3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers. .
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether it is a fact that the Treasurer, when delivering his Budget Speech in another place, made no reference to any further action or expenditure in connexion with the-
– Order. The honorable senator is not in order in alluding to a debate in the other House, and therefore he is not entitled to ask what may or may not have been stated there.
– Mr. President, can I not ask a question arising out of a national matter?
– The honorable senator is asking a question as to what took place in another Chamber. He may find a way of couching his question which will elicit all the information he desires to obtain, but’ he cannot ask a question as to what took place in that Chamber.
– As reported in the press, sir?
– I do not care what is reported in the press.It has nothing to do with this question. There is a standing order prohibiting such references.
– Then I ask the Minister, if it is the intention of the Government to enforce silence upon Sir John Forrest with reference to the construction of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, and, if so, whether the honorable senator will give the representatives of WesternAustralia in the Senate-
– Order. The honorable senator is now asking whether the Government are going to enforce silence upon a Minister. He must see that a Minister should not be asked whether he is going to enforce silence on a. colleague.
-I shall get the matter in in some other way.
– I wish to know if it is the intention of the Government to ask the Treasurer to act as High Commissioner, in the event of’ the High Commissioner Bill being passed.
– I am in a position to say that no name has been considered in connexion with that position.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether we are to understand now that it is the settled policy of this Government to make a periodical visit to the pawn-shop to cover any deficit in their financial proposals?
– So far as I am concerned, my honorable friend is at liberty to understand anything he likes.
Case of Mr. MacDonnell - Military Officers, India.
– Following up the intimation I made when my honorable friend asked the question, the papers were sent for. They are now being forwarded to the head office, and on their arrival they will be laid on the table of the Library.
– There is another matter connected with the Defence Department, in respect of which the Minister was kind enough to promise information to-day, namely, the matter of volunteer officers being allowed to apply for military training in India on equal terms with militia officers. Perhaps the honorable gentleman can fulfil his promise to-day ?
– I have been furnished with the following reply from the Department: -
Instructions have been sent to the Military Commandants in the several States to submit the names of officers of the volunteer forces in their commands whom they recommend to proceed to India for instruction during the forthcoming drill season.
Senator Sir ROBERT BEST (VictoriaMinister of Trade and Customs) [10.38]. - I beg to lay upon the table the following papers : -
Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1910.
The Budget 1909-10- Papers prepared by the Treasurer for the information of honorable members.
In formally moving -
That the papers be printed,
I desire to announce that my honorable col- league and myself have given full consideration to the request made from all parts of the Chamber that an opportunity should be afforded to discuss the main principles of the Budget proposals. On the next day of sitting that opportunity will be afforded. The Coinage Bill will take precedence, and afterwards the discussion of the Budget may be taken. In view of the fact that the speech of my right honorable colleague, the Treasurer, is reported at length in the morning papers, and that it will appear verbatim in Hansard, it is not my intention to speak at any length in submitting this motion, but it is possible that later in the debate I may find it necessary to deal more fully with questions which may be raised by honorable senators.
– That will be in reply.
– Yes, sir. As shown by the papers which I have laid on the table the estimated revenue from Customs and Excise far 1909-10 is ^10,800,000, and from the Post Office, £3,550,000. The only other important item of revenue is an expected profit of ^100,000 from our proportion of coinage receipts. The total revenue for the year is estimated at £14,555,765, being an increase of .£205,930 on the revenue for last year. On page 6 of the Budget papers it is shown that the transferred- expenditure on Trade and Customs is estimated at £289,874; on Defence, at £1,198,861 ; on the Post Office, at .£3,265,531 ; and on Quarantine, which is a new item, at £28,976. Then comes “other expenditure,” £2,039,455, that is to say, ordinary, and the following two important items for New Works, Rifles, &c, for transferred Departments, viz., Defence, £328,485; Postmaster-General, £700,614. In all there is a contemplated expenditure of £7,867,621, being an increase of ^£1,448,257 on last year’s expenditure. Of course, if it is necessary, I shall be pleased to state the items on which increased expenditure is anticipated, but honorable senators will find them set out in the Budget papers. I will content myself by directing special attention to the increases in expenditure in two Departments only, viz., Post Office and Defence, which are as follows : -
We have, however, in addition a liability under the Constitution Act of £7,891,481. That represents the amount which is payable to the State Treasurers from the Customs and Excise revenue. Our total liability for the year is estimated at £15,759,102. That will leave a deficit of £1,200,000. The deficit will occur under what I may term accidental, or at least extraordinary, circumstances. It arises from the fact that the Braddon section will not expire until the 31st December, 1910. Consequently in our expenditure we are confined to one:fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue. We are placing before Parliament an expedient proposal under the special circumstances referred to for financing this sort of overdraft.
– Axe the Government going to borrow ?
– That sum has to be found, and it is proposed that by a system- of Treasury bonds extending over a period of three or four years, aid to the revenue should be secured for the present year. As regards any loan policy of the Government or what they may determine in that connexion, that is a matter which after full and careful consideration would ultimately be submitted to the country for its decision. Rightly or wrongly - and there is much to commend it - in the past all expenditure on new works, including many valuable and reproductive works, has been met out of current revenue. But it is recognised that that practice pievents the complete supply of those demands for new works which might reasonably be expected in progressive departments and in a prosperous community such as our own. Therefore, whatever may be determined upon, either in the way of loan proposals or otherwise, will ultimately be submitted by the Government to the people. I need scarcely point out that the necessity for obtaining this temporary aid to revenue is due to the fact, and to that fact alone, that Parliament, after full deliberation, and with much wisdom I submit, has determined upon the granting of old-age pensions. That scheme will involve for the present an annual expenditure of at least £1,500,000. But for this wise, humane, and proper expenditure, there would be no necessity to borrow ihe £1,200,000 to which I have alluded, and there would also be in hand a sum of, £300,000, which would be available for the carrying out of new works.
– But that explanation does not account for the £1,200,000 which it is proposed to borrow, because the Government have over £600,000 in hand.
– It is quite true that in 1907-8 the sum of £193,621 was placed by the second Deakin Government to the credit of a trust account for the payment of old-age pensions, and that in 1908-9 the sum of £462,179 was placed to the credit of the same account. This year it will be necessary for us to pay the sum of £850,000 into that account. But I would point out that if these sums had been available in those years for the construction of public works, the cost of works which are now necessary would have been reduced by that amount. They would have been paid for out of those amounts. Broadly speaking, therefore, we have to provide a sum of £1, 500,000. Of that amount there is to be procured as an aid to revenue the sum of £1, 200,000.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs is using the deficit for the purpose of strengthening the hands of the Treasurer at the Premiers’ Conference.
– This £1,200,000 will be obtained as a temporary overdraft pending the expiration of the Braddon section of the Constitution next year. Stating the figures as to oldage pensions more accurately, I would say that under the authority of the Surplus Revenue Act 1908, and the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act of the same year, the sum of £655,800 has been transferred to the credit of an old-age pension fund. During the year 1909-10, an additional amount of £850,000 will be transferred to that fund, making a total of . £1,505,800, with which to meet that particular liability. There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer. I regret that, at this stage, the Government are not in a position to make a full and complete announcement of their naval policy. In that connexion Colonel Foxton has gone home fully acquainted with the views of Ministers, and we are fortunate in being able to call to our counsels the greatest experts in the Empire for the purpose of enabling us to determine the particular form that our naval policy of coastal defence should take. So soon as we receive that advice a full announcement will be made upon the subject. We are determined that the best and strongest coastal policy which can be secured, within our means, shall be adopted. We contemplate that the extra annual expenditure involved in this connexion will be at least £1,000,000. I regret that, owing to the circumstances to which I have referred, we’ are not in a position to make a definite announcement of our naval policy at the present stage. But a full and complete announcement, both in regard to our naval and military policies, will be made in due course; and Bills will be introduced from time to time to give effect to the Budget proposals, when opportunities will be afforded for dealing with them on their merits.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pearce) adjourned.
Rill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 25th inst.
– With a desire to get on with business.
– I trust that in my efforts to expedite the transaction of business I shall not be tempted to imitate the action of my honorable friend last night.
– If the Vice-President of the Executive Council commences to play that game he may experience a little more trouble before long.
– I would point out that these interjections and replies are out of order.
– It is within the knowledge of honorable senators that there is now being held in Melbourne a Conference between the Premiers of the several States forming the Union. At that gathering it is proposed to discuss a question of the utmost magnitude - I refer to the adjustment of the future financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth. It is obvious that that question affects vitally the interests of the States, and that it also affects - perhaps even to a greater extent - the interests of the Commonwealth, whose representatives will attend the Conference in accordance with an invitation that has been extended to them. Of course, there may be some honorable senators so mentally equipped that if they occupied the position of responsible Ministers they would be able to attend to their parliamentary duties, and in fleeting moments to give to the Conference all the attention that such a gathering demands. But Ministers plead that they are not mentally equipped to that extent. I submit that it would be almost impossible for the Commonwealth representatives to attend that Conference, and at the same time to bestow adequate attention upon their parliamentary duties.
– How many Ministers in the Senate will attend that Conference ?
– At least one. In addition to the financial question to which I have alluded, there are departmental matters in which the interests of the Commonwealth come into close touch with those of the States, and the Conference will furnish a very convenient opportunity for negotiating - and, I trust, for arriving at a satisfactory solution - in regard to these matters. I wish now to combat an objection which has been urged by way of interjection. It is that the Premiers’ Conference has no official status, and that in recognising it, Ministers of the Commonwealth are abrogating their functions. I dissent from that view entirely.One cannot overlook the fact that, within their own domain, the States are sovereign entities; and that, as such, they have ample right to discuss matters which are of common concern to them. But in dealing with this financial question they will be touching upon a question which is of vital interest to the Commonwealth. I am perfectly free to admit that the Commonwealth has full power to deal with that question in any way that it may choose. But the possession of that power does not relieve it of the obligation to consider the financial position of the States. In saying that, I do not imply that either the representatives of this Government or of any other Government would enter the Premiers’ Conference with any intention of neglecting the true rights of the Commonwealth. But seeing that there is, to some extent, a possibility of conflicting interests in this matter, common sense suggests that the representatives of the States and the Commonwealth should meet together in friendly conference for the purpose of arriving, if possible, at a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. That is the object of the Con ference, and the Government ask for this adjournment, believing it is desirable, not only that the Commonwealth representatives should be free, but that, if anything should happen at the Conference which necessitated them consulting their colleagues, it would be possible for Ministers to immediately give it collective consideration. For these reasons I submit the motion.
– I intend to oppose this motion on the ground that the proposed adjournment is to enable Ministers to attend a gathering which has no place under the Constitution, and which is apparently intended to deal with matters with which this Parliament is specially charged.
– The honorable senator was a member of the Convention which framed the Constitution, but, apparently, he does not yet understand its purport.
– Yes, he does.
– Will the honorable senator say that this Parliament is not charged with the duty of dealing with the question with which the Conference is purporting to deal ?
– This Parliament is not charged with the duty of riding rough shod over the States.
– A statement to that effect is often mouthed by those who fail to recognise that the Senate has been constituted for the particular purpose of preventing any rough-shod riding over the States, and that this gathering of Premiers has neither power nor authority to deal with that aspect of the question at all.
– Any matters dealt with by the Conference will have to be brought before the Senate afterwards.
– But action as to them ought to be initiated in this Parliament. This Parliament is the body which was constituted by the electors of the Commonwealth both to initiate discussion of, and to determine finally upon, the matters with which the Conference is to deal.
– That is an argument against Commonwealth Ministers attending the Conference at all.
– It is certainly an argument against the adjournment of both Houses of this Parliament while questions that we have to settle are discussed by a body of State politicians.
– State electors.
– That is so; these men have no more authority than has the first man you may meet in the street to deal with such matters.
– Talk common sense.
– It is common sense.
SenatorFraser. - The people of this country will not say that.
– The Constitution has intrusted the Federal Parliament with authority to deal with the financial question at the expiration of the ten years period. The term used in the Constitution is “ until Parliament otherwise provides.” It is not “ until certain electors otherwise provide,” not “ until certain State Premiers otherwise provide,” not even “ until the Federal Government otherwise provide,” nor” until the State Governments otherwise provide.” It is this Parliament that has to “ provide.”
– May I ask the honorable senator whether the Constitution authorizes or instructs us to adjourn every week over Sunday ?
– The Constitution does authorize us to do so, but apparently the honorable senator has not grasped the fact that what he refers to is an ordinary adjournment to meet the convenience of members of the Senate, whilst what is now proposed is an extraordinary adjournment to enable certain electors to pose as possessing functions which the Constitution has placed in the hands of the honorable senator and his colleagues.
– What is proposed is a reasonable and wise procedure.
– There are two questions which appear to constitute the primary reasons for the assembly of the Premiers: One is the financial question, and the other is the question of this Parliament regulating industrial matters. As to both of these questions, the Constitution has clearly laid down our powers. In the one case, it has given us express power to determine ; in the other case, it has given us an express direction as to the method by which we shall seek such additional powers as we may desire to possess.
– The Constitution assumes that we shall exercise common sense as to the best way of discharging our functions.
– The honorable senator will perhaps display some of the common sense which he commends. Another question with which the Conference will deal is that of the landing of crews of foreign warships. Now, external affairs and the relations between the Commonwealth and foreign countries have by the Constitution been placed in the hands of the Federal authority - absolutely and expressly so.
– Who proposes to take them out of the hands of the Federal authority ?
– The recognition by Federal Ministers of these men who are coming here to discuss the questions to which I have referred amounts to a proposition to take the questions out of the hands of the Federal authority. If these State electors wish to discuss the questions, let them do so among themselves.
– Are they not something more than State electors?
– On these questions they are absolutely no more than State electors.
– I think they represent the general body of electors.
– I should like to be clear as to whether the honorable senator objects to Premiers’ Conferences altogether, or merely to the proposed adjournment of the Senate.
– I am objecting to the adjournment of both Houses of this Parliament on account of the meeting of the Conference. I am not objecting to the Conference being held. Whether it shall be held or not is entirely a question for the State Governments to decide. I have nothing to say about it. I have no right to say anything except “as an elector of Western Australia concerning the attitude of the Premier of that State.
– Why did the honorable senator’s Prime Minister and colleague, Mr. Fisher, go to one Premiers’ Conference ?
– Mr. Fisher was invited to attend the Conference held at Hobart. He accepted the invitation ; he went there and he told the Conference what were the views of his Government. But he absolutely refused to discuss these questions with the State Premiers. He told the Conference that they were questions for the Federal Parliament to deal with. He simply told them, as he would have told any other body of electors who might have invited him to address them, what the views of his Government were, but he expressly declined to discuss matters further.
– He was afraid.
– A few years ago the electors of this Commonwealth, by means of a Convention which they elected, and by their subsequent vote, deliberately adopted the Constitution under which we are working. Now an attempt is being made to superimpose another body upon the Federal Parliament. It is a deliberate attempt, which has attained some measure of success on this occasion only. There have been concerted attempts ever since the first Conference was held to superimpose upon the Federal structure another body and to give to it constitutional powers. If the people of this country desire to do that, it is not my place to object. The people of Australia have a perfect right, if they desire it, to have another Parliament. I am very doubtful about their having ambitions in that direction. If, however, they wish to do so, well and good. But the people have not yet been consulted on the question. They are not being consulted now. The people are paying this Parliament, which they have elected, to deal with these questions. But on this occasion the Parliament chosen by the people of Australia is to be thrown out of gear, while this self-constituted body of electors deals with and discusses questions which this Parliament was authorized to settle. Meanwhile the leaders of this Parliament - because the Government of the day is supposed to lead Parliament - are officially recognising the Conference.
– The Conference can do nothing but advise.
– I would remind honorable senators that, while there are some institutions which have been created, there are others which have grown up, and that tacit assent gives them status and power. I say that these continual Conferences, and the recognition of them by this Parliament - because this is the first time that the Federal Parliament has been asked to recognise a Premiers’ Conference - inaugurates a new era. That is important.’ On the previous occasions there has simply been a question of the Government of the day recognising the Premiers’ Conferences and explaining to them their views. On this occasion the national Parliament is asked to recognise the Conference, to cease work, and to wait with bated breath while these gentlemen point out the way.
– A most proper thing to do.
– It may be a proper thing to do; the honorable senator may hold that opinion. But if it be a proper thing to do, the Federal Constitution ought to be amended, and made to provide that the initiative on these questions shall come, not from the Federal Parliament, which includes a States’ House, the Senate, but from a meeting of State Premiers.
– There is nothing in the Constitution which says that we should ignore the State Governments.
– This Parliament should ignore everybody but those whom it represents. The Government of the day - the Federal Government - is perfectly within its rights in negotiating with any State Parliament or . Government. But on this occasion they have asked the Federal Parliament to adjourn, to stop work, while another body takes up the questions which we are empowered to handle. I say, therefore, that the Government are carrying matters altogether too far. One has only to read the correspondence contained in the paper, headed, “ Premiers’ Conference (Melbourne), 1909,” between -the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premier of New South Wales, to see that the present Prime Minister is directly inviting these gentlemen to interfere in Federal matters, and is recognising their right to do so. In his letter of 22nd June, Mr. Wade, the Premier of New South Wales, says -
I gather from reports in the press that it is proposed to ask the States to confer certain powers on the Inter-State Commission to regulate undue State competition in industrial matters. This would necessitate a further meeting of the State Premiers at an early date. If this occasion could also he made use of for further consideration of the financial position I would be prepared to ask the Premiers o”f the States to deal with this matter also.
How kind of Mr. Wade! The Federal Government has only to say the word, and Mr. Wade will deal with any matters that have been intrusted to this Parliament by the people.
– As the State Governments have been asked to surrender certain powers, does the honorable senator object to their giving an answer to that request?
– Certainly not, by way of negotiation. But I object to this Parliament being asked to sit back and do nothing until the State Premiers make up their minds. In his letter of 30th June, Mr. Deakin said -
I was not aware that a conference of Premiers would be thought necessary in respect to the proposedendowment of the Commonwealth Inter-State Commission -
It was a bit of an eye-opener, was that letter of Mr. Wade’s - with a judicial industrial authority, having anticipated that a general agreement could have been arrived at without delay.
How optimistic Mr. Deakin was ! Mr. Wade, in his letter of the 3rd July, wrote-
The proposal to endow the Inter-State Commission with judicial industrial authority is by no means free from difficulty from the States’ point of view, and I am sure the quickest and most satisfactory way of dealing with it will be found to be by personal discussion.
Mr. Deakin, on the9th July, dealing with the financial question, wrote to Mr. Wade-
Should the preliminary financial arrangement for a term of years, alluded toinmy last letter, fail from any reason to pass this session, that also would be submitted, and in a precise shape. As youare aware, neither one nor the other need be engrafted on the Constitution in order to come into full effect,
He meant that the question need not be submitted to the electors, I wish now to allude to the letter of Mr. Deakin of 15th July. He wrote to Mr. Wade -
So far as I know, the only other question to be submitted to the Conference is that relating to the proposalto endow the Inter-State Commission with judicial industrial authority, mentioned in your letters of 22nd June and 3rd July. The Age paragraph to which you refer me alludes to advertising Australia abroad in connexion with immigration.
Here comes a gem - a perfect literary gem ! -
ThoughI am not responsible for this suggestion, it would be of mutual advantage if on thisor other questions discussed at previous Conferences we could inform ourselves of the alterations there are, if any, in our former positions.
To anyone who has watched Mr. Deakin’s political history during the past few years, there is an amusing side to that passage. Advantage is to be taken of this Conference to allow Mr. Deakin to inform the Premiers of the alterations in his former positions. If that be so, the Conference, even if it does not fulfil any useful purpose, will certainly be a very interesting gathering-. We are now going to be informed by Mr. Deakin, not only of his alterations of attitude, but of the reasons for the change of his former position on these and other questions. I shall say no more, but I protest against this motion, and shall vote against the adjournment,I protest against this Parliament, which has been intrusted with substantial powers, being asked to adjourn while another body assumes powers which have not been conferred by the electors. I protest against the recognition by this Parliament, and by the Federal Government, of the exercise by another body of powers which have been given by the people to this Parliament, and which the people look to this Parliament to exercise.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia) [11.15]. - Senator Pearce has overlooked the fact that the best reason for the proposed adjournment of the Senate is that there is no reason at all for it. I do not take the view of these Conferences which the honorable senator has suggested. The Conference about to be held in Melbourne is 0 Premiers’ Conference.It is not in form or in substance a Conference between the Executives of the Commonwealth and the States. Representatives of the Government of the Commonwealth will be present by invitation at the Conference, and that is undoubtedly a very good thing.I hold the view that these Conferences between Premiers of the different States, whose interests may more or less conflict, are exceedingly useful.I have always thought that the Commonwealth) Government, in order to maintain a conciliatory attitude towards the State Governments, and promote the transaction of business without friction should not only encourage the holding of these Conferences, but should see that some of their members shall be present at them if invited, in order to listen to what is said. There are many problems with which the national Government have to deal, the solution of which might be facilitated to a much greater extent by friendly discussion at Conferences of this kind than by correspondence and despatches, which very often lead to a great deal of trouble. There is no more certain way of promoting misunderstanding than by lengthy correspondence. The best way in which to overcome differences and difficultiesis for the parties concerned to meet. Personally I haveno objection whatever to a holiday. I do not hesitate to take one when I feel that there is no business of any consequence to be brought before the Senate. There certainly has not been very much business of consequence before the Senate for a long time. If the proposed adjournment were asked for on the ground that it would be convenient to honorable senators to have a little spell, that would be an intelligible basis for the motion. But a proposal that the Senate should adjoun for a week, that its power to conduct its business should be paralyzed, and its operations suspended, merely because there is to be a gathering of Premiers who are perfectly competent to discuss their affairs whether we adjourn or not, cannot be justified. 1 understood, from what the Vice-President of the Executive Council said that it is intended that the Minister of Trade and Customs shall attend the Conference. Other members of the Ministry will also be present on occasion. I do not suppose that Ministers are to be in attendance at the Conference “ from early morn till dewy eve,” and why the Senate should be asked to suspend its business for a week because this Conference is about to take place passes my comprehension. That is not a ground on which we can justify the proposed adjournment to the electors who have sent us here. We are not called upon to express any opinion as to the attitude which the House of Representatives should take. We know that the Prime Minister, and possibly also the Treasurer, will desire to attend the Conference ; and at a time when honorable members in another place are engaged in a financial discussion it might be inconvenient to proceed with business there in the absence of certain members of the Government. But I do say that there is no justification for the adjournment of the Senate. I take this opportunity to ask the representatives of the Government in the Senate whether they have the slightest intention to proceed with the Navigation Bill. I understand that it has been intimated somewhere else that there is no hope that that measure will be passed this year. If that be true, it might not be necessary that the Senate should assemble from day to day ; but if the Navigation Bill is to be proceeded with there will be a great deal of business to be done, and very much less reason for any adjournment. I mention in this connexion a precedent which might be regarded as of some value. A Conference of very much greater importance and significance than any Premiers’ Conference - a Conference of Imperial representatives - was held in London two years ago. I can inform the Senate that neither the House of Commons’ nor the House of Lords adjourned because of that Conference.
– Nor did this Parliament, although the Prime Minister attended the Conference.
– That is so. That Imperial Conference, probably the greatest and most significant ever held, between the authorities of the Empire and her daughter States, was held in London, and the Imperial Parliament did not adjourn for an hour on that account.
– There were two Conferences being held in London at that time.
– The honorable senator refers to the Navigation Conference, which was more or less of a subordinate character. If a motion is submitted for the adjournment of the Senate for a week or a fortnight on the ground that there is not sufficient business to occupy our attention, I shall be prepared to support it, but I am not prepared to have it go forth to the people of the Commonwealth that the Senate adjourned its sitting for a week, a fortnight, or any other period, because of a gathering of State Premiers in Melbourne, and because it is desired that the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, or any other member of the Government who has been invited , should be present at that Conference. It seems to me that to propose an adjournment for that reason is treating this Parliament as subordinate to the unauthorized gathering that is to assemble in a day or two. If all the members of this Parliament were going to attend the Conference with the State Premiers, I could understand such a proposal, because we could not be with the Premiers and here at the same time. Many reasons might be given for an adjournment. I see on the businesspaper references to the Audit Bill, the Lighthouses Bill, and so on, and we could mark time on these measures a little later on, but I do not think that we should be asked to tell the people of Australia that we look upon the proposed Premiers’ Conference as of so much importance that we must adjourn to enable certain members of the Government to be present occasionally while the State Premiers are deliberating. That is too silly for anything.
– We have the whole of the finances of the Commonwealth to deal with.
– I do not know what my honorable friend refers to when he speaks of the whole of the finances of the Commonwealth. The skeleton published this morning shadows forth - I was going to say the most contemptible, but I shall not use a hard word- the most disappointing financial statement ever made in this world._ To call it a serious financial statement is to apply to it a term which is certainly not justified. I do not know that I should greatly object to the proposed adjournment if the Premiers’ Conference were utilized to enable the Treasurer to discover something more definite than he has promulgated - some better means of dealing with the finances of the Commonwealth than the hand-to-mouth method of loan and promissory note which he has suggested. That is by the way. Cannot the Government give honorable senators some other reason for the proposed adjournment than the fact that there is to be a meeting of a body that has no authoritative existence? Conferences such as that to be held should, no doubt, be encouraged in every way, but they do not occupy such a position in relation to our public affairs as to justify a suspension of the whole of the operations of the Senate in order that representatives of the Commonwealth Government may attend them.
– I object to the proposed adjournment, but not altogether for the reasons stated by Senator Symon. On every occasion when it has been suggested that the Commonwealth Parliament should be in any way subordinated, I have consistently opposed the proposal. I do so on this occasion perhaps with greater emphasis than I have ever done before. Under the Constitution, as every one knows, the State Parliaments and Premiers have no status whatever with regard to the management and discussion of Commonwealth affairs. Of course, every elector has a perfect right to discuss Commonwealth affairs wherever and whenever he pleases, and no one has the remotest desire to deprive any elector of that right. State Premiers, in common with all other electors, possess that right. But they are claiming a great deal more than that right, and are seeking recognition by the Commonwealth Parliament of their claim. I am sorry to say that the Government are asking Parliament to sanction such a claim.
– It is only a very formal matter.
– It is very much more than a formal matter. The Senate is being asked to stultify itself, and to abrogate its functions. Senator Mulcahy laughs.
– Some of the honorable senator’s statements would make a horse laugh.
– Senator Mulcahy is the greatest humbug in the Senate, and he always was.
– Order !
– What is the position we are asked to assume in the discussion of very serious Commonwealth affairs? If the Government have their way, we shall relegate the initiation of the necessary action on these matters to the State Premiers. Under the Constitution, they have no more status than any other half-dozen members of the community. Who are they ? Two or three of them represent, at the most, 700 or 800 electors, and at least two are hanging on to their positions by a majority of one in a State Parliament ; clinging to office, like limpets to a rock, for the sake of the emoluments and the sweets.
– The honorable senator would cling to office with a majority of even one.
– The honorable senator cannot cite a Ministry which has clung to office with a majority of one, or a Ministry which has clung to office without a majority. A Ministry must have a majority of one or more. In Queensland, the Ministry have a majority of only one, and that by a fusion, the merits of which I do not want to go into, but which I believe is almost as reprehensible as the fusion we have in this Parliament. In South Australia, the Premier is hanging on to office by a fusion.
– How long did the Labour party hang on to office with a fusion ?
– There never was a fusion. The Labour party has never sunk, and never will sink, its individuality in any other party.
– The Labour Government hung on to office for six months.
– If a wild animal gets into a party, surely the members of that party ought to vote together to defend themselves ?
– Why did the honorable senator take into his party the wild animal which he so fiercely denounces?
– No; the honorable senator is the wild animal.
– I ask honorable senators not to interject so frequently.
– I am quite satisfied, sir. Although the fact with regard to two of the States is as I have stated it, yet the vast financial affairs of the Commonwealth are to be relegated to men occupying such a precarious position, while we have a body like the Senate, which was specially called into existence by the Constitution in order to safeguard the interests of the States, and which represents them.
– Does the Senate do so?
– Undoubtedly it does. It has faithfully discharged its duty under the Constitution.
SenatorFraser. - Since when
– Does the honorable senator mean to say that he has not safeguarded the interests of Victoria, that he has been false to his trust? If so, he is entitled to speak for himself, but not for anybody else. The Senate was called into being by the Constitution for that special purpose, and now it is asked by the Government to abrogate its position, and hand it over to an unauthorized, unconstitutional, or, at least, extra-constitutional body.
– What powers will the Senate give away by taking the advice of an advisory body ?
– We are always willing to take advice and to listen to suggestions from any outside people, but that we should be asked to suspend our operations and listen and defer to a body outside is preposterous. Every member of the Senate represents, at least, ten times as many electors as does any State Premier in Australia. Senator Turley, Senator Stewart, and myself represent here over 60,000 electors of our State, while its Premier does not represent 6,000.
– I got a majority of 60,000 over a Labour man.
– I do not dispute that. But what majority did the Premier of Victoria get, and what did his votes total ? Yet the honorable senator, who was elected to look after the interests of Victoria, is content, if this motion is carried, to take a subordinate position to its Premier.
– Nonsense !
– That is absolutely the position. Every member of the Senate was elected by the whole people of his State to look after and safeguard its interests. Who elected the State Premiers to look after and safeguard State interests in their relation to the Commonwealth? No one. The question was never put before any State electors. In this matter the State Premiers represent absolutely nobody but themselves. The question never could be referred to any State electors. The State Premiers were elected by the State electors to look after State affairs, and not to look after Commonwealth affairs. We are the persons who were elected to look after Commonwealth affairs. It is our duty to do so, and we should be false to our trust if we abrogated that position for a single instant. This is part of a general scheme which appears to me to have been carried on throughout Australia to belittle the Federal Parliament, because for the first time in its history the Democracy is fairly represented in a Parliament. When the Senate was first constituted, the fat man, if I may so describe him, had an idea that, owing to the immense constituency which would have to elect the members of the Senate, it would be an impregnable stronghold for the men of wealth, social position, and influence. But they found, to their disappointment and dismay, that when the voice of the whole people was taken over a wide area, it returned a fairly progressive and democratic Senate. They have since tried to belittle the Senate and the Commonwealth, because they could not have their own way.
– What has become of the influence of the Senate which the honorable senator says was expected? Where has it gone?
– There has been a determined effort all the time to belittle the Senate and destroy its influence. There is a sorry exhibition when we find the leader of the Senate apparently giving in to this outside influence, which I very much regret, and consider very reprehensible. There can be no doubt that the Senate was called into existence as a States House to safeguard State Rights, and to see that the relations between the States and the Commonwealth were not over-stepped in any particular direction, but that a fair deal, as between those parties should always be given effect to. I think that even Senator Gray will agree to that proposition. If that be so, it will be a distinct abrogation of our trust and the duties which have been reposed in us by a large number of the electors of our States, if we let any outside persons interfere with us.
– They are not interfering.
– They are.
– How are they interfering ?
– The present Government have announced that they do not intend to take decisive action on any subject until they have consulted the State Premiers in the Conference which is about to take place. Who are the State Premiers that the Government should’ consult them? They have not been deputed by a single elector to interfere in these matters.
– They have more to do with the prosperity of the Commonwealth than has the Federal Parliament.
– If that is so, they have lamentably failed in their duty.
– Not so much as we have.
– This Parliament is the only duly constituted authority to deal with Federal affairs. Nobody proposes that it should interfere in State affairs. It is not proposed that we shall meet the State Premiers in regard to their management of State affairs. Why should they interfere with us with regard to our management of Commonwealth affairs ?
– We had better ask Mr. Murray for a conference on the cigarette question, on the ground that the prohibition of cigarette smoking would interfere with our Customs revenue.
– We are not proposing to ask the State Premiers to db anything. Nobody has authorized them to interfere with us. Nobody has given them authority to have a say in these matters.
– No authority is required.
– When the electors of his electorate elected Mr. Murray, and the State ‘Parliament maintained him. in the position of Premier, they gave him authority to manage only State affairs. They did not, and could not, give him authority to interfere in Federal affairs. Mr. Murray, like every other State Premier, was elected for a definite purpose by the electors. No single Premier was authorized to interfere in the management of Commonwealth affairs. The electors elected the members of this Parliament to deal with Commonwealth affairs, and particularly elected the members of the Senate to deal with and look after Commonwealth affairs, in so far as they related to the States.
– And they are to take advice from nobody.
– From anybody.
– But not to adjourn, until the advice is given.
– Does any one propose that we shall adjourn our deliberations in order to meet a half-a-dozen other electors in a Conference and take their advice ? We have as much right to do that as to take advice from or enter into consultation with the State Premiers.
– The honorable senator has been belittling the States ever since he commenced.
– I have not said) a word to belittle the States. It is the first duty of the Federal Government, and also of the State Governments, to mind their, own business, and not to interfere unduly with anybody else.
– They do not seek to interfere.
– They are always interfering.
– Order. I ask Senator Gray not to interject.
– Has the Commonwealth Parliament appointed a single officer to see that State legislation does not encroach upon Commonwealth functions? Is it not a notorious fact that the States have gone to the length of appointing an officer to see that the Commonwealth does not encroach upon State functions? The States have been continually interfering with us. They have been continually dragging us before the High Court. An ex-Premier even went so far as to enter into a kind, of armed rebellion or piracy against the Commonwealth.
– I ask the honorable senator not to debate that matter.
– I am only making a casual reference to it, sir. I am pointing out to the Senate the continual interference by the State Premiers with the Commonwealth Parliament in the discharge of its functions. The people of Queensland elected me to look after Commonwealth interests, and to see that their State did not suffer any injustice in the dealing with Federal matters. Did they elect Mr. Kidston for that purpose? No, not for a single moment. What is true of me in regard to Queensland is true of every other senator in regard to his own State. Yet we are asked coolly .and calmly by the Government to abrogate all our functions, to even adjourn our ordinary work in order that they may have an opportunity of kowtowing to the State Premiers, of crawling on their bellies and asking favours and concessions from them. That is exactly what we are asked to do. So far as can be seen there are many important matters which might legitimately engage the atten- tion of the Senate during nest week. We are now brought face to face with a financial position unprecedented in the history of this or almost any other country in the world. For the first time in the history of the world we are face to face with a proposal to make good a prospective deficit by going to the pawn shop - by issuing Treasury bills.
– This is not the first time that the practice has been resorted to.
– I would point out to the honorable senator that the question of loans is not now under discussion.
– I am merely pointing out that we ought to be afforded an opportunity of dealing with that proposal
– The honorable senator will have the opportunity when the debate upon the motion for the printing of the paper laid upon the table by the Minister of Trade and Customs is resumed.
– But if the Senate adjourns till the 25th inst. we shall in the meantime be denied that opportunity. The matter is so important that not a single hour should be allowed to elapse without our giving it consideration. But, instead of giving it consideration, we are asked to adjourn for a week, in order to enable Commonwealth Ministers to meet an extraconstitutional body, which has no authority whatever to interfere in Commonwealth affairs. In the past these Premiers’ Conferences have conclusively shown that instead of the Federation having been granted too much power by the States, it has been granted too little. At every one of those gatherings they have discussed the question of how uniform action can be secured throughout Australia in regard to a variety of subjects. But they have not been able to arrive at any agreement, clearly showing that the powers of the Federation do not go far enough. . 1 have here a list of the special subjects which it is proposed to consider at the approaching Conference.
– Our Ministers are not interested in any save the first two of those subjects.
– I am endeavouring to point out that the very fact of these Conferences vainly endeavouring to remedy certain evils is conclusive proof that the powers of the Federationare not sufficiently large.
– Then the honorable senator is wasting time.
– That is the sort of argument that one might expect to hear from a pettifogging police court attorney.
– The honorable senator must know that he is making use of an offensive remark.
– I did not apply the term to any honorable senator.
– If the honorable senator gives me that assurance I am satisfied.
– Looking down the list of subjects arranged for discussion at the approaching Conference of Premiers, I find “ Commonwealth and State finance.” As far as I know, the State Premiers have nothing whatever to do with that question. The Constitution settles the financial relations of the Commonwealth to the States for a period of ten years, which will end on the 31st December, 1910. It further provides that after that date this Parliament shall determine what those relations shall be. Yet it is proposed to subordinate the Commonwealth Parliament at the behest of pettifogging State Premiers.
– I would point out to the honorable senator that it is not in order to allude to the State Premiers in that way. The Standing Orders prohibit it.
– Very well. This Parliament has been endowed with the authority to determine what shall be the future relations of the States to the Commonwealth. Who has vested the Government with power to abrogate that authority ? Should this Parliament be asked to stultify itself in that way, to be false to the trust which has been reposed in it by the electors?
– The word “abrogate” is a blessed word.
– Yes. It is very much like the word “ Mesopotamia.” But it conveys exactly what I desire to convey. This Parliament has been intrusted with that function, and any proposal which invites us to abandon our trust and to relegate the settlement of this question to a Conference between the State Premiers and Commonwealth Ministers is a wrong one.
– It is not proposed to relegate anything to that body.
– The second subject on the agenda paper refers to the vesting of industrial powers in the Commonwealth by the States. I admit that that is a subject for reasonable negotiation between the States and the Commonwealth. But I think that the better way would be for us to appeal to the people to give us the necessarypower in that connexion. Instead of doing that, however, Commonwealth Ministers are going to beg the State Premiers to clothe them with the necessary authority. I do not approve of the adoption of that’ course. I admit that the subject is one for reasonable negotiation between the Government and the State Premiers, but to ask us to adjourn while those negotiations are proceeding is entirely unreasonable. That is the only subject upon the business-paper which will be submitted to the Conference which has any legitimate bearing upon Federal affairs. The next item which is to be considered relates to the landing of the crews of foreign warships. That, I submit, is a matter which is entirely outside the jurisdiction of the State Premiers. Yet they have the audacity to attempt to dictate to us how we shall act in that connexion.
– Where is the dictation?
– We do not propose to hold a conference for the purpose of interfering in State matters.
– The State Premiers are not interfering in Commonwealth matters.
– They are always interfering. The next subject upon the businesspaper of the Conference is “Congress re natural resources, Representation at.” The State Premiers have a perfect right to discuss that matter. But why this Parliament should adjourn while they debate it passes all human understanding. Another question which they have a right to discuss is that of representation at the Japanese, British, and other exhibitions. The same remark is applicable to the question of representation at a conference of Surveyors-General. The Commonwealth does not desire to interfere in these matters. But the State Premiers wish to meddle in still another matter of Commonwealth concern - I refer to immigration. That is a question which is specially relegated to this Parliament under the Constitution.
– Is it not of interest to the people of the Commonwealth?
– Tt is for this Pal.liament to deal with it without reference to the State Premiers.
– When the Prime Minister mentioned that matter, two or three years ago, the party to which the honorable senator belongs was opposed to immigration.
– That is another of the reckless statements for which the honorable senator is so noted. The subjects of the transferred properties, gold stealing, and a uniform railway gauge are also listed for consideration. All these things go to show that the Federation has not been vested with sufficiently wide powers.
– The honorable senator may not allude to the question of whether or not the Federation has sufficient powers.
– I intended to allude to it only incidentally.
-The honorable senator has already referred to it twice.
– The list of subjects set down for consideration at the Conference is so long that it is almost impossible to avoid repeating that the necessity for holding these gatherings is conclusive evidence that the Federation would have been more effective had it been granted greater powers. I strongly object to the abrogation of the functions of this Parliament, and particularly of those of the Senate. We have important business to transact, and we ought not to consent to adjourn for the purpose of allowing Commonwealth Ministers to attend a Conference which is extraconstitutional. Many urgent measures await our attention, and if proper consideration is to be given to them we shall require all the time at our’ disposal during the remainder of the session. There are at least four Bills of ‘considerable importance, one of them being of first rate importance. Whilst the consideration of the Lighthouses Bill may not occupy much time, the Seamen’s Compensation Bill is- an exceedingly important measure to those of our citizens who follow a seafaring occupation. It represents a tardy act of justice to them, and consequently we ought not to delay dealing with it. Then there is the Coinage Bill, from the operation of which we hope to derive a considerable revenue. That measure ought to be promptly disposed of. Then we have the Navigation Bill, which has been before the Senate for the past six years. Although the measure was introduced six years ago. we have not yet got beyond clause 38 in the Committee stage. The Bill has not been discussed at all in another place. If there is to be any hop*? whatever of passing the
Bill this year, we should direct our attention to it without cessation from the present moment until the close of the session. lt is necessary that the Bill should pass the Senate in good time for it to be discussed by another place. Furthermore, if the Bill be not passed this session, it will be removed from the notice-paper, and have to be considered de novo in the new Parliament. Unless we are prepared to see the whole of our work upon the Bill wasted, we must proceed with it forthwith. The seafaring population of Australia require the measure. I believe that the shipping companies also want it. It is necessary for the proper management of our rapidly increasing maritime business. There is no reason whatever why the Senate should adjourn in order that Ministers may meet the State Premiers in conference. I deny altogether that the Conference is necessary. There is no need for it to sit at all. But still, that is none of our business. Apart from that consideration altogether, there is no need for either House of this Parliament to adjourn. The only Ministers who need be present at the Conference are the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. Neither Minister has a seat in the Senate. There being no Minister with a seat in the Senate who requires to be absent from the conduct of public affairs, I fail to see what need there is for us to adjourn. Indeed, there is no need for another place to adjourn either, because it is a notorious fact that several days ago the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Fisher, offered to provide pairs for those Ministers who had to attend the Conference. There is no need for any adjournment, and the action taken on this occasion is a distinct abrogation of the rights, powers, and dignity of this Parliament. I hope that the motion will not be carried.
– The reason given for the proposed adjournment is that two members of the Federal Government have to attend a Premiers’ Conference. I strongly object to an adjournment for such a reason. I recognise the necessity for Conferences of the Premiers of the States to discuss public questions affecting their Governments. I also recognise the necessity of Federal Ministers negotiating with such Conferences, and discussing questions affecting the interests of the Commonwealth and of the States. But I fail to recognise the need for the national Parliament of Australia to adjourn for a week to allow Ministers to carry on such negotiations. Let me ask this pertinent question : The manager of a mine, or the principal partner in a big commercial concern or factory, may occasionally have to leave his place of business on a journey. Has any one ever heard of such a man shutting up his mine, factory, or warehouse for a week or a fortnight during such an absence? Would not that be a suicidal policy to adopt? But we in the national Parliament, because the Prime Minister, who is practically the manager of Parliament for the time being, intends to consult with the State Premiers, are asked to suspend the whole of our business. There might be some justification for this course if the Conference was meeting in Brisbane or in Perth. But the Conference is to meet within a stone’s throw of Parliament House. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer could always be within hail. Furthermore, the Vice-President of the Executive Council will not dare to say that Federal Ministers will be in attendance at the Conference all day. It will be simply necessary for them to attend and make a statement. Having done that, and having discussed a few matters with the Premiers, they could easily come back to Parliament House. When there is no Premiers’ Conference sitting, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are frequently outside their Chamber for longer periods than would be necessary during the sittings of the Conference. I say, unhesitatingly, that what is proposed is a degradation of this Parliament. It is an insult to the people of Australia to ask the Federal Parliament to suspend its business for a week because the Premiers of the States are about to sit in Melbourne. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has given some alleged reasons for an adjournment, but there are other reasons which he has- not mentioned. Despite the fact that we have had a Ministerial statement, indicating what the Government intend to do this session, under three! headings - defence, industrial, and finance - I venture to say that they have not yet any of their measures ready. They have yet to consult as to what line of action they shall take. Again, it is a well-known fact that in the present Ministry there are a few ardent State Rights men. The course adopted is a handy method of wasting time, so that the Government may get nearer to the end of the session without any portion of their real or imaginary policy having been placed before Parliament. In this way, the
State Rights members of the Government will be able to go back to their constituencies without having offended any one. We have before us a notice-paper containing eight items. Only one item has the slightest semblance of a relation to the policy of the Ministry. I refer to the Navigation Bill, which, however, as Senator Givens has said, they cannot claim as their own. The Bill has been before Parliament for six years. It is quite evident that if we are to have periodical adjournments, it will be before us for another six years. What have we done so far this session? We have considered measures of more or less importance. Some of them are of very little importance. As soon as we reach the consideration of a very important Bill, the Seamen’s Compensation Bill, we are asked to shut up shop and cool our heels about Melbourne for a week, to allow the Government to consult the Premiers for a couple of hours a day.
– I think there should be a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– Any excuse that might have been made fora week’s adjournment has been taken away by the fact that Mr. Fisher, some time ago, offered to provide pairs for the Prime Minister and Treasurer while attending the Conference. A great cry was aroused a little while ago when Colonel Foxton was sent to England as a delegate to the Imperial Defence Conference because our party refused to give a pair. That excuse cannot be made in connexion with the present adjournment. Another phase of the question which we may well consider is the precedent which we are establishing. It is a very dangerous precedent. There have been eight Premiers’ Conferences since the inception of Federation. The present is the ninth. Now we are asked to close our doors as a Parliament, to hang up measures that have yet to be considered, such as the question of new Protection, Defence, and the acceptance of the Northern Territory, while the Premiers discuss their business. If this is not a diabolical waste of time, I do not know what wasting time is. Only the other day, when the Prime Minister was a guest of the Lord Mayor of Melbourne at a banquet, he accused the party of which I am a member of wasting the time of Parliament. His remarks were applauded by the press, the pulpit, and the public.
– No; by a section of the public.
– I should have said by a section of the public. The next day he came to Parliament and asked it to adjourn for a week. That was evidence of the honorable gentleman’s insincerity. As an honorable member said in another place, it was reducing the work of Parliament to an absolute farce. The Conference about to be held will merely be a consultative meeting of Premiers. They cannot decide anything. If they were in a position to give effect to their deliberations there might be something in the proposal submitted to-day. The Conference is to discuss, amongst other things, the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. They have, in the past, refused all offers submitted by representatives of. this Parliament. They refused to accept proposals for the solution of the financial problem submitted by Sir George Turner, Sir John Forrest, Sir William Lyne, Mr. Fisher, and Mr. Deakin, and with the exception of a proposal put forward at the last Conference held in Hobart, they have themselves proposed no method of solving the problem. Now, when we have reached almost the eleventh hour for the settlement of the question, they propose to rush the Federal Parliament, and, presenting a pistol at our heads, they say, “You must settle this question.” The operation of the Braddon section of the Constitution will expire on the 31st December, 1910. During the past nine years the Premiers of the States have had ample opportunity to arrive at some amicable arrangement with representatives of the Commonwealth. Such an arrangement would, no doubt, have been ratified by this Parliament. I have no fear of the solution of the problem if it be left entirely to the wisdom and justice of the Commonwealth Parliament. I do not think that we should be asked to suspend all our business, in order that the Premiers of the States may discuss the question. I realize fully the urgency of the matter, and I believe that by negotiation some amicable understanding might be arrived at; but it is entirely unnecessary, in order to bring that about, that the Senate should adjourn for a week. Federal Ministers might attend the Conference and assist the Premiers to arrive at certain decisions without any adjournment of the Federal Parliament. I should like to hear from the Vice-President of the Executive Council what are the real reasons for the proposed adjournment. They have not yet been given. There is something behind’ the proposal, and I have come to the conclusion that, notwithstanding the great cry about their policy when the Fusion took place, this adjournment is asked for because the Government have not yet agreed as to their policy. The proposal is made merely to kill time, and in order that we may draw nearer the end of the session without the Government being called upon to submit their policy. The members of the Labour party have been decried in this Parliament, and outside, as obstructionists who have wilfully delayed the business of the country. I remind honorable senators that when the present Government came into power, they obtained an adjournment of three weeks. They are now asking for an adjournment of another week. Parliament will have adjourned for one month out of three in this session, at the request of the Government. In a .month from now the Government may ask for a further adjournment. They are deliberately frittering away the time of Parliament, and when the session comes to an end, it will be found to be as barren of useful legislation as is the desert of the Sahara of vegetation. When they go to the country at the next election the Ministerial party will blame the Opposition, who are endeavouring to get something useful done, and prevent all this waste of time. I register my emphatic protest against the motion. I hope the people will note the fact that the Labour Party have endeavoured to prevent the diabolical waste of time involved in the proposed adjournment.
– I think this is the proper time to object to the introduction of a practice of asking the Senate to adjourn whenever State Ministers may decide that it is necessary for them to have a Conference. I do not know that it is more necessary that we should adjourn because the Conference about to be held is to be a Conference of the Premiers of the States, than it would be if it were to be a Conference of State Ministers of Lands.
– Or of Mayors of Municipal Councils.
– Or of any other body of men, who thought it worth while in their representative capacity to say, “ We will have a Conference at which we will consider matters under the jurisdiction of the Federal Parliament, in order that we may give that Parliament some advice.” Senator Gray tried to make it appear that we speak disrespectfully of the Premiers and act disrespectfully in declining to receive advice. That is not so. We do not decline to receive advice from any body of men in Australia, whether Premiers, State Treasurers, Ministers of Lands, or private citizens, who believe that they can give advice to the Federal Parliament. What we object to is that when a number of representative men meet in conference we should be asked to suspend the business of the Commonwealth Parliament in order that representatives of the Federal Government may attend that conference. We should not adjourn for any such purpose. The reason why it is necessary to protest in this instance is that ;t similar request was never made before. I venture to say that four or five years ago no Ministry would have asked this Parliament to adjourn in order that certain members of the Government might attend a Premiers’” Conference. These conferences are being held with the object of influencing the Federal Parliament. I wish to refer to what has taken place in Queensland. Senator Givens pointed out that the gentlemen who are to attend the Conference on behalf of that State are clinging to office by a majority of one. They know something of the powers of the Federal Parliament under sections 87 and 51 of the Constitution. They know that under section 87 this Parliament is given the power to deal with the financial affairs of Australia at the expiration of 1910. The Premier of Queensland, in asking for an adjournment of the Queensland Parliament, said it was necessary, in order that he might go to Melbourne to consult with the Premiers of the other States on questions of finance. I wish to show what his idea of the matter would appear to be. I quote from page 581 of the Queensland Hansard for this session. The Premier, in moving for a special adjournment, said -
It has been agreed by the Federal Government, and by the several State Governments, to hold a Conference, to discuss, and, if possible, to come to a mutual understanding concerning the rearrangement of the financial relations now existing between the Commonwealth and the States. Whatever other things we may disagree about in this House, I think it will be admitted inside the House, and outside the House, that the importance of the subject will amply justify any trouble or any inconvenience inevitable to attain or likely to result in a settlement of this important matter.
We do not object to the Premiers coming together to consider this matter or to members of the Federal Government attending the Conference, but we object decidedly to the proposal that the national Parliament should be closed while these gentlemen discuss their affairs. Let me give honorable senators an idea of what the Premier of Queensland thinks is going to transpire in connexion with the financial arrangements. I quote from page 582 of the Queensland Hansard for the present session -
I claim, if a wise and equitable settlement of this important matter is desired, the urgency of it lies in the necessity of coming to an agreement in time to enable the Federal Parliament to pass a Bill to provide for a referendum at the coming Federal elections, and so give the people of Australia an opportunity of settling it.
Settling what? The financial affairs of Australia ? Is that the proposal ? Is that what is to be dealt with at this Premiers’ Conference ? Are we to understand that the State Premiers are to meet in Conference and agree to something being done, and that then the Federal Parliament is to be asked to pass a Bill for taking a referendum at the next general election as to whether the electors of Australia are satisfied with the work of that Conference? The suggestion is ridiculous.
– If it were so.
– Well, that is the statement of a State Premier who has come down to attend the Conference.
– The honorable senator says that he is one of the gentlemen whom we ought not to take any notice of. Why is he doing so now ?
– I am not taking any notice of that State Premier except so far as to point out that the Senate should not adjourn for a week merely because he and others are going to confer in Melbourne. I do not object to a Conference being held here, or to the opinions which the State Premier I refer to holds regarding the matter. But if the other State Premiers have come to Melbourne with the same fallacious ideas, we are not likely to obtain any good result from adjourning the Senate to enable Commonwealth Ministers to attend the Conference.
– If they all come here with his ideas something very good will be done.
– The State Premier whom I refer to is one of the gentlemen whom the honorable senator used to strongly denounce only a few years ago as a man not fit to be elected to a position In the State Parliament. The Leader of the Op position in that State objected to an adjournment of the Parliament on the ground that it was not necessary. He said that, in his opinion, the State had been fairly well treated, that the Commonwealth had returned so much money to the States that it had neglected its own services, and that it was the attempts of the State Premiers to interfere in Federal matters which had dislocated those services. After two members had been allowed to speak, the motion for an adjournment was “ gagged “ through the State House, so that the Premier could attend the Conference. What would have been the position of the Federal Parliament to-day, and what class of legislation would it have carried, had it been impressed to such an extent as honorable senators opposite think it ought to be by the views of the State Premiers? I hold in my hand the report of the Premiers’ Conference which was held at Hobart in 1905, and attended on behalf of the Commonwealth by Mr. George Reid, Mr. McLean, Sir George Turner, and Mr. Dugald Thomson. It was attended by no fewer than four members of the Federal Parliament, and presided over by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. Let us see what sort of legislation we should have got, if the Commonwealth Parliament had been influenced to any extent by the opinions expressed there or by the resolutions arrived at. There was one subjectmatter for discussion which was strictly a Commonwealth question, and that was the prohibition of the importation of opium. Yet the State Premiers told us practically that it was none of our business; that there was no reason why we should interfere. On page 118 of the report we find the Premier of New South Wales saying to this Conference, in which the Prime Minister of Australia presided -
I suggest that the whole suggestion should be left to the States.
According to his view the matter had nothing to do with the Commonwealth, although it was relegated to the Commonwealth by the Constitution. Then there was a resolution in regard to opium adopted on the motion of Sir Thomas Bent, in these terms -
That the following action be taken by the States : -
By confining the sale to chemists, under the Sale of Poisons Acts, or other persons specially licensed.
By prohibiting and penalizing opium dens and places used for promiscuous opium smoking.
That was all right, because we had nothing to do with those matters, and the State Premiers had a perfect right to come to that decision. But the resolution continued -
And by the Commonwealth -
By further precautions for the prevention of smuggling.
If the State Premiers had had the opportunity or had been listened to, they would not on any grounds have prohibited the importation of opium. For years the States had ample power to act, but did they attempt to do anything ? When the Commonwealth Government started to do something the State Premiers were up in arms. There is another question which is relegated by the Constitution to the Federal Government, and that is the coloured alien question.
– I ask the honorable senator whether these matters are to be dealt with at the Premiers’ Conference?
– They may be, sir.
– Are they on the agenda paper ? The question before the Senate is a motion to adjourn in order to enable Ministers to attend the Premiers’ Conference. I do not wish to interfere with the honorable senator in debating any matters which have to be dealt with at the Conference, but I ask him not to go into matters which have been dealt with at previous Conferences.
– Surely, on this motion, it is competent for an honorable senator to ask what would have been the effect upon our legislation had this Parliament been influenced by the recommendations from previous Premiers’ Conferences?
– No. On this motion the honorable senator will be allowed to refer to questions which may have to be discussed at the Premiers’ Conference and which appear on the agenda paper. Even that is stretching the rule a little too far, because the reason given to the Senate for proposing an adjournment is to allow Ministers to attend the Premiers’ Conference to debate one particular subject.
– Not one subject, sir.
– I admit that other matters may be related to the questions to be considered at the Premiers’ Conference.
– At every Conference the Premiers have addressed themselves to the question of how the financial relations between the States and the Com monwealth should be dealt with. At various Conferences they have dealt with matters which are relegated by the Constitution to the Federal Parliament and the Federal” Government.
– I think that 1 understand what the honorable senator is alluding to. But I point out to him that he desires me to extend the rule altogether too far. It appears to me that the matters he refers to are too remote from the questions which have to be considered at the present time. Of course, he is at liberty to refer to any views which bear directly upon the distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue between the Commonwealth and the States. But the other matters to which the honorable senator referred are not relevant to this motion.
– Are we to understand, sir, that on this motion we are to be confined simply towhat has been published in. the press regarding the agenda paper of the present Conference, and that we cannot consider other matters which the State Premiers have a perfect right to bring up in connexion with the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States? For instance, it has been pointed out that the institution of old-age pensions by the Commonwealth has to a very large extent dislocated the financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth. It is reasonable to assume that the Premiers will consider the question of old-age pensions in relation to their finances - whether they can agree to give to the Commonwealth any assistance in connexion with that expenditure.
– If the honorable senator intends to confine his remarks to a question like old-age pensions, I shall not raise any objection. What I object to is the raking up of the proceedings of previous Conferences on matters which so far as we know are not to be discussed at the present Conference.
– I suppose, sir, that under the Standing Orders I am permitted to express an opinion regarding any matters of that sort, and, at the same time, to instance what has been done in that connexion by previous Conferences. I take it that it will be of no use for these Conferences to be held unless it is understood that their deliberations are to have some influence on the Federal Government and the Federal Parliament.
– The question is only open to discussion with regard to the present Conference. What previous Conferences did can have no effect now ; besides, the matter is too remote.
– If this Conference is attended by a State Premier who at previous Conferences stated the position which should be taken up by the Federal Government on the subject of old-age pensions, those statements afford a fair indication as to what we shall be expected to do if the Conference has any influence with the Federal Government or Federal Parliament.
– Then the honorable senator would take us back to the Federal Convention.
– I am not doing that at all, but pointing out that this is one of the things which have to be considered. The objection of the State Premiers to the institution of Federal old-age pensions has been that it would disarrange the State finances. We know that some of the State Premiers have been altogether opposed to that policy, and why should the national Parliament be asked to adjourn to enable some Ministers to hear the complaints of the Premiers? The Commonwealth Government have decided upon a. certain course of action, and in all probability they may be asked to reconsider their decision, which Parliament itself has ratified. There is no reason why the work of the Commonwealth Government or the Commonwealth Parliament should be delayed in order that the State Premiers may meet Federal Ministers in conference.
– Why put off Commonwealth work to-day?
– That seems to be rather an impertinent question. I am not putting off Commonwealth work. I am merely protesting against the Government asking the Senate to adjourn over next week, thus postponing the work of this Chamber for ten or twelve days.
– A whole day is not required to make a protest.
– I recollect one occasion upon which the honorable senator occupied three whole days in making his protest against a proposal which was submitted by the Government of the day. Yet he now objects to me occupying five or ten minutes in the same way. Experience of Premiers’ Conferences does not encourage the belief that anything effective will result from the gathering which is to open in Melbourne to-day. These bodies have repeatedly declared their belief that the Commonwealth Parliament should not have acted in the way that it has. But that circumstance did not prevent this Parliament from legislating in regard to the matters referred to. It did not prevent it from abolishing the employment of coloured labour, from imposing Customs duties upon State imports, from legislating in regard to the conveyance of mails, and from initiating a Federal old-age pensions scheme, which Conference after Conference had condemned, unless the Commonwealth was able to obtain the necessary funds with which to finance it without diminishing the revenue that was returnable to the States. I repeat that these Conferences have repeatedly carried resolutions affirming that this Parliament has no right to exercise the powers which have been vested in it by the Constitution. If the State Premiers had had their way, they would have prevented the enactment of a great deal of democratic legislation which is upon our statute-book to-day. The Government propose that the Senate shall adjourn because they wish the State Premiers to say what’ powers they are willing to cede to the Commonwealthin connexion with industrial matters. Does anybody believe that there will be anything like unanimity amongst them upon that subject? Is not the suggestion merely a subterfuge to prevent- this Parliament from doing anything in the immediate future to protect the interests of the workers ? Is it not merely a staving off of the evil day - the day which must come ? Because the workers of Australia are getting sufficiently intelligent to appreciate the power which they wield, and to realize that if their claims are ignored by the State Parliaments they have a right to appeal to the National Legislature. What is to be expected from a Premiers’ Conference upon this matter? We know perfectly well the feeling which exists in several of the States against the Commonwealth Parliament. Did we not have one Premier who worked and voted for Federation - who even stood upon the same platform as Labour members to advocate its consummation - declaring a little while after the union had been accomplished, “ I voted for Federation with my right hand, but I would prefer to have it severed at the wrist than use it for the same purpose again “ ?
– Does the honorable senator know that the Labour party in New South Wales did not want to have a Senate at all?
– I am not talking about New South Wales. All the evidence that has been gleaned since the advent of
Federation shows that there is a strong feeling in the State Parliaments against interference on the part of the Commonwealth with industrial matters. The Labour party have always contended that this Parliament should have supreme control over industrial legislation. The Prime Minister proposed a certain method by which this desirable reform might have been achieved - a method to which we subscribed conditionally that he would give us some assurance that he was in earnest. But we did not get that assurance, and, consequently, there was a change of Government. Now we are told that the Premiers are to be asked to give the Commonwealth certain powers to enable it to deal with industrial matters. To suppose that the Premiers, who entertain a strong antipathy to any. action by the Commonwealth in the industrial world, are going to grant to us additional powers is absurd. What happened when this Parliament took action in respect of the sugar industry?
– I would point out to the honorable senator that the question of the sugar industry is not now under consideration.
– I merely mentioned that industry as an illustration.
-The honorable senator’s illustration is too remote.
– When this Parliament took action in regard to the employment of kanaka labour in the sugar industry, there was an outcry to the effect that we were interfering .with an industry with which we were not concerned. Seeing that a clamour was raised when we took action in respect of a single industry, what answer may we anticipate when we ask the States to grant us power to deal with all our protected industries? I do not believe that the Vice”- President of the Executive Council imagines for a moment that we shall obtain this additional power. The landing of troops from foreign warships is another subject which is to be discussed at the approaching Conference. That, I maintain, is a subject which is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. Had the advice of the States been accepted in that connexion, only thirty men carrying arms would have been permitted to land simultaneously from the American Fleet, and then only for the purpose of attending the funeral of one of their comrades. I shall vote against the motion.
– I intend to oppose this motion, because the reasons given by the Government afford no warrant for adjourning for a week. These are of a most extraordinary character. Although they accuse the Opposition, in the most violent and unjust manner, of a wicked waste of public time, the Government can still find ample excuses for this adjournment. It is not creditable that they should blow hot and cold in this fashion. They ought, at least, to be consistent. If the Government would come forward honestly and tell us that they have no business to transact, I, for one, should not object to an adjournment. But hitherto they have said that there is plenty of business, which, however, the Opposition will not allow to be transacted. How they reconcile the two positions is more than I can discover. The reason given by the Vice-President of the Executive Council for asking for an adjournment is that a certain number of Commonwealth electors known as State Premiers and Treasurers have come to Melbourne to confer on subjects of mutual importance. No one will object to these gentlemen doing what they consider necessary in the interests of the’ people whom they represent T, for one, should never dream of raising my voice in protest if they held a hundred meetings. But when such1 a gathering is allowed to interfere with the due conduct of Commonwealth business, it is high time that every member of this Parliament, and more especially of the Senate, took serious note of the position in which the Government are trying to place us. These gentlemen from the States, in addition to dealing with matters of purely State concern, have arrogated to themselves the right to a voice in settling matters which have been committed by the people to the Commonwealth. That is where my objection to the proposed adjournment has its origin. The Government may, if they choose, consult with these gentlemen. I have no objection to that. But when they seek to suspend the business of this Parliament while they hold their consultation it is high time to protest. The adjournment is absolutely unnecessary, because if the attendance of one Minister from the Senate at the ‘Conference were necessary, I am sure that he could get a pair from the Opposition. I am convinced that the same treatment would be accorded to Ministers in another place. But, apart from that con,sideration, why should we adjourn while the
Government confer with certain people on matters affecting them and the Commonwealth? We have been sent here by the people of Australia to do their business. One matter which will come before the Conference is that of the financial relations of the States and the Federal Government. The settlement of that issue is entirely in the hands of this Parliament. The people of the Commonwealth will settle it through their Parliament. The gentlemen of the Conference, however high their local standing may be, have no more voice in the matter than have any other seven or eight electors. But the real reason for the adjournment is that the Government are at a loss for a policy with regard to the finances, and are looking to the State Premiers for inspiration. The Commonwealth Parliament is empowered by the Constitution to settle our financial relations with the States at the end of 1910. The State Premiers have no standing whatever in this ‘ connexion. It would be just as reasonable if a State Premier asked the members of his Parliament to adjourn for a week or a fortnight until a Convention of shire councillors and aldermen had been held to deal with1 matters over which they had no control. Municipal and shire councillors stand in exactly the same relation to a State Government as the State Parliaments stand to the Commonwealth Parliament. By taking this course the Government are belittling the Senate and the Federal Parliament as a whole. It appears that the settlement of those special questions which are reserved by the Constitution to. the (Federal Parliament is to be taken out of our hands and dealt with in a hole and corner fashion by a Conference of men who have no right to interfere.
– I think we ought to have a quorum present. [Quorum formed. ]
– At the end of 1910 the Commonwealth Parliament, and no other body, no other authority, no other meeting of gentlemen, whether State Premiers or Treasurers, must deal with the financial question. The Commonwealth Parliament is the only authority appointed by the Constitution to deal with it. While the Government may see fit to consult with the State Premiers upon the subject, it is bad policy on their part to adjourn Parliament while the discussion is conducted. The only real reasons for this course that I can think of are that the Government have either no business to go on with, or are anxious to burke discussion. It cannot be said that .there is no business for the Senate to go on with, because a Minister submitted a motion to-day which would permit of the discussion of the Budget in all its aspects. But the discussion of the finances of the Commonwealth is put off for a fortnight because the Government desire to meet a few gentlemen from the States. Is that a proper way in which to conduct public business? We are responsible to people for doing certain work, and the Government thrust themselves between us and the performance of that work. The Leader of the Government has the impudence at the same time to charge members of the Labour party with a wicked waste of the time of Parliament. If the Opposition are wicked, then certainly the Government are wanton in the attitude they take up in regard to public business. This proposal is carrying things very much too far. It is belittling the Commonwealth Parliament to an extreme degree. The Senate was specially created by the people of Australia for the very purpose of looking after the interests of the States. Apparently, the State Premiers have no confidence in the Senate. They ha.ve hurried to Melbourne to get the ear of the Commonwealth Government. They have, in the past, at very great cost to the country, made various excursions to Melbourne, and to other places, on the same mission, and without any visible, result. These Conferences must have cost tens of thousands of pounds for travelling expenses, printing, and in other ways, and yet no definite conclusion has been arrived at by any one of them. I have no right to criticise the action of the State Premiers in this respect; they are answerable to their own Parliaments and to the people who elected them. But the conduct of the Federal Government in asking us to suspend business while this informal Conference, which can settle nothing, is being held between their representatives and certain members of the State Governments is outrageous. What is proposed is that there should be a wanton waste of public time. The time for doing business in this session is necessarily limited. At the close of it, there looms the general election, and every member of the Senate will be anxious to get ‘back to his constituents some time’ before that takes place. So that every hour that is lost now may be said to be lost for ever, so far as the present session is concerned. The Government are never tired of accusing the Opposition of waste of time, and yet they now propose deliberately to throw away three working days.
– A great deal of time has been wasted to-day.
– How does Senator Walker reconcile his opposition to a waste of time to-day with his approval of the waste of time proposed on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of next week ? I have said that I think the real reason for the proposed adjournment is that the Government have no business to go on with. Why do they not confess their sins and get absolution? Why do they go on pretending? They appear to have no financial policy to submit to Parliament. We have just witnessed the extraordinary spectacle of a Budget being delivered which does not disclose the financial policy of the Government. I suppose that they are waiting patiently until they hear what the representatives of the States have to say. They are unable to frame a policy of their own, and must go to the State Governments to ascertain what they have to say about it. I have every respect for the representatives of the States who are to meet in this Conference, but I repeat that they have no authority whatever to deal with some of the matters which we are informed are to be discussed at it. What authority has the Premier of New South Wales to deal with Federal matters? Has he ever submitted himself to the electors as a candidate for the Federal Parliament? We know that he has never done so, Do State electors vote on Federal questions when electing State representatives? We know that they do not, any more than municipal electors vote on State questions when they are electing aldermen, or shire electors deal with municipal and State matters when electing shire councillors. Each council and Parliament has its own well-defined duties to perform, and while. I say that it may be right and proper for the Government to consult with certain representatives of the States, it is exceedingly improper that the proceedings of this Parliament should be interrupted while that consultation is going on. I think that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed-] The country was told some time ago by Mr. Deakin that this was to be a long and energetic session. We have had a nice example of energy in this Senate. We have not had a single measure of first-class importance before us since the session began. We have been dawdling with a number of merely formal questions.
– Why are we dawdling to-day?
SenatorSTEWART.- We are trying to prevent a wicked waste of time next week, to which the honorable senator proposes to be a party.
– I am not a party to the waste of time to-day.
– If Senator Pulsford did not propose to be a party to the waste of time next week, I should not be wasting time - according to the honorable senator’s interpretation, though that is not my view - to-day. I am raising a protest against the action of the Government. I will not say that it is unconstitutional, although I believe it is, but that it is exceedingly improper that the proceedings of this Parliament should be interrupted in order that the Government may confer with any body of men, however representative they may be. Whatever may be arranged between the Premiers and the Government, the ultimate decision will, of course, rest with this Parliament. But we know that when the heads of such a Government as the present have decided on a certain course their followers invariably agreeto that course.
– They have to do so.
– I do not say that they have to do so, but we know that as a matter of fact they do. So that we are right up against this proposition : That whatever is settled between the Government and the collection of Premiers will very likely be put forward as the policy of the Government, and Ministers having their majority behind them, will be able to carry that policy. That leads me up to this point : that the policy of the Commonwealth with regard to the finances will not have been decided by the persons who are responsible for the policy, but by some other persons who have no business whatever to interfere with it. That is the position which will Have been brought about by the conduct of the Government.
– I do not think the honorable senator need worry about that. The representatives of the people in the Commonwealth Parliament will decide the matter.
– I am pointing out that while nominally they will have the power to do so, we all know that when a Government, such as the present Federal Government especially, have decided on a certain course of action, their followers may be trusted to troop in behind them. There may be a few independent men here and there, but they are very rare. Under the system of party Government, members of Parliament usually back their leaders. I think that in the fact that Parliament is asked to suspend its sittings while a Conference is being held, we have a deliberate attack upon its prestige. Throughout Australia people will ask “ Why do we want a costly Parliament in Melbourne when an affair vitally affecting the relations of the States and the Commonwealth can be settled by a conference of a dozen gentlemen sitting in that city ? Why should we have two Houses of Parliament ?”
– The arrangement has to be approved by the people.
– Of course, I know that. Everything has to be approved by the people. That is a phrase which sounds very, nicely to the ear, but which has very little meaning, for the reason I have already given. I have never known the honorable senator to give what I would consider an independent vote. He has always voted with his party.
– The honorable senator forgets that I deserted Mr. Barton in the early days.
– The honorable senator talks about having deserted Mr. Barton. I believe that he was returned to this Parliament as a Protectionist. He deserted the Protectionists.
– - Did I ?
– The honorable senator left the Protectionist camp in the night, and found refuge in the Free Trade one, where, I believe, he still remains.
– No; do not put me in the wrong box.
– As a rule, the honorable gentleman follows his leader, and most members of Parliament do the same thing.
– When my leader is right I do.
– I do not know, sir, whether I would be in order in inquiring as to the status of some members of the Premiers’ Conference. From the point of view I have taken I do not think it matters who they are, or what they are. They certainly have no standing so far as Commonwealth affairs are concerned. They have not been chosen by the electors of the Commonwealth. They have been returned to the State Parliaments to look after State affairs. We, I repeat, are the only per sons charged by the electors of the Commonwealth to settle its affairs. I think that the Government are destroying the prestige of this Parliament, and attacking the rights of its members, in truckling to the State Premiers. I can give their action no other name. We all know what a powerful force in public affairs, and even in private affairs, precedent is. Here to-day we are asked to lay down a precedent which may, in the future, so develop as to prove a serious danger to the well-being and good government of the Commonwealth. We are actually asked to suspend our work in order to hear what certain State individuals, who have no more right to speak than the first half-dozen men one may meet in the street, have to say regarding certain Commonwealth matters. I very much fear that we shall also be asked to obey the orders which they will give, to take the law as they lay it down. It is a most dangerous precedent to create.
– Four years ago we established the precedent by recognising a meeting of State Premiers. The Senate raised a. protest then, but received very little support.
– We do not object to the members of the Commonwealth Government meeting the State Premiers, or any number of individuals who may choose to confer with them on Commonwealth matters. What we object to is the suspension of the proceedings of this Parliament while the Conference is sitting. This Parliament is asked to stay its hand until it can be discovered what the mind of these individuals is, with regard to matters which have been exclusively committed to bur care. By all means let the members of the Government confer with whomsoever they please, but why the work of Parliament should be suspended while the Conference is sitting I cannot discover. It is, I repeat, laying down an exceedingly bad precedent ; one which may not only hamper our action in the future, but will undoubtedly tend to lower this Parliament in the eyes of the people. The members of this Parliament ought not to do anything of the kind. A great deal in that direction is being done by others, I think unwisely, but we ought not to help that idea along by deliberately abandoning our work to permit the members of the Government to attend the Conference. I believe that the whole thing . is a piece of humbug. The Government are going in search of a policy here, there, and everywhere. They simply do not know where they are. . They do not know what their next move will be. They are looking to every quarter under heaven for inspiration. They are going to the State Premiers, to the press, to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, to meetings up and down the country, to the Women’s League, and to the Men’s League. I suppose that very soon they will be invading even the children’s league, for an inspiration which will enable them to carry on the business of the country. Men who are mentally so povertystricken as not to know their own minds, who have no policy to disclose to the country, and who do not know what their next action wilt be, have no right to hold the governing position in any country, and much less so in a country like this, which needs strong men with a clearly defined policy, which they are prepared to launch in the face of the people, and with some determination. I shall oppose the motion, and if ever Senator Millen again accuses the Opposition of wickedly wasting time I shall be able to say that he himself was a party to a much more serious transgression in that direction than I, or any other member of the Opposition, could ever be guilty of.
– I hope that the motion will not be agreed to. I had hoped that, after he had listened to the reasoning of honorable senators on this side. Senator Millen would have discovered the necessity for withdrawing it ; but since he has a solid majority behind him it is of very little use for me to indulge in that hope any longer. I wish to protest as briefly as possible against this extraordinary attempt by the Government to bring to a standstill this branch of the Parliament while the Premiers’ Conference is being held in Melbourne. In my opinion it amounts to a silencing of the Senate, which, save in a very minor respect, has co-equal powers with the House of Representatives. Why is this done? In order that we may hear the views of the State Premiers on the financial relationship ‘ of the States with the Commonwealth. So far as we can judge by the history of previous Premiers’ Conferences this one will prove equally abortive. -I can recall one decision arrived at by a Premiers’ Conference which I ‘would not listen to for a moment, but which, if it had been carried out by this Parliament, would have been a direct blow at the prosperity of at least two States. In all seriousness a former Premiers’ Conference came to this decisi6n
– Order ! It has already been ruled that an honorable senator cannot refer to the debates at any previous Conference.
– I thought, sir. that I would be entitled to refer to the possibility of the present Conference being as abortive and resultless as preceding Conferences.
– This point has already been considered here to-day, and it has been ruled that an honorable senator may refer to proposals to be made at the present Conference, but not to the actions and proposals of previous Conferences.
– That ruling will certainly shorten my remarks very considerably. But I did think it was reasonable to bring under Senator Millen’s notice the foolishness of Ministers attending a Conference which, in the light of past experience, would probably be fruitless. I want to call his attention to the main reason why the Senate is to be silenced, and that is, that owing, to the importance of the subjects to be considered it is thought necessary on this occasion that Federal Ministers should confer with the State Premiers. If that be the main reason, and so far as I can gather from responsible mouthpieces it is, let me ask, “ Did the framers of section 87 of the Constitution contemplate that this Parliament should refer a question of such far-reaching importance as the settlement of the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States for a time or for good and all to the State Premiers without its being discussed and determined here?” The only inference is that the Government are prepared to ignore the Houses of this Parliament, and particularly the Senate.
– In regard to what question ?
– The question of determining the financial relations of the States and Commonwealth.
– The Premiers’ Conference cannot determine that.
– Before I conclude my remarks I shall show the honorable senator that the State Premiers have pretensions in that direction. When we read section 87 of the Constitution it becomes clear that there was no intention on the part of its framers that the State Premiers should be consulted upon this question. Had there been any such intention, the words “ and the State Premiers “ would have been inserted after the words “ The Parliament.” But those words do not appear, and I submit, therefore, that the Government have absolutely no warrant for the course which they are now following. My complaint is that they are elevating the Premiers’ Conference above the level of a mere advisory body to the plane of a representative institution, which is about to exercise as much power in the settlement of this question as this Parliament can exercise. I am surprised to find such stubborn sticklers for the rights of this branch of the Legislature as are some honorable senators, ready to adopt the course which is recommended by the Ministry. We are not warranted in elevating ‘a “Premiers’ Conference to the same plane as is occupied by this Parliament. It has been said that that Conference will not have equal powers with the Government in arriving at a determination of the future financial relations of the States to the Commonwealth. But in the course of correspondence which has been laid upon the table of the Senate, Mr. “Wade, if he does not claim that right, assumes in a very practical way that the Premiers will in all respects be regarded as co-equal with the Federal Government.
– Ten thousand persons might make that claim, but that would not establish it as a fact.
- Mr. Wade, in his letter to Mr. Deakin on 3rd July, makes the following statement : -
Your letter contains a reference to the submission of questions to the electors, which 1 take to mean a proposal for ingrafting any agreement arrived at permanently in the Constitution. The second paragraph suggests a temporary arrangement for a term of years. I shall be glad if you can give me further information with regard to these matters.
The point to which I wish to direct special attention is the claim that is indisputably set up by the Premier of New South Wales - that the Premiers’ Conference shall have an equal voice with the Commonwealth Government in any settlement of the financial problem that may be arrived at. That being the case, where does this Senate come in ? Here is the Premier of the first State of the group declaring that any agreement arrived at by the Conference will be grafted on to the Constitution. There is no word about a reference to this Chamber.
– How can it be engrafted on the Constitution without a reference to this Chamber?
– But the agreement will be arrived at before it is considered by this Chamber. That is the point. Past experience shows that this Parliament could attend to its duties during the progress of the Conference without any adjournment, and without the Commonwealth representation at that gathering being impaired in the slightest degree. For example, the Conference which was held a couple of years ago was attended by Mr. Deakin and Sir William Lyne, and on that occasion Parliament was not asked to adjourn. Yet, so far as I can gather, those gentlemen discharged their representative functions just as efficiently as will the Commonwealth representatives on the present occasion. Why should a departure be made from the precedent which was then established?
– Does the honorable senator say that Parliament was in session when that Conference was held ?
– I do. I would further point out that an adjournment of this Parliament is not desired by at least one of the Premiers. This fact is clearly evidenced by the concluding paragraph of a letter addressed to Mr. Deakin and dated Sydney, 22nd June, in which Mr. Wade says : -
As the Commonwealth Parliament would then be in session I am of opinion that the appropriate place of meeting would be Melbourne.
What is the meaning of that sentence? Does it not mean that Mr. Wade desired to study the convenience of this Parliament? That fact demonstrates that the thought of the Government taking the extraordinary course which they now propose had not entered his mind. The Premier of New South Wales is evidently not anxious that this Parliament should hang up its business whilst the Conference is sitting. The action of the Government is tantamount to a wanton waste of time. I can only attribute this extraordinary change of front on their part to a desire to pander to State jealousies, and to nothing else. In order to curry favour with the State Premiers, they are willing to dance attendance upon them and to waste the time of the Commonwealth Legislature. Mr. Deakin is evidently governed by an element in politics which is prepared to set its sails to every popular gust. He wishes to ingratiate himself with those persons who are mistakenly jealous of State rights. It has been alleged that the Commonwealth has invaded State rights. When Mr. Deakin was possessed of a stiffer backbone than he possesses now, he used to talk to the State Rights party in a very stern fashion. In his earlier correspondence with
Mr. Wade he was accustomed to address that gentleman as “Sir,” and Mr. Wade was wont to reply in the same fashion. The tone of their correspondence clearly indicated that almost the next scene would be one of pistols and coffee. But that was before Mr. Deakin’s backbone had been extracted. What is taking place now? We find Mr. Wade addressing Mr. Deakin as “ Dear Mr. Deakin,” and Mr. Deakin, in reply, addressing the Premier of New South Wales as “ Dear Mr. Wade.”
– The honorable senator should remember that Mr.. Wade became Premier of New South Wales soon after he entered Parliament. He was not even known by sight to Mr. Deakin when the former correspondence took place.
– It is surely remarkable that there should be such a change in the form in which these gentlemen address each other, considering the nature of their former correspondence. It is clear that their relationship has greatly changed. I can only infer that the change has been brought about through Mr. Deakin allowing himself to be governed, by a section in politics that is endeavouring to curry favour with State rights advocates.
– The honorable senator will notice that in one of Mr. Deakin’s letters he proposes, to discuss with Mr. Wade the altered conditions.
– Mr. Deakin is an adept in the use of curioous language, and it is often difficult to follow him. With regard to the charge that has been levelled against the Opposition during this debate of belittling the States, I have to say that, while repudiating that accusation. I can say, by way of reply, that nothing has been said in this Chamber in regard to the States that is so derogatory as statements made concerning the Federation by the State Premiers at former ‘Conferences. Some of the State Ministers have even gone so far as to say that the Commonwealth should be wiped out. Let me show some of the opinions that have been placed on record by these State politicians. Mr. Barlow, of Queensland, said, at the Brisbane Conference, in 1907, concerning the Federation -
Go ‘to the people who are its real master; that is what we want ; . . . . let tis go on the abolition of Federation altogether.
Later on, Sir Joseph Carruthers said. in regard to Federation -
I can understand that the Commonwealth Government itself, when it is portraying its im portance to other people, does not like to have to compare its revenue and expenditure with the revenue and expenditure of a State like New South Wales, where our revenue is greater than the revenue of the Commonwealth, and where our expenditure on services which are under our control is four or five times as great as the expenditure by the Commonwealth on services which are under its control.
– It is like a little boy saying, “ My house is bigger than yours.”
– That passage shows the feeling that was prevalent among some of the State Premiers in reference to Federation. But let me now quote the opinion of a Premier who is still in office, setting forth his opinion as to the sentiment that should be entertained concerning the Senate. I refer to Mr. Peake, the Premier of South Australia. Mr. Peake said -
There seems to be on the part of some members here the very greatest distrust of the Commonwealth as a legislative body, and with the rest to the Commonwealth Government as an administering bod]’. . . . It is not assuming any greater powers than we gave it. There seems to be great distrust on the part of some of the States to allowing the Commonwealth to do those things which we expressly gave it power to do ; we seem to be interfering with it, and dictating to it and telling it what it should do and should not do at every turn. I think that is one of the worst f eatures at the present time with regard to the relations between the States and the Commonwealth - that we, as Slates, are taking too much upon ourselves - the part of a watch-dog, and are not putting a sufficient sense of responsibility on the Senate, which is essentially the States House. We are allowing the Senate to be almost deprived of its responsibilities, because we are assuming the position which the Senate should take up. The Senate is distinctly appointed under the Constitution to represent the State interests. There is an equal number of members from each State so that each State may be regarded as co-equal. What are we doing? We are taking the part which the Senate should take in regard to State interests.
That is the opinion of one qf the Premiers who is to take part in the present Conference. I ask honorable senators to consider those weighty words. They should encourage us to maintain that dignity which should pertain to the Senate as the branch of the Legislature especially chosen to protect the interests of the States. But instead of respecting the position of the Senate we are abandoning our functions and our duties, and making ourselves parties to an act of abnegation of responsibility in order that Ministers may win favour with certain elements in State politics for the purposes of the next election. By way of contrast with Mr. Peake’s statement, let me quote an observation made by Sir Joseph Carruthers, as reported on page 192 of the record of the Brisbane Conference. He referred to a statement by Captain Evans, the Premier of Tasmania, and continued -
I could quite understand him using a celebrated phrase with regard to Victoria and saying - “ Now Barabbas was a robber.” (Laughter.) But to turn round on poor New South Wales - (laughter) - which has always been a good friend to Tasmania - as I am prepared to help Tasmania, I feel it keenly. So far as there has been any robbery going on, there is only one universal robber in Australia.
Does Senator Pulsford, after hearing that statement, feel any pleasure in supporting a proposal which means that we are to abandon our functions while Ministers confer with Premiers who hold concerning the Federation sentiments like those? I can find no justification for following slavishly in the path which the Vice-President of the Executive Council invites us to take. But in all seriousness we should not allow this historical occasion to pass without making a strenuous protest on behalf of this branch of the Legislature, at which a direct blow is aimed. In the words of Mr. Peake, the Senate is the custodian of State interests. The motion now under consideration is, I maintain, a blow aimed more directly at the Senate than at the other branch of the Legislature. There may be some justification for asking the other House to adjourn, but certainly there is not any in asking for an adjournment of the Senate, which, under the Constitution, is intrusted with the duty of jealously looking after State rights and interests. We ought not to consent to abandon those functions on this or any other occasion. I am opposing the motion, believing that a wrong course is being taken. I believe that the Ministry is making a mistake, and that Senator Millen himself is showing a weakness that is scarcely characteristic of him. I believe the Government have adopted this course merely for political reasons, and I again deplore the fact that they should so trifle with the constitutional status of the Senate.
– One of the dangers of a free country is that its deliberative assemblies are always more or less at the mercy of those who choose to interrupt and delay their proceedings. The freer the country the greater is that danger.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the interruption proposed by the Government?
– I am referring, as the honorable senator knows, to the proceedings which have marked this day’s sit ting. We were called together to transact public business, but the whole day has been wasted in talking of the proposed cessation of business next week.
– Why is the honorable senator wasting time?
– I intend to make good use ofa few minutes in calling the attention of the country to what has taken place to-day. I would remind honorable senators of the remark made by Mr. Gladstone, that the whole machinery of public ‘life could be stopped by a few, and that it was presumed that those who entered the deliberative assemblies of a country under a Constitution such as is that of Great Britain, were animated by a desire to promote and not to delay business. The business of the Senate has been delayed to-day, and for no purpose of which I can conceive. I regret very much what has taken place, and have risen only to draw attention to it in the hope that what has occurred may not escape the notice of the people.
– Although I consider this debate justifiable, I did not intend to take part in it, and should not have done so but for the statement made by Senator Pulsford, that the Opposition to-day have been interrupting public business.
– Of course they have been doing so.
– On the contrary, the Opposition is simply endeavouring to prevent the interruption of public business. The statement has been repeatedly made by members of the Government, and by newspapers that support them, that the Opposition in both Houses of the Federal Parliament are preventing the transaction of public business ; that a number of measures await our consideration, but that they cannot be dealt with whilst the Opposition continue their obstructive tactics. Our contention to-day is that the Government deliberately propose a wholly unnecessary interruption of public business for more than a week, in order that Ministers may confer with the Premiers of the Slates concerning matters that should be dealt with only by the Federal Legislature. The State delegates at that Conference will be the representatives of a fusion which has been brought about in each of the State Parliaments, for the reason that has led to the fusion in the Federal Parliament. These combinations are due to the desire to isolate the Labour party, and to prevent the passing of legislation which, although originating with that party, would, undoubtedly be beneficial to the whole of the people of Australia. Members of the Government intend to confer with representatives of the State Governments, and, if possible, to arrive at a decision which, despite the protests of a strong minority, they will be able to force this Parliament to accept, as the result of a combination of members of diametrically opposite views. The Opposition, we contend, are entitled to endeavour to prevent the perpetration of such a blunder. Since a supporter of the Government accuses us of interrupting public business when our only desire is to prevent them from doing that which we believe to be absolutely wrong, we are justified in making an emphatic protest. I rose simply to protest against, not only the interruption of public business, but the method now being adopted of referring to a Conference of State Premiers the settlement of questions which should be debated and determined by this Parliament.
– I, with other members of the Opposition, wish to enter my sincere protest against the unwarrantable action of the Government in attempting to compel, by sheer bludgeon force, the whole of the members of this Parliament to remain idle, in order that the Prime Minister, and one or two of his colleagues, may have some leisure to spend with their friends from other parts of Australia during the next ten days or a fortnight. It would have been better had the representative of the Government in this House expressed his true intention, and told us that the real reason for the adjournment is that the Government, during the whole of the present session, propose to take every opportunity to prevent any public business from being accomplished. It is quite evident that the discussion with the Premiers is the least of the reasons for the proposed adjournment. The Government, having used every method to brand the Opposition as obstructionists, in both this and in another place, we have a perfect right to enter our protest against the motion. The whole matter seems tome to rest on a desire, not to hasten public business by arriving at any conclusion with the Premiers, but rather to cause delay by, probably, creating as many complications as they can, in order to prevent this “Senate, or the Parliament as a whole, from proceeding with necessary legislation. In their many proposals, the Government are always indefinite; and their action of a few hours ago is very similar to many actions which have preceded it. They have not told us in so many words that they have no policy, and that it is utterly impossible for them to arrive at anything like unanimity, because of their composition; but, by their actions they have clearly declared the fact to the whole of Australia; and, therefore, they ought to be thinking more about vacating their position than seeking to frustrate the desire of the country for legislation. For that we have been crying out for years past, and even the members of the Government themselves must admit its absolute necessity. The Government, no matter how great the necessity, have shown that they cannot possibly arrive at an understanding amongst themselves; and, therefore, as another honorable senator has pointed out, they are appealing to the Ministers of the various States to assist them to an agreement on matters which ought to have been dealt with long ago. I enter my protest against this wilful waste of time and money, and the undoubted effort that is being made to stifle the expression of public opinion.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The PRESIDENT reported the receipt of a message intimating that the House of Representatives had agreed to the amendment of the Senate in this Bill.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- There is a matter of vital concern to the interests of the Commonwealth to which I think we should devote a few minutes before we adjourn. I refer to the latest development with regard to the settlement of the Federal Capital site question, and what I consider to be the lamentable failure of the Government to take any action to bring about finality. During the last few days I have asked questions with an ardent desire that some progress should be made in that direction. In reply to a question as to whether it was true, as stated in the press, that the Premier of New South Wales had declined to take any action to bring about finality in the matter until the Commonwealth Government took some further action, which he indicated, the Vice-President of the Executive Council was good enough to give all the information at his disposal by at once tabling the correspondence on the matter up to date. It is to that correspondence that I wish now to direct the attention of honorable senators. It discloses the fact that there is a serious hitch in the negotiations, and yet, strange to say, the Government, who profess to be so exceedingly desirous to settle this important question, do not propose to take any action towards that end.
– They have put £5,000 on the Estimates for the purpose.
– Enough to build an aboriginals’ camp. It is suggested by an honorable senator behind me that it might be sufficient to put a fence around the Capital Site, but history would have to be repeated, and the Prime Minister would need to follow the example of a Premier of New South Wales and steal the barbed wire necessary for the purpose if the expenditure was to be ‘kept within £5,000. When this Parliament passed an Act determining that the Federal Capital should be located in a certain district, it was expected that after the exact limitations of the site had been defined by competent officers the next step would be taken by the Government of New South Wales with a view to the surrender of the territory required. We find that the Premier of that State refuses to take that step. I have no desire to unduly delay honorable senators, butI wish to direct their attention to Premier Wade’s letter. I need not occupy time in reading the letter from the Prime Minister, which immediately precedes it in the correspondence which has been tabled.
– It is alreadyin print and on record.
- Senator Pulsford apparently thinks he knows everything, but as a matter of fact this correspondence is not in print, and I intend that some of it shall be printed. Premier Wade’s letter will indicate sufficiently the nature of the letter from the Prime Minister to which it is a reply. It is as follows : -
Sydney, 5th August, 1909.
In connexion with your letter of the 20th ult., with which you forwarded two sets of papers and plans, which were presented to the Federal. Parliament recently referring to the proposed1 Federal Territory and Seat of Government in the district of Yass-Canberra, I note that you state (paragraph 4) that you will be pleased if I now take steps under section111 of the Constitution Act to pass the State Act for surrender. This conveys to my mind that you are of opinion that it is incumbent upon this State to take the next practical step towards final determination of the Seat of Government. I fear, however, in the absence of further action by the Commonwealth, the stage has not yet been reached when it is practicable for this State to take the course you indicate.
In order to explain the attitude I take up, it is necessary to refer to the section of the Constitution dealing with the Seat of Government. Section 125 is as follows : - “ The seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament and shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth and shall be vested in and belong to the Commonwealth, and if New South Wales be an original State, shall be in that State, and be distant not less than one hundred miles from Sydney….. “
In the first place, it became necessary to understand the correct meaning to be attached to the word “determined.” Generally speaking, it appears to be clear (1), that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be determined by the Parliament; and (2), that the Seat of Government shall be within territory which shall have been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth. Strictly, therefore, after territory has been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth, the Seat of Government is then determined ; and perhaps technically the word “determined” applies to the last Act of the Commonwealth Parliament whereby under the Constitution a Seat of Government isestablished.
There are, however, before that final stage is reached, certain preliminary steps which necessarily must be taken and which have been followed hitherto, by the Commonwealth. In the first place, the Commonwealth Parliament has thought fit to declare by an Act of Par- liament, that the Seat of Government shall be in the district of Yass-Canberra. Whether this Act is to be regarded as a mere statutory expression of opinion by the Commonwealth as to the general locality within which the Capital shall be established, or whether it is to be deemed a determination that - the Seat of Government shall not be outside the district of Yass-Canberra, does not seem to be material. To my mind, it is not a determination within the meaning of section 125.
Section 3 of the Act No. 24 of 1908 states - “ It is hereby determined that the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth shall be in the district of Yass-Canberra in the State of New South Wales,” but by virtue of section 125, the Seat of Government is not to be determined until territory has been granted to or acquired by the Commonwealth. These conditions have not yet been fulfilled, and I assume I have your concurrence with the statement that the Act of 1908 was merely a registration, in solemn form, of the opinion of the Commonwealth Parliament as to the general locality within which should be established the Seat of Government.
Subsequently, and in pursuance of this lastmentioned Act, inspections and surveys have been made of the whole district, a specific area defined by metes and bounds has been reported upon by officials, and within that area a special Board has selected the most eligible site for the location of the city itself. These reports have been presented to Parliament, but whether they will be indorsed by members cannot be known until the House has been asked to express an opinion thereon. I submit, with all deference, that the course to be now followed is for the Federal Parliament to further declare that this territory recommended by the officials shall or shall not be adopted as the specific area within which the Seat of Government shall be determined.
When that stage has been reached, and this or any other territory has been approved of, it will be competent for this State to grant or surrender Crown lands which are within the boundaries of the area so approved of by the Commonwealth Parliament. If the State omits to voluntarily take this action, section 125 empowers the Commonwealth, for the purpose of accomplishing its object, to acquire territorywithin those boundaries. Thus the Commonwealth is completely protected. When the exact area has been defined by metes and bounds and adopted by the Parliament, the Constitution provides them with all necessary machinery for becoming possessed of the territory within those boundaries.
On the other hand, the State at present is in a most anomalous position. The procedure indicated by the Constitution is for the State to surrender by virtue of section111 all lands which are Crown lands. The Constitution further provides (section111) that, on surrender, such part of the State becomes subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. The State thus is irrevocably divested of proprietorial and territorial rights in respect of lands so surrendered, and the Constitution contemplates that that land must be within boundaries which have been determined by the Parliament to be the territory within which shall be established the Seat of Government.
Assuming that this State surrenders all Crown lands within the proposed territory, as indi cated in the maps accompanying your letter, is itnot competent for the Commonwealth Parliament to decline to adopt this proposed area as Federal territory, for the purposes of the Seat of Government? Or why should not Crown lands in the Yass-Canberia district, but outside the boundaries of Mr. Scrivener’s proposed territory, be surrendered? How can the State Parliament be asked to part with State property as Federal territory when no assurance can be given that it will become part of the Federal territory ? The Commonwealth has expressed a general opinion with regard to the YassCanberra district, but I have no knowledge that they are prepared to declare as Federal territory the precise area suggested by Mr. Scrivener rather than any other area in the district of Yass-Canberra.
For these reasons I am of opinion that the appropriate procedure is for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to first declare, by metes and bounds, the precise locality of the territory within which shall be determined the Seat of Government.
Whilst I venture to say that I have laid down the correct position, let me add (so anxious is the Government of this State to expedite the settlement of the Capital question) that if you are of opinion that the Crown lands of the State should be surrendered before Parliament settles the metes and bounds of the territory, I would ask you to help me by stating whether you propose to ask Parliament to adopt the whole area specified by Mr. Scrivener, or, in fact, what area do you propose to submit to Parliament for approval ? By thus fixing the external boundaries the State can then locate the Crown lands which may be the subject of surrender. If you adopt either of the alternatives above outlined, this Government will be able to make a substantial advance of a practical nature.
I have not entered upon the other matters mentioned in your letter, as they are dependent on the location of the Federal territory, and to deal with matters of this character in detail is scarcely appropriate until the larger question I have raised has been determined.
I shall be glad to be favored with your view at your early convenience.
I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient servant, (Sgd.) C. G. Wade.
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, Melbourne.
We have not been furnished with the Prime Minister’s reply to that letter. The Commonwealth has been established now for eight and a half years, and it was contemplated by the Constitution, as adopted by the people, that the Federal Parliament and Government should be housed in its own territory within a reasonable time, that’ territory to be situated somewhere in New South Wales, but not within a hundred miles of Sydney. To-day, owing to difficulties placed in the way of a settlement by New South Wales, and perhaps through want of earnestness on the part of successive
Commonwealth Governments, the question is as far from settlement as ever. Last year we passed an Act definitely fixing the site in the Yass-Canberra district. One would naturally suppose that after the exact boundaries had been defined by officers appointed for the purpose, the State of New South Wales, in whose interests and at whose instigation the Yass-Canberra site was chosen, would have seized every opportunity of facilitating our acquirement of the territory and the settlement of the question by this Parliament. Instead of that, Mr. Premier Wade appears to throw every difficulty in the way of a settlement. The Prime Minister’s letter, to which Mr. Wade’s letter was a reply, asked for a surrender of the area defined by the officers within the Yass-Canberra district as a site for the Federal Capital. Instead of showing any eagerness to cede the necessary territory for the site, which was chosen largely to please New South Wales, Mr. Wade puts obstacles in the way. There seems to be a sort of haggling and chaffering as to which authority is to take the next step. Mr. Wade says it is necessary for this Parliament to pass a further Act confirming the previous one, and defining the territory by metes and bounds, before he will proceed an inch further. It is a pity that he cannot be called to order for his tedious repetition of that phrase. In view of these difficulties, and the fact that we are getting well into the session, it. is lamentable that the Government should make no proposal for settling this important question. If Mr. Wade will not grant us the necessary territory in the Yass-Canberra district, let us look out for some other site, but first let us be loyal to the Constitution. The question is of the utmost importance, and has been too long haggled over. A strong Fusion Government has been called into being, and has loudly professed itself powerful enough to take an independent course of action, and settle all these questions without any reliance upon casual support from other quarters. Yet in this case they display a most lamentable weakness. Do the Government propose, in view of Mr. Wade’s letter, to ask this Parliament to take some steps, or will they ask it to insist on the New South Wales Parliament taking action?
– It is possible for this Parliament to do something. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council regard Mr. Wade’s statement of the position as correct? If so, do the Government propose to ask this Parliament to take the next step? Provision for a Federal Capital was not placed in the Constitution without good reason. The framers of the Constitution considered it undesirable for the Federal Parliament to be permanently housed in any State capital, and consequently more or less under the dominance of one particular State. They thought it advisable for the Commonwealth Parliament to be housed in an independent capital in its own territory, removed from State influences. This Parliament has been too long housed in Melbourne, and under the dominance of Victorian interests. It would be equally bad for the Federal Parliament to be housed in and under the dominance of Sydney. I, for one, therefore, desire to see this wise provision of the Constitution carried out in its entirety, and the question settled in an earnest way, instead of being haggled over and relegated to the back-ground. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will bear in mind what I have said, and impress it upon the Government that it is the desire of the Senate to see this important question settled without unnecessary delay.
– There is a matter to which I wished to refer earlier in the day, but which I could not then speak upon. I desire to know from the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether the Government is determined to ignore the feeling of Parliament in regard to the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway ? This matter is of importance - not merely from local considerations, but because of its national bearing. The advisableness of constructing the line was debated in this Chamber on several occasions, and finally an Act was passed, referring to surveyors the duty of exploring the route, and reporting on the possibilities of the country through which it passes, the probable cost of the line, and the desirableness of constructing it. The Government have now received reports concerning the project which, in my opinion, are by no means unfavorable. Indeed, they give supportto many of the arguments which were used by those who favour the construction of the line. A very important member of the Ministry took an active part in another place in the debates on the Survey Bill. At that time, he was not holding the posi- tion of dignity which he now occupies, being merely the representative .of Swan, whereas to-day he is the Treasurer of the Fusion Ministry. Strangely, enough, the man who was professedly the stalwart champion of the project then, speaking of the construction of the line as essential to the fulfilment of the Federal agreement, has, in his Budget speech, made no mention of it. I should like to know whether his fellow Ministers have bound him to silence, and whether the policy of the present Government is the obliteration of all policies and projects previously advocated by those who now compose it. Surely there must be some extraordinary reason for the silence of a mart of the calibre of the Treasurer regarding a matter which he has hitherto spoken of as of extreme importance. If there is no such reason, we must conclude that he, like some others, is of one opinion when a private member, and of another opinion when in power. Parliament authorized the spending of ^20,000 for a survey of the route of the proposed Une. That expenditure was not authorized merely to get rid of the money. If it meant anything, it meant that a survey was to be made to provide reports of which the Government would ultimately make use. But we find now that, not only have they not made use of the reports supplied. to them, but that they apparently have no intention of doing so within the next twelve months. The people of Western Australia hold, on justifiable grounds I think, that it is not likely to become part and parcel nf the Federation until if is connected with the eastern States by a railway, as was intended when the information now before us was asked for. I propose to read n report by Mr. Henry Deane on the survey of the route, in order that the people of Western Australia, generally, may have an idea of what has been done, and what conclusions have been arrived at by the agents of the Federal Government, and thus be able to draw their own conclusions as to the sincerity or otherwise of the Government, and in “particular as to the sincerity or otherwise of Sir John Forrest as a staunch advocate of this project. He is now the Treasurer of a combination which has seen fit to indicate by their action that they have not the remotest intention, for at least twelve months, of taking the slightest note of the work which has been performed by the surveyors. Mr. Henry Deane’s report is dated the 19th July,’ 1909. Ad dressing the Secretary to the Department of Home Affairs, he writes -
I have the honour to report for the Honorable the Minister’s information that I have inspected the South Australian portion of the 1 rans-continental Railway Survey.
– Does the honorable senator want to get this report into print?
– I thought that probably if I read the report the honorable senator would be saved the trouble of reading it for himself. Mr. Deane continues -
I left Melbourne on Monday evening, the 7th June. On Tuesday and Wednesday I went over the plans of the survey with Mr. Moncrieff, Railways Commissioner, formerly EngineerinChief, Mr. Graham Stewart, the present End.neerinChief, and Mr. Furner, the Surveyor in charge of the survey.
On Wednesday evening, in company with Mr. Furner, I embarked on the steamship Australian for Fowler’s Bay. By special arrangements with the Engineer-in-Chief, the steamship-owners had agreed that the steamer should proceed direct to Fowler’s Bay after calling at Streaky Bay and it was anticipated that we should arrive early on Sunday morning, 13th June. Before reaching Streaky Bay, however, the weather, which had been favorable, changed for the worse, and a gale set in. Delay resulted, and it was Monday morning, the 14th, before we landed at Fowler’s Bay. The day was taken up with making final arrangements for the land journey, and a short distance of 7 miles was traversed to Yalata, Station, belonging to Mr, George Murray, with whom the South Australian Government had arranged for the means of conveyance as far as Tarcoola.
The next morning, the 15th, a start was made for the survey line. The party consisted, in addition to Mr. Furner and myself, of Mr. Murray, -an assistant of his, a survey foreman, and a camp cook. Mr. Murray drove a buggy and four, taking Mr. Furner and myself. His assistant drove a second conveyance, carrying the camp equipment and provisions required for this portion of the trip, together with the two men. From Yalata to Colona, a distance of 28’ miles, the Eucla-road was followed, the direction being about north-west. From this point our track led to the north. The survey line is struck at a .point at the eastern end of the Nullarbor Plain, 3 or 4 miles to the south. of Ooldea Well. This point was reached on the 17th June. Here the camels were met- with which were to take us eastward through the sand hills. The distance from Fowler’s Bay to the line near Ooldea is 111 miles.
– Senator Needham will spoil the honorable senator’s speech for electioneering purposes if he interrupts him.
– I want the Minister to understand that my speech is not being delivered for electioneering purposes.
– What good object can it serve?
– The object of my speech is to call the attention of the Government to the very lax methods which they are employing in connexion with their proposed legislation for the welfare of this country.
– If that is the honorable senator’s object, he does not need to read the report.
– Mr. Deane continues -
The next morning, Friday, the18th, I drove a distance of about 4 miles to Ooldea Well, which is 28 feet deep, and contains a good supply of water. This point is in the Sand Hills, near their southern limit. After returning to the. camp, Mr. Murray and his assistantleft with the horses and the second conveyance, leaving me the buggy for the journey through the Sand Hills to Tarcoola.
The arrangements for travelling to Tarcoola were as follows : -100-gallon tanks had been sent out and distributed at intervals of about 20 miles between Ooldea and Tarcoola, the proximity of the rock catchments at Wynbring and Kychering being, however, omitted, as it was anticipated there would be plenty of water there. There were seventeen camels in all - -four to pull the buggy, two riding camels, nine pack camels, and two spare camels.’ A driver was provided for the buggy, and two native blacks looked after the camels generally.
It will be seen from this report that the Government are in possession of the most minute detail as to the work entered upon, and completed by the surveyors. Another paragraph of the report states -
A start was made on the 18th, at 10.35 a.m., and the centre line of railway was followed. There was a narrow clearing, and the stumps were often troublesome. AH along the route good camel feed was available, and as we carried sufficient water for drinking and camp purposes it was immaterial at what spots at night the camps were fixed. Every evening a stop was made, tents were put up, and the camels turned out. An early start was made on the following morning. Wyndbring Rock was reached on the23rd evening, Kychering on the 25th, and Tarcoola on Saturday, 26th. The distance from Ooldea to Tarcoola is 173 miles, and the time taken up nine days, which was good travelling.
There is still another paragraph to which I must direct attention. It reads -
With regard to the survey, I propose to treat with this in more detail in a later report, but I may. say that my observations show that the line, as a whole, has been well selected and that, although when construction is undertaken it may prove desirable to make here and there some modifications in the location, it dors not appear as if there would be any deviation of great importance, and the work may therefore be considered very satisfactory.
All this goes to show that the whole tenor of the report is favorable to the project for which this survey was sanctioned. It is rather strange, therefore, that in the Budget noreference should have been made to the further prosecution of this great national undertaking.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 August 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090813_senate_3_51/>.