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Thursday, 8 September 1904

Mr SPEAKER - I must ask the honorable member for Parramatta, if I correctly understood. him to say that something which was said by the honorable member foi Bland is untrue, to withdraw that statement.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I certainly withdraw the statement. I made it in no personal sense.

Mr WATSON - I quite accept the explanation of the honorable member for Parramatta that he did not intend any imputation on my trustworthiness.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Merely that the statement was not one of fact.

Mr WATSON - Just so. What I understand is that one-half of the committee was appointed from members of Parliament, presumably on the initiative of the right honorable member for East Sydney, and the other half from organizations consisting of a number of gentlemen who were not representatives of leagues or organizations existing throughout New South Wales.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is that the statement the honorable gentleman made before?

Mr WATSON - I think it is nearly the same. I have no wish to say any more on that point. 1 come now to deal with the Prime Minister's statement that another great difference between the members of his party and the Labour Party is that the latter believed in socialistic legislation. The right honorable gentleman referred to some remarks I made in reply to a deputation from the May Day demonstrators.

Mr Mauger - Did the right honorable gentleman bring that up again?

Mr WATSON - Yes, but not in quite the same terms as those in which it was previously referred to. I was quoted as stating that the time was not ripe to enter upon a general socialistic propaganda, but that one might begin with the plum that was in a condition fit to pluck - the tobacco monopoly. The way in which that was referred to by the right honorable gentleman would lead people to believe that some great public wrong was likely to be inflicted if the tobacco monopoly were nationalized. The Prime Minister did not proceed to explain exactly of what the tobacco monopoly consists, or how far it is necessary in the public interests that some steps should be taken in order to clip the wings and cut the claws of that and kindred monopolies.

Mr Mauger - Or that a Select Committee of the Victorian Legislative Assembly recommended the nationalization of the tobacco industry some years ago.

Mr WATSON - That is so, but the question has developed very materially since that Select Committee inquired into it.

Mr Mauger - The position is much worse now.

Mr WATSON - Then the monopoly existed in a comparatively innocuous form, It was then practically confined to one State, and was not there complete ; but to-day the tobacco monopoly has its tentacles over every State in the Common " wealth.

Mr Hughes - It is a real monopoly.

Mr WATSON - It is an actual mono- * poly. It is not one to which the term may be applied merely in a general way; because it has now become actually and specifically a monopoly, and is taking advantage of the people at both ends.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why does the honorable gentleman support it?

Mr WATSON - My method of supporting it is to transfer its control to the national Government of Australia at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman subscribes to its funds.

Mr WATSON - I admit that I indulge in tobacco, if that is the insinuation of the honorable member; but beyond that, I do not support the trust. So far as Australia is concerned, I believe that, no matter what form of Tariff we have, and no matter what other steps we take short of the nationalization of some of these industries, we are bound to have enormous monopolies battening upon the people, and taking advantage of them at every opportunity. Are we to stand idly by and impotently lament that these things should be, or are we to seize the nettle resolutely, and determine that if there is to be a monopoly - and in many cases I admit that monopolies cheapen production, so far as manufacture is concerned - it shall be in the hands of the people, and controlled for the benefit of the people? The Prime Minister went on then to refer to another socialistic proposal of the late Government, namely that we propose to take some ^8,000,000 sterling belonging to the banks-

Mr Wilks - Has not the new combination opposite thrown that over?

Mr WATSON - Not that I am aware of.

Mr McCay - It is not in the joint scheme.

Mr WATSON - There is plenty of time ; we do not propose to deal with the matter this session.

Mr Reid - I notice that there is something about " social status " in the joint scheme. Where did honorable members op- posite get that phrase? Possibly they could not express what they intended in English.

Mr WATSON - I should like to remind the Prime Minister that what he terms a socialistic proposal in regard to banking legislation-

Mr Reid - I did not say that it was socialistic.

Mr WATSON - I think the right honorable gentleman did. He was referring generally to the socialistic proposals put forward by the late Government, and included in the number the proposal to take £8,000,000 belonging to the banks. I say that that financial policy has been given effect to, as I indicated some time ago, for over thirty-four years in Canada - a country where, so far, at all events, there has not been any great progress on the road to Socialism.

Mr Reid - They were very hard up for money at the time they adopted it.

Mr WATSON - They were, but in view of the indebtedness of Australia, and of the fact that we have to cut down in every direction in order to balance our finances, one would think that we were not too flush of money at the present time.

Mr King O'malley - Hear, hear. We starve the members of the Federal Parliament.

Mr WATSON - I propose to refer the Prime Minister to a statement made by the present Treasurer when delivering his budget in 1901. At page 5693 of Hansard for 1901 the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said -

I have looked at the Canadian system. It is said that instead of borrowing money we ought to take ten or twelve millions of gold which the banks have lying in their coffers.

I said only eight, or less than eight millions.

In Canada they compel the banks to keep a reserve - I do not think we do - but they provide that a certain portion of that reserve must be kept in the Dominion's notes. By that means they get the use of a considerable amount of money without paying any interest. On the face of it, it appears to be a fair proposal, and that no harm is done.

Mr McCay - ,The right honorable gentleman said, "on the face of it."

Mr WATSON - I propose to quote the right honorable gentleman fully. The honorable and learned member for Corinella need not be afraid that I shall do the Treasurer any injustice.

Mr Reid - I know the right honorable gentleman's present opinion on the subject.

Mr WATSON - The right honorable gentleman further said -

But until I get the fullest information I .am not going to rush into any scheme of the kind.

Mr Reid - Hear, hear !

Mr WATSON - The report goes on-

Mr O'malley - It is a splendid scheme.

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