4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Military College - Public Servants and Military Titles
– As I fear that a military caste is being created in the Commonwealth, I direct the attention of the two Ministers concerned to the report that the authorities of the Military College at Duntroon have refused to have anything to do, either socially or in their games, with the officers of the Department of Home Affairs. I ask is this statement true?
– I shall cause inquiries to be made from the officers of my Department. It seems to me that the statement cannot be true, but if it is, those responsible will find the Fisher Ministry strong enough to deal with them.
– If it is true, the Minister will make these officers like one another.
– We will curtail the military expenditure, and knock out these popinjays.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, in some cases, members of our Public Service, possessing military titles, insist on being addressed by them in connexion with their civil duties ? If so, will he issue the instruction that all members of the Public Service shall be addressed by their civil, and not by their military, titles ? Cases such as I refer to have come under my own notice.
– I understand that the instruction has been issued that officers are to be addressed by their civil titles, but I hope that, in the interest of the dignity of the service, proper consideration will be shown by all officers to each other. One officer may not desire to have social relations with another, but in a Democracy, civility and courtesy should mark all intercourse, irrespective of position.
– Is the Minister of External Affairs aware of the disgraceful conditions “existing in the New Hebrides under the dual control of Great Britain and France, and is it possible for his Department to make such representations to the Home Government as will prevent their continuance ?
– If the honorable member will give me specific instances of the conditions to which he refers, representations will be made.
– Under what circumstances are negro prize fighters allowed to enter Australia? What test, if any, is put to them on landing?
– No test is applied to them, but they are required to enter into a bond that they will leave the Commonwealth by a certain date. In the case of Johnson , £100 was lodged, the money being returned to him on his departure from Australia. Prize fighters are treated exactly like other people.
– I wish they were not.
– All coloured persons coming to this country, with a few exceptions, must pass the education test, unless an undertaking is given that they will leave Australia again by a specified date.
Mr. FISHER laid upon the table the following paper : -
Imperial Conference, London (191 1) - Naval and Military Defence - Papers laid before the Conference.
Ordered to be printed.
– When I was speaking 5’esterday, I said that the tender forms for the installation of wireless telegraph stations at Sydney and Fremantle were recalled, and altered by the insertion, in red ink, of a provision favouring the Telefunken system, whereupon the PostmasterGeneral interjected -
It was explained to the honorable member last session that that provision was inserted at the request of the British Admiralty by my predecessor.
Is that statement correct?
– The explanation was made during a debate on a motion for adjournment, moved by the honorable member, when, in answer to an interjection by the honorable member for Parkes, I stated that the provision was inserted at the request of the British Admiralty.
– I desire to know from the Postmaster-General if he will see that an examination of the public telephones of Sydney is made in the interests of the public health ? I know that the three at the Central Railway Station positively smell. Such a state of things is abominable. Will he see that some sanitary attachment is placed on the receivers.
– I have not had a complaint before, but my attention having been called to the matter, I shall cause inquiry to be made.
– There appears in the press a report on the telephone system by Mr. H. W. Ramsay Sharp. Is he an officer of the Department? If so, why has his report been furnished to the Mayor of Melbourne and to the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce before being presented to Parliament?
– With the permission of the House, I should like to make a statement going a little further than a direct answer to the question.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Postmaster-General have permission to make a statement?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Some time ago I attended a large meeting of telephone subscribers in Sydney, to which I made the statement that in many instances the delays complained of were really the fault of the subscribers. This was resented, it being contended that my information came from the departmental officers, who, of course, always supported the Department against the subscriber. I then offered, with a view of ascertaining definitely who was to blame, to allow the Lord Mayor of Sydney and the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce to appoint some one outside the Department to test the service, and make a report uninfluenced by departmental considerations. The gentleman appointed did excellent work, but was in no way under the Department, although we paid him for his time. I do not agree with all his recommendations. Subsequently I made a similar offer to the Lord Mayor of Melbourne and the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce here. The person appointed is paid by the Department, but he is absolutely free from departmental control and is not a public servant, so that bis report cannot be in any way influenced by the Department. I left the whole matter entirely in the hands of the gentlemen I have named. They were free to give what instructions they liked about the report, and to withhold the findings of the gentleman they appointed, or to communicate them to the press, as they thought fit. The only connexion with the Department of the gentleman who is doing the work is that we pay him.
– It is money well spent.
– I am anxious to get the truth about the telephone service. If the Department is at fault I shall not support it, but, otherwise, I shall.
– Has the honorable gentleman yet considered the official reports of officers in New South Wales, and if so, is he prepared to lay them on the table?
– I have been so busy recently, working twelve and fourteen hours a day, that I regret I have not had time to consider the reports.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will he make arrangements so that candidates for examination for the Public Service may have an opportunity to peruse their papers after the result of the examination has been made public?
Mr.KINGO’MALLEY. - The Public Service Commissioner states that it - is not considered advisable to make such arrangements.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs,upon notice -
– The answers to the hon orable member’s questions are -
Re envelope punching machines -
The manufacturers in question have a protection of 30 per cent., 25 per cent., Item 357, and are also assisted by exemption of many machine tools specified in Supplementary Tariff Guide, page 248. In determining what machine tools are entitled to special exemption the practicability of their manufacture locally is the principal consideration.
Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 509), 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.
.- Last night when, by courtesy of the House, I was granted leave to continue my remarks, I had just finished with the tendency in all British Dominions towards closer united action, towards greater singleness of purpose, on those broad lines of consolidation which are affecting every stage of life in the world to-day, whether it be amongst peoples, enterprises, or in the sphere of industrial co-operation. But this new form of racial unionism - a term which Iprefer to “Imperial” union - of course, has its blacklegs. My friends opposite will be delighted to admit that one of those blacklegs is to be found in the person of that somewhat mysterious journalist, Mr. Stead. That journalist endeavoured to fix on the Prime Minister of Australia certain views, which, although I am in Opposition - being an Australian first and an Oppositionist afterwards - I was delighted to see the Prime Minister able to contradict immediately and emphatically. Mr. Stead, who holds the views which he tried to fasten on the Prime Minister, is a blackleg in the matter of racial unionism. That will be readily confessed; and if Mr. Stead is a blackleg for holding such views, other persons who support them, are likewise blacklegs. We find those blacklegs spread about the Empire, and they make it necessary to enunciate reasons why their views are against the interests of our race wherever it may be situated. In South Africa a prominent Dutch organ, the Volksstem, expressed similar views. It held that a Dominion was empowered to be neutral in any struggle in which the Empire was involved, and in certain contingencies ought to exercise its right - that was the general tendency of the article. Although it is only a year or two since General Botha was fighting against the Empire, he saw how foolish this idea is, and how much against the interests of South Africa, and he gave, through his private secretary, Dr. Bok, an emphatic contradiction to the sentiment, in the following terms in the Times of the 28th July last -
I am authorized to say that General Botha has endeavoured to state as clearly and as unambiguously as possible the fact that he does not agree with the Volksstem article, and that he considers that for South Africa or for any other Dominion to be neutral while the Mother Country is at war is an impossibility. There can be no question of optional neutrality. In making this statement General Botha did so without any reservation whatever.
So we have the latest recruit to the Imperial family repudiating the sentiment as emphatically - in fact, more unambiguously than did our Prime Minister in his indignant repudiation of the Stead article.
That African journal is one of the blacklegs against Imperial unionism. Another blackleg is nearer home, namely, the Sydney Worker, which is of some importance as not merely the private property of the journalists or others who run it, but as the property of a great organization.
– It is the bible of Democracy !
– It is the bible of the honorable member’s democracy?
– You bet !
– Then it is; and, if the honorable member subscribes to such views, he is a blackleg on the new unionism - a scab to the principle that ought to operate in the mind of every British citizen.
– There are quite a number who hold similar views.
– If that be so, what quarrel can the Labour party possibly have with the speakers on this side of the House on the question of loyalty and racial union ? And what sort of a man is the Prime Minister of Australia, who holds views so contrary to their own ? This is what the Sydney Worker had to say on the subject, before the Prime Minister made his repudiation, when the interview had been cabled to Australia, and the writer was commenting on what he believed to be a true statement of the right honorable gentleman’s opinion -
What Mr. Fisher has done is to frame in everyday language the new concept of Empire. It is a concept which is held by the most intelligent sections of the community and by the most notable thinkers on public affairs. It is a concept, accordingly, which is shaping itself, in the trend of events, towards universal acceptance.
There we have unqualified support for the view alleged to have been put forward by the Prime Minister - support from the official organ ‘of the Australian Workers Union, and also, I believe of the Commonwealth Labour party. What does that paper say of persons who do not hold such-views? It describes them as “ grinders of the faces of the poor,” “rack-renting landlords,” “price-raising monopolists,” “gaolers of unionists,” “ pamperers of blacklegs,” “ shooters down of the Empire’s toilers, struggling for decent conditions of life.” Which of these particular descriptions applies to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, or to the Attorney-General ? Is the Attorney-General or the Prime Minister a “ grinder of the faces of the poor “? Is the Attorney-General “ a rackrenting landlord “ ? Is either of them a “ price-raising monopolist “ ? Is the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, even in the opinion of Peter Bowling - apart from my honorable friends opposite - a “ gaoler of unionists “ ? Are these men “ shooters down of the Empire’s toilers, struggling for decent conditions of life” ? I quote these phrases in order to show that, although those responsible for the conduct of the country’s affairs at present may be above suspicion - although we are anxious and ready to accept any assurance they may make on this score - it is necessary for us to watch with the utmost care this “ scab “ tendency in the Worker and similar journals, so that the interests of our people, which are bound up with the interests of our race throughout the world, are not taken from the true path of national safety by this propaganda and gospel of disunion and chaos. I think I have said enough to show that it is still necessary for those who aspire to be leaders of thought in Australia - and I hope every honorable member includes himself in that category - to watch this “ snake in the grass “ that is appearing in journalistic utterances, and “ scotch “ it before it does much damage to the national cohesion of the people to which we belong;.
I dealt last night with an excellent thing that happened in the Conference - the taking of the Dominions into the confidence of the Imperial Government in foreign affairs. That was, of course, something for which our delegates are not responsible; but I have no quarrel on that score, because it is a good move, deserving of welcome. Another good thing which occurred at the time of the Conference, though not in it, was the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese alliance; and I hope honorable members will bear with me for a few moments while I make one or two observations regarding it.
– Was this Government consulted, I wonder, before the alliance was concluded?
– I do not propose to ask that question, because I am confident that, if our Ministers had taken any active part in the renewal of the alliance, they would naturally have felt a certain amount of pride, and have published their participation to the world. This renewed alliance insures, so far as it is possible for an alliance to insure, peace within the regions of the Pacific. It also gives Australians fruitful cause for a certain amount of deep thought. On the surface it might be held, and in some quarters it is held, that there are inevitable causes of friction between the Empire of Japan and the Commonwealth of Australia and the Dominion of New Zealand. Those causes mainly attach to the alleged need for the territorial expansion of the Japanese Empire. It is known to close observers that of recent years Japan has been finding out that the territory in Asia, for which she waged two wars, is of no use for racial expansion. The Japanese have got control of Manchuria, and possession of Korea, but they find that these two countries have cheaper forms of labour than are to be found in Japan. The Japanese labourer and the Japanese agriculturist have found that in Manchuria and Korea they cannot get conditions equal to those they enjoy in Japan.
– That is an object-lesson to us !
– It is an object-lesson we can understand, because we know its application in Australia. It is a lesson which I hope will make Japan realize the ground on which we frame our exclusion laws, and feel that we intend no insult to them when we feel it necessary to take steps for the protection of our labour, and of the sense of pride in labour which is the basis of a country’s industrial activities and greatness. While it is to be hoped that Japan’s experience in Manchuria will make the Japanese realize our necessities, I trust that some of those newspapers, to which I have referred in another connexion, will see the public polity, at any rate, of ceasing from that campaign of slander and calumny against a great people, which has disfigured them. In every newspaper of that character during the last few years the people of our northern ally have been held up to ridicule, contempt, and hatred. They have been held up as people to be infinitely despised, if infinitely feared. Such language cannot be adopted in regard to a proud people - who are a great power, and can boast a civilization older than our own - without causing trouble. It is necessary for the protection of our workers, and the maintenance of our national existence, that we should do what we can to build up Australia as a white buttress to the strength of the race to which we belong. But let us do that as gentlemen. Let us do it without insulting those with whom our interests are in this respect in conflict. Let us try to evolve, out of this apparent conflict of interests, some modus vivendi which will insure the people of Australasia working in harmony, if possible, with the people of Japan, for the mutual development of our respective spheres of influence, so that the Pacific will remain what its name denotes - an ocean of peace, and not, as it may become, a theatre of racial discord.
– What impression did the honorable member get, during his trip, of the Declaration of London?
– The Declaration of London is one of the matters which our delegates had to handle. What they themselves did not originate in the Conference turned out excellently. What they endeavoured to handle I am afraid they handled badly. The Declaration of London secured their concern mainly for two reasons. In the first place, the present Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister of Australia, had protester! against the Declaration of London when it was first mooted some two years ago. Our delegates took up one side of his protest and dallied with the other. They went to London and protested against this Declaration being entered into before we had been consulted - a perfectly proper attitude to take up, in my opinion, in view of its immense interest to us - while they further pointed out that it was wrong, and dangerous, in certain particulars, to our safety. I only regret that whilst putting the first view with considerable weight, they allowed themselves more or less to be bluffed out of their second position by a Government which was fighting with its back to the wall against the almost unanimous voice of the Navy, and was also supported by other Dominions on various grounds which did not apply with equal force to the Commonwealth. For instance, our delegates were mainly concerned about the safety of Australian food supplies for the Mother Country in time of war. It was pointed out by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as is shown in the Conference reports, that our foodstuffs in time of war would be safer under the Declaration than they would be without it. Sir Edward Grey said that under the Declaration,which merely affects neutral shipping - it does not affect our own shipping - our position with regard to neutral shipping would be better than it would be without it, because any goods shipped in neutral bottoms in time of war to a neutral port could not be touched, even if it were known that the eventual destination of those goods was a country at war. He said that all we had to do was to ship our goods to some port in a neutral country near England, whence they could be shipped to the Mother Country, and that if the Mother Country’s fleet could not guarantee the keeping open of the English Channel, then the war would be over so far as we were concerned. His latter statement was quite right, but his general argument, in my humble opinion, was wrong. In the first place, if we sent food supplies, say, to France to be shipped over to England, what sort of freights would the French railways charge upon such produce, knowing that they provided the only means by which it could be carried to a point close to the English coast? We know what happened in this community of ours, where we have almost identically the same interests - where the people of all the States are of the same flesh and blood - at the time of the great drought. Were the farmers in one part of Australia who had been blessed with beneficent seasons prepared to allow fodder - even from our cousins in New Zealand - to come in free to save the starving stocks of New South Wales and Queensland?
– Some of them were.
– Perhaps so, but was that position acted upon? No. The principle of human nature applied. Those who had enjoyed good seasons felt that the bad times that had overcome their less fortunate co-workers offered them their great opportunity, and they demanded the highest price they could get for fodder they were supplying. That being so, what price would France ask for sending our goods across her territory in order that they might be shipped to England, knowing that in that way only could we hope to see them reach their destination? For this reason I am satisfied that Sir Edward Grey’s argument falls to the ground.
I should like to show that we would not be in the same position without the Declaration as we are with it. Without the Declaration, we had the power of retaliation. With the Declaration we have bonded ourselves out of that power of retaliation. Take, for instance, the position of that great European Power which is now, for spectacular purposes, in its army’s manoeuvres, making an onslaught on an imaginary British invading army. Germany must import raw materials to keep the artisans of Westphalia employed, and it imports these principally through Antwerp, which is the natural port of industrial Germany. Under the Declaration, any goods consigned to the German industrial provinces necessary to enable the German workers there to earn a living could be shipped in neutral bottoms to Antwerp, and could not be touched by any British warship, however supreme we might be, since Antwerp is a neutral port.
– That is their natural port.
– It is. And it happens internationally to be a neutral port, so that these goods could not be touched by British ships upon the seas. Under the Declaration they would be absolutely immune from seizure. The more we go into the matter - and this I believe is why only the official sailors were in favour of the ratification of the Declaration - the clearer it is that we have bonded ourselves out of the great power of retaliation. We have given away our opportunity to do harm to an enemy in order that our position as neutrals may be made a little more secure. I think the reason for entering into the ratification of the document lies in the fact that the members of the present Government of Great Britain are largely lawyers. Sir Edward Grey is a man with a legal temperament; Mr. Asquith is a lawyer, and Lloyd George, perhaps the greatest of them all, is also a lawyer. Law, whether real or international, is to them a fetish. These men were greatly alarmed by the complications which threatened the Mother Country during the progress of the Russo- Japanese war when British ships were sunk in the Red Sea by the semi-privateers of Russia. So afraid were they as neutrals of being drawn into international complications in the defence of British trade that to benefit their position as neutrals they seem to have sold our position as belligerents. Another question of vital importance to Australia, and to humanity at large, in connexion with this Declaration, is the unfortunate reception which was extended to the British Government’s proposal that privateering and piracy in time of war, by converting merchantmen into war vessels, should be declared illegal by international law. That was one of the matters brought forward by the British Government.
– And it ought to have been the first question decided by the experts.
– It should have been. Who opposed this principle? The Empire of Germany. The fact appears in the Conference reports. Germany opposed the principle, although Germany on land will shoot as an outlaw any man, seeking to defend his own country, if he does not belong to the regular forces of that country. In France the franc-tireurs were shot - some of them were hanged - for taking up arms in the defence of the country to which they belonged. They did not belong to the regular forces of France, and Germany therefore claimed to treat them as outlaws. Yet, when the master of a merchant ship, having enjoyed hospitality and commerce with the people of another nation, receives a wireless message upon the seas that war has been declared, Germany Kas so arranged it that he can haul guns and ammunition out of the ship’s hold, mount them upon the gun platforms already provided, and start to prey upon the commerce of the people with whom he has been in friendly relations perhaps only an hour or two before. This is one of the things that has come out of the Declaration of London.
– The honorable member can hardly say that it has come out of the Declaration; it is one of the things which are not forbidden.
– It is one of the things for which no provision is made in the Declaration of London. The honorable gentleman is now taking the same view that Sir Edward Grey took of it. Sir Edward Grey said, “ We tried to get it, but we did not succeed. We have consequently accepted a document as a basis of international law which contains no such provision, but it does not alter the position. We are merely as we were.” As a matter of fact, however, does not’ a man who enters into an agreement from which has been excluded a great principle for which he has sought in vain, weaken his case for afterwards securing the recognition of that principle? And since Great Britain asked for this provision against privateering and piracy, and accepted the Declaration, although its request was not granted, she has made our position infinitely weaker that it was for dealing with this great menace, not only to our interests, but to humanity at large. She has made our position infinitely weaker by tacitly permitting to come into existence a state of affairs which will lead to wholesale piracy on the high seas during the next great international struggle, while contracting ourselves out of our power to retaliate in other directions. This is a very important matter, and whilst I cannot traverse the whole subject, I think I have said sufficient to show that I have grounds, at any rate, for believing that a very serious step in the wrong direction has been taken by agreeing to the ratification of the Declaration of London.
I do not think that I made myself quite so clear when I said that the interests of the other Dominions were not the same as our own. As a matter of fact, the argument used by Sir Edward Grey with regard to the neutral port - the fallacy of which I have exposed as far as Australia is concerned - carried more weight with Canada than with South Africa. South Africa held the view that all she had to do in order to get her supplies to England was to send them through Portuguese territory lying immediately to the north and east of the Transvaal. Thus the natural port of the Transvaal was in time of war to be the port of South Africa, and South African trade was to be absolutely free and safe. Canada, with Sir Wilfrid Laurier sitting on the rail, took up exactly the same attitude, thinking that they could trade through the United States.
– What was the position of New Zealand?
– Perhaps the New Zealand delegation was very anxious to conciliate the British Government. I see by my honorable friend’s smile that He admits the justice of my suggestion.
The question of the Declaration of London was one which was worth fighting thoroughly if it was worth fighting at all, but our delegates did not do so. The Minister of External Affairs did what he could, but he got a very poor start off. The Prime Minister introduced the subject to the Imperial Conference in an almost apologetic manner, which seemed to suggest that some influences might have been at work even before the Conference met to discuss the subject.
– There was too much weight of mind on the opposing side.
– There is, of course, a great deal in that contention, and it is only fair to our Ministers to say that, so far as the broad position was concerned, they were not meeting their antagonists upon equal terms, because men like Sir Edward Grey are trained in international affairs, and have been studying them for years, whereas our Ministers have never given such matters any thought - not because of apathy or laziness on their part, but because we are not charged with responsibility in those directions.
– Was it not easy to get information in London on the question from men who had studied it?
– It was, no doubt, quite a simple matter to do so, but the Australian delegates were not in so easy a position as was the honorable member, because they were rushed with work from the moment they arrived, and had scarcely any time to give attention to the matter.
– They had not even the courage of their opinions, and they have abstained from giving the reasons which caused them to change their minds.
– That is a point I wish to get at in a moment. The Prime Minister, in introducing the proposal, said that his reason for dealing with it was that the fact of the Declaration of London having been taken exception to had given a most suitable opportunity to discuss the question of consulting the Colonies before entering into treaties. Surely they had a more serious purpose than that in bringing before the Conference the question of the Declaration? After all, people were fighting it in England and elsewhere. There were many influences at work against it. Countless high officers of the Navy and a number of members of Parliament on both sides of politics attacked it, and naturally expected that, when Australia put the matter down for discussion at the Conference, it was to be seriously discussed, and that grounds were to be brought forward to show why it should not be ratified. What must they have thought when they found the Australian Prime Minister saying that he merely took advantage of the opposition to the Declaration in England to advertise some other matter, which, although vitally important, might still have been brought forward without jeopardizing the position of the opponents of the Declaration by first coming forward to oppose it, and then remaining lamely to acquiesce in it? The Prime Minister said at the Conference -
As to the details, the second part of the resolution is important enough. We felt at the time that Article 24 was hardly defensible, and that Articles 48 to 54 would seriously damage the prestige of the British people and Governments; but that is a matter we do not wish to dogmatise upon at the present moment.
What had occurred between the time when the honorable member held the view that the Declaration was a very serious menace to our security and his arrival at the Conference, where he found it was not a matter upon which he wished to dogmatize? What views had been placed before him that do not appear in the public records? I think that is information which might be given to us if it is consistent with public safety, and I presume it would be, relating as it does to a matter which is, after all, only a question of international law, and not of actual preparations to meet a foe.
– There was no influence or attempted influence other than the matters which were public and open to everybody.
– I may take it, then, that the phrase used by the Prime Minister does not bear any literal interpretation, but that he was speaking a little loosely? I am willing to accept that, because I have heard him do it on previous occacions.
– I did not say that.
– My honorable friends seem to forget that the greatest argument that has been brought forward in favour of the Declaration is really the strongest argument that exists against it. It is urged by its supporters that, without it, naval war would be chaos. That, I believe, is the strongest reason why we should oppose its ratification, because chaos is the opportunity of the strong, and if we are the strong upon the seas chaos is our opportunity. I do not think we would abuse that opportunity, because our history shows that we wage war temperately and humanely ; but at any rate it would be our opportunity to see that nobody used that chaos unfairly towards us, and it is unfortunate that the predominant strength of the British upon the seas, a strength which now exists even if it is fast disappearing, should be jeopardized by binding our hands with an international agreement with, primarily, our great competitor, who has kept no single treaty since the Treaty of Berlin, with the exception of that of the Triple Alliance.
– Against that the honorable member must remember that not to ratify the Declaration would set back, the cause of arbitration tremendously.
– That was a sentiment nicely expressed at the Conference.
– It is not a sentiment, but a very real thing.
– Personally I should prefer to set back the cause of international arbitration rather than indorse the cause of piracy, as the Declaration, in a way, does.
Let me now return to Australia, leaving the great things in which Ministers were interested while in England. When I left Australia, the ship in which I travelled had a wireless telegraphic apparatus, but the Commonwealth of Australia had none, although a year and a half previously the Parliament had declared its immediate intention of establishing installations. On my return to Australia I found exactly the same state of affairs. I thought it would be a good thing to get official information of the causes of the delay, and by the courtesy of the PostmasterGeneral I have been permitted to roam through the papers. They are somewhat interesting, and if honorable members will bear with me I shall endeavour to explain to them the cause of this extraordinary delay.
– Has not the honorable member for Fremantle dealt with the matter fully ?
– Not with the points to which I shall refer. This House passed, on 9th September, 1909, a resolution in favour of the immediate installation of wireless telegraphy around the coasts of Australia. Tenders were called for on 23rd October, 1909, about a month and a half later, so that reasonable expedition was used up to that point. On the 25th February, 1910, the Australian Wireless Limited submitted tenders, which were accepted by the Australian Government.
– By which Government?
– By the previous Government; but if the honorable member wishes to make it a question of Ministerial respon sibility, I. shall make him ashamed of his Government before I have done with the subject. The tender of Australian Wireless Limited was accepted on 4th April r 1910 - by the previous Administration, who at that time were fighting about the country, and could not be in their offices - on condition that the syndicate should indemnify the Commonwealth against all claims for the infringement of patent rights. The syndicate consisted of Mr. Hugh Denison, and the proprietor of the Sydney Bulletin, with some others. That guarantee of indemnity against the infringement of the patent rights of any other wireless concern was a far more important matter than the completion of the contract, because it mightinvolve us in hundreds of thousands of pounds. Honorable members might saythat the syndicate was well able to take that risk, because it is well known that the proprietor of the “ anti-fat “ paper, the Sydney Bulletin, is one of the “ fattest “ men in Australia, and that Mr. Hugh Denison is a man of substance.
– Is he not really a Mr. Dixson?
– Yes, he is one of the Dixsons in the Tobacco Trust. The syndicate wrote to the Department on the 4th April, 191 1 - under the present Administration, with King Josiah, and not King Quick, on the throne - asking for formal assent to a proposal to transfer the obligations of Australian Wireless Limited to the Australian ‘ Wireless Company Limited, a newly formed company waiting to be started in Sydney, with more than five times the share capital. What was done in this position by the business Administration about which we have heard so much? They apparently overlooked the main obligation of Australian Wireless Limited, composed as it was of specific men, who could be laid hands on at any moment to complete their obligations. After a lot of delay, the Government transferred the obligations of Australian Wireless to The Australian Wireless Company Limited. That company was then placed upon the share register in Sydney, and nobody knows whom we shall have to foreclose upon, if ever we are sued for the infringement of patent rights.
– The honorable member might mention that those individuals are still personally liable.
– I am inclined to think that Mr. Denison and Mr. McLeod are not personally responsible in the sense that the honorable member indicates. I was only able to devote an hour or two yesterday morning to looking through the papers, but believe that my statement of the position is correct.
– The honorable member has missed that one point.
– I do not think so. I have here some extracts from the correspondence which took place when the Australian Wireless Limited asked permission to make the extraordinary transfer to which I have referred. It wrote on the 4th April, 1 91 1, and there is nothing on the file until its next letter of the 5th May, asking for an answer to that of the 4th April . This is the expeditious way in which this Department, which professes to be in such a violent hurry to get the wireless system installed, dealt with the business ! The Department wrote on the 10th May - five days after receiving the second letter which asked for a reply to the first - and said that inquiries were being made into the ability of the new company to perform the contract. The next document on the file is a telegram from the Deputy Postmaster-General in New South Wales, dated the11th May, to this effect -
Your telegram, gth instant, respecting Australian wireless. Necessary inquiries being made through Merchants and Traders Association.
Therefore the Department instituted the inquiries which it pretended were the cause of the delay only a day previous to the letter which it wrote on the 10th, and four days after it got a request for an answer to the syndicate’s original letter !
Mr.Webster. - The Government had only just come into office.
– The Government had been in office thirteen months ! The Australian Wireless Limited replied on the 11th May to the Department’s letter of the 10th May, pointing out that its share capital would be about six times as strong as the previous capital - speaking from memory, about . £30,000 instead of £5,000 - whereupon the PostmasterGeneral, who professes to be a great opponent of stock jobbing, granted the transfer, and so enabled the syndicate to put its shares on the list of the Sydney Stock Exchange. By a stroke of the pen he enabled it to convert £5,000 into £30,000; he put the members of the syndicate into the position of being able to dispose of as many of the shares as they liked, and to get out of the business. He encouraged them to become rich at the expense of those who deal in share values on the Sydney Stock Exchange. I defy any honorable member to prove that that statement is wrong.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
– If the PostmasterGeneral had had any acumen, let alone business ability, he would have held the original tenderers to their contract, and would not have been so keen to enable them to become rich at the expense of the community.
– He has a private bond from each of them.
– When the first syndicate asked for permission to transfer its rights and obligations to the company, the Secretary to the Postmaster-General referred the matter to the Crown Law officers, who, after considering it with great seriousness, replied that it did not seem to be one for an opinion of law, but rather a case for the exercise of ordinary business prudence. The PostmasterGeneral’s Department should have realized that in the first place. The transference had nothing to do with the Crown Law authorities. But in the correspondence there is not one whisper regarding the important question of indemnity for an infringement of patent rights.
– Was the correspondence that the honorable member saw complete?
– I was informed so, and believed that it was. 1 saw the indemnity entered into by Mr. Denison, or Dixson, and Mr. Wheeler, the advertising agent of the Bulletin, and Mr. McLeod, the proprietor of that newspaper, and I believe that I am correct in saying that they signed on behalf of the Australian Wireless Limited.
– Jointly and severally.
– Yes, but for the Australian Wireless Limited; so that, by the kindness of the Postmaster-General, its obligations were transferred to the Australian Wireless Company Limited, and the indemnity went with the transfer.
– We have the authority of the Postmaster-General for saying that the gentlemen named gave a personal indemnity.
– There was a personal guarantee, and it has not been transferred.
– In that case the PostmasterGeneral will have no objection to laying all the papers on the table.
– I have said that I am willing to show the honorable member every paper he desires to see.
– I understood that all the papers were given to me, and, having spent an hour or two looking through them, I believe that I have stated the actual position.
– The honorable member’s house of cards has fallen down.
– No. The obligations of the Australian Wireless Limited were transferred to ‘the Australian Wireless Company Limited, and the transfer was accepted by the Postmaster-General.
– Only on the condition that the personal guarantee of Messrs. Denison and McLeod was retained.
– Was that a written agreement, or merely a verbal one?
– The transfer was made under that condition ; we were very careful about it.
– I speak subject to correction, for I had not much time to look through the many papers, but I shall look into the matter again, not because I disbelieve the honorable member, but because I think that his recollection is at fault. How does he account for his readiness to enable the rich proprietors of the Bulletin and others to convert ,£5,000 into ,£30,000, and thus become still more wealthy, by obtaining what may very properly be called “ unearned increment “ from investors on the Sydney Stock Exchange? If, as he now suggests, he thought the personal guarantee of the members of the syndicate more valuable to him than the guarantee of a company with a capital of ,£30,000, why did he sanction the transfer? He should not have changed horses when crossing the stream, but should have held the tenderers to their contract.
– A company was floated with a capital of £12,000 or £15,000, but the new company has a capital of £140,000.
– Nominal or real?
– Capital on which we can fall back. We have a better guarantee than we had before.
– Why is the Government giving away its rights?
– What rights has the company acquired?
– It seems to have got the Government rights.
– It has got all the rights’ that the Government gave it.
– Parliament passed an Act giving the Government a monopoly in regard to wireless telegraphy.
– The company will probably obtain preference in connexion with all future tenders. Although the Government has not promised it work in connexion with’ future extensions of the wireless system, it will naturally require installations similar to those at Fremantle and Sydney.
– If it does not, the operators at Sydney and Fremantle will not be available for other stations.
– The difference between the two wireless systems is that one has a huge spark, while the other makes a series of sparks.
– If you transfer men who are paid 12s. a day from one system to another, you are likely to have confusion.
– Practical wireless telegraphists know all about both systems, just as ordinary telegraphists understand the working of quadruplex and duplex machines.
– The company hopes to get priority in all Government contracts for wireless installations.
– What rights have the Government parted with ?
– To show the incapacity of the Department to deal with this matter, let me point out that on the 19th December last a bond was given for the completion of the installations at Sydney and Fremantle within fifty-two weeks, on condition that the Government would erect the buildings to house the plant, and would clear the land by the 19th March last. If those conditions were not complied with, the company was not to be held to its agreement to complete its part of the work within the time specified.
– My Department does not do the clearing or building.
– The honorable gentleman’s Department, as a matter of strict fact, has not secured the clearing of the land or the erection of the buildings, so that wireless telegraphy, if the company acts on its rights, is postponed for something like another year.
– The honorable member was saying something about the incompetency of my Department, but I point out that that Department has nothing whatever to do with this work.
– I know the PostmasterGeneral is not now stating the fact, and I hope it is because he has not watched the matter closely.
– What fact have I not stated correctly?
– The whole matter of the plans and specifications for these buildings is arranged in the honorable gentleman’s own office, by, I believe, his Chief Electrical Engineer, Mr. Hesketh.
– Who clears the land and erects the buildings?
– The Department of Home Affairs, on the recommendation of the Post and Telegraph Department. The honorable gentleman cannot escape his responsibility. As late as last February, the honorable gentleman’s Department had not finally decided, or informed the Department of Home Affairs, what they required doing by the 19th March in order to complete the contract. Is that the way to conduct business?
– The Post and Telegraph Department always blames the Department of Home Affairs !
– It always blames somebody ; but in the present instance, the Post and Telegraph officer made the design, and is charged with the responsibility. Then I have to ask the Postmaster-General what arrangements have been made for fencing in these stations, which may mean a large, or only a small sum. If the PostmasterGeneral will inquire from the Minister of Home Affairs, he will find that the responsibility for the delay rests purely and solely with his own Department; and it would Be more manly to confess the fact, and endeavour to make better progress in the future. I have here the share list quoted in the Daily Telegraph, which proves that the company is on the share register of the Stock Exchange, New South Wales; and it would not have been placed there if the original shareholders were not prepared to sell their shares, and so place themselves on velvet - enabled to do so by the consideration and kindness shown to them by the Department.
– Does the honorable member know that the shares have been placed on the market ?
– A share list is never placed on the Stock Exchange register unless those holding the shares are prepared ito deal in them ; and immediately this com pany, owing to the kindness of the Department, was enabled to increase their capital from, let us say, £5,000 to £30,000, the list was placed on the register. The holders of the shares could sell them, if at par, for £30,000, and no doubt the members of the syndicate will then be very happy - somebody else, whom we do not know, being left to shoulder the responsibility.
– That is commercialism.
– It is the practice of the Department under the aegis of the honorable gentleman!
– Could the PostmasterGeneral object to the company being formed ?
– The honorable member misses the point. The contractor was the Australian Wireless Limited ; and had I been in the Postmaster-General’s position I should have refused outright to change the tenderer until the business was complete.
– There is no change.
– The honorable member is surely not capable of realizing what has happened. The Postmaster-General does not know now who are the shareholders of the Australian Wireless Company Limited.
– There is the original security, and the company will carry out the contract. We cannot object to a company being formed.
– Of course we can. These gentlemen happen to be well known, and we may assume that they are everything that is honest and upright. But if they happened to be keen business men, they might have used the increase of share capital to “ get out “ at a large profit, and thus stand on velvet.
– What asset has the new company, if it has no rights iri regard to wireless telegraphy?
– I really cannot see what the shareholders have got, and I honestly think that the honorable member would be doing useful service if he were to explain that matter further.
– What have we to do with that?
– If the PostmasterGeneral has by, what I might call, consideration for the wishes of the syndicate, allowed the members of it to float a company that has absolutely no Government rights whatever, he is a party to a rather regrettable transaction on the share market of Australia. I quite agree that the Postmaster-General was not a conscious party to this arrangement, but it is owing to the absence o_f business knowledge and of practical common sense that this thing has occurred. Whether the honorable gentleman is responsible personally, in consequence of having himself supervised the matter, is not a question to canvass here, but it is very regrettable that the present position should have arisen.
– The honorable member, by his own admission, is an experienced stock jobber, and, as I am only a novice, I should like to know how these things are done.
– The honorable member is wrong in two respects - in assuming that I am a stock jobber, and that the House will believe him modest. There is one circumstance which shows the almost Gilbertian way in which the Department has managed this business. Under, I presume, some suggestion from the Defence Department, or from that Department at the instance of the Admiralty, there is the following provision in the contract -
And that after the installation of the said wireless telegraphy stations no person or persons other than British subjects shall be employed by the contractor at or in connexion with the said wireless telegraphy stations, or either of them, except the superintendent engineer of the company.
In order to safeguard the secrets of British war vessels on the coast of Australia, no person in the employment of the company during the period of testing is to be other than a British subject. At the same time, however, the person in charge of the whole operations, who is in a position to ask and insist on getting from the employes any information that comes, may be, and is, I understand, a foreigner.
– He is in charge until the stations are handed over definitely to us, whereas the operator is a permanent officer.
– The honorable member cannot twist himself out of an absurd and ridiculous position. This clause is to bind the company during the testing operations, and has nothing to do with the Department afterwards. The operators may be taken over or not - the agreement does not say - but the contractor is bound not to employ in a subordinate capacity any foreign person who could obtain defence secrets during the testing. As it is, However, the superintending engineer is exempt, because that suits the syndicate for which the Department has done so much.
– Will he be in the employment of the Department afterwards?
– No; but he has ample opportunities during the three months’ testing.
– That is nothing !
– It is sufficiently serious to cause the Defence authorities to ask the Post and Telegraph Department to make sure, during the three months’ testing, that the stations are not used for improper purposes. If there are to be such provisions, we might at least make them apply to the “ boss” as well as to the workmen. There is much that is amusing in connexion with this matter ; but there is only one other question I desire to put to the PostmasterGeneral. The contract, I may say, was very cleverly worded. The phrase “in or near “ Sydney and Fremantle respectively, was altered to read “at” Sydney and Fremantle ; and this seems to have resulted in getting for the syndicate an extra £2,000 out of the Commonwealth for the installation. What I desire to refer to, however, is the covering letter to the contract containing the following -
Our firm will endeavour to manufacture, as far as practicable, parts of the stations in Australia ; in fact, we hope to manufacture in the near future the whole plant, with few exceptions.
I desire to know what portions of the plant, if any, have been manufactured in Australia. The bigger sections, including the mast and so forth, are, I understood, imported, and yet we have in this letter a solemn statement, which, morally, is an undertaking, but which at law would, of course, be valueless. None of the plant, perhaps, has been manufactured here; but no doubt this cunningly devised letter materially helped in obtaining the contract for’ this particular syndicate.
When in England I took the trouble to make inquiries into the matter of investments in Australia, and, although it is impossible, in the absence of statistics, to obtain more than the opinions of those we meet, I found that capital, on balance, is absolutely ceasing to come towards this country. In the opinion of those best able to judge in the Mother Country, we are, on the balance, absolutely losing capital. For some years past we have enjoyed tremendously prosperous seasons. As the product of the soil repays the foreign mortgages upon the soil, so the money that is released leaves Australia to develop some other country.i This fact is well worthy of the most earnest consideration of the Government. Vastamounts of money are leaving England for the Argentine and Canada, both trade rivals of the Commonwealth, whilst no money is leaving England for Australia. A new country, like a new selection, requires outside capital to develop it. Australia as yet is barely scratched, so far as her potentialities are concerned. A small population like ours needs capital to develop the country. We need capital to employ our citizens, as well as the new citizens whom we expect ; and unless we get it we shall fall still further behind Canada in the race for prosperity. I most earnestly suggest to my honorable friends opposite that they should have a serious inquiry amongst themselves as to the causes of this falling-off.
– Last year three times more capital came into Australia for investment than before.
– The honorable member’s figures are absolutely incorrect. Does he know how much went out of the country ? If he consults any bankers he will find that a vast amount of money, released on mortgage, and a great deal of gold, is leaving Australia privately. Honorable members talk of banking. Have they realized the way in which Commonwealth notes are accumulating in the banks? Have they realized that the banks that agreed to take a certain percentage when the notes were first issued are now holding 50 per cent, more than they then thought would be necessary ?
– How long will they do that?
– Not a moment longer than it suits them. If they present those notes to the Commonwealth Treasury - notes which have been handed over the counter by the Australian people because they prefer gold - what will be the position? The ^banking returns at the end of this month, I believe, will show that of the total issue of £10,000,000 nearly £6,000,000 worth are held in the banks, and that only some £4,000,000 worth of notes are in circulation. How would the Commonwealth “Treasurer meet those £6,000,000 worth of notes, held by the banks, if the latter chose to present them for payment?
– Does the honorable member think that the banks would attempt to flood the Treasury with Commonwealth notes ?
– No, because they have a greater interest in national security and national credit than has the honorable member’s party. If the Government are sound financiers: - if they are not mere quacks - they ought to be holding ample gold reserves in the Treasury to meet any possible contingency. As a matter of strict fact, taking the note issue on a broad basis as being £10,000,000, the Government are holding some £4,750,000 in gold, whilst some £6,000,000 in notes is being held by the banks. If the banks were not imbued with a finer patriotism than honorable members opposite show, they could present those notes, and the Treasury of the Commonwealth would be bankrupt.
– They could not afford to do that. It is a matter of £ s. d. with them.
– If the Commonwealth has any pride in its credit and reputation it will try to retain upon a gold basis the currency of the country. As a matter of fact, that has ceased to be, if any section of the Australian community is holding more paper than the Commonwealth can meet in gold payments.
– The Bank of England has a. note issue of £14,500,000 in respect of which there is no gold reserve.
– That statement is incorrect, and the honorable member ought to know, if he has inquired into the subject, that the Bank of England is the agent of the Imperial Government, and in return for the various agency operations that it transacts on behalf of the Government, is granted certain privileges.
What I wish to impress upon my honorable friends opposite is that the principal reason for the drying up of our avenues for obtaining new capital from England lies in Government actions that have recently taken place in this community. No one can say that it is due to bad seasons, or to lack of inherent enterprise on the part of our most industrious people. It is due rather to the fact that this community has placed in the forefront of its legislation a placard to the world that we want no foreign capital for the development of Australia. We are taxing foreign capital as absentee capital. We are taxing it deliberately, and it is because honorable members opposite have taken that extraordinary, stupid, and narrow view of the requirements of Australian development, that we are getting no capital from abroad, whilst Canada and the Argentine are going ahead.
In conclusion. I should like to say that, of all the wild-cat projects of my honorable friends opposite, none can do greater harm than their constant endeavour to stir up industrial unrest in Australia. I found, on returning from England, that the referenda had already borne fruit. I found that industries which before the referenda were peaceful, had become, by some mysterious means, centres of industrial unrest. Not outside, but inside, those industries that they wish to nationalize, honorable members opposite have succeeded in creating burning questions. In the sugar industry, the iron industry, and, indeed, in every industry regarding which Government action was desired, the Labour party have succeeded in stirring up unrest.
– The honorable member is responsible for it all.
– Then I differ from the honorable member. I have known him for long, and know that he is responsible for nothing. These gentlemen, in stirring up this local unrest for their own selfish political purposes, are doing something which, in my mind, is the most serious thing that any patriot could do against his country in these days of grace.
– I cannot help admiring the honorable member.
– I am not here to bandy compliments with the honorable member and his party. If they were deserving of credit they would receive it from me. Where they are deserving of discredit I am not keeping it from them. But honorable members are unworthy of the name of Australians if they seek to further their own personal political ends by stirring up industrial unrest throughout the Commonwealth
– How do conditions here compare with what the honorable member saw in Great Britain?
– Does the honorable member say that the conditions there are the same as here ? If he does, I must refer him to the English speeches of the Prime Minister and other members of the Australian delegation, in order that he may see what I mean. Something more than ordinary trade union methods is being introduced by these gentlemen into what was the genuine trade unionism of some ten or fifteen years ago. Those persons who are trying to make of Australian industries a smouldering heap of ashes, are actually proposing what my honorable friend referred to as civil war. We all remember how honorable members opposite tried to laugh down the honorable member for North Sydney when he referred to the speeches of responsible Ministers. But what do we hear from responsible members of the party opposite - from men chosen for the highest opportunities within their party’s gift? Here are the sentiments expressed by men who advocate that strikers should arm and shoot down those described as “ blacklegs.”
– “ Scabs.”
– Then let us use the honorable members’s own word and say “scabs.” Here we have a member of a party asking -
Was Home Rule ever advanced to a practical stage in the House of Commons until the Irish members started to hold up legislation and the landlords commenced to fall like rabbits behind the hedges?
– Order ! The honorable member is now distinctly trying to evade the Standing Orders.
– In what way, sir?
– By referring to a speech made in another place.
– What official cognisance have you of that fact? I certainly have before me a newspaper report of a certain speech by Senator Rae, and I am glad, sir, that you admit that it is correct. It appeared in this morning’s issue of the Age, and you, Mr. Speaker, admit that it is really a report of a speech made in the Senate yesterday. I shall endeavour, however, to take another means of placing it upon record. Mr. Speaker’s attitude has saved my honorable friends opposite from having to answer a very difficult question?
– The honorable member must not speak in that way.
– When my honorable friends opposite go round the country - and I am not now referring to them as members of Parliament - advocating that persons should take by force what the law in common justice cannot give them, it is time they realized that they are on the brink of advocating civil war. I do not wish to see anything of the kind, and should’ personally endeavour to settle my differences with some one of my own weight, like the Attorney- General, if we were to come to such lengths. But I ask these honorable members, in the light of certain information from New South Wales, published in this morning’s newspapers, whether they will grant others - those the wages of whose toil they are taking from them - the right to retaliate in kind if this: sort of thing goes on. They are holding up in New South Wales one of the principal sources of wealth in this communityas a whole. They are holding up our wheat exports. The export of wheat is keeping vast bodies of the Australian people alive, and those with whom my honorable friends opposite are associating are stopping wheat from being shipped from Sydney. If the strikers in Sydney have a right to shoot any man who tries to get his wheat carried to market, have not the farmers of that wheat, who cannot sell it unless they can be guaranteed a market, a right to shoulder their rifles and to come down to see that their wheat is shipped? I put this to my honorable friends, not that I want to see such a state of affairs brought into existence, but because I want to show them that this foolish irresponsible nonsense on the part of professional politicians must, cease if we are to have peace, order, and good government in Australia. This country needs to do all that it can to prepare itself for the possibilities of the future. It does not want its house to be divided against itself. It needs orderly enterprise and orderly progress within its confines; it wants the privilege of the law accorded equally to every section of the community, and, what is more, it wants a halter for every person who goes round the country preaching the doctrine of civil war and advocating the use of arms by those who are engaged in the heat of party conflict or industrial disputes.
.- During my recent trip I passed through some of the islands of Fiji. It has been thought for many years past in Australia that that group of islands, owing to their proximity to this continent, ought to be under the control of the Commonwealth, or, at least, of New Zealand. Until the time of my visit I had very little idea of the danger of the development which is now going on. The Fijians themselves are a fine race of people - I suppose as fine a race of natives as could be found in any part of the world. The work of the missionary has been attended, in those islands with better results than in many other cases, but within recent years the sugar industry has been started there, with results which I propose to describe. Although the Fijian native works for comparatively small wages, he would not work for as small a wage as the sugar planter offers. These planters were strong enough to induce the British Government to allow them to import a certain class of people under indenture for the purpose of developing the industry in Fiji. The result has been most demoralizing to the people of the islands. There have- been brought in about 40,000 Hindoos of the worst type that it would be possible to find. They are the gathering up of the scum of all parts of India. Many of them, on their own admission, were criminals before they came to Fiji. They are brought in for a term of five years by the company, and during that period the. average wage received by the men is i:r..57d., or just under is. per day, while the average wage for the women, who also work in the fields, is 5.93d., or just under 6d. per day. If they do not complete the task that is set them they are brought before a Court and heavily fined, or imprisoned. In the year 1907 there were 1,460 cases of imprisonments and other penalties for non-completion of tasks.
– Does the honorable member know the nature of the task?
– I could not give the details, but I know it is a fairly stiff task. The Hindoos are treated with the utmost severity. The overseers flog even women and children. The state of immorality at the place is so bestial that I could not attempt to describe it to the House. I have here a recently published book called Fiji Up 10 Date, by J. W. Burton. My own personal inquiries and information furnished me by business people and others during my short stay in Suva bear out exactly what is published in that book, from which I propose to read a few extracts. The author deals with the position of Fiji as the key to the Pacific, and shows also what we have already lost by our negligence in allowing other Powers to take other islands which will be of great strategic importance in relation to Australia at a later date. Already on one of the islands close to Suva there are some “thousands of Japanese, and it is generally believed that in the near future the whole of the Fijian islands will become peopled by Indians of the worst type. The writer, who was on the islands for some time, says -
Back on the plantations the coolies are herded together like so many penned cattle, amid the most insanitary conditions and indescribable and disgusting filth. A man must hold his nose wilh a firm grip as he passes through some of these lines ; but to live in them- ! It is small wonder that sickness and disease hold carnival, and such places are a disgrace to civilization and a stain upon commerce. . . . One of the saddest and most depressing sights a man can behold, if he have any soul at all, is a “coolie line” in Fiji. There is a look of abjectness and misery on almost every face that haunts him. Dirt, filth, .and vile stenches abound. Wickedness flaunts itself unshamedly. Loose, evil-faced women throw their jibes at criminal-looking men, or else quarrel with each other in high, strident voices, made emphatic by wild, angry gestures. The beholder turns away, striving to discover whether pity or disgust is uppermost in his mind. There is much occasion for both. Many of the coolies are of low caste, or no caste at all. The sweepings of the streets of Calcutta, the riff-raff from the .inland towns, the ne’er-do-wells from the villages, and the men who have become too well known to the police - all are to be found in Fiji.
He gives the testimony of some of the men brought from India, one of whom admitted that he had” murdered two men before he came to Fiji, and that he was practically an outlaw in India. That is only typical of many cases .to be found in Fiji to-day.
– By whom are they brought over ?
– They are imported by the sugar planters through the agency of the British Government. The planter pays the Government £16 in each case to cover, I presume, the cost of bringing the labourer over, and he then pays the rates of wages which I have already mentioned. Here is a description of the way these people are treated by some of the overseers -
Tt is mid-day. A woman went to work in the morning, and left her infant, according to the rules of the estate, at the plantation creche The little one had been ill during the night, and the mother had become anxious about it. She stole from her work to see it, and found that it still had fever. She determined to bring it back with her to the field - which is contrary to rules. She is doing this when her overseer, a big, burly Britisher, rides along on his chestnut horse. He sees her carrying the child on her hip, and immediately hurls off English and Hindustani oaths at her. “ Back you go ! Take back your kid to the creche, you- !” The woman turns in fear, and puts her hands together in entreaty. The whip comes down upon her half -naked back and legs. The child is struck also. Both are crying and screaming, and the mounted brute almost puts his horse’s hoofs upon her. A European happens to be passing. “ You coward ! Call yourself an Englishman to strike a woman like that?” He laughs uneasily. “ These d- d coolies - especially the women - must taste the whip. There is no keeping them under else.”
Several similar cases are given, and the following is a general summary of what is going on -
Morally, the Indian in Fiji is outside the decencies of description. The sins that brought clown fire on the Cities of the Plain are rampant. Bestiality, which would shame even a Pasiphae riots here. We dare not attempt to even hint at its vileness. No established marriage laws obtain. A woman will stay just as long with : man as it suits her. When a better husband appears who can give more jewellery, then she goes to him. A woman’s family sometimes represents as many husbands as there are children. The girls commence a life of dishonour at a very early age. They may be married - that is, purchased by some man from their parents - at the age Of seven or eight. Then they are under the care of the, husband’s people - if he has any. The guardians will sometimes try to get back as much of the money spent in the purchase as is possible by selling the child’s virtue. When the little girl is twelve or thirteen she commences to live with her husband, who may be twenty or thirty years older. In a year’s time she is a mother ! We have seen them mere children - with smaller children at their breast - mothers at twelve and thirteen! . . . To-day Indians are covering the face of Fiji. In several districts they already outnumber the Fijians.
– Does the author call them Indians ? Surely he means Hindoos.
– Yes, some of the business people call them Indians, and others call them Hindoos.
They are gradually pushing the native back by leasing or buying his best lands; and the river and road frontages are mostly theirs. They are changing the face of Fiji also. Everywhere their patches of cultivation appear. This month it is standing bush we see, the next month there are shoots of maize coming up between the stumps in the clearing. One may drive from Suva to Nausori, for example - 12 miles - and not see one solitary Fijian village till the very end of the journey. Indians, Indians, Indians, along every mile of the road. There seems only one prospect for Fiji - it is that of becoming an Indian colony. Whether or not this is an end to be desired, opinions vary. It is, however, seemingly inevitable.
I believe that in the interests of the future of the Commonwealth, an inquiry ought to be held into these allegations with the ultimate object of approaching the Imperial authorities and taking over the con-, trol of that group of islands. They are’ very rich, and the natives can be moulded into a very useful race, but if the demoralization now going on continues, it will be a bad look-out for them. There does not seem to be any falling-off in the importations. As a matter of fact, the Hindoos are increasing rapidly. Under the terms of the indenture, they are imported for five years. At the end of that term they are allowed to remain another five years, and if during that time they have not been imprisoned they arte allowed to remain for good. So that practically every person who has gone to Fiji to work on the sugar plantations will remain there permanently. This matter concerns us so materially, and will concern us so much more in the future, that the Government should inquire into it at the earliest date, with a view to ultimately taking control of the islands. I think, too, that there should be a radical reform of the methods of advertising Australia abroad. I do not know what right the Company concerned has to give an imitation in London of the scenery and productions of Australia, such as that at the Festival of Empire at the Crystal Palace; but it is a disgrace to those responsible for it. The promoters approached the Commonwealth for a subsidy, which was refused, but they have erected a wattle and daub structure which they call a representation of the Federal parliamentary buildings ; and in connexion with what they term the “all-red route railway” have painted and arranged scenery which one might well think designed to wreak their vengeance upon this Government for refusing assistance. On the other hand, Canada and the Pacific Railway Company, which have been lavish with funds, are very differently treated, the Canadian scenery being most magnificent, .while there is a splendid display of Canadian productions. I cannot believe that the Commonwealth has not power to prevent a private company from thus traducing Australia. Our methods of advertising abroad are an absolute farce, whereas Canadian possibilities are advertised everywhere. In every important centre of the United Kingdom Canada has a representative from whom you can get information as to what she offers to settlers ; but if you want such information regarding Australia you must apply at the Commonwealth Offices, 72 Victoria-street, London. I am of opinion that we should have representatives in every important town of the United Kingdom, and also throughout Canada and the United States of America, where I am convinced there is a wonderful market for Australian productions. NewZealand, indeed, is already doing well there. I could give details of prices obtained which would satisfy any one as to the possibilities of that market. There is there, too, a great field from which to obtain immigrants ; but neither in Canada nor the United States of America can reliable information be obtained regarding Australia. Naturally, the Canadian Government does not go to any trouble to advertise us, because it knows that Australia will in future be the great rival of Canada. While I was travelling through the country, many persons called on me to learn about Australia. We should have commercial agents, not only in the United Kingdom, but also in Canada and the United States, to assist in placing our products on their markets. The Government might get no direct monetary return from this enterprise, but the community would benefit greatly. If business men were appointed, large markets would be opened up for our products. I have correspondence in my possession from persons in the middle of Canada who wish to get agencies for the disposal of Australian fruit and other produce. I am under the impression that it would be an advantage to Australia to establish an AllRed line between Sydney, New Zealand, and Vancouver. The Prime Minister may have a special reason for discontinuing the subsidy, but J am strongly convinced that the subsidy is necessary. Further, I believe that a line of steamers subsidized solely by the Commonwealth would pay handsomely in the near future, by giving a larger market for Australian produce in Canada and the United States. We shall have to provide, too, for the distribution of the produce at the other end. At the present time certain individuals sometimes secure the whole of the space on a line of vessels, with a view to controlling importation and keeping up prices. This is a thing that we should prevent. I think that we could get from Canada and the United States, as well as from Great Britain, men who would bring with them capital amounting in time to millions. I have a scheme in my mind, which I shall not detail now, but which I shall be pleased to lay before the Minister, which I think would enable a new source of immigration to be tapped. The immigrants I speak of would be men able to purchase farms, and settle here. The corollary of progressive land tax is to do everything possible to settle the large estates that are subdivided and made available. The Government should do everything possible - it could be done at a nominal cost - to bring out persons with capital.
– What does the honorable member mean by a ‘ ‘ nominal cost 1 ‘ ? The cost of appointing representatives throughout Canada and America would be more than nominal.
– I am positive that it would be of immense advantage to the Commonwealth to do what I suggest. The more I study the question, the more certain I am of that. I spoke on the subject to several of the Agents-General, and they agreed with me that there is a class of persons who would like to come here, but who are not now catered for. This immigration would not interfere with the labour market here, but would increase the avenues of employment, and add to the capital at our disposal.
– We must first see that the land is made available.
– The land tax is making land available. The progressive land tax was never intended, as some honorable members opposite would lead us to believe, to find homes for the homeless or land for the poor. Any one with common sense would understand that the subdivisions of large estates could only be acquired by fairly well-to-do men, but the class of which I speak as coming here will doubtless be capable of taking up improved holdings on these subdivisions. In conclusion, I trust that no time will be lost in inquiring into the allegations regarding Fiji, or in making some very drastic alteration in connexion with the advertising of Australia and its products.
– It is not my intention to discuss at any length the subjects dealt with at the Imperial Conference. I understand from the Prime Minister that an opportunity will be afforded later to consider the very important and far-reaching resolutions there proposed and passed.
I am personally glad to observe the attitude taken up in reference to this Conference, and to observe that it is regarded as a sort of permanent organization of the Empire. It is felt that it has within itself the germ of what will ultimately grow into a distinct organic instrument of government for the well-being of the Empire as a whole. There are at present two trends of thought, one towards Imperialism and another towards Nationalism, in different parts of the Dominions. As far back as 1002, Sir Wilfrid Laurier pointed that out in a very marked way when he referred to the different portions of the Empire as “ a galaxy of independent nations.” Our title as a nation is sometimes subject to criticism ; and it is interesting to recall the fact that, when the Secretary of State for the Colonies, on behalf of the Imperial Government, sent his message to us at the inauguration of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty’s Ministers said that they welcomed Australia to her place amongst the nations united under Her Majesty’s sovereignty, and confidently anticipated for the new Federation a future of ever-increasing prosperity and influence. They contemplated from the beginning that we were admitted as a nation under the Crown; and this tendency to Imperialism and the tendency to Nationalism were marked very distinctly at the last Conference. As a practical application of the two principles, we have finally the sanction given to the Naval Agreement. The Times of 4th August, 191 1, said -
With good-will on all sides, and with mutual forbearance and mutual concession, has been solved - and in om judgment well and wisely solved - the momentous and infinitely difficult problem of combining complete local autonomy in time of peace with organic solidarity of tradition, spirit, training, and discipline at alt times, and in time of war with absolute unity of strategic direction and control, so far as in any future war the Dominions affected are prepared to place their naval forces at the disposal of the Imperial Government.
There we have expressed the idea that we are a distinct part of the Empire, with Empire responsibilities, and with, at the same time, national power to’ develop our own self-government. This increased power comes to us with a sense of trusteeship _ and responsibility, and should be exercised in accordance with the tendencies indicated. Australia desires to encourage a national sentiment, and the stronger that national sentiment is the stronger will our Imperialism become.
There are one or two statements in the Governor-General’s Speech which call for immediate challenge. It is stated -
The Naval Agreement arrived at after conference between Commonwealth Representatives and the Admiralty is extremely satisfactory, embodying the policy formulated by the Government, and approved by the people of the Commonwealth.
I hope that we shall be able to keep the question of Defence out of the arena of party politics; but this paragraph in the Governor-General’s Speech clearly raises the question as to who is responsible for the evolution and ultimate development of the Naval Agreement. The statement is that the Naval Agreement was the policy of the Labour party ; and the Prime Minister; “ after saying that honorable members on the front Opposition benches were quite familiar with his views, referred to a document, the contents of which, he said, were not discussed, implying that that document was really the foundation of the Naval Agreement - an agreement which is practically that of the whole of the Empire. Hence it is only just, even from a purely historical point of view, that we should know the origin of the agreement. Fortunately, there are official documents which speak for themselves.
I do not desire to go back to the speeches and resolutions in this House; but the first official document is in the form of a despatch sent out by the Admiralty on the 20th August, 1908, formulating the principles and ideas which had been expounded by the then Prime Minister of the Commonwealth with regard to an agreement in substitution for the existing agreement. That despatch is really the foundation and basis of the present Naval Agreement, for every fundamental principle contained in the present agreement is there set out. The very phraseology of the document to which the Prime Minister referred - a document which is available, and was laid on the table and discussed - is taken from that earlier despatch. The document states that the Government are prepared to undertake the responsibility of naval defence; and if we refer to the despatch of the 15th April, 1909, we find the second clause in almost the same words -
In the document of 1908 there occurs this -
The administrative control of the flotilla will rest with the Commonwealth Government, but the officers and men will form part of the Imperial Navy, and be subject to the King’s Regulations and Admiralty Instructions in all particulars.
Paragraph 6 of the document of 1909 is as follows : -
Then, as to the sphere of operations, we are told in the document of 1908 -
My Lords understand that the local flotilla will be employed in the territorial waters of the Continent of Australia, and of the dependencies that arc under the administration of the Commonwealth Government.
Clause5 of the document of 1909 is as follows : -
As to the important question of the position in time of peace and in time of war, we are told in the document of 1908 -
In time of peace the vessels will be controlled and distributed in the waters of the Commonwealth without any interference from the Imperial Government, the only limitation being the necessity for the periodical transfer of officers and men from the flotilla to the fleet for training and other purposes, the arrangement of which will be determined by the Admiralty.
Mr. Deakin considered that in time of war or emergency the Commonwealth Government would place the flotilla under the orders of the Naval Commander-in-Chief, but he expressed the opinion that the decision must rest with the responsible Government at the time, it being understood that the vessels should not be moved out of Australian waters without the approval of the Commonwealth Government.
In the document of 1909 similar phraseology is used -
Under the circumstances, the Prime Minister might well have added to the paragraph I have quoted from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech - and which had been previously formulated in almost the same words by my predecessor in office in 1908.
Colonel Foxton, who represented the Deakin Government at the Imperial Conference in 1909, approved of those principles, but we know that, In the meantime, a complete change had come over the idea of Australia’s contribution. Moreover, the Deakin Government made certain proposals for a fleet. These provided the solid foundation on which could be formed a useful addition to the Imperial Fleet in these waters. They were set aside by the Fisher Government, who proposed a flotilla of destroyers. Afterwards the Deakin-Cook Government’, in conjunction with the Admiralty, formulated the actual unit which to-day constitutes the Australian unit in the Imperial Fleet. What, then, remained to be done at the last Imperial Conference? Practically only to lay down conditions under which that fleet is to work as a unit; and the Agreement laid on the table to-day embodies every fundamental principle that was formulated in the first document.
The scheme proved, as it was believed it would prove, a satisfactory working of the two tendencies to which I have referred, and showed Imperialism and Nationalism working practically side by side.
Sitting suspended from i to 2.15 p.m.
– The remarks which I have already made in regard to our naval policy will apply also to the land defences of Australia. It has been urged that to the present Government belongs the credit of having introduced in Australia the principle of compulsory service, but let me say at once that I am glad that it saw fit to accept the report, obtained at the instance of the Deakin Government, from Lord Kitchener, and to adopt the principles therein laid down. We cannot overlook the notorious fact that it was the exMinister of Defence - the honorable member for Parramatta - who first gave the principle of compulsory service statutory form. In this connexion I am sure that we shall all bear testimony to the exceptionally fine, work done by Sir Thomas Ewing, who, as Minister of Defence, had first of all to grapple with the whole question of compulsory service from the departmental view. Upon him rested the work of formulating a scheme that could be put into practical shape. Every one who has had experience in governmental matters will admit that the first draft of any scheme is always the most difficult to prepare. A draft having been formulated, you have before you a scheme on which you can build as you please. The whole system of Imperial cooperation was also dealt with by previous Administrations on the lines that have been ultimately agreed to.
I sincerely trust that we shall be able to keep defence matters out of the arena of party political strife, because when Australia goes to war we shall know neither Liberal nor Conservative, neither Laborite nor Socialist. Every man will be known only as an Australian, and expected to do his best for his country. We cannot, for one moment, give countenance to the idea that war having been declared, either by or against Great Britain, we can remain neutral. Such a doctrine as the neutrality of the Dominions is impossible. It is all very well for the Dominions to say, “ We are not going to enter into a war until we have ascertained whether or not it is justifiable,” but once we are “at war, and the Empire is threatened, the instincts of unity and self-preservation will override all other considerations, and we shall all desire to do our utmost to maintain our integrity as a nation.
Sir Frederick Pollock recently pointed out that, whilst the several Dominions may claim to be nations, they are really units of the Empire, and, as such, are not recognised in the realm of international law. In the eyes of international law there is no such thing as an Australian or a Canadian nation. In the community of nations the British Empire alone is recognised by them. Our King is the representative of this unity of the nation. Although a unit might desire to be neutral the right to remain so would not rest with it. It would remain with any enemy at war with the Empire. A unit might desire to be neutral, but the nation at war with Great Britain might say to it, “ We decline to recognise your neutrality.” The position reminds one of the story of the Chinese official who attended a great international Conference, and remarked, when it was declared that no nation should go to war until a proclamation had been issued, “ But what about your giving us notice when you want to fight, and we do not want to fight you.” Whether one of the units of the Empire wanted to fight or not would not be of much moment in the case of Great Britain being involved in war.
In the event . of an outbreak of hostilities, Australia would not be asked whether she was or was not neutral. The chief consideration on the part of the enemy would be as to whether by taking Australia, it could weaken the Empire, and at the same time obtain a valuable acquisition. The enemy would be concerned far more with a question of that sort than with any theoretical question of neutrality. In the circumstances, I think that honorable members, on all sides of the House, must agree that if .the Empire were at war Australia must be at war. There can be no question of neutrality when the integration or disintegration of “the Empire is at stake.
I propose now to deal with the sugar question, and am glad that the Government have announced their intention of appointing a Royal Commission to inquire into the position of the industry. The honorable member for Capricornia, who has recently entered this House, took up the demand made by his predecessor, Mr. Archer, forthe appointment of a Commission, although I do not think he advocated such an appointment during the election campaign, and the Government, after considerable delay, have consented to such an appointment being made. The Prime Minister tells us, however, that the Commission is not to be on the lines of that appointed by the late Government. What were those lines? In the first place, the Commission was to be absolutely nonpolitical. Our desire was that there should be a judicial investigation of the industry in all its aspects, free from all party political considerations, so that the findings of the Commission would have the confidence of the public. The public want to learn the position of the sugar industry in all its bearings. The people of Queensland believe that the industry is of vital importance to Australia, and are confident that that fact will be clearly established by any investigation that may lake place.
A Royal Commission appointed by the Queensland Government to inquire into certain questions relating to the sugar industry furnished a report in March last, in which we have the following paragraph: -
As a result of rauch deliberation we are of opinion that, in view of the paramount importance to Queensland, and to Australia as a whole, of the close settlement for defence and development purposes of the north-eastern coast line of this State, and of the shores of the Northern Territory of South Australia, settlement only at. tainable by the permanent location thereon of an agricultural population, it is highly improbable that the Legislature controlling the destinies of the Commonwealth, and of the sugar industry, will at any future time take action which will defeat such objects.
The Queensland Government Statistician in his report on the sugar statistics for 1910 states that -
The activity in sugar cultivation is evidenced by the much greater number of farmers returned as cultivating cane for manufacture in 1910 as compared with previous years, the figures being -19083727;1909, 3,947;and1910, 4,232, the average area for each cultivator being - 1908, 33 acres; 1909, 32 acres; and 1910, 34 acres; so it does not appear that growers are disposed to restrict the area which they place under cane, or that the greater number of planters is due to the subdivision of large estates.
These reports clearly show thatthe industry is of the utmost importance in helping us to permanently settle the people in the north. The problem of the settlement of the northern part of Australia is thrown upon us as a Commonwealth,’ and we have to encourage industries that will give profitable employment and induce people to settle there. In that respect the sugar industry has done, and will do, good work.
– Many of those who advocate the appointment of a Commission have no desire to injure the industry.
– I am sure of that. When we draw a line from Rockhampton’ across the continent to Western Australia, we find that in an area representing at least onehalf of the Commonwealth - probably the largest part of it - we have a population of only about 100,000 white persons, so that from our point of view that part of Australia is not effectively occupied. It is for us to determine how to meet the trouble ; and only by the encouragement of industries such as this can we hope to meet it. Those who have investigated the position of affairs in the north readily admit that no industry is more suitable for the development of settlement there. The importance of the sugar industry is admitted by all parties, and what we desire to find out is the extent of its operations. The industry affects, first of all, the growers, without whom we cannot have either the worker, the manufacturer, or the refiner. I dissent from the view taken by the Minister of Trade and Customs when he said that he considered the worker all the time.
– I do ; I think he comes first.
– I hope that the honorable member will alter that view. It is a mistake to regard the worker as being first in this case. The honorable gentleman must extend his definition of the word and regard as workers all those who areengaged in the production of sugar. If that is how the honorable member views the word, I am not going to criticise his point of view.
– The growers are workers.
– They certainly are, and we owe a debt of gratitude to them. Whilst we have been talking of a White Australia they have converted our talk into something practicable. With wonderful loyalty to our ideals, they have patiently, ably, and industriously worked out and solved a problem that has puzzled other parts of the world. The question affects the workers, the growers, the refiners, the manufacturers, and the consumers. Hence the proposal of the late Government was that a Royal Commission of a non-political character, presided over by a Judge, should be appointed to inquire into every aspect of the .industry. It has been contended that the Government want a Royal Commission with power to compel witnesses to give evidence; but honorable members quite overlook the fact that the Royal Commissions Act gives all the powers necessary in that respect. Witnesses are compelled to attend and to answer, so that all the required information can be obtained. I have shown the kind of Commission we proposed. What is the Prime Minister going to do? He says his Royal Commission is not to be. on the lines of that suggested by his predecessors. What lines is it to go on? Is it to deviate from any of the lines I have indicated - non-political, impartial, sitting in public, possessing compulsory powers of attendance, and conducting an investigation into every aspect of the industry, with power to report on all its aspects?
– Does the honorable member think it possible to exclude politics from an inquiry into the sugar industry?
– I think there are in this country people who can investigate economic problems without introducing the element of partisan politics. Of course, every man who is worthy of the name must have ideas and convictions of his own, but I was referring to the introduction of party politics.
– Under the powers we have to-day we cannot get at the truth by means of a Commission because the witnesses refuse to answer.
– If the questions are properly and specifically put witnesses can be compelled to answer. Even if the honorable member’s contention is correct, the honorable member’s party is in power ; they have the legislative machinery at their command ; why then do they not introduce a Bill and take the necessary powers?
– In the Harvester Commission we put the necessary questions, and the honorable member’s Government would not back us up.
– The honorable member’s party have the power now, so why not do what is necessary ? It is quite possible that questions may not be properly framed. At any rate, what has happened in the past may be a lesson for us to profit by in the future. Are the Government going to do something now that they have the power?
– The questions put in our case were framed and approved of by the Crown law officers. What more can the honorable member want?
– I have no sympathy with the man who refuses to answer a question properly put. Personally I should like to see this Royal Commission armed with all requisite power to investigate the truth. I . am sure there would be no opposition in that respect from this side of the House. Is that the only point in which the Prime Minister will deviate from our policy? If it is I am very glad to hear it. If, however, there are to be on this Commission one or two strong political partisans who will not judicially investigate the matter, but will simply put questions to prove a particular theory of their own, the Commission will be discredited.
– That would be something like the Commission the honorable member’s Government initiated to conduct an inquiry into the Postal Department.
– I am making no charges against previous Commissions. I am only asking that the proposed Commission shall not be of such a character as to cause attacks to be made upon it from a partisan point of view.
– The honorable member’s Government did not follow that advice when appointing the Commission I refer to.
– I understood the honorable member moved in that matter himself, and that it was agreed to appoint a Commission of members of this House. That Commission may have done most excellent service, for which the country ought to be deeply grateful, but I am not askingfor that sort of body to conduct this inquiry. The Prime Minister also stated that there was justification for delaying the appointment of this Commission, and that no body of men could make a full and fair investigation -of the sugar industry in sixmonths, even if they worked from the date of their appointment. My hope is that they will not take much longer than six months. I believe that by working night and day they can accomplish their task in the time. At the close of last year the Queensland Government desired to inquire into the question of whether they should construct any new central mills. That involved a long and full investigation. The Commission was appointed at the end of November, took evidence on 7th December, 1910, for the first time, and on roth March, 1911, its report was handed to the. Government.’ That was an important inquiry, involving the consideration of -the establishment of mills, the nature of .the country, the consumption of sugar, the present and future demands of
Australia, and many other questions. _ Yet the inquiry was completed in practically three months.
– The Commission now proposed will be much more extensive.
– It will be, but would a Commission of the following nature meet the Government’s point of view :- “ To inquire into the general condition of the sugar industry in Queensland, and to report upon the causes which have led to the present languishing condition of the industry throughout the Colony, the best means to be adopted for reviving arid maintaining its prosperity, and generally upon the prospects of tropical agriculture in Queensland “ ? That is a fairly large order, covering practically every aspect of the industry. How long does the Minister think would be a fair time for an investigation of that kind ?
– Twelve months would be a fair thing.
– The date of this Commission was 28th November, 1888. The first sitting took place on 4th December, 1888, the final sitting on 12th April, 1889, and the report was dated on the previous day - nth April. The Commission investigated the political aspects of the industry, the problem of white and coloured labour, went into the whole of the conditions, and considered means of reviving the sugar and all other tropical industries also. Yet they took only four months to do the work. Since then the industry has been put on a more permanent footing, the whole of the work is more systematized, statistical information is better collected, the Customs Department have a complete record of administration extending over nearly ten years, and a series of central mills, the whole of whose experience is tabulated every year, is in existence. An enormous mass of information is therefore accessible to any Commission without very much difficulty. Many of the vexed problems which require investigation can be simply dealt with.
– There are less than halfadozen central mills at which the information is tabulated.
– If there is a series of co-operative mills in existence-
– There is a distinct difference between a central and a co-operative mill. Statistics are available for only four Government central mills.
– I am referring to all those mills which have been assisted by the State by advances. There is a whole series of them, starting at Nambour in the south and going right up to Cairns. Their returns and balance-sheets are published regularly. We know the exact price they pay for cane, what it costs to manufacture, and what wages are paid in all the factories. Those mills being organized on that basis it is much easier to investigate the actual facts concerning certain aspects of the industry. After all, if the information was tabulated in only three of those mills, they would be like three little laboratories of experiment, illustrating the whole movement.
– The difficulty lies in the people who will not give us the information, such as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who refuse, to say how many coloured labourers they have in their mills.
– Is it going to take six months to investigate the affairs of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company alone?
– It should not do so. We on this side of the House are just as eager as is any member on that side to have the whole truth regarding the operations of that company in Australia.
– The honorable member will excuse me if I doubt it.
– The honorable member is entitled to his doubts so long as they are honest.
– The previous Government appointed a Commission, and the present Government disbanded it.
– The previous Government did not appoint it.
– The terms of the Com-: mission were drafted, .and everything was complete. The present Government, at their first Cabinet meeting, could have issued the Commission, and had the work completed. With regard to the doubts expressed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, since the Commission was lying in the office, and the men to conduct the inquiry had been approached, it cannot be said that it was a bogus proposal in any possible sense.
– I never said that it was.
– But the honorable member for Melbourne Ports implied by his interjection that we did not want to know the facts. Yet the Commission which would have given us the knowledge was all ready for appointment when we left office.
– Two out of three of its members were ready to act. The third man did not agree.
– He agreed to act, but withdrew for personal reasons. At any rate, I am glad to know that the Government propose now to do what we would have done long ago. . It is like everything else. They are dead against a policy until they get into power. Then they see that all their administrative information shows that the policy which we advocated was wise and statesmanlike. They have to adopt it.
– The policy of the honorable member’s Government was to postpone any legislative action until the Commission reported.
– The policy announced by the Prime Minister in the sugar districts was,. “ We shall allow the existing conditions to remain- “
– That meant that the legislation would have run out.
– It would not have done so.
Although for nearly a fortnight the various Departments have been under criticism, not one Minister has made an answer to the statements of the Opposition, except by way of interjection. It would be more in accordance with the dignityof honorable gentlemen opposite, and conduce to the better understanding of affairs, if they made formal replies to the criticism of the Departments which they control. We, on tbis side, as our actions prove, desire an investigation of the affairs of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The Prime Minister at the head of the last Government stated that it was his intention that existing conditions should remain unaltered until a Royal Commission could recommend some more satisfactory way of dealing with the sugar industry, having regard to the necessity of preserving Australia as a white country, and keeping the industry in existence.
– That is the first time that I have heard the statement.
– I am sorry that the Minister does not read the speeches of his opponents. Apparently he acts on advice similar to that given to Labour supporters in Queensland, who were told not to go to Liberal meetings lest they might be converted to Liberal views. The advantage of going to meetings of one’s opponents is that one sometimes hears statesmanlike proposals, such as that of the honorable mem ber for Herbert, who said that if the wages asked for in the sugar industry were not’ paid, the sugar industry might be established in Papua. He asked, “ What would happen then to the Queensland sugar industry?” I ask, what would become of White Australia if we encouraged the use of black-grown sugar from Papua?
– Did the honorable member say that blackleg labour is worse than black labour ?
– I have said so, and say so again.
– At last a Commission is to be appointed by this Government to inquire into the sugar industry. I should like to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs what is the policy of the Government respecting the sugar duty ? What attitude does he take up towards the threat of the Attorney-General to repeal the duty ? The new way of securing industrial peace is to threaten the destruction of the industry ! But would any Queensland member dare to propose the repeal of the duty on sugar ?
– I have said before, both here and in my electorate, that if the industry cannot pay a living wage, it should be shut up.
– I wish to know if the views of the Attorney-General are held by the Ministry. He said -
I, for one - and I am sure I do not express my own opinions only - will have not the slightest hesitation in repealing the duty at the’ earliest possible moment.
It will be little comfort to the sugar grower who has put the whole of his capital, and his life’s work, into his business, to be told that the Government, to punish the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, intends to abolish the duty on sugar, and to flood Australia with the cheaply-produced sugar of other places.
– Does the Colonial Sugar Refining Company care whether the duty is taken off or not?
– The sugar growers care a great deal. I do not think that the industry could continue to exist without the protection of the duty. The rate of duty may be increased or decreased ; but it must always be high enough to protect our producers from foreign competition.
– It must not be too high.
– What is the policy of the Opposition?
– We are for the preservation of Australian industries.
The Prime Minister told the House that he would leave the Northern Territory question to the Minister of External Affairs. The Territory having been taken over, we are all concerned in its proper development, and should like to know what steps have been taken to explore the country and formulate a scheme for its settlement.
– I propose to make a full statement to the House at an early date.
– This session?
– Certainly. I shall then detail what has been done, what is being done, and what it is proposed to do.
– Submitting proposals?
– Including immigration proposals ?
– I ask the honorable member not to anticipate.
– The speeches made by Ministers in the Old Country have engendered the belief, both there and here, that the Government intends to further immigration. I have no sympathy with the attitude of State Governments, Labour or Liberal, in declining to co-operate with the Commonwealth in a policy for the good of Australia.
– Queensland is a big offender.
– Certain honorable members said that there was no room for immigrants in Queensland, but at the present time the State can find occupation for as many persons as like to go there, and its Government is very actively encouraging immigration. I am glad that the Government proposes to establish in London offices in which all the representatives of Australia will be housed under one roof.
– Should the Commonwealth go on with what it is doing if the States refuse to co-operate?
– lt should continue if it has the co-operation of only two States. On former occasions some of the States have refused to co-operate, but we have nevertheless done what we could.
– Nothing will be gained if competition continues.
– If we work with some of the States, the others will soon fall into line. If only three of the States are willing to have the landseekers’ expedition, I say let them have it. No matter what State brings out an immigrant, the man once here is an Australia, and can settle where he likes.
– Things can only be done better by doing them on a larger scale.
– In 1906, the then Prime Minister outlined, at the Premiers’ Conference, a scheme under which the Commonwealth would co-operate with the States in different ways. Unfortunately, the offer was declined. Had it been accepted, there would not be to-day hundreds of immigrants desirous of coming to Australia, but unable to get accommodation on vessels. I understand that this Government contemplates an expanding immigration policy, and in that it will have the assistance of most honorable members. I am glad that the Ministry has taken a step towards creating an Agricultural Bureau by appointing an agricultural expert for the Northern Territory.
– Mr. Campbell was appointed merely to do special work, which’ Has been completed ; but an Agricultural Department will be created. He was asked to indicate where certain agricultural experiments could best be carried out.
– We are beginning to realize that Australia must have a body of experts to deal with the scientific problems of animal and plant life. I am glad to know that the establishment of a Department of Agriculture is intended. The Government have been asked from time to time to undertake the investigation of certain pests and diseases ; and I understand that Mr. McAlpine has a four years’ appointment to investigate apple diseases. The sugar-growers of Queensland wish to have an expert investigation of a grub pest which, as the honorable member for Herbert knows, has destroyed thousands of tons of cane.: They have asked for a scientific investigation. It would be infinitely more satisfactory, from an administrative point of view, if a small body of experts was appointed straight away, in view of the many pressing national problems which materially affect production. In my own electorate the fruit-fly pest has completely destroyed the fruit industry.
– Does the honorable member support the appointment of an Agricultural Bureau?
– I have always advocated such a bureau. There is no indication of any such appointment in the
Governor- General’s Speech, but, inferentially, the Prime Minister indicated in his remarks that something was going to be done. He said -
As to the Agricultural Bureau, that has been talked about by more than one Government ; and, no doubt, it ought to be established in a central position, so that it may be beneficial to the whole of the country.
That seems to indicate the establishment of a bureau or some organization in a central position ; but the experts will have to go wherever there is trouble, and make investigations on the spot.
What steps are being taken in order to make the Meteorological Department more efficient? During last session it seemed that the Post and Telegraph Department were blocking the project by not allowing the rainfall reports to be widely distributed, and thus afford information to people on, for instance, long stock routes. The Minister of Home Affairs took a note of the complaints made, promising to include them in his “ system;” and I hope there will be some result during , the present session. The Meteorological Department should be an important adjunct of government in assisting those who are engaged in production. I am glad to notice that the Government have, in their programme, a Bankruptcy Bill, the necessity for such a measure having been clearly shown in a case at Adelaide last week. A young man came from Adelaide to Victoria with about £230 of capital, and advertised that he was prepared to lend from£5,000 to £50,000 on any good security. He “ took down “ a tramway employe for£50, and a woman also was a victim of what the Judge called “ misrepresentation and grave fraud.” Altogether this young man had about twentynine creditors in Melbourne, not even paying his cabman, and Commissioner Russell, of Adelaide, remarked -
It seemed to his Honour a matter of regret, and perhaps one of the strongest reasons that existed for the Federal legislation which had been contemplated, to enable the Court in any
Of the States to grapple and deal once and for all with insolvents - whether they be in New South Wales or any other part of the Commonwealth. But he had to deal with legislation as it was. South Australian legislation had its limits. The principle was that “ you must catch your hare before you can cook it.” The jurisdiction and powers of the Court were territorial.
This man was able to get a discharge of the second-class ; but had this been an Australian insolvency, dealt with by an Australian Court, a certificate would have been refused, and the man punished for fraud.
We shall never be satisfied until an Australian debtor is a debtor wherever he happens to be, and an Australian creditor can exercise his right throughout Australia.
I should further like to know whether the Government are approaching the States in any way in connexion with transferred properties. Section 85, sub-section 3 of the Constitution is as follows: -
The Commonwealth should compensate the State forthe value of any property passing to the Commonwealth under this section ; if no agreement can be made as to the mode of compensation, it should be determined under laws to be made by the Parliament.
Has any agreement been made with respect to the transferred properties?
– No agreement has been made, but we propose to introduce legislation.
– With a view to an agreement?
– We shall endeavour to make an agreement, but I think this Parliament has the right to legislate.
– I have not considered the point carefully, but I think there should be some satisfactory evidence that an agreement cannot be arrived at before we legislate. So far as I can gather from State Premiers, the Government have submitted a proposal to compensate the States by paying, from the 1st July, 1910, interest at the rate of 3 per cent. only, at the agreed-on value, with a sinking fund of½ per cent. To this Queensland objects, and claims3¾ per cent., the Premier of that State pointing out that½ per cent. per annum invested at3½ per cent. requires a period of sixty years to amount to , £100. If a State borrows from the Commonwealth, interest at the rate of3¾ per cent. has to be paid. Properties on which loan moneys have been expended have been transferred to the Commonwealth ; and on those moneys a higher rate of interest has to be paid ; and yet only 3 per cent. is offered, while the Commonwealth exacts3¾ per cent.
– As the Treasurer of a Trust Fund, I am bound to invest in the best security I can get.
– I am finding no fault with that, but the State Premiers also desire to get the best terms.
– Notwithstanding the fact that not much of the loan moneys has been invested in these properties.
– Very much of the money has.
– But it is not at such a high rate of interest as that suggested.
– I think some is at a higher rate.
– And some lower.
– After all, the question is, What is a fair and reasonable settlement ?
– Exactly ; if the honorable member sticks to that, he will be right.
– All I am pointing out is that the State aspect also has to be considered; I am not expressing any opinion finally on the subject.
– The honorable member is declaring for 3! per cent.
– I am only putting the view of the State Treasurers, and asking that that view shall be considered.
– The Queensland view is that to compensate the State for the value of the transferred properties, the Commonwealth should take over ^1,521,868 of the 3J per cent, public debt of the State, .and that, from the date of the. properties becoming invested in the Commonwealth to the date of the assumption by the Commonwealth of the capital value indebtedness, interest at the rate of 3J per cent, per annum should be paid by the Commonwealth to the State.
– Does the honorable member agree with that idea?
– I am not saying that I do; I am merely placing on record these views, and asking whether they have been considered ?
– When an honorable member is in a responsible position, he must watch the public interests. The Queensland Treasurer claims interest from 1901, and that is an unreasonable proposition.
– What we are asking is an explanation why this proposal has not been accepted.
– I would not touch a proposition of that kind !
– I notice that all the States concerned are making similar claims.
– No Queensland influence will trouble me when I am engaged in looking after the public interest !
– I hope it will not, but that the Prime Minister will do what is right and just. I am not bringing this forward as a Queensland matter, but as an Australian matter. I notice that the Victorian Treasurer, Mr. Watt, yesterday said that the Government of his State did not regard the offer of the Commonwealth as fair, and that, pending the payment of the principal, the interest should be at the current rate of 3f per cent.
– Our credit is better than that !
– Mr. Watt went on to say that, with a view to an early settlement of the problem,” the State Government proposed to submit the question for the consideration of the State Ministers at a Conference. I hope that, instead of unseemly bickerings and disputes, the Ministers, Commonwealth and State, will meet together and do what is fair and just. I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs to take steps to advertise in the Old Country the butter’ industry, as it is advertised by New Zealand.
– I think the Government are advertising the industry very well by providing for a lower percentage of moisture than is permitted in any other part of the world.
– That is a matter for the Minister of Trade- and Customs.
– I may say that the subject is now under consideration.
– I am glad to hear that. The dairying co-operative companies are still protesting against the standard fixed by the Commonwealth ; and I hope the Government will do what they can to meet their wishes.
There are several other matters to which ,1 should like to refer; but I shall merely express the hope that honorable members, whenever they take positions outside those of a public character which conflict with their duties, either as administrators or private members, they will consider which they will relinquish.
– What does the honorable member mean?
– It is the duty of the Attorney-General, if necessary, to take action before the public tribunals of the land. Since the honorable gentleman occupies what is practically the chief executive position in a society which, as AttorneyGeneral, he might have to prosecute, he is in a rather difficult situation.
– He knows when to put up the umbrella.
– Perhaps he does. I believe absolutely in the integrity of our Attorney-General, but the public outside cannot understand a man being in the difficult position of having perhaps to prosecute himself. I am not speaking in any partisan spirit, but I think it highly desirable that honorable members should not place themselves in any position in which their duties may come into conflict with their interests. A man in a public position has only one predominating duty, and that is his duty to the public rather than to any particular section of it. I hope that we shall see others follow the splendid example of the honorable member for Cook, who, in the interests of his country, deliberately retired from his position as secretary of an association of railway servants rather than remain in the throes of a terrible conflict between duty and interest.
.- It is only natural that on such a motion as that now before us the administrative acts of the Government during the recent long recess should come up for review. I do not intend, however, to say anything against them at this stage, although during the Budget debate I may have to address myself to one or two matters relating to them. Labour Ministries have always had the reputation of being capable administrators ; but whilst I recognise their ability, my respect for their capacity as administrators has not been increased by what I have witnessed during the last nine months. During this debate, the actions of the Government have been criticised at some length, but I am sure that no attempt has been made to reflect on their personal integrity, and when I dare to criticise their administration, it will be in a purely political sense. It seems to me that Labour Ministers, like others, are very human, and that their administrative ability is neither better nor worse than that of other Governments. I am not altogether at one with those who have spoken rather harshly of the conduct of our representatives at the recent Imperial Conference. On the whole, I believe that they did fairly well, and that the Conference itself marked another step forward in our Imperial relationships. I was glad to gather from the press reports of the Conference that the Prime Ministerhimself invariably spoke in truly Imperialistic tones. Indeed, I never doubted the right honorable gentleman’s loyalty, and I fail to see how he could have done otherwise than speak as an Imperialist, in view of what had already been done in the direction of defence before he left for England. The most pleasing feature of our defence system is its Imperialistic character. When the Fusion Government were in office, Colonel Foxton was sent to a Defence Conference in London, and upon his report that Government based their naval defence scheme, which is remarkable for having added another unit to the Imperial Navy, and for the character of the deep sea ships for which it provided. The Australian Naval Unit will be part and parcel of the British Empire Fleet. During the last general election campaign, the present Prime Minister, on the public platform, adopted practically the naval defence scheme which the Fusion Government had already initiated, and that scheme was in substance the foundation of our naval defence system of to-day.
– And the Fusion Government in turn had adopted what Mr. j. C. Watson put forward.
– I cannot speak as to that, but I can say that the Fusion Government established the system of Australian defence which exists to-day.
– And it does not get the credit for it.
– Quite so. More than once, both inside and outside this chamber,I have heard representatives of the Labour party claim the present naval policy as their own, and’ assert also that they gave to Australia the principle of compulsory military training. As a matter of fact, only one member of their party - the Attorney-General - was an enthusiast in the cause. Year in and year out, he submitted to the House a motion providing for the adoption of the principle of compulsory training.
– He was the father of it.
– And he had to convert the Labour party to it.
– And also convert the honorable member’s party to it.
– I do not know about that; but I do know that the Fusion Government were the first to give legislative effect to the principle. All this marks a step forward. The present-day utterances of the Liberal party in Great Britain show a great advance from an Imperialistic stand-point on the utterances of their predecessors of thirty or forty years ago. The Imperial Conference marks a forward movement, and a distinct advance was made when, at the last Conference, Sir Edward Grey agreed that the representatives of the Dominions should be consulted as far as possible in regard to the making of future treaties. Another forward step was that taken by the British Government in admitting to the inner secrets of the Cabinet the representatives of the Dominions. The process of evolution is going on, and I do not think it will be long before we shall see established a consultative body consisting of representatives of Great Britain and the Colonies, and followed possibly by a body acting for the defence of the whole Empire, which will not only be consultative, but possess executive power. I hope that there will be no undue forcing of the growth of this Imperial sentiment, for many a scheme which at the first glance appears to have much to recommend it is found, on careful examination, to be a bad one. It was at the last Conference that Sir Joseph Ward went so far as to bring in a scheme providing for a sort of central or Imperial Government. That scheme was altogether too premature, and it was not adopted. During the Conference, there was also some talk, notably on the part of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, of the Dominions remaining neutral after Great Britain had been drawn into war, but such talk 1 am glad to see does not find much favour either here or in Canada. A very strong campaign against Sir Wilfrid Laurier on this, as well as on other points, is now being conducted in the Dominion, the people of which are loudly protesting their loyalty to the Empire. What, after all, would be the position of one of the Dominions that desired to be neutral when Great Britain became involved in war? It would not be for the Government of the Dominion to say whether or not it should remain neutral. The determination of its neutrality would rest with the enemy. If Great Britain were at war with some European Power that required more lands for colonizing purposes, it would be for that Power to say whether or not we should remain neutral, and if it saw an easy chance of taking Australia, it would not have much respect for any profession of neutrality on our part. So much has been said by other speakers regarding the proceedings of the Conference that I do hot wish to dwell upon them, but before I leave the subject, I may say that I am not altogether in favour of the decision that the question of the control of the fleets of the several Dominions in time of war shall rest with the Dominion Governments themselves. It would have been far better to concede straight out at the Conference that, on the declaration of war the Dominion fleets should pass automatically under the con trol of the British Admiralty. If we go to war we shall have to rely chiefly on the Navy, and all the operations and strategies of that arm of the service must be conducted by the Admiralty authorities in London. It is hard to conceive of a case where the Dominions will not hand over their fleets immediately war is declared, and that is all the more reason why our representatives should have agreed to the course I have indicated. At the Conference the various Prime Ministers said the fleets would, so far as they were concerned, practically always be at the disposal of the Mother Country. When the question of the representation of Australia at the Coronation was debated here last year several honorable members, including myself, drew attention to the fact that no provision was made on the Estimates for the sending of a military contingent. We considered that it would be a shabby action on the part of Australia not to be so represented, when all the other Dominions would have contingents there. The excuse which I have seen put forward in print by the Minister of Defence is one of the flimsiest imaginable. It appears now that we were not represented there by a contingent because the Government did not want Australia to appear in the eyes of the world as a military nation. The Minister also said that if troops had been sent as an advertisement it would have been of little value, because no one would have recognised them, and, as a matter of fact, South African and other troops were often mistaken for Australians. We are getting a cheap advertisement if that is so, but” I am sure none of us wish to advertise Australia in that way. I am afraid that statement is not worth very much, seeing that all the papers must have advertised the fact throughout the United Kingdom that Australia was not represented by a contingent on this occasion, and their readers must have thought it rather a shabby proceeding on our part. A good deal of attention has been directed to the sugar question during this debate. The Government have been very remiss in their treatment of it. We are producing to-day about 200,000 tons of sugar, which is about the amount the Australian public consume per annum. Unless there is a material improvement in the conditions, it seems to me that our annual production will not rise beyond the mere supplying of the local demand. Imagine the great potentialities of Australia for sugar-growing stopping short at a production of 200,000 tons ! I am sure that was never contemplated by this Parliament when it established the White Australia policy, and went out of its way to put the industry on a sound basis, lt must have been expected that Australia would establish a big export trade in sugar, being naturally fitted for its’ production. Some of the best of the tropical areas in Queensland, and in the Northern Territory, ought to be devoted to sugar production. Are they to be left lying idle? All we are doing is to supply our own local needs from a small part of the lands that should be under sugar. The Government are much to blame. The Deakin-Cook Government went so far as to prepare the ground for the appointment of a Commission to investigate the condition of the industry, and the present Government should have appointed the Commission as soon as they took office. They refused to do so, and gave no straightforward answers to questions on the subject during the whole of last session.
– I said I would not appoint a Commission. That was straightforward enough.
– The Minister would give no straightforward answer as to what the Government intended to do. He brought a Bill down in a helpless fashion to repeal that part of the original sugar legislation of this Parliament which provided for a sliding scale for the Excise and bounty. In that way he left the bounty and Excise in the same state as they were in years before, continuing them for an indefinite period. The Government have been decidedly weak in their treatment of this great question. The Prime Minister’s excuse for not appointing a Commission was that he thought it would involve a long and tedious inquiry and a waste of time. The Government could have appointed the Commission eighteen months ago, and they now announce that they are going to make the appointment. When the Prime Minister said the inquiry would be long and tedious, the honorable member for Kooyong told him that the report was to be presented within six months, and the honorable gentleman replied that it could not be done. If it could not be done in six months then, it is not likely to be done in six months now. The excuse was a very flimsy one, and the Government deserve severe condemnation from the House, and, in fact, from the whole of the people, for their dilatory and slip-shod treatment of the question. The people of Australia have some time been paying £4 or ,£5 a ton more than the same quality ‘of sugar can be bought for outside Australia. This means the payment by the consumers of Australia of about ^1,000,000 per annum. That is a lot of money to pay to bolster up an industry which, apparently, can only turn out enough sugar to meet the local demands. It is not fair to the industry, or to the State of Queensland, to leave the question in its present condition of uncertainty, and it is certainly not fair to the fruit and jam industries. I am not going to draw invidious comparisons as to the number of people employed in the sugar industry and the fruit and jam industries, but there is no reason why we cannot give the sugar industry all the assistance it needs without injuring the others. We have heard a great deal from the Government, and their supporters, about nationalizing this and other matters. There was no need for them to nationalize the sugar industry. They could have subsidized a refinery on co-operative lines had the concern worked properly and skilfully, because private enterprise would have been engaged in it, and have received their money back in instalments. They would then have established a competitor to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the people of Australia would have had a fair test of whether or not they could get sugar below the rates they are paying at present.
– That is an extraordinary proposition.
– Anything businesslike is extraordinary to the present Government.
– Very “businesslike for the shareholders in the new concern !
– Co-operation is one of the means of tackling the sugar problem.
– We should give it to the Jam Combine instead, I suppose.
– I am not here to hold a brief for any combine. If the Government subsidized people who are willing to start a refinery on co-operative lines, I do not see that that would assist the Jam Combine in any way, but there would be a possibility of assisting the consuming public, who have a right to be considered.
– We should have to carry the concern.
– Not necessarily. In any case, there would be nothing like the risk of failure that would be involved in an attempt at straight-out nationalization.’
– We could not make anything out of it’.
– The Government would not desire to make money in such a case. They would get the money which they advanced returned, with interest, at certain periods, and when the refinery was thoroughly established Australia would have a good asset. If we have to wait for the industry to be nationalized, I am afraid that the people of Australia are still going to suffer for some time from the sugar trouble. Ministers propose to take a further flight in the realm of finance, and promise an amendment in the Australian Notes Bill. What is intended has not been disclosed, though it has been stated in the press that the reduction of the reserve to 25 per cent, on all notes above ,£7 ,000,006 will be proposed.
– What is the use of criticising a Bill of which the honorable member knows nothing?
– I am merely expressing my views on the subject generally.
– I think that some of the 4,000,000 sovereigns in the Treasury ought to be tipped out. It is a pity to have to keep them there.
– It would be a greater pity if, when the notes were presented, there were no gold with which to meet them, and if the views of some honorable members obtain effect, that may be the position before many years have passed. I did not take fright when the Notes Bill was introduced, though I felt that the Government was substituting for the existing system one less effective and not so safe. The only advantage which the country has got by the change is the slight revenue from the notes issued.
– .£200,000 a year.
– The States were already receiving ^100,000 a year from the note tax.
– ,£80,000 a year.
– That does not take into consideration the Queensland issue. T hope that honorable members opposite, and Ministers especially, will consider some of the points raised by the honorable member for Richmond, whose banking experience stands him in good stead.
– What experience can a bank clerk have?
– If a bank clerk educate himself by reading, he is in a position to specially benefit by the practical work which he is called upon to perform, just as a lawyer’s clerk is helped in his legal studies by the handling of parchments and deeds.
– The honorable members for Darwin and Melbourne are both exbankers.
– There are bankers who read and study questions of finance, and others who are mere automata, though, of course, I do not apply the word to any honorable member. Some of the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond fell, I think, like a bomb in the camp opposite. In regard to its banking proposals generally, the Government seems not to have consulted any expert. I hope, however, that its proposals will prove satisfactory. Ministers deserve to be taken to task very severely upon their attitude regarding Tariff reform. I have nothing to say now regarding the relative merits of Free Trade and Protection, but the country has declared more than once for a protective policy, and Ministers are for the most part Protectionists, yet they tell the manufacturers who make out a good case for an alteration of the Tariff which will give them more equitable conditions and greater protection that the duties will not be increased until the workers get their fair and proper share of Protection. That is a strange position for pledged Protectionists.
– It is the position which we have pledged ourselves to take.
– Exactly what is meant by the workers it is difficult to ascertain, but honorable members opposite narrow the interpretation of the term in a way which makes its significance very different from that which an ordinary person would attach to it.
– Seventy-five per cent, of the Labour party are staunch Protectionists. -
– They show it by flouting the mandate of the country. Ministers are not keeping their election pledges of only some eighteen months ago.
– We are pledged to new Protection.
– But when Ministers were before their constituents they did not say that proper Protection would be denied to the manufacturers until the workers obtain what the Minister of Trade and Customs and the Labour party call their fair share.
– I did, always.
– The Minister takes up a peculiar position, because, in my opinion, there is as much effective new Protection to-day under Wages Boards as there is ever likely to be.
– There is none in Tasmania.
– There are Wages Boards in Tasmania-
– Are there any awards?
– I do not know how many awards there are; but the Wages Board Act of Tasmania was amended only the other day in a liberal direction. Several Wages Boards are already gazetted, and others may be formed as desired. The Tariff is not being handled in the way Protectionists have a right to expect. The manufacturers of this country have waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs in deputation after deputation.
– They have not ; they, will not come!
– They must have made up their minds that it is of no use; but my memory serves me badly if, during the recess, I did not read of several deputations to the Minister. The plea now put forward in regard to the new Protection is a very shallow pretence, and is surely intended to cover up something. Under the Wages Board system the workers are as likely to get their fair share of Protection as under any other. The only difference between the new Protection of the Labour party and the new Protection advocated by anybody else seems to be that an . Arbitration Court is desired instead of Wages Boards. Would the workers fare any better if the Arbitration Court were substituted? On the score of promptitude and subsequent harmonious relations, all the evidence is in favour of Wages Boards as an infinitely more economical system. These Boards are composed of experts, thus obviating the necessity for calling expensive evidence. What is the good of placing a speciallytrained lawyer on the Bench to deal with subject-matter he knows nothing about, and as to which he can only be guided by expert evidence? As it is now 4 o’clock, I ask leave to continue my remarks next Tuesday.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 4.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 September 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19110915_reps_4_60/>.