3rd Parliament · 4th Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs the following questions which I addressed to him some time ago -
– If I remember rightly, I undertook that the Prime Minister and myself would take an opportunity of discussing this matter with Sir Joseph Ward when he was passing through Melbourne on his return from the Old Country. I observe that he returned directly, instead of through Australia. I shall confer with the Prime Minister with a view to opening up negotiations.
– I desire to make a personal explanation regarding an interjection which Senator Vardon made when I was speaking on the High Commissioner Bill. PerhapsI had better read first what was said -
– I have no desire to depart from the Bill. In my opinion, I have not departed for a moment from my argument, and that is that the Parliament should take it out of the power of a Government to act as that Government did.
– Whom did Mr. Price appoint as Agent-General?
– It is most difficult, sir, for me, who am unaccustomed to interruptions, to proceed.
– It is said that the honorable senator dare not answer that question.
– Order. I ask honorable senators not to make interjections, which are calculated to take the speaker off the track.
– I ask Senator Vardon to state the question plainly.
– Whom did Mr. Price appoint as Agent-General? Was it his own Chief Secretary ?
– Mr. Price appointed his colleague, Mr. Thomas Kirkpatrick, while the House was in session.
I find that I made a mistake. On the spur of the moment, I overlooked the fact that Parliament was not in session. Mr. Price, the late Premier, was on his deathbed, and near the end of his earthly journey. If he is to be blamed for appointing a colleague, I do not think that he had very much to do with the appointment. Besides, the Government included two Labour men, and three opposed to Labour, namely, Mr. Peake, Mr. J. G. Bice, and another. Surely the latter ought to take some responsibility if a, mistake was made. They belong to the Fusion of the present day.
– May I say a word in explanation of the interjection which I made last night? I regret in a way that I brought in the name ofMr. Price.
– Is the honorable senator in order in making a personal explanation regarding an interjection?
– Senator Vardon is in order in making a personal explanation if he desires to point out that there was an error with regard to his interjection, but, of course, he cannot debate the question.
– In making the interjection I did not wish, nor doI wish now, to cast any reflection upon Mr. Price whom I always held in the highest esteem.
I only want to say that he? did exactly what he had a right to do, and what others have done. There is no difference between the appointment he made and the appointments made by other persons similarly situated. I regret that an attack was made on my old colleague who was not here to defend himself - an attack which I lookupon as being somewhat mean and contemptible.
– What about the attack which the honorable senator made upon me?
– Is Senator Vardon in order, sir, in referring to a remark casting a reflection on a senator’s late colleague as “mean and contemptible”?
– I do not think that Senator Vardon is in order in reflecting upon any statement made by another senator as being “mean and contemptible,” and I therefore ask him to withdraw the expression.
– If it is out of order, sir, I withdraw it.
[2.37]- - I beg to move -
That the Report of the Agreement, Resolutions, Proceedings, and Debates of the InterState Conference, held at Melbourne, August, 1900; the Report of the Conference between the Commonwealth and State Ministers, held at Hobart, March, 1909; and the Summary of English and American legislation, prepared by the Hon. Sir R. W. Best, Minister for Trade and Customs, in connexion with the Inter-State Commission Bill, laid on the table of the Senate yesterday, be printed.
When I used the reports of the proceedings of the Premiers’ Conference yesterday, I understood that they had been presented to both Houses of this Parliament, but, on making further inquiry, I ascertained that they were papers of the State Parliament. For the convenience of honorable senators I laid them upon the table, together with some information on the subject of British and American legislation which will be useful in the consideration of the InterState Commission Bill. As there was no meeting of the Printing Committee to-day, I submit this motion. As a matter of fact the papers are in print, and I want them to be put in circulation at once.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay on the table of the Senate a copy of Dr. Vaughan’s report on the case of Mr. J. R. Craig (Papua)?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The document is available for the honorable senator’s inspection, but it is not considered advisable to make it public.
– I have inspected it a dozen times. I know what it is.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Has the attention of the Government been drawn to the statements published in the 49th Annual Report of the Government Statistician of Queensland, as follows : - “During the year the Commonwealth Statistician departed from the agreement arrived at by the Conference of Statisticians, which was held at Melbourne, in 1906, at which he himself presided, and announced his intention of making his own adjustments in connexion with population estimates, nor will he disclose what these adjustments are, nor permit the Customs authorities to furnish migra tion figures to State Statisticians.”
If so, in view of the fact that Federal Parliamentary representation depends upon the population of a State, and also that it is proposed in future to make payments to the States on a basis of population-
Can the Government say whether the methods of the Commonwealth Statistician are to remain secret?
Is it intended that the States shall have no means by which they can check the computations of population by the Commonwealth Statistician?
Has the Commonwealth Statistician been authorized to prevent Customs officials supplying migration statistics to the States?
If so, why?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– Arising out of the reply, I wish to ask the Minister whether, in view of the heavy loss which! the revenue is sustaining by the delivery, free of such quantities of dutiable commodities to those engaged in the tobacco industry, he will put the whole matter before the Attorney-General for his opinion as to the legality or otherwise of the proceeding ?
– I think the honorable senator is quite mistaken. He should rather have said, “ in view of the very substantial gain to the revenue in assessing the weight of these ingredients used in the manufacture of tobacco.” It is, so far as I can gather, inadvisable that’ any alteration in the direction sought by the honorable senator, should be made.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
In view of the fact that Captain and Honorary Major Carroll was appointed Major in South Africa on 12th October, 1901, subject to the approval of the Queensland Government, and that such approval was gazetted on 29th November, 1901, and further that the Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth has given the opinion that Captain Carroll is not legally entitled to the promotion until the Commonwealth Government approves of the same, does the Minister for Defence propose to grant the application of Captain Carroll that the Commonwealth Government should recognise and approve the promotion ; if not, why not?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
It is not proposed to recommend Captain and Honorary Major Carroll for promotion to tho substantive rank of Major to date from 12th October, 1901.
On the 8th July, 1901, the Cabinet decided that all officers who were promoted in South Africa should, on return to Australia, retain such higher rank as brevet rank in the Military Forces of the Commonwealth.
On the 30th April, 1902, the Cabinet amended their decision of the 8th July, 1901, by substituting the word “ honorary “ for “ brevet.” ‘
It is not intended to recommend any alteration to this decision.
– I direct the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to ‘the fact that I asked why the appointment was npt made. Am I to understand that the answer given is to be regarded as the reason why the appointment was not made?
– The answer is that it is not intended to alter the decision, .the reason being that those responsible for it intend to adhere to it because they see no reason for any alteration.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the acceptance of the Territory surrendered by the State of New South . Wales for the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth.
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Givens) agreed to-
That there be laid on the table of the Senate a list of the fines imposed on employes in the Post and Telegraph Department in the State of Queensland during the year ended 30th June, 1909, together with a statement of the offences for which such fines were inflicted.
Debate resumed from 6th October (vide page 4159) on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– Honorable senators who have so far addressed themselves to the second reading of this Bill have been unanimous in expressing the belief that the time is ripe for the appointment of a High Commissioner of the Commonwealth. Generally speaking, they have all approved of the Bill now before the Senate. I feel that by the appointment of a representative of the Commonwealth in London, holding a position equal in every respect to those held by the representatives of other parts of the Empire, the Federation of the Australian States will be consummated. When on a previous occasion a similar Bill was considered in the Senate, I could not see my way to vote for it without some information as to the gentleman who was to be appointed to this important position. I recognise now, more clearly than I did then, that the Government might be placed in a delicate position if the Senate insisted upon taking the conduct of public affairs out of their hands, by relieving them of the responsibility attaching to this appointment. In some countries appointments of such importance must receive the approval of Parliament. I recognise that the office of High Commissioner of the Commonwealth is an absolutely exceptional position to fill - one that is entirely outside the area covered by all other appointments. Realizing the great responsibilities with which that officer will be charged, and recognising that his appointment should not be influenced by party considerations, I would have preferred that his selection should have been left to this Parliament. But the Government, in declaring that they alone ought to accept the responsibility of choosing this distinguished official, are merely exercising what is their undoubted right. I do hope that their choice will fall upon a gentleman whose selection will receive the hearty indorsement of the Australian people. I trust that he will possess all the qualifications necessary to enable him to efficiently discharge the important duties which he will be called upon to perform. When I consider the nature of those duties, I am bound to confess that the salary which is specified in the Bill is an utterly inadequate one. I believe that we should choose the best man whose services are available to us.
– Who is he?
– I leave that to the Government to decide. The High Commissioner should be placed in a position to reflect the generosity and the hospitality of the Australian people amongst the other representatives of European countries. He should be a gentleman who is able in every respect to hold his own, so that Australian aspirations may be fully voiced in the councils of the Empire.
– He should give champagne suppers?
– It is not a question of giving champagne suppers. It is a question of representing our people as they would like to be represented. We are a young and wealthy nation - the wealthiest per head of population in the world. We have before us potential possibilities which, if exploited by the High Commissioner in London, would materially aid our national development. When we consider the salaries and emoluments paid to the representatives in London of large mercantile firms in Canada and elsewhere, I contend that £3,000 per annum is too small an amount to pay to our High Commissioner.
– He is to receive £5,000 with allowances.
– The sum of .£3,000 is specified as his salary in the Bill, and I contend that it is an altogether inadequate one if he is to reflect Australian ideals. We must recollect that a new country like Australia occupies a very different position from that which is occupied. by Canada and other countries. Canada is within 3,000 miles of England, and almost every home in the United Kingdom possesses a knowledge of the conditions which obtain there. But Australia is 13,000 miles distant from the United Kingdom, and it will be the duty of the High Commissioner to educate the people of the Mother Country and of the Empire generally as to the conditions which prevail in Australia. If he is to make the resources of this country as well known as are those of Canada, if he is to advertise Australia to the people of the Empire, he will be compelled to incur a heavy expenditure. I take it that the fact that we are practically a new nation makes it important that our High Commissioner shall have at his disposal every means by which he will be able to promote Australian development.
– All that will be done for him by the Commonwealth, and not at his own expense.
– That seems to me to be a narrow view. The High Commissioner will have to keep in touch with financial affairs. He will from time to time be asked to advise the States and the Commonwealth on such matters. Commercial conditions in London are very different now from what they were a few years ago. There are few individuals who are acquainted with commerce in England who are not aware that hospitality and a generous expenditure of money lead to beneficial results. I venture to say that there are in London representatives of large commercial houses who spend far more in hospitality than the amount which it is proposed to place in the hands of the representative of the Commonwealth. Senator Symon expressed the opinion that £3,000 per annum will be sufficient, and fie mentioned the fact that in years gone by the United States Ambassador, Mr Whitelaw Reid, did not receive a larger salary. But conditions are very different to-day from what they were then. The present American Ambassador is a man of consider able wealth. The Canadian High Com.missioner is also a rich man. In this democratic country we ought to make no discrimination between a wealthy and a poor man in considering who should be appointed to such an office.
– The matter is all cut and dried.
– The honorable senator may know a great deal more than I do. I certainly do not know who is to be appointed.
– It is easy to guess.
– Only this morning I heard three gentlemen mentioned as certainties. Personally I am not acquainted with the name of a single individual who has a better chance of appointment than any other.
– The three all belong to one type.
– The question which weighs with me is not the type of man, but whether the person to be appointed is best fitted by his abilities and his knowledge of the conditions and the people of Australia to fill the position.
– The qualifications of the best man will never come into consideration. No one knows that better than the honorable senator.
– I do not know. I have my own idea as to who would be a suitable person. 1
– Does the man of whom the honorable senator is thinking possess a good knowledge of Australia?
– Surely the honorable senator does not desire me to mention the name of an individual.
– It will not be in order to discuss the qualifications of individuals.
– We, as representatives of the people of Australia, have to see to it that a gentleman suitable in every way for the position shall be appointed, and we have to prescribe the duties which he shall perform. I willingly admit that a High Commissioner without a knowledge of Australia, or even one with a limited knowledge of it, would not fulfil our expectations. We want a man who will represent the ideals of Australia, in the highest sense, with ability, sagacity, and tact. He should be one in whose person honour will be done to Australia. He should represent Australia in matters of commerce and finance, in regard to defence, and in relation to all affairs affecting our welfare. I scarcely think that people yet realize the importance which is attached, from the commercial point of view, to the selection of the best man. The development of Australia will depend far more than is generally thought on the wise counsels which our representative will be able tobring to bear, especially in regard to finance. If he can inspire confidence in financial experts and commercial men, his appointment will bring forth fruit the value of which, I think, the people of Australia scarcely grasp at present. He will be brought into touch with many factors. He will be the means by which large amounts of capital will be diverted to Australia. Then there is the question of defence. We all recognise the great changes which have taken place during the last few years, and appreciate the great possibilities, I may say the probabilities, of the future. Surely it must be a great advantage to the Commonwealth to be represented in London by a gentleman who will be in touch with the authorities in Downing-street, and the military experts in England. He will be able to furnish our Government with information in regard to matters of the highest importance, which may be known to many persons in that country, but which, perhaps, is not known to the general public, and which it may be very important that we should have communicated to us as soon as possible.
– Cannot the Defence Department get that information ?
– In a sense that is perfectly true, but it is well known that such information is not common property. It may be brought under public notice through agencies which have means of obtaining an early knowledge of such matters, and the gain of a few hours may be of great importance to Australia. I mention these considerations, in order to point out how important it is that the best possible man should be selected for this position. I expect the Government to accept the full responsibility of making a selection. I contend that it would be far more profitable to Australia, even at additional expense, to appoint the best man available than to appoint one who, although he might be suitable in every way, would not be equal in many respects to our ideal of a High Comrnissioner.
– The honorable senator’s ideal man?
– I am speaking of the ideal which will be in the mind of the general public.
– Are we to have a High Commissioner to work for the benefit of Australia, or to entertain?
– In all essentials he will represent the people of Australia. Therefore he will have to entertain and keep in touch with the representatives of other countries. We cannot afford to be ungenerous. The hospitable and generous character of Australians is well known. It would be an ill-day for Australia if we sent Home a man who misrepresented us in that regard. Senator Stewart doubted whether the States would withdraw their Agents-General if a suitable man were appointed to the office of High Commissioner. My opinion is that, at present, the States will not consider such a proposition. The time is not yet ripe for making that change. The factors which make the States separate units in Australiaare practically unchanged.
– That is the strongest argument against appointing one man to represent the whole of Australia.
– The representative of Australia in London will practically hold the same position in relation to the AgentsGeneral as the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth holds in Australia in relation to the Premiers of the States. I have not yet heard that the position of the Prime Minister of Australia has been weakened in any respect by the fact that each State has its own Premier. The States are not prepared, I think, to withdraw their representatives in London and agree to the appointment of one representative for all Australia. I approve of. the Bill except in regard to the amount of the salary. We have imposed upon usduties in regard to the proper development of this young nation. From the lowest as well as the highest commercial aspect the best man who can be chosen for this position will be the cheapest to Australia in the long run. The means by which its development will take place will depend in a measure upon the knowledge which is obtained by our representative in commercial and diplomatic circles. It should always be remembered that our prosperity depends upon the degree of prosperity prevailing in other nations.
– What nonsense.
– Our prosperity depends far more than many persons suppose upon the fact that European nations are prepared, certainly to their own advantage, to give for our products prices which pay us well. It will be the duty of our representative to place before the people of Australia the latest information in regard to new markets, new routes, and all the factors which pertain to the general welfare of a civilized country, so that we may take advantage of every opening for commerce, and thus increase the prosperity of this great country.
– One remarkable feature about this debate has been the large number of beautiful platitudes which have been indulged in by honorable senators. I do not remember a debate in which we have heard : so many platitudes, such as “ the best man is to be selected.” If I thought that this Bill was brought forward in the interests of the Commonwealth and its prosperity, it would have my support, but recent happenings do not encourage me to take that view. I feel quite satisfied that the claims of the best men for this position will not be considered for a moment. It will be filled purely from a party stand-point, and not to suit Commonwealth requirements. The selection of the High Commissioner will be settled, I am afraid, on much the same basis as an appointment in another place was settled - in a caucus. I do not know whether all the members of the party will be allowed a say in the making of a selection.
– How would the Fisher Government have made the appointment?
– I should have had a great deal more confidence in that Government making a proper appointment than I can possibly have in the crowd who are now in office. They would have made the appointment openly, and would have had some regard for the will of the people. They would not have made such an appointment as was recently made in another place.I can see no necessity for the introduction of this measure at this time. I attribute its introduction to party reasons. Some arrangement may have been arrived at at the recent Premiers’ Conference, of which we know very little. There may have been some understanding arrived at by the parties to the Fusion when that strange combination was agreed upon. Some politicians, who have been prominent in the past, were left out in the cold, and it is possible that they were induced to be content to remain in the shade for a time by the hope that, later, they would occupy a more sunny position. I could understand the measure being submitted at the close of a session if new developments in London necessitated the early appointment of a High Commissioner, but those who have submitted the Bill have not urged that the man who at present occupies the position of representative of the Commonwealth in London is unable to cope with the duties and responsibilities of the office.
– Why did the Fisher Government propose to bring in a High Commissioner Bill ?
– No reasons have been advanced for displacing the gentlemanwho now represents us in London. On the contrary, every month he gives further evidence that he is better fitted for the position than he was believed to be at first. All these considerations suggest that this matter has been cut and dried, and that the Bill has been introduced for party purposes, and in order that a gentleman who is satisfactorily performing the duties at the present time in London may be displaced by some other person whose name is not mentioned, and who cannot be guaranteed, despite the salary proposed for the office under this Bill, to represent the Commonwealth more efficiently.
– Why did Mr. Fisher propose to make this appointment?
-For years we have been talking about the appointment of a General-Agent, rather than an AgentGeneral, and many platitudes have been uttered as to the kind of man who should be appointed to represent us in London. We have been told that there should be no frill, and gilt, and glamour about the position, and that what we require in London is a plain business man, capable of looking after the business concerns of . Australia. These sentiments have been repeated time after time for years. We have, at the present time, a General-Agent in London, but now we are being asked to displace him by a man of the type described by Senator Gray; a man who will fill the public eye in a social sense, and who, to use a colloquialism, will “ shout “ for all hands and make a splash with public money. It is suggested that such a man will be able to square the business people in London, and will add to the prosperity of Australia by getting into touch with the business men in various European countries. Onegood shower of rain, or the construction of one good dam in Australia, would do more to add to its prosperity than would the performance of any such duties as those to which Senator Gray has referred.
– Is that why Mr. Fisher proposed to create the office?
- Mr. Fisher proposed to create the office, and I am satisfied that the man he would have appointed
– Who was he?
– It is not necessary for me to give away Cabinet secrets. I think he would have been a man of the type of the present representative of the Commonwealth in London. We should not, in my opinion, select any man in Australia for the position. We have suitable men in London at the present time. We have one man there who is better fitted for this position than any of the persons whose names have been mentioned in connexion with it.
– Does the honorable senator mean amongst the present officials in London?
– Did the Fisher Government propose to pay£3,000 a year to one of the Australian officials at present in London ?
– If I am pressed to name a suitable man for the position, I do not hesitate to name the man who I think, and the people outside think, is best fitted for this position. I refer to Mr. Coghlan. His knowledge of Australia and Australian affairs renders him better fitted for the appointment than would be any man who could be named amongst the members of political parties in Australia. He has proved that he understands the financial affairs of Australia; he has been in London for some time, and has acquired the local knowledge which any one filling the position should possess.
– I ask the honorable senator not to dwell upon the qualifications of individuals. The adoption of such a course might give rise to discussion of thedemerits, as well as of the merits, of individuals.
– I was pressed to mention the name of the person I thought fitted for the position.
– The honorable senator had some excuse for his reference, but he should not permit himself to be drawn off the track.
– If I have been out of order, you, sir, must blame the VicePresident of the Executive Council for it. We want in London a person who has had no past associated with politics in Australia. The party bias of a man who has been active in the political life of Australia would prevent him from fairly representing the Commonwealth in London. Certain names have been suggested in connexion with this appointment, and I should like to say that we do not desire to have as our representative in London a taxer of the people, one, for intance, who would write to. a Premiers’ Conference and urge the representatives of the States to seize their opportunity to tax the masses of the people. We do not want a man who is opposed to direct taxation. We want one who is free from all the influences of party politics. This cannot be said of any of the politicians whose names have been suggested as persons who are in the running for this appointment. These persons would do us more harm than good in London. We have been told that one of the principal functions of our representative will be to combat in the Old Country misrepresentations of Australia. There may, however, be a difference of opinion as to what is a misrepresentation. One honorable senator referred to Mr. A. J. Wilson, the editor of a financial paper in London, as having misrepresented the true position of Australia. Whilst all that that gentleman has said concerning Australia cannot be accepted, he has given utterance to many truths concerning this country. I propose to refer to some of his statements in order to show that there may be a difference of opinion as to what is a misrepresentation. Mr. Wilson has said things of Australia which it would be well for us to bear in mind in order that we may avoid in the future blunders which we have committed in the past. Financial questions will be amongst the most important with which the High Commissioner of the Commonwealth will have to deal. Mr. Wilson is supposed to be an authority on finance, and while I should be prepared to indorse many of the statements he makes, honorable senators opposite would dispute them. The man who would suit them would not please me, and the man who would, in my opinion, best represent the people of Australia in London would be considered by some honorable senators as quite unfitted for the position. We ought to consider whe- ther we are likely to improve our present position by making such an appointment at this stage. We have in London at the present time an official who keeps himself free from all party influences, and he is the best man we could possibly have there, because he does not take sides. If we send a party politician to London to represent us, a man who has been responsible for the borrowing of huge sums of money in the past, who has preferred to tax the masses of the people rather than those who could best bear taxation, the whole of his time will be taken up in justifying his past. Mr. Coghlan has no such past to justify, and he is better fitted to represent Australia in London than any person who is likely to be appointed under this Bill. I said I proposed to quote some criticisms by Mr. Wilson which it would be well for us to consider at this juncture. Here is one statement which he made and to which, I think, the people of the Old Country will attach some weight. I quote from page 129 of a book entitled An Empire in Pawn. We are very much in pawn, and we require in London a man who will get us out of pawn. We do not want there one who is accustomed to talk in millions like some of the persons who have been mentioned in connexion with this new billet. I make this quotation from Mr. Wilson’s book -
What the Colonies want is population, but there is no inducement for population to go to them. A farmer crushed out in this country who has a hundred pounds or two left from the wreck of his capital has no temptation to go to Australia and settle there. Colonial land has in recent years been sometimes dearer than land at Home. The emigrant cannot get a homestead to make all his own by cultivation in any part of the country where land is worth having. All has been grabbed and jobbed and mortgaged.
Could any of the gentlemen whose names we have heard recently in connexion with this position explain this statement satisfactorily ?
– Is all our land “ grabbed and jobbed and mortgaged” ?
– Most of it is.
– Only d per cent, of it has been alienated.
– The eyes have been picked out of the country. The remarks which I have quoted are those of an independent critic.
– He does not know what he is writing about when he speaks in that way of Australia.
– In speaking of the Old Country, he says -
We have plenty of people to spare - people with willing hands, people capable of turning the desert into a garden, if they only have the chance ; but they have now no chance. They will continue to have none so long as the available land is in the control of bankrupt corporations, withered up banks, or other mortgagees, who sit upon the soil and hug their bonds in order to find opportunity at some time or other to obtain the return of money recklessly adventured, from motives often dishonest, always grasping. This sort of thing has to be put an end to, and speedily, if hope is to be revived and the Colonies put in good heart for their long wrestle.
We have a long wrestle before us, and the present Government will have to wrestle seriously with the enormous public indebtedness of the States.
– I do not knowhow the honorable senator intends to connect his remarks with the question which is before the Senate.
– All the matters with which I am dealing come within the scope of the duties of the High Commissioner.
– The High Commissioner will have nothing to do with the legislation of the country
– The critic whom I have quoted has given us the benefit of some healthy advice, which we should do well to take to heart. The High Commissioner for the Commonwealth should be a man who is able to help Australia out of her present predicament. If a man be selected who will take Australia out of pawn, instead of putting it further into pawn, the Government will be conserving the best interests of the Commonwealth. We do not want a politician whose policy has always been, “ Borrow, borrow.” Unfortunately, Australia has borrowed, and not always in the wisest way. She has almost borrowed up to the limit of her capacity. We do not desire a politician of the borrowing school to represent us in London. Rather do we need a man who believes in freeing us of our enormous indebtedness. It would be a very grave blunder, indeed, to send a gentleman to London whose time would be principally occupied in attempting to justify his political past.
– Then the honorable senator thinks that all our borrowing has been bad?
– Much of our borrowing has been for very foolish purposes. In New South Wales there are so many instances of this - instances which are well known to Senator Gray - that it is unnecessary for me to dwell upon them. I repeat that we do not require a High Commissioner who has a political past to live down. We need the services of a man, who, whilst he has held himself aloof from party strife, possesses a thorough knowledge of the requirements of the Commonwealth. We are more likely to get such a man in the person of a public servant of the Commonwealth or of the States, than in the person of a politician.
– What about his title ?
– If he renders useful service to the community, he will have earned the best title that he can get. In short, we really require a General Agent, rather than a High Commissioner. Our present representative in London has discharged his duties most satisfactorily. Why should we depose him for the purpose of substituting a successor who may not be able to discharge the functions of the office any better than they are now being discharged? I am opposed to the Bill because I have no faith in the selection which the Government will make. To allow them, in the expiring days of the session; to make such an important appointment, influenced, as they will be, purely by party considerations, would be little short of a national calamity.
– So far this Bill has been received with peans of praise - practically with a continuous song of triumph. Senator de Largie appears to be the only honorable senator who has announced his opposition to it.
– Senator Dobson and myself have opposed it.
– During the course of this debate nothing but joy has been evidenced at the prospect of the Commonwealth soon having a High Commissioner in London. I think that the time has long since passed when such an appointment might have been made. We are now in the ninth year of our Federal history, and our position would have been very much better than it is had a High Commissioner been appointed earlier. I have not the slightest objection to the creation of this office, but I have a decided objection to the manner in which the High Commissioner will be selected. In speaking this afternoon Senator Gray said that Australia was a Democratic country, and that, therefore, it required a Democratic High Commissioner. Thereupon I inquired whether he would be in favour of a Democratic selection, but he did not reply to my question. He evaded it. While I intend to support the motion for the second reading of the Bill, in Committee I hope to be afforded an opportunity of submitting one or two amendments which will provide for a better method of selection than that which it is proposed to follow. The next question that I have to consider is whether the salary specified in the Bill is an adequate one. I understand that it is the intention of some honorable senators to move amendments with a view to increasing the salary and allowances attaching to the position. The reason which they advance for their contemplated action is that we ought to make the position available to the poorest, and at the same time the ablest, man in the Commonwealth. If I thought that that was the real object of the proposal I would cordially support it. But I will undertake to say that no matter how able a man may be, if he be poor, if he be not in a position to secure strong political support, even if the salary be£10,000 or£20,000 per annum, the position will not be open to him. Consequently I hold that there is no reason why the salary and -allowances specified in the Bill should be increased. The duties which the High Commissioner will have to perform will, I dare say, be multitudinous and arduous, and I honestly believe in the old saying that “ the labourer is worthy of his hire.” I believe in paying every man and woman in the Commonwealth an adequate remuneration for the services which they render. Having given fair consideration to the prospective duties of the Australasian Ambassador at the heart of the Empire, I am of opinion that the salary and allowances specified in this Bill are adequate; nay, I believe they are munificent. It has been suggested that the salary should be increased, because our representative in London will have certain social duties to discharge. That consideration ought not to come within the purview of this Parliament. We do not propose to send Home a representative of Australia to enjoy himself at gubernatorial functions, and probably to enable his relatives to make a quick draw upon his life assurance policy as the result of his having attended banquets for a year or so. We intend to send him there to place the position of Australia before the nations of the world and to make our resources known to them. If he chooses to enjoy himself of an evening at any social function, that will be his business and not ours. What we have to insure is that he will be diligent, earnest and energetic. During this debate I have heard a good deal about the necessity for selecting an ideal man - one who is imbued with Imperial ideas and sentiments. But so far I have not heard any suggestion as to the necessity for his being imbued with the spirit of true Australian nationalism. To my mind that should be his principal qualification. Even if he be an able business man, a man of strict integrity, and one who is possessed of a fair knowledge of finance, his appointment will prove a failure, and the money which we vote him will be uselessly expended, if he be deficient in that respect. I care not whether our High Commissioner be imbued with Imperial sentiments or not. My first consideration is for this Island Continent; and I trust that the man who secures the appointment will be imbued with Australian national ideals. I am aware that we are forbidden to debate the names of persons who have been suggested, though I believe that the appointment is already “ squared..”
– Who is it?
– Order !
– At all events, I am not the man. I agree with the suggestion that if the Government do eventually secure the power to make the appointment, they should not forget that there are civil servants in London representing the States, one or two of whom at least are worthy of our confidence. First and foremost amongst them is the Agent-General for New South Wales. The next question which arises is - If we appoint a High Commissioner, will there be a possibility of reducing the expenditure of the States upon their Agents-General in London? Senator Gray said that he thought it was just as necessary for the States to have Agents-General, and for the Commonwealth to have a High Commissioner, as it is to” have the Premiers of the States as well as the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. With all deference to my honorable friend, I beg to say that the positions are not analogous. The Constitution of Australia provides that the States shall be sovereign within their own jurisdiction. That being so, they have a right to maintain their systems of Government as at present constituted. But when the people of Australia were induced to enter Federation it was pointed out to them that a great deal of their expenditure would be reduced ; and I believe that amongst the items of expenditure which it was suggested might be struck off were those on account of the State Governors, the Legislative Councils, and the Agents- General. So far, however, instead of the States decreasing their expenditure, they have been increasing it out of proportion to their expansion and - having been relieved of some Departments - the contention is now raised that, notwithstanding that the High Commissioner is to be appointed, the Agents- General should also remain. I think that there will be no necessity for them when we have an Ambassador representing the whole of Australia. I hope that the States will be willing to come to some arrangement with the Commonwealth for the High Commissioner to do their work, assisted, perhaps, by commercial agents. There is another very good reason why Ave should hasten the appointment of the High Commissioner. There is not the slightest doubt that Australia has been from time to time misrepresented, either politically or socially in London. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, and occasionally out of sheer ignorance misstatements have been published. We hope that the High Commissioner will keep a jealous eye on publications of that character, and be at once ready and able to refute slanderous statements. Senator St.” Ledger has laid emphasis on this phase of the question. Now that his book has been published and circulated throughout Great Britain, we may require a High Commissioner to watch such statements as are contained in literature of that class.
– For instance?
– I could mention several instances, but I’ observe that the President’s eye is upon me. Senator Gray’s concluding remark was that the prosperity of Australia depended upon the prosperity of other nations.
– In a great measure.
– The honorable senator did not qualify his remarks by a single- phrase.
– Common sense should do that.
– The remark was a very doubtful advertisement for Australia. The future prosperity of this country must depend upon the inhabitants of Australia themselves.
– Can they live without the assistance of other countries?
– They can. Australia has a future before it. It has illimitable resources. It has its own battle to fight. I believe, thinking nationally, that it is far better for a country - just as it is for an individual - to fight its own battles than to depend on others. The doctrine that the prosperity of Australia depends upon the prosperity of other nations is very easily exploded. I have only to intimate, in conclusion, that in Committee I shall endeavour to secure an amendment of the Bill whereby, if the name of the appointee is not actually placed in the measure, at least the appointment shall be subject to ratification by Parliament. Secondly, I hope to see an amendment made which will prevent the appointment of any member of this Parliament.
– I do not think that it would be wise to appoint a person from the present Parliament, although I am not saying that there are not gentlemen here who would be well able to fill the position. But I think it desirable to remove the appointment as far from the arena of party politics as possible. Therefore I would have no appointment made from this Parliament, or, for the matter of that, from the next one. The Government, by going further afield, can find in Australia, and in official positions in London, men imbued with’ the true Australian national sentiment, men of ability in finance and in other directions, who are well able to voice the aspirations of our people. Therefore, it is not necessary to confine the selection to the narrow groove of party politics.
– I have no intention of opposing the second reading of this Bill. Almost every Government since the commencement of our Federal career has- expressed its assent to the proposition that a High Commissioner should be appointed. Every Government has either prepared a Bill of talked about preparing one with that end in view. As nearly all of us are agreed that it is necessary to pass such a Bill, I suppose that we are also in agreement that the time has arrived when some one should be appointed to represent Australia in London. My only reason for making a few remarks is to allude to what has been represented by some honorable senators as being the miserably small salary that this Bill proposes to provide for our High Commissioner. The lamentation of
Senator Gray was only equalled by the mournful wails of several other honorable senators, some of whom are beginning to tremble and fear lest a poor fellow with only £3,000 a year to live on may have to seek refuge in some bastille in England in order to save himself from the freezing elements of a London winter. Personally, I have no such fear. I have an idea that there are many men in Australia who could, with an effort, learn to live on £3,000 a year. Indeed, I am positive that if some of us tried hard to live on that income we should make at least a brave and manly effort to succeed.
– Does the honorable senator think that he could do so?
– I really do not know, but I am prepared to undertake the ordeal. After an experience of it I would undertake to’ tell the Senate whether success had attended my efforts.
– Let us invite applications.
– I was just about to suggest a method by which we could overcome the difficulty. Some have suggested that the appointment’ should be ratified by Parliament. I have no objection to that; but a much easier method would be to invite applications for the position. In that event, I venture to say that lamentations about paying the miserable pittance of £3,000 a year would no longer be .heard.
– That would be cutting.
– Not a hit of it. This is a business proposition.
– It sounds very much like sweating.
– It does not; it is merely like accepting a man’s services at his own valuation of them. The great fear that some honorable senators have is that, somehow or other, the services of the High Commissioner will be undervalued at £3,000 per year’. It has never dawned, upon any one of the States to offer anything like £3,000 a year to its AgentGeneral.
– It would be absurd if any State did.
– Why ? An Agent-General lives in London, just as the High Commissioner will do.
– The position will be altogether different.
– An AgentGeneral represents the interests of his State.
– According to the honorable senator’s idea, the six Agents-General should be receiving, altogether, £18,000 a year.
– The AgentsGeneral have shown clearly that it is possible for an Australian representative to live in London on less than £3,000 a year. And the Premiers of several States have recognised that it was a very fair thing indeed to get away to London on a much lower salary than £3,000. I do not think that the services which will be rendered to the Commonwealth by the High Commissioner will be of much higher value than that which is placed upon them in the Bill. When Senator de Largie was speaking as to the desirability of Parliament being made acquainted with the name of the officer, before he was sent to London, Senator Millen interjected that the Government would not, at least, appoint a South African nigger-driver to the position.
– Why was he considering such a qualification?
– There may be in very close alliance, if not connected, with the Fusion Government, some persons who have been white nigger-drivers. Probably the Minister wants to get clear of a black nigger-driver ; but he has a slight suspicion that possibly a white nigger-driver may get the place. Neither on one side nor on the other do we want a nigger-driver appointed to London. Like Senator Gray, my desire is that the best man who can be found in Australia should be appointed. But I would be a most innocent child were I to dream for a moment that such qualifications will come under consideration.
– That is harsh !
– Does not the honorable senator know that when a choice is being made, it will not be a question of merit, or even of capacity, which will be taken into consideration ; but a question of the man who will best suit the purposes of the party. Therefore, Senator Gray was right when he remarked that this was a Democratic country, and that we ought to make the application on Democratic lines. But he is the last man who would support the insertion of a few Democratic lines in this measure. I venture to say that, were we to propose that the principles of Democracy should be applied to this appointment, we could count upon him being one of our opponents.
– Would the honorable senator have the High Commissioner elected by the people?
– I would require the High Commissioner to be elected by the Parliament, and that is the nearest approach to Democratic principles that we can put into effect at present.
– It is one of the corruptions of American Democracy.
– Would the honorable senator approve of the selection of the representatives of Australia by Parliament?
– Certainly not.
– Then, why the High Commissioner ?
– If the honorable senator will accept the amendment, I am prepared to move that the representative of the Commonwealth in London be elected by the’ people of Australia.
– Why did not the honorable senator propose that in regard to the selection of the delegate to the Imperial Conference ?
– The honorable senator is now talking pure trash. The Labour Government took office at the very time when the holding of the Conference was being talked about. A date for its assembling was decided, and the Labour Government, if they had been desirous of doing such a thing, had no opportunity to take a plebiscite of the Australian people with regard to their representative at the Conference. The Minister knows that very well.
– The honorable senator knows that, after the House met, there was an opportunity for the late Government to make that the first business if they had so wished ; because it was not proposed that the delegate should leave until some days afterwards.
– The present Government appointed a delegate very quickly after the Parliament met.
SenatorMillen. - That was Democratic.
– That does not alter one iota the position which I take up. I am prepared to seek by Democratic means, an expression of the feeling of Australia in regard to the man who ought to occupy this position. I am not prepared to say that no member of the present Ministry, or member of this Parliament should be appointed. If the people desire that some such personage should be chosen, I am quite prepared to submit to their will, believing that it would be right. I am apprehensive that the appointee will be very much out of touch with the feelings and sympathies of the Australian people. That is a fact which I mourn more than any other in connexion with this Bill. In my opinion the time has arrived when a High Commissioner should be appointed, and he should be chosen because he stands out from other men as being the most capable of representing us in connexion with the very many interests appertaining to Australia which will have to be the subject of diplomatic. or business negotiations in London in the near future.
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [4.20]. - I feel a certain amount of diffidence in rising, because, owing to very urgent public correspondence and work I have not been in the chamber during the discussion as much as I should have liked to be. But I have been in sufficiently on other occasions, if not to-day, to hear various propositions which certainly do not appeal to me. I have not yet heard what this glorified official - glorified with income and allowance, if not with brains and ability - is to do. I take it clearly,- from all we can gather, that it is to be a political appointment, and, I suppose, a party one at that.I have very good reason to believe that the High Commissioner will not be one of the two gentlemen! whose names are most prominent in the press, and in the mouths of honorable senators. I have not yet heard what the High Commissioner is to do.
– That is what I wanted to know last night.
– I heard my honorable friend and other senators speak, but they drew most extraordinarily opposite conclusions. For instance, one great function of this official seems to be to entertain. Very good. Another honorable senator declares that the one particular thing needful is a succession of advertising shops in the towns of the United Kingdom. What connexion is there between the eloquent description which one speaker gave of a shop window in Exeter, and a banquet in the West End of London? The discussion on the Bill has certainly ranged over those two limits, and almost everything in. between them. But no one has yet told us what the High Commissioner is to do. If the debts of the States were funded, or going to be funded, I could quite understand that the best financial authority that Australia contains would be the best man to send to London. But if he is only to give dinner parties, I do not see what earthly use he will be to Australia, because the people to whom he will extend hospitality will not be those who will come out here and settle. If we want a High Commissioner, we want him either for advertising purposes or for financial reasons, and the giver of lurid banquets will not help us one way or the other. A little shop that does not want a High Commissioner -for so many thousand pounds a year will be infinitely more useful in bringing the best advantages of Australia under the purview of the people of Great Britain. A social entertainer will be all very well, but what earthly use will he be to Australia ? If he gave a banquet every night in London, what advantage .’would it be to Australia? The people- who would be invited would not be those whom we hope to secure as additions to our- sparse number in these great lands. I suppose that the Bill is going to pass. I am not going to oppose it, for the simple reason that I presume that it would be absolutely’ useless to do so. While it is a very joyous thing to occasionally lead a forlorn hope - and it is a thing which necessarily a man with a spark ot life in him glories in doing - it does not do for one to lead a forlorn hope too often. I do not see that any good would come from opposing the measure, nor do I see that any good will come from its enactment, and that is what I regret. What I regret is that, apparently, we are going to spend a large sum of money on an appointment which will be valueless to the Commonwealth for some little time to come. Might I say, without unduly repeating myself, that if the debts were funded there would be scope for the appointment of the best financial man in Australia to represent us in London.- If on the other hand the intention is to advertise Australia with interesting little shop-front exhibitions of colonial products, such as we have heard of at Exeter and other places, what we want is not a High Commissioner but a commercial agent. At the present time I should rather see a commercial agent appointed than a swagger diplomat who, in court garments, would play an elegant part, no doubt, in distinguished circles, but who would do nothing to advance the knowledge of Australia amongst the class of people we desire to obtain as additions to our population, and who would do nothing to advance the different interests connected with the development of our huge country.
– Would he take his lantern and slides with him and give lectures ?
– Does the honorable senator believe that we shall get a man at £5,000 a year to demean himself to the status of a showman ?
– I should think so. That is one of the first things our representative should do.
– Exactly, but we do not need to pay a man £5,000 a year to show pictures. That would be a commercial or an advertising job. We should not appoint a West End drawingroom frivoller for any such task as that. Yet that is the kind of appointment that apparently some honorable senators would like to see made. I know it is a nice little picking for somebody, but it will not be to the advantage of Australia. We want a mercantile, commercial, or financial authority, a real live advertiser, or, if honorable senators please, a commercial traveller, and it will not be necessary to pay such a man £5,000 a year, whether as salary, allowance or tips. I shall take no pleasure in voting on the second reading of the Bill. I do not know that I shall give any vote at all.
– Why not?
– What is the use? I could not vote for the Bill, though I might vote against it. I recognise that Australia requires representation, not only in London, but throughout Great Britain. A cinematograph would do more to inculcate a knowledge of Australia in the minds of the people of the Old Country than the giving of banquets at the West End of London will ever accomplish. I say that with the experience of an old business man.
– And as an old business man I say exactly the opposite.
– My honorable friend is developing rather a habit of taking opposite views to mine, but he will not do so, if he can help it, in a few months’ time. We shall be brothers in arms then. The honorable senator should not think that because he entertains views different from mine he is necessarily right, and that 1 am in the outer darkness of dense ignorance. The honorable senator may be much more accurate in his views than I am, but in times past, though I may not have conducted as heavy transactions in copra and cocoanuts from the islands as the honorable senator has done, I have had as great a variety of business experience. I have known something of the commerce of the Empire, for myself or for other people, and I have had the advantage of being in official circles for a few months at a time in London, since my honorable friend was there. I think I picked up enough to know that if I am making any mistakes in the opinions I’ am expressing this afternoon, they are not very serious mistakes. I suppose that the Senate will carry this measure. I hope the result may be satisfactory in securing the services of a sufficiently eminent man, but the more eminent he is the less useful he will be. That is the trouble confronting us.
– Until the debts are taken over.
– I admit that. Honorable senators opposite ought really to support this Bill as a step towards the taking over of the State debts. That will be, in my view, the greatest step yet attempted in the direction of unification. When the debts of Australia are federated, we shall have achieved a degree of unification that a few years back was utterly beyond the expectations of anybody now living.
– The Constitution provides for it.
– I am aware of that, but some of the men who voted against Federation did not believe in that particular provision of the Constitution.
– Some who voted against it did so because the transfer of the State debts was not provided for.
– Unless my recollection is entirely at fault the VicePresident of the Executive Council was, only a year or two ago. as I was myself, a strenuous opponent of a measure for the taking over of the State debts introducedby another Administration.
– Introduced by the present Administration?
– I am referring to a year or two ago when an attempt was made to pass a measure through this Chamber. I am quite sure that Senator Millen was just as I was, a determined opponent of that measure. I do not allege that the honorable senator occupies any different position to-day. I do not say that in supporting this measure the VicePresident of the Executive Council has altered his opinion on the unification of the State debts. There is no need to allege any change of view on his part. I only refer incidentally to the fact that he and I, with other honorable senators, were persistent, determined and successful opponents of the unification of the debts a few years ago. We might have been utterly wrong, but I do not think we were. I do not think that if we pass this measure, send Home a high financial authority, and attempt the unification of the debts of Australia, «e shall make any considerable saving by so doing. We have no knowledge that the Commonwealth will be able to borrow at lower rates than the States can borrow at the present time. At any rate, the Commonwealth will not have any superior security to offer to the money lenders.
– They will have a first mortgage to offer.
– A first mortgage on what? On income? The States can offer material security apart from the security of income. Even with respect to income, let me say that many of the States are in a much more healthy position financially than the .Commonwealth is to-day. They have surpluses to show, whilst the Commonwealth was threatened the other day with a deficit of £1,200,000.
– Because we gave the money to the States to enable their Governments to show surpluses.
– A Budget was presented to Parliament only the other day which threatened the Commonwealth with a deficit of £1,200,000. The State Governments have nothing of that kind to show. Apart from income, the States have material security to offer in the form of paying investments. Borrowed money to the extent of £66,000,000, invested in New South Wales, is returning 4§ per cent., or more. The Commonwealth has no such security as that to offer? I therefore say that there is no prospect in my view that the consolidation or unification of State indebtedness would bring about any saving that would warrant the present proposal. I remind honorable senators that the expenditure involved under this Bill is not merely £5,000 a year. We have to consider the expense of the whole paraphernalia of a big department, and it will be much more like- £20,000 than £5,000 a year. We shall have to provide premises and clerks. A gentleman who is receiving £5,000 a year cannot be at the beck of every one who calls. He must be fenced round with a small battalion of supporters. The thing will cost £20,000 a year if it costs twopence. We cannot have a magnificent equipage without expenditure, and those who, in days gone by, talked about Federation costing the people of Australia no more than the price of registering a dog, only showed what insensate idiots they were. They either misled themselves or were deliberately misleading others. It is really not worth while to discuss the matter any longer. If the Bill is to be carried I cannot prevent it. I would prevent it if I could, because I do not think the appointment is yet necessary. At the same time I admit that it is deplorable that the Commonwealth has not some more satisfactory representation in other parts of the world than we at present possess. I do not think this is the proper way to bring it about. There is scope for the appointment of a commercial representative or of the best advertising agent available, but until something else happens in Australia, and some other matters are taken over for management by the Commonwealth, I do not think there is any justification for the wide expenditure which this measure proposes, not to circumscribe, but merely to initiate.
.- It would seem that the Government are anxious to rush this measure through at express speed. 1 ask for what reason?
– Where is the evidence of the express speed?
– We are told that this is a highly important measure.
– It is given preference over the Navigation Bill on the businesspaper.
– It has been given priority on the business-paper to measures which, in my opinion, are of far greater importance. What reasons moved the Government to introduce the measure at the present time. Have they done so because the interests of Australia are being neglected, or have been neglected,_ abroad? Are the people clamouring for the appointment of a High Commissioner, or is it because, as rumour hath it, there are two members of the present Government and one prominent supporter who are . hungering for the post? I am inclined to think that the latter is the real reason for the introduction of the measure.
– The hungering is not confined to one party.
– For over nine years the Commonwealth has ‘been without a High ‘Commissioner, and without Parliamentary buildings of its own, and I’ fail to see any more necessity for the appointment of a High1 Commissioner than I do for the erection of Commonwealth Parliamentary buildings at Yass- Canberra. What will the High Com- missioner have to do if he be appointed forthwith? The Vice-President of the Executive Council stated that the trade between Australia and the Empire amounted to £60,000,000 annually, and that a High Commissioner ought to be, appointed to watch over and guard that trade.
– We are going to appoint three Inter- State Commissioners to deal with that.
– What duties will the High Commissioner be called upon to perform which are not now being performed satisfactorily by Captain Collins? Everybody admits that the gentleman who is now representing us in London is doing justice to the post. But we are told that in the dim and distant future the State debts will be funded, and that the High Commissioner will then become a very important personage. But I would point out that the State debts cannot be taken over by the Commonwealth except with the consent of the State Parliaments, or bv securing an amendment of the Constitution. Consequently, there is no hope of those debts being transferred for a period of three years.
– Cannot a referendum be taken upon that subject at the next general elections in April ?
– The Government have no intention of taking any such referendum because when the matter was mentioned recently at the Premiers’ Conference, they agreed1 to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into it.
– Is the honorable senator aware that a Bill providing for the taking of a referendum upon that subject is now before the other Chamber?
– I am not. That is a surprise to me, as doubtless it is to others. We have also been told that the High Commissioner will have much to do in regard to immigration. What can he do in the way of attracting immigrants to Australia? The Commonwealth has no land and no resources. Had the Government desired to attract population to our shores, they would have introduced the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill before they submitted this measure.
– We also need a Bill which will enable us to chain people to the Northern Territory after we have got them there.
– I have a higher opinion of that part of the Commonwealth than has the honorable senator. I believe that the Northern Territory will prove a very valuable asset during the next few years. There is no disputing the fact that it is capable of maintaining a population of many millions, and that it contains5 some of the best lands to be found in Australia as well -as the most navigable waterways.
– It is all right except from the stand-point of climate.
– It ill (becomes any honorable senator to decry that portion of Australia more than any other. The appointment of the High Commissioner will necessitate the creation of a new Department in London. Captain Collins is at present doing all the work that he is called upon to perform at a cost of £5,000 per annum, and yet we are told that the new Department will cost at least £15,000 per annum. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has declared! that when once the office has been established, it may be necessary to intrust fresh functions to the High Commissioner. To what fresh functions does he allude? I think that we should be told. Is the High Commissioner to be given a free hand upon matters which are outside the scope of this Bill?
– How can he be given a free hand on matters outside the scope of the Bill?
– Then what did the Vice-President of the Executive Council mean by his statement?
– There is an explanatory clause in the Bill which will enable the Government to call upon the High Commissioner to discharge duties which have not been foreseen - duties which may be handed over to the Commonwealth by the States.
– This afternoon, Senator Gray was seriously concerned about the manner of man who will be appointed to this office. He knows exactly the type of man whom he would like to see appointed. Perhaps there are some honorable senators opposite who have been exercising their influence with a view to securing his selection. I merely desire the second reading of this Bill to be defeated because I think that the time is inopportune for the appointment of a High Commissioner. Senator Gray declared that £5,000 is an adequate sum to pay to our High Commissioner, because he will be called upon to entertain liberally and lavishly.
– I never used the word lavishly.
– That is what the honorable senator said in effect.
– I never even thought that.
– In so many words, the honorable senator inferred that. To my mind a salary of £3,000, with £2,000 allowances, represents a very large sum. Of course it may be that halfadozen years hence the High Commissioner will have other duties to perform. But it seems to me a waste of money to pay him such a large salary to perform no other duties than those which are being discharged by Captain Collins. If it were not for the fact that some gentlemen are anxious to secure the post, the Government would not be in such a violent hurry to pass this Bill. Almost every honorable senator who has addressed himself to it has pointed out the possibilities which exist in Australia for the settlement of a large population. They have dilated upon the fact that people abroad are ignorant of the potentialities of Australia. They affirm that when our resources are made known, we shall attract immigrants by thousands. But I would point out that every State is already spending large sums of money in the dissemination of literature avowedly for the purpose of advertising its resources. What will the High Commissioner do? Will he, of his own volition, expend large sums in advertising resources which are already being advertised by the States? The probability is that .if he interferes with some of the Agents- General a conflict, will result. It has also been said that the High Commissioner will be able to assist in discovering new markets for Australian commodities. This afternoon Senator Pearce pointed out that, quite recently, a market had been found in Europe for Australian apples. But is that a reason why we should appoint a High Commissioner? Would it be his business to find a market for Australian apples? Every Agent-General is doing his best to open up markets for the produce of his State. While in Sydney recently I was told that, at a certain period of the year, the Canadians are finding a market in Australia for their apples, and that within the next two months large shipments of Canadian apples will be landed here. If I could see that any direct benefit would result to the Commonwealth by the appointment of a High Commissioner forthwith, I should be the last to oppose this Bill. It is because I think that no benefit can accrue to any citizen of the Commonwealth that I intend to oppose it. There is no violent hurry for making the proposed appointment. Some honorable senators have argued that the High Commissioner should be thoroughly imbued with Australian sentiment. If they desire to select a man of that type, why could not a referendum be taken at the next election as to who is the most suitable aspirant -for the office? We should thus insure a truly Democratic appointment. But an appointment which is made for purely party reasons cannot give satisfaction to the citizens of the Commonwealth. Like Senator Needham, I must express my regret that Senator Gray should have declared that the prosperity of Australia ‘depends upon the prosperity of foreign, nations. I believe that our prosperity depends entirely upon the class of men who are elected to make our laws.
– It depends upon the seasons which it experiences.
– Undoubtedly the seasons have much to do with our prosperity, but the laws which are enacted by Parliament can make or mar Australia.
– Tasmania is a horrible example of that.
– Yes. Tasmania is blessed with a very fine climate. She possesses fine rivers, and some of the best soil to be found in any State. Yet for a considerable time Tasmania has been losing her population. So that the prosperity of that State cannot be said to be entirely dependent upon the seasons. I am hopeful that Tasmania, with the rise of Democracy, will advance and become one of the best States in the Union.
– I believe that Tasmania will prosper in spite of Democracy.
– She has not shown many signs of prosperity up to the present. I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill on the ground that the appointment of a High Commissioner at the present juncture is. premature, and because the duties which the person appointed will be called upon to perform are already being satisfactorily discharged by the representatives of the States. There is no more reason for the appointment of a High Commissioner now than there has been at any other period in the history of the Commonwealth. Matters of pressing importance have arisen from time to time. The question of defence, that of immigration, and affairs connected with the development of Australia, have been under notice since the birth of Federation. Yet, during that period we have not appointed any High Commissioner in London; and no satisfactory reasons have been given for the appointment now.
– I merely wish to say a word or two upon this Bill. I should not have troubled the Senate had it not been for some remarks of previous speakers as to the urgency of making an appointment. For nine years we have carried on without a High Commissioner. - Nothing has been left undone that might have been done by such an official. .It cannot be said that the Commonwealth has suffered in any particular because no appointment has been made. Senator Gray has argued that we require a High Commissioner because we are a new nation. But I do not know that it is necessary’ for a new nation to station an officer in another part of the world. How can the High Commissioner advance the interests of Australia? What does advancing our interests mean ? This nation is composed of six States, every one of which has made provision for carrying on its business in Great Britain. . What duties will the High Commissioner have to discharge that the States are not satisfactorily performing to-day? Not one supporter of the Bill has indicated a single new duty, except that it is said that the High Commissioner will attend social functions. Senator Gray has dwelt upon the importance of our representative coming into contact with the commercial world. But the people of Australia who have goods to sell are perfectly acquainted with the possibilities of the markets upon which they place their commodities. People in the Old World who want to sell to us take their own steps to make themselves acquainted with our demands. A few days ago we had meeting here a Congress of commercial men who were eager to look for openings for business in Australia. They did not go to the Agents- General of the States; they came out here themselves. ^Recently we have had buyers of our wool coming from America, Germany, France, and Great Britain. They would not obtain their wool through our High Commissioner if we had one, nor would the High Commissioner be the means of sending an additional single buyer to Australia. As to finance, what business will the High Commissioner have to do? We have no control over the debts of the States at pre sent. In regard to defence matters, the present representative of the Commonwealth in London is as capable a man as we are likely to get. Yet, when an Imperial Conference on defence took place, the Government thought it necessary to send Home :a special representative. Similarly, when a Navigation Conference was held, special delegates were sent. We shall still have expenditure to incur on Imperial Conferences which may be held, even though we are represented in Great Britain by a High Commissioner. In my view, it is more than a shame, it is an absolute crime, to saddle Australia with the expense that is going to be incurred under this Bill. I feel sure that as soon as the people wake up to what has been proposed, they will express themselves emphatically about it.
– Would it not be more economical to have one man in London than six?
– Exactly ; but the Government have taken no action to persuade the States to withdraw their AgentsGeneral. It was thought when Federation took place that it would not be any longer necessary for the States’ to maintain offices in London. South Australia took the lead in appointing, not another Agent-General, but a General Agent. Since then, however, she has reverted to the old system, and appointed an Agent-General.
– What was the difference betwen the two, after all, except in the matter of title?
– When the position was changed from that of AgentGeneral to that of General Agent, South Australia reduced the salary ; when it was altered back again, the salary was increased. We are now proposing to make an appointment to a position which will be superior to that of the Prime Minister of Australia.
– The High Commissioner will be superior in salary, and I venture to say in status also.
– Money does not furnish a fair gauge.
– To a very large extent, the salary determines the nature of the position.
– The position of High Commissioner cannot be compared with that of Prime Minister of Australia.
– When Sir George le Hunte was sworn in as Governor of South Australia, he said, addressing the people in the Town-hall, Adelaide, “ This is a new position for me ; hitherto I have been in the habit of exercising Executive power, and of thinking for myself how I should act. Now I have become Governor of a State that has responsible government, and have no thinking to do at all. I have a Cabinet to think’ for me.” The Prime Minister of Australia will do all the thinking for the High Commissioner. The High Commissioner will have no thinking to do. He will be directed by the Minister of External Affairs. A member of either House will be able to rise day after day and ask, “ Why did the High Commissioner do so and so in London?” In everything he does the High Commissioner will be directed by the Minister of External Affairs.
-Colonel Cameron. - The honorable senator is going to be very hard upon him. He has the power, I admit.
– If it was a matter regarding the defence of Australia, and the High Commissioner did not think exactly as the honorable senator did, would he be silent?
-Colonel Cameron. - He will. have nothing to do with the defence of Australia.
– Under instructions from the Minister, he will have everything to do with its defence.
-Colonel Cameron. - No.
– If he is asked to express at a public banquet an opinion as to what is necessary for the defence of Australia, he will do so.
– We will forgive him if he goes wrong sometimes
– No; the honorable senator would be the last to forgive the High Commissioner in a matter of that sort.
– If it is an after-dinner speech, we will take anything from him.
– When the States are prepared to transfer to the Commonwealth their functions regarding finance, pushing their commerce, and advertising their resources, I shall be ready to say that Australia should be represented in London by one person. I think that one head in Great Britain is quite sufficient. The High Commissioner, if appointed, will have no control over the Agents-General. Each Agent-General will continue to push the wares of his State in opposition to those of other States. 1 can find- no matter regarding which the High Commissioner is likely to benefit Australia. Some States have immigration agents who are pushing immigration for all they are worth. In this morning’s newspaper we read of the arrival of 400 immigrants in Queensland. The immigration policy which has been adopted by Queensland would not suit Tasmania. If 400 immigrants were landed in Tasmania what could it do with them? The representative who has been sent to London from Tasmania knows. the policy of his Govern^ ment, and what to do to secure its accomplishment. The representative who has been sent from Queensland knows _that his State is hungering for population, and its policy is to induce people to go there. What would a High Commissioner do? Probably, instead of sending 400 immigrants to Queensland, he would send them to Tasmania, and we should have a big bungle taking place. The man is not alive to-day who has a knowledge of the whole of Australia. I think that we have been asked to take this step a little too soon. Public men need to acquire a larger knowledge of the various States before they sanction the appointment of an officer to spread knowledge in England regarding the whole of Australia. I hope that the Government will drop the measure for the present and bring it on at someother time.
– I crave a few minutes to reply to some of the speeches with which we havel been treated. I certainly cannot complain of the Bill being allowed to go through in a formal way. I am not aware of another measure containing so few clauses which has caused so many speeches to be made. There have been three speeches delivered for every clause, so that it cannot be charged against the Senate that it passes a measure without subjecting it to very close analysis. I propose first to deal with one or two of the principal arguments advanced against the Bill. I am not going to express any surprise, but I do express a little grief that some honorable senators on the other side should ha,ve denounced the proposition to appoint a High Commissioner. Probably it was denounced by none of them .so vehemently as it was by the last speaker. He asked what necessity has arisen to war- rant the creation of this position. Senator Findley’s attitude was also a denunciation of the step altogether. Senator Guthrie pointed out that the States had made arrangements for carrying on their business, and that there was no reason why we should make an appointment. He even went so far as to regard it as a scandalous shame.
– I said it was more than a shame ; that it was a crime.
– Apparently we are on the verge of committing a great crime, and what is more, a crime so outrageous that if it is completed the people will rise: in their might and smite us. On the 7th October we are told that this measure is not urgent, but I invite the attention of my honorable friends to this sentence, which was delivered here on the 26th May -
A measure providing for the appointment of a High Commissioner, urgent on many grounds, will be submitted for your consideration.
– Where is the sentence taken from?
– It is taken from the speech put in the mouth of the GovernorGeneral by the Fisher Government.
– I said the same thing in my speech on this Bill.
– My honorable friend is quite consistent. The question was. urgent on an earlier date than the 26th May, 1909, because I find that Mr. Fisher is reported by the Worker of 1st April - I do not suppose that he was playing on the date - as having made this statement at Gympie -
We feel that we should have a High Commissioner in London, and a Bill will be introduced next session to give effect to that desire.
If it was a desirable thing to do then, it cannot be a crime to do it now. If there was any necessity on Australia to appoint this official, irrespective of whether or not the States were prepared to make some arrangement with the’ Commonwealth-
– No, not irrespective.
– If that was the position then, it is the position to-day. Can any one with the slightest knowledge of Parliamentary procedure, and all that “ party obligation “ means, say that if this Bill had been introduced by Senator McGregor, in pursuance . of Mr. Fisher’s declaration, and in conformity with the Governor- General’s Speech, we should have been treated to the denunciations which we heard to-day from the honorable senator?
– It is possible. I voted against the selection of the YassCanberra site, and I will do so again.
– My honorable friend need not anticipate that. If any justification were required for the introduction of this Bill, it is to be found in the action of the leaders of the Labour party.
– Why do honorable senators on the Ministerial side oppose the Bill?
– Deal with Senators Dobson and Macfarlane now.
– Now that my attention has been specially directed to Senator Dobson,’ may I suggest to him that probably he has not recognised the very considerable change which will take place in the financial position of the States, whether the present agreement is adopted or not. I can quite understand the representatives of a State like Tasmania., which unquestionably has had to submit to a severe financial strain, being very careful as to the expenditure which they authorize. I can understand them saying “ a thing may be desirable, but we cannot afford it at present.” But I venture to say that, whether or not the present agreement is adopted, we have seen the last of the bookkeeping system. That being so, the obligation upon the representatives of Tasmania is not so onerous that it need seriously influence them in the consideration of the effect which may be exercised upon its finances by the passage of a measure which otherwise is desirable. In dealing with the measure, Senator Dobson failed to display the logic which usually marks his attitude. At one portion of his speech, he claimed that the Agents-General should be merged into the High Commissioner ; that some effort should be made to dispense with them, and to concentrate the business in one office, under one official. But in another portion of his speech he proposed that the AgentsGeneral should be invited to form a sort of committee to carry on the business. There is an inconsistency there.
– He asked why was not that done in the past.
– Exactly. Does any one suppose that, on the majority of the matters with which they deal, it is possible to get six Agents-General to come together? There is no necessity for taking that step. Why should the representative of Western Australia confer with the representative of South Australia ? They have nothing in common.
– They are competing one against the other.
– Yes. There is no reason why they should be brought together, except on a matter in which their common patriotism to Australia would invite co-operation. Ordinarily speaking, they were sent to London for distinct and separate purposes, and each officer, in discharging his business, has practically no concern with the business of his confrere from another State.
– He is generally concerned in getting ahead of his confreres.
– I am not certain that he is not entitled to try to get ahead of them. It is a business in which there is friendly rivalry, and certainly he would be a very poor representative if he said, “ I shall not go too fast for fear I outpace another Agent-General.” There was another line of argument adopted, and that is the one of which Senator Stewart may be regarded as the chief exponent. He affirmed that the States should he consulted as to the abolition of the Agents-General, and called upon to cut down their expenditure, before we appoint a High Commissioner. That may be a very plausible argument, but what authority has this Parliament over State expenditure? Suppose that the States turned round and said that they proposed to do something, and that it was time that we cut down our expenditure? I venture to say that there is not an honorable senator who would not feel, if he did not express it, some resentment at the expression of such a sentiment.
– Does not the Minister think that the States have taken the liberty of tendering us advice before to-day ?
– If they have done so, the honorable senator has been amongst those who have taken the liberty of resenting it. Whatever may be the desirable or right thing to do, we have to recognise that we have no control over State finance. If they manage their finances carefully, they will derive abenefit, but if they are careless in their arrangements, they will have to pay a penalty. It is a matter entirely for their consideration.
– Why should the Commonwealth increase its expenditure unless there is something to be gained ?
– We want a High Commissioner in London to represent Australia. An Australian there could represent a State which is part of
Australia, but the representative of a State could not represent the Commonwealth. Whether the States do find it convenient or desirable to transfer a portion of the duties of their representatives to the High Commissioner or not, we want a man there who will be the representative of Australia, as it is now. What the States will do in the future is entirely a matter for them to consider. This measure will be practically an invitation to them, if they think fit to accept it, to transfer any of the functions now discharged by their representatives to the High Commissioner. Having done that, the Commonwealth will not only have done all that is required of it, but I think it will have done it in the most tactful way possible. I have no doubt as to the fate of the Bill, judging by the tenor of the speeches made on the second reading. I ask honorable senators, seeing that we have had a fairly long debate on the second reading, to assist me to get the measure through Committee as soon as possible, in view of the fact that there is other legislation which I should like to introduce to the notice of the Senate before this week terminates.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Governor-General may appoint some person to be the High Commissioner of the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom.
– As indicated in my remarks on the second reading, I intend to propose an amendment, which will enable Parliament to have some knowledge as to when the appointment of the High Commissioner is to be made. It is only fair that Parliament should be informed, as soon as possible, of the name of the person appointed. I refer honorable senators to the precedent set in Canada when Sir John Macdonald, in 1880, in introducing a Bill for the creation of the office of High Commissioner of Canada, mentioned the name of the person selected by the Government for the position. I think that this Parliament should be treated as the Canadian Parliament was treated on that occasion. Other considerations might be advanced in support of such an amendment as I intend to propose. There is. for example, a resolution on the Journals of the Senate approving of the selection by Parliament of the person to fill this office. I do not make such a suggestion how; but I think we should, in this clause, specify a date before which the appointment .’hall be made. I therefore move -
That after the word “ Kingdom “ the following words be added : - “ Provided that the first appointment shall be made before the thirtieth day of November, One thousand nine hundred and nine.”
That is a very moderate proposal, which should meet with the support of every member of the Committee.
– Especially as the measure is one of great urgency.
– As the Government regard this Bill as one of great urgency, my amendment fixing a date before which the appointment shall be made should meet with their wishes.
– I do. not know whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council intends to ignore this important amendment; but I agree with Senator Lynch that we should fix a date” before which this appointment should be made. We know that a great deal of intriguing is going on in connexion with it, and unless we limit the time within which the appointment shall be made, it may be hung up indefinitely. In order to avoid trouble, the Government might postpone the matter until Parliament is in recess, when we should have no opportunity to criticise the appointment made. The Government would be aware that, however much a particular appointment might grieve some of their supporters, or how objectionable it might be to Parliament generally, they would be quite safe in recess, and any disappointment caused would have become blunted before an opportunity was afforded for criticism. This is the 7th of October, and the Bill will, in all probability, be passed this week, and receive the Royal assent before the 10th October. That would leave twenty-one days in this month and thirty days in next month for the Government to look round for the best man to fill the position. It cannot be said that the amendment would not give them sufficient time for the purpose; and, unless they desire to shelter themselves behind some technicality, there is no reason why they should offer any objection to so reasonable an amendment. I am one of those who believe that a High Commissioner should be appointed as soon as possible. I was in favour of the second reading of the Bill, and would have voted for it if a division had been called for. But I do not vote for measures in order that they may be hung up until Parliament is in recess. We should not leave it to the Government to postpone the appointment of a High Commissioner to a more convenient season. Now is the proper time for the appointment. The Government should be prepared to accept their responsibility in the matter, and they should be given no opportunity to shirk it.
– Senator Givens said he hoped that I was not going to ignore the amendment. I had no such intention; but, with his usual alacrity, the honorable senator forestalled me. I did not intend to permit the amendment to go without debate ; and, what is more, without a very clear intimation of my views concerning it. I feel that it is not an amendment which should be included in a Bill of this kind. I ask honorable senators to mention any previous occasion when an attempt was made to introduce into a Bill an amendment of this character ?
– It should not matter whether it was done before or not, if the principle is good.
– When such a practice has not been adopted hitherto, what is the particular reason for adopting it now? Honorable senators who have been members of the Senate as long as I have, have been content for eight years to pass various measures without suggesting the adoption of this practice. If the old practice was good enough and there was sound reason for it, there must be some reason or no reason for moving such an amendment now. If we are in all Bills providing for appointments to insert provisions fixing the dates for those appointments, where is it to end? Nearly every week we pass some measure under which the Government are directed to do something ; are we in all future measures of the kind to fix the date before which it is to be done? The proposal is absurd, and is absolutely destructive of the principle we know as responsible government.
– What about the precedent set by Sir John Macdonald?
– I find that I have quite enough to do to deal with matters that come within the purview of the Senate, without being called upon to be responsible for what Sir John Macdonald or anybody else has done. Honorable senators in agreeing to the second reading of the Bill have decided that it is desirable that a High Commissioner should be appointed.
– We have not yet expressed any opinion on that point.
– We are inviting such an expression of opinion now.
– Does the honorable senator contend that in every Bill authorizing the Government to perform some action we should fix the time within which it ‘ should be done ? Honorable senators have passed measures in this House containing provisions under which it has been left to the Government to issue a proclamation fixing the time when those measures should come into operation. There is a practical difficulty in the way of the amendment. Some of my honorable friends appear to think that by fixing the date in the way proposed they will compel an appointment to be made before that date. I venture to say that neither this nor any other Government, having regard for their responsibilities under such a measure, would make the appointment before the date proposed unless they were certain they had secured the most suitable man for the position. There is no difficulty in getting a man for this position.
– The Government have too many, that is their trouble.
– It would no doubt be easy enough to ‘fill the position before the date named in the amendment if it were offered to the honorable senator. It would not require six weeks to determine his answer, nor mine for the matter of that.
– I have named my man.
– Honorable senators are net at liberty to discuss, by interjection or otherwise, who should be appointed. The question before the Committee is the date before which the appointment should be made.
– The amendment is one which could not with any propriety be introduced into this Bill. I cannot see my way to consent to it, and I ask the Committee to reject it. I ask honorable senators to accept my assurance that the one desire of the Government is to obtain the man best fitted for the position, and who will reflect most credit on Australia, and to secure his appointment as early as possible.
– The argument that because this is an unusual amendment it should not be accepted, is very childish. It would be stupid to suggest that we should treat every question in ‘the same manner irrespective of circumstances. There are political circumstances existing at the ‘ present time to which we cannot posssibly shut our eyes. It is because of these circumstances that we are compelled to take this action. We know the sort of Government that we have in office at the present time. We know how they came into existence. We know that certain arrangements were made, and that certain politicians had to stand down.
– The honorable senator must not go into questions of political party, although he may refer to it by way of illustration.
– I am merely putting it by way of illustration. I wish to show that extraordinary circumstances impel us to move in a certain direction. I admit that the amendment contemplates the taking of an unusual step, but as we know that political considerations will dominate this appointment, Parliament has a right to know who the High Commissioner will be.
– I must ask the honorable senator not to pursue that line of argument. It is not relevant either to the Bill or to the amendment.
– Then I should like to deal with another aspect of this question. I need scarcely point out that we are nearing the end of this Parliament. 1 1 is obvious, therefore, that if the appointment be not made during the current session, many members will be denied an opportunity of criticising it. In addition, many of those who will be responsible for the selection will never be called upon to answer for their actions on the public platform. Within a few months this session will terminate, and then the Government, in whom very few persons have the slightest confidence, as a result of the questionable means by which they secured office, and of the manner in which they have arranged appointments in other directions - Mr. Speaker, in another place, was chosen at a caucus-
– Are the remarks of the honorable senator in. order ?
– I think that Senator de Largie is in order in arguing that a time ought to be specified in the Bill within which the High Commissioner should be appointed, in order that the Senate may be afforded an opportunity of criticising the appointment.
– But is he in order in stating that the Government came into office by questionable methods?
– His use of that expression was in opposition to my previous direction.
– I rise to a point of order. Is Senator de Largie in order in reflecting upon the method which he says was adopted to secure the election of Mr. Speaker in another place?
– His statement relates to a matter of fact, and was not in any way a reflection, the CHAIRMAN.- The time when Senator Chataway should have raised that point of order has passed.
– The manner in which the Speaker of another place was chosen for his office was so obvious that Senator Chataway, and others who. had a finger in the pie-
– The honorable senator had better leave the question of personal honour alone, or he will be hit pretty hard.
– The honorable senator is at liberty to hit as hard as he can. I wish to expose the weakness of the crowd who occupy the Government benches. The country has no confidence in the Government in regard to the appointment of a High Commissioner. They attained office by questionable methods, which justify the lack of public confidence in them.
– I have already asked the honorable senator not to pursue that line of reasoning. He must see that an argument as to how the Fusion Government came into office cannot be relevant either to the amendment or to the Bill.
– But we have to recollect that the Fusion Government will make this appointment. In the interests of public morality and’ political cleanliness we have a right to keep as close a grip upon them as we possibly can.
– The honorable senator cannot keep a grip upon them, because his party is in a minority.
– We may be in, a minority within the walls of this building, but within a few months we will show the honorable senator whether we are in a minority. Those who will pay the price of the appeal to the country will not then be here, and, consequently, we ought to insist upon the High Commissioner being appointed within a prescribed period.
– I am surprised at the storm of disapproval which has greeted the proposal of Senator Lynch. I did expect that the Vice-President of the Executive Council would have at once intimated his approval of the necessity for such an amendment, and would also have declared in favour of its practicability. Upon the motion for the second reading of the Bill there was an almost unanimous expression of opinion that such an appointment was necessary.
– Not at present.
– It was urged that a High Commissioner might, with advantage, have been appointed earlier in our Federal history. When the Government brought forward this ‘ measure, they were either serious in their intention to appoint such an official, or they were not. If they were serious, the time specified in the amendment is a reasonable one to allow them in which to make the appointment. Senator Lynch has already pointed out that the late Sir John Macdonald, in submitting the High Commissioner Bill to the Canadian House of Commons, told that body the name of the gentleman who had been selected to fill the office. But the VicePresident of the Executive Council has simply said that we have a good,- oldestablished custom from which he would not like to depart.
– I did not say that, but probably the statement is near enough for the honorable senator.
– That is a suggestion that I am intentionally misconstruing the honorable gentleman’s statement.
– Intentionally or otherwise.
– Does the VicePresident of the Executive Council say that I am intentionally doing so? The honorable gentleman stated that he was not to be troubled with the actions of Sir John Macdonald. .
– That is so.
– Apparently it is dangerous for ah honorable senator to rise in his glace and suggest that an advance should be made on established custom. Sir John Macdonald occupied a very high position in the Empire at the time he took the course of action to which I have alluded. But the moment it is proposed that we should follow the example which he set, we are told that it was a bad precedent. Upon this clause the Government ought either to stand or fall, and I only regret that the amendment under consideration was not submitted in another place.
– Is the honorable senator serious?
– I am. When I was addressing myself to the motion for the second reading of the Bill I mentioned that we had had nine years’ experience of Federation, and that successive Governments had declared their anxiety to appoint a High Commissioner,
– I would point out to the honorable senator that that question has already been, decided. Only the matter of the time within which the appointment should be made is now open to discussion.
– The fact that the motion for the second reading of the Bill has been carried is proof that the time is ripe for making this appointment. The clause under consideration empowers the Government to appoint a High Commissioner, and I know that they have at least two or three gentlemen in their mind’s eye from whom they intend to make a choice. Six weeks is surely a sufficient period to enable them to make a selection.
– If the amendment be carried would the High Commissioner draw his salary after the date stipulated for his appointment?
– Unless this Bill be a farce: - a mere electioneering cry - an appointment ought to be made within the period prescribed by .the amendment.
– In all legislation there are such things as dignity and decency. No Government with any self-respect would dream of accepting such an amendment as that put forward. It has been submitted with an object the reverse of friendly. As to the Canadian appointment, I call attention to the fact that we know nothing about the surrounding circumstances. It is probable that at the time all ‘Canada knew who was to be made High Commissioner, and that, therefore, there was no letting out of a secret in proclaiming the fact. Therefore, there is nothing in that circumstance to commend the ‘ present amendment. The clause is complete as it stands, and the addition proposed would be unusual, indecent, and improper in every way.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that it is quite unusual to specify a date for making an appointment of the kind contemplated. But nearly every Bill which is passed by Parliament specifies the date when the measure is tocome into operation. lt is now merely sought to specify the date .before which the appointment of a High Commissioner shall be- made. Surely that cannot be an offence. I remind the Senate .that the appointment will have to be made by the Prime Minister, who, some time ago, caused a considerable amount of dissatisfactionand disorganization in the Public Service of Papua by his dilatoriness in hanging up the appointment of a Lieutenant-Governor to .that Territory. The Prime Minister delayed the appointment for over twelve months, while his ear was being chewed, first on the one side, and then on the other. His temerity was such that he could not make up his mind, with the consequence that the administration fell into a most disgraceful condition. These facts are undeniable. The making of the appointment oi High Commissioner practically lies in the hands of the same gentleman, because if his colleagues do not accept his nomination he can throw them out of office. The Prime Minister is responsible to the Governor-General. If he sets his mind upon any particular person his’ colleagues dare not object, unless they are prepared to throw up their portfolios.
– The majority generally rules in a Cabinet. 1
– But the Prime Minister can enforce his will upon his colleagues. We should leave no loophole for such delay as occurred with reference to the appointment of an Administrator in Papua, and it would be inordinately stupid on the part of this Senate to allow the Prime Minister to have his own way in the matter. There is nothing unreasonable in what is being asked for. The Government would have nearly eight weeks in which to make an appointment. We know that they are suffering from a plethora of possible candidates. I was almost saying “ plausible candidates,” but probably that would be rather discourteous. There should be no difficulty in finding the best man available. I venture to say that my honorable friend, the Vice-President of the Executive Council, has his mind fully made up as to who is the proper person to appoint. The Senate would be wise in insisting upon an appointment being made before a certain date. If the Government are allowed to have a free hand they may not exercise their choice until Parliament is prorogued. Then, with the recess before them, they may make an appointment which will not be acceptable to this Parliament and the people of Australia, generally- If they are forced to make an appointment while Parliament is sitting, they will be more likely to make a selection which will be acceptable. I, therefore, trust that the amendment will be carried.
. - I shall support the amendment. Very good reasons can be advanced for specifying a date before which the appointment shall be made. I was much astonished at the reasons urged1 against the amendment by Senator Millen. It appears to me that the honorable gentleman has become so fossilized that if he remains very much longer in his present position he will be like the wife of the Scriptural Lot - to wit, the lady who was turned into a pillar of salt. The reason given against the amendment by Senator Millen was that such a course had never been followed before. According to that doctrine no new thing could ever be inaugurated. If it were applied to the ordinary affairs of everyday life, invention, progress, development, would come to a standstill. On reading the pages of history, we learn that every improvement has been attempted to be blocked by persons who sought to interpose their fears in the way of progress. We have all read about the farmer who was very doubtful as to what would happen to Stephenson’s engine if a cow happened to get on the line. We have to-day people who express their timidity with regard to the progress of flying machines and other means of aerial navigation.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable senator in order in dragging in a reference to cows, flying machines, and things of “that kind, which have nothing to do with the question?
– I do not see how the honorable senator’s remarks can be connected with the Bill.
- Senator Millen based the principal portion of his argument on the contention that, as this had never teen done before, it ought not to be done now.
– No; my argument was that, as it had not been our practice to do it before, there must be a special reason for doing it now.
– The Minister has only expressed in other words what I said. I think that I have shown the folly cf listening for a moment to an argument of the kind which he brought forward. In his next argument, he said that unless there was a special reason for putting in the date, it ought not to be inserted. There is a special reason for taking that course. Parliament is, I hope, going to decide that a High Commissioner shall be appointed ; and certain members of the Senate desire to provide that he must be appointed on or before a certain date. The Minister said that such an amendment would be a reflection upon the Government, in fact, an attack upon responsible government. I have always understood that Parliament is primarily responsible to the people, not only for every legislative act, but also for every administrative act of the Committee otherwise called the Government. But the Minister wishes to place this Committee above Parliament. He says that the Government must be supreme ; that Parliament ought to have nothing to say in regard to his appointment. We each have a responsibility to our constituents. The Government might get this measure passed, and might not make an appointment at,, all. How are we to know whether or not one will be made ?
– It mav be a bunch of carrots, to be held out until the next election.
– Certainly. The appointment may be dangled before the noses of certain individuals who are presumed to be anxious to ‘obtain it.
– Does the honorable senator, think that the Government will give the Opposition such a splendid opportunity of belabouring them ?
– We do not know what the Government will or will not do. I think that they should be instructed to make .the appointment within a certain date; but Senator Millen has stated that that would be a reflection upon them. Suppose that he told one of his workmen to do a certain thing before that day week, and that the employe turned up his nose and said, “ I will do it when it pleases me,” what would happen? The employe would very soon have to look for another master. I think that very good reasons have been given for providing that the appointment must be made within a limited time. In many cases, appointments are bandied about to suit the convenience of a Government, arid probably of supporters. We do not want anything of that kind to happen in this case. We desire the appointment to be made at the earliest possible date. Unless a date is placed in the measure, the Government may appoint a High Commissioner to-morrow,or a month hence, or three months hence, or just before the next Parliament meets. Every honorable senator who desires to see Parliament carried on as it ought to be, will vote for the amendment. No doubt honorable senators opposite feel that it would not be right on their part to place the Government in an invidious position ; but I contend that every honorable senator owes aduty to his country above and beyond any duty to the Government. Probably any appeal made to honorable senators opposite will be in vain. But I remind them that the Government is the servant of Parliament, not its master, as Senator Millen and other Ministers seem to think.
– No. Whilst a Government is subject to Parliament, it is not subject to a minority in Parliament.
– I was speaking of Parliament. I want to see this appointment made before the expiration of the present Parliament. I ask honorable senators to support the amendment, even if it is an innovation. It is an improvement upon the method proposed by the Government, who desire to get a free hand. I do not think that that ought ever to be granted. I hold that members of Parliament should keep a very strict rein upon Ministers, who are apt to do things just to please themselves, or to leave them undone, whichever may seem to suit best for the time being.
– The argument that this measure is urgent is a strong reason why every honorable senator should support the amendment. If it is urgent that a representative of the Commonwealth should be sent to London, surely it is urgent that we should know who is to be sent before the 30th November of this year. The appointment of a man as representative of Australia in the Motherland is certainly as essential as the passing of the Bill ; and surely no one can object to a request that he shall be appointed by the 30th November. No honorable senator has opposed the Bill, or has failed to recognise the necessity for the appointment of a High Commissioner.
– Several honorable senators are opposed to the appointment.
– I was not aware of that. I thought that honorable senators were unanimous as to the necessity for the appointment.
– The second reading has been passed, and I cannot see that the honorable senator’s remarks are relevant to the amendment.
– I do not think I am transgressing in any way. Honorable senators have shown that they regard the Bill as urgent by agreeing to the second reading without a division. I think that that is also evidence that they regard as urgent the making of the appointment, which is necessary before the Bill can have any effect.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7.45 p.m.
Bill presented and (on motion by Senator Millen) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 9th September (vide page 3237), on motion by Senator Pearce -
Senator Colonel NEILD (New South Wales) [7.46]. - From the extracts read by Senator Pearce in submitting this motion, it appears that a number of the leading newspapers in the Commonwealth have formed an Association for the purpose of obtaining press cables from the other side of the world, and that they are not disposed to allow competitors to participate in that supply of news, except upon their own terms. Now, it may be argued that the news in question is of great consequence to the public. But with any such statement I am not prepared to agree. To-day it is less the function of the press to supply news to the public than it is to supply excitement. The news of to-day is very frequently contradicted to-morrow. Whilst I admit that the information which is embodied in the press cables is most interesting from the stand-point of excitement, and that we all relish it as an additional condiment upon our breakfast table, I say that for all the good which it accomplishes in the way of improving our knowledge, there is very little in it. From that stand-point I do not feel called upon to spend much time in dilating upon the enormities of the organization to which I have alluded. If we wish to learn what a newspaper is, and why it exists, we have merely to turn up the telephone lists in the various States. There, it will be found that, whilst one telephone answers all editorial purposes, three or four telephones are required to deal with that much more consequential matter - advertisements. One telephone serves to supply the wants of the editor and the reporting staff, who are really the historians of Australia, although their position in that connexion may not always be recognised. I look upon the reporting staff of a newspaper as the most important staff, because its members are the chroniclers of passing events which will make history, whilst the editorial columns are merely occupied by comments upon such events. The reporting staff of a newspaper is necessarily an historical staff. Its members report events, and, perhaps’, do not waste too much time in commenting upon them.
Having achieved certain proprietary rights over the use of a cable-
SenatorColonel NEILD. - Men have been repeatedly refused admission to trade unions in New South Wales, as will be seen by reference to the records of the Supreme Court of that State.
Wales that men have been prohibited from joining such unions.
– I arn somewhat surprised to find that the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat is opposing the terms of the motion submitted by Senator Pearce. As a rule, he is “ fairly on the job “ when Select Committees are being appointed. On this occasion - unhappily, I suppose for the mover of the motion and those who support it - he has been left out of the list of those who have been named as members of the Select Committee.
– That is a very contemptible and currish observation. It is the sort of “yabber” that would come from the mouth of a dog.
– I rise to order. I call your attention, ‘sir, to the fact that Senator Neild has characterized a statement made, by an honorable senator as “ a contemptible and currish observation,” and as being only such “ yabber “ as would come from the mouth of a dog. Are such remarks in order ?
- Senator Neild was certainly not in order in making such remarks with regard to Senator Henderson, and they should be withdrawn.
– I did not make the remarks concerning Senator Henderson. The words which I used about a remark being comparable to the yelping of a dog had nothing to do with anything said by
Senator Henderson. They related to something said by another honorable senator, who was supposed to be writing letters at. the time.
– The remarks, whether applied to Senator Henderson or to any other honorable senator, were not in order.
– That remark, as I have mentioned, was not applied to Senator Henderson.
– I must accept the honorable senator’s- assertion. I should also like to state, however, that it is out of order to attribute unworthy motives to honorable senators; and it is attributing unworthy motives to impute to an honorable senator that he opposes a motion because he has not been proposed as a member of a Select Committee which it is desired to appoint.
– I should like to ask your ruling, sir, as to whether or not the observation made by Senator Neild as to a statement made being “ contemptible and currish,” was in order, as applied to any honorable senator? I should also like to ask Senator Neild, through you, sir, if he denies making that statement?
- Senator Neild has made the statement that the remarks to which attention has been called were not intended to apply to the honorable senator to whom they were supposed to relate. The honorable senator’s statement has to be accepted.
– No matter what we know that Senator Neild said?
- Senator Needham is aware that it is a well known rule of Parliament that when an honorable senator makes a statement as to what he has said or done, his statement must be accepted.
– If you will allow me, sir, I should like to say that I did not make the remark that has been complained of in reply to anything that Senator Henderson has said. But I do stand up here and state that the remarks made had reference to Senator Needham; and I will take the consequences.
– Order. The honorable senator must see that remarks of that character are very disorderly. I ask him to withdraw them at once.
– Of course, I withdraw ; certainly - unequivocally ; because it is the duty of every member pf this Chamber not only to obey the Chair, but to conduct himself -as a gentleman. But having withdrawn the remark fully and completely, and without any reservation, I think-
– Order ! Senator Neild has done all that he was required to do, and I do not desire him to attach to his withdrawal any qualification whatever.
SenatorColonel Neild. - I make no qualification, sir.
– I ask the honorable senator not to pursue the subject any further.
– Well, if that is so I will not withdraw the remarks.
– Order ! The honorable senator has withdrawn certain remarks to which exception has been taken. He is now conducting himself in absolute defiance of the Chair. He is aware that that cannot be permitted. I do not desire to have any trouble with the honorable senator. I ask him to allow his withdrawal to stand without any qualification of any kind. I request him again, for the sake of order and decency, and in the interest of the proper conduct of business, to withdraw the remarks.
– If you, sir, had allowed me to add a word or two you would have realized that I did not desire to qualify my withdrawal. I have already withdrawn absolutely the words to which objection was taken. When I said at a later stage that if not permitted to make a statement I would not withdraw my remarks, I spoke perhaps in petulance. But will you permit me to say - not to extenuate anything, but to explain myself - that I felt that I was being deprived of an opportunity of pointing out that I had been subjected to great provocation. I do not, I repeat, say that as an extenuation, but by way of explanation. I have withdrawn the words to which you have objected. The subsequent words which I usedto the effect that I would not withdraw language to which you objected, were unwise. I desire to say that they were the result of momentary irritation on my being denied the opportunity which I think is usually extended to an honorable senator who unreservedly retracts observations as I did. It is customary, I think, to allow an honorable senator to add a word or two, not by way of weakening his withdrawal in any way, but because he feels he has a right to make some kind of personal explanation. All that I wished to say, if you will allow me to say it now, was that I felt very much irritated by an accusation which I regarded as most unwarranted, and which indeed amounted to a personal outrage upon myself. ‘ Under that feeling of irritation I used words which I admit I had no right to use here, and which I entirely retract.
– May I be permitted to say, sir, in reply to what Senator Neild has said, that I made no insinuation concerning him. I made no accusation. Honorable senators who were sitting beside me know what took place. I made a slight remark, but not one that could be regarded as any reflection upon the honour or integrity of Senator Neild. I merely made one simple, innocent interjection.
– What was it?
– I think that the interjection had better not be repeated.
– I made no unworthy accusation of any kind, and I am sure that Hansard will not show that I did.
– After this interlude, I may be permitted to make a few observations on the motion submitted by Senator Pearce. I wish to draw the attention of honorable senators to the speech of the mover, and to the arguments advanced by him in support of his proposition. Senator Pearce clearly stated that there is evidence that the press cables that are from time to time printed in our morning newspapers are closely controlled by an organization which uses the cables for its own aggrandizement and advancement, whilst at the. same time maintaining as a monopoly the right to such information as it may feel disposed to distribute, at such rates as it may feel inclined to charge. Senator Neild asserted that the method adopted by those who control the cables is precisely the method adopted by trade unionists in New South Wales, and, I presume, in other parts of Australia also.
– In New South
Wales or anywhere.
-I admit that Senator Neild has a wide knowledge of many of the conditions prevailing in New South Wales ; but I dispute the correctness of his knowledge with regard to the position assumed by trade unionists. I maintain that there is no parallel whatever between the position occupied by the purveyors of cable news to the country newspapers and the public of Australia and the position occupied by trade unionists in the disposition of their labour. The purveyors of cable messages may dole out the news in parcels to such papers as they please; but a trade unionist cannot do anything of that sort. I admit, at once, that he can either work or refuse to work. If he refuses to work, he can accept the alternative of starving. He cannot deny to any man the right to become a member of his trade union with equal status.
– The decisions of the Law Courts do not show that.
– The honorable senator is now quibbling.
– Not a bit.
– Surely the honorable senator will admit that the law of Australia prevents a trade union from being registered unless it is open to any man to become a member of it under the conditions of its registration.
– Does the honorable senator say that the trade-union law of all the States is equal?
– What I say is that the arbitration law of New South Wales - the State which the honorable senator cited - provides that no trade union shall be registered which in its rules attempts to prevent any one working in the trade from becoming a member of it.
– Will the honorable senator say for how long that has been the law?
– Ever since the Arbitration Court was established in that State. If the honorable senator can find out the date, he will have the answer to his question.
– It was established nine years ago.
– I do notremember the exact year.
– The honorable senator is utterly misinformed.
– If the honorable senator will refresh his memory by reference to the law, he will ascertain that my statement is absolutely indisputable. In the other case, how vastly different is the position ! The cable organization comprises the newspapers of Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide. It has a monopoly of the cable news. It has also the right to refuse to admit into the combination any other newspapers.
– No; that has been altered.
– During the last few months.
– I have no personal knowledge of such an alteration having been made. I contend that the two cases, instead of being a parallel, are as far apart as the two poles - the one found by Peary and the one found by Cook. I think that there ought to be an inquiry as to- whether a * few newspapers which had the privilege and the pleasure of being established in our large cities, should have the power, or possibly the opportunity of preventing the legitimate circulation of the news of the world, under fair and honest conditions, amongst the people of Australia. All that Senator Pearce seeks, is an inquiry which will be worthy of the subject, and which, of course, will not be a costly one. In my opinion, it is a reasonable request which he has made. If it is a fact that four or ten newspapers have a power which they can exercise to the detriment of the public, and fifty or sixty other newspapers, I hold that an inquiry should be made. The sooner that is done the better it will be for the general welfare of the people of Australia, inasmuch as I feel sure that it would be the means of removing a growing evil. There is a good deal of cable manufacturing in Australia as well as elsewhere, and a good many items of news which we read in the newspapers to-day, are contradicted, as Senator Neild admits, on the following day.
– The things which are contradicted are uninteresting, such as railway accidents or ships breaking down.
– No ; not railway accidents, but news relating to large political questions, such as the building of Dreadnoughts - news which was ment to excite the public, and to arouse the ire and warlike feelings of people throughout the civilized world. These things call for a searching inquiry. We want, if possible, to get the news of the world conveyed over the cable in the most reliable fashion, and to insure that the readers of our newspapers shall receive correct reports from various countries.
– The honorable senator should move for the appointment of a public censor.
– I am not talking about the appointment of a public censor, but the need for instituting a public inquiry into the matter of the press cable service. It is necessary to inquire into the charges which have been levelled against the press by
Senator Pearce, and which have been made here time and again during the last five or six years. In my opinion, the time has arrived when these charges ought to be investigated, and the easiest method is to appoint a Select Committee of the Senate.’
– Does the honorable senator think that it could interfere successfully with Parisian tarradiddles ?
– I know that a Select Committee of the Senate does not possess very extensive powers, but I know from personal experience that in some cases Select Committees have rendered fairly good service to the country, and the probability is that an inquiry into the methods of the Press Cable Combine would be attended’ with valuable results to the Commonwealth. I sincerely trust that the motion will be carried.
– When Senator Pearce moved this motion four weeks ago, he said, towards the- close of his speech -
I know that this combine has been buttonholing honorable senators, and lobbying. I am aware that the very newspaper which denounced lobbying here in most emphatic terms has been lobbying during the last week in order to secure the defeat of this motion, and the argument is being used that it is a private business.
That was the first I had ever heard of anything of the sort. I was not approached by anybody, nor did I hear of any honorable senator having been approached. I think that if there had been anything of the sort going on, some of us would have heard about it. I can only ‘conclude that Senator Pearce was under a misapprehension on the subject. It appears to me that his address might be divided into two parts. The first was a pretty long sustained charge against the press of publishing garbled telegrams - that is, of receiving messages and altering their meaning. The other section of his address was a denunciation of the press for not allowing other people to buy the messages which he said were garbled. Now, if the newspapers are publishing unreliable news, it is a very extraordinary thing that he should want to compel them to sell that news to be- printed in other newspapers. I cannot understand the. matter at all. His motion reminds me very much of a little thing I saw in Punch some time ago. A boy was undertaking to tell a lad how to make a gun. He said, ‘ ‘ Take a hole, and wrap a piece of brass round it. ‘ ‘ Senator Pearce has, it appears to me, got hold of a good sized hole, and is wrapping brass around it. Really, apart from the brass with which he surrounds the hole, there is not very much in the whole business. Any one who reads the motion can see at once that an inquiry would be an idle matter, because practically every one of the gentlemen whose names are mentioned in the motion has already “intimated his views to the Senate. When I point out that the Select Committee is to include Senators Pearce, Guthrie, Givens, and Findley, the Senate will, I am sure, recognise the force of my observation.
– And Senator Pulsford.
– I am taking the majority of the proposed Select Committee. The Labour party in the Senate comprises fifteen members, and Senator Pearce pro. poses to put four of them on the Select Committtee, and, out of the remaining twenty-one members of the Senate, he wants to take only three from this side.
– Strike out my name.
– That indicates at once what will be the character of the report if an inquiry is granted. I suggest that it is utterly idle to put a proposition of this kind before the Senate.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the report would be based on the evidence?
- Senator Pearce told us repeatedly that this cable business is a monopoly, and Senator Henderson echoed that statement.
– So it is.
– There we have it again. I can say most positively that there is nothing of the real nature of a monopoly about the business. I do not think that there could be a newspaper cable monopoly unless the Government entered into an alliance with the newspaper proprietors to bring about that result. I am quite sure that the Postal Department has not entered into any such arrangement, and that the newspapers have not purchased the exclusive right to the use of the cables. Consequently there is no justification for claiming that a monopoly exists in regard to the press cable service. In order to make the position perfectly clear I should like to put on record the meaning which is given in Webster’s Dictionary of the word “monopoly.” I find that it is derived from words meaning “alone,” and “to sell.” The definition given by Webster reads -
Raleigh held a monopoly of cards.
Essex a monopoly of sweet wines. - Macaulay.
There is nothing of a monopolistic character about the press cable service. The news is collected in various parts of the world-
– By whom?
– By the persons who are employed to collect it. It may be collected by newspaper agencies or by private correspondents. Here I should like to reproduce a statement which was made in 1905 by Senator Keating when the Copyright Bill was under consideration. He said -
Mr. Bell, manager of the Times, London, before an Imperial Commission in 1898, gave an instance in which one particular cable cost the Times£1,200, and before Ten o’clock that cable had been copied and was being sold at one penny, with the result that the Times edition, which had been in good demand for a few hours, beganto come back unsold.
That is an illustration of the enterprise of newspapers. A newspaper may expend £50 or £100 or even £1,000 upon a cable,’ and may stand to be shot at. The truth of the matter is that the newspapers of Australia - and I do not think that they are much behind the journals to be found in other parts of the world from the standpoint of their enterprise - spend a large sum of money in cables. If they are not assured of some business-like result for that expenditure, what will happen? Are we to make it not worth their while to incur the expenditure which they do incur? Besides the news which comes over the cables to the press, private firms are also in receipt of daily advices as to the state of the markets on the other side of the world. Take the wool trade as an example. The large brokers in Sydney and in Melbourne daily receive private messages as to the state of the wool market in England. Those messages are published by the press. Does any one suggest that the brokers should pay large sums of money for such messages, and that they should then be compelled to share with other people the information which they have thus gained?
– That has never been suggested.
– I wish to expose the weakness of Senator Pearce’ s case. I admit at once that it is desirable that the press of a great country like Australia should be generous in the matter of its cable arrangements. But because on all occasions it will not practically provide capital for prospective competitors we ought not to condemn it. Are business people in any district called upon to share all their trade advantages with competitors?
– Does not that apply equally to the coal vend or to any other monopoly ?
– Surely persons who have been in business for a long time, and who, by virtue of years of trade and of the exercise of great skill and knowledge have acquired certain advantages, ought not to be expected to part with those advantages without receiving some consideration? The thing will not bear examination.
– Then do not examine it.
– What is proposed by Senator Pearce partakes very much of the nature of a deliberate attempt to steal. He aims at curtailing the profits and lessening the circulation of established newspapers. I know something of newspaper life, and I say that country journals all over Australia have been in the habit of using cable news for which they have paid nothing whatever. Let us assume that a newspaper in Sydney or Melbourne publishes certain news which it has received by cable, to-morrow morning. The practice has been for correspondents of country journals to telegraph that news to remote towns, where it has been published before the metropolitan journals could reach them.
– Newspapers enjoy copyright for their cables for twenty-four hours.
– But that period elapses before the metropolitan journals can reach certain towns in the interior.
– There is not any place so situated in Australia.
– Many towns are more than twenty-four hours distant from Sydney by rail. The suggestion that a monopoly exists in regard to the press cable service will not bear analysis. The press of Australia ought to deal with its news in a generous fashion, and I believe that it is doing so. But to ask the newspapers which form the Press Association to deliberately assist in the establishment of other journals, and to cut down their own profits, is to ask too much of human nature.
– - I intend to oppose this motion, because I regard it as one which is bad in principle.
– Is it bad to obtain information ?
– If we are going to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the press cable service, there is no other cooperative movement which may not be subjected to similar inquiry.
-r-Why did we pass the Australian Industries Preservation Act?
– It is all right to prosecute inquiries where there is’ reason to suspect the existence of a trust. I listened very attentively to Senator Pearce when he was submitting this motion. I expected that he would have made out something like a case in support of it. But he failed to advance any reason why a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into this matter.
– Why does the honorable senator object to an inquiry?
– Because I do not think that the Commonwealth has any right to conduct such an inquiry. If the business of the Press Cable Association is to be inquired into, why may not my business be inquired into ? What was the complaint urged by Senator Pearce in introducing this motion ? He declared that the present system of supplying cable news was, in the first place, costly. Costly to whom?
– To everybody.
– Is it costly to the public ?
– If it be costly’ at all, surely it must be costly to the persons who primarily pay for it? If they do not grumble, who has any title to do so? Senator Pearce also alleged that the conditions imposed by the Press Cable Association were unfair. Unfair to whom ? Are they unfair to those Who are connected with it, or are they unfair to the public? I did not hear the honorable senator advance a single argument in proof of his accusation of unfairness. His third complaint was that the news supplied was inadequate, garbled, and inaccurate. But he supplied only one instance of that. He quoted a cable which was received at the time of the Dreadnought scare which stated that a “grave” situation had arisen, and another which declared that it was merely a “ new “ situation. In reply to his statement that the news supplied is inaccurate, garbled, and inadequate, I venture to say that the metropolitan press of Australia in tone, appearance, and in the quality of its news, is equal to the press of any part of the world.
– And in its advertisements, too.
– Every newspaper lives upon its advertisements. If it were not a good newspaper it would not be a good advertising medium. If the delegates to the Chambers of Commerce, who were here the other day, had been asked their opinion of our press, I am sure that they would have unhesitatingly declared that it was equal to any press in the world. We have a right to be proud of it.
– There are a number of honorable senators who have a great deal to thank it for.
– I suppose that the honorable senator has nothing to thank it for?
– Nothing, whatever.
– I think that honorable senators opposite have a great deal for which to thank the press. Very often it gives them a good advertisement and a cheap one. But assuming that the present system of supplying cable news to the public is costly, that the conditions under which it is supplied are unfair, and that the news itself is inadequate, garbled and inaccurate, what good can result from the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into it? What remedy can such a body devise to make things better? Is it any part of the duty of the Commonwealth to ascertain the facts? I do not think that we have any more right to interfere with the business of a newspaper than we have to interfere with any other business.
– Did we not investigate the tobacco business?
– I do not say that the Commonwealth was right in so doing. If it be true that the press cable service supplies costly news under unfair conditions, and that that news is inadequate, garbled, and inaccurate, why do other newspapers wish to join it?
– Who says that they wish to join it?
– That was the complaint of Senator Pearce. That honorable senator quoted extracts from a paper pub- lished in New. Zealand for the purpose of supporting his’ statements. He also cited instances in which hardship was alleged to have been inflicted upon a newspaper in Western Australia, and upon another published in South Australia. These journals sought to gain admission to the combine
– At ground-floor rates.
– But if the Press Association is bad, why do other newspapers wish to join it? One can only judge from the news that is published. Senator Pearce has based his request for the appointment of a Select Committee on the ground that the press gets the benefit of concessions in cable rates, and also on the ground that newspapers are carried at lower rates of postage than are ordinary articles. But who benefits from those concessions ? There was a time when newspapers were carried free of postage in some States. It was so in South Australia. The argument used for that concession was that the newspapers were of great educational value, and that the concessions really conferred a benefit on the public.
– That was a very specious argument.
– At all events, it Was an argument that was very generally accepted. It is said that the principal newspapers enjoy a monopoly in respect of the cable service. I fail to see that there is anything in the shape of a monopoly in relation to the combination which exists. Any other combination of newspapers could obtain exactly the same terms in respect of cable rates, and the same postage- rates.
– The honorable senator leaves out one factor.
– What is that ?
– No newspaper is allowed to get the benefit of the cable service without the consent of the present members of the combination.
– There is no foundation for that statement.
– It seems to me that there is nothing to prevent others from enjoying the same advantages that the present members of the combination get. The real point for consideration, however, is whether the public generally suffer under the present arrangement. Have the public made any complaints ? I have not heard of one. So far as I can learn, there has been no public demand for an inquiry such as Senator Pearce asks for. Why should not the press combine to forward its own business interests ? Is it not a perfectly legitimate thing to do? Why should the public make any complaint, so long as the public interest does not suffer ? Why should not the newspaper proprietors who do combine in this manner insist upon their, own terms from those who desire to share in their enterprise ?
– Suppose they will not make terms?
– I have no reason to believe that they will not make terms ; and in any case, there is nothing to prevent] other combinations being formed. I have before me an article published in the. South Australian Register of July 27 of the present year. Speaking of the complaint made by Senator Pearce, the article says -
Their sole object appears to have been to create prejudice as a means of securing for practically nothing the products of other men’s brains and industry. This may be very good, consistent, and characteristic socialism of the fashionable brand; but it is exceedingly bad fair play and truth, and the Australian public will not give it encouragement. Misrepresentations have been heard until the repetition has become as tedious as unaccountable, excepting on the hypothesis already indicated. Now what of the facts? The arrangement under which certain metropolitan daily newspapers share English telegrams has been called a “Trust.” The partnership is in reality no more a “ Trust “ than exclusive ownership by a proprietor of a shop who imports goods from England for sale to customers is a “Trust.” Other people can import the same kind of goods from the same sources, have them brought to the State by the same means and at the same prices, and sell them to the same or other customers. The managers of the cable lines show to metropolitan newspaper owners no favours whatever which are not open to any other newspaper proprietors.
That statement is made by a reputable newspaper. I am open to argument and information upon this question, in which I have no personal interest. If in the course of further discussion any supporter of Senator Pearce’s motion can make out a stronger case than he has done, I may be inclined to help him. I am looking for information which, so far, I have not been able to get.
– The very newspaper which the honorable senator has quoted is opposed to admitting any other Adelaide newspaper to the enjoyment of the cable service.
– I have been informed that the proprietors of the South Australian Register are quite willing to admit even a Labour daily in Adelaide into the combination.
– The South Australian Register was willing, provided the other Adelaide newspaper agreed.
– I started a newspaper years ago against the Herald, and had no trouble in getting into the cable combination.
-If there is to be any interference with this newspaper business, what guarantee is there that other businesses will not be affected in the same way ? Suppose that A in Perth, B in Adelaide, C in Melbourne, D in Sydney, E in Brisbane, and F in Tasmania are dealers inoneparticular kind of goods - say hardware. Suppose that each of them has his own London buyer who studies the markets and supplies his principal with information. Suppose, then, that these people come together and say among themselves, “Why “should we not combine, employing one representative in London, who will obtain all the information which we require, do our buying for us and enable us to purchase at lower rates. We shall thus be able to carryon our business much more cheaply.” No one would have any right to complain if that were done. There would be no harm in the combination. But suppose a seventh dealer in hardware, whom we will call G, says, “ Those fellows are getting goods cheaper than I can buy, and I must try to get into their combination.” Suppose that he makes an effort to do so, but that the others are not willing to receive him except on certain terms. Suppose, then, that G says,” If you will not let me in on my own terms, I will go to Parliament and see whether I cannot get a Select Committee appointed with the object of forcing you to let me in.” Is not that exactly what is happening in the present case?
– Would there not be restraint of trade?
– I have heard nothing said to prove that there is any restraint of trade on the part of the newspaper combination. On the contrary, it seems to me that the public have benefited. The more newspapers that come into the organization the larger the number of cables sent out to Australia. That has been the natural result. No one can deny that. There is reason to believe that the cable service of the press of Australia is no less efficient and reliable than is the cable service of any press in the world.
– Ours is the only press in the world which makes a principal feature of its cable service.
– The cable “ service would not be a principal feature had it not been for the fact that the proprietors of the newspapers have been so enterprising.
– If a newspaper had a separate agency in London, the supporters of the motion would not complain, but the public would not get so good a service.
– No reason has been advanced for interference, except that some persons have been disappointed because they could not get into the combination on their own terms. I see no reason for the appointment of a Select Committee; but if, in the course of the discussion, it is shown that a wrong is being done to the public, I shall be quite prepared to change my attitude. Unless, however, so much is shown, I want to know what right any one has to interfere with a private enterprise that is doing no wrong?
– It would take a good deal to make the honorable senator believe that this private enterprise was doing wrong.
– If I were prejudiced as much as the honorable senator is, I should not foe willing to listen to any evidence. As things are, I maintain an open mind. My complaint is thatso far I have seen no evidence to justify me in supporting the motion. Unless a stronger case can be made out than has been made out at present, I must vote against the proposition.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. My word was challenged very hotly by Senator Henderson and others in connexion with the statement I made in good faith to the effect that persons had been refused admission to trade unions in New South Wales, and that the records bore out that statement. I now have before me cases which prove my assertion. The reports are very lengthy, and I do not propose to read them. It will be sufficient if I state briefly what the facts are. The first case is reported in the Industrial Arbitration Reports and Records of New South Wales for 1906. The date is 7th August. The case relates to an application in reference to which’ Mr. Hughes, barrister, a member of another place, appeared for the Union in question. It is, of course, the well-known Wharf Labourers’ Union case. Application was made for the cancellation of the registration of the Union because of its refusal to admit persons to membership.
The case actually under consideration was that of one O ‘Dwyer, but the statement of the -President of the Court shows - as reported on page 261 - that, as a matter of fact, four or five men were rejected by the Union between December and February, a period of about two months. So that not only was O’Dwyer rejected contrary to the rules of the Union, but other men were also refused admission.
– Were they denied admittance because the membership was full, or because they were undesirable as members ?
– If I were to read the judgment of the President of the Court, it would be shown that the reasons given for refusing admission to these men were no more just and reasonable than if, to quote the President of the Court, they had been rejected because they had red hair.
– Order. The honorable senator is not entitled to argue the matter under cover of a personal explanation.
– I am afraid I was led astray by answering a question that was equally out of order. The second case to which I will refer is dated! March, 1907. Another application was made to the Court for the cancellation of the registration of the same Union on the ground of its refusal to admit members. On this occasion, the Court, in its wisdom, saw fit to cancel the Union’s registration, for the very reason that I have alluded to, namely, its refusal to admit men of good character, physical capacity, and suitability in other respects for membership. I thank the Senate for giving me permission to make these references to the records of the Arbitration Court in New South Wales, to show that my statement to-day was not only reasonable, but positively correct.
– The two exceptions quoted by Senator Neild prove the rule to which Senator Henderson pointedly referred in his speech to-night. The cases are well known. The individuals in question were objected to by the Wharf Labourers’ Union, not on ordinary grounds, but on account of charges of blacklegging during a strike. Senator Neild did not take the trouble to explain that.
– Where does the honorable senator find that statement?
– It is a wellknown fact. If the honorable senator will read the evidence given in the cases, he will know that what I am saying is true. The -facts are so well known that I am surprised? at Senator Gray and Senator Neild, being Sydney men, alluding to them at all. It is well known that the occupation of the wharf labourers is of a dangerous character. Every one knows how easy it would be for an accident to occur to such men while engaged in their employment. I know that in their own interest it was not advisable that they should work with the wharf labourers at a time when bad feeling prevailed. There must be at least 100,000 trade unionists in ‘New South Wales, and this is the only case of that kind which can be trumped up against them. It was a very exceptional case, so far as trade unionism is concerned. But the complaint made against- the press is so general that there are no exceptions. The daily newspapers have been able to keep the metropolitan area as a close preserve for themselves year in and year out. This fact is so notorious- that I am surprised at any one who occupies a public position not being aware of it. One has only to compare the press of Australian cities with the press of large cities in other countries to notice how few daily newspapers we have. . Our cities do not produce ten per cent, of the daily newspapers which are brought out in cities of similar size and importance in other countries, and that is due to the close monopoly which exists.
– Take the cities of America or Europe or Scotland. In every city there is a considerable number of daily newspapers, whereas in Melbourne we have only three.
– How many are there in Manchester and Glasgow?
– In Glasgow there must be at least half a dozen daily, newspapers.
– There were not when I was there.
– Nearly a quarter of a century ago there were at least three morning newspapers, and more than three evening newspapers, and I am quite satisfied that there must be a great many more now. I am sorry that I have not with me the figures for the more prominent cities of the world, but I saw them in print recently. The small number of daily newspapers in Melbourne, as compared with cities of corresponding size, is due to the fact that there is a close monopoly in Australia.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the population has a little to do with the number of newspapers ?
– The fact that our population is centred in a small compass in two cities affords a very good opportunity for other newspapers to start ; but they do not.
– Does the honorable senator think that the population would justify the starting of additional newspapers ?
– There are four daily newspapers in Sydney.
– In this community practically only one side of politics is now catered for by the daily press. The daily newspapers of Melbourne, Sydney, and other cities are practically on the one side. No country in the world will furnish a parallel to that position. In no other country will you find all the daily newspapers on one side of politics and absolutely no newspaper on the other side. That is a glaring state of affairs which cannot be denied.
-Colonel Cameron. - That has only just come about.
– The Daily Post of Hobart is now a Labour newspaper.
– It was only yesterday that it announced its intention to change its politics!
– I am pleased to know that there is a gleam of encouragement, and that it has made its appearance in Hobart. I hope that it will be repeated in the various cities. I do not know that in Russia or Turkey a worse position is occupied by the press than we see in Australia to-day.
– Does the honorable senator put all that down to the cable service?
– Yes, to a great extent. The cable monopoly has more to do with the position than anything which I can imagine. It is well-known that a cable service costs much more than perhaps any other service which a daily newspaper in Australia has to provide. Because of our isolated position, a newspaper without cable news would be absolutely unsaleable. Instances of boycotting have been given. In his speech Senator Pearce read the correspondence which passed between Mr. Opie, of Adelaide, and the local daily newspapers. I am really surprised at Senator Vardon being ignorant of what took place there.
– I read the whole of the correspondence.
– Then the honorable senator must have noticed that the reply to Mr. Opie came from the Register and the Advertiser, and that they declined his application. I shall read the reply in order to refresh my honorable friend’s memory.
– My point is that they have a perfect right to decline to supply the news if they like.
– If the honorable senator takes up the attitude that that is a right and proper thing to do, it is of no use for me to argue with him. My task is to show that there is a monopoly.
– They have a perfect right to put a price on their own enterprise.
– On most questions, the honorable senator has been reasonable in his arguments, but to-night he was not. They were very unfair and unreasonable. The correspondence bears out our statement that there is a monopoly.
– Not a bit.
– I shall read the correspondence, in order to show that there is.
– Any other group of newspapers can get exactly the same thing, and therefore there cannot be a monopoly.
– In his speech, Senator Pearce said -
I come now to a case in South Australia which honorable senators will find recorded in Hansard of 12th October, 1905, page 3475. It is a case in which a newspaper in that State desired to obtain cables from the press combine.
He read the letter which was sent to the Register and the Advertiser, but I shall content myself with reading the reply -
Dear Sir, - In reply to yours of the 3rd and 9th inst., inquiry regarding the proposed sharing of our cable service, we wish to explain that the joint interest agreement regulating that service contains a clause which says, *’ That no. message shall be supplied tothe proprietary of any newspaper published either in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, or Brisbane, other than in respect of the newspapers mentioned in this agreement, without the unanimous consent of the parties hereto, except to the proprietary of any evening newspaper or newspapers which may hereafter be published in Melbourne.”In conformity with this obligation, we have com- municited with our partners in the other States, and we find that it is impossible to obtain the “unanimous consent” provided for in the clause just quoted.
– I may mention another instance, which happened in this city. Eight or nine years ago, when trade was slack, an old newspaper man named Voght, and a few prominent members of the Typographical Society, started, on a cooperative basis, a daily newspaper called the People, or the People’s Advocate. They tried to get a cable service on the same terms as the Age and the Argus, but. failed. I received this information from some members of the co-operation. They were all well fitted to bring out a newspaper. The editor was the poor fellow who was selected to run for Bendigo, and who died the other day, Mr. McLeod, the late editor of the Labour Call. The men who were bringing out the newspaper were experienced compositors and printers. Not only were they prevented from getting a cable service, but they were boycotted at every turn by the distributing agents, and the agencies for supplying news. Every agency was closed against them, and the result was that the newspaper was boycotted out of existence. What is the use of honorable senators shutting their eyes to a case of this kind. It is all very well to say that there is no monopoly, or that it is not a harmful monopoly. In my opinion, there can be no more harmful monopoly in the community than a press monopoly. Whenever that important educational agency, the press, is collared by any element, the liberties of the community are very much in danger. There can be no denying the fact that: there is no more dangerous monopoly. That the press of Australia is a monopoly, has, I think, been shown beyond a shadow of doubt.
– It has not been shown to me.
– I am afraid that I cannot supply the honorable senator with more reasonable proof that there is a monopoly, unless he is prepared to support our demand for an inquiry to obtain fuller information. At present, we are giving the best information in our possession.
– It is for the honorable senator to prove that there is a monopoly.
– That is like tying a man to a post and telling him to run as hard as he can. My .honorable friend wants us to prove something, but he is doing his best to prevent us from getting an inquiry to collect the proof. In my opinion, we are entitled to an investigation. The honorable senator seems to think that because this is a private business, we have no right to inquire into its doings. I am afraid that he is not the only one on the other side who takes up that position. It is certainly contrary to the principle which underlies our anti-trust legislation. It also proves our contention that there was very little sincerity behind that legislation. If a monopoly is a bad or dangerous thing to a community in one industry, and if a monopoly exists in the newspaper business, there can be little faith put in the Bills which have been, brought forward by the Government to prevent a monopoly in other callings, such as the tobacco industry, the coal trade, the shipping trade, and other trades which come within the scope of our law. We on this side are quite satisfied that this press monopoly is a dangerous one. No doubt it suits honorable senators on the other side at present to do a bit of barracking for the press. It is only just and reasonable that they should, when they are getting all the help which the press can give them. I think it is safe to assert that many of them could not win an. election without that support. If at the next election all the newspapers were on the Labour side, there would be such a transformation effected that the political position in Australia would be entirely changed.
– The Advertiser gave me all the opposition it was capable of offering.
– But the honorable senator had the support of the other newspaper.
– Senator Trenwith was returned to this Parliament in the face of opposition on the part of all the daily newspapers.
– I admit that his case was a remarkable exception to the rule. But upon that occasion one daily journal in this city palpably over-reached itself. What are the pressmen of Australia regarded individually? I have met quite a number of editors, and I know that when they are placed upon the public platform they are very small potatoes indeed as compared with members of this Parliament. I recollect a gentleman in Western Australia, who, whilst he could wield die editorial “ We” was all powerful, but the moment he came before the public, and they were able to question him, their respect for him vanished, so that he disappeared from public life very rapidly. There is no place like the public platform and Parliament to set these men in their proper positions. 1 only wish that we had them here upon terms of equality, and I am sure that they would not then bulk so large in the public eye. I am quite satisfied that the Press Cable Association is a dangerous monopoly. A Scotchman once said that if he had the making of the ballads of a country he would not care who made its laws ; and I quite agree with him. At that time a ballad writer took the place of a newspaper writer in the formation of public opinion. There ls no doubt that the public do not think for themselves on political matters. They are content to take their ideas from the public prints. The Press Cable Association is a dangerous monopoly, and in the absence of a proper inquiry into its operations we cannot expect to get at the facts. It must be remembered that in Australia we render our newspapers very handsome assistance from the public funds. Those funds are drawn upon to provide our big wealthy daily journals with free trains, which bring them into competition with weaker newspapers in the country. We also furnish them with a telegraphic service at rates which are unremunerative.
– Do I understand the honorable senator to say that the daily newspapers of Melbourne have free trains?
– Perhaps those trains are not provided absolutely free. But I know that not long since the complaint was made that the amount which was paid for them did not more than half cover their cost. In the same way the postage which is charged upon our daily newspapers does not pay for their carriage. If any doubt exists as to whether the Press Cable Association is a monopoly, I hope that the matter will be inquired into. We shall then be in a better position to determine what our attitude shall be in regard to it. With this end in. view the proposed Select Committee should have power to examine witnesses on oath.
– Our friends upon the other side have somewhat shifted their ground since this motion was submitted a month ago. At that time there was no mention, of a projected Labour daily newspaper. The motion was moved entirely in the public interest, and its adoption was urged upon the ground that the press cable service was unfair, costly, garbled, and inaccurate. To-night the public interest is merely of secondary consideration, and the true reason why this motion is submitted has been disclosed. It appears that it is desired “to establish a Labour daily newspaper, and that that journal wishes to obtain its cable news at the same rate as do the newspapers which form the Press Cable Association. The instances of alleged injustice which were cited by Senator Pearce related chiefly to New Zealand. It is true that he did mention a case of apparent hardship to a newspaper published at Menzies, Western Australia, upon which he dilated at some length. Since then I have made inquiries, and I have ascertained that the position of that newspaper was entirely different from what Senator Pearce would have us believe.
– What was wrong with my statements?
– The true position will be disclosed to the Senate before this debate closes. Since the honorable senator spoke I have seen the correspondence in reference to that matter, and the facts disclosed were rather discreditable to the newspaper in question. Will any honorable senator opposite say that a newspaper, or combination of newspapers in Australia cannot go to the fountain-head in London and obtain the same news as is published by the Press Cable Association here?
– It is absolutely open to them to do so. The cable companies have not entered into any arrangement with the press in this connexion. The position is exactly as Senator Vardon has put it. Half-a-dozen persons’ may engage in an enterprise and may agree to pool their expenses, in order to obtain cheaper goods, and thus sell cheaper to the public. Fifteen years ago the press cable news was sent to two newspaper sections in Australia. Those two sections came together, and, as a result, only one set of cables is now sent to them. The agreement into which they then entered has been renewed upon two occasions since, and no desire has been evidenced by any of the parties to withdraw from it. But now that another newspaper wishes to be admitted to the Press Cable Association, the latter naturally says, “ Yes; we are willing to admit you, but you must pay what we want.”
– They do not say that. They say that no other newspaper shall share in the benefits which they receive.
– They cannot say that, because the channel of communication by means of the cable is open to all. The position really is that my honorable friends wish to reap where they have not sown. They desire to obtain the benefits of other men’s enterprise and capital.
– I should like the honorable senator to prove that statement.
– It requires no proof. It has been said that the Press Cable Association is a trust. If that be so, it can be dealt with under the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. If it can be shown that it is operating in restraint of trade, it can be prevented from so operating. But the motion under consideration is not one to inquire merely into the press cable service, but to - inquire into and report upon the question of the supply, conditions of sale, and distribution which control the press cable service within the Commonwealth, or from outside the Commonwealth, and matters connected therewith.
We know perfectly well that the daily press is not a persona grata with the Labour party.
– If there is nothing to hide, why does the honorable senator object to an inquiry?
– Why should the private business of newspapers be dragged before the public and before Parliament? If the parties to the press cable service agreement, or the public, were complaining, the case would be different. But, as a matter of fact, the public are better served with cable news now than they ever were before, as will be seen by reference to the journals of fifteen years ago. They are magnificently served by the news which they receive from the Old Country day by day. As Senator de Largie has already pointed out, it is this fact which renders it so difficult for a fresh daily newspaper to start. I have visited no country in which newspapers contain so ‘much cable news as do our daily journals. It is that fact which renders it exceedingly difficult for other journals to commence operations. But that is no reason why we should sanction a fishing inquiry into the business of the Press Cable Association. It cannot toe urged that a boycott exists, seeing that the same source of supply is open to all. I shall oppose the motion. To use the powers of this Parliament to pry into mat ters of private business would be a dangerous precedent to establish.
.- Hitherto I have supported Senator Pearce in his desire to inquire into the mode iri which the Press Cable Association conducted its business and supplied the public with information. When he asked me to become a member of the proposed Select Committee, I at once consented to do so. There can be no doubt that when he took up this matter, the Press Cable Association had one or two rules which it has since admitted were unfair. This is especially true of the rule which provided that the unanimous consent of members of the Association must be obtained before any new journal could secure the benefit of the cable news received by that body. It therefore came to be recognised that any member of the Association could prevent another newspaper from obtaining cable news at the ordinary rates. That position has now been altered, and, as one or two of my honorable friends opposite appear to doubt that statement, I propose to quote from a document which has been supplied to me by the Press Association, and which I therefore regard as an authoritative one. It reads- ^
When the association was first formed, a clause in the agreement provided that the unanimous consent of the whole of the parties to the agreement would be required before any new paper started in Adelaide, Melbourne, or Sydney could be supplied with the cable news. Within the past few months this condition has been waived by mutual consent, and there is no bar now to any paper receiving the cablegrams on terms to be arranged.
I do not think, therefore, that the statement of Senator McColl, that my honorable friends are supporting this proposal for the purpose of obtaining cheap cables, or of securing any unfair advantage, is an accurate one. I have been informed by an officer df the Press Cable Association that it is open to any newspaper to obtain the cables which are received by that organization. Senator Pearce has, therefore, reason to congratulate himself upon the success of the movement which he initiated some years ago. The honorable senator spoke of this movement as one of national importance, upon the ground that it concerned the education of the people and the supply of knowledge to them. It is from that point of view that I feel bound to support his proposal. In this matter I have nothing to do with party politics. I hate them. This is not a party question in any sense. All I have to consider is whether Senator Pearce has made out a good case ; and so far from his case being weak, as some honorable senators have alleged, I venture to think that it was very strong. We are dealing with a question of knowledge and education. One of the few sensible remarks I heard when I took part at an affair at the Bijou Theatre on a recent Sunday was from a man who had been concerned in the Broken Hill strike. He said that the emancipation of the working classes must come and can only come through the extension of education. If there be any association on the part of the press which in any way mars or hinders the spread of the knowledge which ought to be supplied to the people, I want to prevent that kind of thing. I cannot believe that it is my duty to do anything but support a motion for inquiry into such a subject as this. I understand that in New Zealand an inquiry has also been considered necessary. We have spent hours in passing anti-trust legislation. What is the use of having on our statute-book legislation passed with the object of making it impossible to conduct rings and combines, and to restrain trade, when with our eyes open we are allowing a combine to exist which may be - I do not say that it is - restraining the spread of knowledge? “Restraint of trade” is an old term well known to the English common law for centuries. I trust that we are not going to permit anything in the way of restraint of knowledge in our midst. Let us see to what extent the State has gone. In the first instance we compel parents to send their children to school. In the State from which I come we compel the parents to pay school fees, and fine them if they do not comply with the law in this respect. We consider it to be bad policy to allow our children to grow up in ignorance. The State also takes control of secondary education arid university education. We insist on teachers being registered and examined. We should not think for a moment of allowing any vested rights to stand in the way of our people being properly educated. Some of my honorable friends have fallen into a great error in thinking that by granting this inquiry we should be doing an injustice by interfering in people’s private concerns.
– Hear, hear.
– I cannot take that view. This is a national matter. It affects every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth. Some people look forward to the time - I do not say that I do - when we shall have a national system of collecting and distributing cable news.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of this Parliament controlling the collection and distribution of news?
– I am in favour of an inquiry into the whole business with the object of seeing whether I cannot get more cables sent from England and have them more widely distributed amongst the newspapers of this country. I desire to see whether we cannot in some way or other get into the hands of the humblest newspaper in Australia the same kind of information from other parts of the world as is published by the rich and influential journals.
– Does the honorable senator believe in the State controlling the publication of news?
– I believe in the State exercising control over the circulation of information which is of educational value. I do not look upon this matter purely from a private enterprise point of view. As has been pointed out in the course of this debate, the Government have gone out of their way to foster and encourage the circulation of news by cable. Why do we grant to the press facilities and advantages in the use of our telegraph lines? We do it because we consider it advantageous that information should be easily placed at the disposal of our people. We do that in the public interest. These newspapers are not carrying on a purelyprivate enterprise. They take advantage of facilities offered them by our Railway Departments. They have special trains for the carriage of newspapers in the early mornings. I understand that these trains do not pay. We allow newspaper cheap postage rates. We allow them cheap telegraph rates over our inland lines. When the cables are received at Port Darwin they have to be transmitted over telegraph lines to all parts of Australia. We do all we can to enable the newspapers to supply an efficient service to their readers. Why? Because we recognise that they are not conducting a purely private enterprise, but are performing a public service. I should even be inclined to give a subsidy for the encouragement of a better cable service if it were considered advantageous to do so. If the press are dealing fairly and squarely with the public in this matter they have nothing to fear from the inquiry. But it appears to me to be a little unfair and ungenerous for the rich and large newspapers which have joined together to form this combination, as I call it, to say to the small newspapers which are left outside, “ you can go and do what we are doing if you do not like our terms.” In one sense that statement is perfectly true. But the rich newspaper proprietors should remember that they axe using public telegraph lines, and that they have many advantages conceded to them, because it is considered that they are performing a public service. I want to have an inquiry in order to see whether they are acting fairly by the public, and more than all to see whether we can help the smaller newspapers in the country districts to publish news as to what is going on in other parts of the world. Take the question of naval defence alone. Surely it is desirable to educate the” people in the outlying districts on this all important question- of defending the Empire by maintaining the British supremacy of the seas. Does any one mean to say that it was not important that the electors of this country should read the speech of Sir Edward Grey as to the fact that Germany was building Dreadnoughts faster than Great Britain, and that the new situation was a matter of -grave concern ? ‘ Surely we want to circulate knowledge of that kind far and wide.
– Who wants to keep it from any one?
– My honorable friend surely knows that in New Zealand half the newspapers publish no cables, because they cannot afford them. I should trust that the result of an inquiry would be the adoption . of some scheme - even if it involved the Commonwealth1 subsidizing trust cables - which would result in the dissemination of useful and important information as to national affairs, to ‘ a much greater degree than is at present the case. My honorable friend, Senator Pearce, referred to a letter from some German authority to the effect that one man in London is responsible for the whole of the news about the outside world which is cabled to Australia. I am afraid! that that is so to some extent, and must be so. But an inquiry might have the effect of discovering a means whereby the person sending press cables to Australia might be furnished with instructions from the High Commissioner in London in matters which were of particular interest to Australia. I agree that we have every reason to feel proud of the Australian press. I read my newspapers very industriously every morning, and agree- with everything that has been said in their praise. I do not agree with Senator Pearce in his remarks concerning the cablegrams in regard to the “ naval scare,” as it was called. I thought that the cable which he quoted was. not open to criticism on the grounds alleged by him, but that the man who sent the message did his duty very efficiently. I consider that the whole of our newspapers are conducted in a most efficient manner, and I have had opportunities of comparing them with the leading journals of New York and London, of which I have been a reader for a long time.
– Would not the cable service be better if there were more competition?
– I do not see how it could be. If the cables cost anything like £10,000 a year, we are not likely to have much competition. Probably the .best course is to have one cable association, and to take steps to see that it is conducted in the interests of the public. If it can be shown that information, which it is in the public interest to circulate, cannot be spread abroad as widely as we should like under present conditions, I should even be in favour of a subsidy. I will vote for the expenditure of any money for educating the people, and spreading knowledge and’ information. I am not going to be an economist in that direction. I am only an economist when Ministers introduce measures which may be laid aside for the present. I- shall be more pleased to vote for Senator Pearce’s motion if he will accept two amendments which I intend to move. The first is that after the word “ therewith “ the following words be added - “ and the best means of increasing the supply of cobles and their more extensive distribution.”
The second is in paragraph 2. I propose to leave out all the words after “ Committee,” and to insert the words “be elected by ballot.” I was struck by the statement of Senator de Largie that not a single daily newspaper in Australia supports the Labour party. If that is the case: - of course the Daily Post has only been converted within the last few days - it strikes me that members of the Labour party must have an unconscious prejudice against the Liberal, the Conservative, the Tory, and the Fusion papers. I do not think it is quite fair that an inquiry of this -sort should be entered upon by four honorable senators from the Labour party and three honorable senators from the Fusion party. I think that the fair and proper way would be to elect the Select Committee by ballot. It may be said that if the Conservatives or the Fusionists have a majority, they can determine its members.
– It is necessary that the members of a Select Committee shall be nominated by the mover of the motion. Standing order 278 reads -
The senators to serve on a Select Committee shall be nominated by the mover; but if one senator sodemands they shall be selected by ballot.
The names will have to remain in the motion, but a demand can be made by the honorable senator for a ballot.
– I thank you, sir, for reminding me of the rule. I content myself with moving -
That after the word “therewith” the following words be inserted, “ and the best means of increasing the supply of cables and their more extensive distribution.”
Debate (on motion by Senator Guthrie) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Milien) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– When the Minister of Trade and Customs was introducing the Inter- State Commission Bill yesterday, he mentioned a model Bill which the Premiers had agreed shall be passed by the State Parliaments for referring industrial questions to the Commonwealth Parliament, but I noticed that he did not include it in the papers which he laid upon the table to-day.Has the Vice-President of the Executive Council any objection to letting honorable senators have copies of the Bill ?
– I was under the impression that this model Bill was included in the papers which my honorable colleague tabled today. I shall communicate with him on the subject, and, no doubt, if it is not immediately available, we can obtain a copy within a short period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 October 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1909/19091007_senate_3_52/>.