2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers
– I wish to ask the Minister, in whose province the matter lies, whether the Government think it desirable to make inquiries with regard to the disease known as spotted fever, which seems to have broken out simultaneously in America and Australia. Cases of what I believe to’ be the same disease also occurred some time aga in South Australia.
– The Government will be very glad to make every inquiry, and to render all possible assistance to the Health Departments of the States in discovering the best means of dealing with the disease, with a view’ to bring about its suppression.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs If his attention has been directed to a leading article in the Age of to-day, in which this passage occurs -
The Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill, which has been introduced on behalf of the Government by Senator McGregor, is by no means the efficient piece of Federal legislation for which the public has been looking.
In his opinion, is there any justification for the statement that the Bill is inefficient?
– The measure may not do all that we desire, but we are informed by our legal advisers that it will do all’ that the Constitution permits us to do. If any honorable member can point out how our powers can be strengthened or extended, we Shall be glad to remedy the defect to which’ the writer iri the Age alludes. We shall do all we can to prevent people from getting goods other than those they ask for, and it will rest with the States to do the other part of the work. Hitherto we have been criticised for trying to exceed our powers, but’ in this case it appears that we are being blamed for not using our powers to the full extent.
– The other day it was stated in the newspapers that an order had been passed authorizing the Attorneys-General of the States to sign informations in prosecutions relating to Commonwealth offences I, therefore, wish to know from the AttorneyGeneral if it would not be advisable to communicate with the Attorney-General of Queensland as to the expediency of conferring upon the Crown Prosecutors of that State authority to take similar action. Recently a prisoner brought up for trial in either Maryborough or Bundaberg was discharged on the ground that the Crown Prosecutor was not authorized to present an information. The reason for urgency in the matter is that the population of Queensland, is very scattered, and each district - North, Central, and South - has its own Crown Prosecutor.
– It is true that, with a view to promptitude in criminal prosecutions, we have authorized the AttorneysGeneral of the Sates to file indictments and informations, and if there is anything exceptional in the position of Queensland which makes that delegation of authority insufficient, the Government are prepared, at their discretion, to make a further delegation to Crown Prosecutors. I shall look into the matter, and trv to meet the views of the honorable and learned member.
– At the recent Mel bourne election, promises were made by the members of the Labour Party that if that party came into power the electors would receive snug and cosy little cottages. I wish, therefore, to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if the plans and specifications for these buildings have yet been prepared ?
– I am not responsible for the promise referred to.
– When will the Minister of Home Affairs be able to lay upon the table the reports asked for in reference to the conduct of the recent Melbourne and Riverina elections? As the Melbourne election took place some time ago, that report ought now to be ready. I shall be much obliged if the Minister will look into the matter, and let us have these reports as soon as possible.
– I promise to hasten the preparation of the reports asked for, and to lay them upon the table, as soon as they are ready.
– As it is understood that there is a strong objection on the part of the Government of Japan to the means at present adopted to exclude Japanese from Australia, and that that Government is prepared to enter into a treaty to prevent emigration from Japan to the Commonwealth, I would ask the Prime Minister whether his Government would entertain proposals for such a treaty.
– I am not aware that any strong objection has been raised by the Government of Japan to the exercise by us of the undoubted right’ of every Government to exclude from its territory undesirable immigrants, but we are certainly prepared to give most courteous; consideration to any suggestion towards, removing diplomatic objections to the methods now adopted so long, as effect is. given to the object of our policy.
– I wish to know from’ the Postmaster-General if letter sorters, in Queensland are paid overtime for thesorting of oversea mails, while payment for similar work has been refused to New South Wales letter sorters.
– I see no reason why the information which the honorable member has asked for should not be supplied. This is obviously a question of which notice should be given ; and if a question is placed on the notice-paper. I shall make an effort to supply the required information.
Debate resumed from 23rd March (vide page 832), on motion by Mr. McColl -
That, in the opinion of this House, the prosperity of Australia as a whole, and the development of the interior more especially, depends on the utilization of its waters.
That this great question should receive the early attention of the Government of ‘the Commonwealth.
That it is desirable that a scheme of conserving and looking the waters of the River Murray, in the interests of irrigation and navigation, should be formulated and carried out by joint action on the part of the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria, and that the Government should take such steps as it mav deem necessary to bring about such joint action without delay.
That the petition received by this House from certain residents in the Northern district of Victoria and the Riverina district of New South Wales, on the 25th June, 1903, be taken into consideration in conjunction with this motion.
-I think that honorable members will agree with me that we are entering upon the discussion of a very important subject, the consideration of which may be necessary for some years before a decision can be arrived at. It is very much mixed up with the future progress of these States. Although our powers . to deal with the subject are somewhat limited, I hope that the Federal Parliament will do all that it can, constitutionally, to assist in bringing about a settlement of the many difficulties by which it is surrounded, and formulate a system under which the waters of our rivers may be made available for increased settlement in the different States. In considering the question, we are dealing mainly with the report of the Inter-State Royal Commission on. the River Murray, and’ the subject of conservation and irrigation. T. think that honorable members will also agree with me that the report is not only one of the most interesting that we have yet had to deal with, but one of the most important, by reason of the vast and varied record of facts and information which it contains. The subject must command consideration throughout all the States, whether they are directly interested in the conservation of the waters of the main rivers dealt with in thereport, or whether they are simply interested in the general welfare of the whole of Australia. Our attention has recently been drawn to what is almost an actual necessity for increasing the population of the States, in order to enable us to bear the burden of interest on the money that has been borrowed for constructing numerous public works throughout Australia.
And of all the schemes that have been suggested to enable us to increase our population, I do not think that there is any so wise, or so far-reaching, or so well designed to bring about the desired result, as a national system of irrigation, probably increasing the population over the area operated uponfrom one man to 300 men per square mile.” However we may desire to get settlement, it is of no use to ask the redundant population of old countries to come out here unless land is available. All the land that is now available is, to a very large extent’, not ‘of that character; which would induce settlement. Most of the land that would be useful for this purpose has been alienated. Settlement has not proceeded far enough to open up some good land, further removed ; and although some of the States have adopted the policy of resuming land for closer settlement, what can be done in that direction is not nearly so important, and so far-reaching in its results, as what can be done by taking the good land which we know is available in the whole of the -Murray basin, and by a national scheme of irrigation making it available for small farmers and intense culture. It . seems to me that whichever way we approach this question we are confronted . with constitutional difficulties, and difficulties occasioned by the. conflicting interests of the various States. While we are hampered in that way in our power to deal with the subject, we are- also hampered by these conflicting interests, and by the difficulties connected with the existing law. The history of this question of irrigation was very well put before the House by the honorable member for Echuca, who traced the growth of the struggle, as it may be called, of enthusiasts about irrigation to get some national scheme taken up in both New South Wales and Victoria. He brought the history of the case right down to the holding of the Corowa Conference, and the issue of the Royal Commission’s report, on which most of our consideration must now be based. Subsequent to the holding of that Conference at Corowa, two of the Inter- State Commissioners reported in their resolutions: -
During the seven months, July to January, inclusive, the diversions on the part of New South Wales and Victoria shall be, respectively, 202,000 cubic feet per minute, and 146,000 cubic feet per minute, unless the volume of the river at Morgan exceeds 337,000 cubic feet per minute, in which case the diversions may be proportionately greater.
That is the very basis of the difficulty between the rival interests of the three States. That portion of the resolution provides for a minimum of 4 feet for navigation, in the river, and it goes on to say : -
During the five months, February to June, inclusive, the diversions on the part of New South Wales and Victoria shall be, respectively, 240,000 cubic feet per minute, and 127,000 cubic feet per minute, unless the volume of the Murray at the South Australian border exceeds 70,000 cubic feet per minute, in which case the diversions should be proportionately greater.
This is the main resolution that produced the difficulty between the members of the Royal Commission, and subsequently between their respective Governments. The Commissioner for South Australia, Mr. Burchell, in his dissent, to be found on page 59 of the report, gives the reasons for his objection to that resolution, which is mainly that it does not regularly provide sufficient water for the maintenance of navigation on the Murray. In paragraph 5 of his dissent, he sums up his objection in these words: -
Subject to the maintenance of the River Murray as a navigable water-way, as stated in paragraph 3 of this dissent, the question of the -just allotment of the waters to the use of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia for irrigation is one concerning which I am prepared to recommend the utmost liberality to the States of New South Wales and Victoria. In my opinion, the surplus waters of the River Murray and its tributaries should be distributed as follows : - New South Wales and Victoria in such proportions as they may agree upon between themselves, seven-eighths; and South Australia, one-eighth.
It will be seen that in that paragraph of his dissent he seems to act most magnanimously towards the other two States, and it is so. But, prior to that paragraph, he dissents altogether from the finding of the Royal Commission with regard to the quantity of water that should flow into South Australia to provide for navigation ; and this seems to me to become the crux of the whole position. Subsequent to the issue of that report, the Premiers of the three interested States met and discussed the whole question with a view to seeing whether they could adopt the report, and afterwards persuade their respective Parliaments to indorse it. I am not aware of the feeling of Victoria at that time, but the general opinion in New. South Wales was that its interests had’ been altogether surrendered to the able representations of the Premier of South Australia. The minimum quantity of 70,000 cubic feet to be provided in a season of drought was increased at the meeting to a minimum of 150,000 cubic feet. Honorable members will see that that quantity is just double what the majority of the members of the Commission thought should be the minimum to provide for navigation along the Murray down to South Australia; but the South Australians still object to the proposed arrangement. There is a further point, upon which Mr. Burchell bases his objection, which is well worth placing upon record. In paragraph 10 of his statement he says -
I also dissent from recommendation 4, that the Common Law Doctrine of riparian rights is. unsuitable in Australia, particularly in regard to the waters of the Murray basin.
I hope honorable members will take notice of this, because I. think that the settlement of the question will largely turn upon the way in which public men regard the common law relating to riparian rights. Mr. Burchell continues -
I believe the riparian rights existing as’ between individuals, is the only equitable basis upon which to arrive at any decision in regard to the apportionment and distribution of the waters of the Murray river to the riparian States.
As I have said, the Premiers’ recast of this arrangement is considered in New South Wales to be a very large surrender of the rights of that State. New South Wales holds a very large quantity of the. land that it is possible to irrigate from the rivers, and furnishes by far . the largest quantity of the water which flows down them, and very naturally the people of that State cannot see the common sense or justice of their being called upon to provide so large a quantity of water in order to satisfy the common law rights - either riparian rights or navigation rights - of South Australia. This agreement has to be indorsed by the various Parliaments of the States concerned ; and although it is intended to extend over a period of only five years, I think it will be very difficult to induce the Parliament of New South Wales to pass it. Therefore, if we can so deal with the question as to bring about an adjustment of the rival interests ofthe States, and so abrogate or modify the common law riparian rights, as to make the waters of the rivers available at points where they can be put to the best use, and also in such a way as £0 secure a return sufficient to pay all the’ interest upon the cost of the important works which will be necessary for water conservation, we shall be doing a great work, not only for the rival States, but for the people of Australia. I should like to place on. record a report, which was published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 28th May, of a deputation which waited upon the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Jenkins, in Adelaide, on the previous day, in order to present to him resolutions passed at a meeting of the River Murray League held during the preceding week. These resolutions again asserted strongly what the gentlemen who passed them regarded as the navigation and riparian rights of South Australia, and Sir Lancelot Stirling, who introduced the deputation, spoke very strongly; indeed, he used almost menacing language with regard to the way in which South Australia, should be induced to insist upon her rights. Although this report is rather long, I should like to put it on record, because I think that we are mainly engaged at present in gathering material, and in a preliminary discussion which is intended to throw light upon the subject, and (hat therefore it is desirable to have before us the -views of South Australian public men in extenso, in order that we may understand the position which they at present Jake up. The report says : -
The Premier, in the course of a long reply, said that it was on Hie advice of Mr. Justice Gordon, when he was Attorney-General, that the Government had not instituted an action yet in the Courts against the other States, because he said it was not wise to do so until they were prepared with the necessary proofs, and he did not consider even on the report of the expert that had been sent to the other States that they possessed the necessary evidence. The Government had obtained particulars of what was wanted by the people near the Murray mouth. He had personally visited the spot for the proposed barrage, and the Government were now working out details for a modified scheme for the barrage across the Murray mouth. He had also asked the AttorneyGeneral to prepare a bill for submission- to Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity. Mr. Bent was now Premier of Victoria. He was not so sanguine as one of the speakers that he would be more successful with Mr. Bent than with Mr. Irvine. (Laughter.) But possibly something might be done in the way of amicable negotiations.
Mr. Jenkins added that he had not much hope of an amicable settlement, unless they were strongly supported by the Federal representatives of the other two States interested. He had not much faith in the support of the Federal members representing Victoria and New South Wales, although Mr. McColl and a few others recognised that the proper settlement of the question was by locking and storage. That, as far as he could see, was the only settlement through which they would benefit by irrigation, and would still maintain navigation. ‘He believed that the legal opinions the Government were obtaining from America would support the South Australian Government. Even if they were unsuccessful in the first court of appeal, if they commenced an action the Government would not abandon it, but would take it before the highest Court to which they could appeal, the Privy Coun- cil. He did not say for a moment that the High Court Judges in Australia would be prejudiced, but perhaps it would be advisable in a case like this to take it where it would be beyond any suspicion of prejudice.
Honorable members will see what a decided and definite view the South Australian public men take of their rights, and of the supposed infringement of them by Victoria, and, to a lesser degree, by New South Wales. We can also foresee some of the difficulties we shall have to contend with in evolving - or co-operating with the States in evolving - any scheme to make use of the great national asset that we have . in our rivers system. The honorable member for Echuca has very ably brought this matter before us. His motion is divided into four paragraphs, and I really do not think any honorable member can take any serious objection to it. It simply expresses the desirableness of doing something in the direction of utilizing the river waters - of using the good offices of the Federal Parliament to induce the States to do something - and, in effect, promises the States that the Commonwealth will be only too ready to fall in with their ideas, and assist them in carrying them out. The honorable member has placed the question very fully before us, and has given us the benefit of a number] of facts, figures, and opinions ; but he admits that the action to be taken mainly rests with the States, and that all we can do is to assist by expressing our goodwill, and carrying out those functions which are constitutionally intrusted to us. Our powers have regard mainly to navigation, and I take the view entertained by the honorable member, that it is not impossible - nay, that it would be helpful - to combine the navigation and irrigation systems, seeing that one will assist the other. That is not altogether the opinion of the Commissioners ; but I quite agree with the honorable member and other experienced men that we can make the use of the waters for navigation purposes subservient, in some degree, to their utilization for the purposes of irrigation. Conversely the sa’me statement of fact holds good. There are some points in the speech of the honorable member for Echuca to which I desire to refer. Upon page 824 of Hansard he is reported to have said -
We must utilize the Crown lands that remain unalienated, but we may do more. The Federal Parliament has yet no power to deal with the lands, but the States Governments should exercise the power of resumption to the fullest ex- tent. Where they find it impossible to voluntarily resume areas in the water districts, and close to main lines of communication, they should adopt the compulsory system of land resumption at the earliest date.
It seems to me that in those sentences the honorable member expressed a very practical view indeed, and if it were possible for the Commonwealth to resume large areas of this land, I think that our position in undertaking national works of irrigation would be rendered very much safer. But, unfortunately, the Federation can do nothing in the direction indicated, and I am of opinion that some considerable time will elapse before the States themselves can be induced to take action. I also wish to refer to the view entertained by the honorable member concerning Victoria’s action in utilizing the waters of these rivers for irrigation purposes to the extent which she has already clone. I entirely dissent from his opinion when he declares that this State would be thoroughly justified in making use of those waters, even if she went to the extreme of closing the mouths of the rivers in question as they enter the Murray. That is what the South Australian public men protest against so strongly. I differ from the honorable member for Echuca, not only as to the justice of such action on the part: of Victoria, but as to the law which permits of it. I protest most strongly against the continuance of the existing law, which I maintain justifies the public men of South Australia in the strong attitude which they have taken up regarding the action of Victoria. I desire now to direct attention to the area of land and the volume of water which would be available for irrigation purposes under this scheme. I think that the honorable member for Echuca, with his noble enthusiasm, is rather inclined to overstate the facts in this connexion, although he frankly admits that we cannot irrigate the whole of the area in question. There are, however, some writers who apparently take it for granted that we can irrigate some 50,000,000 acres under this scheme. Do not let us be misled in this matter. Very great mistakes have been made in connexion with irrigation schemes in Australia, America, and Italy ; and we require to be perfectly sure of our facts before embarking in any such undertaking. I am quite in accord, therefore, with the honorable member for Echuca when he presses for more reliable data concerning this problem. Indeed, the only defect which I find in the report of the
Commissioners is that which they themselves have noted, namely, their inability to furnish reliable information upon which we can make an accurate estimate as to whether the scheme, if carried out, would prove remunerative. If it cannot be made to pay interest upon its capital outlay, there is no justification whatever either for the Federal or State authorities undertaking it. ‘ The honorable member, in dealing with the volume of water that flows past different points, and in estimating the area of land available for irrigation, seems to me to have adopted the plan which applies to an army of soldiers upon the stage. We all know that these men are marched across the stage, and that the first portion, upon disappearing from view, reappear so ‘ quickly behind their comrades, as to convey the impression that some thousands are engaged when, as a matter of fact, there may be only fifty or sixty. The honorable member makes the mistake of adding the volume of water which flows past one point to the flow past a second and even a third point. Upon the total volume he then bases his estimate. No doubt he was perfectly familiar with the subject of which he was speaking, but the impression conveyed by his speech was that there is a larger area of land available for irrigation purposes and a much greater volume of water than really exists. As evidencing how easily we may be led astray bv figures the honorable member said, vide Hansard, page 828, that-
The engineers, Mr. Davis and Mr. Murray, were also called in and consulted, and they gave the Conference some very interesting figures. They stated that if locks were established on the Murray, some 5,000,000,000 cubic feet of water would keep the locks going. That is to say, that quantity of water would keep the locks always navigable. That is really only about one-eighteenth of the lowest flow at Albury, so that the quantity of water required to keep the river navigable is actually very small compared with the volume of water that flows down the river.
At that stage I interjected-
Would that quantity keep the river navigable throughout the year?
To that question the honorable member replied -
Yes ; that is the estimate of the engineers. To show how the figures mount up, I may point out that South Australia objected to being allotted only 70,000 cubic feet a minute, yet that quantity in the year would run to no less than 50,000,000,000 cubic feet.
I took the trouble to work out these figures, with the result that I found a very large discrepancy in them. As honorable members will’ perceive, there are 525,000 minutes in a year. If that number be multiplied by ‘ 70,000 it will produce 36.792,000,000, and not 50,000,000,000 cubic feet, a difference of 13,208,000,000 cubic feet. A discrepancy of 30 per cent, in an estimate of that kind only shows how careful even practical men require to be in their calculations, and in basing their conclusions upon them.
– The honorable member for Echuca may have taken into consideration an allowance for waste.
– There is no waste in figures, and I am dealing with actual figures. The honorable member is wrong in his multiplication. Of course, the honorable member dealt very ably with the necessity for having a perfect system of hydrology, and for collecting all the facts available. In that direction this Parliament . might certainly take the first step. I think that we should approach this question by seeking to acquire,* by every means that skilled experts can suggest, all the reliable data available. We require to possess all the facts necessary to deal with this problem, because ‘some yea>rs,’ must elapse before anything practical can be done. In this matter it is wise to make haste slowly. In the second place, it is the duty of this Parliament to consider, as’ far as possible, the question of the abrogation of the common law affecting riparian rights, and the1, enactment of a water law for the rivers in question, at least. That can be done under certain sections of the Constitution, and if the States will assist us we shall be doing all that we really can, preliminary to devising the basis upon which future schemes can be built up. In the third place, we might consider the question of providing for the maintenance of a flow of wat-sr for navigation purposes - at least equal to that which has existed - by means of locks and weirs, after we have made provision for irrigation. Fourthly, I think that the Federal Government should cordially accept any function, which may be constitutionally conferred upon it out of regard for States interests, to bring about some scheme for the conservation and utilization of these waters. J shall find it necessary during my speech to refer more than once to a report by Mr. Elwood Mead, an irrigation expert in the employ of the State Government of Cali.fornia
– He is the best expert in America.
– I believe that the honorable member is correct. The report has afforded me so much valuable assistance in the consideration of this question that I believe it would be almost worth while to republish it for the use of those who will have to deal with this matter in Australia. The problem before Mr. Mead, and the officers who, with him, formed the Commission, is that which confronts us today ; but they approached it with much more experience, and far more information at their disposal than we possess. They have made certain strong recommendations to the State Government of California, which appear to me to be almost precisely the recommendations that ought to be made in reference to the question now before us. Strange to say, the report bears no date; but from references which it makes to legal decisions as late as 1900, it appears to have been issued about 1901. It is, therefore, a comparatively recent publication. The Commission was the outcome, of a letter addressed to the Director of Agriculture in California by a large number of experienced gentlemen engaged in various commercial and professional pursuits, who urged that the position of California at that time necessitated some inquiry. Asthe result of that letter, and of the raising of private subscriptions to enable effect to be given to it, Mr. Elwood Mead was intrusted with the duty of superintending the Commission and drawing up a report. An examination of it shows that it deals with the same problems that we have to face in relation to the Murray, although we must not lose sight of the fact that in California they had considerable experience of irrigation to guide them in arriving at a decision. They were called upon to deal with a portion of the State that had not been systematically irrigated, but which presented all the features and materials necessary to enable it to be treated in that way. I shall make several quotations’ from the report, in order to bear out my assertion that it deals with the problem that now confronts us. It sets forth that the inquiry was made into the state of agriculture, but as- a matter of fact it deals wholly with irrigation. The authorities appear to have thought that iv was only by means of irrigation that the agricultural conditions of that part of the country which was under consideration could be improved. At page 68, it is set forth that -
The largest volume of unused -water in California comes from the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, and it is here that the greatest development in the future will take place -
This is also true of the Murray -
It is not believed that this increased use of water, will seriously injure navigation interests, because a large percentage of the water diverted will return to the stream as waste or seepage. Irrigation will create a more uniform flow. There will be lower water in the stream and higher water during the rainless season. But, in order to avert any conflicts, the creation of a State enginering or irrigation bureau should be immediately followed by a conference with the officials of the United States Government having supervision of the navigable streams, looking to such improvements of these rivers as will permit of the largest possible use of water in irrigation. The complete utilization of these two rivers will give California the largest rural population of any State in the Union. Whatever expenditure is necessary to protect navigation interests and enable this result to be brought about should be made. Even if it requires the construction of locks and the canalizing of both streams, the improvements will be well worth their cost, and, as it is a recognised field for the expenditure of Government appropriations, a proper presentation of the situation will, it is believed, lead to the extension of the required aid.
Honorable members will see from this extract that the problem dealt with by the Commission is precisely that which confronts us. Under the existing law, California has to preserve the navigation of the two rivers mentioned in the report; and has also large quantities of water running to waste, although it has a dry climate and plenty of good soil, which, with irrigation, would produce almost anything. The authorities desired, by resorting to irrigation, to place a- large permanent population on the land in question, and that is really what we hope to do. Then with regard to the relative duties of the national and the States Governments, the problem is also the same, so that I think that we should receive assistance in many directions from a perusal of this report. In nearly every matter with which we have lately been called upon to deal, we have found it necessary to refer to the Constitution, and it is inevitable that, as this debate proceeds, some of the able legal members of the House will be called upon to discuss the question from its constitutional aspect. As a layman, it seems to me that our actions will be governed by those provisions of the Constitution, to which I now propose to refer. Section 51 provides that -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to - ,
trade and commerce with other countries and among the States.
At first sight it would appear that this provision does not deal in any way with the question of the control of our rivers ; but honorable members will discover, by reference to a later section, that it does. The next provision bearing on this question is sub-section xxxvii., of the same section - ‘
Matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to States by whose Parliament the matter is referred, or which afterwards adopt the law.
It might suit the States under this provision tq give us very large powers to deal with our rivers. Then in . section 98, it is provided (hat -
The power, of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways the property of any State, while in section 100 it is declared that -
The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade or commerce, abridge the right of a State or of the residents therein to the reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation.
This, of all the sections of the Constitution bearing on the subject, will perhaps be the most hotly debated. Then again, we find that in section in, it is provided that -
The Parliament of a State may surrender any part of the State to the Commonwealth, and upon such surrender, and the acceptance thereof by the Commonwealth, such part of the State shall become subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
Under section 122 -
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth’.
I will deal with the last two sections first. To resume all the land that would be operated upon by any great irrigation scheme, would probably, even though there is a great outcry against Socialism, be the best way to deal with this great national question’ It is conceivable that the States of New South Wales and Victoria might be persuaded to give to the Commonwealth Parliament control of the land in the Murray basin. We should, of course, have to compensate the present holders, and could then deal with the territory as a socialistic or State experiment. But, although that is conceivable, it is quite unlikely, because it would destroy the present balance of the
States, and would make a separate territory Which, if what I have read about the resources of the land that would be irrigated from the Murray and its tributaries is correct, would ultimately become the very heart of Australia. It is inconceivable that either New South Wales, which at present contains the larger part of this area, or Victoria, which contains the smaller part, would hand it over to the Commonwealth. Therefore, I think, we can dismiss from our minds the possibility of those sections being used, although they open up a very wide vista as to what might be done under the Constitution. The States themselves, however, can resume irrigation areas in different places, which ultimately might become parts of a large national scheme. To resume the whole of the Murray basin, as a territory exclusively under Federal jurisdiction, would give us a problem more difficult to deal with than the Federal Capital site problem, both by reason of the area involved, and because of the questions which would arise as to such matters as political representation. If, however, we turn back to section 51 sub-section r., and to sections 98 and 100, it will be found that they give us full power to utilize the waters of the Murray for navigation. In my opinion, action should not be taken under those sections until the States have taken action under section 51, sub-section XXXVII., that is, until they have referred the matter to the Federal Parliament, either by giving us the right to define a national scheme, and to appoint Commissioners charged with the duty of collecting rates, and other administration, or by referring the matter to us in the capacity of an independent arbitrator or umpire to settle the claims of the contending parties. I do not care which mode of action is adopted. But if anything is done under the provision to which I refer, it will then be time for us to take action under the navigation provisions of the Constitution, and to open up the river and keep it open for navigation throughout as large a part of the year as possible. That is practically the recommendation of the Commissioners, and what the honorable member for Echuca contended for when moving the motion. It seems to me, too, practically all that we can aim at. This is not, however, such a big undertaking when we compare it with similar undertakings which have been carried out successfully in other parts of the world. A dispute arose between Mr. Irvine, when Premier of Victoria, and Mr. Gordon, now
Mr. Justice Gordon, when Acting Premier of South Australia, about the relative rights of the States whose affairs they were administering. During the course of that dispute, the Victorian Premier acted as though he was conducting the affairs of an independent nation, and was not bound by the common rules and laws which govern the members of one empire. Mr. Irvine almost took up the position that South Australia was to him a foreign country, and that Victoria could act as one foreign and barbarous nation might act towards another, and cut off the water supply of South Australia. He thought it was quite within the right of Victoria to do that, and wrote as though he was restrained from exercising that right only by his innate sense of justice. Let us see, however, how these things are arranged elsewhere by rival and often hostile nations. The Danube, which is the second largest river in Europe, and is nearly 2,000 miles long - longer than the Murray - traverses Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Northern Turkey. Internationa] action was first taken in regard to its control in 18 16, and since that time Northern Turkey has been split up into a number of independent powers through whose territory the river runs. By the treaty of Paris, in 1856, the Danube was not only placed under the protection of an International Convention, and declared free to the ships of all nations, but a Commission was subsequently appointed, consisting of representatives of seven of the great powers of Europe, of which Great Britain was one. That Commission was subsequently continued, and intrusted with the control of the navigation of the river. It, in the first instance, opened up the deltaic portion of the river, in order to allow oversea vessels to enter freely, and to steam or sail into the heart of Europe. Whereas in 1855 thirty-six vessels were lost in the Danube, in 1865, although twice as many vessels were then navigating the river, only seven were lost, because of the work done by the Commission in cutting away dangerous bends, blasting out rocks, opening up the delta, and placing lights along the river. The work of the Commission has been so beneficial that it has been recognised in all the great European treaties, such as those signed at Berlin, London, and Paris, and its life has been renewed from time to time, so that it has now five years to run. A great deal has been said about the decay of British commerce, and I ‘was, therefore, surprised to read the figures relating to British trade on the Danube. The revenue collected by the Commission amounts to ^80,000 a year> and its ordinary expenditure to ,£56,000 a year, leaving ^2 4,000 a year for new works. Between 1857 and 1867, 450,000 tons of commerce entered the river, of which one-third was British; but in 1896 1,800,000 ions entered, of which three-fifths were British. Yet politicians talk of the trade of that great country going down. The shipping of all other countries combined increased in the period to which I refer only fourfold, while that of Great Britain increased eightfold. If what I have described can be done by nations whose people speak different languages, and have often been at war, surely it is possible to reconcile and control the conflicting claims of three dependencies of the British Empire. The honorable member for Echuca has had more experience than I have had in dealing with land, and he knows, too, more about irrigation, because he has seen the operation of many irrigation works in Victoria. He has put before the House the advantages to be derived from irrigation, and I think that if any one not already instructed on the subject will take the trouble to read up the facts, he will be, as I was, very much surprised at the absolute tangible benefits which fia.ve been derived in various parts of the world from the adoption of irrigation schemes. It has been said by an old Eastern sage that white umbrellas and elephants mad with pride should be the property of the man who owns the land- But if the land is arid, and there is no means of making use of the water which flows past it, the owner will not be able to have either white umbrellas or mad elephants, because the man who cannot put water on to most of his land in Australia owns nothing. The land must be watered. We have passed through a seven years’ drought, in which some of the finest soil in the world was utterly unable to support animal or human life. The last vestiges of crea1 ion, as it were, departed from the ground ; the grass was dried up ; and there was nothing to be seen, so that in most parts of Australia the mere possession of land is no factor out of which wealth can be produced. We must have water. In all directions we see the same thing. The lucas of Peru - a civilization of its own, developed in one quarter of the globe, apart from everything else, and now extinct - carried this idea of irrigation to such an extent that they had a channel running for 500 miles, from the Andes Mountains to the arid plains of their own territory, distributing water everywhere, and they had always a superabundance of food in their government storehouse for the use of the people.
– That was under a communal system.
– It was a system bossed by a privileged class, but still it was a communal system, and a marvellous one, under which no one ever went hungry, under which every one was able to marry when he arrived at a proper age, and under which every one had a home. It is the most remarkable civilization, I suppose, that we know of. I am not interested just now in that matter ; but I am interested in the fact that these people, although so much beneath us in intellectual development, and in capacity for dealing with large works, yet had carried this theory of irrigation to the extent of having a great canal carrying water for 500 miles from distant mountains on to their arid plains. We see again what marvels have been done in modern Italy by the use of irrigation. We see, too, what has been done in Spain, where, perhaps, the works originated under the Moors, but were allowed to fall into disuse, and have been revived in late days. We see how Egypt has been saved from bankruptcy, from ruin, and utter chaos by English and French engineers, who improved upon the old works for making use of the waters of the Nile, and who have increased the production enormously. We see, in India, how irrigation has been made an insurance against famine. In 1876, or 1877, nearly 6,000,000 persons died from famine in that country, and it is reckoned to-day that such a thing is almost impossible. The water has been carried in all directions, the land has been irrigated, and the produce is so enormous that they can contemplate with equanimity the risk of future famine. In Spain the rent of land has increased from 12s. to 7 s. per acre - an enormous rent, which I do not believe that cultivators should be called on to pay ; but it it is high on account of the water law giving people the power to charge, not only rent for the land, but also rent for the water. It is against that old common law doctrine that I am raising my voice this afternoon in an effort to see if we cannot prevent its extension, or bring about its abrogation in Australia. In
California, land worth 5dol. an acre in its original state, is, when irrigated and planted with oranges, worth I,700dol., and yields from 200dol. to 400d01. per acre. In that country 50,000dol. have been paid for a perpetual right to 50 inches of water. The water is worth much more than the land, and yet here in this Federal Parliament we discuss, for months and months, that theory so obnoxious to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa - keeping the money in the country - while we have been allowing the water to flow to the sea. I appeal to the House to assist the States to keep that water in the country, and to make use of it.
– Why not the money, too?
– If we keep the water we shall keep the money. My collection of old Australian books includes a copy of Sir Thomas Mitchell’s quaint old geography designed for the use of schools in New South Wales. In his book, published in 1850, he adopted the system of question and answer known as Magnall’s. After enumerating the various counties that were then settled in New South Wales, he puts this question -
What stations have been proposed for towns outside the limits of those counties?
The answer to the question is -
The River Murray, formed of various channels, which join at certain places; such junctions present favorable sites for towns, on account of the direction of lines of thoroughfare, the eligibility being further determined by an abundant supply of water, excellent soil, etc.
It is evident that Sir Thomas Mitchell, a shrewd, experienced man, who had been over practically all this country in his day, and was ‘ an intelligent, well-read officer, looked forward to large towns being established on these rivers, on account of the water being there, and on account of the junction, as he calls it, of lines of thoroughfares at certain points; but that has not taken place.
– Everything has run to the big cities.
– If we make a proper use of the water, we shall have large cities up there. It is impossible to think that we could apply water to a country comprising millions of acres of really good land, without seeing large cities, or at any rate large towns grow up. Although the railways run along the lines of thoroughfare pointed out by Sir Thomas Mitchell, and join New South Wales arid Victoria at important points on the river ; yet, even at those junctions, we have not seen any considerable town arise. We shall never see it until we make use of the waters of the river. When I paid a visit recently to a portion of the Riverina district, I was surprised to see. how little improvement had taken place in such a magnificent territory. I saw there some of the finest land that I could wish to come across. There is no sign of population or wealth outside those places. The possessor of thousands of sheep residesthere, and makes what he can out of them, although the land would be capable of maintaining almost as many men and women as> sheep, if it were watered and cultivated. The report upon the Irrigation Investigations in California gives a very instructive picture of two classes of. land - one irrigated, and One not irrigated, the climate, soil, rainfall, and everything else being precisely the same. The Commissioners passed through two districts, one thirty-five miles long, and the other fifteen miles long, and make this comparison in their report : -
In the 35 miles traversed there were only twoschoolhouses. Attending these schools was only one child whose parents owned the land on whichthey lived. The other pupils were the children of foremen and tenants. The county superintendent told me that at these two schools there were only 15 children. These conditions of alien landlordism, tenant farming, unoccupied homes, and’ scanty population, in a country jo rich in possibilities, show a vital economic defect in methods. The situation here was in such striking contrast with what had been seen in travelling through anirrigated valley in Utah the month before^ that the difference seems worthy of statement. In a distance of 15 mil-es, along Cottonwood Creek, Utah, there was not a farm of over 30 acres. Thebouses and barns on these little farms indicated more comfort and thrift than those c.f the Sacramento Valley, where the farms are ten limes aslarge. The average population of the Utah district was over 300 people to the square mile; thedistrict traversed in California has less than ten people to the square mile. The Utah lands rangein value from $50 to $150 an acre ; the lands of” the Glenn estate, in the Sacramento Valley arebeing offered for sale from $10 to $40 an acre. Every natural advantage is in favour of California, but the Utah district is irrigated, the other is not.
If we can look upon these Commissioners, as honest, .reliable, -and capable men - and I do not see how we can regard them asanything else - we cannot help being impressed with the picture which they havedrawn. They show two tracts of country having exactly the same soil and the same rainfall, and settled by the same class of people. In the one case, there is nothing but decay and mortgages, and all the difficulties which attend farming when it does. not pay. The mortgages have gone on in creasing, the crops have decreased with the reduced rainfall,’ and general desolation has been the result. That is a common experience in connexion with these Bonanza farms, which are used very largely for wheat growing. They give good crops in good seasons, but as the soil’ becomes exhausted and the rainfall decreases owing to the clearing of the timber, there is nothing to take the place of the original resources of nature. On the other hand, in the Utah settlement, where, the land is irrigated, wealth and prosperity abound, and it would almost seem that water is the only thing that can wash mortgages off the land. Now, turning to Egypt, we find that prior to 1884 the cotton crop in Lower Egypt averaged 123,000 tons. For five years, ending 1898, the crop averaged 250,000 tons; an annual increase in money value of£5,000,000. We know that all the world is now desiring cotton, and I believe that we could grow it in Australia if we had the water. The results achieved in Egypt have been solely due to irrigation. Mr.- John McKeague, who has written a book on Practical Irrigation, comes from New Zealand, but he has gathered information from all parts of the world. In an introduction to his work, Professor Black, of -the Dunedin University, says-
The case of Egypt is a very convincing one, where they think nothing of voting a million or so for repairs alone, and talk now of constructing a dam to hold six hundred and twenty thousand million gallons - a dam half as big again as the Lake of Geneva - and all this for the Delta alone,. to irrigate its half-a-million acres.
In Italy, the Cavour Canal, constructed at a cost of two millions, now irrigates in the valleys and on the plains of Piedmont, something like two million acres, formerly parched, like the most arid parts ofthe Canterbury plains in a dry season, but now famous as one of the most productive districts in Europe.
The “ Grand Canal “ of the Ticino also, with its hundred and twenty side canals, and its network of channels and of field water-courses, leaving in the broad plains of Lombardy hardly a foot unwatered, conveys a lesson which we would do well to learn.
It is in America, however, and especially in Cali fornia and in Utah, that we findthe most convincing arguments for irrigation, the most liberal expenditure and the best results. In California alone something like£40,000,000 has been spent in irrigation works and in irrigating the land, with the result that vast areas of land, formerly worth 10s. an acre, are now, with their fruit, and grain growing, worth £30 an acre.
– Those are practically all gravitation schemes.
– Yes ; in California, India, and Egypt nearly all the large schemes are on the gravitation principle, but they use pumps in the orchards of California. They have found there a vast underground supply, and I am told by a gentleman who has recently visited that State that the orchard country is dotted all over by windmills, which are used for raising water for irrigation purposes. Now I should like to refer to India, because I feel that the success which has attended irrigation in India is notable, and should be sufficient to encourage us to some exertions with a view to making profitable use of our vast arid lands. India irrigates 6,352,737 acres, from which it derives a total revenue of , £2, 194,000. The total annual, expenditure amounts to only £457,904, and the net revenue to £1,736,097. The larger works return 7.88 per cent, interest upon the outlay, and the smaller works 4.44 per- cent. So that it will be seen that the whole of the irrigation works in India, taking the average, return twice as much as the interest charge on- the outlay. These facts, which I have taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica, are not quite up-to-date, and I have heard it stated that some of the irrigation works are now paying as much as 12 per cent, interest. The Honorable Kenneth Mackay, of New South Wales, who was quite recently in India, wrote an article which was published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 29th May. Speaking of the Godavari Canal and irrigation works, he says -
The main canals and branches represent 506 miles, the distributaries 1918 miles, and the navigable canals 493 miles, while the irrigation revenue derived is 3,380,689 rupees, and the working expense 8¼ lacs, or1¼ rupees per acre. The whole scheme, I understand, . gives a return of about 12 per cent. The farms, I believe, vary from 3 to 300 acres, in fact there seems to be no bar to size of holding, so long as rent is paid. As showing what irrigation means from the standpoint of a nation’s prosperity, it is sufficient to state that ten years before this work was completed the population decreased 25 per cent, through famine, and that now that famine is unknown in this district, the population is steadily increasing, and the people are contented and prosperous.
In order to bring this information up to the latest date, I should like to read an extract from the Times weekly edition, of 22nd April, which contains a. report of the Budget i speech delivered by Lord Curzon on 30th March. The heading of the report is - “ A
Record of Indian Progress,” and it reads as follows : -
The speech deals with the question of the internal development of India, the subject to which Lord Curzon has firmly subordinated all other preoccupations. That development is nothing short of marvellous, and merits the close attention of those who are interested in our Imperial estate, and will repay some study on the part of those who, as financiers or investors, survey the world and anticipate activities. For five years there has been a succession of surpluses, averaging ,£3,000,000 sterling per annum ; credit has, of course, improved, as is shown b the rate at which Rupee Paper loans can now be issued ; railways, which have increased by 4,650 miles, and now cover a length of 27,150 miles, have given an average surplus of ,£466,000, yielding in the last year a net revenue of ,£855,000 ; and irrigation has brought in an average net revenue of ,£823,000. In the Viceroy’s words - “ We have now secured the whole of our Indian railways and canals for nothing, and instead of costing us money they have become a steady source of income to the State.
If anything in this world can persuade the people that irrigation pays, I think it is supplied by the recent Budget speech of Lord Curzon. He points out that many works which were started in India out of the purest philanthropy in order to. succour a large starving population, have not only repaid their original cost, but have become a valuable income-producing asset to the State. That fact should give the_ authorities heart to proceed still further, until India becomes, as it certainly will, one of the most marvellous producing countries in the world. Honorable members must also recollect that as fast as these canals and water conservation works are completed, the traffic upon the railways is increased. The produce which is grown by means of irrigation is not consumed where it is grown. It requires to be carried to the railways and shipped away. All authorities upon irrigation, writing from the point of view of the political philosopher, condemn the principle of the common law affecting riparian rights. The numerous authorities whom I have consulted in looking up this question are practically unanimous in saying that nothing can safely be attempted in the way of irrigation upon a large scale without abrogating or modifying verv materially that common law. If we look at its origin, too, we shall see the necessity which’ exists for altering it. It originated in lands of fog, rain, marsh, and fen where there are no roads, no railways, no steam, where a . river frontage is frequently valuable only because of the protection which it affords to a man’s estate, and where water is valuable only as a power for driving such mechanism as wool and flour mills. This doctrine has grown up under conditions which are totally dissimilar from our own. The common law regardng riparian rights is precisely similar to the popular notion concerning individual freedom.The general idea is that a man is entitled to enjoy as much liberty as he may without trenching upon the rights of others. The popular view of that matter is probably the nearest approach we can get to the legal definition. But I hold that it is importa-.it to consider how far this principle - which may have been sound enough in its day, but which originated under circumstances in which- irrigation was quite out of the question - can be regarded as a national heritage. In Australia we are brought face to face with conditions under which, if we enforce the ordinary common law of riparian rights, we shall condemn two-fifths of the continent to permanent desolation. I ask honorable members to recollect that it is not the present conditions to which we must pay regard. Water is considered as of little importance now, but as the people discover its use - as they have done in California - I venture to say that there will be a bigger battle over water rights than has ever raged around land rights, and the fight over the latter has been sufficiently bitter at times.
– Under the common law I understand that a man is not allowed to sensibly diminish a stream to the detriment of his neighbours below.
– Upon that point I shall read some extracts which put the matter very concisely. I hold that in a country like Australia, which possesses a magnificent soil, but which in many places is subject to constantly recurring droughts, extending over long periods, during which every blade of grass disappears and stock perish by the million, we should consider whether it is a proper law to apply, and whether we do not need to evolve something which is more reasonable and more adapted to our particular circumstances. The honorable member for the Grampians has stated his view of the common law in regard to riparian rights. The question can be viewed in two ways. First, there are the ordinary riparian rights of proprietors, who live upon, the banks of a stream, and. secondly, there ‘ are the general rights of the public to navigation. I shall deal with the question of navigation first, because it is the right which in Australia we are least able to defend.’ In England navigation in the case of tidal waters is governed by rules which are contained in Acts of Parliament and Orders in Council, the latter for the most part being promulgated under the authority given by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1862. Thus the navigation of the Thames is governed by the order of 18th March, 1880; of the Mersey by the Mersey Sea Channel Act of 1874, and the order of 5th January, 1881 ; of the Tyne by the order of 12 th December, 1867 ; of the Tees by the order of 5th September, 1870; of the Humber, by the order of 23rd December, 1881 ; and of the Dock Yard Ports by the order of 6th March, 1868. It will be seen, therefore, that the tendency in Great Britain is to depart from the principle originally underlying navigation rights and to substitute statutory law. Nontidal waters, even though navigable - and I do not think it can be contended for one moment that the Murray is a tidal river - are in Great Britain prima facie private waters, in which the right of navigation does not exist as a public franchise, but can be acquired only by prescription, founded on a presumed grant by an owner. In Roman law, and in the Code Napoleon it is otherwise. Navigable rivers in those systems are always publici juris, whether tidal or non-tidal. The navigation of nontidal waters in the United Kingdom, whether natural or artificial, is now almost entirely regulated by various Navigation and Conservancy Acts, as, for example, the Thames Conservancy Acts, and the Shannon, Trent, Lee, &c, Navigation Acts. The tendency in Great Britain, therefore, is to wander away from the old principle governing navigation and riparian rights, and to make them more a matter of statutory enactment. That, of course, would not overcome the trouble with which we are confronted, in trying to protect the riparian rights of individuals residing along the course of the Murray -in South Australia against persons in Victoria, who have already taken a large share of the water. Upon this point a writer in the Encyclopaedia Britannica says -
All the riparian proprietors might combine to divert a non-navigable river though one alone could not do so as against the others, but no combination of Tiparian proprietors could defeat the right of the public to have a navigable river maintained undiverted.
By the general law applicable to running streams, every riparian proprietor has a right to what may be called the ordinary use of water flowing past his land - for instance, to the reasonable use of water for domestic purposes, and for his cattle, and this without regard to the effect which such use may have in case of a deficiency upon proprietors lower down the stream. But, further, he has a right to the use of it for any purpose, or what may be deemed the extraordinary use of it, provided he does not thereby interfere with the rights of other proprietors, either above or below him. Subject to this condition he may dam up a stream for the’ purpose of a mill, or direct the water for the purpose of irrigation. But he has no right to intercept the regular flow of the stream, if he thereby interferes with the lawful use of the water by other proprietors, and inflicts upon them a sensible injury.
The thirteen original States of America adopted the common law of England, which was found sufficient for all their purposes, until irrigation began to be pressed on the attention of those engaged in agriculture. It was then discovered to be inefficient and wholly ineffective in its operation, and so1 much opposed to public interest that the legislators of about onehalf of the States used what the lawyers described as their “power of eminent domain “ to abrogate it, and passed new laws treating water - as it is dealt with under the old Roman. civil law - as being as free as the air. and to be put to its highest possible use. When Mr. Elwood Mead and his fellowCommissioners proceeded to consider the state of agriculture in California, they had to admit that money had been wasted on irrigation, and that the population and products of various irrigation communities had largely decreased. They found it difficult at first to realize the reason for this state of affairs, but their inquiries clearly proved that it was due to the absence of any law giving safety to those who’ availed themselves of the system. They discovered that large canals had been .made in all directions by capitalists and speculators who had purchased the water rights from the original settlers. These settlers had perhaps sold their land to A, and their water rights to B, and the latter, as a speculator, had carried the water over A’s land and sold it for use on holdings perhaps ten miles distant. Such a system defeats the original principle of riparian rights. The Commissioners learned that in the course of years many original holders had parted with their rights, and that the waters of a stream were perhaps diverted and sold to a land-holder miles away, while land having a frontage to it was actually parched. Examination shows that even worse results attended the adoption of this system. Disputes are continually taking place in regard to the owner- “ ship of water, and large companies often find their rivals trying to steal their water. They fight each other iri the law courts, and the law lists are swollen with applications for injunctions and other proceedings to ‘ determine disputes in regard to waterrights. In the meantime, the cultivator of the soil finds himself iri a very awkward position. One man was asked by the Elwood Mead Commission what “Tie did when he obtained a claim, and he said, in reply, “ I bring up one or two men from Arizona who are handy with a gun, and then I try to establish my claim.” It has even been necessary to resort to arms to pro’tect water rights purchased or acquired. On the plea of “ developing water,” as they describe it, many men undermine a canal owned by others, and draw the water from it. This practice leads to disputes of such a nature that, as Mr. Mead points out, a man often spends half his time in trying to evade the sheriff, because he is Using water to which he is not entitled, or else spends it in searching for the sheriff to deal with some one who is stealing water . from him. All these facts are set forth in the report, and every standard work on agriculture points to them as being the direct result of the common law - riparian rights. In California the situation is most difficult. I read recently that ^40,000,000 had been expended there ‘ in irrigation, and that the difficulty, to which I have referred, is growing more and more intense. While we certainly experience some trouble in regard to this, matter, the position is not by any means so acute as it is in. California, and we should take care to prevent the occurrence of such a state of affairs in the Commonwealth. Before proceeding . to enact laws relating to irrigation, the Government of Canada appointed a Commissioner to visit the irrigation States of America to inspect the works, and inquire into the laws bearing on the subject. The Commissioner furnished a report, the very first line of which was in favour of the total suppression of all riparian rights in water, so that the same, being vested in the Crown, may be distributed, under well-considered Governmnent control, for the benefit of the greatest possible number. I have not been able to clearly follow the technical language employed in the Victorian Acts, but I believe that riparian rights were abrogated as far back as 1886. That abrogation relates only to grants subsequent to that year. Other legislation, dealing with water supply and conservation, was passed in this State in 1899, while similar but more effective laws were passed in New South Wales in 1896. It seems to me, however, that it will be necessary for us to take a further step. In Italy the operation of the old law, although it was not as bad as that of the English common law, was found to be so detrimental to national irrigation that the Government deemed it necessary to acquire the water rights possessed by large landed proprietors before spending any money on canals and water storage works. Here, proposals have been made to construct great conservation works. I do not say that the necessary funds are to be provided by the Commonwealth, but we know that while these works are estimated to involve a very largeexpenditure, the total cost will be found in the end to be even greater. If they are carried out, they will, be largely in the interests of a few landed proprietors. It seems to me that we cannot, by carrying out these works, in justice tax the people in order to benefit the few, and that some amendment of the laws relating to water supply must first be made, in order to extend the advantages of the system to a larger number of persons. If only a few landholders have the right to the water supplied by means of these schemes, they may dispose of that right, as has been done in California, and we may discover that in the end the man who holds the water right also holds the land.
– It is held that the common law as between individuals and a State does not apply as between sovereign States.
– Quite so ; but I think that the whole question needs to be carefully examined. Wemust evolve some system under which the Government,’ as well as private individuals, will feel more secure than they do at present in spreading money in this direction.
– Some system that will give justice to all.
– Exactly. As I have already mentioned, South Australia is chiefly interested in the question of navigation. We have the power, not merely, as Mr. Irvine contends, to make provision for rules of the road and river and for lights, and to deal with tonnage dues, but the power, and with it the correlative duty, of preserving and improving the navigation of the Murray. It is very important that we should keep that fact before us. The report of the Inter- State Commission refers to the existence of that power,- and deals with the ‘ various ways in which we should exercise it. We may avoid exercising it for a long time to come; but by doing so we shall only increase the difficulties to be faced. I agree with the honorable member for Echuca, that the only way in which we can satisfy South Australia is by meeting her in a spirit of fairness and justice, and acknowledging our obligation to keep open the river for navigation. South Australia’s right to the preservation of the navigability of the river is indorsed by the Constitution. No new right is given her by that instrument ; but her existing right is defined, and cannot be ignored. The question is one of the many which occupied the attention of the Commissioners. It seems to me that there is very little upon which they have not touched, and when they were short of data or information they had the good sense to draw attention to the fact. In that light particularly, their report is a very valuable one.’ In support of my contention that there should be an amendment of the law, I wish to read the following extract from page 47 of the Commissioners’ report : -
There was a consensus of opinion as to the need for amendment of the Common law in regard to riparian rights, or perhaps more correctly for its supersession by Statute ; but there was some divergence of opinion in detail. The following, is a brief summary of the several views : - Under the Roman Civil law the water of streams is of public right, and its appropriation by a first comer gives him a right, as against lower riparian owners. The Civil law is more conducive to the use of water in agriculture than the Common law, and would be more beneficially applicable in Australia. In arid America the Common law has been in some Stales Abolished, in some ignored, in all modified, to meet the actual’ facts. Legislation in Australia, to modify the Common law herein, should be by the Federal Legislature, but undertaken only under the advice, on the motion, and with the concurrence of the States concerned.
That seems to me to be wise advice, and sound from the lawyers’ point of view, because I do not see how we can do anything in the matter until it is referred to us by the States chiefly interested. We could pass a water law, and make it applicable only to the particular rivers we are now considering, leaving it open to the States through which those rivers flow, and to other States to extend its applicability. In the meantime we should have dealt with the case of the great dividing river, whose navigability we are absolutely bound to consider. Our first duty, however, seems to be to obtain all necessarv data. We have to consider the matter carefully and practically, and unless we have all particulars as to rainfall, watersheds, levels, flows, surveys of storage places, navigability, what is called duty of water, and other details, we shall be unable to deal practically with any scheme. It is only with the aid of such information that technically experienced men will be able to prepare or to criticise proposals put before us. In the light of that need, we should adopt the concluding recommendation of the Californian Commissioners that no work should be undertaken unless it can in all human certainty be demonstrated that it will from the first be payable. It has been stated bv the Treasurer of New South Wales, I do not know upon what authority, that in Victoria they have written off nearly£4,000,000 of capital in connexion with irrigation schemes.
– About.£1,000,000. I am speaking of irrigation schemes only.
– I thought that it had been admitted by Victorian experts that something between£2,000,000 and £4,000,000 had been written off ; but, accepting the honorable member’s correction, the state of affairs seems an unhappy one. The Commonwealth should guard against any similar loss. To show that mistakes have been made elsewhere, I would mention that the estimate of the flow of the Po, in connexion with the proposed Cavour canal, was 154,700.000,000 cubic feet, and the actual quantity’ turned out to be only one-third of that volume. Even in America, which may be called the home of modern irrigation, terrible mistakes have been made. Canals and other irrigation works remain empty and idle because the capital upon which they were commenced, turned out to be insufficient, and investors probably got tired of providing more. The discharge of the Murray at Morgan has been estimated at 455,000,000 cubic feet. If an acre, as most authorities declare, requires 65.000 cubic feet to irrigate it to a depth of eighteen inches, that discharge would irrigate only 7,000,900 acres. We should indeed be very lucky if we were able to irrigate 7,000,000 acres from the Murray, because that stream, until you get near the mouth, is a very poor one, and outside Australia would hardly be considered a river. I quite believe in the storage schemes suggested in the report. If they are carefully investigated, and proved to be reliable, we shall have a great deal more water to irrigate j with. I am prepared to do all I can, both in and out of Parliament, to forward this great movement. The honorable member for Echuca gave us an estimate of the worth of the water of the Murray as a national asset to Australia. I have approached the consideration of that question from various points of view, and have calculated that the water of the Murray is worth from £ 10,000,000 to£20.000,000 to the people of Australia. It would require an expenditure of£4,000,000 or£5,000,000 to make it available; but when we have spent that amount in utilizing the flow that now runs to waste we shall have an asset worth the sum I have mentioned. We have, been warned, however, against making excessive estimates, and Colonel Home, who reported on the Murrumbidgee scheme in New South Wales, warned the Government of that State that the same results were not to be expected there as are obtained in India, because of the want of a dense population. It seems to me that we are faced with a question similar to the old problem whether the first fowl came from an egg, or whether the first egg came from a fowl. Colonel Home says that we cannot expect much from irrigation without population, and I do not think we can expect to get population without irrigation. In other parts of the world, notably in America, the population surrounding irrigation areas was very small when the irrigation works were commenced ; but those works speedily attracted an immense amount of settlement, although I admit that there was more to draw upon there than there is here. But- if we do not carry out any great scheme in its entirety, we should have such a scheme designed, so that it may be tested, and, step by step, carried into effect, until we have at last a great national system of conservation which will make the Murray navigable throughout. The Commissioners say very definitely ‘that the locking of thi Murray will not give more water for the purpose of irrigation.
Judging by much that has from time to time appeared in the public press, there seems to be a good deal of popular misapprehension on the subject of weiring and locking the Murray, and of the benefits that might accrue therefrom. Locks have been spoken of as if they would be available for storage of the river water, and also as if the water stored’ would be available for diversion at higher levels, and at points more favourable than in the natural course. Let it be understood, once for all, that’ the weirs and locks proposed in this report will have as their essential, and, indeed, sole purpose, the maintenance of navigation.
But if reference is made to the evidence and opinions expressed elsewhere throughout the report from which I am quoting, it will be. seen that there are many views at variance with that just expressed. For instance, on page 31 . I find this statement -
An important factor affecting the duration of navigation has been the natural storage in certain lakes; a great part of which flowed out as the river-. sank, so maintaining its volume sometimes for one or two months beyond that at which navigation would otherwise have ceased. Some of these natural storages are capable of improvement and regulation, their beneficial effect upon the navigability of the river being thereby extended.
It will be seen that this is nothing but the same system of locks which keeps tiie back land covered with water, which is available later on. There is a similar statement on page 42, where reference is made to the filling of lakes near the Darling’ by the proprietors of the Avoca station. That action kept the river navigable for a considerable time. Then on page 51., the Honorable Alfred Catt gives this evidence - he isbeing questioned by Mr. Burchell : -
At present 4 feet of water is required at Morgan for navigation purposes; do you know that is equal to 340,000 cubic feet per minute; with locks you would not require anything near as much as that? His reply was, “ T do not think so.”
My contention is that if locks are used, the only loss of water that takes place is that which escapes in the process of opening and shutting, plus the amount which evaporates, and which must be lost in any case. Mr. Burchell, at page 59, says -
The weiring and locking of the rivers would not only allow of these requirements being amply provided for, but will give more water to the riparian States for conservation and irrigation.
I have, therefore, proved to my own satisfaction at least, that the Commissioners are wrong in the contention that no water can be gained by a system of locking. Such a system would conserve surplus water in billabongs, lakelets, and swamps. Water could not be better stored than in swamps, where the ground will absorb it, and where the evaporation is as little as possible.
– The contention was that the weirs would not make the water available for irrigation purposes.
– But they lost sight of the fact that we were not dealing with a lock near the mouth of the Murray, but with a succession of locks extending up the river. The water conserved would not be only that which was contained in the river, but also that retained in the billabongs and lakelets. If a certain quantity of water were allowed to escape, in order to allow a barge to pass through a lock, we should lose it; but if the river were not locked we should be losing an equal quantity of water every moment. I submit that we shall have to’ keep the river open for the purposes of navigation, and that the other States may safely meet the South Australian people by stating that they will do the best they can to that end. At the same time, they’ must point out that . the time may come - and this is a point which I wish to specially emphasize - such as that- which we passed through two or three years ago, when even the rights of navigation will have to go by the board. If we, in New South Wales, were again brought face to face with drought conditions, such as those of a year or two ago, and we thought it necessary to divert water through various channels over the Riverina country, no laws would stop us. It had better be understood at once that whilst everything would be done to keep the river open for navigation as long as possible, we should divert the river waters if we found that it was absolutely necessary for the preservation of stock or of human life. I should like, in conclusion, to refer to the opinion expressed at the close of the recent controversy between the . Honorable
I venture with submission to point out to you that you are mistaken in supposing that the maintenance of navigation necessarily involves the waste of millions of tons of water which yearly flow into the ocean, and which should be utilized to enrich vast acres. The desire of this Government is that not a drop of water should be wasted.
I think that there was a declaration of policy which is agreeable to most of those advocating water conservation. He proceeds in these memorable words, with which I conclude -
The situation is not narrowed to the dangerous alternatives you suggest. It has been demonstrated by scientific authority that the river affords every natural facility for locking, and that when this is done navigation will be secured without the waste of any of the water which is so valuable to all the States. Which I ask is the juster proposition - that in order to fertilize their own lands, the upper riparian States should devastate South Australia, or that they should join in adopting such measures to regulate the flow of this great water system, as will enable all the riparian States to continue to enjoy in harmony the benefits which it confers? Let the spirit of natural comity, which should find its highest expression among the sister States of the Commonwealth supply the answer. I entertain the profound belief that the solvent principle of justice which has ever prevailed in British communities, will reduce our present difficulties to nought, and that no part of the Commonwealth shall suffer wrong.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Batchelor) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 26th May (vide page 1610), on motion by Mr. Crouch -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Australian Hag as officially selected should be flown upon all forts, vessels, saluting places, and public buildings of the Commonwealth upon all occasions when flags are used’.
Motion (by Mr. Bamford) proposed -
That the debate be adjourned.
– I object to the adjournment, of the debate, because I wish to say a few words by way of reply, and then submit the motion to a vote. I understand that the debate was adjourned on a former occasion in order to permit the honorable member for Swan to give us the reasons for his impression that the Imperial
Government might object to the use of the Commonwealth flag in the way indicated in the motion.
– I shall put the motion proposed by the honorable member for Herbert. If the honorable and learned member objects to the adjournment of the debate, the proper course for him to adopt would be to vote against it.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).- I do not desire in any way to interfere with the discussion of this motion. I understand that the honorable member for Swan proposed to give us some reasons for his impression that the Imperial Government might object to the substitution of the Australian flag for the Royal Standard. He evidently forgot, however, that the Australian flag had been approved of by the Imperial authorities. The dislike expressed by some honorable members for the design of the Australian flag does not affect the motion, because, even if a new flag were selected, it might still apply. Personally, I regard the present flag with approval, because I think that it is sufficiently distinctive. I am very glad that the Prime Minister sees no objection to giving effect to the desire expressed in the motion, and I would ask honorable members to support me in placing it on record.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. FISHER laid upon the table the following paper: -
Provisional regulations under the Patents Act, dated 31st May, 1904.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - negatived.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 1 st June, vide page 1836) :
Clause 4, as amended -
In this Act, except where otherwise clearly intended - “ Industrial dispute “ means a dispute in relation to industrial matters -
arising between an employer or an organization of employers on the one part and an organization of employees on the other part, or
certified by the Registrar as proper in the public interest to be dealt with by the Court, and extending beyond the limits of any one State, including disputes in relation to employment upon State railways, or to employment in industries carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State, or any public authority constituted under” the Commonwealth or a State.
– I move-
That the following words be added to paragraph b : - “ But it does not include a dispute relating to employment in any agricultural, viticultural, horticultural, or dairying pursuit.”
My object is to exempt the farming industries of Australia from the operation of the Bill, the object of which is to provide machinery for the settlement of disputes as to wages and hours of work extending beyond any one State, While there is, doubtless, a good deal to be said in favor 6f legislation of that kind in connexion with large industries in which considerable capital has been invested, I contend that the farming industry differs very materially from those industries. Conditions, which may be laid down without loss to the latter, cannot advantageously be applied to the former. In the farming industry there is no large aggregation of men employed under one master, nor is there a large amount of capital invested by each employer. Few outside hands are employed, save for a brief period of the year. The mainstay of the industry is the farmer himself and his family. In other words, the farming industry is chiefly a family industry. It is evident, therefore, that the conditions which prevail in a large city business in which hundreds and, perhaps, thousands of men are engaged under one roof, do not obtain where one man only and his. family are employed. The farmer, I repeat, is the employer, and usually he labours much harder than do the rest. He frequently works longer hours than does any man in his employment. -The fact that it is a family industry, to my mind, creates a very great distinction between the farming industry and city industries. It also renders it impossible to arbitrarily fix the hours of labour and the rates of pay of workers in the industry. If we attempt to impose such conditions, we shall render it impossible for a large number of farmers to carry on their avocations. Usually, the sons of farmers work for their fathers without any definite wage, but in the expectation of future reward. Indeed, a large number of the farmers of Victoria are not pos-. sessed of the readv cash to en- able them to pay a fixed wage. It is undeniable that many farmers in the northern parts of this State would have been absolutely unable to comply with any order of an Arbitration Court which fixed definite wages or hours of labour in their industry. Many of those settled in the Mallee were without any return for their labour for years.
– What about the present season ?
– I admit that they are now enjoying a good season, but we have to take into consideration the lean years with the fat. The Mallee farmers have experienced seven lean years, in some of which they obtained no crop whatever. If an arbitrary scale of wages were imposed in connexion with the farming industry, the bulk of them would be driven off the land. I would further point out that, in many parts of the country, reciprocal arrangements exist between farmers, under which one man may assist another without any pay. The adoption of a hard and fast rule regarding the wages to be paid would prevent effect being given to these sensible arrangements, which constitute a very great boon in many cases. There is still another feature connected with farming operations which makes it impossible to restrict the hours of labour in that industrv. It is to a great extent dependent upon weather conditions. It sometimes happens that the farmer, his sons, and even his daughters, have to work for inordinately long hours in order to harvest the crop before the weather breaks, and thus save the product of their labour from destruction. In such circumstances, it would be impossible for them to comply with any arbitrary limit as to the hours of labour. They could not apply for an exemption from the common rule, because no person can determine from one day to another what will be the weather conditions. Consequently any limitation of the hours of labour must result in injury to the producers. Those who have been engaged in irrigation must be aware that when the time comes for turning the water upon the land, a very long spell of work must be undertaken. I have two brothers who were farming upon irrigated land. When the time arrived for them to apply . water to the land, they usually had to labour continuously for eighteen to twenty hours. Under such circumstances it is impossible to fix any definite hours of labour.
– What is to prevent them from working two shifts?
– The honorable member must recollect that it is impossible to work two shifts in the country districts. If two young farmers are engaged together, and there is- only one employe, they cannot work two shifts. They are all engaged for eighteen hours at a stretch under such circumstances. It would be the height of stupidity to urge that the two farmers should labour continuously for a protracted period, but that their employé should not exceed a certain maximum of hours.
– Would not the Court take all these facts into consideration?
– It might. I hold, however, that it is absolutely impossible to get the various views of the farmers placed before any such tribunal. There are men in Australia engaged in farming pursuits from the north of Queensland to thesouthernmost point of Tasmania, and it is impossible for them to place the varying conditions of their industry before any Arbitration Court. Consequently, it is idle to talk of that tribunal being seized of their views upon any matter.
– How can a farming dispute extend beyond one State ?
– If a dispute between a farmer and his employes is not likely to extend beyond the limits of any one State, no harm can result from the adoption of my amendment. I would further point out that in many cases it is impossible for the farmer to say - when the work of sowing the crop is performed - whether he will secure any return for his labour.
– That applies to manufactures, too.
– But not to anything like the same extent. In manufacturing industries, the partially manufactured material is at least worth something. I know farmers in my own district who have ploughed their land, and drilled the crop in, and who, after six months of solid work, have obtained no reward whatever for their labour. These are not isolated cases. A very large number of our farmers were in that position a year or so back, when the State Government had to come to their assistance bv advancing them seed wheat to the value of £100,000. How, then, can it be urged that it is fair to fix an arbitrary rate of pay, or an arbitrary scale of hours, as applied to this industry, when at the very time that a large portion of the work is performed the farmers are absolutely in the dark as to whether they will receive any return?
– What about the mining companies ?
– In the case of mining companies there is always a possibility of their securing a much greater reward than there is in the case of the farmer. I wish further to point out that the policy of -closer settlement will suffer a very severe check if this clause be applied to the farming industry. When the honorable member for Echuca occupied the position of Minister of Lands in Victoria, he purchased, on behalf of the Government, three or four estates. Two of these are in the electorate which I have the honour to represent. These estates were subdivided, and farmers settled upon them. It would be an object lesson to most honorable members if they could see the work that has been done on these estates, particularly upon the Wando Vale estate. In my opinion, it constitutes one of the finest examples ‘in Australia of what can be accomplished by closer settlement. The men who took up land there were compelled to pay a considerable sum of money down. For the first year or so they had to live very economically, and to work long hours in order that they might establish themselves. Now, however, they are prospering. But when they commenced operations, it would have been impossible for them to obey the dictates of any Arbitration Court which fixed the hours of labour or the rates of pay. In an industry like this, in which the farmers themselves constitute the bulk of the workers, why should we endeavour to prescribe hours of labour and rates of pay. Restrictions of this character are bound to seriously check the development of that closer settlement policy which we in Victoria regard as a means of overcoming some of our difficulties. Another danger is that by adopting the Government proposal we shall check our export trade. The interest upon the huge debt of Victoria is paid . largely by the export of wheat and other farming product which is sold in the London market. Our producers have to compete there against the whole world, and consequently should* be allowed to carry on their avocations with as little restriction as is possible. In Coghlan ‘s Australia and New Zealand, page 254, I find information which shows the extent to which our farmers are subjected to competition in the markets of the world. In 1892, Great Britain imported^ 5,396,000 tons of wheat and flour, of which only ,4 per cent, came from’ Australia. The largest proportion of these imports in any year from, Australia into Great Britain represents only 9 per cent. The balance is obtained from the United States, Canada, the Argentine Republic, Austria, and- Russia. In none of these countries are the farmers hampered by restrictions as to Hours of labour and rates of pay. Moreover, the seasons there are not so treacherous as they are in Australia. If this proposal be adopted, all these countries will be upon a better footing than Australia in three very material respects. In the first place, they are much closer to the markets of the world; secondly, they enjoy much more reliable seasons ; and, thirdly, they are free from the restrictions relating to hours of labour and rates of pay. According to Coghlan, page 431, Great Britain imported during the year 1902 no less than £3 I,350,000 worth of butter, of which Australia supplied only 6 per cent. Our largest contribution to the butter imports of the United Kingdom was in 1900, when we sent 10 per cent, of the total supplies. Our chief competitors in the markets of Great Britain are Denmark, Russia, France, Holland. Sweden, and Canada, and in not one of those countries are arbitration laws or Factory Acts applied to the farming industries.
– They . have a very rigid inspectional system in Holland.
– That relates only to dairies. The producers of Victoria are now discussing with the Director of Agriculture, the provisions of a Dairy Inspection Bill, and it is probable that, from that discussion, good will result to the whole industry. One of our most serious competitors in the butter market is Russia, which sends large supplies from Siberia. In 1898, it supplied only 5 per cent, of the British imports, but in 1902, its contribution amounted to 12 per cent. These supplies are steadily increasing, and we have, therefore, a very dangerous competitor in that one country. If we insist upon proposals of this kind, we shall still further hamper those industries which pay the bulk of the interest on our public debt. The greater the facilities offered for the output of farm produce, and for its shipment to other countries, the better will it be for every citizen of the Commonwealth, whether he be resident in city or country.. Those engaged in the fruit and colonialwine industry are also fighting hard to place their goods on the markets of the world, and we certainly should not increase- their difficulties. As I have already mentioned, certain members of my family have . been engaged in fruitgrowing, and although rosy pictures have been drawn of the money made from this branch of industry, they know from sad experience that one has to work very hard in order to secure little more than a bare subsistence. If legislation be passed to fix the hours of labour and rates of pay of those engaged in farming industries, they will have a still harder row to hoe. So far as I am aware, the farming industry has not! been brought under any State Factory or Arbitration Act.
– It has in New South Wales.
– And also in New Zealand.
– The farming industry of New Zealand has not been brought under the provisions of the local Arbitration Act.
– Yes, it has.
– Provision has been made for the industry to be brought under the control of the Court, but there is no award dealing with it, nor has any attempt been made to bind the industry in that way. Why was a powerful farmers’ union formed in New Zealand? Simply to prevent the application of the provisions of the Arbitration Act to the farming industry.
– But the New Zealand Act does apply to the industry.
– The union was formed to prevent the extension of the Act to the farmers.
– It could not prevent anything of the kind. The law exists, and can be applied to the farmers if anybody considers it necessary to take action. If a grievance occurs, the honorable and learned member may rest assured that the law will soon be put in motion. .
– If in New Zealand it has not been considered desirable to extend the provisions of the Act to the farming industry, surely we should not include the industry within the scope of this Bill. This matter has again and again been before the electors of Victoria. It has also been discussed in the Victorian Legislature; and every attempt to extend factory . legislation in this direction has been defeated by a majority of two to one. I read the speeches of most of the candidates at the Victorian general elections which took place yesterday; but, so far as I am aware, not one of them advocated the application of industrial legislation to this industry. The pledged labour candidate for Glenelg - which forms part of my electorate - distinctly stated that he would be no party to bringing any of the farming industries under the operation of the Factories Act. All who have been brought into contact with farming pursuits must recognise that the Government proposal is really impracticable. The question is of very great importance to the producing interests of Victoria, and if the farming industry be brought under the operation of the measure a very grave blow will be struck at the producing interests of all the States. I therefore urge the Prime Minister to accept my amendment. I believe that, even from his own point of view, it would be wise for him to do so, for he would thus give immense satisfaction to thousands of farmers in Victoria who view the passing of this measure with apprehension, fearing that their industries may be brought under the heel of the proposed Court.
.I desire to say that the Government will oppose the amendment by every means in their power. I am almost as familiar with rural conditions as is anyhonorable member in this Chamber, and I assert that, instead of there being, as the honorable and learned member for Wannon would have us believe, widespread opposition to this proposal in the farming districts, there is, at all events in my own electorate, a very strong feeling that something ought to be done for the benefit of those who labour on farms. I can speak only with certainty in regard to the position of affairs in my own State, and I know that the condition of many farm labourers in New South Wales’ is pitiable in the extreme. Many of these men work from day light to dark for very small wages, and in many instances are without proper housing and accommodation.
– What wage do they receive ?
– As low as 7s., 8s., 10s., and12s. a week.
– I know of a case in which a farm labourer is receiving only 5s. a week.
– They must be very incompetent.
– Why do not they come to Victoria ?
– I do not know that the wages paid to farm labourers in Victoria are princely, and it is not always due to incompetence that men receive low wages.
As a rule, low wages are due to an oversupplied labour market. The dairying industry is likely, under present conditions, to leave a distinct impress of evil upon the life of Australia, unless the public conscience be aroused. The condition of affairs in some of the dairying districts is most awful, at all events, so far as many children are concerned.
– Will this Bill reach that state of affairs?
– I shall deal later on with that aspect of the matter. I remember on one occasion driving, with a number of others, through a dairying district in New South Wales, and seeing a lad, apparently about twelve years of age, lying fast asleep on the roadside, close to a couple of creamcans, intended for conveyance to a central factory. As we approached him, the driver cracked his whip, and did his utmost to arouse him from the deep sleep into which he had fallen. This was about 8 a.m., but notwithstanding all our efforts, we could not awaken the lad. The light delivery waggon which collected the cans of cream was immediately behind us, and the driver of- it had to jump from his seat and lift up the lad before he could awaken him.
– ite was a lazy lad.
– The honorable member surely does not know what it means to be called out to work, as many of these youngsters are, at 4 a.m.
– And yet they are the healthiest in the State.
– They make the best men we have in the State.
– What kind of citizens are they likely to become? Of what value are they likely to be, so far as their intellectual qualifications are concerned, if they have to attend school when they are overborne with a desire to sleep? What chance is there, under such circumstances, for a lad to become a good citizen?
– Rubbish !
– One swallow does not make a summer.
– Every man tells the same tale.
-It may be the case in New South Wales, but it is not so in Victoria.
– The same state of affairs exists in Victoria.
– At a conference of teachers, which was recently held in Victoria, striking testimony was given on this point. Every teacher who dealt with the subject, almost without exception, gave the same evidence, and a like state of affairs is portrayed as existing in New South Wales by those best able to judge of the effect of this system on children in country districts. I do not for one moment suggest that the industry is beyond redemption; but I assert that one of the gravest problems with which we are confronted is the fact that over a large area we find school children employed in the early hours of morning, as well as at night, in performing duties relating to dairy work. In such circumstances, they really gain no benefit from their studies, while the children of larger growth, and the adults are, for the most part, compelled to work 365 days in the year. The worst aspect of the industry is that which relates to the wives of the dairymen. I visited a creamery in New South Wales some little time ago, and the woman in charge informed me that she with her family had to milk a great number of cows and attend to the work of separating the cream from the milk, and despatching it to the market. She declared that it was the most laborious task that she had ever faced. It was not that the work on any particular day was, specially heavy, but that she and her family had to attend to these duties every day in the year. At first sight it does not appear possible to find a way out of this undoubtedly grave position of affairs. I admit that there are many difficulties in the way ; but possibly an inventive genius will come to our aid, and produce something that will mitigate the severity of the strain to which these persons are subjected.
– Something to milk the cows on Sundays, and so forth?
– I dare say that even the honorable member will realize that we may possibly secure satisfactory machinery to lessen the extent of the work.
– And do away with labour.
– We trust that every person will welcome that which reduces labour, as long as the return from labour is not affected. It will only be necessary to secure a re-adjustment of the present conditions in order to enable every one to welcome labour-saving machinery. I have never indorsed any objection to laboursaving machinery. The more it can be adopted the better, to my way of thinking, though the community should take care that the right person owns the machines.
– Does the Prime Minister think that those engaged in dairying opera- tions are agreeable to being brought under the Bill?
– If the honorable member means the employers, who, in many instances, are, under the present system, able to obtain an advantage at the expense of their employes, I do not think so ; but the employes, so far as I -have been able to learn, are strenuously anxious to obtain legislation which will protect them from the result of the insane competition which obtains under present conditions. I do not say that the dairy farmers are getting fat at the expense of their employes. Those who really take the cream are the landlords, and every increase in the cost of production will be borne by them, because it will be paid for out of the rent.
– What proportion of -dairy farmers are tenants?
– Speaking from personal experience, a very large proportion. One gentleman in Victoria who owns dairying land is reputed to allow the tenant farmers who use that land on the share system one-fourth or one-fifth of the total amount received from- the factory, he finding the land and the tows.
Mr.Skene. - But what do they make outof it?
– Not much, so far as I can learn. That is why it is hardly possible for them to pay decent wages.
– The Arbitration Court will have no power to fix rents.
– No. But if a movement sets in for the increasing of wages, and the improvement of the conditions of the dairying industry, it must be paid for out of the excessive rentals now charged by landlords. In New South Wales quite a number of tenants are paying from 30s. to £2 per acre per annum for dairying land. It is evident that such tenants are not making their fortunes, and that they are compelled to pay low wages. It would, of course, be absurd to say that the dairying industry does not give good returns ; because in country suited to it the returns are very good. But are we going to fatten the landlords all the time? If that is to be our policy, we must support the ad misericordiam appeal of the honorable and learned member for Wannon.
– The great bulk of the dairy farmers are not tenants.
– That statement may be true of the Victorian dairy farmers ; butmost of the New South Wales dairy farmers are tenants. Down the Illawarra coast they are nearly all tenants, or farmers on the share system. I have had experience of farm work. As a lad I worked on farms, as well as in other places, and all my brothers are now working on farms in New Zealand. I know, therefore, something about the farming conditions in that Colony. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has told us that the New Zealand Arbitration Act does not apply to farmers.
– No. I said that they have not been brought under the Court. No award applicable to the farming industry has been made in New Zealand.
– The honorable and learned member proceeded to say that a farmers’ union had been formed in New Zealand to prevent the farming industry from being brought under the Arbitration Court; but no union could do anything of the kind.
– I admit that. What I said was that no attempt has been made to apply the decisions of the Arbitration Court to the farming industry. The farmers’ union of New Zealand was formed to checkmate any attempt to do so.
– The farmers’ union could not checkmate any such attempt.- At any time a union might be formed which could petition the Court, and then ‘100 farmers’ unions could not prevent the decision of the Court fr om taking effect. I admit that in New Zealand conditions differ somewhat from those prevailing in Australia. Probably the Victorian conditions are more like those of New Zealand than are any others. The New Zealand climate gives a more reasonable certainty- of a return than exists here. There has been no appeal to the New Zealand Arbitration Court by the farm employes of the Colony, because, practically speaking, they have no grievances. To my- knowledge they have had what is virtually the eight hours system on the farms of Southern New Zealand at least, since I was a lad.
– On the dairy farms?
– No; “but in connexion with ordinary farming operations, except at harvest-time. A man who is engaged in carting or ploughing is required to feed his horses before breakfasting ; but he does not leave the stable until 8 o’clock, and leaves the field again at 5 o’clock. At harvest time the hours are longer ; but the men employed then are paid by the hour. Men there receive what here would be thought magnificent wages. A brother-in-law of mine last harvest paid rs. 3d. an hour and found to his ordinary hands.
– Two-and-sixpence an hour has been paid in the Canterbury province.
– Yes. For years past high wages have obtained in the farming industry in New Zealand, and consequently there have not. been the causes for complaint that exist here.
– It is only for a few days, when the crops are being carted in, that those wages are paid.
– They obtain throughout th-i harvesting and threshing season. At other times of the year wages run from 25s. to 35s. a week, and found.
– If the carters and ploughmen have to attend to their horses before they take them out in the morning, and again after they bring them back at night, and are away eight hours, they must work at least ten hours a day, so that the conditions there are practically the same as they are here.
– Here on most farms the men are called upon to work from daylight to dark.
– They are not required, to feed their horses before dinner.
– I am not speaking merely of the feeding of horses. As a general thing, farm labourers work from daylight to dark, and we must contemplate the possibility of some movement being made by them to better their conditions. That a union of farm labourers is possible1 has been demonstrated by what has occurred in the old land. Who of us has not heard nf the great work accomplished by Joseph Arch and others in connexion with the agricultural labourers of England? And who does not know of the dire results which flowed from the failure to secure adequate recognition of their Tights? The landlords retained their grip of the position, and without legislation the unions of labourers accomplished very little. Consequently they resorted to immigration, with the result that tens of thousands of sturdy yeomen, the best of England’s population, left their native land.
– The same thing is taking place in Victoria at the present time.
– Yes. We find that the active, young, energetic male population of Victoria is disappearing as fast as it can get away, notwithstanding that they have no arbitration law.
– There are twenty applicants for every piece of land made available for settlement.
– I admit that. I do not for a moment mean to say that the emigration from Victoria is due wholly to the want of an arbitration law, or to the present condition of the labouring population. I agree with the honorable member that it is necessary for the Government of the State and for the Governments of other States to take immediate steps towards opening up the land and preventing monopoly.
– They are doing so. The land is being opened up.
– Under rack-renting conditions which seem to be approved of by the honorable member, but which, to my mind, give very little prospect of effective settlement.
– The Prime Minister cannot call a thirty-years’ purchase system rack-renting.
– It depends upon the amount of the purchase money.
– Men would not go on to the land unless they thought it a good thing to do.
– Under the old legislation in regard to the Irish lands they gave twenty-one years’ purchase.
– Under the closer settlement provisions of the Victorian land law men are being allowed thirty and a-half years in which to pay for their land.
– That is where men take land from the Government. I had in my mind the conditions under which some of the private land-holders are disposing of their land. But whether it is possible to secure effective settlement by cutting up Government land depends upon the price at which it is offered to the settlers. The price must be such as will permit them to make a living off the land. If values are inflated, effective settlement will be impossible. It is well known that the Irish contracts were materially reduced by the Irish Land Commission before the resumption which has lately been brought about. In many cases the reduction amounted to 40 per cent. The conditions given in Ireland are more liberal than those given in Victoria, and the latest cables show that the Irish land policy has had a marked effect in preventing emigration. Only a few days ago we were informed that there was a marked reduction in the number of emigrants from Ireland last year. One remark made by the honorable member is worthy of attention. He stated that it was impossible to fix the hours of labour in connexion with the farming industry. Within certain limits I agree with him. I would point out, however, that we may fairly assume that any Judge who may be asked to adjudicate upon a petition brought before him under this Bill, will, bear in mind the conditions of the industry. Is it to be supposedthat we shall take from the High Court Bench an absolute fool, and charge him with the duty of giving decisions under this measure? We could not conceive of a Judge who would do other than take into consideration all the surroundings of an industry before deciding, and there should be no difficulty in arranging that the normal hours might be so-and-so, but that if an emergency arose the men might work longer, and be paid accordingly.
– “ Mav “ work, and not “shall” work?
– It is always “may” now. Luckily for the people of Australia we have no system of serfdom in existence here, by which men can be forced to work - except by. the pressure of hunger. Therefore, after all, we are dependent upon the word ‘* may,” and “ shall “ is impossible of use in this connexion. No sensible Judge could do other than make allowance for all the conditions of an industry. We do not find that any outrageous decisions have been given by the Arbitration Court in New South Wales. There may be room for objection to the decisions of the Court on minor matters, but so far as the general decisions are concerned, I am glad to be able to indorse the assertion, recently made by the honorable member for Darling, that the most that has been so far done by the Court has been to fix, as a general rule, what fair employers have previously paid to their hands. That is, they have made the’ unfair, rapacious, and sweating employer pay what the fair employer was previously giving. That is the most that has been done so far, and that is the most that -we can expect in that direction from any Arbitration Court. Although I have been strongly in favour of compulsory arbitration for many years, I do not believe that we can by this Bill secure rates of wages that will give satisfaction to every one who is labouring for his living. I think, however, that it will afford us some chance of securing just as much as an industry can afford, and that we shall not get below living conditions when the Court is making its awards. In all industries there must be a minimum wage, below which it is impossible to go, and expect a man to live and at the same time be a good citizen. Having arrived at that minimum, the Court may say, “You shall at least pay the minimum,” or they may fix as much more as the industry can stand. It has been urged that the farmer in putting in his crop has no guarantee that he will secure any return. No doubt it is one of the unfortunate aspects of Australian agricultural life* that the farmer does not know what the year will bring forth. Even if his crop is abundant the prices may be low. Unfortunately for the regulation of human affairs, the same uncertainty prevails in many other walks of life.
– But not to the same extent.
– I am not so sure that the uncertainty in the case of the farmer is not counterbalanced by other conditions. It stands to reason that people would not go farming unless there were a chance of occasionally making a big haul.
– They do not increase wages when they get a bumper crop.
– No, except so far as the competition for labour that may result from an extraordinarily large crop may compel them to give higher rates of pay. Nearly every industry is subject to similar vicissitudes, and those engaged in them have to run the risk of sometimes securing no return.
– The landlord suffers as much as does the tenant under the halves system. If there is no crop the landlord gets no return.
– No doubt; but a large proportion of the landlords in the dairying industry do not work on the halves system. The tenant has to pay his rent whether he gets a high or low price for his cream or “milk. A good deal of grain farming is carried on by tenants who are simply leaseholders, and who do not work on the halves or share system.
– But the Prime Minister has been declaiming against the halves system as if it were the general rule in New South Wales.
– I said that a large proportion of the dairying in New South Wales was carried on under the share system - not under the halves system. There are a number of tenant farmers on the south coast who do not work on the halves system, but pay rent in the’ ordinary way. The argument I was putting forward was that the landlord would be called upon, by reduction of rent, to make good any increase of wages that might be insisted upon under the award of the Court.
– The landlord may very well be trusted to look after himself.
– No doubt. My argument was not so much dependent on whether the tenants were working on the share system, or paying a fixed rental, as upon the fact that they existed as tenants in one form or another. The honorable and learned member for Illawarra can substantiate my statement that the majority of the dairy farmers in the south coast are tenants.
– Yes, a great proportion of them ; but there are also a large number of small land-holders.
– Certainly ; but of the area utilized for dairying in the south coast district, it will be found that the greater proportion of the land is leased by tenants.
– I do not think that the share system prevails there at all.
– The share system prevails largely on the north coast. For that statement I have the authority of men who own land there, and who work it on the share system.
– Not a quarter of it is worked on that svstem.
– I only know what is said by men who are engaged in the business.
– I have lived on the north coast.
– How long ago?
– Up to about three years ago. Mr. WATSON. - Within the last three years two gentlemen of my acquaintance, who have land on the north coast, have told me that they are working it on the share system, and have testified to the extent to which it is being resorted in’ connexion with the dairying industry in that part of New South Wales. That, however., is not the point. The question was whether the farmers owned the land, or held it on some terms or other from the owners ; and I advanced the contention, to which I still adhere, that the greater number of the dairy farmers in New South Wales are working as tenants. The point upon which I was speaking was with regard to farmers having no certainty of a return for their labour, and I was pointing out that equal uncertainty attached to other forms of industry. Take mining, for instance. We know that at the outset of almost any ordinary metalliferous mining enterprise, it is always a toss up whether or not any return will be obtained. It is practically a gamble, and four or five years may be occupied in performing development work before any return can be even hoped for.
– But the Prime Minister will admit that the mine-owner takes the chance.
– Similarly, the farmer takes the chance whether he gets a poor yield or a good one. I’ do not wish to pretend that the farmers of Australia are making fortunes, but I do say that, in many cases in my own district, they could extend much better conditions to their employes. I do not suppose there are many industries in respect of which machinery has been developed in such a marked degree as in farm ing during the last few years. This is especially the case in the central districts of New South Wales, where the farmers have not the same heavy country to deal with as have agriculturists in some parts of the coast. Most of us can remember the scythe as the accepted implement for cutting down crops. I -even saw a sickle in use only a year or two ago in the electorate of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. Then we had the back-delivery reaper, and afterwards advanced to the wire or string binder. For some time past we have had the stripper, and now we have the combined harvester. Each of these, in succession, has had the effect of reducing the cost of handling the crop, so far as labour is concerned, and the actual amount spent in wages by a farmer, with 400 or 500 acres devoted to wheat growing - with perhaps the greater proportion of his land under crop, and with only a small portion of it lying fallow - is very small indeed. He would probably employ two or three men for two or three weeks at harvest time, and for the rest of the year his outlay on labour would be scarcely worth mentioning. This would apply, at any rate, so far as the central districts are concerned. I admit that in the coastal districts, where the rainfall is greater, and more intense cultivation is possible, the farmer has to spend a much greater amount in wages in order to make his land reproductive, and to justify the large amount of interest he has to pay on his purchase money. or the large rental which has to be given to his landlord. I admit that, under these conditions, wages may be a much greater charge than in the central districts where the circumstances are such as I have indicated. In the coastal districts, however, the farmers have better land and better climatic conditions, and, consequently, are in a better position to conform to any award that the Court may make. It is not as though the community did nothing for the farmer. We have done a great deal for him, and we are justified in doing a great deal. I have, for ten years past, represented a farming constituency, and I have always been an advocate of helping the farmer as far as possible. I am very glad to say that, in the New South Wales Legislature, we were, to a very large extent successful in this direction. In New South Wales - and I suppose it is much the same in Victoria - we charge much lower railway rates for the carriage of farming produce, generally speaking, than are levied on other goods. We carry one ton of wheat 300 miles for about 13s.
– But the Government charge him about £4 per ton for the carriage of his sugar.
– Quite so; but as the farmer produces many tons of wheat, and requires very few tons of sugar, he is not particularly worried by the freight upon sugar.
– What is the charge per bushel upon wheat? Does the Prime Minister know?
– For the distance mentioned between 4d. and5d. per bushel, I think; but I am speaking from memory only. The State assists the farmer as much as possible in many directions.
– Federation has not assisted him.
– I admit that, but I hope that the Commonwealth will yet have an opportunity of rendering the farming community a little assistance also.
An Honorable Member. - Will they be assisted by this Bill?
– Yes. I do not think that the Government proposal is likely to injure the farmers very much, otherwise I should not bring it forward.
– The honorable gentleman surely contends that it will not injure him at all.
– That is so. In Victoria, an example has been set - and one which is worthy of emulation - by the com- pleteness of the Export Department which was created here some years ago. Still, there is room for improvement in the conduct of that Department, as was evidenced by the fate of the farmers at the hands of private enterprise, as disclosed in the records of the Butter Commission. Nevertheless, an effort has been made to do something for them . in that direction. In New South Wales, too, I would point out that experimental farms have been established. In my own district, there is, at Wagga, one of these institutions, and it has materially assisted the farmers to an appreciation of what is possible in agriculture, without irrigation, by the scientific use of manures, by proper tilth, and by the adoption of different methods of treating land. Again, colleges have been established, to which’ lads may be sent to obtain an agricultural training. In all these instances the State has endeavoured to extend to the farmer some advantages. But beyond that it has gone to the length of interfering with private enterprise, by the creation of State land banks in Victoria, New South Wales, and elsewhere, for the purpose of supplying him with cheap money.
– But those institutions involve no expense to the general community.
– That is so, but nevertheless they are an extremely valuable aid to the farmer. That experiment constitutes an interference with private enterprise. It is an interference to extend the machinery of the State to the farmer for hisbenefit.
An Honorable Member. - The State has not extended the same consideration to others.
– But I hope that some day we shall have State banks, which will be accessible to all classes of the community.
An Honorable Member. - By means of the Canadian note system?
– I dare ‘say that the adoption of that system would, in a moderate degree, assist the honorable member in shedding his present ideas. At a later stage I should , not be surprised to see him accept a scheme which is proved to be to the benefit of the State. But even the Federation may do something for the farmer. At the present time there is a motion upon the businesspaper in the name of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, affirming the desirability of establishing a national agricultural bureau. No one can read what has been done in that direction in America without sympathising with his desire to have an institution founded in the Commonwealth which can render valuable service to the community, without in the meantime involving it in any vast expenditure. All these facts show that the farmer has not been neglected by the legislative machine in the various States.
– He is the father of the family.
– I admit that; butI. say that we have shown a proper appreciation of the importance of the farmer to the community, by extending to him these aids. I do not say that any one of them, in itself, would surmount the farmers’ difficulties, but nevertheless they are all material helps to the successful carrying on of the farming industry. What do the Government ask in this Bill ? Simply that, in case of any dispute which extends beyond the limits of any one State between farmers and their employes, both parties to it shall consent to the dispute being submitted toa tribunal established for the purpose of doing justice between them.
– Have there been any disputes, to the Prime Minister’s knowledge, between farmers and their employes?
– Most certainly there have, but I admit that they have not been of large dimensions. I do not think it is likely that any dispute of that character would extend beyond the boundaries of any one State ; but if such a condition of affairs did arise, it would be most unfortunate if there were no provision in the law which would enable a settlement to be promptly arrived at. I do not think there is any immediate prospect of such a dispute arising as would call for the intervention of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Any action which may be taken by the employes of the farmers will, therefore, probably be taken under the State arbitration laws, such as exist now in New South Wales ; but whilst that is so, there is always the possibility of a dispute occurring, and extending beyond the limits of any one State. I repeat that, if such a disturbance took place, it would be most unfortunate if no machinery existed under which a settlement could be insisted upon. I reiterate that we have every reason for trusting to the impartiality of the proposed tribunal. We may well take it for granted that the gentleman who will be appointed to preside over it, will have a just appreciation of his responsibility, and will weigh every circumstance surrounding any question which he is called upon to determine before he arrives at a decision, whether it be in respect of the farming industry, or arnot her industry in the community.
– I think the Prime Minister will admit that I am in accord with the Government- in regard to the main principles underlying this Bill. He struck the keynote of the proposal before the Committee, when he declared that he did not think there was any probability of a dispute between farmers and their employe’s extending beyond the limits of anyone State. I need scarcely remind honorable members that I supported the inclusion, within the provisions of this measure,, of the railway employes, and all those persons who are engaged in industrial enterprises.
– A similar proposal is contained in the Act. which was passed by the Government, of which the honorable member was the head.
– I was not the author of that Act. I merely consented to the Attorney-General introducing that measure before I left State politics. In my judgment, it is- possible to proceed a little too far, by attempting, at the outset, to make this Bill applicable to every industry. My own idea is that where a dispute is not likely to extend beyond the boundaries of any ‘ one State, the State authorities should deal with it. I supported the inclusion of railway employes chiefly because I foresaw that if any serious railway trouble arose in any State, it would probably extend to another State. That very nearly occurred in the case of the Victorian railway strike. I understand that the honorable and learned member for Wannon originally proposed to exempt the pastoral industry from the operations of the Bill. I am in favour of making the measure applicable to pastoralists, because we know very well that shearing troubles are likelv to extend all over Australia, as they have in the past. Concerning agriculture, however, I agree with the Prime Minister, that there is every little probability of disputes between farmers and their employes extending beyond the limits of any one. State. If they did so, they would most certainly relate to a question of wages only. The Arbitration Court, in dealing with that matter, would have to give an award, but it would not establish a common wage all over Australia. In New South Wales every industry is brought under the operation of the State Arbitration Act. The possibility of a combination under it has been present ever since it was passed.
– Has a case ever arisen under it?
– No. The definition of “industrial disputes” under that Act covers every trade, profession, or calling. “ Industry “ is defined as meaning - “ Any business trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling, or employment in which persons of either sex are employed for hire or reward.” Had any serious trouble occurred either in the dairying or agricultural industries in, that State, combinations would have been formed long ere this, and the aid of the Arbitration Court have been invoked. The fact that no such appeals have been made is conclusive evidence that no disputes between farmers and their employe’s are likely to arise which would extend beyond the limits of any one State. If I recognised the likelihood of such a contingency, I should not hesitate to assist in passing a law to prevent trouble. The Prime Minister himself has had some experience of the dairying industry. So, too, have I. As a youngster I was compelled to milk the cows at night . and in the early morning, in frosty weather, and I had to work on my father’s property with a sickle, just as did any ordinary labourer.
– It did not make a worse man of the honorable member.
– I hope not. Although the work associated with dairying is tedious, it is not laborious. We all know that the hours are irregular, but that is a difficulty which, in the existing circumstances, cannot be avoided. I do not think that there are many who work, on the whole, more than eight hours a day, and those who have to perform duties in the early hours of the morning have later on ample time to rest. The -Prime Minister touched on a matter of importance when he spoke of the necessity of seeing that. farm labourers were properly housed. The honorable member for Darling took a prominent part in the agitation which resulted in the passing of an Act by the Legislature of New South Wales to insure better accommodation for shearers, and it seems to me that the Governments of the States - it is perhaps not a matter for the Federal Government to deal with - should take care that proper accommodation is provided for all engaged in farming and agricultural industries. But for the fact that Victoria has lagged behind the other States in the matter of legislation relating to conciliation and arbitration, I do not think there would have been much desire to pass this Bill. We have a Conciliation and Arbitration Act in force in New South Wales, and I believe it would be desirable for us to watch what effect it will have on the farming industry’ before we attempt to extend this measure in that direction. I do not, of course, suggest that such a provision is likely to be required. If the State Act were not availed of, resort could not be had to this Bill save in the case of a dispute extending beyond the boundaries of any one State. I am satisfied it is reasonable that the Bill should include the railway employes of the States, if it is constitutional, which I question ; but I certainly have not witnessed any of those scenes in connexion with the dairying industry which the Prime Minister has described. In New South Wales a law is in operation which provides for the periodical inspection of dairy farms, and I must say that the dairy farms which I have visited in that State are a credit to the owners. Advantage has been taken of many modern improvements, and their condition is in the highest degree praiseworthy.
– I was not referring to the premises.
– No doubt before the passing of that law, there were many dairy premises that were really a source of danger to the public health. But that state of affairs has to a large extent been remedied. If we take care that, suitable accommodation is provided for the men, I do not think there will be much of which to complain. The industry is a great and a growing one. and should receive every encouragement. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to deal with farm labourers as we can with shearers. The farmer has a certain time for ploughing, sowing, reaping, and threshing, and the last-named work is for the most part done under contract by owners of threshing machines, who travel from farm to farm and from district to district. It would be exceedingly difficult to frame any regulation that would embrace all these operations ; and it seems to me that there is no necessity for us to display any anxiety to legislate in this direction until it has been shown that there is continuous discontent among the farming community, and that unions of farm labourers have been formed to seek the assistance of the States Arbitration Courts. When action is taken in that direction we shall be able to judge whether there is good -ground for a proposal such as that now put forward by the Government. The New Zealand Arbitration Act applies to farmers ; but, I am informed that, although it has been in force for eight years, no application has been made to the Court to deal with a dispute between them and their employes. In these circumstances it seems to me that an attempt is being made to raise a bogy unnecessarily.
– In New Zealand the employers are reasonable.
– It is true that among the pastoralists and farmers, a man is occasionally found who is a disgrace to the whole of his class in the treatment of his employe’s ; but, as a rule, the men who own their own properties, and whose lands are not heavily mortgaged to banks or other financial institutions, are very good employers. I believe that owners of dairying land worked under the share system take care to deal fairly and liberally with those who work their property and earn for them the income which they derive from it. During the shearing dispute reference was made to the largest property to be found not very far from Albury, that was managed in a most disgraceful way as regards the housing of the employes. It was held in contempt, not only by those who were employed upon it, but by the public generally. It does not follow, however, that all pastoralists are unjust. The way in which the men were treated on this property was one of the main springs of my efforts to pass a law to secure better accommodation for shearers. I represent the largest agricultural district in Australia. It has this year produced double the quantity of wheat produced by any other electoral division in the Commonwealth.
– What about the electorate that I represent?
– It does not produce anything like so much wheat as does the Hume.
– I am prepared to dispute the honorable member’s statement as to his district producing double the quantity.
– I take a great pride in my electorate. I think it is the largest and the best wheat-producing area in Australia. As the representative of such a district, I have had an opportunity to judge of the conditions under which farm labourers are called upon to work. During the last elections I travelled, at harvest time, over the principal parts of my electorate, and was astonished at the evidences which I saw of modern improvements in agricultural machinery. I was also astounded at the improvement that had been made in the accommodation provided for farm employes. I spoke to many of the men in regard to their conditions of labour, and found that as a rule, they were entirely satisfied. In some cases the difficulty of housing the additional harvest hands was very great, but the workers said that in nearly every case the employers did their best. So far as I could ascertain, there were no complaints. Many of the farmers in the district own their properties. For the most part they do not possess large holdings, and, with the exception of harvesting operations, the greater part of the work relating to the farm and the dairy is carried out by their sons and daughters. These men would not be affected by a provision of the kind now before us, because it would extend only to employes. In these circumstances I do not think it is necessary at present to- extend the Bill to those engaged in the farming industry, and I would advise the Prime Minister to go slowly in this direction. He has frankly acknowledged that’ it is unlikely that such a provision would be used for some time to come, and therefore, while we should impress upon the States Governments the desirableness of action being taken, if at all, by them, there is no reason why, in the absence of any trouble, we should seek to jump into an imaginary breach. Let us have a further opportunity to profit by the experience of New South Wales and New Zealand. There is no real necessity to extend the measure in the way now proposed.
– The farmers are exempt in New Zealand.
– They come within the Act; but no application has been made to the Court to apply its provisions to them. Although 1 am anxious that States rights should be preserved absolutely intact, it seems to me that as long as we keep within what we believe to be the four corners of the Constitution, we shall not even touch the fringe of States powers. Too much sensitiveness has been displayed by some honorable members in dealing with this aspect of the question. I contend that the States are absolutely secure from any invasion of their rights. We have the Constitution to guide us, and the necessary machinery to determine whether we in any way infringe that privilege. If there has been anything in the direction of oppressiveness, it seems to me that the States have sometimes tried somewhat to dominate the Federal
Parliament. While we should not take up 1 an aggressive attitude, we should at least i be firm, and show the States that the Federal ‘ Parliament is not a mere myth. We shall 1 not inflict any injustice on the States by 1 extending the provisions of this Bill to disputes extending beyond a State. The 1 States themselves will take care that we do 1 not exceed our constitutional powers, and 1 we, in turn, must see that they do not prevent us from doing what is right and within our power. 1 wish to place before the Committee my reasons for voting for the inclusion of shearers, railway employés, and miners, as well as those engaged in maritime disputes, whilst at the same time holding that it is unnecessary to extend the Bill in the way now proposed by the Government. The operations of those engaged in maritime pursuits are undoubtedly interwoven with all the States, and it is right that the Federal Parliament should pass a law that will prevent a repetition of the disastrous consequences of the strike of some years ago.
An Honorable Member. - It was that strike that led to the insertion ‘of the provision in the Constitution on which this Bill is framed.
– It was inserted in the Constitution because of the maritime, shearing, and mining strikes. I am prepared, regardless of what the consequences to me may be, to support a measure of this kind ; but it is unnecessary for us to delve into matters which at present do not require to be probed. I think that the States that have not yet attempted to pass ‘an Arbitration Act might take warning, and recognise that we are perhaps staying our hand in regard to certain matters, in the hope that they will take action. If they_ do not, arid if, as the result of their inactivity, there is any prospect of great trouble, we may fairly consider whether we shall not be justified in doing that which they should have done..
– I regret that my honorable friend the Prime Minister should have thought it necessary to slander the farmers and dairymen of the Commonwealth for the purpose of imposing upon the credulity of that section of the Committee which is not intimately acquainted with the matters to which he referred. He drew a most harrowing picture of the condition of the farm and dairying employes of Australia, and would have us believe that it is necessary, in the interests of humanity, to come to their rescue by bringing them within the scope of some such measure as this. Shortly afterwards, however, in a weak moment, he had the candour to admit that,’ if we did so, our legislation would be a dead letter. I sympathize as much with labour as does my honorable friend, and during my parliamentary career have done as much foi1 it as he is likely to do for many years to come. I have shown my sympathy in a practical way ; not by indulging in clap-trap. Since the Victorian Factories Act was passed, it has been controlled by six Ministers, who brought twenty-eight or twenty-nine trades under1 its operation, of which I was responsible in one year for twenty-two. Whenever I discovered an instance of sweating in any trade, I brought that trade under the Act. But whilst supporting the principles of the Act, and ready to extend its operation, I should object to its extension into fields where it was not required. If there were any need for its application to the farming and dairying industry, I should be as ready as any other honorable member to so apply it. I represent as many farmers and dairymen as does any member of the House, and I have lived all my live in a dairying and farming community ; but I have never known of a serious dispute between an employer and an employ! in that industry. That being so, there is. no need to apply legislation of this kind to it. I discussed this matter with ‘ my constituents during the recent electoral campaign. Of course, farm and dairying employés are my constituents as much as are the employers; but I did not find an individual employ^ or employer in favour of extending legislation of this kind to the industry. Both employers and employes were unanimously opposed to any such extension. The Prime Minister laid great stress upon the fact that young lads employed on a dairy farm have to rise and set to work before daylight. When I was only about eight years of age I had to bring in the horses before daylight, but do not think it has made me a worse man ; and I wish that a larger proportion of our youth had been brought up to habits of industry. The young fellows engaged on dairy farms have not to work unduly long hours. They commence work early, and they finish late ; but in the middle’ of the day they have very little to do. Those for whom they work are not inhuman, and the fact that employers and employes get on so well shows that the men are fairly and humanely treated. The conditions under which dairying and farming work is done are so varied and complex that it would be almost impossible for a Court to apply any satisfactory common rule. So far as farm labourers are concerned, while they often have to work hard, there are other times when they are very slack. Of course, when the weather is dry and warm and the grain is ripening fast they have to work almost day and night, Sundays and holidays, to get it in.
– Sundays ?
– Yes. It is not a common thing for a man to work on Sundays ; but when the grain is dropping out of the ear, they are compelled to do so, in order that they, may not lose the result of the year’s work.
– Those are exceptional cases.
– Yes. It would be extremely difficult for a Court to regulate the hours of labour on a farm or dairy. Cows have to be milked twice a day, morning and evening; but, between whiles, there is not much to be done, and many of the children who are employed to do the milking spend the best part of the day at school, and turn out the best men and women in the community. I know many who have had to work early and late, and who, through their honest industry and thrift, have now become employers of labour. They have saved sufficient money to buy places of their own, and are now employing others, whom they hope to see follow their example.
– What wages did they get to save out of - 15s. a week?
– They got what wages the industry would pay, and saved enough to buy farms. A working man to whom I sold 44 acres of land had saved enough out of his wages to pay the deposit, and was able to meet the other payments as thev matured- He has since bought farm after farm, and is now a large land-holder.
– Honorable members opposite would like to take his land away from him.
– Many of our friends think that such a man’s land should be confiscated; that he should be taxed to such an extent as would virtually deprive him of his interest in it. This is not an exceptional case. I could mention many others who once worked for£i a week, and are now well-to-do land-holders. It is only by honest industry and thrift that the best settlers in the country have acquired their holdings. I wish to see the farming and I dairying industry encouraged in every way. Without depreciating other industries, I say that farming and dairying have done more for Australia than any other industry has done. I am with the members of the Labour Party in many of their aspirations, but I must oppose them when they advocate schemes which would not benefit those whom they profess to represent. N6 doubt they are actuated by the best motives, and believe that they are doing what is right; but they cannot benefit the working classes by merely proposing to raise wages. They cannot extract from any employer higher wages than the industry in which he is engaged allows him to pay. The best way to benefit the workers is to encourage industry, and thus to open up new fields for employment, and give opportunities for the payment of better wages. I agree with them when they say that every- industry should pay a fair wage if it can afford it, and I believe that most of our industries can afford to pay a reasonable wage. But I object to applying legislation of this kind to our farmers and dairymen. It has not been shown to be necessary, and it has not been asked for by either employes or employers. Similar legislation elsewhere has been a dead letter, and the legislation now proposed . would also be a dead letter. Why, then, should we needlessly alarm those engaged in the industry by passing such a law? While we know perfectly well that it will have no effect, they are not aware that it cannot be effective. We shall study the best interests of the Commonwealth by applying this legislation only to industries in regard to which interference is necessary. Some of our honorable friends argue that if interference is not a good thing for every industry, we should not apply it to any, but that if it is a good thing for one we should apply it to all. That is not a logical argument. A strong drug might be very useful to . a person suffering from a particular malady, but it would be ridiculous to prescribe it for a person in robust health. It might be legitimate for a person who had a grievance to resort to the law courts, but we should” not ask any one who had nothing to complain of, to go there. If he did, he would find that it was a very expensive proceeding. We should not think of encouraging any person to go to law, unless he had a legitimate object to achieve. Therefore, whilst I admit that compulsory arbitration may be desirable and necessary for the purpose of settling industrial disputes in cases where we know that it would be better to arrive at an adjustment by peaceful means rather than by recourse to the barbarous system of strikes and locks-outs, I do not think that it is a good thing to apply the system to industries in which there is not the slightest necessity for it. The States which have passed laws similar to that now under our consideration have never availed themselves of them, and are not likely to do so, so far as the farming industry is concerned. The Prime Minister told us of the great things that had been done for tha farmers. He said that our agriculturists received the benefit of cheap railway freights. Does the honorable gentleman realize that the -farmer has to pay freight both ways? Not only has he to pay for the carriage of his produce to market, but he also defrays the railway charges upon all the supplies sent to him from the city by the merchant or storekeeper.
– Which affects him the more - the freight on produce sent to the city, or that on goods sent to the country ?
—It depends upon’’ the volume of traffic. That, however, is not the question. I would ask my honorable friend, who supports the railways?
– Most people’ think that the consumer pays the freight one way.
– The honorable member will fmd that the men who are farming within half a mile of the city get exactly the same price for their produce as do the farmers who occupy land on the banks of the Murray. The country agriculturist cannot charge anything more for that which he sends to the city.
– But the farmer near the city has to pay more rent.
– And he derives corresponding benefits. My honorable friend must grant that the farmers support all the country lines, because they pay freight both ways. Then, with regard to cheap money, the farmer pays the market rate for any accommodation he may receive in the form of loans; this is to the advantage of the lender, as well as of the farmer, otherwise the latter would not get the money. I do not mean to say that the Prime Minister is not in sympathy with the farmer. He knows the value of the farming community to Australia too well to be other than in sympathy with them. I wish to see the farming and dairying industry greatly extended. I hope that the system -of closer settlement will be carried out in a proper spirit. I sincerely regret that in
Victoria the Closer Settlement Act has been allowed to remain a dead letter for some years past. The Government with which I was connected, and in which the honorable member for Echuca was Minister of Lands, experienced no difficulty in acquiring land by voluntary purchase. I believe in having the power to take land compulsorily ; but, if we had that power to-, morrow, it would be used only on very rare occasions, because the land compulsorily taken always costs the settler more than that which is acquired by ordinary purchase. We dealt with four estates in one year, and we found that we could secure good land at a fair market value. We are told that landowners ask too much for their property’; but that is only natural. That affords no reason why we should not give a fair price. When an estate was offered to us, the Minister of Lands and myself, and sometimes other members of the Government who were well acquainted with land values, carefully inspected the property, and called in the assistance of local experts. If, after having determined in our own minds the value of the land, we found that the price asked by the owner was in excess of our estimate, we submitted our price, and the land-owner could take it or not, as he pleased. We found, however, that, in most cases, the owner was disposed to accept a fair price. Four estates were resumed, and several hundreds of settlers were placed upon land where only four farmers had been making a living previously. Every acre of these estates is now under occupation, and, according to the last return I saw, only seven of the occupants were in arrears in their instalments, and even in these cases only to a very small extent. .
– The arrears at present are 1 per cent. only.
– No one could expect, or even wish, for better results than that. The settlers secured the land at a fair market value, and were very pleased to get it on the easy terms which the Government were able to extend to them. The payment of the purchase money was arranged for in easy instalments - such as could be provided for out of the proceeds of the produce obtained from the land itself. I see no reason why this system should not be very greatly extended. I am sure that if the honorable member for Echuca had remained in office, he would have gone on resuming and dividing estates, just as he did during the year that he was my colleague in the Victorian
Ministry. I hope that the Victorian Government will not allow the Closer Settlement Act to remain a dead letter. Although six Governments have held office since it came into operation, only one estate, other than the four dealt with during our year of office, has been resumed. The Prime Minister laid great stress on the fact that among the farmers and dairymen of Australia the only men who were making any money were the landlords. My experience is that only in very exceptional cases is the farmer or dairyman a tenant. Of course, I know that there are some tenant farmers, but many more settlers carry on operations on their own land. I have always been an advocate of giving every possible facility to farmers to become land-owners. It is rather singular that the Prime Minister and those who join him in denouncing landlords are always advocating that every man should occupy the land as a tenant.
– Under the State, with fair conditions as to rent and otherwise.
– It is all very well to say that, but my honorable friend is not always logical. He believes in the nationalization of the land, and in the State becoming the landlord. He would also say that the State was best qualified to conduct our railways ; and yet, when he asks us to extend the operation of this Bill to railway servants, he says that no one is so unfit as the State to manage the railways, and that the employes cannot obtain justice.
– We are providing machinery bv which they can obtain justice.
– The Prime Minister proposes to call in an outside tribunal to control the railways, on the ground that the State cannot properly manage them. He would, I presume, do the same with the land, and I would ask him who would regulate the rents?
– Then the State would occupy the position of an absentee owner who employed factors to manage for him, and to fix rentals. These would be the very worst conditions under which tenants could live. As a rule they can do much better when they are dealing direct with the owner of the land. In my opinion, it is far better to have a large peasant proprietary, with every man on his own little holding. Under such conditions the land would be turned to the best possible account. If the State were landlord, and rents were adjusted from time to time, the tenant would never know whether he would derive the benefit of his own improvements.
– Under the leasing system in New South Wales he does.
– If the tenant were granted a perpetual lease at a fixed rental he would derive the benefit of his improvements ; but if rents were adjusted from time to time, he would never know, from one year’s end to the other, what rent he would have to pay.
– That is where the difference lies betweenthe conditions in New Zealand and New South Wales.
– In New Zealand rents are fixed for 99 years, and, of course, in that case the tenant is in precisely the same position as an owner.
– Hear, hear; I believe in that system.
– In my opinion it matters very little whether the State owns or does not own the land. Our aim should be to make the land as productive as possible, and I believe that the most satisfactory results are to be obtained by placing men upon their own holdings. I should like to see every encouragement given to small proprietors to settle in all parts of the country.
– As they do in England.
– England is not the place- to which we should go for an example. I may remind the Prime Minister that in that country land is gradually going out of cultivation. We should rather turn to America, where the State encourages settlement upon the land by every possible means. They have an Agricultural Department “there which supplies information to every class of producer, and assists them in every way. There we find that agriculture is increasing by leaps and bounds. If we desire to see the Commonwealth prosper we should adopt similar methods. When my honorable friend declaims against the landlord, I would say that the landlord is entitled to a fair rent.
– I wish that he only received that.
– No tenant should pay more than a fair rent. It is not in the interests of the landlord that he should do so, because if he charges too high a rental he loses his tenants. I have known tenants to remain in . posssession of land’ from year’s end to year’s end. I have a farm myself for which I have not had to- ask rent for’ sixteen or eighteen years. The tenant pays it regularly into the bank to my credit. He pays punctually, because he knows he could not obtain a similar holding at the same price. Nevertheless, he pays me a fair rental.
– But the honorable member is a just landlord.
– I have been familiar with a good many landlords, and have heard very few tenants complain. They almost invariably admit that the landlords treat them fairly. At the same time, I am not in favour of landlordism. I prefer to assist the people to obtain holdings of their own. The Government have assured the Committee that they desire to represent the interests of every section of the country. I wish they would evidence that in the present instance. If they take the trouble to inquire into this matter they will certainly find that the whole community will be benefited if they refrain from pushing the operations of this Bill further than experience shows to be necessary. I am willing to support its extension to every branch of industry to which it can be shown that its application is necessary. But the whole of my experience proves that the necessity for applying it to the dairying and agricultural industries has not yet arisen. I know very well that there is a great feeling of unrest amongst the rural districts in regard to this provision, and I have been requested by rural employes to oppose it. I should be false to the best interests of the Commonwealth if I did otherwise. The Prime Minister has said that the Court will act justly. I think that some of my honorable friends opposite are a great deal too sanguine regarding the success of this legislation. I admit that the Court will do that which it believes to be right, but I do not admit that any Judge, by taking evidence for a few hours, can thoroughly master the details of any industry with which he may be called upon to deal. I would ask the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, who is a firm believer in that doctrine, whether, if I placed him in the witness-box for two or three hours, I could acquire a sufficient knowledge of the law to qualify me for the Bar? I can assure mv honorable friend that, if he took evidence from farming experts for a few hours, he would know very little more about the conditions surrounding that industry than he did at the outset.
– But in three hours the honorable member could ascertain whether I was getting a fair fee.
– Undoubtedly. I hold that unless a Judge is thoroughly familiar with all the ramifications’ of the industry with which he is dealing, he cannot obtain that knowledge by a few hours’ examination of witnesses. I admit that he may administer justice in a rough and ready way, and even that is better than a strike or a lock-out. Still,, wherever we can dispense with his services, we shall be very much better off by so doing. I have grave doubts as to whether this Bill will prove, the unqualified success which some honorable members appear to think, and I venture to say that’ to some extent it will hamper the industries to which it is applied. Whilst perfectly willing to extend its operation to industries to which past experience has shown its application to be necessary, I ask honorable members to oppose its extension to industries in which it is not required.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland has invited the Committee to follow him in applying this law to those persons with whom he is not “intimately associated. In doing so he is not acting at all singularly. The immortal principle of applying the law to “the other fellow “ has been universally popular in all ages. Now, the honorable member who tells us that he represents an agricultural constituency - that he represents more farmers than does any other member of this Chamber - declares that if the Bill will not affect the farmers he does not object to voting for it. That is a very good-natured proposal, and one which will be highly appreciated by the farmers. In his opening remarks he stated that the Prime Minister had slandered a very deserving class of people, and had attempted to impose upon the credulity of honorable members bv talking of that of which he either knew nothing or was not well informed. I propose to consider the arguments advanced by the honorable member, with” a view to ascertaining whether they are sound. He said that the Prime Minister cannot be thoroughly seized of the conditions surrounding the dairying and agricultural industries, otherwise he would not ask the Committee to hamper them by this proposal. He also said that the Prime Minister had indulged in “ clap-trap.”
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member most emphatically levelled that charge against those who favour the Government proposal, amongst whom is ‘ the Prime Minister. To affirm that any person is indulging in “clap-trap” is merely to say that he entertains sentiments with which his listener does not agree. ‘ That is really a comprehensive definition of clap-trap. Moreover, clap-trap should not be altogether a stranger to the honorable member, because no politician can ever point to so many past victories without being open to the suspicion that he has indulged, if not in clap-trap, in something of a very similar character. The honorable member cannot be quite a stranger to that kind of talk, which serves the successful candidate so excellently upon the hustings, and which the other fellow denounces as “clap-trap.” The honorable member gave the Committee a little exhibition of that when he exclaimed - “See what I have done for labour.” Let us examine his record. We are most ready to give him credit for all that he has done. He was the leader of a Government in Victoria. What did it do for labour? Doubtless it did something. Every Government does. Obviously it did .not do very much in the way of closer settlement, which, he acknow- ledges, is the great desideratum, because he declares that closer settlement in this State has been a dead letter. Obviously, then, he did nothing to settle the people upon the land.
– We settled several hundreds upon land which we resumed.
– No doubt, under his regime a number of persons were settled under the land ; but I am speaking of settlement upon the land in an agricultural sense. If the honorable member will tell us what particular legislation he introduced with a view to settling people upon the land we shall be very glad to hear him.
– I was the first Minister in Australia to introduce a Closer Settlement Bill.
– Naturally, people were settled upon the land under the then existing system of land tenure.
– The honorable member for Gippsland says that he introduced a Closer Settlement Bill.
– But he told the Committee that it proved a dead letter.
– No, he said that the Government, of which he was the head, bought under it four estates within ten months.
– Only yesterday the Premier of this State declared ‘that the first plank in the Ministerial platform related to closer settlement. What do statistics show regarding the time which has elapsed since the honorable member for Gippsland first introduced his scheme for closer settlement? They show that the people are flocking from the country to the town. His scheme of closer settlement simply amounts to this: that Collingwood, Fitzroy, and other agricultural districts, are becoming densely populated, but that the provinces which ought to be settled have not been peopled under it. Mr. Bent still says that what we need in Victoria is a scheme of closer settlement. That has been the cry from the beginning. In these circumstances let us consider the position of the honorable member. He admits, first of all, that this provision would not prove operative, and that opinion is shared generally by honorable members. At the same time, there appears to be a general concensus .of opinion that notwithstanding that fact it should not be inserted in the Bill. It is a general principle of legislation that no considerable section ought fo be exempt from the operation of any law unless there is good reason for it. I shall be very glad to hear of any law from the operation of which a considerable section of ‘the people are exempt. It is difficult to understand why any section should be omitted from the provisions of this Bill.
– The Victorian Factories Act exempts a large section of the community.
– Could any man say that agriculture comes within the scope of factory legislation?
– Yes ; there are cheese and butter factories.
– That may be’; but hoeing turnips or digging potatoes is not factory work. I do not deny that there are some operations carried on in rural districts that might legitimately be brought within the operation of Factory Acts; but picking grapes is not one of them. Even assuming that all these branches of industry could be properly brought under factory legislation, I do not think that my. honorable friend suggests that they should. I believe that he says, “ Thus far, and no further.”
– Certainly, until the necessity is shown for going further.
– Is not my honorable friend opposed to the extension of factory legislation to rural occupations?
– Therefore the brilliant efforts of the honorable and learned member for Wannon, who has suggested that these operations might come under the scope of the Factories Act, do not help him. We have heard the honorable member for Gippsland declare that as a boy he rose early in the morning, and was none the worse for it. No one says that he is ; but I do not know that he ever derived much pleasure from early rising. I can conscientiously say that I never rose early unless compelled to do so, and that I never will. When I do get up I am able to do as much work as are most men. I do not hanker after the privilege of getting up by rushlight at four o’clock in the morning, and laying the foundation for a great career. That is a very fine sentiment ; but when men have to rise early in the morning, and work hard all day and late at night, they are’ not likely to make a nation of happy people. In the district represented by the honorable and learned member for Illawarra there are persons who have to rise before 4 a.m. I have spoken to them, and know that, although they rest for a time during the day, they work as hard as they are able to do. It would be beyond human endurance to work as these men work without some respite in the course of the day.
– Can we avoid this state of things any more than we can avoid night shifts in coal mines ?
– Let me put to the honorable and learned member the question that John Bright put to those who contended for a working day of ten hours. He declared that the foundation of England’s greatness depended on unrestricted hours of employment in all factories, and that once the working day was reduced to one of ten hours, England would decay. That assertion was made at some time between 1850 and i860, and, although since then the working hours have been reduced, the trade of England has not decayed.
– That is a moot point.
– The honorable member for Illawarra represents a district in which the sons and daughters of many farmers rise before 4 a.m., and having worked hard all day, simply sink down to rest at night with the animal satisfaction that belongs ‘to the brute beasts.
– Does the honorable and learned. gentleman say that the President of the Court will fix the time at which men ought to get out of bed?
– I shall deal with that point. I am connected with an organization the members of which formerly worked eighty hours a week. The Court is now adjudicating on their case. A working week .of eighty or eightyfive hours, if it can possibly be avoided is altogether too long; yet we have had man after man declaring that the hours of labour in the industry in question cannot be reduced. What arc the facts? In New Zealand, and other places, they have been shortened to about fifty-five per week, without any perceptible effect upon the trade. My honorable and learned friend speaks about long hours being inevitable. All that I can say is that he can have had but little experience of many trades if he does not know that, in nearly every business, men have said : “ Our trade differs from every other, and we cannot reduce the working hours and still keep the industry going.” I do not say that the industry with which we are now dealing has anything in common with any other, nor that the hours during which those connected with it are employed can be cut down. But it is a mistake to suppose, that the functions of the Arbitration Court will be confined to shortening the hours of labour. In several cases the Conciliation and Arbitration Court of New South Wales has not dealt with - the hours of labour, and in several others has not touched the wages question.
– In several cases the working day has been fixed at ten hours.
– The idea that appears to permeate the minds of some persons that an Arbitration Court is closely associated with the eight hours principle, Is absurd. Cooks and waiters in New South Wales work from sixty to seventy hours per week The bakers’ carters work, I believe, fifty hours per week, while in another case with which I am acquainted, the men are asking for fifty-seven hours per week. Others are appealing to the Court to fix a working week of sixty hours. There is no magic associated with the eight hours principle, that it should be regarded as inseparably connected with an Arbitration Court. The Court looks at the merits of each case. It says, perhaps, in one case, that the industry can be conducted on the eight hours principle. In another case it fixes a working day of ten hours, and, in yet another, it declines to fix any definite number a day. It holds, in some cases, that an industry cannot be regulated by the day ; and in one case it refused to regulate the hours per day to be worked. It is useless, therefore, to ask how is it possible for the Court to regulate the hours of employment ? That has nothing to do with the matter. If it can be shown that the present working hours cannot, with convenience to business and with propriety, be shortened, there is an end to it. Those who appeal to the Court to be established, will appeal to a sensible and just tribunal, two of the members of which will be, not mere assessors, knowing nothing of the circumstances of the case, but .representatives of the employers and employed. It is said that it is impossible to regulate the working hours of farm labourers, and that there are slack times and busy times associated with agricultural pursuits. It is, nevertheless, a fact that the farmers almost without exception discharge ther hands in the off season, and engage them when the busy season approaches. Some employ one or two hands all the year round, but the majority of them employ only casual hands who are taken on during the harvest season. The honorable member for Gippsland knows that at harvest time men follow threshing machines from district to district, and in that way make a living. Let us imagine for a moment that instead of regulating the hours of employment, the Court determined to regulate the rate of pay per hour. That would have a tendency to prevent inordinately long hours. I have had some experience in this direction. A pioneer of the soil in Queensland, for whom I worked, whose ideas were fantastic in the extreme., conceived that the best time to set to work was before the sun rose. He felt that there was a degree of keenness in the air, and a vivacity associated with all things at that early hour, that caused men to do more work than they would perform at any other part of the day. We disagreed on this point, but I have never forgotten his views. Had he been called upon to pay overtime he would not have mistaken 4 a.m. for 5 a.m., or even, as he often did, 3 a.m. for 6 a.m. In many cases men are kept working hour after hour because they receive low wages. If they were paid by the hour - if they received a higher rate of pay- the working hours would be reduced. Does not the honorable member for Gippsland know that the working day of shearers in England is much longer than that of shearers in Australia; but that, nevertheless, the English shearer -deals with a smaller number of sheep? On the farm on which I was born and lived for seven or eight years they used to commence shearing operations by lamplight, and, although they remained at work as long as possible, they were not able to shear more than twenty or twenty-five sheep per day. In Australia, however, a shearer is able to account for from fifty to sixty sheep of a like class, Lincolns or Southdowns, in a working day of eight hours.
– How old is the honorable and learned gentleman ?
– Invariably, the rule is that the higher the price of labour the more one obtains from it. When a man is compelled to pay high rates per hour he does not ask his man to work many hours per day. It is . said that we ‘propose, by means of these restrictions, to hamper the dairying and agricultural industries. It would be difficult to conceive of any set of circumstances that would apparently be worse for the dairying and agricultural interests than are the present. My honorable friend says we ought not to discourage any one from settling on the land. But what are the facts ? He says that we ought to permit closer settlement, and that it would be a . good thing if all the young men of the country were to follow in his footsteps, and engage in the dairying or agricultural industries. I say so, too. No one more thoroughly appreciates the fact that, if we could get our young men to go into the. country, instead of holding to the opinion that it is a good thing to earn their living with their coats on, in some office in a large town, we should have done more than any one else to solve the great question that now perplexes mankind. But the young man deserts the farm, the vineyard, and Ihe field, to come to the large town. Why ? Obviously not because the farm, but because the big town, is attractive to him. The fact is that you work these young men for such long hours on the farms, give them such miserable wages, afford them such wretched opportunities for social enjoyment and mental improvement, that they are glad to take the earliest occasion to leave the country. In America every effort is being made to cause country life to be attractive. To do that, it is necessary to pay decent rates of wages, and to require decent hours of labour. If we can by any legislation attract our young men to the country, we shall have done more than any other body of men has done to solve this greatest of all great social questions. The efflux from the country is becoming more alarming each year.’ I join heartily with those who deplore it, and any one who can show us how it may be prevented or diminished will have our wholesouled support, and that of the party behind us. But it is obvious that the present system, which the honorable member has glorified, is responsible for what we deplore. He admits that in England the land is going out of cultivation. But there is no Arbitration Act there. Why do the country people of England flock to the larg: towns of the kingdom? Why do the country people of Victoria and New South Wales, who are unaffected by arbitration legislation, flock to Melbourne and Sydney, and voluntarily place themselves under the yoke of Factory and other industrial Acts, if it is not to escape the conditions which exist under the system of noninterference which he justifies? It is that system which is responsible for the depopulation and the falling out of use of the country land of England, which is becoming more marked every year. For the honorable gentleman to sav that the members of the Labour Party wish to discourage industry is to attempt to fix upon us a stigma which . should rather be applied to those who hold his opinions. I suppose every man would assert that it is a good thing to settle people on the land, and to encourage them to remain there. I very early imbibed the opinion that the proper settlement of the land is the source of all prosperity, and the basis of national wealth. But I ask the honorable member for Gippsland whether, under his system of noninterference, people are being settled on the land as satisfactorily as he would wish ? Obviously they are not.
– There are more applicants for land in Victoria than we can give land to.
– How many are bona fide, and how many’ are able to remain on the land when they get it? There is not a piece of land offered for settlement in New South Wales, under any system there in vogue, for which there are not a dozen or twenty or more applicants; but how many of the pieces taken up remain in the possession and under the control of those who take them up ? It is notorious that the lands of the country are getting into the hands of the few.
– The honorable and learned gentleman will not find many vacant blocks in Victoria.
– No; but a great many of those who ought to be owners of land are merely tenants at will. The banks and great monetary institutions are the real owners of the country. Our proposal to include agricultural industries in a measure of this kind is not a novel one. It was put forward by the late Government, and I feel sure will have the support of its members.
– One ex-Minister has already declared against it.
– And another soon will.
– The rumour that some of those who sat behind the late Government are opposed to this proposal is, I am sure, a canard, and does those honorable members a grievous injustice. As to the need for this proposal, I agree with the Prime Minister and others, that in all probability it will never have to be put into force. But if it is ever required, it will be needed very badly, and at a time when it will be too late to pass special legislation. Any legislation introduced under such circumstances would be panic legislation, which would be onesided, and not likely to be just and equitable. I admit that the provisions of the measure will be largely inoperative. Perhaps they will never be applied to a majority of the trades and callings, within the Commonwealth, but the fact that if ‘t is needed it will be at hand will give to the people the assurance that lamentable oourrences such as disgraced and nearly ruined Australia thirteen years ago will not be repeated. There is no reason why a disturbance which could be easily prevented if the dispute out of which it arose were immediately adjudicated upon by an impartial tribunal should be allowed to embroil one industry after another, until the commerce and trade of the whole community is injured. I hope that the Committee will support the inclusion of the agricultural industry. I feel sure that the objection which has been levelled against the Arbitration Acts of some of the States - I think unjustly - that they have caused abuses to be manufactured or fomented, cannot be levelled against this measure, because it can apply only to disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. The honorable member for Gippsland said that many boys who work on farms, getting up early in the morning to milk, are still able to go to school. But if a man does a hard day’s work in the open air before he goes to his office, his brain and body are too fagged for him to do his office work well. Similarly, the boy who has risen early to milk, or to do other work, is too weary to attend intelligently to the instruction which he receives at school. That opinion was openly expressed at the recent Conference of teachers at Sydney, and it is notorious that boys do not learn as easily and readily when their brains and bodies are fired as when they are fresh. In my opinion, no farmer would wish his boy to be subjected to the conditions of which the honorable member spoke approvingly, though many farmers are compelled to keep their sons at such employment. I do not deny that it is very difficult to deal satisfactorily with this matter, and as the honorable and learned member for Illawarra says, in many cases apparently impossible. But the apparently impossible is sometimes susceptible to alteration, and I do not think it can be said that the subjection, of the agricultural industry to the Arbitration Court will in any way hamper it.
– The zeal and energy which the Government, in their comparatively short existence, have displayed in urging upon honorable- members schemes which they admit will be practically inoperative, would be well expended “in a better cause. The Prime Minister has himself admitted that the proposal now before us, even if carried, will be practically in operative; while the Minister of External Affairs, who is always brought forward whenever the Government are attacked, as a sort of quick-firing gun to clear all obstacles out of the way-
– Does the honorable and learned member not like to have him turned on ?
– I do not mind, when he has neither the range nor the objective correctly, as was the case this evening. On the contrary, I feel rather gratified, because if he cannot make out a good case for a Government proposal, who can ? He has said that this provision will be practically inoperative; that it may operate on some remote future occasion - I suppose on that remote future occasion when the universal nationalization of industries takes place, under the auspices of himself and his colleagues. He seemed to promise to us that the passing into law of a measure whose provisions can relate only to disputes extending beyond the limits of one State, and which will, . in all probability, never be applied to the rural industries, will, in some mysterious way, cause the people of Australia to rush from the cities to settle upon the land. It is to relieve the congestion of the cities and to fill the country with an ardent and happy population. It is to give general, social, and mental emjoyment to all those who settle on the land under these happy auspices. Whether the mental enjoyment referred to is to be derived from perusing the pages of the Statute, in order to discover how it is going to confer benefit upon them, I cannot say. It seems to me that the honorable member’s ardent advocacy of the Government proposal, as it stands, is due to the fact that some man in Queensland believes in rising at an earlier hour than he does.
An Honorable Member. - Is not the provision now in the Bill a copy of that proposed by the Deakin Government?
– Possibly it is. But I never pledged myself to oppose such an amendment as that now before the Committee. I do not believe in what is called dead-letter legislation, or in placing enactments upon our statute-book which will have no effect. We have plenty to do in the way of passing legislation that will be operative, and we could better employ our time than in allowing such a proposal as this to engage our attention. The main argument of the Government, in opposing the amendment, is that the Bill, as it stands, is quite harmless, because nothing will happen under it. If that is so, the Bill should not cumber the statute-book and raise false hopes in the breasts of those who think they are likely to benefit from it, while, at the same time, engendering false alarms in the minds of those who fear that it will injure them. We are told that the result of the Bill will be nil, and that the hopes and apprehensions indulged in are alike unfounded. Such legislation is not worthy of this Chamber, or of the Parliament of which it forms a part. If we pause to consider for a moment the constitutional limits imposed upon us by the Constitution, and reflect that this Bill can apply only to industrial disputes which extend beyond the limits of any one State, can we conceive of circumstances under which a dispute affecting the farming communities of Australia - which carry on their operations under widely divergent conditions - could be brought within the scope of this measure? It may be possible to conceive of such a dispute, but no one would be bold enough to say that it is reasonably likely to happen. I think that we are continually forgetting the great limitations placed upon our powers. I venture to prophesy that when they come to be worked out in. practice, the powers of the Commonwealth in regard to conciliation and arbitration will prove much more limited than one would suppose at a first glance. A good many references have been made to New Zealand. Although the first Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed in that colony in1894, and although for at least eight years past it has been possible for those engaged in rural industries, either as employers or employes, to come under the operation of that measure, only one union connected with those industries is registered. Curiously enough, this association of employes - at Southland - has never appealed to the Arbitration Court, and, further, it is located in the district in which the wages of agricultural employes are highest.
– I think that higher rates are paid in North Otago.
– I do not think so. I find, from the New Zealand Year Book for 1903, that the weekly wages for farm labourers, with board, are as follows : -
Auckland district, 15s. to 22s.; Taranaki, 15s. to 25s. ; Hawkes! Bay, 20s. to 25s. ; Wellington, 20s. to 25s. ; Maryborough, 20s. ; Nelson, 20s. ; Westland, 20s. to 30s. ; Canterbury, 15s. to 25s. ; ‘ Otago, 15s. to 20s. These were the average rates of wages for 1902.
-I know the rates to be higher in several parts of New Zealand.
– All I can say is that these figures are taken from the official Year Book.
– I suppose I am entitled to take the word of my relatives and friends who are living there?
– I have mentioned the average rates paid to farm labourers who are found with board. The rates for ploughmen range from 20s. to 30s. The lowest rate paid to harvesters, 20s., was paid in the Hawkes Bay district, and the highest rates, from 40s. to 50s., were given in the Canterbury district. I take these average rates as being more reliable than any information gained by individuals from their acquaintances.
– Some brothers of mine are receiving higher wages than those mentioned by the honorable and learned member.
– That may be so, but the rates I have quoted are the average. If the Prime Minister’s relatives displayed the same industry and ability that he has done they would deserve higher wages. I should be loth to regard the wages which they receive as the average rate, in the same way that I should hesitate to regard the rewards which he has received as the average of those which fall to the share of persons in politics. As I have before stated, there is only one association of agricultural employes in New Zealand. I am speaking from information given to me personally, during a visit to New Zealand in the early part of the year, by Mr. Mackay, the senior officer of the Labour Department at Wellington. He told me that efforts had been made from time to time to form unions amongst employers and employes in the agricultural industry, ‘ but that in no case was success achieved - apparently because it was felt that the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were not such as could conveniently be applied to the industry. The Minister of External Affairs challenged the views of the honorable member for Gippsland by saying that it was under his policy of non-interference that the lands -of this country were falling out of use, and that this feature was becoming more marked every year. That is so far from being the fact that country lands are coming into greater use every year. To say that there is any inclination shown in Victoria, the most closely populated of all the States, to abandon the country lands is to utterly misrepresent the facts. People are not quitting Victoria and going to New South Wales because they want to leave the land in the former State, but because the land there has left them. A sufficient area of land is not available for them, and they have to look further afield. Consequently the allegations about a policy of noninterference producing such results as ‘ were indicated by the Minister of External Affairs are in direct contravention of the facts. It is not because there is an Arbitration Act in New South Wales that men are going there. They could have all the Arbitration Acts in the world in New South Wales, and all the magnificent and beneficent results promised by the Minister of External Affairs under such an Act, and yet they could not induce settlers to go there .unless they had land to give them. There is not an acre of decent land in Victoria that is not applied for a dozen times over the moment it becomes available. Why should we have to listen to all this nonsense about the non-existence of an Arbitration Act applying to rural industries being the cause of the people leaving Victoria. If we are to have a fight over this question let us face the facts, and not allow our imaginations to run riot.
– The honorable and learned member is indulging in a little imagination.
– I am quoting what the Minister of External Affairs said. He stated that the falling out of use of the country lands of Australia was becoming more and more marked every year.
– Yes; but he did not say the want of a Conciliation and Arbitration Act was the cause of that.
– He said that the policy of non-interference was the cause, and he drew a glowing picture as to the possibilities under the operation of a Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Will the Minister of Home Affairs deny that the Minister of External Affairs said that ‘there was a falling out of use of the country lands oi Australia ?
– He said that the people were flocking to the towns.
An Honorable Member. - He said that of England.
– The ‘honorable member referred ‘to the country lands of Australia. His statement was contrary to facts, and any inferences he may have drawn are, therefore, utterly valueless. It is not my intention to follow the Minister of External Affairs through all the devious paths along which he professed to track the honorable member for Gippslands I do not intend to deal with his entire misapprehension of that honorable member’s position with regard to closer settlement in Victoria, further than to say that if he were aware of that honorable member’s connexion with the matter he would realize that he has done much to further that form of settlement. What he has done has proved successful, and if other Ministers during the last six years had done as much, there would have been even more settlement than we now find. I firmly believe in the principle of conciliation and arbitration, but I have ever present in my mind the limitation of our powers contained in the Constitution. I endeavour always to recollect the circumstances under which legislation as is now proposed is reasonably practicable. I always draw a marked distinction between farming and kindred rural industries, and manufacturing industries. The latter are practically under the control of those who are immediately concerned in them, whereas the former are not. Of course there are cases upon the border line. There are manufacturing industries in which the product is, to a large extent, taken out of the hands of those who are directly concerned in them; and similarly there are rural industries which are under the immediate control of those engaged in them. Speaking generally, however, there is the broad distinction which I have drawn between the two classes of industry. It is a fact that, as a rule, the product of rural industries is not under the control of the persons who are engaged in them. I believe in the main provisions of this Bill. I have always thought that, undesirable as is litigation, it is a less unpleasant alternative than a resort to force or to fisticuffs upon a large scale. But I have never believed in the argument that if it is good to apply a principle in one case, it necessarily follows that it is equally good to apply it in all cases. The honorable member . for Gippsland dealt with that phase of the question. He has pointed out that conciliation and arbitration under this or any other Bill merely involves the application of a remedy to a disease, or a threatened disease. Because the remedy proves good in a score of diseases, it does not follow that it will prove efficacious in the twenty-first case. Personally, I utterly fail to see the necessity for making people take medicine before they are ill. I venture to say that, so far as the rural industries of Australia are concerned, there has never been any substantial dissatisfaction shown with existing conditions, either on the part of employers or employes. At any rate they have not displayed that feeling to anything like the extent that it has been exhibited in the various manufacturing and carrying interests of the Commonwealth. The facts are that trouble has arisen, and may be expected to recur if it is not prevented, in certain cases. But in legislation of this character, which the public regard with a certain amount of unjust suspicion and unwarranted fear, I think we should follow the plan that is adopted by honorable members opposite in regard to the social millennium. We should “ wait until the public are educated up to it.” We should advance one step at a time, and ultimately should go for what the honorable member for Dalley terms “the whole hog.” In Australia there is practically a unanimous opinion that, so far as the Constitution permits of it, some form of Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as applied to thegreat manufacturing, mining, and carrying industries, is desirable. It is generally admitted that it is necessary for us to have some measure which will enable us to obviate strikes and locks-out. There are those who urge that this Bill will work more evil than good, because it will impose more restrictions than it will bestow benefits. But in the districts throughout Australia in which the people are engaged in rural industries, there is practically a unanimous opinion that this provision is not wanted. Just as it is our duty to give effect to other clauses, if we can reconcile them with our consciences, so is is incumbent upon us to oppose this provision if we honestly think that its adoption will be injurious to the community. It is for that reason that I support the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Wannon. I should not have supported it in its original form, because I believe that past experience has shown the necessity for making such a measure applicable to the pastoral industry. If the Government can demonstrate to any fair-minded man - and I venture to include myself in that category
– Oh, no.
– I can understand the position which is taken up by the Minister of Home Affairs upon this matter. It is a case of “ orthodoxy is my ‘ doxy ‘ - heterodoxy is the other fellow’s’ ‘ doxy.’ “ Had there been any substantial demand, upon either side, from those concerned in the farming industry for the application of this Bill to them, I should be prepared to reconsider my attitude in regard to the Government proposal. The Minister of External Affairs asserted that the honorable member for Gippsland was very willing to apply it to the “other fellow.”’ After all, that is a cheap taunt, which can always be hurled at any individual who disagrees with one’s own view. About a third of . my constituents are engaged in mining, another third in farming, and the balance in manufacturing industries. It will thus be seen that I represent all classes, and I am perfectly satisfied that, so far as they are concerned, they believe that this Bill should extend only to cases in which it can reasonably be applied. My own impression is that the words “ extending beyond the limits of any one State “ will be found continually to interfere with what we may regard as the desirable operation of the Act. However, I do not think that we should seek to alter the Constitution in any way. We should give it a fair’ trial. After only three years’ experience of its working, we should not seek to amend it - even for the purpose of nationalizing the tobacco industry. The nation is younger than even the children of whom the Prime Minister spoke earlier - the children of the farmers and dairymen who are compelled to labour for their parents. While they Prime Minister was speaking, I asked him how this Bill was going to remedy the state of affairs which he depicted. He replied that he would come to that point at a later stage, but he has not reached it up to the present.
– I forgot about it.
– The Prime Minister will have to wait till the children have grown up before he will ‘be able to apply this Bill to them.
– That is doubtful.
– If all the dairymen of New South Wales and Victoria were to compel their children to rise at 4 o’clock in the morning and to work till10 o’clock at night, the condition obtaining could not be termed “ an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State.”
– The Court could prevent the employment of children.
– I do not think so.
– In some cases in New South Wales the Court does prevent their employment.
– Not the employment of the employer’s own children.
– I think so.
– At any rate, the term “ industrial dispute “ does not occur in the New South Wales Constitution, as it does in that of the Commonwealth. Upon these matters, however, no one, save the High Court, can speak positively. I venture to think that the trouble to which the Prime Minister referred cannot be dealt with under this Bill. I understand that in some cases the fact that children are obliged to work long hours causes them to fall asleep at school. At the same time, I feel assured that the allegations made in this connexion cannot all be substantiated. I am of the opinion that they are somewhat exaggerated, and I have no doubt that something can be said upon the other side. The ordinary parent is not so inconsiderate to his children that the extraordinary condition of affairs depicted by the Prime Minister can be said to be very widespread. [ reTuse to1 believe that the dairy farmers of Australia, as a whole, habitually countenance a state of semi-slavery amongst their children. Even if such conditions obtained, I dp not think it was fair for the Prime Minister to draw the moving picture which he did as an inferential argument in favour of the Government proposal. It is in no way germane to it, and.- therefore, should not have been introduced. Measures which impose restrictions upon the liberty of the individual are frequently justifiable. Justification for the action now proposed has been proved to exist in the case of a number of the great industries of Australia, but it has not been demonstrated to exist in the case of the industries which are the subject matter of this amendment - nor has it been shown that it is desirable to create unnecessary alarms on the one hand, or to raise false hopes on the other. I contend that the attitude of the Government will create unnecessary alarms and raise false hopes. In this direction, as in others, they should proceed one step at a time. When this measure comes into operation, and the public realize that it is not going to have all kinds of serious effects on the trades to which it applies, they will be more ready to consent to its application to other industries than thev are at present. No justification has been shown for the Government proposal. I decline to draw general conclusions from isolated cases. We all are too prone to generalize too hastily from particular instances. The support given to the Government proposal by the Minister of Externa! Affairs must be founded on the fact that a gentleman in Queensland approved of rising at a much earlier hour than he considered desirable, or else upon the other isolated case of the lad whom the Prime Minister saw fast asleep beside a milk-can on the roadside. These cases, however, afford no justification for the Government proposal, and neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister of External Affairs has suggested the existence of conditions in the rural parts of Australia that would justify it. It was pointed out by the Prime Minister that the wages paid tq farm hands of various kinds in Southern New Zealand are higher than are those paid in Victoria. I believe that that is so; but I would remind the honorable gentleman that the returns per acre in Southern New Zealand are also greater.
– I mentioned that fact; I did not use the point referred to as an argument, but incidentally alluded to it.
– We know that it is impossible to take in wages from an industry more than the profits will enable it to pay. In extreme cases, one may take all the profits of an industry, but I do not know that the Prime Minister would be prepared to sanction anything in that direction. Undoubtedly, the hours of rural occupations are sometimes long, and the duties tedious. Those who live in the country districts undoubtedly have not the same opportunities for social and mental enjoyment that those in the towns possess; but the passing of a law which every one admits will be inoperative will not transform the country into the town and will not make long hours short, nor will it make laborious duties lighter.
– Notwithstanding the harrowing picture which the Prime Minister has drawn of the boy whom he discovered fast asleep by the side of a milk-can on a country road, and whom it would have been impossible to arouse, even by the discharge of a shot gun, I refuse to believe that the prevailing conditions of the farming industry in New South Wales are so bacl as he would have us believe, or that the wages paid to farm labourers are only 7 s. per week.
– I did not say that that was the ruling rate of pay ; I simply mentioned that I knew that wages as low as 7s. per week were paid to these employes.
– I have an intimate knowledge of the conditions prevailing in the farming industry in Victoria, and 1 venture to say that it would be impossible to obtain the services of even a boy to milk cows for 7s. per week and his board. A farmer will not employ a man who cannot earn £i a week and his board. That is the general rate of pay in the winter season - from harvest time to harvest time.
– A married man who committed suicide in Melbourne a few days ago received only 17s. per week as a lorrydriver.’
– And that was possible in Melbourne, notwithstanding that factory legislation applies to most of the city trades.
– Does the Victorian Factories Act apply to a lorry-driver?
– Certainly, if he , is employed in the city.
– That is not so.
– The Minister of External Affairs mentioned that bread-carters were brought under the operation of the Act.
– That was in New South Wales.
– I am under the impression that the hours of Victorian carters are also regulated.
– I venture to say that the farming industry can show a larger proportion of men and women who have risen from the ranks and made homes for themselves than can any other calling. The honorable member for Gippsland has bten twitted with regard to his policy of noninterference, and it has been urged that that policy has set up conditions that cause our lands to be less attractive than they should be. We have also been told by the Minister of External Affairs that, as the result of the closer settlement policy of Victoria, population has gradually drifted from this State to New South Wales. Is that any matter for surprise, in view of the fact that we have practically not an acre of land available for settlement? It is due to the policy of interference that has been pursued that our rate of production has been raised to its present high level.
– Socialism !
– It is open to the honorable member to so describe the policy. I have no dread of the name. As a matter of fact, I hold that the State should interfere in any industry whenever it is desirable to do so. But I think that the Government, instead of proposing to include the farming industry within the scope of this Bill, might, with advantage, turn its attention to the establishment of industries that will create new avenues of employment, and secure better wages, for the people generally. The lack of employment, to which reference has been made, ls largely due to the fact that modern machinery has displaced manual labour to a very considerable extent, and that we have not attempted to diversify the local fields of employment. A great deal of work that was carried out twenty years ago by the farmers themselves is to-day performed in the cities. We have not a man growing 200 or 300 acres of wheat who is unable, -with the assistance of modern machinery, to carry on his operations with the help of one or two farm hands, although, in the old days, it would have been necessary for him to employ eight or ten. The same may be said of the butter industry. With the exception of the milking of the cows; nearly all the work formerly done on dairy farms is now carried out if not in the large towns and cities, at all events in the local factories. Unfortunately, owing to lack of State interference, some of those who carry on the large undertakings in the city obtain more of the cream than they should rightly receive.
– A little more Socialism has rendered such a thing impossible in South Australia.
– A good deal of ingenuity is necessary in order to checkmate the keen business men who seek to circumvent the farmers. I have been for a number of years carrying on farming operations in the district which I represent, and know of many young men there who have a general knowledge of farm work, and sufficient capital to enable them to establish a home for themselves, but find it impossible to secure a piece of land in the district. Whilst the honorable member for Gippsland was Premier of Victoria, he did practically all . that has been done in the direction of closer settlement. It was during his term of office that we witnessed the only effort that has been made in Victoria in that direction. We must look to closer settlement for a solution of the problem which now confronts us. We hear much talk of immigration; but what purpose will be served by inducing people to emigrate to the Commonwealth if we cannot find employment for them? Iregret that it is to a large extent true that we are unable to find work for our present population ; and, that being so, it is absurd to talk of inducing others to come to Australia. We hear much of the attractiveness of Canada and the United States of America, and we are aware that those who leave the old world for those countries know before they do so that they will find there some field of employment offering a better scope for their energy than they were able to discover at home. It is only by offering like inducements thatwe shall be able to keep our own population in the Commonwealth and attract immigrants. It is admitted bv the Prime Minister and the Minister of External Affairs that it is altogether improbable that this provision would be brought into operation, and, that being so-
I fail to see why we should agree to it. Why load the statute-book with useless provisions? Is it not better to deal with those industries in connexion with which trouble is arising? Why pass provisions that will be inoperative?
– The difficulty is that we cannot look into the future.
– We know at least of some industrial organizations to which this measure, had it been in operation, would have been applied. I speak as a farmer, and although personally I do not fear the Government proposal, I know that there are many who view it with alarm. There are sections of employes who believe that it will improve their condition, but while it io theoretically an excellent proposal, in practice it will really amount to nothing. This being my view of the matter, I intend to support the amendment. I would earnestly ask the Prime Minister, knowing that he and his colleagues have the welfare of the industries of Australia at heart, to refrain from theorizing in regard to questions of this kind, and do something . practical.
– Is not farming an industry ?
– Certainly ; but there are other matters relating to it to which we might well devote our attention. The honorable member for South Sydney this afternoon dealt with the question of irrigation and the possibility of improving the land in the Murray basin. If the Government devoted a few weeks to the settlement of that problem, and were able to reconcile the conflicting interests of the riparian States concerned, they would do far more for the industrial life of Australia than can be hoped for from’ this proposal to bring the agricultural industry under the jurisdiction of a Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– I think that there is a very wide distinction between the considerations which justify the application of the provisions of a measure like this to railway employes, and those which affect its application to the agricultural and dairying industries pf the Commonwealth. I had not an opportunity to hear the whole of the speech of the Prime Minister ; but I was amused at the attempt of the Minister of External Affairs to justify the position of the Government on this matter. In replying to the honorable member for Gippsland, whom I suppose has a more intimate knowledge of farming and dairying than any other honorable member, the Minister of External Affairs showed how entirely he is out of touch with these industries. He spoke of the time when he was a lad on a farm in England, and it was thought a magnificent day’s work to shear twenty-five sheep. When I asked him how old he was, my question came ‘ as a surprise to him. I am satisfied that he is not aware that in the shearing sheds of New South Wales, and of the other States’, over 100 sheep are shorn each day of shearing.
– The Minister’s remark shows how far behind they are in England.
– It shows how far behind he is in his knowledge of subjects of this kind. I acknowledge that he is intimately acquainted with the industries which he so ably represents in this House; but I do not think that either he or the Prime Minister has a sufficiently intimate knowledge of the dairying industry, as shown in their speeches, to justify them in advocating the application of the provisions of this measure to it. The Minister of External Affairs has admitted that he is not one of those who gets up early in the morning. If he never got up early in the ‘morning, he knows nothing about the dairying industry of Australia, because the dairymen are amongst the earliest risers in the Commonwealth. Their hours of labour, however, could not be satisfactorily regulated by any Arbitration Court. For example, a number of the dairymen in the district which I represent send their milk to Sydney every morning. Those at the southern end of the district are about ninety miles by rail from the metropolis, and to get their milk to the train in time, they have to rise about 4 o’clock in the morning. Those nearer Sydney rise later and the men at the northern end of the district do not get up until about 6 o’clock. Obviously, no uniform regulation could apply in that case. Again, none of us are in favour of increasing the employment of child labour. But those who know anything of the dairying industry are aware that it cannot be got rid of in that connexion. I am not intimately acquainted with the dairy farmers of Victoria, but I know that the children reared on the dairyfarms of New South Wales do not suffer from the work which they are compelled to do.
– They are the sturdiest persons reared in Australia.
– Yes. I defy anyone to find better men or women than are produced in the dairying districts of Australia, under the conditions which have been so much deplored.
An Honorable Member. - The honorable gentleman is not a bad specimen himself.
– No, although I have never been one to get up early in the morning if I could help it. But I have been mixed up with dairymen during my whole life, and know intimately nearly every one in my district. There are no finer men and women in Australia than are reared under these conditions of labour. It has been said to-night, and the statement has been made at conferences of public school teachers, that boys and girls who rise at daylight, and have work to do before breakfast, are not in a fit state to go to school, and I quite agree that it does handicap them ; but the fact remains that the public schools of the South Coast district of New South Wales produce, in proportion to their number, as many successful candidates at the Public Service junior and senior examinations as come from the other schools of the Colony.
– It shows that the children are anxious to get away from that kind of employment.
– It shows that the employment does not affect their intellectual capabilities. The Minister of External Affairs has stated that no section of the community should be exempted from the operation of a measure of this kind unless good reasons can be shown. I have displayed my sincerity in connexion with the Bill by the vote which I have given on every division which has been taken in connexion with it ; but I am opposed to applying it to the dairying industry, and no case has been made out for doing so. It has been pointed out to-night that, although the New Zealand Arbitration Act has been in force for eight years, and the dairy farmers and agriculturists of that colony have had every opportunity to avail themselves of its provisions, no union has been formed to take advantage of them. Similarly, we have an Arbitration Act in force in New South Wales, and those engaged in dairying and agricultural pursuits have had every opportunity to take advantage of it ; but no union has been formed to do so. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs have admitted that in all probability the provision which they are pressing upon the Committee will, even if passed, never be used. If that be so, why load the Bill with it? In my opinion, it has been moved merely to throw dust in the eyes of a certain section of the community, and to delude them into the belief that they are getting some great advantage. The Prime Minister has said that men will not go in for farming except, to use his own words, “ on the chance of a bumper haul.” But in New South Wales we have in our farming districts men who came from England, Ireland, and Scotland, and who left carpentering, bricklaying, and other pursuits to start farming. They did so because they thought that the best occupation open to them. Nevertheless, the’ farmers do not make the bumper hauls which some people think they make. They have one of the hardest occupations in the Commonwealth, full of trials and disappointments. Since the Prime Minister has stated that so much has been done for them by the Parliaments of New South Wales, and of the other States, I would ask him what has the Commonwealth done for them? It has done its best to cripple them. My advice to the honorable gentleman and his colleagues is to put aside these schemes for bettering the lot of the farmer by bringing him within the scope of the Arbitration Bill, and to remove the duties which press so hardly upon him.
– The honorable member for Gippsland would not agree with the honorable and learned member in that matter.
– I know that he differs from me there. But as one who has had the . experience- of a lifetime in connexion with agricultural industries, I say that it is the duties imposed by the Commonwealth Parliament which press most hardly upon the dairy farmers, and we saw this during the recent drought. The Prime Minister made another mistake in regard to the dairying industry, so far as the constituency which I represent is concerned. He stated that, in the south coast district of New South Wales, a large number of dairy farmers are working on the share system. As a matter of fact, the system is hardly known there. On the tableland about Robertson and Mossvale there are some farms which are worked on that system, but elsewhere it is almost unknown. It must be remembered that, although it is said that the dairy farmers make a magnificent thing out of the industry, they have to depend upon the success of their produce in the markets of the world, and by so much as we hamper them we help their competitors in Denmark, Russia, Sweden, the Argentine, and other countries. If we wish to help them, we must do all we can to make their industry free and unrestricted. Nothing should be done which will handicap them in their competition with other producers in the markets of the world. It has been said that, because of the hard conditions prevailing on farms, men are attracted to the city. We all know the attractions of city life. In the country there are no theatres or other amusements, and I dare say all of us who have been brought up in the country have known what it is to wish to go to the city and know what is passing there. This generally applies to men living in the country, and engaged in any occupation. Something has been said by the honorable member for Hume in regard to the inclusion of the pastoral industry. I quite agree with him. We can remember the great dispute that occurred in connexion with the pastoral industry some time ago, and which extended over four States. That is one of the industries to which the provisions of this Bill might be very, well applied, and the same remarks apply to the railway services and to the mining industry. The position occupied by the industries mentioned in the amendment, however, is quite different. The Prime Minister should not run away with the idea that the farmers of. the Commonwealth frequently make bumper hauls. They are, in many instances, leading a very hard life, and they certainly would not be benefited by the Bill. Something has been said about the harshness of landlords. I happen to know a good deal about the landlords in the district which I represent, and I can confidently assert that in the majority of cases they deal fairly and liberally with all their tenants. It is very easy to talk about the hard times tenants have under their landlords, but I venture to say that if the books of many of the landlords in New South Wales were examined it would be found that in a large number of instances the tenants had hold of the best end of the stick. In consideration of the fact that a conciliation and arbitration law has been in operation in New Zealand for many years, and has not been taken advantage of by those engaged ‘in agricultural pursuits, and that no occasion has arisen in New South Wales for farmers or their employes to appeal to the Arbitration Court, I trust that honorable members will recognise that there is no necessity for extending the provisions of the Bill to that industry. I trust that the amendment will be carried.
– I have listened with great interest to the debate, which has embraced a discussion on the land question. It was generally understood that the Federal Parliament had nothing to do with the land, but, judging from- the statements of many honorable members, our legislation will have a very serious effect upon those who are settled upon it. Whilst listening to the honorable and learned member for Illawarra I was reminded of the story of the young man who attended the ball in his district, and who, after having had a dance or two, approached a young lady who was sitting on one side of the room, with the intention of asking her to dance with him. He tapped her on the shoulder, and, before he could prefer his request, heard her say, “Stand up, Spot.” She was dreaming, and thought that she was in the milkingyard. The honorable and learned member for Illawarra has. asked us how we could fix the working hours of men engaged in the dairving industry, and the question is a pertinent one. About a year ago I paid a visit to a dairying friend of mine, who has had ‘a life-long, experience of the industry. He runs his dairy most successfully. He told me that he had never forgotten the very early hours at which he used to be roused out of bed by his father, in order to commence the work of the day. He did not feel any better for it, and made up his mind to dispense with the very early rising, which is regarded by some dairymen as necessary to enable them to carry o n successfully. He does not require the members of “ his family, or his employes, to rise at unreasonable hours, and the whole of the day’s work on his farm can be done between 6 o’clock in the morning and the same hour at night. One important fact has been overlooked in connexion with the amendment. The honorable and learned member for Wannon desires to make exemptions in favour of persons engaged in certain industries. He intends to reserve to them the privilege to do that which in others would be. regarded as an offence against the law - practically a crime. It is intended that the farm labourer should be free to go on strike when he likes, whereas the shearer is to be prohibited from doing so. The honorable and learned member first proposed that shearers should also be exempted, because he does not believe in the Bill, but favours strikes and locks-out in preference to peaceful methods of settlement. Now he wants to prohibit the shearer from striking, and to leave the harvester a free hand. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Gippsland, when a crop is ripe, it is necessary that all hands should work hard for long hours in order to harvest it. I have taken part in harvesting work myself, and I know what it is. The honorable and learned member for Wannon, who professes to be a friend of the farmers, wants to expose them to the risk of a strike on the part of their harvesters at a critical time, when a day’s delay may mean the loss of a valuable crop.
– The Bill as introduced by the GovernmenF exempts two large classes of persons, namely, domestic servants and a large section of the public servants of the States.
– The principal ground of complaint against the provision as it stands is that it is a drag net which will embrace too many classes of employes. We cannot expect to produce a good moral effect if we exempt certain classes of persons from the penal consequences of striking, whilst others are to’ be liable to them. The honorable member for Hume suggested that we should wait until some trouble arose before we legislated, but to adopt that course would be equivalent to allowing one’s house to be burgled before taking precautions against the depredations of that class of criminals. It is much better to provide for contingencies which experience has shown the necessity of guarding against. I think I can claim to have an inside knowledge of trades unions and their organization, and I think honorable members will recognise that I speak with authority when I say that, apart from the stimulus which has been given by legislation for compulsory arbitration, there has been a very wide extension of the trades union movement during the last few years. This is attributable to the spread of education, and the increasing pressure of the conditions of life. Only recently an appeal came to me from the district represented by the honorable member for Corangamite to organize a union among the very class of employes whom the honorable and learned member for Wannon desires to exclude from the operation of the Bill. We have been requested by the Trades Hall Council which has been appealed to by dairying employes, to take action in this matter. Grievances undoubted)’ exist, but the men are so circumstanced that unless some effort be made to organize them, the general public will remain ignorant of their disabilities. In the western district of Victoria, complaints are continually being made regarding the wages that are paid to the employes, their hours -of labour and the poor accommodation which is provided for them. In the former days the shearers’ hut was a notoriously unfit place in which to house any animal whatever. The pastoralists would not put their dogs and horses in the buildings which the shearers were obliged to occupy. In New South Wales we had to pass an Act of Parliament to remedy that evil. Similarly one of the strongest grievances of the dairying employes is that they are required to sleep in buildings in which their masters would not house their stock. I do not urge that this condition of affairs is general. It is admitted that the hours . of dairying employes are extremely long, and that they have to work seven days a week. The argument that, because no public complaints have been made, no grievances exist, is ridiculous. Of recent years we have heard a good deal in reference to the troubles of the shearers. Why ? Simply because they are organized. Prior to their’ organization was. anything heard of their grievances? Certainly not! Those who support the amendment practically argue that the farmers and dairymen as a class are altogether free from those troubles which afflict other employers. In every industry there are some men who treat their employes unjustly. That fact is practically admitted by’ the honorable and learned member for Wannon, who fears the action which may be taken by the Court which it is proposed to establish under this Bill. He is apprehensive that it will affect the wages that are paid by the farming community. Why? Simply because he knows perfectly well that in many cases those wages are not decent. They are not wages which a Judge of any Court would countenance. Upon no other theory can he justify his fear of disputes of an Inter-State character between farmers and their employes being brought before the Arbitration Court.
– Does the honorable member think that that all the employes of the farmers wish to come under the operation of this Bill ?
– I hold that in an Act of Parliament we have no right to declare that certain persons can commit acts, which, if committed by other persons, would be treated as offences. It is well known that in all industries there are a large number of perfectly fair employers. But. there is always a percentage of sweaters amongst them. It is not in keeping with human, nature to assume that, farmers and dairymen, as. a class, are absolutely fair men. Amongst them there must be some who are unscrupulous. If it were not so,, why the necessity of appointing inspectors, whose duty it is to see that our dairies are kept clean, and that typhoid germs are not served up with the morning’s milk? As a matter of fact, we require laws only to coerce a minority into doing something which the majority would most willingly undertake. It seems to me that instead of fearing the payment of a fair wage, . which the honorable and learned member for Wannon seems to think is all that is involved-
– There is a great deal more.
– The honorable and learned member said that under the operation of this Bill the wages of farm labourers would be so increased, and their hours so shortened, that their employers would not be able to carry on their industry. I believe in rural industries being aided. I have always advocated the settlement of the people on the land, so that they may be able to make a good living for themselves. In their case the wages system would naturally be superseded. But we shall not be studying the interests of the dairy farmer if we regard the employment of cheap labour, by him as the first essential. The proper course to adopt is to see that he obtains his land upon fair conditions. Within the past fortnight I paid a visit to the electorate which is represented by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. There I was furnished by a local resident with particulars of a case which will illustrate my point. In that district a man recently purchased some land upon its book value. From the proprietor’s books it appeared that certain rentals had been received from it. In one case the rental which the tenant was credited with having paid was£6o a year. What really happened was this: At the end of the year the tenant went to the owner and said, . “ My . crops have been a failure ; I have not derived from the land the amount of the rental, and therefore I cannot pay it:” Thereupon the owner asked, “ How much can you pay ?” to which the reply was forthcoming - “All that I can raise is , £35.” The owner accepted the £35, and gave the tenant a clean receipt.
– We do not do things like that out West.
– I should hope not. If a tenant pays too much for his land he cannot obtain a return from it. The demand for land is very great, and in competition persons very frequently offer a higher rental for it than they are warranted in doing., It is not the wages which are paid that “ cruel “ the dairying industry, but the high rentals. I may mention that nine-tenths of an area of 4,000 square miles in the western district of Victoria is held by sixty families.
– When were those figures compiled ?
– Quite recently.
– Nearly every large estate in the western district has been cut up within the past eighteen months.
– Nine-tenths of this land is held by sixty families, and the population settled upon it numbers 7,869.
– What area of Crown lands does it comprise?
– I am not speaking of Crown lands.
– Is it held in fee-simple?
– The honorable and learned member must know that the Crown has long ago parted with the feesimple of most of the western district. Some strange stories are told of the way in which these men acquired the land in the early days. They dummied it first of all in the names of all the members of their family ; and, then, having, exhausted their list of employes, took up other blocks in the names of their working bullocks.
– Did this happen in Victoria ?
– It did. I am speaking of the land beyond Hamilton. It is notorious that certain blocks of land between Hamilton and Coleraine were actually dummied in the name of working bullocks. I find that 1,240,000 acres are held by eighteen persons.
– What class of land is it?
– The honorable and learned member knows that it comprises a very large area of excellent land. Some of the finest land in Victoria is to be found in the western district, where as much as £40 per acre has been paid. Can it be expected that land for which that price is paid can be profitably devoted to dairying purposes ?
– Some dairy farmers have paid as much as£50 per acre for their land, and are able to work it profitably.
– I am anxious to point out that the honorable and learned member, instead of desiring to make it possible for the wages of men, who receive only 10s. per week, to be still further reduced, should endeavour to get at the root of the trouble. I do not say that 10s. per week is the general rate, for I know that there are many employers who would scorn to pay such wages. The honorable member for Gippsland has spoken of his desire to secure a permanent peasantry for Australia, but how is such a class to flourish if it is oppressed and loaded almost beyond bearing.
– Loaded by means of arbitration laws.
– Arbitration laws do not affect the matter with which I am dealing. Those who favour the amendment have quite lost sight of land monopolists and landlords. A man who obtains control of the land really controls the people.
– The Federal Parliament cannot pass land laws.
– If a man has to pay more for his land than it is honestly worth it is impossible for him to make a living out of it. I have cited facts, and can give the honorable and learned member for Wannon not only the name of every holder of the properties to which I have referred, but their actual acreage. When we find a few individuals in possession of 1,000,000 acres of land we cannot deny that they are monopolists. The honorable member for Gippsland wishes to see a permanent peasantry, but he is strongly opposed to any attempt, to reduce the cost of settling the people on the land. He is opposed to a tax on the unimproved value of land, although such a tax would strike at speculative values. The present land tax in Victoria is most unfair.
– That is so.
– It is not based on sound principles, and is most unfair in its application to large areas. Although the honorable member for Gippsland professes a desire that the people should be encouraged to settle on the land, he is opposed to a proposal that would enable them to make a fair living out of it. At present land monopolists can charge what they like for their land. The vast holdings, of which I have spoken, carry only about two persons to the square mile, and yet the average for the whole of Victoria, inclusive of mountainous country, is thirteen. Having allowed the monopolists to obtain possession of the best land, we fmd that those who wish to follow farming pursuits have to pay exorbitant prices for it. The monopolist runs sheep on his estates, and finds wool-raising much less irksome than dairying. What cares he for the rest of the people ? When we desire to settle the people on the land we shall have to pay his price. We are told now that many , of these monopolists cannot make a living - that they have to compete with Indian wheat growers and others in the open markets of the world, and that we must not do justice to their employe’s lest we make the industry unpayable. That is the position taken up by those who support ‘the amendment.. Are we likely to make dairying more profitable by allowing the wages of a man who receives 15s. per week to be reduced? If a reduction were made in the wages of all dairy hands, would it have any appreciable effect on the profits of the industry? As a matter of fact, they are comparatively few in number, and I wish the honorable and learned member for Wannon to see that he is really starting at the wrong end. We propose that the Bill shall be far-reaching enough to include any industry to which circumstances may render it desirable to extend it. There is as much need to do justice as between the farmer and his employe as there is to mete out justice to any other section of the community. Much that has been said as to the complex character of the dairying industry is highly diverting. There are scores of industries - and particularly those carried on in factories - which are a thousand times more complex than is dairying. For the most part, the only questions relating to dairying that have to be considered are those affecting the hours of employment”, rates of pay, and the accommodation for workers. The Arbitration Courts in New Zealand, New South Wales, and Western Australia have successfully dealt with many, trades that are of a far more complex character, and all that we have heard about the special knowledge necessary to enable a Court to deal with the dairying industry must go by the board. The Minister of External Affairs has already pointed out that the Court would give consideration to all essential matters, and that there would be a levelling up of wages to the rates paid by most fair-minded employers. I have taken an active part in the formation of many organizations, and I know that one of the first things they do after framing their rules is to consider the scale of wages to be adopted. In every instance of which I have heard the scale fixed has been, not the highest, but that usually paid by fair-minded employers in the trade. In Victoria there are lands which will carry a bullock, or seven sheep, to the acre, while in some parts of New South Wales. a sheep finds it difficult to live on 20 acres. Notwithstanding this fact, holders of rich Victorian lands paid lower shearing rates than were offered in any other part of Australia. They paid only 8s./ 9s., and ros. per 100; but others, again, were voluntarily paying as much as 16s. per 100 when we started the Shearers’ Union.
– The honorable member has not recently visited the districts in which’ the low rates to which he has referred were paid.
– I have.
– Then I will undertake to say that the rates have since been increased.
– No doubt they have. I mention the facts merely to show that even before the establishment of the Shearers’ Union there were reasonable pastoralists who voluntarily paid a fair wage. Some paid 16s per ]00, while one actually paid 17s. per 100. The union decided upon a rate of 15s. per 100, but the pastoralists opposed that proposal. In all the conferences that have taken place between the pastoralists and the shearers’ representatives, it has never yet been said that the former could not afford to pay the prices asked. They have simply declined to pay them. It is notorious that in those districts in which the land-owners can best afford to pay the highest rates the lowest rates prevail. Experience shows that it is often the pastoralist who can best afford to pay the highest rate who pays the lowest. That is true of every industry.
– The fair rates referred to by the honorable member were secured by means of voluntary conciliation.
– We had to fight for them. It was not until recent years that voluntary conciliation was resorted to. The Victorian pastoralists were always willing to meet the representatives of the shearers, and to fairly discuss with them any matter in dispute, until they were prohibited from doing so by the head organization. It seems to me that we must not discuss this question from the stand-point of whether good wages can be paid in an industry.
We have to consider the rights of every human being.
– Did the Machine Shearers’ Union, on its formation, adopt the existing rate of wages?
– Every one knows that that union is merely a bogus one, created solely for the purpose of evading an Act of Parliament. When trades unions are organized, they adopt as their standard the rate of pay offered by fair-minded employers, and honorable members will learn from a perusal of the decisions of the various Arbitration Courts that, in making their awards, they have not exceeded the rates paid voluntarily by fair-minded employers. These employers have simply been able to secure peacefully, with the assistance of the Court, what trades unions, where they have been strong enough, have often succeeded in securing only after hard fighting. This is all we expect from the Bill. No one thinks that its provisions will affect the other problems to which reference hai been made. The measure merely assumes the existence of two classes which stand in the relation of employers and employes, and the fact that some workmen in the struggle for bread and butter, and without a true appreciation of the effect of their action upon their fellows, offer their services at too low a rate of wage, while some employers, who will not consider the interests of the individual, force men to take as little as possible. Undoubtedly we are dealing with minorities. All laws do that- But the passing of a measure of this kind brings grievances to light. That is one of the objections ‘ urged against the New South Wales Act. It has been said that it has caused grievances. Those who complain overlook the fact that the grievances were in existence, and that there were no means to give expression to them until the men became organized, and could come before the Arbitration Court. One effect of this measure will be to encourage the organization of labour in every industry. I do not say that it is likely that these organizations will appeal to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. But why should, we shut the door against any bodies of employes? Why should some be treated differently from others? I have shown that the statement that those engaged, in agricultural and dairying industries have no grievances is unfounded. I do not assert that the time is ripe for an Inter-State organization of such labour, but in New
South Wales and Victoria there has been a movement afoot to organize it. A great number of the members of the Australian Workers’ Union are farmers’ employes, and would form the nucleus of a union. We have been asked by the Trades Hall Council to take up this work of organization because of the many grievances urged by dairymen and others which have come before it. I have not . heard of ‘ any of the complaints coming from Gippsland. They may be all decent people there. But I have heard that some one there employs Chinese. In my opinion a man is not very patriotic if he will patronize Chinese in any walk of life. I do not wish to shut out any class of employes.
– Than why did the honorable member vote last night to exclude public servants?
– I did not.
– Why are domestic servants excluded?
– I do not wish to shut out any body of employe’s. The amendment perpetuates the defect of the Constitution. That defect is one which is, unfortunately, too common in the legislation of the States. In the past it has been customary to only half do a thing, and thus make the position worse than it was before. The defect in the Constitution to which I allude is that our power is so limited that we do not know exactly what it is. I believe that the right honorable member for Adelaide, who is really the father of the Bill, did wisely in so framing it as to make it wide enough to deal ‘with the possible developments of the future. That is the right way in which to frame a law. We should not have regard merely to the present. Apparently honorable members think that nothing should be done until some one has gone round among the dairying employes and disturbed the existing pleasant conditions, under which early rising and long hours lead to fortune, causing them to come out on strike, and forcing Parliament to pass a law to deal with them. Is that a common-sense view to take? The right thing to do is to frame a measure to prevent the possibility of strikes in any part of the Continent.’ If the Constitution forces us to exclude some members of the community, it is not our fault, but the fault of those who were so conservative as to adopt the old-fashioned method of appearing to give a good deal and reallv giving very little. It is very difficult for those who go upon the land to make a living.
Even if they take up Crown land, they have to pay for it in instalments, and probably interest to- other persons.
– If the dairymen become dissatisfied with the award of the Court, will they go on strike as the members of the Australian Workers’ Union did?
– The workers of the Australian Workers’ Union have never gone on strike, nor have they ever been before the Arbitration Court. They have never had a show, but are waiting for this measure to pass. Reference has been made to the employment of children in the dairying industry. I take it that one of the duties of law-makers is to secure adequate protection for children. We should all champion their interests. I do not hold with the old idea that, because one is the father of a child, and bigger than it, he should ill-treat it. In some of the dairies, however, that is practically what happens. All hands have to fall to, and work hard. There is probably more slavery in the dairying industry than in any other. Work there goes on for 365 days in the year ; and, while it is not always very hard, it is tedious, and very severe upon the children who are.called on ‘to bear a hand. If a case came before the Court, and the hours of labour were regulated, it would no doubt have an effect upon the employment of- children, because,, if the men did not commence work before a certain time each day, the children would not do so. In my opinion, the Act may do good in causing persons to get into better habits in the management of their business. I know of dairymen who do not work unreasonable hours, and yet are successful. It is unnecessary to work such long hours in any industry. The New South Wales Arbitration Court, however, has recognised that the conditions of industry vary, and while it permits some employes to work fifty-six hours a week, it has made the hours in other industries shorter. Bakers and carters have to commence work early, and so have butchers, especially on certain days of the week; but the Court has recognised the customs of the various trades, and, consequently, there has been no revolution. Apparently, some honorable members cannot sleep at night for thinking what would happen if the Bill were passed, and yet they tell us that its provisions will be practically inoperative. No advantage will be taken of the farmer at harvest time. What the measures does is to declare strikes illegal, and an offence against the law, and under it the New
South Wales experience will be repeated. There scores of unions have sprung into existence, and have been registered, where, previously, there was no organization, and in an immense number of cases grievances have been amicably settled between em ployes and employers. About 50,000 persons have been concerned in the awards already given.
– Would the honorable member stop the work of harvesting in order to bring harvesters before the Court?
– It is reasonable to assume that what has taken place in New South Wales would take place under the Bill. I have taken part in an organization which has had in view the redressing of marked grievances in the agricultural industry. If honorable members are afraid that the measure will not be operative, I could undertake to stir the men up a bit more. The honorable members for Wannon, Gippsland, and Moira, all champion the cause of the farmer, and I should like to see what they would say if we organized a big strike during the hot weather, when the harvest was on:
– It would be a failure, like another big strike which the honorable member organized last year.
– The honorable and learned member desires that those belonging to the agricultural and dairying industries should be privileged to go on strike, but he would prevent others from doing so.
– I rise to order. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has stated that the members of the Labour Party in this House organized a strike last year. I wish to know if that statement is allowable, because it is an absolute-
– Malicious libel.
– It is a malicious libel upon the party.
– The interjection was disorderly, and as it appears to have been distasteful to some honorable members. I ask the honorable and learned member for Wannon to withdraw it.
– Certainly. I withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Darwin has characterized the statement of the honorable and learned member for Wannon as a malicious libel. I desire to know if that is in order. If not, the honorable member should withdraw it.
– I think perhaps that the honorable and learned member who is aggrieved should have made the complaint; but since my attention has been drawn to the matter, I ask the honorable member for Darwin to withdraw his statement.
– I withdraw my reference to a malicious libel, because I do not believe that the honorable and learned member for Wannon would be guilty of such a thing. I now characterize his statement as an unholy allegation.
– Some honorable members have claimed that no appeals have been made to the New Zealand Court by persons connected with the agricultural industry, and they have argued from this that it is not necessary to include those engaged in that pursuit within the scope of this measure. The answer to that is that in New Zealand the employers have been careful not to give the employes any reasons for extending their organization and bringing grievances before the Court. I have known as much as 2s. 6d. an hour to be paid for harvesting work in the Canterbury district. Labour was scarce, and the men took advantage of the opportunity to apply the law of supply and demand.
– But the honorable member does not believe in the unrestricted application of the law of supply and demand.
– There is no such thing as the unrestricted application of the law of supply and demand under present conditions. It would be possible only under a complete let-alone policy, such as some honorable members would like to adopt. What occurred in Canterbury might also happen here, and our farmers might be called upon to pay ruinously high rates of wages in order to get their crops harvested. In such an event they would find their position much worse than it would be if they were required to pay a slightly increased wage to their hands all the year round. Therefore, even from the farmers’ point of view, I think that the course proposed by the honorable and learned member for Wannon is a most unwise one, and I hope that he will withdraw his amendment. He might very well direct the whole of his energies to the consideration of the basic principles of land reform, with a view to enabling settlers to go on to the land under advantageous conditions. He would then find us ready to help him in every possible way. The difficulties under which our farmers labour are not caused by the high wages they have to pay to their hands. In the early days of the Shearers’ Union I met farmers in the electorate represented by the Prime Minister, who said that they did not objectto pay 7s. a day to harvesters. They believed in good wages, because they realized that the higher the wages the better would be the market for their wheat. There are many influences which operate against the farmers, and render it difficult for them to make ends meet. Not only have many of them to pay high rentals, but the middlemen, who market their produce, impose heavy burdens upon them. The dairyfarmers of Victoria have recently realized this, judging from the disclosures which have been made in connexion with the Butter Commission, and it is to be hoped that they will pay more attention to this particular part of their business. The farmers have not so much occasion to be afraid of their workmen as of others who are preying upon them. Those who are acquainted with the development of the butter industry in Iraland will know that since 1890, when cooperative dairying was brought into vogue, very great success has attended the industry. In Victoria and elsewhere the experience has been the same. The co-operative societies in Ireland found that they could carry on more successfully by combining their operations, as far as possible, and thev also made arrangements, not only for dispensing with middlemen who previously derived profit from the sale of their produce, but also for entering upon the purchase of the materials used in connexion with their industry.. In the very first year of these extended operations they saved over 40 . per cent, upon the purchase of manures alone. By these and other methods the farmers could save a great deal of money without interfering with the wages of their employ6s. The conditions in Australia, under Federation, are very different from those which existed previously, and there is a strong tendency to organize Inter-State unions of those employes who have common grievances, and who work under similar conditions in all the States. The circumstances under which the dairying industry is carried on in Victoria and in some parts of New South Wales and Queensland are very much alike, and there are no insuperable obstacles to the organization of the employes in that industry upon an Inter-State basis. A movement in that direction is already on foot, andI appeal to the Committee to leave the door open for these men to appeal to the Court in the event of a dispute extending beyond any one State. I speak as one who desires to see the land occupied under the very best conditions, and I have no idea of injuring the farmers. I believe that it would be to their advantage if the agricultural industry were brought within the scope of this measure. I have never claimed that arbitration laws in themselves do anything more than secure peaceful conditions, and introduce better methods than those to which we have hitherto been accustomed for the settlement of industrial disputes. We ‘should afford an opportunity to present or prospective organizations of employes in whatever industry, to avail themselves of the benefits of the measure, and I hope, therefore, that’ the amendment will be negatived. Progress reported.
Motion (by Mr. Watson) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to a matter of some importance in connexion with the Defence Department. As he knows, certain allowances are made for the clothing and other expenses of the military corps. As matters stand at present,’ practically the whole of the Forces are to be provided with new uniforms. In the usual course, no money is paid in respect of the allowances referred to until the Estimates are actually passed ; but I should like the Prime Minister to consider, as early as possible in the coming financial year, whether it would- not be possible to allow an advance to be made to officers commanding corps, against their clothing allowances, in order to enable them to make arrangements for providing the new uniforms. I can quite understand that there may be difficulties in the way, because the commanding officers cannot order uniforms until they know that the money is in hand. -
– But suppose they received authority before the Estimates were passed, could they not order the uniforms?
– I think that they could order uniforms up to the extent of their allowances if they knew that they would get the money. The matter is of -some importance, and I shall be glad’ if the Prime Minister will consider it.
.- I shall be glad to consult with the Minister of Defence on the matter, and, if possible, accede to what seems to be a reasonable request.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 June 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040602_reps_2_19/>.