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Wednesday, 16 March 1904

Sir JOHN FORREST - So far we have not been favoured with much of either.

Mr Kingston - The right honorable gentleman has had both. Western Australia is offered two railways instead of one.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I would point out to the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide that in the communication which I have quoted no mention is made of a railway from Esperance Bay to the goldfields. It refers only to the projected transcontinental line from Western Australia to South Australia. I repeat that we have had neither sympathy nor support from the latter State. For three years the Commonwealth Government have persistently endeavoured to secure permission from that State for the railway to pass through its territory. So far, we have been unsuccessful. The authorities have neglected to give proper consideration to the requests which have been made by the Commonwealth Government.

Mr Kingston - Why, the very first speech which the Minister made in this House contained a threat of disruption and nonsense of that sort.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am discussing the question of the railway.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We also complain of neglect of the Federal Capital question. "

Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable member will be quite satisfied with my attitude upon that subject. But in connexion with the transcontinental railway, I should like to ask what 'the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide has done during all this time. He has done absolutely nothing. He has never asked the people of South Australia to respect the promises which he made. His action strongly recalls to my mind the old fable of the spider and the fly. "Will you walk into my parlour?" said the spider to the fly - and Western Australia walked in. The right honorable and learned member, who in a public capacity made all these promises - which were very acceptable to Western Australia - occupying as he did a most responsible position, has never yet come out into the open and said, " I made these promises, and I ask South Australia to respect them." He has never asked the people of what he terms "My own dear State" not to dishonour themselves or their country by repudiating the pledges which he made on their behalf. But instead, what has he done? He has done even worse, than nothing. He has sought to impose a new condition ; he declares that whilst he favours the construction of a railway from A to B, it is conditional upon a line being built from B to C.

Mr Kingston - Thus giving both sides double the convenience which they would otherwise obtain.

Sir JOHN FORREST - To what "both sides " does the right honorable and learned member refer?

Mr Kingston - To the east and west.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The new condition which the right honorable and learned member seeks to impose is notoriously one which at the present time is not acceptable to the people of Western Australia. If an individual pledges himself to do a certain thing, in certain eventualities, and when the time comes for redeeming his promise seeks to qualify it by adding to it a new and objectionable condition, which he knows will not be acceptable to the other party, what can be said of his conduct? Yet that is precisely the position which is taken up by the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide. For ten years the construction of a line of railway from Esperance Bay to Coolgardie has been a subject of controversy in the western State. I was prepared to construct a line from Coolgardie to Norseman, and upon two occasions I endeavoured to obtain the necessary legal authority for the work, but was not able to pass the Bill through both Houses of Parliament. That, however, is no reason why those who made promises in the eastern States of Australia should now .seek to attach to such promises another condition of a controversial character. If any honorable member can urge that that is fair treatment, I have no more to say. I hold, however, that the new condition which the right honorable member for Adelaide seeks to impose was quite outside the contract. While I was grateful to him for the letters which he wrote me in connexion with the transcontinental railway, I should be much more grateful to him if he would keep the promises he made in their entirety and not seek to get out of his promise by' adding to it an impossible condition ; otherwise he might just as well openly avow that he is not prepared to fulfil the promises which he made.

Mr Fowler - That is the object of tacking on the new condition.

Mr Kingston - Does the Minister know that the estimates of the probable revenue that will be derived from the overland line which he is putting forward will be reduced by more than half if the Esperance line be constructed ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - The right honorable and learned member, having made a promise, which we acted upon as a bond fide one, is now seeking to impose new conditions.

Mr Kingston - Will the Minister deny that the estimates which he is putting forward will be falsified bv 50 per cent, if there is a line to Esperance?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not think that they will.

Mr Kingston - Will they not be affected ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - They will not be affected at all. The right honorable and learned member labours under a disadvantage as compared with myself, inasmuch as he does not know the country.

Mr Kingston - I know what the official estimate is, and the Minister ought to, but does not.

Sir JOHN FORREST - If a person at Kalgoorlie desired to visit the fair city of Adelaide, I ask honorable members by which route he would prefer to travel? Would he go by rail direct, and thus arrive at his destination within 36 hours, or would he travel 247 miles by railway to Esperance, and there await a steamer by which to complete his journey - a distance of nearly 1,000 miles by sea?

Mr Kingston - The officials who made the original estimate say that the estimated revenue from the transcontinental line will be diminished 50 per cent, if Western Australia constructs the Esperance line.

Sir JOHN FORREST - That would be a very good reason for not carrying out the proposal.

Mr Kingston - We should reserve the right to the Federation to construct the Esperance line.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Our simple proposition is that Western Australia should be connected with the eastern States. With the exception of the Norseman gold-fields, some 105 miles from Coolgardie, there is nothing calling for a railway between Esperance and Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie. There is nothing at Esperance Bay itself which would warrant the construction of such a line. The people of Western Australia simply desire to have railway communication with the eastern States.

Mr Kingston - Does the right honorable member think that in the matter of ordinary freights land carriage can compete with water carriage ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am not prepared at this stage to enter into the consideration of that question.

Mr Kingston - I am in possession cf the facts, which show that the old estimate of revenue would be reduced by 50 per cent, by the Esperance line.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I wish that the right honorable member would allow me to proceed. It is useless for him to attempt to interrupt me, because I have been too long in the field of politics to be drawn off the track by his interjections. Even if a railway were built to Esperance, I feel satisfied that the major portion, of the traffic between the eastern States and Western Australia would be chiefly by way of Fremantle. The volume of trade is with the last-named port, and it always will be. I am of opinion that to build the railway to Esperance Bay, erect light-houses, and carry out other works necessary to make it a safe" and commodious harbour, would cost £1,000,000. Seeing that Western Australia has gold-fields all over her territory to develop, she is not, I should say, prepared at present to spend so large a sum in opening up a new port, when she has already spent ,£1,250.000 on the port of Fremantle. I do not intend to say anything further at this stage in reference to this matter. I come now to the question which agitates the mind of my honorable friends from New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would it not be' well for the Minister to take honorable members over to Western Australia?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I should be very glad to do so, and to act as their cicerone. So far as there may be any reason for the belief that the Government of Australia, or the people of the other States, are unwilling to carry out the constitutional obligation relative to the construction of the

Federal Capital, I am quite in accord with the position taken up by the people of New South Wales. But I think that they are nursing a grievance which really does not exist. I have never heard a suggestion at the councils of the Cabinet that that obligation should not be fulfilled, nor have I ever heard any member of the Government give expression to such an opinion even in private.

Mr Fuller - We trust that the Minister will do better than his predecessor.

Sir JOHN FORREST - There were many matters which required attention at the inauguration of Federation, and which stood in the way of the immediate fulfilment of this obligation. It is well that in regard to a question of this kind there should be no undue haste.

Mr Lonsdale - The Government will settle the matter this session?

Sir JOHN FORREST - No doubt we shall do so. I believe that the Prime Minister intends that the question shall be determined as soon as we are in possession of the necessary information to place before the House.

Mr Poynton - Will the Government accept the responsibility of recommending one particular site?

Sir JOHN FORREST - It would be unreasonable to expect the Government to do so. What would be the position of those honorable members of the Government who have pledged themselves to the selection of certain sites? It would be unfair and unreasonable to expect them to be tied down to l party vote. If, for instance, the Governnent proposed that the Federal Capital should be established at Tumut, one of their members would almost be forced to resign, while if we were to ask the House to select Bombala another honorable member, of the Government would have to consider his position.

Mr Lonsdale - Then the Government will not choose either site?

Sir JOHN FORREST - The position which we take up is, in my opinion, the correct one. As a representative of the people of Australia, I desire to exercise a free choice; I desire to be free to vote as I think fit in the matter of the selection of the site of the capital of the Commonwealth. The Prime Minister would be charged with unfairness if he tried to bind his colleagues and his supporters to one particular site. This is a national matter, quite beyond the scope of parties, and it is far better that honorable members should be allowed to cast their votes free from all party ties.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And after we have voted on the question how long will it be before the Capital is established ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I take it that as soon as the question has been determined by Parliament it will be the duty of the Government to proceed with the work.

Mr Lonsdale - Will the Ministry stand by the decision of this House?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I think that questions of this kind should be addressed to the Prime Minister. Among the members of the Government is the honorable member for Hume, who certainly does not wish to see New South Wales deprived of its right to the Federal Capital, nor can it be said that the Minister of Defence, another representative of New South Wales, desires that the capital should not be established in that State In his speech at Ballarat the Prime Minister declared that the obligation must be faithfully carried out, and it seems to me that that was a definite statement. I shall now put before the House the statement which I made to the electors of Western Australia at the last elections. I was not led to give expression to the opinion which I am about to quote by any desire to obtain votes, because, as a matter of fact, the people of Western Australia have not as yet taken any great interest in the question. If they have any interest at all in the matter it is simply that they do not desire to see expenditure on any undertaking that is not urgently required.

Mr McCay - Except the transcontinental railway.

Sir JOHN FORREST - They believe that that railway is necessary to the State of Western Australia, and that it will be of great service to the Commonwealth.

Mr Lonsdale - That is the true Federal spirit - " get all you can for yourselves."

Sir JOHN FORREST - The people of Western Australia are far removed from the eastern States. They are not in touch with the people of New South Wales. We are really, a small and isolated community, and it is no matter for surprise that we should give attention ito questions, which more directly affect us than does the matter of the erection of the Federal Capital. In my address to the people of Western Australia, I said -

I am in favour of the Federal Capital being established, as I believe it will be a great factor in increasing the Federal spirit, and of banishing^ unnecessary parochialism. The great cities of Sydney and Melbourne, containing almost one-third of the whole population of Australia, must always have immense influence on the Federal Parliament; but that influnce will, I think, be less potent, and less liable to be specially in evidence, when the Federal Legislature sits in its own State. The fixing of the Federal Capital in New South Wales was a special provision of the Constitution, and the undertaking must be honorably fulfilled. We must, 'in these and in all other similar matters, do unto others as we would they should do unto us. Unless we are willing and anxious to fulfil our promise huw can we expect Australia to be honoured and respected.

Mr Frazer - The right honorable member did not think that by giving expression to such sentiments he would lose votes?

Sir JOHN FORREST - No; but I did not expect to gain any.

Mr Frazer - The right honorable gentleman would gain votes by giving utterance to such an opinion.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am glad to hear the honorable member say so. I am sure, however, that most of my own constituents were not very deeply interested in this project. It had not been brought home to them in its full significance. .

Mr Frazer - But they consider that we should adhere to the Constitution?

Sir JOHN FORREST - Of course they do. I am led' to make this extract from my address to the electors, because of my desire to show that so far as I, and, indeed, my colleagues, are concerned, there is absolutely no wish to depart from the constitutional requirements as to the establishment of the capital. I should be ashamed if. after the people of New South Wales had been influenced to enter Federation because of this promise - and I believe that they were considerably influenced' by the determination that the capital should be in New South Wales - we declined to carry out the obligation. To do such a thing would be most dishonorable. I wish now to say a word or two about the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which is before the House. I, have for many years believed in the application of the principle of conciliation and arbitration rather than that of force for the settlement of industrial disputes, and an Act based upon the New Zealand Conciliation and Arbitration Act was introduced and carried by me in the Western Australian Parliament, and is the law of that State to-day. I am not prepared to say that that measure has always worked well, because it has not. It is not likely that the administration of new laws will be entirely successful at the start. Every- new scheme requires working to discover its defects, and to bring about a thorough understanding of its principles, before good results can be obtained. It is so with the conciliation and arbitration laws. I believe, however, that the longer they are in force the better they will be administered. If it is seen in the future that evil, and' not good, results from them, no doubt we shall retrace our steps, or substitute something better. We of the British race make many mistakes, but when

Ave discover that .we have made one, we generally find a way in which to retrieve our error, and eventually come to a position in which we are as well, if not better off, than we were before.

Mr Lonsdale - That process takes a long time.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Yes, but I have such faith in the good sense of my fellow Australians that I am not afraid. The right honorable member for Adelaide is my good friend, though he sometimes seems to speak as though he had not that sympathy with me which I desire that he should have: Last session he told the people of Australia that I have no sympathy with the workers of this country. I consider that a gratuitous misrepresentation. I ask any one who wishes to test it to examine the statute-book of Western Australia for the ten years between 1890 and 1900, during which I was said to be an autocrat in that State. If any one does so, he will find there to my credit much more progressive and beneficent legislation than emanated from the Legislature of South Australia while the right honorable member for Adelaide was Premier of that State. In no decade in the history of Australia has more legislation been passed for the benefit and amelioration of the people than was passed in Western Australia in the period I refer to. Facts speak more loudly than words. I could go about making ing speeches here and there, and be a blatant democrat and radical, but. I wish rather to be judged by the work I do. What has been done by many of the men who for years have been in the public life of this country? What measures can they point to and say-'- "These are my handiwork; I am responsible for them"? When a public man has beneficent and useful legislation to his credit - I dislike the term "democratic," because it has been so hackneyed - he has done good for his country. But those who haveonly made a noise, set class against class, and quarrelled with others until the place- has become unfit to live in, have done more harm than they could undo if they lived for 100 years.

Mr Kingston - The right honorable gentleman's democracy is ever in evidence when he has to bend.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not wish to speak in such a way that my hearers shall not understand exactly what I think about the matters with which I deal. When I am in doubt upon a question I may say nothing in regard to it, but once I have made up my mind, I do not hesitate to express my news plainly. Therefore I wish to say that I am entirely in accord with the Prime Minister in the remarks which he made at Ballarat. I shall support again this session the position taken by the Government last session against the application of the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to the public servants of the States. My reasons for doing so are these : In the first place, I think that it is not necessary to extend the provisions of the measure to public servants. In the second place, it is mischievous to unduly and unnecessarily interfere with the Governments of the States in the control of their own servants. Furthermore, it was not intended by those who inserted in the Constitution Bill the provision allowing the Commonwealth to legislate in regard to industrial disputes affecting more than one State, that it should be applied as it is now sought by some to apply it. I am largely responsible for the adoption of that provision, because if I had not voted for it, and used influence which I possessed at the time to get it carried, it would have been rejected by a majority of the members of the Convention.

Mr Cameron - The right honorable gentleman has no reason to be proud of that fact.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I shall not be proud of it if the provision is made use of in the way desired by some. The clause to which I refer was proposed by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, and, in supporting it, I said that I had grave doubts as to whether I was doing the right thing. At that time I did not know the honorable and learned member as well as I know him now. His views seemed to be greatly in advance of those in my mind, and I looked upon him as a dangerous sort of politician, who was ready to go far beyond what I should consider safe. Since then I have come to know him better, and have learned to esteem him, though he is still in his opinions far ahead of me. However, at the time I gave my reasons for supporting him, and six other members of the Convention from Western Australia voted with me.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Were they not, as a matter of fact, the nominees of the right honorable gentleman ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not say that j but we voted together a good deal. The clause was carried on division by twenty-two to nineteen, a majority of three, so if my six friends from Western Australia and myself had not voted for it, it would have been rejected. If I had known, or if nine-tenths of the members of the Convention had known, that this subsection, which we inserted for a different purpose altogether, was to be used in the way now proposed, we should not have supported it. We were thinking of the shipping strike, which had done so much harm to our trade and commerce. We had only disputes of that kind in our minds. But if I, for one, had had any idea that there would have been an attempt to exercise the provision in the way that is now proposed, I should never have voted for it. Not one of 'those who spoke in the Convention - and some long speeches were made - even hinted at its being applied in the way that it is now sought to apply it. That is another reason why I am totally opposed to what is now suggested. I contend that it is unnecessary, that it is an interference with the States for no sufficient reason, that the proposed application of the section was never intended by any member of the Convention.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is that the opinion of the Minister for Trade and Customs?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I believe that it is the opinion of the Government, or I should not be expressing it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not of all the members of the Government?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not know that I am not expressing the opinion of the Government.

Mr Fisher - Does the right honorable gentleman think that, the sub-section being in the Constitution, it is any the weaker, because he does not believe in its proposed application ?

Sir JOHN FORREST - We had no idea of its proposed application at the time it was passed. We had not a chance of believing in it. I say again that, if we had known of the purposes to which it would be sought to apply it, we should soon have made short work of it. I intended to say what I thought about the matter, and I have said it as clearly as possible, so that there can be no mistake about my views. When this subject came forward in Western Australia - I say this in the presence of my honorable friends from that State, who belong to the Labour Party - not ohe of the candidates, so far as I know, gave the matter any prominence. Neither my honorable friend the member for Perth, nor my honorable friend the member for Fremantle, said much about it. They were not anxious to parade their views on the subject in their election speeches. They were kept in the background.

Mr Carpenter - I referred to it at nearly every meeting that I addressed.

Sir JOHN FORREST - But I think that the honorable member said that it would not affect Western Australia.

Mr Carpenter - No.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I think I may say, without fear of contradiction, that if any strong opinions in opposition to the proposed application of the sub-section in question had been hammered home, as some people might have hammered them home, it would have had some effect upon the elections in that State.

Mr Carpenter - The question was brought up at every meeting which I addressed.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I may further tell the House that I said this with regard to the matter in Western Australia -

I am opposed to the Federal Parliament passing any laws which would remove from the State Parliament the control of its own employes. If they did, such a course would prove to be unconstitutional, but in any case it would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. It would practically take from the States . the control of. their own finances, and would be opposed to the autonomy of the States.

That is a definite statement, and it is still my opinion. I have no right - and I do not wish to take upon myself the duty - to offer gratuitous advice. Advice of that kind is not generally very welcome. But I may, without any offence, and in the best of good humour, say to my friends, the members of the Labour Party, that in my opinion they are trying to put on a little too much steam.

Mr Page - We have been told that ever since the Labour Party came into existence.

Sir JOHN FORREST - There is no harm in my saying it again- to my honorable friends. There is a celebrated fable of Aesop, about the dog and the shadow. The dog, seeing the meat that it was carrying in its mouth reflected in the stream below, jumped in, and by reaching after the shadow, lost what it had. I think a very good motto in all matters of this kind, as it is in many other matters, is " hasten slowly." It is always better to get almost all that you require, than by trying to get all you want at once, to lose the whole.

Mr Spence - We have been going rather slowly in regard to the transcontinental railway !

Sir JOHN FORREST - We have been going too slowly in that matter. I trust that my honorable friend will assist in increasing the pace. It gave me very great pleasure last evening to listen to the remarks of my honorable friend the Minister for Trade and Customs, when he made a generous defence of the Chief Electoral Officer. I am always pleased to be in the position of being .able to defend a public officer. I think that it is the right thing to do, if one can do it, because the whole stock-in-trade of a public servant is his good name and character. Members of Parliament who can say what they like about a public servant, can libel him up-hill, and kick him down, can say things to which he cannot reply in any way, should see that the power is carefully and wisely used. If advantage is taken of the privilege of Parliament to attack a public officer in general terms and not specifically, a very wrong thing is done. When a public officer does wrong, he should be called upon to meet a definite charge. He should not be attacked in generalities. I have had only a short experience of the Chief Electoral Officer. He was absolutely unknown to me personally until recently. But I can say this - that I have found him zealous in the discharge of his duties, and, as far as I am able to judge, upright in his desire to do justice. I have never seen him in the slightest degree leaning to the right hand or to the left. I have formed the opinion that he is a competent man, and he seems to have had experience of such duties as he is now discharging. I do not like to see such an officer attacked in general terms. If there is anything to be alleged against him, let it be plainly stated- Let it be put in black and white, and let us have the matter investigated.

I Mr. Dugald Thomson. - Let us have an inquiry.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Is it a reasonable thing to have an inquiry when no specific charges are made? The honorable member for North Sydney is, I know, a reasonable man, who is anxious to do what is right. Does he think that it would be a fair thing to have a general inquiry without any specific charge being made? A prisoner at the bar knows what is alleged against him. We do not charge a prisoner with general offences, and there is no power to bring up fresh charges against him in the course of his trial.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was not speaking of the man, but of the work of the Department.

Sir JOHN FORREST - It is unfair to demand that there should be a general inquiry, but I can understand an inquiry into the system.

Mr Fisher - Was not the Parnell Commission an inquiry into general charges?

Sir JOHN FORREST - There were definite charges in that case, I believe. My own opinion is that we cannot be too careful in guarding public officers from attacks in general terms. If anything is wrong, there should be specific charges made, which should be thoroughly well inquired into. We should not appoint commissions of inquiry merely to find out something against a public officer. Now I come to another matter about which I wish to say a few words. I allude to the Navigation Bill. The measure has not yet been laid upon the table, but it is mentioned in the Governor-General's Speech. As that Bill will affect communication round the coasts of Australia, it is necessarily a measure of very far-reaching importance. I only wish to say this - that the fact that a thing is good in itself affords no reason for immediately embracing it; it is no reason for upsetting everything to bring it at once into existence. We sometimes remit duties by statute. But we generally give some notice before such an Act comes into force, in order that people shall not be injured by reason of their payment of heavy duties, and having insufficient opportunity to get rid of their stock.

Mr Johnson - I thought it was the foreigner who paid the duty?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am not going to argue that question with the honorable member. Take, for instance, the measure which some people think very bene.ficient - the Pacific Island Labourers Act. It might be argued that if it were a good thing to prohibit the employment of kanakas upon the sugar plantations, absolute and immediate action should have been taken in that regard. But the Legislature, being reasonable, has said - " No ; we think that it is a good thing, but we are not going like a bull at a gate ; we are going to gradually stop the practice." The same remarks might apply to other measures, especially to the Navigation Bill. Although the Bill is not circulated yet, I might say that it appears to me that if we were to bring some of its provisions into immediate operation we should inflict injury. But if reasonable time is allowed to meet the altered conditions, the inconvenience or hardship to individual communities may be minimized. In connexion with all such measures, especially those which interfere with vested interests, some, time should be allowed to enable those who might be injuriously affected to prepare for the change. Some reference has been made to the question of old-age pensions. I was one of those who supported the proposal at the Convention that old-age pensions should be included among the subjects for Federal legislation. The reason I then gave - I have not looked up the matter since - was, that I believed that the Federal Parliament would be able to deal with the matter better than would any local Legislature. I thought that it would be able to take a wider view of the operation of such a law, and, ' although there was a good deal of difference of opinion, I voted in favour of. Federal control being exercised in that matter. Whilst the Braddon section continues it will be very difficult, without imposing special taxation, apart from the Customs, to bring an old-age pension law into operation. Some persons talk very glibly about imposing extra taxation ; but I think that those who look into the matter and attach proper weight to the great distaste of the people to any new taxation will see that the subject is not such an easy one to deal with as might at first appear. No doubt the bookkeeping sections and the Braddon sections of the Constitution suit the State which I represent. We are very pleased that those sections are embodied in the Constitution, and I am very glad that I voted for them. I venture to say that even the Labour Party in Western Australia could not successfully urge the abolition of the bookkeeping sections, or even advocate that their operation should be brought to an end. The reason is this. 'When the five years' term expires there is little doubt that a demand will be made for an extension of the period over which the bookkeeping clauses shall operate. Parliament has the right to extend the time if it thinks fit, because the Constitution provides that the sections shall operate for five years, or until such other time as Parliament may direct.

Mr Carpenter - The bookkeeping sections do not affect the old-age pensions ; the Braddon section is the obstacle.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I am quire aware of that ; but at present I am dealing with the bookkeeping sections. I may tell honorable members that last year if there had been no bookkeeping sections in the Constitution, and the revenues and expenditure of the States had been distributed per capita, Western Australia would have lost ^600,000.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There would be no need to distribute the revenues per capita, even though there were no bookkeeping sections.

Sir JOHN FORREST - No ; but there might be. an inclination in that direction.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Special provision could be made for special cases.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I wish it to be very well understood by my friends from Western Australia and elsewhere that but for the bookkeeping sections it would have been possible to take ^600.000 out of the pockets of the people of Western Australia last year, and to have distributed it among the other States. I do not think that any one would care to go upon the hustings and advocate a change that would involve any such distribution. I should not like to take the responsibility of doing so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the meantime Western Australia is gathering in the money from the other States.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Any advantage that Western Australia may receive is paid for by the people of that State. With' regard to this matter, I stated at the last general election -

The distribution of the surplus Customs revenue among the States, after the expiration of the five years bookkeeping period, is a very important question, and especially so for Western Australia, and our endeavours should be to have the bookkeeping period further extended.

I certainly think the bookkeeping sections ought to be extended, at any rate, for the term fixed for the Braddon section, viz., for ten years.

An Honorable Member. - Does the Minister favour an extension of the term of the Braddon section for ten years?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I have not expressed any opinion upon that.

Mr Webster - The Minister apparently desires to extend the Braddon section, and then to further extend the bookkeeping section for another ten years.

Sir JOHN FORREST - The bookkeeping system is not unfair. It is provided that the revenue collected in each State, less one-fourth, which is made available for the purposes of the Federal Government, shall be returned to the State from which it is derived, and that all expenditure shall be charged against the State in which it is incurred. No doubt this places a restriction upon the application of the common purse principal, under which the whole of the revenues in the States would be at the disposal of the Federal Government; but it is not unfair.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We are made to occupy the position of receivers for other people.

Sir JOHN FORREST - Perhaps so; but I need not go into that matter now. The Braddon section will stand in the way of adopting an old-age pension scheme for a period of ten years. I think that I have dealt with those matters referred to in the Governor-General's Speech, to which I particularly wished to refer.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And, strange to say, the Minister has adversely criticised most of the proposals.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not think so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister does not believe in old-age pensions, or the Arbitration Bill-

Sir JOHN FORREST - The honorable member is romancing. I now have to discharge a disagreeable duty. I feel compelled, very much against my wishes, to refer to some remarks made by my friend, the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide, on Friday last. His observations were, I think, ungenerous and unfair. His very long speech, to which we all listened attentively, and to a great deal of which we were glad to listen, was spoiled by the attack he made upon the Governments of Western Australia - both past Governments and the present Government. I am particularly interested in his remarks with regard to the Government with which I was for ten years connected, but I am willing to also take up the cudgels in defence of those who succeeded me. The right honorable gentleman seemed to me so unreasonably hostile, that it might have been even assumed that some personal injury had been done to him by myself, or by the representatives of Western Australia, or by the people of that State. I may say that I have no knowledge of anything of the kind.

Mr Kingston - No, nor anybody else.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I assure the right honorable and learned member that, when he hears me repeat what he said, he will be really astonished that he should have made any such statements. It cannot be said that his speech was not full of goodwill towards the people of Australia, because he seemed to be very much concerned for their welfare. He spoke of his admiration and love for his fellowAustralians almost with emotion. Indeed, he presented quite a lugubrious spectacle. I could not help thinking he must have been reading the Lamentations of Jeremiah - so much emotion did he display towards the people of " his own dear State." But I regret to say that the same generous spirit did not animate him when he spoke of the people of Western Australia. He first attacked that State because the Constitution confers upon its Parliament the power to tax Inter-State goods for a period of five years, and then he wentso far as to declare that I and those who represented Western Australia at the Federal Convention had intentionally misled the delegates at that gathering.

Mr Kingston - Is the Minister quoting from the report of my speech?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I do not know what the report of the right honorable member's speech says, but I heard him affirm that the Convention had been absolutely misled.

Mr Kingston - Certainly.

Sir JOHN FORREST - By misrepresentation.

Mr Kingston - Yes; Western Australia received consideration which properly belonged to Queensland and Tasmania.

Sir JOHN FORREST - If I had the time at my disposal I could quote the opinions of a dozen, or, perhaps, twenty, of the most prominent men in the Commonwealth, who, at the Convention, urged that . the special circumstances of Western Australia required special treatment.

Mr Kingston - That was opposed to the actual facts.

Sir JOHN FORREST - I have in my possession, and can produce, if necessary, a letter from the Government Statist in New South Wales assuring me that whilst the Constitution provided for the needs of Western Australia for to-day and to-morrow, it would afterwards mean ruin to her. For the right honorable member for Adelaide to urge that we wilfully misrepresented the

State of affairs which existed is altogether too silly.

Mr Kingston - Was not Western Australia a gainer by the substitution of the Federal Tariff for its own Tariff?

Sir JOHN FORREST - But we did not know what the effect would be at the time. No one could possibly foresee that. For the honorable member to accuse us of having played a game and done something discreditable by means of misrepresentation is positively too silly. As a matter of fact, those whowere associated with me as delegates from Western Australia were not very eager to enter the Federation under the Constitution, as it did not appear to suit us.

Mr Kingston - The delegates from Western Australia represented that that State would be a special loser as the result of union, when as a matter of fact other States were the losers.

Sir JOHN FORREST - How couldI possibly look into the future? I had to judge by the past and by the then present. No one can tell what the future will bring forth. I indignantly deny that we indulged in any misrepresentation whatever. If I were in order in doing so, I should say that the right honorable gentleman's statement is grossly untrue.

Mr Kingston - All I can say is that the Minister's remarks were untrue, and the figures show it.

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