Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 14 October 1914

Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan) . - I am sure that honorable members were pleased to hear the concluding remarks of the Prime Minister, and the hopeful view he took about the financial situation, showing that he, at any rate, has complete confidence in the financial credit of the Commonwealth, and that he believes he will be able to devise a scheme by which the credit of the Commonwealth may be used - because, unfortunately, we have no great store of cash - to tide us over these very difficult and dangerous times. The war is not our only trouble, though it. is the most serious, because our position as a people and a nation is jeopardized. Unfortunately we are confronted at the same time with one of the worst seasons we have had for many years. Except by hearsay I am not conversant with the state of affairs in all parts of Australia, but I am conversant with the position in the western State. The position there is not at all hopeful. Those in the agricultural areas seem doomed to great losses, while the pastoral areas away to the Tropics have never been in a worse state. These facts should be known, but, at the same time,we should all do our best to get our minds into the position indicated by the Prime Minister, and take as hopeful aview of the future as possible. There is no doubt it is not the occasion to be unduly depressed. It is a timewhen Ave should have stout hearts, and be bold and determined, and when we should help one another as far as Ave possibly can.

The Speech with which we were favored from the Governor-General did not impress me as containing much that was novel. Omitting thewar news, with whichwewe re all acquainted, and which is no doubt very serious, and must give us great cause for consideration and great anxiety, there are many things in the Speech that are fairly well known. There is much in it which was part of the policy of the Liberal party, and there is a good deal which could very well, under existing circumstances, stand over for a time. I listenedwith attention to what the Prime Minister said in regard to our going on with the public business as if nothing extraordinarywas occurring. I join issue with him. I think it, is scarcely fair to honorable members, or to the people of the country, that we should be asked to engage in domestic legislation, and polemical discussions when we are in such a state of anxiety and danger. To ask us to do so is unseemly. Myview, I know, is not shared by the Prime Minister. He thinks that this is an opportune time to proceedwith the ordinary business of the country. In the course of his speech the right honorable gentleman said that Ave were far removed from the scene of the disastrous and horrible occurrencesin Europe. But are Ave far away from them? Are Ave not in reality as closely associated as we possibly could be, in our thoughts and actions, withwhat is occurring there? Are we really living in peace and security, andwithout grave anxiety? Can we forget that thousands, and tens of thousands, of our countrymen are lying dead or dying on the battle-field at this very moment? Can we forget that many of our fellow citizens have relatives or friends who are either dead or dying there ? And in these circumstances, are we to be asked to blot out from our minds this terrible knowledge, and to engage in discussions regarding purely local affairs, as if nothing of the kind was occurring? Is it likely that Ave should be able to do justice to the country or to ourselves if we attempted to proceedwith the ordinary business at this juncture, and are the circumstances so urgent that Ave should be compelled to do so? Many of the proposals of the Government are by no means urgent; they can well be allowed to stand over. There is no necessity, in ray opinion, to embark upon these polemical discussions at the present time,when our thoughts arc centred on other matters affecting the safety of our country and the security of friends and relations, and whilst disasters are coming to some of us almost every hour of the day.

Mr Higgs - Arewe to do nothing?

Sir JOHN FORREST - We should only do thatwhich is necessary and obligatory upon us. In other words,

Ave should dealwith the financial position, and take steps to enable us to tide over a time of trouble and difficulty caused by the war and the drought. Beyond that we should do nothing. We are not in a competent position to do more, and it is unseemly and not in keepingwith our surroundings that we should attempt more.

I notice that the phrases " as soon as possible," "early consideration," and "as soon as the state of the finances makes it practicable," occur frequently in the GovernorGeneral's Speech, showing thatmy honorable friends opposite have in their minds the difficulties that I foresee. They must recognisewith me that it is unseemly to attempt to proceed with all their proposals as if therewas no national danger or difficulty. We find these phrases used in regard to such questions as the increase of old-age pensions, the provision of pensions forwidows and orphans, the utilization of the Murray waters, a uniform gauge of railway for Australia, the development of the Northern Territory, the provision of a Commonwealth line of steamers, and the amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The paragraphs dealing with all these matters end with the promise either of " early consideration," that they will be dealt with " as soon as possible," or " as soon as the state of the finances makes it practicable."

In paragraph 4 we have an important statement, which I hope will be carried out. Prom what we heard a few days ago, however, it would seem that other counsel has been given since the paragraph was written, and that some other plan is proposed to legalize or validate the action taken in regard to certain expenditure caused by reason of the war when there was no Parliament in existence. In this paragraph we are told that -

It has been necessary to anticipate Parliamentary approval of expenditure urgently required for war purposes. A Bill covering all such unauthorized expenditure will be submitted for your consideration at the earliest possible moment.

That, I think, was a most proper clause to insert in the Speech, and I urge the Treasurer to give effect to it. I assure him that any other plan will lead either himself or some one else into trouble; it will give some one else an excuse later on, when no necessity may exist, of ignoring the requirements of the law in regard to the expenditure of public moneys.

Mr Fisher - I shall be very glad to do this.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am not speaking with a desire to find fault.

Mr Fisher - Hear, hear; I want to make it doubly sure.

Sir JOHN FORREST - We shall do well to make it very difficult for any one to anticipate parliamentary approval of expenditure.

Mr Fisher - I am not the culprit this time; it is the right honorable member himself.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The right honorable member has continued what I began, and is, therefore, equally with me in the same position. There was no Parliament that could be summoned at the time. The money had to be expended, and I intended to ask Parliament to validate that expenditure.

Mr Fisher - I indorse what the right honorable member did.

Sir JOHN FORREST - There was no help for it. We did it under great stress and difficulty, and I wish to see it put right, as well as what has also been done by the right honorable gentleman.

Mr Fisher - What the right honorable member did was quite right; but it was not within the law.

Sir JOHN FORREST - It was a violation of the law. The Audit Act was ignored.

Mr Fisher - But it was the right thing to do.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Yes, and the honorable gentleman has followed the same course since he has been in office. I am glad to have the Treasurer's assurance that he- proposes to give effect to this paragraph in the Speech, because we may have some day a Treasurer who will anticipate parliamentary approval of expenditure when there is no urgent necessity for doing so - when there is a Parliament that can be summoned to overcome the difficulty.

Leaving that matter, there is one paragraph in the Speech which I think is a little ponderous. I refer to paragraph 32. I wonder that my right honorable friend should have availed himself of the GovernorGeneral's Speech to tell us that -

In order to complete the constitution of the Naval Board, Mr. J. A. Jensen, M.P., Assistant Minister for Defence, will be appointed as Finance Member.

I can hardly think that that is a matter of such grave governmental or parliamentary procedure as to require to be specially mentioned in the Speech. This gives me an opportunity to refer to the fact that Executive Councillors "under summons" have been appointed Assistant Ministers. I protest most strongly against that being done. This is no new objection on my part. Ever since we have worked under the Federal Constitution I have objected to the term " Honorary Minister." My colleagues will bear out that statement. I hold the opinion that such an officer cannot be appointed under the Constitution as it exists. The only persons who can be appointed are Ministers of State. Their number is limited to seven, and £12,000 a year is provided for distribution amongst them in such proportions as Ministers themselves may agree upon. There is power under the Constitution for the

Governor-General to appoint only Executive Councillors, and the rule has been that Ministers on retiring from office shall not be summoned, but shall still remain members of the Executive Council, thus following a procedure that has been adopted in some of the States. Honorable members are perhaps aware that in some of the States Ministers resign from the Executive Council when they cease to be Ministers ; but in the Commonwealth and in Victoria and in some of the other States they do not. On retiring they continue to be members of the Executive Council, but not under summons. It has always been a question with me as to whether it was ever intended by the Constitution that there should be any Executive Councillors under summons other than the seven who are Ministers of State. The question of convenience does not concern me. It may be most convenient to have Executive Councillors under summons to assist the Government of the day. But the point I wish to make is that the Constitution provides that there shall be only seven Ministers who are Ministers of State; that they shall be members of the Executive Council, and that they shallmanage the affairs of the country. We have had instances in which Honorary Ministers have been in charge 'of great Departments of State - absolutely as much in charge of a great Department as the Ministers of State themselves.

Mr Fisher - I think there is a great deal in what the right honorable member says.

Sir JOHN FORREST - An Honorary Minister or whatever he is designated is not a responsible Minister of State, and has no Executive authority whatever.

Mr LAIRD SMITH (DENISON, TASMANIA) - Who was responsible for the Teesdale Smith contract'!

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am not dealing with that matter. I am merely giving expression to my views, in order that they may be known, and if they are acceptable I hope that they will be acted upon.

Mr Fisher - But the right honorable member knows that seven Ministers . are not enough to conduct the whole of the governmental affairs of the Commonwealth nowadays.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The number of Ministers can be increased by statute. If the Government choose, provision can bemade for the appointment of more than seven Ministers of State, and the salary of £12,000 per annum available for Ministers can be reduced or increased by parliamentary action. An amendment of the Constitution itself is not required. I am not here, however, to advocate at present either an increase in the number of Ministers or an increase of the available salary. My sole desire is that what we do shall be legal and above board.

Mr Fisher - But the right honorable member was never in a Federal Ministry in which there were not Honorary Ministers.

Sir JOHN FORREST - That does not prove anything.

Mr Fisher - But the use of the words " above board " is rather strong.

Sir JOHN FORREST - It may, perhaps, require some explanation. Although there have been Honorary Ministers in every Cabinet in which I have sat, I have never been in favour of such appointments.

Mr Fisher - I am with the right honorable member.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I have always protested against the appointment of Honorary Ministers as not being provided for in the Constitution. The practice has grown up in Australia. I do not think it exists in the Old Country. There they are called Junior Lords of the Treasury, and they have salaries provided by Parliament.

Mr Fisher - There are UnderSecretaries in Parliament.

Sir JOHN FORREST - They are in statutory Executive positions, and their salaries are provided for by Parliament.

Mr Fisher - In England there are Ministers not in the Cabinet.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Yes, but they all hold some office. Great Britain has no written Constitution, whereas we have, and we ought to stand by it. There is no such office as Honorary Minister known to the Constitution, and certainly no such offices as those of Assistant Ministers, who undoubtedly have no Executive authority. If more Ministers with emoluments are required they should be provided for on a statutory basis.

Mr Fisher - I have always held the same opinion.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I should now like to refer to the appointment of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice to advise the Government on the sites and construction works of the Naval Bases at Cockburn Sound, Western Port, and other places. I should nob have referred to Sir Maurice Fitzrnaurice's appointment but for the fact that the Prime Minister has mentioned it. I said on the hustings that, although I was no more responsible than any other member of the Government for his appointment, I was quite willing to take the whole responsibility if necessary for reasons which I gave. While I am willing to spend millions on naval or other great necessary public works, I like to know exactly how they are to be carried out, and exactly what they will cost, and to have behind me the advice of some person of great eminence and experience. I had been scarcely a day in office in 1913 before I interested myself in the question of the Cockburn Sound . Naval Base, and I asked the Minister of Defence to allow Admiral Creswell and his engineering officer to come and see me. Admiral Creswell and the Director of Naval Works, Mr. Fanstone, had an interview with me, and I asked whether they had any plans and specifications of the works being carried out, what it was proposed to do in regard to the dredging, whether dredges had been ordered, and whether a decision had been arrived at as to the width and depth of the channel through the Parmelia and Success Banks, what works were to be done on shore, and generally what it. was proposed to do. Admiral Creswell showed me a marked Admiralty chart, and told me that was all the plans and specifications they had - that they had no plans in regard to the width and depth of the channels, and did not know what sort of dredges would be required. He did say that two small dredges had been ordered, but I think these were for Western Port. I had a private conversation with Admiral Creswell, which it is not necessary to relate; but I was so convinced that we were proceeding in the dark that I suggested to the Cabinet that we should have some eminent Naval works engineer to advise us. I could not but remember thatonly a month or two before, during an election, there had been the farce of a grand opening ceremony at the Henderson Base. The State Governor was there, I think, along with the principal people of Fremantle, and, with the usual speeches, everything went off very well, I believe. I subsequently went down to see theplace, and found nothing there except the sea beach and a shanty or two to serve as offices. I do not wish to say anything offensive, but I have no doubt that that opening ceremony in the middle of a general election was a make-believe to obtain votes for Mr. Pearce, the Minister of Defence, and the Labour party, because there was nothing to open, and there is nothing there now.

Mr J H Catts - Why was the right honorable gentleman not at the ceremony ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I was electioneering; but I do not think that in any case I should have attended, because every one knew the ceremony to be a farce for political purposes. It succeeded, no doubt, in getting a large number of votes, and in defeating Mr. Hedges, the Liberal candidate. However, I am not concerned with that matter now, though I was concerned at the time I took office by the fact that neither Admiral Creswell nor any one else connected, with the work knew what they were going to do. Without plans and specifications and proper preparation, great works of this kind, such as cutting channels several miles long through banks in the sea, to cost £300,000 or £400,000, cannot be carried out. Why, the dredges alone are to cost £370,000 !

Mr J H Catts - Did the officials propose to tackle the work in that way ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - Yes, they say that they had everything ready to go on; and they say also, and the Prime Minister reiterated it, that it was a waste of money to bring out Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice to advise us. Sir Maurice, who is an eminent authority and a' member of the firm of Sir JohnCoode and Company, before giving an opinion, asked for a shaft to be sunk, which, however, shows that the site is an unsuitable one, as there is no solid bottom until 80 feet is reached.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What was the purport of his report?

Sir JOHN FORREST - He suggested that there must be a shaft sunk. There was a question whether Jervoise Bay was the right place for the Base, and he decided it was, principally, I believe, because, in his opinion, it would prove the cheapest site. His report was a very fair one, though, personally, I thought a better site could be found further down the Sound, where there is deeper water right into the shore.

Mr Fisher - The right honorable gentleman not only thought so, but said so very strongly; but it is a fact that a report some years ago from the same firm supported the present site.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not think so. That report had nothing to do with a Naval Base.

Mr Fisher - I shall find the report for the right honorable member.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I forgot to mention that I asked Admiral Cresswell whether he had seen Sir John Coode's report made many years ago in regard to cutting channels through Success and Parmelia Banks, from Gage's-road into Cockburn Sound, and both he and Mr. Fanstone said he had not heard of it. I informed him that when I was Premier of Western Australia, Sir John Coode had made elaborate reports in view of an idea that was then held of constructing the harbor at Owen's Anchorage rather than at the mouth of the Swan river, and I remarked that it was extraordinary that Admiral Henderson had not been put in possession of these reports. We are now told, however, that Admiral Henderson had them, although I know as a fact that, two days after I had made these remarks, telegrams were sent by Mr. Fanstone to the officers at Cockburn Sound asking them to obtain the reports and to get them quietly and not officially. There was no need for this, however, for the reports could be obtained, and were easily procured, from the Public Works Department in Perth. If Admiral Henderson had that information, all that I can say is that Admiral Cresswell and Mr. Fanstone told me they were not aware of its existence.

Mr J H Catts - According to the right honorable gentleman's statement, the officer ought to have been "sacked" as incompetent.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I think there is a good deal of sense in the suggestion. I was of opinion, based on local knowledge and the opinion of nautical men, that further down Cockburn Sound at James' Point, or at Mangles Bay, a better site for a Naval Base would have been found, and I am of that opinion still. Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice does not say a word against that site, but that the one he recommended will prove the cheaper. If any one looks at the chart they can see that between James' Point and Mangles Bay there is one of the finest pieces of water in the world, where a ship of 50-feet draught can run right up to the shore. One thing which I think ought to have been mentioned in Sir Maurice Fitzrnaurice's report is that western gales come through Challenger Passage right into Jervoise Bay; but, however that may be, I am personally very glad he has recommended the present site, because it is closer to Fremantle.

Mr Mahon - Was there not another difficulty in regard to the other site that the right honorable gentleman suggests?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not lemember, although it is said to be open to sea from the westward.

Mr Mahon - I think the difficulty was that it would be necessary to pump up the Indian Ocean.

Sir JOHN FORREST -No, the honorable member is not well informed.

According to the newspapers it was said by the Minister of Defence the other day, and it has been reiterated by the Prime Minister to-night, that the last Fisher Government had decided that there should be a floating dock for Fremantle and Cockburn Sound. I should very much like to see the record of that decision. I have no recollection of any deliberate Ministerial recommendation that a floating dock should be substituted for a graving dock.

Mr Fisher - I cannot speak of my own knowledge as to the report, but I shall make inquiries.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I know there is a strong opinion in favour of a floating dock, but I am rather old-fashioned, and would prefer the graving dock.

Mr Fisher - So do I - a solid bottom.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I should now like to say that it is a matter of great regret to me that the system of check rolls, which was instituted by the previous Government, and which would have proved most valuable, not only to candidates and the public, but also to the Department, has been abolished by the present Government.

Mr Fisher - I think not.

Sir JOHN FORREST - There ought, I think, to be a little fellow-feeling and courtesy between the persons who leave office and those who succeed them under our form of government.

Mr Archibald - The Chief Electoral Officer did not see the necessity for it.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I have advocated this system for years, and, much to ray satisfaction, it was brought about. When the instructions were issued I was sent a copy of them. I desired to see who voted at the elections and who did not. I wished to perfect the rolls, to have an opportunity of seeing if any one had voted more than once,and generally to cleanse the rolls. I knew that there was nothing improper or unreasonable in that, because the information I wanted, and which would be available to every member of the House, could be obtained if one had scrutineers at every polling place, but we know that, whilst there are scrutineers at the principal pollingbooths, there are a great number of places all over the country where there are no scrutineers. I thought it would be far better if the Returning Officer were to prepare a check roll, of which honorable members would have an opportunity of obtaining a copy.

Mr Fisher - The idea is that the Chief Returning Officer should have a check roll and mark -off every voter.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Yes; at the present time there is no check roll at all. The papers are sent to the Returning1 Officer, and he takes the numbers, and seals the papers up, after which they are put into a box, and nothing more is seen of them. There is no means by which a candidate can ascertain who voted or who did not vote. The system in Western Australia was that the Returning Officer made a complete roll and certified that no person had voted more than once, or, if such duplications had occurred, he sent in the names and the Law officers dealt with them.

Mr Fenton - There is a check now.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Yes, but the present Government have done away with it, and we cannot get that information which we all want, and which would be very valuable to the Department also. For instance, there were 10,000 electors in my own electorate who did not vote, and if there were a check roll that circumstance could be investigated by the Department. Perhaps many of those people were dead, or had left the country; we should find out all that information.

Of course, it may be assumed that those who voted were in the country, but, inregard to those who did not vote, there should be some inquiry. No information of a secret character was. required by thisregulation. At any rate, the Chief Electoral Officer did not see anything irregular in it, and it is a rather peculiar thing that it should have been brought, under the notice of the present Minister of Home Affairs so soon after his assumption of office. Iri a letter which I shall read to the House the Chief Electoral Officer does not take any responsibility at all, but puts it all on to the Minister. This is a letter written toexSenator McColl, who was formerly administering the Department, and which has been forwarded to me in order toacquaint me with what has been done. The letter says -

In reply to your communication of the 6th- instant, I desire to inform you that the Minister has intimated to me-

The writer does not say "on ray recommendation the Minister has approved,"" but clearly says that he lias received instructions from the Minister - that it is not considered advisable to proceed* at the present juncture with the checking of the certified lists of voters used at the polling- booths, and the certified list of absent voters.

What harm could be done by havingthese certified rolls? The information is available to any candidate if he chooses to appoint scrutineers to get it, and it is very valuable to candidates, as well as to> every one else.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - You say that the Minister has prohibited the Chief Electoral Officer from giving the information?

Sir JOHN FORREST - The letter says that the Minister has intimated that he does not consider it advisable to have a check roll prepared.

Mr Archibald - That is not correct.

Mr Joseph Cook - If it is not correct, perhaps you will countermand .the order.

Sir JOHN FORREST - It seemed tome that this check roll was a move in the right direction. Every one desires the rolls to be accurate, and this was a means by which the Department could make them accurate and every member of Parliament could help also in making them accurate. Whichever way you look at the matter, there would be no undue advantage to anybody. in the system.

Mr Fenton - I understood that the scrutiny was proceeding, but without scrutineers being present.

Sir JOHN FORREST - There would be no objection to scrutineers being present. The Returning Officer has to make the scrutiny, and all the candidate can do is to get a copy of the check roll through an agent.

Mr McGrath - We want the scrutineer to be present.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Well, that could be arranged if it were thought necessary.

Mr Fisher - The Returning Officer should get a complete roll, and discover whether there were any apparent duplications or fraud. The candidate would he able to see who voted, and who did not vote.


Mr Fisher - That was not the purpose of the regulation. The intention was to ascertain if there was any duplication. I understand that Mr. Oldham had done portion of the scrutiny, and, being satisfied, did not consider it necessary to go any further.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The investigation is not for the satisfaction of the Chief Electoral Officer alone, but of every one of. us. Every candidate desires to know who has voted, and, as I have already said, it is information which he can get for himself if he cares to take the "trouble.

Mr Fisher - The trouble is that you got in on a dirty roll, and we won on a clean one.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not want a dirty roll, and I will not believe that it could possibly help the Liberal party. I have brought the matter under the Minister's notice, and I hope he will look into it.

In regard to the proposal to again introduce the Referenda Bills, I do not know what the end is going to be. We have had two referenda on these questions now, and still my honorable friends think that if they continue long enough they may win. Although the taking' of a referendum will cost £50,000, I shall be glad if it is taken at a time when there is not the excitement which accompanies a general election. I regard it as an improper procedure to have a referendum in regard to a change in the Constitution when excitement is such as it is at a general election. The elec tors are thinking about the candidates, about the rival programmes, and about the sides in politics which they themselves are taking, and they vote accordingly; they do not give that calm reasoning to the matter which I consider ought to be given to a proposed change of the Constitution. The Constitution Bill was not submitted to the people in the first instance at a time of excitement. A Convention was elected by the people, and their work was referred to the people by referendum. To my mind, this plan of making Constitution alerations a party matter is not conducive to the Constitution being wisely amended. The alteration of the Constitution should be nonparty, and should be considered in a calm and judicial way by a Convention elected for the purpose, and then the matter should be referred to the people as the Constitution itself was referred. If we continue in this haphazard way, making our Consitution alterations dependent on the chance vote of a temporary majority, I do not know where we shall get to. I hope that that may not occur. I am in favour of the submission of proposed alterations of the Constitution at times other than a general election.

Mr J H Catts - The right honorable gentleman submitted the financial agreement proposal at the time of a general election, and made it a party question.

Sir JOHN FORREST - That did not contemplate so serious an alteration of the Constitution as is now proposed, and I think that it was understood, when the Constitution was framed, that the procedure we followed was that which would be adopted. I took a part in the framing of the Constitution.

Mr Archibald - But the right honorable member did not consider it perfect.

Sir JOHN FORREST - No. Still we should be careful about altering it, lest we commit a breach of faith with the parties to Federation. The people of the States were talked into Federation by their leaders, thinking that it would be a good thing, and federated in accordance with the terms set out in the Constitution. It would not be fair to them to destroy the foundation of their rights without their consent.

Mr Archibald - The Constitution cannot be altered without the consent of a majority of the States.

Sir JOHN FORREST - An alteration of the Constitution might be pronosed which would be disadvantageous to two States; but the votes of those States would not prevail against that of a majority of the States and a majority of the people voting.

Mr Yates - The States federated on the understanding that the Constitution could bc altered.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Yes; but they expected fair play, not drastic, point-of-the-bayonet invasion of their rights.

Mr Archibald - There must be majority rule or Kaiser rule.

Sir JOHN FORREST - We ought to be careful not to coerce a State into a change of Constitution of which it may not approve.

Mr Archibald - I do not understand how one State could be affected prejudicially without the other States being similarly affected by any proposed change of the Constitution.

Sir JOHN FORREST - An isolated State like Western Australia might be so affected. The volume of business being greater in the eastern States, freight from Europe to Fremantle used to be, and probably is now, dearer than freight from Europe to Sydney, even on a steamer which called at Fremantle on its way to Sydney. Many proposals might affect the small States prejudicially, and yet bo to the advantage of the large States. The Labour party has determined to destroy the autonomy of the States to a large extent. Its referendum proposals tend to Unification.

Mr Archibald - We desire that national affairs shall be within the control of the National Parliament.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The Constitution was framed so that national affairs might be controlled by the National Parliament, and local affairs by the local Parliaments. I have fought these proposals on two occasions, and shall probably fight them again; but they are rather matters for the State authorities. If the State authorities do not desire Unification and the destruction or weakening of their autonomy, they must fight those proposals more vigorously than they did in the past. All over Western Australia I have asked from the plat form this question : " Can any one present tell me how he has suffered through the Commonwealth not having sufficient power?" To that question I have never received an answer, though some have said that they had suffered through the Commonwealth having too much power.

Mr J H Catts - What about the differential freights of which the honorable member has spoken ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - The Commonwealth Government could not do more in that, matter than the States could do.

We are promised an amendment of the electoral law. I am not hopeful of getting much from my friends opposite. I trust, however, that in the Bil] to be introduced there will be ample provisions for the purification of the rolls, and drastic and effective provisions for the prevention and punishment of wrong-doing. There were no complaints in Western Australia regarding the conduct of the last election, but at the preceding election there were many complaints.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (INDI, VICTORIA) - The Liberal party got in on the unclean roll's.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Then it was the Labour party, which was in power for three years previously, that made them unclean. No one opposite seems inclined to find fault when names are on the roll, even when they are wrongly there.

Mr McGrath - We had a clean roll, and we won.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Even when-, names are wrongly on the roll my friends opposite seem to wish them to remain there. My experience in this House, from the speeches of honorable members opposite, is that they do not want clean rolls. The Liberal party, on the contrary, want the rolls to be purified, and we want wrong-doing dealt with drastically.

Paragraph 7 of the Speech states -

Upon the declaration of war the Australian^ Navy was immediately placed at the disposal of the Admiralty.

That was done, but it was not this Government that did it. It was the previous Government, although I have no doubt the present Government would have done the same thing. Paragraph 7 goes too far in saying -

By its presence and activity these waters have been kept clear of the enemy's ships, and our maritime commerce has been continued uninterrupted; thus amply vindicating the policy of an Australian Navy.

I do not think that is quite a generous statement. Our Fleet, no doubt, has done its duty as well as it could, although it is not very numerous. It is, however, ungenerous not to mention that the British Fleet and the Fleets of the Allies have kept our commerce open to all ports of the world. Any one would think, on reading that statement, that it was owing to our ships alone that our maritime commerce had been continued uninterrupted, and that this amply vindicated the Australian naval policy. The Australian Navy has had very little to do with keeping open our commerce with the rest of the world up to the present. I am willing to give our Fleet as much credit as possible, but I do not want to be ungenerous to the Fleets of " Great Britain and her Allies, which have really kept our maritime commerce uninterrupted, nor do I think that the Fleet of our Empire and the Fleets of our Allies, in keeping our maritime commerce uninterrupted, have in any way had anything whatever to do with vindicating the Australian naval policy. I am sorry to hear some difference of opinion as to who was responsible for the establishment of the Navy. It is not a question of opinion, but of facts, and those who do not know the facts ought to find them out. There is not the slightest doubt that the Liberal Government ordered the Australia, and also passed a Bill, about which we have been jeered at ever since, to raise £3,500,000 to provide, not only for that ship, but for the other ships in the Squadron. Paragraph 7 would have read better if couched in terms like these -

The presence in Australian waters of His Majesty's ship Australia, and other ships of war of our fleet ordered and arranged for by our predecessors, has been of the greatest advantage in keeping our coasts clear of the enemy's ships, and ' our maritime commerce has continued uninterrupted by reason of the strong arm of the fleets of theMotherland and her Allies.

That would have been the truth.

I quite agree with the Prime Minister that this is not the time to discuss the financial position. When we have the Budget speech, as we shall have in a few days, it will be time for us to discuss it. Even then, I think, we shall all feel some diffidence in discussing it, because we do not want to say anything to interfere with or minimize our credit. We want at all times all the credit we can get; and especially is that so at the present time and until the end of the war. An enormous amount will be required to keep the Commonwealth and States going. The Prime Minister as Treasurer will tell us how he proposes to do it, and I am sure we shall not be inclined to cavil unduly, for we know the great difficulty which confronts him. There is no doubt the note issue will be most useful. I make that statement unreservedly, because there seems to be an impression that I and other members of the Liberal party were opposed to the note issue. I was not, and I think the Liberal party voted for it.

Mr Archibald - You had a Bill drafted, did you not, and could not get your colleagues to agree to it?

Sir JOHN FORREST - The Labour party is "ploughing with my heifer." I proposed to introduce the Bill in the session of 1909 before we went out, but there were some difficulties at the time. The whole of the information is at the Treasury. I had consulted the financiers of England in regard to it, including the governor of the Bank of England, Lord Goschen, Lord Revelstoke, and others, and their confidential advice is on the Treasury files. The note issue is a very easy way of obtaining currency for a short time. I do not see why honorable members opposite should try to discredit me or other members of this party on the question. There is no reason for saying that I was not in favour of or opposed to the note issue in any way.

Mr J H Catts - I think we shall have to look up the division lists.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable member can look them up, and if he asks the Treasurer he can see the files.

Mr J H Catts - I think we shall find that your vote was against it in this House.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable member does not know anything about it. One thing in regard to which I am afraid my right honorable friend the Treasurer will find a difficulty is the exaggerated ideas that . his friends and my friends also have in regard to his resources. They seem to think that he has an immense stock of notes available for any one who wants them, and that they can come along and get as much money as they want whenever they require it. When I stated in the press that I hoped that all the States and banks that the Commonwealth was anxious to help would be as economic and as moderate in their demands as possible, because even the resources of the Commonwealth were not unlimited, the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Scaddan, said, "That is all nonsense." The notes do not belong to the Federal Treasurer. They belong to us, and he is charging us 4 per cent, for those notes which cost him nothing. We ought not to have to pay anything." One of the things charged against me during the elections was that I asked the Western Australian Government to repay £200, DOO which had been lent to them by my predecessor. As Treasurer, I needed the money, and I gave the States six months' notice, not only Western Australia, but all the States. I wanted the money for Federal expenditure. Yet I was charged by the Premier of Western Australia with acting because of spite. It was charged against me by the Labour party in Western Australia that I did not need the money, and that the money was lying idle in the Commonwealth Treasury. It was a case of abusing the Commonwealth Treasurer for doing his duty. I think the present Treasurer will find the same thing occurring to him, and that he will have to do or say something to these people to put them into a more reasonable frame of mind . The popular view is that there is no limit to the issue of a paper currency, and the thought never occurs to people to say anything about a gold backing. While no doubt we have a great deal of trouble in front of us, I hope, with the Prime Minister, that no matter on what side of the House we sit, we will remember that we have to look after the interests of the country, and I hope that we will remember that, and be patriotic and forbearing

Mr Fisher - You might give your views as to people carrying as many notes as they can and giving up the gold.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I always used gold, but now I ask for notes. I think the banks should issue notes only.

Mr Fisher - The people are carrying £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in gold in their pockets.

Sir JOHN FORREST - They should use notes.

I should like to refer to the difference- * in price between British consols and Australian Inscribed Stock. The Australian credit in London is always 10 per centworse than British consols.

Mr Fisher - That is because we havenot one stock.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am aware that that may be so, but it does not alter the fact that 3 per cent, consols bring JJ 10 per 100 more in London than Australians stock of the same rate and currency. We should give full consideration to thisfact in order to ascertain if it can beutilized to the advantage of Australia at the present time. In 1906 I went toLondon at my own expense to see what the people of England thought of the consolidation of our debts, and I took a lot of trouble about this matter. I interviewed some of the great financiers, the Bank of England, the London and Westminster Bank, Lord Goschen, Lord Revelstoke, the head of Barings, and several others.- I was very friendly with the Secretary of the Treasury, Sir Edward Hamilton, a very eminent man, and the right-hand man of Mr.. Goschen when he converted the National Debt of England. We had a long talkabout the matter, and as I expressed a desire to see Mr. Asquith, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Edward Hamilton arranged an interview between me and Mr. Asquith. At that interview I told Mr. Asquith that Australians did not. wish to make any money out of him, because we were able to pay our own way,, but that I would like to know whether the British Government would guarantee our conversion of £300,000,000 if we arranged! to spend the saving, which would be about £30,000,000, on the defence of the Empire. I pointed out that it would cost the British Treasury nothing, and that the responsibility would be nominal. I thought it rather a good patriotic idea. I thought that if we could get the money at a price considerably lower than we obtain it ordinarily we could put it into the defence of the Empire, and I pointed out clearly that it was not only in our interest that I was asking the Chancellor to help us in this conversion, but that the money would be spent on the defence of the Empire; because, though Australia would probably have some of the defence expenditure, it would all be in the interests of the Empire. However, I am sorry to say that Mr. Asquith was not sympathetic; in fact, he was a little worse, and be soon knocked all the enthusiasm out of me by saying that the British Government had enough to do to get money for itself. I again repeated to him that -Australia was able to pay her own way, and that my suggestion was based primarily on Imperial advantage. Though I dropped the matter then, I think there is a good deal of sound business in my proposal.

Mr Archibald - You would hot consider Mr. Asquith a good financier?

SirJOHN FORREST. - At any rate, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time. The idea is worth considering just now, when we are spending immense sums of money, along with other portions of the Empire, in the defence of the Empire. It is a pity that we cannot devise -some means of saving some of this £10 per cent., and thus have more money for defence purposes. I wish Mr. Chamberlain had been in good health at the time, so that I might have consulted him. I am sure he "would not have been so unsympathetic had he been Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am sure that he would have said to me, as he once said, "It is of no use shrinking and peddling nowadays. Those who wish to succeed must risk something, and courage finds it own reward."

Mr Fisher - Does the honorable member think that his idea is possible until -we have one stock for the whole of Australia?

Suggest corrections