5th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President tookthe chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been called to the following statement in yesterday’s Argus by the captain of the ship which was wrecked at Point Nepean -
While most grateful for tha kindness which both I and my men received from almost every one, I cannot help feeling resentfulat the treatment meted out by the officer at the gate of the fort to the five sailors who escaped in the “ pram,” and were trying to make their way to that refuge of sailors - the lighthouse.
When they reached the fort one of the men was clad only in a singlet and underpants, while the others had no coats, and all were wet, shivering, and almost physically exhausted. The gate was opened when they knocked, but the officer,finding that he could not understand theirspeech, apparently took no note cf their forlorn condition, and after making some curt remark, closed the door in their faces, and they had to seek the chill shelter of a shed on the pier. Surely that officer should have had sufficient acumen to realize tha’t foreigners in that condition had been wrecked, and failing that, kindness of heartshould have impelled him to report their condition to a superior officer.
Will the Minister make inquiries to see if one of his officers at the fort was guilty of such conduct to shipwrecked sailors?
– I shall certainly make inquiries, if only in justice to the officer whose conduct has been called in question.
– That is what I meant.
– Has the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council been drawn to a circular which has been extensively distributed in New South Wales, at any rate, and which contains these attacks on the Electoral Office-
Police are taking names off the rolls, hut will put nono on. 75,000 Labour voters disfranchised.
You may be fined £2 if you do not see to your enrolment at once.
At the bottom the line “ Save two pounds “ is printed in large letters. The circular has printed on its top, in bolder letters still, “Cook’s Latest.” I desire to know from the Minister whether he has seen the circular, whether the statements contained therein are true, and, if so, who is responsible! I pass on the circular to him.
– The honorable senator was good enough to show the circular to me previous to the meeting of the Senate. The police neither take names off the roll nor put them on. They simply report to the Electoral Officer, who makes inquiry as to whether the name should come off the roll, and, after making that due inquiry, performshis duty in regard to the matter. This is just on a par with a number of statements which are going about the country, and which it is, perhaps, believed reflect on the Government, but which do not. They reflect on the Electoral Office and on the officers.
-Order! The Minister is not entitled to make an explanation in answering a question. Questions should only be asked to elicit information, and the replies should be for the purpose of supplying the information desired. No comments or controversial matters should be introduced.
– Is the statement true in regard to “ Mr. Cook’s Latest “- the £2 fine?
– The whole thing ‘ is a fabrication.
– That is Labour’s first lie nailed for the elections.
– I desire to ask a question respecting the following memorandum received by John Biscoby, of Wanilla Siding, from the Electoral Registrar in Port Lincoln -
I enclose card. You are already on the roll ; vour name was. given in by Liberal Union organizers as having left division. You will not bestruck off, as you still live in division. No need to make a fresh claim.
Is the Minister aware whether the Liberal organizer deposited the 5s., or has that money been forfeited ? The name of the Electoral Registrar is W. G. Brennan, of Port Lincoln ?
– I have no knowledge of the matter.
– Can the Minister tell me the why, or the wherefore, of an objection being lodged against Cornelius Ellis, farmer, of North Benalla, who has lived at the same address for the last half -century.
– I have no knowledge of the matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs if he will communicate by wire with the Chief Electoral Officer of New South Wales, with a view to ascertaining, in time to give us the information tomorrow, how many names were struck off the electoral rolls in that State between the 1st July, 1913, and 1st May, 1914 ; also how many names have been objected to during the same period ? .
– I shall be glad to send a communication asking for the desired information, but I do not think that
I can obtain a reply in the time indicated by the honorable senator. The Electoral Office is overtaxed with work just now, and I am very doubtful whether an answer can be secured within the period stated. However, I will make the inquiry.
– I am in possession of authentic information that, up till January last, more than 61,000 names had been struck off the rolls in New South Wales. That is a large proportion of the 75,000 names mentioned.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable senator has asked for information, notwithstanding which ho is now supplying it himself.
– I confess that I was not following the honorable senator closely.
– He made a request first, and supplied information afterwards.
– I understood that the honorable senator was asking for information. I have already stated that I was not following his remarks closely at the time.
– I merely wish to say that I am in possession of information to the effect that, up till January last, 61,000 names had been struck off the electoral rolls in New SouthWales, and I desire to know how many have been struck off up till 1st May of the present year. It is important that we should have this information, seeing that a statement has been made that in New South Wales 75,000 names have been struck off the Tolls.
– By whom?
– The statement was read by the honorable senator. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he will immediately get into communication with the Chief Electoral Officer in New South Wales with a view to ascertaining the exact number of names thathas been struck off the rolls of that State between 1st July last year and 1st May of the current year ?
– I have already told the honorable senator that I will endeavour to get the information.
– I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if he will communicate with the Electoral Officer for the division of Cook, in New South Wales, asking him if it is a fact that 11,000 names have been struck off the roll for that division, thus imposing upon him the necessity of sending out 11,000 notices?
– The names of those electors cannot have been struck off the roll if notices are being sent out to them.
– I understood the VicePresident of the Executive Council to say that the statement in a certain circular, relating to 75,000 names alleged to have been struck off the rolls, was a fabrication.
– He said that they were struck off by the police.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council whether his attention has been called to this portion of the circular -
The Senate Labour six - Gardiner, Grant, McDougall, Rae, Smith, Watson.
Does the honorable senator consider that that part of the circular is a fabrication?
– Will the Vice-President of the Executive Council make inquiries into the following cases, and let me know who objected to the enrolment of the electors referred to, and whether the 5s. deposit was made in connexion with each objection. I have here the notice of objection sent to Patrick Gleeson, of Middle Head, labourer, of Mosman, “ that you do not live in the division, and have not lived therein for at least one month.” I have also the sworn declaration of Mr. Gleeson that he has not been out of his house for one night in the past two years. I have notices of objection also in the cases of Mr. and Mrs. White, of 34 Bullanaming-street, Redfern, who have resided in the same house for twenty-five years continuously, and have never been out of it for one night; and in the case of Mrs. Dorey and family of six, of 24 Bullanaming-street, Redfern, who have resided continuously in the same house for twenty-five years. I wish to know who lodged the objections to the names of these people, and whether the deposit was made in each case.
– I shall be very glad to make inquiry into the cases mentioned.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Vice-President of the Executive Council the fact that objection has been taken to enrolment in the following cases, at Port Pirie : -
Harris, Thomas, 4-mile Block, Port Pirie.
Scheffers, Harinus J., Port Pirie - eleven years’ resident.
Baldock, Alfred E., Port Pirie - twenty years’ resident.
Burke, Martin, Port Pirie - fifteen years’ resident.
Margett, Benjamin A., Port Pirie - old resident.
Naulty, Peter, Port Pirie - old resident.
Naulty, Bridget, Port Pirie - old resident.
Those are a few who have lived in the same houses for years.
Will the Minister make inquiries as to the persons who lodged the objections in these cases, and whether the deposit of 5s., as required by law, was made in each case?
– I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– As I understand that the lists of names of persons seeking enrolmentha ve been closed at the various registrars’ offices for the forthcoming print of the rolls, I ask whether the VicePresident of the Executive Council will let the Senate have an approximate estimate of the number on the rolls to-day as compared with the number at the date of the Federal election in 1913.
– It will take some time to obtain the information, but I undertake to let the Senate have it at the earliest possible moment.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council a question relating to a statement made by Senator Russell in this chamber, about a week or ten days ago. That honorable senator stated that the Electoral Registrars at St. Arnaud and Euroa had received objections from Liberal organizers, and refused to receive them from Labour men. Has the VicePresident of the Executive Council made any inquiry into the truth or otherwise of that statement?
– In reply to the honorable senator, I have to state that the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth has furnished me with the following answer -
No instructions were given to refuse objections from Labour men at St. Arnaud or Euroa.
The Electoral Registrar, St. Arnaud, absolutely denies that there was any refusal on his part to accept a list of names which should not be retained upon the roll, from any organizer, either Lnbour or Liberal.
The Electoral Registrar, Euroa, states that hehas never been furnished with a list of objections from any organizer whatever.
– I will supply the Vice-President of the Executive Council with the proof later on.
– In regard to electoral matters, I am in possession of a statement from the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth, which, with the permission of the Senate, I would like to read.
– The Chief Electoral Officer has supplied me with the following information - not at my request, but because he deemed it necessary that it should be placed in the hands of honorable senators -
Submitted for the Minister’s information.
It is the duty of the Divisional Returning Officer and each Registrar under the provisions of section 69 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act to lodge or make an objection, in writing, setting forth the grounds of such objection in respect of any name which he has reason to believe ought not to be retained on the roll.
The Divisional Returning Officers and Registrars throughout the Commonwealth are fully and plainly instructed in regard to their duties, and specially directed that, where information reaches them otherwise than from official sources, they are to make independent official inquiries through the police or postal officials hefore taking any action whatever in regard to the lodging of objections on the ground of non-residence or otherwise, and generally to exercise the greatest care in the discharge of their duties.
When an officer, acting in pursuance of the requirements of section69 of the Aet, lodges an objection with the Divisional Returning Officer it is the duty of the Divisional Returning Officer (unless he is satisfied that thu ground of objection stated is not a good one) to forthwith give notice of the objection to the person objected to by posting it to the last known place of abode of such person, or, if that is not known, then to the place of living appearing on the roll. The notification of objection sets fortli the ground on -which the objection is founded, and invites a reply from the person objected to within twenty days of the posting of the notice. If the person objected to fails to reply within twenty days, or furnishes a reply which indicates to the Divisional Returning Officer that the ground of objection is a good one, the Divisional Returning Officer may determine the objection against him; but if he replies and satisfies the Divisional Returning Officer that the objection is not a good one, or it comes to the knowledge of the Divisional Returning Officer from any other source that the objection is not a good one, it is the duty of the officer to dismiss the objection and forthwith advise the elector.
Objections on the ground of non-residence become necessary when electors cease to have their places of living in the divisions for which they are enrolled, and fail to take action in due course to claim transfer of enrolment, as required by law, or leave the Commonwealth. The Electoral Registrars and Divisional Returning Officers have no incentive to improperly lodge objections. They are fully safeguarded against, party political influence. Every effort is made to safeguard electors against improper objections, and it is unthinkable that any Electoral Registrar or Divisional Returning Officer would inquire into the political views of an elector, or knowingly lodge an objection which he did not believe to bc good under the law. Acting on the best official information available, officers will occasionally make mistakes when dealing with large bodies of electors continually moving from place to place, or correspondence will be wrongly delivered. This occurs under every electoral system; but whore mistakes ave discovered as the result of replies to notifications issued to electors, or information received from any responsible persons, it may bo taken that the Divisional Returning Officers are always ready and anxious to protect the electors concerned from the consequences of such mistakes. The central administration is always prepared to investigate and dual with any cases of alleged carelessness or neglect on the part of officers; but much time would be saved and inconvenience to electors avoided by their replying (whore reply is necessary) to notifications issued by the officers acting in the discharge of their duties.
I may say that the procedure at present being followed is in accordance with the provisions of the Act which was passed at the instance of the late Government. We are not responsible for it. If honorable senators opposite do not appreciate it, that is not our fault. I can only say that the work now going on is being carried on in accordance with the Electoral Act, and is under the control of the Chief Electoral Officer of each State.
– Honorable senators opposite want dirty rolls.
– I desire to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council when and where Parliament, at the instance of the late Government, struck out of the Electoral Act the provision requiring a deposit of 5s. to be lodged with each objection ?
– I wish to call attention to the statement of the Minister of Defence that honorable senators on this side of the Chamber “want dirty rolls.”
– Make him withdraw it. Fie knows that it is false.
– I ask the Minister of Defence, in accordance with the usual parliamentary practice, to withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw it, but I would point out that day after day I have to listen to accusations of corruption against the present Government. Honorable senators who are so sensitive when I make an interjection ought to have a little consideration for their own reputations, if not for my personal feelings, in the matter.
– Several questions relating to electoral matters have been recently asked, and to these I am now prepared to give replies. Senator Blakey raised a question with regard to an objection lodged to the name of James Patterson, of Penshurst. The answer is as follows : -
The following names appear on the Penshurst roll : - 885 James Patterson 886 James Andrew Patterson
The name of James Patterson, bootmaker, has been objected to on the ground that the elector does not live in the division, and has not lived therein for a period of at least ona month. The Registrar properly acted on information supplied by the police, and there is no ground for believing that the information so supplied is incorrect.
The name of James Andrew Patterson, labourer, has not been objected to. He is probably the person referred to by Senator Blakey.
The question asked by Senator Russell with regard to the number of names objected to on the Swan Hill roll has also been inquired into. The honorable senator made the statement that in a population of less than 2,000 no fewer than 500 objections had been lodged. The reply to that is as follows : -
The enrolment for the subdivision of Swan Hill is 3,304. The number of objections which have been lodged since 2nd April last is .164.
The ground of objection in each case was that the person concerned had ceased to live in the division, and had so ceased to live for a period of .at least one month.
– Fifty per cent, exaggeration in one case and 60 per cent, in another.
– Is that statement in order? I simply quoted the letter and took no responsibility, but asked the ordinary courteous question of the Minister .
– I made no reflection on the honorable senator. The statement I made can be verified by a simple sum in arithmetic. I did not charge the honorable senator with any responsibility for the allegation which he quoted.
– Another question was asked by Senator Long with respect to the difficulty experienced by the electors of the divisions of Franklin and Wilmot in getting claim cards to insure enrolment. The reply is as follows: -
Your telegram, statement of Senator Long, shortage claim cards, post-offices. Further urgent instructions on subject issued to officers concerned. Only one ease of shortage has ooma under notice, and supply forwarded immediately. Between 30,000 and 40,000 cards distributed recently, largely in excess of possible requirements.
Contributions by Candidates.
– Another matter was raised by Senator Keating in the following terms -
Will the Government take steps, as a previous Government did, to make the public more familiar than they appear to be with the fact that there is a provision in the electoral law, making it illegal for candidates, for a certain period before an election, to contribute to the funds of certain organizations and associations ?
I have here a copy of section 206b of the Electoral Act. Extracts containing a copy of the section will be printed, and copies may be obtained by any honorable senator who desires them at the office of the Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth.
– Referring to the question I asked on Thursday last about the amount of Customs duties paid on railway material by the States, can the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs give me any information to-day?
– I have obtained a reply to the question, but it is not complete, because records for 1911 were not kept by several States. The reply refers to 1912 and 1913 only.
– That will do for my purpose.
– Does the honorable senator desire to have the figures read ?
– I am quite willing to take it as read. I presume that it will go in Hansard, sir ?
– Not unless it ig read.
– As it is of importance to Queensland, I would like the Minister to read the reply.
– I’j reads as follows : -
Horse Allowance : Alleged Supply of Drink to Trainees
– Can the Minister of Defence tell me whether the Military Board has yet arrived at a decision in reference to the horse allowance which has been withheld from three warrant and non-commissioned officers in South Australia ?
– The honorable senator submitted a question in similar terms to me last week ; and, if I remember aright, the answer was that the Military Board was to consider the matter on Monday. As I only returned from Sydney an hour or so ago, I am not yet in a position to say what the Board has done in my absence.
– I shall repeat the question to-morrow.
– Arising out of that question, I have an additional memorandum, which I present to the Minister of Defence, and ask if he will give it consideration?
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether his attention has been directed to a letter which appeared in the Age of 13th June, signed “ Heidelberg, 1913,” in which there appears the following statement: -
Not long ago it was shown that a senior officer had been drunk, and had given junior trainees intoxicating liquor at camp. The Ministerhas rewarded that officer with promotion whilst the officer who reported the occurrence has had to resign his commission.
Has the Minister seen the letter referred to? Did such an occurrence take place? Was it reported? Has the officer who reported it since been asked to resign his commission, and has the officer who is said to have been implicated in the affair been promoted?
– I have not seen the letter referred to, but if the honorable senator will place it in my hands, T shall endeavour to obtain the detailed information which he seeks.
– Last week a motion was carried in the Senate to the effect that the full text of the request and the reasons for the simultaneous dissolution of both the Senate and the House of Representatives should be laid on the table of the Senate. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is the intention of the Government to lay those papers on the table, and, if so, when ?
– I would remind Senator McGregor, and the Senate, that, before the carrying of that motion, speaking on behalf of the Government, I announced that it was not intended to make those papers public. I have nothing to add to that statement now.
– I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council, as representing the Postmaster-General, if he is able to give honorable senators the information which I sought the other day in respect to the purchase of the wireless station at King Island? I wish to know whether the Government has yet arrived at a decision as to whether they will make the purchase or not.
– I have received the following letter, dated 12th June -
With reference to the question asked in the Senate on the 11th instant by Senator Long, relative to the proposed sale to this Department of the wireless telegraph station at King Island, I am directed to inform yon that no determination has yet been arrived at in the matter. The residents have not stated whether they will accept the conditions under which the Department offered to instal a wireless station on KingIsland.
– I am very thankful to the Minister for the information he has supplied, but may I beg of him, in justice to the people of King Island, to say definitely whether the Government propose to purchase the station at the very much reduced offer? I am sure that the people would be very glad to be relieved one way or another. I think it is the very least they can expect from the Government, in view of the fact that this matter has been before the Minister for six months.
– The honorable senator’s remarks will be conveyed to the Department.
– You promised that you would shake them up.
Punishment of Cadet: Solitary Confinement
– Is the Minister of Defence aware that the description of the cell furnished by his officers as that in which the lad Roberts was confined after being sentenced to solitary confinement, and as having a certain liberal allowance of window space, was really that of a cell or guard-room in which the boy was confined during a period prior to undergoing the sentence of solitary confinement? Is he also aware that with regard to the statement that the door was left ajar and merely fastened with a chain to keep it from being quite open, the chain was not fixed or the door kept ajar until after I had raised the question in the Senate ? As I interjected something about a conspiracy amongst his officers or some of them to mislead him, is the Minister not aware that in these and other ways by stating half truths those responsible for what has occurred in this case were not acquainting him with the full facts of the case ‘<
– I am certainly not aware that the officers who reported to me were stating only half truths, lt was quite obvious to me from statements read here by Senator Rae that those who were prompting him in the matter were not only not stating even half truths, but were wilfully misrepresenting the facts.
– How do you know’)
– For instance, the statement that the boy was on bread and water was a deliberate falsehood, and that statement was made in a letter written by the father of the boy and read out at a public meeting in the city.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to the following paragraph which recently appeared in the Melbourne Herald: -
Lighthouses to be built. Schooners leave for scene. Active constructional work on the Queensland coast is about to be entered upon by the Federal Lighthouse Branch. The schooner Alcairo, 75 tons, recently purchased by the Federal authorities, leaves Williamstown to-day for Sydney, to be altered and repaired, prior to being employed in lighthouse building in the north. The Forbes Brothers, another schooner, takes her departure from Sydney today on a similar mission.
Does the honorable senator know anything about this business? Has the newly-appointed Inspector of Lighthouses recommended the purchase of these schooners for the purpose ? Having regard to the character of the work, will the honorable senator ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether steamers, instead of sailing vessels, should not have been purchased by the Government ?
– I shall be glad to make, inquiries and let the honorable senator know the result.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Defence been called toa leading article entitled “ The Federal Surplus,” appearing in the Sydney
– Order ! The practice of quoting from newspapers isdistinctly contrary to Standing Orders. No honorable senator is entitled to quote from newspapers, in asking questions, unless he is prepared to vouch for their accuracy. The rules of practice and procedure are direct and emphatic on that point. I have allowed quotations to be made hitherto for convenience, so that honorable senators might question Ministers about the exact details of matterswhich they wished to bring under notice, but the practice has been growing so much that I am afraid I shall not be justified in allowing it to continue at such great length. An honorable senator maydirect attention to the leading facts reviewed in an article, and ask for information in that way, but to quote the wholeof an article as has been done in thepast is distinctly contrary to the usual practice, and I am afraid I shall have tocurtail the privilege which honorablesenators have enjoyed, unless the Senate sees proper to alter the Standing Ordersin that direction.
– I have no desire to quote at any. length from the article. I simply wish to call attention to a. statement in it and ask a question on it. So far I have simply read the titleof the article. I merely wish to ask, sir,, whether the Minister’s attention has been called to this passage in the article -
But carrying out sound Liberal policy many outlays have been made from revenue that would in ordinary circumstances have been charged to loans which, while weighing heavily on the immediate Budget, will in future tell in favour of succeeding Treasurers, and prove to the benefit of the country at large. It is, for instance, pleasing to learn that the land which has been acquired by the Federal Government for rifle ranges has been bought out of current revenue instead of out of borrowed money, upon which posterity would have had to pay interest for all time. This is sound policy so far as it goes, and should be persevered in.
I wish to know whether the Minister will inform the Senate why, when the Loan Bill was going through this country, the alleged Liberal party bitterly opposed that course of action?
– It is well known, at any rate in the confines of this chamber, that the Bill was brought in by myself on behalf of the Government, and represents the policy of the party.
Tasmanian Mail Contract : Fares and Freights
– I have to announce that I have received from Senator Ready to-day a notice that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, ‘ ‘ The proposed increases in steam-ship fares and freights as affecting the State of Tasmania and Australia.,T
Four honorable senators having risen in their places-
– I move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 2 p.m. to-morrow.
In taking this course I am actuated by a sense of my duty as one of the representatives of Tasmania.
– That is why you gave us notice that you were bringing the matter on?
– That is so.
– When did you give the notice?
– I gave notice under the Standing Orders, as I am required to do, and it will be acknowledged, when I have finished, that I have said nothing to which the Government or anybody else can take exception. After the present Government came into power, and turned down the magnificent proposition of the previous Administration to provide uptodate Commonwealth-owned steam-ships, reduced fares and freights, and modern communication with Tasmania, their first a,ct was to give to the steam-ship combines a contract which ties Tasmania up for a period of seven years.
– Is not that what they came info office for ?
– Yes, to carry out the wishes of their masters.
– They will get the united support of the shipping combines of Australia.
– That is clear enough to the thinking public. Owing to the continued and persistent representa tions of the representatives of Tasmania, both here and in another place, the Government were forced - not that they wanted to do so - to put the following clause in the agreement -
That the contractors will not without the approval of the Postmaster-General increase the rates of freight and of passage money existing at the date of the execution hereof Provided however that subject to the approval of the PostmasterGeneral the rates of freight from Burnie to Melbourne on ore and other special lines which in the past have been subject to special arrangements may be increased and Provided further that in the event of the mail services hereinbefore referred to resulting in a loss to the contractors from any cause or causes including strikes quarantine lockouts or stoppage of collieries the rates of freight and passenger money may subject to the approval of the PostmasterGeneral be revised for such period as the Postmaster-General may approve Such approval either as to rates or periods shall not be arbitrarily withheld.
We have reason to believe that the Government may accede to the request of the Shipping Combine for an increase. It is rumoured amongst business people in Tasmania, that in the near future we shall be subjected to very heavy fares and freights on our sole line of communication with the mainland, because, as an insular State, we depend entirely on sea transport. Here is a paragraph which appeared in the Launceston Examiner of Saturday, 30th May; and when I mention that this is a leading Fusion newspaper in the north of Tasmania, it will be seen that the information comes from a friend of the Government -
The references in the Senate to the matter of steam-ship fares, as reported in yesterday’s Examiner, naturally came in for a fair share of local attention. The means and the cost of transport between Tasmania and the mainland are a subject of prime importance to the people of this State. The interest consequently is easily understood.
Although no information of a definite character is yet locally available, there is reason to believe’ that before long there may be an increase in the fares and freights between the ports of Tasmania and those of the mainland…… The new Tasmanian mail contract was mentioned in the Senate on Thursday. Senator Findley inquiring whether any provision was made in it to safeguard citizens against any increase of fares. Senator McColl asked that notice be given.
That is his usual course.
Locally it is understood that the new contract contains a provision that there shall be no increase unless it has the approval of the Postmaster-General; but, it is pointed out on behalf of the companies, that if they can prove to the Postmaster-General that their expenses have been heavily increased, and particularly when that has been done by one of the Commonwealth’s own Courts, it is very reasonable to suppose that he would allow such extra charges as might be shown to be required to give the contractors a fair profit. So far, the announced increase applies only to the mainland coastal trade, but it will be a pleasant surprise if Tasmania escapes. Up to the present Mr. Crumond, the local manager of the Union Co., has not been advised of any contemplated alteration. The local manager of the Huddart Parker Steam-ship Company Ltd. (Hon. J. W. Evans) left yesterday on a visit to Melbourne. He goes on the company’s business, and will be absent a fortnight.
That goes to show that there is a distinct impression in the minds of the best informed people in Tasmania that in the near future an increase will be asked for and granted by the Government. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in speaking on the AddressinReply, made some reference to this matter. He said, amongst other things, that he had looked through the freights and the fares obtaining between the mainland and Tasmania, and thought that they were on a par with, and in some cases lower than, those existing between other States. He made that statement, which I contradicted at the time.
I propose to show now how ill-informed the Government are. I intend to quote the fares and some of the freights and prove, not by a mere bald statement, that Senator McColl’s information, whether intentional or not, was decidedly misleading. Eirst, let me take the fares between Tasmania and the mainland, and compare them with the fares existing between the other States, and that is the only fair way of comparison. On the Melbourne to Sydney trade there is a heavy volume of traffic, and that cannot be alleged to be the reason for the cheap fares maintained between those ports. For a distance of 564 miles, the firstclass return is £4 4s., and the second-class return, £2 12s. 6d. ; the former working out at7/8d. per mile. On the Melbourne to Adelaide trade, the volume of traffic is also heavy; for a distance of 508 miles the first-class return fare is £4 4s., and the second-class return, £2 12s. 6d., working out at1d. per mile. Let us now look at the fare between Burnie and Melbourne, a distance of 215 miles. The deck cabin fare is £3 2s. 6d. ; first-class return, £2 12s. 6d.; steerage or secondclass return, £1 12s. 6d., that is1¾d. per mile for a deck cabin, or1½d. per mile for an ordinary first-class fare. And I will give some more figures to show how Tasmania is being penalized. I admit that the greater volume of the traffic between the mainland and Tasmania goes from Launceston to Melbourne. On this route, a distance of 277 miles, the deck cabin fare is £3 2s. 6d. ; first class return, £2 12s. 6d. ; the second-class return £1 12s. 6d., working out at1¼d. per mile, which is considerably over the fares between South Australia and Victoria, and between Victoria and New South Wales. Now, let me take the Melbourne-Hobart route and see how unreliable was the information furnished to the Senate by Senator McColl. For a distance of 457 miles, the first-class return is £4 8s., and second-class return £2 15s., which works out at1½d. per mile. There, again, considerably higher fares are charged than those pertaining between other States. The only cheap fares we have in Tasmania is where the volume of tourist traffic is relatively small. Between Sydney and Hobart, a distance of 623 miles - the route that Senator McColl was very careful to quote - the first-class return fare is £4 8s., which works out at 7/8d. per mile. This fare is on a par with the fares prevailing between the other States, and it is the only one that is. On the other three routes the rates are from 50 to 75 per cent. more than the rates pertaining for the two larger States.
– There is a special reason for a difference being made between Sydney and Hobart, because on a portion of that route there is competition.
– That is so. The shipping combines have to meet the competition of outside vessels, which they have not to do on the north-west coast of Tasmania. When I was last dealing with this matter an honorable senator interjected about a comparison with railway freights. A first-class return ticket by the Sydney express for a distance of 1,153 miles costs £6, working out at13/8d. per mile, so that the railway fares are very little higher than the steamer fares between Tasmania and the mainland. And railway fares, it is generally acknowledged, should be higher than water fares. So much for fares.
Let me now deal with the freights, as I want to show how unreliable the Minister’s information is. From
Devonport, the principal port on the north-west coast of Tasmania, the freight on chaff to Newcastle, a three days’ journey, is 23s. 6d. a’ ton, while the freight on chaff from Adelaide to Newcastle, a four days’ journey, is £1 a ton - that is, 3s. 6d. cheaper. Yet Senator McColl told the Senate that the freights and fares to and from Tasmania are on a par with those obtaining between other States. From Devonport to Sydney the freight on chaff is 18s. per ton, as against 12s. 6d. a ton from Adelaide to Sydney. These freights are not much on a par, but the freight from Devonport is 50 per cent, higher than the freight from Adelaide to Sydney. If we take a different route from Hobart to Sydney and Brisbane, we shall find that freight at the rate of 17s. 6d. per ton is charged on Tasmanian fruits between Sydney and Brisbane, whilst the boats bring back Queensland fruit from Brisbane to Sydney at a freight rate of 9s. 9d. per ton. It is clear from these figures that Tasmanian fruit-growers and producers are being highly penalized by the shipping companies. We now have a cool proposition put forward that, with the consent of the Postmaster-General, the shipping monopoly conducting the trade with Tasmania may be allowed to again increase their fares.
I shall deal briefly with the profits made by these people. The statement is made that, owing to the increased wages we are called upon to give waterside workers, it is necessary that they should increase freights and fares. The Union Steamship Company, which is about forty years old, two years ago made their shareholders a present of 200 shares, besides paying them a dividend. They watered their stock to the extent of 200 shares.
– What was the total number of shares?
– I have not the figures with me at present, but the increase represented a big percentage. The year before last Huddart Parker and Company asked for £250,000 in the shape of new shares, and they received almost at once offers amounting in value to £2,500,000. One big business man in Tasmania told me that in the first week he made an application for 2,000 shares, and could not get a single share. I propose to quote from an interesting circu lar by Joseph Palmer and Sons, of Sydney, who, I believe, send the circular regularly to honorable senators. Dealing with steam-ship shares, they say in their monthly report -
Steam. - Howard Smith remain steady at 76s. 9d., and we recommend the purchase. Last year the profit, after paying dividend on preference shares, was about £125,000, or equal to 50 per cent, on the ordinary shares. The dividend was 20 per cent., but it is expected that 25 per cent, will be paid this year; if so, the yield will be 6J per cent, at present, and there is talk of a new issue of shares on liberal terms to ordinary shareholders.
Referring to the Union Steam-ship Company, they say -
Union improved to 26s., but are now a little easier, the interim dividend being only at the rate of 5 per cent, per annum. However, it is the practice of this company to pay a bonus in November, and we are hopeful that the full distribution for the year will be 6 or 7 per cent.
– That is on the watered stock.
– Yes. In spite of this, we have a proposition from the company that they should be allowed to increase the rates charged by them. They are throwing out a gentle feeler to discover what the present Government are prepared to do for them. They fear the result of the elections, and are more than frightened of the Labour party. They realize that this is the time to squeeze the Government, because they feel that if the Labour party are returned to power, an honest attempt will be made to deal with them, and even the present contract may be dealt with.’ The companies are, therefore, now approaching the Government to see whether they will be allowed to increase their fares, and still further exploit the travelling public of Tasmania and the Commonwealth generally.
– Many Queensland people are interested in the matter.
– That is so. At one period of the year we depend very greatly in Tasmania on the tourist traffic, and many people visit Tasmania from all the States, because of the advantages which that State has to offer them.
– The company are trying to get watertight compartments in their contract.
– That is so. They are striking while the iron is hot, and hope before the present Ministry go out of power to obtain their consent to an increase in the fares.
Some of the supporters, even of the Government, have advocated a prosecution of existing trusts. Mr. Mcwilliams, the honorable member for Franklin, has hurled every adjective in his vocabulary at the Steam-ship Combine. If the Government take any notice of Mr. Mcwilliams, they will be very chary of the combine, and will hesitate about permitting them to increase their fares and freights. It does not appear that the Government take very much notice of Mr. Mcwilliams, or that that honorable member is very sincere in what he has said on the subject, because if he desired to do so he might have prevented the agreement to the m ali contract by the exercise of his vote in another place. The electors of Franklin may yet call him to account in that connexion. The point I wish to make is that the. shipping combines, securely entrenched behind their privileged positions, have increased their rates for the mainland trade, and though increases have been made the rates in that trade are still less than the existing rates in the Tasmanian trade.
– Senator Guthrie, a member of the honorable senator’s party, says that the Tasmanian rates are the cheapest in the world.
– I am glad to have had that interjection, because it enables me to say that Senator Guthrie was referring to the freights between Hobart and Sydney. Those freights are not cheaper, but are on a par with the mainland freights. I believe that Senator Guthrie would have told the honorable senator, if he were asked the question, that he was under the impression that the fare between Hobart and Sydney is %d. per mile, whereas it is d. per mile. With a proper system of control, the companies would be obliged to pay for their increased wages out of their accumulated profits.
– Why did not the Labour Government deal with them during their three years of office?
– The Labour Government did what they could in the matter. They let a short contract and announced their intention to establish a Commonwealth line of steamers. If they had remained in power I have no doubt that those steamers would be now >building on the stocks. When the present Government go out of office, and that will be before very long, an attempt will be made to establish a “Commonwealth” line of steamers, and to relieve us from the contract by which we have been bound to the heels of the shipping companies for the next seven years.
In view of the fact that a rise in fares and freights has taken place all over Australia, and that even now they are lower than the rates prevailing between the mainland and Tasmania, I ask every representative of Tasmania in the Senate to support me in asking the Leader of the Government in this Chamber to give an assurance that no further increase of fares and freights between the mainland and Tasmania will be permitted by the Postmaster-General. That is a fair request to make, and I should be lacking in my duty to the people of Tasmania if I failed to make it. I hope that the re- ° quest will be put before the Cabinet as early as possible, so that before the Senate is dissolved we may have a distinct promise that the company will not be permitted to rob the people any more than they are doing at the present time.
I can assure honorable senators that residents of Tasmania and others having to travel between the mainland and Tasmania continually complain of the heavy fares and freights they are charged. Travellers between Launceston and the mainland protest every time we cross the Strait against the company extorting from them £2 12s. 6d. for a first class fare for a ferry service over a comparatively short distance. I hope that before the matter is finally disposed of by the Senate the representative of the Government in this Chamber will promise to give it careful and prompt consideration with a view to protecting; the interests of the people of Tasmania ?
.- This is an important matter from the Tasmanian point of view, but I think that all that need be said upon it has been very well said by Senator Ready. As the interests of Tasmanian producers are at stake, the discussion should be removed entirely from all party considerations. This,, is an occasion on which Tasmanian representatives might very well combine to protect the interests of that State. It is no exaggeration to say that the fares at present demanded by the shipping companies from persons travelling between the mainland and Tasmania are such as to insure to the combine a very substantial return upon their outlay. No increase in the fares should be sanctioned by the present Government upon any consideration. An increase in freights is a very serious matter indeed for the fruit producers of Tasmania. If freights continue to increase, it will shortly be almost impossible for Tasmanian producers to compete in the markets of the mainland. The potato-growing industry is extending in Northern Tasmania, and it is known that fruit production is a most important industry of the southern part of Tasmania. Unless the various shipping companies are checked by Parliament the time will shortly arrive when it will become altogether unprofitable for producers in Tasmania to engage in the apple-growing or potato-growing industries. The matter is one which greatly concerns commercial interests in Tasmania also. People interested are beginning to ask themselves whether we have not reached the time when they will be no longer justified in passing on the added expense of conducting business to the consumers. We find it at present sufficiently difficult to retaiu our native population in Tasmania, and the action of the shipping companies in making these regular demands for increased fares and freights is adding to that difficulty, and makes it almost impossible for us to secure population from the mainland States.
Seuator Mcdougall. - Bad landlords are to blame for that.
– That may be so to some extent, but Senator McDougall will see that the cost of the transit of produce may be such as to make it unprofitable for people to engage in the producing industries. Gold is very valuable, but its value may be largely eaten up by the cost of production and transit. At one time we used to send chaff from Tasmania to Sydney for11s. per ton, now our producers have to pay a freight of 18s. per ton. The freight upon potatoes to Sydney used to be 10s. per ton, to-day it is 16s. per ton. Consequently the producers are beginning to ask themselves how much longer they are to be penalized in order that increased dividends may be found for the shipping companies and the Shipping Combine. I join with Senator Ready in expressing the hope that the Government will scrutinize very carefully the claims which the Shipping Combine are now put ing forward as a reason why, under the Tasmanian mail contract agreement, they should be allowed to increase the presents, fares and freights between Tasmania and the mainland. I have no desire to discuss the question of the advisableness of establishing a Commonwealth-owned line of steamers between Australia and the State which I represent. My views on that subject are well known. It is a matter for regret, and it is a disaster from the standpoint of the people of Tasmania, that the present Government have not established such a service. Whilst the representatives of the island State have not objected to the eastern States and Western Australia being linked up by a railway which will cost many millions of pounds, whilst we have not acted in a parochial spirit in regard to that great national undertaking, we do hold that a proper recognition of the Federal compact involves the establishment of communication between Tasmania and the other States by a Commonwealthowned line of steamers.
– What about a tunnel under the sea?
– We invite the honorable senator to make a practical suggestion. This is a very serious matter from the point of view of Tasmania, and we all know that the honorable senator’s assistance on questions which come before this Chamber is often very valuable. I have nothing further to add beyond expressing the hope that the Government will not permit this company to levy further toll on the people and producers of Tasmania.
, - I was absent from the Chamber when Senator Ready submitted this motion. At the time I was engaged upon the work of a Select Committee of the Senate of which I am a member. It is not my intention to address myself to the motion at any length. But I am personally interested in it for this reason : Some little time ago when the present Government were negotiating with the contractors for a new mail contract between Tasmania and the mainland a considerable amount of opposition was exhibited by my honorable colleagues to any contract being entered into for a lengthy term. Whilst the negotiations were pending it occurred to me that it would be very advantageous if that contract contained a provision which would enable the Postmaster-General to veto any proposed increase in fares or freights during its continuance. Accordingly I communicated with the PostmasterGeneral pointing out to him that it was desirable that the contract should contain a clause of that character. I am pleased to say that very shortly afterwards I received a cable from the PostmasterGeneral in which he informed me that the contract would contain such a provision.
– What is the good of that if the Government will not enforce it?
– I am not responsible for that. The ready response which my suggestion evoked from the PostmasterGeneral inspired me with confidence as to what would happen in the event of any contingency arising when it became necessary for him to act as his discretion directed. If any attempt be made on the part of the contractors to increase the fares and freights during the pendency of the contract, I am sure that the Government will not sanction it unless they find that such increase is absolutely warranted by circumstances.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the fares and freights are far too high now?
– That is another matter entirely. The provision in the contract applies only to an increase in the fares and freights. The Government have no power to decrease them. I was Chairman of a Select Committee, which some time ago investigated the whole question, and which inquired into the matter of une fares and freights between Tasmania and the mainland as compared with those which obtain both in Australia and elsewhere. That, however, has no bearing upon the subject which is now under consideration. The Government cannot increase the existing fares and freights, but they can prevent an increase of them, and I am sure that any . Government which may be in power, before sanctioning au increase, will have full regard to the whole of the circumstances of the case. For communication with the mainland, Tasmania is entirely dependent upon a steam-ship service. There is no prospect of getting a tunnel under the Strait, as Senator Stewart has suggested, and there is no prospect of a bridge being built over it. “Under these circumstances, it is abundantly evident that any proposal to impose an additional charge upon the people of Tasmania, who desire to get into closer communication with their fellow Australians on the mainland, will be most carefully scrutinized.
– I have every sympathy with honorable senators from Tasmania who have brought this matter forward, and also with the people of that State. But if those honorable senators think that the present Government will render them any assistance in this matter, they are very much mistaken.
– The honorable senator thinks that our confidence is misplaced ?
– Indeed, I do. So far as I can gather, the present Government are hand-and-glove with all the shipping companies, and with every other combine. In fact, they depend upon private enterprise for their very existence. I believe that their party funds are largly supplemented from that quarter. Indeed, I am credibly informed that a proportion of the profits made by large combines is placed to the credit of the Liberal political funds in Australia. We have here a system somewhat akin to that which obtains in the Old Country. There, when a particular political party desires funds, when it finds the war chest getting low, it sells a title, or a number of titles, and gets money from that source. Here, the companies contribute in payment for benefits conferred, and in the hope of rewards to come. This arrangement is all very fine and profitable for the companies on the one hand, and for the Government on the other. The companies are making enormous profits - profits which are not legitimate at all.
– The steam-ship service between Launceston and Melbourne is the most profitable service in Australia.
– I do not wonder at it. If one looks at the rates which this particular company charges, he will see they are extortionate. I really cannot understand how any industry is able to prosper under such conditions. As is very well known, the shipping companies are having a real royal time of it. They are not only paying large dividends, but they are continually watering their stock. If any honorable senator will take the trouble to investigate the affairs of the Union Steam-ship Company, of the Howard Smith Company, of the Huddart Parker Company, or any other shipping company trading either in the Commonwealth of New Zealand, he will find that what I have said is true. I believe that Capital is as much entitled to a fair reward as is Labour. Under our existing system, the use of private capital is necessary, and its possessors are entitled to a fair return for their outlay. But there is a wide difference between a fair and an exorbitant return. There is a profit which is fair and ample, and which is sufficient to enable the shipping companies to carry on their businesses comfortably. On the other hand, there is a profit which is altogether too great, and one which in time becomes so enormous that these companies are compelled to resort to the device known as “ watering,” so as to conceal their real profits. In some instances to which reference has been made, companies are earning as much as 30 per cent. profit on their original capital. That means that a little over every three years their capital is renewed. But in order to hide their enormous profits they are obliged to water their stock. Consequently they have to present their shareholders with a large number of shares, either for a very small consideration, or for no consideration at all, so that the apparent return of the companies is not more than 6 or 7 per cent.
– Would it not be good business to make that illegal?
– The honorable senator opens up another field of thought altogether.
– Into which the honorable senator had better not be led away.
– In any case, prevention is better than cure, and it would be very difficult to cure private companies of stock-watering. The present position is very comfortable for the companies and the Government; but how do the people fare ?
– You do not hear a word from the steam-ship companies about the seamen and firemen’s combine.
– I do not know whether Senator Oakes has ever fired in the stoke-hole of a ship. If he had, he would not say that the wages received by these men are more than they ought to get. Apparently, there is very little on any subject that the honorable seuator docs not know, but this is one matter into which he has, apparently, omitted to inquire. I would suggest that, in order to enlarge his knowledge, and qualify him more effectively for the position of senator in the next Parliament, he should take work as a stoker for a few months. He could then come into this chamber and talk about the high wages paid to these men.I was trying, when side-tracked, to imagine the condition of the people under the present system. Everybody knows that the people of Tasmania are in a very bad condition socially. The supreme test of the well-being of any country is whether the population is increasing or decreasing. When we learn that the population of Ireland has decreased by 50 per cent, during the last fifty years, we naturally come to the conclusion that Ireland has been very badly governed, and that her people are very ill-off. I merely mention that to illustrate the commonlyaccepted axiom that when a country is prosperous people not only stay in it, but grow and multiply. If, on the other hand, a country is not prosperous, people leave it. Tasmania is not only not adding to her population, but is not keeping her natural increase. For every child born in Tasmania an able-bodied man or woman leaves the island. It might be imagined that Tasmania was a country of naturally poor resources, and that, therefore, people were compelled to leave it; but that is not the case. It is a country of very great natural resources. It has comparatively large areas of agricultural and pastoral land; it has a great deal of mineral country, and resources of water-power which are unequalled in the Commonwealth. Its natural position in the Commonwealth, under good government, would be very high. Its present position, under bad government, is the lowest that can be found.
– She had three years of Federal Labour rule, and went to pieces.
– Labour government is the plague that seems to blight everything; but when had Tasmania a Labour Government until now? Apparently, Senator Oakes refers to the Federal Labour Government. Were they responsible for the”blight “ which has prevailed over the whole of the mainland during the past three years?
– According to Senator Ready, the Federal Government are to blame in this matter.
– The present Government, but not the Labour Government.
– Under the Labour Government Tasmania got all she asked for.
– And probably more than she deserved. Under the Labour Government Australia prospered as she had never done before.
– There never was a greater time for the combines.
Seuator STEWART.- And the combines have been making money hand over fist. Everybody, from the combine down to the youngest labourer in the land, has been better off than was ever the case before.
– When the dog is fat, the fleas fatten also.
– That exactly states the case.
– The combines live, but the Labour party went down.
– The Labour party went down to come up again, as the honorable senator will find to his surprise and chagrin before many months are over. It went down only in another place, but even there the Government’s miserable majority of one is very little to boast about. When I think of the twentynine Labour senators who sit here, and the seven Liberals who do not sit opposite, I feel proud of the Democracy of Australia. I believe that, in the near future, there will be a handsome majority on our side in another place. We do not want there such a large majority as we have here, but we do want a majority sufficiently large to enable us to do something to help the producers. I was pointing out the difficulties under which the people of Tasmania labour owing, in a large measure, to the ravages of the Shipping Combine. I understand that some time ago an inquiry took place into the fares and freights between Tasmania and Australia and Tasmania and the Old Country. Mr. G. Finlayson, who was connected with a large engineering firm in Devonport, gave the following evidence : -
Are they reasonable or excessive? - They are very excessive.
How do you arrive at a standard of comparison ? - The charges from the Old Country to Melbourne, for instance, are sometimes less than from Melbourne to hero on heavy lifts.
What would you call a heavy lift? - Anything over six tons. The present charge for a six-ton lift is £35 from Melbourne to Devonport.
What would the charge be from the Old Country? - About 50s. to 60s. per ton; it varies slightly.
And you find this a disadvantage in your trade ?- Undoubtedly.
According to that evidence, this gentleman could get a six-ton lift from the Old Country for £18 freight, but had to pay £35 to get it from Melbourne to Devonport.
– The honorable senator who moved the motion did not pay me the courtesy of notifying me of his intention to bring the matter forward, and I have, therefore, no information to give to the Senate regarding it. A clause was put in the agreement, through the energy of Senator Keating, compelling the companies to approach the Department for permission to make any increase in freights or fares; but I have not heard that any application has been made to the Department in that direction. If the matter is as Senator Keating stated, it will have the closest and keenest attention on the part of the Government.
.- I had hoped that the Minister would make a fuller and more satisfactory reply. Senator Ready brought the motion forward as a matter of great moment to the citizens of Tasmania, and asked for the co-operation of both sides of the Chamber in order that no injustice should be done to them. I go further, and say that it is a matter of moment to every citizen of Australia. Tasmania, unfortunately, is not a self-supporting State. It depends more than any other State on the tourist traffic from the mainland, and if the number of tourists is restricted by oppressive fares charged by the combination at present in existence with the consent of the Government, the matter becomes of serious moment, not only to Tasmania, but also to thousands of people in different States who periodically make for the island State to recuperate. When Senator McColl speaks as a responsible Minister in this chamber, his statements are likely to carry more weight than if he spoke as an ordinary member. The other day he said he had gone into Senator Ready’s allegations that the freights and fares between Tasmania and the mainland were excessive. He said, “ I have had an opportunity of going through the freights, and I think they are reasonable. In some cases they are on a par with, and in some case lower than, freights to other States.” That statement of Senator McColl’s is incorrect. Recently, a commission agent named B. T. Clemons, who does a very large business at Devonport, gave some evidence before a Select Committee which was appointed by the Tasmanian Assembly to inquire into the effect of freights between Tasmania and the mainland on business men and business generally -
Do you consider them unreasonably high? - Yes; compared with those on the mainland.
Will you institute any comparison? - To give you one clear instance, the freight from Devonport to Newcastle on chaff is 23s. 6d. a ton, and from Adelaide to Newcastle it is only £1. lt is a four-days’ journey from Adelaide to Newcastle, steaming all the time, and yet the freight is less than from here; consequently our quotations have to be from 5s. to 7s. under the mainland price to get the business.
A difference of one day in the steaming, but a difference of 3s. 6d, a ton in the freight ! When Senator McColl went into this matter, did he see the evidence which was tendered by Mr. Clemons, and if he did, I am sure that he did an injustice to Senator Ready and to the traders of Tasmania when he said, as a responsible Minister, that the freights and fares to Tasmania are on a par and in many cases less than those between other States. It is characteristic of a shipping combine that every time they get an opportunity to increase fares and freights they do it, and ofttimes do it without the slightest justification.
– Do not the workers do the same thing?
– I am dealing with the Shipping Combine. When the small-pox scare was on in New South Wales the shipping companies increased their fares and freights, and when questioned on the subject by the merchants they replied that they were doing it in consequence of the small-pox in Sydney effecting their business. On the 5th July, 1913, the Argus, which is recognised as the official organ of the so-called Liberal party, published an article headed, “Inter-State Freights; increase of 15 per cent.,” and containing this passage -
Merchants and manufacturers are complaining of a further increase in Inter-State freights by the steam-ship companies. In the past the practice has been to make small advances of 5 per cent, or less, but this latest jump is one of 15 per cent., making a total of 20 per cent, in the last six months. Business men regard the increase with alarm, and state that it will seriously affect the Inter-State trade. Even if it does not lead to the curtailment of imports and exports, it will necessitate higher prices being charged for goods, with a corresponding upward tendency in the cost of living.
Commenting on the increase, a merchant in Melbourne made use of the following words : -
This will mean a large addition to our expenditure, but what are we to do? The companies have the monopoly of the Inter-State trade, and appear to have an “ understanding “ regarding freights and fares which does away with competition. Therefore we are wholly in their hands. We recognise that during the last few years they have been compelled to pay large increases in wages to their crews, but an Increase of 5 per cent, was made to cover that. However, as they have seen fit to charge en additional 20 per cent, for the carriage of goods, we must pay it, and pass the increase on to the public.
A Melbourne merchant said that the shipping companies, in consequence of awards made by the Federal Arbitration Court and other industrial tribunals, were forced to increase the freights and fares by 5 per cent. In consequence of improved industrial conditions 20 per cent, has been passed on to the consumers, and this Melbourne merchant says that this was done because the shippers and consumers of Australia are wholly in the hands of a huge shipping combination ; that competition has been entirely eliminated. It is the opinion of other merchants, and it is the opinion of every Labour man in every part of Australia, that, although our friends say that there is no monopoly in the shipping business to-day, it is an absolute fact that competition does not exist as we understand competition. In the days that have gone there was competition between shipping companies, and very acute competition indeed; but throughout Australia to-day, although on paper it would appear that there are in existence individual shipping companies, they are one and the same institution. The fares and the freights are the same with respect to all shipping companies, and it is commonly stated that there is an arrangement between them with respect to the profits which do not go altogether into the coffers of particular companies. They have an arrangement amongst themselves which makes them nothing short of one of the biggest combinations we have in the whole of Australia. This is a very serious matter indeed, because what is being attempted in respect to the Tasmanian Shipping Combine might, should the present Government come back to power, which is not likely, be repeated in regard to other shipping companies. Surely Senator McColl does not want notice of such a motion as this to be able to tell us what the intentions of the Government are! The Tasmanian mail contract specially provides that there shall be no increase in fares and freights unless with the consent of the Postmaster-General. It ought to be an easy matter for Senator McColl, representing the PostmasterGeneral here, to get in touch with him and give an assurance that the Government do not intend to accede to any demand made by the steam-ship companies. I think it is up to him to do that in justice to Tasmania, and to the State which I happen to be representing.
– Order ! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– It has been truly stated that this is a matter of importance not only to Tasmania, but to all residents on the mainland, no matter in which State they may live. Of course, it is of greater importance to Tasmania than to other States, because Tasmania is shut off from the mainland by water, and is completely dependent upon the working of the Shipping Combine for its means of water communication with the mainland. While all the residents of the Commonwealth are to some extent affected by the high passenger fares ruling, and would be, of . course, affected even more by an increase in the fares, it is the producers of Tasmania who are more directly concerned, owing to the fact that they have no other means of getting that produce to the mainland market than the ships belonging to the combine. In four at least of the other States in the Union there is railway communication linking up at least some portion of the States. Right from far north in Queensland down to Victoria, and into at least a portion of South Australia, there is direct railway communication, so that there is competition for passenger traffic between the railways and the steamers. But in Tasmania there is absolutely no competition, and no means of getting any competition, because the whole of the shipping trade with the mainland is in the hands of a combine. It was officially recognised as a combine by the Government in accepting a tender for the carriage of mails between Tasmania and the mainland - that is, a joint tender from the Huddart Parker Shipping Company and the Union Steamship Company. Prior to the acceptance of this contract, Tasmania was paying; £13,000 a year for the carriage of mails. When the combine were asked to improve the then existing service, and it was a very defective one indeed, they said that they would do so if £2,000 a year extra was paid for the carriage of mails. The price of mail carriage was raised from £13,000 to £15,000, and to that extent the Commonwealth Government control the conditions of the contract, which runs for seven years from the date of acceptance.* The improved service will not come into operation until next year. Although it is unthinkable that the clause in the contract for which Senator Keating claims credit should be broken even with the consent of the PostmasterGeneral in any circumstances, certainly it is even more unthinkable, if that was possible, that any increase in fares and freights should be sanctioned by thePostmasterGeneral until such time as wegot an improved service. We do not knowwhen we are likely to get the improved service, and the increased price is the condition for supplying the improved service. If the companies approach the PostmasterGeneral to obtain his consent to an increase of fares and freights, the Minister should not listen to such a request for a moment. He should say, “ If you do not like the contract, ask us to release you from it. Do not ask us to sanction the breaking of a clause in the agreement which says that you shall not increase fares and freights.” It is all nonsense for the companies to maintain that they are justified in seeking the sanction of the Postmaster-General to increase fares and freights because of any recent awards of the Arbitration Court, because any increase in the working expenses of the shipping companies . brought about by awards of the Arbitration Court was anticipated before those awards were made. There have been two or three separate increases in fares and freights within the last year or two. As Senator Findley has stated, the shipping companies made the dislocation and decreases of trade due to the outbreak of small-pox in Sydney the excuse for a 15 per cent, rise in fares and freights throughout Australia. When trade assumed its normal proportions, the companies did not say to their customers, “ Now that trade lias assumed its normal proportions, we propose to reduce fares and freights by 15 per cent.” The 15 per cent, increase remains, and it was in addition to an increase of, I think, 5 per cent, which was made some time previously. Tha Postmaster-General may very well meet any request that he should sanction an increase of fares and freights by telling the shipping companies, “You are doing very well. Although the award of the Arbitration Court may have added to the expense of conducting your business, it was -anticipated by increases in fares and freights made before it was given.” The State of Tasmania is specially concerned in this matter. In the mainland States, with the exception of Western Australia, the shipping companies are brought into some competition with the railways. Even in the case of Western Australia, the Inter-State shipping companies have some competition with the ocean-going steamers for the passenger traffic, although I believe there is an “honorable understanding” between them to maintain passenger fares at a certain rate. In view of the position which Tasmania occupies, no PostmasterGeneral would be justified for a moment in sanctioning an increase of fares and freights. Immediately he is requested to do so by the company, he should say, ““If you do not like your contract, apply to the Government to have it annulled. We shall not sanction the breaking of the clause in the agreement preventing you from raising fares and freights.” This would put the Government in a position to call for fresh tenders for the mail service, and it would also give them an opportunity io substitute a line of Commonwealthowned steamers for those run by the Shipping Combine. Public opinion is rapidly changing on this question, and I am satisfied that a Commonwealth-owned line of steamers will in the near future be regarded as an absolute necessity. I make bold to say that if the electors of Tasmania were polled to-morrow on the subject an overwhelming majority of them would be found to be in favour of a Commonwealth-owned line of steamers trading between Tasmania and the mainland. The Minister representing the Postmaster-General was not in a position to give some information which was asked for to-day, but before Parliament is dissolved we should have an announcement from the Government that the PostmasterGeneral will not in any circumstances sanction a request from the shipping companies carrying out this contract to be allowed to” increase their fares and freights.
– I support the action of Senator Ready in moving the adjournment of the Senate to call attention to this matter, because while it may be said to be a Tasmanian matter, it is one with which the Commonwealth has to deal, and in all matters of that kind the affairs of one State are the affairs of all. There is a reason why I take a special interest in this subject. During the first Parliament of the Commonwealth, Senator Keating moved for a Select Committee to consider the question of communication between Tasmania and the mainland, and I had the honour to be a member of that Committee. We made certain recommendations which afterwards bore fruit, and resulted in the Loongana being placed on this trade route. That arrangement is beginning to show decided signs of wear. One of the weaknesses of the position is that there is no competition. That is admitted on all hands. Honorable senators on this side representing . Tasmania gave the Government fair warning of the difficulties they would get into in dealing with this question. I think that Senator McColl said that Senator Keating was responsible for the clause in the contract agreement which prevents the shipping companies raising fares and freights. It was most unjust to give the credit for that to Senator Keating. I am going to show that it was unjust. I have here the Hansard for last session, when the contract was under consideration. I can only find one place in the volume where Senator Keating touches the question at all. At page 14 of Hansard for 1913 the honorable senator spoke on the subject; but he never mentioned the question of fares and freights. The only thing he referred to was the substitution of another steamer of the Loongana typo for the Rotomahana. It will be found throughout the volume that Senators O’Keefe, Ready, and Long, before the agreement was entered into, warned the Government of the position in which Tasmania would be placed under it. I find, at page 622, that Senator Ready raised this very question. Referring to Senator Clemons, he said -
He knows that quite recently an intimation appeared in the press of Australia that the fares of the steam-ship companies throughout the Commonwealth, with the exception of Tasmania, were increased. 15 per cent. The increase was to apply to every other route except the Tasmanian passenger trade. If we, by means of our mail contract, give the shipping companies the right for seven years to impose what fares, freights, restrictions, and conditions on Tasmania as they liked, clearly we shall have the Tasmanian faresand freights increased at perhaps a greater ratio in the near future. It is clearly courting the inevitable if we give them a contract.
That was before the contract was entered into, and it was the first time the matter was raised during the proceedings of last session. It was raised by Senator Ready, and not by Senator Keating. Senator Ready again raised the question in a most direct fashion at page 1102, when he asked the following question : -
I wish to ask the Minister of Defence -
Whether the agreement in respect of the Tasmanian mail service which is now being drafted provides for -
an increased subsidy;
a seven-years’ contract; and
any restrictions of freights and fares ?
Will the Government give the Senate an opportunity of considering the agreement before it is ratified ?
In the light of these quotations, I say it was most unfair for theVice-President of the Executive Council to give Senator Keating the credit of having raised this question. It was never raised by him at all. It was raised by Senator Ready, and in sufficient time before the signing of the contract to have the question of restrictions and conditions looked into. I have not had time to go through all the speeches on the subject that were made last session; but I know that Senators O’Keefe and Long delivered speeches on the same lines as those delivered by Senator Ready. In the circumstances, the
Government cannot say that they were not warned of the position likely to arise. When they included this provision in the contract what did they mean by it? Did they mean that all that the companies would have to do would be to say that, owing to an increase in wages, they proposed to put up fares and freights 20 per cent., 10 per cent., or 5 per cent., and that the Postmaster-General would automatically increase them accordingly ? But he is under no obligation whatever to do so. If that provision means anything at all, it means that the PostmasterGeneral is the sole arbiter in this matter. The question which Senator Ready put to the Vice-President of the Executive Council was a very simple one, and one that he ought to have been able to answer merely by exchanging a note with the Postmaster-General in another place. He simply had to inquire of that gentleman, “ Are you going to grant the request of the Union Steam-ship Company?” We know perfectly well that the reason urged in support of that request is that the wages of the wharf labourers have been increased.
– Will it not be time enough for us to take the hurdle when we come to it? There has been no move in this matter that I am aware of.
– I repeat that if the Vice-President of the Executive Council had addressed a note to the PostmasterGeneral he would have been able to elicit the desired information.
– It is persistently stated in business circles in Tasmania that the freights are to be raised.
– The PostmasterGeneral knows whether any move has been made in that direction, and could therefore have easily supplied the VicePresident of the Executive Council with the necessary information. We have to recollect that the subsidy which is paid to this company was not fixed by competition. No tenders were called, the company merely intimated the amount which they required to provide a mail service to Tasmania, and their claim was granted by the Ministry, in spite of the protests of a majority of the representatives of that State, who objected to the Commonwealth being tied to such an agreement for a number of years. Tasmanian senators are merely doing their duty to the State which they represent in bringing this matter forward. They are protecting the interests of the producers there. As Senator Keating has now returned to the chamber, I propose to repeat the statement which I made during his absence. I hold in my hand a volume of Hansard for last session, from a perusal of which it will be seen that only on one occasion did the honorable senator raise the question of a mail service to Tasmania, when, on page 14, he referred to the desirableness of substituting another Loongana for the Rotomahana. But Senators Long, O’Keefe, and Ready repeatedly raised the question of the wisdom of inserting in the conditions of the contract some such restriction as that which has been mentioned in regard to fares and freights.
– What I said was that I wrote from Tasmania to the PostmasterGeneral suggesting that a clause should be inserted in the contract enabling the Postmaster-General to veto any proposed increase in fares or freights during its continuance, and that he acknowledged my communication, and stated that such a provision would be inserted.
– Upon what date was that?
– It was whilst negotiations for the contract were pending.
– And the question raised by Senators O’Keefe, Long, and Ready was raised while the contract was pending, as will be seen by reference to Hansard, page 1041 -
Tasmania will be paying a pretty dear price, and to some extent those on the mainland who do business with that State will also pay a pretty dear price, for the improvement of the service if a long contract is entered into, unless” there is a very stringent clause in the agreement binding the companies down to certain fares and freights, not more than the present ones.
– Who made that statement ?
- Senator O’Keefe. I may tell Senator Keating that I quoted the direct question put to the VicePresident of the Executive Council by Senator Ready as to whether provision of the character indicated in the statement by Senator O’Keefe was to be made in the contract. When, therefore, Senator Keating made the claim which he did, he might, in fairness to the other representatives of Tasmania, have indicated the effective part which they played in this matter when Supply Bills were before the Senate. Having entered into this contract - which I do not think is a good one - it is the duty of the present PostmasterGeneral to prevent the raising of these fares and freights, unless it can be absolutely proved that the service is being run at a loss.
– I share the view which has been expressed by several honorable senatorsthat this is a matter which affects the mainland, although it does so in a less degree than it affects Tasmania. The series of questions which were asked from time to time by the representatives of Tasmania when the negotiations for the contract were pending shows the keen interest which was taken in this matter at the time. That interest, while it isnaturally more pronounced in the case of Tasmanians, is, to some extent, shared by the public on the mainland. On several occasions I have had the pleasure of visiting Tasmania, and I was not slow torecognise the expensive nature of the travelling between that State and Australia. But our chief interest in this matter lies in the fact that the Government may enter into similar contracts in regard to very much larger services than that immediately under notice. The plea, which is raised by honorable senatorsupon the Government side of the chamber, such as Senator Oakes, is that wageconsiderations are a justification for an increase in existing freights and fares.
– It is not the sole consideration; but it is a factor.
– The eagerness with which Senator Oakes grabs at an excuse to saddle unionism with the blame for the additional charges which this company desires to make is a sample of the contention habitually raised by him–
– How does the honorable senator account for the charges goingup?
– I will deal with that matter presently in my own way. But I would point out that the habit of attributing the rise in prices to an increaseof wages reverses the actual process of affairs. It is the continued increase inprices which compels the workers to demand higher wages to meet the exploitation to which they are subjected. Instead. of increased wages necessitating increased prices, the very reverse is the case. When Senator Oakes asks for* enlightenment - and the Lord knows he requires it badly enough - I invite him to reflect carefully upon the remarks made by Senator Stewart and Senator Ready in framing their indictment against this company. They pointed to the enormous dividends paid on the subscribed capital of the company, and the way in which these companies cover up their actual profits by watering their stock. That is the method which is usually adopted to conceal illicit gains, and it is also used as a justification for further extortionate demands. I do not know to what extent the law can prevent it ; but I contend that, in a case of this kind - if the general companies law cannot be amended to meet it - it is the manifest duty of the Government, and of the Postmaster-General in particular, to ascertain the actual position of the company concerned, what is its nominal capital, what dividends it is paying upon its watered stock, and what is its actually subscribed capital. That is the way in which this matter should be approached. Time after time in our Arbitration Court we have been told that wages cannot be increased because an industry is not paying. But, unless the President of the Court has power to look into the assets and liabilities of the employers concerned, he cannot justly deal with that phase of the matter.
– Do not forget that the union secretaries tell the Judge that the increased wages can be passed on to the public.
– Senator Oakes is one of those little-minded men who imagine they can score a point by quoting the real or imaginary remarks of union secretaries. Surely he can rise above such petty considerations. I am not aware that any member of the Labour party has ever claimed that union secretaries are so infallible that we should accept their ipse dixit. Consequently, what any union secretary may have said has nothing whatever to do with this question. It is quite true that in many instances increases of wages are passed on to the public. But when a firm or a company states that its increased prices are the result of the payment of higher wages granted under an award of the Arbitration Court, it almost invariably happens that that firm or company is paying an increase in wages of perhaps 1 per cent., whilst charging the public an increase of 15 or 20 per cent. Instead of being content merely to recoup itself for any additional cost consequent upon a higher wages sheet it makes that cost a pretext for the most extortionate demands. If this particular shipping company is going to demand that it shall be permitted to charge higher freights and fares to and from Tasmania on the ground that an award of the Arbitration Court has recently increased the wages of a certain section of the workers in the shipping industry, we have a right to demand from it a clear and explicit statement, backed up by proof, as to what additional percentage of cost is involved in the working of its line of steamers consequent upon those increased wages. Because an increase of wages may have increased the cost of the service to an infinitesimal degree the company should not be granted permission to make any increase in fares and freights that it chooses. Unfortunately we have in power a Government whose members are only too eager to go in for contract work of any kind whenever they have an opportunity of doing so. They are only too anxious to oblige their friends who contribute to the expenses of running their party. Consequently we can find no real remedy for the existing state of things until we have displaced from office a Government who are practically committed to this sort of conduct. It is not as individuals that I blame them. As men they may have all the virtues of the saints of old. But inasmuch as they are allied to the party which is founded upon “ boodle “ and corruption they must inevitably obey the commands of their masters or lose their support.
– The whole thing is a political placard.
– The Government are themselves indulging in political placards by helping these firms to look forward to increased profits in the future, knowing that they themselves will share in those profits. They know that they can run their campaigns, and get temporary command of the reins of government in the States or the Commonwealth, only by means of the enormous funds which they are able to expend in falsifying the position of the political problems of the country, and inducing the ignorant or illiterate to take them at their own face value. I am confident that if it were not for the command of. funds corning from such bodies as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the Shipping Monopoly, and the Coal Combine, they would not secure 10 per cent. of the adherents that they succeed in returning to this Parliament under existing conditions. The only way in which we can prevent this kind of nefarious and dangerous contract being entered into in the future is by getting rid of the party which is so prone to indulge in them.
– I regret that owing to being a new member I am not altogether familiar with the history of this national movement to afford not only better means of communication between Tasmania and the mainland, but also greater and more reasonable inter-communication between the various States. We who come from Queensland know that this is not an unfamiliar cry up there. For years many of the industries of our State have been curtailed by the operations of the Shipping Combine. I should like Tasmanian senators to understand that theirs is not the only State affected by the great curse of shipping monopoly. It operates throughout the whole of Australia with very serious results. It was for this reason that the Labour party resolved in convention some years ago, after serious discussion, to attempt to put an end to this state of things by establishing a Commonwealth -owned line of steamers. That appears to be the only solution of the difficulty.
– People who wish to travel in a State-owned concern between Sydney and Brisbane have to pay £6 each. They can travel for far less in a privately-owned concern.
– The honorable senator is referring to the State-owned railways, but two wrongs do not make a right. While, of course, Victoria and Tasmania are closely associated in trade and shipping matters, Queeusland also is very much interested in the question. Hundreds of tourists are only too delighted every year to take the opportunity to leave Queensland for Tasmania, and the great majority of them go there to spend money. At the same time they naturally object to paying extortionate fares for so short a journey. For many years the Tasmanian trip has been the subject of much discussion in Queensland. The class of steamers provided is entirely out of touch with modern requirements. In the year that the Government have been in office they might have given the people of Tasmania a good deal more consideration, both from a passenger traffic and freight traffic point of view, than they have done.
– Our producers are crippled in regard to inter-State trade.
– In many parts of Queensland the same cry is raised, the producers having been crippled by the exactions of big shipping interests and combines. In the Age of May 30th, 1914, appeared the following tabular statement, affording a comparison between rates then existing and the new rates to operate from the following Monday : -
I venture to say that such passenger fares for so short a distance cannot be beaten in any part of the world.
– How long does it take from Melbourne to Cairns?
– I suppose about a week.
Nothing has been decided regarding an increase ineither fares or freights to Launceston or Hobart, but it is probable that the rates to these ports will bc also advanced in the near future.
Under the new schedule, children’s fares have been revised. Formerly juveniles between three and fourteen years of age travelled at half fare, and all under three years free. In future only children under twelve years will be granted half fare, while passengers travelling with more than one child under three years will be required to pay a quarter faro for the second child.
If the various Governments of Australia are able to manage about 20,000 miles of railway lines, build their own rollingstock, and develop their territories by railway communication, surely the Commonwealth could easily construct and manage a line of passenger and freight steamers between the mainland and Tasmania. I trust that one result of the action taken by our colleagues from Tasmania will be that in the course of a very few months, when we have a Government in office pledged to the proposal I am referring to, the determination of the Hobart Labour Conference will be respected, and Ministers will see the wisdom, for the sake of the producers and the people on the mainland, of giving effect to the wishes of honorable gentlemen who have so frequently and ably upheld the best interests of Tasmania.
– Considering the interests involved in a motion of this kind, I am sure that no honorable senator can say that there has been any waste of time. When we look at the representation of Tasmania in the Senate, we find that the members of one section have been persistent, consistent, and determined in their efforts that the claims of that State should be adequately put before this Parliament. To my mind, they have exemplified the importunate widow in the parable; they have done all they possibly could do to induce Parliament to confer justice and right on the small State of Tasmania. Of course, as regards its representation by the Government supporters, that is not in question, because the very action of the Government is an exemplification of their efforts in that direction. If the Government have made a good bargain in connexion with this mail contract,their supporters deserve credit. But if it can be shown that the Postmaster-General’s Department has made a veryindifferent bargain, honorable senators on this side have every right to credit for its exposure. That is as far as I would go in connexion with the representation of Tasmania at the present time. But when we come to consider the policy advocated by the Labour party when it occupied the Government benches, and the policy that was put before Australia with respect to questions of this kind, I think that public attention ought to be again called to the attitude of the present Opposition.
– Senator Clemons denounced the Shipping Combine when he was in Opposition, and so did Mr. Mcwilliams.
– Many of the representatives of Tasmania have talked glibly, but when a crucial test came they were found wanting with respect to the policy of the late Government. If that policy had been carried into effect, no doubt at the present time there would have been Commonwealth steamers running to Tasmania, or if not running, they would be on the stocks preparatory to a contingency of that description.
– If built by day labour they would be built in ten years.
– The honorable senator need not introduce the question of day labour. He is talking of something he knows very little about.
– I am only going by the experience of the dockyard in Sydney.
– The honorable senator is only going by the report on the dockyard. I am sure, sir, that if I were to enter into a discussion with respect to that report on a motion of this kind you would call me to order. But I would like to tell the honorable senator, through you. that there is a very great probability that a different complexion could be put on that report if men who know something about the matter had an opportunity of expressing their opinions. Senator Oakes is always opposed to day labour: in fact, he is always opposed to anything of a progressive character. He has always been a Conservative to the backbone, and it would require an earthquake to make an alteration in his political opinions. I hope that the election which is looming in the very near future will be a substitute for an earthquake, and if it does not alter bis opinions it will alter his position. Whether vessels for carrying mails between the mainland and Tasmania were built by day labour or by contract, they would be in existence, or in course of construction, at the present time had the Fisher Government remained in office, and the people of Australia would not be under the control of a shipping monopoly. Does Senator Oakes understand that position?
– Oh, yes; I understand it pretty well.
– Yes ; but the Conservative blood in the honorable senator’s veins prevents him from supporting anything of a progressive character. If, as I have said, these steamers were either running or in the course of construction, and the Labour Government were still in possession of the Treasury bench, no doubt t hey would have adopted means and methods for carrying out the mail communication until an effective service was established by the Commonwealth. What are the great complaints of the Tasmanian representatives. Their first complaint is that the amount agreed to be paid to the Commonwealth for the carriage of mails is excessive. The next complaint is that, as regards the public of Tasmania, adequate provision was not made for their protection in connexion with freights and fares.
– Not merely in regard to Tasmania, because Victoria and other States are interested.
– When I am directing attention to Tasmania, every honorable senator, of course, should understand that it is the communication between that State and the Commonwealth which is under consideration. It is not only the benefit or the detriment that may accrue to Tasmania, but the influence that a contract of this kind may have on the rest of Australia, that we have to consider. We must look at this question from all points of view? I solemnly maintain that, as far as this contract is concerned, neither from a postal point of view nor from a public point of view, as affecting Tasmania, Victoria, or any other part of the Commonwealth, have the best interests of the public been duly considered. To my mind, for many purposes we are paying far more than we ought to be paying.
– The money would pay the interest on the cost of three steamships.
– It would pay the interest on far more than we are likely to get under present conditions. We know that there is a considerable amount of trade from Tasmania to the mainland and vice versa.
– It is yearly increasing.
– It is bound to increase if Tasmania makes any progress at all.
– We have a Labour Government there now.
– Then Tasmania is bound to make more progress in the future than it has done in the past. I have read, or have had read to me, the history of Tasmania from its foundation, and I have in mind several of the causes why the progress of Tasmania has been retarded. I recognise that in that little island there are still many difficulties to be surmounted before it can become as progressive as the Democrats who reside there would like it to be. If the manufacturing and producing industries of the mainland and Tasmania increase simultaneously, there is bound to be an extensive trade developed between the mainland and Tasmania. Sufficient consideration has not been given to the commercial interests of Tasmania and the mainland. Sufficient interest has not in my opinion been taken in an important feature of Tasmania’s trade. No one who visits Tasmania will deny that there are many interesting features of the island which ought to be known to every one in the Commonwealth. There is no more beautiful tourist resort, and on that account the passenger fares between the mainland and Tasmania should receive consideration in the making of any contracts for the carriage of mails between the mainland and Tasmania. There are those who in the past have been pessimistic enough to say that if we establish a line of Commonwealth steamers trading between the mainland and Tasmania we should have to meet the opposition of the existing shippin or companies, monopoly, and honorable understanding, and that the Commonwealth Government could never stand against opposition of that description. 1 should like to ask those who make this statement, who will benefit by such opposition ? The Commonwealth might establish a line of mail steamers not only between Melbourne and Launceston, but also between Sydney and Hobart.
– Order! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [5.58]. - As several honorable senators have pointed out, the matter under discussion is one which does not affect Tasmania alone. The little island is the general summer resort of tourists from all parts of Australia. The famous apple trip, for instance, has become quite an institution. Apart from general trade, those interested in the tourist traffic are concerned in preventing the raising of fares and freights between the mainland and Tasmania. There is a provision in the contract with the .steam -ship companies that there shall be no increase in fares and freights unless a case is made out for such increase to the satisfaction of the Postmaster-General. I compliment the representatives of Tasmania upon having secured the insertion of such a provision in the contract. In other States, Fusion Governments have not been so solicitous for the welfare of the public as to provide such a safeguard in contracts with shipping companies for the carriage of mails. There are steamers carrying mails across Spencer’s and St. Vincent’s Gulf in South Australia, but the State Government has made no provision to prevent the shipping companies running those steamers charging . whatever fares and freights they please.
– We should not have had such a provision in the contract with the Union Steam-ship Company if we had not agitated for it and forced the hands of the Government.
.- 1 think that is very likely. Senator Ready quoted figures to show that fares and freights in the Tasmanian trade are very much higher than in the trade on the coast and the mainland, but in the Gulf trade in South Australia between isolated places the rates charged are much higher than even the exorbitant rates charged in the Tasmanian trade. A man has to pay a passenger fare of £1 for a little trip of three or four hours crossing from Wallaroo to Cowell, a distance of 40 or 50 miles. The rates charged in connexion with many ports in St. Vincent’s Gulf are exorbitant, because the shipping companies have no competition. The Liberal Governments, who ruled Tasmania for many years, never had the foresight to propose such a provision against the charging of exorbitant rates by shipping companies carrying South Australian mails, as is very properly included in the mail contract with the Union Steam-ship Company, as the result mainly of the persistent efforts of honorable senators on this side. I feel sure that the result of this debate will be put to the Government, and the Postmaster-General in particular, on their guard against permitting any increase in fares or freights in the service between the mainland and Tasmania without due consideration. When the matter was being discussed last year, Senator O’Keefe made a short speech, from which it would appear that he almost foresaw the difficulties that might arise in connexion with the contract, and he particularly warned the Government concerning them. I find that at page 1533 of Hansard for last year he is reported to have said -
Even at the eleventh hour I desire to appeal to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral to afford the Senate and the other House an opportunity of discussing the proposed agreement which, I understand, is to be entered into between the Commonwealth and the Union Steam-ship Company and Huddart Parker and Company in reference to the carriage of Tasmanian mails. It is stated that the agreement is to operate for five years. I think it would be only fair, not only to Tasmania, which is vitally interested, but also to the Commonwealth generally, that we should have an opportunity of insuring that reasonable freights and passenger fares are provided for.
He emphasized that particular point, and representatives of Tasmania, particularly on this side, insisted that a provision of that sort should be inserted. Senator O’Keefe went on to say -
We ought not to place ourselves in such a position that within a few years it will be shown that the freights and fares are absolutely out of all proportion to the cost of maintaining the service.
That is the danger with which, according to the speeches of several honorable senators on this side, we are threatened at present. Judging by the Tasmanian and Melbourne press - and they are generally “in the know” - there is a design to increase freights and passenger fares, and it behoves those interested in the traffic to see that this design is frustrated by directing early and particular attention to the proposal, so that they may be met and defeated. Senator O’Keefe further said -
The Government should not depart from
Hie usual practice of affording Parliament an opportunity of discussing contracts of this kind.
That was a very proper suggestion. When a contract is entered into between the Government and the shipping company, any proposal to increase the burdens of the people by increasing fares and freights should be brought before Parliament, and an opportunity should be afforded to discuss any proposed increases in the charges levied upon the public. The honorable senator further said -
The matter is one which is of interest to the whole Commonwealth, and I feel strongly that we should have an opportunity of considering the agreement before it is ratified.
This sentence is my excuse for intervening briefly in the debate. The matter is one which undoubtedly affects the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, and not the people of Tasmania alone. I think that we are indebted to Senator Ready for having brought the question forward. I hope that the warning which has been given to the Government of the design which the shipping companies apparently have to increase fares and freights will be brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral in order that he may be prepared to go into the matter thoroughly before he allows any alteration of the fares and freights provided for in the contract.
– I must congratulate particularly the Tasmanian representatives upon their activity and their keenness in watching the interests of their part of the great Australian Commonwealth. A discussion of the matter at this time should be welcomed by every member of the Senate, no matter what his party views may be. It is one which affects not only Tasmania but the States of the mainland as well.
– We have a great trade with Sydney, the principal port in the honorable senator’s State.
– So far as the trade with Sydney is concerned, the people of New South Wales feel a kind of pride in the fact that they did not shut their port to the produce of Tasmania, even for the purpose of benefiting their own State. The authorities in the other States, with a view to the development of their own particular interests, closed up their ports to the producers across the water in Tasmania. On the Sydney side, we felt that although we might lose some revenue, which might be devoted to encouraging our own producers, the Tasmanian producers should have free access to our markets in Sydney, and in other parts of New South Wales. We gave this advantage to the producers of Tasmania before it was brought about as the result of Federation. We have to ask ourselves now whether all that we did is to go for nothing because a shipping combine chooses to increase fares and freights to such an extent as to take us as far back as we should have been if we had in New South Wales adopted the blind system of attempting to keep trade for ourselves by imposing burdens upon the production of the other States. Any obstacle to trade which imposes a penalty on seller or buyer should be removed. Thanks to the efforts of Senators Ready, Long, O’Keefe, and others who assisted them in the matter, a provision was introduced into the contract with the Union Steam-ship Company to prevent any increase in freights and fares without the consent of the Government. That precaution was taken in framing the contract, and the Government are in a position, under the provision referred to, to conserve the producing interests of Tasmania, and the interests of consumers in the Commonwealth, by declining to permit exorbitant fares and freights to be charged. Tasmania is becoming the summer resort of people from every part of the Commonwealth. Thousands of people, who enjoy the more comfortable winter climate of New South Wales, visit Tasmania to enjoy the salubrious summer climate of that island.
– If the fares were reasonable, hundreds of people would go from Tasmania to New South Wales during the winter.
– I was going to point out that Sydney has the advantage over Hobart as a winter resort. The interchange of visitors tends to mutual benefit, and these things should be seriously considered when a request is made to permit a combine to exploit the consumers of the mainland and the producers of the island.
– Many Sydney business men complain bitterly of the steam-ship combine in the Tasmanian trade.
– Not only do they justly complain, but when we point out to our political opponents that the Beef Trust, which has worked such havoc in America - which has doubled the price of meat in Chicago during the past few years - threatens to act in a similar fashion in the Commonwealth, they exclaim, “ Oh, we are perfectly safe. We control our railways over which the commodities in which the trust is interested will have to be transported.” But in the present instance I would remind my honorable friends that a steam-ship company absolutely controls communication between Tasmania and the mainland. When we speak of the Beef Trust most of us imagine that that corporation deals only with beef, mutton, and pork; but when we read about the operations of the trust in America we learn that the fruit-growers there are up against all the illegal charges which it can force upon them. For instance, a car containing fruit, and running from California for a distance of, say, 800 miles, will have to pay $80 or $90 for icing charges. These are the illegal charges levied by the trust, which increase the cost of fruit to the consumer. I have not the slightest doubt that the same practice will be resorted to between Tasmania and Australia unless the Government take action. In the next Parliament we know that Tasmania will occupy an entirely different position from that which it occupies in this Parliament. Hitherto it has spoken in this Senate with a voice equal to that of any other State; but in view of the recent decision of the GovernorGeneral we are up against the fact that after the coming election, so far as State representation is concerned, we can say good-bye to it. The two big States of the Commonwealth, from the stand-point of population, will control this Parliament after the next election. I hope that they will control it through a party which will have some consideration for the smaller States. Indeed, I hope that even in the dying hours of this Parliament the present Government will bring their influence to bear on the shipping companies with a view, not only of preventing any further increase in freights and fares, but of obtaining a reduction in the exorbitant rates which are already being charged.
– How can they do that, seeing that the shipping companies subscribe to their funds ?
– In the remarkable work of Charles Edward Russell on the Beef Trust, that is one of the features of legislation to which he points. He urges that this combine should be prevented by law from helping political parties with its funds.
– A member of the Labour party in another place has stated that that party views with perfect equanimity the growth of the combine.
– We view its growth with perfect equanimity if we can get the laws of the Commonwealth to deal with it. I know that Senator Oakes is probably guilty of misquoting as usual.
– I am quoting the utterance of the Hon. W. M. Hughes.
– Unf or tu nately , the honorable senator purported to quote his utterance before, but we have since had the complete statement which Mr. Hughes made. Senator Oakes stated that Mr. Hughes had said that a huge concern can produce more cheaply than can a small one. But that does not necessarily imply that it will sell more cheaply. The honorable senator, however, at once assumes that it does. No danger need be apprehended from this combine if it does not possess an influence which it ought not to wield. If the Union Steam-ship Company seeks to increase fares and freights between Tasmania and the mainland, wo shall not only have to enact laws to prevent it doing so, but we shall have to prevent it subsidizing political parties, no matter under what name they may trade.
– Hear, hear! I suppose that the honorable senator will include the Australian Workers Union.
– The Australian Workers Union is a recognised powerful organization of working men. What have those men secured? A wage which is barely a living wage, and nothing more. Has the Australian Workers Union ever attempted to tyrannize over the people by charging exorbitant prices for anything? Have its members endeavoured to charge an exorbitant price for their labour?
– They put it pretty stiffly on the members of the union, who have to pay levies, whether they like it or not.
– That interjection must be answered ; and, as a member of that union, I say that the sum which
I am contributing to it this year is only £1. I am also paying a levy of 10s. towards the establishment of a Labour newspaper. During the past twelve years I have not paid in membership fees, levies, &c., more than £15, and I have been a fully paid-up member each year.
– The honorable senator has to take the Worker, whether he likes it or not.
– I feel sure that the honorable senator would not make such an absurd interjection if he only knew the facts. The truth is that a shearer pays only £1 a year for his ticket, and that entitles him to a copy of the Worker every week. If the honorable senator says that that is an exorbitant charge–
– It is absolutely the cheapest newspaper in Australia.
– I can quite understand my honorable friends - who have always objected to working men receiving a fair wage - attempting to institute a comparison between workers’ organizations and the trusts and combines which have depleted the workers’ earnings to such an extent in all parts of the world. We claim that the workers have never obtained more than barely enough to live upon. I know of no country in the world where the wage-earner gets a fair reward for his labour.
– The honorable senator’s party was the first to bring the workers into the political field, anyhow.
– Since I have been in political life we have advanced their earnings by 25 per cent., and we have given them comforts against which the honorable senator’s party has fought consistently.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I desire to say a few words before withdrawing this motion. I think that much good will result from the discussion which has taken place this afternoon, and from a thorough ventilation of the subject-matter of my motion, which, though it is of less importance to the other States, is of primary importance to Tasmania. So far, we have had nothingfrom any Minister in this Chamber beyond the promise of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that he will look into the matter and advise the PostmasterGeneral of the statements which have been made here. It is remarkable how my honorable friends opposite always deny the existence of a shipping combine. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in reply to a question which I put to him upon this subject, implied that there is no such thing as a shipping combine in the Commonwealth. Now he must know better than that.
– Why, he prays for it.
– Some little time ago I asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council a question in regard to an increase in freights and fares, and he replied -
If the honorable senator has information as to the existence of a shipping combine he should place it before the legal authorities, and allow them to ascertain whether it is correct or not.
That is the kind of evasive reply which I receive to my questions. Not only did I quote statements by Mr. Mcwilliams, who is a supporter of the present Government, against the Shipping Combine, but I had intended to call the attention of the Vice-President of the Executive Council to some of the sworn evidence given before the Fruit Commission by Mr. W. McDonald, the general manager of the Australian Shipping Company. That gentleman was asked -
We have in evidence elicited that there is an arrangement between the various shipping companies relative to freight charges. Is that so?
The reply given was -
Yes. We have an arrangement of our own at fixed rates of freights and fares. That arrangement was arrived at after a very grave consultation in conference. The rates were fixed at that conference.
If one talked for half-an-hour one could not state the fact more clearly and pithily. There is an arrangement.
– Is there any harm in that 1
– There is, because it has been clearly established that that arrangement is detrimental to the public.
– Why do the miners fix the price of coal at Newcastle?
– We have shown that this arrangement is detrimental to the best interests of Australia, and Senator Oakes cannot deny it. He has nothing to say in reply to our statements that the depredations of this shipping company should be effectively checked. I do not think it is a good thing for the reputation of the Senate that Ministers should rise in their places and solemnly put before it statements which are inaccurate and misleading. The VicePresident of the Executive Council stated that he had compared the freights and fares charged by this company with those charged by other companies, and had found very little difference between them. I ask him to put those freights and fares, before us, so as to allow us to institute a comparison. The fact is -that on most of the produce shipped the freights to Tasmania are higher than they are elsewhere. Take, for example, potatoes, which form the staple product of Tasmania. The freight on potatoes during the past few years has jumped from 9s. to lis. per ton - a serious and heavy tax on the potato-growers of the north coast of that State. On leather, another of our secondary products, freights have increased 50 per cent, in the last few years; while on wool, flour, and general merchandise freights have generally risen. Ask the opinion of any gentleman prominent in the mercantile world about the Shipping Combine, and he will tell you that very often the shipping people will not even take their stuff. Sometimes they take it into their head not to load it, particularly bulky stuff, calmly telling the merchants, “We will ship it when we like, and not when you like.” Almost daily complaints are made in mercantile circles in Tasmania regarding the loss, delay, hindrance, and general inconvenience caused by the tactics of the combine. During a previous speech Senator Oakes, by interjection, asked why we did not prevent the Orient Steam -ship Company from competing with Australian steam-ships.
– I said nothing of the sort. I said that your Navigation Act prevents the Peninsula and Oriental and Orient lines from competing with the Australian companies.
– The Navigation Act allows them to compete on equal terms if they comply with Australian conditions.
– The Act prevents every oversea company from competing, and builds up a greater combine in Australia than there was before.
– No; we have a perfect “right to ask oversea companies to comply with the conditions which we at tempt to make the Australian shipping companies observe. I fail to see why we should give any preference to black labour crews. Our Australian mercantile marine is sufficient for Australia, and the fact that it is managed at present for the benefit of the companies and not for the people does not alter the ethics of the question. The great Liberal party advocated a reduction in the cost of living. It must be patent to every honorable senator that freights and fares when” increased immediately increase the cost of marketable articles, because the extra charge is at once added.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8.0 p.m.
– When the waterside workers or the seamen’s union or the stewards organization or any other industrial body connected with shipping desires an increase in wages it is forced to appeal to an Arbitration Court. Its members cannot get it summarily at any time or under any conditions. Nearly all these bodies are federated industrial unions, and are therefore unable to strike in order to obtain better conditions. The only method they can adopt is to cite a case for arbitration. That is the reasonable and practical course usually followed by an industrial union. It has not only to wait and waive its right to strike, but often has to take exactly what the Judge or the Court cares to give it. It is not the dictator of its own terms. It is bound entirely by the conditions which the Court may impose.
The newspapers of the Commonwealth raised a great outcry when the waterside workers demanded better pay and better conditions. It was an awful thing, and we read striking headlines in the press about it. It was going to. strike at our commerce and shipping, and therefore it was objected to, and the men were called unreasonable and unfair. It was only owing to the efforts of Mr. Hughes, Mr. Laird Smith, Senator de Largie, Senator Guthrie, and other leading members of this political party that the union did not strike. This party saved the strike, urging the adoption of the method of submitting the case to a tribunal. Our friends on the other side approve of that, and yet on the other hand we have a combine, not of the many, but of the few, who are interested in shipping companies, able at any time and in almost any circumstances to stick up the whole of the trade and commerce of Australia, and demand, practically at the point of the bayonet, higher freights and fares from every person who uses theirvessels.
As I am reminded by Senator Findley, they can rob the community, and no appeal can be made against their decision. That is what has happened in the case that has been so fully debated this afternoon. A combine of the few is able to exploit the people. There are no conditions. They do not have to submit their case to any tribunal. They say the freights shall be so-and-so, and they are so-and-so. The newspapers do not object. Senator Oakes and his colleagues do not object. Only the worker is objected to when he demands a living wage for his toil. The rich man or corporation can ask for anything at any time, and the party opposite are silent.
This motion will probably have done good. It has hung out the danger signal to the shipping companies. It has exposed Senator McColl’s a misleading statements. It has drawn attention to the attempt of the combine to further exploit the people, and I hope the Government will recognise that the Senate has made an emphatic protest against the danger impending in Tasmania. I beg leave to withdraw the motion.
Leave granted; motion withdrawn.
Suspension of Standingorders : Address to the Governor-General.
– Before the Orders of the Day are called on, I beg to move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the submission of the following motion : - “ That an Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General, praying him to allow of the publication of the communications between His Excellency and His Excellency’s Advisers relating to the simultaneous dissolution of both Houses of the Parliament.”
After the action of the Government in refusing to lay these communications on the table of the Senate, it would illbecome the Leader of the Government in this Chamber to sneer at any action taken by the Opposition to obtain for their own information, and the information of the general public, documents that ought to be the property of the Parliament. Whenever we have had to resort to the suspension of the Standing Orders on account of the action of the Govern ment we have been perfectly justified in doing so, and when the necessity arises we shall never hesitate to take whatever action we deem to be to the advantage of the Commonwealth.
– I second the motion. The statement is being made in interested quarters that this party is repeatedly taking business out of the hands of the Government in this Chamber. It is singular that it never struck our critics in that way until the Labour party were in a majority in the Second Chamber. Let us look at the history of the State Parliaments. The Legislative Council of Victoria does not even recognise the Government. After the Government has appointed its Minister, its members meet at the commencement of the session and choose an unofficialleader, and nothing can be done in that Chamber without his consent. The Leader of the Government in the Council must approach him to ask how the business is to be arranged, and when adjournments are to be moved. He can dictate to the Government how the business shall be brought before that body. It is the same in many other Legislative Councils in Australia. There is another point that has not been considered by our critics. It has a distinctive place in the Constitution. Is it to give up that position because it finds itself with a majority of its members in Opposition, and a minority of them on the Government benches? The Leader of the Government here has stated plainly, and without equivocation, that they have no intention of bringing business before the Chamber; he made that statement, not once, but several times. Is the Senate, elected by the adults of Australia, because a minority of seven of its members say, “ We will do no business,” to surrender or resign the pretence of being a legislative body? I ask our critics just to think of what the Constitution is, and the relative position of the two Houses, and to remember that the Senate has the right of originating legislation. Every private senator has the right to bring forward measures. If a private senator has promised his electors that he will bring forward Bills, there is no power in the Chamber which can prevent him from taking that course. Our very Standing Orders are so framed as to give him an opportunity of carrying out his promise to his constituents. I hope that our critics in the press and in Parliament,who so glibly talk of the Opposition taking the business out of the hands of the Government, will give the matter more consideration in the future, and remember that we are simply doing a duty in endeavouring to the best of our ability, in pursuance of the Standing Orders, to give effect to what we believe they sent us here to do. I second the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, because in doing so I believe that we are only performing our duty to the electors.
.- There was one remark made by the Leader of the Opposition in submitting this motion to which I desire to direct attention. He affirmed that I had sneered at the action of the Senate in carrying the motion which it did the other day relative to the publication of certain correspondence between the Governor-General and the Government.
– I thought that you sneered this evening, but it may have been Senator Oakes.
– That is right; I plead guilty.
– In view of this explanation I need not pursue the matter further. Certainly nothing which I have said was intended, and I hope has not been taken, as in any way a reflection or a criticism on the action of the Senate represented by the motion to which I have referred. Whatever view I may take as to its expediency, or its desirability, is one thing; but I in no sense challenged the right of the Senate to take the action it did on that day. Having said that much, I want to make a passing reference to the extraordinary proposition put forward by Senator Pearce. I listened to it with a great deal of surprise, not unmixed with pleasure. He came forward and drew some consolation and some justification for the action taken from time to time by the Senate because the Legislative Councils of the States have done the same thing. If he is going to liken the Senate to a Legislative Council, which he clearly is doing when he draws a parallel between its action and that of this Chamber, I venture to say that he will find very little support from those who understand what the Senate is in the Federal Constitution.
– What the Senate was.
– Of course tie honorable senator is doing his level best to make out that the Senate is only a Legislative Council. Because, he says, the Legislative Councils have done this thing, the Senate is entitled to do it.
– If Legislative Councils have done this, how much more is it the right of the Senate to do it?
– That is not Senator Pearce’s argument.
– It is mine.
– No doubt Senator Pearce is under a very great debt of gratitude to Senator McGregor for trying to interpose in this way. I should like to point out that whatever value that argument had must rest on the supposition that there is a close parallel between the Senate constituted as it is and a Legislative Council. It is put forward
– As an illustration.
– It is put forward as a justification of what the Senate did.
– The critics who condemn the one support the other.
– As Senator Pearce justifies what the Senate has done because Legislative Councils have done it, I wish to remind him and the Chamber that it is not very long ago since he bitterly denounced Legislative Councils for doing what he has referred to tonight. How, then, can he draw inspiration and support from the action of the Legislative Council?
– Do you compare Legislative Councils with the Senate ? You are doing now what you objected to Senator Pearce doing.
– I am doing nothing of the kind.
– Of course.
– If the honorable senator likes to think so, I am not going to waste time by discussing a proposition so obvious. I have not affirmed that there is a parallel between the two bodies, but am pointing out that Senator Pearce has urged that the Senate was justified in doing what it has done because Legislative Councils have done it. Yet time and again he has denounced Legislative Councils for venturing to do what they have done, for pretending to interpose between the Government of the day speaking with the authority due to the fact that it is the representative of the majority of the people; he has denounced the Legislative Councils in no unmeasured terms, and now he comes here and says to the Senate, “ You are entitled to do what you have done because those august bodies, the Legislative Councils, have done it.” If there is an argument in that, it is to be followed by this one: If the Legislative Councils were wrong in what they did, and if they ought to have their powers in that direction clipped, does the honorable senator mean to say that there is some necessity for dealing with the Senate in the same fashion?
– The only attack I have made on the Legislative Council was that it is a sectional House, representing only a section of the community - the propertied section.
– It is a strange thing that the honorable senator again draws inspiration from the action of a sectional House. I venture to say, much as I may differ from the action taken by the Senate, it has possibly placed it on a somewhat higher and broader level than any Legislative Council occupies.
– It would be interesting to hear you if the position were reversed.
– I think it is interesting to hear me on any side. Senator McGregor will not expect me, as a member of the Government, to support the action he is taking. I do not expect a very lengthy debate on this matter, but I think that honorable senators will see that it is simply impossible for any member of the Government to give assent to this motion.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … …18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That an Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General, praying bini to allow of the publication of the communications between His Excellency and His Excellency’s Advisers relating to the simultaneous dissolution of both Houses of the Parliament.
– As I understand the motion, it is a question first as to the Senate affirming that an Address should be presented to the Governor-General. It will be a question afterwards for the Senate to say what the Address shall be.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority … 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Address brought up, and, on motion by Senator McGregor, read by the Clerk of the Senate, as follows: -
To His Excellency the Right Honorable Sir RonaldCranford Munro Ferguson, a Member of His Majesty’s Most Honorable Privy Council. Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor-General andCommanderinChief of the Commonwealth of A ustralia.
May it please Your Excellency: -
On Friday, 5th June, the Prime Minister made the following announcement in the House o f Representatives : - “ A day or two ago I tendered certain advice to His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, which hehas been pleased to accept, and I have to announce to the House that His Excellency has decided to dissolve simultaneously both Houses of the
Parliament so soon as the ordinary provision has been made for the conduct of the Public Service during the time of the election,” and the Representative of the Government in this Chamber on the same day repeated in substance the above statement.
Subsequently the Prime Minister read a statement to the House of Representatives setting forth the substance of his interview with Your Excellency. The Prime Minister explained that the exact terms of his conversation and Your Excellency’s reply thereto were set forth in this statement. The Prime Minister did not supply the House with the reasons advanced by him which induced Your Excellency to accept his advice and grant a simultaneous dissolution of both Houses.
On behalf of his party, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives requested - and Senator McGregor, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, made a similar request of Senator Millen, Representative of the Government in this House - that these reasons, together with all communications between Your Excellency and the Prime Minister and any other of Your Excellency’sAdvisers relating to the provisions of section 57 of the Constitution and any action to be taken thereunder, should be made available. But this the Prime Minister refused to do, on the ground that all communications between the Prime Minister and the Representative of the Crown were and ought to be confidential.
With this view we do not agree. The Prime Minister’s contention is not supported by facts. For in this, as well as in other of the selfgoverning Dominions, such communications have frequently been made public; and we respectfully submit a like course should bc followed in the present case.
In support of this request we beg to direct Your Excellency’s attention to the cases set forth in New Zealand Parliamentarv Papers 1877- A. 7, 1878- A. 1, p. 3; A. 2, p. 14; New Zealand Cassette 1878, pp.911-14; Rusden, New Zealand, iii. 278 seq. And also to the following: -
In 1896, the Governor-General of Canada addressed a minute to Sir Charles Tupper upon the position in which the general elections had placed his Government, and this as well as the Further correspondence between the Prime Minister and the GovernorGeneral was made public.
In1888, the Government of Sir Thomas McIlwraith (Queensland) became involved in a dilference with the Governor of Queensland on what the latter termed “the question whether the Royal Prerogative is to be exercised by the Governor or by the Colonial Secretary for the time being.” It involved the resignation of the Ministry, and all correspondence was placed before Parliament.
In 1904, in Tasmania, the correspondence between the Premier and the Acting Governor, arising out of a request for a dissolution hy the Premier and the reply of the Acting Governor, who went very fully into the reasons which actuated him in refusing to grant a dissolution, were published. Similarly in 1009, the communications between Mr. Earle, the Premier, and Sir Harry Barron, Governor of Tasmania,were published.
In 1907, in Western Australia, the reasons for dissolving the Upper House were embodied in the Governor’s Speech, in which the members of the Lower Housewere informed of His Excellency’s intention, and relieved temporarily from their duties by prorogation in order that the elections for the Council might take place.
We desire to particularly direct Your Excellency’s attention to a long memorandum by the late Governor of Victoria (Sir T. Gibson Carmichael), in which His Excellency sets out in full detail the reasons for his decision (Victorian Parliamentary Papers, Vol. I., p. 211, 1900).
We respectfully submit that these cases, which could be added to without difficulty, bear directly upon the point we desire to make, viz., that there is no rule, as the Prime Minister suggested, which makes communications between the head of the Government and the representative of the Crown confidential; but that, on the contrary, whenever any matter qf constitutional importance or of interest to the people is at stake, publicity is the rule rather than the exception.
The present decision to dissolve simultaneously both Houses of the Parliament, wo respectfully venture to contend, has created a situation in which matters of such grave constitutional and public interest are involved as to justify the publication of the reasons given to Your Excellency in support of the advice tendered by the Prime Minister, on which Your Excellency has been pleased to dissolve simultaneously both Houses of the Parliament, and all correspondence relating thereto - including that relating to section 57 of the Constitution - between Your Excellency and Your Excellency’s Advisers.
In support of this contention we desire to respectfully point out that -
States as such may be represented, and clothed this House with coordinate powers (save in the origination of Money Bills) with the Lower Chamber of the Legislature. These powers were given to the Senate in order that they might bc used; but if a Senate may not reject or even amend any Bill because a Government chooses to call it a “ test “Bill, although such Bill contains no vital principle or gives effect to no reform, the powers of the Senate are reduced to a nullity. We submit that no constitutional sanction can be found for that view, which is repugnant to one of the fundamental bases of the Constitution, viz., a Legislature of two Houses, clothed with equal powers, one representing the people as such, the other representing the States.
And we respectfully submit that the dissolution of the Senate ought not to follow upon the mere legitimate exercise of its functions under the Constitution, but only upon such action as makes responsible government impossible, e.g., the rejection of a measure embodying a principle of vital importance necessary in the public interest, creating an actual legislative dead-lock and preventing legislation upon which the Ministry was returned to power. These conditions do not exist in the present case.
The measure upon which the Prime Minister advised Your Excellency to grant a simultaneous dissolution of both Houses is one which, in our opinion, the Senate had constitutional authority to reject, and was amply justified in rejecting. Its passage is not necessary to give effect to the policy of the Government, because the Government has already given effect to the principle contained therein, and by administrative act prohibited preference to persons employed in the service of the Commonwealth. If the Bill became law, no change would be effected. How then can the rejection of such a measure affect the policy of the Government as declared to the electors at the last election, and create a deadlock within the meaning of section 57 of the Constitution?
The so-called “dead-lock” was deliberately created by the Government for party purposes. There is not, nor has there been, any dead-lock caused by the action of this Chamber. In proof of this, we respectfully call Your Excellency’s attention to the following statement : -
Holding these opinions, and in view of Your Excellency’s decision and the gravity of the constitutional and important public issues involved, we venture to respectfully beg that Your Excellency will allow immediate publication of the reasons given to Your Excellency in support of the advice tendered by the Prime Minister, on which Your Excellency has been pleased to dissolve simultaneously both Houses of the Parliament, and all correspondence relating thereto - including that relating to section 57 of the Constitution - between Your Excellency and Your Excellency’s Advisers.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the Address, as read by the Clerk, be adopted.
– I just wish to express one view, and I only regret that circumstances do not justifyme in putting it forward as an appeal to the Senate. If I thought there would he the slightest chance of success attending my words, if I addressed them as an appeal to honorable senators, I should not hesitate to shape them in that form.
– Why not try?
– Because I know my honorable friend and his colleagues. But, though the prospect of success is too remote for serious consideration, I should be wanting in the sense of duty which I owe to the Senate and to myself if I did not put forward a view of this matter which, I think, calls for a little more serious consideration than, I venture to say, has been given to it by my honorable friends opposite. It seems to me that the net result of this action must be to involve His Excellency the GovernorGeneral in matters which ought to be limited to the arena of party politics.
– Shocking !
– I feel that this is a matter which ought not to be treated lightly, and I am addressing myself to it seriously. The quite unusual action which has been taken here this evening must be regarded as an effort to involve His Excellency the Governor-General in matters which ought to be limited to, and which, as a matter of fact, are the subject of, party controversy. Hitherto, quite irrespective of the heat of party conflict, either in the Federal or State arena, there has always been one objective which all parties have steadily kept in view. That has been a recognition of tho desirableness of maintaining inviolate that neutral ground upon which both parties can approach the representative of His Majesty.
– The Minister of Defence should not shelter himself behind that plea.
– I am not sheltering myself behind any plea. I am merely endeavouring to put before the Senate a view which, I think, is entitled to serious consideration.
– Does not the Minister think that this Chamber and the people are entitled to consideration?
– I have already expressed my views on that matter. What I am now directing my attention to is the action of this Chamber in adopting this Address, as I presume it intends to do. The effect of that appeal to His
Excellency the Governor-General must undoubtedly be to make His Excellency a storm centre in the coming contest.
– Who has been more responsible than has the Minister himself for sweeping His Excellency into that storm centre?
– I do not wish to discuss the matter, because I admit at once that in doing so I might initiate a debate which, I think, would be unseemly at this stage. I have told the Senate the view I take of this matter, and whether it adopts that view or not I venture to say that there are many listening to me now who will admit that the words I have uttered have some substance in them.
.- I think that the words of wisdom which have fallen from the lips of the Minister of Defence should have been addressed to his own Government twelve months ago, when they deliberately proposed to introduce into Parliament a test question, the ultimate result of which would inevitably be to make the King’s representative in Australia the storm centre in a dispute between unionists and non-unionists. As far back as December last I pointed out from the public platform the lack of statesmanship exhibited by the Government in the course which they were deliberately following in seeking to draw into their ranks a new force to assist them in the person of the representative of the King in this Commonwealth. What is the position in reference to this address? No attempt is being made to make His Excellency a storm centre. On the contrary, the Senate proposes to respectfully approach His Excellency with a request for the reasons submitted to him in support of the Government claim for a double dissolution - reasons which the Ministry have refused to make public. Surely the Senate has a right to ask for information which any self-respecting Government would have placed before the people of the Commonwealth. Surely there can be nothing wrong in this Chamber approaching the Governor-General through those avenues which will always be open to it, and to the people outside. To the statement that we are attempting to make His Excellency a storm centre, I reply that all the suspicion surrounding the request of tho
Government for a dissolution of both Houses of this Parliament ought to be cleared away by making public the reasons advanced by them in support of that request. As a matter of fact, there could be only one constitutional reason given to the King’s representative as to why he should dissolve the Senate simultaneously with the House of Representatives, because there is only one method provided by the Constitution in which this Senate can be dissolved. If the members of the Government in this Chamber decided to stand on their heads on the table of the Senate every day that it met - if they chose to follow the most erratic course - the Constitution does not provide that the Governor-General should grant a double dissolution of this Parliament. But it does provide one method by which the Senate can be dissolved simultaneously with another place. No reason should have been advanced why His Excellency should dissolve both Houses other than that provided in the Constitution. If any other reason was given by the Government, the Senate and the people should know it. I challenge the Minister of Defence to say whether the conditions set out in section 57 of the Constitution were the only reasons presented to the Governor-General by the Ministry in support of their claim for a double dissolution. If he will not say that they were the only reasons, the conspiracy of silence on the part of the Government leads us to suspect that other reasons were placed before the King’s representative. The action of the Senate in presenting a respectfully worded address to His Excellency cannot be taken exception to. Senator Oakes interjected some time ago that this is the first occasion on which such a step has been taken.
– Your Government did not put the correspondence on the table when they asked for a dissolution.
– I would point out to the honorable senator that, so far as our Constitution is concerned, we are making history rapidly. This is the first time that the Constitution has been tested in this direction. What good reason can be advanced by the Government for refusing to place His Excellency right outside the storm centre by frankly declaring, “ Here is all that transpired between His Majesty’s representative and His Majesty’s Government “ ? That could be done to-morrow, or at any moment. We know perfectly well, not only that correspondence between various Governments and Governors has been made public, but that correspondence between the Imperial Government and the King himself has been clamoured for time after time, and that whenever it has been thought advisable so to do that correspondence has been produced, if only in deference to the common sense of the nation. The hint thrown out by the Minister of Defence that the presentation of a respectfully worded address to His Excellency the Governor-General is an attempt to involve His Majesty’s representative as the storm centre in the fierce party struggle which will take place during the next few weeks was utterly uncalled for. It appears to me that the Government have walked into the position in which they now find themselves like blind men.
– I think that the Senate walked into that position when the honorable senator called “ No,” the other night. Honorable senators opposite were very upset.
– That interjection has no bearing on the question under consideration, but if I cannot say “ No “ to such a miserable pretence at legislation as the Government Preference Prohibition Bill without the Senate being penalized in the way that it has been, the sooner the people who sent me here are made aware of the fact, and the sooner the taxpayers who pay for the upkeep of the Senate are made aware of it, the better. When it is proposed to present a respectfully worded address to His Excellency the Governor-General, we find a Minister endeavouring to shelter himself behind the plea that its adoption will make His Excellency a storm centre in this matter. The Ministry cannot shirk their responsibility for having deliberately created the present position.
– Nor can they avoid the punishment that awaits them.
– Then why whine about going to the country ?
– There is no whining about it, nor are we anxious for any delay ; otherwise we would not suspend the Standing Orders and push this Address through with the speed that we are exhibiting.
– The haste that honorable senators are making is quite indecent.
SenatorGARDINER. - We are moving along with the deliberate pace of men who have always known the direction in which they are going. We know exactly the goal to which we are marching, and we have been marching towards it ever since we entered this Parliament. I rose simply for the purpose of recording ray protest against the attempt of the Leader of this Senate to shift the responsibility which rests upon his own shoulders and those of the Government. The Opposition are taking what is obviously the right course by seeking to remove the King’s representative in the forthcoming contest from even the shadow of a suspicion, by having the whole of the facts connected with the request of the Ministry for a double dissolution placed before us by His Excellency himself. If there be nothing to hide, what wrong can be done by allowing us to see the whole of the correspondence? I am sure there is nothing the Governor-General would desire to cover up, but there may be something the Government have put forward that it would not pay them to have dragged into the storm centre of a keenly contested party fight. If there is anything that they are afraid to have placed before the country, we can understand their actions; but, if they permit the two Houses to go into a fierce party contest without the King’s representative being cleared from the suspicions even of the most wicked-minded, they will be deliberately doing an injury to the people of the Commonwealth, and to that gentleman himself.
– I share with Senator Millen the desire that the Governor-General should not be made a storm centre in this fight, but probably from a very different motive. I do not wish him to be made a storm centre, because the electors do not appoint him, and we want the storm centre to come about the ears of those who are responsible for the present situation - the Government themselves. I differ from Senator Millen when he says that this action of the Senate will bring the GovernorGeneral into the conflict. The honorable senator’s acute mind is working a little too quickly. This action of ours was made certain when the Government refused to place the papers on the tables of the two Houses. If the Government refuse to make the correspondence public, as has been done in all. other cases when it has been asked lor, they must take the responsibility of compelling this Chamber to go further. There are two parties to this action - the Government and the Governor-General. The GovernorGeneral is acting constitutionally when he takes the advice of hia responsible advisers, but the House has a right to know what advice was given tohim. So far, we have not been given a full statement of the matter, and we have a right to ask what reasons were given to him for putting section 57 of the Constitution into operation. We advance the further claim that, not only the House, but the people, are interested in the question. The Constitution is an instrument forged by them, and adopted by them for a deliberate purpose. They are now told that it has been found unworkable, that a state of deadlock has been created, and that a drastic and revolutionary course has been adopted under one of the sections of the Constitution in order to make it workable. That being told to the people, the reasons for which that section has been brought into operation are all important. Those reasons may disclose the necessity for an amendment of the section. Iti is quite possible that, if they were tabled, the people would say, “ When we forged that weapon, we did not expect or intend it to have that effect, and some amendment of it has been shown to be necessary.” Looking at the matter in that light, we see how enormously important it is that the reasons which the Government have put forward, and any conditions which the Governor-General attached to his reply, should be made public. For all we know, he may have attached a condition. If so, have we not a right to know it? Have not the people a right to know it? Will it not be all important to Constitution makers of the future ? Will it not be important when we come to consider the question of recasting or remoulding the Constitution? Yet the people are to be denied it; the Parliament is to be denied it. They are to grope in the dark, and not to know what the Government had in their minds when they took this course, or what His Majesty’s representative had in his mind when he accepted the advice tendered to him. The responsibility for this action lies at the door of the Government for refusing to disclose their reasons, and it is they who can now be charged with having shifted the storm centre from themselves on to the shoulders of the Governor-General. They can take the responsibility off the GovernorGeneral to-night by simply tabling their reasons. If they wish, however, to escape the responsibility, they can shelter themselves behind the Governor-General. They can throw on him the responsibility of giving a refusal or consent to this Address.
But our duty to this Parliament, to the Constitution, and to the electors is plain. It is to use every legitimate means to see that the people know why section 57 was put into operation on account of the measure through which the so-called dead-lock was created, the reasons given for it, and any condition or qualification which the Governor-General made when he agreed to put the section into operation.
-3J.- Another sound reason why we are justified in asking for the publication of the whole of this correspondence is that if the decision of the Governor-General is to be taken as a precedent, it is well that the whole of the circumstances surrounding it should be known. The demand for these reasons is unprecedented, says Senator Oakes. It has never been done before, says Senator Millen. As a matter of fact it is not unprecedented, but if it were our reply might well be that the present position is unprecedented. If the foundations of future Government action are being laid by this precedent, surely the people who are higher than any Government, and in this matter I can say without disrespect higher than the King’s representative, have every right to know the grounds on which such a vital decision has been arrived at. I do not think the small States would have entered the Federation had it been intended that section 57 should be operated in this way. It may be that the reasons when disclosed will show that it was quite right that the section should be used in this fashion, or they may disclose the opposite. The mock heroics of the Leader of the Government when he tries with his well-known acuteness to place the responsibility on the Opposition in this Chamber will, I think, be assessed at their true value by the people, who will put the blame in the right quarter. If the Governor-General is being made a storm centre in this crisis, the public will know where to place the responsibility for it. The Government would only have been acting in accordance with the precedents quoted in the Address if they had given the documents in full to this House and another place when first asked. Those of us who are taking this stand know full well what we are doing. I am quite willing to face the whole of the electors on this matter, for I feel sure that they believe that the documents are their property, and not the property of any Government or Opposition, and should no longer be kept secret for any purely party considerations. It is absurd to say that the Senate, which was deliberately placed in the Constitution as the guardian of the States, particularly the smaller States, which is elected on the broadest possible franchise, and eleven of whose members were sent back here last May representing this party, with only seven representing the other party, should tamely and calmly submit to have its rights abrogated and annulled without knowing the reasons. No one will venture to say that the rights of the Senate have not been annulled if this is to be a precedent in future disputes of the same kind, where no question of great public importance is involved. As a leading Liberal journal said to-day, if His Excellency’s decision is to be taken as a precedent, the Senate might as well be swept out of existence.
– Is it not a matter of importance that the Government should be hung up and be unable to do any business ?
– There is one page in the reasons given in the Address which completely demolishes the honorable senator’s assertion. It is clearly shown that eighteen measures were passed through the other Chamber, and assented to without amendment by the Senate. There were three other measures passed through the other Chamber and amended here; two of these were laid aside because the other place did not agree to our amendments. Only two were rejected, one of which was a so-called test Bill. When the people get these facts before them, they will see the hollowness and hypocrisy of the cry that this party has been obstructing the business of the country. What business of any importance to the country will the Leader of the Government dare to say .was brought before the Senate last session? His Excellency may not have been told of these things before. It must not be” forgotten that he only arrived a few days before he was asked to decide upon this important crisis. No one who knows all the circumstances that have transpired since the Government took office in May last will say that the Government have brought forward any important business.
– The people know that no business could be done in the way that our party wanted it done.
– The country will know that the Government never attempted to do any business, and never intended to do any when it took office. They took office with the determination to prevent this Parliament from doing business. Their one and only intention when they took office on the casting vote of the Speaker was that the Parliament should do no business during its tenure of office, and to push forward with the sole object of bringing about a dissolution of both Houses. They may have thought that they were acting within their rights and doing the right thing from a party stand-point, but it is hypocritical on their part to raise the cry that the Opposition have blocked their attempts to do business. The country must know that the Government never put forward any legitimate business with the exception of a few small Bill3, and every one of them was assented to, without amendment, by the Senate, with the exception of two which were laid aside by the Government because they did not agree with our amendments, and one which was laid aside, not for that reason, but because I understand it was their intention to bring it forward in another way. If it can be said that that is obstructing the business of the country we might as well write into the Constitution a provision that the Senate shall do everything which the House of Representatives says it shall do; that it shall not dot au “ i “ or cross a “t”; that it shall have absolutely no power. If that is to be the position of this Chamber, the sooner the people of Australia know it the better, and the sooner the Senate is swept away the better. This is not a fight between party and party. This struggle should be ranked high above any party. This is a crisis in which the powers and rights of the Senate under the Constitution are involved, and nobody can get away from that fact. The mock heroics of the Leader of the Senate in trying to create sympathy for himself and his party by saying that we want to drag His Excellency into the storm centre will be assessed at their true value in Australia. I hope that the Senate will pass this Address to His Excellency for still another reason. In view of what has been printed in the newspapers during the last few days, we must believe that it is not at His Excellency’s request, or by his desire, that the reasons for granting the double dissolution have not been given to the public. It will be remembered that a statement appeared in the press that it had been agreed between Lord Frederick Blackwood, private secretary to the GovernorGeneral, and the Government that the communications were to be held to be confidential, and should not be published. Two days after the appearance of this paragraph, which was supposed to have been inspired by his lordship -
– Which was sent by him.
– I thank the honorable senator for the correction. Why was the statement made in the press that it was owing to an agreement between the private secretary to the Governor-General and the Government that these documents were to be kept confidential, and not be given to the public?
– The Government does not make an agreement with a private secretary.
– It was a peculiar feature of the situation that the private secretary sent to the newspapers a paragraph stating that it was not so. When we know that, we are impelled to the conclusion that His Excellency may not be, probably is not, averse to the publication of the documents. I hope, sir, that the proposed Address will be passed, and the people of Australia, who have the right to know all the facts, will be given full information as to what led to this crisis.
– The leader of the Senate has my sympathy in the difficult and uncomfortable situation in which he finds himself to-night. With his usual agility, he tries to get out of it, but fails most miserably.
– That is why so many of you think it necessary to combat what I have said.
– The honorable senator’s principal accusation against the Opposition this evening is that it is dragging the Governor-General into a public matter. Does the honorable senator believe that to be the truth or not? He is too acute a gentleman not to know exactly what the position is. The Opposition approached the Government for the publication of all the documents which were submitted to the Governor-General when he was asked to dissolve both Houses, and our request was met with a contemptuous refusal.
– And you denounce the Government for refusing ?
– Most undoubtedly.
– What will you do if His Excellency also refuses?
– We will discuss that later.
– If the GovernorGeneral has been dragged into this dispute, it is not by the Opposition, but by the Government. There is the position. Why does the Government refuse this request on the part of the Opposition ? I am sure that we here are not the only people in Australia who desire the publication of the documents. I am certain that the electors are just as anxious and as desirous of having an opportunity to peruse them as we could possibly be. Have we the right to see the reasons? Is government in Australia to be conducted on Star Chamber principles ? This incident reminds me very forcibly of something which occurred several years ago, when the famous Fusion agreement was arrived at; when the meetings were held in secret, when all the documents in connexion with the matter were burned, when even the blotters were burned, and every vestige of evidence that could be of use to show how the Fusionists came to the particular decision they did was got rid of. We remember the resentment with which the people of Australia viewed their action, and I venture to say that the people of Australia will resent the action of the present Government. A Government which is afraid to publish documents on a most important question is one which is not deserving of the confidence of a civilized people. We are not living, surely, in Russia or in India or in some country governed by despotic and irresponsible people ! It appears to me that the Government have grossly mistaken the temper of the Australian people. Our institutions are founded on liberty. But what does liberty mean? It means that every act of government must be made public to the people. That is the true foundation of democratic government, and our friends over there, who pose as the only Democrats in existence, violate the very first principle of democratic government. I am glad that they have done it. “ The Lord has delivered them into our hands.” I am delighted at their stupidity, but I am also amazed at it. I am filled with wonder that men who are stupid ever reached the position which they have attained. I am certain that this last and unpardonable blunder of theirs will meet with the reward it deserves at the hands of the community. Now, to go a little further : The Leader of the “Senate apparently knows very little about the theory of constitutional government. Does he know that the humblest citizen has in the last resort the right of appeal to the Throne? What are we to do in the Senate in the interests of the people of Australia? It is not for ourselves that we are asking for these papers, but for the people of Australia. We had an election twelve months ago, when the people of the Commonwealth were called upon to spend a great deal of money, and to waste a great deal of energy in going to the polls and carrying on the various activities of a general election, and in twelve months’ time they are to be called upon again to spend a very large amount of cash, and to go through the same electoral exercises, but they are not to know the reason why. On the last occasion Parliament was dissolved by effluxion of time. On this occasion it is to be dissolved on the mandate of the Governor-General acting through the Government, and for reasons which they refuse to disclose. A more disgraceful exhibition of so-called constitutional government has never been made, to my knowledge, in any country. We have the right undoubtedly to go to the GovernorGeneral. Is it our duty to do so? Having failed to drag this information out of the Government, are we justified in going farther? I hold that we are, in the interests of the people. I do not know what the Governor-General will do; probably he will act again on the advice of his advisers, and, if he does that, I think it will bring us to this conclusion, that not only is the Senate, as some people are saying; now useless, but that the GovernorGeneral is useless. Why have him at all? Why spend £20,000 a year on a Governor-General if he merely records the advice of his advisers? I would do the work myself for a twentieth part of the money, and do it just as well as His Excellency is doing it; so that the whole thing seems to resolve itself into a sublime farce, which might well be made the subject of comic opera. I think that we are not only justified in going to the Governor-General, seeing that the Government refuse the information we desire, but we are bound, in the interests of the people of Australia, to. do so.
– We should go far”ther than the Governor-General; we should go to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
– I do not know anything about that. If the GovernorGeneral refuses the information, we shall have to consider what step next to take. In the meantime we are doing, not only what we are entitled to do, but what we are bound to do in the interests of the people of Australia. I believe that the Governor-General will give the information. I do not know whether the papers will be valuable or not; but, in any case, in a crisis such as the present undoubtedly is, I think it is of the highest importance that all the reasons which animated, not only the Government in asking for a double dissolution, but the GovernorGeneral in granting the request ought to be published. We know that there were documents passing. We read in. the newspapers day after day that the Attorney-General was burning the midnight oil and turning out reams of reasons for the Governor-General to grant a double dissolution. We want to know the reasons, and so do the public. The public ought to know them. They paid the Attorney-General for drawing up the reasons, and it is the public’s business. They have to pay the piper, and they should have every item of information it is possible to give them. I support the presentation of the Address, and I protest against the charge made against the Opposition of bringing the Governor-General into the storm centre of political discussion. If he is in the storm centre, it is the Government who are to blame.
.- In common with other honorable senators on this side, I wish to extend my sincere sympathy to the representatives of the Government in the Senate. I feel that a Government who will adopt such tactics and will withhold the reasons they gave for asking for a double dissolution, and will shelter themselves behind the GovernorGeneral, are much in need of sympathy; they are more in need of condemnation, and most in need of the punishment which surely awaits them at the coming elections. The double dissolution had hardly been announced before the official organ of the Fusion party in the Federal Parliament sought to make use of the Governor-General by publishing the statement that Mr. Irvine, the Attorney-General, and Lord Blackwood, the Private Secretary of the GovernorGeneral, had made an agreement that the documents concerning the double dissolution should not be made available to any one.
– What newspaper does the honorable senator refer to ?
– That statement appeared in the Argus of the 6th June.
– The Argus is the official organ of Liberalism in this State?
– Senator Findley may dignify the party by describing them as Liberals, but I think my appellation “ Fusionists “ is the more correct one. Thus early in the dispute the GovernorGeneral was brought into it. In the Age newspaper of the 8th June, the Private Secretary to His Excellency the Governor-General made the statement that no such agreement had been entered into, as was alleged, between Lord Blackwood and the Attorney-General for withholding the documents. The conduct of the Government in this matter has all along the line been positively indecent. We want to know exactly where they stand in relation to the present crisis. If their advice to the Governor-General was sound and constitutional, they have no reason to. be ashamed of it, and should be prepared to make it available to the public at the earliest moment. They should do that, as .Senator O’Keefe has pointed out, in fairness to the Governor-General, who has just arrived amongst us from the Old
Country, and who ought not to be brought into the bitter party fight which must take place in the near future. If the Government were alive to their responsibilities in this connexion, they would free the Governor-General from any possibility of inclusion in the coming party struggle. At the present time people are saying that the Governor-General has acted improperly in deciding to dissolve both Houses of this Parliament simultaneously. We, of course, say that His Excellency was constitutionally bound to accept the advice tendered him by his responsible advisers. We believe that he has so acted. I think that he has been misled by the Government.
– Yes; I say, without any qualification whatever, that I believe the Government of the day have deliberately misled the Governor-General into taking the action which has brought about the present crisis. I say that because I have some knowledge of the tactics of the present Administration. A Government that would continue to occupy the Treasury bench, and attempt to direct the affairs of this country under the conditions which have characterized their occupancy of office during the last fifteen months, are capable of misleading the Governor-General or any one else. The Governor-General has already announced, through his Private Secretary, Lord Blackwood, that he did not make arrangements with the Government to keep these documents secret. I am confident, therefore, that he will have no objection to their publication. He will be prepared to allow the people to see for themselves the precise conditions upon which the simultaneous dissolution is to be brought about. Ho will be prepared to give them an opportunity to judge the merits or demerits of the case, and they will mete out to the Government the punishment they richly deserve for misleading the. GovernorGeneral into what I believe is a huge constitutional blunder. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and his right-hand man, the Attorney-General, in their interview with His Excellency assured him that both parties in the Federal Parliament were satisfied that the present position was unworkable, that the constitution of parties made it impossible for the work of the country to be carried on, and that both parties were satisfied also that the only solution of the political difficulties was a simultaneous dissolution of both Houses. Possibly the GovernorGeneral replied to the effect, “ If both parties take the view you have placed before me, and you can assure me that you can obtain the necessary Supply to carry you over the period covered by a general election, then I shall dissolve both Houses.” That would be a perfectly proper view of the matter for the GovernorGeneral to take, assuming that such advice as I have suggested was tendered to him. If advice of that kind has not been tendered to the GovernorGeneral, what has the Government to fear? I suppose they would not mind making public the reasons which the Prime Minister tendered to the GovernorGeneral in support of his request for a double dissolution after Parliament is dissolved. But Parliament is not likely to be dissolved this week, and by the end of the week the Governor-General will be in a position to make his reply to the Address to be presented to him upon the resolution passed by the Senate this evening. Possibly that reply will enable all the facts connected with the Prime Minister’s application for a double dissolution, and the absolute terms of His Excellency’s answer to the request, to be placed before the people of Australia.
– I rise to say a few words in connexion with the uncalled for remarks of Senator Millen in his criticism of the proposal of the Opposition. Perhaps I had better say nothing strong, but at least it was most unfair for Senator Millen to say that the Labour party by their action seek to drag the Governor-General into the dispute, and to make him the “ storm centre “ of the coming fight.
– They were well chosen words.
– Nothing could be further from the mind or desires of the members of the Labour party. If any party is responsible for the GovernorGeneral being the storm centre it is the Government party. Did not the members of the Government party, through their leading politicians and their scurrilous press, try from the moment the test Bills were mentioned to induce the people of Australia to believe that a double dissolution would be granted ? From their platforms, and in their press, they made no secret of their anticipation of what the Governor-General would do.
– It was more instruction than criticism.
– As Senator Long has said, they practically instructed the Governor-General from their platforms, and through their press, that they expected him to grant a dissolution of both Houses. They went further, and when Lord Denman resigned, it was openly stated in the Conservative press, of Queensland, at all events, that a change was desired, inasmuch as Lord Denman was, to some extent, compromised by his previous association with a Labour Cabinet. What did that mean if it did not mean that these men desired, if they could do it - I do not say that they could - to exercise influence upon the present Governor-General. If Mr. Cook did not wish to drag the Governor-General into the arena of politics, he would not have made the meagre statement which he did make to the House of Representatives when telling the members of that House that he had the double dissolution in his pocket. The statement he made on that important occasion was so meagre that he was obliged himself to admit that he was wrong. That is proved by the fact that a few days later he had to amplify the statement, and instruct the representative of the Government in the Senate to make the fuller statement here. In the very near’ future, the public of Australia will be called upon to decide grave issues. The Government and the Opposition will be placed on their trial, and the people should be given an opportunity to record their verdict. A very important feature of the trial will be the evidence on which the people will be called upon to decide, and a most important portion of that evidence is to be kept from the people if the Government refuse to let them know the reasons which they submitted to the GovernorGeneral in asking for a double dissolution, and the full text of His Excellency’s reply. It is quite possible that the Government deliberately set themselves out to mislead the Governor-General in order that they might succeed in the object they had in view, and secure a double dissolution. This would not be the first time that such a thing was done in the history of Australia. In 1877, the
Fysh Ministry, on being defeated in Tasmania, went to the then Governor, Sir Frederick Weld, and asked for a double dissolution.’ A big rumpus was raised over the dissolution, which he granted, and eventually a memorandum setting forth the reasons upon which he acted was placed before the Tasmanian Parliament, and the House gave it as its opinion that the statements upon which the dissolution was founded were inaccurate, and that consequently the dissolution was entirely wrong. It is quite conceivable that the present Government have done likewise - that they have misled the GovernorGeneral. This is a very serious situation. The decision of His Excellency to grant a double dissolution transcends in importance any interpretation which has yet been given to the Constitution, even by the High Court. The rights of all the smaller States have been swept away - rights which were guaranteed as a special inducement to them to enter the Federation, and without which they would never have entered it. The status of the Senate has been lowered, and the whole Federal character of our Constitution has been changed by that decision.
– Exactly. Is it not right, therefore, that we should be made acquainted with the reasons why this great change has been brought about ? The people will have to approve or disapprove of the advice tendered by the Government to His Excellency, and they should be afforded an opportunity of arriving at a decision upon it. They cannot do that if the evidence is withheld from them. The Ministry must be ashamed of the advice which they tendered to the Governor-General, or they would not be afraid to let the people know exactly what it was. I submit that government should not be carried on in this Star Chamber fashion. To-day, thanks to the Labour party, the very humblest citizen at the forthcoming election will have an opportunity to express his view upon this issue. But in order that a just decision may be arrived at, the reasons presented to the GovernorGeneral in favour of a double dissolution should be made public. If the Government desire to release His Excellency from this dispute, they have it in their power to do so. The Leader of the Opposition will have no objection to with- drawing the Address if ths Minister of Defence will release the GovernorGeneral from his present position by offering to place the whole correspondence between the Government and His Majesty’s representative on the table of the Senate.
– It is a pity that the Government party in this Chamber is not larger, as it is somewhat monotonous to address only one or two honorable senators. Personally I am glad that this Address^ has been brought forward. I am surprised that the Leader of the Government iti the Senate should have spoken in a shocked and reverent voice of the possibility of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral being dragged into the impending conflict. It has been said by previous speakers that the Government alone are responsible for that. I wish to say that the factors which have brought about the present situation were bound to produce a storm. Personally I am not particular where the storm centre is so long as I am near to it. It is time that we did have a storm, because it will clear the political atmosphere. I repeat that I do not care who is the storm centre. I do not know that anybody occupies such a deified position that he should be entirely free from the troubles which affect others. I want the people of the Commonwealth to know who are responsible for the Star Chamber methods of the present Government. As soon as I heard the Prime Minister refuse to disclose the reasons submitted to His Excellency the Governor-General in support of the Ministerial request for a double dissolution, I remarked that his action was entirely opposed to the essential principle of Democracy, namely, that publicity should be given to all public actions in order that the people might be able to pronounce judgment. When Senator Oakes, who has not the courage to defend the position taken up by his chief, contents himself with making puerile interjections, I would remind him that his statement that reasons were not made public when Labour Ministers advised a dissolution of Parliament is quite beside the question, and is probably on a level with his intellectual attainments in other directions. I am not surprised that he does not understand the difference between the cases he has cited and the present position.
– Will the honorable senator tell me what is the difference?
– I am quite willing to act as the honorable senator’s mentor. The difference is that where a dissolution was not granted the public could not be interested in the reasons advanced iu favour of it. The reasons which have produced the most serious crisis that has arisen in the history of this Parliament are immeasurably more important than are reasons which produced an entirely negative result. But, as a matter of fact, I am not aware that in the one case those reasons were asked for, whereas in the present instance they have been asked for. My contention is that it is opposed to the basic principle of Democracy that we should be governed by Star Chamber methods. When Senator Oakes asks what we shall do, if, resenting as we do the action of the Government, we meet with a similar refusal at the hands of the GovernorGeneral, my reply is that it will be time enough for us to deal with troubles when we meet them. We are speaking on behalf of the electors of this country - on behalf of the sovereign people who are greater than honorable senators, greater than Governors-General, greater even than Kings - the people who elect this Parliament, and who have a right to know how it acts. When they decide that they will know what is being done, Senator Oakes may make his mind easy that they will find the means to accomplish their desire. I have no apprehension as to what will be the result of the presentation of this Address. But if it be not effective we shall know what to do. This, however, is not the time to canvass the methods which will be employed. When Senator Oakes talks about those who demanded a division on the so-called test measure - the Government Preference Prohibition Bill - and secured its rejection, urging objections as to what has since transpired, I would point out that he has been persistently making known in his own sorrowful tones his deep regret at the result. He has constantly regretted that his recent entry into this Chamber is likely to be of such short duration. I think that, embodied in this Address, are all sufficient reasons why the Governor-General should accede to our petition. I believe that it will be one of the historic documents of this Parliament to which future parliamentarians will look back with feelings with pride as marking an attempt to secure to them that knowledge which is theirs by right. Who are the members of this Government that they should arrogate to themselves the right to cloak their nefarious conduct under the guise of confidential conversations with His Excellency the Governor-General? One of my colleagues said just now that it was quite conceivable that the Government may have attempted to mislead His Excellency. I go further than that. Knowing some of the gentlemen who comprise the Ministry as well as I do, I say that it is almost inconceivable that they have not endeavoured to mislead him. They would be acting quite contrary to their inmost natures, and in opposition to their whole political careers, if they did not attempt to do so. Failing that candour which we have a right to expect amongst the leaders of a great party, we have no option but to approach the GovernorGeneral with a view to ascertaining whether he will be more amenable than the Government to reason and common sense.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McGregor) proposed -
That the President present the Address to His Excellency the Governor-General.
– It is hardly necessary to move that motion, as the Standing Orders provide for that course being adopted. Standing order 364 says -
Addresses to the Governor-General shall be presented by the President, unless the Senate otherwise order.
However, I will put the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
When will the award given by the Federal Arbitration Court in the case of the Commonwealth Postal linemen be brought into operation?
– The award referred to came into operation on the 14th instant.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister for Defence lay on the table of the Senate a return showing the relative strength (giving gun power, &c.) of the navies of the various Powers now stationed in the Pacific?
– I am having a return, as desired, prepared, and it will be tabled as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Will the Minister be good enough to lay upon the table of the Senate a copy of the treaty recently agreed to as between Great Britain and Japan?
– My colleague informs me that he has only one official copy of the treaty, which, however, is published in Hertslet’s Treaties, obtainable in the Library. Under the circumstances, the honorable senator may not desire to have a copy laid on the table.
– Arising out of that answer, I shall be glad if the Minister will be good enough to have a copy of that treaty incorporated in the proceedings of the Senate.
– I would point out to the honorable senator that the treaty may be seen in the Parliamentary Library attached to this building. To table it here merely for the purpose of again having it printed would incur quite unnecessary expense. It is already a public document, and is obtainable in the Library a few yards distant from this chamber.
– But an honorable senator cannot obtain a copy of it.
– He can obtain a typed copy of it. It would involve unnecessary expense to duplicate public documents that are already available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Government give consideration to the advisablenoss of applying the system of bounty and Excise to the banana industry of the Commonwealth ?
– It is not considered necessary or advisable to set up a system of bounty and Excise in connexion with the banana industry of the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice - 1.Referring to the reply on the 10th June to a question by SenatorRae regarding-the progress on the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie railway, is it a fact that the plate-laying machine is capable of laying sleepers and rails at the rate of a mile every working day?
– The answers are -
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act 1906- Land acquired under, at
Sherwood, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Toowoomba, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Unley, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- Can the Vice-President of the Executive Council say whether the Commonwealth has entered into a contract with, Inter-State shipping companies or. others for the carriage of sleepers from Western Australia to Port Augusta. If so,will he tell the Senate what freights have been fixed, and what conditions are attached to the contract?
.- I shall do my best to get the informationfor the honorable senator as early as possible.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [9.59].- The Minister of Defence told the Senate distinctly and emphatically that nothing would be done with regard to any proposed new regulations dealing with absent voting until both Houses were informed. We have had no information on the matter; yet I find, from this evening’s Herald, that a regulation has been formulated with directions as to how absent voting is to be conducted in the future. If the statement as published in theHerald is correct, a grave injustice will be done to members of the Railway Department, commercial travellers, and others who leave their cities early in the morning, and are away for, perhaps, a week. The statement published in the Herald is as follows : -
The new regulation confines the privilege of absent voting to those who have not been within a mile of a polling booth in their own subdivision on polling day.
The polling begins at 8 o’clock in the morning, and any one who has to leave by an early train prior to that hour may have been within a mile of a polling booth in his subdivision on that day ; and, therefore, according to the regulation, will be debarred from voting altogether. If the words “within the hours of polling “ were put in, it might meet the difficulty. But even that would not remove it entirely, because some people might have to leave close to the hour of 8 o’clock, even within polling hours, without having time to register their votes. In view of the Minister’s previous promise, he ought to tell us what the new regulation means, and whether a correct version of it has been published.
. - I wish to bringforward a matter in connexion with electoral procedure. I know nothing about the facts, except as they ‘are sent to me by a correspondent in New South Wales. He says that a police constable has recently been round his district collecting names for the State roll, and, in conjunction with it, carried a copy of the Federal roll. In enrolling people for the State, he gave them a receipt, as is customary under the State law; but in connexion with the Federal roll he initialed the names of those who were rightfully there. Whenever he did not see a man who was supposed to live in a particular place, lie did not initial his name. He told this elector that the names of those whom he did not find at home, and, therefore, did not initial, would be objected to, and struck off. It i3 all very well for the Minister in charge of the Electoral Branch, either off his own bat or by quoting what Mr. Oldham, the Chief Electoral Officer, says, to tell us that every effort will be made to give every elector an opportunity to record his vote; but the innumerable instances that are cropping up in every State showing the tricks and devices that are being resorted to, and that have never happened before in the history of the Commonwealth, go to prove that either tlie Electoral Branch is in a peculiarly chaotic condition, or that the Ministry are making efforts, as I believe they are, to unfairly disfranchise Labour voters. I cannot get away from that conclusion, because never in the history of the Commonwealth has there been such a perfect consensus of opinion as to the way in which men are being struck off ; and, almost invariably, they are Labour supporters or sympathizers. Some emphatic utterance is required from the Senate to deal effectively with this state of things. I should like to know whether any constable, acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Electoral Office, has the power even to threaten men, because they do not happen to be at home at the particular hour when he calls, with objection and the chance of being struck off the rolls. It is scandalous that such a threat should be made by anybody employed by the Department.
– But you do not vouch for the statement that it has been made.
– I do not; but it is very strange that never in the history of the Commonwealth has there been such an everlasting crop of letters complaining of the way in which the rolls had been collected and tampered with as there is now. Where there is so much smoke there must be a good deal of fire.
– Every statement brought forward here we have managed to refute.
– I deny that in the majority of cases- the Government have been able to refute the statement. They give some cold official answer, which in most cases side-steps the question. I am not challenging the honesty, honour, or capabilities of Mr. Oldham or his subordinates.
– That is just what you are doing.
– If the honorable senator likes to think so, I am happy, and he is contented. There is something rotten in the state of Denmark, or there would not be this flood of complaints. I believe some dirty work is being done by the Government, and I have the frankness and candour to tell them so. If not, they should be able to disprove it. It is clear that something nefarious is going on, and the suspicions are not confined to myself. I do not vouch for the actual contents ‘of the letter, but I vouch for the fact that the writer is a good, straight, honorable man, and, therefore. I have every reason to believe that his statements are true. There must be something very fishy going on to justify these continual complaints. Evidently a movement has been set .on foot by some one, and whether the Minister in charge of the Department knows nothing about it, or the organizations at the back of the party opposite are responsible for the dirty work that is going on, an honest effort should be made to see that it is stopped. If not, we shall have every reason to suspect their iona fides.
– Senator O’Loghlin has done me a slight injustice. The purpose of the question, which I answered on a previous occasion, was to draw from me a statement that the Senate would be informed before it broke up of any new regulation framed to deal with absent voting, so that it would be in a position to take any action it thought fit in regard thereto. The fact that any regulation published to-day will be tabled to-morrow, and it will be within the competency of the Senate to disallow it, is the best possible proof of the intention of the Government to carry out the assurance I gave that no surprise would be sprung upon the Senate. Honorable senators clearly understood that no action would be taken after the session had closed.
– The papers in Tasmania have been making statements during the past few days that the Government would issue regulations after the Houses had risen.
– If the papers would be a little less suspicious, they would be less perturbed when they get a definite statement such as I gave the Senate the other day. There is no necessity for me to repeat it now. Senator O’Loghlin criticised the regulation on the assumption that it lacks the very provision which it contains. His objection was that a person might leave his home before 8 o’clock in the morning and not return until after the poll in his own subdivision had closed, which is exactly what the regulation provides for. It is a prohibition against those who within the polling hours-
– It does not say so in the newspaper from which I quoted.
– I am not responsible for that. The regulation meets exactly the objection which the honorable senator raised in the Chamber. It was found in the last election that congestion took place at certain polling booths, and it was thought not an unfair thing, not only in the interests of those absent voters who wished to vote there, but also in the interests of residents in the locality, that some restriction should be placed upon those who for no sound reason sought to use a polling booth other than their own. Therefore, this new regulation provides that before any one is entitled to vote as an absent voter - that is, outside his own subdivision - he must be in a position to say that he has not been there during the polling hours.
– Not within a mile.
– That is so. I think I am correct in stating that the regulation received the approval of Mr. Fisher, the Leader of the Labour party.
– I deny that.
– If that be so, all that I can say is that my information is quite incorrect.
– It is absolutely incorrect.
– I accept the honorable senator’s assurance, but I was led to believe that the regulation had been approved of by the Leader of the Labour party.
– I have in my hand what was handed to Mr. Fisher by the Prime Minister, and it states, in effect, that the electorhas to declare that he would not be that clay within the subdivision at a time that would permit him to vote.
– That is exactly what the regulation provides for.
– It provides for a limitation of a mile, and that is not included in this at all.
– That is making the thing still more liberal.
– Oh !
– The honorable senator surely misunderstands the regulation. The original proposition was that the elector had to affirm that he was not within the boundaries of his subdivision in these hours. The new regulation enables him to be a mile outside of them.
– No; he does not have to affirm that he was within the boundaries, but that he was not within the boundaries under conditions which would permit him to vote.
– That is exactly what is provided for in the regulation.
– How can any person be sure of the exact distance?
– The honorable senator will see that the original proposition, which received, so I was informed, the approval of the Leader of the Labour party, was a prohibition against any one voting as an absent voter who had been in his subdivision between polling hours. The only alteration made is to say, “ Within a mile of the subdivision,” which enlarges the boundaries within which he may roam.
– But look at the technical objections which could be urged, because you cannot measure a mile.
– The regulation does give a man a larger area to roam over, and therefore is more liberal than the old one. It is a little unfortunate that a statement should be made by Senator McGregor in that way. I venture to express the opinion that when the effect of the alteration is thoroughly understood there will be no re-affirmation such as that made by the honorable senator just now. I cannot say that I was surprised at the action of Senator Rae, but it is a little extraordinary that he should come here and say it is clear that nefarious practices are going on. He made that statement simply because he held in his hand a letter, for the accuracy of which he would not vouch. To-day we had some examples of the kind of statements that are brought here and put forward as if they were proofs. Take the two statements which Senator Russell gave with the utmost confidence to the Senate.
– I have a letter here, too, concerning statements.
– Will the Minister allow me to read the regulation to him?
– After I have dealt with the statements on which honorable senators venture to found charges of corruption against the Government. As far as they have made definite statements, and we have been able to inquire into them, they have been refuted. Senator Russell, for instance, gave the names of two electoral registrars who he said he knew had refused to receive objections to enrolment from representatives of the Labour organization, whilst they were receiving similar objections from the representatives of the Liberal organization. To that definite statement the two officials gave an emphatic denial.
– How do you know that they are speaking the truth? A denial is not disproof.
– It is quite true that I cannot prove whether a statement made by an electoral official is correct or not, but I do venture to say that the statements made by these two electoral registrars in black and white are worth a dozen times as much as the letter which the honorable senator brings here.
– It is in black and white, too.
– Yes, but the honorable senator will not vouch for the accuracy of the statements of the writer.
– I vouch for the accuracy of the memorandum I presented here to-day.
– If Senator Russell made his statement with any substance underlying it, let him produce the evidence of those who he said were sent to lodge objections. We have two responsible officials, who have made a report. One of them has declared that he neverreceived any objections from either Liberal or Labour organizers. Yet Senator Russell’s statement was that he had received objections from the Liberals whilst refusing them from Labour. These are matters of fact which it ought to be possible to sheet right home. I invite Senator Russell now to bring for ward the evidence which he said he possessed to substantiate his charge.
– He has got some more.
– Then it is time.it was brought forward. These wild and reckless charges, involving alike the honour of officials and the Government, ought not to be allowed to go on unless honorable senators are prepared to bring evidence here which justifies them in their opinion in making the statements.
– There is no doubt that the Liberal organizations, so-called, are doing all kinds of “ crook “ work.
– That is the sort of statement which the honorable senator goes on making.
– I know it.
– I challenge the honorable senator to bring here evidence of what he calls “ crook “ work.
– You will not accept it when you hear it.
– Is the statement in the letter to which the honorable senator referred to be accepted as evidence? Is the statement made by Senator Russell evidence ?
– I am not responsible for it.
– Is a letter for the accuracy of which the honorable senator will not vouch evidence ?
– I vouch for the truthfulness of the writer.
– Those who state that the electoral officials did wrong ought, if they have a spark of regard for the decency of the Senate, if not for their own reputation, to bring forward the evidence so as to let us see whether the officials have failed in their duty or not.
– You are challenging a man when he is away.
– That is not my fault. When honorable senators bring forward these matters and attack the Government on them I have a perfect right, on the only opportunity provided to-day, to deal with them.
– You cannot deny that there has been more bother over this matter than over anything else.
– The honorable senator is seeking to make political capital out pf it. That is why there is a good deal of bother.
– It is happening all over the country.
– The honorable senator will spread it all over the country regardless of whether there is an atom of truth in it or not. Let me take another statement which can be clearly refuted by a reference to public records. Senator Russellsaid that at Swan Hill, with a population of 2,000 people, no fewer than 500 objections to enrolment had been lodged. That is the kind of statement which has been thrown broadcast about this country.
SenatorRae. - He distinctly said that he only gave that statement for what it was worth.
– Yes, and I know what the honorable senator is giving it for. Itis made clear against the honorable senator and others that they are throwing these statements about in order to impress the public mind with the idea that something wrong is going on. The facts are not only that the population of Swan Hill is not 2,000, but that there were no fewer than 3,364 enrolments. Therefore, it can be taken for granted that the population of the place is more than double 2,000. . Yet, in spite of that fact, the number of objections lodged was 164. That is a sample of the gross exaggerations which honorable senators opposite are proposing to throw about this country as facts- as evidence of some corrupt practice on the part of the Government?
– One hundred and sixty-four names seems to be a pretty large number there.
– I do not think it is a large number, when we remember that Swan Hill is in a district which has a large nomadic population.
– Can you deny that in the Cook division there were11,600 objections, and that the member himself got the number from the Returning Officer?
– Unlike the honorable senator, I am not going to deny any matters until I have had an opportunity of looking into them. All that I ask ia that honorable senators should make statements in such a definite form that it is possible for the authorities to inquire into them, and see how far they are true or not, and cease this resort to wild generalities, which are simply imputations upon the honour of public officials.
– A scrutineer at Moonta told me a fortnight ago that he had been objected to.
– Suppose that he had been, what does it prove ? Let us look into the circumstances of the case.
– The man had never moved from his home, yet he was objected to.
– It is quite possible that that may be so.
– It is always happening, though. Where is the screw loose that it is happening to so many?
– Where so many ?
– Five hundred objections in one case. Senator McDougall read out specific cases.
– I want an opportunity of looking into those specific cases. I am not prepared to take statements which Senator McDougall has never had an opportunity to verify, but which have been given to him by others. Let. me now turn to the regulation. Senator Maughan proposed to read out to me what I assume was a copy of the original draft. Perhaps he will check his with what I have -
That I have not been, nor shall be to-day, within the subdivision for which I am enrolled under conditions which would permit of my voting at any polling-place prescribed for that subdivision.
– That is correct, with the exception of the substitution of “and” for “nor.”
– That, I understand, has been approved of by Mr. Fisher.
– That portion.
– The Government! instead of putting a man in a position to declare that he is not or would not be in his subdivision, have given him the area within a mile of it to roam over. To that extent we have liberalized the old regulation, and made things a little easier for the elector, who might not know his exact boundaries, but would know them within a mile.
SenatorRae. - Is a man to carry a chain with him?
– There are hundreds of electors who do not even know the exact boundaries of their subdivision, and by putting the distance a mile farther out we give him that margin, and therefore make it easier for him if he has a tender conscience to make the declaration. At any rate, if he does know the dividing lines he has a greater margin within which he can roam about without placing himself beyond the provisions of the regulation.
– Who is going to define the mile?
– Who defined the 5 miles when my honorable friends had that distance?
– Is that to be left in the hands of the Presiding Officer?
– No, to the man himself. I venture to say that my honorable friends are not doing justice to their common sense.
– Is this a substitution ?
– It is an addition.
– Oh, well, there is nothing in it.
– Exactly. Suppose, for instance, that I have to sign that I am not in this chamber between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., I am limited to a very small space; but if I have to sign that I am not within a mile of the chamber it leaves me a big area of country in which to roam round outside the chamber.
– Surely the honorable senator cannot logically maintain that contention.
– I think the matter is very simple.
– I am sure the honorable senator is wrong.
– Senator McGregor is apparently quite satisfied, and I think I can afford to be satisfied also.
– Who is to say what is a mile and what is not a mile?
– Well , let honorablesenators disallow the regulation proposed by the Government, and accept the other one.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 June 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1914/19140617_senate_5_74/>.