Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 11 March 1904

Mr KINGSTON (Adelaide) - I take it that honorable members are in the humour to dispose of the Address in Reply, with a view to giving their attention to the details of various measures which ought to be dealt with as soon as possible. Under these circumstances, I do not propose to occupy the time of the House at any length, particularly as an occasion of this sort is utilized chiefly for the purpose of criticism, and, because of the relations' which have existed between me and the members of the Government, I am inclined to use my privilege of criticising sparingly, and certainly not with the object ofleaving a sting behind. I think, however, that it is just as well for honorable members to take advantage of this opportunity to define with sufficient precision their attitude towards the Government and towards the various questions which are likely to engage our attention, so that no misapprehension may arise. Approaching the consideration of the motion under these circumstances, I have to say that I cannot altogether approve of the action of Ministers in several important particulars. I address them in the hope that they may be induced to take heed to their ways. There are, it appears to me, symptoms of a highly undesirable fall from democratic grace, and as I do not wish to accompany them into any political slough of despond, I am speaking in the hope that further consideration may induce an attempt upon their part to avoid the pitfalls upon which they are undoubtedly, though unwarily, advancing. I hope that my past and present attitude may satisfy them that my desire is solely for an alteration in their ways which will be more consistent with the course which I believe they have hitherto desired to follow, and may have the effect of avoiding possible disaster. It is the advice of a friend, and I tender it as such, and nothing would afford me greater pleasure than to have it accepted in the spirit in which, I assure the Government, it is offered. First of all, I desire to say that I thoroughly agree with the protests which have been made recently against the action - or, rather, the inaction - of the Government in connexion with the Federal Capital question. I did not hesitate last year to plainly express my views upon the subject. I think that it would be a great pity if the present state of affairs were allowed to continue, or if any State, whether it be the oldest or the youngest, the most populous or the least populous, were induced to imagine that there is an intention on the part of the Parliament, or of any section of it, to disregard its undoubted rights. We should spare no pains to establish and maintain the very best relations between the different constituent States of this great Commonwealth, and we should, in every possible way, endeavour to avoid giving the slightest apparent foundation for the idea that any section of this House seriously considers the possibility of doing that which would undoubtedly be unjust to New- South Wales or any other State. It is upon the mutual trust and confidence which we all have in each other that the success of the Federation depends. Destroy the trust which should exist between the States, let there be any real reason for the suggestion that one State would do an injustice to the other, and the chief guarantee for the security of the Federation, for the continued existence of the goodwill which ' is necessary to its maintenance, will sustain possibilities of risk to which it cannot, in the interests of united Australia, be properly exposed. What is the position? It is that New South Wales has undoubted rights in this connexion. It has the right to expect that an honest and sincerely determined effort will be made thus early in the history of the Federation to settle the Federal Capital in some convenient part of New South Wales. I do not believe that any section of the House is really opposed to the question being disposed of at the earliest possible date. There is no room for argument on the subject ; the Constitution speaks all too clearly. In the very nature of things, what would be one of the earliest subjects to engage the attention . of the Federation? The settlement of the Federal Capital. How do matters stand now ? There is no doubt whatever that any Federal Parliament would, in the natural order of things, meeting for the despatch of business, address itself to the question : Where is the seat of government to be? If the Constitution were silent, that would take place in the natural order of events, and I ask : Is the provision in the Constitution to relieve us of the necessity of disposing of the matter at an early date? Nothing df the sort. The Constitution declares that the Federal Capital site shall be in New South Wales, but not within 100 miles of Sydney, and that declaration, instead of relieving us from the 'duty of dealing with the question at the earliest possible date, simply emphasizes the necessity of out addressing ourselves to the question. Do honorable members recollect the history of the negotiations in this respect? The first referendum to the people of New South Wales failed, and failed- it has been said, and I think to some extent rightly - because the right to the capital was not guaranteed to New South Wales within the four corners of the first draft Constitution: What was done to overcome the difficulty? A Conference was held at which the various States were represented by their Premiers; The meeting was held in Melbourne, and Sir George Turner, then Premier of Victoria, presided. Tasmania was represented by the late Sir' Edward Braddon, and Queensland by the late Sir James Dickson. The right honorable and learned member for East Sydney represented New South Wales, the Minister for Home Affairs, then Premier of Western Australia, represented that State, and I had the honour to appear on behalf of my native State. At that Conference, an agreement was arrived at with a view to overcome the difficulty, and a compact was made that .New South Wales should have the capital. We all agreed to that. I confess that I should have preferred the question to be left open. But we were all there considering the question, and there was a desire to federate, and the complaisance of the representative of Victoria smoothed the way towards the removal of the obstacle. At any rate, i lie agreement was made, and there it stands, and New South Wales is 'entitled to the capital. It is now three years since we federate'], and she has not yet obtained her right. Under these circumstances, is not our duty clear? The Government say that they are getting on with this matter.

Mr Conroy - Backwards.

Mr KINGSTON - I read various accounts in various places as to what they are doing. But I hold that their duty is to declare their policy. I venture to say that their first duty is to unite, because there must be a Government policy on a question of this sort. Of course, various questions are at times troublesome ; but, in regard to. the selection of the Federal Capital site, the Government should be united. What is the use of their saying " We are doing our best ; we are advocating this and advocating that." I ask : Is the whole strength of the Government behind their action? I know that it is difficult for Ministers to agree upon some subjects, but the time comes when their duty is to adjust their differences and to present for the acceptance of both Houses a policy upon which they are agreed, and which they are prepared, by resorting to every legitimate means, to carry . into effect. How can a number of people who are not agreed upon a question expect to succeed in inducing a number of others to agree upon it? The natural retort of those who have differences of opinion is : " Agree among yourselves ; when you are agreed, put your proposals before us. Your agreement will be at least an earnest of the fact that you are prepared to sink unnecessary differences, and you will then have the right to ask us to follow suit."

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We want to have the agreement accompanied by a cash deposit.

Mr KINGSTON - I do not know about that. It would be sufficient, I take it, for the representative of the Government to tell us - " Our policy as regards the Capital site is this " - Tumut or Bombala, one or the other, specifying which. As regards the merits of the various sites, what we did last year practically amounted to the rejection of all sites other than Tumut or Bombala.

Mr Lonsdale - This is a new House.

Mr KINGSTON - I know that, but I do not think that the corporate view upon the subject has changed. I think that the dispute was narrowed down to the sites mentioned. It was last year, any way, and really it would be too bad to suggest that, instead of having been brought a little closer together by the lapse of time, we are more widely separated, and that some other site is likely to be introduced into the controversy. However, four or five months have elapsed since we were last together, and I put it to the leader of the Government - have the Government made up their minds as to which site they intend to recommend to Parliament?

Mr Deakin - Not yet.

Mr KINGSTON - Then I say that it is too bad, and that the sooner they do make up their minds the better.

Sir John Forrest - It is not such a very easy matter. It is, in fact, a very difficult matter, and no one knows thatbetter than the right honorable and learned gentleman.

Mr KINGSTON - I know that as regards the Minister for Home Affairs there is that possibility for disagreement when he is about which seems to be somewhere existent in this particular case. But I put it directly to the Government - is it not time that they have made up their minds in this matter? The members of the Government proposed to have the question settled last year.

Mr Deakin - By Parliament.

Mr KINGSTON - Ministers were agreed then, I suppose ; they at least had some idea of what they wanted.

Mr Deakin - They were agreed then, and they are agreed now, to accept the decision of Parliament.

Mr KINGSTON - We have to thank the Prime Minister for nothing. The Government will have to accept the decision of Parliament, whether they like it or not. Speaking in all candour, I ask my honorable friend : Does he not think that this is a matter in which the Government should put forward a policy ?

Mr Deakin - I do not.

Mr KINGSTON - Then I venture to say that there will be a division of opinion between the House and the Government, which I should like to see put to the test. Is the matter to be humbugged? Are the Government to bring forward a Bill with a blank in it and leave the matter at that? Are they to rest content with informing the House that they have no united policy upon the subject, and leave it to the decision of honorable members ?

Mr Deakin - It is a matter upon which each individual member should be free to express his own opinion.

Mr KINGSTON - I would suggest to the House generally, and to the Government in particular, that it is a matter of giving effect to the constitutional provisionsof the Imperial Act as regards the fixing of the Federal Capital site. I have always understood that in a matter of that sort it is the duty of the Government - whatever Government might be in office - to propound a policy, and if the Government do not feel capable of doing so, I suggest that they might be offered an opportunity of allowing others, who would not exhibit similar reluctance, to discharge the duties imposed by the Constitution.

Mr Wilks - Move an amendment upon the Address in Reply.

Mr KINGSTON - I am not going to move an amendment. I put it to the House generally that the Government are expected to lead. Their attention is directed, by the express terms of the Constitution, to the necessity for applying their minds to the consideration of the case. We shall never arrive at a decision if we do not first get a Government which has a policy upon the subject, and which has the courage to advocate and fight for it in the way in which all difficult matters require to be fought for - to the end. I say that the feelings of the people of New South Wales upon this question are by no means unnatural, and unless it be promptly settled, I think that as time goes on, the irritation which they are experiencing will be likely to develop into a deep-seated sore, entirely prejudicial to a continuance of those harmonious relations and those feelings of mutual confidence and trust which should exist between the various States of the Federation.

Sir William Lyne - It will be far deeper if Parliament selects Bombala.

Mr KINGSTON - May I ask if the Minister for Home Affairs agrees with that proposition ?

Sir John Forrest - I have no prejudices at all.

Mr Chapman - I think it would be a national calamity if Tumut were chosen.

Mr KINGSTON - Might I ask the Prime Minister if that is the view of the Government? Of course, there is sometimes an amusing way of looking at these things. Occasionally it happens that questions arise upon which it is very difficult for Ministers to be unanimous. I have experienced it. Of course, it may be that that case arose just because I " happened to be there."

Mr McWilliams - Why did the right honorable member not settle that particular question when he was a Minister?

Mr KINGSTON - I could not settle it, and as a result I am here in the capacity of a private member. It does seem to me that the question of the Capital site will not be satisfactorily dealt with until this House is disposed to take the matter into its own hands, and to give something in the nature of a gentle hint to the Government that it expects them to have a policy upon the subject. I do not hesitate to tell Ministers that I would infinitely prefer that they should recognise the force of the position and take upon themselves their undoubted responsibility to propound a policy in favour either of Tumut or of Bombala.

Sir William Lyne - Will the right honorable member vote for Tumut?

Mr KINGSTON - No ; I shall vote for Bombala.

Mr Chapman - The right honorable member is upon the right spot.

Mr KINGSTON - The present position cannot long continue. It seems to me that it is as plain as plain can be. New South Wales has her undoubted rights. She has been kept out of them too long. Let us give her that to which she is clearly entitled, and which is expressly provided for in our written Constitution. Do not let this cry that she ought to have the capital merge into a clamour. Her right to it has been made as plain as plain can be, first by the Premiers' agreement, and subsequently by the adoption of the Constitution by the various States upon a referendum. It has further been incorporated in an Imperial Act. I say that whatever may be the reason forit, this delay has lasted too long, and when the cry is raised to defer action - and we hear a whisper of it now and again even in this House - and when we see that some journals have the hardihood practically to advocate the repudiation of the agreement, and the cheating of New South Wales, either directly or indirectly, out of that which is her undoubted constitutional right, I say the affair is reaching a stage which is highly dangerous to true Federal friendship, upon which our Constitution rests. I hold that those who favour delay should either rise in their places and justify its continuance, if they can, or yield that which they are in honour bound to yield - the rights of New South Wales, as embodied within the four corners of the Constitution. The responsibility for the continuance of the present position rests with the Government. They are bound to propound a policy; they propound none. They are bound to do their best to induce the two Houses to agree; they have even failed in that essential preliminary. This is no new subject. Last session I addressed myself to it. I remember the occasion upon which there was a debate on the question of parting with the control of the Appropriation Bill, and I then asked for an assurance that the Government would spare no pains to get this matter settled. I obtained a promise, but precious little more. Anyhow, the session closed without any advance being made in the solution of the rival claims of Tumut and Bombala, and the question, it now seems to be practically admitted, is an open one with the Ministry still. What is the good of the Government obtaining maps, and this, that, and the other, including the promised contour surveys? Was the matter ripe for settlement last year when it was introduced by the Government? If so, why is it not ripe now? If it was not ripe for settlement, why was it introduced? It seems to me that Ministers are simply encouraging the hopes of the people of New South'

Wales for a recognition of their rights - hopes which are not to be realized. The Government disagreeing upon the subject when are they going to agree? When are they going to get the question settled? I do not hesitate to say that, unless we are shown that there is a fair prospect of this question being taken up by the Ministry with an intention to settle it, and under circumstances which inspire more hope of its settlement than appears to be warranted if the Government are left solely to their own devices, some action on the part of the House will be justified in the interests of Federation, with a view to prevent a grave injustice being done to a State, which, however keenly alive to what her rights may be, is at least left no room for doubt as to what they are, by their declaration, with the consent of the people of Australia, within the four corners of the Constitution itself. Having said so much in regard to a matter upon which I am not in agreement with the action of the Government, I should like to say a word or two to my old friends of the Opposition, on the subject of the results of the policy which the Ministry have had the honour of advocating during the past two or three years.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - -Has the right honorable member got Mr. Wise's figures?

Mr KINGSTON - Of course, I naturally go to that which is wise at once. ' I congratulate New South Wales upon many things, and amongst others upon the fact that it includes amongst its statesmen, a gentleman of the ability of the Honorable B. R. Wise.-

Mr Kelly - A convert to the right honorable gentleman's fiscal belief.

Mr KINGSTON - 1do not know whether honorable members have noticed the report of Mr. Wise's remarks which is contained in the columns of the Age newspaper - his utterances of Wednesday last with reference to the progress pf New South Wales, assisted by a good season, and the benefits which have been conferred by a protective Tariff. Really it is most refreshing when I reflect upon the gloomypredictions that were indulged in-

Mr Skene - Which has had most to do with her progress - the good season or the Tariff ?

Mr KINGSTON - Despite ' all the gloomy predictions that were indulged in by seme of the opponents of protection, and despite the remarks which are occasionally made even in this House, what has been the result? Mr. Wise speaks from the experience of a couple of years' working of the Tariff, and with the figures before him. ' 1 am sure that every one who 'has the interests of Australia in general, or of New South Wales in particular, at heart, must be delighted with what - in the absence of Sir John See - the Acting Premier of New South Wales, with the figures before him, and the responsibilities of his office upon him, declares to be the result both of the season and of the Tariff. He directs attention, however, more particularly to the effect of the operation of the Tariff upon the manufacturing interests of New South Wales.

Mr Wilks - There are more unemployed in New South Wales to-day than there ever were.

Mr KINGSTON - I see.

Mr Wilks - New South Wales has returned nineteen free-traders to this House. That is her answer.

Sir William Lyne - The electors did not vote upon the question of free-trade at all.

Mr KINGSTON - The article from which I quote is headed " A Prosperity Speech." Mr. Wise, rejoicing upon the output of manufactures during the year, makes the statement that it totalled a value of ^25,000,000.

Mr Conroy - We had a total output of ^28,000,000 one year.

Mr KINGSTON - The report is as follows : -

The Acting Premier, Mr. B. R. Wise, delivered an important speech at the Mayoral luncheon this afternoon, in which he referred to the resources of the State, and produced som< statistics to show the recent advance in the prosperity of the State. After referring to the two years of unparalleled difficulties which the Government had had to face, he said those troubles had almost passed. A sum of £3,000,000 would go into the farmers' pockets as a result of the harvest. The value of the wheat exported during the past two months, from Sydney totalled £500,000, and within the same time dairy produce of the value of £250,000 hat! been exported. Mr. Wise then referred to the growth of the position of New South Wales as a manufacturing Stale.

My honorable friends opposite will no doubt recollect that some of us ventured to say, from the nature and value of the resources of New South Wales in coal, iron, &c, that there would be a great increase in the prosperity of that State under protection. There can be no doubt whatever that she is richly endowed as compared with any one of the other States. Her' resources are second to' none ; and what we expected in relation to the increase of her production has, it seems, happened. Mr. Wise said -

The manufacturing output of the State totalled £25,000,000, which were wonderful figures when the smallness of the population was taken into consideration. It was five times as much as the value of the agricultural produce raised. A sum of £5,000,000 had been distributed in wages. During the past four years there had been a greater rush of trade than in any like period of the preceding twelve months. To show, in striking form, what the development had been, he would quote a few figures. From 1900 to 1902 factories had increased in actual cash value, counting machinery and plant, and not including buildings, by £1,000,000 sterling, and when the figures for 1903 were available, he believed that the increase would be £1,500,000 more. In 1900 the State exported boots of the value of £25,000; in 1902 that amount had more than doubled. In 1900 biscuits of the value of £10,000 were exported; in 1902 the exports had increased to £38,000.

Mr Lee - That is, to other Australian States.

Mr KINGSTON - Each of the States benefits from inter-State free-trade. I can assure honorable members from New South Wales that the figures which I am quoting are as agreeable to me as if they referred to my own native State. I am sure that all of us have the same goodwill towards all the States.

Mr Kelly - Does Mr. Wise state that the good season was due to a bonus on rain ?

Mr KINGSTON - The honorable member had better go and ask him ; though perhaps, in answering a young member thus, I am speaking rather too sharply.

As for wearing apparel, the value of the goods exported in 1900 only amounted to £3,000. In 1902 the figures were £54,000. Jam to the value of £9,000 was exported in 1900; in 1902 the figures had trebled, and the value of the export was £27,000. But the most striking advance of all was inrelation to tobacco. In 1900 the tobacco exported had a value of only £19.In 1902 the figures were £112,293. Although the figures for 1903 were not available, yet he had been given an assurance that they would show a considerable increase on those of 1902. Sydney must reap the benefit of the prosperity shown by these figures. In the same period the capital value of the rateable property had jumped from £88,100,000 to £93,400,000, being an increase of £5,300,000, while the annual value had increased from £5,000,000 to £5,400,000. These figures served to show the increasing capital invested in the industries in this State, and the accompanying increases in wages.

Instead of there being a flight of capital elsewhere there has been a marked increase in its income.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Can the right honorable member give the Victorian figures after forty years of protection?

Mr KINGSTON - I do not think it necessary. Of course, Victoria has had the benefit of protection for a very long time. But here is Mr. Wise pointing out enormous increases of the character I have shown.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In former years we have had him showing the wonderful effects of free-trade in New South Wales !

Mr KINGSTON - These are his latest utterances, anyway, and they are uptodate. Coming from the lips of the Acting Premier of the senior State of Australia, they are of a character which admits of no dispute. Iwill go a little further, and rub it in. It is not as though these were my figures. They are the figures and opinions of the Acting Premier of New South Wales, who, I venture to say, is a man of whom all Australia has good reason to be proud.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The people of New South Wales are not proud of him; they would not elect him.

Mr KINGSTON - Unless they were proud of him he would not occupy the position he does.


Mr KINGSTON - There are a good many constituencies in a good many parts of the Commonwealth that would be very proud to have Mr. Wise as their representative. He is a gentleman who has for many years occupied a prominent position in the public life of his native State, and his career is one of which a good many might well be envious. I am not speaking with the bias of one who is concerned in State party politics, but the unprejudiced view which I have expressed concerning Mr. Wise is one which I honestly hold. I really do not think there is any one who would seriously dispute the high ability and many talents of the honorable gentleman to whom I am referring. He went on to make this further statement -

He only quoted these figures to show how socialistic legislation - we have heard about that before - and the Arbitration Act were driving capital out of the country.

He seems to have the figures on his side, does he not?

He concluded by saying he further believed that, in the next two years, the growth of New South Wales industries would be without parallel in the history of the State.

Mr Lonsdale - No one in New South Wales believes Mr. Wise.

Mr Conroy - If only .£1,500,000 is given back, and £4,500,000 is taken away from the people of New South Wales in taxation, how is there a gain to the people of that State?

Suggest corrections