3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the. chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have the honour to inform the Senate that, accompanied by honorable senators, I this day waited upon His Excellency the Governor-General, and presented to him the address of the Senate, agreed to on the 12th July last, in reply to His Excellency’s speech at the opening of Parliament, and that His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply -
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Senate
I thank you for your expressions of loyalty to His Most Gracious Majesty the King, and for the Address, which it has given me much pleasure to receive at your hands to-day.
– The Government have no intention to ask for the elimination of that condition.
– Will they consent to the elimination?
– I ask my honorable friend to give notice of the question.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Is the Government yet in a position to state when the House will be afforded an opportunity of discussing the agreement for the transfer of the Northern Territory?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
The Government does not intend to invite the House to consider this agreement until after the same has been confirmed by the State Legislature. This is obviously the proper course to follow, as South Australia should first offer to surrender portion of its territory before the Commonwealth Parliament can consider terms of acceptance.
– The Government are gaining wisdom at last.
– Arising out of the answer, I desire to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council’ whether he does not think that it applies with great pertinence to the question of the construction of a railway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie?
– That question hardly arises out of the answer.
– Yesterday my attention was called to an observation made by Senator Givens, in which he used the word “nefarious,” and I was asked whether it was in order or not. At the time I was under the impression that he was referring either to the Bill or to an hon-. orable senator, and I therefore asked him to withdraw the word. I have since ascertained from the honorable senator, and this is confirmed by the Hansard report, that the word was not applied to the Bill or any honorable senator. Had I been aware of that fact I should not have called upon him to withdraw the word.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible. Perhaps the honorable senator will ask the question at a later date.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following replies -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
or £120,000 for the9 months ending the 30th June, 1908; but, in view of the experience in Canada, New Zealand, and. elsewhere, it is expected that the diminution in revenue will, in 3 or 4 years, be fully recovered consequent upon the growth of correspondence.
– 1 am informed officially that Tasmania wouldlose£22,000.
– Informed by the Postal Department?
– No; bythe Premier of the State.
– May I explain to Senator McColl that it will hardly be of any use for the Senate to pass the motion standing in his name with reference to the income tax imposed in Victoria on Federal officers, and the amounts paid and unpaid, which he has asked shall be treated as formal. I can give him an assurance that we shall try to get the information for him. The motion deals with a State matter, and can hardly be taken as formal. I would suggest that it might be put in the form of a question.
– I would point out to the Minister that the motion only proposes that a- return be prepared and laid upon the table.
– But the State may refuse to give the information.
– Of course, the Government cannot do that which is impossible. Perhaps Senator McColl may consent to insert the words “ if possible “ in the motion.
– If the honorable senator will ask a question I shall gladly give him an assurance that we shall try to get the information for him.
– We cannot go to a State Department and demand a return.
– As the motion is objected to, it cannot be put as formal.
The Acting-Clerk laid upon the table the following paper -
Return to an order of the Senate, dated 18th July,1907, showing the exemptions under the Excise Tariff Act 1906 in regard to agricultural implements.
Debate resumed from 31st July (vide page 1 1 80) on motion by Senator Best -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I, in common with other honorable senators, feel under an obligation to the
Vice-President of the Executive Council for having furnished us so expeditiously with copies of his speech. I had not an opportunity of listening to the speech, but I have perused the report. I notice that the honorable senator preceded to give a brief and instructive history of the progress of this proposal, but there is an important omission, which I think, in order to complete the details, might be given, even at this late stage. I find that the honorable senator makes no mention of that perfect epidemic of sudden conversions which has been associated with the proposal. I, of course, am prepared to fully accept his assurance that his translation from this side of the Chamber to the other may have been a coincidence, but that it was not a case of cause and effect. I am sure that there is no honorable . senator who would not willingly risk his seat rather than entertain the bare suggestion that a change of that kind could bring about such a result. I wish to’ emphasize this fact, that the Bill, if it is to be carried, is to be carried by the votes of those who were previously its opponents, but who became its supporters when they obtained Cabinet rank. That is a simple fact, and I make the statement without any exception. The Minister gave us no solid reason for his change of attitude. I have no objection to offer to any one who, on a reconsideration of a question and after further information nas been forthcoming, publicly says, “ I .made an error in the first instance, and I desire now to announce it.” I can respect such a man, but what did my honorable friend do in bringing forward this proposal? He read copious extracts from the reports of experts. He referred to Western Australian offers ; he dwelt eloquently on the resources of that great State, its enormous area, the glitter of its gold, and- its great population, and then he finished up with these words -
What I have read shows most conclusively that a further investigation should be made by means of a survey, in order’ that we may be able to come to a wise and definite decision.
What did the -honorable senator read that was not present to him when he gave his previous vote? What was it that he brought before the Senate with which he was not familiar when we were previously asked to decide the fate of the Bill ? Not a single fresh fact or argument did he bring under our notice.
– Yes; he said that there had been a general election since then, and that the people had decided in favour of the proposal.
– Am I to understand from the interjection that Senator Trenwith is one who will watch how the political wind goes and is prepared to turn round, if he thinks that the electors are doing so ? Is that the view which he takes ? If. so, it renders it comparatively easy to understand why these remarkably sudden conversions have taken place. The interjection shows that they are not dependent upon the merits of the proposal merely, but because it is thought that it is politically expedient to change. One reasonwhich Senator Best gave, not for his change of front, but his sort of explanation of itr was that some time ago he had confided to a political friend that it would be the last occasion on which he would .vote against the proposal. It is unfortunate for thehonorable gentleman that he did not makethat announcement at that date. And with regard to the friend to whom he confided’ his intention, let me say that if I read hisremarks aright the announcement he made was an absolutely conditional one. The condition was that certain lands were to be reserved. If they were reserved he said! he would not further oppose the railway.. That was his statement, and the condition not having been fulfilled, I wait to see which way he will vote. May I impress upon )’ou, Mr. President, ‘ that the duty is thrown upon you, or upon those whose function it is to consider the health and comfort of honorable senators,, to have regard to one little fact. We live in an age when the germ theory has ft great hold upon the minds of men. It appears to me that the bench occupied by Ministers must be infected with a microbe which is absolutely deadly to life-long convictions and deeply-cherished principles.. I earnestly hope, sir, that you will give instructions that the Treasury bench shall therefore be frequently and thoroughly disinfected. Honorable senators who have occupied that bench have apparently all become victims to that microbe.
– Let the honorable senator beware of it !
– I am not likely to be affected by it in reference to this particular question.
– Does the honorable senator refer to Senator Symon?
– I make no exception in the case of any one. If there is any honorable senator whose case is fitted by the remarks which I have made, he must apply them to himself. I am led to make that statement by a remark made by Senator Findley that every Cabinet that has been formed in the Commonwealth has supported this railway. I admit it; but I reply that no more serious criticism was ever levelled against the unsatisfactory condition of parliamentary life than was contained in that remark. What is the fact? No single Ministry could have lived since, this Federation was launched if it had not included this proposal in its programme. I am not finding fault with my honorable friends from Western Australia, who are utilizing their position to give effect to a policy which they hold dear, and to which they are pledged. I have no quarrel with them. But what does it mean when we say that no single Ministry could have lived for five minutes in the Commonwealth if it had announced that it was opposed to this railway ?
– It would not have- deserved to live.
– I shall presently ask the South Australian senators individually and categorically what position they take up with regard to the line itself.
– The line is not before us.
– I shall concede to my honorable friends all the comfort which they can draw from the difference between a Survey Bill and a Railway Bill, when I come to deal with that point. But let me . say that no section of the Senate, or the Senate itself, is to blame for the position which exists. The Senate is not to blame for the relationship between parties in this Parliament. It is the electors of the Commonwealth themselves who are to blame, because they have failed to send to this Parliament any party possessed of sufficient strength to carry out its own programme without the aid of allies; and it is because of that fact that particular sections have been able to exercise a power over Ministries far greater than their numbers entitled them to. I believe that honorable senators will support what I am saying when I remark that it is to be regretted that such a position does exist as enables sections in a House of Legislature to determine the programmes of Governments, and to act remorselessly as to the methods to be pursued in accomplishing something which, if the ordinary relationships existing between parties obtained, would never be conceded to them.
– There has never been a session when there has not been a clear majority for this Bill in the Senate.
– Then how is it that the Bill has not been passed?
– If that be so, how has the majority been obtained? How has the majority for this Bill been obtained on the present occasion ? It has been obtained owing to the fact that two of the former opponents of the measure now occupy seats on the Treasury bench. I am not questioning whether there is a majority ; the division will determine that. I am merely asking how the majority has been arrived at. I pass from that point to refer to a remarkable prophesy which was uttered in the Federal Convention in reference to the section of the Constitution dealing with railway construction. It was uttered- in the course of some remarks by Mr. George Reid, who said -
If we study the history of America, where such powers are so persistently abused, we can see that it might teven become a question in the Federal Parliament that would exercise a malign influence upon the public life of the Commonwealth.
Every word of that prophesy has been painfully justified by events that have occurred in connexion with this proposed railway.
– Too tragic altogether !
– It is quite right for honorable senators opposite, if they view the matter in that way, to laugh and jeer when remarks are made about the present position of public life. But I am not prepared to take so light a view of the matter. It has been’ proved beyond contradiction that if this Bill is to be carried at all, it will fie carried by those previous opponents of it who have become supporters since their accession to Ministerial office. There is only one interpretation to be placed upon such actions by the man in the street, and, I may say, by the members of this Chamber. I prove my statement in this way - that the moment it was known that two senators had joined the Ministry, which was pledged to this measure, those who were interested in checking off the lists of probable opponents and supporters of the Bill, instantly placed those two senators amongst its supporters.
– That is hardly a fair statement.
– Senator Keating voted for it on the previous occasion.
– But did he vote for it before he became a member ‘of the Ministry ?
– On the only occasion on which I addressed myself to this Bill I spoke in its favour.
– Will the honorable senator say that he has been an advocate of this railway ever since he has been in the Senate?
– Not an advocate, but on the only occasion when I addressed myself to the subject in the Senate, I said that I intended to support it.
– I have searched the records, and the only remark that I can find from Senator Keating before he became a member of the Ministry is an interjection which does not seem to show that at that time he was a supporter of the Bill.
– The honorable senator will find more than that.
– Senator Millen must accept Senator Keating’s statement.
– I know that, and I do accept it ; but at the same time he must accept my statement in justification for what I have said. I have searched Hansard, and the only thing I can find - although I may have overlooked something - is an interjection by Senator Keating.
– I say again that the only time I spoke on the subject I said I would support the Bill.
– In this Senate?
– In this Senate.
– A mere interjection is very slender evidence on which to condemn an honorable senator.
– There is more than that.
– What did my honorable friend advocate before his electors in Tasmania?
– He stood by his vote at the last election.
– But that was after the vote had been given. What did he say before?
– The subject was not before the electors of Tasmania at the first election.
– It was before the electors of every State in the Union, and has been before them ever since this has been a Parliament.
– It was not before the electors of Tasmania at the first election.
– What becomes of the alleged obligation to construct the line if the question was not before the electors ?
– Exactly. I am. coming to that point directly. I have been thrown off my line ofargument by my own. warmth, perhaps. I do not desire to throw any warmth of feeling into the discussion. I wish honorable senators to accept my assurance that during the recess I honestly sought as far as I could to reconsider the whole position in reference to the railway and the survey. I recognised the extreme difficulty a man has in disjasspciating’ . himself from any view which he has strongly advocated, and infreeing himself from the opinions of those with whom he has been closely connected. But, nevertheless, I did honestly and sincerely make the effort. I tried to get all the evidence in reference to the case. I imagined that I was in the position of a judge, as, of course, every one of us in fact is. Therefore, I went through the evidence again in order to see whether there were, perhaps, some little matters to which I had attached too much importance, and others upon which I had not laid sufficient stress. I came to the conclusion that there are two questions concerned in the proposal before us, which grade themselves in this way : First, was there any Federal obligation, and, second, if there was a Federal obligation, were we entering upon it in a businesslike manner? Now, I shall ask the Senate to bear with me while I give my reasons for my answers to both of those questions. We are told first of all that the proposal before us is merely for a survey. I should like to show honorable senators why, in my opinion, if we vote for a survey, it must be recognised at once that we acknowledge that the construction of the line itself is a’ Federal obligation, a Federal duty. It will be utterly absurd for honorable senators to vote for the survey if some other authority is to carry out the construction of the railway.
– Has the honorable senator never heard of a railway survev being made without any railway construction at all?
– Undoubtedly. I do not say for a moment that if we vote for a survey we shall be pledged to carry out the line. But does any one suppose that this Survey Bill would have been brought forward if it were ultimately intended that South Australia and Western Australia should construct the railway ? The division upon this Bill will, I say, have to be registered, whether we like it or not, as “an intimation that in the opinion of the Senate the construction of the railway is a Federal obligation. I want to show why, in my opinion, there is no Federal obligation to construct it. I shall do so because of one or two interjections which have fallen from honorable senators who seem to be under the impression that the Federation is an authority which has power to build railways for defence purposes. I do not ‘ propose to quote the section, as honorable senators are fairly familiar with it. But the terms of that section show that we have absolutely no power to construct .railways even for defence purposes unless we get the sanction of the States affected. In other words, all that the Constitution does is to bar the Federation absolutely and expressly from entering upon railway consruction unless it first obtains the sanction of the States concerned. Before the Constitution empowers the Federation to construct, it gives the States an opportunity, to frustrate our intention.
– That is to say, a State has to give authority before the Federation can construct.
– Yes. If the Constitution throws no obligation upon us the onus is upon those who support this Bill to show cause why we should take a wide departure, both from the Constitution, and from that path which has been clearly marked out by those who framed the Constitution, by entering upon this big undertaking. “ I was surprised yesterday to hear from Senator Henderson that he thought that it was an obligation on the opponents of this measure to show why it should not be passed. Surely it is an extraordinary position that we who oppose this Bill should be called upon to show cause why it should not be carried. Imagine a Minister of the Crown throwing a Bill upon the table, and saying, “ There is a Bill ; I call upon you to show why it should not be passed.” The argument means - if it means anything - that the onus is upon the opponents of any proposition to dispute it : not upon those who propose it to support it. May I also allude - and I do so with a measure of regret - to references which have been made frequently, by way of interjection, to the sugar bounties ? I deplore those interjections, because it almost seems as if there is in the minds of those honorable senators who make them the suggestion of an idea that the members of the Senate should reciprocate in regard, to matters which are of benefit to their States.
– “ Scratch my back, and I will scratch yours.”
– Exactly. It is almost an admission that those who voted for the sugar bounties did so, not because they were, part of a national policy - that of a White Australia - but were using that great national cry as a means of giving a bribe to the large State of Queensland. I say with regard to the sugar bounties, and the duties connected with them, that those who supported them did so as part of a great national policy, and that it was a mere geographical accident that Queensland was the State most immediately affected. I should have liked to hear some of those honorable senators who have made the interjections to which 1 have referred tell their electors that they voted for the sugar bounties, not because they were necessary to Ihe policy - of a White Australia, in which they professed so earnestly, to believe. In my opinion, nothing could tend more strongly to degrade Parliamen’t. and lower the reputation of honorable senators than to create the conviction that great matters of policy have been supported, not for national purposes, but for the furthering of sectional ends. I come now to the only two reasons which I have been able to discover for the introduction of this Bill. First, that there was an- implied promise to Western Australia, and, second, the advantage of the railway to the Commonwealth from the point of view of defence. I say that if any promise has been given, it must- be redeemed, regardless of the cost. I make no qualification at all, as some honorable senators have done, but I say that if the representatives of Western Australia can show that they have a genuine bona fide claim for the construction of this railway by the Commonwealth, then, regardless of whether it would go through desert country or the most fertile land, and whatever the consequences, the Commonwealth Parliament must carry out the bargain. But I naturally ask for proofs of the undertaking. It is not. sufficient in ordinary commercial life that a man should come along and say to me, “ You owe me something.” I naturally would ask him for proof of the debt. In the same way. I wish to know how this alleged debt to Western Australia was created. So far as I can see, the proof rests upon the very intangible basis of a few individual statements of persons who were certainly prominent public men.
– Before Federation.
– Yes. I think I am correct in saying that the advocates of the line and of the survey rely mainly on letters from Sir Frederick Holder, Senator Symon, Mr. Deakin, and Mr. Kingston. I am prepared to make a further admission, and say that they probably rely also upon some statement or letter from Mr. Reid.
– And from Mr. Jenkins, as Premier of South Australia.
– Mr. Jenkins was not Premier of South Australia at the time referred to. Mr. Holder was the Premier at that time. I think it is somewhat unfortunate for Senator O’Loghlin that he should have mentioned Mr. Jenkins, as I shall be able to show later on.
– But he spoke in favour of it.
– In favour of what?
– Of giving the consent of South Australia to the construction of the railway.
– We shall examine that, because the one man who in South Australia stands out as having repudiated the matter is Mr. Jenkins.
– Then we are told that a gentleman who repudiates the whole matter when it suits him can bind the Federation to a promise he made to Western Australia. Sir Frederick Holder, however, is the gentleman to whose statements in this connexion I think we are all agreed the most importance should be attached. He was Premier of the State which, next to Western Australia, was most immediately concerned, the State which held, as it were, the key to the problem in its hands, seeing that it could give or refuse its consent to the construction of the line. Sir Frederick Holder certainly gave an unaualified promise, without reference to route or gauge or condition of any kind, that he would take steps to secure the legislative sanction of his State to the construction of the line.
– But he did make the condition that he would take action to that end, step by step with the Premier of Western Australia.
– Senator Guthrie is quite right. I was thinking at the moment of conditions with respect to route and gauge. What I am saying is not to be understood in any way as a reflection upon Sir Frederick Holder, whose position in the matter is, I think, perfectly defensible. My desire now is simply to draw attention to the flimsy nature of the ground on which this claim that a promise has been given is erected. Sir Frederick Holder certainly did, so far as a Premier could do so, pledge his State in the matter, and it is not his fault thatthe pledge has not been redeemed.
– It is the fault of Sir John Forrest, because that right honorable gentleman took no steps. .
– I am not concerned at present to say whose fault it is. I say at once that Sir Frederick Holder is free from any complicity in the misunderstandings which subsequently arose, but Sir Frederick Holder was absolutely repudiated by his State, and by no one more clearly and emphatically than by his successor as Premier of the State, Mr. Jenkins.
– Mr. Jenkins has since been repudiated by South Australia
– I am thankful for the interjection, because Senator O’Loghlin is building up my case for me. The honorable senator has shown how absolutely intangible is a Ministerial promise. He has shown by his interjection that he would not attach the slightest importance to the statement of a Minister of the Crown until it had received parliamentary sanction. Let me remind the Senate that it has been said’ that in consequence of the letters to which I have referred, the people of Western Australia practically unanimously accepted it as a fact that the Commonwealth would construct the railway. I ask honorable senators to say what was the action of Mr. Vosper in that State. He was for a time a prominent leader of the Federal movement. He then deserted the Federal party, and joined the anti-Bill party. Why? Because he said it was not clear to him that Western Australia was to get the railway. That was the reason he gave for severing his connexion with the party that was fighting for the Commonwealth Bill, and taking the lead of the party opposing it. It must be quite evident, therefore, that the people of Western Australia were not unanimously of opinion that any moral obligation to build the railway would be cast upon the Commonwealth. I take it that a majority of those who voted for Mr. Vosper accepted the views to which he gave expression, and declined to believe that any obligation to construct the railway was being entered into. I venture to say that the people of Western Australia from end to end of that State, were informed of the view of this matter which Mr. Vosper took.
– Surely the honorable senator would not expect complete unanimity throughout the State?
– When I am told that the people of Western Australia consented to come into the Union because they had been informed that the Commonwealth would construct the railway, I have a right to point out that there were persons who informed them differently. From that point of view, if the people of Western Australia made a mistake in accepting what they desired to believe as a fact, they did so at their own risk.
– In calculating the weight of the vote, the honorable senator should remember that the majority was in favour of Federation, and, presumably therefore, opposed to Mr. Vosper’s views on both issues.
– I am prepared to admit that the people of Western Australia generally did consent to that State entering the Federation believing that they would get this railway. All I am concerned to show at present is that they were fully informed of the divergent views which were held on the matter, and agreed to enter the Federation knowing the risk they ran.
– So far as information on the subject being available in the other States, I may be permitted, Mr. Acting President, to point out that you have said -
I am aware that the whole question is new4 so far as many honorable senators are concerned.
What then becomes of the claim that there was a moral understanding when you, Senator Pearce, admit that certain representatives of the States, although they have been parliamentarians, and more or less closely associated with the Federal movement, come new to this question, and had to come to the Federal Parliament to learn about the alleged understanding. This is absolutely giving away the. whole case that any promise was made. I can sincerely say that, until I came into this chamber, I never heard the slightest hint that the Commonwealth was in any way called upon even to consider the question of the trans continental railway. So far as statements of th;s kind are concerned, I wonder what would be the attitude of my honorable friends from Western Australia, and of Senator Trenwith also, if I came here and said that in New South Wales there was an understanding, based upon statements made by public men, that, although the Federal Parliament was to meet in Melbourne, the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth was to be Sydney ? They would laugh at me. But, as a matter of fact, the people of New South Wales were informed, on the strength of counsel’s opinion obtained by the State Government, that, under the Constitution, there was no provision for a Seat of Government of the Commonwealth being in Melbourne, and only for the meeting of Parliament here, and that, as- the Seat of Government had to be in New South Wales, the Seat of Government could only be in Sydney until the Seat of Government was finally determined. I venture to say that quite a number of the people of Sydney, in their guileless innocence, believed that statement, and, in consequence, voted at the referendum for the Commonwealth Bill.
– Was the honorable senator one of the guileless individuals?
– I did not vote for the Bill. If I were to make such a SUKgestion to Senator Trenwith, he might very rightly say, “ You Sydney people may have befooled yourselves with that idea, but we in Victoria never heard of it, and were no parties to any such bargain;” and he would dismiss the suggestion at once. In the same way, in this case a number of public men, desiring to bring Federation about, certainly wrote these letters1 and held out these alluring promises to the people of Western Australia, and they had the desired result. If any of my honorable friends indulge in fishing, they will know what “burley “ is, and I say that in this case a considerable amount of political burley was thrown about. That this was so is evident upon an inspection of the dates of the letters on which the advocates of the railway rely. They will be found to be so closely together as to suggest a common initiative. I say that they had a common origin, inasmuch as they were replies to letters received from Western Australia, practically inviting those expressions of opinion for purely electioneering purposes, and they succeeded. I have said that I cannot ‘ conceive of any promise having been made that is at all binding upon the States, however much it may bind individuals. But if we assume that such a promise was made, where do we stand then? If such a promise was made, it must be admitted that it was on the understanding that South Australia was an unconditionally consenting party, because, at that time, Sir Frederick Holder had unconditionally agreed, so far as he was concerned, and on behalf of South Australia. Surely it cannot be contended that the Commonwealth was pledged to the construction of this line without knowing what terms South Australia might subsequently seek to impose? It is absurd to suggest that any person would give such a pledge without knowing the conditions which would be exacted by South Australia.
– Mr. Deakin did.
– No, he spoke personally, and safeguarded himself in that way. _If honorable senators will look through the correspondence, they will find that every person whose promise is relied on safeguarded himself. Mr. Deakin said that he wrote personally. Mr. Reid said -
I think the Federal Government might at least take upon itself the obligation of the initial work.
– To what correspondence is the honorable senator referring when he says that Mr. Deakin was speaking personally ?
– I refer to Mr. Deakin’s letter on which the representatives of Western Australia rely that a promise was made.
– That is not the time the promise was made. It was made in a speech delivered by Mr. Deakin at Albany.
– Mr. Deakin, like anybody else, could only speak personally.
– That is my point.
– Were these letters written before or after Federation?
– They were written on the eve of the vote on the Commonwealth Bill in Western Australia, and written with an obvious purpose. But, assuming, for the sake of argument, that the promise was made, I say that it was given on the understanding that South Australia was consenting unconditionally, because that was Sir Frederick Holder’g attitude. Now that South Australia seeks to impose conditions, surely if on behalf of the Commonwealth an undertanding was arrived at with Western Australia, we have also the right to reconsider our position. I wish to say a word or two more about the, to me; incomprehensible attitude of South Australia. We had first of all Sir Frederick Holder unconditionally pledging himself to ask his State to do a certain thing. A little later we had Mr. Jenkins agreeing to Sir Frederick Holder’s proposal, but insisting upon stipulations as to the route of the line. On the11th June, 1901, he stipulated that the line should go from 40 to 60 miles north of Eucla. That was the first hint we had of any future trouble arising from the attitude of that State. A little later, we had Mr. Jenkins writing to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to say that it was useless to go on. Why? We had the further information supplied by Senator Playford, who was then leading the Government in the Senate, that Mr. Jenkins had counted heads, and found it useless to go on. I think that, in the same correspondence, Mr. Jenkins made a woeful admission. He had been reminded by Mr. Deakin of the fact that South Australia had failed to redeem her pledge, and he sought to get out of his difficulty in an absolutely discreditable way. He said -
No promise can be considered binding unless it is incorporated in a Bill or resolution.
I invite honorable senators to remember that statement. It was made by Mr. Jenkins when he was called upon to redeem the pledge given by his predecessor.
– That was after he coalesced with the Conservatives on the other side.
– It makes no difference to me whether he was a Conservative, a Radical, or a member of the Socialist Party; the sentiment contained in that answer is not a credit to any one occupying the position of Premier. I shall draw attention later on to the effect which that statement by Mr. Jenkins ought to have upon our present procedure. As we go along we find the attitude of South Australia still further stiffening. First of all she gave an unconditional assent. Then she made a stipulation as to route, and then as to both route and gauge, and finally we were absolutely told upon the authority of exSenator Playford that she would demand a certain route.
– Is he an authority?
– He is just as much an authority as any one of those individuals upon whom the Western Australians rely to prove a promise. How am I to judge the attitude of South Australia except by those few South Australians who have ventured to unbosom themselves ? I have been waiting for some insight to the working of the South Australian mind, but so far the one thing I have noticed, not only on this occasion, but previously, has been the masterly silence which has marked my South Australian friends, who are not usually troubled with that complaint.
– That is not correct. I spoke twice.
– The honorable senator was very careful not to commit himself regarding the construction of the line.
– I have always advocated it.
– Then I make an exception in favour of the honorable senator.
– Senator Story did the same thing.
– I have not heard him speak. So far as I can understand the attitude of the South Australian senators, itis that they are quite willing for the survey to be made, but claim an absolutely free hand, and will not even tell us what they want when it comes to a question of the construction of the line.
– When a Railway Construction Bill is before us ‘we will deal with that point.
– That would be all right if the State had not already insisted upon certain conditions, but South Australia said, as clearly as it is possible for a State to say, to the Federation that it insisted upon a certain gauge and route.
– Only that it should be consulted.
– The honorable senator accepts the dictum of the then Premier of South Australia on that point, but he will not do so on the other. It was only the Premier who said that about the gauge and route, and yet the honorable senator is quite willing to accept his statement as the voice of the State.
– I do not accept his statement as the voice of the State, but if a Premier is not willing to bring a Bill before the South Australian Parliament then that State is helpless until it rids itself of him.
– The honorable senator said the State had spoken clearly on that point.
– There is not a South Australian representative, so far as I can recollect, who has not insisted that those two points should be given effect to.
– The honorable senator puts himself in exactly the same position as we do.
– What I meant to convey was that, so far as one could judge the attitude of a State, South Australia had expressed a determination to have its own route and gauge.
– As a party to the contract, South Australia demands to have a voice in it.
– Every South Australian who has spoken has left no room for doubt in the matter, and I can only judge the attitude of the State, not by the isolated utterance of a single individual, but by the aggregate of the opinions of public men from that State.
– Senator McGregor said he did not care what gauge it was.
– Ex-Senator Playford said frankly that South Australia would demand a 3ft. 6 in. gauge, and insist upon the northern route.
– Put Senator McGregor’s statement against that.
– That would be one against one. I find, however, that there are the expressions of opinions of others. Is Senator Guthrie prepared to support the line?
– I am not supporting anything except the survey.
– There is the explanation of their attitude right through. When the honorable senator stands up in South Australia and advocates the giving of power to the Commonwealth to construct the line along whatever route, and of whatever gauge it pleases, I shall attach more importance to his interjection than I. am able to do now.
– The honorable senator cannot draw us like that.
– Once more, the honorable senator is giving his case away. There is, then, something in reserve. He is holding something back. I am very much obliged to him for that statement. It means that these South Australians are not to be drawn. They throw down in the most frank and open fashion the ace and the two bowers, but I ask them where they have got the joker. It is quite possible that my honorable friends are masterly enough even to have two jokers. Passing from these promises, I come to the statement that this is only a Survey Bill. Whilst there might be a great deal in that contention if it came from those who support it only as a Survey Bill, it certainly comes in an extraordinary fashion from those who rest upon the implied promise. Senator Henderson yesterday became quite eloquent, almost impassioned, in his oratory about the consummation of Federation, the creation of nationhood, the completion of this great Commonwealth of ours, and the solemnity of the compact entered into. What was the compact? Was it a survey? If he were present now, I should ask him whether he accepts this Bill as a satisfaction of the promise upon which he relies.
– He does not, nor . does any other Western Australian representative. Every one of us would vote for the construction of the line to-morrow. We make no secret of the fact.
– I am pointing out that Senator Henderson, who pleads for the redemption of this compact, turns round and says that this is only a proposal for a survey. Every one of those who are supporting the Bill knows perfectly well that it is not a Survey Bill only. It is the first natural step towards the construction of the railway.
– Will it commit Parliament to the construction?
– So far as my logic enables me to determine the question, every man who votes for this Bill will be committed to vote for the construction of the line.
– The survey may prove that the line is extremely undesirable from every- point of view.
– Supposing the survey proves that the line is undesirable-
– Then how shall we be pledged to the construction?
– Its supporters are pledged if there is any strength, in the contention that a promise was given. I am dealing with those who say, “We support this Bill because a promise was given,” and yet immediately turn round and say, “ It is only a survey.” Every man who’ votes for this Bill casts a vote in support of the theory that the ultimate construction of the line is a Federal obligation. I will take, simply as an illustration of the attitude of other honorable senators, the speech delivered by Senator Gray. He said he was going to vote for this Bill because he thought the Federation was under a moral obligation to Western Australia. What was that moral obligation? If there was any at all, it was an obligation to construct the railway. Therefore, there was no moral obligation to make a survey. The survey was never mentioned. If there was any promise, assurance, understanding, or undertaking
– That is all right, so far as Senator Gray is concerned, but it does not affect every honorable senator who votes for the Bill.
– It affects a considerable number of members in this Parliament, who are going to vote for this Bill, and are trying to quieten their consciences by saying that it is only a Bill for a survey. That attitude is absolutely irreconcilable with the position taken up by Sir John. Forrest, ex- Senator Staniforth Smith, and other representatives of Western Australia, that a vote for this Bill is a recognition by Parliament of an obligation to go on with the work when the survey is completed. The other argument that has been advanced is the necessity of the line for defence. Before dealing with that aspect, I call the attention of honorable senators to the fact that I am not dealing with the merits of the proposal. I have discarded that, because I think it is generally recognised that it has no merits worthy of occupying the attention of this or any other deliberative assembly.
– We admit that the honorable senator is not dealing with its merits, but we do not admit the reason he gives.
– No supporter of the Bill has ventured to do more thani offer arc apology for the country through which the line will go. The best that has been said for it is that it is not as bad as its opponents make out. The only sources fromwhich. I can get my information are the reports which have been, tabled here, and they disclose the most absolutely flatly contradictory statements. In one case, the engineers have formed an estimate of revenue on the assumption that all the cattle required for the gold-fields in Western Australia will be trucked at Port Augusta. Vet in another report we are told that the line will go through 20,000,000 acres of first-class grazing land. Is it intended to travel the cattle from that immense area back to Port Augusta merely to give them the pleasure of a longer ride on the railway ? The same thing applies to other references by . honorable senators who have spoken of the probable traffic in eggs, poultry, and hay from South Australia to the West. One of two things is clear. Either this railway will go through fairly good country, in which case the freights from Port Augusta will fall, because there will be less produce carried from there, or, if the estimate of probable revenue is to be maintained, it can only be on the assumption that the railway will go through unproductive country. In view of contradictions of that kind, no one is in a position to affirm that the line has any attractiveness. I dismiss it by saying that it is absolutely wanting in merits, and, therefore, I have not approached it in that way. The engineers, in framing their estimates of freights and charges, have gone on the assumption that the present rates for water carriage will be maintained, but, as Senator Turley pointed out, it must be obvious that the moment a competitor enters the field freights on sea-borne produce will fall. I have it on the very best authority - that of a gentleman whose knowledge in shipping matters will pass unchallenged in this Chamber - that at all times, and in all circumstances, goods can be carried by water for one-eighth of the cost of carriage by land. My authority is Senator Guthrie, who- made that statement during the last debate on this Bill. To show the folly of expecting railway carriage to compete with water carriage, the engineers, in their estimate, actually provided that the coal required for the railway should go to Eucla by sea. Very probably it will have to. It means that the railway will find it cheaper to employ its competitor to carry its own goods. If the railway cannot carry its own goods economically, how can it carry those of other people? We are asked to believe that, although the railway will employ the sea for the carriage of its own commodities, other people will pay the higher freights demanded by it. I return now to the question of defence. This represents the only sound reason why the proposal might occupy Federal attention. The following statement, by ex-Senator Playford, puts the matter in a nut-shell -
Unless it could be proved that the line was required for defence purposes I should not be iri favour of it.
I need hardly draw the attention of honorable senators to the commentary that remark offers upon the alleged promise from South Australia. The defence aspect seems to me the one ground on which we may reasonably be asked to consider this proposal. But is a survey necessary to determine whether a line is required for defence purposes ? Surely that question should be determined without reference to surveying or engineering difficulties. If the line is . put forward as a defence proposition, the Commonwealth military authorities ought to come forward and say that it is wanted, and the Government should state - “ Acting, on the advice of experts, we have determined, for strategical purposes, that this line shall be constructed. We intend to construct it, and we ask you for authority to carry out the survey.” They do not do anything of the kind. They are going to make a survey whether the line is required for defence purposes or not. The thing is utterly ridiculous. The military authorities do not need a survey to know whether the line is required for defence purposes. If it is required we should be told so, but we are not told so. No one ventures to say that it is necessary.
– What did MajorGeneral Edwards say?
– He said that we could not consider the defence of Australia complete until there was a line from Port Darwin and Fremantle to the southern and eastern State’s respectively. Yesterday Senator O’Loghlin interjected, “ You ignore defence.” Surely that was a strange interjection from the honorable senator when we recall the attitude of his State. The one State which has ignored defence in this matter is South Australia. Practically she says to the Commonwealth, “ You can have Australia defended on a 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, but we shall not allow it to be defended on a 4 ft. 8
– Surveys are never proceeded with as the result of an Act of Parliament. They are administrative acts, and the Premier of South Australia could authorize our surveys just as effectively as he could authorize his own.
– The honorable senator may be speaking for Victoria, but he is not speaking for New South Wales. While that may be done here under a general power by the State Government, he must remember that the Constitution distinctly makes any trespass by the Federation illegal, unless it is made with the sanction of the State concerned. We have no sanction from South Australia. I am not suggesting that it is likely that trouble will occur, but only pointing out unbusinesslike methods. Having regard to the warning of Mr. Jenkins, that no promise would, be binding unless embodied in a Bill or resolution- of the Parliament of South Australia, we ought to have reminded the Government of the State of that declaration, and called upon them to give us a legal status in carrying out the survey. There is another unbusiness-like procedure which we are asked to sanction. We are invited to vote ,£20.000 for the inspection of two railway routes, while South Australia has emphatically said that she will sanction only one route. One ‘of two things should be done. Either we should limit our inspection to the route which South Australia will sanction, or we should come to terms with that State regarding the route which at present they do not favour. That, I think, is the course we would pursue in our personal affairs. If I wanted to carry out a certain undertaking, and had to deal with somebody else, I certainly should not spend money until I had arrived at an understanding with that party. But here we are asked to spend money to carry out a survey, or an inspection, or an exploration, knowing full well, so far as we can judge at present, that South Australia will not sanction that one route.
– I think it is nonsense that South Australia should take up that attitude.
– It is doing nothing of the sort.
– I shall be glad if “ the honorable senator will give me an assurance that South Australia does not take up that attitude, but in the correspondence between the two Governments it has always insisted that it would exercise a veto with regard to the route and the gauge. Every public man whose utterances I have been able to follow has always affirmed - and no one more emphatically than has exSenator Playford - that South Australia would never consent to a 4 ft 8 in. gauge or to the southern route. -We ought to try to overcome that difficulty - if it is decided to go on with the project - bymaking an arrangement with South Australia, or failing that, to decide that it will be of no use to explore a route which we shall not be at liberty to utilize. There has been another unbusiness-like procedure in connexion with the Northern Territory agreement. It seems to me to be a case of putting the cart before the horse. We are now asked to approve of this proposal when we know that it is to be made a condition in a larger and much more serious compact.
– Does it not seem reasonable that the much more serious compact could be discussed more intelligently, with fuller information on this issue?
– My honorable friend is not so innocent as not to see that our judgment on the Northern Territory agreement will be warped by the knowledge that it contains this ohe condition. I predict that in the Senate there will be six solid votes cast for the agreement, and I have never spoken to a senator for Western Australia about the matter.
– The honorable senator is judging others by himself.
– No, human nature is the same everywhere, and I do not think that Senator Pearce will resent my statement that in a matter of this kind, where he and his colleagues are so strenuously, and I believe so honestly, supporting the railway, they will naturally attach more importance to that condition of the agreement when it comes to be considered, than to other features which it contains. That is a thing with which we are all familiar. For instance, no one would expect Senator
Pearce to be an impartial judge of the railway to Western Australia any more than he would probably expect me to be absolutely impartial on the matter of the Federal Capital. We all recognise that our personal opinions do warp our judgment. It is quite to be expected that Western Australians, acting conscientiously, would consider one clause in the agreement of so great value that they would be inclined to ignore objectionable features in it elsewhere. I think that remark can be made without casting a reflection upon those honorable senators. In conclusion, I desire to warn my honorable friends of the financial position into which the Federation is likely to be hurried if we are not very careful. I have heard some references to the Federal spirit. Surely it is not unreasonable to ask those who appeal to the Federal spirit to remember the financial necessities of the weaker States. It is all very well to invoke the Federal spirit when we want something to be done, but ‘ surely it must also be invoked when we are asked to give something? Whatever may be the natural ambitions of Western Australia. I feel that I am bound to consider the financial position of Tasmania. I do not think that the financial question troubles New South Wales, and, so far as public opinion is concerned, I have not the remotest idea what view it takes on the subject. Sena?torially its representatives are equally divided. So far as I know the press of my State is about equally divided, and therefore I. feel that in this matter I can enter up judgment free from any State sympathies. We have, however, to consider the financially weak State of Tasmania. I should feel much more inclined to look upon this proposal with kindly eyes, to believe in the sincerity of the appeal to the Federal spirit, if Western Australia had shown any willingness to agree to a per capita system with regard to oldage pensions.
– With regard to oldage pensions?
– ‘Yes ; if Western Australia had shown any inclination to favorably receive a proposition for the abolition of the book-keeping system.
– I do not understand the reference to old-age pensions.
– I cannot detain honorable senators to explain the reference. I only know that when it was suggested here one day that an old-age pensions system should be adopted on a population basis - as I ultimately hope that all our financial operations will be - the senators for Western Australia simply quivered with indignation.
– : I cannot remember that. It is news to me.
– Whether I misjudge the future or hot, I cannot help uttering this prediction, that, if we enter into these large financial operations, the time will not be far distant when, whether we like it or not, that system of direct taxation which Senator Pearce foreshadowed the other day, will, be introduced. He made no secret of the fact that be, a free-trader, was going to vote for prohibitive duties if he could get them, in order to force the Federation to impose a land tax. Those who support this Bill must do so with the knowledge that every further financial obligation which they throw on the Treasury, will hasten forward the time when Senator Pearce will be absolutely justified in “asking for the imposition of a land tax which I, and many other honorable senators here, do not approve of.
– The honorable senator used to be in favour of the land tax.
– I was never in favour of the land tax of my honorable friend. I think I am correct in saying that no one has been more strenuous than the interjector iri the advocacy of the principle that, where a public work is carried out, private landlords ought not to secure the incremental value that follows. What is the proposition here? Is there any proposition to secure to the Commonwealth any incremental value? No. The whole of it is to go to the individual State.
– There is no proposal before the Senate yet. We do not know what it may contain when it is submitted.
– I know that there have been several propositions made, and it has been alleged that Western Australia has shown her bona fides by doing certain things - among others, by securing a certain area of land for the Federation. She has never materialized that promise. She did pass a Bill, of which Senator Best reminded us, undertaking to make a financial return^ to the Commonwealth, but how did she safeguard herself?.
– Western Australia has refused to lease or sell any land on the route -suggested.
– That is so, but there has never been a suggestion or demand from my honorable friend that the incremental value which is to be created at the expense of the public of Australia should be returned to them.
– I have never opposed the idea; in fact’, I have never spoken on’ the subject.
– I am surprised that my honorable friends, who, I believe, are firmly and conscientiously in favour of taking all that value for public purposes, have, not taken any precaution to insure if the Commonwealth is to build the railway that it shall receive the benefits of the expenditure. I believe that the railway ought to be constructed. I expect that it will come in time. I also consider that there ought to be a railway to Port Darwin, but I hold that, before the Federation is asked to consider either one or the other, it should know fully how it stands with regard to the Northern Territory. It ought to be able to enter untrammelled into possession of the Northern Territory if it is to take it over. And, having done that, it could reasonably consider what railway policy it is in a position to carry out. But at the present time we are asked, before we know what our relationship to the Northern Territory is to be to tie our hands, to commit ourselves to the proposition to run a railway to the West before we know what our obligation will be in regard to the North.
Senator ST. LEDGER (Queensland) (4.13]. - As a new member of the Senate, and as the question under consideration is a very important one, I think it is only a proper courtesy, both to the question, and also to the great State of Western Australia, that I should give my reasons for voting against this proposal. I had intended to give a silent vote, in accordance with- the opinion I had expressed during the elections in Queensland, but I have thought better of my resolution. What has changed the current of my thought is entire respect for the great State of Western Australia, and a certain amount of respect for the aspiration to obtain such a railway. I confess that whilst I have been waiting earnestly to hear a reason why I could support them, if possible, in that aspiration, I have gone through a succession of .mists, each one darker than the other. I regret exceedingly that the darkest mist in the whole matter hangs about the attitude of South Australia. I have been waiting patiently to hear its honorable senators speak with a certain amount of authority as to what is to be the relation between their State and the Commonwealth on this very important question. I hope that they will be able to throw greater light on the subject. I regret that Senator Guthrie is not present, because, while Senator Millen was speaking, he made an interjection to the effect that he was not to be drawn. The inference is that South Australia is concealing something. If the inference is unfair or improper, its representatives are largely to blame, because they are remaining silent on this most important question.
– I have spoken twice on it already.
– I was not here to hear the honorable senator, but I am willing to get light. It is remarkable that every representative of the State which has the key to the position so far as construction is concerned has remained silent. Senator Turley, from Queensland, showed clearly the indecision and the haze which South Australia’ is throwing over the question. By a reference to history, Senator Millen has just pointed out the indecision and confusion in the position of that State. Honorable senators on both sides of the Chamber who are opponents of the Bill have dealt with the same aspect of the matter, and in their state of haze and indecision the senators for South Australia persist in remaining silent. It may be that, because these matters have been discussed before, there is no necessity to refer to them again. But a considerable number of new senators have since been elected, and their opinions and votes are worth something. I will refer to the constitutional question which has been raised by Senator Millen, and incidentally by myself when supporting the point of order taken on the introduction of this Bill last Friday. Senator Millen has pointed out that the position of the surveyors who may be instructed to enter the State of South Australia on behalf of the Federal Government will be that of trespassers. I indorse that opinion for what it is worth. Undoubtedly, they can be treated as trespassers, because the Executive authority under which they will act is not sufficient to warrant Commonwealth officers in entering upon privatelyowned land. We cannot shelter ourselves by pleading Executive authority, because the private owner may say, “ I do not care two straws ; you can only enter my property under die authority of an Act of Parliament.” He can either tell, our officers to clear off dr treat them as trespassers. I hope ‘ that the South Australian senators will not consider the remark too harsh when I say chat, after reading the history of this great question from both sides, it appears to me that their State is playing a game very much like that of Br’er Rabbit. . If I were a supporter of the Bill, I should consider that I had reason to ask for the greatest frankness and confidence on the part of the representatives of South Australia. The South Australian Government is in duty bound to make its position absolutely clear before we take one step in the matter of the survey. We have been reminded from time to time by supporters of the Bil] that the question ought not to be treated in a parochial spirit. An appeal to that effect has been repeatedly made to us by the Western Australian senators. I should not have alluded to the point had not the question of the sugar bounty been dragged in also. Personally, I deprecate the introduction of parochialism in Commonwealth affairs, but I cannot help entertaining a feeling of resentment against the spirit of parochialism shown by the. Western Australian representatives, and especially by Sir John Forrest, who, until lately, was the Western Australian member of the Cabinet, when, in the matter of the mail contract, Queensland was utterly ignored, and no provision was made for the mail steamers calling at her principal port. I do not remember that the Western Australian members of the House of Representatives, the Western Australian senators, or the Western Australian member of the Cabinet were induced by the Federal spirit to demand that any of the benefits accruing under the mail contract should be extended to Queensland.
– There are more subsidized mail services having their termination in Queensland than in any other State.
– That is news to me. I hope that the honorable senator will make his point clear.
– There are the Vancouver line and the Pacific line, both of which terminate at Brisbane.
– The Vancouver service was ours long before we came into the Federation.
– But the Commonwealth continues to pay for it:
– Whatever benefit the service was to Queensland, we bore the whole cost of it, with some aid, perhaps, from New South Wales. I do not intend to allow the honorable senator, however, to side-track me in reference to the Vancouver mail service. The Western. Australian senators have appealed to us, as Queenslanders, to vote for this Bill, on the ground that Queensland derives benefit from the sugar bounty. I resent the throwing of the bounty in our teeth. I throw it back, and ask them why, when Queensland was the orphan of the Federation, and was left out of consideration in connexion with the mail service, the1 Western Australians gave us none of their assistance, notwithstanding their strong belief in the Federal spirit? I should not have made this remark except for the taunts of the Western Australians, because I do not wish to import into the discussion of this question the slightest element of bitterness. The argument is frequently advanced; that we should support the survey, because an implied promise was made toWestern Australia, either before she entered the Federation or afterwards. So far as Queensland is concerned, I am bound to say that she, at any rate, had nothing whatever to do with any bargain at the Convention. Queensland was not represented there, and had nothing to do with the framing of the Constitution. Perhaps that was our misfortune. We entered Federation after the Constitution had been adopted. We entered it unconditionally. The. argument of implication therefore cannot apply to us, and I am bound to dismiss it from my. mind in weighing the question whether I shall support this Bill. The argument is frequently advanced by the Western Australian senators, backed to some extent by the South Australians, that in voting for the survey, we shall not pledge -ourselves to vote for the construction of the line. But I agree entirely with Senator Millen, that if we vote for the survey, we shall be absolutely pledged to its construction. There will be no possibility for honorable men to get out of that position if the reports of the surveyors are favorable. I heartily desire that if the survey is made, it may be shown that the interior of Western Australia contains country that gives hope of future development. Supposing that to be the case, and that the reports of the surveyors are favorable, how could any honorable man,, having said that he would vote for the survey, refuse to vote for the construction of the line? That being so, what is the liability to which the Commonwealth will be committed? It amounts to at least £5,000,000. How are Tasmania, and Queensland to bear their share of that expenditure? Queensland, at any rate/ requires for her own development all the money that she can reasonably exact from her citizens. I shall show by a few figures how much Queensland has done, and, with great respect to Western Australia,, how little that State is trying to do, in order to develop her territory. Further, this question was discussed very intelligently and repeatedly in the State of Queensland at the elections, and each one of us was asked, “What position will you take up if the proposal for a survey or for the construction of the transcontinental railway, either from South Australia to. Port Darwin or from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, is proposed?” We were asked to define our attitude. Personally, I invariably answered, “ I shall not vote for it, first of all on the financial ground that it would be wrong for South” Australia and Western Australia, separately or together, to ask the rest of the States to bear a proportionate share in the cost of a railway when every other State, in Australia has borne the burden of its own public works.” On that ground I said that I would resist the appeal. I referred also to a constitutional ground, to which I direct the attention of honorable senators. I said that it was the most dangerous thing that could happen as between the State and the Commonwealth that the State should allow the Commonwealth to put its hand upon a single yard of railway construction in the State, or should allow the Federal Government to tax or interfere in any way with one foot of the soil of Queensland. I said that such a course would lead to confusion, conflict, and friction between the Federal Government and the Governments of the respective States. I took up that attitude in connexion both with suggested Federal taxation and the projected interference with State railways. I pointed out that when we agreed to the Constitution, we did so after careful consideration, and on the understanding, so far as the Constitution could- make such a thing clear, that our lands, our mines, and our railways were ours and ours alone. I pointed out that we should be setting a bad example to the rest of the States if we gave any assent to a condition which would interfere with that principle. I may further say that when the proposition Was (put from that point of view, it was unanimously . applauded throughout the State of Queensland, and was, I believe, one of the most potent factors in achieving a victory which was one of the most notable and marked political victories ever won in Australia. We are told ‘that the proposed survey is to cost “ only “ £20,000. Any one who has had even a little experience of life may well have been made aware, more or less painfully, that a certain class of dealer goes round with a certain class of goods, for the most part “ brummagem “ jewellery. He invites the servants, male or female, of the household, to believe that by purchasing from him. they will get something in the form of jewellery which would be the envy of a duchess, and which will cost “ only “ 3d. or 4d. per week. He dwells very strongly upon the “ only “ aspect of his transaction. I am inclined to think that there is something of a “ brummagem “ appeal to us to vote this money, when it is prefaced with a remark that it is “ only “ £20,000. The whole question is in a nut-shell. If the proposed survey is to be made through a rich territory, then certainly Western Australia should make the survey’ and build the railway herself, just as the other States have had to carry out their own railway construction. If this is not a rich territory, and a line through it is not likely to be remunerative, then we might just as well vote to throw the £20,000 into the Yarra. The fact that it is only £20,000, which is alleged to be comparatively a small sum, ought not to weigh with us. I’ press that dilemma upon the Senate. To me there seems to be no escape for it. Assuming that the country is all that we hope it will prove to be, will some honorable senator from Western Australia or from South Australia say why those States are not prepared to build the proposed railway for themselves? If they have strong grounds to believe, from the reports which have been presented on the subject, that this territory is, as it is alleged to be, a howling and waterless desert, those who advocate the proposal are inviting the Commonwealth Parliament to follow a course of action which would be .as profitable to the Commonwealth, and to the two States specially concerned as it would be to take £20,000 and throw it into the Yarra. I wish to know exactly where honorable senators from Western Australia and South Australia desire that we should go. I invite honorable senators from Western Australia to deal with that aspect of the question. So far as Western
Australia and, to some extent, South Australia are concerned, it has often been a marvel to me why the representatives of those States should so repeatedly adopt an attitude of importunity, and, may I say, with all respect, should put themselves be fore the Commonwealth in a beggarly spirit.
– They are sturdy beggars.
-I cannot understand why they should take up that position.
– Who is the beggar?
– It appears to me that Western Australia and, to some extent, South Australia, also, are coming to the Commonwealth asking for £20,000 to enable them to take a first step in railway construction when the other States of the Commonwealth have constructed their railways for themselves. For what reason does South Australia, and more especially Western Australia, come here again and again delaying the business of the Commonwealth with a request for a paltry grant of £20,000? What is behind this proposal ? It carries with it on the face of it a suggestion that the country through which the railway would subsequently go is known to the people’ of Western Australia and South Australia to be such a worthless country that they are not prepared, either jointly or separately, to risk the expenditure of £20,000 on the survey of a route. If that be a hard inference to draw, it is one which naturallv arises from the position which the representatives of those States take up when they ask for this money, in view of the fact that States having less financial strength have always done similar work for themselves-
– What does the honorable senator mean by financial strength?
– I think that one of the strongest States financially in Australia, and probably in the world, is the State of Western Australia.
– There are only 250,000 people there.
– I am obliged to the honorable senator for the interjection, as it may possibly help to put a new aspect upon the action of honorable senators from Western Australia in coming as beggars to the Federal Parliament for money with which to construct their own railways.
– We come to ask that a Federal obligation be carried out.
- Senator Millen has, I think, dealt very well with that point. I will say with regard to it that, so far as any promise, direct or implied, is concerned, Queensland knows nothing of it, and is absolutely out of it. She was no party by herself, or with any one else, to suggesting any condition upon which Western Australia should enter the Federation. Queensland representatives have an absolutely free hand in this matter. That State accepted Federation unconditionally, and was no party to any promise to Western Australia, direct or implied, and is under no obligation whatever to Western Australia, or to any other State in the Union.
– Queensland is not the Commonwealth.
– Queensland is wholly free from any implication in the promise alleged to have been made. Western Australia may have some reason in appealing to the letters written by the present Prime Minister, by Mr. Reid, and the other Premiers mentioned, but no such appealcan be addressed to the representatives of Queensland. I have tried to find out why this appeal should come so repeatedly from Western Australia, and it occurred to me that perhaps the people of that State are unable to do for themselves what the people of Queensland have done. I instituted as nearly as I could a comparison between the two States when each had about the same population. We had in Queensland, in 1880, about the same population that Western Australia has to-day. In speaking of the financial position of a State I take into consideration the factors of population, debts, revenue, and trade. These are the essential elements, establishing the financial strength or weakness of any country. Western Australia today has a population of about 250,000. Her debt is about £17,000,000. Her revenue for 1905-6 was £1,800,000.
– It has been considerably reduced since then.
– It has not been very much reduced, nor does the reduction affect the substance of my argument. The total value of the trade of Western Australia in 1905 was close upon £18,000,000.
– Imports and exports combined.
– Principally gold.
– It does not matter whether the trade was in wool, gold, or copper ; it is part of the wealth, and hence part of the financial strength of the country. I must confess that when I found the figures for exports and imports going up to between £17,000,000 and j£.iS, 000, 000 for a population of 250,000, it .struck me that there could scarcely be on earth a more wealthy people. There is not in Australia, and I do not think we could find in the whole world another population of 250,000 doing an annual trade of nearly £18,000,000. I have no wish to pay a compliment to Western Australia which I do not feel is deserved. I have spoken strongly of the attitude which representatives of that State in the Senate have taken up, and I wish honorable senators to understand that I speak just as sincerely when I say that I think that one of the greatest States in the Commonwealth is the State of Western Australia. Taking into view all the possibilities of its . future, I regard it as one of the strongest States in the whole Empire. If there is one that can approach, and possibly rival it, it is my own State of Queensland. There is every indication in the progress and development of Western Australia and Queensland that, with sound government and the blessing of Providence, it will not be long before those States stand in the front rank of the States of the Commonwealth, and States which are now regarded as comparatively strong will have become insignificant as compared with those two States in the history of the Federation. That being so, it seems to me that Western Australian senators, as well as the State Government of Western Australia, do not take up a very dignified position, and pay but a very poor compliment to their State, when they come here and ask the Federation, which has control of only one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue, to vote them £20,000.
– What is the wealth per head of population in the various States ?
– I think Western Australia is one of the States in which it stands highest.
– The honorable senator is entirely wrong.
– I am relying on the accuracy of my figures. I took some trouble to compile them, and I am happy to compliment Western Australia on its sound financial position. Now, what was the position of Queensland when that State had a population about equal to the .present population of Western Australia? In 1880 the population of Queensland was not quite 230,000. Her debt was ^”16, 000,000 ; her revenue only about £1,612,000, and the total annual value of her export and import trade only £6,000,000. She was financially not nearly so strong at that time as Western Australia is to-day, and yet, with comparatively few miles of railway constructed, and doubtful as to how the State could be developed, the people of Queensland set to work and incurred expenditure, running the debt up to £30,000,000 odd in order to build railways for the development of the country.
– Does the honorable senator argue that the value of imports and exports show the wealth of a country?
– On financial matters, as in mathematical questions, one cannot always be absolutely correct. There is no such thing as absolute truth in anything, especially in finance. The soundest test of the wealth of any country is to measure its trade.
– - The wealth per head of the population is the surest test.
– One of the soundest tests is to measure the wealth of a country by its exports and imports, and to ascertain, if you can, what it is manufacturing. On that standard, which is fairly reliable, although 1 do not say it is infallible, Western Australia to-day is in an infinitely better position than was Queensland in 1880. We, in Queensland, did not fear to plunge into expenditure to develop our country. We incurred a considerable debt for that purpose, and we made such sacrifices that Ministry after Ministry was brought” down with accumulating deficits. But, fortunately, our best and most farseeing men said, “ We have plunged very deeply into expenditure, but we have confidence in the resources of our country, and we ask you, the people of Queensland, to make these sacrifices.” The result to-day is that we. have one of the finest railway systems of the world, considering our wealth and population, and that almost every penny of expenditure which brought down Government after Government is now being justified.- It was thought madness at the time to construct those railways in what was considered desert country out in the west, but, through them to-day, especially in good seasons, we are able to show the people of our own State and of the Commonwealth that we have one of the finest territories on God’s earth.
– Would not that be splendid reasoning in favour of this socalled “ desert railway “ ? The honorable senator says that people thought that country was a desert, and that the money was not wisely expended, but that it has been found that they were mistaken.
– I am sorry the honorable senator cannot see the point of my argument. It is an admirable argument to show that the people of a rich State like Western Australia have no right, after the -brilliant success of our excellent example in Queensland, to come to the Commonwealth Parliament and ask for the expenditure of £20,000 of Commonwealth money.
– The honorable senator has not proved bis contention that Western Australia is a rich State.
– There may be two reasons for that. It may be through defective power in the presentment of the proposition, or it may be through an inability to comprehend it on the part of those to whom it is addressed. I shall not try to apportion the defect. I simply stated what appeared to my mind to be very strong facts and’ figures. There is an old Scotch saying, that “ Facts are chiefs that winna ding.” I do not think Western Australian and South Australian senators who address themselves to this question will get very much “ ding “ out of the facts that I am giving.
– The honorable senator has not stated the wealth per head of the people in the various States.
– LEDGER.- The honorable senator can easily find it out for himself. I have not gone into . the question of the cost of construction of the railway, or whether it would pay or not, because that is practically beside the question, and we have been repeatedly asked by Western Australian and South Australian senators not to deal with that aspect of the matter, but to regard the Bill as a mere proposal for a survey. I have also carefully refrained, in order that I might express myself from the point of view of the present position, apart from the consideration of the past, from “ Hansardizing “ speeches, or from delving into the reports, in deference to the strongly declared wish of Western Australia that we should not go into the merits of the railway. After the way Senator Millen has touched upon the point, it is necessary that two or three things should be done before this vote is taken. One is that we should know absolutely from the State of South Australia where we are. Any honorable senator who is in doubt has excellent reasons for his hesitation until the attitude of that State is declared. Then, again, those who have gone over to the other side, for reasons which- may be satisfactory to them, but which, after the way Senator Millen dealt with them, must be very unsatisfactory to other honorable senators, should give absolutely and clearly the reasons for their change of opinion. I have not heard an, reason given for it in this Chamber, except a sort of pious wish- for the well-being of Western Australia, and an apology that the amount involved is only £20,000. I do not wish to traverse the history of this matter, but I agree with Senator Mil len’ s view. When we find politicians representing great State interests wobbling from side to side on important constitutional and financial questions, we have a right to expect the reasons for that change of opinion and conduct to be clearly stated. I blame no man for changing either his political attitude or his opinions. There is a saying that there are only two classes who never change their opinions - idiots and the dead. I hope, as a progressive politician, that there will never be representatives of a dead-house policy in the Commonwealth Parliament. There is another suspicious feature about it, to which I, as responsible to some extent for the interests of the State of Queensland, am bound to draw attention. I am sorry the Vice-President of the Executive Council is not here. But when I find a change of opinion taking place simultaneously with accession to office, it reminds me very much of an expression in A Winter’s Tale -
How this robe of mine doth change my disposition.
Certainly the robe of office mav give colour to a man’s opinions. The exigencies of the position of a Ministry may cause it to call upon its supporters at times to limit their assistance or resistance, but if, on important questions, there is change or hesitation on the part of Ministers or their supporters, we’ are entitled to a frank expression of the reasons for their attitude. We have not had that in this case. It is the mark of a strong and courageous man to say, “ Once I believed and voted one way. To-day I have changed my opinion, and, because I have changed it, I am now voting the other way.” I regret that we have had no straightforward . and manly explanation of the change of opinion that has evidently come about, both in high and low quarters - if I may use the term - inside this Senate. I have tried to give my reasons for voting against this survey in such a manner as to show the faith that is within me. I hope I have said nothing derogatory to the high respect and regard that I have for the representatives of Western Australia, or to the interests of that great State. If, apart from voting money which no other State has asked for, I can assist that great State in any way, I shall be glad to do so. There will be nobody in the Commonwealth, and certainly nobody in this Parliament, who will welcome the day more gladly than I when Western Australia can proudly say, “ We are going to build that railway ; it shall be ours, and ours alone, and the Commonwealth shall have nothing to do with it.”
Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) £4.55].- I do not know that I can add very much to the debate on this Bill, which has been so thoroughly canvassed, not only this session, but on two previous occasions when an opportunity was given to certain honorable senators to resort to some ingenious tactics in order to bring about its -defeat. I am here to represent Western Australia, but not to represent that young State as a beggar, as Senator St. Ledger wants this Chamber to believe. That State is seeking to have certain pledges redeemed at the hands of this Parliament.
– The honorable senator should not talk about a pledge; Does he know the meaning of the word?
– I propose to enlighten the honorable senator before I finish as to what was said by representative Australians. I am here, not representing Western Australia as a beggar, but rather representing it as a State that has contributed, and still purposes to contribute, very substantially to the material interests and prosperity of the eastern States, although we have little hope of -receiving any quid pro quo for a long time. I resent the term which was so unworthily and unjustifiably used by Senator St. Ledger. I hope to prove before I have finished that Western Australia has taken a most disinterested stand in bringing about the’ consummation of Federation, knowing as it did at the same time that it would result in the achieve ment of a policy of which the State which the honorable senator represents would share to the full the biggest advantage. I do not believe that even the honorable senator’s own colleagues agree with him when he applies to our young State the reproachful epithet of. “beggar.” I wish to refer to the extraordinary tactics to which the opponents of this measure are sometimes driven. Senator Dobson made special reference to the necessity for keeping this question free from party politics, and yet he went very close to stating, if he did not , actually do so, that those who are supporting the Bill invariably took advantage of the state of political parties in order to accomplish their object.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable senator says “hear, hear.” I contradict hisstatement completely, if he wishes to make this Chamber believe that the representatives of Western Australia have ever attempted to take advantage of the position of political parties in order to secure the passage of this measure.
– -One of the representatives of Western Australia certainly did. That is a matter of history. I refer to Sir John Forrest.
– We are not responsible for his actions. He is big enough to speak for himself in that regard, .and I have not the slightest doubt that he does not want any assistance from me or my colleagues. The next method, resorted to bv Senator Sayers, was a most extraordinary one. After ransacking the reports, he actually alleged that they were made in obedience to instructions. To use his own words, he said that the reports were “ ordered,” meaning thereby, if any meaning could be extracted from his words, that his own engineer-in-chief was a party to placing before the Commonwealth Parliament a report which he did not conscientiously, believe in.
– And all the other engineers-in-chief in Australia.
– All the engineersinchief of Australia signed the report. Yet here we have an honorable senator impugning the honour of the highest executive officers in the Public Works Departments of the States in order to make good his own unworthy, and faulty case. It was a most improper remark, and I do hope that the- people of Queensland will be made aware, as early as possible, that an unwarranted slur has been cast on their Engineer - in-Chief by him.
– He said they had not seen the country.
– The impression which Senator Sayers sought to leave in the minds of honorable senators was that the reports were made in pursuance of a specific order.
– No, that is not the meaning of his statement. What he said was that the reports were made to order, and we all know what that means.
– That is certainly the impression which Senator Sayers sought to leave in the minds of other honorable senators. However, he is silent on the subject, and that is significant. I do not wish to go into many preliminaries, because I recognise that our opponents do not desire the history of this project to be too closely examined or ventilated. They are well aware of the tactics which have been resorted to in order to secure its defeat, and the most merciful thing I can do is to draw a veil of forgetfulness over them. I shall now proceed to analyze the action of the Senate. For the fourth time, the other House has passed this Bill. On the last occasion, it was passed by thirty-two ayes to nine noes. It comes up to the Senate, and, of course, the usual inveterate hostility is offered to it. The Senate purports to be as representative of public feeling as is the other House. It is often called the States House in the sense that it is capable of looking at questions in a broader and more patriotic light than is the other House. A proposal of a national character has been placed before the other House, and agreed to four times. If we compare the vote to be cast here with the vote which was recorded in the other Chamber, I submit that, instead of receiving, as I have every . confidence it will receive, a substantial majority, the measure should receive a still more substantial majority, equivalent to at least ten votes. In the other House, .the voting on the last occasion was thirty-two ayes to nine noes. If we assume - and it is not an extravagant assumption - that the remaining thirty-four members would vote in ratio of the forty-one members who did vote, we should , havé in that House 58.5 ayes to 16.5 noes. And in the Senate, which has coequal powers, and which is supposed to be an equally faithful exponent of public feel ing, we should have a vote equivalent to twenty-eight ayes to eight noes. On the present occasion, I believe we shall have a majority, but not the majority which we should have, if the Senate lived up to the expectations which were indulged in at the outset-
– Should we always vote in the same proportion as the other House ?
– Certainly not. I am not using this as a conclusive argument, but merely to show that on a proposal of this character, which even its opponents will recognise has national qualities, the other House, which is considered to represent smaller component parts of the Commonwealth, has recorded an overwhelming majority in its favour. That leads me to ask seriously whether the Senate is living up to the expectations of the people in displaying a steady hostility to the measure? I venture to say, in all truthfulness, that the opponents of the Bill are less concerned about the effect it will have on the national prosperity of the Continent than about the immediate effect it will have upon the finances of their States, as is indicated by Senator Dobson when he refers to Tasmania’s share of the cost - £900. I believe, however, that the division will show that we have not yet arrived at that pass that when- a question of national import is about to be discussed and settled, each representative of a State wants to know whether or not it will be wronged out of twopence halfpenny or threepence before he will proceed to deal with a proposal of a Federal character and of far-reach- ‘ ing importance. In Western Australia, we have not considered our own financial position before considering the effect which the enactment of certain proposals would have on the progress and prosperity of the Commonwealth. By paragraph xxxiv., of section 51, of the Constitution, the Commonwealth is invested with the right to construct railways. I suppose that the opponents of this measure will not contend that that provision” was put in for no purpose ; even my honorable friend Senator Givens, in his wildest moments, will not assume that position. Evidently, it was inserted after it had passed through the fire of a lengthy discussion at the hands of the representatives of every State. We are entitled to say that it was intended that the Commonwealth, somehow or other, should put the provision into operation.
– We shall not have the right to build the railway until the South Australian Government gives its consent.
– I wish to ask my honorable friend, who is, perhaps, the most rabid stickler in the Senate, for the proper exercise of our constitutional power, to assist us in regard to this project just as he was prepared the other day to assist us on a paltry question of affixing a penny stamp to a cheque in the Bills of Exchange Bill. I ask him, if he desires to be consistent in his actions, to go further, and see that that power to construct railways which is vested in the Commonwealth shall be carried out.
– But the honorable senator wants me to go further than the Constitution.
– A great deal of discussion has centred round the question of the national character of this project. I believe that if we . can prove that it is of a national character we shall succeed in getting even my honorable friend’s vote. How are we to judge whether it is a national projector not? If we want to acquaint ourselves with the quality of a proposal, we naturally refer to an adept skilled in a particular trade or calling, closely allied to the matter under discussion. Prior to Federation, some responsible public men ‘ recorded their opinion in favour of this being a national project, and, therefore, if is not rash to assume that it must be national, or, if it is not admitted that it is national, that that aspect of the matter is arguable. Amongst the foremost public men of the time was Charles Cameron Kingston, who, I think, is as great an authority on national matters as is any member -of this Parliament. Writing to the Premier of Western Australia in 1899, he said -
Will you pardon my taking “the opportunity of expressing the sincerest- hope that Western Australia will as heretofore keep pace with the general Federal advance? All the others will, no doubt, be included. To you who are so familiar with the general advantages of Federation, it would be idle to dwell upon them. The relations between Western Australia and the other Colonies - I speak specially for South Australia - have been always so correct that I am sure it would be a source of infinite regret to all if Western Australia were even temporarily omitted from the closer union so long contemplated, so ardously contended for, and now apparently so readily capable of consummation by all. Our near constitutional connexion resulting from Federation is in itself a boon to all included within its sphere. I cannot help thinking also that it must -
I wish to emphasize the word “ must “ - at no very distant date result in the connexion of the east with the west by rail through the medium, say, of a line from Port Augusta to your gold-fields. This would indeed be an Australian work -
That is, it would not be a South Australian work, nor a Western Australian work, but, in the opinion of Mr. Kingston, an Australian work. worthy of being undertaken by the Federal authority -
As I go further in this letter, the more favorable it becomes - on behalf of the nation, in pursuance of the authority contained in the Commonwealth Bill. It is of course a work of special interest to Western Australia and South Australia, and I devoutly hope that the day is not far distant when the representatives of Western and South Australia may in their places in a Federal Par: liament be found working side by side for the advancement of Australian interest in this and other matters of national concern.
Now, if the bulk of the people of this country were called upon to nominate one among our prominent statesmen who was’ fit to enunciate a national policy, I have no hesitation in saying that they would choose Charles Cameron Kingston. We also have Sir William Lyne recording his opinion in the following terms -
I heard all the discussion that took place about the bringing in of Western Australia into the Federation, and I have not the slightest doubt that if a resolution had been submitted committing the Commonwealth to the construction of the railway it would have been carried.
Again, Mr. G. H. Reid, another exponent of Australian feeling of no mean standing, said quite lately -
The line is a great national undertaking that should be carried out.
Having regard to the views of these statesmen, it is the safest thing in the world to say that this project is of a national character. As far as we in the West are concerned, it cannot be denied that we look upon the construction of this railway as being a part of the Federal scheme. We regarded it as being even as essential a part of the Federal scheme as the bi-cameral system, or the judicature. We considered that there could be no true Federation until the West was connected by railway with the East. We were led to support Federationon the promise of prominent politicians that one of the public works that would be carried out after the ‘Commonwealth was got under way would be the building of this line. 1 well remember that in the year 1899, when the question of Federation was very keenly canvassed throughout Western Australia, the feeling in the minds of the people- was that we should accept the Commonwealth Bill, and trust the Federal Parliament in respect of the railway. I distinctly remember a meeting held at Boulder, one of the most important centres in the gold-fields area. The Federal question was then being ventilated, and, naturally, foremost mention was made of the early construction of this line if we placed our trust in the Federal Parliament. Some of the speakers, including myself, expressed that opinion. We were largely prompted to that belief by reason of the letter from Mr. Kingston, from which I have quoted. I have referred to sacrifices. We recognised thai at that time, we had an overflowing Treasury in the West, and we saw that Federation meant a change in our fiscal system which would involve the sacrifice of those large surpluses which we had been enjoying. We saw also, that Federation would mean a loss to Western Australia in respect of her growing industries by diverting trade to the capitals of the eastern States. We were cognizant of all these probabilities, but nevertheless, we voted for Federation. One other issue was present to our minds. Up to that time, Queensland had never been able to remove what was a long-standing menace to herself and to the other States of this continent. We recognised that the White Australia policy could not be attained until Queensland received the assistance of the other States. Western Australia, therefore, entered the Federation, notwithstanding the sacrifices that it involved, largely in order to enable Queensland, for the first time, to rid herself of the black labour evil, and to establish a White Australia within our borders. We were prepared to make sacrifices in order that Australia might become white, and in order tha,t our own State might be a component part of the Union, relying upon the promises distinctly given by Mr. Kingston and others to secure for us-, that work which would be of benefit to us and to them.
– Does the honorable senator think that Mr. Kingston was empowered to promise anything on behalf of Queensland, Tasmania, or New South Wales?
– I do not say that any other State was compelled to adopt Mr. Kingston’s advice or opinion, but I <3o say that at that time Mr. Kingston was the most important figure in the public life of this country, and therefore that he was looked upon as a fairly reliable authority on this subject. If I am asked what Western Australia is prepared to sacrifice in order to secure the construction of this railway, I reply that she has already undertaken to bear a portion of the loss that would accrue upon the South Australian side, and also upon her own side; and that she has likewise agreed, in order to fall in with the wishes of the Commonwealth Parliament, to reserve an area of 25 miles on each side of the line for the use of the Commonwealth in carrying out the work. Further, it is proposed to standardize the line from Kalgoorlie to Perth, and by that means to have a gauge fitting in with existing States lines on what will, I hope, later on be the standard gauge throughout the continent - 4 ft. in. So that both in regard to land “reservation and to gauge, Western Australia has shown herself prepared to do all she can. It is not necessary to quote at great length from the reports of the engineers, but I cannot pass over the very able report of the late Western Australian engineer, Mr. O’Connor. His reputation is not confined to his own State. He is known as a capable and painstaking officer throughout Australia. I wish to refer especially to the tables, in which he calculates the fares that will be likely to be charged upon the line, and compares them with the present steamer fares. The fare on the intercolonial steamers first class from Fremantle to Adelaide was at that time £4 ros. Now it is £6. The steerage fare was then £3. Now it is £3 10s. I wish to draw special attention to the importance of the traffic which will come to the railway from the gold-fields area, and to point out that there will be a distinct saving of time as well as of money to travellers who use the railway. On the gold-fields area, of which Kalgoorlie forms the centre, there must be about 80,000 people - that is, taking in the Leonora, Coolgardie, Mount Morgan, and Laverton districts. These people have mostly come from the eastern States, and all of them have relatives in Vic-, toria, South Australia, Queensland, or New South Wales. It would be of great importance to them to make a saving in time as well as in cash in travelling to and fro between the gold-fields and the eastern States. At present, on the trip first class from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, they pay £3 4s., - travelling from
Fremantle to Adelaide for £6, making the total £9 4s. By railway it is calculated that the fare from Kalgoorlie to Adelaide will be £7 17s. first class. So that a first class passenger from Kalgoorlie to Adelaide will have a choice of routes. It will cost him £9 4s. to take the train to Fremantle, and then travel by boat to. Adelaide, or £7 17s. to travel direct from Kalgoorlie to Adelaide by train. He will therefore save in cash £1 7s., and in time he will save two and a half days by taking the train. It is also to be assumed that there will be a great increase in traffic in consequence of the line being constructed. The second’ class passenger at present pays £2 for the journey from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, and £3 10s. for the journey by boat from Fremantle to Adelaide - total, £5 10s. The journey by rail would cost him £4 15s. - making a saving of 15s. in money, as well as of two and a half days in time. This prompts me to mention that Mr. O’Connor did not put’ as rosy a view of the question as after events prove that he might. Had he had before him. the in- . creased fares now being charged he might have shown that it would pay people to go from Fremantle through Kalgoorlie, and that they would save money when the time saved was considered. I propose now to quote one paragraph to be found on page 3 of the report of the Engineers-in-Chief . They say -
On the assumption that the present population of Western Australia will be doubled in ten years from the opening of the line, we think that it would be right to anticipate a doubling of the revenue. An investigation of the statistics of Western Australia indicates how rapid has been the progress in every direction. There is a very large movement of population between eastern and western States, which is still increasing. In the year 190a it was as follows : - Immigrants from the eastern States,. 33,000; emigrants to the eastern States, 17,000; showing a total movement of 50,000 persons. That this movement will be encouraged by the additional facilities of railway communication cannot be doubted, and the bringing of the eastern goldfields of. Western Australia and Adelaide into nearer connexion must result in an increasing passenger traffic. Reference to the Monthly Statistical Abstract of January, 1903, published in Western Australia, will show that during the period from 1894 to 1902 the population increased approximately two and a half times.
This is the part which I wish to specially emphasize as showing the progress made in Western Australia during a given period, in order to allay thefears of those honorable senators who may think that the statements made by the Engineers-in-Chief will not be borne out. They stipulated for a doubling of the population in submitting figures showing at the end of the ten years a net profit on the railway of £18,219 per annum. They further said -
The general revenue increased five times, the railway revenue eleven times, post and telegraph receipts five times, Savings Bank deposits three and a half times, tonnage of shipping two and a half times, value of imports four and a third times, value of exports seven times. The export of gold increased nine times in seven years, and was 1,871,083 fine ounces in 1902. The returns show also that in 1902 the crops were double what they were five years previously.
The report of the Engineers-in-Chief was made in 1903, and I have referred to it in order to supplement it with a statement of the progress which has been made to date. I will give the population in the several States to show that, within a certain period, the increase in Western Australia has been greater than in any ofthe other States. In the six years from 1900 to 1906 the population in New South Wales increased by 166,000, an increase of 12 per cent. Irb Victoria, the increase was 35,000, or 3 per cent. ; in Queensland 41,000, or 8 per cent.; in South Australia 21,000, or 5 per cent. ; in Tasmania 7,000, or 4 per cent. ;. and in Western Australia 82,000,or 46 per cent. The percentage of increase in Western Australia was the highest in the Commonwealth, and 3½ times greater than the highest percentage in New South Wales, where the increase was greater than in any of the other eastern States. In the matter of imports and exports, Western Australia also holds a high position. The increase in value for the ten years from 1896 to 1906 being from £8,143.783 in. 1896 to £16,597,000 in 1906. Senator St. Ledger gave the total as £18,000,000, but I could not find such a figure in any record. I came across.
– I referred to 1907.
-I was concerned to show the increase over a period of ten years. During the period mentioned, the value of the imports and exports of Western Australia was more than doubled.
– Is that increase being maintained at the present time?
– Yes. I am giving the figures up to date. The total area of land under crops, including wheat, barley, oats, potatoes, and hay in Western Australia in 1896 was 111,000 acres, and in 1906 it was 364,000 acres, a three-fold increase in ten years. I have obtained special figures with regard to the cultivation of wheat in order that I might show that in Western Australia we have wheat lands that equal, if they do not surpass, any lands to be found in the eastern States. I give the figures for 1896-7 and 1906-7. In Western Australia, in the former year, the area under wheat was 31,489 acres, and in 1906-7 the area was 250,2.33 acres, or over eight times the area under cultivation for wheat ten years before. It is interesting to note that in New South Wales the area under wheat in 1896-7 was 866,112 acres, and in 1906-7 it was 1,866,253 acres, or over twice the area under cultivation ten years previously. In Victoria, in 1896-7, the area under wheat was 1,580,613 acres, and ten years later it was 2,031,893 acres, or a shade over one and a half times the area under wheat in the first year .mentioned. In Queensland, in 1896-7, the area under wheat was 34,670 acres, and in 1906-7 it was 114,575 acres, or over three times the area mentioned for the first year. In South Australia, in 1896-7, the area under wheat was 1,693,045 acres, and ten years later it was 1,681,982 acres. According to these returns, it would appear that South Australia did not experience a very prosperous time in wheat cultivation during the ten years referred to. In Tasmania, in 1896-7, the area under wheat was 74,516 acres, and ten years later it was only 32,808 acres, or about half the area cultivated for wheat in the former years. In this matter Western Australia again stands at the top of the list, and ic is shown that she possesses areas that can compare more than favorably with the eastern States. She had in the years mentioned increased the area under cultivation for wheat by over eight times, and the State showing the next highest increase was Queensland, with an increase of three times the area under cultivation ten years previously, but with a much smaller total area devoted to the crop. The figures taper down to twice the area in New South Wales, until we come to the unfortunate position qf Tasmania. I wish to show the productivity of Western Australia, and to disprove some of the lying statements that appear in a paper which is circulated so freely in Melbourne. Taking the average yield per acre, the true test of the fertility of the arable area of any country, we find that in Western Australia last year it was 11 bushels, in New South Wales 11. 7 bushels, in Victoria 11.1 bushels, in
Queensland 8.7 bushels, in South. Australia 10.2 bushels, and in Tasmania 21.4 bushels. The average for the whole Commonwealth was 1 1. 1 bushels, and for. Western Australia, the State that is libelled by the press of Victoria, the average yield was only 0.1 bushel less than the average for the whole Commonwealth.
– Without wishing to decry the honorable senator’s statement, may I say that he must recognise that as a larger area is brought under cultivation there is a natural tendency for inferior land to be taken up, and, consequently, for the average yield to come down.
– I recognise, also, that in most instances the first crop from land is not the best crop, and the fact that Western Australia has been very largely increasing the area under cultivation neutralizes the honorable senator’s argument.
– That is against universal experience.
– We also have the timber industry in the West, and I have figures connected with it for 1896 and 1904, the latest I could get. These figures show an export value of .£116,000 in 3896 and in 1904 of £654,949. The output of this industry has, therefore, increased sixfold within the eight years referred to.
– Will all that timber be sent over the railway ? .
– Some of it would, no doubt, be sent east.
– This is the best speech I have heard against the railway.
– The honorable senator is a very poor judge. He might find himself in the position of the oriental Judge who, when the decision in a case was come to, was hanged instead of the culprit. In horned stock, the increase in Western Australia has been threefold in ten years. In horses the increase was from 57,000 to 97,000, or nearly- double; pigs, 31,000 to 77,000, more than double j and in sheep there was a substantial increase of 150 per cent. I could not get the exact figures for sheep. I come now to deal with one of the staple industries of the State, namely, the mining industry, and in connexion with it we have something satisfactory to show. The total output of the industry up to May, 1907, was 17,367,000 ounces, or over 530 tons of gold, of the value of £7 3j 774,434- The dividends amounted to £16,461,915, or almost £1 for every ounce of gold obtained. The number of gold-mining leases has practically remained stationary for the last seven years. It is significant that we have on the gold-fields a large population still clinging tenaciously to their leases, and there are no signs of a “ slump.” The number of gold-mining leases issued in the State for the last ten years was 2,500, covering a total area of 32,000 acres. I come now to deal with another subject which may thrown a little light on the question as to where the money required to construct the railway has gone in the past. Senator Millen said that we should be able to get enough out of our own gold mines to build the railway. I shall show that the eastern States have had as much from Western Australia as would have built it easily. During the ten years from 1896 to 1905-
– While I am giving the honorable senator a great deal of latitude in the quotation of statistics, I cannot allow him to go into the question of how much gold the eastern States have received from Western Australia. I cannot see how that is applicable to the building of the railway or the surveying of the line.
– I propose to show the amount of money sent in remittances from Western Australia to the eastern States, as an illustration of the position’ of the West as a field for employment, and of the necessity for connecting it more closely with the eastern States. The money sent by means of post office orders from Western Australia to the eastern States during those ten years amounted to - £8.1:2,893 to South Australia; £2,486,431 to Victoria; £989,212 to New South Wales; £137,048 to Queensland; and £181,584 to Tasmania. Postal notes during the same period amounted to £195,276, so that the total sum remitted from the West during those ten years was £4,802,444. As a contra, Western Australia cashed orders from the eastern States, as follows : - South Australia, £124,041 ; Victoria, £278,499 ; New South Wales, £.167,136; Queensland, j&32>779’> and Tasmania, £32,076, or a total received by Western’ Australia of ;£°34j53i- Deducting that from the money sent to the East, there is a balance of £4,167,913 in actual cash sent from Western Australia to the other States during that period by post office orders and postal notes.
– There was- also the money sent through the banks.
– I thank the honorable senator for reminding me of that fact. . We had a very stupid arrangement in the West for some time, by which the charges for transmitting money through- the post office were kept very high, and a lot of business was thrown into the hands of the banks. Consequently, the figures I have given do not show all the money that came to the eastern States from Western Australia. The great bulk of the people on the gold-fields area of Western Australia came from the eastern States. The sum of £4,167,913, which they sent away to the East, would be sufficient, within a few thousand pounds, to build this railway.’ During all that time the inhabitants of Western Australia did not even succeed in drawing a. prize in Tattersall’s sweeps, although I regret to say that the orders sent to Tasmania included a large sum of money for that institution. If Senator Millen is still curious to know where the money should come from for building .this . railway, my answer is that it has already come from Western Australia to the eastern States, and has remained here for the special benefit of those States ever since. Any one would think, to listen to some honorable senators, that there- never was <i community situated like Western Australia is to-day. They seem to regard her position as unique - a. position created by herself, and one which she has not much cause to murmur about. But the case of Western. Australia since the establishment of the Australian Commonwealth is precisely the same as that, of British Columbia under the Dominion Government in Canada. All the Canadian States did not join the Federation when it was established in 1867. British Columbia only came in in 187 1, upon the condition that within two years the construction of a railway to connect it with the eastern Provinces should be begun. That road is now the Canadian Pacific Railway, which was completed in 1885, giving Canada and the Empire a great highway from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is interesting to compare the financial position of British Columbia with that of Western Australia. I have here the Hanoi-Book of British Columbia, which shows that, the revenue for’ the year 1905- 1906 was $3,044,000, and the expenditure $2,677,000. Consequently, its revenue is not. so many dollars as. that of Western Australia is pounds, and therefore it cannot be compared in importance .with our’ State. The request which it put. forward, and which it succeeded in getting carried by the Dominion Parliament, is identical with the request that has been so publicly acknowledged in the case of Western Australia. Even in the case of British Columbia, after it was expressly agreed that it should be connected by rail with the eastern Provinces, there were some repudiators of the obligation cast upon the Dominion Parliament to carry out the agreement, just as there are repudiators of this understanding with Western Australia to be found in this Chamber. Lord Dufferin, than whom no Colonial official of the Empire will be longer remembered or held in higher esteem, was Governor-General of Canada from 1872 to 1878, and he visited British Columbia at the time when those attempts at repudiation on the part of the Dominion Government were agitating that State. He found it necessary to use” all his diplomatic art to allay the intense friction prevailing. He arrived there in 1874, and the first indication he had of the antiFederal feeling, the unrest, irritation, and dissatisfaction with the Union there - the same feeling as is making itself felt in Western Australia to-day - was in the shape of an inscription over a triumphal arch beneath which he was asked to pass - “The Carnarvon terms or Separation.” The Carnarvon terms included the building of the railway.
– The honorable senator is departing altogether too far from the question now before the Senate. The question is whether we shall adopt a Bill to provide for the survey of a line of railway between Western Australia and the eastern States. The honorable senator may be in order in alluding incidentally to what has taken place under similar conditions in other parts of the world, but I cannot allow him to dilate at length on that subject. Incidents may be referred to briefly so long as they are made applicable to the question before the Senate, but the honorable senator will not be in order in going into them at any greater length’. I ask the honorable senator to kindly accede to my request.
– I shall endeavour to do so, sir, but I hope that you will rule that I am in order in referring specially to the case of British Columbia.
– I have already pointed out that the honorable senator is going too far. I could explain fully the views I entertain if I were to debate the matter with the honorable senator, but I do not think I ought to do that. I desire simply ‘to point out to him that he is going beyond what is necessary in order to prove his case - that the construction of this line is desirable in the interests of the Common: wealth. I do not wish to deny to any honorable senator the fullest possible latitude, but there are limits which must not be exceeded.
– I was proceeding to refer to the unrest that was shown in British Columbia over a question precisely similar to the one now before the Senate, and I referred to Lord Dufferin’s first experience in that State. The incident is an historical one. When he was asked to pass under that arch, he suggested to the committees who represented public opinion there that they should take out the letter “ S “ from the word Separation, and substitute the letter “ R,” thus making the inscription read - “ The Carnarvon terms or Reparation.” That shows what a diplomat he was. Speaking before he left, he referred to British Columbia as a glorious Province, which Canada should be proud to possess.
– I have already pointed out to the honorable senator that he is exceeding the bounds of order in connexion with the debate on this Bill. I asked him to accept my ruling, and he promised to do so, but now he is going directly against it. I am sure he does not desire to do that. I put it to him whether it is not a desirable, thing for him to accept the ruling of the Chair, and to deal with his argument in a different way. I do not want to take any stringent steps, but I wish honorable senators to realize the fact that the Chair has a duty to perform, and if the Chair determines that a certain line of action is to be taken it is the duty of the Chair to insist on compliance with that determination unless the Senate sees fit to differ from that decision. I want to put this matter as kindly as I possibly can, and in the nicest possible terms, but at the same time I wish honorable senators to understand that if a ruling is given from the Chair, it is not only the duty, but the intention of the Chair, to see that .that ruling is obeyed.
– I bow, sir, to your ruling, and shall make no further reference to that occasion when feeling was so manifested in British Columbia. But if it will be in order, I desire to say that its population in 1 881 was 36,000, and in 1901 171,000. The length of railway to which the Dominion Government agreed to construct was’ 2,900 miles. Let me now show how the line became payable. The shares of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company were subscribed at 100 dols., and according to the latest quotation I can get they now range from. 159 dols. to 168 dols British Columbia had a small population of less than 36,000 when it insisted upon the consruction of a railway by the Dominion Government, and received a recognition of . its claim. And the value of the shares of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company have advanced a little over 50 per cent, since they were subscribed.
– Was the railway paid for by land grants?
– Yes; and the Dominion Government gave a subsidy of £5,000,000 to the company for pushing that great work through the Dominion. My object in making those references has been to show how natural it is for the inhabitants of Western Australia to feel aggrieved owing to the non-recognition of the justice of a proposal which has been before the public so long, and which in the past has received the ready assent of public men in Australia. I desire now to make a brief reference to the defence question. I acknowledge the good work which Senator Cameron has done as a soldier and a citizen, but I beg to differ from him when he attempts to speak partly as an exponent of defence and partly as a representative of Tasmania. I am rather inclined to think that, although he took the floor to speak as an authority -on defence, he suddenly swerved to the other position when he started to speak . of saving £900 to that State. He stated that by running the railway within 50 miles of the coast we should be jeopardizing the safety of the people of this country. If that be the case, let me ask him whether he would ever put a detachment under his control in such a position that it could be opposed from both Slides ? I venture to say that he would not. The first object in military tactics is to get out of a position of that kind. Yet the honorable senator stated that by constructing the railway within 50 miles of the coast it would first enable the enemy to land their forces, ‘ travel for that distance, and tear up the line. It would be connected with two very strong bases of supply, and when an invading army was engaged in the work of pulling up the rails what would our forces in Perth, Adelaide, and Sydney be doing? Could they not prevent that attack, and get the invading army between two fires? Suppose that an enemy formed the idea that it would be safe to invade the island Continent at Eucla. What would it avail them if we abandoned the railway and left them to march for a distance of over 500 miles on either side ? If the position as outlined by my honorable friend were created, we should still be able to bring our forces from the west on one side and from the east on the other to repel any attack which might be made. So that the argument that the placing of the railway near the coast is a direct inducement to an invading army to make an onslaught does not hold water, for the simple reason that if it attempted to interfere with the line it would place itself in such a position that it could be- “attacked from two sides. The construction of the railway is opposed by all the military senators. I desire to ask the gallant colonel who graces the front Opposition bench whether he views this proposal to maintain the present- state of isolation is on ai par with the opinion which was expressed by Major-General J. Bevan Edwards, Commander of the troops on the China Station. I wish specially to ask the gallant colonel of 100 sham fights what position he would take up if he came from Western Australia ? I venture to say that on the question of defence alone he. would want to be carried out of the Chamber after the first division. It is most regrettable to observe how little some honorable senators, although they represent States which are fairly secure against attack, take into consideration the necessity for guarding the outposts of an army as well- as the main body. That is how we are situated in Western Australia. The railway, if constructed, would provide the speediest means of communication to and from the old country and India, as well as the eastern States. Supposing that Sydney were bombarded by a Japanese Navy, should we not readily agree that the safest and quickest means of sending land troops would be by an overland railway from Fremantle to Sydney ?
– There are no troops in Fremantle.
– Perhaps the honorable senator will say that there are no troops in India. It is a very old saying that if we want to secure peace, we must be prepared for war. I do not know whether the colonel has ever been in an engagement.
– Which colonel?
– This drawing-room colonel !
– Order !
– I ask Senator Neild to consider this question : If the eastern portion of the Continent were attacked, and we had to depend upon India for relief, what line of communication would lend itself more easily to resisting an attack than would a railway from Fremantle, via Adelaide to Sydney? I hope that the honorable senator will address the Chamber because I am anxious to hear his expert views. It is contended that this is not a national project. There are some opponents of the Bill who never lose an opportunity of decrying the tactics of trustsand monopolies. Here is an opportunity when they can assist to very effectively circumvent the tactics of our enemies by giving their sanction to the construction of a railway by the Commonwealth, and one which I maintain would, in a very short time, pay working expenses as well as interest. We should have an alternative to the present arrangement, under which the inhabitants of Western Australia are fleeced in the shape of freights and fares. Yet honorable senators who are so zealous in their opposition to trusts will not move their little finger in order to destroy the octopus which has made its appearance amongst us. I feel that the whole of the Continent would derive a benefit from the construction of the railway. We in Western Australia have made sacrifices, and we rely upon a majority here to do the fair thing. We consider that we are entitled to a quid pro quo for the sacrifices we have made on behalf of Federation.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [6.12]. - This project has been so often threshed out here that it hardly seems necessary to speak upon it at great length. While I have heard from time to time a number of efficient speeches against the proposal to carry out this initial railway work, I do not know that I have ever heard a speech so thoroughly designed to condemn the matter on its merits as that of the honorable, gallant, and learned senator who last spoke. A sentence which he used towards the end of his speech makes a very efficient text. He claimed that the construction of the railway would provide “ cheaper freights “ and fares, and yet a large portion of his address was devoted to showing what tremendous strides Western Australia was making in the matter of soil products, with the corollary that an abundant supply of local products would necessarily stop the importation of such articles from the other States. If Western Australia is making such giant strides as the honorable senator has stated, I am pleased.. A month or two ago I witnessed the rapid developments which are proceeding there - developments which all men having any regard for the well-being of any portion of this earth’s surface must witness with a great deal of satisfaction and admiration. But if all the commodities which are now imported from the eastern and southern States are to be produced locally, it necessarily follows that a railway will not be required to take them’ to Western Australia. I know perfectly well that it is producing so much that it has reduced very materially the importations from the other States. As to cheaper freights and fares, Senator Lynch must have allowed his eloquence to run away with his intellect, or else he must be so haplessly unacquainted with the difference in cost between rail and water carriage that he is no. wise guide for us. It is one of the most notorious facts in commerce that carriage by rail can never compete with water carriage. A man cannot travel by rail from Sydney to Melbourne for less than £6 return first class, in addition to which he has to pay 12s. 6d. each way for sleeping accommodation, and provide his own meals. But he can be carried by water with all meals supplied, and with free sleeping accommodation, for about £3 10s. return. It is not necessary to continue that line of argument, which could be applied to the cost of rail and water communication between every capital in Australia, and indeed between places in any other part of the world: The greater cheapness of water carriage is so notorious that it is not worth discussing. Take the question of freight. I am not quite sure of the railway freight between Melbourne and Sydney, but I think that the freight by sea is 12s. 66. per ton. But I will undertake to say that an honorable senator could not get a ton of goods carried from Sydney to Melbourne by rail for less than £2. Indeed, I should be prepared to make a bet about it, except that I remember that I am in the land of Judkins and Bent, and that it would not be safe to do sc. I quite admit, of course, that it is impossible to reach the gold-fields by sea, and that therefore between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie the gold-fields would gain an advantage in the matter of fares from the construction of the railway as compared with present rates. But my honorable friend, Senator Lynch, was careful not to mention that the true route from the coast to the gold-fields is not by way of Port Augusta, but by way of Port Esperance. Any one who has any idea of engineering, geography, or common sense must admit that to be so. What is more, my’ statement is proved to be true by the fact that Western Australia is at present building a line to Norseman. If that line were built, what would be the effect? There would be a little over forty-eight hours’ steam from Adelaide to Esperance, and then 300 miles rail to Coolgardie. I am not quite sure whether the distance from Coolgardie to Esperance is 250 or 300 miles.
– Two hundred and forty, I think.
– If, for the sake of argument, I say that the distance is 300 miles, it is the best possible evidence that I am not trying to overstate the case. When we are talking about the cost of travelling, how is it that the traffic between, say, Adelaide and Fremantle today is chiefly conducted in local boats? I suppose that for every passenger who travels by one of the mail boats at £5 there are twenty who travel by one of the local steamers at £4 10s. to save 10s. This shows clearly that the question of cost must materially affect the traffic between Adelaide and Fremantle. I have travelled by both classes of steamers. Some of the local boats are very fine. They are worthy of any country in the world, and Australia has reason to’ be proud of them. I mention this difference as showing that it is not likely that people willpay £20 to travel to Perth by rail when they can travel by a first-class mail steamer for £5, with all meals given in. I cannot suppose that, the single fare between. Melbourne and Sydney being £4 for 600 miles, it will be less than four times as much between Adelaide and Kalgoorlie. At any rate, it cannot be less than £15. Is it likely then that people would prefer topay £15 to travel by train, providing their own meals, when they can travel by steamer with meals given in for £5? I am assuming that the £15 would cover sleeping accommodation, though I do not think that it would. If sleeping accommodation were charged for at 12s. 6d. per night, as is the case between Melbourne and Sydney, the total fare would be £18 10s. It may seem rather paltry to mention such matters, but when one is discussing a railroad proposition one has to look at these things in order to determine whether the proposal is justified. Senator Lynch has spoken about the resources and the productions of Western Australia. Of course, the progress that Western Australia has made is. of the greatest advantage to her and the rest of Australia. But whenallusion is made to the immensity of her gold dividends, the largeness of her revenue, and her great resources, surely it must appeal to honorable senators that Senator Lynch was making out a very poor case for Western Australia to play the mendicant to the poor States that she is supposed to be supplying with remit-; tances every week. As the usual hour for adjournment is approaching, I ask leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
.-I move -
That, in the opinion of the Senate -
In order to obviate informal voting, errors in counting, and delay in Parliamentary elec-. tions, the time has arrived to adopt a machine for voting purposes, if an effective one can be procured.
That a departmental inquiry should at once be instituted, and exhaustive tests made of such machines as may be submitted to the Department, with a view to the adoption of one of them, if it is found effective.
That this resolution be transmitted by message to the House of Representatives for their concurrence.
Honorable senators will remember that when I brought this question under the notice of the Senate before, I endeavoured to secure an amendment of the electoral law to provide for the use of these voting, machines at such places as might be approved by regulation. In that I was unsuccessful, as a number of honorable senators contended that they had not given sufficient consideration to the question,and had not had an opportunity to inspect any,’ of the machines. It was also contended that, as the Electoral Department had no report as to the feasibility of the proposal to use voting machines, I was asking the Senate merely to record a permissive resolution. I recognise that the vote given on that occasion was a vote against the expediency of passing a Bill’ before a report had been obtained on the working of voting machines, and possibly one had been recommended for use. Towards the close of the last session of the last Parliament I endeavoured to get the Minister of Home Affairs to agree to have a trial made under actual working conditions of some of these machines at the recent elections. I thought that I had obtained a promise that something would be done in the matter, but I have since learned that no attempt was made to utilize any voting machine at the elections.
– Was it an implied promise ?
– I took it to be a promise that the Minister would favorably consider the request I made. However, nothing was done in that direction, and we are in exactly the same position as we were before. Honorable senators, will see that I am not, by my motion, asking the Senate to say that a voting machine should be adopted, but to pass a motion requiring the Minister to institute a departmental inquiry. I have not asked for the appointment of a Select Committee, because I recognise that the matter is one on which we desire not so much the evidence of persons generally as of experts. With a departmental inquiry we could, at very little cost, secure the necessary tests of machines, and put Parliament in possession of the facts as to whether such a machine could be obtained for practical use. I do not know whether honorable senators have taken the trouble to look into the statistics of the last elections, or have noted the weaknesses of the present system as exhibited by what happened at those elections.
– They could not help noticing them.
– The most striking weakness disclosed in the operation of the present system was the large number of informal votes recorded under it. It was expected that at the first election under our system there would be a large number of informal votes, because in many of the States the electors had been in the habit of striking out the names of candidates for whom they did not desire to vote, whilst under the Federal system they were called upon to put crosses opposite the names of those for whom they desired to vote. I do not propose to refer to the first Federal elections under our system, except by way of comparison with the results shown at the last general elections. The fact is that, although the method of voting at the last election was in this respect similar to that in force at the previous election, the number of informal votes throughout the Commonwealth was greater at the last elections than at the first. I will quote the figures from the Victorian Year-Book for 1907 in connexion with the elections held in 1903 and in 1906. They show that the percentage of informal votes recorded for all Australia in elections for the Senate in 1903 was 3.61 per cent. For the 1906. elections, the percentage was 6.36 per cent., or an increase of nearly 100 per cent, in the number of informal votes.
– Does that include informal votes challenged, and since found to be formal ? If it does, it would make some difference in the percentages.
– I suppose it does. But I do not think it would make any appreciable difference, because the Senate elections were challenged in only one State, South Australia, and the percentage of informal votes recorded in that State was lower than in any other State of the Commonwealth at both elections.
– That is just what I should expect.
– Of course it is. With respect to the elections for the House of Representatives, the percentage of informal .votes in 1903 was 2.52 per cent., and in 1906 it was 3.73 per cent. These figures disclose a loss of votes which I venture to say we cannot afford. Senator Dobson and others question the advisability of inaugurating a system of compulsory voting, but here it is shown that without compulsory voting nearly 7 per cent, of the voters who do go to the poll are disfranchised under our clumsy system of voting.
– It is not wholly due to the system.
– It is not perhaps due so much to the system as to the lack of sound judgment on the part of those who under it are called upon to decide what is an informal vote.
– Is there not some proportion of the total of informal votes due to the neglect of electors to inform themselves as to what they have to do? For instance, many of them sign their _ names across the ballot-papers.
– The informal votes are due to a variety of reasons; but whatever, the cause may be, I believe that ant effective voting machine would remedy the evil. It would remove the element of weakness in deciding what are informal votes, and that element must remain If we continue our present system. So long as we have a system of marking ballotpapers, the question will continue to be raised as to whether particular papers have been marked in accordance with the law.
– There were a good many other informalities. Some of the staff engaged in conducting the elections initialed the ballot-papers on, the back, although they had instructions plainly before them to the effect that they should be initialed on the face.
– The loss of votes is due to informalities by officials as well as electors, and it is difficult to say which class has been the greater sinner. Our experience teaches us that the elector is not growing wiser, and that the informal votes have not been due to his lack of familiarity with the present system.
– He has not had enough practice.
– That may be, but I am disposed to think that in Senator Millen’s opinion electors are given quite sufficient opportunities to vote for him. If the- results as regards the last election were bad, the results as regards the referendum were worse. In connexion with the referendum there were 1,058,277 voters to whom ballot-papers were issued. Of these 936,481 votes were recorded, and of the balance of 121,796 ballot-papers 9,641 were informal and 112,155 were unaccounted for. No words of mine are needed to paint the picture there disclosed of the increasing wastage due to informal votes. At the last elections, we were particularly unfortunate in the matter of errors in counting. In this connexion the election in South Australia for the Senate will at once occur to the minds of honorable senators. I do not propose to discuss the merits of that election, but to say that on the first count Mr. Crosbie, since dead, was declared elected. Mr. Vardon demanded a recount, and on the recount Mr. Vardon was declared elected. His election was challenged, and a Judge of the High Court has declared that the election, so far as it related to Mr. Vardon, was void. Another election result that was challenged was Mr. Palmer’s return for Echuca. That was challenged by Mr. Kennedy, and on the recount that election also was declared void. It is singular that in every case, so far as I can learn, where a recount has been demanded, not in connexion with the last election only, but in connexion with all previous elections, errors in the count have been discovered.
– Would the voting machine obviate all those difficulties ? ‘
– I know of one machine, which from what I saw of its working, would, I think, obviate them. I am not an expert in such machinery, and cannot pretend to say that it would stand all tests, but there was prima facie evidence of the efficacy of the machine to which I refer, the Stacey- Julius machine which was exhibited in the building in which we are assembled. Voting machines have been made by other inventors in this State, and one of them was brought under my notice within” the last few days. The notice of the inventor of this machine was directed to the motion I am now moving, and he says he is prepared to submit his machine to any test.
– Nothing could be worse than our human machines.
– I am inclined to agree with the honorable senator. It should not be forgotten that it is only when the numbers are close that a recount is demanded, and if whenever a recount is demanded, mistakes are found to occur, it is evident that if there were a general recount in the case of all the elections, it would be found that in almost all, if not in every one of them, errors of greater or lesser magnitude were made. As to the delay in the count under the present system, I can refer honorable senators to what happened in connexion with my own election. The elections for the Senate were held throughout the Commonwealth on 1 2th December, yet the Senate returns were not declared in Western Australia until 20th January. I am aware that much of the delay in that case was due to the fact that returns had to be received from many very distant polling places, but delay was experienced also in connexion with the returns for city constituencies, and a delay in some instances of several days occurred in making up the count from polling places that were almost alongside the place where the poll was declared. Honorable senators will remember that many country returns. were declared before the city returns. -There are, therefore, three indictments against the present system. The great waste of votes, the errors in counting, and the delay in making known the returns. I do not lay stress on the last point, because I suppose the delay inconveniences the candidate more than any one else, and involves no great loss to the country. But I do emphasize the other difficulties. It is of little use for us to pass liberal legislation, to provide a costly staff, and go to the trouble of compiling rolls, if we are then to discover that nearly 7 per cent. of voters who go to the poll might as well stay away, since they record votes that do not count. Errors in counting involve loss and anxiety to the candidates, whose elections are challenged, and create a general wantof confidence in the operationof our electoral machinery, which has a most disturbing effect on political life. I think a remedy is to be found in the use of voting machines. It would be strange if, in these days of invention, when mechanics have been applied to industry to such an extent as almost totally to eliminate the human element, and to make the human being a mere tender of machines, the ingenuity of man could not devisesome method by which a voter could indicate by the use of a machine the candidate whom he preferred to act for him as his representative in Parliament. I will take the totalizator on the race-course as a very simple illustration. That contrivance has to accomplish a far more difficult task than would a voting machine. There are machines of other kinds in existence to-day accomplishing far more difficult work than a voting machine will ever be called upon to accomplish. Instances of that are to be found in the cash registers and mechanical calculators now in use in the commercial world, working out the most difficult problems. Yet, in this matter, which goes to the heart of our political life, we have never attempted to get beyond a system of recording votes that was known in Australia over fifty years ago. I have seen one of these machines working, and read of a number of others. The returning officer is the governor of the machine, just as much as he is the controller of the polling booth. The machine does not interfere with his control over the voters. He has complete command of it so far as concerns the allowing of a voter to use it, but he cannot manipulate the counting apparatus. It can be sealed just as effectively, and made just as secret, as the ballot-box. While it counts mechanically as the voters record their votes, that counting apparatus is enclosed, and can be sealed by the return ing officer, nor can it be opened unless the seal is broken. It offers, therefore, quite as great security as does a wooden ballotbox, which is sealed by pasting a paper over it.
– The honorable senator might add that a man cannot vote twice.
– That is so, and a man cannot record an informal vote. The returning officer (knows, before the voter leaves the machine, whether he has recorded an informal vote. The machine I saw had a number of handles, and before the election began the returning officer, by adjusting a certain apparatus, fixed those handles according to the number of members to be returned. If it was a Senate election for the return of three members, he would so adjust it that if the voter only pulled two of the handles he could not leave the booth, because the door would not unlock until he had pulled three. In the same way, he could not pull four, nor could he pull two at the one time. If he did pull two, and the returning officer allowed him out of the polling booth, the vote would not be recorded. The machine, so far as I can see, gets rid of informal votes’ It is rapid and easily used, and voting can take place at a much quicker rate than under the present system. As the voter records his vote, the machine registers it, so that immediately the polling booth is closed the officer who is authorized to open the machine can announce the result. That record can be kept, and the machine can be at once sealed up again, and, if necessary, kept for a certain time, although there would be no necessity for that, because it could not be- challenged. I suppose the machine would be read in the presence of scrutineers or other officers appointed for the purpose. There would be no human element in the counting, such as enters into the present system.
– The human element is a deceitful thing.
– It is, because it has human weaknesses. It is not mechanical, like the machine. The best of us make errors in counting, even if we are absolutely unbiased and free from partisanship, and such an error might void the whole of an election, and cause loss to the country and the candidates.’ There are several of these machines already in existence. The House of Representatives, in 1904, appointed a Select Committee to inquire into the working of the Electoral Act. Their report is contained in volume1 of the
Papers of the House of Representatives, 1904. If honorable senators read the evidence, they will see that several inventors came before the Committee and advocated the use of their particular machines. Some were produced and explained to the Committee, who recorded the fact that they were very much impressed with them. The Committee did not further investigate the matter,’ but recommended the Minister to make a thorough inquiry into their effectiveness. That recommendation has never been acted upon, and, therefore, nothing further has been done.
– Is the honorable senator aware that in some of the States gambling and gambling machines are prohibited?
-The honorable senator’s presence here shows that an election is not a gamble. He could hardly expect me to say that he came here by chance. Whilst these machines have never been put into practical use in Australia in municipal, State, or Federal elections, they have been applied in America, not to Federal, but to some State and city elections. It is- singular that they have been used to overcome the defects of the Australian ballot system in the particular centres where it has been adopted. I hold in my hand an interesting work, entitled The City for the People, by Professor Frank Parsons. It contains a chapter on the automatic ballot. This is the author’s introduction of the question -
A secret ballot is very essential to honest and independent voting. It prevents the briber from knowing whether or no the purchased voter does as he was bidden. The employer cannot tell how his workmen vole, and so their positions are safe. It was thought that the Australian ballot would meet this want, and to a considerable extent it does. It is, however, by no means fraud-proof. Scheming men have found a way to make it their ally, instead of their foe. Thev obtain a blank ballet from a corruptible officer, or one of the ring, when he goes in to vote, puts the ballot in his pocket, and votes something else. Then they mark the ballot, and give it to No. 1 purchased voter; he conceals it, goes into the booth, puts the blank that is given him into his pocket, votes the marked ballot, and returns with, the blank, as the condition of getting his vote money. This blank is marked for the next purchased vote, and so on all day. . -
Honorable senators may say that this is not possible in Australia.
– It has happened.
– Honorable senators will probably have noticed in the accounts of the Echuca election, according to one of the Melbourne morning newspapers, that it was believed that that election was conducted without any error, except that someballotpapers were not accounted for. It. was thought that, owing- to the ballotpapers being very thin, the returning officermight have torn off two when he thought he was only tearing off one. I do not for a moment suggest that those missing ballotpapers were wrongly used, but the incidentshows that there is a possibility of a corrupt officer giving two instead of one, or even of a virtuous officer allowing a voter to get hold of a blank paper, which would. allow outside persons to corrupt a whole: election.
– It can be done, event if the officers are careful and honest.
– This book points: out that corruption can take place when a voter gets his ballot-paper honestly front the returning officer.
– Were any blank, papers found in the ballot-box?
– No, but apparently/ some were given out uninitiated.
– How does the honorable senator’s statement accord with the fact that the returning officer has toinitial all ballot-papers?
– When the corrupt voter comes in with a blank ballot-papa lie takes from the returning officer a ballotpaper properly initialed. He goes intothe polling booth, but instead of voting; upon the one which is initialed, he votesupon the other, which he puts into theballotbox. He takes the initialed paper outside and gives it to the man who is paying him. Then the next bought voter goes: in with that paper, with the vote already recorded on it by those who have purchased” him, and so the whole process can go on< all day.
– There will be nothing gained by that.
– On the contrary,, the man who wants to bribe the elector under our Australian system has’ no guarantee that the elector will do what he is told” to do when he goes into the polling booth, but when that man brings back an initialed” ballot-paper, the other knows that the next man he sends in will do what he is wanted to do, because he also has to bring back a blank ballot-paper properly initialed before he gets his money. The States which have adopted voting machines in Americaare Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana, and Minnesota. InNebraska, there is a permissive power, but it is not stated whether that has been used. In Ohio, there was a referendum on the subject, and the result was to authorize the use of the machines. The)’ are employed also in some of the cities, particularly in Rochester and Buffalo. A number of letters are given in Professor Parsons’ work from various State politicians, and particularly from the mayor of Rochester and the town clerks and other officials of that city and of Buffalo, all speaking of them in terms of the highest praise. Several trade unions have used them. An extract is quoted from a letter giving the experience of the Typographical Society, which conducts the election’ of its officers by means of the machines, and there is a ‘note here on the subject. The. city of Buffalo has found that it has effected a tremendous saving in the carrying out of their elections as compared with the old system, and that also applies to the city of Rochester. I have not read any long quotations, but the effect of the statements in the book is that they are satisfied with both their safety, effectiveness, and economy. We shall not be pursuing an unknown track if we decide to adopt voting machines. I regret that the Minister of Home Affairs does not seem to care to depart from the beaten track. He seems content to go along under the present system, and to endeavour to perfect it on existing lines. I regret that he has not seen his way to make any inquiries about voting machines, and give an opportunity for the testing of them. I should like the Senate to pass -the motion, so that we may secure to inventors an opportunity of getting their machines tested. It does not favour any particular machine; it will be left entirely open to the Minister to invite all or any of the .inventors to submit their machines for inspection. But I would urge upon the Minister that if this opportunity is to be given, the Commonwealth should bear the cost of - the testing and the inquiries. I have been informed that prior to the last election an inventor applied to the Minister to have a test made of his machine on that occasion. He proposed to the Minister that the ordinary voting system should be adopted, but that his machine should be placed in the polling booth in charge of officers of the Department, so that a test might be made and a report submitted to ‘both Houses. The reply was that the Department was willing to make the test if the inventor would agree to pay the expenses of the officers. I do not know whether that statement is correct or not, but, if it is correct, it is a miserable pettifogging way of dealing with this matter.
– If the Minister did not take that precaution, he might’ be asked to test a hundred machines. .
– We know .that the inventors of all these machines are poor struggling men.
– And most of them are inventive fanatics. Unless the Minister took some precaution, they would ruin the Commonwealth.
– If it had not been for inventive fanatics, we should be very backward in mechanical science. It is to the “ cranks “ that we owe the improvements in mechanical science. The Commonwealth should make the necessary arrangements, for testing all the machines which are worthy of ‘the name, and it should not haggle with the inventors as to the expense. I do not say that it should allow an inventor to spend the money as he pleased, but I contend that the Commonwealth, through the Department, should defray all the expenses and see that athoroughly effective test is made under working conditions. It can be made iri any of our cities with the greatest ease, and a report of the test presented to both Houses.
– Would it not be possible to get a small municipality to try the machines ?
– I think so. I believe that without any difficulty the Commonwealth could secure many opportunities to get an effective test made under working conditions.
– Would it be possible to get a proper test made?
– I think so. The press no doubt would assist the Department by announcing that on a particular day a test of a voting machine would be made in a certain place.
– Will a machine count up to 10,000 ?
– It will count up to any number.
– Has it to be adjusted every now and then?
– It has to be adjusted at the commencement of am election, and nothing more has to be done with it until the election is over. Furthermore, the machine I saw can be adjusted to single voting, block voting, preferential voting, or any other system which may be devised.
Even under the preferential voting system the votes are counted in the proper manner. The counting apparatus is entirely concealed from the view of the voter. It is placed at the. back of the machine, and as the voting is recorded, the total vote for each candidate is also recorded.
– That discloses how each man votes.
– No. The record is not visible, and can only be made visible at the close of the election when the machine is opened to show the respective totals. There is no part which can be manipulated. Nothing can be taken away from or put in the machine. There are no ballot-papers, but a number of figures, just as we have on a typewriter. It counts the votes as the election proceeds, and as the last vote is recorded, the result of the election is- shown.
– An illiterate voter is provided for by voting with colours. Suppose that he goes into the polling booth and pulls two levers, of course the machine will not register, and when the returning officer in charge is asked certain questions, he will learn how the man is going to vote.
– That is the case now with an illiterate, and also with a blind voter, and is owing to a defect not in the machine, but in the voter.
– The risk is greatly minimized by the machine as against the present system?
– Yes. In a polling place in Western Australia I saw a thing done which is forbidden by law. I saw a woman get a voting-paper and another woman walk into the compartment with her, no doubt to show her how to vote. A case of that kind at Geelong has been reported to the Minister.
– If a machine went out of order it would be rather awkward.
– I do not think that that would be likely to happen, because spare machines could be kept ready. The record would be right up to that stage, and if a machine got out of order a duplicate machine would be put in, and the vote taken from that time. Colours can be used by those who are not able to read their names. There is one difficulty, however, which I have recognised all along. I admit that in sparsely populated districts, where, perhaps, there are only half-a-dozen voters, a voting machine is not required. But it is very seldom that corrupt practices are carried on there.
– Have any elections been nullified in places where the voting machine is used?
– There is no record of the annulment of any elections. If a machine does its work, an election cannot be upset on the ground of informal voting or of any error in the counting, but of, course it can be upset on the ground of bribery or corruption.
– That could not be proved through the voting.
– The machine proves that the voting has been absolutely correct. As regards the manipulation of a machine, no charge of bribery could lie unless it were found that it had been manipulated.
– And there is a check on the machine in that the total number of those who pass through the turnstile must agree with the total number of votes cast.
– Yes; that is so.
– What would be about the cost of a machine?
– The book in my hand does not state what the cost of the machines in the States and cities I quoted has been, but it points out that, taking into account the capital costs in a number of years the machines in Buffalo have more than paid for themselves by the saving which has been effected in printing and other directions. I see no reason why, in sparsely populated districts, we should not continue the present system, and gradually extend voting machines to them. If a suitable machine can be found, there is no reason why, in the populous centres - and there is the weak link in the chainof our electoral system - the machines should not be adopted. I trust that the Senate will adopt the motion, and that, if it is carried, the Minister will view it sympathetically, and endeavour to carry it into effect.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [8.27]. - I seconded the motion because I think it is desirable that; if pos-. sible, we should have an improvement on the methods which were adopted at the last election. I was not a candidate, and therefore I am not speaking from a personal stand-point. I did hear of many occurrences which were seriously unsatisfactory, and worse than that. One matter I mentioned in the debate on the AddressinReply, and that was that elections were conducted in many places, at any rate in New South Wales, by only one man. That is a condition of affairs which, I think, is very much morethan seriously objectionable, because, when we let loose an individual with a bundle of papers and a ballot-box to use as he pleases, heaven only knows what the consequences may be. If a machine could be produced that would give the excellent results indicated by Senator Pearce, it would be very, much better than the present system. There is one point which, of course, will be considered by any board of experts which may be appointed under the motion if carried, and that is whether it is possible to design a piece of machinery which would never go wrong. I have never heard of such a machine.
– Cash registers do not often go wrong.
– However admirable a watch may be in every other respects, sometimes the spring breaks, and the watch goes wrong. From a watch to a mail steamer and a train no one has yet discovered a piece of machinery which will not get out of order. It would be a most frightful affair if, in a centre of population in which Senator Pearce desires the voting machine to be used, it were to break down at 9 o’clock after having been in use for only an hour.
– They could put in a duplicate straight away.
– People might be voting all day, and the breaking down of the machine might not be known.
– If a machine broke down people could not vote.
– I have not seen a voting machine, and therefore I cannot express an expert opinion as to what would happen if it went wrong. If it is a question of putting in a new machine where one breaks down, it would mean having a duplicate or triplicate supply. I merely point this out as a difficulty, not as an objection ; because if we can have voting machines that will do the work more satisfactorily than the present system does, let us have them by all means. I hope that there will be an inquiry which will prove the usefulness or the reverse of such a voting machine as Senator Pearce has suggested.
– r am particularly glad that Senator Pearce has again brought’ forward this matter. Honorable senators appear, by their interjections, to have felt some little surprise when Senator Pearce was referring to the attributes of these machines.
There is nothing in them, however, which, is likely to lead to difficulty. Let me say at once that I claim no mechanical skill whatever, but circumstances have made me familiar with a portion of the mechanism employed in some voting machines. There is nothing in, them with which honorable senators are not absolutely familiar when the devices are employed in other ways. The principle is a combination of three well-known appliances. One of them is the ordinary cash register, which is employed in many shops. Honorable senators will know that when the operator wishes to record a purchase he merely presses a little lever, and the machine registers not only the amount of the individual purchase, but adds it on to the sum total already registered. There will be no more clanger of a voting machine breaking down than there is of a cash register going wrong. The difference is that the voting machine instead of marking one shilling will mark a vote against the name of a candidate, and at the same time instead of adding one shilling to the total will add a number to the votes already recorded. That is the first mechanical principle of the machine. The second is that of a numbering machine. Probably honorable senators generally are not so familiar with it, though Senator Findley knows perfectly well it is. It is a piece of mechanism used in nearly every printing office, by means of which numbers are accurately recorded upon pages. The principle of the numbering machine is applied to the voting machine. The third principle, which supplies the great safeguard of the voting machine, is practically the mechanical device which operates in the lock-and-block system on our railways. Under that system it is not possible for a signalman to pull over one lever when there is another one open, and the moment he opens one he closes all the others. Now, nobody has any hesitancy about going upon any railway which is guarded by the lock-and-block system. Nobody fears that it is going to break down and no one desires to go back to the old staff system for fear the lock-and-block system should get out of order. The mechanism is, as I understand it, so simply constructed, that as Jong as it is looked after with reasonable care, there is no serious probability of it breaking down in actual operation. There mav be a possibility of it going wrong, but, so far as I can judge, that possibility is remarkably slight. It is because I believe that we can obtain a’ suitable machine - and I am not speaking of any particular machine; the main principles are similar in most of them - and because I believe that an effective voting machine would more effectively do our work than mere manual labour can do it, that I . shall support the motion. There is one great advantage to which Senator Pearce, so far as I can recollect did not refer, and that is that the adoption of voting machines will operate greatly to the convenience of the individual elector. At the last” elections in Sydney - and I now speak of a matter which is well known to yourself, Mr. President - there was at several polling booths a long tail of electors waiting outside, some of whom became absolutely disgusted because they were not able to vote within a reasonable time. We had instances of men rushing from one part of the city to another after making the necessary applications to vote at other polling booths than their own, seeking to record their votes. I venture to say that by means of voting machines the electors could be disposed of almost as rapidly as they could walk through the polling booth. There would be none of that interminable delay and confusion which arises in handing put the papers, in the electors taking them to the compartment, and then putting them into’ the ballot-box. In a large city booth at a time of day when every one is more or less busy the most irritating delays are caused under the present system.
– The electors would have to be checked on the roll.
– That process would not be dispensed with, but there would be no handing out of papers, no going over to the compartments to mark them, no putting them into the ballot-box.
– The returning officer would have no initialing to do.
– That is: so. The elector would go straight away, record his vote, and leave the booth without any delay whatever. The returning officer would know when he went in to register his vote on the machine; so long as the elector was there no other elector could enter; and the elector could not leave until he had voted. When he had voted he could not vote a second time.
– Suppose the elector stayed there?
– If my observation enables me to judge, therewill be a. sufficient number of able-bodied policemen in most large central booths to help him out.
– The policemen would have to vote, too, according to what the honorable senator has said.
– They could reach him over the turnstile. Looking at the second paragraph of the motion, I observe that it declares that a departmental inquiry Should be instituted into such machines as may be submitted. I am not quite certain about that. It seems to leave something to be desired. I presume that the officers of the Electoral Department are not possessed of mechanical knowledge, and have no special equipment for examining machines. The motion may mean that the inquiry should be made by the officers of the Department, and. that the Minister should ask outside expert advice. In the latter case I presume that he would call in the assistance of mechanicians and others with special knowledge to enable them to form an opinion.
– Would it not be better to appoint a Select Committee?
– The main thing is to get competent mechanicians to express their opinion. I do not know that there is any officer of the Electoral’ Department in my own State who is qualified to speak of the mechanical excellence or convenience of any voting machine that has been invented. Personally, if any machine were approved, I should not think it desirable to send it to outlying places, because in the first place the cost would be prohibitive, and, secondly, it is only required in the centres of population where it is desirable to expedite the method of voting. If the Minister intends to receive the motion sympathetically, I would suggest that the best plan would be to have a practical test of the machine. Perhaps the best and simplest form of inquiry would be for a room to be taken in the central portion of one of our big cities, andfor a notification to be made some days before the test that, on such and such a day between such and such hours, the room would be open for people who liked to walk in and vote for certain imaginary candidates. The machines could be used, and there could be proper officers to checkthe number of people who availed themselves of the opportunity. I venture to say that a large number of people would out of curiosity make use of the machine, and so enable the Department to test its value. I trust that the motion will be carried, and will receive -early and sympathetic treatment at the hands of the Minister of the day.
– I shall support the motion, although I can see the possibility of danger arising from the adoption of voting machines. The danger is not that the machines would fail to record some votes, but that ingenious persons would apply their brains to invent some way to manipulate them. Some years ago, in New South Wales, there was a system of recording the number of passengers who paid fares on the trams. A register was supplied to the guards, and a bell rang for every penny that was paid. But somebody in New South Wales discovered that by a little manipulation the bell could be made to ring although the fare was not registered. The person who discovered this made a considerable amount of money out of his invention - and after a while he was sent to gaol. That is the sort of thing that I am afraid of in connexion with voting machines. But I am prepared to support the motion, because I believe that it is possible to save a considerable amount of time, and to prevent informal votes being registered through the remissness of partial or impartial returning officers. I point out, however, that even turnstiles can be manipulated. They are used in connexion with football and cricket matches. Some time ago I happened to be on a sports committee. We had turnstiles, which had to be passed by the public who entered the sports ground. The numbers were recorded on the dials as the people went through to the ground, and in the evening we found that the man in charge of one of the turnstiles was just 5,000 shillings short. We knew perfectly well that he had not taken the money. He could not have stowed 5,000 shillings on his person, and the number of people present at the. sports made it impossible for that record to be correct. The machine was sent on the following day to the mechanic who constructed it, and he sent back word that the register was in perfectly good working order.
– The honorable senator should have sent for the Sydney mechanic he spoke of.
– He would probably have said the same, thing. Iri the case to which I refer, every precaution was taken. The machine was covered up and sealed, and the man in charge of the turnstile was not in a position to say whether the register was working or not.
– It had evidently been working too much.
– It had been working too hard. Senator Neild told ‘us only a little time ago that his gas meter did not work too well, and I understood the honorable senator to infer that it registered too great a consumption of gas. I am prepared to support the motion in order to encourage the inventors of these machines. If they can produce a machine that will perform its work perfectly we can adopt it, but we shall have to be very careful that we do not adopt a machine which may subsequently be manipulated for the benefit of some individual.
.- I have listened with considerable interest to the speech of the honorable senator who is in charge of the motion, and to the speeches of those who have followed him. I have also read with interest the printed matter supplied to honorable senators during the course of the debate. I wish to say at the outset that Senator Pearce is under some little misapprehension with regard to my position in connexion with the matter. It is true that during the last session of the last Parliament I, as representing the Minister of Home Affairs iri the Senate, stated that consideration would be given to the representations which Senator Pearce made as to the desirableness of testing machines of this kind at the general elections. So far as the conduct of those elections is concerned, my responsibility was only that which I shared in common with every other member of the Cabinet, and it cannot be inferred that I was recreant to any personal’ obligation I had incurred by any statement I had made to Senator Pearce during the last session of the last Parliament, when he brought this matter up. The honorable senator referred further to the fact that he was informed that during the last elections an offer had been made to the Department of Home Affairs to supply a machine or machines in order that they might be tested in connexion with those elections. What the exact nature of the test was to be, I do not know, but it may be that it occurred to the Department, as it occurred to me when the matter was suggested here, that the proper test to apply to ‘such a machine .was to ask that electors voting under the existing system at a particular election should also use the machine, that the results might then be compared.
– We could not get all the electors to use the machines.
- Senator Millen has anticipated the point I wished to make, [f that was the object of utilizing that particular occasion, for the testing of the machines, we could not ask each voter who recorded his vote in the ordinary way, also to record a vote in the machine with any certainty that our request would be complied with”. So that the test, instead of proving the efficacy of the machine, might by some people be held to demonstrate that no reliance could be placed upon its working.
– One of the candidates might have said that he had a majority on the machine.
– Possibly such complications might have arisen. I am assuming that the test I have stated was the test asked for. It has been suggested that we might have asked voters who chose to do so to use the machine, but that would have been very unsatisfactory.
– Electors,, on leaving a polling tooth, in most cases have to go through a certain door, and they might have been required to go through one of the machines in order to leave the booth.’
– They might have been asked to vote for fictitious candidates.
– If so, it would not matter what proportion of those who took part in the actual election voted by the machines at the fictitious election. I assumed that the test was to be made at a Commonwealth election in such a way that the results might be compared of the same election conducted under the existing system, and by use of the voting machine. It is pointed out now that we might ask any number of electors or any number of persons in the community, for that matter, to take part in a fictitious .election, in order to test the efficacy of the machine. I assume that that would not be the only test that would have to be applied. There would have to be, as the motion says, “exhaustive tests.” in order that the fallibility of the machine might be tested under varying circumstances. Senator Pearce, in moving his motion, contended that the use of voting machines would do away with informal votes. In this connexion, the honorable senator stated that the percentage of informal votes had increased from something like 3 per cent, at the elections in 1903, to about 6 per cent, at the elections in 1906.
– That was for the Senate election.
– I have not had the percentages worked out, but in a return of statistics relating to the Senate election, presented by command to the Senate, and ordered to be printed on the 23rd February last, I find that the grand total of electors to whom ballot-papers were issued throughout the Commonwealth was 887,312, and the number of informal votes for the whole of the States in the Senate election was 32,061.
– Those are the figures for the 1903 election.
– That is so.
– Does the 32,061 represent informal ballot-papers or informal votes ? The honorable senator will see that each ballot-paper represented three votes.
– I do not know whether the number represents informal votes or voters, but assuming that it refers to informal votes, it represents only 3 per cent, of the total. The figures for the 1906 election were : total number of ballotpapers issued, 1,059,168; informal votes, 67,318.
– More than twice as many as in 1903.
– Yes, but there was a considerable increase in the number of ballot-papers issued. However, there was obviously an increase in the percentage of informal voting at the last general election for the Senate, and what the causes of that were I am not in a position to say. Against that, I should like to inform honorable senators that at the recently contested by-election for Echuca, the percentage of informal votes given bypersons, other than those who were absent and postal voters, was less than 1 per cent., namely, 0.8 per cent.
– We could not have any voting by post with the machines.
– I am coming to that directly. I wish honorable senators to understand that what I am saying is not to be interpreted as in any way hostile to the introduction of any innovation of this kind. I am pointing out some of the considerations which have occurred to my mind that seem to show that after all the machine system might be open to very many of the objections which may be urged against the present system. We should still require to use ballot-papers for absent voters and those who desire) to vote by post, even if we adopted machines in every polling booth throughout the country. I was pleased to hear Senator Pearce say that one machine of which he had some knowledge might be used for elections, both for the Senate and the House of Representatives, for the election of one or of a number of persons, and that it was applicable, not only to the present system of voting, but to a preferential system. I assume that such a machine could also be used in the case of a referendum. Senator Dobson, in the course of Senator Pearce’ s remarks, interjected - and I think very wisely on this occasion - that possibly it would be a good thing if these machines were tested in connexion with a municipal election, or within some compact area of that kind. It might be that in that way a voting machine could be put to the best possible test, provided we could make arrangements with all voters recording their votes in the ordinary way, to record them also through the machine. If any errors occurred, they could be very much more easily rectified in the case of such an election than they could be if we were prematurely to adopt a machine for parliamentary elections throughout the Commonwealth, and then find to our sorrow that, owing to some unfortunate circumstances, the machine had been at fault, and errors had crept in. There is another aspect of the question to which I would direct the attention of honorable senators, and that is the cost which would be involved in equipping our polling booths with these voting machines. I take it that at the larger centres one machine would not be found sufficient, and it must be remembered that we have something like 4,500 polling booths throughout the Commonwealth, and the tendency is for them to increase rather than to diminish.
– The number has been reduced in New South Wales from z, 200 to 1,600.
– There are now 1,575 polling places in New. South Wales. But the tendency is rather for them to increase than to decrease throughout the Commonwealth. Applications are being constantly made for polling booths at centres where hitherto there have been none. If all these are to be equipped with voting machines considerable cost will be involved. I do not know whether that expense will bs saved, as Senator Pearce assures us it has been in the case of Buffalo and other towns in the United States, but .there they have this advantage over us, that the area in which the machines are in operation is probably much more compact, and their centres much more accessible than would be the case in Australia. It has been suggested that the machines might only be required at some of the larger centres, while the present system could be retained at others. I am not in a position to offer what might be regarded as a considered opinion on the subject, but I am afraid that to have a dual system in operation throughout the Commonwealth might lead to very serious complications in the counting of votes. There are many polling booths in Australia very far removed from one another, and possibly the machines would have to be transported long distances. If they were to be kept at small and remote polling places they would remain there out of use for a considerable time, because, as Senator Millen interjected, elections do not come very frequently. The machines would be out of commission for an average period of three years, and this would necessitate regular inspection to maintain their efficiency.
– Thev could be hired out to the States and municipalities.
– Even then there would be long intervals during which the machines would not be used at all, and a considerable amount of expenditure would be necessitated for inspection. If they were not left at those remote centres, but transported to and from them as required, there- would always be a danger of their mechanism being largely affected. These are considerations that I am offering to honorable senators in connexion with the system generally. Of course, we are not voting now on a motion for its adoption.
– The points sometimes break off the pencils that are sent out now.-
– No doubt. But another point can easily be put on them, whereas it might be very difficult if a machine broke down in a remote centre to find a mechanic available to put it in order. Even if ‘ there was one handy he might not know enough about its construction to repair it.
– The man who could grasp all the instructions sent out by the Department at the last election could work any machine.
– It has been suggested by Senator Guthrie that the inventive genius who could perfect a machine of this kind could also perfect a means of nullifying its usefulness.
– The Minister will remember the case that occurred in Melbourne last year of the man who invented a machine for drawing a lottery. He faked it himself, and drew all the prizes, and yet the detective could not see anything wrong with it afterwards.
– I understand that that inventor has been retired from public life. Although it has been represented that with the use of the machines there would be an absence of informal voting, that the opportunities for briber)’ and corruption would be removed, and that the machines could not possibly lie, still a contrivance of this kind, as Senator Guthrie suggested, is liable to be manipulated. If individuals have that guilty intent which would lead them to practice bribery and corruption at elections under existing conditions, they would not be in the least loth to tamper with or injure or detrimentally affect a voting machine if they thought it was to their advantage to do so. In that respect the apparatus may not produce all the reliable results already referred to. Another aspect is the expense entailed in making investigations about these machines. Senator Pearce said that he thought the Department should bear all the expense of making tests. If the Department was bound down by a hard-and-fast resolution to bear all the expenses incidental to testing machines of this kind, it might be inundated with a number of .perfectly valueless inventions, and individuals might thereby cause the Department a considerable amount of expense, which would be productive of very little good result. One honorable senator interjected something about “ inventive cranks,” while Senator Pearce was speaking on this phase of the subject. Whilst I do not wish for a moment to deprecate! the efforts put forward by so many in the community to perfect different mechanical devices, honorable senators can accept my assurance that, in ordinary circumstances, apart altogether from voting machines, there is hardly a Minister of the Crown in Australia who is not constantly approached by individualswith all kinds of reforms destined in the minds of their advocates to accomplish most wonderful results. We might have machines thrust upon us from distant centres, and individuals might come long distancesto Melbourne at great expense to submitsomething which was of no value whatever,, and which might be condemned at sight. I. am mentioning these considerations to showthat there should not be a hard-and-fast obligation on the Department to pay the expenses, in every detail, of everybody who chooses to come along with a request that a .machine should be inspected and tested. As I said last session, I certainly regard the time as opportune for testing the efficacy and value of the voting machines now beforethe world, and so far as the Department is concerned, I can assure honorable senators that I shall see that proper tests are made of the machines that may be presented for our consideration. I shall endeavour to get a list of the different contrivances as early as possible. As Senator Millen hinted. I cannot rely wholly upon the recommendations that may be made by officers who, however skilled they may be in electoral administration, may have as little knowledge as I have myself of the mechanical details that would enable one to come to a correct conclusion as to the efficacy of art invention, and so I should necessarily have to travel outside the purely administrative officers in the matter. I can assure Senator Pearce that I shall be prepared to give the fullest consideration I possibly can through the officers at my disposal to any machines that may be presented, with a view to carrying out the object of the motion.
Senator SAYERS (Queensland) [q.ii”.I agree with a great deal of what the Minister of Home Affairs has said. I have had a great deal to do with the conduct of manymunicipal, State, and Federal elections. It is very easy to test voting machines, because all polling booths are fitted up so that the voter comes in at one door and goes out at another. In fact, the presiding officer is compelled to see that that is done. Police are stationed at the front door, and no man is allowed’ to go out the same way. He must go out by a door at the back. If he did not there would be endless confusion, and it would not be known whether a man had’ voted once or several times. When there is a large number of voters, and the alphabet is divided, there are two doors for the voters to go out. I should like to see the machine tested against the returning officer. It could be seen whether the machine could check correctly the number of people who went out, because, of course, everybody who goes into a polling booth is supposed to be a voter. Nobody else is allowed in, except, perhaps, the candidates, who are permitted by courtesy to be present. Consequently, every person would have to go out through the machine, and. it could easily be seen how many went out.Then, when the votes were counted, that would be one of the best tests possible. It could be tried at some large polling place where 8.000 to 10,000 votes are recorded. There would be no large expense involved in such a test. As the Minister said, in our vast territories there are fairly large polling places long distances from the railway, and if machines were left there for three years they might be found to be out of order when next brought into use. I remember many instances of that sort in connexion with ballot-boxes. They are generally stored away in a room of the court-house. They are under the eye of the officials, but they are not taken out until the day before the election, when the booth has to be fitted up. I have seen them, although they were in first-class order when put away, brought out again in such a state through the heat, especially in Queensland, that it was impossible to lock them. That would not be discovered until the eve of the election. If through some inadvertence or through the machine going out of order, it was found to be unworkable just before the election, a staff would have to be hurriedly got together to conduct the poll under the old system. There is a good deal to be said in favour of this motion, but I hope the Minister will have a thorough test made before he attempts to bring the machines into use.
– We should have to get an Act of Parliament passed before we could use them.
– I have grave doubts whether they would be efficacious, because I have heard of totalizators, which cost a great deal of money, going out of order. I have read of cases where the machine registered far more than was actually put in. In another instance there were more tickets sold than the machine registered. These things are generally run by fairly smart business men. who know their way about ; yet, with all their cleverness, the machine can be tampered with, and made to do the exact opposite to what it is intended to do. If we get a voting machine, and it is tried at election time, I believe that there will be found men clever enough, ifthey want to tamper with the election, to tamper with the voting machine also. No matter what system we may adopt, it will be open to abuse. The last Federal election was the worst one I have ever seen. In Brisbane, hundreds of persons were turned away from the principal polling place. The reporters visited the polling place, and in the next issue of their newspapers they published some comments on the proceedings. From the absent voters’ tables a great many persons went away ; they had waited for hours for an opportunity to record their votes, but that did not occur. All that, however, can be remedied. With all due deference to the Minister and the officials, I maintain that proper men were not employed on that occasion. They were mostly State officers, and a great many of them did not want to do the work. We all know that when a man is forced into a position, he is’ not a willing worker. Again, in nearly every instance the pay was reduced. In the North of Queensland men were called upon to work for fifteen or sixteen hours a day for 15s., which is equal to about one shilling per hour. They were all supposed to be capable men; but it is not possible to get such men to do the work properly for that remuneration. They were paid at exactly the same rate as a navvy or a street sweeper. Taking all the circumstances into consideration it would be far better for the Government to display a little more generosity. I hope that the Minister will see his way to have a thoroughly good test made of voting; machines, and to take care that the Commonwealth shall not be imposed upon by any spurious machine.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That a return be procured and laid upon the table of the Senate showing -
How many Federal officers and others employed in the Commonwealth service are subject to income tax in Victoria.
How many of such persons have paid the tax ; and the total amount paid.
How many of such persons have not paid ; and the total amount unpaid.
I do not think it is necessary that I should make any remarks, as the motion speaks for itself.
– I rise to a point of order. I consider that it is not within the province of the Senate to consider the motion. We have nothing to do with the question of whether Federal officers have paid their income tax in Victoria or any other State. We have no means of finding out whether they have done so or not. Of course, sir, I reserve to myself the right to speak if my point of order is not sustained.
– The objection of Senator Givens may apply to the second and third parts of the motion, but I take it that it cannot apply to the first part. At one .time, in Victoria, the exemption was ^125, and, perhaps, it is ,£150 now. It would be very easy, I take it, and also very proper, too, for the Commonwealth Government to ascertain how many Federal officers in Victoria have had a salary that has been equal to or above the taxable amount.
– I think it is quite competent for the Senate to request that a return shall be ‘ prepared giving the required information, even if it should have to be sought from the State Government.
– But the motion is couched in imperative terms, and not as a request.
– I admit that, but it is quite within the power of the Senate to order that such a return should be procured. It is, of course, for the Senate to say whether, in view of the difficulty of obtaining the return without the good-will of those who will be asked to furnish the information, it is wise to pass the motion. That is entirely a matter for honorable senators to consider, but I am not prepared to say that the motion is not in order.
– If Senator McColl really wants the information, this is not the way in which to procure it,’ because I suppose that the State authorities would at once resent the fact that the Senate had passed a motion demanding that they should furnish certain information. I have already told my honorable friend that if he submits the motion in the form of a question, I shall endeavour to secure the information. I think he is making a mistake in submitting a motion. To his main question -
How many Federal’ officers and others employed in the Commonwealth service are subject to- income tax in Victoria? the answer is “None.”
– That is only quibbling.
– What is the use of myhonorable friend saying that?
– It is only humbugging the whole question.
-I did not rise for the purpose of quibbling. My honorable friend knows very well that this is a subject of conflicting jurisdiction. According to the decision of the High Court, Federal officers in Victoria are not liable to income tax, but according to the decision of the Privy Council, in certain circumstances, they are liable. I am anxious to assist my honorable friend ; but I would point out to him that it would be a mistake for the Senate to pass a motion demanding that the State Government shall supply certain information. They could snap their fingers at us. On the other hand, if, in view of my assurance, he will withdraw the motion, I shall be only too glad to endeavour to secure the information.
– The motion is evidently moved by Senator McColl in pursuance of his desire and intention to, if possible, make Commonwealth officers employed in Victoria pay all the arrears of income tax which the Victorian Government think they have a right to demand from them in respect of the last six years.
– There is nothing about that in the motion.
– Of course there is not, but honorable senators can draw their own conclusions when they remember that the honorable senator has already moved in that direction. The Bill in which he sought to insert a provision of that kind is not yet out of the possession of the Senate, and he desires to get this information to strengthen his hands, perhaps with a view to take further action.
– They ought to pay, anyhow.
– I should like to see the honorable senator equally generous with his own money when he is not under a legal obligation to pay it to any one.
– I have paid my income tax in Tasmania.
– I wish to /know why the Senate should pass an inquisitorial motion - one which makes an invidious distinction between those officers who have generously donated to the Victorian Government the amount of the income tax for which they were not legally liable, and those who have stood on their legal rights and said, “ No, you have no legal authority to demand the tax from us, and, therefore, have no right to get it.” .Why should we ask for an inquisitorial return of this kind ? Simply for the benefit of those individuals in the State Qovernment and the State .who desire, not only to make Federal officers pay the income tax, which this Parliament seems to be inclined to make a legal charge upon them, but also to compel them to pay, as Senator McColl wants to do, income tax for the last six years when they have not been legally- liable. If he does not mean that, what is the good of his motion ? Does he wish to hold up to public approbation, those who have paid income tax, and to public execration those who have not paid it?
– I am not asking for any names.
– The honorable senator wishes to find out the number, but if the motion is agreed to, it may be followed up with a request for a list of the names. Probably he will be able to get that information from the State Government. We do not -know what action will be taken. I, for one, am not willing to open the door to any inquiry of that kind. Public officers who have not paid income tax have been quite within their rights, and we ought not to take any action which would express either approval dr disapproval. It is a matter which we should treat with the utmost indifference.
– But we have no power.
– Of course not.
– Nor the will, either.
– I have no will to sanction an inquisitorial inquiry of that sort.
– Then vote against the motion.
– I oppose the motion because I think it is unfair and unjust to run after men to get a return in order to hold them up to public execration, simply because they have stood on their legal rights. Why has all this cry been raised in Victoria? It is because a curious concatenation of circumstances has occurred since the establishment of “Federation, and for which I believe the Senate is not responsible. The seat of the Parliament and of - the Government has remained in Melbourne for an unduly long period. Members of Parliament are congregated in Victoria, -most of them against their will. They would like to be in a’ more” congenial climate. As a further consequence of the temporary capital being in Melbourne, all the heads of Departments, and all the administrative officers are here, and if Senator McColl and those who think with him could get their way, they, would all be made subject to income tax. Those Federal servants are not here willingly, but because they have to discharge their duties at the Seat of Government. And because of that accident the Victorian Government has been trying to bleed them.
– This is one of the best speeches I have ever heard the honorable senator make !
– I like to .receive a compliment from such a genial gentleman as my honorable friend. The motion is inquisitorial. It is intended to pry into the private affairs of individuals, and it ought not to be tolerated for a moment. The question whether particular officers have paid income tax or not is their private affair. Those who have paid have simply donated the amount to the Victorian Government; because the payment of a sum which is not legally due to some one else can only be called a donation. There was no moral obligation for the payment of income tax ora the part of any Federal servants resident in Victoria; besides, there was no payment due to the Victorian Government.
– It was paid out of charity.
– I would not say that it was a charitable bequest, but it was purely a matter for the officers to pay or not, as they chose. If .they did not pay, they were acting within their rights. Why should we hold them up to execration as Senator McColl desires to do? He is one’ of those Victorian reformers whose principal object seems to be to hold men up to public execration because they happen to be public servants, and possibly to victimize them for it by-and-by. The Senate should not lend’ itself to conduct of that kind. If the motion is not withdrawn I shall vote against it.
– I object to the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia being turned into an inquisitorial institution. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has made a very fair offer - that he will obtain” the information which Senator McColl desires, if it be possible to get it. But how can it possibly be obtained ? Can an application be made to the Victorian “Taxation Department to disclose the names of those who have paid and those who have not?
The Department would have no right to give the information. It is a confidential Department. But even if information could be obtained as to those who have paid, how could it be obtained with respect to the balance of Members of Parliament and officers of theFederal service who have refused to pay ? Are we to appoint some officer to go round and interview every public servant who may be supposed to be under a liability to the Victorian Government, asking them whether they have paid their income tax or not? If any officer came to me and made such an inquiry, words fail to describe the indignation with which I should receive him. I am quite certain that other Members of Parliament and public servants who have stood on their rights while the Seat of Government has been located in Melbourne, would simply tell such an officer to mind his own business. I. am very sorry that a gentleman like Senator McGoll, who ought to have an intellect above such petty things, should submit such a motion, and if it is pressed to a division, I trust that it will be negatived. If he wants material for the waste-paper basket, I will endeavour to collect all the notices which I have received from the Taxation Department of Victoria and supply them to ‘him.
– I hope that Senator McColl will withdraw his motion. While I was in the Parliament of South Australia I was Chairman of a Royal Commission, which was appointed to inquire into the working of the Taxation Act. The inquiry was made because the Commissioner of Taxes was blamed for dealing harshly withthe farming community. But when we summoned the Commissioner of Taxes or his deputy, or any officer of his Department, we found that we could get no information. The Royal Commission decided to meet at Parliament House, and when we summoned the Commissioner he told us that he could give us no information unless we went to the Taxation Office. Then we made inquiries of the Crown Solicitor and the Attorney-General as to what we could do, and we discovered that although we. had all the powers of a Royal Commission we could extract no information from the Taxation Department. I presume that Senator McColl is a countryman of my own, and that is one reason why I have tried to persuade him privately not to press his motion. But he is as dour as any
Scotchman I ever met. I hope that he will take the assurance of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, and so avoid bringing upon himself a crushing defeat.
– As a representative of Victoria I should like to entermy emphatic protest against the Commonwealth of Australia being asked to become a detective for a State Government. In the first place, the motion seeks to obtain information from the State as to the amount supposed to be due. from Federal servants. That presupposes that the State Government is able to estimate the amount due. I quite sympathize with the demand that has generally been made in this State that Federal officers should pay the income tax. But the fact remains that many officers have been under the impression that they are not legally liable. It might be possible to furnish information as to the number of persons who have paid the tax, but surely it would be a reflection upon the State Parliament for the Senate to ask for such information. What business is it of ours ? Then, again, Senator McColl wishes to know, “ How many of such persons have not paid; and the total amount unpaid?” Why ask such a question with regard to Victoria only ? Why not inquire how many public servants in other States have not paid income tax? The honorable senator makes it appear that the Victorian Federal servants are the only ones who have been anxious to hide themselves behind the decision of the High Court. I believe that to be a reflection upon Victorian Federal officers. A considerable number of officers have paid the tax, believing that they were morally responsible, although protesting that there was no legal obligation upon them to pay. I am not one of those . who laid great stress on the legal point. Had I been in receipt of a salary from the Federal Government Ishould certainly have paid my income tax in Victoria. But that is no reason why others who refused to pay on legal grounds should be hounded down for insisting that under the Constitution they were not liable. Again, when Senator McColl wishes to know “ How many of such persons have not paid?” does he mean to insinuate, that they have tried to rob the State of what is due to it? As the High Court of Australia has determined that Federal officers are not liable, the answer to such . aquestion would have to be that there are no
Federal officers who have not paid any tax to which they are legally subject. It appears to me that the real intention of the motion is to gratify a section of people in Victoria who are always clamouring against the Commonwealth, and who axe ever eager for information which they unfairly use for the purpose of damaging the Federal Government and its officers. I should be very sorry to think that the Commonwealth had deteriorated to such a level as to become a private detective for any State Government. . The States are quite capable of managing their own business. I hope that the motion will be rejected if it is pressed to a division; but I strongly urge Senator McColl to withdraw it. When the Commonwealth Salaries Bill is passed I trust that there will be no Federal servant who will seek to avoid discharging the dutv imposed upon him. I believe that the Federal public servants, not only iri Victoria, but in every other State, are perfectly willing to pay every penny which they are required to pay under the law, and no one should be compelled to pay any more. To carry such a morion would cast a slur on our public servants, and I hope that in their interests it will be withdrawn. If it is not withdrawn, I hope that the Senate will unanimously reject it, and that its rejection will be considered in the lightof a compliment to the Federal servants.
– I do not think that the Federal public servants and others who have not paid any income tax willthank the last speaker for the remarks he has made. The honorable senator’s speech contained the strongest condemnation that has been passed upon them in the Senate. I have not said anything against them. If the motion I have submitted is wrong, then the Bill introduced by the Government to compel these people to pay income tax is also wrong, and should never have been introduced. If I ought not to ask for an item of information connected with the Bill, the Government should never have brought it in. If it is a disgrace that I should ask for the names of those who have not paid a tax which I think they are morally bound to pay, it must be equally a disgrace that the Government should ask Parliament to pass a Bill to compel them to pay the tax. I do not see my way to withdraw the motion.
Question resolved in the negative.
Senate adjourned at 9.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 August 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19070801_senate_3_37/>.