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Tuesday, 8 March 1904

Mr McLEAN (Gippsland) - We heard a great deal during the recess, and we have heard a great deal during the present debate regarding the position ofparties in this House. The present position of parties is, undoubtedly, such as to justify anxiety in the minds of all who are interested in the welfare of the Commonwealth, as 1 trust we all are, but the existence of three distinct parties in a legislative assembly is by no means a new or unusual occurrence. Three parties have existed for a very long time in the House of Commons, and I think there are three parties in the Parliaments of most of the States of the Commonwealth. But the existence of three parties of practically equal numerical strength is by no means so usual, and it is somewhat difficult to foresee what will be the final result of such an arrangement. Suggestions have been made as to the desirability of a union between two of 'the parties, but, when we look at the position, we see that it is surrounded with very grave difficulties. It has been said there should be no great obstacle in the way of the Liberal Party coalescing with our friends on the corner benches ; but I can see a very grave one. In the first place, the members of the Labour Party have subscribed to a platform which was framed by organizations outside Parliament. It would be unreasonable to expect them, without consulting their organizations, to so modify their platform as would enable them to unite with either of the other parties in the House. Although it has been said that, in regard to a great many matters, the difference between the platform of the Labour Party, and that of the Liberal Party is not very great, I think that it is very wide indeed. In the first place, the very soul and essence of liberalism is equal political power for every section of the community, or, in other words, government of the whole people by the whole people.


Mr McLEAN - We know that the policy of our friends is " government of the whole people by a section of the people." Therefore I cannot see how it would be possible for them, without consulting with, and obtaining the concurrence of, their organization outside, to so modify their platform as to enable them to unite with either of the other parties in Parliament. With regard to the question of a coalition between the Govern- ment and the Opposition, there is no doubt that the removal of the fiscal issue disposes of the principal element of contention ; but, at the same time, I think that there would be very great difficulties in the way of an immediate union of forces. The members of the Opposition are in the position of a bashful maiden who has only her charms to offer, whereas the Government are in possession of the loaves and fishes, and are not likely at present to propose a redistribution. Therefore it appears to me that it is our duty to go on with the business of the country as if there were no difficulties in the way, and await developments. It is the duty of the .Government to act precisely as if they had a good working majority. If they are subjected to undue pressure in matters of first importance, or upon questions involving vital principles, I am sure that they will recognise their clear duty, viz., to break rather than bend too far.

Mr Fisher - Would the honorable member kindly furnish us with some proof of the truth of his statement that the Labour Party represent only one section of the people ?

Mr McLEAN - The name of the party is a sufficient indication of that fact.

Mr Fisher - But there are also a Tory Party, a Liberal Party, and others ; in fact, there is no limit to the names applied to various political sections.

Mr McLEAN - This is not the place in which to enter upon a long disquisition upon that subject. Will my honorable friend say that he and his associates are prepared to modify the policy upon which they went to the country ?

Mr Fisher - We appealed to the whole of the people, an3 represent the whole of the people.

Mr McLEAN - I would ask the honorable member if he is prepared to so modify the platform of the Labour Party that it can be rendered acceptable to either of the other parties in Parliament. If my honorable friend will tell me that- I am mistaken, I shall be delighted to hear him, because no one has more respect for him, and for those associated with him, than I have. I respect those honorable members personally, but T recognise that they are bound to adhere to the platform prepared by an organization outside of Parliament, and that they are not in a position to materially modify that platform.

Mr McDonald - Our platform -does not require modification.

Mr Fisher - Four of the States have indorsed the policy of the Labour Party.

Mr Poynton - Do not the pledges- of all honorable members bind them in much the same way?

Mr McLEAN - Certainly; but other honorable members are not subject to the direction of outside organizations. We are bound bv pledges, it is true; but we 'are at the same time free to do anything that is not in violation of our pledges if we think it will be in the best interests of the country

Mr Fisher - It is the same with members of the Labour Party.

Mr McLEAN - I have yet to learn that members of the Labour Party would be in a position to modify their programme, even though they might consider it best in the interests of the country.

Mr Fisher - Like honest men we should appeal to the electors.

Mr McLEAN - That would be the proper course to adopt, and I have no doubt that my honorable friends would take that step if occasion arose.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then there is really no difference between the honorable member for Gippsland and the members of the Labour Party.

Mr McLEAN - Referring to the GovernorGeneral's Speech, I am very pleased to see such a prominent position assigned to the all-important question of preferential trade. I believe that that policy, if well and wisely carried out, will do a great deal to promote the interests, not only of Australia, but of the other outlying portions of the Empire and of the United Kingdom. At present the Empire, throughout all its parts, is united by the bonds of kinship and sentiment, and although these are very powerful, Ithink it will be well to add to them the ties of closer trade relations and mutual selfinterest. If we did so, the union of the Empire would be established upon a solid and enduring basis.

Mr Conroy - Namely, that of pounds, shillings, -and pence.

Mr McLEAN - It may be some time before the mother country is in a position to negotiate with us, but I believe that matters will assume a practical shape before long. Mr. Chamberlain is playing a winning game, although I doubt if he willsucceed at the next general election. The very fact that attention has been prominently directed to the condition of affairs in the mother country must, in spite of all the old prejudices, ultimately waken the nation to the advantage of the policy nowbeing advocated.

Mr Conroy - What is that policy ?

Mr McLEAN -My honorable and learned friend will have plenty of opportunities of expressing his views upon that point.

Mr Conroy - We knowthat it is a policy of robbery of the poor.

Mr McLEAN - The people of Great Britain cannot long ignore the fact that at present the demand for the products of British labour sold in foreign countries is not increasing, but is rather diminishing from year to year, whilst the products of foreign labour are displacing those of Great Britain in British markets by leaps and bounds year after year. These are facts which the nation cannot long refuse to recognise, and I believe that they will have their full weight in due time. It would be very difficult to overestimate the advantages of preferential trade to the outlying portions of the Empire. If a substantial, or even a moderate, preference in the British markets were given to our dairy, agricultural, and viticultural produce, a very great boon would be conferred upon us, and we should take a great step forward in the direction of making the Empire selfsupporting. It is humiliating to reflect that the mother country is dependent for her food supplies upon nations with which she may possibly . become involved in hostilities. It is not difficult to realize the position in which she would be placed if there were any combination against her by those nations which supply her with food. The consequences of a stoppage of supplies would be very serious - such as one does not care to contemplate. The present state of affairs should not be allowed to continue.; particularly in view of the large portion of the world's surface that is occupied by British possessions and the vast resources of such territories. We know that within itself the Empire has sufficient means to produce all the food supplies required by the mother land. Therefore, it will be of the very greatest advantage, not only to the outlying portions, but to the heart of the British Empire, if a wise system of preferential trade were established. Iam very pleased to observe that in the viceregal speech prominent reference is made to two all-important questions. I refer to the proposals to assist the development of our rural industries and to encourage immigration. These two matters are closely connected, andI do not think that the importance of either can be very well overestimated. As we are all aware, the population of Australia at the present time is practically settled along a small fringe of our coastline. Our resources' are but imperfectly developed, and we all recognise that Australia cannot take her proper position amongst the. great nations of the earth until she possesses a -very much denser population, and until her output of products has been very materially increased. In my opinion, the best possible way in which to attract immigration to our shores is to so expand our industries that they may afford profitable employment for labour and profitable investment for capital.' The two things should go hand in hand, and there is no doubt -whatever that the State can do a very great deal in both of these directions.

Mr Conroy - It cannot create wealth. The people themselves must make it.

Mr McLEAN - If my honorable and learned friend will curb his impatience now, he will have abundant opportunity to reply to my observations at a later stage. I always listen with pleasure to him, even though he speaks continuously - as he occasionally does - for hours. At the same time I ask him to give other honorable members a fair opportunity to address the House. I do not object to reasonable interjections if they are relevant to the matter which I am discussing. Perhaps I should apologize to the honorable and learned member for saying so ; but I really fail to see the relevance of his interjection. I need scarcely point out to honorable members that throughout the world the agricultural industry employs more people, and produces more wealth, than does any other industry even if we exclude eastern countries, such as India, China, and Japan, where intense culture is carried on to an enormous extent. There it is a common thing to find individuals cultivating only a few square yards of land. That fact will give honorable members some conception of the extent to which agriculture is practised amongst these eastern nations. I regret that I cannot find any available statistics relating to the area under cultivation in these countries or to the number of persons who are engaged in this industry. But, excluding them from our consideration, I find that in other countries, whose statistics are available, it employs 80,000,000 of peasants, and that the product of their labour represents- a value of ^4,000,000,000 per annum. That is a very large sum, indeed ; but as the figures are taken from .Mulhall, I presume that they are approximately correct. Since 1840 this industry has considerably more than doubled its proportions. -A great deal of that development is due to State action in those countries, where agriculture .is most largely carried on. Probably Great Britain has done less to encourage agriculture than has any other European nation. The result is, that whilst in the United Kingdom, in 1840, there were 22,000,000 acres under cultivation, in 1888, or 48 years afterwards, there were only 21,000,000 acres. Thus there was an actual falling off of 1,000,000 acres, notwithstanding that the population of the country had very largely increased in the meantime. France and Germany have adopted a different policy. They have . encouraged agriculture by every reasonable means in their power, with the result that, during the same period, the former increased the area which was under cultivation from 55,000,000 acres to 61,000,000 acres - an increase, of 6,000,000 acres - whilst the latter increased its acreage from 45,000,000 to 59,000,000, an increase of 14,000,000 acres. Similarly the United States increased its area under cultivation from 50,000,000 acres to 201,000,000 acres, an increase of 151.000.000 acres.

Mr Kelly - What was the increase of population in the United States during the same period ?

Mr McLEAN - The increase of population was undoubtedly very great. I have not the figures relating to that phase of the question in my possession. But I would point out to the honorable member that the increase of population in the United Kingdom was also very great - I think about 13,000,000 or 14,000,000 - notwithstanding which, the area under cultivation actually declined. As honorable members are aware, the United States Government stimulate rural production by every reasonable means in their power, and we all know that the Government of a country can encourage the development of this industry in many ways. Besides being in a position to grant bonuses in that direction, they have facilities for acquiring the latest information from all the countries of the earth. They are also possessed of facilities for disseminating that information in the widest possible manner, and at the least possible cost. They can import the most approved kinds of seeds ; they can inform the people of the countries from which they can obtain the latest and most up-to-date machinery for carrying on their avocations. It is not necessary for me to dwell upon the different means by which a Government can encourage rural production. But I have no hesitation in saying that it can be done to a very large extent, and I take it that the references which are made to these matters in the Governor-General's Speech have been inserted not merely as indicative of the desire. of the Ministry, but for the purpose of showing the policy which they are determined to pursue. I trust that they will take decided steps to give effect to these all-important planks in their platform. If they do anything to develop our local industries, to show the people of other lands where they can find profitable investment for capital and remunerative employment for labour, they will be doing a. great deal to encourage immigration. These two matters, therefore, should go hand in hand. .But whilst I thoroughly approve of the Government proposals in this respect,, there are two matters closely related to them upon which I differ from them, and differ very widely. In the first place, it seems to me that it is ridiculous to beckon to people to come to Australia with one hand, and to repel them with, the other. So long as there remains in the Immigration Restriction Act the provision which, regardless of what the conditions may be, prohibits people from being brought here under contract, so long will it be vain to endeavour to attract this class of population. It is a declaration on our part that they are. not to come here under contract under any conditions. When we make that declaration we are simply advertising the fact that they are welcome to come to Australia to swell the ranks of the unemployed, but that they must not come to increase- the ranks of the wage-earners.

Mr Poynton - A similar provision has been applied in the. United States of Amenca since 1887.

Mr McLEAN - Does not my honorable friend know that the conditions prevailing in the United States of America are as widely different from those of Australia as day is from night? The United States in the first place encouraged immigration of every kind - desirable and undesirable - until they obtained an enormous population. Now their population of nearly 80,000,000 is quite sufficient for them, and they_ can well afford to place any restrictive immigrat'ion laws upon their statute-book. But it is simply ridiculous for us, with our handful of population, to compare Australia in that respect with the great United States of America. I should be quite prepared to go this far with the Government in regard to the provisions to which I. have referred: I should be prepared to support legislation that would prevent any men brought here under contract from taking the place of men who were engaged in an industrial dispute, and thus temporarily thrown out of employment. I would also go further. I should be quite willing that no one should be brought out under contract to receive less than the current rates of wages prevailing in Australia. With those two safeguards I contend that every encouragement should be given to people to bring to our shores the right class of workers under contract, for that is, the only way in which really good men can be secured. We know that skilled labourers, whose time and work are valuable to the countries in which they live, can find employment there, and they are not likely to leave that employment to come to this land if no better inducement offers than that of joining the ranks of the unemployed here, and taking thei'r chance of obtaining work later on. Men of a good class will not come here unless they are assured that, upon their arrival, employment will be forthcoming. I should like, therefore, to see this restrictive provision modified in the direction to which I have referred. Another point on which I differ from the Ministry, and which bears closely upon the all important question of the development of our rural industries, relates to the provision in the Post and Telegraph Act, prohibiting the Government from entering into any mail contract with a company which employs coloured labour. That is a very important matter, and one that should be calmly and dispassionately considered. Honorable members are aware that I have always been a consistent advocate of the policy of a White Australia. I have advocated that policy, because I believe it to be necessary in the interests of the future of Australia ; but I have not closed my eyes to . the fact that it costs a good deal to give effect to it. It not only involves the large amount that we have to pay by way of bonuses on sugar produced by white labour - which is a very serious item, and one that is increasing every year - but, in addition, we know that the exclusion of coloured labour must for a number years retard to a considerable extent the development of our resources, and consequently the progress of the country. In spite of these facts, when we consider our close proximity to the teeming millions of the East, we must recognise ihat, if we placed no restriction upon their importation, they would come here in millions - that, in the absence of any restrictive laws they could overrun the continent, and that it would soon become a question of which should be the dominant race. Having regard to the future, I, therefore, consider the policy of a White Australia a very important one, and I have never swerved from my adhesion to it. But if I did hot know otherwise I should say that in pressing for a White Ocean policy our honorable, friends of the Labour F arty were not the friends of the principle of a White Australia. I know, of course, that they are perfectly sincere, yet in pressing for the extension of this policy beyond our own bounds, and to an extent so unreasonable that it can subject us only to the ridicule of the outer world, they are doing more to endanger the principle of a White Australia than could- be done by the adoption of any other course. Are not honorable members aware that the British Empire comprises more than 300,000,000 of coloured subjects? The country which they occupy is theirs by right of inheritance; it is ours only by right of conquest, and I am very pleased to know that Great Britain has never failed to recognise her duty towards those races. In every possible respect she has always treated them well. If that were not the case, does any one believe that it would be possible for a mere handful of whites to rule India, with its 300,000,000 of . coloured people ? If Great Britain adopted the policy that we are pursuing in endeavoring to enforce the principle, not only of a White Australia, but of a White Ocean, how long could she retain her hold over those races? It would be impossible for her to retain that control. And surely, whilst we claim our own rights, and insist upon their observance, we should recognise those of other people. I have yet to learn that the ocean which washes the shores of these coloured races is not as free to them as it is to us. What right have we to say what shall be the complexion of the races who choose to go upon the broad ocean?

Mr Bamford - But we are paying for these services.

Mr McLEAN - Are we to tell shipowners who for many years- have employed these coloured men - men who have done their duty faithfully and honestly - that unless they discharge them and ^deprive them of their means of making an honest livelihood we shall withdraw our miserable subsidy? I do not wonder at these shipping companies saying to us - " Keep your subsidy,- and your mails too." Thev will do their duty in spite of our little subsidy. I have no hesitation in saying that this policy is cruel, oppressive, and unjust, and, indeed. I think I may say without any departure from the truth that it is a barbarous one. But even assuming, for the sake of argument, that my view of the matter is incorrect - assuming that it is just and humane to tell ship-owners who propose to contract for the carriage of our mails that they must discharge the coloured men who have faithfully done their duty, and whose only fault is that their Creator made their skins a little darker than our own - what advantage would accrue to Australia ? Would Australians take the place of these men? We know perfectly well that they would not; we know that their places would be filled by men from some other parts of the world. What benefit then could accrue to Australia from the adoption of this policy? Why should we make ourselves ridiculous in the estimation of the outer world by inserting a condition in our mail contracts which,' to my mind, brands Australians with disgrace?

Mr Poynton - Did the honorable member speak in this way when the provision to which he refers was before the House ?

Mr McLEAN - On the only occasion upon which I addressed myself to the subject in this House. I spoke in somewhat similar terms. The provision was suggested by the Labour Party. It was sprung upon us; I had never read it before, and it was accepted by the Government before I and many other honorable members knew what its effect would be. I have never, changed my opinion in regard to the provision, and I am satisfied that it is the greatest danger to the policy of a White Australia that could be created. We know perfectly well that these people must get a living somewhere. ' If we thrust them out of one ship, they must get into another, or they must go somewhere else, in all probability, within the British Empire, to earn an honest living or starve. What advantage, or disadvantage, would it be to us that they should happen to be employed upon a particular ship? We should adopt a common-sense policy. Let us insist upon cur own rights to the very last. I should be the last to abandon those rights, amongst which I include this policy of a White Australia, which I have always supported; but in mercy's name, let us not try to sweep the whole of the British Empire, and clear it of over 300,000,000 of coloured subjects.

Mr Poynton - The honorable member is aware that that is not proposed.

Mr McLEAN - My honorable friend is proposing a little of it.

Mr Poynton - As applied to subsidized boats.

Mr McLEAN - What is the advantage of that ? We should not be finding employment for any of our Australian subjects. It is our duty to look to the welfare of our own people, and we ought not to interfere outside of our own bounds, where we have no right to interfere. If it is desirable to clear these people out of British ships, surely that is a question for the -British people themselves to consider? Surely they do not require our dictation as to the line of policy they should pursue? Although, to a large extent, he takes the same view as I do upon this matter, and does not approve of it, my right honorable and learned friend the leader of the Opposition said the other night that he would approve of negotiating with the British Government with a view to give effect to such a policy as this. I would be no party to going even to that length. I would not interfere in any way. I prefer to let the British Government mind their own business and govern themselves and their own subjects as they think best.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the carrying of our mails exclusively their business ?

Mr McLEAN - It is their business to do that for hire. If my honorable friend were going down the street and wanted the use of a cab, would he insist upon the cabman having a horse of a particular colour? Would not that be ridiculous ? I know we have the right to do this. The Prime Minister told us the other night that we have a perfect right to attach this condition to our mail contracts. I know we have the right. I know also that the shipping companies have a right to say to us - "All right, and we make a condition that you dismiss your Government." They could attach that condition if they chose, but it would be absurd. I consider that this proposal is not only absurd,;but something worse. It is unjust and unfair in the extreme. To connect this with the subjects I have been discussing I would remind honorable members that every barrier we place in the way of navigation is an additional impost upon the export of our products. Of what use is it for us to try to encourage the development of ' our industries in order 'to increase our exports if we are to put these foolish and meaningless restrictions upon exports? That is the -way in which it bears upon this question, otherwise I should not have referred to it at this stage ; because I can tell the - Government that I am heart and soul with them in the main objects they .have in view in both these matters. It is .my duty, however, holding strong convictions, to express. my objectionsto these particular clauses in the two Acts to which I have referred, which in my opinion will largely interfere with the objects theGovernment desire to attain - that is the encouragement of immigration and the development of our rural industries.

Mr Deakin - This is no new departure.

Mr Kennedy - What about the condition as to perishable products?

Mr McLEAN - That has nothing to dowith it. It is a question as to whether we have any right to interfere beyond our own shores.

Mr Conroy - What about the message to the Transvaal ?

Mr McLEAN - That is a very different matter. If my honorable and learned friend the Prime Minister had sent a protest to the British Government I should have said that he had no right to do so, but it was. a very different thing to write a friendly letter to a neighbouring friendly State, pointing out what he believed to be a danger. I can see no objection whatever to the action which the honorable and learned gentleman took in that case. I should, however, see a decided objection to our interfering to the extent of dictating to the British Government the course they should adopt.

Mr Conroy - Even the writing of a friendly letter suggesting that they should adopt it?

Mr McLEAN - A most important measure, which, I presume, will occupy our attention very shortly is the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill. Probably this will be the first question upon which the peculiar position of parties in this House will make itself manifest. I desire to say now, as I stated last session, that I support the leading principles of the Bill. I believe that arbitration and conciliation are preferable to the present method of settling industrial disputes by means of strikes and locks-out, which I consider the most wasteful and most barbarous system that could be devised for the purpose. Therefore, although I am not too sanguine of the result of this tribunal, .1 am prepared to .give it a trial. I must say that I am! less sanguine .now than I was last session. The recent act of coal miners in New South Wales in refusing to accept the award of the Courts-

Mr Conroy -.: - They are good men, and I wish we had a few more like them.

Mr McLEAN - In my opinion that action raised a danger flag for us in dealing with the question.

Mr Conroy - They showed that there was a spirit of freedom still left in them..

Mr Watkins - The honorable member, perhaps, does not know the circumstances.

Mr McLEAN - I do not profess to know all the circumstances of the case, but I do know that they asked for the enactment of a particular law, and when that law was placed upon the statute-book their duty, if they did not approve of its operation., was to endeavour- to get it amended, and not to disobey the award of the Court. They could not do anything more fatal to their own cause than to proceed in the way in which they have proceeded.

Mr Conroy - What can a Judge know of these matters?

Mr McLEAN - However, in spite of that, I am prepared to support the main principles of this- Bill. But, I may tell the Prime Minister, that I am not prepared- to extend the operation of the Bill to industries in which strikes and industrial strife have, never occurred.

Mr Deakin - The honorable member will find that the amendment he moved last session is there.

Mr McLEAN - I am obliged to the honorable and learned gentleman. When in Committee on the Bill I intend to move an amendment to exempt- the agricultural and dairying industries from its operation. It is not that I think that people engaged in those industries are entitled to any privileges' not enjoyed by every other section of the community, but simply because the necessity has never arisen, and I feel that it would be an insult to both employers and employes in those industries, in which strife has. never, occurred, if we were to provide a tribunal for the settlement ' of disputes that are not likely to arise.

Mr Conroy - We should get an arbitrator to settle disputes in this Parliament first.

Mr McLEAN - With regard to another amendment, which I understand is to be proposed by my honorable friends who sit in the labour corner, I do not know whether they have really considered what would be its effect. If they do consider it they must certainly see that, if they are successful, their amendment will create- a. position which will be intolerable and impossible, lt will take away from the States the rights which the Constitution gives them. I do not know whether the proposed amendment will be an infringement of the language of the Constitution, but it will certainly be diametrically opposed to its spirit, and if the Constitution permits the passing of such an amendment, then, although I never considered it a perfect instrument, I. must conclude that the Constitution is very much more defective than I thought it was. The Constitution professes to give the States jurisdiction over every question that was not expressly relegated to the Federal Parliament. If the Federal Parliament can create a body of men, outsiders having no responsibility whatever to the constituents of the States Governments and Parliaments to manage the States Public Service - because that is what it would amount to - to tell them, what their hours of labour and their rates of pay are to be, and also the general conditions under which they must work; and if this body is further to be placed in a position to tell a State Treasurer to take his Estimates back, and perhaps increase them by £200,000 or ,£300,000, then surely the powers of the States Governments and Parliaments will be reduced to a farce, and those authorities will be- reduced to a position which they cannot be expected, to accept for one moment. I believe that the States Governments would snap their fingers at the award of the Court if it attempted to. make such an award. Then what should we have to do? Should we call out the military to enforce- obedience? Have honorable "members considered seriously what would happen even if everything went as smoothly as they desire? Have they considered what the duties of the Court would be? I presume that it would be the duty of the Court to take cognizance of the rate of wages that a particular industry could afford to pay. If it did not do that - if it compelled industries to pay higher, wages than they could afford - the only effect would be to close them, and to dry up the sources of employment.

Mr Poynton - The awards would apply to' private individuals in the same way as to the States Governments.

Mr McLEAN - Apply such an award to the States railways. Those railways are now run at a loss. The States' are paying more wages than the undertakings can afford to carry, and the people of the States make up the loss.

Mr Poynton - Does not that apply in the same way to private individuals?

Mr McLEAN - No; a private individual can shut up his industry if the Court makes it unprofitable to carry it on. No court in the world can compel an individual to carry on an industry at a loss. If that rule were applied to the States railways, the effect would be either the dismissal of a number of employes or the reduction of their wages if the railways were to be made to pay. If the Arbitration Court is not to do that, what powers are we going to give to it? Is the Court to be the sole judge of how much loss the States and the people of the Commonwealth can afford? The whole thing is absurd on the face of it. I sinthing is absurd on the face of it. I sincerely hope that wiser counsels will prevail. But if the struggle is to come, the sooner the better. Let us meet it, and let it be fought out. Let there be an awakening of the people to their position. I feel perfectly sure that we can trust the Government now in office to do their duty if the amendment foreshadowed is carried.

Mr Fisher - Are not the revenues of the States subject to the decisions of the High Court now?

Mr McLEAN - To an infinitesimal extent in respect to legislation' arising between individuals and. the Commonwealth, or between separate States, or between the Commonwealth and the States.

Mr Kingston - Is not a. State servant an individual?

Mr McLEAN - I should like to see the Arbitration Court that would make my right honorable friend if he were at the head of a State Government obey it. My right honorable friend would be the very first to rise in all the wrath of his just indignation, as we have seen. Kim' do when he considered that any matter under his control was assailed here. We know how he can fight. I would not desire better fun then to see my right honorable friend occupying the position of a State Treasurer, and that Arbitration Court daring to tell him to take back his Estimates and recast them. He would be the very last to do it. There is one matter about which I wish to have a word with the Minister for Trade and Customs. I see that he has put a mention of his favorite bantling - the Inter-State Commission Bill - into the Governor-General's Speech. The proposal was strangled last session.

Sir William Lyne - -Oh, let me alone !

Mr McLEAN - There is no one who has more respect for my honorable friend than I have. I know that the introduction of this measure arises out of the largeness of his heart. He has his eye on some few individuals who he thinks would be very much better off with big salaries and in comfortable billets. My honorable friend is never happy unless he is distributing largesse.

Sir William Lyne - That is not fair.

Mr McLEAN - An Inter-State Commission at the present time in my opinion would be a cause not only of useless expenditure, but would be an absurdity. It is all very well in America, where the railways, the steam-ship companies, and all the other carrying concerns are in the hands of private individuals. An Inter-State Commission is necessary there ; but here the principal means of transit are in the hands of the States.

Mr Poynton - It is necessary to bring New South Wales and Victoria into line in the matter of railway freights.

Mr McLEAN - Does my honorable friend mean to insult the Federal Government by saying that they are not capable of carrying on negotiations with the States Governments, so as to rectify any little anomalies .of that kind? Does he not know that when this question is once settled - and it might be settled in a few days - the Inter-State Commission would go on for all eternity, the members of it drawing their salaries and sleeping ! Is it a wise thing to establish such a body? I hope that my honorable friend the Minister for Trade and Customs will put this measure at the bottom of the business-paper, and let it be mercilessly slaughtered with the other innocents at the end of the session.

Sir William Lyne - I intend to introduce it at the earliest moment, and to stop Victoria and some of the other States from doing what they are doing now.

Mr Kingston - Does not the Constitution say that an Inter-State Commission is to be established?

Mr McLEAN - It is true that the Constitution says that an Inter-State Commission may be established, but no sensible people would establish a body that would have a little work to do for a few days, and then become useless for the rest of its natural life". The Constitution was quite right in making provision for such a body. Otherwise we could not create one if it were necessary. No doubt the framers of the Constitution intended that it should be brought into operation when required.

Sir William Lyne - Is the Honorable member really prepared to continue the system now carried on in some of the States of differential charges on the railways and of harbor charges, which are equal to a duty?

Mr McLEAN - No; but I think, as I stated last session, that the Government of the Commonwealth should take the trouble to negotiate with the Governments of the States. I am perfectly sure that the members of the States Governments are reasonable and common-sense men.

Mr Glynn - The Government could have negotiated long since had they tried.

Mr McLEAN - The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne reminds me that the Commonwealth Government could, by way of injunction, and without an InterState Commission, stop these preferential charges, while with a Commission the law would be helpless, because the whole control would be in the hands of that body.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member for Gippsland holds a different opinion from that expressed by many other people.

Mr McLEAN - I feel that this proposal is put on the programme only with a view to ascertain whether honorable members have changed their minds ; but I am sure that the good sense of the Minister will induce him to place the legislation at the bottom of the notice-paper, and allow it to stand over. I am afraid I have detained honorable members at too great a length, but a reference is made in His Excellency's Speech to a proposed amendment of the Electoral Act. That, in my opinion, is one of the most important' matters to which we can devote our attention, seeing that it strikes at the very root of government itself. Having given this matter a good deal of thought for some years past, I have come to the conclusion that the best we can do is to give, practical effect to the principles for which we have been legislating for years, and make Parliament a reflex of the opinions of a majority of the whole people. At the present time it is only some particular section of the community, with a special interest in the question, who busy themselves at an election, and thus the Parliament is not a true reflex of the will of the whole people.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is the good of people busying themselves if they are not on the electoral roll ?

Mr McLEAN - That is a matter of administration, whereas I am speaking of a matter of law. We ought to endeavour to make voting as easy as possible for every individual, and to this end we might extend the system of voting by post considerably further than it goes at present. Then, having given every facility to the people to vote, we ought to make voting compulsory.

Mr Kingston - Hear, hear.

Mr McLEAN - Yes; I say that we. ought to make voting compulsory. If people do not take sufficient interest in the country in which they live to record their votes, it would toe no hardship to make them perform that duty.

Mr Poynton - What does the honorable member suggest should be done if people did not record their votes ?

Mr McLEAN - That is a matter of detail which can be provided for, as in other cases of compulsion. The honorable member who interjects knows that at the present time we compel children to attend school. What is done if people allow their children to play truant ?

Sir John Forrest - The law also compels people to fill in census returns.

Mr McLEAN - That is so, and also to serve on juries. There are several matters or> which we bring compulsion to bear on individuals in the interests of the whole community. What great hardship would it be to compel people to give an hour or two, or perhaps less, once in three years to the most important function that can engage their attention - the function of selfgovernment? No real hardship would be inflicted, and such a law, if enforced, would make Parliament what it never has been up to the present - a true reflex of the will of the majority of the whole people.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - While compelling people to vote, does the honorable member propose to find them suitable candidates ?

Mr Glynn - And opinions also?

Mr McLEAN - The people could vote for the candidate who in their judgment was the best;' and there is no reason why they should not exercise their influence in trying to induce suitable candidates to come forward. Having referred briefly to the most salient matters contained in His Excellency's Speech, I conclude with an expression of my hope that we shall be able to surmount the difficulties which seem to stand in our way at the present time, and that the results of the session may conduce to the best interests of the people of the Commonwealth.

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