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- Start of Business
- SUPPLY BILL (No. 1)
- CANBERRA CAPITAL SITE
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH : ADDRE SS-IN-RE PLY
Tuesday, 9 July 1907
Mr MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) . - We have heard much of musty parliamentary usages, and I desire to say at the outset that I am pleased to find still prevailing the custom which requires of old members that they shall extend special consideration to the newcomers. I have observed, however, that some honorable members new to the House are not disposed to be so gracious to their more experienced fellow representatives. From my point of view the question of the Tariff, with which we shall shortly be invited to deal, is one of the greatest importance to the Commonwealth. Around it is wrapped the whole question of reform, as well as the problem of what financial arrangement shall take the place of the Braddon section, and until we have determined whether the Tariff shall be merely revenue-producing or one granting industrial protection we cannot hope to grapple effectively with the financial difficulties that confront us. It seems to me that when we are called upon to determine what shall be the Tariff for Australia we shall find many members of the Opposition advocating, as they did some time ago, the imposition of direct taxation. I remember certain addresses delivered some years ago by the honorable and learned member for Flinders in which he favoured land taxation, and which I keenly appreciated. For some time, however, he has remained silent in respect to that question ; but it seems to me that with the settlement of the Tariff, the Treasurer, when looking around for further means of producing revenue, will find it necessary to propose the imposition of land taxation. I sincerely trust that the new. Tariff, instead of being as the present one is, merely revenueproducing, will be such as will afford industrial protection. It is idle to tell the workers of Australia that we are passing through a period of unprecedented prosperity. The leader of the Opposition declared this evening that the trade of Great Britain had gone ahead by leaps and bounds - that its export trade had advanced to the extent of £60,000,000 during the last three years - but I ask what is the use of telling the worker in England of the great advance which its export trade has made if the improvement in his own individual conditions have not been commensurate with it. And so I ask honorable members what good purpose can be served by telling the workers of Australia that during the last few years a great wave of prosperity has passed over the land, and that all the States have had magnificent surpluses, unless we can at the same time show that the workers have participated in those surpluses? The fact that our shops may be filled with choice meats and enticing confections is nothing to the worker and his family if he has not the wherewithal to purchase them. I am a representative of a large industrial constituency, and sincerely hope that the implied intention of the Ministry to give the country not merely a revenue:producing Tariff, but one conferring industrial protection upon the people, will be carried into effect. During the debate I have heard several references to the manufacture of starch. I am rather sorry that the representative of starch is not at present in the House. It has been hurled at protectionists time after time that many of the protected industries pay very small wages, and that, therefore, protection is useless to the workers. I agree with that statement, and I may inform protectionists in the House.-especially in view of the conditions existing in the starch trade, that unless a living wage is given to those employed in that or any other protected industry, I shall vote free-trade every time. It is useless for anybody to tell me that an industry, I care not what industry, will not pay a Jiving wage. If an industry is worthy of protection, it should properly remunerate the workers engaged in it; and unless a living wage is paid I shall take the risk of losing my seat by voting freetrade whenever an opportunity occurs. We have heard hard words used in reference to the two Ministers who represented Australia at the Imperial Conference. Those Ministers, perhaps meaning well, went Home with the idea of bringing about certain relations between Australia and the old country. Their good intentions in this respect were not reciprocated ; and I suppose they are now satisfied that if the people of England do not desire preferential trade, it is not our place to foist it on them. As a protectionist. I object to the further importation of manufactured articles which has the result of keeping our artisans out of work, and that being so, it is only human that I should not wish to see our food products exported in large quantities to the old world, if the effect there would be to cause the British working man to pay higher prices for his eatables. I think the British people are themselves the best judges as to whether preferential trade would or would not be beneficial to them. While I listened to the castigation which certain honorable members have administered to our representatives at the Imperial Conference, in consequence of their political utterances while in England, it struck me as peculiar that the only bond between themselves and the political party with which their names were connected there was that they both were protectionists. Honorable members seem to lose sight of the fact that those politicians, who were in harmony with our representatives on the question of preferential trade, were really the Tories of the old world. I am very sorry to see the question of old-age pensions so lightly touched on in His Excellency's Speech.
Mr McDonald - That question has been touched on in every GovernorGeneral's Speech.
Mr MATHEWS - That is so; and we now look to the Government for a consummation of our desires in some 'comprehensive system of old-age pensions applying to the whole of Australia. Of course, it is essential that the wherewithal should be obtained for the purpose, and. in this connexion, I could not help smiling when the leader of the Labour Party pointed out to the Government that the revenue would hardly be. sufficient to cover the expense of taking over the Northern Territory and carrying out the railway and other large schemes which have been mentioned. If the revenue is not sufficient to enable us to carry out our enlarged Federal functions, what chance can there be of earmarking a portion in order to carry out the essential reform of a Federal scheme of old-age pensions - a scheme under which pensions will not be doled out as they are in one State, as a sort of charity, and in another State in a not much more satisfactory manner, while in four States there are no old-age pensions at all ? Old-age pensions should not be left at the will of any future Government, in view of what occurred in Victoria, when a Government, which had no sympathy with the policy, deprived a portion of the aged poor of that assistance to which they were entitled. I hope that Commonwealth old-age pensions when established will be made a charge on the revenue for ever, so that the pensioners may not be exposed to such a risk as that to which I have alluded. We have been told that defence is a question which we must consider. I do not know whether the fact that the Military Barracks are in my constituency makes me a military man, but, in common with others, I am of opinion that we ought to regard the matter of defence much more seriously in the future than in the past. We are told in many quarters that the Australian will not take his part in the defence of the Empire. But my belief is that the Australian, if he be given something to fight for, will fight just as strenuously as the citizen of any other nation. It will never be necessary in Australia to have a compulsory form of service. It is very apparent to me that if the Governments of the past had given any inducement to the youths of Australia to join the Defence Forces they would have been joining in larger numbers to-day. In Victoria for some .years past there has been a system of training cadets in schools. The Government paid the cost of the training, and the parents found the uniforms ; but after leaving school, in order to earn their own living, all the training was lost because of an' absence of any method by which a youth might become a senior cadet, and then find his way into an adult force of some real value in the defence of the Empire. As to the senior cadets in Victoria, instead of inducing youths to join, there seems to have been more of an endeavour to deter them as much as possible, each cadet being called upon to pay for his own uniform. That is not the way to induce the young men of Australia to take part in the defence of the country. As to naval defence, we have been told during the course of the debate that it would be impossible for us, a handful of people, to create a fleet or a land force sufficient to defend Australia from any enemy who desired to land here.
Mr McDonald - Major-General Hutton said it would be impossible for an enemy to land here.
Mr MATHEWS - Major-General Hutton is a gentleman who did not learn his soldiering in Australia, and I know that many are of opinion that the Australian soldier is unfit to take his stand amongst the soldiers of the world. Major-General Hutton came here with a great flourish of trumpets, and he assured us that we were so far from the base of supplies of any foreign country, that it would be impossible for an enemy to effectively occupy Australia for any considerable time. We know that a handful of (people, no more numerous than is the population of Tasmania, held the whole of the British Forces at a disadvantage for a long while, and it took the whole of the mercantile marine of Great Britain to supply soldiers, forage, food and war material during the Boer war. Yet, in spite of what Major-General Hutton said, we are told that some nation could so attack us that we could in no conceivable way defend ourselves. I believe, in common with many others, that it is quite possible for the defence of Australia to be effectively maintained by the Fleet which is at. present in Australian waters being employed in the Indian Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean. As a general matter of warfare, it matters little if one portion of the Empire suffers considerably as long as the outcome of the war is that we are successful. . We know that there is little lamentation on account of loss of life in any battle so long as the result is satisfactory. But while we in Australia are not more selfish than are the people of any other portion of the Empire, still, we do not wish to be put into such a position that we shall suffer considerably by having our ports bombarded and out cities perhaps held up to ransom. Therefore we should be prepared for the defence of our shores by having a mosquito fleet of our own. I agree that it would be impossible for us at present to bring into operation a large Australian fleet. Our purse would not be long enough for that. But by starting on small lines and building by instalments, we might have a fleet quite sufficient for Australia's present needs. I suppose we shall be told by those who do not believe in encouraging Australian manufactures that it is quite an Utopian idea to think that we shall be able to build our own submarines and torpedo boats. But for my own part, I believe that in time we shall have dock-yards sufficient to build for ourselves cruisers large enough to meet Australia's requirements. In my opinion, it is useless to think of solving our defence problem unless we determine that the whole of the munitions of war and armaments for our ships, as well as for our land Forces, shall be produced in Australia. We are so far from the markets of the old world that in time of war we shall necessarily be thrown on our own resources. It is therefore necessary for us to prepare to manufacture for ourselves all that is required for defence purposes. The question of the Federal Capital has been mentioned. It was a surprise to me, as a new member of this Parliament, that the question should be raised again. I am aware that it suits the purposes of certain Sydney politicians to raise it, but it is not a matter with which New South Wales as a whole is much concerned, because that State cannot be injured in any way by the Capital being situated in one portion of New South Wales h preference to another. I quite agree that the prestige of Sydney may be affected, or perhaps there mav be commercial advantages 'from having the Capital situated in a place that may suit the Sydney people. But certain members of the State Parliament in Sydney think they can derive political advantage by raising a cry about the Federal Capital. Although I am new to this Parliament, I have unfortunately taken part in a few political fights, and know perfectly well the force of a cry that appeals to the people of a particular electorate during a campaign, even though it may not be of much interest to the State at large. I am of opinion that the people of New South Wales as a whole are not so much concerned about the Federal Capital as many Sydney representatives would have us believe. It is not my intention to occupy the time of the House any longer. I felt it to be desirable that, as a new member, I should make an attempt to get my " sealegs," so to speak, so that I might address the House more comfortably on any future occasion when I may have to discuss any question.
Colonel FOXTON(Brisbane) .- It was not my intention to address the House on this motion, and I should not have done so except that I desire to put matters right in regard to a couple of questions, one of which affects me personally, whilst the other affects the State from which I come. Before touching upon those questions, however, I should like to add my tribute of congratulation to the Prime Minister upon the remarkable effect which his orations have had in the old country. As was remarked by the honorable member for Flinders, the position he attained there by his oratory must have forwarded- the great scheme of preferential trade which he has :,o much at heart. Placed as the hon- 01 able gentleman was, being called upon to undergo such strenuous labour by the demands of his official duties at the Conference, and at the same time having to attend to the obligations imposed upon him in connexion with social affairs, it was marvellous to me that he was able to get through so much work as he did. I think it must be admitted, also, that he created for us a very excellent feeling among the British people. I desire to express my extreme regret - and I am sure that it is shared by every member of the House - that the honorable gentleman should not be able to be present, and that the debate should therefore have been- shorn of one of its principal points of interest ; because I feel confident that honorable members in all parts of the House were extremely desirous of hearing what the Prime Minister, had to say in regard to what he did in the old country. The first point' to which I wish to refer is in relation to an interjection which I made while the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was speaking. He expressed himself as being of opinion that the immigrants now being brought into Australia for the purpose of relieving the stress in the sugar industry were in future likely to come into competition with workers in other branches of industry when their agreements in that connexion had expired, or possibly during the off-season, when their services are not required in the sugar industry. I interjected that that could not be said of kanakas. The honorable member appeared to be of the opinion that because I interjected to that effect I therefore desired, in common with other honorable members who have been returned to this Parliament, and sit on this side of the House, to induce the Federal Parliament, if possible, to retrace its policy in regard to the exclusion of kanakas. That was not my idea at all. No matter what their views may have been in regard to the particular legislation to which I have alluded, Queenslanders as a whole have loyally accepted the decision that the kanakas have to go, and those of them who are interested in the sugar industry, in which the kanakas were employed, are doing their very best to overcome the undoubted difficulties with which they are faced, as a result of their deportation.
Mr Frazer - The honorable member will admit that I accepted his assurance, and that of the honorable member for Oxley on that point.
Colonel FOXTON.- Quite so, but lest the little dialogue between us should be misunderstood elsewhere, I desired to put myself right in regard to that matter. I should like to add that, although Queensland loyally accepts the verdict of Australia on this question, it is not without the display in connexion with that legislation of a certain amount of derision, almost of amusement, if the matter were not so serious a one for Northern Queensland I have no hesitation in saving that of all the coloured people to be found within the limits of Australia at this moment, or at any time during the last five or ten years, the kanaka is the least objectionable. I can say that after many years' experience in Queensland of various coloured races. Numbers of the kanakas were Christians, and very sincere Christians, and they set an excellent example to many white people. The kanaka was confined to the industry for which he was imported, under later Queensland legislation, at all events, and that legislation was very strictly' enforced. He did not come into competition with workers in other industries, and while he has been deported, there have been left i'n our midst, speaking roughly, ten times as many coloured people who, as regards their habits, religion, and everything else, are infinitely more objectionable. That is why I say that in Queensland that particular legislation by the Commonwealth Parliament has been regarded with a considerable amount of derision.
Mr Frazer - That would not seem to indicate that the planters of Northern Queensland are desirous of meeting the views of the people of Australia.
Colonel FOXTON. - Undoubtedly they accept the decision which has been come to by the Federal Parliament. They cannot do anything else, though I have no doubt that a great many of them would like to see the kanaka back again.
Mr Frazer - Does it not seem to indicate that, having got rid of the kanaka, they are trying to get a more objectionable alien to take his place?
Colonel FOXTON.- In the person of the Spaniard?
Mr Frazer - No. I was alluding to Indians.
Colonel FOXTON.- They cannot come into Australia. There are some already here, and if they cannot find lucrative employment in other industries, I have little doubt that they will seek employment in the sugar industry as soon as the period for the payment of the bonus expires, and they will be no better than the kanaka was for the production of sugar. I was one of those who, as far back as 1883, were returned to the State Parliament of Queensland, pledged to get rid of the kanaka as far as it was then possible to do so. We passed an Act which provided that at the expiration of five years from the time at which it was passed, no more kanakas were to be introduced into Queensland. At the expiration of that period it was brought home to all of us who had supported that measure of exclusion that the sugar industry was going to be very seriously hampered by it. Almost to a man, those who had voted for it recanted, and fresh legislation was introduced under which provision was made for limiting the employment of the kanaka strictly to the sugar- industry. That provision has been faithfully carried out. When we in the Queensland Parliament adopted a measure of exclusion, we had a justification for our action which could not be urged by the Federal Parliament, and that was that in the recruiting of the kanakas hideous abuses had been rife. By later legislation, those abuses were remedied, and ceased from that time forward, and to describe the system of employment then adopted as slavery would be ridiculous, because the men introduced under it thoroughly understood their rights and privileges. I have no wish to weary the House with this matter, and I mention it merely in order to set myself right in regard to it. The other question to which I should like to refer is that of the mail contract. A good deal has been said about the muddle into which the matter has been allowed to get. I am sure there must be very few in the House who are not heartily thankful, as I have no doubt the Government are, that the difficulties in connexion with the proposed contract have been terminated. The honorable member for Flinders has anticipated me in connexion with one point which I had noted as being well worthy of consideration by the Government, if it were not too late. That was in regard to imposing a restriction upon the contractors against entering into any contract with a State which would give that State a financial control over their operations. During the speech of the honorable member for Flinders, the PostmasterGeneral interjected that such a restriction would probably interfere with the right of a State to contract for special services such as those which have been rendered to Queensland by the Orient Steam Navigation Company. But, as was explained by the honorable member, that was not at all the idea which we had in mind. While on this subject, I should- like to appeal to the sense of fairness and justice of honorable members, and ask whether it does not seem that the position in which Queensland has found herself under the present contract is an unenviable one, and one which this Parliament should remedy as soon as possible in any new contract which is made. In order to induce the Orient Steam Navigation Company to send their steamers to Pinkenba wharf, on the Brisbane River, just below Brisbane, Queensland has had to pay the company a sum of £26,000 a year, less £5,000 found by the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Flinders pointed out most justly that it is in part only a contract for the carriage of mails, and is in part - and I think I shall be able to show the greater part - a contract for the supply of cold storage for the carriage of a particular kind of produce.
Mr Austin Chapman - There is nothing in the conditions regarding that.
Colonel FOXTON.-No, but I am going to refer to a speech made in the last session of the last Parliament by the Prime Minister. He said, referring to the £125,000 which was to have been paid to Messrs. Laing and Sons under the contract which has just been annulled, that of that amount ,£45,000 might be regarded as the subsidy for the carriage of mails, and that the odd £80,000 might be regarded as for a mercantile service. If I remember rightly, the honorable gentleman added: - "In the same way as France and Germany give subsidies to their mercantile marine. ' '
Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And he pointed out that the £80,000 would be 2 per cent, on the capital required, which was estimated at £4,000,000.
Colonel FOXTON. - Yes. That being so, and seeing that Queensland would have had to pay its share of that £80,000 a year if the contract had been carried through, it is only right and fair, although I admit that Brisbane, a great commercial centre, 600 miles beyond Sydney, is isolated, that the tenders should be called in such a way as to make it compulsory that the steamers should call at Brisbane.
Mr Storrer - Would the honorable member include Tasmania?
Colonel FOXTON.- I understand that it is not so essential to Tasmania that the steamers should call there, at least not all the year round. As a matter of fact, I understand that Tasmania is excellently served by certain of the mail steamers or subsidiary steamers which call there in the apple season, and that the service is perfectly satisfactory.
Mr Storrer - A service which the Tasmanians have to pav for.
Colonel FOXTON. - All they have to pay for is freight, whereas not only have the Queenslanders to pay for freight, but their State has to pay £21,000 a year in addition. That is what I complain of, and if the service is to be a mercantile service to the extent, as is admitted, of twothirds of its value, as distinguished from a mail service, then each State, according to its needs, should have some recognition in regard to the ports at which the steamers should be compelled to call. I sincerely trust that in these circumstances, now that alternative tenders have been called, when those tenders are considered, this matter will receive due consideration at the hands of the Postmaster-General and his colleagues, and that those tenders which provide for the steamers to call at Brisbane will be the ones to receive acceptance at their hands.
Mr Austin Chapman - We will not neglect Queensland.
Colonel FOXTON.- I am glad to testify here that I am satisfied in my ownmind that the Postmaster-General is distinctly sympathetic towards us. He told* us so, and I believe he meant what he said. But we want more than sympathy.
Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Queensland wantsthe boats.
Colonel FOXTON.- We want the boats. I know the Postmaster-General is most sympathetic, but a man can be sympathetic, and his interest end there. What we want is that the honorable gentleman should put his sympathy into practice.
Mr Austin Chapman - We are keeping our eye on the boats, too.
Mr Reid - The Government's trouble isthat the boats are not built.
Colonel FOXTON.- I wish to touch on a matter to which I have given considerableattention, and which I notice is mentioned" in the Governor-General's Speech in what seems a somewhat half-hearted way. I allude to the transfer of the Northern Terri- tory. I notice that, instead of this matter being put first in the paragraph which deals with it, the fact is first mentioned that the Members of Parliament who went to the Territory must have enjoyed themselves very much, and that, no doubt, the information they gained would be of great value when Parliament considered the proposed transfer. The paragraph in the GovernorGeneral's Speech is as follows: -
As my visit to the Northern Territory was of the deepest interest to me, I feel confident that the tour of inspection made by Members of the Parliament must prove of great value in your deliberations upon its proposed transfer.
I have no doubt it will. I found it of great value myself. I was contemplating going there, knowing what was depending, and I was exceedingly glad to make the trip. I learnt a great deal ; but on going into them I found the figures somewhat startling. I discovered that the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, which it is- proposed by the agreement that the Commonwealth should take over and pay for at first cost, cost £2,318,242. Although I cannot gather it from the reports of the South Australian Railways Commissioner, which seem to be constructed in such a way that it shall not be possible for any one to find out the deficit on any particular line - and in that respect they differ from those of some of the other States - I have it from writers from the South Australian point of view that the annual deficit on the working of the line is £82,000. We start with that. Then there is the debt of the Northern Territory to be taken over. That is still more startling, for I find that with a population, so far as I can gather from statistics, of about 3,300 persons throughout the whole Territory, about two-thirds of whom are Asiatics, leaving about 1,100 Europeans - men, women, and children - the debt due by the Northern Territory is not less than £3,217,500. Those are the figures as I have them from the official records, but in the correspondence which preceded the provisional agreement, I saw it stated by Mr. Price, the Premier of South Australia, that the debt was not less than £3,400,000. I do not know how he makes that out. At al! events that community occupies the unique position of having a public debt of over £1,000 per head, which is unprecedented, I should imagine, in the history of the world, more especially when we consider that two-thirds of the population are Asiatics. We are told, however, " That is all right; there is nothing extraordinary about it. The land is worth so much. Put it at an absolutely nominal sum, and it is sufficient to cover the debt." I have always understood that the security of a public creditor was not the desert, unoccupied land, but the capacity of the population upon that land to pay the interest upon the debt. I find that there is a deficit of not less than £140,000 a year in the finances of the Territory, so that, adding the deficit of £82,000 a year on the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway, we get a deficit of something like £225,000 a year for the Commonwealth to take over on the transfer of the Territory. A great deal has been said about defence in connexion with the alleged necessity for taking over the Territory. I, for one, think that is a bogy. I venture to say that if an enemy were to land at Port Darwin he might be able to do some damage at Port Darwin, and to the railway and the railway works there, but it would be an absolute trap for him so long as there were any British vessels afloat which could intercept his supplies from his base of operations. The same thing can be said of a number of harbors on the northern and northwestern coasts of Australia, where an enemy might land with equal facility. Why not defend all those places? Why spend all this money for the purpose of defending an isolated spot on the northern coast, where there happens to be congregated together a mere handful of people, because 3,300 persons constitute the population of the whole Territory, with an area of 531,400 square miles, being about four-fifths of the area of Queensland. Why not, for instance, take steps to defend Cape York Peninsula in Queensland? An enemy could land there just as easily as, possibly more easily than, at the other place. I think that the proposal to take over the Northern Territory for the purpose of defending it is not sound. In addition to that we have the Commonwealth bound down under the agree" ment to construct a railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. The distance by the telegraph line is about 1,100 miles. Possibly the railway would have to be deviated, because the telegraph line goes over ranges where the railway could not be taken. The greater portion of the line would run through what is practically a desert. I notice that although provision is made by which the railway can be taken north from Hergott Springs through Queensland, by. way of Birdsville, and then away to the
Northern Territory, that would involve a considerable detour, and increase the length of line, thus increasing the cost of construction to, say, £5,000 a mile, which I fancyis a fair estimate, and making a total cost of £S)500>000- The Commonwealth, therefore, would have to "face an expenditure of no less than £11,000,000, if it fulfilled its obligations.
Mr McDonald - If they went by that way they would have to go over 100 miles of flooded country.
Colonel FOXTON. - I believe so. When the Treasurer was in Queensland the other day, he was interviewed on this subject. He said that the possibility of connecting Pine Creek with the Queensland system had not been brought under his notice by the Queensland members. He also stated that he was in favour of the direct line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, but advocated the construction of a line from Hergott Springs to Birdsville and Cloncurry, when the matter of facilities afforded by Queensland for rapid communication had been suggested to him.
Sir John Forrest - I do not think I made the first part of that statement. I said it was not in the proposal.
Colonel FOXTON. - I have a report of the interview here.
Sir John Forrest - We all approved of joining on to the Queensland system.
Colonel FOXTON.- I know that I am right in what I have said.
Mr Reid - Is it part pf the transfer that the Commonwealth is to build that long railway ?
Mr McDonald - Yes.
Mr Reid - If that is so, good-bye to the transcontinental railway. We cannot take on two jobs like that.
Colonel FOXTON.- This is what the Treasurer is reported to have said at the interview : -
The proposal had not been brought under his notice by the Queensland representatives in the Federal Parliament.
Sir John Forrest - Of course, when you got to Cloncurry, you would be connected with the Queensland system?
Colonel FOXTON.- I will go a little further back. It says: -
The matter of the proposed transcontinental railway was then mentioned. Sir John Forrest did not appear to have given any thought to the proposal to link up the Queensland lines, and so by a comparatively small Federal expenditure secure a transcontinental line through the best part of Australia. The proposal, he said, had not been brought under his notice by the Queensland representatives in the Federal Parliament.
Sir John Forrest - That is all nonsense. The press put that in themselves.
Colonel FOXTON. - I am not complaining of the right honorable member, but leading up to an argument which I intend to use.
Sir John Forrest - A railway from Hergott Springs to Cloncurry would link up the Queensland system.
Colonel FOXTON.- That is right.
He did not consider such a Une would be national in character, to the same extent as the proposed line through the Northern Territory north and south. It would not be a Commonwealth line or under the control of the Commonwealth. He believed that if a line were constructed from Pine Creek, thence along the shores of the Gulf, connecting with Cloncurry and southwards vid Cooper's Creek and Hergott Springs, it would open up valuable mineral country and grazing lands. It could be connected with all the existing trunk lines of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and would constitute a great national central line. It would cost a few millions, certainly, but Sir John Forrest indicated that he did not consider the amount anything to be alarmed at. He thought it would pay ; railways always paid.
That is not our experience.
Sir John Forrest - They have made Queensland what it is.
Colonel FOXTON.- Yes j but the lines do not all pay.
He had carried out a good deal of railway construction in Western Australia, and it had always paid. He was opposed to the proposal to build a line from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek.
That is the point I wished to make, and the right honorable member proposed then to connect with Cloncurry.
Sir John Forrest - That was right.
Colonel FOXTON.-That seems to me to give the whole show away. If he and his colleagues are in favour of that line there is no need for them to go to Cloncurry. They would only have to bring their railway to Camooweal. Queensland does not ask the Commonwealth to construct a railway into its territory. It would be necessary to build 120 miles of railway to get to Cloncurry.
Sir John Forrest - We do not actually mean Cloncurry.
Colonel FOXTON.- I only cite what the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said.
Sir John Forrest - How can I know exactly where it will go? I only meant in that direction.
Colonel FOXTON.- Once the Commonwealth connected with the Queensland system where would be the necessity to run a line from Cloncurry to Hergott Springs when we would have a main trunk line through Queensland to give direct connexion with the largest population to be found in Australia?
Sir John Forrest - That is part of the bargain which South Australia asks the Commonwealth to make.
Colonel FOXTON.- That is why the proposal ought to be rejected. The right honorable gentleman admitted that he had not considered this matter.
Sir John Forrest - I had considered it long ago.
Colonel FOXTON.- That is a remarkable admission to be made by a member of the Government which proposes that this House shall ratify a contract which would commit the Commonwealth to an expenditure of £11,000,000 when the Northern Territory and the Oodnadatta railway together have a known deficit of £225,000 a year, and this alternative has never been considered 1
Sir John Forrest - Surely the honorable member did not believe the statement, although he read it in print.
Colonel FOXTON.- I believed it, and I am glad to find that the right honorable gentleman has considered the linking up with Queensland. I am astonished that, having done so, he is a party to asking the House to commit the country to an expenditure of £11,000,000 when an expenditure of £3,000,000 would serve.
Sir John Forrest - It would be a very good line. We could go that way to Western Australia.
Colonel FOXTON.- I am inclined to think that the whole proposal is a mere stalking horse to secure the Western Australia line, because in the provisional contract there is a little clause about a connexion with Western Australia.
Sir John Forrest - The adoption of the proposal would not further the Western Australia project.
Colonel FOXTON.- Frankly I do not see any connexion between the two, and therefore I wonder why reference was made to Western Australia. Although a connexion with the Western Australia system is provided for, New South Wales cannot link up under the agreement - South Australia cannot be compelled to permit New South Wales to link her system with that of South Australia.
Sir John Forrest - The connexion would be with the Queensland system
Colonel FOXTON.- If a railway were taken round by Birdsville, it would be necessary for New South Wales to make a connexion from Bourke and into South Australia.
Mr McDonald - Such a line would go through a lot of useless country.
Colonel FOXTON.- Yes. The Treasurer has complained that the question of linking up with the Queensland system was not brought under his notice by the representatives of that State. But the proposed contract was put into our hands only on the day preceding the prorogation of Parliament following the short session held in February last.
Sir John Forrest - It would have been foolish for me to have said that.
Colonel FOXTON.-I am glad that the right honorable gentleman did not say it. I have been prompted by the observations which he is reported to have made to bring before him and the Government the desirability of properly considering the linking up with the Queensland system before asking the House to commit the Commonwealth to an expenditure of something like £11,000,000. As a new member, it would not be appropriate for me to comment at great length, or in terms such as older members might use, upon the anomalous position which the Government occupy, but, in my parliamentary experience, it is unprecedented to hear a Government attacked from its own side of the House by all except the mover and seconder of the AddressinReply.
Mr Mahon - It is nothing new in this Chamber for the Government to be attacked by a supporter. The honorable member should have heard Mr. Cameron attack the Reid Administration.
Mr Reid - There was only one Cameron attacking us, but there is an army of supporters attacking the present Government.
Colonel FOXTON.-I agree with the leader of the Opposition that the present state of parties should be terminated at the earliest possible opportunity, and I am glad that the leader of the Labour Party is o'f the same opinion. The honorable member for South Sydney says that it is the duty of the Opposition to bring it to an end ; but surely it is more the duty of that party which attacks the Government while maintaining it in power.
Mr Reid - The honorable member would not have the Labour Party dismiss a faithful servant.
Colonel FOXTON.-I feel sure that the leaders of the two parties to which I havereferred voice "the opinions of those whom they lead, and they, being in accord in the view that steps should be taken to terminate the present state of affairs, it will, no doubt, be terminated at no distant date. If, as the honorable member for Coolgardie says, it is no uncommon thing in this Chamber for a Government to be attacked by its supporters, we shall obtain a good deal of diversion as well as instruction from the speeches of members of the Labour Party, whether they are in the nature of frank criticism such as that of the leader of the party, or are attacks like those of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who gave us such a practical illustration of his preference for casting out one devil in place of seven.
Sir William Lyne - Tq what party does the honorable member belong?
Colonel FOXTON. - It is sufficient for me to belong to the party which is opposed to Socialism. There is one other matter to which I wish to refer, the question of the Naval Subsidy. Every one must admit that if it were not for the protection afforded us as an integral portion of the Empire by the British Fleet, we should beat the mercy of at least half-a-dozen nations. We cannot hope to be able to defend ourselves for many years to come, possibly not for generations.
Mr Bamford - That is a very pessimistic view.
Colonel FOXTON.-I do not think so. The honorable member for Darwin has stated that we could hold our own against the world, and, no doubt, we could make a good deal of trouble for any nation attempting the invasion of Australia. We might spin out the struggle for years ; but at what cost to ourselves?
Mr King O'malley - A foreign foe would never effect a landing in Australia.
Colonel FOXTON. - Undoubtedly it could effect a landing if we had not the British Fleet behind us. It could effect a landing even if we possessed an Australian Fleet such as is now proposed. But just as the Boers were able to give the British a lot of trouble - and other precedents can be found in history - we could put any invading nation to an enormous expenditure, both in blood and treasure. But what would be the cost to Australia? We should have practically to fall back upon guerilla warfare and the best of our manhood would be wiped out in the struggle.
Mr King O'Malley - No, no.
Colonel FOXTON.- I am certain that that is the opinion which is shared by a large portion of the thinking section of the community.
Mr McDonald - Major-General Hutton declared that no General would come to Australia with a view to conquer it with a smaller force than 300,000 men, and the idea that that number could be transported here is unthinkable.
Colonel FOXTON.-The Imperial Defence Committee think otherwise. They are of opinion that Australia is liable to be raided. For us to desire to establish a fleet of our own is a very proper aspiration. Notwithstanding the contrary opinion which has been expressed by the Imperial Defence Committee, I believe that the existence of an Australian Fleet, and the knowledge .that we could very seriously hamper an enemy in an attempt at raiding or invading our shores, would confer upon what is now known as the " Austraiian Squadron " freedom to operate in other parts of the world. We should thus be able to assist in our own defence. The honorable member for South Sydney has declared that the annual subsidy of £200,000 which we now pay under the Naval Agreement is a mean contribution. I hold that we should be acting in a still meaner fashion if we discontinued it. He declares that our proper contribution to the maintenance of the Imperial Navy is £5,000,000 per annum. He altogether forgets that if we were contributing that sum towards the maintenance of the British Fleet we should be entitled with the mother country to a full voice in the decision of Imperial questions. In his speech at the opening of the Imperial Conference the other day Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman is reported in the Times to have put the position thus -
The cost of naval defence and the responsibility for the conduct of foreign affairs hang together.
If we were to contribute £5,000,000 yearly as our full share of the cost of maintaining the British Fleet we should be entitled to all the powers and privileges which that expenditure would confer upon us. We should have some voice in the making of war and peace which at the present time is exclusively enjoyed by the Imperial Government under the control of the Imperial Parliament. I suppose that there are a good many honorable members in this House - certainly there are many persons in the country - who are in favour of a complete severance of the ties which bind Australia to the mother country.
Mr Catts - Nonsense.
Colonel FOXTON.- I am glad to hear that it is not so.
Mr KING O'MALLEY (DARWIN, TASMANIA) - It would not be a good business proposition.
Colonel FOXTON.-But then the persons to whom I refer are not business men. To those of us who do not desire such a severance, who feel that we share in the prestige of the Empire, and who desire to continue to do so, it is a very proper aspiration that we should in time be in a position to claim our share - it may be a limited one - of the powers and privileges which are now exercised by the Imperial Government. I have spoken of evolution in that direction. It is going on every day. As we grow in population, wealth, and importance, our relations with the mother land will imperceptibly change. Undoubtedly in the minds of the statesmen and people of the mother country we occupy a totally different position to-day from that which we occupied fifteen or twenty years ago. That change is due to our growth. It is for us to decide - as was pointed out by the right honorable member for East Sydney, we have absolute freedom in this matter - whether the forces which are at work in connexion with this movement shall be centrifugal or centripetal. I am glad to be assured that there are none in this House who desire that those forces shall be centrifugal, and that all wish to cement the ties which already bind us to the mother country. Surely it is not too much to. ask that we should give some earnest of our desire at- a future time, to claim those rights and privileges to which I have alluded. The discontinuance of the Naval Subsidy would be a most distinct step in the opposite direction. Possibly, our contribution - as was urged by the honorable member for South Sydney - is of very small moment to the Imperial Exchequer, although it is something very considerable to us. If it be more than we can afford, by all means let us pay less, but do not let us discontinue the subsidy entirely. Let us increase it if possible, and by so doing we shall show that we appreciate in the highest degree the protection which the British Fleet affords us. The subsidy is not by any means in the nature of tribute. Under the existing agreement, a large number of Australian officers and men enter the fleet, and we are thus practically paying for their services, whilst at the same time laying a solid foundation for that greater development which I sincerely trust will come at no very distant date, perhaps - as the honorable member for Flinders said - within the lives of many of us here this evening. I am afraid that I have occupied the time of the House at undue length, and therefore I will conclude by thanking honorable members for the patient hearing they have accorded me.