Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 28 May 1903

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that the advice of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat is upon the whole very sound, and doubtless the Government, seeing the quarter from which it comes, will pay attention to it. I trust that they will endeavour to curtail the programme which they have put before the House with a view to the enactment of certain necessary legislation, so that honorable members may go to the country. I am sure that we are all anxious to get to our constituents, and I fear that the beautiful programme put before the House is saddened and tinctured by the recollection that there is hanging over us a veritable sword of

Damocles in theshapeof a dissolution. It may be that we shall survive the feeling until one or two of these imperative measures have been placed upon the statute-book, and that we shall then be able to go to the country and fight out the fiscal question, for however much the honorable member for Gippsland may desire that it should be allowed to rest, and however much the Prime Minister may denounce its re-opening as an outrage upon the people of Australia, it is already inevitable that it must be re-opened. The sooner, therefore, that we set about deciding it the better. In the meantime the Government have put before the country this manifesto in the shape of the GovernorGeneral's speech. There is no doubt that they had their eye upon the country whilst they were concocting it. I have seen the speeches of some Governors at the opening of the States? Parliaments which were long enough in all conscience, but for length, to say nothing of its supreme importance, this speech " takes the cake." I cannot believe that the Government ever seriously entertained the opinion that they would accomplish a tithe of the work included in this programme. But, of course, thev were shrewd enough to omit nothing lest some recalcitrant member of the House - and particularly one of their own supporters - might rise and - say something unpleasant. Honorable members have already seen this Government in the most complaisant moods, and we know that it is a matter of the greatest difficulty to induce them to make up their minds concerning either their legislation or their administration. They postpone matters until they cannot do so a moment longer. That is a charge which applies to their administration even more than to their legislation. I will deal with their administration first. Take the case of the federal electorates - a matter of supreme importance, not only to the country, but to every honorable member of the House. We are now told that the electoral rolls for Victoria cannot be comple'ted before the middle of July. I submit that this delay will take us right up to a point at which discussion, fair survey, and revision, will become impossible, to say nothing of the impossibility of honorable members becoming thoroughly acquainted with the new electorates as they may be arranged. I can speak all the more freely upon this matter, because the draft of these electorates does not affect my position so much. But I submit that this matter should have been dealt with long ere this. The Minister for Home Affairs has been guilty of culpable negligence in having delayed it. Why could not these commissioners have been at work months ago? What has been the_ hindrance ? Only at the very last moment has the Minister appointed them. Thus it comes about that a matter which is of more immediate importance than any other has been left until the last moment to determine. Some honorable members remember their experience with the Minister in connexion with the mapping out of the existing federal electorates in New South Wales. He brought a plan of those electorates down to the State House only at the last moment, when there was no time to discuss it. He will probably adopt a similar course here, if he is not prevented from so doing. There are many honorable members to whom this is a very serious matter. The South Australian and Tasmanian representatives, for .example, have to make the acquaintance of entirely new electorates, and it is only fair to them that this question should be speedily settled. There is another matter to which I should like to refer, namely, the payment for the transferred properties. When will that matter be disposed of ?

Sir George Turner - When the States are good enough to send in their claims.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then I think that some pressure should be brought to bear upon the States.

Sir George Turner - We have made all possible endeavours to get the accounts from them, and have failed.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Federation has already been in existence for two years, and yet- no settlement has been arrived at, or payment made in connexion .with £10,000,000 worth of transferred property. Meantime, this matter is vitiating the accounts of the departments concerned. For example, "no interest has been debited ' to the Postal department. Last year that department showed a loss of £80,000, whereas if the interest were added it would show a debit balance of £250,000. I am satisfied that that debit will increase if the present administration .be continued. There is another question to which I desire to direct attention, namely, that of the selection of the federal capital site. At the last moment of the last session we were promised that the report of the commission appointed to deal with this matter would be available by the beginning of April. Indeed, the Minister for Home Affairs told honorable members that he would give specific directions to that commission to make every possible use of Mr. Oliver's report, with a view to obviating useless peregrinations throughout the country. Instead of doing that we find them going over every item that has already been dealt with by Mr. Oliver ; and when they have done their best their report will not be anything like so useful as the report of that gentlemen. In this way the Commission are wasting time and delaying the settlement of a very important question. The Minister for Home Affairs ought to insist promptly on the report being presented at the earliest possible moment, and the sooner Parliament decides the question the better it will be for all concerned. As to administration we were told by the Prime Minister that one reason why the Postal department was taken over early was that the Minister in charge might study its requirements with a view to legislation. If that be so the Postmaster-General made a very rapid study, for almost as soon as the department was taken over the Bill was drafted, and not very long afterwards it was submitted to the House. If the object was patient investigation of the requirements of the whole of the Australian postal service, the PostmasterGeneral must be a very marvellous man if he did what the Prime Minister alleges. But the Postmaster - General's handiwork is already beginning to show that he cannot have made any such patient investigation. The regulations which are placed on the table from time to time become more irksome as they multiply, and something will have to be done very rapidly to stop their issue if the department is to be carried on with anything like proper efficiency. The Prime Minister, in defending his colleague the other day at Sydney, said the Government were gradually and satisfactorily assimilating the postal services of the various States; but I am afraid that what he said did more credit to his loyalty than to his knowledge of the administration. I would like to call the. attention of members to that brilliant- regulation which provides that when the post-office loses a letter 2½d. must be. paid as a deposit before any inquiry or endeavour is made to find it. What reason there can be for an absurd regulation of that kind I cannot imagine. If the deposit were intended to cover the cost of investigation there might be some reason for the regulation ; but as a matter of fact 2½d. would not even meet the expense of the departmental correspondence about a lost letter. That regulation, which was issued recently, has . been in operation in Queensland for some time, and it should be known that the postal services of the other States are being harmonized with the same kind of administration that has always been current in the northern State. But we do not appreciate that sort of administration. The deposit may be a small matter in itself, but honorable memberscaneasilyrealizehow irritating it must be to people in the country. It is true that if it is found the loss of the letter is the fault of the Post-office, the deposit is returned ; but, all the same, this is a twopenny halfpenny regulation, and the sooner it is abolished the better. There is another regulation, the working of which I can perhaps best illustrate by citing a concrete case which occurred a few weeks ago. Under the Commonwealth, State Government departments must pay all postage on their correspondence carried by the Federal Post-office; and- that provision is right enough.

Sir Edmund Barton - The Federal departments also pay for their postage.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the Postoffice has made a regulation which makes all State departmental papers chargeable as letters, and the other day the officials of the department of Justice of New South Wales, when they desired to send a packet of documents to another part of the State, were asked to pay 10s. postage. Why, the Minister for Trade and Customs is " not in it " with the Post-office where collecting money is concerned. The officials of the department of Justice met the difficulty by taking the parcel to the railway station, and sending it by train to its destination at a cost of 3d. Surely, that is not the way to make the Postal department pay, displaying as it does a sort of wooden-headed administration. It may be said that the regulation is there and must be enforced, but such aregulation ought to be abolished as quickly as possible. The main point is that the Postmaster-General instead of getting more money, as he desires, for the work he does, is actually getting less, because the people use other means than the post-office for forwarding- their communications. There seems a general desire in the Postal department to suppress business, or drive it away, instead of attracting it, although if there is a department which more than another is a business department, it is that of the post-office. This is the department in which, more than in any other, ordinary business methods ought to be applied ; and yet, what do we see in connexion with the telephone? All telephonic extension in the country districts is stopped by a ridiculous regulation of the Postmaster-General, which requires any person who wants a telephone fixed to pay in cash three-quarters of the cost of construction, and an amount sufficient to cover five years' expenses. No man in his senses would plank his cash down in such a way.

Sir Edmond Barton - What is asked for is a guarantee.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The department requires the actual cash to be placed in the bank. There used to be a guarantee, but because we lost a little money, owing to the expansion of an immense business - because as in an ordinary business, we made a few bad debts - the Postmaster-General has by this regulation stopped all further expansion. It is true that now the PostmasterGeneral will have no more bad debts, but at the same time, he will get no more new business. The other day the honorable member for Canobolas desired to get telephone communication with one part of his constituency. The honorable member already had communication with another part of his district, and for that had given a guarantee for £30. In regard to the new application the Postmaster-General said that it could not be granted unless under the regulation £6S0 in cash were paid into the bank. I have an exactly similar case in my own electorate.

Mr Spence - I have several cases.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the case in my electorate the total cost of providing telephonic communication between a number of fruit-growers with their market at Parramatta is £90, and although the postoffice officials say that the wire will yield a revenue of £8 to £9 a year, or 10 per cent., the Postmaster-General insists on £60 or £70 being paid down in cash before the work is done. That is not the sort of administration which will enable the postoffice to liquidate a deficit, and the Prime Minister had better consider a little before he defends the Postmaster-General. If the postal services are being harmonized it is in such a way as to make the administration more irksome to the great body of the people in the interior of the Commonwealth. I should like to make some reference to the Pacific cable question, which is mentioned in His Excellency's speech. The position is, as I understand it, that the Pacific cable is losing £90,000 a year.

Sir Edmund Barton - That is the estimate ; the exact figures have not yet been ascertained.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Australia's share of that loss is a little over £.30,000.

Sir Edmund Barton - I think that that loss will be equally chargeable to the three States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Under the bookkeeping clause, one-third will go back as a debit to each of the three contracting States.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If that is the old agreement, the Government will surely not perpetuate a similar state of things in the new arrangement.

Sir Edmund Barton - The position arises out of the requirements of the Constitution. During the bookkeeping period the Commonwealth takes over the obligations of. each State in respect of any transferred department, and this is a continuance or maintenance of an agreement entered into as affecting the three States mentioned.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then I understand that on the Pacific cable there is a loss of £90,000, of which £30,000 is shared by New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, while South Australia and Western Australia do not bear any share ?

Sir Edmund Barton - The first three States mentioned are the largest partners.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the meantime South Australia and Western Australia are sharing in whatever advantages there may be arising from the Eastern Extension Company's operations. What I complain of is that while the Eastern Extension Company have been given privileges which enable them to turn round and compete as they are doing with the Pacific cable, and threaten the very existence of the latter from the financial point of view, some of the States reap all the benefits and allow other States to bear the loss. In my opinion, the deficit on the Pacific cable could be wiped out with good management. The Eastern Extension Company advertises largely, and is now doing so even on the railway stations. That is only what any business firm would do in an endeavour to induce business ; but one never sees or hears a word, so far as I know, about the Pacific cable - nobody takes any responsibility in regard to the latter, while, so' far as I can see, the PostmasterGeneral stands feebly by.

Sir Edmund Barton - The whole management is in the hands of the Pacific Cable Board. We have represented to them the necessity for business management, and if they will empower us to hire canvassers in their interests we will do so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A very great wrong was done when we gave the Eastern Extension Company the special privileges they now enjoy. I quite approve of the new arrangement made by the Prime Minister in taking prompt steps to limit the term of the agreement with that company ; and I cannot help thinking that the step taken is an implied censure on his colleague who, when Premier of New South Wales, , entered into the present absurd agreement, and signed an interminable contract with the company. I protested as strongly as I could against it at the time in the press, but without avail. In this respect Victoria set a better example to the rest of Australia than New South Wales did. Honorable members should recollect what the position was. We tried, when the old subsidy expired, to obtain from the company a reduction of rates, but they would give us nothing. They said - " Before we lay down another cable we want a subsidy for a further term of twenty years, and the old rates must continue for that period." We could not obtain any reduction or concessions from the company, and' negotiations were broken off. But immediately Mr. Chamberlain gave his sanction to the Pacific cable proposal, the Eastern Extension. Cable Company rushed in, and said - " We will give you almost anything you want if you will give us in return the advantages we ask for." New South Wales had no right to treat with the company, except with the concurrence of the United Kingdom and of Canada ; but the Minister for Home Affairs took the bait held out by the company, accepted reduced rates for a short year, and gave them an opportunity to fight the Pacific cable proposal, and menace its very existence. Sir George Turner was faced with the same temptation as confronted the Minister for Home Affairs, but, to his credit be it said, he refused to yield to it. If New South Wales had acted as Victoria did, the Pacific cable would have been placed upon a paying basis from the start, and the cable rates would have been the same as they are to-day.

Sir Edmund Barton - The honorable member admits that the Commonwealth was bound by the arrangement entered into by New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not complaining of anything the Prime Minister hasdone in this matter ; I am complaining of what was done by his colleaguewhen Premier of New South Wales, which the right honorable gentleman has promptly set himself to undo. I have not much to say in addition about the administration of the Minister for Trade and Customs, though I wonder that he hasso suddenly become dumb. During his peregrinations throughout the Commonwealth, he challenged all and sundry. He beat his breast like the Pharisee of old, and told the people of Australia that he was not like 'other Customs Ministers. He was doing tilings that should have been done long ago under State' administration.

Mr Page - Hear, hear.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - By that statement the Minister suggested that other Customs Ministers had winked at evasions of the law and connived at improper practices, and that no other Minister had had the pluck to do his duty.

Mr Page - He was quite right, too. There is no back-stair influence with him.

Mr Mauger - There may have been a lot of bad business going on in the past.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member cannot be sure that bad practices, will not continue under the present regime. If merchants find that the department pounces upon them on every conceivable excuse, and that they are forced into the court whatever they do, they will try to circumvent the Minister. In my opinion, the honorable gentleman is not reckoning in his boasting with human nature. It remains to be seen if we have in the Minister a heavensent administrator than whom' no one could be better. He has undoubtedly exercised a great deal of vigour in the discharge of the duties pertaining to his office, but it is too soon yetto say that he has proved better than all the other Customs administrators who have preceded him. I have everv admiration for a Minister who will hunt out fraud and prevent negligence, but there is a reasonable way of administering the Customs Act, just as there is a reasonable way of administering other Acts. If the conspiracy laws were administered as the Minister administers the Customs Act, nearly every man in Australia would be sent to gaol, because whenever two or three persons met together at a street corner they could be indicted for conspiracy. Or what would happen if the law relating to trespass were administered with the same strictness % If one set himself to inflict every penalty possible under the law, and to diligently hunt for victims, they could be found in abundance.. The Minister should exercise a little discrimination sometimes, particularly since the minimum penalty provided in the Act for any offence is £5.

Mr Conroy - And having regard to the fact that the Act does not allow justice to be done by the courts.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister might very well refuse to set the law in motion where cases of error alone are concerned. We should then have less of the friction which has occurred during his administration. He tells us, however, that ho makes no distinctions, and that that is a proof of his fairness. The Prime Minister told us that he was as ready to prosecute a man like Senator Reid as a poor man who was bringing in a Bible to give to some one else.

Sir Edmund Barton - I did not mention Senator's Reid's name.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, but he is the typical big man whom we all have in our minds just now. I have nothing to say against the Minister for prosecuting in cases where fraud or gross negligence can be proven ; but where a little investigation will show that only an error has been committed, the case should not be taken into court. The Minister himself is not clear as to the meaning of the Tariff in every case. He is feeling his way, and interpreting its provisions from day to day. That being so, we should not haul to the police court people who are groping in the dark just as he is. One is tempted to say something about the administration of the Minister for Defence, but, instead of doing so, I shall wait to hear the details of his .proposed reforms. He has, however, begun to retrench at the wrong end in cutting off the allowance to the bands of the mounted regiments.

Sir John Forrest - That has not been done. The allowance has only been reduced.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hope that the Minister will restore the full allowance.

Mr McCay - What was the original allowance 1


Sir John Forrest - I reduced it to £150.

Mr McCay - It might very well be cut down by a large amount.. I keep a band of 30 upon an allowance of £50 a year.


Mr McCay - No, but that does not make much difference.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, it does, because of the up-keep of the horses. The mounted regiments ramify throughout New South Wales, and by the time the band horses are provided for, the bands are at least £50 worse off than the band which the honorable and learned member for Corinella provides: Coming to the proposal to establish a High Court, I wish to hear the Minister justify it. No doubt a tribunal for the final determination of causes is necessary, but the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has told us deliberately that the machinery of the proposed court, and the salaries to be paid to its officials, will cost about £50,000 a year. That seems too large a sum to expend at this stage of our history. These questions of high policy, such as. have been suggested by the honorable member for Bland, will, no doubt, come up for the consideration by the High Court; but the time for that has not yet arrived, and the High Court will be created soon enough when its work becomes quite apparent. We may not have to deal with the question of riparian lights for five or' six years, nor need we trouble our heads about matters arising out of the proposed Arbitration Bill, because the Arbitration Court may not have to give a decision for some considerable time to come. The establishment of an Arbitration Court, such as has been suggested, should be proceeded with, and we could surely make some simple arrangement for settling any questions which may arise until a Court of the proposed costly character is needed. The honorable and learned member for Darling Downs has drawn a parallel between the United States Supreme Court and that which it is proposed to establish here, but there is no comparison between American requirements and our own. Our functions are not so extensive as those of the American federation, nor are they so large as those reposed in the Canadian Federal Government. In view of the small powers invested in us, there should be very little work for a High Court to do, and we may very well save the expense connected with the establishment of such a tribunal for many years to come. Nearly all the questions that call for immediate decision relate purely to trade and commerce, and I cannot understand why it should not be possible to refer these points to a more simple tribunal. I am in entire agreement with the Government in regard to the increased naval vote. I think that a very reasonable arrangement has been made by the Prime Minister so far as the amount of the subsidy is concerned. The question as to whether the conditions for the control of the squadron are equally good is arguable, but the amount proposed to be contributed is very moderate indeed. In this connexion, I cannot help being reminded of a speech by Lord Selborne, which was recently quoted by Mr. John Morley, in England. Lord Selborne said -

It so happens, that more of the money provided by the taxpayer o£ the United Kingdom is spent in the British dominions beyond the seas than the British dominions beyond the seas contribute to the maintenance of the British navy.

I think that this is a point which should appeal to us very strongly. It is important that our commerce should be policed upon the high seas, and that England should look after it for us. England could get along very well if all our commerce were swept from the seas, but it would be a very different matter for us, and therefore we should shoulder a fair share of the responsibility involved in protecting our oversea traffic.

Mr Conroy - Supposing we are dragged into wars which are none of our making ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The rude arbitrament of war would expose us to exactly the same disadvantages as if we had a squadron of our own. If the necessities of Empire required the removal of the Australian squadron from our coasts, no arrangement made with the Imperial authorities would enable us to retain it. Moreover, even if we had a squadron of our own, and the Empire were in danger, I am sure that the honorable and learned member for Werriwa would not decline to send it wherever the necessities of the mother country might require.

Mr Conroy - No ; I would not.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Therefore the question of sending our squadron away in case of a great Empire war is not of very great importance. The provision in the agreement for control over the squadron by the Imperial authorities simply asserts a technical right, which places us ' at no greater disadvantage in case of a great war than if we had a navy of our own. At the same time, I arn in favour of paving the way for the establishment of an Australian navy, and I see the beginning of this movement in the provision which is made in the agreement for the training of 1,600 Australians and New Zealanders in connexion with the squadron. That alone is worth the extra £94,000 which we are to pay towards the maintenance of the squadron. We shall get the full value for our money in the training which will be imparted to our men.

Sir Edmund Barton - I anticipate that £40,000 of the extra £94,000 will come back to us in the form of pay to the seamen and reservists when the new arrangement is in full operation.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, but apart from mere bargaining, the growing requirements of our commerce on the high seas call for an increased contribution from us. Moreover, I see in this arrangement the establishment of some- kind of balance between our naval and military expenditure. Our military Estimates now amount, roughly speaking, to about £550,000, and we are told by the Imperial authorities that the cost of maintaining the Australian squadron will be about £520,000.

Sir Edmund Barton - The amount will be £519,00U, including an allowance of 5 per cent, towards interest and sinking fund.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Thus the expenditure upon our naval defence will be upon a footing somewhat similar to that of our military outlay, and we shall be to some extent reproducing the balance between the forces now existing in the old country. We are an island-' continent, with a long coastline to defend, and we are on sound lines when we are trying to maintain some balance between our military and naval expenditure. Beyond the reasons I have stated, we have the appeal - the urgent appeal - from the old country for an increase of our contribution towards the maintenance of the squadron. This weighs with me more .than anything else. The taxpayers of Great Britain find that the burden of Empire is pressing heavily upon them, and, in view of the fact that we share the benefits with them, it is only reasonable that we should make a larger contribution than that hitherto provided for. I do not know what will be the issue in Britain ; but Mr. John Morley points out--

Mr Crouch - He does not believe in our paying a subsidy.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is beside the question. There is almost a pathetic irony in the words which I am about to read. After quoting Lord Selborne, he remarks -

Therefore, the taxpayer of the United Kingdom has the privilege, not only of taking on himself the lion's share of the burden, the interest in which is shared between himself and his fellow Subjects in our dominions beyond the seas, but also and not less a share of the burdens in respect of interests not his own, but exclusively those of his fellow subjects beyond the seas.

There is almost a pathetic ring in these words, and from Mr. John Morley's point of view there is immense force in them. He goes on to say - and here he bears out the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Corio - that he is opposed to subsidies. He says -

Pray do not think that I am making any illnatured or carping point of this. Only do let us face the facts as they are. They talk of the expansion of England, and it is a very fine idea, a very fine phrase, a very fine thing. Only do please understand that the expansion of territorial England does not mean the expansion of the contributory area from which the taxation is to come. Now that is all I have got to say upon this main and central point. You will have to bear the burden. As I said, I do not want to carp. I have always thought that the colonies, from their social, economic, and political conditions, could not be looked to by a rational and provident statesman for a serious contribution to the share in our national burdens.

But Mr. Morley is logical. He says-" I do not want these burdens of Empire." He is against increasing them in any way. But we are in a position quite different from that occupied by him. We believe in the maintenance of the* Imperial connexion, and in the maintenance and development to the utmost possible extent of every scrap of the Empire.

Mr Watson - So does Mr. Morley, probably ; but he does not believe in undue expansion.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. The honorable member is wrong. Mr. Morley would not undertake a war to obtain another bit of Empire.

Mr Watson - No; but he might fight to retain what we have got.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not quite sure even of that.

Mr Crouch - Was he not speaking as a logical free-trader 1

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Empire is not governed by chop-logic. In the course of the same speech, Mr. Morley pointed out, almost in a tone of reproach, that whilst the colonies were prepared to share the military burden of the Empire, they declined point blank to bear any part of the financial burden. In view of the tremendous armaments of the mother country, which are weighing down the nation, because the taxation for the army and navy amounts to 29s. per head of the population of the United Kingdom, we should offer an increased subsidy, not in any spirit of bargaining, but as a f ree and generous contribution to the burdens of the Empire. Now I come to the question of preferential trade. I see . that the GovernorGeneral's advisers observe with gratification the recent utterances of the Colonial Secretary with reference to this subject. I see no cause whatever for gratification in that utterance. On the contrary, I see nothing in it but -an astute electioneering dodge. Mr. Chamberlain returned from South Africa to find that a rot had set in amongst his party, and, as the most powerful and popular member of that party, he at once set himself to stem the tide which seemed to be bearing them on to evil days. That is all the importance that we need attach to this tremendously great speech by Mr. Chamberlain, which has resounded from one end of the Empire to the other. That is all that it means, and honorable members may rest satisfied that we shall hear no more about preferential trade. It will be disposed of in connexion with the amendment which has been submitted by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in the House of Commons. I think that amendment is an inconclusive one that will not settle the matter in the way that it ought to be settled. While it seems the height of presumption on my part to criticise the tactics which are being employed when I am 12,000 miles distant from the scene, the brief cable published in regard to the matter evidences to my mind a very inconclusive and untactful way of testing it. However that may be, this is no new idea on the part of Mr. Chamberlain. It is an old idea which is trotted out periodically. Mr. Huskisson suggested the same idea quite 100 years -ago. Later on there was a revival of the old fair-trade controversy, which produced Thomas Farrer's book between 1S50 and 1860. But the question never gets beyond the academic stage. The moment it is introduced into Parliament, a blast of the people's common sense is blown upon it and it is heard of no more. We may rest assured that the people of Great Britain will give the quietus to this latest proposal of Mr. Chamberlain, just as they have done to chimerical schemes before. To my mind the moment that Great Britain attempts to make a close trading corporation, that moment it will begin to disintegrate and its decay will set in. In view of the insular position of England, her difficult and bare natural resources, her increasing difficulties in competing with the more favoured parts of the world, I cannot conceive of her people consenting to a scheme which will have the effect of shutting them out from their natural markets.

Sir JonN Forrest - There are barriers against them everywhere.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Itis wonderful how she has managed to get along so well all these years. If she is decaying it is marvellous that she has a revenue of over £130,000,000. For England, the ability to buy in other markets what she requires to maintain her manufacturing industries is her very life blood, and the moment any movement takes effect to put a ring fence round the Empire that moment her commercial supremacy will be threatened. Knowing these limitations, the people of England are not likely to go back to the old days from which she emerged triumphantly long ago. But I do not attach as much importance to these matters as do the advisers of the Governor-General. If they are " extremely gratified " at the pronouncement of one of the most acute politicians in England they are easily satisfied. No one applauds the eminent services which Mr. Chamberlain has rendered to the Empire more than I do, but for all that he is not the pure-minded statesman alone. He is also themost acute man in the British Empire to-day so far as electioneering dodges are concerned. I have already said that this session should close as speedily as possible in order that honorable members may go to the country and fight out that question, the raising of which the Prime Minister has already declared to be a crime against Australia. I notice one omission from this programme. No mention is . made of the benign benefits which have accrued to the Commonwealth in consequence of the Tariff.

Mr Kingston - Be nine Why, they are fifty.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Age in which the Minister lives does not say so. The Age says that it is a bastard Tariff; that it satisfies nobody, and should be altered as soon as possible. The Prime Minister himself says that it is a botch.

Sir Edmund Barton - I have never said so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the Prime Minister adhere to that denial ?

Sir Edmund Barton - I do. If I had to chase and correct the erroneous reports of my speeches which appear in the Sydney and other newspapers, I should be doing nothing else all day.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that the Prime Minister is almost the only man who would charge the Sydney Morning Herald with deliberate misreporting.

Sir Edmund Barton - I do not charge them with deliberate misreporting.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is what the Sydney Morning Herald reports the Prime Minister as saying, and it is what the Daily Telegraph also reports him as saying. Evidently there must be a conspiracy among all the newspapers to misrepresent the right honorable and learned gentleman's utterances upon every conceivable occasion.

Sir Edmund Barton - Because two agree, is there conspiracy amongst all ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There are only four daily newspapers in Sydney, and I suppose that the same remark applies to all. The Prime Minister denounces the whole of them. Yet when he wants to attack the leader of the Opposition he is ready enough to do so on the reports of those very newspapers.

Sir Edmund Barton - I would accept his denial of their accuracy, and that courtesy is due to me.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister did not accept his denial as to his remarks about taxation in Tasmania.

Siu Edmund Barton. - Yes, I did.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister speaking at one place in his electorate is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald to have said -

The Opposition said that this Tariff is to be swept away and another one substituted. Under that the Opposition would fit a Tariff a little more of a botch thah they had succeeded in making this one.

Sir Edmund Barton - The quotation in itself is sufficient to show what the report is. " Pit " a Tariff - what does that mean ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The present Tariff, therefore, is a botch.

Mr Kingston - Who says that 1

Sir Edmund Barton - The Sydney Morning Herald. I think the Minister knows it.

Mr Kingston - Yes, it gives sixfortysevenths of the truth.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I prefer to take the deliberate statement of the Sydney Morning Herald rather than the off-hand statement of the Prime Minister. I cannot believe that he remembers every word that he utters.

Sir Edmund Barton - I do not, but an expression like the one you. have quoted always strikes me.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No public man can truthfully be held to remember all that he says. At any rate the Prime Minister has described his own Tariff as a botch.

Sir Edmund Barton - I have not. The Sydney Morning Herald's discrepancy is not mine.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The right honorable and learned gentleman went to some trouble to show that he kept faith with the Maitland manifesto. If the present Tariff keeps faith with that manifesto, then the Tariff in its original form did not.

Sir Edmund Barton - I claimed that the Tariff, as introduced, kept faith with the Maitland manifesto, and I said so here the other night.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then this Tariff does not.

Sir Edmund Barton - It lessens the value of the Tariff on the side of the maintenance of industries.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is the first time in the history of responsible government that I have known a Ministry content to accept such material alterations in a Tariff as were effected in their original production. It is the first time that a

Government have consented to more than £1,000,000 being cut away from a revenue of £9,000,000 by the vote of the House. If the Prime Minister is satisfied with the Tariff as it now stands, he must have been very much more satisfied with it in its original form. If he does not believe that it has been improved, and if - he holds that it has been made very much worse, the Government are under an obligation to re-open the question at the earliest possible moment, and to have it definitely settled once and for all.

Mr Mauger - We have a better card than that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - By the way, I have heard no mention of all the new industries which have sprung into existence as the result of the operation of the present Tariff. The Prime Minister talks about them very freely upon the platform--

Mr Chapman - I can give the names of every one of them.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why, the first industry which the honorable member mentioned in his speech at Orange the other day was started and the money spent upon it before the introduction of the present Tariff.

Mr Chapman - Let the honorable member ask the people who started it, and they will tell him a very different story.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We do not need to ask anybody ; we live near the spot and know. The company that the honorable member has spoken of at Portland began operations eighteen months or two years before this Tariff was introduced.

Mr Chapman - But it began operations immediately the Federal Ministry was established, and I can prove that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member may make the assertion, but he cannot prove it, because it is not a fact. That is the company which the honorable member places first amongst those represented in the £1,500,000 worth of industry ; but he says nothing about the industries which have been closed up in Sydney owing to the increased difficulty experienced in the purchase of raw material.

Mr Mauger - Let the honorable member tell us about McMillan's circular.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Such a reference only shows the absolute poverty of argument to which honorable members on the Government side are reduced. They have to settle the whole fiscal policy of the continent by what is stated in an importer's trade circular.

Sir Edmond Barton - Is that the only answer the honorable member can give to that circular 1

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know anything about the circular ; I have never seen it. m

Mr Mauger - We can give the honorable member 2,000 copies if he likes.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have no doubt the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has those circulars stored somewhere, seeing that he has quoted them throughout Victoria ; but if Victorian audiencies take that kind of political pabulum, they are easily satisfied.

Mr Mauger - - New South Wales people will take it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It will be found that the people of New South Wales will not take such pabulum at the next election. A Tariff which satisfies nobody is a standing invitation to unrest so long as it remains in force. How can things be regarded as settled when everybody feels that we have only a temporary Tariff? The Ministry and the whole party behind them, together with the Age newspaper, and the protectionists of Australia, are practically saying - " Give us a chance to feel our feet, and then we will alter the Tariff." Does that show any prospect of -the peace for which traders are crying out ? What is really meant by the Government is - "Let us alone, and _as soon as we have got wind, and come back from the next election with the same free-trade votes that were given to us on a wrong basis at the last election, we will proceed further to undo the trading conditions of Australia." The Government sneaked in the Tariff the last time, but they are not going to do so the next time. This botch, this imperfect Tariff, which satisfies no one, should be submitted for the approval of the people on its merits.

Mr Chapman - Are the honorable member and the honorable member for Macquarie prepared to take the duty off cement ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable member addressed that question to some honorable members who have been supporting the Government it might have some point, which it has not when addressed to the honorable member for Macquarie and myself. The honorable member and myself have shown what we are prepared to do.

Mr Chapman - A simple "yes" or "no" would answer the question.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member would not be satisfied whichever way we answered it, and therefore we shall answer it in our own good time. To claim that the Tariff is one which satisfies the Government only writes them down as political opportunists who would do anything and sacrifice any policy in order to remain in office. I cannot conceive a Government sitting quietly down when its policy has been so mutilated, particularly a Government with such an overwhelming proportion of strength in the House. I could understand the position if it were a Ministry such as that with which the Prime Minister was at one time associated, and which remained in office for two years with a majority of one.

Sir Edmund Barton - The majority of one in that Parliament was never reached until after I left there. I think I may have been the one.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That Ministry never had more than a majority of four.

Sir Edmund Barton - The majority was eight at one time.

Mr Chapman - And that Government did more good with a majority of four than any Government with which the honorable member for Parramatta was associated could do with a majority of 40.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Eden-Monaro did not think so at the time, because he could be heard bellowing like the bull of Bashan throughout the whole of that Ministerial career. I merely allude to this in order to suggest that the Prime Minister may have been led by that experience to his present loose habits concerning Ministerial responsibility. The Government sat still while the Tariff was torn to tatters and made a botch of. Indeed, the Tariff reminds me very much of the knife owned by a little boy, who said it was the same knife that had been owned by his father and his grandfather, except that it had two new blades and a new handle. The Tariff is in that sense the same Tariff, and is the result of a game of "pull devil, pull baker" in this House. It does not satisfy the Opposition, . nor does it satisfy the Government or their supporters, and the Ministry cry peccavi and plead to be left alone, on the ground that it would be a crime against Australia to re-open the question, knowing that the only result would be weakening of their prestige and position. But, from the point of view of Ministerial responsibility, and for the sake of the prospects of the commercial life of the community, the question should be settled once for all by the people with their eyes open - at the ballotbox. The Opposition intend, as far as lies in their power, that there shall be no more sneaking in of Tariffs, and if the people of New South Wales indorse the present imposts they will do so knowing what the proposals of the Government really are. That is all we ask, and the sooner the question is decided the better it will be for the future of Australia.

Suggest corrections