2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I cannot answer the question without consulting my colleagues. I know nothing about these papers.
– There cannot be any objection to laying them upon the table.
– I do not know. If there is no objection, of course I shall lay them upon the table.
– I shall consider the matter with my colleagues, and if there is no objection I shall lay the papers upon the table with pleasure. These are cases I know nothing about.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Under this decision certain officers who had been promoted in South Africa were on their return to Australia permitted to retain the higher rank they had received in South Africa as brevet rank, or as rank in the Commonwealth Military Forces. Such promotion, however, did npt affect their seniority in the regiment or corps of the Commonwealth Military Forces to which they belonged.
On the 30th April, 1902, the Cabinet, on the recommendation of ‘the General Officer .Commanding, decided to substitute the word “ honorary “ for “ brevet “ in their minute of 8th July, 1 901.
The point is that the first of the officers who went to South Africa returned with promotion agreed -to, and they were allowed brevet rank. That placed them over all the other officers who had remained at home, and who possibly could not have gone. So many officers were coming back that that appeared to be very unfair to those who did not go.
– The honorable senator ought not to make a speech in answering a question.
– I am only making an explanation.
– The honorable senator appeared to be arguing the question.
– There is to be no reward for a man who goes to the front as against one who stays at home.
– Yes, he gets honorary reward. However, I do not wish to debate the point.
Perhaps I may be allowed to say that the reason why I do not care to lay the papers upon the table is because, if I did, they would be impounded, and I could not get them returned to the office without an order from the Senate. If my honorable friend, after perusing the papers, should consider that they ought to be printed and circulated, he can move for their production.
– The objection was that thirty-five officers were promoted over his head.
Debate resumed from 27th July (vide page 213), on motion by Senator Playford -
That paper No. VIII., laid upon the table on 26th July, be printed.
– I approve of the action of the Minister of Defence in reading a written statement of the policy of the Government. I do not think that our Standing Orders ought to remain unaltered if they will prevent the reading of a paper of that kind. We know perfectly well that when the Treasurer rises to make a Budget statement in the House of Representatives, it is actually in print before it is delivered, so that honorable members may have an opportunity to study the figures. I, for one, am very glad that the new departure has taken place in the Senate. It has enabled us to read at our leisure what the programme of the Government is to be.
– It is like a creed, or profession of faith.
– And every member of the Cabinet is bound by it now.
– That is an advantage, I think. Before dealing with the policy speech, however, I wish to make a reference to the lateMinistry, of whom I was a, supporter. The primary mistake they made, if they wished to remain in office for a considerable time, was that they did not insist upon Mr. Deakin being an honorary Minister. Had he been so, I believe they would have been in power to-day. All through they practically had a sword of Damocles hanging over their head, and when they saw that it was about to fall they very sensibly faced the position. No one can accuse them of having stuck to office for the sake of office. They behaved, I think, in that matter in a dignified manner.
– They stuck to office as long as Mr. Deakin would stick to them.
– I do not intend to enter into any personalities. The present Ministry, although nominally a protectionist Ministry, have for the time being sunk the fiscal issue, because they are supported by a party who have sunk that issue. There is one feature with regard to the present Ministry that I approve of, and that is that it includes a’ representative of each State. At this stage in the history of the Commonwealth I think that each State should provide a Minister with or without a portfolio. In thelate Ministry, unfortunately, Tasmania was not represented. Ihope that the Senate does not forget the fact that more than once it has laid down that there ought to be at least two Ministers holding portfolios sitting here!. We are a co-ordinate branch of the Parliament. There are seven Ministers holding portfolios. The Senate is practically half the size of the other House, and there ought to be at least two Ministers here holding portfolios. We find that no fewer than thirty-six measures are foreshadowed in the programme of the Government. Like all programmes, it contains, I presume, a certain amount of padding. It is simply impossible that we can expect to deal with all these measures this session. There are several questions, however, in which I take a special interest. With regard to the consolidation of the States debts, I quite approve of certain steps being taken to press this matter forward. In days gone by, when I was one of those who advocated Federation, I thought that there would be a great saving in the annual charge for interest if all the debts of the States were (consolidated. That, perhaps, may still come about. But at that time, it may be remembered that none of the public debts of Australia were trustees’ securities on the London Stock Exchange. Subsequently, to my surprise, all the State loans were made available as trustees’ securities. Of course, the position was then completely altered, as in this respect the Commonwealth would have no advantage over the States. Therefore, the great saving which I then thought might be effected could not be effected to the same extent now ; the saving in interest would not be so great. Until the Braddon clause in ‘the Constitution expires, it is simply folly to suppose that the Federal Government could introduce a general scheme of old-age pensions. We have not the means to do it, unless the respective States authorize us to retain the necessary amount from the Customs collections.
– We can raise the money.
– We can impose direct taxation, but that is supposed to be left to the States in the meantime, so as not to disturb their finances too much.
– Who supposes it ?
– It is generally supposed, and it has been announced by all Ministries.
– The framers of the* Constitution did not contemplate it.
– I am quite with those who think it desirable that if there is to be a scheme ultimately it should be a general scheme for all Australia. In New South Wales, many cases of manifest injustice have been brought under my notice, not from the State point of view, but from the Federal point of view. Persons have lived in various States for, perhaps, thirty or forty years, and now, when old and decrepid, simply because they have not resided continuously for twenty years in New South Wales, they do not get an old-age pension. That is a strong argument, I admit, in favour of establishing a Commonwealth oldage pension. I do not see how. we are going to manage it, unless the States assist us. With reference to preferential trade, on a former occasion I said, and I repeat, that it is simply disguised protection. As an old stamp of free-trader, I must oppose its adoption. I am always willing, however, to bow with as good grace as possible to the will of the majority. With regard to the question of attracting population, if the proposal to be made means the amending and liberalizing, of the Immigration Restriction Act, I am sure that all honorable senators on this side will gladly welcome it. I hope that no false ideas of economy will prevent ample provision being made for the office of High Commissioner, otherwise we shall not be properly represented in London. It has been suggested in New South Wales that possibly at first we might ask the Earl of Jersey to represent us.
– We want an Australian.
– We do not want a foreigner.
– Surely the honorable senator does not call a Britisher a foreigner ! I am glad to say that I am a Britisher, and I do not think that I am a foreigner. If we have a High Commissioner properly installed in London, I hope that in time the respective States will have, as it were, a sub-department conducted by their own representative, so that when persons call they can get information about every part of Australia in one centre, in place of having to travel from one office in London to another. With regard to the sugar bounty, it will be interesting to hear what the Government have to say. We all recognise, I think, that it will be absolutely necessary to continue the bounty, but I hope that after a certain time has elapsed it will be reduced gradually, so as to bring about a state approaching nearer to free-trade. In Queensland, many years ago, as perhaps Senator Higgs will remember, there was a bonus of so much a bale of a prescribed weight paid on every bale of cotton exported. After a time it was gradually reduced to £i a bale per annum until it expired. Apparently), at that time, cotton could not be grown there, except with the aid of a bonus. Of course, I am strongly in favour of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill. I am glad to see that my honorable friend, Mr. Bruce Smith, who was, I understand, opposed to the proposal before, now recognises that it has a reasonable claim to support, since the Western Australian Government are going to reserve from sale the whole of the lands for twenty miles on each side of the route. This will show at all events what sort of country it will traverse. With regard to the Papua Bill, I trust that some reports will be laid before us from the local authorities - that is from the Administrator of the Possession - so that when we act we shall not be without the latest information. My honorable friend Senator Smith is probably the best informed man in the Senate with regard to Papuan questions, and he can speak from personal observation ; but we shall be glad to know what the authorities of the Island think. I am also glad to learn that the Government intend taking over quarantine, and the control of light-houses. To do so is only to carry out the power conferred upon us by the Constitution. With regard to the redistribution of electorates, I can understand, to some extent, the objection of Victoria to the action proposed by the late Government. But I do not see how they can possibly object to action being taken if we have a fresh census so as to give us the latest statistics. I hope that the Government will not hesitate to introduce a measure to provide for taking a census every five years, to alternate with the British Empire census, the last of which was in April, 1901, and the next of which will be in April, 191 1. If we have a Commonwealth census every five years, we shall have statistics that every one will be able to regard as Commonwealth statistics.
– Is not the question of redistribution of seats quite apart from the question of the apportionment of members ?
– I admit that, but at the same time, I quite recognise that there is a good deal of force in the argument of those who see differently from the party with which I act as a rule. There is much in the contention that we ought to have a proper Commonwealth census before action is taken. Then there can be no dissent as to the figures obtained being Commonwealth statistics. At present, lawyers seem to differ as to what are Commonwealth statistics. With regard to the question of defence, I think it would be a very sad day for Australia; if we were to separate from the British Empire. I hope, therefore, that no false ideas of economy will be allowed to prevent our doing what we ought to do, because efficiency is the truest economy. I believe that the members of this Parliament are prepared to be liberal in supporting a thorough treatment of the defence question. There are one or two other matters to which I should like to refer. The first is with regard to the High Court. In the present state of the Commonwealth, when we have not a Federal Capital, the arguments in favour of the High Court being peripatetic are to me insuperable. Each State should from time to time have the High Court sitting in its own territory, so that law may be made cheap for liti gants; whereas, if the High Court is to remain in one State, litigants will probably have to employ extra lawyers and will be put to greater expense.
– The honorable senator supported the Government that wanted such an objectionable practice to be established.
– I was opposed to the late Government in that matter, and have never hesitated to say so. It is not to be supposed that when we support a party or a Government, we are bound to be .in favour of everything that they do. We are not a caucus-bound party. With regard to the recent trouble as to the travelling expenses of the High Court Judges, I looked upon the controversy) as a very undignified one. The whole matter ought to have been settled quietly between the High Court Judges and the Attorney-General representing the Government. A high Queensland legislative authority informed me only within the last few weeks, that in Queensland the travelling allowance to a judge of the Supreme Court is £4 ros. a day, out of which he pays the expenses of his Associate.
– It is too much.
– It may be so; but the Chief Justice, who mas formerly Chief Justice of Queensland, has been accustomed to travelling expenses on that scale, and no doubt he thought that he would not be treated less liberally by the Commonwealth especially as he had given up his right to a pension of ,£1,500 a year on assuming the Chief Justiceship of the Commonwealth. It has to be remembered that a Judge in travelling on duty, has to have a private room in the hotel at which he stays, so that he may a.’void coming” into contact with litigants either on the one side or the other.
– The allowance ought to be “not exceeding” so much.
– I propose to read a resolution passed at a meeting of the Bar in New South Wales relative to this very matter. It was moved by Mr. J. H. Want, K.C., seconded by Mr. A. G. Ralston, and supported by Mr. Pilcher K.C. -
That in the opinion of inz Oar of New South Wales, any alteration of the Judiciary Act tending tj restrict or control the present power of the Judges of the High Court to hold sittings in all the Federal States at such times as they shall consider necessary for the disposal of business would be detrimental to the interests of suitors in the several States, and to the administration of the law in the Commonwealth generally.
Secondly it was moved by Dr. Sly, K.C., seconded by Mr. Gordon, K.C., and supported by Mr. Piddington -
That a copy of the foregoing resolution be forwarded to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, and to the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, and to every member of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives.
Those resolutions were carried, and of course they express the opinions of men who know what they are speaking’ about. It seems to me to be very singular that in a statement such as the Government has placed before us, there is no allusion whatever to the Federal Capital.
– It is settled so far as we in this Parliament are concerned.
– The honorable senator may think so ; but there is a large number of representatives of New South Wales in the other House and of senators in this Chamber who do not think that it is settled.
– How would the honorable senator have it settled except by an Act of Parliament?
– I am referring to there being no allusion to the matter in the statement as to what the Government intend to do during the session. Probably they mean to propose something.
– What canthey do?
– They have mentioned thirty-six Bills, and does the honorable senator mean to say that they could not have found room for an allusion to the Federal Capital question?
– We are waiting on New South Wales; is not that a matter of notoriety ?
– Does not the Minister think that the Government ought to have told us that in their statement?
– We intend to support the previous Government in the action which they took.
– The present Government intend to follow the example of an exalted person, who occasionally says nonpossumus. Could not a friendly lawsuit be arranged between the State of New South Wales and the Federal Government, so as to get a decision from the High Court ?
– On what?
– On the section of the Constitution affecting the Federal Capital ?
– We have no complaint to make.
– The honorable senator is climbing the wrong tree after that possum, I think.
– Evidently section 125 of the Constitution is one that can honestly be read two ways. The proper guardian of the Constitution is the High Court. Cannot we get . the High Court to say exactly what the section means?
– Let Mr. Carruthers get the High Court to say what it means; the Federal Government will stick to the Act passed by this Parliament.
– Why should we question our own action ?
– We are not going to throw any doubts on our own action. It is for the other side to object, to throw doubts and to state their case.
– The Federal Parliament named Dalgety; the State Government seems to be in favour of Lyndhurst for some reason or other.
– The State Parliament has not to choose a site for our Capital.
– It has to choose the territory and leave this Parliament to choose the site in the territory. Section 125 says -
The Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament, and shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth -
You must first acquire it before you say where the Seat of Government is to be. and shall be vested in and belong to the Common- wealth, and if New South Wales be an original State shall be in that State.
I am a thorough Federalist; but I recognise that that section of the Constitution can be read two ways. As the High Court is the arbiter and the protector of the Constitution, it is for that tribunal to say what the section means. We find eminent lawyers like Sir Julian Salomons holding a different opinion from other eminent lawyers, and what is a poor layman like myself to do? Let the High Court decide and let us act accordingly.
– All right; let Mr. Carruthers go to the High Court; we cannot stop him from doing it.
– I was going to suggest that we should endeavour to compromise and to meet the State Parliament half way by choosing Tumut, which is about equi-distant from Melbourne and Sydney, and is not very far from being between the site which they prefer and ours.
In the present Government there is one Minister in favour of Tumut and one in. favour of Dalgety. They are, evidently, not a very happy family.
– The matter is settled”, so far as we are concerned.
– Did we not select a site from amongst those which New South Wales offered to us?
– We did select a site, but we put in the condition that we should have 900 square miles. That surely was a big alteration. I desire to say a word or two in regard to the New Hebrides. There i§ no allusion to ‘ that subject in the Ministerial statement. But British settlers in the New Hebrides are labouring under great disadvantages. To all intents and purposes the New Hebrides are an adjunct to Australia, so far as territory not under our actual control can be. But we are actually offering a premium to British subjects to change their allegiance and become Frenchmen.
– We have no jurisdiction over the New Hebrides.
– We have jurisdiction with regard to Tariff arrangements.
– This Parliament has no power to deal with the New Hebrides in any way.
– Let us go in for preferential trade. That is the way.
– Why is no allusion made to the subject in the Ministerial statement? The Government are afraid of offending supporters. They want Cairns bananas to come in with a preference over New Hebrides bananas. It is a matter of bananas !
– The party opposite is a banana party.
– Yes, it is a banana party. But is it not possible to bring about a settlement for the benefit of British settlers in the New Hebrides? I commend the subject to the leader of the Government. With regard to the present alliance, or coalition, surely the official leaders of the Habour Party, in justice to my honorable friend Mr. Deakin, ought publicly to denounce the abominable way in which certain of their newspapers have alluded to that gentleman. How he can feel comfortable with supporters who do not denounce such language I fail to understand.
– How does the honorable senator know that Mr. Deakin does feel comfortable?
– I am going to quote a few of these extracts with a view to show the sort of thing that is being said about Mr. Deakin in the Labour journals. I shall quote from the Queensland Worker of the 8th July, and from the Adelaide Herald of the same date. It is well known that I have a high regard personally for Mr. Deakin. I look on Mr. Deakin as my friend, though he is a political enemy at present, and I feel grieved to think that a man in his position should be spoken of by anonymous scribes in such an extraordinary manner.
– The honorable senator’s leader in another place referred to the Prime Minister in worse terms.
– I have nothing to do with my leader in this matter. The Government are represented in this House by two Ministers and two private members out of a total membership of thirty-six, and surely we are justified in asking those who support the present Government, to denounce the utterances to which I refer.
– Why does the honorable senator not denounce his own leader ?
– It is utterly wrong to say that Mr. Reid ever denounced the Prime Minister in such gross terms.
– I ask honorable senators to say whether it is fair to refer to the Prime Minister in such gross terms as “The perfidious Deakin,” “A tin-pot Machiavelli,” as “ True to nobody, not even to himself,” as “ The champion Judas of Australia,” and as “ The champion betrayer “ ? The very recital of those epithets is enough to make one indignant; it is simply monstrous that such words should appear in the Queensland Worker and the Adelaide Herald, or any other newspaper.
– We are not responsible for anything which appears in the newspapers.
– But I think’ pressure ought to be brought to bear on Mr. Watson as the leader of the Labour Party to induce him to publicly say that he repudiates those expressions. I have not yet heard any member of the Labour Party denounce either of the newspapers, from which I have quoted the expressions. As a member of the Federal Parliament, I think it is disgraceful that such remarks should be published in reference to any representative of the Government.
– It is unfortunate he should deserve them.
– To whom do those newspapers refer - to Mr. Reid or Mr. Deakin ?
– They refer to the present Prime Minister, for whom, I believe Senator Styles has a very great personal regard.
– Hear, hear !
– Is it not right that a man should defend his friend, even if that friend be on the other side in politics ? In such matters as these, I place my country before party; and I shall be glad to give an independent support to all measures which I believe are for the true welfare of the Commonwealth. Whatever failings or good qualities the present Government may have, I am afraid they cannot at the present time be said to enjoy otium cum dignitate
– Like a number of other honorable senators, I think it is about time this Parliament started to work, and the briefer we make our speeches the better the country will think of us; I shall certainly endeavour to show a good example in that direction. There are, however, one or two matters, and especially one matter, to which I feel it incumbent on me to refer. The leader of the Opposition, in his speech yesterday, referred to the dispute between himself, as Attorney-General in the late Government, and the Judges of the High Court in regard to the matter of expenses. I do not wish to make any suggestion as to the dignity of the Court having been insulted, but there is a phase of the question which is of paramount importance, specially to the smaller States. The late Government, prompted, I suppose, by their AttorneyGeneral, suggested that the members of the Court should sit only in Melbourne, because of the fact that Melbourne is the Seat of Government. That stand was taken by the late Attorney-General on the score of economy ; at any rate, that is what we have been told through the newspapers. But the late Attorney-General showed remarkable inconsistency for a man of his political reputation, when he accepted a suggestion later on that the High Court should also sit in Sydney. If the late AttorneyGeneral objected to what he called a perambulatory High Court, and raised the objection on the score of economy, and also because he had precedents to guide him, it was remarkably inconsistent to permit the Court to hold sessions in one of the capitals outside Melbourne. It appeared to people in some of the other States that the then Government considered that there were only two States in the Federation. I wish that Senator Symon were present, because I should like to know what justification he would be able to show for taking up the attitude he did in this matter. Surely the other States are justified in thinking that the Federation consists of six States, and that the smaller States have equal rights with the larger. If the High Court is to be permitted to sit in the capital of any other State beside that of Victoria, then it should be recognised that all the States have an equal right. It is significant that this position, which was certainly prejudicial to the interests of some of the States, should have arisen during the term of office of the Government, the members of which were practically representative of only two States. That should be a warning to Parliament in future to, as far as possible, take care that each State in the Commonwealth has a voice in the Cabinet. Of the late Government, six out of the eight members were representatives of Victoria and New South Wales. I do not know what stand the representative^ of South Australia and Queensland in the Cabinet took on the question of the High Court, and its places of sitting, but whatever opinion they were likely to hold or express, the other members of the Cabinetwould be able to override them.
– In the present Government there are five members from the two States.
– But there is not one State in the Federation left unrepresented in the Cabinet.
– The honorable senator surely does not hold that every State should be represented in every Government ?
– That is a debatable question.
– But suppose the division of members according to party tics would not permit of each State being represented in the Cabinet?
– What I say is that this is a debatable question to which members of the Federal Parliament should give grave and earnest consideration in the future.
– But suppose that the Federation as a whole were strongly protectionist, but that New South Wales returned all free-traders, in such case New South Wales would have to go absolutely without representation in the Cabinet.
– According, to my view, it would be absolutely unjust that New South Wales should be without suchrepresentation.
– There would be no reason for the one State to be represented if seven better men could be obtained from the remaining States.
– I am supposing, of course, that all other things are equal. Does Senator Mulcahy tell me that it would not have been possible to have each State represented in the late Government? The honorable senator comes from one of the States which was then unrepresented in the Cabinet. Does he tell me that it would not have been possible to obtain from each of the States representatives in the Cabinet who would have formed an equally able and stable Government - a Government which would have lasted quite as long and introduced quite as heavy a programme of work ?
– How many representatives had Victoria and Tasmania in the Watson Government?
– Every State was represented in that Government except Tasmania.
– How many representatives from Victoria were there?
– 1 am speaking of the danger which it appears to me, and always has appeared to me, arises from States being left unrepresented in the Federal Government. It ough”t to be possible to form an able and stable Government, and at the same time give representation to each State, though, I admit, of course, that there might be occasions on which such, an arrangement would not be feasible. Sentor Symon yesterday spoke for about three hours, and it struck a number of honorable senators that he had never been heard to less advantage, apparently because he had a very bad case. I am not here as an apologist for the action of Mr. Deakin, nor do I stand here merely for the purpose of abusing the other ‘side. Australia has now about come to the conclusion that it is time something was done besides this quarrelling between two members or two parties, or three parties, to see which shall retain office. Senator Symon’s speech was .purely an attack on Mr. Deakin. The honorable and learned senator said practically nothing, about the policy which had been submitted by the present Government; he said prac tically nothing as to whether the proposed measures are required or not. His speech was an appeal for the sympathy of this Chamber and the country- for Mr. Reid, because Mr. Deakin treacherously deserted the late Prime Minister. That is the sort of appeal that has been made by several strong supporters of the Reid Government ever since the recent crisis.
– I never was a strong supporter of the Reid Government, and yet I say very much the same thing.
– It seems to me that all the ‘paraphernalia and expense of Federation exist for some other purpose than to settle quarrels between Mr.» Reid and Mr. Deakin ; that is the stand I take. Mr. Reid, Mr. Deakin, and all the members of this Federal Parliament will pass away, but Federation will continue; and the work of the countryought to be proceeded with. Without attempting in any way to apologize for anything which Mr. Deakin may have done to Mr. Reid, or which Mr. Reid may have done to Mr. Deakin, it is about time Parliament showed the country that it can do something in the way of formulating measures ; that it can do something of the work it was elected to perform.
– Has the public no concern in the morality of its representatives ?
– The honorable senator might as well say very little about the morality of the public’s representatives. ‘ If we start a discussion as to the morality involved in the present squabble between Mr. Reid and Mr. Deakin, some of us may be led to go further back, and talk about the morality involved in the engineering schemes of Mr. Reid to bring down Mr. Deakin at the commencement of last session.
– Mv question equally applies.
– I admit that two wrongs do not make a right, but the country did not elect Parliament simply to settle disputes between Mr. Reid and Mr. Deakin. The basis of Senator Symon’s arguments yesterday was that only the question of fiscalism; separated the two parties, and that as soon as that issue was allowed to be buried, Mr. Reid and Mr. Deakin would come together. I .propose to show that there was a good deal more than the question of fiscal ism separating Mr. Reid and Mr. Deakin.
– I thought the honorable senator said he was not concerned with the quarrels between those two gentlemen, and desired that we should get on with our work.
– Senator Millen will have his opportunity to speak later. In reply to Senator Symon’s remarks on that point, I propose to refer the Senate to the report of a deputation which waited on Mr. Reid in Hobart a few months ago. The deputation was introduced by Senator Dobson, and consisted of forty ladies and Senator Mulcahy. I find that Senator Dobson, in introducing the deputation, said -
Some Federal legislation on the statute-book did not redound to their credit, and to remedy the evil the ladies had recommended a repeal of the clause dealing with those subjects. They had made a mistake to drive the lascars out of the stoke-holds.
And so on, and Senator Dobson used all the well-known arguments which we have heard him use here. Mrs. Dobson followed, and she said -
There was a very strong feeling in the State that something ought to be done to repeal some of the clauses that had brought discredit to Australia and misery to many. . . . Any one visiting England could not fail to observe the different tone in the feeling towards Australia. They wished to do away with the forcible deportation of the kanaka, which might possibly result in murder and cannibalism. The present Immigration Act tended to restrict the influx of skilled labour, which was badly needed. The mail service was another matter they felt strongly about, and she hoped that the coloured labour question would be placed as it was previously.
Senator Mulcahy followed, and indorsed all that had been said. I am sorry to have to drag in the names of honorable senators from my own State, but they will understand that I do not refer to them in any offensive way. It was necessary to read these remarks as leading up to the exPrime Minister’s reply, and in order to show that he told the deputation that there were many other things besides the fiscal question which separated the two parties which were then in coalition. He showed that the life of his Ministry was hanging by a thread, because of matters quite apart from fiscalism. In the first part of his speech, in reply to the ladies on the subject of the deportation of the kanakas, the right honorable gentleman deprecated the idea that there was going to be any cannibalism or murder, and, in fact, indorsed the action taken by the Federal Parliament.
– And then he went up to Queensland, and went back on every word of it.
– I was not aware of that, and perhaps on that account I had better read his remarks. He said -
In the mother country they looked upon the White Australia question with wonder, and they looked upon all who sought to bring about a White Australia as persons with a sort of fanaticism beneath contempt. But if those people were within three weeks’ sail of those yellow people, as Australia was, he believed they would hold different views to what they now held. He admitted there was not so much danger from the blacks as from the yellows. But he advised those who were not rubbing shoulders with the Chinese to look at the question from the point of view that others have had to do.
He went on to say -
No one could have a stronger feeling in condemnation of that provision in the Immigration Restriction Act dealing with contract labour than he. It was a great blot on the legislation of Australia. The coloured labour clause in the Postal Act was another great blot. It should be looked upon from a common-sense stand-point. A White Australia, yes ; but he had never got so far as to try and interfere with the oceans of the earth. He thought they really did belong to all mankind. They must allow all fellow British subjects a share of them with us. He heartily sympathized with them in their view of the Postal Act, but there was a practical difficulty in altering them. To begin with, he would have to break up the Ministry.
That has nothing whatever to do with the fiscal question. He said further -
There were some of his colleagues who thought differently to him on that. He could promise them that his influence would always be theirs.
Mr. Reid also said
He would be very sorry to see a friend of theirs defeated by the Labour candidate simply because he was in favour of the coloured clause of the Postal Act. He personally had had no quarrel with the Labour Party, but could speak in the highest terms of respect for them.
He gave the deputation a bit of a snub here, for he said -
With reference to the kanakas, he could not say he coincided with their views. For years past kanakas had been brought to Australia, not for permanent settlement, but under a limited engagement. There was a contract on the part of the people who had brought the kanakas here to send them back again. They should not look at it as quite so bad as they made out. It, was a very striking thing that the ladies of Hobart should view the matter so seriously while the people of Queensland, by an overwhelming majority, were against the continuance of kanakas. . . . He could not pretend to believe that there would be any murdering and man-eating, and could promise that the deportation would be closely watched. That is a sufficient refutation of the arguments used by Senator Symon.
– Why not read Mrs. Dobson’s utterances at the close of Mr. Reid’s speech?
– I might read a number of extracts to show that the exPrime Minister’s friends of the press rated him rather soundly for his wobbling attitude in reply to the different questions.
– And deservedly, too.
– The extracts I have read justify me in saying that there was a great deal dividing the late coalition which was quite apart from the fiscal question. Amongst many matters referred to in the speech submitted by the present Ministry, there is one which I hope will not be lost sight of. I refer to the taking . over of the light-house service by the Commonwealth. It should not occupy a great deal of time to deal with that matter. It is of very great importance, and I think that time should be found for it in this session. An incident occurred in the early part of this year which shows the necessity for the transfer of the light-houses from the States to Federal control. A sailing vessel was wrecked on a dangerous part of the Tasmanian coast,, and for some weeks a survivor from the wreck was wandering alone about the coast. He was, fortunately, able to sustain life by securing some tins of meat which were washed ashore from the wreck. He was compelled to wander about the coast in this way because there, was no light-house near the place, and no means of communication with other parts of the State. Of course, if there were a light-house on this dangerous part of the coast, there would be telephonic or telegraphic means of communication with the nearest centre, which is Hobart. It was supposed that this sailing vessel, being overdue for some months, had been wrecked, and the wreckage was found by some fishermen who were afterwards weatherbound at Port Davey, and for several weeks they were unable to communicate with the authorities anywhere else. A few weeks later, the wreckage of another sailing vessel, which was also overdue, and supposed to be lost, was found. The point I wish to make is that, in. common with many others, I have, for many years, held the opinion that there should be a light-house erected on that dangerous part of the coast of Tasmania. The erection of such a light-house is of importance, not merely in the interests of Tasmanian sea traffic, but of the sea traffic from all parts of Australia. We have contended that if there were a light-house there the light-house keeper would have charge of a telephone station in communication with Hobart, and in the case of vessels putting into Port Davey for shelter, the friends of people on them could be informed where they were. We have always been met in Tasmania with the objection that the consideration of expense prevents anything being done. After the report of the two wrecks tq which I have referred, I communicated with the Federal Government on the subject, and emphasized the necessity for a light-house at this place and telephonic communication between it and Hobart. The authorities in Tasmania were consulted, the question of expense was advanced, and it was stated that the Tasmanian Government were not prepared to incur the expenditure necessary. It is a moot point whether any one State should, in such circumstances, be expected to defray the whole of the expense. It is probable that in this case the Tasmanian Government would be quite prepared to stand their share of the necessary expenditure, but, under the existing state of affairs, the whole of the cost incurred in the construction of these works is debited to one State, though the Government of that State might reasonably contend that the people of the other parts of the Commonwealth are, to some extent, interested. If the light-house service were handed over to Federal control, difficulties of this kind would be met.
– All the other Stater, are in the same position as Tasmania until the service is taken over by the Commonwealth.
– Exactly ; and thai is what prevents the construction of many of these very necessary works, because each State will say, “ It is not only our State which is interested. It affects all the sea traffic, and therefore all Australia is interested.” Although this is a small question from the stand-point of the time required for its consideration here, still it is a very big question from the stand-point of all Australia. It is a pity that it has not yet been taken up by this Parliament. I trust it is one of those non-contentious questions which may be taken up during this session. It is also a pity that the late Government did not make some reference to the question of dealing with trusts. If we can believe all we hear, a machinery combine called the Harvester Trust is operating very injuriously in Australia. I do not know whether anti-combine or antitrust legislation will be effective. But that is another matter, non-contentious to a certain extent, which might be dealt with now, and which the late Government would have been justified in putting on their programme.
– Is it alleged to be an Australian trust?
– No, it is a foreign trust. In spite of the interjections to the contrary from the other side that the Federal Parliament has settled the question of the Federal Capital Site, it is still awaiting settlement. We ought to use all reasonable means to convince New South Wales that we have come to a decision. Another great question, probably the greatest of all those which face Australia, awaiting a more satisfactory settlement than has been arrived at, is the question of defence. If during the very long recess the late Prime Minister, instead of going round the country and raising the bogy of anti-Socialism, so that he might be able to fight with it at the next general election, and stave off the difficulties which he knew might smash up his Ministry-
– Would it not be more pertinent to discuss the present Government and its programme rather than a dead Government ?
– Quite apart from the question whether Mr. Deakin treated Mr. Reid treacherously or not, the justification for the present position, as regards all members of this Parliament, is the fact that this work is waiting to be done, and that the late Government never attempted to do it. On the contrary, the late Prime Minister went round the country, allying himself with parties who were talking about the sanctity of the home and the sacredness of the marriage tie, and trying to fasten that kind of nonsense upon the members of the Labour Party in this Parliament. He talked nothing but anti-Socialism, and, to use a common phrase, he missed the ‘bus. If he had taken up some of those questions which were awaiting solution and settlement, he would have been Prime Minister to-day, because there was in each House a majority who were quite satisfied to see useful, noncontentious legislation proceeded with. He wasted the recess, extending to six months, and instead of gaining the sympathy of the people of Australia, through! their representatives, for the enactment of useful, non. contentious legislation, he shelved big questions awaiting settlement, and raised a bogy for use at the next election. I shall give to each measure of the present Government my earnest consideration, and I trust that I shall be able to give a fair measure of support to them all.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales).There is one feature about the address of Senator O’ Keefe to which! I am constrained to direct attention. He commenced; with a promise of brevity, and I must admit at once that it was redeemed. He then went on to deprecate the introduction of this question of the quarrel between Mr. Deakin and Mr. Reid, and he expressed himself in no uncertain terms as being convinced that we had something better to do than to consider the quarrel - that we ought to proceed to business. From that point until he resumed his seat, a period of twenty minutes, he did nothing but refer to the subject-matter of the quarrel.
– I beg pardon; I referred to other matters.
– Well, the time was correct, because I was watching the clock; and 1 shall leave honorable senators to say whether or not the great bulk of the latter portion of my honorable friend’s address was not in criticism of Mr. Reid. He devoted twenty minutes to the criticism of a man who, as Prime Minister, has gone, and he must have had some object in view. Seeing that he had deprecated the introduction of what he said was the material for the quarrel, what was his object in devoting his attention so exclusively to a Government which has passed away? To me it it quite clear. He was not prepared to say one word in defence of the circumstances which called into existence the present Government. Not a single word has been said in deprecation of the criticisms levelled against this Government by the official organs of his own party, some of which have been referred to by Senator Walker. Not being prepared to do that, he fell back on the very old expedient of “ no case, abuse the other side.” I can sympathize with Honorable senators who occasionally fill the benches on the opposite side. They are here as the possessors of the power, if not the responsibility, of office, but they are not prepared to stand up and ally themselves openly with the Government, either to indorse the means which brought Ministers on to the Treasury bench, or to say that they are prepared to give an unqualified support to them, as they would do if they were members of the Government party.
– “ Good wine needs no bush.”
– If the honorable senator is prepared to say that, what becomes of the quotations from his own official organs? Let him, if he likes, repudiate them.
– I, as a labour member, repudiate the official organs which were quoted this morning as having anything to do with my policy.
– Ah ! There is a qualification again. It is a marvellous thing that the leader of the Labour Party in another place, when he was on his feet yesterday, did not venture to say a single word on a matter which has aroused the attention of all Australia, and that is the circumstances under which this Government came into existence. We have had a debate lasting two days, and yet not a speaker from that side has done anything more than observe a discreet silence on the point. They have my sympathy for the position in which they are placed. A very strong criticism has been directed towards the Government, both by reason of the circumstances surrounding its formation and the position in which it stands bo-day. But no criticism was ever half as strong as that which will be revealed by merely a glance round the chamber. When Mr. Deakin was at Ballarat to make the first of his speeches - and it is necessary to discriminate between the first speech and the second - he said he was there to - rally those in favour of responsible government to restore majority rule and to maintain the priceless heritage of freedom.
– From what newspaper is the honorable senator quoting?
– From the Ballarat Star; and, although I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the report, still I have not the slightest doubt but that it is substantially correct. What do we understand by the term “ responsible government “ but that the Government of the day shall be supported by a majority of members of Parliament? I have not the advantage of a microscope, but when I look round the chamber all I can discover in the shape of a Government party is,; officers - one and a half; rank and file, one. That seems to me to constitute the Ministerial party here.
– We are supporting the Ministry.
– How many are sitting in opposition just at present?
– I am dealing with the state of the benches, not at present, but yesterday, when I admit they were absolutely full. I am referring to the state of the benches as they would be if every honorable senator were present to-day.
– The honorable senator’s figures are wrong, because there were more rank and file sitting behind the Government.
– Is the honorable senator a member of the Government party ?
– I am speaking of the rank and file in the same sense as the honorable senator.
– It appears to be absolutely represented by my genial friend, that stalwart warrior, Senator Styles. I can discover nobody else. This noble army consists of Senator Styles, marching forth under the banner upheld by a Minister and a half.
– The Styles Party.
– Practically it becomes the Styles Party, and I know of no better term from my honorable friend’s point of view than that. Let me quote again from the speech of Mr. Deakin to show how happily he described the position into which he has drifted. He said that the Labour Party were on - the downward path leading to political servitude^ - to a caucus - which he declared had turned representatives into pawns and Ministers into figure-heads.
When we find the party here consisting of two or three, with the whole force of power coming from another party, truly Mr. Deakin must have had upon him the gift of prophesy when he depicted the Ministers’ as figure-heads. But he made one great mistake when he referred to the members of the Labour Party as pawns. It is not they who are the pawns, but the Ministers who are moved across the checkerboard of the Labour Party’s political desires, at the will of those gentlemen whom Mr. Deakin so inaccurately described. The Labour Party is merely the master hand which moves the Ministers. Senator O’Keefe has interjected that these benches were filled with supporters yesterday. Well, they are supporters who owe no allegiance to the Government ; they do not pretend to do so. They are here for the purpose of directing the Government.
– What allegiance did the honorable senator owe to the protectionist half of the late Government?
– To the late Government, as a coalition, I owed every allegiance, and I extended it to them. Will the honorable senator contend for a moment that he owes his first political allegiance to these figure-heads? Moreover, what is the political bond between them?
– Self .preservation, I think.
– Of corse it is, but perhaps the honorable gentleman would have been more correct if he had said “ on the one part the preservation of office, and on the other part the acquisition of some of their political desires.”
– What was the bond of union in the case of the last Government ?
– So far as I was concerned, it was to fight that policy called by some persons Socialism, a term to which the honorable senator probably objects, but which can be accurately described at least as a proposal for substituting State action for individual action. I do not wish to quarrel about terms. I recognise that my honorable friends are advocates of the extension of State effort and State enterprise. I am an opponent of that policy, and that is the reason why I supported the last Ministry. It is conceivable - and many instances will come readily to mind - that it is quite possible to have two absolutely independent organizations while working together for a common end with a bond of union of that kind. But it will invariably be fo-nd that when such a formal alliance as that exists, there is also some measure of mutual regard and esteem between the two sections of what for the time being becomes a united army. But we mav look in vain for any evidence of that kind here. My honorable friend Senator Walker has already given us an indication, with which probably honorable senators were already familiar, of the opinion held by the official organs of the Labour Party as to the action and public morality of the Prime Minister. I do not wish to weary the House with, any further quotations. Indeed, if I were to read all the quotations bearing upon this subject I do not know how far they would extend. It would form a very nice arithmetical problem for any honorable senator who is fond of figures, to find out, if these quotations were marshalled in a procession, how long it would take to pass a given point. I have read nothing else since this Government was formed than criticisms of a similar character. ‘
– The honorable senator’s reading has been very limited.
– I admit that it has been limited to the time at my disposal ; but, like every other man in public life, I feel it to be my duty to read the public prints. I admit that there are certain great men who can dispense with that ob- 1ligation, but I have not been able to do so. Here is a remark which comes from one of the labour journals : -
Did ever before a politician anywhere on earth crowd so much betrayal into so short a period. He has betrayed the Labour Party; he has betrayed the protectionist party ; he has betrayed his constituents ; he has betrayed Reid ; he has betrayed his colleagues (who took office with Reid at his instigation) ; he has betrayed himself, and all within the space of a year.
This is one from the Brisbane Worker -
There can be no alliance or agreement of any kind with Deakin.
They do not even extend to him the courtesy of referring to him as “Mr.” Deakin.
– In England, they never used to call Gladstone “Mr.”
– I can quite understand that ; but I do say that in public life and in public journalism there should be a certain degree of courtesy shown to every man. What is more, we lose nothing by showing courtesy even to our strongest opponents. My honorable friend may think that he stands forth as a bolder democrat by dispensing with the ordinary forms of courtesy that characterize social life, but, if so, I am happy to differ from him.
– I am pleased to differ from the honorable senator.
– Then we agree to differ. It is at least satisfactory that we can find one point on which we can agree i’.i perfect amity. I give these quotations to illustrate my point, that apart from official arrangements there is no shred of regard or respect for the Prime Minister on the part of the party which enables him to retain office. I also want to show that the exalted opinions which’ are expressed of Mr. Deakin are quite mutual on the part of his supporters, concerning the Labour Party. Some of the members of the present Ministry have just as kindly a regard for the members of the Labour Party as i have shown that their official organs entertain towards the head of the Government.
– Mr. Reid has been giving us those quotations ad nauseam for the last month.
– And if the honorable senator remains in the Chamber to listen to the remainder of my remarks he will hear more of them. But it is open to him to get up and apologise to the Government for the attacks made upon them and their leader by the official organs of his party. I wish to make a kindly allusion to the remarks of Sir John Forrest, the present Treasurer, and in doing so I wish to mention a little incident which occurred to me in returning to Australia, as, I am happy to say, I was very glad to do. The vessel on which I travelled touched at Fremantle. Sir John Forrest had been speaking at Perth the night before. The exact nature of the function does not matter, but the papers that morning contained an account of his speech. Amongst those who attended the function- “
– Was there any champagne there?
– It was an absolutely dry function, I believe, and for that reason I attach all the more importance to what Sir John Forrest said. Amongst those who listened to his speech were two English tourists, who had broken their journey at Fremantle. In the course of conversation they alluded to the speech which they had heard. So pleased were they with it, that the next morning they had secured several copies of the Perth newspapers, which they distributed amongst the other passengers. The speech was much read and discussed, and these two British tourists expressed their unbounded satisfaction that at last there had arisen in the public life of Australia one of its leading men who was fearlessly prepared to stand out and expose the methods of the Labour Party, and to condemn its organization. I believe there is only one Sir John Forrest; in fact, I do not think that Australia, in spite of its almost limitless areas, has room for more than one, and therefore I take it that the Sir John Forrest who is Treasurer in the present Ministry is the same man who was trained to that diet which he so bitterly denounced a few months ago. Passing from Sir John Forrest, may I make a slight quotation from a speech by the Vice-President of the Executive Council?
I do this more out of the kind regard which I entertain for my honorable friends opposite, than for any other reason. I wish to warn them against the fate that is in store for them. Mr. Ewing said -
They (the Labour Party) are prepared to destroy even their allies. Alliance with them is like an alliance with an American Indian. He may fight with you, but pretty soon after the battle he will scalp you.
That is a nice illustration of the attitude of some members of the present Ministry towards some members of the Labour Party.
– What is the honorable senator quoting from ?
– From Hansard. As I have said, I read this as a warning to my honorable friend, Senator Playford, who has lived a long and honorable political life, and no doubt has seen many kinds of turmoil and stress. So far my honorable friend has succeeded in keeping his hair on. But from this out he goes forth into the political fray with the knowledge that his temporary allies are lying in wait for him with a scalping knife.
– Oh, no; I have been associated with them before.
– But this is what his own colleague, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, says about them. -He laid stress on the fact that they are like American Indians. Yet they are supporters of the very Ministry of which he is now a member. I say, again, that I bring this forward as a timely warning to my honorable friend, because I do not wish to witness the spectacle of the honorable senator’s Jong and honorable political career being terminated in this barbarous fashion. With all these things on public record, one can quite understand Mr. Deakin falling a. victim to the “tired feeling.” I can quite understand that he requires rather copious doses of that tonic which is said to be good for a man in that state of health. I cannot hope much for him ; all that 1 can do is to predict that a Government which was conceived in intrigue, and brought into existence amidst a universal howl of scorn and indignation, can do nothing but live through a useless career, and pass unregreted to an ignoble grave.
– That is what happened to the last Government.
– No, the last Government was assassinated.
– It blew itself up.
– Now I pass temporarily - and I hope temperately - to refer to one or two matters dealt with in the speech. It would, of course, be absolutely impossible - physically impossible - to attempt to deal with them all. It would be unkind to the Senate to do so. Before, however, I criticise the programme of the Government, I should like to direct attention to a matter which occasioned a little concern to me, as one who, like every public man in Australia, resents unjust criticism being levelled against this country. On approaching- Fremantle on the occasion to which I previously referred, I found posted up in the Peninsular and Oriental vessel on which I was travelling a notice to passengers, which seemed to me to be so extraordinary and such a libel on the Government of this country, that I determined to bring it under tha notice of Parliament and the Government at the first opportunity. The notice read in this way -
Notice. - All tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, spirit, &c., are to be placed in the strong-room the day before arrival at Fremantle. A very strict search is now being made in Australia, and a fine of £100 is imposed should any contraband goods be found not under seal. The smallest quantity of tobacco, or even a single cigar or cigarette, found in the possession of any passenger or member of the crew will be interpreted as an intention to smuggle.
S.S. Oceana. By order.
I want to know whether that notice is in accordance with the regulations issued by the Government, or with instructions given by them ? Because, if that notice was issued in accordance with official instructions, it is time that we knew it. I am quite sure that it is a thing which this Senate would never tolerate.
– Was it officially signed ?
– As I say. it was put up on the ship for the information of passengers.
– Why; did not the honorable senator ask the master of the ship why it was put up?
– I did, as the honorable senator would learn if he waited patiently. I went to the captain of the ship about it, and he told me that it was a notice which he had received from his company, and was in accordance with the regulations of the Commonwealth Government. I declined to believe that. I could not believe that the Commonwealth Government would issue instructions which would compel a passenger on a vessel to band over all his smoking material to be placed in the ship’s store, although he was prepared to pay duty on it, whilst in the meantime he had to buy at an exorbitant rate all the smoking material that he required to consume on board. It was never intended that our law should be interpreted in that way. For my own part, I told the captain of the ship that I absolutely declined to fall in with the notice. I said to him, “ You can tell the Customs officer that I have certain smoking material on board, upon which I am prepared to pay duty ; but I am not going to hand it over to your officers, and to leave myself without anything to smoke, nor do I believe that the Commonwealth authorities require that to be done.”
– And what happened to the honorable senator?
– Nothing happened to me, but several of the passengers referred in sarcastic terms to what they regarded to be the fact that, because it was known that I occupied a certain position in Parliament, I was not interfered with. I -say that that ought not to be. What is more, I say that if that notice was put up bona fide by the Peninsular and Oriental Company, as apparently it was, it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to bring the matter under the company’s notice, and to tell them that our regulations do not require that such a thing should be done. If, on the other hand, our regulations do require it,i I say at once that they are improper, and ought not to be permitted to remain in force.
– Is that one of the companies that is subsidized by Australia?
– No; it is not subsidized by us in any way. All that we require is that people who come within our territorial waters shall contribute to the revenue honestly on all dutiable goods which they consume. And if a passenger, the moment he arrives here, is willing to pay duty on all material in his possession whichhe consumes, and which is dutiable, heought not to be required to hand it over to the ship’s authorities, so that it is beyond his reach while he is within our waters. I say again that I believe that this notice was founded upon some hideous mistake. But it is incidents like thesewhich tend to induce opinions on the part of the outside public as to the offensivenessof Australian methods.
– It is only part of the “stinking fish” policy which finds ap- proval with many of the friends of the honorable senator.
– I am only saying that there certainly exists a feeling of that kind,/ and that these little pin-pricks do give material for misunderstandings concerning Australia. We all recognise that little things of that kind become magnified elsewhere to the detriment of our country.
– What can the Government do?
– If the Government draws the attention of the Peninsular and Oriental Company to the fact that their notice is not a proper representation of the requirements of our regulations, I have no doubt that the company will remedy it. I believe that the notice was put up under a mistake. If the company does not alter it, the Government should publicly make it known that the notice is not in accordance with the regulations.
– The Government would be kept very busy if they had to correct all the mistakes made.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Government ought to allow that notice to go uncorrected? The visitor to Australia assumes that it has been put up under the authority of a Federal Government.
– We have no control over what is posted up on ships.
– Surely the point is clear. Let me put it this way : the notice is either put up in accordance with the regulations, or it is not. At any rate, it purports to be in accordance with the regulations j and if it is not, the responsibility rests with the shipping company.
– What action could be taken ?
– I believe it has been put up by an honest mistake, and that if the Government directed attention to the matter, the company would make an alteration ; at any rate, the Government could at least try. I now pass on to the programme of the Government - that interminable list of thirty-six vaguely stated measures. The measures are airily mentioned, but we may dismiss most of them by reading the first lines of the last paragraph -
It may not be possible to complete this programme.
I think there is not only no probability, but only very slight possibility, of even a reasonable proportion of the measures being passed. I do not propose to follow this programme all through, but there are one or two matters, one, at any rate, which appear to my mind of major importance. I should, however, like to support the remarks addressed to the Chamber by Senator Walker with regard to the ominous omission from the speech of any reference to the Federal Capital. Of course, I can quite understand the honest opposition of Senator Styles, and also the tactics of the Minister of Defence. What I say is that, knowing that, at any rate, in my State the question is viewed with some apprehension, the Government were called upon to make some pronouncement as to the position in which the matter stands, and the course it is intended to follow.
– The question is the subject of communications between the Government and the Premier of New South Wales. The matter is not yet settled.
– The Minister of Defence tells me that the matter is not settled, though a little while ago, in reply to Senator Walker, he said that it was settled. I now begin to understand the wisdom of the Government in having this programme-speech written for the Minister of Defence to read, when I find that in half-an-hour he gives two opposite replies.
– Is that fair?
– I think it is perfectly true, as Hansard will show.
– The question is nor. only as to the site, but as to the quantity of land.
– I am not asking the Government to deal with the details of the question, but I must express my disappointment, because, to my mind, it is ominous that in this carefully prepared speech no reference is made either to the present position of the negotiations, or to the attitude of the Government. I do not wish in any way to offend the personal susceptibilities of honorable senators when I say that I can only regard the delay in this matter as absolutely dangerous to the carrying out of the provisions of the Constitution relating to the Federal Capital.
– Who is responsible for the delay?
– I am not attacking the Government for the position in which this matter stands ; my criticism is that the Government have made no pronouncement on the subject. I pass from that stage Of the question, and now deal with the position as it affects myself, as a representative of New South Wales, with the object of showing why it is important that the earliest possible action that can be taken should be taken. I can only see in the delay a danger of that portion of the Constitution being amended.
– Action can only be taken bv the State of New South Wales.
– What action? The amendment of the Constitution?
– Action in regard to the site.
– I am not dealing with that phase at present. My point is that delay spells danger.
– What course does the honorable senator advocate?
– Who is responsible for the delay;?
– Is that my point? I wish to say at once that I am not supporting the action taken by the Premier of New South Wales. But I wish to point, out, in those calm and moderate tones which sometimes mark my utterances, that delay means danger to New South Wales of losing the Federal Capital altogether.
– Hear, hear.
– One moment. My opinion appears to be supported by Senator Pearce, but disputed by Senator Dobson. The section of the Constitution, which secures the Capital to New South Wales, differs in no respect from any other section, except that there is, perhaps, a moral understanding underlying it. The section, however, is open to be amended whenever a majority of the people and of the States so decide.
– Like every other section.
– That is so. I decline to believe that at the present day, when the men who made this Constitution - the men who made the arrangement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales - are alive, and taking, an active part in public life, any serious attempt to amend the Constitution, so as to remove the Capital from New South Wales, would ever be entertained. The present generation of electors, knowing the arrangement which was made, and knowing that the effect was to bring New South Wales into the Union - having this all clearly before them - would, I think, repudiate any suggestion of taking the Capital from New South Wales.
– Every one agrees that the arrangement ought to be honorably carried out.
– But when the time comes that the men who made the Constitution, and the electors who are familiar with the circumstances under which it was made, and who helped to secure it by voting for it, pass away, as we all must do, and a new generation arises, the latter will have before them only the letter of the Constitution, and will know nothing of any implied or moral understanding; they will see only the Constitution as it is written and approved.
– The Constitution contains the contract.
– That is so.
– And that is sufficient.
– I wish the honorable senator would keep quiet for a moment.
– I must ask Senator Givens not to continue his interruptions.
– When a new generation arises, who know nothing but the letter of the Constitution, they will have the right to say to themselves, “ The Constitution provides that the Capital shall be in New South Wales, but there is a further proviso which gives us the power, if we find any section inconvenient, to alter it.” It appears to me absolutely conceivable that in the course of time - it may be ten years, fifteen years, or twenty years - a strong cry may be raised to amend the Constitution so as to take the Capital from New South Wales into some other part of the Commonwealth. That is quite conceivable, I am justified in thinking, having regard to the remarks of several public men. Senator Dobson is already a warm advocate of amending the Constitution in one direction, though, of course, I acquit that honorable senator at once of any desire to deal unfairly with New South Wales. Then we have Mr. Bent, the Premier of Victoria, at a quite recent date, strongly denouncing the spending of money on such “an absurdity” as a “bush capital,” and advocating an amendment of the Constitution to provide that the Seat of Government shall be alternately ten years in Melbourne and ten- . years in Sydney. If within four and a half years of the foundation of the Commonwealth we find men who occupy high public positions advocating an amendment of the Constitution in one direction-
– And the Labour Party advocating an amendment in another direction.
– In regard to the Federal Capital?
– No; in another direction.
– I am now dealing with the one matter of the Federal Capital. It seems to my mind absolutely conceivable that if within four and a half years of the foundation of the Commonwealth, we have public men advocating an amendment of the Constitution in this particular, in another five or ten years, we shall have a more pronounced effort to take the Capital entirely away from New South Wales. I address these remarks, not so much to this Chamber, as with the hope that they will find an echo in my own State. I cannot help thinking that the action of the Premier of New South Wales, by securing additional delay, is likely to increase the danger to which I have drawn attention. Of course I have no fault to find with Mr. Carruthers in so far as he wishes to safeguard the general interests of his State - that is his duty equally as it is mine. But so far as I understand the attitude taken up by Mr. Carruthers, his first point of controversy with the Federal Government may be thus expressed, “ You have selected the site, whereas we ought to have selected it, the right of veto being yours.” It appears to me to be a matter not worth quarrelling about, whether the Federal Government select a site and the State Government have the right of veto, or whether the State Government select and the Federal Government have the right to veto. In either case the object ought to be to arrive at an agreement. As to which party is to select, or which party is to agree or to refuse to agree, that is quite immaterial to the point. The main thing is to arrive at an agreement. I am not disposed to waste any time over the particular methods by which an agreement could be arrived at. But, so far as I understand Mr. Carruthers’ attitude, what I have indicated is his first ground of quarrel with the Federal Government. The discussion of this matter at present - except in a general way, such as I have adopted - might be, perhaps, out of place, in view of the anticipated publication of the correspondence. When the correspondence is produced, it will probably give us a clear idea as to the position of the negotiations; and then I trust we shall have from the Federal Government a candid pronouncement as to the course of action they propose to follow. I only hope that there will be a determination on the part of the Government to proceed, as far as they possibly can, with the carrying out of the provision of the Constitution, to the redemption of which New South Wales looks with considerable earnestness. I am afraid that I am somewhat trespassing on the time of honorable senators ; but there are one or two measures to which I should alike to allude. First of all, there is the question of the federalization of the debts, a question to which this written speech refers in delightful language. It is therein affirmed that the discussion of this question “ has been advanced a stage by the Hobart Conference.” . Can any man pretend that any advance was then made? That is part and parcel of the very nice language embodied in the speech ; but, to practical men, it means nothing. As to the debts, I, recognise that it is, perhaps, entirely wasting time to make reference to a subject at present so shadowy. But I have three or four very strong objections to any effort being made to federalize the debts at the present time. There was, perhaps, in the early stages of Federation, as Senator Walker pointed out, some strong reason for the federalization of the debts; but that reason has largely passed away. My first objection to the federalization of the debts is this : Since the early days of the discussion of Federation, I have hel’d that it is extremely desirable to absolutely separate Federal from State functions. My contention is that whenever we have overlapping or dove-tailing, friction is set up, which makes for the good of neither the Federation nor the States. We see that friction has arisen from the present financial arrangements. We have “the extremely undesirable position of the Federal Government raising revenue, and the State Government spending it ; and that is demoralizing to both parties. While I admit that the scheme was possibly the best and only one then suggested to enable Federation to be launched, I look forward to the time when we shall terminate the arrangement and bring Federation within its own sphere of action absolutely independent of the States, keeping the latter within their own circles absolutely independent of the
Federation. If we take over the debts we shall, instead of removing those points of contact, add to them. For that reason, until we have altogether re-adjusted our financial basis - until some other scheme, never yet suggested, has been devised - I am absolutely opposed to any proposition for the federalization of the States debts. My next objection is that, in relieving the States from their financial burden, we should open a door to a further reign of internal extravagance. Most of the States are, perhaps, suffering from a too lavish borrowing. But I cannot conceive of any scheme under which we can transfer the States debts to the . Federation, and which would not also represent a temptation to the States to launch out into further borrowing. Another objection - and I say this with some considerable regret - is that I am not prepared to add to the functions of the Commonwealth to any extent until I see that the Commonwealth is discharging its present responsibilities so as to command a larger measure of confidence on the, part of the electors than it commands at the present moment. I pass from that subject to make a brief reference to the question of electoral redistribution. To my mind this represents one of the most serious omissions in the speech. “While the Government insert a paragraph as to the apportionment of members between State and State, there is not a word said as to the redistribution of seats. In my own State, and also, I believe, in Victoria, this is a matter of considerable importance. The basis of the electoral system in New South Wales is not only one <adult one vote, but one vote with equal value. We have in New South Wales to-day such a position that one elector in a constituency may count for almost as much as three electors in another constituency. I say this _ quite apart from the question whether Victoria should lose a member, and New South Wales gain one; there ought to be an immediate attempt to adjust the boundaries, so as to secure political equality. There is not one word about that matter in the written speech. I cannot dissociate the omission from my knowledge of what took place when the Redistribution of Seats Bill was before Parliament, in the hands of a Government composed of much the same members as the Government at present in power. Harsh terms were used, and, I think, justifiably on that occasion.
The seats of certain supporters of the Government were jeopardized under the Redistribution of Seats Bill. That might restrain a Government, but it ought not to restrain a Parliament from carrying out the intent of the Constitution. At the present time it constitutes an absolute injustice to New South Wales that, whilst a certain electorate containing 12,000 electors returns one representative, others containing 30,000 electors have only the same measure of representation. There is a party here, the Labour Party, the members of which contend that it is the one party that has never wavered from its principles. I say that the chief principle, if it has one at all, which it asserts with the greatest political vehemence, is that of political equality. What has been the action of the party in dealing with this matter? Its members have been the strongest supporters of the Government in burking the discussion of the whole question. I ask the present Government whether they intend to effect a redistribution of seats which will bring the electorates throughout the Commonwealth more into conformity with the spirit and intent of the Constitution?
– We must fix the quota first.
– If they do not propose to do that, what they should do is to say that we are entitled to a certain number of members, and to see that they are returned upon an equal political basis.
– I wish to refer now to the last matter to which I shall, on this occasion, direct the attention of the Senate. There is a paragraph in the statement submitted to us which refers to efforts to be made to attract population. I at once admit the overwhelming magnitude of this question. It seems to me that Australia, with its broad acres and its scanty population, stands in a position of considerable danger. But when we speak of attracting population, we must ask ourselves what we have to offer those whom we will invite to our shores. I regret that I should have to say anything which might appear to be in” deprecation of this country. I am aware that there is a class of criticism which, whenever one attempts to show the weakness of our position, even though it be with the object of suggesting a remedy, immediately calls one to task as a person who tries to decry his own country. I have no intention to decry this country. My purpose in endeavouring to point out some of the weak spots in our armour is that they may be strengthened, and that any defect which may exist in any invitation which we may extend to British immigrants may be remedied, so that we may be placed in a position to honestly and fairly ask the surplus population of the old country to come and share with us the responsibilities of this great Commonwealth. I asked just now, what have Ave to offer the people of Great Britain and Ireland? First of all, what is the class of population we desire to attract? Are they ordinary labourers? Certainly not at this stage, because there are unemployed in every State. I say that before we conceive the idea of asking the ordinary labourer of Great Britain to come here, we should’ at least be satisfied that we have so adjusted our own internal affairs as to have found adequate employment for our own people. It is not, then, the ordinary labourer that we desire to invite from the old country. Is it the mechanic? One has only to read the reports of transactions before our Arbitration Courts, and before the Wages Boards, to know that there is no great dearth of mechanics in Australia to-day. I may take it, therefore, that it is not mechanics that we specially wish to cater for. On the other hand, there seems to be, and in this I agree, a general recognition of the fact that the class we particularly desire to attract to our shores is the farming class - agriculturalists with some small capital. I have now to ask myself what we can offer men of that s’tamp. I may state, perhaps, without being guilty of any egotism, that I claim some knowledge of land settlement and land matters, not only in my own State, but also in Queensland. I wish, then, to consider what we really have to offer this class of men. First of all, Victoria and Tasmania have practically parted with their Crown lands. They have certain odd bits, I admit, but for the purpose of this discussion, and without going into detail, it may be said that Tasmania and Victoria have parted with their Crown lands. When I come to speak of New South Wales, I find that that State has a very considerable area of Crown lands, but there are two great disabilities under which that State labours in attracting additional capital. First of all, our laws, instead of being attractive, are repellent to any man who comes to New South Wales with capital. We not only do nothing in the way of inviting such men, but I venture to say that no more effective set of laws could be devised to repel men who come there with money than those which disgrace the land legislation of New South Wales. So far as the area of land is concerned, we have a considerable quantity of Crown lands. What is the particular class of settler likely to come from Great Britain? I say without hesitation that it is a class of men who are more familiar with agriculture than with grazing, as carried on under Australian conditions - men more familiar with the plough than with the stockwhip. That being so, we are forced to recognise that, so far as the Crown lands of New South Wales are concerned, the area of agricultural land we have to offer is extremely limited. The extent of it is perhaps a matter for conjecture, but we do know that there is a considerable area in our central division which is at one time, under the influence of good seasons, regarded as farming land, but with the next recurrence of drought, the line which bounds it recedes east, and the area suitable for agriculture considerably diminishes. Just where the line should be placed is a matter which only experience can determine, but for practical purposes we may with considerable safety adopt the line laid down by Mr. Coghlan, the statistician. That line’ is indicated with regard to two sets of facts, one having reference to theoretical conditions, principally the rainfall, and largely determined by the successful growth of wheat, and the other to the actual results of experiments by farmers on the land. It is somewhat curious that these theoretical and practical considerations indicate to a very great extent the same lines. It is only when we get down to the south-west of the State that the two lines diverge. But taking them as practically one and the same, there is a sufficient indication as to the limit within which agriculture may be safely attempted. I am still forced to recognise that the area of Crown lands suitable for wheat-growing in New South Wales is extremely limited,, and whatever its area, it is not more than sufficient to meet the demands of applicants who are presenting themselves for it in that State. We have ballots there for land, and we have had instances of ballots in which as many as 200, 300, and ‘ even agreater number of applicants have appliedfor the same block. Fancy asking an
English farmer to come out here and take his chance in a ballot of that kind ! It would be a repetition of Tattersall’s sweeps, but with this difference, that I am given to understand by some friends of mine, who know, that you can go into Tattersall’s sweep for a very modest amount. What would be the position of an English farmer coming out here with a wife and family and ^500? I venture to say that he would spend a fourth or one-half of his capital before he would be able to secure a block of land.
– He could go to Mr. Willis and give him the ,£500.
– Perhaps Senator Dobson could furnish intending applicants for land with Mr. Willis’ present address. Can we honestly or fairly ask English farmers to come out to New South Wales and represent to them that we have lands to offer them when the conditions are such as I have pointed out?
– Certainly not;
– I should like to say with regard to the larger area of our Crown lands in New South Wales, outside the wheat line, that I think it would be positive cruelty, and injustice to tempt English, Scotch, or Irish farmers, with an absolute ignorance of Australian conditions, to settle on land subject to all the vicissitudes which mark Australian settlement in the semi-arid districts. I regard it as a criminal wrong to have induced numbers of our own people, though familiar with our methods, to settle in many of these districts. Failure has fallen upon them after years of fruitless labour, and after thev have subjected their children to the life’s handicap of being dissociated from schools and church and the other social institutions which go to mould the moral character of good citizens. 1 say that it would be doubly wrong to persuade European farmers without a knowledge of the conditions to attempt to do “that which our own people with a full knowledge of the conditions have not succeeded in doing. I pass from New South Wales to South Australia, and I must admit that I am inclined to regard that State as somewhat of an unsolved problem from an’ agricultural standpoint. The farmers of that State have done what to a New South Welshman appear to be wonders under natural conditions which are not too kind ; but whether or not there is a great extent of agricultural land there which could be offered to immigrants I do not know. It appears to me,; judging by the average wheat yields of the country, that the great bulk of the better lands have already been parted with, and the area of wheat lands on which we might reasonably ask European farmers to settle is, as in my own State, not only limited, but gradually becoming less.
– Hear, hear.
– I must consider Western Australia as somewhat of an unknown quantity. Western Australians, speaking with the enthusiasm which naturally accompanies a regard for one’s own State, represent the agricultural areas there as being very much more extensive than many people in Australia are led to believe.
– Misled to believe.
– I put it as fairly as I can when I say that, if we are to believe Western Australians, the area of agricultural lands in their State is largely in excess of what in other parts of the Commonwealth it is generally supposed to be. But whether the area be big or small, it appears to me that, for some time at any rate, the eastern portion of Australia is likely to prove more attractive to immigrants than is Western Australia, if it were only for the one fact that it offers a bigger local market. I am dealing quite tentatively with Western Australia, because, even to Australians themselves,: it is largely an unknown country. But there is one State to which I can turn, and of which I can speak in more hopeful terms than I have been able to do so far, and that is the great northern State of Queensland. I have long held the view, formed from a considerable knowledge of the agricultural and pastoral portions of that State, that it is the one State that is going to be the great rival - a friendly one, I hope - of New South Wales in the matters of population and material wealth. Its area of pastoral country is far more extensive than that of New South Wales - I mean of equal quality. Its agricultural land is considerable, although its limits have not yet been accurately defined. Its mineral resources are yet almost unsuspected. In addition to all that, there are the possibilities due to its possession of a large tropical and subtropical region. In addition to possessing these attractive areas of land, Queensland has done this : Whether her Governments have attempted to avoid the mistakes of the mother State or not, they have at least made a business-like effort in their land laws to deal with their Crown lands in an attractive and business-like fashion, and to deal with intending settlers and applicants for land in a way that is absolutely free from the harassing conditions and restrictions which mar the land laws of New South Wales. They are to-day offering lands in as near an approach to a business-like way as it is possible perhaps for a Government to deal commercially with anybody. At this stage, I do not intend to go into the details which mark the difference in this regard between the laws of Queensland and those of New South Wales. I lay it down generally that the Government of Queensland are endeavouring to do everything which it is possible to do to treat intending settlers in a reasonable and business-like way. There is, for that reason, possibly some hope with regard to Queensland. But, still, having taken a general view of the several States, I am forced back to this conclusion, that viewing Australia as a whole - and in this matter State boundaries can . altogether be eliminated from our consideration - we have to remember that every additional settler to a State is an additional settler to Australia, For that reason, I have spoken perhaps with greater freedom than I intended about the difficulties of land legislation in my State. But having passed the matter under general review, I am forced to the conclusion that, so far as our Crown lands are concerned, we cannot hope to compete with our rivals in the attractiveness of the offers which we can extend to the people of the mother country. I turn then to our private lands, and this seems to me to be the key to the whole position. /The best portion of the agricultural land1 in Victoria and Tasmania is necessarily in private hands. And, with regard to New South Wales, it may be said that the best portion of her agricultural and dairying land is also in private hands. To some extent that applies to Queensland, and also, I have reason to think, to South Australia and Western Australia. So far as the Eastern States are concerned, it is recognised that Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales have had to pass Bills for the resumption of private estates, for the purpose of being subdivided into smaller holdings. It is inconceivable that such legislation would have been adopted unless private estates did contain better agricultural land than the Crown was already in possession of. We start then from that stand-point.
– Not better, but more easily accessible land.
– Of course, in the term “better” I include the position of the land, and its access to market and railway. The land is better, from the standpoint of small settlement. Can a scheme be devised which will make these privatelyowned lands available to intending immigrants upon terms sufficiently attractive to induce them to come, and which, at the same time, will be free from the danger of a great financial catastrophe? That, to my mind, is the key to the whole position. I recognise, at once, that there are two ways in which the State could acquire possession of private lands. One of them would be by their resumption in accordance with the present accepted principle of both public and commercial morality - by paying for them a fair market value. There is another way which has many advocates in .this country, and that is by levying a land tax so high as to virtually insure the transfer of the ownership to the State. I believe that the word used by its advocates to express that operation is “restitution.” 1 prefer to call it confiscation. At the present time, I decline to believe that the public conscience of Australia will indorse a proposal of that kind, whether it is called restitution or confiscation. We are then limited to the simple and honest expedient of purchasing these estates.
– Does the honorable senator mean compulsory or voluntary purchase ?
– That is a mere detail.
– But it is an important one.
– I do not wish to go into details, but to indicate the direction in which I think we must look for relief, if we desire to attract additional settlers. My strong opinion is that the public sentiment of Australia would only sanction an operation of this kind if carried out in the fair and honest way of paying for the land which it sought to resume. The mere suggestion of such a proposal opens up at once a financial operation of such magnitude that one may reasonably shrink from facing it. Speaking from a twenty, years’ knowledge of settlement in New South Wales, my firm conviction is that until that position is faced, and the surrounding difficulties are overcome, it will be idle for us to talk about attracting from the old country the class whom we desire to see here, and who will contribute all the elements of strength to our permanent prosperity.
– Would the honorable senator propose that the State should only purchase the land as applications were made ?
– The honorable and learned senator asks me to disclose at once a complete scheme.
– It will be a big financial transaction.
– It will be a big financial transaction in whatever way it is approached, whether in detail or in globo. I do not wish to enter into details now, because I assume that, sooner or later, the Government will submit some proposal, when I shall take an opportunity of discussing details which I may say, at once, I have thought out, either correctly or incorrectly, but which it did not appear desirable to mention to-day.
– Unless it was a big financial scheme it would be of no service.
– Exactly. There is one other question on which Australia must make up its mind before it can honestly ask a farming class with money to come here. In our midst we have a very strong section - how strong I do not know, but dominant in politics, whatever it may be in the electorates - who are contending for land nationalization, and demanding that there shall be imposed a very considerable measure of direct taxation. Before we can honestly ask English, Scotch, and Irish farmers to come out here and purchase land we ought at least to make up our minds as to our object in bringing them here, as to whether, if they come here, they will be faced immediately by a system of taxation, the effect and purpose of which will be to take from them the land which they have just purchased, and transfer it to the State.
– Does the honorable senator contend that it is the farmer who pays land value taxation ?
– Does the honorable senator mean the tenant farmer as against the landlord?
– I am speaking of the low value of farm lands as compared with the high value of city lands.
– I am dealing entirely with the question of farm lands, and I take it that the Labour Party, who advocate land nationalization, would necessarily take, not a particular set of lands, but all lands.
– Only a portion of the Labour Party advocate it.
– I do not know how much reliance is to be placed on their platform, but it contains that plank, of which I mav say they need not be ashamed. I am not finding fault with it now. If we are going to adopt a system of land nationalization, let us in all honesty tell the persons whom we invite to come here that if they purchase land from us to-day, they will do so at the risk that we shall take it from them to-morrow.
– What is the use of bringing them here until we have a land tax?
– That is another point in which there is some force. It makes still more clear the point I wish to emphasize, that in dealing with persons whom we ask to come out here and share with us the responsibilities, as well as the advantages, of the country, we ought to make our policy plain. But to merely ask them to come here and purchase land today, with the strong probability that within a short period this dominant party will seek to give effect to its own programme, and by means of a land tax try to return to the State the value which those persons have’ been induced to pay for the land-
– Oh, no. Land nationalization would not allow the purchase of land at all.
– Before we can ask persons to face the uncertainty of sharing with us the responsibilities of this country it is only reasonable that we should be able to give an inquirer a satisfactory answer to this question, “ If I do come to your country, and purchase a farm, what is the prospect of my being allowed to retain it?”
– Does not the honorable senator think that the first consideration is to give him an answer to this question, “What chance have I of acquiring a farm if I come?”
– Had the honorable senator been in his place he would know that I dealt with that question rather exhaustively, and I am sure that he will not expect me to repeat my observations for his individual benefit.
– I beg pardon.
– These are problems which naturally present themselves to the minds of the farmers in England, Scotland, and Ireland whom we desire to see here. If a farmer is too stupid to think of them and consider them, he is hardly the class of man whom we want. The keen, enterprising man whom we desire to welcome is the one who will think of all these questions. It behoves us, if we wish to attract him, to arrive at some decision, to do something which will give (him a reasonable guarantee on these points - first, that we can meet his requirements for land; and, secondly, that when he has obtained land he may be allowed to possess it, of course, not free from his share of the burdens of government, as he is entitled to bear them.
– Can he possess land in the old country in that way ?
– We are supposed to be offering him something better.
– Far better for a man to have the State as his landlord than a private owner.
– It is not long after the honorable senator returns to the chamber that he begins to interject. The two points we have to make clear before we can hope for any considerable accession of farming strength is, first, whether we can make our lands available to persons in a form sufficiently attractive to induce them to come, and, secondly, whether or not they can have a reasonable guarantee that restitution or confiscation is not immediately going to overtake their venture. That completes mv observations to the Senate. I certainly had no idea that I should be drawn into a speech of this length, but fortunately I am justified by the courteous hearing I have received in dealing with the question even at this length. I have merely indicated difficulties - and I admit that they are great - which will tax the brains of any Government, but I still think and hope that they can be overcome. In regard to anything which the Government can suggest they will find that on that measure of their programme, at .any rate, I shall not be their weakest supporter. It is the one plank in their programme from which
I venture to hope that some result will accrue, and if any practical knowledge I possess as to where the land laws of my State are deterrent, rather than attractive, is likely to be of any service, it will be gladly imparted to them.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia).T had not intended to speak in this debate, but the remarks of Senator Millen compel me to state at some length the policy of the Labour Party regarding the question of land taxation, as we believe it will affect the question of immigration. I do not think that the honorable senator is altogether fair to us.
– I do not think that the honorable senator is fair, seeing that he did not hear my early remarks.
– I am replying to the remarks which I did hear.
– Is that a fair way to treat my speech ?
– I do not think that the honorable senator is fair to us in saying that we of all parties will be likely to place upon the working farmers, who might come to Australia, burdens which would be either intolerable or hard. I am sure that in the past the farmers of each State have had no better friends than the Labour Party. Who but the Labour Party has continuallybattled for the institution of an export department by the State to take the farmers out of the hands of the middle-men ? Who but the Labour Party came to “the rescue of the farmers in South Australia, and placed that plank on their platform long before it was taken up by other local politicians? Who but the Labour Party in that State first moved in the matter of providing an export department for produce, cold storage, and methods of releasing farmers from the iniquity and the sweating of the middlemen? That has been the case in every State. What is the use, then, of talking about immigration to Australia and1 settling people on the soil, when the most fertile land in each State have passed into the hands of private owners? The problem we have to face is that most of the States have parted with the Crown lands which are fertile and easily accessible, and parted with them, unfortunately, not to farmers, but to large land-holders, who now, in many cases, use them for sheep-walks. Let any one go into the Western District of this State, and he will find private estates of 75,000 acres. They are not individual estates ; but you can ride’ in the train hour ‘after hour through the Western District of Victoria, and pass through rich black volcanic soil, upon which you will not find settlers, although the land is fine potato-growing land, and is amongst the richest dairying land in Australia. You find estates consisting of 40,000 or 50,000 acres, and very often the owner is an absentee. In fact, nearly all are absentees in some part of the year when they visit England and the Continent of Europe. Senator Millen did not tell us how he proposed to settle this land.
– Yes, I did.
– I understood that the honorable senator said that the only possible methods were purchase or confiscation. We have another method. We do not propose to purchase these lands, neither do we propose to confiscate them. But we propose to impose such taxation as will compel the present owners to use them or let other people use them. That is neither confiscation nor purchase. There are manifest objections to the purchase system, and they are already showing themselves in the State of Victoria. One manifest and serious objection is that, as soon as the Government comes into the market desiring to buy land, the price of all country lands rises ; and, as you settle a purchased estate, the Government, by its own action, gives a value to all the land in the vicinity. The more land the Government re-purchases, the more difficult it becomes to re-purchase, and the higher the capital cost which has to be laid upon the settlers, and upon which they have to pay interest. Consequently the more vigorously a State Government pursues a repurchasing scheme, the heavier is the load placed upon the tenant farmers, or other purchasers. The Labour Party recognises that this question of opening the lands of Australia is one with which the Parliaments of Australia .have to grapple. We also recognise that the States Parliaments have failed to grapple with it. To-day land monopoly is rampant in every State of the Commonwealth. We recognise that if the question of immigration is to be dealt with, it must be by this Parliament, in connexion with a system of Federal land taxation. We hear much talk about immigration, much criticism of our immigration laws and much about the necessity of settling a sturdy yeomanry on the soil. Where are you going to put your sturdy yeomanry? Are you going to put them in the Western District of Victoria, where they can live and produce, and be within easy access of ports? Are you going to put them in the Peel River district, in New South Wales, where they have close settlement with all its advantages? Are you going to put them in the Darling Downs, of Queensland, where you can have similar settlement? Are you going to put them on the Adelaide plains, within easy reach of markets’? Are you going to put them in the western parts of Western Australia? Or are you going to send them into the Victorian mallee, or into the drought-stricken western portion of New South Wales, or hundreds of miles into the interior of Western Australia or Queensland ?
– There is plenty of room in1 Queensland on the coast.
– And there are plenty of owners, too, I suppose.
– Then, Queensland is fortunate in that respect.
– The Adelaide plains contain many small holdings now.
– They are few and far between, I think. We must precede a system of immigration with a system of land settlement, and we can only do that by a scheme of land taxation.
– We have land taxation in South Australia.
– There is an infinitesimal land tax, which brings in about £70,000 or £80,000 per annum. At any rate, it is insufficient to accomplish the object which the party to which I belong has in view.
– What does the honorable senator consider would be a fair land tax?
– A land tax should not be less than one penny in the £1 on the unimproved value, and if that is not sufficient the amount should be raised.
– We have a tax of id. in the £1 in New South Wales.
– It is proposed to abolish the land tax in New South Wales, so far as concerns State purposes, and to utilize it for municipal purposes.
– We have had it for’ nine years.
– I dare say that it has done some good, though the rate is not high enough.
– Some large landowners are cutting up their estates now.
– And some of them are a curse to the country in the method they are adopting. Where at present we have one big squatter with 10,000 acres, we ought to have 400 or 500 settlers. We have in the Western District of Victoria a few men who have realized their responsibilities to the country, and who have voluntarily cut up land into small blocks. Where that has been done, they have tenant farmers making a living on 40 or 50 acres of land. The squatters give them a yearly tenancy. Every year the tenant farmer has to go to the landlord cap in hand for another year’s grace, and the more improvements he makes the more the landlord increases the rent. These people who complain so bitterly about land taxation do not scruple to charge their tenants j£i, £2> 0r £3 Per acre Per annum for rental ; but they consider that it is iniquitous when they are asked to pay a tax of 2d. in the J. I to the State. That is quite another thing. When they make a tenant pay £3 per acre in rent, they give him only a yearly tenancy, surrounded by all sorts of conditions, such as the obligation of depasturing the stock of the landlord, and the right of the landlord to enter upon the place at any time. It is all very well to talk of a sturdy yeomanry, but there is a problem which has to be grappled with before we can have such settlers. Another problem that confronts us is that affecting northern Australia. We are strongly opposed to the introduction of coloured races into northern Australia, but that policy carries with it a responsibility. If we are to hold those northern lands, we must people them -with a white race. This Parliament must, sooner or later, consider what is to be done with the Northern Territory, and how we are going to people it. Very shortly, it will he the duty of this Parliament to intimate to South Australia that we are prepared to take upon our shoulders the management of the Territory, to take it over with the burden which has been placed upon it by the expenditure incidental to the policy that has been carried out in it. We must then show that we are not only capable of passing laws to exclude coloured races, but of inducing a white race to settle there.
– The South Australian Government is not prepared lo hand over the Northern Territory.
– I am inclined to think that the present South Australian Government more truly represents the views of that State than the late Jenkins Go vernment did. We have yet to learn that the present Government will not give this Parliament an opportunity to deal with that portion of Australia. It is not only a problem, but a responsibility, which faces us. It is not sufficient for us to exclude coloured races from these lands. We have to bring in the white race. We recognise that in connexion with that question, we must have an immigration policy. Whether there is to be immigration from the southern States - a natural filtration of people to the north - or whether we are to have a policy encouraging immigrants from European countries, is a question upon which I cannot decide. But I am decided upon this : that it is imperative, in view of the developments in Asiatic countries - it is a stern necessity - that this land should be peopled by a white race if only in the interests of the defence of Australia. I think honorable senators will recognise that the Labour Party is not without ideas, and a policy on the question of land settlement. But we are not centent with platitudes. We recognise that there are difficulties, and we are prepared to grapple with’ them in a way that will inflict injustice on no man - neither on the present owners of the land nor on those who are to come here - by taking such measures as will compel those who now own these rich and fertile lands, either to. realize their responsibilities to the country and to use their lands to the fullest advantage, or to make way for those who will do so.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I am now prepared to give my ruling on the point of order raised on Wednesday with regard to the motion submitted by the Minister of Defence, for the resumption of the proceedings on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill, at the stage they had reached when interrupted by the prorogation.
– I should like to say a few words before the ruling is given.
– The debate was closed.
– I think Senator McGregor moved the adjournment of the debate.
– Yes, but the adjournment of the debate is one thing, and the point of order is another. I take it that the discussion on the point of order was closed. I am asked to rule whether the consideration of “ A Bill to Authorize the Survey of Route for a Railway to connect Kalgoorlie, in the State of Western Australia, with Port Augusta, in the State of South Australia,” which was interrupted by the prorogation of Parliament last session, can be resumed under the provisions of standing order No. 234. The point taken is that section 56 of the Constitution prohibits the passing, of any n proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys, unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been transmitted by message of the GovernorGeneral to the House in which the proposal originated.” There is a great difference between “ a proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys “ and a proposed law which incidentally appropriates revenue or moneys. This is a proposed law for the survey of a railway, and it incidentally appropriates revenue or moneys for the purpose of such survey. I will not, however, rely on the distinction in this case, but will assume that this Bill is a proposed law for the appropriation of revenue. This proposal to appropriate revenue originated in the House of Representatives last session. A message from the Governor- General, recommending the purpose of the appropriation, was last session transmitted to the House of Representatives, and that House finally passed the Bill. The answer to the question depends on the meaning of the word “passed,” in section 56 of the Constitution. Does it mean finally passed by both Houses, or passed by the House in which the proposal originated, and to which the message is sent? I think the latter interpretation is the correct one ; the word “ passed “ is there used in relation to “a vote, resolution, or proposed law,” and it is evident that so far as votes or resolutions are concerned, the word “passed” must refer to the House in which the proposal originated. The word “passed” must also have the same meaning; in reference to “proposed laws,” otherwise a proposed law appropriating revenue or moneys might finally pass the House of Representatives without any message, the message being sent at any time before the proposed law passed both Houses. Besides, it is clear that the word “passed” cannot have one meaning in reference to votes or resolutions, and another meaning in reference to proposed laws. The real object of the section is to give the Executive power to prevent the House of Representatives from passing votes, resolutions, or proposed laws expending moneys without the consent of the Executive; and such object would be frustrated were any other interpretation put on the word “passed.” If the Senate pass the Bill, the position will be that the House of Representatives has passed a Bill in one session, and that in the next session the Senate has passed the same Bill. The Bill, if passed by the Senate, will be sent to the House of Representatives. What action that House will take I do not know ; they have no Standing Orders to provide what shall be done. In fact, the Standing Orders of both Houses in reference to lapsed Bills are manifestly meagre and insufficient. Standing Order 234 provides that any Bill, the proceedings on which have been interrupted by the prorogation of Parliament, may, during the next session, be passed and dealt with as if no prorogation had taken place. The words of the standing order are general. It says “ any Bill/’ and I can find no warrant for holding that a certain class of Bills does not come under its provisions, provided that the provisions of the Constitution have been complied with. All I have to decide is, can the motion proposed by Senator Playford be agreed to by the Senate? I think it can. As the motion is only to resume consideration of the Bill, it may be that both the point raised and my ruling are premature, but it may perhaps save time to settle the question at once. The Senate has accepted the proposition that it is not the duty of the President to interpret the provisions of the Constitution unless the conduct of business renders it absolutely necessary so to do. This is one of those cases ; and although I admit that there is some difficulty in arriving at a conclusion, I have given the matter my most earnest consideration, and rule the motion in order.
– I do not know whether I am in order in suggesting that it would be of great convenience to honorable senators if copies of the ruling just given could be supplied to them, before anything further is done wilh the Bill.
– I shall have the ruling printed and circulated. The Stand- ing Orders provide that if a ruling be given, and no exception is taken to it, the ruling stands.’ If any honorable senator moves that the ruling be disagreed with, then the debate stands adjourned to a future date.
– I have no desire to move that the ruling be disagreed with, but merely suggest’ that Before anything further is done we should have an opportunity to read the rulings especially that part dealing with your own position, Mr. President, in regard to interpreting the Constitution.
Senate adjourned at 1.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 July 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19050728_senate_2_25/>.