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Thursday, 3 March 1904


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I can hardly accept that assurance of satisfaction, although I can join with the honorable and learned member in regretting that we have lost so many whom, regardless of the side on which they sat, we had learned to recognise as most valuable members, acting, to the best of their lights, in the interests of the country. The honorable and learned member has twitted the leader of the Opposition with having nothing but a negative policy to pit against the policy of the Ministry. In reply, I would ask the Prime Minister what is his but a negative policy ? What was the policy which he submitted to the people at the last elections ? It was simply a re-hash of the policy submitted three years ago, the only additions being those to which he attached the greatest importance when addressing the people of the Commonwealth - a proposal for the abandonment of the fiscal struggle, and the substitution of a fiscal peace - an entirely negative proposal - and preferential trade. He has yet to define his proposals in regard to preferential trade. This he has never attempted, as he should have done, having regard to the promise made by the late Prime Minister to Mr. "Chamberlain, to assist in bringing about preferential trade ; and to-day, if one asks him what is the policy of the Government in that respect, he receives the reply, " It will depend upon the British Government." What is that but a mere negation? A negative policy put forward by a Prime Minister is to be far more deprecated than is the naturally negative policy that must be adopted by a leader of an Opposition. Then the honorable and learned gentleman stated that the leader of the Opposition had declared that the tariff question was dead. No such statement has been made. The assertion of the leader of the Opposition was not that the question is dead, but that, recognising the number of honorable members willing to re-open it was not large enough to enable that to be done, he would for the time being bow to the decision of the people. The tariff question is not dead.


Mr Reid - The Government themselves did hot bury it. They cried a truce for the time being.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The tariff question is a live one so far as the Opposition are concerned, and it will be fought out by them in the country. When there is a sufficient majority - as we free-traders hope there soon will be - to reverse the present policy, which we believe to be to the distinct injury of the Commonwealth, the question will be revived within the walls of this chamber. The Prime Minister declared further that it was recognised in British political circles, and indeed throughout the world, that the old position of fifty years ago should be re-considered -that the protection proposed to-day is not the protection of halfacentury ago. That is a strange statement to make, because the very arguments which are being used to-day in the great campaign now proceeding in England - the arguments as to benefits to the people to be derived from protection, the increased wages, the exclusion of the foreigner, the injury done to British manufactures by free importations, and the decay which will surely follow the freedom of our ports - were used fifty years ago. They were then industriously used in support of that very system of protection which the honorable and learned gentleman declares to be different from the protection of to-day. Where is the difference? The Prime Minister further stated that the competition which the British workman had to suffer, and his consequent degradation, required a remodelling of the fiscal faith. Will he tell me that the degradation of the working classes of Great Britain and the lowering of their wages, followed the adoption by Great Britain of the policy of free-trade halfacentury ago ? Has not the movement of the British workman been upward ever since that time? Is he not to-day in receipt of better wages and working under more comfortable surroundings than those of the workmen in the Continental countries of Europe which have adopted the policy of protection which the Prime Minister advocates ?


Mr Deakin - Is that the only respect in which those countries differ from Great Britain ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Certainly not. I do not think that the prosperity of any country is entirely due to its fiscal policy ; but when honorable members declare that the policy which recognises free-trade as its guiding principle will injure the country that adopts it, and must do injury to the workmen of that country, they apparently forget that the history of Great Britain offers a sufficient answer to such an assertion. The next question to which I shall briefly allude is the question of preferential trade, to which the Prime Minister referred somewhat fully. I quite admit with him that the interests of the Empire are bound up with the question. That being so, it becomes us, as a portion of the Empire, and desiring its welfare, to consider the question, not merely in the light of our own narrow interests, but from the broader stand-point of the interests of the Empire as a whole. I am not going to enter completely into the question to-night, because the. Prime Minister has not put before us a proposal sufficiently definite to enable us to discuss the matter fully. But if we remember that the interests of the Empire are bound up in this decision, we must come to the conclusion that, even if we gained a slight temporary advantage by any arrangement,we should not agree to it if its adoption would injure the great Empire at its heart. The fact stated by the Prime Minister that the matter is to be with this Government a question of bargaining shows' the danger to the unity of the Empire. If at some future time this Parliament is engaged in discussing Tariff proposals, and a majority of honorable members are in favour of a certain policy, what will follow, supposing that others elsewhere are bargainers equally interested with ourselves? We shall receive a communication from the British Government, intimating that they cannot allow us to carry out the intended policy, or that if we do, they will have to deprive us of certain advantages which they are then giving to us.


Mr Ewing - If there is anything in that argument, why do not the States threaten the Commonwealth Government?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The fiscal question is removed from their hands, and has been left in our hands. But if the suggestions of the Government are adopted, it will be not in our hands alone, but in the hands of New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, India, and Natal.


Mr Brown - It will be an Empire question.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, subject to suggestions and objections from every part of the Empire. Do not Victorian representatives remember the state of excitement, and almost of rebellion, . which existed at one time in Victoria in consequence of the interference of Downingstreet, as it was called? Is the gentleman who subsequently became Mr. Justice Higinbotham forgotten? Have his diatribes against the British Crown passed from the memory of honorable members? Is the public agitation which followed and existed for years forgotten ? Is it not a fact that the present loyalty of Australia, which our past has never equalled, is due to the noble recognition of the British Government of the wisdom of leaving the sons of Great Britain in this land to work out their destiny without interference. I am one of those who will agree to much to obtain the closer union of the various parts of the Empire, if that can be brought about. But I tremble when I recognise the questions which will arise in matters of taxation between different parts of the Empire if we adopt a policy such as that which has been outlined by Mr. Chamberlain. We must also remember that if we adopt it the anticipated results to British trade are not at all certain. Canada adopted it some years ago for the special purpose of giving Great Britain a larger proportion of the import trade of the Dominion, and our Prime Minister, in speeches made during the electoral campaign, said on several occasions that the result was that the trade between Great Britain and Canada had doubled. In making that statement he was guilty, of an error or oversight - I will not accuse him of anything worse - similar to that which he made in quoting' the electoral returns just now. Whilst the trade between Great Britain and Canada has doubled during the six or seven years in which that preference has been in existence, it is now less in proportion to the whole import trade, of Canada than it was at the time the preference was first given. Whilst the imports of Great Britain have doubled, the whole import trade of Canada has more than doubled.


Mr Deakin - If the honorable member will take the manufactured goods imported by Canada he will see how the British have gained. The imports from the United States are mainly raw material.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A great deal of the imports from the United States are special kinds of machinery. The percentage of the British trade to the whole import trade of Canada fell in the period of preference from 27.58 to 24.25 per cent., while that of the United States, the very, country aimed at, increased from 53.48 to 58.40, and the exports from the United States to Canada were of much the same character six or seven years ago as they are now. It is a matter of grave consideration whether, if a preferential policy were adopted by us, it would achieve the results expected of it. It is very difficult to accept the sincerity of the Ministry upon this question. I have here an extract from a speech delivered by the Prime Minister during the recess in which he asks if any one of his hearers had a large family, and placed his sons about Australia not too far apart to be unable to communicate one with another, and one son grew wheat, another fruit, another wine, and another meat, what law, human or divine, forbade the interchange of their products and the recognition of the blood tie ? If we could believe the honorable and learned member was sincere when he uttered that sentence, we might believe in the sincerity of the Ministry in regard to preferential trade. No divine law prohibits the exchange of products between brother and brother in Australia or any other part of the world. ' The divine intention seems rather to have been to make this interchange easy and cheap by placing the ocean as a highway between distant countries. The Prime Minister, however, when the States were divided before , Federation, was utterly opposed to the free commercial intercourse. He deliberately set himself by human law against the policy of freedom, and the exchange of wheat, and fruit, and wine, and meat between brother and brother. Now, however, without renouncing the policy, which he then advocated, he asks us to accept his assurance that the Government are in favour of a policy which will lead to a real freedom of exchange between the different parts of the Empire. If the Government are sincere why has nothing been done in the way of outlining a policy of preferential trade, and getting the approval of the country to it? A magnificent opportunity was afforded during the late elections, but it was not availed of. The Premier of New Zealand, however, who, as the leader of the Opposition has stated, seems to be always in the lead-


Mr Conroy - It is an ignorant lead.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Possibly it is sometimes.


Mr Deakin - The honorable member's remarks remind me that I omitted to say that I did not address myself to the Transvaal question, because there is a motion on the business paper dealing with it.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not referring to the Transvaal question. I am merely pointing out that the Premier of New Zealand has acted in accordance with the promise made by him regarding preferential trade at the Imperial Conference. I do not say that he has done much for Great Britain. On the contrary, if his proposals are looked into it will be seen that Great Britain receives very little.


Mr EWING (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Every part of the British dominions has done the same thing.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not aware that other parts of the Empire have extended concessions to us. Does the New Zealand concession extend to Australia?


Mr Deakin - Not unless we reciprocate.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Even the Premier of New Zealand chooses the portions of the Empire with which he will have preferential trade, though Great Britain so far has done no more for New Zealand than some other parts of the Empire. It has done more than we have, for we now shut out New Zealand" products most effectively.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And they shut out our products.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so. . According to the figures quoted by the Prime Minister in recent speeches, and by the mover of the Address in Reply, our duties are not high enough to enable us to give any concessions to the British people. We have been told that according to the Board of Trade figures we impose only 6 per cent. upon British exports.


Mr Deakin - Seven per cent.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Something between 6 and 7 per cent., and I would ask, therefore, what concession can we give? The Prime Minister and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports say that we cannot give any. We must impose some duty for revenue purposes, and we cannot make any reduction upon a rate of only 6 per cent. I really wonder at the Prime Minister, whose general fairness I am quite ready to admit, quoting this table so often when he knows very well that the Government could never have consented to accept a tariff upon the low scale represented. Owing to the frequency with which the table has been referred to, I should like to point out how absolutely fallacious it is. The figures are based not upon the imports of goods into Australia, but upon the total exports to all parts of the world, of certain large lines of manufactured goods in Great Britain. The exports selected- represent£1 74,500,000, and the compilers of the table take, say, a line like machinery and hardware which represents£21,000,000. They have not taken the whole of the exports under this head, but simply textile machinery, locomotives, and sewing machines, which represent a very small proportion of the whole. They take no notice of the actual imports into the importing country in order to arrive at the average rate of duty. I do not say that they are not right in that case, because, as they point out, they would have to take into consideration the duties which are actually prohibitive. The method they have pursued may be illustrated in this way. A manufacturer of hats, for instance, would say to a customer - "The average price of the hats I sell you is 7s." The customer might say - " No, the average price of the hats you sell me is 3s. 6d." The manufacturer would then retort - "That cannot be because the average price of the hats turned out of any factory is 7s." The answer of the customer would be - " But you must remember that I buy only the cheaper grades of hats, and therefore my average price is lower than your general average." That constitutes the difference between taking the average on the total exports of a country, and the average on the actual imports of the country to which the exports are sent. Therefore the table is absolutely useless for the purposes to which it has been applied. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, in mentioning the lines of goods upon which concessions might be made to Great Britain referred to cotton piece goods. If we removed the duty of 5 per cent. upon cotton piece goods, the protection in Australia would not be reduced to that extent. It would rather be increased, because we should retain 25 per cent. duty upon the goods manufactured from cotton piece goods. That is where the protection would come in. It is represented that there is a duty of 131 per cent. upon certain goods in Russia. That country imposes high duties, not only upon manufactured goods, but upon raw materials, and therefore a duty of 131 per cent, might afford no protection. There may be 131 per cent, duty upon cotton piece goods -in Russia, but there might also be 131 per cent, duty upon raw cotton, an article "which Russia does not produce, and which is not included in the table. The table is absolutely useless, worse than useless. Mention is made in the Governor-General's Speech of the advantage that would be conferred upon our producers by the establishment of preferential trade relations, but I would point out that the whole matter will require very serious consideration on the part of the Australian producer. I had an opportunity during the recent electoral campaign of coming into contact with a number of the producers of New South Wales, because I was relieved from the necessity of carrying on a contest in my electorate, and was thus free to travel through the country districts. The producers to whom I .explained the subject looked upon Mr. Chamberlain's proposal in a light very different from that in which it was first presented to them. The preference offered by Mr. Chamberlain's proposals must be very small, so far as we are concerned, because it cannot be afforded in connexion with raw materials, which represent by far the largest proportion of our exports. It can be given only in connexion with food, and therefore cannot be a high preference. He suggests a duty of something like 3d. per bushel upon wheat, and 5 per cent, upon meat, and he proceeds io make what from his attitude is the extraordinary statement - which is in keeping with the idea previously expressed by more than one Minister in this Chamber - that he does not think that these duties would increase the price to the consumer, because the foreigner would pay the duty. If so, what preference will be given to our producers. If the foreigner has no other market he may be compelled to pay the duty, and if he does all preferential advantage will be lost to us. We must remember that retaliation is always possible. A great many of our exports are sent to foreign countries. Take coal, for instance. _ Foreign nations might retaliate in connexion with our coal exports and we might find our products displaced by coal from Japan, Vancouver, or other places. All these matters are worthy of careful consideration. The next matter to which I wish to refer, is the Federal Capital site. I am rather disappointed that the Minister in charge of this matter has not displayed more of that wonderful energy which he is known to possess. The survey which he promised has been unduly delayed, and I find that the Federal Capital sites question, Which occupied a prominent place in the programme of last session, is now low down in the list of measures to be introduced by the Government.


Mr Deakin - It does not follow that it will be taken in that order. The measure will Be brought forward as soon as the surveys are completed.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am glad to have that assurance. The Minister for Home Affairs is well aware of the feeling excited in Western Australia in regard to the transcontinental railway, which was not provided for in the Constitution, but which is said to have been the subject of promises by certain Prime Ministers. He can, therefore, well understand the feeling of something more than irritation which has been brought about in New South Wales by the delay in giving effect to the terms of the Constitution. I hope that in spite of the contemptuous comments which have appeared in the press of some of the States on this subject, the Government will not be diverted from the early fulfilment of the compact made with New .South Wales. With regard to the Inter-State Commission, I do not for a moment contend that there is no need for such a tribunal, but I hope that the Bill to be introduced for the purpose of creating it will not be framed upon the lines of the previous measure with regard to expense. We should be able to secure efficiency and economy at the same time, and I hope that some means will be devised by which we may utilize the services of our High Court Judges or other officials. The matters which require to be dealt with, although very important, are simple and few, and could be disposed of effectively and cheaply. It is not desirable that we should create any more departments than we can help, and it will certainly not be necessary to erect such an establishment as that contemplated in the Bill previously before us.


Mr Deakin - Owing to the restriction imposed by the Constitution as to the character of the Court, it is very difficult to make provision for discharging the work of the Inter-State Commission by availing ourselves of the services of existing officers.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That may be, but I , hope that some arrangement will be made for economically and speedily disposing of the few matters, such as wharfage rates, differential railway rates, and one or two other matters which require attention. When these have been dealt with, the main work of the Commission will be, to all intents and purposes, completed for the time being, and it will have simply to deal with breaches of its decisions.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why not appoint a High Court Judge, and a temporary assessor ?


Sir William Lyne - That is what we wished to do, but we find that it is impossible under the Constitution.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think there are methods which might be adopted for avoiding any unnecessary expense. A great deal has been said in reference to the employment of white labour only upon subsidized mail steamers. This House in a fit of virtue - if it was virtue - allowed a section to be inserted in the Postal Act -


Mr Wilks - May that virtue long continue.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable .member is perfectly welcome to his opinion. The peculiar position is that - whilst the Ministry are succeeding in dislocating the mail service of the Commonwealth - and personally I do not object to discontinuing- the payment of the subsidies, so long as we give our producers not less than the present opportunities for the export of their' produce, and our community equal opportunities for the carriage of its mails - the only proposal before us is that we shall abandon the subsidy without any intimation of the effect of such abandonment, and that we shall pav poundage rates. ' We are to abandon the subsidy because we refuse to pay it to mail steamers which employ coloured labour, and we are to pay poundage rates to vessels which employ that class of labour. We will not pay a subsidy to black labour, but we will pay poundage to black labour.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is time that the Ministry made a statement upon that matter to the House.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes ; honorable members ought to be taken into the confidence of the Ministry upon such an important question at the earliest opportunity. The Prime Minister has said that upon the German vessels a law operates which confines the crew to members of German nationality. He declares- that what it is possible for Germany to do in this respect, it is equally possible for Great Britain to do. That is not so.


Mr Deakin - I was alluding only to the Australian service.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If we look at the enormous proportion of British shipping, we- shall see that it amounts practically to half the tonnage of the world. It represents more than 16,000,000 tons out of a total for the world of about 33,000,000 tons. When we remember that a population of 40,000,000 has to find the seamen for a mercantile marine so enormous in proportion to the mercantile marine of other countries, and that it has to provide the sailors for a navy as large as those of the two other most powerful navies in the world, we can easily see that what other countries can do in the way of manning their vessels by native white seamen is quite impossible to Great Britain.


Mr Watson - But the number of British seamen employed has actually diminished.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have not the figures before me at the present moment, but I accept the honorable member's statement. With the exception of the American service, the British mercantile marine is the highest paid marine in .the world. Therefore, the diminution must be largely due to the fact that during the last twenty, thirty, or forty years greater opportunity for employment has existed in Britain than previously existed. I know from my own expe.rience that in England a great many persons used to go to sea simply because they saw no opportunities for obtaining land employment. If for any good reason we cannot at present man our enormous shipping tonnage, by absolutely refusing employment upon, our mail steamers to Indian black subjects we are really providing men for foreign navies, because Germans and others are being employed, and in many cases trained, in the British mercantile marine.


Mr Watson - They are mostly Scandinavians, I think.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, they are mostly Germans and others, called by seamen Dutch. There are npt nearly so many Scandinavians. A great many of the men who- are being employed and trained in the British mercantile marine would, in case of war, be called upon to man their own country's navy.


Mr Watson - But they are " undercut " . in the mercantile marine.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. At the British shipping offices the same wages are paid to British and foreign seamen. I quite admit that if we could withdraw foreign sailors altogether, a rise in wages might result. Personally, I should be glad to see such an increase in wages, if it did not enable foreign nations to wipe the British mercantile marine off the ocean.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How does the employment of black labour upon our mail steamers affect that question?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If, at present, we cannot man more than half of our present shipping tonnage, I hold that by prohibiting the employment of these British dark subjects upon our mail steamers, we must make room, not for British sailors, but for foreign sailors. At any rate, there is this advantage in the employment of the lascar, that it is proposed - and in time of war effect would be given to the proposal - to place these men upon our fast mercantile cruisers.


Mr Watson - They have not been placed there so far, and I think that the authorities will reconsider the question of manning our ships with them in time of war.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that is a very wrong thing to say, because some of these crews have displayed as great, courage as any white man ever did. We must remember that these black British subjects, whose courage we doubted, and whose reliability we questioned, have fought for the Empire-


Mr Watson - Not the lascars. They are not of the same race.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But there are a variety of races which have done so. The very men of whom it was said years ago that they would be useless as soldiers - and they were useless then - have now become supports of the Empire.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They always were.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Years ago, as troops, these men were looked upon as useless. The Sikhs and some others were recognised as good men, but the rest were regarded as absolutely worthless.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But we have never used them against a European foe.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - At any rate, it is considered that it will be necessary, in time of naval war, to make use of some of the coloured people of the Empire, if not the lascars, to man our fast cruisers.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - By placing some down below ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - By placing some below and others on deck. I shall not enter into a discussion of the question of immigration restriction, further than to say that the whole complaint against the Ministry in this matter has reference to their administration of the Act. That they have to administer the lawwe all admit; but it has been administered in such a way as to provoke much of the contempt with which Australia is regarded by the press of other countries.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And Parliament was asked to trust the administration of the Act to the Government ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is all a question of administration. The Government can make the Act impossible tomorrow, if they choose to enforce all its provisions as they have this particular one. For example, there is a section providing that bad characters and people suffering from loathsome disease shall be excluded from the Commonwealth. But are they not admitted every day? We know that they are, because, to take the measures necessary to exclude them would make the name of Australia a by-word from end to end of the world, and would induce even its own people who have left its shores to remain away for ever. I do not think that even those who were most favorable to this provision desired that, as in the case of the Petriana there should be any appearance of inhumanity.


Mr Deakin - Was there any?


Mr Watson - No.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There was some appearance of it when shipwrecked sailors were exposed for many hours on the deck of a tug in Port Phillip, and then removed to another vessel to be sent out of the country.


Mr Deakin - Any delay that may have occurred was not due to us. I am prepared to place all the papers in connexion with the case on the table.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It has been stated that the Customs authorities were guilty of delay.


Mr Mauger - A gross misrepresentation for party purposes.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - At any rate there was an evident intention to prevent the men from landing.


Mr Deakin - That is not so.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Shipwrecked sailors on our shores should be treated as they are treated in all other parts of the civilized world, They should be made as comfortable as possible, even at the risk of one or two of them making their escape. The Minister's explanation of the Government proposal in regard to old-age pensions was absolutely unsatisfactory to those who believe in such a system being administered and paid for by the Commonwealth. I admit that if the desirableness of old-age pensions be allowed they should be provided for by the Commonwealth, so as to avoid the inconsistency at present shown in refusing the assistance granted to others to a man who, although he has been fifty years in Australia, has not spent twenty-five years in a particular part of the Commonwealth. The Minister declares that provision for old-age pensions is to be made by arrangement. What is the meaning of that assertion? The arrangement should have been completed before any mention was made of the matter either in the Governor-General's Speech or in the House.


Mr Page - Perhaps it has been made.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister admits that no arrangement has been made, so that the paragraph referring to it in the GovernorGeneral's Speech is only an advertisement for the Government. It is simply a politic step taken by them to suggest the putting forward of what they think is likely to be a popular measure. There should have been negotiations with the States Governments before anything of the kind was mentioned. The assent of. every one of the States Governments should first of all have been obtained, because without that assent nothing can be done.


Mr Deakin - Without that assent we cannot obtain a uniform system.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -What would be the advantage of transf ering to the Commonwealth the oldage pension system of any of the States unless a uniform system were thus secured ? If any State says that it does not believe in old-age pensions, or that, in the event of the adoption of such a system, it will carry it out for itself, a uniform system for the Commonwealth cannot be obtained, and this proposal cannot be carried out.


Mr Deakin - It could be done.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not unless the Government wished to make the whole thing an absurdity.

Mr.Deakin. - But five out of the six States might transfer to us the power to deal with old-age pensions.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And the man who crossed from any of those States into the remaining one would be open to the same inconsistent treatment that at present obtains.


Mr Deakin - That would be only onesixth of the present difficulty.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But the inequality would remain.


Mr Deakin - We should get rid of it gradually.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would be most absurd for the Government to. adopt that system, for it would be almost as imperfect as would be the taking over of the two States systems which now exist. I have the fullest sympathy with every word which thePrime Minister has said as to the desirableness of attracting people to Australia, and by means of the increased population so obtained creating new industries and enterprises, and securing the development of those now in existence. But there is only one effective method of attracting population, more especially to a place so distant from the old world as is Australia. We must either attract the people through the agency of those now in the country, or by the assistance of our lawmakers. We wish to create prosperity, and that prosperity can be secured only when there is confidence in the industry and enterprise of the country. The illustration of Canada given by the Prime Minister shows that that is so. Twenty-five years ago lands were obtainable in Canada on the same conditions as are at present offering ; and every effort was then made by the Canadian Government to attract population by means of advertising. The response, however, as a perusal of the figures will show, was very slight, the reason being that whilst the country possessed certain attractions, the one great attraction of prosperity was missing. When a country - and especially a country close at hand to other over-crowded lands - is prosperous, it will succeed in attracting population. 1 admit, of course, that very substantial prosperity is necessary to cause an influx of people to very distant lands, but when a country is prosperous the fact is scattered broadcast and the people who are doing well there communicate with their friends elsewhere and recommend them to join them. If we wish to advertise Australia - ifwe wish to secure something that will attract population to our shores - we must adopt methods that will result in the prosperity Of the Commonwealth. That prosperity is not possible without stability and confidence. I am not one of those who object to the working classes doing well for themselves and using every effort to improve their position - indeed, I believe that when we really benefit' the labouring classes we benefit the whole population.


Mr Knox - That is what many people forget.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - When I object to proposals of a certain kind, as I have to do sometimes, I am actuated by the belief that they are not really designed to benefit the classes whose welfare they aremeant to secure. I take my own ground on these matters, and decide what I think will have the best result. But what I fear about some of the proposals of the Government is the creation of a greater antagonism between the two great elements of industry, capital and labour. It is desirable - and this remark applies to both sides of the question, to capitalists as well as workers - to arrive at some understanding that will create' confidence, that will remove all unnecessary harassing from industry, that will induce enterprise, and, consequently, produce plentiful employment, to be followed by prosperity for the whole country. Once we accomplish that end we shall secure the greatest development for Australia that we can get. I do not care what a man's views are, or oil which side of the question a- legislator votes ; all ought to endeavour, not to widen the differences between the two great parties in industry, but to narrow them, to remove them, if possible, so that prosperity may result. Whilst the Prime Minister desires to secure a flow of immigration, such as is taking place in Canada, he objects to one thing that is attracting immigration to Canada, and that is, the engagement before arrival of British subjects. I understand that a great many of the farm labourers, who are going to Canada, are engaged before they go. Like the leader of the Opposition, I cannot see why that should not be the case here. If labourers are not brought here to have an effect in any social or industrial disturbance, surely it is better for those who are here now, and far better for those who come, that they should know that they are going to be employed when they arrive. On the one hand, the person already living in Australia is secure, and, on the other hand, the persons who come know that employment is ready for them, and that they will not be thrown on to the market to look for work.


Mr Batchelor - Is there a want of farm labourers in Australia? Is it not farmers rather than labourers who are required ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not say that there is a dearth of labourers. If there is not, there would not be any engagement of labourers in England. But I believe that in Canada a large number of those who are going out are farm labourers under engagement. In fact, I believe that20,000 of them went out in one season.


Mr Watson - Were they not preceded by a large number of settlers ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I agree that a large number of settlers went in advance, and I should like to see settlers coming to Australia. I should like to see opportunities given for settlers to obtain land on the best possible terms. But in all this industrial legislation it is unwise for us to go further than isnecessary, and it is always desirable to avoid that character of administration that will attract . the criticism of the rest of the world. There are other things in the speech of the Prime Minister to which I should like to refer but for the lateness of the hour. I am sure that the Prime Minister will have the active sympathy and assistance of the Opposition and of all parts of the House in any wise proposals for increasing the prosperity of Australia, and directing a proper class of settlers to these shores. When he comes down with definite proposals to that end, if it is possible for him to embody them in a measure, he will receive every assistance from all sides, because we recognise that the present situation of Australia, when the only thing that is increasing is the public debt, is undesirable. I hope that the attention of the Governments of the States will be directed to the matter, and that the discussion will result in an improvement, so that if there is to be an increase of the debt - and I hope there will not be - we may also have an increase' in the resources, and of the number of that best asset,' the people of Australia.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Watson) adjourned.







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