3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Payment oflegal Expenses.
– I beg to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether, in view of the Senate’s vote on the motion of Senator Neild, regarding the payment of the costs incurred by the Agricultural Implement Makers Employes Unions, the Government propose to ask the Parliament to vote a sum for that purpose?
– The Government have not altered their decision in this matter.
– Do the Government defy a vote of the Senate ?
– Move the adjournment of the Senate.
– Seeing that the Senate is an integral part of the Parliament, and has by a majority of its members - nineteen votes - practically asserted that a portion of the costs of the employes of the implement makers should be paid, I wish to ask the Minister whether the Government do not think that that is a reason why they should reconsider their determination, or whether, if the other House should express a similar view to the Senate’s, the Government’ will reconsider their decision?
– Of course it is not competent for eitherHouse to vote a sum of money as has been suggested by my honorable friend.
– It can give a direction to the Government.
– The Parliament can only speak through both Houses. Certainly the representations of the majority in either House are entitled to the fullest consideration. But so far as the Government have had an opportunity of further considering this matter, they have not been able to come to any decision other than that which I announced on Thursday last.
– The Government may find that on the Supply Bill the Senate will have something to say.
– In the event of the Government reconsidering their decision with regard to recouping the legal costs of the employes in the harvester industry, will they consider the equity of paying the costs of the successful litigants?
– They have had their pound of flesh.
– I cannot add anything to what I have already said.
– Can the Government give the Senate any information as to when the report of the Postal Commission will be presented, and, if not, will they ask the Treasurer to consider the question of curtailing supplies?
– My honorable friend will recognise how difficult it is for a Government to convey to a Royal Commission an impression as to the way in which its duties should be carried out. It is impossible for me to answer the latter part of his inquiry, and if he should seriously wish to press it, I ask him to give notice of a question.
– Is the VicePresident of the Executive Council now in a position to furnish any information as to the preparation of the official map of the Commonwealth, and has my suggestion as to the desirableness of furnishing the members of each House with a pocket linen map of those portions of Australia which will be affected by the acquisition of the Northern Territorybeen con sidered ?
– The question of supplying a pocket map of the Northern Territory is under consideration. With regard to the official map of Australia, I have received the following memorandum from the Department of Home Affairs : -
With reference to your inquiry as to the progress being made with the compilation of the Official Map of Australia, I have the honour to inform you that it was proposed to have an entirely new compilation upon a scale of 24 miles to an inch; that the projection to be used should be polyconic. The work was proceeded with in the New South Wales Lands Department, the projection being laid down on linen and the sheets forwarded to the various States for the purpose of showing in outline the main coast features, &c. The Surveyors-General of some of the States raised the questionwhether the polyconic projection was the best suited for the work, and it was finally decided that, with a view of obtaining the most expert opinion, Mr. Knibbs should bring the matter before the Geodetic .Conference sitting in London this month, to which he had been appointed the Australian delegate.
– Surely, the polyconic can be the only accurate projection.
– Has the VicePresident of the Executive Council any communication to make to the Senate regarding the reasons for the delay in dealing with applications for old-age pensions in Western Australia?
– I have obtained from the Department such information as is available, and if the honorable senator will allow the matter to stand over until the Supply Bill is submitted, I shall be pleased.
– Is the VicePresident of the Executive Council aware that Tasmania is still cut off from cable communication with the rest of the Commonwealth for over twenty-three hours each week, and that on Saturday evening telegrams lodged in Sydney for that State had to wait twenty hours for transmission; whereas had they been addressed to any other State they would have been despatched immediately ? Are steps being taken to place Tasmania in regard to communication with the other States in exactly the same position as those States enjoy in relation to each other?
– Following up the honorable senator’s previous question, communication was opened with the proper officials, and reports called for. I am advised that the reports do not contain sufficiently full information to enable a decision to be come to, and that further reports have been asked for.
– Now that the cable is Commonwealth property, there should be no distinction as to States in this matter.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904.- Provisional Regulations- Statutory Rules 1909, No. 102.
Papua. - Timber Ordinance (Consolidated! of 1909.
Australian Naval Defence - Copy of cable to the Secretary of State for the Colonies containing proposals relating to.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– I am sorry that I am unable to furnish my honorable friend with a reply to his questions at present. We are in communication with the States ; and, as soon as the information is obtained, I shall, of course, be prepared to supply it.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Referring to the question asked by Senator Pulsford- on the 26th August relating to State guarantees, such as those, by the three eastern States in connexion with the Pacific Cable, and to the reply to such question, has the Government now examined the whole subject, and are they prepared to make a definite statement in relation thereto?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows :-
On the coming into force of the agreement made at the Melbourne Conference in August, 1909, the obligation in regard to the Pacific Cable, New Caledonia Cable, and defences at King George’s Sound and Thursday Island will be borne by the Commonwealth.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table of the Library the papers containing the opinion of the Crown Solicitor in reference to the claim of Captain and Honorary Major Carroll to recognition by the Commonwealth Government of his promotion in South Africa to the rank of Major?
– The answer is, yes.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Is his honorable colleague the Minister of Defence assured that under the contract with Messrs. Pratt, Whitney, for the supply of machinery, &c, for the proposed rifle factory the contractors can -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Yes. 3 and 4. Messrs. Pratt and Whitney undertake to provide gauges generally similar to the British War Office pattern, which will only pass work which will be interchangeable with productions from Enfield ; such gauges will Be according to Messrs. Pratt and Whitney’s own design. Commander Clarkson, after personal inquiries in America, gives an assurance that he is fully satisfied on this point.
CASE OF J. MacDONNELL.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
In view of the fact that ex-Private MacDonnell was granted£73710s. compensation by the Railway Department for the injuries in question, it was not considered by the Military authorities in New. South Wales that Financial Regulation 132 applied to his case. Action as prescribed by that regulation was not, therefore, taken. In order, however, that the legal position of the Department may be considered, the whole matter will be referred to the Crown Law authorities for advice.
– The Minister has not answered either the second or the third question. I press for answers to them.
– So far as I am able to understand the matter, the answers to the honorable senator’s questions are contained in the reply which I have read. If the honorable senator did not catch its purport, perhaps I may be pardoned for reading it again.
– I caught the terms of the answer quite distinctly. But question number two makes an inquiry with regard to the regulations governing these matters, and the honorable senator gave no reply to that. Neither has he given a reply to the question as to whether the military authorities in New South Wales have been called upon to explain why the law was not complied with.
– I have submitted the reply received from the Department, and am not prepared to give any other on the spur of the moment.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Colonel Neild) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for the amendment of section 73 of the Commonwealth Constitution.
Papua : Indenturing of Native Labour - Grants to Rifle Clubs - Federal Territory : Proposed Naval College - Old-age Pensions - Wireless Telegraphy Installations - Vancouver Mail Service - “ Australian Socialism “ - Agricultural Implement Makers Employes Unions : Payment of Legal Expenses^- Meteorological Branch : Employes - Government Printing: Western Australia - Post and Telegraph Department : Fines : Annual Increments : Board of Inquiry: Telephone Fitters.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
– In accordance with the notice of motion appearing on the business-paper, I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being proceeded with, and passed through all its stages forthwith.
Honorable senators know the purpose of the motion. In fact, its purpose is set out in its terms. I need only say with regard to the Supply Bill itself that it is strictly limited to the ordinary services ; that it is to provide one month’s Supply; and that, roughly speaking, taken together with the Supply Bill already passed, it represents one-fourth of the appropriation for the whole year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a first time.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Government a matter relating to Papua.. An ordinance has lately been issued by the local Administration dealing with the indenturing of native labour. The > effect- of- it- is,- that before labour can be indentured and taken to another district, the person indenturing has to deposit a certain sum of money as a guarantee that the stipulated wages will be paid. To that I have no objection. But there is a further provision by which an officer may, if he be otherwise satisfied, dispense with the deposit of money. I think that affords a loophole that should not be permitted. Officers are only human, and in a small coma-unity- like Papua, where there are very few white residents, the official class and those who require labour are likely to be on friendly terms. They must meet frequently for social purposes. If a request were made to an officer to dispense with the guarantee, he would, under certain circumstances, have to be a very strong-minded man to stand up against pressure. I am sure- that we all desire that for the fair name of Australia our administration of Papua shall be beyond the possibility of adverse criticism. If there is one thing which more than another will attract the criticism, especially of people of other countries, it will be our treatment of the native races. For that reason we should be particularly careful in our administration . of Papua in this respect.
– Did not the. late Minister of External Affairs inquire Into that matter, and report very favorably of the present system ?
– I do not think that the late .Minister of External Affairs could have reported upon the present system, because the ordinance to which I refer was circulated amongst honorable senator’s only last week, or at the close of the week before last. I trust that the Government will look into the matter, and, if there is the least likelihood of abuse creeping in, veto that particular part of the ordinance. We need to be hypersensitive on the question of the treatment of the natives. Papua is beginning to attract capital ; the plantations are turning out successfully, and there is every indication that considerable capital will be attracted to the Territory. While that is a very good thing, we are under an obligation to see that the Papuans, whose country it is, shall not be exploited in the interests of capital. The indenturing of native labour is one of the most difficult questions of administration with which the ‘Commonwealth Government is faced. I desire to bring under the notice of the Senate the way in which grants to rifle clubs are distributed amongst the various States. At my instance a return was tabled in the Senate last week giving the number of rifle clubs, the number of their members, the number of efficients, and the grants to rifle clubs in each of the States. I shall give the Senate some of the information disclosed by the return. In New South Wales there are 16,118 members of rifle clubs, of whom 1,365 are efficient; and the New South Wales clubs receive a grant of ,£2,500. In Victoria the figures are, 22.990 members, 12,280 efficients, and grant ^£1,025. In Queensland, 7,047 members, 4,581 efficients, grant £1,880. In South Australia, 5,017 members, 2,521 efficients, grant £700. In Western Australia 5,280 members, 2,910 efficients, grant £500. In Tasmania 1,404 members, 927 efficients, grant £400.
– Are these capitation grants ?
– No ; annual grants to rifle associations. Here we see these peculiar anomalies. South Australia ha«of efficient riflemen 390 less than has Western Australia, but receives a larger grant than that State by £200. Victoria has 2,000 more efficient riflemen than has New South Wales, and receives a grant which is less than that received by New South Wales by .£1,500. It seems to me that if we desire the members of our rifle clubs to become efficient these grants should be used as a spur to that ?nd. I have worked out what the grants in each State represent per head of efficients. The figures are, New South Wales, 4s. 10¾d; Victoria, is. 8d. ; Queensland, 3s. 2jd. ; South Australia, 5s. 6£d. ; Western Australia, 3s. 5id ; Tasmania, 8s. The average grant per head of efficients for the Commonwealth is 5s. 3jd.
– Has the honorable senator compared the proportion of efficients to the total membership in each State ?
– I now give the figures representing the grant per head according to the total number of members of rifle clubs in each State. They are - New South Wales, 3s. id. ; Victoria, 10½d; Queensland, 5s. 4c!. ; South Australia, . 4s. id. ; Western Australia,
IS. 10½d. ; Tasmania, 5s. ou. ; and the average per head of members for the Commonwealth is 3s. 5¾d. In. New South Wales, Victoria, and Western Australia the grant per head is below, and in Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania it is above, the average. Honorable senators will see how unfairly these grants are distributed, Victoria getting as low as 10½dper head of members, whilst Queensland gets. 5s. 4d., and Tasmania 5s. 8d._, per head. If we regard the grant as a reward for efficiency, Queensland gets 8s. 2½d. per head, Tasmania 8s., or considerably above the average;. Victoria is. 8d., and Western Australia 3s. 5jd., or very much below the average.
– Is this “ transferred “ or “other” expenditure?
– It is “other’ expenditure. New South Wales gets 4jd. below the average per man, Victoria 2s. /£d. below the average, Queensland is. 10¼d. above the average, South Australia 7jd. above the average, Western Australia is. 7^-d. below the average, and Tasmania 2 s. 2jd. above the average, Taking the figures per head of efficients, New South Wales gets 4fd. below the average, Victoria 3s. 6jd. below the average, Queensland, 2s. 1 id., South Australia 3d. above the average, Western Australia is. 8£d. below the average, and Tasmania 2s. 8Jd. above the average. I think that these grants should be given according to results.
– Did not the honorable senator discover this when administering the Department of Defence?
– I did not. The return to which I am referring was published only last week.
– The honorable senator should have revolutionized the Department, and made it perfect, in the short time in which he had charge of it.
– If I had known that the condition of affairs to which I am directing attention existed, I should certainly have attempted some alteration. I think that this is the first time such a return has been called for. I was induced to call for it because, when in Western Australia, the secretary of the Rifle Association there brought under my notice another disparity to which I direct the attention of Ministers. It was that these grants bear no relation to population. They seem to be given according to the amount of political pressure or influence which can be brought to bear. They should bear a relation either to the population or to the number of rifle club members who make themselves efficient.
– If rifle clubs are to be regarded as part of the defence scheme, the honorable senator would not administer them on that basis. The honorable senator would not have defence expenditure apportioned in each State according- to the population of the State?
– I would not consider that defensible, but that is exactly what is done. For instance, the establishment in Western Australia is decided, not according to the necessities of defence in the State, but on a population basis. The number of our Defence Forces allocated to the various States is1 determined upon a population basis. That is to say, the establishment governs the expenditure.
– Upon that basis, there would be very little money spent at Thursday Island, and yet a good deal of expenditure is incurred- there.
– That is so. But it is nevertheless a fact that the establishment is determined upon a population basis. I submit that the grants to rifle clubs ought to bear some relation to population, or to the number of members constituting those clubs, or to the number who are classed as efficient.
– Would not the honorable senator pay some regard to- local circumstances ?
– Yes. But the expenditure under this heading has no relation whatever to any of these considerations. My object in raising this question is to induce the Minister of Defence to consider whether a better system cannot be adopted in distributing the grants during the current year. The native labour amendment ordinance, to which I have already alluded, sets out what must be done in the carrying out of all contracts for the employment of native labour in Papua. Clause 11 of that ordinance reads -
The Commissioner for Native Affairs may, with the consent of the parties concerned, vary a contract of service in any respect, including the places stipulated for payment and the obligation to return the native to his home.
– I understood the honorable senator to say that the ordinance also provided for dispensing with the deposit?
– It does not. It provides for varying the places in which payments foc native labour may be made, and declares that, the obligation to return a native to his home may be dispensed with. I take it that all officers intrusted with administering this ordinance will exercise the power vested in the Commissioner where they are deputed to act for him. I would, therefore, urge upon the Government the desirableness of extending consideration to clause n of the ordinance, with a view to vetoing it, unless the possibility of injury being inflicted upon the natives can be avoided.
.- Before this Bill is read a first time, there is one matter of sufficient importance to demand the attention of the Senate for a few minutes. Honorable senators are aware from the information which has been placed before them during the past week or two, that there is a reasonable prospect that the vexed question of the Federal Capital Site will be finally settled in the near future. I suppose khat most honorable .senators who desire to see effect given to the provisions of the Constitution will agree that it is very desirable that finality should be reached after the protracted negotiations which have taken place. I notice from certain press reports that there appears to be. a conspiracy in progress to arrange that certain functions of government shall be carried out, not in our own territory, but in the territory of the States. I particularly allude to the announcement in the press that those persons in New South Wales who have donated the handsome sum of £85,000 towards the purchase of a Dreadnought which would cost £2,000,000 - realizing that their contributions are not required by the Imperial authorities - propose to expend a considerable portion of them in establishing a naval college in Sydney. It has been suggested, I hope without any warrant, that the Government have arranged - after the college has been established - to take it over and maintain it. I object to any Government institution of that kind being located on other than Federal territory.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the whole of our army should also be kept on Federal territory?
– 1 would have all the chief instructional schools located on Federal territory. Whilst it is extremely desirable that we should have a naval col lege at which our young people may be trained in naval matters, I do not think that any such institution should be established on other than Federal territory. Unless it be located there, all sorts of Inter-State jealousies will be at once created. Already such jealousies have been evidenced between Victoria and New South Wales, and in order to placate that jealous feeling, the small arms factory has been established in one State and the ammunition factory in another. Such a course of procedure is highly objectionable. Our arsenals should be as self-contained as possible, and, preferably, should . be located on Federal territory. As the Federal Capital site question is apparently approaching a settlement, everybody anticipates that a considerable strip of Commonwealth territory, connecting with the capital, will extend along the shores of Jervis Bay. One of the reasons why it was urged that Parliament ought to select the YassCanberra site was because of the special facilities for naval operations offered by that bay- We were assured that it was specially chosen each year by the Australian Squadron of the British Navy as the rendezvous for its practice. If that be so - and I do not doubt the accuracy of the statement - there is no place so .favorably situated for the establishment of a naval college as is Jervis Bay, because if the students were settled there they would be afforded an opportunity of witnessing and of taking part in the naval manoeuvres which are annually carried out there. It is not advisable that we should establish a naval college in any big commercial centre where all sorts of distractions would be placed before the boys attending that institution. If Inter-State jealousies are to be avoided, it is absolutely necessary that all institutions df that kind - including the small arms and ammunition factories - should be established o;i Federal territory, where they will be under Commonwealth control and subject to Commonwealth laws. There may have been good reason for establishing the small arms factory within the territory of a State owing to the fact that the settlement of the Federal Capital site question was not at the time within measurable distance. But that consideration cannot be urged to-day. We should not undertake the liability of maintaining any naval college which may be established until we are within Federal territory. Of course, the offer of a gift of £40,000 or £50,000 towards the founding of such a college may prove a big temptation to the Government, but it is certainly one to which they ought not to succumb. The fact that any such action would inevitably result in the “creation of Inter- State jealousies ought to make the gift an expensive one to the Commonwealth. Until we have our own institutions in Federal territory, Ave cannot have a state of affairs which will be absolutely satisfactory to the Commonwealth and its component, parts. I hope that the Ministry will consider that view before they determine to accept the obligation of maintaining any naval college which may be endowed by voluntary subscription in New South Wales or any other State.
– I desire’ to enter a very emphatic protest against the action of the Government in delaying the introduction of this Bill until the very moment when certain payments are due. This is the second occasion on which we have been asked this session to vote Supply. On the last oc casion, the Opposition was accused in each House of having delayed the passage of the Supply Bill, and of therefore being responsible for delaying the execution of certain public works. The accusation was strongly and truthfully denied. What motive actuated the Government in delaying the introduction of this Bill until yesterday, the eve of the day on which the bi-monthly payments are made to public servants? This places members of Parliament in a very awkward position. Either a member of Parliament’ must neglect to call attention to matters of urgent importance, and thus shirk his duty, or if he invites discussion, he may be blamed for delaying the passage of the Supply Bill. That is not a position in which he should be placed. The Government have been very remiss in not bringing in this measure at a time when honorable senators would have had a full opportunity of calling attention to urgent public matters without laying themselves open to the accusation of delaying its passage. The late introduction of the Bill will not deter me from criticising the administration of the Government. By means of a question to-day, I called attention to the proposed institution of a naval college in Sydney. Before an arrangement of the kind suggested is entered into, this Parliament ought to be consulted. Like Senator Givens, I do not approach the question in a parochial spirit. I think that the institution and the control of a naval college fall within the province of the National Parliament. Whenever it is established, it should be so established and maintained out of national funds, and not private subscriptions.
– Would the honorable senator debar a man from making a donation to the Commonwealth in that way?
– If we have any citizens with a few pounds to spare, perhaps the money could be spent in some other direction which would be of more practical use to some citizens of the Commonwealth.
– Is not that a matta for the donor to decide?
– It may be a matter for the donor to decide, but it is also one for the authorities to consider. I await the reply of the Government to my inquiry. I want now to draw attention to the delay in the payment of old-age pensions. Time and again this question has been raised here by my honorable colleagues, and despite their efforts to secure prompt action, it appears to me that expedition is still absent. The most glaring example of undue delay is that which Western Australia furnishes. The delayis excused on the following grounds : that Western Australia is almost a new State, that it has a migratory population, and that it contains such a number of old persons who have come from other States that . it is very hard to determine whether or not they have resided in the Commonwealth for twenty years. These reasons may be true, but in my opinion the chief reason for the unnecessary delay is the unsympathetic administration, or the wrong interpretation of the Act. According to a statement which has been issued from the Treasury, the number of claims paid in Western Australia is 556. Does any one mean to tell me that it should have taken ten weeks to pay weekly pensions to 556 claimants?
– Western Australia is a big State, with a number of new people.
– I admit that we have a big territory, and a number of new people. I also admit the difficulty of proving to the satisfaction of the officials that a claimant has been in Australia for twenty years. But I point out that in a great many cases the applicant is barred by an unsympathetic administration, and a wrong interpretation of the Act.
– The honorable senator will ‘ see that, his State did not get an old-age pensions system into working order on its own account.
– Nor did Tasmania.
– I do not think it is the fault of any applicant that the State in which -he lives did. not initiate a system.
– No; but the honorable senator must see that everything has to be begun.
– It has been begun by the Commonwealth, but it has taken a very long while to get the administration properly under way. In my opinion, the questions which an applicant has to answer are in themselves obstructive. Not only are they called upon to answer too many questions, but many of them are unnecessary or ridiculous, and even the necessary ones it is difficult for the applicant to answer. The Government have been requested by Senators de Largie and Henderson to modify the procedure, but so far no practical result has ensued. There is another difficulty, and that is the deduction from the weekly allowance of 10s. The
Senate has been acquainted with an instance in Western Australia where the price of a few dozen eggs has been deducted as income, and a case where so much a week has been deducted from the pension of a fisherman who lives in his boat.
– Has the honorable senator any confirmation of the facts brought forward bv Senator Henderson?
– No; but I believe that he has. At any rate, if he has no confirmation, I think that it is obtainable. We have also heard that in many of the States, the holders of Imperial pensions have been penalized by a proportionate reduction of their old-age pension. Senator Mulcahy. - That is not correct, except where the amount of the Imperial pension is over 10s. per week.
– That is the very point with which I am dealing. Why should a pension which a citizen of Australia has won for rendering service to the British Empire in time of national peril be counted as income?
– Why did the honorable senator assist to pass such a law then?
– I think that on a close scrutiny it will be found that such was not the intention of the Legislature. [ do not believe that this Parliament intended that a man who has rendered service on the battlefields of the Empire, in achieving victories of which we are so proud, and who is now in receipt of a pension of is. 6d. per day from the Imperial Government, should be deprived of a portion of his old-age pension on that account. If such be the true construction of the Act. God help the Empire, -and God help the man who has shed his blood in its defence ! Another matter to which I wish briefly to refer, is that of wireless telegraphy. liver sin’ce I have been a member of this Parliament, various honorable senators have, month after month, asked questions of Ministers as to their intentions in this direction. We have invariably received the reply that the matter was under consideration. When we were discussing the last Supply Bill similar questions were asked and similar replies given. But while this important question is being considered, hundreds, and I might even say thousands, of lives are being jeopardized. We were recently informed by the cablegrams that the South African Union had already taken steps to instal wireless telegraphy - at various stations on. the South_African coast. Here is a country which has just entered upon Federation. It might be called a new Commonwealth. But even before its first Parliament has met, arrangements have been made for the erection of wireless telegraph stations. Surely that should be an example to Australia. Contrast our laxity from the administrative and legislative point of view with the promptitude of this new Union which can hardly be considered as born yet. Four years ago the Federal Parliament vested in the PostmasterGeneral of the Commonwealth an absolute monopoly in wireless telegraphy, thus preventing any private firm from instituting such a service. I believe that the nacional Parliament acted rightly in so doing. Such scientific services should be under the control of this Parliament. It was right to prevent the intervention of a private company by means of which the public might be’ exploited. But that is no reason why, during all these years, the Federal Government should have remained inactive. I am not blaming the present Government particularly. Their predecessors should have taken action long ago. But there are members of the present Ministry who have been members of other Administrations, and have Had control of the destinies of the Commonwealth almost since the inception of Federation.
– They have no right to monopolize office in that way. It is time that some of us had a share !
– The honorable senator’s interjections are usually pertinent, but on this occasion his observation has missed the mark. I am not speaking about a monopoly of office. There are four members of the present Government who have held office in previous Administrations. They are the Prime Minister, my genial friend, Senator Best, Sir John Forrest and Mr. Groom. Each of these gentlemen should have been seized of the national importance of this question. Each of them has been bombarded with questions on the subject.
– Did I not struggle to induce the Senate to pass the Navigation Bill containing a provision as to wireless telegraphy?
– I shall deal with that point later. Members of the Cabinet have been repeatedly asked when wireless telegraphy stations would be erected at Fremantle. Goode Island, Thursday Island, and other places around the coast. But they have vouchsafed no information on the subject. Wireless telegraphy has already saved thousands of lives. We have had recent examples of its value to the maritime community. The Republic and another %’essel would undoubtedly have foundered, and hundreds of lives been lost, had it not been for the use of wireless telegraphy. It has developed a new kind of hero. We have hitherto had heroes of the battlefield, heroes oi the mine, and heroes of the shipwreck. In other walks of life men and women have sacrificed their lives for their fellows. We now have the hero of wireless telegraphy. An operator on the Republic stood by his instrument for an inordinately long period, and eventually brought assistance to hand. Had he not remained at his post the passengers and crew must have been drowned. Senator Best has interjected that he secured a provision for wireless telegraphy on mail steamers in the Navigation Bill. That is quite true. He received generous assistance from senators of all shades of political opinion. But what is the use of providing for wireless telegraphy on board mail steamers unless we have at points of vantage on the Australian coast receiving stations ? We might as well have never insisted on the installation of wireless telegraphy on oversea vessels unless we provide stations” on the mainland.
– There ‘ are wireless telegraph stations in other parts of the world, if not on the Australian coast.
– If we had receiving stations on our coast we should probably thereby prevent a recurrence of such an unfortunate event as is just now receiving the attention of the Australian public, relative to the missing steamer Waratah. I believe that the time is coming when the Legislatures of the British Empire will make it compulsory for all vessels carrying passengers to instal wireless telegraphy. But those Legislatures should themselves set an example by erecting and maintaining on the coasts over which they have control stations for the transmission and reception of news by the most scientific method. Were I to say that’ the members of the Federal Government, and particularly those who have been longest in office, ought to be arraigned at the bar of justice and tried by a jury of their peers for ‘culpable homicide, I should probably be ruled out of order. But really that would be about the best way of expressing the public resentment against their undoubted shirking of this national duty. I also wish to indicate the value of this scientific method of transmitting news in respect of defence. We might find that the fleet which is at present in Australian waters, and which is costing us £200,000 per year, was called upon to assist. Great Britain in a struggle for the supremacy of the seas at a vast distance from our shores. At present we have no means of communicating with those vessels when they are at sea. No scheme of Australian defence can be complete or effective unless we have a perfect system of wireless telegraphy. Again, we are responsible for the Dependency known as Papua. Anything might occur there. We can receive no news at present except bv a very slow method. If wireless telegraphy were installed at Thursday Island we could he in constant communication with Papua., and should not be dependent upon the ordinary incoming and outgoing mails. If the Government are really in earnest in this matter they might by establishing an installation to bring that Dependency into communication with the Seat of Government give some proof of their sincerity. The people of Australia demand a straightout statement from the Government of their intentions in this matter, and they desire to know when they will commence the erection of these all-important wireless telegraph stations.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to a matter, an explanation of which is absolutely necessary. I refer to the proposed expenditure in connexion with the Vancouver mail service. I find that on this account New South Wales is debited with £200, Victoria £750, Queensland nil, South Australia £250, Western Australia £150, and Tasmania £100. There is here a total expenditure provided for of £1,450 for the Vancouver mail service, from which Western Australia and South Australia, though contributors to the expense, derive no advantage, whilst Queensland, which is in direct touch with the service, is not debited with any of the expenditure. There may be some bookkeeping reason to account for this, but it should be explained. I find. that for purposes connected with the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act a number of persons have been gazetted as Justices of the Peace of the Commonwealth. I should like to know how these appointments are made, on whose recom mendation they are made, whether the positions are honorary, and, if not, what is the salary paid to these Commonwealth Justices of the Peace.
– I believe that on the first reading of a money Bill, such as this, honorable senators are entitled to discuss almost any subject. For this reason, and because there is very little business on the notice-paper, I take advantage of this opportunity to refer to a general rather than a particular grievance. We all know and feel that a general election is approaching. During such an election many liberties are taken in the publication of electioneering literature.
– Cinematograph films.
– Yes, that is the latest phase of electioneering. I believe that none of us is so thin-skinned as to take objection at such a time to the publication of strong party statements. They are put down as merely electioneering business. But I wish to call attention to the fact that a member of the Senate has already commenced the election campaign, and, as Senator Guthrie reminds me, in a most deliberate and cold-blooded way. The honorable senator has without the slightest provocation written and published a book. I am reminded of the old saying, “ Oh . . . that mine adversary would write a book.” A political adversary of the Labour party has ventured to put in black and white his opinions of Socialism in a book which he has called “Australian Socialism.” So far, Australians have not contributed very largely to the literature of the world.
-Colonel Cameron. - Is the book to be had in the Library?
– It can be bought almost anywhere; but I advise Senator Cameron to wait a little while, when he will be able to indulge his Caledonian proclivities by purchasing the book cheaply at a second-hand bookseller’s”.
– I was told this morning that it was almost impossible to get a copy of it.
– There is a little run on it just now. I had to wait two or three days for the copy for which I applied. I do not believe in many of the principles enunciated in the volume. But it is well written and worth reading. But for the mistaken ideas of the author, it might have a fair circulation and perhaps do a great deal of good.
– Perhaps the heterodox ideas of the author may increase the circulation of his book.
– I have no desire to prevent its circulation, and I give it this advertisement this afternoon free, gratis, and for nothing, because I regard it as the best piece of literature in the interest of the political propaganda of the Labour party that I have seen for a long time.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to make that statement; but I venture to say that the author put him up to this job.
– That is a vile insinuation. I can assure honorable senators who have not yet read the book that they will be able by reading it to get a grasp of all that Socialism is not. They may not ‘be able to learn from it what Socialism is, but they will be able to discover what anti-Socialism is. The first fault I .have to find with it is that instead of being called “Australian Socialism,” it ought to have been given the more honest and appropriate title of “ Australian AntiSocialism.” The author, in calling a book which -is a practical statement of the antiSocialist side in politics “ Australian Socialism,” has made a blunder in his own interests. I should regard an author on the Labour side who wrote a book on Socialism and called it- “ Australian AntiSocialism “ as committing an egregious blunder which would not help the circulation of his book. I am aware that many books are misnamed, in order that people may be misled into purchasing them under a misapprehension. I have known books which from their names might be supposed to deal with the subject of Socialism, to be quoted against Socialism by persons who were under the impression that the authors were Socialists. Senator St. Ledger may have misnamed his book with some such object in view. The intelligent foreigner or resident of the Old Country reading this book by Senator St. Ledger, a member of the Commonwealth Senate, will naturally conclude that the author, as an Australian politician of to-day, knows something about his subject, and knows what Australian Socialism is. He may be tempted to quote this great Socialistic authority to further an anti-Socialist argument. This trick has been played more than once. I do not know whether Senator St. Ledger believes that it will assist the circulation of his book, but certainly the title he has chosen for it is misleading. It is hard to say whether the Labour party forges ahead more because of the blunders and misrepresentations of its opponents than because of the efforts of its friends. An opponent of the Labour party taking up this book would probably be converted to Labour principles. An unbiased person reading it would be inclined to consider that the case against Socialism was weak and the case for it strong. The work is calculated to make converts to Socialism.
– I read the book, and I think it is a tissue of lies.
– Order ! That is not a proper expression in view of the fact that the book in question was written by a member of the Senate.
– That is what I thought of it.
– The honorable senator should keep such thoughts to himself.
– Senator de Largie says that it is an honest book, but that the title is incorrect. - .
– I am very glad to give credit to a political opponent when I think he is entitled to any. I do not express only my own opinion when I say that the style of the book is good, and that it is well written.
– The binding is somewhat flimsy.
– The colour of the binding is decidedly Socialistic. In his preface the author proposes to prove four propositions. I’ have already alluded to the misleading title of the book. If we read this volume carefully we shall find that its author makes blunder after blunder. It is true that his work contains many plain and honest statements of fact, but it also contains so many mis-statements that one is almost led to believe that its inaccurate title is not merely a coincidence. The first proposition laid down by him is in dealing with a. well-known Queenslander, who founded a communistic settlement in South America - I refer to William Lane, the founder of the New Australia. “ His teachings,” we are told, “ are identical with those of such political economists as Marx and Bellamy.” Now, whilst the teachings of William Lane may be identical with those of Bellamy, they are certainly not identical with those of Marx and Engels. Bellamy belongs to an entirely different school of political economy. His teachings are of the Utopian school, and he propounds what is called “ sentimental or Utopian Socialism.” Consequently the author of this book blunders at the very commencement of his task by confusing the teachings of well-known Socialists. Marx and Engels are advocates, of scientific Socialism.
– Is Marx a teacher of scientific Socialism?
– Undoubtedly. I have read almost everything that has been written by Marx, and I say unhesitatingly that he belongs to an entirely different school of political economists from that to which Bellamy belongs. As is well known the sentimental or Utopian school of Socialistic writers includes such writers as St. Simon, Fourier, Robert Owen and Bellamy. An error such as that puts the’ author out of court, and he cannot be taken seriously as an authority on Socialism. In the preface of this book its author attempts to prove four points -
– He is not very complimentary to the party to which the honorable senator belongs.
– He cannot be charged with excessive politeness.
– Consequently there is no obligation on the honorable senator’s part to return it.
– I am one of those who usually turn the other cheek to an opponent when he has smitten them. Had Senator St. Ledger been familiar with what has taken place in this Parliament he would scarcely have made the statement that long deception had been practised by the Socialistic party - by which he doubtless means the Labour party. There is scarcely a plank in our platform which has not been advocated in this chamber time and again. Nor has the more drastic or Socialistic part of our. policy been neglected. In the Senate, proposals have been submitted dealing with the nationalization of quite a number of industries. In this connexion it will doubtless be recollected that upon more than one occasion Senator Pearce advocated the nationalization of the tobacco industry.
– And of most other industries.
– He submitted figures showing the probable cost to the Commonwealth of nationalizing the industry, emphasized the advantages that would be derived from a revenue standpoint, and altogether made out an excellent case. Then Senator Givens submitted a proposal for the nationalization of the sugar refining industry. That, too, was exhaustively debated. More than once I have advocated the nationalization of the iron industry on the floor of this chamber. I went very minutely “into the question, pointed out the probable cost of nationalization, and showed the profits that would be derived by the community from the adoption of that course. When, therefore, Senator St. Ledger charges us with having attempted to mask our policy, or that “ we have not come forward with a definite proposal for the nationalization of any industry,” he is as wide of the mark as’ possible. He must have forgotten what has occurred in this chamber. The honorable senator devotes more than one chapter to the development of his accusation, and describes the Labour party as being “ A roaring lion of drastic reform on the platform, and in debate in Parliament an admixture of the sucking dove and the serpent.”
– Who are the publishers of the book?
– I am quite prepared to ‘give the volume every advertisement in my power, because I think that in so doing. I shall materially aid the Labour party at the approaching elections.
– I was merely anxious to know whether the honorable senator had a contract with the publishers for advertising their wares.
– The publishers are Macmillan and Company, of London, and the cost of the book is 5s. 6d. I wish now to quote an extract from the chapter which the author devotes to the new Protection. With most of his remarks in this connexion, I am entirely in accord. He says -
Ricardo has attempted to show that direct taxation cannot’ fall on the working classes, since the mass of the workers, under no conceivable conditions, can earn more than is necessary for the means of subsistence. Or, to put it in more definite and concise form, that whatever be the increase in the rate of wages, it is always followed by increased ccost” of living. The Socialist uses the argument in favour of State control of wages until such time as he can compel Parliament to hand over to him the sole control of all industry, and the distribution of the profits (if any) from it. In addition to direct legislation compelling” the payment ot fixed rates of wages, the Commonwealth is being urged (190S) to add to the direct force of such legislation the indirect effect of its Tariff law on Australian industries. Such a policy is called the “New Protection.” The Old Protection was intended mainly to place a Tariff wall against certain imports to enable the Australian manufacturer to establish industries, and to the extent of the Tariff to give him support against the competition of the strongly-established iindustries of the rest of the world. It never contemplated any direct interference or control over wages or the relations between employers and employes. The great bulk of Australian legislation since 1901 must be studied closely and directly in its relation to the position of political parties, and the balance of power held by the Socialists. The New Protection is the result of a new form of option. As the result of the Commonwealth elections of 1906, the Socialists offered to subsidize the Victorian and New South Wales prohibitionists bv political support in return for a Commonwealth law controlling wages in industries affected by the Tariff. The anti-Socialists in both Houses’ were the common enemy.
Through this combination the high Tariff was brought in at the price of a promise made to the Socialists that all rates of wages would be determined and regulated by Excise Acts to be administered by an Inter-State Commission.
The flagrancy of the bargain was unblushingly candid. Ever ‘since the publication of the first Socialistic labour platforms in the respective States the question of Free-trade v. Protection was an open one to every endorsed Socialist candidate. He had a free hand in that matter. The reason for this free hand was’ obvious. It was for years in the varied Australian Slates the bone of contention between the two existing political parties. The Socialists could support either of them in return for concessions to the Socialistic platform. Were they evenly divided the Socialists could turn the balance.
The Socialists justified this policy on the plea that so far as Free-trade or Protection was concerned, neither of them materially benefited the worker, who, under either policy, was equally the victim to the slavery of the wageearning system.
That is, I think, a very fair exposition of the Labour party’s attitude on fiscalismI am glad to find that it has been clearly stated in print, and I hope that the author will not run away from it. I trust that instead of chiding and gibing those who have a leaning to either Free Trade or Protection, he will remember his own definition of our attitude. Later we find a very trenchant criticism of the present Prime Minister. He is referred to as having done something which was distinctly treacherous, and a breach of political good faith. Alluding to the appeal of 1906, he’ is referred to in this historical manner -
The Hon. A. Deakin was Prime Minister at the time of this appeal. He was a Protectionist. He had driven the Socialists into office; had driven them out of office ; then refused to retake office; then encouraged and supported a coalition directly antagonistic to the Socialistic schemes of his former Socialist allies. Finally, in a moment of fear, or petulant irritation, or, as some of his enemies put it, in the hope of office as a reward for a distinctly treacherous breach of political good faith between himself and the Reid- McLean coalition, he rang down the curtain’ on that coalition and resumed office in May, 1905, with the approval and -pledged support of the Socialists in both Federal Houses. This was the party whom a few months previously he had driven from office and almost destroyed on the grounds of their attempted breach of one of the clearest sections of the Constitution guarding the rights of the States over the exclusive and sole control of their own servants. The result of such an erratic, halting, and almost chaotic maze of speeches and actions reduced him and his few followers to a condition of utter helplessness and humiliation.
Who does not remember the indignation expressed by the present Government and their supporters on a recent occasion, when Sir William Lyne dubbed Mr. Deakin “ Judas.”
– I point out to the honorable member that that is hardly a courteous term to apply to a member of the other House.
– I am not using the term in that sense, sir. I am merely making a comparison between that statement and the statement of a Government supporter, who, in a recent work, has referred to the Prime Minister as having been distinctly treacherous and broken political faith with members of this Parliament. When we find a supporter of the Government using such language, I cannot really understand the indignation of the Government and . their supporters - indignation which I think was to a great extent worked up, and merely so much make-believe - when another member of this Parliament referred in almost identical terms to the Prime Minister. I have no desire to be insolent to that gentleman, but merely wish topoint out that there need be little surprise expressed at the fact that political opponents have referred to him in certain terms. So far as the objective of the Labour party is concerned, we have never had any occasion to mask the fact that its tendencies are distinctly Socialistic. In fact it is almost impossible for a political party to have other tendencies. Ever since Sir William Harcourt said that, ‘ ‘ all are Socialists now,” it has only been a question of how far a party was Socialistic.
– The honorable senator is supporting the writer of the book when he said that Labour members tried to tone down the Socialistic attitude in Parliament.
– The Minister must have been too intently engaged upon his writing to hear what I said, because nothing was so far from my mind as to say that we ever tried to tone down our policy. Ours is the only political party which treats the public quite openly. We publish our policy and spread it broadcast throughout the country. So far as I know no other political party gives publicity to its policy to that extent. Our- platform is so well known that I am surprised at any writer taking the trouble to state in a book that we have attempted to mask our policy.
– He has quoted halfadozen planks of our platform.
– Yes. For instance, we take every possible precaution to see that our policy of a White Australia is maintained. No one can say that we are not in favour of new Protection, which is the second plank of our platform. Our grievance is that we have not been able to enforce that plank. So far it is a dead letter notwithstanding the fact that it was embodied in a Statute. As regards our third plank, I have enumerated various industries which we consider are monopolies, and should be nationalized. Long debates on various industries have taken place both here and elsewhere, and, therefore, no one can honestly say that the Labour party has not attempted to carry out its view. The author of this book utterly failed to gather the facts when he charged the Labour party with having masked or attempted to conceal its policy on the floor of the Chamber. Other planks of our platform which he cites, are a graduated tax on unimproved land values ; a citizens’ defence force; a Commonwealth bank; the restriction of public borrowing; navigation laws; and an amendment of the Arbitration Act. These are various planks which on more than one occasion we have attempted to put into practice. For any one to say that we have taken up the attitude of the roaring lion of drastic reform on the platform, and that of the sucking dove of debate on the floor of the Chamber, is to take, I think, liberties with the truth. In justification of the policy of the Labour party, I propose to refer to that part of this book which deals with the question of borrowing. A well known plank of the Labour party’s platform is the restriction of public borrowing. We cannot appeal to a better source for a justification of that pOliCy than to the chapter of this book entitled’, “ The Great Financial Crisis. “ The author quotes the figures for the decade between 1880 and 1890, when, as every one knows, there was no Labour party in existence. In 1891 it entered the political arena, and, therefore, our political opponents were responsible for the borrowing which was resorted to during that decade. It is they alone who have to bear the responsibility for the disastrous results of that policy. The author of the book does not put the saddle on the right horse. . Because the borrowed money was spent upon the construction of public works, he places the responsibility upon the shoulders of working men. Can any one imagine a more paltry, miserable, shuffling excuse to be put forward for political friends than to say that the working men who helped to build the railways were responsible for the borrowing of the money ? It was only upon them that he found that any blame should be cast. It is a paltry thing to do.
– He knew perfectly well that the railways and everything else were made to increase, land values.
– As a matter of fact railways were built for the purpose of increasing the value of the lands of his rich friends - the land grabbers of Queensland.
– By them and for them.
– Exactly, as my honorable friend so neatly puts it. Of course the author of this book was at his wits’ end to get somebody upon whom to put the blame. The Labour party is blamed for almost everything nowadays, but as it did not exist between 1880 and 1890, it could not be blamed by him for the institution of the borrowing policy, or for its results. I shall summarize the results given by the author. The figures which he quotes are rather extensive, but the summary will be sufficient for the purpose. He says that the indebtedness of Australia increased during that decade by 150 per cent. That was certainly an enormous increase of indebtedness. The imports increased only by 53 per cent, and the exports by 33 per cent. The population during the same period, we are informed, only increased by 3) per cent. - a miserable development. But this was the very time when Queensland was lavishly spending money on an immigration scheme, and was endeavouring by every possible means to induce people to come to the country.
– Many of the members of the present Labour party came to Australia then.
– But there were no restrictions against undesirables at that time.
– Some of the members of the Opposition were also brought into the country at that time, and did. perhaps, less worthy work than did the Labour members. The Queensland immigration policy was an expensive one, but the members of the Labour party who were then brought to Australia would have been cheap at any price. I find, according to another authority, the Investors’ Review, a London publication dealing principally with finance, that during the years succeeding those cited by Senator St. Ledger in his book, from 1891 up to the present time, the indebtedness of Australia increased at ihe rate of 57 per cent., and the population at the rate of 33 per cent. It will be seen that during the period when the least borrowing took place - when the public debt increased to the extent of only 75 per cent, as against 150 per cent. - the population increased 33 per cent., as against the miserable 3f per cent, cited by the author of this book.
– Because people abuse opium, that is no reason why the medical profession should not prescribe morphia.
– Would the honorable senator kindly inform us how much chloroform he calculates was infused into his book? It appears to me that he has been using political chloroform pretty freely since he has been a member of this Chamber, and has concentrated it in the book which he has written. I am pleased that he has published it. The volume will be a source from which we shall be able to quote against him whenever he rises to deliver one of those orations in which he ‘is fond of “slating” the Socialists. We shall henceforth be able to quote his own words against him, and to do so will be quite sufficient to pull him down.
– The book will be used just as Senator Neild’s poems were.
– I hope that Senator St. Ledger’s book will not have the same fate. The volume containing Senator Neild’s poems, after having been quoted several times in this Chamber, mysteriously disappeared from the Library, and has never been seen again. I hope we shall be able to obtain Senator St. Ledger’s book when we require it.
– It was written for the express purpose.
– The honorable senator admitted that he could not obtain a copy of the book a few days ago. That shows how great the demand for it had been.
– I am quite prepared to repeat that statement.
– It is a book which would make an excellent birthday present.
– For reasons of my own I am going to get as much of the book as I can into Hansard. It will make splendid Labour propaganda material.
– The book is fulfilling a useful purpose from the honorable senator’s point of view this afternoon.
– I am sorry that Senator St. Ledger has now left the chamber, because I intend to quote a passage that is not creditable to the author. I find here a priggish utterance of which the honorable senator ought to be ashamed. He refers to the members of the Labour party as being drawn “ from the least educated section of the community.” That statement may or may not bc true. If the Labour members are the “ least educated “ of the community, that is their misfortune rather than their fault.
– The writer does not allege anything to the contrary.
– How does the honorable senator know ? Has he read the book?
– I have, probably with better advantage to myself than has the honorable senator.
– Evidently the Vice-President of the Executive Council is ashamed of the book, because he has never mentioned it in this Chamber. The passage which I shall quote does credit neither to the book nor to the author.
– Is the honorable senator an acknowledged critic?
– An acknowledged stone-waller.
– Perhaps I have as much capacity for being a critic in this matter as Senator Gray has.
– Much more, perhaps.
– I do not claim that. I should not like to be so presumptuous. The paragraph to which I allude, and which the author would surely have done well to leave out, finds fault with us for not being able to coin beautiful phrases. It appears that we are not epigrammatic. We are not gifted with the making of smart sentences, and all that sort of thing. He says at page 79 -
The leaders of Socialism are gathered largely from the least educated of the community.
He goes on to say -
With some exceptions - brilliant ones, indeed - mediocrity is the badge of almost all the tribe.
I should have been ashamed to have written such a sentence as that. But, as a matter of fact, the author’s own ignorance of political economy is exhibited in every chapter of his volume. I should certainly be ashamed of a Labour member who knew so little of political economy as to make the mistakes which are frequent in this book, where Utopian doctrines propounded generations ago by authors who are entirely out of date are mixed up with the doctrines of modern Socialism, propounded by Marx and other representative men. I should be ashamed of any member of the Labour party who made such blunders as these, and they are especially discreditable to a man who characterizes others as “ the least educated class of the community.” It is statements like that, and also the reference to the kind of clothes worn by Labour members, that discredits the author. I have to quote one other paragraph which embodies a criticism of affairs prior to the existence of the Labour party. The author is referring to Queensland, and he writes -
Australian Socialism had its origin ; … in the deliberative adoption of an ideal, to be realized by a community then enjoying every opportunity which liberty, justice, intelligence, and prosperity could procure for it. It was a leap backwards to the ideals of Plato’s Republic or More’s Utopia.
As I happened to live in Queensland prior to the advent of the Labour party, I can take it upon myself to give a flat contradiction to that statement. I was at that time comparatively speaking, a “ new chum “ from the Old Country. I found that instead of liberty prevailing in Queensland, there was actually less liberty for the working man prior to the advent of the Labour party than in any other country of which I had heard. Certainly there was much less liberty than I had enjoyed in my own native country. Because I took an active part in the election of a gentleman who was once a member of this Senate - I refer to ex-Senator Glassey, who was returned to the Queensland Parliament as a supporter of Sir Samuel Griffith, then one of the political leaders of the State - I with others, was discharged. Ex- Senator Glassey was looked upon as a rather Radical member of Parliament, and we who had supported him, were not tolerated by our employers. I was driven away from the electorate. That was the kind of “ liberty “ which obtained in Queensland at that time. As far as. justice is concerned, I can speak from personal experience. The working men in the part of Queensland with which I was familiar were ground down to a lower level than I had experienced before, or have, seen since. The condition of the workers in the coal mining industry was lower than I have ever known it to be elsewhere, and my experience has been a somewhat lengthy one.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the West Moreton district ?
– Yes; and to the coal mines in all parts of the Ipswich division. I never saw such work so poorly paid, or conducted under such adverse circumstances for the workers as was the case there at that time. If the miners attempted to get justice by having their coal properly weighed, and, of course, honestly paid for, by appointing one of their number to represent them at the pit top, they were instantly discharged, and any one who stood up for them was treated likewise. That was the sort of “ justice “ that was meted out to working men in Queensland before the Labour party came into existence. As to prosperity, I know what miserable rates of wages were paid at that time. I saw nien working under conditions that I should say were unknown in any other part of the world. Yet Senator St. Ledger has the audacity to tell us that the advent of the Labour party has meant a jump backwards from a state of liberty, justice, and prosperity.
– Was that not the time also when the kanaka traffic was in existence ?
– I am reminded by Senator Pearce that the period to which I refer was the prosperous and piping time when the blackbirder and black slavery disgraced the pages of the history of Queensland. It was because of the coming into existence of the Labour party that we were able to remove many of those evils, but many yet remain to be remedied. In Queensland for many years after the time of which I speak low rates of wages and bad conditions prevailed. It is only within recent years, through the exertion of a Waterside Workers ^Federation that we have been able to secure for wharf labourers in Queensland the scale of wages that obtains in the other States. That is the kind of prosperity which Senator St. Ledger says that the Labour party tried to rob the working man of. I repeat that Socialism as outlined in the honorable senator’s book is entirely different from the Socialism advocated by the Labour party. The author wishes to make it appear that the Socialism of the Australian Labour party is revolutionary Socialism. He knows that in this country there is no necessity for revolutionary Socialism. In some countries of the world, in which working men are robbed of their citizen rights and prevented from enjoying their share of the liberty and advantages which should follow from the government of any country, there may be something to be said in favour of revolution. But there is little or nothing to be said in favour of it in Australia. The Socialism of the Labour party in Australia is evolutionary, not revolutionary. We know that every rung of the ladder must be climbed in order to reach the top. We see little hope of being able to jump from the bottom to the top rung of the ladder. The evolutionary process is at work in politics. It might be hastened by the wisdom of politicians meeting the wish and the will of the community, but we are more concerned with the attitude of the Labour party to-day than with the dim and distant future. Future generations will be able to look after themselves, and will no doubt take such steps as they believe to be ‘best in the circumstances in which they find themselves. We are doing that in Australia at the present time, and that is our proper function. Ours being a pure Democracy where every man and every woman too have full citizen rights, we have little need to talk of revolution. I am sure that we can secure our reforms without bloodshed or violence of any kind. The evolutionary Socialism of the Labour party in Australia is working out its destiny perhaps more quickly than in any other country in the world. I can- assure Senator St. Ledger and anti-Socialists generally that Socialism, is coming in spite” of all their efforts to impede its progress. The advance of the Socialistic idea is perhaps greater in Australian than in any other country. 1 conclude my remarks on this subject by saying that a book such as that to which I have referred is one of the best means of furthering the cause of Australian Socialism.
– One or two matters were referred to during the earlier portion of the debate on which I should like to make some remarks. Senator Pearce has referred to’ a recent regulation adopted in connexion with the administration of Papua. The regulation has, of course, been brought under my notice, but I can give no information as to how it is being administered. I say at once that I recognise the possibility of abuse to which Senator Pearce directed attention, but I remind the honorable senator that it is the Administrator himself who will have to deal with the matter in question.
– It is the Native Commissioner, but does the honorable senator not think that the regulation would be administered by officers representing him in the various divisions of the Territory.
– I have looked at the regulation since, and I am unable to take that view. At the same time I do not affirm that there is not in some other ordinance of the Territory authority given to delegate powers. I recognise the danger Senator Pearce has indicated of a loose administration of the regulation and I shall take an opportunity to bring the matter under the notice of the Minister in charge of the Department concerned. Senator Guthrie referred to the proportion of the payments made by the several States for the Vancouver Mail Service. - The explanation of the matter to which he directed attention is this: Some few years ago it was determined, rightly or wrongly, and I think rightly, to apportion the expenditure on this service on a per capita basis amongst the several States instead of charging it as had been done previously solely to New South Wales and Queensland. That practice of apportioning the expenditure amongst the States is being continued. The reason why there is no debit in this Supply Bill against Queensland is the simple one that it was found that sufficient . was debited to Queensland in a previous Supply Bill to pav that State’s quota of the expenditure for this month also. The special magistrates referred to by Senator Guthrie are appointed under section 13A of the recently enacted amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. The section reads -
The Governor-General may appoint such special magistrates of the Commonwealth as he thinks necessary for the purposes of this Act.
Senator Guthrie was hardly correct in calling them Justices of the Peace.
– They were gazetted as such.
– That may be so; but the term might convey the impression that they were appointed for other purposes.
– No; I said they were appointed for the purposes of the Old-age Pensions Act.
– I am satisfied, so long as it is clear that they were appointed solely for the purposes of that Act. There have been five such appointments made in Victoria, and these officials s.re being paid at the rate of £400 a year, because it has been found that the whole of their time is occupied with their duties under the Act. With regard to the other States, appointments have been made, but the remuneration has not yet been fixed, because it has not been possible to determine what proportion of the time of the persons appointed to these positions is likely to be required for the discharge of their duties under the Act.
– How many have been appointed in South Australia?
– I could not give the exact number just now; but I shall endeavour -to ascertain the information for the honorable senator, if he particularly wishes it.
– How are these magistrates appointed?
– They are appointed, in accordance with the Act, by the GovernorGeneral, which, of course, means the Executive Council. I am not aware of any other matters on which honorable senators require a reference, except, perhaps, one mentioned by Senator Pearce with regard to grants to rifle clubs. I should like ‘ to assure the honorable senator that I speak with hope when I say that I trust the defence scheme, which will shortly be unfolded in the Senate, will, upon this and many other matters, afford him entire satisfaction. I am sure the honorable senator shares that hope with me.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I think that the only figures on which honorable senators may desire information are these : The Bill proposes a total appropriation, in round figures, of £562,000. That amount, together with the appropriation passed in Supply Bill No. i, £883,000, makes a total of £1,445,000. Deducting from that amount refunds of revenue and advances to the Treasurer, both of which are set out in this Bill, and which, with similar items in the previous Supply Bill, amount to .£155,000, there remains £1,290,000. That amount should represent the expenditure for the first three months of the financial year, and as these Supply Bills have been represented as covering merely the ordinary services of the year, the amount should represent onefourth of the total annual appropriation for this purpose. The total expenditure on this account for the year has been estimated at £5,092,000. One-fourth of that amount would be £1,273,000. The appropriation obtained so far, and asked for under this Bill, is £1,290,000, or £17,000 in excess of one fourth of the total appropriation for the year. There are no items in this Bill that are not covered by the term “the ordinary recurring services of the Commonwealth.” Senator Pearce referred, I think, to the matter of old-age pensions, and one or two other honorable senators have put questions in regard to other matters on which inquiries were made some time ago. In dealing with the votes for the various Departments, I shall endeavour to give honorable senators the information they desire, so far as I have been able to obtain it. If I should happen to overlook any question that has already been put, I shall be glad to be reminded that honorable senators are expecting information on certain points.
– Before the Bill is read a second time, I accept the invitation of the VicePresident of the Executive Council, and remind him of a matter which I mentioned on the first reading. The honorable senator has said that the only questions worthy of any reply were those mentioned by Senators Pearce and Guthrie. I direct his attention to the fact that, during my remarks on the first reading, 1 called attention to one or two matters which I think are of vast importance to the Commonwealth. I should like some immediate reply to those questions from Senator Millen, as Leader of the Senate and representative of the Government in this chamber. Senator Givens and I mentioned the proposed establishment of a naval college in Sydney. I set that aside for the present, because I have given notice of a question on the subject for tomorrow. I called attention to the unnecessary delay which has taken place in the payment of old-age pensions in Western Australia, and I also brought under notice the dangerous delay in the installation of wireless telegraph stations at various places on the Australian coast. Apparently, Senator Millen does not consider my questions on most important matters to be worthy of any reply.
– The questions referred to can be replied to in Committee on the vote for the various Departments.
– I am addressing my remarks to the Vice- President of the Executive Council, and not to Senator Chataway. If the Minister believed that the important question of at once establishing wireless telegraph stations on the Australian coast was not worthy of a reply before he closed the debate on’ the first reading of a measure of this kind-
– I did not close it; I opened it.
– The honorable senator closed the debate on the first reading, and has since moved the second reading of the Bill.
– With an intimation that I should be prepared to deal with these matters in Committee.
– I beg the honorable senator’s pardon. He made no such intimation. The honorable gentleman specially referred to the questions which had been brought under his notice by Senators Pearce and Guthrie. He declared that they were the only questions worthy of note. It is true that, in moving the second reading of the Bill, he stated that he would be glad if honorable senators reminded him of any matter with which he had omitted to deal. I am reminding him that he failed to reply to the statements which I have made in reference to wireless telegraphy. I desire to know the reason for his reticence on that matter?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the vote, "Attorney-General, £1,350,"by£1.
I do so because of the answer which was given by the Minister of Trade and Customs to a question asked by Senator Pearce this afternoon, as to whether the Government intend to take cognisance of the motion which was carried in the Senate by sixteen votes to twelve, last Thursday evening, and which affirmed that the Commonwealth should defray the expenses incurred by the Agricultural Implement Makers Employes’ Union in seeking to enforce the provisions of the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act.
– There were nineteen affirmative votes, I think.
– Yes; there were nineteen live votes, including three pairs. The motion submitted by Senator Neild was so clear that its meaning could not be mistaken. It reads -
That in the opinion of the Senate -
The Commonwealth should bear the legal expenses paid and incurred by the Agricultural Implement . Makers’ Employes Unions in enforcing the provisions of the Excise Tariff Act 1906.
The Government should, without delay, give effect to this resolution.
Yet, in spite Of that vote, the Government do not intend to take action. I say that they should do so. Are honorable senators to understand that in future, when motions are carried in this Chamber - motions which have an important bearing upon our Statutes - the Government intend to entirely ignore them? Every firm-minded citizen believes that the Commonwealth should pay the expense to which the Agricultural implements Makers Employes’ Union were subjected, as the result of litigation. Had the previous Deakin Administration discharged its duty by collecting the Excise from the manufacturers of agricultural implements who refused to pay fair and reasonable wages, those manufacturers who objected to paying that Excise could have contested the validity of the Act under which proceedings were instituted. But, owing to the neglect of the Government, the unions were obliged to take action for the purpose of establishing their claim that Mr. McKay and other manufacturers were not paying fair and reasonable wages. I do hope that those honorable senators who supported the motion of Senator Neild, will be consistent by voting for my proposal, with a view to compelling the Government to give effect to the terms of that motion.
– I embrace this opportunity to enter my protest against the inaction of the Government in refusing to pay this just debt. I have no desire to kill time by debating the matter at length. It is seldom that I address the Senate, but upon this occasion, I should be failing in my duty to my constituents if I refrained from doing so. The facts underlying the action of Senator Findley are well known to honorable senators. They are already upon’ record, as are also the names of honorable senators who voted in the division which took place upon the motion submitted by Senator Neild. Are the privileges of this Chamber to be trampled under foot in the vav t that the Government propose? Had the Minister of Trade and Customs done his duty two years ago, this trouble might have been avoided. As the result of his negligence, the Agricultural Implement Makers Employes’ Unions have been mulcted in heavy expense, which the Commonwealth’ most certainly ought to defray. If i.he Government will not take action in this matter, I hope that they will meet with well-deserved punishment at the hands of the electors.
– I join in the protest which has been entered against the refusal of the Government to take action in conformity with the decision which was arrived at in this Chamber last Thursday night. The majority who voted for Senator Neild ‘s motion, were fully seized of all the details of this case, and were strongly of opinion that the Agricultural Implement Makers Employes’ Unions had a just claim against the Government. Of course, it may be urged that the other Chamber has not yet expressed itself upon the question, and that the Ministry cannot be committed to the expenditure of public money upon the vote of one House. If that be so, the Government should certainly adopt some means to secure an expression of opinion upon this matter by the other, branch of the Legislature. I do not think that there is any case on a par with this case. A measure for a distinct purpose was passed by both Houses of the Parliament. I do not suppose that throughout Australia there was a more popular measure, commanding practically the adherence of all parties. If the manufacturers did not comply with certain conditions the Government were required to collect the Excise duties. We all know that they shielded themselves behind the fact that members of Parliament had expressed the hope that it would not lae necessary to collect a penny of, the duties. I was one of those who, outside this chamber, expressed that view. It was not expected that the Government would ignore the Act simply because members of Parliament had expressed the hope that the manufacturers would comply with conditions which were deemed to be fair and reasonable. The inaction of the Government compelled the employes in the industry to take a stand which otherwise might not have been forced upon them. They did not take that step for the mere purpose of wasting money. The law required the manufacturers to apply to the Arbitration Court for an exemption from the Excise duties, and when they submitted to the Court a schedule which they claimed embodied fair and reasonable conditions, were the employes to sit idly by knowing that those very conditions involved absolute sweating? Were they to sit idly by while the best men at the Bar were righting for an exemption for Ihe manufacturers and the fixing of that standard of wages for the industry throughout Australia? Surely no Government or body of reasonable men would expect independent citizens to sit idly by under such conditions? The employes in the industry took the only course which was open to them. Knowing that they had little or no money to spend, but feeling the justice of their cause they briefed counsel and succeeded in proving up to the hilt that the conditions enumerated in the manufacturers’ schedule were unfair and unjust. Then the manufacturers who had promised to comply with the conditions challenged the constitutionality of the law, and the High Court decided in their favour. Quite recently the Senate decided by a majority that the employe’s should be recouped their law costs. The majority was not whipped up to blindly vote for party reasons. It was not brought here at the behest of a Government or an Opposition, but it represented all parties in the Chamber, and voted with a full knowledge of the facts. Then for practically, no reason the Government desire to ignore the vote of the Senate because they are in possession of a dominant majority. I have always been under the impression that all Governments were more or less subject to majority votes. Because a majority support this Ministry on various questions, surely that is no reason why a majority vote on a specific question should be ignored. I protest against the non-recognition of the impartial and non-party vote given here to extend justice to the men. I trust that the request will be carried as another protest against the action of the Government.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [5.17]. - I rather regret that the request has been moved at the present juncture, because I think that .the Government might reasonably have been allowed a little longer time in which to consider their position.
– They do not want to reconsider their position ; they have made up their minds.
– Did not the honorable senator see the answer which was given to a question asked elsewhere?
– I do not think that my honorable friends will find my attitude unreasonable. In the course of conversation this afternoon I reprobated the idea of action such as has been taken being resorted to.- I therefore find myself in a position in which I must go forward or backward. I cannot remain quiescent, and to go forward means that I must vote for the request. To my mind the position now resolves itself simply into a constitutional one. I leave the subject-matter on one side, because it has been affirmed by a large majority.
– By nineteen votes.
– We know that there is a positive majority of the Senate in favour of the motion, to say nothing of one or two senators who apparently were not prepared to give a vote the other night. I am not speaking censoriously in any way, because I recognise that there are difficulties surrounding the matter. It is not an easy question, and a conscientious senator may well think it - wiser not to vote than to commit himself irrevocably to a course of action. God knows I am not taking any exception to the action of those who did not vote. But even granting that they changed their minds there would still be a majority of senators in favour of the motion which was carried the other night. The subject-matter is done with, unless the Senate is prepared to stultify itself and become the tool of political exigencies, rather than the representative of moral rectitude. Its conclusion was not arrived at on a party basis, or with any degree of haste, because the motion was under consideration on two nights, and was fairly debated by a considerable number of those who voted. If the Senate is prepared to allow itself - I should like to use a milder phrase if I knew of one - to be flouted, and its resolution, arrived at with deliberation by a large majority, to be treated as of no consequence, all I can say is that the sooner the Constitution is altered and the Senate knocked out the better. It is of no use .to deliberately arrive at opinions if we are not prepared to back them up. I very much regret the present position. I would rather that the matter had been allowed to stand over until a later period, so that the Government might have given it a little more consideration than I suppose they have had a chance of doing.
– To-day they gave an emphatic “no” to an inquiry.
– In view of that fact, there is only one course left open to me, unless I wish, not only to stultify my vote of last week, but to depreciate the position of the Senate under the Constitution. To my mind that latter point is of infinitely more consequence to-day than any other question. One question has been settled. It is not a conflict between the Houses, but apparently of Ministers choosing to take up the attitude of overriding the Senate’s decision.
– It has had only three days in which to consider the question.
– Why did not Ministers ask for a longer period?
– If the Government will ask for time to consider the question I shall vote with them to-day, but if they maintain this attitude of irreconcilableness, then, much to my regret, I must vote against them. My regard for the Senate and its place in the Constitution necessarily stands on a higher plane than my regard for the wilfulness of the members of an Administration. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that in this matter two Ministers are fighting for their own political hands. They were members of the Administration which did not enforce the law, and thus brought about the litigation in which the employes were involved.
– Three members of the Ministry.
– That may be.
– And they staked their political experience on the constitutionality of the Act.
– I entertained grave doubt about the constitutionality of the Act, but all that has passed ; never mind who was responsible and who was not responsible. I honestly own that I can see no reason for the attitude of the Government except an undesirable obstinacy on the part of some Ministers. I am quite sure that the whole Cabinet are not in favour of the attitude which one or two members are assuming. I cannot credit that the other members of the Cabinet could be so lacking in regard for the misfortunes of their fellow men as to be against my proposal on principle. Still more, I cannot believe that the Ministry in power is so absolutely dead to the obligations of constitutional authority in relation to the powers of the respective Chambers. If it comes to this - that a majority or a dominant minority of the Ministry is to flout the Senate or the other Chamber we might as well give up representative institutions. It is simply giving the go-by to the authority of Parliament and the creation of a Ministerial autocracy.
– I shall support the request moved bv Senator Findley. Either the verdict of the Senate is to be entirely ignored by the Government, or justice must be done to a number of citizens of Australia who have been very badly treated. Those are the two alternatives that impress themselves on my mind. It has been suggested that sufficient time has not been allowed to the Government to give a favorable reply to the request that has been made on behalf of the men interested, or to the motion passed by an absolute majority of the Senate. But such a plea is entirely out of court. Ample time has been given to the Government to consider, in the first place, the justice of the claim, and, in the second place, the point of constitutional law involved.
– Why did not the previous Government take action in the matter?
– The previous Government had not an opportunity.
– They had eight months, and left no record of any intention to pay.
– The honorable senator is hiding behind a subterfuge. The late Government had no opportunity to make a recommendation to Parliament for the payment of the money ; and if any recommendation had been made Senator Pulsford would have been the first to condemn the Government for making it.
– The late Government could have promised to put a vote on the Estimates, but they did not even do that.
– The point is that the late Government had no opportunity of bringing the subject before Parliament. 1 wish to call attention to another phase of the question. After Senator Neild had moved his motion, the Minister of Trade and Customs asked for an adjournment of the debate to give the Government an opportunity of considering” the matter. But on that very same afternoon in another place the Prime Minister had made a definite statement that the Government would not pay the money.
– That shows that there was no caucus about the business.
– It shows the hypocrisy of the Minister in this chamber in asking for an adjournment so that the Government might consider the matter, when the Prime Minister had already given a definite answer in another place.
– That is a ‘ very decent remark, is it not?
– If the honorable senator objects to the word “ hypocrisy “ I will withdraw it. If there was no hypocrisy there was a misrepresentation of the facts to the Senate. Moreover the Royal Commission on Stripper Harvesters had made the recommendation that the men should be paid. I believe that that recommendation was before the Government prior to Senator Neild’s motion being moved in the Senate.
– The Seriate has determined that the men should be recouped for the expenses incurred as the result of an Act of this Parliament. The
Act has been declared to be ultra vires. It is possible that other Acts passed by this Parliament might be proved to be ultra vires if the matter were tested. But that is no reason why those who accept those Acts in good faith should be compelled to bear the expense of litigation that may be necessitated. No man was stronger on this point a few months ago than the Minister of Trade and Customs. I agree with Senator Neild that either the Senate should be disbanded or its deliberate verdict should be respected. Another suggestion that has been made is that another place has not had an opportunity of deliberating on the subject.
– There is a notice of motion on the paper in another place.
– But the motion stands in the name of a private member, and the Government have taken action to set aside private business for the remainder of this session. Let us look at the matter from a common-sense point of view. How is another place to be afforded an opportunity of considering the question this session? It is just possible that if the matter were considered elsewhere there would be a majority against acceding to the request of the Senate. Then there would be a conflict between the two Houses. I, for one, am prepared to enter into a conflict on such an’ issue and to take the consequences. But, as a matter of fact, no such dispute between the two Houses has arisen. The conflict is between the Senate and the Government of the day. I consider that the Committee should, on the present occasion, emphasize the vote given by the Senate a fortnight ago, and so insure proper consideration of the question by the Government and another place.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the vote “ Attorney-General’s Department, £1,350,” by £1 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– In connexion with the administration of the Meteorological Branch of the Home Affairs Department, I should like the Government, in making any changes, to take into consideration the desirability of giving old servants of the State Meteorological Departments a preference in future appointments.
– The matter to which the honorable senator refers is quite new to me. I take it that the inclination of the Minister in administering the Department would be in the direction indicated by the honorable senator. I shall see that his remarks are brought under the notice of my honorable colleague. In connexion with the vote for the Treasurer’s Department, I may give some information which was sought with regard to old-age pensions, and one or two other matters. One matter into which I undertook to inquire was that brought forward by Senator Henderson, with reference to the printing of Government work in Western Australia. The allegation was that it was being done by prison labour. The Prime Minister communicated with the Premier of Western Australia on the subject, and to that communication the following reply was received : -
Your wire of10th. All matter printed in Fremantle prison passes through Government Printer’s hands, and is strictly confined to State business.
With regard to the payment of old-age pensions in Western Australia referred to by Senator Henderson and other representatives of that State, I have received quite recently an intimation that the administrative officer at Perth is advised that papers have been called for from Bunbury, and upon their arrival at Perth, they will be immediately forwarded on here. Until they arrive here it is impossible to say anything upon the cases with which they deal. Senator Pearce brought forward a case which was dealt with in a letter published in the press. Information upon that has also been sought by wire. I should like, however, to point out to the honorable senator that if he will look at the communication again, he will see, as I have done, that it is obvious that some of the statements in it are incorrect. I am not saying that if further facts were made known they would not appear to be correct, but as they stand they are clearly, incorrect. This may be due -to the fact that the writer has omitted to give other information which possibly he could give. The whole matter is being inquired into, and I am asking the officials to let me have the earliest possible information. On receipt of it I shall gladly convey it to honorable senators.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee the fact that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction in the Queensland Postal Department, on account of a system of fines which has been instituted by the present Deputy Postmaster-General of that State. I refer to fines for missorting and similar offences of that character, many ot which are quite unavoidable. I do not know whether honorable senators have ever seen sorters at work,’ but I can assure them that the work is done at a very high rate of speed, the writing of many people on letters is very indistinct, and the names of many towns in the Commonwealth are identical, or very much alike. The wonder to me is not that mistakes are made, but that they are not more numerous than they really are. I have information that two men were fined 10s. each for missorting a letter. Another man was fined 5s., and yet another 20s. Another was fined 20s. for omitting to mark the letter “ R “ on a letter. These are trifling mistakes which might be committed by any one.
– Were they first offences ?
– I believe they were. In New Zealand and in Great Britain, fines are not imposed for mistakes of this kind. If an official makes a mistake in those countries, it is looked upon as unavoidable. I admit that prior to Federation, fines were imposed in the various State Postal Departments, but they were very small - 3d., 6d., and is. I believe that the highest fine imposed, and then only in cases of gross carelessness was 2s. 66. Honorable senators have heard the fines which are now imposed by the Deputy Postmaster-General of Queensland, but that is not the whole story. There is something further which clearly demonstrates a lack of competent management in. the Department. One man was, under Regulation 40, suspended, for three days for some mistake, ,and the Government had to pay him for the three days on which he did no work. That seems to me to be a most extraordinary method of conducting business.
– Probably he had made the same mistake before.
– Even if he had done so, that would be no reason for his suspension. If a man came into the office unfit for his work, deliberately refused to obey orders, or committed some major offence, I could easily understand his suspension pending inquiry, but to suspend a man for making an ordinary mistake seems to ‘me to be an undue straining of the regulations, and, (besides, it involves -a direct loss to the Department. Another man was suspended for a whole week. He was fined 10s., but as his week’s wages came to £3, the Department made an actual loss of 3Q2 10s. on that transaction. Another man was fined £3 for a very simple offence. I am informed that a great many more cases of a similar character were dealt with, and the practice of fining is being carried to such an extent that the men in the Post Office in Brisbane are now in a state of incipient rebellion. No such system is in force in any branch of the Postal Department in other British Dominions, and I think it should be put an end to.
– In the other countries to which the honorable senator refers, there is discipline in the services which we have not here.
– I suppose that the law in New Zealand is very much’ the same as our own. I do not know what control is exercised in Great Britain.
– They do not permit the hands in each Department to organize a defensive force against the head of the Department. -
– The honorable senator is now dealing with a subject which is altogether foreign to that with which I am dealing.
– But it has a distinct bearing upon the complaints the honorable senator is speaking of.
– Senator Gray would not allow the employes of the Commonwealth to form organizations amongst themselves.
– I do not object to- them, but I do object to the lack of discipline in the Departments.
– Let me inform the honorable senator that the Postal Employes Association in Great Britain is a much more powerful organization than any we have in Australia. It is so powerful that on one or two occasions it has been the means of bringing the British PostmasterGeneral to his senses. I think the Government should do something in connexion with this matter. The men feel that they are being unjustly treated. Let honorable senators place themselves in the position of a sorter, who has. to deal with letters, newspapers, and parcels at a very high rate of speed. Some time ago I was told the number of mis-sorts which were allowed in many thousands of articles, and it was very small indeed. When we consider the large volume of work which these men have to perform at high pressure, it will be conceded that the system of fining - except in cases of habitual neglect - ought to be abolished. If a man habitually neglects his work there ought to be no room for him in the Department.
– How can the Department get rid of him?
– That ought to be easy enough. If it can be proved upon trial that a man is habitually negligent-
– What sort of trial?
– The Public Service Act makes provision for the appointment of a Board to ‘try officers who are charged with offences.
– That is the weakness of the whole system.
– I do not admit that. The men have rights which ought to be respected. We cannot hope to conduct our public Departments on the same lines as private businesses are conducted. In the latter case the employer has power to discharge an employe at any moment without assigning a reason for his action. That is contrary to all the dictates of humanity. So long as an officer is discharging his duty, his right to his position should be’ unquestioned. We cannot safely arm the higher officials of the Commonwealth Service with the power with winch Senator Gray would clothe them. In Queensland there is an officer whose conduct is in a very great degree regulated by the Public Service Act, and yet he discharges his duties . in such a despotic and arbitrary fashion that his subordinates are in a state bordering on rebellion.
– There ought to be an inquiry into the matter.
– We already have one inquiry in progress.
– I do not see why we should not have another. If a grievance exists there ought to be an inquiry into it. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council think that any officer should be fined 2OS. or 10s. for missorting a letter?
– I do not believe in fining officers at all.
– Such a system is unknown in Great Britain and New Zea- land.
– The heads of the Departments ought to have power to deal with their subordinates.
– The honorable senator wishes to empower the heads of Departments to dismiss a subordinate at a moment’s notice. I maintain that the men have rights which ought to be respected, and if the heads of Departments were not subjected to some restraining influence the employes would be continually subject to their personal animus. Organization among the men in a Department would be impossible. Any man who took an active part in the work of an organization would be marked and dismissed at the earliest opportunity. . The men have a right to be heard in their own defence. Before being dismissed they ought to be tried by a proper tribunal and found guilty of an offence. I think that the Government might well ascertain whether the system of levying fines is not being abused, and whether in point of fact it might not profitably be abolished. There is another phase of postal management to which I desire to refer, especially as it affects the employes of that Department. In a number of cases the Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Queensland has refused to grant the men their ordinary annual increments. In some cases the employes have appealed against his decision, and” have been subjected to tests as to their capacity. They have successfully emerged from those tests, and some of them are claiming the whole of the back money of which Bev have been deprived. Their claims are now being submitted to a Board for determination, and one of the members of that Board is the Deputy PostmasterGeneral. Does the Vice-President of the Executive Council say that that officer ought to be a member of the Board? Might not the employes just as well be members of the Board and sit in judgment upon their own case?
– They have one representative upon it, have they not?
– Yes. But is it right that the Deputy Postmaster-General should be a member of the Board, and in that capacity be called upon to decide a case in which, he is personally interested? He refused the men their increments upon the ground that they were not up to the standard capacity. They have demonstrated that they are up to that standard, and now they are claiming their back money. A Board is inquiring into the merits of their claim, and the Deputy Postmaster-General is a member of that Board. Under such circumstances the men cannot hope to receive justice. I do not know whether the Government will take any action in this matter. Apparently neither they nor their predecessors have very much sympathy with the complaints of .the postal employes. The impression seems to have got abroad that these men occupy very soft billets. But I can assure honorable senators that they have to work for their living quite as hard as has any other section of the community. They do work which is absolutely necessary.
– And they have been shorthanded for years.
– That is a fact. They have been shorthanded for years, during which successive Governments of the Commonwealth have shovelled millions of pounds into the State Treasuries. I do hope that the Government will take some action in reference to this matter.
– Of course the honorable senator who has just spoken could hardly expect me to possess any knowledge of the cases to which he has referred. I have merely risen to assure him that I have noted his remarks, and will undertake to bring them under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
.- Some time ago I asked a question regarding the alleged practice of the Postal Department in requiring telephone fitters to remain in the vicinity of the post-offices where they are employed, on Sundays and holidays, without pay. I had been informed that in the event of these men absenting themselves without leave on the Sunday for which they received no pay, they would be reported and fined. The answer supplied by the Department to the Minister was that the men were not required to remain in the vicinity of the offices where they are employed, without pay, and that no man had been reported and fined for being absent on Sundays. At the time I accepted the reply :>f the Minister in good faith. But immediately that reply was made public, I was furnished with documentary proof that it was of an absolutely misleading character. When an honorable senator asks for information upon a public matter he has a right to indignantly complain if false information is supplied to him by the Department.
– That is a serious charge to make.
– It is the charge which I make. I asked for definite information in regard to the practice of the Department, and the information supplied to me by the Minister was absolutely misleading. I have been furnished with specific instances which conclusively prove that, and also with documentary evidence. But I dare not give those instances to the Minister, to the head of the Department, or to the Public Service Commissioner, as otherwise my informants would be marked men. Moreover, the proof with which they supplied me was given to me in confidence. I have absolute proof that one telephone fitter who went upon an excursion on a Sunday, 20 miles from the post-office where he was employed - although he was not on duty upon that day - was on the following day reported and fined. I do not know whether similar cases have occurred in the other States, but certainly they occur all over Queensland. After the replies were given to my questions, and I had been furnished with the information, I privately informed the Minister of the facts, but so far I have received no satisfaction. Formerly telephone fitters were usually asked to attend on Sundays and, if necessary, to look to the telephones, but for that attendance they received a full day’s pay. With a miserable cheese-paring economy the Department now expects the men to remain in the vicinity of the Post Office all day, and without pay to attend to anything which goes wrong, while it employs messenger boys at from is. to as. 6d. a day to “do the work. The men are absolute slaves to the Department on a Sunday or a public holiday, because they are not allowed to go away from the vicinity of the Post Office. If a man is compelled to be within call on those days he should be paid. If - as happened in one case, of which documentary proof has been given to me - a man goes away for a short excursion, and if on the following day he is reported and fined, a gross injustice is done. What I particularly complain of is that the Department did not furnish correct information when it was asked for here. These men, I maintain, ought to be paid for their attendance in the vicinity of the Post Office just as much as if they were actually working. What is the good of a Sunday to a man if he is not at liberty to enjoy the fresh air? Under the present arrangement the men are required to stop in town all day and can have no social intercourse.
– A man could not go to church.
– -Yes, he could, because he would be within call of the office.
– The weakness of the honorable senator’s case is that the Department says that it has no knowledge of the facts as he alleges them. Let him now prove his case.
– The facts as I allege them are absolutely the truth. The Department did not make proper inquiries, else it would have found out the truth. I dare not give specific instances, because the men would be marked. There is a departmental regulation that no man shall write to a member of Parliament. If men were known to have communicated with me and I brought up the subject-matter of their communications, they would probably get dismissed. Otherwise I should be exceedingly happy to furnish the proof which the Minister requires; I cannot agree to sacrifice my informants. I am satisfied in my own mind that what I have said is absolutely true, and I believe that the majority of the Senate hold that view. I do not know whether this practice obtains in other States, but I know as a matter of absolute certainty that it does obtain in Queensland. From various parts of Queensland there have been five specific instances given to me which would satisfy any one that the statements made are correct. Of course, I do not allege that the telephone fitters are prevented from going to church, but they are absolutely prohibited from going out of call of the office. In one case a man was reported for having joined in a holiday excursion and fined, yet when I asked a question here about the case I was told that such a thing was not done. I hope that the Minister will institute a further . inquiry, and insist that any answers given through him on departmental matters shall contain the exact facts of the case. I trust that steps will be taken to relieve these men from the onerous duty of having to remain within call on Sundays, without getting any remuneration. It is a gross injustice that, after putting in a week, any man should be asked to attend in that way without being paid. At any rate, if telephone fitters must be kept within call they should receive a decent remuneration for the sacrifice which they are asked to make for the Department.
– Senator Givens has made the accusation that through me the Department has supplied false information to the Senate. If I thought that for one moment I- should adopt a very different tone from that which I intend to employ. I certainly have no intention of becoming a medium for conveying false information from any Department. The . honorable senator has placed the Department and myself in a very peculiar position. He made the statement that the Department is wrongly treating some employes, and at his request 1 asked the reason for this wrong-doing. The Department replied that it had no knowledge of any such practice or cases as had been mentioned. Not satisfied with the result of that inquiry, the honorable senator asked me to. make a fresh inquiry. I complied with his request, and received an official reply. The honorable senator reiterated his request, and I pressed the Department to look into the matter, again receiving an assurance that it had no knowledge of any such practice. What more can be done? The honorable senator has taken it upon himself to say, “ For certain reasons I am not prepared to give you the slightest piece of information which would enable you to sift the matter and see whether any ‘officer is suppressing the truth.”
– The information must be obtainable within the Department.
– I should consider that the honorable senator was discharging, not merely a duty to the individuals concerned, but a duty to the public, if he rendered some assistance to us in determining whether or not public officers are wilfully misrepresenting facts to the Senate.
– I shall move for a return showing the fines imposed in Queensland during the last twelve months, and the offences for which they were imposed.
– There are two or three ways in which the honorable senator might help forward a solution of the matter. I shall suggest one or two of them privately if he will allow me to do so. I believe that if he were assured that he was doing an injustice to the officers he would readily withdraw the serious charge which he has made.
– I suggest that the honorable senator should render us every possible assistance in determining whether or not he ‘ has been misled by his large human sympathies, or whether the Senate is being deceived by the Department.
– If there had been only one case, I might have been wilfully misled. The fact that I have received communications from men who have no knowledge of each other’s cases, and who all bear out what I have, said, is sufficient proof that there has been no wilful misrepresentation. There could be no collusion between men who are so widely separated, and who, I venture to say, had no communication with each other. The facts which they placed before me show that this practice does exist in Queensland. If is very possible that the Central Administration in Melbourne did not know exactly the state of affairs obtaining in that State, and so innocently gave false information to the Senate. What I complain of is, that when I referred to the matter a second time exhaustive inquiries were not made to ascertain if such a practice did obtain in Queensland. The only way in which I think I can get the matter ventilated without sacrificing the victims of the practice, is to move for a return of the fines imposed in Queensland during a certain period, and the offences for which they were imposed. I think that such a return will show conclusively the truth of what I have said. I hope that ‘the Minister will allow the motion for a return to go as formal business.
– -I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the vote “ Postmaster-General’s Department, .£294,450,” by £1.
It is with reluctance that I adopt this method of entering a protest against what I consider a conspiracy of silence on the part of the Government in connexion with the question of wireless telegraphy. On several occasions the attention of the Government of the day has been called to the delay in proceeding with the erection of wireless telegraph stations. at various points on our coast. Questions on the subject have been answered in a kind of way. In connexion with the last Supply Bill, I sought to elicit the intentions of the Government, but no reply was vouchsafed to me. Previously I put a series of questions, and the answer was that when the Budget speech had been delivered the Government would declare their position. The Budget speech has been delivered, and still we are in the dark as to what the Government intend to do, or when they intend to start. On the first reading of this Bill, I reverted to the subject, and again I found that it was totally ignored. It may have been forgetfulness on the part of the Government and its representatives in this Chamber, or it may have been intentional discourtesy to myself and to other honorable senators who have called attention to the matter. But this is the second occasion on which the same sort of thing has occurred. When the Vice-President of the Executive Council was replying on the motion for the first reading of the Bill, he singled out certain questions that had been mentioned by Senators Pearce and Guthrie. The representations made by those honorable senators were certainly worthy of consideration, and I was glad to hear what the Minister had to say in regard to them. But he concluded by stating that those were the only questions worthy of note. I took the opportunity on the motion for the second reading, to refresh his memory as to wireless telegraphy. Surely he recognises that the installation of wireless telegraphy on the Australian coast would have beneficial results both from a commercial and maritime point of view.
– And from a political point of view.
– The insinuation contained in that interjection is unworthy of the honorable senator. This is not a party question. The honorable member for
Fremantle, in another place, does not belong to the Labour party, but he has already pressed the Government on this question. The replies to his representations have been as evasive and indefinite as have been the replies of Senator Millen and his colleague to my representations in the Senate. It cannot be charged against me that I am endeavouring to make political capital, out of the question, which is of sufficient importance to be worthy of note and of reply either in the affirmative or the negative.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– The Government cannot pretend that they have not had sufficient time to deal with the question of wireless telegraphy. I have already mentioned that there are members of the Government who have been almost continuously in Federal Ministries. They are fully seized of the importance of the matter. It has been correctly stated that when we made a new mail contract with the Orient Company it was stipulated that the vessels should be fitted with wireless telegraph apparatus. But what is the use of insisting upon that condition if we have no receiving stations on our shores ? The last of the new vessels ot the Orient Company to reach Australia is the Osterley. The English mails to this portion of Australia brought by the Osterley have not yet been delivered. They are
– Accident’will happen.
– I understand that the Osterley is fitted with wireless telegraph apparatus. She was delayed for thirty hours at Colombo on account of a breakdown in her machinery. There has been considerable anxiety as to the delay in the arrival of the vessel at Fremantle. Those who had relatives on board wondered why the vessel was overdue, and the commercial world was much concerned. The only means of communication between Colombo and Fremantle is per medium of the cable, which affords a roundabout method of conveying news. It takes about twelve hours for news received by cable to percolate through the various channels. But if we had had at Fremantle a wireless telegraph station the anxiety could have been at once allayed. This proves the necessity of proceeding at once with the erection of stations on our coasts. While the scientific world has been progressing and other nations have taken advantage of this invention Australia has been remaining station- .ary. As a protest against the neglect of the Government to deal with the question in a practical way, I shall press my motion to a division.
– The honorable senator who has just sat down has indicated that at an earlier stage of Ihe proceedings I invited honorable senators to remind me in Committee concerning matters on which they sought information. The honorable senator has met my wishes in that respect, and has sought for information relative to wireless telegraphy, which I now propose to give. One statement made by the honorable senator I take the opportunity of correcting. I am perfectly satisfied that if he looks at Hansard in due course he will find that he was in error in one statement which he made, and that I did not say that the matters to which I referred were the only ones worthy of notice. I am quite clear on that point. What I did say was that amongst the matters worthy of notice were the one or two with which I dealt. There were other matters that occurred to me at once as being highly important, but the honorable senator himself had taken steps to render it undesirable that I should refer to them. The question regarding the naval college was one. I did not pretend that that matter was not worthy of consideration,” but it was unnecessary for me to refer to it. As to wireless telegraphy, honorable senators are aware that quite recently I indicated the attitude of the Government. I make no complaint against Senator Needham for moving on the present occasion, but I would suggest to him that it is hardly desirable or necessary for Ministers to get up two or three times in the course of a few sittings just to declare the same thing over again, unless they have received later information. I am not in a position to tell the Committee anything more than I told them last week - that the whole subject is under the consideration of the Postmaster- General. The Government are fully seized, hot only of the desirability of taking action, but of the extreme importance of the question - indeed, the urgency of it. But it is not a matter to be dealt with lightly. There is more than one system of wireless telegraphy which we might adopt. Necessarily it takes rather longer to obtain information than it would do if we were in London, or in one of the other European capitals. But the Postmaster-General is seriously considering the matter. He is sincerely desirous of obtaining all possible information before taking action, so as to avoid the possibility of mistake. Senator Needham stated that he had moved his request with a view to eliciting information. I have now given him all the information that I possess. That being so, I am sure that he will see his way to withdraw the request.
– I am glad to know that the Vice-President of the Executive Council did not state in the first instance that this subject was less worthy of notice than others with which he dealt. As he has said, the object of my motion was to elicit information from the Government. But I must say that I am as wise now as I was when I started, and I think that other honorable senators are in the same position. Senator Millen says that there are several systems of wireless telegraphy, and that the matter has been under consideration by the Government for some time. I accept that explanation. But does the honorable senator mean to tell us that it is difficult for the Government, after four years of inquiry, to make up their mind as to the proper system to adopt? The South African Union is proposing already to dealwith the subject.
– That is only a newspaper report. The Union is not established yet.
– Apart from newspaper reports I know that the statement is correct. In any case it is a; bad advertisement for the Commonwealth that after it has been in existence nine years the Government are not in a position to say what system of wireless telegraphy they will adopt, or whether they will adopt any at all. I think their neglect in this matter is of sufficient importance to warrant my testing the feeling of theCommittee on the subject. I thank the VicePresident of the Executive Council for his courteous reply. The honorable senator is not responsible for his lack of information.
Question - That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the vote “ Postmaster-General’s Department, £294,450,” by £1 - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Schedule agreed to.
Postponed clause 2 and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 10th September, vide page 3332) :
Clause 18 -
The whole of Part X. of the principal Act. is repealed, and the following part substituted in lieu thereof. 109. (1) An elector who -
has reason to believe that he will not during the hours of polling on polling day be within seven miles of any polling place for the division for which he is enrolled, or
being a woman, will on account of ill- health be unable to attend the polling place on polling day to vote; or
will be prevented by serious illness or infirmity from attending the polling place on polling day to vote, may make application for a postal vote certificate and postal ballot paper.
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether he. has considered the advisability of pressing this clause or of restricting the provisions for postal voting in any way. I’ need not enlarge upon the matter, because the honor- able senator has already heard the views of honorable senators on this side.
– If I have correctly interpreted the debate which has so far taken place on clause 18 the objection raised by honorable senators opposite is not to the details connected with this method of voting, but the principle of voting by post itself. The objection has been launched against voting by post in any shape or form. If that be so, I suggest to my honorable friends opposite that before thinking of any amendments to circumscribe voting in this way the simple method of taking a test vote might be resorted to to discover whether in the opinion of the Senate we should retain the system of voting by post. A test, vote might be taken on a motion to delete the first word of the clause, and if that motion were not carried, and the Senate decided to retain the system of voting by post, we might then consider amendments which might be suggested to improve the operation of the system. I am not at all an enthusiast in the matter of voting by post any more than I am an enthusiast in the matter of the absentee voter. I do not regard either with very much favour. At the same time, it must be remembered that these provisions, and particularly those for voting by post, were included in the Commonwealth electoral law with a view to supplying a convenience that could not possibly be furnished in any other way. It is curious that a large number of those who are now opposing the system were at that time more or less in sympathy with it, and some of the reasons then given in support of the principle were so potent that I propose to bring them before the Committee by a quotation from a speech delivered in this chamber on, I think, the second Electoral Bill dealt with in this Parliament.
– We have had more experience of the working of the system since.
– With .a great deal of reluctance I remind honorable senators of the fact that in one of the debates which took place on the subject of postal voting the following gentlemen, who were then members of the Senate, took part, namely : Ex-Senators Glassey, Charleston, O’Keeffe, Zeal, Dawson, Mathieson, Playford, and Downer. Every one of them, has ceased to be a member of this Senate, and we are deprived of their wisdom and judgment. I am putting this forward rather as a friendly warning to my honorable friends. In view of the fact that a general election is shortly to be held, I suggest that they should, as far as possible, abstain from speaking on this matter. It is for this reason that I prefer not to speak myself, and intend to quote the words of a gentleman who on the occasion to which I refer put forward views which seemed to me to be almost unanswerable. He said -
We have created an equal franchise, under which every man and every woman of full age is entitled to vole. Further, we have as nearly as may be so arranged the electorates that each vote shall, as far as possible, be of equal value. This is an important point j but what is the equality between the vote of a man or woman who lives 100 yards from the polling place in the city and the vote of a man or woman who lives 20 or 30 miles from a polling place in the bush? If each vote is to be of equal value, then, as nearly as possible, each individual should have an equal opportunity to record his vote.
Senator Givens interrupted the honorable senator who was speaking by saying - “ If the honorable senator pushes that argument much further, he will make the whole proposal ridiculous.”
The speaker resumed, as follows -
Any argument pushed to its ultimate conclusion becomes ridiculous. The very purpose for which voting by -post was instituted was to give this equal value and equal opportunity. No doubt voting by post has been abused ; but where? Not in the country districts, but right in the heart of Melbourne and other big cities, where the system ought not to apply. Because a number of people in Melbourne have abused the ‘ privilege honorable senators ask us to penalize the very electors for whose benefit it was instituted. . . . Voting by post is i great convenience to large numbers of people who live in the bush districts of Australia, and it is much more of a convenience and necessity now than when the franchise was confined exclusively to males. A selector and his wife may have a family of young children ranging from one to ten years. In existing circumstances the man or his wife, or both of them, have the privilege of voting by post if they please. If that privilege is not given them the man must go by himself to the poll, leaving the wife at home in charge of the children, or the wife must go by herself to the poll, leaving the husband in charge. Otherwise the whole family must go to the poll together, and I leave honorable senators to imagine the kind of undertaking that would be. I ask the Committee to compare the position of those people with that of a family living in a town. Either the man or the woman can go to the poll without the loss of an hour’s time, without the expenditure of a farthing, and, in fact, without any difficulty whatever. If the provision for postal voting is not continued, persons in outside districts must lose time in any case in recording their votes, and if they have to come into a town to do so they must lose money. There are a hundred obstacles in the way of people living in the bush as compared with those who live in towns.
In those words, Senator Stewart presented a very forceful picture of the conditions which exist in Australia. With the knowledge of a man who knows, he depicted the hundred and one difficulties which surround the settlers in our outlying districts. I am no enthusiast in the matter 6f postal voting, but I say that we ought to think twice before we deprive an important, though scattered section of the community, of the only means which many of them possess of recording their votes. If we take this convenience from them, the obligation is upon us to find some other method by which their views can secure expression at the ballot-box. In the absence of an alternative scheme, I ask honorable senators to pause before depriving residents in the remote portions of our continent of the right which belongs to every man and woman of full age in Australia. We know that there are thousands of persons in country districts whose homes are more or less isolated from those of their fellows. In their cases, it is impossible for husband and wife to be absent from home simultaneously, and, therefore, if we wish to deal out even-handed justice to them, we ought not. in a blind fury- - simply because the existing system has been abused in large centres of population - to take away from them facilities which were specially designed to meet their convenience.
– I move -
That the words “ and the following part sub’stituted in lieu thereof,” lines 2 and 3, be left out.
The arguments used by Senator Stewart upon a former occasion, and which have just been quoted by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, appear to ,be very logical from a theoretical stand-point. But since giving expression to those views Senator Stewart has recognised that the system of postal voting does not work out in practice in the way that one would expect it to work. I hold in my hand a. statement showing the number of electors who voted by post at the last Senate elections under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, 1906. Had the postal voting system worked upon that occasion in the way that it was intended to work, the official figures in this connexion would reveal that the greatest number oi postal votes were recorded in those States which possess the greatest areas and the most scattered population, and vice versa. But, instead, I find that in New South Wales only 3,097 postal votes were recorded, whilst in Victoria 6,643 such “votes were registered.
– There is much less necessity for the system of postal voting in Victoria than there is in New South Wales.
– Exactly. In New South Wales double the number of postal votes that were recorded in Victoria ought to have been registered. Through the courtesy of the officials of the electoral office, I am in a position to say that in March, 1909, there were 1.406 polling places in Victoria, or one polling place for every 62 square miles, whereas in New South Wales, on that date, there were 1,820 polling places, or only one polling place for every 170 square miles. One has merely to look at these figures to recognise that if the postal vote had been used by those whom it was primarily intended to convenience, twice the number of postal votes should have been recorded in New South Wales that were registered in Victoria. Not only has New South Wales a larger number of electors, but she has fewer polling places to the square mile.
– Can the honorable senator give us the figures in the case of Queensland ?
– Yes. In Queensland, 2,367 postal votes were recorded ; in South Australia, which is a country of vast distances, they numbered 744; in Western Australia, they totalled 1.885 i and in Tasmania, ,906. For the Senate elections, 1,059,168 votes were recorded^ of which only 15,342 were postal votes.
– About i£ per cent.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the number of votes cast or to the number of votingpapers, because each ballot-paper is worth three votes?
– I am speaking of the number ‘of individuals who exercised the franchise. There were two classes whom we aimed at assisting by means of the postal vote, namely, travellers, both male and female, and females who might be in a state of ill-health on polling day. The figures for Victoria show that of the total number of electors who voted by post 3,314 were males, and 3,329 females. In other words, almost as many males as. females availed themselves of the postal voting provisions of our Electoral Act. That, however, was not the case in all the States. . In Queensland, only 943 males voted by post, as against 1,424 females, and these figures are a truer reflex of what the proportion as between the two sexes ought to be. In South Australia, 446 males voted by post, and 298 females. In other words, nearly twice as many males as females used the postal vote there.
– The honorable senator should not overlook his own State.
– Western Australia is an even greater sinner in that respect ; but it must be recollected that its proportion of males to females is very much higher than that which obtains in other States. In Western Australia, 1,130 males voted by post at the last Senate election, as against 455 females; and in Tasmania, 386 males voted under that system, as against 520 females. These figures show that in practice the postal voting system does not work out in the way that the theory upon which it is founded would appear to indicate. It is used by a large number of persons whom it was never intended to convenience, and it is open to all sorts of abuses.
– What does the honorable senator propose as a substitute for it?
– I suggest that more polling places should be provided within the States. Only last week I pointed out that I was prepared to extend the privilege of voting by post to all seafaring persons, and to females who produce a certificate of ill-health.
– But the absent vote will cover seafaring people.
– Not unless we declare that a ship shall be a polling place.
– In regard to the last statement of Senator Pearce, I would point out that some little confusion may arise if the Committee accepts his amendment merely as an indication that some restriction of the postal voting system should be adopted. I thought that the purpose of his first amendment would be to decide whether or not we should retain the postal voting system. If any member of the Committee desires to test the question, I would suggest that he should move the excision of the first two words of the clause.
– If the proposal of Senator Pearce be agreed to, it will then be necessary to insert other words in the clause. If he were to move to leave out paragraph a we could test the question.
– If Senator Pearce wishes to take a test vote on the main principle, I suggest that he should move the omission of the following words -
The whole of Part X. of the Principal Act is repealed.
– Let the honorable senator move that amendment.
– Certainly not ; because I am in favour of retaining the clause as it stands. If the amendment I have suggested is moved, a clear vote can be taken.
– I think that I can submit a proposition which will clear the way to taking a test vote. If I move the omission of paragraph a, and it is omitted, that will be an indication to the Government not that we desire postal voting to be abolished, but that we wish to secure its restriction to seafarers, to those who can produce a certificate of ill-health, and to women. If an amendment to that effect is carried, it will be the duty of the Government . to remodel the clause. Obviously, that could not be done here to-night.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That paragraph a be left out.
– I am not prepared to support the abolition of postal voting simply because it has been abused in some way. It would be unjust to deprive a very large number of persons oftheopportunityofrecordingtheirvotes. I think that it is quite right that the system should be extended to seamen, to women, and to invalids, but I do not think that we should put a seaman who will not be able to attend the poll, or a person who is ill, to the trouble and probable expense of getting a doctor’s certificate.
– Who is likely to pay a guinea for a doctor’s certificate in order to vote?
– In many private hospitals, there are patients who are approaching a state of convalescence, but who are not able to go out and vote. They may, however, be able to go in invalid’s chairs to a postmaster, and record their vote in that way. If we agree to the amendment, we shall disfranchise a large number of persons. I suppose that in connexion with nearly everything, abuse is likely to creep in. ‘ We should try to prevent the system from being abused, but because it has been abused in the past, that is no reason why we should penalize other persons. I intend to vote to retain postal voting.
– I hope that there is no misunderstanding about the exact meaning of the amendment. It can be very easily gathered from the remarks of Senator Pearce that, he is not in favour of abolishing a system which would enable voters in certain circumstances to record their votes. I hope that honorable senators will not vote against the amendment in the belief that he is seeking to secure a system whereby every person must present himself on polling day, and be unable to vote in any other way. He indicated .very clearly the necessity of devising a means to enable’ seafaring men’ to record their votes. I should like the honorable senator to go a step further, and secure to persons on land who cannot record their votes a like opportunity.
– Then vote for the clause.
– I cannot vote for the retention of a system which has been so manifestly abused.
– Give us some evidence that it has been abused.
– Could we have more convincing evidence that it has been abused than that which comes from Queensland?
– The only cases in which charges were laid there were dismissed.
– The honorable senator does not need more convincing testimony than the reports from the returning officers of his own State, which were entirely condemnatory of the operation of this system.
– It was condemned by two returning officers out of sixty-five.
– It was condemned by more than two officers. The system was absolutely corrupt, and I think that the honorable senator must know that from the reports.
– I was rather surprised -to hear the Minister twit an honorable senator with a change of view. But what is he doing to-night? He is sponsor for a measure of 35 clauses, the very necessity of which has been demonstrated by experience.
– The honorable senator is quite wrong in supposing that I was twitting Senator Stewart or any one else with inconsistency. I do not know what attitude he is taking up now.
– I understood the Minister to quote the address of Senator Stewart not with a view to charging him with inconsistency, but with a view to showing that when it was delivered he did not have the experience which he has since acquired, and speculating as to his present attitude. I remind the Minister that this Bill represents the departmental experience of the working of the Electoral Acts, and that Senator Stewart finds himself in a very different position to-day from that which he formerly occupied. Speaking in the light of experience, I hold that postal voting should no longer be encouraged. I hold that, even though means are provided for enabling a hundred persons to vote who otherwise could not do so, it would be better to deprive them of that right than to allow the opportunity for an equal number of votes to be obtained by questionable means.
– That is an extraordinary argument.
– I hold that it would be more demoralizing to secure a hundred votes by corrupt means than to deny the franchise to a hundred persons, because we cannot agree upon, an honest device for securing their ‘votes. My object is to wipe out the abuses which have obtained under the postal voting system.
– Will the honorable senator give some proof of corrupt voting?
– I know of a case in Western Australia where the agent of a candidate at a State election went into Fremantle gaol and there secured the vote of a person who was not entitled to take advantage of this system.
– Was that proved before the Disputed Returns Committee?
– It was proved up to the hilt.
– How did they punish the man who did that thing?
– It was known that the man was serving a sentence, and yet his vote was recorded at a State election.
– Was the offending party punished ?
– Does the honorable senator say that Western Australian justice prevented the man from being punished?
– The case is on record. The authorities did not go to the bother of prosecuting the man.
– Did not the honorable senator see that they went to that bother?
– I am not here to be questioned by the honorable senator. I am stating the case just as it was reported at the time by the scrutineers and the returning officer. It may or may not have happened.
– It may not have happened ?
– I am inclined to believe that it did happen, because it was known that the person was in gaol and that his vote was recorded. I hope it will be clearly understood that Senator Pearce does not desire to wipe out of existence a reasonable means for enabling a man who cannot attend on polling-day to record his vote. What he seeks to do is to stamp out the nefarious and pernicious practices which have been resorted to by the agents of candidates. 1. admit that if the amendment is adopted cases of hardship will arise, but I remind honorable senators that every law leads to hard cases. Our principle object should be to endeavour to get the votes of the electors recorded without the suspicion of corrupt practices being resorted to.
– Did not the honorable senator state in his second-reading speech that he thought that more facilities should be given to persons to get postal ballot-papers?
– If I did not say so then, I will say it now. I gave an illustration where 400 or 500 men in my own State were disfranchised through insufficiency of polling places. I am of opinion that if there were more polling places there would be no need for the postal vote.
– r am placed in rather an awkward position in reference to the question of postal voting. I have given the matter a good deal of consideration. I should like to see the clause modified, because undoubtedly some corruption has occurred under the present system. But I cannot forget my own experience. I remember how I had to travel to record my vote, and I know the difficulties experienced by other country residents. An employer and his wife and family mav have a conveyance to take them to the polling booth, but the workmen, the servant girl, the shepherd, and many other classes of people may not have similar opportunities. I think that more polling places ought to be provided, so as to afford to every man and woman an opportunity to vote. If I were to oppose postal voting altogether I know that my colleague, Senator Vardon, would be able to turn up some of my old speeches and show my attitude in regard to the same matter about fifteen years ago I am as proud of the effect of my vote in the Legislative ‘Council of South Australia in 1894 as I am of the effect of my vote in connexion with the selection of Yass-Canberra in the Senate.’ I cannot go back on that attitude. Conservatism has never been in favour of extending facilities for the people to express . themselves through the ballot-box. My attitude has always been in the direction of extending the franchise and enlarging the opportunities for the recording of votes. Conservatism was never in favour of giving the vote to women. I’ was pleased to hear my colleague, Senator Vardon, refer sympathetically to the women’s vote. But I have before me an extract from a Conservative newspaper of some years ago, which will show the attitude of the party to which the honorable senator belongs towards women’s suffrage at that time.
– Does the honorable senator think that this is relevant?
– Undoubtedly it is, because, the question of postal voting has much to do with women, and I want to give every encouragement to women to record their votes. I was not a member of the Labour party when the franchise was extended to women in South Australia. I was, however, strongly in favour of that reform. But let me show how the Conservative press viewed women’s suffrage in 1894. The organ of the National Defence League, the Country newspaper, of 28th July, 1894, published an article of which the following is a substantial extract.
– P do not see the connexion between what the honorable senator is stating and the postal vote.
– I shall connect the two without any trouble. This Conservative newspaper wrote : -
We seem given over to folly. And no greater folly than this woman’s suffrage fad could well be committed. To have fifty or sixty legislators deliberately admitting that men are not able to govern the colony without the assistance of a lot of fussy, snuffy, gossiping old women is very funny. If men choose to write themselves down such asses, we cannot help it ; we can only look on and wonder. The suggestion that women are equal to men is absurd. They are as inferior mentally as physically. That they are so physically goes without saying; that they are so mentally the ages have proved. Once and again there is a brilliant exception, but that only proves the rule. Early ripening is a faculty they have in common with negroes. Up to twelve a nigger boy is probably ahead of a white boy ; from twelve to fifteen, possibly equal ; at’ fifteen he stops. But nobody would say that because a negro boy was ahead of a white boy at twelve that therefore he was equal, for after fifteen he is hopelessly behind. Another proof of the inferiority of women is their villainy, when they are “villainous; their brains cannot control their instincts. In the French revolution the- most brutal, fiendish, and bloodthirsty were invariably women. So it is in gaols. All who have ever had experience testify that women are far harder to govern than men, when criminal, and much wickeder. This is vouched for by their own sex, by matrons, searchers, nurses, and visitors, as well as by the other sex also. This extra villainy is not proof of superior ability, i.e., it does not show that powerful intellects give them a greater capacity to be villains. But it shows that their inferior ability renders them less able to put a restraint on’ their villainy. In other words, they have not had ability to restrain themselves. Of course, some mcn have also been deficient in such an ability. The difference is this : That the inability of men is in some only; the inability of women applies to all. Yet this weak sex is’ for the future to govern us; and not the best of the sex, but the worst. The best of the sex will be engaged in nursing babies and other suitable and natural avocations.
– The honorable senator is entirely out of order. I cannot see any relevancy between what he’ is reading and the postal vote.
– I am showing what was the attitude of the Conservative element towards women before the franchise was extended to them. Surely there is a connexion between that and increasing the facilities for women to vote under our electoral law ? I have heard expressions used during the course of the debate as to the opinions of this side and the other. But the question is not a party one. I suppose that honorable senators opposite wish to inflict a stigma on the Labour party because some of its members are now opposing the postal vote. No doubt Senator Best, in addressing public meetings, will tell the electors that the Labour party wanted to deprive them of the postal vote. But I wish the women of this country to understand that it was through the Labour and Liberal element that they secured the franchise. Of course, to the Conservatives they are all “ sweet dears “ now. They are not the wicked, bad people they used to be since they have votes to give. The National League now invites the women to attend meetings, and have refreshments. It engages bands to play music to them, and all sorts of means are adopted to induce them to vote for the Conservatives on election day. If I believed that women - and I ought to know something about them - were the sort of creatures that the Tory rag from which I have quoted represented them as being, I would vote for the abolition of female suffrage. But because I believe that they are just the opposite I think that we ought to provide for facilities for them to record their votes. I trust that Senator Millen will try to meet me in my difficulty. I do not wish to do any harm to any one, but at the same time I am anxious to avoid fostering corruption. I also wish it to be understood that the Labour party have always stood for the franchise to women, and that it is on account of corruption that several of my colleagues will vote for the repeal of the postal voting system. I believe that every one entitled to a vote should be given the opportunity to exercise it. I have told Senator Millen what is my trouble, and I hope that he will try to meet me. In the circumstances as I have stated them, I cannot vote against the principle of postal voting.
– I recognise how perplexing it is to find a way out of the difficulty in which we are placed in this matter. I see that it is impossible to repeal entirely the provisions for postal voting. I am strongly in favour of their repeal, but I do not wish that statement to be taken as meaning that I have any desire whatever to disfranchise legitimate electors. I should not wilfully impose any restrictions upon the -electoral rights of the seafaring class. But it is not necessary that a system of postal voting which lends itself to abuse should be perpetuated in order that seamen may be given an opportunity to vote.
– Does the honorable senator look upon all sailors as saints, and all landsmen as sinners?
– I do not regard all seamen as saints, and I know that Senator Pulsford is still in his terrestrial state. The point is that the calling of seamen takes them away from the land.
Those engaged in our coasting trade leave a particular port on a certain day, and it is known that they will be absent from that port for a. given time, and I see no reason why facilities should not be afforded to seamen to record their votes in a ballot-box specially constructed for the purpose, and without having recourse to the postal voting provisions at all.
– The honorable senator refers to ballot-boxes placed on board the ships.
– Certainly. I am inclined to believe that the object in continuing the postal voting system is to limit the voting at ballot-boxes. A number of settlers establish themselves in the back country 60 or 70 miles from a town, and, instead of establishing a polling booth at which they could vote, they are invited to make use of the postal voting provisions. In that way. a good many votes are lost. The great objection to the postal voting system has been clearly shown by the evidence put forward by Senator Pearce. The honorable senator showed that it is not by the residents of remote places, or voters of the seafaring class, that the postal voting provisions are most largely used. They are being used in our large cities and towns, and if a careful analysis of the votes recorded at an election were made, it would be found that a very high percentage of postal votes might be credited to places within a very short distance of polling booths, established in our largest centres of population.
– What harm is there in that?
– The harm is that the postal voting system is being used by petty agents employed at election times to enable the man with the most money to secure the largest number of votes.
– In other words, the people are corrupt.
– No; there are thousands of electors who are not corrupt. But unhappily there are a great many who can be easily duped by a corrupt man.
– And that man is spread all over the States.
– No, I am sorry to say that there is more than one corrupt man, and they are fairly numerous at election times. As so many honorable senators have expressed themselves in favour of a modification of the postal voting provisions, it is useless to attempt to have them repealed; but I am as strongly in favour of their repeal as I was when I entered this chamber. I have raised my voice in protest against the extension of facilities for postal voting on every convenient occasion. I have spoken just as strongly in favour of increasing the number of polling booths. It is the duty of the Government to see that facilities which will remove as far as possible the opportunity of wrong-doing at elections shall be provided. We should have a full vote and an honest vote, and we can secure it by establishing polling booths wherever they are required.
– The point at issue is being missed or evaded. Senator Pearce in his opening remarks showed conclusively that we ought not to interfere with the postal voting provisions in any way. The honorable senator pointed out that only1½ per cent. of the whole of the votes of electors of Australia were polled by means of the postal voting provisions.
– What is¾ per cent. of those on the roll?
– What evidence of corruption is there in that ? None whatever. Senator Pearce, by the statistics which he has quoted, has proved that there is no corruption in the use of the system. We have been told that some abuses occurred in the operation of the postal voting provisions in Queensland. I refuse to consider that, because it is not a reason why we should abolish electoral facilities which are availed of by electors in every part of Australia.
– The honorable senator said a moment ago that they were not largely availed of.
– They were largely availed of by those for whose convenience they were passed. I think Senator Pearce may be congratulated upon having driven shot and shell through the proposal even to modify the present system. Before we alter our system of postal voting we should have some substantial evidence that it has been abused. It has been used at two general elections, and there has not been a single instance brought before the Court of Disputed Returns of a misuse of the postal voting provisions.
– One Federal Select Committee that inquired into the matter in New South Wales, while recommending certain precautions, specifically refrained from recommending the abolition of the system.
– The more closely the matter is investigated the less will honorable senators be prepared to abolish a system which has been found so convenient and so fair, especially to women and to electors who reside at some distance from a polling booth. Despite what may be said to have occurred in Queensland or in New South Wales, we should not take action in the matter unless it is proved before the Court of Disputed Returns that the system has been abused in connexion with Commonwealth elections. I do not think that the validity of more than three or four elections has been contested since the establishment of theCommonwealth. In this connexion the only cases which occur to me are those in which Senator Vardon and Mr. Chanter were prominent figures. Under the restrictions which we have imposed upon the postal voting system, not a single charge of corruption has been established. Where, then, is the justification for altering that system. Until it has been proved in our own Court of Disputed Returns that our postal voting system has been abused, any attempt to repeal it is the worst reflection that we can put upon our electors. To urge that the Commonwealth should abolish that system, because in a distant State, and under circumstances which existed years ago, it has been abused, is simply to drag a red herring across the trail. The postal voting system adopted in Queensland is very different from that which has been adopted by the Commonwealth. In the first place the former is applicable to any female elector who desires to vote through the Post Office. In other words, it is open to every adult female in the State to vote by post if she so desires. The Commonwealth does not permit that course to be followed. The Queensland system also confers a similar right upon any male elector who has reason to believe that on polling day he will be absent from the polling place at which he would ordinarily vote. On the other hand, the Commonwealth system, so far as females are concerned, confines the privilege to those electors who may be a certain distance from the polling place for which they are enrolled upon the day of the election, or who, on account of ill-health or physical infirmity, are unable to attend the polling place. It will thus be seen that there is a vast difference between the two systems. Possibly the Queensland system is so wide that it does afford facilities for corrupt practices. But we have guarded against the defects of that system, and until it can be shown that our system has been abused we are not justi fied in altering it. When honorable senators opposite assert that by extending postal voting facilities to electors in remote parts of the Commonwealth we are offering facilities for corrupt practices, they are substantially charging the electors of the Democracy either with being corrupt or with being easily corrupted. I resent that charge. It is a remarkable fact that all the charges which have been made in connexion with election petitions in Queensland have been dismissed. Had corruption occurred there the Court would have invalidated those elections. But instead of doing that it has dismissed the charges. That fact shows that those charges were absolutely unfounded. I hope that any proposed change in our postal voting system will be carefully scrutinized, not with a view to limiting it, but with a view to extending it.
– The object which Senator Pearce seeks to achieve by his amendment is the maintenance of the secrecy of the ballot. The speech which has just been delivered by Senator St. Ledger is one which might well have been delivered in’ opposition to the ballot-box system when its adoption was first proposed. Under our postal voting system the secrecy of the ballot is absolutely infringed. This Bill permits justices of the peace, school teachers, officers of the Department of Trade and Customs, mining wardens and their clerks in the Public Service of a State, as well as legally qualified medical practitioners, to become authorized witnesses of postal ballot-papers. Now, as a rule, these are the very persons who are engaged by candidates as electioneering agents.
– Quite a number of medical practitioners place themselves on the committees of various candidates at election time. Under this Bill they would be permitted to canvass the electors and to induce them to vote by post. I have followed the history of the system of voting by post from its very inception. It was first introduced into the South Australian Parliament in 1889. It was then restricted to seamen, and the proposal was that the shipping masters at the various ports should be constituted deputy returning officers, and that at any time before polling day seamen should be permitted to obtain from them absent voters papers and thus to exercise the franchise. But at the same time no provision obtained under which an elector might vote at any polling place in his State.
In my judgment any elector who resides 15 miles from a polling place should have the right to vote by post. If the Government cannot see their way clear to provide a polling place within a distance of 15 miles from the residence of any elector, that person ought to be allowed to vote by post.
– Would the honorable senator lessen the distance for a. woman?
– No. Surely the honorable senator knows that woman desires to be put on an absolute equality with man? I am not prepared to differentiate between the sexes except in one case, which every honorable senator appreciates. Originally in South Australia there was no provision for having a large number of persons as authorized agents. If a man wanted to use the absent voter’s form, he had to write to the returning officer, who forwarded a form on which the applicant had to make a sworn declaration that on polling day he would be absent from his polling place, or ill, and the form was filed by the returning officer. In other cases, a man went to the office of the returning officer, signed his name in a book, and received a voting paper, which was taken to the postoffice, and handed to the postmaster who, after putting a certain question, returned the voting paperfolded up, and afterwards put the post-office stamp on it. It was not given to an authorized agent to be posted, but it was posted by the elector as a registered letter. The book and the forms were producedat the scrutiny. When the ballot-papers were opened, the signatures thereon were verified by reference to the form or the book. I maintain that in this Bill there is no necessity for making all these provisions. I want every one to be allowed an opportunity to exercise the suffrage. We cannot put a polling place at every man’s door. We on this side hold that a man should take sufficient interest in the affairs of his country to sacrifice a little time for the purpose of seeing that it is properly governed.
– The honorable senator says that a woman who cannot walk 15 miles should not be allowed to vote.
– We are prepared to allow every voting facility which is consistent with maintaining the secrecy of the ballot. I would rather see postal voting wiped out than the secrecy of the ballot endangered.
– The honorable senator thinks that there would not be much sacrifice in a woman walking 10 or 15 miles ?
– The honorable senator knows very well that if he wanted a woman’s vote, he would send out a conveyance to bring her to the polling booth.
– Does the honorable senator know the size of New South Wales ?
– Yes; it is half the size of South Australia ; but as its population is more concentrated, it does not require this voting system so much as does my State. If the clause were drafted so as to make it absolutely sure that there would be no interference with the elector or the secrecy of voting, I should offer little objection. It. was not intended that a man who lived within 10 yards ofa polling place should record his vote by this means.
– Yes ; if he was ill.
– No; if he had reason to think that he was going to be ill. We ought to take away that privilege and to require a man to prove that he is ill at the time of making the application, not that he has reason to believe that he will be ill on polling day. In the South Australian Electoral Code Act of 1896, the provision on this subject is very clear -
Any elector having reason to believe that he will on polling day -
In the Commonwealth law, we have no need for that provision. A man can vote anywhere in his State. For instance, at the last Federal election I voted at a place 250 miles distant from the place at which I was registered. The section continues -
That by reason of her health she will be unable to vote at the polling place on polling day : may after the issue of the writ, apply for an absent voter’s certificate.
The only man who could issue an absent voter’s certificate was the returning “officer, and the only man who could witness it was the postmaster, and that at the post-office. These were the safeguards provided by the State Parliament, which was very jealous about maintaining as far as possible the secrecy of the ballot. It would not go further than that. But the Federal Parliament has gone a great deal further, and, in my opinion, impaired the secrecy of the ballot. I hope that whatever is done will be in the direction of making the voting as secret as possible. The last speaker wanted to know why persons who live adjacent to a polling place cannot vote there. Are they ashamed to enter a polling booth? I have heard it argued that many fine ladies did object to mixing with the rabble on polling day, and that was the only reason assigned for using the postal vote.
– That feeling has passed away.
– No ; it was only the other day that that was assigned to me as one of the reasons why agents were required to go round and request the ladies to each take out an absent voter’s paper. A woman who is anxious to exercise the franchise should be put on exactly the same plane as a man. All that the great majority of women ask for is that they shall not be looked upon as a privileged class, but shall have equal rights with men.
– There is no doubt a great deal of difficulty in connexion with this matter. However much one may be in favour of the principle of postal voting, the method in which it has been carried out has lent itself to so much abuse that in the minds of a great number of persons the system has become discredited. I confess myself to be one of that number. I still believe in the principle, and if it could only be surrounded with sufficient safeguards, I would not dream of assisting to abolish it. I think it is extremely desirable that both men and women, more especially the latter, who live in outlying parts, should have every opportunity of recording their votes, and be placed, so to speak, as nearly as possible on an electoral equality with those who live in towns. The matter of distance from the polling booth, as I have pointed out before, is a factor which adds to or detracts from the political power ofan elector. If I am living next door to a polling booth, I can walk there and vote no matter what the state of the weather or my health may be, so long as I am not bed-ridden.I can vote without interfering in any way withmy business. I am put to no loss of time , or money, or unnecessary expenditure of physical energy. The position, however, is quite different in the case of those who live a long way from a polling booth. They have to lose time. It costs them a good deal of money to go to a polling booth. A slight affection, or some comparatively small matter, might deprive them of the opportunity of exercising the franchise. These are the considerations which weighed with legislators both here and in State Houses, when they agreed to the adoption of postal voting. Senator St. Ledger made a strong point of the fact that no abuses had been proved in connexion with postal voting at Commonwealth elections.
– In the Court of Disputed Returns.
– Yes. My recollection of one Commonwealth campaign brings very forcibly before me the fact that there was a wholesale use of the postal vote in Melbourne.
– By whom?
– By the party with which Senator St. Ledger is associated.
– What evidence is there that it was not used by the other side ? We do not allege corruption.
– There is any amount of sworn evidence that it was used by the party with which the honorable senator is associated.
– In any case I sympathise with Senator St. Ledger. If some method of purifying this system of voting could be adopted, I for one should never consent to its abolition. The intention of the postal vote was to provide for people who live at a distance from a polling place, for seamen, and for women who were or might be ill on the day of the election.But is that what has occurred? I find from the Queensland Hansard, volume 99 page 562, that speaking on the Electoral Act Amendment Bill the Home Secretary said -
They had seen from the reports of the returning officers how the system had been abused, and they all knew what possibilities of abuse there were in connexion with it ; and, under the circumstances, they were doing the women of Queensland no hardship if, by preventing a few from going to the poll, they restrained the abuses that were possible under the system. A good deal had been said about protecting the women in remote districts who use the postal ballot. In fourteen towns - Brisbane, Brisbane North, Brisbane South, Charters Towers, Croydon, Drayton and Toowoomba, Fortitude Valley, Enoggera, Gympie, Ipswich, Nundah, Rockhampton, Townsville, Warwick, and Woolloongabba, out of 10,781 postal votes polled by females, those fourteen electorates got 7,259, or 67 per cent. of the total votes. The remaining 3,522 votes by females were polled in fortythree electorates, and there were four electorates in which there was no election. Those figures showed that it was in the cities where polling places were plentiful that the postal vote was mostly used. There was no difficulty in a city like Brisbane in any woman going the short distance necessary to record her vote. It was in the country districts that there was some difficulty, and that would be met by increasing the number of polling places.
What happened in Queensland goes to show that the postal vote is not most largely used by women who live in the outlying portions of Australia. As I said on the motion for the second reading of the measures, so grossly was the privilege abused that public opinion in Queensland compelled Parliament to sweep the provision off the statute-book. There seems to be a disposition on the part of a number of senators to retain postal voting in some form. If a method can be devised to reduce the corruption that has hitherto been practised I shall be very glad to see it adopted. But in the meantime it appears to me that something must be done to prevent this misuse of the system by people who live in cities and localities where polling places are plentiful.
Motion (by Senator Vardon) agreed to-
That a return be laid upon the table of the Senate giving the following particulars with regard to the military examinations held in Melbourne in March of this year : -
The number of marks allotted to each sub-heading in practical drill.
The marks obtained by each successful candidate examined for first appointments of officers to the Federal Permanent Forces.
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday, the 29th September.
I propose to furnish the Senate with the reasons which induce me, somewhat reluctantly, to submit this motion. The Government fully anticipated, until a late hour this evening, that they would be able to present the Inter-State Commission Bill during the present week. But it has been found at the last moment that some information that it is desirable to submit with the measure is not available; and, further, that considerations involving important constitutional issues, have necessitated some revision of its provisions. In addition to that, I had hoped that we might have received from the other Chamber one or two Bills with which they have been dealing - the High Commissioner Bill, for instance. But the other Chamber having been occupied in discussing another motion, there seems to be no prospect of that measure reaching us this week. Having regard, therefore, to the small quantity of business upon our notice-paper, it did not seem desirable that we should continue to sit day after day to do a trivial amount of work, or probably none at all, and that it would suit the convenience of honorable senators if we followed what has been the invariable custom ever since this has been a Legislative Chamber, to adjourn when we had reached the stage when we had overtaken the work set before us. I should like to remind the Senate of a fact with which it is well acquainted - that owing to the smallness of our numbers, it is inevitable, even if we talked at great length, that we should not occupy as much time as do honorable members in another place.
– God forbid !
– I am glad to hear that remark from my honorable friend.
– I do not think that I occupy much of the time of the Senate.
– If every member of the Senate talked at the same average length as do members of another place, it is evident that we should finish our work in half the time occupied by the House of Representatives. But in addition to that, there are certain other reasons why extra time is required in another place which is not required here. I refer to questions which arise under cover of which a challenge is issued to the Government of the day. We are free from business of that character. As a result, it follows that the Senate can discharge its work efficiently in less than half the time occupied by the other House. We have been sitting three days a week, or three-fourths of the time devoted to business elsewhere.The result is that we have overtaken the work set before us. The position that confronts us now is one which has confronted the Senate in every session since this Parliament was constituted. In the first session of this Parliament, there were no fewer than eleven adjournments of the kind I am now proposing.
– The honorable senator should consider the length of that session.
– I do not include the Christmas adjournment which extended over six weeks, but there were eleven other adjournments, one running into three weeks. I admit that that session was a very long one. In the next session which commenced on the 26th May anr! terminated in October - a shorter session than the present is likely to be - there were eight such adjournments.
– Why should we follow these bad examples?
– The honorable senator must see that it is not possible to make work for this Chamber as fast as it is capable of disposing of it.
– The honorable senator is complaining that we do the work too rapidly for him.
– I do not make that complaint, but we have two Chambers in this Parliament, and unless they proceed step by step sooner or later ohe must get ahead of the other in the transaction of public business. Parliament can only proceed at the rate of the slower Chamber. As the strength of a chain is that of iti weakest link, so the rate of progression of a parliamentary machine such as ours must be that of the Chamber moving most slowly.
– If some of the Bills dealt with in another place had been introduced here we should have work to go on with.
– It is easy for the honorable senator to dogmatize in that way, but I should like him to mention one.
– I can mention one - the Inter-State Commission Bill.
– That is the very Bill with a reference to which I commenced these remarks. I mentioned a difficulty which must delay the consideration of that measure for a day or two. In the session of 1904’ there were 12 adjournments; in 1905, 3; in 1906, 1 extending over 25 days ; in 1907, 3, one of which extended over 26 days; and during last session there were 2 such adjournments. J mention thea facts, not as a justification for the course proposed to be taken now, but as showing that the experience which has’ overtaken us at the present moment is that which has always overtaken the Senate, and which must always overtake it so long as we continue to meet for three days a. week, whilst honorable members in another place meet four days in each week. Under those conditions sooner or later the time must arrive when we shall be waiting upon another place.
– The position might be altered if there were three Ministers in the Senate.
– I shall not express an opinion on the point referred to by the honorable senator, but what I am dealing with now is not a question of the number of Ministers in the Senate- as compared with the number in another place. It is a question of the membership of both Houses. The thirty-six members of the Senate, even by the most heroic efforts, cannot hope to consume the same time in talking that double their number occupy in another place. I admit the capacity of many of my honorable friends to occupy a considerable amount of time in talking but the capacity of honorable members in another place is at least equal to theirs in this respect, and there are more of them to talk. That being the case, much as my honorable friends may fret at this proposed adjournment - and I am aware that many of them will be greatly troubled about it - the fact remains that an adjournment is necessary, because thirty-six ‘members in the Senate do not consume as much time in the transaction of the same business as do seventysix members in the House of Representatives.
– One can sympathize with the difficulty in which the Vice-President of the Executive Council finds himself in having to propose a dislocation of the legislative machine so early in the session. It is true as the honorable senator has said, that sooner or later we should be faced with this difficulty, but, in my opinion, the responsibility for the fact that we have to face it so early in ‘the session rests with the Government. I go further and say that they have deliberately steered for this rock. On the 7th September in another place the “gag” was imposed and the second reading debate was interrupted on a Bill that has not since been touched. Sufficient time has elapsed since the introduction of the “ gag “ to have enabled that Bill to be put through, and sent up here. I refer to the High Commissioner Bill, which is a measure of the first importance. There is little opposition to the Bill in another place, and, as a matter of fact, though a number of honorable members addressed themselves to the second reading the honorable member who was “ gagged “ was the only one who opposed the Bill. The Government must have regarded the passing of the Bill as a matter of urgency, or they would not have applied the closure. But having done so, and interrupted the debate on the second read- ing, they have put the Bill on the shelf. They have since gone on with other business including a proposal which has been debated to-day to deprive honorable members of time set apart for private members’ business. This, is evidence that the Government have deliberately steered for the rock on which we have now struck. I admit that it is farcical for us to go on wilh cnr business-paper in its present condition, but we hara reached this position because of the deliberate action of the Government in another place. Whether they are personally responsible tor it or not Ministers representing the Government in the Senate are aware of that fact. They know that if the Government had pleased we might have had the High Commissioner Bill before the Senate now. They are aware also that honorable senators are in the humour to put the Bill through immediately. I venture an excursion into the regions of prophecy, and say that the High Commissioner Bill will not be allowed by the Government to pass until near the end of the session.
– The honorable senator should prophesy only when he knows.
– I make that prophecy. I say that the Government desire this adjournment before the High Commissioner Bill reaches the Senate, because they are aware that if it reaches the Senate before we adjourn we shall insist on passing it before the adjournment takes place. I wish the public to understand that the present position has been deliberately worked up to by the Government in order to get themselves out of a difficulty in which they find themselves in connexion with the High Commissioner Bill. They know that as soon as that Bill is . passed they will be faced with the awkward predicament of having to appoint a High Commissioner. They are aware that whatever appointment they make they must offend a section of m their supporters. So the Bill is to be “hung up until the end of the session, and when members of this Parliament are busy preparing for the elections the appointment of a High Commissioner will be made. I intend to divide the Senate on the motion as a protest against the action of the Government which has led up to the proposed adjournment.
– The complaint that in the Senate we cannot consume sufficient time in the transaction of public business is about the lamest excuse I ever heard put forward for such a position as that in which we are now landed. Only this afternoon Senator Millen suggested that some honorable senators on this side were “ stone-walling.”
– The honorable senator spoke at considerable length.
– I do not think that any lengthy addresses were delivered from this side this afternoon. Apparently we did not speak at sufficient length to suit the tactics of the Government. But they are so clumsy that they have exposed their hand. They complain that ‘we have not consumed sufficient time to enable them to charge us with wasting the time of the country and to justify the use of a legislative weapon which they were very ready to use. Having used that weapon, they find themselves in a more awkward dilemma than they were in before they used it. The people will very easily see through trickery of that sort. It is not difficult to see that these little moves are made for party purposes.
– It is always easy to impute trickery, and the imputation is. becoming very common.
– It is easy to see through that which is so thinly disguised on the present occasion. I object at this stage to any lengthy adjournment. If such an adjournment is proposed the convenience of honorable senators on this side should be -consulted. Of what use will a fortnight’s adjournment be to honorable senators coming from Western Australia? They must remain here during the whole of the time.
– Would the honorable senator ha.ve supported an adjournment for a month?
– If an adjournment is forced upon the Senate because we have overtaken the business in another place, it should be one which would suit the convenience of every member of the Senate. I do not understand why any adjournment should, be proposed on the first day of the week on which we have met. There is business on the paper which we might finish during this week, and at the close of the week we should perhaps be in a better position to decide what the length of the adjournment ought to be..
– Let the honorable senator move an amendment extending the adjournment beyond a fortnight.
– I might adopt that course if I desired to take the conduct of business out of the hands of the Government. Evidently the honorable senator ‘believes that those who come from the more distant States should be given no consideration.
– Like myself.
– One could easily go to Queensland and back in a fortnight, but he could not go to and return from Western Australia in that time. If the Government had taken honorable senators into their confidence last week and let them know that it was probable that an adjournment would be asked for this week, they might have made preparations to return to their States. I ask honorable senators whether they consider it is fair to spring such a motion suddenly upon the Senate. We might during the rest of this week finish the consideration of the Electoral Bill, and we could adjourn when we had dealt with that .Bill.
– For what time?
– For sufficient time to enable honorable senators to . visit their States.
– What adjournment would be necessary for that purpose?
– An adjournment for three weeks might be sufficient. Senator Sir Robert Best. - I think I shall be able to satisfy the honorable senator that that would not be a wise suggestion to adopt.
– I hope that when the Senate re-assembles it will be able to proceed uninterruptedly with business until the close of the session. I am quite willing to consent to any reasonable adjournment, but I would point out that an adjournment for a fortnight will be of little benefit to honorable senators from distant States.
.- - The leader of the Senate has advanced two reasons for the proposed adjournment, both of which are weak. One reason why he asks us to consent to an adjournment until the 29th instant is that we have overtaken the business which has come from the other branch of the Legislature. I do not think that that argument will hold water. The business paper of the House of Representatives contains something like twenty-one measures.
– Five of them have passed the Senate.
– It is true that some of these measures have been trans mitted to the other Chamber from the Senate. But there are other measures upon the business-paper of the House of Representatives which might very well have been originated in this chamber. Honorable senators . are elected upon the same franchise as are members of the other branch of the Legislature. Why was not the High Commissioner Bill originated in this chamber?
– It could not be, owing to a constitutional disability.
– I am prepared to give the Government the benefit of that measure. I am not a constitutional lawyer, nor do I pose as one. But I recollect that only a few weeks ago the VicePresident of the Executive Council read what purported to be a synopsis of the Government policy, one of the items of which was an Inter-State Commission Bill. The object of creating an Inter- State Commission is, I understand, to enable the question of the new Protection to be dealt with. If the new Protection is a part of the policy of the Government why has not that measure been brought forward? The Vice-President of the Executive Council has told us that’ it is not yet ready. But I would remind him that the Government have .been in office for about ten weeks, so that they have had ample time in which to submit the Bill.
– The honorable member appears to think that it is as easy to draft a big Bill as it is to make a mud pie.
– I am not discussing mud pies. Perhaps Senator” Pulsford is an authority upon that subject. If we bestow only a cursory glance upon the business paper of the other Chamber we shall see that there are measures awaiting its consideration which might easily, have been originated here. In addition, we have not yet completed the consideration of the Electoral Bill. I need scarcely remind honorable senators- that, within a few months we shall be face to face with a general election. That measure is intended to improve our electoral machinery, and it is obvious that before we adjourn we ought to complete its consideration. Then there is the Navigation Bill awaiting attention at our hands. The question has been raised as to whether the Senate should adjourn for a fortnight or for three weeks, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council has intimated that he has submitted this proposal to convenience honorable senators. I should like to know the names of those honorable senators whose convenience has been consulted in this matter.
– Not mine.
– I was not consulted, and my convenience is just as important as is that of any other honorable senator. But irrespective of whether the proposal was one to adjourn for a fortnight or a month I would oppose it. The confession which has been made by the leader of the Senate is merely a confession of utter inability on the part of the Government to put forward a policy. I hope that a majority of honorable senators will be found voting against his proposal.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [10.21]. - I do not understand why the Senate should be asked to adjourn at this juncture, although I can quite understand why at the end of the week it should be asked to adjourn for a fortnight. Why progress should be reported at half -past 9 o’clock upon a Bill that is eminently necessary to enable arrangements to be completed in connexion with the approaching election I do not know.
– The Government of which the honorable member is a supporter propose the adjournment.
– I am not. making a party speech upon this question, so that the honorable senator need not interrupt me. The Chairman of Committees was asked to report progress at 9.30- p.m.
– It was ten minutes- to 10 o’clock when progress was reported.
– The honorable gentleman is becoming very pernickety in his old age. The Chairman was moved out of the chair in the middle of a discussion upon a clause, and just when I understood we were about to go to a division.
– Other honorable senators had intimated their desire, to continue the debate.
– In view of the condition of the business-paper I am in favour of the Senate adjourning for a fortnight at the end of the week. But I object to surprises of this kind being sprung upon us. I do not understand how the motion for a special adjournment was moved without notice.
– Is not the honorable senator in the “know?”
– No more than is the honorable senator himself. I do not know whether this motion can be put except with concurrence. I am prepared, on Friday next, to vote for a fortnight’s adjournment, but I am certainly not willing to do so to-night, when we have the Electoral Bill to consider, and when there is a prospect of completing its consideration before the close of the week. If we did that we should then have a reasonable excuse for adjourning. At present, however, we have no such excuse. I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council to amend his motion so as to make the proposed adjournment date from Friday next. It is absolutely unfair to drag the representatives of South Australia, New South Wales, and Tasmania to Melbourne to attend only one sitting of the Senate before adjourning.
– And to miss the Show.
– I do not know to what show the honorable senator refers.
– To the great Agricultural Show in Adelaide.
– I shall vote with the Government for an adjournment on Friday, but not to-night.
[10.25]. - I desire first to deal with the point raised by Senator Neild, and point out to him that a sitting to-morrow would not necessarily advance the completion of the Electoral Bill. If there was any special advantage to be gained in the direction which he indicated, I admit that there would be some force in his contention. My colleague has intimated that until an hour or two ago we were hopeful that on Wednesday or Thursday next we should be able to proceed with the Inter-State Commission Bill, in connexion with which I gave notice of a motion this afternoon. When we discovered from certain information which came to hand this evening that it was impossible to carry out our intention, we thought it fair to tell the Senate, the exact position, rather than risk the possibility of bringing honorable senators to Melbourne next week, perhaps not having work provided for them to attend to. Assuming that we adjourn until Wednesday, the 29th instant, I shall then obtain leave to move the first reading of the Inter-State Commission Bill, and its second reading will be fixed for the following day. We shall require to fill up the Wednesday, and the consideration of the Electoral Bill will be proceeded with and completed on that day. We might as well discuss that Bill then as this week. There is nothing to be achieved by discussing it to-morrow, and, as has been pointed out, causing honorable senators to miss their trains. I hope that Senator Neild will see that when we meet again we shall have an opportunity of disposing of the Bill.. Some honorable senators have complained that the Govern-, ment might have arranged their business in a better way. Let us see what has taken place. We introduced into this Chamber the Lighthouses Bill, the Post and Telegraph Bill, the Seamen’s Compensation Bill, the Patents Bill, and the Australian Industries Preservation Bill. A corresponding number of Bills, which could not have been originated here, were introduced into another place.
– Could not the Agricultural Bureau Bill have been introduced here ?
– That is one. Bil] which might have been originated here. But the High Commissioner Bill, the Constitution Alteration (Finance) Bill, the Constitution Alteration (State Debts) Bill, and the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill could not have been introduced here.
– Why could not the latter Bill - which is only a machinery Bill and does not vote money - have been originated here?
– It had to be originated by a message from the Governor-General. By reason of the terms of the Constitution these important Bills had to be introduced elsewhere. The Senate has been very busy. In addition to the Bills which were originated here, we have passed the Audit Bill, the Coinage Bill, the Old-age Pensions Bill, two Supply Bills, practically the Electoral Bill, and, of course, the Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill. We have also had a lengthy discussion on the Ministerial Statement and the Budget. As the result of applying ourselves industriously to our work, we have a splendid record with ‘regard to Bills which have been introduced here and passed. Another place, for reasons which need not now be entered upon, has not got through its work so rapidly as the Senate. Hence it is that there is not a certainty of sufficient work being available to occupy honorable senators during the coming week, and they cannot complain when we frankly admit the fact. As my honorable friends on the other side have stated, in the ordinary course we cannot expect to be engaged so fully and completely as the other Chamber. I submit that the Government have acted fairly and reasonably in suggesting this very limited adjournment.
– What about adjourning for a month?
– No. On Wednesday, the 29th instant, we hope first to finish” the Electoral Bill, secondly to receive the High Commissioner Bill, in spite of the prophecy of Senator Pearce, and thirdly to proceed with the Inter-State Commission Bill. There will be one or two other Bills also coming forward. It may be taken for granted that when we meet there will be plenty of work to keep us going.
– Does the Minister really think that the Senate will be able to finish the Electoral Bill in one day?
– There is a reasonable prospect of doing so.
– I think that the honorable gentleman will find that it will occupy the greater part of the week.
– I think not, but whether it is finished to-morrow or to-morrow fortnight does not matter.
– Why not complete the Bill this week?
– As it can be completed just as well on the 29th inst, when Ave meet, and as honorable senators will be convenienced by being enabled to catch their trains, there is nothing to be gained by sitting to-morrow.
– In this matter the convenience of senators from Western Australia does not count.
– I am sorry for my honorable friend.
– What is the use of the honorable senator saying that if he does not try to meet our convenience?
– I am sure that when my honorable friend understands that this arrangement will suit the convenience of a considerable number of honorable senators, he will not show a dog-in-the-manger spirit. Nothing will be lost by adjourning to-night instead of to-morrow night or on Friday afternoon, as suggested by. Senator Neild. When we re-assemble, we shall have a very full programme to deal with. It is owing to the fact that we have industriously applied ourselves to the performance of our duties, and despatched some very valuable measures to another place, that we are able to suggest this adjournment. I submit that, in the circumstances, the Government are acting with complete frankness, and consulting the convenience of honorable senators.
– I cannot congratulate the Vice-President of the Executive Council on having consulted the convenience of honorable senators in submitting this motion. My opinion is that he did not care two straws about their convenience. What is my position ? If I had been afforded an opportunity to go to my home during this adjournment, I should have caught the train which left Spencer-street Station this evening at 5 o’clock ; because I must leave here on a Wednesday. Although not even a hint would the Minister give me that I Could go away, or that this adjournment was contemplated, yet, forsooth, he rose just now and said that in moving this motion he was studying the convenience of honorable senators.
– Some honorable senators.
– I grant that ; but every honorable senator has a right to have his convenience consulted. What is it to me whether Senator Millen consults the convenience of Senator St. Ledger or not ? That does not further my convenience one iota. If Senator Millen had had the remotest idea of considering our convenience, he would have given those who, like myself, live far away and can only get to their homes with great difficulty some idea beforehand that an adjournment was contemplated. In order to reach my home in North Queensland, I can only leave Melbourne on one day a. week, and that happens to be a Wednesday. The opportunity to leave to-day has gone by, and if I want to go home, I have to sit down and cool my heels until next Wednesday. Yet, forsooth, the Minister said that he was consulting our convenience.
– It is always a pleasure to see the honorable senator in the club-room.
– My honorable friend enjoys quite a sufficiency of that pleasure, I. should imagine. In fact, I have an idea that he would feel a sort of benign satisfaction if he could see me very much less frequently. Senator Best pointed out just now what a splendid record of work performed the Senate had. At various times during the session, he has had the effron tery to charge honorable senators on this side with obstruction and blocking business, and just now he coolly rose and talked about our splendid record. How is he going to reconcile his two statements? I think that if the records are turned up, it will be found that during the last five years I have been almost the only senator to object to these adjournments ; and I feel somewhat elated to-night to find that 1 * have made a number of converts. Even Senator Neild has come round to my view, and thinks that we ought not to have these promiscuous adjournments thrust upon us by the Government at their sweet will.
– What about the three months which the honorable senator spent up north - during last session, I think ?
– I think that if the honorable senator will turn up the records, he will find that very few senators ‘ have given closer attendance here than I have. Unlike the honorable senator, I have never occupied a salaried position. I have never been paid an extra salary for my attendance.
– The honorable senator means that he was paid for his absence.
– The only occasion when I have been absent for a considerable period I stayed away to meet the wishes of other honorable senators. I was then recovering from an attack of scarlet fever, and some members of the Senate were anxious that I should not come “ between the wind and their nobility.” There is no necessity for the adjournment now asked for. Government supporters are fond of accusing the Opposition of wasting time, but I point out that the whole of the time that has been spent upon the postal vote clauses in the Electoral Bill has been wasted to-day. Honorable senators were prepared to come to a division, but the Vice-President of the Executive Council sprung this motion upon us, and the probability is that when we take up the Bill again, the discussion -will start afresh. With regard to the High Commissioner Bill, I agree with Senator Pearce that the.Government are sparring for time. It is-, a well-known fact that there is a promi.nent member of the Government who has. for some years been an aspirant for the post of High Commissioner. I have no. wish to conceal the name of the Ministerto whom I allude.
– It is not in orderto discuss that matter on the motion fox a special adjournment.
– My point is that within a day or two the Senate would have received the High Commissioner Bill, and I think we should proceed with the measure as soon as we get it.
– The honorable senator was discussing the possibility of a certain person receiving the appointment of High Commissioner. That would not be in order.
– The reason why I believe the Government do not desire to proceed with the High Commissioner Bill is because, when it is passed, they will be faced with the responsibility of making an appointment, one of their own number being an aspirant for the position.
– I have already pointed out that it is not in order to allude to any person being an aspirant for a post under the High Commissioner Bill.
– At this late hour, I do not propose to enter into a dispute as to your ruling, though under other circumstances I might be inclined to do so.
– The honorable senator will accept my decision or dispute it formally.
– I am willing to accept it. At any rate, the fact that the Bill is almost ready for transmission to the Senate furnishes a good reason why we should deal with it without delay. I believe that the reason why the Government are not anxious for an early passage of the measure is that in that, event they would be faced with the obligation of making an appointment which might create differences, and even dissension, in their own ranks. They wish to make the appointment when they will be free from adverse parliamentary criticism. In another place, the Government have a notice-paper that is loaded with measures. Why is business delayed there? Simply because the Government, after devoting a day or two to the discussion of a Bill, allow it to be placed on one side, and proceed with something “else. The way to get business done is to finish one job at a time, and not dance about from one question to another. The Government themselves are responsible for the deplorable lack of method in dealing with business. If Ministers saw a reason for this extraordinary adjournment a few days ago, as evidently they did, they should at least have informed senators from distant States, in order that they might make arrangements to go home. If that courtesy had been extended, many of us could have made arrangements to leave? by the express to-night. As it is, an adjournment will be useless to us. As there has been a total absence of courtesy and consideration, I shall follow the course I have pursued on similar occasions in the past, and vote against the extraordinary adjournment.
– The motion for a special adjournment of the Senate came as a great surprise to me. When the Labour Government was in power, and fixed 26th May as the date for the re-assembling of Parliament, the then Opposition became almost frantic in urging that Parliament should be called together a month earlier. They urged that there was so much business of national importance to do, that all possible time should be. utilized. When the present Government took office, and’ members of the existing Opposition addressed themselves somewhat lengthily to important questions before the Chair, they were accused of “stone- walling.” Yet we now have the admission from the Minister of Trade and Customs that business has been proceeded with so rapidly that the Senate has exhausted the notice-paper. So expeditiously have we done our work that the Minister tells us that we have put up a splendid record.
– I was alluding to the Senate only.
– The honorable senator should bite some of his colleagues in another place.
- Senator St. Ledger should go and bite some of those tabby-cats with whom he associates at afternoon tea-parties. The adjournment has been asked for, not so much in the interests of the country as because certain Ministerial supporters desire to be convenienced while they devote attention to their private affairs. No senator on this side has, so far as I know, been asked, for an opinion as to whether an adjournment for a fortnight would be convenient. Senator Best said that he anticipated that the Electoral Bill would be disposed of in one day. I am not so hopeful, because the measure contains many clauses upon which lengthy debate will take place. It is playing with business to ask for an adjournment at this stage. Doubtless, however, Ministers have counted heads, and know that they have a majority for the motion. Under the circumstances, I shall not occupy more time. I do say that this is an unnecessary waste of time by the Government, because there is still important business on the paper which we might consider, and which will occupy considerable time when the Senate re-assembles.
– Iam opposing the proposed adjournment, not because I believe the Senate can usefully occupy all the time at its disposal, but because I believe that we might with great advantage devote some attention to the further consideration of the Navigation Bill. Honorable senators may think that it is of little use to tackle that measure at this stage of the session, but it might be advanced a little further.
SenatorSir Robert Best. - What good would that be, when it could not be passed In- another place this session?
– It would at least put the measure in a more forward position, arid it is probable that it would become law at an earlier date than would otherwise be the case.
– We could not revive it in the new Parliament, though we could in a new session of the same Parliament.
– I must recognise that there is but a slender chance that the measure would be passed in another place this session. But an attempt might be made to pass it. Those who are engaged in the shipping industry have for years looked with longing eyes to this Parliament to put them on a fair footing, and so far they have looked in vain. I admit that unless, to use the phrase used by honorable senators opposite, we propose to indulge in a wicked waste of time, we could not usefully occupy the whole of the time at our disposal. Owing to the fact that the House of Representatives has more than double the membership of the Senate, occasional adjournments of the Senate are necessary. I intend to vote -against the motion on the ground that some attempt should have been made to advance the consideration of the Navigation Bill.
– I should like to say, in reply to some statements which have been made by honorable senators opposite, that so far from the Government considering their supporters in this matter, I have been brought over here, a distance of 400 miles, for one sitting, when I might very well have been allowed to remain with my family. We must accept the inevitable, and an adjournment of the Senate just now is inevitable. I rose chiefly to express the hope that when the Senate meets again the Government will make every effort to provide us with plenty of work. I hope that instead of giving us work which will occupy three days a week, they will make it necessary for the Senate to meet four or even five days in each week. There is a vast amount of really important work still to be dealt with this session which will be one of the most momentous in the history of the Federal Parliament. I hope the Government will understand that they will be expected to provide sufficient work when we resume our sittings to keep the Senate fully occupied until the end of the session.
Question - That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Wednesday, 29th September - put. The Senate divided.
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11. 5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19090915_senate_3_51/>.