4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2. 30 p.m, and read prayers.
Cadets : Medical Examination. Clothing
– I wish to know from the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if the instruction will be issued that the medical examination of cadets shall take place at times when it will not be likely to interfere’ with the employment of the lads?
– The policy of the Department is to have this examination made under conditions which provide for the greatest possible consideration for the cadets.
– It was stated in the press some time ago that boys have been kept waiting for their medical examination for over an hour - one report said nearly two hours - partly stripped. Has an inquiry been made into that) statement, and have steps been taken- to prevent the repetition of such occurrences?
– This is thefirst I have heard of the matter, but I shall bring it under the notice of the Minister of Defence, and ask for a reply.
– The statements appeared in the press two or three times.
– Is anything being done to expedite the supplyof uniforms to the cadets? I know of cases in which boys who were measured three or four months ago have not been supplied yet. The uniforms will be too small for them if the Department does not hurry.
– The Department is using all possible expedition in providing equipment for the cadets.
– It seems to me that the Minister misapprehended the question I asked yesterday regarding the Federal capital planning, his reply being -
I am under the impression that a Board composed of Australian professional men should possess sufficient intellectuality to guarantee confidence in all the world.
I am unable to understand what that means, and ask him to translate it into intelligible language. What I desire to know is, not whether the Board will be of sufficient intellectuality to guarantee confidence in the world, but whether an effort will be made to establish confidence among the leading architects in the competency and impartiality of the judges.
– We are calling for designs for buildings, not for the planning of a town. Town planning is a subject which comes within the scope of three professions, those of engineering, surveying, and architecture, and the Board to be appointed is to consist of an engineer, a surveyor, and an architect. It will be an Australian Board, composed of Australian professional men, in whom Australia will have confidence.
– What about the world at large?
– It has been suggested that an architect should be brought from England, and another from America, at enormous expense, but that is not necessary in connexion with the planning of the town. The method to be followed in dealing with designs for buildings is another matter.
Most Favoured Nation
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the Table of the House a copy of the “ Most-favoured Nation” clauses included in Imperial treaties with foreign powers?
– The clauses differ in form in different treaties. The honorable member’s attention is invited to Articles i. (3, 7), ii., iv., vii., ix., xii., xx., xxi., and especially to Article xxiv., in the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between the United Kingdom and Japan, dated 3rd April, 191 1. These Articles approximately represent the form in which the clauses have usually appeared.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
With regard to the Minister’s answer to Mr. Kelly’s question on the 12th instant, in which it was stated that “ the Department has no information available “ as to how many foreign merchant ships trading with Australia are fitted with gun mountings and carry guns and ammunition : -
Did the Minister mean to convey by his reply that his Department has no. information bearing upon such a serious subject, or that whatever information it may have is not “ available “ to the House ?
If the latter, will he explain why it is not expedient that the House and country should know how many foreign vessels trading to Australia are so equipped as to permit of their immediate conversion into commerce destroyers upon the outbreak of war?
– It is not considered advisable in ‘the public interest to publish such information.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Yes, as far as practicable. Each manufacturer on making claim for bounty is required to declare as to all wages paid and hours of labour, and that such wages are in no case below the standard rates of wages paid for similar labour in the locality in which the industry is situated.
There is no present evidence of any claim being made in connexion with which the declaration as to wages is inaccurate. Statements, however, have been made to that effect, and I have directed special inquiry as to their accuracy.
A question did arise in regard to a proportion of pis iron produced from slag claimed to be the product of Australian ore, but in the absence of conclusive and satisfactory evidence as to its origin a proportion of the bounty claimed was disallowed.
Mr. FRAZER laid upon the table the following papers : -
Military College - Report on the First Entrance Examination.
Coronation of King George V. - Precis of Correspondence in connexion with the Visit of a Detachment of Senior Cadets from New South Wales under command of Major Wynne.
Debate resumed from 12th September (vide page 323), on motion by Mr. Brennan -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech, as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
.- Like the honorable member for Indi, I am inclined to regard this debate as a waste of time, though I am forced to admit that it affords the Opposition an opportunity to criticise the administration of the Government during the recess, and provides an exhaust valve for the superfluous energy developed between the prorogation of one Parliament and the calling together of the next. It is hard to determine whether the speeches which we have heard have benefited us in any way. I have listened to many interesting remarks, and some extraordinary statements, during this debate. The honorable member for Parkes appeared to have gone to a great deal of trouble in building up an edifice that would show how incapable were the present Government of administering the affairs of this country, and particularly of representing the Commonwealth at the Imperial Conference. He said that our delegates had given a poor exhibition, that the motions they submitted were of the crudest and callowest description, and that they had been guilty of a piece of arrogance. Unfortunately, the honorable member was not present on the last day of last session. Had he been, he would not have made such a great mistake, or wasted so much time, in trying to prove, by means of his numerous notes, how incapable Ministers were, and so would not have given an opportunity to the honorable member for Maribyrnong to bring the structure that he was building down about his ears. I well recall the Attorney-General placing before the House a list of type-written items to be submitted to the Imperial Conference. It struck me at the time that we had not a great opportunity of discussing them, but I was very pleased when the leader of the Opposition indorsed every one of them. After that what possible cause of complaint could the honorable member for Parkes have? In spite of that he built up an edifice on a foundation that was worse than rotten - a foundation that had no existence at all. He also complained about the unfair land tax placed upon the statute-book by this party, and seemed to derive a great amount of satisfaction from calling it a party tax. Let me tell the honorable member that that tax was introduced into this Parliament in the first instance for revenue purposes, and, incidentally, to split up the great estates throughout Australia. The result has been of great benefit to the country. When he says that this party is here simply to pass class legislation into law, I have to refer him to what took place in the last six months in the Victorian Parliament, where the State Government introduced a land tax that was, undoubtedly, a class tax. Mr. Watt, the Acting Premier, in introducing the Bill, showed that it repealed the Graham Berry Act of 1878, and said that he proposed to relieve the squatters of Victoria of taxation to the extent of £50,000. Why was that done? Simply because the Federal Labour party had placed a land tax on the shoulders of those who were best able to bear it - the great squatters of the Commonwealth. In order to make up the loss of revenue Mr. Watt lowered the exemption under the State land tax from £2,500 to £250, thus placing the burden upon the shoulders of the small land-holders, who were less able to bear it than were the wealthy proprietors. Miss Cameron, one of the organizers of the socalled Liberal party, said, at one of her meetings in the country, that that tax was introduced in order to pay out the small land-owners, and when asked why, replied, “ Because the small land-owners voted for the Labour party.” That is one of the worst examples of a party tax to be found in the political history of Australia for many years. The honorable member for Parkes seemed also to be very annoyed that the Minister of External Affairs had cut down the vote for advertising Australia to £25,000. Yet the Government which the honorable member supported, and the members of which are now sitting on the Opposition benches, could never afford to spend more than £7,000 per annum in advertising the wealth and possibilities of our great continent. If, then, we are doing wrong in spending only £^25,000 on that object, how great was the wrong that the Opposition party perpetrated in the past in spending only ,£7,000? The honorable member for Parkes seemed also to be upset because the present Government did not resign after the vote was taken on- the referenda. He pretends that we represent minorities, but if any one represents a minority, it is several members sitting on the Opposition side of the House, and particularly the honorable member himself. He was returned on a minority vote, and, consequently, to carry out his own argument and show his sincerity, he ought to resign his seat. His sincerity, however, is not very deep, and on scratching off the veneer we find that his attitude is a very selfish one indeed. The honorable member remarked that many years ago he received a presentation from the Trades Hall for some work he had done in settling difficulties. The honorable member told us the same thing last session, and, apparently, is very proud of the incident. I would advise him to frame the presentation, in order that it may remind him that in the past he was on the right track, but, unfortunately, during his declining years, he has strayed very much from the path of political virtue. The honorable member for Wakefield, who also represents a minority, deliberately made the statement that members on this side of the House are not free. I do not know exactly what he means. I know that, so far as the planks of the party platform are concerned, before we are returned to this House we give our allegiance to them, and, consequently, when the various matters involved in them are introduced, we, as men of honour, must stick to our word given to the electors before we came here. That seems to be something novel to the honorable member for Wakefield, because he can tell the people in his electorate anything he likes, and when he comes here he has to vote according to the dictates of the great financial institutions and the other wire-pullers. That is totally different from the attitude of members of this party. We allow the great Democracy of Australia to formulate a policy, and we come here to carry that policy out ; but, on any questions outside the policy, we are absolutely free. In proof of this we have only to point to our votes last session, when a number of us could not agree with the Capital Site policy of the Government, against which we both spoke and voted. To show how free honorable members of the Opposition are, we have only to remember what happened when the Fusion Government was in power. For instance, there was the question of the Financial Agreement, against which honorable members opposite spoke as detrimental and disastrous to the best interests of the country, and yet voted for it. No such despicable action can be laid at the door of honorable members on this side, because if they dared do such a thing their electors would know how to deal with them. The honorable member for Wakefield further told us, when the referenda proposals were before the people, that we were taking the soul out of the Constitution by asking that railway servants should have an opportunity to place their grievances before the Arbitration Court. But if we proposed to “ take the soul out of the Constitution,” so did the Leader of the Opposition, because when the Labour Government was displaced, that honorable gentleman, as Prime Minister, did not remove the provision from the Bill. If such an idea was wrong on our part, it was equally wrong on the part of the Leader of the Opposition and the Fusion party. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Wakefield say that our only claim to Australia is occupancy and use; because that is one of the reasons the land tax was introduced. . We hold that no man should retain the wealth-producing areas of this continent unless he puts them to their best use. Why did honorable members opposite vote against that taxation ? The honorable member for Wakefield and myself both represent country constituencies, and we know the value that thisgraduated land tax has been to our electorates - what a magnificent influence it has had on the great squatters in inducing them to split up their estates. What were mere hamlets are now becoming towns, and will eventually, we trust, become cities. I am glad to be able to agree with the honorable member in one thing, namely, that if we are to build up an Australian nation it must be an industrial nation. The greatest nation is not that built on military caste, but the one built on industry. This is the only means of making a lasting nation. What has become of the Persian, Greek, Carthaginian, and Roman Empires - all great military nations ? If we are to maintain our supremacy and become a nation, we cannot possibly build it on military castes. It must be built on industrial conditions ; and we must see that those conditions are fair. When that is done, it will be possible to invite people from the Old Country to assist us to protect this great land. I emphatically deny that the Labour party are against immigration. We are not against immigration, provided it be of the right sort. If we build a house we do not start with the roof, but with a solid foundation ; and we believe that the best foundation Australia can have consists in immigrants from the Old Country and elsewhere, who will come here and produce wealth from the soil. We have no desire to overcrowd the city with artisans, so that there may be 100 men when only fifty are required, the balance being left as a burden on those who are working and the taxpayers generally. Let us put people on the land. We have good opportunities presented in the Northern Territory and in Papua ; and I should like to see a progressive policy of development in regard to both those Possessions. Let us first financially assist Australian men, who have a knowledge of agriculture, as is done in Denmark and elsewhere; and, having thus seen to the welfare of our people, then, by all means, invite immigrants from other countries to share our prosperity and help to defend the country. Considering the vast area of Australia, which is as large as that of Europe, it is impossible, with 4,000,000 of people, to defend the country against any nation stronger than ourselves. We might as well ask a man to build a house with four bricks as attempt to build a nation with 4,000,000 people; but it would be a crying shame to bring out hundreds of workers simply to swell the labour market and provide a surplus of hands.
– The population is nearer 5,000,000 than 4,000,000.
– It is over 4,000,000, but that figure is near enough for my argument. When we introduced the graduated land tax we were tending in the right direction - to the encouragement of immigration. I was surprised to learn that in South Australia there are a number of Labour men who are excessively liberal. The honorable member for Wakefield told us that nineteen men at one station provided £50, and five men at another provided £25, towards the fighting fund of various politicians. I wish the honorable member would send a few of those men to my electorate, where I would extend to them a hearty welcome. The whole trouble of the Labour party is lack of funds ; and if we could only find workers as liberal as those alluded to, our friends on the Opposition would all be wiped out. The honorable member for Perth seemed to be very angry because the Prime Minister, on his visit to England, had not associated with him three or four detachments representative of the military strength of Australia. It seems very hard to please all sections of the community. The Leader of the Opposition, in another place, stated that the Prime Minister went Home with a retinue greater than that of an Eastern prince. What are we to do when gentlemen, presumably fighting the same battle, and sitting on the same side of the House, are so divided that one condemns us because we did not make a sufficient display, and the other because the display made was too magnificent?
– Cannot the honorable member understand the distinction?
– There is no distinction.
– He understands the distinction well enough, but he does not choose to see it.
– The honorable member for Perth displayed much anxiety about the secrets shared by the Australian delegates and the caucus, but he, as a member of the caucus not very long ago, ought to know exactly what takes place there, and he need not pretend to be so remarkably innocent. We have heard a lot from the other side about loyalty. One would naturally conclude from the remarks made that the gentlemen sitting in opposition had a monopoly of loyalty. They remind me of the person who is always telling every one from the house tops how honest he is; we all know that such a man. needs to be watched, as do those also who are always parading their loyalty. I believe with the honorable member for Indi that the truest form of loyalty begins, like charity, at home. The individual who is very charitable to outsiders, but forgets his own family, does not recommend himself to me ; and honorable members of the Opposition who, whilst protesting their loyalty, describe our own navy as “ a popgun navy,” and our army as “ an army of toy soldiers “ - as the honorable member for Franklin did, whilst the Leader of the Opposition himself spoke of the Australian Navy as a mosquito fleet - need to be watched. If we are going to be loyal, let us be loyal, first of all, to our own country. We have evidence of the necessity for this. When the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and 1 approached the Minister of Home Affairs, some time ago, to secure recognition of Australian industries, and particularly the local manufacture of paper, we found on the part of officers of the Department the keenest opposition to the Australian-made article. Some of the underpaid gentlemen in the Home Affairs office said that the Australian paper was no good, and that we must send to England to satisfy our requirements. They forgot that the paper obtained locally was not as old as that obtained from England, and consequently was not as hard ; but I am pleased to say that the Minister of Home Affairs, in his desire to help Australia, saw that the tender for the supply of paper for Government Departments was let in Australia.
– Will that afford much employment in Australia?
– It will give much employment in Geelong, and that is what I was fighting for.
– I thought the honorable member said that he was fighting to settle the people on the land.
– Unless we settle people on the land we cannot hope to obtain locally the raw material required for our city factories. Another example of the patriotism instilled into many departmental officers by previous Administrations is furnished by a recent experience of the Minister of Home Affairs. A motor-engine was required for certain work at the Federal Capital Site, and some of the Minister’s officers apparently desired to obtain it from another country. They had made arrangements for obtaining an engine outside Australia.
– I do not think they had done that.
– At all events they were making arrangements to bring out an engine from the Old Country, but the Minister, learning from a member of his party that engines of the class required were being made in New South Wales, obtained one there, and caused it to be sent.to the Capital Site. As soon as it reached its destination some of these departmental officers said that it would neither turn nor pull, and that it was perfectly useless. When the Minister and several others visited the Capital Site, however, they found, after giving the engine two or three trials, that it would both turn and pull, and that it would draw a load of thirty tons up a very steep gradient. That is the kind of thing our Ministers have to contend against, and it is due to the fact that we have had in control of our Departments men who have, not been Australian in their loyalty. They have been loyal to producers outside Australia rather than to our own manufacturers. I am pleased to know that since ‘1st December, 1910, 102,194 Australian youths have been medically examined in connexion with the scheme of compulsory training, and that of that number 95,772 have been passed as medically fit. In other words, 93.7 per cent, have proved to be medically fit for compulsory training. That speaks volumes for the health of the Australian youth. In introducing the system of compulsory training we had no desire to create a military caste. I voted for the Bill because I felt that it was our duty to fit the youth of Australia to protect their country if unfortunately we should become involved in a war, and when we recognise the enormous extent of the Commonwealth and how near to us are possible enemies, we must see that we are on the right track. During the last month we have had quite a controversy upon the possibility of the Australian Government establishing a national sugar refinery p deal with that great monopoly which unfortunately is draining the life’s blood out of the community, and it has been pointed out that we have power under the Constitution, as it stands, to deal with: the matter. I sincerely hope that we have. Our own estimable Attorney-General holds that we have not, but we must not forget that lawyers, on important questions of law, often disagree. When great national questions have to be decided by the High Court, how often is the judgment of the Court a unanimous one? Is it not a fact that in many cases the judgment is a majority one? Last year we passed a Bill enabling us, by means of a reference to the High Court, to test the validity of any measure passed by this Parliament before it is put into operation, and I think we should take advantage of that provision in this case. It would be well for the Government to introduce a measure authorizing them to establish a sugar refinery - not on Commonwealth property, to supply our own Public Service - but in the most convenient centre in such a way as to enable the Government to supply the wants of the whole of the people of Australia. On passing such a Bill, we could refer a question to the High Court to determine its constitutionality before we put it into operation. I am very pleased that during the present session the Government intend to introduce a Bill for the establishment of a Commonwealth bank. When the honorable member for Wakefield said last night that we need to make Australia a great industrial country, I expressed agreement with that view. But what is the allimportant question in connexion with every industrial question? Is it not the control of the money volume ? That is a sovereign right, and every sovereign right should be in the hands of the people, rather than in the hands of a few. In New York, in 1874, the banks in one month increased the money volume by thousands, with the result that the price of every commodity and every foot of land went up. That was all very well for the man who had bought on the safe side, and knew that he could not lose. But what actually happened? In the following year - 1875 - those banks decreased the money volume by over £1,000,000 in one week, causing the price of every foot of land and every ounce of goods to drop. We ought not to permit such a power to exist here. It is too great a power to leave in the hands of the banks. Therefore I am pleased that this session a Bill will be introduced to put it into the hands of the people of the country. We have heard from honorable members opposite that there is no financial ability on this side of the Chamber, but none of them has pointed to a single failure in our financial transactions, or to any want of administrative ability in our Ministers. When the Notes Bill was before us, they told us that its effect would be disastrous, but from a paper which has been published I find that the first issue of the notes was made on the 7 th November last, and that up to the present time notes to the value of £9,275,969 have been put into circulation. Of these the banks have taken .£1,131,500 worth at 3 per cent., paying £33,945 in interest for. them, and the States have taken ^£3,932,000 at from 3’ to 3! per cent., paying ^138,374. If these transactions took place at par, the Commonwealth would receive £172,319 per annum from them, but, prior to the issue of Commonwealth notes the banks paid to the State Governments, by means of a 2 per cent, tax on about £4,000,000 worth of notes, about £80,000. Therefore the community benefits largely by the Commonwealth issue, and, in addition, makes a profit from the notes that are lost. I am opposed to any further expenditure in connexion with the Federal Capital. With a population of between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 only, we are not justified in constructing a bush Capital to please our New South Wales friends.
– The Federal Capital will be a great asset.
– What is being done at the Federal Territory is a blot on the administration of this party. Far better sites than that adopted could have been selected. Those who made the selection knew nothing about land, nor about what is required for a great city site. If the people of New South Wales desire that the Parliament shall meet in that State, I, for one, am ready to vote for alternate meetings in Sydney and Melbourne until the population becomes big enough to bear the expense of a Federal City.
– What about Geelong?
– It is a pity that Geelong instead of Melbourne was not selected as the site for the capital of Victoria. The proposal to construct a transcontinentral railway on a gauge of 4 feet8½ inches has my hearty approval, though I recognise that for many years the line is not likely to pay, and that it will cost something like£5,000,000. I believe that the Labour party will be justified in borrowing for such works as this. Members of the Opposition have said that we have declared absolutely against borrowing, but when I joined the partyI understood that its policy was the restriction of borrowing, and I consider that borrowing is justified for the carrying out of great national works such as this. I am glad that our old friend the Navigation Bill will be safely steered into port this session. It has been on the high seas for quite a number of years, and had not the Labour party been returned to power, it would not have a chance of becoming law even now. Thanks to the intelligence of the electors in giving us in 1910 a sufficient majority, this humane piece of legislation will now be placed on the statutebook.
– What about the intelligence of the electors in 191 1?
– What about the money used to buy up votes then?
– That is a slander on the miners.
– Although many have spoken against it as a waste of money, and some Opposition members who ought to have been glad of the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the Commonwealth and its Territories, made capital of the fact that they abstained from joining in it, after accepting the invitation, I think that the visit of the members of Parliament to Papua was a good thing. I am glad that the Government is going to develop that territory. In going there, I made provision against my probable nonreturn, but the country exceeded the expectations of all of us. We were delighted with its possibilities. My only regret is that the British Government, in its shortsightedness, allowed Germany and Holland to share the island with us. It is pleasing to contrast the administration of Papua by Australia with that of the New Hebrides under the condominium of Great Britain and France. In Papua the natives are fairly dealt with, but in the New
Hebrides they can be tortured, robbed, and murdered practically without redress.
– What wages do they receive?
– Ten shillings a month and keep.
– How many hours do they work?
– Fifty a week. I hope that the Minister of External Affairs will make representations to the British authorities which will put an end to the scandals which exist in the New Hebrides. We are told that our public servants are to be given an opportunity to bring their grievances before the Arbitration Court. That is a step in the right direction. If the Public Service Commissioner were allowed to continue to act as he has done, there might be a mild revolution in the postal service at least. A book was sent to me last week in which very strong statements are published by the public servants of South Australia. They speak of being robbed of their rights by the Commissioner, and of certain reports being faked by him. I do not think that stronger terms could be used. Our servants should be treated as we would wish any other body of employes to be treated. They should not be denied the justice which we claim for others. The Government should be a model employer, and Parliament should not impose on others conditions which it ignores itself. It is possible that our national debt will be wiped out within a comparatively few years by the financial genius of this Ministry. It has been shown that a saving of only¼ per cent. in the interest paid on the consolidated debts of Australia would enable them to be repaid within eighty years.
– Not if we keep on borrowing.
– No; but it is possible to borrow at a lower rate of interest by offering better security. Coming now to the Tariff, let me say here, as I have said on the platform, that I am a Protectionist out-and-out, to the point of prohibition.
– A new Protectionist !
– Both an old and a new Protectionist. The old Protection has done a great deal of good, but the new Protection contains the soul of the old Protection encased in a scientific body.
– Nothing is said in the Speech about the new Protection.
– Honorable members opposite have declared that we are not free to express our views, but my reference Jo this matter shows that we are. Mr. Hugh McKay has built up a great industry at Sunshine, but he has not carried out his promise to pay his employes a living wage in consideration of the protection granted to him. Throughout Australia there are manufacturers who are dealing fairly with their employes and we cannot build up our industries if we allow manufactured goods to be imported. If we manufacture two-thirds of the commodities required by Australia, and the other third arrives through the ports, it means that we are losing one-third of the possible wealth that could be produced here, and that our artisans are losing the consequent wages. I am absolutely in accord with the principle that the wealth producer should get a fair share of the wealth he produces, but whilst we are aiming at our foe there is a possibility that we may hit a friend. The Minister of Trade and Customs sent out a certain circular recently, and I cannot understand why the manufacturers have refused to give the necessary information. I recognise that if we are to increase duties we should know exactly how much is required to keep the imports out. We also know that when manufacturers in other parts of the world have reached a certain point in the production of their goods, all above that point is profit. No matter what price they get for it, every penny is profit. That is to say, they can dump goods into Australia at any price, and I think it will be necessary for the Government of the Commonwealth to impose a duty that will absolutely prohibit dumping. When the Tariff comes before this House for discussion, I, for one, will use my privilege as a member to criticise the measure. I have to thank the House for its courtesy in listening to the few remarks that I have made. I was pleased to note that in all the speeches delivered in this debate the administration of the Labour party has not been criticised, and their financial genius has not been criticised. That says a great deal for a Democratic body such as we are, in view of the scurrilous remarks that were hurled at the party when they took office.
– I do not intend to deal in detail with the various parts of the Speech. I dare say an opportunity will occur when the promised measures are submitted to give them that searching criticism to which Ministers may look forward at the hands of those sitting on this side of the House. We have heard a great deal from the other side ora account of the strongly loyal and Imperial feelings that have been expressed by more than one honorable member on this side in the extraordinary exigencies of the present time. I am prepared, with much equanimity, to suffer the reproaches of my honorable friends on the other side because of what they call our “protestations of loyalty.” My honorable friend and leader, the honorable member for Ballarat, acted with much wisdom, if I may say SO when he expressed those Imperial feelings which he thought the condition of affairs in the Empire warranted at this juncture.He was not oblivious of the fact that at least outside of Australia, in high places within the Empire, expression has been given to sentiments which were totally opposed to all feelings of loyalty, and which, if accorded any degree of countenance, must vitally affect the Empire itself. These were suggestions that, si> long as we were to receive benefits and enjoy advantages-
– Who said this?
– I take it that the honorable member has not been asleep for the last six months. If he has been awake he must know that such sentimentswere put forward in high places.
– By whom?
– By “Julia.”
– I did not say it was necessarily within Australia. Asone honorable member suggested, “ Let the galled jade wince.” The point I am making is that when such sentiments have beenexpressed it behoves Australia, and still more a representative body of this kind, toshow in the most pronounced way the feeling of resentment, if nothing else, that we entertain towards them. There is no more loyal place than Australia, and it is necessary that we should indicate that strength of loyalty to the Empire in an hour such as this. It behoves us not to ignore the suggestion that so long as it benefits us to take the advantages arising therefrom we shall remain membersof the Empire, but that if the Empire should be in trouble we reserve to ourselves the right to act exactly as we pleaseSuch sentiments are craven and despicable,and I cannot think it possible that anysubstantial section in Australia would countenance them. I go further, and say that it would be wise on the part of this
Parliament to show that they have no foundation whatever in the feelings of the Australian people. I am one who has held in admiration the Imperial Conferences that have been periodically convened in the Old Country. Watching their evolution from the beginning, I have realized that matters of grave import to the Empire are there dealt with, and opportunities are afforded to come to mutually satisfactory adjustments and arrangements regarding policy and administration in matters of an Empire character. The Conferences have grown in importance as time has gone on, and I do not think that the last suffered any diminution in that respect. The matters dealt with were of the greatest moment, and the departure made by the British Government will certainly be memorable and notable in the history of the Empire. The growth of nationality throughout the Empire has been a remarkable feature ; but perhaps the most notable has been the growth within the Empire of the independent sister nations of Canada, New. Zealand, South Africa, And Australia. With our own independent Parliaments, and permitted as we are practically to develop our own history and mould our own destiny, according to our own immediate conditions, we have the fullest form of self government and the most complete local autonomy that could possibly be afforded. This condition of affairs is consistent with the greatest friendship towards the Mother Country, and, indeed, with the most’ genuine affection between various parts of the Empire. I particularly notice in connexion with these Conferences the development df mutual understanding and arrangement; that may perhaps be best illustrated by a reference to the question of Empire defence. It was the privilege of the late Government to be in consultation with representatives from other parts of the Empire on that great and all-important subject, and the result was the creation of an Australian unit, to be part and parcel of the Empire Navy. I note with commendation that the military and naval policy then initiated has been fairly and honestly developed by the present Government. I am confident that in that matter we are proceeding on right lines, and on a satisfactory basis. A glance at the agenda-paper of the Imperial Conferences shows that from time to time many business and social questions of an Empire character arise, requiring discus sion and adjustment, and that the various arrangements and understandings arrived at in regard to them have been helpful to the development of the Empire itself. They have led to a better understanding between the peoples composing the Empire, and to greater uniformity of action, with the best and most effective results. In these circumstances, we owe much to the Imperial Conferences, and if any objection could reasonably be taken to them, it would be that they were not held frequently enough. We hope that there is a common aim and object, so far as Australia and the various other Dominions are concerned - namely, to strengthen the ties of race and blood. This may be well achieved by the development of mutual interests by trade and commerce. In the Conference held as far back as 1887, Lord Salisbury said that the separation of parts of the Empire by thousands of miles of sea offered, in his judgment, no obstacle to mutual arrangements in relation to Customs. The policy of preference which has occupied the attention of the various Conferences from time to time since then is based on a recognition of that fact. Mr. Chamberlain, perhaps the greatest of the Imperial statesmen who have prosecuted this policy, gave it its greatest impetus, aided materially by the honorable member for Ballarat, at the several Conferences that he attended. The answering spirit may be found in the creation of preferential tariffs by Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa; but I regret that the subject of preference did not meet with the direct attention of the Conference that previous Conferences gave to it. At the Conferences of 1902 and 1907 resolutions were passed expressing the desirablity of providing for a substantial preference to the products and manufactures of the Mother Country, and preferential treatment of the products and manufactures of the Dominion States. We have thus at two Conferences a distinct preferential policy laid down; and the way has been made easier by the voluntary offers of preference to which I have referred, The Canadian Government were parties to those resolutions; and we have, therefore, to deplore sincerely the check which has now taken place by the promotion of the proposed Canadian-American treaty- - a serious departure from the former policy. It is true that the Premier of Canada has ^ said that he is not “ out “ to sell his nationality, but simply to make a business arrangement ; but the fact cannot be ignored that in the vital step proposed we have a departure from the Tariff reform movement of an inter-Dominion character. It practically means that its evolution and general tendency must be the creation of material ties of trade and commerce, and perhaps in the not distant future, what has been suggested by President Taft himself - namely, the parting of the ways. This will be yearly assisted by the large influx of people from the United States into Canada. Therefore, I say that the proposed departure is a check of a serious character, which may prove disastrous from an Empire point of view.
– Sir Wilfrid Laurier denies that that is the idea.
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier has repudiated the idea that this means the parting of the ways ; but it is the view that strikes one when we find one party to the agreement, in the person of the President of the United States, indicating this as the impression created on his mind. As I say, Sir Wilfrid Laurier has stated that he is “ out “ only to make a business arrangement, and not to sell his nationality.
– To consider Canadian interests first !
– Immediate Canadian interests first. There may be some immediate benefit to Canada; but if the arrangement means the ultimate dismemberment of the Empire, that benefit will be dearly bought.
– lt will strengthen the Empire, because it will do away with the bickering all along the line.
– I am afraid lt will strengthen the Empire in a backward direction. The Speech of His Excellency states that the progressive tax on land values is having a satisfactory effect on land settlement, and is attracting a desirable class of immigrants. One of the most important national questions at the present moment is that of immigration, and none has more rapidly grown in public opinion, the necessity for development in this direction having become most marked throughout Australia within the last few years. Yet the only reference in the Speech to it is the indirect one to which I have already referred. This, however, is consistent with the timid manner in which my friends opposite have at all times dealt with the subject. I may be overstating the case when I say, “ at all times,” because the fact remains that a very substantial section of the Labour party were totally opposed to immigration. Now, however, in view of the growth of public opinion, some of them countenance it in a timid way not becoming a courageous Government. The policy of the late Government was one of development in regard to immigration, and steps were being taken by that Administration.
– The late Government never got there !
– If the general election had taken place on 26th April, 191 1, instead of on the 13th April, 19 10, there would have been a different verdict; but whatever mistake was made on the first occasion was more than, rectified on the second. The question of immigration is one that we cannot afford to deal with timidly. It is quite true that we are more or less dependent on the co-operation of the States; but we have a vast Northern Territory, which has to be peopled. Indeed, our adequate defence depends on its being peopled. In addition to the Northern Territory we have Papua.
– Has the honorable member been there?
– I have not.
– The honorable member ought to go!
– Thank you; I do not propose to go for a while.
– But the honorable member would send immigrants there.
– I am not devoting myself to Papua, but rather to the Northern Territory, and merely mention incidentally that we have also to deal with the former Possession.
– Does the honorable member say that we should send immigrants direct to the Northern Territory?
– The duty is cast on us of finding immigrants for the Territory. The White Australia policy contemplates the filling of the Northern Territory with a white population; and I hope the honorable member for Gwydir gives his adherence to that view. I admit there are other vast spaces in Australia, but that does not decrease our obligation in regard to the Territory. Unless we can people that Possession, Australia is open to the gravest peril, surrounded as we are by Asiatic races.
– Has the honorable member ever been to the Northern Territory?
– I have been adjacent to but not actually in it.
– If the honorable member went there for six months he would have a different idea.
– Perhaps the honorable member says that the Territory should remain unpeopled? Our greatest peril, however, arises from the fact that the Territory is empty. It is true that a treaty has been entered % into between England and Japan which’ will largely contribute to the world’s peace for the next ten years. The Attorney-General’s comment on that treaty is that we shall be given an opportunity to develop our defence, and I apprehend that he included the peopling of the Northern Territory. But while we shall have that opportunity, the great nation of Japan, if it has any unfriendly feeling towards Australia, will also have an opportunity of developing at an infinitely greater rate her powers of offence and defence. Under the circumstances, we must not be lulled into any false security by the arrangement between Japan and the Mother Country. Immigration is the greatest of our problems ; and I should have been delighted if the Government and the Labour party had taken their courage in both hands, and decided on a policy which would mean a substantial influx of people into Australia. We have heard from time to time doleful stories from the other side as to what would be the result of a rapid influx of population; and it is interesting, as well as instructive, to see what has taken place in Canada. In the period from 1st July, 1905, to 31st March, 1910, Canada has had an enormous influx of population, and has developed accordingly, while Australia has had a mere trickle of immigration, and suffered in growth- and production correspondingly. We know that, in regard to fertility, and agricultural, pastoral, and mineral resources Australia is more attractive than is Canada; and yet there iti a great contrast between the streams of immigration. During that period there entered Canada something like 1,000,000 immigrants; and I ask honorable members to mark the analysis. Of these, 375,460 were British, 241,922 were European, and 314,520 were from the United States, i would emphasize that point as bearing on the remarks I made a little while ago concerning the American- Canadian Treaty. It shows what influences are at work in the development of the business arrangements suggested. From the United States there entered into Canada 314,520 persons, or a total of 931,902 immigrants for a period of less than five years. These immigrants were catered for. Every effort was made to secure them, and it became the great national policy of Canada to obtain as many people as could possibly be secured from the white population of other countries^. And with what result? It is estimated by the Monetary Times of Toronto, in its issue of 7th January, 1911, that these immigrants brought with them in cash and effects £67,900,000. Of the immigrants via ocean ports between 1903 and 1909-10, 225,168 were farmers or farm labourers, whilst of those who came from the United States 261,409 were of like occupations. When we look at another important feature, the settlement resulting from this immigration system, we find that no less than 33,189 homesteads were taken up by British entrants, 28,530 by continental entrants, and 49,757 by persons who came from the United States, making a total of 174,589 homesteads for the period named. Honorable members will see how seriously Canada has consistently regarded this question of immigration, and the efforts she has at all times put forward to secure that stream of immigrants which we of Australia have yet to learn how to obtain. The methods adopted by Canada could be largely followed by us. It is true that we have not the benefit of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Hudson’s Bay Railway Companies in this connexion, but whilst those important bodies have co-operated in the work of attracting immigrants, there has been liberal advertising on the part of the Canadian Government, and free grants of land on payment of £2 per holding for survey fees. Immigrants are met on arrival, and accommodation is found for the women and children while the men make their selections ready for occupation. When we speak of Canadian immigration, therefore, we have in mind not something that is a mere matter of sentimental consideration, but rather a great object lesson which we may follow with the utmost advantage to Australia. I have to deplore more or less in this connexion the failure of the Government to bring about some arrangement for continuing the Canadian-Australian mail service. Australia contributed towards the maintenance of that service about ,£27,000 per annum, and before the Government of which I was a member left office negotiations were entered into with a view to the continuation of the line. This is a class of negotiation that ought to be entered upon with a determination to bring it to a successful issue. Whilst a larger subsidy than we have hitherto paid may be required, the Government would be well justified in paying an increased grant rather than that the service should be_ discontinued. I hope to show conclusively that its discontinuance was a serious blunder, and that the Government failed to exercise the judgment and acumen necessary to bring about a more successful issue to the negotiations.. Advantage has been taken of the situation by New Zealand, which has scored heavily by securing the direct service. New Zealand will consequently be able to secure that growing Australian trade with Canada, which it was open to us to develop by a continuation of this service, and her trade with Canada will be in those very products that we in Australia could well supply. If we believe in the principle of conserving as far as practicable the Empire trade, then we must admit that a reciprocal relationship between the Dominions should be cultivated in every way. Especially is it desirable as between Canada and Australia, when we remember that the Dominion is situated on one of the direct lines of communication with the Motherland. I wish now to show honorable members that the continuation of this mail service would afford us room for a vast development of trade. Exclusive of gold and specie, the value of the interchange of the produce and manufactures of Canada and Australia for the last six years was as follows : - The average value of Canadian exports to Australia over a period of six years was £527,378 per annum ; whilst Australia’s exports to Canada for the same period averaged only £78,829 per annum. Based upon the actual trade of 1908 and 19 10, if the British preference rates had been in operation in both countries, it is estimated that the rebate on Australian goods imported into Canada, and entitled to preference, would have amounted to £3,270 in 1908, and to £7,213 in 1910, whilst that on Canadian goods imported into Australia would have amounted to £3,307 in 1908, and to £5,937 in 1910. The increase in 1910 would have been due to our larger exports of meat and butter to Canada, and to increases in our imports of motors, cycles, and rubber manufactures from the Dominion. These figures show that a reciprocal arrangement between the two countries would be mutually advantageous; that if the Tariffs of the two countries were such that we could provide for British preference rates being extended by Australia to Canada, and vice versa, we might mutually benefit in every way. Australianindustries would be largely advantaged by the cultivation of this trade. Under preferential rates, the following more important of our primary products would benefit on entry into .Canada : On mutton and Iamb there would be a reduction of Jd. per lb. in the duty ; on canned meats, a reduction of 10 per cent. ; on poultry and game, a reduction of 7 J per cent.; on- butter, a reduction, of Jd. per lb. ; on vegetables, a. reduction of 15 per cent. ; on apples, a reduction of 7jd. per barrel ; and on dried fruits, a reduction of Jd. per lb. Our trade with Canada in 19 10 was showing ant upward tendency, and it is a truly shortsighted policy at this juncture to check and discourage it by discontinuing the Vancouver mail service.
– How long has the honorable member been in possession of thisinformation ?
– I obtained it while I was in office, and I then prepared a Bill, which is now in the Department, providing for mutual preference in the way I have suggested. Had we remained in office, that Bill would have been placed on the statute-book.
– Another loss.
– Of course it is one of many. I am glad to know that the present Government have intimated,, through the Prime Minister, that they intend to try to bring about this reciprocal, arrangement.
– The honorable memberwas a member of a Government that was; in office for years, yet did nothing in thisconnexion.
– For years, on and off, and then the honorable member was blocking business.
– As the seasons of the two countries alternate, this arrangement could be brought about without anyserious disturbance of their industries.. Consequently, I urge that we should endeavour to develop this trade - first of all,, by a continuance of the mail service with Vancouver ; and, secondly, by means of reciprocal trade arrangements.
– Would the honorablemember favour subsidising a line between Australia and Canada, the vessels of which* called at New Zealand?
– Even if it meant a substantial increase of subsidy, I would favour the continuance of the service to Australia. It was a short-sighted policy to permit its discontinuance.
– Does the honorable member favour a service not touching New Zealand ?
– New Zealand can look after herself ; I desire that Australia should do the same. Unfortunately, New Zealand has out-generalled us in this instance. The attitude of the Government towards Tariff reform is one that is to be condemned. Ministers say that no further Protection by way of duties is to be given until new Protection has been provided for by the grant of industrial jurisdiction to the Commonwealth. This is a new policy. It was not heard of before the 13th April, 1910, though, as a matter of electioneering tactics, it was brought greatly to the front just prior to the referenda of the 26th April, 191 1, when it was made prominent with a view to coercing the community into voting for the transference of industrial powers from the States to. the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite, however, have now got accustomed to look upon their pronouncements then as their serious policy. There is no connexion between what is known as old Protection and what is known as new Protection. The Constitution recognises the difference between them by giving to the Commonwealth the power to impose fiscal duties, and leaving with the States power of legislation in industrial matters. Whatever justification there may have been in the way of electioneering advantage for confusing the two prior to the 26th April, 1911, there is no justification for doing so just now, the people having declared by a vast majority that they are satisfied with the Constitution as it is. The attitude of the Government, if maintained, will amount to a defiance of the will of the people, and an infringement of the Democratic principles which they are expected to observe and honour. Besides, in connexion with a number of the industries regarding which there are Tariff anomalies requiring rectification, Wages Boards already exist, and the workers are paid reasonable rates of wages, so that the ridiculous attitude complained of cannot be presaged in those cases. One of the Tariff anomalies most urgently requiring removal is connected with the duties on apparel, but there are five Boards connected with the industry of making apparel - the Clothing Board, the Dressmakers Board, the Millinery Board, the Shirtmaking Board, and the Underclothingmaking Board. Yet Victorian representatives have declared that this industry, among others, shall not receive the Protection which it requires until the power to control its industrial conditions is transferred from the States to the Commonwealth - the honorable members for Yarra and Melbourne Ports in particular.
– There is the definite statement that anomalies will be rectified.
– Anomalies exist in connexion with the duties on hats and caps. There is no Board governing the conditions under which those articles are made, because the wages paid are so satisfactory that a Board is not needed, but one could be obtained at any moment if required. The agricultural implementmaking industry, however, which is adversely affected by the present Tariff, is governed by a Board, and the machinery industry has the Engineering Board, which is now sitting. Other industries which are being injured by the Tariff are the boot and shoe-! making industry, which has a Board ; the earthenware-making industry, which is controlled by the Pottery Board; the galvanized iron-making industry, in connexion with which there is not a Board, though one could be easily obtained if needed ; and the india-rubber goods industry, in connexion with which there is not a Board. There have been vast importations of goods which, under a proper Tariff, could be made in this country by those employed in the industries I have named.
– Has the honorable member read paragraph 12 of the Speech?
– Yes; but I obtain no comfort from it. We have the definite pronouncement of the Government that no action is to be taken to remove Tariff anomalies until the Commonwealth has been granted the power to pass industrial legislation - an attitude which is a sham and a pretence. In the leading industries which are adversely affected by the Tariff, new Protection already exists, but the Government is ready to allow those industries to perish by reason of competition from outside rather than grant them the higher duties which they need. This attitude is assumed merely because the protection of the workers is in the hands of theStates instead of in those of the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite are ready to permit industries to be wiped out or to die through inanition, simply because they cannot obtain from the electors a power which they have asked for, and which is being satisfactorily wielded by the States. Whilst I say that Tariff anomalies should be corrected without delay, I think that it would be a good thing to follow the example of America, as the last Government proposed to do, by establishing a permanent Tariff Board to deal with the fiscal question in a sound and business-like way, and to remove it beyond the sphere of politics. The Leader of the Opposition has shown that some years back the then Leader of the Free Trade party in this country declared that he and his followers accepted the verdict of the people that Protection should be the policy of this country. Under these circumstances, it behoves us to deal in a business-like fashion with the fiscal question, and to accept what enlightenment we can get from the example of other countries. A month or two ago the Age quoted from the report of the Chairman of the American Tariff Board, which was established by the President of the United States about September, 1909. This gentleman, speaking of the work of the Board, said -
We intend to secure as to each article in the Tariff concise information, some of which is easily available and can be quickly tabulated, regarding the nature of the article, the chief sources of supply at home and abroad, the methods of its production, its chief uses, statistics of production, imports and exports, with an estimate of the ad valorem equivalent for all specific duties.
He felt that it was the duty of the Board to go abroad to ascertain the methods adopted in other countries, and the cost of production, and, admitting that there were difficulties, he said -
In reply, then, to the question, can we get the information? We say that we cannot get everything expected by the most optimistic, but we assert, with confidence, that we can get all that is necessary to form a basis for an intelligent judgment on the Tariff, since Tariff rates are nol settled by mathematical necessities, but are merely rough business approximations.
He regards the Tariff as -
Chiefly a business and economic question, although, at the same time, “ inevitably one of the great problems of political contention.”
– The honorable member knows that the manufacturers here will not give any information.
– My honorable friend is utterly wrong.
– They have refused to do it.
– They have done nothing of the kind. I saw the circular sent out by the Minister of Trade and Customs seeking certain information. In it each manufacturer was asked if he was prepared to open his books to the officers of the Department for the purpose of verifying the information given. The attitude the manufacturers have taken up from time to time has been that they are prepared to give the fullest information of every description to any permanent Board established to deal with Tariff matters, but not to any evanescent body, or to stray officials. They would give it, as in the case of the Income Tax and Land Tax Commissioners, where every one is sworn to secrecy.
– That is only an evasion.
– Why should the honorable member say that ? If he were in a large way of business, he would be sorry to throw his books open to any particular class of people who thought it desirable to look into his affairs.
– Does the honorable member think the Customs officials would divulge the information”?
– I should be the last to cast any reflection upon the Customs officials. We are very fortunate in having at the head of the Customs, and in the responsible officers surrounding him, a body of capable and thoroughly reliable men, who may be trusted; but,, from reasons which we may not go into now, they may not be there at all next week.
– Would not the same thing apply to a Board?
– No; the Board would be a continuing body.
– The members of the Board would change from time to time.
– But it would be a continuing body, sworn to secrecy.
– Will it be information to’ the honorable member that some members of this House have already inspected manufacturers’ books that have been thrown open to them?
– That proves nothing-
– It shows that some manufacturers have nothing- to hide.
– A contention ofthat kind is idle. It may be of no moment to some manufacturers for their books to be thrown open. To other manufacturers it may be a serious matter to throw their books open to the influence of rivals in trade.
– No one has asked that they should be thrown open.
– The circular asks it.
– It does no such thing.
– The circular asks the manufacturer if he is prepared to allow his books to be inspected for the purpose of securing this information.
– To verify the information given.
– -That is all I have said; and reasonable exception has been taken to that request.
– No; it has not. They object to the whole of the questions. They say, “ We object to tell you what we pay in wages.”
– So far as I have heard it, the objection has been to throwing their books open.
– That is their pretext. It is not their real reason.
– The time has arrived for honorable members opposite to realize, as the people of this community are realizing, that, the fiscal policy having been accepted all round-
– The workers should get a fair share of it.
– I have dealt with that.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the fiscal policy has been accepted by everybody on that side of the House?
– It has been accepted by the people of this country in overwhelming numbers. The policy of the late Government was the establishment of a permanent Tariff Board. What Parliament requires to do is to proceed on information :ind on facts. We do not want to proceed on mere guesswork, as we have done in the past. It has been urged that to place so much power in the hands of a Board would be to take it out of the hands of Parliament ; but the function of the Board would be to secure information and facts, while the duty of Parliament would be, having regard to those facts, to legislate with knowledge and information, rather than by guesswork and under any influences that may be brought to bear when the Tariff is under consideration.
– The honorable member said the workers had received their share. Does he think they have received it in the sugar industry, where the protection is 50 per cent., and they are told that they cannot be given a wage of 30s. a week and found ?
– I am not going to deal with that particular industry at present. I have shown that the Government have taken up the unwarrantable attitude of refusing to grant further Protection, unless the Federal Parliament is endowed with jurisdiction, so far as the new Protection is concerned, and I have shown also that in the leading industries requiring assistance, the new Protection is already in existence.
– I cannot go over that ground again with the honorable member. We have now arrived at a stage at which Protection is accepted all round as the fiscal policy of the country. It, therefore, behoves us to place the scientific dealing with that policy in the hands of a body of experts whose special duty it will be to secure exhaustive information, to watch the development of every industry, inquire into all new methods of product tion, and examine any reductions in the cost of production or in the cost of transit, freights, &c. - all these being considerations that have a great bearing on the amount of Protection which should be granted. When we have a body of experts with these special duties, this Parliament will be enabled to deal with the Tariff in an intelligent manner, and to do justice to the community and to the industries concerned.
– I should like to know the Board.
– If my honorable friend had been present, he would have heard me say that there is a Board in America, where corresponding conditions exist, having that special function deputed to it.
– Has the honorable member read any of its reports?
– I quoted some of them a few minutes ago. So far as Tariffs are concerned, there must and can be no finality. We must be guided, if we want a scientific and well-balanced Tariff, by our accumulating yearly experience, having regard to the various factors which I have just enumerated. Year by year we must be constantly perfecting our Tariff, and by that means we shall ultimately evolve an instrument immediately suitable to our economic and industrial conditions. That result can be brought about only by the establishment of a permanent Tariff Board, and I would appeal to my honorable friends opposite to take their courage in both hands, and, although it was the policy of the last Government, to do . justice to the community by placing the matter upon the fair and legitimate business basis which I have outlined.
– The honorable member will surely admit that the wages of the workers have to be considered as much us anything else?
– They should be the first consideration.
– The people of this country declared by overwhelming majorities that they were satisfied that the assessment of those wages should remain in the hands of the States for proper adjustment.
– Even though it sometimes takes three years to get a decision from a Board.
– My honorable friend is most unhappy in his interjection. The Wages Boards of Australia, with very few exceptions, have adjusted their differences within a few weeks.
– There is not a Board sitting to-day which has not been sitting for nearly twelve months.
– My honorable friend is utterly wrong. There are ninetyone Wages Boards in Victoria, and the effect of the system has been that, although during the last six years the number of employes has increased by 33 per cent., the amount paid to them has increased by 59 per cent. That is mainly, if not, completely, due to the new Protection which has been granted by the Wages Boards.
– What about the profits ?
– Those figures indicate that the workers have shared in the profits. If the profits are not reasonably and fairly shared, it is open to the Wages Boards to reconsider the adjustment from time to. time. The leading feature of the system has been the rapidity and expedition with which the Boards have adjusted differences.
– The honorable member does not know them.
– I am speaking of a matter of which I know a good deal. I had the honour to assist in the initiation of the Boards in 1896.
– How long did it take the Agricultural Implement Makers’ Em ployes Wages Board to arrive at a decision?
– A considerable time, and that is the exception which proves the rule.
– How long did it take the Ironmoulders’ Board, or the present Engineers’ Board, or the present Coachbuilders’ Board?
– Whilst a few weeks, or, at most, a- few months have been sufficient for Wages Boards to adjust the differences between employers and employed, the experience of the Arbitration Courts, of which my honorable friend is now so enamoured, has been that, in the majority of cases, it has taken years and years to adjust differences.
– It takes about two years to get to the Court, first of all.
– As the honorable member points out, the congestion in New South Wales grew so serious that it took years for the parties to get to the Court. That meant the expenditure of large sums of money on the part of those interested, and the result “of that unfortunate experience was that the State of New South Wales abandoned the Arbitration Courts and took up Wages Boards. It is too late to deny the great benefits and advantages that the Wages Boards have brought about.
– No one is denying it.
– But every effort is made by various members of the Labour party to discredit them. They have given the new Protection for which my honorable friends have been clamouring, and yet they venture to deny the fact They do not realize the extent to which th». Wages Boards have benefited the workers They preferred to venture on the experiment of Arbitration Courts rather than adopt Wages Boards, which represent the most beneficent and advanced industrial effort in the history of the Empire, and no effort of the kind can show anything like the same effects.
– Is that why the whole of them voted for the referenda?
– That is why the workers voted against the referenda; it was the success of the Wages Boards that largely contributed to the defeat of the Referenda Bills. It ill becomes my honorable friends opposite to deny the verdict of the workers who have spoken by such a vast majority.
– In my constituency the workers gave a large majority for the referenda.
– It must have been the honorable member’s persuasive eloquence which misled them into that unfortunate mistake. There is another matter on which I am at total variance with the Prime Minister, namely, the industrial unrest which exists, and has existed for some time past. Legitimate unionism, which we have all admired and encouraged, has practically been supplanted by political unionism of a destructive character. The workers have been coerced and misled by political unionists who have agitated, not in. order to spread peace and goodwill, but to bring about strife and friction between employer and employed. One political unionist and agitator did not hesitate quite recently to say in Victoria that he would regret the arrival of the time when there was harmonious relationship between employer and employed. But a good understanding and harmony between the two classes affect the national welfare of the Commonwealth, and where there is not such relationship, the position and prestige of any country is seriously imperilled. It is idle to pass Conciliation and Arbitration Acts when a section of the workers, who might reasonably be expected to co-operate - as that legislation is intended largely for their benefit - set themselves to try and defeat them on every occasion. This spirit of antagonism is being cultivated and encouraged bv the political unionists to whom I have referred, and nothing could be more disastrous to the best interests’ of the community. The Prime Minister desired to convey the idea that strikes elsewhere are of infinitely greater frequency and magnitude than in Australia. I do not wish to exaggerate the position here, but within the last year there have been strikes, not only of a serious character, but in some respects revolutionary, and it is useless to say that they are practically unknown here. There never was a period in the history of this country when there were so many strikes, large and small, as during the last twelve months, which saw no fewer than seventy-five. As I have said, some of those strikes were of a revolutionary character, and the most tyrannous efforts were made by the strikers in the way of coercion - to the very threatening of life. I hope I am not doing an injustice to the honorable member for Maranoa, if I understand him to have said that the workers will never give up their right to strike. If that be indicative of the views of honorable members opposite - and I am confident that these are the real views of the political unionist - then it is the rankest of farces to pass Arbitration and Conciliation Acts when one side, under the severest penalties, may be compelled to observe the enactment, while the other side reserves the right to strike. So beneficent did the Wages Boards prove during their operation in Victoria from 1896 until about 1906, that, in that period, we hardly knew what a strike was. But with the advent of the Labour party, the level heads of many of the workers became completely upset, and their better judgment so disturbed that nothing would satisfy them but violence and disastrous strikes, in order to enforce what they conceived to be their rights. The responsibility for this industrial unrest lies with the Labour party alone and with their methods.
– How long have the workers to wait for a Wages Board decision before they strike?
-The Minister need not harp on that point. No industrial tribunal has shown the same expedition and inexpensive working, as the Wages Boards, and honorable members opposite should reconsider their attitude towards “them. If the position taken up by the honorable member for Maranoa represents the position of the Labour party, Parliament should not be invited to waste its time in passing Conciliation and Arbitration Acts. Honorable members opposite are, parties to placing these measures on the statute-book, and their aim should be to, carry them out in the spirit of peace and’ good-will. Arbitration can only- be made successful by the co-operation of both sides - not by effort on one side and defiance on the other. If honorable members opposite could see their way to co-operate in the way suggested, industrial unrest and strife, would be minimized, and we should return to a state of things when the workers would be content to meet the employers, as they did for ten years in Victoria, and strikes and locks-out would be practically unheard of.
– The workers are ready to meet the employers now.
– Yes, when it suits them, but when it does not suit them, they resort to the power to strike, which the honorable member for Maranoa says they are not prepared to give up.
– The faults are not all on one side !
– Undoubtedly they are not ; and no one more than myself would condemn any failure on the part of employers to observe the spirit of the Act.
– The sugar planters refused to meet the workers.
– I suppose it is late in the day to talk about the appointment of the Sugar Commission, but I must say that honorable members opposite are greatly to be blamed for the fact that such a Commission is not in existence. As Minister of Trade and Customs in the late Government, I took the necessary steps in accordance with the almost unanimous demand of farmers’ workers, and all interested, to appoint a Royal Commission. There seemed to be practically a universal -desire to obtain the fullest information, and I set myself to procure the most capable Commissioners ?
– Whom did the honorable gentleman get?
– Mr. W. E. Desplace was one, and Mr. George Crompton was another. with Mr. Justice Cohen, of ftfew South Wales, as Chairman. The two first are recognised authorities in regard to the sugar industry and, after the fullest inquiry, I satisfied myself as to their qualifications, and they were accepted as suitable by almost every one interested.
– By whom?
– By all parties.
– Not at all !
– When the late Government left office, the Royal Commissioners had been appointed, but, unfortunately, before the commission was actually issued, Mr. Justice Cohen became ill, and had to resign.
– Was there not another reason for the resignation?
– That was one reason.
– I thought there was another reason?
– We need not go into that; that was the reason he gave. I invite honorable members to look at the terms of that Commission, and challenge them to find one of wider scope; in fact, so comprehensive and searching were the individual questions asked, that the Crown Law Department desired leave to condense the Commission into a shorter general paragraph in order to avoid de- - tailing the questions. I agreed to that on the understanding that I was to forward all these searching questions to . the Royal Commission with a view to securing definite action and direct replies. The Commission was wide and comprehensive, and no feature of the sugar industry, so far as I remember, was omitted. If the present Government had completed that appointment, we should by this time have been in possession of the fullest information, and I agree with honorable members of the Opposition who have said that a serious industrial strike would thus have been avoided. We should have been able to legislate with the fullest information immediately at our disposal. The answer of the Government to the complaint that it failed to complete the appointment of the Commission is of the most feeble character. I do not suppose that the position will be altered by any further criticism, but I am gratified to learn, even at this belated hour, that the Government have decided to appoint a Commission. I hope that its inquiries will be no less searching than those set the Commission proposed by the late Government. I hope, too, that the men appointed will be no less qualified to view the situation impartially than were those whom we proposed to appoint, and that when their labours are complete, we shall have such exhaustive information as will enable us to do justice to all branches engaged in the industry, to the industry itself, and to the consumers in Australia.
– I have first of all to felicitate the Government upon the general success that has attended their efforts, and more especially do I congratulate them regarding the proposals embodied in the Governor-General’s Speech. The promised introduction of a Bill providing for the construction of the transcontinental railway displays, on the part of the Government, a natural alertness with which all parties must be pleased. We have also the intimation that negotiations are now proceeding to secure a uniform railway gauge - a matter of the utmost importance to Australia if trade is to flow along its natural channels - and that steps are to be taken to compensate the States in respect of the transferred properties. The decision of this latter question has been held up too long, and it is high time that the Commonwealth cleared its character with regard to that particular debt. The hope is expressed in His Excellency’s Speech that the questions submitted at the last referenda will again be brought forward, and I’ certainly trust that the Government will give grave consideration to the subject, and adopt a course different from that pursued by them on the last occasion. I wish, further, to congratulate the Ministry on their intention to deal in the near future with the questions of life, fire, unemployment, and invalidity insurance, and with that of the consolidation of the State debts. That is a matter which ought to have been dealt with long ago. With this introduction, let me say that I am not here simply to praise the Government. I have an independent mind on many subjects. Those upon which we are at one aic Known to trie world. We make no secret of the questions upon which we, as a party, are unanimous, and our policy is so plain that he who runs may read. But I desire to deal rather adversely with the manner in which the referenda proposals were submitted to the people. I did not object to the wording, or to the intent of the several propositions - indeed, 1 heartily advocated them - but it seems to me that the Government might have exercised more discretion in taking into their confidence and consultations, before launching their proposals, members of our own party in the several States. I urged privately that that course should be adopted, but, unfortunately, it was not. The Ministry seemed to be swayed by a false sense of dignity, and to be disposed to shelter themselves behind certain formalities of the constitution of our party which they could have avoided. Had they not done tHat, we should probably have secured a greater measure of success for our referenda proposals than we obtained. We should have showed that conciliatory spirit - that spirit of compromise -which we demand from others in the civil world. Had we done so, we should at least have averted that rent in our own ranks which has to some extent left us open to the assaults of the Opposition. The question of Protection referred to by the honorable member for Kooyong is also involved in our referenda proposals. Indeed, the one cannot be dissociated from the other. The contention that the States should have reserved to them the right to regulate conditions of labour in protected industries is found, upon analysis, to have no weight.
State action in this regard, in order to be effective, would have to be uniform and general throughout Australia, and a work which should be carried out upon a uniform basis in all the States is, to my mind, one that should be undertaken only by the Commonwealth. That, indeed, was one of the objects for which the Commonwealth was created. Another contention often put forward by the Opposition during the referenda campaign was that we wanted too much power - power to regulate every industry, and to nationalize even every little lolly shop. In that way ridicule was heaped on our propositions, and, as we all know, nothing is more damaging to a cause than ridicule. After all, however, what does such a contention signify? No one knows better than does the Leader of the Opposition that we cannot have power to do what is necessary, right, and essential, without also having power to do what is unnecessary, wrong, and by no means essential. The Parliaments of the States have ample power to do the wrong and the foolish as well as the right and sensible thing, and this Parliament also - if it is to have sufficient power - must have the power to do wrong as well as to do right. If we did wrong, we should quickly suffer, and the Leader of the Opposition and his friends need not be particularly concerned on that account. We have a wider tribunal than the Opposition to judge us, and we stand or fall by the decision of that tribunal. The right to nationalize I consider is essential, not that it may be used indiscriminately - in fact, the more I see of officialdom the less I am inclined to proceed in that direction - but that we may hold it as a weapon in reserve to compel the observance of certain moral laws in commerce. If we had that power, I think that its exercise would be very limited. As it is, we have not, and therefore have no means of coping with the power of wealth in its modern forms of combination and regulation. There must be some absolute power vested in the National Parliament which it can bring into operation as a last resource. That alone will give us the control that we require. I am not averse to combinations, for just as economy of production is secured by modern machinery, so I am sure it is greatly assisted by modern commercial combinations and business arrangements. It is only when the power to combine is abused, and the people are exploited, that the Government has to step in and take a hand. If the Government had this authority in reserve, we should be provided with a very necessary and effective check against abuses that are more possible than ever under combined capital. There is one other point concerning which 1 desire to criticise the Government, and that is their failure to send Home to the Coronation a substantial contingent of Australian soldiers. I feel very strongly upon this question. I did not object to members of this Parliament going Home, for I recognised that they need travel as much as do any other citizens ; but I certainly do object to this neglect of an opportunity for advertising Australia, and for giving evidence to the world of that cohesion of the British Empire which is absolutely necessary to its integrity. By failing to send a contingent of troops to the Coronation., we missed an opportunity to announce this fact in most unmistakable terms. I hope, for the sake of the reigning Monarch, that such an opportunity will not offer for many years, and I should like at once to say, in this connexion, that the loyalty of the Government is not in question. Some members of the Opposition have endeavoured - as the honorable member who has just resumed his seat sought to do at much length and with great labour - to prove that it was due to a lack of loyalty on the part of the present Government that certain things which, in their opinion, ought to have been done in connexion with the Coronation were not done, and that certain things which ought not .to have been done were done. I do not for one moment subscribe to that view, but, apart altogether from any question of loyalty. - viewing this question solely as a business proposition - we missed a grand opportunity to advertise Australia, and the solidarity of the Empire, by failing fo send Home troops to play their part in the grand pageant of the Coronation. Coming to another paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech, I may say that the promised amendment of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act is badly needed. I strongly advocate the extension to invalid pensioners of the privilege now enjoyed by old-age pensioners, of earning up to ros. per week, apart from their pensions. If they are entitled to that privilege, our invalid pensioners have an » even greater right, because it often happens that larger demands are made upon them than upon old-age pensioners. It is only just that they should be given this right to earn 10s. a week. I gome now to the
Postmaster-General’s Department, which is an everlasting bone of contention in this House. I am sorry no mention has been made in the Governor-General’s Speech of an intention on the part of the Government to deal with the .report of the Postal Commission. That omission is a reflection on the intelligence of the House which insisted upon the Commission being appointed. 1 took my stand with those who demanded its appointment, and the fact that the Governor-General’s Speech made no reference whatever to the report of the Commission is, if not a reflection on the House, at least a slight upon those who gave much of their time and labour to the work of furnishing a report. It is a distinct slight upon those honorable members, and when the discussion of the question is forced upon the House, I hope that the hands of the Ministry will be forced in the direction of drastic reforms in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. We hear a great deal about the proposal to permit all Government officials to avail themselves of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I disapprove, however, of that proposal, believing that it ought not to be necessary. The Government which has power to prescribe certain conditions under which those engaged in various industries shall be regulated and controlled, ought to be capable of laying down regulations and conditions under which their own industrial concerns shall be carried on. There must be a better way out than this proposal to hand over our public servants to the civil authorities. Certainly, it is an easy way out, but I hope that the Government, instead of availing themselves of it, will boldly face the situation. The Honorary Minister may look at me, but I mean what I say, and I would remind him that at one time he himself used to play admirably the role I am now sustaining. Another point in regard to which I take strong objection in connexion with the Postmaster-General’s Department is that the Government have invited a gentleman holding a high office - a gentleman whom I respect very much - to take a position in which, to a large extent, he will act as a Judge in a matter in which he occupies the position of a defendant. We have, in addition to a preliminary report by him, and very lengthy evidence, a comment upon the Commission’s report. In addition to the Commission’s report, we have the Commissioner’s private report. He has been allowed altogether too much latitude in the matter. It should have been left to the House to deal with the report. What was the use of appointing certain honorable members to make a searching inquiry if their report is to go by the board, and the comments of the Public Service Commissioner are to be regarded as a final reply to it ? Our postal officials have many crying grievances. ‘ I have heard some honorable. members say that there is enough trouble and hardship outside the Public Service to occupy our attention, without concerning ourselves with those in the service, who are fairly well off. But the fact that there are ills and wrongs which we cannot right is not a good reason for declining to do what we know should be done. The Government should be a model employer. We should not be compelled, as I am frequently, to urge men to seek employment outside of the Government service. Employment by the Government should be sought after as evidence of the possession of ability, and the prospects of promotion for deserving men should be excellent. I am aware, of course, that every grievance which is made public is not a real one, but there are many wrongs which should be righted. When men of thirty and forty years of age, who could have done much better for themselves outside the service, are being paid only £130 or £150 a year, it is a reflection on the administration, especially if these men occupy responsible positions, and have to handle large sums of money. I trust that the whole matter will be discussed on the floor of the House. -I wish now to briefly refer to some of the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes. As in duty bound as an Oppositionist, he spoke in general condemnation of the Government, but it was what he said regarding the effect of the land tax which interested me. He gave us his smug assurance that he would be in favour of a uniform land tax. We have heard that declaration so often. As an acknowledged economist and a practical politician, he knows that nothing can be done towards the reconciling of economical principles with practical politics unless there is a giving and taking, and he is aware that the imposition of a uniform land tax would be unjustifiable under present circumstances, the Commonwealth having no power to remove other taxation which is burdensome upon users of land. A land tax could be so adjusted as to benefit the users - I do not say the holders - of land, but a uniform land tax, which would be economically correct and equitable, will not be possible until this
Parliament has power to remit other taxes which are now extracted from those who use their land. When we imposed the land tax last year, we were confronted with the fact that the land monopoly was growing in Australia, and was retarding progress, and we endeavoured, with considerable practical effect, to apply economic principles to the situation. The honorable gentleman chuckles at the thought that the land tax has not brought about what it was said in some quarters it would bring about - the depreciation of land. “Personally, I did not expect that land would fall in value, though, as a matter of fact, what has occurred has not been so much the increasing of values as their discovery. Formerly those who had large areas of land would not sell. I know many cases in which large land-holders would not think of selling”, and were content to value their properties at nominal prices for purposes of taxation. Now that they are being compelled to sell, the true value of the land is being revealed. There has been exposure of the real position. Men who have been waiting for land have had an opportunity to bid for it, and the tendency is for values to increase. The honorable member for Parkes will permit me thus modestly to correct what he said. With regard to immigration, I hope that the Government will take advantage of its constitutional power and formulate a comprehensive scheme which will dovetail with the arrangements of the States. I should like Britishers to predominate, but all Europeans should be welcome here, and steamers should be provided for the accommodation of immigrants, so long as those who want to come are in possession of a certain sum of money. Immigrants should not be told that there is no accommodation on ships for them.. The Government should provide accommodation by chartering vessels to bring out immigrants of the right sort. Once a steady stream of desirable immigrants is created, other people will follow without assistance, as they see openings. We must provide, too, for the placing of immigrants on the land to which they come.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should pay the passages of immigrants?
– Yes ; or make the rates as low as possible. At any rate, we should charter ships entirely for the transport of immigrants. The passage money question is a mere matter of detail. There should be no repetition of the statement that immigrants cannot come here for want of vessels. A country needing population as we do should not allow that state of affairs to continue. I am sorry that the Government has hesitated about providing wireless telegraph stations at different points on the coast. I know that there are persons in Australia who are prepared to take all risks regarding patent rights, and to furnish a service which will keep the mainland in touch with the shipping, which is necessary in the interests of humanity and of commerce. They are prepared to establish stations at their own risk, to pay royalty on messages, and to give the Government the right to resume at any time. I am sorry that the Government have not kept this country in line with modern scientific developments in telegraphy. I do not wish it to be thought that there is any bitter feeling in my remarks. I am jealous of the reputation of this Administration, because I believe that it is capable of doing better things than have been done by any of its predecessors.
– I compliment the honorable member for Macquarie on his speech. He has represented very intelligently what are probably the views of many members of his party. I am glad to know that he favours a bold immigration policy, and is opposed to bringing the Public Service under the Arbitration and Conciliation law, a proposal deserving most, serious consideration, and one which I think unnecessary, and not desired by many of the public servants themselves. I am in accord with what was said in the Speech regarding the Imperial Conference. We, as Australians, owe an everlasting debt of gratitude to Great Britain for the Constitution under which we work, and the protection which her flag affords us. Having visited the Old Country, I feel that the poverty and distress there is owing to the opposition of the labouring class to Protection.
– In this country there is only one class.
– There are two classes here, the Liberals and the Socialists. In 1905, Mr. J. C. Watson, who was then Leader of the Labour party, stated at the Brisbane Conference that it was a sine qua nott that every man joining the Labour party Should be admittedly a Socialist, so that honorable members cannot object to the term being applied to them. The programme in the Governor-General’s
Speech is very comprehensive, and might be termed a menu of further and increased taxation. Honorable members opposite have claimed credit for all the prosperity that we are now enjoying. The honorable member for Wakefield stated last night that he would not argue with an elector in South Australia who told him that, since the Labour party came into power in that State, the Lord had smiled upon the people, and the country had remained prosperous ever since. Similarly I would not argue with those honorable members who claim that the great prosperity of Australia is to be attributed to the Labour party. It is the bounteous seasons that we have had that have created our prosperity. I say without fear of honest contradiction that since the Fisher Government came into power they have expended more than twice the amount spent by any previous Federal Go’vernment. The Deakin-Cook Government, up to 30th June, 1910, had an estimated expenditure of about £7,500,000. I venture to say that the present Government have expended over ,£15,000,000 during a corresponding period. Senator Findley stated two or three months ago that the present Government had expended over £^20,000,000. As one of the taxpayers, I ask where is the money to come from in the future? The party opposite are opposed to public borrowing, but it is very necessary to borrow in a country like Australia. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Macquarie advocate a bold and vigorous policy of immigration. It is essential that the vacant spaces of this great continent should be filled up. To-day we have a little less than four and a half millions of people. When we agreed to federate we were supposed to have a population of four and a half millions. We have,- therefore, practically stagnated. Why is that? Because every preceding Federal Government has had to rely upon the support of the so-called Labour party to remain in office. That is one of the reasons why I welcome the fact that there are only two parties - the Socialistic and the Liberal - in Australia to-day. From the Prime Minister down the members of the Ministry, and nearly all their supporters, are acknowledged and admitted -Socialists.
– Hear, hear !
– Let me recommend the honorable member for Cook to look up, with some profit to himself, . the National Review for January, 191 1. He will see there that the only Socialistic Republican Government that has been formed - the one created within the last twelve months in Portugal - has, within the brief period of six or seven months, ruined that country.
– What has that to do with us?
– Honorable members opposite are admittedly Socialists, the same as are the members of that Government. The “first thing they did was to confiscate the large square in Lisbon containing the Chamber of Commerce and other buildings ; the next was to pass a Rent Law Bill which confiscated every man’s property, by laying it down that unless a written agreement could be produced, the tenant was entitled to the property. Their next action was to pass a Press Law Bill, which would, no doubt, suit honorable members opposite, according to the sentiments that they have expressed. It gave power to any village policeman to order the issue of a paper to be seized, the machinery dismantled, and the type pied. Those are examples of Socialistic laws. The great majority of honorable members opposite know that they supported the strikes that have occurred in this country. The Minister of Home Affairs, during the referenda campaign, said that if a Chinaman wore their badge on his back, he would receive their support. Other honorable members, including Ministers, supported and encouraged the agricultural implement employes to continue their strike. We know the sentiments that were expressed by them and by members of the State Parliament ; whilst it is well known that the secretary of one of the railway men’s organizations said the lives of free labourers should be made a hell, and that no free man had a right to live. Many honorable members opposite cheered that statement. Let me tell them that less than one-twelfth of the whole of the people of Australia belong to unions. What, then, is to become of the other eleven-twelfths? Have they no right to live? Has free labour no right to work, except at the dictation of the unions of Australia? Honorable members opposite must realize that they are only the delegates of irresponsible political labour unions outside the walls of Parliament. They are not, and never were, representatives of the people, because they come here tied and bound by their pledges. They do not cheer that statement, but they, know that what I say is true, for I am not in the habit of exaggerating or making mis statements. They are pledged body and soul, and they sought last year, by a subterfuge, to tie down the free labourers of Australia by bringing in a clause making preference to unionists compulsory. When the Opposition pointed out that that was unconstitutional, they decided, after a brief and hurried caucus, to substitute an amendment directing that preference “ may “ be given to unionists. Many of them howled at that modification; but the AttorneyGeneral knew that he could not go beyond the Constitution, and inserted the amendment in the Bill. What was the object? Probably it was to influence the Justices of the High Court to take the view that it expressed the wishes of the Parliament of the people of Australia. That was a false claim, because the people of Australia desire to remain free. They showed that conclusively on the 26th’ April of this year. The party opposite realize now that they made a great mistake, and that if there were a general election tomorrow the Socialistic Government that sit on those benches would never be seen there again. When the year 1913 arrives, there will Be no longer a Socialistic Labour Government in power to misgovern the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite know that, and yet the Prime Minister stated, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, that the questions defeated at the last referenda would be re-submitted. If they had been submitted last time intelligently and separately, I am satisfied that in some instances the people would have supported them, particularly if it had been shown that more powers were required in connexion with industrial matters; but by putting the proposed amendments in globo, the Government were courting failure. The Political Labour Unions are endeavouring to make Australia a close borough for Labour. They realize that if they could have made preference to unionists compulsory, and then passed the referenda, they would have had the whole of the people tied and shackled hand and foot to obey their behests, as voiced by their delegates in this and the State Parliaments. But they misjudged public opinion, and the result, as has been well expressed during this debate, was a cyclone, the effects of which the Government and their party will feel even more in 19 13 than they do to-day. At’ present, they are enjoying the sweets of office, and those who are not Ministers are keeping Ministers there to enjoy those sweets, and also to draw the increased salary which we. were all given a few years ago by a previous Government - an action which I am very sorry they took. The Government are raising the standard of wages, and they must realize that the increased cost of production must be passed on to some one. The result is that the labourers have to pay more for their food, clothing, house rent, and other things. Therefore, no one but the Socialistic party is responsible for the increased cost of living. We are only playing at nationhood at the present time, and the Socialistic party are keeping us back, because they are opposed to increasing the population by an immigration policy. I saw in the paper yesterday that the next Labour Conference will be held in Tasmania in January, 191 2. I suppose that that body will dictate the policy which honorable members opposite, as the delegates of the irresponsible Political Labour Unions, will have to bring before the people of Australia.
– Whom does the honorable member represent?
– The honorable member is one of the delegates representing the Political Labour Unions. He has never represented the people. I represent the people to this extent - that I am a free, man here. The honorable member is a slave to his party, and has to vote in this Chamber as a duly constituted caucus majority decides in the room above. It seems a farce to call this Parliament together, because the Caucus have already settled upstairs what measures are to be discussed and made law. The public have not been taken into their confidence. We do not want their confidence, but we say that this is the place to debate all these measures in the interests of the public as a whole, and not of one section. It is as well to tell honorable members opposite these facts, because they are going to suffer in 1913 from the effects of the cyclone that took place on the 26th April last. Many members of the Government and their supporters traversed the Commonwealth at that time, urging that they wanted extended powers in order to cope with monopolies, trusts, and combines. They have ample powers to-day to deal with the great bulk of them. When the States agreed to the Federal Constitution, they retained certain powers for themselves, which they had a perfect right to do. The Commonwealth was also given great powers; and if the Government confine themselves to intelligently carrying but necessary work they will have quite enough to do, without seeking extended powers to rob the States. We have no right to rob the States, which we did not create, but which created us. The position of the present Government is like that of a man who gives a bond to pay a certain amount on a certain date, and, when payment becomes obnoxious, tears it up and claims the whole. The Government want the whole lot or nothing; and, of course, that is true Socialism. As to combines and trusts, if I were the Minister of Trade and Customs, in forty-eight hours I would bring the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to heel. That is the only trust in all Australia of which I know ; and the Government have not attempted to deal with it, although, octopus-like, it is crushing the people of this country. The price of sugar was increased by £1 per ton in August, and by another £3 from the 1st September. The Excise is £4 per ton, and the Government, who have full control of exports and imports, repay £3 per ton under certain conditions. If I were Minister, I would declare that if, within fortyeight hours, the price of sugar was not reduced by £4, none of the Excise would be refunded. There is a Sugar Bounties Act which provides for proper wages, and so forth ; and the Government, in not dealing with this, the only real trust in Australia, are simply showing their impotence. If the company flouted such an intimation, I should put in a receiver; at any rate, I would not allow the company to exploit the people, and honorable members opposite, who represent socialistic labour, ought not to take the present position calmly. In the face of this trust, in regard to which nothing is done, honorable members opposite traverse the country talking about the people being exploited in connexion with beef and mutton trusts, and so on, though, as a matter of fact, there is no evidence of any such trust in existence. Of course, there are a number of little combines, and some are combines of Socialists. In my own electorate there were, a little while ago, three butchers; but one, who had a little more brains than the other two, entered into an agreement with them, and now they are working for him, and prices to the public have been increased by 30 or 33 per cent. I heard of the honorable member for Bourke speaking most eloquently in the district I mean some time ago.
– Is the combine the fault of the honorable member for Bourke?
– No; but I think that honorable member knows the butcher.
– I suppose the honorable member blames my speech !
– No; the combine was made long before I saw or heard of the honorable member for Bourke. I invite honorable members opposite to consider this question of the Sugar Trust in caucus, because I know .that we cannot expect them to consider it in the House. To return, however, to the question of immigration, I ask, in view of the fact that everything possible has been done to increase taxation, where the money is to come from for any active policy? The schemes that are being brought into being - naval and land defence, the transcontinental railway, the Capital site, and the Northern Territory railway - will cost not far short of £200,000,000. Naval defence alone, if it be carried out as recommended, will cost £88, 000,000, and the land defence £40,000,000 ; and there are only 4,500,000 people to bear the cost. The Government ought to realize that they are making the burden so heavy as to be courting national bankruptcy. It must be remembered, further, that, of the 4,500,000 people, not more than 2,000,000 are taxpayers; therefore the object of the Government should be to reduce taxation and not to increase it. Money can be well borrowed to the advantage of the people; and it is good for a country to have the confidence of capital. The honorable member for Kooyong told us that during the last five years or so 1,000,000 people had settled permanently in Canada, and had taken to that country with them ,£68,000,000. The honorable member, however, did not tell us that during the first half of this year some £18,000,000 had gone to Canada for investment in companies, as compared with £7 20,000 similarly invested in New South Wales during the whole of the year 19 10. If we estimated a similar amount for each of the other Australian States - though we may be sure that the greater investment would be in the Mother State - we have, perhaps, ,£2,000,000 invested in the whole of Australia in 1910, as against ,£18,000,000 in Canada for the first six months of this year. This shows that the people of Great Britain have every confidence in the Dominion; and in these circumstances it is to be regretted that the present Government, and the Labour party, should be doing their best to destroy confidence in Australia. Last Friday the honorable member for New England tabled a notice of motion ir» favour of the nationalization of distribution. The Labour party, on public platforms during the last twelve months, and the Prime Minister, in September, 1909, said, practically, that the Government desired control of production, distribution, and exchange. This is pure Socialism ! Will it breed confidence amongst capitalists? Will it cause capital to flow to this country ?
– Tell us what capital is !
– I do not think that the honorable member would have sufficient intelligence to understand. We cannot exist without capital ; we must have money to pay for our bread and other necessaries, if we are to exist. Capital and labour should always work in harmony for the general good, and not for individual benefit alone. If we destroy confidence, as we shall by advocating the State control of production, distribution, and exchange, there will be no capital. If we have to expand and become a great nation, population and production must be increased. We should produce not only more wool, but more wheat and other grain. Indeed, there is the possibility that we may yet become the great granary of the world. It is said that in fifty years the United States will not only not be able to export wheat, but will not have enough for its own consumption; and if we increase our population, we shall be able to supply the want. If, however, the cost of producing wheat be raised in order to pay for the labour, so that it cannot be produced at a profit. I do not see how we can develop in this direction, considering that we have to take the world’s market rates. An honorable member to-day made an interjection about rural producers. It is obvious that if rural labour is made to cost more than a certain amount the produce cannot be marketed and sold at a profit.
– The honorable member knows that there is no such absurd proposition.
– There is such a proposition, and honorable members are acting up to it to-day. Honorable members opposite have said that the Land Tax Act has been of immense benefit, and has increased the price of land. As a fact, however, it has decreased the price by 20 per cent, in my own neighbourhood ; and there is more land offering, and not so much sold, as at the corresponding period of the last or the preceding year. In the Wannon electorate land bought for £10 would not now bring j£8 - possibly not more than £7 ros. ; and there are rich lands in the Western District, which were bought at £40 an acre, which cannot to-day be sold at £25 or £30 per acre, although they are worth the former price. This land was bought freehold for the production of milk, and has paid rent on the £40 value, but has decreased in value to the extent I have mentioned. Those freeholders, who mistakenly voted on the 13th April, 1910, in order, as they said, to “ give the Labour party a show,” are now paying for what they did, and they will not give that party a “ show “ in 1913. The Labour party have tried to “ sit on a rail,” and to catch votes from both sides; but at the present time they appear to have lost the vote which placed them on the Treasury bench. I notice that it is proposed to amend the Australian Notes Act, and any amendment should be in the way of strengthening the measure. Some honorable members opposite, during the referenda campaign, travelled the country talking about what the present issue of notes had done for Australia. I can say that it has relieved the banks of a cost of about .£100,000, and, at the same time, there are over £5,000,000 worth lying in the banks’ treasuries, not having gone into circulation. When the measure was before us, I was of opinion that the reserve should be not less than 33 per cent., though I am now prepared to accept the 25 per cent. If that reserve were further reduced, serious consequences might follow. In the event of bad seasons, or a banking crisis, the banks could flood the Commonwealth Treasury with its own notes, and the Commonwealth would either be rendered practically insolvent, or would have to place a further burden upon the people to enable it to redeem the notes in circulation. It is incumbent upon us to proceed along safe lines. Let me say at once that I welcome the Commonwealth note issue, and am only sorry that the Fusion Government did not take action in the matter. I give the Labour Government every credit for their action; but I want to remind them that they must be both just and cautious. I read recently in the newspapers a statement to the effect that the Commonwealth Treasurer had arranged to utilize portion of the gold reserve by way of loans to the different State Treasurers at the rate of 3f per cent. That is a fair rate of interest. I understand that, when a further amount was offered to the Treasurer of Victoria, he declined it, on the ground that he could borrow at a lower rate.
– He could not.
– It is possible to borrow to-day at a lower rate. Mr. Watt’s action in connexion with the first loan from the Commonwealth Treasury was that of a statesman. He imposed the condition that the Treasurers of all the other States should be allowed to borrow at the same rate, and in fixing that rate of 3! per cent., the Government have bound themselves, as honorable men, to pay the same rate of interest on the value of the transferred properties.
– I contend that they are bound to pay that rate of interest. Having fixed at 3§ per cent, the rate of interest on money lent by them to the States, they must pay the same rate to the States in respect of the transferred properties.
– Which are owned by the same people.
– The same people are paying £600 a year to the honorable member and others who are increasing the burdens of the taxpayer.
– Of course the honorable member does not take his .£600 a year.
– I do not want it. If necessary, I am prepared to give up my parliamentary allowance, and I would surrender £600 a year in addition, if the honorable member would do the same.
– The honorable member has not yet given up the £600 a year.
– Neither I noi the honorable member is likely to do so. I am paying it back in the form of increased taxation to the Commonwealth. Reference is made in the Governor-General’s Speech to the question of the transferred properties; and I repeat that the people of Australia expect the Government, more especially as they have taken from the States a large portion of the revenue which they received under the operation of the Braddon section, to pay interest at the rate of 3! per cent. The Commonwealth is using these properties, built, for the most part, with borrowed money, on which as much as 4 per cent, is being paid.
– The States did not buy the ground on which these properties are erected.
– The Commonwealth did not buy the land that it is taxing. The States gave the Commonwealth Parliament the power to tax the land; but they did not create it to be, as it were, a mill-stone round their necks. We are told that it is proposed to amend the Electoral Act, and I hope the amending Bill will be on the lines of that passed last night by the Victorian Legislative Assembly. I trust that the same system of preferential voting will be applied to Commonwealth elections. The Labour party represent only a minority of the people, as the referenda on 26th April last have absolutely proved, and I hope that since they are in power they will show their courage - that they will show that they desire to truly represent the people - by providing for preferential voting at Commonwealth elections. I fear, however, that they will propose no such amendment of the Electoral laws. We read in the press that the Ministry propose that the Leader of the Opposition shall receive special remuneration for leading what may be termed a forlorn hope, because, after all, it must remain a forlorn hope until 1913; but I am totally opposed to any payment to the Leader of the Opposition other than his ordinary parliamentary allowance.
– Hear, hear.
– Probably members of the Ministry have been able to see the handwriting on the wall since 26th April, and they are preparing the way for their leader to draw an extra salary when he holds office as Leader of the Opposition. We have no right, however, to further burden the people in this way. We are all taking an extra allowance for our services. Probably we earn it, perhaps we do not ; but there is no reason why we should further burden the taxpayers by making a special payment to the Leader of the Opposition. As to the question of the State debts, referred to in paragraph 34 of the Governor-General’s Speech, I would remind the House that at the referendum in 1 9 10 the Fusion Government received a mandate from the people to take over, convert, and consolidate the £50,000,000 borrowed by the States since’ Federation. Before that referendum took place the Treasurer of the Fusion Government pointed out that by the immediate conversion and consolidation of the State debts, and the
Commonwealth being able to borrow to greater advantage - since it would be able to offer a better security than could the States - a saving of from £15,000,000 to £16,000,000 would be at once secured, and that, with respect to the full period, there would be a total saving of £26,000,000. The Age also published an actuarial calculation showing that if the Commonwealth were able to effect a saving of per cent., and were to apply that saving to a sinking fund, the whole amount borrowed would be wiped off in eightyseven years, and the people would not have paid one farthing for the railways and public works constructed out of borrowed money. We have a mandate from the people to take over the debts of the States, but what have the Government done? They have not even consulted the authorities. The Prime Minister and a few of his colleagues visited London recently, but we have not been told of any active step taken by them there to convert the State debts into one Commonwealth stock. The whole of the efforts of the Labour party have been directed to increasing taxation, and within one year they have more than doubled the cost of government. They have increased the price of produce to every working man, because, as wages have gone up, so has the cost of goods.
– The Prime Minister said in England that prices had gone down.
– If he made that statement, it was incorrect. I ask that the Labour party, as sensible, honest, intelligent men, shall take care to represent the people instead of the unions outside, who are now dominating the policy of the Commonwealth. It was a perfect farce for the Government to call Parliament together, seeing that they had already settled everything “upstairs.” I hope that honorable members who went to England have come back with broader views, and that their experience there will tend to the advantage of the Commonwealth. Australia paid for them to go home, and the opportunity thus afforded them to see what was being done in Great Britain should tend to the benefit of the electors. The Labour party should recognise that, unless we have the confidence of Capital, we cannot hope to become a great nation. If we desire that confidence, we must all play our part as men. We must recognise the importance of Capital and Labour working in harmony. If members of the Labour party do that, they will put aside men who advocate strikes. Gaol is the proper destination for such men. They are only creating class feeling, and stirring up bad blood between Capital and Labour when the two forces ought really to be working in harmony. As an employer of labour, I have never had any trouble. I treat my employes as personal friends, and I know that they regard me as a friend. The same feeling should exist in all branches of industry; but if the Labour party are going to sanction the visits of paid agitators to different centres with the object of stirring up strife, it will be disastrous to industrial development. We know that one man advised unionists recently to make the lives of free labourers a “hell upon earth.” According to newspaper reports, the Prime Minister stated in England that there are fewer strikes in Australia at the present time than there have ever been, and that the confidence of Capital had been restored. As a matter of fact, there have been more strikes in Australia during the last twelve months than ever before.
– And more prosperity.
– We have had more prosperity because of the good seasons, and in spite of the Socialistic party who are mis-governing Australia. That party will realize this in 1913.
– Then why worry?
– Because it is immaterial to me whether the Labour party, or any other party, are in office, as long as they legislate on broad lines for the benefit of all classes.
– The honorable member should be on this side of the House.
– No. I am a free man, while the honorable member is a slave, bound by his Caucus pledge. I desire that the business of the Commonwealth shall be done by free men, not settled in secret Caucus. Last session, when the Government was forcing its measures through, its supporters continually cried out, “Vote! Vote!” They had settled it among themselves upstairs that certain legislation was to pass, and were not ready to listen to any discussion. The Prime Minister has told us that the length of this session depends on the Opposition. I suppose that if we accepted everything that the Socialistic party offers, we could have a prorogation within a month or six weeks, but we have a duty to perform. While we shall support measures in which we believe, we must fight to the last ditch against measures to which we are opposed. I hope that the country will realize the difference between Liberalism and freedom and Socialism and slavery.
.- I had intended not to speak to the motion, because I consider the debate a serious waste of parliamentary time, but some of the remarks which have been made compel me to do so. I am surprised at the custom which is springing up of bringing books from the Library, and reading extracts from them. Personally, I should prefer to read the volumes for myself, and form my own opinions on the arguments they contain.
– The speeches would not be so long if there was no reading from books.
– No doubt the reading is done to fill the pages of Hansard. Much political capital has been made of the result of the referendum, and the year 1913 has been spoken of as likely to see the end of the Labour party, the wish being father to the thought. The Nepean figures, however, gave me no cause for uneasiness. There the “ Noes,” were in a majority of 9,000. But a careful examination of the figures has shown me that they were within a hundred of those who, on 13th April, 1910, recorded their votes for the Liberal candidate, while those who voted “ Yes “ numbered only 4,000, as against the 11,000 who voted for my election. When 1913 comes, I shall be able to account again for every Labour vote, and shall win by as large a majority as before, if not by a larger one. Besides, events which have happened since the referenda, such as the elections at Bendigo and at Mudgee, show that the Labour party is not in the decline, and if there were an election in Victoria to-day the so-called Liberals would be sure to receive a setback. In New South Wales, particularly, most marvellous speeches were made during the referenda campaign. The honorable member for Parkes preached bloodshed and revolution if the proposals of the Government were carried. He said that that would be the result. We found him associated with bloody revolutionists of the Peter Bowling type. Politics, like adversity, make one acquainted with strange bedfellows.
– Peter Bowling and the honorable member for Parkes would go well together.
– I should like to see them on the same platform, addressing a meeting at Lithgow or Newcastle. Mr. Lee, an ex-Minister of the State, preached a doctrine similar to that of the honorable member. Is it to be wondered at that, when a strike occurs, the workmen should take the speeches of these gentlemen as their text, and put their principles into practice ? Indignation has been expressed at what has occurred in my electorate. But the workers cannot be blamed for using the weapons given to them by honorable members. In New South Wales, a man named Weatherspoon said that he would not hesitate to use his gun, and get his two sons to use their guns.
– In what event?
– He was speaking about the land legislation. He advocated the breaking of the law, just as the honorable member for Parkes advocated revolution and bloodshed in connexion with the referenda. Labour members have been accused of being paid agitators, but I have never received a shilling for acting as an agitator, and many others on this side can say the same thing. I am a member of the Coal Miners’ Union, and, should a strike be proposed, I have the right, if I consider the cause a good one, to take part with the workers.
– Even though they break the law which the honorable member has assisted to make?
– At Lithgow, it was the employer who first broke the law in connexion with the recent strike, and it was not the first occasion of his doing so. Some time ago he was fined for a lock-out, but in this instance his manager sacked a man for attending a delegates’ meeting of a union. The right to attend such meetings has not been challenged since the inception of unionism, especially among coal-miners. When a case was being fought in the Industrial Court at Lithgow, two years ago, and the union members claimed that every facility should be given for attending to union business, the representatives of both employers and employes, and the Judge himself, agreed that the right to do so had never been seriously challenged, and that there was no need to make the claim. Consequently, the claim was not pressed, the right being practically acknowledged. This big industrial upheaval would not have occurred had the law been observed by the employer. It is all very well to say that we should live together in peace and goodwill. If I could abolish strikes, I would do so. The evil of them is that they bring so many into the firing line and into harm’s way who have no “ say “ or part in them. But the breaking of the law is as often due to the employers as to the employe’s. Reference was made last night to the acts of violence at Broken Hill during the strike there some time ago. I do not defend that violence, but it was due to ajock-out. A notice was posted in prominent places at the mines, declaring that within a fortnight the wages would be reduced to certain rates.
– Declaring that the old rates should be re-enforced according to an agreement.
– It was a reduction in violation of the Arbitration Court’s award.
– The State Government, which was not a Labour Government, did nothing to prevent that dispute. At the present time, almost every leader in Lithgow has been arrested, and is in jeopardy of imprisonment. But, while every one is crying down the workers, nothing is said about the employer. There is on the New South Wales statute-book a measure popularly known as the Coercion Act, under which an employer is liable to a fine if guilty of a lock-out,but, should the secretary or president of a union instigate a strike, he is liable to imprisonment. I say that if it is gaol for one side, it should be gaol for the other. If imprisonment is good enough to apply to presidents and secretaries of trades unions in order to put down strikes, it ought to be good enough to apply to Mr. Hoskins or any other employer who promotes a lock-out. The law is not equitable in that regard.
– Is the imprisonment an alternative to a fine?
– No; in the one case the penalty is twelve months’ imprisonment without the option of a fine, while on the other hand the employer is liable to a fine “ not exceeding “ , £500.
– How is it that the present State Government have not amended the law ?
– Mr. Beeby brought in a Bill to amend the Industrial Disputes Act by repealing that clause, and in other ways. The amendment had passed the Lower House when the crisis occurred, and the Bill is now hung up. It is of no use for honorable members on the other side to try to make the country believe that there were no such things as strikes prior to the advent of this party to the Ministerial benches.:
Just previous to my election to this House we were engaged in one of the biggest industrial upheavals that Australia has seen. I happened to be on strike myself. I broke the law in New South Wales at that time, and would break it again under circumstances such as happened at Lithgow in the present dispute. The law was absolutely defied by the employer in that case. He ought, I think, to climb down off his high horse, meet the employes, and fix the matter up. When one is in the wrong, it does no harm to admit it.
– Why was not the employer prosecuted under that Act?
– I do not know, but he was not prosecuted in connexion with this case.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I do not want to be represented as saying that I am in favour of defying the law. I have been speaking about the position in which the men at Lithgow were placed through the law being broken by the employer. Action of that kind is frequently met by a breach of the law on the part of the men affected. If a man attempts to strike one when walking down the street, one’s first impulse is to “ have a go” at him, and that is the sort of spirit that actuated these men. The law was broken in respect of a principle which almost all unionists hold very dear - the principle of their right to be represented at their delegate meetings that manage the business connected with their union. The men are, therefore, not quite so much to blame as some honorable members would have us believe, and I consider that if this unfortunate dispute had been handled with tact in the first place by the employer, all the trouble could have been avoided. I hold that arbitration is a better method of settling disputes than the strike, but in order to have successful arbitration the assistance of both sides is required, and the law and the decisions of Courts must be mutually respected. At the present time I am sorry to say that those conditions do not obtain. One fact that always seems to be overlooked when the question of industrial legislation is discussed in this House is that the unions include members of all parties. There is an extreme element in the unions, and there are other sections that are more moderate. I believe the large majority of the members of unions at present believe in arbitration, but there is a very militant section who have no time for any other method than the strike. The trouble is that when the law is broken and deliberately defied by either side, that section immediately fastens on to the breach, and so the trouble spreads. Honorable members on the opposite side who know how the unions are built up and governed, ought to take these facts into consideration, and deal out justice to both sides when presenting the case to this House.
I, as a member of this party, am not opposed to immigration as such, but I think that it is being carried on at present in the most lackadaisical fashion. There is no organization in it. For instance, coal miners are coming out as immigrants to New South Wales. I was in the coal mining area about three weeks ago, and a. friend of mine who works there told me he had not averaged more than five days per fortnight for six months past. I believe many of those in the district immediately around Newcastle are working much less than that, and yet every ship that comes out brings a large number of coal miners. A lot of other trades are in precisely the same position, although I honestly believe there are trades where a shortage of labour exists. Immigration ought to be organized on such business-like lines that only immigrants for trades where the labour is needed should be brought out. That could only be arranged by an honorable understanding between the State and Commonwealth Governments, but until some sensible plan of organization is adopted, there will always be trouble. At present many people are being deluded into coming out to this country in connexion with industries in which the labour market is already overstocked, and unless something is done on the lines at which I have hinted nothing but confusion can result.
I wish to deal with the question of Defence. Many honorable members opposite have referred to the small arms factory, in which I am greatly interested. Last session I asked questions on two occasions in this House with regard to the management of the factory, and I still believe that the Defence Department made a serious mistake in not putting down a short line of railway there. There has been a great waste of money in connexion with the carriage of material for the building and fitting up of the factory - almost sufficient to pay the interest for a year or two on the short line that I advocated. So far as the factory is concerned, I still hold the opinion that until the Federal Government have a proper
Board of Works to conduct their business the tiling will always be unsatisfactory. The trouble in connexion with the building and equipment of the concern has arisen from the dual control that has existed. Until the Federal Government have it managed solely by their own officers, who are responsible to the Defence Department, that trouble will continue. The Government ought to encourage rifle shooting throughout Australia by helping the rifle clubs. The clubs have the impression, which I am now credibly informed is not well grounded, that the policy of the Defence Department is to crush them out of existence. I hope that, between now and the time when the youths who are being compulsorily drilled become fit to shoulder arms, the rifle clubs will be encouraged, so that they may be relied upon for faithful service if the need should arise.
A word or two on the question of finance would not be out of place. The taking over of the State debts cannot, in my judgment, be satisfactorily handled by this Parliament unless some understanding is arrived at with the States to regulate their future borrowing. The two questions are bound up together. It is of no use to say that the Commonwealth Government have the power to take over the State debts unless we face the other problem. As to the transferred properties, if . the Commonwealth lend to the States at 3! per cent., the States cannot be blamed for requiring the same rate of interest. It does not matter what motions or Bills are passed in connexion with finance, this Parliament cannot regulate the price of money, or the rate of interest, in the market ; and if the States find it pays better to go to London, they will do so.
– If the States could have made a better deal in the open market, they would not have borrowed from the Commonwealth.
– The Commonwealth has, in my opinion, made .1 mistake in lending money to the States. However the speculation may look at the present time, from the Commonwealth point of view, the time is not far distant, I think, when the mistake will be realized, in view of the fact that we need all the money we can get for ourselves. Indeed, we may be forced, after having lent to the States at 3$ per cent., to go to the market for money at a higher rate.
– What would the honorable member have done with the money in the meantime?
– If we had £10,000,000, there are ways and means of spending it, in view of all the works we have in hand. We cannot build a Federal Capital, construct transcontinental railways, ‘ and shoulder the liability of the Northern Territory without money. ,It is greatly to be desired that the States and the Commonwealth should come to some agreement in regard to the transferred properties, because it is time the matter was satisfactorily disposed of.
– The honorable member is aware that ,£2,000,000 of the loan money will be available to the Commonwealth during the financial year?
– No doubt that is something to go on with, but it will not go far with our programme. We shall require more than five times £z, 000, 000, if I am any judge; and we should proceed cautiously in finance.
– Nearly every honorable member who has addressed the House from the Government side has, at some time during his speech, expressed his satisfaction that members of the Opposition have found absolutely nothing on which to base, at all events, any serious criticism of the actions of the Government during the longest recess in the history of this, or, I believe, any Parliament, in the whole time that Australia has been under any form of responsible government. I, however, desire to criticise a few of the actions of the Government. I shall have to say a little about their action in regard to the sugar industry, their manipulation of the moneys derived from the note issue, and the administration of the Post Office. I shall also touch for a few moments on one Ministerial regulation which has inflicted a tax of £75,000 a year on a branch of the producing interests without putting a single penny into the Treasury. Before doing this, however, I should like for a moment or two to refer to the referenda.
– That is something new !
– It is nothing particularly new, but it is a subject to which honorable members on this side can refer with considerable pleasure.
– It is the first bit of sunshine the other side has had for years !
– It was not a mere ray of sunshine, but a whole sunrise at once; and it showed fully and clearly that the people are beginning to doubt the bona fides of the Government, and to- realize the possibility of their going very much further than the country desires in the direction of Socialism. Honorable members opposite have repeatedly stated, during the course of the debate, that the party with which I am associated constantly misrepresented the referenda to the people, and that the people refused to indorse the proposals of the Government because of that misrepresentation. I deplore as much as any one any misrepresentation which took place. Personally, I conscientiously endeavoured to put the issues to any audience I had the honour to address as fully and clearly as I knew how. If there was any misrepresentation by members of the party with which I am associated, there was, at all events, more misrepresentation of the true issues from those who were behind the proposals.
– Impossible !
– I do not know whether it was impossible, but I can give one or two instances of misrepresentation, from the Prime Minister downwards, which, I think, will fully satisfy the House that, at any rate, “the misrepresentation was not all on one side. First, I should like to state what one member of the party associated with the Government stated was the object of the referenda. For the last few weeks there has been appearing in the Sydney Worker a series of articles on the referenda. On 10th August last Mr. Adam Walker, who is the writer, after bemoaning the loss of the referenda, and stating that it put back the clock of the progress of the Labour party almost indefinitely, thus summed up the object they had in view in submitting the question to the people : -
Those who work in our great army must keep step and keep together. . . All eyes must be fixed on the one goal, the one objective, the destruction of vampire capitalism and the establishment of a White Commonweatlh wherein all receive the full fruits of their labour by the nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
In those words the writer in the Labour party’s official organ summed up what he stated to be the objects they had before them; it was to enable them to carry on directly that policy which is to lead to the final nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. The honorable member for New England, when speaking a day or two ago, said that one of the chief charges he brought against the party with which I am associated was the publication of a “ dodger “ to the effect that if the referenda were carried it would lead to the nationalization of the land. I would remind that honorable member, if he were here, that we cannot nationalize the means of production, distribution, and exchange without nationalizing the land also. I do not know where that “ dodger “ came from, but it only indorsed what Mr. Adam; Walker claimed on behalf of the Labour party. As I have said, the misrepresentation was not entirely on one side. When the Prime Minister was speaking in Brisbane, I happened to be passing through that city, and I took the opportunity to go and hear him. I have a distinct recollection - and honorable members may test my recollection by the newspaper reports - that he said, “ All that we are asking the people of Australia to do is to give the Commonwealth equal power with the States to deal with these matters.”
– Did we ask for any powers that the States have not?
– I do noli say you are asking for any powers the States have not, but you were certainly asking the people of Australia to give you powers the States have. What the Prime Minister told his Brisbane audience was that all he asked from the people of Australia was to grant to the Commonwealth equal powers with the States.
– Just so; what else were we asking?
– All I have to say is that I do not think words could be used which would more completely and thoroughly misrepresent the case. If any honorable member believes that all that the Labour party were asking was that the Commonwealth Parliament should have equal power with the States-
– The same power as the States.
– How is it possible to give to two Parliaments meeting, as it were, side by side, in the same country, equal power? It was an utter and absolute misrepresentation of the case. No one knows better than does the Prime Minister that equal powers could not be granted. There is only one sovereign people, there is only one sovereignty that they can delegate to Parliament ; and if they delegate that sovereign power to the Commonwealth Parliament, they take it from the State Parliaments. In that simple statement by the Prime Minister we have misrepresentation carried as far as it is possible to carry it. It is the worst form of misrepresentation, because it is so specious. It is just the sort of statement that goes down with the people, and when uttered by the Prime Minister it was cheered to the very echo.
– It is one of those half truths.
– One of those half truths which constitute the very worst form of misrepresentation.
– I cannot understand the honorable member.
– Then I do not know how to make the honorable member understand the point. It must be plain that a power given to this Parliament absolutely overrides a like power held by the States, and that the moment this Parliament exercises it, the State power . automatically ceases to exist. The honorable member for Indi also, I think, said that what the Labour party asked for was that this Parliament should be given the same power as the State Parliaments exercise. The situation could not be more thoroughly misrepresented. I propose now to deal with only one other case of misrepresentation, although there are many others which I could bring before the House. On 24th April last Mr. Trefle, a member of the New South Wales Ministry, speaking at Coonamble, said that the Australian Constitution was a slavish copy of the American, which was drawn up in a desperate hurry, written out on a single sheet of paper, and a copy of which could be seen in every tobacconist’s shop. Mr. Trefle either does not know the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, or he deliberately misrepresented the position. It was my painful duty on the following evening to explain the exact position, and the people of Coonamble duly appreciated it.
I wish now to refer to the sugar strike. Unquestionably the present Ministry are entirely to blame for it. But for their action in turning down the Commission that had been appointed by the Government whom they superseded, I am convinced that there would have been no sugar strike. The blame for that strike lies wholly and solely on the present Government.
– That, of course, is not misrepresentation.
– I shall show conclusively, before I leave the question, that it is not. When the Prime Minister was dealing with the matter, he attempted to justify the action taken by his Government. According to Hansard, he said -
Until last session the sugar legislation was only tentative, and there was hardly a thinking sugar grower who did not fear a long-winded inquiry which would keep all connected with the industry on tenter hooks.
A little further on, he said -
The honorable member for Wentworth should put hisquestion to the honorable member for Capricornia. What the honorable member for Darling Downs says is correct, and I was invited by my constituents to support the appointment of the Sugar Commission, but declined to do so at the time.
And now comes the important point -
It was the growers who needed protection, and the occasion for an inquiry was not ripe until the industry had been protected in the way in which other industries had been protected.
Before that the honorable gentleman had said -
Had a Commission been appointed earlier than the present time it would have been valueless, and, I believe, mischievous.
Honorable members will notice that the Prime Minister distinctly stated that the reason why he refused eighteen months ago to appoint a Commission was that the growers needed protection. He did not say anything about the workers or the consumers.
– Are not the growers workers ?
– They are, in nearly every case, but I used the word “ workers “ in a sense that distinguishes between them and the growers. The legislation was tentative in that there was an arrangement under the last measure passed prior to the first session of this Parliament dealing with the subject, whereby the bounty and Excise should gradually disappear ; but their final disappearance would not come about until the year 1914. I have here a copy of the agreement which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company entered into with the growers who supply its mills, under which it undertook, provided that the operation of the law as laid down before the present Government changed it was continued, to pay the rate specified in the schedule to the agreement, plus, in the year 1911, 2s. 8d. per ton; 1912, 5s. 4d. per ton; and 1913, 8s. per ton. If honorable members compare that agreement with the measure itself, they will find that, just as the Excise disappears, so the company engages to pay to the suppliers the additionalamount per ton by which the Excise is decreased. As the bounty disappears, so the Excise disappears, and consequently the sugar-growers will not receive a cent per ton less for their sugar. As a matter of fact, the growers each year will get a little more than they are receiving to-day, for the simple reason that a bounty of£3 per ton is paid to the growers, whilst the manufacturers are charged an Excise of per ton. The excuse put forward by the Government for failing to appoint a Commission to deal with the whole industry is utterly untenable.
– Does the honorable member agree with the increase in the price of sugar ?
– I shall deal with that question presently, and shall, no doubt, be able to satisfy the honorable member. The Government came into power, as they are always reminding us, on the glorious 13th April, 1910.
– And the next election will be on the 13th.
– They put their money on the 13th, and when they backed the double they fell in. They said that the Commission which the late Government had appointed was not acceptable to them. It was quite open to them to disband that Commission and to appoint another, but the Prime Minister’s excuse for not doing so was that the inquiry would take too long. He knew perfectly well, however, that in theyear 19 10 the Excise and bounty stayed at the same points, and that no cane would be harvested and paid for until June, 1911. Consequently, fifteen months would elapse before there would be any interference - good, bad, or indifferent - with the bounty and Excise ; and, during that period, the Commission, if appointed, could have investigated the industry and formulated its report. If fifteen months would not be long enough to enable the Commission to report, then twenty years would not. Thus it will be seen that the Prime Minister’s two excuses for not proceeding with the proposed Commission are not based on any solid ground. The whole of the blame for the recent sugar strike was on the shoulders of this Government. Further, there was no excause’ for the strike. Ministers failed to appoint a Commission to inquire into the industry months ago, but now feel them selves compelled to adopt the policy of the late Government.
– They will declare soon that it was their original idea.
– Undoubtedly, as they have done with regard to the defence movement and other Liberal proposals. They are only too glad to steal the political clothes of the Liberals. Those engaged in the production of raw sugar may be divided into two classes - the field workers and the mill workers. It may be information to some honorable members that the wages of the former are regulated and controlled absolutely by the Minister of Trade and Customs, who could to-morrow fix the rate at 10s. a day.
– That does not apply “to the cutters, who are paid by the ton.
– Because they have chosen to work on contract. It was the Minister who fixed the rate for day labour at 7s. He amended and approved of the regulations governing wages shortly before the last harvesting in Queensland, and yet when the strike commenced he told the growers that he did not consider that the demands of the workers were a bit excessive. If that was his view, why did he not promptly alter his regulations, ashe could have done?
– How does he regulate wages ?
– Growers to take advantage of the bounty must pay wages according to the scale fixed by the Minister.
– Does that scale apply to the mill hands?
– No. I am speaking now only of the field workers.
– Do the regulations affect the cutters, who are paid by the ton?
– No. They make from £4to£5 a week, and are not likely to agree to work as day labourers.
– They work sixteen hours a day.
– But they make good wages.
– Only for a few months in the year.
– They get other work during the rest of the year. Many go from my district to Queensland during the cane season, and afterwards return to their farms.
– Are they paid whilst travelling from place to place?
– No; nor are shearers.
– They have decided to go as day labourers next year.
– If that be so, the more fools they. There was no reason for a strike, so far as the field workers were concerned, because if the Minister believed, as he said he did, that their demands were not excessive, he had it in his power to fix the rates of pay at what they asked.
– The honorable member would have been the first to condemn him had he interfered at such a time.
– My point is that the Minister had determined, and was responsible for, the rates that were being paid, and had he been a man he would have insisted on the strikers going back to work at those wages. As for the mill hands, the regulation of their wages is within the power of the Wages Boards. There was therefore no reason at all for the strike.
– If the Minister had increased the rates of wages, how would it have affected the growers who have to depend on the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for their returns?
– The increases would have come out of the growers’ pockets.
– How would that have been possible if the growers could not afford to pay more than they were paying?
– I admit that the growers could not afford to pay the wages which were asked, and the Minister knew that when he fixed the rates, yet he told the men that their demands were not excessive. Instead of insisting on the observance of the regulations, the Minister encouraged the men to continue the strike. I do not know how to express my contempt for the role played by the AttorneyGeneral during the dispute. He made it his business to give a display of fireworks to divert the attention of the country from the real issue. So desirous was he of reading a lesson to the community for negativing the referenda proposals that he did his utmost to excite public contempt for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– And succeeded.
– I am not here to champion the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I am not able to state what their profits on refining are, but those who are in a position to judge fairly accurately state that they amount to something like 10s. a ton. All we have asked for right along the line is that this industry should be thoroughly inquired into, the facts ascertained as nearly as possible, and the best done for the industry and the people of the Commonwealth. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are making profits out of proportion to what they should make from the industry, I am certain there is not a member on this side of the House who wouldraise his voice in protest against clipping their wings.
– What is the good of a protest if we have no power to back it up ?
– If honorable members opposite have not sufficient power to deal with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or any monopoly that may happen to exist in Australia at present, they have no one to blame but themselves for refusing to give the people what they most certainly claimed - the right to discriminate between the many proposals that were grouped together in the first referendum. The Attorney-General, at this end of the dispute was very busy in making to the press statements which, to say the least of it, were far from accurate.
– Did he not say the Government were going to take off the duty ?
– He made a threat to that effect. He knew that his statements were far from accurate, or, if he did not know, he ought to have known. In one of them he said -
As they - the people of Australia - have already spent nearly£600,000 this year in encouraging the industry this seems the last straw.
– Is that inaccurate?
– Yes. It was the first rise in the price of sugar that was the straw referred to by the Attorney-General -
It is not merely absurd, it is scandalous, that we should pay£579,000 in bounty and£6 a ton on every ton of sugar we use, and yet the men are unable to secure a wage on which they can live.
That is a complete misrepresentation of the case.
– Which is the inaccurate part of it?
– The statement that the people of Australia pay the bounty.
– Do they not?
– No. The people of Australia do not pay a single cent. of that bounty.
– The Treasurer pays it, does he not ?
– No; neither the Treasurer nor the people of Australia pay it.
The grower pays it. I would take honorable members back to this agreement of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which honorable members on the other side are never tired of maligning, more or less. Honorable members will see from the agreement that, as the Excise disappears, so the company have agreed to pay the additional price to the growers. It is, therefore, perfectly evident that at present, inasmuch as the company pay the Excise to the Treasury, they deduct the whole of the Excise from the price per ton which they pay to the grower for the cane. The moment the Excise disappears, the company undertakes in its agreement to pay the additional 8s. per ton to the grower. It must, therefore, be evident that the grower is paying the whole of that 8s. per ton now, and the whole of that Excise is paid into the Treasury.
– Surely the consumer pays in the end?
– The consumer does not pay. The Commonwealth Treasury pays £3 per ton back to the growers in the shape of bounty, and as a consequence there is a tax of£1 per ton on the sugar-growing industry. I wish to show that the people of Australia are not paying £600,000 per year in the shape of bounties to keep the sugar industry alive. As a matter of fact, the grower pays the whole of the Excise. It comes out of the price of his cane to the extent of£4. and the Government pay him back£3 of it.
– The Government pay it, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company get it instead of the grower getting it.
– That is not the case. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company pay the Commonwealth Government the whole £4. per ton of Excise, and that Excise is deducted by the company from the price they pay the grower for his cane.
– And from the bounty they receive from the Commonwealth Government, so that it must go to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– The bounty is not paid to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but goes direct to the grower. How, then, can it go into the hands of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company? The Government pay the grower direct from the’ Treasury the bounty of£3 per ton, and the Treasury benefits to the extent of£1 a ton, less the cost of collection. I can show that the Attorney-General knew that this was the case by quoting his own words. He was asked, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, if the proposal would be viewed with favour to equalize the bounty and Excise on white-grown sugar, leaving the present Excise on sugar produced by coloured labour. He said -
Such a proposition would be comprehensible. Last year we received£141,000 in excise over the amount that we paid on bounty.
He was, therefore, perfectly seized of the position, and yet he made in the press the statement that the people of Australia were paying£600,000 in bounty to the sugargrowers. On another occasion he said -
In 1905, when the company was giving14s.1½d. per ton for cane, the Mulgrave mill, the growers’ co-operative mill, was giving £1 os. 3d. In 1906, when the company was giving 13s. 6d., the Mulgrave mill gave15s. 2d. In1907 the company gave 12s.10d., the Mulgrave mill15s. 5d. In1908 the company gave 13s.7¼d, the Mulgrave mill 16s.9d. One can readily understand from illuminating facts like these how it is that the company can pay those huge dividends upon heavily-watered stock.
– Why did the Colonial Sugar Refining Company pay less than the Mulgrave Mill ?
– The reason was this : The growers who had combined in this cooperative mill mortgaged their lands to the Queensland Government, after putting a great deal of capital into the mill. As a consequence, it ‘is absolutely necessary that they should pay more. I have not had an opportunity of verifying the figures, but I am informed by those who do know that the price paid by the Mulgrave Mill in several of the years mentioned by the Attorney-General, taking into consideration the capital invested in the mill and the position of the sugar-growers in having mortgaged their lands to the Government to raise the necessary money, works out at less than the price paid by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Are not some of the growers who supply the Colonial Sugar Refining Companv also mortgaged?
– It may be so, but that has nothing to do with the position as presented by the Attorney-General. He was trying to impress upon the public that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were paying so much less than the co-operative mill, and, as a consequence, were able to pay large dividends. I have endeavoured to show that that is a misrepresentation of the facts of the whole case, because the Attorney-General did not tell the people the position of the suppliers of the Mulgrave Mill.
– Is the honorable member aware that they paid a 12
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company has many branches of business besides sugar refining. I cannot express my opinion of the Government attitude better than has the writer of the following letter: -
As regards Mr. Hughes, and his idea, of settling the Queensland strike by taking away the £6 duty, it only shows his utter ignorance of the whole subject and the vindictive and vicious spirit he shows in dealing with an industry which has had all the conditions regulating its working regulated and fixed by the very Government he represents and administers, and which both the grower and the manufacturer have faithfully adhered to and honorably carried out, and more even than the Ministerial stipulation. Yet we see the head of the Federal Government (the said Mr. Hughes) instead of enforcing an adherence to these conditions by misled employees, doing and saying things to encourage them in their lawlessness and approving their flouting the regulations made by his own Government. The same applies to Mr. Tudor and others of his tribe. It is all a wicked and malicious travesty of statesmanship which we have to bear and fight against as best we may.
That is written to me by one of the sugargrowers in my district; and honorable members may form an opinion of what the growers themselves think of the action of the Government.
I now desire to deal very briefly with the Commonwealth note issue, to the “ success “ of which there is a reference in the Governor-General’s Speech. I think it has been very successful from one point of view - that of the banks.
– And still the honorable member fought against the issue !
– And said last session that it would harm the banks.
– If honorable members turn to my speech last session they will find that I expressed a doubt whether it would at all adversely affect the banks, and my impression at that time has been fully realized by the manner in which the note issue has been handled. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech intimates that there is some idea of amending the Act; and if we are to judge from what appears in the press, although that is not always a sure indication, the amendment is to be in the direction of somewhat reducing the existing gold reserve. The Prime Minister, when the measure was before us, said -
That precaution, in my opinion, makes this scheme absolutely safe. One reason that has influenced the Government to adopt that precaution is that there may at times be an inflation of the issue, although, in my opinion, that will not take place while the note issue is under £7,000,000 But if it should happen that notes are issued on demand to the extent of a million or two in excess of ordinary requirements, then,, of course, this precautionary measure would take effect.
According to the table which the Prime Minister presented to the House during the course of the debate, the note issue of the banks in 1909 was £3,510,000.
– The banks had a nice little bit in reserve on which they were not paying any tax !
– At the end of 1910 the bank notes in circulation were £4,219,000. The Honorary Minister just now interjected that the banks were not paying tax on the reserves of notes in their treasuries; does the honorable member mean to tell me that he believes the banks should have paid a tax on those reserves ?
– They were not compelled by law to do so.
– What possible advantage was it to the banks to hold notes of their own in their treasuries ?
– Because they, could use their gold and keep their reserve in notes.
– Would the honorable member be surprised to know that the reserves of notes which the banks have to hold in their branches do not appear on their balance-sheets., and are absolutely useless to them for any purpose, except as they have to draw on them in their branches from time to time for ordinary counter work, and that, as they draw on their branches, they simply withdraw the notes which they happen to have inthe tills, and are worn out. There is noreason to pay a tax on notes held in that way, because the notes are only so much paper until they are put into circulation. The honorable member might just as well contend that the cheques he has in his pocket should be charged up against his account; one suggestion is just as absurd as the other.
– Is there not a system of bringing in the notes every quarter day so that they shall not show in the balancesheet, and therefore not pay the tax?
– That is absurd; the banks could not do so if they desired. The whole thing is preposterous !
– How does the honorable member account for their having £9,000.000 now?
– That is not so, as I shall explain.
– Why did they part with £9,000,000 in gold?
– 1 shall tell you- the banks have “ got “ the Government properly.
– The Government have their gold.
– Between 1909 and 1910 there was an expansion of the note issue of £700,000, roughly. If honorable members turn to Hansard, they will find that, in the table to which I have already referred, it is shown that, at the break of the boom, there was a contraction of the note issue of 35 per cent., and a total contraction of credit of all forms, so far as the bank figures show, if my memory serves me rightly, of 42 per cent. That sort of thing may come on a country at any time - a. rapid, sudden and great contraction of credit; and, as a- consequence, it is always necessary to have an ample reserve.
– Does Macleod tell us that?
– I am certain that in regard to a Government note issue, Macleod will bear me out. He very clearly states that a Government should never on any consideration issue notes on its own account, because a Government can destroy credit more quickly than anybody else. The latest figures available show that the Australian note issue was £8,031,217, of which the banks held £5,i37,477> while the public held £2,893,740. There have since been issued notes to the amount of £1,244,752, and taking the same proportion as shown in the figures already quoted, the notes in the hands of the public at the beginning of the month were £3,341,710, and in the coffers of the banks £5,934,259. If the honorable member for Indi cares to compare these figures with the figures he gave in the course of his speech, he will find a very serious discrepancy.
– From what return does the honorable member get the proportion held bv the banks and the public?
– I was supplied with the figures by the Commonwealth Statistician. Honorable members have stated 011 more than one occasion - the honorable member for Indi and the honorable member for Denison very frequently - that the public hold over £9,000,000 of the notes; but honorable members will see from the figures I have quoted that that is not so.
– I never said anything about it.
– I accept the honorable member’s denial. Perhaps honorable members wonder why the banks “ rushed “ this particular issue in the way they did. I have heard of schemes for greasing the fat pig, but ,1 never heard of a scheme which did it more effectively than this Commonwealth note issue, owing to the way in which it was manipulated. No wonder that the banks rushed the first £7,000,000 of this note issue. The Treasury was compelled to keep in its coffers only one-fourth of that amount in gold, and consequently the banks really parted with only £1,750,000 of gold for £7,000,000 in notes ; which, by reason of their being legal tender, were just as good as gold to them.
– The honorable member is very nearly on the limit now.
– I am taking the case absolutely at its limit.
– The honorable member might add that whilst 33 per cent, of that issue was taken in actual coin from the banks, those banks gave to the Commonwealth a credit which was immediately operated on, and in some cases loaned to the States.
– Do honorable members suppose that the whole of that money was taken out of the banks because it was loaned to the States? If they know anything of the mechanism of banking, they must know that there was simply a change from one account to another in the books of the banks, and that, as a consequence, the banks were placed in an excellent position. To all intents and purposes they were made a present of £5,250,000 worth of Commonwealth securities.
– And yet the Government make nearly £200,000 a year out of the note issue.
– The honorable member for Corio gave us to-day the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician, showing that the Commonwealth was making a profit of £156,000 a year. But from that amount we have to deduct, in the first place, the amount of the State note tax. amounting to about £90,000 per annum, then the profit, amounting to £125,000. made by the Queensland Government out of their note issue, and to that we have to add the amount which the Commonwealth has to pay to maintain its note issue, and keep it going. That, in itself, is very considerable, and it will be found, therefore, that the profit is not very great. When we take into consideration what the Government might have done with this money - the magnificent position which the Commonwealth Bank would have occupied had the Government manipulated the issue as they should have done, a position in which, as the honorable member for Nepean has pointed out, the Government would have had ample money to carry out the great schemes which must be entered upon very shortly - we find that any temporary advantage secured by them in lending this money immediately to the States is outweighed, and that the Commonwealth Government is losing hand over fist.
– Does the honorable member know that £[2,009,000 of that loan money was falling due during the present financial year?
– I doj and I know that the whole thing has been manipulated in the worst possible manner, so far as the party which had the manipulation of the scheme is concerned. The Commonwealth Bank will be in an infinitely worse position than it would have been if the issue had been manipulated as I believe it should have been. What will be the position of the Government when they come to draw that £2,000,000 from the bank with a view of putting it into the Commonwealth Bank as a foundation. When they come to draw their balances from all the banks in the country, - they will have the differences paid in their own “flimsies.”. Instead of getting the differences of their balances in gold, they will get paid in their own notes. Those very notes, as the Commonwealth pays them out, will go back to the different banks, and the operation will be repeated.
I wish now to pass on to the proposed Banking Bill, and to make a suggestion to the Government before they actually commit’ themselves and the country to any particular scheme. First of all, in my opinion, it is not necessary that the Government should start a bank that must be unsound. It is quite possible for the Government to found a bank which should be substantially sound, but, in my humble judgment, they should not attempt to start a bank. I think I said earlier in the evening that it is probably easier for a Government to pull down the whole structure of credit than it is for any one else to do so.
– Credit rests- on” confidence.
– The honorable member read in the papers the other day something of the confidence of the German people in their own Government Savings Banks. I admit that credit does rest largely on confidence, but if confidence in the Government is gone, so far as credit is concerned, then everything must go. Simple, no doubt, as banking proposals seem, banking is one of the most complex subjects that could be discussed.
– That is a fiction.
– It is one of the most complex subjects that one could possibly enter into. I know of no other subject regarding which there exist so many popular fallacies. I know of no other process in which the slightest departure from the economic lines upon which it is founded is attended with more far-reaching consequences. Indeed, I will go further, and say that I do not believe there is anything in regard to which! the law of supply and demand works with such mechanical effect as it does in the region of credit.
– Did Government interference in New Zealand prove disastrous”?
– I shall endeavour to make plain to the honorable member why I think the Government should not enter this particular field. Many still cling to the exploded doctrine that land and labour are the sole sources of wealth, and that capital is merely the accumulated savings of the past.
– None of us think that.
– If there are any still clinging to this doctrine, the whole subject nf credit is a closed book to them.* The honorable member for New England, when speaking on the banking proposals of the Government, said that the desire was to give the people cheap money. Cheap money is all very well, but it” is an axiomatic truth that cheap money and high prices -go band in hand ; while the reverse is also true - that dear money and low prices go together. I have been gradually coming to the conclusion that the increased banking facilities of the day, the improved methods of business, the general peace of the world, and so forth, have led to such great expansions of credit that the channel of circulation is becoming more or less too full. I believe that the phenomena of high prices and high cost of living all over the world are traceable more to this factor than to any other which can be mentioned. I add the proviso that I am speaking in only the broadest application of the term, and in the very widest sense. I admit that different influences come in and disturb the situation in regard to the law- of supply and demand ; but in its broadest aspects I believe that one of the chief causes of the high cost of living is the enormous expansion of credit all over the world. The cheaper money becomes today, I believe, the higher prices will ‘go. What is the consequence? The channel of circulation represents really the accumulated indebtedness of unsatisfied exchanges, and there is, of course, a direct relation existing between the state of this channel and the prices. The channel may be either too full or not full enough. If we pour into a channel, which to-day is full to repletion, a vast sum of cheap money based on longdated loans, we shall force the price of living still higher. I do not wish to dogmatize on this point. The opinion is one which I have formed after a good deal of hesitation, and I give it for what it is worth. The value of the sovereign is not fixed any more than the value of anything else is fixed. It changes as money and all that represents money becomes more or less plentiful. If the channel of circulation, owing to the enormous expansion of credit, is getting fuller - and there are at the present time checks preventing the utilization of the money - prices will be raised still higher.
– But the length of the yard-stick remains the same.
– The sovereign as the measure of value is constant.
– I thought that it was contended that high wages make high prices ?
– The cause which I have mentioned is one of the chief factors, but not the only one. Under these circumstances the more cheap money you get, the higher prices go, so that cheap money in itself is not beneficial to the community. I do not think that the Government by starting a bank will reduce money rates materially. I hold with the honorable member for Nepean that the money market is regulated all the world over practically through the foreign exchanges. If a Government forced rates down below market prices it would soon have to face the Insolvency Court. Before Ministers propose their banking legislation, they should ap point a Commission to investigate the subject from the Australian stand-point. Every country has its own peculiar banking problems, which can be grappled with only by those who have spent a lifetime in their study. I understand that Ministers are pledged to the establishment of a Commonwealth bank, and I urge them to take into their confidence those who have spent * their lives in dealing with Australian banking problems before placing any scheme before Parliament.
– I take it that the honorable member is in favour of a National’ bank ?
– No. I admit that we need good banking legislation, and that there is room for improvement, but we shall always have occasional commercial crises.
– What brings themabout ?
– They are inherent to the system of credit, and we cannot prevent them. No matter what laws we may pass, we cannot prevent the virus of unsound credit entering the mass, and constantly accumulating, until from some stimulating cause - it may be a war, or something else - a commercial crisis results.
– Does the honorable member say that a State bank would dealin accommodation bills?
– If the honorable member could guarantee to always be able to distinguish” between an accommodation bill, and what I may term a real bill, and make that clear to any of our banking institutions, it would pay him a salary of £5,000 a year for his services.
– How does Macleod distinguish between them?
– I have-not the book here, but if the honorable member turns to Macleod ‘s Theory of Credit, in the chapter on accommodation bills, he will find that the author thinks it impossible for the banker to distinguish between them and real bills. If I were in a commercial house, in a big way of business, I could keep from £30,000 to £40,000 worth of accommodation bills in circulation without any banker knowing that they were accommodation bills. You cannot prevent accommodation bills from getting into the mass of credit. There are scores of other factors for producing commercial crises* These you cannot prevent, but you canprevent them from developing into monetary panics, and I believe the true function of the State in regard to banking is the prevention of the latter. But if a Government takes up the business of banking, and finds the credit in its own books contracting as credit elsewhere is contracting, it cannot perform this function of supporting sound credit.
– It can hold up others, but cannot stand up itself !
– A Government bank is in the same position as any other. If its credit is swept away, the rock on which sound credit should lean disappears. That is why a Government should not enter the banking arena, a position held by practically every sound economist, including Macleod> whom I believe to be the leading authority on the subject.
Let me now refer to an administrative act of the Minister of Trade and Customs which costs our producers £75,000 a year without benefiting the Treasury to the extent of a penny. I speak of a regulation laid on the table ‘at the end of last session, when it could not be discussed, governing the export of butter. It prescribes that butter containing more than 15 per cent, of moisture shall not be exported. But the Board of Trade permits the use of butter containing 16 per cent, of moisture. Consequently our producers lose 1 per cent. By this the Treasury gains nothing. The butter industry is worth to Australia £7,500,000 a year, and there is a loss of 1 per cent, on that output. No one in Australia gains thereby. The money goes into the pockets of the butter blenders and speculators in England, the worst enemies of our producers.
– Apart from the middlemen.
– Comparatively little of our butter goes through middlemen in Australia. The honorable member knows that what I say is absolutely true. The Minister acted with the best intentions, but he has no first-hand knowledge of the industry, and disregarded the advice of members of his own party and members of this side, promulgating the regulation in defiance of the opinion of those who knew what they were talking about.
– Whose advice did he take?
– I cannot say, but I know that the butter-blender is exceedingly pleased, and that the speculators are grinning hugely at the excellent way they have succeeded in pulling the strings.
– The honorable member knows that the Minister acted on his own responsibility.
– He acted against the advice of every member on either side of this House who knows anything about the industry.
– Has not the price of Australian butter increased in consequence?
– How can any one say that? The year before last the price of Australian butter was very much higher than it is now. Last year it was very much lower than it is now. My own impression is that the regulation has had absolutely no impression on the market. There is no reason why it should have.
– If there is 1 per cent, less moisture in Australian butter than in Danish butter, it is reasonable to suppose that it would be worth more on the London market.
– That reasoning may appeal to the honorable member, but it does not appeal to me. Another regulation was issued in regard to the compulsory grademarking of butter. In this the Minister also acted against the advice of every member in the House who knows anything about the industry. It plays into the speculator’s hands, and has been made deliberately against the interests of the co-operative butter industry of Australia. Although some papers are continually pounding away at the grade-marking of butter, I am confident that, whilst the Government should see that every ounce of butter that goes out of Australia is pure, and complies with description as to weight, standard, and so on, they should never put a grade mark upon the butter. In making this regulation, the Minister has gone against the best interests of the industry itself, and before taking action he might, at all events, have given the House a proper opportunity of discussing the whole subject.
– lt will be discussed again.
– I hope it will. In conclusion, I wish to say a few words on the question of loyalty in Australia. I deplore, with honorable members on both sides of the House, the fact that the Government did not send a contingent of troops Home. They made a very grave mistake. When we consider that at the celebrations at the inauguration of the Commonwealth the Imperial Government sent out as fine a body of troops as one could wish to see; when we remember the way the Imperial Government has assisted us on every possible occasion with their soldiers and sailors; when we remember, also, that the very King who was crowned in England recently came out here himself as Duke of Cornwall and York to open this Parliament, the least we could have done to show our gratitude - to put it on no higher ground - was to send Home a small body of troops to grace the Coronation of our King. The refusal of the Government to do this was a grave error of judgment on their part, and one of those things which, in common courtesy, should never have been allowed to happen. I wish to speak of the liberty that honorable members opposite claim for this Parliament at any time, if war breaks out, to determine whether or not Australia shall engage in that war. I think those honorable members must have lost a certain sense of the meaning of words. If there should ever come a time when England is engaged in war, I cannot imagine honorable members of this House taking up the position that this Parliament should be called upon to deliberate whether or not this country should join in that war. No one denies that Australia could, if she so desired, cut the painter, haul down the Union Jack, and go on her own account. If she did, I am confident that Great Britain would never raise any objection or lift her little finger to stop her. But if Australia ever does that - and I hope she never may - I do trust, for the honour of Australia, that it will be done in a time of perfect peace. Whilst Australians have a spark of gratitude, or of manliness, or of honour left, I cannot conceive that they will choose ? time when England’s enemies are attacking her to declare their independence. I hopethat that position will be altogether abandoned.
.-.! do not agree with those who regard this debate as a waste of time. We have heard some most interesting speeches from both sides, which have been of great help to honorable members in forming an opinion as to what has been going on since we last met here, and what is likely to take place during this session. There are mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech many matters which rather surprised me, and I expected to find in it many others that are not mentioned. We are glad to know that the Prime Minister has taken the British Government into his confidence. That is a most important statement. He said that the British Government had taken the representatives of the Dominions into their full and unreserved confidence, and we should like to know if the Prime Minister returned the compliment in full. Has he dealt as openly with the British Government as he would deal with the members of his own party? The first items in the Speech are not new to us. We know the Prime Minister went to South Africa, and, I presume, he had a really good time there. There is no doubt the people there were pleased to see him, and we were all glad to know that our representative was so well received by them. I see no reason why he should not be well received anywhere, for the credit of Australia. We are glad to learn that steady progress is being made with the construction of the ships of the Australian Navy, but I am sorry that no reference is made to the work that we expected to be done in connexion with the naval bases recommended in Admiral Henderson’s report. I am the more surprised that this is not mentioned because I know that officers have lately visited the Fremantle site. I presume the Government think it is better not to advertise the fact, that the work is to be carried out. I hope it is to be gone on with, because even a small Navy would be of no use to Australia without the proper coaling stations, naval bases, and depots for repairing and maintaining the vessels. These matters are more essential than many honorable members think. The workshops and other appurtenances for the upkeep of our ships are just as essential for a navy as are the locomotive repair shops for a railway. I hope, therefore, that before we have too many war ships on the coast the necessary arrangements will be made for their proper maintenance. It is certain that the repairs and maintenance of the ships should not hecarried out by private companies. All this work should be in the hands of the Commonwealth, and will be a matter of great importance to the authorities, to whom we look to keep the Navy effective. I note the statement that the result of the operation of the Australian Notes Act is most satisfactory. It may be, but the notes as at present issued are rather a disgrace to the Commonwealth. They bear the names of the various banks by which they are issued, with a printed Commonwealth stamp across the middle. The space for the manager’s name is blank ; and, altogether, the notes are so confusing that dozens of people have brought them to me to ask if they were good ; and the same inconvenience is suffered all over Australia. 1 urge on the Government the necessity for obtaining, at the earliest possible moment, a clear design for a Commonwealth note, which can be easily recognised by the public, with the necessary secret marks to enable bankers to judge of their genuineness. We are told in the Governor- General’s Speech that good progress has been made with the detailed survey of the Federal Territory, and with roads, and with other preliminary work, and that competitive designs for the laying out of the Federal City have been invited. This, of course, is very interesting; but I should like to know whether the designs are to be made to fit the roads that are being surveyed, or, in the future, these roads are to be made to fit the designs. One would have thought that when the design had been selected the roads would have been surveyed accordingly. The survey of roads is a matter hardly worth mentioning in a GovernorGeneral’s Speech; but if it is to be referred to, would it not have been better to say that the roads will be surveyed as soon as the design had been prepared. As a matter of fact, this statement in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech has no meaning foc me. We are told that other necessary works for the establishment of the Federal City will be proceeded with without delay ; but it seems to me that the design and the roads should have all been settled before it could be known what these other necessary works are. Paragraph 12 of the Governor-General’s Speech tells us that the Tariff is being carefully watched, with a view to revision whenever information obtained shows this to be necessary. It is evident that the Tariff needs a lot of watching, in view of the trouble over the sugar industry. The general publicare under the impression that there would be no difficulty in connexion with this industry, but for the Tariff, which, in their opinion, causes them to pay extra money for sugar. In this connexion, I should like to read an extract from an article in an American review, as follows : -
It does mean, however, that one law, the Sherman Aci, shall not declare trusts and combinations in restraint of trade criminal, and another law, being the Tariff, offer an extreme inducement for the formation of trusts in violation of the other law. When Congress stands upon its dignity in this matter, and insists that it will do what its own members elect, it is lime that people speak with a voice that can be heard not only in Washington but perchance around the world.
It appears to me that we are pretty much in the same position, having, by our Tariff, created this Sugar Trust, which honorable members are so anxious to deal with. We shall never have a satisfactory Tariff unless we appoint a permanent Commission on the lines of an Inter-State Commission, to report on all fiscal matters. A similar step was taken in Germany, and, though it took several years for the Commission to arrive at a conclusion, not one of their recommendations was altered. The German Commission was an independent body, who had in view the best interests of the whole country. That is what we require here, so that consumers, manufacturers, workmen, and all concerned, may have fair play. There is no doubt that, if an Inter-State Commission had had the handling of the Tariff, we should not have had the existing trouble in the sugar industry. Paragraph 13 promises a Bill to provide for the establishment of a Commonwealth bank, and a uniform banking law. I am very much against the Commonwealth bank, though I believe in uniform banking laws ; indeed, there should be uniform laws regulating combines, trusts, and many other matters. A Bill is to be introduced to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act ; and this is a matter in which I am much interested. There ought to be some provision in the measure, so that an agreement made between an employer and his employes could be registered, without the expense of going to Court.
– That can be done now.
– There is no reason for putting either party to great expense, and I must differ from the honorable member for South Sydney, whose statement is absolutely incorrect. This is a large country, and it should not be necessary, in the case of an agreement made thousands of miles away from the centre, to go to the expense of sending some one to the Court, in order to get registration. If honorable members on the Ministerial benches are as anxious to see industrial peace as I am, and as they pretend to be, they will agree with the suggestion I have made.
– It can be done now.
– Then the fact should be made clear in the amending Bill. I am pleased to see that there is to be a Bill to provide for the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, because I am sure that the traffic will prove ten times as large as honorable members seem to anticipate. If honorable members could see the big strides that are being made by Western Australia just now, they would agree to the speedy construction of the line. In Perth, within a stone’s throw of the Palace Hotel, there is at present over £500,000 worth of works going on in the construction of warehouses and other buildings. I am certain that when this line is constructed, the whole of the country between Port Augusta and Western Australia will be peopled and used. Within the last two months, the Government officer in charge of the boring operations assured me that in that country there are immense areas of the finest grass lands he ever saw. He speaks, of course, of the want of water, but there are tremendous areas in various parts of Australia where one would think it rather difficult to obtain water if travelling hurriedly through them. I hope the line will be constructed from Port Augusta to the most suitable point in Western Australia, and that at some future date the Commonwealth will arrange with the other States to connect it with the nearest point of the New South Wales railway system, where there is a 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge. If. that were done, we should have a direct line from one side of the Commonwealth to the other. Victoria and South Australia could make a connexion with the direct line later on, and alter their gauge without interference on the part of the Commonwealth. Thi? would undoubtedly be to the interests of the whole of Australia. It is absolutely necessary also that an Inter-State Commission should be appointed to deal with matters relating to railway construction in the Commonwealth. Honorable members hardly realize our serious position in this regard. It is said on all sides that we ought to have, in the near future, uniformity of gauge, but before that can be secured we must have uniformity in regard to the materials with which our railways and rolling-stock are constructed. We have to-day six chief mechanical engineers in the several States, and each of those gentlemen has probably a different standard for materials, such as axles, wheels, and other things, required for building railway waggons. There is perhaps a different standard in each State. The State railway construction branches are probably presided over by engineers having differing ideas of what the component parts of their railway lines should be, and we shall never secure uniformity of gauge with a free interchange of rollingstock unless we appoint, first of all, an Inter- State Commission clothed with power similar to that vested in the British Board of Trade. The Board of Trade issues yearly a standard for every class of material that may be required. A man who needs rolling-stock, rails, or any material of that kind can place an order in England specifying that the goods shall be of the standard prescribed by the Board of Trade for the year in which the order is given. I fail to see why we should not have a standard of our own, issued annually by a central body in Australia. Such standards would be of value in connexion with both Government and private works. Then, again, we have nothing to *fill the place of the English hall-mark.
– We advocated the Union label.
– That is quite a different thing. We should have an Australian hall-mark standard of quality which would be accepted throughout the Commonwealth, just as the British hall-mark is. Anything carrying that mark can be bought or sold by weight.
– Why do not the States give us the power to deal with that matter ?
– I contend that we have power to deal with it under the trade and commerce provisions of the Constitution. If a hall-mark were once fixed by the Commonwealth, it would be accepted by the people, and the shopkeepers would soon have to fall into line with them. Ministers and their supporters at the recent referenda asked for additional power to carry out many commercial projects, but the Constitution as it stands provides for the appointment of “an Inter- State Commission to deal with trade and commerce and all regulations and laws made in regard to it. That being so, that body ought first to be created before we proceed to ask for wider powers. Reference is made in the Governor-General’s Speech to the development of the Northern Territory. That is a rather tough nut to crack, and the proposition, unless viewed carefully from every side, will lead to our heaping up a big deficit in respect of which we shall have very few assets to show. It is somewhat strange that the paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech in regard to the development of the Northern Territory is followed immediately by one intimating that the Government propose to provide uniform bankruptcy laws. No doubt it occurred to those who drafted the Speech that if we tried to develop the Northern Territory uniform bankruptcy laws would soon be required. Seriously speaking, they certainly are urgently needed, and I do not know why provision has not already been made for them. I fail also to understand why no reference is made in the Speech to any intention on the part of the Government to introduce measures providing for uniform marriage and divorce laws. The one matter quite as important as the other. During the referenda campaign the Minister of Trade and Customs urged that the proposals of the Government should be accepted for the reason, amongst others, that they would give the Government power to deal with’ infants’ food. I would point out, however, that under the Constitution we have power to pass uniform laws with regard to marriage and divorce, including the custody and guardianship of infants, and now I should like to ask the Minister how he could possibly have the custody of infants unless he fed them? Yet another matter dealt with in the Governor-General’s Speech is the question of the transferred properties. I hope the States will be fairly dealt with. I do not know how any Government could ask them to accept a rate of interest lower than that which they are paying on the money borrowed for the construction of these transferred propertiesIt is only fair that they should receive the Tate of interest that they are paying. I am glad that arrangements are to be made for reciprocal trade with Canada and New Zealand. At the Commerce Conference I met a number of Canadians, who all spoke very hopefully of the possibilities -of an expansion of our trade with Canada. They said that the Dominion had an unlimited market for our dried fruits and other commodities which it could not produce for itself. The opinion was freely expressed by them that a big trade could be done between Australia and Canada, and I hope that this proposal to establish reciprocal trade relations will be carried out. We are told that the Navigation Bill is to be -passed through its remaining stages this session. We have not seen the measure in this House, so that as far as we are concerned all its stages are “remaining.” I find that one of the functions of the Inter-State Commission is to deal with -navigation, and if the Navigation Bill contains many provisions requiring the exercise of that function, it can hardly be usefully passed unless the Inter-State Commission is appointed. But, with the permission of honorable members, I should like to conclude my remarks to-morrow.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to know, in connexion with a meeting held this evening for the assistance of the Mawson Antarctic Expedition, if the Prime Minister is in a position to state whetherthe Government proposes to make a grant to the expedition ?.
.- Before the Prime Minister replies, I invite some explanation of an answer given to me to-day. I asked to be informed regarding the merchant vessels belonging to foreign Powers trading in Australianwaters which are so fitted with gun-mountings and ammunition as to be convertible into commerce destroyers immediately on the outbreak of war, and was told that it was inexpedient, in the public interest, to divulge information. In every other Parliament the expediency of informing the public on a subiect like this has been admitted, and the people’s representatives are afforded allinformation respecting the armed forces and ships of other countries, no objection being taken to that practice by foreign Powers. In the House of Commons what used to be known as the Dilke Return is yearly issued. It gives information regarding foreign ships of war. Proposals having gone by default that were submitted to the Conference that evolved the Declaration of London, privateering on a large scale is in effect tobe re-introduced into naval warfare, and as a representative of the Australian public I want the people to know how many of the foreign merchantmen which trade in Australian waters in their trips to and from Europe could be converted into privateers immediately on the outbreak’ of war. Although I am told that it is inexpedient to divulge this information, I find that a great deal of it is now published in the Naval Annual, edited by T. A. Brassey.
– Then the honorable member does not need it from us.
– I will show why I need it. lt may be that the Intelligence Department of our Defence Force has not risen to the occasion, and that the Government has not the information which I seek. Brassey says that no fewer than six vessels in the German mercantile marine, having a speed of over 1 8 knots - one, if not two, of them, I think, in the Australian trade - are fitted in the way I speak of, and, according to a footnote, many other vessels of less speed are fitted. There is similar information given in regard to French vessels, of which there are eight so fitted, some of them trading in these waters, and a footnote informs us that there are other vessels which are armed and equipped. I think it most expedient that the Australian public should know what the danger is that threatens them peculiarly. I do not ask Ministers to betray their preparations for meeting the danger, but I ask a Democratic Government to inform the Democracy of the danger that confronts them. What grounds can there be for refusing the people information that so vitally affects them?
. -In reply to the honorable member for Gippsland, the’ Government has determined to ask Parliament to grant the sum of £5,000 to the expedition to the Antarctic to be headed by Dr. Mawson, the young Australian.
– New South Wales has given . £7,000.
– Regarding the other matter, I do not accept the reasoning of the honorable member for Wentworth. The Government has fairly full knowledge respecting the ships convertible into cruisers or armed vessels which could be used against the ships of war or our merchant shipping. He asks whether we have good reasons for withholding the information from what he calls the Democracy. In my opinion, the information in works such as he has cited is not complete, and as it is not obtainable by the public at the Seat of the Empire, there is good reason why we should not communicate to the Australian public all the information we possess.
– I do not ask to be informed regarding the preparation to be made to meet this danger.
– The Government has no intention of embarrassing its confidential officers by discovering what ships are known to be convertible into armed cruisers and commerce destroyers, or what ships may have secret concealed arrangements for enabling them to be armed, even though) their decks are not fitted with gun mountings. We think it not wise either to name the ships, or state their nationality, or give their number.
– Will not the honorable membergive their number?
– The number is considerable. They are all too many for ordinary trade and commerce.
– The sooner the public realize the fact the better.
– I have gone as far as any honorable member should ask me to go. We are not unaware of the danger, or of our responsibility for ascertaining what ships are a menace to us, and where they come from.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.34p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19110913_reps_4_60/>.