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Wednesday, 21 October 1903

Mr KINGSTON - I think the Age must have been in possession of both reports.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Both sides are never given.

Mr KINGSTON - We know what a partisan press is; but that is a fertile subject with which I am not going to deal. Nobody feels more strongly on this matter than I do. It is simply monstrous that the accounts given by different journals of presumedly the same event differ so widely as to be unrecognisable. One section of the press is as bad as the other, and the other is no better than the one. I do not believe for a moment that any member of the Commission, either by wilful act or indiscretion, brought about this disclosure.

Mr Fisher - How did the newspaper get hold of the report ?

Mr KINGSTON - All that I can say is that the newspaper did not get hold of it properly.

Mr Fuller - Why was not the minority report published ?

Mr KINGSTON - Because of the partisanship of the journal.

Mr Fuller - How did this journal get hold of the majority report 1

Mr KINGSTON - As I say, it cannot have been got hold of properly. It must have been obtained under circumstances, which an experienced journalist must have known, precluded publication. The journal either directly stole the document, or got hold of it knowing that it had no right to publish it ; and I regard its action as almost a breach of parliamentary privilege.

Mr Fisher - Good old Victorian journalism !

Mr KINGSTON - Could any journalist of standing and experience connected with either of the journals of Melbourne have believed that the mere possession of a document of this description gave the right to publish. Such an action is altogether against the proprieties of journalism.

Mr Thomson - Those who got hold of the document know they had no right to publish it.

Mr Spence - They do not care for that.

Mr KINGSTON - The whole affair is a puzzle to me, and I should be only too delighted to ascertain how the disclosure arose, and lay the facts before the House. I shall be very pleased indeed to discuss the matter with my fellow Commissioners tomorrow.

Sir John Quick - Will the minority report be published ?

Mr KINGSTON - Both reports will be published.-

Sir John Quick - - When?

Mr KINGSTON - I hope within the next few days : and the sooner the better. I know that my fellow Commissioners feel very strongly about the disclosure ; and it is positively indecent and improper that documents of a confidential nature should be published in the press under circumstances which do not entitle publication ; the rules of reputable journalism preclude anything of the sort. I do not know what our powers in regard to a Royal Commission may be, but as to a Select Committee the unauthorized publication of the proceedings is a breach of parliamentary privilege. I hope that if we find out who has been guilty of this breach of confidence, we may also find out that we have the power to punish, and that we shall not hesitate to exercise that power, and make an example for the benefit of all concerned. As to the simplification of procedure in the early initiation of practical Inter-State free-trade, no one has been more anxious than myself in this connexion. At the same time two difficulties presented themselves : and here I take the privilege of discharging the duty of acknowledging the assistance I ha ve received from suggestions by various honorable members, notably, by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, in simplifying the Inter-State certificates. The simpler we can make these certificates consistently with efficiency and with the discharge of obligations imposed by the Constitution, the better. With the aid of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, I reduced the certificate to what I venture to think is the simplest form possible. While, as Minister for Trade and Customs, I desired to remove all obstacles to Inter-State free-trade, there were, as I say, two difficulties. One was the obligation cast on us in regard to the two years' provision of collecting the difference between the duty paid on importation! and the duty under the Federal Tariff, and the other was the work of collecting statistics for the purpose of adjusting accounts between the various States. The two years have now expired ; and here I would like to say that with the commencement of the financial year we placed ourselves in communication with the various States for the purpose of ascertaining whether in the short period between the 1st June and the- 8th August they would dispense with the necessity of collecting. But the answers received from one or two of the States were altogether against our suggestions and we were unable to take the course we desired.

Sir William Lyne - Two States objected.

Mr KINGSTON - The smaller States of Queensland and Tasmania objected, and that might be expected, because they receive the larger amounts under the certificate system. I undertand that some States are willing to arrive at a rough mode of assessment, dispensing with the Inter-State certificate, and that the Minister for Trade and Customs is disposed to assent to that course. We should, of course, all like to see Inter-State free-trade initiated as early as possible ; but at the same time the scheme of the Constitution is that for five years accurate accounts shall be kept, showing the movements of dutiable goods between the States, so that we may be able to form a conclusion as to what should be done when we have the power to make other arrangements.

Mr Fisher - It is the only guide we shall have.

Mr KINGSTON - Whilst I shall be glad to see any unnecessary cause of friction removed, I trust that we shall not sacrifice accuracy in this connexion to any hasty desire for the accomplishment of a purpose which was not intended by the framers of the Constitution to be brought about until the end of five years. I sympathize entirely with the desire expressed by the Minister for Trade and Customs, to do what he can to simplify the Inter-State certificates. At the same time, I say that he should be careful that he does not sacrifice accuracy in such a way as to prevent us obtaining at the right time the particulars respecting Inter-State adjustments which it will be necessary we should have to enable us to come to a right conclusion at the end of the five years. The figures we have already received are of use, but they are to some extent abnormal. The condition of affairs is rapidly approximating to normal, but in the earlier stages of the Federation it was affected by particular conditions, which are now passing away. I think the framers of the Constitution did well in providing that five years' actual experience should be obtained ; and whilst, as I say, I am favorably disposed towards any simplification of InterState certificates, I do trust that, so far as is conveniently practicable, accuracy will not be sacrificed, with the result that we shall not know exactly what we ought to do when the ' time comes for providing another method for the disposal of our revenue than that which at present obtains.

Mr Fisher - This is a timely note of warning from one who knows.

Mr KINGSTON - I have spoken sufficiently in connexion with the Capital site question, but I think I may add to what I have said that I fully agree that the Government have done what they could for the purpose of giving us information upon this subject. I know, and have known for a long time, how strongly the Minister for Trade and Customs has felt in this connexion, and how he has worked. I believe that at the present moment there is no man who is more impressed, with the desirability of securing a declaration in favour of Tumut at the earliest moment. I hope that the diverse opinions which exist between members of the Ministry upon this question, as testified by their votes, will shortly be brought into agreement. How can they expect the House to agree when they cannot agree amongst themselves 1 Fearing, as I have said before, what this struggle about the Federal Capital may degenerate into if longer continued, I shall indeed welcome the day when the Government in a Government measure will advocate one site, and impressed with this, above all other considerations, that it ought to be part of the public policy that the matter should be settled, will, by concentrating their efforts in one direction, and exercising all constitutional powers to that end, endeavour to bring about that object which, I venture to say, Parliament generally has in view, and Australia expects will be achieved, in the interests of the Commonwealth, at the earliest possible date. I do not propose to refer unnecessarily to matters which have been discussed at another stage of this afternoon's proceedings ; but in connexion with the Esperance railway and the Inter-State railway it has been put most unfairly that I have suggested an alternative. I have done nothing of the sort. I have declared that I am in favour of the construction of both th'e railways referred to - that connecting Port Augusta and the gol d-fields and that connecting the gold-fields and Esperance. As regards the reflections cast upon the Government of South Australia, I am in no way responsible for their action, but I venture to say from my intimate knowledge of the gentlemen who constitute that Government, that they are as little likely to fail to recognise honorable obligations as any men to be found in any of the States. I have had the pleasure of being associated with most of them for many years. I know how keenly they would resent the criticisms to which they have been subjected to-day, which, to my mind, are altogether undeserved, and which, I venture in their behalf, and in the interests of fair play, to repudiate with all my might. Something has been said with respect to Federal questions and the opinions of State members. This is a Federal Parliament in which districts are represented by honorable members returned for Federal electorates. We have a right as regards the wants and interests of particular districts to pay attention to the utterances of honorable members returned to represent them. Put as strongly as honorable members like what some State members have said in other places, we have here for our guidance in imparting useful information upon the subject, the Federal members for the gold-fields districts. They have expressed themselves upon this question. I am not going over the ground again. They have spoken without any instigation on the part of any other honorable members, and in fulfilment of their undoubted mission to represent their constituents before this Assembly. They have told us that the injustice to which the people of these districts are subjected by the denial of the railway to which I refer is intolerable. The matter has been put in this way - that it is equivalent to the denial of absolute freedom of Inter-State trade contemplated by the Constitution. That was contained in the resolution moved by the honorable member for Coolgardie. The honorable member submitted figures and facts, and amongst other things as regards the circuit which has to be made by people from the gold-fields to effect communication with the eastern States, the honorable member has said that the journey by way of Fremantle is very much like going round by way of Brisbane in order to reach Bourke, in New South Wales, or that we might imagine a Brisbane resident, whose destination is Winton, being compelled to sail round Cape York Peninsula and proceed from Normanton. That is practically the position of one journeying to the eastern States from the gold-fields of Western Australia. I need not repeat here what the honorable member has stated. I am glad that his speech has been reprinted, and is at our service. He speaks most eloquently to show the interest we have in people from the other States. He shows that proposals for the private construction of the railway have been refused, and that whilst the intercolonial railway might suffice for passenger and goods as regards the question of water carriage to the eastern States, and as regards the heavier goods, the absence of a connecting railway at the port of Esperance necessitates a further journey of at least 700 miles by sea, with an addition of an extra 160 miles by railway.

Sir John Forrest - It is not 700 miles, no matter who says so.

Mr KINGSTON - How far does the right honorable gentleman say it is 1

Sir John Forrest - It is about 550 miles.

Mr KINGSTON - Then the honorable member for Coolgardie has overstated the distance?

Sir John Forrest - He has.

Mr KINGSTON - But, in addition, we have the distance of 390 miles from the goldfields.

Sir John Forrest - It is 350 miles from Coolgardie.

Mr Kirwan - It is about 3S7 miles from Kalgoorlie.

Sir John Forrest - But the junction is at Coolgardie.

Mr KINGSTON - I shall not quarrel about a mile or two at this hour of the night. I give my authorities, and I guess that they were considered at the time to be sufficient. They have impressed me. The facts have been put forward by those best qualified to instruct us - the representatives of W7estern Australia. They have made out a splendid case for the construction of both the transcontinental line and the Esperance railway, and I should be only too pleased to see them constructed at the earliest moment. The only other matter to which I desire to refer is the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I heard the Minister for Trade and Customs, when he was being baited by an honorable member of the Opposition, in reference to some action of mine in this connexion, assert this evening that I had not done much good for the cause.

Sir William Lyne - I was told that I ought to resign.

Mr KINGSTON - I am perfectly certain that the remark was not the Minister in any ill spirit.

Sir William Lyne - Hear, hear.

Mr KINGSTON - I am not inclined to resent it, for under the same provocation to which the Minister was subjected I might have had a great deal more to say. Whether I have done much good for the cause remains to be seen. I could not remain a member of a Ministry which introduced a Bill which seemed to me to be a farce. It appeared to present for the popular acceptance a stone instead of the promised bread. I have since asked various questions in the House in reference to the matter, and have received various answers. The answer which I obtained to-day to a question which I put was of the usual evasive character. It was not the sort of answer which I had a right to expect, and did expect from the Government. This is simply putting off the day when the Government will declare where they really are in regard to this matter. I have no doubt as to my position in this connexion, and as to what it will be hereafter. I shall be consistently Advocating a measure in which I thoroughly believe, and, if my advocacy of it necessitates the keenest criticism of those who would make a mockery of the whole thing, I shall be prepared to take the consequences.

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