Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 8 September 1911


Senator WALKER (New South Wales) . - Before proceeding to speak on the Address-in-Reply, I desire to say that I. in common with most members of the Senate, am very glad to see that Ministers have returned in safety and health from their trip to the Mother Country. I regret that so many of our other friends who went Home have not yet returned. I desire to express the extreme regret of this side that our friend, Senator Guthrie, is ill. I think that it Would be wise to postpone the consideration of the Navigation Bill until he is able to be with us, because in the matter of navigation he and you, sir, possess the most expert knowledge in the Senate. Personally, I accept as perfectly satisfactory the Prime Minister's explanation of the unfortunate report of an interview which appeared in the Review of Reviews. So far as I am aware, most of us, in New South Wales, at all events, thought that we ought to wait until we heard his side of the question before drawing a conclusion.


Senator Henderson - Then, instead of expecting that, why not put it the other way, that you admit the absolute desire of Australians to pounce at a rat ?


Senator WALKER - I quite agree with the honorable senator that those who know Mr. Fisher believe that right through he is a loyal British subject, but it is customary where there is a difference of opinion to wait until you hear both sides before pronouncing a definite opinion. I read with great pleasure the report of the luncheon given by the Eighty Club in honour of the visiting Prime Ministers. I think that Mr. Fisher made a very modest and becoming speech on that occasion. In fact, its tone is admirable. I was very pleased indeed - I only received the report yesterday - with the modesty of his speech. He said among other things -

We never knew of our great merits until we heard you speak of them.

The praise which was given to the visiting Prime Ministers was apparently more than Mr. Fisher expected to receive. There are other portions of his speech to which I may refer later, as showing that possibly he had a higher view of certain matters, than some of us on this side at present are prepared to accept. Coming to the opening speech itself, I am very glad tolearn that in all probability the High Commissioner will shortly have suitable premises in London. We speak a good deal' about advertising Australia at Home. I recognise that the visit of three Ministers to the Old Country was a splendid advertisement for the Commonwealth. On the other hand, we must all admit that we are very fortunate in having as High Commissioner Sir George Reid. He has become almost an institution in the United Kingdom. A member 6f the aristocracy who attended ai banquet given to the members of the Federal Convention some years ago said to me next morning, " I believe I have heard all the best after-dinner speakers of note in Great Britain, but in my opinion there is not one of them to touch Reid."


Senator Needham - That is not the only qualification he wants.


Senator WALKER - No j but he has been a good advertiser for us. Wherever he goes he stands up for Australia. I have heard more than one honorable senator on the other side say that had a High Commissioner to be appointed by the then Government they would prefer Sir George Reid. I think it is only clue to that gentleman to say that we were all very sorry to hear of the accident to himself, and we hope that his health will soon be thoroughly restored. Senator Needham has made approving reference to the note issue of the Commonwealth. I am afraid he does not realize that the banks have been very loyal.


Senator Needham - I did not question their loyalty.


Senator WALKER - I wish to make my honorable friend realize how useful the banks have been to the Government in assisting to put the notes into circulation. I believe that I am not far wrong in saying that at the present moment, between tillmoney and reserves represented by Government notes, about ^5,000,000 worth of these notes are in the coffers of the banks in Australia, so that my honorable friend must not suppose because there is a circulation of between .£9,000,000 and £10,000,000 worth, that the notes are in the hands of the general public. The actual note circulation of the Commonwealth is probably not much more to-day than it would have been if the banks had continued to issue their notes. The banks are loyal in this matter, although some people do not think so. They wish to give a. thoroughly loyal support to His Majesty's Government, whatever party happens to be in power. It is apparently always assumed that they- are very selfish, but, as I have said before in this Chamber, and it caused a certain amount of amusement, I look upon bankers as philanthropists. I can claim a good knowledge of them, having been connected with banking for fifty-one years. I have never known, in all my experience of banks and banking, of any case in which banking officials have not been absolutely straightforward, and I have known of very many cases in which banking authorities have been most liberal to persons who have been in distress.


Senator Henderson - Then philanthropy is a good paying business.


Senator WALKER - I believe that philanthropy is good policy.


Senator Henderson - It is more than that - it is a good paying business.


Senator WALKER - I am not so sure that it is always safe business for banks. If the honorable senator had been a bank official in 1893, he would not have said that it was very safe business.


Senator Henderson - The philarithropic Governments did very good work then.


Senator WALKER - I admit that the banks received welcome assistance from the Governments at that time, but the honorable senator should know that the Bank of England has always received similar assistance in times of financial distress. It has been the occasional practice in the Old Country to suspend the Bank Act, and permit notes to continue to be legal tender without obliging the Bank of England to pay gold for them. It is not fair to suppose that at the time referred to banks in Australia were given any undue advantage over and above what the Bank of England enjoyed in the Old Country. With regard to the proposed Commonwealth Bank and banking legislation, I take the liberty of suggesting to the Ministry that, after the first reading of the Bills submitted to deal with the subjects, they should consider the propriety of referring them to a Select Committee appointed to bring up a report on the whole subject. Banking is an expert matter. If these measures were submitted to a Committee, not necessarily of members of Parliament, who could bring up a report later in the session, their recommendations would carry weight with honorable senators, who cannot profess a very great knowledge of the intricacies of banking. There is a feeling abroad that a knowledge of banking may be picked up in a day, but I can assure honorable senators that many years' study and experience are required before a man can claim to thoroughly understand a system of banking.


Senator de Largie - The honorable senator has not very much to learn on the subject.


Senator WALKER - I am getting well on in years, and I always envy young men. I believe in young, not old. men coming to the front. I remember on one occasion saying to a wealthy old man that I would not change places with him tomorrow for all his wealth. When he asked, "Why not?" I said that a young man has all his life yet to live.


Senator de Largie - The honorable senator has enjoyed his life.


Senator WALKER - I have every reason to think well of Australia since ever I came to the country.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And Australia thinks well of the honorable senator.


Senator WALKER - I regret that some intention has been suggested to alter the basis of the reserve for the Commonwealth notes. At the present time, the coin reserve is 25 per cent, on the first £7,000,000, which would be ,£1,750,000, and over and above a circulation of £7,000.000, a sovereign is to be held in reserve for every note issued. So that, with a circulation of ,£10,000,000, the coin reserve under existing circumstances would amount to £4,750,000. If we were to reduce the reserve to one-fourth on the whole circulation, it would amount to only £2,500,000. Though there would be so much more money, which might be lent out at interest to the banks, or taken in lieu of a public loan by the Commonwealth, I give the warning that, if the coin reserve is unduly reduced, there will be a danger in times of stress of the notes going to a discount. That has happened in other countries, and it might happen with us in Australia.


Senator Needham - The honorable senator meins if we reduce .the ,£1 for £r reserve?


Senator WALKER - If we have a coin reserve of only 5s. for each £1, it is possible that, in a time of crisis, there may not be sufficient coin in the Treasury to meet all demands, and our notes would then go to a discount. Before now, in the Argentine, where notes were legal tender, gold has gone to a premium of about 250 per cent. This is not a matter into which non-experts should rush without "very grave consideration. I do not profess to be more than an ordinary bank manager, but I have sufficient knowledge of banking to know that the note circulation of a community is a very delicate matter to interfere with. I think it was my leader, Senator Millen - and, if not, it was some member of the same party in another place - who remarked that it is very undesirable that a Minister of the Crown should, after accepting office, retain his prominent connexion with a purely party organization. A Minister of the Crown represents the whole community, and if he is to preserve the respect which his office should always command, it would, I think, be wisdom on his part to resign his connexion with outside organizations. A good deal has been said with regard to the position occupied by the present AttorneyGeneral in this respect. I may not be competent to offer an opinion on the subject, but I think it would be wiser if he severed his connexion with outside organizations, and confined himself to the duties of his Ministerial office.


Senator Blakey - In the dual capacity, he may be a great factor for peace.


Senator WALKER - There is room for a difference of opinion about that.


Senator Barker - The honorable senator's suggestion, if adopted, should apply all round.


Senator WALKER - Certainly. I am with Senator Barker in that, and I speak not for one side any more than another.


Senator Barker - But the implication is always addressed to one side.


Senator Millen - Surely the objection applies with particular force to the law adviser of the Crown.


Senator Barker - No more than to any other person who has the administration of justice.


Senator Millen - The Attorney-General is the one member of the Government who has to do with the administration of justice.


Senator WALKER - 1 do not propose to deal with a great many of the items referred to in the Governor- General's Speech, but to refer to matters upon which little has, so far, been said. With regard to the Northern Territory, it will be very interesting to peruse the Bill which the Government intend to introduce. I am with the Government, and the Senate generally, in the desire to see a large influx of population to the Northern Territory. I am aware that the Government are against anything but the leasehold system of land tenure. It is not their intention, I understand, to part with the fee simple of land in the Northern Territory. I suggest that one of the best ways in which to attract population would be to offer substantial rewards for the discovery of gold, or other minerals. This would attract prospectors and others to the Territory. I emphasize the suggestion, because I .am perfectly persuaded that, in the history of Australia, it has been shown that there is nothing better than the discovery of a gold-field to attract population to new districts. I remind honorable senators that to promote the settlement of Rhodesia, inducements to settle there were offered to persons having some knowledge of military affairs by offering considerable areas of land, with a condition attached that, in case of necessity, the settlers should give their services in the defence of the country. "The principle might, perhaps, be applied in the settlement of the Northern Territory. It is possible that it might be instrumental in inducing men in a not very affluent position to go to the Territory in the hope of acquiring a considerable area of land for grazing and other purposes on the condition that they would be regarded as members of the Defence Force, whose services would be available should occasion require. I congratulate the Ministry upon the steps they are taking to finally settle the question of the actual occupation of the Federal Capital. I join with Senator Millen in commending the proposal for a Board of Design for the Federal Capital, to consist of three persons, one of whom would be an Austraiian, one a resident of the United Kingdom, and another, as I understand the suggestion, to be secured from America.


Senator Millen - The main point was that the Board should be composed of men whose names would be a guarantee of competency.


Senator WALKER - Just so. I admit that Colonel Vernon, the Australian selected, is a very good man, and, knowing him, I am sure that he would be very glad to be strengthened by the advice of two other men. Some years ago, I was interested with others in securing designs for a large hospital to cost £60,000 or £70,000. We appointed a Board of three, one a layman, and two architects, who were non-competing, and Colonel Vernon was the chairman of the Board. I know that he is a man who thoroughly understands his profession.


Senator Millen - I did not wish to say a word against Colonel Vernon. I recognise his capacity in the designing of buildings, but the planning of a city is work of which we have little experience here.


Senator WALKER - I am glad to learn that the Government intend to take in hand the settlement of the claims of the States for the transferred properties. The matter has been awaiting settlement too long, and I doubt whether the States are not en titled to some interest for the years during which the Commonwealth has had the use of the properties, while the States have been paying interest oh the cost of their construction.


Senator St Ledger - I understand that some of the State Governments are going to sue the Commonwealth for the interest.


Senator O'Keefe - After all, does it matter very much, seeing that the people of the Commonwealth and of the States are the same.


Senator St Ledger - It would-be possible to justify any financial juggling between them on that ground.


Senator WALKER - I was very glad to hear all that fell from the lips of the Minister of Defence on the subject of immigration. The honorable senator certainly strongly defended the consistency of the party to which he belongs, in connexion with the question. Rightly or wrongly, there is an impression abroad that the Labour party is not very keen on the matter.


Senator Henderson - Has not that been due to a desire to believe it on the part of their opponents?


Senator WALKER - I cannot wholly divest my mind of a recollection of the little incident of the six hatters. I do not wish to blame the present, leaders of the Labour party, but such incidents have a bearing upon the question.


Senator Needham - The honorable sena- . tor's present leader, Mr. Deakin, said that there was no truth in the statements made about the six hatters.


Senator WALKER - I look upon Senator Millen as my leader in the Senate. I have said before that I have a very distinct recollection of what Queensland was in 1862. It had then a population of only 40,000, and there is now a population there of 600,000. Wages are higher, and the people more comfortable. Immigration to Queensland has been marvellously successful, and I hope we shall take a lesson from the experience of that State in promoting it generally. I am glad to think that, at the present time, Western Australia is following suit.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Immigrants to the number of 2,400 will be leaving England for New South Wales this month. Surely that is good enough.


Senator WALKER - I am very glad to hear it. I now come to a subject upon which I am aware there is a considerable difference of opinion. I refer to the question of picketting. I hope the Government will see their way to introduce a Bill to declare picketting illegal. We cannot forget what took place in days gone by .at Broken Hill, and recently at Lithgow. Although it is alleged that picketting may be peaceful picketting, we know that very frequently it is found to be anything but that.


Senator O'Keefe - The Federal Government would have no power to deal with such a matter.


Senator WALKER - On this subject, I propose to read an extract from the speech by Mr. Fisher. The Prime Minister made a very true remark about being misunderstood when he said -

We must bear these little difficulties with fortitude when we know, let them, say what they will, that the march of democracy is constant and progressive.

Probably some of us do not quite agree with the right honorable gentleman in this statement - '

Well it will be for us to remember that, with all our faults and all our failings, we probably allow more liberty, freedom, and justice, than any other of our competitors in a good cause.

I decline to believe that we enjoy the same measure of liberty that is enjoyed elsewhere. I think that a free labourer ought to be able to walk across the public street without being molested. Only the other day a young man in the employ of Mr. Hoskins, of Lithgow, was interfered with by a picket. He warned the picket not to molest him, but without effect, and he then drew a revolver to show that he was armed. The picket at once laid an information against him, and he was brought before the Police Court. In dismissing the case, the Magistrate said that the circumstances were such that the free labourer was perfectly warranted in the action which he took.


Senator Blakey - Why does not the honorable member say something about Mr. Weatherspoon, who was going to get a gun for himself and his boys ?


Senator WALKER - I am not referring to Mr. Weatherspoon, but to what occurred at Lithgow.


Senator McGregor - A man requires to get permission to carry arms.


Senator WALKER - Just so. But when a number of strikers break windows and destroy motor cars - two ladies saved one. motor car at Lithgow by remaining seated in it-


Senator Barker - These are exceptional cases.


Senator WALKER - They are cases which occur teo frequently.


Senator Millen - Yet we are told that these disturbances were provoked by the action of the New South Wales Government in sending police to Lithgow.


Senator WALKER - Exactly. A telegram was actually despatched from Broken Hill requesting their local member to resign, and inquiring why the Government had sent " hired assassins " to Lithgow. These circumstances go to prove that many of the supporters of the Labour party belong to a lawless class, and I do not envy the party that kind of support.


Senator O'Keefe - Has the honorable senator's party no lawbreakers among its supporters ?


Senator WALKER - I understand that strikes are illegal. We have already established Conciliation and Arbitration Courts, as well as Wages Boards, and it seems to me that the law ought to be enforced against strikers. The other side has to obey the awards of the Arbitration Court. But, unfortunately, those awards are not respected by the workers unless they happen to be in their own favour.


Senator Barker - Thorold Rogers has said that if he had the making of the law he would compel every man to be a unionist, and he does not belong to the Labour party.


Senator WALKER - I do not suppose that the Labour party is any worse than are other parties. At the same time, will not my honorable friends admit that picketting is a nuisance to the community ? We profess to believe in freedom, "but I fail to see how freedom can exist if a man is not at liberty to sell his labour where he chooses, without being called a " scab " and a " blackleg," and if he cannot cross the public street in the absence of an escort. There is one matter affecting New South Wales to which I wish to direct particular attention - it has reference to the GovernorGeneral's residence in Sydney. In Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, the State Governors have each two official residences - a town and a country residence. Hitherto, the GovernorGeneral has been provided with an official residence both in Sydney and in Melbourne. Recently, there seems to have grown up in Sydney a feeling that the Government House and grounds there ought to be converted into a hospital or a museum. I was one of those who took part in a deputation which waited upon the Acting

Premier, Mr. Holman, to urge him to arrange for a renewal of the lease to the Commonwealth Government. He appeared to think that it was for the Commonwealth Government to approach the State Government in the matter, and rightly so, I think. But he stated that the feeling was very strong that, now that State and Federal matters had become so distinct, the GovernorGeneral should be, content with an official residence in Melbourne, and another in Yass-Canberra when the Federal Capital has been established. But I would draw special attention to the fact that Sydney is the oldest city in Australia, and 1 do hope that the Government will see their way to re-open negotiations with the State Government with a view to a renewal of the lease of the Vice-Regal residence there. If the State authorities should decline to accede to their request, I trust that the Commonwealth Government will recognise the propriety of resuming, for Federal purposes, the Sydney Government House, and a sufficient area, say, about 15 acres of the grounds attached thereto.


Senator O'Keefe - We shall soon be in the Federal Capital.


Senator WALKER - We shall not be there during the next ten years.


Senator St Ledger - Is there any precedent in any other Dominion for action of the kind suggested?


Senator WALKER - Yes. In Ceylon, where I recently spent six weeks, the Governor has three official residences, one at Colombo, another at Kandy, and still another at Nuwara Eliya. Consequently, it is not reasonable that the GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth should have less than two official residences. The site on which the Vice-Regal establishment stands in Sydney is a magnificent one. For beauty, it is probably unsurpassed in the world. I am rather sorry that the Minister of Defence is not present, because I should have liked him to have given us some explanation of the treatment which was meted out to the New South Wales cadets who went Home to the Coronation festivities. I mentioned this matter to him yesterday, and asked why he had not explained it. His reply was that nobody had asked him for an explanation. To me, it seems a pity that these young fellows who went Home at private expense, and with the verbal consent of the Minister of De* fence - of course, the honorable gentleman had his own views in regard to their official recognition-


Senator Blakey - When the Minister of Defence spoke, he mentioned that he met the cadets in London, and recognised them in his official capacity.


Senator WALKER - With all due deference to him, I say that that is a very lame excuse. Our friends in South Africa sent a contingent Home to the Coronation celebrations ; and the remarks of General Botha in regard to the loyalty of that country to the Empire are really quite refreshing, coming, as they do, from a gentleman who was fighting against us only a few years ago. He said -

In assisting the people lo emigrate to Our pail of the Empire we ask you to send your very best men. We have any amount of room for a large population in our country. Those men who began to establish the policy of liberty in South Africa may die, but the' fruits of that policy will remain for ever, and that will continually bring South Africa closer to the Mother Country. There is only one message I have to bring from South Africa, and that is the offer of the hand of brotherhood, friendship, and of love from our people towards yours.

South Africa sent a contingent of troops to London, and I am very sorry that Australia did not do likewise. I come now to the claim put forward by the Minister of Defence in reference to the Naval Agreement. He actually told us that the arrangement which has been arrived at with the Admiralty is in accordance with the original intentions of the Labour Government. The Leader of the Opposition quite justly took exception to that statement. I understand that the original intention of the Labour Government was that Australia should be provided with a flotilla of torpedo-boat destroyers, and some craft of a larger nature for coastal defence purposes. They never contemplated that the vessels would leave Australian waters, whereas the present Agreement provides for ocean-going vessels. Considering our small population, I think that New Zealand has adopted a much better plan than we have. Where are we going to get the men in Australia to man the vessels of the Fleet unit? Another great disadvantage of the existing Naval arrangement is that, under it, the head-quarters of the British Navy in the South Pacific will be removed to Auckland. Thus Sydney will lose the prestige of being the head-quarters of the British Navy in those waters. It means a loss of something like £400,000 a year. I should be very glad if the Minister of Defence would give us an explanation as to why the New South Wales cadets who went to London were not treated differently. We were informed through the newspapers that official recognition was refused to them.


Senator Pearce - If the honorable senator desires it, I will lay the whole of the papers upon the table.


Senator WALKER - I shall be quite satisfied with that. Senator Pearce, who spoke of the Opposition as a Tory party, twitted us with being a party that was always changing its name. Now. he says we call ourselves the People's party. He is aware that we always deny that we are Tories. We are Liberals. We believe in freedom, and so forth. But if there is one party in the Commonwealth that is the party of privilege, it is that which is represented by the present Government. We hear a great deal about monopolies. I have taken the trouble to turn up the definition of " monopoly " in Webster's dictionary. I find it to be defined as follows -

The sole power of vending any species of goods obtained either by engrossing the articles in the market by purchase or by a licence from the Government confirming that privilege. Thus, the East India Company in Great Britain once had a monopoly of the trade to the East Indies granted to them by charter. Monopolies by individuals obtained by engrossing are an offence prohibited by law. But a man has by natural right the exclusive power of vending his own produce or manufactures, and to retain that exclusive right is not a monopoly within the meaning of law.

Senator Pearcewas very eloquent with regard to the referenda, and pointed out what he considered to be many popular misunderstandings on the proposals submitted. But there was one question which, the people did not for a moment misunderstand, and that was that it was proposed to give Parliament the power to declare any business a monopoly, whereupon a monopoly it would be; thus practically saying that Parliament might become a lexicographer and define "monopoly " to be whatever it pleased. The meaning of the word is quite well-known, and surely a person who claimed that his business was not a monopoly should have the right to appeal to the High Court. There is not the slighest doubt that some persons who voted "No" at the referenda were rather in favour of one or two of the Government's proposals, but there was a strong opposition to the provision regarding monopolies.


Senator Pearce - More persons voted for that alteration than for the others.


Senator WALKER - I am rather surprised to hear that, and think my honorable friend will find he is mistaken. Senator Pearce was very severe upon Senator Millen. In fact, he reminded me of a well-known person in literature, who was given the name of Bombastes Furioso, so vigorously did he speak. Thinking over his attack upon my leader, I lotted down these lines -

Senator GeorgeF. Pearce Waxed uncommonly fierce When to Millen replied he : "What in my eye do you see?"

It was not a case of " all in my eye and Betty Martin," on this occasion.


Senator McGregor - Is that poetry copyright ?


Senator WALKER - Well, as the rhyme says -

A little nonsense now and then Is relished by the best of men.

Senator W.Russell quoted from our old friend, Robert Burns. There is another Scottish poet, Thomas Campbell, whose works some of us have read with delight. In his poem Lochiel' s Warning, where the wizard is explaining to Lochiel how he forsees events, he uses the line -

And coming events cast their shadows before.

I think that the referenda in April last afforded a very good instance of coming events casting their shadows before. ,If the Government have the courage to put forward those referenda questions again, I have not the slightest doubt that the results will be exactly what they were in April. The last matter to which I have to refer is this : I was rather surprised that a Government which is so intent upon improving the social condition of the people should not have indicated its desire to bring in a Bill for unifying the marriage laws of Australia. The law in some States is so anomalous that poor innocent children are frequently placed in a very unfortunate position. It is the law in New South Wales, for instance, that a man may marry his deceased wife's sister. But it is not the law that a woman may marry her deceased husband's brother. It is not positively illegal so to do, I believe, but such a marriage is voidable. The singular thing is that, if either party to such a marriage chooses to break away from it, the children are illegitimate.


Senator Millen - Is that the law in all the States?


Senator WALKER - I know that it is the law in some. I trust that the Government will look into this matter.


Senator Millen - It is a matter of pure justice to children.


Senator WALKER - The Government professes to have a special interest in the social condition of the country. We are all agreed that justice is far above money. Nowadays, when we do so much in matters of wages, we should certainly be careful to look after the rights of children. It is a horrible thing that children, through no fault of their own, should come to be looked upon as illegitimate. The Scottish law makes children who are born out of wedlock legitimate if the parents afterwards marry. If such is not the case in Australia it shows the necessity for making a change in the marriage law, so that such terrible disabilities shall no longer fall upon the innocent. Certainly the marriage law ought to be uniform throughout the States.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Why did not the Fusion Government deal with that question ?


Senator WALKER - I was not a member of the Fusion Ministry, so I cannot say. Our marriage laws are supposed to be founded upon the Bible. Curiously enough . in the Old Testament - which no one knows better than my honorable friend, Senator McGregor - it was laid down that if a man died leaving a widow and no children, it was the duty of his brother, if unmarried, to marry the widow, so that if a son was born he might succeed to the property of the first husband. A marriage of that kind was compulsory under Old Testament law. Honorable senators will find a case in point, in the book of Ruth.


Senator St Ledger - Does the honorable senator suggest that we should adopt that ?


Senator WALKER - No, but it goes to prove that a marriage with a deceased husband's brother was recognised as permissible in certain circumstances. I desire to say in conclusion that I have personally a kindly feeling for all members of the present Government, even for Mr. Thomas, the Postmaster-General, though I strongly disapproved of his action in heading a band of picketters at Broken Hill.







Suggest corrections