3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator MULCAHY presented a petition from, five officers of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of Tasmania, praying the Parliament not to pass the Bill for the compulsory military training of the youth of the Commonwealth.
Petition received and read.
- Mr President, it is reported in the press this morning that at a certain meeting a gentleman said that when prayers were read in the Houses of this Parliament they were often met with sneers and irreverence. Foi the .information of the public, I ask you, sir, whether at any time you have noticed either sneering or irreverence or levity during the reading of prayers in the Senate?
-This is the first time I have heard that such . a statement has been made outside Parliament. I can say, from my knowledge, not only as President of the Senate, but as a private sena tor, that I have not observed the slightest levity or irreverence expressed or shown by honorable senators at any time while prayers were being read. I think it is a verv serious libel on the Parliament that such a statement should be made and published, .for it is utterly unjustifiable so far as this Chamber is concerned.
– By way of personal explanation, sir, may I say that I happened to be present at the meeting when that remark was made, and that, in my opinion, an entirely wrong construction has been put upon it? The gentleman who made the remark said - and I am speaking from memory - that there were several-
– Order. That is not a personal explanation. The statement in the newspaper is not a misrepresentation of any remark of the honorable senator.
– I think that when a garbled statement gets abroad it ought to be corrected.
– If it is the will of the Senate that the honorable senator should have an opportunity to make a statement,I will offer no objection.
– The statement, as it is published this morning, is entirely wrong.
– Let its author put it right.
– I do not want it to go abroad without a correction.
-I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether the statement appearing in this morning’s press, and affirming that some hitch has occurred in connexion with the proposed European mail contract, is true?
– The negotiations are proceeding.
Honorable Senators. - Oh!
– I do not know that this is a matter for much levity, when one bears in mind the fact that it takes a few weeks to settle a contract which involves large sums of money and innumerable difficult and intricate questions. I feel certain that honorable senators realize the anxiety of the Government to bring the negotiations to a satisfactory issue before the contract is submitted to Parliament, and at the present stage we are quite unable to make a public announcement.
– The honorable gentleman has misconstrued my question. I did not ask for any information relative to the negotiations, but whether the statement appearing in the press is true or not ?
– So far as my know ledge goes, the negotiations are proceeding satisfactorily, and at present there is no hitch of a serious character.
– Arising out of that answer, I desire to ask the Minister whether, under that contract, Brisbane is to be made a port of call?
– My honorable friend must realize that it is quite impossible at this stage to discuss any details in connexion with the contract.
– Arising outof the last answer, may I ask the Minister whether the newspaper is right in saying that all the main points of the contract have been agreed upon?
– I shall be very delighted to give my honorable friend the fullest information at the right moment.
– I think that we should have a very great objection to doing anything of the kind. According to parliamentary practice, no Minister is justified iri offering an opinion on a legal question on the floor of the Chamber. This advice was given to the Cabinet, and, as it. related to a matter of some importance, we thought it desirable that the Senate should have the benefit of it.
Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act.
– I have received from Senator Mulcahy an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate this morning to deal with a matter of urgency, namely, “the existing position with regard to the administration of the Excise Tariff Act 1906, and certain defects in the Act itself.”
Four honorable senators having risen in
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 10 a.m. to-morrow.
My object in taking this unusual course is to call the attention of the Senate and the public to the position with regard to the administration of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. It will be remembered that on Wednesday I put to the Vice-President of the Executive Council certain questions, to which he gave a kind of reply.
– An evasive reply.
– I would not say that, but three questions were left practically unanswered. In the first place, I asked, as a matter of inquiry, whether certain action which has been taken by the police of Tasmania was so taken at the instance of the Commonwealth Government? Before going any further, I desire to mention, not as a matter of grievance, but as a matter of information to Ministers, that there is such a thing as discourtesy towards States which might very well be avoided. In this case, the Collector of Customs in Tasmania took it upon himself to approach the officer in charge of the police, and to request him, not to instruct him, to make certain inquiries. The Federal officer did not feel it to be his duty to communicate with the Government of Tasmania, who are responsible for the action of the police, and who certainly, as a matter of courtesy, should have been communicated with. Consequently, certain action has been taken by the police force entirely unknown to the State Government.
– Do I understand that the police officers in Tasmania were set to work bv the Customs authorities without reference to their own Government ?
– It must be a very weak Government to allow them to act like that.
– The Government of Tasmania did not know what was going on. When it came to my knowledge, I communicated with the Premier of the State, and asked him if he had instructed the police to obtain the information for the Commonwealth. To my surprise, he said that he was absolutely ignorant of the proceeding.
– Surely the Minister controlling the police knew ?
– He did not know any more about the matter than did the honorable senator.
– They must do things in a queer way in Tasmania.
– The Commonwealth cannot control the local police.
– I do not wish it to be thought that I am trying to arouse bad blood. I am merely pointing out an act of discourtesy - probably unintentional - which I think should not be repeated. Ignoring its Government entirely, this instruction or request, or whatever it was, was given to the police of Tasmania. That, I think, was quite wrong. The Superintendent of Police issued instructions to his sub-inspectors. This is one instruction which he issued -
Hobart, 30th September, 1907.
To Sub-Inspector Browne,
New Norfolk. (For the information of the Customs and Excise Department.)
Be good enough to ascertain and to report to me as early as possible the number and value (roughly) of any of the agricultural implements mentioned in the schedule to the Excise Tariff 1906 (attached) manufactured during the past twelve months by Mr. H. G. Poke, of Bridgewater, as well as the number of men employed by such manufacturer.
Superintendent of Police.
I feel quite sure that the Government of Tasmania would not have offered an objection to’ their police carrying out the law. I believe it is quite understood that the police of the various States are, to a certain extent, amenable to the Commonwealth Government in regard to the carrying out of Federal laws. I am not raising that question at all, but pointing out that the Commonwealth Government should see that its officers pay due respect to the State authorities.
– Who sent that letter?
– It was originally sent by the Commissioner of Police to his superintendents, and then forwarded by them to their sub-inspectors.
– Who moved the Commissioner ?
– The Collector of Customs.
– Where is the proof of that?
– Surely the honorable senator does not want me to prove such a statement. It can be verified quite easily.
– The Government can deny it if it is not true.
– I do not blame the Government. I am sure that thev are innocent in this case. But I point out what has been done in order that steps mav be taken to prevent its recurrence. The third question which I put to the Minister this week was one which was not properly answered -
Is it the intention of the Government, on receiving the information to demand the full Excise duty specific or ad valorem, as the case may be, on all agricultural implements made dutiable under Act No. 16 of 1906, and which have not been made exempt under the provisions of sub-sections a, b, c, d, of clause 2 of the said Act?
This was the reply -
The action to be taken will depend upon the result of the inquiries now being made.
It will not depend, apparently, upon the law - a law which my honorable friends in the Government introduced, and which was put upon the statute-book by their instrumentality last year. It is to depend upon certain information which they are going to try to obtain. I asked a very plain and straightforward question, and I think that the Minister ought to have given me an answer in a plain straightforward manner. The next question was -
Is Act No. 16 of 1906 mandatory as to the collection of such duties until such exemption has been obtained ?
The answer which I obtained to that question was -
Section 2 of the Act in question discloses the conditions under which exemption from duty may be obtained ?
Was that a reply to a question as to whether the Act was mandatory or not? I repeat that question now to the Minister, and let him answer yes or no. Is Act No. 1 6’ of 1906 mandatory as to the collection of such duties until such exemption has been obtained? The Minister does not answer.
– Interjections are disorderly !
– My honorable friend will have an opportunity of answering later on. In the meantime, I will take the responsibility of answering the question for myself, and say it is.
– The Act speaks for itself.
– If the Act speaks - and it does straightforwardly - the Minister might have said so. The last question which I put was -
Is it the intention of the Government to compel every village blacksmith who makes a plough-share to incur the expense of an appeal to the . High Court of Australia for permission to peacefully carry on his avocation untrammelled by the supervision of the police, or the demands of tax gatherers?
The answer to that question was -
The Act imposes certain duties, but the ques tion of their rigid enforcement in the cases mentioned is engaging the serious attention of the Government.
What does that mean ? I shall give to the Senate my interpretation of its meaning, though I confess that I have some difficulty in understanding it.
– It means that the Government are not sure whether the Act is strictly constitutional.
– Does it not bear the construction that in certain cases the Act will be enforced, and in other cases it will not be?
– I will come to that .point presently. But, first of all, I should like to make reference to the fact that, as has been rightly said in another place, this is the first instalment of what is called the new protection. It originated, as honorable senators will recollect, in an amendment introduced, into a Bill by Senator Findley. That’ amendment upon the Excise Duties (Spirits) Bill prescribed that an extra Excise duty of is. per gallon should be imposed on distillers under certain conditions, namely, if the distillers did not satisfy the Government that they were paying fair . wages for labour. A little later on, the Customs Duties Act of last year was before us. It prescribed certain increased duties upon agricultural implements. The Act with which I am more particularly, concerned. No. 16 of last year, was the corollary of that Act. Under Act No. 16, the terms of which are most specific and easily understood, so that any man who runs may read, it is prescribed in section 2, that -
Duties of excise shall on and from the 1st day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seven be imposed on dutiable goods specified in the schedule at the rates specified in the said schedule.
It goes on to provide that the Act shall not apply - to goods manufactured by any person in any part of the Commonwealth under conditions as lo the renumeration of labour, which are then defined. This one section and the schedule comprise the whole Act. That is a plain and straightforward law coming into operation on the 1st January last. The Act relating to the Excise on spirits is also a straightforward law, which came into operation on the 1st October last.
– My honorable friend is quite wrong about that. There is no power at present to levy the Excise duty so far as spirits are concerned.
– I shall be happy to hear by what process of reasoning that proposition can be maintained with regard to Act No. 16. The Act says that duties of Excise shall be collected on and from the 1 st day of January.
– The honorable senator is reading the wrong Act.
– I am reading Act No. 16.
– That does not- relate to spirits.
– I prefer to confine myself to Act No. 16, relating to agricultural implements and machinery. Why has not the Government imposed the Excise duty ? Probably, I shall receive the reply that a Judge of the High Court of Australia requested the Government not to collect these duties, and not to take action.
– As to. the duties on machinery^ yes. . But the Judge did not make any request as to- the duties on spirits.
– I am confining my attention to the duties on agricultural machinery. Would it not strike any one that, however reasonable it might be for the Judge during- the parliamentary recess to ask the Administration to suspend the operation of a law for what he conceived to be a good reason1, there must have been something wrong with the law itself before the Judge would so act? Should it not have struck the Government that the law was wrong, when they were asked to suspend its operation? If the law was quite right, why was it not enforced? If it was wrong, why was it not amended? Parliament has been in session for several months, and we have dealt with the Excise Procedure Bill, affecting this Act. What intention has there been on the part of the Government to make the existing law operative? There are certain honorable senators who want to have the law enforced for the very good reason that they believe that it is a practical law. I want it to be enforced for quite another reason - because I believe that an attempted general application of it would at once show the impracticability of carrying it out.
– Then the honorable senator ought to support the Government.
– I will support the Government if they will stand by the law, and give effect to what this Parliament has determined. Indeed, they have no alternative if they do their duty to the country. My idea is - as has been said by one of the members of the party to which the Government owe their position, and one who is very earnest in this matter - that the Government ought either to have enforced the ,la.w, or told us candidly that they could not enforce it. And it is quite evident that they could not enforce it. But neither have they tried to amend it. What do they intend to do?
– What would prevent them from enforcing it if they were in earnest ? - Senator MULCAHY. - That is a question to which I hope the Vice-President of the Executive Council will reply. I- want to see an attempt made to enforce the law: I want to see how it will operate. I do not wish it to be assumed that I am op-, posed to the theoretical principles of the Act in question,, or that I do not sympathize with the desire that the workers shall share in the benefits ‘ conferred, upon the manufacturers of this, country by our protective system. But I look upon thi scheme of ‘ new protection, of which this measure is an instalment, as a weapon forged by protectionists themselves, and seized with avidity by free-traders, that will have the effect of killing protection in Australia. I believe, as a business man,’ that it will be simply impossible to give effect to this law. How on earth can we follow every man who makes a ploughshare or a plough, and collect an Excise duty from him?
– Is protection to be killed by providing for a fair distribution of its benefits?
– The sooner it is killed the tetter, if the workman is not to get his share.
– I believe in what is attempted to be done under this scheme if it is possible to do it.
– Why say that protection is going to be killed, if the scheme can be worked?
– It can be worked perhaps, to a certain extent and under certain conditions ; but only partially and in a small degree. I wish to point out how the Act is working at the present time, in certain parts of Tasmania, and I presume also in other parts of Australia. I have received a letter from a man in Tasmania whom I do not know personally, though it will be seen that his letter is a most intelligent one. I will read it to the Senate to give my honorable friends an idea of the position as it affects certain employes of labour - 31st October, 1907.
About a month ago I had a circular sent to me, dated December, 1906, stating if I did not at once apply for exemption, I would be liable for Excise duty on all implements made by me during the year 1907.
I wish to apply for exemption, but as there is no State industrial authority in Tasmania, I am at a loss to know how to proceed, so seek your kind assistance in the matter.
I am only a small manufacturer, and do not make many implements liable to Excise duty. I make most of the implements myself. I sometimes employ another smith to do repairs in the busy season, which I have paid 8s. per day for eight hours.
My assistant or striker has been with me for eleven years off and on. I pay him equivalent to £2 a week - that is, including board and lodging. He left once to go on the Tasmanian Government railways, when they paid him 6s. per day, but he returned to me, as he found my pay best. I also paid him for all holidays.
I also have a lad of seventeen years old, who has only been with me five months.I pay him 9s. per week, with board.
I do not know what the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation requires me to pay my men. I am always willing to pay good wages to good men when I require them, but if they want me to pay more than a man is worth, which I think I am quite capable of judging, they had better take the business, and I will work for them.
– That is always the cry of the sweater all over the world - he is to be the only judge of a good workman and his wages.
– I wish honorable senators to remember that I have only half an hour allotted to me to say what I have to say, and a considerable portion of that time has elapsed -
I do not think it will tend to find employment for the less fortunate tradesman who is neither quick nor able to do first-class work. Our local policeman came in the other day and demanded to know how many implements I had made during the year, liable to Excise duty of 10 per cent. Certainly I do not make a great many, but I think it pretty stiff if I have to pay 10 per cent. on all I have made and sold this year. I have no possible chance of getting any more for them than the purchaser has already paid, and as you must know the 10 per cent. will come out of my profit, as the material and wages are already paid.
I hope I have made my case plain to you, and that you can assist me in getting the exemption provided for in the Act.
You will kindly let Colonel Cameron see this, and I am sure he will only be too glad to assist me in the matter.
Senator Cameron knows this blacksmith, personally, and knows, as a farmer, what: he is capable of doing. He is an excellent plough-maker, but his whole staff consists of one man anda boy. Are we to send a policeman to overshadow this man, to remind him that we are following the ploughshares that he makes, and exacting a duty from him, in the great free country of Australia? This village blacksmith - for that is all he is, although he is an excellent plough-maker - turns out as many ploughs as two men and a boy can make in the year, but here we have a policeman waiting upon him in this free country, demanding an account of how many ploughs and harrows he has made, and demanding also that he should go to the expense of approaching the highest Court in the land in order to know whether he can carry on his business. How is this Act going to be given effect to in the case of another man, whom I instanced when the Bill was first being dealt with, who occasionally makes a ploughshare or a harrow, but whose main business is quite apart from that? Will the Government endeavour to control his. business for him, because he occasionally makes one implement”? Are the other blacksmiths to be left unhampered, unhindered, and uncontrolled? This question has yet to be decided in its constitutional aspect, but the Government will not give any opportunity to decide it. Directly the Government attempt to enforce the Act there will be a concrete case to submit to the High Court.
– The honorable senator’s argument is that the Act cannot be enforced.
-It can be partially enforced, but why should it.be partially enforced? If it is any good at all, it should apply to everybody who comes reasonably under its provisions. If a man who makes 100 ploughs in a year has to submit to it, why should not the man who makes only one in the year?
– That is the village blacksmith.
– If the Government are going to apply the Act to him, how are they to give effect to it? Are they to have an exciseman at every forge, and a policeman behind him to see that he is properly protected?
– The honorable senator is an extraordinary man. When effect is given to the Act, he objects to the policeman coming along.
– I am at one with Ihe honorable senator in asking the ‘Government to enforce “this law.
– When the Government try to do so, the honorable senator abuses them.
– The honorable senator has no right to say so. I arn criticising them because they have not taken steps to enforce the law. The honorable senator knows that they have not done so, and the party which he leads have made things very warm for the Government during the last few days on the question. At a deputation which waited recently on the Treasurer, Mr. Hutchison, a member of another place, said that the question of the administration of the Harvester Excise Act affected the whole Commonwealth. It is very hard to know what the Government intend to do, and my purpose in initiating this debate is to ascertain, if possible, their real intentions. In replying to that deputation, Sir William Lyne said that it would be a very arbitrary act if the Government were to enforce the collection of the Excise duty, but at the end of his speech he stated that the Government were going to collect the Excise, and they could see about distributing it afterwards. I hope that the Senate will obtain some information about that question before the debate is concluded. I understand, although I cannot say that it is absolutely a fact, that nearly all the blacksmiths in the various country towns in Tasmania have been called upon to furnish these returns, and have been reminded that the implements which they are making are liable to pay Excise duty if they do not make the returns. If the Government proceed to enforce the Act, I hope that, whatever happens, they will try to pav some consideration to those small employers of labour and their circumstances. I notice that an anomaly has already arisen in connexion with such attempts as are being made by the authorities to administer the Act. In large New South Wales, only six firms have applied, for exemption, whilst in small South Australia no fewer than eighty-two people have been declared exempt under the Act. It is said that in Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia the applications have not yet been dealt with. I know that they are now being dealt with, and, as a matter of fact, it took about five weeks to conclude the hearing of one case only, in which the decision has not yet been given. I wish to direct attention to one anomaly which is, I think, going to cause trouble. One firm of New South Wales employers said that the hours of labour worked by their men were forty-eight per week. The wages of their blacksmiths were from 45s. to 54s. per week; of iron moulders, 35s. to 48s. per week; and of labourers, from 30s. to 38s. per week. If those are regarded as fair wages, they are not fair in competition with the other firms, who Day their blacksmiths and iron moulders 10s. a day, and assistants 8s. There is an enormous disparity in the rates of wages paid by different firms, who have already secured exemption, under the Act. Is the High Court going to decree that the Excise duty shall be levied upon some people and not upon others ?
– It means that the big man must pay good wages, and the small man need not.
– Is there going to be a partial administration of the Act, or s it to be administered at all ? Are we to have an honest effort made to see if this new protection theory, in its limited application to these particular industries, can be given effect to?
– This is not the first time that this subject has been fully ventilated, not only in this Chamber, but in the other. Honorable senators are fully acquainted with the circumstances and the motives which actuated the Government in the policy which they have pursued. I was struck at the very outset by the exceedingly inconsistent position taken up by Senator Mulcahy. First of all he bitterly complained that the Government were neglecting their duty in failing to carry out the Act, and to collect the revenue. A few minutes afterwards his complaint was that the Government were taking steps to cany out the Act. The honorable senator did not disguise his utter hostility to this legislation, and I have to deal with him from that standpoint. In dealing with experimental legislation of this character - for I do not deny that it is experimental legislation - I admit, if it is any satisfaction to the honorable senator, that he and other opponents of the measure will have no difficulty whatever in raising obstacles and difficulties, and discovering grievances. In it we have in view the great object of benefiting the worker as well as the manufacturer, and the sharing by the worker in any advantages attached to protection and the establishment of industries. We protectionists wantprotection upon such a. basis that it will not mean grinding the faces of the poor. If the object of protection were to be achieved merely at the expense of the working classes, it would be achieved at too great a cost. Our aim is to secure for the working classes the highest possible standard of living. We are undertaking new legislation with that end in view, and I am prepared to admit that we may at the outset be met by difficulties and failures. But that should not deter us from proceeding. The experience that we gain from time to time will only enlighten us as to future more effective developments.
– Successes are built up on failures.
– On failure to act?
– There again is the complaint that the Government have failed to act.
SenatorGuthrie. - What about that policeman ?
– Perhaps Ihad better deal first with the policeman and the village blacksmith. What has been done is this : The Government want to secure the best information. No doubt, according to the terms of the Act, technically the village blacksmith and everybody else making harvesters or the various other articles mentioned in the schedule are liable to contribute. Before we determined upon our ultimate action, the Department decided to secure from the village blacksmith and others throughout the States a declaration as to the number of persons employed and the rates of wages paid. I am free to admit that this involves colossal difficulties, and it is possible that in dealing comprehensively with the subject, as we propose to do later on, we shall not be able to ignore certain provisions of the Factories Act - and I quote a Victorian Act merely by way of example - which, amongst other things, declares what a factory shall be. I do not suppose it will be possible to make the law completely applicable to individuals manufacturing for themselves, but it is possible that in this legislation we may have to define what shall constitute a factory. In all the circumstances, I ask honorable senators to say whether it is so intensely inquisitorial and unreasonable, as has been suggested, to invite citizens such as those to whom Senator Mulcahy referred, to supply us with the information required. In passing, I do not say that I, for a moment, countenance the apparent act of discourtesy which took place in this particular case, but Senator Mulcahy will admit that it is quite impossible for the Government to control every officer of the service, whilst they may agree that every possible courtesy should be extended to persons from whom inquiries are being made.
– If was not a Federal policeman, but a Tasmanian policeman who was to blame.
– That is so. If Senator Mulcahy will consider the character of our legislation and of the legislation generally of every portion of the British Empire, and the inquiries which have to be made for income tax purposes and Factories Act purposes-
– And for statistical and census purposes.
– And as the honorable senator reminds me, for statistical and census purposes, he must admit that there was nothing very terrible about a respectable policeman making inquiries on this subject.
– I did not say that there was.
– The honorable senator complained very much of the inquisitorial character of the inquiries which were being prosecuted.
– This is quite a different thing.
– And I understand him to dwell upon the indignity which this unfortunate blacksmith suffered in being called upon to answer those inquiries.
– When factories legislation was first proposed in Victoria it was “ the poor lone widow “ whom we were asked to sympathize with, and under the new protection it is the poor village blacksmith.
– I remember that “ the poor lone widow “ was very freely trotted out at one time. Now I come to the charge that the Government have failed to carry out the Act. Senator Mulcahy made reference to two Acts, but his charge of negligence, so fair as the Excise Tariff (Spirits) Act is concerned, does not lie, as under the law we are not entitled at the present time to collect the Excise on spirits. To enable the Government to do so, a resolution must first be passed by both Houses of this Parliament.
– I hope that the Government will deal with that matter shortlv. They have not shown much anxiety about it.
– The time did not expire until the 12th October last, and certain returns have been asked from the various distillers to satisfy the Minister that they are paying fair and reasonable wages in carrying on the industry.
– Yes, but they had twelve months notice before that.
– That matter is not now before the Senate.
– I am aware that I am not at liberty to go into that, though I should gladly do so. I have merely referred to the matter incidentally to show that Senator Mulcahy was under a misapprehension in connexion with that matter. As to. the charge against the Government, that they have failed in carrying out the law in neglecting to collect Excise under the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act of 1906, technically, it may perhaps be correct to say so, but honorable senators and members of the Federal Parliament generally must not hold themselves altogether blameless in this regard. The object of the Act was not to raise revenue from this particular source, but to compel the manufacturers of agricultural machinery to pay their employes fair and reasonable wages.
– And in order to make them do so the Government were authorized to collect the Excise duty if they did not.
– This particular class of machinery was given to the Government to enable them to secure the payment of fair and reasonable wages in the industry. The Act came into operation on the 1st January, 1907. Honorable senators must see that it would have been a. cruel hardship, and not in consonance with the wishes of Parliament, if the Government had attempted to enforce the Act as from that date, because the manufacturers were entitled to a fair and reasonable time within which to satisfy one or other of the Courts or industrial authorities referred to in the Act, that they were actually paying fair and reasonable wages.
– Then why did not the Government introduce an amending Bill to postpone the collection of the Excise ?
– The manufacturers were given an opportunity to sweat their employes, and at the same time reap the advantage of the protection afforded them.
- Senator Findley must know that the Government are not in sympathy with the sweating of their employes by any manufacturers. Their object is to insist that fair and reasonable wages shall be paid. I have said that, in view of the real object of this legislation, it would have been most unfair and a cruel thing for the Government to have arbitrarily collected the Excise under the Act as from the 1st of January, 1907.
– Why did not the Government tell us so when they introduced the Bill?
– My Honorable friend must see that that is a totally irrelevant question.
– It does ‘not matter what the Government thought about the. matter.
– I ask honorable senators not to interject so freely. The Minister has a perfect right to defend the action or inaction of the Government in connexion with the administration of this Act. He is justified in giving reasons for the course they have adopted.
– I am aware that this is a controversial matter, though it is one of very great difficulty, and in connexion with which there is some strong feeling. At the same time, honorable senators will permit me to say that the Government were actuated by the highest and best motives in what they have done. The first point I make is that it would have been a cruel injustice to have enforced the Excise from the 1st of January, 1907.
– Cruel to give effect to an Act of Parliament?
– It was not open to the manufacturers of agricultural machinery to have secured exemption from the payment of Excise under the Act before the 1st of January, 1907. No tribunal was established for the purpose, and no regulations had been framed. Throughout the discussion of the matter, I ask honorable senators to recollect the object of theAct, whichwas, ultimately, to secure the payment of fair.and reasonable wages to the employes in the industry. There was no tribunal open to the manufacturers prior to the1st January, 1907, to which they might apply for exemption under the Act, and, consequently, it was necessary that they should be given a reasonable time after that date in which to secure the declaration by the Court provided for in the Act. The first thing which had to be done, and which occupied some weeks, was the preparation of regulations. The next thing was the constitution of a Court, which took place in March. A Court was constituted from time to time between March and June, and during that period exemptions were granted under the Act by Mr. Justice O’Connor, as President of the Court, to certain manufacturers of South Australia, one or two in Victoria, and one or two in New South Wales.
– The first was granted to a manufacturer at Morpeth, in NewSouthWales.
– That is so. Then I believe there was one granted to a manufacturer in Victoria, and subsequently a number were granted to manufacturers in South Australia. When Mr. Justice O’Connor sat in May, he received a large number of applications for exemption, and, knowing the spirit of the Act, he saw at once the magnitude of the difficulty with which he was confronted, and recognised that if this legislation was to be successful it was most desirable that the parties themselves should, under a Wages Board system, arrive at an agreement as to what were fair and reasonable wages. The parties were, no doubt, of the same opinion. Mr. Justice O’Connor adjourned the applications before him until a scale of wages might be arrived at by the Wages Board, in the hope that in that way the parties concerned might amicably arrive at a mutually satisfactory arrangement.
– There are no Wages Boards for some of these industries.
– In regard to a number of them, Wages Boards were actually sitting at the time the applications were before Mr. Justice O’Connor. I appeal to honorable senators to say whether that would not have been a better solution of the question than a merely arbitrary decision of a Judge of the Court. So impressed was Mr. Justice O’Connor with this view of the matter that, as President of the Court, he wrote, or caused to be written, the following letter to the
Government, to which I ask honorable senators to give their careful attention.
There are over fifty applications by Victorian agricultural implement manufacturers for declarations under the Excise Tariff Act of1906 set down for hearing next week in Melbourne. I understand from theRegister of the Industrial. Arbitration Court that a Board under the Victorian Factories and Shops Act is now settling, the rates of wages in the agricultural implement makers’ trade, and that they will have the scale of wages completed in about two months. It would be very much to the advantage of masters and men that the declarations asked for, if. made, should be made on the basis of the scale-‘ of wages settled by the Board. I am, therefore, disposed to postpone all the applications until after the Wages Board scale has been issued.Before doing so, however, I would be glad if you could give the assurance that the Government will take no action to enforce the provisions of the Act against any manufacturer who has applied to the President of the Arbitration Court under the Act until his application has been finally disposed of.
– What about the manufacturers who have not applied ? They are not covered by that letter.
– No doubt they would have to apply ultimately.
– When is ultimately - ten years hence?
– I believe that nearly all have sent in written applications, although they may not have formally appeared before the Court.
– Did the Tasmanian village blacksmith do so?
– No, the Tasmanian village blacksmith did not. He has been invited to make his application, and that is what is complained of. Honorable senators will see that the Court was not completely constituted, so far as some applications were concerned, until May lastMr. Justice O’Connor, with the advantage of his great experience in the Senate, was seized of the spiritof the Act, and I am sure that there is hardly a member of the Senate who will dissent from his view, that it was desirable that masters and men should agree between themselves as to the rate of wages to be paid.
– Then we should have gone back to the old duty.
– I do not believe that there is a member of the Parliament who did not know that the Excise was not being collected in the meantime. They knew that proceedings were being taken in order to enable manufacturers to secure exemption under the Act. Has there been a solitary complaint on the part of honorable senators as to what is called the non-action of the Government, until within, the last few weeks, when the matter has been ventilated by reason of the proceedings in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court ?
– Last August I asked questions about the matter.
– I think that honorable senators are a little unreasonable to the Government when they know very well that we were really acting in a fair and just way, keeping well in our minds the object to be achieved. But to proceed with my story. The Wages Board to which the question was referred discussed it for about four months ; but, unfortunately, it was unable to come to a satisfactory and amicable conclusion. The result was that the matter had to go back to the Court, which was adjourned until September. It did go back to the Court, which is now engaged in hearing the applications, and which was constituted for the purpose of finally dealing with such matters.
– And it is now giving judgment.
– It may be. I ask my honorable friends whether, in view of the great issues which have been raised in that Court, and the difficult character of the legislation which it is interpreting, it would be wise for the Government to act precipitately at the present moment? I do not think that it would. In the first place, we are entitled to the benefit of the judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins before we finally act in the matter. But the more important point is that in every probability - and I am not going to deny it - there may be defects in the Act.
– As well as in the administration.
– That is a matter of opinion. No doubt my honorable friends would have administered the Act infinitely better than have the Government ! “ The point is that we, as a Government, are in sympathy with the Act, and, guided by our experience, we are now engaged in formulating comprehensive legislation on the subject pf new protection. No doubt that legislation, notwithstanding that it will embody the wisdom of Parliament, may be found to be defective. We are doing our utmost to formulate some satisfactory machinery for the purpose of more effectively carrying out the object which we had in view when we submitted the Bill last session.
– The Government do not apply the machinery which they have at their disposal.
– My honorable friend will understand the reason why it has not yet been applied. I contend that in the circumstances we have acted in a fair and just manner to all concerned, and, I venture to add, practically with the consent of Parliament. But at the present moment we are engaged in the formulation of a more complete law on the subject, and it would be most unwise, I think, to attempt at this moment to insist upon the collection of the Excise duty. I know that Senator W. Russell has some complaints to make, because I believe that some of the manufacturers in South Australia have failed to comply with the terms under which they secured exemption from duty. I am assured that the Minister of Trade and Customs is making full inquiry, although the difficulties are great, and certainly it will be his duty to exact compliance with the law where manufacturers are found to be acting under a false pretence. But I beg my honorable’ friend to extend to my honorable colleague, if he is satisfied as to his zeal and earnestness in this cause, a discretion in the administration of the law. In my opinion any Government which sat on the Treasury Bench would have acted in the same fair and just spirit as we have thought fit to act in regard to the manufacturers. We have had only one object in view - not to collect revenue, but to secure fair and reasonable wages for the workers, and in all the circumstances, I think, we have acted fairly, justly, and reasonably.
[-3S]- - In the earlier portion of his speech the Vice-President of the Executive Council was very eloquent in pointing out the ease with which the opponents of the new protection could doubtless find defects in the law. The charge brought against the Ministry to-day is not that there is a defect in the Act, because there is no proof that a flaw exists, but that it has never tested the law. It is the one Act on the statute-book which, though fathered by itself, the Government has refrained from administering. Suppose that a student of social subjects visited Australia with a view to inquiring into the condition of our working people. If he was made aware of the fact that on our statute-book there was a’ law that a certain duty should be collected unless the workmen engaged in a particular industry were receiving fair and equitable treatment, and if, on inquiry at the Treasury, he ascertained that not a single pound of revenue had been collected, he would necessarily come to the conclusion that the employes in every branch of that industry were enjoying the happiest of all conditions - that they were receiving fair and honest remuneration for their labour. Is that the position? Senator Best has just admitted that in certain branches of the agricultural implement-making industry the Excise Tariff Act is not being observed, that the employes are not receiving the wages which constituted authority has declared should be paid. Therefore, there is a fault somewhere. I propose to follow the Minister’s argument briefly to show wherein the seriousness of the charge against the Government rests. The Minister has pointed out that it would be “absolutely cruel” to enforce the Act. That is a remarkable statement to come from one who has been sworn to administer, not only that Act, but every Act on the statutebook. The speech which Senator Best has made to-day would have been a very proper one to address to the Senate last October. If he had then pleaded with us to substitute “ 1908 “ for “ 1907 “ in the measure, it would have been a very proper act on his part to point out the extreme inconvenience - I do not say cruelty - to a number of manufacturers to be asked on only three months’ notice to so alter their methods as to come under the new system. But there were two considerations operating then with the Government. We had a Ministry, on the eve of a general election, coming clown with the first instalment of new protection, using it for all it was worth politically, and taking every credit to themselves as the first Ministry which had dared to urge that the benefits of protection should be equitably shared. Not a single word was uttered then about cruelty or inconvenience to manufacturers, but a gTeat deal of sympathy and warmth were shown to their employes. To-day the position is reversed. I should have had a great deal more faith in the sincerity of the Government if they had made an effort to in some way or other enforce the Act. I challenge the Minister to show a single instance where Ministerial action was taken, until honorable members in another place and here became restive at the inaction of the Ministry. Not until an agitation was started in the ranks of members of Parliament did the Ministry seem to know that the Act existed. What causes me anxiety, is not only the inaction of the Government, but also their plain intimation that they’ do not intend to rigidly enforce the Act. It is all very well for the Minister to plead that the Government are in entire sympathy with the Act, and that it is only circumstances which have paralyzed Ministerial action in the past. What do they propose to do in the future? We have the Minister’s own statement, which was given in reply to a question submitted by Senator Mulcahy, and which practically means that they do not intend to rigidly enforce the Act. That declaration is in entire keeping with their want of action so far. Of all the Acts on the statutebook, why should this Act be allowed to be regarded as a dead-letter ? The Ministry do not so treat the Customs Act or any other Act that I know of. . There must be a special reason why one particular Act is to be ignored, or is not to be rigidly enforced. Isit because of the undue tenderness of this Ministry towards manufacturers and employers? That was not the reason they gave when they brought in the measure on the eve of the general election. I have quoted the VicePresident of the Executive Council as saying that, so far as he is concerned, there is no intention to rigidly enforce the Act. Two or three days ago, in reply to a deputation, Sir William Lyne expressed exactly the same sentiment. He said -
Whatever was done, the employer must not be placed at any disadvantage…… He could not promise that the Excise would be collected in the first instance, as the deputation asked. It would be too arbitrary.
What does that mean? So far as I can sum it up, it means that the Parliament was asked by the Government to pass a Bill for mere electioneering purposes, and that, having got over the election, there is no intention to enforce the Act, not merely as regards the past, but in the future. The Vice-President of the Executive Council fairly and frankly warns the Senate that it is not intended to rigidly enforce the law, and we have the Treasurer stating that nothing must be done which would place the manufacturers at a disadvantage, as it would be too arbitrary. In view of the want of action on the part of the Government in the past, and its . plain declaration as to its future conduct, it appears to me that it is not entirely in sympathy with the provisions contained in the law. Senator Mulcahy has remarked that free-traders hailed the measure with avidity. I am a believer in the principle of new protection. I, as honorable senators know, am utterly opposed to protectionist duties. I regard them simply as taking toll from one section in the community for the benefit of another section. But if Australia has pronounced, and this Parliament has decided, in favour of levying the toll, it is quite logical and equitable that I, as a free-trader, should insist .upon the benefit which protection affords being fairly distributed all round.
– It is absolutely unanswerable if you can do it.
– I did not propose to refer to it, but it seems to me that my honorable friend should have moved the adjournment of the Senate, not to censure the Government, but to show that it could not have done anything if it had tried. My charge against the Government is not that it could not do anything, but that it has not tried, and does not intend, to rigidly enforce the Act. If that is the attitude of the Government, let it be honest. Let it tell the Parliament and the country that it does not propose to carry out the law, that it intends to make fish of one and fowl, of another, and then let us see how long that Statute and that Government will last.
– If they do not intend to administer the Act, why not repeal it?
– Quite so; and what is more, I object to the Ministry taking credit for having done something which they have not even an intention of doing, and, at the same time, hurling all kinds, of accusations .against those who, when this measure was before Parliament, ventured to point out the difficulty of administering it.
– How is it that this legislation did not tell so much in favour of the Government when the election results came out?
– It is not because they did not make use of what they had’ done.
– - I am inclined to think that if it had not been for this Act, and one or two other things, no Ministerial supporters whatever would have been returned to Parliament. However, the fact remains that the Government did take a large measure of credit for what they were doing for the workers under this and kindred Acts. But what benefit have the workers got out of it so far; and what have the Government done to protect the consumer under the other Act? We have had twelve months of inaction on the part of the Government. There may have been latter day happenings which may have occasioned some amount of delay lately. But action ought to have been taken from the 1 2th October last year. Why is it that the regulations were not even prepared until the new year? The Government had the months of October, November, and December - a space of time which was surely quite sufficient for a well-equipped Government Department to prepare regulations. Yet nothing was done. The Government have shown a lack of sympathy and an amount of hesitancy and timidity which is unaccountable, except on one hypothesis - that, as the Minister says, the Government are not prepared to do anything to place the manufacturer at a disadvantage. If we are going to work this Act which stands upon ‘our statutebook, let us be honest. Let us tell the people that we did not pass the Act for the purpose of throwing dust in their eyes, but for the purpose of administering it. If there is weakness in the Act, let the Government come down to Parliament, and we will give them the strength which they need. But instead of that, the Government tell us not only that they do’ not intend to enforce it, but that they are marking time while they prepare new legislation. Have we any guarantee that the same thing will not be repeated, in regard to this projected new legislation ? The Minister has mentioned another difficulty with regard to carrying it out - the scattered nature of the industry affected. Is there any difficulty with regard to collecting the Excise on agricultural machinery that is not also applicable to the collection of income’ tax? Yet that tax is collectable in , Australia, even in isolated cases, just as it is easily collectable in England, where it has been in operation for a far longer time. No doubt there are cases of fraud occasionally, but the officers of the Department concerned very soon find . out means of detecting them. Had there been a fair, honest, sincere, and sympathetic desire to carry out the Act. the proper machinery would have been found long ago. We should not have had to wait until the Act had been on the statute-book twelve months before the
Government came to inquire from the proprietors of small workshops in various parts of the country what they were doing. It was not until members of the Senate and of the other branch of the Legislature became restive, and until the matter developed into something in the nature of a public scandal, that the Government did anything in the discharge of their duty in carrying out an Act placed upon the Statutebook.
– Although the Government shelter themselves behind the plea that advice was tendered to them by Mr. Justice O’Connor, when the matter was submitted to him in Adelaide, I am inclined to think that the Age to-day is correct when it states that that is a refuge of weakness, and that nothing that has been said so far relieves the Government of the imputation that the new protection policy finds in them but a halting and hesitating support. I agree with that sentiment for this reason : Last year there was an agitation on the. part of the manufacturers of certain agricultural implements to induce the Government of the day to deal with a particular item of the Tariff before any other item, on the ground that unless something was done for them their industry would be ruined. So anxious were the Government to help them that they introduced in another place a Bill
To give additional protection to these manufacturers, conditionally, however, on their paying decent wages, and observing proper conditions in their factories. That Bill passed through all its stages in another place in one day, the Standing Orders being suspended to enable that to be done. The item stripper harvesters was actually singled out from the Tariff as being more important than any other item from a protectionist point of view. The Bill was sent up to the Senate, was passed, and was finally assented to by the Governor- General on the 10th October.
– What was the date of its introduction?
– It was introduced on 21st September. So that it only took from the 21st September to the 10th October to deal with the measure in all its stages, and make it a complete Act of Parliament. Yet although that was a measure of protection for the manufacturer, which operated forthwith, the measure of protection intended for the benefit of the workmen has not yet given the workmen a penny of advantage.On the contrary, they have been shouldered with responsibilities and heavy financial losses. Why? Because the Government made the most damaging admission this morning that if they had administered the Act of Parliament from the day when it first came into operation, it would have been arbitrary and cruel. It is not for the Government of the day totake up that position. The Government are supposed to administer Acts of Parliament. I and every labour man who believeswhole-heartedly in this new protection policy will weaken considerably on protection unless we get a full measure of justice for those engaged in the manufacturing industry.
– And we shall weaken as to the Government also.
SenatorFINDLEY.- Yes, we shall weaken as to the Government, too. Because we are here to get for the class whom we mainly represent that measure of justice which has been too long denied to them. We were of the belief that from the 1st January the Government would have said to the manufacturers, “ From this day henceforth you are liable to an Excise of £6 on every machine you manufacture unless the conditions laid down are observed.”
– Are not most manufacturers paying fair wages?
– The Government should have said, “We will collect the Excise, throwing upon you the responsibility of proving that you are observing reasonable conditions.”
– Are not the bulk of the manufacturers observing those conditions ?
– They are not.
– Then what is the use of the Wages Boards?
– If honorable senators have followed the evidence given before the Fair Wages Court, which has not yet concluded its sittings, they will have learnt that in many instances menof twenty-six and twenty-seven years ofage were in receipt of wages inadequate for the maintenance of healthy conditions. In one factory the conditions were such that the Judge commented strongly in respect of them. I have no hesitation in saying that what obtained in one factory obtains pretty well throughout Australia. That proper conditions are not being observed is shown by the fact that in another place labour representatives have for a considerable period been bringing complaints’ under the notice of the Government. The Minister who has charge of the administration of this particular measure has promised to inquire, and has said he is sympathetic. What is the good of his inquiries and his sympathy if nothing practical is .lone to relieve the people concerned? The Government of the day, if the Vice-President of the Executive Council will permit 11 ;e to say so, have not been too alert or too anxious in regard to the collection of the Excise duties on spirits.
– The honorable senator cannot debate that particular matter now.
– I believe that Senator Mulcahy was permitted to mention it.
– Directly Senator Mulcahy’s attention was directed to the matter by the Vice-President of the Executive Council he ceased alluding to it, and since then I have kept honorable senators from debating it. Of course the honorable senator can allude to it incidentally, but it cannot be debated.
– I will not refer to it again. The new protection principle is On its trial.
– It is not getting a fair trial.
– It is not; and unless different measures are adopted it is not likely to have a fair and sympathetic trial from the Government of the day. There are, I know, in the Cabinet men who are sincerely anxious to give full effect to every measure of relief passed for the benefit of workmen and workwomen engaged in protected industries. But there are other members of the “Government, I am disposed to believe, who are somewhat half-hearted in connexion with this principle. There are others, again, who believe that by assisting in the promotion of the new protection policy they will break down or weaken the protectionist policy of the country. However, I am satisfied that Australia is essentially a protectionist country. I am satisfied, too, that the great bulk of the people believe in the extension of the principle of protection to those engaged in protected industries. Unless the Government of the day realize the importance of the principle involved, and also realize that it is their duty to give immediate effect to Acts of Parliament intended to extend that principle, their own position will be weakened, and the protectionist policv of the country will not be advantaged by their inaction. A little while ago there was introduced into another place a Bill which gives promise of extending the protectionist principle to all industries that are to be advantaged under the Tariff. Thousands of workmen throughout Australia hailed that measure with pleasure. But the Government know that men who were expecting relief ten or eleven months ago have, instead, got the “ sack “ in many cases, whilst in other instances workmen are afraid to express their opinions for fear of dismissal, or have been reduced to halftime. It must also be within their knowledge that in consequence of the heavy expense the employes have Incurred owing to their having been called upon to prove their case they are likely to be in debt tor a considerable period, and they ought to realize the seriousness of the .position, and consider whether it is right for them to say that to have enforced the . Act would have been arbitrary and cruel. It is evident that the cruelty has been meted out to those whom the Act was intended to benefit. The legal expenses of the cases that have been heard have been so great that the. workmen have had to withdraw their counsel. If the Government of the day had collected the Excise from the 1st January last, the “ other fellow “ would have been employing the counsel, and it would have been the duty, of the Government to see that he did not “diddle” them. In that case, the workers themselves would not have been called upon to provide counsel or incur other expenses in endeavouring to get the Act enforced. Why should the workmen be called upon to pay the expenses?
– To defend the public revenue !
– As Senator Millen rightly says, the duty is thrown upon the workmen of defending the public revenue. Parliament decided that the manufacturers, unless they paid certain wages, would have to pay a specified penalty, yet, although that was embodied in an Act of Parliament, the Government say that it would have been cruelty on their part to administer that Act. If they are going to take up that position with regard to the first instalment of new protection, the Lord only knows what will happen when the system is extended, and becomes allembracing and comprehensive. We shall have stories told about cruelty, not only to the village blacksmith and the poor lone widow, but to almost everybody engaged in manufacturing industries in ever)’ part of Australia. The Government have shown a weak-kneed attitude towards this principle. If a bold and courageous Minister had been in power, he would not have hesitated to administer the Act. There seem to be some influences at work to stay the hand of the Government. I am not able to discover what they are, but I know that there were strong influences at work to get the Government to push on with the Bill for. the imposition of the higher Customs duties on stripper-harvesters. My word, the Government did push on ! They have never had such a push on since they have been a Government as they got to give protection to McKay and others engaged in manufacturing stripperharvesters and other agricultural implements. But when the Government are asked to give protection to those employed in that industry, although we have been urging them on for a long time, they say that they are anxious to go slow, and not to do a cruel act to the manufacturers. I am not disposed to go slow in this matter, because the Labour Party promised that, if there is to be protection, for Australia, the workers, who have too long been denied th’at measure, of justice to which they are entitled, shall receive their full share of its benefits. If they do not get it, I want to know the reason why.
– Is the Opposition sympathetic with the Labour’ Party ?
– I believe that certain honorable senators opposite are fully sympathetic with the new protection principle.
– They want to see it pushed over the edge.
– I do not believe that that is true of all of them.
– The . honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I take exception to Senator Stewart’s interjection with regard to the attitude of the members of the Opposition towards the new protection policy, but I take greater exception to the attitude adopted towards honorable senators on this side by the Minister when he was making a confession of failure, and trying to excuse the laxity of the Government. He referred to those of us’ on this side who criticised the inaction of the Government as being prompted by a desire to destroy this precious bantling, which is the first of the great family of the new protection infants that we are to have in the future.
– The honorable senator does not believe in it.
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity later on to rise and say that. When he does so, I shall ask him to give some little proof that what he says is true. On the 15th August last, I drew attention to this matter by a series of questions addressed to the VicePresident pf the Executive Council. One of them was -
What was the estimated amount of Excise not collected in accordance with the exemption provisions of the said Act?
The Minister dodged the question by saying
Excise is only collectable when there has been a breach of the conditions of manufacture. The Department is not aware of any such breach.
That was obviously an evasion of my inquiry as to the amount of Excise that the Government had not collected owing to manufacturers having been exempted. It is clear that the Government cannot collect Excise unless they know the amount that is to be collected. It is all very well for them to say that they are waiting for Mr. Justice Higgins’ judgment, or waiting for this, that, or the other, and that they do not wish to impose cruel hardships, but if Mr. Justice Higgins decides that “the wages paid by a manufacturer have been disgracefully low, what machinery have the Government for finding out the amount of Excise that they are to demand from him ? According to Senator Mulcahy, an effort is being made by the police in Tasmania to collect that information in view .of future possibilities, but it is most remarkable that the Government have only taken that action during the last week or two. I asked the Minister, on 15th August last, “ What was the total value of the goods manufactured under the provisions of the said Act for the same period?” And the Minister replied that “ It was not practicable, without great delay and exhaustive inquiry, to give any estimate.” We have certainly had the great delay, for it was pretty well the end of October before the Government took steps to find out. They are taking steps to find out in Tasmania; but, so far as I know, no steps have been taken in Queensland.
– I am informed that the same thing is being done in all the States.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, but it does not explain the immense delay that has taken place since I asked those questions. If Mr. Justice Higgins’ judgment is against the manufacturer, how are’ the Government to proceed to collect the Excise, seeing that they do not know what Excise ought to have been collected, and, apparently, have made no effort until the last few days to find out? The Minister may say that the Government have already explained the general reasons which led to delay in bringing about a settlement of the question of wages, but he appears to forget that the Act with which we are dealing is only one of two Acts. Another Act, assented to on 12th October, 1906, largely increased the amount of duties, not only on stripperharvesters, but also on ploughs, plough-shares, harrows, chaffcutters, scarifiers, mouldboards, corn-shellers, huskers, and so on. The duties on those articles were increased, and then it was provided that if the wages paid in their manufacture were not fair and reasonable, Excise duty was to be collected. Thee whole of the argument appears to have centred around the case of the manufacturers running big factories in southern Australia, but, as a mattei of fact, this legislation goes far beyond them. It is reasonable to assume that the Government, when they increased the duties on. those other articles- not that the makers of them particularly required, so far as I know, special protection from the outside world - and afterwards made provision for an Excise duty, deliberately intended the Excise principle to apply. They must have known that the Excise Tariff Act would have to be made operative as against the small man all over Australia. I am not in a position to say -how many people are manufacturing the smaller articles to which I have referred, but in every small town in agricultural districts there are probably at least half-a-dozen people who have their own machinery for making mould-boards, harrows, scarifiers, and other such articles. If the Government did not intend the Excise principle to apply to them, why are all those people enjoying the extra protection which was secured from Parliament on the promise that the Excise would be enforced? The cases now before the Courts are a mere flea-bite so. far as. regards the trouble of administering the Act. It will have to be administered in a thousand factories or more, big and small, throughout Australia. If the new protection is to be of any value, it is obvious that a man who employs comparatively few hands should not be allowed to enjoy the benefit of the extra protection and pay only small wages, whilst another man with a big factory is compelled to pay fair and reasonable wages, simply because he employs a considerable number of hands. The man who works for. a small manufacturer is just as much entitled to fair and reasonable wages as is a man who works in a big factory.
– The Victorian factories legislation makes no difference between the small and the large manufacturer..
– I am not necessarily drawing my illustrations from Victoria. The Act has to be applied all over Australia. If the Ministry do not intend lt to apply all over Australia, but only want it to apply specially to factories in the south, then I am not in a position to say that they have not done their best in that limited direction. Such information as I have tried to get only shows that, the Ministry do not know what Excise they ought to have collected all over Australia. I cannot say that they do not know what Excise they ought to have collected from McKay’s. I was glad to hear Senator Millen refer to the much greater simplicity of the machinery used for the collection of income tax. The easiest method would be to call upon these people to furnish sworn returns as to the number of articles they produce of each class, in the same way as income-tax returns are made up. If a man could produce as a set-off a certificate that he was paying fair and reasonable wages, he would not have to pay the Excise. Otherwise, he would be assessed to pay so much, just as in the case of income tax. It appears to me that that would be far better, and it could certainly be much more easily operated than a measure like this, which cannot be enforced unless every blacksmith’s shop and every small factory, as well as every large factory, is to be regarded as a bond. I remind honorable senators that in the administration of the Sugar Excise Act, every sugar mill is a bonded . store. There is an Excise officer stationed in every one of them and in every refinery. They know what is being done, and are in a position to collect the Excise. The same thing applies in connexion with the Excise on spirits. I am not in this matter so eager to blame the Government for inaction as to sympathize with them for being responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act. The Minister suggested just now that the Government are preparing a comprehensive scheme to give effect to the new protection, and I should like to know whether it is intended to supersede the impracticable scheme already on the statutebook. The sooner the Government take the country into their confidence and say whether the new scheme of which we have heard so much is going to be on lines similar to those ‘of the legislation which we are now discussing, or is likely to be very much more easily administered, the better it will be, not only for Parliament and for the Senate in dealing with the Tariff, but for the country generally.
– 1° one of the comic operas we are told that “ A policeman’s life is not a happy one.” But if the Tasmanian policeman who has been referred to could only realize the devil of a dust he has kicked up, he ought to be, if not happy, at least impressed with the importance he assumes in the public eye for the time being.
– He is responsible for a discussion which I hope will do some good.
– I hope so, and I hope that other Tasmanian policemen will be instructed to visit other village blacksmiths and manufacturers in that State in order to secure compliance with the law of the land. Instead of finding fault with the Government for being too officious, in my opinion they might very much more justly be blamed for not having done enough in this connexion. If any good is to result from the legislation which we have passed there must be the inspection by policemen and other officials which Senator Mulcahy has complained of. When I hear a protectionist getting up as Senator Mulcahy has done this morning and declaring that this kind of protection is going to be a failure, and has been brought forward and is supported by certain politicians for that purpose, I should like to ask him what kind of [protection he is in favour of.
– I did not say that it was brought forward for that purpose, but that it was welcomed by certain protectionists for that reason.
– The honorable senator referred to Mr. George Reid, the arch priest of free-trade, as supporting it for the purpose of killing protection. It does not matter whether George’ Reid or any other free-trader supports this legislation as a sensible politician, I welcome support for it from every side in Federal politics. Judging by the remarks of Senator Mulcahy, we cannot look for much support for the new protection from him.
– I am quite honest about it. I am totally opposed to it, because I believe it to be impracticable.
– Yes, this kind of shoddy politician-
– Order. The honorable senator is not justified in calling any member of the Senate a “ shoddy politician.” He must withdraw the remark.
– It is worthy of the honorable senator.
– I will say this kind of shoddy protectionist, who is prepared to support a kind of cheap protection
– Order. The honorable senator should withdraw, the remark which he has made. He is not in order in calling a member of the Senate a “ shoddy protectionist.”
– Do not withdraw it. It is absurd. 0
– How would the honorable senator like to be called a “ shoddy free-trader”?
– Order. Will Senator de Largie withdraw the expressions he has used? And will Senator Clemons cease making interjections to induce a member of the Senate not to obey the Chair?
– I merely asked how the honorable senator would like to be called a “ shoddy free-trader. “ If that :s offensive I withdraw the remark.
– If the expressions I have used are considered offensive I withdraw them. I will say that the protection advocated by some persons is extremely cheap, and we generally find that what is cheap is also shoddy. If protection is to be applied to one side only the country as a whole will gain very, little benefit from it. That kind of protection will not satisfy those who approve of what is known as the new protection. I should like to know whether we are’ going to have this law administered or not. Unless we have some better evidence of sincerity on the part of the Government in this regard they will have to face a very different condition of affairs from that with which they have had to deal in the past. I for one am quite tired of listening to excuses for delay in enforcing this law. We have not been unreasonable with them. We have given them every help and encouragement to carry out the law, and if they are going to persist in ignoring it, I am prepared to see a change of Government at the very earliest opportunity. I am not one of those who receive much support from the Age newspaper, nor have I very much m common with the views of that journal ; but I must say) on behalf of the Age that it has certainly been consistent in its attitude towards the new (protection. It has given evidence of an honest desire that protection should be applied in a different way in the future from that in which it has been applied in the past. If we consider the State of Victoria under protection in the past, we shall find that there has been a great deal of sweating in protected industries for which there has been no excuse.
– It is just the same in free-trade countries.
– I am prepared to expect it an free-trade countries, because there is no regulation of competition under free-trade ; but in protectionist countries, if protection is carried out to its logical conclusionand that is the object of those of us who support the new protection - sweating should be almost an impossibility. When we find the representatives of a State, in which sweating is carried on to a greater extent than in any other part of the Commonwealth, moving the adjournment of the Senate to call attention to the action of officials in trying to give effect to legislation to prevent that sort of thing, it is high time we had a much larger staff of officials to assist in putting an end to such a state of affairs. I have here a report of the Royal Commission that investigated the matter of sweating in the industries of Tasmania, and I find from it that the rates of pay given to blacksmiths are about 56 per cent, less in that State than in any other part of Australia. Yet when an official acting under the authority of the Customs Department makes inquiries with the object of preventing that kind of thing he is found fault with for his interference with the “ village blacksmith.”
– What is the rate of wages paid to blacksmiths in Tasmania?
– According to the evidence given before the Royal Commission it amounts to the handsome sum ?f 33s- Per week.
– That is not the wages for a blacksmith, but for a striker.
– That is the rate of wages paid to blacksmiths. Strikers get only 30s. a week. To show that my statement is correct, I shall read an extract from the report under the heading “ Engineering and Iron and Brass Foundries,” which include all the iron industries of Tasmania.. The Commission say -
Three classes of engineering shops were inspected. At the first place, where general engineering and iron foundry work is carried on, the wages paid ranged from 6s. to 16s. per week for engineering and foundry apprentices, draftsmen, 8s. per day ; coremakers, 7s. per day ; fitters, 6s. ; labourers, 30s. per week, and blacksmiths, 33s. per week.
Yet we have a representative of the State finding fault in this Chamber with the attempt made by a Government official to secure information to put an end to that state of affairs.
– The reference quoted must be to an isolated case, as the regular rate of wages for blacksmiths in Tasmania is from 8s. to ros. per day.
– I prefer to accept the authority of the Royal Commission who inquired into the matter and took evidence on oath in various parts of Tasmania.
– The honorable senator might find isolated cases of low. wages even in Western Australia.
– I do not think I could find anything approaching that state of affairs in Western Australia. Blacksmiths in that State receive three or four times those wages.
– Does the report declare that the reference quoted is to an isolated case?
– The report is made as the result of an investigation by the Commission of three classes of engineering establishments, and gives the conclusion arrived at as to the wages discovered to exist in those places. I admit that we are dealing with what is a new departure in legislation, and the Government are justified in feeling their way in the matter. I recognise that they have a right to see that they are on sure grounds before they take up any very definite attitude, but I cannot understand the delay which has taken place. I believe that the Excise duty should have been collected from firms whom the Government had reason to believe were not paying reasonable rates of wages. Those firms should have been put on their trial, and I cannot understand the Government refusing to collect Excise from them.
I do not complain that the village policeman should have asked a village blacksmith in Tasmania to fill in certain forms, and to comply with certain regulations intended to put an end to sweating in that State. The information required can only be secured by local officials. The complaint is not that the Government have been too officious and have done too much in this matter, but rather that they have been too slow in enforcing the law.
– I am very glad that Senator Mulcahy has brought this question before the Senate, because it has elicited a statement which affords an indication that very little interest is taken by the Government in the policy of new protection, and the proper methods of carrying it out. I ami also glad because the motion for adjournment gives one an opportunity to say that, although individually various members of the Cabinet may be in favour of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act, may even- be enthusiastic on the subject, still collectively the Government have little or no sympathy- with the policy of new protection. That is very regrettable, because the Government staked their existence when before the country on the policy of new protection. Had it not been for the hue and cry raised throughout Australia for that policy by the Government, they would not have been in power to-day. On the contrary, many members would have lost their seats. Not only is the fact forced upon in that the Government are either incompetent to carry out this law, or have no desire to do so, but we are also practically told to abandon, all hope of their administering the law as it should foe administered. A few days ago a deputation waited upon the Treasurer in regard to this matter, and two replies which he gave have caused me, and, I believe other senators, to abandon all hope of this Government carrying out anything like an effective policy of new protection. In answer to one question, Sir William Lyne said that he could not promise that the Government would collect the Excise duty prior to the exemption being granted or refused by the Court.
– That is the only time when it is legally entitled to collect the duty.
– Yes. The only reason why most honorable senators have not been criticising the Government very strongly in the past has been that they have been promising to bring down a perfect measure, and to carry out the pledges which they undoubtedly gave to the country. Now, however, Ministers abandon the first condition, which was that the Government would collect the Excise duty and grant a rebate when an exemption was awarded by the Court. In reply to another question, Sir William Lyne told the deputation that he would not give a promise that lawyers would be excluded from the Court, I care not in what form the new law may be drafted, unless it embodies those two principles, the new protection will be worthless to the workers, who were deluded at the last election into supporting the Government on those terms. If the Excise duty is not to be collected, and the responsibility of applying for- a rebate is to be thrown on the employer, it means that the workers will have to take the responsibility of administering the law. That is not only undesirable, but absolutely novel in this country. Under existing conditions, we might as well ask the Government to evade their responsibility and request an outside authority to enforce the collection of revenue. The Government have pleaded that the reason for taking no action was that they had no positive proof that sweating existed, that no definite case had been submitted to them. A’few months ago I asked a question with regard to an agricultural implement manufacturing firm in Victoria, whose employes, went on strike because they were paid 36s. a week, and the Government pleaded that they intended to do something in the future. What has been done to remedy the grievance of the men who were working under those conditions ? Certainly they have received an increase to £2 2s. a week, but the Government are still inactive. Although they have known that sweating wages have been paid in this State, yet they have not made the slightest endeavour to carry out their pledges. It may be just as well to remind the Government of the cause of the system of new protection becoming popular, and their subsequent acceptance of that system. The great body of the workers entertained a strong feeling, which undoubtedly was quite justified, that sweating was rampant in protected as well as unprotected industries. The workers were quite satisfied that there was no hope of their receiving fair remuneration from any employer, whether importer or manufacturer, if it was possible for wages to be forced down. Realizing that the policv of old protection was gone, the Government took up the cry of new protection, and made this plea to the workers, “ If you return us to power, we will grant protection to the manufacturers, but in turn we will grant protection to the workers, which will secure to them sufficient remuneration to permit them to be happy and comfortable, and to enjoy all the necessaries of life.” Ministers went even further. They said that they were going, to protect the consumer, and to see that where high protection had been granted to a manufacturer he should not be permitted to charge an exces’sive price. What have the Government done? For ten months the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act has been in operation. During that period the Government have been in power, and this morning Ministers here have to admit that they have done absolutely nothing.
– They sent a village policeman to the village blacksmith.
– They have decided quite a number of cases; they have done something, though they may not have done enough.
– The Government have decided a number of cases?
– The Government have done nothing of the sort, because in South Australia it was the men who did it.
– It was done under the law.
– We have conclusive evidence that in the only State where cases halve been heard and concluded, and where one firm is not complying with the conditions, the Government have not done anything. We find the Government not only evading, but absolutely flouting the decision of the Court, which was that unless certain wages were paid, the firm should not be granted an exemption. The firm has not been granted ain exemption, because it is not paying fair rates of wages. Not only that, but it is practically ignoring the law, because it has not even applied for an exemption. Yet the Government are inactive. At the last general election the workers supported the Government, in the’ belief that they were supporting a protectionist Government, and that, if it was returned, they would receive a share of the protection afforded to their respective industries. Can the workers say today that the promise has been redeemed by the Government? No. The workers are working under exactly the same sweated conditions as they previously did. They have had to pay all the law costs incidental to the hearing of the cases in the Court, and the unions, from which they did derive some protection before, are now virtually being ruined through the lack of administration by the Government. It seems to me that the Government ought to come down to Parliament and candidly say that they do not believe the policy of new protection -to be workable. If they would take up that candid attitude we should be able to understand the position. But every day, as we read our newspapers, we come across a statement, made by one Minister or another, that the Government are going to remedy all the evil conditions existing by their policy of new protection. Still nothing is done. I believe that in Victoria a case has arisen in connexion with which the Government will be compelled to take some action. I hope that they will be a little more active and alert than they have been, and do in Victoria what they have not succeeded in doing in the other States. All that we ask for is justice.
– The Government will get an opportunity now to collect the Excise duty, because McKay’s application for an exemption has been refused.
– If so, what_are the Government going to do to collect the duty from 1st January last?
– Seeing that the decision which has been given by Mr. Justice Higgins this morning is likely to have a very good effect upon the conditions of the workers in Victoria, ‘ I think that the situation can be summed up in one phrase. I congratulate the workers of Victoria upon obtaining reasonable conditions under the Excise Tariff Act, despite the inactivity of the Government who promised to secure that advantage for them.
– Had not the honorable senator better congratulate the revenue upon the fight which the workmen have made in its behalf?
– I can adopt another phrase. I congratulate the Treasurer upon receiving a contribution to the revenue for the benefit of the country, despite the inactivity of the Government. The phrases which I have just’ used in regard to the workers and the revenue are absolutely correct. It is a remarkable situation that such phrases can be used against al Government which, at the general election, had but one cry, and that was : “ If you return us, we will give yon new protection and comfortable, happy conditions.” The Treasurer told the deputation that he would not promise to collect the Excise duty, and that he would not promise to exclude lawyers from the Arbitration Court. I have no doubt that it may be a little difficult for a Minister who is a layman to promise to exclude lawyers from that Court, seeing that the Cabinet is largely constituted of lawyers, who, with all loyalty - and all credit to them for doing so - stand by their class. If the lawyers are to be permitted-
– Order ! I remind the honorable senator that the adjournment has been moved by Senator Mulcahy “ to call the attention of the Senate to the existing position with regard to the administration of the Excise Tariff Act 1906, and certain defects in the Act itself.” It will not “be in order for the honorable senator to comment upon the advisableness or inadvisableness of permitting lawyers to appear in the Court in future.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, and regret that I am not in a position to deal with that point. The Government were returned not only to initiate, but also to carry out and properly administer the policy of new protection. They have failed to do their duty by that policy. As the representative of a large section of the workers, let me say that the Government must see .that they redeem their promise to the workers to carry into effect that policy, or they must get out of office and make room for a Government who will do justice to the workers. ‘
– To-day we have the Government placed as a target for sharp-shooters from every portion of the Chamber. On the one hand, we have Senator Mulcahy criticising the Government for doing something, and on the other hand we have Senator Millen criticising them for doing nothing. We have the members of the Labour Party, who appear to be disappointed because, having sown the seed of the new protection twelve months ago, thev have not been able to reap the harvest immediately. When I heard Senator Millen urging upon the Government the necessity of firmly administering the law which embraces the new protection, I began to wonder what is under all this anxiety. What is the motive which induces the honorable senator to be in such a tremendous hurry that the workers shall get the benefit of the new protection ?
– I have been at it for twelve months.’
– The honorable senator has always been opposed to protection. ‘
– Why ? Because the workmen have been robbed.
– That is an astounding assertion. All this urging of the Government to hurry on the administration of the law is done for the express purpose of precipitating the Government into defeat, of hurrying it over a precipice.
– The honorable senator was pretty strong about the Government yesterday
– I tried to hold the balance fairly.
– That is to say, the honorable senator will bang the Government himself, but will not allow any one else to bang them.
– I will bang the Government when I think proper; but when the Greeks bring gifts we are told to be suspicious, and when I find the Opposition, who have always been free-traders, totally opposed to the idea of protection either new or old, appearing to be exceedingly anxious that a certain policy shall be carried out, I begin to wonder what is at the bottom of it all.
– The honorable senator should not take exception to their desire to see an Act of Parliament administered.
– I take no excep- tion to their act, but I inquire what is their motive. Apparently Senator Findley does not see any motive. All that he cares about is that the Government shall administer this Act at once, and with the very utmost rigour, entirely regardless of what the consequences may be.
– Hear, hear.
– Senator Findley does not see any motive, and the honorable senator sees only one, and that a wrong one.
– I will give Senator Findley the benefit of my ideas on the subject: Senator Millen and those acting with him are hurrying the Government into the administration of this Act in the hope that in the attempt to administer it the policy of new protection will. break down.
– Senator Millen has always supported it.
– If the new protection is discredited, an attack will immediately be made upon the old protection, and the national policy of Australia will be undermined and swept away.
– So it ought to be, if the new protection is not to be carried out.
– So it ought to be.
– Honorable senators who say that, are in the position of a child who plants a seed to-day, and digs it up to-morrow because he sees no immediate result. He never gives the thing a chance. This new protection policy is embodied in a piece of experimental legislation. Honorable senators opposite will say that it has had a fair chance.
– It is an Act of Parliament that has not been fairly administered.
– The Act has not been passed more than twelve months.
– And only one set of Excise duties has been missed.
– What troubles the honorable senator is that the Government did not insist upon administering the Act according to the strict letter. He knows perfectly well that if the Government had acted so precipitately as that the whole of the idea would by this time have been discredited.
– If the honorable senator does not know why, I know, and I am not going to give him the benefit of my knowledge. It is quite sufficient for me that I know the motives of the Opposition, and of the party acting with them. I also know that a policy of this kind, which is” an entirely new departure in industrial legislation, must have a fair trial before it can be said to be either a success or a failure. Twelve months is not a fair time to be able to show whether legislation of this kind is likely to succeedor fail. Such experiments must extend over a much longer period. I believed in the old protection, and I believe in the ‘new protection. I am not going to say that this system of levying Excise is one that is going to bring about all that we desire. But it is at least a step in that direction, which the Opposition if they had been in power would never have taken. Had the party represented by Senator Millen and Senator Clemons been in power we should neither have had the old protection nor the new. We should have had free-trade conditions in Australia. We should have had the workers of this continent exposed to the full fury of the competition of the cheap labour countries of the world. Yet those honorable senators in the most hypocritical fashion clamour for the application of the doctrines of the new protection.
– Oh, be steady !
– I am steady enough to see through the motives of honorable senators opposite. If some honorable senators cannot see through them I flatter myself that I can. I intend, so far as I can bring it about, that the new protection shall not only have a fair trial but be a success. I am not going to allow the Opposition to knock it out in the first round.
– Will the honorable senator be satisfied if the new duties now being imposed are not collected for twelve months ?
– I shall not answer the honorable senator. We have these honorable senators professing their anxiety about the new protection to-day but-
– We are anxious to have the Act administered.
– When an attempt was made to impose such duties as would give effective protection to our industries and would embrace both workers and employers, did those honorable senators assist us? No, they cut down every duty that they could.
– How would the duties protect the workers? The first time an effort was made to protect the workers the Opposition were with the honorable senator’s party.
– There can be no new protection unless we have the duties.
– The evidence in the McKay case shows that the old duties did not protect the workers.
– Then let us have higher duties.
– We raised the duties, but that did not raise wages.
– A great deal has been said about harvesters. ‘Mr. McKay has been blamed.
– Blamed? He has been found guilty this morning.
– Having received a fair amount of protection, I assumed that he would pay his workmen decent wages.But he did not do so.
– The most unscrupulous employer in Australia !
– No doubt he is. But this, at least, has been gained - the manufacture of harvesters has been saved to Australia. Every member of the Senate knows that but for the increased duties the harvester industry would have been swept away.
– It is not a blessing to save the industry and hunger the man.
– If the policy of protection which the Opposition were so anxious about had not been carried, there would not have been a single harvester factory in Australia to-day, and no need for the new protection. But we have the industry, and we can compel the manufacturer to pay his employes decent wages. Having established the industry, the next step to take is to see that the workmen get their fair share of the protection. And that has been done. The Judge to-day has decided that Mr. McKay has not paid fair wages. Now it becomes the duty of the Government to levy the Excise.
– What Excise? In respect of machines that he has sold by hundreds ?
– That is not a question for me to answer. It is for the Government. We also hear agreat deal about the Government not collecting the Excise. Is there a single senator who expected that the moment the Act came into operation the Government would collect the Excise? I amsure that there is. not.
– Why not?
– I did.
– There was not a single senator, so far as I know, who expected anything of the kind. The Excise duties were authorized more as a penalty than anything else.
– They were intended to be a penalty.
– The idea in our minds was this - that if the manufacturer did not pay decent wages, we would levy an Excise of so much per machine upon him. But we said to the manufacturer, “ If you show that you are paying your men fair and reasonable wages that money will be returned to you.” The idea in the mind of every man concerned’ in passing that law was that if the employer showed to the satisfaction of the Government that he was paving decent wages, the Excise would not be collected.
– Does the law give ten months in which to do that?
– It does not specify any time.
– The Government had not to carry out some idea, but the law.
– Many laws are passed withthe intention that they should be administered in this fashion.
– Not Customs laws.
– This is a special Customs law. The idea was not to increase the revenue. Not a single man who voted for the law hoped that revenue would be collected under it. Our expectation - our hope - was that the machines would be manufactured under fair conditions, that the employers would pay decent wages, and that, therefore, there would be no Excise for them to pay.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2p.m.
– I do not purpose to occupy much time this afternoon, as I took the opportunity a week or two ago of expressing my opinions upon the very extraordinary attitude of the Government towards the harvester Excise question. I am very glad that Senator Mulcahy has brought the matter before us, although I cannot say that I admired the manner in which he did so. If he had wanted to convince the Senate that the Act should be repealed, that the administration was bad, and that the Act itself was a lot worse, I could have understood his speech. But my view is that the Act is a good one, while the administration of it could not be worse. When I was before the electors, the new protection was one of the questions of the day. Great things were expected from the Act, which was then upon the statutebook. I, and the two other members of the Labour Party who contested that election, stated that, although we were all protectionists, we should not, if returned, go for protection for the manufacturer unless the principle of the new protection was carried out to its fullest extent, in order that the workman and the producer might be protected also. Nearly twelve months have passed, and practically nothing has been done. There is a certain section in this and the other House who blame the Labour Party for whatever is done or left undone, whether we have had a hand in it or not. I have heard the cry from the farmers in many parts that, since the introduction of the new protection theory of the Labour Party, the village blacksmith has clapped on the price of their ploughs.
– Is the honorable senator the leader of the Opposition today ?
– I am the same as I was before, but, in this instance, and for the future, unless the Government amend their ways, I shall mostly be on this (the Opposition) side of the chamber when a division is taken, except, perhaps, when the Tariff is being considered. I shall speak with no uncertain sound. The Government ought to be grateful to Senator Mulcahy for bringing this question forward to-day. If the motion had been moved by some other honorable senator, the attitude of several of those who sit on the Government side might have been somewhat different. As it was Senator Mulcahy who moved the motion, some’ of the honorable senators who support the Government are afraid that there is something behind the scenes.
– The honorable senator still supports the Government, does he not?
– Not on this question, at least. I object to the Government attempting to make us,- as sensible men, believe that they have been in earnest. Actions speak louder than words, and up to the present I have seen no sign of their earnestness. Even the Age, which is supposed to be the wet-nurse of the Government, has thrown them over. On this question I, as a representative of South Australia, must stand to my guns. Whether the present Government remains in power, or a. better one takes office, my duty to my constituents’ requires me, in carrying out my pledge, to see that it carries out the new protection policy. The present Government has not done so. It does not seem even to intend to do so, as is shown by Sir William Lyne’s statement that it would be a terrible hardship to carry out the Act. That is simply playing with politics. I was struck also with Senator Stewart’s extraordinary attitude. If there was one speech more than another that I admired, and could fully indorse, it was that of Senator Millen, who was undoubtedly straightforward and sincere. He struck- the nail on the head every time, and the Government seemed unable to reply. Some honorable senators say ..that the free-traders are supporting the motion with some ulterior object, but surely we protectionists are as capable as they are of seeing what is going on. If the new protection principle is not carried out, .it will go hard with the
Government in the near future. I am pledged to that policy. I indicated last week the attitude which I intended to take. I stated that unless the Government mend their ways - although I shall be with them all the time in their protectionist Tariff, if they do not wobble upon it - and show a determination to carry out the present new protection law, no one can trust them with the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth in the future. The position which I take up is a matter of principle. The aspect of the question we are discussing ought to be of the greatest consequence to us as at party, because it is said that we hold the Government in the hollow of our hands. We are supposed to be able to make them dance to our piping, but we do nothing of the kind. Although we are pledged to the new protection policy, the Vice-President of the Executive Council stated to-day that he did not think the Senate careel much about the question. The Government must either collect the Excise duties, or see that men get reasonable and fair remuneration for their work.
– During the course of this debate there has been a mistaken impression as to Sir William Lyne’s reply to the deputation which waited upon him. It has been stated that he said that the Act could not be administered, as that would be an arbitrary course to pursue. He did not reply in that strain at all. The Argus reports him as saying that he would not promise that the Excise would be collected in the first instance, as the deputation asked, as that would be too arbitrary. That is a. view which I entirely support, because the Act does not provide that the Excise shall be collected instantly, and the manufacturer afterwards required to comply with ‘ the conditions. It is just about time that a word was put in for the Government, although, I am no thick and thin supporter of theirs. Up to the present the Government may have been lacking, but not to the extent that some honorable senators have sought to make out. They may, and probably, have been remiss in minor points in the administration of the Act, such as in not finding out the manufacturers in the Commonwealth who were subject to Excise. But the Act clearly requires that those persons shall first of all have an opportunity of showing that they are observing fair conditions. What opportunity was offered in Victoria, apart altogether from the case which has just been settled, to persons subject to Excise to prove that they were observing fair conditions? The President of the Arbitration Court himself advised the Government not to collect the Excise, as the cases were still pending. He clearly showed that there was no machinery at the disposal of those who were subject to Excise, in Victoria at least, to prove that they were carrying out the intention of this Chamber by observing fair conditions of labour. The position- is much the same in the other States. In Queensland, up to the present, there have been no means of determining fair conditions, except, perhaps, by a direct appeal to the President of the Court, or by the cumbersome method of a dissolution of both Houses. That shows, not that the Act has not been administered, but that industrial legislation in Queensland is not as advanced as it should be.
– The trouble is that while the “grass is growing the steed is starving.
– Why has Queens-, land no Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts? Above all, why have not the workers of Queensland, who are directly affected by the Act, made an outcry? I have little or no sympathy with those employes of Mr. McKay, in Victoria, who, in the past, have shown such a positive indifference to their own welfare as not to make a collective protest.
– They were afraid that thev would lose their billets.
– That will not hold water, because one of the strongest incentives to unionism and perfect cohesion amongst employes has always been oppression.
– Does the honorable senator regard the failure on the part of workmen to do what he thinks is their duty as any reason why the Government should not have done theirs?
– It all depends how the honorable senator defines “ duty.” In this particular matter, I have admitted that there was a certain degree of laxity on the part of the Government in finding out what manufacturers were subject to Excise under the Act. But this fact must not be lost sight of : We are at present striving to bring into operation an entirely novel principle in industrial legislation ; and because the new law has not been administered promptly, serious fault is found with the Government.
– Has its administration been prompt?
– I direct the attention of the honorable senator to tha fact that, when in New South Wales, where all the wise men come from, Parliament, in 1895, passed an Act imposing a land tax, it was found to be inoperative or defective, and the Government were obliged to introduce an amending Bill in the following year.
– Yes; but they tried to enforce the first measure.
– They did; and, finding that they had not all the power that was necessary, they had to pass an amending Bill to enable effect to be given to the intention of the Parliament. I have mentioned that because honorable senators opposite have been complaining so loudly against the inaction of the Commonwealth Government, who have been placed in an infinitely more difficult position in having to give effect to entirely novel legislation.
– Yes; but all the time the manufacturers have been on velvet and the workmen have not.
– Although I do not wholly justify the course adopted by the Government in this matter, it has been, to some extent, in keeping with the intention of the Legislature in passing the Act.
– Certainly not.
– We have had many different interpretations of the intention of the Legislature in this Chamber. We have heard the statement made that the intention was not to collect this Excise at all, and that the Act was passed merely as a form of threat which was never to be put into execution.
– Could the Act have been enforced without the collection of the Excise ?
– Why was not the collection of the Excise made mandatory ?
– It is mandatory. Under the Act, it is compulsory on the part of the Government to collect the Excise unless certificates of exemption have been obtained-.
– There is often -a difference between the wording of an Act and the intention of the Legislature that passed it, which is a consideration that should not be lost sight of, because, whether we are entitled to do so or not, we frequently allude to the intention of the Legislature in passing a certain law. Long before I entered this Chamber, I know that there was an opinion in the country, which was shared in by certain members of the Senate, that it was the intention of the Federal Parliament that the Act should be used only as a threat. I hold that the manufacturers were justly entitled to an opportunity to show that they paid fair and reasonable wages, and I ask honorable senators to say whether in Victoria, up to the present, they have been given that opportunity.
– In Melbourne - yes.
– Then what about the opinion of Mr. Justice O’Connor?
– We have nothing to do with the opinion of Mr. Justice O’Connor. Our concern is that the Act should be enforced.
– And there was another way in which the opportunity referred to might have been availed of by manufacturers in every part of Australia,
– I have no wish to take all the blame from the shoulders of the Government, but I do say that, in view of the novelty of this legislation, some allowance should be made. I have admitted that the Government have been lax in not discovering the number of manufacturers liable to Excise under the Act; but, as against that, it should be remembered that there are manufacturers who honestly sought to observe all the conditions of the law, and were not given ordinary means of complying with its provisions. In the circumstances, honorable senators should hestitate to pass a sweeping condemnation upon the Government.
– What hardship would have been inflicted upon the manufacturers if the Excise had been collected, and subsequently refunded where it was shown that fair and reasonable wages were being paid ?
– If it is the intention of the Legislature that the Excise should be collected, in the first instance, that should have been stated clearly in the Act.
– It is so stated.
– Provided that something else happens.
– No; the Excise is to be collected unless something else happens.
– What was the something else to which Senator Lynch refers?
– That the manufacturers should be given al reasonable opportunity to show that they paid fair and reasonable wages, and should consequently be exempt from the Excise.
– I thought the Act distinctly stated that the Excise must be payable from a certain day.
– Let me say here that I have not a shred of sympathy for Mr. McKay ; but an effort was made to comply with the provisions of the Bill, and circumstances arose which made it impossible for him to do so up to the present time.
– McKay made an effort to comply with it ! He made an effort to dodge his obligations.
– And he succeeded for ten months in doing so.
– He did so at Ballarat, and tried to do so at Braybrook, but did not succeed.
– I believe that the manufacturers made a reasonable effort to find out whether it would be considered that they were paying fair and reasonable wages. I rose particularly to resent the unfair method adopted by critics of the Government in the interpretation they put upon the use of the term “ arbitrary “ by Sir William Lyne. The honorable gentleman used the word in the sense that it would be arbitrary to administer the Act in certain cases without giving an opportunity to the employers to show whether or not they had made an honest endeavour to comply with its provisions. In that sense, I think the honorable gentleman was perfectly justified in the use of the word. It has been explained by an honorable senator who was present with the deputation that the word was used by Sir William Lyne in replying to a question as to how the Act would be administered in the future.
– Hear, hear ; that is so.
– That justifies me in saying that there has been no occasion for such an unqualified and sweeping condemnation of the Government as some honorable senators have indulged in. Let me say briefly as to the Tasmanian case that I cannot understand the altogether illogical and yes-no position of the honorable senator who moved the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. He painted a picture of the village blacksmith “ under the spreading chestnut tree “ subjected to all sorts of indignities by a policeman. But he entirely destroyed the ground which would have formed the basis of an attack by me by saying that he did not believe in the new protection policy. He contradicted himself by saying that village blacksmiths were being harassed, and that it was not the duty of the Government to harass them. The village blacksmith who has been referred to need look for no sympathy from me, because he is in competition with every other manufacturer in the same industry in the Commonwealth.
– He is as much entitled to protection as is the proprietor of the Sunshine Harvester Works.
– I do not claim that he should have less protection, but I do claim that he should not have more latitude given him, even” though he is a village blacksmith.
– The honorable senator’s time is exhausted.
– The only purpose for which I rise to address a few words to the Senate is to point out that Sir William Lyne was not accurate in saying that these people had done all they could do” to comply with the provisions of the Act. The honorable gentleman appears to have assumed that the procedure that is being adopted in Victoria to obtain exemption from the payment of Excise under the Act is the only procedure that could be adopted for the purpose. That is not so. Under paragraph c of section 2 of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act, it is provided that the Act shall not apply to goods manufactured under conditions as to the remuneration of labour which -
If honorable senators will turn to that Act, they will find that, under part VI., dealing with industrial agreements, it is provided that such agreements may be entered into between an organization of employes and an employer, or an- organization of employers. These agreements can be filed in the Arbitration Court, and if such agreements had been entered into between the manufacturers of agricultural machinery and their employes, the manufacturers, on the production of them, would be entitled to exemption under the Excise Tariff Act. We have been told that Mr. McKay had no time since the Act came into force to enter into an agreement with an organization of his employes. Why did he not do so? I will tell honorable senators. It was because, out of - 500 employes in the Sunshine Harvester Works, there are not twenty unionists. It is alleged by employes in these works that men who become unionists are victimized, and that Mr. McKay has done his best to break clown the organizations of employes. As a consequence, he has left himself only one course to obtain relief under the Act.
– Is the honorable senator speaking figuratively or accurately when he says that only twenty out of 500 employes of the Sunshine Harvester Works are unionists ?
– I am repeating what was told me by an official of the Agricultural Implement Makers’ Union. An official of the union waited upon myself and other members of the Labour Party, and when we pointed out that if they desired that the Act should be administered, organization on their part was necessary, he said, “What can we do? We have not got twenty members in the factory out of 500 employes; and if those twenty were known, they would be discharged. This firm will not employ unionists if they can help it.” By their - own action, these victimizers of unionists have made it impossible for them to secure relief under this Act except in the way they are now adopting. What sympathy can we have for a firm like that ? There is not a manufacturing firm in Australia that need require to apply to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court for a certificate of exemption under this Act, as they might all have secured industrial agreements under the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which would, have exempted them from the payment of the Excise duty.
– They made an offer before the Wages Board.
– The employers made an offer which resulted in delay. They are as much blameable for delay as are the Government. But Sir William Lyne is not correct in saying that there is anything arbitrary in that proceeding. All that is necessary is that the two parties shall enter into an industrial agreement. Surely that is not an arbitrary act. Surely the man who has to work for wages has a right to’ be considered.
– He did not refer to that at all. He referred to collecting in the future the Excise duty from the moment when the Act came into force.
– I am referring to that also, and pointing out one of the conditions of that collection. Any manufacturer can escape from the payment of Excise duty by entering into an industrial agreement, and therefore the Government should enforce the Act. There is nothing arbitrary in the enforcement of the law, because the manufacturer always has a means of escape, and that is, not to approach the Fair Wages Court, and have lawyers wrangling over what is a fair wage, but to meet the men and discuss with them at a table what is a fair wage, and come to an agreement, to be registered in the Arbitration Court. If that course is taken, the Act cannot and does not touch them. This debate has, I think, shown the Government that it is the intention of all sections of the Senate to see that the law is administered. I believe that if the Government were to announce at once that they intended to collect the Excise duty, the employers and employes would very quickjy avail themselves of the means by which they can escape from the payment of it. I join with others in urging the Government to take that step. In my opinion, Senator Stewart was a little unfair in taking some senators to task for having proclaimed that they are not going to give the old protection at the Customs House unless it is accompanied by the new protection at the factories. I do not think that any Labour member ever defended the old protection on the ground that it was protection to manufacturers only. I believe that the most ardent protectionist has defended protection because he believed that it was the best policy for the country generally. But our experience of the agricultural implement making industry shows that Mr. McKay has received the sole advantage of the additional protection, that he has not passed any portion of it. on to his employes.
– The honorable senator must remember that his is only one firm out of 150 or 160, and thatmany of them are paying the highest wages ruling.
– His is the firm which turns out five-sixths of the products of the industry.
– If that is so, in fairness to other firms the duty ought to be collected.
– McKay produces five-sixths of the harvesters made in Australia. The output of other firms is really infinitesimal.
– The harvester is only one implement.
– That is the implement which was the means of obtaining the increased duty for the protection of the industry.
– Oh, no ; there were half-a-dozen implements.
– Undoubtedly that was the implement in favour of which the Bill was rushed through Parliament. We were told that the Bill was wanted to protect the firms against the dumping of harvesters. Undoubtedly, we would not have heard of that Bill if it had not been for the harvester trade. Nothing was said then about the protection of ploughs and other machinery. Those were merelylooked upon as incidental to the protection of the harvesters. Every protectionist in the Senate, I think, recognises that the manufacturers in Australia have no hope of getting more protection except on those terms. I point out to the Government that it they expect Australia to sanction an increase of duties, that sanction will only be given because it believes that in this new protection it has found a plan by which to give some of the benefits of protection to the workers in the protected industries, and incidentally to the consumers.
– I desire to speak on this very important question for a few moments. We must all feel obliged to Senator Mulcahy for giving us that opportunity. No matter what his motives may have been, I hold that, ‘ to a very considerable ‘ extent, the Government have been guilty of culpable negligence in carrying out the provisions of the Acts which we have passed. When any member or supporter of the Government, or any person outside Parliament, says that it would inflict a great hardship upon a number of manufacturers to compel the collection of the Excise duty right away, my reply is that it would only be a hardship to 100 or 200 individuals in the Commonwealth, while the neglect to collect that duty is a hardship to thousands of employes who have not been treated fairly by the manufacturers during the last ten months. If the Government had taken a firm stand - and I am sure that the Act gives them ample power - the position would have been different. I entirely agree with Senator Stewart and other senators when they said that although in the passage of the measure there was no intention or wish that any Excise duty should ever be collected, yet it was the intention and desire of every senator that fair wages should be paid, fair conditions observed, and everything done to give both the employes and the consumers the benefit of any protection accorded to manufacturers. Principally, the manufacturer would receive the benefit, and it was in his power to act fairly to both his employes and to the consumers. We have had ample evidence that the manufacturers have not carried out the desire of Parliament. Senator Pearce has clearly pointed out that the Act provides a means whereby the employers can immediately obtain an exemption from the payment of Excise duty. On a previous occasion, I have explained that they have only to call upon a union of employes to meet them, and to enter into an industrial agreement. Immediately after the passage of the Bill, an association of that description was formed in South Australia. I must admit that Mr. Justice O’Connor gave the employers an opportunity of conferring with the association so that thev might come to an industrial agreement, but the employers, relying upon the dilatory manner in which the Government were attempting to enforce the law, declined to come to such an agreement, and the result has been delay and confusion. If the Government had immediately proceeded to collect the Excise duty on the1st of January, as the Act authorized them to do, the manufacturers would have been running over one another in their efforts to comply with the Act. They would have either paid fair wages, or entered into an industrial agreement, or made such representations to Parliament that a resolution would have been immediately carried declaring that fair wages were beingpaid, and that the conditions of the law were being complied with. Circumstances have led to the manufacturers not endeavouring to comply with the law, but the poor unfortunate employes who have been suffering for years have been compelled themselves to take action, and . to go to all the trouble and expense of litigation in which many lawyers have been appearing. The workers have been compelled to incur all that expense merely to show that the manufacturers have not been dealing fairlv with them. The employers have been evading the law all the time, and the Government have been helping them to do so bv not enforcing its provisions. We ought to be fair, and I hope I shall always be fair to honorable senators on the other side. From the very first, Senator Millen has earnestly and honestly supported the Labour Party in the passage of legislation of that description.
– Order. The time allowed by the standing order for discussing this motion has expired, and 1 ask Senator Mulcahy if he desires to withdraw it.
– Can I do so, sir, after the time has expired?
– The honorable senator cannot speak to the motion, but he can ask leave to withdraw it in accordance with the usual practice.
Motion, by leave-, withdrawn.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I propose to ask the Senate to make the first reading of this Bill the first order of the. day for Wednesday next. In pursuance of the notice I gave, I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill passing through all its stages without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That the Bill be read a first time on Wednesday next.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clauses 2 and 6.
In Committee (Recommittal):
Clause 2 (as amended) -
– I stated yesterday that certain verbal alterations would be necessary in this clause. I now intend to move amendments to carry out the intention. I move -
That the words “ at the commencement of this Act,” lines ro and 11, be left out.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator Best) proposed -
That the word “ Senate,” lines 16 and 17, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Parliaments.”
– I may be ignorant, but it appears to me that there is no reason why the word “ Parliaments “ - the plural form - should be used. In the Constitution, I find a reference to “ the Parliament,” meaning the Parliament of the Commonwealth. What other Parliament have we to deal with?
– I am officially informed that the correct title is “ The Clerk of the Parliaments.”
– Where is the other Parliament ?
– Mr. Boydell explains to me that the Clerk is gazetted as “ Clerk of the Parliaments.” I have adopted the official title.
– Because an error has occurred in the past, that does not seem to be a reason for slavish adherence to precedent. I know no authority for using the word in the plural sense.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That the word “ Act,” line 20, be left out. with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ section.”
That after the word “Court,” line 21, the words “ or a Justice thereof “ be inserted.
That the word “Senate,” line 25, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Parliaments.”
– It will be remembered that sub-clause 7 was hurriedly drafted at the table, with a view of carrying out the wishes of the Committee, the main object being, if possible, the saving of expense. I told the Committee, however, that it would be necessary to recommit. I now propose to strike out sub-clause 7, with the view of inserting a new provision having the same object. On looking closely into the sub-clause, I found that it would be unwise to slavishly bind the Court to the statements and particulars contained in the petition. The proposed new sub-clause will leave it open to the Court as to any particular fact or document that may be called for as evidence. I move -
That sub-clause 7 be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new subclause : - “ 7. On the hearing of the petition the facts stated and the documents referred to therein shall be taken to be proved or admitted, unless as to any particular fact or document the Court shall otherwise direct.”
Senator Major O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [2.51]. - I think that the proposed new sub-clause is much better than the original one. Senator Symon referred to the fact that I admitted before the Select Committee the statements contained in the petition. I did so. I admitted that there was an election, that a petition was lodged at a certain time, and the other bare facts of the case. Of course, that admission does not commit me to the other deductions and statements in the petition. But though I think the proposed new sub-clause is an improvement, I doubt whether it is necessary at all. The effect of it is to leave the procedure in the hands of the Court. But that is carried out by sub-clause 3.
– That only deals with procedure.
– I think that sub-clause 3 is sufficient, but I have no objection to proposed new sub-clause 7.
– I do not know what the intentions of the Minister are with regard to the clause a.s proposed to be amended. 1 doubt whether there is a single honorable senator who knows exactly what the amendments which have already been made mean. I confess that I do not thoroughly understand them..
– The amendments were merely verbal, and they were circulated in print this morning.
– But we were engaged upon other business, and had not time to study them. As to the amendments being verbal, we all know that the alteration of a word may make all the difference in a section of an Act of Parliament. I should like to know whether this amendment would put it within the power of the Court of Disputed Returns to examine the ballot-papers which at one time were supposed to have been destroyed, and to summon the returning officer who was alleged to have destroyed them? Will the Court be able to ascertain why this charge was made against him, and how the papers were afterwards discovered? It would be very interesting to know what effect those ballot-papers would have had upon the election of the 1 2th December. These are points in connexion with this peculiar case which are of such importance that we ought to have further time to consider them. The Minister might inform the Committee what he thinks about them.
– As to the proposed new sub-clause itself, I may remind the Committee that at the outset it was suggested by Senator O’Loghlin that the question of costs should be taken into consideration in connexion with this Bill. I pointed out that we could not discuss that question now, though we could discuss procedure, having the effect of minimizing costs, in the future. I drafted sub-clause 7 at the table with that object in view. Senator Symon suggested to me that the facts mentioned in the petition were admitted by Senator O’Loghlin. The honorable senator confirmed that statement. The result was that I prepared the sub-clause. But on looking more closely into it, I found that it would be necessary to make it less hard and fast. The amended sub-clause now submitted has for its object the admission of the facts, so far as they can be admitted, but if any question is raised, it will be open to the Court to say that it wants further evidence.
– Suppose there are facts which were not contained in the original petition ?
– This sub-clause, read in conjunction with section 197 of the Electoral Act, will give the Court of Disputed Returns power, amongst other things, to compel the attendance of witnesses, and the production of documents, to examine witnesses on oath, and to do a considerable number of other things. To enable the Court to come to a decision on the substantial merits of the case without regard to the technicalities of the law, it might be necessary for the Court to obtain further information. Then the Court has the power, under section 197, to secure the further information.
– The powers of the Court under the Electoral Act to require the production of additional evidence or documents are not in any way affected by the amendment now proposed. I see no objection, therefore, to passing it, although Senator McGregor may fancy that he sees some weakness in the main Act.
– I should like tobe assured that this amendment really covers the ground. We desire to see substantial justice done in the matter of the seat now in dispute. The Bill should be so framed as to enable the Court to take all the facts into consideration. When the Committee were considering the petition, the discovery of the ballot-papers which were stated to have been burnt was reported, and it was alleged that they would make a substantial difference as to the result of the election. We should make sure that this sub-clause will enable the Court to take them into account.
– Section 197 of the Electoral Act provides for that. This sub-clause leaves it open to the Court to take those ballot-papers into consideration if it so desires.
– If the VicePresident of the Executive Council is quite sure that that is so, and that no documents of the kind can be excluded, I am prepared to take his word.
– I am far from clear as to the effect of the amendment. Clause 2 provides that the petition now before the Senate shall be referred to the Court. That Court under section 197 of the principal Act has certain powers. It is proposed that the petition and the documents compiled by the Committee shall be accepted by the Court. But facts which have not been before the Committee at all may be brought before the High Court. What power will the Court have to consider them?
– The powers under section 197, to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents, and to examine witnesses on oath.
– No provision in this Bill, or amendment proposed to it, gives power, so far as I can see, for the Court to go outside of the petition and the documents. The Court certainly has the power to adjourn, to compel the attendance of witnesses, and to examine witnesses on oath. But the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications had power to compel the attendance of witnesses and examine them on oath. What I wish to have made clear is : Will the Court under this provision have power to open up fresh ground ?
– Yes ; if it thinks necessary.
– Can that be stated in. plain language ?
– It is so stated in this provision, and in section 197 of the Electoral Act.
– To take a concrete example, will it have power to call for the production of the ballot-papers discovered at the Gawler post-office?
– Yes; if it thinks that necessary to the proper adjudication of the petition.
– It cannot be known until the papers are examined whether their production is necessary. For anything known to the contrary, they all may be blank. In my opinion, the Court should have power to call for them ; in fact, the ballot-papers should go with the petition.
– That would be more satisfactory to all who were candidates.
– They have not been in proper charge.
– So far as I know they have been in the charge of Commonwealth officers.
– The honorable senator’s desire is, not to empower, but to require, the Court to call for these ballotpapers.
– I wish the Court to take them into consideration.
– I am afraid that my honorable friend has forgotten some of the features of this case. Undoubtedly the. Court will have the right to call for, and to procure, all documents or other evidence which it may deem necessary to assist it in coming to a decision. But it is not likely that the production of the ballot-papers will be required. The question which the Court will have to decide upon the petition is : Was there a valid election under section 15 of the Constitution ?
– There is another question behind that. If Mr. Crosby is found to have been properly elected the whole position will be changed.
– If the Court finds it necessary, to enable it to come to a decision, to call for the ballot-papers, it will have power to do so under this provision, and under section 197 of the Electoral Act. I prefer this provision because it is more elastic than that in the Bill, and it will, I think, meet all the honorable senator’s objections.
Senator Major O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [3.10]. - Some honorable senators seem to ‘have confused two petitions. It is in dealing with that of Mr. Blundell, which unseated Mr. Vardon, that the production of the ballotpapers would be necessary. But that petition having been disposed of by the High Court, the finding cannot be impeached or challenged. The petition to be referred under the Bill is that which affects my own election. There were several counts in the first petition, which was decided on only one of them, and if the matter were re-opened these other counts would have to be taken into consideration. Some of them are very strong, alleging the posting up of placards in booths, and other irregularities. But I do not see how that petition can be gone into again. We certainly have no concern with it. All this provision does is to give the Court power to take as granted things which might otherwise have to be proved by evidence.
– I wish to know what is a “ fact “ ? It appears that we are making a bargain with Senator O’Loghlin to curtail expenses. But if he is to be considered, surely Mr. Vardon has a right to consideration.
– Mr. Vardon will have to prove his allegations.
– When the matter was before the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications, they may have stated the case in a particular way, and adduced certain facts which they may not think it desirable to bring before a Judge.
– What happened then does not matter now. It is the facts of the present petition that the Court will be concerned with.
– Will not all the facts put before the Committee be put before the Court?
– No; only those alleged in this petition.
– And . admitted by Senator O’Loghlin?
– And by Mr. Vatdon’s counsel.
– I understand that the ballot-papers are available, and that being so, there should be a re-count, so that if it be proved that I or any other senator is not entitled to continue to sit, we may be dealt with accordingly. The results were altered very considerably by the first re-count.
– There was no petition against the honorable senator’s return.
– My name and that of Senator Symon were in the petition.
– And withdrawn.
– The petitioners thought that they had not a good case so far as I was concerned, and withdrew my name; but it was thought at the time that certain ballot-papers had been burnt. I forget how many more votes were credited to me on the re-count. If Mr. Crosby had increased his numbers as I did there would have been no disputing the fact of his election. My total was 33,000, and that made a big alteration. Senator O’Loghlin has no more to do with this matter than I have. I am a member of this Senate, and was a candidate at the general election, whereas Senator O’Loghlin was not; and I am pointing out that if those ballot-papers had been opened and re-counted, the honorable senator would not have been on his trial to-day. The information is available ; and the only cost involved would be that of bringing the papers over in the train, and paying one or two men to check them. I cannot see why there should be any objection to the suggestion I am making.
– There is no objection if the Court desires to have the papers.
– But we can make a suggestion that the papers ought to be considered.
– The honorable senator must know that this matter has already been dealt with bv the Court of Disputed
Returns, and section 201 of the Electoral Act provides that the decisions of that Court shall be final and conclusive, and shall not be questioned in any way.
– To which Court does the Vice-President of the Executive Council refer?
– I refer to the decision in “ which these ballot-papers were involved - Mr. Justice Barton’s decision.
– Apparently no one was satisfied with that decision. A Committee was appointed to go into the whole question, and I think it would have been much better if they had counted these votes. If Senator O’Loghlin is satisfied, he is too easily satisfied ; and he ought to have shown more fighting spirit. As one who was particularly interested in this election, I should like all the facts to be brought out, and to have it clearly shown how many votes each candidate got.
– It might then be said that the honorable senator was here on a “ tainted “ title.
– Very likely; it has been said that it was a wonder that [ got here at all. I always like to do everything justly, straightforwardly, and beyond suspicion ; and if further information can be obtained, expense and trouble ought not to stand in the way of justice.
– The matter may be as clear as daylight, but the fact remains that a certain amount of confusion has arisen, owing to the action of Senator Symon. Under the circumstances, I suggest that the Minister now report progress, especially in view of the fact that a number of honorable senators desire to leave. Senator Symon will be here on Wednesday, when we can have the benefit of his valuable assistance.
– Let us pass this subclause, anyhow.
– I have no objection, but I should like to hear the opinion of Senator Symon on. the subclause, and on some of the points which have been raised this afternoon.
– I trust the Minister will not listen to the suggestion to report progress. If Senator McGregor’s statement has any force in it, the trouble has arisen, in his mind at any rate, from the introduction of the new sub-clause, which was suggested by Senator Symon with a view to saving expense to the parties. If that foe the trouble, there is an easy way out of it;and that is for the Government to drop the proposed amendment. That would relieve Senator McGregor’s difficulty, but it would throw on the parties to the case the trouble of proving the facts all over again. This sub-clause was not proposed to suit the convenience of anybody, but with a view to minimizing the expense to those who are unfortunately involved in the case.
– Why should the sub-clause be dropped?
– I do not desire the sub-clause to be dropped, but the point has been raised by three South Australian senators, who fear that it may hamper somebody. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has given the clearest possible answer to the objections. He has shown that under section 197 of the Electoral Act the Court has full and ample power to order the production of every paper, and the attendance of every person desired. The amendment will not in, any way limit the powers of the Court; it is an effort to render convenience and some measure of justice to those who, because of official default, were involved in litigation.
– I do not object to the sub-clause.
– Then why not let it pass? I do not think for one moment that there is intendedany systematic delay in the passage of the Bill.
– Certainly not.
– The law term is approaching its end, and Senator O’Loghlin must be anxious to have the matter determined at the earliest possible date.
– I desire to place no obstacle in the way at any time.
– If there be much more delay, the matter cannot come before the Court in the present term, and unless some more substantial difficulty is raised, I appeal to the Government to make all the progress possible, even in the limited time at our disposal this afternoon.
– I have no objection to this subclause being passed. I believe it is proposed with the best of intentions ; but questions are running through my mind with regard to what the Court has power to do even under section 197 of the Electoral Act.
– The honorable senator desires to have the sub-clause made definite ?
-I desire to thoroughly understand it. Although section 201 of the Electoral Act provides that the decision of the Court of Disputed Returns should be final, I wish to know whether that is the same Court of Disputed Returns, as was presided over by Mr. Justice Barton. I desire to understand clearly whether, if the Court thinks it necessary, in the cause of justice, in connexion with this petition, it may not refer to the cncumstances of the previous petition.
– This Bill provides for three Justices.
– Yes, but still it is a Court of Disputed Returns. I wish to be thoroughly satisfied as to whether this is the same Court of Disputed Returns, and whether, without an appeal or any trouble, it may refer to the petition previously before the Court of Disputed Returns.
– ^ According to the Judiciary Act, the High Court is the Court of Disputed Returns, and may exercise its power by one Justice. So far as this petition is concerned, we make a departure and say that the constitutional question involved is so important that we desire the Court of Disputed Returns, in this instance, to be constituted of not less than three of the Justices of the High Court. So that while it is a Court of Disputed Returns - just as was the Court over whichMr. Justice Barton presided - in this case three Justices will sit instead of one.
– When, we recollect the history of the case, the settlement of which this Bill is intended to facilitate, I think it will be patent to all that there is no need for rushing the sub-clause under consideration through Committee to-day, if honorable senators do not understand it. It would be well, I think, if we deferred its consideration until our next day of meeting. The adoption of that course would not involve the loss of any great amount of time, and it would afford honorable senators an opportunity of considering the bearing of the amendment which has been submitted.
– But there is no reason why we should adjourn at half -past 3 o’clock.
– I do not think that honorable senators are in the habit of taking a very prominent part in social gatherings. Last week when one of those gatherings was in progress the Senate sat until the ordinary hour for adjournment. As, however, there are a number of honorable senators who desire to get away this afternoon, I do not think that we should sit till the usual hour. I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council to defer the consideration of the amendment until next week.
– This clause states that certain facts are to be taken as admitted. Now, I notice that the petition states -
No writ has since the 8th day of November, 1906, been issued for any election of senators for the State of South Australia, and no such election has been held since the 12th day of December, 1906.
– But he claims that he has been “chosen.”
– I should like the Vice-President of the Executive Council to say whether - if the sub-clause be permitted to go through in its present form - Senator O’Loghlin will not Le admitting that he was never elected to S1 here.
– More delay.
– I decidedly object to the interjection of Senator McColl.
– It is true, irrespective of whether the delay be baneful or beneficial.
– I object to the interjection. Is it to be assumed that I am merely speaking for the sake of delaying the passing of the Bill? If that is the imputation, I resent it. This is the first time that I have spoken on this measure, and why I should be accused of causing ‘ 1 more ‘ ‘ delay passes my comprehension. I cannot agree with the suggestion that this sub-clause should be eliminated. When the Bill was under consideration the other day reference was made to the fact that unnecessary expense might be incurred in hearing a case before the Court of Disputed Returns. . Senators Lynch and Symon spoke upon that aspect of the matter. I am not anxious to be a party to a provision which would involve any person in an expenditure which could be obviated by making the meaning of this sub-clause clear.
– Would the honorable senator agree to an amendment which puts into the mouth of the sitting senator words that he does not mean?
– If we are going to pass the Bill let us make this sub-clause as clear as it is possible to make it. In other parts of the Commonwealth I have complained that one of the faults of Acts of Parliament is that several meanings can usually be placed upon the language employed in them. The time has surely arrived when we as sensible men ought to embody only the plainest possible language in our Bills so that when they become Statutes it will not be necessary for any citizen of the Commonwealth to fee lawyers to determine their meaning.
– They ought to contain only words of one syllable, I suppose?
– It would be rather a difficult matter to employ onlywords of one syllable unless we changed the English language. I resent the suggestion of Senator Millen that members of the party to which I belong are anxious to delay the passing of this Bill until the High Court has entered upon the Christmas vacation. I would not be a party to any move of that kind.
– The honorable member is helping the Bill.
– I rise to a point of order. It has been suggested more than once by way of interjection that Senator Needham is simply talking in order to delay the passing of this Bill. I ask you Mr. Chairman, to take notice of this charge, which has been made rather too frequently.
– I said that the honorable senator was helping the Bill. I withdraw the remark.
– All interjections are disorderly, -but an interjection that a senator’s speech was delaying the Bill is not a reflection on the senator speaking, since every speech necessarily causes delay, though not improperly.
– The imputation is that I am unnecessarily delaying the passing of this Bill. I might ask honorable senators who have interjected so frequently what is the reason for their evident haste in’ passing this Bill? I am not so uncharitable as to say that they are anxious to get it passed so that the case may be at once referred to the High Court and dealt with.
– Is not that a laudable aspiration?
– It is, but when honorable senators suggest that my motive in speaking is to prevent the early termination of this dispute, I think I am justified in showing that the boot is ori the other foot. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will explain . what will be the effect of this sub-clause.
– I think that the best explanation that I can give is to moye that we report progress.
– I do not wish it to be inferred that I desire to cease speaking merely because there is a certain festivity going on, but in view of the fact that the Vice-President is anxious that progress should be reported I shall continue my remarks on a subsequent occasion.
-If the honorable senator desires any explanation I shall be. prepared to give it, but I certainlv should like the amendment to be passed this afternoon.
– We wish to have an opportunity to consider it.
– Then I think that we had better report progress.
Disputed Ejections and Qualifications Bill - Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act: Collection of Excise - Prayers in Parliament.
Motion (by Senator Best) proposed-
That the Senate do. now adjourn.
.- Since almost every honorable senator desires that the Bill with which we have just been dealing shall be disposed of at the earliest moment, I wish to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether its further consideration in Committee will be made the first order of the day for Wednesday next, and the Bill passed through its remaining stages without interruption ?
– In view of the decision given this morning by Mr. Justice Higgins, declining to give a certificate of exemption to Mr. McKay, I wish to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council whether the Government have yet taken steps to collect Excise on implements made this year by that firm, and, if so, what amount has yet been collected?
.- the outset of our proceedings this morning Senator McGregor very properly referred to some remarks reported in the daily press as having been made last night by an honorable member of another place. I am glad that he did so. I rose to put the facts before the Senate, but was ruled out of order, and did not hear your courteous reminder, Mr. President, that I might obtain the leave of the Senate to proceed.
– The honorable senator had better consult the author of the statement before he makes an explanation, because he has made a bad job worse.
– I heardwhat was said at the meeting in question, and am making this explanation to protect, not the gentleman who made the remarks in question, but the character of this Parliament. I have never yet, either as a ‘senator or as a member of another place, known the reading of prayers in either House to be received except with a reverence and solemnity equal to that which prevails in any church. The honorable member, in. referring to the matter, did not intend to convey anything to the Contrary. What he said was this-
– If he is so stupid that he cannot clearly express his thoughts he is not fit to be a member of Parliament.
– He is not here. At the meeting in question he said that he was a new member of the Federal Parliament, and that on entering the House of Representatives for the first time he was struck by a few things, some of which pleased him more than others. A fact which caused him much satisfaction was that the blessing of Divine Providence was asked on the proceedings of each day. At the commencement of the sitting there was an invocation, followed by the Lord’s Prayer. Some might sneer at that, and not regard it. in a reverent way,’ but he thought it was very proper that the proceedings of a Parliament such as this ought to begin in that manner. That waspractically the statement made by the honorable member. I have given it almost word for word.
– The poor reporter again!
– I make this statement to defend, not the honorable member in question, but the Chamber, and to contradict the statement published that the opening proceedings in either House of this Parliament are ever marked by any display of irreverence.
– The first business taken on’ Wednesday next will be the Supply’Bill, which of course is urgent. The second business taken will be the Disputed Elections and Qualifications Bill ; and the Quarantine Bill will be third on the list.
– And the Navigation Bill will be taken - when?
– It will be fourth on the list.
– Does not the honorable senator think the Bill to which I have referred is of more importance even than the Supply Bill?
– I have given the order in which the business will be taken. With respect to the inquiry by Senator Millen, I am unable to say whether the full amount of the Excise payable under the circumstances to which he has referred is in the coffers of the Treasury at the present moment.
Question resolved in the affrmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 November 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1907/19071108_senate_3_41/>.