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Thursday, 7 June 1906

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) . - It is with some diffidence that I rise to second the adoption of the AddressinReply. I desire, at the outset, to congratulate the Government upon the comprehensive programme which they have put forward, and which .presents a striking contrast to that which was submitted to us at the beginning of last session. Then the Goverment had to confess that it was incapable of doing anything, and had no recourse but to commit political suicide.

Mr Reid - It is sometimes more honorable to die than to live.

Mr KENNEDY - The Government have at least given evidence of their desire to do something.

Mr Reid - There will be no sign of suicidal mania on the part of this Government.

Mr KENNEDY - No; because they have a useful purpose to serve, and believe that there is a great1 future before Australia. I trust, therefore, that they will not do anything in the direction indicated by the leader of the Opposition.

Mr Reid - The honorable member need not be alarmed.

Mr KENNEDY - The complaint has been made that the Government do not possess a sufficient amount of fighting talent; but I do not think that any serious exception can be taken to the attitude which they are now assuming.. To be a successful leader in any sphere of life, a man must be a born fighter, and of this fact no better evidence could be afforded than is to be derived from a contemplation of the career of that great leader of public life in New Zealand who is now in Victoria. .Whether or not we agree with a man, we can all admire his fighting qualities. Before I proceed to deal briefly with the matters referred to in His Excellency's speech, I may be permitted to say that during the recess the public have been repeatedly told that ruin would overtake Australia owing to the legislation passed by this and the preceding, Parliament. I am surprised, indeed, that the leader of the Government, and even the leader of the Opposition, can meet the House with a cheerful countenance. The right honor able member for East Sydney and his lieutenants have been touring the country telling the people that we shall be overwhelmed in ruin because of the socialistic legislation that has been passed; but no one has pointed to a single instance in which an enactment placed on the statutebook by this Parliament has proved injurious.

Mr Johnson - Has the honorable member become a Socialist ?

Mr KENNEDY - I do not know but that a Socialist is as good in public life as is a single taxer. So far as my political tendencies are concerned, I have no responsibility excepting to my constituents. In view of the task which has been allotted to me to-day, I was pleased to notice the opening paragraph of His Excellency's speech, which I venture to say cannot be refuted by the most able anti- Socialist in Australia. The paragraph reads as follows : -

I have called you together, I rejoice to say, in a season of general prosperity throughout the Commonwealth, production having increased, prices being favorable, while both trade and finance afford most encouraging evidence of the soundness of business.

Where are we to find evidence of the deplorable effects of the legislation passed by this Parliament? In proof that His Excellency has correctly stated the position, I would quote the statement made by the president of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, in his annual report, that never in the whole history of Australia were the general conditions of the community more prosperous, or the prospects' more favorable, than at present. I would also direct attention to the support given to His Excellency's statement by the remarks of the honorable member for Grampians, who, speaking as chairman of directors of a leading banking institution, said that the conditions were' such that it was really difficult to find investments for our wealth.

Mr Johnson - Will the honorable member contend-

Mr KENNEDY - Will the honorable member mind his own business? When a few hard facts are related those who have been crying " stinking fish " with regard to Australia cannot sit quietly by. I think it must be admitted by men of all shades of 'political opinion that there is ample evidence of sound business conditions and prosperity throughout the Commonwealth. I have to admit that, unfortunately, in times of prosperity there is a tendency to depart from the lines of legitimate business, but the Government cannot help that. I wish, however, to emphasize the fact that, notwithstanding our prosperous condition to-day - the prosperous condition of those who have opportunities for wealth production and for the development of our natural resources - a considerable number of persons have had no such opportunities presented to them. This Parliament, and the Parliaments of the States, can, in their respective spheres, afford further facilities to such people for increasing the production of wealth and developing our great natural resources. They can also, by legislation, encourage our white brethren in other lands to come and settle here. But what is the use of attempting to attract immigrants here unless we bring about such conditions that they can earn a decent livelihood ? There are practically only two ways by which production can be encouraged by legislation. One of these is by offering greater facilities for the occupation of the land. This is a matter which at present is under the control of the States Governments. The Federal authorities can do little or nothing in that direction. They can, however, assist the States to introduce suitable immigrants and grant bounties or bonuses, with a view to a fuller development of the industrial and mechanical arts. I repeat that a considerable amount of hostile criticism has been directed to some of the legislation passed by this Parliament. Unfortunately, in this House, as well as outside of it, when the Government attempt to do anything of a progressive character, criticism is directed not with a view to improving their measures, but with the object of destroying therm. Very frequently, also, misrepresentations: are made for party purposes. With regard to the Commerce Act, which was passed during last session, misrepresentation has been the order of the day. It is well known to honorable members, and to those who have taken an active interest in that measure, that the intention of the framers of the Act, and the desire of this House in passing it, was to secure honesty in trade. When the honorable member for Gippsland' was Minister of Trade and Customs, he had the good sense and the courage to pass a regulation dealing with the importation of cornsacks, one of the classes of goods to which the Commerce Act? will apply. He. was bitterly assailed on the ground that his action would interfere with the course of trade, but there was no doubt as to the! good purpose which he desired to accomplish. He wished to insure that those who purchased cornsacks should know exactly what they were buying. To-day I had the good fortune to attend! a meeting of representatives of the whole of the agricultural societies and farmers' unions of Victoria, at which requests were received from all parts of the State that the regulation passed by the honorable member for Gippsland be enforced. In many cases it was further urged that not only should the bales containing the bags be branded, but that the bags themselves should! be marked according to their quality. This incident alone seems to me to afford proof of the necessity for the Commerce Act, and justifies the congratulations which I bestowed upon the honorable member for Gippsland for the action which he took to secure honesty in that particular branch of trade. Yet if we refer to the section of the press which professes to speak for the farming interests, we find it decrying the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs. It was in the interests of honest trade that the Commerce Act was enacted, and the section of the press to which I refer admits that the farmers actually demanded some such provisions as it contains. I have now given an illustration of the necessity for that Statute. But the assumption appears to be uppermost in the minds of some persons that the Minister of Trade and Customs is, perforce, going to harass traders and importers. Nothing of the sort. He is going to protect the honest trader and the honest importer, and to put the dishonest trader upon an equality with the honest trader. I notice that in the Vice-Regal speech reference is made to the early introduction of an Anti-Trust Bill. It is well known that an absolute necessity exists for the enactment of such a measure. Those who take a keen interest in farming pursuits know what foreign importers have done with Australian! inventions up to the present time. Those who have been following the operations of the foreign manufacturers are aware that within the last three weeks one of the biggest importing firms here has sent around to the different local implement manufacturers, and bought up patterns of what is known as the disc plough. That firm has had a field trial of these ploughs conducted by experts from America with a view to combining the perfections of each, to manufacturing them in America, and to sending them to Australia to kill the local industry. I have no objection to these gentlemen engaging in the manufacture of agricultural implements 'here if they desire to do so. But what I have stated is an evidence, I submit, of the necessity which exists for the introduction of anti-trust legislation. It may be urged that our own manufacturers can protect themselves by the acquisition of patent rights. I happen to know that the patentee of one of these disc ploughs has patented it throughout Australia. He is not a wealthy man, and can any reasonable individual assume for a moment that if an implement imported from America contained some part of his patent he would be in a position to fight the trust? He has no possible hope of doing so. He would go to the wall, another Australian industry would be ruined, and there would be an addition to our unemployed. A special reference in the Governor-General's speech to members of this House brings me to the one little lone proposal of the last Government. I refer to the Redistribution of Seats Bill. As one of those who was opposed to the method proposed to be adopted upon that occasion, I desire to say that no word or action of mine will delay for a moment the redistribution of our electoral divisions in Victoria.

Mr Fisher - Does not Moira disappear?

Mr KENNEDY - The individual's interests are a matter of small concern. All Victorians must, I think, view the question as I do. I commend the Government for their action in bringing down this proposal at the earliest possible moment, with a view to arriving at finality. If the law demands that it shall be done the sooner it is done the better. That is only just to the other States. Victoria has no word of complaint to urge so long as she receives justice. She does not ask for concessions, but merely for justice. There are some of us who, it was alleged!, would occupy a peculiar position in the event of any Tariff proposals being brought down during the life of this Parliament. I am among those who stood on a clearly-defined platform at the last general election. I stood behind the leader of the present Government for fiscal peace during the life of this Parliament.

Mr Deakin - For fiscal peace and preferential trade.

Mr Wilks - Fiscal peace, loyalty, and preferential trade.

Mr KENNEDY - I propose to deal with one thing at a time, if the honorable member for Dalley will permit me to do so. As is well known, the present leader of the Opposition at that election was in favour of fiscal war.

Mr Reid - I wanted to settle the question right off, and it would have been better had 'we done so, as matters have turned out.

Mr KENNEDY - That may be the case, but we have to deal with things as they are. Who will be responsible if we have to deal with the Tariff during the current session? I say unhesitatingly that it will be the leader of the Opposition, who, with his party, fought for fiscal war at the last election.

Mr Reid - That is one good thing I did, at any rate.

Mr KENNEDY - At the last election honorable members opposite fought for fiscal war, whereas I was in favour of fiscal peace during the life of this Parliament. But the whirligig of time and the changes in politics placed the leader of the Opposition in power, and whilst he was head of a Government he agreed - I presume at the instigation of his supporters, because it is not to be assumed that he would be dictated to by an Oppositionto the appointment of the Tariff Commission. I have heard honorable members opposite declare that the right honorable member took that action at the instigation of the present Attorney-General. But is such a procedure in accordance with the policy of the leader of the Opposition?

Mr Reid - I appointed the Commission because I thought that we could not have too much daylight in connexion with the operation of the Tariff, whichever way the evidence might go. I would not have appointed it if I had not approved of it I am not afraid of daylight.

Mr KENNEDY - The right honorable member also stated that, in the event of reports being submitted by the Tariff Commission during the life of this Parliament, opportunities would be afforded honorable members of dealing with them. That is the position with which I am confronted to-dav. If the reports of that Commission are submitted during the current session, what option have I - or, indeed, what alternative have the Government - but to deal with them? Can they be withheld from the House? What will be the demand of the Opposition when those reports are submitted ?

Mr Johnson - Let' us adhere to our pledges.

Mr KENNEDY - But what is the position of the Opposition to-day ? They now desire a continuance of fiscal peace. They wanted fiscal war at the last general election. Sitting behind their leader, they sought fiscal war; but now that fiscal war has arrived they desire- fiscal peace. They wish to dodge the issue anyhow. They want to get behind a kopje at all hazards.

Mr Reid - That is just what I said in- reference to the Deakin Government.

Mr KENNEDY - The Tariff Commission has submitted some reports. If they present further reports during the present session, I venture to say that I shall not shirk my responsibility. My views on this matter are well known. I was quite prepared not to raise the fiscal issue during the life of this Parliament. Up to the present time I have .not asked that it should be raised. However, it has been raised without any action upon my part, and, that being so. I shall certainly not shirk my responsibility. But. however willing the Government and the House may be, there is not the slightest possibility of a complete revision of the Tariff being undertaken, during the current session. I do not think that time will permit of it. /;

Mr Wilks - Then why this long Go vernor-General's speech.

Mr KENNEDY - Upon the relative merits of the questions at issue, the viceregal speech' devoted less space to this particular matter than to any other.

Mr Reid - That is a very startling announcement in reference to the appointment of the Government Statistician.

Mr KENNEDY - We did not get even an announcement of that kind from the late Government.

Mr Reid - Small as the dose was, the honorable member could not swallow it.

Mr KENNEDY - There is one paragraph in the Governor-General's speech relating to defence matters, and to Australian officers, which embodies a policy of which I have' been an ardent supporter and advocate aM my life. I have always been at a loss* to understand why when a vacancy occurs in any particular Department, we in Australia, who are not altogether in our infancy as a people, cannot appoint one of our own men to it. It seems to me the height of absurdity that, whenever we require a leading officer, we should go outside Australia for him, and thus advertise our incompetence to manage our own affairs. If the States Governments require a prison superintendent, or a railway manager, they usually go abroad to secure him.

Mr Liddell - Then why go abroad to select a Governor-General ?

Mr KENNEDY - That is an entirely different matter. We do not grow kings in Australia. We have confidence that the Imperial authorities will send us a representative of the King, worthy of the position. We do not appoint the GovernorGeneral. He is practically the tie which binds us to the Crown, of which we are justly proud. Personally, I should not give a voice or a vote to bring any man to Australia to control a Department of the State. We are old enough now to be able to go on our own in such matters. I shall not now deal generally with the question of defence, because I believe that some scheme of defence is to be submitted to us on a future occasion. I wish to say with regard to the paragraph dealing with the High Court that I think it is about time the Government took action in the matter dealt with in that paragraph. We have upon our statute-book a measure which it took something like two years to pass, and which caused the downfall of two or three Governments. It is practically unworkable as the High Court Bench is at present constituted. It is the duty of the Government to see that measures placed on the statute-book are given effect, and, so far as my information goes, it is only by strengthening the High Court Bench numerically that the Act to which I refer can be brought into effective operation. In the interests of Austraia and in justice to all concerned, I think that this should be done as soon as possible, and I commend the Government for their proposal in this regard. With regard to immigration, a good deal has been said upon the subject. I admit the value of an increase in the white population of Australia. I admit the necessity for it. But whilst I say that, and give the Government credit for their desire to assist the States Governments, which thev have every right to do, and which it is their duty to do, I remind them that thev will have to move in other directions. Thev will have to make this country prosperous and attractive, before thev attempt to bring people here under conditions which will only mislead them. It is well known that even amongst those reared to farming pursuits, whether they come from other countries or are native born, there are men already here who find it absolutely impossible to get land on which they can settle. If honorable members will permit me, I shall read an extract in corroboration of what I have stated, from a letter I received within the last day or two. I know the writer of the letter well, and I also know three or four of his brothers, who have not been ' quite so unfortunate, since they have been able to obtain land. With respect to the contention of the Government that there are not sufficient people in the Commonwealth, that immigration is needed, .and should be encouraged, the writer of the letter says -

My own experience is quite different to that. I came to this country sixteen years ago, and I had a bit of money with me. My intention' was to tate up land and settle on it. I was much disappointed on my arrival at not being able to get any land, and was forced to take on the share system. The rent for same was much too high, and, coupled with the drought, I was forced to give up the land, and go on to a glutted labour market. Without assistance from anybody, I have succeeded in getting on, but I am still seeking for land to settle on, as I have nowhere to go to when out of work, only to camp by the wayside.

The writer asks me, if I know of any land available for selection, to inform him of it. I know this man personally, and I know that what he states is absolutely correct. He says further -

I have travelled from Melbourne to the Queensland border, and back, in search of land to select.

Sir John Forrest - Why did he not go to the West?

Mr KENNEDY - I have known men who went to the West, and came back, though I admit that some stayed there and made fortunes. My correspondent proceeds -

I saw plenty of it, and put in applications, but it was of no use, as there were numerous applicants, and one would need to be very lucky to get a block. I do not wish to dispossess any man of his land. All I want is a block of ground that [ can make a living on.

He goes on to say that unless there is some one to take by the hand the man who is seeking land to settle on, the cost incidental to inspection, attending land boards, lodging deposits, and so on, preclude the poor man from obtaining it. I am grieved when I look round in my own district and see the number of young men reared to farming pursuits, who have been in the district for the last twenty years, and have grown up there, and who are unable to get land. We may be told bv some honorable members that the land monopolist will give them land on the share system, and I wish to say here, and not without full consideration, or without having looked very closely into the matter, that the share system as conducted in northern Victoria and southern Riverina is not one remove from slavery. It is only a single remove from serfdom.

Mr Henry Willis - What are the conditions to which the honorable member refers ?

Mr KENNEDY - If a man makes a living on the land this season the landlord alters the conditions so that it will be hardly possible for him to make a living on it next season. I am speaking with knowledge. I have been there, and I am farming in the district.

Mr Henry WILLIS - Does the tenure extend only for a year?

Mr KENNEDY - The tenure under the share system is such, and the conditions of tenancy are such that as scon as the harvest is over the owner of the land can put the tenant out "on his ear." He is under no obligation to the tenant, and there is practically no fixity of "tenure.

Mr Henry Willis - That is in Victoria.

Mr KENNEDY - The tenant under the share system has no control over the land. He cannot even say whether it is desirable that a crop shall be eaten off by sheep. If the squatter wants feed for his sheep he runs them over the land, and takes the consequence. I am speaking of this matter with absolute knowledge, because I am " at the game."

Mr Henry Willis - The honorable member is not aware of the instances in which there is fixity of tenure.

Mr KENNEDY - I do not know of a single instance in which there is any fixity, of tenure under the share system.

Mr Henry Willis - Then the honorable member has something yet to learn..

Mr KENNEDY - In the district to which I refer, in the last ten years, to my knowledge, the landlord has always had the right to say " out you go " to the man on the land under the share system. As a result, there are men who have gone over into New South Wales on the share system, and some who have remained in Victoria on the same system, who are in a worse position to-day than they were ten years ago. I say, without any hesitation, that before the Government induce immigrants to come here, in the belief that they will have land to settle upon, they should know beyond all manner of doubt what they are going to do with those immigrants when they get them here. May I direct the attention of honorable members representing New South Wales constituencies to a little matter which came under my notice ten or eleven years ago? Some of those honorable members clamour for a white population from Europe. The leader of the Opposition interjected1 only today to the effect that we cannot bring contract labour here unless it is British labour. Of what use is it to bring any man to New South Wales to-day unless he is a Britisher? He cannot take up a piece of land in his own name, and why then should the right honorable gentleman speak with his tongue in his cheek?

Mr Reid - We were talking at that time of the settlement of the Northern Territory.

Mr KENNEDY - I venture to say that conditions approaching a reasonable degree of civilization and favorable to closer settlement exist to a greater extent in New South Wales to day than on the Roper River. We should develop the Northern Territory by all means, but those who talk about objections to contract labour from Europe may fairly be asked why, when, they ha!d the power and authority, they placed on the statute-book of New South Wales laws to prevent white immigrants from Europe taking up land in that State, and why thev have let them remain on the statute-book of that State to this day?

Mr Reid - I do not believe thev are there. I cannot positively deny it. but it astonishes me to hear the statement made.

Sir William Lyne - What Government did that ?

Mr KENNEDY - The Act was passed on 3rd May, 1895.

Mr Reid - Some one must have smuggled the provision in.

Mr Johnson - The honorable member has not told us the remedy for the conditions of which he has spoken.

Mr KENNEDY - One remedy is to allow a white European to take up land, if fie desires to do so, on entering New South Wales. The Act to which I refer, how ever, precludes his doing so. It provides that -

A person who is not a natural born or naturalized subject of Her Majesty shall not be qualified to apply for any holding of the class referred to in the last preceding section. . . .

Mr Reid - But what is the class referred to?

Mr KENNEDY - I shall tell the right honorable gentleman. I am armed to meet the bear. It covers homestead selections, settlement leases, original homestead leases, and, most important of all, original conditional purchases. It will thus be seen that it comprises practically everything coming within the definition of farm holdings of mode'rate size. I learned by accident of this provision, and, strange to say, every representative of New South Wales whom I Have addressed on the subject has denied its existence. As a matter of fact, it is still the law of that State. In these circumstances, is it not singular that the honorable member for Lang should' ask me to state a remedy for the conditions to which I have referred. I would say to honorable members, ' ' Do not worry about the question of the introduction of contract labour, to the injury of European labour, in Australia, since we do not happen at present to want any, but rather consider the action of those who, when members of the State Legislature of New South Wales, deliberately passed legislation making it impossible for a white European, in some circumstances, to take up land there."

Mr Johnson - I am not guilty of such legislation ; I was not a member of that Legislature.

Mr KENNEDY - I would not accuse the honorable member of possessing the ability necessary to deal with such a measure, but I do not hesitate to say that, although the Government of Victoria, during the last twelve months, have spent practically £1,000,000 in resuming estates for closer settlement, they are still unable to meet the local demand, to say nothing of the demand that might arise from immigration.

Mr Deakin - -They have not even been able to meet- the demands of purchasers.

Mr KENNEDY - Quite so. The State Government still find themselves unable to meet even the demand of purchasers who are prepared to pay two instalments down, and so rid the Lands Department of any risk. Thev find themselves unable to overfake the local demand' for land. In these circumstances, I would urge .the Government to exercise the greatest caution. If they bring ai number of men to Australia with the object of putting them on the land, they will do no good for the Commonwealth, or for the immigrants themselves, unless they have first found land on which to settle them. The question, arises, therefore, what are we going to do? We have ample land in Australia to allow of furthe development, but, unfortunately, this Parliament is not in a position to deal satisfactorily with the problem. The problem, rests practically with the States Governments; it remains for them to solve it. On the other hand, however, it is entirely within the province of this Parliament to widen very considerably the sphere of industrial employment. I was pleased to find in the speech from the Throne a proposal for the assistance of rural industries. When the honorable member for Gippsland held office as Minister of Trade and Customs lie had, I believe, a somewhat similar proposal in mind, and I may say, in passing, that no honorable member is better fitted to give effect to such a scheme. T trust that when the Ministry bring down their proposals in this regard, they will have the active support of all those who wish to diversify the field of employment in the Commonwealth. We have hardly realized the extent or the potentialities of Australia. Few of us, indeed, have realized the possibilities of Victoria, small as it may be, or of New South Wales, large, as it may be. If I may be permitted to say n word or two in commendation of the Inst Conference of Premiers, I should! like to say that the Premiers of Victoria. New South Wales, and South Australia, in settling the question of the control of the Murray waters, placed the people of those States under an obligation which thev do not at present seem to realize. No question of greater importance to a large section of the people of these three States has been dealt with - and dealt with more successful^ - than was that to which I have just referred. Great industrial possibilities are awaiting development in Australia. Tn connexion with nil our manufactures, there are numerous opportunities for extension, and when the Government bring down their proposals - and in this direction thev have unlimited scope - I trust thev will leave no stone unturned to secure to Australia the advantages cres that mav accrue to it in this regard. It is unnecessary for me do refer to the value of the goods that we annually import, thus giving to workers in other lands work that we could satisfactorily carry out- for ourselves. It is in this respect that I am hopeful of a sound policy from the present Government. I have already said that I do not believe that we shall have a complete measure of Tariff revision this session. Time will not permit of anything of the kind. A session, or, indeed, a Parliament, is a very small factor in the life of a country or the development of a nation, but in all seriousness I would ask those who talk of the possibilities of Australia and of the necessity of developing our resources, to leave aside party considerations for the time being. I am never much concerned as to the party with which I am allied, as long as I am satisfied that it is proceeding on right lines. I am almost losing respect foi those who are eternally raising a cry which must create party strife. We hear so much from some about anti-Socialism that I am commencing to wonder how they find time or opportunity to think of anything else. I have not yet heard a definition of antiSocialism, nor have I heard Socialism defined as a policy injurious to the people of Australia

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