5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from 23rd April (vide page 308), on motion by Mr. Kendell -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to by this House: -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words bo added to the proposed address : - “ but regret to have to inform you that your Advisers deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.”
– When the House adjourned last night, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs were evidently much annoyed at some of my statements, and I wish now to assure them that my remarks were not to be taken in a personal sense. I give hard knocks, and am ready to accept them in return, but although we may differ widely on political questions, and express our opinions strongly, there is no reason why our remarks should he regarded as conveying imputations of personal dishonesty, I cannot understand men of the type of mind that think that there cannot be differences of opinion without personal hostility. I hold my political views sincerely and conscientiously, and think the same of my opponents. Although. I intend to say some strong things this morning in regard to the Ministers to whom I have referred and to others, I shall do so without malice, and my words will convey no reflection on their personal character. Last week the Prime Minister was asked if he had issued orders with regard to the stoppage of public works, and he replied that he knew nothing of such orders. Being aware of his cleverness in the use of words, I repeated the question in another form, asking if he would inform the House which of the departments had issued an order for the restriction of public works so as to reduce expenditure this year. He cleverly retorted that no such order had been issued that he was aware of. I was certain that he was not aware of the order, hut I was anxious to know who had issued it. Then he gave us another example of the choice diction of which he has almost a monopoly, referring to the question as idiotic, and suggesting that another member should ask it. We are told that words are sometimes used to conceal thoughts. Last night, as on previous occasions, the Prime Minister took strong exception to any deduction of opinion from his statements, and insisted on his actual words being quoted, but when his actual words are quoted he insists that his opinions have been misrepresented. I have not known a. member to be able to quote his words, or to interpret his opinions, correctly.
– It is impossible for some members opposite to do either.
– I suggest that the Premier might, with advantage to himself and the House, study the direct manner of speaking that is practised by the Attorney-General and the honorable member for Parkes. About two years ago, when Mr. Deakin was leader of the Liberal party, he announced that famous broad and comprehensive national policy which the Liberal party throughout Australia accepted so enthusiastically and joyously; but in a few simple, direct words, the AttorneyGeneral dissolved it into thin air. It “ folded its tents like the Arabs, and as silently stole away.” The AttorneyGeneral spoke of it as a gelatinous compound, from which the bones had been carefully removed, so that it was political food fitted only for infants and invalids. When the Attorney-General speaks we know what he means. Similarly, when the honorable member for Parkes was speaking the other evening, every member understood him. exactly. His words were not ambiguous. He stated plainly that he regarded the Teesdale Smith contract as an administrative blunder. He condemned the cancellation of the sleeper contract, and the AttorneyGeneral’s attitude regarding constitutional reform. His position in respect to the main administrative acts of this Government was clear and distinct.
– Does the honorable member bear in mind the latter part of his speech?
– Yes. The honorable member for Parkes made his own position plain, so that all knew where he stood, and what were his opinions. It was obvious from the expression on the faces of those sitting on the front bench that they understood what he meant. If the Prime Minister is misunderstood, it may be owing to his cleverness in hiding his thoughts under his phrases. I wish to read a criticism written of another Joseph, which I think applicable, making due allowance for the relative importance of the . positions held by the two men, to the Joseph who leads the present Government. The writer says -
Mr. Chamberlain has been the ‘”’ stormy petrel” of politics; he has filled the world with the rumour of his name, and shaken it with the thunder of his trend. He has made parties and broken parties; fashioned policies and wrecked them; crushed his way alike to peace and war; been the idol of the democracy and the last idol of the aristocracy. Judged by his achievements., jio man of his political eminence has been so vast a failure; judged by the disintegrating effects of his career, no man has done so much. He has been the great disturber of the modern world. He has given it battle-cries and battles - never opiates or anodynes.
The Joseph that we have here supplies much the same materials for criticism. He is certainly the stormy petrel of our politics. There is something pathetic in his present position. He is shaken by the hand, patted on the back, and highly praised by those who flatter him. But the time will come when those who now call him a good fellow will have no more use for him, and will toss him aside like a sucked orange or a piece of Worn-out machinery. The honorable gentleman is carving out his own fortunes, working out his own destiny. I only hope that before he retires from his present position he will have done something to let the country know exactly what he means when he speaks, aud to assure the people that what he says he really means. Last night I just touched the fringe of my criticism in regard to electoral reform. I think that the conduct of the Government, as far as electoral matters are concerned, merits the censure of this House. From every platform in the Commonwealth, and through the columns of the press, they have persistently slandered and misrepresented the people of Australia by affirming that at the last Federal election they were guilty of corrupt practices. Last night the Prime Minister made an interjection to the effect that the rolls were overloaded. I have here a copy of the evidence given by Mr. R. C. Oldham, the .Chief Commonwealth Electoral Officer, before the Committee appointed by the Senate which inquired, into the allegations made as to irregularities at the recent elections, and in replying to a question put to him, he said -
We know that then; must always be an excess of enrolment under the Commonwealth electoral law at the (late of an election, as, indeed, under the electoral laws of nearly the whole of the States, inasmuch as enrolment is allowed to proceed up to the date of the issue of the writs. At that date there must be a great many incomplete transfers, and there must inevitably be a great ninny duplications that have not been adjusted. Many objections must bc in process of maturation at the time. All these factors go to make up a surplusage of names on the roll at any given moment. The excess must run into many thousands., and it is absolutely unavoidable under the existing law. If there were no excess all qualified persons could not be enrolled.
That is only one item of evidence, but the whole of the inquiry which was conducted by the Government themselves through that Committee entirely discredited every statement made by the Prime Minister and his colleagues in regard to corrupt practices. Not a single allegation of malpractice has been substantiated, and it is a pity that the authors of these charges and insinuations have not the decency to withdraw them and apologize for having made them. Instead of doing that they constantly repeat them. The Prime Minister said the other day that what we wanted in Australia is a clean roll, the imputation being that the present roll is unclean. I know what is the honorable gentleman’s idea of a clean roll. It is similar to that which was held by his party in the past, and which is at present held by them.
– And will be in the future.
– I am inclined to think that there is hope even for the honorable member’s party in regard to electoral reform. Although we have fought a great many battles in this connexion, and although we succeeded after years of fighting in securing adult suffrage, there still remains much to be done. It was once said of President Kruger that it did not matter to him who voted so long as he had the counting of the votes. But it seems as if the Tory or the Liberal party in Australia are not satisfied with controlling the counting of the votes but desire also to control the voters and to limit the exercise of the franchise. In the evidence which was given before the Electoral Commission in Brisbane the principal registrar for Queensland instituted some comparisons between the Commonwealth and the Queensland State rolls. At the last Federal elections he said that there were 41,000 odd names on the Commonwealth roll for the Brisbane electorate. On the State rolls covering the same area there were only 35,000 names. He added that since that time the Federal rolls had increased to 44,000, whereas the State roll had decreased 5,000. That is what the Prime Minister would call a clean roll.
– It represents a deliberate attempt to keep thousands of persons off the roll.
-During last year in Queensland 40,000 names were struck off the rolls. When we recollect that there has been a regular stream of immigrants to that State it does seem remarkable that whilst the Commonwealth rolls have increased in a reasonable proportion to the increase of population, the State rolls have decreased. There is only one State electorate in the Brisbane Federal division in which an increase of enrolments has occurred, namely the electorate of Toowong, where there is a genera] cemetery. The State roll there shows an increase of three voters.
– That is Scotch humour.
– I am glad that an Englishman can perceive it. The circumstance I have mentioned indicates that we have to guard carefully against the adoption of any scheme under which a combination of the Federal and State rolls would involve a reversion to the State system of compiling the rolls. With the idea that we should have a uniform roll for both State and Federal purposes I heartily agree.
– It is the fault of the States that we have not such a. roll.
– I quite believe that. When a Tory Government in Queensland will control the rolls to such an extent as to knock off 40,000 names within a period of six months-
– In Tasmania we have used the State roll for years, and it has served its purpose admirably.
– I can only tell the House what appeared in the press as to the proceedings of the Commission in Brisbane. I advised my friends not to go near it, and I did not go near it myself. Not a single member of the Labour party in Brisbane gave evidence until they were summoned. We laughed at the Commission, and so did every intelligent member of the community because it was only a means of finding some whitewash to smear over the stains made by Ministers on themselves in the imputations which they had been casting about. They were trying to find a justification for their slanderous statements. In the evidence given before the Commission, and in subsequent correspondence that appeared in the newspapers, it was proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is such a diversity of opinion, and such, a conflict of methods between the Commonwealth and State authorities in the compilation of their rolls, that there seems little hope of establishing a uniform roll until we arrive at some common basis of understanding in the matter. Under the Commonwealth rolls’ system compulsory enrolment, in conjunction with the migratory habits of the people, will of necessity cause a heavy roll. Under the State system, these very migratory habits and the absence of compulsory enrolment, cause such a decrease in the voting powers of the people of the States that there is no comparison between the Federal and State rolls, or, at least, not the comparison that there ought to be. The Senate Committee of Inquiry came to the following general conclusion : -
Your Committee, having made searching inquiry into the many charges that have been made as to the conduct of the general election, held on the 31st May last, are satisfied that there was no evidence placed before it sufficient to sustain any of the charges. Recognising the large increase in the number of voters at the elections, the total of which was the highest on record for the Commonwealth, your Committee feels satisfied that the evidence discloses remarkably- few cases of irregularities in connexion therewith.
What the report of the Royal Commission is likely to he, it is impossible to say yet. I have been delaying making reference to one particular matter owing to the absence of the Chairman of the Commission, the honorable member for Moreton, from the chamber, but I must make it now, as the time is getting on. The Commission had power to divide into sections. Not. until they came to Brisbane was that authority exercised, but while they were in Brisbane it was decided that the Commission should separate. Two members, . Mr. Poster and Mr. Laird Smith, went to Bundaberg, while the Chairman and Dr. Maloney went to Ipswich. The Commission had previously visited Ipswich and taken evidence. Evidently they had been unable to finish. I wish to complain of the action of the Chairman, when the Commission found it necessary to divide, in going back to his own electorate on a special visit to take evidence. That was highly improper, and altogether wrong on his part. If it was necessary for the Commission to divide, he should have sent some other member of the Commission to his electorate, and he should have taken the trip to Bundaberg himself. I do not suggest that he went there to get special evidence, nor do I know what evidence he got. I am unaware even who gave evidence. I am told that I am making an unkind suggestion, but are we to be accused of making unkind and unfair accusations when we refer to what we consider improper conduct on the part of honorable members, especially when they occupy responsible positions? I protest against these continual suggestions that we are imputing motives. It was a highly improper and injudicious proceeding on the part of the Chairman of the Commission, as it would be on the part of the Chairman of any Commission to go to his own electorate on a special mission to get evidence. If the whole of the Commission had gone, there would have been no objection.
– Then what is your objection to his action ?
– It leaves it open to the suspicion that he went to his own electorate for special evidence. There are two matters in connexion with the Department of the Minister of Trade and
Customs to which I wish to refer. During the 1913 elections I was particularly assailed in Brisbane by the Tory candidates for the failure of the Labour Government to complete their agreement with Canada and New Zealand, so depriving Queensland of the Vancouver mail service without substituting another. I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of the Vancouver trade to Australia. Having built up from Queensland a very substantial and increasing trade with the eastern States of America, we were suddenly deprived of our means of communication. I do not mean to say that there was anything wrong. I believed then, and believe now, that the Commonwealth could do no other than refuse to enter into that contract as arranged, but the years are going by, and trade is being handicapped, if not lost, and no effort seems to be made to give us a chance to recover the lost ground and increase our footing in America. There is an increasing population on the eastern sea-board of America, and an urgent demand for Australian products. Thereis a continual inquiry for the goods we can supply, particularly during their off season, and yet we are still dependent upon a spasmodic service with one company, and a monthly service with another under. New Zealand preference. During last session the Minister of Trade and Customs was repeatedly asked what was being done in regard to reciprocal trade relations. Mr. Poster, the Minister of Trade and Customs in Canada, was here in June last year, and we were told that matters were then almost complete, but owing tothe change of Government the thing had to be left in an incomplete state.
– Is the honorable member referring to the mail service ?
– No ; to reciprocal trade relations. I am informed that when Mr. Foster had to leave, the matter was almost immediately capable of adjustment.
– Who informed you t Some other rumour, I suppose.
– I am very sorry that the Prime Minister finds it necessary to show his annoyance and irritation by these continual interjections. I am not annoyed by his attitude, and he need not. get angry with me. I am informed that the reciprocal trade arrangement with Canada was practically ready for adjustment in June, 1913, and yet eleven months have gone by, and no adjustment has yet taken place. I want to tell honorable members how the Government are dealing with the matter. On 9th July last year the Minister was asked what was being done. The reply was that no decision had yet been come to. On 30th September he was again asked, and the reply was that the matter was still under consideration. On 27th November his reply was, ‘ ‘ I am not in a position to make a public statement.” On 9th December the reply was, “ No progress.” On 15th April of this year, the honorable member for Yarra asked as to the progress of the negotiations, not only with Canada, but with New Zealand, and the answer was, “ I have no information to give at this stage.” After eleven months of this great administrative capacity, which we were told would follow from the present Government’s accession to office, the matter is still receiving consideration, and nothing definite has yet been done. The Government and the Minister are deserving of the censure of Parliament for their neglect of this matter. The trade and commerce of Australia is of no importance to them, as compared with a few electoral placards and the attempt to make political capital out of two test Bills. There is another matter to which I wish to refer in connexion with the administration of the Trade and Customs Department. In 1911, the Labour Government decided to exercise the powers of this Parliament under the Constitution to take over the lighthouses of Australia. For eleven years, previous Federal Governments had neglected that very obvious and necessary duty, although it had been impressed upon them by all the States’ authorities, and forced upon their notice by the shipping community as a matter demanding serious attention. The coast of Queensland was declared then - and the position is much worse ‘ now - to be not only very difficult of navigation, owing chiefly to the proximity of the Barrier Reef, but to be decidedly dangerous to navigation. Whilst the Federal Government neglected the duty of taking over the lighthouses, the different State Governments allowed matters to remain in abeyance, and did practically nothing in this connexion. The existing lighthouses were not neglected, but nothing was done to extend their usefulness or increase their number. It remained for a Labour Government to take action, and in 1911 a Bill was passed to enable the Commonwealth to take over the lighthouses. Commander Brewis was engaged, and he went round the coast of Australia, and presented a very . valuable and complete report, especially in regard to the new lights which he regarded as necessary. It was decided, before the late Government left office, that twelve new lights were urgently required, and of these six were to be established on the Queensland coast. An engineer was appointed as Director of Lighthouses, but from that day to this the Director of Lighthouses has been hidden in some office, or engaged upon other matters, because he has certainly not been heard of in connexion with lighthouses. He is drawing a high salary, and, so far, the only result of his work has been the drafting of some regulations. My reason for referring to this matter is that at the entrance to the Brisbane harbor there is a very dangerous rock, known as Smith’s Rock, opposite Cape Moreton. The light at Cape Moreton was established in 1857. It is a light of 5,000 candle power. I need not remind honorable members that in 1857 a light of 5,000 candle power might have been considered quite sufficient, owing to the light draft of the vessels of the time, and the smallness of the trade being done. At any rate, the Cape Moreton light served a very useful purpose during the interval. It has, however, now outlived its usefulness, and Commander Brewis recommended that it should be replaced by a light of 130,470 candle power. He recognised that, with the bigger ships now engaged in the greatly increased trade, there is need for a much stronger light at that particular place. Last month a French ship from New Caledonia coming into the Brisbane harbor, while waiting for a pilot, and while the pilot boat was actually approaching to her assistance, struck Smith’s Rock and, in four minutes, disappeared beneath the waves, and eighteen lives were lost. The loss of that ship was entirely due to the absence of a light on .Smith’s Rock, or of a sufficiently powerful light at Cape Moreton..
– I think the honorable member’s information is incorrect, but if he will permit me, I suggest that, as the matter is sub judice, it would be better for him not to discuss it now. I can assure him that I have been obtaining reports for the last three or four weeks on the matter. The honorable member is at liberty to see the file, if he pleases.
– I am glad that the Minister of Trade and Customs admits that this matter is receiving his attention . I hope it will receive more immediate attention than did some of the other matters to which I have referred. I am certain that if this had been a British instead of a French ship, there would have been such a storm of indignation aroused through this country that a censure motion on that alone would have been sufficient to defeat the Government.
– Australians have as much interest in the protection of French life as of British life.
– That may be, but the interest of the Government in French or in British life would not appear to be very strong.
– The honorable member knows that these lights were not provided by the Commonwealth. Mr. FINLAYSON. - I have said so.
– Then, why binnie the Corn mou wealth Govern nien t ?
– Because, in my opinion, the disaster has been due to the supineness, carelessness, and negligence of the present Federal Government. Before the Labour Government left office they left everything in -connexion with the taking over of the lighthouses of the various States absolutely ready, so that the whole business might have been proceeded with at once, but eleven months have been allowed to elapse without anything being done. I say that the moral blame for the loss of these eighteen lives is due to the supineness of the present Government. I make that charge deliberately.
– That shows how reckless and how utterly without conscience the honorable member is in making charges.
– I say that there has been more than sufficient time for the present Government to have taken action in connexion with the lighthouses. I am very glad that I am touching the Minister of Trade and Customs on the raw. It is about time that some One did so in order that something may be done.
– The honorable member should not have dealt with the matter until he was in possession of the facts.
– The Minister admitted them.
– I did nothing of the kind. I made no admissions, but I told the honorable member what the position was.
– The Minister tried to draw me off the subject by saying the matter was sub judice. I can give a guarantee as well as the Minister, and I say that my sole purpose in raising this question, and in making the strong remarks I have made, is to get something done. Eleven months have elapsed since everything was left ready by the late Government, and I make the complaint that nothing has been done in. the meantime. I say that, while these dangers exist, there is a possibility of further lives being lost, not only at the entrance to Moreton Bay. but elsewhere, where dangerous conditions are known to exist, and the blame for the continuance of these dangers lies at the door of the present Government, and it is just as well that the country should know it. If the Minister of Trade and Customs will look up the Brisbane newspapers he will find that I made no bones about charging the present . Government with culpability for the loss of that ship.
– I am quite sure the honorable member would charge them with anything, and the fewer his facts, the less he would be trammelled.
– Of course, I charge them with culpability in this matter. I am sorry the Attorney-General has gone out, because I wanted to have a word or two with him. I wish to call attention to some of the statements made by the honorable gentleman lately, particularly in regard to the Senate. He is reported in the Age of 8th April to have said at Colac -
In regard to that rather remarkable body. the Australian Senate, it was one of the most sinister aspects of Australian politics at the present time that a body in no sense representative of the Australian people should hold supremacy in the political arena. One of the reasons why it existed in Austral fa was that it existed in America 100 years ago, and they had’ managed to get on in spite of it. That was the most that could be said on behalf nf a system that had little to recommend it in logic, and had everything against it in practical working. With respect to the important functions it was supposed to fulfil, the Senate had utterly and entirely failed.
My remark upon that is that it is a strange thing that it is only since the Labour party became predominant in the Senate that the Attorney-General has dis- covered that it does not represent the people of Australia. The facts are entirely the opposite. It is incontrovertible that the Labour party to-day holds the larger number of votes, both for this House and the Senate. Our men were elected by the democratic and popular vote, and the Senate is, perhaps, more than this House, a true reflex of the opinion of the people of Australia, as evidenced at the last election. It is remarkably strange that the AttorneyGeneral after all these years should find out that the Senate, as an Upper Chamber, is such a useless excrescence of the body politic. I agree with the honorable gentleman entirely, and I stand here prepared to give my vote at any time for the abolition of the Senate, and of every other Upper Chamber of Legislature in Australia.
– How does the honorable member think that the small States would get on?
– I am quite certain that when this House was prepared to pass a grant of £900,000 to Tasmania, the small States will be in no danger. If any objection can be raised at all, it is that the smaller States have been cajoled, supported, and spoon fed, at the expense of the larger States.
– Is Queensland one of the larger States, in the matter of population?
– Yes. Queensland had a much greater claim for consideration than Tasmania if she had chosen to make it. The point I want to establish is that the small States do not depend upon the Senate for their effective representation. I believe that every part of Australia would receive just as generous treatment from this Parliament, if the Senate did not exist, as it gets at the present time. I am delighted that the Attorney-General is converted to the idea that the Upper House is quite an excrescence, but I ask honorable members to listen to this extract from a speech he delivered in Melbourne at the end of last month -
There was another problem that was patent to them all. What was to be done with the Senate? Could they do anything with it? Instead of being the fly-wheel of the Constitution, which reduced its movements to something like uniformity, the effect of the Senate’s existence had been to intensify every movement of current opinion. It had served exactly the opposite purpose for which it was embodied in the Constitution. He would not indicate in the vaguest way how the Senate should be dealt with.
Before a gentleman occupying his high and responsible position makes charges againstthe Senate or expresses an opinion as to its inutility, he should have a remedy to submit. “ He did not suggest in the vaguest way how the Senate should be dealt with.” We have a right to demand a statement from the honorable and learned member, because he spoke on behalf of the Government, as to what their intentions are in regard to the Senate. If they hold his opinion they can have only one attitude, and that must be in favour of the abolition of the House. If, however, they do not favour that step, what is the Attorney-General doing in supporting a Government whose attitude is different from that which he expressed in his speech at Colac? The more one looks into this matter the more one is surprised that this Government should be able to hold together in the way they do. They are divided in opinion, and are quite indifferent in their policy. I was thinking the other day as I was looking across at them, that one could only say, “ Step up this way, ladies and gentlemen. Here is the finest collection of political derelicts that has ever been assembled in a Parliament. Here you will find all sorts and all sizes. Pay your money and take your choice.” Let us observe, too, how they dress their window. One could almost hear the other day a voice saying, “ Step in, here you will find the State debts.” The Government might well label the State debts “something to come in the future,” the Commonwealth Bank “ guaranteed sound,” the amalgamation of the Savings Bank “ a very choice lot, something good in the future,” the uniform railway gauge “under examination and repair,” immigration “ guaranteed not to last,” the postal vote “ a particularly choice specimen available to arrive at any moment,” the prohibition of preference to unionists “ something thatwe expect on any date,” the bureau of agriculture, “ it is not dead, it is only sleeping,” the invalid pension “ laid up during general financial repairs,” lighthouses, “ ships due to arrive at any time,” reciprocal trade and the Tariff, “ watch this space,” and so on. This Government are very good at self-advertisement; they are very good at the display of things, but the trouble is that they will do anything and everything, but nothing that is practical and tangible. However, the AttorneyGeneral may yet favour us with his opinions in regard to the Senate, and the Government may disclose, perhaps in an unguarded moment, what their views are in regard to the constitution of that House. There is another matter to which the honorable and learned member has devoted some attention, and on which I desire to make a few remarks, for it is a most enticing subject. He is reported in the Age of 24th March last to have addressed the council of the People’s party in these terms -
True Socialism meant the destruction of family ties. (Hear, hear.) Whether they admitted it or not these exponents of real Socialism, whom his Labour friends here were weakly and half-heartedly following, had no film over their eyes. They proclaimed openly that it meant absolutely the destruction of what had hitherto been regarded as the unit of national life. In every country possessing civilization worthy of the name, the social system was based on family, on the maintenance of family ties and responsibility. Now it was proposed” that these should be farmed out to the State. . . . They were being led by their leaders into a policy which, if carried to its legitimate conclusion, must inevitably not only weaken the marriage tie. but strike at the” roots of the family life. . . . Once that idea became established, the union of the man and woman ceased to become a sacred and high trust and responsibility, and it became a union of mere convenience.
The Attorney-General is not alone in that opinion, “because I recollect that during last session I drew attention to a leaflet which was circulated first in South Australia - in point of fact it was circulated throughout Australia at the last elections - and which contained these remarks : -
My greatest objection to Socialism is this brutal attitude towards women. It has nothing to offer women except to propose that they should be made breeding cows; and that their young should be fathered by the State instead of by the animals who bred them. This, simply put, means that you and I, who work, and have given hostages to fortune, and pledges to the State, should be taxed to pay for the indulgence of every loafer. If you meet socialists, and listen to their talk, you will be amazed at the low value they place on women. I do not know any people who dishonour women more, or who are more disloyal to their mothers. Why this should be, I do not know or understand. It seems so strange that people who are always talking of humanity, wrongs of the poor and weak, should be, of all people,, the ones who are lighting to destroy women,, and enslave them. This is what “ free love “ is doing to some of our poor.
– Who issued that circular ?
– It was printed by Vardon and Sons, and issued” by the Liberal League in South Australia during the last elections. I read the. full extract last session, and I am deeply surprised that a gentleman of the standing of Mr. W. H. Irvine should associate himself with such opinions, and dare to express them in public. I could understand a man like Mr. Moss Isaacs talking as he did at the annual meeting of the shareholders of Huddart Parker Ltd. In seconding the adoption of the directors’ report he expressed his satisfaction with their conduct during the year. He said that they had done remarkably well, but he concluded, “ God knows what you will have to undergo during the next twelve months from those brutes of men” - referring to the waterside workers. It is. about time that the use of this kind of insulting epithets was stopped, so far as it applies to this party. If the members of the Liberal party, and particularly men occupying the responsible position of Ministers, continue to throw these insultsand these gratuitous references across thetable or from a platform, then so far asthey refer to this party something will have to be done to protect ourselves from them.. I take the earliest opportunity of saying that the Attorney-General ought to be nob only ashamed of himself as a Minister, but ashamed of himself as a man, for having made the statement he uttered on thepublic platform in regard to these matters. I ask the honorable member whoare the people responsible for the destruction of the marriage tie? Who are the men and women in this country who areresponsible for the race suicide that is, unfortunately, too prevalent? Who are the men and who are the women who areneglecting and- refusing their parental responsibility ? Are they the working people? No, not by any means. Family life, as family life is known, is established, recognised, and honoured amongst theworking classes of this community, but not so amongst the aristocracy. They are giving up their homes, they are now living in flats. Flats are becoming the order of the day. And where are the familiesof .these people? See them in the street;. see them in their motor cars, and see them in their homes - they would rather nurse dogs than nurse children, and would much rather accept responsibility for animals than for their own kind. I throw those insults back in the teeth of the member for Flinders, and say that he ought to be ashamed of himself for making such statements at this time in the world’s history, and at this stage of human intelligence. There are some people who could be excused for such remarks, but the honorable member for Flinders is too well learned, he has been too well educated not to know that those statements are false, vicious, and vile in the utmost degree. One wonders what difference it all will make. I have indicated, during the course of my remarks, half-a-dozen things on which the present Government could be properly and severely censured. So far, I have not touched on the Teesdale Smith contract, or on the cancellation of the contract with the Western Australian Government, except in passing, and I have said nothing about other errors of administration. I am sorry that the Minister of Home Affairs is not present, so that I might tell him what I think iu regard to these matters. Not that it will make any difference. The A ri/us was quite right. The honorable member for Flinders may express his views, and the member for Parkes may voice a difference of opinion, but there will be no defections from the Liberal ranks. They are so well controlled, so much under the whip, so much caucussed that not one of them will be absent from the division, and every one will vote in the same way. My time is nearly up, and I cannot help thinking that yours must be an awkward position, sir, when you remember how, during the three years’ régime of the Labour Government, you used to regale us with those long dreary extracts, and how, for two or three hours at a time, you continued speaking without limitation or obstruction. It is truly a cruel fate which places you in charge of the guillotine, and enables you , by the tick of the clock, to curtail, or, at any rate, to accelerate our eloquence. However, I have a few minutes left, and I desire to say a word or two in regard to the Home Affairs Department. During the regime of the Labour Government, no member of the party was more criticised than the then Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. O’Malley. He was singled out for particular attention. There was scarcely a day when there was not some attempt by questions, or motions for adjournment, or other means, to force him into a statement, in order to create public dissatisfaction and discredit the party as well as the honorable member’s administration. The member for Wentworth, now the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs, was particularly active in this regard, and one can remember how, night after night, he would come into the House, and after seeing that his friends from the club were comfortably settled in the gallery, and that the ladies were present in strong force, he would regale us with one of those fancy speeches in which he made the member for Darwin the target of attack. It has been suggested that the elevation of the member for Wentworth to the position of Honorary Minister, and the placing of him in charge of the Home Affairs Department, were designed to give him an opportunity to ferret out in the archives, records, and correspondence of that Department, . something on which he could attack the Labour Government. We have waited for eleven months, and’ I, personally, rejoice in the fact that in spite of all their efforts, in spite of every endeavour to find something with which to belittle the Labour party, our administration stands to-day clean, honest, and without a serious charge against any of our Ministers, and particularly against the ex-Minister of Home Affairs. I anticipated that there would be some heavy charges made. We had a Ministry composed of men who were without any previous experience of Governmental responsibility, men who were without university degrees, men who had been taken from the ordinary walks of life, and had not been specially trained for business and administrative work, yet after three years of most strenuous work, and unexampled activity in public matters, no charge of maladministration has yet been made against them. Ail inquiries, and all attempts to find something on which to build a charge, have signally failed. Yet the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, who has blundered in a shocking manner, in a manner which no Minister in any other Government could stand up against for a day, in such a manner that if any Labour Minister had been culpable, he could not have continued in office for a week, comes here and says in the most guileless manner that he was entirely in the hands of his officers. I was inclined to admire the attitude of the Assistant Minister in accepting responsibility in the first place. Properly speaking, the Prime Minister is responsible for the whole of this blunder. The whole of our attack should be directed against the Prime Minister, because he is the Minister of Home Affairs, but we have had the strange spectacle of that Department being administered by three different Ministers. Mr. Kelly has evidently had charge of the transcontinental railway, but it was the Prime Minister who cancelled the sleeper contract, and we find that Senator McColl is in charge of another branch of the Home Affairs Department. Yet three matters, controlled by those different Ministers, have all been signal instances of incapacity and bad government.
– Three Liberals equal one American.
– And the American beat them. The Assistant Minister, however, accepted responsibility and his chief evidently was quite willing to allow him to take it. First of all, the Assistant Minister said that he was in the hands of his officers, and in a very mean and shabby way tried to shelter himself behind those officers. To show how unwarranted that attitude was, it is only necessary to refer to the fact that after the honorable member referred, in his speech in this House, to the Teesdale Smith contract, as we understood it at that time, he went on to refer to other matters, and, in the most genial way possible patted himself on the back, and took considerable credit for having refused the advice of those same officers. I know of nothing that could be more damaging to a man in charge of public affairs than to shelter himself behind his officers in the first place, or to take credit to himself for having turned down their advice in other respects. The honorable member for Parkes drew a very nice, clever,- satisfactory, and proper line of distinction between the professional administrative possibilities of the Minister and his regular administrative responsibilities, and the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs should not shelter himself behind his officers in one case and withhold credit from them in another case. My main complaint in regard to the Teesdale Smith contract is not in regard to the price - though I think it is excessive - nor that Mr. Teesdale Smith secured it. He may be the best of contractors. I do not know.
– He is a smart man.
– He has proved that already. It is very significant that, after this contract became known, there was an immediate rush of contractors to the Department of Home Affairs. It was after the contract was given that there was the meeting of contractors with the Minister, about which we have heard so much. It seems that as soon as the matter was mentioned there was an immediate rush for the spoils, and the demand that others should share if there was anything going round. The administration of the very Government that accuse us of Tammany methods, and say theirs is so clean in comparison with ours, is the vilest of the vile. My objection to the conduct of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs is that this contract was not open to public tender, and in that respect the action of the Government! is a shocking example of blundering and mismanagement. But there are other aspects of the matter that show how keenly incapable the Government were of understanding even the first essentials of a contract. It is now recognised that in every legitimate contract in regard to public works there should be stipulations in regard to wages and conditions of employment; and usually there is some reference to the possibility of wages and conditions being altered through Wages Boards’ awards; but in the Teesdale Smith contract there are no such stipulations or possibilities. The contractor has an open book allowing him to pay his men anything for which he can get them to work, the Commonwealth standing by quite indifferent to what wages the men are getting. The contract is equally silent in regard to. conditions of housing and food, and other accessories. The Government were so mightily anxious over the thing that one inevitably recalls the famous remarks of Lord Randolph Churchill with regard to Gladstone - only it is reversed in this case. Lord Randolph Churchill spoke about “ the old man in a hurry.” Evidently in this case the young man was in a hurry to make himself famous, and do something to show that he could beat the Labour men or, at any rate, get rid of a few of them. In the Speech of the GovernorGeneral at the opening of the first session of this Parliament the Government told us that they were going to introduce contract labour “ in order to do away with the duplication of staffs, and so reduce working expenses,” whereas all the testimony we have had, not only in regard to this railway, but also in regard to work of a similar character carried out in the Commonwealth for the past ten or fifteen years, disproves such a contention. One wonders what the people outside think of the present Government. I could quote from last year’s Hansard reports in regard to day-labour prices and methods as compared with contract work, but I regret that my time will not allow me to give them, not because the Government have not heard them, but because it is necessary that some one should continually reiterate the position in order that the people outside can realize it, in order to show that the facts were before the Government. If at any time in the future people should wonder how it was that the Cook. Government of 1913 blundered so badly, .-.nd ask, “ Was it because they had no information; when they gave contracts on such terms as that on the transcontinental railway did they not know about the experience of Queensland, New South Wales, or Victoria,” it is necessary to refer to these facts now, and occasionally to get them into Hansard, in order to let the present and future generations know that the Cook Government did not sin through lack of light, but sinned against the light. I have much more to say, but my time is up. I could go on for another hour without difficulty, calling attention to matters which justify the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. I know of no Government that has more disgracefully disregarded the true interests of the people of the Commonwealth, or whose whole future seems to indicate such a descent into maladministration and blundering as that of the present Government.
.- It was not my intention to intervene in this debate, because I recognise that the idea of calling Parliament together was to have a short session, and get down to the real business that, lies before us as soon as possible. But one or two political matters have cropped up during the last few weeks that are not referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech, and to which I wish to refer. The first is the statement made by the Minister of Defence concerning the naval position as it affects Australia and the Empire generally. I agree with certain things in that statement of the Minister of Defence, but there are other things with which I cannot agree. I think the Minister is quite right when he complains that the Imperial Government seem to have departed from the agreement made in 1909, and ratified in 1911, without notifying the Dominions. We in Australia have done our part of that agreement, and I consider that it was the duty of the Admiralty to notify the Dominions before any departure was made from it. I notice that one of the Ministry of the Dominion of New Zealand also complains in the same direction as our Minister of Defence has done. In this I feel that they are on sound ground. I also agree with the Minister of Defence that, seeing what has occurred at Home, an immediate Conference should be called.
– Does the honorable member believe in the Australian Fleet assisting the Imperial Government, and in the Imperial Government assisting the Australian Fleet?
– I think we ought to continue the agreement that was entered into in 1909, until a better system is found for the Empire generally.
– Supposing unforeseen circumstances rendered the Australian Fleet useless here and useful in other waters, ought it not to go to those other waters?
– The Australian Fleet ought to go where it will be of most service to the Empire. When the agreement of 1909 was laid before the House by the Deakin-Cook Government, I stated that I did not regard it as representing an ideal system - that it was not Imperial enough for me - but that, as a step in the right direction, I accepted it. My idea is that we might have a navy for the whole Empire governed by some central authority - a navy large enough to protect all the various parts of the Empire, and capable of being quickly moved where it is most needed. I have been treated rather toughly by some of the newspapers in Australia for expressing that opinion, notably the Bulletin and other publications, but I feel that those who criticise me do not quite grasp my meaning. They appear to regard my attitude as unpatriotic; but we could have just as much shipbuilding in Australia, just as many Australians in the navy, and a force probably more effective than at present, without such a burden on the Empire as is felt at present.
– Where would the honorable member have the ships located ?
– The ships could be in Australian waters, or in any seas where the Empire was most affected.
– Where they are most needed 1
– Quite so. The great object is to maintain sea supremacy, without which we cannot keep the Empire together. The time is coming, I believe, when there will be a body to control defence, especially the defence of the Empire. The Imperial Conference, held every four years, will, 1 think, gradually develop into a body with more powers than that Conference possesses to-day, and there is no doubt that, if ever we reach that stage in Imperial organization, defence will be the first question dealt with, or the Committee of Imperial Defence may assume a phase that will lead to some such result within a measurable distance of time. We have heard a good deal from responsible people lately about the Senate, especially as to the equal representation of all the States in that Chamber.
– The honorable member means against the equal representation ?
– Yes. I do not wish to charge anybody with a desire to alter the basis of representation in the Senate, bub I am afraid that remarks that have fallen from various speakers, both in Parliament and outside, may lead many to think that there is a strong opinion in Federal politics in favour of an alteration ; at any rate, I think that such an idea is likely to become prevalent in the small States. But if there be any such desire in any quarter, I feel convinced that the smaller States will rise as one in opposition to any such proposal - we shall see no difference of political opinion amongst Liberals, Labour men, or Independents. All the political forces will be exerted to prevent the present arrangement being interfered with.
– It is the basic principle of Federation.
– Quite so; and, moreover, it cannot Be interfered with.be.-: cause section 128 of the Constitution provides that any one State can prevent achange.
– How does the honorable member reconcile that with the statement by the Attorney-General ?
– In one newspaper report of the Attorney-General’s remarks, I noticed that that honorable gentleman is reported to have said just what I have said, namely, that one State of the Union could prevent any change being brought about; and in this regard section 128 is doubly safeguarded. The smaller States would not have entered the Union unless they had been guaranteed equal representation in the Senate. Of course, if it is for the benefit of Australia that we should change the Constitution, I do not object.
– Did not the AttorneyGeneral by his remarks lead us to believe that he would make an alteration if he got the power ?
– It seems to me that the Attorney-General, judging from the newspaper reports, was of opinion that it would be better if the basis of representation were altered; but I do not charge the honorable gentleman with having so spoken, because I prefer to hear a man himself rather than rely on his reported utterances. What I am afraid of is that a great many people will conclude, because of the reported words of the AttorneyGeneral, that there is a strong body of opinion in this Chamber, and in political circles generally, in favour of the course suggested.
– Was it not that the AttorneyGeneral said such a change was possible, though he did not advocate it? .
– I am not charging the Attorney-General with advocating the change.
– Was it not only one of many possible changes that he mentioned, none of which he advocated ?
– Keep on apologizing !
– I am not trying to pin the Attorney-General down to any opinion ; all I say is that if the AttorneyGeneral is correctly reported, he is not speaking for me, but only for himself.
– The Attorney-General is the most powerful man in the Liberal party, and he will see that the change is brought about if that party gets possession of the Senate.
– At any rate, the Attorney-General will not get me to vote for such a change ; and I feel sure that all the members from Tasmania, Labour or Liberal, are solidly of the same opinion as myself.
– The honorable member will not get indorsed as a candidate the next time if he does not mind !
– I shall have to take my chance about that. It is quite possible that an improved system may be devised for the government of Australia, but if anything of the sort suggested is to be attempted, there must be a body created something like the original Federal Convention. Then, if the smaller States care to submit to some new arrangement, well and good ; but they entered the Federal compact with their eyes open, on a thorough understanding, and a strictly drawn basis. In any alteration contemplated the smaller States should be allowed as much voice as they had in the framing of our present Constitution. Another matter not mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is that of the Teesdale Smith contract, in connexion with which much abuse has been poured on the Ministry. Speaking for. myself, I must say I was surprised when I read in the newspapers that a contract had been let in that way; but as the information was contained merely in a short paragraph, I came to the House with an open mind on the subject. I regret that tenders were not invited for the work, but having heard the Honorary Minister’s explanation, I can excuse his action, for I feel that he believed that he was going to do something very much better for the country by accepting Mr. Smith’s offer than he would by waiting to invite public tenders. He thought that he would be doing better business for the Commonwealth. It is unfair to charge the honorable gentleman with a desire to throw over the tender system. After all, the section in question is only 14 miles of a line considerably over 1,000 miles in length. The honorable gentleman had, and has, no idea of departing from the tender system so far as the construction of most of the line is concerned. The action which he took in this instance was based upon the advice of his departmental experts, and I think that he is blameless. In the negotiations which followed the giving of this work to Mr. Teesdale Smith, he undoubtedly displayed business ability. He quickly discovered that things were not perhaps exactly what they had been represented to be, and I think that he saved the situation very well. He certainly cannot be charged with want of business capacity, and I must say that I have listened with regret to some of the remarks that have been made in respect of this transaction. The Opposition are trying to make too much capital out of it.
– Like the honorable member did in regard to the “man on the job.”
– We may have overstated the case, because of what we saw in the newspapers. Whether we did or did not, I cannot say, because in regard to that matter we could not obtain from the Labour Government then in power explanations such as have been so readily given in this case. Having heard the Honorary Minister’s explanation, I am pleased to say that there is no suggestion of corruption, and that no slur can be cast Upon the Ministry in respect of the letting of this work. I trust, however, that in all future cases tenders will be publicly invited, so that contracts may be let under the best conditions. In the matter of Commonwealth works there is a wide divergence of opinion between the Government and the Opposition. The Opposition are pledged to the day labour system. Having regard to the figures that have been presented from time to time to the House, I have come to the conclusion that in some cases the day labour system is the better one to adopt, while in others the contract system ought to be adopted. I cannot understand why one great party in this Parliament should rigidly pin its faith to the one system.
– We do not.
– Our honorable friends opposite are pledged to the application of the day labour system in every case.
– Not in every case.
– Is the honorable member satisfied with the day labour system on the Wilmot railway construction works ?
– Yes. I do not think it is quite correct, however, to describe as “ day labour “ the system adopted in that case. I understand that a great deal of the celerity displayed in the construction of the earthworks was due to the letting of small contracts to local people along the route.
– On the butty-gang system.
– I was told recently that for one particular cutting a contract was let to a well-known contractor on the understanding that he should have the option of throwing up the work if he met with rock. He did meet with rock and other hard substances and threw up his contract. At other points along the line, however, small contracts have been carried out by local residents, and completed, I believe, in very good time. Turning to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech it must be admitted by impartial critics that it embodies a number of proposals, well deserving the attention of the National Parliament. At the recent Conference between the State Premiers and the representatives of the Commonwealth many agreements were arrived at, representing a distinct advance on what has hitherto been done towards the settlement of great, questions, which arc essentially non-party. The transfer of the State debts, the control of the Murray waters, and the question of a uniform gauge, are certainly nonparty matters, and immigration should also be so regarded. The Government, through His Excellency’s Speech, have intimated that they are prepared to take action in regard to these great subjects, and the Parliament should do something this session to give effect to the agreements arrived at by the Conference. The decision arrived at in regard to the control of the Murray waters in itself means a step towards the true development of Australia. The wealth of Australia to-day, and for years to come, must depend chiefly upon the extent of its primary production, and, if by means of irrigation and water conservation schemes, we can settle some thousands of people along the Murray, we shall do. much to develop the country. It will be a step in the direction of peopling the Continent, as it should be peopled, and that is one of the necessities of the time. Such a scheme must do much to counteract the tendency to settle in our big cities instead of going on the land. It is a truly national work. If the Labour party will not deal with it they will disregard a national duty, and the sooner the electors see to the matter the better. I cannot say that I have observed, on the part of the Labour party, a hearty desire to promote immigration. It is certainly necessary that we should introduce into Australia more people of the right type at the present time. It seems to me that the immigration of the last two years that has been conducted by the States, although a step in the right direction, has not been as successful as . it, should, have been. For one reason, there have been too many persons ou the other side of the world interested in sending immigrants here. A good many of those who have been sent out were not told the facts that they should have known before leaving the Old Country, and consequently did not find things here what they expected. This could be prevented by co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, leaving it io the High Commissioner’s office to select and pass those desirous of coming to the country. In this way we should obtain immigrants of the right class. If we can.nOt get enough immigrants from the British Islands - and no doubt public opinion there is in favour of retaining the rural workers instead of letting them go abroad - there are good men to be found in Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, and other countries peopled by races akin to our own. The tactics of last session showed that it was the desire of the Opposition to prevent the Government from doing any tiling. If these tactics are to be resorted to again this session, which, from what I have seen, seems probable, we shall soon arrive at an absolute deadlock. The ex-Attorney-General says that the Government Preference Prohibition Bill is a paltry measure to ask for a double dissolution upon. I differ from him. The Constitution does not say that a measure on which a double dissolution may be granted should be of any particular kind. We have already passed the Bill in question, and if we pass it again, and the Senate rejects it a second time, the Government will have proper cause for asking the Governor-General to send the Whole ‘Parliament back to the people. A Parliament is useless that can do nothing. Personally, I think that a great -deal could be done if both sides were willing to tackle business, but I do not think it likely that anything will be done. The honorable member for Bourke told us that the Government should be fought from point to point, so that it would be impossible to go before the people or do anything at all until the financial year had ended. That may be very well from a party point of view, but I take it that the people sent us here, not to fight one another like two opposing armies, but to work for the good of the country. If Parliament will not pass necessary legislation, the sooner it is sent to the country the better. Paragraph 3 of the Governor-General’s speech indicates that the Government Preference Prohibition Bill and the Postal Voting Restoration Bill will be the chief measures of the session.
– Does the honorable member think that they will be reached?
– I hope so, though the interjection is an indication that the Opposition does not intend anything to be done. Under these circumstances, parliamentary government must become a farce. The Bills that I have named have been discussed at length, especially by the Opposition, have been passed by this House, and have been rejected by the Senate. It will be a strange thing if all that was said last session, and previously, in regard to them is repeated again this session. We have all made up our minds about them, everything that can be said has been said for and against their provisions, and if months are occupied in their discussion it will be a clear indication that the Opposition does not intend the people to have its say in these matters. What does the Government Preference Prohibition Bill mean?
– It means a great deal. The ex-Attorney-General has called it a sham, but the Leader of the Opposition declared last session that it is a most important measure, striking at the root of unionism. His statements regarding it contrast strangely with those of the honorable member for West Sydney. The Liberal party thinks that no section of the community should be especially favoured by the Government; that an Administration has no right to say to a man, “ You shall have Government employment if you are a unionist, but none if you are a non-unionist.”
– The Government has abolished this preference.
– The principle of preference to unionists hits straight at our most priceless possession, namely, our liberty as British subjects. It acts as a coercive weapon in the case of workmen who can ill afford to lose their daily bread. These men are compelled to join unions and to pay levies to which they object.
– What about the honorable member’s own union - the Lawyers Union?
– I thought that that myth was exploded long ago. There is no union amongst the legal fraternity. Some persons appear to imagine that lawyers have a union which prescribes a set scale of charges for the services of its members. As a matter of fact one lawyer may charge a certain fee for doing certain work, whilst another lawyer may not charge more than half that amount.
– And the clients know it, too.
– There is nothing unionistic about that condition of affairs. Everybody is not permitted to draw up legal documents, but that prohibition is imposed for the protection of the public, and not from a desire to make the legal profession a closed corporation. The idea underlying it is that skilled persons only shall be employed to undertake legal work, in order that the public may be protected, especially from bush lawyers. The honorable member for Bendigo interjected a few moments ago that the Government had already abolished the granting of preference to unionists. That is so. As soon as the Ministry came into office they notified the various departments that the order issued by their predecessors granting such a preference had been annulled. I notice that from the public platforms to-day a great many Labour orators are asking, ‘‘Why is the Government Preference Prohibition Bill necessary, seeing that preference to unionists has already been abolished ?” May I point out that the granting of that preference was merely an administrative act, but if we abolish that grant by Statute, before the principle can be re-introduced into our Public Service another Act repealing that Statute will have to be passed ? Thus the public will have an opportunity of knowing what the Ministry of the day are doing. It is right, too, that we should abolish preference to unionists by Statute, seeing that the Labour party have affirmed their intention of re-introducing that principle should they ever he fortunate enough to regain the Treasury bench. I have occupied more time than I intended, but before concluding my remarks I desire to say a word or two about trusts. During the last day or two we have heard the same old arguments of the Opposition in regard to trusts. These are the great bogies which they hold up to the people. As a matter of fact we are just as strongly opposed to the operation of trusts as they are themselves. We are prepared to do as much as they are. In fact, as far as the Constitution permits us to go, we have done a lot more. I am quite prepared, personally, to agree to an alteration of the Constitution with respect to trusts. The only difference between the last Government and myself with regard to the referendum submitted then by them is this, that I want to see an amendment to provide that if a trust can prove its innocence, that it is not acting injuriously to the public or in restraint of trade, it should be allowed to continue its operations. I do not say that we must prove the contrary, as was attempted in the Vend case. I am quite prepared to throw the onus of proof on the trust, thus making it more difficult for the trust to escape.
– Who is going to be the judge ?
– The High Court.
– This Parliament is the highest Court in the land.
– I have not much confidence in the judgment of this Court, and I have sat here for some time. If I were carrying on a business outside, I should not like to have to submit my case for the decision of honorable members, because, however honestly they may come to their conclusions, I feel that they are not always well primed as to the real facts of the case.
– Do you not know that investigations would be held before this House was approached ?
– If Parliament is to be turned into a Court to take evidence and deal with all the big trading questions, how is it going to find time to attend to all its ordinary work?
– The matters will be referred to Commissions.
– I prefer to leave the question to trained judicial minds, and I think the trusts would prefer it, too. They are entitled to fair play, if to nothing else. At any rate, I waa quite prepared to support last year’s referendum with respect to trusts and combines, either in the House or elsewhere, if its proposers would only attach to it the condition I have mentioned. However, they would not do it. They went about the country, and are still doing so, holding up the trusts to the hatred of the people. They are not acting fairly, in that respect, because, while the Labour Government were in office, they were collecting data and evidence as to the actions and operations of the trusts. Since the present Government came in, they have continued to look for evidence, but, sofar, very little evidence that would warrant a prosecution at all has come in. Last year we had the Sugar Commission’s report. That Commission was appointed’ by the Labour Government, and, judging by the political opinions that its members were supposed to hold, its report ought to have been favorable to the views of the Labour party, but the Commission reported that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were doing their business fairly by the public, turning out a good article,, and treating their employes very fairly, too. Another portion of their report which was not expected by the then Government was the assertion that if theGovernment wanted to make asses of themselves they would nationalize the> sugar industry, because they could not produce the article as well or as cheaply as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were doing. All these facts tend tc> prove, if they tend to prove anything, that if the Constitution is to be altered, the trusts that can prove their innocence should be allowed to carry on their operations. If the Opposition would look at the history of the matter, study both sides, and take the facts as they actually are, they would realize that trusts had grown up in a more or less natural way as commerce has developed. I do not think that the trusts are likely to become such dangerous enemies to society in Australia as they are in the United States, because here we hold the railways and other means of transport.
– That will not delay thema moment.
– I regard it as a reason for believing that we oan prevent them from progressing as rapidly here as they have done in America.
– They are progressing in Germany where the railways are Stateowned.
– We do not hear of the Germans nationalizing the concerns of the trusts, Although honorable members opposite are holding the trusts up to public scorn, when we ask them what they are going to do if they get the power, they cannot tell us anything. They call that a detail, or refuse to answer the question, but that is just what the public want to know. Surely the people who are asked to give certain powers have the right to know how those powers are going to be applied, but during the course of the referendum campaign we could not get one statement, nor can we get it now, to indicate the mind of the Opposition as to what steps they intend to take to regulate or destroy the trusts.
– Why does Mr. Watt say that he is going to bring in legislation to deal with them?
– I do not know. He never took me into his confidence. In any case, I want to know what the Opposition intend to do with regard to them. I believe that if they can get the referendum concerning monopolies passed to enable this House simply to declare a thing to be a monopoly, they will come down here and say, “It is no good passing legislation, seeing that the Sherman Act in America, and other Acts in other countries, have not been successful, and the only tiling that remains for us to do is to nationalize the trusts.” Then, in the face of their own Commission’s reports, we should have them attempting to nationalize the sugar industry, or the shipping industry, or other big concerns, and we should gradually drift into full and complete Socialism. Nationalization is the remedy pf despair. When you cannot do anything else, it is time enough to start nationalizing businesses. If the Post Office and other Government Departments are to be taken as an index of the success of nationalization, we should be very wary as to what other ventures we undertake.
– Has the Postal Department been a failure?
– I do not say it has been a failure, but we cannot altogether say that the business side of it has been a success. There are many general utilities, such as the tramway system, the water supply system, and many other things that can be advantageously nationalized, but that is not to say that everything is to be nationalized. Our friends opposite have no other remedy ; nationalization is their great panacea. Everything in their platform leads up to it. Wherever it has been tried it has been au absolute failure, and yet that is all that they can offer us if they are given power -to deal with the trusts. The Liberal party are just as strongly opposed to trusts as are our friends opposite, but we must recognise that they have come here more or less by the natural growth of commerce during the last few years. Recognising that fact, we ought to deal with them in a sane and common-sense way. We are going to abolish them if necessary.
– How are you going to do it?
– We can easily abolish them when the Constitution is altered, if they are acting in restraint of trade.
– But you do not believe in the alteration of the Constitution.
– If it is necessary, I will go even so far as that.
– We will deal with them while the Opposition are talking about them.
– As an instance of that, in 1910 the Minister of Trade and Customs was going to squelch the Beef Trust. He kept it under observation for three years, but his observationwas of such a peculiar nature that he never had any facts to present to the House about it.
– He approved of certain things with regard to certain trusts.
– I am not aware that he did anything with respect to the Beef Trust except to tell us that he was going to deal with it and that he had it under observation.
– And to encourage them in what they were doing.
– I do not want to occupy my time with recriminations. We have heard enough of them during the debate, but I cannot help saying that the industrial unrest so prevalent at the present time is a matter of the greatest importance to this Parliament, and it is about timethat some practical steps were taken to ameliorate the position. We are not likely to do away with the unrest simply by improving our Arbitration Court. I believe that improvements can be effected there, but that will not banish industrial unrest altogether. Any Government that is in power ought to take a strong stand. I am a thorough believer in unionism, and have no objection to any man joining a union. What I am complaining about is the abuse of unionism. I cannot see that the mere fact that a man joins a union gives him any right to say to another man, “ You must come in or you will not be able to earn your daily bread.”
– What do you mean by a strong stand ?
– When a strike is on, and a position is reached where men will not allow others to work, and will not go to the Arbitration Court, when in fact the trouble cannot be settled by the means that have been supplied by the country and there is likely tobe further trouble, the Government ought to step in and protect the other men and allow them to work. I do not see that they should be compelled to join a union against their will. If they want to preserve their independence, why should they be coerced into joining another body of men? The Government should support free labourers in such instances, not because it is a matter between employer and employe, but in the public interest. It should not be forgotten that there are three parties interested in the industrial question - the wage earner, the employer, and a third party more important than either of the others, the general public, and especially the wives and children of the strikers. It is time that the Government, who are charged with protecting the interests of the general public, maintained law and order in the country. They should step in and protect free labourers if they are undertaking the work to be done in any decent way at all.
– What form of intervention would the honorable member suggest?
– I should station policemen, or some one there who would preserve order, and if order was broken, I should deal with those who broke it under the laws of the country. Laws have been passed for the purpose, and it is only a matter of carrying them out.
– Would the honorable member call out the military?
– Ordinarily there would be no need to call out the military, but if it comes to that, I should not object to calling out the military to maintain law and order. Calling out the military is a very serious matter, but it has to be done sometimes. If there is rioting and bloodshed, and the lives of innocent people are endangered and their property destroyed, the military might be called out, because the first appearance of the military would probably prevent any further trouble. There are police appointed to keep the peace, and there would not be much trouble if the people were satisfied that they had a strong Government prepared to act in the public interest and maintain order.
– Does the honorable member know what has been the effect of sailing out the military at Colorado? It has led to the sacrifice of the lives of women and children.
– I am not talking about Colorado. I thoroughly appreciate the seriousness of bringing out the military, but, in my opinion, it is better the military should be called out than that riots and bloodshed should be permitted.
– Is it the policy of the present Government to call out the military ?
– I have not spoken on behalf of the Government in this matter at all. I speak for myself, and anything I say here 1 am prepared to defend here or anywhere else. I am discussing a very serious matter, and I do not want such interjections as have fallen from the honorable member forIllawarra, who would attribute to me something I did not say.
– The first time the military are called out for any such purpose there will be an end to our Defence system.
– I ask the honorable member to say whether the Government are to stand by and permit a big riot to take place.
– No; if there is trouble there is a cause for it, and the thing to do is to remove the cause.
– To proceed to find out the cause of a disturbance after a city has been burnt down seems tome to be rather too late. I think that prevention is better than cure.
– We also say that prevention is better than cure, but calling out the military is not prevention.
– I point out to honorable members that when an industrial disturbance went beyond a mere strike it would not be the strikers that would be dealt with by the military.
Mr.Charlton. - Exactly; it would be innocent people.
– I have no objection to a man going on strike, and remaining on strike, if he pleases, but I say thathe must not, because ho is on strike, imagine that; he is at liberty to do a number of things which the law does not permit, and to inflict injury upon innocent third parties. There is another thing which the Government might do, and the sooner it is clone the better. They might, by an amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, provide that before a strike shall be declared there shall be a ballot taken of the unionists concerned.
– A secret ballot.
– Yes, but not a ballot taken by the union interested in the matter.
– What does the honorable member call a secret ballot?
– Would you put the names on the ballot-paper as the present Government have proposed?
– Should it be such a ballot as they hud in South Africa, with the police present.
– Order !
– No; it, should be a secret ballot suchas we have for the election of members of Parliament.
– God forbid !
– I say there should be a secret ballot, and it should be taken by the Government, and not left in the hands of any officials concerned. It should be fair and above board, and as impartial as it is possible to make it. If that course were followed the members ofa union would be able to walk into a booth and register a vote indicating their true mind. That is a fair proposition, and, if adopted, would, I think, tend to settle many difficult matters.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I have several times called honorable members to order. I must again emphasize the fact that there is a time limit upon the speeches of honorable members, and all these interruptions take away from the honorable member speaking the right to occupy that time himself. I ask honorable members to consider that, and to bear in mind that every member will have an opportunity to speak ifhe so desires.
– I think that provision for a secret ballot in the case of industrial disputes is very necessary. It should not bo forgotten that unionism, in the present day, has taken on a strong political phase. I do not object to unionists spending their money on political purposes if they are so inclined, but I complain when they go further and demand that every one else shall spend money in the same way, and that those who donot should not be allowed to live, and all that sort of nonsense. Seeing that unions have taken on this political phase during the past few years it is all the more necessary that these secret ballots should be taken, and that they should not be in the hands of anybody connected with unionism.
– Why not appoint an independent officer, such as the Registrar of the Arbitration Court?
– I prefer to see it done by the Government, because now strikes and industrial matters generally are of such great public importance that it is only right that the Government should have a voice in the settlement of them. If we are to have arbitration and other remedies for our troubles it is time that the third and perhaps the most important factorin a strike, namely the general public, was considered. There is another thing which the Government should, I think, do. I am not prepared to say how it should be done at the present time, but the sooner we foster some means of co-operation and profit sharing in regard to the industries of this country the better. I know that the Opposition are against me, because this is to my mind a sane business proposition.
– That is only suggested in order to put off the evil day.
– It is not, because in England and other countries these systems are gaining ground daily. It was only the other day in my own electorate that a couple of fruit packing sheds were opened on the co-operative principle. Three times in America they attempted to found this system, and it was only at the third attempt that they discovered a way in which it would work successfully. On the west coast of America the system has been applied in the fruit industry for twenty years, but it was only at the third attempt that they discovered a method which would work profitably. The system as I have said has been recently adopted in Tasmania, and I hope it will prove a success. But 1 know that the Opposition are against me.
– No fear.
– My honorable friends on the other side are against any reasonable evolutionary changes. They prefer some extreme fantastic method, and the more extreme and far-fetched it is the more it appeals to a certain type of mind.
– What member of the Opposition did you ever hear say a word against co-operation ?
– I have heard the honorable member for West Sydney sneer at profit sharing.
– That is not co-operation.
– He sneered at cooperation too. He certainly sneered at profit sharing.
– Profit sharing will apply better than co-operation to many of the businesses in this country. I was very glad to learn that a great tobacco company has been sharing a certain amount of profits with its employes.
– The Ford Motor Car Company lately divided £2,000,000 sterling.
– That is another instance.
– And the lowest paid man gets£l a day.
– I am not going to say that anything is a complete panacea for industrial unrest, but profit sharing seems to me the best palliative which is offering at the present time, and the more it is adopted throughout this country the more will the effect be felt. If only 10 per cent, of the population apply the principle of course they cannot make themselves felt very much, but if one great industry after another adopts the principle, and its advocates become a strong body numerically they will make themselves felt in the councils of the nation, and the sooner it comes the better, for it is natural progress on an evolutionary basis. There is nothing revolutionary about the system; there is nothing fantastic about it, as there is in our honorable friends’ idea of fixing prices. The Labour party call themselves up-to-date and progressive, and one of their great remedies for the settlement of industrial unrest is the fixing of prices. I cannot understand how a man with an acute brain such as the ex-Attorney-General has, should advocate such a remedy; but he does. Did we ever hear before of such a puerile proposition emanating from a practical statesman ?
– Whom would you have to -fix the prices?
– That is what we want to know. Who could fix them?
– Who fixes them to-day?
– If prices cannot be fixed, why should a practical statesman propose such a remedy? The fixing of prices has been attempted more than once, and the attempt has always been an abject failure. For men who are supposed to have thoroughly sifted all propositions in this regard, to come here and seriously ask the National Parliament to try to fix a price-
– I am afraid that you are hopeless.
– I am, if that is the proposition which my honorable friends intend to ask me to adopt. I am drawing this contrast between profit-sharing and co-operation, and the fixing of prices to show that one party in the National Parliament have a sane, progressive, businesslike way of approaching a very difficult problem, whereas our honorable friends opposite have nothing to offer. They go on to the platform and stick up for the unionist right or wrong. Another serious complaint against thisgreat party is that not one of them ever stands up and administers a statesmanlike rebuke to a man when they know that he is doing wrong. That is what I complain about, too. I want it to be understood that no one on this side objects to unionism in any form ; it is the abuse of unionism that we complain about. A man can join a union as freely as he likes, but by all means let him recognise the right of another man to step out if he feels so inclined, otherwise what will become of our liberty? I want now to touch on another point which I think is of the utmost importance to the people outside. On the Opposition benches sit a party who have indulged, and want to further indulge if they get the chance, in the baneful system of making free gifts. I cannot conceive of anything calculated to sap the virility and self-reliance of the people more readily than will this free doling out of money.
– For instance, the Government’s dole to Mr. Teesdale Smith?
– Do you object to that ?
– There has been no Government dole to Mr. Teesdale Smith. I have expressed my opinion on that matter to-day, and do not want to return to it.
– It looks like a charity dole.
– Whatever was done in the case of Mr. Teesdale Smith was done on unfortunate advice, but advice which in the main had to be accepted. Every Minister has to accept his experts’ opinion as to the technicalities of an engineering proposition such as the price of cuttings, and other things. A Minister, unless he is a practical or civil engineer, cannot be expected to have an opinion of his own on these subjects. Let me return to the baneful system of free doles. Suppose that we were to pay every widow a pension merely because she was a widow ; suppose that we were to feed all school children at the public expense; and carry out the projects spoken of by the State and Federal Labour parties, what would it mean to the Treasury? Some figures were got out recently, and it was estimated that in Australia there could be spent in this free way £16,000,000 a year. It is impossible for a population of 5,000,000 persons to provide that money every year, and at the same time to carry on the ordinary services of government. So that the pounds, shillings, and pence question must come in sooner or later. Why I oppose this matter strongly is this : Human nature being what it is, and what it is likely to be for many centuries to come, if we continue giving the people the idea that they need only look to the Government for everything they want, they are not going to bring the best out of themselves; they are going to deteriorate in character, and, if the character of the individual deteriorates, the nation suffers. Another reason why the public will be found strongly supporting the Liberal party is that, in addition to their having a saner policy for dealing with the difficult problem which confronts society at the present time, they will be called upon to deal with the problem of finance. The Commonwealth will soon be confronted with a position the importance of which every member must have recognised. We know that our commitments are on the increase, and many large propositions have been started which we are bound to proceed with. We have to find the money for them somehow. Yet our population is not growing so fast that we can look for more money from the taxpayers in the immediate future, and the revenue from Customs is on the decrease rather than on the increase. So that we are up against an awkward financial position. And that is one reason why the public will be so strongly behind the Liberal party when they get an opportunity of speaking at the polls. They know that the business of Parliament is in safer hands when the Treasury Bench is occupied by members of the Liberal party than when members of the Labour party are in power; the public know of the Labour party’s reckless way of spending money on some of the projects so dear to the Labour man’s heart, projects that are not reproductive at all. When the. time comes, the public will be able to look beyond the fights that have taken place in this Chamber, and when the smoke has cleared away they will see the things that really interest them, and will be able to ask themselves which policy is going to have the effect they desire. I have pointed out that in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech there are many matters mentioned which can be dealt with with distinct advantage to the people, amongst them the Murray River waters question, State debts, and a uniform railway gauge, and I am satisfied that the people outside will see in whose hands those matters can be best placed for the general advantage. If the House is not going to proceed with those subjects, and dispose of them, the sooner the Opposition deal with the test Bills that will be presented to them the better, not only for their reputation in the eyes of the country, but also for the community at large.
Sitting suspended from 12.55 to 2.15 p. in
– I am somewhat surprised that the Minister of Trade and Customs was not among those on their feet endeavouring to catch Mr. Speaker’s eye when the honorable member for Brisbane had concluded his very excellent speech, because I understood that the Minister, having found so much of interest in the speech of the honorable member, was anxious to reply to many of the .points raised. But honorable members of the Opposition were pleased to note that what appeared to be an almost unanimous conspiracy of silence on the part of members on the Government benches was broken, for no less than two Government supporters endeavoured to secure Mr. Speaker’s attention at the conclusion of the speech of the honorable member for Brisbane, and we had a speech from the honorable member for Wilmot. Instead of the forces opposing Labour sending forth a Goliath to do battle for them, they put forward a much more humble champion.
– We sent forth a David.
– If that is so, I am afraid the Biblical analogy is not going to be altogether correct, because when the electors of Wilmot thoroughly analyze the speech of their representative they will find in it many things to make them pause, and consider whether one who has been in this Parliament for over ten years, and is not satisfied with the way in which the House is conducted, is still worthy of their support. The honorable member’s speech was refreshing, because it at least showed what would be the attitude of one member of the Liberal party should there be an industrial upheaval. He said that if the circumstances demanded it, the military should be called out-
– For what purpose?
– To maintain law and order, but he also went on to say that it was not always the strikers who needed to be kept in order; there were others. And then in response to the interjection, “ Yes, and shoot down innocent children,” the honorable member had no reply.
– That is just about as disgraceful and disgusting a statement as has ever been made in the House.
– Order !
– I am surprised to near from an older member such a remark as that.
– Well, I am sick of hearing such things.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to call attention-
– I withdraw the
– The honorable member for Wilmot considers that the Arbitration Act should be amended to provide for taking a secret ballot of the unionists concerned before declaring a strike. Such a system has been in practice in Western Australia for a. number of years. It is refreshing again to find that the Western State can lead the way, and that we have not to wait for a representative of Tasmania to point it out to us. The honorable member spoke of free doles. I began to wonder what he ineant by “ free doles,” and then it came out that he was referring to pensions, possibly also to the maternity allowance. Those opposing Labour always claim that the maternity allowance is to be treated simply as charity. “ Those who are in need of it - not those in better circumstances of life - should receive it” is the Treasurer’s statement.
Colonel Ryrie. - The same principle applies to old-age pensions.
– In my opinion, the whole of the people are entitled to old-age pensions and the maternity allowance. Provided the finances of the country would stand it, I would give them to everybody. I have yet to learn that Australia cannot afford to pay the maternity allowance to all mothers. I did not intend to speak so much with, regard to the honorable member for Wilmot, but there was much of interest in his speech that no doubt the representatives of Tasmania have noted. I wish now to deal with the reasons for calling Parliament together at such short notice, after such an unusually short- recess. We have been called together ostensibly to deal with two Bills which Ministers regard as test measures. We all know what these two Bills are, and what they purport to do. I maintain that the Bill for the abolition of preference to unionists is, as it has been called, the shadow of a sham. If by administrative act,
Ministers have already put into operation that portion of their policy which they wish to bring about by legislative enactment, the latter must be unnecessary, and therefore is simply a sham and a shadow. But there ar© men on the Government side who say that there is a big principle involved. If that is so, why does not the Attorney-General bring forward ti Bill to repeal the preference to unionists embodied in the Arbitration Act, and say, “ This is the ground upon which we will go to the people.” I believe in the principle of preference to unionists, and I am satisfied that the majority of the people of Australia believe in it. It seems to me, however, that the question raised in the other Bill - the Postal Voting Restoration Bill - is the more serious of the two. No doubt, the matter of giving the postal vote to the aged and sick is of importance, and it illbecame honorable members sitting on the Government side to refuse the genuine bond fide offer that the Opposition made last session to grant the postal vote to the sick and infirm. We distinctly and definitely offered that there should be a sick and infirm postal vote with certain safeguards. To go to the GovernorGeneral, as the present Government have indicated their intention of doing, and ask for a double dissolution on these two measures, appears to me to be somewhat ridiculous, because they are asking the GovernorGeneral to authorize a huge expenditure. I remind honorable members of that. I do not fear a fight, because I would welcome an opportunity of going before the people of Australia to unravel any tangle that may exist. But when there is a big expenditure involved of somewhere between £80,000 and £100,000 on the elections, it is time for honorable members to pause and consider.
Colonel Ryrie. - The honorable member would not object to the expenditure on a single dissolution ?
– A single dissolution would not cost so much. In the Governor-General’s Speech the Government have outlined certain matters, and I agree with the ex-Attorney-General that, if we take out the introductory and the concluding paragraphs, there is very little left except questions arising out of the Premiers’ Conference. The honorable member for Parkes, the other night. made a somewhat scathing reference when he said that but for the Teesdale Smith contract the Labour party would have had nothing to talk about. One might well reply that if the Government had not had the Premiers’ Conference to swell the Governor-General’s Speech, they would have had nothing to say in that document. If during this session we are to deal, simply and solely, with the two test measures, and give the Governor-General an opportunity to say what he will do, those measures, and those only, ought to be brought forward - always supposing, of course, that that is the intention of the Government. Paragraph 3, in my opinion, is not a correct statement. I do not think that the Government last session were sincere in any attempt to pass legislation affecting the nation. -There are many proposals that might have been brought forward. I go so far as to say that there are some mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, such as the initiation of a uniform railway gauge and the question of the States debts, that could be dealt with by this Parliament. Further business could be provided for us on the Tariff, in regard to which, we are told, the Inter-State Commission is doing good work. I believe that that is so; at any rate, the Inter-State Commission is providing excellent platform material for honorable members on this side. I observe that this already overburdened Inter-State Commission is to have thrust on it the further responsibility of saying what shall be the uniform railway gauge, and how it shall be brought about. I remind honorable members that almost each month, and certainly each year, the question of uniformity of gauge throughout Australia is becoming more and more serious and important, and there is vital necessity that the matter should be dealt with at once. The State which I represent is not yet connected by rail with the rest of Australia, and may not be so deeply concerned; but from a national stand-point I urge that, whatever steps may be taken, there is urgent and immediate necessity for a uniform gauge from Brisbane to Perth. In paragraph 3 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech we find an attack made on the Senate. The Government complain that, last session, they could not get their legislation through that Chamber, although, in my opinion, they did not make any determined effort to do so. For a number of years, I remind the Government, the Legislative Councils in at least two of the States have been defeating advanced legislation of a democratic nature. Of this we have an illustration in my own State in the fact that legislation which is admitted by individual members of the Legislative Council to be of vital interest to the people as a whole is turned down and blocked. Why? Because it is introduced by the Labour party. The Commonwealth Government now, because they had a suspicion - for it is nothing more - that their legislation was going to be treated similarly by the Senate, are -complaining, and are declaring that the constitution of that Chamber should be amended, in order that they may have an opportunity to attain their desires. I agree with the honorable member for Wilmot when he says that, party or no party, the representatives of the smaller States are going to do all they possibly can to keep the Senate as it is so far as the Constitution is concerned. Whatever our private feelings may be in regard to party issues, there is no doubt in my mind that the representatives of the smaller States will see that in the Senate, which is the States House, the principle of equal representation is maintained. I can well understand representatives from New South Wales and Victoria desiring an alteration; but so long as other honorable members have any voice or say in the matter, the day is far distant when any change will bc made. During the debate Ave have heard a great deal regarding the contract let by the Honorary Minister to Mr. Teesdale Smith. I do not intend to repeat arguments or to do more than simply touch on some of the points raised, because there are other matters to which I desire to call attention. Summed up, the position appears to he that 4s. 6d. per cubic yard is paid in the cutting, and an additional 2s. 6d. per cubic yard if the material is deposited more than a chain and a half from the cutting. This means that in the second measurement there is a certainty that the price will be increased by an additional tenpence, making it for all the material delivered and deposited more than a chain and a half away, 7s. lOd. per cubic yard. Then we have the statement of the honorable member for Herbert that under day labour on the same line the cost has run from 9d. to ls. 9d., and the still further statement that a contract has been let to Mr. Timms for the construction of a tank at 2s. 5d. per cubic yard. In view of all these statements, does it not seem that there is something wrong? By this I mean, undue haste in accepting the offer of Mr. Teesdale Smith for this particular work. So far as the personal honour of the Minister is concerned, I say nothing at all about it. There is a vast difference between attacking a man’s private honour and attacking his public administration of a Department, and it is from the latter standpoint that the majority of honorable members on this side have spoken. Now, if Mr. Teesdale Smith was introduced to the Honorary Minister by Mr. Deane, as I understand he- was, it seems remarkable that the Honorary Minister did not inquire whether there were any other contractors looking for this work. Had the Minister done so, is it likely that Mr. Deane would have forgotten the offer of Mr. Timms, made a few weeks previously ? In Western Australia, Mr. Teesdale Smith and Mr. Timms traded as “ Smith and Timms,” but whether they are partners to-day I do not know. I do know, however, that in different parts of Australia they have traded in partnership, and have also apparently been opponents. It would be good to know which is the correct party to deal with - whether Mr. Teesdale Smith has any interest in Mr. Timms’ -work, or Mr. Timms any interest in Mr. Smith’s work.
– One reason for entering into the contract was that Mr. Teesdale Smith had special plant.
– I shall deal with that in a .moment. We have heard the Honorary Minister’s explanation, and have listened also to the admission made by the honorable member for Parkes, the honorable member for Wannon, and even the honorable member for Wilmot, that they had practically no defence to offer as to the way in which the Minister let this contract. The Minister himself could not clear up the matter. He said that the work was urgently necessary ; but surely, since the permanent survey had been made months, indeed years, before, it should have been possible to foresee that the cutting would have to be made.
– It is only a small engineering work.
– Undoubtedly, it is only a small work.
– Then, why all this fuss about it?
– We complain of the method adopted in letting the contract. Why did the Government fail to invite tenders? We are told that it was a very urgent work, but if ordinary fore- sight had been exercised by the Department it could have been done by day labour. Coming to the question of cost, the Honorary Minister tells us that, to start with, it was approximately £30,000; but he admits to-day that it is estimated that it will be £41,000.
– Whose fault was it?
– Even if the fault Tests with Mr. Deane, the Honorary Minister cannot be absolved from responsibility for the way in which the contract was let. The honorable gentleman said, in one breath, “ I take full responsibility,” and in the next “Mr. Deane is the cause of my undoing.” He has practically sheltered himself behind one of his officers. I donot hold any special brief for Mr. Deane, and shall not condemn or praise, but I do say that the Minister in charge of the Department should accept the responsibility of his action.
– The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs said that he accepted full responsibility.
Mr.Fenton. - In a left-handed sort of way.
– I have just said that the Minister declared in one breath that he accepted responsibility, and, in the next, that Mr. Deane was the cause of his undoing. The honorable member for Wannon has said that control is the dominant factor of the day-labour system. I agree that it is; but surely, with the assistance of the engineers at present in the Department, or of those outside, whose services are available, it should be as easy to secure effective control over day labour as is exercised by any contractor in Australia. Reference has been made to the fact that the contractor had his plant within a reasonable distance from the work, and it has also been said, by the honorable member for Wannon, that millions of pounds’ worth of plant, owned by contractors, would be scrapped if the day-labour system alone were followed. If that be so, what is to be said in regard to the Commonwealth plant, scattered all over Australia to-day, in connexion with the undergrounding of telephone wires? There may not be much in any one place, but in the aggregate the plant is a very considerable one. In my own State, there remained only about a mile of undergrounding to be done to complete the authorized work, when the responsible officers were told that day labour was no longer to be employed, and that a contract would be let for the remaining work to be carried out. The permanent officers endeavoured in vain to persuade the responsible Minister to alter his decision, and pointed out that if the plant were allowed to remain idle it would practically be ruined. No consideration, however, was given to that fact. I propose now to refer to a statement made by the Prime Minister, whom I am glad to sea in the Chamber. A good deal has been said regarding the alleged scandals in connexion with the last Federal election. Last session I was in the unfortunate position of having to keep my mouth closed in regard to the supposed irregularities at the election for Fremantle, but to-day I am free to speak. The Prime Minister has said that he is in favour of a clean roll. I, too, am in favour of a clean roll, but everything depends upon the construction which the Prime Minister places upon the phrase. Does he mean that the roll is merely to be purged of the names of those who have Labour tendencies, or does he favour a clean roll in the best and truest sense of the term ? Speaking, during the debate, with regard to the slandering of Australia, the Prime Minister said : -
If any bodyhas slandered Australia with respect to electoral matters, the slanderersare to be found on the Opposition side, and not on this side of the House.
You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that he addressed a member on this side of the House, perhaps jocularly, as “You slanderer!” A member of his own Cabinet in my opinion has slandered at least a section of the people of Australia, and I am sure that the Prime Minister will not object if I quote a statement made by his colleague the Treasurer. On 9th June last, in an interview published in the West Australian, the right honorable gentleman said -
The loss of the Fremantle seat is very disappointing; but all the power of the Federal and State Labour Governments was concentrated in an attempt to secure the Fremantle seat, and continual boasting, and every conceivable device, which will be inquired into later, were resorted to.
The Government have had their inquiry. And with what result? There was in the first place the preliminary inquiry referred to yesterday by the honorable member for Capricornia. It was followed by the investigation conducted by the Select Committee appointed by another place and later on by the Royal Commission, whilst, so far as the Fremantle electorate is concerned, my opponent has had the satisfaction of appearing before the High Court. But what have the Government been able to discover ? They have not been able to prove their charges. In the course of an interview published in the Perth Sunday Times, of 15th June last, the present Treasurer, in reply to a question as to what struck him most in connexion with the recent elections said -
The awful way in which the secrecy and purity of thu ballot were violated. It could not be all incompetency. I feel sure there was a great dual of impersonation.
Who has slandered the electors of Australia? The right honorable gentleman who in his own State and indeed throughout Australia poses as the champion of the people, makes this definite statement, but he has not been able to prove it. This is the man who charges all and sundry with immorality in connexion with elections. There were eighty-six duplications or errors in recording the votes cast in the Swan division. Will the right honorable gentleman say that that was the fault of Labour supporters; that it was Labour supporters who were responsible in each instance? Mr. Frank Wilson, the Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament of Western Australia, and a member of the Liberal party, is reported in the West Australian of 10th June to have said that “ had the electoral arrangements been more satisfactory it would have meant a heavier Liberal vote.”
– Why does not the honorable member quote the evidence given before the Electoral Commission at Perth?
– Only last night the honorable member for Wannon castigated the honorable member for Denison for doing that, although the latter waa following in the footsteps of the Prime Minister. I may say, by the way, that as the Prime Minister has chosen to make certain references to the work of the Powellising Commission, of which I am a member, it will be my duty to reply to him on the floor of this chamber, and I intend to do so. Mr. M. L. Moss, a member of the Legislative Council of Western Australia, said, according to the West Australian of the 18 th June, that “ all kinds of dodges had been resorted to.” He did not say what the dodges were; that was left to the public to guess. Mr. Hedges was reported in the local press to have said at the declaration of the poll that he wished particularly to thank “ the 12,000 electors who had recorded one vote each in his favour.” When asked why he used the word “ each,” he replied that he wished to make that qualification publicly. The inference was that men on the other side had voted more than once. The public press accused me and my wife of having voted twice. It stated that an Honorary Minister in the Government of Western Australia and the State manager of the Adelaide Steamship Company had done the same. Of course, these statements were absurd. Does any one think it possible that a candidate would be permitted to vote twice in any polling booth?
– I challenge the honorable member to produce authority for his statements.
– My authority is the Perth Sunday Times of the 22nd June last, in which the following passage occurs -
For instance, Mr. Moxon, the local manager of the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, is recorded twice, so is Mr. L. S. Eliot, the UnderTreasurer. Mr. Niel Douglas, general traffic manager of the Western Australian railways, is marked off as having voted three times, while the Rev. F. T. Bowen, of Beaconsfield, is also credited with three votes. Mr. Gordon Chamberlain, of 42 Price-street, Fremantle, is marked as having voted four times. Even Mr. Burchell, Labour candidate, and Mrs. Burchell, voted twice each, according to the scrutineers’ rolls, and Mr. Lea Holt, secretary of the Fremantle Liberal League, is supposed to have indulged in the same excessive political enthusiasm.
If the honorable member for Wakefield wishes to know something that the Commission did not find out when in Perth, 1 can give him any quantity of information concerning the conduct of the election iu the Fremantle division. The Commission did not find out that an ex- M.L.A., a. member of the Liberal party, remained in one booth for over three hours. The honorable member for Denison told of a justice of the peace who had stayed in a booth for five hours. The statements against the Labour party and its supporters can easily be refuted. I did not go out of my way to bring evidence before the Commission, because I did not wish to descend to the gutter to rake up these matters. The only witness whom 1 produced was a man who knew just what had happened at the original scrutiny of the roll. His testimony was therefore important. The honorable member for Wakefield will do me the justice to say that that is true.
– As a member of the Commission, I cannot open my mouth on the subject now, though I shall do so later.
– The original scrutiny of the rolls revealed some peculiar things. Thirty-eight persons were supposed to have voted twice in the same polling booth, and two poll clerks in the same booth each voted twice, according to the official roll. That shows what mistakes were made. It is impossible to conceive that a presiding officer would give two ballot-papers to two men sitting one on his right and the other on his left. The Deputy Postmaster-General for the State was supposed to have voted twice in the Cottesloe polling booth.
– I would not believe that.
– No one who knows him would believe it. A Miss North, a niece of the Treasurer, was also supposed to have voted twice in the same booth, but it is absurd to suppose that she did so. It was cases of this kind that made up the total of 156 supposed instances of duplication and personation. I think I have said enough to show that in the Fremantle division nothing occurred to justify the abuse that has been heaped on the electors, and what occurred in the Fremantle division occurred all over Australia. There was any amount of willingness in the fight between my opponent and myself. We have never met, either publicly or privately, but we fought the contest on fairly clean political lines. It seems to be assumed that because the percentage of votes recorded in the Fremantle division was higher than any other in the State, wrong things must have been done there.
– What was the percentage ?
– Seventy-eight per cent, of the electors on the roll recorded their votes.
– In my division, 81 per cent, of the electors voted.
– I wish now to say a few words in regard to the cancellation of the sleeper contract with the Western Australian Government. I hold that the merits or demerits of powellising were not involved in the cancellation of that contract. It has never been alleged that they were, and consequently I enjoy a great deal more freedom in discussing this question than I would otherwise enjoy. In the first place I wish to refer to a statement made by the honorable member for Parkes the other night - a statement which has also been made by the Prime Minister. In justice to the independent member for Parkes, however, I desire to say that he has admitted that he was misinformed. When speaking here the other evening he declared that no tenders were called before the Western Australian Government were given the contract for 1,500,000 powellised karri sleepers. As the honorable member has acknowledged that his information was not accurate, I will say no more about it. He has been man enough to acknowledge his error.
– On the floor of the House ?
– At the time he made his statement the honorable member for Darwin interjected “ That is not correct “ ; and the honorable member for Parkes then left the matter alone. Upon page 105 of Hansard of the present session the Prime Minister is reported to have said -
The complaint is that an inadequate penalty is provided for this contract, which is a very small one alongside the total of that huge railway expenditure. But the right honorable gentleman imposed no penalty whatever in the ease of the contract for £500,000 worth of sleepers.
I am very much surprised that the Prime Minister should make an allegation of that kind. He must know perfectly well that two penalties were provided in the contract which was entered into with the Western Australian Government. As the honorable member for Parkes has already pointed out, the most extreme penalty that can be inflicted has already been inflicted upon the contracting State by the cancellation of the contract.
– What is the penalty ?
– It isto be found in the following clause: -
In the event of deliveries not being made by the contractor as set out in the two lastmentioned paragraphs, the Minister may, in addition to the powers given him by clause 12 of the said conditions of contract, at the risk and expense of the contractor, make other arrangements for the necessary supplies of sleepers, and may decline to accept the delayed material.
– That is not a penalty.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral wish me to understand that the power to buy against the Western Australian Government is not a penalty? The contract distinctly provides that if the contracting State was not up to time - and I am prepared to admit that the Western Australian Government was not up to time - the Commonwealth Government could buy against it.
– That power exists in every contract, whether it is expressed or implied, and it has nothing whatever to do with penalties. A penalty isa pecuniary provision of so much per day for every day that the delivery is short.
– I have not a legally trained mind, and I cannot follow the Attorney-General in his reasoning. I have nothing to say against his law. Undoubtedly he is a better lawyer than I am ever likely to be. But I would point out to him that Mr. Reid, of Messrs. Lewis and Reid, timber contractors of Perth - and Mr. Reid is a gentleman who is absolutely opposed to the Labour party politically - stated, in his evidence before the Powellising Commission, that he had never known such drastic action as the cancellation of a contract to be taken, and that the power to buy against the Western Australian Government was, in itself, a sufficient penalty. Certainly it is a penalizing clause in the contract.
– Suppose that the Commonwealth Government bought at the same price as that stipulated in the contract. Where would be the penalty on the contractor?
– The Prime Minister is stating a supposititious case. In connexion with this contract I have been reminded that the power, both of cancellation and of buying against the Western Australian Government existed, whereas in the Teesdale Smith contract no such provision was made. This question of the sleeper contract in Western Australia is one of the greatest importance to that State, and it is also of importance to the Commonwealth. It is not merely a question of a parochial character. The Government of Western Australia are in possession of a large tract of country upon which this karri timber grows, and they were, naturally, desirous of opening up that portion of their territory. In conversation with the honorable member for Moreton, who is an authority upon dairying, I was informed that, for dairying purposes, he had never seen finer country than that to which I am referring. The difficulty of settlement there, in the case of men with small capital, is the enormous cost involved in clearing the land The Western Australian Government desire to open up that country, and the carrying out of this contract would have enabled them to do that. Various members of this House, during the recent recess, visited different parts of the Commonwealth, and they all returned with the same tale. They are unanimous in affirming that, in their desire to take up land in the eastern portion of Australia, men are being forced out from the seaboard. The action of the Commonwealth Government has blocked the opening up of a very valuable piece of country in Western Australia.
– Mr. Scaddan says that it has not.
– How is it that in the State not one powellised sleeper is being used ?
– I would refer my interjector to the honorable member for Gippsland, who, if my memory serves me accurately, saw more than one powellised sleeper in Western Australia. But I wish now to deal with the reasons which have been assigned by the Prime Minister for the cancellation of this contract. According to the correspondence which passed between the two Governments, the position originally taken up was that if the Western Australian Government failed to supply the sleepers within the specified time the Commonwealth Government, in the public interest, would feel bound to cancel the contract. But it must be recollected that the difficulties with which the State Government had to contend were quite out of the ordinary. I venture to say that that Government made an earnest effort to carry out their contract obligations. Their failure to deliver the sleepers within the prescribed time did not interfere in any way with the construction of the line. We all know that when the right honorable the Treasurer visited Kalgoorlie, about the 30th January of the present year, he discovered that there were sufficient sleepers available at the Kalgoorlie end of the line for the construction of 60 miles of railway. According to the statement of Captain Saunders, in Port Augusta there were sufficient sleepers for 90 miles of railway, so that at the end of January and the beginning of February there were 150 miles of sleepers available. Calculating the rate of laying at a mile per day at either end, that would be enough for very nearly three months’ work. In view of this information the action of the Government in cancelling the contract was altogether too hasty. They simply desired to seek an opportunity, on the face of it, at any rate, to terminate the contract and to give somebody else an opportunity of coming in.
– Would you put a million and a half karri sleepers in that line?
– I shall tell the honorable member only after my report is presented, and not before.
– I forgot that you were a member of the Royal Commission, or I would not have asked you the question.
– -At Mount Gambier, the Prime Minister said that one of the reasons why the contract was cancelled was that the Powellising Commission had presented an interim report providing for a shorter sleeper than the one originally specified in the contract. The Commission did do so, but that interim report was posted in Adelaide on the 5th day of February, and the contract for the sleepers had been cancelled on the 28th day of January. Are we to understand the Prime Minister that he knew seven days beforehand what the Commission intended to do ? I will undertake that he does not know what is in my mind, unless ho is good at telepathy. According to the West Australian of 11th February, 1914, the Prime Minister said in Sydney, replying to something that Mr. Scaddan had said about the cancellation of the contract -
It ma)T perhaps interest Mr. Scaddan to know that two Labour members of the Federal Parliament, who are members of the Powellising Commission, including Mr. Burchell, the member for Fremantle, has supplied an interim report, asking the Government to change the size of the sleepers from 9 feet to 8 feet. Mr. Scaddan need not worry about the question of a bare majority as affecting the question of the contract, i am under the distinct impression that quite a number of his own party in the Federal Parliament would be found to approve of what has been done.
Not directly, but impliedly, the Prime Minister wished the people of Western Australia to understand that he had my vote in his pocket, and I am going to tell him, now that he has come back into the chamber, that he never made a bigger mistake in his life.
– To what is the honorable member referring?
– I was just quoting the following statement which the Prime Minister was reported to have made in Sydney, apparently implying that he had my vote in his pocket -
It may perhaps interest Mr. Scaddan to know that two Labour members of the Federal Parliament, who are members of the Powellising Commission, including Mr. Burchell, the member for Fremantle-
– Are not these infamous statements for an honorable member to make?
– It is untrue to say that I am making infamous statements.
– 1 ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– 1 withdraw it.
– I now ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the statement he made.
– As a personal explanation
– The Prime Minister knows that a withdrawal must be made without explanation.
– I withdraw it, but I say that” any man who makes such a statement - however, I suppose we have to sit under these imputations.
– I am reading this extract again at the request of the Prime Minister.
– Is a member in order in imputing to me corruption of that kind? 1 call your attention, sir, to this allegation.
– If the honorable member is imputing corruption to the Prime Minister, he is not in order.
– That is what his. statement amounts to.
– I understood that the honorable member was making a quotation from some paper of a speech delivered or statement reported to have been made by the Prime Minister.
– And drawing from it an inference which implies corruption on my part.
– If the honorable member for Fremantle suggested that the Prime Minister was guilty of corruption, or made any insinuation of a like character, he is certainly out of order.
– All that I am doing is to quote words supposed to have been uttered by the Prime Minister. If there is any insinuation of corruption, the Prime Minister is responsible.
– The honorable member will be in order in quoting anything the Prime Minister may have said, but he will not be in order in imputing to him unworthy motives.
– I will let the Prime Minister read the extract in Hansard.
– Read it again.
– This is the statement as it appeared in the West Australian -
It may perhaps interest Mr. Scaddan to know that two Labour members of the Federal Parliament, who are members of the Powellising Commission, including Mr. Burchell, the member for Fremantle, have signed an interim report asking the Government to change the
Bize of sleepers from 9 feet to 8 feet. Mr. Scaddan need not worry about the question of a bare majority as affecting the contract. I am under the distinct impression that quite a number of his own party in the Federal Chambers will be found to approve of what has been done.
What I said upon that was that if the Prime Minister intended to imply that he has my vote at his disposal on this question, he never made a bigger mistake in his life. It is all very well for the honorable gentleman to laugh about these things now, but if he wishes I can read for him what was said of him in a leading article which appeared in the same newspaper the next day. Another reason was given for the cancellation of the contract. At Mount Gambier the Prime Minister said that, according to the sworn evidence of Mr. Properjohn, manager of the State Mills in Western Australia, they were capable of a total output of 53,000 sleepers per month, which was 6,000 or 7,000 short of the output necessary to comply with the contract specification. That is quite true, but what I wish to again direct the attention of honorable members to is that while that was advanced as a reason why the contract was cancelled, the evidence referred to was given in Western Australia on the 11th February, which was fourteen days after the Prime Minister had signed the cancellation of the contract. These reasons do not hold water. It is clear that they are something that has been thought of afterwards.
– They were given to prove that the cancellation of the contract was justified.
– That is not so. According to the statement made by the Prime Minister, the evidence to which I have referred was given as a reason for it.
– These are not the reasons I set out, but the honorable member’s twisted interpretations of them.
– It would appear that the Prime Minister does not like to have his statements quoted in this House, but they are in print, have not been contradicted in any way, and I believe I have a perfect right to use them. In the honorable gentleman’s Mount Gambier speech the statement appears that 300,000 powellised sleepers were taken up in Sydney after three years’ use, and many of them had turned to powder. The honorable member for Gippsland knows quite as well as I do that there were never more than 2,000 powellised bluegum sleepers laid on any railway track in New South Wales. It was, therefore, absurd for the Prime Minister to talk about 300,000.
– Six hundred were taken up, as the honorable member knows.
– The statement I have quoted, and which has not been contradicted up to the present, is that 300,000 powellised sleepers were taken up in New South Wales.
– I never made any such statement.
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s disclaimer.
– The honorable member’s common sense should have informed him that an extra nought got into the report.
– The statement would still be incorrect if one or even two extra noughts had been introduced into the report.
– I am merely suggesting that in the reporting or the setting up of the speech an extra nought was introduced.
– It seems to me that the Prime Minister undoubtedly referred to the use of powellised sleepers in New South Wales, and with the honorable gentleman an extra 10 or an extra 10,000 did not make much difference. Now, as to the use of these sleepers iu the future. The Prime Minister may have his own views on the subject of powellising, and the use of karri, jarrah, or other timbers for sleepers, but I say that unless some determined effort is made to see that Western Australia is given a fair deal in the future, and that there is a restitution of at least the major part of that contract, I shall be very’ sorry for the position in which the right honorable member for Swan, and the members for Perth and Dampier, will be placed.
– The honorable member’s side did their best before, and we knocked them out, and will do so again.
– I rise to order. I want a ruling on the point as to whether it is in order for an honorable member - we have had two honorable members adopting this practice now - who is a member of a Royal Commission to make ex parte speeches on the subject under consideration by the Royal Commission. It is a new practice entirely, and one I have never previously seen adopted in all my long parliamentary experience. I want your, ruling, sir, as to whether it is in order for an honorable member who is a member of a Royal Commission to discuss the work of that Commission before its report has been presented to the GovernorGeneral.
– I desire, sir, that when You are considering the point raised by the Prime Minister you will take into consideration the fact that the matters referred to by the honorable member for Fremantle have already been published in the press, and are public property, and whether that has not some bearing on the question of his reference to them being regarded as a breach of order in this House.
– I should like to submit a further point in connexion with this matter. I should like to know whether it is competent for the Prime Minister or any other honorable0 member to quote an extract from a newspaper purporting to be a report of the evidence given before a Royal Commission, and then deny the right of another -honorable member, whether a member of that Royal Commission or not, to quote similar evidence in order to counteract the influence of the -first quotation made.
– So far as I am aware it has not been customary in this or any other Parliament for reports of Royal Commissions to be anticipated, or for the detailed evidence given before them to be quoted from proof minutes of evidence, not public property, on the floor of the House. We have, however, nothing in our Standing Orders bearing on the point, and I can only say what has been the practice here and in other Parliaments. To a large extent, I think this matter must be governed by the honour and good taste of honorable members who have been, or are, members of the Royal Commission. In this case I understand that an interim report has been published, and I am not iri a position to say whether the quotation which has been made relates to matters which are dealt with in that interim report, nor have I any official knowledge as to the papers quoted from. I am therefore at a disadvantage in being asked to give a definite ruling on the matter. I suggest for the consideration of honorable members that it would be advisable, as far as possible, to refrain from the practice of quoting evidence taken before a Royal Commission until the report of the Commission has been finally presented to the Governor-General, who should be the first to receive it.
– Am I; sir, to understand that the ruling which you have given is to apply to the honorable member who was the first offender in this connexion? If that he so, it should apply to the Prime Minister.
– He is not a member of the Commission.
– The quotations which have been used since the Prime Minister spoke have been made in reply to the honorable gentleman. Are we to understand that the adviceyou have given to honorable members generally applies also to the Prime Minister?
– It applies, of course, to every honorable member. I confess that while the debate has been in progress I have had some doubts in my mind as to the propriety of making these quotations, but in view of the circumstanceto which I have referred I felt that I ought not , to intervene prematurely, since I could not decide how far authority had been given for them, or to what extent they had become public property by the publication of the interim report.
– I should like, sir, for our guidance to ask you whether in this matter there is not a very considerable distinction between the official report of the evidence given before a Royal Commission and the reports published in the newspapers, and, further, whether some distinction should not be drawn between the quotation of the evidence given before a Royal Commission by a member of the Commission and by honorable members who are not members of the Commission.
– There is certainly this distinction to be drawn, that while in the one case it may be that the newspaper publication - I do not know which particular one has been referred to - deals with an interim report which has been presented, and has thus become public property, in the other case a question arises as to a quotation from evidence, other than that contained in newspaper reports, the publication of which may or may not have been authorized by the Commission. I am not in a position to say, in the absence of any knowledge of that matter, whether that authorization was given in the matter now under discussion, but I hope that as far as possible members will refrain from quoting evidence which may not have been sanctioned, or covered by an official report.
– Are we to be debarred, sir, from using any published evidence in a newspaper until the report of the Royal Commission has been presented to Parliament? I would point out that as a rule the proceedings of a Royal Commission are open to the press, which may or may not publish the evidence.
– So far as I can see there is nothing in our Standing Orders that prohibits any honorable member from making use of any statement in the way of evidence which is published in a newspaper, because it has then become public property, and will be taken for what it may be worth, as it is not official. I had rather in my mind the matter of quoting from the confidential reports of evidence which are supplied to the members of a Royal Commission. I do not think that such documents ought to be quoted from in the House, nor do I know whether any such documents have been quoted from. But as regards evidence which has been published in newspapers, I do not think it is going beyond the bounds of propriety for any honorable member to refer to what has been made public property.
– I would like to ask you, sir, a question before I proceed further. Do you consider that in anything I said, I disclosed anything of a confidential nature or anything which was done in committee? I have not.
– I am perfectly prepared to accept the honorable member’s assurance that he did not.
– You, sir, have heard everything I have said here to-day. I have not touched upon evidence as evidence at any point. I have been scrupulously careful to avoid doing that. I have merely replied to the statement of the Prime Minister.
– I should be very sorry if the honorable member understood me to make any imputation as far as he is concerned. I had no such thought in my mind. I was speaking in a general way, and intended no personal reference to the honorable member.
– On one point, sir, I desire to address you.
– It is not the practice, and it is distinctly against the Standing Orders, to canvass or debate in any way a ruling on a point of order. If it is a question of order dealing -with an entirely new matter that the honorable member wishes to bring before me, he will be in order in raising the point, but he is not entitled, under cover of raising a point of order, to traverse a ruling from the Chair.
– It is not of your ruling, sir, that I want to speak. It is just one point I wish to put. Our Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the efficacy of powellising, and not the contract, and, therefore, the honorable member for Fremantle never mentioned the powellising.
– Order ! That is not a point of order, but a statement.
– When I was interrupted by the Prime Minister on a point of order, I was trying to elicit information as to the attitude likely to be adopted by certain representatives of Western Australia who are supporting the Government in regard to the cancellation of the sleeper contract. It seems to me, judging from popular feeling in that State, that it will be a fairly pertinent question for those honorable members to answer at the next election. I quite agreed with the honorable member for Parkes the other night when he said that the Prime Minister must recognise that this action on his part is not likely to do the Liberal party very much good in the western State. It seems to me that there never was a greater truth than that uttered by an honorable member. I do not want to lecture the Prime Minister, he ought to know what he is doing, and so far as the other honorable members are concerned, no doubt ‘ their constituents will be able to ask them a sufficient number of questions as to why they are not sturdier champions of the interests of their State. Passing away from that matter, I wish to refer to a question introduced here this morning by the honorable member for Brisbane. I have spoken here before about the- necessity for taking over the lighthouses. I believe that the urgency for this step is greater than the Minister of Trade and Customs appears to realize. I was very much struck by one statement made this morning by the honorable member for Brisbane, and that is that after eleven years’ experience of inaction, the Labour party, on coming into office, tackled this work, and that since they left the Ministerial benches eleven months ago, practically nothing has been done. There has been something done, I may point out. The Government have appointed a Director of Lighthouses, but, apparently, they did not take into consideration his qualifications in regard to navigation. This question was ‘ ventilated here last year. I stated then, that so far as my knowledge of Mr. Ramsbottom was concerned, he was an excellent engineer, but I have no knowledge of his qualifications in respect to navigation. It seems to me that, as it was a navigator who reported on the lighthouse question to the preceding Government, this phase ought to have received greater consideration from the Ministry. But that is only a side issue after all. When are the Government going to do something in the matter of taking over the lights themselves? When do they intend to make a determined effort to construct certain lighthouses that are necessary? There is no question that on our northwest coast there are places that sadly need to be lighted. There are also, as I pointed out before, two very dangerous places between Albany and Cape Leeuwin. It is important that these matters should receive prompt attention. Perhaps the Minister of Trade and Customs, if he speaks on this amendment, will tell us when the Navigation Act is likely to be proclaimed. It is a long while since the Royal assent was given, and there is a crying necessity for the Act to be proclaimed and brought into force.
– Perhaps they are waiting for a double dissolution to repeal the Act.
– I do not think that they would be game to take that step. There seems to be practically a cessation of all expenditure by the Government in connexion with our defences, except at Westernport. The construction of the subsidiary bases at Port Lincoln and Hobart, the works at Jervis Bay, on the eastern coast, and the important base at Cockburn Sound apparently is not being proceeded with at all. I do not intend to speak at length on the Western Naval Base, except to say that if we are determined - and a majority of members on both sides of the House seem to be determined - to proceed with the establishment of an Australian-owned, manned, and controlled fleet, it is necessary for us to be up and doing to provide means whereby this matter can be attended to. There is not very much in Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice’s interim report, and it seems to me that the ex-Minister of Defence, Senator Pearce, has been vindicated entirely by the recommendation already made by Sir Maurice. There is no disputing the fact that the recommendation of that gentleman that a shaft should be sunk in Jervoise Bay, Cockburn Sound, is an indication of where he considers the Naval Base should be. The Treasurer knows very well the class of country there, and I asked him if he thinks the reply given in another Chamber by the Minister of Defence last week was fair. The Minister of Defence stated that this shaft was being sunk in Jervoise Bay in order to test the ground, and that the data so obtained would enable them to determine the suitability of any part of the shore of Cockburn Sound as a dock site. The Treasurer knows perfectly well that all that country is of limestone formation, and as there was an unfortunate accident in connexion with the Fremantle dock, it is just as likely that a similar state of affairs may be found to exist at Jervoise Bay, or any portion of Cockburn Sound. The very fact that a cave was discovered in limestone country at Fremantle proper ought to be a warning to the Government to make haste slowly in the construction of a dock at Cockburn Sound. It is true, as an honorable member interjects, that they are making haste very slowly. But, in my judgment, speaking not as an engineer, but as “a layman who sees what is going on around him, a great mistake was made in altering the proposal of the Fisher Government to have a floating dock and substituting a graving dock. If honorable members knew Fremantle as well as I do, they would recognise that what I say is common sense. What is the real reason for work being stopped in connexion with the Naval Bases throughout Australia? Are the causes purely financial ? Is it that the Government have not sufficient money, or is it that they do not intend to foster the defence spirit amongst our people? There is a necessity for these works to be proceeded with more expeditiously than they are.
– Would you build them out of revenue?
– I believe that the whole of our defences should be provided for out of revenue, and even from the Government side comes the suggestion that members of Parliament should be heavily taxed in order to provide the necessary money. When we deal with the financial questions of Australia, even the right honorable gentleman must acknowledge that he has a wearying and worrying time ahead of him. But some one has to face the question of what is to be done in the future. And if the Government were earnest in their desire to conduct the business of the country as it should be conducted, they would come forward with a definite programme - not with trumpery measures, not with small issues which are designed to throw dust in the eyes of the people, but with something concrete and definite. If they wish to go on with the business of the country they should introduce measures that will be for the betterment of the whole of the people, and I say that until they do make a genuine and legitimate attempt to pass national legislation, it is useless for them to cry out about what the other Chamber may do. I have just one word to say in conclusion. We, as a party, are accused of deliberately wasting time. The Prime Minister is holding’ all his supporters in check. He is saying to them, “You are not to speak; let the other fellow speak, and we will be able to go before the people, and tell them how the Opposition deliberately wasted time.” But what is the usual time devoted to an Address-in-Reply? Does it not usually take two or three weeks, and, as this censure motion is being taken in conjunction with the AddressinReply, there is no waste of time. The Government are prepared to do anything to throw dust in the eyes of the people in regard to what their attitude has been, and when the appeal to the electors takes place - and I personally will welcome it - we shall have an opportunity of telling the people, who are the masters of this and every other Parliament, just exactly what has been taking place. What will be the result? I am not going to forecast the future; the man who attempts to be a prophet is apt to meet with disaster. But if there is a genuine attempt on the part of the Government to proceed with national works, they will bring down to the House national measures, and then we shall see how the party on this side will treat them.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
The following paper was presented: -
Public Service Act -
Appointment of -
Stewart, as Works Superintendent, Class D.,Professional Division, Lighthouse Branch, Central Staff.
Henderson, as Draughtsman, Class E, Professional Division, Lighthouse Branch, Central Staff.
Promotion of -
M. Robinson, as Inspector and SubCollector, 1st Class, Queensland.
C. Hamilton, as Boarding Inspector, 2nd Class, Shipping Branch, New South Wales.
A.E. Munyard, as Boarding Inspector, 3rd Class, Queensland.
G. Brain,as Clerk, 4th Class, Interstate Commission, Central Staff.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, and I am sorry to have to accuse the honorable member for Fremantle of misrepresenting whatI said - not an unusual thing on the other side.
– Is the honorable member in order in saying that it is not an unusual thing for me to misrepresent him?
– It is unusual on the part of the honorable member. I withdraw the remark, so far as it relates to him, but I was speaking of the party generally. The honorable member said that I made a statement that there were no penalties in this sleeper contract. What I did say was this -
Mr. Scaddan says, “ Why did we not fine him for late delivery?” The reply is that this is the only contract in the Department in which no monetary penalties are provided. “ No monetary penalties are provided “ - those were my words.
– When did the Prime Minister make that statement?
– That is a statement which I handed to the press, and which was published all over Australia. To say that there were no monetary penalties is quite different from saying that there were no penalties. Then there is another statement in which the honorable member misrepresented me -
The manager, in his evidence, gives the capacity of the mills as 53,000 sleepers monthly - chat is 7,000 less than the contract, which was for 60,000 monthly.
Here again I have to accuse the honorable member of seizing upon part of what
I said, and treating it as the whole. What I said was - and this statement was made after that evidence had been obtained and made public -
Up to the present, no sleepers have been supplied. The first consignment has been condemned. The contract provided that 288,000 sleepers must be supplied by the end of April. It is quite clear that had it continued scarcely any could have been delivered for use.
Then I quoted the statement made by the honorable member, showing it was only another illustration of the facts we already had, which had come to light subsequent to the cancellation of the contract. It is unfair to take these bits out of a man’s speech and twist the meaning absolutely.
– I should like to make a personal explanation. I should like to know when and where that particular statement was given to the press. The Prime Minister knows me sufficiently well to recognise that I wouldnot deliberately attempt to mislead. I have quoted statements that appeared firstly in Hansard and secondly in a newspaper. If the honorable member has been misreported I should like to put the matter right. If the Prime Minister does not choose to tell me when the statement was made by him, my personal explanation is very limited.
– The statement was made about the middle of February. I do not know the exact date, and it was given to the press appearing word for word in the daily papers here and in Sydney.
– I quoted from the West Australian and from the South Eastern Star, a paper published in Mount Gambler. I did not see the statement referred to in any other papers at the time. If there is any difference between the statement handed to the press by the Prime Minister and published in the Melbourne papers and that he is reported to have made at Mount Gambier, the fault can hardly be mine. But on page 105 of this session’s Hansard the Prime Minister used these words -
The complaint is that an inadequate penalty is provided for by this contract, which is a very small one alongside the total of that huge railway expenditure. But the right honorable gentleman imposed no penalty whatever in the case of a contract for ?500,000 worth of sleepers.
There is no mention of a “ monetary “ penalty. 1 have simply taken the Prime Minister’s statement in Hansard.
– When speaking on that question, as the honorable member knows, I was comparing like with like; I was speaking of a monetary penalty. Has not the honorable member quoted it? I now make the statement that there were no penalties provided in that big contract for sleepers, and now I think we had better go home.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday next at 3 o’clock p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) pro posed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.51pm.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 April 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140424_reps_5_73/>.