1st Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at1 0. 30 a.m.,. and read prayers.
Senator BEST presented a petition from.. 5? members of the Church of England, resident at Poowong, in the State of Victoria, praying the Senate to reject the Matrimonial Causes Bill.
Senator DRAKE laid upon the table the following paper : -
Australian Murine Defence - Report of CaptainCreswell.
. . - I move -
That to enable the, members of the Senate to visit proposed sites for the federal capital, the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, the. 25th inst., at 2.30 p.m.
The reason for the motion is that the question of selecting a site for the federal capital must be taken in hand next session. The actual selection of the site cannot, and ought not to be made until honorable senators have had an opportunity of inspecting, at all events, the principal Sites which are likely to be discussed. The selection of a site will depend upon a great many considerations, but certainly honorable senatorsought to be acquainted with the physical configuration, surroundings, and general aspect of the country in -which it is situated. Therefore,, as a matter of justice to the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales, portion of whose territory is to be taken, it is only light that individual members of the Senate should undertake this duty. The original intention was that when the consideration of the Tariff was concluded in the other House, and during an adjournment which must take place between the formal introduction of the Tariff here and its discussion, there should be during that interval a visit by members of both Houses to the proposed sites. But that’ plan certainly -would not be practicable, because, during that period, the Senate would require to consider the Tariff. Sp that the only way in which this duty can be carried out by honorable senators, is by allowing them to go at the present time. The only business which is before the Chamber is the Electoral Bill, and I have no doubt that we shall be able to finish the Bill when we come back. If honorable senators are willing to put their shoulders to the wheel, they will probably do as much work in the time that is litt before the Tariff comes here, as they would if they knew that they had a whole month in which to do that work. It is not necessary for .me now to go into details as to the places, except perhaps to say that all the sites that are likely to be considered are included in the list of places to be visited. Information of a very detailed character has been obtained in regard to many of them, and is to bo found in the report of Mr. Commissioner Oliver. In regard to other sites information has been obtained, and that will be available to honorable senators.
– Is there any estimate of the cost of the visit ?
– There has been an estimate made, I presume, because a sum of money has been placed on the Estimates for the purpose of carrying but the visit. I cannot state now -what it is estimated to cost. At all events, it is a duty which must be carried out at some time or other before a decision is come to. Every arrangement will be made that the whole of the places, some thirteen of them, shall be visited, and honorable senators brought back in times for the sitting of the Senate. The expedition will start from Melbourne on Tuesday next, and by that time all the arrangements for the visit will have been completed.
The places which it is intended to visit are Albury, Wagga Wagga, Gundagai, Tumut, Yass, Goulburn, Lake George, Orange, Armidale, Cooma, and the Bombala sites including Eden.
– Has it been ascertained whether it is possible to visit all those places in the time?’
– That has been gone into very carefully, and there is no doubt that it can be done. I eld not think it is necessary to elaborate the matter any further. I propose to amend the motion by making the date of meeting for the Senate Wednesday, the 26th February, so as to leave more margin to honorable senators.
Motion, by leave, amended accordingly.
– I do not think there is any one in Australia who is not . filled with admiration for the many and great talents of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but until now we were not aware that to those talents he added the capacity of se very great actor. When we find him on the stage, sporting the buskin, he will be as great a success - and that is .saying no little - as he has been in federal affairs and in the Senate. When I find my honorable and learned f riend - I should not like to say with his tongue in his cheek, because that would be a rude form, of expression - with a solemn and earnest countenance, appealing to the Senate to allow a number of honorable senators to go upon an expensive picnic in respect to a matter which must be attended to next session after we heard him last night - and the echoes of his voice are still ringing in our ears, declaring that if there was one thing more than another which must be done this session-
– The honorable and learned senator ought not to refer to a former debate of this session.
– I am not dealing with the debate, I am referring to the facts, and I om going to give reasons why we should not assent to a. portion of this motion. When my honorable and learned friend tells us that there is a matter which, requires immediate attention this session, that it is so urgent that Senator Downer must go on with his speech to-day, that we must take advantage of every moment of the fleeting time, and then interposes with a motion to adjourn for at least a fortnight, all I can say is that it is a fine testimony to the urgency of the Electoral Bill, and I welcome the motion from that point of view. If anything were necessary to confirm the need of dealing instantly and without intermission with the Electoral Bill, it is this motion for a postponement of it for a fortnight. I think honorable senators will feel that some explanation is needed of this sudden change of front in respect to the urgency of different matters of business. I have no objection to an adjournment- though I think it is a little too short for many reasons - but I wish it to be asked for on true grounds. I desire to know the real reason for the adjournment.
– The Government want to wreck the Electoral Bill.
– I do not impute to the Government that they wish to wreck their own Bill. We who declare that it has not the remotest chance of passing into law this session, feel that the Senate is lowering itself in using it simply as a ball to be hit about by battledoor and shuttlecock.
– I do not think that the honorable and learned senator ought to discuss the Electoral Bill more than is necessary to show that an adjournment is not required.
– I admit that I am not dealing with the Electoral Bill, except to show that this adjournment is not required. I shall not say a word about the merits of the Bill. I do not wish to say a syllable about them. It has no merits, and therefore I could not possibly say anything in that direction. But my honorable and learned friend alluded to it as the only matter of business upon the notice-paper, and said that it should be dealt with in the interval between now and the arrival of the Tariff. It is from that point of view that I make any reference whatever to the Electoral Bill. I am willing that there should be an adjournment, but I object to placing upon the records ofthe Senate, first of all, an authority to engage in a picnic as a sort of quid pro quo for an adjournment for a fortnight.
– It will freshen our intellects for dealing with the Electoral Bill.
– I am sure that my honorable and learned friend gave us a most interesting speech last night, and that his intellect requires no freshening.
But a great many intellects will require to be freshened before they can thoroughly understand the “ mathematical maze “ as it has been described; in which the Electoral Bill is involved.
– I think the honorable and learned senator should adhere to what he intends to propose, and not discuss the Electoral Bill more than is necessary.
– I shall sail well within the limits you have prescribed for me. In order that the Senate may have an opportunity of dealing with the matter properly, I intend to move to strike out of the motion the words “ to enable the members of the Senate to visit the proposed sites for the federal capital,” and afterwards I intend to move that the date be altered to Wednesday, 5th March. I have no objection whatever to an adjournment, but I wish to be perfectly candid in my opposition to the words with reference to the visit to the proposed sites for the federal capital. If there is to be an inspection of those sites, this is not the time to make it. This is not the time to intervene in the midst of whatever business we have got to do - urgent as it is described to be - in order to do something which, according to theVice-President of the Executive Council himself, will have to be finally dealt with, not this session, but next. In the second place, I protest against this picnic being suddenly launched upon us at a time when it will be impossible for a number of honorable senators, myself included, to make arrangements to take part in it, however much we may desire to have an opportunity of visiting the three sites in question.
– Surely the honorable and learned senator would not take part in a picnic !
– Does Senator O’Connor intend to take part in it ?
– No ; because I have been to all the sites.
– The honorable and learned senator knows that the true reason for this adjournment is not that which is stated in the motion.
– What is the reason ?
– I do not know. Will my honorable and learned friend get up and tell us? Not ten minutes before the Senate adjourned last night we were informed of what was intended. The Government quite rightly went on with the Electoral Bill, very much against the inclinations of some of us, and we, at any rate, had the advantage of hearing a very masterly speech from my honorable and learned friend, Senator Clemons. At the last moment we heard for the first time of this projected picnic. If there is to be an expedition of this -kind, surely it ought first of all to be affirmed by the Senate that it is desirable that it should take place, and then an opportunity should be given to all honorable senators to make arrangements. Those who come from distant States should have an opportunity of going if they choose. Personally I should like to do so. At the right time of the year I should be very glad indeed to have an opportunity of visiting the proposed sites. But it is not fair to honorable senators who have made other arrangements to ask them at such short notice to cancel their engagements for the purpose of this visit.
– The honorable and learned senator evidently objects to the motion because he cannot take part.
– I do not object to the picnic because I am unable to participate in it. I object because it ^should not take place in the middle of what is regarded as or said to be a matter of urgent business.
– The honorable and learned senator is in favour of an adjournment.
– I am in favour of it, because I object to the Senate, whilst admittedly we are simply waiting for the Tariff, which is the only serious business to come before us, wasting time upon business that is not seriously meant.
– That is the honorable and learned senator’s view.
– Surely it is Senator O’Connor’s view that the Tariff is the most important business we have to transact.
– I take the view that the Electoral Bill is a matter of serious importance.
– How does the honorable and learned senator reconcile that statement with this motion ? If the Electoral Bill is serious business, why postpone it for a fortnight, at the end of which time if we have received the Tariff, it is evident that the Electoral Bill cannot be proceeded with? I notice the audible smiles of honorable senators at the suggestion that we might have the Tariff in a fortnight. I do not think we shall. But what then? Are we simply to use this urgent measure as a sort of plaything ? Is the Chamber to be a kind of nursery, and is the Senate to be amused with a toy while waiting for serious business to come up 1 Is it dignified or worthy of the Senate to indulge in a tremendous make-believe - to become a kind of legislative treadmill 1
– It is better for it to be a nursery than a treadmill !
– That would be more suitable for the honorable senator no doubt. Let us adjourn, but let us adjourn honestly because we have no serious work to do. I do not mean that the Electoral Bill is not important, but that there is no hope of placing it upon the statute-book this session.
– There are two or three measures upon the statute-book which have been placed there without- the honorable and learned senator’s consent already.
– Yes, and I think the Senate will regret that they are on the statute-book, and that my honorable friend himself, when he comes to his right mind, will repent of having lent his aid to put them there.
– History will do ‘ justice to the honorable and learned senator if he waits for two or three generations !
– We shall be doing excellent justice at the present time if we reject the part of the motion to which I take exception, and place the matter .upon its true footing. Let honorable senators have any reason they like for the adjournment. Let the Government after the adjournment make any arrangement they please ; let them give a picnic to my honorable friends here, who seem so anxious to go.
– That is unwarranted.
– My honorable friend was sitting there when his colleague suggested that I was against the motion because I did not want to go, and he did not protest against that. The Senate is supposed to be, and is, I believe, a dignified and worthy body, and it should state the excellent reason for adjourning that it declines to go on simply wasting time, and rises for such an interval as will enable its members to wait for the serious business of the session - serious, I mean, in the sense that the Tariff Bill is the one measure that must b« passed before we part company at the end of the session. Whatever may happen to the Electoral Bill, or any other measure, there is no doubt that we have a solemn duty to pass the Tariff this session. * Already the session has lasted for nine months, and it is hopeless unless we extend it beyond all reasonable limits and decide to sit perpetually - in fact, unless we are going to be a twentieth century long Parliament - to think of carrying through the Electoral Bill. It is from that point of view that I object to the motion, and not because I consider that the electoral system - the extension and uniformity of the franchise - is not of serious importance to every one. But -“it is not serious in the sense that the Tariff is serious. We shall be obliged to carry the Tariff into effect this session, otherwise we shall be an entirely discredited Parliament. It is on these grounds that I venture to think that it is not only right, but proper, that we should adjourn to a date when it is not only possible, but probable, that we shall have the Tariff before us. I do not disguise the fact that it will be exceedingly inconvenient for me to be here on the 26th February, and that, to my mind, the proposed adjournment will be too short. We ought not to be coerced by any particular section or feeling. It would be exceedingly inconvenient to me personally, and to others of my friends, to resume on the 26th of February, and I should like to further postpone the date of reassembling if there is a probability that the Tariff will not be before us as early as some of us hope and expect.
– It will not reach us for another six weeks.
– I do not believe it will reach us within six weeks.
– And the honorable and learned senator ought to know.
– My honorable friend seems to know. No doubt he is helping to engineer the delaying of the Tariff in the other House. Why should we not adjourn to a date at which we may expect to have the Tariff before us. I cannot be here on the 25th or 26th of February.
– If the Senate were sitting would not the honorable and learned senator be present 1
– If the Senate were sitting next week I should take my part in whatever business was going on, and I should be here on the following week, but, so far as I can see, it will be impossible for me to be here the week after that. I say so frankly, and I do not want people to think that I have not to earn my living just as others have to do. -When there is an adjournment of this kind one’s engagements have to be considered. I do not base my desire for a longer adjournment on the personal ground so much as on the broader ground, which is worthy of the consideration of the Senate, that the real matter of business with which we have to deal is the Tariff. I recognise the importance of the Electoral Bill, but it can stand over until next session. I may be mistaken, but I think it cannot be disguised that we shall not be able to pass it this session. The sooner we recognise* that the Tariff is now the matter we have to consider the sooner we shall be able to have business dealt with in a proper way.
– The honorable and learned senator might hurry up the consideration of the Tariff by another place.
– I coincide with what the honorable and learned senator has said. I do not wish to question the necessity, pointed out by Senator O’Connor, that at some time or other honorable senators should have an opportunity of gaining a personal knowledge of these sites so that they may be able to express opinions as to their fitness. I go further and say that, under the Constitution, the representatives of New South Wales have a right to demand that the site of the federal capital shall be settled at the earliest possible moment. It is the one thing that does not involve the necessity for a great outlay right away, and in the interests of the Commonwealth, as well as in the interests of New South Wales, the site of the federal capital should be determined as speedily as possible. There are scores of reasons which might be given for that. I do not propose to enter into details now, but I am at one with those who recognise the right of New South Wales to have the clause, inserted in the Constitution at their instance, given effect to with all reasonable expedition. I admit further that it is a matter which should be left to the Federal
Parliament as a whole to determine, and it seems to me that we should have a motion brought up in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, affirming the desirability of visiting the sites, if itis to be done by the authority of Parliament. Then arrangements could be made so that those who felt they lacked knowledge on the. subject might be able to visit these places. On these grounds I dissent in the first place from the reason stated in this motion for the proposed postponement. I am perfectly willing to agree to an adjournment. I can see that there is no reason why arrangements may not be made by the Government for honorable senators to utilize the interval in visiting the proposed sites if they please to do so; but I object to that being introduced into the motion as the ground upon which we are to postpone all the other business, which is said to be urgent, for two, three, or four weeks. In the next place, I consider that to suppose that thirteen sites can be visited within a fortnight is simply absurd. Of course, I do not know what the cost of this picnic will be, but there are practical honorable senators who can tell us whether all these sites can be visited within the time named. I do not know the situation of all these places.
– They are scattered all over New South Wales.
– How can it be contended for a moment that within an interval of fourteen days it will be possible to visit thirteen sites and form any adequate or reliable opinion upon their respective merits ? On that ground also I contend that the adjournment ought to be longer, if it is proposed seriously. I should like to know whether it is proposed seriously. If it is, then time should be allotted sufficient to enable the sites to be inspected in such a way that honorable senators who visit them will be able to give us some authoritative and instructive opinions in regard to them. With a view of testing the feelings of the Senate, I shall move seriatim the amendments which I have indicated - the first, for the omission of the words, in the motion giving the reasons for the proposed adjournment, and the second, for the extension of the adjournment for a week. Any honorable senator may support the proposed adjournment for any reason, and there will be nothing to prevent him from utilizing the interval in visiting these sites.
At all events, I trust we shall not place on the records of the Senate at this juncture, and in the circumstances which will appear, in theHansard report of yesterday’s proceedings, a statement that we are to adjourn for a fortnight to enable honorable senators to visit these sites. I move -
That the motion be amended by the omission of the words - “to enable the members of the Senate to visit proposed sites for the federal capital.”
– I object very strongly to the motion, but I object still more strongly to the amendment for two reasons. In the first place, if we are to have a holiday we may do some good in visiting the federal capital sites, and in the second place I object to the amendment because it proposes a longer adjournment than that contemplated by the Government.
– I shall object to the adjournment, altogether unless on the ground I have mentioned in the motion.
– I am going to vote against both proposals. An undue amount of secrecy has been observed in connexion with this matter. Little conclaves have been dismissing it for a week or more, and various rumours of a proposed adjournment have reached me, but no official statement was made until the last moment.
– Did the honorable senator hear of the proposal before last night?
– It was reported in the press a week ago.
– I heard nothing official in regard to the proposal until Senator O’Connor gave notice of motion last night. There is no urgent necessity forvisiting the proposed sites for the federal capital, and we have more urgent matters of legislation to attend to. I admit that it is necessary to visit the various sites, but that is an undertaking which might be left over till next session. Those who are supporting the proposed adjournment may be doing so for the reason that they want to wreck the Electoral Bill, while others may be supporting it for the reason that they have private business to attend to, and they put their own private affairs before those of the Commonwealth.
– That is a very improper insinuation.
– I say that may be the case. We shall see how many honorable senators will visit these sites if the motion be carried.
– How many supporters of the Government will go.
– Yes. We shall see how many vote for the proposal, not so much from any desire to visit the sites as from a desire to obtain time to attend to their private business. An adjournment in order to allow a visit to be made to the sites of the federal capital, or for a mere holiday, will mean the .wrecking of the Electoral Bill,, so far as its passage through Parliament this session is concerned. By their action the Government are playing into the hands of those who look upon this Bill with a sort of tory fanaticism, and who abhor the idea that every person in Australia should possess equal voting rights. The Electoral Bill should be passed as soon as possible. Its consideration will occupy us for some time. What time have we got 1
– None whatever.
– A leading member of another place has informed me that the Tariff will be before us in one month, yet with this limited time a tour disposal we are deliberately proposing to allow the Electoral Bill to stand over in order that we may do something that might well be postponed until next session. The result of the adjournment will be that the Electoral Bill will only be dealt with in a half-hearted way this session. True it may not be possible to pass it this session, but it is possible for us to pass a Bill, enabling Parliament next session to take up legislation at the point reached at the date of prorogation. The Electoral Bill is the most important measure that we have had or shall be called upon, to discuss this session, with the exception of the measures relating to a white Australia.
– What about the Tariff?
– In my opinion the necessity of giving every person a right to a vote is of more importance than the Tariff. We are asked to adjourn and to do nothing until we get the Tariff. We are asked deliberately to make the Senate a sort of Upper House and revising Chamber. We are asked to adjourn ostensibly because we are waiting for something the other House has to give us, when we know that we have important legislation to go on with. I object to the proposal of the Government and also to the proposal of
Senator Symon. I believe that the Government in this matter will play into the handsof those who are directly opposed to liberal legislation. I believe the result will be that we shall not be able to give proper consideration to this Electoral Bill, and it will be left over until next session. Senator O’Connor has said that it is a matter of great urgency,and I see no reason why we should not goon with it, and discuss it for a month or six weeks, and get the Bill through.
– How shall we get it through the other House ?
– We are not concerned as to how it will get through the other House, but I remind the honorable senator that a Bill providing for the taking up of unfinished legislation at the stage at which it was dropped in the preceding session could be passed by both Houses in five minutes. If honorable senators desire that the Electoral Bill shall become law, they will vote against both the motion and the’ amendment.
– We are now in such a position that there is a perfect paralysis of trade. All the warehouses are full of goods and nobody knows what to do with them. We are in the position which the free-traders have brought upon themselves, and which they are most anxious to get out of as soon as possible.
– That is right, lash the free-traders.
– No ; I am neither a free-trader nor a protectionist.
– Neither hot nor cold.
– Neither ‘ hot nor cold, and yet both hot and cold. The strongest free-traders in my own State come to me and say - “All our bonded warehouses are full of goods, for God’s sakeget us out of the trouble we are in. Settleyour Tariff any way you like, but let us get rid of them.”
– Does the honorable and learned senator think his remarks quite relevant? This is a motion for an adjournment to visit the sites of the federal capital.
– I think they are relevant, as giving reasons why we should adjourn. The motion practically is that we should adjourn. I am going to suggest as another reason why we should adjourn that we should make a direct protest against the abominable delay of business in the other House, which is injuring the Commonwealth. The most extreme free-traders tell me that the position is simply intolerable, and that they can do no business on account of the way everything is being hung up. I very much agree with what Senator Symon has said, and we should tell the other House that it is perfectly useless for us to be sitting here wasting our time when the great work we have to do is being delayed there, and they will not send it on to us. The motion before us is that we should adjourn to visit New South Wales. I do not think it much matters, and I shall go with the Government, as I generally do, and in this case with Senator Symon also. 1 think they are working in the same direction only they are using different words about it. Senator O’Connor practically says that unless we agree to do something we do not mean to do he will not agree to the adjournment at all. I am going for the adjournment, and do not intend to be slipped up by any misunderstanding between Senators O’Connor and Symon. We have practically at the present time nothing to do, and as reasonable and sensible men we should consider our position. We ought to be considerate to each other.
– Think of ourselves before our constituents.
– I know the honorable senator cannot get back to Western Australia. I suppose it is more inconvenient for him. I spend nearly all my time here. Senator Symon does the same, and every one knows that it is to both of us a great sacrifice. I do think we should be reasonably considerate to each other and should not ask for any unnecessary sacrifice. If the House sits I shall be here, but when there is no substantial work to do we should not sit merely for the sake of keeping up an appearance of being always in session. So far as Senator O’Connor’s proposal is concerned, I look upon the New South Wales Government as being largely responsible for all the trouble that has arisen. We ask them for a recommendation and they will give us none. They tell us that the matter was handed over to the Federal Government, and that the Federal Government must deal with it. Of course, I quite understand that as there are a number of places with conflicting claims the Government of New South Wales take the easiest possible way out of their difficulty. I shall support an adjournment until we can get the Tariff up and can deal with it. W e have a charming little Bill placed before us, but it is not immediately necessary to pass it. We are waiting for the Tariff, and I ask honorable senators seriously whether they do not think it would be as well for us to say to the other House - “We think you have taken too long about it. Send it up to us.” Might we not fairly bring that degree of pressure to bear upon a House which is creating a complete paralysis of trade in the whole of Australia ? People, in seeking for free-trade, are inflicting wrong and injustice upon everybody. Do not honorable senators think it is nearly time we said to them - “ We ave going to adjourn because we wish you to send up the real business you have to do and have not been doing. “ It is time they dealt with the serious business of the session, and I think that what I suggest would hurry them up a bit.
– Not a bit.
– One never knows, even in one’s self, the effect of the pressure which is constantly brought to bear, and my honorable and learned friend, a most impressible man, is no doubt unconsciously actuated by an influence which he scarcely recognises. We have no very serious business before the Senate at the present time. We are entitled to say that we shall adjourn for two or three weeks, and that it is about time that the purposeless debates which are taking place were finished, and we got to something substantia], the want of which is paralyzing the whole trade of Victoria.
– I heartily support the amendment. We are supposed to visit thirteen sites which I know personally, having been over the country a good deal. We cannot possibly visit half of them in a fortnight. For instance, to visit Bombala we shall have to go via Goulburn by rail to Cooma, and there pick up the coach.
– But we can visit other sites on the way.
– No. It will take a week to go to Armidale and return, and even then there will not be very much time to devote to the inspection of the site. The proposal is absurd on the face of it. If we are going to inspect sites the proper thing to do is to inspect them properly.
– Live twelve months on each site, so as to ascertain the nature of the climate.
– Honorable senators can ascertain what the climate is before they start if they will only read a little. It is not possible to visit half the sites in a fortnight.
– It is not intended.
– It cannot be intended to do the work properly, or to do it at all. If it is desired to adjourn for a fortnight, it would be better to make no reference in this motion to inspection of sites, but to let those honorable senators who choose to go visit two, three, or four of them if they can. It is absurd to state in the motion that it is intended to visit thirteen sites in a fortnight. I suggest to the representatives of the Government that they should extend the adjournment to the end of the month, because it is of no use to rush to a place and hurry away. Honorable senators could not get much satisfaction from visiting any sites in that way. I agree that the sites should be visited early, so that the people of the Commonwealth might know where the site was likely to be chosen, but it cannot be done in a fortnight, and I doubt whether it could be done in three weeks. I should think it would take five or six weeks to make the inspection with any sort of satisfaction. I hope that the amendment will be agreed to.
– In the state of business the motion of Senator O’Connor seems to me to be a most extraordinary one. Last evening he told us that we had before us a measure of very urgent importance which must be passed this session, and yet he comes forward ‘with a, ‘proposition to-day to abandon all business for a fortnight. This seems to me to be a most curious proposal. If the Electoral Bill is of the urgent character which Senator O’Connor claims it is, then why not proceed with it I I can understand the attitude of the leader of the Opposition. He says that there is no urgent reason for passing the Electoral Bill, and the only question which troubles him is the Tariff. The great body of the electors of the Commonwealth are much more concerned about the electoral law, and how the voting at the next elections is to be arranged, than about the
Tariff. This trouble about the Tariff arises principally in commercial circles. Of course it is not in order for me to enter into a discussion about the buying, selling, speculating, bulling, and bearing which is going on. Although it is extremely desirable that not only commercial men but the people of the Commonwealth should know exactly where they stand so far as taxation is concerned, still that is no reason why we should abandon the important business before the Senate, and take a fortnight’s holiday. While the leader of the Opposition is opposed to any examination of sites for the capital, he is in favour of an adjournment. Why is he in favour of an adjournment? He says we have no business before the Chamber. Is the Electoral Bill, containing 200 clauses and a schedule, no business ? We understand the position assumed by the honorable and learned gentleman, and it looks as if there is a conspiracy between the Government and the Opposition to burke the Bill. Last night Senator O’Connor gave us excellent reasons why it should be passed this session, but to-day he proposes to abandon work for a fortnight. We do not know when the Tariff may reach the Senate. It may come sooner than is expected. I observe that the longer honorable members sit in another place the more the pace is being accelerated. We may have the Tariff Bill here within a month. Does any one think that a month is too long a period to occupy in the discussion of the Electoral Bill? I am certain that a number of honorable senators who are very much opposed to its provisions will make free use of their privilege of speech when it comes to be discussed. Senator Symonhas insinuated that we are not getting the true reason for the proposed adjournment ; that the Government has some other reason, which it carefully keeps out of sight. I do not know anything about that, but there does appear to be some ground for his assertion. We are asked to accomplish the feat of visiting thirteen sites in a fortnight. Are we expected to fly, or how are we to get to the sites? It will be utterly impossible to visit them in the time. We might visit two or three of them, but that would be of no consequence, and the very fact that we cannot make this inspection as we ought to do, seems to me to give some colour to the assertion of Senator Symon that there is some design in the motion which has not been uncovered. I wish to see the Electoral Bill passed this session. I have not the slightest doubt that if we made up our minds, and did not follow the example which Senator Downer said has been shown us in another place, of talking too much, and too often, we could pass that Bill. Let no one imagine that the Tariff Bill will get out of here without being very well thrashed out, because New South Wales is too strongly represented to permit of that happening. While we are discussing the Tariff Bill the House of Representatives could be discussing the Electoral Bill.
– It has two or three Senate Bills now to deal with.
– The Electoral Bill is of more importance than the other Bills, because we must have an election at the end of 1903. If it is not passed this session, what probability, or even what possibility, is there of its being passed in time for those elections? It is extremely desirable that at the next elections we should have a uniform electoral law throughout the continent. Some honorable senators may be quite satisfied with the electoral law in their own State. I am not satisfied with the electoral law in my State, and even if I were, I should still recognise the absolute necessity of having a uniform electoral law for the Commonwealth. I sympathize with Senator Symon in his desire to get away. I have no doubt that he has other business to which he must attend, but which is not Commonwealth business. The only business I have to attend to is Commonwealth business, and so far as I am permitted, I mean to attend to it. We have been sent here to do the business of the Commonwealth, and while I agree with Senator Symon that it is absolutely necessary, no matter how long we may sit, that the Tariff Bill should be passed this session, it is highly necessary that the Electoral Bill also should be passed this session. I shall oppose any adjournment.
Senator WALKER (New South Wales).I am in a peculiar position. I am with the Government in thinking that if there is to be an adjournment, it certainly ought to be granted to enable honorable senators to visit the proposed sites for the capital. On the other hand I do not think that a fortnight is sufficient time in which to get over the work. Those who attend will have to travel by train to one or two places, to remain for an hour or two at each, and then go off to another place. It is not a sufficient inspection of a site to get out of the railway train and look round for a short time. It is necessary, in my opinion, to take three weeks to do the work properly. Some time or other these sites will have to be inspected, and there is a great deal of force in the argument in favour of doing it now.
– The itinerary has been worked out, and we find that the time will be ample.
– It is a pity the details were not given to the Senate. How about inclement weather?
– Of course we do not contemplate snow storms !
– I should prefer adjourning till Wednesday, 4th March.
– When the honorable senator will be in England !
– No ; I shall not start for England till the5th of March from Melbourne. I hope the adjournment will be made to the day I have mentioned, to enable honorable senators to inspect the sites thoroughly. I want to take part in the inspection myself. I particularly wish to go to Bombala, which, I understand, is a very suitable locality. I also desire to see the Electoral Bill passed, as I am in thorough accord with the Government in regard to it.
– I cannot agree to any extension of the time.
Senator McGREGOR (South Australia). I would point out to some honorable senators who are opposing the motion - particularly my honorable friends Senators Smith and Stewart - that if they have been watching the opinions held in the Senate, they must have come to the conclusion that there is a majority in favour of the adjournment. If I thought it was possible to pass the Electoral Bill in a week or two, I would oppose the adjournment, but when I know that there is going to be an adjournment in any case, I think it is our duty to use the time in doing the business of the country. According to theConstitution and according to the actions of some of the honorable senators who are opposing the adjournment, we are pledged to do something, as far as New South Wales is concerned, towards expediting the choice of a capital site. Are we going to waste a fortnight or three weeks idling about Melbourne when there is important work to be done
It may be argued that the time is not sufficient, but as we are to have an adjournment for a fortnight let us utilize the time as well as we possibly can. If there is anything remaining to be done afterwards we can find another occasion for doing it. I agree with much of what has been said by Senators Smith and Stewart, though I do not agree that there is any collusion between the Government and the Opposition in respect of the Electoral Bill. No one except Senator Symon thinks that there is any possibility of our receiving the Tariff shortly. Senator Symon himself belongs to the very party which is keeping it back. They are doing a great injury to the country in that respect. All that they say about mouse-traps or other traps will not satisfy the merchants and others who want to do business. I urge the reasonableness of doing something now to carry out our obligations to New SouthWales. We cannot expect to get the Tariff before the middle of March. When it is received it will be introduced in a speech by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and then, as Senator O’Connor has said, there will be an adjournment for perhaps ten days. He did not mean, as Senator Smith supposes, that the Senate will adjourn, but that the debate on the Tariff will be adjourned for ten days. I believe and hope that the Electoral Bill will be carried this session, with the assistance of the Government, who have publicly promised to do all that is possible in that respect. When we come back on the 26th instant, we shall have until the middle of March to discuss the Electoral Bill. The Government have also promised that if necessary they will consent to the Senate sitting four days per week instead of three. That can be done. Consequently we shall have three weeks before we receive the Tariff, and ten days after it is introduced, in which to discuss the Electoral Bill, and we can, if necessary, work double time while it is under discussion. If we went on with the Electoral Bill instead of adjourning, those who are opposed to the measure would simply talk as much as they could in order to block its progress. The shorter the time in which to deal with it, and the longer hours we sit, the more progress we are likely to make. That is one reason why I prefer to see a measure of this kind dealt with expeditiously rather than to have it hanging over for several weeks. I support the adjournment, not because we have not work to do, but because if we did not adjourn the time would probably be wasted.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).There is a great deal with which I agree in what has fallen from Senator McGregor. If there is to be an inspection of capital sites, honorable senators may as well make use of the adjournment for that purpose. But that is a totally different thing from affirming in this motion that the reason for the adjournment is to make such an inspection. It makes a great deal of difference whether we say that if. there is an adjournment we will utilize it in thatway, or say that we will adjourn for that reason. The difference has been accentuated by Senator O’Connor, who has affirmed that, unless the adjournment is granted for the reason set out in the motion, he will not have it at all. So that the Government really say that unless the Senate will father this excuse there will be no adjournment.
– Surely New South Wales does not object to the reason given ?
– I, as one of the representatives of that State, will show why I object to the reason given in this motion. If the excuse were a straightforward one, the argument would be valid. But the fact that it is not a genuine excuse is shown by the circumstance that arrangements for this trip were not made earlier. It is quite evident that the excuse was trumped up - I use the word advisedly - at the last moment, because the Government hesitated to ask for a straightforward adjournment of the business. If the trip had been the reason for the adjournment, the Government would not have asked those who intend to take part in it to wait in Melbourne until Tuesday before making a start. Seeing that they intend to make those who take part in the trip work about twenty hours a day, it would be reasonable to say that a start should be made the very day after the rising of the Senate. . But, instead of that, they ask honorable senators to wait until Tuesday afternoon. We waste three days before the trip commences. If there were ample time to make the trip I could understand it. But does any honorable senator believe that it will be possible to visit thirteen sites, scattered all over New South Wales - and in order to reach which long coach journeys will he necessary in some cases - within the time proposed by the Government ? In one case a coaching trip of over 100 miles will be necessary. Do honorable senators think that it will be possible to carry out an inspection worthy of the name within the time proposed ?
– Does the honorable senator want us to go?
-I do not. I believe I am in a minority on that point, but I want to show that practically this excuse for an adjournment is a fraud, when it is proposed to make a trip to the proposed sites of the Federal capital within such a limited time. Taking the figures contained in the official time-table of New South Wales, I find that the journey to be travelled will total over 2,300 miles, 270 miles of which, at a very moderate estimate, will be by coach. I could increase that estimate very easily by allowing a margin for the straight-out mileage. I have simply taken the scale on themap and measured the distances from point to point, although with my knowledge of Bombala and the winding roads of that district I might have fairly added 50 per cent. Among the places to be visited, and to reach which a coach journey of 40 miles will be necessary, is Tumut. I want the inspection to be a fair one. How long will it take to travel 40 miles by road from Gundagai to Tumut and back again?If we allow one day for the journey bycoach to Tumut and for the inspection of that site, and another day for the return journey, two days are accounted for.
– The time occupied on the journey will depend upon the horses.
– I have no doubt that the Government of New South Wales will horse this picnic well. The term “ picnic,” however, is a misnomer. Honorable senators will find that the undertaking will involve really hard work. It is reasonable to assume that two days will be occupied by the coach journey to and from Tumut and the inspection of that site, and I contend that it is absolutely impossible for honorable senators to undertake this trip within the time proposed by the Government if they really desire to make an inspection which will enable them to compare the relative merits of the respective sites. Lake George is another coaching trip. Certainly it is not very far from a railway station, but to travel 10 or 20 miles by coach to inspect the place, and to return to the railway, will take another day. Now I come to Bombala, which will involve a coach journey of at least 100 miles. It is really more than that. I do not know how honorable senators look upon coaching. I have had to do a good deal of it, and I must confess I do not care for it. How long will it take honorable senators to travel by coach over 100 miles of country like that around Bombala? Let honorable senators form their own opinions as to how long it will take to travel 100 miles over the most mountainous country in New South Wales.
– Two days each way.
– It is not a 100-mile coach journey.
– If the honorable senator had to walk it he would find that.it was a great deal more.
– I have just driven over it.
– Then will the honorable and learned senator say what is the distance from the railway station, Cooma, to the site ?
– It is under 60 miles.
– From Cooma to the site is a little over 40 miles. It is 40 miles to Buckley’s Crossing. I know the country well.
– And I claim to know the country well. I invite those honorable senators who say that the journey is only 40 miles to examine the official map, as I have done. If they do so they will find that, according to scale, it is 60 miles. I assume, however, that the coach journey to Bombala is only 50 miles, and I say that it will take one day to cover it. On reaching Bombala some time will have to be devoted to the inspection. When honorable senators are at Eden or Bombala, how far will they be from Melbourne? It will take the best part of two days to go by boat from Eden to Sydney, or if they go by train it will take them another day. It will take them three days to travel from the last point of inspection, to the place at which we discharge our legislative duties.
– By steamer from Eden to Melbourne is a 30 hours’ trip.
– What steamer ?
– The Tasmanian steamers call there.
– The Tasraanian boats do not go direct from Eden to Melbourne ; they go to Hobart, but of course that would be part of the picnic programme.
– It is no use to exaggerate ; we want facts.
– Is it a fact that we can travel from Eden to Melbourne in 30 hours at any time of the week we like ?
– No one has suggested that boats run from Eden to Melbourne every day.
– Unless there is a boat at Eden awaiting the arrival of the party, it will be found that my statement that at least three days will be required is correct.
– Any of the InterState boats would call at Eden to pick up the party.
– But the Inter-State boats do not run every day. If the party happens to have a steamer in waiting at Eden - and I suppose the cost of chartering a steamer would be a mere bagatelle with the Government - it will be possible to travel from there to Melbourne in 40 hours.
– Please take notice that I am not going to travel by any steamer.
– I think that is evidence of gross ingratitude.
– And I am not going to travel by steamer.
– This shows, very small appreciation of the method suggested by Senator Ewing to get honorable senators out of a difficulty. I do not care whether honorable senators take Senator Ewing’s estimate of 30 hours, or whether they take mine of three days, but I am utterly unable to see how it will be possible for honorable senators to cover the distance under three days, unless the Government have at their command some power which is denied to others.
– We want to visit New South Wales, but the honorable senator is putting difficulties in our way.
– I am endeavouring to give some reasons why the trip should not take place.
– The honorable senator does not want it to take place ; that accounts for the milk inthe cocoanut.
– Exactly. I want to show, first ofall, that the trip cannot be made in the time proposed ; that, according to my calculations, six days, or half the time proposed to be devoted to the entire trip, will be occupied by the coach journeys and in travelling from the last point of inspection - Eden - to Melbourne. Even then honorable senators will not have a very easy time of it. They will have to travel night and day.
-I shall, refuse to travel at night.
– So far as I can see there is not going to be much of a picnic to bother about after all, if one honorable senator is going to withdraw from it because he declines to travel by sea, while another refuses to go because he will not travel by night. It will be no picnic.
– I withdraw the word “ picnic.”
– The honorable and learned senator ought not to do so. That was the whole staple of his speech.
– Six days will be occupied in visiting those sites to reach which coach journeys are necessary. Honorable senators will have to travel 2,086 miles by train during the remaining portion of the adjournment, in order to inspect eight other places. It will be necessary for them to travel 340 miles a day.
– We shall sleep in the train.
– In the end honorable senators will be glad to sleep anywhere. They will have to travel 340 miles a day, besides inspecting eight sites in seven days.
– That is absurd on the face of it.
– I am glad that on this point the honorable and learned senator has caught a glimmer of the absurdity of the proposal. What is this inspection for, if it is not to enable honorable senators to have a reasonable opportunity of looking at the merits and demerits of the various sites? It is only an impudent fraud on New South Wales to class this as an inspection. If the Government think that any advantage is to be gained by enabling honorable senators to have a look at the picturesqueness or natural advantages of these sites, then in common honesty to the people advocating their selection ample time should be given to permit of a thorough inspection. I regret very rauch that the Vice-President of the Executive Council did not see fit to give us his time-table when placing this matter before us. I can only assume that, as a skilful general, he must have recognised how seriously open to attack he would be if he did so, and that he has left.it over until he makes his reply, when, of course, it will not be possible- for any honorable senator to point out its defects and weaknesses. . Passing away from the impossibility of carrying out any reasonable inspection within the time proposed, I wish to come to the point of the necessity or otherwise for this trip. I deny that the trip is necessary, or that it will be distinctly advantageous. Certainly, there will be some advantage to be gained from it, but it will not be commensurate with the time occupied or the expense incidental to it. I desire to know how many members propose to make- the trip ‘? Surely that is a matter of vital importance, and reasonable notice should have been given, so that the largest possible number of members could attend. The Government have shown what a perfunctory thing it is, and how little importance they attach to it, by springing it upon us at the last moment, when, as Senator Symon has pointed out, not one honorable senator in five will be able to make the necessary arrangements to enable him to take advantage of the opportunity now presented. As a simple test as to whether there is really anything genuine in the proposal, might I ask if all the members of the Ministry propose to take the trip 1 Seeing that the factors which will determine the relative merits of different sites are factors which cannot be determined by mere inspection, the inspection itself becomes futile. The only thing which will appeal to honorable senators in making an inspection will be the picturesqueness, or otherwise, of a site. That may, perhaps, be an important factor, but it is not a first essential. The essentials of a suitable site are those things which we shall never see, or if we see them as laymen, we shall not be able to understand them until professional men come to our aid. Information upon such matters, for instance, as the water supply, the facilities for drainage and sanitation, and the supply of building materials, must come to us upon paper, to enable us better to determine the merits of a site, and such things will not be brought i before us simply by a visit of inspection. I
While I do not allege that an inspection has no advantages, I say, it has no advantages at all commensurate with the time necessary to undertake it, or the cost incidental to carrying it out. I can only suppose that the reason that this inspection is being suggested is this : I, as a New South Welshman, and I believe many people outside of New South Wales, feel that this is one of the matters upon which the Government have shirked their fair responsibility. If they had been anxious, as they now pretend to be, to push this matter forward, they would long ago have taken practical steps to bring before Parliament the question of the selection of the federal capital site.
– We had better finish the Tariff. That is of more importance than the question of the site of the capital.
– I admit that at once, but I say the preliminary work could have been done. If the Government had been in earnest in trying to bring this matter to a head we should long ago have had upon the table of the House all the facts and information available, together with a recommendation from themselves, or some practical suggestion which would have enabled us to come to a decision.
– The honorable and learned senator’s own Premier refused to make any recommendation.
– Does the honorable and learned senator mean Mr. Barton 1 He is the very gentleman I am complaining about now.
– No ; Mr. See.
– Does the honorable and learned senator suppose for a moment that I, as a federal representative of New South Wales, am content to be bound by the inaction of the State Premier ? I look to the Prime Minister of the Federation to see that these things are done, because he is primarily intrusted with the carrying out of the Constitution.
– We cannot do everything at once.
– We can do many things concurrently. Can any one tell me why, if they had been in earnest about the matter, the Government could not long ago have done what I have suggested, and supplied honorable senators with all the information ?
– The atmosphere would not have been suitable for the Tariff.
– Does the honorable senator mean to suggest by that that any choice of a federal capital which the Government might determine upon would influence the action of honorable senators upon the Tariff? I am not saying that the Government should have brought the matter up for discussion now, but I do say that the preliminary work of inspection initiated by the State Government should have been carried further. The Government admit that it is necessary to carry it further, by the action they are taking now. They admit that more information is required, and it should have been collected and placed before us long ago, that we might have digested it, and have been in a position to give a decision upon the matter when the Government had selected an opportune time to bring it up for discussion.
– Has the honorable and learned senator digested Mr. Oliver’s information yet?
– I have formed my own opinion of it after perusal.
– He was a special commissioner.
– If honorable senators think so much of Mr. Oliver’s report, I may say that I would be the last to say a word against it. I think it is a most instructive and valuable document, and that it has been prepared with a great deal of care, and with great insight into the requirements necessary for a federal capital. My answer is to ask honorable senators if they regard that report as a complete solution of the whole matter ?
– No. We do not say that.
– Then the interjection is worth nothing. If, on the other hand, that report is not sufficiently complete, I wish to know why the Government did not go on and obtain supplementary information long ago. They have been in office for nearly thirteen months, and surely there has been sufficient time for them to take the action to which I have referred. The position I take up with regard to the matter is this : I advocate the adjournment, not for the flimsy excuse which has been trumped up at the last moment, and introduced as this has been, but I advocate a longer adjournment than the Government propose simply for the reason that I cannot see that there is any public advantage in this
Senate continuing its sittings at the present time.
– Now we come to the milk in the cocoanut.
– I hope the honorable and learned senator will say nothing more about the milk in the cocoanut, because I may let some of it out.
– The honorable and learned senator had better let out all he can, at once.
– An interjection of that kind is distinctly unfair. Senator O’Connor will agree with me that it is not at all desirable that we should repeat in this chamber what takes place outside.
– The honorable and learned senator had better not threaten. He had better say whatever is in his mind. I had much rather he did say it. It is about time we had an end to these insinuations.
– If Senator O’Connor takes anything I have said as an insinuation against himself I withdraw it at once, but I remind him that in saying that I was coming to the milk in the cocoanut he was making an insinuation himself, and the danger of making one insinuation is that it is likely to bring out another.
– It was a plain statement of a reason.
– It was an insinuation that underneath my remarks there was something other than I intended them to convey.
– Nothing of the sort.
– It ought to be withdrawn. .
– I do not ask the honorable and learned senator to withdraw it.
– The honorable and learned senator knows that I did not mean anything offensive to him.
– I am pointing out that in anything I said I did not intend to be offensive, but the honorable and learned senator’s interjection appeared to me to be offensive.
– The honorable and learned senator insinuated that he knew something discreditable to the Government.
– I did not insinuate anything of the kind. I am advocating an adjournment because I believe it is not profitable for this Senate to continue its sittings until such time as the Government are in a position to invite us to discuss the Tariff. Up to that time we should be simply doing the goose step, and I win be more profitably employed. The adjournment I suggest would be to the earliest date at which the Government think it is possible we can be invited to take up the Tariff. That means that in my opinion the other business upon the paper is business which ought to be left over until next year. I believe the Government have themselves to some extent recognised that, in asking us now to adjourn. The only important measure now before us is the Electoral Bill, and if the discussion of that Bill may reasonably be adjourned for a fortnight it can stand over for another fortnight. We might then hope that the Government would show a little more aptitude for the conduct of business in another place. I think that is as fair a statement as the statement that the free-trade party are responsible for the delay. I. hold the view that if the Government had shown even ordinary capacity for the conduct of business, the Tariff would have been through by this time. We are not now discussing who may be to blame, and I point out that if the amendment of the leader of the Opposition is carried the Government should at the close of the adjournment be in a position to tell us when we may expect the Tariff. I regard that as the first and only really important matter which this Senate is under an obligation to attend to this session. For the rest, I think that the Electoral Bill and the other matters upon the business paper might reasonably stand over until next year.
– The debate in many aspects has’ been rather amusing, but the amendments before the Senate are to my mind matters of serious importance, because I regard economy of time and the useful disposition of a man’s time as about the most important things in life. We made one grievous error when on the 13th December last we adjourned until the 22nd January, knowing perfectly well that when we came back there would be no work for us to do. I pressed for a longer adjournment at that time, but the proposal was passed without sufficient thought.
– We have done good work since we came back.
– We have done three weeks’ work which does not redound very much to our credit.
– The honorable and learned senator ought not to make reflections upon the action of the Senate. He must withdraw the allegation that what the Senate has done has not been to its credit.
– I withdraw it at once. I desire to point out that the notice of this proposal for adjournment has been so short as to take away half the pleasure and half the advantage of it. While I have been engaged in writing letters, getting rid of business, and arranging for its performance by others, something has been discussed about an adjournment for two or three weeks of which I have had no notice. The Electoral Bill may not be of great urgency, but it ought to be passed, and if we go on with its discussion for another three weeks, we shall then be able to determine with far greater certainty when the Tariff is likely to’ be before us. In conversation with the leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr. Reid, he told me that he could not say when we might expect the Tariff here, but it was not likely that we would get it before the end of March. I do not think anyone can say that it will be here before the first week in April, and I agree with Senator Symon that there should be a longer adjournment proposed. If we adjourn now for a fortnight or three weeks, I believe we shall comeback and then be wasting our time doing the “goose” step, as Senator Millen has suggested. No can foretell what may take place in another Chamber, or the weeks of argument there may be upon the recommittal of items alone, and it would be a mistake to have a short adjournment now when we may have to have a longer adjournment two or three weeks hence. I have no sympathy with the suggestion that the Government are offering any untrue reasons in the present proposal, or with the remarks of Senator Millen as to what he calls the delay of the Government in dealing with the question of the federal capital. As I said, in debating the address in reply to the GovernorGeneral’s speech, it appears to me that everybody wants everything done at once.
– That has been the great mistake in connexion with the business of the session.
– It is a great mistake, and it is also a great mistake to think that we can go rushing round the country trying to inspect thirteen sites. I agree with Senator Millen, that there can be very little advantage in inspecting sites, unless we are supplied with a pamphlet, setting forth all the information about the sites inspected. I agree also that no inspection which we, as laymen, can make, will give us half the information which We shall obtain from the reports of experts, and from such documents as the admirable report submitted by Mr. Oliver. I hope we shall never be asked to visit thirteen sites. I believe that from three to six sites, at the outside, should be selected, and we should not bother about the others. But before we inspect them, we should have all the information with which the Government can supply us upon matters which it is necessary for us to consider. I regret very much that we have been brought here so soon after the Christmas holidays, and are to be sent away again ; but I suppose the Government could not help it, although I think they might have saved themselves from making the very great slip they have made.
– What slip have we made ?
– In bringing us back when there was absolutely no work to be done. Honorable senators will recollect that when I was objecting to it, Senator Drake interjected that there was the Electoral Bill to consider, and that when asked if he could furnish us with a copy of the Bill before we returned, he said he could not undertake to do so. It was introduced here in one of the most admirable second- reading speeches I have ever heard made by Senator O’Connor. We have had two or three speeches on the Bill, ‘ and got our heads full of its provisions. We have all made our arrangements to stop here, but this motion is sprung upon us to our inconvenience and disadvantage. My convenience will be served by going on with the Bill. Therefore, as a matter of duty to myself and to the country, I shall cast my vote in favour of going on with the work before us.
– Last Friday the leader of the Senate impressed upon honorable senators that it was absolutely necessary that the Electoral Bill should be passed. He said that it was a very urgent measure, as we might have an election at any time.
– The picnic is more urgent.
– With that prospect in his mind, the honorable and learned senator said that we ought to go on with the Bill ; that the representation of the electors would never be satisfactory until it was on a uniform basis such as it provided for. I agreed with what he said, although I did not think much of the Bill. I accepted, as I usually do, nearly every statement that he made. I heard nothing about an alteration of the programme for the session until I picked up the newspapers this morning. I happened to leave the chamber last night about ten o’clock, and, therefore, I heard nothing about a rearrangement of the business. The first, thought which occurred to my mind was which is the more important - the Electoral Bill or the trip to Armidale or Bombala. Senator Millen has shown clearly enough that it is absolutely rubbish and nonsense to attempt to make this inspection in two or three weeks. I was not in the chamber when Senator O’Connor mentioned the places to be visited, but I. understand that Armidale is one of them. To get to Armidale you have to travel 950 miles.
– My honorable friend will not have to walk there.
– No ; but it is 1,900 miles of a trip though. A trip to see one site will take three days. But, before I go, I wish to see the handbook which the Minister for Home Affairs promised to supply. Is it to be supplied after the trip is made or before it is made? I was under the impression that it was to be a sort of guide to honorable members who, like myself, know very little about the country. But it seems that we are not to get that work before we have decided on which is the best site, so that all the expense which the Government have gone to in that direction will be useless so far as the Senate is concerned.
– The honorable senator wishes to be convinced about the country before he sees it.
– No : I desire to have some knowledge of the country before I go. I wish to have placed in my hands information which I cannot pick up when I am travelling through the country at the rate of 40 miles an hour.
– Does the honorable senator happen to know that information has been collected in regard to a great many of these sites?
– We have received lots of private circulars from interested persons, but I wish to see the statement made by the Government who are disinterested, which was promised by the Minister for Home Affairs, before I go. I intend to vote against any adjournment, because I think we ought to go on with the business. But, if we have nothing to do, then let us say so and go on with the trip. Idissententirelyfrom the picnic aspect of the question. If Senator Symon in his youth had had to do as much travelling in the bush as some of us, he would not call this visit a picnic. But I understand that he has withdrawn that very offensive expression. Now, suppose that some honorable senators on this very short notice of a day or two should be unable to go, owing to their private business, what is to happen 1 Is there to be a second trip, or will they have to go on their own account ? I recollect reading the other day a statement made by the Minister for Home Affairs, in which he said that he was not going to pay the expenses of any Member of Parliament who wished to go by himself. Although a member of one House or the other might be quite unable to attend when the great number went, he would, if he wished to see these sites, have to pay his own expenses. He ought not to be penalized for not joining in the euchre party. I am opposed to this trip being undertaken at this season of the year. If honorable senators who go do not come back with the fixed conviction that New South Wales is not a proper place in which to have the federal capital, I shall be very much surprised.
– The honorable senator is a good Victorian.
– I am thinking of the climate, not of the country. It is not giving the State of New South Wales fair play to make the trip at this time of the year. I agree with others that the capital must at some time or other be in New South Wales. But surely the Government through their leader here ought to have selected a date two or three months later on, and thus have given the State a fair show, which they will not do.
– They would be bogged then.
– No, they would not be bogged. I am sure that if Senator Ferguson and I were to be jammed in a coach with three on a seat when there was room for only one, we should return with the fixed conviction that it was not a proper place to go to at any time, or under any circumstances, even if the federal capital were there. I do not wish to injure the Government at all. I shall give them a general support. I shall support them while I think they are doing what is right, but I am not going to bea thick-and-thin supporter, and vote for them when they are wrong. That is the sort of support they like to get. Any one can support them when they are right. I am going; now to refer to Senator McGregor, of whose tongue I feel a little afraid. I dissent entirely from his method of conducting business - that we should leave everything to the last, in order that we might rush all legislation through at the tail end of the session. As one reason for an adjournment he said that by-and-by we shall have sent up the Tariff Bill and several other measures, and we shall want to rush them all through, but we cannot get them through unless the work is done in a hurry. I dissent from that view entirely. It is so illogical that I think it must have been suggested by Senator Dawson.
– I beg your pardon.
– I shall withdraw the remark if it is considered offensive, and say that Senator Glassey suggested the idea, but I shall not withdraw my opposition to either the motion or the amendment.
– As a representative of New South Wales I am prepared to welcome any proposal which bids fair to assist us in determining the question of the federal capital. In that State there exists a very strong opinion that both the Government and the Houses of Parliament have to a considerable extent ignored, if not neglected, this important matter, and therefore I shall be glad if during the next two or three weeks a beginning is made with the work. I am also ready to support an adjournment, because I think the Government have no right to rush the consideration of the Electoral Bill upon us in the way they have done. This has been one of the great faults of the Government Months ago they introduced suddenly new clauses into the Land for Public Purpose Acquisition Bill. Some very elaborate calculations were thrust upon us at a moment’s notice, and we were expected to discus them before we had time to consider them.
A few months later the Post and Telegraph Bates Bill was thrust upon us. During the discussion of the Bill the details on which the rates were fixed were laid on the table, but in spite of the protest made by myself and others it was rushed through, when we were not in a position to thoroughly consider it. The same course is now being followed. This motion is sprung upon us when few honorable senators will be able to take advantage of the proposal which it embodies. The Electoral Bill is a very important measure. It proposes to revolutionize the electoral systems of Australia. The mathematical proposals which it contains are of so serious a character that they ought to have been before us for weeks, if not months, in order that there might have been formed in the press some public opinion that would have been of help to us. But we have had nothing of that sort. We are asked to go on with the discussion of complex matters before we have had time to form sufficiently accurate views to be certain that the legislation which results will be satisfactory to the Commonwealth. Because of this I am quite prepared to support, the proposal for the adjournment, but I want it to be made on proper grounds. There is another matter which I shall be glad if Senator O’Connor will deal with in his reply. If while the House of Representatives is dealing with the Tariff members of the Senate proceed to New South Wales to inspect federal capital sites, will the members of the House of Representatives do the same while the members of the Senate are discussing the Tariff? Have the Government formed any scheme for allowing the members of the House of Representatives to do what they now ask the Senate to do, or are we to suppose that this motion is brought forward on the spur of the moment to meet an emergency, and does not form part of a recognised scheme for an inspection of sites by members of both Houses of Parliament ?
– I shall support the motion for an adjournment of the Senate. If the Government believe that the condition of business justifies an adjournment I am content to be with them ; though I think they might as well have said that the business of the Senate was such as would permit of an adjournment for three or four weeks. It was notfair of the Government, however, to move for an adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of inspecting federal capital sites at this particular time, because a good many of us have made arrangements which will prevent us from entering upon the trip. Seeing that many of us have to come hundreds of miles to attend the Senate, before a trip like this was arranged we should have been notified, so that we might have made arrangements to be away from home. The Electoral Bill is a very important measure, but the Government can hardly expect to put it through both Houses during this session. I do not think they will ; and no arrangements have been made for taking up lapsed Bills at thebeginning of next session. Consequently it will be of little use for us to proceed with the measure. I fail to see how the Senate can give an expression of opinion on the various sites in the short time at their disposal. It has been clearly shown by Senator Millen and others that the distance between the various places is so great, and in some instances the suggested sites are so far away from railways, that it will entail at least three weeks or more of travelling to enable us to reach them. Surely we are not expected to go upon the ground, glance round, and hurry away in order to reach another place within a certain time ? There are thirteen sites to look at. That in itself shows that the Government have suddenly conceived the idea of having the trip. They must know that it is utterly impossible for the Senate to inspect all the sites within the specified time. I am extremely anxious that the selection, when made, shall be such a one as will command the approval of future generations. For my own part I have no desire to visit the thirteen sites. I am prepared to have them weeded out by experts, leaving three or four carefullyselected sites from which Parliament can make a choice. In my own mind, I have, from reading Mr. Oliver’s report, already selected a suitable site, though I am anxious to see the place in order to compare what I see with what I have read. It is evident that very few members of the Senate will avail themselves of the opportunity of visiting the sites, because the motion has been brought down unexpectedly, and many honorable senators will be unable to go upon the trip. The tour, being improperly organized, will be unsatisfactory ; and most of us will be anxious to accompany the members of the House of Representatives “when they go upon a similar trip. I see no reason why the motion should not be accepted, but I shall certainly vote for striking out the words to which Senator Symon has taken exception.
– I should be sorry to allow, this debate to conclude without speaking to the motion. I want to say at the outset that I wish to scrupulously avoid making any remarks which might be regarded as containing any insinuations. At the same time, I intend to avail myself of my right of criticism in the most open and straightforward way possible. We must recognise, at this stage of the debate, that, in relation to this motion, there are almost as many opinions as there are honorable senators present. In fact, with the recollection of the Bill which was before us la3t night, I might say that there is one more opinion than there are senators present. I wish to say frankly that, in my opinion, the Vice-President of the Executive Council has made a mistake. I regard it as the absolutely unassailable right of the Government, as represented in the Senate, to set out the order of business ; and if Senator O’Connor, for his own good reasons, which need not have been expressed, had asked the Senate to consent to an adjournment, I do not think there would have been any objection. I cannot conceive at present that I should have objected. Senator O’Connor has made a mistake in adducing a reason for this adjournment. It is a mistake because, in the first instance, no preparation has been made for the in. tended excursion to the various sites suggested for the federal capital ; no reason-‘ able notice has been given to honorable senators, and no opportunity afforded to them to get away. It ought to have been recognised, as a matter of common sense, that many of us might be unprepared to go at such short notice, even if we wanted to make the trip. That is apart altogether from the’ question of the desirability of the excursion. When Senator O’Connor said that this contemplated trip was a good reason for the proposed adjournment, I think he fell into a still greater error. He went on to say that the question of the site for the federal capital could not be decided upon until honorable senators had visited the various sites suggested.
– I never intended to convey anything of the kind, or to suggest that it was absolutely necessary that honorable senators should visit these sites.
– I accept the explanation. That is the note which I took down at the time, but I will say readily that it is wrong. The honorable and learned senator said at all events that it was th.e duty of honorable senators to go. If it is the duty of honorable senators to avail themselves of ‘this proposed opportunity of visiting the sites, then any honorable senator who fails to go will be neglecting a political duty. That is the position in which Senator O’Connor places us.
– Does the honorable and learned senator think that the Government could choose a time when every one of us could go?
– If the Government had wanted the Senate to go, they could have secured their object much more readily by giving us a fortnight’s notice instead of only twelve hours ? Personally, I only received notice at half-past ten last night. I think the Vice-President of the Executive Council was unfortunate on yet another ground in adducing this reason. When discussing the Electoral Bill we were told by him that it was a most important measure ; that time was important, and that the passing of the Bill itself was urgent. It is singularly unfortunate that, having laid such stress on the urgency of the Bill, the honorable and learned senator should make this proposition immediately afterwards. Senator O’Connor went on to say this morning that time was practically no object, that we gould go away for a fortnight, and make up the loss of time when we caine back, meaning, no doubt, that we should come back refreshed and invigorated by our picnic, and prepared to compensate adequately for the loss of time. I entirely disagree with that view. It will be a very bad thing for the Senate if the leader of the House is to say that we are prepared, at any time, to waste a fortnight, and that we can recover our lost ground very quickly when we re-assemble. That is my chief objection to tins proposal. Speaking purely for myself, I am absolutely indifferent as to whether we adjourn or not. But I am certainly not indifferent on the point that we should adjourn for this specific object, partly because I disagree with that object, on the score of economy. I think it will be an unjustifiable waste of money, to say nothing of the waste of ‘time, and that it can do no possible good in the direction aimed at. For the reason that we are asked to adjourn in order to take part in this picnic, I am going to oppose the motion. I would almost go further and say that every honorable senator ought to resent the motion as placed before us; every honorable senator ought to object at once to what is practically an accusation by the “Vice-President of the Executive Council, that we shall be neglecting our duty if we do not go on this trip. We have been led to understand that unless an honorable senator is prepared to start on Tuesday next he will not be able to participate in all the privileges and joys of this picnic. We ought to resent the view taken by Senator O’Connor, and I say so without any party reason whatever. This is one of the greatnesses that is going to be thrust upon us at short notice. We have a right to demand an opportunity of discussing the question of whether it is desirable that we should take up the time and spend the money proposed to be devoted to this trip while Parliament is sitting. Not only has that opportunity being denied us, but we are, so to speak, being seized forcibly and bundled off with the warning that we will neglect our duty if we do not go. Reference has been made to the Electoral Bill. I shall be no party at any time to the rejection of the Electoral Bill by means of any underhand advantage. I am going to oppose it, but I want to oppose it in the fullest House that we can get. I do not’ want to win by any snatch division, and I. shall decline to take any undue advantage. Therefore, so far as the adjournment is concerned, that consideration does not influence me. Feeling as I do about the matter, I think that my position is unassailable, and that I ought to oppose the motion. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council had only asked the Senate to grant an adjournment without stating any reasons, it is my firm belief that all this trouble would have been avoided. Of course it might not have been, because there may be some honorable senators so impressed with the desirability of pushing on with the Electoral Bill that they would object to any adjournment. If the proposal for an adjournment had been put in that simple way, I should not have objected. I put it to honorable senators that we all owe to the Vice-President of the Executive Council so much respect, that we should defer tohim, and I should be the last to think that he was not conducting his business in a way that he had a perfect right to adopt. Unfortunately, he has spoiled the whole thing by introducing the picnic question. He has given us reasons for the adjournment which, I believe, the majority of the Senate dislike.
– Does the honorable and learned senator believe that honorable senators would agree to an adjournment unless some substantia] reason were given for it?
– -I do. If the VicePresident of the Executive Council moves the adjournment of the Senate, I assume at once that he has a good and sufficient reason for doing so, and I do not want to ask him for it.
– We shall keep the honorable and learned senator to that statement.
– I would remind the honorable senator who interjects that I was in this chamber when the conduct of business was taken out of the hands of the Government. I did not assist those who did so. On the contrary, I opposed them.
– It is the duty of the Opposition to oppose the Government.
– It is not the duty of the Opposition to take charge of the business.
– That is all that . Senator Clemons wants to do. Why does he not say so at once 1
– It is well within the knowledge of every one that the Government’s so-called supporters in the labour corner have taken charge of business.
– Does the honorable and learned senator think that that matter has anything to do with the subject under discussion ?
– Perhaps not. I do not want to proceed any further with it. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that the Electoral Bill is a most important and urgent measure. Immediately after making that statement he has placed himself in such a position that we can only draw one inference, namely, that he has found something else which is more important. When we ask what it is, we are told that it is the proposed picnic. Are we to consider that the question of holding this picnic is of more importance than the consideration of the Electoral Bill 1 My objection to the motion is that Senator O’Connor asks us to say that this intended visit to the suggested sites for the federal capital is of more importance than any of the business before the Chamber. I decline to admit that, and I shall oppose the motion.
– I would prefer to go right on with the , business before us ; but I promised to support the adjournment, and I do so only on the ground that during the adjournment we are to do some public business, and that is to visit the proposed sites for the federal capital. I am not sure that we shall be able to do the work in the time. I am no great lover of travelling, and I am satisfied that those of us who come from Queensland will not find much of a picnic in the proposed tour in New South Wales. At the same time, I think it is necessary that members of the Senate should see the sites for themselves. I do not feel disposed to surrender my judgment to any committee of experts who may report upon certain sites as suitable for the federal capital. I believe that is the conclusion which the Senate came to on the proposal submitted by Senator Neild for the appointment of a Royal commission to consider the sites and report to the Senate. We should see them for ourselves, and we can consider the literature upon the subject afterwards, or at the same time. As it is very probable that we shall have to spend a considerable portion of each year in the federal capital, we ought to inspect the places upon which it is suggested we should found it. If we are to visit the federal sites we ought to know when we are going there. We know that arrangements have been made in another place to enable members of that House to inspect them. We will have a considerable amount of business to transact before we adjourn, and while members of the House of Representatives will probably be able to visit the sites, we may be debarred from doing so owing to the necessity for considering the Tariff. I do not think there can be anythink like a representative gathering of honorable senators for the purpose of this inspection during the recess, because we know that many will be going away to witness the Coronation.
– It is now or never with many.
– There are many who desire during the recess to go to their own States, and unless the trip to the federal sites takes place while Parliament is sitting it is very doubtful whether there will be anything like a representative gathering of honorable senators to inspect them. The Electoral Bill is certainly a most important measure, but it has come upon us so suddenly that I do not think a fortnight’s delay in its consideration by the Senate will do any harm. The speeches which have been delivered upon it can be considered during the next fortnight, and honorable senators will have an opportunity of digesting its provisions. As to the suggestion of our friends in opposition, that we should adjourn for three weeks, I have come to the conclusion that we can expect no help whatever from Senators Symons and Clemons in passing this very important measure.
– The Bill will get constant opposition.
– Open opposition.
– Quite so. I do not suppose any honorable senator is going to adopt any underhand method of showing his opposition. Indeed, he could not do it.
– We shall try to give effect to our views.
– I have no doubt that honorable senators will, in a constitutional way, try to give effect to their views upon the Bill. Without giving a whole-hearted support to the Bill in every detail, I believe it is a measure which must commend itself, in the major portion of its provisions, to a majority of the democracy of Australia. It is necessary that we should pass- the Bill as soon as possible, and this session if we can ; but when honorable senators state that they are going to use every constitutional means to oppose it, and then ask us to vote for an adjournment for three weeks, we should ask ourselves whether it is better to vote for an adjournment for three weeks and do nothing, or to accept the proposal of Senator O’Connor, and inspect the federal capital sites during an adjournment of a fortnight.
– Does not the honorable senator see that three weeks will enable the trip to be taken, and two weeks will not 1
– I am very much afraid that we shall not be able to inspect the whole of the sites mentioned. I believe that if we are to do effective work it will be better for those who are organizing the trip to give us a little more time at about half the number of places suggested. If we cannot succeed later on in seeing the other suggested sites, honorable senators and the people interested in those sites must put up with the disadvantage.
– Does the honorable senator think that one-half of the members of the Senate will go ?
– I believe that a majority of the members of the Senate will endeavour to go. The more I consider the matter the more I am divided between my duty to inspect these sites as far as possible, and my inclination to stop away. I do not think there will be anything agreeable about the tour at all, and especially about the coaching part of it, because any one who has done any coaching must know that it is the least desirable method of travelling. Senator O’Connor, who has charge of the conduct of business, has told us that he intends to push on with the Electoral Bill after the fortnight’s adjournment, and that he is quite willing to propose that we shall sit an additional day in the week in order to do so. On that understanding I think we may very well agree to the Government proposal.
– If I were to consider this matter from the personal point of view, I should oppose any adjournment, because there are private reasons which will render it almost impossible for me to take part in this tour. I look upon it as one of my duties to visit the proposed sites of the federal capital before a choice is made, and I intend to carry out that duty even if I cannot do it during the proposed adjournment. We were told this morning by one honorable senator that there ought to be a little give-and-take between us, and I am going to set aside my personal convenience for the convenience of those who can visit the federal sites during the next fortnight. I should much prefer to go on with the business of the Senate, but I cannot be blind to the fact that we are to have an adjournment, whether we place it on record that it is for the purpose of enabling members of the Senate to visit the capital sites or not.
– Is it fair to those who cannot take part in the proposed inspection?
– I recognise that there cannot possibly be any date fixed for the inspection which will enable all the members of the Senate to inspect the sites together. I have come to the conclusion, from the debate, that we are bound to have an adjournment, better that we should have an adjournment of a fortnight for the express purpose of inspecting the federal capital sites than that we should have an adjournment of three weeks for no purpose at all, or, as Senator Symon has said, because we have no business to do. I have the temerity to differ from Senator Symon on that point, and I say we have important business to go on with - business which, in the minds of many honorable senators, and of many of the electors of the Commonwealth, is of more importance than the Tariff - and that is the Electoral Bill. If this motion is carried, and we have a fortnight’s adjournment, I shall be very pleased to see honorable senators go on with the Electoral Bill when they come back, and make every effort to pass it during the present session.
- In reply- It must be evident, from the debate which has taken place, how much truth there is in the old adage that a man would make a very great mistake who tried to please everybody. I have not tried to please everybody. The only course which any one in my position can take is, after the discussion of a matter with his colleagues, to make up his mind as to what is the best thing to be done, and do it. I cannot regard the business of the House either from the point of view of those who think there is only one thing in the world and that is the Tariff, or of those who think there is only one thing in the world, and that is the Electoral Bill. I have to look at matters all round, and, being responsible for fixing the business, I bring this motion before the House. As to the form of the motion I altogether disagree with the proposition of Senator Clemons, that it would have been right for me to bring this motion forward without any statement of reasons. Parliament has met here to do the business of the country. If there was any universal consensus of opinion amongst honorable senators, that for any reason we should adjourn, it might be worth while to consider whether we ought to proceed with business under the circumstances, but so long as there is any considerable number of members of the Senate who wish to carry on the business of the country, and are willing to carry it on, we have no right to allow the Senate to separate unless for some public business. There are two matters of public business which must be considered in connexion with this motion. The first is the selection of the federal capital site, and the second is the necessity for dealing with the Electoral Bill. It has been stated that, because I am asking for an adjournment, I am therefore denying what I said previously as to the importance of dealing with the Electoral Bill. I am doing nothing of the kind. I say there is abundance of time to deal with the Electoral Bill, and the enemies of the Electoral Bill are not so much those who will oppose it, as in many cases the friends of the measure who may show - as they have done in other instances - an infinite capacity for making long speeches in committee, and proposing small amendments for the sake of improving the Government drafting. If we have not so much of that kind of thing to contend with, we shall get the Bill through quickly. There is no reason why I should not be perfectly frank in the matter, and say that delay may be caused not only by the Opposition, but even by some of our own supporters. We have to go right on with the Electoral Bill, and so far as lies in my power I intend to endeavour to keep honorable senators to it in such a way that I hope by our united efforts we shall be able to get it through very shortly after we come back. That cannot be done unless a certain amount of self-restraint is shown, not only by those opposed to it, but also by the friends of the Bill. And I have no doubt in the world that if we set our minds to it, we shall be able to carry theElectoral Bill through in abundance of time before the Tariff arrives here, as I hope it will, some time early in March. I intend to ask the Senate to give us another sitting day until it is disposed of, and if, with that extra day, and devoting our minds to the single purpose of getting it through, we cannot do so before the Tariff arrives, I shall be very much disappointed. So that in making this motion I am not losing sight of the necessity for passing that Bill. I am not looking at this business with one eye only. I am not supposing that there is only one piece of work to be done, but I am looking at the business which the Commonwealth has to do. What is the other business ? The fixing of the site for the capital is a matter of immense importance to the Commonwealth. It may be that there are honorable senators who think it is of no importance. It may be that some think it is a matter of no importance that honorable senators generally should see the sites. But I venture to say, that the selection of the site is a matter of such urgent importance, that it should be dealt with, and it is the intention of the Government to deal with it early in the coming session. To show the length to which the unreason of some honorable senators, if they happen to sit opposite, may be carried, I should like to quote what was said by Senator Millen, who seemed to imply that there is some blame to be attached ‘to the Government because they have not dealt in some legislative form with the question of the capital during this session.
– I said nothing about a legislative form.
– If the honorable senator will confine his remarks to some form I shall have a complete answer to give him. I think I am appealing to the common sense of every honorable senator when I say that, considering the urgency of all the measures which have been dealt with, it has been impossible for the Government to take any steps in Parliament with regard to the selection of a site for the capital. Let me relate what we have done in regard to the administrative part of the work. We have the advantage of a large body of information, prepared in the most admirable way by Mr. Commissioner Oliver, and that information has relation to the bulk of the sites which it is proposed to visit. I think there is information in regard to all the sites except the Lake George site. A great many of them are dealt with, and some of them are recommended. Now, in regard to the sites on which information had not been obtained previously, my honorable colleague has been gathering information. It is not printed yet ; but if there is no time to print it beforehonorable senators start on Tuesday it will be at hand ready to be used by them, and, if necessary, taken with them. So that persons who are inclined to view this matter in a reasonable way, can find no fault in regard to what we have done.
– If there has not been any unavoidable delay, why did the Government try to blame Mr. See for the delay?
– There are onehundred and one little side aspects of this question which need not be introduced here. I am dealing now with what we have before us. It is said by some honorable senators that there is no necessity to view these sites, and that the viewing of them cannot take the place of the information which must be supplied by experts regarding many matters of local concern. I quite admit that, in regard to any site we deal with, there must be the fullest information as to the capabilities of the country, the water supply, the distance, the means of communication, and one hundred other matters of the kind which can be supplied only in an accurate form, and can be considered only in documents. But I submit that when you have every item of information which you can possibly get, it is not fair to the Senate or to New South Wales to allow a decision to be come to unless honorable senators have had an opportunity of seeing the sites and ascertaining the kind of country that has been spoken of. The final judgment and responsibility is to be with honorable senators, and it would not be right to ask them to come to a conclusion, no matter how strongly the documents and figures speak, without giving them an opportunity to look at the sites. What will be necessary in the examination of the sites ? From what Senator Millen has said, one would assume that it will be necessary to spend days on each site - to go round the site and examine it minutely, to see the character of the soil and the source of water supply, and the nature of the country. That is not necessary ; it cannot help the consideration of the matter. All these things willbe known better from the opinions of experts and from the figures and facts which will be laid in documents before the Senate, and all honorable senators can possibly wish to know, or it is necessary that they should know, is to have some general idea of the appearance and the features of the different localities. They will have abundant opportunities to get all the knowledge in the time at their disposal. Let me now brush away the bogy of coach travelling. There will be some coach travelling to be done, but I can assure Senator Glassey that it will not be a great deal altogether. The bulk of the coaching will be to the Bombala site, but that will all be done by daylight, and the journeys will not be very long. There will have to be a coach journey from Cooma to Dalgety or Buckley’s Crossing, which will be a very easy day’s ride. A coach journey thence to Bombala and a coach journey from Bombala to the coast.
– I do not object to travelling in a coach by day ; but I strongly object to doing so at night.
– Those are the only coach trips, and they will be carried out in the day-time. With regard to the sea trip, it will be open to honorable senators to return to Melbourne by sea, or to go overland to Cooma, and take the train to Sydney. The bugbears which have been raised have no foundation. The trip will be carried out with a reasonable regard for the convenience of honorable senators.
– If the honorable and learned gentleman would only personally conduct it, it would be all right.
– I am sorry I cannot promise that. But the PostmasterGeneral will visit all these places with the party. He is one of those who, unless he takes the trip now, will not be able to see these places at any other time.
– Is it necessary to go to Eden as well as Bombala ?
– It is not necessary for every honorable senator to go the whole of the trip. It is entirely voluntary on his part whether he does or not.
– A goasyouplease.
– Not a goasyouplease. If an honorable senator wishes to go with the party he will have to be with the party at any particular place which he wishes to inspect, but there is no necessity for the honorable senator to go every portion of the trip. For instance, if any honorable senator should prefer to stay in Sydney or elsewhere to going to Armidale, he may take that course. If another honorable senator should prefer to pass certain of the sites, and join the party later on, it is open to him to do so.
– How far is Gostwyck from Armidale?
– It is 15 or16 miles out of Armidale. It has been claimed as one of the advantages of the Bombala site that it will have attached to it the port of Eden, and as that is one of its recommendations it is only right that honorable senators should have the opportunity of seeing it. I now come to the question of why it is that a longer notice has not been given of this project. If honorable senators are to go away to see the sites there will be no opportunity for their paying a visit unless they go now. The intention of the Government at one time was that when the other House had completed the Tariff Bill there should be an adjournment, during which both Houses might get away to see the sites in one body, but as time went on it became increasingly apparent that that project could not be carried out. As it was evident that an adjournment of the discussion on the Tariff Bill would be required by honorable senators to inform themselves as to its details, it was seen that it would be quite impossible to ask the Senate to accompany the expedition. It would be very unfair to make that request, because it would practically deprive a large number of honorable senators of any opportunity to view the sites. It is in the interests of the Senateand its members that this change has been made, which will enable honorable senators to go and see the sites without neglecting any duty which it is necessary for them to stay here to perform. If I thought it was necessary, in order to carry through the Electoral Bill, that this adjournment should not be granted, I should be put in the position of having to take the responsibility of asking the Senate to say which was the more important of its duties. But we are not in that position. As it is, we shall be able to perform both duties, and this is the only way in which we can do both. I ask honorable senators to vote against the amendment, and to carry the motion with the reason for the adjournment stated. When we are adjourning the Senate for so long a period - and adjourning it as we do for the purpose of carrying out a public duty - it is right that that fact should appear on our records. If this is our duty why should we not say so? A number of honorable senators have expressed their adhesion to the proposal for an adjournment, but think that it ought to be for a week longer. There is one unanswerable argument against that, in addition to what I have said. It is that we cannot afford the time. But there is another reason. It will be necessary for the Senate to deal with a Supply Bill before the end of this month. Our last Supply Bill carried us up till the end of January. Any payments having to be made during the current month are made out of money in hand, but unless a Supply Bill is carried this month it will be impossible to pay the various salaries, and meet other expenditure on the first of next month. Therefore, it will be necessary for the Senate to be sitting at all events on the 26th February, the date mentioned in this motion.
– Why not make it the 28th February ?
– That is the last day of the month, and it is necessary to have the money ready so as to be payable in the different banks throughout Australia. It must be remembered that we are not now dealing with a small State, but that we have to make arrangements for paying throughout the Commonwealth. Honorable senators will, I think, see that unless we are to leave the public creditor and the public servants unpaid, it will be necessary to meet earlier than the 28th. This reason, in addition to what has already been said, will satisfy the Senate that we cannot have an adjournment over the 26th inst., the date mentioned in the motion. For these reasons I ask honorable senators to take the view that it is necessary to look at the business of the Commonwealth all round, and to do the best under the circumstances.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by SenatorSir Josiah Symon) proposed -
That the words “ the 26th inst.” be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “March 5th.”
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolved (on motion by Senator Drake) -
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as will prevent the passing of the Public Service Bill through all its remaining stages in one day.
Motion (by Senator Drake) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– This is the last time that I shall have the pleasure of speaking on this very important Bill. Perhaps, if I did my duty to the Commonwealth and those who sent me here, I should again test the feeling of the Senate as to whether clause 5 should stand. It is just as well, however, that a man should understand when he is defeated, and I do not desire to take up the time of the Senate unnecessarily. Before the Bill leaves this Chamber, however, I desire, on behalf of Tasmania, to enter my earnest protest against certain clauses in it. I refer particularly to clauses 21 and 25, the terms of which are altogether too generous. They are unjust to every taxpayer in my State. They are unjust to the Commonwealth. No proper information was put before members of another place to show what the financial result of those clauses would be, and the Estimates, framed with great care by the Treasurer, will now have to be increased to the extent of over £50,000 a year in order that effect may be given to them. I protest also against what is thought by some to be the just principle of the minimum wage. That it should be applied to a division with half-a-dozen subdivisions or grades is most unjust. In some cases it will be found that civil servants who have reached 45 years of age, and are able to show fifteen or twenty years’ service, will receive an increase of only £5, while young ladies and gentlemen who have served three years, and are 21 years of age, will have an increase of from £40 to £50 a year. The remuneration is so largely in excess of that received either in State or private employment that every honorable senator will be besieged by supporters anxious to obtain appointments in our public service for young men and women. I wish to express my bitter disappointment that this, the first Federal Parliament, should have decided to give up its own control of the service, to go back upon the system of responsible government, and to vest the control of the Commonwealth service in an irresponsible commissioner. That is not only humiliating, but unstatesmanlike. We can read between the lines, and it is easy to see that the principle of Public Service Boards or commissioners is being discredited at this very moment. I have in my possession an extract from a Melbourne newspaper, which I should have read when the Bill was before us yesterday had I not been in the chair. The civil service of Victoria is under a Public Service Board, and yet evidence of dissatisfaction is to be seen on every side. Some three years ago it was found necessary to appoint a Reclassification Board to deal with the grievances of the service, and that board heard hundreds of appeals designed to upset decisions of the Public Service Commissioners. The article which I have referred to sets forth that -
The Premier has displayed lack of foresight and firmness in dealing with the persistent efforts of the malcontents of the public service to nullify the labours of the Anomalies Board, and upset the final decision of the Public Service Commissioners in respect to promotions. It is now three years since the Anomalies Board entered upon its work of reclassification. In June, 1899, it issued its first list. It then heard hundreds of appeals, and delivered its final judgment in July, 1900. This was indorsed by Parliament, together with the principles that merit and the performance of higher class work should count in promotions before seniority.
The Public Service Board of Victoria did its work in such a way, and gave rise to so many objections on the part of civil servants, that it was necessary to appoint an Anomalies Board to undo the work of the commissioners. The Anomalies Board, after sitting for three years, issued a report and hundreds of appeals were heard. Finally the matter is to again come before Parliament. Whether Ministers will take up their proper position and decide the matter or allow Parliament to worry it out I do not know, but it is evident that the system which we are now proposing to adopt is a discredited one. The return which the PostmasterGeneral laid upon the table shows that in respect of the Post and Telegraph department alone the Treasurer’s Estimates will have to be increased to the extent of £46,770 per annum in order that the provisions of certain clauses of this Bill may be carried out. The PostmasterGeneral, speaking privately, but not confidentially, has informed me that an additional expenditure of £5,000 a year will be involved in the Customs department. So that practically the Estimates delivered to us some few months ago will be exceeded by £52,000 a year in respect of two departments. I would ask the PostmasterGeneral what course he proposes to adopt, ls he going to allow those Estimates to remain and to ignore the report he has tabled? If he does so, I shall move that the item be postponed. Ministers have a right to let the Commonwealth know what will be the financial result of this Bill ; and, so far as I can, I shall see that the Government bring down Supplementary Estimates before the extra money is spent. Let them bring down an estimate, and show the committee what the Bill is going to cost us. Then we shall have Ministers putting on their thinking caps, and telling us in figures the meaning of the amendment of the Bill which we passed yesterday afternoon. Some believe that that amendment will go a long way to defeat the minimum wage provision, but I am inclined to think it will not do so, because we have embedded in the Bill the provision that an officer with three years service shall be entitled to £110 per annum on reaching the age of 21. I do not know what the judicial decision will be on. that very contradictory and slipshod sentence in the clause, but I charge Ministers to consult the law officers of the Crown and see whether as has been said, they can apply this salary of £110 a year to certain grades and not to others ; whether they can say to a man who has served three years - “ Although you are worthy of £110 a year we have no use for you in the grade to which that salary is attached, and therefore you will have to take £50 or £60 a year,” as the case may be. I conclude by entering once more my emphatic protest against this Bill.
– I do not intend to traverse all the statements made by Senator Dobson, but I assert that there are other honorable senators who are just as strongly in favour of the minimum wage provision as he is averse to it. I am sure that I express the views of a great many honorable senators when I say so. The people of the Commonwealth do not desire that the system of sweating the employes of the Commonwealth shall be continued. They desire that our officers shall receive a legitimate reasonable living wage, as provided for in clauses 21 and 25. I shall certainly be disappointed, and I feel confident, that honorable senators generally will share With me that feeling of disappointment, if any attempt is made, by means of a subterfuge, to deprive the service of the benefits intended to be conferred by those two clauses. I do not use any threat, but should any attempt be made on the part of a Minister or the commissioner, or on. the part of any of those in authority, to decline to pay the salary of £110 a year provided for in those clauses to be paid, I shall most emphatically protest, and do my utmost to see that the benefits intended to be conferred on our civil servants by those provisions are not denied them.
-That is, if they do the work.
– The intention of the Legislature is that the lowest wage paid to a person who has been three years in the service, and has reached the age of 21, shall be £110 per annum.
– If I am spared I shall certainly insist upon the payment of that wage, and the position of the Minister or commissioner, or any other officer who tries to defeat that provision in the Bill, will not be very comfortable.
– It will probably be a matter for the court to decide.
– Both branches of the Legislature constitute the highest tribunal in the land, and will see that their decree is carried out. If any other court interferes, we will take action to protect ourselves, and see that our intention is not defeated. I certainly think that we cannot separate to-day without saying a few words in commendation of the PostmasterGeneral, who has had charge of the Bill. The ability which he has displayed, his tact, judgment, and good temper, and his forbearance at all times, deserve a few words of praise. He has had a very trying time, and occasionally a very disagreeable task ; and I am pleased to have this opportunity to say a few words in favour of the honorable and learned gentleman. The temper, forbearance, decorum, and tact the honorable and learned senator has displayed, during the manytrying months the Bill has been before us, are worthy of all praise. I wish now to direct the honorable and learned senator’s attention to the most important provision in the Bill, and that is clause 5. The success of this measure will largely depend upon making first-class appointments to the positions of commissioner and inspectors. The inspectors ought to know the country well, they ought also to be men of ability, firmness, tact, and judgment. While intellectually ripe they should also be physically ripe, and they ought to be in sympathy particularly with ‘those in the lower gradesof the service. Coming back for a moment to the minimum wage, they must be prepared to see that every officer receives what he is justly entitled to, and what it is the intention of Parliament that he should receive. I further suggest that, in making the appointments, the PostmasterGeneral must not forget that Parliament has already determined that in the future there shall be no distinction between the sexes of employes of the Government, and in the making of these appointments, and particularly the chief appointments, the claims of the women must not be ignored.
– The honorable senator will find that they will be ignored.
– I have nothing to do with these appointments. They will be made by the department for Home Affairs.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral to impress the Minister who will have the duty of making these appointments with the fact that the claims of women should not be overlooked in the appointment of inspectors. Out of the thousand and odd females employed by the Government there are many capable women who are fitted for these positions. I have come in contact with several of them in this State alone, and if there are to be six inspectors appointed at least one or two of them should be women. I take the opportunity of referring to these matters before the Bill leaves this Chamber, and I again emphasize the fact that unquestionably the intention of the Legislature is that the lowest wages paid to a man or woman who has served an apprenticeship of three years, and is 21 years of age, shall be £110 a year. In answer to the remarks of Senator Dobson, I add that that in no way prevents those whose duty it will be to consider the classification and grading of officers paying a higher salary to persons who are entitled to receive it.Senator Dobson told us that a man 45 years of age, and receiving £105 a year, would only receive an additional £5. That is not the intention of the Legislature. The intention is that £110 shall be the lowest salary paid under the conditions to which I have referred, and that persons who are entitled to more shall get it. I repeat that the thanks of the Senate are due to the honorable and learned senator who has had charge of the Bill for hisconduct of the measure through this Chamber. I believe he has never been ruffled during the dreary and protracted discussion we have had upon the Bill.
– The valedictory proceedings connected with this Bill have been most interesting.
– A sort of post-mortem.
– A kind of gilded post-mortem. I am sure honorable senators have listened, as I certainly have, with great satisfaction to the eulogy which my honorable friend, Senator Glassey, has passed upon the Postmaster-General in respect of his management of the Bill, and the extreme good temper he has displayed, notwithstanding all the provocation he has had from a number of honorable senators, acting with Senator Glassey in respect of very debatable and controversial parts of the measure. But the eulogy has been combined with a very extraordinary kind of warning. It was like the sugar-coating’ of the pill administered to the Postmaster-General, that he was not on any account to pay any attention to the proviso we have attached to the minimum wage provision on peril of something terrible. It was not a threat or a menace, but something far worse that was promised the Postmaster-General if he did not apply that clause as it originally stood, notwithstanding the amendment which has since been made in it. I am sure it was not intended by Senator Glassey, but the honorable senator has dealt with the Postmaster-General as the boa-constrictor is supposed to deal with his victim. I hope the Postmaster-General will accept the eulogy and reject the pill. I hope it will .be remembered, and that Senator Glassey will remember, that in spite of his most earnest feeling on the subject the minimum wage has disappeared from the Public Service Bill.
– We will see.
– It has absolutely disappeared. My honorable friend is going to fly in the face of the legislation of this Parliament. He invites the Government to disregard what we have passed up to this stage. He is declaring “We will see,” which conveys, I think, as significant a threat to the unfortunate Government as could possibly be made. Well, we will see, and, though I am not an admirer of the Government in some respects, I believe them to be men who, when put to it, at any rate, will display some pluck and public; spirit. ‘ t hope their pluck and publicspirit will be shown, and that if thismeasure remains as it is they will giveeffect to the wishes of the Legislature and the language of the statute according toits plain terms, and regardless of any menace as to what will happen if they do their duty. As this is a valedictoryoccasion, I may say that I listened with, equal pleasure to the maledictions of Senator Dobson, and I agree withthem rather than with Senator Glsssey’s eulogy. I feel that this Bill, as a whole,., is unworthy of receiving plauditsfrom any members of the Senate. I should be astonished to see any honorablesenator get up and express himself as. thoroughly satisfied with the Bill. It isfull of anomalies, cumbersome, costly, badly drawn, and in many respects unintelligible. It is full of the greatest possiblecomplexity; there is one kind of board heaped upon another, and one kind of: referee -put upon another, until I defy anybody to say who is responsible under theBill, unless in some way or other the recommendations, decisions, and reports of thecommissioner finally get before Parliament.. I believe that after using a multiplicity of language throughout the clauses of themeasure, weshall, in the long run, comeback through a most mischievous and expensivepathway to the position taken up by Senators Playford and Downer and other honorable senators, who have contended that we cannot carry on the public servicewithout Ministerial responsibility. That iswhat will happen, but we shall have a greatdeal of expense and mischievous lobbying and button-holing to go through before wereach that conclusion. In saying goodbye to this Bill now, I say that it goes without the blessing of a singlemember of the Senate, and it will realize in no degree the anticipations which wereformed of the benefits to accrue from it. One of the best testimonies to the truth of that statement is the earnest and forcible speech of Senator Glassey, who practically challenges and dares the Government tocarry out this Bill according to its letter. What is that but a complete denunciation of the measure, and a declaration that thereis going to be put on the statute-book an Actembodying a system, to which many of usobject on other grounds, but to which Senator Glassey objects on the ground that- the letter of the enactment cannot be carried out, because, as he thinks, .it is opposed to the sentiment and intention of Parliament? In saying good-bye to the measure, I am glad to have the opportunity of entering my protest against it also, and declaring my belief that if it gets on to the statute-book, amending legislation will, before long, be introduced which will, perhaps, modify, if not altogether remove, the defects it contains.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 3.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 February 1902, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1902/19020207_senate_1_8/>.