Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 10 March 1904

Mr LIDDELL (Hunter) - As a new member in the fullest sense of the term, and as one who is unaccustomed to the usages of this House, I can assure honorable members it is with considerable diffidence that I rise to add my quota to the debate. To-day the honorable and learned member for Parkes remarked that it was not only right that new members should take an early opportunity of addressing this Chamber, and thus introducing themselves to the old members, but that the latter should give the former a taste of their quality. I feel very much like the little boy who stands shivering upon the bank of a stream, and is afraid to take the plunge. However, I have been advised that the best thing I can do is to take it and get it over. I feel my position all the more keenly because I have the honour to represent a constituency which for three years was represented by the first Prime Ministerof Australia. The electors of the Hunter felt themselves highly honoured when they found that they were privileged to be represented by the late Prime Minister. But I regret to say that many were disappointed when they discovered that the policy which he advocated in his celebrated Maitland manifesto was not to be given effect to in the way they had anticipated. The fact that an untried man has been returned by a considerable majority to represent that particular constituency is conclusive evidence that it favours free-trade. I am not prepared to discuss the merits of the Government policy, but I utterly fail to see how they can reconcile the two questions of preferential trade and fiscal peace. In my judgment these things can scarcely coexist. I cannot understand why the Government throughout the recent campaign made the question of preferential trade their battlecry, when it is apparent to everybody cannot come upon the tapis for threeyears. We must await theverdict of the people of

Great Britain upon that subject, and when we receive an offer from them it will then be time enough for us to discuss it. We have heard a great deal about the " crimson thread of kinship " and the " silken bonds," but I fancy that to a certain extent we deceive ourselves. True, we are loyal to the mother country, but I cannot but feel that there is a good deal of the sordid element in connexion with our loyalty. We sent our soldiers to South Africa to assist the Empire, but many of them were not animated by feelings of loyalty alone. They recognised that in South Africa we had a market for our goods, and that consequently we could not allow that country to pass into the hands of foreigners. Concerning the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, I merely desire to say that we cannot possibly progress unless we have a union between the two great forces of capital and labour. Consequently, I am favorable to giving the principle of arbitration a fair trial. Of course, we must regard legislation of this kind as largely an experiment. We have recently had examples in which it seems likely to prove a failure. That, however, should not deter us from endeavouring to produce unity between these two great opposing forces. I have an opinion upon the proposal to extend the provisions of the Bill to the public servants, but I have no intention of expressing it at the present moment. If we bring public servants under its operation, I fail to understand why it should not be made to embrace the members of our defence force. Then possibly we might witness the spectacle of the Justices of the High Court accompanying the troops in time of war, in order to be upon the spot in case their services might be required'. We might also be spared the sight of 500 soldiers disobeying the orders of their superior officer - as was the case in Tasmania a few days ago. In regard to the Navigation Bill, I shall say nothing about the propriety of excluding black labour from our mail steamers. I have had some experience of the sea, and I know that when vessels are travelling through the Red Sea, with the thermometer registering 120 degrees in the shade, and the wind' aft, the stokehold is about the last place in which one would wish to see his friends. Nevertheless, the stamina of the British race is such that it is quite able to endure these extreme temperatures. Whether or not we desire to prohibit the employment of black labour upon our mail steamers, I think that, as a matter of expediency, it is to be regretted that the Commonwealth enacted such legislation. We behold the fruits of it to-day. We find the Postmaster-General placed iri a most awkward dilemma. He has called for tenders for a mail service under the new conditions, and no satisfactory replies have been forthcoming. It must be admitted that the exclusion of black labour from these ships has a tendency to dislocate the trade of the great shipping companies which are interested, and we must recognise that" they have their vested rights. Moreover, the policy which has been adopted in this connexion is not pleasing to our neighbours. One question which in my judgment should be settled this session is the selection of the Federal Capital site. I made it one of the planks or my platform during' the recent election campaign. I think that the mother State is merely asking for her rights when she demands that it shall be settled at the earliest possible moment, and I must congratulate the Prime Minister upon having recognised that fact. I see no reason why we should not establish the Federal Capital, not in the bush, but in the country. It is admitted that one of the evils from which we are suffering to-day is the concentration of population in a few large cities. For example, Sydney contains five-fourteenths of the population of New South Wales. The honorable member for Franklin claims that it would be wise on our part -not to create any more large cities. But I would point out to him that Washington has a population of 200,000, and covers an area of seventy square miles. I fail to see why we should not make another addition to our great cities. It need not necessarily be a city of the magnitude of Sydney or of Melbourne, but it would be an advantage to this country if we had, as in New Zealand, a number of smaller cities scattered throughout the Commonwealth. Why should we not, at very little expense, erect Houses of Parliament, in which to conduct our business, somewhere in the neighbourhood of a fairly large town like Tumut or Bombala?

Mr Willis - Or Lyndhurst?-

Mr LIDDELL - I prefer Lyndhurst to either of the other sites, because I recognise that it could readily be connected with the existing railway systems. I see no reason why we should not, at slight expense, establish our Houses of Parliament in a Federal Capital, and live in the neighbouring township in the greatest of comfort. I come now to the question of Immigration. I favour the encouragement of immigration, but the question before us is, how can we best give effect to our wishes. I have travelled over mile after mile of beautiful arable land in my own electorate - land most suitable for settlement, but devoted entirely to the production of wool. It seems to me that there is nothing to prevent the cutting up of large estates of this description, or, at all events, of those portions of them which are suitable for agricultural purposes. The present holders incur no great expense in carrying on operations. Most of them work on the land themselves, and employ but few men, and it seems to me that there is nothing to prevent the throwing open of such areas to suitable settlers. If the present holders were compelled to make their land available for settlement, they would find in the end that it was much to their advantage, and that they would secure a much better return than they now obtain.I am wholly opposed to the entrance of coloured races into this fair land of ours. We are of Anglo-Saxon blood, and it would be regrettable if that blood were contaminated by that of coloured races. Considering that we have enormous coloured populations in close proximity to our shores, I feel that we are well within our rights in refusing to allow the unrestricted admission of coloured races to the Commonwealth. There are, for example, the 400,000,000 of China, and the 40,000,000 of Japan, and it would be a serious matter to the country if those people once gained a foothold here. I should encourage the immigration of men with small capital, and also of artisans and labourers, and I hold that we make a great mistake when we erect on our shores a notice-board bearing the warning - "Trespassers will be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law." It is a matter for regret that we do not hold out open arms to immigrants of a desirable class.

Mr Isaacs - That is what we are doing.

Mr LIDDELL - Canada and the United States, as well as Australia in the golddigging days, were most prosperous when they had a steady stream of immigrants flowing in. There is one class, however, which I would not encourage. I speak now with a certain amount of hesitation, because we must all entertain naught but feelings of sympathy for those who suffer from illhealth. For many years, however, Australia has been made a dumping ground for persons from other lands who suffer from consumption. I am glad to see that the people, in common with the medical world, are beginning to recognise that consumption is a disease which is communicable, and I think that our laws for its prevention cannot be made too stringent. I would not wholly restrict the admission of consumptives to the Commonwealth, but if they choose to come here, I should make them reside within certain reservations, where they would be able to enjoy the beneficial influences of our climate without fear of contaminating our people. One constantly sees consumptives on board the large mail steam-ships coming to Australia, and not only are they a menace to the whole of their fellow passengers, but to the people of the Commonwealth. There is another subject with which it is somewhat difficult to deal, but which I desire to bring under the notice of honorable members. It seems to me that, although we ought to encourage our native born, that Australia is beginning to resent the appearance of its own people in its own land. One can scarcely pick up a newspaper without seeing in it advertisements which suggest the keeping down of the population.

Mr Wilks - We have an Act to prevent the publication of such advertisements.

Mr LIDDELL - I know that we have a means of preventing the publication of such advertisements. I refer to the provision in the Post and Telegraph Act. If the PostmasterGeneral did his duty he would cause a very close censorship to be exercised over mail matter, and refuse to allow the postoffice to be used for the distribution of these advertisements, full as they are of matter of a dangerous nature. Only a few days ago I received through the post a communication which was of a nature inimical to the growth of population. It was enclosed in an envelope in such a way that it might readily havebeen opened by any one. It was addressed particularly to medical men and chemists, but was really intended for any one to read. Immediately upon receipt of the communication, I brought it under the notice of the Postmaster-General, and he assured me that in future no letters of that description would be allowed to pass through the post. I regret that it was necessary for me to draw attention to this correspondence, because matters of this kind should be attended to in the first instance by the servants of the Department.

Mr Deakin - They cannot open letters.

Mr LIDDELL - This was not a closed letter. The flap of the envelope was turned in, and it was possible for any one to open it.

Mr Deakin - The Department has prevented the circulation of many undesirable publications through the post, but it requires to be informed of them. Unless the Department has reasons to suspect that a letter is an improper one, it cannot cause it to be opened.

Mr LIDDELL - I regret that the PostmasterGeneral is not present.

Mr Salmon - I gave a similar letter to the Postmaster-General a day or two ago.

Mr LIDDELL - The letter which I received bore an attractive stamp, setting forth the name of the company which sent it out, and on the whole it was got up in a way that would have encouragedany one to open it.

Mr Deakin - Numbers of such letters have been intercepted when passing through the post-office, but we look to the public to assist us.

Mr LIDDELL - Many of these undesirable advertisements appear in newspapers which are transmitted through the post. The Department is entitled to open any newspaper, and I do not think that journals containing such advertisements should be allowed to passthrough it. Quite recently a Commission sat in New South Wales to consider the question of the declining birth-rate, and I know that the matter to which I have referred is a growing evil. People in ordinary walks of life have not the opportunity to learn these things that is open to members of the medical profession ; but honorable members may take it from me that the matter is one of the most supreme importance. I trust that now that I have brought it forward; the Postmaster-General will do what he can to prevent the dissemination of this class of literature through the post.

Mr Deakin - Hear, hear.

Mr LIDDELL - I have now but to thank the House for the very kindly way in which my remarks have been received. I confess that this has been somewhat of an ordeal for me ; but I have determined to make myself a politician. I have learned a great deal by listening to the debate in this House during the last few days, and I am satisfied that, if I continue to improve at the same rate, I shall become a very clever politician.

Suggest corrections