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Thursday, 9 October 1902

Mr FOWLER (Perth) - The honorable and learned member for Indi was anxious to assure us of his high and disinterested motives in dealing with this matter. He was also at some pains to indicate that he considered it his duty to make his position perfectly clear, not only to his own constituents, but to the people of Australia. I am perfectly prepared, even in this matter, to give the honorable and learned member credit for the best possible motives, but I can assure him that there are many people in Australia who would not have lost a night's sleep if he had refrained from making his explanation. The honorable member for Gippsland has to some extent improved upon the position taken up by the honorable and learned member for Indi, inasmuch as he declares that honorable members ought to be prepared to travel about the Commonwealth on the business of \ 47 g 2 the people at their own expense. I presume that the honorable member is an employer of labour, and I would ask him whether, in the event of a proved servant intimating to him that he considered it necessary to visit a certain property belonging to" his master, the honorable member would turn round and say, " Yes, you may go and look at the property, but you must pay your own expenses"? Surely if it is right in private matters to pay the expenses of those who are engaged in the interests of their employers, is it not just as reasonable to pay the expenses of Members of Parliament when they are engaged on public business ?

Mr McLean - If you employ a man to do certain work, you expect him to acquire the knowledge necessary to the performance of his task before you pay him ?

Mr FOWLER - In such a case as I have stated the honorable member would no doubt take the opinion of one who was qualified to say that his attention was required in a particular place, and would not call upon him to pay his own expenses. There are some people who believe that the business of the Commonwealth could best be done by gentlemen of culture, and leisure, and wealth, who are prepared to do all the political work required of them without pay. I quite understand that a few people who hold this view have continued to exist even in Australia. But I hold the opinion, which has been borne out by the knowledge I have gained since I have been a member of this Parliament, that the democracy of Australia are prepared to pay for the work done on their behalf. The only difficulty now presenting itself arises from the fact that those who sometimes cry out for economy are prepared to cut down expenditure in matters which do not affect them. The payment of the travelling expenses of members of this Parliament is opposed by some gentlemen who are in possession of life passes which enable them to travel free over the whole of the railways of Australia. Before these honorable members stand up and demand economy, they should first be prepared to put aside the privileges they enjoy.

Mr Isaacs - No one has a life pass over all the railways of Australia.

Mr Deakin - Yes,, they have.

Mr FOWLER - I should like to remind honorable members that several matters of considerable importance to the people of Australia urgently require their personal attention. A striking illustration of the advantage of personal inspection was afforded in the case of the visit to the proposed sites of the federal capital, and I think that every one who has visited those sites will agree that it is absolutely necessary that a personal inspection of every one of them should be made by honorable members before any conclusion is arrived at. I understand that the Government are making arrangements to allow the honorable member for Gippsland to visit a few of these sites at the public expense, and if it is necessary for the honorable member to do that, surely it is desirable that he should make a personal inspection in order to inform himself with regard to matters of even greater importance. Take the case, for instance, of the aliens upon the north-west coast of Australia. I have traversed many miles of the interior, but I have not visited any of those ports which are infested by undesirable aliens. Just prior to my arrival in Melbourne, a friend of mine, whose business compels him to travel along that coast, assured me that ifI only paid a visit to some of the places to which he referred, Ishould have no hesitation whatever in endeavouring to forever clear the Australian ports from the scum of southern Asia. Then, regarding the employment of kanakas in Queensland, I hold that if honorable members could visit the northern portions of that State and see for themsel ves - as the honorable member for Herbert has assured me they could do - that white men are actually working in localities where a little time ago we were informed that they could not labour, that circumstance in itself would be of sufficient importance to justify the visit. Of course, I am well aware that in the past the practice of Victorian politicians has been to take their views from certain newspapers. I am not prepared to degrade my position to that extent. I believe that it is my duty to rise as far as I possibly can from the position of an amateur politician - of which some newspapers seem to approve - to that of an expert in politics. I can do so only by exercising my judgment independently of any external influence, and by seeing for myself the localities interested in the legislation which we have enacted, or are about to enact. I trust that this Parliament will never allow the proposition to be indorsed that all honorable members are required to do is to meet here and follow the suggestions of newspapers, who would fain dictate to the Commonwealth as they have done in certain States in the past.

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