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Wednesday, 16 March 1904

Mr BAMFORD (Herbert) - So much has been said during this debate, and I might add, so well said, that it is very difficult for any one speaking at this stage to say anything of a novel character. It appears to me, however, that some of the questions to which honorable members have addressed themselves may be presented in an aspect different from that in which they have hitherto been exhibited. Before discussing the matters referred to in the

Governor-General's Speech, I desire to refer to the kanaka question. To a North Queenslander the kanaka question is very much in the position of King Charles' head to the late lamented Mr. Dick. A few days ago, I asked the Prime Minister a series of questions with regard to the arrangements for the conveyance of time-expired islanders to their homes. He said that the matter was one for the Queensland. Government to attend to, and that, so far, he had heard no complaints as to any of the islanders having been unable to leave. I may tell the Prime Minister that he is not- likely to hear any complaints. I admit that upon this question the present Government in Queensland is much more sympathetic than its immediate 'predecessor, and that it may adopt an attitude different from that previously assumed by the authorities. At the same time, I am afraid 'that the matter does not altogether rest with the Government, because there are officers who are specially appointed to attend to the requirements of those islanders who desire to return to their homes. I am very sorry to say that many people, who Ought to be ashamed of themselves for doing so, have been in the habit of trying to beguile the simple islanders by misrepresentations. When an islander's first term of service has expired, at the end of three years, every effort is made to persuade him to sign an agreement for another six months, or for a longer period, if possible, and, among other things, he is told that there is no ship ready to take him back to his home. Of course, in these cases, the islanders are not able to speak very good English, and' are practically at the mercy of those who desire to keep them in the State. I am credibly informed 'that in many cases the Government agent, who, above all others," should protect the interests of the islanders, helps to delude them, by representing that there is no boat ready to return them to .their homes. When I was last in Northern Queensland I met an islander who had been fifteen years in the State. He had with him his daughter, twelve years of age, who had been born in Queensland, and he told me that he was most anxious to go back to his own people and take with him his daughter, sothat she might he made acquainted with her relatives. He had then been trying for three months to obtain a permit to enable him to go to some other port, and there wait for a ship "to take him' a way.' Several other boys were with him, arid I was informed that they had completed their agreements, and were at that very time being induced to sign another agreement to work on the plantations for a further six months, or a longer term. Whilst indentured boys are waiting for a ship to take them back, they have to be kept by their late employers, who have to find .them in rations and house room. Those who accept re-engagements, however, have, upon the expiration of their service, to keep themselves. In either case the money which is paid over to the islander at the expiration, of his term dwindles away during the period of waiting. It is the ambition of every islander to take back" with him a certain amount of trade, and if, through the depletion of his resources, he finds himself unable to do this, he generally signs a further agreement. If what I have described occurred when ships were leaving, with tolerable frequency, during at least nine months of the year, how much more is it likely -to happen now that no ships are leaving for the Islands to bring back recruits? The Prime Minister said that the matter was one for the consideration of the State Government, but I contend that a great responsibility rests upon" this Parliament. We .have stopped recruiting, and have thereby reduced the number of ships available to take these islanders back {o their homes. Therefore, it is our duty -to see that those who desire to go back - and the kanakas do in the great .majority of cases so desire - shall have the means of doing so . placed at their disposal. I hope that the Prime Minister will take this matter into his earnest consideration. If the islanders have been deluded in the past there is .no reason why they should .not have fair play in the future. I make these representations in their interests. For many years the employers have had the big end of the stick, and have dominated the position and I think it is our duty to see that the islanders have fair play, so far as we can assure it. This is a question which, as a member of the Labour Party, and as a representative of Queensland, I should not desire to bring forward, if it could be avoided. We regard the* whole of the legislation passed by the State Legislature in regard to the introduction of islanders to work on sugar plantations with regret, -and we should be only too pleased to wash our hands of the whole business. The matter to which I have referred is, however, a very important one, and deserves our earnest attention. In isolated instances the Government agents may have done their duty, but in a great many cases they have played into the hands of the planters. I had intended to refer to the interjection made by the honorable member for Parramatta, with regard to the assistance given to the members of the Labour Party by the Government at the last election, but I think that the matter has already been sufficiently dealt with. There was no help given to me, or to any other member of our party, so far as I am aware. The Prime Minister himself appeared upon the public platform in. Victoria to help one candidate who was opposing a member of the Labour Party. I do not find any fault with his action upon that occasion,. because Ministers were at perfeet liberty to help their own supporters. I object, however, to the statements that they have given any assistance to members of the Labour Party. I am one of those who have serious complaints to make regarding the administration of. the Electoral Act. Speaking from my experience in my own electorate, I can confidently assert that the Act was maladministered in the grossest possible way: I reported several glaring breaches of the Act to the returning officer, but upon. my. arrival in Melbourne I found that the Chief Electoral Officer knew nothing about any such reports. It has been stated that in Victoria and New South Wales numbers corresponding with those on the roll were written upon the face of the ballot-papers, and that the corners of the papers were then turned down. In one place in my electorate I lost a. large number of votes owing to this practice. In that particular instance, the presiding officer did not even have the decency to turn down the corner of the paper. He wrote the numberon the face of the ballot-paper, and thereby robbed the ballot of its secrecy. In the State electorate of Herbert, the presiding officer, in. violation of the Act, declared at each polling place the number of votes recorded there. At one place, owing to influences which I deplore, only nine votes were recorded, and they were all given against me. That, of course, showed that the electors who voted had no judgment. I took the precaution to go to that place beforehand and tell every one who had a vote that the ballot was absolutely secret. During the passage of the Electoral Bill through the House, references were made to the practices indulged in in various States, with a view to ascertain how the votes of the electors were cast, and. my electorate was no exception to the rule in that regard. I told the electors at the place referred to that they need not fear that their votes would be disclosed, because the voting papers would be taken to the principal polling place and there mixed with others before the count in such a way that they would become unidentifiable. What will those people now think of me? The previous practice was so contrary to that which I. described that possibly they thought I was lying to them, and results would appear to justify their belief. I ask the Minister for Home Affairs what is to be done in reference to these matters. Are the electoral officials to be permitted to flout the Act as they please? When the Bill was under discussion every precaution possible was taken by honorable members to make the ballot absolutely secret. Now we find that, owing to the stupidity, or something worse, of the presiding officers,or of some one else; the secrecy of the ballot has been violated. I think that some action ought to be taken in reference to this matter. I do not blame the Chief. Electoral Officer. Nevertheless, this action is all. of a piece with the maladministration of which so much complaint has. been made during the course of this debate. I should like to say a few words upon the subject of the Federal Capital. Members of the Opposition have discussed this question at great length, but I have no hesitation in affirming that if the Sydney newspapers would abstain from saying anything about it for one month, it would be absolutely dead.


Mr BAMFORD - I live in Sydney, and I am aware that the question is destitute of all life beyond that which is put into it by the Sydney press. The great majority of the people do not care anything about it. Some, of course, would like it to be speedily settled, because they imagine that it would provide plenty of work. I would remind honorable members that, upon the 30th September, 1902, a. vote was recorded in this House upon a proposal by the Treasurer to borrow £500,000. The leading members of the Opposition voted against that proposal upon principle, and I commend them for it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is another principle to which regard should be paid, namely, that undertakings should be fulfilled.

Mr BAMFORD - I quite agree with the honorable member that obligations should be fulfilled. But where, I ask, is the need for hurry in the settlement of this question. I will undertake to say that if the Federal Capital site were selected tomorrow the Treasurer has not a ten-pound note to spend upon it. Where is the money to come from with which to build the capital?

Mr Johnson - Does the honorable member desire the Parliament to meet in Melbourne for ever?

Mr BAMFORD - I do not. I am merely putting the practical difficulties of the situation before the House. If the Treasurer had the temerity to submit a Loan Bill, which was certainly not designed to raise money to carry out a reproductive work, would any honorable member support him, especially at a time when our securities are lower than they have ever been in the history of Australia.

Mr Watkins - We have handed back to the States £1,500,000 more than we had a right to return them under the Constitution;

Mr BAMFORD - There is no State which stands more in need of the money which has been returned to her in excess of the three-fourths of her Customs revenue to which she is entitled, than New South Wales. With the exception of Western Australia, all the States are in necessitous circumstances. I am satisfied that great friction would be caused if the Treasurer attempted to retain the whole of the 75 per cent, of the Customs revenue to which the States are entitled, and to devote the balance to the building of a Federal Capital.

Mr Liddell - Should we not get a tangible asset in the shape of the territory which we acquired?

Mr BAMFORD - To a certain extent we should ; but it would be a long time before we could realize upon that asset.

Mr O'Malley - Could we not go to Uncle Moses?

Mr BAMFORD - We have no desire to go to Uncle Moses, unless for absolutely reproductive works. Nobody can contend that the building of a Federal Capital would come within that category. The question of the conditions which have been embodied in the contracts for our new mail service has been discussed at some length. Personally I agree with the honorable and learned member for Corio that the questions of the carriage of mails and of the conveyance of frozen rabbits to England should have been kept entirely separate. The honorable member for Kooyong has accused members of theLabour Party of being socialists. We consider it an honour to be regarded as such. But I would ask that honorable member, who finds fault with us on the ground that we are socialists, why he recommends what is purely a socialistic doctrine? He asks that our mail boats should carry butter, fruit, and rabbits in refrigerating chambers, and that they should be subsidized by the Government. I hold that the two questions should be kept quite separate. If ever there was scope for private enterprise, surely it is in connexion with the carriage of perishable produce. The trouble which has fallen upon the Postmaster-General in failing to secure satisfactory tenders for the conveyance of our mails is not due to section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act, but is entirely the result of the other conditions which have been inserted in the contracts. I was very sorry to find another matter that I regarded as dead galvanized into life during the course of this debate. I refer to the matter of the fodder duties. During some portion of 1902 the statement was made in this House that there were 20,000,000 of starving sheep in New South Wales. I leave out of consideration the number of cattle and horses, and propose to divide the number in question by two.

Mr Fuller -Our flocks in New South Wales were reduced from 60,000,000 to 20,000,000 odd.

Mr BAMFORD - I am quite prepared to accept the honorable and learned member's statement, but for purposes of calculation I wish to put the number down at 10,000,000. Assuming that each of these required 10 lbs. of fodder per week, that would ' represent a consumption of 100,000,000 lbs., or a little less than 50,000 tons. To bring that quantity of fodder from New Zealand, which was the only place from which it could be obtained at the time-

Mr Fuller - Much of it came from the Argentine.

Mr BAMFORD - It would require ten ships of the tonnage of the Orontes to bring that fodder to New South Wales, assuming that the vessels could complete the trip once a fortnight. Could New South Wales have afforded that? I say that she could not. It would have been utterly impossible, even had the fodder duties been suspended, to alleviate the existent distress. That 50,000 tons of fodder at £4 per ton - and I believe that a great quantity of it realized more than double that price in Sydney - would mean an expenditure of ,£200,000 a week, or over £1.0,000,000 within twelve months. How could the people of New South Wales have provided that money ? Honorable members should also bear in mind that in my calculation I have simply allowed for the fodder being landed upon the wharfs at Sydney. I wish now to address myself for a few moments to the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who never appears to such advantage as when he is delivering a homily to members of the Labour Party. We all acknowledge his lucidity, his ability, his courtesy, and the manner in which he treats his subject; but we differ from" him in his deductions from facts. In speaking of the Labour Party, he declared that its members are socialists, and that they are ruining the Commonwealth - that the policy which we are striving to thrust upon the community is destroying the public credit. He also remarked that we had not read history, otherwise we should not take up the position that we do. I say that we are students of history, and that it is the events of the past which have forced us, willy-nilly, to adopt the 'policy we have. Individualism has been the curse of the world, and it is time that the system was altered; The honorable member for Kooyong says that we desire to bring, down every one to a dead level. But, in this connexion, I would invite honorable members for a few moments to look at the position of Tasmania. That is a country where individualism has always been rampant, and I am perfectly certain that if the honorable member had hi.-; way, that state of things would continue. Until within a few months ago, no labour member had ever entered a Parliament as a representative of Tasmania. What is the position of that State to-day? It possesses a good deal of cultivable land, and enjoys a magnificent climate and fertile soil, but we find that, to use a colloquialism, it is as much " up to its neck in debt" as is any of the other States. I am informed that the State Government of Tasmania closed the last financial year with a deficit of. ,£30)000, while the financial operations of the previous year showed a deficiency of £176,000.

Mr Cameron - What about Queensland ?

Mr BAMFORD - We have had an individualistic policy there.

Mr Watson - Tempered by banking legislation.

Mr BAMFORD - Quite so. In Queensland, as elsewhere, we suffered from the banking crisis of i8o3» I wish honorable members to now turn their attention to another country in the same latitude, but possessing certainly a much larger area than that of Tasmania. In the matter of soil and climate, however, it enjoys no advantage over that State. I refer to New Zealand. In the one case the rule of the individualists is supreme, while in the other there is more socialism to the square yard than is to be found in any other country.

Mr O'malley - In the days of individualism New Zealand was nearly bankrupt.

Mr BAMFORD - Quite so. In 1892 its position was as bad as is the position of Tasmania to-day. If the honorable and learned member for Parkes were to read the history of the lands of the Southern Hemisphere as he does that of other lands, I am satisfied that he would arrive at the conclusion that the socialistic regime iii New Zealand is vastly superior to the system which exists in Tasmania, and of which he approves.

Mr Johnson - Tasmania is doing splendidly just now. '

Mr BAMFORD - Yes ; there are now three labour representatives in the Parliament of that State. I have a few figures here from the " Politician's Bible "-

Mr O'malley - The honorable member refers to the Bulletin.

Mr BAMFORD - No; that is the "Democrats' Bible." I refer to Coghlan. I desire to bring under the notice of honorable members some figures relative to the rate of interest earned by the railway systems of Tasmania and NewZealand. On page 344 of Cog/dan, a table is given showing the interest returned on capital expenditure for a period of five years, and . an examination of that table will show that the highest rate of interest paid by the Tasmanian railways during the period in question was 1.56 per cent. ; whilst the lowest paid by the New Zealand railway .system during the same period was 3*29 per cent. A similar state of affairs exists in relation to other matters. The people of Tasmania have no old-age pension system, such as exists in New, but they pay 5s. 9d. per head towards the alleviation of distress; whereas in New Zealand, in addition to a system of old-age pensions, the people pay 9s.10d. per head towards this object.

Mr Lonsdale - That shows that very little distress exists in Tasmania.

Mr O'malley -There are thousands of persons destitute there.

Mr BAMFORD - In answer to the honorable member for New England, I would say that if Tasmania is so prosperous as he would have us believe, why is it that her population is continually decreasing ?

Mr Lonsdale - It has been increasing in population.

Mr BAMFORD - Coghlan deals with the population statistics for a period of seventeen years, and shows that, while there was a small excess of arrivals over departures during a period of eight years, there was an excess of departures over arrivals during the remaining period of nine years. In 1902 there was an excess of. departures over arrivals in Tasmania, whereas in New Zealand the excess of arrivals over departures was nearly 8,000.

Mr Lonsdale - Are the two States to be compared physically?

Mr BAMFORD - The physical conditions of both countries are almost identical.

Mr Cameron - What about the area?

Mr BAMFORD - I allowed for the difference in the area of the respective States. Tasmania has about 16,000 square miles, while the area of New Zealand is 64,000 square miles, and in the figures with which I had intended to delight the House I had worked out the difference. But whereever the statistics given areper head of the population the question of area is not affected, and these figures show that New Zealand is far ahead of Tasmania. Let me take, for example, the dairying industry. Coghlan gives us some interesting figures relating to the output of butter, milk, andcheese. He shows that the Tasmanian output of these commodities for 1902 was of the estimated value of £446,000, whereas that of New Zealand was of the value of £2,608,000. Allowing for the difference in area, and therefore dividing the £2,608,000 by four, we find how far Tasmania lags behind New Zealand.

Mr Cameron - The honorable member knows perfectly well that Tasmania has but a very limited extent of good land.

Mr BAMFORD - The same remark applies to New Zealand, a great deal of whose territory is periodically disturbed by an. earthquake. Nothing could be more indicative of the relative position of the two countries than are the figures relating to education, and I find that whilst Tasmania expends £58,318 on the administration and maintenance of its education system, New Zealand expends £494,621.

Mr Cameron - What are their respective revenues?

Mr BAMFORD - That is the question. I am endeavouring to show that if Tasmania were governed under laws similar to those which prevail in New Zealand, it would be more prosperous. If the honorable member looks at the figures he will arrive at the conclusion to which I have come, that under the two differing systems of legislation-

Mr Cameron - The honorable member should compare Tasmania with Queensland, where there are socialistic principles in force.

Mr BAMFORD - We have not the socialism that I should like to see there ; but it is coming fast, and I am glad to know that thisremark applies also to Tasmania, which has returned a rabid socialist to this Parliament.

Mr Cameron - By forty-eight votes.

Mr BAMFORD - I am sure that the honorable member was very pleased to obtain that majority. Nothing can be said in favour of individualism as against socialism. The honorable and learned member for Parkes is certainly a student of history. He speaks of the astigmatic vision of the Labour Party, a remark that I think should be applied to his own,and I would commend these matters to his consideration. Another question to which the honorable and learned member referred was that of conciliation and arbitration. He spoke of the Moseley Commission, consisting of twenty-six working men, which left Great Britain for the United States in order to compare the industrial life of the two countries. The honorable and learned member said that the members of that Commission returned from the United States of America firm in the resolve to have nothing to do with the principle of conciliation. As a matter of fact, there is no system of conciliation and arbitration in operation in the United States of America. Why, therefore, should the honorable and learned member, in 'his effort to make the best of a bad case, introduce such a suggestion? There was no principle of conciliation and arbitration in the United States of America; consequently the Moseley Commission could not have been impressed by, anything that they saw there which had a bearing upon the subject. Reference was also made by the honorable and learned member to the withdrawal of money from Australia. Some persons are always complaining that capital is being withdrawn from the States, but they rarely, if ever, get down to actual facts. The honorable and learned member for Parkes, however, gave us one concrete case, and asserted that one institution - the Scottish Widows - had instructed its manager to withdraw, within a period of twelve months, some ^£2,000,000 which it had invested in Australia, and to send it to some other place in which 4 per cent, could be obtained. Coghlan shows, however, that all the money invested in Australia has paid an average of 4 per cent.

Mr Cameron - The Scottish Widows were not* so sure of their security here.

Mr BAMFORD - But the 'money in question was not directly invested by this institution in any industry. The manager was simply making a profit by lending the money to some one else to invest. Statements such as .these with regard to the withdrawal of capital from Australia require something in the way of detail to establish their credibility^ I suppose I may be permitted to say a few' words upon the subject of preferential trade.

Mr McDonald - Is that a new subject ?

Mr BAMFORD - It is with me. During the electoral campaign I was asked now and again, usually by some person the worse for liquor, what I thought of preferential trade, and I replied that later on I would give an opinion about it. I am sorry that the subject has been referred to in the Governor-General's Speech. At the present stage it is an academic question rather than one of practical interest. It is in the clouds. There is no need to discuss it during the lifetime of this Parliament, at any rate. When the English people have made up their .minds as to what they require, and ask us .to come to terms, it will be time enough to consider the matter. Until then it will be only a waste of time to discuss it. Connected with it is, .of course, the" question of free-trade or protection. During the very able address delivered by the honorable member for Richmond a few nights ago, some one interjected that we have no such .thing -as free-trade. I quite admit the truth of that remark. It was also stated that we have no such thing as protection. That is also true. The Common wealth Tariff is the result of the conflict between two parties holding opposite fiscal views. But while the protectionist is not afraid of his policy, the free-trader is afraid of free-trade. I am not speaking now as a protectionist.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the honorable member still a fiscal atheist?

Mr BAMFORD - Yes. Protectionists will ask for all the protection they can get, and still hold out their hands for more ; but free-traders will not accept free-trade at any price; they would not touch it with a long stick. I could count upon the fingers of one hand the members of the Opposition who are willing to adopt the policy of freetrade. I am not rabid upon the fiscal question. If honorable members opposite will give us a free-trade policy - if they will: say, "We will abolish customs houses altogether," I will go with them. If they, say, " We will give you the English Tariff," I will go with them. But I will have nothing to do with the fiscal faking which takes 5 per cent, off one article, puts 6 per cent, upon another, and calls itself free-trade. We all admit that the Commonwealth must raise a large amount of revenue, and if honorable members opposite will show that they have the courage of their convictions, by proposing a policy of taxation similar to that of Great Britain, I will join their ranks. But if their leaders' proposed such a policy, how soon their ranks would -be decimated ! Where should we find the honorable members for Kooyong, Grampians, and Wentworth?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Locked in the honorable member's arms.

Mr BAMFORD - Not at all. They would have nothing to do with the direct taxation which would be necessary if the English Tariff were adopted. Then, as they are afraid to adopt a free-trade policy, what is the use of coming here and talking about it ad nauseam.

Mr McDonald - How much direct taxation will the Government give us ?

Mr BAMFORD - The Government have not the courage of their convictions any more than the .free-traders have. I am a candid friend upon this occasion. A great deal has been said during ..the debate about the third party. The honorable member, for Maranoa has taken exception to the term, becuse he says we should be called the first party, a sentiment I thoroughly indorse. The position of parties, in this Chamber might be represented by an equilateral triangle, or, to be nice, by an isosceles triangle, the two sides being equal, and each a little longer than the base. But what the third party lacks in numbers it gains in coherence.

Mr O'Malley - And in intelligence.

Mr BAMFORD - If the honorable members of the Ministerial and Opposition parties think that the present position should not continue, why do they allow it to do so? If the members of the Labour Party were using influence to prevent a coalition between the two other parties, they might have reason for complaint, but we are standing severely aloof.

Mr Cameron - The Labour Party is shoving the other side with all its force.

Mr BAMFORD - We are not using any force at all yet.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The members of the Labour Party are like the Innocents Abroad.

Mr BAMFORD - Though we may be innocents, we are not very much abroad. If the two other parties wish to have two parallel lines instead of a triangle, . the members of the Labour Party are quite willing to make one line, and to take their seats upon the Opposition benches. I am afraid that the time has not yet arrived when we can keep the Ministerial benches warm. Reference has been made in the debate to the administration of the Defence Department. The honorable , member for Maranoa, in his usual terse and bellicose style, and the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, have addressed themselves to the regulations which have been published. One can only wonder that a gentleman in the position of the General Officer Commanding, and so able a statesman as the Minister for Defence, should waste their time in framing such regulations. Some of those who have spoken during the debate have severely criticised the action of the Labour Party in voting for the reduction of the Defence expenditure. In my opinion, it is a good thing that the Estimates were cut down. I agree with those who think that a change should be made in the administration of that Department to meet the undoubted wish of this House. No honorable member likes to see money wasted upon frill and tomfoolery, upon which a great deal has been expended in the past. I believe that the Minister for Defence has the welfare of our citizen forces, and of our rifle clubs, at heart, and that he is as good a Minister as we have so far had; at any rate, he devotes himself to his duties most attentively. I deprecate, however, the manner in which the citizen forces and the rifle clubs have been treated. In my electorate the members of rifle clubs are expected, not only to buy their own rifles, but even to furnish their own ranges. Such a thing is monstrous, and must lead to the disbandment of many clubs which have been a long time in existence, and have done good service. With regard to the treatment given to officers, I should like to read the following paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph some time ago: -

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