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Tuesday, 17 December 1912

Senator FRASER (Victoria) .- I cannot allow the debate to close without expressing a few opinions on the Bill. I rise with a good deal of hesitation, because I am supposed not to knock myself about. Probably this will be my last public speech in Parliament, and 1 must be on my best behaviour. I shall try to suppress my fighting instincts if I can. I have been a fighter all my public life. The fire is still there, but there is a mind controlling it which I hope will continue to be successful. When we federated the people of Australia agreed to do so for a few national purposes only which are known to honorable senators. The principal purposes of Federation were to bring about national control of Defence, the Post and Telegraph Department, and the Customs Department. Various other powers were given to the Commonwealth, but it was never intended that this Parliament should interfere with the legitimate powers of the State Parliaments. There was no whisper of anything of the kind at the Federal Conventions held in Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne, or later, when the Premiers of the different States conferred on the subject of Federation.

Senator Givens - The world has moved since then.

Senator FRASER - The world has moved, and is moving still. The world is always moving, and, fortunately, for the advantage, as I hope and pray will continue to be the case, of the English-speaking races. It is of no use to go back hundreds of years to the time of our forefathers. No doubt 'they did awful things in the early days. I am not going to say what they did, but the world has advanced since then, and the British people especially have advanced, until to-day they are the admiration of the rest of the world.

Senator McGregor - The Frasers were always a law-abiding crowd.

Senator FRASER - No, they were not. I do not claim anything of the kind for them, nor for the McGregors. I say that the British people are to-day the admiration of the world. Where do men go from foreign countries for freedom and safety? Do they not make for London ? Where on this earth do we find Judges higher in tone than those of Great Britain? In my opinion, to try to depreciate British history is almost a crime. I do not say that there, are not black pages in British history.

Senator Lynch - Hear, hear ! and very black, too.

Senator FRASER - I know, of course, that in the opinion of my honorable friend Senator Lynch they are all black; there is no white in them at all; but some people see with black eyes.

Senator Lynch - The honorable senator should not say that everything has been black with me. I have been more respectful to the British Constitution than he and his party have been at times.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Senator Lynch has misunderstood Senator Fraser. What he said was that the honorable senator looks upon many of the pages of British history as black.

Senator Lynch - The honorable senator said that everything was black with me.

Senator FRASER - I did not say anything to reflect upon the honorable senator personally at all.

Senator Lynch - I accept that. So long as the case is fairly stated I am satisfied.

Senator FRASER - If I may be allowed to proceed, I say that Australia was federated for certain purposes, and that during the Federal Conventions not a syllable was uttered in favour of any interference with the States beyond what was provided for at the time in the proposed Constitution. I do not say that there are not amendments which might be made with advantage for the proper working of the Federation. I quite realize that there are some things in connexion with which some improvement . might be made, but I do say that any interference by the Federal Parliament with the State Parliaments will be disastrous. The States of Australia have made marvellous progress. When I arrived here, about sixty-two years ago, Melbourne could not be called a city. There were only two or three streets in it, and bullock waggons were often bogged in what is now Elizabeth-street. 1 remember, too, that the place was at that time placarded with posters demanding ''Separation from New South Wales." The people of this State then had grievances which, in their opinion, made separation from New South Wales necessary and desirable.

Senator St Ledger - They were against the Central Government.

Senator FRASER - They were against the Central Government; and the various States of Australia will be against the Central Government in connexion with these proposals. If they cannot manage their local domestic affairs successfully, no Federal Government will ever be able to do so. The attempt on the part of the Federal Government to deal with these matters must be a failure; it cannot be anything else. How can representatives from, say, Western Australia be expected to deal properly with questions affecting North Queensland and Tasmania? It is only the local people who are cognisant of all the details involved in such questions. I say : Leave the State Parliaments alone to secure the happiness and prosperity of their respective States. They will do it as they have hitherto done. The States in the past have been marvellously prosperous. The Bent Government during a period of distress got assistance to the extent of £1,500,000 or more from the State Savings Bank, and paid off £4,000,000 of their indebtedness abroad, thereby establishing the credit of the State to a remarkable degree. We know that there has been considerable extravagance in expenditure during the last few years, both by Federal and State Governments, and especially by some State Governments that 1 could name. We have been paying 4i per cent, interest on money recently, and I remind honorable senators that twelve months ago, when we were considering the Commonwealth Bank Bill, I predicted that that would be one of the results of the passing of that measure. I then begged of the Federal Government to hold their hand, and not to encroach upon the Savings Bank business of the States.

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