3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senators questions are as follow : - 1 and a. This Department has no meant of obtaining the information other than by application to the Commonwealth Statistician, who stateshe is unable to give ‘it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
– The Minister has just told me, in reply to a similar question, that the Commonwealth Statistician has not the information.
– We are going to press him in this case.
– It is a very strong reflection upon his Department, because I can get the information from public records.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the imposition of duties on wire setting imparted into Australia, and the property of, or under order tothe respective States Governments, is, in his opinion, consistent with section 114 of the Constitution Act?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s, question is as follows : -
It is considered that the action taken is quite consistent with the section quoted of the Constitution.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow. -
EXCISE TARIFF : HARVESTERS, &c.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Presuming the question refers only to the Excise Tariff Act 1906 relating to harvesters, &c, the following are the replies to the questions asked : -
– Arising out of the reply, I point out that there is no answer to the second question.
– The honorable senator cannot make any comment, but he can ask another question.
– The question I wish to ask again is, What is the estimated amount of Excise duty not collected in accordance with the exemption provisions of the Excise Tariff Act 1906?
– The only reply I have received from the Department is that the Excise duty is only collectable when there has been a breach of the conditions of manufacture; but that it is not aware of any such breach.
– I desire to ask the Minister if the Department has made a full and searching inquiry into the conditions under which the manufacture of stripper harvesters is being carried out by, every known manufacturer in the Commonwealth ?
-I am not in a position to say thatthe Department has.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
Instructions as to refunds of overcharges were not issued to States, other than Victoria, until the9th instant, as it was not known previously that the instructions of 13th July had been misinterpreted in any other State. The instruction of 27th July set out in detail the Regulation as amended by the instruction of 13th idem. 2. (a) The Postmaster at Charters Towers reported, under date of 13th instant, that he could not give particulars of overcharged messages, and asked if information could be furnished to enable a refund to be made. Refunds of any overcharges that have been levied at Charters Towers will be made on application to. the Postmaster there.
– Arising out of the answer, I desire to ask the Minister if he can acquaint the Senate with the amount involved in the dispute?
– I have no information on the point at all.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows - 1 to 3. The fullest information and consideration will be given to Australian firms who have already been in communication with the Department in regard to construction of Harbor and Coastal DefenceBoats in Australia. Before any final action is taken, tenders will be publicly invited in Australia. The end the Government has in view is to provide, as far as possible, for the construction in Australia of any of the vessels required for Harbor or Coastal Defence. It is the policy of the Government to give preference to Australian manufactures, and nothing will be imported that canbe reasonably produced locally.
– Arising out of the reply, I desire to ask the Minister if tenders are going to be invited in Great Britain?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question.
– Let us have them made in Australia.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– Arising out of the answer, I desire to ask the Minister if the services of Captain Collins are being used in England in matters other than those which he was sent there to deal with?
– His services are utilized generally.
– Generally in connexion with the business of an agent?
– His services are utilized in connexion with the affairs of the Commonwealth where that can be done with advantage.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Has the Tasmanian firm that secured the contract for the construction of the Government trawler satisfied the Government that they are paying the recognised standard rate of wages to their employes?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The honorable senator is under a misapprehension ; no tender has been accepted, and no contract entered into. In fact, full particulars of tenders received in distant States are not yet to hand. When they are, every aspect of the matter will be fully considered, and a decision arrived at. The specifications provide for the payment of wages in accordance with the resolution of Parliament.
– Arising out of the answer, sir, may I be permitted to quote a paragraph ?
– The honorable senator will not be in order in debating or criticising the reply given by the Department. But if there is a question which arises out of the reply he is at liberty to make an inquiry.
– May I ask the Minister if the following is a correct statement of the position of the Department in connexion with the tenders?
– If the question arises strictly out of the reply, the honorable senator can proceed. I desire to point out that honorable senators to a very great extent transgress the rule on the subject when they ask questions which do not arise strictly out of the answers given. I do not wish unduly to restrict honorable senators, but I am afraid that the irregularity is being carried a little too far. I ask Senator Needham to put only a question which arises out of the reply which he received.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. Arising out of the answer to my question I desire to ask the Minister if this is correct-
– The honorable senator will see that if the quotation contradicts what the Minister has stated, his question will not be one arising strictly out of the reply, but a comment thereon.
– The paragraph, which is taken from the Melbourne Herald of the 10th inst., does not contradict the Minister. It reads as follows -
A Tasmanian firm has been able to send in the lowest tender for the construction of the
Federal trawler which it is proposed to use in the investigation of our deep-sea fisheries. As already announced, four tenders were received.
– Order ! In quoting that statement, the honorable senator is really debating the correctness of the Minister’s reply. That reply must be accepted as it was given, but if the honorable senator wishes to elucidate any statement in the article he will be at liberty to put a question on another day.
Senator GUTHRIE drew the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to the fact that the South Australian Railways Commission have constructed a telegraph line in connexion with the Pinnaroo railway, and asked, upon notice -
If the Honorable the Postmaster-General will enter into negotiations with the South Australian Government with the view to having the said line made available for public messages?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
This matter has been under the consideration of the Postmaster-General, and steps have been taken with a view to utilizing the railway telegraph line referred to for public purposes.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– There will be no objection to supply the information if it is asked for in the form of a return, though it will take a little time to get it ready. I would suggest to my honorable friend that he should give notice of a motion.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, without notice, if he can furnish, either to-day or to-morrow, the information which yesterday he promised to obtain relative to the employment of the Glaucus for the carriage of mails to Tasmania?
– Just before the Senate met to-day, I was informed that, probably, the information would be available this afternoon.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Owing to the somewhat full reply extracted from me last night, with respect to many matters to which reference was made on the first reading, my remarks on the motion I have now moved will be limited. As honorable senators are aware, it is proposed by the Bill to grant a sum of£1, 103,744 for three months’ Supply, to the 31st October next. The schedule to the Bill, as I mentioned last night, has been founded on the Appropriation Act of last year, and includes only ordinary and recurring payments. There is no provision made for any increases, other than increments automatically arising on salaries up to £160 a year. In connexion with such increases, it is well that some discretion should be permitted to the Treasurer, otherwise serious hardship might be created. The votes appearing in the Bill for contingencies are somewhat similar to those which have previously appeared in Bills of the same character. They represent the ordinary more or less unforeseen expenditure of the Departments. As an instance, I might mention the case of the Post’ and Telegraph Department, where the vote for contingencies includes payments in regard to repair and maintenance of telephone lines, telegraph and telephone instruments, uniforms, temporary assistants, payments to Railway and Police Departments, carriage and purchase of stores, travelling expenses, and allowances to officers. These are the usual incidental contingencies which arise from time to time. There is a vote of £28,000 for refunds of revenue. This is to recoup the Money Order Office for the value of stamps placed on postal notes, to make payments to the . Eastern Extension Company and the Pacific Cable Company, and also to meet refunds of revenue incorrectly paid in. So far as I am aware, there is nothing unusual in the various items appearing in the schedule, and as the items which challenged attention last night in the discussion on the first reading of the Bill received full consideration, I have no doubt that honorable senators will see their way to pass the Bill rapidly, particularly having regard to the fact that to-day is a fortnightly pay-day of the Public. Service.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South’Australia) [2.49]. - I do not rise to debate the second reading of the Bill, or to begin a discussion, which should take place in Committee, of any of the items of the schedule, even if I thought they required discussion, which I. do not. I do, however, wish again the direct the attention of the Senate to the position in which we are placed by the invitation of the Government to consent to grant Supply for three months. I referred to the matter yesterday, and I hope it will be understood that I am raising no objection to providing the Government with necessary funds to carry on the public services. I am concerned to preserve the privileges of the Senate. I think that, with one exception, we have hitherto had monthly Supply Bills presented to us.
– There has been more than one exception. The honorable senator presented a Supply Bill for two months’ Supply, and another was presented on the 29th August, last vear.
– I recollect introducing a two - months’ Supply Bill myself. It should be remembered that we do not occupy the same position as the House of Representatives in this connexion. Our standing order 182 was framed for the express purpose of enabling the Senate to exercise the grave powers in relation to money matters conferred upon it by the Constitution. It was sought to place this branch of the Legislature in something like the position occupied by the House of Representatives, in regard to the opportunity afforded honorable senators to deal with questions affecting the Administration which the members of the House of Representatives enjoy, on the motion to go into Committee of Supply. We have no Committee of Supply in the Senate, but at this particular juncture, when the Estimates are brought down, members of the House of Representatives enjoy the opportunity to which I refer almost daily. .We. had no6 that opportunity at all until honorable senators, feeling that they were unable properly to fulfil the extended duties confided to them as compared with the members of a States Legislative
Council, adopted the standing order which practically treats the first reading of a Supply Bill as on the same footing as a motion to go into Committee of Supply in the other branch of the Legislature. This is not merely a very great and precious privilege, but it is the assertion by us of the power given us in the Constitution in the only way in which it could be effectively asserted. We should preserve every such opportunity tq the fullest extent. I am unwilling that we should relinquish any of our privileges. If we agree to the Bill we shall be granting Supply for three months, and no other Supply Bill will come before us until some time in November, when it will be necessary to make provision for payments due at the close of that month. I say that that is far too long a period for the Senate to consent to be muzzled in respect of these opportunities to criticise the administration of the Government. I hope the Vice-President of the Executive Council” will see his way to meet the wishes of the Senate in this matter. Having regard to the standing order to which I have referred, my- own view is that as far as possible it would be well to adhere to monthly Supply Bills. We must, of course, also have regard to the position of the Government, and remember that circumstances might arise which would render it convenient, expedient, and perhaps imperative, that Supply for more than one month should be granted by one Bill. The reason given for asking for more than a month’s Supply in this instance is that the Government do not wish the discussion of the Budget and Tariff in another place to be interrupted by a Supply Bill. I venture to submit that that is a totally inadequate reason. This Supply Bill, on which there was a considerable amount of discussion, was dealt with practically at one sitting. It is not too much to say that the proceedings on the Tariff in another place would be very little interrupted by the passing of a monthly Supply Bill in the ordinary course. In addition to that we in the Senate should not be influenced to abandon our privileges in connexion with matters of this kind by suggestions as to conveniences of the character referred to. Personally, I am willing that every facility should be given the other branch of the Legislature for an uninterrupted discussion of the Tariff ; but can any one pretend that the discussion will be seriously interrupted by the (passing of monthly Supply Bills? If it is regarded as a serious matter that the House of Re- preservatives and the Government should nave a fair run, without interruption, in dealing with the Tariff, I have no objection to meet the Government by consenting to grant two months’ Supply for which, as the Vice-President of the- Executive Council has said, we have precedents. They are precedents, however, which should not be followed unless the circumstances very strongly warrant the adoption of such a course. Ordinarily I think that it is quite sufficient to grant one month’s Supply, because we should not give up any part of the privileges to which I have referred. If, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council says, the Government wish to have continuity over a certain period for the consideration- of the Tariff - and I hope that two months will be found sufficient to dispose of it altogether -
– Does that hope imply expectation ?
– The defects of the Tariff are so- obvious, and its anomalies so glaring, that I assume that very little argument will be required to have them removed. However, on that matter there may be some difference of opinion-. Still, two months is a long time, and if the House of Representatives is to take, very much longer in dealing with the Tariff.,, we shall have the pleasant prospect before us of spending our Christmas holidays here. My objection, as I “have said, is not to granting Supply, because a Government is very seldom refused Supply, but I think we should hesitate about giving three months’ Supply, when, by doing so, we shall surrender a privilege.
– Is it a privilege or a right ?
– I yield at once to my honorable friend’s correction; it is a right. I have put it as a privilege which we enjoy under the Constitution. It is a right which we were not able to exercise until the standing order to which I have referred was passed. Honorable senators who were members of the Senate up to that time will recollect that we had no opportunity to indulge in criticism of the Administration. Now we have the right, and we ought not to give it up.
– The honorable senator’s argument is that we can bark but not bite.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator is in the habit of barking and not biting, but if he is, other honorable senators are not so built. Senator Russell’s keenness of apprehension will enable him very speedily, to become acquainted with the proceedings of the Senate, but he has not been long enough a member to quite .realize the powers we possess in connexion with money Bills, and which have been effectively exercised on more than one occasion. I am now dealing with a power which is extremely useful to us. I am sure that honorable senators will agree to the second reading of the Bill, but when we get into Committee I hope they will be prepared to limit the grant to two months’ Supply.
– Suppose it were necessary for the Senate to adjourn until that time?
– We . can adjourn until the middle of October.
– We want to do our work first.
– There is not very much work to do.
– There is a great deal to do.
– Then that is a reason for not adjourning, but it is no reason for giving up the privileges of the Senate. If we cannot have the adjournment that has been rumoured, we must do without it.
– I am speaking of an immediate adjournment, which is out of the question.
– If there is a large amount of business to do, I quite agree that that is a reason why we should not adjourn, but it can be no reason for giving up our privileges. If we do give them up lightly, we may at some future time be sorry for having done so. I hope that in Committee the Bill will be limited to granting Supply for not more than two months, and I trust that my honorable friend will see his way to accept that position. If he does, he will be in no way, whatever inconveniencing the Government, and will be maintaining - as I know he feels it to be his duty to do - the privileges of the Senate to the utmost possible extent.
– I arm somewhat surprised at the speech which hasjust been delivered by my honorable friendSenator Symon. As a matter of fact, the question of .granting Supply for three months was .fully dealt with by me last night, and, I think I am justified ir> saying, to the satisfaction of the senators then present.
– That could only be determined by a division.
– I wish to say now, as I did then, that there are good reasons why Supply should be granted for three months. My honorable friend is no more sensitive as to the privileges of the Senate than I am. Indeed, it is essentially my duty, occupying the position that I do, to have the fullest regard to our rights and privileges in connexion with the matter of grievances to which my honorable friend has referred. I admit that the practice has hitherto been to ask for two months’ Supply. I was inaccurate when, speaking from memory, I said a short while ago, in seeking to correct Senator Symon, that only’ on two occasions had the Senate granted two months’ Supply. As a matter, of fact, Supply for two months has been asked for and granted cai five occasions - two in 1903, one in 1904, one in 1905, and one in 1906. I will shortly mention again the reasons why we are asking for three months’ Supply on this occasion. The first is the anxiety of the Government not to interrupt the Tariff debate, which will absorb the attention of the other place for the next two months.
– Is that a fair reason to give the Senate ?
– The next reason is one which more directly affects honorable senators. I have made a public announcement as to my anxiety and intention’ so far as the business of the Senate is concerned. I am anxious that we shall dispose of the Bills of Exchange Bill, the Bounties Bill, the Appropriation (Works and -Buildings) Bill, which will come up a little later on, the Quarantine Bill, the Electoral Bill, and last, but not least, the Navigation Bill.
– How long does the honorable senator think that that business will take?
– I contemplate that it will take five or six weeks.
– I should say that it will occupy till Christmas.
– Very well, the work has to be done, ‘and, with the consent of honorable senators, we must sit until it is finished. It is recognised that, as it is necessary work, we should not attempt to rise until it is disposed of. My anxiety is that, when the Tariff comes from the other place, that House will then have the work with which we are now concerned to occupy its attention whilst the Senate is dealing with the Tariff. If the business before us runs into five, six, or seven weeks, it is possible that the Senate may adjourn for a period. It will therefore be seen- that if two months’ Supply were granted it would be necessary for the Government to recall honorable senators from Queensland, Western Australia, and the other States in order to secure a Chamber to grant one month’s Supply. Those are the special reasons why I ask the Senate to grant three months’ Supply on this occasion. In addition, I wish to say that it is not strictly correct that the first reading of a Supply Bill affords the only means of ventilating grievances. Honorable senators can, in relation to any matter of an urgent character, ventilate grievances by moving the adjournment of the Senate.
– Does the honorable senator say that that procedure is on the same footing as going into Committee of Supply ?
– I say that it is an effective means of ventilating any matter of urgency. I urge that in inviting the Senate to grant three months’ Supply instead of two, which is the more usual thing to do, I am not making any serious inroad on our privileges, having special regard to the circumstances which I have mentioned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee: ,
Clause 1 agreed to.
There shall and may be issued and applied for or towards making good the supply hereby granted to His Majesty for the service of the year ending the thirtieth day of June One thousand nine hundred and eight the sum of One million one hundred and three thousand seven hundred and forty-four pounds out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund………
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the words “ One million,” line 5.
The object of submitting this request is to intimate our desire to secure the substitution of two-thirds for the amount mentioned in the clause ; that is to say, £735,830 for ;£i, 103,744. During the debate we have been told that the Government desire to obtain Supply- for three months in order that they may carry on until about the 15th of November without asking Parliament for further Supply. The object of the request submitted by me is that
Supply shall be granted until the 15th October. I have listened to Senator Best’s arguments very carefully. The latest of them is that the work which the Senate has in hand is sufficient to last five or six weeks. After that, it is understood there will be an interval.
– There may or may not be.
– I know that at bottom the opposition to this request - and we may as well ‘discuss it quite freely - is a desire on the part of some honorable senators to have an adjournment of the Senate for a specified time. But if an adjournment is desired there is really no impediment, and my request if adopted would not interfere with it. There is really and truly no argument which should appeal to us, except that if we do not grant three months’ Supply we shall not get an adjournment. Now, I do not think that it is at all creditable to tell the Senate that if we grant three months’ Supply an adjournment can be secured. The question of whether we have an adjournment or not ought to depend solely upon the state of business.
– So it will, undoubtedly.
– I listened carefully to Senator Best, who, in giving his reasons, openly stated that one of them was to meet the convenience of another place with regard to the Tariff. I am very sorry that any leader of the Senate should offer such a reason as to why we should depart from our usual practice and give up one of our privileges. It is not a reason which should commend itself to any of . us for giving up a privilege of the Senate, that we shall thereby suit the assumed or pretended convenience of the House of Representatives in regard to the Tariff. What does it mean ? It means, if it means anything, that the House of Representatives has decided that the debate upon the Tariff shall last three months. Personally, I hope that it will not last more than three weeks. But, because the debate on the Tariff in another place is expected to last three months, we are asked to depart from our usual practice and grant three months’ Supply instead of two. I have listened for some reason why we should do so, and have heard none, except the unworthy one, which has not been mentioned outright, that if the Government does not get three months’ Supply the Senate will have no adjournment. There is no justification, whatever for that view.
– We do not want any adjournment.
– Then why should we grant three months’ Supply ? If that is the case, Supply should be given for one month only.
– It is wanted until the Tariff is dealt with. Supply must be granted by both Houses.
– It is simply futile to say that the other House could not pass a Supply Bill monthly, even when the Tariff was under consideration. It would only take at the most a few hours. If he has no better grounds for supporting three months’ Supply; Senator Stewart ought certainly to vote for two months’ Supply, or even go further on his own initiative and say that he will not grant more than one month’s Supply. . What really bothers Senator Stewart is the fear that he may lose the adjournment.
– I do not want any.
– Then it does not matter to the honorable senator whether he or any one else loses it. As the weeks go on we shall see my statement verified that the prospects of an adjournment for honorable senators will not be imperilled in any way by our granting’ only two months’ Supply instead of three. If we grant only two months’ the Senate need not re-assemble until the 29th October, because we have frequently granted “Supply on the last day but one of the month. If so, there will be no interference by my amendment with the holiday which a number of honorable senators want. I mean an adjournment of at least one month.
– Nobody wants a long adjournment unless there is no work to do. The honorable senator is misrepresenting the whole case.
– If I misrepresent it, I am only following the lead of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who said that there was five or six weeks’ work in hand, and yet claimed Supply up to 15th November at least. What are we to do in the interval ? I know the honorable senator wants to grant an adjournment, and’ I assume that he wants one of at. least a month.
– I do not want any adjournment whatever. I want the work done.
– What will the honorable senator ask us to do after those six weeks are up? He has clearly indicated to us what Government business we have to expect, and informed us that he has five or six weeks’ work in hand. If that is the beginning and the end of his argument, how can he . defend a demand for three months’ Supply, which will last the Government till the last week in November ?’ What does he. propose to do in the interval, after we have completed his programme ?
– The honorable senator forgets that payments are now made fortnightly, and, consequently, the next Supply Bill, if three months’ Supply is granted, would have to come up about the 1 2 th of November.
– I will take three months from to-day, which will bring us to the 15th November.
– I said about the 12th.
– The honorable senator did not introduce, the Bill this month on the 12th. After the expiration of six weeks from to-day there will be a large margin of time until the 15th November, and what are we to do if there is, no work for us? We are to have an adjournment. Why hide it? If honorable senators, want an adjournment, we can still have it if we grant only two months’ Supply. In waiving our right to have these Supply Bills brought, before us not less frequently than every two months, we are giving up a privilege of which every honorable senator will regret the surrender, no matter where he sits. Grievances -are more largely ventilated on the other side of the Chamber than on this. The day may come when honorable senators on the other side will be more anxious than I am now to defend the rights, privileges, and liberties of the Senate, and the clamour they will make against being deprived of something which they cherish as senators will be much greater than any objection we are taking, to the present procedure. This question being largely one of our Standing Orders, which were framed for out own convenience, will come home to them one day, even if it fails to touch them particularly now. They are foolish in their own interests in giving away these rights. It is a great mistake to abandon them simply because for the moment that abandonment does not mean much to some individual senator. We have waived our rights before,, lout, no matter how often we surrender them, the moment another demand is made they are immediately given up by every honorable senator who does not find himself personally affected. Honorable senators surrender the general good of the whole Chamber too often for their own convenience. That is- what we shall be doing in this case if we grant three months’ Supply. The Vice-President of the Executive Council knows that there is “ no objection to granting this Supply itself on either side of the Chamber. Any opposition we are offering to the Bill is not directed at all to its contents. We( are merely having regard to the effect of giving, three months’ Supply on the convenience of honorable senators.
– I should not have ventured, as a new senator, to address the Committee on this question, but for the fact that Senator Clemons’ speech will be published, and it will appear as though honorable senators; are all anxious for a holiday. I cannot speak for honorable senators on the opposite side, but I think I can for those on , this. If there is work to be done, we want to do it before the hot weather comes along. I, as an old farmer, want it done before the harvest time arrives, to allow those interested in that pursuit to attend to their home ‘duties.
– I want to adjourn, as much as any one, if we have nothing todo.
– The honorable senator seems to want to be a little cantankerous. He, and Senator Symon, have given us a repetition of the discourses which! they gave us yesterday, but in spite of all they have said I have heard no reason for not supporting the Government. I cannot see that our privileges are in danger in any way. Notwithstanding all the time those honorable senators have occupied, they have failed to produce any argument
– Why not make it twelve months?
– That is quite another question. If Senator Symon had a grievance to bring forward, he would find an opportunity of doing so, regardless of time, and I am sure that if Senator Clemons was in the same humour a? he was in last Friday it would be a big stonewall or a high fence that he could not get over in order to achieve his object. I shall support the Government, but at the same time the position I. take is that, while there is work to be done, health permitting, William Russell will be here to assist in doing it.
– I have a. certain amount of sympathy with the Government, if they really desire to proceed speedily arid uninterruptedly with the consideration and passage of such a Tariff as will eventually become lav/. I am brought, a good deal into contact with importers and others, and I know that the present state of uncertainty is absolutely disastrous to all classes of business men.
– They are doing well out of it.
– As a matter of fact, they are not doing well. The uncertainty is stopping sales.
– They are doing very well.
– The honorable -senator speaks from some small experience of his own. I am dealing with the question very much more broadly. I know a good many firms. The position of the softgoods trade shows that the present uncertainty is extremely disadvantageous to everybody. Buyers are afraid to buy, because they do not know whether prices may not be lower a little later. Numbers of honorable senators who know very little about business can always correct me, but I am stating what I Know to be an absolute fact - that the present state of suspense is disastrous to business, and no good to any one. It is most desirable, therefore, that the Government should hasten the consideration of the Tariff as far as possible, and I do not see why they should not if two months’ Supply is granted. There is a disposition on the part of the Senate to waive its prerogatives., so far as to grant Supply for two months as a fair compromise. I suggest to the leader of the Senate that he should accept the offer. It is not desirable for us to grant Supply for a very long period. I have known several cases where the Government have been limited in their Supply for very good reasons. We have an excellent reason on this occasion, which I need not repeat. I decline to be a party to the surrender unnecessarily of any of our rights and privileges. I hope that the leader of the Senate will see his way to accept what is offered in no party spirit, so far as I am concerned. I believe the same thing applies to other honorable senators. It will certainly do the Government no harm, while it will insure to us such opportunities of exercising our right of ventilating grievances on the first reading of a Supply Bill as we think we ought strictly to conserve.
– Perhaps we, who held the fort last night upon this question, conferred a benefit on the Senate by our action, because it is very necessary, especially for new senators, that we should thoroughly understand the course of business, and the intentions of the Government. Last night, when he replied, Senator Best rather taunted the senators from Queensland, who had held the floor, that probably as new senators we had been led into a trap.
– I taunted the honorable senator ?
– Then, let me take the laurel for that on my brow. I consider that I was not led into a trap. Although I was not thoroughly familiar with all of the forms of the Senate, still I had a very good idea of its duty and privileges in regard to matters of Supply.
– That was on another question, as the honorable senator knows.
– I am sorry that I differ from the honorable senator on this most important matter. Last night it was pointed out by the honorable senator that I had forgotten the fact that on several occasions it had been the .custom in such circumstances to ask for an extended grant of Supply, and that if I had been a little longer here I should have known that only precedents were being followed.
– The honorable member is mistaken altogether. My remark did not apply to that question at all. I was taunted with not having made any remarks on the first reading of the Bill.
– Then the honorable senator entirely misunderstood my remarks, because I did not taunt him in that regard. The whole of my attack was directed to the extraordinary proposal that we were asked to vote three months’ Supply. I mentioned incidentally that it seemed to be somewhat extraordinary, not that the honorable senator had not spoken on the first reading of the Bill, but that the Senate should be asked to vote three months’ Supply. We enjoy almost equal power with the other House in matters of taxation, and co-ordinate powers with regard to the control of public services. We ought to assert our rights. If a new senator - as the Vice-President of the Executive Council will put that laurel on my brow - drew the attention of the Government to what he considered to be a very dangerous departure, I think that the honour was with him, and not with the Government. There is another aspect of .the question which appeals to me, and I think to other new senators. Now that Senator Best has given his reasons for asking for three months’ Supply, however powerful or convincing they may be from his point of view, they are more powerful and convincing to us from our point of view. .Because if, as he has stated, there is business to occupy the Senate for two months, why does he ask for three months’ Supply now? We cannot predict what may happen during that period, and, therefore, we ought to maintain our rights and privileges. I anticipate that, if the Government are in earnest, it will take us three months to do effectively the business which has been outlined. There is no reason for the Senate to grant Supply for two or three months. I hope that we shall be here for the next two months dealing with those important matters which Senator Best has given us every indication will 1be submitted. He has really furnished the strongest reason why he should accede to our view. I join with Senator Mulcahy in asking the Government not to regard this criticism, as an attack on their conduct of business or their financial proposals. It is in no sense offered in a spirit of hostility. We wish to assist the Government in the conduct of public business, but, on the other hand, we ought, to maintain our privileges, and point out that the reasons assigned are quite sufficient to justify the stand we have taken.
– When I oppose the amend-, ment, I do not want any one to regard me as being forgetful of the privileges of the Senate. I believe that I should be as close a stickler for its privileges as would any other honorable senator. ‘ But I do not see how the granting of three months’ Supply is tantamount to giving up a privilege held under a standing order.
– Does not the honorable senator think that it is giving up an opportunity ?
– For the time being, it will be a limitation of a certain opportunity.
– It is a surrender of two opportunities out ‘of three.’
– It is no surrender at all, but a temporary limitation of a certain opportunity. It will not deprive any honorable senator of the right to ventilate any grievance.
– The honorable senator recognises that it will create a precedent.
– The occasions when two months’ Supply were granted in 1904, 1905, and 1906, were not by any means similar to the present occasion. I am in hearty sympathy with Senator Mulcahy, although it is very seldom that we seem to strike a sympathetic vein.
– Then I must have gone wrong.
– I think that the honorable senator has. In my opinion, the Vice-President of the Executive Council gave last night a very substantial reason why three months’ Supply should be. granted. Surely any .honorable senator who recognises the necessity of dealing with the Tariff in the most expeditious manner will recognise that, whatever may be the position of the Senate, there are ample reasons why three months’ Supply should be granted as desired by the House of Representatives.
– We want to deal with some of those people who are, dealing with the public.
– Exactly. The other House has voted three months’ Supply in order that, uninterruptedly, it may deal with the Tariff. Senator Mulcahy has referred to the great disturbance and perturbation of mind among the big firms, or what he calls the business people. He usually describes as business men persons who deal in calicoes and flannels, but there are thousands of other business men than those who cut a yard of flannel. Admitting that the big firms may be labouring under some disabilities, how many thousand consumers are suffering ten times worse than they are, and at their hands too? To protect the interest of the consumers is my reason for voting three months’ Supply. I want the Tariff to be got rid of in order to settle the anomalies of which so much has been made.
– Shall we be able to deal with the Tariff in two months?
– In the Senate, we might be able to do so in two months or two days in our own tinpot way, but we have to recognise that another place contains seventy-five members-
– Who have passed a Supply Bill time and again in an afternoon by suspending the Standing Orders !
– That is all right. There are reasons why the other House should not be interrupted in its consideration of the Tariff.
– The other House can expedite the Tariff, but why should we surrender our privilege to assist it to do that which it can otherwise do?
– I am not surrendering any privilege.
– Yes, for this occasion.
– I have a due regard for the rights of the consumers, who, I am satisfied, are suffering exceedingly by the impositions which are practised upon them owing to the uncertainly in connexion with the Tariff. Therefore, I support the amendment.
– In my speech, I gave two reasons to justify the passing of the Bill. In the first place, I said that it might suit the convenience of the other House to have an uninterrupted consideration of the Tariff. If it became necessary to interrupt those proceedings with a Supply Bill, who knows but that it might be utilized for the purpose of “ stone-walling,” and for other purposes which might not be reasonable or germane? I do not suggest that that is probable, but we have to deal with possibilities. I can more or less sympathize with the view that has been urged for an uninterrupted consideration of the Tariff.
– Why did not the Government ask for five months’ Supply ? ‘
– I can conceive that there is no matter of more vital importance to the community than an expeditious disposal of the Tariff in each Chamber. The other feature immediately affects ourselves. I cannot for a moment believe that any honorable senator will seriously consider that .he is surrendering the remotest grain of privilege by consenting to a three months’ Supply Bill. It is all very well for honorable senators opposite to use an argument of that kind, but I appeal to honorable senators, as practical men, to say whether the difference between granting two months’ and three months’ Supply is going to involve the surrender of a privilege of the Senate?
– Are we not surrendering two opportunities to debate the first reading of a’ Supply Bill ?
– The last time I had the honour of introducing a Supply Bill, I do not think there was a single grievance to be complained of.
– But there was the opportunity to complain if there had been a grievance.
– On other occasions we have had a similar experience. But if by any chance the Senate should be sitting during the third month, and, as a matter of urgency, it is necessary that, a grievance should be ventilated, honorable senators are aware that our Standing Orders make the most ample provision for its ventilation. Honorable senators opposite suggest that the Government should be granted two months’ Supply. I have referred to the business which I think we ought to get through. It is of very great importance, but I contemplate that the work I have outlined can be reasonably disposed of in a period of six weeks.
– Does the honorable senator know how long the second reading of the Navigation Bill took before?
– Having regard to the consideration!, thought, and care which have already been bestowed on the Navigation Bill, I am hopeful that its passage will not occupy a long time. I can only offer an estimate in this connexion, but honorable senators are aware that the Navigation Bill has been considered by a Royal Commission, and we shall be greatly assisted by a valuable report received from that body. They are also aware that it has been the subject of consideration by an Imperial Conference, from which, also, we have a report.
– And we can, therefore, swallow it whole.
– Senator Millen knows that I do not say any such thing. What I do say is that the care already bestowed on the measure, and the information which will be before us, should lighten our labours in dealing with it.
– The honorable senator forgets that there was dissent in the Royal Commission to which he refers.
– T estimate that the work which I have indicated should occupy a period of six weeks. That would bring us to the end of September. If we then had no work to do, and there was no likelihood that we should receive the Tariff for another month, we could adjourn over the month of October. If only two months’ Supply is granted now, the Senate would have to be called together again on the 12th or 13th of October.
– No, the Government could get Supply before we adjourned.
– Yes. If it is a case of urgency.
– It would mean, as I have said, that the Senate would have to be called together on the 12th or 13th October, in order to pass Supply. Why should that be done? If there were any legitimate reason why this Bill should be restricted to two months’ Supply, I could not reasonably object. As Senator Stewart observed last night, in the unique circumstances that have arisen, I submit that full justification for asking for three months’ Supply has been established. I hope honorable senators will see’ their way to yield to the reasonable request of the Government in the special circumstances to which I have already referred, and grant three months’ Supply.
– Two statements have been made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council to which I desire to refer. One is that he expects that six or seven weeks will be sufficient for the Senate to deal with the business he is ready to present, and that if we do not grant three months’ Supply, and have adjourned at that time, it will be necessary to call the Senate together again early in October. If we are to sit here for six or seven weeks dealing with the business which the Government are ready to place before us, it will be the easiest thing in the world if we grant two months’ Supply now for the Government then to ask the Senate to grant another month’s Supply.
– They would have, to ask another place also.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council, by his interjection, now admits that his reason for asking for three months’ Supply, so far as the convenience of the Senate is concerned, goes bv the board. The invitation really is to the Senate to make itself a party to restrict the liberties it may be of a minority elsewhere. The honorable senator told us that if the Government were granted only two months’ Supply, and were under the necessity of asking for further Supply, the new Supply Bill might be used in the House of Representatives as a means of “ stone- walling.” I can appeal to Senator Trenwith, as perhaps the oldest politician here, and challenge him to dive deep into his extensive recollection of parliamentary proceedings, and say whether he ever heard a statement of that kind addressed to one Chamber of a Legislature under the bi-cameral system. Is the Senate to be made a participator in .party struggles elsewhere? When I hear Senator Best say that we in no sense forego the rights and privileges of the Senate, if we lend ourselves to be made a tool in party politics elsewhere, I must express, not merely my surprise, but my deep regret. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has pointed out as a justification for asking for three months’ Supply that the Senate has previously granted two months’ Supply. What will that mean when the Government next come to the Senate for a grant of Supply? They will then ask for four months’ Supply on the ground that the Senate has previously granted three months’ Supply. The honorable senator, with a great deal of dramatic pathos, asks honorable ‘senators whether they think they are going to whittle down the rights and privileges of the Senate by giving three months rather than two months’ Supply. We might carry that argument further, and ask whether we should reduce our rights and privileges by granting four months rather than three months’ Supply.
– Surely one of the privileges of the Senate is that we can, if we choose, grant six months’ Supply ?
– Of course. ‘ And on the argument used by the VicePresident of the Executive Council to grant the whole twelve months’ Supply in one Bill, would in no way be lessening the rights and privileges of the Senate. If the argument has any value, and there is no difference between granting four months’ Supply and five months’ Supply, we might, if we were not prevented by the Audit Act and the Constitution, just as easily grant six years’ Supply as three months’ Supply. We have very frequently heard expressions of great regret that the Senate has not attained the position we all anticipated it would attain in the Federal arena. I have never heard those expressions of regret dissented from, but on the other hand they have been indorsed by all sides. What has brought this about? It is due simply to the action, or want of action, of the Senate ; the willingness of honorable senators on the ground of party convenience to overlook the rights of the Senate, and to concede whatever the Government of the day has asked. I say that the Senate is in the unfortunate position that we can never look to the representatives of the Government in this Chamber to be the leaders and upholders of the rights of the Senate. My remarks have no personal application to the present occupants of the Treasury bench in the Senate, but Ministers come here as members of a Cabinet which is presumed to work in unison. The result is, that where a Ministry finds a certain course of action desirable in its interests,, or it may be in- the interests of another place, “the representatives of the Ministry in .the Senate do not appear before us as spokesmen of the Senate at all, but as the advocates of a policy adopted by the Government. Honorable senators will see at once that it is as likely as not to be the case that the interests of the Ministry or of another place are not necessarily the interests of the Senate. It is unfortunate for us that Ministers in the Senate can never be looked to for guidance and leading in matters of this kind. I wish to make it quite clear that J. do not suggest that that applies particularly to the representatives of the Government at present in the Senate, or that it is anything more than might be expected from the peculiar circumstances of the case. It arises from the fact that .we are trying to work responsible government under a system of Federation such” as that which we have adopted. The Senate has always accepted the position, that whenever a Ministry has asked it to do something which involved, theoretically or practically, a waiving of its rights, it has followed the Ministry, not necessarily because honorable senators have believed that the Ministry was right, but from party considerations. The result is that instead of being the powerful, dignified Chamber it ought to be, it stands in the opinion of those outside - I was going to say as a glorified Legislative Council, but I shall withdraw the word ‘ glorified ‘ 1 and say as an ordinary Legislative Council. That is proved by the limited amount of attention which the press and the public give to this Chamber. I am not cavilling at the action of the press. I assume that the newspapers give to the proceedings of the Senate just so much attention as they think they .deserve.
– The less talk there is about the privileges of a Chamber the more likely it is to be glorified. .
– I am not using the word “ privilege “ in the sense in which it is used by Senator Trenwith. I am using it as representing the rights and duties conferred upon the Senate under the Constitution. The Senate is under the Constitution something more than a Legislative Council and a mere Chamber of revision.
It was intended that it should take an active and forceful part in financial matters. We have given away our rights in that respect to a very great extent by the perfunctory manner in which we have dealt with these Supply Bills. There is only one way in which we can hope to hold in the minds of the people the position which we should occupy, and that is by discharging honestly the duties imposed upon us under the Constitution, and refusing .to perform them in a perfunctory fashion,, or to concede to the requests of the Government of the day, for party or other reasons. We are asked to forego our duty now merely to prevent a “stone-wall” elsewhere, and to suit the convenience of the Ministry. There is n6 possible reason why the Senate should consent to grant three months’ Supply when we have the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that we shall be here two months from now, when we might grant further Supply, if it were then required.
Senator GIVENS (Queensland) [3.59L - Twice during the speech of the VicePresident of the Executive Council I interjected to ask the honorable senator if he would promise not to do this thing again. I think that such a promise ought to have been made by the Minister. Although he might not have thought so, I put the question quite seriously. I am one of those who believe that the Senate should not give away any of its rights and privileges. I do not agree with Senator Millen that we are now being asked to forego any of our rights or privileges. The real forfeiture of the rights of the Senate takes place when the Appropriation Bill is brought down, and. honorable senators show themselves anxious to close the session and get to their homes. Measures are then passed in globo without any sufficient discussion.
-. - Because the money has then been spent, under periodical Supply Bills.
– Nothing of the kind. Since I have been a member of the Senate there has never been more than six months’ Supply spent by the time we have received the Appropriation Bill. It is because honorable senators opposite have desired to “ skedaddle “ off to the bosoms of their families that the Senate has at times forfeited its rights, and neglected its duty. I do not believe that the Senate will ever give away any rights that it possesses. We should have an assurance from the Minister that it is only on account of exceptional circumstances that this course is to be pursued.
– I have said so.
– He should assure us that this procedure is not to be regarded as a precedent.
– Why all these assurances if this is no surrender ?
– Our Standing- Orders have been drawn up to guide us in the conduct of the business of the Senate. Our rights and privileges are safeguarded under the Constitution. We have frequently suspended the Standing Orders in globo in order to facilitate business. Sometimes I have protested against that course being pursued, and have been defeated by those very senators who now ask us to maintain our rights. We have been told by Senator Millen in terms of mock indignation that this course is being taken for party purposes.
– The Minister said so himself.
– I think not.
– I have not heard the Minister make any such statement. If members of the Opposition are so ready to accuse Ministers of transacting business with a view to party advantages, is it not quite likely that the course they themselves are pursuing has been dictated by party motives? May it not be that such suspicions have arisen from their own guilty minds ?
– We have heard the Minister’s statement about “ stonewalling “ in another place.
– It would be a shameful thing if such a course were proposed for party purposes. But we are asked to grant three months’ Supply in exceptional circumstances, and largely to meet the convenience of honorable senators. The position is that the ^Senate may have four or six weeks to spare after clearing the business paper.
– Yet we are to have the Navigation Bill before us.
– The Navigation Commission has not yet presented its report.
– The Minister said that the Bill would be here next week.
– How can the Government say when the Navigation Bill will be brought down, seeing that the final report of the Commission has not yet been presented? It is possible that there may be some recommendation in the Commission’s report which will involve the recasting of the Bill.
– When i made my statement I was ‘assured that we should receive the report of the Commission to-day.
– But the Minister does not know what it contains, and does not know what effect it may have upon -the draft of the Bill. It is not a fact that we are taking this course either for party purposes or to suit the convenience of another place. We are doing it largely for the convenience of honorable senators, and in conformity with what will probably be the course of business. It may take four or six weeks to clear the business paper. If I had my way, the Senate would sif four days a week. We should then clear the paper very much faster than we are likely to do now. It is a cruel thing to keep honorable senators who live long distances. from Melbourne away from their homes, to do business only three days a week. We are surrendering no privilege, because we determine to do our _business in such a way as to meet our own convenience.
– Would there be a surrender of any privilege if we granted Supply for four months?
– If necessity were shown for granting Supply for four months, we should do it. Honorable senators opposite never protest when towards the end of the session a Bill is brought down which has the effect of giving the Government control of expenditure for six months or more. If I had my way, that would never be permitted. I believe that good reasons have been shown on this occasion why three months’ Supply should be granted, and I can see no. surrender of a privilege in doing so.
.- As one who has rarely taken the opportunity of ventilating grievances on Supply, I see no reason why” I should deprive other senators of their privilege in that respect. I cannot see why the Government should not accept the request moved by Senator Clemons. It should be quite sufficient, to grant Supply for two months. The Standing Orders have frequently been suspended to allow a Supply Bill to go through with very little consideration. It does not take long to dispose of such a measure. But if there is one thing more than another that has convinced me that I ought to vote for the request, it is the reasons given to the contrary by the VicePresident of the Executive Council. He said that if a Supply Bill had to be introduced when the Tariff was being considered, the opportunity might be taken advantage of in another place to resort to “stone-walling.” But there is no class of business that admits of more “ stone-walling “ than does a Tariff. Any member of Parliament who is anxious to “ stone-wall “ can do so to any length, and need not, therefore, wait for a Supply Bill. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has given us a list of measures which will require to be dealt with by the Senate. I venture to say that it will not be possible to dispose of them in less than two or three months. When the Navigation Bill was previously introduced, it will be found, if Hansard be consulted, that several honorable senators expressed the view that it would take almost a session to put it through both Houses. Yet we are asked to believe that we can dispose of such a measure, and a mass of other business, in about six weeks, sitting three days a week, which means eighteen sitting days. It appears to me to be nonsensical to run away with the idea that we are likely to do that amount of work”. There has been some talk about the Senate taking a holiday. The members of this Parliament have been returned to do the work that is necessary.
– There is a general agreement on that.
– Where does this request for holidays come from? It has been stated that the Senate can adjourn because there will not be sufficient work to occupy our attention. But the VicePresident of the Executive Council tells us that we have work enough to keep us going for three months. If that be so, we shall be here two months hence, and could very well deal with a Supply Bill then. Senator St. Ledger has surprised me by his statement that he does not want a holiday, because I recollect that he was the first member of the Senate to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council when it would be convenient to arrange for an adjournment ; and Tfe mentioned that the present would be rather a pleasant time to go back to Queensland to see his constituents.
– I think the honorable senator must be a Scotchman, who cannot see a joke.
– I will explain what the joke was. The fact is that during the present month there are more agricultural shows in Queensland, including those at Brisbane and Toowoomba, than at any other time of the year. The honorable senator wanted to go to Queensland to attend those shows and do a little propaganda work. That is where the joke came in. The Brisbane Show is being held this week.. I believe it was opened yesterday, and will last for the remainder of the week. The Toowoomba show was held last week, and other shows are coming on every other day. I do not see any joke in that sort of thing at all. It was a most convenient time for Queensland representatives to get to that State, because they could do a considerable amount of political work while the shows were on. At the same time, it always strikes me that the principal reason why we are here is to do the work that is required to be done by the people of Queensland as a whole, and not by people who go about from show to show. “We are expected to be here, so long as there is business to be done, independent of any other consideration. I am satisfied, judging by the list of measures submitted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that we shall be here at the end of the two months to pass another Supply Bill. That is one of the principal reasons why, on this occasion, I shall vote for the amendment.
– When I spoke last night, I believed, from what I had been told, that it was likely that we should have no more work to do in another three or four weeks at the outside. I therefore considered it necessary that the Government should have three months’ Supply. But since I have heard the arguments adduced this afternoon, it has struck me. very forcibly that we are likely to be here for another eightor ten weeks before we complete the work which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has indicated. If we are likely to be here for that length of time, itchanges my views. As Senator Turley said, we shall have only eighteen working days in which to do all that business, and during those six weeks, six half-days are given to private members’ business, leaving only fifteen full days for Government business. We sit generally for short hours on Fridays. If we were going to sit on Tuesdays as well, in order to get through the business, I should vote for three months’ Supply, but as we are only to go on in exactly the same way as in the past, and honorable members who come long dis.stances will still have to kick their heels around Melbourne for three’ or four days a week, I shall vote for only two months’ Supply. The Government proposal is hardly fair to those honorable senators who have to remain away .from their homes for many weeks once they reach Melbourne, and yet it is urged that to give three months’ Supply is a matter of expediency and urgency. Whom does it suit? It does not suit honorable senators who come long distances, although it may suit those who live here, or others who can easily return home every week-end. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council could assure me that we will sit four days a week to get rid of the business, which we are sent here and paid to do, I should vote for three months’ Supply. I believe, however, that the Navigation Bill itself will take at least twelve working days. That means a month on one Bill, and judging by the time it occupied in another place, the Quarantine Bill will be likely to last us at least a week or two. I therefore see no possible hope of the Senate having concluded its business before the Government want another Supply Bill passed. If we do grant two months’ Supply, it will virtually mean three months, because the Government will not want more money voted until the following month.
– The honorable senator is in error. Payments are now made fortnightly. Consequently I. ask for Supply for three months. If only two months’ Supply is given, we shall have to meet again on the 12th or 13th October.
– It will be very nearly three months, even then.
– Half of this month is gone already.
– A fortnight of October will be, gone before the Government want the next Supply Bill passed. I am perfectly satisfied from what I have heard to-day, not only from other honorable senators, but from the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that we are sure to be here then. The strongest argument that has been used is that we should be interrupting the consideration of the Tariff in another place, but we know how long it took them to pass this Supply Bill. Very likely they would be glad of - a breathing space of two or three hours to put another Supply Bill through all its stages. That would not interfere with the consideration of the Tariff. One would! almost think from the speeches of some honorable senators that to delay the consideration of the Tariff for one hour would ruin the consumer, and that it will benecessary in order to get the Tariff Bill through for the other House to sit on. Mondays, and continuously for the rest of each week. We should argue from a reasonable stand-point. I cannot imagine how any person could believe that to devote about four hours in another place during the next three months to the passage of a Supply Bill will delay the Tariff. I want to see the Tariff settled, but I am very much afraid that it wilt be before the other House for the next five months. We are told that a Royal Commission has considered the navigation question, that a Navigation Bill is to be brought in on their recommendations, and that consequently the consideration of the measure is not likely to occupy so much time. But I would direct attention to the fact that long before I became a senator, I used to read continuously about the great urgency of appointing a Tariff Commission, and how the industries of Australia, and particularly Victoria, were languishing for want of additional protection. Yet, after all . their labour during the last” eighteen months or two years, and in spite of all the money the Commissior* cost - I believe they were only appointed to ‘ do away with anomalies - the Government have brought in almost, the highest Tariff possible, in spite of the recommendations of the Commission. If their recommendations had been acted upon, I believe the Tariff would have beer* passed in two or three months. But their recommendations have not been accepted, save in a few instances.
– I ask the honorable senator riot to discuss the merits of the Tariff Commission.
– I am drawing a comparison between it and the Navigation Commission.^ Other honorable senators have referred ‘to it. I wish to show that the experience of the Tariff Commission does not justify the hope that the Navigation Bill1 will only occupy a short time in the Senate”. I believed last night that the Government were quite justified in getting three months’ Supply, but after what I have heard to-day I cannot swallow the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the business the Government intend to put before us will only occupy five or six weeks. I agree with Senator Turley that it will take eight or ten weeks at least if we give it any consideration at all. I shall therefore support the amendment.
Senator ST. LEDGER (Queensland) £4.25]. - I rise only to answer Senator Turley’ s criticisms on my remarks. The next time I make a joke in this Chamber T shall have to consider my audience. Either the Senate will have to get the measure of my intelligence, or I shall have to arrive at a better understanding of the intelligence of the Senate when I attempt a joke. Senator Turley evidently misunderstood what I said, and, seeing that our constituents in Queensland will read his remarks, I am entitled to annotate my joke.
– Will the honorable senator connect his remarks with the amendment before the Committee?
– I believe the question was whether we should have sufficient business to keep us occupied or not, and I understood that that incidentally raised the subject of an adjournment which would allow honorable senators to have a holiday or to visit their constituents. . My whole object in asking the question I did was to force the Government to make some declaration with regard to the Tariff, in order that we might have a clear idea of when we should be able to devote our attention to it. I had not the remotest intention, in putting it in that indirect way, of asking when there might be a possibility of an adjournment of the Senate. It was a side stroke, which I thought at the time was a front stroke, at the Government with regard to the position of the Tariff, and it was by no means intended as an attempt to angle for an adjournment or a holiday. The next time I make a joke I shall remember Senator Turley’s presence.
.- The attitude of some honorable senators towards the request of the Government for a three months’ Supply is puzzling, and of others paradoxical. There has been for a considerable time a certain amount of unrest not only in Victoria, but in all the States, and a desire for some definite information with respect to the Tariff Commission and its reports. Everybody is extremely desirous of facilitating the passage of the recommendations both of the Commission and . of the Government as speedily as possible. The leader of the Government in this Chamber points out that if a Supply Bill covering a period of three months is passed, it will enable another place to have, as it were, a clean slate, thus clearing the way for the Tariff.
– Let them clean their own slate. Why should we clean it for them ?
– The honorable senator evidently does not want to clean their slate in order to clear the way for the Tariff proposals. Other honorable senators argue that because the Bill covers three months’ Supply it is a surrender of the rights and privileges of the Senate. I never heard that argument advanced before when two months’ Supply was granted. After all, we surrender many things when a Supply Bill is passed, so far as our Standing Orders are concerned, because we are permitted to talk about anything and everything on the first reading. I believe the Government are in earnest in their desire to facilitate business, and they are justly entitled to ask for full and fair’ consideration of their request for three months’ Supply. I repeatedly hear honorable senators from, distant States say that they come here to work, as though other honorable senators did not. They say also that they do not like to be walking about the streets of Melbourne in idleness, but desire to meet four days a week. They are no more anxious than are other honorable senators to meet four days a week if there is four days’ work to be done ‘per week. Another place meets four days a week, but it has twice as many members as we have, and some people think that certain members there are more loquacious than are certain honorable senators. Honorable senators have said repeatedly, when the Government have not had a full sheet of business to put before us, that they hoped that, if there was to be an adjournment, it would not be for a day or two, but for a long period, to enable them to return to their own States. The Government anticipate that they will have plenty of business for the Senate to consider; but if something unforeseen should eventuate and the Government should be unable to proceed with business, then .they will be facilitating the giving of effect to the wishes of those who are objecting to the granting of three months’ Supply.
– Quite right; the whole point is the question of getting an: adjournment.
– We do not want an adjournment.
– I do not believe that any honorable senators are supporting the Bill merely with the view of getting a long adjournment.
– The honorable senator has just said so.
– No. I said”” that in the event of the Government not being able to proceed with the business which they anticipate will be ready in order to keep the Senate fully engaged, the granting of three months’ Supply will enable those who want a long holiday to get it and go to their respective States.
– No, because then they . will want another holiday.
– No matter what the Government may propose, some honorable senators on the other side always find an objection.
– The_ business which has been foreshadowed will occupy the best part of three months.
– In mv opinion, it will not. It has been said that by a suspension of the Standing Orders in another place a Supply Bill could be passed in a few hours. Yesterday a considerable time was occupied here on the first reading of the Bill, and ever since we met this afternoon we have been discussing the granting of Supply. Probably by moving an amendment similar to the one before the Committee, the Tariff could be stuck up in another place for .an indefinite period. I believe that the Government are anxious to facilitate business not only in the Senate but in another place. If by taking three months’ Supply the passing of the Tariff will be hastened, then the request of the Government is a reasonable one, and I shall support it.
– I was somewhat opposed to the amendment when it was moved, and thought that I would support the Government; but the longer the discussion has continued the more have I doubted whether I can support the Government or the amendment. I think that we should abrogate the right of the Senate to discuss money Bills if we were to grant Supply for two months.
– Hear, hear. I should prefer one month’s Supply to be granted.
– If the honorable senator had proposed .to limit the grant of Supply to one month, he would have taken up a consistent attitude, but there is no virtue in limiting the grant of Supply to two instead of three months, and therefore I shall support the Government. When I hear of the many new measures which’ are to be placed on the notice-paper I do not see how the Government are to gain any benefit by taking three months’ Supply My opinion is that the Navigation Bill, if initiated here, will prove to be almost as contentious as . will even- the Tariff Bill . Several honorable senators have spoken of the short time which was occupied a few years ago in putting a Navigation Bill through the Senate. “ But it should be remembered that then it was a foregone conclusion with most honorable senators that the whole subject of navigation and shipping would be referred to a Royal Commission, and consequently many honorable senators did not speak. The time which that Bill occupied cannot possibly be taken as a criterion of the time which the new Bill will take here. Considering the enormous importance of the many subjects which are involved in a Navigation Bill of 400 clauses, I think “that its consideration here will take quite as. long a time as will the consideration of the Tariff in another place. I hope that if the Government intend to move the adjournment of the Senate, it will be done before the Navigation Bill is introduced ; otherwise there is no reason for voting three months’ Supply, because at the end of that period we shall certainly be here if the- Navigation Bill is introduced.
– Does the honorable senator know when the Government will receive the report of the Navigation Commission?
– It may be received by the Government at almost any moment.
– Has it left the hands of the Commission yet?
– Practically it has, and I was surprised to hear Senator Best say that it has not yet been received. It will take the Government a considerable time to frame the Bill which involves very, many contentious questions, and, of course, the Minister will require a reasonable opportunity in which to read the report and master the various subjects with which itdeals. I hope that he will not attempt to bring in the Bill before the proposed adjournment takes place. No matter- when, it is introduced, I believe that it will occupy our time for two or three months. I am still in great doubt as to whether I shall vote for the amendment. I hope that the
Minister will give some further information as to the business which he intends to submit to the Senate-
– -I point out to Senator de Largie that the reason assigned for the need of three months’ Supply is not that the Senate may adjourn - that is merely an incident - but that it is all -important to Australia and its people that the Tariff question shall be settled with reasonable expedition. It is important from the point of view which the. honorable senator and I hold that it should be settled largely on the lines presented to the people just now. If that is in the interest of the people it is the duty of each branch of the Parliament to do everything possible to facilitate that result. That is the ground on which as it seems to me three months’ Supply has been asked for. We ‘know that on very many occasions Supply has been obtained in a very few minutes owing to there being a consensus of opinion that it should be granted. There might be no great need to ask for three months’ Supply now if we had’ reason to believe that that course would always be adopted, but experience teaches that it is unusual, and that very frequently a great deal of time is taken up in discussing questions of Supply. If it is important that the Tariff should be settled expeditiously it is equally important that there should be no unnecessary interruption of the debate upon it. And if it is not necessary to grant Supply from month to month ; if, to meet the exigencies of the case,, we can grant Supply for three months, and thereby facilitate the settle- ment of the Tariff, that seems to me to be an all-sufficient reason for passing this Bill. The matter incidental to the discussion of the Tariff in another place - that possibly there may be no work for .the Senate to do - may not in itself be considered a sufficient reason for granting three months’ Supply. But it is absurd to say that because the Seriate consents to grant three months’ Supply it gives up any privilege or right. I ventured to interject, when Senator Millen was speaking, that the Senate would be more likely to be “ glorified “ in a true and proper sense if it talked less about the privileges of either House of Parliament, and thought more about the privileges of the people. Neither House possesses any privileges, unless they are privileges of the people, which are worth preserving. This verv right, of which so much has been made, was very well worth fighting for in the middle ages. It was imperative then that the people’s representatives should fight for the right at every stage, but the necessity for its continual use has long since died out. It is a sufficient preservation of it that it is embodied in our Standing Orders, to be used when ever we -like.
– Not whenever we like, but whenever we can get an opportunity.
– We can also refrain from using the right whenever we like, and I take it that as sensible people we will refrain from using it whenever it appears to us that the interests of the people will be best served by taking that course. I would urge upon Senator de Largie, who expresses some doubt as to whether he should vote for a three months’ Supply, that the reason it is being asked for is .that Parliament, not the Senate, and not another place, but the people’s hand, if I may so describe it, may be free to work with the greatest possible facility. It is desirable that the discussion of ‘a. question which is a great question, from, whatever point of view honorable senators may look at it, and which always creates most intense feeling, may be facilitated in Parliament without special reference to either the Senate or another place.
– One reason why I am prepared to support the Government in this matter is, that there is nothing new in the schedule of the Bill. We have the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that it contains merely recurring items of expenditure, and we are being asked only to initial the wages-sheet of the public services of the Commonwealth. I should have serious objection to the Bill if it provided for newworks, or would enable the Government to enter upon a change of policy, or to deal with new proposals which should be widely discussed. Considering that we are being asked merely to initial the wages-sheet for the ordinary works and services of the country, I fail to see why we should have so much haggling over the proposal. I recognise that three months is rather a long time, but in ordinary circumstances two months’ Supply have been granted by the Senate. I believe that the Government are justified in claiming that present circumstances are extraordinary. We must remember that honorable members in another place are about to enter upon the consideration of a measure which, in the life of a country, is not considered more often than once in fifteen or twenty years.
– We have considered it three times in six years here.
-Then there is all the more reason why honorable members in another place should have an opportunity to deal with the question in an uninterrupted way. I believe that the revision of the Tariff now proposed will be found sufficient, at least, for the next twenty years.
– The honorable senator should not be too optimistic.
– The faulty adjustment of the Tariff on the last occasion accounts for the present necessity for its revision.
– I ask the honorable senator not to discuss that matter.
– The difference between honorable senators opposite and the Government in regard to this grant of Supply is one month. Strictly speaking, it is not more than about two weeks, because a fortnight of the three months provided for has already gone by, and as fortnightly payments are now due, we might have another “ Black Wednesday “ before the Bill is passed. Honorable senators opposite smile, but they forget that there was a “ Black Wednesday ‘ ‘ in the history of Victoria, when no Supply was granted. Senator Millen has referred to the necessity of jealously conserving the good name of the Senate as a branch of the Federal Legislature. I indorse what the honorable senator said on the point, but I do not agree with him in magnifying to the extent he has done the dignity of the Senate, which is represented in a querulous and meaningless opposition to the granting of Supply.
– I never said anything about the dignity of the Senate.
– I understood the honorable senator to do so, and he certainly referred tothe duty of every member of the Senate to conserve its good name.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I spoke of the necessity of performing the duties cast upon the Senate by the Constitution.
– Did not the honorable senator say that from what be has heard the Senate has fallen in public estimation?
– Yes; and I am sorry to have had to say it.
– If the honorable senator points to the present as an occasion on which its reputation is to be upheld, I certainly differ from him as to the means he suggests for upholding it. The public appreciation of the Senate as a component part of the Federal Legislature will depend on the character of the legislation it passes, and the stamp which it impresses upon that legislation. That applies with equal force to another place. The House of Lords is being seriously condemned, and why ? Not on account of any querulous opposition to the granting of Supply, but because in season and out of season it has thwarted the public will, and has left its mark so indelibly upon the. legislation of the Imperial Parliament, and in such fashion, that public resentment is aroused against it. The reputation of the Senate is to be maintained not by raising meaningless points of order or questions of privilege, but by honorable senators endeavouring always to insure that the legislation approved in this Chamber shall be such as will be conducive to the well-being of the Country. I shall oppose the request.
– Senator Lynch has given the strongest reasons why honorable senators should oppose the Government in this matter. He has referred to the importance which must be attached to maintaining the dignity of the Senate. Certain privileges and rights have been conferred upon us as representatives of the States, and if history teaches us anything it is that in constitutional government the very greatest importance must be attached to the maintenance of all our privileges connected with financial matters, and especially the granting of Supply. I should gladly support the Government if good reasons had been given why, in the interests of the Commonwealth, we should grant three months’ Supply. But I venture to affirm that it is impossible to imagine weaker arguments than those by which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has sought to support the proposal made by the Government. We are being asked to create a most dangerous precedent because a new Tariff is about to be considered in another place, and because, although its consideration may occupy four, five, or six months, during that time it may be necessary to devote two hours to the discussion of an ordinary monthly Supply Bill. I think honorable senators on this side have been generous in consenting to meet the Government more than half way. There is a precedent for the granting of two months’ Supply, and in consenting to that on this occasion we shall not be creating any new and dangerous precedent. The Government have dangled the Tariff before the public for many months, and business men have been caused, to say the least of it, a large amount of inconvenience by the delay in dealing with the question. It is therefore a very poor excuse to offer for the request now made by the Government that it is important that there should be a continuous discussion of the Tariff. I fail to understand how the business of the country would be dislocated, or even seriously inconvenienced by the introduction of a Supply Bill two months from now. As in my opinion no good reason has been given for granting three months’ Supply, I shall support the requested amendment.
Question - That the request (Senator Clemons) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Limit of period of expenditure).
– This clause provides that no moneys shall be expended under the authority of the Bill after 30th June, 1908. Is it the invariable practice to adopt that form in Supply Bills?
– Yes. There is an obvious reason for it.
Clause agreed to.
Government Printer: Contingencies - Term of Grant of Supply - Northern Territory : Salaries - Defence Forces : Contingencies : Thursday Island: Military Officers Sent Abroad - Cancelled Mail Contract : Deposit - Refunds of Revenue - Tasmania: Cable Communication: Conveyance of Mails.
.- I notice under the heading “ Government Printer,” the items £1,500 for contingencies, and£6, 000 for Salaries. I wish to have some information regarding the contingency vote.
– Surely the honorable senator can trust the Government.
– They may be disposed to do something with which I do not agree. At all events, I wish to have the information.
– The contingencies include such things as paper and parchment, repairs to machinery, lubricants, type and ink, bookbinders’ material, the cost of the distribution of Hansard and parliamentary papers, postage and telegrams, office requisites, writing paper and envelopes ‘ (including the cost of embossing thereon), insurance of stock and machinery, and so forth.
– Speaking subject to correction,I wish to point out that what we are doing at present is to confirm for the period of three months’ Estimates on the basis of last year.
– Practically that.
– I do not know whether every other honorable senator recognises what we are doing.
– These are ordinary and recurring items.
– The assumption is that the expenditure is on the basis of last year’s Estimates.
– These are only portions of votes which will appear upon the Estimates. The balances will be dealt with by honorable senators afterwards.
– When the Estimates are before us, if we desire to make any alteration regarding any item, can that alteration be made retrospective so far as concerns the three months for which we are now voting Supply? If not, all that we can do when the Estimates come before us is to affect nine months of the year. I should like Senator Best to tell us whether by passing this Bill, we do not inevitably put ourselves in the position that we cannot affect the Estimates for the year in any respect except to the extent of nine months.
– We are doing exactly what this Parliament has done since its inception, and what every State Parliament does in regard to its Estimates. The Bill is founded upon last year’s Appropriation Act. The items which it contains relate to ordinary and recurring expenditure. Honorable senators are only being asked to pass portions of the votes for the year, so that it will be competent as regards the balances to take exception to them when the Appropriation Bill is before us.
– We shall be able to deal with the balances only.
– Exactly. But this procedure is essential, and has been followed ever since responsible government was established.
– But there is a great difference between three months’ and one month’s Supply.
– The principle is the same. I would not knowingly ask honorable senators to complete any particular vote, nor is that done by this Bill. It will be competent to deal with the balances when the Appropriation Bill is being discussed.
– I am glad to have that explanation from the Vice-President of the Executive Council, and should like to place on record my opinion that what we are doing now is to put it beyond possibility for us to alter one single item that appeared in the Appropriation Bill of last year, so far as that item may affect three months of the current year. There is a difference obvious to every honorable senator between passing a Bill for three months and for one month. It is true that the principle is the same, but if, after passing a monthly Supply Bill, we made an alteration in the Appropriation Bill towards the end of the year, in regard to any item, we could, at any rate, take to ourselves the consolation that that alteration affected a period of eleven months out of the twelve. After passing this Bill, it will not be possible for us to affect any item except as to nine months of the year. There may be in the Appropriation Bill more than one item which, although an exact repetition of what appeared in last year’s Estimates, will not be approved of by t he Senate this year. If so, we shall be unable to alter it.
– This is the only safe way to proceed.
– I admit thatthere must be monthly Supply Bills. In the last Parliament, we did not get the Appropriation Bill until a considerable portion of the year had gone by. The object of monthly Supply Bills is to bridge over an interval during which it is impossible to submit the Appropriation Bill for the year. That is the difference between voting Supply for one month and three months.
– I wish to ask for information relating to several items. I allude to contingencies. In some instances, they are of such magnitude that it is necessary to inquire whether the votes are on the same scale as those of last year?
– Just the same.
.- I wish to direct attention to the votes on account of the Northern Territory. The item of £280 appears under the subheading “South Australia” for “Salaries (Northern Territory).” To whom are those salaries paid ? How much does each officer receive, and what is the nature of their work? What does the amount of £150 for “ Contingencies (Northern Territory) “ cover?
– The salaries for the Northern Territory are as follows : - Sub-collector, £425 ; two assistant examining officers, £445 ; Customs assistant, £150 ; and clerk, £80. The sum of £280 in this Bill represents the proportion for three months. The contingencies comprise postage and telegrams, office requisites, and other items.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales)
Executive Council state whether in the recurring item of contingencies there are hidden away any proposals for expenditure other than those which appeared in the corresponding schedule for last year?
– These contingencies are only for the ordinary departmental purposes.
– I understand that this Bill is put forward with the assurance that it represents a payment for three months on exactly the same lines as for the corresponding period last year. Are there any fresh expenses wrapped up in the term “contingencies”? If they are the same items as we have passed before, are they at the same rates?
– . I am informed that there may be small ordinary departmental expenditures, as, for instance, the purchase of a new bicycle or a motor vehicle in the Postal Department - something incidental to the carrying on of the departmental work. It is quite impossible to say that the contingencies will be exactly what they were the previous year, but they follow the same lines.
– Under the item of £800 for “ Expenses of officers, warrant and noncommissioned officers, sent abroad for instruction or duty,” who are those officers, and are they naval or military? Are they sent to Great Britain ?
– - I am informed that it is intended to send several officers to the Old Country for instruction.
– I thought there was some exchange of officers with Canada also?
– That is very likely, but I believe the intention is to send these officers to the United Kingdom. The Secretary to the Treasury says he thinks they are all military officers.
– The votes for contingencies under the Defence Department amount to about £60,000 or £70,000. Under “Militia” (New South Wales) there is a vote of £1,200 for “Pay,” and a sum of £11,700 for “Contingencies.” The pay under the division “ Volunteers “ (New South Wales) amounts to £91, while contingencies amount to nearly £6, 000. This method of doing business reminds pie of the boy who was given a sovereign to spend, and who rendered an account of his expenditure thus: - “Tram fares, 6d. ; extras, 19s. 6d.” Under the division “ Cadet Corps “ (New South Wales) the pay is £240, while contingencies reach £2,600. Under “ Rifle Clubs “ (Nev. South Wales) the pay is ,£75, and contingencies, £13,060.
– That is for ammunition.
– If so, it is foolish to put it under so ambiguous a term as “Contingencies.” A clear presentation of accounts would help honorable senators to understand what they are doing. I submit for the consideration of the Minister and of the Treasury officials that it would be desirable when such big items occur to present them more in detail, so that the Committee’ may be able to understand thoroughly the purposes for which they are voting money.
– In the Division “Rifle Clubs and Associations,” which is one of the largest of those selected’ by Senator Millen, the “ contingencies “’ given in the Estimates for the year comprise -
Free ammunition, to be paid into Trust Fund, Small Arms Ammunition Account, ^8.^563 ; loss on sale of ammunition, to be paid into Trust Fund, Small Arms Ammunition Account, j£r,2C;8 : railway fares and freight, £2,000; steamer and coach fares and freight, £750; other travelling expenses, £150 ; incidental and petty cash expenditure, £55 ; office requisites, exclusive of writing paper and envelopes, £20; writing paper and envelopes, including cost of printing and embossing thereon, £20 ; account, record, and other books, including cost of material, printing, and binding, £10 ; other printing, £40 ; badges for musketry, £200; effective grant at 5s. per efficient, £2,000; grants to rifle associations, £2,000; grant to Council of Commonwealth Rifle Association in connexion with visit of rifle team from Great Britain, £250.
Those are the amounts for the whole year. It is only possible to set out such details on the Estimates themselves. They are the ordinary general expenses which take place in connexion with contingencies.
– The Minister’s remarks rather confirm a suspicion which I have had in im mind that this schedule is not prepared in such a way as to assist Parliament in its work. I ‘admit that it would be impossible to include all the details, but in the list read by the Minister there is an item of £8,000 odd for ammunition which if not considered of sufficient importance to have a separate line in this schedule, and yet there is a special item of £60 fox “ postage and telegrams “ carefully set out.. That might surely have gone under the petty cash account. An item of ,£8,000 for free ammunition to rifle clubs, which everybody is interested in, and which discloses the policy of the Government towards an important part of our Defence Forces, is hidden away in contingencies, and yet we are told in all solemnity that “ postage and telegrams “ will cost £60. There is another item mentioned by” the Minister which ought to have been disclosed. The vote for contingencies covers an amount to give assistance to the Council of the Commonwealth Rifle Association in connexion with the visit of a rifle team from Great Britain. That cannot be called a recurring item.
– That is not comprised in this Supply Bill.
– Then the honorable senator should not have read it out.
– I. told the honorable senator that the items included in contingencies in this Bill were only recurring and ordinary.
– The honorable- senator read a list of items which I, and other honorable senators, thought made up the total of ,£13,000 for contingencies under, the Division “ Rifle Clubs and Associations.”
– What I read was a list of the contingencies for the whole year. All those particulars have already been circulated to honorable senators.
– I am not complaining about the amount, but these accounts are presented to us in a way which does not tend to the expeditious treatment of public business. I shall leave it to the common-sense or business attributes of honorable senators whether it is a proper method to pursue to give a separate line to an item of £60 for postage and telegrams, which every business man would include in sundries, whilst a sum of £8,000 in one item for free ammunition is not mentioned at all.
– What is the object of naming the different forces after the particular States in which thev are located ? I notice that the Queensland Naval Force, South Australian Naval Force, New South Wales Naval Force, Victorian Naval Force, and so on, are specified. For practical purposes I know no forces but the Commonwealth Forces. Although these small squads may be located in the different States, I do not see why the term “ Commonwealth “ should not be applied to all of them. If it is necessary to distinguish them, the name of the State might be added afterwards. The Royal Artillery is properly described thus : Royal Australian Artillery, Queensland, and so on. If this schedule were sent to some of our possible enemies, they would think that we had enough Naval Forces to blow them out of the water. It is time that we should indicate that we have only one force under the flag.
– It is necessary to distinguish them for bookkeeping purposes.
– They could be distinguished in the same way as the Royal Australian Artillery has been.
.- Under the sub-heading “Thursday Island “ appears an item of £1,800 for “ pay.” How many permanent men are stationed there? Has there been an increase there recently ? Will the Minister give some further information bearing upon the item of £1,000 for “ contingencies “ for Thursday Island?
: - In 1906-7 there appeared to have been eighty-five officers and men. The officers included a major or captain at £500, and two lieutenants at £300 each..
– In charge of how many men?
– About eighty men.
– What about the vote for “contingencies”?
– It comprises rations, fuel, light, lodging allowance, clothing, kits, medicine, hospital charges, purchase and maintenance of horse, transport, petty cash expenditure, barrack stores, hire of steamer and boats, regimental forms, accountbooks, and text-books.
.- Recently I had an opportunity of spending a few hours at Thursday Island, and, in company with a number of honorable senators I paid a visit to the military barracks. It is a surprise to me to-day to hear thatthe garrison includes a major or captain in receipt of ^£500, and two lieutenants in receipt of £300 each, while the total number of men is about eighty. I do not know whether in other parts of the Commonwealth the Defence Department allows such a large percentage of officers in receipt of large salaries.
– It is the maximum amount, including forage and allowances. I do not know whether the officers absolutely get that sum ; but I presume that they do.
– Does Senator Findley realize the strategic value of Thursday Island ?
– Yes. I am not finding any fault with the men, but asking whether it is customary for the Defence Department to arrange for a major or captain and two lieutenants in connexion with an artillery garrison of similar strength in other parts of the Commonwealth. If there is no difference made, I shall be satisfied, otherwise I shall want to know why it is made.
– Thursday Island is a very special place.
– Iamsurethat honorable senators will be glad to obtain from the Government some information as to what steps, if any, have been taken to recover the amount of the bond of which we have heard very much of late. If there is no objection on their part, I desire the Government to state what is the possibility of obtaining payment of the amount from the guarantor of Sir James Laing and Sons?
.- Instructions have been sent Home to take the necessary steps to recover the sum of £25,000.
– By legal proceedings?
– Yes. The proper time to institute legal proceedings has not yet arrived, but will probably arrive within a month.
– Has the Minister any objection to state the name of the firm or bank which gave the bond ?
– Speaking from memory I think that the name is Barclay and Company.
– That is a good name.
– Yes; it was recognised as a firm of substantial standing.
– It is not a bond, but a letter?
– I understand that it takes the form of a guarantee, and that certain defences have been raised. Definite legal proceedings cannot be taken for a time.
– The question of cable communication across
Bass Strait is a very important one to Tasmania, and of some importance to the Commonwealth generally. According to the morning journals, negotiations apparently were entered upon by the Commonwealth with the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company for the purchase of the two lines of cable. The last statement I read was that the company asked £70,000 for the two cables, including, I suppose, the offices, buildings, and plant; but thatthe Commonwealth Government were not willing to pay that price, and negotiations practically ceased. Now I hear that a vessel is to be employed - and £1,000 has been put on the Estimates for the purpose - in making a survey. From information I have gathered I believe that the negotiations to which the morning journals referred took place three or four years ago. I should like the Government to try to ascertain the best terms on which they can buy the two cables together with the offices, buildings, and plant, and to consider what is to be done with the staff. Of course if the company ask for too much money I suppose that each party will have to go its separate way. I shall be glad if ‘Senator Best can say whether the negotiations are at an endor whether it is impossible to come to terms with the company. I am under the impression that the company believe that when their term has expired, they will still have the right - I do not know whether it is a moral or legal right - to compete with the Commonwealth. If the company will be able to compete with the Commonwealth, it will be better for us on fair terms tobuy the cables. If they cannot compete with us, then to a great extent we shall have them at our mercy ; but until negotiations are exhausted, surely it is unwise to charter a vessel for the purpose of making a survey.
– The Government is hardly in a position at the present time to make an announcement on the subject. Certainly it will be our duty to take into consideration the remarks of my honorable friend, but at this stage it is quite impossible to give any information.
– I shall be glad if the VicePresident of the Executive Council can give an explanation concerning the item of £28,000 for “ refunds of revenue “ ?
It is the usual vote for recouping Money Order Offices the value of stamps placed on money orders and postal notes making payments to the Eastern Extension Tele-‘ graph Company, and the Pacific Cable Company, and also refunding revenue incorrectly paid in.
– If the Minister’s statement is correct, what will happen? Apparently a portion of this vote of £28,000 is to go into revenue.
– It is a transfer from one Department to another.
– If that is so, that portion which is called “ refunds of revenue “ - a most misleading title, I think - will have the effect of inflating the revenue and the Post Office, merely as the result of a transfer entry, will appear to have a larger revenue than is really the case.
– I should like the VicePresident of the Executive Council to throw a little light on an. item in division 195.
– That division has been agreed to, and the Committee is now considering the division - relating to “ Refunds of revenue.”
– After three months there will be an opportunity for the honorable senator to ask for the information.
Schedule agreed to.
– Is it too late, sir, for me to aska question relating to an item in the schedule? I was conversing with Senator McGregor when it was passed.
– If it is pertinent to the subject of the title, the honorable senator can ask a question, otherwise he will have an opportunity to speak on the third reading of the Bill.
– After three months, the honorable senator will be able to ask the question.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without request.
Motion (by Senator Best) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I desire to obtain some information on a matter to which I neglected to. refer when the Bill was in Committee. I should be glad if the Vice-President of the Executive Council can supply the information now.
– To what item does the honorable senator refer?
– I should like to have some explanation of the item “ subdivision No. 4, Cables, ‘ Other,’ £4,585,” on page 28 of the Bill.
– This vote represents only a portion of the amount required for the full year, and comprises a fixed amount of £4,200, for which Tasmania is liable for interest on the capital cost of the cables. It also includes payments to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company to meet half the cost of the upkeep of the station at Low Head, which accounts for £1,300. Then there is a payment of £50 to the Eastern Extension and Australasian and China Company for shipping reports. There is also an amount payable under a guarantee to the Eastern Extension Company ; the total expenditure for the year amounting to £8,781. The honorable senator was not present when I referred to this matter last night, and for his information I may explain that we passed a Postal Rates Bill in 1902 providing for a charge of1s. for sixteen words on telegrams throughout the mainland, and an extra charge of½d. per word on cables to Tasmania. There was an obligation on the part of the Tasmanian Government to make good the revenue from the cable up to £5,600 a year. About the 1 st October last, it was determined to abolish the extra charge of½d. per word on cables to Tasmania, and that involved the Government taking over the whole liability for the £5,600, which was guaranteed by the Tasmanian Government to the Eastern Extension Company. A vote of £5,600 was consequently placed under the head of “Other” expenditure last year. It so happens that none of. that vote was spent, and, in connexion with last year’s business, £3, 181. is owing. The position, therefore, now is that for this year we have to provide for the arrears from last year and the full liability assumed by the Government for the £5,600. Hence it is that for the full year we make provision for £8,781. The vote of £4,585, to which Senator de Largie has drawn attention, is made up of £3,181, representing arrears from last year and a proportionate contribution for three months of this year.
– Mr. President
– The Minister having spoken in reply, the debate has closed. The honorable senator will be able to speak on the third reading.
Question resolved in the affirmative ; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill passing through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Best) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.-‘ I allowed two or three matters to which I wished to refer to pass while the Bill was in Committee, and 1 should like now to obtain some information concerning them. I might mention incidentally that Senator. Millen called attention to the number of votes appearing in the schedule under the heading of “Contingencies. ‘ ‘ I was expecting that the honorable senator would rise again when the Committee reached division 190, because in that division, under the heading “ New South Wales,” there is a big vote of ,£40,000 for contingencies, in connexion with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I should like to have some explanation of that vote. I should like also to get some information about the item in division 191, “’ subdivision No. 4. Cables, £i32-“
– - I should like to emphasize what I said in Committee as to the extreme desirability of those responsible for the preparation of Supply Bills, presenting them in a way in which they could be more readily understood by honorable senators, and by honorable members in another place. I admit that I overlooked the vote of £40,000 for contingencies ‘ to which Senator .Findley has drawn attention, but those I did bring under notice are sufficiently serious.’ I do not wish to repeat what I said in Committee, but it does appear to me to be most absurd that an expenditure of a few pounds on postage and telegrams should be set out as a separate item, whilst a considerable expenditure in other directions is included in a lump sum.
– There are departmental reasons connected with transfers for making a separate item of the expenditure to which the honorable,senator has referred.
– If it is necessary to have a separate item for the expenditure of a few pounds on postage and telegrams, it is surely desirable that there should be a separate item for an expenditure of £8,000 for ammunition for rifle clubs. What the explanation is with respect to the £40,000 for contingencies re ferred to by Senator Findley, I do not know: but it is utterly opposed to anything like a business treatment of these matters -that we should be asked to pass a lump sum of £40,000 without knowing on what it is to be expended. I trust that the Ministry will bring under the notice of the officials the remarks which have been made in this connexion, and see whether it is not possible to have these votes presented in such a way that members of the Federal Parliament may readily understand the purposes for which they are required.
– I wish to direct attention to an item in the Postmaster-General’s Department, and also to obtain some information from the Vice-President of the Executive Council when he rises to reply. Under the heading “ Tasmania,” I find an item “ Subdivision No. 2, conveyance of mails, transferred, £7,675.” I have been given clearly to understand that in this Bill we are dealing only with three months’ Supply. But if we pass this vote of £7,675, “ transferred “ expenditure for conveyance of mails to Tasmania, unless I am very much mistaken, we shall be deciding that the whole of the expenditure necessary for this purpose for the current year, that is debited to Tasmania, shall be passed in this Supply Bill, and it will not be open to our criticism or objection when we get the Appropriation Bill. I know that a vote of £7,000 does not represent only three months’ expenditure for the purpose named. I should be glad if Senator Best would interject if I am wrong.
– The honorable senator must know that there are various contracts under which from time to time liabilities fall due, and must be paid. If these fall due within the three months they must be provided for.
– The total annual cost of the conveyance of mails from Australia to Tasmania amounts to £11,000 odd. In the last Appropriation Bill a sum of £7,675 or thereabouts was debited to Tasmania as “‘transferred” expenditure, and as Senator Best must know, Tasmania had to pay the whole of that amount. The balance between that amount and £11,000 odd is “Other” expenditure, and is distributed per capita. I am suddenly confronted with the most important fact, that when the Appropriation Bill comes before us it will be quite impossible for any member of the Senate to endeavour to secure that the expenditure for the conveyance of these mails shall be met per capita, because we shall already have agreed in this Supply Bill to the whole of the year’s “ transferred “ expenditure for the purpose. If that is so, I shall more than ever regret that I have not delayed the passing of the Bill.Honorable senators will find that under the heading, New South Wales, a vote of £60,000 for the conveyance of mails is put down as “ Other” expenditure. In Victoria £25,000 for the same purpose is “ Other “ expenditure. In all the States the cost of the conveyance of mails is charged per capita, with the one exception of Tasmania, where this expenditure is charged wholly against the State. The matter is not now being debated for the first time in the Senate, but I can assure honorable senators that this is the first time that the transferred expenditure on this account for the whole vear has slipped into a temporary Supply Bill. When we come to discuss this very serious question under the Appropriation Bill, we shall be told that it is too late to say anything about it, because the whole of the year’s transferred expenditure has already been passed in this Supply Bill. We have reached the third-reading stage of the Bill, and I am, unfortunately, in this position, that whatever Senator Best’s reply to my remarks may be, I shall be unable to answer him, or to take any further steps. If I have correctly stated the position, I say deliberately that it is a scandal that in connexion with this particular item, involving a serious constitutional question, and a serious question of States rights, the Senate should be gagged by the course adopted in this Bill, because when we get the Appropriation Bill we shall be prevented from raising the question as to whether or not this should be regarded as “ transferred “ expenditure. I find myself unable to come to any other conclusion. This is the one and only item in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department dealing -with the conveyance of mails which is ‘ distinctly labelled “ Transferred “ expenditure. Yet the figures represent the whole payment for the year.
– Not at all.
– The honorable senator knows as well as I do what the total cost is.
– The transferred expenditure as against Tasmania for the conveyance of mails comes to over £26,000.
– That must include inland mails.
– Of course if Senator Best tells me that the vote towhich . I have called attention includesinland mails, it is a different matter. The total cost of the conveyance of mails from, the mainland to Tasmania is about £11,000. Of that sum £3,000 odd represents what has been debited to “ Other ‘/’ expenditure, and £7,000 odd represents; what is debited to “ Transferred “‘expenditure^ - r think, utterly wrongly.
– This vote was objected to last year when attention was drawn to the fact that the payments to the Union Steam-ship Company ought to be charged to “Other “ expenditure.
– The payments to the Union Steam-ship Company for the conveyance of mails are charged to “ Other “ expenditure - £13,000 odd.
– The whole of it ?
– Yes, the whole of it.
– I am glad to have that information ; but it was not so last, year.
– I am glad toknow it also, because I was at a loss to understand what the transferred expenditure, £7,675> meant
– I am assured by responsible officers that sofar as concerns the conveyance . of mailsTasmania is treated exactly the same as anyother State.
– It is rather significant that this is the only item to which is attached the word “Transferred.”
– The expenditure on account of inland mails is transferred expenditure in the case of all the States. Sofar as Tasmania is concerned the conveyance of inland mails by railway and of mails by non-contract vessels, the amounts payable to other States for overland and’ oversea tranfer of mails, the payments to the Oceanic Company tq places beyond’ New Zealand, amounting in all. to £26,195- are all “ Transferred “ expenditure. The amount of £7,675 represents, roughly of course, one-fourth of that amount.
– Why is there nolabel “ Transferred “ in the case of any other State?
– The information supplied to me is that the whole of the expenditure on account .of inland mails is “ transferred “ expenditure. There is really no necessity to mention it as “ transferred “ expenditure in the. Bill. My honorable friend, Senator Clemons, has been under a wrong impression in thinking that this expenditure was especially charged in the case of Tasmania. As to the matter of contingencies, mentioned by Senator Findley, I have to say that the whole of the details are contained in the Estimates, which have been supplied to honorable senators. Senator Findley has alluded to the sum of £40,000 appearing on account of contingencies. The total amount of contingencies for the year on account of New South Wales alone is .£157,000. Of course, if honorable senators desire, I can give them full details, but it is perhaps sufficient to say that they are the usual contingencies incidental to the operations of the Departments. As to the £132’ payable by Victoria to the Eastern Extension Company, I have to explain that the amount is payable at Flinders for the cable sent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 7.45 p.m.
– I move -
That in the opinion of the Senate the Customs Department should be instructed, in respect of all goods upon which ad valorem duties are charged, to accept from the Chambers of Commerce of Great Britain, officially connected with the British Government, certificates of value of British goods at the place of export as has already been arranged under the Tariff agreement between Germany and the United States.
My desire is to remove the friction which exists between those who import goods from abroad and the Customs authorities.
– Would it not remove the friction equally as well if their invoices were accepted without any question at all? Just let them say what they like.
– A similar arrangement to the one I advocate has been come to between Great Britain, the United States, and Germany, with the same object. It seems advisable for the benefit of the Commonwealth as a whole that such friction should, if possible, be minimized. Under the recent arrangement between the
United States, Germany,’ and Great Britain, the two former countries will accept certificates of the value of goods the product of, and exported from, Great Britain. My motion does not refer to any goods except British goods. Therefore, if carried into effect, it will be a preference granted to British goods. The certificates are to be given by an official of the Chambers of Commerce of Great Britain, which are officially connected with the British Government.
– In what way are they so connected ?
– It is only a new departure, and I am not entirely acquainted with all the details. A telegram was sent to England by the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce to’ ascertain these particulars. They have received a . reply that the details are now being worked out by the British Government. It can hardly be denied that there is often considerable friction between the Customs authorities and those who import goods. A deputation waited recently upon the late Minister of Trade and Customs to ask that the Customs Department should accept invoices where the invoice value of goods was correctly and clearly shown, but the Minister said he could not make any such promise. The present practice of the Customs authorities in many cases is to compare the importer’s invoice with that of another importer, then to look up catalogues, and take the value which suits themselves. That was hardly contemplated by the Legislature in passing duties of Customs. At all events, that is the practice as it was described to me by a prominent official of the Department. To show that there is great and unnecessary friction between importers and the Department, I will read the following letter from an importer. This is only one instance out of many -
I enclose you one ‘instance out of several where the Customs Department charged us duty on a value which is more than we pay for the goods. Nugget Polish invoice herein invoiced to us at 27s. net for polish and 115s. 6d. for outfits. The Customs authorities arbitrarily compel us to pay duty on 36s. less 20 per cent, for the polish, and on 138s. less 15 per cent, for the outfits, whereas the price we pay is as per in voice enclosed.
We wrote the Department asking for an explanation and for their authority in acting thus arbitrarily, but they only sent an evasive reply refusing the information sought, so that we cannot well take any action against the Department.
There is a cause at once for friction, and it is with the object of minimizing such friction, although I recognise that there must be a certain amount, that I have brought forward this motion. The Chambers of Commerce of Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, and Launceston, join in advocating the adoption of the motion. The Sydney Chamber of Commerce writes in the name of its President, Mr. Merrivale, as follows -
I have much pleasure in stating that the Council of this Chamber fully indorses the action you have taken in this matter, and trusts you may succeed in carrying it to a successful issue.
As regards specific charges of hardship in the matter of valuations, they are difficult to obtain - not from their infrequency, but from the unwillingness of importers to allow their names to appear.
Evidently there is a system of terrorism indulged in by the Department in Sydney which prevents importers from giving particulars for the public use.
– Where is the evidence of terrorism?
– They do not wish their names to appear.
– That is no evidence of terrorism.
– The honorable senator can put his own construction upon it. I put mine.
– Where is the evidence of the terrorism which the honorable senator said evidently existed?
– The evidence is that when there is a dispute with the Customs as to bond fide value, rather than go to law about it the importers pay the duty and put up with it.
– May it not be that they pay the duty because they have been found out?
– I have given an instance where the importers paid the duty, having been, as the honorable senator calls it, “ found out,” and where they showed the exact price they paid, but had to pay duty on a higher value.
– That was done under an Act of Parliament which we passed to prevent them from crushing out industries.
– If everything is fair why should not the Customs Department give an opportunity to the importer to prove that his invoice is correct?
– So they do.
– Thev take an arbitrary value. The Melbourne Chamber of Commerce writes -
I was directed to inform you that the Council supported -the general principle of your proposal, and considered that the adoption of such a method would be most valuable in cases of dispute between the Customs Department and merchants in Australia.
It is only in these cases that any certificate of value is applied for. It is stated in an article in the Trade Review and Prices Current -
If this motion is carried and effect thereto granted by the Customs Department, a considerable amount of trouble will be avoided in many instances where values are in dispute between the Customs and importers.
We should fancy that Senator Macfarlane’s motion will be supported by all the trading community.
Several paragraphs appeared a few weeks ago in the Sydney Sunday Times, stating that a business house had been placed in quarantine because of some difficulty with the Customs Department as to values.
– Has not an action been entered by the firm against the newspaper which published that. statement? It was shown that it was a lie.
– I believe so’. The Customs officials state -
This statement is denied by the Acting Comptroller of Customs, Mr. Lockyer, who says hisDepartment had been making an ordinary official inquiry into certain matters connected with the firm, and all books and papers were readily madeavailable to officers of the Customs Department. It is not true that the business was placed in quarantine.
The Collector of Customs in Sydney says -
I have no knowledge of this matter whatever. I do not even know what firm is referred to. As a matter of fact, we are making investigations and inquiries all the time, and I cannot, therefore, say which particular firm is indicated. I do not know of any business premises in Sydney being quarantined.
I have raised this point to show that there is opportunity for friction at all events between the Customs authorities and the importing community. If the Department will accept certificates of value which are good enough for the United States and Germany, it will be a good thing for our own im-; porters.
– Is that an established practice now in the United States and Germany?
– Yes, it is in vogue now between those countries and Great Britain.
– Do they accept those certificates exclusively?
– They take them, but I do not say exclusively. Under the new arrangement, Germany, of course, is not so much affected, because its Customs duties are almost invariably imposed according to weight. The goods are placed in certain classes, and duty is charged by weight, according to the class. Germany has, in a few cases, ad valorem duties, and, therefore, the importers there were anxious to have this protection given to them from Great Britain. The United States have a Board of Examiners, quite independent of the Customs officials, but it was thought that it would save friction and time if they had these certificates from the Chambers of Commerce, which in Great Britain are officially connected with the Government.
– In what way are they officially connected with the Government ?
– They are recognised by the Government in some shape or form. The details have not yet reached this country, as the practice has only been recently established, but the question of the connexion between the British Government and the official Chambers of Commerce does not really affect the issue. The official Chambers of Commerce of Germany are recognised by the German Government. They are established by a small fee paid by all the manufacturers and exporters of certain articles to the Chambers of Commerce to which they belong, and that fee is paid to’ an independent authority to act for the Government, as well as for the exporters, as to the value of goods. That authority is independent of all the members of the Chambers of Commerce. Senator de Largie. - Is that official recognised as a Government official?
– He is semiofficial. In Germany, the Government gazette for each district - I cannot say whether this appointment is official, but it is certainly semi-official - a person who is supported by the contributions of the Chambers of Commerce, and officially recognised. In Great Britain the Government have in their mind the establishment - perhaps it has already been done - of something of that kind to suit the wishes of the United States and Germany. I shall not go into the subject very deeply, but I hope that the Senate will see that no harm can be done to any one by the adoption of the system. It will not necessarily be used by all importers; it will only be used, I ta[ke it, in cases where any doubt as to value can be raised. 1 see difficulties in regard to different qualities of goods, but as the system has been satisfactory to the United States, I think that it ought to be satisfactory to Australia. I shall be very glad, at a later stage, to give any information I may have on the subject, if it is desired.
– We are all very desirous, so far as we reasonably can, to offer every facility to trade; but in doing so we are not justified in recognising a system which might not only result in a loss of revenue, but do a gross injustice to honest traders. If my honorable friend could proceed on the hypothesis that the Customs Department transacted all their business with honest traders, probably there would be no objection to the motion. But the law casts upon the Customs Department the duty of not only verifying invoices - which are only an element in the matter - but also satisfying themselves by every means at their disposal as to the true value of the goods at the port of export.
– Why not take the cost price?
– The principle on which we must proceed is that the value at the port of export has to be obtained, and that on that value certain charges have to be made. I admit that it is a matter of much difficulty to ascertain what is the value at the port of export. If a person had a pocketful of sovereigns, and . went to the best places at the port of export to buy goods, practically it means what he could buy them for. My honorable friend knows that all kinds of considerations have to be taken into account in ascertaining that feature. It involves the arrangements which exist, not only between strangers, but between London houses and their branches here. I do not suppose that in connexion with any element of trading more fraud occurs than in regard to invoices, which are rigged up to answer all sorts of purposes.
– The honorable senator speaks as if he has been there.
– It was my duty to be there for five and a half years, when I was Minister of Customs, and with a very good result, too. All sorts of schemes are resorted to in the rigging up of invoices for the purpose of circumventing the Customs authorities.
– The honorable senator means for cheating them?
– For defrauding the Customs revenue.
– That is the proper term to use.
– In cases where seizures have taken place, duplicate invoices have been found to be the usual means by which that has been done, and, what is more, in connexion with those invoices arrangements have been made for special prices as between the houses. Senator Macfarlane will see that if one trader is able to defraud the public, it is not only an injustice to *the revenue, but also a glaring injustice to the honest trader. The duty of Parliament, therefore, is not only to, protect the revenue, but also to protect the honest trader. My honorable friend has suggested a scheme whereby that might, to some extent, be done, and facilities offered to the trader. But so far as my inquiries have gone, there is no satisfactory evidence as to any arrangement, such as he has described, existing between Germany and the United States in regard to the reception of these certificates.
– It cannot be disputed.
– At my request, efforts have been made by the Customs Department to get definite information on the subject, but they have not succeeded in so doing. I am speaking from the standpoint of the Customs Department, as well as the general public. After all, the Chamber of Commerce is really an irresponsible body.’ For business purposes there may be an official connexion between the Government and the Chamber of Commerce ; but it is of a most technical character.
– It is good enough for the United States.
– I am not prepared to admit that, but I start from the standpoint that the Chamber of Commerce is an irresponsible body.
– Some Chambers of Commerce are, but not others.
– My honorable friend has referred to a Chamber of Commerce and its official connexion with the British Government. I hold that it is an irresponsible body, and certainly one which we are not justified in recognising, unless we are to some extent to be represented thereon. But even then it would not be satisfactory. Although we should be prepared to go to some length in order to facilitate trade, yet the whole circumstances have to be taken into consideration, and the honest trader has to be protected.
– The object of this proposal is to assist the honest trader.
– So far as it will assist in the ascertainment of values, there is nothing to prevent a merchant from producing the invoice. It will be taken into consideration, because it will be -prima facie evidence of values. If an invoice is supported by a certificate, such as has been mentioned, and the inquiries justify the Department in attaching some importance to it, then undoubtedly it will assist the Customs officers to a substantial degree, and facilitate trading. It is an outrageous proposal to suggest that prices appearing in invoices must be accepted by the Customs Department, because that is totally opposed to all the fundamental principles on which such Departments are conducted.
– But the Customs Department would always have a right of action against any persons who had presented “ cooked “ invoices.
– In cases where the Customs officers afterwards detected fraud they might or might not have a remedy. It would be unreasonable and dangerous to depart one iota from the explicit direction which the Parliament has given to Customs officers for ascertaining the value of the goods at the port of export. Necessarily a degree of friction exists, but that is incidental to the carrying on of business under a Customs Tariff. Senator Macfarlane must see that the real question is not the price appearing. on the invoice, but the value of the goods at the port of export.
– Yes, but how are the Customs officers going to ascertain the value?
– The expert officers of the Department have no difficulty in ascertaining the value. Fortunately, they have the advantage of seeing a large number of invoices of practically the same class of goods. If any goods vary in character, then, of course, they are in a position to make due allowance: In performing that duty they are also assisted by the prices appearing in various catalogues which they collect. No one is more anxious than I am to facilitate trade in every way, as certain resolutions pf the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce prove, but I feel that in the interests of the community, as well as the honest trader, it would be a most dangerous thing for the Government to accept the proposal of my honorable friend. We are all indebted to him for affording to us the information which he has received. But 1 can assure him that his proposal is surrounded with a perilous element, and that it is one which we certainly do not see our way to accept.
– Ought not the honorable senator to defer the expression of a definite opinion until he has ascertained whether the information of Senator Macfarlane is reliable, and also the conditions under which the practice is carried out?
– I do not approve of the principle.
– The Customs Department ought to accept an official certificate.
– The official certificate would have its value in assisting Customs officers to ascertain the true value of goods, but they must not necessarily be guided by the invoice values ; they have to take into consideration all the circumstances, and every element that will assist them in ascertaining the true value. I admit that Senator Macfarlane’s object is a good one. I am naturally in sympathy with it, but I urge the honorable senator not to persist with his motion.
– In considering the motion submitted by Senator Macfarlane, it does not appear to me to be necessary to go to the length to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council seems inclined to go to assume that the present system ‘is the best of all possible systems. I think we can agree that in many particulars it is weak and unsatisfactory. Senator Best has himself referred to the practice of Customs officials talking a number of invoices to ascertain values. It has always appeared to me that there is an element of injustice involved in the practice followed of taking the highest invoice value as representing the true value of the goods at the port of export. That does not appear to me to be absolutely fair. One buyer may purchase a small quantity of goods in a rising market, and they may be landed at the same time as a larger quantity of the same goods purchased bv another buyer at better advantage, and before the market displayed an upward tendency. I am not entirely satisfied with the present system, but before we depart from it we should be assured that any system to be substituted for it has advantages which the present system lacks. I confess that when I first saw Senator Macfarlane’s proposal it appeared to me to be one worthy of further consideration and inquiry. I must say that, upon looking into it with the advantage’ of information, which, it must be admitted is somewhat scant, I think it would be extremely dangerous to adopt it as at present presented. I shall point’ out some of the objections to its adoption. Whether we hold the unquestionable truths of freetrade, or are the victims of the vicious heresies of protection, we are agreed that whatever trade is carried on must be in compliance with the laws of the country. We are all equally interested in seeing that no fraudulent advantage shall be gained by any individual. Senator Best has said that Chambers of Commerce are irresponsible bodies, but I go further, and say that they are interested bodies. There is a golden rule which we adopt in most of our judgments : that, where self-interest holdsthe balance, there is always a suspicion that it will not be evenly adjusted. Without making any accusation against such reputable bodies as are Chambers of Commerce, we can recognise that they would be largely interested in the certificates they would give. That is the first difficulty’ I see in the way of the adoption of the proposal.
– They have not always the same interest.
– Generally speaking, they have a common interest. The Chamber of Commerce in London would naturally desire that ‘the exporting interest of its members should be conserved. I make no accusation that Chambers of Commerce would willingly do what they knew was wrong, but I say that they are interested parties in this matter. They are unquestionably representatives of certain trading interests. I would ask Senator Macfarlane whether he would be prepared to accept the decision of a labour union as to what should be regarded as the standard wage, at a given time, in the industry with- which the union was connected. I say at once, with all respect to those who control labour unions, that I would not. If any body of distinctly interested parties makes a statement upon a matter in which its members are personally concerned, I am exercising only common-sense if I say “ That is an ex parte statement, and, therefore, I must look to the other side.” When I say that Chambers of Commerce occupy that position, I in no way reflect upon the probity or integrity of those bodies.
– They represent diverse bodies.
– That may be perfectly true, but they are united by a common interest. I point out, further, that these certificates would require to be kept up-to-date, and we have no authority for assuming that the Chambers of Commerce would have a staff of officers sufficient to’ secure all the information necessary to revise the certificates after each shipment. We should have no authority over the Chambers of Commerce, and no means of requiring them to revise their values from time to time. We have no information either thatthe Chambers of Commerce would be willing to undertake that duty.
– Yes, that has been arranged with the British Government.
– I have seen no evidence of any such arrangement.
– I referred to a telegram from the London Chamber of Commerce to that effect.
– The London Chamber of Commerce could speak for itself, but it could not speak for other Chambers, and there does not appear to be any evidence that they are prepared to go to the trouble of revising these certificates day by day. and even hour by hour, as values fluctuate. If they did express their willingness to undertake that extremely heavy duty, it would be discharged free of all responsibility, because we should have no authority over them in the event of a mistake being made, and should not be able to call them to book if, because of a rush of business or from any other cause, they failed to make the necessary revision.
– They would require a staff expert in every line.
– I doubt very much whether the Chambers of Commerce would be prepared to undertake that duty, and perform it in a way that would satisfy the Customs authorities. Even if they expressed their willingness to do the work. I still object that if they performed it in a perfunctory way we should be powerless. There seems to me to be a great deal in the suggestion made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, as offering a means to test the value of the proposal brought forward by Senator Macfarlane. Senator Best pointed out that it is now open to any importer, if he thinks he can prove his values with greater ease, to produce a cer tificate given by a Chamber of Commerce for what it is worth. If those in the mercantile world of Australia think that there is anything in the idea worth testing, they can present these certificates, and after a time should be able to determine how far they can be regarded as reliable guides as to true values. If, after a year or two, it. should be found that these certificates did disclose true values, and were of considerable assistance to the Customs authorities, Senator Macfarlane might present his motion again. At present I think it would savour too much of the risk of an experiment to adopt it. Whilst the motion affirms that Germany and the United States have arrived at some arrangement of this kind, it appears that Great Britain has so far made no move in this direction. I should have been more impressed if it had been shown that Great Britain had made such an arrangement with some other country.
– I explained that the word “ with “ should be substituted for the word “ between “ in the motion.
– The honorable senator’s explanation disposes of that argument. In view of the objections I have urged, I suggest that the motion must be regarded merely as a starting point for further information. At present it would be extremely dangerous for usto adopt it, and in view of the very scant information we have on the subject, I can hardly give a vote in support of it.
. -I think that the action taken by Senator Macfarlane may do a great deal of good, inasmuch as the motion he has moved seems to indicate a means by which the passing of legitimate! invoices might be facilitated. However, I agree with Senators Best and Millen that in its present form the proposal is too crude for our adoption. If we are to have an official in the Old Country who is to put the stamp of validity on invoices he must be a recognised and responsible man.
– And under our control.
- Senator Best’s suggestion that if importers can obtain some sort of voucher from a recognised authority in the Old Country, due respect will be paid to it by the Customs authorities, should greatly facilitate the work of importers. I disagree with one remark made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. It is not an easy matter for Customs officials to establish values from invoices, because it is quite within the bounds of probability that three shipments of goods arriving by the same vessel, on the same day will be found to have been differently invoiced at Home. One may be a shipment of a small parcel of a standard article by a small .purchaser; another a larger shipment bv a regular purchaser ; and a third a large parcel shipped by a wholesale buyer who distributes in a wholesale way here. These three persons might quite legitimately purchase the same goods at- three different prices. If a Customs official receiving the invoice of the small buyer first, proposed to establish that as the standard of value, he would be doing a serious injustice to the larger buyer.
– I do not think he would necessarily do so.
– Such things are dene.
– I am told that the Customs officials invariably take the highest invoice.
– It is not unnatural that they should do so. I point out that although prices may differ they may. do so quite legitimately. It is quite right that the large and continuous purchaser should receive more consideration than the small and occasional purchaser. I am glad that in the debate there is no disposition shown to consider all traders as fraudulent, but rather to recognise that the fraudulent individual is the exception, and not the rule. He is certainly a less frequent exception now than before Mr. Kingston took office. Notwithstanding the fact that the action taken * by that right honorable gentleman from time to time was harsh in its effects upon perfectly innocent people, it secured Jo a large extent honest invoices. I think that the suggestion that the motion should be withdrawn for the present is a very good one. Possibly the Chambers of Commerce, whose suggestions, made through members of the Senate, deserve every consideration and respect, will at some later date be able to submit a more definite proposal. A very valuable hint has been given that good might be done if we could get some reputable authority in England to give a certificate of invoice at the port of shipment.
– We can all sympathize with the idea embodied in Senator Macfarlane’s proposition, to simplify the procedure at the Customs. But I intend to ask him to accept an amendment. I suggest that the motion should be made to read as follows -
That in the opinion of the Senate, the CustomsDepartment should be instructed in respect of all goods upon which ad valorem duties are charged to inquire into the desirability of accepting - and so forth. The honorable senator’s motion, as it stands, expresses the opinion that the Department should be instructed to accept certain certificates. I think it is quite enough to suggest that the- Department should inquire into the desirability of accepting them. Senator Macfarlane will forgive me if I say that he has either brought his motion forward a little too soon, or has not given us sufficient information. The value of the certificates which he wishes the Department to accept would necessarily be dependent upon the authority which gave them. It must be admitted that the authority of some Chambers of Commerce, even though they are stated to have an official connexion with the British Government, is not such as we can accept. I do not think that any one of us would dream of accepting the authority of Chambers of Commerce outside Australia in a matter of this kind, even though they pertain to the British Empire. But we might go so far as to say that if the British Government would, through its own Customs Department, undertake the colossal task of settling the true value of goods at the port of export, we would avail ourselves of its certificates. Indeed, we should be foolish if we did not accept certificates having the brand of the British Government upon them. While some of us may occasionally stigmatize traders as dishonest - and. I am afraid that some of us do so rather too often - it is not at all desirable that any Department of the Government should run the risk of being unjust or unfair towards them. Even with the best Customs regulations that we can devise, there may be, on the one hand,- fraud which escapes detection, and, on the other hand, injustices committed by the Department. None of us desires that either the one or the other should happen. To prevent either fraud or glaring injustices, we have to maintain an enormous staff with expert skill ; and frequently it is found that the skill we employ is not sufficiently expert for the work. The Commonwealth would be saved from falling into either of those difficulties if it could avail itself of certificates issued by the Government of Great Britain. I do not suppose that any person, whether he was a supporter of the Government or not, would not say that it would be an excellent thing if such certificates could be given. No one -would contend that we could not trust the British Government.
– We can hardly imagine the British Government undertaking such a work.
– No, but at the same time we cannot dismiss the idea as being absolutely impossible. When a member of the Senate deliberately and seriously brings forward a motion of this kind, we must consider it with a view to ascertaining whether there is anything behind it. At any rate, it is worth while for the Customs Department to make an inquiry.
– The better plan would be to withdraw the motion, and I will undertake that the Department shall make inquiries.
– Why not allow it to be passed with the amendment I have suggested.
– I do not like the Senate to commit itself to anything of the kind, because it is not necessary. As honorable senators desire information, I will see that the Customs Department makes inquiries.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether he cannot see his way to accept the motion with such an amendment as I have suggested ?
– If I undertake to do something, I will do it.
– As far as I am concerned, the word of the Vice-President of the Executive Council is ample. I accept what he says, and am glad to think that the result of the motion which Senator Macfarlane has brought forward - and for which we are indebted to him - is that an inquiry will be made by the Minister as to whether such a method as has been suggested can be brought into operation.
– I think that the VicePresident of the Executive Council would do right to accept the suggestion thrown out by Senator Clemons. We should all welcome a simplification of the work of the Customs Department. Anything that would tend either to simplify or economize that work would be beneficial to the country.
– I have undertaken to make an inquiry.
– If the motion as proposed to be amended were accepted, it would be more satisfactory. I can scarcely believe, however, that certificates are accepted by Governments in the manner that Senator Macfarlane suggests. The questions put to the honorable senator himself, while he was speaking, did not seem to indicate that he was satisfied in his .own mind that such certificates are accepted by any Governments as worth anything. But still, if an inquiry were made, and it were found that what has been suggested would be a means of simplyfying the work of the Customs Department, it would be most advantageous. Senator Macfarlane did not take sufficient time to explain the matter fully. If it were inquired into there might be shown to be more virtue in it than is at present apparent.
– I join in the request which has been made, that the Government should accept the motion with the amendment suggested.
– It is usual when I undertake to do a thing to accept my assurance.
– I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will not think that in urging the acceptance of the motion I am making any reflection upon either his good faith or his diligence.
– Surely the Minister’s declaration that he will see that an inquiry is made ought to be sufficient.
– That arrangement is double-edged ; because whatever force there may be in the contention that the undertaking of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, should be accepted, it is equally true that the position of the Government cannot be embarrassed by accepting the motion, and letting it stand on the records of the Senate. The question is particularly important now that the Tariff is under review. There is at the present time extreme anxiety on the part of importers and consignees with regard to $ie determination of values. Difficulties are bound to arise as the ratio of duties is increased. I know of a case which occurred in the Customs Department of a State- before Federation, in which a very long investigation was entered into, and a prosecution followed, as to the determination of the value of certain indents..
The Government in question was to my ow.n knowledge - because I was closely connected with the case - put to immense expense to find out, to the satisfaction of a jury, what was a fair basis of valuation. They searched all the indents they could possibly find, both Australian and English. On one occasion an adjournment had to be granted to find out what were the German indents. It was necessary to determine whether there had been a deliberate intention to make a declaration of under-value. As Customs duties are increased, such cases are bound to multiply, especially in regard to ad valorem rates. It would be particularly useful for the mercantile community to have some standard by which to be guided. It would also be useful to the Customs Department for purposes of detecting fraud to have standards to which reference could be made when a question had to be investigated by any tribunal. If we had such standards of value there would be prima facte evidence of what constitues a bond fide ad valorem declaration, and then the consignee or the importer would not escape the consequences if he under-valued for Customs purposes. Any one connected, especially in the law Courts, with the investigation of Customs cases, knows how useful it would be to have some such standard. I know from observation and in some cases from experience how standards have to Be searched for. Now that the Tariff has been tabled and the ad valorem duties are being raised, there will be conflict between the importers and exporters as to declarations of value. I see no reason why there cannot be some recognised certificate in mercantile transactions as to the bond fide and genuine declared value of imported articles, just as there is with regard to the declaration on the Stock Exchange of the value of stock bought and sold at any particular time or in any particular set of circumstances. We should seek to ascertain for the future some convenient working set of standards by which merchants may be guided in presenting their entries to the Customs, and by which the Department itself may be able to confront any importer of goods, saying, “Here is a declaration or certificate from this mercantile body in Great Britain. There is the value. Yours is beneath it. Will you please explain why?” It will be remarkably convenient, if we can determine standards of that kind.
– I fear it is too good to be true.
– It may be so,, but the very fact that it is good in itself is a strong incentive for us to aim at bringing it about. I am not quite sure that it is not already in practical working in the United States. I went through some cases a few years ago, and, if my memory serves me rightly, the Customs Department in New York have some such standards of value fixed.
– They have an independent board.
– They have. The Customs Department in the United States have sets of standards by which they determine over or under valuation or false declaration. They very often want to know from the importer how his invoice differs from the standard invoice.
– That only applies to British goods.
– In the case of the United States it applies to goods imported from any country.
– Oh, no, because there are all sorts of elements to be considered from the point of manufacture to the port of export.
– So far as they can get them from the place of “manufacture there is no doubt that the Customs Department of the United States do seek, to find those standards. I believe they have them in the case of all countries which send their manufactures to America. This matter is very important indeed, in view of trie future administration of the Department under the new Tariff. I press the Government to accept the motion, because it embodies an object which they themselves should seek to attain. In that sense, Senator Macfarlane’s action is very timely, because it may tend to direct commercial transactions according to a certain standard, and if there are any cases of undervaluation, it will facilitate the consequent prosecutions. We know what happened when the administration of the Customs Department by the Federation began. . It was somewhat drastically managed by the then Minister, Mr. Kingston.
– Honestly managed.
– I did not reflect in the slightest degree upon Mr. Kingston’s administration. I s>aid that hecarried out the administration drastically, and I have no doubt that he had sufficient reasons for doing so. It is time enough for anybody to defend a person’s honour when that honour is impugned. Personally, I think Mr. Kingston did what was absolutely right in matters of doubt in bringing the importers before those tribunals. But how very convenient it would have been for the Government, and what a tremendous expense it would have saved them in determining the rights or wrongs of the questions at issue, if they had had a short and easy process of saying to a jury, “ These are the accepted standards of Great Britain or the United States. They are also ours, with reference to manufactured as well as imported goods.” How much that “would facilitate prosecutions, and what a deterrent it would be to importers or outside consignors from undervaluing goods. It is to the interests of every importing’ or manufacturing country to have and to distribute such standards. If we can get an arrangement of that kind, it will not only facilitate mercantile transactions, but also materially aid the administration of the Department itself. It will be a powerful weapon for the Department in cases where they have to bring dishonest importers to Court. The only question now hanging in the balance is whether the Government will accept the original motion or agree to it if it is amended in the way that has been suggested. The Government would do well to accept it in that form.
– I have already said what I will do, and I am quite sure that is quite satisfactory to my honorable friends.
– Then it is quite satisfactory to me also, because I can not intrude in a matter which lies between Senator Macfarlane and the representative of the Government. As the Vice-President of the Executive Council declines to accept my services as amicus curia, I shall have to leave it to Senator Macfarlane to say whether he will accept the honorable gentleman’s offer or not.
– - I am very sorry that the Minister is not disposed to accept the motion. I quite realize that he intends absolutely to fulfil the promise that he has made to the Senate, but I think the motion is of sufficient importance to have it recorded in the proceedings of the Senate that it has been advocated. The time is most opportune for the motion. Those who have had experience in commercial matters know that one of the greatest difficulties in the way of the establishment of an equitable Tariff has been the existence of a considerable amount of uncertainty in connexion with ad valorem duties. They have been very often used, like the income tax, not altogether in the interests of justice and equity, and I believe the Customs Department has oft-times been put to a great amount of trouble to find out the true values of goods invoiced, and the proper duties to’ be levied on an ad valorem basis. I agree with the Minister when he says that his experience proves that there is a great amount of what 1 might almost call robbery in connexion with the invoices Of goods upon which ad valorem duties have to be levied. This has been so frequent and persistent as to call in some cases for the stringent and drastic action, that has been taken. Although I have great respect for Mr. Kingston, I must say that, in some instances, his action was anything but justifiable in the circumstances. I said so at the time, and I am not going back on it now. At the same’ time, I hold that Mr. Kingston acted in thorough honesty of purpose. It was simply his inexperience in commercial life, and perhaps the sad experiences he had of the malpractices that had been used in the case of ad valorem invoices, that made him suspicious of almost every invoice laid before him. I earnestly ask the Minister to reconsider his determination. I cannot see that the object we have in view would be weakened, or that the Minister’s position as the custodian of the Department in this Chamber would in any way be affected by this motion being placed on the records. I think it would materially assist the Government.
– The motion without any amendment?
– With the amendment.
– No amendment has been moved.
– Then I will move it.
– That would not be in accordance with the understanding.
– I cannot see how I can do otherwise, if I really and sincerely believe that the motion is a matter, .not only of interest, but also of justice to the commercial community at large. I cannot follow the mover of the motion, because I have not sufficient evidence before me to say whether it would be in its application all that he assumes. I . realize, however, that the commercial community of the United Kingdom, which is represented by the British Government,’ would not take it upon itself to enter into such an arrangement with the United States and Germany unless that arrangement had in it such germs of good as would tend to the elucidation of the difficulties in connexion with ad valorem duties, and make it an instrument of usefulness. Such an arrangement could only be made through the instrumentality of those wise men who steer the barque of commerce in the United States and Germany. In the interests of the Commonwealth, it is necessary that the fullest inquiries should be made; and after a report had been received it would be for the Government -who, of course, would be left absolutely free, by the motion, to act as they thought proper - to consider whether they could not adopt an arrangement which would be of advantage to the Customs Department. Senator Macfarlane has just informed me that he is willing to accept the offer made by the Minister, and it would be discourteous on my part to discuss his proposal any further. I can only express my disappointment that he has seen fit to fake that course.
– I should have much preferred if the motion had been accepted by Senator Best ; but I feel that I cannot refrain from accepting his assurance that every inquiry will be made. Believing that I have achieved my object by arresting the attention of the public and the Customs authorities, I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 9th August, vide page 1707) :
Clause 7 -
Bills of exchange, cheques, and promissory notes drawn or made after the commencement of this Act shall not be subject to stamp duty under the laws of any State other than -
in the case of a bill of exchange (not being a cheque) - the State in which the bill is drawn ;
in the case of a cheque - the State in which the cheque is payable;
in the case of a promissory note - the State in which the note is made.
.- When the consideration of the Bill was interrupted on Friday last, we had just defeated an amendment which had for its object the depriving of the States of the revenue they get from the imposition of stamp duties on bills of exchange. It has been admitted that the clause even as it stands will deprive the States of a certain amount of revenue, which, of course, is very much less than it would have been if Senator Stewart’s amendment had been carried. There is only one thing to recommend the clause, and that is uniformity. I should think that, as regards most persons, it is almost as easy to be uniformly wrong as to be uniformly right. If we pass the clause as it is printed we shall certainly secure uniformity at the cost of a fair amount of revenue to the States. Is it worth while to pay the price, and what benefit shall we obtain ? In the first place, it is proposed to interfere with the right of the States to tax certain documents. We are asked to pass a Bill codifyingthe practice relatingto bills of exchange, and under cover of the Bill to prohibit the States from taxing bills of exchange and cheques. I desire to know what corresponding advantage we are to get from such legislation? 1 may be told that it will reduce the taxation on bills of exchange and cheques, especially on the former documents, and that that is a desirable thing to do. I may also be told before the session is ended that it is desirable to reduce the postage taxation by adopting a system of penny postage, but I do not think that that will necessarily induce me toassent to this legislation. In more than one State, the law taxes a bill of exchange, which is drawn in the State, and also a bill of exchange which is drawn in another State when it is presented for collection. If a State desires to impose such taxation, why should it not do so? If, for instance, the Parliament of New South Wales chooses deliberately to enact a law of that kind, why should we interfere?’ We have really no right to interfere with the taxation of bills of exchange by the States Parliaments. For the reasons I have given, I am going to oppose the clause. I have some doubt as to whether this Parliament has the. constitutional right to enact the clause, but I do not wish to labour that point.
– I feel bound to oppose the clause. Senator Keating will remember that the very moment I learned that an effort was being made to set aside the stamp duties imposed in the States, I rose and protested. I sent a telegram to the Premier of Tasmania, who informed me that the loss to the State from the repeal of certain stamp duties is estimated at about£1,600 a year. Why should we seek to take away that portion of its yearly revenue, which I may say has been collected for generations? Senator Keating knows that the revenue of Tasmania has decreased most considerably owing to circumstances which Federation has brought about. As Senator Clemons has pointed out, the States can repeal the stamp duties if they wish, but evidently they do not desire to take that course. Even supposing that every State has a large surplus, that is no reason why this Parliament should say that it can do without that part of its revenue. ‘If the Parliament of a State thinks that the revenue from stamp duties is necessary, why should this Parliament spoil a very good Bill by enacting this clause, and so leave itself open to the accusation of meddling with the taxing power of the States? I hope that the Minister will allow the clause to be negatived.
– I do not know that since the Bill was read a second time there has been very much more information placed before honorable senators, but at that time it seemed to me that this clause met with the approval of a majority of honorable senators. “The only reason I put forward in support of the clause was that it would prevent the double or treble stamping of bills of exchange. I pointed out that “ one bill of exchange, one stamp,” would be the rule, and that no matter how many States a bill of exchange might subsequently pass into, it would be subject to taxation in only one State. The whole question of how far we should legislate with regard to stamp duties on bills of exchange remaining operative was very carefully gone into by the Attorney-General, and afterwards by his colleagues with him. Seeing that all the legal incidents attached to bills of exchange would be founded upon and derived from this Bill, if enacted, the Government thought it desirable that those instruments should not be subjected to double or treble taxation in the States. The amount of revenue which would be lost to the States is small in comparison with what would have been lost .if the amendment of Senator Stewart had been carried. It has been pointed out that in the case of Tasmania £1,600 would be lost by the abolition of stamp duty on other than Tasmanian bills of exchange; but by the abolition of ‘ Stamp duty on all documents, as was in tended by that amendment, the total losswould have been £11,600. I understand that the bulk of the revenue from stampduty in. Tasmania is derived from the penny stamp on cheques. That is not interfered with by the Bill as it stands, because it is provided that cheques shall not -be subject to stamp duty under the law of any State other than the State in which the cheque is payable, or the State in which is the bank on which the cheque is drawn. It will only apply to bills of exchange, and to promissory notes passing from one State to another. A bill of exchange, ‘not being a cheque, will still have to bear a duty stamp of the State in which it is drawn. A promissory note will still have to bear a duty stamp of the State in which it is made. It is really only to prevent the possibility of these instruments being rendered negotiable only with considerable difficulty. A particular State might so arrange its taxation as to prevent these instruments from being as negotiable as we might reasonably expect they should be throughout the Commonwealth.
– We have had none of those difficulties in the past.
– I do not say that we have, but it would leave it in the power of any particular State to render the provision, I will not say nugatory, but of very little value. I propose to move the insertion of the words “ within the Commonwealth “ after the word “ made “ where it first appears in sub-clause 2. The sub-clause would then read -
Bills of exchange, cheques, and promissory notes drawn or made within the Commonwealth after the commencement of this Act shall not be subject to stamp duty under the laws of any State other than - and so on.
– I direct the attention ‘ of the Minister to the fact that an amendment of a later portion of the clause has already been dealt with by the Committee.
– I had overlooked the fact that Senator Stewart’s amendment dealt with a later part of the clause. The effect of the amendment I have indicated would be that the exemption would only apply to bills of exchange, cheques,, or promissory notes, drawn or made within the Commonwealth, and not to such instruments coming into a State .from outside the Commonwealth, which would still be subject to taxation under the laws of the State.
– Then Tasmania would lose £1,600 on inland bills, and retain £1,000 from taxation on foreign bills.
– If the clause were amended as I have suggested, the provision would then be that so far as, say, English bills, New Zealand bills, or the bills of any country outside the Commonwealth are concerned, on passing into a State of the Commonwealth they would still be subject to any taxation that State might impose upon them. The exemption would apply only to bills which have originated in the Commonwealth itself.
– The honorable senator gives no reason why he proposes to interfere with State taxation.
– I thought I had done, so three or four times.
– I admit that the honorable senator used a good argument, but would it not be better to leave State taxation alone?
– I thought when first addressing the Senate on the subject that every honorable senator was with me, though there seemed to be some doubt as to the method proposed. The criticism then urged was that perhaps the clause might be worded differently to effect the same object. I still think that it is desirable that inasmuch as we are legislating to define what a bill of exchange is. what will be the legal incidence of it, the liabilities arising out of it to the different parties concerned in it; and are preparing a comprehensive code with regard to the subject, we should at the same time give a bill of exchange a Commonwealth feature, in so far as its stamping is concerned. If we do not impose a Commonwealth stamp duty, we should at least say that a bill of exchange drawn in the Commonwealth shall be regulated by the principle of one document one stamp, and that because it is drawn in New South Wales and passed on to Victoria, and thence to Western Australia, it shall not necessarily bear the stamp duty of each of those States. I hope honorable senators will see that what is proposed is desirable, and that the amount of revenue which would thus be lost to the States is not nearly so great as to make us hesitate to adopt what I think is a good principle in connexion with instruments which will derive so much of their legal force and effect from our own legislation* .
– I gather from what the Minister of Home Affairs has said that as it stands the Bill provides that a bill of exchange or promissory note when it has been stamped in one State, shall not require to be stamped again in the event of its passing into another State.
– That is the object of sub-clause 2 of clause 7.
– But even if that be the case we should still be face to face with the other difficulty that the stamp duties in one State might be different from those in another.
– There would be no guarantee of uniformity.
– That is so.
– Some States might not impose any stamp duty on these instruments.
– Some States might abolish these duties altogether. I think that we ought to take the opportunity now afforded us to establish uniformity in connexion with the taxation of these instruments if we possibly can. 1 do not know whether we have the power to do so, but the Minister of Home Affairs ought to be able to give us information on that point. I am exceedingly anxious that what I suggest shall be done, and I shall be very glad if the Minister can devise any method to bring it about.
– I wish to point out to Senator Keating the direct corollary of what he said just now. The honorable senator has pointed out that what he is proposing to do by this Bill is not to take away from the States the right to impose taxation on bills of exchange, but to leave it to them in a mangled form with limitations which we are to impose. If in spite of the fact that this would involve a loss of revenue which he knows well some of the States cannot afford, the Minister will persist in interfering with their taxation, it would be much better that he should go the whole way and provide that all taxation imposed on’ bills of exchange shall be imposed by the Commonwealth, and the revenue so derived apportioned amongst the different States either per capita, or under the provisions of the book-keeping section of the Constitution. If the Minister desires uniformity in this matter, he can secure it in that way.
– It would be very difficult to apportion to each State its proper proportion of such revenue.
– Probably, but I submit that I have suggested the only way to secure uniformity. Senator Stewart has very properly pointed out that if the desire for uniformity is all that recommends this clause to the Minister, he must necessarily fail to secure it the moment any particular State says, “ We shall impose this taxation on these instruments, although a neighbouring State imposes only half as much or none at all.”
– I did not refer to uniformity, but to the fact that we should proceed on the principle of one instrument one stamp only.
– Surely the Minister must see that it is only a quibble to say that it would be only one stamp, when the stamp imposed by one State might be is., and that imposed by another id. Could the honorable senator, by any stretch of imagination, speak of that as one stamp? The thing is farcical on the face of it. It is undesirable, and is becoming daily more undesirable that, in the Federal Parliament, we should annoy the States by these little pin-pricks. We secure nothing by them. If we secured something really beneficial, the people of the different States would admit that we were getting something worth the price. I very much dislike to be always obtruding what seems to be the poverty of Tasmania, but there is no denying the fact that Tasmania is being impoverished as a result of Federation. Unfortunately, it is adversely affected to a far greater degree than any other State in the Commonwealth.
– It is ‘one of the richest States in the Commonwealth, notwithstanding.
– It is not for Senator de Largie to say that when I .am speaking of the effects of Federation on the finances of the different States. It is not for any honorable senator from Western Australia to throw these taunts at honorable senators from Tasmania. We have been honest in Tasmania in our attempts to impose taxation. We have an income tax and land taxation, whilst Western Australia has imposed no such taxation.
– Tasmania is a richer State per head of population than is Western Australia.
– I am not going to be diverted from what I wish to say’. Any one who is acquainted with the facts must agree that the effect of Federation has been far more marked upon the finances of Tasmania than upon the finances of any other State.
– Except New South Wales.
– I am not speaking of that kind of marking; I wish I were. Senator Keating is a Tasmanian senator as well as a member of the Ministry, and we have a right to expect that he will do what he can to prevent any loss of revenue to his State. I am not speaking reproachfully, but making an appeal to the honorable senator. The revenue involved £1,600 a year, but I am sorry to> say that even such a sum must be seriouslyconsidered by representatives of Tasmania. We are prepared to make sacrifices if it can be shown that good will result.
– Would not a real federalization of this business, which would secure uniformity throughout the Commonwealth, result in tangible good ?
– Of course it would, and Tasmania, by the voice . of every senator she sends here, would be prepared to bring that about.
– When the matter was last before the Committee, I got very little support for my proposal from honorable senators from Tasmania.
– Senator Givens knows me well enough to be aware that he would receive my support inendeavouring to bring about a truly Federal arrangement of our finances. But if what is proposed in this clause is to be the alternative, I would far rather see a provision proposed that all taxation of bills of exchange should be imposed by the Federal authority, and the revenue distributed according to the provisions of theConstitution. What is now proposed isthat we shall say to Tasmania, “ You: have been raising, by a method1 which your Slate Parliament thought justifiable, so> much money from stamp duty, on bills of exchange. We are codifying the law with respect to bills of exchange, and propose tomake it impossible for you to avoid a lossof £1,600 a year. A superior power isentering the realm of taxation over which you thought you were supreme in your own State, and you will find now that, in> future, you cannot do as you wish in connexion with this form of taxation.” If
Tasmania were to ask whether this was intended to create Federal uniformity, what could we say ? We could only say that for that purpose the proposal is farcical. We shall simply say to Tasmania, “ You lose so much revenue because you cannot impose stamp duty on bills of exchange drawn in another State and sent into your State; but, if you choose, instead of imposing a six-penny stamp duty on bills of exchange drawn in your State, you can impose a shilling or a one-pound stamp on them.” That will be the only answer we can make. But such an answer is contemptible from the Federal point of view. Under these circumstances, I hope that the provision will either be rejected or put on a Federal basis.
.- The argument advanced for this clause is that it is not desirable to interfere with the rights of the States to levy taxation on bills of exchange, cheques, and promissory notes. I combated that argument when I first spoke upon the Bill, and I combat it now, by saying that the Federal Parliament is not interfering at all with the rights of the States. Seven years ago, when the people of Australia adopted the Federal Constitution, they declared that the function of legislating with regard to these instruments of commerce should no longer pertain to the States. We should be faithless to our trust if we attempted to shirk the responsibility imposed upon us by the people. The reason why it was considered to be desirable that the Federal Parliament should legislate upon these matters, was that it was wise to have uniformity in reference to such instruments of trade and commerce. If they are taxed in varying degrees in some States, whilst they are allowed to go free in other States, we shall not have that desirable uniformity, but merchants in one portion of Australia will be handicapped in comparison with those following similar occupations elsewhere. We are taking away none of the rights of the States in any matter that is within their province. There are hundreds of things upon which they can impose stamp duties as to which we cannot interfere with them. They can levy a stamp duty on “returned empties,” and we cannot interfere with them.
– What is the honorable senator driving at?
– I want to secure what the people who accepted the Constitution aimed at - to render theinstruments of trade and commerce uniform throughout
Australia. I do not think it desirable that these instruments of commerce should be taxed at all. But if it is considered that it would be rather a severe wrench to deprive the States of their revenue in this respect, there is a way out of the difficulty. That is for the Federal Government to instruct its expert- officers to inquire into the present taxation on these instruments of commerce, and to arrive as nearly as they can at an average rate.. Then the Commonwealth Government can tax them and return the revenue to the States, just as if now returns revenue derived from Customs and Excise. SenatorClemons’ argument was unanswerable when he pointed out that it is impossible, under the clause as it stands, to obtain that uniformity for which the Minister has pleaded. I will assist the honorable senator to strike out the clause. But, at the same time, I do not want to leave the States free to impose whatever taxation they like upon bills of exchange and similar documents.
– Have they not a right to be free?
– They have absolutely not a scintilla of right in this matter. The people of the Commonwealth took it from them seven years ago.
– I thought that the States gave the right to the Commonwealth ?
– It was the people of Australia who gave to the Commonwealth the power that it enjoys.
– How would the honorable senator impose stamp duties under this Bill?
– The Bill ought to provide that bills of exchange, promissory notes, and cheques shall not be subject to State taxation; and it could besupplemented by a Stamp Bill, if thought desirable, imposing a tax based upon the average now in vogue throughout the Commonwealth. We should thus secure uniformity ; and that is the only way in which it could be done. If honorable senators wish to secure uniformity, I challenge them to take the only course open to them by depriving the States of their alleged right to impose any taxation of this description.
– It is more than an” alleged ‘ ‘ right.
– I challenge the hon orable senator to show that it is a right at all. If he starts to look for it he will want a search warrant, and then he will not be able to find it. The people of
Australia, I repeat, took this right away from the States seven years ago, when they included it amongst the functions handed over to the Commonwealth. I challenge those honorable senators who have applauded Senator Clemons’ able argument in favour of uniformity to take the only reliable course to secure what they desire, and I will help them to arrive at that end.
– The Minister is surely called upon to make a statement as to his views. He has numerous critics, but not a single supporter in reference to the clause before us. I wonder what course he intends to pursue. Does he think that he is going to drive his critics like a flock of sheep before him, or does he expect us to cease our opposition after we have made out the strongest case against the clause? The honorable senator must recognise that the Committee is strongly opposed to sub-clause 2. The arguments of its opponents have not been answered. In the circumstances, it would be courteous for the Minister to furnish us with an explanation. Surely the Government’ is not going to take up the position of an ill-conditioned woman or man who. once she or he has said something, will stick to it simply because of having said it, no matter how awkward may be the position created. Both Ministers are surely called upon to show cause why the amendment which most honorable senators desire to make should not be accepted.
– - -It is rather strange foi an unsophisticated senator like myself to contemplate the attitude of honorable senators opposite. While the Judiciary Bill and the Commonwealth Salaries Bill were before us, we had the leader of the Opposition urging strong reasons for their postponement, and insisting upon the necessity of pushing forward the measure with which we are now dealing.
– Does the honorable senator think that that meant that we ought to accept everything in it without discussion ?
– Decidedly not, but when the acknowledged leader of a party speaks in such clear and express language on the merits of a Bill, he must do so with some degree of authority on behalf of the members whom he represents for the time being. If they are prepared to repudiate their leader, and ignore his pronouncement on this measure, his view is still valuable as showing that the Bill has some merits as it stands. . Although the complete step cannot be taken, that is no reason why we should not take half a step. Although we cannot achieve complete uniformity in this method of taxation, it is safe to> adopt such provisions as will secure at least some degree of uniformity among the States. It has been stated that the Bill will not ‘ lead to uniformity. The reply to that is that there can be perfect uniformity in this form of taxation if the States will it. Already Western Australia and Victoria, the two most important States in the group, have swung into line, and placed precisely the same charges upon bills ot exchange and promissory notes. A representative of New South Wales, which is worthy of being placed in the same category as those two States, informs me that New South Wales has the same stamp duty upon bills of exchange and promissory notes.
– They are going to abolish it.
– If they choose to sacrifice so much revenue, that is their concern. The tendency of the States, so far as concerns this device for raising taxation, has been in the direction of uniformity, yet when this Bill strives in a very commendable way to single out the_one feature that has presented an opportunity for uniformity in the past, we have here a perfect babel in condemnation of the measure. I will not say that the Minister is on his trial, as the last speaker would lead the Senate to believe. If that honorable senator deferred to the opinion of his chief, he would say that the Bill was urgently required, and that its early enactment was a public necessity; but when professional men differ, what on earth are such unsophisticated sen’:ators as Senator Millen and myself to think ? Although this Bill does not go quite so far as some honorable senators would go in exercising the complete and untrammelled power that is vested in the Federation, that is no reason why we should not exercise some of the power. When an instalment of it makes. for uniformity amongst the States, coupled with the fact that the tendency in the past amongst the States has also been in the direction of uniformity, it is only fair to adopt the Bill as a stride in the right direction. Honorable senators talk about equality of taxation under the bookkeeping section of the Constitution, which I hope will continue for a good while. Having some respect for the_ feelings of honorable senators, I had better not refer to the “ Braddon section,” -but under the bookkeeping section we have the strangest diversity possible in taxes raised in the different States. Although we, as a Commonwealth -Parliament, levy uniform taxes within the limits of the Commonwealth without differentiating against any State or part of a State, and although under this system of taxation, which is intended to be uniform, the same result is arrived at by thi- voluntary action of the States, we are asked by honorable senators opposite to place this taxation device in a different category from Customs taxation, simply because, so far as I can make out, the Bill does not go the complete length to which we have power to go. I heard Senator Clemons sn.y that he was in favour of Senator Givens’ amendment, but I am rather inclined to suspect his attitude. He had a previous opportunity, during the consideration of” the Bill, of rendering assistance to Senator Givens, but did not do so. I believe the Bill has the support of a substantial majority of honorable senators, notwithstanding the arguments of the Opposition. Although we cannot take the complete- stride towards the goal that we wish to arrive at, that is no reason why we should not move in that direction. I intend therefore to support the Bill as it stands.
.. -The remarks offered by honorable senators on this question emphasize the early necessity of bringing the finances of the various States under such an arrangement that no particular State will be embarrassed. We are now dealing with a Federal matter, and ought to treat it Federally. All my sympathy is with the arguments brought forward by Senator Givens; but the unfortunate financial trouble constantly intrudes itself. We cannot get away from it, and we cannot afford, even in following our Federal instincts, to sacrifice revenue in the case of Tasmania at present. Therefore I cannot support the clause as it stands. But for this, I should be glad to go much further than the clause goes, because I have never seen any logical reason for taxing these instruments of exchange. It is the practice of Treasurers to resort to easy means of collecting revenue, - and unfortunately this easy means has been adopted from time to time in the various States. But if they are to be taxed, it is fair and right to prevent them from being doubly taxed. I should like to go still further, and not tax them at all, but the interests of my State prevent me.
– From doing the right thing.
– Tasmania cannot afford to give up revenue until the right thing is done by the Federal Parliament. That has not been, and will not be done, until the wretched bookkeeping system is abolished.
– Is that what Tasmania wants?
– It is, and we want it without causing any injustice to the State which the honorable senator represents. According to the terms of the sub-clause, a bill of exchange is to be subject- to stamp duty in the State in which it is drawn, and a promissory note is to be stamped in the State in which it is made. Will the Minister in charge of the Bill explain how the stamp duties will operate in the follow ing cases of transactions between two firms in Melbourne and two in Tasmania? One Melbourne firm, having sold a parcel of goods, draw a bill of exchange in the oldfashioned form, and send it to Tasmania for acceptance by their customer. It is accepted, anc) sent back to them. I understand that that bill, being drawn in Melbourne, must be stamped with a Victorian stamp. ‘ The other Melbourne merchant adopts the more modern style of a promissory note, and sends it over for signature to his Tasmanian customer. Should the Tasmanian or Victorian stamp be put upon it?
– The Tasmanian.
– Then, although the transaction is practically the same in both cases, one instrument will bear the Victorian and the other the Tasmanian stamp ? _
– That is, if the note was signed and issued in Tasmania.
– Signed and payable in Tasmania?
– It need not be pavable there. It will be stamped where it is made. In that case it would be made in Tasmania.
– That is rather important, because a certain estimate has been made of the loss to Tasmania under this sub-clause, based apparently upon the supposition that we shall lose the whole of the stamp duty upon our Inter-State transactions.
– No; we shall lose the whole of the stamp duty upon those bills of exchange which, drawn in another State, are presented in Tasmania.
– Shall we lose the stamp duty on promissory notes ?
– We shall lose our right to stamp- a promissory note if, although presented in Tasmania, it has been made in some other State.
– I am still somewhat in a fog. I shall be glad if Senator Clemons will give me an answer.
– If the clause is passed as it stands, the State of Tasmania will still be allowed to impose whatever stamp duty it likes upon any bill of exchange drawn iri Tasmania, but it will be forbidden to impose stamp duty on a bill of exchange which, drawn in another State, goes for presentation to Tasmania.
– What about promissory notes?
– A promissory note is a bill of exchange.
– It is,’ in a sense, but where is it made? Is it made in Melbourne when’ it is sent on to another State in the way I illustrated?
– A promissory note may be made in Melbourne and sent over to Tasmania. If it is, Tasmania will be prevented from imposing any tax on it.
– Does not Tasmania impose a tax on it now ?
– Of course, because a promissory note is only a bill of exchange. The clause practically divides our stamping opportunities into two.
Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania) [9.59I. -If I make two purchases from a firm in Melbourne, and pay for one by a bill of exchange, drawn by the firm upon me, and accepted by me, for £100, I understand that the stamp duty will, under this clause, be collectable only by Victoria. But, if I pay for the other purchase of £100 by a promissory note, payable in Hobart, in that case will Tasmania collect stamp duty ?
– Of course, it will.
– Then that does affect the calculation which has been made, and in which it is assumed that Tasmania will lose £1,600 a year. I think it has been assumed that all those instruments will cease to be taxable in Tasmania, whereas most of them will continue to be taxable there.
– Oh, no. That was clearly pointed out.
– Senator Mulcahy has drawn attention to the fact that two like transactions between a Victorian merchant and a Tasmanian trader might be carried out in one instance with a bill of exchange, and in the other with a promissory note. If a trader in Tasmania made a promissory note for ^100 payable to a Melbourne merchant, either at a .Melbourne bank or at a Tasmanian’ banking house, Tasmania would get the benefit of and would still be entitled, under this provision, to collect stamp duty on that instrument. If in the calculation of the loss of revenue ‘there has been an assumption to the contrary, it is a very serious error, because in recent years promissory notes have considerably displaced bills of exchange.
– Have they displaced acceptances ?
– To a very large extent.
– It is a question of habit.
– I have been informed by persons who handle a good deal of paper money that a promissory note is considered a very much more handy means of incurring an obligation of that character than to go through the ordinary form of drawing and accepting a bill.
– As a matter of fact, in most transactions it is promissory notes which are drawn.
– On this very day I had to pass 254 bills- for discount, and every one of them was a promissory note, some of them having been drawn in Tasmania. There was not a single bill of exchange amongst them.
– I can quite understand that when the estimate of the loss of revenue likely to arise was made the officers in Tasmania would not have had the details of this provision. When my honorable colleague was speaking on another proposal in respect of the clause - the abolition of all State stamp duties on these documents - he pointed out the total revenue from stamp duties in Victoria, and said it was almost impossible to ascertain the exact revenue derived from the stamping of these documents. If it has been assumed that Tasmania will not be able to impose a stamp duty on promissory notes made in the State and payable in or ‘ out of the State in the future, the assumption was quite unfounded, so far as this proposal is concerned.
– I think that in the cablegram I sent I spoke of only bills of exchange.
– That term covers promissory notes and cheques. If it was stated that all the taxation of the State on bills of exchange and promissory notes other than inland ones was to be abolished, then a serious error was made in the calculation.
– I do not think that there is any error.
– I do not think that the loss is likely to be anything like that which has been indicated.
– I believe it is.
– I still think that we should legislate in such a way that, until such a course as Senator Givens has suggested is adopted, these documents should be liable to stamp duty in one State only. At a previous sitting, my honorable friend discussed his suggestion very fully. Our provision has been objected to by those who want to wholly abolish State stamp duties on these instruments. It has also been objected to by others, because they do not think that we should restrict the rights of the States in any degree or interfere with the present system of double and treble taxation. With these divergences of opinion, our proposal has been shot at from both sides, and I think I can safely say that it is a good, reasonable, working compromise.
Question - That sub-clause 2 stand as printed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sub-clause 2 negatived.
– Before leaving the clause, I think that we can put in an addition.
– Iunderstand that we have passed sub-clause 1 of the clause, and negatived sub-clause 2.
– I wish to point out that the negativing of one part of the clause does not deprive any honorable senator of the right to move an addition.
– The honorable senator, I think, is not quite seized of the facts. Sub-clause 1 has been passed, and sub-clause 2 has been negatived, so that the whole clause has been disposed of.
– With all respect to you, sir, I should like to point out that the two parts made a complete clause.
– It was agreed to separate the parts for the convenience of the Committee.
– The clause has been amended by the omission of sub-clause 2.
– I cannot allow any discussion to take place. My ruling is that there is no clause before the Committee.
Senate adjourned at 10.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 August 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19070815_senate_3_37/>.