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Thursday, 28 May 1914

Senator McCOLL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - It is some time since the Senate was addressed by an honorable senator from this side, but, owing to the paucity of our numbers, and the fact that we are three short on the Government side, we may be excused for not having sooner addressed ourselves to the motion. Before proceeding with what I wish to say upon the motion, I should like to thank you, Mr. President, -on behalf of the Government, for so kindly sending a letter of condolence to Senator Barker in connexion with his recent bereavement. I have myself experienced a similar bereavement, and am therefore in a position to keenly sympathize with the honorable senator. I think it is very pathetic to men like the honorable senator and myself, who started very humbly in life, with the advantage of some one to help us to bear the heat and burden of the day, to rear our children, aud to assist us through all our needs, that our helper should be taken away when life had become brighter, and there seemed to be a happy future before us. I desire to express the condolences of the Government to Senator Barker, and to again thank you, sir, for your kind action. The speeches which have been delivered on this motion have been very uniform in character. We have not had very much to encourage us, as the speeches have simply been fault finding from beginning to end. The Government and their supporters represent a small minority in the Senate, and, on this account, have been made the subject of pity and derision. We do not seek the pity of honorable senators opposite, and we do not trouble about their derision. To listen to some of the things which have been said, one would think that we have no right to be on this side of the Chamber, that we are usurpers and interlopers; but, as a matter of fact, we are here by the will of the people. Senator Pearce, a little time ago, submitted some figures to the Chamber, and admitted that a majority of Liberal votes are represented in the Senate, though there is a considerable majority of Labour senators in this Chamber. . The honorable senator contended, however, that the party on his side have a majority in the country, because members of that party represent a majority of the votes polled for the House of Representatives. At the last general elections there were 1,900,369 votes polled for the House of Representatives. Of that number, 936,950 were Liberal votes, and 956,546 Labour votes, while there were 6,873 Independent votes. In the first figures there are not included the votes for the late Sir William Lyne and for Miss Goldstein. It is well known that very many Liberal votes we're recorded for Sir William Lyne which would not in any case have gone to a Labour candidate. There is little doubt that the bulk of Miss Goldstein's votes were Labour votes; but there were still a sprinkling of Liberals amongst those who voted for her. I calculate that of the Independent votes recorded there would be 5,796 Liberal votes and 1,077 Labour votes. This would mean that for the

House of Representatives 942,746 Liberal votes were recorded and 957,623 Labour votes, a difference of 14,877 votes in favour of the Labour party. The circumstances of elections for this House and the House of Representatives vary considerably, and, after all, it is the voting for the Senate that is the true criterion of the way in which parties stand in the country. There is no doubt that there was some extraordinary voting for Senate candidates at the last elections, and when this is taken into account, with the great disparity between the numbers returned for either party, it is clear that there is something very defective, in an electoral system which permits of such results. For the Senate there were no uncontested seats, and the Liberal votes recorded numbered 2,840,420; Labour votes, 2,802,529; a difference of 37,891. We have to add to the Liberal votes 25,528 recorded for Mr. Renwick, 18,556 recorded for Sir Josiah Symon, and 4,615 recorded for Mr. Cameron. This will make the Liberal figures 2,889,119. We can add to the Labour votes those recorded for the Socialist or Independent candidates of New South Wales - Moroney, Batho, and Ostler - numbering 60,549. That would make the total votes recorded for Labour 2,863,078, a minority in the Senate voting of 26,041. So that we are here by a majority of the Liberal voters of Australia. There is no doubt that the voting was extraordinary. In Victoria, for instance, I think there was a difference of only some 7,000 votes between the first and the fifth on the poll. I was myself not far behind the leading candidate's votes. Though the strength of the parties was so nearly equal in the country, there is a very great difference in the numbers by which we are respectively represented in the Senate. That leads me to say that the present representation of parties in the Senate is not at all a true reflection of public opinion, and, in the circumstances, it is not unreasonable to ask that the Senate should be sent back to the country to obtain from the electors some more definite result. We have had a large number of speeches which, as I have said, were not calculated to allay political feeling, but rather to stir it up. There has been a good deal of vituperation, misrepresentation and abuse of the Government by honorable senators opposite, with the exception only of Senator

Pearce, who made a courteous speech, of which we could not complain, and Senator O'Loghlin, who was more than courteous, who debated the motion in a gentlemanly manner, for which I thank him. Let me say that the bitter speeches that have been made, so far from doing the speakers or the party they represent any good, must have a tendency to defeat the ends for which they were delivered. I do not think the most pronounced partisan outside will believe that Ministers are such a foolish, useless, degraded band of men as we have been depicted to be in this Chamber. We have been told by the Leader of the Opposition that we are prepared to eat dirt in order to retain office. It looks to me as if honorable senators opposite are quite willing to throw mud in order to secure office. We have been charged with grovelling to the State Premiers, and of course on the principle of "like leader like men," the rank and file have followed in the same strain. I hope to show that this criticism is unmerited, that we are prepared to submit ourselves again to the people, and to abide by their verdict. Not only have political charges been made against us, but personal charges of dishonour, of untruthfulness, and of want of patriotism have been made against me. The Leader of the Opposition in another place recently travelled through this continent, and repeated the statements which had been made against me here, though

Jio did not repeat them correctly. Other members of this Parliament have gone through the country, and have practically made the same charges. It is not pleasant for me to deal with matters personal to myself, but seeing that these accusations have been spread broadcast throughout Australia, it is incumbent upon me to do so, and to set things in their proper light. Over and over again, both in this chamber and outside of it, I have been charged with having made certain statements at Fitzroy." In some cases those statements have been quoted correctly, but in others they have not. I propose to read the statements so that no doubt may exist as to what I really did say. I said at Fitzroy that -

There never was, in the history of Australian elections, such a campaign as the last. There had been more names on the rolls than there were persons entitled to vote - he had these figures from Mr. Knibbs - 60,000 more in New South Wales, 60,000 in Victoria, 30,000 in

Queensland, 17,000 in South Australia, 11,000 in Western Australia, and 7,000 in Tasmania. How was that ? The worst of it was that a lot of people voted twice. They had even resurrected the dead to vote. The Ministry was trying to get to the bottom of it, but it was found {hat while the parties which passed the Electoral Act and were responsible for the conduct of the elections had left as many doors open as possible for wrong-doing, they had practically shut every door* which would enable the mischief to be traced to its source.

That is the statement which I made at Fitzroy, and I stand by every word of it to-day.

Senator Russell - The Vice-President of the Executive Council has already withdrawn a portion of it.

Senator McCOLL - I repeat that statement to-day. In the first place Isaid that there had been an inflation of the rolls. The accuracy of my statement was denied. But I have here a return to the order of Senator McGregor which shows that on the 31st May last there were 184,216 more names upon the roll than were eligible to be there. That is a very great disparity, but when we consider that there were tens of thousands of names not on the rolls at all - names which ought to have been there - the disparity becomes very much greater. My statement, therefore, is absolutely borne out by the official figures which have been laid before this Chamber. I said, also, that a lot of people' had voted twice. Inquiry has been made into this allegation, and it has been ascertained that there were quite a number of duplications of votes - cases of electors whose names were marked on the lists of certified voters as having voted more than once as ordinary voters and absent voters. The total of these is 5,760. We have been assured that a lot of these duplications were the result of mistakes. Some of them may have been. But there cannot have been a very large number which can honestly be attributed to wrong marking. These duplications, we are told, do not represent much in a large country like Australia, which possesses so many polling places. But when we recollect that thefate of the last election turned upon 330 votes in the Hume electorate it will be seen that the figures I have given are of immense importance. I would further point out that information has been obtained by the Electoral Commission - especially in Queensland - which amply confirms the accuracy of my statements. An employé of the Electoral Department in that State, when giving evidence upon oath, said -

He had found that the Queensland rolls contained many thousands more names than did the index. They were purging the index and rolls, and had discovered that there were 30,000 names on the rolls which should not have been there. In the case of 6,000 or 8,000 the names appeared on two, three, four, and even five different rolls. He found the rolls for Maranoa, Wide Bay, Herbert, Capricornia, and Brisbane very bad; but, as a matter of fact, all the rolls were bad.

That is the evidence of Mr. Dent, an employé of the Electoral office in Brisbane. Later on he was asked -

Did you find the names of many dead people ?

To which he replied -

Yes, about 2,000.

He was then asked -

Did you investigate whether the votes had been cast in the names of these dead people?

His answerwas -

No, that is not in my jurisdiction.

His examination was thus continued -

Did you find many spinsters who had married appearing on the roll both as a spinster and a married woman?- Yes.

Witness continued -

The last new print of rolls was in December. The roll put out in December contained 1,000 less names than the roll used on election day. The purging of the rolls had practically only gone on since the beginning of this year. He saw hundreds of claims that were signed by the witness and not the claimant. There were 211 persons to his knowledge who claimed to be on the roll whose names were not there, though they had received cards acknowledging their claims. In his investigations he had found illegal practices, such as one person applying for enrolment under two different names. He had also found that some persons had applied for enrolment, giving a place of residence, and, on inquiry, it was found that they did not live at those places at all. He had only known of two prosecutions in Queensland, one for obtaining enrolment under the age of twenty-one years and the other for signing the whole of the applications of a family for enrolment. He had directed the attention of the electoral officer to the irregularities he had discovered. There were 1,200 names on the Mackay subdivision roll that should not be there. If the card system were kept up to date there would be no duplication. The District Returning Officer at Oxley was responsible for allowing the names of dead people to remain on the roll. Witness told Mr. Allars, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, and he said that there was no time to take the names off, and the roll went to the printers. Since the 1912 printed roll was issued witness had taken off 5,000 names that had no right to be there. He did not believe that there was an organized attempt at double voting at the last election. Tally slips were not allowed to be sent from the polling booth to the committee rooms.

Mr. ArchdaleParkhill, in giving evidence before the same Commission, said -

He could not describe the state of the rolls as other than shocking. They contained the names of people who had been dead for five years, and of people who had left the division from one month to two years, and there were many duplications. The only way to cleanse the rolls was to have a fresh collection. If this were not done, at the next election there would be chaos. With regard to the names of dead people at Narrandera, a woman died twenty-one months ago, and the Federal Electoral Registrar attended her funeral, yet her name was still on the roll.

I might quote further evidence of this kind - evidence given before the Electoral Commission. Similar testimony was also tendered at Goulburn by Mr. Fred Warren. Then we have official Information from South Australia that -

There were 234 persons reported to the electoral authorities for infringements of the Electoral Act.

Some prosecutions were instituted, and those prosecutions, I may mention, had nothing whatever to do with the Minister. They were instituted and carried out entirely by the Electoral Officers. As a result, several persons were fined large sums for breaches of the Electoral Act. We have been told, in connexion with the Ballarat election, that a detective officer had made full inquiry into the conduct of that election, and that his investigations led him to conclude that no fault could be found with it. I wish to say that he did not make an inquiry of that character at all. He was sent to Ballarat to ascertain whether thirty-five persons whose names appeared on the roll actually existed. He learned that they did. Subsequently, when he was before the Electoral Commission, he was asked whether his inquiries had gone further, and he replied that they had not. I have here a list of eighteen names which were on two rolls in the Ballarat division. In other divisions the same names appear-

Senator McGregor - Are they similar names?

Senator McCOLL - They have been given to me as the names of the same persons. Of course, I do not say that these persons voted twice. I merely say that their names appeared on two rolls, which theyought not to have done, if the :rolls had been properly cleansed. When :a strict inquiry was subsequently made into the conduct of the election at Ballarat by the defeated candidate, it was found that there had been 230 cases of duplication there. Out of this number 115 were duplicate votes, which had been polled at Ballarat. Had there been a sufficient number to cover the minority in which the defeated candidate found himself, he could have gone to the Court of Disputed Returns, and probably have -succeeded in upsetting the election. There was not a sufficient number, however, and, consequently, he had to abide by the result. The number of absent votes polled at the last election - 198,373 in all - was extraordinary. At Perth there were no fewer than 6,568 such votes recorded. Now, Perth is not a large place, and it does seem extraordinary that such a number of absent votes should have been polled there. All these figures go. to show that my statements, at Fitzroy were not highly coloured in any way, but are absolutely borne out by facts. Since then I have been supplied with the names of four or five persons who are dead, but who were personated at the last election. The initials of one of them is F. P., of Kyneton, the number on the roll of another one a,t Ballarat East is 4877, that of a third at Ballarat West is 3470, another at Lal Lal 570, and that of another at Mount Pleasant is 267.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator said that "we" resurrected them.

Senator McCOLL - I did not. I said ""they" resurrected them. As a matter of fact, the remark was made in a jocular manner, and if such a mountain had not been made of it by honorable senators opposite, I would have passed it by without further notice. I did not say who resurrected them. As regards the doors being thrown open for wrong-doing, I say that the system of absent voting made it possible to personate absent persons. As a result of the absent vote, the polling places throughout Australia were congested, so that the electors in other portions of the polling booths did not get the attention which they required. A person travelling through the States could, if he chose to commit- a breach of the law, enroll in each State, and cast a vote for each State, without any possibility of being found out. There might be ian Intra-State check, because in Victoria, for instance, we have the card, index, with the names of all who are on the roll in this State; but to secure an Inter-State check - that is, the checking of names across the borders - is almost impossible. Every one must remember the outcry that was raised at the time. The press rang with it for two or three weeks; it was difficult to prove that these things had happened, but enough has been discovered to show that abuses did exist. When we remember that the official return gave 73.66 per cent, of the electors enrolled voting, even if we take off the rolls the 184,000 names in excess, we must see that there must have been of actual voters an even larger percentage than 73.66 per cent. It will be remembered that a circular was sent out stating that under no consideration were station managers, owners, or overseers to be employed in any way in regard to an election. That was not a right thing to do, and was an insult to a most respectable class. We hope to bring about an improvement in electoral matters. I have been placed in charge of electoral affairs, and in carrying out the duties of my office I shall not seek to obtain any party advantage whatever. I simply seek to see that every one who should be on the roll is_on it, and that every one who should not be on it is off it. Seventy Divisional Returning Officers have been appointed, who will also take up the duties of registrars. I do not know one of these men, even by sight, either in Victoria or in any other State, and I have not interfered in their appointment, which has been made, by the Public Service Commissioner. Another charge that has been made against me is that I referred to the Commonwealth Bank in a way that I had no right to do. I have yet to learn that a Minister of the Crown cannot refer to and criticise the bank. It is a fair subject for criticism; it is the people's bank, and the people have to be behind it. If mistakes are made, or if shortages occur, the people have to find them. What stands behind the bank is the taxing power of the Government and the land of the country, and I am perfectly justified in referring to it so long as I say what is true about it. The Leader of the Opposition took me severely to task about referring to this question at all. He said that I had made statements which were not correct in saying there was a debit of over £56,000. I think the words I used were "over £50,000." At any rate, that is the information I had at the time. The honorable member said that the day before I spoke a balance-sheet had been sent to the Treasury, showing that a small profit had been made. These things do not go round to Ministers, as those who have been Ministers know very well. They may lie ali the Treasury for months, and other members of the Government would know nothing about them unless a special copy was sent to them. The information that was public at the time showed that the statement I made was correct. Mr. Fisher, at the Melbourne Town Hall, said the Ministry were biting and snarling and jeering at the bank. That is not the case. They are not carrying on against the bank in that fashion. At the same time, they have a right to make remarks about it. The attitude of Liberals towards the bank, from first to last, has been that .they desired to see it on a sound basis, to see a truly national bank, doing all Government business, but not interfering very much with the other banks. It was not started, however, with a desire to have a truly national bank. It was started in an endeavour to destroy the other banks, in which the savings of the people were - in which the money that was to keep widows and orphans had probably been invested. A manifesto, published in 1910 by the Labour party, containing the portraits of the three Senate candidates, included the following striking passage, showing the real intention behind the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank: -

Banking is one of the frauds by which Capitalism bleeds the people. There are twenty-one privately-owned banks in the Commonwealth, which virtually control the industry and commerce of Australia, and make £1,500,000 a year profit out of their operations. The Labour proposal is not to nationalize the existing banks, but to establish a Commonwealth Bank, with unlimited powers, which will have a branch in every considerable centre in Australia, and will enter into competition with the company-owned banks. The proposed bank would be one of the strongest in the world, and would, of course, manage the Public Debt of the Commonwealth. The gradual extinction, without compensation, of the present banks would follow as a matter of course.

Does any honorable senator think that that is a consummation to be desired 1 Will any honorable senator opposite repeat that in public, and say that it is a desirable thing ? As a matter of fact, it has not occurred, the tendency of the bank being to strengthen the private banks.

The latest return shows that the loss on the operations of the bank to 31st December last was £45,098. We were told on many platforms that it made a profit of about £1,500 last year, but those who made that statement did not say that the old loss remained, minus that amount. When Mr. Fisher spoke at Bendigo, people in the audience assured me that they went away with the impression that the bank had overtaken its debit, and was £1,500 in credit. That was the impression created at every meeting, whereas, as a matter of fact, the bank had only reduced its debit of £45,000 odd by that £1,500. When I made my statement about the loss made by the bank, the latest published balancesheet that I had seen showed that there was a loss of £45,000 or £46,000, and between £6,000 and £7,000 owing to the Post Office, making a total debit of between £53,000 and £54,000. That is not the full total either, because we find that the establishment of the bank caused a loss to the Commonwealth of money which was being paid by the States for the use of the Post Office Savings Banks to the extent of £34,137 a year. Previous to the establishment of the bank the money paid by the Commonwealth for exchange on cheques was 'a comparatively small amount, but on the Estimates this year a sum of £8,000 is put down to cover exchange on cheques. On inquiry, I learned that previously some exchange was payable, but that considerably over half that amount would be required to pay exchange which would not have had to be paid but for the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank.

Senator Millen - Is it paid to the Commonwealth Bank ?

Senator McCOLL - I do not think the Commonwealth gets it. The Commonwealth has to pay it, because other banks which did not charge exchange before now do so. There was also a loss of £85,000 to the States by the establishment of the note issue and the consequent abolition of the note tax. While we all wish the bank well - and I believe the Government, in placing the proposal it has before the Premiers' Conference, is going on sound lines and seeking to make the bank fulfil the functions that it ought to fulfil as a. truly national bank - there is no need for us to mix the Savings Bank business up with ordinary business. It is too much to put the control of six and a half millions of money into the hands of one man without any committee or board to counsel or guide him. The country is responsible, and there ought to be some board of advice, council or committee, associated with the governor in the management of the bank. We were promised that the bank was going to make money cheap and plentiful; but since the note issue was sent out, money has hardened, not entirely, but partly, for that reason. It is harder to-day than it was before the bank started. I do not blame the governor for doing a safe business. He is there to do it, and he should run no risks. He is making a small profit, and I hope he will still further overtake the first loss; but if the proposals made to the State Premiers are carried out, the bank will be in a still stronger position; it will secure the confidence of the public, stand behind the other banks in times of stress and strain, and make the financial position of Australia very much better than it is to-day. We are scoffed at to-day because the States would not hand over to the Commonwealth Savings Bank the money now in the State Savings Banks. If the money in the State Savings Banks had not been well used, there might be some reason for making a change; but in all the States it has been put under the management of splendid business men, and been excellently used to aid in developing the country. There was no reason whatever to start, a Commonwealth Savings Bank, and still less reason to take the money out of the State Savings Banks, and hand it over to an institution under one man, whose management the States knew nothing whatever about, with all the uncertainty that must follow from that state of affairs. It was under good investment in the hands of capable men, and they were wise to keep it there. Mr. Fisher, at Ringwood, made certain other remarks. He said no man or woman should be without a chance of earning a living. He must surely be a humorist, and must have forgotten how many people he and his party are throwing out of a living now because they will not work with them. He ought to remember a few of these things. He referred also to the fact that children were in tears because they could not get the necessary school, books, and said we ought to find meals for school children.

He did not reckon that free education, kindergarten, and universities would cost, on the lines he suggested, some £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 a year. He did not tell the people that. It is a slander and slur on our educational system to say that our people cannot find the small amount necessary for school books, and that children require to be fed at the expense of the State. There may be a few children who are needy, but we could not make a distinction between them and the others. If we did, we should be accused of pauperizing them. It is not right that our people should be branded by the leader of one of the great political parties in this country as being too poor to provide food or books for their children. The honorable member's concern for the producer was very great. He was going to provide nationalized ships to take their produce to England, but, at that very time, their produce was being held up at railway stations, and was called " black," and they could not get a return of money to pay their way. But not a word was said by the honorable member to bring about a better condition of things in that regard. Another subject on which I have been challenged is the maternity bonus. I said at the time, and I repeat it to-day, that the bringing in of that measure was a political trick. It certainly had a humanitarian colour, but I believe that one of the main reasons for its introduction, was an endeavour to influence voters at the ensuing election. Mr. Fisher says he does not desire to reflect on those who disapprove of it. Why, then, does he do so? He condemned the clergy for denouncing it; yet the leaders of every church without exception denounced, not the help to the women, but the manner in which that help was given. Our friends are very fond of this vicarious philanthropy, scattering about money that they have not to find themselves ; but if it is to be done, it ought to be done in a proper way. We did not condemn the helping of women, but we condemned the manner in which that help was given. We condemned the disregard of experience, the unwillingness to co-operate with the States, and the contempt that was practically shown to those who had given years of service in an endeavour to assist those whom the bonus was intended to benefit. The scheme wascrude, costly, and unscientific. No doubt it has done some good, but was not there a better way in which much less money could have done very much more good than that scheme did ? It did not bring about the results anticipated; it did not even return the party to power, tempting as the bait seemed to be to put before the people. A still more important phase of the question is this: We were told - I think Mr. Fisher himself said it at Ringwood - that the bonus was going to save infantile life. Has there been a decrease iii the mortality of infants since it came into operation? It came into force in October, 1912. It is costing at present £650,000 a year. At 3^ per cent, that would equal a capital of £18,000,000. Senator Stewart last night taunted us with grudging the poor woman a "fiver." We do not grudge her a " fiver " or a " tenner," or whatever amount is required, but we want to see the money spent in a right and proper way. It was said that the bonus would save infant life, but since then the death rate of infants has increased. Dr. J. W. Barrett lately published a pamphlet headed Necessity for the Practical Application, of Available Knowledge," and the first illustration was with regard to babies. He showed the great mortality there was in the first year of life, and that the cause of that mortality was ignorance, inexperience, and careless-: ness. He stated that in Victoria and New South Wales the mortality of infanis in twelve months was about 9,000. No one is shocked at it, yet he says that there is an enormous loss of infant life. In 1901 the mortality of infants in the Commonwealth was 103.61 per 1,000. In 1911 it was 68.4.9 per 1,000; while in 1913 - that was a considerable time after the Maternity Allowance Act had come into operation - it had increased to 72.21 per 1,000. Has the bonus saved infant life? Is it doing the duty which was expected of it; and if it is not, is it not time to reconsider the whole question, and make the system more practicable and humane in its operation than it is? The Fisher Government were not without an example at that time. Had they not been so keen to get political kudos, they might have looked not very far afield and found a very much better system. In New Zealand the mortality rate within the last few years has been brought down from 70 or 80 to 51 per 1,000. In the Australian capitals to-day it is from 72 to 81 per 1,000. In New Zealand it. runs from 35 to 60.. -In Dunedin, from 1904 to 1912,. the infant mortality was brought down, from 93 to 38 per 1,000, the world's record. How is that marvellous result, achieved? It is not effected by climate^ because New Zealand is in practically thesame latitude aa is the Commonwealth from Sydney down to Hobart. The reason for the decrease in the birth-rate was that, a Midwife's Act was brought in, and a maternity home established, Where themother receives advice and subsequentcare. Education is given; practical knowledge as to the care and bringing up of: children is imparted. In 1907, Dr.. Trouby King commenced a society called the Health of Women and Children. Society. The object was the care of infant life before and after birth. Thesociety taught practical eugenics. Lord Plunkett, Governor of New Zealand, with his lady, made a touching appeal to thepeople, and the consequence was that they responded. Nurses were taken in. hand and trained in the best methods of the nursing, feeding, and care of children. The society provided for all classesfree of charge, high and low ; no matter who required their services they went tothem. The society has been maintained by subscriptions outside, and Government aid. The Government gives 24s. for every 20s. subscribed, and thesubsidy it pays amounts to £2 per birth. The nurses are carried free on the railways, and the Government subsidy amounts, on the whole, to £2'perbirth. In Australia, in 1911 the birthrate was 122.193 per 1,000; in 1913 it. was 135.714. The deaths in 1913 numbered 9,800; while in 1911 the number was 8,369. In 1913 the death-rate was- 72.21 per 1,000; and in 1911, 68.49, showing an increase of- 3.72 in 1913. If we had taken a system such as that, and reduced our death-rate of infants in twelve months 50 per 1,000, we could, have saved during last year 3,150 babies.. If we had perfected the system still more,, and brought it down to the Dunedin rate,: we would save, at the present birth-rate, 4,670 infants who are now sacrificed. While the present system goes on, the infants will continue to be sacrificed.. These results show that the maternity bonus, intended to do good, is not doing; the good which it ought to do, and that' the system requires to-be reconsidered, and" something better brought into operation-

What would it mean to Australia to save the lives which are now going down into the grave? Certainly a large increase of population. There would be an additional advantage. We would popularize childbearing, which is now denied by many persons who ought to be doing their duty, because the risk of losing a child would be so much less than it is. Our birth-rate has been falling off since 1890. If the birth rate of that year had. been kept up last year, we should have had 157,072 births instead of 122,193. . This subject presents a goal' for statesmen to aim at - a goal for the highest endeavour of all public men. It is not a party question, but one which should be taken into serious consideration. We on this side are asked, " If you do not like the bonus, why do you not abolish it?" We are taunted on every platform with this cry, " Why do you not abolish the bonus?" We admit it does some good. We cannot abolish this thing; it would be cruelty to abolish it right away; but I submit that the matter ought to be reconsidered, that the cost might be very much less, and the benefits obtained very much greater. Until we get a better way, we will keep the system as it is; but we will get that better way sooner or later, and bring the people to realize that, it is ihe better way, and to act with us. I do believe that the authors of the baby bonus will yet be ashamed of it, not for having brought it in, but for the manner in which it was brought in, and the little good that it has done. We are told, too, that we have no right to co-operate with the States. We are blamed for going into council with them. Why did we federate ? Was not the object to work in with the States for the mutual good of Australia - to work in our sphere and to let the States work in their sphere, to rely on mutual help and co-operation for the good of all the people? Yet we are told that we should not go near the States. When the Premiers' Conference was held at Hobart, Mr. Fisher went over there in a lordly, patronizing way, and would scarcely say anything to the Premiers. The conferences were all failures until the last one, and now. we have a. system of cordial co-operation. I believe that the best results^ will spring from these conferences. We are charged' with an attempt to destroy the States by reason of the measures which are to be brought in. There is so stronger Federalist than. I am. I ab solutely believe in the equal representation of the States in the Senate, and would fight to the death against any attempt to change that system. It is said in one case that we are endeavouring to destroy the States, and in the other case that the States are dominating us. Which statement is correct? The most glaring attempt to destroy the States was made by the referenda to the people on two occasions. Had those proposed alterations of the Constitution been carried, they would have absolutely led to "Unification, to the destruction of the States. The party which Senator McGregor leads have been against Federation from the first. In season and out ' of season they have tried to cripple it. As regards the referenda, the trade and commerce proposal would have destroyed the States' control over internal trade. The railway proposal would have robbed the States of their control of the railways. The States would have had nothing to do but to find the cost of working and to, pay the interest on the enormous sum which the lines have cost, £250,000,000 or £260,000,000, leaving the actual working control of the lines to the Commonwealth. The fourth proposal would have deprived the States of their control of the corporations ; the fifth 'proposal would have empowered the Commonwealth to control any business which the Parliament might choose to call a monopoly; while the sixth proposal would have given the consideration of all labour matters to the Federal authorities. The party who submitted these referenda and are bringing them forward again, have charged us with destroying State rights when they must know in their hearts that, if 'their proposals were carried at a referendum, it would only be a very short time before the States went out of existence, and we became a unified Australia, or the State Parliaments very little better than glorified municipal councils. I feel sure that every one who wishes Australia well ought to be glad to see the spirit displayed at the Premiers' Conference. Fifty-four subjects were discussed, there, and of this number twelve were of the very first importance. In three cases, we are duplicating expense. We are making the people pay a lot of money, the expenditure of which could be avoided. As regards the question of electoral reform, why should, we have two sets of officers, and two sets, orolls, when we have the. same people on practically the same franchise? Again, there is the question of land valuation. Dealing with the same land, and the same people on the land, we have two sets of officers taking separate valuations at a double cost. In the case of the Savings Banks, we have two sets of banks taking care of the money for the same people. We are duplicating that cost. Why can we not agree to work in harmony, and unify these particular questions. Then, too, there is the question of the transferred properties. Is it not time that this question was settled ? It has been hanging in the balance ever since Federation. Immigration is another important question. It is in a most unsatisfactory position. I do not say that the States' systems are perfect, because I think that they are very far from perfect; but there ought to be no question about the Commonwealth and the States combining to bring about a better method. Again, there is the question of a uniform railway, gauge. Was not that a fair matter on which to consult the States? We can do nothing without their consent. They own the railways, and are responsible for the money. The complicated position which this question of a uniform gauge occupies to-day has largely arisen from a particular gauge being rushed on the country by the late Labour Government. Instead of having due inquiry made to determine the best gauge, our predecessors rushed one gauge upon us, I suppose for party purposes, and refused to listen to the suggestion that further inquiry should be made. We cannot bring in a uniform gauge without the consent of the States. Some of the States will not move in this direction until they have an inquiry made as to which is the best gauge. True, it is, that inquiries have been made. Certain conferences have been held by commissioners and by engineers, perhaps, who never were on an engine. I would sooner take the opinion of a man who had driven on the New South Wales, Victorian, and Queensland lines than the opinion of any of these commissioners. The class of men I refer to know which is the best gauge. They know which is the safest gauge, and which will carry the most traffic. It is not a question of opinion ; it is a question of scientific inquiry, and no solution of this problem can be come to unless the States agree to it. The question of the best gauge is still unsettled. The rail- way leagues in other parts of the world claim that a wider gauge is necessary.. I know that, when he was travelling a> year or two ago, the Premier of Victoria consulted the leading authorities in Canada and England, and they said, " If we had to start railway construction again, it would probably not be a 5-ft. 3-ih. gauge which we would adopt, but a 6-ft. gauge. Another question of great importance to our producers is the bulk handling of wheat. The Commonwealth will have to co-operate with the States, because we have control of the export trade. Was not that a fair subject for discussion at the Premier's Conference? Then there is the question of the transfer of the State debts. A transfer has been ordered by the people, but nothing has yet been done to bring about a settlement. To frame a uniform company law we need State cooperation and reconcilement. There is one other question, probably, which in importance to the future of Australia, transcends all others, and that is the question of the Murray River. This, I hold, is the greatest asset of Australia. The question of the use of these waters has been discussed for the last twenty-five years, but we were no nearer a solution than we were at the beginning until the present Government took the matter in hand. It is more a question for the States than for the Commonwealth to deal with. When they settle the details, we can ask this Parliament to give that assistance which, we think, ought to be given. I have been somewhat surprised at representatives from South Australia carping amd cavilling at the Government for bringing this question forward and saying that we have no policy. Our policy is to help. Our policy was put in a concrete form by the offer of £1,000,000, if the States came to an agreement, towards the cost of the locking of the river. Senator O'Loghlin was the only representative of South Australia who gave the Government credit for the very valuable action they had taken in regard to this matter. Let us understand what this question really means to Australia. It is desirable not that the few to whom I am speaking here, but the people of Australia should realize its importance. For the purpose of irrigation, there is no finer water-way in the world than is the Murray River. It is 1,500 miles from the mouth to Albury. Its poten- tialities are enormous. Its wealthproducing capacity is almost beyond calculation. Its waters could provide sustenance and homes for millions. In 1903 there was a petition from the Riverina and northern Victoria, asking that the question should be considered. In 1904 I brought the matter before the House of Representatives, and urged that joint action should be taken. The need of the north is water, and we have to build this nation up on land, water, and people. We have recklessly parted with our lands, we are not getting the people we require, and we allow water to flow in sinful waste to the sea. What might be done with this water. 'A cubic foot of water per second, continually flowing, will irrigate 54 acres. At Albury, the highest flow of the Murray River is 264,000,000,000 cubic feet per annum, the lowest 91,000,000,000, and the mean flow 144,000,000,000 cubic feet per annum. The highest flow would be sufficient to cover 4,600,000 acres 12 inches deep, and the lowest flow sufficient to cover 1,516,000 acres 12 inches deep. At Morgan the volume of the stream is immensely increased ; the highest flow there is 971,000,000,000 cubic feet per annum, the lowest 318,000,000,000 cubic feet, and the mean flow 455,000,000,000 cubic feet per annum. The highest flow at this point would cover 16,000,000 acres 12 inches deep, and the lowest 5,300,000 acres 12 inches deep on a basis of 60,000 cubic feet to the acre. A depth of 12 inches represents 45,000 cubic feet, leaving 15,000 cubic feet for waste. As to the value of the water, Mr. Wilcox has estimated that 1,000,000,000 cubic feet of water is worth £30,000 in Egypt. In Italy, a cubic foot per second is valued at from £500 to £1,600; in France, at from £500 to £2,500; and in America, from £800 to £8,000, according to the locality and the purpose to be served. The people of other countries are making full use of this great gift of Providence, while we are neglecting it year after year. What does the settlement of this great question mean? It means, first of all,, the permanency of present settlement, and then an increase of population on the soundest and best lines that will not compete in any way with city workers. It means an enormous increase of work for workers, and work like this does not end with the doing of it, because when it is done it means multiplied work for the future, and it means an enormous increase of production, and cheaper and good food for the people. The Australian Natives Association in Victoria have given a great deal of attention to this subject, and I trust they will continue their exertions until the question has been satisfactorily settled. The apportionment of the water is a matter which must be settled by the States interested. We cannot interfere with that. If there is to be an agreement arrived at, there must be give and take and a harmonious spirit displayed between the representatives of the States. I have not gone into the details of the subject, as I have not had time to do so. The present Government have brought the States together in connexion with this matter, and for the first time have had an agreement signed, and a prospect of having it carried into operation. I think that they are entitled to some credit for that. I wish now to touch upon another question which is assuming very large dimensions in the public mind at the present time. It is the question of the American Beef Trust. It was brought before the Premiers' Conference, and the representatives of each State agreed to prosecute inquiries and secure all the information possible on the question. The Commonwealth Government took action at once to carry out their part of the contract, and have appointed Mr. Justice Street to make an investigation. The cry of the trusts is one of the things which the Labour party practically exist upon. They told us that we were flooded with trusts and combines in Australia. Yet, while they were in office, though they knew that there were some twenty-six so-called trusts and combines which had been referred to Mr., now Mr. Justice, Powers, who was then Crown Solicitor of the Commonwealth, he reported that there was not one of them doing anything whatever in contravention of the law. Some action was taken in respect of two of these so-called trusts. ' Action was taken, first of all, by the Liberal party to inquire into the working of the Coal Vend, but the inquiry came to nothing. Then there was some action taken to deal with the Sugar Combine, and the Sugar Commission, which, like Balaam, was sent out to curse, came back to bless, and reported dead against the nationalization of the industry. . The Commission reported that the system adopted by the Sugar

Combine was perfect, and was being worked at so low a rate that, the Commonwealth Government could not hope to carry on the industry on the same lines, and, if they took it over, would make sugar dearer instead of cheaper to the consumer. We are told that the Beef Trust is here, and is dangerous. How did it come here? Who were in power when it came here ? It came here when the last Government was in power, in 1912. Mr. Tudor knew that it was here, and Mr. Hughes knew it also. The representatives of the trust came to Mr. Tudor to secure his approval to put up premises which I am told are to cost about £750,000. He said, " Put them up; go on."

Senator Gardiner - Did he have power to refuse to the representatives of the trust the right to put up the buildings?

Senator McCOLL - He had power to make conditions, and if he had not the necessary power the Labour party had at the time a majority in both Houses of this Parliament, and might havetaken whatever power was necessaryto confine the operations of these people to fair and legitimate business.

Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator knows that any legislation they might pass without constitutional alteration would be useless.

Senator McCOLL - There was no need for any constitutional alteration to have dealt with this phase of the question.

Senator Gardiner - Then what is the Government of which the honorable senator is a member doing to deal with it ?

Senator McCOLL - Let the honorable senator wait for a moment, and he will see. The Labour Government might have done as they pleased in the matter. They could have warned the people of what might be in front of them, and they could have made inquiries to discover whether the operations of the trust would be prejudicial to the producers and consumers of this country or not. They did nothing, and Mr. Tudor said, "Go on; put up your buildings and go ahead." That was twelve months before the general election. The late Government knew all these things, and yet did nothing, though no amendment of the Constitution was needed to enable them to do something. They knew that the trust represented American money, and that American operations were engaged in the business, but they calmly gave their approval to the erection of the buildings, and did nothingelse. They did not even ask what these people proposed to do, and how they proposed to carry on their business. The. Labour Minister gave the trust permission in the following terms to go on with the erection of their building: -

The company has already been informed that the plans of the premises submitted fulfil the. conditions of the Commerce Act, and that on completion of the buildings the question of appointment under Commerce Regulations will receive consideration.

In view of the facts pointed out by Mr. Kerr in his minute of 22nd instant, it is probable that the relative location of buildings is the best of which the site permits.

The company might be informed in accordance with Mr. Kerr's suggestion as to wool and skin house and Dr. N orris' minute, and that, as previously advised, the question of final approval (of the works) as an appointed place under the Commerce Regulations will be dealt with on completion of the premises. (Sgd.) S. Mills,

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