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Tuesday, 5 September 1911

Senator BUZACOTT (Western Australia) . - I rise to second the motion which has been so ably and eloquently moved by my honorable friend, and in doing so I desire to express my appreciation of the honour which has been conferred on the State which I represent Western Australia, which has proved itself to be the most Democratic State in the Federation.

Senator Blakey - It was the only Australian State at the referendum.

Senator BUZACOTT - As the honorable senator says, Western Australia was the only Australian State at the referendum, so far as the important powers we were - asking for were concerned.

Senator Millen - I wonder if Senator Blakey would say that on a Victorian platform ?

Senator BUZACOTT - I also regret that Senator Guthrie is unable to be here to-day through illness, but" I hope that it will not be long before he will be with ' us, and share in our deliberations. I join with my honorable friend, too, in congratulating the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister of External Affairs, on the able and excellent manner in which they acquitted themselves at the Coronation, and also at the Imperial Conference. I wish to recognise the excellent manner in which different Ministers have administered the affairs of the Departments during the recess. I refer to Senator Findley, who so firmly and ably administered the External Affairs Department while Mr. Batchelor was absent in the Old Land ; to Senator McGregor, who acted as Minister of Defence; and to Mr. Frazer, who was the Acting Treasurer. This clearly shows that in our party we have any amount of administrative ability, and that we shall never be pushed far want of a Minister. I desire to make a few remarks in connexion with the trip to Papua. I was very desirous of undertaking the trip, to see what use was being made of the money voted by this Parliament for that Territory, but, unfortunately, through illness and other private reasons, I was unable to go. I am very pleased, however, to know that a large number of the members of this Parliament availed themselves ot the opportunity to go.

Senator Barker - What about those who withdrew ?

Senator Millen - Here is one who will give the reason presently.

Senator BUZACOTT - Probably the members of the Opposition, who withdrew in a body, will explain their reasons byandby. I, for one, shall be guided to a great extent by the opinions expressed by those who visited Papua, and who can tell us how the money is expended, what amount is required, and for what purposes it is required. I also regret the defeat of the referenda proposals. I am proud of the fact' that the State I repre- sent gave a handsome majority in favour of them. For many years its people have suffered from rings, trusts, and combines, and when they had an opportunity to make known their opinion, they expressed themselves with no uncertain voice in favour of giving this Parliament full power to deal with trusts and monopolies.

Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - There was a good deal of ring-worm about the proposals.

Senator BUZACOTT - I really believe that the honorable senator does not know the meaning of the proposals which were submitted by referendum on the 26th April last, and that if he were to devote more time to considering these matters, and less time to addressing meetings of the Women's, so-called, National League, he would not interrupt me with such an asinine interjection as he has just made. What has resulted from the defeat of the proposals? We have had a disastrous sugar strike, which undoubtedly was precipitated by the Sugar Combine. Why did they desire trouble? They had on hand over 70,000 tons of sugar, and a strike meant money to them. . It did not trouble them how the men, women, and children might suffer, so long as they could make money. They refused to meet the men in conference; they refused to discuss the matters which were in dispute; and, naturally, the men, being human, went out on strike. That was the only remedy which they had to hand. Now we find that the people have to pay the piper. We hear of sugar going up day by day to an enormous price.

Senator Henderson - By £3 a ton last month.

Senator BUZACOTT - Yes. This Parliament has no power to deal with that combination, and honorable senators sitting on the other side and interjecting about ringworm proposals of the Labour party refuse to concede that power.

Senator Findley - They are all "worms."

Senator BUZACOTT - That is, I think, a very pertinent interjection. I regret that the people of Western Australia, who voted so strongly in favour of the referenda proposals, have to suffer on account of the lack of interest taken in them by the people of Victoria and other States. I feel sure that, had the people given the proposals the careful and earnest consideration which they required, in every State there would have been a majority recorded in favour of them. How were they defeated?

Senator St Ledger - Do you propose to submit them again ?

Senator BUZACOTT - Most decidedly ; and I believe that if they were submitted to the people to-morrow every State would give a majority in favour of them. During the" last few weeks in Melbourne I have come across thousands of persons who have told me that they voted against the proposals, but that they did not understand them on account of the misrepresentations of the press. Not only had we misrepresentation by newspapers, but we also had misrepresentation by politicians - men who were receiving the pay of the nation, but who were serving the interests of monopolies, and monopolies alone.

Senator St Ledger - To whom does the honorable senator refer?

Senator BUZACOTT - We were not surprised at the press of this country taking the stand which it did. It is a commercial concern, and, of course, it was fighting for the party which was paying it best. But we were surprised at the politicians of this country, who are paid by the people, throwing dust in their eyes as they did.

Senator Millen - Unless every politician shares the honorable senator's views, he will denounce him in that way.

Senator BUZACOTT - Certainly not.

Senator Millen - That is what the honorable senator is saying.

Senator BUZACOTT - I am not taking exception to the views of the politicians, but I do take exception to the other people's views which they expressed. The majority were not expressing their views during the campaign, but the views of the different combines and monopolies in this country.

Senator Millen - We might say the same thing about the honorable senator.

Senator BUZACOTT - The honorable senator may be willing to say so, but the people will not say so.

Senator Millen - At the last referendum they showed whose views they preferred.

Senator BUZACOTT - I do not want to labour this question, because I believe that, in the very near future, we shall have an opportunity to discuss it, not only here, but also before the people of the different States ; and I, for one, have no doubt as to what the result of a reference to them will be.

Senator Barker - What about the Age's advocacy of the establishment of a Federal refinery ?

Senator BUZACOTT - I thank the honorable senator for the interjection. We have been afforded an example of the cowardice of the Age newspaper. It is, not prepared to admit that it made a mistake in advising the people as it did during the recent campaign, but it is prepared to throw the blame on the present Government and Parliament. Let us consider for a moment the absurdity of establishing sugar mills and refineries at YassCanberra and dragging all the sugar cane there from North Queensland, or sending the cane across to Papua or to the Northern Territory for treatment there. The Age considers that it is only right and proper for the Federal Government to have their own refineries at the Federal Capital, or in Papua, or in the Northern Territory. Its idea is so absurd as hardly to be worth referring to. It clearly proves, however, to the people of Victoria that the Age is not sincere in its attempt to educate them as to what is best in the interests of the nation. Why did we submit the referenda proposals to the people? It was to bring into operation Acts which had been passed at the instance of the Government of which Senator Millen was a member. During the late campaign we found Senator Millen and other members of the Government which got Parliament to pass the Seamen's Compensation Act, the New Protection Act, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and the Australian Industries Preservation Act, telling the people not to give Parliament the power to bring those measures into operation.

Senator Millen - That is not a correct way of stating it.

Senator BUZACOTT - It is perfectly true; there is no denying the fact. Those Bills were passed when the present Leader of the Opposition was a member of the Government of this country. Proposals were then made to bring into operation these same measures.

Senator Millen - That is not correct.

Senator BUZACOTT - The additional powers sought for were required to enable effect to be given to those measures. I pass on to some of the important proposals contained in the Governor- General's Speech. I find nothing there that is revolutionary. I find nothing there to frighten any of the people of this country. The proposals foreshadowed in the Governor-General's Speech simply <> carry into effect the programme which the majority of us submitted to the people when we asked for their votes and their support. Each and every one of those proposals will, I trust, be passed into law before the present session closes. Reference has been made to the Commonwealth note issue. The policy of the Government in reference to that subject met with strenuous opposition during the last session of Parliament. Indeed, while Senator W. Russell was speaking to-day, Senator McColl interjected that the Government had "commandeered the profits " made out of the note issue. I should like to ask from whom the Government commandeered those profits? Before the passing of the Australian Notes Act the profits from the issue of bank notes did not go into the pockets of the people of this country. But by the passage of that Act, even in the first year of its operation, we have derived a profit of £334,690. This revenue has been derived without placing any burden on any section of the people of Australia. Much of it is money which otherwise would have gone out of this country altogether. Again, before their issue by the Commonwealth, bank notes were not used to a very great extent. But we find that the issue is greater now than it ever was.

Senator Millen - Notes were used just as freely before. The only difference is the substitution of a Commonwealth note for the notes of the private banks.

Senator Rae - The Commonwealth holds the gold reserve instead of the banks doing so.

Senator Millen - That is the position: Senator BUZACOTT.- An Australian banker said to me the other day that notes were more largely used now than they ever were before. I am very pleased indeed to see that the Australian note issue has turned out so successfully. And I firmly believe that the Commonwealth bank, which will be established during this year, will be just as great a success. Since the year 1893 the people of this country have not had much confidence in the banking institutions.

Senator St Ledger - Since 1893 the investments in bank stocks have been very large.

Senator BUZACOTT - They are very large, but still the people have not had the same confidence in the banks as they had previously, on account of the way they had to suffer during that disastrous time occasioned by the closing of the banks. I for one had to suffer severely. We must all admit, however, that the foundation of banking is confidence. In a Commonwealth bank the people will have unbounded confidence, because behind that bank will be the Federal Treasury, whilst behind the Federal Treasury will be the whole of the resources of this Commonwealth. There is no doubt about the future of a Commonwealth bank ; none whatever. Then we come to the question of pensions. The bringing into operation by proclamation of the invalid sections of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act has, I am pleased to know, brought happiness and brightness into many homes throughout this country, but I am strongly in favour of the Government taking into consideration the absolute necessity of making some extra payments to those persons who are living in the remote parts of the different States. An honorable member near me interjects that we cannot constitutionally do so, but I fail to find any section in the Constitution which prevents us. For instance, in Western Australia we have many old-age pensioners who are doing a little bit of prospecting on the gold-fields. It is better, having regard to the interests of this country, that those old men should be encouraged to remain on the gold-fields doing a little prospecting, whilst at the same time receiving their pensions. The majority of them are earning nothing like sufficient to keep them, and the 10s. per week which they receive from the Government is cer:tainly not enough to maintain them on the gold-fields. I consider that a little extra money ought to be allowed to those old men who are living in the far interior of the different States, and who are.endeavouring, in their way, as they have been endeavouring all their lives, to develop the mineral resources of this country. I hope the Government will give this subject their earliest and their serious consideration. I do not think that the Constitution forbids us from moving in the direction I have suggested. Now I come to the most important part of the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General. I refer to the passages referring to that great national work, the building of the trans- Australian railway. The matter has been referred to bv various Governments for many years. In fact, the people of Western Australia were promised, when they entered Federation, that they would get the railway which they desired. But that promise, so far, has not been carried out.

Senator St Ledger - I think the trouble is - where is the money to come from ?

Senator BUZACOTT - I am glad to know that we have at last in office a Government which has the courage of its convictions, and which is prepared to carry out, not only its own promises, but the promises made by persons in authority to the people of Western Australia ten years ago, and upon which they relied when they joined the Federal Union. This work, I admit, is going to be an expensive one, and I wish to let the Senate understand clearly what my position is in connexion with it, and also in connexion with the development of the Northern Territory. I do not for a moment believe that it will be possible to build the transcontinental railway and to open up and develop the Northern Territory out of revenue ; and I for one am in favour of the Government using loan money for these purposes. We cannot fail to recognise that in all the large centres in Australia at the present time there is a demand for extended postal facilities and for increased, telephonic communication. These are services that must be rendered, because, after all, the man who is prepared to go out back and to open up and developeither the mineral or the agricultural, resources of this country is doing more, and conferring a greater benefit on Australia, than are those who are working and dwelling in the cities, and deriving all the advantages of civilization. We must give these people postal facilities, and we must improve their telephonic communication. We must perform these works out of revenue. We must also pay for the defence of Australia out of revenue. But I claim that it would be a matter of impossibility for the Government to finance such large works as building railways, developing the Northern Territory, and constructing the Federal Capital, out of revenue. Of course, I am now expressing my personal opinion.

Senator Rae - I differ from the honorable senator. *

Senator BUZACOTT - Senator Raeis just as much entitled to his view as 1 am to mine. Each of us gives his own interpretation of the Labour platform.

Senator Rae - What is the matter with taxing the rich ?

Senator BUZACOTT - We are taxing the rich already, but I do not consider that we ought to overburden the present generation with taxation. If we do, remember that it is not only the present generation who will suffer, but also those who come after us, because if the present generation is too heavily burdened, people nowadays will be unable to give to their children the education and the training for trades and professions that they would like to do.

Senator Rae - Wealth can stand a lot more taxation yet.

Senator BUZACOTT - Yes, but you can easily exhaust the possibilities in that direction. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that if we were to exhaust the possibilities of taxation we should even then be unable to finance all the contemplated Commonwealth works out of revenue if, during the next twenty years, we are to accomplish all that we have set our hands to. If we are going in for the progressive policy that this Government should undertake, it is, in my opinion, a matter of impossibility to finance the undertakings without raising some loans for the purpose.

Senator Rae - Following the evil example of those whom we have deposed.

Senator BUZACOTT - Coming to the question of Tariff anomalies, I wish to state that I was returned to this Parliament as a New Protectionist. I believe in building up the industries of this country. But, seeing that the people have declined to in dorse the policy which was submitted to them last year, and that we have not power to impose our New Protective policy, I am not for one moment in favour of increasing protective duties on those articles that are produced by monopolies at the present time. For instance, take agricultural machinery. The consumers are deriving no benefit from the protective duties imposed upon those goods. Neither are the wageearners deriving any benefit. Therefore, I consider that it is our duty, if we are to retain the protective Tariff, not to increase the burdens on the people, and not to increase the cost of living; but rather to take off all those duties which are purely revenue producing. Where there are protective duties from which people derive any benefit, I will support them, but I will not be one to help to build up in this country such big trusts, rings, and monopolies as exist in the United States.

Senator Millen - Does the honorable senator say that the duties on agricultural machinery in this country are merely revenue duties?

Senator BUZACOTT - I do not say anything of the kind. They were not meant to be revenue duties when they were imposed. They were meant to be protective. But when they were imposed, the honorable senator believed that this Parliament had power to enforce the policy of New Protection.

Senator Millen - No, I very much doubted that, and said so.

Senator BUZACOTT - The honorable senator has said so since, no doubt.

Senator Millen - I said so at the time.

Senator BUZACOTT - The honorable senator had an opportunity of bringing a measure into operation for the establishment of New Protection, but we found him opposing it.

Senator Millen - I did nothing of the kind.

Senator BUZACOTT - Turning to the Public Service, Senator W. Russell referred to the treatment meted out to the civil servants of the Commonwealth not only by the present Government, but by previous Administrations. I am prepared to say that the public servants are better satisfied with the treatment they have received from this Government than with that meted out to them by -any previous Government.

Senator Rae - They have reason to be.

Senator BUZACOTT - They have received more from them than from any previous Government. The public servants in my own State have every confidence in the present Ministry, and are well satisfied with what has been done for them. I have before me a return showing the amount of the increases of salaries paid to the public servants during last year. I find that the increases to clerical assistants amounted to £10,000; to postmasters, £2^00; to telegraphists, £13,000; total to the clerical division, £25,500. .

Senator Pearce - That is an annual increase.

Senator BUZACOTT - It will be a permanent increase. The special increases made to the general division were as follow: - Sorters and senior sorters, £2,500; assistants and postal assistants, £17,000 ; letter-carriers, ,£13,000 ; linemen and line foremen, £6,800 ; mechanics, £6,000 ; telephonists, £18,000; telegraph messengers, £18,000 ; officers of other classes, £6,000; total in the general division, £87,300.

Senator St Ledger - Did the Government give those increases by grace, or by Statute ?

Senator Pearce - They were given by the action of the Government by an amendment of the regulations.

Senator BUZACOTT - Undoubtedly by the Government. Previous Governments had the power to give these increases, but did not do so. The total increases granted to the postal service amounted to £112,800.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - Were those increases made to persons who were underpaid?

Senator BUZACOTT ---They were all underpaid until these increases were given. The cost of living has increased, and it was only just that increases of salary should be made to men in the service to enable them to be in receipt of a living wage. Some are not at present receiving a living wage, if we take into consideration the increased cost of living in different parts of the States. We have undoubtedly the best paid Civil Service in the world, and while I hope it will continue to remain so, I trust also that we shall get from the civil servants of Australia better service than is being rendered to other peoples. I am prepared to admit that at present in different places we are not getting as good a post and telegraph service as we should get. We hear a great many complaints of letters and telegrams being undelivered. I am satisfied that there !s ground for the complaints. Letters do go astray, and telegrams remain undelivered.

Senator Givens - On the other hand, excellent service is rendered sometimes in the delivery of postal matter badly or insufficiently addressed.

Senator BUZACOTT - I do not dispute that for a moment, but I say that we must, as far as possible, have a perfect service. It may mean a very great deal to a person to have a letter addressed to him go astray, and even more that a telegram should be undelivered. Three weeks ago I had occasion to go to Adelaide on private business. At mid-day on Saturday I sent a telegram to say that I intended to leave the same night by the express, and I was greatly surprised on arriving at Adelaide to find that my telegram had not been delivered. I left Adelaide again on Monday afternoon at 4 o'clock, but the telegram had not been delivered up to that time. Yesterday I received a letter to say that my wire had not yet been received. How this has happened I do not know, but such things should not occur. If our civil servants are well paid we have the right to demand the best service from them, and those from whom we do not get it should be removed and others put in their places.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - No service can be absolutely free from mistakes.

Senator BUZACOTT - That is so, but we might have fewer mistakes in our service than we have at the present time. I do not complain of the administration, but there is often in connexion with different post-offices evidence of undue carelessness in the non-delivery of letters and telegrams. I have received a great many complaints on the subject, and I feel that it is due to those who have lodged them with me that I should bring the matter under the notice of the Government.

Senator Millen - The honorable senator's statement is rather serious, in 'view of the fact that there is supposed to be a double check on the money represented by a telegram.

Senator BUZACOTT - That is so, and it is rather a peculiar case. I am very pleased to know that the Government intend to amend the Electoral Act this session. I hope they will entirely dispense with postal voting. I hope that they will at the same time see that absentee voters are provided with better facilities for recording their votes. I think that, no matter for what district a man or woman is enrolled, he or she should be at liberty to record a vote at any polling booth throughout the Commonwealth.

Senator St Ledger - That would be a fruitful source of personation.

Senator BUZACOTT - Not more so than the system of postal voting in existence at the present time. We should have more polling booths established. I claim that wherever there are twelve or fifteen electors there should be a polling booth established in order that they may have an opportunity to record their votes, whether for a member of this Parliament or upon proposals submitted at referenda. I admit that increased expenditure would be involved, but we claim to believe in government of the people by the people, and we must give the people an opportunity to express their opinions through the ballot-box, no matter what the cost may be. I do not propose to discuss any further the matters mentioned in the Governor-General's Speech. There is important business to be transacted this afternoon, and personally I do not consider that very much is gained by the discussion of the Address-in-Reply. It very often gives rise to ill-feeling, and instead of doing good in furthering the legislation of the country it may do harm. I hope that the session- entered upon now will be a successful one, and that no matter from what part of the Chamber a useful suggestion is made it will receive exactly the same consideration. If we approach the work of the session in this spirit I am satisfied that at its close the people will be prepared to admit that their representatives in this Parliament are doing their best to further the interests of the majority, and will be satisfied that they have men here anxious to make Australia the great nation we all desire it to become.

Debate (on motion by Senator Millen) adjourned.

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