3rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m. and read prayers.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY presented a petition from certain retail confectioners, of Queenstown, Tasmania, praying the House to agree to the former duties on confectionery, or to a maximum duty of 2d. per lb.
Mr. COON presented a petition from 850 workers employed in the manufacturing of confectionery in Victoria, praying the House to agree to the duties on confectionery proposed by the Government.
Mr. COON presented a petition from 1,040 boot operatives of Victoria, praying the House to agree to a duty of 35 per cent, on boots and shoes.
Petition’s received and read.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs inform the House when the Bill dealing with the importation’ of patent medicines will be introduced?
– As soon as the Attorney-General can get. it ready. I hope that it will not be long before the Tariff discussion will be finished, and we shall be able to pass it.
– The Minister’s predecessor, promised more than twelve months ago that the measure would be introduced very soon.
– Is it true, as reported in the press, that the military authorities intend to adopt a short bayonet in lieu of the long bayonet now in use? If so, is the Minister aware that the British Government, having adopted the short rifles, are using longer bayonets?
– The matter is under con-, siderarion, no definite conclusion Saving yet been arrived at. I understand that the Imperial authorities have not quite made up their minds on this subject.
New South Wales Government Importation
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Victorian Promotions. - Undermanning of New South Wales Department.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following answers have been furnished by the Public Service Commissioner -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as fol- low -
– On the10th.inst., the honorable member for Yarra asked me a aeries of questions - Hansard, page 4519 - regarding certain allegations contained in a letter published in the Argus on the 30th August. An interim answer was given, but I am now furnished with detailed replies, which are as follow -
WAYS AND MEANS(Formal).
Personal Explanations : Rebate on Machinery Duties - Office of Deputy Postmaster-General, Victoria - Sewerage of Parliament Buildings - Postal Administration, New South Wales - Claims of Postal Employes - Central Telephone Bureau, Sydney - Letter Carriers -Public Service Administration - Contract, Semi-Official and Allowance Post Offices - Payment for Repair of Telegraph Lines - Case of Letter Carrier, Newtown - Rights of Transferred Public Servants-New Appointments, Post and Telegraph Department.
Question. - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Ways and Means - proposed.
– I intend to take advantage of this motion to make a statement which ‘ I might perhaps call a personal explanation. Last night I said across the table that the Government, in connexion with the framing of the Tariff schedule, has acted towards certain firms in a manner which has constituted a species of political favoritism. That statement wits resented, I believe, by the Minister of Trade and Customs. I further said that, -some days ago, in reply to a similar statement concerning the firms referred to, and their machinery, the Treasurer had misled, or sought to mislead, the leader of the Opposition.
– I pointed out to the honorable member last evening that there can be no debate in anticipation of another debate which must take place in Committee of Ways and Means on the Tariff. Of course, it is my duty not only to be fair, but to make my fairness perfectly clear to the whole House. The question raised by the honorable member- for Dalley, and replied to by the Minister of Trade and Customs last night, was one which had no necessary connexion with the Tariff. It was a mere question of administration, whether the Minister of. Trade and Customs ought or ought not to declare certain items of imports duty free for any special purposes, under a law which is on our statutebook. That was the question raised by the honorable member for Dalley, and the question to which, after one or two obiections, I permitted the Minister to reply. But the honorable member for Parramatta raised quite another matter - as to whether, under the Tariff, undue preference had been shown to certain industries or to certain persons. The honorable member clearly showed that he was dealing with the Tariff by holding up a copy and turning to a certain page; and, under the circumstances, I had only one duty, and that was to require that no debate should take place on that issue. The ruling I gave then is precisely the same as the ruling I give now, namely, that there can be no debate in anticipation of a discussion which must take place on a future date.
– Not on grievance day ?
– Not even on grievance day. If the honorable member desires, however, to make a personal explanation, which does not involve a discussion on the Tariff, he is at liberty to do so.
– I was about to explain the remarks I made last night. I do not intend to discuss the matter, though it is one of such importance that it ought to be discussed before these items on the Tariff are reached. I understand that a great deal of machinery is on the water, and injustice may be done as between importers unless some action be taken prior to the items being reached in ordinary course in the Tariff.
– Thereis no way in which that can be done.
– Very well, then, I shall confine myself to a personal explanation. The remarks of the Treasurer to which I referred last night are to be found in Hansard, and are as follows -
As I have already shown, the alteration was merely a departmental matter, made for the sake of clearness.
That is the alteration in the arrangement of the Tariff schedule.
The meaning of the provision is the same as that of the exemption in the old Tariff. I had nothing to do with the alteration, and it was not fair for the honorable gentleman to try to fasten upon me something which was done by the Department for convenience. The same arrangement was made under the old Tariff, but the form of words in the new Tariff is clearer than that formerly adopted.
It is quite clear that what I said last night was perfectly accurate ; and if the Minister will direct his attention to Tariff item 166 he will see that machinery, which was before exempt, has been made dutiable; and that the only two items of machinery which are exempt are used in the felt hat industry and the woollen industry. Clearly, therefore, in defining the special schedule, the Government have excluded all other items; and what they have done is to impose a duty of 20 and 25 per cent. on machinery which was previously exempt.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– What does the Minister propose to do?
– I propose to make a statement regarding the information which was asked for by the honorable member for Dalley last night. That honorable member last night made a statement which was supplemented, by interjection, by the leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Parramatta, that hat leathers had been placed on the free list as minor articles of manufacture for reasons of our own as a Government.
– I never referred to hat leathers, but to machinery.
– I accept the honorable member’s disclaimer. But the honorable member for Parramatta emphasized the statement that this was a clear case of favoritism. As these decisions are given by the Comptroller-General, I asked that gentleman for a report, which I have received, and which I wish to read, so that honorable members may know the exact circumstances. The document is as follows -
The exemption of leather hat bands used in the making of hats as “ minor articles “ was an ordinary departmental act of administration, and was made without reference to the Minister in the usual course of business. The reason for including this article in the list was because it was judged one which should be so included on its merits, and further because it was included under the old Tariff, and its omission under the present Tariff from the list was entirely accidental. There was not the slightest thought of specially favouring the hat industry in the matter. This will be evident when it is mentioned that there are already about 300 minor articles specified in the free list, which are used in over forty manufactures, and that of these only eleven minor articles used in hat and cap making appear in the list, such as braid, bindings, galoons, vents, ventilators; &c. It will thus be seen that no exceptional treatment has been given to the hat and cap manufacture, e.g., about fifty articles are specified for vehicles, thirty-three for attire, and so on. It may be added that more than twenty-five other articles have been added to the minor articles list since the new Tariff for manufactures other than hats.
List of goods which have been exempted as minor articles, under item 429 of the new Tariff, and of other goods, the similar exemption of which is under consideration : -
That report is, I think, an answer to the honorable member for Dalley, and honorable members will see that there is nothing in his allegation that hat leathers were placed on the free list by the Government for some purpose of their own. I think the honorable member for Parramatta will admit that he was mistaken when he said that the circumstances showed some favoritism on the part of the Government.
– Who approves of these decisions if the Minister does not?
– The Comptroller-General.
-It is a very dangerous practice.
– I have a little grievance in connexion with the administration of the Customs Department, to which I desire to draw the attention of honorable members as speedily as possible. It would appear that there is a differentiation made between the duties collected in Queensland and the duties collected in Victoria. In the Tariff there is an item of machinery and parts thereof used in the manufacture of fibrous materials, when installed in a woollen mill or hat factory. I find that the machinery used in the Victorian woollen mills is admitted duty free, whereas machinery imported into Queensland for wool washing is charged 20 per cent, in the case of British machinery, and 25 per cent, in the case of foreign machinery.
– The honorable member just now asked me privately whether he would be in order in referring to the fact that certain machinery was being charged duty in one State, while it was admitted duty free in another State. If that be the . position, the honorable member would be in order, because it is a question apart from the Tariff itself. But the point the honorable member is now raising is that under the Tariff one class of machinery is dutiable in Queensland, and another class of machinery elsewhere is not dutiable ; and that is purely a Tariff matter which cannot now be debated.
– My desire is to show that the same class of machinery, on which a duty is charged in Queensland is admitted free both in New South Wales and Victoria.
– If that is what the honorable member desires to show, he is at perfect liberty to do so.
– I was leading up to the subject by referring to the machinery used in the case of fibrous material. I cannot understand why the same machinery should
be admitted free in Victoria and New South Wales, and charged the duties I have mentioned in Queensland. I admit that the ways of the Customs Department are very peculiar; in fact, there seems to be a different duty for different States - it all depends on the sort of dose the public are prepared to swallow. If there has to be any. differentiation, I do not think it should be iti connexion with the machinery used in the primary industries. I cannot see the difference between a wool-washing and a wool-drying machine ; as a matter of fact, they are part and parcel of one industry.
.- The Minister of Trade and Customs has apparently misunderstood the position. I did not make the statement which the honorable gentleman attributes to me. The exact words I used were -
It is a significant fact that hat-making has again received preferential treatment. I admit that the Customs Department have the power to do what they have done, but why did not the Government, when they discovered that exorbitant duties had been placed on other articles, such as chairs, use the same power to reduce the duty, say, from 7s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. per chair?
I thanked the Minister last night for his courtesy, and I thank him to-day for the further information he has afforded. We are told now that it was the ComptrollerGeneral who gave this decision without consulting the Minister-; and if that be so, I regard it as a most dangerous practice - as a most dangerous power to place in the hands of any Comptroller- General. Of course, we know that for whatever the Comptroller-General does the Minister must take. the responsibility; and I asked the question last night because I found that hat leathers had been treated in’ the way described a few days after the lodging of the Tariff. The Minister informed me that the discovery was made that there had been atn omission; and I now ask, how do we know that similar omissions have not been made in other directions? I did not accuse the Minister of Trade and Customs of favouring any industry, but merely alluded to the significant fact that the hat industry enjoys two kinds of preference - one in regard to leather bands, and another in regard to machinery. Had T or any one else thought that the Minister had been so neglectful of his duty as to favour any trade or occupation, not merely a question would have been asked, but T think thf leader of the Opposition would have tabled a vote of censure. I take this opportunity to make clear my reasons for asking the question last night.
.- Without imputing any personal or improper interest of any kind on the part of Ministers - which I admit would -be a matter not to be dealt with except in the most formal way - I deliberately repeat that the conduct of the Government has amounted to an act of favoritism to two particular industries. I desire to prove that, and, in proving it, I refer to the Tariff which is now the law of the land. In that Tariff there is no schedule of any kind like the schedule of which I spoke a few days ago. In the Tariff’ Act of 1902 there is not a schedule like that to which I am now referring - a schedule which, whilst professing to make machinery liable to duty, enables those who pay that duty to get a refund. There has never -been such, a schedule in connexion with Commonwealth Tariff legislation. A further point is, that whilst machinery used in woollen and hat mills was exempt under the old Tariff, that exemption was a straightforward one,, such machinery being included under the heading of “special exemptions.” A num-‘ ber of other exemptions were covered by the same clause. But whilst woollen and hat-mills’ machinery have this special favour under the new Tariff, the other machinery, which appeared in the same clause in the old Tariff, has been made liable to duties ranging from 20 to 25 per cent. This is the exemption in the Tariff of 1902 -
Machinery for scouring, washing, carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing the manufacture of fibrous materials.
Under the new Tariff, machinery for scouring and .washing wool, which under the old Tariff was free, is liable to duties ranging from 20 to 25 per cent., whilst, on the other hand, importers of machinery for hat and woollen mills, who pay duty upon it, subsequently get it back. Surely the primary industries in connexion with the washing and scouring of wool are entitled to the same treatment as is extended to the woollen and hat-mill industry. The wool which we grow receives no protection, and is not benefited under the protective system. There has been a deliberate cutting up of the exemption of 1902, under which washers and scourers of our own wool- will have to pay upon their machinery, a duty of from 20 to 25’ per cent, whilst woollen and hat-mill machinery appears in a special schedule, and every penny paid by. way of duty upon it will be. returned. A number of other industries were covered by the special exemption in the old Tariff. Machinery for. the manufacture of paper and felting - the rest of these special exemptions under the Tariff of 1902 - are now made liable to a- high duty. Soap-cutting machines, printing machines, and presses, and a lot of other machinery, which was exempt, is also liable to duty under the present Tariff. My complaint is that woollen and hat-mill machinery has alone been taken outof the old list of special exemptions, and placed in a new schedule, whilst a heavy duty has been imposed upon other machinery in that list. I call that favoritism. Clearly it must be favoritism, unless there be some special justification; which I cannot at present see, for the action of the Ministry. Their action is the less excusable, because machinery used in other industries, even if it cannot be reasonably manufactured in Australia, may not be brought in free of duty. In such cases the importers have first of all to obtain from the two Houses of Parliament a declaration that it cannot reasonably be manufactured in Australia.
– I think that the honorable member will clearly recognise that he is trying to evade a ruling - although, if I may say so, he is doing so very cleverly - which I gave a few minutes ago, and that I could not allow even him to do so .
– I plead guilty, sir.
– I wish to bring under your notice, Mr. Speaker, the- fact that this building has not yet been sewered. The present state of affairs is simply disgraceful.’ I am to-day suffering from a sore throat, which has become almost chronic, through my attendance in this House, and it is scandalous that, although the Victorian Parliament has allpwed us to occupy this building for nearly seven years, and we may be occupying it for some time longer, we are not prepared to incur the cost of sewering it. If the delay in undertaking the necessary work is clue to a desire on thepart of some one to hasten the settlement of the Capital Site question, it certainly is improper. It seems to me that it would be the acme of meanness on the part of the Federation to refuse to incur the expense of . carrying out the work.
– If the honorable member will pardon me, I shall make a statement which may possibly curtail debate. I thought the House wasaware of the fact that after some negotiations, not unduly prolonged, an are rangement was arrived at some five or six months ago between’ the Commonwealth, and State authorities by which the whole of the sewerage work was to be carried out, and all the conveniences we desire provided. Subsequently it was pointed out that blasting operations would be necessary to enable the pipes to be carried through the foundations of this building, and also in making some adjacent excavations, and that this work could not be conveniently undertaken whilst Parliament was in session. That being so. it has been found necessary to allow the work to stand over until the close of the session, . when I have no doubt it will be speedily completed. The only reason for the delay is that portion of the work necessary, in the opinion of the engineers, could not be carried on during the sittings of the House.
.- The affairs of the Postal Department in Victoria are so disorganized as to entitle the House to some statement on the subject from the Postmaster-General. For nearly twelve months the office of Deputy PostmasterGeneral in Victoria has been vacant, and so far, apparently, no successful step’ has been taken to fill it. In certain circumstances a temporary appointment might be desirable, but I think it is generally admitted that the Department in this Stale requires an immediate overhaul, and the supervision of a vigilant and capable administrator. It is common knowledge that the Public Service Commissioner nominated for the position Mr. Betheras, senior inspector in Victoria, but I understand that that gentleman was held to be ineligible because of the position he fills in the service. Being required to report to the Commissioner on the qualifications of every applicant for a vacant, office, he certainly occupies a delicate position in respect to other competitors’ for this post. In excluding him I think the Government have established a salutary rule. In other spheres men are not permitted to be the judges of their own cause, and the prohibition of it in this instance is sound and wholesome. These inspectors are virtually supervisors of the rest of the service, with statutory security both as to salary and tenure of office. That being so, it does seem scarcely, proper for them to be reaching out for every chance of promotion that presents itself. If that is a good rule, and I think it is, it should be capable of extension, and unless there are strong reasons to the contrary it should apply to those in the central administration, . who nave, so to speak, the ear of the Minister. I have nothing to say against the officers of the central bureau - they are excellent men - but in applying for promotion they undoubtedly enjoy an advantage over others. Other officers have apparently to wait for a vacancy in their own particular branch before securing promotion, and very special circumstances are required to warrant any departure from the tacit arrangement in favour of those who are brought into repeated personal contact with the Minister.
– The officers there put their own claims uppermost?
– They have no power to do that. The duty of the Commissioner is to see that the right man is selected for every office, and justice meted out. It appears, however, that the Government have rejected Mr. Betheras’ application, and that the Commissioner, has nominated Mr. Springhall for the position.
– Why have they rejected Mr. Betheras?
– Because, as I have said already, he has to judge of the qualifications of other applicants, and therefore cannot enter the lists as a competitor for any vacant position. That, I understand, is the position taken up by the Government.
– It is the legal position.
– It is certainly a just and common-sense position. I understand that the Commissioner nominated for the office of Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria Mr. Springhall, who is the senior officer in this branch of the Department, and is also a Victorian. He was born in 1849, and entered the service in 1867, so that he has had some forty years’ service. When transferred to the Commonwealth service .he was receiving a salary of ^600 per annum, and that is the remuneration which he enjoys to-day. He is superintendent of the mail branch, yet his nomination has not met with the approval of the Government, who are now bringing from Queensland an officer to act as Deputy Postmaster- General in this State.
– It is to be a temporary appointment ?
– It seems a pity that there is no man in the service in Victoria fitted for the position.
– It would be a pity were it actually so; but it happens that the Victorian service contains several highly capable men.
– It is a very good thing to obtain from other States officers necessary to overhaul a Department.
– Well, the much vaunted officials who were sent to Western Australia to reorganize the Department have accomplished nothing very startling. .
– That may be, but an outsider is necessary to reorganize an office.
– I have said all along that Western Australia has been made a dumping ground.
– It is remarkable that an officer who has been connected with the Department for forty years, and who is still in the prime of life - being under sixty years of age-
– That is a good age for a man to be in “ the prime of life.”
– At sixty years of age some men are virtually in the prime of life. But even if Mr. Springhall is not qualified to fill the position, I should like to learn from the Minister why the acting Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria is not capable of filling it. It is a curious circumstance that the Government, whose hesitancy implies a doubt as to the capa city of Mr. Crosbie, should have allowed him to fill the position of Deputy Postmaster- General for a period of eighteen months within the past three years. Mr. Crosbie has acted for that term within the past three years whilst Mr: Outtrim was absent on leave, and since his retirement .from the service. He has thirty-seven years of service to his credit, and I believe that he thoroughly understands the requirements of the Department. If he does not he ought not to have been permitted t<5 occupy his present position. I have brought this matter forward with a view to affording the Government an opportunity of stating what they propose to do in this connexion. It seems to me that their action in bringing an officer from Queensland to reorganize the Victorian Postal Department requires some justification.
– It shows that we have good men in Queensland.
– Until the last few years the officer whom it is proposed to temporarily appoint to the position was merely a senior inspector.
– He must be a good man or he would riot have obtained promotion.
– If he is such a superior person it is a curious thing that there should be so many complaints made in reference to the conduct of the General Post Office, Brisbane.
– Where are those complaints being made?
– In another place, a number of questions have been asked upon the subject. Although this gentleman is now Deputy Postmaster-General at Bris-‘ bane, his experience of the practical work of administering a Department is comparatively brief. I imagine that there ought to be a man in the Victorian service capable of fulfilling the duties of Deputy Postm aster- General.
– They must be numskulls here if there is not.
– Probably the Victorian representatives willhave something’ to say upon this matter, because it so intimately affects their own State. But as it also affects the whole community, it is not improper for me to ask the PostmasterGeneral to make a statement upon the subject.
– I address myself to this question with a feeling of great humiliation. Apparently we cannot produce officers in Victoria who are capable of discharging the <luties which they have been trained to perform. The honorable member for Maranoa has said that we have been a long time in discovering that fact. But he must remember that we have to learn. ‘ I have no desire to pit State against State, but I am of opinion that the Postal Department of Victoria contains officers who arequite as capable of managing it as are those from any other State.
– More so.
– I will not sav that. It has been said that the General Post Office. Melbourne, is in 3 state of chaos. But we should recollect that similar complaints have been made regardingthe General Post Offices in the other . States. My own belief is that the chaotic condition of the Department is due to thepenuriousness which has been observed in its administration. I believe that funds have been meted out in a most niggardly fashion, so that it has been , quite impossible to administer the Department in the way in which it ought to be administered. I protest against an officer being brought from Queensland to take charge of the General Post Office in Melbourne. In filling the vacancy which has been occasioned by Mr. Outtrim’s retirement, surely those who have been connected with the Victorian office for years past ought to have a strong claim for consideration at the hands of the Government. I have had no more experience than other honorable members of the two Victorian officers to. whom reference has been made, but I do say that whilst age may bar one of them from filling the position of Deputy Postmaster-General in this State it cannot bar the other. It is with a deep feeling of humiliation that I find that we have not men in Victoria who are considered qualified to discharge the duties attaching to the position of Deputy Postmaster-General.
.- I do not know whether we ought to be pleased with the opinions which have been expressed by the two previous speakers in regard to the administration of the Postal Department. In my judgment it is not a wise thing to interfere with the selection of officers by those in authority. They ought to know what men are best qualified to discharge particular duties, and the less therefore that we have to do with the selection nf officers the better will it be for the Department. Reasonable criticism can be indulged in only at the cost of sowing the seeds of discontent amongst those engaged in the service. At the same time, I do desire . to say a word or two upon another aspect of this question which does not infringe upon the prerogative of the Public Service Commissioner. I wish to draw attention to the “ tangle “ which exists throughout the Postal Department to-day. As honorable members are aware, I have asked a number of questions in this House with a view to ascertaining the exact conditions which prevail. Needless to add, I am far from satisfied with the replies which have been supplied to the PostmasterGeneral by those who are responsible for the existing condition of affairs. It has been admitted by the Postmaster-General that the Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales reported that the employment of no less than 600 additional hands was necessary to enable the Department to be conducted efficiently, and to dispense with the overtime which is being worked through- out that State. But, notwithstanding that report, we find that provision has been made upon the Estimates for the employment of only 267 additional hands. Further, the Department has issued circulars to the postal officers throughout New South Wales practically forbidding them to employ temporary hands. When I asked the Minister how he proposed to allow permanent officers “ time off “ he said that the Treasurer had informed him that if any rush of business was experienced, or if the circumstances warranted.it, temporary hands would be employed. Here is a body of men who have worked 32,000 hours overtime, and whose “ time off “ under the terms of their engagement is in arrears to the tune of 306 weeks.* Yet it is proposed to appoint only 267 additional hands. How the Government are going to redeem their promise to allow these men the “ time off “ to which they are entitled, passes my understanding. The existing condition of affairs is a scandal to the Department. It is scandalous to work men as’ they have been worked in New South Wales, and it is an aggravation of the scandal to continue that system. The Postmaster-General has informed me that the Treasurer thinks it is not wise to appoint a large number of hands, because the present rush of business is not likely to continue. That is a very lame excuse indeed. Since- the Department was taken over by the Commonwealth, experience has shown that- its revenue has increased in an equal ratio year by year. The Department is not being fairly administered when it is sought to prove that it is not necessary, to make provision for the removal of the present abuses, inasmuch as the rush of work which causes so much overtime mav be merely temporary. If Australia progresses as, according to the Treasurer, it will do, the business of the Post Office must increase every year, and the number of officers employed six years ago cannot be sufficient to deal with the increased ‘volume of work. If steps are not taken to relieve the pressure oh the New South Wales Department, stronger action must be taken in Parliament. A strict and searching- inquiry into the administration of the Department must be inaugurated if the Government permit the present evils to continue. The PostmasterGeneral, when in Sydney recently, heard the complaints of the persons affectedDeputation after deputation laid before him facts and figures by which he was almost paralyzed, or; at any rate, he left behind the impression that he was greatly affected by the statement of the position given to him by those who understood it. Why does the Government play with this question ? Why is not something done to give relief?’ I have asked whether the men are to be-, paid for ‘the overtime which they have honestly worked- other institutions would pay their employes for services rendered over and above what they were engaged1 to perform - and have been told that overtime will not be paid, but that “ time off “ will be allowed. This, I have shown, is impossible, seeing that 600 men are. needed’ to efficiently discharge the work of the Department, while only 267 are to be employed. If the present position is allowed to continue, men who ought, to be happy and contented, doingtheir best in the interests of the Commonwealth, will lose heart, and become discontented. If these evils arc not remedied before they assume still moregigantic proportions, an. inquiry which ViI loosen the tongues of men who are not now in a position to speak will have to be made,, so that the public may know how the Commonwealth is treating those who are giving; it honest and good service.
.- Whilst I am anxious that the Tariff discussion shall be proceeded with, I crave a few moments in which to refer to a matter brought forward this afternoon by the honorable member for Coolgardie - the contemplated appointment to the position of Deputy Postmaster-General in. Victoria. F realize that the Post Office is now a Com;monwealth .concern, and that positions in the Commonwealth service should be open to officers in that -service, no matter in what State they may be .employed. So. long as a man is competent for the duties which he is appointed to fulfil, I shall be readyto welcome his appointment,, even .if he comes from the most remote part of Australia. But I do not like to. see. aspersions cast on men who, in the old days, have done loyal service to Victoria, and who, 1 believe, ‘ if given the opportunity, would” effectively discharge the responsible work of the Deputy Postmaster-General of this State. I recognise that the legal difficulties in the way of the appointment of Mr. Betheras cannot be overcome; but surely if legal difficulties prevent the appointment of an officer in the Public Service Commissioner’s Department thev should prevent the appointment of an officer in the Secretary’s branch.
– Mr. Betheras cannot be appointed, not because he is an officer of the Public Service Commissioner, but because of the special class of work which he is doing.
– The special work which he is doing is his work as an officer of the Commissioner.
– He has to inspect and report upon the various offices and branches.
– Yes; and that would have to be done by any man occupying his position.
– If the inspectors did riot do this work, it would have to be done by the Commissioner himself.
– Yes. I understand that Mr. Betheras cannot be appointed to the position of Deputy Postmaster-General because he is acting as an inspector. But if it is right not to allow his appointment, there are equally strong reasons of the same character why an officer of the central administration should not be appointed. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will not carry out what has been publicly stated to be his intention, namely, the appointment of a Queensland officer as Acting Deputy Postmaster-General for six or twelve months, and the sending of an officer of the central administration to Brisbane to get sufficient experience to subsequently justify his permanent appointment as Deputy Postmaster-General. Such action on the part of the Minister would strike a blow at the loyalty of a service from which we are entitled to expect very much. I object to bringing rumours before the House, but there are occasions when it is justified. I hope that there is nothing in this rumour.
– There is nothing in the suggestion that the officer referred to is to be sent to Queensland to get experience. We are satisfied as to both his experience and ability.
– As a loyal supporter of the Government, I ask not to be placed in a position which I shall not be able to justify. I know of several officers in the Victorian Department who are quite competent to act as Deputy PostmasterGeneral.
– The honorable member would not confine the appointment to the Victorian branch of the service ?
– No. But I have not heard that there are in the other States officers who have claims to the position.
– What is to be the test of fitness? The passing of an examination ?
– The approval of the Public Service Commissioner must be obtained. He has recommended two officers of the Victorian, service, one of whom, it is held, could not be legally appointed ; and the second, for some reason, has not been appointed. But there are others in the Victorian service competent to fill the position.
– Does not the honorable member think that Parliament, in passing the Public Service Act, made itself responsible for what has occurred ?
– I do not think so.
– May there not be in other States men with better claims?
– There may be, but I have not heard of them. If I knew of such men, I should be prepared to advance their claims, though I disapprove of interfering with the Public Service Commissioner in this respect. When we passed the Public Service Act, it was thought that we were destroying political patronage, and that merit alone would count for promotion. But meritorious conduct and efficiency have not had their proper influence in this instance.
– How does the honorable member know that?
– Because I know the personnel of the Victorian service. I could put my hand on two men in the General Post Office who were applicants for the position, and whose meritorious conduct and ability entitle them to it.
– Is not the honorable member now using political influence?
– He is going very near to doing so.
– I deny it. The honorable member would be one of the first to speak against injustice if he thought it was being suffered by meritorious officers. The men to whom I have referred do not, and cannot, render me political or other service, and I am not bringing their cases privately before the Minister, but publicly before the House.
– The honorable member admits that there may be others equally Qualified.
– Why should Victorian appointments be confined to Victorian officers ?
– I do not say that they should; but an officer from the central administration should not be promoted over the heads of qualified men.
– We ought to know the reason for such a promotion.
– My grievance is, not that a particular officer is being appointed, but that competent officers arebeing passed over in favour of an officer who, in my opinion, because of the nature of the work which he has been doing, should not be a candidate for appointment. Therefore, as a Victorian representative, I have felt bound to refer to the subject. I hope that we have heard the last of statements as . to the incompetency of Victorian officers. My experience, which extends over fourteen years, is that in the Victorian service there is a large number of men who, by loyal, ungrudging, and self-sacrificing work, have fitted themselves for the highest position that could be offered to them in the Department.
– A week or two ago I called the attention of the Postmaster-General to the sweating practised in connexion with the delivery of letters in New South Wales. That having been brought under his notice, I feel sure that the honorable gentleman will take steps to put an end to it. The Postal Department, which is a very large one, has been forced, or has fallen, into the practice of getting its employés to work for as little as possible. It has screwed the very heart’s . blood out of its contractors. That is particularly the case in regard to country contracts ; and I know of one man who has been for some years past engaged to paint pillar-boxes, write signs, and so forth, and who now is quite unable to collect from the Department some£35 owing to him. In some cases, the proper authority is not given for the work to be done, and when the work is done without the authority there is delayin payment or repudiation because of the informal procedure. Some months have elapsed since this money became due. and the man is quite unable to get it. I should not mention the fact in this public way were it not that this is by no means an isolated case. I do not object to businesslike principles being observed ; but throughout this Department there is a tendency to take advantage of the helpless position in which public servants find themselves, after years of experience in a public Department, perfectly useless as competitors outside. Two other cases occur to my mind, one of which I mentioned in the last Parliament, and which has since been referred to several times by the honorable member for Gwydir, who, in my absence, was kind enough to take the matter up. The case is that of a postal official who, after thirty years’ faithful service, died at his post. He had been a contributor for many years to the superannuation . fund, and yet his widow and family have not as yet received one fraction of a farthing in the way of compensation for their loss. The reason given by the Department is that the State is liable, while the State retorts that the Commonwealth is liable; and between the two the family get nothing. There was another case of a postmaster in one of” the Sydney suburbs who also died at his’ post after about twenty-eight years’ service; and. yet the Department made absolutely no effort to compensate his family in any way.
– There was another similar case of aman who had been fortythree years in the service.
Mr.HUGHES.- As I say these are by no means isolated cases ; and in each the cold-blooded . answer is that the liability is some one else’s. But the liability cannot be some one else’s, seeing that these men were servants of the. Department. Such treatment is most inhuman, and, moreover, it is not good business, because any lack of consideration on the part of the Department does not tend to good service; for if a man knows that those who depend on him will be looked after, he does his best. If a private employer treated his employes ina similar way he would be hauled into a Court in no time. In the case of the Postal’ Department, however, it is too much to expect these people to take action. In one case the Department pleaded that it was not legally responsible, and the law had to be altered, the claimant having to suffer considerable delay and expense. The painter to whom I first referred ought to beat once paid what is due to him. The honorable member for Gwydir recently” drew the attention of honorable members to cases which are typical of the methods of the Department in regard to overtime, the employment of boys, and of lower grade officers to do higher grade work, at, of course, lower grade pay. Then, again, we have the employment of so-called tem- porary hands, who, with the exception of the statutory interval, are kept engaged year after year at lower salaries than would otherwise have to be paid.
– Those temporary hands have been paid higher wages since I took over the administration.
– If so, thev are quite unaware of the fact; at any rate, I know of many cases in which the pay has not been increased.
– 1 have issued an order that, wherever it is possible, these temporary hands are to be paid the current rate of wages outside, and in some cases they are paid more than the permanent hands.
– I have in my mind boys who have been put on to men’s work; and also men at .£150 a year who are called upon to do work for which others have been previously paid ^200 per annum.
– That is a common occurrence.
– So common is it that it has almost ceased to be a ground of complaint. I shall be happy to supply privately to the Postmaster-General the names of the officers to whom I have referred.
.- In regard to the matter referred to by the honorable member for Coolgardie, I may say that I felt very great surprise when I saw the announcement in the press that it was proposed to bring from another State some officer to fill a position of responsibility and control in Victoria. Such an appointment is practically an inference that there is no officer in Victoria competent to fill the position. I believe there have been difficulties and complications in this matter. First- of” all, Mr. Betheras, as capable an officer as any in Victoria, was recommended by the Public Service Commissioner, but representations were, perhaps properly, made that he was, from his position, immediately associated with’ the Public Service Commissioner, and that this was likely to create some objection. Why the subsequent recommendation of Mr. Springhall made by the Public Service Commissioner has not been acted upon is a question to which, probably, the representative of the Government will at a later stage refer. As the name of this officer has been mentioned, I may say that, in my opinion, his record in Victoria is such as ought to commend him to the Department. He has held the position of
Deputy Postmaste(r-General in the past, and no one can say that he did not perform: the work excellently. We all recognise that the Minister has the power of veto ; but I am sure that, on the grounds of long service and priority, this gentleman deserves consideration at the hands of the Government. It is becoming more and more apparent that, in the enormous Public Service of the Commonwealth, the work of the Departments will fall into the hands of the senior permanent officers ; and, therefore, it becomes essential that there should not be the slightest suggestion of preference for any officer who happens, accidentally or otherwise, to be teo near the centre of authority as to secure special consideration. The honorable member for Laanecoorie referred to a rumour, for which I hope there is no ground, that a comparatively junior officer has a chance of appointment to the position. I should be the last to interfere with a Minister’s prerogative, or to advocate promotion irrespective of merit ; but I must protest against the appointment of a relatively subordinate officer, when there are others more eligible and equally capable. I do not attach much importance to the fact that the officer recommended is from another State, because we must regard the service as one great whole. I do say, however, that no man brought from Queensland can- be more fully aware of the ramifications of the service in Victoria than ‘are the officers already located in that State. To say that in the large staff in- Victoria there is no man capable of filling the position is contrary to fact.
– No one has said that.
– No one has said so, but the fact that an officer, is being brought from a distant State, while there are equally or more capable officers in Victoria, speaks more emphatically than any words.
– It is only a temporary appointment.
– That may be so, and perhaps there may be some justification for the recommendation. What the Minister or the Public Sendee Commissioner should first do is to establish confidence throughout such a Department as this, in which there is every necessity for a strong, firm controlling hand. I have from time to time urged on the present PostmasterGeneral and his predecessors the great necessity there is for dividing the Post and Telegraph Department into three branches. There is the Postal Department, which, if it stood by itself, could find no more competent controlling officer than the present mail superintendent, Mr. Springhall . Then we have the telephone branch, which, with its wide ramifications, ought to have a permanent head directly responsible to the Minister; and next we have the Telegraph Department, which, though more of a mechanical character, is also important enough to have a separate existence. If the service were divided in the way suggested, the Minister would find no difficulty in obtaining a suitable officer here for a position of the kind referred to. I should not of my own accord have referred to this matter, believing that the Minister would be able to justify the course he has taken, but that I wished to resent the suggestion that we have not in Victoria officers competent to fill this position. As to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, I trust that the actions of responsible Ministers will not impair the confidence which should exist throughout the service, and that we shall not have an officer improperly placed over the heads of others who are competent to fill the position. If we do, discontent, distrust, and disappointment must prevail throughout the service.
.-Like other honorable members, I am reluctant toimpede the consideration of the Tariff, but I certainly think that representatives of Victoria have a right to voice their opinions upon the question raised by the honorable member for Coolgardie. I am not going to say thatonly in Victoria can suitable men for the position be found. Whilst the Postmaster-General was acting PostmasterGeneral, a few months ago, he was in the habit ofmaking midnight visits to the General Post Office, and, according to a press report, he said then that he found that the whole office was seething with discontent. I know of no alteration which has since taken place that is calculated to remove that discontent.
– Very considerable alterations have been made. A number of additional officers have been appointed, and other changes have been made.
– I do not advocate the claim of any officer for this position, but I certainly think that if the man who for eighteen months out of the last three years has acted as Deputy Postmaster-General is not fit to be permanently appointed to the. position, the Department should have found it out long ago, and should not have allowed him to remain so long in office as Acting Deputy Postmaster-General.
– Does the honorable member think that the Postmaster-General would pass by an officer in his own State if he could avoid doing so?
– I do not know who is responsible for the present situation. It seems to me that we might have done better by handing over the. control of the Public Service to three Commissioners, instead of to one. Political influence ought to be absolutely abolished, but we have today in connexion with the service something that is infinitely worse. Lodge and social influence prevail ; men have to belong to certain organizations, otherwise they have no chance of advancement.
– That is a serious charge.
– The Postmaster-General practically made the same statement when he was making visits at night to the General Post Office. After all, the Public Service Commissioner is only human. I do not believe that he has made any mistake . -
– He is one of the best men in the service.
– I believe that he is the best man we could have found for the position.
– He is absolutely fair.
– I feel confident that in making appointments he is guided by the reports of his responsible officers, but we have to remember that if officers have favorites in the service they will take care to report favorably on their applications for any vacancy. It is in that direction that the trouble lies. When the classification scheme was under consideration it was pointed out again and again that that was one of the evils that we should have to face, and I confess that I do not know how we can overcome it. We must have responsible officers, and it is human nature that they should have favorites in the service.
– The present system is worse than the system of promotion according to seniority. At all events, it is panning out in that way.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. An officer from Queensland has been sent for to act as Deputy Postmaster-General in Victoria, and to reorganize the service. I trust that it is not true, as suggested by the honorable member for Laanecoorie, that this course has been taken in order that a certain officer may have an opportunity to be trained in another State, and on his return to Victoria be placed over men who are his seniors, and, perhaps, more capable than he is of fulfilling the duties of the office.
– Who is the officer referred to?
– I do not know, but the honorable member for Laanecoorie said that there was a rumour to that effect. I hope that nothing will be done to prejudice the service in the eyes of the House or of the public generally. We should be careful to avoid anything savouring of favoritism towards any officer on the Central Staff, in the Commissioner’s office, or in any other branch of the service. T trust that the most capableofficer, whether he is in the Victorian branch of the service or in any other State, will be chosen for the position. If it were possible, the fairest way to overcome the difficulty would be to submit applicants to an examination.
– I should be the last to unnecessarily occupy the attention of the House in discussing matters which might be brought under the notice of the Ministry or the Public Service Commissioner and satisfactorily dealt with in a private interview, but the question to which attention has been drawn this afternoon by the honorable member for Gwydir is one that could not be dealt with in that way. It has been notorious for some time that the Department of the PostmasterGeneral in New South Wales, more particularly in relation, to the General Post Office, Sydney; has been one of the worst sweating institutions in the Commonwealth. That has been practically admitted by the Postmaster-General, and it certainly has been amply proved bv facts put before the House by myself and other honorable members on various occasions during the past four years. I received information some little time ago that the Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales, recognising the overworked and undermanned condition of the service there, requisitioned for 600 additional officers, and that provision had been made in the Estimates for only 267. I had intended to deal with this matter to-day, and in order to make sure that the information, was correct, I put to the Minister aseries of questions, which he answered this afternoon, and which confirmed the correctness, of the statement made to me. In this connexion the question naturally arises :. “ Who is the most competent to say what number of officers is required for the proper administration of the Department in New South Wales - the officer in control of the Department, or the Minister, or some other person who is not directly in charge?”: When . the Deputy Postmaster-General says that 600 officers axe absolutely, necessary to the . efficiency. Of the service I take it. that he knows what he is talking about.. The Deputy Postmaster-General of NewSouth Wales would not be likely to ask for more officers than are necessary ; if he were to err at all it would probably be on the side of economy. Yet we find that the Government propose to provide for less than half the number of additional officers for which he has requisitioned. If 600 more officers are necessary, to the efficiency of the service in New South Wales, it stands to reason that when only 267 appointments are made, the overworked ann* undermanned condition of that branch of the Department will still prevail, though, of course, to a lesser degree. It will be little short of a scandal if the Minister, allows, such a state- of affairs to continue. Honorable members, no matter to what partv thev belong, are anxious that officers in everv branch of the Commonwealthservice shall be equitably treated, and that irr the Commonwealth service there should be observed the conditions to which we require employers of labour outside to conform. Whilst we have been passing and. propose to introduce further legislation to suppress the evil of sweating bv private employers; sweating has been and is still rampant in the Commonwealth Public Service. From the disclosures which have aleady been made, it has been evident that for a long time the General Post Office; Sydney, has been a den of sweating, and that every officer, from the highest to the most poorlypaid, Kas been subjected to a system of overtime and sweating, which is a disgrace to a public Department. Such a state of affairs ought not to and must not continue. We should insist upon proper conditions obtaining in connexion with alt branches of employment in the service: It is high time that a Commission was appointed to inquire into the whole questionof employment in the Public Service. I hope that that will be done. At any rate, sufficient has been said to show that for years past the officers of the Postal Department have been labouring under disabilities without complaining. They have had to work overtime,’ they have suffered the loss of leave to which they were entitled, and they have not received payment for the overtime which they have worked. ‘ Notwithstanding all these disabilities, they have rendered the most loyal service to the Commonwealth.
– Their loyalty is simply marvellous.
– It is. They deserve better treatment than they are receiving from the Commonwealth. I sincerely hope that the Postmaster-General will inquire into the reasons why the number of additional hands whom it was deemed necessary to appoint has been reduced - in defiance of the recommendation of the Deputy Postmaster-General of New South Wales. - from 600 to 267.
– The Minister has said that we experienced a good season last year, and that the same amount of work will not be required to be performed this year.
– Surely the DeputyPostmasterGeneral of New South Wales ought to know more about that aspect of the matter than does anybody else. He has asked for more than double the number pf hands it is proposed to appoint.
– Sir George Turner always cut down departmental requests by one-half.
– I would be the last to encourage or champion extravagance, because I recognise that it would be a great evil. Prudent and economical administration is, of course, at all times indispensable in securing the best results, but economy is one thing and parsimony is another. It seems to me that the PostmasterGeneral is carrying parsimony to the verge of meanness. The result of its exercise must be the impairment of the efficiency of the Department, and its efficiency ought to be his prime consideration. I trust that action will be taken with a view to insuring that no further sweating shall prevail. If necessary, a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into the whole question of the labour and wage conditions of the Commonwealth Public Service.
.- If, upon a future occasion, I have the misfortune to contest an election upon similar lines to those upon which the last campaign was decided - the lines of Socialism versus anti-Socialism - I do not think that
I shall be able to fortify myself with a better speech than that which was delivered this afternoon by the honorable member for Yarra. He pointed out that within the Postal Department there are various cliques which make it extremely difficult for any man. to administer it in a satisfactory manner..
– Does the honorable member deny that statement?
– I do not. But that is one of the strongest arguments which could possibly be advanced against the nationalization of industries. We are fortunate in possessing the Public Service Commissioner that we do. I believe him to be one of the fairest men that we could have secured for the position-
– And the honorable member ought to be thankful to me for having appointed him’.
– His appointment is one of the few good things to the credit of the Treasurer. In my judgment, the Postmaster-General should hesitate before placing his opinion in opposition, to that of the Commissioner. No doubt the former has very good reasons for acting in the way that he has done, and I am content to await his explanation in that connexion. But certainly it is due to the House that he should explain his position.
– He will say ‘ as little as “he can.
– From what I know of the Postmaster-General, I am perfectly satisfied that he feels that he is acting justly in this matter, and I am sure that he will not hesitate to make a statement upon it to the House. Some time ago there appeared in the Sydney press a series of articles dealing with the sweating conditions which prevail in the General Post Office there. Those articles were a revelation to me. They dealt thoroughly with the hardships under which the Postal officers labour. I am usually opposed to the appointment of Select Committees and Royal Commissions, but if ever there was an occasion when the appointment of a Commission was justifiable it is the present one. The officers employed in the General Post Office, Sydney, have appealed again and again for justice, but, so far, they have not received it. I do not think that they will receive it until they are in a position to give evidence under the protection that would be afforded them by the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into their grievances. Should a pro- posal be made to appoint such a body I shall be compelled to support it. The honorable member for Kooyong stated that, in his opinion, matters in the Postal Department would gradually become centralized in the head of that Department. I should regret to see his prophecy fulfilled, because we already suffer severely owing to the centralization policy adopted.
– There is too much centralization.
– Yes ; we would be better off if we had a- little decentralization. Why cannot officers be appointed to the positions of Deputy Postmasters-General who can be intrusted with- power to administer the affairs of their own branch of the Department?
– The Public Service Act prevents that.
– I cannot discover anything in the Act which prevents it. There is just one other matter to which I desire to allude briefly - I refer to the ventilation of this chamber. We should do very much better work if our duties were discharged under more sanitary conditions: Only this afternoon we had evidence of the defective ventilation of the chamber in that half-a-dozen honorable members were dozing in their seats. The .honorable member for Melbourne was one of them. When I was first returned to this Parliament, honorable members will recollect that I advocated an improvement in the ventilation of the building. I brought the matter before you, sir, and before the House Committee. It was then decided to take action. At that time I suggested the adoption of a scheme which received the support of the Inspector of Public Buildings, Colonel Owen. Unfortunately, that scheme was not carried out. Another scheme was substituted for it, which I think honorable members will admit has proved a failure. Under the present arrangement air is drawn into the chamber just above our heads, and is carried out just beneath our feet.
– Do not originate another discussion upon the ventilation of the chamber.
– I intend to say what I have to say upon this matter, and I will not- be dictated to or “ bullied “ by the Treasurer. The existing scheme for ventilating the chamber is one under which every honorable member feels that he is sitting in a current of cold air, and the usual consequences have ensued. The
Minister of Trade and Customs admits that he is suffering from the effects of the air in the chamber, and when the Treasurer was. enjoying the hospitality of the pilots the other day - I do not say whether he acted wisely in accepting the hospitality of a ‘body of men in whose cause he will presently be called upon to adjudicate - he declared that he then occupied a very much better position that he does in the stinking atmosphere of this chamber.
– I did not use that word at all.
– Then ,it is very like the word that the Treasurer did use. The scheme which I suggested ‘was that the air should be extracted through the roof of the chamber, and admitted in the neighbourhood of the floor. I understand that that scheme is now likely to be carried out, and I urge that it should be undertaken at the earliest possible moment.
.- The honorable member for Hunter has declared that if he were contesting another election he could not produce a ‘better anti-socialistic argument than that which was supplied by the speech of the honorable member for Yarra. If he will take the trouble to verify the statements of that honorable ‘ member I am sure he will acknowledge that they are absolutely accurate.
– He said that there were certain organizations which influenced the administration of the Postal Department.
– His statements were perfectly accurate. Personally, I would prefer to see the present PostmasterGeneral at the head of the Postal Department rather than any Public Service Commissioner. The honorable member for Hunter has stated that he is opposed to the appointment of Commissions of Inquiry. In this connexion, I cannot forget what one wise old German said regarding the delays which resulted from the appointment of Commissions. He declared that if the Almighty bad placed the making of the earth in the hands of a Commission it would never have been made. My experience is that the appointment of Royal Commissions invariably involves delay. The whole life of the Postmaster- General affords evidence that he will not countenance sweating in any form. I recollect the time when, with myself and others, he was instrumental in securing the appointment of the Commission of Inquiry which led up to the passing of the first’ Factories Act in
Victoria. If the present staff of the Postal Department, with the assistance of 267 additional hands, cannot do the work, he will, so far as he can, insist on more men being taken on. I wish now to speak of another matter. It is desirable that the telephone conversations carried on over long-distance lines, such as that between Melbourne, and Sydney, should be as private as possible.
– I have already instituted inquiries in regard to that matter.
– I drew the honorable member’s” attention to it privately a short time ago. Since then I have paid a visit to Sydney. On going to the General Post Office there, I found twenty-five persons outside the telephone cabinets, three deep, waiting their turn to use the instruments. If the honorable gentleman heard the expressions which some of them were “using under their breaths, I am afraid that he would blush. There is no reason why more boxes should not be provided. The cost would be very little. At the present time there is a complete absence of privacy. Names have to be shouted out so that any one can hear them. The position of things in this respect is even worse in Svdney than in Melbourne. -The officer at the counter has to shout out the names given to him, so that any one can hear them. I hope that the Postmaster-General will make, both in Melbourne and in Sydney, the arrangements necessary to insure privacy. With regard to the appointment to the position of Deputy PostmasterGeneral of Victoria, I would like to say that Victoria is the second State in the Union in point of population, and her branch of the Postal service is the second largest in the Commonwealth. If, in that service, there is not a man who has. been trained to fulfil all the requirements of the Department, those administering it have neglected their duty. I object to the importing of men from the other States, unless those imported are absolutely better than the local men. I do not wish to speak in terms of depreciation of a State whose potentialities are greater than those of any other in the Union ; but it cannot be con- . tended at the present time that the postal business of Queensland is as great as that of Victoria, or that the cities of Brisbane and Melbourne can.be compared in respect to population’ or volume of business. Therefore, I cannot see why a Brisbane official should be superior to a Melbourne official. If it is desired to bring an official from Brisbane to Melbourne merely to remove a difficulty, that is permissible; but if a permanent appointment is contemplated, I should like to know why it is considered that the capacity of a Bris-‘ bane official is greater than that of Victorian officials. I know that sweating has prevailed in our Postal Department; but I have never heard a word against Mr. Crosby, who is filling the position of Deputy Postmaster-General. I fear that, as the honorable member for Yarra has said, there is a special reason for what has’been done; but I am prepared to leave it to the Postmaster-General to prevent unfairness. I am sure that he will hold the scales of justice evenly between man and man. There must be some way of deciding the relative merits of officers. Surely some system of examination could be devised which would enable the best man to be selected for any position which is likely to become vacant. If any ten carpenters or joiners worked together for a month, they would discover, before the end of that period, who was the best amongst them. So, too, would any other body of workers ; they would soon find out who, in shearing parlance, was the “ringer.” I absolutely detest the principle of seniority in the matter of promotions, because seniority is not a guarantee of merit. But there is the risk that in allowing promotions by merit favoritism may be exercised by officers of high standing. I wish to pay mv meed of praise to the Public Service Commissioner, who has done his duty well. I have not found that he has ever allowed a man on the list for employment to be appointed out of turn. Not every man on that list is given employment, but those who can be taken on are appointed in their turn. While applicants for employment are fairly treated in this way the Commissioner will have my support.
.- After the excellent character which has been given by the honorable member for Melbourne to the Postmaster-General, he must feel that we expect a great deal from him. We hope that he will put the Department into good order, doing all that a clever man can do to remedy the evils which have been spoken of. I can support, from personal knowledge, much that has been’ said by the honorable member for Gwydir regarding the undermanning of the New South Wales Department. In some offices, it is so serious that annual leave has been deferred for a year .or two, it being impossible -to give the men leave, because their services cannot be dispensed with for a day. lt cannot be assumed that the Minister is responsible for this; but the official heads of branches seem to be too stingy and careful. If the present state of things continues, the postal employes will undoubtedly take steps to have their grievances voiced in Parliament, notwithstanding that the Public Service Act was passed to prevent political interference. It must tend to demoralize the service, and to dishearten loyal officers, to take from them their annual leave and other privileges1; and it cannot be charged against this Parliament that it is illiberal or parsimonious towards its servants. We have fixed a minimum wage - which was never done by the States - and have always- shown a readiness to act fairly. The heads of Departments must recognise this policy. If they will not do so, the Ministerial head should compel them -to do so. Although they are efficient officers, it might do some of them good to have to struggle for a living for a time outside the service. Until June last officers working overtime on Sundays were paid at the rate of time and a half. Parliament is opposed to Sunday work; but a certain amount of it appears inevitable. In some cases those who work on Sundays have to travel long distances by tram. They are often called upon to work for four or six hours in two stretches. But instead of receiving overtime pay for this service they are allowed an hour off, say, on Monday, and another hour off on Tuesday, until it is all compensated for as ordinary overtime. This means that they are being paid for Sunday work at the rate of 7d. per hour. Surely the PostmasterGeneral will .not state on any platform that that is a sufficient payment for Sunday work. Out of it tram fares have to be found, generally for two trips each way. Of course, overtime may occasionally be rightly compensated for by giving time off, but it is not fair to deal with Sunday work in that way. It has been said that some of the officials like Sunday work, because of the extra pay; but my experience is that very few men desire to give up their Sundays. The shortness of staffs that has. been spoken of exists, not only in Sydney, but also in a number of country places. In some towns the postmaster has had to take the telephone attendant into his office to do’ general division work, for which he is not paid, appointing a boy off .the street without any standing- at all to do’ the tele phone work. The boy is appointed temporarily, but may be kept on for a long period - perhaps for years - though the Actsays that temporary employment is not to last longer than six months. This sort of thing is overdone. Splendid work hasbeen done by the Public Service Commissioner, whom I believe to be a good manfor his position. I understand that the heads of the Commonwealth Departments* fully earn their salaries, which was not always the case with the heads of States Departments, whose under officers often did all the work. No doubt, it was expected that the greater efficiency of our higher officials would ‘ allow of an extra volume of work being done without, the making of additional appointments. [ am satisfied that throughout New South Wales, in the larger centres notably, there is shortage in the staffs, just as there isat the central office, Sydney. I should like to say a word or two about contract offices, into the whole arrangements of which I think .the new Postmaster-General ought to inquire very carefully. I do not oppose the utilization of contract offices, because there are districts in which such offices are undoubtedly useful. But the Department has gone to the other extreme, and with the result that there are many complaints of sweating, not of regular servants of the Department, but of persons who are engaged outside to do work, and are not given an adequate return. For instance, I know a case of a man who, for £156 a year over, I think, three years, has to provide a building, employ a telegraph messenger, and give the whole of his time to the duties of the contract office. When we take into consideration a fair return in the shape of rent, it will be seen that a very small income remains for the man himself ; and such arrangements are neither more nor less than sweating. In some of these contract offices the contractor has not only to employ a messenger but an operator ; and the system has grown to such an-, extent that I advise Victorian representatives to keep a sharp look out, in cose the delay in the appointment of the DeputyPostmasterGeneral in Victoria means the sub-letting of the General Post Office, Melbourne. I can assure honorable membersthat in this connexion the Commonwealth is getting a bad name throughout the country, owing to the dissatisfaction which is created. The Department has to take the chance of getting a competent person when the contract is let ; and, of course, if the contractor is unsuitable, the postal work is so conducted as to give rise to much public complaint. Under present arrangements the revenue has to be . £400 a year before an official office is established. In my opinion that figure is too high, particularly for growing districts; and moreover the establishment of official offices would give chances of promotion in the lower branches of the service, and secure the services of men trained and controlled by the Department and paid a decent living wage. It is false economy to pay poorly for services rendered; and when there is scarcely any compe’tition there is great danger of incompetency on the part of the contractor. I should like to draw attention to a curious regulation at the Wrightville post office, near Cobar. Although there is a savings bank and money order office attached, it is impossible to despatch a money order by telegraph. The office is conected with Cobar by telephone, but under a regulation which, I presume, is common in similar districts throughout Australia, any person desiring to send a telegraph money order must go to Cobar ; and it is not surprising that the people there do not quite appreciate the merits of the arrangement. There are many directions in which proper economy might be exercised throughout the country districts. For instance, an inspector of telegraph lines, in case of a breakdown, through the weather or otherwise, cannot obtain money necessary to pay for the repairs until, it may be, a month afterwards, owing to a voucher having to be sent in. Under the circumstances, he is forced to obtain the assistance of, perhaps, the local hotelkeeper, or anybody he can find ; and the result, it is to be feared, is inefficient work. If the inspector could go to the local postmaster and obtain the necessary money, he could employ any competent workman who happened to be about the place, and thus secure better value for the Department. I suggested to the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney that somesuch plan should be adopted, and I understood it to have been agreed to. Such work ought to be done promptly, and the cheapest method is to obtain the most efficient labour. Considering that work of this character must be called for daily throughout Australia, a large sum per annum is required for repairs’; and we all know that inferior labour adds to the cost. I should be glad of some information from the Postmaster-General as, to the future policy in regard to contract offices, and I hope to hear that every attention will be paid to the requirements of the various districts. In my opinion, postal work will grow in greater ratio than the population, because, naturally, the younger generation will write more letters than do the older people. The telephone demands are extending beyond the capacity of the Department to supply them ; and this, of course, involves the employment of additional officers.
.- I. desire to bring under the notice of honorable members a grievance which affects one of my constituents, and also a number of public servants employed in the transferred Departments. This is the case of Mr. E. F. Dyer, a letter carrier of Newtown, Sydney ; and his claim has been hanging fire ever since 28th September, 1905. Section 49 of ‘the Public Service Act of New South Wales of 1884, under which thisletter carrier and others . think they are entitled to a retiring allowance, is as follows -
In the case of any officer not entitled to a superannuation allowance whose services may be dispensed with through no fault of his own, or who may be compelled through infirmity of body or of mind to leave the service, such infirmity being duly certified by medical authority. to the satisfaction of the Minister as likely to be permanent, the Governor may grant such gratuity as he may think fit, not exceeding in any case the amount of one month’s pay at his then rate of salary for each year of service.
The amending Act of 1895 secures the continuity of the right ; section 60, sub-section 2, being as follows -
If the services of any person permanently employed in the Public Service shall be dispensed with by the Board under the provisions of this Act otherwise than for an offence, then - (II.) If such person shall have been employed in the Public Service before and at the date of the commencement of this Act, but shall not be a contributor to the said Superannuation Account, such Derson shall receive a gratuity not exceeding one month’s pay for each year of service from the date of his permanent appointment, and a fortnight’s pay in respect of each year of temporary service ; such gratuity to be calculated on the average of his salary during the whole term of his employment, and . to be payable only in respect to service prior to the commencement of this Act.
Now, under the Constitution, the Commonwealth is called upon to safeguard the rights of the officers in the transferred services.
– The Commonwealth has nothing whatever to do with the case referred to ; we cannot control it in any way.
The State Government refuses to recognise the claim, because, they say, it is not a legal claim.
– Does the Minister say that positively ?
– If that be so, how is it that this letter carrier has-been advised that his claim is held over pending a settlement of certain points by the High Court?
– There may be other points, of course.
– If the case has been settled definitely, why has this man not been told that he has no claim? On the other hand, if there is any claim, some action’ ought to be taken by the Department.
– Every representation that could be made has been made to the State Government in connexion with all these cases, and we can do no more.
– I think that the Ministry have power to compel the States Governments to deal w’ith these cases.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I hold a different view. The third paragraph of section 84 of the Constitution nrovides that -
Any such officer who is retained in the service of the Commonwealth shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights, and shall be entilled to retire from office at the time, and on the pension, or retiring allowance, which would be permitted by the law of the State if his service with the Commonwealth were a continuation of his service with the State. Such pension or retiring allowance shall be paid to him by the Commonwealth; but the State shall pay to the Commonwealth, a part thereof, to be calculated on the proportion which his term of service with the State bears to his whole term of service, and for the purpose of the calculation his salary shall be taken to be. that paid to him by the State at the time of the transfer.
– It all depends on the State payments.
– The quotation I have just read bears out my statement that under the Constitution the Commonwealth is called upon to recognise rights which were due or accruing to these officers when the Department was taken over.
– Subject to the State Government paying. We cannot compel the State Government to do so.
– A difficulty seems to have arisen under the New South Wales Public Service Act of 1895, under section 9 of which the State Government are hanging up the settlement of the question. That section provides -
Within such period after the commencement of this Act as the Governor may direct, and thereafter at intervals of not more than five years the Board shall grade the officers employed in all Departments of the Public Service to whom this Act applies, and classify as far as practicable the work performed by, or assigned to each officer, or grade of officers, such grading and classification to be within the five principal divisions specified in sections twenty-one, and to be respectively according to fitness and to the character and importance of the work performed by or to be assigned to each officer or grade.
Under this section the State of New South Wales apparently claims that the classification has been altered, and so affected the question. In this case - and it affects a number of officers - we have a letter carrier who, having arrived at a ripe age, expected, on retiring from the service, that a certain allowance would be handed to him as part payment for his services to the State. But instead of getting that which he was entitled to receive, he has been’ granted only a nominal sum. This case originated on 28th September, 1905, and after prosecuting his claim for two years, the man in question was told by the Department that it would be submitted to the High Court by the State of New South Wales.
– Showing that it is essentially a State matter, with which we have nothing to do.
– The Commonwealth cannot avoid its responsibility.
– It is a State, not a Commonwealth, responsibility.
– the Commonwealth Constitution provides that the rights of officers accruing to them at the time of their transfer to the Federal Service shall be preserved.
– Not rights of this description, but rights under special State Acts, with which we have nothing to do.
– Surely the honorable member will not say that a retirint; or superannuation allowance was not a right accruing to this man at the time that the Department was taken over by the Commonwealth ?
– Several cases of the kind have occurred, and the Department will not recognise them.
– I am aware of that. I have already said that a principle is at stake, and that this case affects the position of a number of men.
– We cannot go be- yond the law.
– The Constitution makes provision for the payment of certain amounts.
– They are very small, and can be arrived at only after the State has agreed upon what has to be paid.
– If the Commonwealth were to pay these men the money to which they are entitled under the State Act, and to deduct amounts so paid from the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue returnable to the State in question, the State would be compelled to do something definite.
– We could not do that.
– Then it seems to me that we can refuse to pay every public servant transferred from the State to the Commonwealth service any of the retiring or superannuation allowances guaranteed to them under the Constitution.
– The Department, for instance, makes representations to the State that an officer taken over by the Commonwealth has died, and that a certain claim has been made. It asks the State to pay it; but the State disputes the claim or refuses to pay it.
– And as soon as the State Government disputes the claim, or states that it intends to take the case to the High Court, the Commonwealth Department takes no further action.
– There is a moral, if not a legal, obligation to pay.
– I think that there is both. If there is not an absolute legal obligation to pay, then the Commonwealth should devise some means of forcing this question before the High Court. It should see that the whole question is thoroughly argued before the Court, so that a decision may be given under which the men will know exactly how they stand. As it is, the onus of bringing this case before the High Court rests with the State, and it is to its advantage to delay a settlement. Until the case has been determined by the High Court, the State escapes its responsibility, and it is to its advantage to delay an appeal to that tribunal. Meantime, a. great army of men are not securing a recognition of rights which they understood were guaranteed to them under the Commonwealth Constitution.
– Many of the rights which these men think they possess were taken from them by special Acts of Parliament passed by the Legislature of New South Wales.
– The only Actswhich affect their position are the Public Service Act of 1884, which confers the rights, and the Public Service Act of 1895, under which those rights are specified and continued.
– The Act of 1895 took away a lot of those rights.
– I do not profess to be able to give a legal interpretation of these measures, but, to my mind, the section I have quoted shows that the right which these men claim has not been taken from them. The Commonwealth should take steps to have the question determined without delay ‘by the High Court. It does not affect the administrators of the Commonwealth service, nor involve any pavment out of the Commonwealth Treasury, so that there is not that incentive, which in. other circumstances would exist, to force the matter to a definite conclusion. The whole matter is being allowed to drift whilst a large number of men are labouring under a sense of great injustice. If the Commonwealth would take action, it would not be long before we should have a decision of the . High Court on the question. A later case, in which I was interested, has been dealt with by the High Court since this case originated, and this should satisfy honorable members that nothing is being done to expedite a settlement.
– It is a State, not a Federal, case.
– On whom is the responsibility to be placed if the PostmasterGeneral will not protect this great army of public officers, and see that their rights under the Constitution of the Commonwealth are recognised ? The PostmasterGeneral should see this matter through ; he ought not to shelter himself behind an Act passed by’ the Legislature of New South Wales or of any other State.
– This involves a pavment under a State Act, with which we have nothing to do.
– The PostmasterGeneral has perhaps received legal advice on this question, but he is at least under a moral obligation to secure without delay a definite settlement of the case. The present state of affairs should not be allowed to continue. I understand that when a similar case was brought forward by the honorable member for Calare, the right honorable member for Swan, who was then a Minister of the Crown, said that he would pay the amount involved, and thus compel the Government of New South Wales to carry the case to the High Court. I do not want to unduly occupy the time of the House.
– The honorable member is taking up a lot of time.
– This may not be a serious matter to the Treasurer, but it is of great concern to worn-out letter carriers who thought that on their retirement they would receive a certain allowance. I hope that the Postmaster-General will not shelter himself behind a mere technicality, but will recognise the obligation resting upon him to secure a definite ruling for the guidance of all who are interested in this matter.
– The honorable member for Cook has voiced what is a very real grievance on the part of a l’arge number of worn-out or retired public servants in New South Wales, and more particularly those who have been employed in the Postal Department. It is a matter that has engaged my attention for some time, and I have been hoping for a satisfactory settlement. I regret to learn that, judging by the interjections of the Postmaster-General, we are no nearer a settlement than we were when this case was first brought before the House some twelve months ago. Apparently the Government are not disposed to take action. In the electorate of Canobolas, which I formerly represented, there lived a man who for a long time had been in the service of the Department as a telegraph line repairer, and who was retired on reaching the prescribed age. Under the conditions obtaining in the State service, upon retirement he was entitled to a gratuity equal to one month’s pay for every year of service. That system obtained after the Postal Department had been transferred to the Commonwealth. Up till the period of this man’s retirement, some eighteen months or two years ago, the Department recognised the obligation, and paid their servants upon retiring one month’s gratuity for every year of service. But about the time -I have indicated, the Department reduced the amount of the payment to a fortnight’s salary for every year of service. The -public servants- hold ‘ that this retiring allowance was provided for in the Public Service Act of New South Wales, which was passed in 1884, and in the amending Act of 1895, and that the Commonwealth Constitution secures to them all the rights and privileges which were theirs under the old State regime. This particular officer made a claim against the Department. The salary which he received as a line repairer was not sufficient to enable him to make any large provision for his old age, and naturally he looked forward to this section in the Public Service Act . of New South Wales to be of assistance to him when he retired. Now he finds that, .owing to the issue of a ukase by the Government of that State, the amount of his gratuity has been reduced by. one-half. I brought his case forward when the Estimates were under review some twelve months ago, and the honorable member for Swan, who then filled the office of Treasurer, intimated that a number of similar cases had been engaging his attention, and that he felt disposed to satisfy the claims of the officers, and to allow the New South Wales Government to establish their position in the law Courts. That seems to me to be a reasonable way of dealing with the matter. How can the Government expect these poor worn-out public servants to test their right in the law Courts of Australia? The Question at issue is one which can be decided only by the High Court. The claim turns upon the constitutional question of whether the public servants who were transferred from the State to the Commonwealth have secured to them all the rights and privileges which they previously enjoyed. The Government, in the interests of its own public servants, should ascertain the interpretation which the High Court places upon that particular provision in our Constitution. So far as the Government of New South Wales are concerned, what does it matter to them ? The transferred officers are not their servants, and if they can persuade the Commonwealth Government not to recognise the claims of these officers they will have so many more pounds to expend-in any avenue that they may think fit. I think that the course indicated by the honorable member for Swan was the proper course to follow. Let the Government make one payment to these officers, and throw upon the State Government the onus of testing the matter in the High Court. Bv acting in that manner we shall get an interpretation of the Constitution which will - protect our’ public servants. I trust that the Minister will not be satisfied to stand upon a mere technicality by declaring that the matter is one for the State authorities to determine. It is a constitutional question, and it is therefore obligatory upon the Government to have it made clear.
– In reply to the remarks of the honorable member for Calare and of others, I wish to say that the whole question to which they have referred hinges upon the construction placed upon the words used in our Constitution, “ existing and accruing rights.” The rights and privileges of the transferred officers are contained in several Acts and amending Acts, and the New South Wales Government hold that they are not responsible to the extent claimed in several cases.
– They hold that the Government cannot tax their wirer netting.
– I will confer with the Treasurer on the matter, in view of the statements that have been made to-day. But I wish it to be distinctly understood that we have made quite a number of representations to the New South Wales Government, and it has become painfully clear that under the last amending Public Service Act a number of these civil servants have been deprived of legal and moral rights to which I think they were entitled. But seeing that they have been deprived of these rights, they cannot be regarded as “ accrued “ rights,” and therefore we cannot recognise them. The Treasurer states that the New South Wales Government informed the Commonwealth Government what would be the effect of the amending Act, and that its effect has- been as I have indicated. Regarding the complaints which have been made concerning the conditions which obtain in the General Post Office, Sydney, I wish to say that a fortnight ago I visited New South Wales, and I was very much surprised to find that in the central office there were no less than sixteen different associations. That condition of things - as I told the men - cannot continue. Whilst -the Government are anxious to recognise organizations, and think that through them we can better learn the grievances under, which their members labour, I say that the existence of sixteen organizations iri a central office is a. condition of things that Ought to be changed.
– The different organizations should amalgamate.
– They must do so. In the second place, overtime has accumulated and work of an extraordinary character has been performed.
– But the associations have nothing to do with the working of the Department.
– They make my work infinitely harder. The same amount of weight cannot be attached to the representations of the men that would otherwise be attached to them, and the position of the employes instead of being helped by these numerous organizations is considerably hindered. Moreover, their existence means the multiplication of complaints which are made frequently without consideration. I informed the men that if they exaggerated their position and refused to allow their work to be compared under reasonable conditions with outside work, they did their cause more harm than good. I am satisfied that they recognise that there must be an amalgamation of the various associations within the central office. As a matter of fact, it will take me some time to grasp the nature of their complaints. As soon as the type written copies of these are available, I shall examine them very carefully.
– But there are some big grievances.
– I have already admitted that overtime has accumulated, and that leave to which officers are entitled has been postponed. I have instructed the Deputy Postmaster-General to at once put on all the additional hands which the provision made upon the Estimates will enable him to employ. Further, I have the assurance of the Treasurer that additional temporary assistance will be forthcoming whenever its employment becomes necessary. I have taken other steps to make representations to the Public Service Commissioner, and 1 intend to have a conference with him at an early date with a view to seeing what can be done in order to relieve the existing congestion in the Sydney office. But I would point out to honorable members that I have only occupied my present position for six or seven weeks, and that a question of this kind cannot be faced, considered, and met in as brief a time as is occupied in making the complaints. I can assure honorable members that I am seized with the need’ for a thorough change being effected in the Sydney General Post Office, and that I shall take every step that is necessary toafford the requisite relief. In regard to- the General Post Office, Melbourne, I may say that whenI was acting Postmaster - General I made a personal investigation into its working. I have no hesitation in saying that the conditions under which the employés laboured were anything but satisfactory. I then made representations which culminated in- relief being afforded. But under the machinery of the Public Service Act that relief cannot be secured in a week or even within three or four weeks. In the first place, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral has to appeal to the central authorites who have to make representations to the Public Service Commissioner. The latter has then to advertise the vacancies and has to recommend applicants for appointment. As a matter of fact, it took months to secure the appointment of ten extra letter sorters in the Melbourne General Post Office.
– That is not verycomplimentary to the machinery of the Act.
– I am not responsible for that machinery. I have merely to administer the Act as it has been framed.
– It was framed upon insufficient knowledge.
– It is the best Public Service Act in Australia.
– It is very rough for the Postmaster-General to tell honorable members that it took him months to get the assistance of ten additional letter sorters.
– It is a fact, nevertheless.
– Was the delay caused by departmental methods or by obstruction ?
– I do not think that there was obstruction. If the honorable member will study the machinery of the Act he will find that whilst in many respects it is an exceedingly valuable Act it is - like all other human machines - capable of improvement. I think that in this respect it could be improved.
– If appointments are to be permanent thev cannot be made in a hurry.
– That is really the position. The conditions of the Melbourne Post Office were of such a character that I considered that, in the public interest, the best man should be appointed Deputy Postmaster-General, irrespective of the State in which he might be serving, or the social position which he might hold. It has been stated that the present acting Deputy Postmaster-General, against whom I have not a word to say, has been acting for eighteen months, and that that should be a sufficient guarantee of his qualifications for the position. During his last term he acted for six months, because the retiring Deputy Postmaster-General was on leave of absence. We could not take steps to make a permanent appointment until six or eight weeks ago.
– Has not Mr. Crosby acted for eighteen months within the last three years ?
– He may have acted for eighteen months on the whole, but not in one period. The fact that he has acted does not give either Mr. Crosby or Mr. Springhall a claim tobe permanently appointed. The Public Service Commissioner nominated Mr. Betheras, who, the AttorneyGeneral pointed out, was not eligible under the Public Service Act.
– Has not the Minister the ultimate decision?
– No. All the Minister can do is. to lay the papers on the table of the House, and require the Public Service Commissioner to make another nomination.
– I do not think that the Minister has to lay thepapers on the table, though he may say that he will not accept the Public Service Commissioner’s nomination.
– I have studied the question, and know that my statement is correct. The Governor-General in Council is informed that the Government does not concur in the nomination of the Public Service Commissioner, whereupon the papers are laid upon the table of the House, and the Commissioner is called upon to make another nomination. He need not nominate an officer chosen by the Minister or by the Government.
– That was the intention of the Act.
– I do not say that it was not ; I am not discussing the Act. I am merely pointing out that . the honorable member for Laanecoorie was wrong in thinking that I, or the Government, can appoint any man to the position. We must accept the nomination of the Commissioner, or, if we reject it, lay the papers on the table of the House, and ask him to make another.
– I do not think that the Minister wouldbe game to make an appointment if he had the power.
– I cannot discuss that matter. I have taken a step to which T think no reasonable officer can object. I am convinced that to change officers about, and cause periodical inspections to be made, is the best thing that can be done in the interests of the public and of the Department.
– It is a pity that the Public Service inspectors are not changed from State to State. That would prevent a lot of favoritism.
– I think that it would be a good thing if the Public Service inspectors, as well as policemen and firemen, were changed occasionally from one district to another.
– A Public Service inspector, if sent to another State, would take a, long time to pick up his duties.
– I can assure the honorable member for Coolgardie, who introduced this matter, that the Government, in taking the step which it has taken, has cast no reflection on the acting Deputy Postmaster-General of Victoria - who was not nominated for the permanent position, although an applicant for it - or on any other officer. We feel that an inspection should be madeby an officer who will be absolutely independent and impartial.
– The officer who is to be appointed does not seek to come to Victoria.
– I am obliged for That interjection. We could have appointed some one who might have been seeking the position, but we desired to obtain a report from a man who would have no bias, who would know nothing about the cliques which exist, if any do exist, and whose independent report should enable the Public Service Commissioner to nominate the best man available for the position.
– Is this a Ministerial appointment?
– The Minister has power to make a temporary appointment of this character ; but, before it was made, it was mentioned to the Public Service Commissioner, and he acquiesced in it.
– It could have been made without the consent of the Commissioner.
– Did the GovernorGeneral not accept the nomination of Mr. Springhall ?
– The Governor-General has not considered the matter. He can do so only when the papers are laid on the table.
– Temporary appointments can be made for three months only.
– For six months almost. The public interest and the interests of the officials have been studied by this, appointment. I am going to administer my Department from the Australian standpoint. I have never raised the question of. State service. If the best man available is to be found in Western Australia, he will be appointed, so far as I have influence in the matter.
– Will the Minister transfer telegraph operators from Victoria to Western Australia?
– I do not know the circumstances.
– There are numerous applications.
– I am not prepared to give a reply in regard to hypothetical cases.
– The honorable member speaks about viewing this matter from the Australian stand-point ; but he could not shift an officer.
– I have noted the representations which have been made regarding overwork and bad conditions, and havealready given instructions, which, in the opinion of some of my colleagues, are of too strong a character, to the authorities who can make changes. So far as casual employes are concerned, I have given emphatic instructions that they are to be paid the rate of wage ruling for similar labour amongst the unions outside. Thus the anomaly has been created that, whereasthe temporary instrument fitters in Sydney and Melbourne are being paid 8s. 6d. and 9s. a day - a wage none too high for skilled labour - the permanent men are receiving only 7s. and 7s. 6d. a day. The Public Service Commissioner has promised; to consider the whole question. All complaints will be carefully considered, and,, while the interests of the public will bestudied, justice will be done. I shall be happy to investigate every case in which injustice is alleged, and to do everything, possible to prevent wrong-doing.
– What about the contract post-offices?
– Quite a number of cases of alleged sweating have been brought under my notice in connexion with semi-official and allowance offices.
– I brought one under the Minister’s notice.
– Yes ; a typical case. An allowance office is one where, accordingto the volume of work done, money is paidr to some one, such as a storekeeper, to transact postal business. There are a large number of places in the Commonwealth where the postal revenue does not amount to£40 or £50 a year; and we could not afford to pay an officer£110 or£120 a year to look after the business there. In many cases, it does not take more than two or three hoursa day to attend to the postal business. I know this from my personal investigation.
– Most of these officers do not get per annum.
– I have issued instructions that, where the time of a person in charge of an allowance office is wholly occupied with postal business, not less than the minimum wage prescribed by the Public Service Act shall be paid. With regard to semi-official offices, my. predecessor issued the instruction that the minimum wage was to be paid in every case, and steps are being taken to carry that out.
– With the sanction of the Public Service Commissioner?
– The Public Service Commissioner has nothing to do with contract offices.
– Does the Minister believe in having the Public Service governed by an autocrat ?
– I must leave the discussion of that matter to another occasion. I have directed that the instructions of my predecessor shall be carried out, and that, after allowance has been made for rent, notless than the minimum wage is to be paid to those in charge of semi-official offices, while proper wages are to be paid to those whom they employ.
– Then why have contract offices at all? Why not convert them all into staff offices?
– We establish staff offices only when the postal receiptseach £400 a year.
– That is too high an amount for country districts.
– if we established staff offices where the revenue was smaller, the expenses of the Department would be increased so enormously that it would be difficult to administer it. We must give consideration to the financial aspect.
– What is the use of talking such flapdoodle when the Minister knows that an official office can be run for less than £200 ayear?
– Not if £110 is to be paid as the minimum wage.
– The Department can pay up to£180.
– That is not so. The other matters referred to will be dealt with more fully when the Estimates are under discussion.
– I desire to say a few words in reply to a statement made by the deputy leader of the Opposition.
– The Minister should not start another discussion.
– I am not going to allow the honorable member’s remarks to be published in Hansard without replying to them. He quoted certain exemptions in the old and in this Tariff. The exemption in the present Tariff reads -
Machinery and parts thereof, used in the manufacture of fibrous materials and felt, and felt hats, when installed for use ina woollen mill or a hat factory for the manufacture of such materials, felt, and hats.
In the other Tariff, the words were -
Machinery for scouring, washing, carding, spinning, weaving, and finishingthe manufacture of fibrous materials.
Machinery for the manufacture of paper and for felting.
The other night I stated that, according to my information, the words used, and the administration, were similar under both Tariffs. That statement was questioned, and, “on the motion for the adjournment last night, I was accused of having misled the leader of the Opposition. However, I have the following report fromthe ComptrollerGeneral -
Attached are shown the provisions of the Victorian Tariff, the Commonwealth Tariff of 1901-2, and the new Tariff, in regard to the exemption from duty of this class of machinery.
It will be observed that they are to a large extent identical in terms.
Under the old Federal Tariff it was the practice to admit free under this heading, machinery used in hat making, such as blocking, rounding, curling, finishing, and flanging machines, &c, but, as sometimes the officers were in doubt, it was thought advisable to specifically mention such machinery in the new Tariff, not that such mention extends the area of exemption, but simply makes clear what the old exemption included.
Even if the words “ and felt hats “ had been omitted, the exemption would still have applied to the class of machinery mentioned.
In the same manner a balling machine used in the manufacture of twine was also admitted free under this heading ; also a milling machine, wringer, steam press, and winder, used in connexion with the manufacture of knitted goods.
The position is practically unaltered as regards that which existed under the1901-2 Tariff, and that which exists under the present Tariff, except that the latter is really more restrictive in its terms than the old one.
– The Minister cannot read the black and white out of an Act of Parliament.
– I am showing that what the leader of the Opposition said the other night was not correct.
– The Minister is not doing so.
– The report proceeds -
It may be as well to mention, perhaps, that the wording of this particular exemption is as originally drafted for the Minister’s consideration, and that such wording was suggested without being aware of the Minister’s views on the subject, or receiving any instructions from him. The recommendation of the Tariff Commission, which was as follows - “ Machinery for carding, spinning, weaving, finishing the manufacture of fibrous materials,” free - was practically followed.
Mr.reid.-It is the only set of machinery which has the benefit of exemption.
– I need not read the report relating to the Victorian Tariff ; but I will read the following: -
Old Federal Tariff. -1. “Machinery for scouring, washing, carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing the manufacture of fibrous materials.”
– Are those still exempt ?
– I shall read what the Comptroller-General says, and then the honorable member will not be able to accuse me of varying the words.
New Federal Tariff. - Limits the exemption to- “ Machinery and parts thereof, used in the manufacture of fibrous materials and felt, and felt hats, when installed for use in a woollen mill or a hat factory for the manufacture of such materials, felts and hats.”
I desire this report to appear in Hansard as supporting my statement the other night that the wording and the administration were the same in both Tariffs.
– We have one provision in the Act, and another provision under the Comptroller-General’s arrangement.
– The ComptrollerGeneral knows the Act better than any one else.
– Why is the arrangement there ?
– I do not know, but I suppose it is in order to bring it under the Act.
– The Treasurer has made statements under an entire misapprehension.
– There has been no misapprehension. The honorable member is most unjust and unfair in his accusation that I am misleading the Committee. I have not looked at the Tariff in this connexion-
– Why does the Minister say that I am unfair and unjust, if he has not looked at it?
– I am told that the machinery for the woollen mills is allowed in free, whereas machinery for woolwashing, which is an entirely different matter-
– Not at all ; it is exactly the same.
– It is a primary industry, remember.
– The debate which is just now developing in another direction shows how necessary it was that I should rule that there may be no discussion which anticipates a discussion which will occur later on . The whole matter now being entered on - the matter to which the Minister is being driven by interjections from three or four sides of the House - is one that can be debated only in Committee of Ways and Means on the Tariff.
– I do not wish to say more. Nothing can be done to alter the Tariff at this present moment; but I shall make further inquiry, and, when the items are under consideration, I shall take what action seems best. .
– Why is a duty of 25 and 30 per cent. charged in Queensland on machinery for washing wool for sale, while the same machine, for washing wool for the woollen mills, is admitted free in New South Wales and Victoria?
– That is not a question which canbe discussed in the House. It is most distinctly a question which anticipates the debate in Committee of Ways and Means.
– What I ask is whether there is not a provision in the schedule - which is not extended to any other set of machinery - exempting from duty that used in woollen mills and hat mills?
– That exemption was not extended to other machinery under the old Tariff.
– Yes ; it was extended to printing and other sorts of machinery. Why is the woollen and hat machinery picked’ out in this way ?
– Because some honorable members have bad minds, and say there has been favoritism.
– I must require this debate to close, unless there are honorable members who desire to speak on the motion to go into Committee of Ways and Means.
– I should like to say a few words in reply to statements made this afternoon in reference to the Public Service. A great deal has been heard about the insufficiency of the staff in the Post and Telegraph Department; but if all the appointments suggested were made, it would require the whole of the Treasury to pay the salaries. When I took office as Treasurer, the first request made to me was to make 1,000 permanent appointments in the Postal Department alone.
– I suppose that about 1,500 temporary hands were doing the work !
– I asked to be supplied with information as to the number of employes in the Department, not including the central staff, before Federation and at the present time. I find that there are now 1 1 , 606 employes in the Department, as compared with 9,930 when the Department was transferred, showing a considerable increase. Then I am further informed that 425 temporary employes taken over have since been placed on the permanent list. The total number of transferred servants is thus 10,355, showing a net increase of 1,251, to which there have to be added210 temporary hands in Sydney. Before I prepared the Estimates I pointed out that the addition of 1,000 permanent employes was a “ large order” in one Department. I did not desire to make so many permanent appointments, because it would mean that the men would be engaged for ever, so that if, subsequently, it were found that they were not required nothing could be done to remove them. I offered to provide for 600 hands, if more were required, and said that, until the step could be approved by Parliament, I would provide the salaries out of the Treasurer’s advance.
– It would be worse for the public servants themselves if the 1,000 permanent appointments were made.
– I give this information to show that there is no desire to overwork the public servants. But so long as 1 am Treasurer 1 shall take great care of the finances ; and I shall require the head of every Department, before making any appointment whatever, to give me full information regarding it; otherwise no salary will be provided. In the past there has been a custom of first making appointments and then asking for the necessary money ; but that must now cease.
– I refused to sanction that course.
– Unless a tight grip is held by the Treasurer appointments increase until the expenditure becomes serious. I must apologize to the Postmaster-General for referring to his Department, but I had from the Treasury information which was not in his possession. Mine is the responsibility for the action I took when framing the Estimates so as to allow of elasticity in the case of more appointmentsbeing necessary.
.The Treasurer has told us a good deal about the efforts of at least one Department to secure an increased number of permanent hands. I would remind the House that for some time a large number of temporary hands have been working overtime in the Postal Department in order to keep pace with its developments, and if it be necessary to increase the number of permanent hands, no time should be lost in taking that step. I rose more particularly to emphasize the point that it is about time the Postal Department issued an annual report, in order that Parliament might have a proper conception of the working of this huge branch of the Public Service. In pre-Federation days, the Department in each of the States annually presented to Parliament a report which enabled honorable members to ascertain for themselves the exact position in which it stood.
– I hope that the first report of the Department will be issued very shortly.
– It cannot be denied that the Department is rapidly expanding. I am one of those who do not consider that it should be conducted on purely revenueproducing lines. Whilst it is very desirable that it should pay its way, we must not lose sight of the fact that it is a Department that is in very close touch with the people, and that it is designed, not so much to earn revenue, as to supply a very necessary service to our citizens. In a large State like Queensland, or Western Australia, and even in New South Wales, the cost of the Department must necessarily be heavy, having regard to the costly services that have to be provided to meet the requirements of a widely-scattered population. In the circumstances, I fully sympathize with the desire of the Department to obtain more money from the Treasury. I desire to bring under the special notice of the Postmaster-General, the position of officers in the Department who are appointed to stations in remote parts of the Commonwealth, and who, after spending seven or eight years in such places, find that the Department, instead of being prepared to grant them a transfer, is anxious to keep them there a great deal longer.
– With the result that they miss their chance of promotion.
– They labour under even greater disabilities. For the most part, those who consent to be sent to these far back districts are young married men, who cheerfully go out to do the service of the Department. After a time, many of them find themselves surrounded with a family of three or four children, with no means of giving them an education. Sometimes they are 50 or 100 miles away from a school, and it is with the greatest difficulty that they are able to secure a transfer to another district where some educational facilities are available. I think that the officers appointed to such stations should be men who have no children, or whose families are grown up. Those who have young children should certainly have an early opportunity to secure a transfer to places where there is some chance of their family being educated. These men labour under a very serious grievance, and I hope that the Postmaster-General will give their case most favourable consideration. The case referred to by the honorable member for Maranoa, who showed that, whilst machinery for woollen mills is allowed to come in free a machine for dealing with wool is dutiable is a most remarkable one, andI hope that it will receive the attention of the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In C ommittee of Ways and Means (Con sideration resumed from16th October, vide Page 4793): import Duties.
Division IV. Agricultural products and gro ceries.
Item 40, Candles, tapers, and night lights : -
.- The Government propose a preference of½d. per lb. in favour of candles the manufacture of the United Kingdom, but whilst our imports under this heading are large we obtain only a very small quantity from that source. The imports from Great Britain last year amounted to only 133,477 lbs. of the value of£3,340, no less than 1,723,898 lbs. out of a total importation of 1,857,375 lbs. of the value of£36,999 coming from other countries. The report of the protectionist section of the Tariff Commission shows exactly where these imports come from. At page 6 of Progress Report No. 13 of the “A” section of the Commission we find a table giving the imports and the place of origin. The quantity ofimports from the United Kingdom during 1906 was 133,477lbs.of the value of£3,340, whilst the balance of our importations came from Hong Kong, India, Belgium, Burmah, China, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and the United States of America.
– And the honorable member wants to let a lot more come in.
– The honorable member does not know where his interjection is leading him. The imports from Great Britain are hardly worth speaking about.
– We wish to induce more of our imports to come from Great Britain.
– Yet Australia absolutely shut them out under the old Tariff, and it is proposed now to double that Tariff against Great Britain. As a matter of fact the imports shown under this heading as having come from Great Britain were principally night lights. The old duty of1d. per lb. was practically prohibitive, and under it very few, if any, candles were imported from Great Britain. It amounted to 25 per cent. on the f.o.b. cost of importation, added to which there was another 25 per cent.representing cost of transit and freight to and fro on tallow, which is the basis of stearine; so that the duty actually amounted to 50 per cent. When the Treasurer was speaking last night of the value of the preference that he proposed to offer Great Britain, I said that no candles were imported from that country , and thehonorable member replied that I was in error.
– So the honorable member is.
– According to the statistical returns for 1906 the imports under the heading ot “ candles, tapers, night lights, and solid spirit heaters “ from Great Britain were 133,477 lbs. of the value of .£3,340, and these importations, I am informed by a reliable authority, will be found, on investigation, to have consisted principally of night lights. According to statements made by the merchants of this city, as well as of Sydney, no British candles are imported.
– I have bought them myself at Messrs:. Anthony Hordern and Sons.
– Not British candles.
– - I have purchased them, and have also seen the hard candle which the miner uses, obtained from Great Britain.
– Perhaps the Treasurer can inform the Committee of the particular brand of candles which he purchased at Messrs Anthony Hordern and Sons. I hold in my hand a’n extract from a London letter, dated 16th August of the present year, and addressed to a merchant connected with the candle business in Australia. This letter - which, I may say, -emanates from Price’s Patent Candle Company Limited, the most important manufacturers of candles in the United Kingdom - reads -
We have seen the reports regarding the new Tariff, and regret to observe that whilst so much is said about preference to the old country, the Tariff proposed upon its goods, so far as we are concerned, amounts to prohibition.
– Still, honorable members say that we are granting no preference to the goods of the United Kingdom.
– The manufacturers, themselves say that, in respect of candles, the so-called preference really amounts to prohibition. That is, surely, a queer sort of preference. I wish now to say a few words in regard to the evidence given by Mr. Lorimer before the Tariff Commission, which is set out upon page 795 of the report of the proceedings of that body. He -pointed out that Australia was a large exporter of tallow, which is the chief raw material of stearine candles. The export from Australia of tallow is valued at something like £21,000 per annum. The transit charges upon this article in themselves confer upon our locally-manufactured candles a natural protection of 25 per cent., and have done so during the past four years. The f.o.b. cost ranges from 4½d. per lb. to 4§d. per lb., according to the brand. The previous duty of 25 per cent., added to the natural protection, made the impost under the old Tariff equivalent to 50 per cent, upon the f.o.b. value of imported candles. Surely that should be sufficient. But the new duty proposes an increase of 150 per cent, on the old rate, and 100 per cent, increase on goods of British manufacture. Of course, we have been told by the Treasurer and others who believe in protection that the amount of the duty imposed will npt be added to the cost of the article, and that, consequently, the consumer will not have to pay it. Indeed, the Treasurer has gone so far as to state in connexion with the effect of protection generally, that if a sufficient duty be levied, the locally-produced article will be verymuch cheaper than is the imported article. I have obtained a list of the prices ruling for candles throughout Australia prior to the introduction of the first Commonwealth Tariff. I find that in New South Wales, where candles were admitted free, the price of imported candles ranged from 5jd. to 5§d. per lb., according to the brand.
– They were Dutch candles.
– That is immaterial, seeing that the same candles were imported into all the States of Australia. In Victoria, where there was a duty of id. per lb. upon these candles, the ruling price was from 6£d. to 6fd. per lb. - ari increase of exactly the amount of the duty. In Queensland and South Australia, the duty levied was 2d. per lb., and the same ratio was observed in the selling price to the consumer, which ranged from 7 Jd. to 7 Jd. per lb., according to the brand. These figures are sufficient to prove that it is not the obliging foreigner who pays the duty. The person who has to- pay in all cases is the consumer. This duty would not be of much consequence if candles were used only by the wealthier classes of the, community. But the chief users of candles are cabmen, miners, farmers, rural settlers, and the poorer residents of the cities. The old duty, so far as Great Britain was concerned, amounted to prohibition, and had the effect of preventing importation from the United Kingdom. Under the proposal of the Government, the impost against the mother country will be 2d. per lb. - an increase of 100 per cent, upon the old prohibitive rate. I wish now to call attention to the fact that there has been a great falling off in the importation of candles during the past few years. Under the old
Tariff, which imposed a duty of1d. per lb. upon candles, the importations under the heading of “ candles, tapers, night lights, and solid spirit heaters “ declined from approximately 3,500,000 lbs., valued at £70,000, in 1903, to less than 2,000,000 lbs., valued at £37,000, in 1907 - a decline of about 45 per cent.
– Only half of the present year has expired. If the honorable member will compare the imports of candles for the present year with those of last year, he will find that they are gradually increasing.
– Then they have increased during the past few months. I am instituting a comparison of the imports extending over a period of the last four years.
Sitting suspendedfrom 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– According to the evidence given by Mr. Lorimer before the Tariff Commission, an attempt was made by a local manufacturer to lead the public to believe that the Rangoon candle was an inferior article, and to create this bad impression a locally made candle was sold as the Rangoon candle. Furthermore, some local makers were selling packets of candles weighing as little as 12 oz. to the lb., although the recognised weight is 16 oz. to the lb.
– The Rangoon candle is bad.
– If it is a bad candle, why do the local manufacturers fear its competition so much, and why have they tried to discredit it in the manner of which I speak? Why did they falsely label locally made candles as “Rangoon”? Was it to discredit the Australian-made candle ?
– The honorable member is making a very serious charge.
– It is sustained by the evidence of the Tariff Commission. I refer the Committee to the evidence of Mr. Lorimer.
– Who is Mr. Lorimer ?
– A foreign representative.
– According to the Victorian protectionists all merchants are foreign representatives, and must be treated as pariahs, as social lepers, who should be told to get off the face of the earth. The only persons they would allow to live are Victorian manufacturers.
– Is not Mr. Lorimer an indent agent?
– Yes. I will read! presently some correspondence between him and the secretary of the Chiltern Miners’ Association, which will show what the Victorian miners think of some of the locally made candles.
– There are plenty of Victorian workmen who are “ scabs.”
– Surely the honorablemember will not say that the secretary of the Chiltern Miners’ Association is a “scab “ ! This is the evidence of Mr. Lorimer respecting the imposition practised by the local manufacturer in selling his own. candles as Rangoon - 73616. You said something in your evidence about false labels, and you put in a packet ; was that a sealed packet ? - That is just as I received it from Queensland, and you can open, it yourselves. Those are the vouchers for the purchase that were inserted. It ‘was in two different shops that they were bought.
– No doubt, in the honorable member’s eyes, the Australian manufacturers are a bad lot.
– Surely the honorablemember does not justify fraud?
– It has not been proved.
– Even as a protectionist he must have some regard to fair play and honest dealing If an importer had been guilty of such a transaction, no words would havebeen too strong for his condemnation. Messrs. Kitchen and Sons practically admitted that this had been done, but said that they were no longer doing it. Does the honorable member defend such a practice?
– I am glad that there has been an improvement.
– There was plenty of room for improvement.
– Is anything good made in Australia? .
– Not unless it is made in Victoria.
– The evidence continues - 73653. You put in these exhibits, these candles, in these two packets, and you put in two vouchers. I should like you to make it clearer, if you can, that the candles were Kitchen’s ; how do you connect them with Kitchen? - In this way and that I think is made clear here : We wrote to Messrs. G. I. Mowat and Co. as. follows : - “ 9th March, 1905. “ In May and June of 1903, we had an interchange, and you kindly forwarded us a sample of Kitchen’s candles, under the label ‘ Imperial’ Bougie Anvers.’ Would you kindly inform us by wire at earliest possible after receipt of this present, if this candle is still available in your market, and if so, at what price? Please go into this matter at once, as we are anxious for the information, and oblige, “Yours faithfully, “ If the line is available, please purchase a packet, and obtain a receipt for the purchase, and forward on both to us.”
And we received the following from G. I. Mowat and Company - “ Kitchen’s Candles. “ 13th March, 1905. . “ As requested, we wired you this morning that the ‘Imperial Bougie’ was available, and the list price5¼d. In the list, the word ‘ Bougie ‘ only is used. By the same mail we send you two packages obtained from different grocers, and if necessary, there would be very little trouble in getting a box from Kitchen and Sons direct.”
Of the same sort? - Of the same sort.
I would rather like to see this proved conclusively. That is merely an assertion of your agents. Have you yourself satisfactorily connected this packet with a false and misleading label with Kitchen’s. You produce two packets, and you produce two vouchers, memorandums of sale. Kitchen and Sons may say, “ What have we got to do with that?” - What do you suggest we should do. You are giving the Commission to understand that these candles are made by Kitchen and Sons? - I am.
On what evidence? - The mere fact that they were bought in a shop in Brisbane is no evidence that Kitchen is the manufacturer? - But Kitchen has them on their list. That is what the letter states.
We have a list of Kitchen’s - do you identify these as the kind of candle listed by Kitchen as Bougie, 25 in the box? - The Bougie, yes.
There is more evidence in confirmation of that statement. On the 17th September last, the following telegram was published in the Melbourne Age -
Chiltern, Monday. At the last meeting of the Chiltern branch of the Miners’ Association a member asked if there was any possibility of the Pure Food Act being brought to bear on imported candles being used in the mines. He urged that they were injurious to the health of the miners. The president (Mr. Howes) said that the question had been brought up at one conference. He suggested that the men should refuse to use them. Miners stated that there was a thick, black smoke from the candles, which settled in the nostrils and throat of the miner, and the following day his expectoration would be black.
The Chiltern miners were under the impression that the candles to which they objected were imported, but I propose to show from some correspondence between the secretary to the Chiltern Miners’ Association and Mr. Lorimer, that the candles of which they complain were manufactured locally, and falsely represented to be imported. I do not say that all locally-made candles are inferior. It is admitted that some candles of local manufacture are of high quality, though chemical analysis shows that the quality is not so high as some imported candles. Some locally-made candles are sold cheaply. Seeing the paragraph in the Age, to which I have referred; Mr. Lorimer, on the 17 th September last, sent the following letter to the secretary of the Miners’ Association, Chiltern -
Noticing the attached report re Candles in the issue of the Age of even date, and having taken an interest in analytical research in respect to this article for the past twenty years, I should’ be pleased if you would kindly favour me with a sample of the article referred to therein, and, as well, information as to the country of origin, which no doubt you will be able to ascertain from the packages.
On the 22ndof the same month he wrote again to the secretary -
Following on my letter to you of the 17th inst., I had the pleasure of a visit from two of your representatives, at which they informed me the candle of which the members of your association complained as being injurious to their health, was an imported paraffine article, marked on the boxes as of Rangoon manufacture, a small sample of which they were good enough to leave with me. Assuming the facts are as above, of which I have no doubt, in view of the statements of your representatives, I would be obliged for your official confirmation, of same, as also, if you could so favour me with a few candles, as I am desirous of proceeding further in this matter, in what I consider to be the interests of the public in general.
In reply to that, the following letter was received from the secretary of the association -
I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 26th September, and in reply thereto, I have to state that I cannot attempt to procure any further supply of candles as desired by you, inasmuch as the candles are the property of the mining companies. With respect to the piece delivered to you by the President of the Chiltern branch of the Miners’ Association, it is an exact specimen of those in use, and I was fortunate to procure same from a miner who had just left the mine and now migrated to other parts. With respect to these candles, they are called “ Rangoon,” and the boxes in which they are delivered are of long shape, and contain no other imprint, only “ Rangoon.” I have been locallyinformed that they are made by Kitchen and Sons from imported residue.
– Rangoon paraffine wax.
– They purported to be Rangoon candles, and the public were misled into the idea that they were buying imported candles -
Whether this is true or otherwise I. cannot say. However, the candles (of which you hold a perfect specimen) are undoubtedly injurious to the health of the miners, and will, if continued in use, produce some disease of a serious character -
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports smiles, but I do not think the subject as one for levity. The miners look on this as a vital question ; and I ask the honorable member, as one who professes to directly represent the interests of labour, to show some sympathy with the men who have to use an inferior article to the detriment of their health - because, notwithstanding the fact that the miners who have been using them are absent from their use for periods of six weeks and two months, still continue to expectorate a black thick micaceous matter off apparently the lungs, and those working continuously spit nothing else when the phlegm is coughed from the lower regions of khe chest. Therefore, it cannot be otherwise assumed than that the candles are producing a most deleterious effect upon the chest organs of those in contact with them, and it seems a most unreasonable toleration to continue to do so, particularly in mining, where the precincts are so confined; but economy is the watchword of the hour, and cheapness has preference to the health of humanity. Those who have and those who have not are on two different planes, and it is very simple to discharge men, as excuses are at all times available.’ Therefore the miners continue to use them.
On the 30th September Mr. Lorimer again wrote to the secretary of the Miners’ Association, as follows -
I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 27th inst., and to thank you for the information you therein supply, which I feel sure will assist me in my endeavours to have the use of paraffine candles in mines discontinued. I can hardly think the article is manufactured “by Messrs. Kitchen and Sons, if the boxes are marked as you inform me, with the word “ Rangoon,” as the agents for the Rangoon-made candles would surely have taken steps to prevent the local manufacturers using this foreign name. However, I will look further into the matter. Again thanking you for the trouble you have taken in this matter, as also your courtesy in favouring mo with information.
This was followed by the following letter from Mr. Lorimer, on the 7th October- -
Adverting to my letter to you of the 30th ultimo, I have pleasure in advising, hairing interviewed the local agents for the imported Rangoon candles, and shown them the sample of the article you kindly left with me, as is being supplied to the miners at yours. They state emphatically that it is not the imported Rangoon candle, but a locally-made article, and that they themselves have taken the matter up, and are endeavouring to purchase an original box, so as they may be in a position to proceed further in the matter, in such manner as the circumstances warrant. Could you oblige me with the name 0/ any one from whom such a purchase could be made?
That letter was written only a couple of -weeks ago, so that I understand the subject is still being dealt with. It is now proposed to impose this heavy increase of duty, amounting to more than double the previous duty, for the purpose of protect- ing firms who, if we are to believe the evidence and the statements made, have been, if they are not at present, guilty of imposing on the public by manufacturing an inferior article and selling it as imported, for the purpose of discrediting the production from abroad, and, at the same time, putting money into their own pockets at the expense of the miners. If the statements contained in these letters are true, the conduct disclosed is the most discreditable of which any firm could be guilty. We have the evidence of the secretary of the Chiltern Miners’ Association, backed up by the statement of the representatives of the Rangoon makers, and we may, therefore, fairly assume that the allegations in these letters are correct. If the statements are untrue, then, of course, the firm chiefly concerned have their remedy in the Courts of the Commonwealth, where they may protect themselves from any aspersion. I have stated the facts to the Committee just as I received them ; and, in my opinion, they constitute an unanswerable argument for refusing to give the degree of protection proposed to local manufacturers. I move -
That after the figures “ 2£d.,” the words “ and on and after 18th October, 1907 (General Tariff), per lb., id.,” be inserted.
It is my intention to move, subsequently, that the duty on candles from the . United Kingdom be reduced to Jd. per lb.
.- It is desirable that we should test the question; of preference, apart altogether from protection or degrees of preference. I desire that there shall be a straight-out vote as to whether there shall be any preference -to the United Kingdom; and I suppose the best way would be to move that the figure in the second column be struck out.
– Did we not deal with the question of preference on the item of wirenetting ?
– 1 thought that we were dealing with the question of preference on that item, but honorable members, according to the Treasurer, do not seem to have made up their minds that that was so. If it be in agreement with the general opinion as to how the question should be tested, I shall, as I say, move that the figure in the second column be struck out, whether that figure be 2d. or Jd.
– I do not think that is the best way to test the question, because the honorable member for Lang desires to move that the duty be½d., as a means of giving preference.
– I think the way I suggest is the better one. I anticipated that the vote on wire-netting would have decided the question, but that does not appear to be the impression amongst honorable members. With, the exception of one or two points, I exhaustively, butI hope, with becoming brevity, said what I had to say when speaking on the item to which I have just referred. There is greater interest taken in the question of preference outside Parliament than, perhaps, some of us realize. I have here a telegram of several sheets from one of the leading importing houses of Australia, begging me in the interests of the Empire to press the opposition to preference. One would rather think that one of the largest importing houses in Australia doing an immense trade with the mother country would from purely selfish or narrow views favour the granting of preference to imports from Great Britain. But from a large view of our trade relations and of those of the Empire, that house prefers that we should not make any differentiation, believing that in Imperial as well as in local interests it would be better not to do so.
– Read the telegram.
– I will give the gist of it. They point out in the first place that what is proposed is a somewhat narrow preference because instead of being an Imperial one it is confined to imports from Great Britain. They also say, as the honorable member for Lang has pointed out, that this preference, so far as it affects British imports, will be of practically no value, since the imports of candles from Great Britain last year were of the value of only , £2,762.
– That does not touch the broader question.
– No, but as I have been asked what the telegram contains I am endeavouring to give the gist of it. It is mentioned in the telegram that one of, the leading wholesale merchants in Adelaide states that the local production of candles is at least ten times greater than the imports, so that there is no necessity for a preference.
– The local production is about five-sixths of the total consumption.
– They could not obtain the exact figures, but they mentioned that according to the best authority ten to one is the relationship of the local product to the imported article. It is also stated in this telegram that the price has been increased to the extent of¼d. per lb. as from 1 st September last. This is an instalment of the advanced prices that we may expect should we continue the increased rates of duty. I wish to supplement the remarks that I made on a previous occasion with a few figures, putting their bearings as they might present themselves to one of us were we British subjects resident in the United Kingdom. In dealing with Imperial matters it is our duty to try to take the points of view of those with whom our relations of blood and constitutionality are so intimate and enduring. There is no doubt that the mother country is a country of great and increasing responsibilities. Happily, it is able to bear those responsibilities, because it has a commerce unexampled in its volume and rate of increase, during the last fifty or sixty years. Nevertheless, in these days the commerce of an almost purely naval power - a great world-wide, commercial power - is an exceedingly delicate organization, and it behoves us to be a little careful lest in our party tactics we introduce a system which will imperil or check its increase. If there were a check of any sort imposed upon British development it is possible that England, which is now easily able to bear all the obligations cast upon it, might perhaps begin to stagger, as the poet has said, under the too vast orb of its fate. The expenditure of the United Kingdom is rapidly increasing, and chiefly in connexion with colonial responsibilities. We must remember that the British Empire comprises 400,000,000 of people, that it has the most heterogeneous collection of units or elements that any Empire could possibly have - races differing in all sorts of types and degrees of civilization, and Constitutions from the Federal of Australia and the Dominion of Canada to the unitary system of the Cape and the Transvaal, the Crown system of the Mauritius, the Straits Settlements, and Ceylon, and the Imperial system of India. All varieties of races and types of peoples, with vastly . different modes of thought and degrees of intellectual development, are found within the Empire and if we were to take as the measure of England’s responsibility the vastness of its Empire, the many points at which it touches the interests of other nations, and the heterogeneity of its elements, my primary proposition, that it is one of vast and increasing obligations’, would be established. What is the rate of increase in that expenditure necessitated chiefly by Great Britain’s colonial obligations? in 1894-5, the expenditure was £96,000,000 ; in 1905-6, it had increased to £143,000,000. In 1884-5, the total expenditure in respect of the Army and Navy was £30,750,000; and, in 1904-5, this had increased to £66,000,000. If we take the figures that more directly relate to a great sea power- those relating to the Navy - we find that, in 1884, the Navy cost was £11,750,000; and, in 1904-5, £29, 250,000. If I am not mistaken the last annual vote for the Navy was something like £32,000,000 or £33,000,000; and, at a time of possible crisis, if has gone up to nearly £37,000,000.
– What is the comparative increase of population ?
– I have not the figures for 1884, but I think the population is now about 42,000,000.
– It is not a very great percentage of increase.
– No. The growth of trade and obligations has altogether outstripped the growth of population. Although the stability of England as a world power depends on its national or Imperial expenditure, we have also to take into account, in considering its solvency or potentiality, its local expenditure. I find on looking at the most recent figures that the local expenditure, exclusive of subsidies to municipalities and other bodies, has doubled in ten years.
– A lot of that local expenditure is upon services that give a direct return.
– I am aware of that, but I know that in some cases the rates have gone up to 7s. 9d., and even higher, showing that these local undertakings are not quite so productive as we thought they would be.
– That does not always follow.
– I do not wish to be led into a dispute which does not touch the issue. I fully appreciate the pregnancy of the honorable member’s interjection, and. although I might make some observations in regard to the rates of the local bodies, I do not wish to trespass too long upon the attention of honorable members. Adhering to my own course, I merely wish to point out that the power of Great Britain to sustain, without any sense of its magnitude, this extraordinary outlay, depends upon the maintenance of an external commerce, which in 1906 reached the extraordinary total of £984,000,000- an external trade which no nation has ever approached. We must remember, in considering the demand to be made in the future upon the mother country, that it is a time of competition for military and naval supremacy and commercial expansion. Germany is particularly active. I do not think I could better illustrate what England may have to face in the sphere of commercial competition, as well as in an attempt by other countries to sustain naval and military supremacy, than by making a’ short Quotation on German naval policy from the last weekly edition of the Times which has reached us. I quote from one of a series of articles recently written in the press of Great Britain with a view to stimulate a greater intelligence and activity on the part of those who are responsible for the defence of the Empire -
England has never in her long history been face to face with such redoubtable rivals as the Germans. Philip of Spain had the ships and men, but not the ports over against our shores. Louis XIV. and Napoleon had the armies, but an insufficient number of ships, and no organized ports in the Channel. The Dutch had the ships and the ports, but not the army. The Germans possess the armies, the ships, and the ports : they possess numbers ; they are a self-contained nation in all that relates to maritime- activity ; and . they can boast, above all and better than all, a spirit of enterprise and of sacrifice, a tenacity of purpose, and a knowledge of the science of war which are unsurpassed. The eventuality of a contest with this mighty Power must never be out of our. thoughts for a single hour.
To show the aggressive activity of Germany - and I use the word “ aggressive “ because in 1891 the policy of increasing its naval power was declared with a view of enabling Germany to become aggressive - I may mention as illustrating the increase in the naval armament of Germany that while in 1891 its outlay in connexion with the Navy was £4,500,000, during the next twelve years its total outlay on construction will be £77,000,000. It has been calculated that between 1906 and 1919 Germany’s total outlay on the navy will be
– The honorable member has no figures as to the annual estimates ?
– No. I have taken those which I have quoted from the article in the Times to which I. have just referred, and they certainly indicate an arming up. Let us not by our little tinkering policies of commercial preference, which are not required by the mother country, irritate these great countries. At present we are connected with Germany not only by the .blood relationship of the Crowns, but by one of the finest agencies of peace - an increasing commercial intercourse. I would ask honorable members in connexion with the extreme policy of protection to bear in mind the relation of the external commerce of England to that of Germany. The total trade of Germany in 1906 was £372,000,000 as against a total of £984,000,000 in the case of Great Britain. There is an interchange amounting to £.1 09,000,000 .between the United Kingdom and Germany, and such a trade is not one that we should imperil to any extent by our petty little policies of preference which are unsolicited by the mother country. Of course, England is a large distributing country, and sends a good many exports to Germany which are not of local production. But, making a liberal allowance for this fact, there was a total export from thi United Kingdom to Germany in 1906 of £29,500,000 worth of locally-produced goods. I ask honorable members whether we ought to imperil these relations by adopting the’-policy which the Government now ask us to initiate? Of course, their proposals represent only the beginning of a policy of preference which is intended to apply upon both sides. Although we may grant this preference to the mother country now without receiving anything by way of return, we do so with a lively expectation of favours to come. From the querulous complaints which were made in England by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, it would almost appear that the mother country was not doing enough for Australia. What is the trade with which we may interfere - apart from its aggregate value? In 1906, 71 per cent, of the exports Qf the mother country were to foreign countries, and only 28. per cent, to British Possessions. So that, ‘prima facie, it is of greater importance to the old country that its trade relations with foreign nations should remain undisturbed’ than that its trade relations with British Possessions should not be interfered with. The export of British, and Irish produce to foreign countries represents 67 per cent., and to British Possessions only 32 per cent. What might a reversal of the fiscal system of the United Kingdom mean5 Honorable members must recognise that we cannot secure anything by way of return for the preference which we grant to Great Britain, except by a complete reversal of the fiscal policy of that country. Last year we exported to the United Kingdom goods approximately to the ‘ value of £27,000,000, of which only £148,000 worth were subject to duty. Any preference which the mother country might grant to our produce could only ap-. ply to that portion of our trade which is subject to duty, whereas the bulk of our trade with Great Britain is not subject to any Customs imposts. Consequently, we’ cannot get anything substantial by way_ of return for any preference we may grant, except by a complete reversal of the’ fiscal policy of the United Kingdom. What might that mean? In 1905, the total value of the principal imports into the United Kingdom1 was £565,000,000, of which only £45,000,000 was subject to duty. So that whether we take the amount of our exports to the United Kingdom or the proportion of the principal imports which are at present subject to taxation, as the measure of the total protection to be afforded, I say that we cannot possibly ask the mother country, without endangering her fiscal system, to extend a preference to Australian goods. But by adopting this policy, we shall really be strengthening the position of the Conservative Party in England. In a speech delivered by Mr. Balfour in the House of Commons on the 20th February last, he declared that the objective of his party was greater political unity and the widening of the sphere of indirect taxation. I am sure that my friends of the Labour Party, whose interests primarily are identical with those of the great working classes - and by that term I do not necessarily mean manual labourers only, but include any person who by_ mental or physical exertion earns what he or she receives - will not consciously help the Conservatives in the great fight which will be renewed on this question in the near future. Mr. Balfour said -
We want to find .1 plan by which this growth of nationality, this consciousness of a great future which these young countries have in so full a measure, can be combined with that sense of communion in some higher unity with the mother country which gave them birth.
Then, .proceeding to pH.it what he conceives to be the position of the Colonies, he said -
The -suggestion they make is that an attempt should be made to use whatever fiscal system we possess to carry out a scheme of Imperial preference between the different parts of the Empire - that we should make an attempt - and why should not an attempt be made? The lime must come when we must have a broader basis of taxation, and be able to use that broader basis of taxation for increasing our command of foreign markets and for obtaining closer commercial connexion with the colonies.
The only items on which a broader basis of taxation can be initiated - as was mentioned by one speaker - are ‘wine, tobacco, apples and dried fruits, two items of which have already been disposed of in this Tariff. .Mr: Lloyd George, in dealing with this matter at the Imperial Conference on 7th May last, concluded a short speech with a few words which I propose to quote. In that short speech I think he touched the real cause of the poverty and wretchedness which he, in common with ourselves, would like to see abolished, not only in protectionist, but in free-trade, countries. He said -
We, in these old countries, are not so happily circumstanced. Neither free-trade nor protectionist countries can claim that they are immune from dire poverty and distress amongst large masses of their population. We have in every old country of the world multitudes of poor people, who, from the cradle to the grave, are never out of sight or hearing distance of the wolves of hunger.
Passing on, he said -
Free-trade has been a great success as a wealth-creating machine, and all this wretchedness is not so much the sorrow as the shame of Great Britain. Had our colonial friends proposed resolutions calling upon us to use the gigantic resources of this country to put an end for ever to a condition of things which is a blot on the fair fame of the Empire as a whole, then we should have been happy to have assented to their resolution, and to do all in . our power to give it effect. But an alteration in our fiscal system is not going to -achieve this end; the causes are deeper, as they are older, than any existing fiscal system.
Few of us will dispute that. Mr. Lloyd George concluded his’ address with a prayer to the representatives of the Colonies that they would not, through any mistaken notion, seek to interfere with a commercial system which, at all events, gives them an aggregate wealth upon which,, under more enlightened and humanitarian schemes, they may operate, perhaps, to promote a. fairer distribution. He says -
We beseech you then, not to lend countenance to fin v schemes which, however much they might profit” you, would have the effect of increasing bv one” grain of sand the weight ot unendurable poverty now borne by many sons and daughters of this affluent country.
All I can ask my democratic friends is to remember those words, and, by their votes, to give a true answer to them. Our Empire is composed of the most diverse elements. India is most emphatically opposed to any interference with the fiscal system of the United Kingdom which may imperil its position with foreign countriesIn a special memorandum which was presented to the Imperial Conference, it is pointed out that India levies no higher duty upon goods than 5 per cent. Her duties are purely revenue duties. The duty upon cotton is only 3 J per cent., while the local product is subject to an Excise duty; and that upon iron and steel is only 1 per cent, Further, India has several treaties, the chief of which are with Russia and France,, with whom she does a large and increasing trade. Seventy per cent of her exports are to foreign countries. The United Kingdom sends about two-thirds of the imports of India, and only takes, net, about 19 per cent. So that, apparently, India is justified in objecting to any interference with the fiscal system of the’ Empire. Regarding Australia, I can showthat a healthy development is taking place- in our foreign trade. Between 1891 and 1901 there was an increase in our tradewith Germany of 15.80 per cent. That: increase ought to satisfy protectionists.
– It represented wool, chiefly, I suppose?
– It consisted chiefly of wool, because I do not think that we exported direct to Germany until within thepast twenty years. But, at all events, it. is trade, and, do what we will, trade must be reciprocal. Further, it is a trade that we ought to encourage rather than discourage by our peddling preferences. Our exports to that country represent 19.69 percent., and our imports from it only 13.81 per cent. . I do not attach very much’, significance to these figures, but it is thedoctrine of protectionists that the more wegive away the richer we become. Probably they are imbued with the principle of Christianity to a much greater extent than arefreetraders. Last year our imports from Germany were valued at £3,200,000, and! our exports to that country at £3,725,000. No doubt our wool, to a large extent, accounts for this export. Our trade witta France is one that we wish to retain. Last year our imports from that country werevalued at £462,000’, and our exports to it at £5,553,000. There is nothing in ourincreasing trade with foreign countries which is inconsistent with an increasingtrade with the mother country. Our-
Empire trade with British Possessions and the United Kingdom is 75 per cent., and our export trade to the Empire represents 57 per cent of the total. So that our Empire trade is also satisfactory. I do not wish to labour this matter. My desire is to put what I consider to be the Imperial view so far as I think I have learnt it from reading the debates in England, and the statements published in that part of the British press which represents the best opinions of the United Kingdom. I ask the Committee, before soliciting a return which cannot be given-
– It will be given.
– We cannot afford to be too sure in our prophesying, but if the figures which I have used have any pregnancy, it cannot be given with safety.
– All nonsense.
– Of course, an interjection like that of the Minister, when uttered emphatically, disposes of all arguments deduced from statistics or general considerations. The statesmen of the mother country have taught us the same lesson in their addresses. Their policy is also to be deduced from the figures which I have given, and we should not ask them to alter it.
– At the present time they do not show signs of altering it.
– I ask the Committee, before trying to settle the question of preference, to consider sympathetically the Imperial view.
– Are we not to hear from the Government now?
.- The question of preference has been very ably dealt with by the honorable member for Angas, and it is my intention to touch on only a few points relating to it. I see nothing alarming in the Government proposals for preference. There is nothing in the schedule which we cannot grant, feeling that in doing so we shall not injure any Australian industry. At this stage of our history I would oppose, tooth and nail, any attempt to establish free-trade with the mother country. We hear a great deal of the sweating which takes place in Germany and other foreign countries; hut we must not forget that similar conditions obtain in Great Britain, and that 188 industries there are classed as sweated industries. I do not desire to see goods made by sweated labour imported into this country, even from Great Britain. In dealing with preference, we should look before we leap.
During the next twenty or thirty years, Australia will have quite enough to do in building up her industries on a firm basis. I have high hopes from this Tariff, because I think that its effect upon our industries will be very beneficial.
– In many respects it will be disastrous.
– The anti-Australian spirit is not dead. We have amongst us even native-born Australians who hurl such interjections from the Opposition benches, and tell us that protection increases prices. In one industry with which I am acquainted, prices before protection was adopted were almost prohibitive - I refer to the coke industry. The price of coke was over £4 a ton in 1891, before the imposition of a duty upon that commodity ; but it has since dropped to a few shillings a ton.
– It might be well enough for the honorable member to make statements of that kind in New England ; but it would not do to make them in Illawarra and Newcastle, where the people know something about the price of coke.
– If I went to Illawarra, the people might learn some Australian ideas. Honorable members opposite may have a great deal of information, but they possess very little patriotism for Australia.. I am an Australian first and a member of the British Empire afterwards. When we have, by this Tariff, erected a decent barrier against the outside world, I shall have no objection to taking off a brick or two in favour of Great Britain. If we are to move bricks from the top of the wall, let us do so in favour of the mother country rather than in favour of any other. But, while I am afraid of importations from Great Britain, made under the abominable conditions to which I have referred, I am also afraid of importations from the Continent, through Great Britain. It would be easy for French and German manufacturers to export their goods to Great Britain, un labelled, and then to send them out here labelled “British.” That has been done often enough.
– The English Trades Marks Act would prevent it.
– Merchants as a class are determined enough, and very clever in their methods, and I am afraid that the English trusts, like those of America, will be able to dodge Acts of Parliament.
– It would be impossible to dodge the legislation referred to.
– I am pleased that the honorable member is so optimistic. I trust that it will never be possible for persons to dodge the Acts passed by this Parliament.
– Our Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act has been dodged.
– Yet it is suggested that English legislation is so perfect, and so perfectly administered, that it cannot be dodged.
– Where do they sell coke at £4 per ton?
– My honorable friend is very anxious to know the price of coke; but he will get so warm a time in the future that he need not bother about it. The members of the Opposition become alarmed when utterance is given to Australian sentiment. They do not like to hear that they are anti-Australians, and, therefore, they are trying to side-track me. If we are to give preference to Great Britain, we might also consider our kindred in New Zealand and Canada. When our industries have been built up, and the grand natural resources about which the members of the Opposition talk so much, and for which they do so little, have been developed, so that we need not fear the competition of the world, we can talk about reciprocity with Canada, New Zealand, or any part of the Empire inhabited by white people.
– We need not fear the competition of the world so far as coke is concerned. For years past we have been able to fight our own battle in regard to coke.
– Has there never been a duty on coke?
– There is a duty of 4s. a ton on coke, but the coke industry was established before the imposition of that duty. I should like the honorable member to go to Illawarra to see the coke works there.
-Before talking freetrade with the mother land, I think we should wait for her to pass a Tariff against foreign countries. Our exports have to compete in her markets with the exports of America, and meet with a good deal of prejudice. It has been said that our beef has to be sold at times under another name, and I have heard of a man keeping two shops, one on each side of the street, in one of which he abused Australian beef, selling it in the other under a different name. If Great Britain were protected against the outside world, we might get some advantage from reciprocity, and might thereby strengthen both ourselves and the Empire. Canada is talking preference to Great Britain, but she also appears to intend to arrange for preference or reciprocity with Germany and other countries. Germany buys millions of pounds worth of our wool.
– Yet the honorable member wishes Great Britain to erect a Tariff against her.
– We need protection against her, and I consider that the Tariff provides fairly effective protection against the world. The preferential duties are only an indication that we are willing to give preference to the mother country at some future date. Undoubtedly we are not giving much preference in this schedule.
.- I compliment the honorable member for New England upon the good humour with which he as a new member accepted the interjections which were made during his speech ; but I cannot compliment him upon his knowledge of the price of coke. He spoke of it as having been as high as £4 a ton, but if we could get £4 a ton for our coke, we should not need to establish any other industry in Australia. The price of coke is 17s. or 18s. a ton.
– I said that it had been over £4 a ton before a duty was imposed on coke.
– I hope that next time he speaks, the honorable member will have more cocum, and be better advised as to prices. The Government has selected the item “Candles” on which to discuss the question of preference, with a view, I presume, to throw more light on its proposals. But Ministers have not yet told us what they are.
– We are waiting to hear the Ministerial proposals.
– Yes; and the leader of the Opposition is waiting to hear them. As leaders of the parties, these two honorable members are quite justified in waiting until the Government give some indication of their preferential policy.
– If they have any objections, why do they not state them?
– That is what the “ game “, has been all through. I took the liberty ofsaying that the Treasurer has plenty of capacity, while the leader of the Opposition has any amount of ability. The Treasurer’s capacity is shown in the political craftiness with which he waits until he learns the feeling of the Committee - he is a good reader of the barometer.
– He knows when to “ put up his umbrella.”
– That is a phrase coined by myself, but I do not wish to hear it ever and always. However, no one knows better than the Treasurer when to put up his umbrella, because he can see as quickly as can anybody when a shower is coming. Up to the present, we have been given no idea of the opinions of the Government, as a Government, on the question of preferential trade.
– Their opinions are expressed in the proposed Tariff.
– The honorable member for South Sydney, who is in absolute charge of the Government, says that their opinions are expressed in the schedule.
– No wonder the charge has made the honorable member for South Sydney consider his health !
– I am sorry that the honorable member’s health is so bad as reported, but I trust that rumor is wrong when it asserts that he intends to remove himself from politics. When the Prime Minister first introduced the subject of preference within these walls, the position was very different from that of to-day. The honorable gentleman then gave us a speech three hours long, the language of which was full of sentiment, and in which he asked honorable members to accept the offer of preferential trade presented by the “courageous” Chamberlain. We were told that the “ courageous “ Chamberlain had spoken onbehalf of the people of Great Britain, and we were askedwhat we would do on behalf of the people of Australia. That expression of opinion of honorable members has never been obtained ; and. since then, there has been a general election of GreatBritain, at which the preferential traders of the Chamber- lain school were routed and destroyed, leaving the Liberal Party with a larger majority than has ever been known in the political history of the old land. That was the answer ofthe people of Great Britain : and now we find the position reversed. The doubtful Deakin now asks the people of Australia to make an offer to Great Britain - his position now is that the people of Australia are prepared to grant preferential trade on certain terms, and this Tariff schedule is put forward as the measure Of preference. When the Prime Minister first spoke of Mr. Chamberlain’s policy, he asked us, as members and citizens, to help to mould the policy of Great Britain. That, however, wehad no right to do; and now, as I say, the position is quite different, and we have the right to say what offer, if any, we shall make. Six years ago, I took the liberty of saying, by way of interjection, when the right honorable member for Adelaide introduced the subject, that the working classes of Great Britain would not grant preferential trade to Australia, and the retort was that the piping voice of the honorable member for Dalley showed that the owner of the voice did not know anything about the matter. What I said was that the people of Great Britain would never tax their own food supplies in order to bring about preferential trade. Mr. Chamberlain’s scheme was clear and distinct ; he asked that Australia should cease developing her manufacturing industries and continue to buy from Great Britain, instead of from the outside world, while he would offer certain inducements in favour of Australian products in England. The honorable member for New England, as a new and unsophisticated member, has to-night given utterance to protectionist truths. I cannot understand how a true protectionist can be a supporter of preference. A true protectionist takes the view that, in the interests of Australia, there should be a Tariff under which we can build up our industries, and so afford full and constant employment to our own people, and he does not care whether that Tariff be directed against the products of Great Britain or the products of any other part of the world. If I were an out-and-out protectionist, I could not say to the engineer’s and boiler-makers in my constituency that, while voting protection for their products, I reserved to myself the right to admit the boilers and engines from Glasgow or Birmingham free, or at a low duty. The answer I should get would be, “ We do not care whether my cousin is working in England,or my uncle is working in Germany, if we are not able to secure work here inAustralia.” The true protectionist cannot find employment for. the people working here bymeans of protection, and, at the same time, invite the importation of finished products from other portions of the world ; and to such a man these preference proposals must be so much bunkum and. humbug. The honorable member for New England put the position clearly when he said,” I shall vote for the preference given in the Tariff, because it means nothing - because it is a mockery.”
– The honorable member said that he would vote for the proposed preference as an indication of our intentions.
– Then we do not vote to help the old country, but merely to record or indicate our intentions? That will be a great relief to the Conservative party, or any other party, in the old land. One argument put before us, is that preferential trade will help to bind the Empire.
– Does the honorable member deny that?
– I distinctly say that, when once we start bargaining, good-bye to any links that may bind, either an Empire or a trading community. The visible links that bind the Empire are threefoldlegal, naval, and military - but the strongest link of all is the sentiment of common blood and common race; and when we introduce the spirit of. bargaining, we sow the seeds of future discord within the Empire. The strongest link that can bind an Empire was in evidence at the time of the Boer war, when Australia, in a most selfsacrificing, generous, noble-hearted manner, came to the assistance of the mother land ; and I believe that every portion of the Empire would to-day, or at any other time, come to the assistance of Great Britain in the hour of danger or trial. We have been told that the unity of the Empire is in danger, and that to preserve it preferential trade is necessary. I assert that the unity of the Empire is not in danger - that the links of sentiment are as powerful to-day as at the time of the Boer war. And I further say that any scheme of preference which involves reciprocity is merely low-down bargaining. I admit that the position to-day is somewhat altered, and I am prepared to give substantial preference to the motherland, asking for no reciprocity. The preference I shall vote will be as a free gift; it will not be the miserable preference of the type which we saw last night granted in the case of biscuits, and refused in the case of blue.
– That was under pressure.
– Fancy a big question like this being dealt with under pressure ! Let me remind honorable members of what took place last night. In the case of biscuits, the Treasurer said that the reason he agreed to preference was that nearly the whole of the imports were of British manufacture. In the case of blue,it was shown that the whole of the imports were British; and yet,forthat reason, the Treasurer refused preference! We can now see how well defined and earnest are the honorable gentleman’s ideas in regard to preference to the mother land. I do not wish to labour this question, but I should like to read one or two extracts, including the following from a speech delivered by the Earl of Rosebery on the 13th April, 1903.-
Take Australia,. “ The Australians,” it is pointed out, “ will not shrink from any sacrifice of life and treasure in the hour of the nation’s danger, but when the expansion of manufactures, or the life of new industries are threatened, they feel that in self -protection they cannot lower the present duties, though they are ready to impose higher ones on foreign imports.” There is no very material offer there. “ An undoubted desire to be helpful to the mother country exists throughout Australia, yet with this benevolent feeling is mingled a strong determination not to enter into any compact which would not be mutually and equally advantageous.”
That was the opinion of the Earl of Rosebery, when the great fiscal controversy involving preferential trade was first raised, and when the Prime Minister of Australia introduced the question to us. The book before me contains reports of speeches delivered by twelve prominent public men of. Great Britain - six in favour of preferential trade, and six in opposition to it, and on perusing it honorable members will find that the leading politicians of the old country are thoroughly familiar with Australian views upon this question. There is certainly no occasion for any alteration in our trading relationships with the old country in order to indicate ourloyalty to it. Viscount Goschen, who is more of an economist than a politician, says -
I believe Mr. Chamberlain to be absolutely honest in his intention that the 2s. will be final, and that he would be very sorry indeed to see a greater burden than that placed on the working man. But will that “ do the trick” - if I may use the expression - will it satisfy the Colonies ? When they have got a 2s. duty, will they come to us and say, “ It is not quite enough, you cannot point out to us that this 2s. has exactly increased the price of bread, and we think you might give us another1s. or 2s.” And if you cannot agree with the Colonies there will be friction -
That is an important consideration., The man who is prepared to vote for preferential trade without asking for reciprocity is a reasonable individual ; but those who ask for reciprocity are treading on dangerous ground. Viscount Goschen continued - and the Empire might again be in danger. And if “the ‘Empire in danger” has secured 2s. is it not a possibility that “ the Empire still in danger”might secure more? The company which Mr. Chamberlain is keeping now is not entirelypure as regards this matter. There are protectionists who have openly avowed theirdesire for a 5s. duty on corn.
In Englandit was the protectionists who, on behalf of certain industries which they thought were flagging, raised the cry ofpreferential trade, whilst in the Commonwealth protectionists are fighting for preferential trade with Great Britain, but strange to say, are prepared to grant a preference in regard only to goods which we do not import to any extent from the old country. The Government proposal certainly is not a substantial offer to the motherland. We could well afford to offer her a preference without attempting to make any bargain. When the desire to make a bargain permeates our negotiations, the spirit of patriotism is dead. Whenever I can, by my vote, help Great Britain, I shall do so. I shall vote for every item of a preferential character in this Tariff, and what ismore, I shall vote to reduce the duties on food supplies and textiles irrespective of the fact that for the most part we import fromthe United Kingdom. I shall not tie myself down to the preferential trade proposals of the Government; I shall endeavour to secure a reduction of the duties proposed by them. I propose now to read an extract from a speech delivered at Leicester, on 17th November, 1903, by the Earl of Rosebery, who made some interesting references to the two leading public men in Australia, the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition. Honorable members will be surprised to find how well versed the public men of Great Britain are in the every day affairs of Australia. The Earl of Rosebery said -
What is the case as regards Australia, for example? Australia is now going through a general election, and I have anxiously searched the papers to see what indications there are of an offer from Australia to give us a preferential Tariff in her Customs duties. Why, Mr. Deakin, Prime Minister of Australia, speaks freely about it; but he always speaks of it as an offer made by Great Britain, or rather by Mr. Chamberlain, to the Colonies. “ Mr. Chamberlain,” he says, “ with characteristic courage and resource offers a preference.” But that is not an offer from the Colonies. It is very generous of Mr. Chamberlain, but it is not exactly what he has de scribed to us as the state of thetransaction. Mr. Deakin says that these proposalsof Mr. Chamberlain, ifthey were adopted, would make it necessary for Australia to produce vast quantities of wheat and dairyproduce. Well, I don’t know how theBritish farmer will like that. It doesnot strike me as, in any eminent degree, arelief toBritish agriculture, butit shows a very material flaw in this scheme, because a 2s. duty on foreign wheat will affect Canada at her distance from ourselves - whatever itmay be - 3,000 miles -Iwillnotpretend off-hand togive the exact figures - very differently from the effect it will have on Australia,which is thirteen or 14,000 miles away. But Mr. Deakin is, after all - though he takes this unfortunate view of the offer as comingnotfrom them but from us, or rather from Mr. Chamberlain - not the only politician in Australia. There is a very eminent man - oneof the ablest statesmen I have ever come across - Mr. Reid, the leader of the Opposition. Well; you seem to know something ‘about Mr.Reidhere. What does he say? - “When the day arrives that England can only maintain her trade by artificial preferential barriers, on that day England is doomed. England gained her supreme commercial position not by barricades but byproving herself superior in technical skill, in manufacturing ability, in knowledge, and in business enterprise.”
– Quite inaccurate.
Mr.WILKS. -I suppose that thehonorable member regards himself as a greater authority onthis question than is the Earl of Rosebery. I have not yet heard the honorable member defend the preferential trade proposals of the Government ;I certainly have not heard him say that he is preparedto votefor preferential trade without reciprocal treatment. TheEarl of Rosebery went on to say -
I observe also that under thenew Commonwealth Tariff in Australia, Sydney, inNew South Wales, which was a free-trade centre, has been rapidly erecting manufactories. All these manufactories will want to be protected, and I do not see any particular likelihood of an offer from Australia, such as we are assured has already been made, though we cannot discern it. All the news from Australia is excellent, so far as it goes. There is no decrease of loyalty, no decrease in the wish for national co-operation, but as for any trace of this offer, for my life I cannot discern it.
That isthe true position to-day. The Government are only trifling with this question, and the duties under the old Tariff have really been raised even as against Great Britain. I have made these quotations for a twofold purpose. In the first place. I wished to show that public men in England are not to be fooled in regard to thisquestion ; while, in the second place, I desired to emphasize the point that it would be better for us to strikeout the preferential trade proposals than to make a mockery of the whole policy.
Mr.mcdougall. - Did not the honor- ablemember vote last night, as a freetraderfor a duty of 8s. per cwt.on invert sugar?
Mr.WILKS.- The honorable member forLanglast night gave us a scientific dissertation showing that the polarised light fell on the wrong side of this item, and I saidthat I would vote for the proposed impost, since I did not see why the brewers should receive preferential treatment whilst consumers of sugar generallyhadtopay a high duty. I voted to treat the brewers as the protectionist party had treated consumers of sugar generally. It is the duty ofthe Government to explain their position in regard to this matter. In the last Parliament the present Prime Minister made a strong appeal to the House to vote for preferential trade, but so farduring the present session theGovernment have not addressed themselves to the question. I believe that the inclusion of the preferential trade column in this schedule was an afterthought. Some time ago I put to the Minister of Trade and Customs questions relating to a statement that on the morning following the introduction of the Tariff the Rockhampton Bulletin published what purported to be a copy of the schedule, but contained no reference to preference. The explanation given by the Minister was that the preferential trade proposals were sent on after the original Tariff had been handed over to the printer.. I think that proves my contention that these preferential trade proposals were a mere after-thought, and were tacked on to the Tariff schedule without any reasonable consideration.
SirWilliam Lyne. - That is not a fact.
– I shall vote for the preferences as a gift and not as a bribe to Great Britain. She does not require any bribe from her Colonies, and I certainly shall not vote for preferential trade with the object of interfering with her fiscal policy. The honorable member for Wide Bay is opposed to preferential trade because he fails to see why we should interfere with the fiscal policy of Great Britain or of any other part of the Empire. Upon every conceivable occasion I shall vote in favour of extending a preference to the goods of Great Britain. But I cannot understand how a protectionist like the Treasurer can desire to impose a lower duty upon goods of British origin than upon those from foreign countries. What consolation will it be to the Australian who loses his employment as the result of the importation of goods from oversea to be informed that those goods are the product of the United Kingdom ?I desire to ask whether the honorable member for Riverina will vote forthe proposed duty in the absence of reciprocal treatment ?
– Yes, butI shall not vote in favour of lowering the duty against the foreigner.
– The simple truth is that the honorable member is not prepared to permit of goods being imported from Great Britain. He merely pretends to desire to extend a preference to the mother country. Like all protectionists, he wishes to erect a fiscal barrier which shall be sufficiently high to exclude from Australia British goods, in common with foreign products. If we honestly desire to grant a preference to the mother country, let us destroy that barrier and make our trade with her free. When the Treasurer was in England did he promise to reduce the duties upon goods of British manufacture and to ask for nothing by way of return? No. He spoke rather , of the great opportunities which a reciprocal preference would afford our producers. I believe that the day upon which we start to barter with the mother country that day we shall initiate trouble. We know very well that in family life individuals get on well enough until they begin to have money transactions with each other. Trade between nations, I hold, represents merely an extension of family life.
– The honorable member is arguing one way and intends to vote another.
– No. The honorable member for Angas fears that if we extend a preference to the mother country we shall cause trouble there, because we shall place in the hands of the Conservative forces a lever which they will use at the next general election. The honorable member for Wide Bay is also of opinion that the adoption of a system of preferential trade will cause trouble. My reply is that, so. long as the working classes of the old country are not called upon to bear heavier imposts upon their food supplies than they bear to-day, they do not care a straw for preferential trade. If honorable members will peruse the official report of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference in this connexion, I am sure that they will be well repaid for their trouble. They will then realize that the leading men inGreat Britain are as well versed in Australian politics as is any honorable member of this House.
– Why not say that this proposal was conceived in a bargaining spirit ?
– I have already said so. Unless we reduce our Customs duties sufficiently to allow Britishgoods to be imported of what value will this so-called preference be? The proposal of the Government is a purely sentimental one, and Great Britain does not require sentimental resolutions to convince her of our loyalty.
The true link which binds us to the Empire is to be found in the fact that we spring from a common stock. Great Britain performs a good deal to-day in the matter of affording us protection. The very legislation that we have enacted to preserve a White Australia could not be enforced but for the British Navy. I hope to see the time when we shall have absolute free-trade between the various portions of the British Empire, and protection against the outside world. But we have no right to dictate to Great Britain in this matter, and it is significant that the masses of the people there have already put their veto upon the proposal to establish preferential trade relations with other parts of the Empire. I think it is time the Ministry defended their proposals, and informed us whether they intend to press them.
.- I do not propose to discuss the question of preferential trade, because this Committee has already affirmed the principle underlying it. I intend to deal with the proposed duty upon candles. This evening the honorable member for Lang declared that a Melbourne firm had branded its candles as Rangoon candles. I am in a position to say that no Melbourne firm has ever done that without intimating to the public that the candles were made in Melbourne. To-night we find that the members of the Opposition are prepared to levy a duty upon candles, which will permit of their introduction even fromforeign countries, to say nothing of British imports. During the past three years I find that candles to the value of £41,000 have been imported from India, where the men engaged in their manufacture receive 4d. per day of twelve hours. In that country there is no restriction imposed regarding the employment of child labour. It is simply impossible for Australian industries to exist if they are obliged to compete with countries employing such cheap labour. As long as competition of that sort has to be encountered it will be absolutely necessary to retain a protective Tariff.
– Poor little Britain can stand the competition of the whole world. Her people are not crawlers.
– It is impossible for us to withstand the competition of cheap labour.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that £41,000 worth of candles has been imported into the Commonwealth within the last three years?
– What was the importation last year?
– £9,434 worth. These candles came from India. During the last two years £14,759 worth came from Belgium, where they were made by persons receiving a wage of 3s. a day of twelve hours, and where both child and women labour can be employed.
– Belgium is a country which has had protection for years.
– We must have protection against the competition of such countries as Belgium. The protectionist section of the Tariff Commission, after a number of witnesses had been examined, and their evidence carefully scrutinized, came to the conclusion that if such competition continued unchecked, it would jeopardize the existence of the stearine candle industry of Australia, in which hundreds of thousands of pounds have been invested. The Rangoon candle has been spoken of. At a meeting of the Miners’ Association, held in Ballarat, a resolution was passed asking the honorable member for South Sydney to get the Labour Party to vote for duties which would prohibit the importation of that candle, and another resolution was; passed asking Parliament to pass legislation to that end. The mining inspector for the Ballarat district has reported to the Victorian Mines Department that these candles are injurious to the miners.
– Are they the Rangoon candles which are made in Melbourne?
– I desire to prevent the importation of all candles made by cheap labour, whether they come from Great Britain, or from foreign countries. Our manufacturers cannot successfully compete against the product of cheap labour, seeing that they have to pay their workmen £2 8s. for a week of 48 hours. A higher duty on candles will not only keep out importations, but, by increasing local competition, will bring abouta reduction of prices.One witnesstold the TariffCommission that, if the duty were increased, hewould reduce the price of his candles by½d.per lb. I thinkthat wassaid by Mr.Clarke, of Sydney.
– Do they make candles in Sydney?
Mr.COON.-Yes. Under free-trade, candles cost from9d to10d. per lb. ; but since they havebeen making themunder protection, the prices have been reduced.
– This is the stiffest thing I have heard. The honorable member is a regular Baron Munchausen. Candles could always be bought inSydneyfor 5d. and 6d. per lb. The prices he gives must have been for special brands, not for ordinary candles. I ought to have two or three secretaries at work following all these “ crams.”
– The statement is made in the evidence taken by the Tariff Commission which was appointed by the honorable member.
– Although I appointed the Commission, I am not responsiblefor the statement of every witness who camebefore it.
– Honorable members opposite have asked in regard to other industries why was not evidence tendered to the Tariff Commission; but in respect tothe candle industry they have plentyof evidence. The Commission sat for over two years, and cost Australia a few thousand pounds. Surely we are not going to throw aside its reports.
-i wish honorable members would follow them always. They cast them aside often enough.
– I shall vote for protection right through.
– The honorable member saidthat his statement about the price of candleswas supported by sworn evidence. To whose evidence did herefer?
– The honorable member has had as much time as I have had to read theevidence.
-Indeed he has not.
- Mr. Clarke, of Sydney, was one of those who came before the Commission.
– A candle-maker.
– A few evenings ago honorable members opposite were complaining that no manufacturer of wire-netting came before the Tariff Commission, thatonly an employé was examined.
– The statement which the honorable member has quoted has no foundation in fact.
Mr.COON. - Thesestatements aretrue. The honorable member for Perth will admit that every witness whocame before the Commissionwassubjectedto a strict cross-examination.
– Yes; and some ought to have been prosecuted for perjury.
– One of those who went before the Commission told me that he would not do so again if he were paid£10 a day.
– He got a good shaking up for the first time in his life.
– Ithink he would have preferred to becross-examined by the leader of the Opposition. The Committee has already affirmed the principleof preferential trade, and therefore Itrust that succeeding speakers willcut their remarks short, and address themselves to thesubject of candles. If we areto discuss preferential trade on every item, weshall not finish the Tariff eitherthisyear or next.
Mr.FOWLER (Perth) [9.56].-I listened with amusementandamazement to the statements of the Honorable member for Batman, I am at a loss to understand whence he extracted many oft hem.
– I asked him for a reference, andhedumped the whole evidence at me.
– Only one-sixth of the candles used in Australia are imported, the remaining five-sixths being made within the Commonwealth. The candle-making industry has progressed since thefirst Federal Tariff was imposed, and if the old duties were allowed to remain, all the candles used in the Commonwealth would, within a few years, be locally made. The honorable member forBatman has introduced the usual highly-coloured, sensational statements about low wages and alien labour. If he had taken thetrouble to look at the report of the free-trade members of the Tariff Commission he would have seen that the total labour cost in the case of the most expensive variety of candles is something like16 percent. of the value. Therefore, if. we adopt the recommendation of the free-trade section of theCommission, namely, 20 per cent., we shall coverthe whole cost of labour production, even assuming that those unfortunate aliens, who have the sympathy of, the honorable mem.ber for Batman,) do their work, for nothing.
– The protectionist section of, the Commission say that the labour COSt. 16 70. per; cent.
– In every case, the protectionist section left the labour cost -severely alone. Wherever the labour cost was mentioned, that section- of the Commission simply took the ex parte state-‘ ments of those interested in making that -cost as abnormally high as possible. I think I am well within the mark in saying that throughout the inquiry we do not find the protectionist section entering into any investigation as to the labour cost- of a :single article.
– .On whose evidence did the free-trade section estimate the labour cost a,t.i6 per cent.?..
– We based it on the facts and figures supplier! by various witnesses; and” in no case have the freetrade section put forward- any statement, without showing clearly and conclusively the evidence on which it is based: This phase of the question was. one that specially appealed to myself; and, I have kept it -carefully before me, throughout my work. I say then, that it is. highly significant .that, during the whole of the inquiry, we do not, find- the protectionist, section taking the slightest pains to dis- cover the actual labour cost. I admit that the protectionist section have stated in several cases what is alleged to be the labour cost, but I cannot recall a single instance in which their estimate is verified by facts or figures.
– On whose evidence did the free-trade section arrive at their decision? Max Hirsch’s, was it not?
– The honorable member ought really to be serious and reason- able. The gentleman, whose name has been mentioned, gave no evidence in connexion with this item; and’, therefore, the honorable member might have managed to suppress his antipathy* for Mr. Hirsch until we reach the item on which he gave evidence.
– Ora whose evidence did the free-trade section base their estimate of 16 per cent. ?
– Had the honorable member been listening, he- would have found out by this time.. Necessarily, we shad . to base our recommendation on the evidence of the witness.es who came before us ; and. those witnesses were almost entirely interested iri making out the best case for themselves in .connexion with higher duties. It was principally by means of ‘ cross-examination, and by putting the alleged .results against official facts’ and figures that could not be questioned, that we arrived at our conclusions. I again refer honorable members to the reports of the freetrade section, where they will see for themselves how we arrived at our conclusions; and I challenge any honorable. member to disprove them or question their, basis 1 I repeat that’ under the old duty, the local manufacturers of candles ‘were steadily overtaking the Australian consumption. We must also remember, that, the evidence points very clearly to the fact that there has been, and is at the present time, a combination in connexion with this industry throughout the whole of Australia. It is a combination which has allotted the trade of the Commonwealth amongst various firms, who are bound, sometimes by family connexions.
– Does the honorable member know whether those engaged in the industry have found it Aery profitable? .
– I have no reason to doubt that the industry has been fairly profitable. Sometimes Ave were almost at a loss to understand the profit on account of the unwillingness of witnesses, who asked for higher duties, to give evidence of that nature. Although the honorable member for Batman has deprecated the rigour with which certain witnesses were examined, I can only express my regret that the Commission did not deal with many of those witnesses in a more thorough-going fashion. Some of the witnesses came before the Commission with the .deliberate object of concealing the most material evidence we desired to obtain. We had principally to inquire into statements made by protectionist witnesses, who asked for higher duties; and it is the case presented by those witnesses that we are now considering, and that the Commission had to consider. It was only by crossexamination, which was not so rigorous sometimes as the case would have justified, that the free-trade section of the Commission were able to arrive at any conclusion at all. On the other hand; honorable, members will find, if they refer to’ the reports of the protectionist section, that thev are largely based on ex parte statements of witnesses who asked for higher duties, and that Ivery little emphasis indeed is laid on the cross-examination, which, in my opinion at any rate, was the most valuable part of the inquiry.
– That would apply to both sections of the Commission to a large extent.
– I have already explained that probably 90 per cent. of the witnesses were protectionists asking for higher duties, and necessarily, the crossexamination was more valuable to the freetrade section than to the other side. I should not have risen, seeing that the whole of the work of the Commission is before honorable members, had it not been for some of the remarks of the honorable member for Batman, for which I am unable to discover any justification in the reports of either section of the Commission.
– Ought the honorable member for Perth not to withdraw the statement that some of the witnesses ought to be prosecuted for perjury?
– I am not referring to witnesses in connexion with this particular industry.
– But surely the honorable member does not seriously desire his statement to go forth ?
– I say, in all seriousness, that witnesses came before the Commission who, in some instances, at any rate, deliberately sought to mislead the Commission, and refused to give evidence of material value.If some of those witnesses were treated in a somewhat rigorous way, I can only say that they brought it on themselves. The Government would be well advised in retaining the old duty. There is nothing in the reports, even of the protectionist section, to justify the increased rate, which, I fear, in view of the fact that the whole candle industry is practically a monopoly-
– Is that so?
– Substantially. There are one or two small firms outside the combination; but the trade appears to be substantially in the hands of one organization, which has a connexion of some sort - I cannot say how definite it is - throughout the Commonwealth. If the duty adopted by the Government be retained, we shall have a, material increase of price with very little corresponding advantage, if any, to the manufacturers, whose trade, as I say, at the very least, is five-sixths of the trade of the Commonwealth.
.-I have been waiting very patiently to hear a statement from some one on behalf of the Government on the questionof preferential trade. I am very much disappointed that the debate is, as it were, a sandwiched one - between preference and candles. In following sucha course, we are simply wasting time. We were told that there would be an opportunity to discuss preferential trade Onthe item of candles ; and, although there is some kind of a scheme in the schedule, we have had no statement from the Government as to how it was arranged. There is no lead given to the Committee; the Tariff schedule is simply thrown on the table. It may be said that the question was discussed at the Imperial Conference; but that is not sufficient for us. It appears that the leaders of the different parties are simply waiting one for the other; and, as a consequence, we make no progress. I should very much like to know what the Government scheme is. Are we to give preference indiscriminately, or select certain articles on which to give it? For instance, it is admitted that watches and clocks cannot be manufactured in Australia for many years to come.
– Because the consumption is not sufficient to warrantthe investing of the necessary capital, and the erection of large works and plant. These are articles on which we could very well give preference in favour of England by placing them on the free list, with protection against the outside world. Then, a very large quantity of the matches imported have their origin in Great Britain ; and these are a commodity we shall not manufacture in Australia for many years to come.
– Matches are being manufactured here now.
– I was not aware of the fact. I know that matches are made under cheap labour conditions, againstwhich we are not able to compete very effectively; and, in this connexion, preference could be givento the old country. For all the knowledge we have as to the preferential scheme of the Government, some clerk may have got hold of the Tariff and simply placed 5 per cent. here and 10 per cent. there. As one who has at present a friendlyfeeling towards the Government, I feel thatthey are acting unfairly towards me as well as to a number of other honorable members by refraining from making to the Committee any statement on the question of prefer- ential trade. We do not know what the Government scheme is. If the health of the Prime Minister will not permit of his dealing with this question the Treasurer should do so.
– I’ shall please myself how I conduct the business of the House.
– And I can please myself as to how I vote on this item.
– I have no desire to say anything offensive to the Minister, but I certainly wish to have an explanation from the Government as to the effect of that for which we are asked to vote. Although the honorable member for Angas proposes to move the abolition of the preference, no Minister has attempted to reply to him. I should like to hear from the Government some authoritative statement as to the plan of preference which they have mapped out.
– The schedule shows it.
– It certainly does not. Probably if I were to spend a month in analyzing Mulkail’s statistics, and the statistical records of Australia, in conjunction with the Tariff, I might be able, to arrive at a conclusion as to the plan which the Government have” adopted, but I think it is the duty of the Ministry to make a clear explanation of their intentions in regard to the whole question of preference.
.- It is evident that the Government do not wish to expedite business. If they did they would not. treat the Committee with the contempt they are now exhibiting. If they persist in taking up this attitude they will probably find that the Committee will not submit to it. We were told last night that we should have an opportunity this evening to deal with the question of preference.
– Who has attempted to stop any honorable member from speaking to the question?
– We desire to ascertain what is the Government’s idea of preferential trade.
– The Tariff shows what it is.
– It shows that the Government are prepared to grant a preference in respect to practically everything that does not come from the United Kingdom, and that on all our .imports from the old land a duty is imposed. This socalled offer of preference is the biggest fraud that any Government has ever attempted to perpetrate on the people of Great Britain. As a Britisher, with quite, as much patriotism as the Treasurer has, I am ashamed of these proposals, and of the hypocrisy displayed in connexion with the whole business. In order to judge of the genuineness of these preferential proposals let us glance at some of the items in the Tariff. Our imports! of woollen apparel and attire last year were of the value of £1,437,720, and of that total’ £1,083,054 represented imports from the United Kingdom. On that item the Government have imposed duties of from 20 to 40 and 45 per cent. Then, on woollen piece goods, n.e.i., in respect of which our imports from Great Britain last year were of the value of £1,590,241, out of a total of £1,901,219, the duty has been increased from 15 to 30 and 35 per cent. On cotton and linen piece goods, which under the old Tariff were dutiable in some cases at 5 per cent., while in other cases they were free, duties ranging from 5 to 25 per cent, have been imposed. Our imports from Great Britain in respect of that one line last year amounted to £3,017,517. These figures convey a fairly clear idea of the Government’s conception of preference. Why do they not say at once that these duties have been imposed, not with a desire togrant a preference to Great Britain, but. for revenue purposes. That is the whole secret of the position. t
– Then the honorable member ought to support the duties proposed by us, because he is a revenue Tariffist
– In nine cases out of ten the object which the Government have had in view in imposing these duties is that of securing revenue. I have no hesitation in saying that twelve months hence we shall be in possession of figures that will absolutely prove my contention. It is true that there are a number of items on which revenue duties might fairly be imposed, but we certainly ought to have some consideration for the primary industries. The mining industry, for instance, will be seriously handicapped under this Tariff. I am not one of those who favour a fairly heavy Tariff for revenue purposes, and I contend that on the face of it the Government’s preferential schedule is the most palpable fraud that has ever been offered. to the British people. In order to determine what is the true position, let us take the evidence given before the Tariff Commission. Not a manufacturer in Australia is prepared to remove one brick from the Tariff wall in order to grant a preference to British goods.
– Why should we take off one brick?
– Then why have we had all this talk on the part of the Government about the desirableness of granting a preference to the old country?
– We give British imports a preference as against those from foreign countries.
– The Government propose to grant a preference to Great Britain in respect of goods which, for the most part, we obtain from other countries. Every Australian manufacturer would build up the Tariff wall until all British goods, in common with imports from foreign countries, were shut out. Why do not the Government plainly put the facts before the British people, saying, “We are not prepared to allow one ton of your goods to come in if they are likely to be a menace to our manufacturing industries “ ? Is not that the true position? Is it not because the Government are not prepared to allow British imports to interfere in any way with our manufactures that they have offered a bogus preference? The Government last night had a chance to offer a genuine preference to Great Britain, but refused to do so. k
– Talk sense.
– They have over 400 chances under this Tariff - a chance in respect of every item - to grant a preference to Great Britain. Manufacturer after manufacturer appeared before ,the Tariff Commission to ask for increased duties as against Great Britain in common with other countries. After adding to the Tariff wall three bricks as against ‘Great Britain they would be prepared perhaps to put on an extra brick as against imports from other countries. We are entitled to have from the Government a statement as to what they intend to do. They should let us know whether they really intend to offer a preference to Great Britain. The last Tariff raised more revenue than the Treasurer estimated, and that will be the position in connexion with that now under consideration. Take the item of cream separators. It is all very well for the Treasurer to laugh, but he should not forget that although he poses as the friend of the agriculturist and dairy farmer he proposes a heavy duty on these machines. Last year cream separators to the value of something like £400,000 were imported, but only about £17,000 worth came from the United Kingdom. Item after item might be referred to as showing a consistent desire on the part of the Government to grant’ a preference in respect of goods of which we import very little from Great Britain.
– It seems to me that the wailing of honorable members who declare that they wish to have from the Government a statement as to their preferential trade proposals may be summed up in the one sentence that they really wish to know how low the Government are prepared to fix these duties. We are told that if we scratch a Russian we will find a Tartar, and it seems to me that if we scratch any of the suppliants for preference who have spoken to-night we shall find a revenue Tariffist. The honorable member for Grey seemed to lament the fact that we propose to make an effort to stop the importations of £400,000 worth of certain machinery which we could make for ourselves. He appears to have forgotten that throughout the length and breadth of Australia there are many men out of work, although they are as competent as are mechanics in any other country to make the machinery we require. The honorable member said that the preference granted in respect of textiles would be of no real advantage to Great Britain. Does he not think that a preference of 5 per cent, in respect of woollen goods is a good one?
– But the duty, under the old Tariff has been increased.
– If we imposed a duty ‘of 100 per cent, as against the foreigner, and of 95 per cent, as against British imports, would not that be a preference? I ask honorable members of the Opposition whether they expect a protectionist Ministry to submit a free-trade schedule of duties? They know perfectly well . that the Government have as much sympathy with the mother country” as they have themselves. What they really desire to learn is the lowest rate of duty that the Government are prepared to impose upon candles. We have been told that fivesixths of the candles used in the Commonwealth are of local manufacture, and that we should be content with that condition of things. Personally, I shall not be con- tent until the whole of the candles consumed in Australia are manufactured within our borders. We produce the tallow from which the best candles are made, and why, therefore, should they not be manufactured here? Last year the Commonwealth imported 1,857,373 lbs. of candles, notwithstanding that we export the material of which they are composed to the value of hundreds of thousands of pounds annually. The Government have been charged by the revenue Tariffists with seeking to impose too great a measure of protection upon candles. I say that they ought to have granted them more protection. What is the use of protecting candles if we allow stearine and paraffine wax, of which they are composed, to be introduced at a. lower rate of duty?
– There is no stearine imported.
– I am assured by candle manufacturers that there is.
– Only a very small quantity.
– It is supposed to be made of tallow < but it is not. But even if stearine is not imported to any extent, the honorable member for Illawarra will admit that paraffine wax is largely imported. Now, the very worst candle used to-day is made from paraffine wax.
– That statement is absolutely contrary to the evidence of every candle manufacturer in Australia.
– This evening the honorable member for Lang took it upon himself to censure me because I ventured to . smile at his protestations of sympathy with the poor miner. I can assure the Committee that my smile was not prompted by any lack of sympathy with the poor miner, who frequently contracts disease as the result of working in an ill-ventilated mine under the light given by an inferior candle. But what is the use of imposing a duty of 2d. per lb. upon foreign candles and of id. per lb. upon candles of British manufacture when the principal commodity of which they are composed is dutiable at only id. per lb. ? To give, our local manufacturers a proper chance, and to insure that the candles manufactured in Australia shall be made of the proper material, a duty should be imposed -upon stearine and paraffine wax equal to that which is levied . upon the manufactured article. I believe that the candles- manufactured in Australia are as good as those which can be made in any other part of the world.
– Who doubts that?
– Some members of the Opposition imagine that nothing can be made in Australia? Instead of being so deeply concerned as to the cheapening of commodities which are manufactured under cheap and nasty conditions, if honorable members opposite would apply their energy and ability toward improving the wage conditions of the worker so that he would be able to purchase a better class of article, they would be doing more good.
.- To my mind, an Australian monopoly is just as bad as’ any other monopoly. Indeed, in some cases it is worse. The proposed preferential duty of Jd. per lb. iri favour of imports from the United Kingdom is a sham, as can be ascertained by inquiry of the merchants. As a matter of fact, I am informed that candles manufactured in the United Kingdom are practically an unknown quantity in this market. I have here an extract from a letter dated London, 6th August, 1907, from the Price Patent Candle Company, one of the largest makers of candles in the world. This is what they say about the alleged preference to the United Kingdom in respect of candles -
We have seen the reports regarding the new Tariff, and regret to observe that whilst so much is said about preference to the old country the Tariff proposed upon its goods so far as we are concerned amounts to prohibition.
What has the Acting Prime Minister to say to that?
– I am not a bit surprised at it, coming from men who are getting their living in this industry.
– The same might be said with regard to the evidence given before the Tariff Commission. The honorable gentleman seems to entertain the idea that the manufacturers of England are nothing more nor less than rogues.
– I have never said anything of the kind.
– What else can he mean by the statement that he would not expect anything else from) such people as the writers of this letter? The official statistics for 1906 show that the imports from the United Kingdom- under this heading amounted to 133,477 lbs., valued at £3,540. I am informed that these importations will be found, on investigation, to refer principally’ to night lights and not to candles. What is the use of the Minister coming down, with an alleged preference for Great Britain in regard to this item, when we know that it is worthless? As I said the other night, I am a thorough preferential trader. We have to consider the interests of Australia first, of course, but that having been done, I should be willing to give the old country preference in every direction. I would give her preference by letting in her goods free, as the honorable member for Dalley suggested to-night. I would have free-trade with the old country, and protection against the rest of the world.
– The honorable member for Dalley did not say that.
– Indeed he did, and they are noble sentiments to come from an, Britisher.
– Would the honorable member allow free imports of goods made under unfair labour conditions?
– What is the use of talking like that? There are men to-day in London who are being paid better wages than are men in similar industries in Victoria.
– But would the honorable member put our workers on the same level as some of those in England?
– What did I come out here for? Does the honorable member suppose that I came out to live under the same conditions as those I ‘might have had to live under in the old country? I came out as an immigrant, assisted by the Queensland Government, to better myself. I have been able to do so, and many others, I ami glad to say, have done the same.
– And honorable members opposite are the sons of men who did the same thing.
– Exactly. I have done well in Australia, and I do not want to make it a close corporation. I want to see others come and do as well as I have done.
– But the honorable member does not want to lower the conditions under which our workers are employed ?
– Certainly not. The honorable member has only to look at the stock from which the present generation of Australians have been produced to know that there is no bringing down of conditions. I want to show the hollowness of the proposals of the Protectionist Party with regard to candles. They are trying to fix blame on to an imported article when, as a matter of fact, if there was anything crooked, it was in regard to the locally- manufactured candle. When anything goes wrong, it is always said that it is in connexion with the imported article. Here is a paragraph which appeared in the Age last month -
At the last meeting of the Chiltern branch of the Miners’ Association a member asked if there was any possibility of the Pure Food Act being brought to bear on imported candles being used in the mines. He urged that they were injurious to the health of the miners. The president (Mr. Howes) said that the question had been brought up at one conference. He suggested, that the men should refuse to use them. Miners stated that there was a thick, black smoke from the candles, which settled in the nostrils and throat of the miner, and the following day his expectoration would be black.
Why should the Age, which is the mouthpiece of the Australian manufacturer, try to fix the blame on to an imported article when they know very well that the statement was untrue, or, as the honorable member for Capricornia would say, “ absolutely incorrect.” The Age knew very well that the candle referred to was not an imported candle. I have no sympathy whatever with the importation of articles that are of inferior quality. If the Rangoon candle is inferior, I would either prohibit its importation, or not allow it to be used in mines where it” may be injurious to health. Protectionist members from Victoria and other States are very fond of. saying that free-traders are the patrons of the foreign trader. But surely to goodness they must admit that we have some soul. I, for one, do not want to see our people taxed out of their very boots. In my constituency everything that we drink, eat, or wear is imported and taxed. Surely I have some reason for desiring to stop that unreasonable taxation. If it were not for people in constituencies like mine buying their goods from them, how could the manufacturers live? They would have to close up their factories and live, like vermin, upon one another’s bodies. That would not last long. Without the primary industries of Australia, how long would this city of Melbourne last? Every man sitting on the Opposition side has as much humanity in his soul as have men sitting behind the Government or in this corner with me. If there is anything injurious in Rangoon candles, and if the Ministry are game to take prohibitive action, honorable members here and the Opposition will assist them.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Audit Acts - Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1906-7 (dated nth October, 1907).
Defence Acts - Provisional Regulations - Military Forces - Regulation No. 568 amended - Statutory Rules 1907, No. 104.
House adjourned at xo.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 October 1907, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1907/19071017_reps_3_40/>.