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Friday, 8 September 1911


Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - The Governor-General's Speech has been described by a leading morning newspaper as a pretentious programme, but I think that a better arid more just term would be a progressive programme. I recognise that it is somewhat comprehensive in its scope, but I anticipate that, time and His Majesty's Opposition permitting, the majority if not all of the measures outlined in the programme will reach the statute-book before this session is closed. A great deal of noise has been made about the lateness of the reassembling of this Parliament. Many of the leading newspapers of Australia have condemned the length of the recess, I admit at once that the recess was longer than usual, and also that we have reassembled at a later period of the year than has been the practice. At the same time, I contend that there were good and valid reasons for the length of the recess and the lateness of our reassembling. These leading, or, as Senator de Largie interjects, misleading, newspapers cannot have things all their own way. Even if members of Parliament had a long recess, they were called upon to perform some very arduous labour. It should be remembered that- in the last session we -passed certain measures which had to be submitted to the people for approval or rejection. I venture to say that every member of this Parliament who took part in the referenda campaign found it a somewhat arduous task in order to give the people of Australia a chance of understanding what was meant by the proposals of this Parliament. Then, again, kings will die. Like other persons, they have no lease of life, and other kings must be crowned, at any rate under the present condition of affairs. Imperial Conferences, too will be held. Surely at the last Imperial Conference, where matters affecting every portion of the British Dominions, and, I think, more particularly, Australia, had to be considered, it was essential that this Parliament and the people of the country should be represented. Again, if some of our Ministers had not been present at the Coronation of King George V. how intensified would have become that howl of disloyalty which for a few days rang throughout this land ! Whilst I regret the length of the recess, and admit that much useful legislative work could have been done in this Parliament during many of the extra months we had in retirement, still I submit that it was impossible, under the conditions I have mentioned, to avoid the length of the recess.


Senator Walker - Has any person objected?


Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator has read, if he has not heard, of objections.


Senator Walker - No, I do not understand anything about an objection.


Senator NEEDHAM - Then the honorable senator must have been asleep during the whole of the recess.


Senator Walker - I heard persons say that it would be a good job if we did not meet at .all.


Senator NEEDHAM - In my opinion, the best act which this Parliament has ever performed was to send to London these three Ministers of the King in Australia.


Senator Walker - Hear, hear; I agree with the honorable senator.


Senator NEEDHAM - I have heard my honorable friend, and those who are associated with him on the other side - there is only himself there just now - say time and again that this Parliament ought to spend money in order to advertise the resources of Australia. But I think that Australia never received so good an advertisement as it received from the presence of those Ministers in London at the Imperial Conference, and at the ceremonies in connexion with the Coronation. The Leader of the Opposition - who I regret to see is not in his place - sets a very bad example when, after he has occupied the time of the Chamber for two hours and twenty minutes, he does not condescend to remain to hear any honorable senator reply. I cannot tender to him the usual compliment of saying that he made a good and logical speech. He appeared to be at a loss to find anything to condemn. The principal feature of his attack was that the Prime Minister had accepted a title from the Imperial Government.


Senator Walker - What harm was there in that ?


Senator NEEDHAM - There was a great lot of harm in the eyes of Senator Millen. Whilst Mr. Fisher, he said, had accepted a title he had not attempted to get for other citizens of Australia titles of a similar or higher character. That was all playing to the gallery. Senator Vardon also complained of this title being accepted by the Prime Minister. Let us consider what the title is. It simply means the inclusion of a statesman of an oversea Dominion in the councils of the nation. I admit that it carries with it the prefix of Right Honorable, but there is nothing in that.


Senator Walker - Oh, yes, there is.


Senator NEEDHAM - We prate about loyalty to the Throne, some of us. We talk about Imperial unity. We talk about making the white races of the world domi nant, and keeping them so. We know, if we have watched the trend of the world's politics to-day, that there is a great danger that the position we take up will be challenged, and that, perhaps, in the very near future. It may be necessary in dealing with that event to call together the Privy Council in order to determine what shall be done, if not to preserve the peace of the world, at least to preserve this white race of ours and the Imperial unity, this Imperial federation which so many are desirous of bringing about. Therefore, it was only right that the gentleman who is Prime Minister of Australia to-day, and who. I sincerely hope, will retain that position for a considerable time, should accept a seat in the inner councils of the Empire. Whilst I am adverse to the use of the titles of Sir, and Lord and Duke, for which I know there is no room in Democratic Australia-


Senator WALKER (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do you object to be called " Senator"?


Senator NEEDHAM - I do not; but that title was given to me by the people of Australia - not by a King or a King's Minister. That is why I do not object to be called " Senator." I take this opportunity of referring to the fact that Mr. Fisher was most scandalously attacked for a statement he was alleged lo have made at an interview in London. Certain public men in Australia eagerly grasped the opportunity which they thought they had to mercilessly attack and castigate him without having before them the slightest proof of what really took place at the interview. I am one of those who, if Mr. Fisher had been guilty of making the statement attributed to him, would have been amongst the first to condemn him. I find that a member of another place, Sir John Quick - a man whose word, no doubt, carries weight in other parts of the world as well as in Australia - jumped at once to the conclusion that Mr. Fisher had said what was attributed to him by the interviewer. We might, I think, have looked for something better from a man of Sir John Quick's intelligence and ability. In my own State of Western Australia, the Acting Premier, Mr. Gregory, and the AttorneyGeneral, Mr. Nanson, eagerly seized the report of the interview, and on the strength of it endeavoured to point the finger of scorn at Mr. Fisher and the party he leads. I have said that if Mr. Fisher really made the statement attributed to him the criticism passed might have been justified, but after his emphatic denial of the statement was published not one of the gentlemen to whom I have referred had the manliness to retract or apologize for what he had said.


Senator Henderson - No one ever looked for it from them.


Senator NEEDHAM - Perhaps it was impossible for any of these men to display such manliness.


Senator Lynch - They accepted the press reports of the alleged interview with Mr. Fisher, although they had to correct the reports of interviews with themselves.


Senator NEEDHAM - That is so. It is consoling to know that one result of the attack upon Mr. Fisher is that the Prime Minister of Australia stands higher to-day in the estimation, not only of the Australian people, but of the British Empire, than he did before. Senator Millen, in the course of his speech on the Address-in-Reply, tried to father the acts of commission and omission of the State Labour parties on to the Federal Labour party. I wish to tell the honorable senator that, although it is true that labour in Australia is united, and the ideals of Federal and State Labour parties as to the legislation which should be passed are very similar, each State Labour party is prepared to accept the praise or blame for its own acts, as is the Federal Labour party. It struck me that Senator Millen was very hard up for argument, or to discover weaknesses in the present Federal Administration, when he had to fall back upon the action of State Labour parties. Reference was made to the Australian Notes Act. I remember that Senator Vardon, in the debate which took place when the Bill was before us, attempted prophecy, and, as usual in such cases, he failed. He practically prophesied that before five months elapsed the face value of an Australian Minore would be about five shillings. He failed in his prophecy, because, not only has the Australian Notes Act been a great success, but it has been of considerable assistance to the States, since it has enabled the Federal Treasurer to lend certain moneys to the State Governments.


Senator Walker - They had to pay for it. I suppose?


Senator NEEDHAM - I thought Senator Walker would jump at that, but he should remember that the money lent by* the Federal Treasurer to the State Governments has been the means of saving the

Australian taxpayers many thousands of pounds in interest. If the State Governments had gone to London or to the private banks, of which the honorable senator is an esteemed representative, they would have had to pay a higher rate of interest for the money than they are called upon to pay to the Federal Government.


Senator Walker - What are they paying?


Senator NEEDHAM - They pay 3! per cent., but it should be remembered that if they had gone to London for the money there would have been an additional expense for commission, brokerage, and underwriting.


Senator Barker - And they would not have got the money at par.


Senator NEEDHAM - That is so; and if all these things are taken into account it will be seen that the lending of this money by the Federal Treasurer means the saving of thousands of pounds to the taxpayers.


Senator Walker - Is the honorable senator aware that the State Governments lose the revenue which they used to derive from the tax upon the note circulation?


Senator NEEDHAM - Senator Walker forgets for the moment that the people of the Commonwealth and the States are the same. I come now to another part of the Governor-General's Speech* dealing with the Tariff. On the question whether we should review entirely the protective incidence of the Tariff or confine ourselves to the rectification of any anomalies that may exist in it, I wish to say that I am not now prepared to assist in a general increase of the present Tariff rates. I speak as a pronounced Protectionist, and one who during the consideration of the present Tariff always voted for the highest protective duty proposed. When I found that an article could be made in Australia. I voted in every instance and I think I missed only three or four divisions, for a high protective duty. I admit that the protective incidence of the Tariff as it exists to-day is not as high as I should like to see it, but notwithstanding that, no vote of mine will be given in this Chamber to increase that Protection until such time as the National Parliament of Australia is clothed with those powers which' we sought to obtain from the people to give effect to the principles of new Protection. A leading newspaper published in this State has contended that it is foolish* to take up such" a position, and that we must have first the old Protection before we can get the new.


Senator Findley - The honorable senator need not worry about that newspaper. Its influence is dead.


Senator NEEDHAM - I am not worrying about it, but that is a line of reasoning that I cannot follow. It should not be forgotten that the present Tariff was passed with the co-operation and assistance of a number of honorable senators of pronounced Free Trade views, relying upon the promise of the Deakin Ministry to assist in bringing into being the era of new Protection. They laid aside for the time their Free Trade views and voted for a protective Tariff.


Senator St Ledger - Why stop short now ?


Senator NEEDHAM - I shall tell the honorable senator in a moment. I repeat that several Free Trade- members of this Parliament supported a protective Tariff in view of the promises made that the workers in protected industries would be secured fair and reasonable wages and the consumer protected from the merciless demands of the unscrupulous trader. Not only did Free Traders assist in passing the Tariff as it stands to-day, but the manufacturers of Australia besieged the lobbies of this Parliament and almost on their bended knees prayed members to pass it, asserting that if they did so they would assist in giving effect to the new Protection. What was the result? As soon as an opportunity arose to test the validity of our first instalment of new Protection legislation, the manufacturers paid the cost of the test, and were in great glee when the High Court decided that our legislation was unconstitutional. Subsequently the present Government submitted proposals to this Parliament, which were afterwards to be submitted to the people for adoption or rejection, and I sincerely regret that they were rejected. One of the additional powers for which we sought at the referenda was the power to give effect to the principle of new Protection-


Senator St Ledger - Honorable senators were warned beforehand that the policy was unconstitutional, but they went on all the same.


Senator NEEDHAM - I take the stand that, in the circumstances, I cannot buttress up the old Protection which, in its present shape, creates and fosters monopolies, as it has done in America.


Senator Findley - And sweating.


Senator NEEDHAM - I cannot do so until Parliament is given the power to protect the worker in protected industries, and the consumer. That is why I stop short. If this Parliament could give effect to the principles of the new Protection to-morrow, I should be prepared to support the highest protective Tariff that could be introduced. One of the cries raised by honorable senators opposite during the referenda campaign was that the Labour party of Australia wanted these powers, and the people should therefore beware. No statement of the case could have been further from the truth. It is true that the Labour Government, supported by the Labour party, brought the proposal before Parliament, but if at the next election the pendulum swung the other way, the power, if agreed to, would have been vested, not in the Labour party, but in the National Parliament. That is where our friends opposite misled the electors. I am glad to say that, despite all the misrepresentations of the position by various journals throughout Australia, the electors of Western Australia rose to the occasion, and that was the only State which gave a majority vote in favour of the referenda proposals. So much for the Tariff. I come now to the proposal to establish a Commonwealth bank. So far, that proposal has not received any serious condemnation from honorable members opposite. Personally, I recognise that it marks a very progressive step. Although State banks have been established in other countries, I believe that when the Bill dealing with this question is submitted to Parliament, it will be found that we propose to take many steps in advance of other legislation in that direction. At any rate, we shall be able to give the people cheaper money than they have had a chance of obtaining hitherto.


Senator St Ledger - Will it be a bank of issue?


Senator NEEDHAM - It will be a bank of issue, deposit, and exchange.


Senator St Ledger - Upon what security will it trade?


Senator NEEDHAM - I am not discussing the details of the measure at the present time, but the only security which will be necessary for my honorable friend if he wishes to do business with the bank will be that of the Australian Commonwealth, and that is the security which we give to the foreign bondholder to-day. It is also proposed to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I believe that the adoption of that course is necessary. The measure has already been twice amended; but, nevertheless, we find that it is not exactly the workable measure that we desire. Time and again, when cases come before the Court, the President finds himself on the horns of a dilemma, or the parties to the dispute do not know where they are.


Senator St Ledger - Does the honorable member say that the Court does not know where it is?


Senator NEEDHAM - The President himself admitted on one occasion that he was in a Serbonian bog.


Senator St Ledger - The honorable member is mistaking the Conciliation and Arbitration Court for the High Court.


Senator NEEDHAM - No. We thought that the amending Act of last session would have relieved the situation somewhat, but further experience has shown the necessity which exists for again amending it. It ought to be the aim of every honorable member, irrespective of his political views, to make the Act as workable as possible because we do not desire to see industrial upheavals in Australia. We wish to prevent disastrous strikes. So far as Australia is concerned, the days of strikes should have long since passed away.


Senator St Ledger - Does the honorable member think that strikes will cease no matter what we may do?


Senator NEEDHAM - I do not say that they will absolutely cease, but I do say that if we make the Act as perfect as possible, the possibility of strikes will be minimized. The next proposal on the Government programme is to connect the east and the west by an iron rail.


Senator Walker - Will that railway be built out of loan funds or out of revenue?


Senator NEEDHAM - I do not happen to be the Treasurer of the Commonwealth just now. But I welcome the proposal to connect Western Australia by rail with the eastern States. That step will do only tardy justice to the State which I represent.


Senator Barker - She was promised the railway.


Senator St Ledger - What constituted authority promised it?


Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator has read the debates which took place at the Federal Convention, I suppose?


Senator St Ledger - I have.


Senator NEEDHAM - Then they will supply an answer to the honorable member's question.


Senator St Ledger - To me it looked more like a bribe.


Senator NEEDHAM - I did not accept' it in that sense. But, irrespective of whether or not a promise was made that the line would be constructed, it is absolutely essential for the safety of Australia that the west and east should be connected. No honorable senator dare deny that statement. I am glad that the Government have had the courage to tackle this matter at the earliest opportunity, and I hope that before many months have elapsed picks and shovels will be at work on the line from both ends of it.


Senator St Ledger - It would be very comforting if the honorable senator could suggest how the Government are going to find the money for it.


Senator NEEDHAM - I would ask my honorable friend to stay his anxiety until the Bill has been submitted for our consideration. I shall then have no hesitation whatever in telling him my opinion as to how the money should be obtained. I am pleased that the Department of External Affairs has taken some very progressive steps towards developing the Northern Territory as it should be developed.


Senator St Ledger - Does the honorable senator think that it can be developed except by men who have large command of capital?


Senator NEEDHAM - I dare say trial the officers in the Territory will be vested with a great amount of discretion.


Senator St Ledger - Does not the honorable senator think that it is necessary to induce persons with large capital to go there?


Senator NEEDHAM - I know that we must have people there to develop it.


Senator St Ledger - And people with capital, too.


Senator NEEDHAM - People are capital always. Every Australian who is possessed of health and strength represents so much capital.


Senator Walker - What special inducements can we offer persons to go there?


Senator NEEDHAM - I do not know that I can single out any special inducements ; but, with the aid of science, I know that the Government will be able to offer splendid inducements. I am aware, too, that the Northern Territory lends itself to development on such lines. I have been there; I spent two months in a portion of the Territory. Senator St. Ledger was a member of the party. I admit that we did not traverse a great deal of the country, but from what I saw I was very favorably impressed with its potentialities, and also with the fact that it can be successfully developed by white labour. That is the policy of the present Government. The Vice- Regal speech also states that it is intended to amend the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. There was one amendment of that Act which, at one time, I thought could be effected with advantage. But I know now that there is a constitutional difficulty which prevents it. I did think at one time that in Western Australia and Queensland, where the cost of living is higher than it is in the other States, a proportionate increase in the invalid and old-age pensions rates should be made.


Senator O'Keefe - There is a difference between the cost of living which obtains in various portions of some of the States.


Senator NEEDHAM - Exactly.


Senator O'Keefe - That difference represents as much as 25 per cent, in Tasmania.


Senator NEEDHAM - And as rauch as 50 per cent, in some instances in Western Australia.


Senator Walker - Then the honorable senator would make the minimum rate less?


Senator NEEDHAM - No. I would like to have seen an increase in the pension proportionate to the increase in the cost of living. But I think the Constitution prevents that being done. We know that we could not grant an increase in the rates to Western Australia and Queensland without extending it to the other four States. But I think that a very little expenditure of public money would relieve some of those who are suffering disadvantage to-day. Of course, like all legislation, the more experience we have of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act, the more we discover its defects. Under the Act a regulation has been framed which provides that my invalid suffering from tuberculosis must remain in an institution, otherwise he or she is not eligible for the pension. I admit that for the preservation of the public health that is a wise regulation. But there is another disease from which men suffer - I refer to miners' phthisis - which some medical men declare is not contagious in the same way as is ordinary consumption. Some doctors have informed me that it is not contagious at all, while others have affirmed that it is contagious only in a mild form. That being so, I hold that persons suffering from this complaint ought to be permitted to remain outside an institution and to receive the pension, provided that they adopt all proper precautions for the protection of the public health. I know of a man at Day Dawn who is suffering from this disease, and who was an inmate of a public institution for nine months. Whilst there he was taught what precautions he ought to observe, and he does observe them religiously. Since he left the institution. I am glad to say that he has received the pension. When the amending Bill is under consideration: this question should be carefully inquired into. I come now to the proposed amendment of the Electoral Act. I quite agree that it is absolutely necessary that that measure should be amended in a very drastic fashion. When the Fusion Government were in power they certainly brought forward an amending Bill, but, like many other measures which they introduced, it had the taint of Fusion about it. It was neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring. Upon that occasion the members of the Labour party in this Chamber made a vigorous attempt to abolish postal voting.


Senator St Ledger - I don't think it was a very vigorous attempt, if my recollection serves me rightly.


Senator NEEDHAM - Then the honorable senator's recollection must be very dim. A very vigorous fight was made by the members of our party to abolish postal voting.


Senator Walker - What is wrong with' postal voting?


Senator NEEDHAM --Everything is wrong with it. It is the finest vehicle for bringing about corrupt- practices in the conduct of elections that could possibly be devised. I hope that the Bill will provide for the total abolition of postal voting, and believe that it will do so.


Senator St Ledger - The postal voting provisions are mostly used by women. Does the honorable senator insinuate that women are more liable to corruption than men ?


Senator NEEDHAM - I make no such insinuation. God forbid that I should t

It is not against those who voted that corruption is alleged, but against those who induced them to vote.


Senator St Ledger - Punish them.


Senator NEEDHAM - The difficulty is to prove such a charge. I sincerely hope that the provisions for absent voting will be extended, and that we shall exercise some kind of control over advertisements and other matter appearing in the press when elections are pending.


Senator St Ledger - Suppose a woman was in a certain state of health, would the honorable senator deprive her of the right of voting by post?


Senator NEEDHAM - No, I would not ; but it would be possible to extend the absent voting provisions to meet such cases. My honorable friend may rest assured that I would be no party to the robbing of any person of his or her right to vote. I am well aware that there are times when women cannot easily go to the' polling booth; but surely we can overcome such difficulties. I come to another law that is about to be amendedthe Commonwealth Public Service Act It is welcome news to me that the Government intend to bring in such a measure as will improve the administration of the Public Service, especially in one direction. I refer particularly to the powers exercised by the Public Service Commissioner. I do not desire to make any attack upon Mr. McLaughlin. I prefer to discuss the instrument which created the Commissioner rather than the officer himself.


Senator St Ledger - That instrument was Parliament.


Senator NEEDHAM - The Public Service Act as at present framed gives absolute and autocratic powers to the Commissioner, whoever he may be.


Senator O'Keefe - It gives more power to the Commissioner than I, for one, ever contemplated when I supported the Act.


Senator NEEDHAM - I do not reflect on any member of Parliament who voted for the Public Service Act, but I am speaking of things as they exist to-day. The Public Service Commissioner exercises such autocratic powers that Parliament itself is powerless in certain directions.


Senator St Ledger - Cannot Parliament repeal those autocratic powers?


Senator NEEDHAM - That is just what Parliament is going to do.


Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - The Government ;are going to propose to transfer powers ex ercised by the Commissioner to an outside tribunal.


Senator NEEDHAM - How does the honorable senator know that? To-day Ministers controlling Departments are powerless. When Parliament passed the Act of 1902, it simply handed over the whole control of the service to a manager and gave him absolute power.


Senator St Ledger - I do not think the powers are absolute.


Senator NEEDHAM - I myself know of a Minister who has made a request for more money for his Department, and has been told by the Public Service Commissioner that he could not get it. I have no desire to see the Public Service of Australia revert to conditions of political influence. I do not believe iri that at all; but I do believe in such an amendment of the Act as, while not abolishing the office of Commissioner, will clip his wings, and take away from him some of the autocratic powers which he at present possesses.


Senator ST Ledger - Cannot we exercise control over him as well as an outside tribunal if we choose to do so?


Senator NEEDHAM - I will satisfy my honorable friend's anxiety about an outside tribunal. I suppose he refers to the intention to give public servants the right of appeal to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I am strongly in favour of that. I am not prepared to nurse Or foster a privileged class, and I say that if the right of appeal to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court is good enough for the worker outside the Commonwealth service, it is good enough for the workers within the service. What fairer provision can we bring about? At present the Commonwealth public servant, who is asking for what he believes to be justice, can appeal to the Commissioner, and if he is not satisfied with the decision of the Commissioner he must put up with the consequences. What is wrong with giving him an appeal to the highest tribunal that we can create?


Senator Walker - Why not have a Public Service Board ? " Senator NEEDHAM.- There is a Board of Appeal at present. The system is this : The public servant with a grievance can appeal from Caesar to Caesar. We should avoid that by giving him the right to appeal to a Court.


Senator St Ledger - The only distinct complaint that »T have heard is not against the Public Service Act itself, or the Commissioner, but that the mode of appeal is too restrictive, and that the tribunal is not impartial.


Senator NEEDHAM - I have heard that complaint, and others. I know that there are many public servants in the Commonwealth who are desirous of having the right of appeal to a Court.


Senator St Ledger - There are many who are not.


Senator NEEDHAM - Many are not so desirous. But, strange to say, the greater number known to me who are in that condition are in the clerical division, whilst those who desire a right of appeal are in the general division. The point that I desire to impress upon the Senate and the Public Service is that members of the service will be doing themselves a good turn if they reconcile themselves to this contemplated light of appeal.


Senator St Ledger - What is to happen in the case of a public servant who is not satisfied with the award of the Court? Is there anything to prevent public servants from striking, or will the party opposite make provision against that?


Senator NEEDHAM - In the event of a public servant not being satisfied with the award of the Court he will be subject to the ordinary provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, just as is the case with other workers. He will have to abide by the law.


Senator Walker - Other workers will not obey the award of the Court.


Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator cannot point to any case of refusal to obey an award of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. As to the argument about transferring the powers of the Parliament to another tribunal, I say that if it be wrong to transfer to the Court the power of dealing with appeals from public servants, it must also have been wrong to transfer such powers in connexion with disputes in other industries. The members of this Parliament do not represent the Public Service only. They represent the citizens of the Commonwealth. Surely, if we provide a tribunal for a certain section, it ought to be good enough for another .section. At any rate, I pin my faith to the proposed amendment, and hope that it will become law. If that be the case, I feel sure that in a little while the Commonwealth public servants will be satisfied with their right of appeal. As to the High Commissioner's office, I think that the time has arrived when some progressive step should be taken to have simply one officer representing Australia in London. I trust that I am not trespassing upon the sacred ground of State rights by suggesting that the Agents-General should be abolished. I think it would be wise for the Federal Government to enter into communication with the State authorities with a view of abolishing the Agents-General and having one representative of Australia in one office.


Senator St Ledger - Do the AgentsGeneral hamper the High Commissioner in any way?


Senator NEEDHAM - I do not say that they hamper the High Commissioner, but that at present Australia is speaking with a divided voice.


Senator St Ledger - Only one voice in London can speak for Australia, and that is the voice of the High Commissioner.


Senator NEEDHAM - At present seven are speaking for Australia. Senator Millen, referring to immigration, said - I took down his words - that in spite of the declaration of die Labour party, they had no desire to encourage an added population. When we tried to pin him down to any definite statement by any member of the Labour party, he ignominiously failed to attempt to prove his statement. I challenge any member of the Senate to name any member of the Australian Labour party who has made such a statement. Let me tell honorable senators opposite what the policy of this party has been. We have argued that the taxation of unimproved land values, defence, arid immigration are three indissoluble questions, and that it was utterly futile to attempt to deal with them separately. We realize that if we are to hold Australia for the white race, it must be populated. But we also realize that before we could ask population to come here, we should have more land available on which to put them, and help them to bring forth the fruits of the soil.


Senator Walker - The whole of the Northern Territory is available.


Senator NEEDHAM - It has been, under certain conditions, which I hope will be removed. There was a great quantity of land in the Western District of Victoria, but there we had the spectacle of eleven people occupying 1,500,000 acres. Is that the way to attract population to a country? We can only defend this country by means of manhood, and to have manhood we must have land. The result of the land tax has been to compel many land-owners to disgorge the vast estates which many of them Iia ve been holding up. When more land is available, population will come, and there will be a chance of obtaining that citizen yeomanry which we require to defend the great trust we have in our possession.


Senator St Ledger - Our complaint is that the Labour party is riding this immigration horse with the crupper, and not with the reins.


Senator NEEDHAM - At any rate, we have not fallen off ! What is the result of this land tax policy of ours? In the first and most essential place, it has been the means of breaking up some large estates, and, secondly, it has been the means of enriching the national exchequer to the tune of about ^4,750,000. I do not place much value on that mere monetary assistance to the national exchequer; I scarcely place any value on it. What I do place value on is the disgorging of the land, and the chance to bring it into cultivation, when the pounds I spoke of will be increased a thousandfold as the result of that natural wealth. It is not the Federal Government which controls immigration, but the State Governments. Where we step in is in preventing any person from entering Australia under contract, except subject to certain conditions. With the general system of immigration we have nothing to do. Not long ago I heard a great cry about the scarcity of artisans, and Senator Findley, as Acting Minister for External Affairs, was continually approached for permission to bring in this man, that man, and the other man. A like cry obtained in Western Australia, and I was able to assist the Minister in sending six unemployed moulders from that State to Queensland. Twenty-four of these men had been walking the streets for about four or five months, and could not obtain work at a satisfactory wage. When it was pointed out to me that a Queensland firm desired permission from the Acting Minister to import six moulders, six boilermakers, and, I think, six blacksmiths, I at once communicated with him, and stated that six moulders were available in Western Australia. Whilst under the present, financial arrangement that State has lost six sums of twenty-five shillings, Australia retains these six men, and they and their families are able to live. I now come to the question of the report of the Postal Commission. The Government has assured us that we shall have an opportunity of discussing the report. I hope that it will be given to us at the earliest possible moment. I also hope that the report will be adopted by this Parliament, and placed in operation as soon as that can conveniently be done with the money at our disposal. I would point out that the result of the report so far has been beneficial to the postal service. A great many of its recommendations have already been put into operation. Members of the postal service to-day are receiving better wages that they used to get. Whilst I admit that they are still labouring under grievances, an honest attempt is being made to remove them. It is impossible, notwithstanding the practicability of the report, to expect this or any other Government to remove, in a few brief months, all the evils which have accumulated in the course of years. I think that an honest effort has been made to improve the situation. In connexion with the recent referenda, my honorable friends on the other side have gloated over the defeat of our proposals, but I think that we might well remind them of the old saying that " he who laughs last laughs best. ' The proposals will come again, and I venture to say that those who voted "No" on the 26th April will, by the time they are re-submitted, be sadder, and, I dare say, wiser individuals than they were then. It is a well-known fact that the combinations, the rings, the monopolies, spent a very large amount of money - and were prepared to spend any amount - in order to defeat the proposals. That statement was made on the platform, and has not been denied. They were successful, I regret to say, and one of the best indications of their confidence in their ability to defeat the proposals was the fact that on the morning of the 26th April the shipping combine raised its passenger rates on the Queensland coast, not to first and second class passengers, but to third class only.


Senator St Ledger - No; it was done a fortnight before the date of the referenda.


Senator NEEDHAM - That only shows the greater confidence which they had in their ability to defeat the proposals. As news takes a long time to reach Western Australia from Queensland, it was only on the morning of the referenda day that I saw the announcement in the Press. The meat ring is still sending up prices, and I venture to say that the cost of living in Australia has increased by at least 10 or 12 per cent, per week since that vote of confidence passed by its people in the monopolies of Australia on 26th April.


Senator St Ledger - The cost of living is going up all over the world.


Senator NEEDHAM - Let it go up all over the world, but not here. Then we are asked to increase the Tariff, and, consequently, without the assistance of new Protection, increase the cost of living.


Senator St Ledger - Were not the coal vend and the shipping ring your particular pets last session?


Senator NEEDHAM - The shipping ring was never a pet of mine, and never will be.


Senator St Ledger - I mean of your party *


Senator NEEDHAM - We have admitted our defeat on 26th April without crying about it, but the proposals will come again.


Senator St Ledger - In the same form ?


Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator will get the form afterwards. We intend to ask the people to clothe this Parliament with the powers which we asked for on 26th April.


Senator St Ledger - Do you refuse to accept the verdict?


Senator NEEDHAM - We refuse to accept nothing. The history of the referendum has been that time and again proposals have had to be re-submitted to the people, and that through that system of education they have gradually come to understand what was wanted, and to vote accordingly. I do not think that any of us in our most sanguine moments expected that our proposals would be carried in their entirety at tho referendum. By the time they are resubmitted, the people will have acquired a better knowledge of what we desire, but in the meantime they will have paid very, very dearly indeed for their information. I have little more to say. I recognise that we have to get to work as soon as we can, and I feel confident that during the session we shall be able to place on the statutebook legislation which will be for the benefit of every person in this land.







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