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Wednesday, 27 May 1903

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - There has been a trial survey.

Mr Reid - No ; I ascertained that there had not been a trial survey. If there had been I should not have made the observation.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - I have been told over and over again that the State Government of Western Australia have made a trial survey.

Sir Edmund Barton - There has been a survey made by two engineers, Messrs. Muir and Stewart, who have reported to some extent in favour of the practicability of the line.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - I hope that a full investigation may justify me in supporting this project, but at the present time the only salient features that stand out in connexion with it are that it is estimated to cost over £5,000,000 sterling; that the line runs for the greater portion of its length through a desert - though I am almost afraid to say so in the presence of the Minister for Defence - and that when completed it will have to compete with water carriage, which can almost always undercut railway carriage. Before we do anything in the way of committing the Commonwealth to the expenditure of £5,000,000 - which is no trifling sum - we should have the fullest information that could be obtained. I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister last night, and I think I can say without flattery that I never heard him in better form. Most of the statements he made were extremely effective, and I agreed very largely with what he said. But as there are spots on the face of the sun, so I think there were some weak points in the Prime Minister's arguments. In referring to the case of the six hatters who were denied admission to the Commonwealth, until the intelligence had been cabled not only over the British Empire, but over the whole civilized world, the Prime Minister waxed indignant at any person attempting to criticise the Immigration Restriction Act. If the Prime Minister had confined himself to a defence of his own administration of the Act, he would have been on sound ground, but when he went on to defend the Act itself, he was on anything but a firm basis. I know that the Prime Minister did no more than administer the Act in accordance with its strict letter, and I am not one to evade my share of the responsibility as a private member for having permitted such an Act to get on the statute-book. But I say in extenuation that when this particular section was proposed by the honorable member for Bland, and accepted so readily by the Government, and when I asked the meaning of it, I was told that it was only intended to prevent an employer during the progress of an industrial dispute from adopting a means of terminating that dispute without regard to its merits. There was some semblance of justification for that - though I do not .say that even such an object was absolutely right - and I did not see my way to offer any strenuous opposition if that was all that was intended. I fully believed, from what we had been previously told by several members of the Government, that the Act would be administered in that spirit. It will be remembered that when the Bill containing the education test for immigrants was under consideration, it was pointed out over and over again that the provision, if strictly enforced, would shut out, not only numbers of reputable Europeans who would make most excellent colonists, but might also shut out hundreds and thousands of British subjects. There are numbers of British subjects who could not pass an educational test, and who nevertheless might be industrious, reputable, honest people, and would make desirable colonists. When these facts were pointed out we were told over and over again that if this power were given to the Government they would undertake that it would be applied only in the case of coloured aliens or objectionable immigrants. With that assurance, I for one took it for granted that the Prime Minister would administer the provision in regard to contract labour in the same spirit, and that it would be resorted to only during the progress of an industrial dispute.

Sir Edmund Barton - I did not say that.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - No; the Prime Minister did not say that it would be only so applied.

Sir Edmund Barton - What I said was that I would not apply the education test to reputable Europeans.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - When the Prime Minister accepted the provision in regard to contract labour, I thought he would see his way to administer it in the same way as the provision for an educational test. Had I thought it would be used for the purpose of shutting out the most desirable class of immigrants that could possibly come to Australia, I should have opposed it to the very utmost of my power, and I believe a great number of honorable members would have done the same. The Prime Minister seemed very much surprised last night that Mr. Copeland, the Agent-General for New South Wales, had dared to say that the exclusion of the six hatters would affect our credit in the mother country. I must certainly express my surprise that it was necessary for the Prime Minister or any other member of the- House to go to Mr. Copeland for that information, which was as patent as the noonday to every business man in Australia. What are the facts of the case 1 We know perfectly well, and every man whose opinion is worth having will tell us, that Australia can never become a prosperous nation without a large increase of our present population, and a very large expansion of our present industries. Where is the population to come from ? We have already shut out aliens and objectionable immigrants of every kind, and I supported every measure to that end - not that I am afraid of a small sprinkling of industrious, frugal people such as we sometimes have amongst us, but because of our close proximity to the teeming millions of the East, by whom, unless we adopt drastic legislation of the kind, our continent might be overrun, and the question arise as to which race should dominate. I consider it was absolutely necessary in the interests of the future of Australia that we should go that far, and I did all I could to support measures with that object. But, having shut the door to every undesirable class of immigrant, surely it was our duty to open it all the more .widely to every class of reputable immigrants who would be a desirable acquisition to our population. What did the Prime Minister tell us last night t He told us that free men from Great Britain are welcome, bub that bondsmen are not welcome - that men who come under agreement are not welcome. I can only say I never heard a greater desecration - I never heard a greater prostitution of the terms, "bondsmen" and " free men," than to assert that men who can get work and who will not leave work for which they are well qualified, unless assured of employment here, are bondsmen ; while a member of the unemployed in England is -quite welcome to leave the old world and to swell the ranks of the unemployed in the new world and perhaps become a burden on the people. That is a doctrine entirely new to me, and one which I think will never have my adhesion. I consider that the man who establishes a valuable' industry in our midst, and who at his own expense brings out labour to make the industry a success, thus furnishing employment, is a public benefactor. At any rate such a man would be so regarded in any other country in the world except Australia.

Mr Mauger - Even if he is doing it to defeat local labour ?

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Do the friends of the honorable member adopt that policy themselves in their own affairs ? When they want a professional agitator, do they take the local article, or do they bring a man from the old country and pay him £600 a year?

Mr Mauger - The person to whom the honorable member refers did not make the contract under which he is working until he came here.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - A man would not be likely to come out here until he knew what he was likely to get for his services.

Mr Mauger - He came out as a free man, and the contract was made after he reached Australia.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Is it any wonder that, in spite of our magnificent resources, we have only a small population scattered round the fringe of the coast line, and that that population, instead of increasing by leaps and bounds is, like Joshua's sun, standing still? I regret that I may appear to speak with some heat on this subject, but I feel very strongly upon it. I feel that we are making a serious blunder, and that if we- persevere in it, as the Prime Minister said last night the Government intend to do, we shall strike a blow at the very root and foundation of our national life. Contrast our condition with that of Canada.

Mr Mauger - Canada has the same law on the subject as we have.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - The other day Canada received 1,800 immigrants as the result of public lectures which were delivered in the old world to induce them to go there. Here, however, we are placing every barrier in the way of an influx of population.

Mr Fisher - In what way 1

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - By doing all we can to shut out classes of people whom we should attract. We should offer every inducement to useful immigrants to settle amongst us. It will be a fatal blunder to build a Chinese wall round the continent, but that is what we are doing. And while we are trying to keep out our countrymen from the old world, we are taxing our own people to such an extent that we are driving them out of the Commonwealth. It is a very easy thing to keep out reputable immigrants who would like to come here, but we cannot compel our own people to remain if they are not content with their conditions. Therefore, we find that while there is very little immigration to Australia, our own people are leaving us by the thousand. What else could we expect from our manner of treating them ? We are piling up taxation.

Mr Mahon - The honorable member helped to do that by supporting the Tariff introduced by the Government. He supported high duties whose effect must be to drive population out of the interior.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - I did not help to place upon the people the burdens to which I am about to allude. We are driving people away by encumbering them with taxation which they should never have been asked to bear. Take two of the subjects referred to in the Governor-General's speech - the High Court Bill and the Inter-State Commission Bill. If those measures are passed, their administration will, when in full swing, cost the Commonwealth not less than £50,000 a year, and probably much more. Now, when the people of Australia were asked to enter into this union, the leading statesmen and writers on the press who advocated it told them that £300,000 a year would be the maximum cost incurred by federating.

Sir Edmund Barton - The Financial Committee of the Convention reported during the Adelaide Session that to put the Commonwealth into motion, with' certain attributes which they provided for, would cost £300,000 a year, but it was not concealed by the advocates of federation that the cost of administration would afterwards increase.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Those whom I heard to advocate federation in Victoria asserted over and over again that £300,000 a year would be the high-water mark of the Commonwealth expenditure.

Mr Reid - For some short time. For three years at least.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - We were told that over and over again.

Mr Reid - The honorable member is perfectly correct. The statement he has referred to was prepared to be placed before the electors.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - I will show the House how the expense of the Commonwealth has grown. In the first six months after the inauguration of federation, the expenditure by the department of the Minister for Home Affairs was £441, but during the financial year which began on the 1st July, 1901, it rose to £8,870, and during the first nine months of the present financial year it has been as much as £19,249. Those figures do not include the expense of Parliament, which for the first two years and three months of federation amounted to £291,078, which seems an extraordinarily large sum. I fail to see why the expenditure of the Department of Defence should have increased' since the administration of the separate departments of the States was amalgamated under the Commonwealth. T admit that it was necessary to spend a large sum of money upon the celebrations consequent upon the Royal visit, but I find that in the first two years and three months df federation the total expenditure of the department has been increased by £83,292.

Sir John Forrest - Where did the honorable member get those figures ?

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - From the Treasury. They were supplied by the Under-Treasurer For the first six months of federation the increased expenditure of the department was £44,147.

Mr McCay - The bulk of that amount was spent in connexion with the Royal visit.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - A good deal of it was. During the financial year which commenced on the 1st July, 1901, the expenditure of the department was ±'24,433 more than under ,.the administration of the States, and during the first nine months of the present financial year it was ±14,712 in excess. I am not allowing for any saving in the cutting down of troops, because I take it that that could have been done equally well while the military were under, the control of the Governments of the various States. The total additional expenditure of the Commonwealth last year, as shown by the Treasury figures, was £275,861. That was the expenditure for a full financial year, and I would rather deal with those figures than take the figures for the present financial year, which has not wholly expired. Those figures, however, do not show anything like the whole of the expenditure which the people have been called upon to meet. One Act alone - that which provides for the creation of a white Australia - and which I supported, but of which I think the people should know the cost, has led to the paying away in the shape of rehates for the last nine months of no less a sum than £61,266, which is at the rate of £81,688 per annum.

Mr Kingston - That period of nine months includes the season in which the cane is delivered at the mill, and the amount paid in rebates is consequently the total amount that will be required for the year.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - I am willing to accept that correction, but I wish to point out that the expenditure must go on increasing. The Act does not provide for the total abolition of kanakas until 1906. Last year only a little over 30,000 tons- of sugar were produced by white labour. But if we take the total production for the Commonwealth at 150, 000 tons- -

Mr Fisher - It is more than that.

Mr Kingston - It would be about 170,000 tons.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - I accept those figures. That means that this Act alone will involve an expenditure of £340,000, or £40,000 more than the total outlay foreshadowed by the advocates of federation. In addition to that, we inserted one section in the Public Service Act relating to the payment of the minimum wage, which will also involve a heavy expenditure. That was distinctly an Act of the Federal Parliament, and I am not saying one word against it, but I am only showing what our legislation is costing the taxpayers. We have paid under this section during the last nine months £21,894, or at the rate of £28,658 a year, and this cause of expense, like the other to which I have referred, is in its infancy only. It is estimated by the Treasurer that it will cost very much more. Whilst referring to these matters I cannot refrain from saying a word or two about the department of my honorable friend the Attorney-General. I think that that stands out as a shining example to all others, owing to the small amount of expenditure incurred and the great amount of work performed by it. I think we shall all admit that the Attorney-General has been unremitting in his devotion to his work. We have known him to work until his health has become seriously impaired. The total cost of his department to the Commonwealth for two years and three months has been only £5,037. If the other departments were administered with anything like the same regard to economy, we possibly might not be afraid to launch out into expense such as will be involved in the establishment of the High Court or the InterState Commission. What I desire to impress upon honorable members, however, is that the drought which has afflicted the Australian States, has decimated our flocks and herds, has injured our agricultural industry, and inflicted loss upon the Commonwealth to an extent which I would not attempt to estimate, but which we know will run into tens of millions. We know that the Commonwealth is now suffering a recovery from that drought. We hope that the drought is broken - there is every appearance of it - and if that be so we may rely upon the recuperative powers of the Commonwealth to bring us back to normal conditions in the course of three or four average good seasons. If we had recovered from the effects of the drought, I should not hesitate to sanction expenditure upon the establishment of the High Court, but at the present time I do not think we should' be justified in incurring it. The Commonwealth is not in a position to stand any additional taxation at the present time, and I contend, moreover, that there is no pressing necessity for it. I know perfectly well that the Commonwealth Constitution provides for the creation of a High Court, and also for an Inter-State Commission, but the framers of that Constitution very wisely refrained from saying when these departments should be brought into existence, leaving it to the judgment and good sense of the Federal Parliament to act when the necessity arose. I submit that the necessity has not yet arisen. The Constitution gives us power to vest any of our present courts with federal jurisdiction, and if our courts were so invested, they could deal with questions such as have arisen up to the present as effectively in every way as could the High Court if it were created to-morrow. We know that we have the best talent available upon the Supreme Court benches of Australia. The Bar in every State has been carefully culled in order to find gentlemen to occupy seats upon the Supreme Court benches, and I have never known a gentleman who was selected as suitable refuse the offer of such a position in the State of Victoria. Could we reasonably expect it to be otherwise t

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know of halfadozen cases in New South Wales.

Mr Crouch - There have also been some in Victoria.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Perhaps they felt that they were not qualified for the positions. At any rate, I never knew any person selected for such a position in Victoria to refuse it.

Mr Reid - The honorable member is wrong so far as New South Wales is concerned.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - That may be. I speak subject to correction.

Mi-. Kingston. - The honorable member is also wrong in regard to South Australia.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Perhaps so; but nothing like such large salaries are paid in South Australia as in Victoria and New South Wales, and I think my right honorable friend will admit that South Australia has no legal luminary better qualified to adorn the Bench than the present Chief Justice of that State. I think that he would be an ornament to the High Court if it were created to-morrow. A few years ago some of the gentlemen who are listening to me used to speak about Supreme Court Judges as if they were little deities. I always used to feel inclined to bow my head when I heard the Attorney-General speak with bated breath of the Judges of the Victorian Supreme Court.

Mr Deakin - They are excellent men for Victoria.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - Yet if I understood my honorable friend aright, in that magnificent speech which he delivered last year - I do not think that I ever listened to a better or more able deliverance - he took a somewhat different view. When' listening to that speech I could not help thinking that if my honorable friend had tried he could have thrown an attractive halo of romance around Hades .itself. I understood him to say that the only objection to our present Judges was that if they were called upon to adjudicate between the Federal and the State Governments, they might be considered by the people of the Commonwealth to resemble the famous tower of Pisa - they might be regarded as leaning towards the Governments that paid them. I know that my honorable friend did not mean his remarks to betaken in that sense, but he did say that the Judges might be suspected of unconscious bias. If, however, that applies to the Judges of our Supreme Courts, will not the same objection hold good in the case of the Judges of the High Court, and will not the same people' suffer in either case ? The people of the States are the people of the Commonwealth, and the taxpayers of the

States are the taxpayers of the Commonwealth : therefore, it matters little whether the bias is to be found in the present courts or in the High Court. I have the highest confidence in our Judges, and I believe that no paltry considerations with regard to the paymaster who doles out the salaries contributed by the whole of the taxpayers will enter their minds. I do not think they will be so narrow-minded. There is no country on the face of the globe that is so well served by its judiciary as is ours. Moreover, no country pays such high salaries to its Judges. Tha United States, with 80,000,000 population, pay nearly one-third less than we do in Victoria, and the Canadian Judges are paid less than half the salaries received by ours. Therefore we may reasonably expect to be well served.

Mr Higgins - The honorable ^member does not refer to the total, but to the individual salaries 1

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - I mean that the, salaries paid to individual Judges in the United States and Canada are lower to the extent I have mentioned than those paid by us.

Mr Higgins - Yes ; but they have three times as many Judges as we have.

Mr A McLEAN (GIPPSLAND, VICTORIA) - That would not affect the individual, and the class of men the salary would attract to the position. In view of all the facts I have mentioned, I have no hesitation in saying that there is no pressing necessity for heaping these additional burdens upon the people of the Commonwealth at the present time. The arguments which I have used with regard to the High Court will apply with equal force to the Inter-State Commission. That tribunal will no doubt be required in the course of time, but there is no pressing necessity for it, and in view of the degree to which the Commonwealth is suffering from the effects of the recent drought, it would be unjustifiable on our part to impose one shilling of taxation more than is absolutely necessary. Therefore I must continue to oppose these proposals, as contained in the Governor-General's speech.

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