4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs, in the interests of humanity, whether, if the Prinz Sigismund is quarantined in Sydney, he will arrange that the thirdclass passengers may have hot water baths?
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) -
Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 125.
Military Forces - Financial and Allowance Regulations -
Statutory Rules1912, No. 123.
Statutory Rules 1912, No. 124.
Statutory Rules 1912, No.126.
Northern Territory - Ordinance of 1912 - No. 5.- Health.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Harm’s Inlet, Westernport, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Public Service Act - Department of Home Affairs -
Promotion of J. E. Cathie to new office in 3rd Class, of Clerk in Charge, Electoral Branch, Western Australia.
Regulation Amended - No. 48. - Statutory Rules1912, No. 92.
Telegraphs and Telephones Special Works Account Act - Transfer of Moneys (dated 3rd July, 1912).
Debate resumed from 5th July (vide page 523), on motion by Mr. Bennett -
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech, as read by the Clerk, be agreed to by the House.
Upon which Mr. Deakin had moved -
That the following words be added to the Address : - “ And to inform Your Excellency that the Government merits the censure of the House and the country for its failure to realize its national and constitutional obligations, for flagrant neglect of its duty to secure industrial peace and good order, and to uphold the law within the Commonwealth; for its maladministration of public affairs and public departments ; for its grossly partisan actions and appointments, and its reckless irresponsibility in the financial affairs of the Commonwealth.”
.- In the speeches which we have heard from the Opposition side during this debate, the Labour party have been blamed for all the industrial unrest that has existed in Australia for some years past, it being forgotten apparently that industrial unrest is not confined to this country, but prevails all over the world to-day. Opposition members, knowing that they could not repeal the measures with which the Government have honestly endeavoured to advance the interests of Australia, are using the Brisbane strike as a weapon with which to fight the next elections. They forget that the great coal strike which occurred in Great Britain a few months ago was settled, not by a display of the military, nor by the imprisonment of the leaders, but by the passing of the Minimum Wages Act, which recognises a principle which has been fought for during the last fifty years, and recognition of which has opened a new path for the advance of the workers. Along that path many sections besides the coal miners are now rapidly marching. The Prime Minister has been blamed by the so-called Liberals for not sending the military to Brisbane; but in Great Britain, when Messrs. Houlder Brothers and Company applied to a Liberal Government for the protection of some men whom they had engaged during the strike of the transport workers, the reply of. the Home Secretary was that it was not the duty of the police to protect strike breakers, , but that had actual disorder arisen it would have been the duty of the Government to restore order. At Brisbane no actual disorder had taken place ‘when the Premier of Queensland asked for the military, and he had the police at his command for the maintenance of order. The intimidation of the people by the military, the seizure of union funds, and the imprisonment of strike leaders is all that the intelligence of the Fusion suggests for the settlement of industrial disputes. The honorable member for Brisbane, in his very fine address, . proved conclusively that, in the first place, the men were deliberately locked out by the manager of the tramway company, who hates unionism as much as the Fusionists hate the Labour party, and endeavoured to kill it at the start, so far as his company was concerned. The Leader of the Opposition asked what the Prime Minister had done to settle the Brisbane dispute, although he knew well that there was no opportunity for Commonwealth interference. Under the Arbitration Act, which he himself framed, the Commonwealth Court cannot take cognisance of a dispute until it has extended beyond the limits of one State, and for five months after the New South Wales coal strike commenced the honorable member, who was then in office,’ did nothing, because he was powerless to interfere. We had to go to the miners of Jumbunna and other centres, and ask them to make a common issue, before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could be approached. But when we tried to extend the powers of the Court so that its jurisdiction might be more effective for the settlement of disputes, the Opposition and the press persuaded the people to vote against the referendum. We realize that the present system of settling disputes is experimental, and it is our duty to do what we can to make it effective when opportunities arise. The Opposition have never assisted us in this, but have, on the contrary, thrown obstacles in our way. Therefore, it is rank humbug .for honorable members opposite to try to place on the shoulders of the Government the blame for the present industrial unrest. The Leader of the Opposition intends to introduce something which will prevent strikes. He proposes to introduce cooperation and profit-sharing. I have always been a very strong advocate of these principles, because under the conditions I found existing I thought it was o the best policy ‘which, could be established ; but I would tell the honorable and learned member that at this stage his proposition is made too late. We have driven the honorable member and his party from ditch to ditch, until now, in the defence of their citadel, he proposes to capitulate and offer us something which we do not want. When we are dealing with the interests of the nation, we cannot simply turn to a section of the community who may be fortunate enough to be in a co-operative concern and say, “ Yes, we are quite willing that you should receive the profits of this industry.” What is going to happen to the casual employe”, the ordinary farm hand who works for only a few months in the year, the clerks and the girls in offices who are not permanently employed? What, I ask, is going to happen to these persons under this system of profit-sharing? When we are dealing with the interests of a nation, it is absolutely essential that our legislation shall be moulded in the direction of seeing that every individual in the community gets his share of the profits produced. From time to time I have heard many leaders of the other side roundly denounce Socialism from the platform. They could not say anything bad enough about the system. But when they propose to introduce co-operation, or profit-sharing, is not that piecemeal Socialism’ ? When we teach the community in sections to co-operate and share the profits, does it not mean that eventually all the sections will unite and the Government: will control the whole of our production and distribution in the interests of the nation, and that thus we shall attain to that Socialistic regime which honorable members opposite are so happy in denouncing? As I stated previously, it is not my desire to traverse the ground so ably covered by the honorable member for Brisbane, but I wish to mention that when the case came before’ Mr. Justice Higgins he distinctly called the occurrence at Brisbane a lock-out, and not a strike. Furthermore, he found that the claims of the men were absolutely just, that they were within, their right in wearing a badge. We are told now that the whole trouble with arbitration is that the men refuse to obey the awards of the Court. But Mr. Justice Higgins has told us that the men have obeyed every award of the Court during its term. As far as the employers are concerned, what do we find? Although His Honour found in favour of the men, we find Mr. Badger, the manager of the Brisbane Tramway Company, not only refusing to recognise the award by appealing to the High Court, but endeavouring to victimize the men by refusing to employ them again. That seems to me a most unfair way of dealing with great industrial questions. While I am against strikes ; while I realize that strikes are like war - very fruitless only too often to those who win; while I desire to see a system introduced under which we could have as little loss as possible, at the same time words fail to adequately express my contempt for the action of men such as Badger. The honorable member for North Sydney, in speaking the other day, could not say anything bad enough about unionists. I realize that he is a new member of the Opposition, . and perhaps he is not yet acquainted with the views expressed by many of its leading members. Therefore, for his information I shall quote from Hansard a few remarks made by them as far back as 1904. The Reid-McLean Government gave legislative recognition to preference to unionists. In 1904, when the honorable member for Ballarat introduced his Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, he said -
The issues as we put them are : Preference? Yes! Unionism? Yes! Encouragement to unionism besides preference? Yes! For what purpose? For the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes.
– Who said that?
– In 1904 Mr. Deakin, the Leader of the Fusion Government, said he was absolutely in favour of preference to -unionists. Why do these gentlemen opposite go about the country and tell the people of Victoria particularly that they have never been in favour of preference to unionists? Why does their leader, with his silvery tongue, go round the country and tell the people that he has never been in favour of the principle ? He cannot say anything bad enough against it now.
– The honorable member is in .error in both statements.
– The quotation is taken from Hansard. Furthermore, the honorable member for Wentworth expressed himself only last year as being in favour of preference to unionists. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in dealing with this question in 1 904, said -
I have no sort of sympathy with the man who will work alongside of another and see that other paying every week of his life into an organization to get his rights and maintain his position, while he himself is skulking and deriving the benefit for which the other is paying’ and working?
I do not think that any honorable member on this side ever spoke more strongly in favour of unionism than did the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the remarks which I have quoted. Why do honorable members opposite still endeavour to delude the electors? What is their object? Surely we desire to see our politics as . clean as possible? I believe that every politician has a sacred duty to discharge, and that is to lay the truth before the people, and not to deliberately mislead them. None know better than do the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy that without unionism our Arbitration Court would be useless. They recognise that point freely. Arbitration was introduced in the interests of peace, consequently unionism is in the interests of peace. We organize our men they place their case before the Arbitration1 Court, and we trust that a satisfactory setTtlement will ensue. But by their actions the Fusion are practically encouraging strikes. With the spread of education the people are recognising their strength, and if honorable members opposite do not act more fairly with the workers they will see strikes which will, to my mind, be a disgrace to Australia. Who will be responsible for the ‘result? Simply honorable gentlemen sitting on the Opposition benches. While we are trying to do our best to make our Arbitration Courts more effective they are trying to do their best to make them ineffective. This question of industrialism is closely allied to the question of immigration; After travelling over the greater part of Australia I have come to the conclusion that this continent, which is as big as Europe, is practically unpeopled with its popula-tion of under 5,000,000. Our only right to Australia is that of occupation, and if we fail to occupy the land it means that some greater power will use the same argument that we used to the land-holder when we told him that, as he was not putting the land to its best use, he must “move on.” It is essential that we should invite population, if only as a defence precaution ; but I must condemn very severely the immigration policy of the States, and of the Victorian State Government inparticular. The wealth of the community comes from the soil, and it is no use bringing out artisans and casual labourers until the raw material has been produced. Under the circumstances, the right sort of immigrant is the man who producesthe raw material, and not the man who deals with it. The Victorian Government are going all over the world and inviting, not farmers but artisans and casual labourers, to swell the market and afford employers cheap labour. Sooner or later the calamity of unemployment will come upon us - indeed, it is here to-day - and it means, that the taxpayers have to shoulder another burden. As Australians we cannot possibly, allow any man, woman, or child to starve; we must feed and house them, and, consequently, we have to bear the cost. I know, that Mr. Watt, the State Premier, and his officers have stated through the press that there is no unemployment, but that any able man can get work. I give that state-, ment a flat denial. Only recently, in the: city of Geelong, notwithstanding its prosperity, I had the sad duty of addressing a meeting of the unemployed ; and yesterday I had to bring before the Minister of Mines the same grim subject, and ask him to find work. I see from the newspapers that there are a number of unemployed in Melbourne, some 900 in Sydney, and goodmess knows how many in other centres of population ; and yet we find casual labourers being introduced. I have an objection, not only to the immigration of the casual labourer, but also - and a still greater objection - to the preference that is being shown by the Victorian State Government to immigrants over Australian-born applicants. Of course, the State officers say that this is not so, but I will read the following paragraph from the Age -
The preference which is being shown in the employment of immigrants on railway works is exciting considerable indignation among railway employes. Yesterday it was reported to the Victorian Railways Union that trouble was threatening among the casual labourers employed at the Melbourne Goods Sheds, since five immigrants, said to be Germans, who had recently arrived, were given employment, whilst men who had been working at the sheds for nine or ten years were forced to stand aside. It has been the practice for years, that the men in the “ A “ and “ B “ sections, numbering about 400, should be regularly employed while there is any work . to do. The fact that they, as well as others who have been working at the sheds, had been overlooked in favour of the newcomers caused much dissatisfaction, as it was understood that labourers were to be granted preference since there has always been enough labour of this class available.
Here we have a definite statement to the effect that rive Germans have been given preference over Australian-born men. Furthermore, the report from, which I have just read an extract states that Air. R. Jones moved. -
That a protest be made against the State Government giving preference to immigrants for railway employment. At Newport Workshops (he said) a large number of casual hands were being put off to make place for immigrants, which was grossly unfair to Australians.
Mr. Watt and his officers say that employment can be found tor any man willing to work ; but I should like to’ know why, if that be so, when Mr. Plain, the State member tor Geelong, made application yesterday to have 250 nien placed, he was told by the Premier that the Railways Commissioners would be able to find work for only twenty. I have no objection lo an immigrant simply because he is an immigrant. I realize the dreadful conditions that prevail in the Mother Country, where millions of people are starving and millions more are on the verge of starvation, and I should only be too happy to extend a hearty welcome to them in Australia in order, if possible, to secure them happier and brighter lives. But if it means that by reason of such immigration our own men and women have to walk the streets wanting food and homes, I am totally opposed to the present system of immigration’. Mr. McLeod, the immigration representative of the Victorian Government in England, has, as I say, been sending out casual labourers instead of the right class of immigrants ; and the position became so acute that only the other day he received word not to send any more on the same lines. The Age newspaper said-
Now that the sending out of farm labourers had been checked, it would be possible for Mr. McLeod to devote his attention to securing land seekers as a class of immigrants whom the Government desired particularly to encourage.
We ought to encourage land-seekers in the first instance, and not send out casual workers simply to overcrowd the labour market. ‘ Notwithstanding the loyalty that causes the breasts of our opponents to swell with pride, it seems to me that they are always- more loyal to other workers than their own. I ask representatives of farming electorates how loyal the State Government is to men and women who seek land in their own State of Victoria? We have one of the biggest irrigation farms in the world at Werribee, where I lived for many years, and amongst the residents there were a number- of trained irrigationists ; but .when Mr. Mead divided the Cohuna land, instead of giving preference to those who thoroughly understood irrigation, he, except in a few instances, retained the best of the blocks for Russian immigrants. When these men from Werribee went to Cohuna they had to pay their own railway fares; they had to engage their own vehicles, to view the land at their own cost, and then to go before the Board to make their applications. But we had some Russian immigrants to this country. How were they treated? They were met at the wharf, they were franked over the railways, waggonettes were provided for them, the ground was ploughed in readiness for them, cowsheds were built, and they were supplied with the best land available. Surely every right-thinking man and woman would condemn such a difference in treatment as that. What - would be- said of any father df a family if, instead of looking after’ the interests of his own children, he went out and looked after the interests of other people’s children ? Would it not be said in the first place that he was a fool, and next that he was something very much worse? But that is exactly the attitude of these so-called Liberals in Victoria, and, I presume, throughout Australia. When the honorable member for Kooyong was speaking last week so strongly in favour of immigration, I asked him what he was prepared to do for our own unemployed. He made this remarkable answer, “ When we have unemployed, we create work for them by bringing out other unemployed.”
– “ By bringing out immigrants,” was what I said.
– It is true that the honorable member said “ by bringing out immigrants,” but they are unemployed when they come. Consequently they must take jobs away from our own people. That was a most remarkable statement for an honorable member to make- -that when we have unemployed we are to create work for them by bringing put other unemployed. I stated at the commencement of my remarks that if we brought out the right class of immigrants we should be building at the foundation ; that if we brought out those who would produce raw material we should be able to build a superstructure strong enough to make this- country bear an immense population. But these gentlemen are endeavouring to build a house by putting the roof on first. That brings me to the land question. When I was touring in the Corio electorate I told the people that if the Labour party were returned to power we would introduce a land tax having two objects in view. The first was to obtain revenue for our defence system, whilst the second, and to my mind the more important, object was to bring about the subdivision of great estates. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition argued that the Federal land tax had been a failure. From the revenue stand-point alone we have received from it .£1,365,000, a nice little nest-egg. From the other standpoint, I say deliberately that our land tax has been responsible for putting over 2,000,000 acres extra under cultivation. I am aware that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has denied the accuracy of that calculation. But I have gone to the trouble of taking out a few figures from the Commonwealth Y ear-Book, 1911, and Bulletin No. 4, 19 12, which prove my statement. I see that the increased cultivation of land during the two years the Labour party has been in office has been 2,002,595 acres. In 1908-9 the acreage under cultivation was 9,891,243, whilst in 1910-11 it was 11,893,838. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition claimed that the increased area under cultivation was due to the Closer Settlement Boards of the States. In 1907-8-9, two years preceding our coming into power, the Closer Settlement Boards increased the acreage under cultivation by 537,341, or only one-fourth of the additional area which people have been induced to cultivate during the last two years. From 1908-9 to 1911 the Closer Settlement Boards throughout Australia acquired only 789,423 acres, which is very much short of the 2,000,000 acres extra cultivated during the last two years. Furthermore, on the 30th June, 191 1, these Boards had on hand 438,815 acres. Since 1901, when these Closer Settlement Boards came into existence, they have acquired only 2,594,485 acres, whilst in the two years since the Federal land tax came into operation the additional area under crop has been, as I have already shown, over 2,000,000 acres-. Considering the enormous area of Australia, I am prompted to ask the question, How long it would take the Closer Settlement Boards to settle this country if in twelve years they have succeeded in settling only 2,000,000 acres ? I think that those figures absolutely explode the argument of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Further, he contended that the Commonwealth should not deal with land matters at all, but should leave them to the States. Let me show how Victoria has dealt with its lands. Mr. Watt, the Premier of this State, introduced a Bill repealing the Graham Berry tax, under which the lands of Victoria were divided into first, second, third, and fourth classes, and were taxed at is., 9d., 6d., and 3d. per acre respectively. He introduced what he called a flat tax. Under the Graham Berry tax Victoria received £85,000 odd per annum. Mr. Watt, in advocating his. measure, said that the average value of first-class land throughout Victoria was about £10 per acre. That land, under the Graham Berry tax, paid is. per acre. Under the Watt tax it pays ten times one halfpenny, or 5d. per acre. Consequently, the plutocracy of Victoria were presented with 7d. per acre under the Watt tax, which prescribed an exemption of £250, and imposed a tax of Jd. in the £,% per acre.
– The honorable member should recollect that we are not a State House.
– I am arguing against the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I know that these facts hurt the honorable member, because he knows them to be absolutely true.
– It is good stuff.
– It is good stuff, and the Opposition know it. It has been estimated that the amount practically handed over to the squatters of Victoria is £68,000 a year, to enable them to pay the Federal land tax. Mr. Watt had the audacity to state in the Legislative Assembly that they were thus relieving one estate of . £400, and another estate of £300, and so on. Is it any wonder that when the State Land Tax Bill came before the fat Tories of the Legis- l Jative Council they declared that it was absolutely the best that had been introduced? The loss of revenue which was thus involved had to be made good, and it was made good by fixing an exemption of only £250, which roped in the small farmers, and to-day the revenue is £21 0,000, principally from these small farmers. In my electorate the Tories cannot speak too kindly of the small farmers ; they cannot say anything good enough concerning them. They tell them that the Labour party is their enemy, and would take away their farms. They do not say what we should do with them if we did. If we took away a farm from one man we should have to give it to another, because our policy is to produce wealth - to produce raw material - from the soil. Our policy, therefore, would not permit us to allow any land to remain idle. In view of these facts concerning the State Land Tax Act, is it any wonder that the member for West Gippsland in the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Mackey, who is not a Labour man, but a Tory, should have said while the Bill was under consideration : “ What will the people of my electorate say to me when they learn of the provisions of this measure? I have condemned the Labour party because, under their Federal Land Tax Act an exemption of only . £5,000 was allowed; yet here we have the State Government proposing an exemption of only £250. If the Labour party should be, metaphorically speaking, swept into the sea because the exemption under the Act brought in by them is only £5,000 where should we be sent? “ This is my reply to the statement made by the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition that we should leave the land tax question in the kindly hands of the States. During the last State election in Victoria, Fusionites who voted for the State land tax had the audacity to tour the country and say that the Labour party were responsible for it.
– They would say anything.
– To gain place and power, I believe that they would. The honorable member for Kooyong said in this House last week that, although many wealthy land-owners had subdivided their properties, the result had not been permanent settlement. Surely he does not suggest that these people, whom he represents, are juggling with the land! I was under the impression that they had a monopoly of all honesty ; that, according to their programmes, they had a monopoly of all that was good and holy. The honorable member for Kooyong distinctly tells us, however, that land-owners split up their holdings to escape the Federal land tax. I have a better opinion of landed proprietors than to think that they did anything of the kind. A few might have done so; but I am sure that the great majority did not. In that view I am supported by Mr. McKay, the Federal Land Tax Commissioner, who, in his annual report, writes -
Family arrangements entered into with the obvious desire to lessen or escape tax are not uncommon, but the Department scrutinizes these carefully, and it insists on evidence of separate title and separate enjoyment of revenues before recognising the claim to separate assessment.
This explodes the contention of the honorable member for Kooyong, whose remarks were in keeping with those of the Deputy Leader of his party. Mr. McKay goes on to show how effective the Federal land tax has been from a financial stand-point. He statesthat, immediately prior to the coming into operation of the land tax, many of the land-owners sold largely. There are quite a number of squatters in my electorate, and I know that many of them did subdivide their land. The result was that areas from which, by sheep farming, they were receiving something like 5s. per acre, are now returning as many pounds per acre. Not only are the farmers doing well as the result of this subdivision of large properties, but the revenue of bur railways has been increased to such an extent that other farmers away back have had their freights lowered.
– Does the honorable member say that £5 per acre is being obtained by sheep-farming in his electorate?
– No; I say that, by growing hay and other crops, as much as £5, and even £10 per acre, in some cases, is being ‘obtained from land which, when de- voted to sheep-farming, yielded only something like 5s. an acre. The Federal Land Tax Commissioner’s report sets forth that -
During the first three months of the tax, June to September, 1910, land valued _ at £2,712,775 was sold by taxpayers, and during the rest of the first financial year of the tax sales of taxable properties, i.e., over £5,000 in value, amounted to £18,188,293. This represents 18,288 estates. . . .
That is not a bad record. As the result of our land tax, we have been able to deal effectively with 18,288 estates. The land problem is, I think, the crux of all problems, and if we can successfully solve it, we shall find much easier of solution many others that confront us from day to day. The fallacy of the policy adopted by the State Government is shown by the loss of representation in this House which Victoria has suffered. She lost one member a few years ago, and when the present Parliament is dissolved she will lose another. This is due to the failure of the Tory Government to deal effectively with the land question. They have allowed this monopoly to exist from year to year, and have availed themselves of every opportunity to block our efforts to bring into operation a policy that must increase our population. Let me illustrate the position. Some time ago many young fellows at Werribee; in my electorate, were desirous of going on the land. Many of them were the sons of farmers in the neighbourhood of Bungaree, where ‘the holdings are small. Their parents had. reared large families, and the land owned by them was not sufficient to keep them all employed when they grew up. A lot of them - fine strapping young fellows, with a thorough knowledge of agriculture - therefore came down to Werribee, where they obtained employment as labourers on the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works farm. That is not the way to deve- lop the country. The State Government should have put these young men on the land, where they could have used to advan- tage the special knowledge they had ac- quired, leaving other men to do the work of labourers on the Board of Works farm. Training is -just as necessary to successful i .farming .as it is to insure success as a plumber or an engineer. Indeed, having regard to the scientific methods of farming; that are now being introduced, it is even more necessary. Every man cannot be a farmer, but the great majority of men, if they have the necessary physique, can work as labourers. Some of these sons of farmers, when they had got together a little money, desired to obtain land, and they travelled , all over the State, and made application for blocks to various Land Boards. I have said that I know of many cases in which men who paid their own fares to inspect blocks were unable to secure any landSome of these land-seekers emigrated! to New Zealand with their families, though) land could have been found for them in Vic- toria. This has been a distinct loss to the State. Whilst our native-born citizens are allowed to leave the country, our political opponents are apparently willing to extend a helping hand to people from Russia, Germany, or China. I learned from my visit to the Northern Territory that in some quarters there appears to be a special love for the Chinese. After the production of theraw material, there should be employment in the Commonwealth for the artisan. But if raw material produced in Australia is exported in order that it may be manufactured by the workers of other countries, an addition to our population of 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 artisans will be of no use to us, because there will be no work here for them to do. This leads me naturally to a consideration of the very vital question of Protection. Every honorable member on this side is pledged to new Protection - Protection to the. manufacturer, the consumer and the worker. I -desire that the principle of new Protection should be extended even further, and should include the producer. I was engaged in dairying for nearly fourteen years, and I know how necessary it is to protect the producer against the middleman. Not many years ago the Victorian State Government found it necessary to appoint a Commission to inquire into what were known as the “butter scandals.” I was one of the sufferers from the operations; of those who had control of the butter trade of the State - I was sending my cream to Melbourne to be dealt with by these people, who were taking down the producers right and left. That was proved up to the hilt against the middlemen in the trade; but though they were proved guilty of corrupt practices, the State Government took noaction against them, and they escaped all penalty. If similar charges had been proved against a body of working men, every one of them would, have been placed in gaol. . .
– They would have had the military out.
– Yes, they would have had the military out; but because these offenders were friends of the party opposed to Labour, they winked the other eye and let them go. That did not satisfy the producer who had been robbed, and who should have been given some remedy. Only two yea is ago I had occasion to send several, tons of apple’s to Melbourne. I communicated with various jam factories, and found that all quoted the one price for apples, namely, £2 per ton. imagine any one growing apples for £2 per ton! I asked, “” How do you arrive at the conclusion that apples are worth only £2 per ton, when previously we could .get £4 per ton for them, and you- have not in the meantime lowered the prices of your jams ?” f found that the reason was that a monopoly existed, and an agreement had been come to amongst the jam manufacturers of Melbourne by which they deliberately robbed the producer. It is all very well to ask the farmer to pay a living wage to his workers, but how is he to do so if he is deliberately taken down by the middleman ? lt is for .these reasons I say that the principle of new Protection should be extended to benefit the producer. Many farmers are to-day ‘behind us supporting the Labour platform because they have fully -realized the serious -nature of the position. At the same time, there are very many who have -been deliberately deceived by the Opposition. I say deliberately, because honorable members opposite have sufficient intelligence -to sift the grain from the chaff; -and when they go round to the producers and tell them that we are opposed to their interests they do so with their tongues in their cheeks. T desire to see the industries of Australia increase. I believe that in this great Continent we can produce nearly everything that is required, but if our industries are to increase, it is absolutely necessary to give our manufacturers Protection at the Customs House. Although in the past honorable members on this side have granted Protection to a number of industries, and although many employers on rereiving Protection have deliberately deceived their workmen, I believe that, in Victoria at least, there are to-day honest employers who are not receiving adequate Protection. We should not sacrifice the honest employer because of the actions of dishonest men. If we were to judge all by the actions of dishonest people only, we could have no further confidence in humanity. I understand exactly what was done by Mr. McKay when he was given Protection for his industry. Although he stated in my electorate that the remarks I made last year were not correct, and that he did not promise ‘his employes a living wage if he were given Protection, I repeat again that he did make that promise to his employes. But after he got Protection against the International Harvester Company, he absolutely refused to recognise the rights of his men. They took their case to me Arbitration Court, and when Mr. Justice Higgins gave an awa-rd in their favour, Mr. McKay took the case to the High Court, and the Act having been decided unconstitutional by the High Court, the men ultimately lost. I think that honorable members opposite believe in fair play, and I ask them whether they think it is fair that a man should deliberately break such a promise ?
– We told honorable members opposite that McKay would do so when the Act was being passed.
– Then why do not honorable members opposite assist -us now to get at Mr McKay ? Why did they oppose the referenda proposals? Had they supported them, we could have very effectively dealt with men like McKay. Though honorable members condemn t!he action of Mr. McKay, and say that it was dishonest, they will not help us to remedy the evil, but support men of that character on every opportunity.
– McKay supports them, and it is only right they should support him.
– Of course McKay supports them. Then we had the case of the Federated Sawmilling, Timber, and General Woodworkers Union. The employers approached the men and said, “ If you get Protection for us, we shall give you better conditions and fairer wages.” The employers got the Protection for which they asked, and then absolutely refused to recognise the claims of their men. The men took their case to the Arbitration Court and again won their case, but when the matter was carried further to the High Court, the Act was decided to be unconstitutional ; and, after sacrificing much time and thousands of pounds, the men were left without any redress whatever. Will honorable members opposite say that that is fair? In these circumstances, I fully realize the position taken up by some honorable members on this side when they say that they will refuse any further Protection so long as they are unable to protect the workers and consumers as well as the manufacturers. But while I admit that they have justice on their side in taking that stand, I also acknowledge at the same time that we have many industries . in the Commonwealth that are deserving of much greater Protection than they at present receive. As our industries, extend, our imports should become less if our Protection be effective. But what do we find? Year after year our imports are increasing in value by millions of pounds. That is evidence that there is something radically wrong. I realize that, unfortunately, the Federation can protect the employer, but cannot protect the workman or consumer. We can protect the worker where a dispute in any industry extends beyond the limits of one State ; but, even in such a case, where the verdict is given in favour of the workmen, it is sub- sequently set aside by the High Court. Some honorable Fusion members affirm that under the Wages Board system the employes engaged in the various industries of Australia will obtain a living wage. But they must know perfectly well that in connexion with many industries it is impossible to secure the sanction of the Legislative Council to the creation of a Wages Board.
– The honorable member is speaking for Victoria alone.
– I am speaking of what I know happens in Victoria. In this State it is impossible to get Bills providing for the establishment of Wages Boards in certain industries through the Legislative Council. Consequently the Labour party refuse to protect merely one section of the community. They desire . to protect not merely the manufacturer, but also the” worker and consumer. It is true that there are many protected industries in Victoria, but there are several others in connexion with which Wages Boards have not been established, and in these the employes are not iri receipt of a living wage. At the last referenda we asked the electors to vest this Parliament with power to restrain the operations of trusts and combines. Of course, we realize that there are some combines whose operations are of a beneficial character. If a combine be established for the purpose of introducing more efficient machinery in connexion with any industry, and thus of bringing about more economical production, it follows that the consumer must obtain a better and cheaper article.
In such circumstances the creation of a combine is amply justified. But a combination which is formed merely for the purpose of exploiting the worker and consumer must necessarily be detrimental to the best interests of the public, and the sooner we are empowered to restrict its operations the better.
– Why do not the Government deal with the trusts which are already in existence?
– Because under, the Constitution we do riot possess effective powers. The Government have already prosecuted the Coal Vend and the Shipping Ring, but both are still in existence. In the absence of increased powers under the Constitution, we are absolutely helpless tosuppress them. We have heard a good deal’ of talk in reference to the increased priceof commodities, but I say that though prices have gone up during recent years,, wages have risen much more considerably.. I believe that the condition of theworker to-day is much better than> it was several years ago. But under our Wages Board system the moment that the employes in any industry are granted a slight increase in wages - an increase of say 5 per cent. - the employers in that industry raise the price of their commoditiesto the tune of even 50 per cent. Not long, since, the employes in the chaff industry, were awarded an increased wage of is. ad. per ton. The middlemen at once raised: the price of chaff 5s. per ton, thus insuring to themselves an absolute profit of 3s. 3d. per ton. If we choose to investigatethis question, we shall find that wherever the employer is called upon to pay an additional 3d. in wages to the worker, he takesvery good care to pass on to the consumer an additional impost of is. Until this Parliament is vested with increased powersunder our Constitution, this- unfortunate state of things will continue. I have nothing to say against the price of a commodity being increased slightly, as the result of an increased wage being granted to those engaged in its production. I do not believe that any man desires to obtaincheap goods at the expense of his fellows. It is true that some increases in the costof commodities have resulted from- the granting of increased wages to the employes engaged in their production ; but, in other cases, the manufacturer has insisted upon grabbing a much larger profitthan he was entitled to. When this motion was launched, a number of very serious^ charges were levelled at the Government. They were accused, for example, of the misuse of public funds, of maladministra- tion, and of extravagance. But the only act which was cited as one of extravagance was in connexion with the building of the Warrego, although the honorable member for Flinders declared that the employes in the Postal Department were being paid too highly. Now, in connexion with the construction of the Warrego, what happened? That vessel was brought to Australia in sections. Underlying that action was a recognition of the fact that in the future we intend to build other vessels of a similar pattern. In accordance with our Protective policy, we desire to do all the work that we possibly can in the Commonwealth, and to this end, it was necessary that our men should be instructed in the methods of shipbuilding. Unfortunately, in assembling the various parts of the Warrego, one man omitted a few bolts. This may have been the result of faulty supervision, I believe that the Government of New South Wales are responsible for the omission, and that they had to make good the loss which was thereby occasioned. Though that omission cost a few thousand pounds - a circumstance which is to be regretted - our men have received invaluable knowledge, and this they will be able to impart to others when similar operations require to be undertaken in the future. But what was the attitude of the Fusion Government towards defence? They did not propose to spend only a few thousand pounds, but millions of pounds.- They said, “ We intend to build a Dreadnought costing £2,000,000, and to send her Home for use in the North Sea. We also purpose to borrow £3,500,000 to enable us to establish our Navy.” In other words, their policy involved an expenditure upon defence of £5,500,000. I need scarcely point out that the interest upon that amount would have meant a huge sum annually. Yet, in face of these facts, because one man happened to omit a few necessary bolts in re-assembling the various parts of the Warrego, the Government have been accused of extravagance. I think we have shown the Opposition how to build a Navy without borrowing a penny. The financial year closed with a magnificent surplus, notwithstanding that we granted pensions to invalids, and that we gave many of the employes in the Post Office a more adequate wage. We completed the financial year with a credit balance of £1,800,000.
– Where is that navy you have built? Nobody has seen it yet.
– The honorable member will see it later on. The Leader of the Opposition, when in office, said it would take £2.000,000 to make our postal service effective. We have not spent £2,000.000 extra in wages, but we have increased the wages of civil servants hy some £300,000, and have made our postal and telegraphic services much more efficient than they ever were before. The honorable member for Flinders, when speaking at Camberwell the other night, said -
I have made a rather careful investigation into the affairs of the post office since Federation.
He did not go into it in a haphazard way like the Deputy Leader of the Opposition went into the land tax question, but he went into it carefully, and arrived at this conclusion -
What has happened in the last two years? One would expect, where the business was increasing, to find some increase of expenditure, but one would not expect that increase to keep pace with the increase in revenue. I find that the revenue of the post office, after making due allowance for the reduction caused by penny postage, has increased by about io£ per cent., and T find that the ordinary expenditure on ordinary working expenses, leaving additions and extensions out altogether, has been 23^ per cent.
Yet the Deputy Leader of the Opposition rose in this House and denounced us hecause we were not paying enough to the employes in the Postal Department. He said, “ Do you not know that the telegraphists in Sydney are going out on strike because you are sweating them ?” At the same time, an equally capable member on that side of the House says that the expenditure on the Postal Department has increased enormously, and that we are paying additional wages to the extent of 23$ per cent. Although we have increased the wages pf the postal officials, we shall have to increase them still more. I know men who have been twenty odd years in the Service, and are not receiving a wage commensurate with the work they do. Consequently, it will be necessary for us to increase the expenditure, because, while we tell the outside employer that he must pay a living wage to his employes, we should set the example by seeing that our employes are properly paid. I have quoted the speeches of the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member foi Parramatta, to ShOW how diametrically op: posed are two of the leading member’s on that side of the House. I find that the Federal expenditure, according to the last Budget, included £5,776,000 paid to the States, £2,190,000 for invalid and oldage pensions, £673,000 for interest and sinking fund on transferred properties, £1,873,000 for defence, £3,930,000 for the Postal Department, £4,306,000 for new works, £200,000 for naval subsidy, £621,000 for the sugar bounty, and £’433,000 for the Northern Territory. Do honorable members opposite propose to reduce the expenditure on any of those items ? They do not, with the exception of the item of old-age pensions. The honorable member for Flinders, in the same speech, said, regarding old-age pensions -
Now, another enormous expenditure of the
Government is that on old-age pensions. In regard to this I want to be perfectly frank. 1 think the system is not only wasteful and extravagant, but is based on a principle that is fu itself rotten to the core.
Is it any wonder, then, that when we turn to the platform of the so-called Liberal party, ye find that old-age and invalid pensions are embodied in plank number 13? As soon as the Opposition get into power, it will be a case of “Good-bye”; those pensions will tie wiped off the slate, and then we shall have the condition of things that once existed in Victoria. When the finances were very low, the Government of this State, instead of going to the wealthy of the community and asking them to make up the deficit, cut down the wages of the civil servants, and reduced the amount of money that was going to the old-age pensioners. Yet the members of the party opposite will go round and ask the aid-age pensioner for his vote, and the civil servant for his vote, telling the people that we are their enemies and that they, the members of the Opposition, are their friends. If a man put his hand into my pocket and tried to take some of my money, I should soon know whether he was a friend or not. When revenue has to be raised and great national works- to be carried out, ‘the members of the party opposite always put the taxation on the shoulders of the people who a,re least able to bear it, and then they talk about class legislation. Our party have legislated in the interests of every section of the community. We have tried to introduce a condition of things that will he fair to £very man, woman, and child. The Opposition cannot say the some, or anything like it. They also tell us that since we have been in power we have given all the good jobs to Labour supporters. Surely the members of the Opposition know that the chief complaint amongst our Labour people is that all the good positions are going to the Liberals, and I think that complaint is borne out by the facts. In appointing our officers, we ought to select the best men, whether they are Liberal or Labour, and I believe that that has been the aim of our Government. They have endeavoured always to select the best men, because they realize that their administration is on trial, and they could not possibly afford to appoint a man who would be likely to be a failure. They do not ask a man whether he is a Labour man or a Liberal. Members of the Opposition have quoted the appointments of Mr. Ryland and Dr. Jensen. I could quote the names of twenty other gentlemen who do not belong to the Labour party, and who yet have been placed by the Government in very responsible positions. Is Mr. Miller, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, a Labour man? Is Mr. McKay, the Land Tax Commissioner, a Labour man? Is Dr. Gilruth, the Administrator of the Northern Territory, a Labour man? Are Professor Baldwin Spencer, Mr. Francis, Mr. Clarke, Mr. Beckett, and Mr. Deane, Labourites ? Yet they have been given absolutely the best positions that we could offer to any individual. All that the members of the Opposition can say in support of their charge is that we have appointed Mr. Ryland and Dr. Jensen. From the information I have, I can say that those two are very capable men ; and when the result of their administration is known, honorable members will find such to be the case. I wish to touch lightly on the proposition for a maternity bonus. This is a question about which the unthinking will laugh and smirk ; but , I am confident that throughout Australia the judicious and the humane will applaud it. I can cite instances from my own knowledge where, if the bonus had been available, the lives, not only of children, but of mothers, would have been saved. Our friends opposite, instead of giving us credit for this humane measure, go round to the ladies’ leagues and other meetings, and make fun of it. They say that it is a political bribe. What care they about the suffering of the poorer section of the community? The members of the Women’s National League can afford to smile at this proposal. Born with a silver spoon in their mouths, nursed in the lap of luxury, they have not to worry in the most critical period of a woman’s life. They have no consideration tor their less fortunate sisters.
Of course, when they want a vote they ask them round to a cup of tea, and are very nice. The honorable member for Flinders said of this proposal -
As a piece of political fly-paper it might be considered one of the most profitable articles put- on the market. It was not a dream altogether; it was an inspiration. (Laughter.)
They say that inspirations come from Heaven. If that be so, this proposal is Heaven sent.
But how ought they to receive a proposition of this kind? He said they ought absolutely to oppose it by every means in their power. If they were to pay always increasing old-age pensions, invalid pensions, and unemployment pensions, why not extend the principle in other directions? There was no end and no stopping place to this kind of thing. Why not provide for young couples who wanted to furnish?
This most serious question is treated as a huge joke. The Premier of Victoria also characterized the proposal as a “ monstrous bribe “ to secure for the Labour party another lease of power. He said that he considered it to be a monstrosity, and that he thought that it was meant as a stepping stone towards pensions to infants, national pensions to widows, and the public feeding of children at school. Had the Fusion Government continued in power, it might have had in the near future to look after the feeding of the children, because there would have been no work for the breadwinners. These gentlemen are anxious to have the military called out, and we know that when the military commence to fire, widows begin to appear. It is not many years since a Royal Commission, reporting on the State schools of Victoria, said that the condition of some of the children in them was dreadful, and only last night the Rev. A. R. Edgar, a great Melbourne philanthropist, stated to a Herald, .interviewer that much misery and sorrow exist, notwithstanding the humane legislation which the Labour party has introduced. The old conditions have been ameliorated, but further legislation is needed to thoroughly cope with the evil. If we should ever be called upon to help the parents of big families, I, for one, should be ready to assist them, and I should be glad to give assistance to widows struggling to bring up families. As to the public feeding of school children, my vote will always be cast to prevent starvation, especially the starvation of the little children, who are the future citizens of the Commonwealth, and on whose healthy development the prosperity of the country depends. Last year, when the Notes Bill was under discussion, the honorable gentlemen opposite prophesied all kinds of calamity as the result of its passing, but they have proved themselves to be bad prophets. Whereas the States received from the banks something like £90,000 per annum in note tax, the Commonwealth makes £180,000 from the issue of notes, and instead of only £4,000,000 worth of notes being in circulation, there is more than £9,000,000 worth in circulation. Those figures show something wrong about the old state of affairs. Furthermore, as the Prime Min:ister has pointed out, when 10s. notes are issued, an additional profit of £35,000 willbe made. Although this party has been charged with extravagant finance, honorable members opposite fail to show that we have been extravagant. The honorable member for Kooyong has told us that because of the Labour party being in power Australia’s credit has suffered in Great Britain. But Mr. W. L. Baillieu, recently Minister of Public Works in Victoria, when interviewed by a representative of the Age,. after a trip to the Old Country, had a. different tale to tell. This is the Age report of the interview, published on the 28th November last -
Confidence of Investors
Australia as an Imperial Factor.
Australia was never better known in Great Britain than at the present time, and her detractors were mostly to be found within or emanating from her own boundaries.
Those who cry stinking fish are to be found in this Chamber, in the National Women’s League, and other Liberal associations -
Australia never stood higher in the Imperial world than it did to-day. It had a record worthy of imitation. He did not hesitate’ to say that some of the most clear-headed men in England were proclaiming that one of the safest places in the world for investment was Australia.
Does not that prove conclusively that the honorable member for Kooyong did not know what he was talking about?
It was certain that Australia offered to theinvestor a relatively steady condition of security.
Notwithstanding all the industrial unrest: honorable members speak of, there was, according to Mr. Baillieu, a condition of security which was not eclipsed, if equalled, in the world. Again, if we turn to the banks, what ‘ do we find ? Notwithstanding the issue of the Australian notes, and the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, we find that, whereas in 1907 the deposits in the banks were £117,758,255, in 1911 they amounted to £143,446,910, showing an increase of £25,688,655. When we turn to the Savings Banks, we find that, in 1908-9, the increase in the number of depositors was 62,536; in1909-10 the increase was 85,117; but when Labour came into power, that is in 1910-11, the increase amounted to 116,539. What did that show ? It simply showed that our legislation was securing a fairer distribution of wealth ; that, whereas previously many of the workers were in a state of semistarvation, and many of them only got sufficient to enable them to live, now they are able to save a little for a rainy day ; they are becoming depositors. The amount at deposit in 1908-9 showed an increase of £2,930,467; in 1909-10 there was an increase of £4,039,559; while in 1910-11 the increase amounted to £6,276,184. The greatest increases in connexion with the Savings Banks have occurred during the regime of the Labour party. I claim that, since our advent to power, we have kept every pledge which we made to the electors. Here is the constitution of the Labour party, which I took round with me when I fought the last election. On our fighting platform you will find these planks -
With the exception of the Navigation Bill, every measure referred to in the fighting platform is the law of Australia. On. our general platform we find the nationalization of monopolies, and, if necessary, the amendmentof the Constitution to provide for it. When we found that an amendment of the Constitution was necessary, we accordingly passed a Bill, and I am pleased to notice that, although we were so badly beaten at the referendum, the Victorian Government, and other State Governments, are going to confer upon us the increased industrial power which we asked for. Although the Victorian Government fought so bitterly against us, 1 see that there is a proposition in the last Governor’s Speech that the power shall be conferred upon the Federation.
– I know that the State Government promise many things, and carry out very few of them; but, still, that proposition is contained in the recent Governor’s Speech. When we turn to the Fusion programme, what do we find? The Leader of the Opposition went to Ballarat and told the Women’s National League that the party were going to give them a programme which would astonish the world. Apparently, it more than astonished the honorable member for Flinders, because, when he read it over, he described it in these words-
All the bones had been carefully removed) and nothing left but a kind of gelatinous compound, political food for infants and invalids, warranted not to cause the slightest inconvenience to the weakest digestion.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Flinders. Continuing, he said -
Unless they could arrive at something the people could grasp and understand as a definite, clear, and progressive policy, and not a vague tissue of generalities, it might in the long run be best for Australia if the Labour party had another three years’ tenure of office.
If a leading member on this side went to a place and described the Labour ‘ programme in that way, how long would he be in our movement?
– Not long.
– This great programme, which was to astonish the world, and which more than astonished the honorable member for Flinders, was repudiated by him, and now we have these honorable gentlemen telling us, “ Oh, that platform does not matter, we are going to draw up another platform much better than the last one.” I suppose that when they draw up the next platform it will not matter if it does not suit. If it does not suit the Women’s National League, the People’s Party, and all these conglomerations, they will draw up another platform. How long would the Labour party last if it adopted such a policy? It was not my intention to occupy so much time; and, in conclusion, I wish to say that since the Labour party has been in power it has kept every pledge which it has made to the electors. That is unique in politics. The Fusion motto in politics is, “ Promise as much as you like, but do not carry it out.” Every promise that we made to the people from the platform we have carried out. Our object was not to give the “spoils to the victors,” or to secure party legislation. We realized that Australia has a destiny, and we, as lovers of this great continent, believed that, instead of allowing the rich to legislate for the rich, we must have in power a capable party - a democratic party -which would legislate for all.
.- I feel rather encouraged to know that the last speaker, before closing his remarks, took a more cheerful view of things in this country than he apparently did at the beginning. It seems to me that a great many honorable members on the other side, in their anxiety to lead the people to believe that their circumstances are exceedingly unsatisfactory, exaggerate small matters, and overlook the weightier considerations which should go to make up our estimate of the true position of the people. They talk of honorable members on this side as the “ Stinking Fish Party.” But when I hear them night after night, and day after day, depicting the condition of the working classes as if they were serfs, a down-trodden and an underpaid people, it makes me wonder where they live, or where they get their inspiration from.
– They take it from the factories and the statistician.
– My honorable friend says that they take it from the statistician.
– And the factories.
– I have no doubt that they do not take it from the statistician. In his closing remarks the last speaker called attention to the state of the savings banks in this country as showing, from his stand-point, how good our credit ought to be. But he forgot altogether that he completely took away from the force of his earlier remarks when he depicted the condition of the working classes as that of serfs, a people who are in such a condition that they require all the help of the State to maintain their position. Having made that remark, I do not intend to depart from the course I propose to myself, namely, to speak on the financial position and the attitude of the Government in relation thereto. I shall not go over the various points raised in the motion or amendment, but confine myself to supporting the last clause of the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition, justifying the vote I intend to give, and indicating my opinion of the reckless irresponsibility of the Government in the financial affairs of the Commonwealth. The Government have had an opportunity such as no Government have had since the Commonwealth was formed. For the first time in our history we have a Government with a majority, solid and compact as a rock, not only in this Chamber, but also in the Senate. It will be seen, therefore, that the Leader of the Labour party, and the Labour party itself, had an opportunity altogether unique, to deal with the great question of the national finances in a manner impossible to any of their predecessors. I speak, therefore, regretfully of the great opportunity lost. The Government have now been in office fully two years. When the present Prime Minister first appeared before the House, we were agreed that, in the circumstances under which he entered office, it was unreasonable to expect him, in the short time at his disposal, to do anything beyond carrying through the financial proposals of the moment, and completing the arrangements his predecessors had made. Two years, however, have gone by and we find - at least I find, I shall speak for myself that year after year goes by and nothing is done to face what is, in my opinion, the greatest question that this Parliament has to deal with. Apparently, the question is persistently put into the background by the Government. I cannot think that the Government, who are sensible men, realize the condition of things into which we are drifting, or, if they did, I am certain they would not rest on their oars as they have done in the past, and let the ship of State glide so swiftly into financial difficulty. They have enjoyed, as it turns out, a time of great prosperity. They came into office when there were good seasons and the tide was rising, and when any Government would be bound to have an overflowing Treasury. Of the circumstances the Government have reaped the advantage; and, although the Prime Minister, in his famous Gympie speech of 1909, when he had been in office only for a few months, spoke of a revenue of £11,000.000, and said we could not expect much more for a good many years to come, he now finds himself, within three years, with a revenue of £22,000,000, or just double that with which he then had to deal.
– Hear, hear. There is great prosperity !
– Yes; and the difficulty is that the eyes of the Government seem shut to the dangers that prosperity brings.
– Be cheerful !
– I am no Jeremiah; but I may say that on an important occasion, when a member of the State
Legislature, in the - late eighties, I had to adopt a similar attitude. I then predicted, and truly, that an overflowing Treasury and marvellous prosperity would be followed by a time of adversity.
– But what were the causes ?
– It matters not what the causes were; if honorable members will restrain themselves a little, I shall show them that I am riot taking an unreasonably unfavorable view of the position. The revenue last year was estimated at £19,500,000, and the returns issued the other day show- that it is now something like £22,000,000. The tide, it seems, is still rising, and the .Government, so far as the Governor-General’s Speech is concerned, gives us no promise of any consideration of the great question of ways and means for the future. They are bringing forward new schemes for expenditure every day, the latest, estimated at £500,000, for a maternity grant. I shall not discuss that grant, nor shall I discuss the merits of other items of proposed expenditure ; and I merely mention the fact so that we may get, if possible, a clear view of our present position and of our prospects when times change, as they are bound to da Last year, the revenue was estimated at £19,500,000, but our expenditure kept pace ; and, from what we can see, there will be the same process in connexion with our revenue of £22,000,000. I wish to ask the Treasurer this question: Has he, as the responsible head of the Government and the leader of his party, ever set down on paper the obligations of this country, incurred not only by the present Ministry, but also by their predecessors? Has he ever set down the amounts that he will have to meet ere long, and asked himself where he is going to find the money? I have tried in vain to find in the speeches of the Prime Minister and his colleagues any clue to the method by which the grand total of the commitments of the Commonwealth is to be met. Therefore, I have been driven in upon my own resources, and have tried to compile a list, which I shall put before honorable members. I am conscious of its incompleteness. I do not think that it covers the whole of the contemplated expenditure. But it is, at all events, sufficient to make us pause.
There is one thing that of course stands out as a primary duty of this country, in its own interest, ‘and for its own preservation. That -is the organization of defence.
The policy of military and naval defence now being carried out is not that of any one party, but of all parties. The proposals were initiated by the late Government, and are being realized by the present Government. I believe that the people of the country will insist that whatever happens the policy that has been introduced in that regard shall be continued. That being so, defence is not a party matter. But defence depends upon finance. Like almost everything else, it comes back to a matter of money. One would therefore be entitled to expect that in facing the great question of ways and means, the Government would have endeavoured to pursue in regard to finance a policy of a non-party character. I feel sure that had the Prime Minister, when he came into power, with an unexampled majority in both Houses, realized his responsibility, and invited, as he might well have done, the aid and assistance of men on this side in settling the finances of the country on a reasonable, businesslike, and proper foundation, he would have secured effective support from all sides. I can say for myself, and I believe also for others, that we should have been only too pleased had the right honorable gentleman taken that view of his position. Had he done so, he would not have adopted the course that he has followed, and which, ere I sit down, I shall show is not. the success which he and his supporters desire to make us think that it is. It is defective in many respects, and, in view of the obligations which have been incurred, will be positively dangerous if continued. The estimate which I have before me deals first with defence. Lord Kitchener’s scheme for a seven years’ period involved an expenditure of £1,834,000. But Senator Pearce, the Minister of Defence, said in the Senate not long ago -
So far as I have been able to judge, Lord1 Kitchener’s estimate of ^1,800,000 will be exceeded. I’ believe that in round numbers it may be said that the Defence Force when in full operation will cost us not less than £2,000,000 per annum. 1 may say., in passing, that I believe that probably £2,000,000 is considerably under the true estimate. However, I do not wish to overstate the case. I would rather give . my honorable friends opposite the benefit of any doubt, and let the difference be on their side. I now turn to the naval scheme. It seems to me -that if the Government proceed as- they have been doing with our financial affairs, drifting on and enjoying the prosperous day while it lasts - following the maxim of the Epicurean, “ Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die” - they will be doing a serious injury to the interests of this country.
Let us look at the figures regarding the naval scheme which has been adopted by them, and which is, I believe, approved also by the Opposition. The annual outgoings, according to Admiral Henderson’s report, for the next twenty years will be nearly £5.000,000 per annum. The Admiral pointed out, however, that it was impossible for him to say what the necessary works would cost. We know that an immense sum will have to be provided for naval bases, ports, docks and all manner of necessary conveniences. The capital cost of the ships, which is not included in the estimate of £4,790,000, has been provided, so far as the first cost is concerned, as the last speaker said proudly, without borrowing. It is quite true that £3,500,000 has been diverted from ordinary receipts to pay for the Fleet unit. The annual cost of this unit will be, I think, from £750,000 to £1,000.000.
– It is not all paid yet.
– -The money is all provided for ; Parliament has passed the necessary Act. The annual expenditure of £[5,000.000 for naval outgoings, and £2.000,000 for Lord Kitchener’s scheme, totals £7,000,000. It is estimated that the Fleet will cost £20,000.000. If we add the estimate for naval bases of about £15.000,000- –which, I believe, is understated - we have a total for defence of £7,000,000 in annual outgoings, and £35,000000 capital expenditure. The Government and their supporters tell us that they are not going to borrow ; but can they, in any year, or in five years, raise that amount of money out of the ordinary revenues of the Commonwealth?
– Does the honorable man lier suggest that we ought to borrow to “build these warships?
– I am not going to suggest anything. T am simply endeavouring to show the Minister what is inevitable, and the question is not what I am going to do. but what he and his colleagues will have to do, if they remain in office, in order to carry out this scheme.
– Tt is for Ministers to make suggestions in that regard.
– Certainly. I am asking the Postmaster-General, who was for a time in charge of the Treasury, how the Government propose to provide for this expenditure of £7.000,000, in addition to our already expanding expenditure of oyer £20,000.000 per annum. The Government have not told us where they are going to obtain the money to build these warships. They have provided out of revenue for one unit, but they certainly have not enlightened the House and the country as to how they propose to provide for the remainder. They cannot escape their responsibility by asking me whether I suggest that a loan should be raised. The obligation is on them, and not on myself or others, to state whether they are going to tax the people to raise the necessary funds, or whether they are going to secure them in some other way.
– The honorable member can be quite sure that this Government will not borrow money to build warships.
– Then it is incumbent upon the honorable gentleman, or one of his colleagues, to tell us whence they propose to obtain the necessary money.
– The Prime Minister will tell the House.
– Having provided one unit, and so drawn the attention of foreign nations to us, we are bound to complete what we have undertaken ; and if we are going to do so, it is incumbent upon the Government to say how they propose to meet the expenditure. We cannot escape from it. Honorable members opposite may seek to put off the answer to this question, but it will come as a Nemesis to them.
– The honorable member will get the information in the Budget.
– We are waiting for the Treasurer’s Budget statement. Last year’s Budget gave us very little information ; and in the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of this Parliament there was no allusion to any intention on the part of the Treasurer, to do other than he has done before - to glide on smoothly as long as the stream runs freely, leaving the future to take care of itself. I am glad, however, to have the assurance of the PostmasterGeneral that we are to have in the Budget some information concerning these matters. Possibly, the remarks that are being made may force the giving of such information ; but, judging the future by the past, I take leave to doubt whether there is any desire on the part of the Government, especially just before a general election, to enlighten the public as to what their meaning is. The Opposition, as well as honorable members on the Government side of the House, I hope, still have responsibilities. We are not entitled to go on increasing our expenditure, and making new commitments year after year, as long as the money lasts, knowing that when the evil day arrives the cutting down of the naval and military expenditure, upon which our safety may entirely depend at no distant date, will be the first direction that retrenchment will take. That has happened in Victoria before, and it may happen in this case. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but this is no laughing matter. Unfortunately, as I have known it to happen more than once in my political career, the lightning bolts fall, not upon the heads of the sinners who commit the extravagances, but upon the innocent who follow after them. The public often put the blame on the wrong shoulders. I do not know if my honorable friends opposite are reckoning on something of the kind once more occurring; but if they are, I shall put in my caveat here and now by predicting that they will not escape their true responsibilities when the time comes. It will not be possible for them to gainsay one word I have uttered to-day as to their failure to deal with the great financial questions upon which our defence, as well as many other important Departments of the Commonwealth, so seriously depends. In addition to the items to which I have already referred, we have a probable expenditure of £5,000,000 on the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, to the building of which we are all committed. I am dealing with the liabilities of the Commonwealth as I should deal with the balance-sheet of any business concern ; I am taking the responsibilities incurred in order that we may determine how we stand. I therefore point to the fact that the Government are also committed to an expenditure of £5,000,000 on the Northern Territory, and that we are faced with a probable expenditure of, say, £3,000.000 on the Federal Capital. I do not think that that is an overestimate. Then, again, on lighthouses and quarantine - Departments which we have taken Over and must put in order - we are faced with an expenditure of about £3.000.000. On the Postal Department we have a probable expenditure of £2,000.000, and an expenditure of £500,000 on the Northern Territory, apart from the works which we have to undertake there in accordance with the Act under which we assumed responsibility for its control. Having regard to the way in which expenditure is being incurred in the Northern Territory, I do not think that £500,000 will go very far. I am understating rather than overstating the probable expenditure, but when I get at what Mr. Mantilini refers to as the “ total,” I think that honorable members will realize that even this understatement of the actual position is quite enough to cause sober, sensible men to think. We have to add to the items I have enumerated the loan of £4,000.000 which we took over from South Australia in connexion with the transfer of the Northern Territory. Does the Postmaster-General say that the Government propose to pay that out of revenue? He says that they will not borrow.
– I said that the Government would not borrow for the purpose of building ships of war.
– When the honorable gentleman so limits his answer, the only conclusion we can draw is that in respect of other undertakings the Government intend to borrow. To summarize, I say these are our commitments, including interest on loans for building ships - because whether honorable members opposite like it or not, they can take it straight from me that if they are going to get the ships they must borrow money, because I am certain the people of this country will not consent to be taxed to provide over £20,000,000 on ships in the next four or five years. They must borrow money also for naval bases, docks, and other things associated with the fleet, to the extent of £15,500,000. That is to say, that £35,500,000 will have to be raised by loan. At 3^ per cent, interest, with a sinking fund of per cent., that will mean an interest charge of £1,420,000. I am told that the Government do not mean to borrow, but I treat the expenditure that will be necessary upon the other works to which I have referred, as expenditure of capital for permanent purposes, which it is proper that a country should defray from loans.- I say that for the other works to which we are committed, we shall require to borrow £16,000,000, and 4 per cent, on that amount represents an addition of £640,000 to the annual expenditure. The total expenditure necessary to carry out all these undertakings will be £50,000,000. We are now spending £20,000,000 a year, and we shall have to add to our annual expenditure another 50 per cent., or an additional £10,000,000.
– The honorable member’s charge of extravagance is that we are paying our way, and are not borrowing enough ?
– I cannot be held responsible for the honorable member’s density. I have stated the position clearly.
– Hear, hear; the good old loan policy.
– Honorable members opposite are new to this game.
– They are new to it, thank God 1
– Yes, they are new. They will know more about it presently. I say that we have before us an additional annual expenditure of £10,000,000, and the obligation to find something like £50,000,000 for works of a more or less permanent character. When honorable members opposite talk as they do about not borrowing, I would ask them whether they carry out that policy in their own personal relations. Does the honorable member for Brisbane never borrow anything? Has he never borrowed for his advantage?
– Yes, occasionally.
– The honorable member has a good banking account. ‘
– If he has it is probably because he has borrowed money, as many another man has done, and benefited himself thereby. I fail to see how any cultivated man, or a man with any power of thought, can repeat that wretched parrot cry about not borrowing in any circumstances.
– We do not say that.
– Because, if this country is to be pushed ahead ; if we are to provide the plant and necessary works to make it progress, as well as to defend it, it will be, in my opinion, absolutely necessary to borrow. We cannot expect to get the money required from revenue, nor would it be fair, if it were practicable, to saddle one set of people living to-day with rack-rent taxation to provide for the enormous expenditure necessary for the construction of permanent works which will be for the benefit not only of themselves, but of posterity. Posterity, under a system of borrowing, should certainly be called upon to bear a fair and reasonable share -of such expenditure.
– The honorable member does not call a man-of-war a permanent work ?
– I shall come to that. I anticipated the honorable member’s interjection, but I cannot at once say everything I would say. I was giving my view of the general policy of not borrowing which honorable members opposite repeat as if it were a shibboleth which every one should adopt and follow. I am glad to see that the Prime Minister is present now, and I shall repeat, for his benefit, something of what I have said. My proposition is that it is unfair to the present generation to ask that they should meet the whole obligation of providing for great public works, or works of defence, which will benefit npt only themselves, but their posterity. I say that we may fairly and justly meet our obligations to push the country ahead, to develop it, raise it, and defend it, by a system of borrowing, if we cannot reasonably or fairly defray the expenditure from revenue raised from year to year. Our friends opposite describe the system of borrowing as handing ourselves over to “Cohen,” which is a very poor and miserable way of speaking of one’s, creditor. Whatever they may say, Australia has been a borrowing country, and has been immensely benefited: thereby. If we had not borrowed about £180,000,000 for railways, we should have been without railways, and without population, just as we shall be without ships of war if we do not borrow the money necessary to build them. The man who says that there should be no borrowing, under any circumstances, is, in my opinion, foolish. No intelligent man should make such a statement in the unqualified way in which it is made on the other side. It all depends on the circumstances, the comparative advantages, the purpose for which the money is borrowed, and whether we can get the money we require without1 borrowing. If a man is a millionaire, and has all the money he requires, he will not borrow ; but if he has not the money to do what he requires, to. benefit himself and those around him, he is a fool not to borrow, if he can do so on satisfactory terms.
– Everybody knows that.
– My honorable friend is quite right, and I feel almost ashamed to find that it is necessary to talk in this way to honorable members, who ought not to require to be thus talked to, because, in> laying down these propositions to which they take such strong exception, I am simply uttering the ABC of common-sense and business arrangement. But, after all, one has to consider his environment, and to speak as the occasion demands.
– Talk about a schoolmaster !
– Perhaps the schoolmaster was abroad where the honorable member was brought up.
– We heard the same yarn about Great Britain thirty years ago.
– I am not dealing with Great Britain, but with this country, in which honorable members opposite profess to be so profoundly interested. Half the arguments which they use upon the floor of this House are arguments based on conditions which exist, perhaps, in England, but which certainly do not exist here. Consequently they represent so much beating of the air.
– Great Britain borrowed £200,000,000 to pay for the South African war.
– Where did the money come from ?
– It is marvellous how much honorable members opposite know about England and how little they know about their own country. They can tell us all about British statesmen, and about what they ought to do. But I fear that I am digressing somewhat. The PostmasterGeneral has stated that he would mot borrow for the purpose of building ships of war. His reason, I apprehend, is that these ships will be obsolete in twenty years. Or is it that they are to be used for defending our shores or for attacking the enemies of the Empire?
– My reason is that I regard expenditure upon defence as a national insurance, and I think that we are justified in paying the premium.
– But does not the PostimasterGeneral see that payment for the Fleet-the possession of which is the primary consideration - may well be distributed over a term of forty or sixty years, and may be advantageously provided for by the establishment of a small sinking fund representing½ per cent. upon its capital cost?
– The honorable member is satisfied, and I am delighted. That is the best way to silence him. In addition to the £20.000,000 annually which we are now. expending, we have to face ob ligations during the next seven years representing another £10,000,000 annually, or an increase of 50 per cent. That is on the assumption that we borrow £50,000.000. Are honorable members opposite possessed of such marvellous powers that they may be able to say, “ Heigh, presto, come forth,” and thus secure the money that is required ? If we do not raise £50,000,000 within the next seven years, the whole scheme for the formation of the Fleet will break down. My view is that the head of the Government has not realized his position ; that he has not taken advantage of his unexampled opportunity ; and that he has lost the chance of a lifetime, not merely from the stand-point of his own reputation hut from that of his country’s good. Although the Government have thus acted, they have at various times professed great anxiety in connexion with a cognate subject to that with which I have been dealing, namely, the taking over of the State debts.I was very much interested when I heard a chaffing allusion made by the Prime Minister to the Leader of the Opposition in connexion with the appointment of an Inter-StateCommission. The honorable member for Ballarat was reminded that in several Vice-Regal utterances his Government had stated that it was their intention to appoint such a tribunal. To the best of my recollection, when the honorable member interjected that they had not the power to do it, the Prime Minister replied, “ That is not the way with our party. When we have the power, we will do it.” But what do I find in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech? Only the mildest possible reference to it. We are told -
It is hoped that an early opportunity will present itself for settling the question of the consolidation of State debts.
Now let me read the statement which was put into the. Governor- General’s mouth on the 1st July, 1910, by the present Government. Honorable members will recollect that that was immediately after the taking of the first referenda.
My advisers view with satisfaction the result of the referenda on the financial agreement and State debts.
The question of consolidating the debts of the States is becoming more urgent as time passes. It is hoped an early opportunity will present itself to enable all necessary steps being taken to deal with this question.
That strikes a good bold note for a start.
– That is as far as you can go, too.
– If I were a little younger, I might challenge the honorable member on that point. I come now to a year later. In the Governor-General’s Speech delivered on 5th September, 191 1, the following appears - honorable members will see how the tone goes down -
My advisers regret that no settlement of the question of the consolidation of State debts has been arrived at.
They never made any attempt to arrive at it -
The matter continues to engage the most serious consideration of the Government.
And now this year there is the still small voice saying, “it is hoped that an early opportunity will present itself “ - the opportunity is not to be made by anybody, but is to come along - “ for settling the question of the consolidation of the State debts. “- How are the mighty fallen 1 The Prime Minister, when he laid down his policy in the famous Gympie speech in 1909, made much of the absolute necessity of taking over the State debts. He pointed :out, by means of some calculations, which I should not care to father or back up, that there would be a saving of £26,000,000 over a period. Would it not have been a nice thing if he had saved- that amount and put it into the Fleet? That would have been what I should call good business, but we have not heard anything more about it. In my speech on the State debts question, in 1906, I pointed out that a scheme on the lines I suggested, with a sinking fund of J per cent., would pay off the whole debt of £250,000,000 in about sixty years. The Prime Minister did not acknowledge his authority, but he quoted mme, and of course imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. He told the people that that sum could be saved by taking over the State debts, and that even with a sinking fund of J per cent., which was the remainder of my illustration, the total amount would be paid off in- eightyseven years. It was in 1909 that the Prime Minister made that speech. We are now, in- 1912, in totally different circumstances, because the honorable gentleman has a Government, as he had not then, with a majority in both Houses. Yet all he now says is that he trusts an opportunity will come along to deal with this supereminently important question. That is a lamentable state of affairs. I do not say that the settlement of the State debts question is an easy thing, and I might tell the honorable gentleman that he has complicated . it a good deal since that time, and made it more difficult to settle on reasonable terms, because any settlement that had to be come to under my scheme meant a reasonable co-operation with the Governments of .the States, whose minds I sought to disabuse of suspicion, and whose rights, as the rulers of self-governing States, responsible to the people of their separate States for the development of their own territories, I always sought to respect. While I wanted the Federal Government to have a control of the borrowings so as to arrange them, I never contemplated, but protested against, the idea that, when the Commonwealth did take over the State debts, they should in any way hamper the States in borrowing money to develop their own territories, provided that the States recognised their proper obligations to the Federal Government, who, of course, would be responsible for the debts.
– That is unfair. How have the present Government hampered the States ?
– The honorable member interrupts, but does not make his meaning plain. This question should have been tackled, and still ought to be tackled. I do not say that it can be settled at once, but it will have to be settled by the cooperation of the Opposition and Ministry in this House, with the co-operation of the States, and in the light of day.
– When is the cooperation of the States coming?
– The honorable member’s leader can answer his question, because he says he “ hopes an opportunity will come along.”
– I believe it will come when we have a Labour Ministry in each State.
– God help us, if they are all the same as the Labour Ministries with which I am acquainted, so far as finance is concerned 1 I repeat that the Prime Minister has made the situation more difficult by taking over things from the States that I consider he should not have interfered with.
– And there is nothing in them either.
– I was going to show that there was nothing in one of them, at any rate. Let me take the note tax as acase in point. The States were getting a 2 per cent, note tax, which went into their revenue. They got this revenue clean. without any deduction whatever, and incurred no responsibility. Our David viewed his neighbour Naboth’s vineyard, his little £90,000 a year. He said, “I will take that,” and he took it. There are other things that the Government have done, but I shall not deal with them, as they are beyond the scheme of my remarks at present. I have given one case, which shows the spirit in which the Governments and interests of the States are looked upon by the powers that be. These things do not tend to harmony or co-operation. We ought to co-operate as far as we can, because we are all servants of the Australian public, a fact which apparently is forgotten. We ought not to do things that will cause a feeling of irritation and annoyance to intervene in important affairs. While Ministers are open to the charge of having missed a great opportunity, of having kept the country in ignorance - if they are not in ignorance themselves - of the enormous responsibilities incurred, and of having failed to tell us how they are going to meet those responsibilities, they have not kept out of finance. They have begun at the wrong end. I always recognised that when the debts of the States came to be taken over, and other financial arrangements made, there should be a commission of the Treasury, an organ of the Commonwealth, which would be above all the States in finance, to deal, with the renewal of the State debts, the. flotation of additional loans, the facilitation of flotation, the removal of competition, and so forth. I advocated that. I did not advocate the establishment of a bank, though a bank might answer the purpose. When Ministers established a bank, they should have commenced in that way. They might have got their good man - I believe the Prime Minister was prepared to pay £10,000 a year for such a man, and they might well have paid that - and consulted with him . before framing their banking law. Instead of doing so, they have appointed a man to a position which they have made for him, and which it will be very difficult for any trained banker to fill. They should have started their bank before dealing with the note issue. Who ever heard of a note issue except one administered by or through a bank or banks ? It was to be expected that the bank would be started on proper lines, that the administration of the note issue would be part of its functions, and that other things would follow in proper sequence; but the cart has been put before the horse. These facts show that Ministers have never carefully considered the financial obligations of their position in connexion with either the public expenditure, the taking over of the debts of the State%, or the starting of a bank. They began with a land tax. One may not be opposed to, or even be in favour of, a proposal of my honorable friends, but if he dares to criticise their proposal, or if he is not willing that the thing shall be done exactly as they wish to do it, his name is anathema, they will have nothing to do with him, and they denounce him. as an opponent of the proposal itself. The imposition of land taxation was always admitted to be within the power of the Commonwealth; but it was understood by the framers of the Constitution that any direct taxation should be imposed only under the stress of extraordinary circumstances. The Government had a perfect right to propose a land tax, and had a majority to pass it, but it might have listened to those who pointed out that it would be wise to act justly in the matter, and that regard should be had to the fact that this is a debtor country. We owe £240,000,000, of which £180,000,000, and possibly a good deal more, is owed to Great Britain. Surely mere business prudence would have suggested that the land tax should not be made as obnoxious as possible to our creditors. A prudent business man would not slap a creditor in the face, or make things uncomfortable for him. But that is what the Government did. An objection to the land tax is that it was never proposed to the electors that city property should be taxed, and that holdings in various cities and towns all over Australia, of companies like banking corporations should be aggre”gated, and treated as one large estate for the application of the progressive rate.
– What bursting up purpose did that serve?
– The honorable member may well ask. A land tax was advocated by the Labour party as a means for promoting settlement, and it is claimed to have had that effect, though, as the honorable member has shown, on insufficient grounds. What bursting-up policy can be served by taxing the land on which branch banks are built, or, taking my own case, factories in different States of the Commonwealth? I am made to pay a large sum annually because I have interests in different properties in five States; they lump the values together, and make out that T am a holder of a large estate, although the ground is covered with buildings, and I am employing hundreds of persons. What policy did they intend the land tax to serve as far as city properties are concerned? That is one objection. Again, let me ask, was it ever understood that if a man had 10,000 acres of land in Queensland and 10,000 acres in Western Australia, the values of the two estates should be lumped together - neither of them may be wanted at all for closer settlement, because they may be so situated that they cannot be closely settled - and an exceptional tax put upon them? What good thing is served by doing that? Of all pitiful, mean things, and the most impolitic, the imposition of what is called the absentee provision is the worst. I say “the most impolitic.” because it is the part of the scheme which, perhaps, has done more than any other to cause a feeling of bitterness amongst British investors, of which the Prime Minister, according to my advices from London, had a taste when he met a number of city men there. It has caused a deep-seated feeling of injustice. And what is the whole product of the absentee tax ? Can the right honorable gentleman say ? It is £62,000.
– Is that all that they are worrying about?
– Can they not sleep under that?
– If my honorable friend had a small tack in his boot, he would feel it very uncomfortable, and the smaller, perhaps, the more irritating. It is very often the very small things in life which cause the most irritation. We make £62,000 out of the absentee tax, and we get the name of being unjust, unfair, ungrateful ; because many of the persons who are thus exceptionally taxed in England have, perhaps, never been in this country, but have sent their money here for investment when money was greatly wanted, and have been content for many years-
– To draw a big profit.
– Many of them have been content with a very small interest.
– A big interest.
– A very small interest, I can assure the honorable gentleman. A late Prime Minister of England, the Right Honorable W. E. Gladstone, had a good deal of money invested here at one time, but his successors have withdrawn a large portion of it. I happen to know, within 10 miles of Melbourne, a property which belongs to the family still, and which has been farmed for twenty-six years by a man who has made a fortune, although only a tenant ; so that I do not think he found Mr. Gladstone a very exacting landlord. The people who sent their money here and invested it in good faith have good reason to feel a sense of irritation. I recommend the Prime Minister, who heard what people in London think of the absentee tax, at an early date to consider whether, seeing that so small an amount is involved, he ought not to repeal it. I am not interested in absentees. I do not know any absentee freeholders, but I know absentees who are not freeholders. It is only absentee freeholders who are specially taxed. If a man has a station in Riverina which is bringing him in £20,000, he may, if he is a leaseholder from the Crown, live where he likes ; he does not pay a shilling of our land tax. But if a man has the same value in freehold, and lives in London, he has to pay heavily, and his property is depreciated. I recommend my right honorable friend, if he contemplates dealing with the State debts, to clear the decks before doing so, by making it known here and abroad that he is prepared to do a fair thing all round in taxation and other matters.
– The honorable member is assuming that he is a free man.
– I ask my right honorable friend to treat all classes as they ought to- be treated - with absolute equality. I do not want to say anything about the Commonwealth Bank, except that - 1 have listened with astonishment and pain to statements made from time to time about banks by honorable gentlemen on the other side. I have heard things said in this House which, so far as knowledge goes, were about what one would expect from an aboriginal blackfellow.
– The honorable member’s age is protecting him.
– What !
– The honorable member’s age is protecting him.
– What is that sepulchral voice?
– I was always taught to respect old age.
– I can assure the honorable member that I did not allude to him, and that he was not in my thoughts.
– The honorable member’s- remark was most insulting.
– If the honorable member has fitted the cap he can wear it, so far as I am concerned, but I was not thinking of him at all. I will repeat what I said.
– I think I am a bit above a blackfellow, at any rate.
– Order !
– The honorable member fits the cap, and I am content if he leaves it there. I repeat that I have heard the most extraordinary and ignorant statements made here about banks - which were described as blood-sucking vampires.
– They have taken a man out of one of them to manage the Commonwealth Bank.
– Yes, at a salary of £4,000 a year.
– Most consistent conduct to take a vampire-bred man.
– He gets £4,000 a year and £3 3s.a day for travelling expenses. Honorable gentlemen talk about banks in that way through sheer ignorance, absolute want of knowledge, and therefore I do not hold them responsible. “ A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” and the trouble is that a good many of our honorable friends have a little knowledge. I would rather have a man with no knowledge at all, because then he would know that he had no knowledge. I must apologize if the honorable member for Denison thought that I was alluding to him. I was not alluding to him in any way, nor was he in my thoughts. I donot wish him to be offended, although he said-
– The honorable member might not have meant to be offensive in making the remark, but he referred to honorable members on this side as blackfellows.
– That is what I objected to.
– Order !
– It was the blackfellow’s knowledge of business that I referred to. I said that I had heard in this House things which I would have expected to hear from an aboriginal blackfellow. Does the honorable member not see the difference?
– No ; let the honorable member say what he means.
– I do say what I mean.
– I have said it.
– A man of the honorable member’s age ought to be respectful, anyhow.
– I do not wish to have any bad blood about the matter. There have been a good many nasty things said from time to time about us by honorable members on the other side. Honorable members know that when they strike flint they may expect to see fire.
I desire to say something about the banks. The other night it was said that as the result of the Labour policy there would be no more 20 per cent. dividends, no more large bonuses. What are the facts about the banks? The total paid-up capital of the banks is £20,000,000. They have what is in America called a surplus, but what is called here a reserve fund. They have a rest of £10,000,000, which is composed of surplus profits, over and above what they choose to draw in dividends. If a bank makes £10,000 in a year and declares a dividend which absorbs £5,000, the directors put £5,000 to the reserve fund of the bank for its benefit. And that sum, although it is not part of the capital account, is part of the capital. That is where honorable gentlemen on the other side make a great mistake when they talk of 20 per cent. dividends. If they look at the accounts they will find that a bank which pays 17 or 20 per cent. has perhaps one and a half times as much reserve fund as it has capital. If any one of these honorable gentlemen wanted to buy into that bank, he would have to pay a premium above the face value of the shares, something in relation to that accumulated profit which is there, although not in the capital account.
– The reserve fund is provided out of the profits of the shareholders.
– I am glad the idea has got into the honorable member’s mind.
– The reserve is taken out of the shareholder’s pocket, anyhow.
– I do not know the honorable member’s business, but-
– I should think he is a bank shareholder.
– I have lost money in bank shares.
– That may be so. And I desire to ask the honorable member the question, in order to bring the point home to him, because it is necessary to deal with these matters so that they may be clearly understood. Supposing the honorable member, in his business, made a profit of £500 in one year, and decided, in order to expand his connexion, to spend on himself only £200 and leave £300 in the business, would the honorable member then be swindling his customers because he so far exercised self-denial as not to spend the whole £500? The banking institutions last year paid, on the average, 7.91 per cent. on their actual paid-up capital, and on the capital, including the accumulated or surplus funds, 5.2 per cent. Some of the banks declared a dividend of 20 per cent. on a small paid-up capital with a big reserve.
– But not on the selling price of the shares.
– No. Bankers, bank directors, and shareholders in banks are not, as is sometimes said, bloated millionaires; they include tens of thousands of people of small means, who may hold from five to twenty shares, because they get a better return than they would get from leaving their money in the Savings Bank. On the 30th June, 1911, the liabilities of the banks were £148,000,000, the assets were £159,000,000, and the capital and reserves were £30,000,000, with 2,003 branches throughout the States of. Australia. The banks are a great civilizing instrument. Wherever there are a few farmers or other people in a village, the first thing they do is to send to Melbourne or Sydney an application for the establishment of a branch bank, which at once brings them into communication with the rest of the business world. Without such a means they feel that they are outside, not knowing what is going on, and they find it impossible to remit or draw money, or transact business generally. To traduce banking institutions, as they are traduced, is simply an evidence that people have very little knowledge of the facts they profess to understand. The banking system as carried on in Australia has been of enormous and untold benefit. The banks have enjoyed the confidence of the people; and in the great cataclysm of 1893, I think only one or two of the smaller banks did not pay 20s. in the £1. On that occasion shareholders suffered, but creditors received their money, except in the cases referred to. It is not often one gets an opportunity to put the true facts before the public, and I desire to do so now. I have here a return with which the Prime Minister must be acquainted, because 1 think he had it inserted in Hansard. It is in the form of a parliamentary paper showing the paid-up capital and the profits of all the banks from 1885 up to the present date. From 1885 to 1892 the average profit on banking stock, without counting the reserve funds, was from 12½ to 13 per cent. In 1893, the year of the crisis, the average profit dropped to 7.20 per cent., so that it will be seen that the lot of the banker is not always a happy one. In 1894, it fell still further to 4 per cent., in 1895 to 3 per cent., in 1896 to 2.81 per cent., while in 1897 it was 3.7 per cent., in 1898 it was 3.16 per cent., in 1899 it was 3.27 per cent. Then it began to rise. In 1900, the year of the inauguration of Federation, the average profit rose to 4 per cent., in 1901 it was 4.88 per cent., in 1902 it was 5.15 per cent., in 1903 it was 5.50 per cent., in 1904 it was 6.05 per cent., in 1905 it was 6.31 per cent., in 1906 it was 6.42 per cent, in 1907 it was 7.26 per cent., in 1908 it was 7.44 per cent., in 1909 it was 7.70 per cent., and in 1910 it was 7.74 per cent. For the year 191 1 there is no return. For about ten years the average dividends of all the banks, on their stock, and not including reserve funds - many of the banks lost their reserves - was from 2 per cent. to 4 per cent. An honorable member opposite referred to me as talking like a schoolmaster, and perhaps I do ; but there is a lesson to be learned from these figures. And the lesson is, I think, a telling answer to the misrepresentations which are so current, and which have such a mischievous effect on the mass of the people who have no accurate knowledge of the facts of the case.
– What about secret reserves ?
– Some of these gentlemen, I am sorry to say, are not ashamed to insinuate that every man who has anything to do with business or finance, or who is an employer, is by nature a villain. That is the doctrine that is preached by many.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is putting the cap on now.
– It only shows how bitter he is.
– I am not bitter. I am merely repeating what I have heard with my own ears. Men who ought to know better are not ashamed to teach employes to look on their employer as their natural enemy. They say, “ He has not your interests at heart, and therefore he is your enemy; go for him.” That is how they- seek to bring about industrial peace. My observation shows me that the employers who incur the most serious dislike from certain persons are those who are the fairest and best, and who wish to do the roost they can for those who are in their employment ; the reason being that the quotation of such cases is an .effective answer to the baseless insinuations or statements of these men. I wish to point out that the banks do a great work, and recognise that they have an important duty to perform. I believe that they do it admirably. It is not because I am a bank shareholder that I say that. I get no dividends out of banks. I know of what I speak, however. I know how their business is conducted. I know that banking is not the haphazard game that my honorable friends opposite apparently think it is. They say lightly, “ We are going to start a bank which is going to do good to the workmen by giving them overdrafts at less than they would have to pay the other banks.”
– And the directors will have no overdrafts.
– The directors of banks do not get overdrafts unless they have very good security ; and even then there is in connexion with many of the banks an unwritten law that as a rule no bank director shall keep his account with the bank of which he is a director. It is true that I keep a small amount of money - that which I receive from this Parliament - in an account with the bank of which I am a director; but that is always a credit account.
– The honorable member must be a shareholder of the bank of which he is a director.
– I am an original shareholder, ft is one of those banks that got into trouble, and I had the honour to help it through. I have some shares in it, but I get no dividends from them, being satisfied that if the shares do not return me dividends in my lifetime they are a good asset, and my heirs and assigns will get something out of them.
– Does the honorable member say that the directors of the Van Diemen’s Land Bank had no overdrafts with the institution?
– I know nothing about the Van Diemen’s Land Bank. I wish to impress upon honorable members opposite that banking is by no means an easy matter. They talk as though banking were quite a simple business. One honorable member referred to the banks having £50,000,000 of deposits on which they pay no interest, and looks upon that as a very heinous offence; but I apprehend that the men who have credit balances are not foolish. They would not keep their money in the banks without interest if they could get anything upon it. They must be obtaining some advantage. There is an all-round advantage. It is to be remembered that against these deposits the banks have to keep a large sum unemployed. That is where the occupants of the Treasury bench seem to have made a very grave blunder. They talk about gold as if it were merely a commodity. In fact, the Prime Minister says that it is. In this country, gold is, in a sense, a commodity, because we produce gold and have to ship it to make up for deficiency of export of other commodities. Regarding gold as being of value in itself, Ministers took from the banks £10,000,000 of their gold reserve, as’ against the note issue ; but there is a confusion in their ideas as between coin and credit. Coin is the’ basis of credit. Coin indicates credit. If a bank has £10,000,000 in coin in its coffers, and is known to have it, the banker lends out money accordingly. If he finds that his coin reserve runs down to, say, £5,000,000, he must draw in his advances, recognising that he is getting into a dangerous position. Banking is the science of dealing with money - not merely taking into account the purely economic side of finance, but also judging of human nature and human impulse. It is extraordinary how an able banker can tell you in a moment exactly what his position is. He gives out his orders accordingly. When he finds that his reserve is running down, he directs his subordinates to withhold making advances for a while. At such a time an intending borrower going to a bank manager, not knowing that he is acting under instructions, and being informed by the banker that the proposed loan does not suit them, goes away dissatisfied, and pronounces him to be a hardhearted, unreasonable man. The true reason is that he has no money to lend, because his head office has notified him that advances have gone beyond the bank’s income from deposits, and that it is therefore necessary to draw in a little in order to let the existing obligations falling due to the bank increase until the balance is adjusted. I should like to give an illustra- tion of what I am saying. Let honorable members look at table 64, page 4.3, of the last Finance Bulletin. They will find there an account of coin and bullion held by banks of issue from 1902 to 1911, and in table 58 we have the total liabilities of the banks to the public for the samp years. I have taken out the figures, and find that for the eleven years in question the average holding of all banks in Australia was 21 per cent, of gold coin to the whole of their liabilities to the public.
– And the honorable member will also notice that the total of noninterestbearing deposits is £62,000, -joo.
– What has that to do with the point I am now discussing? All their liabilities to the public - including deposits at call, deposits on time, and note issue - are included in this return, and it shows that they were trading on a margin of 20 per cent. With a gold reserve of 20 per cent., the banks can make advances to five times that amount. The returns that 1 have here show that in Canada the banks have a margin of only 10 per cent., but those figures are misleading, since they do not include the gold which the Canadian banks may have in New York, which is, so to speak, their “London,” as a financial centre. I mention that fact only because I do not wish honorable members to draw the inference that our own position in this respect is much better than that of Canada. Table 67, which also appears in this bulletin, shows that for the whole eleven years’ period the banks actually held in coin and bullion 51 per cent, of their call liabilities, including notes. The Treasurer of the Commonwealth, however, in respect of a more subtle and uncertain liability, desires to have a gold reserve of only 25 per cent. These are instructive facts. They show that £10,000,000 of gold will bear a superstructure of five times that amount of credit. That being so, a banker knows that he is on safe ground when he has 20 per cent, of coin to his total obligations. If he sees trouble ahead, he, as a wise man, quietly reduces his advances and gets his coin up !o its proper ratio. I have shown that from 21 per cent, to 22 per cent, is the margin which bankers have found by experience to be safe ; and honorable members must recognise that banking is not that roughandready system of trading that many seem to think it is. On the contrary, it is a highly technical science.
– And banks are very sensitive.
– Undoubtedly. No man is more timid and sensitive than is the banker. Some of us, who are not bankers, but who are thrown very largely into association with them, are sometimes surprised at their sensitiveness and timidity. A man coming in from outside, and possessing a firm grip, is able to “ put a little ginger “ into them sometimes to make them do that which they think is off the beaten track, but which is necessary, and generally proves satisfactory. There are two matters in respect of the past for which the Government take credit in His Excellency’s Speech, and these are that the note issue and the land tax have each proved a great success. I desire to remind the House that the Land Tax Bill was only introduced in 1910, and that the tax itself, although it was made retrospective, was not paid until late in the financial year 1910-11. Ministers and their supporters, however, claim that in this short period the tax has had a marvellous effect in settling people on the land. The honorable member for Wimmera demolished that contention so far as the effect of the tax in Victoria is concerned, and, in doing so, he followed up the figures that I put before the House in 1910. I then traced up to that year the position, not only in this State, but in New South Wales, and showed that, long before a Federal land tax was seriously spoken of, a great movement in the subdivision and settlement of land was taking place. The reasons for this are on the surface. They have nothing to do with, the land tax. The introduction of improved systems of farming, the use of superphosphates, and the bountiful seasons which Heaven has sent us, were and are the causes responsible for the subdivisions and settlement that have taken place up to the present time. I need say no more on that subject.
Let me now refer to the note issue, which is the Government’s one little ewe lamb. We are told, in the Governor-General’s Speech, that it is a great success. During this debate, the Prime Minister, as well as the mover and seconder of the AddressinReply, emphasized this point ; and the Honorary Minister, by way of interjection, asserted that the Opposition are becoming so envious of its success that, in a very short time, they will be claiming it as their own.
– As I feel somewhat exhausted, I ask your leave, sir, to finish my speech sitting.
– The honorable member may do so if he so desires.
– I thank you, sir. I shall not avail myself of the permission unless I feel it necessary to do so. Before I proceed to deal with the question of the note issue, and in order to prevent possible misunderstanding of my remarks with regard to the Commonwealth expenditure foreshadowed in the future, I wish to say that I purposely avoided criticising the amounts of or the necessity for the proposed expenditure. I leave that for discussion on the Budget. I meant to deal only with the question of the liabilities which are spoken of, the character of which I do not inquire into at this stage.
I should like to have heard from the Prime Minister something more than a mere allegation that the note issue is a success. T observe that the right honorable gentleman is not present. I wish he were, because I desired to ask him some questions on the subject. I personally am of opinion that when a vote of want of confidence has been tabled against a Government, it is the duty of the head of the Government to be in his place.
– What, all the time?
– Yes, all the time. I say so deliberately. In the old days, when I was trained as a politician, it was invariably the case that the chief Minister, and his colleagues were present during the debate upon a motion of no-confidence in the Government. In such circumstances, I say that the least that members of the Government can do is to be present to hear what is said, and to judge of the character’ of the criticisms which may be passed upon them.
– The honorable member does not wish that they should have to be sent to an asylum.
– I take it as a compliment from the honorable member for East Sydney that what has been said on this side has driven him silly. T wish, further, to say that [ purposely refrained from going into the question connected with the defence of. the Commonwealth except in regard to the character of the obligations undertaken. I did so because T have to complain that none of us know what is in the mind of the Government on this question. The only light T have had on the naval policy of the Government is contained in a statement made, not by the Prime Minister, but by Senator Pearce. In another place, Senator Pearce gave his view of what is- involved in the Government’s naval policy. I wish to put this in because it may be said by honorable members opposite who follow me, “ We are only going in for the fleet unit. That is all we are committed to.” On the 9th of November last Senator Pearce said in the only deliverance I have been able to find which throws any light on the intentions of the Government in this matter -
We had a report from Admiral Henderson as to what, in his opinion, were the best lines on which to base the Commonwealth naval policy. In their naval policy the Government are endeavouring to follow these lines, as far as the recommendations made cover the immediate future. In his report Admiral Henderson saw fit to refer to a period of time covering twenty-one years, which he divided into three periods of seven years each.
The honorable senator was wrong in that, as Admiral Henderson dealt with a period which he divided into four periods of five years each; but perhaps it comes to about the same thing. Senator Pearce went on to. say -
So far the Government are directing their attention to the first period of seven years; although, as Admiral Henderson points out, what is done to-day ought to be done with aview to the period ahead and the development which will follow from the taking of the pro-, posed steps.
I claim that that shows that the Government, while necessarily dealing only with the present, are doing so on the supposition that the policy adopted is to be continued and carried out. As a matter of fact, and, as I have already said, it stands to reason thatwe cannot and dare not stop. We have taken up a certain position with respect to the Government of the Mother Country, and in the eyes of the world. It is a right and proper position. We say that we are going to defend our country, and we must pay the cost. My objection ‘ to our friends of the Government is that they, apparently, have not counted the cost. I say that we must count the cost which we shall be called upon to pay and provide the money.
I shall now proceed to deal with the note issue. I was hopeful that the Prime Minister would be present to tell us in what respect or respects he considers it a success. The mover of the AddressinReply is not present, either.
– Yes, he is.
– Then, perhaps the honorable member can tell us wherein, ‘ from his point of view, he believes it to be a success.
– The Prime Minister says that he has made £180,000.
– We shall see about that.
– The States got their loans at par.
– Did they ? How wonderful and surprising ! This gentleman apparently does not know what he is talking about. If he were to express himself clearly, he would tell us that they obtained the money without paying any commission. Otherwise, the statement is ridiculous, because upon many occasions loans have been obtained at 3! , and even at 3, per cent. As my honorable friend experiences a difficulty in making his meaning clear, I am endeavouring to act the part of the Good Samaritan by saying for him what he wishes to say himself. I take it that what honorable members opposite mean is that the Commonwealth note’ issue has been a success, because it has aggregated £10,000,000, and latterly £9,000,000, as against about £4,000,000 when the notes were issued by the banks. I differ from that view. It has also been affirmed that the security of the Commonwealth makes the note issue safe. My answer is that it did not require to be made safe, and that it was a good deal safer when it was in the hands of the banks. Formerly, they were responsible for the note issue, which, including the State of Queensland, totalled on an average during the last few years £4,000,000. In all the States except one these notes were a first charge upon the assets of the banks, and if my honorable friends had desired to make the issue safer, they could have accomplished their object by simply passing a short Act making that condition apply to all the States. If that had been done, the note issue of £4,000,000 would then have had behind it the security of a j first charge on the whole of the asests of the banks. It would have been backed by £30,000,000 of coin, which, in my judgment is a good deal better than the security about which honorable members opposite have talked so much. Then I would invite the House not to lose sight of the difference which exists between coin and credit. I ask honorable members to draw a distinction between immediate and ultimate ability to pay. I have heard the Prime Minister declare that the Commonwealth note issue has the whole of the resource? of the Commonwealth be hind it. So it has. I do not doubt that ultimately Australia will pay all her debts. But whether she could pay them on the nail is entirely a different matter. I repeat that a distinction must be drawn between the ability to meet obligations immediately, and the ability to meet them ultimately. When we are told that the Commonwealth note issue has the security of all Australia behind it, instead of £30,000,000 worth of gold, my reply is that any banker would say, “ We do not want the Commonwealth security. We would rather have the gold.” When the Government say that the security of the Commonwealth is a better practical security than is the gold, I say that it is not. As I have previously pointed out, a man who has a bill to meet is not inclined to proffer Commonwealth securities for his debt. The creditor wants coin. Nothing but coin will satisfy him. Consequently, if the Government have so disposed of the coin of the banks that they could not obtain it immediately if it were demanded, the security offered to the public is not half as good as it was previously. I will deal presently with the other contention, that the amount of the notes in use has been doubled. We have all been given to understand that in compelling the banks to keep a certain amount of Commonwealth notes we are following the precedent established by Canada. I wish that we had. If before going into this scheme the Prime Minister had made a study of the banking system of Canada, he would have been prevented - assuming he were permitted to exercise his own judgment - from falling into a most grievous error. I do not intend to describe the Canadian banking system, but I wish to make perfectly clear the position of the note issue there. In Canada it is true the banks are compelled to keep 40 per cent, of their reserve - that is of their indebtedness to the public - in Dominion notes. But these notes are practically gold certificates, because the arrangement is that while the banks thus put 40 per cent, of their funds in the hands of the Government, the latter are required to keep only 25 per cent, of $30,000,000 - that is, £6,000,000 - in gold. Upon all the notes issued in excess of $30,000,000, dollar for. dollar must be kept in gold in the Treasury. That position is very different from the position into which the Government will plunge this country if they have their way. On the 30th September, 1909 - the latest .date for which
I have been able to obtain returns - the Dominion notes issued in Canada aggregated about $80,000,000, or £16,091,278. The Treasury, on the same date, held specie to the extent of $62,759,800, or £12,551,960, and special sterling debts guaranteed by the Imperial Government, and considered as good as gold, to the extent of £389>333- Thus they held in round figures £13,000,000 in gold against an issue of £16,000,000, or 87 per cent. That is a very different position from ours. But there is a still greater difference, because the Canadian Government, in projecting this plan for their finances, did not attempt the rather ignoble policy in which our Government indulge, of trying to abstract a few thousands out of the banks or from the States. They went into this matter honestly to secure that the bank note issue would be above suspicion. I think another reason was that as Canada was not a goldproducing country, and until 1908, when a mint was established at Ottawa, the current coin in Canada was United States and British money, Canada had no gold issue of its own. But after the Yukon fields were opened up, a branch of the Royal Mint was established at Ottawa ; and, to some extent, they are producing gold; but in Canada, as in the case of Glasgow, Dublin, Liverpool, and Manchester, whose reserves are held in the Bank of England in London, apart from the deposit which is held by the Government in Ottawa, the reserves of the Canadian banks are mostly held in New York. Consequently. I think it is quite likely, although it is unavowed, that this provision was intended also to retain within the Dominion of Canada, in view of possible eventualities, a certain amount of gold coin which otherwise would not be there. The Dominion note issue then is represented, to the extent of 87 per cent, by coin absolutely held, and so those notes are really gold certificates. They are used by the banks as such in their exchange operations, because they are just as good as gold. I omitted to say that the notes for 1 dollar and up to 4 dollars are issued by the Dominion only, while notes for 5 dollars and over are issued by the banks. When that £16,000,000 of notes was issued, no less than £11,607,500 was in large .notes of £100, £200, and £1,000, which were used and held by the banks as legal tender notes or gold certificates, which to them were the same as gold, which they counted in their reserves as gold, and which, in making their advances, they considered as gold. The Canadian banks are allowed to issue notes to the extent of their capital, and these notes are the current coin of the Dominion. At the same time as there was $80,000,000, or £16,000,000, worth of Dominion notes, mainly in the hands of the banks, there were bank notes issued by the banks for $71,847,552, or within $8,000,000 worth of the total amount of the Dominion notes, and these, with the exception of £3,462,058 worth of small Dominion notes, were the currency of the country. In Canada there is no note tax. The Government holds the reserve, and’ leaves to the banks the duty of providing an elastic currency for the people. I could, if there was time, quote from the last report of the Commission of the United States Senate which is inquiring into the best system of public finance for the United States. It is stated in that document that the Canadian system is most elastic and admirable. The proof of that lies in the fact that, in the great crisis of 1907, when the United States of America had a terrific financial convulsion, affecting even London and Europe, the Canadian banks came through with flying colours, and almost without pressing their borrowers to reduce their advances. The system is very complete, and, as I have said, furnishes an elastic currency. Elasticity is the primary requirement of any currency. It should adjust itself to the requirements of the people, increasing as they increase, and shrinking as they diminish. That result has been attained in Canada, but we here have done the very opposite. Now that the Prime Minister is present, may I ask him in what respect he considers the Australian note issue a success? It is stated in the Governor-General’s Speech, and the Prime Minister repeated the statement, that the Commonwealth note issue has been a success.
– Hear, hear 1
– In what respect?
– In respect of convenience, safety, and revenue.
– How are Commonwealth notes more convenient than the bank notes? In my opinion, they are not, and cannot be shown to be, more convenient ; and, therefore, I dismiss the plea. I have already shown that they are not more secure than the bank note issue, because the bank notes were a first charge or» the assets of the banks, and had behind1 them £30,000,000 in coin which could be provided immediately, whereas, during some months of last year, the Prime Minister apparently had not legally the statutory amount of coin with which to support the Commonwealth notes. Therefore, as to security, there is no case. Now for the third plea, that they provide more revenue than the bank notes. I have gone into this matter with considerable care, and it has opened to me a most interesting study. That the honorable the Treasurer should tell Parliament and the country that the present arrangement would be more advantageous than that which it displaced, passes my comprehension. The Government passed an Act making Commonwealth notes alone legal tender, thus preventing the Queensland Government from continuing the issue of notes. It passed another Act, with whose terms the Prime Minister was apparently not acquainted, making it penal for any bank after a certain date to issue notes, the penalty being 10 per cent. The Prime Minister apparently did not understand that that was the effect of the measure, because he contradicted the honorable member for North Sydney absolutely when he drew attention to it. This is the Hansard report of what occurred -
– The banks were compelled to take these notes because they would be liable to a 10 per cent, tax if they did not.
– I assure the honorable mem.ber that that is not so.
– Hear, hear !
– They are not compelled to.
– They are compelled to keep Commonwealth notes for till money, -and are required to take more of these -notes than they might take if it were not for the law -
– 1 assure the honorable member that that is not so. The banks are liable to no tax at all.
– If they do not use Commonwealth notes, they must use their own notes, and if they use their own notes they are liable to a tax.
– Hear, hear !
– -On the occasion to which I am referring, the right honorable :gentleman, in his ‘final reply to the hon.orable member for North Sydney, said, ’ This is a new phase of the subject.” Apparently he goes ‘through the world with his “head in the air and ‘his chin up, without taking the trouble :to .ascertain the mean- ing of measures for which he is responsible. When he contradicted the honorable member for North Sydney, he was evidently not conversant with this provision. The law practically compels the banks to take the Commonwealth notes. . Those who control these institutions very properly pointed out the objections to the proposals of the Government. They stated that they were paying a tax of 2 per cent, to the States on the notes that they issued, and that they were bearing the whole cost of providing, renewing, and keeping a register of those notes, which they estimated to be equivalent to from J to I and possibly 1 per cent., making the total cost of the note issue to them from 2f to 3 per cent. That is what they were paying for a system which, while a convenience to them, was also a great convenience to the public. The Government took over the issuing of notes, and incidentally the control of the till money of the banks. Under the old system, the bank note issue had not cost the banks anything except the maintenance and the tax. The till money consisted of their own notes, which did not count unless they were used. The till money, it turns out, amounts to three-fifths of the Commonwealth note issue. We are told that the note issue is a marvellous success, because the amount, which used to run from £3,800,000 to £4,000,000, has gone up to £9,000,000 or £10,600,000. And an honorable gentleman who spoke to-night - and he is not singular - insinuated that owing to this supposed increased circulation the banks, when they had the note issue and were paying the tax, falsified their accounts and understated the amounts in issue. That was a very nasty insinuation to make, and one which should not be made except on the clearest evidence. Now what are the facts? They are set out in the *Financial Bulletin, No. 5, and anybody that runs can read. In table No. 60, page 42, is set out the amount of bank notes issued from 1902 to 191 1 by the banks of Australia. Up to the new issue, Queensland had its own issue separately, and, incidentally, the Queensland issue shows what margin is required for till money. There is a considerable margin needed for that purpose. I find that in 1902, when the amount of notes in the hands of the public in Queensland was £557,651, the total note issue for Australia was £3,862,786, including that of Queensland. I shall pass over the intervening years for the sake of time. It is an interesting table, which 1 commend to the honorable member for Denison.
– I have already perused it from beginning to end.
– Perhaps I shall throw some light upon it which the honorable member has not obtained. For the year ending 30th June, 1910 - that is before the new notes came into vogue - the note issue for all the States, except Queensland, was £3,748,482, and including Queensland, £4,563,907. At that very time, as I can show by reference to figures here, the note issue was about £10,000,000; so that nearly £6,000,000 was till money belonging to the banks, and the Government had no more right to requisition it for investment than to tax any other part of their resources; it is part of their coin reserve. The Treasurer wants the banks to keep his notes in circulation. But how can they do that if, in addition to the notes held by the people, the banks have not enough money to meet their requirements as they arise? They cannot give out all the money to the people and say, “ That is all we have.” They must keep till money, and if the Treasurer wants his notes kept in circulation, surely he must see that the banks ought to have till money in notes, in order to supply the demand !
– We want them to go out, provided that they are useful. It is of no use for a note to go out if there is no use for it.
– Quite right. The public take good care that they do not take notes out unless they want them.
– Hear, hear i
– Of course they do, and the trouble of the right honorable gentleman is that they will not take more notes. He says that he is going to issue a 10s. note, and that then he will have another string to play upon.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable gentleman professes to be very careless as to whether the public will take notes or not; but he is not iri” the least degree careless, as I will show presently. It must be clear, I think, to any one that the banks, in making -the arrangement with the Government to take £7,000,000 worth of notes. a fourth of which was to be kept by the Treasury in gold, leaving the Government with £3,750,000 for investment and the balance above £7,000,000 to be held pound for pound, were strictly within their just rights. Under the Notes Act, the banks are compelled to keep a weekly return, to be sent in to the Treasury annually, to show how many notes they held as till money, and regulations are in existence to carry out that provision. How, in the name of common sense, can the Prime Minister claim success for the note issue on the ground of the largeness of the issue, when he knows perfectly well that the public are only taking from. £4,000,000 to £4,500,000 worth of the notes, as they did when the banks issued them, and that £6,000,000 worth of the issue is in the hands of the banks? How can he come to us, as sensible people, and try to make us believe that the note issue is a great success This return sets out the total issue under the Queensland Act - so many in the hands of the banks and so many in the hands of the public. The honorable gentleman, therefore, knows that the till money is a necessary part of the arrangement. When he claims, and his supporters claim, that the issue is a great success because of the increased amount of notes which has gone out of the Treasury 4 he is seeking to impose upon us a belief which is not correct, and when it is coupled with the insinuation that because of this supposed increase, the banks falsified their accounts in the past, I say that it is simply a slander. I wish the Prime Minister and his colleagues of the Labour party to hear something that, perhaps, they have not heard before. I can assure honorable members that if this transfer of £.10,000,000 from the coffers of the banks into the Treasury had been effected a few years ago, when the gold reserve was as low as about £19,000,000, instead of £32,000,000, which it was when the transfer took place, we should in all probability have had something of a financial crisis.
– Matters have improved since we began to do things !
– The Prime Minister need not try that argument with me. Such platitudes ‘ may answer on the platform, but not here. I am dealing* with facts; not platitudes. Matters’ have improved, because the seasons have been good.
– That also is a- platitude- f
– It has the merit of being a true one, which cannot always be said of the platitudes we sometimes hear from honorable members opposite. I have been through a financial crisis, and I have seen good times as well as bad times. I am now merely indicating what would have happened if the note issue had been instituted in 1905 or 1906 instead of at a time when the coin in the banks was at an unprecedentedly high figure, and pointing out that, but for the fact that the financial position was very easy, the transfer of this £10,000,000 of gold coin would have had a serious effect. I am not a man. who is wise after the event. I told the Prime Minister last. year that, in my opinion, his legislation would have the effect of raising the bank rate; and it has done so. The very first occasion on which there was an appearance of a beginning of bad times, the bankers found that they had to give a higher rate for money than previously, and the rate went up J per cent. I do not mean to say that the rise is solely on account of the note issue; and honorable members opposite may take what consolation they like from that fact.
– Is Australia the only place where the discount rate has gone up ?
– - If the honorable member will consult his friend from New York, with whom he travelled, he will get to know all about it. As I say, at the very first appearance of bad times, and aided no doubt by the policy of the States in trying to borrow money on the local market for State purposes for the renewal of loans mainly - and it must be remembered that the banks could have, to some extent, controlled these operations by refusing to assist the loans - the lock up of coin for the note issue made the money market tender, and up went the bank rate. Our friends opposite, who are always denouncing the capitalist, put another & per cent, into the capitalists’ pockets ; like a boomerang, their missile came back an.d hit themselves. They are never tired of denouncing those who have anything to put into a bank; and );et they acted in such a way as to directly raise the rate which capital obtains throughout the Commonwealth. As I have already pointed out, bankers are only traders in money ; they trade in the money they receive on deposit, and the money they use for advances. If the cost of the money they receive on deposit goes up, they have to put the price up to those who borrow ; and thus the great producing interests of the countryare affected. The rich, or comparatively rich, man who has plenty to live on is not, as a rule, enterprising; it is the struggling man who requires the aid of capital, and who, in borrowing money, has to pay every time. This is a peculiar result for the Labour party to bring about; and I challenge the Prime Minister to contradict my clearly 5 logical conclusion. The Government take 10,000,000 sovereigns, and lock them up, diminishing to that extent the lending power of the banks ; and instead of making the currency elastic, they have made it as dull as lead. The power of the banks to advance money was diminished, according to the bank returns, to the extent of, perhaps, £50,000,000. That is a curious result to be brought about by a Labour Government who do not believe in capital, but who are really “ greasing the fat pig.” In trying to hit the banks, they have hit “the other fellow”; and when they go to the country, they will find many a man who has received notice from the banks to pay a higher rate. He will bless them, but I suppose will vote for them all the same. My position cannot be challenged. It is absolutely true. In Canada, the very opposite is done. There they leave the banks to issue their own notes, which are a first charge on the assets of the banks, and are as secure as gold certificates. The bankers of Australia were entitled to remonstrate with the Treasurer when last year he introduced his Bill to reduce the amount of the gold held against the note issue. On the 5th December, he received a communication from the chief manager of the Bank of New South Wales. The following was Mr. Russell French’s message -
Banks with head offices in Sydney strongly deprecate any alteration in the gold reserve to be held against the note issue of the Commonwealth Government as agreed after a very full discussion between yourself and representatives of the Australian banks. I will remind you that a very large proportion of notes outstanding are held by banks themselves as part of their cash reserves.
Mr. Hallimore, the Melbourne chairman of the Associated Banks, also wrote to the Prime Minister. I need not read the whole of his letter, which has been in Hansard before, but I will read the following passage from- it -
The effect of the proposal has not yet been sufficiently ascertained.
That was the proposal to confine the amount of the reserve to one- fourth of £7,000,000, with 100 per cent, for the balance -
From the public returns it would appear that a total issue of £9,718,000 was in existence on the 25th October last. Of this sum it is estimated that notes amounting to about £3,682,000 are in the hands of the public, the banks holding upwards of £6,000,000. The purpose of the Government in holding a reserve of pound for pound beyond £7,000,000 was understood to be the protection of noteholders by insuring a payment in full in coin of notes presented. If, however, the fixed proportion is altered as now suggested, and the banks for any reason found it necessary to materially reduce the amount of their Commonwealth notes it would seem that the reduced gold reserve would not suffice to pay in full the notes held by the banks. The banks have freely given their assistance - which they have done honestly and fairly - in regard to the establishment of a Government note issue. They hold at present upwards of 60 per cent, of the issue. It is, however, a matter of considerable disappointment and regret to find that it is proposed to make a change in conditions which they have regarded as essential both for their own protection and that of the public at large.
– What was the date of that?
– The 4th December of last year. I would say to the Prime Minister that he is committing an act of political dishonesty if he does not keep up the reserve. He will be practically taking from the banks a forced loan of £6,000,000, and lending it out at 3$ per cent. He will be getting a beggarly amount out of it which is not worth considering in the light of our public credit and honour. I feel that in that respect, having taken away £10,000,000 which the banks would otherwise have had in their coffers, and which would have enabled them to keep up their advances in accordance with their usual practice, the Prime Minister, his Government, and his party, have done this country a grievous wrong. Whenever the fact becomes known - if what I am saying secures publicity - it will have a great effect. Because the facts are incontestable. To claim that a measure that does these things is a success is ridiculous. I say that the coin held by the Treasurer, as far as it is represented by notes issued in excess of £7,000,000 ought to be retained in the Treasury, so that these notes should be in Australia, as in Canada, equal to gold certificates ; and that the hankers should be able to take them into their balance-sheets as equivalent to coin, knowing that they have only to send to the Treasury for coin if they want it. What has been done with this money ? We are informed that it has been lent to the States. I told the Prime Minister last year that I thought that his views about the State debts question were such that it was a wrong thing for him to grant loans to the States. He ought to have made them face the music of finding their money elsewhere, if he wanted to come to terms with them for the transfer of their debts. Nothing does more to convince me that the right honorable gentleman does not mean to touch the State debts than his action in lending the States money. I have been greatly interested in tracing out a peculiar series of transactions in connexion with the note issues of which I should like to have an explanation, and pending which I do not desire to characterize as I should do under other circumstances. I confess that I was put on the track as to these peculiar transactions by the Prime Minister himself. The Age asserts that Hansard is not read by the people. I confess that I do not read it very often, but I occasionally turn to it, and sometimes discover in it some interesting items. In pursuit of information concerning the note issue and its alleged success, as claimed by the Prime Minister, I turned to Hansard to see what the right honorable gentleman had to say in respect of it when making his Budget statement last year. I found that on 26th October, 191 1, he described the actual position, and, foreshadowing the introduction of a Bill which was to increase the public convenience, he spoke very strongly of its success. The Australian Bank Notes Tax Act came into operation on 1st July, 1911, and since that date the banks have ceased to issue their own notes. The Prime Minister, as reported in Hansard, Vol. LXI., page 1900, said of the Australian notes issue -
At the close of the financial year the Australian notes in circulation amounted to £8,031,217. In addition, the fund .had received interest amounting. to £6,400. The total amount to be dealt with thus amounted to £8,037.626. We disposed of the amount in the following way, viz., we obtained gold amounting to £3,352,281 ; we made investments, of which I shall give details presently, amounting t0 ^4,642,500; we held on current account in the banks £^,346, and we had spent in purchase of note forms and other expenses £23,4°Q. . Under this Act we aTe required to hold not less than 25 per cent, in go’d up to the first £7.000,000. and £r for £1 in go’d above £7.000.000. We should have complied with the statutory requirement if we had held 2,781,217 sovereigns, but as we held 3,352,281 sovereigns we held 571,064 sovereigns more than we were compelled to hold. The investments I have referred to were : - New South Wales funded stock, ^1,000,000; Victorian Government Debentures, £686,000; Western Australian stock, ^650,000; Tasmanian Inscribed Stock, ,£200,000 ; Fixed deposits : New South Wales Government, ,£1,000,000; sundry banks, ,£1,106,500. Total, ^4,642,500.
There is no doubt as to the accuracy of those figures. 1 have here the AuditorGeneral’s report, in which he certifies that they correctly set out what was the position on the 30th June, 191 1, so that we have therefore a starting-point. Now comes the funny part. The Prime Minister went on to say -
The total annual rate of interest which was being earned by the fund at 30th June last was ^157,070. After 30th June, 191 1, the demand for notes continued -
The right honorable member was speaking on 26th October, 191 1 - and on 30th September, 1911, the total circulation amounted to ^9,421,775. Probably at an early date it will exceed ,£10,000,000. On an issue of ^10,000,000 the Act requires that we shall hold in gold not less than ^4,750,000, or 47-5 Per cent, of the circulation. As we were holding a greater reserve than that required by the law, I directed that while the Treasury was not to part with any gold except in redemption of notes- which, I may say, is the only purpose for which it could be parted with except in the case of investments - no further gold should be obtained in respect of additional issues until the sovereigns in the Treasury were only slightly more than the statutory requirement. I felt quite justified in this, because- two or three million pounds of notes would have to be presented for redemption before the circulation was reduced to the limit of ^7,000,000. Thus, the Treasury would have ample warning, and would be able to make its arrangements for obtaining gold even if such an extraordinary demand was made upon it.
This is rather cryptic -
At 25th October, 1911, the gold held by the Treasury amounted to ^4,686,148, the note issue amounting to ^9,718,084. The investments, of the Notes Fund -
I particularly ask honorable members to note this - were then the same as at 30th June, namely, £4,642,500, but. in addition, we had invested in Tasmanian inscribed stock an amount of ^300,000, and in Victorian debentures an amount of ,£294,000. Also we had made an additional fixed deposit in a bank amounting to ^25,000. These additional investments amounted to ,£619,000, and have been made temporarily out of the General Trust Fund. I have, however, directed that as soon as the amount at the credit of the Australian Notes
Account is sufficient, the investments shall be transferred from the General Trust Fund to the Australian Notes Account. We may expect that, owing to additional issues and receipts of interest, the transfer can be made at a very early date, and when it has been made the annual rate of interest earned by the Notes Account will be ,£179,695.
In justice to the right honorable gentleman at the head of the Government, I ought to say that he was not in Australia when this procedure was adopted, so that, as far as I know, he was not the author of it, unless it was entered upon before 30th June of that year, or after his return. The present Postmaster-General was then in charge of the Treasury, and the present Attorney-General was acting Prime Minister. Those two honorable members were discharging the duties of the Prime Minister during his absence. The right honorable gentleman returned to Australia just before Parliament opened in September, 19 ci, and on 26th October following he made the statement I have just read. I was puzzled to know what it meant, but I came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the Government had violated the law in its essence. I am not a lawyer, and possibly I may be in error; but I have come to the conclusion that the Government had defeated the intention of Parliament, and had broken the law in its essential principles, even if they had not technically done so. That is a very serious matter. I do not know of any parliamentary offence that can be compared with that of misleading the House. I would not for a moment’ attribute that to the Prime Minister, but I mention the fact so that the matter may be cleared up. I did not content myself with these statements, but spent several days very laboriously ferreting out this thing. It is not an easy matter for an outsider to deal with the public accounts. I found a most extraordinary state of things. This fund had apparently been played with, because in the Auditor-General’s report, which I have here, he distinctly shows that certainly on one occasion when he made an examination of the position of the Note Issue Department the coin had fallen below the statutory amount in proportion to the notes which had been issued. Th’.s has nothing to do with the question of the investment of the money. I hope that I am not trespassing too much on honorable members’ time, but this is rather a serious business. I quote now from the AuditorGeneral’s report, which appeared in the
Commonwealth Gazette, No. 33, dated 8th May, 1912. He gives particulars of his examination on 30th June, 191 1, to which I have already referred. He gives particulars of other examinations he made, and he generally says what the proportion’ of notes to coin was. But I quote his own words concerning an examination he made on the 14th November, 191 1 -
Singe the 30th June last a number of visits have been made to further check the gold coin reserve, the total gold verified on the 14th November, 1911 -
I ask honorable members to note the date - the j 4th November, tq 11 - and the fact that Mr. Fisher’s speech was made on 26th October - being £4,692,077, of which sum £4,668,000 was placed under seal ; £23,000 was seen in the Inner Treasury; and £1,077 was held by the Treasury Teller on account of the reserve. As the notes in circulation then amounted to £10,076,335, the reserve was equal to about 46 per cent. of this amount.
But Mr. Israel does not go on to add what I have added. I took out the figures, and I find that the statutory reserve of coin which should have been in the Treasury on the date of that examination was not £4,692,077, which Mr. Israel says was there, but £4,826,335, so that the gold reserve was short by £134,248. I am not now discussing how the money was afterwards invested, but the fact that the coin which, over the signature of the AuditorGeneral, is said to have been held at the date of that examination was £134,248 short of the amount required by law. That needs answering or explanation. To go back to my question as to how the money was disposed of, a very strange thing Happened in that connexion. The right honorable member for Swan was last year very exacting in making inquiries as to the Trust Fund. His appetite for information is sometimes insatiable. The honorable member for Parkes was equally persistent. It is really almost laughable to consider the way in which this matter was handled, lt remains to be seen why it was so handled. I find that, on the 31st October last, the honorable member for Parkes asked the Prime Minister the following questions upon notice -
To this, the Prime Minister replied -
Then followed a list of investments, which is the same as on the 30th June already referred to. But the sting, as usual, is in the tail. There is an item of £316,548 described as
Portion of investment of £619,000, as explained below.
That is money which was received at some period, which was paid into the Trust Fund, and, instead of being invested for the note issue, was left there in order, as I consider, to conceal the fact that if the Department had paid for these investments it would have brought the gold reserve considerably below the statutory amount. This is the explanation -
The amount of £316,548 is portion of an amount of £619,000 which has been invested from the general trust funds in the following way, viz. : -
As funds were not available in the Notes Fund when the investments were made, the amount was invested temporarily out of the General Trust Funds. As funds accumulate in the Australian Notes Account transfers are made to the Notes Account.
When I read these answers I am irresistibly reminded of the Prime Minister’s first Budget, when he balanced the income with the expenditure to a penny. I come now to the experience of the right honorable member for Swan some three weeks later. Upon the 12th December of the same year, as well be seen by reference to Hansard, page 4123, the right honorable member asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
The Prime Minister’s replies were -
New South Wales Funded Stock, £1,000,000, due 10th August, 1919, at 3¾ per cent. per annum.
Victorian Government debentures (face value, £1,000,000), £980,000, due 1st May, 1921, at 3½ per cent. per annum.
Western Australian Stock, £650,000, due 1st January, 1926, at 33/4 per cent. per annum.
Tasmanian Inscribed Stock, £470,000, due 1st April, 1921, to1st October, 1921, at 3¾ per cent. per annum.
Fixed Deposit with State Government of New South Wales, £1,000,000, due 13th to 21st June, 1912, at 3 per cent. per annum.
Total - £4,100,000. 4.(a) On fixed deposit in banks : -
Sydney, £381,500, at 3 per cent. per annum.
Melbourne, £400,000, at 3 per cent. per annum.
Brisbane, £175,000, at 3 per cent. per annum.
Perth, £150,000, at 3 per cent. per annum.
Total - £1,106,500.
To say the least of it, with the information before me, it appear to me that the replies of the Prime Minister were rather disingenuous. As Hansard will show, there is no greater stickler for the sacredness of the Trust Funds than is the Prime Minister. I recollect the occasion upon which the honorable member for Ballarat, as head of the Government, proposed to temporarily transfer from the Trust Funds the sum of £1,500,000 for the construction of ships of the Fleet unit. Thereupon, the present Prime Minister rose in his place and repelled the idea with great warmth. He said that these Trust Funds should be kept sacred to the purpose for which they were set apart, and that he, as a trustee, would not consent to anything of the kind proposed. Upon other occasions he has taken up a similar attitude. Yet what do we find? To my mind, as a layman, the law is perfectly clear on the subject. Section 8 of the Australian Notes Act reads -
Part of the moneys standing to the credit of the Australian Notes Account shall be held by the Treasurer in gold coin for the purposes of the reserve provided for in section 9 of this Act, and the Treasurer may invest the remainder, or any part thereof -
– Very charitable.
– I think it is perfectly reasonable. Does the honorable gentleman, say that he did not know that?
– The honorable member isunfair.
– If the honorable member can show me that it is unfair criticism,. I will withdraw it.
– The honorable member will be only following the tracks of the rest of those on that side.
– I am on the track of the Government and their supporters.
– I remember the honorable member in the State Parliament.
– The honorable member asked the Prime Minister to give him in- formation On the Canadian system, and the Prime Minister replied that he did not think it ‘ as good, so far as the note issue was concerned, as the Australian system, but that he would see the honorable member- later on. I presume he has not seen the honorable member about it yet. Another reason why these matters ought to be cleared up is to be found in the extraordinary statements made by the Prime Minister in this debate, on 25th June last, as reported in Hansard of this session, at page 112. He was upholding the success of the Australian note issue, and said -
The Australian Notes Act has been singularly successful, notwithstanding the opposition to it and the fact that honorable members opposite suggested that it was dangerous legislation.
We only said it was dangerous if the Government did not keep a proper reserve, and I have shown that they need looking after, to say the least of it. The honorable gentleman also said -
The point I wish to emphasize is that# the basic principle of our note issue is that neither the banks nor private persons are asked to bring their gold to the Treasury and accept notes instead of it. If at any time they want gold they can bring their notes back to the Treasury and get gold for them.
In a rather undignified way, the Prime Minister stated by interjection that there was plenty of gold in the Treasury, and that if the notes were presented by the lorry load, they could be paid. The honorable member for Indi suggested that were the banks to make a demand on the Treasury for gold - to which they were entitled according to his own statement - the Treasurer would retaliate by withdrawing the Government balances in the hands of the banks. The return which I have prepared shows that there is very little money with the banks. In the middle of June of last year there was £1,100,000, and on the 26th June of this year only £425,000 with the banks. The Treasurer, instead of leaving his money with the banks, is putting it into investments of a long-dated character. It is possible that the banks would prefer the Government to take away its money. Bankers are timid men, and they might argue, “ The Treasurer has deposited £200,000 for a period of twelve months, but if he becomes hard up, he may say, I want that money, and therefore I must break my deposit.’ “ Politicians have done that before. It might be considerably inconvenient, for a bank to have to find £200,000 under such circumstances. Apparently, the Treasurer intends to invest his surplus money in fixed securities of long date, but if he suddenly finds himself in want of money, he will’ have to pay a ruinous price for it. Any attempt to sell his securities, even in England, would bring down the value of Australian securities generally, both here and in the Old Country. Parliament has empowered him to reduce the reserve behind the Commonwealth notes to 25 per cent, on the whole; amount issued, and he has promised that it shall not be less than 40 per cent, until after the next election. Probably he finds it necessary to keep a reserve of between 25 and 40 per cent, as a working balance. We are entitled to a full and complete explanation, so that Parliament may know’ the position. At some future time a Government might find itself in want of money through lack of foresight, and might use the 25 per cent, reserve, making the currency inconvertible, in which case the country would be in a helpless position. Reverting to the statements of the Prime Minister, although in; one column of Hansard he is reported as saying that the banks have only got to bring their notes to the Treasury to get their money, on the next he says -
I go so far as to say what I recently said on the platform in the electorate of Werriwa, that the banks are too intelligent and too careful of their interests to make a raid on the Treasury.
It is a “ raid on the Treasury “ to make a demand for the repayment of one’s own money !
Because such an act would undoubtedly recoil upon themselves.
A distinct threat.
But if they did make a disloyal attack upon the Treasury -
It is disloyal to ask for your own ! If t ‘ went to the Treasury, and it were inconvenient for the Prime Minister, or any one in his position to pay, he would say, “You disloyal man, 3’ou blackguard., I shall make your demand recoil on your own head.” -
But if they did make a disloyal attack on the Treasury we could meet it, and afterwards -
Here comes the sting in the tail again - they would require to be dealt with as people should be dealt with who endeavoured to do an injury to the community.
Good heavens ! A man goes to the Treasury and says, “ I want my 1:0,000 sovereigns “ for Commonwealth notes; the Treasurer has not the money, and says, “ Clear out, or I will have you put out.”. It seems almost madness. These statements are on the same page in Hansard. On one side is the statement, “ Come one, come all, your:’ money is here ready for you”; while on the other side we are told -
If they did make a disloyal attack on the Treasury we could meet it, and afterwards they would require to be dealt with as people should be dealt with who endeavour to do an injury to the community.
That is a curious idea. I do not know how far that will enhance in the minds of the public, or the bank’s, or anybody, confidence in this note issue. The fact is that the banks have behaved well. They pushed the Commonwealth issue as they pushed their own notes. They do not pretend that they do it because they are loyal, or disloyal, or anything else. They say that it is good business, that it is more convenient than to send coin to their branches. But suppose that all the banks said, “ Very well, we are not going to keep any notes, but to pay in coin.” and that they had no notes in their tills, how long would the Treasurer’s note issue continue? That is the treatment which the banks get. The Government supporters suggest that the bankers might rush the Treasury; and the Prime Minister, after saying that they have only to come and ask for their money and they will get it, says that they will be dealt with as disloyal men if they do. It is time that we understood where we are. It is time that the people in this country understood the position. This policy of talk, talk, talk–
– This is funny.
– They do not mean to reply to you, evidently.
– They cannot laugh it out in that way.
– An exhibition of talk.
– There is talk, and talk; there is talk and babble. There is talking sense. I may be right or I may be wrong in my inferences ; but I think that every honorable member in the House will admit that I have been fair in giving my authorities. I have stated facts, and have drawn my inferences, admitting at the same time that there may te other explanations. I can do no more, I. cannot be expected to do more. The chatterers opposite may laugh, because they can only do that, and nothing more. It is a very different thing to get up to answer me, which they will not do. The case is too strong.
– - The honorable member for Parkes knows full well that in 1893 the New South Wales Government saved the banks.
– The honorable . gentleman was a youngster when the banks failed. I was a well-grown man, and was in the thick of the trouble. The honorable member was up country somewhere, pushing his way very properly, and he knows very little about the matter. When he talks about” the New South Wales Government, I say that they did the right thing. I have always said, and I repeat, that if the advice I gave to the Treasurer of Victoria and the Premier had been acted upon similar action would have been taken in Victoria, and we would not have had so severe a collapse. What I am saying now will be taken in the same way, I expect. It is my unpleasant duty to point these things out, and to be railed at because I do it. I feel that as long as I retain a seat in the Houseit is my duty, to the best of my ability and my strength, to bring before Parliament the best thought I can bestow on public matters. If I begin to think, and speak, perhaps, at length in consequence, because I have such a multitude of subjects to deal with, I am railed at. I have any amount of matter which I have not touched.
– Go on.
– Because I do that, instead of getting up and chattering, I am railed at. lt is easy to make a speech. I could make a speech for an hour, and say nothing, with any of them. I could make a speech which, when I had finished, would remind me, or my audience perhaps, as I have been reminded by the speeches of many honorable gentlemen on the other side in this debate, of the crackling of thorns under the pot - crackle and nothing left behind. I flatter myself that I have to-night put a few matters before Parliament the end of which we have not heard. Therefore, it will not be like the thorns crackling under the pot. The pot will boil-
– Not over, except fbr the honorable member. I feel that I have done my duty in bringing this matter forward.
– What about the profit ?
– I teg pardon ! I am getting rather discursive because I am tired.
– Ask for an adjournment of the debate.
– No, I will finish my speech.
– Ask leave to take another day. There is plenty of time.
– I feel greatly nattered to have the honorable member here all the evening. On page 113 of Hansard, the Prime Minister said -
Up to the 30th June of the year we shall have doubled that amount. Up to the end of June, allowing for £35,000 expenses, we shall have £180,000 net income, which is being reinvested, and is earning interest itself, as a double protection against the presentation of notes at any time.
– Is that £180,000 after paying all expenses?
This is my statement of the position : Assuming that the Notes Bill had never been passed, that the note issues of the banks, including that of Queensland, in the hands of the public would be, say, £4,500,000 - that is the extreme point it has reached - the 2 per cent, note tax which went to the States would have yielded them £90,000, besides which the banks would have defrayed the expense of the note issues. According to the latest figures, the Commonwealth Government have invested £5,200,000. That, at 3J per cent., netted £182,000, less £35,000 for expenses; so that the right honorable gentleman was wrong when he told the honorable member for Parramatta that £180,000 was the clear income after paying the expenses. The interest on these investments, including the £619,000 which is now in the fund, at 3^ per cent, would be £182,000. I find that the interest is 3.37 per cent, but I have given credit at 3^ per cent. If we deduct £35, 00c for the expenses, that leaves a balance of £147,000 for the Commonwealth Government, so that deducting the £90,000 note tax taken from the States, the Commonwealth Government have only netted £57,000. This they have clone by taking £1:0,000,000 in gold from the banks. The note issue in the hands of the public is approximately .£4,500,000, and there are notes to the value of £5,200,000 in the hands of- the banks, totalling £9,700,000. Thus it is evident that, were the note issue applied only to the holding of notes by the public, which in all fairness it should be, with 25 per cent, margin, this would leave £3,375,000 to be invested at 3^ per cent., yielding £118,125. If we put the cost of maintenance at £35,000, the Government, according to the intention and agreement, by which they only have the right to invest three-fourths of £7,000,000, the rest being till money, will receive only ,£83,000, while depriving the States of £90,000. This is what the Government call a success; and it has been achieved by lessening the power of the banks to accommodate the public. There has been given to the currency a rigidity which is objectionable, and which will be most hampering if times get bad. The Prime Minister tells us that not until the next elections will he avail himself of the 25 per cent, margin; and thankful we ought to be for that. Assuming that the Government do take advantage, by-and-by, of the 25 per cent, provision, and that the note issue is £4,500,000 in the hands of the public, and £5,500,000 in the hands of the banks for till money, the 25 per cent, will represent £2,500,000. Suppose that at a time of stringency, owing to drought or other causes, the notes held by the public declined by £r, 000,000, and the banks for some reason required less till money and reduce their holdings by £1,500,000, the shrinkage would be £2,500,000, or from £10,000,000 to £7,500,000. This would absorb the whole of the gold held by the Treasury, which would be in the position that it bad £7,500,000 of notes outstanding, and the Treasurer would find himself bereft of every pound, and obliged to place securities on the market if there was any further demand. This is no imaginary position. Only the other day we had in Belgium an illustration of what may happen. I am sorry I have not a copy of the Economist which contained the article, but I have an extract, showing that there has happened in Belgium exactly what may happen to us if we are not careful. There is in Belgium a note issue up to about £38,000,000, with no adequate gold behind it, with the result that gold is at a premium, and has to be constantly imported by the Government to keep the currency going. There the reserve is only 23 per cent., whereas we are to have 25 per cent. ; and the Belgian Government, being close to Paris and London, have facilities for getting gold- which we have not. The Economist points out that until the Belgian Government recognise that it is absolutely necessary to have a supply of gold in their possession, they cannot hope for a sound paper currency. I think I have transgressed sufficiently long on the time of the House. There are other matters to which I should have liked to allude, but I may have an opportunity on another occasion. I can only say that I view the present financial position with considerable doubt and fear. If the policy of the Government be carried on in the way it has been, we shall be like a ship sent to sea without a chart, compass, or rudder, drifting on, not having any adequate conception of what ultimately may happen. It is well with us now; but we are laying the seeds of trouble that may be most disastrous to the future of Australia. I have been nearly sixty years in the country, and may be regarded as very nearly a native. All my interests are in Australia, and I owe much to the country - I love it. What I say now is not political ; but honestly, as man to man, if I were a believer in the other planks of the Labour policy - which I am not - I should pray that the present Government be put out of office to-morrow because of their absolute incompetence, in my view, to guide the State safely through the times that are coming.
.- After the four or five hours’ speech we have heard from the honorable member for Mernda, I think the time has come when there should be some limitation to the length of speeches. I venture to say that the address of the honorable member will not be read by a hundred people in the country.
– The wish is father to the thought.
– There is good stuff in the speech, anyhow !
– Order. The honorable member for Mernda, during the whole of the evening, has been given every indulgence by honorable members, and it is only fair that other honorable members should be heard.
– I venture to say that the honorable member for Mernda has come here to-night as a special pleader for the banks. I do not stand here as a special pleader for any particular institution, but as a representative of the people. The honorable member said that the Labour Government and party are like a ship without a rudder or captain. But what do we see to-day? We had the same prognostication before the Labour party occupied the Treasury benches, but we find that the ship of Labour, guided by the present Ministry, has brought prosperity to this country, not only in Victoria, but in every State. The result is that, as the honorable member said, the rate of ‘interest has gone up ; and in every country where there is prosperity the rate of interest rises. When the honorable member for Mernda, in 1893, was at the height of his financial prosperity, the rate of interest went down, and so did the value of the property of the people who had trusted in the banks.
– I was not connected with the banks.
– The honorable member was shortly afterwards ; and the people who have relied on the credit of the banks in the past have suffered. Now we, as a Labour party, have come along to carry out the promises which we have made to the people of this country. We told them that we wished to break down monopolies. The first important measure that we passed was a Land Tax Act, by means of which we struck at land monopoly. Then we tried to strike at the banking monopoly. My honorable friend knows how effectively we are striking in that direction, and hence his special pleading for the banks to-night. I venture to predict, notwithstanding all that my honorable friend has said, that the people of the Commonwealth prefer an Australian note to a note issued by the banks for which he has spoken. The honorable member is an old and skilled debater, and understands the art of setting up a man of straw for the purpose of knocking it down. He has said that the Government has been extravagant. He enumerated the works that we have in hand. He alluded to the transcontinental railway, the building of the Federal Capital, and the settlement of the Northern Territory. These enterprises, he said, would cost a large amount of money, and he declared that they could not be carried through unless we entered upon a borrowing policy. He has calculated that it would absorb £50,000,000 to carry out those obligations, and, on that assumption, he argued that we must borrow money. ThePostmasterGeneral interjected that we do not propose to borrow for the purpose of constructing battleships or for military purposes. That is our policy. We do not say that we will not borrow for reproductive works. The programme of our party contains simply an item in favour of the restriction of public borrowing, and’ we have never pledged ourselves that we would not borrow for useful works. But we are determined not to borrow for the building of a navy. We can point to the example of the grand old Mother Country, which we are glad to imitate in many ways. The British Government has never bor- rowed money for naval purposes. This Labour Government repealed the Naval Loan Act, which my honorable friend supported, and which his party placed upon the statute-book for the purpose of borrowing £3,500,000. Notwithstanding the alleged extravagance of this Government, we promptly repealed that measure, and, so far as we have gone, we have borrowed nothing. On the contrary, we have lent money to the States. Nevertheless, we shall have a surplus to show at the end of the financial year. These are simple facts. This is the sort of “ extravagance “ that my honorable friend alleges against us ! I am not surrounding the subject with a maze of figures for the purpose of mystifying the people, as my honorable friend has clone. This Government came into power having to meet a deficit of over £600,000. They have got over that difficulty, and have ended this financial year with a surplus of £2,000,000. Has the party opposite any record like that to show? No, sir. The speech just delivered really had nothing whatever to do with the motion of censure, which condemns the Government as being responsible for industrial unrest.
– Condemns them for their irresponsibility.
– When the honorable member for Wimmera was speaking, he said that if there were one measure for which this Government was entitled to admiration and support, it was that establishing the note issue.
– I said, provided there were a proper gold backing.
– The record of the honorable member’s statement is in Hansard,, which tells no falsehood. The honorable member gave credit to the Government for this one measure. I think that the honorable member for Ballarat also eulogized the Government on account of the note issue. These honorable members are quite out of tune with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. I wish now to say a few words on the industrial question. Industrial unrest is a subject which I have made the study of my life. I think there is a great deal of truth in what has been said, that there is a considerable amount of social discontent, not only in this country, but in every civilized country in the world. I maintain that no palliative will be suc cessful in settling it. We are living in an age when the people have higher desires and aspirations than has ever been the case before. What was sufficient to satisfy our forefathers will not satisfy the workers of to-day. What was good enough for workers twenty years ago is not good enough for their descendants now. The industrial worker of the past was persuaded to believe that he was only created to be a worker, and that he must be content to receive what was barely sufficient to keep body and soul together. But education has been spreading, and a different spirit has come over the people. The coal-miner who goes down into a mine and hews coal for 2s.11d. or 3s. per ton sees that that coal is supplied at the ship’s side for11s. per ton, and is retailed for 25s. He has intelligence enough to reason that somebody has been robbing him. Where has the surplus gone ? He commences to inquire. He knows that the consumer is taxed by having to pay a high price for his coal, while the man who produces it from the mine gets very little for his labour. Hence there is discontent amongst the coal miners. Why? Because they know that they have been robbed out of a large share of what they are producing. They will be discontented until they get a fair deal. The same applies to an artisan. He can figure out how many thousand feet of timber go to the construction of a house. He knows what it costs to construct the building. He knows what is paid to him and to his fellow-workmen. He has intelligence enough to calculate that he is not being paid properly for his labour. The same is the case all over the world. Consequently, there is universal discontent. In the past, Parliaments have passed measures with the object of keeping the workers under by brute force. Governments have built gaols and penitentiaries, maintained constables, and elevated Judges to the bench to keep them in subjection. That was considered to be the function of a Government. Brute force was employed against those who dared to voice their discontent. But Governments in the future will have to be conducted upon different lines. They will have to attend more to the establishment of schools, universities, and institutions of a benevolent character. They will have to maintain hospitals and insist on a healthy environment for those who do the world’s work. They will have to pass legislation to insure that the worker shall get a fair deal. Until that result is brought about, we shall still have discontent. It is useless for any honorable member to try to mystify the people by talking about the subtleties of finance, and the superior talents of bankers. The honorable member for Mernda tells us that the banks must have till money. What is the till money that they want? Capitalists always try to make us believe that there is something so grand and sacred about banking that the workers must not dare even to look at it. It is such a profound science that the workers are not supposed to know anything about it. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat says that the bankers must have till money. Let us see how the system works. If I desire to borrow £400 or £500 for the purpose of building a house, I make known my desire to a bank manager, who at once says, “ Have you your deeds?” I say that I have, and I produce them. Then, after an inspector has certified that the security is sound, the bank manager asks, “ How do you want the money ? “ and I tell him that I desire to draw it by instalments as the work progresses. That matter is arranged, and a contract is let. At the end of a fortnight, I go to the bank with a certificate showing that a certain amount of work has been done, and ask for a progress payment of, say, £50. I get the money, and with it pay the bricklayer £10, the carpenter £10, the wages of the labourers, and the amounts due in respect of bricks and timber. In this way I distribute the whole of the £50 advanced. The men, on returning home, hand over their money to their good wives, who use it in purchasing groceries, meat, and various commodities. The tradesmen with whom they have done business, at the end of the day, place their taking in their safes, and the first thing on Monday morning they go down to the bank and pay it into their accounts. The landlord also comes along on the Monday morning, and these employes pay him the rent. At the end of the day he, too, goes to the bank and pays into his account the money so collected ; so that, before the end of the week, the £50 I have obtained from the bank as a progress payment is once more in its till. At the end of another week I obtain a further instalment of £50, and so the procedure goes on. These banks, of which we are supposed to know nothing, lend out the same money twelve or fifteen times a year to different individuals, and obtain interest upon it. And this, in short, is the great institution of banking which the workers dare not look upon. I hope that weshall learn something of this important question of finance. I am afraid we have not learned much from the honorable member for Mernda to-night. It was only because of his extreme age that we refrained from interjecting, and, so to speak, “ putting him off his perch “ ; but he is so vain in his own conceit that he thinks he knows all that is to be learned of banking. I come now to the question of industrial unrest. If this Parliament desires to bring about industrial peace, it will have to study industrial conditions more closely than it has done in the past. Why are industrial conditions so acute as they are to-day? It is because there has grown up in the mind of every worker a deadly suspicion of the employing class. The workers distrust the man with money and the man with land. I do not say whether they are right or wrong in doing so, but it is a fact that, in the mind of nearly every worker to-day, there is a deeply grounded suspicion of the landed and capitalist classes that employ them. I had the honour to be a member of the Arbitration Court of New South Wales, and in that capacity I saw large employers of labour take the oath, and heard them give evidence that they could not afford to grant better conditions to their employes. I have heard one after another giving sworn evidence to that effect, and, at the end of the day, when I have had the opportunity of examining their books in camera, I have come to the conclusion that they ought to be imprisoned for perjury. As members of the Court, however, we could not disclose evidence taken in camera. In the case of many industries where employers said that they could not afford to pay higher wages, the Court granted increases representing a total of over £70,000 a year to the men who had been sweated.
– And the employers still continued to buy motor cars.
– Yes; they are still able to travel all over the world, to buy motor cars, and to have in New South Wales four or five different places of residence. They think that the workers are so dense and foolish as to believe that they cannot afford to pay them fair and reasonable wages.
– Did the honorable member find arbitration a success?
– The old Arbitration Court of New South Wales was so successful that its opponents did their best to kill it. They profess to be surprised that the workers are not satisfied with Wages Boards. The point is that the Wages Boards have no means of ascertaining the profits of an industry, whereas the old Arbitration Court of New South Wales could and did do so. The workers got handsome increases in pay and shorter hours of labour, and because of this their opponents upset the Court, and now ask, “ Why not be satisfied with Wages Boards ?”
– Wages Boards do not expose the business methods of the employers.
– If a representative of the employes on a Wages Board is fearless, as he should be, his employment is not worth much after the Board has completed its labours. On one occasion, after we had been engaged all day in taking evidence, His Honour Judge Heydon said to me as we were leaving the Bench, “ I should like to have a few words with you this afternoon.” I went into his room, where he said to me, “ I was greatly impressed by the class of witnesses we had in the Court to-day, and I am also somewhat perplexed. I should like to know how it is that the witnesses we have had are such an intelligent and bright lot of men. Since I have been in this Court I have been greatly surprised at the intelligence displayed by the presidents and secretaries of the unions appearing before us. How do you account for it ?” My answer was, “ The industrial sysstern has greatly changed of late years. In former times there was a great army of small business men, and it was not’ hard for a man who was a keen, smart mechanic to accumulate a little money and set up in business for himself. Since then the system has changed. Men have become concentrated in larger industrial enterprises, with the result that no working man to-day can set up in business for himself and successfully compete with those who are already established. The outlet for the employ^ is becoming smaller. There is less opportunity than there used to be for employes to become foremen or managers in the various industries. The big industrial concerns of to-day have done away with many managers and overseers, with the result that the brain-power of the workers which used to find an outlet in the positions of supervisors or foremen, and eventually of employers, has ceased to do so. Instead of that great brain-power going into the employing class, it is gradually drifting into trade unionism. Brainy, intelligent men have become captains of industry in the trade union movement, whereas they formerly went into the capitalistic class. The trade union’ movement in this and every other country is consequently being led by the brainiest, bravest, and best men they can produce.” Notwithstanding the sneer of the honorable member for North Sydney when he said that he has no time for these trade unionists, let me remind the honorable member that a great disaster occurred in the Atlantic a few months ago, and that those who in that disaster stood out prominently as brave men and women were drawn from the industrial class, who form the trade unionists of the world. Who were the men who stood by their fellows on the Titanic in th« hour of disaster? The firemen stood at their posts till the water was up to their knees ; the engineers stood by their engines in the engine-room, and obeyed the commands of the captain to the last ; the stewards stood by, put lifebelts on the passengers, and tried their best to save life. They did not run away from their posts. Even the bandsmen on board the vessel, knowing that it was their last hour, stood together, and played the hymn, “ Nearer my God to Thee,” whilst the skunks of wealth and position tried to get away as fast as they could, and left over fifty of the third-class passengers’ children to go down, while they occupied the boats. The working people are responsible for the great trade union movement in every civilized country in the world, and yet we have men in this House who profess to be representatives of the people, and who sneer at trade unionists, and say they have no time for them. God help such men if those who are in the trade union movement took such a narrow view of their duty to their fellows. To-day, every reform we have comes from men who are prepared to make sacrifices, not from men like those who fought in Africa, and burned farm-houses,, and broke up pianos in the belief that they were adding to the glory of the Empire. The men who, whether it be in the coalmines or elsewhere, are not afraid to sacrifice their lives to relieve suffering, and to help humanity, are the men of the working classes, who are sneered at in this House. They have proved themselves to be of the class that should dominate every country, because they save the country. They are not destroyers; they are builders up. Some of the speakers who have preceded me have said that since the Labour Government came into power the cost of living has gone up. I took the trouble to investigate this matter in Sydney. I. found that in Sussex-street,. which is probably known to many honorable members, middlemen are gathered as flies gather around a pot of honey, and they control the prices of chaff, butter, and dairy produce generally. Not a single thing is sold in that street on any morning until a telephone message has been received. A certain number of their class regulate the prices of commodities, and any one who sells below that fixed price is a marked man. They absolutely dictate to the community the prices which must be paid. I cannot speak for Victoria, but I know that in Sydney the consumer has to pay is. 6d. per lb. for butter. I have the pleasure of knowing the secretary of the Cold Storage Union of New South Wales. I made inquiries from him, and when I asked him whether there was a scarcity of butter, he said, “There are thousands of boxes of butter in the cold storage.” And 3!et they say there is a scarcity of butter, and the price has gone up from is., which would be a fair price, to is. 6d. per lb. Who is getting the extra profit?
– Not the farmer.
– The farmer is not getting it, but the consumer has to pay the extra price. I made further inquiries, and I found that the wholesale grocers have a meeting every Tuesday in Sydney, at which they decide upon what are known as “ convention lines,” and in this way dictate the price of every commodity which they include in those lines. If a traveller goes to a grocer, and says, “ This line used not to be so high. Why can you not cut it down, and give me a fair show? I cannot sell at this price,” the answer is, “I cannot do it; it is a convention line, and I cannot sell under that price.” It is not the Labour party who get the profits from these increased prices. They do not sell chaff. They do not sell butter or potatoes.
– They sell rabbits, and they have gone up in price also.
– Coming from a rabbit district, the honorable member ought to know. I remember that in this country sixteen years ago one could get a 2 -lb. loaf of bread for 2jd.
– I remember . when we had to pay is. for it.
– That must have been in the days of the early gold rushes. Today we have to pay 3½d. for a 2-lb. loaf of bread. We have spent a great deal of money in opening up the country, in the construction of railways, in the sinking of artesian wells, and in the giving of assistance to farmers; and, nott withstanding die fact that we now have millions of acres under wheat, and produce more wheat today than ever before, our people have to pay id. more for each 2-Ib. loaf of bread than we had to pay fifteen years ago. What is the reason for this? We are producing more wheat than is sufficient for our own consumption. We have been exporting wheat for years, and last year we exported nearly as much as Canada did. But, notwithstanding our great increase of production, the consumers of the country are called upon to pay more for their commodities. When we tried to secure an alteration of the Constitution which would enable us to control the people who regulate prices to the consumers, we were opposed by our honorable friends opposite in the interests of State rights, but hot in the interests of the people. We have a nice little company doing business in Australia known as the Colonial Sugar _ Refining Company. I think it was within one month after the referenda proposals were defeated that the directors of that company, at an ordinary business meeting, sitting round a table, found that they had only 190,000 tons of sugar in bond, and resolved to raise the price of sugar by £1 per ton. These people, by merely carrying that resolution, put into the pockets of the company £190,000. That did not make the cane grow any better, and it did not help the cane-grower, or the cane-cutter. Later on, they raised the price another £1 per ton, and to-day the consumer is paying £3 10s. per ton more for sugar than he had to pay at the time the referenda proposals were submitted to the people. Yet honorable members opposite stumped the country against the Government when they asked for an alteration of the Constitution which would have enabled us to prevent this kind of thing, and they now blame the Labour party for the increased cost of living. The increased price of sugar amounts to £d. per lb. to the consumer, and a family consuming 6 lbs. per week has to pay an increased sum of 3d. per week, or is. per month. If this Parliament, with all the power it has, were to decide to put a tax on all consumers of sugar of is. per. month, the people would be up in arms and would say that those who were responsible were unworthy of their position, and should be hurled from office. But a little company of business men, sitting in a directors’ room, carry a resolution imposing such a tax on every consumer of sugar in this country, and our honorable friends-opposite tell us that the company is a grand institution, and that we should not have the power to control it.
– That is business acumen.
– That is only a business understanding. Honorable members opposite ask what the Labour party are doing to populate the country. They ask whether we are assisting to bring immigrants to Australia. We are told that we are not sincere in our professions on the immigration question. I shall stand up to that charge and admit that I do not advocate immigration under existing circumstances. I say that we should not encourage people to come here until we are prepared to find employment for them. I rang up the Government Statistician the other day and asked him how many immigrants had arrived in Australia during the first four months of the present year ? His reply was 75,000. My honorable friends opposite are not satisfied with this rate of increase, notwithstanding that it is greater, proportionately to our population, than is the influx of immigrants into Canada or the United States. What effect have these newcomers produced ?
– The effect has been to raise my rent.
– Exactly. In New South Wales it is a cruel shame to see .as many as 1,200 immigrants from one steamer searching for houses. In Sydney, one cannot get a house for love or money. There, cottages which used to let for 8s. and 10s. a week are now readily commanding 18s. and 20s. a week. Naturally, the landlords say, “ Why not let us have more immigrants?” It is good for the country and good for the landlords. lt is also good for the little business men who have something to sell - for the men who have beer to sell.
– For the breweries.
– We are told that the immigrants we require in Australia are those who will settle on the land. But, as a member of the Arbitration Court in New South Wales, I have had some experience of workers on the land, and if I wished to do an injury to any man I would say to him, “ Go and get work on the land.” There men have to be up at break of day, and do not get to bed till they can hardly keep their eyes open. “Work, work, work, and be contented” is their lot. Many of those who are settled there would be better under the land than on it. We have been told that a strike is a terrible thing. But what about the strike which takes place every Monday morning when the landlord tells his tenant that his rent is to be raised 2s. 6d. a week? Is not that striking against every principle of fair play ? The man who charges a high rent because there are two or three persons after his house is taking advantage of circumstances. He simply says to his tenant, “ If you cannot pay the increased rent, you must get out.” That is a strike. I do hope that the workers will never give up their last weapon of industrial warfare - the right to strike. At the same time, they do not desire strikes if they can secure justice. I recollect reading in the newspapers a little time ago that the coalminers in England had demanded a minimum wage because of the increased cost of living. The .miners of Germany declared that they would support the British miners on that account. All over the world the cost of living has gone up. Whilst we have been fighting for shorter hours of labour and better wages, the advantages which we have gained have been filched from our pockets. In time to come, Parliament will have to regulate the prices of commodities if it cannot effectively deal with combines and trusts. We have solved the problem of production. We consume more than we produce. The workers produce more than our forefathers did. But we have no power to control the distribution of that wealth, and until we possess that power, strikes, locks-out, and turmoil will continue. So long as men labour under injustice, so long as they are unable to maintain their wives and families in comfort, we shall have industrial unrest. The day has passed when they ought to be satisfied with their lot and look for their reward hereafter. I believe that this debate has had the effect of clearing the political atmosphere. During his speech upon this motion, the honorable member for Brisbane made a deliberate charge which has not been answered. He stated that the master bakers of Brisbane entered into a conspiracy not to produce bread whilst the strike was in progress. He read the resolutions which were carried by them, and which were intended to starve the workers into submission. He also read the motion which was carried by the master retailers in favour of closing their shops. Nobody has ventured to contradict the accuracy of his statements. Yet we have been told that the strikers in Brisbane endeavoured to starve the workers of that city by declining to allow bread to be delivered. As a matter of fact, it was only when the unionists saw that statement in the press that they started to make bread to supply the wants of the people. It was the same old conspiracy - the same old lies. But the people of this country judge men by their past and by the company they keep, and I feel confident that when the time comes for the electors to pronounce a verdict upon the position, they will be found supporting the Labour party. The accuracy of every word which was uttered by the honorable member for Brisbane is attested by hundreds of persons in that city. At the next election the people of Queensland will re;spond to the appeal of the Labour party to a much greater extent than they ever did before.
– Why did they not do it at the last election?
– Because there was in power a Government the head of which was a moisture-in-butter gentleman, in the person of Mr. Denham. He is a middleman and an auctioneer. After the tramway strike had terminated, the Government precipitated an election before the people had had time to become cool. They gerrymandered the electorates. At that time there were only two Labour representatives of Brisbane in the Queensland Parliament. But what is the position to-day? There are no less than six Labour representatives of that city, and we lost five seats in each case by less than fifty votes.
– The honorable member’s party did not do very well.
– They did a ‘little better in Western Australia when the chance presented itself. I have complained about the length of speeches made by honorable members. 1 believe we can condense our speeches into a shorter space than we have hitherto done, and as I do not want to offend by making a long speech myself, I shall content myself by saying that T shall be only too glad to record a vote for this Ministry, who refused to send the military to Brisbane. I hope there will be a division on the question, and there will be one if I can force it. This is the first time in the history of the Commonwealth or of any of the States that a Government have been in power with the backbone and the courage to say, “ We will not send the military to put down what is called a riot, but what was really a disturbance caused by one of the subinspectors in the ranks of the police.”
This motion of censure launched against the Government will be defeated, lt will stand in history as a challenge to a Government for not sending troops to Queensland, and the fact will also stand on record that the action of the Government was indorsed by this House. The vote will stand as a beacon to future Governments who may occupy the Treasury bench in this House.
– Notwithstanding the elections in Queensland?
– Yes, and at the next Federal elections the people of this country will also indorse the action of the Government. We have asked honorable members opposite if they would have sent troops to Brisbane. Honestly, I do not believe they would, but as a matter of political by-play, they are seeking to censure us for not doing it. If the right honorable member for Swan says that he would have sent the troops to Brisbane, I will withdraw what I have said.
– The honorable member can read what I said.
– I believe the honorable member is too big-hearted to send troops to shoot anybody down. I wish my vote to keep the present Government in power, and to indorse their action in not sending troops to Brisbane, to be placed on record.
– We believe that.
– We are all solid on that point. There are no renegades here. We are sent here to represent the working class, and we shall not go back on the very class who elected us to this House. We should be- renegades if, when an industrial dispute occurred, we played into the hands of a man who wanted to have the military called out in . order to put the Federal Government in a hole. It was a political trick on the part of the Premie: of Queensland, and with all due respect to the Prime Minister, if he had sent the military to Brisbane, it would have been “ good-bye to the Fisher Government.” As a supporter of them I say frankly and openly, that I would never support any Government that would send the military to shoot down the workers when they were fighting for their rights.
.- I do not know whether the House’ has heard enough oratory to-night.
– The Leader of the Opposition said he would sit a little later. I should like to go on for half-an-hour yet.
– I am quite prepared to go on, as I do not intend to detain the House long, more particularly as we have very seriously to consider and digest the telling indictment of the Government by the honorable member for Mernda. The honorable member who followed him left that speech very carefully alone. He treated us to a typical declamation, which contrasts very unfavorably with the speech of the honorable member for Mernda, so moderate in tone and accurate in fact. It is very hard to make any reply to such a speech as that to which we have just listened. The honorable member for South Sydney traversed in a few minutes a great number of subjects. Whilst he gave us a great deal of declamation, there is very little meat on the bones that he threw at us. His address may be regarded as fairly typical of much that is being thrown not only at honorable members in this House, but more particularly at the heads of electors by Labour candidates at election time. The public are beginning to suspect a good deal of that kind of thing, and to ask for something more than mere declamation. It is one of the duties of the Opposition to point out, as we are doing now, in what respect those who have indulged in declamation and promise in the past are not equal to the task of carrying on the affairs of the country in the way that they ought to be carried on. The honorable member for South Sydney spoke very strongly and ardently of the rights of the workers, but not once did he give us the slightest suggestion that the workers had any duties and responsibilities. We had a good deal of the cant and clap-trap of cheap socialistic handbooks. We were given to understand that the difference between the wages of the coal-miner and the retail cost of the coal represented plunder on the part of certain capitalists, something to which the miner himself was entitled. I thought that that kind of thing had been sufficiently criticised before now to have died of shame, and that it was impossible for it to raise its head again ; but here it is as bold- as ever. We are given to understand that there is no such thing, apparently, as an outlay upon machinery in connexion with the production of coal, that there is no cost incurred in getting the miner down to the coal, and that there is nothing worth considering in the distribution of the coal to the public. These, of course, are mere trifles in the eyes of honorable members opposite, and I suppose are not worth considering in comparison with the advantage of making the points on which they apparently rely to influence the people at election time. One of the most astonishing of the honorable member’s contentions was that outside of trade unionism no bravery could be exhibited by any individual. . He told us of the dreadful loss of the Titanic, and of the bravery of the men who stood to their posts until death. I am glad with him that we have such a record of British bravery. We are all proud of it; but to insinuate, as he did, that only trade unionists were capable of such bravery is to adopt a line of argument quite unworthy of any one who admires bravery wherever it is found and whatever form it may take.
– The directors did not stay, did they ?
– I have as much contempt for those who played the cur and the coward as have any honorable members on that side, and I am glad indeed that there were men who by no means could have been connected with trade unions who played their part in that dreadful happening quite as heroically as any man or woman could have done. The honorable member for South Sydney gave us some very frank statements about the Brisbane strike. It is not without very grave significance that this discussion has moved around that industrial episode. It has undoubtedly formed the gravamen of the attack upon the Government, and the Government have done their very best to meet it. We have had the Prime Minister, with that air of injured innocence which so becomes him, giving us to understand that we were entirely wrong in holding htm to be in any degree in sympathy with the strikers. We have had the comic turn of the Attorney-General, who is always amusing, if not instructive, and perhaps better than any one else, can enable members ‘to spend an interesting hour in this Chamber. The speech of the honorable member for Brisbane was, perhaps, the most surprising effort of all. He gave us to understand that the strike was the creation of a capitalistic press; that it was a kind of picnic on the pan of a few angelicbeings, whose innocent pleasures were interfered with by dastardly police, also the tools of the capitalists. I shall not accuse the Government of any sin of omission in connexion with the strike, nor charge them with neglecting a duty undoubtedly, imposed by the Constitution, but I shall accuse them of a sin of commission. The point to which I urge attention is one to which the importance it deserves has not yet been attached. What occurred at Brisbane was, undoubtedly, in the nature of a general strike. Messrs. Coyne and Company endeavoured to make the disturbance a general strike. It has been well said by a leading English publicist, that the essence of illegality is the infliction of injury upon an innocent third party. If such injury is inflicted upon women and children - and this is proved to have happened, in spite of what the honorable member for Brisbane has said to the contrary - it partakes of the essence of immorality. An occurrence partaking of the essence of illegality and immorality should surely be reprobated by any Government. I have here a very interesting article written a short time ago by Mr. Ramsay Macdonald. It was published in the Socialist Review. He says that the pivot of syndicalism is the general strike, and goes on to remark -
The new revolution which syndicalism and its advocates of the Industrial Workers of the World contemplate has avoided none of the errors and pitfalls of the old, but it has added to them a whole series of its own. It has never considered the problems which it has to meet. It is, as expressed in the Outlook of this month, a mere escapade of the nursery mind. It is the product of the creative intelligence of the man who is impatient because it takes the earth 24 hours 10 wheel round the sun.
In Australia there is still less justification for syndicalism and the general strike, in view of all the efforts that have been made - some of them fairly successful - to meet industrial troubles with legal machinery. Therefore, any one who assists to carry out or sympathizes with a general strike, is waging warfare of a particularly cruel and immoral character. The Prime Minister, when he sent his historic telegram to Messrs. Coyne and Company, said to them, in effect, “ Well, gentlemen, you are getting ulong very nicely ; go ahead.” When he sent his subscription to Messrs. Coyne and Company, he indorsed the general strike. It is all very well for him, and for members of his party, to say now that they do not approve of the general strike; the fact remains that when that industrial upheaval took place in Brisbane, neither he nor any other Minister had a word of condemnation for it. On the contrary, by their actions, they signified that they were at one with the strikers in waging war upon society, in order that their ends might be achieved, lt is not without grave significance that it was during the regime of Labour that the mace disappeared from its place in this Chamber. It now appears that the sovereignty of this Parliament-
– The honorable member may refer to the removal of the mace only on a specific motion dealing with my action.
– I refer to the matter only incidentally. What I wish to say is that the Prime Minister and his Government are quite prepared that the sovereignty of Parliament-
– The honorable member is doing what I have said he may not do.
– I do not desire to refer to the removal of the mace. What I wish to say is that the sovereignty of Parliament, of which, the mace was the symbol-
– I have twice told the honorable member that only on a specific motion dealing with my action may he refer to the removal of the mace. If he insists on referring to the matter now, I must take a course that will prevent him from doing so.
– I wish to point out that the Prime Minister and his Government, at the time of the Brisbane strike, were prepared to relegate the rightful authority of this Parliament to the Trades Hall at Brisbane. The substitution of industrial for political control is the inner meaning of syndicalism and the general strike. Those who expound syndicalism point out that it is the method by which the workers will achieve the control of the industries, and, incidentally, of all the affairs of the country. It is a reasonable deduction that the Prime Minister and his Government, in indorsing the strike at Brisbane, are, with the syndicalists, prepared to put aside the authority of Parliament in favour of that of the statesmen of the Trades Hall.
An honorable member on this side remarked a few nights ago that one could not very well criticise a Government which had produced a surplus of £2,000,000; but, to my mind, the fact that such a surplus has been piled up without regard to the financial necessities of the country, is a matter for condemnation. It has been the practice of this Government to put surplus money into Trust Funds. I contend that it is opposed to all the canons of taxation that the Government should do this kind of thing. They may plead that the money is rolling in upon them. There is no doubt that it has done so. But I do not think that they can claim any very special credit for the nourishing state of the finances. The good rains that Providence has sent us probably had more to do with that than anything else, and the way in which the money is splashed about is a fair indication that they are not concerned so much about conserving the resources of the country as exploiting them to their fullest extent. In their anxiety to spend this money, they are embarking on almost chimerical schemes. The Northern Territory question is undoubtedly a very serious one for this country. We have there a problem requiring the most complete statesmanship, the most serious consideration, apart from party altogether, but we find the Government proposing to adopt a method of settling the land which has not’ yet been tested with good results anywhere in the modern world, and that is the system of leasehold occupation. In Western Australia, if in any part of the Commonwealth, the Government might very well have learned a lesson. There we have a Labour Government, and one of the leading planks of the Labour party of the State is no further alienation of Crown lands. I may say that I always regarded it as quixotical, and it kept me from taking any part in the Labour movement of the State. A Labour Government has been in office there for over eighteen months, but has not yet taken the slightest step to reduce that important principle of the party to practice. What does that mean? It means that members of that Government are so fully seized of the injury which would occur in applying this plank of their platform that they have refrained from doing so. There is no doubt that it is not a very courageous attitude for them to adopt, perhaps not even an honest attitude, but it is a very significant commentary upon the weakness of this policy of non-alienation of Crown Lands, that a Labour Government in a young State, with a large amount of land settlement before it, should be very careful indeed to refrain from putting into practice this one important phase of its own platform. I would not mind these experiments so much, although they may cost the country a great deal, if the Government were carrying out its obligations in other directions, but that is just what I find it is not doing. The report of Admiral
Henderson on the Naval Forces laid before the members of this House a year ago contains some very important recommendations indeed. Among other things, it points out that two primary bases ought to be established in Australia, namely, one at Sydney and the other at Fremantle. The Fremantle base is at least as important as the Sydney base. To my mind, it is even more important, lying, as it does, at the very front door of Australia towards Europe. Admiral Henderson is very definite in connexion with the importance of establishing a large naval base at Cockburn Sound, near Fremantle. This is what he says -
The harbor of Cockburn Sound, including Owen’s Anchorage and Jervoise Bay, to b examined thoroughly as soon as -possible by experts, with a view to locating the site of the future Naval Dockyard. The site should include space for graving docks, building slips, work-shops, storehouses, and all plant, &c, for the building of ships and for the repairs and maintenance of a Fleet. It appeared to me that a site in the vicinity of Jervoise Bay was best suited for Naval Dockyard requirements. A channel for deep-draught ships would have to be dredged through the Parmelia and Success Banks, and slight dredging would be required in other places. It would probably also be necessary that a short .breakwater should be thrown out from Woodman’s Point.
Admiral Henderson, speaking of this naval base, indicates that the needs of the Fleet will be met by - 1st. The completion of the dock now building at Fremantle and of the repair and refitting shops proposed to be attached thereto at as early a date as possible. 2nd. The temporary provision of a base for six destroyers and three submarines in the Swan River. 3rd. The dredging of the channel, so that large vessels can find a safe anchorage in Cockburn Sound. 4th. The provision of adequate reserves of coal and oil fuel, &c.
In another part of his report, Admiral Henderson again refers to the matter. On page 12, he says -
Port Western is a very good harbor, and until Cockburn Sound (Fremantle), which is far more important from a strategical point of view, is ready, this port should be utilized by the Western Division as one of its principal anchorages, and as a place where ships should be able to replenish with coal or oil fuel.
What I have read goes to show that Admiral Henderson was very anxious that the work of establishing a naval base at Fremantle should be undertaken as early as possible, that no time should be lost in commencing the work, and that while Westernport should be utilized for certain purposes, the Fremantle base, together with that of Sydney, should be rapidly developed also. What is the position to-day? On account of a certain amount of noise made in this State, a great deal of work is about to be undertaken at Westernport, much more, I believe, than Admiral Henderson ever contemplated, but not a single stroke so far appears to have been done at this important base in Cockburn Sound.
– They are applying to the local Government to help them.
– I know that a pleasure trip was undertaken a few months ago while I was in the State, but beyond that, there appears to have been nothing else done.
– The Government want the State to help them.
– It matters not whether the Government are waiting for the State authorities or not. They seem to have the money, and they ought to utilize it without any delay in getting this important base ready for the work which is required of it. I charge the Government with deliberately neglecting this important part of the work in order to placate other portions of Australia with some kind of pretence at development, such as that being carried out at Westernport, and the playing at ship-building at Sydney.
Another matter of a very serious character is the way in which this Government have bungled the arrangements for commencing the work on the transcontinental railway. At Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie some hundreds of men have gathered, relying on the promise of the Minister of Home Affairs that work would be undertaken there about the end of May. Up to the present, however, little or nothing has been done, and these men, who are clamouring for work, are absolutely stranded. I believe that the Premier of Western Australia has had to issue instructions that the men at Kalgoorlie shall be supplied with the necessaries of life. This is not creditable to the Government, and although I admit there was some little hitch in connexion with the .arrangements with South Australia, still there was no reason why the work should not have been gone on with in Western Australia.
– But under the Act we could not start.
– There was nothing to prevent all preparations being made, and the men being employed at the time promised.
There is another matter in this connexion) which is not to the credit of the Government, and which will be found to be more seriousas time goes on. I refer to the appointment of the superintendent of the work of construction. We in Australia realize, of course, that this railway is one of the biggest, problems yet met with in railway construction in the Commonwealth. Above all, there is required great administrativecapacity. When the name of a certain individual was mentioned in Western Australia as having been appointed to this position, everybody was asking who he was, where he came from, and what was his record. I made application to the Minister to have access to the papers dealing with the appointment, but was very politely refused. The Minister pleaded a certain custom which, I am given to understand, exists, of closing up the Departments, not only to the public, but even to members of Parliament, while a no-confidence motion is being debated. I see, however, from a paragraph in yesterday’s Age, that the Federal Ministers have fallenaway very much from this custom, assuming, it is a custom.
While a Government’s position as a Government is challenged no deputations are received, all but routine work is postponed, and members of the Cabinet, who are supposed to be on the front Ministerial Bench on sufferance only, refrain from embarrassing possible successors inoffice by committing the country to debatabledecisions. During the last fortnight Federal Ministers, secure with their caucus majority, have broken most of these precedents.
-The honorable member must not read any comment in a newspaper on a debate which is before the House.
– I do not know that it is a comment on a debate - it is a comment oi» certain action of Ministers in regard to their Departments.
– In connexion with their Departments.
– If you rule it out of order, sir, I must bow to your ruling. While it appears that Ministers have been quite willing in many other respects to break through this so-called rule, they have not given me access to those particular papers. I question very much their right to prevent honorable members from seeing papers of the kind. No doubt, there is certain work regarding which information may be properly withheld, even from members of Parliament - work of a confidential character. and work in hand which has not reached a definite stage - but in this matter no confidence was sought to be divulged, and there was nothing of an unusual nature in the request. It is a matter of public interest and concern, and I claim, as a representative of the people, that I have as much right to see those papers as has any Minister in charge of them. However, I am quite prepared to wait for another opportunity; ‘but in tha meantime, I challenge the Government to produce any satisfactory evidence of the fitness of the individual they have appointed to superintend the railway construction in Western Australia.
– He is the ablest engineer in Western Australia. ‘
– Who says so?
– He is a graduate «f the Melbourne University. I have the responsibility, not the honorable member.
– Order ! It is not possible for an honorable member addressing the House to be heard if honorable members carry on a conversation across the chamber.
– The honorable member for Denison boasted that the Government did not look at a man’s politics when appointing him to a position. I say nothing else has been looked at in connexion with this appointment but the man’s politics ; and he has nothing else to recommend him to the position, so far- as I have been able to ascertain up to the present time. His appointment was concurrent with a visit of the Premier of Western Australia to Melbourne, and it is well known that during the recent State elections the person who received this appointment was a very zealous worker in- the cause of Labour. If it is a matter of “ spoils to the victors,” why should not this man have his share along with the rest of them? I am not’ objecting to the application by honorable members opposite of their own principles. I merely want to point out that this is one of the consequences of the principles held by them. The Premier of Western Australia, I understand, now gives as his excuse for recommending this individual that he really did not think that his recommendation would be taken very seriously. He. is himself, I understand, surprised that the Minister of Home Affairs should have taken him at his word. But he was under political obligations to this individual, and possibly he thought the best way to discharge these was to recommend him to the Minister of Home Affairs as a good man for this billet. But I do not think that he is likely to be worth the £750 per annum which the Commonwealth’ is paying for his services.
– He has saved 5 miles of route already.
– I deny that.
– There is a little sequel to this episode. During the last Federal elections there was a certain person who was making himself busy around Perth in the interests of Labour candidates. He is, I believe, an ex-preacher, an ex-teetotal lecturer, and an ex-many other things. He is now installed as a clerk in the transcontinental railway office.
– Was he an ex-Labour man?
– I do not know, but, whether he was or not, he ought not to have been put into this position unless he had some qualifications of a technical character to justify the appointment.
– He is a very able man.
– I do not want to extend my remarks further. I have no desire to make it appear that ruin is staring the country in the face on account of these acts of maladministration of the Labour Government. But I do contend that what I have indicated are straws showing very clearly the way in which the wind is blowing. I take it that it is our duty to speak out in plain unmistakable language of the extraordinary actions of this Government during recess. ‘ There’ is much more that might be said by way of criticism, but, out of regard for honorable members, I do not propose to speak .at greater length tonight. I feel sure, however, that the country will agree at the next election that the net result of administration by this Labour Government is utter demoralization in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, degradation of public life, and the corruption of the citizenship of those to whom this Government is looking for. its political support.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Frazer) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.30 j>.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 July 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120709_reps_4_64/>.