3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council, without notice, whether he has read in the press a statement purporting to have been made by Sir William Lyne, as follows.
I am not going to be satisfied with a Tariff like that. There are some items which 1 will raise the issue on again. It is absolute nonsense to call it a protectionist Tariff, especially in regard to some of the items that came back from the Senate, and, if so, whether it represents the views of the Ministry?
– I have seen the paragraph referred to, and it represents the views of my honorable colleague.
– I should like to point out that that is not an answer to my question.
– That is the only answer which I can give.
– The Minister can, of course, decline to give an answer to my question, which was, not whether the statement represents the views of Sir William Lyne, but whether it represents the views of the Ministry.
– It represents the views of my honorable colleague.
– Only ?
– That is the only answer which I can give.
– Arising out of that reply, I beg to ask the Minister whether it is true, as reported in the newspapers, that two Bills relating to the Tariff are to be placed before Parliament this session ?
– It is quite true.
– I beg to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether, in calling for tenders for establishing communication by wireless telegraphy with King Island, he will give time for companies which have already spent some money on experiments - the Marconi Company, for instance - to tender for the service?
– Possibly the company to which the honorable senator has referred will have a better opportunity than any other of tendering, inasmuch as it is better acquainted with the local conditions. I discussed this matter with my honorable colleague some time ago, and, although I suggested that a survey might be made of a route via King Island, for the purpose of establishing cable communication alternatively between Tasmania directly and Melbourne, and between Tasmania . via King Island and Melbourne, perhaps the initial cost, as well as the annual cost for maintenance and upkeep, would be disproportionate to the money value of the’ service to be rendered. In tbese circumstances, and after some consultation with my honorable colleague and the Chief Electrical Engineer, it has been decided to call at once for -tenders for the establishment of a system of wireless telegraphy, notonly between King Island and Tasmania, but also between the islands in the eastern portion of Bass Strait and Tasmania, and every opportunity will be given to the different competing companies to tender.
– In connexion with that matter may I ask the Minister whether a decision has been arrived at with regard to the laying of the Tasmanian cable by a direct route or via King Island ?
– In the present circumstances it is not thought desirable to arrive at a definite decision until the cost of establishing the communication by wireless telegraphy is ascertained. In any circumstances’ direct cable communication between the two States will be established. But the question of an alternative linevia King Island is not definitely decided.
– That is what I want to know.
– That is only an alternative and a second scheme. The” proposal was to have a direct line and also a second cable running via King Island, but the question of the second cable is not definitely decided pending the result of the calling for tenders for installing a system of wireless telegraphy.
-Could not the necessary cablecommunication; be established via King Island?
– I suggested that to the Postmaster-General some twelve months ago ; but the estimated initial cost, to which must be superadded the annual cost of maintenance and up-keep, seems disproportionate to the advantages which would be gained, and it is because of that that the question of adopting wireless telegraphy is now under consideration, and tenders are being asked for.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What progress has been made with the establishment of a telephone exchange at Nanango, Queensland, for which the necessary subscribers were forthcoming about eighteen months ago?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
The Acting Deputy Postmaster-General’, Brisbane; reports that the necessary undertakings having now been received from intending subscribers, action baa been taken in the direction of calling for tenders for the requisite poles, and that the matter will be expedited as much as possible.
– Arising out of the Minister’s answer, I draw attention to the fact that I did not ask him whether the Department was erecting telegraph lines, But whether an exchange was being established. There are already telephone and telegraph lines in existence, but an exchange has been asked for.
– The reply which I gave to the honorable senator stated that action has already been taken with regard to the requisite poles ; which seems to me to evidence that some poles were necessary for the establishment of the telephone exchange. But if the honorable senator will give notice of another question, I shall be pleased to obtain further information from the Department. The reply was based upon the report of the Acting Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Brisbane.
-I regret to hear of the complaints brought under notice by my honorable friend. The replies to his questions are -
– Arising out of the Minister’s answer, I should like to ask him whether the Commonwealth acknowledges any responsibility with regard to the inadequacy of railway or shipping communication as affecting particular States ; and, if so, do they accept the same responsibility with regard to all the States?
– I do not think that the honorable senator’s question arises out of the Minister’s replies to Senator de Largie’s questions.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow -
Herald 6s. per inch. 3 and 4. Sydney - Advertisement appeared in
Sydney Morning Herald of 16th May, and Daily Telegraph of 23rd idem. Cost of each insertion in newspapers mentioned is 6s. per inch.
Brisbane - Advertisement appeared in Courier of 16th May, in Daily Mail of 23rd May, and in Telegraph of 30th May. Courier and Daily Mail charge 5s. one inch and 3s. each succeeding inch. Telegraph charges 4s. first inch and 2s. each succeeding inch.
At the time the questions were asked no advertisements had yet appeared in the newspapers of Adelaide, Perth, and Hobart. The rates chargeable in those cities are as follow -
Adelaide. - Advertiser and Register,6s. per inch single column, or 12s. per inch double column in each case.
Perth. - West Australian and Morning
Herald, 6s. per inch in each case.
Hobart. - Mercury, 5s. per inch ; Tasmanian
News, evening paper, 3s. per inch. 5.£219s. 4d. The weekly advertisements in the papers do not take the place of anything but the monthly Supplementary Lists hitherto publishedin the majority of the States. The advertisements were estimated to cost less than the printing and issuing of the Supplementary Lists.
Instructions have been issued to the Deputy Postmasters-General in the several States to discontinue advertising the additions and alterations in newspapers and to revert to the system of issuing monthly Supplementary Lists.
– Has any estimate been made as to the cost that this new method will involve?
– It is£21 per week in one State.
– Is there any authority under any Act of Parliament for the Postmaster-General to advertise additions, alterations, and fresh connexions in relation to the telephone service? If not, why has this new course been followed ?
– The only reason for doing anything of the kind is that practically the telephone directory cannot be issued more frequently than annually or biennially. In the intervals a great number of connexions are discontinued, and alterations and additions are made. In order that all subscribers may know what new subscribers have become connected with the exchanges it is desirable that the additions should be published early. Hitherto that has been done by issuing supplementary monthly lists. It was considered, however, that it might be better to advertise the additions in the daily newspapers. The result has not been satisfactory, and it is intended to revert to the old system.
Motion (by Senator Needham) agreed to-
That a return be placed on the table of the Senate showing -
Bill presented by Senator Best, and read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That so much of. the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Parliamentary Papers Bill being at once considered, and all consequent action taken.
I have no intention of proceeding with the Bill to-day, but propose to make the motion for the second reading an order of the day for to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Repre sentatives.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Surplus Revenue Bill being at once considered, and all consequent action taken.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
In doing so, I would remind honorable senators that the financial provisions of the Constitution deal practically with three periods. The first covers the time anterior to the imposition of uniform duties which were imposed by the Tariff introduced in the Federal Parliament on 8th October, 1901; the second is the transition period immediately succeeding the imposition of duties under the Customs and Excise Tariff, and the third period that referred to in sections 93 and 94 of the Constitution, which provide for determining the basis on which the revenue shall be divided. First of all, let me remind honorable senators that section 89 of the Constitution provides that -
Until the imposition of uniform duties of Customs - (i.) The Commonwealth shall credit to each State the revenues collected therein by the Commonwealth. (ii.) The Commonwealth shall debit to each State-
the expenditure therein of the Commonwealth incurred solely for the maintenance or continuance, as at the time of transfer, of any Department transferred to the State from the Commonwealth ;
the proportion of the State, according to the number of its. people, in the other expenditure of. the Commonwealth., (iii.) The Commonwealth shall pay to each State month by month the balance (if any) in favour of the States.
Section 93, dealing with the second or transition period to which I have referred, provides that -
During the first five years after the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides - (i.) The duties of Customs chargeable on goods imported into a State and afterwards passing into another State shall be collected and credited, having regard to the consumption of the dutiable goods within the several States. Then sub-section (ii.) of the section reads -
Subject to the last sub-section, the Commonwealth shall credit revenue, debit expenditure, and pay balances to the several States, as prescribed for the period preceding the impositionof uniform duties of Customs.
So that by that sub-section, and subiect to the interpretation provided for in subsection (i.), the provisions of section 89 are. therein incorporated.Then we come to section 94, which provides that -
After five years from the imposition of uniform duties of Customs-, the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
So soon, therefore, as the Parliament exercises the powers conferred by sections 93. and 94, the third period to which I have referred will commence. Of course, covering the three periods mentioned, and so long as what is known as the Braddon section operates, the other sections I have quoted are governed by that section. The Braddon section provides that -
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth, and thereafter, until the Parliament otherwise provides, of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure. The balance shall, in accordance with this Constitution, be paid to the several States, or applied towards the payment of interest on debts of the several States taken over by the Commonwealth.
So that, during this period of ten years, after the establishment of the Commonwealth, and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, section 87, the Braddon section, which I have just quoted, governs the other financial sections of the Constitution to which I have referred. It is of the greatest importance, in the consideration of this matter, to discover the meaning of the phrase ‘ ‘ expenditure of the Commonwealth.” The phrase appears in paragraph d, of sub-section (ii.), of section 89, and in sub-section (ii.) of section 93, it is provided that the Commonwealth shall credit revenue, debit expenditure, and pay balances. It has been contended that the strict technical meaning of the word “ expenditure “ must be accepted, and that, as used in these Sections of the Constitution, it means moneys spent, or moneys used, in payment of debts for or on behalf of the Commonwealth.
– Moneys expended.
– Moneys spent. I am aware that that is the contention of those who oppose this Bill. But I venture to say that if such a contention were sound and valid, it . would, to a most serious extent, curtail the national objects of Federation.
– Or throw upon the Government the obligation of amending the Constitution.
– It would, to an alarming extent, curtail the national objects of Federation, and shackle Federal development to an extent that was never contemplated in the framing of the Constitution, and to an extent that cannot be justified by the spirit of. the Constitution. Under section 51 of the Constitution, there are given to the Commonwealth certain broad and comprehensive powers and jurisdiction, and the onus is thrown upon the Commonwealth of developing all those great services which are committed to the Parliament as trustees on its behalf. It is contended by those who are opposing this measure, not only that the word “expenditure” has the limited meaning that I have referred to, but that it is the bounden legal duty of the Commonwealth to hand over month by month the actual balances within the Commonwealth Treasury. The extraordinary feature about it is that those who are so insistent on that view have the full knowledge that such a thing is im practicable, and was never contemplated by the Constitution. The Constitution is and was intended to be a working machine, and to place upon it a clog of impracticable responsibility was never in the contemplation of its authors. We are bound to read the Constitution broadly, and to interpret its spirit so far as we can consistently with its words. To show how impracticable such a view as I have described would be - and in this I am only repeating what has been acknowledged by all the responsible statesmen who have been charged with the administration of the financial provisions of the Constitution since the inception of the Commonwealth - it is the duty of the Treasurer. to provide the various Departments with large sums of money for their actual working. To empty the coffers of the Treasury every month would mean that every Customs-house, every post-office, every branch of. the Home Affairs Department, would have’ to adjust its accounts on the last day of the month, and return its balance to the Treasury for transmission to the States. Such a thing could not possibly be done. Moreover, if such a contention is sound, we have gone sadly astray in entering into such obligations as the naval agreement and the various mail contracts. According to the views of the other side - of those who uphold that contention-the Commonwealth had actually no power to enter into such arrangements.
– Supposing the honorable senator waits to hear what the views on this side are?
– I have heard them. It is not necessary that we should wait.
– They have changed.
– It is possible. Take the naval agreement, for instance. The payments are to be made annually, according to its terms, and the view that has been urged is that the Treasurer has no power to put aside various sums from time to time to meet the obligations under it, but must rely simply upon the particular month in which the payment happens to fall due.
– Whose contention is that?
– The contention of the opponents of the Bill.
– Name the persons.
SenatorBEST. - Of course, if honorable senators opposite desire to run away from the original intentions of the opponents of the Bill, I congratulate them on their enlightenment, and on the broader construction which they are now able to place upon the Constitution.
– If the honorable senator were in as difficult a position he would run away too.
– Perhaps they cannot be blamed in the circumstances. If the . Treasury were to be emptied every month in the way suggested, and the moneys paid over to the several States, as has also been hysterically urged, . the financing of Commonwealth affairs would be practically impossible.
– The leader of the Opposition never had a silly opinion like that, as I know.
– Was not that the contention of a former Treasurer, Sir George Turner?
– Certainly not. I will show what Sir George Turner’s views on the subject were by his action. What I have urged in regard to the naval agreement can be urged in regard to mail contracts and a number of other things. Money must be set aside to meet accruing claims. According to the actual wording of section 87 of the Constitution, not more than one-fourth of the net “ Customs and Excise revenue can be “ applied “ - meaning, I contend, appropriated - annually by the Commonwealth. That means that the adjustments as between the Commonwealth and the States must take place annually, and not monthly, as has been suggested. I- will go further, and say that the Treasurer, in terms of the Constitution, is justified in holding over such moneys as. he may think proper to meet all contractual liabilities.
– Then where is the necessity for the Bill?
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity of learning before I have finished. That that is the real and true construction of the financial provisions is borne out by section 105 of the Constitution, which provides that -
The Parliament may take over from the States their public debts as existing at the establishment of the Commonwealth, or a proportion thereof, according to the respective numbers of their people as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, and may convert, renew, or consolidate such debts or any part thereof, and the States shall indemnify the Commonwealth in respect of the debts taken over-
I draw attention to the words that follow - and thereafter the interest payable in respect of the debts shall be deducted and retained from the portion of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth payable to the several States.
As a matter of fact, interest is not payable until it is actually due’; but does any one seriously contend that if the debts had been taken over the Treasurer would not be justified in accumulating trie necessary funds month ‘ by month in order to meet this liability, irrespective of whether it wasdue within the year or not? He would be justified in terms of that section in holding over moneys from one year to another for the purpose of meeting all contractual liabilities. The real object was to make sure that’ the States would get any moneys which were not required for Commonwealth purposes-. I contend that “expenditure” includes making provision for all incurred obligations. There are three phases which we may examine. First of all, expenditure necessarily means money which has already been paid for] and on behalf of, Commonwealth purposes. Next, . 1 venture to say. that it is clear from the terms of the Constitution that expenditure includes the due provision or the accumulation of funds for the purpose of meeting all contractual obligations.
– Does the honorable senator want the money ^ fifteen monthsahead ?
– Certainly, some money is wanted much more than fifteen months ahead. The third phase is as to the power of the Commonwealth to appropriate or set aside moneys for other purposes than where it has entered into actual contractsor ordinary contractual obligations. It is possible that there is a doubt in connexion with that phase, and it is with the view of removing the doubt and in terms of the Constitution that the passing of this Bill becomes necessary. Its object, of course, is to enable the Treasurer to set aside for future Commonwealth purposes between’ the present time and the ist January, 191 r, various moneys out of our one-fourth share of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– Whether those Commonwealth purposes have been approved by this Parliament or not?
– They will be approved of bv Parliament.
– Ah! the cat is out of the bag now.
– If any doubt is felt onthat subject, and as to our power to appropriate for those purposes, and if the Constitution Act contains, as I contend it does, the necessary power to legislate, and thus .avoid any question, it is clearly our duty to do- so. I want to draw attention again to the contemplated legislative power of the Commonwealth as set out in sections 93 and 94 of the Constitution. Section 93 opens with these words -
During the first five years after the imposition of uniform duties of Customs and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides. lc goes on to provide how the Customs and Excise revenue is to be distributed, but I would emphasize the words “until the Parliament otherwise provides.” Section 94 reads -
After five years from the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
– That contemplates surplus revenue.
– It contemplates that there may be surplus revenue. In conjunction with that, of course, there is the legislative power contained in paragraph xxxix. of section 51 with respect to -
Matters incidental to the execution of any power vested by this Constitution in the Parliament or in either House thereof, or in the Government of the Commonwealth, or in the Federal Judicature, or in any Department or officer of the Commonwealth.
Having mentioned the fact that we have the power to provide after the period of five years, which has expired, I would point out that under section 94 “Parliament may provide on such basis as it deems fair.” The meaning of that is that the sole discretion as to what is fair is left to Parliament. In Quick and Garran, on page 864, and under the head of “On such oasis as it deems fair,” the following comments occur-
The words as originally proposed by the Finance Committee were “ on such basis as shall be fair.”
– Is he the same Quick as has. denounced this Bill as unconstitutional ?
– Yes, I believe so.
– Sir John Quick says that the honorable senator’s interpretation is wrong.
– He says nothing of the kind in this book.
– He has said so elsewhere.
– He has not said so in his calmer moments. The passage reads -
The words as originally proposed by the Finance Committee were “ on such basis as shall be fair “ ; but these words were altered to prevent any possibility of its being contended that any assumed unfairness might be made the sub ject of an appeal to the High Court, thereby making that tribunal the arbiter of a purely political matter. The Parliament is therefore laid under a solemn constitutional obligation to provide a “ fair “ basis, but it is made the sole judge of what is fair.. The command is addressed to the conscience of the Parliament and of the people; and such .a command, embodied in the Constitution, is not likely to be disregarded.
The first point I put is that Parliament has an uncontrolled discretion as to the fair division of the moneys received from the collection of Customs and Excise duties. I want it to be noted that so far as the third period is concerned - that is the period after the exercise of the legislative power contained in section 94 by the passage of this Bill, as I might suggest- the surplus revenue is to be returned to the States. Let honorable senators mark the position. During the first and second periods the Commonwealth Treasurer has to credit revenue, debit expenditure, and pay balances to the States ; but during the third period he has to pay over “ surplus rerevenue,” which has another meaning altogether. It means that all revenues that are not used or required for Federal pur-‘ poses are to be paid over to the States.
– But that section refers to the basis of the payment - that is per head of the population or otherwise.
– It is for Parliament to decide as to what bookkeeping shall take place, and as to the manner of getting at any surplus revenue.
– :The honorable senator is misreading section 94, which deals with how it is to be allocated amongst the States - whether it is to be per head of population, or according to actual receipts.
– Parliament has an uncontrolled discretion as to what is a fair basis for the monthly payment of all surplus revenue to the States, and I ask honorable senators to try to ascertain what is the meaning of the phrase “ surplus revenue.”
– That refers to the whole surplus.
– No; it means the surplus that remains after the Commonwealth requirements have been satisfied. According to Webster, “ surplus “ means -
Specifically, an amount in the public Treasury at any time greater than is required for the ordinary purposes of the Government -
More than sufficient ; as surplus revenues.
The Century Dictionary defines “ surplus “ as -
Excess beyond what is prescribed or wanted ; overplus.
Wharton’s Law. Lexicon contains this definition -
An overplus, what remains when everything is satisfied.
In The Oxford Dictionary, “overplus” is defined as -
That which is over in addition to the main amount, or to what is allotted or needed ; an additional or extra quantity ; an amount left over ; a surplus.
Webster says that “ overplus “ means -
That which remains after a supply or beyond a quantity proposed ; surplus.
If party feeling should warp our judgment as to the colloquial meaning of “ surplus,” here is a recognised authority which says that it means an overplus.
– Every one knows that.
– It means something over and above requirements. Consequently, I contend that section 94 of the Constitution clearly means that after all Commonwealth requirements have been satisfied, a surplus arises, and is payable to the States.
– Not including the requirements of another year.
– The requirements of the Commonwealth, no matter what period they may extend over. The objects of the Bill are to authorize the Treasurer to pay into a trust account moneys required for Commonwealth purposes which have been appropriated by Parliament. This principle has already been established.
– Yes, but with regard to only authorized expenditure.
– In regard to the establishment of certain trust funds.
– That is very different from anticipated authorization:
– Since the beginning of our existence as a Federation, it has been recognised in practice that the establishment of trust funds was necessary for the purpose of practically carrying on the financial affairs of the Commonwealth. For instance, it is provided in section 62A of the Audit Act, as amended in 1906 -
Trust Accounts and define the purposes for which they are established.
The following moneys may be paid to the credit of the Trust Account to which they relate : -
Money standing to the credit of a Trust Account may be expended for the purposes of the account. ‘
So that the main principle for which we are now contending has already been conceded by Parliament itself, in the terms of the Audit Act to which I have referred. It is not merely in reference to that measure that the same thinghas been done. In the yearly Budget papers which are presented to honorable senators is contained a list and statement of the receipts and expenditure of the trust funds for the year ending 30th June, for whatever year those particulars may be required. If we turn to the particulars for the year ending 30th June, 1907, we see there a number of trust accounts occupying something like two and a half pages. By way of illustration I will take one account - the small arms ammunition account. There we are informed of a balance brought forward from the 30th June, 1906 ; then of the receipts and expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1907 ; after which there is shown the balance carried forward to 1st July, 1907. This particular trust account is voted by parliamentary appropriation. In the Estimates that were placed before honorable senators and subsequently adopted, there is a sum of , £5,028 specially appropriated in this way - “ small arms ammunition to be paid into the trust fund small arms ammunition account.” So that Parliament year by year has voted funds for this particular account and other accounts ; recognising, therefore, the principle of a trust account which is embodied in the present measure. As I have pointed out, this is done in terms of the power of appropriation contained in the Constitution. Section 81 provides that -
All revenues or moneys raised or received by the’ Executive Government of the Commonwealth shall form one Consolidated Revenue
Fund, to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject to the charges and liabilities imposed by the Constitution.
When we read that section in conjunction with section 87, we find that - not more than one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure. “ Applied “ in that section I venture to submit and “ appropriated “ in section 81 practically mean the same.
– Why was not the same word used in both sections?
– Because “ applied “ is equally as good a word as “ appropriated “ ; and “ applied,” moreover, is the usual word adopted in Appropriation Acts. Clause 4 of the measure before us adopts all the principles and practically the language of the bookkeeping section of the Constitution, with a very important distinction. The language of the section is adopted in clause 4 of the Bill down as far as sub-clause 3 ; and then in certain subsequent portions of the clause the words of the Constitution are adopted again. But the departure which “takes place is in sub-clause 3, which says -
The Commonwealth shall in each month ascertain the balance of revenue over expenditure, and shall pay that balance to the State as surplus revenue - adopting the wording of section 94 in the use of the term “ surplus revenue.” It is as “surplus revenue” that the money is to be applied. The Bill also provides for what is know as “ new revenue.” “ Revenue” as we have recognised it, and as it is still maintained by the Bill, is the revenue received from Customs and Excise and from the Post Office together with some small amounts from defence. But there is also what is known as “ new revenue,” and that new revenue finds legislative provision rfor the first time in this measure. It means revenue earned, on account of which expenditure, if there is expenditure, is charged on a population basis ; and it includes such things as the proceeds from forms and electoral rolls and other printed matter issued from the Government Printing Office. I can. give honorable senators a list of instances of what “new revenue” means. But the feature of it is that it is revenue that has been earned on a population basis,- that is to say, by means of an expenditure which is incurred on a population basis. This “new revenue” includes : Sales of certain property and material, if on hand at date of transfer to the Commonwealth or purchased . out of a vote debited on population basis, if not replaced by means of a vote for transferred expenditure ; Crown Solicitor’s profit costs ; forfeited election deposits ; fees under Public Service’ Act ; fees under Patents Act; fees under Immigration Restriction Act; fees under Arbitration Act; fees under Copyright,- &c, Act; fees under Trade Marks Act;” fees under Commerce Act ; High Court fees ; repayments of ‘ other ‘ ‘ expenditure of previous years ; increases of members of Parliament not accepted; sale of Gazettes ‘and electoral rolls ; forfeited deposits on contracts ‘ for new works ; interest on loans to market in London ; part cost of erection of telegraph and telephone lines ; rebates made by shipping companies in respect of freight from Great Britain. Those are the chief instances of the “ new revenue “ referred to in the Bill.
– Does the honorable senator know the amount of the rebates ?
– It is not very . much. But what it means is the rebates in connexion with Commonwealth supplies.
– Is the penal bond, when collected from Sir Jamesi Laing and Sons, to go into “ new revenue “ ?
– When the money arrives we shall consider that point. The main feature of the Bill - the kernel of it - to be perfectly frank with honorable senators, is, as they will have noticed, contained in subclause 3 of clause 4, which provides that the Commonwealth shall in each month ascertain the balance of revenue over expenditure,and shall pay that balance to the State as surplus revenue. In sub-clause 4, paragraph d, of the same clause it is provided that -
All payments to Trust Accounts established under the Audit Acts 1901-1906 of moneys appropriated by law for any purpose of the Commonwealth shall be deemed to be expenditure.
In other words, this Bill seeks to define what “ expenditure “ shall mean.
– Would not the honorable senator include clause 5 also as being important ?
– It is ari important clause which has regard to the payments into trust accounts. It is a machinery provision, and is to the effect that -
Where any Trust Account has been established under the Audit Acts 1901-1906, and moneys have been appropriated by the . Parliament for the purposes qf the Trust Account, or for any purpose for which the Trust Account is established -
notwithstanding anything in the Audit Acts 1901-1906, the appropriation shall not lapse nor be deemed to have lapsed at the close of the financial year for the service of which it was made ; and
theTreasurer may in any year (subject to section eighty-seven of the Constitution) pay to the credit of the Trust Account, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, such moneys as the Governor-General thinks necessary for the purposes of the appropriation.
The feature upon which I desire to offer a few words of comment is that contained in the definition of “expenditure” of the Commonwealth.
– Does it not really mean that the Commonwealth is going to hold on to the one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue, whether it spends the money or not?
– The Bill gives the Commonwealth a very necessary power. Honorable senators have a right, of course, to ask for some explanation as to the actual financial aspect of the matter, and I desire to give them the information that is available. The probable revenue from Customs and Excise in the month of June will be £1,000,000, and from the Post and Telegraph Department £300,000. That is to say, for this month the total revenue is anticipated to be £1,300,000. The probable expenditure, including the £250,000 for naval defence, for which there will be a special appropriation, is £1,078,000 ; leaving a balance available for old-age pensions of £222,000. Of course, if the Old-age. Pensions Bill were not passed, and if the £250,000 for ‘naval defence were spent in the usually recognised way, say, by the Treasurer making remittances to London,” there would be available to the States this £222,000, which would be paid over in June.
– But old-age pensions should come first.
– It is immaterial whether that matter comes first or last if we get the revenue for the purpose. The Customs and Excise revenue for the past eleven months was £10,773,813, less cost of collection, £250,000, leaving a net amount of £10,523,813. One-fourth of that sum is £2,630,953. The balance of three-fourths, amounts to £7,892,860. There has actually been paid to the States during the past eleven months an amount of approximately . £8,885,151. In other words, the
States have been overpaid to the extent of
– What does the Minister mean by,” overpaid “ ?
– What I have said.
– Not one farthing has been overpaid. It is their own money.
– Has not the Minister made an error as to the excess amount paid?
– No, the amount overpaid to the States is£992,291. As I have said, for the month of June, the revenue estimated from Customs and Excise is £1,000,000, and the estimated! expense of collection is £25,000. So that from Customs and Excise we expect to receive in June £9 75, 000 net. Onefourth of that’ is £243,750, and the estimated three-fourths comes to £731,251. I have already explained that there has been overpaid to the States the sum of
– Why use the word “ overpaid,” when the honorable senator knows that what has been done has been merely to follow the direction of the Constitution ?
– My honorable friend must be aware that it was well within the power and competence of this Parliament to spend every shilling of that money.
– When Parliamentdid not authorize its expenditure the Government were bound under the terms of the Constitution to pay it over to the States.
– It was within our power and competence to spend and apply the whole of the £992,291.
– But when Parliament did not apply it it did not belong to the Commonwealth, but to the States.
– We have generously refrained from spending that money, and have instead paid it over to the States.
– The Government were not authorized to spend it.
– If Parliament had chosen to authorize the expenditure of the whole of that money it might have done so.
– The Government might have asked Parliament to do so, but it did not.
– I should like to be quite clear as to certain of the figures quoted.. Are we to understand that the amounts paid over as surpluses for the eleven months come to £992,291, and that if the Bill becomes law the surplus revenue received by the States for the year will be only. £261,000?
– The honorable senator is quite right’. Deducting from the amount of ,£992,291 the estimated threefourths of the revenue from ‘Customs and Excise for June, it is shown that by the end of the year the States will have received over and above their share of three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, a sum amounting to £261,291.
– Then the Governmentpropose to hold back nearly ,£75.0,000 this month ?
– Not at. all. If the Commonwealth retains the whole of the balances from the June revenue the States will have- been paid ,£261,291 more than the minimum payment to the States which the Constitution requires. I am aware that’ questions have been raised as to the legality and propriety of. keeping back the whole of the June receipts. The answer to the objection taken is that we have the power to do what is proposed according to the terms of section 87. As honorable senators . are aware that section provides that-
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the . Parliament otherwise provides, of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from duties of Customs and of Excise not more than onefourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.
And the practice from the beginning of the Commonwealth to the present time has been to make the necessary adjustments in the month of June. . As a matter of fact, in the earliest years of the Commonwealth, namely, in June, 1902, Sir George Turner, a strict constitutionalist’, paid the States less than their three-fourths share of the Customs and Excise revenue for that year by the sum of ,£76,845. Then in June, 1906, , Sir John Forrest, another constitutionalist, paid the States less than their three-fourths share by the sum of £42,133. In 1907 Sir John Forrest again paid the States less than their threefourths share by the sum of ,£108,629. So that honorable senators will be aware that the constant practice has been to make these adjustments annually.
– Does the honorable senator call taking the whole of the surpluses an adjustment?
– It is a mere chance circumstance that the making of the necessary adjustments for this year will not permit of the States receiving for the month of June what probably they expected to receive.
– They will receive nothing.
– They will receive three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue for the year.
– Senator Macfarlane will permit me to say that the States have been remarkably fortunate not only in having received the sum of ,£5,700,000 already which the Commonwealth might’ have applied to Commonwealth purposes, but in the fact that for the present year they will actually receive the sum of £261,291 more than the share of the Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled under the Constitution.
– How much have the States spent in the meantime in carrying out services which should have been taken over by the Commonwealth, and were not ?
– Has the VicePresident of the Executive Council taken into account the Excise revenue ?
– Yes; it is, as I have said, anticipated that the revenue for June from Customs and Excise will amount to £1,000,000.
– Do the Government intend to pay any portion of that revenue to the States?
– I have already explained very fully that it is contemplated that Parliament will appropriate a sum of £250,000 towards naval defence purposes, and a balance amounting to about £222,000 towards the payment of old-age pensions, and that, notwithstanding this, the State’s, at the close of this year, will have received .£261,291 more than .their three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue.
– Why does not the honorable senator answer a straightforward question? Is it intended to pay any money at all to the States out of this month’s receipts?
– Certainly not, if Parliament appropriates the money in the way I have already explained. In ‘ the circumstances, I venture to say that the Surplus Revenue Bill now before honorable senators is within the strict terms of the Constitution, and within the scope of the powers intrusted to this Parliament as set forth in section 51. I am sure that the purposes to which I have indicated that it is the intention of the Government, with the consensent of Parliament, on the passage of the necessary measures, to apply any surplus for the month of June, are such as; will commend themselves to the Senate as being in furtherance of national objects.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council expressed himself most confidently as to the views and intentions of honorable senators on this side. In fact, the honorable senator proceeded to demolish a number of arguments which he attributed to honorable senators who sit on the left of the President.
– No; to the opponents of the Bill.
– The honorable senator spoke also of those “on the other side,” and indicated honorable senators on this side of the Chamber.
– I referred to the opponents of the Bill.
– The honorable senator also indicated honorable senators on this side, and suggested that they were likely to “run away” from it. All I wish to say on that point is that it is a source of very great satisfaction to me to learn that I can at all times look to the VicePresident of the Executive Council for advice to what may be passing in the minds of my honorable friends on this side. That may save some of the time that is now necessarily consumed by meetings in which honorable senators frankly interchange their views. The Vice-President of the Executive Council also ventured to express a constitutional opinion regarding the very delicate points raised by the Bill now under review. He derived a great deal of comfort from the fact that, in his opinion, and in that of the Attorney-General, the legal adviser of the Government, the whole thing is abundantly clear. No doubt one should have some respect for the opinion of the Attorney-General, and also for that of the Vice-President of the Executive Council as a lawyer, but I may venture to say that I should be prepared to accept their opinions with greater confidence if we had not in this Chamber a standing object lesson in the presence of Senator Vardon that there are circumstances and times when even such high legal experts may lead us astray. It may be readily admitted that the constitutional question involved is one of extreme difficulty. For that reason, I do not propose to pursue it, but one remark was made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council in commenting on this aspect of the case to which I should like to refer. In dealing with section 94 the honorable senator laid great emphasis upon the provision that Parliament is to decide “ on such basis as it deems fair.” Hequoted Quick and Garran’s well-known work as showing what the powers of Parliament are in so determining, but the honorable senator altogether, missed the point. Parliament is to decide on such basis as it deems fair ‘ ‘ - for what? The Vice-President of the Executive Council stopped short there. Parliament is to decide “ on such basis as it deems fair “ not whether we shall pay back surpluses or not, but the method by which surpluses shall be payable to the States. I cannot imagine that the honorable senator overlooked the point, but certainly regarding it he was magnificently silent. Quick and Garran, in their work, have tried to show only what ample powers Parliament has in determining how surpluses are to be paid to the States. It may be per capita, in a lump sum to each State, or even, if Parliament deems it fair, by the payment of all to one State, and nothing to the others. Parliament is given ample power to determine the method by which something shall be done. What is that something? It is the payment to the several States of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth. The words that are of importance in the section are not those referring to the basis of the payment, but those which refer to the surplus revenue. On that point, the Vice-President of the Executive Council remained silent. As a layman, it would, perhaps, be presumptuous of me to pursue the constitutional argument; but still, in common with other laymen who are called upon to give a vote on this matter, I have necessarily given some attention to the subject. The most I can say is that I am left in very great doubt as to whether this Bill comes within the four corners of the Constitution. I can only hope that on this occasion the VicePresident of the Executive Council has been well advised, and that if the Bill becomes law the Commonwealth will not again have to appear before the law courts.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the wire netting case ?
– No, in that particular case it did not require a lawyer to say who was right, and who Was wrong.
– But it was a lawyer who was guilty of the offence.
– Two lawyers.
– Yes, and one of them was on the eve of an election. The next point to which I direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council is the fact that the Bill is absolutely misnamed. The honorable senator introduced it as a “ Bill for an Act relating to the payment to the several States of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.” If he had described it as a Bill to stop the payment to the several States of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth, he would have been more accurate in his description. He has indicated not only that it is not contemplated to make any payment to the States of surplus revenue for June, but, absolutely, to hold back a portion of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, secured to them’ by the Constitution, to cover an enforced repayment of amounts previously handed over to the States as surplus revenue.
– Not a portion of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue.
– Yes, of the threefourths of the revenue for June.
– But not for the whole year.
– Of the three-fourths of the revenue collectedfor this month, and which, under the Braddon section, is payable to the States.
– Each month?
– The balances are required to be paid monthly. I have said that I am not raising the constitutional question now, but I do wish the facts to be thoroughly understood. The Bill proposes that out of the Customs and Excise revenue to be. received in June, the Federal Treasurer shall retain the three-fourths, which every elector in the country, every State, and every Treasury official believed, until lately, belonged to the States.
– Apparently, they did not think so last year, or the year before.
– The honorable senator did not know that a different practice was in vogue.
– The States Treasurers knew.
– My honorable friend refers to the small adjustments as on the same level with this attemptto legalize the taking of the whole of the June revenue by the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable senator call £108,000 a small adjustment ?
– It is small compared with the three-quarters of a million which this Bill proposes to appropriate.
– It is only a question of amount; the principle is the same.
– An attempted adjustment is one thing, but there is no attempt at adjustment here. It is an attempt to take the lot.
– Where does the honorable senator get the three-quarters of a million ?
– I arrive at it in two ways, one of which checks the other. The Vice-President of the Executive Council says that the estimated revenue from Customs and Excise for June is £1,000,000. Three-quarters of that should go back to the States under the Braddon section.
– Does the honorable senator seriously contend that threequarters of a million should go back to the States for the month of June?
– The honorable senator estimated the revenue for that month at a million.
– Of course, but does the honorable senator contend that threequarters of it must go back to the States for that month, notwithstanding previous overpayments ?
– A million is the gross revenue. The cost of collection must be deducted to arrive at the net.
– The cost of collection is only about , £25,000, which is hardly worth bringing in. Call the revenue £1,000,000, less the cost of collection. Of that, under the old basis, and as contemplated by the Constitution, £750,000 was returnable to the States. That is the amount which they were expecting, and had a right to expect. This Bill proposes, rightly or wrongly - I am not dealing with the merits of the measure now, but wish, first, to make the position clear - that the £750,000 which the State Treasurers, at any rate, expected to come to them-
– They couldnot expect that for June. The amount, at most, would be £472,000..
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council says that the excess amount paid to the States so far has been £992,000, and that when this Bill is in operation, and the financial year wound up, the excess amount that they will have received will be £261,000. Deducting that, as the surplus which the States will have on the 30th of June, from the £992,000 which they hold to-day, leaves £731,000, which, by the operation of this Bill, it is intended to extract from the States.
– Notat all.
– And that amount exactly corresponds with the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue which is being collected this month.
– They have already been paid in excess, and the only two extra items open to question are the £250,000 and the £222,000.
Senatorde Largie. - According to Senator Millen’s argument, there is no means of adjusting that excess.
– Although the Constitution says it shall be adjusted annually !
– Honorable senators can, if they like, wrap themselves up in figures. I do not mind how much they confuse themselves, but one interjection has answered the other. Seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds out of the millionputting it in round figures - collected for June is, under the Braddon section, in the absence of any other factors, payable to the States. Now it is proposed, by reason of this Bill, that the States shall not be paid anything. The result is that the £750,000 which, in the absence of other factors, would have gone to the States, is to be kept in the Federal Treasury.
– As the result of this Bill - and of other factors.
– I will show that those factors will not seriously disturb that amount. The Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that £992,000 of surplus revenue has been paid to the States in the first eleven months of this financial year, but that when the twelve months are closed the surplus revenue paid to the States will be £261,000. That means that between the end of May and the end of this month the surplus which the States will have received will have dropped from £992,000 to£261,000, or a difference of £731,000.
– For the month?
– In the month. And that amount is the three-quarters of a million, less the cost of collection, to which I referred a little while ago.
– That is altogether wrong.
– Will the honorable senator show where? Will he answer two questions ?
– According to the Braddon section the adjustments have to be made annually, and the States have been paid too large a surplus during the eleven months.
– I asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council to give me the figures again ; he gave them, and I took them down.
– Does the honorable senator recognise that there are any such things as adjustments during the month of June ?
– The honorable senator is mistaking my point. I am not now trying to show that the Bill is good, bad, or indifferent: I want, first, to make the position absolutely clear. If he asks whether I believe that an adjustment is necessary, certainly I do; but it is one thing to adjust accounts, and quite another for one man to step in and “ collar “ the lot, and call that an adjustment.
– The honorable senator says, on the one hand, that threequarters of a million is lost to the States because of the Bill, while, on the other hand, he admits that a large sum is lost because of the adjustment. The honorable senator admits that the adjustment is necessary and proper.
– I say the adjustment is necessary and proper, but will the honorable senator show what becomes of the £731,000,which is the difference between the surplus revenue that the States held on the 31st of May, and the amount which the Vice-President of the Executive Council says that they will hold on the 30th of June?
– A portion of it represents excess payments already made to them.
– It does not matter how it is represented. I simply say that, during this month, it is proposed to take back from the States £731,000.
– Only £472,000 is due to this Bill.
– Where, then, comes the drop from £992,000, the amount which the States stood in credit on the 31st of May, to £261,000, which they are to be in credit on the 30th of June?
– From excess payments.
– Will the VicePresident of the Executive Council state what sum it is estimated will be handed over to the States at the end of the month if this Bill does not .pass?
– At most, if the Naval Appropriation Bill and the Old-age Pensions Bill are not passed, £472,000.
– How then can we have “ done them out of “ three-quarters of al million?
– I did not use the words “ done them out of.”
– The honorable senator used equivalent words.
– If I stand, on the 31st of May, possessed of £992,000, and art the end of June of £261,000 in some way or other I have lost three-quarters of a million of money
– You had an advance in the meantime.
– An overdraft.
– I do not care what it is called. The amount I have mentioned is borne out by the simple fact that it is approximately that proportion of the revenue of £1,000,000 to be collected this month which, under the Braddon section, should go to the States
– How can the honorable senator make three-quarters of a million out of £472,000?
– Of course I cannot. These interjections suggest to me that my honorable friends are a little ashamed of this Bill, because they are trying to minimize the extent of its operations. So far as the principle of the Bill is concerned, if I understand it, I have no objection to it, that principle being, as set out by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that, if we have heavy liabilities accruing some little time ahead, wel should, as reasonable business men, make provision for them: Let” me put this case : Assuming that we had a Federal public debt, and the interest fell due, say, in June and December, would any one suppose that the whole cost of meeting the interest on the national debt should be. chargeable only to those two months? It would be preposterous to suppose that we could carry on business in that way, and to that extent I quite recognise that the principle of . the Bill is commendable.
– That butters the mischief.
– I will show the mischief, and, because it is mischief, 1 have no doubt the honorable senator will support it. . It is perfectly true that under the Constitution power was given to us to determine by what method we would distribute the surplus after a, certain period, but the retrospective character of this Bill is something that the Constitution never contemplated. If the Government said to the States - :” It is perfectly true that it is two years since we became at liberty to re-adjust the financial arrangements, and we have allowed things to go on. To that extent, you ought to be thankful, much more thankful than you are, but we will begin the new arrangement now “ - that would be fair. When we do propose this new adjustment, we ought to date it from to-day, and not take from the States, without a moment’s notice, an amount which I say approximates three-quarters of a million, and which honorable senators opposite are content to say is only a little under halfamillion,.
– If this Bill is not passed, we cannot pay old-age pensions.
– It does seem a reflection upon everybody connected with the Parliament that we must always use oldage pensions as a medium by which to chloroform members when we want an objectionable Bill passed. When the high protectionists wanted more protection, they tacked it on to old-age pensions, and asked the Senate to sanction a Special Duties Bill some years ago. Let it be said, to the credit of the Senate, that it refused to do so.
– They were not protective duties, and they were not high, protectionists that wanted them. .
– The best way to answer the honorable senator is to. give him a flat contradiction. The men who supported that Bill were high protectionists. It was advocated in high-protection quarters.
– Some high protectionists voted against it.
– Some certainly did so - some who saw a little further than their fellows. They were equally ardent in their advocacy of old-age pensions, but they refused to be led on to a false track to obtain them. Here comes in another Bill, which is at least highly debatable, and, in order to insure its successful passage, old-age pensions are tacked on to it. Cannot old-age pensions stand by themselves? Has not the principle of old-age pensions enough friends iri this country to enable a Government honestly determined to carry it out to make an appeal to Parliament to provide the necessary funds?
– Old-age pensions have stood by themselves for six years.
– No; they have stood by the honorable senator and his colleagues. Before I sit down, I should like to refer to the position of the States as affected by this Bill. I have tried to make it clear that the Bill, if made applicable to future operations, is one that I should be prepared to support. My objection is only that it seeks to go back and recover from the States amounts paid to them under a basis which we approved by allowing it to continue. Beyond that, I can say that the States’ representatives are using language which is certainly not worthyof public men, and altogether beyond the requirements of the present case. I felt a little shocked in my own State to see language applied to the Federal Parliament and Federal Government in connexion with this measure which passes beyond the limits of fair comment. One would think that it was proposed by the Federal Parliament to retain this money for some personal purposes. I resent that suggestion, and, irrespective of any party ties or considerations, 1 feel that it is the duty of every honorable senator to resent any suggestion that this money is to be filched - that word has been used - or taken away from somebody to enrich somebody else. It is the money of the people of Australia, and, if taken away from those who handle it, it will still be handled, I hope, for their benefit. But, whilst I say that, I do not wish it to be understood for a moment that it has lessened my opposition to the retrospective character of the Bill. And, hinging upon that,’ may I point out that if we wish to have honest, clean, and open finance, the Bill stands absolutely condemned from the fact that there is really no honest surplus to distribute. One of the obligations of the Constitution certainly is that the Commonwealth shall pay, under a method not defined, for the transferred properties. We are in the dark as to their value, but, at the same time, we know that there is that obligation to meet. So -far as one can form a rough estimate, the amount which we would have to pay to the States as interest on those properties would be in the neighbourhood of from £350,000 to £400,000. Hitherto that question has been allowed to rest, for the simple reason that the States have done so handsomely out of the Commonwealth that they have been content to allow it to go on.
– That would be a mere bookkeeping process. We would pay the States, and they would be debited.
– That is perfectly true as regards the past; but the position to-day is different. It was all right so Jong as we were handing back a handsome surplus.
– In the future it will be a mere bookkeeping process.
– The Minister will see that it is not a mere bookkeeping process. If we hand back to the States their three-fourths share, and retain our onefourth share, we have to pay the interest on the transferred properties out of our own share. In the past we gave the States a surplus, which was a rough-and-ready way of saying : “We do not know what we owe to you ; but here is so much over and above what you are entitled to ; and, therefore, you have no cause of complaint.” But we have now reached, owing to the growing requirements of the Federation, the stage at which we have practically no surplus to hand back to them. . Let us, for the sake of argument, as the Bill proposes, wipe out the surplus revenue. Who is to pay the interest on the transferred properties? The Minister says that it is a mere bookkeeping matter, but I reply that it is not, because the Federation will have to pay the money. If we divide the revenue to a penny - one-fourth to the Federation and three-fourths to the States- the former will have to pay the interest out of its own share.
– Yes, and it will debit the States with the amount.
– It cannotdebit the States with it out of the three-fourths share. It can only be debited to the States on the assumption that there is a surplus revenue, and, therefore, there is so much less surplus to be returned. Assuming that £470,000. is involved in the Bill ; if we take from that sum, and pay to the States - call it surplus revenue or interest on properties, I do not care which - the amount which represents the interest that is to be paid on the loans out of which the properties were built, we shall have practically no surplus to dispose of. At all events, the amount will be reduced to about £100,000. Seeing that it is intended to pass to a trust fund the amount which ought honestly to be paid on account of the transferred properties, the Bill stands condemned as wanting in candour and frankness. I think, and I believe, that every one will agree, at any rate in the abstract, that it would have been very much better if, in dealing with this matter, it had also been possible to arrive at a complete financial adjustment with the States. ‘ If, instead of taking out this one little portion and dealing with it in a piecemeal fashion, it had been possible to have a thorough readjustment, to bring about an understanding as to what was to transpire at the expiration of the ten years’ period; if it had ‘ been possible, above all things, to achieve absolute divorce between Federal and State finance, I venture, to state that every one would have approved of such a course being taken. If that is the general opinion, I want to submit to honorable senators that, seeing that we are within eighteen months of the time when a readjustment of Federal and State finance - whether it is by agreement or not is immaterial to my argument - must take place, all that this Bill can do is to anticipate oldage pensions by twelve months.
– That is a lot.
– It is a lot to people who are starving.
– My honorable friend says that it is “a lot.” I admit at once that, other things being equal, I should be anxious to get the old-age pensions to-day rather than wait until next year.
– My honorable friend- finds- it hard to “kick against the pricks.”
– It would be desirable to have the system- to-day if we could, but it is only contended by the supporters of the Bill that old-age pensions will, as a result of it, come into operation by the ist July, 1909. That is twelve months from now, or within six months of the time when we shall be free from the Bi addon section, and the Federal Government in- a position to do what it likes with the revenue that it handles.
– Not six months, but eighteen months, because the section does not expire until the 31st December, 1910
– To-day, New South Wales and Victoria have a system of oldage pensions in actual operation, and Queensland will bring a system into operation on the 1st July. I believe that from 75 to 80 per cent, of the people of Australia are living in States which have provided old-age pensions.
– Only 20 per cent, of the old people in Victoria are getting an old-age pension under its scheme.
– New South Wales and Victoria axe paying about £800,000 a year in old-age pensions, and Queensland is on the eve of . introducing a system. I admit that the matter is urgent, but, to my mind, the urgency is not so great as if there were no scheme of old-age pensions in operation in Australia. Those two facts suggest to me that instead of passing the Bill at this juncture, it would be very much better to allow the intervening t:me to go by, and then see if it is not possible to accomplish a complete and satisfactory adjustment with the States.
– Let the opportunity go by?
– When the Braddon section expires, my honorable friends will have the finest opportunity in the world to achieve that object.
– The present opportunity is always better than the future one.
– If the Government is sincere about old-age pensions, and if this Bill has not been introduced as the immediate offspring of a motion submitted elsewhere a little while ago, why was it not possible for the Government long ago to introduce a scheme, instead of paying back a surplus of £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 during the last seven years? The time to bring in a Bill of this kind was when there was a surplus revenue to handle.
– Why did not the Reid Government do something in that direction ?
– What about the great Labour Government which was in office for a longer period - at any rate for a period sufficiently long to give some evidence of its earnestness in this matter?
– Not for nearly so long a period as the Reid Government was in office.
– From a business point of view, the Bill might have fairly printed across it the words “ too late.”
– But the honorable senator has been saying that it has been introduced too soon.
– No; I have said that so fair as controlling any money is concerned, it has come at a period when it is ridiculous except as regards the amount of trouble which it will occasion. After this Parliament first met, such a Bill would have enabled several things to be done. For instance, one of the best suggestions ever made from a business or financial stand-point emanated from a member of the other House, who proposed that the surplus revenue should be handed over to the States as payment for transferred properties. Had that advice been followed, the transferred properties would have been paid for to-day. The States have reaped this handsome bonus in the shape of surplus revenue, but in a very short time we shall be con.fionted with the necessity of taxing the Australian people in some way or other to pav for those properties.
– That is crying over spilt milk.
– I regret that it is so.” But I would point out that the Bill, in order to do any good, should have been introduced at a time when there was a surplus revenue to handle.
– Better late than never. Let us gather up some of the spilt milk. .
– The milk is spilled, and not all the legislation of my honorable friends, or their extreme simplicity, will enable them to gather up one drop of that milk.
– Why complain if there is no milk to gather up?
– I am not complaining, but criticising, and I shall conclude by expressing my regret that my honorable friends are so well satisfied to accept the Bill as a solution of the problem. To my mind, it is merely a red-herring drawn across the trail. In my opinion, it will postpone the institution of old-age pensions longer than, is necessary. Time will be required to justify that prediction. I shall be more than pleased if time falsifies what I have said.
– It will.
– Then I shall have both Senator Turley and time doing the same thing. To my mind, without reference to individual parties, an Old-age Pensions Act ought to have been placed on our statute-book before the present time. If the effect of passing this Bill is to hasten the day when we can get an honest, decent, fair, and generous scheme, I shall be not only immensely pleased, but the first to admit that my forecast has been altogether falsified.
– I ‘must congratulate, not only the representative of the Government, hut also the leader of the Opposition on his very last words. Those words seemed to indicate the real man, and all that he was pleased to address to the Senate previously was only a criticism, to my mind, of a very indifferent character.^
– By virtue of his office !
– Yes, merely to justify the position that he occupied.
– My honorable friend should ‘not judge others by himself.
– I believe that the honorable senator, whether he be the leader or an ordinary member of the, Opposition, is generous enough to do all’ that’ he possibly can to give to the aged and infirm people of Australia what has been promised to them for the last ten years. He has said that some difficulty may be found to’ arise after the passing of this Bill. But I want to tell him why I, and many other honorable senators, are ardently supporting it. We do so because good will be accomplished, and the aged and infirm people of Australia) will get some benefit. The honorable senator said that in 1910 the Braddon section will expire, and that we have only a few months to wait when we can effect the purpose we have in view without this Bill. But if the honorable senator will read the Constitution carefully, in the light of his parliamentary experience, he will see that the Braddon section does not expire in 19/10. The Commonwealth Parliament is simply given power to do something else then. The Braddon section will continue if Parliament does not do something else; and oldage pensions will still, like Mahomet’s coffin, be left hanging in the air. We do not want that. We want to make it possible, as soon as funds are available, for old-age pensions to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue. Some importance should be attached to that. Old-age pensions are not to be paid from a special fund, but out of the Consolidated Revenue. Our intention in this Bill is so to regulate the Consolidated Revenue that there will be sufficient money to pay old-age pensions. Sup- pose we were to wait until 1910, as we have already waited seven or eight years. It would still be necessary to introduce an Old-age Pensions Bill. Not only so, but the probability is that legislation would have to be passed, even after 1910, to adjust the finances of the States so that it would be a considerable time .afterwards before we could, out of the Consolidated Revenue, give to the aged and infirm poor the assistance that we propose to give to them.
– Why have the honorable senator and his party waited so long, then?
– Has the honorable senator’ been asleep? He .himself has advocated old-age pensions.
– So I do now.
– Then the honorable senator will assist to pass this Bill so as to give the old men and women cause to be thankful to the Commonwealth Parliament for its good work.
– A large proportion of the aged poor are already getting, old-age pensions.
– What about the remainder? There are very many people, even in the honorable senator’s own State, who are praying to God just as earnestly for the passage of this Bill, as are any in the other States of the Commonwealth. The reason is. that there are thousands of old men and women in Australia who have not been the specified time in any one State, but who, nevertheless, have been a great deal longer than the specified time in the Commonwealth, and have worked hard and earnestly for its development. It is for their sake, and not for those who are already getting old-age pensions, in Victoria, that we require this Bill ; though I. may add that even those who are in receipt of pensions in Victoria are anxious that the Commonwealth Bill should be passed, because they are receiving their pensions under such conditions that many consider it to be a degradation to apply. There are, to my own knowledge, many old people in Victoria, who, under existing conditions, are ashamed to ask for old-age pensions. Those people will, I believe, under the conditions which we hope to establish in the Commonwealth, come forward for their pensions with as high a head and as firm a step - if they be not too feeble - as any other citizens who claim this right.
– If they have wealthy sons and daughters, would the honorable senator pay old-age pensions to them?
– We are not talking about the relatives of the poor. We have to consider the aged people themselves, not the condition of their sons’, daughters, and friends. I believe that such a feeling is arising amongst the people of Australia and their representatives, that their hearts are1 softening, and that in the very near future something, practical will be done for the relief of the aged poor despite the prophecy to which the leader “of the Opposition has given utterance. A good deal has been said about what ought to have been done in the past in connexion with the surplus revenue. There has been some amount of confusion not only in the public mind, but also in the minds of some legislators with respect to the term “ surplus revenue.” The matter is . even mixed in the Constitution itself. Sometimes the Constitution and public men refer to the surplus revenue as that portion of the Commonwealth’s onefourth that is, or could be, retained for Commonwealth purposes. At other timespublic men and the Constitution itself refer to surplus revenue as meaning the surplus of the whole revenue, not the surplus of any portion of it. In considering this question we ought to make our minds asclear and as free from doubt as w’e can. Senator Millen said that the Commonwealth could have paid for the transferred propertiesout of the surplus revenue which it has given to the States.
– Quite so.
– Let me put the position to the honorable senator. We have taken over from the States properties that have cost- a considerable amount of money. Did any honorable senator ever have it in his mind that the Commonwealth was to put its hand in the Treasury chest and pay over to the States gold to the value of- the transferred properties? Did any one ever imagine such a thing?
– The States had to pay gold for them.
– If the honorable senator will restrain his youthful impetuosity for a moment I will show him what the States really did, and how absurd it would be for anybody to imagine for a moment that the Commonwealth ought to pay them in cash or kind for the transferred properties.
– Or in income.
– When any of the States built a Post Office or a Customs House, from what source did they pay for the building? From loan money. Now,, does not the Constitution provide that the Commonwealth shall take over, as from, the date of its inauguration, all the debts incurred by the States and consolidate them ?
– The Constitution does not say that the Commonwealth “shall,” but that it ‘ ‘ may ‘ ‘ take over the debts by agreement.
– What isthe difference between paying the States for the transferred properties and paying the English bond-holders?
– I will show the difference. When we do take over the debts, as I hope we shall do some day, to the advantage both of the Commonwealth and the States, are we to attempt to pay the interest to the English bond-holders out of the one-fourth, or out of any proportion of the revenue that the Commonwealth could retain? Is it not distinctly specified that, if we do take over the debts, the interest shall be paid out of the threefourths ?
– That is after the ten years’ period.
– It does not matter when we take’ over the debts. If we had takenthem over five years ago, the interest on them would have been paid out of the three-fourths, or whatever balance had to be handed over to the States, and not out of the one-fourth. If the Commonwealth had beenso foolish as to put its hand in its pocket and pay the States for these transferred properties what position would the States have been in? They would have been in this position. They originally borrowed the money and built three or four million pounds’ worth of properties. They transferred the properties to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth would have paid them in cash. Then the States would have transferred the loans out of which they built the properties to the Commonwealth ; and then the Commonwealth would have had to pay the interest on these loans to the bondholders. If honorable senators will turn the matter over in their minds they will realize the absurdity of talking about paying for the transferred properties.
– I ask the honorable senator not to dwell at too great length on that subject.
– I am dealing with it only to’ show the absurdity of paying for these properties and then taking over the debts out of which they were built. I think that the Commonwealth authorities will never be so foolish as to do anything of the kind. When we do take over the debts of the States we shall pay interest on them only once, and not twice. This matter was referred to incidentally to show what should have been done with past sur pluses of the Commonwealth’s one-fourth of Customs and Excise revenue which has been handed over to the States.
– That money might have been appropriated for the payment of interest on some of the States debts.
– Did not the States do’ that with the money’ when they received it? The honorable senator, by his interjection, only shows that he is fairly bushed in the fertility’ of his own imagination. I have no doubt that he is trying to think aright, but when he interjects that we might have paid interest on some of the States’ debts, with the surplus money handed over to the States, the answer is that if we did not do sowe handed the money to the States Treasurers, and they might have done so. The honorable senator must recognise the absurdity of his interjection. I have been surprised by the attitude assumed by many of the States in connexion with this matter. ‘ I am very glad that the State I represent has riot become so hysterical as have some of the other States. The circumstance in some evidence of the intelligence of the people who Have the conduct of public business in that State. They are quite modest and reasonable’ in their demands. The action of the other States reminds me very forcibly of an incident which occurred to myself when I was a very young man. It might be thought presumptuous on my part to put myself in the position of the Commonwealth, but I shall tell honorable senators what really happened, and will leave it to them to say whether the illustration is not a good one. When I was a very young man I went to England, and the first job I got there was at haymaking. It was the custom of the farmer for whom we worked every forenoon and afternoon to send a messenger round with a pint of beer to each of his employes to quench their thirst, and possibly to enable them to do more work.
– They did not do that in Scotland.
– I was a teetotaller, and had never tasted any kind of intoxicating drink up to that period ofmy life. When the first beer came roundI refused to take it, but I did not put it back in the jar. I handed it over to a bigburly labourer, thinking that he might drink it for me, and he did. In just the same way the Commonwealth has handed over surplus revenue in past years to the States. After two or three days, as the water in the part of the country in which I was at work was very bad, and I could not drink it, I took a sup of the beer when it was brought round and handed the rest to my friend. It became an understanding with us that I was u> hand my surplus to this mate of mine. The third and fourth day I took more and more out of the pint of beer, and after about a fortnight, when we were building the haystack, and it was very hot and dusty, and I was very thirsty, when the man came round with the beer I drank the whole pint handed to me. Now, I ask honorable senators had I a right to drink it? It was my beer; it belonged to me. What do honorable senators think that the fellow to whom I used to give it did ? He hauled off and hit me right in the mouth with his fist. That is what the States have been attempting to do, and if I were at a loss to give a name to the man to whom I had been in the habit of handing over my surplus, I might find a suitable one for him in the names of certain ““men occupy-‘ ing public positions in some, of the States of Australia.
– Wade in, and give them.
– I will leave it to the honorable senator to select an appropriate name. When my friend treated me so ungratefully, after I had been so good to him for nearly a fortnight, I stooped down, and butting him in’ the chest, knocked him off the haystack.
– The honorable senator was. bent on “ wading in.”
– I was. As the man was an older, bigger, and stronger man than I, he tried to get up again, and give me “ what for,” when one of the carters present - one of the type of men who represent public opinion, whether in Australia, or in any other part of the world, when anything unfair is being attempted - said, “ Look here, old man, the young fellow has treated you well during the last fortnight, and now, because he does not give you his last drop, you are going for him. You will have to deal with me.” And this carter gave the man as good a hiding as he had ever got in his life, and he left the place. That, is exactly what I hope the public of Australia will do with those who have shown themselves to be so ungrateful, in spite of the generous treatment they have received in the past from the Commonwealth. I leave it to honorable senators to fit names to my illustration, but they will admit that I have described how the Commonwealth has been treating the States that are abusing them so much at the present time. It was the intention of the framers of the Constitution, that the Commonwealth Parliament should, at some time have full control over its revenue and affairs. They divided a certain time into separate periods. They knew very well that in the early days the expenses of the Commonwealth would not be very great, as many of the services conducted by the States were not immediately to be taken over. They reflected that, for the first five years, it was probable that one-fourth of the revenue of the Commonwealth from Customs and Excise would be much more than was required for Commonwealth purposes, and they might therefore make provision that the Commonwealth should hand the balance over to the States, under some system which would bs fair to the States. Having made provision for the first five years in that way, they came to the conclusion that after that period a number of services previously conducted by the States would be taken over, and it was probable that the Commonwealth Government would require to have more funds at its disposal, and so they made provision that, at the end of the five years’ period, some re-arrangement might be come to- in order to give the Commonwealth more power to deal with what really belonged ‘to it. They came to the conclusion, also, that at the end of ten years the Commonwealth would have taken over so many services and responsibilities from the States, that it might require the whole of the revenue, and so they provided that at the end of that period, this Parliament should have control of the whole of the revenue coming into the Commonwealth Treasury. They were -prepared to give the Commonwealth and the States plenty of time in which to adjust their affairs, so that there should be no possibility of inconvenience or friction between them. The Commonwealth has faithfully carried out its obligations under the Constitution. In fact, our first Treasurers have actually considered the interests of the States before the interests of the Commonwealth,’ and, as a result, we find to-day that our Post and Telegraph Department, our Defence Department, and many other .of the public services of the Commonwealth, have been starved for lack of funds, because our Treasurers have been too anxious to give to the States revenue which they might have applied to the purposes of those Departments. Now, when we have reached a time at which it . is absolutely necessary that we should do something to provide for the payment of oldage pensions, and to make a little money available for other purposes, we propose to deal with the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth as it ought to have been dealt with more than two years ago, and we find some of the States in arms against the action of the Commonwealth. I think it is very unfair. By passing this Bill honorable senators will render a service to the public which will redound to their credit, so far as the treatment of the aged people in Australia is concerned. If they are really in earnest, and have really meant what they have been saying for the last seven years in expressing .a desire for the defence of Australia, and their willingness to take upon their own shoulders the protection of the country from foreign invasion, the balance of the money which is intended to be devoted to that purpose should be readily voted by the representatives of the different States in this Chamber. I have no desire to labour the question longer, but I hope the Bill will pass, and that as a result the aged people in Australia will in the course of twelve months, or a little more, be receiving such .assistance that they and the whole of the people of Australia will be prepared to regard with satisfaction- the action which it is .now proposed the Commonwealth Parliament shall take.
– - I feel sure that honorable senators have been deeply interested in the beer story which Senator McGregor has related, but I should like t’o say that inone respect what he described was not analogous to the position we are being asked to deal with. I should like to remind the honorable senator that he did not enter into any written contract with the burly labourer to whom he has referred. In that respect the analogy fails, because between the Commonwealth and the States we have a clearly written contract. In connexion with another matter, the Vice-President of the Executive Council has himself said that the contract entered into between the Commonwealth and the States should be loyally adhered to. I do not disagree with a great deal that the honorable senator has said. In referring to section 87 of. the Constitution, in which it is provided that any surplus from the one-fourth of the revenue from Customs and Excise belonging to the Commonwealth must be. handed over to the States, the Vice-President of the Executive Council appeared to have overlooked the fact that the words “applied annually “ should be read absolutely together. Later on the honorable senator argued that they could be taken to mean that’ moneys might be appropriated for some other year, and so sought to justify the provisions in this Bill for the establishment of trust accounts from ‘ which works may be carried out at some future date. If the honorable senator is entitled to interpret the words “applied annually” in that freeandeasy way, . as covering future expenditure, I- fail to see why he cannot also make the interpretation retrospective, and so cover surpluses which have been paid to the States during the last two or three years. The Vice-President of the Executive Council put into the mouths of the opponents of the measure a rather absurd objection to the Commonwealth having in hand certain amounts, and making re-adjustments in June. I do not think that any honorable member of this or of another place would see any reason why the Commonwealth should’ not hold in hand sufficient funds to meet - to use the Minister’s own words - “incurred or contractual obligations.” The question is whether we are entitled under the Constitution to say to the States, “ We are going to hold in hand money out . of the current year’s revenue for something that may be carried out by Parliament next year or the year after.” If we can hold money over for something that may be begun within twelve months from now, we can equally do so for something that will not be begun for two or three years from now. There appears to be no limit. My objection is not to the object for which the money is to be held over. So far as the Bill is concerned, we do not know the object for which the money is held over, or whether any money will be held over, I object to the vicious principle of putting a large sum. of money away in a trust fund not for immediate requirements, but for requirements that may arise at a considerable distance ahead. It is clear that an impecunious Treasurer might at any moment persuade Parliament to remove the money from the trust fund and use it for the ordinary annual services.
– -After the Old-age Pensions Bill had been passed?
– I am dealing with this Bill. I am not saying what will happen after something else has happened. If the wording of the Constitution means anything, it means that its framers wished as far as possible each year’s business to pay its way, and any balance to be. handed, over to the States. That appears to be perfectly clear, and I think Parliament should hesitate before accepting two principles that appear to be involved in this measure. One is the principle of earmarking money for some future event, and not for a matter immediately before Parliament. The money should be appropriated and the necessary measure should be passed before we are asked for such authority as this. The second objection is that the measure has been made retrospective. I admit that the States have received during the past eleven months a considerable sum over and above their ordinary three-fourths of the net, Customs and Excise revenue. But does any . honorable senator believe that the States thought that it was possible that the money that has been handed over to them would be practically taken away from them again later in the year ? We know what all Governments do. They may start a year with a prospect of a very poor revenue, but as the months go by the revenue swells, as business is good and things turn out better. Then Governments undertake certain works and obligations that they would not undertake except in. the face of a rising revenue. What will happen to the States now ? They will find that while they have incurred certain obligations in face of what they thought was a rising revenue, their revenue was really not rising at all. That appears to be most dangerous. It is absolutely unfair to the States themselves, and it will matter very- little or comparatively little to the Commonwealth whether this Bill is made operative from the ist June or from the ist July. It is unfair to the States, after handing to them practically a million of money, to say to them, “ In the last days of the year we are suddenly going to keep a certain amount of money that you might have expected because you have received too much in the past.”
– Does the honorable senator agree with Senator Millen that the amount will be three-quarters of a million ?
– I am not prepared to discuss what Senator Millen said. The suggestion that some of us object to the Commonwealth holding money in hand for current contracts and re-adjustments is hardly borne out either by what was said by Senator Millen or by what has been, said, or is likely to be said, by other members of this Parliament. The Minister agreed that it stands to reason that we must hold, over money to pay interest on debts,, instalments on mail contracts, and so forth. But all those matters come under what hehimself called incurred obligations, to the payment of which honorable senators on this side raise np objection.. But it is quite a different matter to provide money for something in the future which is neither an incurred nor a contractual obligation.
– And which might never become an obligation.
– That is so. There is no objection to readjustments in the month of June in connexion with past expenditure, but it is quite a different story to ask us to make readjustments as to the past in face of something that might possibly occur in the future. Another objection is that a scheme such as the payment pf old-age pensions is going to be the cause of annually recurring expenditure.’ It is generally understood - the Minister himself mentioned it - that the Government propose, although not in this Bill, to make provision for payments for only eighteen months on account of a policy which I hope will be the national policy of Australia for all time. In other words, the Government say : “ We will make sure that a certain thing will be done for eighteen months, and after that we shall have to see where we. can get the money to carry it on.” I was struck with Senator McGregor’s story, as to the ungratefulness of his friend, which he used to illustrate what he called the generosity of- the Commonwealth towards the States. There would be no Commonwealth if it were not for the States. If the States had not voted to hand over a certain number qf their duties to a central body, there would have been no Federation.
– It was the people of the States that agreed to do so.
– In the Constitution there is provision that if the Commonwealth does not require to apply annually towards its expenditure any proportion of its one-fourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue, that balance shall be handed over to the States. Where does the generosity of the Commonwealth come in?
– They could have built post offices all over the place.- The honorable senator asked for some of them.
– If the VicePresident of the Executive Council or Senator McGregor is prepared to assure me that the Commonwealth deliberately stopped expenditure which it might have carried on in order that this money might be given back to the States, there may be something in their talk about generosity. Turning to Knibbs, according to last year’s figures, the. States received 86.5 per cent, of the total revenue of the whole of Australia, and it was most remarkable to find, on turning to the expenditure column, that the percentage of the whole expenditure of Australia for the States is also 86.5 per cent. Consequently it is significant that in that one vear, whether the States growled, or the Commonwealth growled, whether anybody felt injured or not, as a matter of fact, the States were receiving exactly their proportion of revenue corresponding to their share of the expenditure. It cannot be said, therefore, that the Commonwealth has been marvellously generous to the States in the past.
– - It has been very generous to Queensland.
– Queensland several times received less than its threefourths. By all means, if we are going to take more expenditure off the shoulders of the States, and put it on to the Commonwealth, let us take revenue from the States and hand it to the Commonwealth. But this Bill does not propose anything of the sort. It proposes to do something which is. to be retrospective as to the present year, when we do not take any obligations off the shoulders of the States. I am only too anxious to see the Commonwealth take up all the obligations which the Constitution allots to it. But we require a sane scheme of finance, arrived at in a spirit of mutual trust between the States and the Commonwealth; and by which the revenues will be divided in reasonable proportions, according to. the obligations of each. But here-, we have been offered a patchwork finance scheme, which is economically unsound, and which cer.tainly does not meet with the approval of the States themselves. An effort has been made in more than one quarter of the press, and even in Parliament, to make it appear that this is a question of old-age pensions, and that, the decent poor of Aus tralia are to be penalized if the Bill is not passed. But let us remember that those States of Australia which contain 80 per cent, of the whole population have enacted old-age pensions, which are not very much inferior to those proposed by the Federal Government.
– Only two States up to date.
– Queensland comes in on the 1st July. The Government’s proposal does not come into force until next year. It is for the other 20 rer cent, of the people of Australia that we are asked to enter upon this scheme, which, in many respects, is economically unsound - although I have pointed out the respects in which I agree with it - and which has not the approval of the other partners to the contract made in 1900 in the shape of the Constitution.
– Most of the criticism delivered so far has come from senators representing States that have an old-age pensions scheme either in operation or in. contemplation. As the representative of a State which is in neither position, I gladly avail myself of the present opportunity to further the introduction of a scheme of old-age pensions. This question has been before this Parliament more or less during the whole term of its existence. Several proposals have been, made; and a Royal Commission has held an inquiry, but, so far, we have not got beyond the talking stage. The Government has now submitted a proposal which is likely to lead to something practical being done. If I did not support the proposal my action would leave me open to the charge that I was a mere talker, and that when the hour came to take the fence, and to do something practical, I was one of the windy members, who simply paraded the subject for election purposes.
– Yes, but the honorable senator is asking certain States to pay for their own schemes for this year, and to help to pay for his, too.
– My honorable friend is in a much, worse position than I am, because, my State, will be paying part of his State’s old-age pensions, when it will be getting nothing in return for that expenditure. There is no denying the fact that Western Australia will contribute & greater percentage to the surplus revenue than will any other State. If we pay a greater sum per capita into the fund, and; at the ‘ same time, receive a smaller sum per capita out of it, surely all the generosity is on our side !
– We have less old people than has any other State.
– According to the best calculations, £50,000 or £60,000 a year will provide all the old-age pensions required in Western Australia, and, as honorable senators know, its share of the surplus revenue is much greater than that sum. I cannot understand opposition coming to the proposal of the Commonwealth from the States which have established a system of old-age pensions. I do not understand that we are going to treat the cost as “transferred” expenditure, and compel every State to pay according to the amount distributed within its borders under the scheme. At the same time, I dp not see why old-age pensions should not be dealt with on that basis, as well as other “ transferred “ expenditure.
– This is new expenditure.
– It can be easily contended that it should be treated as “ transferred “ expenditure.
– There was no system of old-age pensions in operation inAustralia when the Commonwealth was inaugurated.
– There was in Victoria.
– A scheme was passed by the Parliament of New South Wales prior to the meeting of the Federal Parliament, and I think that the same thing happened in Victoria. Those are the two most populous States, and their Old-age Pensions Acts were passed during the Premierships of Sir. William Lyne and Sir George Turner respectively.
– They were not in operation at the inauguration of the Commonwealth.
– Not in New South Wales.
– So far as Western Australia is concerned, I thank those who come from other States for nothing. It is in the position of being the generous party, and is certainly more deserving of thanks than is any other State, so far as we can calculate or see into the future. We have had sufficient talk. about this subject of. old-age pensions. It has been discussed at every Premiers’ Confer-‘ ence since the Commonwealth was established. The Premiers have been pursuing a sort of do-nothing policy. I grant, of course, that two States did not need to do anything, because they had a scheme in operation. But the representative of Western Australia, at each Conference,has practically done nothing to solve the problem. Seeing that nothing practical has been done, I hold that it is the duty of this Parliament to institute an Australian scheme, because, until that step is taken, the position will always be unsatisfactory ; weshall have some States doing the right thing by their aged poor, while others are shirking that responsibility. We shall also have a number of men who otherwise are qualified denied an old-age pension, simply because they have not lived long enough in the State. In view of those facts, I do not feel that I should be acting rightly to those who sent me here if I did not support the present proposal. Senator Millen was somewhat scathing in his criticisms. He said, for instance, that at the present moment there is no honest surplus for the Commonwealth to take. I do not know how he defines the word “honest.”
– I thought that the honorable senator did not.
– But I know that unless we avail ourselves of this or a similar opportunity to apply to a Federal purpose money which we are justly entitled to use, we shall not have a surplus, unless., of course, it is secured month by month. We must make a beginning in this matter, and this is, I contend, as opportune a moment to begin as has been presented to us. ‘ We have already had several proposals which have come to nothing, and I do not intend to assist Senator Millen to carry that policy any further. If we do not take means to retain sufficient money with which to make a beginning, we shall never have money for the purpose, no matter how much we may advocate the principle of old-age pensions. If we passed an Old-age Pensions Bill without devising means for financing the scheme, it would not commend itself to any one. Already we. have handed back . to the States very nearly £6,000,000 of surplus revenue, which I . agree with Senator Millen we could have made better use of. If we had applied that money to advance our own scheme the position might have been a great deal more satisfactory than it is. Had it been used to reduce our liabilities in respect of the transferred properties, or had it been, applied to defence or old-age pensions, we. should have been in a more satisfactory position. The money is gone, and there is nothing to show for it. So long as we allow that state of affairs to continue we shall have nothing to show. I take it that the present is as opportune a time to institute old-age pensions as the future will offer to us, and I intend to support this Bill, in order to achieve one purpose for which I was sent here. Regarding our power to create trust funds, I think that it is admitted on all sides that we possess tihat power at present. Whether the sum in trust be very large or very small, that does not alter the principle.
– If we have the power, and are exercising it, what necessity is there for this Bill?
– We have the power, and are now exercising it for a specified purpose.
– It is not specified in the Bill.
– If the purpose is not specified in the Bill, I. think that it is so clearly understood that no one can misunderstand it.
– It is not even hinted at.
– I dare say it is because the purpose of the Bill is understood so well that it is receiving so much opposition. Suppose that a war scare were raised, that we were faced very suddenly with the responsibility of finding a large sum to arm our people to defend the Commonwealth, and that in that predicament we borrowed money’ for that purpose? Does any honorable senator suggest that we would not have the power to create a sinking fund, and extend the repayment of the money over a period of years ?
– Has any one ever disputed that ?
– If my honorable friends agree to that principle, I contend that we are in exactly the same position when we propose to apply moneys to a trust fund for the purpose of oldage pensions. . If any sudden emergency arose whereby we were forced to borrow money, and to create a sinking fund for its repayment, we should be perfectly? justified in providing for its repayment over a period of years. That is oni allfours with the proposal contained in this Bill. I do not intend to assist our financiers who wish to play fast and loose, and so defeat the object of the Bill. I am sure that there is no honorable senator who would dare to stand on a platform and honestly oppose a scheme of old-age pensions. I do not intend to help my honorable friends on this side to defeat the only tangible means of bringing about the institution of such a scheme, and that is by passing a Surplus Revenue Bill.
– I have several objections to the Bill. The first is, that there is no provision as to what is to be done with the money which it is proposed to keep back from the States. This is a proposal to appropriate money which belongs to the States before it has received the assent of Parliament. That seems to me a very unjust position to put the States in. They have been expecting the payment of sums’ of money at the end of this month, and now find that no money is to be paid to them. What is going to be the position of the poorer States - Tasmania, for instance - who need that money for their own purposes?
– Did they expect a share of the £1,000,000 of Customs and Excise revenue at the excess rate during June?
– They expected what was due to them. . The Government can adjust balances, but they have no right to take away revenue that is due to the States fn the month of June. Section 94 of the Constitution provides that the surplus shall be paid to the States monthly. Ifwe deprive them of what is due to them during the month of June, we shall be acting contrary to that section. I also object to the Bill being made retrospective.
– What does the honorable senator mean by retrospective?
– The Government is going to take away from the States balances which they say ought not to have been paid in preceding months.
– Has not that always been the practice?
– Only to a small extent. Balances have been adjusted in previous years, but on this occasion the Government are going beyond that. Then what is it proposed to do with the money ? The Bill does not say.
– The honorable senator knows.
– I do not know. I am aware that the proposal of the Government with regard to naval defence is awaiting consideration, and that a certain amount of expenditure is proposed in connexion with it. But we do not know that that proposal is going to be passed. I have, no knowledge of whether the naval policy of the Government will receive the sanction of Parliament, nor do- I know whether it will be submitted this year or next year. To the old-age pensions proposal the same consideration applies. If it is desired to pay old-age pensions, let us provide the money openly and properly. The States have a right to look to the Federal Parliament for assistance, and if we take away from them their revenue for this month it will be most unfair. Three of the States have already provided for the payment of old-age pensions. Therefore, there is no immediate hurry for a Bill of the kind. Every one of .the States, through the Premiers, object to this measure. We are a States House, and ought to respect their wishes and needs. An Old-age Pensions Bill is very good in its way, but we ought not’ to establish a stocking to hold the money first, and provide how the money is to be spent afterwards. There are also one or two things in the Bill itself which I do not like. Under the last clause the Treasurer is enabled in any year to- pay to a trust fund out of the consolidated revenue such moneys as the Governor-General thinks necessary for the purposes of an appropriation. But no appropriation is provided for in the Bill.
– The clause says moneys which “ have been “ appropriated.’
– The word “expended” means the laying out of money. Instead of laying out money, however, we are going to put it in a stocking. I must oppose the Bill to the best of my ability, and express the hope that the Senate will defer it until next year, so that notice may be given to the States of what it is proposed to do, and regard be paid to their necessities.
– It is a very singular thing that, as the session draws to a close and honorable senators are more and more jaded and some of them are absent, the Government introduce Bills of growing importance. The Bill we now have before us and those which are talked about, are the most important measures of the session. It is an -extraordinary thing that at the last moment, as it were, we should be asked to deal with such Bills. We have reached a time when Parliament ought to have been closed up, and its members away and preparing for the session proper to the year. I have been much astonished at the remarks made by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Not because what he said was novel, however; I have heard the same thing said continually during the last three or four years. He spoke of money that belongs to the Commonwealth having been paid to the States. I beg leave to object to that statement as an entire misrepresentation of the facts. Honorable senators know very well the terms upon which the Federation of the States was accomplished. It was quite understood that the Commonwealth was to be the agent .of the States in the matter of Customs and Excise revenue. The Commonwealth was to be economical in its expenditure; and, said the bond, “ You shall not expend more than one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue.” The term “ more than one-fourth “ is used by speakers like Senator Best as an intimation that the one-fourth was absolutely given to the Commonwealth. What would be thought of any gentleman who was sent out from England with a large bank credit with which to buy wool in Australia, if he only bought wool to half the amount of his credit, and then took the whole of the balance to himself? That’ is practically the position here. My honorable friend Senator McGregor’s beer illustration really was not at all to the point. Such an instance as .1 have given, where one man becomes a trusted agent for another, is an’ apt one. The Commonwealth practically became the trusted agent of the States, and was limited as to the amount it might spend, the balance being payable to the States. That statement cannot be doubted. I must say that a very grave injustice is being done to the States. We hear honorable senators complaining of the States for objecting to what is really a misrepresentation. I have no hesitation in saying that this misrepresentation of the real truth, this misreading of the Constitution, is responsible for most of the ill-feeling and hard words which are coming from the States at present. Honorable senators would do well to bear in mind the financial position of the States. There was a time when the financial needs of the States of Australia were considered and treated as the dominating factor in ‘ Australian finance. That aspect of the subject seems to have been forgotten. Such a treatment of our finance appears to be a thing of the past, and I have not heard a word said about the ability of the States to bear the withdrawal of revenue that is proposed. New South Wales is practically on velvet, because she has an old-age pensions scheme of her own. It is a liberal one. She paid last year in pensions £492,000, and expenses of distribution £24,000, making a total of ,£516,000. I believe that the amount to be paid to pensioners under the Commonwealth scheme that is talked about will be little if any more than is paid in New South Wales. So that State is really not much interested in the old-age pensions scheme of the Commonwealth. We have practically already provided our money. But the smaller States are in a different position. . It is not merely oldage pensions that we have to consider. A number of other important expenditures are talked about. Therefore, it is desirable that the position of the States should be taken into consideration. There is in regard to New South Wales this further’ singular thing. Whilst we are paying over half a million of money this year on account of old-age pensions, we are threatened under this Bill with a stoppage of at least £80,000 in this very month on account of old-age pensions. We want this money. Why should it not be paid to us to enable us to pay our old-age pensioners? Let each’ year stand on its own basis. Let the revenues of one year provide for “the expenditure of the year. Honorable senators are told that the Federal pensions system is to come into operation with the year 1909-10. That- will be time enough to begin to take money from New South Wales to pay old-age pensions, which up to then New South Wales will herself have paid to’ her own people within her own borders. Is not that position reasonable? We are threatened at present with a scheme, to absorb not merely any surplus, but the whole of the three-fourths for the month of June. According to a statement made in the other House yesterday
-The honorable senator cannot allude to a debate of another place in connexion with this Bill. If he has estimates of his own he may read them.
– Statements have been published in the press which show that during the last six years in the month of June the return to the States has ranged from .£420,000 to ,£800,000. Suppose that £600,000 or ,£700,000 is due to the States during the current month. If this
Bill does not become law, and if the sums that have been voted but are not to be spent this year are not finally appropriated, it will be seen that there are some very important sums due to the States. It is not fair as a matter of simple finance, when there has been a booming revenue and large sums have been handed over to the States, that we should have led them to understand that it was a permanent revenue and allowed them to adjust their whole system of finance on the expectation of receiving a large amount in June.
– Nearly all the States are finishing up the financial year with surpluses.
– It is estimated that the surplus of New South Wales will amount to ,£1,000,000.
– I have already told honorable senators that in this matter New South Wales is on velvet. But that is not the position of some of the smaller States. Will honorable senators tell me what sort of a surplus Western Australia will finish the year with? I think that there will be a rather serious deficit in that State, and we are not entitled to put the people of that State in this extraordinary position.
– Western Australian senators are supporting the Bill ?
– They may vote to-day, and repent to-morrow. The time will come when the people of Western Australia, and of other States, will want to know what their representatives in this Chamber have been doing, and why they voted, as some of them, judging by their speeches, intend to vote to-day.
– They may be sorry that they are found out, but they will not repent.
– In the circumstances, there is every reason why honorable senators should hesitate very much before they support this measure. There has been some misrepresentation as to the amount of the alleged over-payments to the States. I notice that the statistics that have been published, giving the figures of the payments in excess of the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue, actually include the special revenue of Western Australia. Honorable senators noting that will see that the official statistics, which have been published, especially with regard to Western Australia, are undoubtedly inflated by the increase of payments from revenue, of which the Commonwealth decidedly had no right to retain one-fourth, or any portion of one-fourth. I suggest that, before a Bill like this was brought before Parliament for consideration, we should have had a scheme presented, covering the whole range of financial matters. We are, I think, threatened with a very grave financial future. The position ought to have been dealt with by the Government in a scheme covering every phase of the financial problem, and showing the final results to the various States. We should have had a. scheme covering the proposed basis of payment, and the proportion of revenue required for old-age pensions, the reduction of postage, and the payment of interest on the transferred properties. The whole of these matters should have been dealt with in one scheme, and Parliament should have been afforded an opportunity of finally deciding upon them. In connexion with such a scheme, such a Bill as that now before the Senate, might very well have been sub’mitted, to carry it into operation. 1 suggest, once again, that it is not right, at the end of the financial year, when the various States Government’s have made certain financial arrangements, and have used moneys paid to them in the past, to propose to withhold considerable sums from them, in the way that is now proposed. For these, and many other financial reasons, I intend to vote against the measure.
– This Bill involves matters of such great importance that it. should not be allowed to go through without some expression of opinion, especially from those who are believed to be opposed, not so much to the provisions of. the measure itself, as to the principle of old-age pensions, being associated with it. With all respect, I venture to think that it is unreasonable to bring the question of the payment of old.age pensions into the consideration of this matter. We are here dealing with a strictly constitutional question, and its application, which is entirely apart from the question of the payment of old-age pensions. I have no wish to be in any way offensive when I say that it is a dilemma, which I say ought not to be presented to any member of the Senate, that in voting for or against this measure, he should Be considered as voting for or against old-age pensions. In my view, the two questions are entirely distinct.
– Hear, hear.
– I am ‘glad to hear that interjection from Senator Turley, because P intended to address myself to a. remark which was somewhat irritating to honorable senators on this side. It will be admitted that in the early years of the Commonwealth the surpluses of Commonwealth revenue were very much larger- than they are now, and I am astonished that when the Commonwealth. Parliament had control of so large an amount of surplus revenue, our honorable friends opposite, who, I believe, have always been sincerely desirous of establishing old-age pensions, did not exert some stronger pressure on the Federal Government to enforce the principle.
– Where were the anti-Socialists all the time?
- Senator W. Russell is simply evading the issue. So far as the Premier and Treasurers of the State Governments are concerned, I believe that they have not only not the slightest objection to, but the very strongest desire that provision for the establishment of old-age pensions should be made as soon as possible either by this’ Parliament, on behalf of the Commonwealth, or by the States Parliaments. - If I may record a personal opinion, I will say that I think the Commonwealth Parliament has not done its duty in this matter soon enough. I say this because when we federated, it was distinctly understood that one of the obligations conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament was the duty of establishing old-age pensions. If the States did not make sufficient provision in this regard, this Parliament owed it as a duty to the people of Australia who founded the Federation to do so. One objection I have to the Bill at this juncture is this : The various States Treasurers have had frequent negotiations with the Treasurer of the Commonwealth with a view to revising the future financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. The proceedings of the last Premiers’ Conference were such as to make it clear that the establishment of a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions would be no obstacle to an amicable arrangement as to the future financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. It was understood, if not distinctly expressed, that these relations would shortly be “settled by one comprehensive agreement. In my opinion it is a grave objection to this Bill that it proposes to” deal in a somewhat unexpected and possibly in an irritating way with a portion only of the total amount of the revenue derived from Customs and Excise belonging to the Commonwealth. It is proposed to set it on one side for a purpose which many of the States Treasurers believe is in accord with the spirit and letter of the Constitution. But it has been submitted after the representatives of the States and the Commonwealth have met together and been striving to arrive at some new scheme by which for some time to come the financial relations between the Commonwealth and’ the States might be conducted harmoniously. When this was apparently on the point of realization, the Commonwealth Government, without any immediate necessity, interferes by giving an interpretation to the Constitution which is such as might, reasonably cause dismay and irritation to the States Treasurers. If the Commonwealth Government have been sincere in their desire to bring about improved financial relations with the States Governments, it was most unstatesmanlike on their part to interfere in this way at this time. We have very grave financial obligations confronting us in the expenditure which will be required for the strengthening of our defences, the taking over of the Northern Territory, and other important works which must be undertaken by the Commonwealth, and Ivery much regret that at such a time this rather irritating and piecemeal legislation affecting our financial relations with .the States should be submitted. During the course of the remarks made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council I drew attention to the peculiar wording of section 87 as having a most important bearing upon this question. Let me say that as the matter with which we are dealing is one on which there is a difference of opinion between the most eminent constitutional authorities, it would be presumption on the part of any one to express a final opinion upon it. I believe it will be admitted that it is at least within the spirit of the Constitution that the whole of the one-fourth of the revenue derived from Customs and Excise that is not appropriated by this Parliament is constitutionally assigned to the States. If the letter of the Constitution will not strictly bear out that view, the spirit of the measure certainly does. I will draw attention to some sections of the Constitution with a view to support that contention. Thi latter part of section 87 reads -
The balance shall, in accordance with this Constitution, be paid to the several States, or applied towards the payment of interest on debts of the several States taken over by the Commonwealth.
The use of the “word “ applied “ in that section is rather remarkable when compared with other sections dealing -with revenue and expenditure. Section 81, which begins the sections dealing with finance and trade, is in this form -
All revenues or moneys raised or received by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth shall form one consolidated revenue fund, to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth in the manner and subject .to the charges and liabilities imposed by this Constitution.
There is a clear distinction there between the word “ applied “ and the word “ appropriated.” I take it that under section 81 we cannot deal- with expenditure unless it is provided for by appropriation. Section 94 provides that -
After five years from the imposition of uniform duties of Customs the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of alt surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
It was clearly contemplated that, after the cost of Government and other obligations of the Commonwealth had been provided for, there would be monthly balances under the bookkeeping sections, and that, on the casting up of the months’ accounts, there would be some surplus,’ the destiny of which is distinctly indicated. The next sections in which the word “ appropriation “ occurs are the most important in the Constitution. They define the relation between the two Houses in dealing with expenditure. They are 53, 54, and 56. Section 53 provides that -
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys or imposing taxation shall not originate in the Senate.
We all know the meaning of the word “appropriate” in that connexion. Section 54 enacts that -
The proposed law which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government shall deal only with such appropriation.
Again, in section 56, which deals with the setting aside of our own money for bur own purposes, the word “ appropriation “ is used. It is impossible for any layman or any lawyer, looking carefully into the wording of the financial sections, to fail to see that a distinction has been drawn throughout the Constitution between the word “ applied,” as used in section 87, and the word “ appropriation,” as used in the other sections. When the VicePresidentof the Executive Council replied somewhat hurriedly tomy interjection that the words “apply” and “appropriate” meant the same, he had surely not considered why the word “appropriation” has been used so often in the other sections, while in section 87, which was the key to the financial scheme determining the relations between the States and the Commonwealth, the word “applied” was used. If section 87 had not been inserted, we know, as a matter of history, that the States would not have come into the Federation. In framing that crucial clause the word “appropriate” was not used. Surely, then, there are strong grounds, not only for a lawyer, but even for a, layman, to claim that there is a clear distinction not only technical, but legal, between the words. With all respect to the eminent legal opinions that have been given on the other side, I think that the word “applied” inthat section means that the Commonwealth Parliament may appropriate in the ordinary way whatever sums it thinks fit within the limits of its one-fourth of the net Customs and Excise revenue, and that all sums which have not been expressly appropriated towards purposes distinctly laid down and defined by the Commonwealth shall go back as a right into the coffers of the States. I think that is the true and proper interpretation, if not of the letter, certainly of the spirit of the Constitution. I am confirmed in that view by reference to the history of section 87. It will be admitted that the late Mr. Kingston was not only one of the most influential statesmen at the foundation of the Commonwealth-
– After all the abuse the honorable senator poured out on him !
– I never poured out any abuse on Mr. Kingston in my life. Not only was he a most prominent and influential Australian statesman in founding the Commonwealth, but his principal work was drafting the Constitution, and he took a very prominent part in framing what is now section 87. On page 2427 of the official reports of the Melbourne Convention of 1898, appears a speech made by, him when the clause was finally drafted. We know how long and hotly that question, which determined the financial conditions under which the States would come into the Federation, was de bated; how over and over again the Convention seemed to be hopelessly on the rocks, and how Sir Edward Braddon forced at last a clear and definite issue by practically telling the Melbourne Convention - “ If this clause is not inserted, the smaller States will not enter the Federation.” He drafted and submitted the clause in one form, Sir Edmund Barton made a further compromise, the matter was thoroughly discussed, and Mr. Kingston, just prior to the clause receiving the shape in which it was finally inserted in the Constitution, used the following words -
I am inclined to think that some provision to prevent the absorption of the surplus revenue by the Commonwealth will not be so much needed in the early stages of the Federation as subsequently. The States in the Federal Parliament will be more closely in touch in the first few years of the Federation than they will be afterwards, and unless you lay down this hard and fast line I think you will find that there will be gradual invasions by the Commonwealth on the surplus which should be payable to the States.
It is impossible, in face of those remarks, to say that Mr. Kingston did not know what the clause meant, and the reasons why it was inserted in that form. He practically said that if the clause was not put in, there would be an attempt on the part of the Commonwealth, perhaps not at first, but as the Federation grew, to make invasions upon the surplus which was rightly due to the States.
– That speech referred to the three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue.
- Mr. Kingston clearly contemplated that in the early years of the Federation there would be a surplus within the Commonwealth’s one-fourth. The use of the terms “ surplus moneys “ and “ surplus revenue “ shows that the framers of the Constitution expected that, at any rate while the Braddon clause lasted, there would be a surplus, and desired that surplus to be given straight back to the States. In view of the remarks made by Mr. Kingston, ‘ who was an eminent constitutional lawyer, and who, if he was anything in politics, was strongly democratic, it is not possible now for honorable senators opposite to cavil at us, on the ground of old-age pensions or any other ground, for saying, as was said in the very beginning - “ A clear bargain has been made, and we are bound to adhere to it.” I could quote an equally strong authority in the same direction in Sir Edmund Barton, who was really the leader of the whole Federal movement and the first Prime Minister. As one of the representatives in the Convention of the largest State, he strenuously opposed that curtailment of the financial powers of the Commonwealth. He fought all along against such a restriction as the Braddon clause, which he contended would hamper the Commonwealth and prevent it from properly expanding. I believe that his opinion was shared by the present leader of the Opposition in another place. They tried hard to bring the smaller States to see it, but the smaller States refused to see it in that light. He was reluctantly forced to accept the compromise which, on behalf of the smaller States, Sir Edward Braddon proposed, and which is embodied in the Constitution. On page 2456 of the same volume, it is recorded that in the Convention on the 16th March, 1898, Sir Edward Braddon moved -
That clause91a be amended by omitting from “ four-twentieths “ inclusive to end of paragraph, and inserting “ one-fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.”
Those words were slightly modified, but their spirit is in the Constitution. Mr. Barton explained the position, and made clear what would be the effect of the proposal, and, subsequently, he adopted it. In answer to Mr. Holder and Sir Edward Braddon, who were both maintaining their position, he said, on page 2457 -
What we intend the amendment to mean is that the whole of the unexpended balance of the Commonwealth shall be paid over to the States.
– It has been paid over.
– Of course it has been paid over, and, so far, the States have not objected, but what the Bill proposes to do is to take and put on one side an amount which is not appropriatedby Parliament, and which cannot be said to be expenditure within the meaning of the Constitution. If the speeches of Mr. Barton and Mr. Kingston mean anything,they mean that it cannot be done constitutionally. It is as clear as words can make it that that is a procedure which they never contemplated, or, at any rate, intended to sanction. And more than that, I contend that if they had pointed out that what the Treasurer proposes to do could be done, the representatives of the States would have said “ No ; we will not enter the Federation.” They had to get a further guarantee that all the unappropriated money was to be regarded as surplus, and handed over to the States.
– This has been done without any opposition being offered.
– I do not think that anything like this has been done previously, or even hinted at.
– Certainly not to take the amount for a whole month.
– Because they did not need to take a whole month’s money.
– Suppose that the Commonwealth needed to incur an expenditure extending over half a year. My contention is that it cannot be met in that way. All the expenditure out of our onefourth share must be preceded by an appropriation, and if that is not done, the money outside the Appropriation Act is clearly surplus revenue, and, in the terms of section 87, must be handed over to the States. If that be not the strict legal meaningof the words, it is clear from the expressions of Mr. Kingston and Mr. Barton that it is the spirit of the Constitution that the surplus revenue should be handed over to the States. The Commonwealth has been in existence for seven years, and we are now approaching the limit prescribed in section 87. How isit, I ask Senator Best, that it is only at this late hour -just when we are on the eve of reconsidering our financial relations with the States - that the necessity for this procedure is seen? Can he point out how, in the past, any Treasurer has been hampered by the previous construction of section 87 ? In what way have the energies of the Commonwealth, financial or otherwise, been hampered by that interpretation? How is it that the necessity for this Bill has only now been discovered? For various reasons which have been given, I submit that, notwithstanding the very laudable intention which is hinted at in regard to a trust fund, this procedure is unconstitutional, certainly in spirit. I alsothink that it is strictly unfair to the States.
– Would the honorable senator opposethe intention if it were proposed to apply the money?
– My honorable friend is putting me in a dilemma. When he submits the question that way, I am reminded of a very striking, historical parallel given two thousand years ago by a very great teacher. A section of the people did not relish his lessons very much, and were continually trying, so to speak, to trip him up.- After applauding him on one great occasion they handed him a penny, and put to him the question “ Whose is this image and superscription?” They followed that question with a few more, and his answer was -
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.
I hope that no one will deem me irreverent when I suggest that in the spirit of that answer we are bound to give to the States what is the States’, and to the Commonwealth what is the Commonwealth’s.
– That is what we are doing.
– If we do that honestly and fairly I think that the people of Australia wall not be dissatisfied. At the same time, -I do not think that the people of the States will regard this as a proper thing for us to do. No matter how laudable the intention as regards dealing with a surplus may be, they will not approve of our breaking what was clearly the express spirit of the Constitution.
– I ‘do not want to discuss the constitutional question,- (on which I quite understand there is room for difference <of opinion. It has ‘often seemed to me a pity that legislation .should be introduced by the Government unless they are quite’ sure that it is constitutional. It is hardly fair to pass a measure when ‘we are perhaps in some doubt on that point, and leave it to either a private individual ‘or to a State to appeal’ to the High Court for a ‘decision. I think that some steps should have been taken before its introduction to ascertain’ whether this Bill violates any .principle of the Constitution. I have not’ had the necessary training to enable me to grasp and deal with technical questions. This is very much a question of dry ‘law, and there ought to be some means of finding out the constitutional position before wearrive at this stage. I do not want anybody to say that if I am opposed to the Bill or any portion of it I am endangering the question of old-age -pensions.
– It is a handy way of endangering it though.
– Let me put it in another way. If I do not happen to agree with all the provisions of the Bill, I do not want anybody to say that because of that I am altogether opposed to any measure for the institution of old-age pensions.
– The rejection of this Bill will not be much encouragement, at all events.
– I do not know that it will not.
Senator- de Largie. - The honorable senator wants to have his cake and eat it too.
– No, but T wantevery Bill to be treated on its merits. When I was going through the length and breadth of South Australia recently, I stated distinctly that I was in favour of the establishment of old-age pensions.
– They all say that - when the time is opportune.
– I trust that persons, whether they belong to the Labour Party’ or not, can say it just as sincerely as the honorable senator.
– That is one of the ob*jects of the Bill, anyhow.
– Then why is it not stated in the Bill? .
– Have I not stated what it is intended to do?
– I- asked why is it not stated in -t-he Bill?
– If honorable senators defeat the Bill they will defeat oldage pensions.
– There is no proof that if we defeat the Bill to-day we cannot pass an ‘Old-age Pensions Bill tomorrow.
– It will not be much good to pass a Bill if we have not the money with which to pay the ‘pensions.
– I shall deal with’ that aspect later. I do not want anybody to question my sincerity regarding old-age pensions, even if I -do hot agree altogether with this Bill, because I was perfectly sincere in telling the electors of South “ Australia only recently that I thought that one of the very first things which the Commonwealth ought to do was to make some provision for the old men and women who might have spent their best days in the country, and done their duty in every possible way. Over and over again I have said, and said quite sincerely, that it was the duty of the Commonwealth to make such provision. It was said just now that we could not separate these two Bills. I think that every Bill should be treated on its merits. One measure ought not to be introduced with another .hanging on to it ; because thereby a false issue is raised.
– This is a machinery Bill, to enable the payment of old-age pensions.
– When this Bill was first introduced, was there any thought or word of old-age pensions?
– That is beside the question.
– Oh, is it! The Vice-President of the’ Executive Council says that this is a machinery Bill for providing old-age pensions, but he admits that’ when the Bill was first introduced old-age pensions were not in contemplation.
– The machinery provided by this Bill will enable money to be accumulated for defence, old-age pensions, or anything else.
– I venture to say that when the Bill was introduced there were other people, besides the members of the Government, who seized on it, and said, “ Here is an opportunity for providing old-age pensions.”
– If that be so, is the Bill any the worse?
– I do not say that it is, but I do say that the Bill must be treated altogether . apart from the question of old-age pensions. The Bill was originally introduced for quite a different purpose.
– The honorable senator has no justification for saying that.
– Old-age pensions were an after-thought.
– - Who were the people who originated the after-thought?
– The members of the Labour Party, I believe.
– Of course, the National League Party are opposed to oldage pensions.
– The National League knew that I was in favour ©f oldage pensions, and yet they supported me.
– They did not support the honorable senator on account of his advocacy of old-age pensions.
– Of- course not. But I argue that if they were opposed to old-age pensions they would have been opposed to me.
Sitting suspended, from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– I am a sincere supporter of old-age pensions, and shall endeavour to help forward the accomplishment of that policy in every, way. I have been twitted with being supported by an association which, it is said, is opposed- to old-age pensions. I do not know whether that is true or not, because I have not seen the platform of the association. But, however strong it may be, that association does not number 47,000 voters.
– But it is very wealthy.
– I stated my position to the electors very distinctly. I said that I was a supporter of old-age pensions, and I was returned as such. I now come to the Bill itself. I may say in advance that I look upon the Braddon section, the taking over of the States debts,- and the payment for the transferred properties, as being three- fold aspects of the financial ‘ relations of the States with the Commonwealth. The ‘Braddon section was stigmatized at one time as being a blot. I think, however, that it has been proved to be useful in operation, and has justified its author.
– It has been proved that it was not a blot.
– Exactly. I am sorry that the question of taking over the States debts was not settled long ago. As I interjected last week, when Senator, Clemons was speaking, the taking over of the debts was used to influence public opinion in favour of Federation, and I am quite sure had a very great effect in that regard. We were told that after the State debts were taken over the saving in interest to the States would practically pay for the cost of Federation. I do not blame the Commonwealth authorities or any one else for the fact that the matter has not been settled, though I regret that .such, should be the case. I also think that the question of settling up with the States in regard to the transferred properties ought to. have been dealt with long ago. It is really a business proposition as between the States and the Commonwealth. Until it is settled we do not know clearly what the Commonwealth is costing. Was it contemplated that the States were to pay interest on the cost of the transferred properties out of the three-fourths Customs and Excise revenue returned to them? If they were not, they have been treated unfairly. I do not say that the Commonwealth should have paid the States so many sovereigns, but it should have assumed responsibility for the amount of interest involved in the. original cost of the transferred properties.
– I ask the honor-‘ able senator not to dwell upon that point at length.
– I merely wish to say that I think that that is one of the things that ought to have been settled prior to the introduction of this Bill, and prior to the appropriation of surplus revenue in any way. I have no objection whatever to the principle of this Bill. I look upon it as a necessary Bill. In practice, what the Bill proposes to legalize has previously been done. As indicated by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, on three occasions at least some portion of the surplus returned has been afterwards . used by the Commonwealth. But that shows I think that there was some necessity for the Bill itself Therefore I shall not oppose it in regard to its principle. But I do object to its retrospective character. I consider that we ought to make a clear start with the new financial year. While I do not propose to vote against the second reading, I shall endeavour to have it provided that the Bill shall come into operation not earlier than the ist July, 1908. One reason for such a proposition is that the States Treasurers always frame their Estimates on the revenue they believe will be derived from the Commonwealth. What is proposed is likely to disturb their calculations very much, although it has been said that most of the States will have surpluses this year.
– They know now what their revenue will be.
– They reckoned that they were going to get a certain amount from the Commonwealth in the month of June. I do not think that that arrangement ought to be interfered with.
– They have had more than they expected.
– I admit that several of the States will have surpluses ; but I am objecting to the principle of the initiation of this fresh system before the beginning of the new financial year. I understood the Vice-President of the Executive Council to say that if the Bill were passed £222,000 of surplus money would be appropriated for the purposes of old-age pensions. How much will be required for the payment of the pensions?
– I said that the ^£222, 000 will go towards the nucleus of
– To what amount will the fund have to be raised before the government can pay old-age pensions?
– I shall make a statement on that matter on the introduction of the Old-age Pensions Bill.
– I have been toldthat we shall require something like 1,500,000 a year for the purpose. Now 222,000 is not a very large proportion of that amount.
– All the greater reason for the passing of the Bill.
-On the other hand, if we did not take the £222,000 it would not mean postponing old-age pensions for long. It would, however, prevent us from breaking what has been a very good principle. It would not be impossible for the Government to make up such an amount as £222,000 in the next year. I intend to vote for the second reading of this Bill; but when it gets into Committee I shall, as I have indicated, endeavour to obviate its retrospective character, because I think that it would be very much better for us to make a clean start with the ensuing financial year. By so doing I do not see that we should delay old-age pensions in any way whatever..
– I agree with Senator Vardon in many of the observations he has made. I think it is very unfair that at the last hour, and practically at the last minute of a very prolonged session,. Bills should be introduced which are of a very important financial character, and which, must, if passed,’ involve a sudden and unfortunate disarrangement of the finances of the States. I agree further with the honorable senator that there is no necessary relationship between the Bill now before the Senate and the financing of an old-age pensions scheme. The establishment of a Commonwealth system, of old-age pensions is put forward as being dependent on the passing of this measure. It has been stated that honorable senators who oppose the Bill are practically and virtually opposing the establishment of old-age pensions. I deny that. I protest against any construction being placed upon my vote on this Bill as indicating that I arn in any way opposed to the establishment of an old-age pensions scheme. When a Bill to provide for the payment of old-age pensions is introduced honorable senators and the public outside will be given ample opportunity to discover my views on the question, and the extent to which I am prepared_ to keep my public and private pledges with regard to it, whilst I shall be prepared to accept responsibility for my action to the people who sent me here. I do not pose as aconstitutional authority, but, so far as I can read common-sense into the Constitution, there is absolutely no necessity for this Bill. I am of opinion that it has been introduced not merely to provide for the establishment of old-age pensions, but to impound suddenly and without warning a sum of £472,000, which the States have legitimate grounds for regarding as being payable to them this year. The Government propose to impound this sum for purposes which, however good they may be, are not to be carried out this year at all. I see no constitutional difficulty in the way of financing a scheme for old-age pensions. Whether the cost of giving effect to the scheme approved by Parliament should be £1,000,000, £1,500,000, or £2,000,000, according to the view which may be held with respect to the pensions to be paid, the settlement of the question is one which was specially deputed to the Commonwealth Parliament. Along with the delegation of that duty, the Constitution gave this Parliament the rower to collect revenue from Customs and Excise, and unlimited powers of direct taxation. We ‘were restricted in the matter of Commonwealth expenditure to 25 per cent. of the Customs and Excise revenue col-‘ lected, but there was ho restriction whatever placed upon our expenditure if we chose- to raise money by direct taxation. If this Parliament sanctions the establish-, ment of an old-age pensions scheme, as it may do before- the close of this session, requiring an annual expenditure of £1,500.,000, and it should be found that it can be coveredby the 25 per cent. of Customs and Excise revenue, which may be expended by the Commonwealth, will it be contended for a moment that it would not be right for us to do ‘what it has been stated over and over again we have been doing all along. We could, if necessary, use the whole of our proportion of the revenue from Customs and Excise within the year for that purpose. Any High Court, or any Court of common-sense individuals, would say that, as the establishment of old-age pensions is a duty imposed on the Commonwealth Parliament by the people of Australia, there can, be no limit to our expenditure for the purpose other than that stated in the Constitution. If our obligations for a year require the full percentage of Customs and Excise revenue we are entitled to, it is absurd to hold that wemay not retain the whole of it.
Viewing the matter in this light, it seems to me that if it be not for the purpose of annexing, rightly or wrongly, the estimated surplus at the end of this month of £472,000, no sufficient reason can be given for the introduction of this Bill. I claim that the measure is hot only unjust to the State I represent, but constitutes an actual breach of faith with that State. The Tasmanian Government for eleven months of the financial year have arranged and rearranged the finances of the State on the basis of the amount they were expecting to get from the Commonwealth. Although this has been a good year for Tasmania, let me inform honorable senators that the State Government expect onthat account only to be able to wipe out a long standing deficiency from which the State’ has been suffering, and which has been due entirely to its association with the other States of the Commonwealth.
– Why should a Tasmanian deficit be paid off with Commonwealth funds? .
– I have heard Senator Story argue before now that the States and the Commonwealth are one. These are not Commonwealth funds. When the Vice-President of the Executive Council, in movingthe second reading of the Bill, persisted in the statement that the States were receiving more than they were entitled to by a very large sum, I resented the statement, because I know “they are entitled, in addition to their own 75 per cent., . to every farthing of the 25 per. cent, of Customs and Excise revenue which has not been expended during the year, for Commonwealth purposes. It has been said that this Bill has been before Parliament and the people for several months, and that therefore the States Governments should have been prepared for it, “ and should have financed accordingly. It is quite true that such a Bill was spoken of some time ago, but it was only within the last ‘few days, and after a certain meeting of a certain political party, that it became known that an attempt was to be made to put the Bill through this session.
– To what party does the honorable senator refer?
– The honorable senator must be well aware of the party, as, I believe, he had something to do with the meeting referred to.
– We should like to know the name of the party.
– If the honorable senator cannot guess it, he must seek his information elsewhere. After - a certain meeting of a certain party, it was made known that the Government would be allowed to remain in office for the time being, provided that what was required of them was done. I am prepared to give the Labour Party every credit in the matter, and I assert that if a scheme for the establishment of old-age pensions is approved this session, the whole of the credit for it will be due to the Labour Party, and not to the Government. Until the meeting, to which I referred, took place, there was no idea that this Bill would become law this session.
– That is totally incorrect.
– The honorable senator has not been following any of the doings of the Government since the beginning of the session, if he talks like that.
– I am quite aware that a Bill of this kind was introduced in another place some months- ago, but it was practically laid aside.
– That is not correct.
– Then why was it not gone on with? How is.it that it is suddenly taken up after the meeting of a certain party, and for the first time associated with the establishment of old-age pensions ? Why is the false issue put before the public that, unless ‘ this Bill is passed, the Government will be unable to go on with the establishment of an old-age pensions scheme? We know that they can do so at any time they please, and if we have not sufficient money to finance the scheme in the 25 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue, belonging to the Commonwealth, we have an unlimited power of direct taxation. Where are our friends of the Labour Party who have advocated that form of taxation ?
– We shall give the honorable senator an opportunity to vote for direct taxation before very long.
– Then it will not be the first opportunity of the kind which I have taken advantage of. I have not talked so long about it as have some persons. I have assisted to impose it, and have suffered for it. Honorable senators are, therefore, not in a position . to taunt me with any unwillingness to’ resort to. direct taxation.
– We shall see how the honorable senator will face the music next time.
– I shall face the music, when I learn what it is. I resent the wretched habit which some honorable senators have of imputing motives.
– Hear, hear.
– They claim all . the loyalty, goodness, and humanity, in creation, and cannot acknowledge that any one else possesses any.
– What about the honorable senator’s insinuation in connexion with a certain party?
– I insinuated nothing unworthy. It is well known outside, that the certain party referred to, represent the Government of the Commonwealth, without responsibility. If they actually formed the responsible Government of the Commonwealth, I should not object.
– Then what about the unworthy insinuation against the Government?
– That does not matter.
– I ask honorable senators not to keep up such a fire of interjections, and I ask Senator Mulcahy to confine himself more closely to the subjectmatter of the Bill.
– J have noticed, sir, that throughout the debate you have allowed a great deal of latitude to all the speakers. The measure involves a discussion of financial questions, and justifies, I think, certain references, which, it seems to me, were appropriate.
– But it does not involve unworthy accusations.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council not to interject.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council asks me why I made an insinuation against the Government. ‘
– I ask the honorable senator to deal with the subject-matter of the Bill. I have no wish to unduly restrict his remarks, but I do not desire that there should be any imputation of motives.
– I suppose that, later on, we shall have an opportunity to deal with the financial aspect of certain proposals, with which -this particular measure was supposed to be immediately associated. I have complained that at the latter end of a prolonged session, when the State Parliament of Tasmania is about to meet, and after the Government of the State has issued anticipations of revenue, based upon the receipt of their proportion of an anticipated surplus of ,£472,000, and have announced a hope that they will be able to extinguish a long out-standing deficiency, and to proceed with a somewhat more liberal policy of public works, they are suddenly confronted by the proposed retention of the money they expected to receive, whether this is due to the cause to which I have attributed it or not, does not matter. The fact remains that the State Government of Tasmania are to be deprived of £40,000 or £45,000, which they had legitimate reasons for believing they might consider their own. The amount handed over in excess of the three-fourths to the various States has been estimated by Senator Best at ,£992,000.
– Roughly, the amount in the case of Tasmania would be about £10,000, but, magnified, of course - £40,000
– It may be about £20,000 for this month, but for the whole year it should be about onetwentythird of the £992,000. However, that matter can be settled when we get the correct figures, and not by mere guesswork. I tried to obtain the figures, but it was not possible. If from the beginning the Commonwealth had used up the whole of its 25 per cent, of the revenue, Tasmania would have been left in an exceedingly embarrassed position, notwithstanding that it has imposed the highest scheme of direct taxation to be found in the Commonwealth, and has collected the highest amount under it. Now Tasmania finds herself with so much less money and the same obligations upon it. From that stand-point the Bill is grossly unfair, and, judging by what took place between the Prime Minister and the States Premiers at the recent Conference, it seems to be nothing less than a gross breach of faith. However, it is of no use to continue the debate ; the numbers are up, and we shall have to accept the inevitable.
– I am also of the. opinion that the numbers are up, but on an important matter of this kind we must express our opinions. I notice that many honorable senators do not wish to speak. I believe the reason is that their votes are already pledged. When Senator Mulcahy said that this was a resurrected Bill the Vice-President of the
Executive Council seemed to feel it very much, and said that it was no such thing. We were told by the head of the Government, both in his speeches and through the press, that when the Tariff was dealt with no other debatable business would be taken this session.
– That is not correct. I never heard such a statement.
– I heard it in another . place and saw it in the press. If Senator Best has not said it in so many words, he has in effect said, time after time - “ Let us get along with the Tariff, and the ses. sion will be over.” Now, at the fag end of the session, one of the most important Bills that could possibly be brought before us is put forward, with the object of simply forcing it through. It is of no use for. the Minister to deny it, because not only honorable senators but the whole of the people outside, know what the facts are. Some people have been a little injudicious, and have divulged perhaps more than they intended, but it is well known that, but for pressure, the Government would never have proceeded with any other business this session when the Tariff was finished. Parliament, after sitting continuously from last. July, is not in the temper to debate a Bill of this description; nor is this the time to ask it to do so. The Bill will operate differently in different States. Although Queensland will be deprived of a large sum of money, it has carried out the object which this Bill is brought down to further - the establishment of a reasonable scheme of old-age pensions.
– Queensland will be , relieved of that obligation by this Bill.
– But Queensland begins to pay old-age pensions on the 1st July, and while it is paying them for the next twelve months the Commonwealth will be stopping money from it in order to pay pensions at some future time. That is not fair. For many years. I have advocated old-age pensions in the State, and at the last election I said I would be glad to see the State establish a scheme. If Queensland had not done so, I should have been a very strong advocate of the Federal scheme, and even now, so far as I know, I will support the Old-age Pensions Bill when it comes before us. In conjunction with that Bill, this measure may appear fair, but it is not fair to the States that have not been prepared for it. When the Premiers’ Conference -sat a few weeks ago it was not known that the Bill was to be. forced through this year. Out of the sum of £472,000 that it is proposed to take from the States £250,000 is for naval purposes, and £222,000 for a nucleus of an old-age pensions fund. I am afraid that we are rushing this Bill through, that the whole of the work will be wasted, that those who are now supporting it so strongly will be disappointed, and that the money which is affected by the retrospective action of this Bill will never be put into the hands of the Commonwealth by the States. Those gentlemen learned in the law whom I have heard on the constitutional aspect of the question differ very much. One of them told me this evening that there was no possibility of the Commonwealth taking any of the money except the £222,000, and. that the balance of the £900,000 odd would never be received by the Commonwealth. That may or may not be so, but in any case this is drastic legislation that will cause a great amount of friction between the States and the Commonwealth. I heard the leader of the Senate, when introducing the Bill to-day, explain the Constitution. I and hundreds of thousands of others always thought that the Constitution was so drafted that any plain man, not a lawyer, could understand it, but it appears from the explanations given by Ministers at various times that it can be twisted any way to suit any purpose. If that is the fashion in which the Constitution is going to be applied, it will lead to eternal friction between the States and the Commonwealth. There is scarcely a State that will not resent this measure when it is put through, and very possibly it will lead to a long and tedious lawsuit between the States and the Commonwealth, to the glory- of the profession to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council belongs. He has, I think, put a very strained interpretation on the Constitution. I do not think that any man, or body of men, who voted for the Constitution understood section 94, to which the Minister referred so often, to mean what he now construes it to mean. It says that -
After five years from the imposition of uniform duties of customs, the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
He read section 93 in conjunction with it. That is where his profession comes in, for he is able to- construe the words of the previous section as applied to that section. But I do not think he will argue that any man outside his profession believed when the Constitution was put’ before the people that, it placed in the hands of the Commonwealth the power which the honorable senator now claims for it. But whether he is right or wrong, I am sure from what’ I read in the public press, and hear from public men; that the Bill will not become law without a fight. Surelywe do not want a fight over old-age pensions. We desire to make the best terms we can for those who need them. Victoria and New South Wales are already paying them, although they are not perhaps as liberal as I or other honorable senators would like, and Queensland has come into line. It will pay them’ from the ist July, whereas it will be a year or more before the Commonwealth scheme comes into operation.
– The Queensland Act’ will ‘ not meet all the cases that the Commonwealth, scheme will meet. It will deal only with those who reside in Queensland.
Sen’ator SAYERS. - Queensland’s law, so far as it goes, is as liberal as that proposed by the Commonwealth. There may be cases of hardship where people have lived in different States, and for that reason only I shall vote when the’ time comes for the Commonwealth Old-age Pensions Bill. Otherwise, I believe that a State could administer the system better than the Commonwealth could. We have had examples of the centralization of various services in the Commonwealth. Up to the present it has not been a success, and I am afraid that if this and the other Bill are passed, and the necessary money is devoted by the ‘Commonwealth to paying old-age pensions, the result will not be so satisfactory as if each State paid the pensions itself. The further away you get from the Seat of Government, the more abuses creep in. I can remember the time before Federation when the cry from all parts of Australia was for separation, and the creation of more States. We do not want that cry raised again as against the Commonwealth. We should seek to meet the wishes of the people of the States as far as we possibly can. We do not want to accumulate a vast sum of money to pay away under a system in connexion with the administration of which abuses may arise, owing to places a long way away from the Seat of Government feeling that they are not getting fair play. Those nearest to the Seat’ of Government always get the best end of the stick, and are looked after a great deal better than are those 2,000 miles away. History has shown the truth of that in connexion with other Government services-, which I heed not specify. Those on the spot can’ bring their grievances before members, and get the ear of the Government, where those writing from long distances are unable to obtain redress.
– Some people in Western Australia are as far from Perth as Perth is from Melbourne, so that that argument would apply even to the States Governments.
– That supports my argument. The people the honorable senator mentioned are asking for the erection of a separate State. I remember when that cry was general. It should be the object of Parliament to do away with that cry, and to see that there is no just cause for complaint. Although it is one of the functions of this Parliament to institute a system of old-age pensions, still I believe that if the States had only done their duty, as they ought to have done, we should not have had this Bill before us, or the question of the necessity for introducing a scheme of old-age pensions.
– I ask the honorable senator not to deal too long with the question of old-age pensions, because the Bill for that purpose is not before the Senate now.
– I was speaking about this Bill, sir.
– The object of this Bill is merely to allocate certain moneys for certain purposes, and to place them to a trust fund. The questions of old-age pensions and defence have been brought in incidentally, but they should not be used to too great an extent as an argument for or against this Bill.
– I am using as an argument against the Bill the fact that we are taking’ from the States, for the purpose of old-age pensions, money which we are not entitled to take.
– Then the honorable senator is against old-age pensions?
– I am not.
– How does the honorable senator propose to pay them?
– Surely my honorable friends on the other side are not such Pharisees as to believe that they are the only just people in the world ! Before the honorable senator had anything to do with the question of old-age pensions I was an advocate of them.
– - The honorable senator wanted them - a long way off.
– No, I wanted them more quickly than did the honorable senator, but, like many others, I cannot always get my own way.-
– As the honorable senator can get this measure, let him take it.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator that we shall get oldage pensions, because, as he knows, the fate of this Bill is already decided, although it has not yet been put to the vote. Therefore, he is in a position to smile at me, and’ say “It is of no use to oppose the Bill, because we have decided to support it.” T am willing to give him all the credit which belongs to him for having secured a ‘ majority in its favour. I am satisfied that it would not have seen day light but for the efforts of himself and those who are associated with him. But, as its fate is already decided, I merely want to enter a protest against the manner in which it has been brought down. When the other Bills are submitted for our consideration, I shall exercise my judgment to the best of my ability. The taunt was thrown at me just now from the other side that, because I oppose this Bill, I am opposed to old-age pensions. Surely we should bring them into existence in a proper way ! I believe that honorable gentlemen will find at length that they have been jockeyed, and that this Bill was merely a red-herring drawn across the track to satisfy them for the time being. .
– If the honorable senator does not vote for the Bill his sympathy is skin deep.
– The State which the honorable senator represents has not yet established a system of old-age pensions. Of course, this sum of £222,000 would do something wonderful if he had his way, but, in my opinion, it would not provide old-age pensions for his State.
– This is the foundationstone.
– Is the foundation- stone laid on sand or rock? I think that the honorable senator will find that it is laid upon sand, and will melt away. Of that I feel pretty confident, and, therefore, I do not intend to be what some personsmight call a political fraud by voting for a measure in which I do not believe, simply because the cry is popular at the- present time. I shall oppose the second reading of. the Bill.
Question - That this Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority. …. … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
– I rise to submit an amendment, and as its object will be clear to every one the moment it is stated, I do not propose to occupy time in debating it at length. I move -
That the words “a day to be fixed by proclamation “ be left’ out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words” the 1st day of July, 1908.”
That amendment, if made, will fix the date when the Bill will come into operation, and its effect will be to place beyond the control of the Commonwealth the sum of £472,000 which it is the distinct desire of the Government to appropriate for Federal purposes. The reason why I submit the amendment is, as I stated in my second-reading speech, because I hold - and I think that a number of honorable senators will agree with me - that it is desirable to start thisnew method with a new financial year, and not to spring it. suddenly upon the States without any intimation or warning as to our intention I admit at once that there would be a loss of the amount mentioned if ‘ we deferred the operation of the’ Bill for a month. But against that I set the great advantage that it would riot cause’ such a violent disruption of the existing state of affairs between the States and the Commonwealth.
– It would save litigation, too.
– I shall express no definite opinion, but it might save litigation.
– The States have plenty of money.
– I can understand my honorable friend’s keen anxiety to help the legal profession, but I am not actuated by any such motive. I submit the amendment in. all good faith, believing that if it is inserted a great deal of that feeling of irritation which has been occasioned, rightly or wrongly, in certain quarters will be allayed, and that it will be more businesslike, more courteous, and fairer to give some intimation of the change which we propose to make.
– I hope that the Committee will not entertain the amendment. It is. submitted on the ground, amongst others, that the Bill is going to take the States by surprise. That assumption is not warranted. For many weeks,if not months, the States have been aware of the intention of the Government to proceed with the Bill.
– But not that it was to be retrospective.
– It was introduced with the object of applying the surplus revenue to Commonwealth purposes. That was the original desire and object.
– Never to make it retrospective.
– Suppose thatit had been passed two months ago, as we desired, it would have operated on the receipts for April, May, and June. Consequently, when the courtesy was shown to the Premiers of holding it over until the Conference had been held, they well knew the object and the design which the Government had in view.
– Not that it was to be retrospective. That is the whole point.
– The retrospective aspect of the matter does not come in here. At the Conference the Premiers asked the Prime Minister a specific question as to what was going to be done.
-He dodged it.
– He did not. He told them absolutely what was intended to be done.
– What the Prime Minister told the Conference may be found in the official record -
Mr. Wade. It would mean that if the Bill becomes law at the end of June next you. would call on the various States to make restitution.
Mr. DEAKIN. No, it would affect whatever has not .been handed over. The process of asking for anything back would be unnecessary if not unproductive.
If the Bill had been passed in April - and that was the notice of our intention which was given to the States - they would have been deprived of the surplus for April, May, and June. Having received that notice, and the courtesy of postponing the consideration of the measure having been extended to them, .surely it is unreasonable to say that they have been taken by surprise. My honorable friend’s second point referred to the disruption of the finances. Could there be al more ridiculous suggestion? According to ‘ the figures that I submitted on the second reading of this measure, the States have been paid nearly ,?1,000,000 in excess of that to which they were entitled, up to 31st May last. They never expected it, and never had any reason to anticipate it. They were not justified in taking into recognition in their accounts any sum in excess of the three-fourths Customs and Excise revenue. That is the exact legal position of the matter. ‘ Consequently, I say that so far as the. States finances are concerned, ali that they were justified in looking to us for was the three-fourths Customs and Excise revenue, and the enormous excess which they have received, was very much in the nature of a gift to them. As they were told that the intention was to operate on the June receipts, the passage of this Bill is now sought. What is the effect of it? It is that after depriving the States of every penny of the June receipts, they will still have received, in excess of their three-fourths, the sum of ,?261,000. I am glad to see that, at this” stage, it is not seriously contended by my honorable friends opposite, that we are not entitled to utilize the receipts for June in adjustment. ‘ It is not contended that we are not entitled to the full one-fourth. It is not contended that the States are entitled to three-fourths of the June receipts. If that be so, I inquire, why should not the Government be entitled to this- nucleus, or nest egg, of ?222,000, for old-age pension purposes? Haying dealt with the two main contentions upon which this amendment is submitted, I inquire, why should we throw away this sum of ?222,000, when, by merit and justice, we are entitled to retain it. I inquire, moreover, why we, who are so strong in our anxiety to have our shores defended, should not apply a sum of ,?250,000 to that legitimate and desirable object. It is all very well for us to speak about the peril to which we are subjected, and of our great anxiety to get- ahead speedily with the efficient organization and equipment of our defences. But why should we’ not show that in a practical way ?
– I ask the honorable senator not to discuss that question.
– I am showing’ some reasons why we should appropriate this sum of ,?472,000. I say that, as the opportunity, is afforded us, after full notice, and acting within the terms of the Constitution itself, why is it that we are not to be at liberty to apply this sum of ,?472,000 _to Commonwealth purposes and objects in the manner that I have already indicated ? I trust that, under all these circumstances, honorable senators will see their way not to accept the amendment. It has been suggested that I should read more fully from the official report of .what Mr. Deakin said at the Premiers’ Conference, so as to place the matter ‘ beyond all doubt. It is suggested that the Prime Minister directly, or indirectly, gave it to be understood by the Premiers that the June receipts would not be. operated upon. This extract from the report will show exactly what he said -
Mr. Evans. Before we disband we would like to know whether it is the intention’ of the Federal Government, if the Surplus Revenue Bill is passed into law, to bring it into operation from the beginning of the present financial year?
Mr. Deakin. It will come into operation at the earliest date we can arrange.
Mr. Evans. But suppose the measure is passed within the next few weeks, would it deal with this year’s revenue?
Mr. Deakin. Yes, it would operate this year.
Mr. Evans. That is a proposal against which we should enter a respectful protest. The Treasurer of Tasmania has made his estimate -of revenue and expenditure on the understanding that Tasmania will be treated as hitherto.
Mr. Deakin. I am perfectly safe in saying that not one of you reckoned on receiving asmuch revenue as you have received this year.
Mr. Evans. All the States reckoned on a large, increase.
Mr. Wade. It would mean that if the Bill becomes law at the end of June next, you would call on various States to make ‘a restitution.
Mr. Deakin. No. It would affect whatever has not been handed over. The process of asking for anything back would be unnecessary, if not unproductive.
Mr. Evans. Then you were in error in replying to my question ; for- you said it would be retrospective.
Mr. Deakin. No; I thought you spoke of the financial year as something closed.
That places beyond all doubt that the Prime Minister told the Conference in the plainest words. that this Bill was intended to operate upon the June receipts. In pursuance of that I ask honorable senators to reject the amendment.
– Senator Best has referred to the matter of adjustment. I should like to ask him if he is prepared to insert a clause in this Bill to limit its operation to the particular matter of adjustment of actual expenditure?
-Is that question a joke of the honorable senator?
– No; I want the Vice-President of the Executive Council to be good enough to let us know the exact truth. Is it not a fact that, although he talks about adjustment of accounts, the real object of this Bill is to take more money than is required for mere adjustment ? Is it not the intention to take for certain purposes ?472,000 out of the moneys which would otherwise be returnable tothe States after that adjustment has been made?
– It is intended to apply Commonwealth money.
– It is intended to take from the States the sum of ?472,000 after all the adjustments - and they amount to a great deal - have been made. That is really the position, as I think the honorable senator will admit.
– I admit nothing.
– The Commonwealth is entitled to take 25 per cent. of the Customs and Excise revenue if it requires that amount, but we must not forget that the Commonwealth takes something else. It takes its 25 per cent, after the cost of collecting the revenue has been first deducted. So that; in addition to the 25 per cent., the Commonwealth really has the power of taking 3 per cent. Consequently it takes about 28 per cent. of the whole. Therefore the States have hot really received the excess of revenue which the honorable senator wishes us to understand has been returned to them. The amendment proposes that the Bill should commence on the 1st July. That is a fair and statesmanlike proposition. It will keep the accounts of the present year distinct from the accounts of the coming year, and also from the accounts of two years ahead, which the Government has also attempted to mix up with those of the currentyear. For these reasons, I trust that the amendment will be accepted.
– It has been contended by the VicePresident of the Executive Council that the Prime Minister at the Premiers’ Conference made it clear that the States Treasurers were not going to receive their usual portion of the June receipts. He has read a copious extract from the Prime Minister ‘s statement to the Conference. The question put to the Prime Minister was one of the simplest that could have been put to any responsible Minister. The honorable gentleman must have understood it clearly. The Premiers wanted to know whether, in the month of June, they were going to be treated as they have been treated during the past few months. That being so, if the Prime Minister intended to ‘ ‘ collar ‘ ‘ the whole of the June receipts, to use a common expression, he should have told theConference so in plain language.
– It would not have been dignified for the Prime Minister to say that the Federal Government meant to “ collar “ the receipts.
– The plainer the language the more dignified it is; The Prime Minister must have known the anxiety of the Premiers about their receipts from the Commonwealth. It was perfectly easy for him to make his intention clear. It is now proposed that a date . should be fixed in order to prevent anything like retrospective action. If the amendment is adopted, it will at once prevent the necessity for taking the matter to the High Court. lt is quite possible, in view of the obligations of the Commonwealth, that the various State Treasurers will be willing to come to an understanding with regard to the financial year beginning after the 30th June. But if no date is fixed it will be a plain challenge to the Premiers to test the constitutionality of the measure. In order to prevent such litigation it is to be hoped that ‘the amendment) will be accepted. I suggest that this course should be adopted also, because when the issue was being put in one form and another to the Prime Minister at the Premiers’ Conference he should have told those whom he was addressing that the Government proposed for purposes of adjustment to retain every penny of the J une receipts. With all respect to the Prime Minister,I do not think that the States Premiers and Treasurers could have concluded from the remarks he made that the Government proposed to take that drastic and, I think, unconstitutional step.
– I hope that the Committee will accept Senator Millen’s amendment. It seems to me that it would be the straightforward thing to do to bring this Bill into operation at the beginning of the new financial year. I have always looked upon retrospective legislation as being somewhat vicious in principle. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has quoted some remarks made by the Prime Minister at the Premiers’ Conference, but I venture to say that those whom he addressed did not understand the honorable gentleman in the way in which his remarks are now explained. They may have understood that the States would get no surplus revenue for the month of June, but I do not believe for a moment that they understood that they would be called upon to refund all the surplus revenue payable to them for the year with the exception of £261,000. The Prime Minister told the Premiers and Treasurers of the States that the Government did not expect to get back what the States had already received; but under this measure it is proposed to get that money back in another way.
– We are not going to ask the States for a refund of £261,000, if that is what the honorable senator means.
– I say that the effect of the operation of this Bill will be that with the exception of £261,000 the whole of the surplus revenue payable to the States for the year will be stopped out of the revenue from Customs and Excise for the month of June. The States Premiers certainly never understood that that would be done, but that there would be no surplus revenue coming to them for the month of June. I repeat that it is only just and fair to postpone the operation of this Bill until the 1 st of July. So far as provision for old-age pensions is concerned, the £222,000 that has been referred to might be got in another way next year.
.- I should like to say a word or two in view of the statement made by the VicePresident of the Executive Council that, a declaration by the Prime Minister at the Premiers’ Conference put the matter beyond all doubt. There seems to be some unfortunate fate always dogging the. tongue of the Prime Minister. Whenever the honorable gentleman speaks, people - out of sheer obstinacy, I suppose - refuse to understand him, and it is always necessary for the honorable gentleman to make several explanations to convey what he really meant to say. This is another of the occasions on which the Prime Minister, having used certain words, declares that they were intended to mean certain things, whilst everybody who listened to him or read his remarks in the press have given them a totally different meaning. According to the VicePresident of the Executive Council, what the Prime Minister actually did say at the Premiers’ Conference was that the proposed Bill would affect whatever had not been handed over. What is it that the Conference were dealing with at the time and that was not to be affected by the provisions of the Bill ? It was not the total revenue from Customs and Excise, but the Commonwealth surplus revenue. The members of the Conference were discussing the Surplus Revenue Bill, and, naturally, when the Prime Minister said that the Bill would not affect past payments, but merely the money which had not been handed over, the reasonable assumption was that the reference was to the Commonwealth surplus revenue and not to the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue belonging tothe States. In support of that view, we have the curious unanimity of the States Premiers who listened to the Prime Minister, and not one of whom is able to come forward and say that he gave Mr. Deakin’s words the interpretation now sought to be placed upon them. On the contrary, they accepted the assurance of the Prime Minister that the Surplus Revenue Bill was not to be retrospective in effect any more than in words. Another statement attributed to the Prime Minister was that there was to be no restitution. That is to say, the honorable gentleman was not proposing to ask the States Governments to hand back to the Federal Treasurer actual sovereigns which had been paid over to them, but in this measure he is proposing what amounts to exactly the same thing.
– They are not being asked to hand back the £261,000.
– I am not dealing with the £261,000, but with the £472,000 which under this measure the States Governments are being called upon compulsorily to refund. The fact that the States Go- vernments are to be allowed to retain £261,000 has no possible bearing upon the retention by the Commonwealth Government of £472,000 which the States expected to receive. To give a simple illustration of the position, if an employe of any honorable senator made a mistake in his accounts which resulted in a loss of £1, he might say, “ I shall not call upon you to make restitution, but I shall stop the £1 out of your week’s wages.” That is exactly what the Government propose in this Bill to say to the States Governments. They do not propose to ask that amounts previously handed over to the States shall be returned to the Commonwealth in actual sovereigns, but they do effectively demand restitution and enforce it by withholding from the States money payable to them at the end of this month.
– They are only doing what was done on three previous occasions.
– The honorable senator may commit a fourth offence, but he can scarcely excuse it by claiming that he committed the same offence three times before. In connexion with the matter to which the honorable senator refers, I have to say that this is the first occasion on which I have had any idea that the practice referred to was even creeping in. I venture to say that in that respect I am in the same position as nine out of every ten members of the Committee. The practice was carried out in departmental darkness, and no one knew anything about it.
– The States Treasurers knew of it.
– Senator Guthrie does not always appeal to the States Treasurers as guides when he is in a difficulty.
– It is only when Federal Treasurers fall out that we get information.
– In speaking on the second reading of the Bill, I said that its principles commended themselves to me.
– And the honorable senator said that it should have been introduced long ago.
– Unquestionably. Instead of introducing the Bill now when we have no Commonwealth surplus revenue worth bothering about, so far as its amount is concerned, it should have been introduced years ago, before we handed over to the States £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 for which, as I have said, they have not been even decently thankful.
– The honorable senator refuses to do what he admits should have been done long ago.
– The honorable senator ignores the distinction between the doing of a thing and the way in which it is done. Instead of proposing to take this action at the last moment of the financial year, some reasonable information should have been given to the States Governments of the desire or intention of the ‘Commonwealth Government to adopt an altered method of financial distribution. By postponing the operation of the measure until next year we should avoid a charge of unduly disorganizing the finances of the States by springing upon the States Governments at the last moment without the courtesy of. even a decent intimation an altered method of dealing with Com monwealth finances.
Question - That the words proposedto be left out (Senator Millen’s amendment), be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I wish to point out that this clause is distinctly superfluous, and might very well be omitted altogether. There is no doubt that it’ is intended that the Bill shall be brought into operation immediately. In fact, it was intended that it should be brought into operation last week. I should very much like to see the wording of the proclamation which I have no doubt was prepared for the purpose. It was originally intended that the measure should be brought into operation in time to enable the Government to take possession of the May receipts, as well as of the June receipts.
– I agree with Senator Pulsford that the clause is quite unnecessary. It provides that the Bill shall come into force on a date to be fixed by proclamation. 1 can see no reason why, if it is intended to bring the Bill into operation immediately, we should depart from the ordinary phraseology adopted when it is intended that a Bill should come into force immediately it has received the GovernorGeneral’s assent. There are, of course, circumstances in which it. is desirable to provide that a Bill shall come into operation by proclamation, in such a case, for instance, as the Quarantine Bill, where it is desirable that’ the operation of the Bill should be delayed until the whole of the machinery to give it effect has been brought into working order.
– Perhaps the object of this clause is to delay the operationof the measure until the 1st July.
– It might be intended to carry out the spirit of the amendment which has just been dealt with, but, as the sense of the Committee was so strongly against it, we ought not to assume that the Government would violate the wishes of the Committee by giving effect to it. The clause only loads up the Bill with a quite unnecessary provision. We are not asking the Minister to divulge Cabinet secrets, but we know that the Bill must be brought into operation as soon as ever the Governor-General’s signature can be secured. That being so, what is the object of the clause? If there is an object, I shall be content to let it go.
– We have already refused to strike out the words, “ a day to be fixed by proclamation.” I do not know what the Treasury Department had in mind in originally inserting this clause, but I can assure honorable senators that so. soon as the Bill goes through there will be a proclamation, and I ask them not to persist in opposingthe clause. I desire that the Bill shall go through to-night. To make even a verbal alteration would necessitate the return of the Bill to. another place, and that would cause delay. In the circumstances, the clause can do no harm. It is true that if it had not been there the Bill would have become law the moment it received the GovernorGeneral’s assent. This provision might delay it for twenty-four hours. The Treasury Department must have had some reason for departing from the usual course.
– I propose to tell the VicePresident of the Executive Council the reason why the clause was inserted, and honorable senators will see at once that that reason has passed away. It was inserted because the Bill was drafted a long while ago, and it was desired to present it as having the appearance of delay, so as not to hurt the susceptibilities of the States. The Minister says the clause will do no harm, but why depart from the recognised practice in regard to all Bills? Surely there is a proper and right way to do things, and a slovenly and wrong way. We should not get into the habit of letting things go because, like a chip in porridge, they do not matter. Unless some use can be shown for the clause, we ought not to tolerate it, because it marks a new departure in legislation. Whilst the legislative machine comprises not merely Parliament, but the GovernorGeneral, and their assent makes a Bill law, we are asked to leave the law in a state of suspended animation until the Government choose to issue a proclamation. If there were any good in the clause I should not have risen a second time, but the Minister can show no reason why it is there. We might as well have some historical recital there, and let it stand because “it will do no harm.” No one wants more than I do to bring this longdrawnout session to a close, but the mere desire to close the session does not excuse one from the discharge of his duty. I invite the Committee to throw out a piece of surplusage which cumbers the Bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
For the purposes of this section -
– I move -
That after the word “ shall “ the words “ after 1st July, 1908,” be inserted.
I propose this simply to differentiate between a mere adjustment of revenue and prospective expenditure. The amendment will make it impossible to take prospective expenditure out of the States’ moneys for the month of June.
– I submit that the amendment cannot be received. We have already decided it. The honorable senator himself has admitted as much, saying that the effect of the amendment will be that the Treasurer will not be at liberty to apply this sum of £472,000, representing the surplus to which I have already referred. We have already decided, by negativing a similar amendment on clause 2, that the Bill shall come into operation at once, and that the sum in question shall be available for application under the provisions of the Bill. Apart from the question of order, I ‘would remind honorable senators that we are asked really to take again a vote we have already taken.
– This is not the amendment that was dealt with before. That covered two points - the adjustment of accounts and the seizure of money for prospective expenditure. The Committee voted in regard to both matters then, but it may be now quite ready to object to the seizure.
– The amendment on clause 2 dealt with the question of fixing a date for the coming into operation of the whole Bill. The Bill contains several clauses, and more than one principle. The paragraph on which this amendment is moved deals only with payments into trust accounts. While the Committee may be in favour of the Bill not coming into operation on a certain day, it may be prepared to date the payment into trust accounts as from that day. I, therefore, rule that the amendment is in order.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Best) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
– In moving -
That the Senate do now adjourn,
I beg to thank honorable senators for the expeditious manner in which they put through the Surplus Revenue Bill. I have every reason to hope that by to-morrow we shall receive the Old-age Pensions Bill.-; and, if I may further trespass upon the generosity of honorable senators, I would ask that, if received, it be put through all its stages on that day. If that should be done, I think that there will be a very bright prospect of an early closing of the session.
– How about the Seamen’s Compensation Bill?
– My honorable friend is most solicitous this evening.
– When the Old-age Pensions Bill makes its appearance here, I think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council and other honorable senators will find that it will receive just as cordial a reception on this side as in other parts of the chamber.
– I informed Senator St. Ledger that I intended to do my best to explain the explanation which he offered to the Senate last Wednesday afternoon, and which appears in Hansard, on page 11 46 7. After having quoted a reference which was made by myself, and which appears in Hansard, on page 11 250, he said -
The charge which was made by Senator Turley arose from the fact that on the defeat of the Dickson Ministry in Queensland, I was invited by the leader of the Labour Party to take a portfolio in the Ministry and a seat in the Legislative Council.
Further, the honorable senator said -
During the late Federal election a similar charge was made by ex-Senator Higgs who, on my drawing attention to it, publicly withdrew it, admitting that he had been misinformed.
The statement which I made did not arise from that fact at all. I prefer to give my own explanation of why I made it. I have known the honorable senator for a good many years and during his various attempts to get into public life-
– There were only two.
– I knew the honorable senator prior to 1899, when he, with a number of others, was a sort of hangeron to the skirts of the Labour Party of Queensland.
– A hanger-on r What nonsense !
-r I speak very plainly. At the general election in that year, the Labour Party were not contesting the North Brisbane seat. But a deputation waited upon them at the Trades Hall to ask whether, if they were not contesting the seat, they would be prepared to support Mr. St. Ledger if they nominated him as a candidate. The reply was, “ Why does not he sign the pledge? The deputation said that that did not make much difference, that he was as good as a Labour man, and that if he did not sign the pledge he would stand a better chance of winning the seat than if he came out as a pledged Labour man.
– Was that said by Senator St. Ledger, or by somebody else?
– It was said, not by Senator St. Ledger, but by the deputation. After some talk, it was decided that the Labour Party should do all that they could, unofficially, to assist the candidature of Mr. St. Ledger for North Brisbane. They were under the impression, from his speeches and addresses, that he was strongly in favour of the planks of the Labour platform.
– Of some of them, as I distinctly said.
– In his political address, published in the Brisbane Courier, on the 28th February, 1899, the honorable senator said - .
I am in favour of the repeal of the Polynesian Act. I would regard the existing engagements of the sugar planters. Subject to these I am in favour of the gradual deportation of the kanakas to their native islands. The introduction of Chinese and Japanese is too important a question to be left to the chances of protocols and diplomacy. I am in favour of a rigid Exclusion Bill against all Asiatic races. In a word, I am in favour of a White Queensland.
In a speech which the honorable senator made at the Centennial Hall, Brisbane, on the 27th February, 1899, he is reported as saying -
He was entirely in accord with the Labour Party in Parliament, in so much that he considered great social questions should be tentatively dealt with by legislation.
On that occasion, those connected with the Labour Party believed that the honorable senator was so much in earnest that, to my knowledge, working men, who could ill afford it, gave up days and days when they should have been at work, and canvassed: that particular constituency on hrs behalf for nothing, just as they would have done had he belonged to the Labour Party.
– I thanked them, and beg to thank them again, and will ask them again.
– Why should they not?
– I am not saying, why they should not, but merely stating that it was because they believed that the honorable senator was straightforward in connexion with his support of the Labour platform that they did that work.
– And Senator St. Ledger was defeated.
– The honorable senator was defeated on that occasion. Shortly afterwards, when the member for Toowong resigned, Mr. Arthur Lilley, a son of the late Chief Justice of Queensland, was selected to contest the seat because he had signed the platform, and the honorable senator was loud in his com-, plaints that he had not been selected tocontest the seat, and to run with the full strength of the Labour movement behind” him, because he had previously contested the North Brisbane seat on those grounds.
– Can the honorable senator give the slightest proof of that ?
– I am only stating why I made the statement which the honorable senator attempted to controvert by his explanation ; I am endeavouring to explain his explanation to the best of my ability. He also referred to an offer of a portfolio. Personally, I know nothing about that, except that I have been told that he was offered a portfolio when a Labour Government was in office in Queensland for a few days. Whether that is so or not, I cannot say. Therefore, I did not refer to that matter when I made the statement which he mentioned in his explanation. If he was offered a portfolio at that time, it must have been offered by men who honestly believed that he was strongly sympathetic with the principles of the Labour Party, just as were those men who, in 1899, worked hard to secure his return for North Brisbane. He also said that exSenator Higgs had made a similar statement. That is not so. . The statement which Mr. Higgs made when on the platform was that Senator St. Ledger had previously contested an election as an indorsed Labour man. He spoke to me about it, and asked’ me if it was correct, and I told him that he was making a mistake. He said then that he certainly would apologize now that he knew of the mistake which he had made. There is another little matter to which it is necessary to refer to enable me to make a full explanation. Some time ago - and the report will be found in Hansard, on page 5045 - I made a statement in which I quoted the words that had been used by the chairman of a meeting in Bundaberg. The honorable senator said -
The reply which I made at the time was published..I pointed out that, on the first occasion when I ventured to come before the public of Queensland, the first words which I put into my public address were to the effect that I stood pledged to no party.
– If that was not in the report of the address I said so.
– I am not contradicting the honorable senator, because, as I have stated, so far as I know he stood as an independent friend of the Labour Party in that constituency. After the Toowong affair the Government in Queensland at that time ‘was endeavouring - as other political parties would have done under the circum stances - to secure the services of any one whom they thought would be of use to them. The honorable senator had been usually known and recognised as one who was sympathetic with the Labour Party.
– I hopeI am so still.
– Certainly, he had never been getting any of the “ pickings “ which the Government then in power was able to pass along. Some time afterwards he got into such relations with the Government that they gave him certain work which he never would have received had they thought that he was still strongly in sympathy with the Labour Party. That explains the references which the honorable senator has made once or twice in the Senate to the Customs cases with which he was connected.
– That is in excellent taste !
– I am still explaining the honorable senator’s explanation to the best of my ability. I desire to say in connexion with the passage which I quoted from page 5045 of Hansard that the honorable senator made this statement-
I may also remark that the person who made that dastardly statement against me under such discreditable circumstancesreceived his political death at the next election, largely, I believe, in consequence of that diabolical attack.
I wanted to know the truth about that matter. I therefore sent a copy of Hansard to Mr. Barber, who won the election referred to, and another copy to Mr. Duffy, who was the defeated candidate. 1 have their replies here. Mr. Barber did not make a reply directly to the honorable senator’s statement that he was responsible for the defeat of Mr. Duffy, but he gave me a quantity of information as to what was published in the Bundaberg newspapers at that time.
– Is the honorable senator going to read the whole of the correspondence which he has in his hand ?
– That is not necessary. I wish to say this for Mr. Duffy. He has always been a straightout, honest opponent of the Labour Party. I sat with him in the Queensland Parliament for some years, and I know that, although he was opposed to the Labour Party, he was always candid in his statements, and told us so. As I have said, I, sent a copy of Hansard to” Mr. Duffv, and promised him that
I would use the letter which he sent me in reply. The following is his reply, dated 7th November, 1907 -
Your letter of the 28th ult. duly reached me, and the copy of Hansard referred to is also to hand:
There is no truth whatever in Mr. St. Ledger’s statement that my defeat at the late election was due to his attitude re my remarks relative to his wobbling propensities. In fact, the St. Ledger incident was only a nine days’ wonder, andI was complimented by both friends and foes alike on speaking so plainly and thus giving the public of Bundaberg an idea of the class of man that was seeking their suffrages.
Mr. St. Ledger himself was so flabbergasted with my remarks that all he could say in reply was to thank me for having afforded him an opportunity to explain his peculiar conduct.
I enclose the local newspaper reports (which, of course, are not verbatim, and are very much abridged) of both my remarks and Mr. St. Ledger’s reply.
With regard to the local election, Bundaberg, as you know, is one of the strongest labour constituencies in Queensland, and at a previous election - three years ago - Mr. Barber (Labour) beat the strongest man we could put forward by over two to one, so that when I entered the contest people thought me rash to attempt it even with a straight run ; but in the face of three of us on one side and only Barber on the other, I consider I did remarkably well to get within thirty votes of my opponent.
Mr. Duffy had forgotten to enclose the newspaper extracts to which he referred in his letter, and I communicated with him again. On the11th of March, 1908, he wrote to me as follows -
I have your letter of the 27th ultimo, and am now attaching one cutting from the Bundaberg Star, and at foot hereof I am quoting a sentence from the Bundaberg Mail, as I have been unable to obtain a cutting from that paper. You will* readily understand that the newspaper reports of my introductory remarks are brief and do not convey one-fourth of what was stated, but they are ‘sufficient to. give you an idea of what took place.
The extracts referred to were as follow -
Bundaberg Star, 2nd November, 1906.
The Mayor then dealt with the qualifications of the candidates. Referring to Mr. St. Ledger, he described him as a hard political nut to crack, one who had tried hard to get into Parliament for years and who had fought under every political banner possible to imagine,so that he ought to be acceptable to all parties.
Bundaberg Mail, 2nd November,1906.
Of Mr. St. Ledger he might say that he had had a varied political careeT, but felt no doubt that he would be found quite able to explain his peculiar position to the meeting.
Mr. Duffy sent me another communication later on, in which he pointed out that the lawyer who went up from Brisbane at the last Queensland elections to fight the Bundaberg seat, was defeated by 700 votes by the very candidate who had previously defeated him. I have made this explanation, Mr. President, in order that there may be no mistake in the minds of honorable senators with reference to the statement that the honorable senator was offered a portfolio which he first accepted and then declined.
– No, I declined it right away.
– I am informed by one who is not far away now, and who is well acquainted with all the circumstances, that the honorable senator first accepted and afterwards declined it.
– Nothing of the kind ; that is wrong.
– I make this statement so that it may not be considered that
I had no authority for what I said as to the honorable senator’s being offered a portfolio. I make it with the same object which Mr. Duffy had in view when he stated as Chairman of the meeting at Bundaberg - I like the audience to understand the sort of man they have to deal with.
– I do not intend to follow my honorable friend in his long remarks concerning myself. What they amount to is simply this - that Senator Turley has heard a great deal of tittle-tattle which has evidently fallen into very receptive ears. I am not responsible for that. The quotations which the honorable senator has read confirm the position that I took up from the beginning.
I have been at times sympathetic with the objects of the Labour Party, and I hope I am still in some respects. I do not quarrel with what the honorable senator has said. I scarcely think that the matter interests any person here present. The honorable senator does not influence any one here, and has simply confirmed what I have said.
– -But has. the honorable senator fought under every political banner in Queensland?
– I refuse to answer the question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 9.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 June 1908, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1908/19080603_senate_3_46/>.