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Thursday, 14 June 1906

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales) . - The position that has arisen to-day throws a strong light on the present unsatisfactory position of Federal politics. We have had the Address-in-

Reply moved by an honorable senator sitting behind the Government, who were, however, unable to find another supporter to second it. That is the position of affairs in the Senate. Of course, I know that there is a large number of honorable senators who do support the Government. But they belong to another party ; and that is the unsatisfactory position to which I refer.

Senator Playford - If they would support the honorable senator's party it would be all right.

Senator PULSFORD - The Minister knows that the. party to which I belong has a greater following in the Senate than his own party. I have described this as a very unsatisfactory position, and it tends in no way to that desirable legislation which we all wish to see passed I recognise that there is a wish that the debate shall not be protracted, and that it shall close, if not to-night, at an early hour to-morrow. I do not propose to make a lengthened contribution to it. I intend, therefore, to confine myself to a few points. The Governor- General's speech is a very long one. Every honorable senator who has spoken has referred to its unusual length. Yet I' find that the most important matter of all - a matter of international politics - has no reference made to it whatever. I refer to a measure which was passed last year, entitled The Immigration Restriction Amendment Act, under which certain legislative arrangements were to be made. A section was inserted under which it became possible to make arrangements with foreign nations like Japan, and with India, to obviate the difficulties and annoyances of the Immigration Restriction Act. On the 18th December last, I asked the following questions of the Minister of Defence with reference to the section in the Immigration Restriction Amendment Act, which sanctioned the making of arrangements with foreign countries as to their subjects being affected by the education test: -

With reference to the clause in the Immigration Restriction Amendment Bill which sanctions arrangements being made with foreign countries whereby their subjects are exempted from the dictation tests -

1.   Will the Department of External Affairs intimate to the Governments of India, Japan, and China that the Commonwealth of Australia is now prepared to consider such arrangements?

a.   Have the Government prepared any draft indicating in any general way the main features or clauses of such arrangements?

Senator Playfordreplied

This matter is receiving consideration.

Six months have elapsed since then. A new session has begun ; and, though every conceivable subject has been raked up for reference to Parliament, this very grave and important matter is not even mentioned in any shape or form. In the same Act provision was made for the excision of the word " European " as to the test language, and for regulations which had to be submitted to Parliament in connexion with the selection of a number of languages. To this I find no reference in His Excellency's speech. I hold that this Parliament cannot possibly interest itself in any more important business than making satisfactory arrangements between Australia and the great nations of the East.

Senator Best - Would not that be a matter of administration, and not legislation ?

Senator PULSFORD - The Act requires that these regulations shall be made and notified ; and while His Excellency's speech refers to all sorts of unimportant questions, it makes no reference to this matter.

Senator Playford - Is it our place to go cap in hand: to those people? Is it not for them to ask us to make arrangements for them?

Senator PULSFORD - In December last I asked the Minister of Defence what had been done in the matter, and he said it was under consideration. Six months have now elapsed, and in the speech presented to us we find no reference to -this Act.

Senator Guthrie - What importance does the honorable senator and his partyattach to this?

Senator PULSFORD - I know that in the mind's of a number of honorable members this matter is of no importance. Within the last month there have been several Japanese war ships on a visit to Australia, and .it was Obvious to every man who kept his eyes open that these vessels were warmly welcomed.

Senator Guthrie - So is a circus.

Senator PULSFORD - In Sydney the Japanese were heartily received by all classes of the community, but there was a most significant and humiliating occurrence during the visit. Eight Japanese returning immigrants - from Noumea, I believe - who were on their way back to Japan, were held prisoners on board a vessel in the harbor of Sydney while the Japanese officers and men were being feted'. That was a very unsatisfactory and' regrettable occurrence.

Senator Playford - It was very necessary, or the men might have bolted.

Senator PULSFORD - The Japanese who were being honoured in Sydney could not but notice the difference, and surely it is worth while to do something to prevent these occurrences. I am very sorry that honorable senators do not grasp the gravity of the position. I regret very much that the Government ha:ve not seized the opportunity which has been presented to them. Every day, in the newspapers, we see re>ferences made to our trade with the East, and I Observe that the Chinese are now agitating for some degree of reasonable treatment. Here is presented an opportunity to the Government to ease the situation, and save us from trouble and friction, but apparently no steps are being taken to that end.

Senator Best - Probably the clause to which the honorable senator has referred would not have touched the case of the eight men who were kept on board the vessel in Sydney Harbor.

Senator PULSFORD - Regulations could have been made to meet such a case. If, under the clauses to which I have referred, nothing could have been done, it indicates how necessary it is to draw up fresh regulations, or pass other legislation, in order to avoid such humiliation. Surely we can devote ourselves to no more important matter. What should we say if we heard of eight or ten Australians, who, on a trip abroad, were practically gaoled in a certain port without any excuse?

Senator Guthrie - Several sailors were imprisoned on board a vessel at Queenscliff, and' not a word was said about it.

Senator de Largie - Senator Pulsford* has not time for sympathy with Europeans.

Senator PULSFORD - The time will come when Australia will recognise its duty in this matter, and, what is more, will perform its duty. Those honorable senators who to-night are inclined to jeer at me will regret their attitude. I should now liketo say a word or two on the subject of preferential trade. I listened with surprise to various honorable senators who have addressed themselves to this question. One and all seem to steer very carefully from the great and controlling fact - the elections in Great Britain, which must terminate the hopes of the party of preference in Australia.

Senator Best - Those elections were contested on an altogether different issue.

Senator PULSFORD - As to arrangements between Colonies, every bit of information we receive tends to show that, instead of bringing about' union in the Empire, they cause something, like the reverse. I have read in the newspapers about Sir William Lyne and the late Mr. Seddon, and have seen very strong statements by the former to the effect that he was not going to be drawn into giving New Zealand preference as to certain commodities which Australia produces. That is protection pure and simple. Let protectionists stick to protection, and not talk about preference when they do not mean preference. Senator Styles this afternoon told us that all the wool produced in Australia ought to be kept here and turned into woollens.

Senator Styles - Not all; only all we require.

Senator PULSFORD - The honorable senator this afternoon spoke of all the wool. But the wool we can use in Australia in the shape of clothing is but a trifle of that produced here, and by his suggestion he merely plays with the matter. Senator Styles this afternoon may have said more than he intended, but he distinctly told us that we should keep our wool, and send our woollens abroad. Other honorable senators said, "Well, we must give Great Britain a preference - we must raise the duties against other countries." But how are we to give Great Britain a preference in regard to an article which we wish to prevent coming to Australia from Great Britain, or any other part of the world? There is not a protectionist who does not desire to keep out woollen goods from Great "Britain, or anywhere else; and it is the sheerest folly in the world to talk of preference.

Senator Styles - If woollens do come here, let us give British woollens the preference.

Senator PULSFORD - There is another point which is avoided by those who talk of preference. I do not hear any one advocate preference to a country like India, which is a very important part of the British Empire; nor do I hear any one proposing to give preference to the British islands in the Pacific, where, from a commercial point of view, British sovereignty is not of the strongest. By our commercial legislation we have distinctly damaged the prosperity of a number of islands in the Pacific; but honorable members are as ada mant so far as granting to those islands any advantages which would increase their trade. Do not let gentlemen who take that attitude claim before this Chamber and the world that they are desirous to build up the Empire by means of preference. Thev are not likely to do .anything of the sort, and they will only create causes of friction which may lead to more or less disintegration.

Senator Styles - The honorable senator would treat Germany, France, America, and all other countries in exactly the same way as he would treat Great Britain.

Senator PULSFORD - I desire to make a few remarks on the subject of finance. I observe that in the various States the politicians have assumed that the care of the Federal finances really lies on them, and that we, the members of the Senate, and also the members of the House of Representatives, have to be watched. That is most unfair. In New South Wales and in Victoria I hear it said that we are likely to take the whole of the revenue, and make the States go short. ' I think I speak for every member of the Senate when I say that there is not one representative of a State here who does not intend to do his duty fully and absolutely to that State. I do not think that the observations made in Sydney, Melbourne, and elsewhere, as to the danger the finances are in, by any possible absorption of the revenue by the Commonwealth, are justified.

Senator Playford - The Constitution - the Braddon section - prevents that.

Senator PULSFORD - Just so. I am glad that the resolutions relating to the redistribution of seats are to be placed before us to-morrow, and that they have already passed the other House. From inquiries I have made. I find that it will take a considerable length of time to get the new rolls perfected. Only yesterday, Mr. Gullick, the Government Printer of New South Wales, told me that he calculated it would take seven weeks to print the rolls for that State.

Senator Millen - Did the honorable senator have that information officially?

Senator PULSFORD - I saw Mr. Gullick yesterday, and he told me he had already informed the Board to that effect. I suppose that, in addition to the seven weeks for the printing, three weeks at least will be required for the distribution; and honor, able senators will see, therefore, that something like ten weeks will be occupied from the time of the handing in of the manuscripts. What work there is to do from the passing of the resolutions to the handing in of the manuscripts to the printer, I do not know ; but it is quite clear that, unless the elections are to take place at the very fag end of the year, there is not one moment to lose. I trust, therefore, that the Senate will pass the resolutions to-morrow.

Senator Col Neild - Have the elections in October.

Senator PULSFORD - I am quite sure that it would be absolutely impossible to have the elections in October; the rolls could not possibly be ready by then. I should like to say a word or two with regard to the question of the Federal Capital. During the recess I found amongst my papers a copy of the resolution agreed to at the Conference of Premiers prior to Federation. Honorable senators towards the end of last session were made conversant with the clause in that agreement, providing that the Capital should be established in New South Wales, at a reasonable distance from Sydney.

Senator Styles - But is that provision in the Constitution?

Senator PULSFORD - It appears in the agreement arrived at by the Premiers, and it is provided in the Constitution that the Capital shall be not less than 100 miles from Svdney.

Senator Col Neild - Some scoundrel left out the word "reasonable."

Senator PULSFORD - The word "reasonable " was not inserted, but we certainly have in the Constitution the words " not less than 100 miles from Sydney." We know, also, that Sir George Turner proposed at that Conference that the limit should be 200 miles, and that that proposal was rejected. We have learned that according to the agreement then arrived at the Capital was to be situated in New South Wales at a distance of between 100 and 200 miles from Sydney.

Senator Styles - We know nothing about that.

Senator PULSFORD - There are none so blind as those who will not see ; but I am quite certain, from my knowledge of the representatives of the other States, that thev desire to do that which is fair. " If they are well satisfied that an agreement was made, and that the basis of it is undoubted, thev will not fly in the face of it.

Senator Styles - Who authorized the Premiers to make such an agreement?

Senator PULSFORD - The honorable senator knows all about it. The traders of Australia are in danger of being smothered with regulations. Regulations are becoming a curse. I have said many a time in this House that government by regulation has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished, but of late the curse of government by regulation has become intensified. I hold in my hand nearly three columns of newspaper matter, comprising the proposed regulations under the Commerce Act. They have not yet been gazetted. I do not know whether they ever will be ; but most assuredly if they are they will inflict upon the traders of Australia a very great hardship.

Senator Millen - Is not that what is intended ?

Senator PULSFORD - The honorable senator is severe. I dare say that that is the intention; I dare say that there are in existence powers having very little sympathy with trade except that relating to purely local manufactures. There are those who believe that there is more ment in the local manufacture of a chair-leg than there is in dealing with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of goods from abroad. All sorts of obstacles are being thrown in the path of these regulations, and it is quite clear that all that has been asked for cannot now be obtained. We are faced to-day with something else - an Anti-Trust Bill, in connexion with which all sorts of possibilities may arise. I had intended to deal very fully with this question, but shall refrain from doing so. I recognise that if the Bill becomes law it will give rise to very serious trouble. Commerce is very much like the weather. It suffers all sorts of changes. It has its fine clays and bad days, and various ups and downs. Goods might be sent here and sold at a price admitted bv the Customs to be allowable; but, as the result of great distress in. the country of origin, the manufacturer there might telegraph to his agent here - " Sell my goods; do the best you can, and cable me a remittance-" Then, if the agent stepped into the market and proposed to sell his goods at a 20 per cent, reduction, no man in Australia would be able to buy them. The Minister of Trade and Customs would be able to say, "This is unfair competition; take the goods away."

Senator Millen - Because, perhaps, a local manufacturer with a little influence had got to work.

Senator PULSFORD - That is one of the possibilities. Australian goods may be sold abroad at whatever price their owners choose to offer them. They may disturb the market abroad, but that is a matter of indifference to us ! We do not say that goods made in Australia shall not be sold abroad at alow price. All sorts of changes are taking place day by day in commerce, and under such rigid conditions as these we cannot carry on our business. If honorable senators give the matter a moment's consideration they will recognise that the importation of goods into Australia is the final step in connexion with the work of the producer here. What is the use of a. man in Australia producing wool, wheat, or even gold for export, unless he can turn his output into something useful? When the Ministry say, "We will put obstacles in the way of the admission of imports to Australia," they say, in effect, that they intend to place obstacles in the path of the producers, whom we declare we desire to preserve. I earnestly implore every honorable senator who wishes the future of Australia well to carefully watch and criticise the Anti-Trust Bill that is shortly to come before us.

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