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Wednesday, 2 March 1904

Mr STORRER (Bass) - I desire to second the motion. The honorable member for. Melbourne Ports has traversed the ground so fully that he has not left me much to say, and I have no wish to repeat what he has said. I cordially indorse the sentiments to which expression is given in His Excellency's speech, and I hope that the predictions uttered will be fulfilled. It is a matter for congratulation that the drought has passed away, arid that the past year hasbeen one of plenty. The State from which I come has suffered, not from drought, but' from too much water, which has to a very large extent spoiled our harvest. This abundance of moisture has, however, contributed to the prosperity of the mainland, and although it has resulted in misfortune to us, we must all feel gratified that a good year has been passed in the majority of the States. It is a matter for regret that twogreat nations should have entered upon a war ; and I trust we shall be spared the consequences of any interference by Great Britain in the struggle now proceeding. I amglad, to see that a proposal is made with regard to the transfer of the States debts to theCommonwealth. I consider that steps might have been taken in this direction at an earlier stage. I contend that it was our duty to take over the whole of the debts of the Statesas soon as the Commonwealth was established.

I am one of those who favour the idea that the Federal authorities should take over the whole of the functions of Government, and thus do away with the necessity for incurring expense in maintaining' States Parliaments and Administrations. I hope now that initial steps have been taken by the States Treasurers in regard to the transfer of the States debts, a further Conference will be held at an early date, and that such progress will be made as will fully compensate for the delay that has taken place. I am very glad to see that the finances of the Commonwealth are in a satisfactory condition, and that steps are to be taken to deal with the question of old-age pensions. I believe that before Federation it was the duty of every State to make provision for its aged poor, and now that we have established the Commonwealth, it becomes our duty to look after the interests of indigent old people, no matter in what part of the Commonwealth they may be located. As an offshoot of the British nation, we consider ourselves to be an enlightened people, and, perhaps, more advanced in civilization than most other nations, but we shall not be able to fully sustain our claim in that regard unless we provide for our poor in their own homes, instead of requiring them to seek a refuge in charitable institutions. I trust that an old-age pension scheme will be adopted at an early date. No doubt it will involve a tax upon the people, but those who are young and able to work should esteem it a privilege to contribute towards the support of those who have passed the age at which they are able to sustain themselves. The question of assisting farmers and other producers has been so fully dealt with by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that it is not necessary for me to dilate upon it. In connexion with the question of preferential trade, it has been asked what benefit we could confer upon the old country. In this connexion I would point out that at present we are importing very largely from foreign countries, and are building up their industries and giving employment to their people instead of affording encouragement and employment to the manhood of our own nation, who have to fight our battles and to stand up in defence of our liberties. In order to avoid this we should levy higher duties upon foreign goods than upon those imported from Great Britain. The old country has stood by r.s in the past, and will continue to befriend us, and therefore, by giving preference to her products, we shall not only, confer an advantage upon our fellow-subjects in the old land, but contribute to our own protection. I am glad to see that some attention has been given to the subject of encouraging farmers and other producers by providing markets for their produce. This should be done in regard to every industry in the Commonwealth. Australia can produce a great many articles that would be of service to the old country, and it is our clear duty to afford every facility for their transmission to the home markets. I am very glad to see that a proposal is made to have only one Agent-General for the Commonwealth. I could never see the necessity for having so many representatives of Australia in the old country. Surely one good AgentGeneral, with assistants under him, could adequately represent the Commonwealth as a whole. I hope that the suggestion of the Government will be acted upon. Like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I am a strong advocate of the principle of conciliation and arbitration. I hope, that the day will come when the great nations will realize that it is better to settle their disputes by arbitration rather than by the shedding of blood, and the infliction of hardships upon many who are not immediately concerned. In connexion with strikes, it is not only the strikers who suffer, but thousands of innocent women and children, and, in fact, the whole community. I trust that the Arbitration Bill will be passed into law, and that such things as strikes will be unknown in our midst. It is desirable that we should pass a measure for the better regulation of navigation and shipping generally, and therefore I am (riad that' a' proposal in this direction is to be submitted to us. It would be a good thing for the Com-' monwealth if special measures were adopted to encourage the iron industry. We have iron deposits in Australia, and it is surely far preferable that we should avail ourselves of our resources in this respect than send abroad for the iron that we require. It is satisfactory to find that the revenue received from Customs has realised the expectations of. the Treasurer, and I am glad to see also that the estimates of expenditure are to be framed with" economy. I think we should study economy in every way. There has been too much extravagance in the States, and perhaps also under the Commonwealth administration, and I am glad that the Government have resolved to carry on our business with due- regard for economy. I fully indorse the action of the Government in reference to the message sent from the Commonwealth to the old country, regarding the introduction of Chinese labour into the Transvaal. I do not go the whole length with some of my friends in reference to prohibiting the introduction of Chinamen, but after Australians and Canadians, and, in fact, the men of all the British dominions have shed their blood in the Transvaal in defence of the rights of British subjects, it is not right that Chinamen should be imported., fo perform work which should be given to our fellow white subjects. I trust, therefore, that our interference in what may be regarded in some .quarters as other' people's business will have ;Some effect, and that the importation of Chinamen into the Transvaal will not be persisted in, but that British subjects will be employed in recovering gold from the mines there. If Chinamen are imported into the Transvaal, they will take back all the money they can, and thus enrich their own country.

Mr Brown - The mine-owners will not allow them to take away much money.

Mr STORRER - I know that the idea of the mine-owners' is to procure cheap labour, but the mines should be so worked as to' enable a fair .day's wage to be paid for a fair day's work. That is the only way in which a prosperous community can be built up, I do not intend to refer to the question of the selection of the Federal Capital site, because that will be more fully discussed later on. I am glad to see. that the Defence Forces in the various States are to be placed upon a. uniform footing. I regret that, owing to some misunderstanding last year, some of the Tasmanian volunteers were not paid at the same rates as were the men in other States.

Mr Tudor - The Tasmanian Government objected to their receiving the higher scale of pay.

Mr STORRER - I do not know whether that can be proved. I have not yet seen any documents upon the subject, and I do not know anything about it. At any rate, I am not responsible for the acts of the Tasmanian Government. I hold that all the men connected with the Defence Forces should be placed upon the same footing, irrespective of any wish expressed by a State Government. I am glad to learn that there is no longer ground for complaint, and that the forces in all the States are to be treated upon a uniform basis. I note that a conference of representatives of the Governments interested in the Pacific cable is shortly to be held in London, and I trust that one result of its deliberations will be to place Tasmania upon- the same footing as that occupied by the other five States of the Commonwealth. I utterly fail to see why its people should be required to pay telegraphic rates which are in excess of those charged in other portions of the Commonwealth. To be compelled to pay an additional halfpenny upon "every word which is contained in messages despatched to and from that State constitutes a very great hardship, especially so far as the- Press is concerned. Surely if Federation be worth anything, the States in .this matter should be placed upon an equality. I trust, therefore, that the existing evil will be speedily remedied, and that in future Tasmania will be granted a fair field. Its people ask for no' favour. The inequalities and anomalies which have discovered themselves iri our Electoral Act will, I hope, be quickly remedied. Personally, I am in favour of our elections being conducted under the Hare system. I have never yet found any one who has investigated the merits of that system and who has had experience of its working who does not prefer it to the block system which operated in connexion with the recent Senate elections. Under these circumstances I am exceedingly hopeful that the' Hare system will be con-, sidered when we are amending the Electoral Act. I have very much pleasure in seconding the motion for the adoption of the Address in Reply.

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