4th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : - 1 and 2. It has been approved that a licence be granted to the local authorities to carry out certain waterworks on the Military Reserve at Milman Hill, Thursday Island. The draft deed of licence to the Torres Shire Council was. forwarded to the Premier of Queensland on the 17th May last with a request that he would transmit the same for the approval of the Shire Council. The return of the draft is awaited before the actual deeds can be made out.
askedthe VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Section 135 of the Constitution Act having been complied with by the State of New South Wales granting to the Commonwealth the requisite area for the Federal Capital Territory, and the grant of said Territory having been accepted by Act 23 of Session 1909 of the CommonwealthParliament, will the Government exercise the power contained in section 122 of the Constitution Act, and bring in a Bill to enable the inhabitants of said Federal Territory to have representatives in either House of Parliament, so that there shall no longer be a population in said Territory subject to Federaltaxation . without possessing parliamentary representation ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The matter is not being lost sight of. Until the second proclamation under the Seat of Government Act 1909 shall issue the residents in the Territory remain Federal and State electors for the State of New South Wales, and suffer no disability in relation to the exercise of their franchise.
– I desire to know whether it is intended to issue the proclamation at an early date, and, if so, when?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the questions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
– What is periodically?
– The answer does not cover my second question. Will the Minister kindly give me some information on that point ?
– I ask the honorable senator to give notice of the question which he has just indicated. The replies to his two questions on the notice-paper to-day are, I think, ample, because they cover the queries which he submitted.
– My second question was -
When can we expect a report as to the progress being made?
Apparently we shall have to wait for a period of twelve months. The answer to my inquiry seems to be ambiguous.
– If the honorable senator had been listening to the answers he would have learned that a report is made after each cruise, occupying a space of from ten to fourteen days, and that the reports can be seen at the central Customs Department. I cannot see that any other answer can be given to his inquiry.
– Are honorable senators to go hunting round the Customs Department for this information? I ask the Minister if he will kindly have the reports placed on the table of the Library. That would satisfy me.
– The matter will be brought under the attention of the proper authority.
asked the Vice-Pre sident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
If he has any objection to placing before Parliament the opinions expressed by the bankers recently invited to confer with the Prime Minister regarding the proposed issue of Treasury notes ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The interview with the bankers was, at their request, of a confidential character.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
If it is correct, as stated in the press, that a conference was recently held between the PostmasterGeneral and certain public bodies in
Queensland with regard to the Vancouver Mail Service, and, if so, has he any objection to lay a report of the proceedings before the Senate ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Postmaster-General asked the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce and the representatives of the local butter suppliers to meet him in Brisbane to discuss certain matters in connexion with the Vancouver mail contract. He has no objection to laying on the table of the Senate a copy of the notes of what transpired at the interview, if so desired.
– May I anticipate that my request will be complied with, and that the report of the proceedings will be tabled in due course?
– I shall convey the wishes of the honorable senator to the Department.
– I understood the answer to be that if it was so desired the report would be forthcoming. I expressed a desire that it should be forthcoming. I anticipate, therefore, that in the course of a few days the Minister can furnish the Senate with it.
– I shall endeavour to do so.
– I ask honorable senators, as has been previously done, not to give notice of questions for Friday morning except in a case of great emergency, as there is no time available in which to get proper replies. Any question which has been given notice of to-day will be answered on Wednesday next.
– To-day I gave notice of a question for Friday, and if in order I ask that it shall be entered on the notice-paper for Wednesday next.
– I hope that the statement of the Minister will not apply to questions which are given notice of on Wednesday or Tuesday, but only to questions which are given notice of on Thursday. Is that correct?
– My statement applied to questions which are given notice of on Thursday for the following morning. Of course, if any questions are given notice of on Wednesday or any previous day, for Friday, the answers will be ready on Friday.
Motion (by Senator Stewart) agreed to -
That a return be made to the Senate showing -
Debate resumed from 6th July (vide page 82), on motion by Senator McDougall -
That the following Address in Reply to His, Excellency the Governor-General’s Opening Speech be agreed to : -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– As this is the first occasion upon which I have formally risen to address the Senate this session, I desire to tender you, sir, my very sincere congratulations upon having attained the very high and honored position which you now occupy. With all due deference, I venture to say that you are to-day a living embodiment of the freedom of our Commonwealth Constitution inasmuch as it affords an opportunity to every citizen to rise to the highest position within the gift of the people. You, sir, have been placed in your present position by the vote of this Senate, which represents the voice of the Australian people. After three years’ acquaintance with you upon the floor of this Chamber, I cannot fail to recognise your ability in debate, your fair-mindedness in criticism, and the judicial mind which is always behind such criticism. I am confident, therefore, that you will be able to maintain the very high traditions of the office to which you have been called. Yesterday afternoon we listened to an address by the Leader of the Opposition, which was delivered in his usual eloquent style. At the outset let me say that with one portion of his speech I entirely agreed - I refer to that portion in which he expressed a desire to facilitate the transaction of the business of the session, with a view, if possible, to curtailing its length. Hitherto the Senate has been content to open its weekly sittings on Wednesday. Another branch of the Legislature has always commenced its weekly sittings on Tuesday. In the past I have suggested to various Governments that both Houses might sit simultaneously - in other words, that both should meet on the Tuesday of each week. But the reply invariably forthcoming has been that if that course were adopted’ another place would not be able to keep pace with the Senate, and honorable senators might thus find themselves attending here when there was no business to be transacted. Such an argument cannot be adduced now. The speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General outlines a very comprehensive and, may I add, progressive policy which is to be submitted to this Parliament. Amongst other measures therein foreshadowed are Bills relating to navigation and defence. I venture to say that if the Senate concentrated its attention on the consideration of the Navigation Bill alone there would be scarcely any danger of the House of Representatives leaving it without work to perform - at least during the major portion of the session. Even supposing that the Senate had dealt with the Navigation Bill and with certain other measures which are mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, would it not be better - as was suggested yesterday by the Leader . of the Opposition - that a lengthy adjournment should then be agreed to rather than that the representatives from distant States should be called upon to attend here only to find that they had to cool their heels within the precincts of the parliamentary buildings. The adoption of such a suggestion would have the added advantage of affording honorable senators from distant States an opportunity of keeping more intimately in touch with their constituents. I think, too, that it would expedite the termination of the session, and that those honorable senators would thus be enabled to enjoy their Christmas dinners with their families. I had intended to move an amendment to the sessional order to the effect that the Senate should meet on Tuesday of each week in lieu of Wednesday. But without proceeding to that extreme, I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council to take my suggestion into his favorable consideration. The Leader of the Opposition stated yesterday that in view of recent developments there was going to be a contest between responsible government and the caucus - either that responsible government would destroy the caucus or that the caucus would destroy responsible government.
– He said that Sir Richard Baker had made that statement.
– I thank Senator St. Ledger for his interjection, which is really not in the nature of a correction. At any rate, the Leader of the Opposition believes in the statement, and he applied it to the Labour caucus. I am sorry that the honorable senator is not in his place. If he has any misgivings as to the future of responsible government in connexion with the progressive step which has been taken by the Labour party in the selection of the Ministry by exhaustive ballot - and I use the word ‘ ‘ progressive ‘ ‘ advisedly - I would ask him to disabuse his mind upon that subject. Responsible government is in no danger. On the contrary, I believe that w=i are safeguarding responsible government by adopting the precedent which has been established. We have removed, as far as we can, any danger that may have existed in this young nation of the establishment of a dictatorship. Hitherto, the custom has been for one man, who, by the fortune of politics, ability, popularity, or of some other circumstance, has found himself in the position of Leader of the Opposition, to be commissioned by the GovernorGeneral, or the Governor in the case of an oversea Dominion, to form a Ministry. Occasionally, it has been found that this man has not only become either the Prime Minister or the Premier, but that there has been a grave danger of him becoming a dictator. The Labour party have approached one step nearer to the day when we shall have elective Ministers, pure and simple, and the sooner that day arrives the better will it be for responsible government. The adoption of that principle will afford the Parliament and the people a better chance of expressing their views upon many matters. The Leader of the Opposition wondered at the. changes apparent in the Senate to-day as compared with the Senate at the close of last session. He was manly-and generous enough to congratulate the party now occupying the Ministerial benches, and he mentioned one or two factors which contributed to our splendid majority. There was one, however, which he forgot to mention. I think the young Australian was no unimportant factor in the return of the Labour Party to the position they now occupy in the National Parliament. Most young Australians are thinkers and readers, and they have an advantage which is not possessed by young people in other parts of the world. On attaining the age of twenty-one years, they are given a voice in deciding who shall be their parliamentary representatives. At the last general elections what choice had they ? There was before them only the- retrogressive policy o’f the Fusion Party on the one hand, and the progressive policy of Labour on the other. The young Australian who thinks at all thinks progressively, and, as I am reminded by Senator 0’ Keefe, thinks continentally, and in the circumstances I say that the young Australian was no unimportant factor in the result of the appeal to the ballot-box on the 13th April. Senator Millen asked what was meant by the words in the Governor-General’s Speech - “will speedily induce a large number of people of the right kind to settle on the lands of the Commonwealth.”
– Did the honorable senator wish the wrong kind to come?
– I do not know,but he laid particular emphasis on the words “the right kind.” I do not think that any one in a responsible position in. Australia to-day desires the introduction of people of the wrong kind. Senator Millen went on to give his interpretation of the words “the right kind.” He said that the present Government invited to Australia only people possessed of sufficient capital to do certain things. I see no reference to money, and no mention of a money qualification, in the paragraph from which the honorable senator quoted. His imagination must be very elastic when he can give the paragraph such an interpretation. Might I say, with all deference to the honorable senator and his party, that my interpretation of the words “ the right kind” is this: We desire immigrants to come to Australia - after we have broken up the large estates, which are now lying idle - who will be prepared to help us to develop our great agricultural resources. That is a different policy of immigration f 10m tha,t which has been carried out in the past. Very many of the immigrants who have been invited to come to Australia by the State Governments in the past, have not gone on to the land. Many of those who arrived in Australia during the past few years have settled in our cities, and have entered into competition, in an already congested labour market, with bricklayers, masons, boilermakers, engineers, and other artisans, who prior to their arrival found it difficult to secure employment. I venture to say that the meaning of the paragraphreferred to in the Governor- General’s Speech, is that so far as the present Government are concerned, they are determined to see that those who come to Australia in the future shall not unduly enter into competition with men who already” find it difficult to secure employment. Senator Millen went on to criticise the proposals of the Government for meeting the deficit. I shall not labour this matter, because we shall have an opportunity later to deal with it fully ; but there is one portion of Senator Millen’s remarks on the subject to which I wish to direct attention. The honorable senator said that the State Governments were prepared to meet half the deficit if the recent famous or infamous Financial Agreement was made permanent. Evidently, according to Senator Millen, if the permanency of the Financial Agreement had been secured, the State Governments would to-day have had no hesita-. tion in handing over to the Commonwealth Treasurer £600,000, or half of the then anticipated deficit of . £1,200,000. I think that what Senator Millen ought to have said was that the States Governments would give the Commonwealth Treasurer the £600,000 if the Fusion Government again secured office. That was the bargain. There is no denying it ; it appeared in the public press.
– They have not enough spirit left in them to deny anything now.
– It would be a waste of breath to deny anything coming from the other side.
– That was the bargain. The Federal Government agreed to secure the embodiment of the agreement in the Constitution, and the State Premiers attending the secret Conference-
– Do not talk about secret conferences, for God’s sake !
– I can give the honorable senator all he wants about secret conferences. On that understanding the State Premiers were prepared to assist the Fusion Government and Fusion candidates at the recent elections; but if the Government would not agree to embody the agreement in the Constitution they might look out for themselves. It would have been more honest if Senator Millen had said that if the Fusion Government had secured another lease of power then half of the anticipated deficit would have been made up by the States Governments. There is no necessity to ask them to supply £600,000, because, thanks to the economic administrationof the present occupants of the Treasury benches, and despite the disclaimer of Sir John Forrest in another place, the deficit anticipated has been considerably reduced. I will not say that economic administration by the present Government has been the only factor in the reduction of the deficit, but it has helped to reduce it below the amount anticipated by the ex-Treasurer. We also had an address yesterday from Senator Gould, who, in common with Senator Millen, cavilled at the method adopted in the selection of the present Federal Ministry. In reply to an interjection of my own, he said that the Prime Minister had no voice in the selection of the Ministry.
– He had one voice.
– The Prime Minister had one voice and one vote ; and that was all that he was entitled to have.
– Too much !
– Senator Gould further said that the caucus would make a man swear that black is white. We have heard so much about these alleged characteristics of the caucus that the subject has become almost intolerable.
– Senator Gould was stating facts relating to his own experience of a caucus.
– I do not know from what experience he was speaking, but I know that he was making an attack upon the Labour caucus. I hoped that the old parrot cries which we so often heard on the subject had been silenced. I should have thought that arguments on that score had been settled on the 13th April. But let me tell the honorable senator that every member of the Labour caucus is as free on the floor of this Chamber, and in any other Australian Parliament, as was any member of the now defunct Fusion party.
– The honorable senator is too modest when he says, “ As free as.” We are much freer.
- Senator Gould further said that the Governor-General’s Speech was brought forward in secret conclave. I deny that accusation. All that was brought forward in the caucus was the policy which the Labour party enunciated to the people of Australia during the election campaign. The Governor-General’s Speech was first given to this Parliament but we. as a party gave to the people of
Australia a clearly denned policy. They indorsed that policy in an unmistakable manner. Not only did we give to them that clear and definite policy, but we also said that if returned to the National Parliament, we should discuss the principles of our policy in caucus. We made no secret about that. The result of our telling the people what we intended, in a straightforward manner, was that they sent us back to this Parliament with an increase of twenty-three in our numbers. In the last Parliament the Labour party numbered for-ty-two. In the present Parliament it numbers sixtyfive. So that in discussing in caucus the principles which we expounded on the hustings, we are simply keeping faith with our electors. Senator Gould then proceeded to bewail the fact that only 62 per cent. of the voters of the Commonwealth took part in the last election, and he expressed the opinion that it would have been better for his party had a larger percentage of votes been recorded. I do not think that any political party in the Commonwealth has been more vigorous than the Labour party in alwavs urging every voter to record his or her vote at the poll in both Federal and State elections. We have endeavoured to assist in getting the names of all our people placed on the rolls. We have always contended that the larger the vote recorded on election day the better it would be for us. At the last Commonwealth elections, 62 per cent. of those enrolled voted. That is a record so far as Federal elections go.
– In the previous election only 53 per cent. of those enrolled voted..
– A greater percentage of those enrolled voted on the last occasion than at any previous election. The consequence was that a greater number of Labour members was returned to the Federal Parliament than was ever the case before. I hope that at the next election we shall poll something in the neighbourhood of 100 per cent, of those enrolled. I am satisfied that if that result is attained our party will be returned with a still larger majority, and that the old-crusted Conservative Fusion party will be practically wiped out. Senator Gould likewise referred to the Labour party’s views on unification. I will leave that topic just now, as I intend to refer to it later on in quoting from an interview with the Australian High Commissioner, Sir George Reid, on his arrival in London. According to the Governor- General’s Speech, we have been called together to consider matters of importance and urgency. We are also informed that His Excellency’s Advisers - view with satisfaction the result of the referenda on the Financial Agreement and the State debts.
There are more people who view that result with satisfaction than His Excellency’s Advisers. The majority in this Parliament, and the majority of the people of Australia, view it with satisfaction. It is worth while at this juncture briefly to review the history of the Financial Agreement. During the course of last year, six men sat in secret conclave, and drafted an agreement, which was afterwards submitted to this Parliament’, with a request for its insertion in the Commonwealth Constitution. Had that been done it would, in the very apt words of Senator Symon, when making his famous speech last session, have “ denationalized the National Parliament.” These men acted without any mandate from the people. Not one of them, with all due respect to them as Premiers of their respective States, had the shadow of a mandate to submit their proposal to Federal Ministers, nor had Federal Ministers a mandate from the people of Australia to meet the Premiers in secret conclave. Senator Sayers a little while ago interjected something about secret conferences in the Labour party. The difference between the caucus of the. Labour party and the secret Premiers’ Conference is this : The caucus of the Labour party is authorized by the people of Australia.
-The people of the honorable senator’s own State carried the Financial Agreement.
– The honorable senator might leave me to worry about the people of my own State. The difference, I say again, is that on the one hand there was a mandate from the people of Australia to consider certain proposals or items of policy. On the other hand there was no mandate.
– I thought that the Conference of the honorable senator’s own party recommended a scheme similar to the Financial Agreement?
– Where ?
– In Brisbane.
– Even allowing the interjection to be absolutely correct, that Conference was not held in secret.
– I did not say that it was.
– We ‘stood- by the recommendations of the Brisbane Conference. The Financial Agreement was submitted to this Parliament, and, notwithstanding the fact that the supremacy of the Parliament was at stake, the agreement was only carried eventually by the narrow majority of one vote. The point I want to make is that the Labour party in both Houses strenuously resisted the inclusion of the agreement in the Constitution.
– And the State Labour parties were in favour of such- inclusion.
– I am not speaking of the State Labour parties at present. The Labour party in Western Australia was npt in favour of that proposition.
– I think so.
– I give the honorable senator’s statement an emphatic contradiction. I am now dealing with the Federal Labour party and the attitude which it adopted on the question during last session of the Parliament. Whilst we, as individuals, favoured the return of 25s. per capita to the States, we were all agreed that the agreement ought not go into the Constitution. Notwithstanding the fact that my own State voted in favour of the opposite view, I took up the same stand before the electors at the last election campaign as I did on the floor of this Chamber.
– The honorable senator will vote against his State’s demand.
– In the first instance, I voted without any suggestion, good, bad, or indifferent, from my State. I voted here as a member of this Parliament.
– If the last vote means anything it is a demand from Western Australia to enforce the agreement.
– On my return to the State I told the electors what 1 had done and advised them to reject the agreement.
– And the result of die election is a vindication of the honorable senator’s action.
– But the honorable senator was taking no risk at the election.
– I do not know whether my honorable friend is serious or not, but if I was not taking any personal political risk, I knew that my party was, and that every word I uttered would be to its advancement or otherwise. Had I been a candidate I would have been just as strenuous in denouncing the inclusion of the agreement in the Constitution. The result of the election was to indorse in no uncertain way the attitude taken up by the Labour party in this Parliament and outside it. It proves that we took up the right stand.
– And the honorable senator’s own State took up the Wrong stand.
– I cannot help my State going wrong- any more than I can help my honorable friend going wrong now and again.
– The honorable senator does not put himself above his State?
– I am not attempting to do so. This is not a question which affected . Western Australia only, it affected Australia, and the people have de;termined to trust their national Parliament, as the Constitution now -does. My State did not give a mandate to its Premier to come here and practically level a pistol at the head of the National Parliament. The people of Australia are quite content, to trust this Parliament with the handling of their finances. During the campaign, practically most of the controversy centred round the question of the inclusion of the agreement in the Constitution, and the result is seen in the attenuated ranks on the opposite side of the chamber. We find ten Oppositionists on the other side and twenty-three Ministerialists on this side. That is sufficient proof that both inside and outside this Parliament the Labour party took up the right stand on that subject. There is another question which has been referred to by honorable senators opposite, and that is the proposal to have a Commonwealth note issue. That is, I think, a progressive step ; and I am not surprised at any of my honorable friends opposite . lifting up their hands in holy horror at such a progressive move.
-!- In Queensland it was what was called a Tory Ministry which first introduced a State note issue in spite of great opposition.
– Sometimes Tories can be progressive unconsciously. I contend that a paper currency is just as good as a gold currency, when it is backed up by the credit of the nation. Furthermore, if a national note is dishonoured by a bank or citizen then the national credit is also dishonoured.
– It did not pan out so in America. The paper currency . depreciated in value.
– One swallow has never made a summer. I ask my honorable friend whether the State has a right to issue its own gold and silver coins? If it has, then there is no answer to my question, and I presume that in this case silence gives consent. Why should not the State also have the right to issue its own paper currency ?
– No one disputes any one of those propositions.
– The cardinal objection of Senator Gould to the proposition is that by the. issue of a Commonwealth note the Government of to-day can take £3.000,000 without interest.
– Why do you specially want a paper currency now? I might hear an answer to that question from the Government bench.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator was in his place yesterday or .not when ,the VicePresident of the Executive Council fully answered that question; but if he was not present then he ought to read the speech.
– I did read the report.
- Senator Gould went on to say that, if the Commonwealth obtained only £3,000,000 by the issue of notes at first, and got the money without interest, it might go further. I suppose that a nation is like a citizen, who, when he finds himself in straits, will borrow what he needs at the smallest rate of interest - if possible without interest. Senator Sayers has referred to the experience of America ; but let me point out that Canada has had a note issue for thirty years. It started with an issue of £2,500,000 worth of notes ; but, as the necessities of trade and commerce demanded, the amount was increased to £8,000,000 worth. According to the argument “of Senator Gould, Canada has got a loan of £5,500,000 without interest. What is the reply of my honorable friends to that? What is exercising my mind is whether the opponents of this proposition are anxious for the wellbeing of the nation or of the private banks.
– It is a question of taking revenue from the States to bolster up the Commonwealth.
– I am very much inclined to believe that their anxiety is not for the nation, but for the private banks.
– We did not have a secret conference with them, anyhow, or an open one either.
– The Prime Minister was desirous of having a conference with the bankers in public.
– He should not have had a conference with them except in public. He should have stuck to his original view.
– According to a reply which was read here to-day it was at the request of the bankers that the conference was held in private.
– Surely the- Government are not bound by what the bankers want ; let them do things openly and aboveboard.
– When the ‘Australian Industries Preservation Bill was before the Senate the honorable gentleman opposed the . idea of the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs getting possession of the books of a company and divulging its secrets, but now he wants the bankers to come into the open and give away their position to the public. Is that consistency? It is proposed by the Government to keep a gold reserve of 25 per cent.; - in fact, a little more than that - in order that the Treasurer may be able to meet any” demands. To-day the Australian bank’s only. hold a gold reserve of 20 per cent., although their liability on notes, deposits, and exchanges is £122,000,000. Surely our proposition is in advance of their practice !
– Is not the note issue of a bank a first charge on its assets?
– We are also informed in the Governor-General’s Speech that the referendum on the question of taking over the State debts has been carried. I am pleased that the people of Australia have granted that power to this Parliament, but I think that it would be very unwise on the part of this or any other Government to exercise it before the Commonwealth is empowered to control the borrowing. I will allow Senator Sayers to have his little laugh ; that is all he can get just now. In my opinion, it would be an act of political suicide, for the Commonwealth to take over the- State debts without having control of the borrowing.
– Does the honorable senator mean that the States should not be allowed to borrow?
– I recognise that, in the development of the various States, it will be necessary to borrow money.
– For the States?
– I am making this speech. In the past we have had the spectacle of two States, and sometimes more than that number, applying to the London market at the same time for a loan. What has been the result? That the rate of interest payable has been increased.
– We have received £94 for£100.
– We have received £93 10s. for £100, and, in some instances, I suppose, we have obtained only £93 for £100. Behind the Commonwealth will be the Commonwealth credit, and if we take over the State debts, as we are. now empowered to do, and make ourselves responsible for their liquidation, whilst permitting the States to continue borrowing in the future, as they have done in the past, we shall make ourselves the laughing stock of the whole civilized world. As a corollary to the authority which has been conferred by the people upon the Commonwealth Parliament - the power to take over the whole of the State debts - we must be empowered to control future borrowing by the States. When we can do that-
– When can we?
– When the people of Australia give us the necessary power. I sincerely hope that at no very distant date the Government - if they intend to take a referendum upon any subject - will embrace the opportunity to ask the electors to give the Commonwealth complete control over future borrowing operations on the part of the States. I welcome the reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the promised extension of the humane provisions of the Old-age Pensions Act by a reduction of the age qualification in the case of women. Particularly do I welcome the announcement that very shortly the sections of that Act relating to invalids will be brought into operation.
– The sooner the better.
– Undoubtedly. Those provisions will prove a boon to many families throughout Australia. Unfortunately there are many instances in this island continent of young men or young women, who through illness or accident, are unable to help either themselves or their families. The payment of 10s. per week to them, small as it may be - I would like to see it larger - would certainly be of material benefit to families labouring under such sad conditions. I would also respectfully suggest to the Government the necessity which exists for a revision of the many questions which applicants for pensions are now required to answer. Of course, I realize that in the early stages of the operation of the Act it may have been difficult to frame a list which would not bear harshly upon some applicants. But I think it would be wise for the Government to revise the list, with a view to removing those questions which are unnecessarily harsh. I regret that the administration of the Old-Age Pensions Act in Western Australia has not been as sympathetic as it might have been. That unsympathetic administration has caused a considerable amount of ridicule to be cast upon the Statute, and has subjected applicants for pensions to unnecessary inconvenience. I am glad to know that the presentGovernment are the first to vigorously tackle the question of the imposition of a tax upon the unimproved value of land. In season and out of season the Labour party have advocated such a tax, and now we come back to Parliament with a mandate from the people to impose it. In the past we have heard a lot of talk to the effect that in Australia we should build up an adequate system of defence. But the members of the Labour party have always held that we cannot secure an effective scheme of defence until we have burst up the large estates which exist in Australia and brought them under cultivation. I am pleased to note that, in addition to the Defence Bill which is foreshadowed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, a Bill is to be introduced which will provide for the taxation of the unimproved values of land sufficiently to compel large holders to disgorge, and bring their lands under cultivation. Another paragraph in the Vice- Regal Speech which will be welcomed by all Australians has reference to the proposed repeal of the Naval Loan Act of 1909. There has been onlyone blot on the escutcheon of our Commonwealth Constitution since the establishment of the Federation. * That blot was put there by the late Government when it succeeded in passing a Bill authorizing them to borrow , £3,500,000 for the purposes of naval defence. I am glad that one of the first acts of the present Ministry will be to remove that stain upon our national honour and reputation. The Governor-General’s Speech also contains a reference to Tariff anomalies. I sincerely hope that this session will not conclude be- fore the glaring anomalies which do exist in the Tariff have been rectified. Personally, I do not care whether that rectification results in the re-opening of the entire Tariff, because I would not object to our Tariff being made much more protective in its incidence than it is. In connexion with the Federal Capital site, it is the general opinion that everything is now in readiness for the establishment of the Seat of Government at Yass-Canberra. I do hope that the Federal Capital will never be erected there.
– Did the honorable senator ever see the site?
– I am merely giving my opinion of it.
– The honorable senator is talking about something of which he knows nothing.
– I hope that my honorable friend will restrain his youthful impetuosity and permit me to proceed upon my own lines. I do trust that the Federal Capital will not be established at YassCanberra.
– If a referendum of the people were taken to-morrow upon the relative merits of Dalgety and YassCanberra, as a site for the permanent Seat of Government,’ the former would win. As a matter of fact, the Yass-Canberra site was chosen by a snatch majority of one.
– I deny that.
– When the Seat of Government Acceptance Bill reached the Senate from the other Chamber, we were asked to take a ballot upon the respective merits of the eligible sites. Senator McColl proposed that Tumut should be selected. Eighteen votes were cast for that site, and an equal number was recorded against it.
– And not one vote was cast for Dalgety.
– I expected that interjection. Some of the seventeen honorable senators who voted with Senator McColl knew that the votes cast for Dalgety would give Yass-Canberra preference in the first ballot.
– Did not some of those honorable senators who voted for the selection of Yass-Canberra last year vote for the selection of Dalgety in a previous Parliament?
– Yes ; I repeat that eighteen votes were cast in favourof the Tumut site, and an equal number against it. Strange to say, upon a third ballot being taken, Senator McColl turned down the Tumut site, and voted for YassCanberra.
– Because he found that he had been tricked.
– The result was that the Yass-Canberra site was chosen by a snatch majority of one. In view of these facts, I respectfully submit that this Parliament ought to be afforded another opportunity of determining whether the Tumut site or the Dalgety site should be chosen. The present Parliament might as well be located in the desert of Sahara as at Yass-Canberra.
– It is a better place than Melbourne.
– From the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, I gather that the Government intend to construct the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, which will link the Eastern States with the West. In this connexion, I noted in this morning’s newspapers an outburst by Sir John Forrest, in which he makes an attack upon the present Government. He says that there has been too much dilly-dallying upon this question. To a certain extent, he is probably correct, but that dilly-dallying has not been on the part either of the Western Australian Labour members, or of the Federal Labour party. The Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Survey Bill was originally introduced by a Labour Ministry of which Mr. Watson was the head, and to which Sir John Forrest was sitting in direct opposition. That measure did not pass both branches of the Legislature. But it was reintroduced by the Deakin Ministry, which was supportedby the Labour party, and to which Sir John Forrest was also sitting in direct opposition. The Bill was passed through the House of Representatives, and also through this Chamber. Sir John Forrest has been a member of every Government that has existed since the establishment of the Federation, with the exceptipn of the Labour Ministries, and of the Reid-McLean Ministry. Out of nine years of Federation, he has enjoyed about seven and a half years of office. But the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway is no nearer becoming an accomplished fact by reason of that circumstance. Yet he has now the temerity to attack the Government for dilly-dallying. I will not allow such a statement to pass uncontradicted. The Government have every intention of commencing the construction of that line at the earliest possible moment. There is just one other matter upon which I desire to touch - it relates to the High Commissioner in London. We are told in the Governor-General’s Speech that the High Commissioner has taken up his duties there. I am wondering whether the duties of this ambassador of a nation include dabbling in party politics. I do not think that they do.
– He was not sent to London to remain absolutely silent.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. But I contend - and I do not think that my honorable friend will dispute my statement - that he was not sent there to be an exponent of party politics. I hold in my hand an extract from The Times of London, which I propose to read, and I venture to say that it shows that if the’ High Commissioner has not actually dabbled in party politics, he has trespassed perilously close to the border.
– In British party politics or in ours?
– In Australian party politics. Under the heading, “ Sir George Reid on Australia,” I find the following statements made -
Sir George Reid, the first High Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Australia, arrived in London from Australia yesterday evening. He was welcomed on reaching Charing Cross station by a large number of public and private friends.
A number of statements which he made are referred to, but I particularly direct attention to the following quotation -
With regard to Federation or unification, Sir George said : - “ The Australian Labour party seems, so far as I can judge, to be moving towards unification. The Fusion party seems to be anxious to preserve the independent functions of the different States.”
Surely the Fusion party referred to is the party of honorable senators opposite? If that statement by the High Commissioner is not dabbling in party politics, it runs dangerously close to it. Whether or not the Labour party is proceeding on the lines of unification is not Sir George Reid’s business.
– Surely the man is entitled to his opinion?
– It is not his business as High Commissioner of the Commonwealth to tell the people of London, and through them- the world, that the Labour party in Australia are endeavouring to rob the States of this Union of their sovereign rights, for that is what he said amounts to.
– And in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech now under discussion there is a reference to two proposed referenda to diminish the powers of the States.
– It is the National Parliament, and not the Labour party, that has authorized the referendum in Australia.
– We had a Fusionist candidate standing as a straight-out unificationist in Tasmania at the last general election.
– I am not discussing whether we, as the Labour party, are moving towards unification, but directing the attention of the Senate, which as a branch of the National Parliament had a voice in the appointment of Sir George Reid as High Commissioner of the Commonwealth, to what he has said, and I am asking honorable senators now. to say whether he has not exceeded his province as our representative in London in making that statement in connexion with Australian politics ?
– He’ has merely ex- . pressed his opinion.
– He’ has no right to deal with controversial party questions.
– The question he dealt with is .certainly a party question. He has said that the .Labour party are moving towards depriving the ‘States of their sovereign rights, whilst the Fusion party are endeavouring to preserve those rights.
– No, let the honorable senator read it again.
– I shall read it again, in order that Senator Sayers may understand it. Sir George Reid said -
The Australian Labour party seems, so far as I can judge, to be moving towards unification. The Fusion party seems to be anxious to preserve the independent functions of the different Slates.
– Where is the accusation that the Labour party desire to rob the States of anything?
– I can only come to the conclusion that Senator Sayers does not understand the meaning of unification.
– I understand it, but I object to the honorable senator’s ‘interpretation of what Sir George Reid said.
– There is one other matter in connexion with the High Commissioner to which I desire to refer. I have not papers here to verify my statement, but I believe it is a fact that one of his first actions on his arrival in London was to appoint as his private secretary a gentleman who is not an Australian. I agree that a gentleman occupying Sir George Reid’s very responsible position requires a private secretary, but I think that the first Australian High Commissioner should have appointed an Australian to that position. Surely there are in the Commonwealth Public Service, and outside that service in Australia, men of sufficient brains and intelligence to qualify them to satisfactorily fulfil all the duties of private secretary to the Australian High Commissioner in London? As a citizen of Australia, I enter my emphatic protest against Sir George Reid’s action in appointing to such a position a man who, however able he may be, and I do not question his capacity, is not an Australian. If Sir George Reid possessed an atom of Australian sentiment he would have appointed an Australian as his private secretary.
– Had we appointed a man in the Old Country as High Commissioner Sir George Reid would not be where he now is.
– That is so. With these references, I conclude. I am confident that if the principles outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech are given effect in legislation placed upon the statutebook,’ they will advance not only the credit of the present Government, but the unity and prosperity of -the Australian Commonwealth.
– Seeing that honorable senators occupying the Opposition benches do not seem anxious to continue the debate, I rise to do so with a certain amount of reluctance, because, as one making his first appearance iri any Parliament, I am naturally anxious about the success of my maiden effort. I have no desire to indulge in wearisome reiteration of any of the statements so eloquently made by honorable senators on this side and honorable senators who have spoken from the other side. But I must say that I was pleased, when listening to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, to note that it contains many proposals in which the people of Australia heartily concur. Some of the questions referred- to in it are of vital importance, not only to the State which I have the honour to represent as one of its senators, but to the Commonwealth at large. I trust that during my term of office in this Chamber, which, I hope, will extend beyond the period for which I was recently
elected, I shall always be prepared to consider every question on which I have to vote as an Australian nationalist, and not as a. parochialist. I put the great Commonwealth, of which the States are merely units, before even the State I represent, and I have been pleased indeed to recognise the spirit of Australian sentiment breathed in every line of the speech delivered by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral on the 1st July. I am also pleased to know that the people of Australia, in their wisdom and judgment, have decided that there shall be only two political parties in the Commonwealth Parliament in the future. We have at present in the Senate an Opposition party, which, like myself, is somewhat attenuated, and I am glad to know that the sting was taken out of it on 13th April last. I trust that, as Senator Millen said yesterday, the Op- ‘ position will be found prepared to assist the Government of the day in all their efforts to carry legislation for the benefit of the Australian people. 1 feel sure that during the session legislation which will be productive of good will be passed, and that in passing it the Ministerial -party will have the assistance, and not the factious opposition, of honorable senators opposite, because, although politically I differ from them very much, I believe that they are, in many respects, as solicitous for the welfare of Australia as are we who are proud to be members of the Labour party. One of the principal items in the Speech which is of vital importance to us all, is that dealing with the question of finance, and the adjustment of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. As a private individual on the hustings’ during my election campaign, I said that if the matter were left to me, I would be prepared to favour the return of 25s. -per capita to the States Governments- for a period of ten years. I think that the States Governments are entitled to a reasonable return from the Commonwealth Treasury ; but, as an Australian, I was opposed to the proposal that the payment suggested should be fixed for all time. I am glad that the Governor-General’s Speech contains an announcement that the States Governments are to receive the sum for -which they asked in the secret caucus for a period of ten years only. Although honorable senators opposite deny it, we do intend, at an early date, to bring about the consolidation of the State debts. I would like to have the matter dealt with as early as possible. As Senator Needham has pointed out, the debts should be consolidated, because the Federal authority, as the national authority in Australia, will be able to borrow in the markets of the world more advantageously than could seven independent borrowers. One of the most important questions dealt with in the Speech, overshadowing in importance, perhaps, even the financial question, is that of land taxation. In the various campaigns I have conducted in connexion with State political affairs, and whenever I have had an opportunity to raise my voice or to use my pen in protest against the aggregation of large landed estates, I have invariably advocated the imposition of a tax on the unimproved value of land. Living, as I do, in the Western District of Victoria, in the heart of large landed estates, their evil effects have every day been brought home to my mind, and I have desired to see a more effective occupation of the most fertile lands, in the Commonwealth. Only recently I had some evidence of the pressing necessity for the adoption of some drastic method of bursting up the large landed estates. I was travelling through the Camperdown district, which, as some honorable senators are aware, is the richest in this State, and extends from Camperdown to Koroit, over roads as level as a bowling-green, and which are described by expert motorists as amongst the best roads to be found in the world In a distance of eight miles the only evidences of population I saw were two squatters’ residences, whilst the land which should have been devoted to the settlement of Australian people and of a sturdy class of immigrants from oversea, was given over to the grazing of merino sheep. I consider that our large land-owners, in resisting the bursting up of their estates, adopt a narrowminded and short-sighted policy. I was speaking to one of them the other day who told me he did not believe in a land tax. I said, “Naturally, you do not; but would it not be better for you if you had three families settled on your estate in time of war, than that your lands should be occupied only by 3,000 or 4,000 sheep?” The men who, I hope, will be settled upon our lands by means of a land tax will be a more effective defence of Australia in time or war than the sheep and cattle now contentedly grazing upon our pastures. I am glad to know that the land tax will have a dual result. It will mean, in the first place, bursting up the large estates and settling people on the land, and it will also mean that we shall thereby secure a more effective system of defence.
– I think it is only right that those who own valuable properties in towns, whether they be urban or suburban, should pay their proportion’ towards the defence of the country equally with those who live in the rural districts. I do not think that we should differentiate between town and country in this matter. Apart from the “ bursting-up “ project, also, we ought to derive a certain amount of revenue from this tax, and that revenue should be derived from the towns as well as from the country districts, because the whole of the people of the country are interested in the question of defence. Though I am opposed to militarism in every shape and form, though I hate the name of war, yet when I look around me and read the journals from other parts of the world, I see that the great nations throughout the globe are arming to the teeth, and I realize that we in Australia cannot afford to sit idly by and wait until we are attacked. Neither can we afford to wait until the world grows wiser, and we attain to a period of universal peace. The best way to secure peace is to be prepared for war. The proposals of the Government to institute a system of compulsory military training are such as every loyal Australian must subscribe to. I believe that they will commend themselves to Australian natives as a body. I trust that when the proposals to ‘be brought forward by the Minister of Defence are put into operation, we shall find the young men in the different parts of this island continent becoming keenly imbued with a spirit of citizenship, and determined to defend their country if the time should come when they are called upon to do so. If there is one thing more than another of which I am proud in my life, it is of the efforts that I have put forward in the past to endeavour to secure the return to Parliament, not only of myself, but of other members of my party ; and I am particularly glad, my own return having been secured, that I shall have an opportunity - and that shortly, I hope - of voting for the extension of the system of pensions to invalids and to the sick and needy. During the course of the last two or three months I came in ‘contact with a man who, in consequence of a terrible accident, had been deprived of the use of those orbs of sight which we cherish so dearly. In the midst of health and strength he. had thus lost the opportunity of pursuing .his avocation. Senator
McDougall referred to the case the other day. This man was formerly engaged in a literary capacity on one of our great daily journals, but, owing to his misfortune, he was cast like flotsam and jetsam on the sea of humanity. He is now unable to do the work for which he had been trained, nor is he able to pursue any other occupation. To use his own term, he has been cast on to the rubbish-tip of Australia. There are many instances like that of men who, through no fault of their own, have suffered a loss of eyesight, or have been prostrated by phthisis, or miners’ complaint, and are unable to earn a livelihood. We in Australia are rich enough and humane enough, and we of the Labour party are wise and judicious enough, to determine that money shall be spared to do something to make the lives of such people a little brighter than they have been in the past. I am particularly glad of the reference to this subject in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I heartily welcome it, and shall welcome proposals which will be put forward hereafter to carry out the object in view. I also hope that steps will be taken to provide for the lowering of the age at which women may obtain old-age pensions. The age should be reduced to sixty years, because, in my opinion, if a man is entitled to a pension at sixty-five, a woman is entitled to one at a somewhat earlier date. I do not desire to reiterate the statements which have been already made, or to speak at great length. I rose merely with the object of expressing my opinions, as a new member of this .Parliament, on a few of the articles in the Governor-General’s Speech, and also for the purpose of taking my first plunge into the waters of practical political life. I hope that when I emerge from the plunges which I shall make in future, I shall be able to show a fairly clean record at the end of the period for which I have been elected. I trust that every vote which I shall give will tend in the direction of advancing the interests of Australia, and will justify the confidence of those who voted for me. At all events, I intend ‘to do my duty while I am here. As a .young Australian, and a member of the Australian Natives’ Association, I entertain certain ideals for the future of this country, and it will be my endeavour to realize the promises which I made to the electors upon the platform. May I say in this regard, repeating statements of the previous speaker, that I am not by any means bound hand and foot by caucus rule, as our friends of the Opposition are wont to say, and would like the country to believe. I am free to vote on any question in just as untrammelled a manner as is any member of the Opposition, and I intend to exercise that prerogative while I am here; except in regard to questions embraced within the platform to which I subscribed. I accepted that platform when I was before the electors. I believed in it before I subscribed to it. If I had not believed in it I would not have subscribed to it ; and I shall never be ashamed of any efforts which I make to bring its cardinal principles into operation. There is another question upon which Senator Needham touched, and to which I should like to make reference. I gave a promise to my constituents that I would do my utmost to effect a change with respect to the Seat of Government of the Commonwealth. From what I have read and heard, I am an advocate of the site at Dalgety. I trust that this Parliament, in its wisdom, will endeavour to revoke the selection of the site at Yass-Can- berra, so as to give the people of this country a better site for their Capital than the one which has been chosen. With respect to the question of uniform postage, I have been somewhat perturbed in mind as to whether it would be better to raise the postage rate in Victoria to 2d., so as to bring it into uniformity with the postage rate operating in’ the other States, or to reduce the postage rate of’ ad. which prevails elsewhere down to id. It is a question that deserves a great amount of consideration. We have to look at it from the financial aspect. If we reduce the postage rate in the other States from 2d. to id., and make a -uniform- rate throughput Australia, it will mean a depreciation of the revenue to the extent of .£300,000 or £400,000. But the objects to be “attained, by making a universal penny postage rate are worthy of some sacrifice. Therefore I shall vote in favour of a uniform rate of id.,’ on the lines advocated in England by Mr. Henniker Heaton, who is a strong champion of penny postage throughout .the civilized world. I have said not so much as I wished to say, nor so much as I had intended to say, but sufficient to indicate the principal ideals which I desire to pursue, and to comment upon those items . in the Governor-General’s Speech which appear to me to be of greatest importance. In conclusion, I desire to express the hope that’ the efforts ‘that are put forward in this Parliament during the present session will be productive of great good. I hope that we shall look always to the promotion of the welfare of Australia as a whole, irrespective of our party differences. I believe that every member of this Senate will, and does, desire to make this nation progress. In my concluding words, may I say, at the commencement of the first session of the new Parliament of this great continent, that my wish, which J believe is the wish of all young Australians, may be well summed up in the lines : -
Then look, O Lord of light,
On us from heaven above,
And ever guard and keep aright.
This land we love;
Teach us to prize the more
This gift from thine own hand,
Our country - one from shore to shore -
Our native land.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Keefe) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
Business of the Senate.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish I had known from the Government earlier that it was their intention to permit the Senate to be adjourned at this hour. It is unfair to those of us who come from distant States to move the adjournment at a time in the afternoon when it is too late for us to catch our trains and go home.
– It was not unexpected.
– It was so far as I am concerned.
– The honorable senator was informed.
– I think that honorable senators should be taken into the confidence of the Government in reference to such matters. We were sent here to do work. As we are here, the debate might as well have been continued during to-night and to-morrow.
– Why did not the honorable senator get up and continue it?
– It was my intention to get up, . but my honorable friend, Senator O’Keefe, rose and moved the adjournment of the debate. I do not think it fair that we should be treated in this way. When we come here from other States, we should be informed how long we are expected to. remain, and while we are here there should be work for us to do. I hope that the Government will not treat us in this manner again. I protest against it.
– I am very sorry that anything has been doneto inconvenience SenatorW. Russell or any other senator. Understanding, however, from information conveyed to me, that no other honorable senator was anxious to speak to-day, but that some wished to continue the debate next Wednesday, I acceded to a request for an adjournment. Had I known that Senator W. Russell wished to speak I should have been only too happy to afford him anopportunity. If, in future, any honorable senator wishes to address himself to any question which may be before the Senate, if he will intimate his desire either to me or to the Government Whip, his wish will receive every consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4. 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 July 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1910/19100707_SENATE_4_55/>.