee of protection against possible later developments, if the whole of the land be granted in freehold. There are 8,528 acres in Norfolk Island, 5,400 acres have been alienated, the Crown has still under control 3,311 acres, and 850 acres have been leased. The leases of this land will fall in at some time, and unless the amendment of the honorable member for Barrier be accepted, the land may later be sold as freehold. There is an area of 967 acres of reserves, but what form these reserves take I cannot quite discover. There is always a temptation to Governments to interfere with reserves. I happen to know from my own experience that the provision generally made for these necessary open spaces, even amongst the most advanced communities, is altogether too small. The Government may be tempted, if a demand for land should set in, to sell the 967 acres of reserves in Norfolk Island as freeholds, and the community will thus part with their reserves for ever. We wish to prevent that, and to secure, so far as we can, that the lands of Norfolk Island shall be retained for the benefit of the islanders, than whom no one has a better right to them. I was consulting Mr. Knibbs’ Tear-Book a few moments ago, and I find that, referring to Norfolk Island, he says -
The first colonization, in 1788, was by Lieutenant King, who, in the H.M.S. Sirius, established a small penal station as a branch settlement of that at Port Jackson.
He goes on to state how the island was handed over to its present inhabitants. He says -
The decendants of the Bounty mutineers, having become too numerous to subsist on Pitcairn Island, were removed thence to Norfolk Island, in 1856. The new community numbered 193, 94 males and 99 females, and were the descendants of British sailors and Tahitian women.
These people were brought to Norfolk Island because there was . no room for them on Pitcairn Island, and room was available for them on Norfolk Island. This Bill endangers the very idea and purpose for which these people were brought from the one place to the other. No condemnation can be too severe for a proposal to rob these people of their rights to their own land. They were brought to Norfolk Island because there was room there for their expansion. The population of the island has increased until it is now something like 985 - 568 males and 417 females, which, as the Minister has suggested, gives an unfair advantage to the ladies.
– Considering their natural handicap against us, I think it does.
– The people of Norfolk Island were settled there under a direct or implied promise that the island was going to be theirs. Whether the area already alienated, 5,400 acres, was alienated with or without their consent, I do not know, but I am anxious that no further alienation shall take place, and that the people shall be protected in the possession of the land which they were given to understand would be theirs. I was amazed to learn that in 1859, the land was parcelled out in areas of 50 acres each, and that at the present time there are only some 400 acres under agriculture. The Minister of External Affairs gave us a most glowing description of the possibilities of agriculture in the island. According to the honorable gentleman, it is most fertile. Coco-nut trees grow there splendidly, and any one who knows anything about them must be aware that, as a product of agriculture, the coco-nut tree will become more and more important as the years go by. No substitute has yet been discovered by chemists for the vegetable oil, which is so valuable a product of the coco-nut tree, which has been well called the “ consols of the Pacific.” If we in Australia could utilize Norfolk Island as a coco-nut plantation, it would be worth our while to retain it for that purpose alone, because of the increasing value of coco-nut oil and copra in the world’s markets. Honorable members are aware that the Norfolk Island pine is famous as a beautiful timber all over the world. I noticed only in yesterday’s newspapers a report of statements made by Sir Rider Haggard, which were almost a repetition of statements which he made while in Australia, as to the criminal waste of splendid timbers that is going on in the Commonwealth Some day we shall wake up to discover how foolish we have been in the destruction of our valuable timbers. Very little effort is being made in the different States in the way of re-afforestation, or of preserving existing valuable timbers. Here is a chance for the Commonwealth to step in and, by securing Norfolk Island, to provide for years to come abundant supplies of the valuable Norfolk Island pine. Norfolk Island does not produce only coco-nut trees and the Norfolk Island pine. The Minister of External Affairs told us, in his second-reading speech, that -
They can grow anything in any quantity - oranges, lemons, guavas, pineapples, yams, kumeras, potatoes (three or four crops a year), strawberries, bananas, coffee, maize, wheat - anything - but what’s the use? It costs 4s. per case to send oranges to Sydney, and 2s. a case duty.”
The duty will be removed by the operation of this Bill; but the point I wish to make, is, that the Government are proposing to alienate these -fertile and fruitful lands, and so lock them up against the very people who have a fight to demand that we should protect them in their possession of them The Norfolk Islanders demand our special and most careful consideration. They seem, by all accounts, to be a very well-behaved and useful class of people. The fact that they have not developed their agriculture, as might have been expected, may be due more to the want of means of communication with the outside world than to any lack of adaptability on their part. The Commonwealth will inevitably take over the island, and we shall find it necessary to give these people some means of communication. We shall have to take a direct interest in them. If the development of the agricultural possibilities of the island is to be left to people whose interest it will be to make money out of Norfolk Island, and not to develop it in the interests of the people who are there, very serious consequences will arise in the future. We have here a class of people who are not exactly of our own race, and who, perhaps, do no+i hold all our ideas of civilization, but they are a community who have shown their ability to develop and progress. They have shown that they can be depended upon to keep the island intact, so far as their power will allow them to do so. Their development has been hindered because of the lack of means of communication with other parts of the world. It is our business to provide that means of communication for them, and, by opening our markets to them, give them encouragement for the development of the agricultural resources of their island. It is especially our business to secure to them the undisputed possession of their lands. The honorable member for Barrier has already moved an amendment. At present the clause provides that the GovernorGeneral, or any person authorized by him, may make grants of land. I should like to move to leave out the words “ or any person authorized by him,” and I am strengthened in this desire, because under present conditions the dealing with Crown lands in Norfolk Island is left entirely in the hands of the Governor. On page 1244 of this year’s Hansard the Minister of External Affairs told us that a sort of Constitution was established by the Order in Council of 1897, and that clause 2 provided -
Provided that power of alienating, leasing, or authorizing the occupation or use ot waste lands of the Crown shall be exercised by the Governor alone.
The addition of the words “ or any person authorized by him “ seems to open a dangerous door, and provide opportunity for some officious under-official to give away a grant of land. Any system of giving away grants of land that should be held legitimately for the use and posses sion of the people on Norfolk Island is most vicious.- But I object to grants of land altogether.
– It really will be “the Governor-General.” The words to which the honorable member objects simply authorize the Minister or the head of a Department by law to act for the GovernorGeneral, just as the Administrator acts in the Northern Territory.
– It seems to me that these words are fraught with considerable danger. Why not leave it simply “the Governor-General,” which also means “the Minister”? Otherwise the door is open to some official in the exercise, or even the exaggeration, of his powers to give away a grant of land, though, of course, that step might not be ratified by the Minister. Seeing that the “ Governor-General “ and the “ Minister “ are the same thing in this regard, we should be content to leave the matter of the control of the land in the hands of the Governor-General rather than to any one who may not be responsible to this Parliament.
– That would mean that a small lease would need to be signed by the Governor-General instead of by the Resident Official as now. It is purely a matter of departmental machinery.
– It is hard for a layman to understand legal phraseology. There is nothing like being as direct as possible in dealing with the possessions of the people.
– I think the provision is the same in the Papua Act.
– If the Minister is not prepared to accept my suggestion, will he omit the words “ make grants?” If we are opposed to the alienation of Crown lands by freehold, we must be more strongly opposed to alienation by grants.
– “ Grant “ is only a technical term. Every disposition of land is a grant
– The lands of Norfolk Island may be valuable to the Commonwealth, but they are more valuable to the people of Norfolk Island, who were originally taken to the island on the de- finite understanding that the land would belong to them entirely for their own use. The Minister should see that the 3,128 acres still unsold are reserved in perpetuity for the use of the people of the island.
– No amendment on the lines suggested by the honorable member can be moved unless first the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Barrier is withdrawn.
– The honorable member has said that there is on Norfolk Island an extent of country which is good land capable of growing coco-nut trees and cocoa, coffee, and all kinds of tropical plants of that description, but if he had any experience of such matters he would know that land must be of the very best quality to grow these plants. It is impossible for any one to embark in the industry, and at the same time pay the rates for labour prevailing in Australia. I have had considerable experience in Ceylon, where I was born, and a great many friends of mine have embarked in the industries such as the honorable member has suggested should be commenced on Norfolk Island, but these industries are only kept alive by the employment of coloured labour. No one could expect to embark upon them on Norfolk Island without the employment of coloured labour. I am informed that 80 per cent. of the land is hilly and rough country, utterly incapable of being put to the use the honorable member suggests. The honorable member has also referred to the leasehold and freehold principle. He has pointed out that because a man owning land leases it to leaseholders, it shows that the freeholder believes in the leasehold system. That is a ridiculous statement. Certainly, the freeholder believes in the freehold principle, and, showing that the leaseholders believe in that principle just as strongly as the freeholder, if they had the opportunity of getting the freehold title to the land they would take it to-morrow. That is the case right through the piece. The honorable member for Lilley referred to the example of Ireland, where the British Government have spent millions in buying up huge estates, and have allowed the lessees on those estates to purchase their holdings by instalments. I venture to say that step has helped Ireland considerably. The same principle is to be adopted in Scotland.
– If the land had not been originally sold in Ireland, the Government would not have found it necessary to advance the money to buy it back.
– If the leasehold system is so good, why did not the tenants of Ireland ask the Government to hold the land and simply lease it out to them ? Why did they clamour for the freehold ? Why were there petitions to the British Government asking for the cancellation of the leases and the granting of freeholds in lieu ? Every honorable member opposite is just as fond of his freehold title as we on this side are.
– I am not - decidedly not.
– I would not liketo trust the honorable member.
– If I could get the land to-morrow, I would rent it. That would mean that I would have all my capital to work the land.
– Take the case of Mr. Nielsen, who went through New South Wales three years ago proclaiming the merits of freehold as against leasehold, and actually held 640 acres of freehold.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot discuss Mr. Nielsen.
– The honorable member for Brisbane related a lot of ancient history. He went back to the period of the children of Israel. All the land was equally divided among the children of Israel, and the law was that no man could divest himself of his property. He could lease ft, or sell the lease of it for a period, but every fifty years, at the jubilee, all property so leased reverted to its former owner. Jubilee is derived from the Hebrew word “ Yobel” meaning the sound of a horn. The horn was sounded throughout the length and breadth of the land during the jubilee period, and all property reverted to its former owners.
– Are you prepared to go in for a law of that kind now ?
– No, but I say it shows that the Israelites adopted the freehold principle, though the honorable member for Brisbane tried to prove that the leasehold system was instituted by Moses. I also wish to show that the word “jubilee,” if it means anything - and it is a word which is familiar throughout the British Empire - means the celebrating of the freehold title. It is said by our friends opposite that if we grant freehold it will lead to a monopoly. I would draw the attention of honorable members to the
Closer Settlement Act and the Closer Settlement Promotion Act of New South Wales, under the provisions of which applicants are permitted to purchase their farms by instalment, up to forty years. Upon the completion of their payments they get the freehold title to their land, but they are limited by conditions of their gran’t so that they cannot transfer their land except to a person who has not a living area. How can there be aggregation of land with a provision like that? A man cannot sell to a squatter or any one who seeks to get a monopoly. In the same way the difficulty in Norfolk Island can be overcome. I think Australia has gone completely mad on the question of giving people leaseholds. Nowhere in the civilized world does the leasehold system prevail. As honorable members are aware, Germany, at the close of the war with France, demanded an indemnity of £200,000,000, which had to be paid within a certain time. France had innumerable freeholders, many of them small men, possessing 10, 15, and 20-acre blocks. This thrifty population had saved up money, not in the banks, but in stockings, kettles, and hiding places in the ground, and, when appealed to on the score of patriotism, it nocked to Paris, bringing its money with it, and the indemnity was paid. Had the land been held in leasehold, the tenants, would have said, “ This property belongs to the State,” and they would have taken their wealth elsewhere, lea,in£r the country to the Germans. But. holding their farms in freehold, they were prepared to sacrifice their wealth to save France. Bismarck said, on one occasion, that the one thing that helped him to combat Socialism was the division of Germany into as many freeholdings as possible. The more freeholds there are, the less the chance for Socialism. A great deal has been sa’id about the increase of rents in Sydney. We have been told that tenants are being charged high rents for places no better than rat-holes.
– I cannot allow the honorable gentleman to go into this matter in detail. He may refer to it only incidentally.
– I merely wish to inform the Committee that there is. a property in Sydney in which office rents have been raised from 5s. to 7s. 6d., to 10s., 15s., 17s., and, finally, 25s. per week, although the property is exempt from taxation, its owners being the trustees of the Trades Hall. We hear about the capitalists raising rents, but the very persons who are finding fault with the capitalists are themselves responsible for the same thing. If the Labour party would drop its ridiculous fad, and fall into line with all civilized nations in regard to the holding’ of land, it would ‘tend to progress. The possession of freehold gives men an incentive to improve their property. As a case in point, I might mention that, in my district, a property of 1,600 acres was divided between a son and a daughter. The daughter went to live in Sydney, and leased her portion to a tenant, but the son remained on his estate and worked it. To-day there are no briars on the son’s estate, the fences are good, there is a substantial house, and everything betokens prosperity; but the rented land is full of briars, the fences have been made by pulling a few logs together, and the house itself is patched with bags. The tenant, who pays, perhaps, £150 a year in rent, is trying to get as much as he can from the land with as little expenditure as possible, but the freeholder is doing all that he can to improve his land. From the point of view of the working classes, it is better to have the country occupied by men who improve the land, and give employment, than by men who spend as little as possible on improvements. I shall not support the attempt to amend the clause.
Mr. LAIRD SMITH (Denison) [4.48J. - I hope that the Minister will agree to adopt the leasehold principle in regard to the unalienated land in Norfolk Island. The area concerned may be only small, but the principle at stake is a big one. The honorable member for Calare referred to the condition of affairs in Ireland, but, from inquiries that I made on the spot, I found that the British Government purchased Irish land at very high prices, parcelling it out among persons who have become as autocratic as the former absentee landlords ever were, to the great disadvantage of the unfortunate labourers.
– The holders of the land have sixty-eight years in which to pay for it.
– Yes; but a body of autocrats has been created.
– A body of independent cultivators.
– They are not independent; they have a burden to carry, and only think that they own the laud; but they have become autocratic because they think that they own it. I believe in land nationalization, and object to the private owning of land ; but I am beginning to wonder whether it is worth while to bother about altering the present system, seeing that the time is fast approaching when no person will really own land. This is evidenced by the statements in the following cablegram, which was published in the Melbourne Herald on the 15th inst. -
Company Complains. freeholds to be sold. (Published in The Times this morning.)
London, Saturday morning.
At the annual meeting of the Scottish, Australian Investment Company Ltd., yesterday, Mr. John Varley, one of the directors of the company stated that£20,818 was paid in the year ended June 30 last for colonial taxation of the properties of the company.
The bulk of this sum, Mr. Varley continued, was for payment of the Federal land tax, and the amount so paid was equal to a dividend of 4 per cent. on the ordinary capital of the company. The tax was levied on all freehold properties, whether reproductive or not. This taxation exceeded anything that could be termed reasonable. Serious remonstrances made to the Federal Government had been unavailing.
Only one course remained for the directors to adopt, added Mr. Varley, and that was to sell the freehold upon which the Federal land tax was levied. This policy would take time. They would then find other outlets for their capital in Australia, because Australia, with all its faults of Government was a great country with a future before it.
The State having power to impose a big tax on land, the freeholder can no longer be said to own that land. Speaking in Tasmania, I said to a number of landowners, “Who owns your land? In my opinion, you do not own any land.” A gentleman afterwards questioned my right to say that. My reply was, “ What land tax do you pay?” He said, “£10 a year.” Then, I returned, “There is a mortgage of £200 a year on your land imposed by the Government.” Some time ago, when a member of the Opposition in Tasmania said that the State was deeply mortgaged, the national debt being so great that the interest charges were a heavy burden on the people, a Ministerial member replied that the debt was not so great when the assets were taken into consideration. He said - I give the figures from memory - “ Our assets are worth £31,000,000.” That statement bears out what I have said. Land is the asset for our national debt. We must get revenue from some source, and as the proportion of enlightened individuals in Parliament has increased, taxation is placed on the land. As to the French land system, I am sorry that my small knowledge of French prevented me from making as searching inquiries on the subject in the country itself as I should have liked to make. In France, the holdings are as small as anywhere in the world, the law requiring the division of property between all children. As the result of this continual division and subdivision, the holdings have become, in many cases, very small indeed, so small that one man told me that they had no dividing fences - divisional lines being marked by white stones - because they could not spare the land that the fences would occupy. Indeed, the holdings are so small that it is often impossible to make a living off them, and they are consequently mortgaged, so that the holders really do not own them at all. It is easy to discuss land matters with the French farmers, because, instead of living on their land, as in Australia, they live in villages, going out to the land to work on it. Consequently, when travelling along one of the well-made roads which Napoleon laid down all over France to enable him to move his armies rapidly, you have only to draw up at a village to find men with whom to talk over these matters. France is as well served with good roads as any country in the old world.
– It could not do so again to-day; there is no more povertystricken country at the present time than France, so far as the rural workers are concerned. I have seen the women there working in the fields like slaves. We do not see that sort of thing in Australia, and I hope that we never shall.
– That is custom, not poverty.
– Does the honorable member seriously suggest that, because of custom, a woman is prepared to slave in the fields, and spoil her beautiful complexion? I saw women working in the fields both in France and Switzerland, where the freehold system prevails. These poor people think they own the freehold, but they do not; it is owned really by the mortgagees. I have been reminded by the honorable member for Barrier that the Israelites already hold a lot of the land in England. A little while ago I perused certain documents in one of the States, and was surprised to find what a lot of farmers had mortgaged their lands to a certain gentleman. Who owns that land ? It is owned, not by the farmers, who are legitimately working it, but by the mortgagee every time. Under the leasehold system, it is possible for a man with a little capital to find immediate use for it in working an area leased from the Crown. A friend of mine has to find £700 by March next to pay off part of a mortgage on his holding. He is doing his best to scrape up the money, and when this amount has been paid off, there will still remain a balance of £1,100, on which he will have to pay interest. The interest is going into the coffers of the landlord, which is a company. If the State retained the ownership of the land, and leased it to legitimate land workers, those workers would beable to devote the whole of their capital to its development and improvement. They could sell the improvements at any time, and the State would participate in the unearned increment. A friend of mine, working in a trade here, purchased a piece of land some eight years ago for £168. Since then the country has been opened up by a railway, and settlement has progressed in the district, with the result that to-day he can obtain £400 for his property. He is reaping the benefit of the unearned increment, which has accrued from the settlement of people in the neighbourhood. Every additional settler who goes on the land enhances the value of land in that locality. I hope that the Minister will accept this amendment, and so continue the splendid system introduced, I think, by the Deakin Government, and which it is the desire of the Labour party shall be adopted throughout Australia. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has told us of a block of land in Swanston-street, Melbourne, the rents from which amount to, I think, about £60,000 a year.
Mr.Fenton. - The buildings on the block have been put up by lessees, and the owners have not had to pay a penny.
– That huge sum is going out of Australia. If that particular block were owned by the Govern ment, they would be prepared to lease it at a reduced rental. If the leasehold system were generally applied, the State would be satisfied with lower rentals, and no taxation would be necessary. We should have lower rentals, and, perhaps, free railways, as advocated by the honorable member for Barrier. I hope that honorable members will not be influenced by the eloquence of the honorable member for Calare.
– The ex-bank manager.
– Quite so. Bank managers and lawyers would be doomed if all the land were owned by the State. 1 trust that the amendment will be accepted.
.- If it had not been for the startling character of some of the remarks made by. the honorable member for Denison - remarks which must convince any one who knows anything at all about land, of his utter ignorance of the subject - I should not have attempted to rise at this stage. But for the honour of the House, and so that we may not be a laughing-‘stock for the whole farming community of Australia, I feel it incumbent upon me to offer a few observations. On a previous occasion I pointed out that this was certainly not the time to raise the question of freehold versus leasehold; and, in view of the fact that only some 1,300 acres in Norfolk Island remain unalienated, I certainly thought that the Opposition would allow this Bill to pass without offering any objection to the innocent powers which it gives to the Government to deal with that small area. The Opposition, however, have elected not to do so. I stand absolutely convinced from my own personal experience that the leasehold system is a snare and a delusion. I speak as a practical farmer, who for the last sixteen years has been getting his living off the land. In my spare time I travel a good deal in various parts of Australia, and can assure honorable members that I see conditions under all tenures that convince me more and more of the stability of the freehold title. The amazing way in which red herrings are drawn across the trail by members of this House, in order to cloud the issue under discussion, leaves me marvelling at the fertility of the imagination of my honorable friends opposite.
– Do not be so wordy. Get to the point.
– This is the sort of information that honorable members opposite do not want to hear. In the first place, they do not like a practical man to speak of what he knows, but they indulge in all sorts of wild romancing concerning subjects of which they are ignorant, and try to convince us that they are the only known advocates of certain principles. I say without fear ofcontradiction that in New South Wales there has never been an aggregation of land in large estates to equal that which has taken place under the leasehold tenure in the Western division of that State. When Mr. Crick brought in his Land Bill to divide New South Wales into three portions and to place the Western Division under a Lands Commission, with power only to lease the land, there were 1,500,000 acres occupied in small holdings in that part of New South Wales. To-day there are not 500,000 acres in small holdings; the balance, comprising over 1,000,000 acres, has been absorbed under the leasehold principle by existing large holders. Any one that understands the land laws of that State knows perfectly well that the genius of leasehold lies in its periodic re-appraisement of rentals. Take away the re-appraisement of rentals - which, in my experience, have always an upward and never a downward tendency - and I am a leaseholder.
– And a monopolist.
Mr.PATTEN. - No. But under the leasehold system, with a re-appraisement of rentals at certain periods - and I put this to my practical friends who know something about the land - the older or the more worn-out the land becomes the higher the rental.I am speaking of land as land, and not of methods of cultivation.
– Who wears it out - the bad or the good farmer?
– The experience everywhere is that the older the land gets the higher the rentals become under the leasehold tenure with its re-appraisement periods. If that were not so there would be no point in re-appraising the rentals. No State Act provides for leasehold without the re-appraisement of rents at some period or other. The Land Act of New South Wales at one time provided for a re-appraisement every fifteen years, but the period has been extended to twenty years. The fact remains that, whether the reappraisement is made once or three times in a decade, the rent goes up at some time or other. That is not a reasonable proposal to make in respect of a little place like Norfolk Island. I hope that the Government will not accept the amendment. I give honorable members opposite credit for believing in a principle and fighting for it, but I think they are generous enough to admit that there are in this House men equally as honest in their belief in another principle, and just as determined to see that that principle is not sacrified to the fad, as we claim it to be, of leasehold, as promulgated by such gentlemen as the honorable member for Denison.
.- It is surprising how the utterances of one honorable member will induce another to speak. Iwas glad to hear the admission coming from a noted farmers’ advocate that if the re-appraisement of rentals under the leasehold system were once removed he would immediately become an advocate of the leasehold system. Honorable members who argue in that strain profess to be capable business men. The honorable member, along with others in the corner where he sits, claims to be a practical business man, and I should like to put a case to him. If the New South Wales Government, for instance, subdivided a certain area of land under leasehold, they would naturally do their level best to see that the produce of their tenants was conveyed by rail to the nearest market or port; and I ask the honorable member whether he wishes the House to believe that, with the railway facilities thus provided, that land, after twenty years, would not be worth more than the original rental ?
– Is the railroad there before the tenants, or are the tenants there before the railroad?
– Let us suppose that the men are there before the railroad, so that the honorable member may have the full benefit of his argument. We know that Crown tenants are continual supplicants for greater facilities for marketing their produce; and I am sure that the honorable member, with his business instincts, will admit that, in order to get railway communication, the tenants would gladly submit to a re-appraisement and increase in rent. It is unreasonable for the honorable member to say that he would be a whole-hearted leaseholder if there were no re-appraisement.
– Mr. Balance, of New Zealand, was a whole-hearted leaseholder without re-appraisement.
– That may be; and I know that Mr. Balance is one of the finest statesmen that we ever had in Australasia.
– If there is to be no reappraisement of the leaseholds, there ought to be no land tax on the freehold.
– Quite a number of facts might be enumerated to show how land increases in value. The honorable member told us that the older the land gets the higher the rent becomes; and, if he is the great agriculturist he would have the Committee to believe, he must admit that, after perhaps twenty-five years’ cultivation and improvement, his land, whether leasehold or freehold, is worth more than when he orginally set foot on it. What would the honorable member say if, after such a period of cultivation of land for which he might have paid anything from 10s. to £1 an acre, I were to come to him, and, on the contention that the best had been taken out of the land, suggest that he should sell it to me for something like the original price? Again, is the honorable member prepared to say that land from year to year deteriorates-
– It has so deteriorated in some places that the cultivators have had to take out one set of crops and put in another.
– If the honorable member is an agricultural expert, he will know that that is what ought to be done all the time. I cannot understand a practical man talking as the honorable member does, seeing that it is rotation of crops that increases the fertility of land.
– He is not a practical farmer !
– I think the honorable member for Hume has himself demonstrated that fact.
– I know what I am talking about.
– The Minister of External Affairs, in what I may describe as a poetic speech, with that fine range of language of which he is capable, described Norfolk Island as a beautiful spot of wonderful fertility; and I say at once that, as soon as this Bill is passed, and it becomes known that the Commonwealth has taken over the island, the land will be considerably enhanced in value. We shall find the speculator - and the man of ease and cash - anxious to secure a patch; and there is no doubt that, with the regular steam-ship service we may expect, the land will become even more valuable. We know that in these remote places there are sometimes men of undesirable type; and who is to say that we may not on Norfolk Island find those of the character at present in Tasmania and elsewhere ready and eager to turn the place into a veritable Monte Carlo ? In Victoria, we have a striking example of what may happen if land is permitted to get beyond the control of the Crown. At one time the foreshore of Hobson’s Bay for a certain distance back was reserved, the Crown refusing any title to a purchaser. However, influence was brought to bear on the Government of the day, and the foreshore, especially at Sorrento and other places, has been purchased by private individuals right down to the water’s edge when the tide is out. As a result, the business people of the district, and visitors, find that a great wrong has been done to the community generally. I understand that on Norfolk Island there are 1,311 acres unsold, while there are reserves making up thetotal area to something like 3,128 acres; and, under the circumstances, the Minister would be well advised to retain all the land for the people. If, as we believe, this land on Norfolk Island is going to increase in value, as it is brought more under the observation of the people on the mainland, it would be a most profitable course on the part of the Government to restrict themselves to leasehold. It has been mentioned by the honorable member for Brisbane that only about 400 acres are under cultivation; and this fact is somewhat depressing in view of the wonderful fertility of the soil.
– That statement is about correct, but cultivation was kept back by a good many causes which we hope will be removed.
– That will only make the remaining land more valuable; and, under leaseholds, the rents would mean a considerable revenue which could be devoted to meeting the annual expenditure of the island. 1 hope that the Minister will not allow present-day surroundings to influence him, but that he will be guided by his true feelings and real sentiments in regard to land. I believe if he consulted his own feelings he’ would gladly meet us. If he were to be the perpetual occupant of the External Affairs office we might safely intrust these lands to him, because I believe that rather than sell them he would lease them; but some !day, perhaps, even the present Treasurer might occupy the position of Minister of External Affairs, and we know that he has said, “ I believe in selling every bit of land I can, especially near a town.” I hope the Minister will take into serious consideration the representations that have been made on this side of the House, and that we shall retain this land as Commonwealth property, as we have done in the Northern Territory, Papua, and the Federal territory, more particularly in the last-named. The Prime Minister has indicated the policy in regard to that area, because he says that in a few years’ time, if properly managed, it will bring in a good revenue to the Commonwealth.
– It will be all rabbits if you do not give the freehold to somebody soon.
– I know there is a good number of rabbits there, but when things are fairly going, the land will be occupied under leasehold, and the pest will decrease.
.- I should not have spoken again but for the speech delivered by the Minister of Trade and Customs, when in charge of the Bill, in the absence of the Minister of External Affairs. I quite recognise, as some members say, that only about 1,300 acres can be dealt with under my amendment, but we have a perfect right in this House to deal with principles, irrespective of the area involved. The Government recently introduced the Public Service Preference Prohibition Bill, which does not affect a large number of people, but which they say embodies a great principle. In the same way we have a perfect right to fight for the great principle of the non-alienation of land in this case. It is not the first time in this Parliament that that principle has been embodied in legislation. In the first Parliament, when Mr. Barton was Prime Minister, it was applied to the Federal Territory by means of an amendment, which the then Government accepted. When the Constitution Bill was being considered at the Federal Convention, the present Minister of External
Affairs, who was one of the delegates for South Australia, endeavoured, in conjunction with Mr. B. R. Wise, to embody in the Constitution the same great principle, but they were unable to succeed, because the Convention thought the Constitution was not the proper place to put it. Some of the delegates, who were in favour of the principle, said that it was a matter in which the Commonwealth Parliament’ should be allowed a free hand. It cannot be said that our advocacy of leasehold is a fad when the Minister of External Affairs himself has so ably and eloquently advocated it.
– I advocated the prin.ciple, on that occasion, in relation to a specific case - the Federal Territory, where we had an absolutely clean sheet.
– I have no desire to, be unfair to the honorable member. I simply say that he advocated the principle. When we were dealing with Papua in this Parliament, Mr. Deakin being Prime Minister, the same principle was advocated, and was practically unanimously adopted. One or two members who voted for it have said, since this discussion took place, that they advocated it in the case of Papua because ‘ that country was in the hands of the natives, and it was advisable to see that the white men did not exploit them, but that what applied to the natives of Papua should not necessarily apply to parts of Australia. Later on, when another Government was in office, the Northern Territory had to be taken over, and again the same principle was adopted, and I have taken this very amendment word for word from the Northern Territory Acceptance Act. The Minister of Trade and Customs, when he last spoke, said that the principle was put in that Act because the Labour party were in office, and had a majority, and that they had to take the full responsibility for putting it in, because the Opposition did not sanction it in any way. I admit that we, as a Government, took full and complete responsibility; but it is a fair thing to ask honorable members to look up Hansard to see the character of the opposition that was offered to the principle by the then Opposition. When the clause was being dealt with, only one member of the Opposition opposed it. That was Hie present Prime Minister, who expressed the view that if we introduced leasehold instead of freehold in the Northern Territory, we should not he able to develop it, and said that he wanted to call for a division. No other member of the Opposition raised any protest. There was no division on the clause, and it passed on the voices. The attitude of Ministerialists on this occasion seems very strange in those circumstances.
– I suppose the honorable member admits that, at that time, a division on the question would have been hopelessly carried against us.
– We have had divisions in this House lately that have been hopelesly carried against us. Am I to understand that men who believe in great principles are not prepared to vote for them because they are in a minority?
– Surely you do not call for a division on every subject as you go along?
– We do not.
– Immediately you brought the Ordinance down, strong protest was raised against it.
– I was coming to that point. If a division had been taken at that time, I believe the Government would have won by ten or twelve votes at least, but every member of the Opposition could have voted against it. I do not think that any member who voted against the Government at that time would have been suspended for the rest of the session. We had such a majority in those days that it was not necessary to suspend members to get a majority.
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that because an honorable member voted against the Government he was suspended ?
– I did not say such a thing. The Minister of Trade and Customs said they did not vote against the principle on that occasion because they thought they would be defeated by an overwhelming majority, and I replied that if it was a great principle they could have dared to vote against it, and would not have been penalized by being suspended for the rest of the session for doing so. When I introduced the Land Ordinance, as Minister in charge of the Territory, I admit that a protest was raised against it by the honorable member for Illawarra; but I ask honorable members to read the discussion on his motion, especially the speech of the Minister of External Affairs - a very able speech, for which I thanked him afterwards. There was not a word against the leasehold principle in it. The debate was not limited to the question of leasehold or freehold. There were a dozen things on which honorable members spoke. There were even some of our own party who objected to some parte of the Ordinance.
– The honorable member for Illawarra, who introduced the motion, made the question of freehold or leasehold a strong dividing principle, and many others who followed him did so also.
– I do not say that they did not, but all the members of the Opposition did not. The Minister of External Affairs did not. In fact, most of those who spoke at that time based their main objection to the Ordinance on the large size of the areas of the perpetual leases that I proposed to grant. The history of the Commonwealth, therefore, shows that three different Governments - a Conservative Government, a Liberal Government, and a Labour Government - have accepted in this House the great principle of leasehold as against freehold. There is no doubt that the land question is tha great question that is troubling every country. The honorable member for Capricornia said to-day that the alienation of land has created a great deal of poverty and destitution in England, Germany, and America. That is true. I should like to quote from Saturday’s Argus an intensely interesting article taken from the Fortnightly Review on the unrest in Mexico. I had the pleasure of spending some years in Mexico, and that is the reason I take a keen interest in what takes place there. Honorable members are aware that the Fortnightly Review is not a Socialist or Labour periodical. The article to which I refer is by a Mr. Percy Martin. I do not know whether he is the Mr. Martin who has written a book upon Mexico, which is of very great interest, and can be found in our Library, but if he is he is not a Labour man, because he gives expression to some very Conservative views. He states in the article to which I refer that the social unrest at present evident in Mexico is due to the land question. It is an economic question. He says that the reason why there is such trouble and misery there to-day is be-, cause all the best lands in the country are in the hands of a few people. Some honorable members have said that the development of the country can be better secured under a freehold than under a leasehold system. . Some have gone back to the history of many years past to support the principle of freehold against that of leasehold. The honorable member for Brisbane went back into quite ancient history to prove his case, which he did very well, in favour of the nonalienation of land. I may be permitted to read an extract from a report which appeared in the Kalgoorlie Miner a few years ago, which was written by Mr. Staniforth Smith, who was at one time a member of the Senate. He did not belong, as honorable members are aware, to the Labour party. He was a member of the Liberal party, and is to-day one of our administrators in Papua. He had been on a visit to the Malay States, and in the article to which I refer he says -
The Federal Malay States are a group of native Malay districts, amalgamated about thirty years ago under a British Administrator on the Crown Colony plan, and occupying the southern portion of the Malay Peninsula, just across the Malacca Straits from Sumatra. The area is about the size of Tasmania. Three years ago these States were practically unexplored jungle, inhabited by half-savage tribes. Now these States have 1,586 miles of metalled roads, 1,000 miles of cleared tracks and bridle paths, 421 miles of metre-gauge railway, with a subsidised motor-car service to outlying places, and 1,231 miles of telegraph and telephone lines. They have 248 State schools, -?r free hospitals, and 2 savings banks. They have rest houses (practically State hotels) at every railway station. They have a State medical service, a military force of 842 men, and a fine body of police, numbering 2,651 men.’ Incredible as it may :seem, they have no public debt; but have, on the contrary, millions of dollars of surplus revenue invested in interest-bearing securities. They are at present building 152 miles of railway out of revenue. Lastly, they have magnificent public buildings, also paid for out of revenue. But how is it done? It is done neither by scientific protection or a revenue tariff, for this astounding Federation imposes no import duties, except on spirits and opium. It is done by taxation on the unimproved value of land. The States have not parted with the fee-simple of one acre of their territory. These States are booming.
– There is not much humanitarian legislation there, I suppose?
– That may be so. I am indebted to some one in Western Australia for a reference to a discussion that took place in the Parliament of that State some years ago, when the right honorable member for Swan was the “ Emperor of the West.” A Mr. Leake, who was a Queen’s Counsel and a very prominent politician of Western Aus tralia, and who, so far as I know, was never associated with the Labour party, though he may have held some of their views, moved in the early days of Western Australia -
That, in the opinion of this House, it would be to the advantage of the country to restrict the .grant of freeholds in and near towns established upon the various gold-fields, and to substitute a system of leasing for a short term of years.
He gave some very good reasons for his motion, and in the course of his speech he said -
If persons will rent land from a ground landlord - the freeholder as we know him, who has obtained his land from the Crown - why should they not do so from the Crown itself ? . . . All I contend for is that the State is entitled to all increase in the value of the land - that increase which is represented by what is known as the unearned increment. . . . That unearned increment is not due to any inherent quality in the land itself, but is the outcome of development, which development may be either gradual or sudden. In our own particular case this development, I am happy to say, has been as sudden as it has been startling. I. am referring to the development of our mines, which has given to land in the locality of the mines an increased and increasing value. It is those increasing values that we seek to attach. Shall we take advantage of the immediate enhanced value - that is, the actual freehold value at the present time - and shall we not take advantage of the annually increasing value of this land? Surely it is better that we should have a regular and gradually increasing income rather than be content with the present actual value of the land, which is practically a nominal value, and nothing more. . . We know the practice . here is to sell the Crown land by public auction to the highest bidder, at upset price. Individuals, no doubt, are more far-seeing than the Government ; and the individual land speculator- or, as I sometimes like to call him, the land grabber - steps in, and with a full knowledge that the land will increase in value as the Colony is developed, the individual reaps the advantage, and not the State. Whatever he puts in his pocket by reason of- his foresight is not to the advantage of the State, though certainly it is to’ the advantage of - the individual speculator. . . But if this system of land nationalization, or the retention by the State of the freehold of land had been recognised in the past, there would have been no necessity for the Government to have come down at this late hour and ask this House to vote thousands of pounds for the re-purchase of land.
Mr. Leake pointed out in that speech that a Loan Bill, which the present honorable member for Swan . had submitted to the Western Australian Parliament, would not have been necessary if this principle of land nationalization had been adopted in the early history of Western Australia.
– He was not very experienced.
– He was quite correct in this matter. He pointed out that a Loan Bill which the right honorable gentleman had submitted had been submitted to enable the Government actually to re-purchase at an enhanced price land which had previously been sold to certain people.
– It was purchased very cheaply.
– That may be so, but it was sold in the first place to the people from whom it was purchasedat a lower price than they received for it from the Government.
– Mr. Leake continued the same policy after he became Premier of Western Australia.
– The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth does not advocate to-day what he did a few years ago. He is always ready to adjust his convictions to suit his ambitions, but it does not follow that he is quite correct in doing so. Mr. (now Sir Walter) James supported the motion moved by Mr. Leake. He was not a member of the Labour party, but he said -
For fifty years after the establishment of the Mother Colony, New South Wales, no freeholds were granted,-
I admit that that was news to me until I read this statement by Sir Walter James. He went on to say - the only tenure under which land was granted by the Crown being a leasehold tenure on more or less short terms.
– But no progress was made then.
– How much progress was there made in Western Australia, with all the alleged advantages of the freehold system, before the mines were started there?
– A good deal.
– One could have bought the whole of Western Australia for a few pounds before the mines were opened up. The State had all the alleged advantages of the freehold system, and the advantage of the statesmanship of the right honorable member for Swan as well. I admit that the right honorable gentleman has many things to be proud of.
– I wonder, if land could be bought so cheaply in Western Australia, that it was not all bought up.
– I suppose that a man at that time could have bought for1s. 1,000 acres in Western Australia which he would have to pay millions for to-day. What was Western Australia until a few Victorian miners went over there, and discovered gold ? Sir Walter James went on to say -
I think it is rather to be regretted that, having started with that good principle, they should, in later days, have departed from it. But the experience of New South Wales, I suppose, was the experience of the rest of the world. When those who had obtained these leasehold areas became a power in the land, when the old official days were departing, and early influences were waning, these land-holders were in a position to demand freehold ownership in their land, and, having the power, they got that right.
That is the experience of many places besides New South Wales. When people who have been granted leaseholds get upon their feet, they seek to turn them into freeholds. It is not because they are personally any better off with a freehold than with a leasehold, but that if there happens to be any rise in the value of the land, they get it if they possess the freehold. The honorablemember for Calare referred to the action of the British Government in spending millions of money to enable the tenant farmers of Ireland to buy out their landlords. By interjection, I reminded the honorable member that though it was a Conservative, and not a Labour, Government that introduced that measure, one of its provisions was that the tenant farmer should not have complete hold of the land, but that the value of one-tenth of it should for all time remain owing to the Government, so that the State might be in a position to deal with the land. A British Conservative Government realized that when land is divided, it may be only a few years’ time under a freehold system when it will again be aggregated in large estates. A few years ago, I spent a Sunday with the late lamented Mr. Batchelor and his brother in the hills near Adelaide. We were walking over some land there, and he informed me that it had been resumed by the Government. It was sold to a number of settlers, and within five years it was all back in the hands of the first landlord.I feel that we are justified in making a fight for the leasehold principle. It is not a fad. We have in support of it the expressions of opinion of the Minister of External Affairs and of the present Prime Minister, who has spoken very strongly in times past against the alienation of land. I could quote many people who do not belong to. our party who have advocated the leasehold principle as against the alienation of Crown lands. We are, therefore, justified in taking the stand we do. The Minister of External Affairs would he quite ready to admit that there are many people outside our party who advocate the non-alienation of Crown lands. It will be pleasing to hear him give his reasons and his arguments why> at this particular moment, he is not prepared to accept tha principle for which, in the past, he has fought so ably and so nobly, and supported more eloquently than many other members are able to do.
– I think honorable members opposite will recognise that we have now had a fairly ample debate upon this question, and I think I am expressing the feelings of honorable members on the Government side of the chamber in saying that the debate has been conducted in a reasonable spirit up to the point of “the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Barrier. But, now that we are getting on happily towards the gracious time of Christmas, when our hours for debate are limited, and seeing that this matter has been now debated on two afternoons, I ask the co-operation of honorable members of the Opposition in trying to get this Bill - which we all regard as a ‘non-party one - placed upon the statute-book. “The Governor of New South Wales, who is now invested with the responsibility for the control of Norfolk Island, is anxious that the matter should be settled at once; and I am sure that, the sooner .we get this Bill on to the Senate and placed on the statute-book the better it will be for the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales, which is at present charged with the responsibility of controlling the Island. A great deal has been said on this and on other occasions upon the question of leasing Crown lands, but I have always regarded principles in politics as being incapable of being divorced from expediency. We are not dealing with mere ethics. I consider that it would be a misuse of legislation if we put on the statute-book the affirmation of a principle which is in harmony with our beliefs, but utterly out of place in relation to the facts we are dealing with. 1 do not think the question ‘ of lease hold or freehold as a principle” legitimately arises in connexion with this Bill. I agree with a great deal that has been said about the possibility of monopoly arising under the freehold system, but since reference has been made to France, I may point out that the population of France is not migratory, but is practically settled, the result being that the freehold system has lasted there; that is to say, there has been no aggregation of land. There has been to a great extent subdivision beyond what economic principles will justify, which has partly come about through the law of Napoleon, providing that only part of the land can be alienated by the testator, the rest having to go to the other members of the family in proportion. In the same way it will be found that where population is comparatively stationary, or where the habits of the people are not migratory, aggregation and dual ownership do not’ arise, and the freehold system will last. There are ten or eleven million freeholders in - France, though they are confined to a comparatively small area, and the proportion to. the total population has been practically the same for the last fifty years. I believe there are about 2,500,000 freeholders in Belguim, and this number has practically stood for twenty years. In Ireland, on the other hand, we have a migratory population. When I left Home there was a stream of emigration amounting to 40,000 annually, there was a good deal of shifting of population, and there was the possible danger, through clearances and sales, of aggregation. In 1881, the Ashbourne Act recognised that if the freehold was granted absolutely, there might in one or two generations be aggregation, and the legislation then proposed was directed to combat it. It was thought desirable that there should be a percentage of purchase money by way of charge to the Crown until the whole of the purchase money had been paid back, on which the interchange of property between the landlords and the tenants took place over a period of fortynine years. I think they called it about 8 per cent, of - the total price of the land which was to be considered as part of the purchase money to be passed over to the Government. However, for reasons into which I need not enter, that proposal was abandoned. Take Australia.
If the principle of leasehold is to be tested, surely it should be considered in relation to the facts. I quite understood the question being raised in regard to the Northern Territory, because there we have practically a clean sheet to deal with. There is not as much settlement there as we would like to have, and there is still a large area which has not been parted with. Again, in the Federal Capital Territory we had . the whole of the land to deal with. We were to get a gift of the Crown lands, and were to purchase the freeholds already in -existence, and it was competent for the Commonwealth, having purchased the freeholds, to deal with them as it chose. When these came into the ownership of the Commonwealth we had to deal practically with a territory not one acre of which had been parted with either under leasehold or freehold, and the capital had still to be built, so that there was no question of present unearned increment; it was all a matter of the future. Starting thus with a clean sheet we considered we were free to apply, as a matter of substance, the policy of leasehold as opposed to freehold. I thought so at the time, and I still believe it to be the better principle for the Commonwealth in the circumstances. Most of the territory will be really city land, and the land outside which may be considered fairly spacious to be connected with the central Seat of Government is merely appurtenant to the city. In the case of Washington, Congress has to bear the burden of about onethird of the expenditure, and it seemed to me to be a fair principle for us to apply the leasehold system to our area, to which the whole of the resulting rent on the full taxation basis could be applied at once, without injustice to any one. To-day, however, we are discussing Norfolk Island, and about 1,300 acres of land, 80 per cent, of which is described as hilly, though not bad. Since 1856, the land on Norfolk Island, when it was subdivided, in the time of Governor Denison, of New South Wales, has practically remained in the same ownership. In other words, there has been no shifting of ownership so as to lead to aggregation.
– Do you not anticipate a great change in that island 1
– I do not think so. My last words in moving the second reading were that I hoped there would be no exploitation of the people on Norfolk
Island. They were shifted from Pitcairn Island on the understanding, as they thought, that they were really to be possessors of Norfolk Island; and it would not do for us to introduce our opinions of commercialism, which really, at the bottom, do not lead to happiness. It would not do for us to allow these people to be exploited by our mistaken notions of economic development from outside. What we can do is to encourage them to make the best use of the country they have some reason, at all events, to consider their peculiar domain. We find that the land has remained according to the original intention for the last fifty years. I have had a list made out of the various holdings on the island. There are very few that run up to 50 acres. At the top there is one holding of 46 acres, next there is a holding of 52 acres, and then there is a whole run of holdings of 10 acres and 4 - acres. I do not know what the average is, but I should guess that it cannot be more than the area allowed to be granted under the law to each person, that is, about 25 acres. That has been practically the position for the last fifty years.
– An islander can take up 25 acres if he marries a daughter of the island, but if he marries an outsider he can only get half that area.
– I do not think there is any provision of that- nature at present. The position is that these lands have been sold, and their sale has not led to aggregation. It is in countries like America and Australia that the freehold system, unchecked, may lead to aggregation, because, when men make a certain amount of money, they sell off, and holdings thus increase in size. It is against this that a policy of subdivision is directed. But this has not occurred in Norfolk Island, and I do not think it is likely to occur. I do not wish to go deeply into the question. I do not consider this is a legitimate occasion on which to raise it. I prefer to deal with leasehold against freehold on matters of substance, and not on mere abstract theories and principles.
– You could make out a stronger case for freehold if you had not made out a case for leasehold in the past.
– I have not altered one iota in my views. Granted a field for the operation of the leasehold system, such as is presented by the Federal Territory, there is a good deal to be said for the leasehold system, and in that case I would give my individual preference for it against the freehold. I would, however, remind my honorable friend that he can gain the end he has in view by a legitimate system of taxation. The greatest opponent of the abuse of the land system - I refer to Henry George - did not believe in leasing. He thought it was a fatuous thing to try to direct from some State Department the conditions on which land was to be. held on leasehold tenure. He maintained that we could not in that way prescribe the areas or the methods of cultivation, and that we should part with the land in freehold, and see that the State got its rights by the imposition of a legitimate tax. If we do that within the bounds of reasonableness, the difference, having regard to the end in view, is practically nothing between the leasehold system and the freehold system. If in Norfolk Island there is a possibility of an abuse of the freehold system, we have the absolute right of taxation, which can be imposed by an Ordinance, or subsequently - if a Constitution is granted - by an Act of Parliament. In this way we may impose any conditions which may be required to keep the island in that state of economic subdivision in which it is at the present time. I do not wish to delay the Committee on this point. I ask honorable members to help me to get the Bill through, in order to effect the transfer from New South Wales, whose control was only temporary, that is, until the Commonwealth took over the island. In addition to that, the measure has really been approved of, after some interchange of correspondence by the Governor of New South Wales and the Imperial Government, and if a change is now made - though I do not say that it will really result in the loss of the Bill - it is possible there may be some hesitancy on the part of the Imperial Government in issuing the Order in Council to render our acceptance legal. I do not say that this is likely, but I would be omitting a duty, as Minister, if I did not point out that it is possible. Therefore, I ask the co-operation of the honorable member for Barrier in getting to a division at once, and I ask this consideration from the point of view that the question of leasing as against freehold should not be raised in a matter where there is so little substance represented, as is the case in connexion with Norfolk Island.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Thomas’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative-
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Appeals)
Mr.Fenton. - I shouldlike to know from the Minister if the Ordinances governing Norfolk Island will be drafted on lines similar to those on which the Ordinances governing the Northern Territory have been drafted?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Tariff preference to goods produced in Norfolk Island).
.- The last Government would have introduced this Bill without clause 15, but when Lord Chelmsford objected to the handing over of Norfolk Island to the Commonwealth unless this provision was put- into the Acceptance Bill, I said that I was not prepared to put it into the Bill, but that I would be prepared to submit it in a separate measure. It is not to be supposed that the free admission of the manufactures of Norfolk Island would ever seriously affect Australia, and, personally, I have no objection to Free Trade between the Commonwealth and Norfolk Island; but can Norfolk Island impose duties against the Commonwealth ?
– The Commonwealth Government, when Norfolk Island has become a Territory under its authority, will be able to impose duties on importations into the island from the Commonwealth.
– That may be necessary to provide revenue for the purposes of the administration of the island. In regard to Papua, we have decided that productions from the Territory shall not be admitted into the Commonwealth duty free, but we can, whenever we so desire, establish free trade between the Commonwealth and Papua.
– This Bill, if it became law, could be amended by a later measure.
– But I have been informed that the people of Norfolk Island were not in favour of the transfer of the island to the authority of the Commonwealth, except under the guarantee that they should be free to send their maize and other produce or manufactures to Australia without having to pay duty upon them. The Bill embodies the conditions of an agreement between two parties, the people of the Commonwealth and the people of Norfolk. Island, one of the conditions on which the latter have insisted being that there shall be Free Trade, so far as exportations from the island to Australia are concerned. Con sequently, in amending this provision, Parliament would, it seems to me, be guilty of a breach of faith. I would like the opinion of the Minister on the point.
– I think it was when the honorable member for Barrier was Minister of External Affairs that the Imperial Government suggested that there should be put into the Acceptance Bill a provision guaranteeing the freedom of exportations from Norfolk Island to Australia, upon which negotiations were suspended for a period of sixteen or seventeen months. I understand that the honorable member was willing to insert the provision in a separate measure, but did not wish to put it into this Bill. That would have been a solution of the difficulty if it had really existed. I think that the Imperial Government were under a misapprehension. I pointed out that we could not insert a provision such as those in our Constitution which bind the people for all time, but that we could accomplish all that was desired if we inserted this clause in the Bill. They asked that it should be put in here, and I put it in; but it does not bind us, inasmuch as it is not part of an agreement. If it were part of an agreement and had been made a schedule to an Acceptance Bill, as this is, then it would be a contract binding upon us, just as some of the conditions of the acceptance of the Northern Territory are binding on the Commonwealth for the reason that they are included in the agreement with South Australia, which is in a schedule to the Northern Territory Acceptance Act. But this is simply a statutory provision by this Parliament, and is capable of being amended by this Parliament.
– The honorable member says that if this provision had been made a schedule to the Bill it would have been binding upon us?
– Yes, assuming that the schedule was an agreement expressing the conditions under which the transfer was to take place. But there has been no agreement. The Imperial Government have power to hand over Norfolk Island to us by Order in Council, and the arrangement when we federated wasthat instead of the Governor of New South Wales being charged with the administration of the island, that charge should be transferred to the Commonwealth, so that all that is necessary is that an Order in Council shall be issued at Some vesting this island in the Commonwealth. We say in this Bill that we are prepared to accept the island, but we are not bound by any clause iri it to grant for all time freedom to imports of this class. This provision is inserted in the Bill as a principle that ought to be applied, but not as part of any contract.
– It will be binding on us.
– No. By way of illustration, let me point out that in the Federal Constitution there are provisions which this Parliament can alter. Those provisions declare that “ Until the Parliament otherwise provides,” such-and-such a thing shall be done. All the others are, in effect, contractual provisions between the States and the Commonwealth. But in the Bill before us we have simply an acceptance measure, and as soon as the Order in Council is issued at Home we shall have to proclaim the Act. We go beyond that, however, and make certain legislative provisions which we can alter at any time. One of these is that the particular products of Norfolk Island, referred to in this clause, shall be free from duty, and they will be free from duty until we choose to alter that policy.
– That would mean an amendment of the Act. The policy could not be altered by a Tariff Bill?
– It could be. I rose to explain this matter, because I know that the honorable member for Barrier, when Minister of External Affairs, was trying, very properly, to induce the Imperial Government not to insist upon this provision being inserted in the Acceptance Bill. They did not necessarily ask that we should be bound to this for all time; but there was at the time an opinion that if it were embodied in the Bill it would have the efficacy of a provision in a Constitution. That view was not correct. I pointed that out and, I think, my contention Has been accepted.
.- I take it that if this provision be agreed to we shall be bound to allow the products to which it refers to be admitted free under the conditions set forth in the clause unless we amend the Act itself. The provision could not be altered in an amending Tariff Bill.
– Yes, we could do that, but the Government could not by anOrdinance violate this provision, becauseit is a direction to the Governor-General as to what Ordinance shall be passed.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I recognise that it would be possible under a Tariff Bill to amend this provision, but it is quitepossible that the existence of this provision might be overlooked when a Tariff Bill was under consideration. By way of illustration, I would point out that about the year 1906 the Commonwealth entered into a preferential agreement with South Africa, under which certain preferences were given to goods coming from that part of the Empire as against imports from other countries. This, however, was overlooked in the Tariff Bill introduced by the late Sir William Lyne in 1907-8, with the result that certain preferences granted to goods the product of Great Britain are less than are the preferences granted to products of South Africa. The preference granted to South Africa under the Act introduced by Sir William Lyne distinctly provided for a percentage reduction on the 1902 Tariff, whereas the preferences granted to the United Kingdom were not provided for until 1907-8. This is a fact that is not generally known. I do not think it wise to spread Tariff items over a number of Acts. The Minister has assured the Committee that this clause can be altered by any Tariff Bill, and I bow to his superior legal knowledge; but I doubt whether it would be right to go back upon such a provision by means of a Tariff Act. The Bill providing for the taking over of Papua did not deal with imports from that Territory into Australia.
– In that case, there was the black labour difficulty.
– And also the question of the large native population. It is estimated that there are something like 360,000 natives in that Territory, and it is quite possible that Papua may produce some of the very products that are now being raised in Queensland. I think it right that we should give this preference, but in dealing with Tariff matters we must always keep in view the industrial conditions prevailing in the country in respect of whose products any preference is proposed. The community of Norfolk Island is a very small one, and is not engaged in any manufacturing industry. For that reason apparently it is proposed to grant them a special privilege, but I doubt whether paragraph b, which provides for the free admission of goods “shipped direct from Norfolk Island to Australia,” is a wise one. It seems to me that such a provision might exclude goods brought to Australia in a vessel which had called at another island on the voyage to this country. Some of the island traders do not follow the direct route. Some may call at NorfolkIsland on the way out, and not on the return voyage, with the result that goods shipped by such vessels might not- be eligible to come in free of duty.
– There is no fear in that regard. What would be considered would be the first port of call and the port of destination.
– The question would not be affected by the vessel calling at intermediate ports?
– No; that point has been decided by the High Court.
– Another point is that many vessels engaged in the island trade are manned exclusively by black labour, so that it might be said hereafter that, whilst under the Navigation Act we have treated Papua as a Territory outside the Commonwealth altogether, and have excluded it from the advantages that we extended by that Act to the Northern Territory, we are giving a special privilege to Norfolk Island, and allowing goods to come in free, although carried in ships manned exclusively by black labour. I doubt the wisdom of this clause. The Minister has not told us of the extent of the trade between Norfolk Island and Australia, nor has he stated whether that trade is likely to increase; but I do not think it is very great. This clause may complicate future Tariff legislation. It would be better to set out plainly in a Tariff schedule the countries to whose products we intend to give a preference. If the Parliament decided, in dealing with such a schedule, that all goods coming from New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Great Britain, and Norfolk Island should be granted a preference, well and good. But I hope we shall not render it necessary for any one who wishes to ascertain the position in regard to goods coming from Norfolk Island or other places to Australia to have to look up half-a-dozen Acts in order to determine what preferences, if any, have been granted. I shall be compelled to vote against the clause as it stands.
– This clause was really accepted by the previous Government, and the only question then was whether it should constitute a separate Bill or be placed in this Bill.
– I prefer to deal with Tariff matters in a Tariff Bill.
– As a matter of fact, the only question in the negotiations which were carried on by the late Government was, as I say, whether the clause should form a separate Bill or be included in this Bill.
– I thought the question was whether there should be Free Trade in perpetuity or not.
– The question I have indicated was the only one on the point discussed in the correspondence. There seemed to be some misapprehension of the effect of putting the clause in this Bill, as it was thought it would fix Free Trade for ever as part of some contract. It does not make the slightest difference, however, whether the clause is put in this Bill or in a separate Bill, because it is not part of the contract under which Norfolk Island is handed over, but is simply a legislative provision made by us as to the conditions under which imports shall be admitted from the island into the Commonwealth. We are actually carrying out what the late Government decided. But on the 13th June, this year, in a despatch from, I think, the Governor of New South Wales, a desire was expressed on behalf of the Imperial Government that we should establish Free Trade - the phrase “Free Trade” was used - with Norfolk Island, and in that desire we have concurred, as the late Government would have done, by placing this provision in the Bill. I cannot see how, in framing a new Tariff, there could be any possible embarrassment.
– This practical provides for Free Trade in perpetuity.
– No ; it doesnot do that. The Constitution contains provisions, some of which are fixed until they are altered by the people and the Parliament, and the reason is that there is no other method; we cannot alter the Constitution except in the way prescribed. This, however, is not a constitutional Act, but merely a legislative Act, and it can be altered by any Tariff . provisions we may make. For instance, Dicey, in his Law and Constitution, says that if by an error in the Dentist Act the provisions of the Act of Union between Scotland and Great Britain, or between Great Britain and Ireland, were incidentally affected, the repeal would be efficacious, although there was no direct reference to the Dentist Act in the Act of Union. Similarly, if a Tariff Bill is introduced which is inconsistent with the provision in the Bill before us, then the latter, to that extent, is modified; and I hope that the honorable member for Yarra will see that there is really no danger of this matter being affected by the passage of a Tariff Bill. As a matter of fact, there are provisions in all Bills that more or less declare principles; but the method of indexing guides the draftsman as to what provisions he has to have regard to- in framing future measures. I hope the clause will be accepted. I am sure that the words “ direct from Norfolk Island “ mean that, although there may be ports of call, the goods must have a clearance from the island to the Commonwealth. If the goods were landed at another port, became mixed up with other goods, and were transhipped, it would be very difficult to identify them, and they would Ipse their character of island imports. It is merely as a precautionary measure that paragraph 6 is inserted.
.- Do I understand the Minister of External Affairs to say that this clause absolutely protects Australia from Norfolk Island being made the dumping-ground for goods from other parts of the world, and the transhipment of those goods to our ports?
– Yes; that is the object of paragraph b.
.- Does the Minister of External Affairs say that if we pass this clause, and the Tariff Bill is passed later, this clause may be practically annulled? If so, I do not see that there is any guarantee to the people of Norfolk Island of Free Trade with the Commonwealth; and I am afraid that the Bill will prove rather a deception. Personally, I am in favour of absolute Free Trade - of encouraging the people of the Territories that we take over, to as much as possible trade with us, and find their markets here. As a matter of fact, I think it would pay Australia if we went a little further, and cultivated friendly relations with more of the islands of the Pacific, not only for our personal benefit, but for the ultimate benefit of the Empire. I should like the Minister to tell us whether I have understood him aright.
.- The explanation of the Minister sounds a little strange to me. I am not questioning the honorable gentleman’s interpretation of the clause, but, if it be correct, I cannot understand why, when I, as Minister, was negotiating with the representative of the Imperial authorities, he did not accept this solution. The late Government would have been prepared to bring in this same Bill without clause 15, but, at the same time, we undertook to submit to this House a Bill providing for Free Trade with Norfolk Island. The representative of the Imperial Government, however, did not regard that as sufficient, but desired a clause in this particular Bill, which would then be practically an arrangement entered into between the Norfolk Island people and the Commonwealth, and it could not be altered without the consent of the former.
– This is a matter of good faith, and not a matter .of constitutional power.
– I told honorable members what the technical effect of the clause will be.
– During the life of the late Government, there were some authorities who were anxious that we should take over Norfolk Island; and I went to Sydney to discuss the matter with Lord Chelmsford, the Governor of New South Wales, who was representing the Imperial Government and the people of the island. The objection raised to my suggestion, which I have indicated, was that a succeeding Parliament might reverse our policy, and establish Protection as regards Australia; and the people of the island wished to be definitely assured that they would have Free Trade with Australia for all time - a result which they claimed ‘ would be attained by inserting a provision in the Bill. That is why the negotiations failed. It is unfortunate that, during those negotiations,, the view now presented was not set forth r because the Bill could have been introduced into the last Parliament and carried. Lord Chelmsford told me that unless he could assure the people of Norfolk Island that they would have Free Trade for all time, he doubted whether they would be ready or willing to be associated with Australia; and, as I say, if the position, as presented now, had been presented at that time, the Bill could have been introduced months ago.
– I have no doubt that what the honorable member for Barrier says is quite correct, namely, that Lord Chelmsford objected to Norfolk Island being taken over unless there was, in the most distinct way, recorded in our Statutes the determination that there should be Free Trade. But this is only an obligation of good faith, to which we are giving the most solemn record that Parliament can give, namely, in an Act. As I understood him, the Minister of External Affairs meant, in speaking of our constitutional power, to convey that this Bill stands on the same basis as any other Bill we may pass. Constitutionally, we might, by a similar Bill to-morrow, or next session, directly repeal the provision in this Bill, or we might indirectly repeal it by a Tariff Bill. But, of course, it is anticipated that Parliament will not do anything that will be a deliberate breach of an arrangement entered into; to which the Government of New South Wales and the Imperial Government are virtually parties. There are only two ways in which you can give some bond that would prevent this Parliament from doing it. One is, if the transaction were carried through by an Act of the Imperial Parliament, which, of course, we could not alter; another, if it was in some way interpreted by an amendment of our own Constitution, which we could only alter, subject to the particular regulations for amendment; but the other parties, including the Imperial Parliament, have trusted to our good faith as a Commonwealth not to alter the vital terms of an agreement entered into. No Australian Government would think of doing so, and, therefore, the matter might be allowed to pass. There are many other obligations which find their only record in a statutory Act of Parliament, which might technically or constitutionally be repealed the next time, but there is no real fear of anything of the kind happening.
– There is an element of doubt in the minds of the Committee as to whether the rights of the Norfolk Islanders will be maintained in the event of ‘ this Bill becoming an Act. As far’ as I understand the position, it amounts to this: that an agreement has been made with the sanction of the Imperial Government, by which the Norfolk Islanders come under the authority of the Federal Parliament, and to guarantee their rights the last clause in the Bill is inserted. I understand also that if Parliament early next session revised the Tariff, and forgot to put in a clause similar to this, guaranteeing freedom of trade with Norfolk Island, this Act would not be worth the paper it is written on, so far as any guarantee is concerned. I do not think this Parliament can leave the rights of the Norfolk Islanders in such an uncertain position.
– Can you suggest anything more that we can do ?
– There is no shadow of doubt that there will be no possibility of the Federal Parliament, whatever’ party happens to be on the Treasury bench, failing to honour arrangements that have been made by our predecessors. We know that in the revision of a Tariff feeling runs pretty high.
– The only way in which this clause could be overridden would be by an express provision in the Tariff.
– If the AttorneyGeneral gives me that assurance I shall be satisfied. My experience as a public man is that, although members have every intention and desire to act honorably, sometimes the ‘ officers of a Department will alter something, and it escapes the notice of the Minister. It may escape the notice of the Cabinet, and may even pass through Parliament; but if the Attorney-General thinks there is no danger, I am quite satisfied.
.- I should like to hear the Minister of External Affairs again on this matter. He said distinctly that even though this clause remained in the. Bill we could, by the Tariff Act, make the goods of Norfolk Island dutiable.
– Yes, if we expressly did so.
– Would it be a breach of faith?
– It would be a breach of faith if we did it; but it is a mistake to mix up Tariff matters in this way, because if we do we shall have exactly the same trouble as we had a few years ago, when in reviewing the Tariff in 1907-8 we omitted to deal with South Africa, and the preference with that country agreed to in 1906 was not altered. I doubt whether half-a-dozen members are aware to-day that we have two or more distinct Tariff Acts. That is a mistake. We should deal with the question altogether. If we decided to give this concession to any Territory of the Commonwealth, we should define it definitely in the Tariff Act, and we should then know what we were doing, instead of making provision in this Bill; because when the Tariff is under consideration, this clause might be overridden. Some persons might say that it would not matter much, as the population of Norfolk Island is only about 1,000, but it would matter if it were the case of Papua.
– Assuming that you are right, that is no argument for leaving that clause out of this Bill, though it may be an argument for the inclusion of a similar provision in the Tariff Act.
– I object to cutting up our Tariff, and having to look for Tariff matters in a number of different Acts. In accepting this island the clause could be left in, but it can only remain there until we have amended the Tariff. Our hands are tied at the present time. I do not know how much say the Norfolk Islanders have had in this matter, but I presume that the representative of the Imperial Government in New South Wales has dealt with this point on their behalf. There is no doubt that the Norfolk Islanders will have just as good treatment from the Commonwealth as they had from New South Wales; but we should know what we are committing ourselves to.
– This is simply a legislative provision which we can alter.
– If we were to alter it, it would be a breach of faith.
– I have referred to correspondence that took place with the Colonial Secretary regarding Free Trade for the products of Norfolk Island. In order to accord them Free Trade, this method was arranged. At the same time it was my duty to point out to the House, and to those responsible for the transfer, that, this being merely a legislative provision, it was obligatory only on the conscience of Parliament, and that we could at any time afterwards alter it: Honorable members opposite want to accomplish this purpose in a way not asked for by the Imperial Government, by means of a separate Bill, so as to emphasize the power and indicate the probability of altering it afterwards.
– Any Parliament in the future could do so without a breach of faith.
– The Imperial Government have asked for it in this way, so that it would have more the colour of a sort of understanding or agreement. If it were put in as a separate Bill there would be no understanding about the matter at all. We could alter it, not as a matter of technical power, but as a sort of declaration of the principle upon which we took it over, that we might at any time without any complaint make the alteration.
– Without any breach of faith ?
– There is no breach of faith, except with the Imperial Government. The Norfolk Island people have not raised the question at all. It was pointed out in the report of the Commission that sat a few years ago in connexion with Norfolk Island, that it was a considerable obstacle to the development of the island that certain duties were imposed under the Australian Tariff. That obstacle, at the request of the Imperial Government, has been removed, and this Bill, with this clause in it, was submitted for approval, and has been accepted, and I ask the Committee in the circumstances, knowing exactly what the technical power is, and knowing the existence of a sort of moral understanding, to leave the clause as it stands. I cannot see how any confusion can arise in the passing of a Tariff Act from the fact that this clause is here. It restrains the hands of the Executive to some extent. It is a sort of direction by this Parliament to those responsible for framing Orders in Council that they are not to frame any Orders in Council inconsistent with the provisions of this clause, that is, that no Order in Council, even though constitutional, which is inconsistent with the principle of free imports, will have any validity.
Clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ The manufacture, importation, and sale of alcoholic liquors for beverage purposes is prohibited.”
Honorable members will have no difficulty in understanding the scope and intention of this proposal. It is complete, short, sharp, and to the point. They will notice that I qualify the prohibition by inserting the words “ for beverage pur; poses.” That will leave importation, manufacture, and sale for medical and scientific purposes entirely free if required. I am prepared to give that concession to those who still hold the old belief as to the virtues of alcohol as a medicine, although it is banished as a medicine from the most advanced hospitals and medical institutions, and abandoned by the great bulk of the medical profession. Still, old beliefs die hard, and even honorable members may not be disposed to change their opinions in this matter too quickly. The clause put before the Committee is the most uptodate, the only effective and the very best possible way. to secure a permanent and satisfactory development of the island in the best sense. Honorable members will be interested to know the present position. The present position was outlined by the Minister of External Affairs in his speech on the second reading of the Bill in the following terms -
The Minister said that it practically amounted to the existence of a teetotal island. Some time ago theRight Reverend Dr. Wood, Bishop of Melanesia, addressing a meeting of a Church Congress in Brisbane, referred to the same matter, and said that at the present time Norfolk Island is practically a teetotal island. I am, therefore, at once faced with the obvious retort, “ Why are you not satisfied with the existing condition of affairs?” My proposal is not to alter the existing conditionof affairs further thanto prohibit importations. The manufacture is not specifically prohibited now, but the Chief Magistrate has complete control in connexion with importia-: tions. But we are looking forward to - considerable development in Norfolk Island. Public attention has been called to it by the debate on this Bill in a manner which will inevitably bring about some attempts to develop the resources of the island. The present population is limited to 987 people, who are mostly descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty, who, in 1856, were removed from Pitcairn Island to Norfolk Island in order to provide more room for their accommodation. They are the descendants of British sailors concerned in the mutiny of the Bounty and Tahitian women, and, therefore, are not exactly on a level with ordinary Australians. Honorable members will notice that in this Bill we are adopting throughout a sort of paternal oversight of the Norfolk Islanders. I contend that there is no way in which we can more certainly safeguard their interests, and secure their best development, than by protecting them against the evils of the consumption of alcoholic liquor. By every law of civilization, every record and every report, and every experience of the world, drink is admitted to be the greatest disturbing, irritating, and degrading influence that can enter into any country. May I give the Committee one or two illustrations. There are many illustrations which can be quoted from all parts, of the world of the satisfactory results which have followed from the prohibition of alcoholic liquors. I may particularly refer to the island of Iceland, which, because of its isolation and the fact that it is so largely self-contained, is an apt illustration when we are dealing with Norfolk Island. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports suggests that people cannot do without liquor in Iceland. That is in accord with the old and exploded idea that when you are hot you should take liquor to make yourself cold, when you are cold to make yourself hot, when you are ill to make yourself well, and when you are well it makes you ill. Such ideas are now exploded, and in this matter the honorable member is decidedly a back number. Let me give honorable members the experience of the people of Iceland, as set out in Prohibition Advance in all Lands, by Guy Hayler, president of the International Prohibition Federation. I find that the population of Iceland in 1911 was 85,089, of whom 7,500 were located in the capital city. Some time ago a law was passed prohibiting the manufacture of intoxicating liquors. In 1905 a Bill was introduced prohibiting entirely the importation and sale of liquor. The. Committee appointed to consider the Bill made certain recommendations. The first will be found to be rather interesting -
The Committee which was appointed to consider this Bill is in harmony with the idea that the use of intoxicating liquors is of no advantage to society; but, on the other hand, causes great misery, as it is generally accompanied by squandering money, loss of work, poor health, and offences against decency and morals to a great extent when the community as a whole is considered.
I do not intend to quote the whole of the particulars in connexion with this matter, but I may inform honorable members that the Bill was introduced after a plebescite vote had been taken of the inhabitants of the island. It prohibited the manufacture, importation, and sale of intoxicating liquors which contained more than 2 per cent. of alcohol. When it was passed I find that -
A deputation was appointed to wait upon the King of Denmark to secure His Majesty’s approval of the new law. It has been stated in the public press that when the Bill was presented . for his signature the King said - “ Few, if any of my actions since I became King, have given me more satisfaction than that of signing the prohibition law for Iceland, and if the Parliament of Denmark will pass a similar law I shall be more willing yet to approve.”
When prohibition became certain of being adopted, the State Minister resigned, declaring that, in his opinion - “ If the law is passed it will be impossible to enforce it.”
The King accepted the resignation, and appointed a Good Templar, Mr. Bjorn Jonssen, to fill the vacancy. In taking up the office of Prime Minister, Mr. Jonssen declared - “ I hope that prohibition will be the first law I shall have to sign as Minister.”
And it was.
– He must be a brother of the honorable member.
– Yes, he is. Perhaps the honorable member for Melbourne Ports will be interested to know that not only in Iceland, but in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the northern European countries the movement towards prohibition is more pronounced than in any other part of Europe. Only a few weeks ago both Houses of the Swedish Parliament passed a Bill prohibiting the presence of alcoholic liquors in the Swedish Parliament House. It has been suggested that the letters I.O.G.T. should be placed over the doors ofthe Swedish Parliament House. I wish we could look forward to a similarly satisfactory state of affairs in Melbourne. This action has placed the Swedish Parliament amongst the most advanced and progressive Parliaments in the world. To come a little nearer home, I may remind honorable members that in connexion with the Papua (British New Guinea) Bill, this House discussed a prohibition provision in almost identical terms with that which I have moved. In 1904, this Parliament passed a Bill for the taking over of the Territory of Papua almost in exactly the same way as we are in this Bill proposing to take over Norfolk Island. Honorable members will find at page 6518 of Hansard for 1904 that Mr. Mauger, who was then member for Melbourne Ports - and here is an example for the present member - moved that the following new clause be inserted in the Papua (British New Guinea) Bill -
No intoxicants or opium shall be allowed to be imported into, or manufactured, or sold, or otherwise disposed of in the Territory, except for medicinal purposes, to be dispensed on the order of a medical practitioner, or person duly authorized by the Lieutenant-Governor, and any Ordinance passed before the commencement of this Act providing for such introduction or sale is hereby repealed.
The debate on that motion is well known to most honorable members, and I think I shall content myself with directing their attention to the division that took place upon it after two amendments had been disposed of. The proposed new clause was agreed to by a vote of thirteen “Ayes “ against eight “Noes,” with eight pairs. I will mention the names of honorable members who voted for and against the clause, and who now occupy seats in this House. Amongst the “Ayes” were Messrs. Austin Chapman, Joseph Cook, A. Fisher, L. E. Groom, W. Elliot Johnson, Dr. Maloney, W. J. Mcwilliams, King O’Malley, A. Poynton, W. G. Spence, J. Thomas, F. G. Tudor, and C. McDonald.
– All the “ wowsers.”
– I am delighted that a word which has been so traduced and abused should now be used as a compliment. The gentlemen whose names I have mentioned may take theflattering unction to themselves that the term “wowser” has been applied to them because their votes with the “ Ayes “ for the clause I have referred to have entitled them to that distinction. Amongst the “ Noes “ in the division were Messrs. F. W. Bamford, Sir John Forrest, J. M. Fowler, C. E. Frazer, W. H. Kelly, D. Watkins, W. Webster, and J. Page. I find that Mr. Hughes, the honorable member for West Sydney, was amongst the honorable members who paired. Of honorable members who now occupy seats in this House thirteen supported and nine opposed Mr. Mauger’s proposed new clause. Unfortunately, although the clause was passed in this House, it was rejected by the Senate in favour of a local option provision.
– Was there a double dissolution because the Senate rejected the clause?
– No; the House of Representatives was in a more accommodating mood in those days. The Senate’s amendment was accepted, and the local option provision is now the law in the Territory of Papua. One matter which I should like to refer to in this connexion is that the clause was defeated because some of those who voted against it in the Senate were influenced by certain statements made by missionaries in Papua. I was actively interestedin temperance work in Brisbane at the time, and it was with feelings of pain and regret that I read the accounts of the attitude taken up by the missionaries. That was the first time I entered into serious correspondence on public questions. I got into correspondence with Bishop Stone- Wigg, who was then Bishop of Papua, and I found, to my amazement, that the missionaries, and almost the whole of the religious leaders in Papua at the time, were against the idea of prohibition, on the antediluvian ground that it would encourage smuggling and sly-grog selling. That is an argument which we always hear, but it is not borne out by facts.
– It is rampant in New Zealand, at any rate.
– I am glad that interjection was made, and I shall deal with it straight away. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports suggests that sly-grog selling is rampant in New Zealand. The facts are that the amount of drink consumed in no licence areas is in the proportion of one to sixteen compared with the amount consumed in licensed areas. The honorable member is evidently not aware of the fact that the no-licence provisions in operation in New Zealand deal only with the retail sales. The manufacture and importation into those districts is still unaffected. Honorable members must admit, if they are willing to be fair in the matter, that, where you do not prevent importation, no prohibition district can be entirely free from the consumption of alcoholic liquors. The American prohibition States are faced with exactly the same difficulty. Although quite a number of them have, by local option provisions, banished the sale of liquor from their territories, the American Constitution - which is practically the same as ours, and, because of that, similar results will follow here byandby - places no limitation upon liquor passing from one State into another. Where you have no-licence or prohibition, and, running side by side, a licensed area in which drink can be freely sold, and there is no law to prohibit drink being taken from one place to the other, you can expect no other result than that drink will be found in the prohibition area.
– The people all leave the prohibition areas.
– That interjection only shows a lamentable ignorance of the facts. I may give the honorable member for East Sydney an illustration: Some years ago, the Queensland Government sent the senior police magistrate of Brisbane to New Zealand to find out all the facts in connexion with no-licence and prohibition in the Dominion, because they had in contemplation the introduction of a Licensing Bill in the State Parliament. This statement, which was only corroborative of statements of others who investigated it, and has since been corroborated by others who have freely and honestly investigated it, was that in the no-licence areas population had grown, business increased, the condition of the people bettered, and crime decreased until, in some cases, the gaols stood practically empty all the year round. But how could it possibly be otherwise? The law that affects the individual is in a degree exactly the same law that affects the nation or a district. There is no man who knows anything about the effect of alcohol on individuals but must admit that it has a damaging and deteriorating influence, and that when a man in his individual capacity becomes a prohibitionist, he immediately begins to improve in every respect. What is true of the individual is true, in a larger degree, of a community. But I am very anxious to confine my remarks to Norfolk Island, and I invite the attention of honorable members to this report on Pitcairn Island -
In 1789 the mutiny of the Bounty took place, and Fletcher Christian, a young man, who was one of the leaders, eventually settled with a number of the mutineers on the Pitcairn Island. One of the first enactments adopted by this band of mutineers was the following : - “ No person or persons shall be allowed to get spirits of any sort from any vessel. No intoxicating liquors whatever shall be allowed to be taken on shore, unless for medicinal purposes.”
I ask for nothing more than that Parliament shall allow the descendants of the Pitcairn Islanders to be in exactly the same position as they were in at first.
The island was visited at various times, when several captains of British ships reported the progress of this small community, living without the use of intoxicating liquors. One officer states - “ The agility and strength of these natives were so great that the stoutest and most expert English sailors were no match for them in wrestljng and boxing.”
Captain Worth, who visited Pitcairn in 1848, states - “ I never was so gratified as by my visit, and would rather have gone there than to any part of the world. They are the most interesting, contented, and happy people that can be conceived. The comfort, peace, strict morality, industry, excessive cleanliness and neatness apparent about them, were really such as I was not prepared to witness ; their learning and attainments in general education and information are astonishing ; the men and women are a fine race, and their manners are of a really superior order - ever smiling and joyous; but one mind and one wish seemed to actuate them all. Crime appears to be unknown; and if there is really true happiness on earth, it is surely theirs. The island is romantic and beautiful ; the soil of the richest description, yielding almost every fruit and vegetable. In short, it is a little Paradise.”
The island has been visited many times since then, andall who go to see the descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty marvel at the order, happiness, and prosperity which abounds among the people. The fact is sometimes overlooked that for nearly125 years Pitcairn Island has been under entire prohibition of the liquor traffic thoroughly enforced.
It is on behalf of the descendants of these Pitcairn Islanders, who are now passing under our control, and for whom we shallbe morally responsible, that I make this proposition. It seems that they have not yet taken to the use of intoxicating beverages, and it is our duty to protect them, and give them every opportunity to protect themselves. If honorable members will look at page 2143 of this session’sHansard, they will find a very fine description, given by the Minister of External Affairs, of the character of the inhabitants of the. island, and of their style of life. They are practically an innocent people; they have no open sale of liquor, and they are free from crime; if there is a gaol on Norfolk Island it is tenantless. It is no mere coincidence, the absence of liquor and the absence of crime; it is one of the facts of every-day life. If we wish the island to be developed on the very best lines, and if we desire to do the very best we can for these people for. whom we are making ourselves responsible, I know of no better way than by securing for the islanders that intoxicating liquors shall not be allowed to interfere with their well-being. I am asked why I desire to have this prohibition inserted in the Bill. The matter is at present covered by Ordinance, and it is entirely at the option of the chief magistrate to decide what shall be imported, and what shall be done with what is imported. We may be fortunate in having a chief magistrate who may properly interpret the ideas of the Commonwealth Parliament in regard to this matter, just as we have been particularly and peculiarly fortunate in the men we have in charge in Papua - Judge Murray, the Governor, and Mr. Staniforth Smith, the Administrator, both of whom are total abstainers. But there is always the possibility of the chief magistrate in Norfolk Island; in the absence of any statutory limitation, abandoning the ideas in the minds of honorable members, and we might have the danger in a very active form before there is opportunity to remedy it or stop it. I am sure that honorable members on both sides of the House are anxious to do the best they can for Norfolk Island, and I suggest that the best place for this prohibition is in this Bill; because it will give the matter permanence, and prevent any unwarrantable interference of a temporary character by a temporary official. The House willingly and cheerfully accepted responsibility, in the same respect, with regard to Papua, and the need is just as great in regard to Norfolk Island. If we had this consideration for an Inferior race in the case of Papua - I say it without disrespect; because I have a very high esteem for the character of the Papuans - there is greater need for the protection of the -race now inhabiting Norfolk Island.
– They have too much sense to touch liquor.
– It is not because there have not been plenty to tempt them that they are free from this curse. I say it is one of the greatest charges that can be laid against the British, as colonisers, that at every opportunity we have had to colonise, along with the officials, missionaries, and traders, we have sent the things that tend to ruin and disgrace those in the colonies we seek to establish. The very ships that take the missionaries and the Bibles take the gin. In conclusion, I say that the Commonwealth should accept this responsibility in regard to Norfolk Island* We should do our best for the islanders, and take away from them any temptation to degrade themselves by the use of alcoholic liquor.
.- Though I believe in the use of all things, and the abuse of nothing; though I recognise, from much personal experience, that over-eating kills perhaps as many as over-drinking, and that the Almighty never sent a curse upon the earth per se, I support the proposed clause, because it is the abuse of what otherwise would be useful that makes it a curse, a danger, and a poison. Norfolk Island was designed by Queen Victoria, on the advice of the Colonial Office of the day, to test a new system of _ land tenure, which, though it was not as advanced as the land tenure system of Hong Kong, was sufficiently advanced. .However, it was crippled and destroyed by the injustice of the New South Wales Government, and for that reason I vote for the honorable member’s proposal, though, in other cases, I may be against the principle embodied in it. It was one of the laws the Pitcairn Islanders wished to have implanted in their Constitution - they were a patriarchal people, electing their own . patriarchs - but that did not suit the” governing powers, and the official authorized to control them drew a salary almost equal to the combined incomes of the whole community. These islanders are an interesting people; they are absolutely the finest boatmen of the Southern Seas. One must have great admiration for the way in which they manipulate their boats through the coral reefs. I hope the clause will be carried, because, with Free Trade, the consumption of liquor is unpreventible when a prohibition State is near to another State where there is free sale of liquor. It is pleasing to hear these islanders talk. Their English is spoken so softly and sweetly that it rivals Italian. They take their tongue from their English fathers, and the soft vowel sounds from their South Sea mothers. Even to-day these people, white as we are - the tinge of the Southern Seas has almost disappeared from their skins - speak the English tongue with a soft accent, and have also their own patois. I regret that they have not been allowed the system of land tenure originally intended by the British Government.
– The honorable member will not be in order in going into that matter.
– It is recognised by every authority who has investigated the subject that the progeny of a mixed parentage, coloured and white, is more prone to alcoholic excess than those of pure blood of either parent race. For that reason alone, I should like the Government - if Ministers can see their way clear to do so - to accept the amendment, and thus to render a great benefit to the inhabitants of one of the most interesting islands in the Southern Seas.
.- The honorable member for Brisbane has put his case very fairly, but I may be excused if I repeat a few considerations which I think should operate with him in withdrawing the amendment. If there is one place in which the use of liquor is restricted, it is Norfolk Island. The honorable member spoke of the position of affairs at Pitcairn Island. There seems to have been established a perfect Eden of contentment at Pitcairn Island until, about the beginning of last century, the usual troubles arose from various causes, such as the inevitable beauty of the female, and the over-susceptibility of the male, and the consolation sought for disappointment in drink. At that time, there was no restriction on the importation of liquor, and there was distilled locally a beverage which had probably twice the intoxicating power of ordinary spirituous liquor. I, like the honorable member for Brisbane, am a teetotaller, and accept everything he said in favour of total abstinence. If one wants to be young’ throughout his life, as the honorable member for Brisbane is, he should be, like him, a teetotaller.
– And miss a lot of fun.
– Drink is the anodyne of misery with which some of us are not troubled. About 1896, special arrangements were made regarding the distribution of liquor at Norfolk Island. The distribution had to’ be through the Chief Magistrate, and under a regulation made in 1894, and set out at length in my second-reading speech, no liquor can now be imported that is not consigned to the special magistrate. What liquor is imported is not sold; it is only supplied on special terms to the Melanesian Mission, which I do not suppose consumes much.
– The honorable member does not know.
– I think that I do. I had the pleasure of receiving a call from some of the missionaries at my private residence; and, from what I have seen and heard, I do not think there is likely to be any abuse of the exception made in regard to the mission. Another exception is made in favour of the employes of the Pacific Cable Company at Anson Bay. These persons number about ten or eleven, and, like all officials of cable companies, are constantly being changed. I do not think that the Imperial Government would like the special exemption that is made in favour of these employes - and which has been stringently adhered to - fo be neutralized by us.
– Surely the Imperial Government is not interfering in this matter.
– It is not. But, if wemade this alteration without communicating with it on the subject, there might be some little trouble, though I do not anticipate any.
– Surely the honorable member does not put forward that argument seriously.
– I do not submit it tooemphatically, but I put it seriously, because I do not want to offend the company. I have heard that it might produce some trouble it an absolute ban were placed on all importation of liquor in connexion with the settlement at Anson Bay. The people there are supplied with liquor only through the Government Resident. Permits are granted only for a month, with all sorts of restrictions against any breach of the privileges given. No liquor is sold for any other purpose than to use in case of sickness, though I agree with the honorable member for Brisbane that the old contention that liquor could do great good in sickness has been abandoned. I have read what Sir Henry Thompson wrote on the subject twenty-six years ago. Everything that the honorable member for Brisbane desires, except so far as the Melanesian Mission - and the Cable Station are concerned, is already accomplished; and there is no sale of liquor in Norfolk Island. There may be manufacture ; and, if there is any merit at all in this proposal, and it relates only to that, I am afraid that were the amendment agreed to, it might give an implied permission to sell. It provides that there shall be no sale for beverage purposes, which implies permission to sell for other purposes. But once a man gets a bottle in his hand, I do not think he is particular about what he does with it. The consumption of liquor is not dealt with, so that if a man can get liquor for other than beverage purposes there will be nothing to prevent him from drinking it. I suggest that we should leave well alone. Norfolk Island is practically teetotal already, and there is no manufacture of liquor there. But, should there be danger of that, we can prevent it. I suggest that this matter should be considered in connexion with a Bill for the administration of the island, which must be introduced in due course, and we can then deal with it in the light of experience. I cannot see strong reason for objecting to the prohibition of the manufacture of liquor if there should be a possibility of liquor being manufactured to defeat the prohibition directed against its importation. Norfolk Island is not the place to apply the provisions which are incorporated in the Papuan legislation. In Papua there are between 300,000 and 400,000 natives. There provision has been made for local option. There were licences and permits existing when Papua was transferred to the Commonwealth, and we provided that, except as regards them, no licences should be granted except under the local option provisions. In Norfolk Island there are no natives; no members of a subject or subordinate race. I trust that these distinctions will be recognised, and that the amendment will be withdrawn. I promise that, should it be in my power, and should there be a danger of manufacture defeating the practical prohibition and importation of liquor,’ I shall introduce legislation dealing with the subject.
.- If the honorable member for Angas were going to remain in his present office permanently, we might take his advice in this matter, but, unfortunately, we do not know how soon he may be removed from it.
– The honorable member would not trust a Labour substitute.
-I would, if he were to be the honorable member for Brisbane. Whenever a proposal of this kind is made, we are told’ that the time for it is not opportune. I remember the debate on the liquor question in regard to Papua. Prohibition was moved for, and carried, the honorable member for Franklin and myself successfully taking a hand in the matter; but the remarkable thing was that those representing the temperance societies afterwards backed down on prohibition, and went for local option instead. They first denounced local option, and were in favour of prohibition, but when next the matter came up, they favoured local option and denounced prohibition.
– The teetotallers always vote for the brewers in New South Wales.
– I do not know as to that; butthey religiously issue a manifestoagainst me at each election, though that is neither here nor there. In Papua, it is true, we had between 300,000 and 350,000 natives to protect; but the missionaries were those who endeavoured to prevent the carrying of prohibition, and were its strongest opponents. I have no reason to doubt what the Minister has said about the state of things in Norfolk Island, and if very little liquor is drunk there, that is a good reason for agreeing to the amendment, because it will give effect to a principle without causing much inconvenience. The Minister spoke of the exemption given to the officials of the Cable Company, and suggested that we might offend the Imperial authorities by removing it. But I trust that that sort of argument will not be used in our debates, though I have heard it used before. The thing is either right or wrong. If it is right, we should not be afraid to do it, but if it is wrong, we should not do it.
– It requires a good deal of courage to oppose a proposal of the kind before the Committee; but I have always considered the liquor question as one to be dealt with by those mostly concerned. The people of Norfolk Island are as civilized as we are.
– More so; because they have very little to do with drink.
– Possibly. Had the honorable member for Brisbane attempted to insert in the Bill a provision enabling the Norfolk Islanders to pass a law dealing with the sale and distribution of liquor, I should have supported his proposai.
– Local option?
– Exactly. The honorable member for Brisbane talks as do a few more members of the Water Lily Church, and I listen to him with admiration and awe when he is dealing with the liquor question. But he has. used to-night arguments that I heard more than ten years ago, and which I have used myself. The peculiarity of the. advocates of prohibition is that when you put it to them that other people have a right to choose their own course they will invariably reply, “Yes, but we want to save the children.” They want to save other people’s children, but they would object to anybody laying down a line of conduct for their own children to follow. There may be people in Norfolk Island who, unlike the- honorable member for Brisbane, are civilized, and feel that on occasions a little alcoholic liquor does them good. The residents of the island ought to be allowed to decide for themselves whether alcoholic liquor shall be sold there.
– Did not the honorable member vote a little while ago for an amendment which would have taken from the people of Norfolk Island the right to determine how the Crown lands there should be disposed of?
– That question has nothing in common with the point now under consideration. The arguments in favour of prohibition have long since been wiped out, and I do not propose to discuss them. The point that I wish to make is, that we have no right to determine whether or not the people of Norfolk Island shall be able to obtain alcoholic drinks. They are not savages. When I visited Papua some time ago, I felt that the Parliament of Australia had conferred a benefit on the Papuans by keeping alcohol out of their reach. But whereas the Papuans are savages, the people of Norfolk Island are not. As a matter of common decency, the honorable member for Brisbane should allow them to decide for themselves whether or not prohibition shall, be enforced. The talk about our having a sort of fatherly interest in these people is like some more of the temperance clap-trap that we ‘have heard. I care not whether honorable members are abstainers or moderate drinkers - who, according to the temperance people, are the greatest enemies of humanity - or whether they like to have a “ stick “ in the water they drink. I hold that it is not fair “for us to arrogate to ourselves the right to determine what the people of Norfolk Island shall drink. Give them local option, so that they may decide for themselves whether prohibition shall prevail in the island or not.
.- As we have been assured by the Minister that there is practically no sale of liquor in Norfolk Island at the present time, I think that we ought to leave well alone, and refrain from inserting in the Bill this proposed new clause. I can speak from personal experience of the benefit or otherwise of alcoholic liquors. For five long and weary year3 I was a teetotaller. Had I remained one I should not have been here to-day ; a wooden box would have had me long ago. I am always prepared to give the people of any locality the free and unrestricted right to decide for themselves whether alcoholic liquors should or should not be sold there. I do not think it would be well for a race if strong liquor “were absolutely done away with, not for a generation, but through the centuries. If it were true that the consumption of strong liquor degenerates a race, then there t would not be one of us here to-day. Who were heavier drinkers than the old Anglo-Saxons? They drank long, and they drank well.
– And often.
– And often. The reason why I never have voted and never shall vote for prohibition is that I do not believe that the race would be as good as it is physically to-day if strong liquor were totally abolished. From a physical stand-point the teetotal races, wherever they may be found, cannot compare even distantly with the people of those countries where alcoholic liquors have been consumed for some time. It is all very well to speak of what a difference has been made in some of the northern European countries by the introduction of prohibition; but the few years during which the system has been in operation offer us no criterion as to its value or otherwise. It must take a long time to establish or disestablish such a fact. I hold that the people should have an opportunity to determine this matter for themselves. If the majority of the people of Norfolk Island say they want liquor let them have it, and if the majority say that they do not want it let them do without it.
– I believe that the proposed new clause ought to be agreed to, in view of the fact that for the last nine years the principle of prohibition has been practically in operation in Norfolk Island. I was rather impressed by some of the arguments used by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, but it seemed to me that he could have assisted his case to a very great extent had he been in a position to say that the people of the island had revolted against the existing conditions. The fact that, to the best of our knowledge, they have not done so should be a sufficient indication that they are prepared to continue those conditions. I feel, therefore, that it would be in the best interests of these people to protect them from the evils arising from the drink traffic, which we see manifested elsewhere.
Mr. FENTON (Maribyrnong) [9.22J. - I shall support the proposed new clause. If any argument were necessary to urge upon honorable members the wisdom of adopting this provision, it would be found in the speeches delivered by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Boothby. When Norfolk Island is taken over by the Commonwealth it will probably be visited by a large number of people, and the presence of a number of visitors from the mainland might make the island less pleasant in this respect than it has been. Ever since these people took control of the island it has been emphatically laid down, as a fundamental law, that there shall be no traffic in liquor.
– Then why mistrust their own laws?
– We want to protect them from what may be termed the invader. The honorable member for Parkes knows that countries which have been free from the damaging effects of intoxicating liquors-
– There are no black people at Norfolk Island.
– I am aware of that; but, by way of illustration, I am pointing out. that where white races have gone to countries where the white man’s strong drinks were unknown, deterioration of the native race has followed the introduction of those beverages.
– At Samarai there are only seventy-five white people, yet there are three hotels. A lot of the liquor must, therefore, go to the natives.
– Quite so. Instead of protecting the natives of these islands, we are apparently bringing into their midst elements of deterioration and destruction.
– Will not the Norfolk Islanders be protected under Ordinances ?
– I object to government by Ordinance, and there were no more strenuous objectors te the application of that principle to the Northern Territory than were honorable members opposite when they were on this side of the House. Land-hunters and speculators will go to Norfolk Island, while others may desire to reside there for a part of the year, and with this invasion drink may be surreptitiously introduced in perhaps its very worst form. For that reason, I am an exceptionally strong supporter of the amendment.
.- I shall support the honorable member for Brisbane on the present occasion. The islanders now have the right to govern themselves and control the liquor traffic; but when we take over the island there will be Free Trade in liquor as in other commodities. At present, the islanders prohibit liquor to a certain extent; but, of course, that will all be changed with the advent of Free Trade, and unless we protect the people we shall do them an injustice.
– There is an Ordinance regarding the liquor traffic now.
– But we should leave nothing to chance. I hope honorable members opposite do not regard this as in any way a party question, because it is our duty, as I say, to protect the people of the island who have shown an inclination not to traffic in liquor.
Amendment (by Mr. Mathews) proposed -
That the words “is prohibited” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ shall be decided by a local option poll of all adult residents of Norfolk Island.”
.- I should like, if possible, for us to arrive at some consensus of opinion on the point, because I do not think there is any fundamental difference between honorable members. Personally, I believe that the less liquor there is on Norfolk Island the better; but, in a Bill dealing with the transfer under an Order in Council of the Imperial Government, we should not go beyond what is absolutely necessary. When an administration Bill is introduced, we can make special provision in regard to the liquor traffic, with all the necessary incidental clauses. We cannot do that now; and even the amendment, as proposed, is too short to accomplish what is desired, seeing that there are no penal provisions.
– What about the local option poll?
– I think it is inapplicable. There are now only three or four families on theisland, and they are practically all inter-related. Originally, in 1856, there was only one survivor of the Pitcairn Islanders, and he most heroically took charge of all the children. If local option is introduced, there will be brought in the pernicious principle of some line of division amongst the people there; and I do not think that we ought, without necessity, to so interfere in the lives of a comparatively happy people. We do not prohibit the manufacture of liquor now; and it was the manufacture, I understand, that caused trouble on the Pitcairn Island. There is no manufacture at present, but there may be; and, in order to make the principle of the existing law complete, I will go the length of the amendment in regard to manufacture, and suggest that we should prevent it; and also prevent, not merely the sale, but the supply, which is something different, except in accordance with the existing laws. There is no liquor sold at all, except at the Mission Station and to the few people employed by the Pacific Cable Board, and they are under stringent regulations. I suggest that there should be an amendment prohibiting the manufacture, except in accordance with the provisionof the laws at present in force in Norfolk Island.
– Are there any laws at present on the question?
– There are a number of provisions which, in effect, prevent the sale and supply of liquor, with the exceptions Ihave stated.
– Are they the people’s own laws, or the law of the British Government ?
– They are laws made by the Governor ofNew South Wales. I have in my despatch-box some rather pleasant letters from ladies who have spent years on the island, and great hopes are expressed that this Bill will be passed. Those ladies speak in very satisfied terms of the temper in which the proposal has been accepted by the House.
– Did the Norfolk Islanders indorse the laws passed by the New South Wales Government?
– They did, in the sense that they did not object to the laws.
– They were quite satisfied?
– They were; and there has been no trouble about the liquor there. I ask the honorable member for Brisbane to accept my suggestion for the present, in view of the fact that we shall have another opportunity of testing whether any liquor shall be manufactured or sold on the island. Possibly, I should be found voting for a prohibition proposal if the occasion were ripe ; but I do not believe that it is at present.
– I wish to give the people the right of ruling themselves in this matter.
– Would the honorable member attempt to sow the seeds of political discord in a family of fifteen or sixteen people?
– I should like to say a word or two on this important question, for it is important, as affecting the outlying Territories of the Commonwealth. We should recollect that this is not an enacting Bill, but really a Constitution under which the island is to be governed, and which will enable the islanders to govern themselves in the future, and make what laws they desire. The suggestion of the Minister of External Affairs represents the only practical prohibition we can have for Norfolk Island. The honorable member for Brisbane may pass his declaratory proposal, but it will prove an empty thing when he has done so. There are no penal provisions, and he cannot guarantee that the proposed law will be carried out. Under the system suggested by the Minister of External Affairs, however, the Eesident would have thrown on him the responsibility for the government of the island, and to him every drop of grog would have to be consigned. This seems to me the most effectual way of preventing the indiscriminate spread of liquor, and would certainly be much better than an empty declaration. If the honorable member for Brisbane is sincere, he will jump at the suggestion of the Minister, which, as I say, places on the Resident the obligation to see that the people do not get liquor except for medicinal purposes
– Would not the amendment of the honorable member for Brisbane place the obligation on the Resident?
– Not directly; he is mentioned specifically in the proposal of the Minister. If tbe honorable member for Brisbane does not go further than his amendment, we shall see that, inasmuch as there are people on the island who desire liquor, smuggling will begin. We are told by honorable members opposite that smuggling is going on in Papua in spite of the prohibition provisions; and I suggest that we should do something more practical.
.- I have to thank the Prime Minister for providing one of the most valid arguments that has yet been advanced in favour of my amendment. The honorable gentleman says that we cannot guarantee that the clause would be enforced, and he draws a contrast between my proposal and the suggestion of the Minister in order to support his contention. Who is to be tn charge of the enforcement of the laws on Norfolk Island? The same Chief Magistrate who has charge of one law will have charge of another, and the suggestion that he will enforce one and not the other is not an argument calculated to induce us to give the Government any powers in this Bill. The Prime Minister suggests that smuggling goes on, not in spite of prohibition, but because of prohibition. Well, in the Commonwealth the introduction of opium is forbidden, and we are trying hard to establish that proper attitude that ought to have been established years ago by the civilized communities of the world. We know, however, that opium is being smuggled into Australia ; but does the Prime Minister suggest, therefore, that the prohibition has failed, and that it should not be made as effective as possible?
– Nobody has suggested that it has failed.
– It is the same argument exactly.
– The fact that there is smuggling is no reason for the abandonment of prohibition, but is a reason for its enforcement. The failure of prohibition in regard to opium and everything else is due to maladministration rather than to any fault in the law. The Minister nas told us that later on we are to have an administration Bill in which we shall be able to insert provision to guarantee the prohibition ; but my amendment is definite, complete, and plain, with no chance of any misunderstanding as to its intention. It would be the duty of the Chief Magistrate and of every official to see that the law was carried out, and if smuggling occurred, we should have to inquire what was wrong with the administration.
– What are the penalties?
– They will be provided for in the administration Bill that is promised.
– Then the amendment will be ineffective until that Bill is passed?
– No more ineffective than all theother provisions of the Bill dealing with land, Free Trade, and so forth. In this Bill we are laying down general principles, and I framed my amendment merely to cover the ground, without attempting to deal with details. I appreciate the evident intention of the Minister of External Affairs to meet the position, and no onedoubts his candour and sincerity. I cannot, however, accept the suggestion the honorable gentleman has offered, though, probably, as a secondbest proposal it might be very useful. But the honorable gentleman seems anxious to preserve some privileges enjoyed by the Mission and the Cable Station people, representing probably not more than a score of the residents. The difficulty I find in accepting the suggestion is that it proposes to sacrifice the best interests of 960 people for the doubtful advantage of a few. I am not at all impressed with the argument that the Imperial Government might take exception to the proposal. The same argument has been used in other connexions; but having regard to the trend of the thought of the world to-day, and the King’s attitude on the liquor question, the Imperial Parliament would be the last place in which to expect any opposition in regard to protecting natives from the ravages of alcohol. The Minister of External Affairs has said that in the early days Pitcairn Island was a perfect Eden. I have already read an extract from a report on the island in those days, and I ask honorable members to take note of the one fact that, whatever there was there to make it worthy of the description, was due entirely to the absoluteabsence of intoxicating liquor. There was no compromise, no possible loophole; and there was no smuggling of any kind. All I suggest is that we should insert that first principle, and repeat in Norfolk
Island the happy experience they had in Pitcairn Island. The Minister also said that if the danger arose we could deal with it. That is the policy pf locking the stable door after the steed is stolen. My suggestion will give present protection and future security. I am entirely with the Minister in regard to the local option proposal. If Norfolk Island was a selfgoverning community, I should certainly be in favour of it; but at present the people have no franchise rights. If I have any opinion on this question, it is that there should be prohibition by the people, because prohibition which is not based on an intelligent expression of the people’s will is not very substantial; but to introduce this subject of division among those people now would be very dangerous, because local option necessarily implies continual opportunity of exercising the option. It would, therefore, be a continually bubbling, effervescing, and irritating question. The amendment asks these people to exercise the franchise on’ this one matter only.
– Because they have no voice in anything, the honorable member would give them no voice in this matter.
– As soon a.s the House is prepared to give the residents of Norfolk Island some measure of selfgovernment, I am prepared immediately to give them self-government also in this matter.
– The provision in the Papuan Act for local option is very explicit. I admit that licences already exist there, so that the cases are not parallel. One of the strongest arguments of the teetotal party has been the necessity for local option, yet, in this case, one of the most prominent advocates of teetotalism in the House will not grant local option, because he is afraid the vote may go against him. I am surprised at any Democrat taking such a stand. The Attorney- General’s argument, indorsed by the honorable member for Brisbane, was that these people were so innocent that local option might cause a split in the happy family, and, therefore, they should not be allowed to have a vote. A similar argument was advanced against working people and women having votes; but they would never have learnt to vote if they had not been given an opportunity.
These people are not savages. I am led to understand that they are Christianized people of the highest order, and, naturally, they have strong opinions of their own. Why, then, should they not have the right to say whether they will have liquor in their Territory or not ? We have no right to impose restrictions on people who have no say in returning a member to this House. It will make them even more civilized than they are if they begin to consider the question of selfgovernment. As the honorable member for Batman asked, are we to deny them an opportunity to vote in this matter because at present they have no opportunity to vote upon any other matter ? I am surprised to hear an honorable member on this side taking the stand taken by the honorable member for Brisbane. I quite expect it from the crusted old Tories on the other side. No member on this side who refuses to give these people the right to say whether they will have prohibition or not is a Democrat. He only thinks he is.
– I shall vote for giving these people local option. I was, personally, opposed to the section of the Papuan Act referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. I am not satisfied that the licensing system that we have in Papua is a proper one. We are taking a responsibility there which I would not be prepared to take. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that this is the very best thing we can make a start in towards giving the people of Norfolk Island votes. I have never been able to see any reason why, if you give people votes to deal with rights and liberties and property, you should not give them the right to say whether they shall have licensed hotels in their districts or not. That being so, there can be no sound argument against giving the people the right to say whether or not intoxicants shall be sold in Norfolk Island. In dealing with native races for which we are responsible, we ought to be very careful how far we go in allowing them to have liquor. I am in favour of total prohibition where we have natives under our control, because the whole history of native races under the British flag is one that we cannot be proud of, so far as concerns their contamination and ruin through allowing liquor to be taken into their midst. We have now taken upon ourselves the responsibility of governing Norfolk Island. I am not prepared to accept such an amendment as that moved by the AttorneyGeneral. It is not safe. I am prepared to give every adult there the right to say whether intoxicating liquor shall be sold on the island or not. It is no argument to say that, because they have not the franchise in any other way, we should refuse to give them the franchise in this case. As a rule, you can trust the people to decide . this matter. We should insert in the Bill a provision that will give those who see the risk the right to say that that risk shall not be introduced into their community. It is a responsibility which I, for one, am not prepared to accept. I shall, therefore,vote in favour of local option; but if that is not accepted by the House, rather than take the risk involved I shall be prepared to support entire prohibition.
– I think it is a matter for regret that the liquor question should have been raised in connexion with a Bill of this character. I do not think that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, in the case of a very small community like the population of Norfolk Island, will overcome the difficulty by providing for local option. Local options and referenda are very valuable and useful methods for the assistance of members of Parliament who desire to dodge their responsibilities and cast them upon other people. They are a type of legislation which I, for one, have very little sympathy with. I suggest that the Government have an excellent opportunity to deal with . this matter effectively in Norfolk Island, by taking the control of the liquor traffic into their own hands. I should like to put before honorable members one or two facts in support’ of State control of the liquor business, though I do not think that this Bill should be made an opportunity for a field night on the liquor question. We are not dealing squarely with the evils which exist amongst us at the present time, and, in my opinion, our friends the prohibitionists are more responsible for the mischief that exists than is any one else in the community. They do not desire that the liquor traffic should be controlled under fair conditions. They are more anxious that there shall be as many shocking examples as possible, that they may hold them up to the community in proof of the evil that exists.
– That is a most unfair statement to make.
– I do not think that it is. It applies to the honorable member for Franklin, at any rate. If the community really desired to legislate on this question on sound principles, we should have had effective control of the liquor business, and would not have the evils with which we have to contend to-day.
– The honorable member isa good old Democrat. He trusts the people only when it suits him.
– My Democracy has not gone the length of tyrannizing over other persons, and depriving them of the freedom which I claim for myself. There is a class of canting hypocrites in the world, whose chief object would appear to be to deprive other persons of their liberty under any pretext whatever. I would not do that to any greater extent than is shown to be absolutely necessary for the welfare of the community as a whole. What is the difference between a hotelkeeper, a butcher, and a baker ? They are all dealers in certain wares, of which they try to sell as much as they possibly can. So long as human nature remains what it is to-day, they will continue to do so. If there is to be any sale of liquor in Norfolk Island, I suggest that it should be in the hands of the Government. If that course is followed, the persons put in charge of the trade will have no motive or interest to sell liquor for their own profit. That is what will break the back of - the evils that are connected with the liquor business. One of the great difficulties confronting us in dealing with the liquor traffic in the Commonwealth is the tremendous vested interests which have to he considered. The Government will have no vested interest in the liquor business to deal with in Norfolk Island, and will have a free hand to do what, they like in controlling the liquor traffic there. I intend to support the Government in this matter. The Minister of External Affairs might give the Committee a promise, on behalf of the Government, to deal with this question on the lines I have indicated. If he will do so, he will clear the ground for many honorable members, who, like myself, desire to have the drink traffic confined to the. narrowest possible channels consistent with the liberty of the subject and the well-being of the community. Wherever State controlof the liquor business has been tried, it has proved a success. It is the only fundamental way of dealing with the business, unless we go in for prohibition. I am npt going for prohibition at the present time, nor do I hold out any hope that my views on the matter are likely to change. If such a promise as I have suggested is made by the Minister in charge of the Bill, I shall be prepared to support the Government on this question.
.- This is a little Bill which wewere assured was a non-contentious one, but it has now been debated for two full days. Though it is a little non-contentious measure, honorable members opposite have sought to incorporate in it fundamental principles of all kinds.
– Is this a notice of motion of the “gag”?
– I wish the honorable member would gag his own tongue for a minute. All the use he appears to be in this House is to interject something about the “ gag.”
– Order !
– The honorable gentleman applies it so often.
– The honorable member for Illawarra seems incapable of saying anything else intelligently. It is abouttime he stopped it.
– I will say something to the honorable gentleman in a minute.
– Order ! I request that honorable members will cease these interjections.
-i rise to a point of order.
– Order ! I ask the Prime Minister to resume his seat. I asked the honorable member for Illawarra not to interject, because, as he has already seen, the Prime Minister has gone quite away from the subject he intended to discuss when he rose. There is a great deal in mutual forbearance by honorable members on both sides, and I ask them to assist me to carry out the Standing Orders,
– I rise to a point of order. I insist that the remark of the Prime Minister shall be withdrawn, and that the honorable gentleman shall apologize.
– What was the remark?
– That I was not fit for anything but interjections, and that I had no intelligence. It was an insulting remark, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw the remark. I now ask you, sir, to stop the honorable member from making these interjections. I never rise to my feet but he makes some observation about the “ gag.” He must expect a reply if he insists upon that kind of warfare.
– We have had the “gag “ often enough, anyhow.
– I ask the honorable member for Kennedy to assist me in carrying out the Standing Orders, and not to adopt a distinctly provocative attitude towards the Prime Minister.
– The Prime Minister should not adopt a lecturing attitude.
– I am not lecturing anybody, and donot wish to do so. I wish to be able to make a remark without having these statements thrown at me the moment I rise.
– I have dealt with the interjections, and I ask the Prime Minister to proceed with his speech.
– Certainly, and I hope I may be allowed to proceed. We have had two full days’ debate on this Bill, and I think it is time we moved on to some other business. I say frankly that I cannot afford the time which is taken up in discussing these small measures. If the House will not deal with them reasonably, I must assume that it is the opinion of honorable members that they should not be passed. We cannot, and I will not - I repeat, that I will not - give day after day to the consideration of these small measures. It is not fair treatment at all.
– Let us finish this off now.
– I am going to move that the Chairman leave the Chair, so that we may. get on with some other business.
– We can decide this at once now, and dispose of it.
– We cannot do so for a long time, because there is a series of amendments before the Committee. It is impossible for us to finish the consideration of the Bill to-night. I am making my suggestion in the interests of the measure also.
– Let us take a division now.
– If honorable members go to a division on this question, they will continue to discuss some other proposal. I move -
That the Chairman report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
– That is because the honorable gentleman is afraid of a vote.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … .. 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 3 -
Section 7i of the principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (i) thereof, after paragraph (e) the following paragraph : - “ and (f) regulating the purchase, custody, control, and issue of public stores.”
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out clause.
– The Senate has amended the Bill by omitting clause 3, which provides for the making of regulations in respect to the purchase, custody, control, and issue of public stores.
– Why do you desire to have the Audit Act amended for that purpose?
– I explained over and over again when the Bill was before us previously that the clause was put in the Bill with the object of providing for greater efficiency and economy in the purchase of stores and their control, issue, and use.
– In what way is the Auditor-General involved ?
– He is not involved in it. If honorable members were anxious to get the Bill through they would not raise difficulties which nave no weight.
– The matter should be dealt with in a separate measure.
– It does not matter where the power is so long as we have it. When the Bill was before us previously there was an attempt to show that this clause would interfere with the powers of the Auditor-General, but as a matter of fact the Auditor-General will have nothing whatever to do with the power given by the clause. His powers will remain just the same inregard to the matter covered by this provision as they are in regard to every other matter over which he has jurisdiction. They will be no more and no less. Honorable members also sought to make us believe that the Audit Act is only connected with the powers and duties of the Auditor-General, but that is not so, because in England the corresponding Act is called the Exchequer and Audit Department Act, and in New Zealand it is called the Public Revenues Act. Again, there are many other things in our Audit Act than the powersof the AuditorGeneral. For instance, the Bill deals with the powers and duties of the Treasurer; with all the powers in regard to the receipt, custody, and expenditure of money; and with everything connected with the finances of the country. Further, many of the duties imposed by the Audit Act are in no way connected with the Auditor-General. For instance, the Treasurer may enter into agreements with banks, he may give directions as to the divisions in which the Commonwealth public accounts shall be kept, and he is authorized to draw cheques. Again, the Governor-General may use the surplus of one item of appropriation to meet a deficiency in another item under the same subdivision “of the appropriation, while the Treasurer may establish trust accounts, and may invest moneys. These are among the important matters that are dealt with in the measure called by us the Audit Act. It cannot be contended that under the clause before us the Auditor- General will have any control in the matter of stores, except in so far as his exerting powers already given him. The powers that he now has under section 45 of the Audit Act he will have in regard to regulations made under this provision which the Senate seeks to delete. Objection has been taken both here and in another place to the fact that the Government propose to deal with the matter of stores by regulation instead of by a Statute. But we have some authority for adopting that course. In New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia there are similar powers which are given, hot by a Statute, but by regulation. The matter is dealt with in New South Wales by section 20 of the Public Service Act 1902, which authorizes the making of regulations for determining how to procure stores, and likewise regulating the business of stores. In Victoria the matter is dealt with in sections 129 and 140 of the Public Service Act. Perhaps if honorable members had a Public Service Bill’ before them they would say that it was the wrong measure in which to place this provision, but they would have just as much reason for objecting to it as they have for objecting to the provision appearing in the Act which we call the Audit Act. The power set forth in this clause is to be , found in the Queensland Public Service Act, and in South Australia by the Railways Act,
No. 414, section 57. So in all four States the matter is dealt with by regulations made under the powers given in an Act. In Western Australia and Tasmania there does not appear to be any special provision relating to stores. In those States action has been taken similar to that in the four larger States. I can see no reason why exception should be taken to this provision being in the Audit Act. It is the proper place for it. We have the authority of those who draft these measures for including it in this Bill. The draftsman has put it here; the Treasury officials have assured me it is the right place for it, and there should be no objection at all to it on that score. It will be just as effective as if it was in a separate Act. I cannot believe that on any public ground whatever it is advisable that this clause should be omitted from the Bill, and therefore I move -
That the amendment be disagreed with.
– The Treasurer has of late fallen into the habit of ignoring the arguments directed against his measures by honorable members on this side; but, in this case, the other Chamber has taken cognisance of those arguments, and the amendment under consideration is the result. The petulance displayed in the speech just delivered was uncalled for. I have never known, during my parliamentary experience, a less provoking message from one Chamber of Legislature to another. During the time that I had the honour to sit on the other side of the chamber, it was never my good fortune to receive a. message of this conciliatory kind. What has occurred was foreseen by those who. opposed the Treasurer’s proposal; and, had he had the time to look up the speech that I made when the Bill was last before, us, he would have read there the arguments with which the Senate supports; its amendment. We on this side gave our. hearty approval to the Audit Bill; but, we pointed out that the provisions relating to the Tender Board should be embodied in a separate measure. It is only a few moments since the Prime Minister used the same argument regarding a proposed amendment of the Norfolk Island Bill. Whether this provision is a good one or not, it is certainly not in its right place.
– For an honorable member on this side to be asked for a reason instead of being clubbed with the closure, is a revolutionary change in procedure, which I trust will continue to be followed. To’ encourage it, I answer the question by saying that the provision is in its wrong place in the Audit Bill because it invades the responsibility of the Auditor-General. It is the business of that officer to safeguard the interests of the public, and particularly to see that the accounts of the various Departments are accurate and reliable. Under his control is to be a Tender Board, to regulate the purchase, custody, control, and issue of the public stores. I have no objection to the creation of a Tender Board, or of a board with power to regulate the purchase and issue of stores; but I object to the operations of the board being controlled by the man whose duty it is to audit the accounts. I have not had an opportunity, because of the irregular way in which business is proceeded with in this Chamber, to read the reasons actuating the Senate in making the amendment ; but I have no doubt that this is one of them. I hope that the Treasurer will not insist on disagreeing with the Senate’s amendment; but that if he believes the creation of a Tender Board to be necessary, he will make provision for it in another measure. I shall support him in that, because I think it would be a very proper thing to do. The Tender Board should be under the Prime Minister, the Minister of Home Affairs, or some other Minister, and entirely dissociated from the Auditor-General. In New South Wales, it is not under the AuditorGeneral, and it would be an improper thing if it. were.
.- We had this trivial, technical objection to the provision for the creation of a Tender Board debated ad nauseam when the Bill was last before us, and the Senate - I suppose to evince its desire to get on with public business - has made it the ground for returning the Bill to us, with what the honorable member for West Sydney calls a “conciliatory message.” That conciliatory message is nothing more nor less than this -
Page 2, clause 3. Leave out this clause.
Those who support the Senate’s amendment might be expected at least to read the Bill in which the clause is contained.
The honorable member for West Sydney has, apparently, not taken the trouble to make himself acquainted with the provisions of the measure, or of the clause to which he takes exception. When I asked him why he objected to the clause, he was at considerable pains at first to find words to express his reason, and then he said - I took down the “words he used - that he objected to the clause “ because it invades the responsibility of the AuditorGeneral.” A more foolish statement was never made by a responsible member. The clause does not touch the responsibility of the Auditor-General, but merely adds one more to the safeguards which he must see are complied with in connexion with the expenditure of public money. The honorable member says that he does not object to a Tender Board, and apparently the Senate does not. No honorable member opposite objects to a Tender Board, we are told, but the honorable member for West Sydney voices the foolish objection which has been continuously and persistently urged in this House that, under this Bill, the Tender Board is to be under the control of the AuditorGeneral. There, again, he shows his absolute ignorance of the whole of the provisions of the Act which this Bill is designed to amend.
– Why this heat?
– Because this matter has been threshed out over and over again.
– It is worn threadbare.
– Because the full explanation which was given by the Treasurer and other honorable members, as well as myself, on a previous occasion, has not been answered in one particular.
– Has the honorable member read the debate on this question which took place in another place ?
– I have, and I find it to be a weak reflex of the foolish arguments which were adduced in this House by honorable members opposite. I am going to tell honorable members once more that the objections taken here, and voiced now by the honorable member for West Sydney, are absolutely without foundation. In the first place this provision does not give any authority to anybody to create a Tender Board. The proposal is to enable the Government to make a regulation-:-
– It will permit the Government to make a regulation under which a Tender Board will exist.
– No. There, again, the honorable member shows that he, too, is quite unfamiliar with the proposal.
– Well, what does it do?
– It will do exactly what it says, in language which the honorable member, if he uses his intelligence, will easily understand. It provides that a regulation may be made regulating the purchase, custody, control, and issue of public stores. We have in the Audit Act, of which this is an amendment, a number of provisions throwing duties on the Auditor-General, not merely with regard to the auditing of the accounts, but in connexion with the control of existing stores. We have, in addition, a number of provisions throwing duties upon accounting officers - upon every person who receives or expends any portion of the Government moneys. One of the essential and necessary things in immediate connexion with this is that there should be some definite regulation and control of the purchase, issue, and custody of Government stores. We find this very subject referred to in section 45 of the principal Act. One of the duties imposed on the Auditor-General under the section is to-
Ascertain the quantity, description, and price of all stores purchased on account of His Majesty, and of all stores supplied for the use of every Department of the Public Service, and whether any person in the Public Service has requisitioned for or obtained any stores in excess of the reasonable requirements of his office.
Then, again, he is to -
Examine whether the proper quantities of all such stores are remaining in stock in the proper store or building.
These duties are directly imposed on the Auditor-General as part of his everyday work. Honorable members opposite seem to think that the Auditor-General is merely a book-keeper; that he has simply to examine the public accounts and to see whether the Appropriation Act has been observed.
– He does not carry out these duties himself. He must have expert officers.
– These are duties for which he is responsible, and for which he is made responsible by the Act.
– He is not responsible for the actual purchases.
– Nor does this provision make him responsible for purchases.
– If he accepts a tender for the supply of stores he must be responsible for their purchase.
– If honorable members would apply their minds to the question with a desire to get at the bottom of it, they would very readily come to the conclusion that there is nothing whatever in this objection. What the regulation is to do is to impose certain conditions to safeguard the purchase, control, and issue of public stores. Under the existing law, without this regulation, there is no constraint whatever upon the Department of the Treasury, except to see that the money for these stores has been appropriated under the Appropriation Act. It is intended, and I understood it was the desire of honorable members on both sides, as well as the desire of the Senate, that there shall be a further safeguard with regard to the purchase and issue of stores - namely, that there shall be a Tender Board, consisting of skilled officers whose duty it will be to investigate tenders, the conditions of purchase, and the conditions under which the money appropriated by Parliament shall be applied, and that theyshall give the Departments and Parliament the benefit of their skill and experience in connexion with the purchase of public material. Could anything be more reasonable ? Every honorable member professes his desire to have this. But unless we go further, and impose upon the Auditor-General the obligation of seeing, not merely that the money has been appropriated before the warrant is issued for the expenditure, but that the requisitions of this Tender Board, when it comes into existence, have been complied with, we shall render the Tender Board a nullity and a farce. It is for that purpose that this provision, enabling the making of a regulation which the Auditor-General must obey, if the Tender Board is to have any effiect, has been appropriately and properly put in this Bill.
– The Auditor-General will supervise his own acts.
– He will not. I have heard the argument repeated again and again that the Auditor-General will control the Tender Board.On the contrary, if there is to be any control, the Tender Board will have the control over him.
– What would be the position of the Auditor-General after the acceptance of a tender?
– At present all that the Auditor-General has to do is to see whether there is a lawful appropriation of moneys for the purchase of public stores. If a Tender Board is created, and a regulation is passed, such as it is intended to pass, providing that the certificate of that Tender Board shall be a condition precedent to the payment of public moneys, then the Auditor-General will have imposed upon him the further duty of seeing that that certificate has been issued.
– Issued by whom?
– By the Tender Board.
– Is that any safeguard?
– If it is not, then what is the object of having a Tender Board at all?
– That is what I want to know, when the honorable member talks like that.
– I understood that the Opposition were agreed that a Tender Board should be created, but that it should not be under the AuditorGeneral.
– We say that the Auditor-General should have nothing to do with it.
– What does the honorable member mean?
– We say that he should have nothing more to do with it than to audit the accounts in the ordinary course of his duties under the Audit Act, and to see that the goods are purchased. But if the Government are going to allow him to have a voice in deciding whether certain goods should be purchased, and then to have a hand in auditing the accounts relating to those purchases, that is not right.
– That, again, shows that the honorable member has not taken the trouble to read the Bill or the Act, or to read them together, or he could not fall into that mistake. The Auditor-General will have nothing to do except to see that the Board, as one of the conditions of the expenditure, has sanctioned that expenditure.
– If that is all, there is no objection.
– I explained this at full length on the previous occasion. If there is any misapprehension, I should be very sorry to evince any warmth in the endeavour to clear it away. Let us see, however, if we cannot remove any misapprehension there may be. As to the regulation, it is true that the AuditorGeneral will have to obey it, as he has to obey any other regulation. If it imposes on him, as it may do, the obligation to see that the Board’s certificate has been obtained, he will have to obey it.
– Is it not possible to have a certificate given by the purchasing officer under the existing Act?
– Under the existing Act, the Auditor-General has nothing to do except to see that Parliament has provided the money. After the purchase has been made, and the stores have become Government stores, they come within the general purview of the AuditorGeneral, and he has to see that the public moneys are represented either by money in the Treasury or the banks, or by stores. The objection appears to have been directed mainly to the purchase of stores; but, so far as that is concerned, all the Bill does is to impose on the AuditorGeneral a further duty for safeguarding the expenditure, namely, to see, not merely that Parliament has appropriated the money, and that the Treasurer has directed it to be paid, but that, in every case where he is required so to do by the regulation, the Tender Board has sanctioned it.
– That is where the misconception seems to arise.
– I am endeavouring to remove it; and when I hear honorable members repeat over and over again that this Bill gives the AuditorGeneral some control over the Tender Board, and that it invades his responsibility, honorable members must forgive me if I really come to the conclusion that they have not taken the trouble to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Bill.
– It does, more or less, give him power over the action or inaction of the Tender Board.
– It gives him no power.
– Then why put the provision in the Bill?
– Because it imposes a duty on him.
– And, in the exercise of that duty, he could stop the proceedings of the Tender Board if he so desired.
– No. Surely the honorable member must see that all the regulation does is to impose on the Auditor-General an additional duty, to see that another safeguard has been complied with.
– It gives the Government power to pass any regulation they please, which has to be interpreted literally by the Auditor-General, and it may or may not interfere with the Tender Board, if the Government so desire.
– I need not repeat that the regulation does not create the Tender Board.
– It will regulate the manner in which the Board may carry out its duties.
– No doubt it will regulate the conditions under which stores may be purchased. Does the honorable member suggest that that should not be done by regulation ?
– No; but the AttorneyGeneral is leaving a different impression when he says that this has nothing to do with the Tender Board.
– I say that the Auditor-General has nothing to do with the Tender Board, except to require its sanction.
– To obey the regulation passed bv the Government.
-H. IRVINE. - The AuditorGeneral cannot go and draw money out of the Treasury himself. All he can do is to see that those who do draw the money have complied with the conditions. The regulations cannot abrogate one of the existing safeguards, but they may add an additional safeguard; and if they do, it concerns the Attorney-General, inasmuch ashe will have to see that the additional safeguard is complied with. I shall not spend more time over the matter, because I dealt with it fully on the last occasion. I then did not hear a single answer to or refutation of my view; and I urge on honorable members that no further time ought to be wasted now. No honorable member for a moment suggested that the validity or effectiveness of the provision would be any better if it were in any other than this Bill. The Government, acting not merely on the advice of the officers who draft Bills, but on the advice of the Treasury officers, consider this a fit and proper Bill in which to have this provision; and why it should not be allowed to go through, seeing that it effects what, in substance, we all desire, I utterly fail to understand.
.- If there is any misunderstanding, we ought to do our best to clear it away; but we cannot do that if the Attorney-General makes contradictory statements, as he has done in two directions, so far as I understood his remarks. In the first place, in reply to the honorable member for West Sydney, the Attorney-General asserted that the Auditor-General would not in any way be associated with the amendment under discussion.
– Who said that?
– That is what I understood the honorable gentleman to say.
– Then the honorable member misunderstood me, that is all ; because I did not say that, or anything like it.
– Then, in his later remarks, I understood the AttorneyGeneral to say that the Auditor-General was associated with the proposal.
– I happened to have the words down in writing, and I said nothing like that. I disputed what the honorable member said, namely, that this proposal invades the responsibility of the Auditor-General, and also the statement that the Auditor-General has control over the Board. I said nothing of the kind existed. It is no use putting words into my mouth.
– I have no desire to do so. The Attorney-General disputes the assertion that this in any way invades the sphere of the Auditor-General.
– “ Invades the responsibility “ were the words I used.
– It adds to his responsibility.
– Quite so.
– It adds to the AuditorGeneral’s work; but really we do not know what it will do, because the Ministry may make regulations, whether the House be in session or not, and without the sanction of Parliament.
– -The honorable member is conjuring up supposititious cases.
– The Prime Minister knows very well that what I say is correct - that, if the clause be passed in respect to the purchase, custody, and so forth, of the public stores, the Government can, during recess, make any regulation they please, and that that regulation will have the force of law.
– That is the case in every Act under which regulations can be made.
– I am quite aware pf that. I am merely stating, in reply to the Prime Minister’s interjection about conjuring up supposititious cases, that, as a matter of fact, after two or three words of explanation, the Attorney-General admits that my statement is quite correct, thus completely contradicting the Prime Minister. 1 do not want to conjure anything up. I interjected while the AttorneyGeneral was speaking to the effect that the Supply and Tender Board would practically have its being through the making of regulations, and the AttorneyGeneral contradicted me with a flat and emphatic “ No.”
– I do so again.
– When trie Bill was going through in the first place, little or no information was given to us, but we were casually informed, and subsequently the matter waa “brought more prominently before the House that, under this regulation, it was intended to establish a Supply and Tender Board. That fact was drawn out practically by interjections from the Government side. The regulations that will be made under this clause will control the actions of the Board, in so far as i£ deals with the purchase, custody, control, and issue of public stores. That is beyond cavil, and yet the AttorneyGeneral flatly contradicts me. Is it not the intention of the Government, when this Bill is passed, to establish a Supply and Tender Board!
– Yes; but that does not give the authority for it. It merely clothes the decisions of the board with an obligation on the AuditorGeneral.
– The Government may, under authority, establish a board or take it upon themselves to do so as an administrative act. I do- not know of any honorable member on this side who raises any strong objection to the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board. All we ask is that it shall be done by a separate Act, free altogether from the Audit Act. It should be done in a manner befitting its importance and dignity, and not be left, as here, merely to regulation. In the first place, we read the Bill carefully, in conjunction with the Audit Act, which it seeks to amend. No exception was taken to clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill, because they amend the ordinary provisions of the Act; but clause 3 is not in any way related to the Audit Act, nor has it any association with clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill. Remove it, and the rest of the Bill stands unimpaired. What it will do is to give tha Ministry power to make regulations. They seem to love power under regulations; we prefer it under Act of Parliament. Legislation by regulation means that the Government can do anything they like, at any time, at their own sweet will, whether the House is in session or not. They made a regulation during recess recently, and refused to take notice, although it was challenged by honorable members. That regulation permitted electoral officers to open the sealed parcels of election papers and balloting matter.
– Only the rolls.
– They were opening the roll’s in secret, and these could have been interfered with, notwithstanding that an election might have turned upon their correctness or otherwise. The honorable member for Herbert has lately taken serious exception to a regulation made by the Government.
– That regulation is not one that should lie on the table at all.
– The fact remains that discussion on it was prevented, and it remains the law of the land. The complaints of citizens who may be suffering under it cannot be brought before the House, even though half the members of the House may be ready to deal with the matter.
– Where is a Supply and Tender Board established under a separate Act of Parliament in any of the States?
– It does not matter what is done in the States. Many things are done in the States which we do not do. We are not bound to follow meekly what is done in the States, because no State Parliament is as thoroughly representative of the people as this is.
– And no Government in this Parliament has provided so much legislation by regulation as your own Government did.
– If any regulation was made to which the Honorable member took exception, he had the opportunity of debating it without limit; but, as far as I remember, he took no exception to any regulation during our three years of office. As there is strong objection from thirty-seven members on this side, as against thirty-seven on the other, and there is an overwhelming majority in another branch of the Legislature which takes exception to this form of legislation, the Ministry might reasonably give way, under the circumstances.
– They take exception to it there -because you do here.
– I do not think there is any justification for that statement. I might as well say that Ministers in another place put these things forward for acceptance because they are told to do so by their party in this branch of the Legislature. The Senate has taken exception to this provision in the ordinary course, and in the exercise of its undoubted rights. But apparently there seems to be a desire to quarrel with the Senate. Why, I am at a loss to understand.
– Have they distributed strike pay up there yet?
– I do not know, but I do know that a few years ago the Prime Minister knew all about the distribution of strike pay. He was in the very thick of it, but he geta better pay now than he did when he got strike pay, and therefore will stick to his present associations.
– That applies -to others as well as to me.
– I do not wish to be drawn away from the subject. I take no exception to the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board under proper conditions; but I do take exception to the framing of regulations under the Audit Act for the establishment of such a Board, and giving power to the Government of the day to do as they like when Parliament is in recess. That means, in other words, giving them power to govern the country by regulation. I take exception to this, - particularly in view of the fact that during this session we have not been permitted an opportunity to discuss regulations, however mistaken we may think they are.
.- I have had little to say upon this matter. Since there is no reference to a Supply and Tender Board in the clause, the regulations could be used for any other purpose the Government desire.
– Within the scope of the measure.
– For any purpose connected with the custody, control, and issue of public stores. This could be done without a Supply and Tender Board. The Attorney-General was the first member of the Government to point out that it was their intention to establish a Supply and Tender Board of permanent officers of the Public Service. When the Treasurer speaks of the States having such Boards, he should not forget that the States have a limited area, and that their purchases are more limited than are the purchases of the Commonwealth. I ask if the Government have carefully considered whether a Supply and Tender Board, to deal with all purchases by the Commonwealth, should be a departmental Board under the Government at all. It should be established with statutory power, and not with powers delegated to it by the Government of the day, which would leave it practically under the direction of the Government from time to time. A Supply and Tender Board should be constituted of permanent officers of tlie highest class.
– Is the honorable gentleman suggesting that they should be independent of the Government ?
– No ; not wholly. But when we are dealing with the purchase of stores, involving the expenditure of very large sums, the Supply and Tender Board should have a statutory authority to act as they please in certain circumstances, subject to the financial control of the Auditor-General.
– That is exactly what would be the case.
– The Prime Minister is not proposing that.
– We are, indeed.
– There is no mention of a Bill to he passed.
– There is no need for it when a regulation would be sufficient.
– This is the roundabout way in which the Government inform the public that they intend to employ some permanent members of the Public Service as a Supply and Tender Board.
– Not necessarily; that may or may not be the case.
– That is what the AttorneyGeneral said, and it cannot be both.
– I said that there would be a Supply and Tender Board to deal with the supply and purchase of public stores.
– The- Treasurer is going to constitute a Supply and Tender Board, but not by Statute.
– These regulations will have the force of law.
– The Government are going to constitute the Board, not by Statute, but by a Ministerial act.
– Under the authority of a Statute.
– In other words, the Supply and Tender Board may be altered every week or every month.
– In its personnel, certainly. How otherwise would the right honorable gentleman provide?
– I venture to say that the supporters of the Government do not intend that. I am sure that they think the intention is to appoint a Supply and Tender Board of officers of the highest standing and capacity with some security of tenure.
– Which I hope they will have.
– They must have some assurance of it, if they are to carry out their duties in their own way, and not under direction by the Government. If we have a Supply and Tender Board acting under the direction of the Government, the promotion of the officers constituting it will depend upon the good graces of the Government, and the Board will not be as independent as it should be.
– Does the honorable gentleman think that the members of the Supply and Tender Board should be mentioned in an Act?
– I think they should have a statutory appointment for a certain number of years. The Treasurer has power without this provision at all to appoint a Tender Board for his own Department. This Bill merely gives the Auditor- General power to supervise and the Government power to frame certain regulations. Briefly, my objection to the Government proposal is that it is quite insufficient, and will not meet the case. The Supply and Tender Board should be constituted of permanent officers of the highest capacity, who should be given a definite appointment for a number of years. We should have one large Tender Board, and there can be subsidiary Tender Boards. However, if the Government have made up their minds that this is the best way, very well, but I differ from them. They should not have touched the matter until they proposed to go further. Already they have all the powers for which they are asking, and what they propose is more a display of good intentions than anything else.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That Mr. W. H. Irvine, Mr. Groom, and the mover be appointed a Committee to draw up reasons for the House of Representatives disagreeing to the amendment.
Ordered that the reasonsbe -
White Australia:small-pox Outbreak.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.-I wish to draw the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to what seems to be a distinct violation of the statutory arrangement made between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland
Government regarding the employment of aliens in the sugar industry. It is undoubted, from the evidence that I have received - all ex parte, I admit - that it is a growing scandal.
– Have you the evidence?
– It is all private, but the independent evidence I have is sufficient for me to draw the attention of the Minister to the matter. It is said that exemptions are being issued wholesale, running into hundreds, and that the conditions of exemption are not in accord with the agreement between the two Governments. It is the duty of the Minister of Trade and Customs to get his officersin touch with the matter. The Commonwealth has merely handed over the control of the industry, in that direction, to the State Government, on the clear understanding that the white labour policy is not violated. I make this statement, because there are no greater enemies to the sugar-growers, and those who have invested money in the industry, than persons who loosely administer the Act, since it is only a matter of time when the people of Australia, who are making great sacrifices to enable this industry to prosper on a white labour basis, must feel somewhat annoyed, to say the least, at any departure from the principle they have established. I ask the Minister to give this matter his early consideration. His officers should be in a position to give him all the information, and it is to the Customs Department that we look to get the information.
.- Is the Minister of Trade and Customs prepared to enlighten the public’ as to the true meaning of the decision in regard to the embargo on Sydney? There are many people in Melbourne who desire to go to Sydney, and there are many in Brisbane who also desire to go to Sydney, and they wish to know whether they will be compelled to be vaccinated. There is no real understanding on the matter.
.- I am sorry the honorable member for Wide Bay has not been able to supply any evidence with regard to the statement he has made. I have received no information whatever that would indicate in the slightest degree that there has been any failure on the part of the Queensland Government to carry out the agreement in regard to alien labour.
– It is reported in the press.
– If specific information is given, the Customs Department will institute inquiries from the Queensland Government. It is of no use an honorable member saying that he has some private information which assures him that a certain thing is being done. The proper way, if there is any such information, is to make the evidence public, or give it to me in confidence, so that the Department can make the necessary inquiries. The action of the honorable member for Wide Bay is very different from that of the honorable member for Herbert, whohanded me a telegram stating that applications were coming in, not, as the honorable member for Wide Bay said, that they had been granted. Regulations have been made by the Queensland Government, and as far as I know there is nothing to show on their administration of the Acts that it is contrary to the spirit of them. If a specific charge is made an inquiry can be instituted, and whenever a specific case is brought under my notice I am only too glad to make the necessaryinquiries from the Queensland authorities. I can assure honorable members that, as far as I know, the Administration in Queensland have the White Australia policy as much at heart as any other Government in Australia. In regard to the question submitted by the honorable member for East Sydney, it is impossible for me to give any definite statement until the whole matter has been considered. The Conference was one of State officials with the Commonwealth, and as a -matter of courtesy it was necessary that its recommendations should be transmitted to the different State authorities. I can assure the honorable member that there has been no delay in doing this, but I am not yet in a position to make a statement as to what was done.
– There is no certainty as to the regulations.
– The regulations which are proposed are clear enough, and will convey their meaning to those who have to deal with them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 November 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131120_reps_5_72/>.